Good people

January 13, 2014 § 24 Comments

I rode up onto the sidewalk like I always do, made the left down the narrow little path next to the parking garage, and dismounted at the top of the four concrete steps which lead to the big locked gate. There is a hedge opposite the wall of the parking garage, and the space along the path is so slight that if they weren’t well trimmed, the branches would touch the opposing wall. It’s a busy little passageway; countless tenants come and go through this side entrance over the course of a day.

The jersey pockets of my bicycle outfit are always stuffed the same way. Gate and house key on the left, spare tube in the middle, and CO2/cash/credit card on the right. When I’m cutting out before sunrise I’ll stick my sunglasses in the left pocket, on top of the keys. It’s my “sunglass” pocket, or, when I’m coming home in the late afternoon and wearing my sunglasses, it’s the pocket in which I’ll put the Rx clear-lens biking glasses that I’d worn on the pre-dawn commute. In any event, the glasses are always on top of the gate and house key.

On Thursday afternoon I got back to the complex, dismounted, and took off my gloves before fishing out the glasses from the left pocket in order to reach the gate and house key. I walked the bike down the steps, let myself in, and walked up the staircase to our apartment. Then the evening quickly took over. There was so much to do before our big trip to Palm Springs on Friday. There were bags to be packed, bike to be cleaned, dinner to be eaten, beer to be drunk and, of course, book to be faced.

One of the last things to be packed was my actual riding gear, and nothing is double and triple-checked more often than my eyewear. This is because my vision is so terrible that without my prescription biker glasses it’s simply not possible to ride. Although I knew from our riding schedule that we wouldn’t be riding before sunup or after sundown, and I therefore wouldn’t need them, I noticed that my clear Rx glasses were missing.

“Honey,” I said, “have you seen my clear glasses?”

“No. Why? When’s the last time you wore them?”

“Today. I thought I came home with them today, actually.” A short search ensued but they didn’t turn up. “They’ll show up later,” I thought.

Rather, I hoped like hell they’d show up, because they were prescription SPY Quanta performance glasses, and they meant the difference between pre-dawn riding and not. They would also be expensive to replace.

The weekend flew by, and on Sunday night, as I unpacked my bags, I realized that the glasses had never turned up. This wasn’t surprising, since I hadn’t looked for them and since we’d been out of town. “Honey,” I asked again. “Have you seen my clear Rx riding glasses?”

She rolled her eyes. “In Palm Springs? No.”

On Monday morning I got ready to ride and faced the nasty truth. I’d lost the glasses and couldn’t remember where, and they weren’t coming back. Our apartment is small and we don’t have much in it, and the glasses would have surfaced if only because SPY provides a gray cloth carrying case with a bright orange drawstring for all its eyewear. It’s the kind of thing that you just can’t miss, bright orange strings against a slightly metallic gray bag.

I clomped down the concrete staircase and went out the gate. As I mounted the top concrete step on the walkway, I glanced to my right. There on the hedge was a gray cloth bag, hanging from a branch by its bright orange drawstring. Then it all came back to me. I’d taken out the glasses out of the back pocket in order to get the gate key, and must have dropped the glasses. They’d been there for almost four days.

Someone had picked up the bag, looked inside, realized that the glasses were prescription and fancy and important, and had thoughtfully hung them from the hedge. Over the four days countless people had stopped, opened the little bag to see what was inside, realized that they were lost glasses, and left them there. Countless little acts of observation, investigation, conclusion and … doing the nicest thing.

I smiled a big smile and tucked the glasses into my jersey pocket, the left one of course. Then I pedaled on to work, feeling like the strangers of the world were, somehow, looking out for me, and reminding me that when it came my turn, to be sure and look out for them, too.

Why you should buy these beat to shit frames

April 12, 2012 § 10 Comments

I get the whole product review thing. Manufacturer sends spanking new product to journalist swag whore, who pimps the product to his readers by saying what a great thing it is even if it’s a piece of shit, because even if it’s a piece of shit another MFR will send him new swag in three weeks anyway. Readers, who have sadly misplaced confidence in swag whore, and who are unaware of swag whore’s incestuous relationship with MFR, run out and buy the product.

Like I said, I get that.

And because it involves swag, and pimping, and whoring, and backroom dealing, and a fair measure of duplicity and deceit, I think it’s awesome.

However, I have a problem with the process–there’s no post-coital cigarette to wrap up the whole sordid deal.

The proper post-coital cigarette for swag whores

In other words, after posting that glorious review of the 2008 Oakley Dipshits, why don’t we get a follow-up review six months or one year later? I understand that it doesn’t fit with the product cycle, but you’d think that it would fit with the alleged “journalistic integrity” that at least some of these writer-blogger swine claim to have regarding the shit they pimp. Maybe if products got the obligatory “It’s wonderful” blowjob followed by “This was a real turdblossom” beatdown half a year later, manufacturers in the bike industry would take a longer and harder look at the crap they sell, and cyclists wouldn’t wind up with so much totally worthless crap cluttering their garage or bedroom.

A great example is my (former) Zipp 404’s. When they came out, they were the bomb. Rim dimpling and all kinds of neat shit guaranteed to slice through the wind and turn the lamest mule into a racehorse. After a couple of years of constant wear, tear, abuse, smashing, bashing, almost-crashing, and hard labor of every kind, they didn’t roll worth a shit. The plastic fairing came loose and had to be replaced. Micro-cracks started appearing where the nipple fits into the plastic. Spoke nipples corroded and cracked. I know what you’re going to say…”Well, what did you expect?”

The answer is, I expected them to still be pretty sweet after a couple of years since they were so expensive. Had I known that Zipps roll with the smoothness of a gravel truck after hard use I might not have bought them. In any case, it would have been great information to have. But the swag whores don’t review stuff that way. No one will ever pick up the 404’s from 2009 and in 2012 give them the painstaking, meticulous kind of review that they received from the reviewers when they came out (you know who are, whores). A string of post-review write-ups about the various editions of the 404’s might make people more cautious, or, if the results are positive, more enthusiastic when the newest, latest, and greatest rolls off the production line in Taiwan.

Pabulum for the proles

In the world of two-dollar whores masquerading as virgins, no one beats VeloNews. Take a minute to read this review of Oakley’s latest offering. It has everything: admission that the product hasn’t been tested at all; admission that the product went straight from swag box to article review; recommendation that you should buy something now that will be evaluated LATER.

You know that the only real evaluation this product will ever get is yours if you buy it. If it’s crap, there’s another few hundred bucks down the drain. Hey, it’s only money!

A real post-coital review

On November 4, 2011, I reviewed a pair of SPY Quanta prescription glasses that had been provided to me as swag. I’d used them for about a month, maybe two, by the time I wrote the review. I loved them.

Since first putting them to use in late September, I have about 150 hours of riding time in these frames, maybe more. Since I ride early in the morning and they’re a clear prescription lens, the first 1-2 hours of my ride are usually with the Quanta, especially in winter when the sun comes up so late. They are also the only frame I wear on the indoor track in Carson, at the Home Depot’s VeloCenter, where I ride once a week.

I was initially impressed with these SPY glasses simply because they handled my large correction and, unlike the Oakleys they replaced, had a wide field of vision. I can now say that my impression was completely correct, only more so. The wrap around has literally changed the way I ride. It greatly minimizes my need to turn my head and allows me to ride making full use of my peripheral vision.

Having not ridden with any meaningful peripheral vision for thirty years, this is like having a new set of eyes. No longer forced to crane my neck to get the details of the wanker coming up on the inside, no longer forced to jerk my head to the left when the roar of an angry engine sounds like it’s going to pass with inches to spare, I can now do what normal-eyed people do everywhere: use my peripheral vision. It has kept me upright on several occasions, and allowed me to chop offending wankers at will.

The incredible field of vision that spans the edges of the lens is due to a special process SPY uses when they grind the lenses that allows the focal point of the lens to be off center, so rather than having a single “sweet spot” in the middle of the lens through which you get the clearest look, the prescription spreads the focal point throughout the curvature of the lens. I don’t know how they do it, maybe with magic soup or pixie dust or some shit, but if you are a terribly near-sighted rider, these glasses will literally open your eyes.

As a true performance frame, the Quanta has five distinct gripping points that I’ve never had in another pair of glasses. The wraparound end of the arms is covered with a typical rubber grip along the last couple of inches, so the point where the end of the arm meets the skin above your ear secures the frame. Next, the upper portion of the arms are bent so that they follow the contour of your skull, creating two additional, continuous points of contact to keep the glasses in place. I’ve ridden with long hair and with a buzz cut since having these glasses, and they handle mega-hair and skinhead with equal ease. Copious amounts of sweat affect the frames’ grip not at all.

The final contact point is the substantial nose piece, which has giant, hooked metal nails that you pound into your septum with a hammer, allowing the rusty barbs to grab the cartilage like a fish hook stuck down the craw of a shark. It’s a bit painful, but nothing like what you’re going to experience on the BWR.

Actually, the nose piece is made of soft rubber with shallow grooves that grip your nose firmly. Despite crazy-ass sprinting on the velodrome, wild-ass sprinting on the road, flailing from side to side on the steeps in the Santa Monicas, desperately spinning my head around to see how many inches I’ve gained on the field in one of my blistering attacks, these glasses don’t budge at all.

Despite riding in an area that is often socked in with heavy fog, the inside of the lenses almost never fogs up. The more I ride with the Quanta, the more I appreciate their lightness for such a large, wraparound frame with big prescription lenses. Best of all, they’ve been subjected to multiple falls, punches, drops, kicks, and last-minute jersey pocket cramdowns as I fumble with my dark-lens Diablos once the sun is up. There’s virtually no scratching on the lenses even with more or less constant abuse.

The capacious storage bag wads up into nothing, and is made of a material that never seems to get dirty no matter how many times you use it to clean the lens. I know that sounds impossible and crazy and beyond the outer limit of believable, but so what? It’s the truth.

Disclaimer

So now you understand that I love these glasses. However, I’m not simply recommending that you buy a pair of Quanta frames. I’m also recommending that you take the same critical eye you may have towards this “review” and use it on the glitzy, we-admit-it’s-all-marketing approach used by VeloNews to promote Oakley and their ilk. Demand that people who tell you buy something have the balls to show up six months later and tell you how that worked out in real life. Demand that the people who review the stuff you buy have an investment in it.

Which leads to the next part…my investment in SPY.

Since first learning that my friend MMX is running the show, and since getting a chance to test drive glasses that have radically improved the safety and enjoyability and performance of the avocation I love, I’ve invested significantly in SPY.

“How does a dead-broke blogger dude who has to get his eyewear for free have enough money to invest in a listed company?” you’re probably wondering.

Here’s how: my investment isn’t financial. It’s emotional. I’ve watched a guy with whom I’ve ridden thousands of miles take the same approach to SPY that he takes to riding his bike. Full-on. Ethical. At the front. Demanding the very best from himself, and refusing to accept anything less from those around him. Undying commitment to growth through the grass roots.

I’ve watched him use home-grown talent to design his bike kits through StageOne and Joe Yule, watched him outsource kit manufacturing to Squaddra, another Carlsbad firm, watched him give the sock deal to San Diego-based DeFeet, watched him hire (and work the shit out of) local cyclists, motocross racers, surfers, MTB’ers, ‘crossers, skiers, and snowboarders, and you know what else?

I’ve watched him pour money, product, sponsorship, and energy into grass roots cycling, everything from races, to big clubs, to casual non-racing Freddies who nonetheless walk the walk. If it were only these things, that would be enough for me to encourage–nay, demand–that you chunk your Oakley/Smith multinational eyewear in favor of SPY. But in addition to all that, he’s hellbent on putting the best possible product in front of your eyeballs. Stuff that looks good, that protects your eyes, and that improves your performance.

On top of that, a percentage of SPY’s profits go to local charities that help people see better.

And you’d rather throw your money into the coffers of multinationals that also make chick handbags and buy materials from the cheapest suppliers no matter where they’re located? You’d rather support a cycling eyewear company whose only investment in the sport is pouring money into pro teams? Really? Do you also beat your dog?

Please don’t beat your dog

At the end of the day, as people like to say when they’ve run out of substance and are going to try and shove some non sequitur piece of choplogic down your throat, there’s an even better reason to support this company and their eyewear, even if it means you have to toss your Assos Zeghole swag, admit that it sucks, and do the right thing. How many CEO’s of listed companies actually participate as full-throated competitors and promote their product through grass roots events like the Belgian Waffle Ride?

Do you want to support someone who is an anonymous corporate drone chopping wood for the shareholders in Hong Kong, Sweden, and the UK…or someone who’s out there supporting YOU?

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