Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Weekend (For the Reals)!

Now here is the thing that everyone in the great area of Pittsburgh should be doing this weekend. Link up, and seek sustenance.

This Weekend!

A few weeks ago there was supposed to be the biggest bicycle jumping pajama jam throw down that Allegheny county has ever seen. But then it rained for about 12 days straight. So before I put up the poster of the thing that people should be doing this weekend, first you have to see the poster of the thing that should have happened already.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Updates and Cupcakes

There has not been much bicycle advocacy news here at Rigid Bicycles for a few months now so let's get right into it.

Last week was the national conference called Pro Walk Pro Bike went down in LA and they made the announcement that Pittsburgh will be hosting the shindig in 2014, so we're looking forward to that.

Secondly, The folks at PTAG need help to finish the second jump line at their North Park Freeride Skills area, so if you have some free time on Sunday, and are not committed to the first Month of Mud race of this season, then head up to North Park and throw some dirt around.

Also, the League of American Bicyclists announced that in addition to bicycle friendly city awards in the categories of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, they will now be adding an even more pretentious category called Diamond.  Set your municipal sights high because it takes a lot of self-aggrandizing to reach that level of precious gem-ery.

Some time ago I mentioned how passionate I am about texting while driving. I still see many drivers using phones--they could be texting, or they could be updating these myspace pages that I've heard all about--and it still makes me angry. I previously wrote that we could use some marketing creativity aimed at eliminating texting and driving, and that is exactly what the Department of Transportation has done. The campaign is called It Can Wait, and we all agree that if you want to send a text from your car, just wait until you're parked. They have a page that lets you put a little symbol next to your profile picture for various social media platforms (medias?) (mediums?). Go check it out; use it or not, but spread the word that texting and driving kills people.

I have a great friend, a big brother of sorts, a former coach, and all around great guy who deserves a little hype. Rich Vossler, the workhorse behind Rich Vossler Photography, has been creating some amazing images in and around Boulder Colorado for many years now. So for the parting shots on this episode, check out some recent shots of the world famous Valmont Bike Park and then head over to Vossler's site to see lots more photos.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Labor Day Lab: Creating the Future

If you're located in these United States then this weekend's Oreo cookie sandwich is made a little sweeter with the addition of an extra dab of filling for Labor Day. This weekend is double stuffed. So let's twist off the crumbly black cookie wafer of Friday right now because we have nothing but sweet creamy white paste all the way till Tuesday.

This guy Chris Akrigg was pretty seriously injured last year, and now he's back riding bicycles through the abandoned detritus of exhausted industrial landscapes. This type of thing may not be for everyone, but it really is amazing to think about how the sport of mountain biking has evolved in my lifetime. To be fair, it's not just mountain biking, because it seems like all the adrenaline-fueled sports have changed. The rate of progression has been phenomenal. People are doing backflips on snowmobiles. Anyway, I wonder what riding bikes will be like when my children are grown?

Through the mill from chris akrigg on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend everyone. Try to keep the rubber side down.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More of The Same Old Thing

My favorite road race is now the Tour of Colorado. They have increased the number of stages to 7, changed the routes, added some gravel sections, moved the time trial to Denver on the last day, and they still stream full coverage of the race on their site. There are still 3 stages left, so tune in and check it out.  Go here to watch bike racing while you're at work. I am cheering for Tom Danielson, who graduated from Fort Lewis college, which is located at the start of the first stage, Durango. The race has been pretty exciting as far as stage races go, at the end of stage 4, the entire top 25 is within 1 minute of the leader.

This same week another cool stage race, the Brek Epic, is going down, and Pittsburgh local, Montana Miller is posting daily dispatches over at Dirt Rag, so go check that out too. All the stages are wrapped up at this point, but you can still follow Montana as he enjoys suffers through hundreds of miles of sweet single track that is all the way, way up there, above treeline.

Speaking of Pittsburgh locals, the folks at PTAG are hosting a little drinking and riding link-up on Saturday, so if you are anywhere near here, then you probably already know what to do.

The Rigid Bikes crew has been busy at the BMX track but I was able to squeeze in some super fun twisty threads of single track at one of the area's best spots, North Park.

I met up in Lawrenceville with the Mayor of Smutsvirgina, we packed bikes into his busted-up pickup and headed for the hills. First we embarrassed ourselves on the jump lines, then we ran into the actual Dr. J for whom the local downhill trail is named, then made asses of ourselves on that same trail before getting out into woods.

First it looked like this:

And then there were deer everywhere. Seriously, we probably saw 50 deer. The Mayor of Smutsvirgina suggested that  we should save on our dinner expenses and cut one off the back of the pack, which as it turns out, is a skill he finely honed years ago during his college days. 

I convinced him to keep riding instead.

The light slowly faded, we began seeing fewer people than the very few we had seen up to that point, and finally, there was a great stillness and through the wooded darkness the fluffy white tails of bounding deer were the only other perceptible movements besides our spinning legs.

Eventually, we made it back the grit of the Steel City, found a welcoming watering hole, saddled up for sustenance, and got deep into conversation concerning groundhogs and photo shoots. Sometimes a bike ride is all you need to help put the puzzle pieces into some kind of order. Peace.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Music for your Mondays

This song is real.
There is a nice wheelie on a "20 bike with brake levers, but no cables. Chinese export department-store mountain bikes are in nearly every frame.

JA represented very well at the Olympics, the whole world is celebrating. At the same time, there are some real problems out there. The system set a way, fi real.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympic Fever

The Olympics are wrapping up this weekend, and they have saved the cross country mountain bike race for the last day. When I read the schedule a few weeks ago, I naturally thought "Wow, they saved the best event for the last day, this is going to be thrilling." As it turns out, the last day is like the Olympic version of the consolation prizes they used to give out in elementary school sports: all the medals were awarded but then the rest of your class got a participatory ribon just for coming to school that day. Awesome. Mountain biking shares the last day with the group all-around rhythmic gymnastics, the women's modern pentathlon and  men's handball finals. I have no idea what any of those sports even look like.

Anyway, if you want to check out what the Olympic cross country course looks like, you can get the first person shooter video game version of it right here.

The Olympic cycling events have been a great pleasure to read about so far and I suspect the XC race will not disappoint. Notice I say "read about" because NBC has been tyrannical in its blocking of any event streaming for those persons not subscribed to a cable TV package. So you can't stream any of the event coverage on a computer unless you have already paid to subscribe to those stations using cable TV? Why the hell else would anyone want to stream it? Thanks NBC.

In matters much closer to home, there has been lots of mountain bike riding taking place here in Western PA. In that sense, the rigid crew have been hard at work.

Also, the folks at PTAG ahve some amazing trailbuilding going on right now in North Park. They have added new features to the existing dirt jumps, and are working late nights and weekends to make the downhill trail badder and scarier.

Last thing to take note of before we sign off is the big bad pajama jam that Bike Pittsburgh throws every year. If you are a last-minute type of person then by all means go check out BikePGH's BikeFest party tonight.

Until next time, be healthy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Working Overtime and Playing Catch Up

There is so much happening in the world of bicycles right now that a blog post dedicated to catching up sounds exhausting. Dirt Rag magazine hosted their annual Dirtfest this past weekend, and as I told the event organizers, I ran out of words to describe how much fun I had. PTAG was there, and so was the 12 Pound Kid.

After enjoying the amazing network of dedicated mountain biking trails in the Allegrippis forest at Raystown Lake, PA, it was difficult to come back to the mean streets of Pittsburgh. But due to all the new bike lanes, bike corrals, and bike parking I was able to shrug off any reservations and I confidently threw a leg over my commuter for my Monday morning trip to the office. I guess there were others on the road that morning who were still basking in the reverie of their weekend's excitement because when rolling easily through the Strip District on Penn Avenue, I came across this guy, who seemed to have a hard time finding parking. Wow.

How he was able to pull that off on a one-way street without much traffic is still a mystery to me.

Finally, someone might be wondering about the amazing news on the domestic and international road racing scene, and it is true: I built a coaster brake wheel and put it on a 90's Klein mountain bike, then cruised around and layed down some fat skids. Oh, also, the Tours of California and Italy happened.

And mountain bike racing is in full swing.

Kick out the jams, more complete reports will be coming soon. Until then, hold your head up.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Fun Bags

Well another week has slipped by like grains of sand through the sun bleached toes of time: slighty crusty and a little worse for the wear. Some local folks have kicked off their racing seasons and some Boontastic folks have completed their international takeovers.

As I have said before, the Spring Classics are my favorite time of year for road biking competitions, and this year the classics have been pretty exciting, because, in small part, the camera coverage from vehicles crammed onto old cart paths. The Vlandaren, and the Paris-Rubaix, and the Ardennes, and the Fleche, and all the others have inspired me to do a little cobble reconnaissance of my own here in hilly Pittsburgh.

The process of exploring has piqued my interest in road biking. As I have also mentioned earlier, although I enjoy riding bicycles on roads, I am not a road racing fan, I've never raced road bikes, and I have a heavy skepticism of bicycle rides during which a car needs to precede or follow the actual bicycles.

I do recognize that the majority of skinny tire racers will never train with a vehicle supporting them; but I think it's worthwhile to note that at the very top of the sport, in the painted clear coat of the polished toenails in the sand, training with a car seems to be the norm. Part of why you see so many automobiles when watching a bicycle race is the sponsorship money I suppose. This year Trek is combining with Radioshack and Nissan. BMC and Acura are all tied up and at one point there was VW, and Renault, and Subaru, and all the others. The money from the auto companies is helping to increase exposure of cycling. And it has always been that way.

Here is Pennsylvania, with tempers rising over a recent road law that requires vehicles to grant 4 feet of berth when passing cyclists, there just doesn't seem to be a way that we can all get along. I feel like I wrote about this before. Oh well, hang on.

OK, that feels better. Do you like the idea of not being stuck, in traffic, or anywhere else is life. Check out the following little video that has been making the rounds. Based on this little piece of motion imagery Clint Reynolds is definitely not stuck anywhere, and with a couple creative modes of transportation available to him, he's able to get out into the woods and boost some huge jumps. Cheers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brace Yourself, It's a Gusher

This past week the weather in the City of Steel has been amazing. This spring feels like mid-summer, and as a result, there are lots of folks warming up to the idea of bicycle commuting. I have noticed more women on single speeds, more businessmen on road bikes, more goofy guys on department store mountain bikes and more smiles all around. Awesome. I feel strongly that reducing the number of trips in a car is important for all of us. I have been committed to this view for about the past 20 years. I encourage everyone I know to generally consider the state of our planet in everyday actions and personal transportation is a major component of that. I am not preachy, but I also try to encourage those around me to ride a bicycle more often. It is natural, then, with this amount of riding and talking about bicycles, that the subject of safety comes up. The uncomfortable reality is that most cyclists know someone who has been hit by a car, know someone who has been seriously injured or someone who has died. I don't want to be the person that other cyclists knew about.

I have only been hit on two occasions,in 1997 and 2003. I have been lucky. In both instances I was hit from behind, I was not injured in any way whatsoever, and I remained upright on my bicycle.

In Boulder, CO, riding on the shoulder of a high-volume but low speed road, a pickup truck passed closely on my left and the empty horse trailer being pulled behind it hit me. I swerved, startled, and dragged myself onto the curb uninjured. Years later, in Kingston, Jamaica, a motorcycle cop brushed me from behind while he made a dangerous pass in an intersection (the fact that the cop hit me, crashed his motorcycle, and spread himself out on the pavement, while I continued riding was a great source of chagrin for him). I rode over to where the cop was cussing, picking up scattered paperwork while his bike lay leaking on its side. Again I was unhurt, but the cop tried to make me give him some doctor money for what he thought was a broken finger. His finger did look a little crooked, but Kingston cops have their fingers dug so deep in everybody's pockets that there's no telling how straight it was before the crash.

Anyway, both times I have been hit I have been riding on the verge on the pavement. That is to say that both times I have come close to disaster I was consciously trying to make myself small on the side of the road in order to allow vehicles the greatest amount of space to navigate around me. Now, anecdotal evidence is not usually convincing to me; but these cases have taught me a valuable lesson: it is often safer to take the lane. Bare the embarrassment of a honking or a tailgating driver, hold your bicycle in the center of the lane and continue riding until there is a safe opportunity to pull over and let the vehicles pass. Being a road-hogging jerk could save your life.

Speaking of saving lives, I snapped the image below on my commute.

I like to think that fire trucks, firemen, and even fire hydrants are doing doing their best to save lives on a daily basis. But after looking at this picture, you will have to make up your own mind if the fire hydrant planted in the middle of this driveway is helping to prevent an accident or simply waiting for one to happen.

If you ask me it's just a matter of time before someone leaving one of these houses backs out of the driveway and we end up with a version of this:

Have a great weekend everyone, if the warm weather doesn't put a smile on your face, then maybe taking up a whole lane for yourself will.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness is Madness

WOW, things have changed a lot, and when you really check it out they haven't changed much at all. Thanks for tuning back in after our unannounced winter sabbatical. The Rigid family has had some fistfights with health and fitness and personally, I was out of the bike riding part of things for a good part of the past two months with what I had convinced myself was a bout of comsumption, but turned out to be a common case of bronchitis. But everyone is back to prime time health, so let's give thanks for that. A fair bit of news and developments tend to happen in the cycling off season and by now everyone has seen pictures and read drinking stories from the North American Handjob Bicycle Show, although I was not in attendance, mi hermano Pedro, alongside the original Lumberzach, sent me a few updates from the convention floor. If you have an opinion about the explosion in hand built bicycles here in the US of A, then do yourself a favor and check out a few words from one of my long time heroes, Richard Sachs.

The several days at the convention center are just a blur of colors and sound. Both were
loud. In the karaoke hall that we all occupy, the microphone that is being passed
clearly needs a mute button. Perhaps it would make more sense to cut the power
source completely.


Speaking of the secret geek party at the center of the bike geek universe that is the NAHBS, I recently spotted one of these in the wilds.

Now I remember when this thing debuted at the 2011 NAHBS last year and I told myself that I would find the money to get it. Well, that didn't happen, but I still love this bike because as a high school kid in the early 90s there was not too much that I wanted more than a Ritchey race bike. If you want to get a little insight into the man himself, check out this interview with Tom Ritchey, where he talks about making an integrated saddle and post back in high school, in 1837.

There is a lot more else happening in the world of bikes but it's gonna have to wait for some other installment. In the meantime, if you happen to be in Western Pennsylvania and can get your St. Patrick's Day hangover under control then by all means come out to support the hardest working trail crew in the business:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Music for Your Mondays

Play the Belgian National Anthem, because those guys dominated the Cyclocross Worlds this weekend. Also, Marianne Vos proved that she is the hardest working man in showbusiness.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dust Off the Horse Blanket and Saddle Up

Happy new year to all, or as some would say more formally, Greetings in the name of the most high, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of Melchizedek, Emperor of Ethiopia, Son of Solomon and Sheba, ever-living, ever-faithful, ever-sure, His Majesty Haile Selassie I, Ras Tafari.

First off the bat, congrats to the US Nationals cyclocross fields for going all out in the frozen icy conditions of Madison, WI. That stuff was crazy. Second off the bat, congrats to the UCI for holding the Cyclocross Masters World Championships at Eva Bandman park in Louisville Kentucky, the first time ever that a World Champs was held outside of Europe. I plan to spectate in 2013 when the Elite World Championships will be held at the same venue, and by most accounts the Masters version went off beautifully. Third off the bat, congrats to local vegan powerhouse Steevo for being the 5th fastest cyclocrosser in his age group IN THE WORLD! That stuff was crazy too. Elite Championships are taking place this weekend in Koksijde, Belgium, so do like me, get yourself an internet connection and get your stream on.

Things have been wet and sloggy here in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA. I would like to be able to report that I have been logging in some long, wet, road rides over the course of January but the reality is that after getting home in the dark after my daily bicycle commute to and from work I pretty much hunker down with the rugrats and call it a night. Which leads nicely into the next order of business for today: a little product review of the Nite Rider MiNewt 600 Cordless bicyle light, shown below with handlebar mount.

Now for those people who have known me for some time, I will start off by admitting that for many years, I thought it was silly to bedazzle a bicycle with lots of lights and shiny objects and therefore, for those many years, I did not use any lights when operating my bicycles in the dark. Maybe old age has changed me, or maybe I have actually gotten a bit smarter, but for about the past 5 years, I have made an effort to be seen when cycling in the dark. I have used several different brands and styles of lights, small and big, both front and back. Although I do not own any powerful night-riding lights for MTB use, I have borrowed them on many occasions with delight. I mostly purchased the MiNewt 600 for commuting, but I also wanted a light that could work for off-road night riding in the event that those people whom I borrow lights from get fed up with my begging. I have been using the light everyday for over three months and it has not given me any problems.

The light has only one button, which glows faint green when turned on and glows a faint red when the battery needs charging. The charging can be accomplished with a a USB connection or a wall jack and takes about 5 hours to fully charge. The light has a total of 5 modes: low, medium, high, flashing, and a dim "walk" mode. The waterproof case preforms admirably: I have ridden several times in pouring rain for 45 minutes and the light has never blinked. On one particularly cold day this winter, after my bicycle and light sat outside in single digits Fahrenheit for a few hours, the light would not turn on. I used that as an excuse to head into the nearest bar and warm up with a stiff drink; full functions returned after about 10 minutes of being indoors (the light's functions that is, I haven't been fully functional since I was about 13 years old) and I had no problems on the remainder of ride.

How bright is this light, you may be asking yourself, if you're still awake. Inspired by the folks at Dirt Rag magazine who did a fantastic job of documenting off road lighting systems in recent issues, I have some photographic evidence to help answer that.

First, here is a rainy dark Pittsburgh alley, illuminated with the little $20 light, that, if I had friends, I would lend to them on nights when we pedaled through the city on our way to concerts, movies, and the life of glamor.

And here is the the MiNewt 600 shown on the low setting.

Here is the the MiNewt 600 shown on the high setting.

I have used the light for a few MTB night rides and it is actually just as good as some more expensive light systems out there. On the high setting the light lasts 3 hours. The helmet mount is included with the light.

Impossible for me to capture (with my rudimentary photography skills) is the flash mode. Be warned, the flash mode is surprisingly bright and can illuminate reflective surfaces like license plates and road signs for up to three city blocks--no exaggeration, the flash mode is so bright that the unz unz unz of techno music starts thumping in my mind when I have it on. The flash mode could trigger seizures.

Overall, I like using this light a lot. With this light, I have actually noticed drivers wait to let me pass at intersections where, when using dimmer bike lights, I have seen cars pull out in front of me. The light functions in all but the most unmerciful weather conditions, is easy to charge, and can double as a MTB night riding light. The MSRP is $160.

Get out the cowbells for Cross Worlds and have a great weekend!