New Google Bike Slightly Less Horrible Than Previous One

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Aug 312012

Google recently unveiled their newest bicycle, the winning design among several submitted to resupply the Mountain View, California behemoth’s stable of “getting around campus”-mobiles. I’m happy to report it’s awful.

That’s a good thing, though, given the various hip, high-fashion bikes they might have chosen, this crude, little chunk of bicycle shows some class by just being a bicycle. A really horrible, poorly-made, appallingly ugly bicycle.

I’m always a little amazed when engineers in one field seem to have a complete and utter lack of appreciation for engineering in another. Surely there are at least a few Googlers who find it difficult to use these, though, compared to the bike it replaces, these seem positively amazing.

I’ve been gently kicking Google in the their double-“o”s for a while now, driven largely by the fact that I think they could be doing really amazing things, and instead they can’t seem to even keep their own Google+ app working on their own Android operating system.

Credit where credit’s due, though. Sometime Wednesday night, Google Maps was updated to include turn by turn directions for bicycle routes.

That’s pretty wonderful.

It still doesn’t excuse those Google bicycles, but it’s pretty great, and should help guys like me, who read cue sheets about as well as we read tea leaves, and three times slower. You can check out the update here.

That’s all I got for today. Back to another really long day of work. Big news this weekend.

Aug 302012

I think I might be looking forward to Interbike. It’s a strange feeling.

Last year, the tradeshow was plenty tolerable because I essentially didn’t have anything to do but wander aimlessly making snarky remarks and spending as long on senseless shit as I wanted. I took pictures and wrote brief little things. Easy.

On paper, this year looks a lot more intimidating. I’ll be in meetings with factory guys, representing a fledgling ecommerce site, and meeting with my manufacturer to go over a bunch of IT research and strategic planning issues.

Overall, I’ll be run pretty ragged, but somewhere in there, I’m sure I’ll still take photos and offer snark. Just a little.

After looking like clowns for not embracing 29ers soon enough, every brand in the world seems ready to charge into 650b, whether they understand the platform or not. Eurobike always provides the warning shot, and then Interbike catches me square between the eyes. Will I see more 650b 150-160mm travel mountain bikes or disc-brake equipped ‘cross bikes? Tough to say, but both will definitely be out in force.

And I love that.

I want to see 650b bikes and disc ‘cross bikes. Maybe it’ll get old sooner rather than later, but probably not.

I’m also looking forward to everything else. The Thomson dropper post (above) looks like the boys from Georgia finally brought a giant can of “what the fuck is wrong with all you people?” to the dropper post market. If it really is the dropper equivalent of a Thomson post–and that early report from Pinkbike sounds promosing–it’ll shake things up in a very good way.

I want to see King’s disc road hubs. There’s no reason to, because I get the idea of an R45 with higher flanges and a six-bolt disc mount, but still.

I would very much like to ride a bike with a Magura fork, and a bike with a Formula fork. Both seem to be bringing some intelligent design and simplicity make to forks, the way Marzocchi punk rocked everybody in the late ’90s by building a crude by effective mini version of a motorcross fork.

RockShox and Fox both seem likely to follow the electronic integration rabbit hole no matter where it leads, and I think options are nice. Having more than two viable fork manufacturers would also be nice. (And yes, I did happen to notice that a Suntour fork won Gold in the Oympics this year.)

I could just be that there are nice products entering the market. I hope so.

Signs and Symbols

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Aug 292012

They’ve just repaved some of the roads I use for riding to work, and I have to admit, the temporary, spray painted bike lane men have a lot more character than the regular stenciled ones. Take the little guy up there, for instance, waving to you while riding and sporting some devil horns. How do I know they’re devil horns? Because there are a lot of them with devil horns along my commute, and even one holding a pitchfork. In fact, I think the guy who painted these might not like cyclists that much.

It’s going to be a pretty busy week. I’m searching for a .NET developer, writing and organizing the last content pieces for a new site, planning a marketing campaign, and slowly building a bike company.

I capped off last night with another round of drawing adjustments to Danzig. I hope to build a fresh animation soon, but here’s where we are after that last round of revisions.


 Bikes, Gadgets  Comments Off on Unplugged
Aug 282012

The mad buzz of activity surrounding electronic suspension systems, including this Jet 9 RDO over at, shows no signs of stopping any time soon. This means two things:

First, it means electronic suspension will be unavoidable at Interbike. I doubt it’ll reach the level of carbon fiber Taiwan catalog hardtail 29ers or this year’s me-too, disc brake ‘cross bikes, but it will most certainly be present.

And why not. Electronics make everything better. Take Legos.

You could spend a few hours building something interesting with Legos, or you could spend just a few months longer and what appears to be slightly more money than the cost of an actual car to create this awesome Lego Mindstorm go-kart. But to get the full effect, you really have to see this thing in action!

Pure awesome. If you’ve ever wondered how large a Lego device would need to be in order to roll up onto a rug without visibly straining almost to the point of stopping, now we all know the answer is “apparently bigger than that.”

Sadly, the only thing we seem to be using electronics to do right now is power our bikes–like if we need to go a considerable distance but don’t want to have to burn $5 worth of dinosaur bones. Practical and beneficial for everyone? Sure. Just not nearly as exciting as figuring out ways to add electronics to do shit your bicycle already did without batteries.

In addition to shifting and suspension regulation, then, I have a few suggestions for other ways to incorporate electronics into the crude and overly mechanical world of riding a bicycle.

  1. The Brakes – Duh. We’re done everything else, but now it’s time for those wireless elecronic brakes that work almost all the time. Bonus points if they could make it so a call to my cell phone from my wife would slam on my brakes so I could take the call. That’s the type of integration we’ll be able to look forward to in the future.
  2. Hydration – Tell me this: how ridiculous is it that here, in the 21st Century, we have to suck on Camelbak tubes or squeeze water bottles? Electronically regulated hydration could make drinking as easy as pressing a button or two, and/or maybe regulating flow through some type of pressure control switch that mimics what the mouth does when it drinks.
  3. Tire Pressure – If only there was a way to fit a battery inside your tire, a small circuit board might be able to announce your current tire pressure every 30 seconds. Using apps and The Cloud, your friends could even monitor the air pressure in your bike tires from their desktop and mobile devices. And how fun would it be if they were also able to change that setting from their living room?
  4. Two Words: Remote Control – London’s Olympic XC course aside, the problem with traditional XC mountain bike races is that they’re endurance events. Not the most spectator-friendly of events, right? So let the racers do what they do so well: train and pedal. All that other stuff–from suspension settings and tire pressure to hydration and putting on the brakes–is really a hell of a lot to have to deal with while churning out 400 watts on the threshold of oxygen debt meltdown. So give all that crap to somebody else–somebody standing by the side of the racetrack. Radio-controlled mountain bike racing with real people on the bikes: you can’t deny the entertainment value in that.

Yep. We’re only in the early stages of this whole electronic thing. Look what it did for Dylan.


 Bikes  Comments Off on Highrocked
Aug 272012

Rode the Highrocks Invitational near Estacada yesterday, which meant seventy-two miles and 5672 feet of elevation gain. Hurt. One of the payoffs, the view from the highest elevation point on the ride, had to be missed thanks to some skeet shooters. The guy with the semi-auto and really bad aim was enough to keep me at the distance you see above.

Also did some drawing over the weekend.

Alcohol-related Injuries of Tomorrow

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Aug 242012

While our promised jet packs still haven’t arrived, we have some happy news today in the world of personal hovercraft. An article at details a pretty kickass little personal flying hover thing created by a company called Aerofex. The article likens it to a “science fiction flying bike”–“bike” here being a pretty loose description, based on the fact that it has two enclosed rotors.

I like it.

Best of all, it responds to the rider’s balance simply and mechanically, making it apparently really easy to fly. How easy?

‘Think of it as lowering the threshold of flight, down to the domain of ATV’s (all-terrain vehicles),’ said Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex.

ATVs, as we all know, are particularly easy to operate.

Something to look forward to, anyway.

Another something to look forward to? With a little luck and some free time, this hunk of metal might be a new swingarm for Danzig.

I recall the last 3D swingarm I built caused me to spend many hours with my head in my hands, weeping, so I’m hoping this one gets built a little easier.

Knocked Off

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Aug 232012

Once upon a time I worked for the Pittsburgh Symphony. I made phone calls to unsuspecting people and tried to convince them to purchase season passes. There were, apparently, “qualified leads” somewhere in the pile of symphony-hating rednecks and dead people (I actually got a “Baroness,” but even the qualified leads were fraught with peril. I, for instance, ended up calling a gentleman who just so happened to not only be a current member of the Pittsburgh Symphony–as in “in the band”–but was also a featured performer and composer who was actually having one of his pieces performed by the symphony that season.

He did not, it turns out, need tickets.

In my own defense, he had a particularly generic name, and I did note how odd it was that the random person I was about to call shared the same name as a guy whose work the symphony was performing. But surely, I reasoned, this had to be a different guy.

When Generically-named Composer pointed out that “we really needed to check our facts,” I agreed as politely as possible, set the receiver back down, and said out loud, “We? It’s your symphony.”

I just worked there, earning $5 and hour as I recall. On the rare occasions when I could park illegally and not get a ticket, I broke even. Getting a ticket set you back about a half a week’s worth of work, but paying for parking seemed to make even less sense. Even though the route would’ve passed the hospital where I was born, I wasn’t courageous enough to ride my bike from my apartment into that part of Pittsburgh at the time. And still wouldn’t be.

I mention all of this–and it ties in with the series of images you see above–because there was a quotation on the wall beside my desk at that job that I’ve never forgotten. I shared my desk with a delightfully daft elderly woman on the day shift, and she had taken it upon herself to decorate our mutual cubicle with motivationalisms. Partially, I’ve never forgotten this particular quote because it’s a sad and undying cliche with a thousand equally saccharine variations, and because I loathed it the way some people dislike eating live animals.

Here is what was printed–in glorious, overwrought calligraphy–on the wall of my sad little cubicle.

One of God’s greatest mysterious is His ability to let ordinary people do extraordinary things!

Understand, I was in grad school and dreaming of being a writer. The guy in the desk next to mine was an accomplished trumpet player, and the room in general–being the night shift–was filled with ballerinas and artists and would-be musicians. This doesn’t excuse what I did, mind you. I was, to be sure, a Grade A Asshole. But some context seemed appropriate.

What I did was very carefully create, using my own hands–hands which had always loved to draw and which had won several half-ass art competitions from an early age through high-school–a highly detailed copy that mimicked the particular calligraphy with a fair amount of accuracy. Only mine read, “Another of his great mysteries is an ability to let extraordinary people do ordinary things.”

I was thinking of this today as I read this piece in Gawker that my friend, Mat–a very legitimate artist–had recommended. It seems an elderly Spanish woman had taken it upon herself to restore a rare work by a 19th Century painter, Elías García Martínez.

Artistic taste varies, but I’d submit that if God called this woman to intervene and restore the once beautiful painting by Martinez, He was only messing with her.

The thing is, you have to actually know what you’re doing. Divine inspiration isn’t really something you should be counting on. At least not entirely. Put another way: sometimes ordinary people shouldn’t fuck with the extraordinary.

And what does any of this have to do with bicycles? Very little, except that I had a fantastic conversation with a guy in Taiwan tonight, and it wasn’t–as you might imagine–all about making bicycles in Taiwan. It was about making bicycles correctly. Much still needs to be done, but I think I know my best course of action now when it comes to making a new bicycle happen. We’ll see.


 Bikes  Comments Off on Bump
Aug 222012

Yesterday was the kind of day that just won’t quit. Any time I ride home from work with my phone beeping and buzzing the entire way, I know it’s going to be a long night. It was.

What I need, preferably by the time you read this, is a car that could drive me to work. Yes, it’s true. Despite working in Portland and riding my bike to work every day, I haven’t come to hate cars yet. It’s just that driving mine is a huge pain in the ass.

Sure, my car isn’t exactly indicative of most automobiles these day. I can’t get in the driver’s door any more, so I climb in the passenger’s side. And the dry erase board that’s been my rear passenger side window since the day I left Pennsylvania keeps heating up in the direct sunlight and sliding slowly down the side of the car, leaving a disgusting trail of Gorilla Tape glue everywhere. My wife and I have decided it’s time to donate the poor Outback to public radio–the automotive equivalent of taking it to a nice farm update where it can play outside all the time, in the fresh air, with the beloved Toyota Forerunner I’d donated half a dozen years ago.

But I hate driving it. It seems to take me longer to make the 12-mile trip to work in the car than it does on the bike. Maybe that’s an illusion, but, given the traffic, I doubt it–and even if it is, I’m happy to live that delusion. The bike’s faster.

I also feel strung out when I arrive at work in the car. Awkward, too, as if I’d worn clown shoes to work. I’m self-conscious trying to park it. That’s partially because it makes horrible screeching noises due to what I suspect is a dragging rotor or bad wheel bearing, even though I’d just had those checked at two separate places and was told both bearings and brakes are “good.” Maybe that’s why it gets like seven miles per gallon these days.

On my bike, I’d never tolerate a brake dragging like that, but in the car, you just roll up the window and screech away, driving to work with the brakes on and getting single-digit gas mileage.

Now, if I had a new car–one that drove itself and/or talked to me the whole way? That’d be an entirely different story.

According to Dara Kerr at CNET, if I were in Michigan, I might be able to arrange that.

While Google’s (nightmarish) self-driving cars are still a ways away (I hope), the “smartcars” being tested in Michigan by the Department of Transportation are simply connected to a network. This means two potentially amazing things:

First, WiFi cars equipped with fancy GPS devices could literally refuse to crash into one another. Pretty slick, that. They could “talk” to one another, exchange data like Bump, that app where you touch two smartphones together to exchange generally useless information. Just think: your car could be doing that.

Second, hacking is about to get a hell of a lot messier.

Which is why I’ll likely stay with the bike, no matter what jetcars show up.

Spacial Public Relations

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Aug 212012

Ahab had his whale. Me, I have the perfect box size for shipping bicycles. It’s something I never quite perfected in my previous life–at least not for reasonably shipping bikes under $1000. It’s a little easier to absorb $50-100 shipping on a $4000 bicycle. On a $500 bike, that’s not ideal.

Actually the analogy doesn’t hold. Ahab at least knew his white whale existed. Me, I strongly suspect the magical “sub-130 dimension, safe for 60cm cyclocross frames with minor disassembly required” box is a complete myth. So it’s a little like I’m sitting in a cold drizzle on Loch Ness, shaking my fist at shadows on the waves.

It’s come to that.

Some sort of form-fitting foam shell, maybe. Still processing.

I think it’s cool that for like $300 Competitive Cyclist will ship your bike in a coffin-sized slab of cardboard, delivered by tractor trailer, completely and utterly assembled so that you never have to meet anyone at your local bike shop–presumably until you flat three miles from home and are rendered utterly helpless, or you run into them on a group ride and are “savaged.”

In the interest of one-upping even that, admittedly posh delivery method, I’m considering offering a Rapha-designed 1,000 square-foot gold-plated shark tank bar signed by Lars Ulrich. Reinforced internally and externally with carbon fiber and lined with brushed smoking jackets and discarded facial hair of Bradley Wiggins, it will also incorporate a suspension system made from 200 custom 500tpi Dugast bouncy balls and recycled breast implants (keep it green, people), and will be delivered by a black helicopter with a single, pink landing gear rail. Or one of those elephants from Lord of the Rings, if it’s an Open O-1.0, because those guys think differently.

Writing this will probably cause Google to display those Competitive Cyclist ads that follow you around everywhere to appear in my sidebar. Using the phrase “Competitive Cyclist ads” will probably cause Google to blacklist me, steal my identity, rip out the stereo, take the wheels and burn what’s left.

Alas. Boxes. They haunt my dreams.

That, and the thing you see above. It was in the refrigerator when I opened the door tonight. I think my wife is going to turn it into food of some sort, but really, the severed head of a gremlin would’ve looked less out of place in the refrigerator. Assuming it isn’t the severed head of a gremlin, I mean. I didn’t touch it, but here’s what it looks like with glasses photoshopped onto it:

Ah, and the factory meetings are beginning for Project Danzig, wherein one person assures me that the factory being recommended by another is completely incapable of making anything more complex than an aluminum can. This is going to be interesting.

Time Out

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Aug 202012

Difficult to believe my posts could become even more rambling and disjointed than they’ve been lately, but the next month should take chaos to a whole new level. Quite a few things are happening all at once. Got a site to launch. Interbike meetings are already scheduled, including meetings for Project Danzig. Last year, I went to Interbike as Press. This year, I’m there for Retail, Wholesale and Manufacturing. My evil plan to work in every separate part of the bike industry is right on schedule. Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh.

It’s going to be a wild ride. Fortunately, it seems I have some rest coming up.

Just when you thought the Mayans were done declaring apocalypse, another one rolls around. The apocalypse du jour, so to speak, is scheduled for December 21st, meaning we may all be able to get some rest before the year’s out.

And if not, I’m sure we’ll come up with another one within minutes of discovering that life as we know it has stubbornly gone on going on. In an article that showed up Friday on, Matt Ridley has used the term “apocaholism” to refer to our seemingly endless desire to predict the End of It All. It’s a pretty beautiful term, and succinctly captures the weird fascination with human finales.

Ridley’s an interesting fellow thinking interesting thoughts, and more of his writing can be found on his site. One of his primary arguments is that, rationally, the sky isn’t actually falling. Compelling, but way less exciting than the alternative a lot of us seem to prefer.

Me, I’m hoping that once again the Mayan calendar turns out to be just a little inaccurate, so that I can finally get to test the new frame design.