Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SRAM Goes Public

On April 29, 2011 a new company, SRAM International Corporation, was incorporated for the purpose of becoming a holding company with a 100 percent ownership interest in SRAM, LLC.  SRAM is the owner of RockShox, Avid, Truvativ, Zipp, and Quarq power meters.  Reuters (and many other sites) has reported that SRAM International has filed with regulators to potentially raise $300 million with an initial public offering (IPO) of common stock.  SRAM International plans trade to under the "SRAM" symbol, but it has not yet been determined which market to trade on, NASDAQ or NYSE. The number of shares that are planned to be released nor the expected value of the shares was released.  J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley are the lead underwriters on the deal.

Reasons to Go Public

According to Bicycle Retailer, the purpose of the offering is to repay debt to Trilantic Partners. Trilantic (formerly known as Lehman Brothers Merchant Bank, the buyout arm of Lehman Brothers) invested $234.8 million in SRAM in September 2008 plus a 10 percent annual preferred return.

SRAM Stats

Recent documents filed with the SEC provide a few interesting facts about the world’s number two bike component maker:
  • From 2006 to 2010, SRAM grew revenues about 17% per year to more than half a billion dollars in 2010.
  • The company improved operating margins from 8% to 19% which points to increasing profit margins.
  • Net earnings (profit) in 2010 were $50 million.
  • Aftermarket sales are increasing and the company credits improved marketing
  • About two-thirds of company sales originate from the OEM segment with the remainder in the aftermarket.
  • The company estimates it holds about 15 percent market share in the $3.5 billion bicycle component market.
  • SRAM holds 550 patents.

Experts Say


According to some financial analysts, SRAM’s pending IPO could benefit from the current positive state of the capital markets.
“Timing is everything in the M&A business and the financial business,” said Laurence Levi, president of VO2 Partners, an investment firm focused on the specialty sports equipment sector. “A year ago, the market for IPOs was pretty anemic; today it’s pretty hot. A bunch of IPOs becoming active, specifically in the lifestyle market.”
Claude Proulx, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, had this to say: “The stock market has done quite well in the last 12 months and the S&P 500 is not far from its all time high.”

In or Out?

Well that's it - time to empty out the kids' college funds and dump them into the bicycle market.  This way, I can validate my component upgrades as spending on SRAM parts will ensure my kids get the best education money can buy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rollin' Below Rowland - New Trail Report

There is a new trail in Edmonton and it is much different than any of the existing trails we have.  It is a 800m stretch of single track just south of the North Saskatchewan River between the Wayne Gretzky bridge and Riverside Gold Course, just down the bank from Rowland Road.  The trail is filled with plenty of short, steep, power climbs, technical side hill riding and 180 degree turns to test your slow speed bike handling skills. There has not been an official name given to it yet, so expect it to go by several names or simply a location name.

Early Ride Thoughts

Because the trail is still quite new, the soil is still quite loamy which robs you of your power.  Once the trail has been ridden and packed, I expect it to ride much differently.   The first time I rode it was on my single speed and I found it to be just a bit more work than was enjoyable.  Through the pain and suffering I could foresee how much fun this trail could be with lower gearing.  On my Sunday ride I brought out the Vertex 29er SE and the trail was much more enjoyable with a full range of gears.

Technical Aspects
The most difficult trail feature that comes to my mind as I write this is the short power climbs.  Once the trail is packed I suspect that I will be able to clean all of these, but with the soft loamy soil, these were the most challenging sections of this new trail. 

What will keep this trail difficult for the long haul is very tight turns that make riding a longer wheel based bike quite difficult.  One place especially tricky has you turning right around the corner into a skinny bridge, (when riding east to west.)  Making this corner and getting my rear wheel on the skinny will require some rear wheel hopping to get better aligned.  Riding it twice now has had my rear tire just miss the inside right even with my front tire as far left on the skinny as it will go.   Riding from west to east I was able to keep both tires on the skinny, however the uphill corner ate me up once I cleared the skinny.  Definitely a great feature to help improve my skills.

My favourite section, riding east to west, is close to the end - a small, tight switchback.  There is a small log pile into a tight 180 degree right turn followed by an even tighter left with a tricky ground formation to overcome.  Here is a video of that section:
http://youtu.be/yqjiP4CFjWE


Thumbs Up

The most impressive thing about this new trail is the lack of actual 'building' that was done.  The builder(s) did an excellent job of designing a very challenging trail by utilizing the natural contours of the area.  The ridge line is worked in on several occasions, creating a nice flow in certain areas, contrasted difficult power climbs and side hills in other areas.  It's good to see that such excellent work is being done to enhance our local trail systems.

Here is a video of the entire trail travelling west to east:
http://youtu.be/MyHnM1xU4gw

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get Your Granny Gear XC 2011

Over the past few seasons, a typical May long weekend for an Alberta XC racer involved heading west of Edmonton to Fern and Harvey's MTB farm for the All You Can Eat Buffet of Bacon, Pain and Suffering XC race and the Trans Stony Marathon. The Bacon XC is my most memorable course as it was my very first XC race. I managed to finish so far behind the rest of the pack that they started the next race before I even finished my last lap. I came completely unprepared - no training, no gels or energy source (okay, that's a lie - I did have some bacon in the feed zone) and I ran out of water just after my second lap. Never so much pain have I felt. It was a truly humble introduction to XC racing. The following year at Stony Plain I managed to knock 40 minutes off my previous year's time for my first podium finish. Sweet revenge. Ahh, the gamut of emotions when I think of the Bacon XC race. Sadly, Fern and Harvey sold their land; and with the sale of the land, so goes the Bacon XC and the Trans Stony Marathon. Although the Bacon XC race is gone, it will live forever in my heart. Sigh.

Enter the Get Your Granny Gear XC race at Terwillegar Park in Edmonton, AB. As the saying goes, out with the old, in with the new. And this race is definitely new. The XC race will take place this year on the Sunday but rather than a marathon on Monday, a time trial and dirt criterium have been added to the agenda on the Saturday.

Saturday, May 21st will start with a time trail run on Fireman's Loop - a long double track climb followed by a technical, single track descent. The concept is simple - each racer goes separately and the person with the fastest time wins. This is definitely a race that can be won on the climb and lost on the descent.

The dirt crit, which will follow the time trial on Saturday, will be 3/4/5 laps on, surprisingly, a dirt track.

Finally, the Granny Gear XC race on Sunday, May 22nd will be a standard ABA XC race. I will be competing in the Sport Men's category. If you are coming out to watch, I will be the one at the back of the pack - feel free to point and laugh.

Check out the technical guide HERE and register for one, or all, of the races HERE.  Anyone who isn't racing, please come out and cheer on those who are competing! 

Thank you to Hardcore Bikes and redbike for organizing this ABA event.

UPDATE - Here are my pictures from Saturday.  Please leave links to other photos in the comments!

Photos from Dave Roberts - please respect copywrite properties! 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Are you Ready for Hydraulic Shifting?


Do you find yourself replacing shifter cables on a regular basis due to riding in muddy conditions?  Are you tired of cable stretch?  Frayed ends?  Pinch points?  These may all be a thing of the past.  A high end German component company, Acros, has produced a small batch of hydraulic shifters - right and left shifters, front and rear derailleurs, and all the hoses filled with mineral oil.  Acros displayed their completely sealed product, the A-GE system, at the Sea Otter Classic last month and it has drawn plenty of attention.  You can find plenty of articles discussing the A-GE system on many sites such as Pinkbike, Bike Radar, Bike Mag and Bike Rumor.  I am by no means any sort of subject matter expert so I will simply give you the gist of what all these sites are reporting.

Dream the Design
This is not the first attempt at a hydraulic system and this isn't even Acros' design.  These hydraulic shifters originally appeared at Eurobike in 2006 as designed by Christophe Muthers as 5-rot.  Due to limited resources, Muthers was unable to get the idea to production on his own.  Muthers approached Acros in 2009 to complete the product where Muthers was hired on the R&D team.  With some minor redesigns, the hydraulic shifting system was reborn.

Benefits

The first benefit is in the shifting ability.  Without cables and wires, the A-GE system promises silky smooth shifting that should not change over time due to the sealed hydraulics.  But what about fade, as you experience with hydraulic brakes?  Because shifters don't face heat cycles as you would see with brakes, this shouldn't be a concern.  Actually, it is predicted that, barring a epic fail of the sealed system, these hydraulics may last indefinitely. 

Okay, improved shifting is fine, but running hydraulics must present a weight penalty?  Well, according to Acros, the A-GE system is 150g lighter than SRAM's XX and 175g lighter than Shimano's XTR.  This claim includes all shifters, derailleurs, cables and housing.  Impressive. 

Pricing

Of course, with all these added benefits over XX and XTR, there should be a hefty price tag.  You wouldn't be incorrect - it is anticipated that for a cool $2,000 USD you can have your own A-GE system.  What?  Too steep?  Ya, no doubt.  Keep in mind this is the first run and at production level of 250, the price seems to be reasonable, all things considered.  Once the A-GE system goes into large scale production, expect the price to drop.  Once there is market saturation, the price will come down even further.  Still, even after the price hits the bottom, you have to expect that these will still cost quite a bit more than XX or XTR if you are getting better shifting at a lower weight. 

What Does the Future Hold?

This is a huge step in technology.  Similar to when hydraulic brakes entered the market, expect a few other companies to jump on board and drive each other to create improvements and push the price down.  Hopefully there will be some entry to mid level offerings that are a bit more wallet friendly.  Still, it will be a few years before these become a fixture on the Alberta racing circuit, even if there is a more 'mid level' offering for those of us who have to buy our own parts.

It will be interesting to see how far behind the 'big boys' SRAM and Shimano are on this movement.  In 2006, Shimano published a patent for hydraulic shifting mechanisms.  It would have seemed like a natural fit to introduce them to the dual control levers, but since Shimano dropped their dual control line for 2011, that seems like the least likely scenario at this point.  If the user feedback from users on the A-GE system is positive, expect the race to be on for SRAM and Shimano.

This still doesn't address my concerns with rear derailleurs and the long cage that can bend or snap off with minimal impact.  Perhaps Shimano and SRAM are focusing on internal gearing such as the Alfine rear hub or the Hammershmidt crankset?  Both require further improvements but if you were running one of these component giants, where would you want to focus your R&D?  Internal gearing or hydraulic shifting?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fat Tire Tuesdays

Here we go again for 2011!  This is my 3rd year participating in Fat Tire Tuesdays, which is definitely one of my favorite parts of the mountain biking season. The races are located at Terwillegar Park where there are plenty of options to put together a variety of courses so that races don't get stagnant.   There isn't many places were you can spend $5 and get the level of entertainment you can as here.  A short track MTB race, draw prizes, snacks and refreshments, and good friends is well worth the small fee. 

For those who ride mountain bikes but haven't tried racing you should come check out Fat Tire Tuesdays.  Even if you aren't into doing a lot of training, there are several categories of racers to test any skill level.  If you are interested in racing but you don't want to spend the extra money for a race license and the Alberta Cup race entry fees, these races are exactly what you are looking for.

For me, each year my family life gets a little bit busier and I find it more and more difficult to put time into training. Weekends will eventually be filled with transporting Lachlan to his events and there will come a time when I won't be able to participate in Alberta Cup races. Even though that isn't something I want to give up, I know I will still be able to make time to come to the Fat Tire Tuesday races to get my competative racing fix in. Judging by the ages of the more experienced participants who regularly attend Fat Tire Tuesdays, I expect to be racing in these for as long as my body will allow me to.

A big 'thank you' to the group at Hardcore Bikes for the organizing that goes into running this event every week.   Take a look at the poster for 2011 to see more details.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ahhh... Sweet Dirt!

It was a long, snowy, cold winter here in Edmonton, followed by a long, snowy, cold spring.  It's hard to believe that it is May before we can ride the trails without plowing through snow or bogging through mud.  Sure you can find snow and mud on the sheltered trails or those with poor drainage, but trails that are in direct sun all appeared to be clear. 

After seeing how wet the trails looked on Tuesday and Wednesday during my commute, I didn't plan a lot of single track during my ride today but rather just get out and spin the legs.  All of the multi use trails that were sloppy on Tuesday are now dry which gave me some hope that there would be some single track action that wouldn't result in a mudfest. We ran into a few small sections of mud and snow during our ride today, but I found more tacky dirt than anything, and that is definitely a good thing.

I'm not exactly sure why, but Ewok always seems to be one of the first areas to be ready.  Whether it is because it faces west or due to the slope of the bank helps it drains quicker, the upper trail is always one of the driest trails in Edmonton.  There was only one real muddy section near the south end of the trail in one of the drainage areas where there was some standing water.  Overall, the trail is is prime spring condition.

Mill Creek has a couple west facing trails as well which were also quite dry.  The upper trails on the north end of the ravine are in great shape and very little mud to be found.  Some of the steeper climbs were quite dry and loose.  A big 'thank you' to the mysterious person who was busy last fall putting in some ladder bridges over the mud holes. The few mud sections that were found had bridges in place to help preserve the trails as best as possible.

Having some single track to ride home on the commute will sure make the ride home a lot more enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Really Busy or Just Lazy?

My updates have been few and far between lately but I suspect they should pick up with some regularity now.  I have a couple really good reasons and several excuses for not posting updates,  My best (or should this be my worst?) excuse is that my old laptop bit the dust and having to go down to my office rather than sit in front of the TV and type with the tube on in the background seemed like too much of a chore.  I was getting some renovations done around the house and taking Lachlan skating but there is always time after he has gone to bed.  The only good reason I had was the workload of my latest NAIT class, but I was able to manage previously so why not now?  As most people with full time jobs and families, I am really busy, I am always really busy, but there is always time for something if you make time.  I simply chose not to make the time.

So what's the big deal?  It's a blog with 4 readers (okay 4 might be a high guess - let me have my moment).  Who cares?  Well, it's just a small example of how I let anything to do with cycling slip by this winter.  My training occurred about as often as my updates and the 'drive' to step up my game for 2011 went by the wayside.  Thankfully, I wasn't on the couch all winter so even though I wasn't on the bike I was able to keep some general level of fitness. Playing hockey, choosing to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator and walks at lunch have helped keeping my fitness from deteriorating.  With the first race of the season upon us, what should one do if they haven't sat on a bike all winter? 

I have only been cycling for 3 years now and commuting has always been something that I thought would be great to do but because of location and travel time, lack of adequate bike storage facilities and no shower facilities, commuting was never given much of a second thought.  There would be no real monetary advantage as my wife and I have always managed to carpool to work and even if I decide to ditch the car for the bike, she would still need to drive as Lachlan would still need to get to daycare. 

This year, due to the unpredictability of my wife's schedule as of late, I decided that I would start commuting home from work.  This works out well as I still get to sleep in, pack all my gear into my pack, throw the bike into the back of the car and drive into work with my wife.  I lock my bike up in the secured storage area and I don't have to worry about getting showered or changed before stepping into the office.  On my way home I can now leave the office when I am ready, get some saddle time in and on my first attempt today I actually got home before my wife. 

The commute went well as it is only 20 kms, most of which can be done on bike paths rather than on the streets.  Using Mill Creek and the bike path along 91 Street sure made the first commute comfortable as I was able to keep off the road for approximately 75% of my ride.  Once I perfect a route and my bike fitness levels return to a reasonable level I might consider riding into work as well.  I pushed reasonably hard for the entire trip and determined a few things.  First, the little bit of hockey and stair work kept my lungs in great shape.  Second, all those things did nothing for my cycling legs.  My legs were burning with every pedal stroke yet I was never even close to being out of breath.  My legs definitely felt better near the end and I was able to kick it up a few gears - I suspect that it was the rust on my legs. 

Just a quick update on the trails - there is some actual dry dirt out there!  Unfortunately there is only small sections and mostly just soft and muddy.  I suspect it will be another 10 days or more before we can get on the trails without causing too much damage.  I'll start bringing my camera next week and post some updates.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Edmonton Bike Skills Training Facility

I would like to pass along an open invitation I recieved. I urge all of you to pass this along with any medium you have available to you as well:

This is an invitation to a Very Special Meeting being held on Friday April 1, 2011 @ 6:30pm @ 118 Ave 92 Street - Alberta Avenue Community League - to plan a Bike Skills Training Facility that will be showcased at Bikeology this June. This is not an April fools joke...fun, but not funny! The bike skills training will involve people from many communities sharing in a project that will bring people to 118 Avenue and promote the area’s revitalization and encourage community. I will be sharing my ideas with the group, and encouraging you all to seek as many people on all levels to get involved in this truly outstanding opportunity!

THIS IS HUGE!!! I can’t say enough about how much I NEED YOUR SUPPORT!!! each and everyone of you play an integral role in this Community, you’re respected members of our City, and can give in ways you may not even see yet? Sponsors, sponsors, sponsors!!!??? if you have ANYONE that’s willing to get advertisement space, we will be asking for word-of-mouth on connecting us with some Choice Vendors/Shops that can be involved in something that will benefit our City, and in turn us!

This is a Dream of mine......the benefit, a Safe Place to Learn, Play, and Grow as Human Beings!

Lowering crime, particularly Bike Crime, well this will continue to do so...as has The Spoke!
I Will be serving FREE PIZZA/DRINKS, so please bring people out, this is a family event, feel free to bring Kids!

Thank you all for your time,

Peace, Mountain Bike Mike.
I have been a part of many conversations amongst local trail riders suggesting we need something like this so here is our opportunity to show support for this project.  I hope to see some familiar faces this Friday...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Single Speed is Finally Done!

This post has been a long time coming.  As I had alluded to in a post last December, I have been gathering parts to build a single speed.  This process starting in October but there were some delays on parts orders and general flip flopping on what parts I actually wanted.  The build was finally completed at the end of February and other than a few exceptions, I couldn't be happier with the final result.

Here is my build list:

Frame - 2009 Rocky Mountain Hammer 29
Crankset - TruVativ Stylo OCT 1.1, 32T
Wheelset - Velocity Blunt 29er rims with Shimano XT hubs
Brakes - Formula Oro K24
Rotors - Formula Oro - 180 front, 160 rear
Fork - Exotic Rigid 29er
Headset - FSA Orbit MX
Stem - Thomson Elite X4
Bars - RaceFace Deus
Seatpost - Thomson Elite
Saddle - Fizik Tundra
SS Hub Converter - Origin8
Rear Cog - Shimano 18T
Tires - Maxxis Ardent 2.25
Skewers - Shimano XT 9mm

Initially I was only intending to use this as a fun bike.  I was only going to take it out on the odd group ride, when I ride with the family or with the dogs. Ass the process wore on, I started to get the itch to try my luck in a couple races.  Now, some of the build components don't scream out 'racer,' specifically the steel frame and the wheels.  That being said, I am close to the same weight my 'race' bike is.  It took losing front suspension, shifters, derailluers, cables, a couple rings and a cassette to make up for the difference, but here we are at about 24.5 lbs on both bikes.  There is no doubt in my mind which bike is faster, gearing aside.  With over a pound difference in wheel weight, getting the SS up to speed will take considerably more effort.  If I were to try my luck at the Canadian Single Speed Championships, I just might be forced to pull my fork off my Vertex SE and put it on my SS.  I just can't see hammering out multiple laps on a rigid on a course that has as many roots as the Edmonton Canada Cup course.  That would also get me a lighter front wheel as the fork is a 15mm through axle.

As I mentioned, I am quite pleased with the final result, but I did miss the boat on a few items when looking back.  Obviously, had I been building a racer there is a lot of changes that would be required.  The one piece that I would made a different decision on (had I just been a little bit more knowledgeable at the time) is the bar.  Choosing aluminum over carbon was a poor decision.  The original decision had more to do with me thinking the benefit of carbon was reduced weight and cutting some grams on this build wasn't a concern so why bother?  Well, I have since found out that most guys who ride rigid use carbon bars as carbon does a much better job of reducing vibration.  Doh!  Live and learn, I guess. 

The other area where I made a poor decision due to the fact I knew next to nothing about riding rigid, I didn't realize that there would be a big difference from one fork to the next.  In my case, I bought the cheapest aluminum fork I could find.  I don't think I could have been any more incorrect as it is the same old story - you get what you pay for.  Carbon forks are much more compliant and do provide some level of vibration dampening that aluminum forks simply won't do.  I wasn't (and I am still not) convinced I want to ride rigid but I definitely want to try it out and because of that uncertainty, I couldn't bring myself to buy what I really wanted - a Niner carbon fork.  Bling bling and ching ching!!!  These are arguably the best rigid forks on the market and cost about as much as a entry to mid level air fork.  This may be a treat for next year if I am convincingly sold on this rigid idea.

Thankfully these weren't too costly of mistakes and I can always upgrade down the road.  Now that the build is complete I really can't wait to get this beast on the trail.  Unfortunately, with a base of over 3 feet of snow still remaining on the ground, it could be quite a while before this bike gets to see any dirt.









Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 Race Schedule


I had heard there was going to be some changes to the 2011 Alberta Bicycle Association Mountain Bike schedule from the previous two seasons so I was quite excited when I saw the new schedule for the first time last week.  You can find the complete schedule here, but the following are the events I will most likely participate in.

     Date     /     Name     /     Organizer     /     Location     

Sun 05/22     /     Hardcore XC     /     Hardcore     /     Edmonton

Mon 05/23   /   Hardcore/Redbike   /Edmonton

Sat 05/28     /     Calgary XC     /     Dead Goat     /     Calgary

Sat 06/04 / Kananaskiker MTB Stage Race / Café Racers / Canmore

Sun 06/05 / Kananaskiker MTB Stage Race / Café Racers / Canmore

Sat 06/11   /   Iron Lung XC    /   CMC/Bow Cycle   /   Canmore

Sat 07/09   /    Perogy XC      /      RVC    /    Edmonton

Sun 07/10   /    Perogy XC     /      RVC     /    Edmonton

Sun 07/17   /   Mountain Bike Nationals   /   CMC/Bow Cycle   /   Canmore

Sun 07/24 / Edmonton Canada Cup / Alberta MTB Racing / Edmonton

Sat 08/27   /    XC Provincials    /    Freewheel   /   Hinton

I took a few marathon races off my list as they have not been my focus previously.   I did leave one marathon race on my list with hope that it will kick start my season.  With my goals this season being less aggressive from last year, I feel I can relax my training to allow some longer races.   Also, with this only being my 4th year riding, I finally feel like I actually have the fitness to complete an endurance race.

There will be one or two out of town races on here that I won't be able to make but at this point I haven't made a final decision which event I won't be attending.  What I do know is that a personal schedule with races 4 weeks in a row (and 3 weeks straight in Calgary/Kananaskis/Canmore) will not be wife approved.  With Lachlan's birthday falling in mid-June, the Iron Lung is most likely the one that will have to suffer for the third straight year. 

As for local races, my two previous best performances have been at the Edmonton Canada Cup so I am hoping that I can have similar results in 2011.  I think has mostly due to that the course suits my strengths; lots of roots and power climbs keep me out of the saddle for most of the race. 

As for the remaining Edmonton races, I am not too sure where in the city these will be held.  I assume that at least one will be held at Terwillegar Park but it is possible that both will be held there.  I would like to see one of these races held in Strathcona Science Park.  The Science Park was the home of the MTB race for the 2007 Western Canada Summer games so there is a suitable track available.  In addition, there is ample room for parking and compared to Terwillegar, users at the Science Park are almost non-existent. 

Finally, I was happy to see provincials at Hinton again this year.  I had a great time last year as the course was a real test of mettle.  The climbs were long and grueling but they weren't the hardest part.  The descents were punishing enough on a hard tail that I was begging to climb.  My arms and legs felt like I was riding a jackhammer as I tried to absorb the relentless terrain as we worked to the bottom of the hill.  I can't wait to try it again in 2011!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mishugina

What is the craziest trail you have ever ridden?  Most of us instantly think of that one trail when after we got finished we said "WOW - that was the scariest thing I have ever done on my bike!"  If you haven't been on a trail that has scared you half-to-death, I would like to introduce you to Mishugina.  This trail consists of a series of skinnies, gaps and drops located on Bowen Island, just North of Vancouver.  You may have seen this video before as it has been around for a few years but seeing it again can't be a bad thing.  Enjoy!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmbJrhcP0A8

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Add-ons for GoPro

It wasn't too long ago that I posted my Christmas Wish List and I noted that I would like to have a GoPro 1080p HD Camera.  I noted that because I am cheap, the 960p would be what I would get myself if I was shelling out the cash to purchase one of these as the features on the 1080p were more than what I required.  Other than the 1080p recording capability, the biggest difference was the expansion capability of the 1080p model.  Thankfully, my wife is amazing and decided to get me something I wouldn't buy myself.  At the time I told her it was too much but now I am glad she did get me the top model because there was a recent sneak peak of some of the expansion packs that will soon be available. 

According to engadget.com, GoPro has introduced a clip-on LCD screen that not only shows what you are viewing but displays battery life as well as an external speaker.  There is also a battery bacpac that will allow you to carry two batteries.  They have also created a new back cover for the housing if you are intending to get an add-on to accommodate the additional bulk.

Then, there is the new GoPro 3D offering.   According to the article, the quality is quite amazing considering how compact the camera is.  To upgrade your current 1080p camera to 3D would require you to purchase an additional 1080p camera and a 3D housing designed to fit both cameras.   

I have only had the opportunity to put together two videos to date but I suspect these new expansions will be worthwhile improvements to the capabilities of the GoPro camera.  The battery expansion like would seem like the most useful as you could film a great deal longer and not have to worry about your battery running out or switching batteries during your ride.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ride Before the Storm

There was a huge winter storm that hit Edmonton on January 7th, 2011 and continues to dump snow on us.  In just over a week we have seen almost 2 feet of snow and deep freeze conditions with temperatures colder than -30 degrees Celsius when factoring in the wind chill.  What do you  do when the weather is like that?  Well, there is a lot of shoveling, but I also had some spare time on my hands to edit some video.

This video was shot on January 3rd, 2011, my last ride before the storm.  It was my last day off during the Christmas break and the weather was beautiful.  I headed out solo from DaCapo Cafe then rode along the south side of the North Saskatchewan River to the Dawson bridge and back.  It wasn't a long ride, but definitely good to get out for a spin. 



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W0fIQSP-os

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stairway to Health


My employer has issued a Workplace Wellness Challenge to all employees.  The challenge, called Stairway to Health, is to take the stairs more often.  To complete the challenge, each participant must use take stairs (up and down) from the 10th floor at least 10 times between January 14th and February 14th. 

Each participant is required to log the number of trips they make as well as the days in which they take the stairs.  There will be a draw prize for each person who completes the challenge as well as a prize for the person who does the most amount of trips.  Most of you know how competitive I am, so I have decided that I will be aiming for top prize.  I figure if I take the stairs up and down from the 10th floor two or three times each work day I have a great shot at taking home top prize.  If I hear rumblings that I am not in the lead I will use my lunch breaks to top up my totals.

Unlike my regular motivation to simply do what it takes to win, I see this stair challenge as a great off season training tool to improve my cycling.  I have found that it is getting more difficult to fit my required training into my day as my little guy gets older.  Because Lachlan is much more active than when he was a baby or toddler, he now takes up a lot more of my spare time in the evenings.  I used to be able to sneak down and do a workout in my basement in the evenings but now I find myself busy playing goalie in my living room or setting up Hot Wheels race tracks.  Please don't think that I am complaining as I love spending time with him; what I am getting at is when priorities take up more of your free time, you find less time to dedicate to your hobbies.  Fitting my fitness into my work hours has now become a necessity with how much of my time is required at home.

I will update this page with my number of trips and how my perceived fitness is improving.  I challenge you to start a similar competition in your workplace.     


January 14th to 24rd

I wasn't sure how I would do in this challenge.  I know I am stubborn enough to do what ever it takes to complete my goal so I thought there was a chance I would be in for a lot of pain; after my first attempt it was much easier than I originally anticipated.  I was able to run down all 10 flights and run back up the first six flights and walk the remaining four in 2 minutes and 20 seconds.  Not too shabby.  My next timed attempt was 2:15 and by the end of the week I was consistently coming in at 2:05.  Unfortunately, I was also becoming more and more fatigued as I was running the stairs 3 times a day.  I was looking forward to getting some recovery time in over the weekend and see how I was able to hit the stairs with fresh legs. 

The weekend didn't provide me any recovery as I ended up playing hockey on Saturday and went for a 4 hour ride on Sunday.  I bonked after about 2 hours and 45 minutes (had no idea we would be out that long so I was very under prepared) and still had over 15 kms to ride back to my vehicle.  I knew I would be a bit sore the next day but I was going to attempt to keep up with taking the stairs.  As I climbed the stairs from the ground floor to the Mezzanine I felt a shooting pain in my left knee.  I know I am stubborn, but I also know when my body is telling me to stop.  I jumped on the elevator as I didn't want to risk causing further pain and discomfort.  I suspect this is an over use injury so hopefully if I dial things back for a couple days the pain will go away.

Total count for the first week: 17

January 25th to 31st

I did the stairs on the 25th at noon and felt okay, but spin class that night confirmed my suspicion that I was dealing with an over use injury and it was time to back the effort off.  I was having issues keeping it correctly aligned and although I was able to realign it several times, it didn't hold for more than a couple minutes at the longest so I pulled the plug and packed up my gear half way through the session.  Anyone who knows me is aware that for me to give in would require a significant amount of pain and discomfort, which was definitely the case in this instance.  I was able to spin lightly but as soon as I tried to apply power I would get a sharp pain in the back of my knee as if a large needle was being inserted over and over again.  Unfortunately I am calling it quits for the week and feel quite disappointed about it.  However, long term health is much more important that winning a stair challenge or training for a race season.  A week off would probably be good for me anyway.  I did the stairs on Friday to check how things felt and the knee felt better but by no means was it back to normal  .I did the stairs Monday morning and the knee was definitely.  My heart rate was high when I reached the top, but that is normal and expected. 

Total count for the second week: 3

February 1st to 7th

More issues this week.  My knee was feeling normal again but what wasn't normal was the feeling I got Monday night/Tuesday morning that made me shoot out of bed to the bathroom.  Let's just say I was 'firing on all cylinders' and I was back and forth numerous times over the next 6 hours.  I was feeling a bit better on Wednesday morning but there was no way I was about to do stairs with no food in my system since Monday.  Thursday came and I was feeling considerably better than the previous morning but I was late so again, an elevator ride for Gord.  Wow – the excuses are really starting to pile up.  This is what lack of motivation looks like, kids!  Friday I was feeling better so I trudged up the stairs a few times and I felt good.  Monday came around and I was able to knock off a few more sets of stairs.     

Total count for the third week: 4
February 8th to 14th

Last week!  I was able to get up the stairs every day this week except for 1 day.  The final two days I managed to get up and down twice.  I need to make sure I don't put myself into an overuse situation as I was after week 1, but I need to keep up with it at least once a day. 

Total count for the forth week: 8


I have to say I have definitely noticed a change from week 1 to completion.  My legs have a bit more 'snap' and I even noticed I have a bit more definition in my quads.  Don't laugh - for someone who looks like they are riding a chicken, that's a big deal!!  I am not really tiring by the time I reach the 10th floor and my heart rate is much lower by the time I get to the top than it was when I started.  I am looking forward to continuing to take the stairs after this challenge is complete.  For any of you who are stuck at a desk for the majority of the day, I highly suggest you get out get some exercise while at work.  Whether it is taking the stairs rather than riding the elevator or going for a walk during your lunch break, every little bit counts.
    
Grand Total: 32

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sean Burns - Anthem II

My friend Jason linked this video on his facebook page.  This is Sean Burns' portion of Anthem II - a street BMX movie.  Enjoy!
Warning - this video contains explicit language. 

If YouTube pulls this video, you can also find it on youku.com http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjMxNTQ5NTgw.html

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starting Your Child in Cycling

There are a few new parents out there who have asked me about how I got my little guy on the bike so quickly. First off, I only got into cycling just after Lachlan was born.  This was mostly because my older son, Kevin, thought it would be a good idea for me to get a mountain bike so that we would have some additional activities to do together, but I also wanted to stay in shape so that I could keep up with Lachlan as he got older and cycling would be a great opportunity to do that. 

When Lachlan turned one, I got a helmet for him and I pulled him around in a Chariot behind my bike. It was a great experience to get him out behind the bike, getting fresh air and enjoying nature. Lachlan quite enjoyed riding in the Chariot and there were a few instances by the end of the year (when he didn't fall asleep) where he would yell "faster Daddy, faster!"

That fall I figured that Lachlan would be ready for his own bike the following spring.  I did some research over the winter to see what would be the best option that he would enjoy and what would help him transition to a two wheel bike the easiest.  As we all know, there are several options you can choose when introducing your child to cycling. I'm sure most of you have similar memories that I do of riding around on either a tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels as a child.  But transitioning your child to a two wheel bicycle can be a difficult experience as neither the tricycle or bicycle with training wheels develop balance.

During my research I came across something I had never seen before - a run bike.  A run bike (or balance bicycle) is a training bicycle that helps your child learn balance and steering. It is built without pedals, crankset and chain, and no training wheels. You can also use a normal bicycle by removing the pedals and related parts, but the frame typically doesn't come as small as a run bike.

With a run bike, the rider learns balance first, pedal last.  Although opinions differ regarding which learning sequence is easier for most riders, it is generally agreed that a bicycle with pedals is too difficult for most very young children and that training wheels may encourage the rider to learn some behaviors which later must be unlearned.

A run bike must be small enough that the rider can put both feet flat on the ground and walk the bicycle while sitting comfortably on the saddle. Eventually, the rider feels comfortable enough to run and "scoot" while riding the bicycle, then to lift both feet off the ground and cruise while balancing on the two wheels. Children as young as 18 months can learn to cruise a balance bicycle within a few hours' practice.

Lachlan turned two in 2009 and I got him an Adams Run Bike for his birthday.  It didn't take him more than a couple tries to go from walking tentatively to a full run and lifting his feet and gliding.  He rode it all over the neighborhood and wanted to ride every day.  That basically ended him travelling in the Chariot as he now had his own wheels. 

There were a couple of instances that stood out for me the first year Lachlan was on his run bike.  The absence of fear when we were camping that summer was a sign of things to come.  Lachlan started by going down some short (2-3 feet), steep hills for the first time.  He couldn't even get to the top by himself but once he got his bike up there he would count out '1, 2, 3!' and push off, lift his feet and down the hill he went.  Once we got home I took him to the little jump/pump area at Capilano.  Lachlan was a bit tentative at first but he quickly got the hang of what he needed to do and soon he was going down the hills and up the other side.  I have to say, there are few prouder moments in a father's life.

video

That winter, Lachlan's Grandpa got him a Smart Cycle for Christmas.  A Smart Cycle is like a stationary bike for kids that interfaces with the television as a video game.  Lachlan struggled quite a bit with the mechanics of pedalling but after a few tries he got the hang of it. He still didn't understand the control interface but as long as he was on the games he only had to pedal and steer he was okay.  Now he can play all of the games on the cartridge that comes with the system and he is on it about 2 or 3 times a week.  There was a new Super Friends cartridge under the tree for him this year that lets him drive the batmobile and shoot Lex Luthor's evil robots so he has been on his Smart Cycle even more.

 In 2010, Lachlan turned three and he wanted to ride his bike to the playground on one of his first rides of the year.  It is about 3.5 km to the playground he prefers and to my surprise, he rode his run bike the whole way!  He didn't quite have it in him to make it all the way back, but he rode the better part of 6 kms on his own.  It was only big trip he made that year though as he really isn't interested in going that far at this stage.  Lachlan is so much more interested in going down hills and rolling over some small teeter-totters and jumping off some small ramps we made.  In fact, he rides all winter long as we back the car out of the garage and he rides around in there over the jumps and teeter-totters.  Keeping it fun is the key as any riding that kids do at this age is building skills and confidence. 

We did take his bike camping again last summer and it seems he gets more adventurous away from home, trying things he won't try at home.  It seemed to renew his enjoyment for his bike and he wanted to ride his bike anywhere we went.  There aren't too many moments that stick out in my mind (compared to his first year) but the most memorable bike moment of 2010 would have to be at the last Spring Series race at Terwillegar.  There were no racers in sight so the volunteer staff said it was okay for him to ride his bike across the finish line.  With everyone cheering for him and ringing their cow bells, Lachlan's face lit up as he rode across the line.

One of Lachlan's favorite things to do is visit the local bike stores.  Whenever we go to River Valley Cycle the first thing he does is head to the run bikes and terrorize the store at mach speeds.  He weaves through the bike and clothing racks and shows off for the staff.  We commute past RVC every day and he asks if we can go to the bike store every time we drive past.  We went to United Cycle a couple weeks before Christmas to see Santa and since we got there a bit before Santa was ready, we went to check out the bikes they had upstairs.  He went straight to the run bikes and rode them around the store for a bit but then decided that he wanted to try a bike with pedals.  He jumped on a little bike with training wheels and he was off like a shot!  But with his feet on the pedals he didn't know how to stop.  As he came into the spot where he needed to park the bike, he crashed into the wall.  Once I explained to him that he has to pedal backwards to stop (and after trying it a few times at slow speeds,) Lachlan figured he needed to try it while going fast.  He got a bit of speed going and slammed on the brakes - weeee!  I remember burning a few rear tires off doing the exact same thing on my driveway as a youngster so seeing my little guy do it with a grin from ear to ear didn't surprise me in the least.

Looking ahead to next season, I can't help to think that Lachlan should be able to ride a two wheeler before his birthday in June with no training wheels.  My cousin was kind enough to give Lachlan a hand-me-down bike which fits him nicely.  It needs a bit of TLC along with a new rear tire, but in general, it is in decent shape for seeing two boys prior to being handed down to us.  Santa brought Lachlan a set of training wheels for the transition, but I suspect he won't need more than a couple weeks, at the most, before he is down to two wheels.  I'm sure he'll still get on his run bike from time to time as his confidence on that is what started his love for the sport at such a young age.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goals for 2011


Now that the calendar has closed on 2010, it is time for cliché New Year’s resolutions.  Statistics show that less than eight percent of people actually achieve their goals they set out to accomplish to start the year.  The flaw that most people encounter is that the only set these goals at the beginning of the year with no real bench marks to track their progress.

To be successful in achieving your resolutions you will require a realistic goal with measurable targets, a time table as to when you want to complete each target (and ultimately your final goal,) and of course, a reward for your hard work when you accomplish your goal.  You will have a better chance at being successful if you keep your goals in a visible location such as on your refrigerator or post it on your office door.  Having a visual of your goals will keep it fresh on your mind and if your goals are visible by others it will bring additional encouragement.  It will also engage conversations on your progress and makes it easier to talk to others if you find yourself hitting a wall.

I don't necessarily set my goals to start on January 1, rather when I complete a previous goal.  For example, after completing my first season of XC racing in 2009, my off season goals last year were to 1) increase my bike fitness, 2) finish in the top 10 in the majority of my races, 3) podium in a race, 4) win a race and 5) move from Novice to Sport.  I worked diligently on goal 1 during the off season by going to spin class twice a week, riding outdoors once a week and using the MTB Strength Training System.  With all of the work put into goal 1, I was able to accomplish all of my other goals.  Goal 4 is debatable as I didn't win an ABA race (only won a $5 Tuesday race) but considering how much I was able to improve from 2009 to 2010, I am very satisfied with my results.

After a disappointing performance in my only Sport race (I was upgraded with 1 race remaining in the season) I immediately decided that I would need to put in as much effort this off season as I did last year if I had similar aspirations in Sport for 2011.  That really isn't something that I would be able to accomplish this year with other commitments, I decided that I would have to set some less ambitious goals that are attainable yet still challenging. 

After reviewing my 2010 race results and comparing average lap times with the Sport field I came up with some targets for 2011.  If I can finish in the top 10 in the local races and be mid pack for the remainder of the schedule, I think I would be doing well.  Once again this year I will be trying to peak for the Edmonton Canada Cup, my favourite race on the ABA schedule.  This race suits my strengths and my course knowledge gives me a considerable advantage over the out of town racers. 

To achieve these results I will need to go to spin class at least once a week, ride outdoors once a week and get back on the MTB Strength Training System.  I will try to get some other activities in for some cross training this season such as XC skiing and hockey when my schedule permits.  I was a bit burned out by the close of the 2010 XC race season so hopefully being on the bike twice a week rather than three days a week over the winter will reduce that feeling for 2011.

I would like to wish all of my readers the best of luck in achieving your goals in 2011 and I encourage you to share your goals to help improve your chances of success.