Saturday, December 12, 2009

Special Edition Autoshow Post

A couple of posts worth of post here, as it seems this blog has gone from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly. I'll do my best to turn that trend around. This blog-post is all coverage from the New England Internation Auto Show, as promised. The standard format will be back next week.

I take back what I said about more marques being here than at the majors. Among the no-shows were:

  • Porsche-who always gives out a cool poster.
  • Mercedes-Benz -who I don't remember much about, though I would like to sit in the new E-class.
  • Mitsubishi -I still don't know what the Lancer-mouthed Outlander is like in person. I mean, who drives a Mitsubishi?
  • Suzuki -They're going in the right direction with the Kizashi, just bring over more JDM and less KDM.
  • Jaguar -I've seen the XF, and the new XJ appears to have lots of the same visual cues. To my eyes, so does the Civic.
  • Land Rover-Cool interiors, which I suppose could be said for Jag too.
  • Volvo-presumably they got distracted on the way and drove over a curb somewhere.
Who does that leave then? Still enough that we'll hit the highlights here.

First, some awards:

The best seats at the show were those of the Lexus IS-F, with great support, prominent but not overdone bolsters, and flawless finish work. As unimaginative as Lexus can be, they're consistently beyond reproach on the details. The Saab 9-3 also had excellent seats, as Saabs always do, but not quite as excellent as those in the Lexus.The best interiors overall were definitely from Audi as a brand, with the same excellent finish as the Lexus but tidy ergonomics and pleasing visual presentation to boot. Jewel like details that never seem contrived abound and they are just all around slick environments. A nice place to spend time.

Best Display was Saab, hands down, who built an entire room including an LED wall and assorted Saab (and generally Swedish) trinkets in the floor. They also had the delightful new 9-5 on display, let's hope Saab survives long enough to actually make it. Nissan did have a room too, but Saab's was way cooler.
The most disappointing brand was Acura, which is pains me somewhat to say. It's not the ungainly new family face or ungainly "unrelated shapes everywhere" design language. It's the fact that despite the premium price, they simply don't feel special. I suppose it could be construed as a testament to just how good today's Hondas are, but sitting the $50k Acura RL, it really doesn't feel particularly different that a $30k Accord. They're lovely cars, no doubt, just a bit irrelevant.
The most disappointing car was the Ford Taurus, a car I really wanted to like. They're getting so much right these days (bringing the Fiesta and Transit Connect over come to mind) but the Taurus was a parade of cheap feeling materials, inconsistent panel gaps and flawed ergonomics. The seats in one of the Tauruses (Tauri?) on display already showed considerable wear, and some interior trim panels were already broken. It's a shame.

There was almost a tie for worst car, both from Detroit and both analogous of their respective parentage.

One consideration was the Chevrolet Cobalt XFE, which in addition to positively milquetoast styling inside and out (augmented by Pep-Boys spec chrome hubcaps and questionable ergonomics) felt like an overall half baked effort designed only to be better than the Cavalier, a task also achievable with a tennis ball. Or a flan. High hopes for the Cruze. So why not the worst?

As Jason pointed out, the Cobalt makes some sense given its intended purpose, a hard wearing fleet appliance, or basic transport for those who haven't yet heard about Japan or Korea. Plus it is cheap.

No, the award must go to something cataclysmically horrible, something that shouldn't ever have gotten past stage one, or at least should have been fixed (or mercifully offed) since then. The award then goes to the Jeep Patriot.

Tangibly awful in a way I didn't think still possible, everything about this soft-roader feels approximate. Its design, construction, materials, all half-assed. Assuming it cost $15k, I thought it was overpriced. Then I found out it was $28k and it was a lock. I'll let Jason express his feelings on it here.

Best in show was more difficult to determine, with an Audi R8 (which I luv), the Nissan GT-R (which Jason luvs) and the a Corvette ZR1 (which we both luv) present, but given the rule that we need to sit in the car to call it best in show (and locked doors on those two), we had to pick more sensible choices.

My pick then is the Hyundai Genesis sedan. Even if its not particularly sporting, It has a winning mix of attributes that would make it a treat to own. It's comfortable, quiet, and seems well built.

My alternate pick is the Corvette Z06. Because its interior is so awful. Because it's so brash. Huzzah.

Other highlights:

Jason and I both gave big thumbs up to the clever and spunky Transit Connect. It's about time this segment of van came here.The new venue is decidedly less decrepit than the old one.
The brakes of the Kia Soul won't come out through the wheels.

Next update will be back to the normal mix of content, including Ice Weasels. Night all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And the trees have turned black And they're full of insane birds who can't remember any of their songs

Lots of time since last post (sorry, again) and some more racing, most notably Northampton, which had to have the fastest cross course I've done yet. There were some big names there too, including Jeremy Powers and Adam Craig, who had a pair of super trick Giant cross bikes, including a Di2 equipped carbon prototype (sorry no pic).
The whole race was pretty photogenic too, especially at a sickhucktastic chute down from the top of the course to a covered railroad crossing. I definitely didn't get the best pictures of this, I think this guy did.
This cross season has been pretty Western Mass heavy, which is cool, as I know people out there and have places to stay (for free, thanks guys). I'll be out there on Sunday for the Spooky race in Easthampton.

Some people are bringing bikes in for tune-ups, which given the springtime rush would seem to make more sense, though Bryan was acting all blurry again.

I realized after the fact that I forgot to put a video in last week's post, so this week I'll put in two. As for the Jesses, they're unfortunately surprisingly labor intensive and if this post is going to get published before Easthampton, I'll have to make up for that at a later date too.. Stay tuned

First is a VW ad starring Danny Macaskill, gee whiz!

#2 is a song that was stuck in my head. Hit play and it will be stuck in your head too. It's cheesetastic.

Programming note: ...a placeholder will be at the New England International Auto Show with special guest Jason G on December 2, a coverage extravaganza (possibly the best coverage this dealer supported regional show will get anywhere) is planned. Grand irony, with its lower profile, there may be more brands here than at the majors.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Can someone tell me What is it that we're doing under the lights Can someone tell me Why once again we're food for vampires tonight

Longpost to make up for longtime no update.

Did a couple of races, one decidedly more eventful than the others.

Last week, I intended to go to New Gloucester, ME to race out there, but the other people that were going to go ended up bailing because of a little rain, and then so did I, but for totally way tougher reasons (more rain).

I already had a reservation at the Super 8 Motel out there, and when I tried to cancel it, they said I couldn't because I had made on online reservation, and referred me to the head office. Then the head office said it was the branch's call and I should call them. I did and I was told the manager had "gone into town to get breakfast for tomorrow." Thanks, Maine.

I went out to Western Mass and hung out with the UMBRC people, drank too much, tried a balance board, good time had by all.....

Saturday was indeed rainy, so Jelie and I went to Sylvester's for brunch, and then stopped by the bikereg home office, which is around the corner. I assumed it would look like Lorenzo Lamas's workstation in Megashark vs. Giant Octopus, but it really looked more like an office. I'm guessing I wasn't shown the secret underground layer where the magic happens, presumably accessed by pulling on a candlestick somewhere.

I ended up racing on Sunday in the Saratoga Spa race in New York. Overheard at the gas station: "drink too much Roy?" "Ohhh Yeah." I registered for the 4 and 3/4 races, on principle..more on that later, and I missed the start of the 4 race, so I had to jump on and chase through the women's and kids races, making me think I had just jumped into the wrong race. I made decent headway and then I crashed into a divot (this very one, though that's not me) and cracked my fork (though I don't know if I did it there or it had happened earlier). The race promoter said that usually there's no refunds on entry fees, but a broken fork counts as extenuating circumstances, and he gave me my $10 back, which I appreciate. I ended up at 18th place of 31 finishers, which is pretty frustrating, as it means I probably would have been in the top 10 were it not for the aforementioned snafus. Some good news too though, as Jeff Elie won the 3/4 race in dominant fashion and Jeff Cronin got 2nd in the 4 race.

On Halloween there was the Canton cross race, which is especially nice because it's about 35 minutes from my apartment, and about 20 minutes from the shop, which came in handy
Photo credit: Geoff

Because it was so close, I was there on time, and as a rule, if I'm there on time, I'll forget something. This time it was shoes, so rather than warm-up on my trainer (which I've only done at one race this season), I ran around asking everyone if they had any extra shoes. There were some Geekhouse and Wheelworks guys who were nice enough to offer some platform pedals, which is almost what I ended up using, and I suppose platform pedals and Asics count as a Halloween costume, but luckily, team IBC's own John Fennel had some shoes and pedals he wouldn't need until the 3/4 race, so I threw them on the bike with 2 minutes to go before the start of the race, and spun over the line, squeezing into the 2nd row. There were 110 finishers, which means there were more than 110 starters, which is insane. It was a super fast course, with a few slick, slimy tarmac sections, though they weren't as slippery as all the warnings made them out to be. I ended up at 37th of 110.
Photo credit Thom P.

Shortly after the 4 race, I sped back to the shop to grab my B shoes, a pair of Diadora Ethos Ice Techs (or as Jeff Cronin calls them, "Bike Jordans"). They're totally as awesome as the name would make them seem.

It became clear in the first race why CX is generally done in the 50s (temps, not decade) or lower, but I did the second race anyways, out of principle, as it was only $10 more to do the 2nd race, even though I knew I would not do well and my crossresults points would take a hit.

It was faster the second time through, though with about two laps to go, I could taste ammonia and see spots, but I finished the race, and not even in last place (by 7!).

I wonder if Jesse is doing any CX out west.

The fatigue of the day meant that I fell asleep around 8 pm, and woke up at a daylight savings adjusted 6:50am, Sunday morning, which works out as I didn't have a costume (though as per normal, I thought of a great one around 6pm on Halloween), and is also why I'm writing this (or at least starting this) on Sunday morning before work.

No Jesse this week due to technical frustrations. I hope Bryan's not too upset.

Oh well. 'Till next update.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Unit three thousand twenty one is warning Makes a humming sound - when its circuits Duplicate emotions

Sorry about the lack of blogupdate, I suck. I'll try to stay more on top of it, but more riding+more work=more tired.

I haven't updated since Gloucester, but I did take a whole bunch of pictures there. That full album can be found here. (Kevin Sweeney pictured here)
A couple more cross races have reminded me why I like that the inside of my car is all plastic, and Dan the mechanic has fixed the Spooky (undoing my screw-ups), so it's running like a champ. Today's race, which was pretty rutted and dry proved to me that I still don't totally know what tire pressure I should be running.
A bunch of people went out to get sushi with Todd. He's going to TX. I ate a boat. Have fun Todd.

I unfortunately don't have the video to back it up (still don't have one of these) but it seems as though the cars of Newton are unable to completely stop. They roll into intersections, streets, rotaries, and mailboxes to a comical extent, theory being that the opponent (traffic with the right of way) has no choice but to stop. The instigator then stops in the way of both perpendicular traffic and those behind, letting everyone absorb the absurdity of it all, Hand gestures are undertaken and the dance is complete.

On the topic of Newton driving, Volvo has brought to market the logical conclusion of the trend toward eliminating driver involvement. While in a general sense I would consider this a bad thing, given the type of driver that tends to gravitate toward Volvo (specifically Volvo SUV) ownership, I prefer robotic involvement.

Jesse's out in Cali, but I haven't heard from him, so I assume...

I had some fun with long exposure shots.

I saw another cool application of VW/Audi/Porsche's compatible BCDs

I learned about one more of Bryan's talents.

This week's video is a collection of outtakes from a Saturn commercial Jim Gaffigan did way back in the 90s.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I left my street I'm a guillotine Pulling away In my machine, Where have I been, now?

Two weekends ago, I did my first cross race, Sucker Brook Cross in New Hampshire. It probably wasn't ideal to make the first ride on my new cross bike and my first cross race the same thing, but I'd say it worked out. Jeff Elie was there too, and we both lined about as far back as possible (in a sport where the hole shot is crucial), so we had to move up the crowd. In a group of 82, Jeff got 32nd (with no rear shifting for the second half) and I got 58th.

My only food prior to the race was a melted/frozen Balance bar (back-seat find), so after the race I needed food and coffee. Also, my car needed gas. On the way back, I took a random exit and found a gas station that charged me $2.79/gallon and sold me a sandwich comprised of ham blocks and the sort of cheese that tasted like it should be spelled with a z. About a mile later, I found a strip of restaurants and gas stations selling $2.56/gallon gas as far as the eye can see. Welcome to New Hampshire

Bryan trued my wheels, and the Spooky was ready to go again..

This past weekend, I did the cat 4 and cat 3/4 races at Blunt Park. It was cold and wet for the first race, though being the first race of the day, the course wasn't too sloppy yet. I managed to start in the third row, though from the gun, my tire did more spinning in place than going forward, and I again found myself near the back of the group. It was a tough course, and while it was mostly rideable, there were some technical sections, most notable a log across a straight in the woods. I rode it once, and it made a sickening crunch (and I still don't know on what), so I ran it every other time. I got 24th out of 42 finishers, which while proportionately close to the week before, certainly felt faster. Congrats to Jeremy Durrin on the win (on Sean K.'s bike, in his first cross race ever...asshole), and Jeff Cronin on his 16th place (also first cross race).In the 3/4 race was an absolute mudfest, and against faster guys, but I was in it for the experience. This time I managed to line up in the first row, and right after the start, someone overcooked the first corner (a hairpin on tarmac) and went down, stalling most of the field. It was a very different course than the first time around, in fact feeling sloppier with each lap. On the second to last lap, I successfully recreated my landmine crash (still no pictures, I'm afraid) over the aforementioned log, but I limped back to not last place (just), with blood, dirt and lumps to show for it. Inadvertent mega-sandbagger Jeremy Durrin got 2nd place (on Sean K.'s bike, in his second cross race ever...asshole), and Sean K. got 5th. Jeff did it too, and got 17th.

Thanks to Crossresults for the fast results listings.

I stayed with Umass people this weekend, which was fun, and I went into heavy food/race coma on Sunday, so I stayed an extra day, which was extra fun.

I lost a few letters from my front wheel (presumably because of all the mud), though the result is kind of neat.The other side only lost the a from Bontrager.

Jesse had more Good News for us.

Continuing the "...a placeholder" tradition, of capturing Newton's finest parking, here's a couple more, in the interest of science of course.

First, this Lexus which would be taking two spaces, were it in actual parking places to begin with. I suppose this sort of thing happens when as soon as the driver in in the car, they make the presumption that the length of the car in in fact the width, and the width is actually the length. I suppose it could be because the owner wants to protect the car from dings (though someone could park between the Lexus and the Subaru), and realistically, in this case, the body of the car serves to protect the engine, which IMHO is the part worth protecting in this case.

Case #2 is another Lexus (which based on empirical data, is no coincidence), and in this case the owner of the vehicle has decided that the obvious solution to a full parking lot is not to go to the other (empty) parking lot and walk around the building, but to simply park directly behind another car in the lot. I would have trouble saying this isn't the result of garden-variety laziness, given that I saw the owner stand a few feet behind the car, hit a button on his key chain, and wait for the vehicle to open its own trunk. After loading his bicycle, he hit another button to make the hatch close itself. No doubt in this span of time I could have walked to my car, opened and closed its trunk several times, and walked back inside, but I was too distracted by the slowly enlarging crevice of trunk access.

For this week's video, there's some Talking Heads from the Old Grey Whistle Test. All the video I've seen from this show has been excellent (especially this Ry Cooder session). Shame it went away in 1987.

Monday, September 14, 2009

There was something about a love that didn't treat him right, and he'd wake from troubled sleep and cry her name at night

I still miss the "Good Ole Tom" adverts which are endemic of western mass TV. but I sadly couldn't make it out to Umass's race at Mt. Snow (though I heard it went very well, despite the rain). Bryan had just tuned my bike, so it was shifting again, which is neat, and I figured I really should race it.

IBC's own "Good Ole Thom" convinced me to do the Landmine classic at Wompatuck State Park on Sunday. It was muddy (apparently the park is colloquially known as "swampatuck") and wet, but it just made it feel more intense in that Under-Armor ad kind of way. At 25 miles, it was the longest MTB race I have ever done, so I found it easier to think in a road riding context bubble, which was popped when Thom told me how long he expected his (50 mile) race to take, and I realized it would be a long race.

I made my goal finishing ahead of last place in my age group, though after a full speed dive off the bike into a puddle (with the bike going into a tree), finishing became objective one. Ultimately I achieved my goal managing 16th out of 22, though I got nicely banged up in the process..In the end I was in a world of pain, and covered in mud, but I'd still do it again, it was a certain kind of fun on the whole.

Jesse is continuing his grand trek across the country and seems to be having a fun time.

For this week, we've got some advice from Dr. Steve Brule.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let's all meet up in the year 2000, won't it be strange when we're all fully grown

It's been pretty excellent riding weather for over a week now, though not without the sort of autumnal chilled waves of air which seem to confirm that the properly hot days of 2009 are behind us, which is always a bit depressing. Air-conditioners are no longer whirring outside my window, and the insect orchestra is down to a loan cricket. I am psyching myself up for cross season though.

Jesse is headed out west for some adventures (he's a bicycle man, I think you'll agree.) and I hope all those guys have a fun trip.

My TV stand, which had been bowing into itself is now doing less of that thanks to a section of birch, some foam pads, and a saw from Home Depot. I feel like a handyman now.

The cross bike's still hanging over Bryan's stand.

The parkers of Newton have reaffirmed my previous assertions.

For the rest of W. Mass's pictures:

One of the most euro things I've seen at Wal-Mart, as well as a pretty euro thing at Norm's.

Pictured left is the Crapshack's apparent birth name, which only now, when nobody is living there, do I know. Perhaps the name only appears when it's vacant. There's a plot in there somewhere.

A trailer made of half a Chevy.

This upcoming weekend, I'll be helping out UMBRC at their ECCC race at Mt. Snow, and soundly getting my ass handed to me if I do any racing. Head on down for fun party time bike racing excellence!

This week's video has a very fun visual flavor, getting quite a bit done without too much ever actually on screen. I suppose there are some technological limitations there.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

They paint the moon today, some brand new future color

It's hard to believe it's already September, but last weekend, a visit to the crapshack was in order, as the (sort of) lease was about to (sort of) run out. It was fun to see the place again, and being there on a weekend when it wasn't particularly hot or cold didn't make its (countless) faults easily apparent. It made it seem more quirky and fun than it actually was.

I went on a fun (and quite high-intensity) road ride with none other than HUCKR JOE, and then we split a party pizza from Bruno's.

Finally, me and Dan went to a Chinese food place in Amherst where the service was not very good, but I did get a fortune cookie with 5 fortunes.I accidentally ate the fifth one. More western mass stuff next week.

The cross bike is still almost done, though now that it's got cable and housing on, it's not only looking more like a bike, it's almost kinda-sorta rideable. I just need Bryan to get it shifting when I ask it to (and not when I don't). SRAM confuses me.

Jesse and Mitch had their last day at the shop. Mitch is going back to Umass for another semester, but Jesse's going all the way out to California. Presumably to do more freeriding.

On another note, I read about some slick looking cargo bikes from Madsen, and while not fully in the spirit of Africabike (and likely somewhat safer for it), I'll give them a plug: MADSEN Cargo Bikes

This super-sweet Trans-Am was spotted outside the store last week, and it needed to make it here. I shouldn't need to explain why. The best part of all has to be the inside.

I feel like we've not visited the 80's in too long, so in the spirit of that T/A above (more or less), this week's video is totally synthed-out

An offer that cannot be ignored indeed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

With a head like a vulture and heart full of hornets

Some decent bike progress this week, with BBSTPS MkIII Evo becoming BBSTPS MkIII Evo Gran Sport with its new wheel (thank you Bryan), though it is a bit more involved than it should be. The Spooky is also getting ever closer to being a bicycle.

Jesse also did some Ultimate Stunting

I got my new receiver, and while it technically fits in my TV stand, it's a squeeze in, and given the heat generated by its operation, it would likely self-imolate, which despite the flames and music involved, would not count as a rock and roll way to go.

Making matters worse, my TV (which weighs 160 lbs) is causing the stand (rated to 143 lbs) to bow slightly, which doesn't seem a safety issue, though it does disrupt the minimalist flow with its adopted ornamental curvature. Sigh.

As though to prove last week's assertion that Newton has the worst drivers in the world, a few more examples presented themselves to be documented since then, though sadly the Bangle-butt 7 parked on the sidewalk across the street was gone by the time I was back with my camera. First, There was an Infiniti G35 in the perpendicular non-spot in front of the store.
In something of a deranged dueling banjos response, this Mazda was parked perpendicular to the building about half a store away from the front door. Presuming the inconvenience of two doors and three spots rendered useless had to have a reason, the owner of this car must have meant for this to be a dadaist effort, disrupting the established order of commercial parking lots. Lines will not hold them back.

This week's video is one of two women on a bicycle. I wonder if this is UCI sanctioned.

Now I know what people do when they have their bars set up like that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It was infinitely late at night

I don't need to tell you, dear reader, that I have been delinquent in my blogging. As much of a cop out as it is, I'll again use the excuse that I've been very busy.

Lots has happened since the last post. Bryan and I went down to the Pan Mass Challenge to help out, and we were greeted by great sheets of rain and tasty free food, which is a peachy mix when you're in a building. There was a wood paneled Jeep Liberty on the way, which was heartwarming in its own way.

The next two days were very nice weather wise, and my brother and his wife and kids came out to town, which meant the whole family got to hang out together for the first time in a while.

As you can imagine given the amount of time that has passed since my last update, I have a considerable backlog of "fun stuff I seen™," some of which I'll cover here.

There was a flawless E28 BMW M5 in for inspection at the gas station nextdoor. Very cool (though Ronin did make the E34 M5 cooler).

We installed a $700 computer on a $700 bike (a hybrid to boot).

A Volvo with a Devo sticker, which I hope is referring to this, and not the school.

I saw what appears to be a warning about Gene Kelly in pictograms.

A bike by a the company that makes James Bond's gun (I assume).

Finally, an English bloke brought a fascinating English bike in to the shop for service at the shop. I presume this bike came out of the following equation. It is sadly neither as pleasant to ride as a Ridley, or presumably as pleasant to drink as a Fribble, but the Ribble is something special, a uniquely European take on generic bikesdirect style low-end road bikes. Check out the low end Campy and the steel steerer tube ITM fork.

Now that I'm back in Newton most days, I have the opportunity to witness some of the worst driving in the world. Here are some examples, which I assure you, are not doctored or set-up, people really park like this

This Saab is actually accomplishing a couple of tasks at once. While it's remarkably common for people to effectively barricade the stairs leading to the front door with their cars (note the red Prius), this Saab is blocking both the stairs and the handicapped ramp.

The stairblock maneuver is remarkably common on days when there are plentiful empty actual parking spots, I'm guessing DSM-IV has something to say on the matter.

Not pictured here is the 90° shuffle, in which the car is parked perpendicular to the actual spaces. When combined with the above maneuver (a degree of douchebagery usually reserved for BMW and Lexus SUVs), the stairs, the ramp, and additional spaces are rendered useless.

A less common practice is the "Lost at sea" where the vehicle is parked out of the way of everything, but to so great an extent that it's basically parked in the middle of traffic. I imagine it's something like a personal bubble, but relative in scale to a car.

For this week's video, it's some Tim and Eric (Awesome Show, Great Job), because not enough people watch this excellent show.