Friday, June 24, 2016

Long Term Test: 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited Wrap-up

Update #6 (wrap-up)
Mileage: 44,650

A little earlier than expected, the Hyundai Sonata makes a departure from our long-term fleet. The one feature, or lack thereof, that did it in was memory seats. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in cars with electrically adjustable seats and with as many as four different drivers who driver the car with some semblance of regularity, it is important to make it easy for drivers to quickly find and adjust the seats and mirrors to their liking. Of course, aside from this one shortcoming, the car has actually proven to be quite the solid mid-size all-purpose car for the suburban needs of the modern family. However, it was also not totally a problem-free stay in our garage.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #4

Update #4
Mileage: 11,533

Owning an electric car may require some sacrifices in terms of planning trips around the vehicle's range, but there are a number of real world incentives that can take some of the sting out of that extra effort. When we first got our Focus Electric, the first thing I did was spend a good amount of time researching the incentives that we qualified for and applying for all of the appropriate ones that would likely benefit us.

The most important one is of course the $2,500 electric vehicle rebate that the state of California supplies to EV buyers. While this benefit has changed, it still allows a large number of EV buyers to take between a $1,500 to $4,000 rebate for the purchase of an EV. The extra funds really helps to reduce the vehicle ownership cost. In some states, the rebates are large enough that it makes the ownership cost almost nothing. When we visited friends in Georgia during our cross-country road trip, we talked to them about their Nissan Leaf, which they said that between the federal incentive of $7,500 and the state incentive of $5,000, their lease costs them only a few dollars a month and the amount they saved on gas means that the car actually was a net positive for them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Events: LA River Ride 2016

Yesterday marked the first time that both my wife and I would participate in the LA River Ride, something we learned about early on when we returned to LA nearly two years ago. It was from a woman who happened to be wearing one of the jerseys when she stopped in the grocery store to buy some stuff for her ride. As biking events go, this is one of more interesting ones because no roads are closed to hold the ride. Hosted by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the ride is intended to give riders a taste of the cycling infrastructure (or lack thereof in some cases) that pervades the city and surrounding areas before connecting to the LA River Bikeway. Riders are encouraged to use their urban riding skills and follow traffic rules with ride marshalls helping to make sure people are riding courteously and safely. Given the potential for chaos when hundreds of cyclists take to the streets, the organization demonstrated for the event is downright impressive.

While the full route is just over 100 miles, I was only able to convince my wife to commit to the 50-mile route. That ride would take us from the Autry Center located on the grounds of Griffith Park in north LA all the way down to Dills Park in Paramount. A good portion of the ride was through the streets, but there were also long portions along the LA River, which varies from bland and unattractive concrete channel to lush green flora with accompanying fauna, depending on where you are.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Long Term Test: 2012 Orbea Orca Bronze post #3

Third update
Current mileage: 604.3

Lately, my riding has focused on a lot of speed and climbing work. I have started participating in a local criterium to try to gain some racing experience and a temporary relocation to my in-law's place to house sit for them while they were away on travel means a lot of opportunity to focus on hills.

In the criterium, it is hard not to get equipment envy. There are a lot of people sporting some serious equipment and a few sponsored teams come out to use the ride as a part of their training regimen. The actual racing is not that exciting as the same handful of riders seem to always be in or near the top of the heap. However, from an educational perspective, it is helpful to not only understand more about bunch start racing, but also better understand my body's limitations at the moment and the limitations of my equipment. On the equipment front, the Orca has proven slightly outmatched, although not necessarily because of the frame, but rather more because of the other hardware attached to the frame. Most people riding in this crit have clearly been doing it for a long while and are sporting aero wheels or, at the very least, much more expensive wheel sets than the Axioms that are on my bike. Still, since this was intended to be a learning experience for me, I do not feel the least bit concerned about where I place and am just happy to have the opportunity to take part.

As for riding the hills, the Orca has both positives and negatives compared with the K2 that it replaced. If nothing else, the carbon fiber bike makes it significantly lighter. The complete bike weighs around 18.5 pounds, which is nearly 7 lbs lighter than the aluminum frame bike that it replaced. That makes going up even steep hills feel significantly less strenuous. However, the one drawback compared to that old aluminum frame bike is the fact that the K2 had a triple crank set and the Orca has a compact double. That extra set of gears, should not make that much of a difference, but there are definitely times when a few extra ratios would be helpful to have. Still, having pushed it hard the last few weeks on the hills, I am definitely able to appreciate the greater stiffness that carbon fiber offers and the smoother shifting of the Ultegra components.

Hopefully there will be a lot more riding to be done this summer.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Long Term Test: 1984 Shogun 600 post #3

Third update

Slow roll by the beach
Now that most of my time at is spent walking around town, the Shogun sees less and less use as a means of transportation. Of course, that doesn't make me appreciate it any less. It is still easily one of the most comfortable bikes I have ridden; the steel frame providing a subtlety to the ride quality that stiffer frames simply cannot match. These old vintage steel frame bikes truly are awesome city bikes. And because the components are a bit older, they are from a less complicated era making them much easier to clean and work on. Even something like the front tire, which I recently had to remove to replace a busted tube. That had to have been the easiest tire to remove and install. It was so much more compliant and the bead so much more pliable than the more modern tires on my other bikes. It took me only a matter of minutes to go from dropping the wheel out to placing it back in with a brand new tube installed.

Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in Bike to Work week this year, in part because I work from home, but also because life has conspired to keep me rather preoccupied. Of course, if I had participated, I would have happily gone for a ride on this 30+ year old bike that has served me so well over the last dozen years I have owned it.

It is still the one bike I will likely never replace.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Editorial: Riding bicycles across bridges designed for cars is both scary and thrilling

At the start of this National Bike Month, my wife and I participated in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure Ship to Shore cycling event in the city of Long Beach. Kicking things off in the shadow of the Queen Mary, the longest route takes a circuitous path around the local area and totals up somewhere around 100 miles. As this was our first time doing the event, and the first charity event that my wife has ever ridden, we opted for a much more manageable 11 mile route. The important thing is that the route allowed us the opportunity to cross the Gerald Desmond and Vincent Thomas bridges. Ever since I had learned last year that there was a chance to do such a preposterous sounding thing, I knew I had to make it happen, even if just once. Of course, experiencing this also got me thinking about just how different, yet still the same our needs are with different modes of transportation.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX FWD Tech post #5

Update #5
Current mileage: 15,564

The MDX has become the road trip car of choice. In 2014, it was used to take the whole family to the Monterey Peninsula where we enjoyed an extended Thanksgiving holiday. Last year, we used it to hit up San Diego with our bikes in tow, taking a break from our busy lives to enjoy a weekend biking around Coronado Island. This year, the MDX was called upon to serve as transportation for my wife and me along with our rescue pup on a weekend excursion to the avocado and wine growing town of Fallbrook, CA. I will cover the details of that trip in a separate post, but for this latest update on the MDX, I want to focus on two key aspects: puppy transport and ease of cleaning.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Editorial: Expanding too quickly will damage Uber's brand

Oh where do I begin...

Lately, I have had a number of work trips and getting to the airport at the crack of dawn usually means I need to call an Uber since taxis are far less convenient in the LA area. Up until my most recent trip, I have always had pleasant experiences with my Ubers. The cars have been generally pretty clean, the drivers have always been courteous, and they are usually relatively safe drivers. However, this most recent experience shows what uncontrolled rapid growth can do for quality as it highlighted for me what I had heard about as complaints from others, but never experienced myself.

Upon arrival, the driver struggled to open the trunk of the vehicle they were driving because they could not reach the release lever. Then, they had to be prompted to slide the passenger seat up so that I would actually have enough room to get into the car. The back seat had visible crumbs and the entire vehicle reeked of body odor.

We get on the road and the driver spent the entire drive constantly looking down at his phone, which was kept on the passenger seat instead of mounted up on the dashboard within view. To make things worse, he kept having to pick it up in order to read the screen. Despite this, he still somehow managed to miss the directions guiding him to the appropriate freeway and as a result, took an unnecessary detour that drove up my final cost.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Short Term Test: 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT

I sometimes wonder if there is a target on the back of my car. In the almost six years I have owned my car, it has been rear ended a total of three times. At this rate, the insurance company might start thinking I am trying to scam them or something. The most recent accident happened while shuffling home during rush hour traffic on the southbound 405 freeway. Unfortunately, the damage was pretty bad, which meant that my car would be sitting in a body shop for a few days while I would be driving around in some sort of rental car. And so, after leaving my S2000 at the insurance approved body shop, I was shuttled off to the local Enterprise branch to find out what my $35 per day rental coverage would get me.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX Tech post #5

Update #5
Current Miles: 16,382

In the nearly two and half years that we have had the Acura RLX in our garage, it has seen its fair share of...unforeseen damages. The first time the RLX saw a body shop, the front end of our MDX somehow managed to find the rear end the RLX in an unfortunate incidence of friendly fire. That incident caused quite a significant amount of damage, with the driver's side of the rear bumper pretty much mangled to hell, the trunk lid bent in enough so it could not open, and even some minor frame damage. More recently, the RLX was yet again sent to the body shop when a less than patient driver scraped the car against a wall while backing the car out of a driveway. While not as severe as the first incident, it still caused quite a bit of damage, with giant scrape marks across the passenger side front bumper, minor scrapes on the fender and some minor denting. Both incidents have highlighted how expensive this car is to repair!

The Acura RLX is currently the only car in Acura's lineup that is still entirely assembled in Japan. From my experience with my own car, vehicles that are shipped in from foreign countries and sold in low volumes are generally going to be expensive to repair. There is a reason why the RLX and my S2000 are the most expensive vehicles on our insurance policy! The first accident cost well over $5,000, as the impact from the MDX was apparently hard enough to cause minor structural damage to the RLX, and left the car out of commission for over a week. It also left the car with a strange grinding or crunching noise from the rear of the car at low speeds that has never quite gone away. The second accident was not quite as severe on the damage front, but still ended up costing well over $2,000 to repair. Even though the RLX is essentially a Honda Accord with different skin, I guess body shops will charge a premium for repairing a car with aluminum body panels and a luxury badge.

Thankfully, no other damage has come to the RLX, and mechanically, everything still works perfectly fine. With body and frame damage costing this much to repair, I would hate to imagine how much mechanical or electrical repairs would cost. I have heard that repairing Acura's signature Jewel-Eye(TM) LED headlights cost quite a pretty penny. It seems that Acura may be great at packing technology into their cars for a reasonable price, but when it comes to repairing them, things can get quite pricey.