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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 Honda NC700X DCT

Let's be honest: as much as people drool over supersport bikes, only a small number of people genuinely enjoy them for daily use. They are loud, fold the rider into an uncomfortable position, totally incapable of carrying anything, and produce so much power that one always has to be super attentive to keep from getting into serious trouble. Sure they are an absolute blast to ride through the canyons or on a track, but most riders hardly ever see either of those except for the odd weekend here and there. Honda clearly had this in mind when they developed the NC700X. This is a seriously well thought out urban commuter that is aimed squarely at providing an exceedingly practical motorcycle that is accessible to the masses. In fact, Honda considered that point so clearly that they even offer this bike with what essentially amounts to an automatic transmission. 

Yes,folks, you heard that right. The automatic transmission is creeping its way into full-size motorcycles. This is, thankfully, not the terrible CVTs that you see on scooters, but is instead a computer actuated dual-clutch arrangement that I will talk more about later on in this review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Car Culture in Other Countries: Singapore

As a bit of a car nerd, I have always been interested in car culture in other countries. Unfortunately, my day job prevents me from having much opportunity to travel. The large majority of my exposure to the car culture in other countries has been exclusively through media: whether it is movies, television, or online videos. Singapore is one of those countries that I have always been interested in learning more about, especially when it comes to cars. The things I hear about the types of cars you see on the streets, and about the owners has always had me somewhat curious about what makes car culture in this Pacific Rim city-state so different from the rest of the world. Luckily for me, my best friend's 30th birthday ended up bringing me to Singapore, and I would be able to get a first hand look at the types of cars, the traffic, and the people behind the wheel.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Road Trip: Two-up to GMR

I often take those few days before Thanksgiving off to recharge and this past year was no different. It having been a particularly busy year so I was excited to have a few days to go out and do something I had not done in a while. Since my wife was able to take the time off this year as well, we decided to take a morning and revisit one of my old haunts. Being fall, it was still quite cool in the morning and I knew from experience that the temps would get even colder up in the mountains, so we bundled up and headed out on the Beemer.