Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Want It Wednesdays: Sweet Wings

This is my second attempt to link a post to Want it Wednesdays. And sorry if I get a little weepy eyed as I cast my mind back to the late ‘90s, it was a sweet spot in my life: I was a strapping young lad, a new father, and my career seemed to have potential. The only thing missing from my life was a 520 gram pair of Sweet Wing cranks; so beautiful that they could actually make the hair on my neck stand up. There were a lot of companies making pretty anodized cranks CNC’d out of aluminum; Sweet Wings were completely different (actually I think Bullseye and Coda had similar cranks but I will simply ignore them to make my story more dramatic, and I’m not motivated enough to research my hunch).

Unlike all the other cranks, Sweet Wings were steel, hollow, and had an integrated bottom bracket. They were the lightest cranks available back then and are light even by today’s carbon fiber standards. The Sweet Stem was a steel quill stem made by the same company which only weighed 180 grams, lighter than quill stems made out of titanium, but that’s for another post. Sweet Wings are so similar to the current Shimano cranks that I have to imagine Sweet Wings, either directly or indirectly, influenced Shimano. That is a nice way of saying Shimano, that juggernaut of a company, stole the design. Sweet Wings remain a coveted retro mountain bike part and I still want a set. A savvy entrepreneur should re-introduce Sweet Wings in the same way BeBop re-introduced their pedals right after I gave up trying to find NOS BeBop pedals and switched everything over to Shimano.

Now that I think about it, I wasn’t really a strapping young lad, I mean, "strapping" and "young" are both relative. Emilie was brand new and charming but changing dippers wasn’t all that much fun, plus a meaningful conversation with her was still 10 years away. A potential career was stressful. My employee’s problems became my problems that I had to deal with in between working on my post graduate degree and taking terrible plant assignments to make myself look good on paper. Hum...the 90's kind of sucked.

I suppose one could make an argument that the Shimano XTR cranks currently on my Tomac are better than Sweet Wings. XTR cranks weigh only 33 grams more and Sweet Wings had significant issues: they rusted, creaked, wore out bearings quickly, the inner race wouldn’t stay tight, and the spider occasionally broke. I’m not aware of any issues with XTR cranks. And you can buy ceramic bearings for Shimano cranks if you are neurotic.

Maybe I tend to glorify the past in my head. On second thought, I don’t want Sweet Wings; I’m pretty happy with the way things are.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buddy The Cake Boss Can Kiss My Ass

I had Monday off work. The plan was to help Allie make a cake then get a good ride in. I have been consistently disappointing myself this winter with my lack luster training and yesterday was going to be the beginning of a solid effort.

But not an ordinary cake. A box cake wrapped in fondant and piped. Allie has developed this fascination with Buddy the Cake Boss. She compares me to him often; I don't stand a chance. After I took Em to Nashville, Allie asked if I could take her to Carlo's Bakery in New Jersey, the Garden State.

Allie really did most the work. I watched from the sidelines.

This was our first attempt to use fondant. Buddy makes it look easy. Allie was anxious to work with fondant and maybe rolled it too early. It cracked when we tried to set it over the cake.

The cake collapsed when we set the fondant on it anyway.

I added water to the fondant on our second attempt, like you do with Play-Doh when it cracks. The fondant turned into a heap of useless goo.

We stopped by the cake store for more fondant on the way to dance practice. I signed her up for a cake making class because I have no idea what I am doing.

While Allie was at dance, I baked another cake to replace the one that collapsed. She likes to do everything herself but it was getting late. I have the cooking skills of an 11 year old girl anyway.

Allie said she needed to do the "dirty icing" before we tried the fondant (again). "Dirty icing" is a term Buddy uses.

I had no idea how to handle fondant. She did. Thanks again Buddy for being my daughter's roll model.

Allie insists on coloring the frosting...

and using a bag instead of buying premixed tubes.

Some of the cake mix fell to the bottom of the oven. It looked like dog poo. Allie and I thought it would be funny to set it on Emilie's bathroom floor. Yes, this was terribly immature of me...

but Allie could not stop laughing, not even for a picture of her and her cake.

The cake only took 8 hours to make. I will start my solid training effort tonight instead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Want it Wednesdays: Rudy Project Ekynox

Following the Chain Line is a blog I follow. Jez has an interesting feature where he links to readers that share one bike item (on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month) that they have, or want, that is, I don’t know, extra blingy. I’m not sure I am disciplined enough to blog every other Wednesday but here is my first attempt.

But let me put my point of view in perspective. I am consumed with guilt anytime I buy so much as a chain ring for my bike. I ask myself if it really is the best decision for my family. It seldom is. And I try not to buy any part just for emotional reasons; there needs to sound reason for it. I violate this guideline too. I work in a grey area between Engineering and Marketing and this affects my decision making. I listen to arguments over, say, brakes on lite duty full size pickup trucks. The brake Engineers want to use rear drum brakes for cost, performance, and manufacturing reasons. The Marketing people want disc brakes because they look better in sales brochures. Both valid reasons but I tend to side with the Engineers. This is why I was the last person to get disc brakes for their mountain bike: yes they work great, especially in the rain, but I don’t often ride in the rain, and slowing down is perhaps the only riding issue I don’t have. Bleeding disc brakes isn’t all that much fun and they tend to be heavier than V-brakes even if you consider the rotating mass savings from disc specific rims. My god, I am actually boring myself with my own disclaimer.

Okay, my only nonessential purchase in the last two years was a pair of Rudy Project Ekynox sunglass. I didn’t realize one could adore their glasses as much as I adore these. They cost $179 which is about $100 more than I have ever spent on riding glasses. In just one month I lost or consumed the three pair of glasses I have been using for the last 5 years. My normal riding glasses are cheap sunglass frames with clear prescription lenses that have been broken and repaired so many times that there was little, if any, life left in them. My road riding glasses have the same cheap frames with tinted prescription lenses which I lost in November, the very same month I lost my Smith non-prescription sunglasses. The Rudy Project Ekynox glasses replaced all three. They have prescription transition lenses that (in theory) go from clear to dark and the frames came with two sets of interchangeable tinted non-prescription lenses. I’m a little disappointed with the transition lenses. They don’t seem to transition, they are stuck in a gray, middle area. I sent them back and three weeks later they were returned to me, still not transitioning, with an explanation that they work OK in California. I am not sure how to even respond.

I never had a good set of riding glasses before. The Ekynox wrap around nicely for protection, have no distortion, vent well, and stay secure to my noggin. And they are white to match my bike, just for vanity sake.

After I bought the glasses I went on Rudy’s website to see how to interchange the lenses and saw they had a combination special where if you buy a pair of glasses, they would send you your choice of helmet, watch, kit, or backpack. I chose a backpack to replace the pre-vintage Jansport I bought 20-some years ago. Since I didn’t buy the glasses at the same time I filled out the form for the free offer, I wasn’t sure if they would send it to me. They did. It has a helmet holder and lots of pockets for bicycling things. It’s a clever design and just added to my veneration for Rudy Project.

Thank you Rudy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coveting Another Man's Bike

Crazy nice weather today. Kevin emailed me last night to see if I wanted to ride after work. He just got a beautiful, sub-20 pound carbon fiber Felt with full SRAM XX so I’m guessing he would want to ride regardless of the temperature. Apparently the Felt replaces his titanium Merlin with full XTR. If it were a sin to covet another man’s bike, I would surely go to hell. But not really. I have a plan. Right before I die I am going to pray for mercy. It’s a loophole. I'm screwed if I die suddenly.

I packed my bike this morning. Island Lake will be muddy. Cleaning a muddy bicycle in an apartment is a little complicated. It is actually the first thing I thought of when I considered moving. Sue gave me a detachable shower head on this long flexible hose for Christmas. This seemed an odd gift at first but she explained I could use it to wash my bicycle in the bath tub. Brilliant. I dig biker chicks.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nashville Haiku

Em and I drove to Nashville.

'Hated the music,

but loved spending time with Em.