This year’s favorite things

In the tech category, Rails 2.3, Redis, and the Engine Yard Cloud. offerings have got to top the list of things that improved our ability to deliver products and simplified solutions for us. Github also tops my list of services that have become a way of life. The tech world spins quickly though. Curious to see what’s next. In all cases though, it’s not the tech or the code but the people. All these projects or companies have seriously dedicated people working on them. *That* is what makes these things go. Rock on people.

Quoc Pham fixed shoes
Rapha scarf, Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover
Outlier Black Empire Tee
Stormy Kromer shirt
Rapha Lightweight Softshell
Panache Cycling Houndtooth socks
Outlier hoodie
dogfishhead 90 minute IPA
jeff jones silver headbadge
hed ardennes
king cages ti water bottle cages
harriman local loop
Chris King ISO Hubs
Starting line with Team Fatty at the Livestrong Challenge Philly
Fall riding rocks
Mad Alchemy Mango Love
Taza Chocolate Mexicana helping the dev team persevere
Laying down some fresh tracks in the snow

There might be a few more… time will tell.

A Year on the Hed Ardennes

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A year ago I started riding Hed Ardennes. So what do I think?

They’ve been really great. There’s been no mechanical problems. They’ve stayed true except the one time I bashed the rear wheel into a pot hole at speed, and even then they were barely out of true.

The ride remains excellent, although I did not help them along by running Schwalbe Ultremos. Compared to the far more supple casings, these felt harsh. But the Torelli Gavias (320) or Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX (290) we’re both amazing. When I switched to light tubes and tires ride quality went down, but so did weight. That’s not why I switched, it was just trying something new, but there was a qualitative difference in the ride for me. I’m definitely going to try the light tubes with one of the other rubber combos and see how that feels.

I brought these wheels to Cyclesport and Ramon immediately checked and replaced my Ultremo’s under the recall. That’s the sort of stuff that a good shop does without a thought. Thanks to Ramon, Dean, Juan, & Mike. Juan is the best tech who’s ever worked on my bikes. All Ya’ll rock though!

While I’m at it, Glenn, Billy, & Juan over at the Piermont Bicycle Connection take good care of me and my bikes as well. I often ride in that area and they’re never too busy to take a moment to tweak something that’s wrong, or in general make sure that I’m on a safe ride. I’m lucky to have a bunch of good shops in the area, although none of them are close enough to become “the one” for me. But as an example, Billy’s built a bunch of excellent wheels for me… King or Surly hubs, Mavic or Salsa rims, various spokes depending on what I was trying to accomplish. A good shop.

Anyway… All the usual qualities apply to the C2 rimmed Ardennes. They accelerate, they have that awesome ability to transfer from side to side smoothly which comes from the added width of the rim. I do enjoy that feeling compared to the edgier feel of standard width rim. As the industry at large turns to wider rims (For example the new Zipp 303 has a wide width) brake manufacturers will make sure they’re stuff works. I think the major brakes (Shimano, SRAM, Campy) all work now, but some specialty brakes like the Zero Gravity brakes I took off my bike last year still don’t work with them. Considering how many wheels are still 19mm it might be a while… so make sure your brakes work or be prepared to replace them. I just dropped a pair of REVL carbon brakes on my bike. We’ll see how that goes soon.

What it has come down to is that I’d like a second set of C2 based wheels, and am considering that for this year. I’ll be looking into that shortly. Putting more rubber on the road has been a really good feeling thing for me. I did it with every bike I own. I have fat rims on my mountain bike (Salsa Gordo rims, 35mm width), big 33c tires on the commuter, and the Ardennes on the carbon rocket. There are more choices now than before, they make two less expensive options now, as well as the top end Flame Rouge version with ceramic bearings and titanium spokes. One year later? Recommended.

Renewal

The winter has always been a time of reflection and renewal. In part because of the year end, in part because of my upcoming birthday, and in part because it is the nature of the season. Plants and animals rest and slow down and recharge for the birthing, feeding and caring of young, replenishing stores, and enjoying the few lazy days of summer.

Being an artist for so many years (can one stop being an artist having been one?) it was a cherished time to reflect and dig deep. To stay in the “shed” and excavate the next layer of ideas.

There is less time… far less time for that process now. It’s too bad. Retrospection is key aspect of my life, both personally and professionally. It is the most important element of my personal daily practice. What did I do? Was it right and true? Plumb and square? What can I do better next time? What can I fix or improve now? Using the winter as longer period of contemplation is an important part of the annual cycle. The solstice marked the start of this period for many years. Now there’s far less time, and far greater demands on my time. So be it.

I’m so thankful for the wonderful year we’ve all had. I’m very much looking forward to next year, the challenges already arising and the joy and happiness already present. So to all of you, enjoy your time, the holidays you celebrate, your family, days off from work, and maybe playing in the snow. Whatever you do, do it joyously, make every minute count. Merry met & merry part & merry met again.

And specifically to my riding friends… get out and ride!

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The 4 Sisters Nussbaum

Life turns on a dime. I’ll get back to that.

Almost 100 years ago there were 4 sisters.

Now there’s only one left. My Oma (grandmother), my father’s mother.

The first sister perished in World War II. All things considered, it should inform you of the nature of that Nussbaum family and the ladies they raised that only one was lost in the Holocaust. I can’t (and frankly refuse to try) to imagine the pain of losing a sibling, and then under those circumstances, while enduring the difficulty of the time and place. The three remaining sisters managed to safely flee Germany, although that poorly constructed sentence doesn’t begin to illuminate the story.

On Friday I went to visit my Oma, having last seen her briefly at the funeral of her sister, who I knew as “Tante Ellie” (The spelling is all mine). Of course, she was never my Aunt, but my Great Aunt, but that was her “name” to us at least. Tante Ellie has four children (and now many grandchildren and great grandchildren.) Tante Ellie was 89 as of last week at her funeral. She had been written off by her doctors almost 13 years ago. At the time they said she would never leave the hospital. But she and all her sisters are made of sterner stuff than most of us.

I can’t say that I spent a lot of time with my Great Aunt over the years, and as is often the way of these things I saw more of her when I was little, and my parents and their parents and siblings were younger as well. So I have a child’s fond memory of her—her regal carriage, and a voice that always made me think of Julia Child. There was always a bit of an interview when I saw her, catching up on my life and what I was up to, with a touch of judgement, but lacking that inquisition quality some folks bring to that process. She had a gentle nature and it showed. She’s already deeply missed.

When I still rather little, my Opa passed away of heart attack. Things were different then, heart attacks more often than not killed people. My Oma was a young 50 something, and certainly could have found someone if she wished. But my Oma has never been unwed for a moment—there has never been a moment when she was not married despite his passing all those years ago. She found work, made a life for herself in two different places, and to this day lives by herself in a small, unassuming house, where things remain as spotless and clean as one could want. There are certain things around that house that have existed in their place (the towel dispenser above the sink) for my entire life, and to my recollection existed in her two apartments and now here house. There is a lesson there for all of us who are more fickle and frivolous with belongings.

When I was twelve I met my Oma’s other sister. My parents had long planned a trip to Israel to see the Land, and meet the family we hadn’t met until that point. Oma’s sister wore similar glasses, hair style, and clothes. She looked like a twin more than a sister. And of course, carried herself with the same regal dignity. Her voice more similar to my grandmother than to my great aunt’s. Surprising considering how many years they had lived apart at that point. Unfortunately, it was difficult to build a relationship with her as she and I had no real common language, and she clearly wanted it understood that I was not to touch anything, sit still, and generally behave. I was not terribly good at any of those things.

I’m sitting across from my Oma having caught up on the general news she was interested in discussing (jobs, living places, my little one) despite the fact that this is all material we’ve gone over before. Her near term memory is not always that good, and a lot has changed around me in the last 7 years. Then we spoke about her sister for a few moments,and she ended with… “One second she’s here like any of us, and the next she’s gone. Like she was never here.”

I can’t imagine that anyone who knew my Tante Ellie would say that her passing removed her presence “like she was never here.” Her impact went and will go far beyond her family and its generations. But I’m quite certain that to my Oma, the last of the sisters, bereft of her husband all these years, who’s strength of will in her late nineties remains inestimable—who at the funeral of her last living sister was asked how she was fairing and answered by saying “I’m strong inside” and keeping her feelings to herself, where in her opinion they belong. She has a clear understanding of the passage of time and people and I’m in no position to contradict her.

I use the phrase “Life turns on dime.”

One second you’re cruising along in your car and the next second a drunk person is smashing through your windshield. One second your shopping and the next second a homeless person is tossing chairs at your wife and daughter. One second your just riding along, and the next second your covered in road rash and you hurt places you didn’t know you had. One second you’re chasing a hoola-hoop, and the next second you’re staring at the sky wondering what happened after the guy making the strange face in the purplish car hit you…

Larry was, from all accounts, a smart, funny guy. Not too long ago, he found a smart and charming woman and they married. They were planning their future and were on the verge of buying a condo together. Larry didn’t feel well, and rapidly found himself in the hospital. Multi-system organ failure ensued… Larry passed away 3 weeks after he first didn’t feel well. 3 weeks ago I went to Larry’s funeral as the woman in this story is family friend.

I have no great lesson to impart at the end of this. But be aware that life turns on a dime, and in a split second everything you think you know and count on—down to your very existence—can stop or alter in ways that make it “like you were never here”. Make the most of that.

My “Tante Ellie’s” real name was Danielle Chaya. A lyrical name that matched her spirit.

Sneux!

There’s a lot of real life catching up to do. And I promise… soon. In the meantime, this is how I started my day:

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It looked like this when I woke up this morning, so it was clear I needed to go for a ride. Maybe not the sanest of thoughts for someone who has been as cold ridden as I, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity. Nope. Not. My lungs hurt from the cold at first, but I, they, and the air warmed some as I went.

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I forget how much fun riding in fresh snow can be. It was fat and fluffy. It makes that great crunchy noise as you ride, but everything else is incredibly quiet.

A few more pics here. Too bad more of my friends couldn’t join me…

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King Hubs!

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Front Fork

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Jeff Jones FTW!

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Drivetrain

Slideshow. And for all the what’d you wear folks… a super light summer short with pad, Vermarc Roubaix Bib Tights (no chamois), a Sugio Speedster 2 as an underlayer with the hood on, Rapha winter jersey, Pearl Izumi jacket and gloves etc. Smartwool Phd socks, shoes were the Lake MXZ302 (the full winter boot in the mtb, fully walkable style… much better for winter than the road shoe). I think that was it. Ya’ll need to get lives caring what I wear… just wear whatever makes you comfortable…