Saturday, November 28, 2009

and one about bikes...

So, over the past few weekends (THIS weekend being the exception due to turkey bloat and generally bad weather) I have been out trying to find some decent mountain bike trails in the immediate Boston area.
I started by going to some of the areas that I was already familiar with by going to Rock Meadow and the Charles River Bike Path.

I have been going online to various sites researching some other places to go and had a choice between Cutler Park in Dedham or the Landlocked Forrest in Burlington. I chose the Landlocked forest because of it's proximity to the Minuteman Trail, and as a result, the ease of access for me coming from Cambridge. I mean, if I am going to ride a mountain bike for 10 miles each way JUST to get to a trail, it might as well be accessed by a nice and calm bike-path!

So I arrived, after getting lost and having to ask directions... I rode along some power lines and through some woods until I got to the blazed trails; everything looked promising! Little undergrowth, widely spaced trees...

Truly beautiful!
Just so you know, I am more of a cross-country/singletrack/trail riding kind of mountain biker... I am not really into the more technical or "extreme" aspects of the sport/activity; so I saw these trails and had high hopes!

I first encountered some lovely, fast trails and some free-ride obstacles for the more adventurous crowd.

I made this particular journey last Sunday... not really thinking that the large amounts of rain we had had the previous Friday would be all that much of a factor...
...little did I know the "Landlocked Forest" was mostly in a low-lying region and does not dry out that quickly.

To my disappointment, much of the early part of my riding was not riding at all, but rather carrying my bike over and through the ... not mud ... but SWAMP.

In addition to the conditions being less than ideal due to rain, it seemed that many of the small bridges and other "infrastructure" had fallen into a state of disrepair. I can only hope that this was due to normal deterioration and was not a result of vandalism.

After having ridden nearly 10 miles to get here, I began to get a little frustrated.

Eventually I made my way out of the "lowlands" and up into some decent singletrack! 
I even found the front-end of what looked like a Ford Turino! (replete with the required bullet holes, I might add)

After a bit of a disappointing start, the trails opened up and I really began to enjoy myself!

At some point in the day the temp. dropped about 10 degrees... and though the sun never really came out (like the weather reporter said it would) I would say it was still an enjoyable day. I took a (to me) unknown way home, which wound up being a "short-cut" back to the Minuteman Trail, and my ride back was swift and enjoyable.

Here's hoping that Cutler Park isn't in the floodplain ;)

Friday, November 27, 2009

One about art...

I have to make a decision about school soon...
I am going to go, I think .

Not full time, unfortunately... therein lies the rub.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

2010 Stumpjumper Comp HT ... a review

So, now that I have had my Stumpjumper for a few weeks, I suppose that I could give a completely uneducated and from-the-hip review.

Let me start by saying that I live somewhere in the limbo between "purist", "hack", "zealot", "freak", "hard-core", "fred", "heretic", "roadie", "wannabe", and "bikist:" (I made that last one up ;). I love bikes and bicycling, but by no means am I an expert on anything related to cycling... hell, I am barely an expert on anything relating to ART and I consider myself an artist! I love riding in all it's various forms and over the course of my life (aside from a brief respite) cycling has been one of the very few constants...

I get on a bike and ride -- not because I need to achieve something... not because I have to overcome something... not because I gotta hit my gains... not for any other reason other than that I LIKE IT; I LOVE IT. That being said... here is my review:

2010 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp HT 

I have ridden a few MTBs in my time... not as many as some, I admit, but in my admittedly limited experience I think that I have cultivated an appreciation for a good bike, and this is not my first MTB.

Prior to this bike I have done some time on a:
  • '94 Rockhopper (hardtail, steel fork) which was, incidentally, my first MTB.
  • 2004 Rockhopper Comp W/ Manitou Axel Elite fork
and most recently a few tours on a:
  • 2008 Trek 6000 W/ Rock Shox Dart 3 fork
I liked all of them but none of them (save the Trek) came close to being what I really wanted from a MTB. The Old 94' was a great bike but was "back-in-the-day" prior to my rekindled love affair with cycling; and my friends who rode were just too competitive for me and so, as a result, it was never fun.

The 04' Rockhopper I bought used and the fork was shot... aside from being a bit too small and a bit too heavy, I just didn't like it.

the Trek was actually a rental during several trips that a few friends and I made to the Kingdom Trails in Vermont last year... it was certainly a very good bike and I had mad fun on it... was still not quite what I was looking for.

Almost as soon as the last trip to VT was over I began hoping and planning for a new mountain bike of my very own... alas, unemployment and other economic factors conspired to keep that aspiration on the back burner for several months (try... 13 or 14 months!). But at least this gave me plenty of time to research, save, plan, and talk to people about it.

A lot of people, bike shop people especially, all suggested a full suspension MTB... now, I rented the 6000 specifically because I liked hardtails... I like the rigidity and speed, the lack of loss of energy transfer. I rode the full susp. Trek that one of my other riding buddy's had, and I was not overly impressed; for my style of riding. Several people I spoke to said "oh don't worry... the new shocks..." blah blah "lock outs..." blah blah... etc.. etc...
...and while all of this technical mumbo jumbo and engineering speak may very well be true -- it doesn't change 3 very important (to me, anyway) facts:

1) More parts = more potential issues/maintenance
2) More parts = more weight!

Now, I had a budget and an idea of how I wanted the bike to be spec'd. This immediately eliminated most full suspension MTBs... and certainly ALL the ones that fit my component criteria. Which, you have to remember, is OK because I DID want a hardtail!!! All of this culminated in the last week in September when I had finally narrowed all my choices down and decided upon a bike...

Nearly a year goes by and finally I was in a position to decide and my LBS (local bike shop) is apparently in bed with Specialized so I was able to get my new bike for a bit less than I expected...BUT that did not seem to matter too much as I had to wait nearly 6 weeks for my bike to "arrive" though it was only supposed to take a few days... but arrive finally it did.

Here it is prior to even removing the reflectors...

All I can really say with regard to an actual review is this:

It's almost as light as my roadbike (which I was astounded by)... and despite, or perhaps because of, this fact; it is mad fast on hard packed trails, pretty formidable on the road just cruising around, and really easy to handle out in the woods.

After I got all the elements dialed in (seat, stem, bars, etc...) I was able to climb easier than on any other MTB I have ever been on. One might think that this "lack of" weight would be a detriment on loose gravel/sand uphills, but I did not experience that at all. Up loose stone and dirt, over a forest of roots, and down more big ass rocks than I was really ready for, the combination of the Fox Float F90 RL and the Specialized M5 AL frame allowed me to attack the terrain from crazy to tame with confidence... even with my +200 lb frame, everything felt solid and predictable, which I consider to be an ideal quality in the machines I trust my well being to!

Here it is after a shower needed by my first mudding excursion in Fresh Pond ... post rainstorm!

In conclusion: I couldn't be happier... It's fast, agile, able, light, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An amazing day for November...

Normally when I go out and bring my camera with me, I am only thinking about documenting the events that unfold around me -- sometimes I see things that I might want to use as reference later in a drawing or a painting. This past Sunday I decided to play bicycle glamor photographer to my new mountain bike as I toured around my municipality on what turned out to be one of the most beautiful days of the Fall...

This is in the lovely Rock Meadow in Belmont/Waltham...

The top of Mackerel Hill in Waltham (part of Rock Meadow?)





The actual meadow.
The elegant Chahlz Rivah.

HOW I never had been on the portion of the Charles River Greenway that had
this bridge before, I will never know.


All in all, a spectacular ride on a beautiful day .... in November!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

...Well, I guess it's later...

A theme that seems pervasive through my life is that I often feel outside of things. This has always been the case with regard to how I view myself as an artist... always throughout my scholastic career (and including college) I have never really fit in with any one clique. This in and of itself is not so bad, as I do value my individuality and belief in personal freedom, but I have found that most of humanity seems to be more of a pack mentality and as a result tend to eschew people after a bit who don't conform to the packs characteristics -- this can lead to general feelings of loneliness or nonacceptance. Yes there are those who pair off like swans, but for the most part people group together.

As I was saying, while in my school years I never quite fit in with any of the cliques; I got a long with many, and floated through many circles, but never seemed to find any ground. This was no different in the "Art Department". As it were... the group who peopled the art departments were a collection of individuals who were either actually interested in art, got into art because they thought it was "cool" or "easy", or could not find another clique to incorporate themselves into. From these people, many sub-divisions were created... I always seemed to fit squarely outside of all of them. I was arty but not an art "freak" as some people called themselves. I was talented but not as much as others. I did not smoke the Pot, as so many did, and which was apparantly a stigma to be ostracized for! ;)

It only became more pronounced when I got to college -- perhaps it was the schools I attended, but it seemed like the majority of kids at "art school" seemed to be there because they either thought it would be an easy soft-option, or because they simply did not know what they wanted to do. Thankfully there were exceptions... but they were the exceptions.

So, as a theme in my life it translates into how I view myself as a cyclist: I am not hardcore enough to be a serious roadie, not crazy enough to freestyle BMX, not cool enough to be a fixed gear hipster, just not interested in being a Dutch bike riding Europhile... hell, I'm not even lame enough to be a fred!

damn... I thought I had a point with all this but it just wound up sounding like me whining.