Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Real Test...

Today came the real test -- can I fit everything back in the suitcase. I'm off on a short trip tomorrow and I thought I'd take the bike with me -- after all that is what it is for.

After disassembling everything, I got the main frame in OK.


That was the easy part. The next half hour was spent trying to get every little piece in where it would fit. But I made it!


I had a couple of pieces of packing left over, though. Panic City! But a quick call to Bike Friday and they calmed me down and told what went where. I think Bike Friday must staff with former Crisis Line counselors.

After all was done, I dug out my trusty Travel Scale and checked the weight. It looked like about 47.5 pounds! That is with my helmet and trunk bag but with out light, lock or handlebar bag. That is a little tighter than I'd like -- I'd hoped to stuff a few extras in there. But thats life.

We see what happens when after the airline gets thru with it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Road Trip

This week, work took me to El Centro, CA -- which from an LA viewpoint is the middle of nowhere. So I folded the Friday and put it in the back of my Honda Element.


I was kind of hoping that the rear rack would act as a stand when the bike is folded (like with folders such as the Brompton) but it didn't. Otherwise I was happy as it took less than 5 minutes to fold. It would be faster on a standard model but my "heavy duty" version has a couple of hex bolts where the standard is for quick releases.

Sadly, the easy of folding was about the only good thing on the trip bicycle-wise. I got in a couple of short rides (about 4 mi each) but I didn't end up with enough time to ride. Now if I had been really hard core I would have made the time, but give me a break -- I'm still a newbie.

Next week I take my first plane trip with the Friday. The big challenge is it see if I can fit it all back in the suitcase :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Beer Blogging: Best Beer I've had where I didn't expect it.

Sometimes you run across a great beer when you aren't looking for. Business occasionally takes me to Switzerland. Now the Swiss are famous for many things, but beer is not one of them. Their one internationally famous beer, Samichlaus ended production shortly after the brewer, Hürlimann, was acquired by the international conglomerate Carlsberg. But there is hope. A few regional brewers such as Brauerei Schützengarten in St. Gallen still make decent beers. I am told that the French speaking cantons have many thriving microbreweries and there are even a growing number of microbreweries in the German speaking region. So the next time you are at the World Economic Forum in Davos watch out for beers from the Monsteiner brewery.



This is the Monsteiner Huus ("house") beer. It is unfiltered (i.e. it is a "live" beer with yeast and hence cloudy) and has a slightly sweet finish that is nicely balanced with the hop bitterness. I first had it at Restaurant Kulm in Wolfgang-Davos where not only is the beer on tap, they us it to make a very nice beer fondue.

Brauerei Monsteiner (which, by the way claims to be the highest brewery in Europe at 1625 meters above sea level) also brews an amber colored beer called Wätterguoge ("salamander") This is brewed with a small amount of malt that was dried over a beechwood fire giving it just a hint of smokiness as well as adding to the darker color.


Smoked beers ("rauchbier" in German) are an old tradition that has pretty much died out, except in Franconia (the region around Bamberg, Germany). I mentioned that I found a very good Swiss smoked beer to Robert Pawelczak a brewmaster who teaches brewing in Franconia, he said "of course it's good, the brewer was a student of mine." The world is small.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Second Impressions...

Today I went for a leisurely 15 mile ride up the Santa Monica Bike Path past the Santa Monica Pier. It was with a neighborhood group that included a woman with a single speed beach cruiser so we went a nice 10 mph pace. The weather was good for riding -- our June Gloom has come early this year -- not too hot, not too cool. We left at 9:00am so we missed most of the tourist traffic -- the stretch along Venice Beach can get crazy on weekends with pedestrians wandering around the bike path ("Its a BIKE PATH people!") and first timers on roller blades either out of control barely moving.

Anyway, the NWT was great! The route is flat (which is good because I still have a bum ankle from a mishap a few weeks ago and hills stress it to much for comfort) and I was cruising along effortlessly. The small wheels and shorter wheelbase made avoiding the pedestrian obstacle course a breeze.


Friday at the Santa Monica Pier


You may notice I've removed the handlebar bag. I may give it a try again later, but it was just too different for me know.

Next Up: Road Trip!

Friday, May 18, 2007

First Impressions

Now this is based on just two short (5 mile) rides. I hope to do a longer one this weekend and will report back.

Let me say up front that none of this is a "complaint" -- I am just reporting on how my NWT is different from my old bike (a Raleigh Hybrid).

First off, while intellectually I knew the smaller wheels didn't make for faster peddling (thanks to the magic of gear ratios), I don't think I believed it 100%. Because they first thing I said to myself was "Hey, this is just like a real bike." Once I got going I didn't even notice until I looked down and thought "Dude! Where's my front wheel?" The other warning about small wheels was that you feel the bumps a little more and this definitely was true. I can see why people get a suspension seat if they are going be riding on rougher surfaces. It was not at all bad on our slightly bumpy streets and bike paths, but it was noticeable.

My Raleigh has big wide "Beach Cruiser" style handlebars and the NWT has much narrower "H" bars. That is understandable because even split they have to fit in the suitcase. But with the Grip Shifters in there there is not a lot choices of hand position where you can also reach the brakes. Not a problem, but will take some getting used to.

Speaking of the Grip Shifters, they are exactly backward from my Raleigh -- there to downshift I turn clockwise, but on the SRAM shifters on the NWT I downshift by turning counter-clockwise. Again, no big deal but it will take some getting used to.

I also purchased a Detours Cruiser Handlebar Bag. I've never used a handlebar bag before and this looked like a nice one. I liked the map cover that snaps to the top. However with the narrow handlebars I think it made everything too crowded. It also made it harder to get to the breaks and it also interfered with the Garmin eTrex GPS that I use as a bike computer. So I've removed the bag -- at least until I can figure out another way to mount the GPS.

The water bottle cage is a long way down :)

But all in all I am very, very happy. The bike is fun to ride.

Yesterday I was somewhat disappointed that no passers-by made any comments. After all it is an unusual bike and I am a fairly big guy to be on such a small bike. Well today I was riding with She Who Must Be Obeyed and she mentioned that people were indeed checking out the bike as we passed. I feel much better.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Rest of the Story...

OK, 9:45am and doorbell rings. Its a delivery! I expected the delivery person to have a box on a cart, but he was carrying in his hands as if it was nothing. According to the manifest it was 56 pounds! This actually is a little bit of a concern since the airlines all have 50lb limits for checked luggage. Included were some manuals, a handlebar bag and a trunk bag so I may have to do some creative packing to get the weight down :)


Inside the box was a Samsonite F'lite suitcase...



And inside that was my New World Tourist (some assembly required)


After about 45 minutes (I'm a software guy, I don't do hardware...) I had this beauty...


A quick ride around the block and nothing fell off, so it was time for a road test.

It's here!

Arrived 9:45am PDT, assembled by 10:30. Went for a short ride down to the Venice Pier...


Friday at the Venice Pier

More photos and my first impressions to come...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bike Friday Update

Still hasn't shipped, supposed to today. Curse you BikeFriday for toying with my emotions :)

Update: It will be here Thursday morning!!! Pictures to follow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Beer Blogging

Heaven in a glass:


One of the world's finest beers: the altbier from Brauerei zum Uerige in Düsseldorf. A reddish copper colored beer (the name "altbier" translates literally to "old beer" but in this case means more "beer in the old style") is just under 5% alcohol by volume, has a clean and malty taste with just a hint of hop flavor. It is fairly well attenuated (i.e. "dry") and a nice bitter finish that leaves you wanting another one as soon the glass is empty. Which is good because the waiter will plop another one down without asking (and mark your coaster to keep track). The glasses are on the smaller side for Germany .25 L but this insures the beer is always fresh and not too warm (if you drink from a 1 liter mug as the Bavarians do, the beer will be warm and flat by the time a typical person gets to the bottom).

This beer is also tradition in a glass: it is served from wooden barrels set on the counter, with no help from anything but Mr Newton and his laws of gravity. The brewery is a charming mix of old and new: all the pumps and valves are controlled by a state of the are computerized brewing system, but the brewer still checks the volume in the brew kettle with a big wooden dipstick. The wooden kegs have RFID chips embedded for inventory control but the bung is hammered in with a big wooden mallet.

The brewery itself is on a busy corner in the Düsseldorf Altstadt ("Old Town"). It has slowly taken over a good portion of the block, expanding into neighboring buildings as they become available. The result is room has its own personality and its own clientele.


(Düsseldorf is about an hour and a half by fast train from Frankfurt airport)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Waiting for my new toy

So today is the day. I ordered a month ago, got lucky and there was a cancellation and my production got moved up a couple weeks. So today, my New World Tourist from BikeFriday is supposed to ship. I feel like handing out cigars when it is "delivered" (by UPS, that is) but that is probably over the top.



"Gee, thats a funny looking bike" I hear you say. That may be, but it is a custom built (I shop from the King Size catalog) fully packable (into a suitcase) touring bike. So now whenever I travel, I can bring my own wheels. I can see myself peddling from village brewery to village brewery in Oberfranken (area around Bamberg, Germany with hundreds of breweries).

Update: It didn't ship, still "in cabling." Should ship Monday. Oh, the torture.

Salutations, Felicitations and Fermentations

Welcome. I doubt anybody will read this, but for me it is a form of therapy.

So before I got a visit from the nice young men in their clean white coats I thought, "Get a blog." Everybody has a blog these days. Even bakeries have blogs these days. So grab yourself a good craft beer (no pale, watery, fizzy stuff allowed here) and I'll try not to put you to sleep.