To Las Vegas. Flew out at 9:13 in the morning. Logan was not difficult. They have a new computerized self-service check in computer. You scan a credit card so they know your name, then it comes up with your flight info and seat assignment. You see a graphic display of the plane's seating chart and can use the touch screen to change your seat if you wish.
When I boarded the second leg at St. Louis, I checked my boarding pass and saw "C10" so I sat in seat C10. As the plane was almost completely full, another passenger came in and said he had a ticket for that seat. We compared boarding passes, turned out C10 was the gate number, and I was s'posed to be in C17.
That flight had a very pleasant flight attendant, we exchanged banter and wisecracks off and on throughout the flight.
Checked into The Frontier, a bit of a dump by Vegas standards. My room is on the first floor, though, so I am able to come and go without having to encounter the casino. There are a lot of nice things about Las Vegas, but I absolutely abhor the casinos. I find them inexpressibly depressing, full of desperate chain-smoking suckers throwing their money away. They don't look like they're even having fun...mostly look either grim or bored.
I'm a bit bummed that the fastest available Earthlink dialup is only 26,400 baud. The Frontier charges $1.00 for each local phone call, so I tend to leave the connection open for a long time, even though it ties up the line.
The Frontier does have the virtue of being relatively cheap. If I were a high-roller, I'd have stayed at The Venetian:
(Click on any image to see a larger version)
|The "Grand Canal" What looks like sky is actually a really good trompe l'oeil ceiling. What looks like a statue is an actor.||The main hall of the lobby is absolutely breathtaking.||Even the port-cochere where the taxis pull up is palatial.|
Went out to Blue Diamond for the Outdoor Demo. I had not been to this last year, which was a mistake. Riding out in the shuttle bus I was struck by the alien-ness of the desert terrain, so different from the green hills of New England. Las Vegas is in a large, perfectly flat basin surrounded by craggy mountains. The only vegetation outside of built-up areas is sagebrush. I commented that the terrain reminded me of Tattoine, Luke Skywalker's home planet in Star Wars. I was then informed that much of that film had, in fact, been shot in the area!.
The Outdoor Demo is much less formal than Interbike proper, and was a lot of fun. I rode a Burro Bike, an "exploration bike" with small, wide knobby tires. It seemed pretty sure-footed, but I didn't find any challenging terrain. It somewhat reminded me of my first Raleigh Twenty, which I used to ride around in the woods in the days before mountain bikes.
Next I rode an Xtracycle, an extension that fits onto the back of a standard mountain bike to add greatly to cargo capacity. If I didn't know it was there, I would have just thought I was riding a generic MTB. This is a very nice product, and I hope to be able to sell them at the shop.
The next bike I rode was a Browning automatic shifting hybrid. This has electrically operated shifters for 3 chainwheels and 4 rear sprockets. It doesn't use a conventional derailer, rather has a hinged segment on the sprockets that acts like a railroad switch. I took this around the road loop, it worked pretty well. The shift algorithm it uses in automatic is oversimplified, so it only gives 6 speeds. In manual mode you can shift front and rear independently by pressing buttons.
Finally I rode a Giant touring bike with disc brakes. It had 32 mm tires and rode nicely, though the handlebars were very much wider than I prefer. I am coming to suspect that disc brakes are going to become the default option for most bikes in the fairly near future. As weatherproof brakes become more and more common, I suspect that people's acceptance of brakes that don't work well in wet conditions will wear thin.
Off to Interbike! I arrived for an appointment at the Terry booth to find Jobst Brandt waiting for me. Although we've corresponded via e-mail for several years, this was the first time we've met in person. He's not as tall as I'd been led to believe. We talked briefly about wheels, books and tensiometers, but I was running late for my Terry appointment and had to say good-bye. I hoped to run into him later, but it didn't work out.
I went over to the Persons booth where I finally got to meet Mel Pinto. We've become friends over the phone, conversing in French and doing business. I had been greatly looking forward to meeting him. He showed me new Brooks saddles in "British racing green" as well as Busch & Müller generators that I'll probably start carrying.
I also visited with Grant Petersen at his Rivendell booth.
This may be the year for auxiliary brake levers to come back for drop-bar bikes. Both Specialized and Trek were showing models with "cyclocross" levers mounted on the straight, middle section of drop handlebars. These levers work by being inserted into the cable run from the main brake levers, offering the convenience of old-style turkey wings without their drawbacks.
I had previously seen only the Paul Components version of these, thought it was a good idea but the Paul's versions to be rather mono-buttocked.
There are several new brands out, but the Tektro version looks to me to be the major winner. A lovely, minimalist design, all forged, 88 grams/pair. This one also features a cable adjustment barrel. I haven't seen prices yet, but Tektro stuff is generally a super value, and I'm eagerly looking forward to getting these in.
This is a very nicely implemented attachment to let you convert a standard rigid-frame MTB into a kid-back tandem. A really nice piece of work from Florida.
Many in the industry are dissatisfied with the limitations imposed by the standard 1 3/8" (35 mm) bottom bracket diameter. A larger size would permit the use of larger, more durable cartridge bearings, and larger diameter, lighter, stronger axles. A number of sizes are being floated as a potential new standard, most notably a 48 mm size.
The folks at Phil Wood are pushing for a 50 mm size because this permits the use of a particularly sturdy standard bearing size.
I've been an informal consultant on this project. They asked my opinion as to whether the right side should use a right- or left-hand thread. I strongly advised left-hand, and they took my advice. There was also some question of thread pitch. They were originally going to use the same 24 threads/inch as current standard BBs, but I pointed out that this was already a rather fine pitch for a 1 3/8" bore, and would be super-fine in the larger 50 mm size, too easy to cross thread. The made up some samples and checked it out, turned out I was right. They went with a 1.5 mm thread (about 17 tpi.)
This is a quite nice system, should be reliable, durable and easy to service.
This is Grant Petersen's newest attempt to sell an affordable complete bicycle. Lugs are a bit simpler than those of the Rambouillet. The Romulus is the main model, the Redwood is a similar bike in very large sizes only.
The bike shown was silver in color, but I photographed it on a bright red rug, hence the red cast to the photos. The actual color for production bikes has not yet been decided on.
Lots of cool new stuff from Surly.
They have an amazingly versatile new frame called the Karate Monkey. This is primarily marketed as a "29 inch MTB, but it has disc brake mounts as well as cantilevers, so you could potentially use it with almost any 26" or 700c wheel/tire. It even has horizontal fork ends (rear opening) so it can be used as a fixed-gear or with any internal-gear hub.
There's a great new flip/flop hub in the 135 mm spacing, set up for a fixed sprocket on one side, freewheel on the other, with MTB single-speed chainline. This is only the second hub to become available in this combination, following the big-bucks Phil "Kiss Off" at about 3 times the price. I expect to sell a LOT of these!
The new version of the Steamroller fixed-gear frame is in Battleship Gray, and differs otherwise in having a dented right chainstay. This allows it to be used with actual track cranks, which was not always possible with the previous brown version.
Shades of the 1930's "Ingo Bike" is the "Jump Bike", an ordinary looking MTB with special eccentric hubs that let you propel the bike by bouncing up and down. The hubs have a variable degree of eccentricity, from 0 to 45 mm, selectable by a handlebar control. It has a normal chain drive too, and front and rear disc brakes, so it can be used as a normal bike.
The big push at the Shimano booth was for the new XTR shifters, but I was more interested to see a prototype 3 x 8 hybrid gearing system, similar to the SRAM Dual Drive. This is slated to become available next summer.
They also have a new Ultegra level RapidFire shifter pod set for upright handlebars, should be a popular item. This is necessary because the "Mountain" shifters don't index properly with current model "Road" front derailers.
This made-in-Florida tadpole trike is sort of a poor-folks' Greenspeed. Looked pretty nice. If I only had a garage...