Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tucson Marathon 2009

Good morning yesterday

you wake up and time has slipped away

and suddenly it's hard to find

the memories you left behind
(song by Nichols and Lane, sung by Joanna Wong - thanks Elaine!)

Luckily we have blogs these days. At least some ground truth for epic experiences like my struggle to come to terms with marathoning.

The good? A spectacular sunrise (captured on my iPhone) 4500 ft (1400m) up at the start in Oracle. What an awesome start and a dream course. Eliminating the Biosphere deviation (2008) meant uninterrupted panoramic vistas of the Santa Catalina mountains coming down Oracle Rd after mile 10.

(This course is nearly as good as when I ran it first in 2006 when there was the luxury of finishing at the Hilton El Conquistador.)

Also good. I bought a new pair of shoes after briefly trying them at the marathon expo on Friday. Newtons. They're quite different from ordinary running shoes. (And priced quite differently too.)

Decided against conventional wisdom to chance them on Sunday for the event. The soles of my feet haven't had the chance to get used to them but they're a dream shoe if you have decent running mechanics.

The final good thing was that I finished. Just under the psychologically important 4 hour mark. You can all stop reading here.

What follows below is a core dump for when this event becomes part of the "misty yesteryears" (song reference).


3:57 bracket. This was my slowest Tucson marathon out of the three I've done.

(In fact, I had a minor heart attack when I looked at my iPod and it said 4:15... turns out I'd left it running after crossing the finish line. Have always been looking to improving not sliding backwards. That would have been a major bummer. Glue factory thoughts. I've never done a marathon over the 3:59 mark, and I really don't want to start now.)

A tale of two Tucson marathons

(2008) Last year, I had nearly enough endurance but I noticed didn't have speed. Although I was unhappy that I faded late in the marathon, still I managed to post an almost respectable 3:41 time. (See report here.)

(2009) This year, I had no opportunity to do long runs. Instead, I hoped 30 min sessions with speedwork on a treadmill would address my lack of speed last year, boost my aerobic capacity and substitute for endurance. Outdoors, I ran 10Ks once a week to save time. The result? I ran with good form for about 18 miles and then suddenly crashed to a limp and robotic shuffle as my leg muscles locked up on me. Last 7 miles was excruciatingly long and pathetic. 3:57.

A Stupid Exercise

Afterwards, I realized this was a stupid exercise. I was also 3 kg overweight (good food in Doha). There is nothing heroic about completing a marathon when one's muscles have quit. It's extremely dispiriting to have to walk unnaturally mile after mile. And the damage to the undertrained and overworked muscles is counterproductive to recovery and fitness anyway.There is no point in entering.

Completing it in just under 4 hours: there is simply no value to this experiment. I've done the "just under 4" before. What possibly more could I learn? I really wish I hadn't run it this year.

Lessons for the Future

Memo to self: I believe there are two necessary and sufficient components to a successful marathon. One is sheer aerobic capacity from speedwork. The second is muscle endurance from long runs. Having just one out of two will only get you so far. But not having the 2nd will result in a total collapse like this time.

Speedwork can compensate for lack of endurance to some degree. In fact, I believe simple speedwork can substitute for half-marathon fitness. But there is something special about the marathon distance: 42.125 km or 26.2 miles of pounding overwhelms ordinary, everyday fitness. It imposes an endurance demand on the human physiological system that requires specific training.

Another way to look at it is total workload. A marathon is about 3000 kcal for someone of my weight. A 10K is about 800 kcal's worth. There is no way you're gonna scale up from 800 to 3000 kcal on race day.

Memo to self: Put another way, if you haven't put in the miles, don't bother to show up. Seriously.If you're gonna show up, respect the distance.

With that in mind, let's roll on and look forward to a decent showing in the Tokyo Marathon (2010)...

[Update: A week later, my left calf muscle is still hurting and my right knee (outside) twinges now and then. Simple overuse injuries. Definitely overdid it.]

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No ping pong in Doha?

I've been here a month in Doha working at CMU Qatar.

Like many unfamiliar cities with a large expat population, once you learn a few things and get to know Doha a little better, it's possible to find decent food and just about anything... except ping pong perhaps.

I've tried emailing the Qatar Table Tennis Association. I've put out feelers on the Table Tennis group on Never got a reply. There is an ITTF event in Doha every year. The Qatar Open attracts the best players in the world. Sport shops sells cheap paddles. Players? I haven't found any.

As a last resort, I went to the Table Tennis social hour scheduled for Monday nights at the Recreation Center in Education City. Predictably, the room was completely empty. Nobody showed up. They have truly excellent lighting and three tables. I'm sad.

So what did I do? No robot. And I only had two balls. I stared into the mirror and practiced my serve for an hour... Why did I make this blog entry? Well, a search engine will pick this up if someone is looking for table tennis in Doha. The Activity Room upstairs at the Recreation Center, Education City. Now you know.

Update: Something to think about...

My game declines when I'm not playing. The longer I'm without practice, the rustier I get. But to my surprise what I'd call the strongest parts of my game are not necessarily the parts that are best preserved or decline the least.

For example, most people who know me would say my forehand loop is the strongest part of my game. But after nearly two months without playing, I realize my forehand loop is off. Surprisingly, my reverse penhold backhand (a relatively new stroke for me) is still there.

I think there are two possible explanations:
  • My forehand loop is much stronger than my reverse penhold backhand. So there is less to deteriorate to begin with with the backhand stroke.
  • My forehand loop was developed through sheer practice and not from strong fundamentals. It relies on excellent timing. Without constant practice, it simply doesn't work. That is, the percentage landed is low.
    On the other hand, my reverse penhold backhand has been coached professionally from the beginning. So although it hasn't had the time to become as well-developed as the forehand, the fundamentals are better and don't require as much calibration.

Food for thought...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doha: England - Brazil

Whew, it has been quite a first weekend in Doha.

Yesterday was the century ride (blog entry).

Tonight, I attended the sold-out England - Brazil soccer match in the 50,000 seat Khalifa International Stadium, ticketing courtesy of my friend Majd Sakr.

It's a gorgeous looking stadium:

Here is the view from the 500 Rials ($140) seats we got:

Yup, a little too far away to see the faces of the players despite my recent iLasik surgery.

For the second half, we ended up in some minor-VIP seating area. Free juice and a big difference in terms of viewing:

The game? It was 1-0 to Brazil and we unluckily missed the only goal just after half-time due to going for free juice. It was a friendly and both teams had already qualified for the World Cup in South Africa, so neither team had very much at stake. Still, it was fairly obvious Brazil was the better team. They scored a goal, hit the post and missed a penalty. England barely had a look in at goal.

The stadium is part of the Doha Sports City Complex built for the 2006 Asian Games.

Next to the stadium is the 300m tall Aspire Tower shown here. (About the same height as the Tour Eiffel in Paris.)

Also, next to it is a large shopping mall (Villagio) - not shown here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A century in Doha

A century in Doha.. no, I've actually only been here about 5 days...

Unlikely though it may seem, there is a bike club here called Qatar Chain Reaction. Today, November 13th, was their 2009 Century Ride. That's 100 miles (160 km). Hell of a way to see the country, see route below:

I haven't actually biked much since 2007, the year I began this blog.

(That year I did the Pactour Elite Transcontinental (blog entry) and a 600k in Southern AZ (blog entry).)

My annual mileage has dropped off a cliff since then, partially due to not having goals in cycling anymore. Also, having spent Fall in Tokyo, I was worried about (lack of) acclimatization to the Persian Gulf area. It might not be wise to put my body through 100 miles as the first meaningful sporting activity since getting here 5 days ago. (The desert should always command one's respect.)

On the other hand, there is s the romantic idea of a century ride. From time-to-time, I still smile wistfully about halcyon days of back-to-back, stunning beautiful Fall centuries in NJ, PA and NY, when I used to live in the Princeton NJ area.

Fast forward to nearly 2010, and I'm "signed up" to ride a century along the Persian Gulf with my new-for-2009 travel bike, a Bike Friday (see entry). How exotic is that?

How does that Supertramp song go?

It was an early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn...

Well, I got up at 4am. Arrived at the parking lot at 5:30am. Fortunately, it's November and the temperatures won't be greater than 30C in the shade. (But, of course in the desert, there is no shade)...

(The sun peeks out above the horizon. It's around 6am.)
I have my friend Majd Sakr to thank for suggesting the ride and lending me the helmet.

Seems like there were about 50 riders of all nationalities (due to the multicultural expat society that is Qatar). Also there were Qatar national team junior members. It was surprisingly well organized. There is nothing out there. Volunteers handed out bottles of water at 3 locations along the route.

Ride report?

Well, I started off staying with the lead pack. There was a lead vehicle and a police escort. They were _moving_, so at mile 20 I knew my time was limited, so I put my head up front, took my token pull and then dropped off.

After being shelled, I got picked up by a 2nd group and rode on and off until mile 85, at which point it was hot enough that I felt cooked Tandoori style. One motivating factor to stay with someone was that I was unfamiliar with the area and didn't see signs.

On the final 15 miles into Doha, there was excellent signage to the finish, so I proceeded to ride in alone.

Stats? Total time, about 4:55, a bit under 5 hours. Ride time about 4:50. The leaders must have finished around the 4-4:15 hour mark.

(I used a Camelbak Racebak undershirt for the first time. It has a 70oz bladder. I put 50oz of frozen Sustained Energy for cooling and drinking. You can see the blue drink hose.)

A great experience. Makes doing centuries fun again. Have I re-kindled my love for the bike?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunset: Liberal Arts and Sciences Building, Education City, Doha

The Liberal Arts and Sciences Building (LAS) in Education City, Doha as seen from the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Qatar building. Sunset beginning around 4:30pm: A closer view of the LAS. Photograph taken on my walk back from the Recreation Center pool at 6pm:
More to come...

Monday, November 9, 2009


Sunset over Houston on my way to Doha

A beautiful moment on a grand scale rendered in 2D as the plane slowly sweeps around, a rush for a handy pocket camera, just a peek through my porthole ...

[How can we capture the feeling of 3D space? Some photographs are almost three dimensional in nature. Is it a property of focal length (telephoto => compression vs. wide angle => exaggerated perspective)?

taken from seat 1E on CO 509 to IAH. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5. Unretouched colors.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shenzhen Ping Pong: backhand forehand drill

It's been a while since I've blogged about ping pong.

(Last entry in a series about learning the basic reverse penhold backhand stroke is here.)

What hasn't been covered though is the integration of the reverse penhold backhand into the game. This one can do after initial acquisition of the stroke.

One can do this with any practice partner who can return or block a ball with reasonable consistency: a basket of balls can make up to some extent for a high-level player or coach (though it is likely more balls of higher quality will be returned by a good coach).

A first step towards integration is to be able to do drills where a practice partner will direct one ball to each side of the table in turn. This kind of drill, as opposed to the "static" kind (in which the ball is directed to the same side each time), significantly increases the difficulty level because one is forced to move, adjust and recover in rapid succession. It is one thing to be able to consistently play the ball from one side only, quite another to be able to do it on the fly.

Any weakness in set up and balance not apparent during a static drill will be exposed here, manifesting as poorer quality shots as the rally progresses from the first ball to subsequent ones.

The following Youtube clip took place in Warabi (蕨) municipal sports center in Saitama prefecture (埼玉県), just outside metropolitan Tokyo but nearly 3000 km from the practice tables of the Century South China Club in Shenzhen.

(My friend Hideya Watanabe is my willing practice partner. The drill is to drive the ball back to his backhand side irrespective of whether the ball comes to my forehand or backhand.)

(Direct link: here.)

Viewing a recording of the drill is especially helpful in spotting weaknesses and details that one can earmark for improvement next practice.

(As I'm also using the forehand stroke, I can see that it needs work in setup and followthrough... but that's another topic!)

Of course, having a good coach give immediate and helpful feedback during the drill is even better.

Fitness-wise, having to move from side to side and hit balls at the rate of nearly one per second can be an aerobic challenge. On this drill, I go through one basket of balls in about 5-6 mins. I recuperate by returning the favor to my friend by feeding the ball for him.

BTW, this drill also illustrates the value of the reverse penhold stroke, I simply cannot imagine doing this drill using penhold forehand only: the amount of footwork required would be staggering!

More drills to come...

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I got iLasiked recently.

I've thought about it on a number of occasions but haven't pulled the trigger until now.

One only has one pair of eyes per lifetime, and online accounts of unsatisfactory outcomes and medical complications on and are enough to give anyone cold feet.

On the other hand, as someone who has been quite myopic (with significant astigmatism) since childhood, the idea of waking up and being able to see a clock without first fumbling blindly for glasses is quite an attractive and novel concept.

Moreover, it'd be nice to ditch at a stroke all the special eyewear for sports that I've accumulated over the years, e.g. prescription googles for swimming, and a prescription facemask for snorkeling and scuba diving. Contact lenses for running and table tennis to avoid sweat causing glasses to slip or become streaked and unclear. Two pairs of ski googles: one to fit over glasses, another for use with contacts. Why not ditch the glasses and just use contacts? I have soft toric lenses but for use on computers or reading, my eyes get easily tired. So I use glasses for those tasks. Also, I can't safely wear contacts during cycling even with eye protection: 50+ mph descents can tear at and dry out one's eyes, putting the lenses at risk of falling out. Moreover, for ultra-distance events, a 24 to 60 hour bike ride with contacts can be quite a trial.

I had an initial 2 hour consultation at an English-speaking clinic in Tokyo where they determined without sales pressure that I was an excellent candidate. Several days later, I returned and paid 360 000 yen ($4000 US) to undergo iLasik surgery, which is supposed to be state-of-the-art.

The operating room:

(iLasik stands for the two stage IntraLase (laser eye flap cutting: the machine on the right) and Visix (customized map laser correction: machine on the left). iLasik, IntraLase and Visix are all registered trademarks of AMO (Abbott Medical Optics) Inc., the current industry leader in Lasik treatment.)

You can read about the procedure on many places online. But for the record, here are a few pictures from my surgery:

Don't worry, you can't blink during surgery. And with anesthesia, you can't feel a thing but I swear you can smell the burning as the laser zaps your eye...

Pressure ring is placed on the eyeball for IntraLase.
Can you see the semicircular cut the first laser made?
Visix zones projected on my eyeball.
Post-surgery, I was supplied with various eye drops for use five times a day for the initial one week period:
  1. Dexamethasone: an anti-inflammatory
  2. Antibiotic drops
  3. Hyalein and Hyalonsan to cure corneal laser cut and dry-eye symptoms
  4. Oxybuprocaine: anesthetic drops for pain
I ended up taking items (1) through (3) only. And after the initial 24 hour check-up, I was told I could discontinue (1).

After one week, I was cleared for sports again. You cannot spot any laser cut. And I'm down to using just Hyalonsan lubricating drops.

There are risks with iLasik of course. You can pick the best/most experienced doctor you can find (mine had done over 30,000 operations), make sure you're an excellent candidate and follow all instructions carefully.

For example, pupil size and corneal thickness are important parameters. People with large pupils are likely to experience significant night vision problems such as halos and starbursts. My pupil size is 4.88mm normal and 6.2mm dilated, so that helps to minimize those effects. Secondly, my corneal thickness is an above average 575 microns. After correction for my 5.75 diopter prescription, I still have around 450 microns left.

I'm told it will take perhaps 3 months for my final correction to take. Since it has only been just over one week, all I can point to are my impressions and the visual acuity testing results.

Impressions: Immediately afterwards, cloudy vision. Halos and starbursts are pronounced at night.

One day later: there is a slight but noticeable haze during the day but otherwise distance vision is serviceable. Night vision is better but not as good as with glasses or contacts.

One week later: haze is gone. Halos can be noticed but don't impede night vision. Same goes for starbursts. I am not entirely starburst-free with contacts or glasses in the first place either. Driving or riding at night is fine.

I hope these effects continue to diminish in the coming months.

Visual acuity: 1.0 in the Japanese system is equivalent to 20/20 American. (A figure higher than 1.0 corresponds to a rating better than 20/20.)

Before LasikNext dayOne week
Right eye 0.03 (Japanese)1.2 1.2
20/660 (American)20/1720/17
Left eye0.02 (Japanese)1.01.5
20/1000 (American) 20/20 20/13

I'm told the vision might continue to improve and stabilize over the first 3 months. (I will update this table after the next check.)

Unfortunately because of my age, I still need reading glasses for computer use and for close-up reading. Next step? Investigate by means of a contact lens whether a separate CK operation is appropriate to fix my presbyopia or would it compromise my newly corrected vision too much...

Four month report:
  • Haven't used the eye drops for a while now. No more dry eye even after waking up.
  • Halos and starbursts are not noticeable at night at all.
  • Vision is pretty good but not perfect. In low contrast situations I sometimes notice there is a faint ghost 2nd image, especially with text.
  • After 3 months, I bought some (low strength Bausch & Lomb) presbyopia-only contact lenses to try. It's based on the principle that the center of the eye is used for near vision and the periphery for distance vision. Yes, it improves my near vision (for reading) but there is a small cost in distance vision acuity.

    It's a tradeoff. At the moment, it seems like reading glasses are less of a hassle and can be higher strength for better magnification/easier reading.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lumix 20mm f/1.7 on Olympus E-P1

I've been waiting for the Panasonic micro-4/3rds Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens to become available since I got my Olympus E-P1 back in July.

(See blog entry here.)

I prefer the grey Lumix 20 (shown on the left with UV filter attached) to the standard Olympus collapsible zoom (14-42mm f/3.5-5.6).

There are several reasons:

  1. It's a fast lens f/1.7 useful for subject isolation (bokeh) and for indoors/low light situations.
  2. It's not a macro lens but manages to focus down to 0.2m.
  3. It's pancake in thickness and weighs just 100g. Much slimmer than the kit zoom. Perfect size for walkaround use.

The lens has received excellent reviews.

Styling-wise, it's very plain and looks a bit oversized in diameter compared to the E-P1 body. It's definitely not as attractive as the classic f/1.4 Voigtlander 35mm M-mount I also have:

It's about the same thickness as the E-P1 body.

Enough about the lens, some initial test photos (all taken at maximum aperture f/1.7) showing the subject isolation/bokeh characteristics of the lens. I was curious about the depth of field given the impact of the quarter-of-35mm size 4/3rds sensor.

From the lobby of the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo:

Of technical interest only...

Depth of focus chart Click to zoom in.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bike Friday: one week report

It has been one week since I got my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro (see earlier entry here) and so it's time to put in a report.

It has already been ridden more than 100 miles, chopped, raced and shipped as check-in baggage more than 10,000 miles over two continents during this initial break-in period. It doesn't feel as fast as my custom 650c Litespeed Ghisallo, but I'm not in shape either at the moment due to severe allergies. (I lack my usual baseline fitness.)

However, position-wise, it is dialed-in now as befits the custom-made frame that it is:

Equipment-wise, it is mostly a Shimano Ultegra 10 gruppo:
  • Drivetrain substitutions: a Shimano STR600 brake-shift lever with a Shimano Capreo rear hub and a trick 9-speed 9-26T cassette to maintain reasonable gearing with 20" wheels.
  • Wheels are built from Ultegra (F)/Capreo (R) hubs with 24-hole Alex AL-R390 451 (20") size rims mated to Schwalbe Durano 20 x 1-1/8" tires. Presta valve 20 x 1" inner tubes.
  • At the front end, a 1-1/4" Chris King GripNut Silver headset. A 100mm Oval R700 Road Stem (26.0mm), Oval R910 Aergo Carbon Road Bar (26.0mm), the Oval A910 Carbon SCCS UnderOnly Clamp and Oval A900 Carbon Extensions (S Bend) completes a trick front-end set-up adaptable for road and TT.
  • A Selle Italia SLR saddle mounted on a 27.2mm diameter Thompson seatpost. A separate aluminum sleeve is required for it to mate with the Pocket Rocket Pro seat tube.

Except for the Oval parts, it's spec'ed at a lower level than my road bike which sports a Shimano Dura-Ace 10 drivetrain, SRM Professional powermeter crank, Profile aluminum bars, Sram Red 11-26T cassette and Reynolds carbon clincher wheels.

Appearances can be deceptive, the little bike is much heavier than my normal road bike. I think this is mostly due to the steel Bike Friday frame and fork compared to the titanium Ghisallo frame and Look carbon fiber fork.

However, position-wise, I can say it gives nothing away to my custom-sized Ghisallo.

Compare the relative handlebar and seat height in the picture above with the initial unboxing pictures here. The stem mast has been cut by a drastic 12cm.

However, I don't think it'll ever be quite as fast. It's also slower cornering. But it is a hell of a lot more transportable since it fits comfortably in its own Samsonite suitcase. And that's the point of the Bike Friday.

An olympic distance triathlon was its first event outing. Since I cannot swim 300m without literally gasping for breath, as a tri-virgin, it was also my first time out too. (No swim photo was recorded.)

Needless to say, not having any swim endurance is not good for a standard distance 1500m (.93 mile) swim in a lake. (See earlier entry lamenting this fact here.)

At the bike rack, looking worried about the swim:

I also discovered I lacked certain vital skills such as: (1) being able to swim straight outside the confines of a pool, and (2) being able to sight and swim at the same time.

In front of the lake, having seen the course, looking extremely worried about the swim:

My sincere thanks to the gentleman who answered the call for help and lent me his wetsuit at the start.

I needed it not only because served as a buffer against the cold lake water, but also as a potential life preserver. Without its buoyancy, I simply could not have completed the swim.

Anyway, it was no surprise I emerged almost last out of the water despite starting in the 2nd wave out of 4.

(Actually, I was kinda relieved not to have needed fishing out.)

What was more surprising to me was that I took on bad leg cramps (hamstrings) midway during the swim. Actually, I emerged quite exhausted from the water.

T1 was a bit slow. The cramp in my hamstrings meant I was unable to take advantage of my good position on the Bike Friday. On the 28 mile course, I was only able to put in a mid-pack ride time.

And then it got strange...

My sincere apologies to the gentleman pictured here.

He must have had a hell of a shock when he finished his bike leg because in my confusion during T2 I swiped his running shoes (by mistake).

He wore Nikes, size 9.5. Exactly my size. I also wear Nikes. I didn't notice until after I had finished. (Fortunately, he had spare shoes in his car.) But I felt terrible since I had essentially ruined his race.

On the 10K run, my legs were squares at first. Surprised, I shuffled along. Stopped for my hamstrings a couple of times and took a pee break. I didn't really run properly until nearly 3 miles in. But I finished.

Finally, I'd to like express my sincere thanks to Sasha for encouraging me to try what I thought was impossible (for me). I entered on the spur of the moment without ever having trained for one. I am proud to have survived it:

No, it is not impossible. However, I am by no means ready. But at least I know what I have to work on to become ready.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro

I unpacked my custom Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro today.

This is a high-end road bicycle that uses 20" wheels and fits in a Samsonite 31" F'Lite suitcase.

I have Shimano Ultegra-level components on the bike with a few customizations:
  • I use the Shimano Capreo rear hub and 9-26T 9-speed cassette in conjunction with 53x39T dual chainrings to provide wide range gearing.
  • I use an Oval stem with the R910 Aergo Carbon Road Bar which has a flat top wing section. The regular 4-bolt Oval stem cap is replaced with the R910 aero front cap which provides for easily removable under-the-bar aerobar extensions.
  • Not only do I have the hard shell travel case but I also have the soft travel bag (needed for travel on trains and subways in countries like Japan that require bikes to be bagged). Partially folding and unfolding the bike is a 11 step process.

The bike is not as simple as it looks in the first picture above.

First time, It was quite fiddly and took me at least and hour to unpack and assemble it from scratch.

For protection against scratching etc., there are lots of specifically-labeled plastic tubing and color-coded pieces of felt. The bike comes with a booklet with photos illustrating how to unpack and pack the bike. Unpacking is a 37 step process.

Starting point (open the suitcase): The suitcase is surprisingly full. I don't think I could fit too much more in there. For example, I'm not sure there is room for a helmet. But shoes, a small pump and seattube bag will fit.

Take the front wheel out: The front wheel quick-release is separately attached to the fork and holds a spacer for the fork blades. There is also a crush protector for the suitcase.

Take handlebars (cables still attached) out: The handlebars were upside down and the cables required a little thought to untangle properly.

Stand the frame up in the suitcase: Pivot the rear triangle out: Pivot the seattube out (one quick release secures both the seattube and the rear triangle at the same point): Take the frame out of the case: Attach the separately packed stem and handlebars (also install front wheel): Attach and level the my Selle Italia SLR saddle using the electronic spirit level on my iPhone 3G: Phew! All done except for the pedals (which I didn't have with me):