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):

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

E-P1: Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm vs. Olympus Digital Zuiko 8mm fisheye

A hobby of mine is spherical panorama photography.

The ultra wide angle Olympus 4/3rds Zuiko Digital 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens mounted on my Olympus E-P1 allows 360° in all directions to be captured in just 7 (or 8) shots.

Shown here attached using a 4/3rds to micro-4/3rds adaptor.

As is standard, I shoot one row around using 6 shots (every 60°) in portrait format for maximum vertical coverage, plus 1 zenith and optionally one nadir. This provides decent image overlap for stitching.

The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 is a rectilinear zoom lens that is quite compact and light by comparison. It's actually nearly half the weight: 300g vs. 568g = 485g + 83g for the Olympus MMF-1 adaptor. However, the maximum diagonal angle of view is spec'd at 114° vs. a claimed 180° (computed 170.2°).

See for the Olympus 8mm fisheye technical details.

Let's compare the true coverage of the Lumix rectilinear lens at 7mm against the Olympus fisheye (8mm).

Pictures below were taken at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku.

Landscape format

Lumix (@ 7mm): Olympus (fisheye): Olympus Studo (fisheye correction):

Compare the coverage in the above image to the Lumix 7mm image shown earlier. The fisheye is definitely wider. And actually, the fisheye image extends beyond the rectangular portion at the corners. See below.

Olympus (defished): The defished shot above was created using Turk's free defish program with the following parameters:

Seems like the aspect ratio is a bit off. One of my parameters must be a bit wrong. Oh well. But you get the idea about the extra coverage.

In spherical panorama photography, the shots are taken with the camera rotated into portrait position.

Portrait format

Lumix (@ 7mm): Olympus (fisheye): Olympus Studo (fisheye correction): Olympus (defished):