Thursday, August 30, 2012

Off the Rivet Hits the Road

Off the Rivet is taking a week off as I travel to Dallas to see my Alma Mater play Alabama in Dallas.  Next week I'll have two posts for you to make up the difference! Wish the Wolverines luck, they are probably gonna need it...

See you next week!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Wind Tunnel: Revisited

Our age is informational.  An infinite library, it gives us every shade upon the entire spectrum of ideas from which to form our opinions.  It is no wonder then, that we live in an age radicalized by confirmation bias.  We seek evidence to support our hopes, rather than use the most reliable evidence to form well informed opinions. 

Through a similar twist of reverse engineering, cycling manufactures can seek out data and tests in order to confirm their hopes—that their products are fastest, lightest, and just plain better than everything else.  Kudos to Mavic then, for, at least somewhat, throwing that idea out the window.  They nudged it very close to the edge of the window sill at the very least. 

Mavic invited independent journalists to San Diego’s state-of-the-art low speed wind tunnel with a challenge.  “Bring any wheel and tire combination on the market and we bet our new CXR 80 wheel set will beat it.”  A gutsy challenge to say the least. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Going Home

I’m gonna hijack the beginning of this post to take care of some business.  It came to my attention recently that the comment button down at the bottom of Off the Rivet posts was broken.  I sent a small team of gnomes into the internet tubes to address the problem.  I just got word that the comment button has been fixed and only a couple of the gnomes were seriously disfigured in the process.  All in all, a fair price for a working comment button.  So comment away.  I really love hearing from my readers, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the topics or how I’m doing—or even my grammar if you are so inclined.  I am already aware, however, of my gratuitous overuse of the Em dash—so leave that criticism out of the comments please.  Finally, if for some reason the comment thing at the bottom of the post still doesn’t work, then send me an email at and I will do my best to rectify the situation.  Happy reading!

Working in retail doesn’t afford me much time for vacations, but last week I was lucky enough to get some time to travel back to Michigan, where I spent the first 22 years of my life, to see my family and meet my new nephew, Levi.  After driving ten hours across the entirety of Pennsylvania, most of Ohio, and a couple hours in Michigan for good measure, I was able to relax into the couch in the house where I spent my formative years. 

Found on:

I made a point, when I had a moment to spare from the chaos that is “going home” for what can only loosely be described as a “vacation,” to snoop into our shed behind our house.  Trips home, for me anyway, are always laced with nostalgia, and our shed had no shortage of items that all seemed to be the quintessential synecdoche for my childhood.  I used to spend a lot of time here.  Haphazardly fixing my own bike, or helping my dad work on our family’s many motorcycles—this is where I cut my mechanical teeth.  Rebuilding whatever needed rebuilding, my dad showed my older brother and me how to turn a wrench.  The tools are waiting for my brother and I to embark upon our next project—which is difficult considering the 750 miles that exist between our daily lives.  My dad, having passed in 2006, seemed like the one who always finalized the plans for our riding trips, and the rest of us having grown up and moved out in the mean time—life always intervening, as it is wont to do—the motorcycles haven’t been used much lately.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What You (may have) Missed at the Olympics

It frustrates me when great opportunities are wasted—whatever the circumstances.  I’m frustrated with the Olympics.  That is, I’m frustrated with the Olympics and the way they are covered.  NBC has at its disposal what is, for all intents and purposes, a completely captive audience and yet they still find a way to make the coverage disappointing.  The only things that save this collection of events as a whole are the athletes themselves.  Their performances are extraordinary.  So we watch, riveted by things that we can only dream of doing.

But the Olympics, in my opinion, are an opportunity wasted.  Here is a stage, larger than any other, for the entire world’s peripheral sports, and they still find a way to make them seem peripheral still.  Never ending coverage of sports that don’t need never ending coverage (E.g. live coverage of nearly every water polo and indoor volleyball match), while giving little to no coverage of other sports (E.g.  The amazing drama at the Olympic velodrome got very little coverage) just makes the whole of the experience boring.  I realize that there was more complete coverage online, but let’s not pretend that what is on TV doesn’t get watched the most. 

I spent last week on vacation in Michigan visiting family, so I had some time to scour the TV airwaves for coverage of my beloved cycling events and was left wanting.  After some digging online, I found coverage and complete replays of pretty much any event you could want to watch, which is great.  NBC certainly doesn’t do a great job of bringing these sports to the public eye though. You have to search for them yourself.  This makes zero sense to me.  NBC just invested in airing the Tour de France for quite a few years to come, and they have become a leader in coverage of many other races as well as multisport events.  Why then, is there no primetime cycling or triathlon coverage?  You would think they would want to build those sports in which they have invested. But no, it seemed like try as I might, I couldn't be so lucky to see cycling coverage on any major network.  Maybe I just missed the short segments where cycling aired, but I certainly didn't have any trouble finding water polo coverage.

So this week I’ll do some of their leg work.  Here are links to all the cycling and multisport coverage you can handle—though I think they make you log in to watch it, which is another issue I won’t even get into.

(click on the pics for links)

Anna Meares upset the hometown favorite Victoria Pendleton in the Women's Sprint finals.  During a week of utter British domination at the velodrome.  This was a bright spot for the Aussies, who came into the games with high hopes.  

GB's Jason Kenny upset the French champion Gregory Bauge in the Men's Sprint Final.  This race was plenty exciting.  Well worth watching.  

Chris Hoy was the overwhelming favorite for the Men's Keirin and he delivered.  This is always one of my favorite track events to watch.  There is much to be learned here for sprint positioning and tactics...

It's safe to say that Bradley Wiggins is having one of the best seasons in the history of cycling.  His latest win was in dominant fashion in the Men's Individual Time Trial.  

The Brownlee Brothers took two medals in this Olympics--Gold and Bronze.  Another dominant British performance for sure.  Do you notice a pattern?

The team sprint means one thing: Speed.  This Olympic's winners averaged over 63Kph over 3 laps of the velodrome (that's about 40 mph if you're wondering...).  I bet you can't guess who won.

There is still so much activity on the track and out on the road that I am leaving out.  Check out the NBC sports website and dig around.  There is a lot of great coverage in there.  I just wish they did a better job of plugging sports other than Gymnastics, Swimming or Basketball.  Oh well, there's always next year....Oh, wait.  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making Cents of Commuting

Without a doubt, Americans could stand to lose a few pounds.  I’m sure you also wouldn’t mind saving some cash right?  No, it’s not too good to be true.  I have a way for you to lose weight and save money at the same time.  And it doesn’t involve taking pills—or at least it isn’t supposed to.  It involves pedaling, which, if you are reading this blog, you probably are already into. 

I’m talking about commuting to work.  I’m not talking about ditching your car, or adopting some crazy pedal-centric lifestyle.  I’m just talking about riding a bike to work instead of driving.  I’m about to break it down.  Commuting by bike is healthier, cheaper, more efficient, and many times, faster. 

Let’s take a second to set the scene.  For the sake of the calculations I’m about to lay out for you, we need to establish a couple things.  A gallon of gas contains about 31,000 calories.  For the sake of easy calculations, we will assume that the car that you drive gets 31 MPG—which seems like a fair average, considering some cars get much less.  We are also going to assume a moderate length commute.  10 miles sounds about right.  My commute to Cadence everyday is exactly 10 miles, a mix of both city and freeway driving, and the bike route I take is exactly the same length—making it a perfect example for comparison.

I realize that there are a whole lot of variables at work here, so bear with me.  In order to illustrate my point I’m going to make a bit of generalizing and assuming—not something I’m usually a fan of, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. 

Your Wallet

We are going to compare riding to driving in a couple different categories, the first being cost. Obviously both bikes and cars come in many different shapes and sizes, so let’s set up a hypothetical situation and flush out the details.  I’m will set this up like your standard middle school story problem, because I know how much everybody loves them. 

Gertrude, our driving guinea pig, buys a car to drive to her new job.  She spends a modest $18,000 on a nice compact that magically gets 31 MPG wherever she goes, and she also managed to get a dealership to finance the cost at 0% interest over 5 years (this is a bike blog, not a math blog.  I’m making this easy on myself).  So that makes her car payment exactly $300 a month.  The car has a 15 gallon gas tank, so at current gas prices of about $3.25 (where does she find these amazing deals?!?) it costs $48.75 to fill her tank.  With a 15 gallon tank, she would have to fill her tank only once a month.  Not too shabby.  

Conservative estimates for both insurance ($40/month) and general maintenance and depreciation ($110/month), brings us to roughly $500 a month total cost for our dear Gertrude to get to work. 

Myrtle, Gertrude’s twin sister, has also gotten a new job, which is the exact same distance from home as Gertrude’s.  She, however, has decided to buy a really kick-ass commuter bike to ride to work.  She also found a magical bike shop that finances bikes for 5 years at no interest (even Cadence is not that good).  She decided to really go all out and buy her dream bike for $2400.  That some serious commuter wheels.  With a whopping fuel cost of $0 and insurance also breaking the bank at $0, she pays $40 a month over 5 years.  If she maintains her bike properly, that breaks down to a cost of about $30 a month.  So $70 a month is the total cost to ride her bike.  

So that’s a $430 difference a month.  I don’t know about you, but I could really use an extra $430 a month.  And if you were wondering, that’s over $5,000 a year. 

Sidenote:  The numbers I used above are very conservative.  Many cars can cost much more than 18k, get less than 31 MPG and require more maintenance than I estimated.  You also definitely don’t need to spend $2400 for a bike on which you are commuting.  I used those numbers to show that even when the numbers are tilted greatly to one side, the cost is not even close. 

Your Gut

Commuting isn’t just good for your wallet.  It also does wonders for your figure.  For my ten mile commute I burn between 250-400 calories—depending on how hard of an effort I make—each way.  The days I commute by bike, I thoroughly enjoy my extra 800 calories of wiggle room. 

For comparison’s sake, a gallon of gas contains roughly 31,000 calories of energy.  So if your car gets 31 MPG, that’s 1,000 calories per mile.  Meaning over a ten mile commute, a car burns about 10,000 calories while a bicycle only uses 400.  That is one efficient machine. 

If you body was as inefficient as a car—or you had to tow 3,000 spare pounds of metal behind your bike—you would have to jam a couple Big Macs down your throat to give yourself enough calories to make it to work.  20 Big Macs to be exact. 

Your Life

I think it is safe to say that commuting by bike can change who you are as a person.  Don’t underestimate what getting out on your bike for an hour or two everyday will do for your mind—even if it is just to get to and from work.  Many times, as in the case of my commute, because of traffic, riding is faster—only by 5 minutes or so, but still.  More than that though, I don’t have to make extra time for another workout.  My commute is my workout.  In that sense, commuting saves me hours a week.  Hours I can spend hanging out, or cooking for my wonderful wife—just living life.  

Driving gives me road rage, while riding gives me a sense of euphoria and freedom.  Face it: it’s just fun to ride your bike.  I love the fact that I get to do that regularly before and after work.  It gives me a chance to wind down from the stresses of the day. 

I realize that commuting isn’t always practical or convenient, but if you are looking for an excuse to start, there is no better one than what I just laid out.  I know people who commute 25-30 miles each way every day.  It’s not for everyone, but it has the power to change a lot about your life.  Save money and lose weight at the same time—I have seen many infomercials, but I guarantee none of them can really deliver on that promise.  Commuting can. 

So what do you have to lose?  I’d say quite a few pounds and a few thousand dollars in yearly expenses.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?