Friday, April 25, 2014

Getting Close

Last night The Georgia Chain Gang had it's silent auction at Ormsby's.  This year is the third time we've had the event, and it gets a little smoother each time.  It was great to see such a great turnout of people supporting the Gang and LLS.  Thanks to all that came out and to the local Georgia Chapter LLS staff who all did a great job in helping this event go so smoothly.  

As I type this, the Gang has raised almost $146,000 this year and over $500,000 for LLS over the 4 years that we've raced in RAAM.  As always, proud to be involved with such a great team for a great cause.

Because of the people that come out to support the Gang and LLS, because of the people who have donated their hard earned money to a cause that they and I believe in, those people and my teammates are reason I get out on the bike or the trainer when I don't really want to.  We're raising money to help people that don't have choice in the fight they're in, the least we can do is suffer a little on the bike.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

100 days

June 14, 2014 is the team start for RAAM.  100 days from now The Georgia Chain Gang will once again roll under the banner in Oceanside California and start what we hope is a sub 6 day trip across the country.  Now is the time when all the dreams and broad strokes of planning start coming down to the actual dirty little details of getting stuff done.  In the engineering and manufacturing world that I live in, you'll hear the phrase 'there are a million ways to do something wrong and only a few ways to do it right'.  The Chain Gang is into the phase of this project where the details are getting nailed down.

I've posted in the past about the simple logistical problems that RAAM imposes.  Getting 18 people, 10+ bikes, material, vans, etc. from Atlanta to Oceanside, bunking and feeding said people for 10+ days while moving the entire circus 3000 miles across the country is a pretty complex problem to solve and manage.  If you add in the fact that the reason we're doing all of this is to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the budget constraints start to make this a really interesting problem to get right.  The reality is that the $200,000 that we're going to raise, is likely less than what some teams are going to spend on RAAM.  So... the entire team is feeling a little bit more of the workload, not only training and fundraising, now all the little details are reaching deadlines.  Stuff is getting done and it's getting done economically.

Fundraising for the team is going well.  This year we have some new blood in the rider and crew pool so the net is getting cast on a slightly different group than in years past.  We also have some team members with a very passionate connection to the cause.  I and the entire team are humbled and grateful for the support we have already received, and I encourage you visit our team fundraising page, donate early and donate often.  As I type this, 03/06/14, we're currently at nearly $90K.  Again, thank you.

Staying on the fundraising for another moment, mark your calendars for a couple of upcoming events.

March 22, RAAM Spring Jam with the Stems - at Atlanta Beltline Bicycle

April 24, Chain Gang Silent Auction - at Ormsby's

May 18, Ride With the Gang - location TBD

June 8, Virginia Highlands Summerfest Ride - Atkins Park

Make sure to like the Georgia Chain Gang's Facebook page to keep up with all the upcoming events and encourage your friends to do the same.

Also tune in tonight at 8PM eastern to Google+ for an interview with some of the team.  Lee Kreider from the Ohio RAAM Show will be hosting, go to this link to check it out.  Hopefully my bandwidth at home will allow me to stay connected through the entire interview.

Enough for now...  I've got some interesting (technical) bike stuff on the horizon, so it might not be quite so long before the next post.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A New Year

I have a co-worker that always comments on the tendency that people have to start some new phase of their lives at the beginning of a new year.  New diet, working out, making some other kind of positive life change.  He has a valid point, why wait till a new year to make a positive change?  Don't know... the human brain is likely wired in such a way that crossing a threshold of some kind makes it a little easier to make an above board change.  

The first 6 months of the new year for me are going to be pretty busy.  Mostly, but not entirely, from commitments made last year.  RAAM with The Georgia Chain Gang is going to be pretty high on the priority list.  I'm impressed and humbled that we where able to reach over $50K in funds raised before the close of 2013.  The team this year has some pretty heavy hitters from both fundraising and athletic ability, the bar is plenty high for me.  My own fundraising is going well, both bike repair and the Ultimate Cycling class look to be putting well on my way to reaching my personal goal.  I'm also grateful for the donations that have been made in my name as well.

Back to the 'new year' theme, one thing I'm going to try to be a little more proactive about this year is continuing my coaching education.  It's easy to get complacent about something that isn't really putting food on the table, but I do enjoy coaching and cycling, do have a lot of time already invested into it, and am likely going to be involved in it for a long time.  I don't have any aspirations that coaching is ever going to be my 'job', but in today's world there are some pretty good educational opportunities that are very affordable or in some cases free that can be accessed online.  Even if my only client is myself, it is worth it.

My photography outlets are going to be Tumblr and Flickr (didn't get completely into the Yahoo ecosystem by design, it just kind of happened), and to a lesser degree, G+.  Thanks to Frank Fuerst for turning me on to Tumblr, it seems like a pretty good place to share photo's.  Not sure yet exactly how I'm going to divide the work among the three, but I do hope to push more work out this year.

Enough for now.  Training for RAAM gets serious on Jan 6th, or maybe the 7th...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

RAAM 2014 is on

So...  The Georgia Chain Gang is once again going to compete in The Race Across America.  Once again The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is going to be the beneficiary of the fundraising effort for the team.  The team this year has some pretty heavy hitters from both a fundraising and an athletic perspective.  

Plenty of planning, fundraising, and training to do over the next 7 months.  Check out the links and do your research on LLS, a charity that makes a difference in peoples lives and saves lives.

The Chain Gangs first 'event' is the 8th Annual Santa Ride in Honor of Warren Bruno, on Dec 11.  It's a great way to get into the holiday spirit, catch up with friends, and enjoy some adult beverages...

If you're looking to kick off your fitness for next year, check out the Ultimate Cycling Group Indoor Training Sessions.  22 sessions starting on the first week of Jan, structured and periodized training.  And, proceeds go to LLS.

Hope to try to keep the blog a little more active than what I've done in the past.  We'll see...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Images, not bikes

I don't have to travel for work very often (thankfully) and when I do it tends to be during the week and the days are full.  That means downtime is pretty rare - wake, breakfast, work, dinner, bed or fly home.  Which is kind of unfortunate.  If you're going to have to travel around occasionally on someone else's coin, it would be nice to at least see some of the local sites... 

So, when I found out last Thursday that I needed to be in Jessup MD at 7am on Saturday, I was not pleased about having to go out of town, but... if all went smooth on Saturday, I'd have nothing to do on Sunday.  Again, if you didn't figure it out from the first paragraph, I'm not the fan of travel that I once was.  I'd much rather be able to see stuff with the family or go somewhere to ride my bike.. but it's nice having a job too, so we do what we need to do.

As I've been dipping my toe a bit deeper into photography over the last couple of years, I've been more aware of trying to keep a camera with me.  This is especially true of whenever I've been travelling (never mind that like I said above, I usually don't have any time, or the fact that if I really wanted to create images I could do it out my front door...), I always take a camera with me.  Part of that 'carry the camera with you' idea, and partly because they've gotten so good of late, pushed me to get rid of all my cameras and consolidate to a micro 4/3 (MFT) camera.  Love it.  Small, versatile, good images, and fun to shoot.

I decided that, if I had a Sun off in Jesssup MD, I'd head about 30 minutes east and spend some time at the Annapolis City Dock.  All my previous memories have been fogged by 6+ days of sleep deprivation because of RAAM, but I seem to remember that it was a pretty cool place.  So, that's what I did on my one day off, out of town, no wife, no kids, no dog, had the bed all to myself... I got up at 5am to drive to Annapolis to take pictures of the sunrise (my wife thinks I'm crazy).

Got there just about the perfect time for the dawn, spent about 4 hours walking around.  Had coffee, watched the locals.  Had a crepe, more coffee, more locals... Checked out some exotics and muscle cars that showed up for a Sun morning meetup and generally just relaxed and enjoyed it.  Carried the MFT on a wrist strap, acted like a tourist, had a great time.  And, got out of there before all the real tourist showed up and clogged everything up.

I hadn't originally planned on doing anything with the images I took until I got back home on Thursday, but I had time Sunday afternoon and wanted to go ahead and push some out to G+.  But.. I shot them all in raw and had a loaner work laptop with no software on it.  Search was on for free raw editing software.  A few minutes on Google culled it down to Olympus Viewer 3, free download (if you have a valid Olympus S/N - I do), and pretty decent adjustment and develop tools.  By no stretch is it Lightroom, but it was free and got the job done that needed to be done.  I'm interested to compare these jpg's to edits out of Lightroom after I get home.

So... after all of that, if you're still reading, I hope you enjoy the images.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

RAAM 2014?

The Race Across AMerica (RAAM) is a truly unique event.  There isn't really anything else in the world, at least that I know of, like it.  The obvious comparisons to the Grand Tours aren't really valid, nor is any comparison to any multi-stage cycle, running, or even motorsports event.  Once RAAM starts, the clock never stops until the rider(s) complete the entire distance, basically it's just one stage.

Any type of Grand Tour, rally, or even events like Paris - Dakar, London - Sydney, or the old Camel Trophy's all allow time to rebuild, repair, and rest each night.  RAAM is likely better compared to any of the 24 hour races like Daytona, Le Mans, or Nürburgring.  Once the event starts, everything counts, and any time spent not moving forward is time and / or distance that your competitors are getting away from you.

What RAAM does have in common with any of these large scale, cross country events, is that all the personal and materiel have to be successfully moved and utilized across a large area.  And the team never has an opportunity to do any repair, recovery, etc. at a 'home base'.  The entire circus has to be supported in a mobile environment.  If a team averages 20 mph, then every 24 hours the entire operation has moved 480 miles from where it started.  The logistic challenge that starts with getting 3+ vehicles, 10+ bikes, 18+ people, plus all the materiel to support an 8 person team, to San Diego, then continues for 6 days trying to keep up with all the above moving east nearly 500 miles each day.

So why do it?  RAAM does provide the average person to participate in something that is an what can best be described as an adventure.  Not only an adventure, but one that not very many people have participated in.  In 2013, 162 people finished RAAM.  The most people to summit Everest on a single day was on May 23, 2010.  That day 169 people reached the summit.

I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in RAAM in both 2010 and 2012 with The Georgia Chain Gang (GCG).  Like many teams, the GCG used RAAM as a fundraising tool for a charity.  RAAM is such a big event that goes across the entire country and takes 5+ days to complete, that teams have a bigger marketing footprint than many other events.  Anyone that knows me or anything about he GCG knows that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been the benefactor of all the fundraising that the GCG has generated each year that they did the event.

For 2014 I may have another opportunity to participate with an 8 person team, again raising money for LLS.  At this point I'm not sure if I'll be riding or crewing, or if the effort will happen at all in 2014.  But, I believe it will happen, and if it does, I'm hopeful that I will be participating in some function.  Even if it was completely up to me, I'm not sure if I'd be happier riding or crewing.  I feel that I could make a meaningful contribution in either capacity, so... don't know.

For know, I'm going with the assumption that the 2014 effort is going ahead.  Which means my primary source of fundraising, bike repair, is back in business.  In both 2010 and 2012 I did a lot of work on a lot of bikes.  So, the shop is open.  Hopefully between repair, moving some Ebay fodder, fundraiser's, and just plain beating the bushes for donations, I'll be able to crack the fundraising.  And if I'm going to ride, the training is going to have to take a serious upturn.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Interesting bikes

Peter Egan is a writer with regular columns in Road & Track and Cycle World magazine.  I've been reading his columns and features in R&T on and off for over 20 years, and while I feel like the overall quality of R&T is not what is was, Egan's writing continues to be of high caliber.

His latest column talks about 'cars of occasion'.  He rattles off a number of factors that can take a car from just transportation to something that is a little bit more interesting.  After reading it, I started thinking about what makes a bike interesting and stand out from the crowd.  Bikes are generally pretty unique just by default, next century or big group ride you're at, try to find a bike like the one you're riding... you likely won't find one.  But, what makes for an interesting bike?  In my (perhaps not so humble..) opinion:

1.  You're bike is not made in Asia.  This may not be politically correct, and it's not to say that there is some really cool stuff coming out of China and Taiwan.  But... there is an awful lot of volume coming out of China and Taiwan, so if you've got something made in North America, GB, France, or especially, Italy... likely you've got an interesting bike.

2.  Steel and titanium frames.  Bikes made out of steel and titanium are made by working with fire.  These bikes are welded together, metal softened and flowed together, a very primal method of making frames.  This is how bikes were made 100 years ago and great frames can still me made with metal.  Extra points for lugged, brazed construction.

3.  Have a frame that is made by hand.  Workmanship is something that still exist today, perhaps not as much as years past, but it does still exist.  Handbuilt bikes are still a way to celebrate personal pride and workmanship.

4.  Campagnolo drivetrain.  You've got to really want a Campagnolo drivetrain to have one, it's not just going to land in your lap on the next bike you happen to buy.  Shimano and SRAM may be on every new bike sold in NA, but the history and heritage behind Campanolo is not going to be duplicated.

5.  Rare brakes.  Campagnolo Delta, Shimano AX, Mavic SSC, or any Magura rim brake.  While some of these older brakes can't match the power of modern stoppers (the Magura's a definite exception), these all have a mechanical beauty that only the most observant company will truly appreciate.

6.  Single speeds.  Doesn't really matter if it's a track bike with a front brake, a purpose built SS, or a converted geared bike, show up to a ride on a SS and people will be interested.

So... not a huge list, I'm sure I'll think up more.. but for now, it will have to do.