Moving On…

Category: Life

Bicycle Shopping

Yeah, these posts get way off the beaten path sometimes. Today is no exception.

Most people know I like to ride my bike to work. I have a great bike for that, a Trek FX7.2 that I purchased exactly for that reason. It wasn’t crazy expensive, but I invested a good amount of money into a bike that would be reliable.

I also have been riding at Fanshawe Conservation Area, a fun 23km off-road trip with sections of varying difficulties. I have ridden my Trek FX7.2 hybrid/road bike around the loop, but with a rigid front suspension and narrow tires the bike is a poor match to the task. One of the guys at my local bike shop looked at me a bit sideways and kindly asked, “You know the bike’s not designed for that, right?”

I knew the bike wasn’t well suited to the task, so the next time and every time since, I have ridden my department store mountain bike that we bought as a matching pair for about $150 after my wife’s and my own bikes were stolen along with my truck over 10 years ago.

mudslide

Now my 10 year old mountain bike is really showing its age, (actually the bike is a Franken-bike made of the remaining good parts from both bikes and the occasional upgrades like new shifters, grips, and a new seat) the bottom bracket, front suspension, and rear brake cable all need replacing. Replacing all this on the bike would probably cost more than buying a new department store bike. Replacing the suspension forks for the front would be half the price of a new bike. The bottom bracket although not expensive, requires specialty tools to remove the lock ring and the cranks. These tools and the replacement part would chew up the other half of the price of a cheap department store bike, and I would still have a 10 year old department store bike.

On a side note, I am seriously considering joining Purple Bikes, the bike workshop at Western. For only $5 a term (4 months) you get access to the tools you need to fix your bike and affordable new and used parts.

The challenge, find a bike for off-road use in the $200-$300 range.

So, to be completely honest, I’m considering buying a Reebok bike from Sportchek.

pSPCK1-14665815enh-z6

Why not buy used? Trust me, I would love to, but there are so many problems with buying used. I hoped to purchase a used low end name brand quality bike, something that would cost $400-$600 from a reputable bike shop when new.

First, how do know you aren’t supporting the black market stolen bike trade? I have been searching Kijiji for a bike and I realized I was often seeing the same phone number. I also kept seeing the same address. It appears there is one person on there, with at least three accounts, selling at least 20 bikes this month. Other posters often have multiple bikes or needed them gone “today”. This makes me uncomfortable buying a used bike privately.

I could buy a used bike from a reputable bike shop, but the bikes they sell used are the ones that cost $1500+ new. Bikes that don’t lose much value in the one or two seasons they were ridden before the individual decided to upgrade. They also wont bother with selling lower end used bikes that have a poor profit margin (and I don’t blame them).

Second, the price of used bikes is all over the place. Aside from the “too good to be true” bikes, most used prices don’t look like much of a deal. This is mostly because many of the bikes have upgraded components which pushed the new price of the bike higher, resulting in a price too high for me to consider. Either that or some people think they have a bike that magically doesn’t depreciate in value over time.

Third, buying used means you are buying a bike that may have its own issues. I know I can spot most current mechanical faults, but how much life do those components have left in them? My bottom bracket on my current bike felt fine just weeks ago, now it feels awful.

So here I am, considering a cheap department store bike.

I would love to know if you have any serious suggestions.

Anyways, Its late, I’ve rambled enough, and I have to work in the morning, but I thought I would get enough of this out of my brain to let me sleep. Night y’all.

 

[ UPDATE ]

I did buy what is essentially a department store bike tonight.

I didn’t buy the one mentioned earlier in the post, I picked the next bike up, the Reebok Oregon from Sportchek (I also got the last 17″ in stock (yes I’m short)). The Sphere’s components were simply too cheap with a twist grip shift and non-indexed front shifter.

After weighing all the options, the bike store bikes couldn’t touch the price ($239).

F.Y.I. the cheapest Trek at my local bike shop sells for $399 ($160 more).

 

P.S.

I usually steer people away from department/sports store bikes, there’s a lot of crap out there and you really have to watch what components are on these bikes. I feel a bit guilty for going against the advice I give many other people when they are looking for a bike.

The Reebok Oregon has pretty standard Shimano parts, my only concern is the no-name front fork (but at the bottom of the price range all bikes come with no-name forks), but the bike uses a standard 1-1/8″ threadless headset which is also very common if I do ever feel the need to replace it.

A Case Study

Sorry for not keeping this on Twitter, some conversations are a bit difficult to have in 140 characters (or less) and the list of people involved is getting pretty long.

I feel for a lot of the individuals in the manufacturing sector, they watch plant after plant shut down, down-size, or move out of the country every day. Any person with the potential to retrain and move into another sector would be wise to do so, but the move is a difficult one, if not impossible.

While my situation is slightly different, I can easily empathize with theirs.

Biggest issue is the catch 22 of education. Like many of the factory workers I’m in my mid-30’s and 3 years to go to Fanshawe seems like an incredible waste of time unrealistic investment of both time and money.

Traditional College

Not that there is anything wrong with Fanshawe’s program, I’m sure it’s a great education, and it is what most employers look for when hiring an entry level developer. In fact my wife went back to Fanshawe as a mature student for graphic design so I have first hand knowledge of the challenge returning to school can be. I’m not about to put our family through that again.

Career College

If time is an issue there are always career colleges like TriOs and Westervelt, but they are pricy, intense, and don’t sound like they get much respect. (Note: Please, let me know if anyone has had a different experience.)

MOOC

A promising new education opportunity has emerged with MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course). These are typically free and a great place to receive an education, or is it?

The largest problem with MOOCs is the inability to grade participants. Once you start grading, it requires teachers (or TAs) to spend hours reviewing student’s work, which is not feasible to do with free programs. These are still valuable learning experiences, but I don’t see companies easily accepting any sort of self directed education as “qualified”. I don’t anticipate or expect my reading list of management books will ever be considered an equivalent to an MBA either.

Online Tutorials

Some hope is in programs like Codecademy where you complete tutorials and earn badges. These at least give markers of progress. On a side note Codecademy is a bit rigid, while teaching principals, there is no way to to succeed except the standard accepted method, no points for creativity, and often has difficulty when even a correct answer is not what the site wants, verbatim.

So when do you think employers start accepting credentials from a MOOC or other online tutorial service?

What do you think an intelligent individual working a decent ($45k/yr.) factory job and supporting a family should do to switch careers and fill the gap in qualified tech workers, and do you think it’s feasible?

Newtown, Connecticut

My heart is broken after hearing of the events that took place yesterday.

This hits close to home as I heard the news while my six-year-old was still at school, and I know how happy of a place those classrooms usually are.

It is also particularly disturbing that knowing what happened there, couldn’t be stopped, at least without a crystal ball.

America has a problem.

Many rushed to say gun control is needed. While I agree this is needed, it is just one part of the solution. Many will soon point out that these guns were stolen from his mother. His mother would have been able to legally obtain these firearms, even in Canada.

Even in a small non-violent community the school had security measures for these types of threats.

“Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.” NP

The media has conflicting reports on of the Principal allowed him in after recognizing him, or if he broke a window to gain entry.

Just this fall our son’s school implemented similar procedures where all doors are locked and access is through the front door only with an intercom after the start of school. While shocked to hear about at the time now it doesn’t seem excessive at all.

So does Canada have a problem too?

I don’t think so. I attribute it to better mental health care and less prevalence of gun culture, but these two items barely scratch the surface of the changes needed to avoid more tragic occurrences.

There are no easy defences for senseless actions, but that’s no excuse to do nothing.

Destined to be an Independent

The more I think about the (assumed) upcoming provincial election the more difficulty I have finding a political party that makes me want to vote for it.

All parties have smart people behind the scenes, developing good ideas, policy, and sound bites.

But all parties also have either histories, ideologies, or representatives that I just can’t bring myself to vote for.

So where does that leave me? Currently I consider myself an independent.

Do I see that changing? I really don’t know.

I know that every group has to put their best foot forward with their own spin on matters, but when researched that spin makes them sound like they don’t understand the issue, or don’t want you to (or think you can) understand the issue.

Be very wary of people promising simple solutions to complex problems. They may be selling snake oil.

I’m Not Worried About Lance

You read that right, I’m not worried about Lance Armstrong, he will be fine.

So will all the other pro cyclists who are injecting/ingesting drugs to improve performance, putting their bodies though hell, and possibly shortening their lifespans.

They know what they are doing (or at least I hope they do). They are messing with their bodies in the name of sport, in the name of money, and in the name of our entertainment.

Eric Winston recently spoke to the dangers of sport at professional levels. Although discussing the dangers of football, I think this applies to the stress put on the bodies of almost all pro athletes.

“There are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play.
Alright?
I’ve already kind of come to the understanding that I probably won’t live as long, because I play this game, and that’s ok, That’s a choice I’ve made. That’s a choice that all of us has made.”

Eric Winston

We have an arms race occurring in elite athletics. Every time the testing gets more sophisticated, the performance enhancements change to evade that test. Is testing possibly pushing athletes towards riskier and more unknown doping protocols?

All of this aside, they have some of the best doctors and scientists waging this arms war. What scares me is the high-school kid that tries to replicate this by himself, or with the advice they can find online.

What follows is a true story, hand to my heart, I swear.

We were in a local Shoppers Drug Mart a while ago picking up a prescription and a young male in his late teens approached the counter and asked the pharmacist for a “needle”. At this point I was curious, but the pharmacist sounded unfazed and quickly shot back “what gauge?” Dumbfounded the youth took a second and replied “one to inject myself, I don’t know, I got this stuff online”. After that the conversation turned to how they can’t sell items like those without a prescription (to my best recollection I was still reeling from the thought of injecting something that you bought without a prescription online).

I couldn’t believe this kid. What the hell was he thinking?

Then I realized that there are kids out there that see the reports of how much of an advantage performance enhancing drugs are, and the thought that they were the key to make their high-school team, get scouted by a college and maybe make it to the big time if everything works out right.

There are two problems, first is the media’s and sport’s treatment of illegal performance enhancers, like a magic potion that can make you twice as fast, or twice the strength. Truth is that you still need to put the work in. Many forms of doping don’t let you train less, their purpose is actually to allow you to train more or harder. Recovery is a major limiting factor in training, especially in endurance sports like running or cycling.

Second problem is the self medicating that occurs. Without a knowledgeable doctor who can run tests and monitor progress, all this is just taking a stab in the dark. Hey 100mg worked well last week, 200mg must be twice as good, right?

None of these problems have easy answers, but we need to try to find a way to keep everybody as healthy as possible while still competing on a level playing field in the sports they love.

The only way I can see doing this is through stricter enforcement and greater penalties for cheating.

How to Train Your Dragon – Review July 5, 2012

Last night my family and I attended the “How to Train Your Dragon – Live Spectacular” at the John Labatt Centre.

We had first heard about the event from the various appearances made by one of the characters and one of the baby dragons around London. Hearing they would be at Victoria Park for the Kids Expo we headed down after picking Ethan up from school.

The short presentation was impressive, to say the least. The viking did a fantastic job interacting with and entertaining the crowd, then introducing everyone to Baby Nadder.

Baby Nadder and Sig at Victoria Park.

After the meeting in Victoria Park, Ethan decided the dragons were too scary to see again, so we put the idea of going to the show on the back burner but still checked out ticket prices to see how much they were.

At over $100 for the three of us (at minimum) to see the dragons it was too much to risk with an autistic son who may decide that he wants to go home during the first five minutes. We decided to pass.

Which leads us to Thursday, I get a text from Julie asking if I want to go see the show on Thursday night because Autism Ontario was giving away a few tickets for free! SCORE!

After a quick bite to eat after work we hurried to gate 5 at the JLC, took two escalators to the 300 level and attempted to take our seats.

Yes, attempted.

Seating wouldn’t be happening until 6:30, another 30 minutes after gates opened. Okay, so we grab a drink and wait.

And wait.

Word gets around that there is a technical difficulty keeping everyone from being allowed to sit. Waiting in the hallway with a crowd of anxious kids was not all that pleasant.

At 7:10 we were finally seated.

The show started around half an hour late, but at least it started. The Wednesday show was completely cancelled.

Once the show began we were treated to some pretty spectacular effects.

The use of a video wall and a suspended Hiccup to give us a top down view of him running through his village during a dragon attack really showed the ingenuity of the production.

The young dragon slayers (particularly Astrid) were very talented and incredibly athletic. Often cartwheel-ing, handspring-ing or dancing into action.

The dragons were extremely lifelike. In an incredible moment, Toothless even “flew” around the arena with Hiccup on his back.

How to Train Your Dragon at the JLC

Unfortunately the story was a hurried rehashing of the movie, but maybe that was a good thing because the audio was garbled which made dialogue difficult to follow (this was possibly due to our seating location).

Ethan decided he was tired and wanted to go home at the intermission, and we were fine with that. Happy he even made it through the first five minutes of being asked to sit still, flashing lights and loud noises.

We really enjoyed the show despite the few rough spots.

Again, I want to thank Autism Ontario for giving my family the opportunity to attend this event that we wouldn’t have risked the money on otherwise.