Category: personal

May 2, 2010

Quick Update

Things have been quiet here but I'm gearing up for the Tour of California. I was meaning to do some Sea Otter coverage and have some photos there, but some termites were playing in my closet so priorities have been rearranged. I've also been busy photographing robots instead of bikes, and there's some robots up in Alaska that need some candids before I can come back to Cali and shoot some cycling action.

I'll have a giveaway of Cyclefilm Liz Hatch DVDs coming up soon. Stay tuned for details!

February 9, 2010

Procycling February 2010

Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010 Procycling Feb 2010

I got eleven photos in the most recent issue of Procycling, in both the Joe Parkin interview and a Levi's Gran Fondo article. The Joe Parkin interview was especially fun -- it's not often that I get to shoot less than a mile from my house at the local coffee shop. If I screwed that up I would be packing my camera bags up for good.

It's a bit of a surprise -- I knew I had been picked up in two articles, but I didn't expect them to be in the same issue. It's harder for my work to appear across the pond due to my more limited time commitments, so this is a nice way of ending the dry spell.

It wouldn't have been possible without some American writers pointing out my work. Thanks Gary Boulanger and Jason Sumner!

I just finished reading Joe Parkin's A Dog in a Hat, from VeloPress. I highly recommend it as a semi-dark, yet funny and unsentimental look at being an American bike racer in Belgium in the 80s. I meant to write up a full review of it, but this will have to do until time frees up.

August 24, 2009

Putting it all together

August 3, 2009

Crash Prototyping

I recently crashed descending 84 -- I locked up the rear wheel, fishtailed, recovered, but ran out of road and ended up going over the handlebars. This accident gave me the opportunity to prototype some new cycling gear:


The Specialized Droupe: Specialized's revolutionary product in the Body Geometry line provides the perfect ergonomic fit for riders with uneven ass cheeks


AeroSling: Cuts down on 50% of the drag caused by your arms by holding one of your arms tightly against your body in an aerodynamic position.

Crash Crash-3

Moebius Rings: Can't make up your mind between the big ring and the small ring? This innovative new chainring design lets you run in the big ring and the small ring at the same time, guaranteeing perfect, 0% power transfer.

I can joke about the accident now, given that I have nothing more than a sprained shoulder and the most minor of road rash to show for it. Truth is I was plenty lucky -- and it was luck, because I was stupid to be locking up my wheel like that on a descent that I've done many, many times. Many thanks to the crew that was there to help, including the two passersby that stopped out of no particular obligation.

I should be healed and ready to go in a couple of weeks, so now I just have to make sure that my "prototype" new gear is fixed before then.

April 24, 2009

Christmas in April


SRAM Red + TT-900 group (sans crank) and some Vuka clip-ons with chicane extensions just came in the mail. Now I just need a frame to stick them on.

April 1, 2009

Sorry so quiet

Sea Turtle-6

I've been shooting sea turtles instead of bikes recently. Sometimes it's fun to put your $1k+ camera body aside and shoot with a $7 CostCo camera, kinda like riding a fixie.

More sea turtles

March 3, 2009

Blurbing a Book

It's usually terrible to pre-announce your intent to do something, rather than waiting until you actually finish it, but here goes: I'm putting together a little coffee table photo book using (alternate recommendations welcome). The current plan is about:

  • 3 pages ToC 2007
  • 2 pages Missouri 2007
  • 5 pages ToC 2008
  • 6 pages TdG 2008
  • 2 pages Lance @ CrossVegas
  • 6 pages of women's cycling
  • 3 pages Hellyer Velodrome
  • 10 pages ToC 2009

If there's any photos you'd like to see in it, speak now.

I spent several hours on it last night and their tools got me 80% of the way there. I'm not planning on writing much text, except where necessary to fill in white space created by Blurb's limited layouts ;). @kevinr already gave me some pointers on how to use InDesign to get around some of Blurb's limitations. I imagine that the majority of my time will be spent on the two or three pages I want done just right.

If you're interested in a copy, please let me know, as well as whether or not you're interested in softcover versus hardcover. Pricing will be based on how many I can get printed, but realistically about $30-40 for softcover and $45-55 for hardcover (Blurb's price chart). I'm making these more as a personal project. I'd have to charge way to much to make money with Blurb's base prices, so I'll just try and cover the cost of making the proof copy. If you've donated before and want a copy, I'll try and figure out how to get you a copy with the donation applied against it.

February 19, 2009

Better than expected

Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

To see the photos I'm talking about, please visit the gallery

First off, thanks to Paul of Vero for loaning me a spare 580EX flash and a 40D body. The shots today would not have been possible otherwise as you need the faster recycling and external battery compability of a 580EX-level flash to shoot the race starts. The 40D is also produces much better images than 30D.

I tried and failed again to get in a moto. Based on the route's flatness, I didn't think that there would be many opportunities to shoot the peloton. As it turned out, the peloton decided to take a break at the beginning of the day and let the break gain some easy time. This meant it was easy to drive the long, straight, flat roads of the Central Valley to jump in front of them.

That doesn't mean I made the most of each stop.

I decided to finally really shoot a race start. I kind of did that yesterday, but I skipped the callouts and spent most of my time shooting the bikes. I don't like doing the race starts as they usually cost you a stop further down the road and everytime it's the same thing, but it's worth it to do it at least once so that you have a catalog of all the cyclists that you need. I stocked up on some Armstrong shots as he's always hard to find and then hit the road.

At the first stop, I accidentally bumped my dial from Av to Manual and had to throw away some overexposed shots. I also went against my instinct and didn't shoot the angle I originally intended. The longer I wait for the peloton, the greedier I get about using both my cameras and jumping from one position to another. Usually my greediness results in half-ass versions of both shots with technical flaws. Always make sure you get the first shot before you try for the second.

At the second stop, I originally drove up to the feed, only to discover it in the middle of a dirt-flat wasteland. I did a quick U-Turn, drove around the bend, and almost immediately found what I was looking for -- pink flowers. I had already jumped through several rows of trees when I noticed what I wasn't looking for -- bees everywhere! It hadn't occurred to me that the big white boxes along the road side were in fact beehives. I really wanted the shot, so my solution was to pull down my sleeves and act unflower-like.

I knew the break was several minutes ahead so I walked to the roadside to shoot them alone. This was where being just after the feedzone cost me an extra shot. It was easy to tell with my 300mm lens that I was witnessing a nature break. Even though the nature break ended before they were fully in range, they were hardly posed for a suitable photograph. Luckily the peloton was better.

I wasn't going to take any shots after that -- I had gone through the last two sprint points without seeing anything but brown hills and powerlines, but as I made my way to turn onto the road into Paso Robles, I noticed the course go uphill past a vineyard. Bingo! I drove up the hill and saw a big farm lift with a platform seven feet off the ground -- Double Bingo! Then the farmer came out to watch the race and made me get down, unwilling to let me stay there due to "liability reasons." Less Bingo.

It's all for the best as the moto photographers arrived shortly thereafter and would have been standing in my frame had I shot from there, instead of where I placed my camera on remote a little further up the road. That's one of the frustrations you have to deal with when covering a course by car. No matter how good of a spot you find, someone on moto will arrive just minutes before the peloton and shoot it too, possibly stepping into the framing you've so carefully chosen. Accept it.

I barely made it to Paso Robles ahead of the sprint -- the peloton finally started riding much harder and threw off my estimates -- but I got there in time to shoot Cavendish gesturing at his white shorts. It was one of the easier sprints to shoot as Cavendish won it so easily from so far out. Usually the sprint is a giant mess of confusion and you hope you pick your horse correctly. No such troubles this time.

February 17, 2009

Mid-race thanks

Just wanted to send a quick thanks for all the comments left here and on the Flickrs and Facebook. I apologize that I can't respond to every message as time is at a premium right now, but I've enjoyed the compliments and suggestions, as well as scanning the other photos that you all have been taking.

Despite all the rain, people keep packing every finish and every climb -- and the riders keep on riding even though it's hard to keep the bike upright in these conditions.

February 12, 2009

Tip jar

If you've enjoyed the photos or articles on this site, please consider making a small donation (PayPal link below). Here's what different levels of donation can cover:

  • $2: Advil
  • $5: pint
  • $10: six-pack
  • $20: gas
  • $50: hotel room
  • $100: really nice bottle of wine
  • $200: equipment rental
  • $250: moto for one day
  • $6,999.98: Canon 1Ds Mark III

Thanks for reading, Ken

February 7, 2009

Gearing up for AToC 2009


The Tour of California is like photo Christmas for me. As it comes at the start of the season, I usually use this time to figure out what gear upgrades I want. Last year I ended up buying a Canon 40D body. I also got AquaTech rain cover and Canon battery grip, though those purchases came after I was thoroughly drenched at the Tour of California.

I was less extravagant with my upgrades this year -- unless you count the new MacBook Pro and Lightroom 2 upgrade several months back. I was thinking of getting a Canon 5D Mark II until negative reviews from photographer Liz Kreutz plus my own experiments with it soured me on its focusing performance. So, here's the list:

The needs were simple this time around. I'll be renting a 300 f/2.8 (from -- thanks Carson B), so I'll have more glass to deal with than usual. I normally just carry all my extras in my pockets and leave my backpack in the car (it's too big to work in close quarters with others). Now I'll be shifting to a belt plus harness that will let me keep my extra lens close by.

As for the PocketWizards and Gorillapod, I've been trying to maximize the number of shots I get per stop along the route. Without a setup to fire a camera remotely, I'm forced to stand in one spot. I can still swap between two camera bodies, but the composition for one of the two will usually be compromised. The PocketWizards are known as rock-solid remotes and the Gorillapod should let me position the camera where I want. If I even get one extra shot worth selling, they will pay off well.

And the haircut? It's hard to shoot with your hair covering the viewfinder.

September 1, 2008

Why I missed US Pro



That's a good reason, right?

August 27, 2008

Storck Absolutist 0.9 Review

Storck ReviewMy review is up on RoadbikeReview, please check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your critiques as one of the things I struggled on was how to find the right voice with the review -- i.e. the right balance between marketing info, personal anecdotes, attempted humor, and critique.

And yes, as the review reveals, I did crash the bike (lack of attention), though as you can tell from the video at the end that the damage wasn't too bad. I didn't really want to do a video, but I liked the video for the Campy Super Record so much that I thought it would be a bit hypocritical to not do one myself. I also became enamored with the idea of using my Park stand to rotate the bike around during the video -- I know it sounds silly, but it's like the stand was made so you could easily spin the bike around for shooting a video :).

I'm sad to see the bike go, even if my garage is a bit crowded. We're going up OLH today for our work lunch ride and I could really use all the assistance I can get.

Storck Absolutist 0.9 Review on

August 25, 2008

No US Pro for me

The scheduling demons have caught a hold of me and I have to cancel my US Pro trip. It's being trumped by an event that will fulfill a childhood dream -- vomiting in zero gravity -- so my sadness is short-lived. I was looking forward to shooting the race for the first time, meeting up with James again (and the other bloggy crew), etc... but there's always Interbike.

August 2, 2008

Bikes at Work

Bikes at work

I counted 20+ bikes at work today. We have less than 40 people in our company, though quite a few of them are car-less interns. Nevertheless, that seems like a pretty good ratio -- you can also throw in 4 carpoolers, one electric vehicle, one biodiesel, and one pedestrian.

We finally reached a critical point that we've had a bike rack installed outside to handle the overflow. There are 4 bikes that our company provides as communal bikes for riding into downtown Palo Alto or elsewhere during the day and they are also being co-opted for commuting to and from work.

There's also now enough roadies at work that we're starting to do weekly rides up Old la Honda and back for lunch.

July 17, 2008

My new review ride

IMG_5163.JPG IMG_5157.JPG

IMG_5165.JPGI'm reviewing a Storck Absolutist 0.9 for RoadbikeReview. The bike isn't up and running yet, but I hope to start getting some miles on it this weekend.

What's caught my attention so far is how huge the head tube, forks, and chain stays are. The bike may be 14.8 lbs, but it didn't skimp on girth. Storkc wanted a super stiff bike, so he took this frame to the max. Also of note are the rear-entry dropouts, which are making me relearn the art of taking off the rear wheel.

May 29, 2008

$20 Patch Kit

Thien's tire got slashed by a piece of glass on our post-work ride today. This gave me a chance to spy his $20 patch kit, which is one of the easiest to use that I've seen. I thought I'd share.

Step 1: Prepare the patch kit by folding it twice over

$20 patch kit

Step 2: Locate the gash in the tire

$20 patch kit

Step 3: Insert patch kit between tube and tire

$20 patch kit

I plan on undercutting him by offering a $1 kit -- $2 for double strength.

You can learn plenty more expert tips like this by participating in the Peninsula group rides.

May 14, 2008

The hottest my bike will ever Look

My bike, not my wheels

I was shooting some bikes for Look, so we took the opportunity to play dress up with my bike as well. As you might have guessed, the Zipp 808s aren't mine, but whenever I want to make someone jealous, I can break out this photo and pretend that I left them at home. I could have shot them with Lightweights instead, but I happen to think that Zipps look far cooler.

I'm still learning the whole studio lighting thing. We used two Pro Foto Acute 2Rs with softboxes, black bed sheets, a garage door, and some custom hangers I made out of fishing line and rope. I should have used a backlight to better define things, but I didn't have an extra remote to trigger another light. Also, a note when you're using fishing line to hold the bike because you think it will be easy to Photoshop out: it's not, so try your best to keep it from crossing any part of the bike.

May 3, 2008

Bike Built!


My Look 585 is built, with all credit to Francois/Francis and Thien of MTBR/RoadBikeReview, who soldiered through a long Friday night to make sure I looked pretty on Sunday's group ride. I've posted a photo below that makes it look like I actually did a lot of the wrenching, but, truth be told, I probably spent more time cleaning up my spilled beer. Thanks also goes to Sports Basement, which is rescued us from having to abort when we discovered that the threads on the bottom bracket needed to be chased.

IMG_5160 IMG_5167

My contributions: I attached the rear brake, right shifter, put ceramic bearings in the wheels, ran and cut some cabling, and did half of the bar tape. A pretty sorry total given the amount of effort that goes into a bike. I got to learn a lot from watching Francis handle a lot of the difficult wrenching, and Thien showed me the proper bike nerd details that one is supposed to pay attention to, such as cutting the rear brake housing so that the Dura Ace logo shows and lining up the tire logo with the valve stem. With ownership of an awesome bike comes great responsibility.

Build list:

  • Frame: Look 585 Origin
  • Group: Dura Ace shifters and derailleurs, Ultegra SL crank/brakes/cassette
  • Seatpost: something heavy scavenged from my old bike
  • Seat: Specialized Gel Toupe, also scavenged from my other bike
  • Wheels: Neuvation M28 Aero2 with Enduro ceramic bearings
  • Cockpit: Ritchey Pro stem and handlebar
  • Tires: Michelin Pro Race 3

This build is not 'final': based on the Ritchey booth at Sea Otter, I'm now eyeing their new Wet White finish for the WCS 4-Axis steam and WCS Logic II road bars. It currently has a Ritchey Pro cockpit and I scavenged a seatpost and saddle are from my old bike. The seatpost is especially heavy and is one of the reasons that the build topped out at 17.15 lbs instead of the planned 16.5 lbs. The frame also came in 0.33 lbs over, possibly due to the white paint. It should be in the 16 lbs range when I'm finally done.

IMG_5172 IMG_5171


All the parts on this build were selected by doing research in the RoadBikeReview forums and the wrenching was done by Francois and Thien, so I can truly say, "This bike build powered by the good folks of:"

April 29, 2008

Back from Georgia

Chalking Brasstown

James of Bicycle Design sent me the above photo of me chalking Brasstown Bald. I got to meet a lot of great people in Georgia, including James, and as always is the case with these larger events, I had a lot of talented people to learn from. There are many thanks to give out, and I know I'll miss a few, but here goes:

  • Paul and Mario, for the company, food, beer, tips, and 300mm loaner -- many, many thanks
  • Casey and Jono, for endless useful advice
  • Mitch, for looking out for me
  • Katrina, for twice putting up with me handing her a camera and getting me the photos I wanted
  • Mark, who saved me on Stage 7 with batteries for my flash
  • Lyne, who helped me with my pre-race preparation enough to get me confident enough to go solo
  • Thien, for being crazy enough to host my midnight ramblings on RoadBikeReview
  • James, Fritz and Steve, for the traffic love

I'm still planning out the next big race to go to. The USA Cycling Pro Championships is a high likelihood; the Tour of Missouri looks very unlikely this year, mainly due to the timing of it all.

April 11, 2008

My build

All the parts for my Look 585 should be on the way:

  • Frame: Look 585 Origin
  • Group: Dura Ace shifters and derailleurs, Ultegra SL crank/brakes/cassette
  • Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece
  • Wheels: Neuvation M28 Aero2 with Enduro ceramic bearings (I've personally confirmed that John at Neuvation does respond promptly to e-mails; customer service + price + local Cali was a big plus for me)
  • Cockpit: Ritchey WCS Logic Road Bar and WCS 4Axis Road Stem
  • Tires: Michelin Pro Race 3

The online tools I've found estimate the final build weight to be about 16.5 lbs. It's about thousand dollars per pound to shave more off of that, so I'm quite happy.

I was originally going to buy the parts from local bike shops, but was a bit shocked by my survey. Two bike shops didn't even having pricing for groupsets, which lead to me getting price quotes that were astronomically high (above MSRP!). One of the two actually told me to buy the parts on the UK site probikekit, which I did after I saw their ridiculously low prices. Another Web site is Excel Sports, which has a closeout on 2007 Look 585 frames.

There were bike shops that were quite good: the folks at Silicon Valley Cycling Center and Palo Alto Bikes were solid, giving me real quotes for parts and labor that were very reasonable. They both also happen to be Look dealers. I will be sending money their way one way or another, so I don't feel too guilty. In the end, the Tour de Georgia forced my hand: there was no way I was going to get riding in before that, and I'll need the extra $$$ to pay for the trip.

April 8, 2008

Friends of Carl B

My friend and fellow photographer Carl Burchfiel was injured at Boggs. Yuri's posted information on the efforts to organize help for him and Gail as he goes through his recovery. There's probably not too much of the Sonoma County crowd hanging out on this blog, but just in case, checkout the link. Thanks!


April 7, 2008

Meet my new frame



IMG_8977 IMG_9001

I'm hoping to get to ride this before I take off for the Tour de Georgia...

More photos

April 6, 2008

Flying the RBR colors

Photo by francois

The RoadBikeReview group ride has the right balance of laid back + occasional opportunity for competition that I enjoy. This morning's ride was the first time for me flying the RoadBikeReview kit on a ride. It's possibly also the farewell ride for my Specialized Allez -- I'm hoping to get a Look 585 this week, which will force old Yellow into permanent commuter bike status.

March 29, 2008

Hellyer Velodrome Practice

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IMG_0015 IMG_0070

Today was my first day at the track, both behind the camera and on the fixie. I definitely forgot to keep pedaling several times, but luckily -- for me and the rider behind me -- I stayed upright. Pounding around in the drops lap after lap is kinda hard on the body, I have to say, but fun for the speed.

As for the photos, I tried all sorts of stupid camera tricks (pans, zoom pans, slow sync flash) to see what sort of variation I could bring. About 90% of it ended up as blurry junk. Track is even easier than short track MTB in terms of shooting difficulty, but you have to push a lot harder to make it interesting. Hellyer Velodrome is outdoors so I couldn't get that quintessential night blur effect that you see in shot after shot coming out of the World's right now. I could imagine taking some fun shots during the night sessions.

Hellyer Velodrome Practice Gallery

March 28, 2008

Gauging interest

I face the same basic decision almost every weekend: I could either go out and shoot some photos, or I've been kicking around the idea of doing something with my photos, like making a Tour of California poster (4-8 image montage) or a softcover book. They book or poster would probably be in the $15-25 price range based on what I've seen with online printing sites.

So, feel free to e-mail/comment to answer to: Should I take more photos, or should I make a poster, or should I make a book?

A vote for a poster/book isn't a commitment to buy, but it would help if it were ;)

March 8, 2008

Sea Otter, I quit you for a Peach

Regretfully I'm going to be skipping Sea Otter. There seems to be little chance I'll be able to make it down to the very fun event that had been an annual occasion for me. Sea Otter is April 17-20. The Tour de Georgia is April 21-27. The chance to shoot a team time trial and Brasstown Bald is too much to pass up. It's shame that they are scheduled so tight: a lot of big women stars will be showing up to the NRC road event and all my MTB favorites will probably doing their best to avoid the poison oak.

February 25, 2008


Let's do it all again in Georgia (I hope)

February 19, 2008

Listen to me blabber

I did an interview for The FredCast after Stage 1, which some of you may have already heard. I talk near the end, almost half an hour in. Thanks to David for inviting me to be on and get well wishes to both his thumb and his computer.

November 13, 2007

RBA 5 (and 3)


RBA5.Bruyneel1.web.jpg RBA5.Bruyneel2.web.jpg RBA5.Slipstream.web.jpg RBA3.Horner.web.jpg

Road Bike Action issue 5 came as a pleasant surprise to me. After the Tour of Missouri I thought they were only going to pick up one image: the two-page rear spread up top. They ended up picking up three more, one for a Slipstream article and two for a Johan Bruyneel article. To round out the images above, I included a photo of mine from RBA #3 that I never posted about before.

June 15, 2007

Red, Red Wine

I was stupid enough to bike home last night at 9pm with 4 bottles of wine in my backpack and no front light. I should have learned my lesson by now as my last night-riding attempt cost me a new set of rims.

I paid for it this time around when I hit a bump and my rear tube burst. I struggled for control of my bike had enough time to think, "oh please, not the wine!" I took most of the crash with my left side, but I could feel a wet drip from my backpack as I struggled to get back up. Amazingly, three of the four wine bottles survived intact. I had a chance to survey the rest of the damage when I got home -- my shorts were covered in a mixture of red wine and blood and my backpack was full of broken glass. I'm not quite sure which red stain I was more upset about, but it was probably the wine -- it was a nice Unti Barbera.

June 14, 2007

An about page for the curious

About Spare Cycles

Eventually I'll provide a more permanent link.

May 14, 2007

Zinio Road Bike Action preview, issue 2


zcover.250.jpg Zinio has a three-page preview of Road Bike Action issue 2. Luckily for me, the preview has two of my three photos. The Giant bikes in the spread above is one of my Tour of Cailfornia shots, as is the shot to the right with Levi sprinting to victory in Solvang. As you can tell from the cover, there is a long article from Bob Roll that talks about the Tour of California from start to finish, where you'll also find my shot of Levi's crash in Santa Rosa.

Al told me that he got his subscription in the mail, so I guess the issue should be on newsstands now, if its the sort of newsstand that carries road cycling magazines.

Zinio preview of Road Bike Action

May 9, 2007

Three photos

I just got my copy of the next issue of and I'm happy to say that I have three photos in the issue: cover, table of contents (T-Mobile bikes), and a small photo (Levi Crash) in the Bob Roll Tour of California summary. The memory is fuzzy, but I probably did a little jig when I opened the envelope with the magazine.

FYI: I'm also credited with a photo I didn't take, but that's another story.

Oh yeah, make sure you buy a copy ;)


March 23, 2007

I don't call it "spare cycles" for nothin'


I'm leave for Hawaii on Sunday for a week so coverage will be especially spare. I've been meaning to write something about the Beat the Clock TT, where I shot some photos for SportVelo's 'Contre la Montre' TT camp, but things have been a bit too hectic.

The photos are not my best. For starters, most aren't processed, but I was also trying to see how well the middle AF sensor on my 30D performs. I almost never use the middle sensor as it leads to bad framings, but I wanted to test its double accuracy. Perhaps it performed better, but all the photos of cyclists sans feet are enough to make me go back to my preferred AF sensors.

Earlier in the day I also tried to take some shots of the riders with the sunrise in their face. Some kits took this well, the whiter ones did not.

March 7, 2007

Rough day for a friend

Just thought I'd share this tale of woe from a friend of mine:

My friend was riding this past weekend in a local mountain bike race. On the second or third lap he started to cramp and bonk real bad. He had to get off his bike and sit on the side of the road, unable to move. His wife went looking for him on foot but ended up taking a wrong turn on the trail. It took three hours before anyone stopped to give him some food so he could get back on the bike.

The worst part? He was sitting in poison oak.

February 13, 2007

SportVelo Training Camp

IMG_0314 IMG_0188 IMG_0467
SportVelo Day 1-18 IMG_0128 SportVelo Day 1-09 IMG_0439

This past weekend I participated in the SportVelo training camp, though my actual riding time was only about 1-2 hours (in comparison to the 16-20 hours everyone else did). My actual role was camp photographer, which gave me some good practice for the Tour of California next week.

The camp provided a couple of firsts for me as a cycling photographer: shooting in rain and shooting from a car. For all its challenges, rain produces some wonderfully dramatic shots. It was much easier to shoot people riding through rain than it was to deal with splash from rear wheels flying in my face when I rode on Sunday.

Shooting from a car wasn't quite the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel experience I thought it would be. Unlike standing alongside the road, lighting conditions on the road can vary second-by-second. If you driving along any of the climbs around here (e.g. Highway 9), this means that you can start framing your subject under direct sun, but by the time you get the shot, you can be in the shade again. It also takes some practice to frame your subjects and keep them in focus as you're trying not to fall out the window of the car. I didn't quite get the results I wanted from this, but I learned a lot for next time.

More photos

December 4, 2006

Indoor Peloton


SportVelo and LATS are offering an indoor peloton class for those like me whose legs fail to function in inclement weather. Bring your own trainer and bike and setup a spot -- its a lot more entertaining than cycling to Tour de France tapes by yourself. I took some photos of the inaugural class several weeks ago -- it was really just an excuse to hide how out of shape I am by taking photos instead of pedaling.

  • Cost: $10 for a prepaid set of 5 sessions, $20 for drop ins
  • When: Every Tue night through February
  • Time: 6:30–7:30pm
  • Where: Los Altos Training Studio, 955 Fremont Ave in Los Altos. LATS is directly across the street from the Bicycle Outfitter

October 26, 2006

Self-present: Speedplay Zero Pedals

One of the more embarassing things as a bicyclist is the trip to the bike shop to fix a crash-broken part. Wounds heal, but the $200 you spent on new parts ain't ever coming back. There's the additional shame of explaining to the bike tech how your broken part came to be. Note: if your crash was doing something cool, this is your chance for a glorious retelling; if your crash was stupid, as mine generally are, this is where you try to change the subject. However, one can always cover for your shame by buying even more parts for your bike to upgrade the parts that aren't broken. Instead of spending $200 to fix a stupid mistake, you're spending $300 to make your bike more awesome.

I went to the Offramp in Mountain View to seek out a new set of rims as my front wheel was pronounced DOA from my minor bicycle somersault. As I was paying for a new set of Mavic Aksium Race rims ($200), I noticed some Speedplay Zero pedals sitting in the display counter, where I imagine they are placed for people like me to notice them. I've wanted Speedplay pedals ever since I demoed them at the SF Grand Prix. They felt oh-so-smooth on my knees to get in and out of, and I felt much more connected to the pedal than with SPD cleats. The need to buy back my biker self-esteem and an upcoming birthday presented an easy choice of action: buy! The Offramp helped as well, offering the chro-moly model to me for $99, which is cheaper than a lot of sites online.

I haven't had the chance to give them a full spin, but I eagerly await. I have noticed that they aren't nearly as easy to ride in street shoes as SPD pedals -- I once rode a criterium in street shoes with SPD pedals -- but that is just an observation, not a criticism. Some good, knee-friendly riding awaits!

October 22, 2006

Personal record embarassment

I used my broken front wheel as an excuse to get out of an Old La Honda time trial climb (my real excuse is that I am out of shape). It's a good thing I didn't go, as I would have the shame of being beat by someone on a unicycle.

From the post-TT news:

"...Highlight of the day, however, was Steve Nash on his unicycle, who scored a 27:52, leading the day's time-wheel product ranking." [ed: my efforts are usually 27-28-ish]

I dropped a couple hundred dollars today on a new set of rims, but perhaps I have this whole road cycling thing wrong. I should have just taken my front wheel off and wheelied up Old La Honda instead. Think of all the weight you save.

October 13, 2006

Not-so-bright ideas

bike crash sign

I had my first bike accident in about seven years this week -- a solo accident, as many are, but also very minor. I have a bruised elbow and my front tire won't spin until it is trued, but I feel more stupid than hurt. I described this incident to my boss' boss:

I will strongly recommend that it is not wise to practice your cornering skills in the parking lot at night in order to keep yourself warm while waiting for a ride. As you pass through one of the dark corners and feel your pedal hitting curb, you realize that a smarter person would have just waited inside.

I wasn't going to post about this, but then I saw the great image above in Fritz' post on a Bicycle crash photo contest, and I decided that posting was inevitable.

July 18, 2006

Headed to Comic-Con/My TiVo remote video setup

I'm going to the San Diego Comic-Con, which I enjoy very much but always falls directly during the Tour de France. I'll still get to see tomorrow's morning stage, but I'll miss the final time trial and crowning in Paris. Usually I impose a media blackout on myself and my friends try to assist with blocking out views of newspapers and such. One friend even helped with a Firefox/Greasemonkey script to block any Web pages with Tour content. Then, when I get back home, I rush through four days' of stages in a 24-hour TiVo binge.

This year is a bit different. The house I'm staying at should have the Tour on TV, though I may have to miss the ends of certain stages or other snafus may occur. So, just in case, I've upgraded my TiVo:

  • 120 hour TiVo: 5 hour mountain stages at high quality fills up a TiVo pretty quick. I had a 40-hour TiVo before, which would work, but I had to record the stages at lower quality, which sucks on my brand new HDTV. TiVo doesn't make the 120-hour version anymore, but you can get a 180-hour version instead.
  • TiVo wireless G adapter: the TiVo-brand adapter is the only 802.11g adapter you can use with TiVo. It's about five times as fast as the 802.11b adapter that I previously used, and it supposedly saves your TiVo some processing overhead. I find that TiVo Desktop gets more unreliable the longer it takes to transfer a file, so there's the added bonus that the transfers don't fail as much.
  • TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus ($25 upgrade): the Plus version of the TiVo Desktop includes the most important feature for all of this to work: it can automatically convert the videos for display on an iPod or PSP. I'm not planning on watching the video on either, but there are two important reasons to do this conversion: the file is four times smaller and it will play on any computer, not just ones with your specially configured TiVo Desktop software.

Here's how the process works. First, the preparation:

  1. Setup a season pass on TiVo for 'cycling' (this is the name OLN uses for all cycling broadcasts, including the Tour)
  2. Setup an autotransfer on TiVo Desktop 2.3 for 'cycling'.
  3. Configure the TiVo Desktop 2.3 preferences to automatically convert transfers to PSP and also to automatically delete files after transfer (otherwise they fill up your hard drive).

If all goes to plan, here's what happens: 1. TiVo records the Tour de France stage in the morning, which finishes at about 9am 2. At about 9am, TiVo Desktop starts transferring the program. This can take five or more hours. 3. Somewhere between 2-5pm, TiVo Desktop has hopefully started converting the file into PSP format 4. Connect to my home computer from San Diego in the evening, hopefully the file has finished converting. 5. Start downloading the file 6. Go eat dinner 7. Watch the stage

This may or may not work. TiVo Desktop is a bit buggy and there are many things that can go wrong, from failed transfers from the TiVo to failed downloads to San Diego. This is the backup plan, so hopefully I won't need it.

I should probably just get a Slingbox, which allows you to stream video directly from your TV/PVR/etc..., but I went with the devil I knew -- I like my TiVo for other purposes, and this is the best I could squeeze out of it for watching the Tour while on travel. Maybe if I started travelling more, but this only happens once a year.

July 12, 2006

I won a Livestrong laptop!

I've been picking up some of the Tour Mania scratch and win cards from my local bike shop and today I won a Livestrong laptop! I am excited as this being my first-ever big prize win. Of course, I'm the last person that needs another computer and I'm not-so-excited about paying the taxes, but I'll figure that out later.

You can also be a winner -- you can even play online at If you win a Madone 5.2 I'll trade you ;).

livestrong laptop

July 3, 2006

We weren't last!

According to the posted results, we came in 28th out of the 35 finishing riders. We were the only mens' 2-man team to enter, which makes the comparison rather unfair to the 26 riders that beat us without the use of a teammate, but it also means that we finished first in the mens' 2-man TT competition. From now on, whenever someone asks how that race went, I'll reply, "first place."

Christine Thorburn, who started just before us, finished six-and-a-half minutes faster in second place with a time of 22:55. The winning time was 22:22. As comical as it was to start behind an olympian, I now realize it's better than starting a minute in front and getting passed within the first mile.

July 1, 2006

First time trial, 2-man time trial

Al and I competed in our first two-man time trial today -- also our first time trial. It wasn't a race as much as a fundraiser called Beat the Clock & Help Beat Cancer, which raises funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

There were many things that were amusing about our entry into the event. Al had four-five hours of sleep; I had one. My legs were shot from moving my stuff and cleaning all week. Neither of us had ever done a time trial before nor practiced a two-man TT. We only had 15 minutes to warmup because we were late getting to the course. Nevertheless, despite all of our inexperience and deficiencies, the start order somehow had Al and I starting immediately after National Champion and Olympian Christine Thorburn. Thorburn started only a minute ahead of us, so part of me hoped that we could keep her in sight for the earlier part of the course, but of course not. We didn't see her again until she passed us going back on the return route, easily many, many minutes ahead of us by that point.

We weren't terrible: we were only passed twice and managed to beat our goal of 30 minutes with a time of 29:22 (~20.5 mph). I got a bit fooled by a Team in Training event also being held on Cañada Road and sprinted for what turned out to be the wrong finish line -- my legs popped after that and I wasn't much use for the remainder. I think with a bit more sleep and experience we might actually be respectably bad.

My final observation is one I failed to properly understand during the race: when you are doing a out-and-back course and the first half of the course is downhill, that means the second half of the course is uphill.

June 16, 2006

Climbing tips

I made it Old La Honda for the second time on Wednesday. To put it in perspective, I think most of the riders I meet on the road seem to have done the cilmb two times this week, but I digress. This time I had Dan Smith of Sportvelo briefly by my side to offer some tips. As I watched Dan and Al climb further and further away, I tried to remember this advice:

  • tense the abs (just a bit, not too tight). It will help out your back.
  • squeeze your butt cheeks. It will make sure you get some of your other leg muscles involved.

He also recommended doing the climb in intervals of sittings/standing: 1:30 sitting followed by 0:30 standing. When you stand, shift one gear up into a harder gear and back down again when you sit. With the way Old La Honda is sloped, you won't be able to follow it perfectly, but it will make the climb go by faster mentally and it will make sure that you are using different muscle groups along the way.

I believe Dan's best time from bottom to top is around 16 minutes. I'm still at 27:30, with a brief break in the middle.

June 7, 2006

Climbin' and shootin'

I'm going to try and do a two-man time trial in July but I've been pretty out-of-shape with my recent two-and-a-half-week trip to Japan. I've decided to punish myself by doing all the climbs that previously I've been too lazy or wimpy to do in the past. In the past week or so I've managed to add Woodside-Skyline, Old La Holda, Alpine, and Altamont to my list of now-conquered climbs. The nice thing about most of these climbs is that I can descend right down into Menlo Park where I work. One of these days I'm going to finally all of Page Mill to my list. One of these days.

I've also got a new camera that I'm hoping will make the cycling photography easier. It's a Canon 30D, which is a pretty good upgrade from my old Rebel 300D. It can take shots much more rapidly than the Rebel and has a much better focusing system, so I'm looking forward to testing it out at the Pescadero Road Race and Burlingame Criterium coming up at the end of this month.

April 10, 2006

My contest submissions

As I slowly still work my way through my Sea Otter Classic photos, I've managed to choose two to submit to the VeloNews Sea Otter Photo Contest:

Levi descends Matty Rice

Levi is, of course, Levi, and Matty Rice showed he was the Most Tasmanian by winning the race.

This photo of Leipheimer and Menzies nearly made the pick, but I had to drop it due to focus issues:

Menzies and Leipheimer through The Corkscrew

Having to choose two and only two photos from the Sea Otter Classic is a bit unfair. With such a variety of events going on, do you submit two road race photos, two mountain bike photos, one of each? Do you choose the gimmick shot, the crash shot, or the pro MTB rider?

I ended up choosing two photos from the pro men's road race because I figured it was my strength and there were far more cameras out on the MTB dual slalom course shooting shots of people crashing into the mud. I don't think I stand a chance of winning, but I am happy nevertheless and Sea Otter was a great time even if I have a tan line across my forehead now. I may have to leave my camera behind for a day next year just so I can fully participate in all the fun.

March 26, 2006

Sportvelo and LATs


I met Dan Smith of SportVelo at stage 3 of the Tour of California. I checked out the cool PowerTaps he and his clients had on their bikes. He checked out some of the photos I took at the race. In his recent Web site update, regular readers may recognize the photos on the current news and the tips for success pages.

One great plug deserves another -- I haven't worked with Dan personally, but he and my old personal trainer Al Painter (2005 CitySports Magazine Best Bay Area Personal Trainer) have partnered up to deliver a great one-two punch for SF Bay Area cyclists. Dan runs a coaching program for cyclists that will take care of what you need to do on the bike; Al runs a cyclist-specific strengthening program at LATS that will make sure you have strong muscles and balance.

From my personal experience, I can strongly say that Al's functional fitness program will help you whether or not you're a cyclist and several Alto Velo cyclists who have worked with him would agree. About two years ago I injured my back badly enough that I lost use of my left leg for a week. I hired Al as a personal trainer and he took me from barely being able to walk to being able to do a two hour road ride earlier today. The partnership between Al and Dan will give you a great integrated approach to your cycling training that's hard to match.

March 19, 2006

Los Altos Riding

One of the nice things about cyclilng in Los Altos Hills is that I can come home and say, "I drafted a Ferrari today." The SUVs block a lot more wind, but the Ferrari makes cooler engine sounds as you pedal.

March 13, 2006

Hubris check

Two of my photos have made it onto pro cyclist sites: Tom Danielson's and Bobby Julich's (the Danielson photo is better). I put my photos on Flickr as a free resource for people blogging about the Tour of California and otherwise, but I never imagined that I would see my photos on some of my favorite cyclists' Web sites. There's also a good chance that I'll make it onto as I was contacted for permission for both Danielson's and Barry's. Michael Barry did an amazing job for Hincapie in the Tour of California and to see those photos used would be an honor as well.

Tom Danielson


January 22, 2006

Third race? No

The cycling season has been postponed for me on the account of injury to a teammate. Cycling is a lot like drinking: best done with others. You can get wasted by yourself, but who will hold your helmet while you puke?

January 15, 2006

Second race

vpLesson learned this week: don't forget your bike shoes. We did some basic cornering practice, but this lesson about footwear was much more important. Without bike shoes I couldn't lock into my pedals and get power on my upstroke. Al convinced me to race anyway. Surprisingly enough, I finished.

I survived six laps in the peloton before falling back and doing the last four in a paceline of stragglers. I had double-vision and my brain had gone offline, but this was much better than only surviving one lap in the peloton, not finishing, and emptying my stomach on the side of the road like last week. The final stats from my computer read: ~39:50 / 22.8mph / 15.1 miles.

A husband/wife mentor team were largely responsible for my finish. They formed the bookends of the paceline that I finished with. I nearly lost it when the rider in front of me gave up and left a huge gap between me and the next rider. If it weren't for the mentor behind me screaming for me to catch back up I probably would have watched as my draft rode away. Then I would have to come up with some lame excuse to explain my failure, like drinking bad sports drink samples, or forgetting my shoes.

Some additional notes on lessons learned in the extended.

Previously: First race

Continue reading "Second race" »

January 8, 2006

First race

vpI entered my first bike race today, the Early Bird Criterium sponsored by Velopromo. It wasn't a glorious effort, but it was a fun effort. I was busy gulping down free sports drink and sports bar samples when Al asked me to come ride in the 35-year-old+ race with him. The sickeningly sweet sports drink ended up on the side of the road three laps later and symbolically ended my first race. My poor showing was more due to the fact that I haven't ridden a bike in three weeks than corn syrup, and I got what I wanted out of the event. There are four more coming up and I have a better clue as to what I am getting myself into now. I already have some important little lessons learned, like warmup before you race and don't accept free drinks from strangers.

Riding in the middle of a pack zooming down the road at 26 mph is a lot of fun, but also really, really hard. Al and I usually ride the hilly terrain of Los Altos, so we were both unaccustomed to the notion of going round and round a flat 1.5 mile circuit at full speed until your legs burn off. The race starts off really fast and you'll find yourself red-lining almost immediately if you haven't warmed up beforehand. Riders are constantly flowing around and you have to quickly react to find a wheel to latch onto. On the straightaways you get a little bit of breather -- the slipstreams nearly tow you along. It all changes when the pack goes through a turn. You're trying to make sure that you go through the turn without veering into another bike's line and crashing, next thing you notice is that you're 5 ft, 10ft, 20ft behind the rider in front of you and there's a big headwind pushing you even further back. You pedal desperately to get back into that safe little slipstream, but your computer informs you that you're at your top speed and your stomach says, "Yes those sports drink samples were free, but didn't you bring two bottles of your own to the race?" The rider in front of you is probably coasting, having gotten back into the draft, and if he had a rearview mirror he would probably smirk that he's a cut above.

My goal by the end of these race sessions is to finish in the peloton. Also, to not crash.

This was a mentored race: prior to the race they had a tutorial (first in a five-part series) and they also rode along during the race to provide assistance. I've put some notes on the lessons taught so far in the extended.

Continue reading "First race" »

September 26, 2005

SF bike ride

On Sunday, bp, d, joy, ota and I went on a ride from the 4th and King Caltrain station in San Francisco to Sausalito. Along the way we passed by the Folsom Street Fair (heralded by naked man on bike), the new de Young museum building, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We ate lunch in Sausalito, drank wine, got ice cream, and then took the ferry past Alcatraz back to the Market St terminal. The weather was oddly terrific -- it was the weather I had been waiting for all summer.

I highly recommend the ride -- the more adventurous can do an additional leg from Sausalito to Tiburon and catch the ferry there. Make sure you know the bike lanes in SF: I failed to print out a map and we had some additional adventurous path finding as a result.

The photos from the trip were a bit of sadness to go through -- I had my camera set on ISO 800 by accident, so they are all pretty noisy. I can always take similar photos on later trips, but having to wait for such great weather again might take awhile.

San Francisco-07 de Young Alcatraz San Francisco-01 Alcatraz San Francisco-06

San Francisco-11

August 8, 2005

Tour de Peninsula

On Sunday, d, offtopicartisan, and I rode in the 2005 Tour de Peninsula along with hundreds, if not thousands of other riders. It was a 33 mile ride from Redwood City all the over to the Sawyer Camp Trail, up to Millbrae, and then back down along Skyline and Canada. There was a steep climb or two, but for the most part it was a nice easy pace, all under the official slogan of no pain, no pain. The only person on our team intent on breaking this slogan was o.t.a, aka "Ullrich," who managed to chug my old 30+ pound mountain bike uphill in the biggest monster gear as I ticked along in my granny gear. I believe I even heard him complain about wanting an even bigger gear.

There were five rest stops with food and water to keep you nourished and there were plenty of police and race volunteers to keep you safe. Our blistering pace of 11mph brought us in at just under three hours.

The Sawyer Camp leg was one of the best parts: the winding, shaded trail takes you past one of the reservoirs along 280. The Canada leg was also fun as they put a rest stop at the Pulgas Water Temple, which is just a strange, wacky site. d noted that it would fit well in a Wes Anderson movie.

One fun fact I learned during the ride is that Canada Road is closed to car traffic every Sunday, except in the winter for "Bike Sundays." It's a great road to spin around on and it takes you past the wacky Pulgas Water Temple as well as Filoli.

August 31, 2003

New seatpost

08-31-03.thomson setback seatpost.jpegFor those of you who like the truly mundane details of my life, I just got a new seatpost for my bike. It took me several months to realize, but my bike frame is actually too small for me. The folks at Chain Reaction pointed out to me that I can get a setback seatpost which will set my back in order. The seatpost I bought is the Thomson Elite, which, while pricey, already seems a whole lot better than the stock seatpost on my bike. It has two screws that let you adjust tilt and front/back separately, and it doesn't look like it's suddenly going to change angles on me when I hit a hard bump.

May 16, 2003

Treat your butt a new Pro TI Specialized BG Saddle. I got one today and my butt already appreciates it. It's got a much better surface than the lower-end models, so I highly suggest shelling out the $80 to get a seat that can hold you on the bike, rather than make you feel like you're always sliding off.

Dr. Minkow who invented the BG line spoke at PARC several months back. His anecdotes were rather interesting. When he first got Specialized to manufacture the seat, they were fairly worried. Biking is very steeped in Italian tradition, so many racers who looked at the seat dismissed it immediately (and also were adamant in denying any problems).

Minkow credits good science with helping overcome early dismissal. With the help of a well-publicized Stanford study and promotional stunts (including having cigrette smoking, booze drinking, tow truck drivers compete in a famous grueling bike race), the seat began to get some favorable press. Now that all is said and done, Specialized BG seats with the Minkow wedge are now Specialized's most successful product ever, and now nearly every seat manufacturer has tried to copy the design.

Minkow is now working on an ergonomic handlebar. Not that interesting to me, but more power to him.