Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Congressional Race Photos

Michael Clements, organizer of

I was sent down to my local watering hole for Beer and Politics, a monthly gathering where one really fun thing and one really frustrating thing are shaken up to a milky froth. This particular session was packed and attracted a lot of interest as it was a forum for candidates running for the 37th District congressional seat.

My goal was to try to get a portrait of all the candidates by the bar. I set up my umbrella and a little kicker light for separation. As it turned out I was only able to get about three portraits since people were coming late and the bar was filling up quickly. After about the third person almost tripped on my lightstand, I packed it up and decided shift gears from portrait mode to event mode. I tucked my backpack away by the stage and went light, shooting with available light.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the portraits I was able to get with the light kit. It was something different. I had never tried to set up some sort of formal lighting at an event and it was a learning experience. I had to act fast with setting up the light and think quickly as people were moving all around me. I was pretty impressed with the quality of light the big silver umbrella gave and made a mental note to take it out again.

Republican candidate for the 37th Congressional District, John Kanaley.

Democratic candidate and State Assembly member, Laura Richardson.

The crowd at Gallaghers in Long Beach.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Time Online

Got a short quote in a Time article this past week:
Using a bicycle to get around has always been a bittersweet proposition in Southern California. Sure, it's eco-friendly, an excellent cardio workout and a pleasant alternative to snail's-pace public transportation, gridlocked freeways and king's-ransom gas prices. The drawback is finding a convenient, theft-proof parking spot. "When you can find a safe parking spot on the street, it's often 100 feet or more from your destination; and if there is secure bike parking, it's usually behind the building near the weeds next to a trash dumpster," says Russ Roca, a local photographer who doesn't own a car and hauls up to 200 pounds of equipment on his bike's trailer attachment. "Bike riders are treated like social pariahs and second-class citizens."

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

To GU or not to GU

People have love-hate relationships with energy gels. The thought of ripping open a little packet of mysterious goop and squeezing it down your throat doesn't seem like the most pleasant thing to do while you're exercising.

They are, however, great ways to keep your sugar up. On more than one occasion I've been coming back from a long ride or assignment where there is no food to be found and I've sucked down a few gel packets that kept me going.

I've tried a few brands but have narrowed my favorites down to two, Hammer Gel and GU. Flavorwise, GU wins hands down (esp. the Strawberry/Banana flavor). Hammer Gel tastes like plastic dipped in juice. However, I will tend to use Hammer Gel more because they offer their potion in large bulk bottles that I can squeeze into a flask dispenser. GU, although it tastes wonderful, still only comes in those little foil packages, which I can picture in my mind filling up a landfill.

So what would you buy? Eco-friendlier goop that tastes like dipped plastic or yummy stuff whose packaging litters streets and inevitably finds its way to a landfill?

I emailed GU today and plan on calling them later in the week to see if they have any plans for bulk bottles (or to see if I can atleast buy a gallon for myself:).

Friday, May 25, 2007

On Cups...

Here is a mini review of the Electra cup holder. I saw one on Moe's (from bike at the Expo. It seemed nicer than others I had seen. The best part was that it could be attached and removed without any tools. Great for moving from bike to bike.

I bought one and it was great until I tried it with a paper coffee cup. After hitting a small bump, I had a nice burning puddle of espresso on my leg. I pulled over, dumped half the coffee out and kept peddaling. Still no luck. Every small pothole would make the coffee erupt out of the cup. Probably the fault of the cup more than the holder, so beware with the lids on your coffee cups.

I then tried it with a travel mug I've been using for years. It wouldn't fit. The diamter of the steel band was to small and there was no way to adjust it.

This, of course, sent me on a quest to find a travel mug that would fit in the holder. I tried a few stores and didn't find anything until I went to a Peet's and found this Nissan made (who knew they made mugs?) travel mug.

It fit! The top has some fancy hole that opens up when you depress the handle, which I will no doubt manage to destroy in a month. Coffee still tends to bubble out occasionally, but not quite with as much frequency and velocity.

Overall, I would say the coffee holder is great, if you can find a mug that works with it.

On Caps...

I love cycling caps. They have a distinctive shape that looks traditional and timeless. Since I've started riding, I've been amassing a small collection of cycling caps. It started with a cap I got from Kucharik that was wool. It was nice, but a bit too floppy.

I then discovered Walzcaps a small cap making company here in CA. The construction and materials of their caps are top notch and are a steal for what their selling for.

I recently eyed an orange Rivendell cap at the Bike Commuter Expo in Pasadena last weekend. I didn't win it at the raffle but was able to order one from Rivendell directly. It arrived today and is a great addition to my collection.

MTV and Fixed Gears

The word on the street is that MTV is going to do a reality show on bike culture...most likely fixed geared bikes. What does this mean for bicycling? Fixed gears? Who knows. Feelings are mixed. Lots of people are afraid that it is going to sell out the bike scene and we'll have a lot of noobs accessorizing their Chrome bags with a bunch of Pistas.

I'm somewhere in the middle. If it gets more kids on bikes than SUVs, then awesome. I'm just hoping that after the initial fad has passed, a few of them will hang on to the bikes rather than looking for next big thing.

Ultimately, bicycling needs something like this. Rather than portraying bicyclists as freaks and outcasts (think "40 Year Old Virgin"), it would be nice to have them shown as cool and leading edge. Knowing MTV, it will be a bunch of quick edits with kids doing wheelies, skidding and backwards circles. Think YouTube but with a budget and some bass.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bike Commuter Training

I assisted with a bike commuter training class today at Bikestation. It was a fun experience. The students were a group of women that were part of a program to train them in non-traditional workplaces (hazmat, construction, railroad, etc.,) Part of the program dealt with mobility. Many of them didn't have cars, so the program was to teach them to use the bicycle as a means of transportation.

The first half was classroom stuff. What a bicycle is in the eyes of the law. Rights as a bicyclist. Common traffic scenarios.

The second half was more hands on. How to fix a flat, adjust brakes, fix your chain when it gets derailed, use the bike racks on the bus, etc.,

The all day session ended with a nice 6 mile bike ride through Long Beach. Half of it was on the bike path, the other half in some light traffic.

From the look on their faces everyone had a great time and I think a few of them rediscovered the simple joy of being on a bike. Hopefuly, a few will actually try it out in their daily practice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Backpack vs. Pannier vs. BOB vs. Flatbed vs. Xtracycle (Part 1)

I've decided to start doing reviews of various gadgets that I've tried in my quest to be car free. Of course, one of the first problems a bike commuter faces is how to carry stuff. A bike is a great means to transport oneself, but isn't readily equipped to carry our human accessories. I think a lot of potential bike commuters give up at this point, thinking that if a bike can't also act as a moving warehouse of crap like a car, then it's no good. Here are the various things I've tried to solve this problem.

Backpack/Messenger Bag
This is the first level of carrying things. Everyone has owned a backpack at some point so it's not new or threatening technology. The messenger bag (let's face it) is a backpack with style points. Yes, some carry more than backpacks. Yes, you can access things quicker. But for the most part it functions about par with a backpack.

This method of accessory conveyance is not very comfortable. You and not the bike are carrying the load. While great for short trips and small loads, if you plan to carry anything heavy over distance it will be very uncomfortable.

This is the next level and is a bit more involved. A pannier, aside from being a mystery to pronounce, necessitates a rack. Racks, in todays bike market, are decidedly uncool, something from a bygone era when men wore short shorts. The disdain for the rack is so great that most bikes don't have eyelets on the frame and fork to accomodate a rack even if you really wanted one.

It is making a bit of a comeback. Many bikes labeled as "commuter" or "hybrid" bikes have eyelets for a rack. Your best bet is to look for a "touring" bike, which despite its name is also great for training, commuting, errands, etc., It is the swiss army knife of bicycles.

Panniers often bought in pairs but also separately, are essentially large duffels that you can cinch up and attach to your bike. The advantage of a pannier over a backpack is that you are not carrying the load, the bike is. That's a good thing. Your back won't get sweaty and sore from supporting the weight.

The trade off is that panniers do slightly alter the handling of a bike. Emphasis on slightly. Unless you are carrying big heavy loads, you won't notice it much. Your body will adapt to the new center of balance and you'll be fine.

Panniers are great for groceries, shopping trips, commuting to work with a change of clothes, commuting to school with a change of clothes, etc., Essentially, if you can carry it in a backpack it will fit in a pannier.

For most people, panniers are about as far they go for stuffcarrying gadgets for the bike. The second part of this post will cover the tools of bicycle true believers.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

CICLE Bike Commuter EXPO, pics pt1

Long Beach to Old Town Pasadena without setting foot in a car?!

A whopping $3 to traverse Los Angeles county all day!

Our bikes at the ready.

CICLE Bike Commuter EXPO, pics pt2

Every type of bike and bike person in attendance.

CICLE's dynamic duo calling out raffle prize winners. Sadly, I didn't win the orange Rivendell hat I had my sights on.

Bike Blender! Nuff said.

R.L. from

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Going to the Commuter Expo!

I'm going to the Urban Bicycle Commuter Expo today in Pasadena. My girlfriend and I are going to go multi-modal, hopping the Metro Blue Line to LA to the Gold Line to Pasadena then biking it the rest of the way. Another fun urban adventure. Here's a description of the event from the C.I.C.L.E site:
Curious about bicycles? Find out everything you want to know and discover exciting inventions at the Urban Bicycle Commuter Expo in the One Colorado Courtyard. Expo will steer you to innovative cycling ideas, whether you are just starting out, or already an enthusiast. You’ll receive answers to such questions as, What kind of bicycle do I need? How much can I be expected to pay? Can I carry my laptop on my bike? Take part in bicycle maintenance workshops. Marvel at Funky to Functional, an exhibition of D.I.Y. personalized commuter bikes. Confirmed exhibitors include REI, InCycle, Pasadena Cyclery, Path to Freedom (XtraCycle dealer), Flex Car, Cal Start, LACBC, CICLE, Bikerowave, Bike Oven, Psycles Chopper Club, AIDS Lifecycle, Patagonia, Metro and city of Pasadena departments of Public Works and Transportation. Urban Bicycle Commuter Expo is free and open to the public.

If you see someone walking around sorta looking like a chipmunk with a fixie with orange deep Vs, give me a holla. :)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Break Stuff

I'm still pretty out of it. A combination of not eating and all the medication. However, I can't stand doing nothing so I thought I'd write up a few posts.....

This past Tuesday I was riding with my girlfriend on her morning commute. I wanted to give my new Mondonico a test ride before getting my teeth pulled. We got as far as the end of 2nd Street when I saw what looked like a crank arm drop from her bike! My first thought was that the crank arm screw had worked its way loose and it dropped the arm. However, when I picked up the piece the arm had broken right off!

I had never seen anything like this. My girlfriend doesn't do anything crazy with the bike (no ramps, freeriding or bunnyhops), except for commuting four days a week on it.

Fortunately, this happened in our neighborhood and not while we were on tour. We rolled it into one of our favorite coffee shops and asked them if we could store it their for the day. I planned to come back later with a set of 105 cranks and BB which I harvested from another bike and put them on.

She has only about 2500 miles on the bike and for something like this to happen really makes us think it's some sort of manufacturing error. Maybe a bad batch of aluminum?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I survived....

So I survived having my wisdom teeth pulled out. Such a strange experience. They hooked me up to an IV and I was expecting them to ask me to count backwards from 100, like I've been told by so many people, but instead I just blacked out and woke up with what felt like a large slug in my mouth.

The slug turned out to be my tongue. My face was a complete numb mess. I couldn't even swallow. They gave me some Advil to help with the pain but the best I could do was swish it around my mouth. I didn't have enough muscle control to swallow it and I sheepishly just spit it back out.

I've come to the conclusion that coming out of general anesthesia is like having a really bad hangover. Your half cognizant, stumbling around and have no fine motor skills. And you sometimes feel like puking.

All day yesterday the pain would come and go and I was pretty doped up on Vicodin. I was having a hard time eating enough to buffer the painkillers so I was pretty loopy all day yesterday. I'm trying to get by without the Vicodin today because I'm getting tired of feeling sedated and half-conscious.

I think staying home and resting will be the toughest part for me. I'm so use to being out and about that all this inaction is really frustrating. Right now, I have a bike on a workstand just to be doing something. I've been trying to do some photoshop but I have a hard time concentrating.

Hope I feel better tommorrow.....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On Losing Consciousness..

Ok, so this is neither a bike or photo related post. I'm going to have my wisdom teeth (all four of them) yanked out of my mouth in about 10 hours. I think it's a sign that I've reached some kind of adulthood when I voluntarily ask someone to committ bloody violence to my mouth, then pay them afterwards.

The thought of what's going to happen to my teeth is a bit frightening, but what really is sticking in my head is the thought of being knocked out. I've never been put under and it seems like such a foreign concept to lose consciousness and wake up with the surgery being done. Of course, it probably doesn't help that I'm a sucker for movies where people go under and they wake up with missing kidney.

So where does the hour go? I guess I'll find out soon enough when I wake up with four less teeth.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Crystal Cove, there and back again...

The ride this weekend was awesome. It was long enough that you felt like you got to stretch out your legs, but short enough that it doesn't eat up the entire day. We had a bit of a late start on Saturday but still made it to the cottage in good time. We had a slight tailwind most of the way.

The fixie and Delta Postporter rack performed remarkably well. I half expected to snap the rack in half after all of the negative reviews I've read about it. Many people have complained that the welds are weak and will crack. Granted, I've only had the rack for less than a week, but so far it has met my expectations.

I rode to Crystal Cove on my regular gearing (46x17) but switched it to (46x18) on the way back. I figured I would be tired and would be hitting a headwind. The steepest climb of the whole trip was getting out of the cottage and back to PCH, after that it was smooth riding. We lucked out and got a tail wind on the way back to Long Beach. We were going at a pretty good clip and managed a trip average of about 14mph, which means we were traveling around 16-18mph most of the time.

On the way back we were passed but managed to keep up with a flock of roadies for a few lights. I have to say, it was surprising to see how unsafe they rode in traffic. They were ducking in and out of the parking lane, switching to the thru lane at the last possible minute and generally were erratic with their ROE when it came to cars. Not to say that this is typical of all roadies, but it surprised me that given the obvious investment in their gear they didn't ride a bit more safely.

As a daily commuter I've learned what things get me into tight situations and how to negotiate traffic situations. When I tell people I commute by bike they always comment about how dangerous it is. It is dangerous, I suppose, but so is getting out of bed. There are also many tricks to riding in traffic that will keep you from becoming road pizza. Watching how many casual cyclists ride around the city, it's a wonder there aren't MORE accidents. I've seen some cars do stupid things, but I've also seen lots of cyclists do stupid things as well.

Crystal Cove Pics, Pt 1

A quick stop for breakfast at Portfolio's Cafe.

Trackstanding with all my touring gear.

Laura and her bike touring mascot.

My brother Andrew on a search and destroy mission at the tidepools.

Crystal Cove Pics, pt 2

Andrew and a crab shell.

My father, Junn Roca, the famous California plein air painter.

Dad at work.

Laura and I from the balcony of the cottage. The Beachcomber restaurant is in the background behind us.

Mark causing havoc.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fixed Tourist

Here's my steed for the weekend in full touring gear. Novara panniers in the rear and a Novara handlebar bag (for the camera, snacks, phone, tools) in the front.

This weekend's route....

This is a map of our planned route this weekend. Not too far and a pretty pleasant ride, almost all of it along the coast. We'll only be staying one night at Crystal Cove so we're packing pretty light. Still, it will be interesting to see how my fixed gear handles. I built the rear wheel around a Surly fixed/fixed hub, so I'll have two gears (46x17 and 46x18). I think I'll probably switch to the 18 tooth cog on the way back. The prevailing winds during the day always blow south, so it'll let me spin a little more against the wind with the load.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A little more with a little less....

I'm going on a mini overnight tour with my girlfriend this weekend. We're staying at a 50s cottage at Crystal Cove. I've been debating which bike to bring. The Xtracycle is great, but I will be packing light and would rather not be carrything the extra weight. So I figured I'd try taking my fixie.

Fixed gear bikes probably aren't the first thing that comes to mind as a touring bike. Mine has no eyelets for fenders or a rear rack. I went to a local bike shop and bought this seatpost rack by Delta (the Delta PostPorter). This particular model has a frame that pannier hooks can attach to. It's weight limit is 25lbs.

I tested it out today running some errands. I attached a basket to it and bought some groceries. Later, I took it out for a quick assignment, strapping my Bogen 3031 tripod to it (not the lightest tripod). So far it has performed admirably. The true test will be this weekend when I will have two panniers on it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hauling Stuff with a Fixie

My girlfriend needed a few things carried to the LBMA this morning so I got recruited to help her out. I pulled out the Burley Flatbed and loaded it up. The large Rubbermaid and duffle bag just barely fit within the straps on the Burley. I usually take my BikeFriday on runs like this because I need the gears. However, the Long Beach Museum of Art was only a few flat blocks away so I decided to take out the fixie for some cargo duty. It worked fine, though I had to get use to not being able to raise my rear wheel to position my pedals.

Where there's a wheel there's a way.


Just testing to see if I can embed slideshows...hit the play button...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Delayed Gratification

My close friends know that a) I love the color orange b) I'm not good at waiting. That is why, this particular project of mine is causing me extreme pain and pleasure. I found this frame at a garage sale (no before picture). It was yellow and it was sad. The bottom bracket was cracked at the lug and the seat tube would slide up and down freely. It was in bad shape. The previous owner was done with it and was selling the bike with equally worn Dura Ace and Shimano 600 components for the princely sum of $25.

I bought it on the spot, not quite knowing what to do with it. At the time I didn't know anyone that could weld or build frames, but I decided to hold on to it.

Several months later, a friend of mine said he had found a frame builder that was coming down to his house to look at one of his bikes. Would I like to bring my frame down? I jumped at the chance.

Bill Rider of Charter Oaks Bicycles came to Long Beach from San Dimas and looked at our respective projects. He said he'd take my frame home and see if it could be fixed without disassembling the rear triangle.

A few weeks later I got a call and he said he had fixed it. I opted to have it repainted from yellow to orange. He found a painter that had the original Mondonico orange AND decals. A few more weeks later he came by my apt. and dropped it off, a beautiful and fully restored ORANGE Mondonico.

The frame set alone use to retail for around $2000. After the repair and paint, I had added another $550 to my original $25 purchase.

Now came the components. I had first planned to build it on the cheap with Shimano 105, but after a happy hour with lots of beer and bike friends, they had convinced me to build it Campy. So now I was/am on the hunt for campy components.

To date, I have an NOS Campagnolo Athena crankset, Athena brake calipers, Record headset, Record 8-speed rear hub laced to a Velocity Aerohead, Athena front hub laced to an Aerohead, and Nitto Randonneur bars. I'm still waiting on some Cank Creek aero levers, Nuovo Record downtube shifters, an 8 speed cassette and Chorus front braze-on derailleur.

So the bike sits in my apartment, screaming to be ridden and it's maddening. I'm more the "strike it while it's hot" than "wait and see" personality. Or as Tennyson put it more poetically, "I must lose myself in action, lest I with despair."

I was joking with friends the other day and I wondered aloud if this was my mid-life crises vehicle. "Yes," a friend said, "it's your Miyata."

Monday, May 07, 2007


Geez it was hot today. A high of 95. I don't think I was quite prepared for the weather. I had some deliverables to deliver to various clients. I rode up to Memorial Hospital to leave a CD of images for their marketing department and rode back home to get into cooler clothes. I then dropped off some black and white prints I made last week for another client. By the time I got there I was beat and my blood sugar had dropped. I felt like I was pedaling uphill even though the road was perfectly flat. The heat just zapped everything out of me. Fortunately, my client offered me some juice and it put enough sugar in my system to get me home.

The riding was great except for a minor incident when I was on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore. Some complete idiot in a white car was trying to pass me with about four inches to spare. I looked over and saw him and started yelling at him to get out of my lane until he backed off. I couldn't believe it. I was well into the lane and coming to a stoplight and he was still trying to pass me at the last second. I don't think most people understand how dangerous it is to pull off those maneuvers.

I was half tempted to get off my bike and block his way and explain in loud plain language why what he did was so completely unncessary and dangerous. Sometimes I fantasize about mounting a paintball gun on my handlebar for exactly these occasions.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

White Balance magic....

I decided to try out some white balance techniques I've been playing with. I shot this portrait in shaded daylight. I set my camera's white balance to Tungsten, so everything had a bluish tint. I then set up a strobe with a tungsten gel so that my subject would be properly exposed. The end result is a nice moody portrait right in the middle of the day.

Grand Prix...

The Long Beach Grand Prix happened almost a month ago but I swear I can still hear the sounds of those cars shifting in my ear. I got hired by the City of Long Beach this year to photograph the mayor during the Grand Prix. Lots of grip and grin stuff, but also some fun moments...

The mayor in a race car simulator, familiarizing himself with the Long Beach course.

The mayor in racing leathers, getting ready to ride in a 2 seater Formula 1 car.

Last minute touches before he jumps in the car.

A pair of stormtroopers were at the Grand Prix this year since George Lucas was an honored guest.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Espresso and Blinkies

Another day of errands. Helped a friend, also car free, move an espresso maker across town with the Xtracycle. When I ride in lots of main streets I'll usually turn on my Dinotte tail light. The Dinotte is the ultimate commuter blinky. For its princely sum of just over $100 it delivers the brightest, skull numbing red flash of light you will ever look at. I run it on the road during the day and cars give me a wider berth.

It's that bright.

The downside is the mounting sucks. The only thing holding it to your bike is an O-ring. It is also eats batteries for breakfast. However, if you absolutely positively want to be seen and also want to temporarily blind people behind you, this is the light for you.