Monday, 28 January 2008

Cold Weather Riding

I rode my bike to work today. I was hot the whole way in, I had to open the vents in my helmet to try to cool off a little.

The Rohloff hub says the oil freezes below -15C. A few weeks back I put some synthetic oil into the hub as well as the stuff that's in there now. You're not supposed to put in non-prescribed oil as there's some nylon parts that can apparently degrade, but motorcycle oil doesn't have addatives quite the same as car oil, since the clutch plate uses the engine oil too, so it can't have as many magic ingredients. Or so I hope anyway.

Having said that, my fork was frozen stiff. And I couldn't shift anyway since the grease in the fully lined Rohloff shifter cables was frozen solid. And the oil in the hub must have been pretty viscous as I felt like I had a lot of rolling resistance.

It's pretty amazing what 4-5 layers of synthetic windproof fabrics can achieve. I also can't say enough good things about the Lake MXZ302 winter cycling boots I got this year. With two pairs of good socks, I bet I could do 90 minutes in this temperature before my feet got cold, maybe 2 hours if I could avoid sweating. I looked at a lot of winter riding shoes before getting these. The other winter shoe brands mean "winter riding shoes, like if you live in San Diego or Phoenix". And everyone knows that isn't really winter.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Las Vegas Pics

I finally got to putting up pics, they're here.

The Lotus is a small car, and it's a bit hard to get in and out of. It certainly is tricky if you're 6'5" such as this fellow.

The engines are high revving and the corners come fast. Peak torque is at 6,800rpm, and the engines rev to 10,000rpm. The cones you can see on the corners mark the apexes and is what the driver is aiming for. Speeds on this lap would vary from around 130mph for the straight to broader corners at 80mph and tighter ones probably get down to 50mph. It's a 1.5 mile track that's really tight and focuses on skill and corners versus straightaway speed, which makes it super fun in the Lotus. This video give a little flavour, but it doesn't do the driving experience justice.

Also, my favourite is this. The Lotus position one might call it. Looks uncomfortable, but it's not. And it's great for driving.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Finale

I don't know how anyone would do more than 3 days on the strip here, you'd really need to learn to pace.

I woke up to the sunshine on the mountains; I could see the red rock area 20 miles away where I was. I went down to the gym for a workout. I had no idea the cost of the workout center wasn't included in the overal hotel package, seems like one of the many ways the strip battles against health. I paid the $25 fee and got down to business on the bike and made the most of my 40 minutes before brunch.

We did a brunch at the country club and debated the level of effort it would take to get ourselves over to the shooting range to get our hands on some exotic firearms. In the end we lounged around and walked through the mall a bit.

That's the opposite of going out with a bang!

Las Vegas cycling Saturday

I slept in till 9 then got ready for some riding today, and quicly observed that not many people seem to wear cycling clothes around the Wynn.

I took a taxi to the Las Vegas Cyclery and rented a Santa Cruz Blur. One block over from the shop was a slower street that was marked with signs saying it was a downtown to Red Rock cycing route. It's a gentle climb west of the city, it was big ring stuff with mountain bike gears. Lots of cyclists out. As I left town I hooked up with a roadie and got some trail instructions. He was an ex-New Zealand pro, so in a half hour I was done my high intensity for the day.

I rode out to Blue Diamond which is I think about 25 miles. Not sure why Blue Diamond exists, it's a really small place but it's a trailhead to some decent cycling trails. From Blue Diamond I rode 2 hours of trails. Had a good time, enjoyed the views, the bike, the sun, and the quiet. The ride back was faster than the way out and was quite a bit easier.

Taxis aren't keen on pickups out at the bike shop, so I bussed it back. Met the working class of Vegas - landscapers, IHOP waitresses, etc. Interesting experience. I transferred once I hit Las Vegas boulevard and took the Deuce down the strip (their double decker bus). Interesting experience. Versus the $30 trip to the bike shop, the trip back only cost $3.

Nick stopped by my room to pick up his luggage, count his gambling winnings, and empty out the snacks in my minibar for his kids (jellybeans and such). I'm sure they'll only cost $87 or so.

We dined at Aureole in Mandalay bay, I quite enjoyed it although it was quite a bit more mass market than Alex.

Believe it or not, after dinner was two hours in "Rum Jungle". I don't usually find myself in places like that, but the neon lit 2 story bar was interesting. I liked the bikini gymnasts swinging from a trapeeze sugestively 2' above me while I'm ordering drinks. The were spinning enough to give me motion sickness while just standing there. An apple martini, a beer, a redbull, a shooter from the girl walking on the bar who determined that I looked like I absolutely needed a shot poured down my throat while being clutched between her breasts, etc. Made the night a bit of a runaway.

My tired legs could hardly stand, and by the time we returned to the Wynn everyone was intent on gambling. Instead of outcasting myself I yielded to the peer pressure and donated $200 to the benefit of Las Vegas. I'm actually somewhat impressed that $200 lasted me 90 minutes instead of 10, which is no where near as cost effective as $100 taxi + bike rental + bus which occupied 7 hours of my day. I considered walking away when $200 became $400, but I realized how clevr it is that people walk away under only 2 circumstances - they're out of money or they're the last out of their friends (everyone else is gone). Walking away when you're up isn't a practical option when all the buddies are there. Clever business dynamic that hadn't dawned on me prior.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Las Vegas night 2

We ate at Alex in the Wynn, which is a recipe for leaving a lot of dollars at the dinner table. It's amazing what $500 will get you for dinner, and I'm also amazed that me, a total "value" guy, is almost convinced it's worth it. Pretty remarkable dining experience, although the 8 courses with wine pairings left me feeling like a baloon rather than a half competitve middle aged cyclist. I've had a lot of dining experiences in the last few years, but in terms of over the top exquisite, this was it.

The 3.5 hour dinner left the group feeling sluggish, but we went to the casino right after regardless. I took a client over to the bar and all together after an hour or so we were separated, so I grabbed a glass of vino and did an hour of walking and people watching before bed, which I'm aiming to achieve before 2am. The tables are a mix - Chinese seem to like games of odds, there's a lot of Philly lookin' hustlers with corn rows and baggy pants, and a lot of 30 something white dudes with tight black shirts and double chins from their corporate gigs. The slots seem to attract blue haired old chain smokers, as well as rental units passing time. The rental units aren't creative with their lines, apparently a guy like me with uncombed hair walking around sight seeing and people watching is somewhat close to their target clientele (probably the lone guy thing). I bet I could lube my bike chain for a year for the same cost as one night's cost of plastering themselves with makeup.

In many ways I'm a Las Vegas dud. I've got a couple of thousand cash with me for client entertainment emergencies, but as of yet none has been "donated" to the resort's bottom line via "the tables". I can't say I see much in the way of entertainment value from observing gambling, and since it seems to cost about a hundred dollars every 10 minutes, something in me just doesn't get it. Maybe if you were a qualified player of the various games, but I'm walking around as a semi-drunk neophyte - something that I understand squarely stacks all odds against me. The whole design of the place is to instill a feeling of "machismo" and "high roller" etc., a feeling of "I can take losing a few bucks, it won't hurt me".

If you want to stay thin, stay sober, or save money, the best bet is to never book the flight here. Once you're here it seems that you gotta pick your few battles and stick too them, and just roll along with the rest. If there's guys buying the last "great" bottles of wine off the list, I'm not dumb enough to exclude myself from that benefit. If there's the opportunity to sit down at $100 tables, I am smart enough to exclude myself!

I strongly suspect the use of illegal cell phone jammers is prevalent here. I get few messages, all calls go to voicemail, and my phone looks for networks a lot. I suspect with less distractions people gamble more.

Let's see if I can survive another day!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Lotus Driving School

We did a skid car first thing in the morning, which is a Chrysler rigged up with hydraulics and outriggers so you can take weight off either the front or back wheels, such that the car is very suceptible to over or under steer. For a person who's driven on snow for years, it's fairly intuitive.

After that we learned the racing line in a van, then started practicing.

The Lotus is about 200hp, 2,000lbs, and the roof of the car is about waist height. They look badass. Being a practitioner of yoga will definitely help you get in and out of the car. Your ass is probably 4" off the ground when you're driving. The 1.8L Toyota engine has a lot of pull from 6,500rpm up to 8,500. The cornering limits are unbelievable, I've never been in a vehicle that high performance before.

Lapping it was fun, we did follow the instructor off and on all day. It feels so good to hit the right lines, and it's fun just being an active pilot in the car instead of regular boring driving. Other than lack of storage space, the Lotus would be awesome for Portugal.

At the end of the day we did autocross in a parking lot type area - a race through a cone course that you've never seen before. On round one I got the fastest time, except for a 10 second penalty from the jeers of our group because my threshold brake stop from 140 to zero went two inches over the stop line. Too funny. Next closest time was three seconds back, which is a large spread. Most of the participants own sports cars too.

On round two I came up short by one tenth of a second, bummer!

Super fun day overall. I love performance driving. I'd love to do a two week bike spring training with a 3 day driving school in the middle for recovery days!

Las Vegas night 1

This city, or at least the part of the city I'm in, is one of the strangest places on earth. I'm in a ridiculously beatiful hotel room at the Wynn, but even though it seems special to me I'm sure there's thousands of them around. The decor and size is impressive, there's actually some style here rather than just a gaudy room. I love the tranquil music playing when I enter the room and the plasma TV with the screensaver of tranquil scenes.

We had a fantastic dinner at a completely over the top price. To quote the Matrix, my steak was juicy and delicious, to an unprecedented degree. We drank wines from world renowned vinyards and vintages.

All this is funded by the hoardes of people, including the group I'm with, that finds entertainment in gambling. Drinks are free at the tables, but in the elapsed time I see people order to receive drink, they lose $500 at the table. I'm not sure that's really free, but it's a good business recipe.

Everyone here must have a story, what an eclectic crowd. Some bald Chinese dude counted out like forty thousand-dollar bills in front of me even though he was drunk enough that standing was a challenge, and there's a heck of a lot of good looking "rental units" walking around the hotel, if you get my drift.

Tomorrow we're driving 2,000lb Lotus race cars with over 200 hp that corner unbelievably and do 0-100 in 4 seconds. That's a piece of excess I can hardly wait for.

It's all about unbridled waste and consumption I guess. To make up for the excess, the free bottled water has been processed by carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, microfiltration, UV treatment and ozonation. Maybe it's purity makes up for what this city dishes out?

Monday, 7 January 2008

Back to Banking

I worked most of this past weekend on a deal that was announced this morning (NuVista acquiring Rider).  I had visions over the holidays of a 2008 filled with more Erik time and less banking time, but apparently it was not to be.  Sitting on a sunny rock outcrop in the warm afternoon breeze in Portugal, watching the sun color the Atlantic is far behind.  It was a warm weekend here and it seems that everyone was out riding a lot more than my sparse trainer sessions.  Gonna have to work on getting out more here!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


Today we stayed close to home, no driving around today. We biked for 3 hours through Sintra, taking in the hills, trails, and monuments. There's great mountain bike trails, road riding, hiking, and fire road type climbs. Our three hours of riding worked out to about 6 hours of time outdoors with all our little stops for photos and lookouts and little walks.

The area is well developed yet natural, and there's active forest management even in the park today. Lookout points are well trodden to, so it's easy to find rock outcrop to sit on and view the countryside.

We had dinner on the patio of a French restaurant, with great food and typical French restaurant service... reminds me that I'd rather do take-out from French restaurants and leave the waiters to themselves.

And just like that, our departure is getting a lot closer. I really enjoyed Portugal, it was such a pleasurable place to spend time, and now that I know where to focus in terms of what were my favourite cycling areas, it'd be easy to come back.