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Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sammich Maker – Revolutionizing Breakfast.

I wrote, back during the Christmas break, my new breakfast sammich maker, one of the tops on my “favorite Christmas present” list.

I’m a big fan of fast food chain breakfast sammiches but I rarely buy them… I’m just not that into paying five bucks for a breakfast sammich. We used to make them at home with scrambled eggs of course, but the cheese never quite melted right and the eggs always fell out… Enter the Hamilton Beach breakfast sandwich maker. It’s a revolution in breakfast. How much did we like the one I got for Christmas?

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Yeah, we bought a second one so we could push them out even faster.

Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it too deeply (the maker comes with detailed instructions, with pictures), my wife, Bella and I have found ourselves most fond of cinnamon and raisin English muffins while Josie likes the plain muffins. We’ve gone with bacon and sausage patties, both are fantastic (obviously). For the eggs, my wife and kids like the yolk scrambled a bit:

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Not me, I poke them a few times and leave them whole. In the near future we’ll be subbing the English muffins for pancakes and waffles, oh my.

Plain and simple, best breakfast idea since peanut butter on pancakes. They’re perfect.

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Is A Carbon Fiber (Composite) Bicycle a Necessity?

A blog friend recently nicknamed me “Bgddy “I’m All Carbon” Jim” – like six hours ago ‘recently’ – and I like it. My main road bike, typically referred to as my “A” bike is, with the exception of the wheels, carbon fiber… Handlebar, stem (carbon wrapped aluminum allow because they’re typically lighter than full carbon – just barely over 100 grams for a 100mm stem), frame, fork (and the fork isn’t an alloy/composite mix, it’s a full carbon stem). I have picked out a composite set of wheels but it’ll take some time to put the cash together to afford them, maybe a year.
IMG_5173The “A” Bike, a $5,000 (retail, with the upgrades) Specialized Venge Comp, is fast, light and amazingly comfortable.  Comfortable is typically referred to as “compliant” when it does a good job of absorbing road chatter while still remaining stiff enough to efficiently transfer the power in your legs to the crank arms to the chain to the rear wheel.  The lower-end Venge, such as my “Comp” or “Elite” after 2014, has a truly amazing balance between speed and comfort (or compliance).  The Venge, of course, is a race bike so the high-end models with the S-Works label are extremely stiff and are known for being an exceptionally harsh ride.  There is one big item that makes the S-Works frame incredibly stiff while the standard Venge frame – the quality of the carbon fiber itself (I’d be willing to bet my lunch that the layup is a little different as well).  Specialized has different names for their composite grades – I’ve seen 8r, my Venge Comp is 10r and the S-Works models are made with 11r carbon fiber.  The higher grades are lighter and stiffer.  I worked this out in my post yesterday, the Venge comes in, when all is accounted for, $303 per pound, retail.

My second bike, call it my “B” bike, is a ’99 Trek 5200.  A carbon fiber frame an aluminum stem, aluminum handlebar and aluminum wheels.  This is a decently rigid frame (it has more US State Championship wins than any other frame ever made):
OldGloryThe Trek, one of the first fully carbon fiber frames (second generation).  It’s quite a bit stiffer than the Venge where it’s not wanted and as stiff as the Venge where it is – this means it’s a rather stiff ride and because carbon fiber bicycle frames were so new back then, they were overbuilt and quite a bit heavier (this one tops the scale at about 20 pounds).  On the other hand, this bike cost only $2,530 brand new or $126.50 per pound.  One of the biggest differences between the Venge and the Trek is the aluminum alloy handlebar. The Trek is now my “B” bike and is used for rainy days, cold days and on my trainer.

Finally is my “C” bike, which is now shared with my wife.  It’s a ’91, all aluminum, Cannondale SR-400 though its fork is steel because aluminum is notoriously stiff though light – to have a front fork made of aluminum would make for quite the sucky ride.  This was quite the nice bike back in ’91 because the frame was only 3 pounds:
IMG_3683The Cannondale is a mixed ride when it comes to enjoyment.  First, it’s almost as fast as the Venge because it’s so damned stiff that you get every watt to the back wheel that can be delivered.  On the other hand, because it’s so stiff, riding on anything but perfect asphalt, sucks the life right out of your legs.  At around 22 pounds, the bike came in at around $36 per pound when it was new.

So far, I’ve got about 1,800 miles on the Cannondale, about 10,800 on the Trek and about 5,700 miles on the Venge (only about 2,000 as the bike is shown above, with all of the upgrades).

As for the question as to whether it’s worth it or not to ride a bike that goes for, pound for pound, about 4-1/2 times more than a Ferrari, what it boils down to is how much the price tag hurts.

As bike weight goes, you’ll notice a pound, so going from my 22 pound Cannondale to my 16-1/2 pound Venge is a huge difference and advantage. Then, and this is the biggest difference, there is feel. The feel of a composite bike over imperfect roads (and I used the proper word there, meaning “less than perfect”) is like night and day, even going from my Cannondale to a race bike like the Venge is a “night and day” difference. How this matters as far as speed goes, is tricky. An aluminum bike is a bit stiffer at the bottom bracket so the common sense dictates you get more power to the crank, right? Well not necessarily because there’s another factor that weighs into this. If the asphalt isn’t perfect, glass-smooth, every little imperfection will travel right up the bike and through your legs. Over long distances I found this to be absolutely demoralizing. With a composite bike you get none of that chatter so it’s actually more comfortable to push harder on the pedals.

As an example, on my normal weekday 16 or 20 miler, I have a stretch with a slight incline that spreads itself out over a half-mile on chip seal asphalt (chips of rock embedded in tar over the top of asphalt – it’s quite durable but “choppy” to ride on). The best I could hope for on my Cannondale on that stretch was 16-17 mph. On my Trek and Venge I can comfortably hold 20 mph. Not very scientific, but there is no doubt the carbon bikes are much faster on imperfect road surfaces. Not only that, over the longer distances the cumulative effect is that you’re fresher, longer.

The trick is, this can be overcome with a little determination and ignorance. If I could only have afforded an Allez Comp (entry-level aluminum frame with racing [105] components and a carbon fork $1,600), then I would never try riding a carbon fiber bike… If I don’t know what I’m missing, I’m more likely to learn to ride harder to keep up. If you’re riding with a group you end up making up the difference with determination and a little “want to”. This is specifically why I advocate only test-riding bikes at or under the top of your price range. Ignorance is bliss.

I ride with plenty of guys who can keep up with the main group on aluminum bikes so I would have to say a composite bike isn’t much in the way of a necessity, but only if you don’t know what you’re missing.

To test me, even if you can’t afford a $3,000 bike, save up for a carbon fiber handlebar and maybe even a stem. Put at least 10,000 miles on your bike as it is and then, mid-season, switch your alloy bar for the carbon. You’ll know what I’m talking about after your first bump. In short, unless you’re in no shape to afford it or under 30 years-old, a composite bike isn’t a necessity, it’s just a necessity.

The Weight to Cost Ratio of a Specialized Venge Comp to a Ferrrari 458 Italia… This will surprise you…

A friend of mine who writes The Road to Revelation commented on my post yesterday, about why I chose a Specialized Venge over a Ferrari 458 Italia (technically it’s a no-brainer, I couldn’t afford the insurance and upkeep, let alone the vehicle):

“…The Venge wins in the cost-benefit ratio all day long… Then consider the price per pound and it’s a runaway!”

Uh, not so fast, it’s that second part, the cost per pound:

Specialized Venge Comp (plus Upgrades):  $5,000 retail at 16.5 pounds: $303 per pound**

Ferrari 458 Italia:  $233,509 at 3,274 pounds: $71 per pound

Seriously.

Now, if we looked at the cost/benefit ratio, that would throw the weight back in favor of the Venge by an exceptionally wide margain:

This:
IMG_5168

Improved muscle tone
Weight loss
<1.724% Chance purchase will cause divorce
Improved heart health
Improved lung health
Greatly improved cancer odds
Stress relief
Improved work performance
Improved outlook on life
Allows for more enjoyable diet
Vastly improves odds against host of diseases

Cost/Benefit Ratio: $100:1

Or this:
IMG_6055

Ear to ear grin inducer
Improved Self-Esteem*

Cost/Benefit Ratio: $116,755:1

* Improved Self-Esteem… LOL 😂

**  The Retail Cost of a 2013 Specialized Venge Comp in 2013 was $3,700.  Upgraded Vuelta Corsa SLR Wheels $370, Cages:  $40, Specialized Aerofly Handlebar $350 (includes installation), FSA Carbon Wrapped Stem:  $160, Look Keo Classic Pedals:  $150 – that comes out to $4,770.  Add Sales Tax:  $5,050.  I didn’t pay near that much for everything.  The bike, once I finally had the cash in-hand to pay for it, was on sale for $3,100, the wheels are actual cost, as are the cages.  I paid local cycling club membership prices for the handlebar and stem.  My actual cost for the bike was closer to $4,200 or $254 per pound – but that’s still way over the cost of the Ferrari.

Why I Own A Super Bike (Rather Than a Ferrari)

Most people don’t know this but a 30,000 mile tune up on a Ferrari can cost more than $20,000. Most people get lost in the $233,509 price tag of a super sports car (Ferrari 458 Italia) without knowing that it’s the upkeep that crushes you. Even something as simple as a Cadillac or BMW can be ridiculously expensive to maintain – a Ferrari (or better, a Lamborghini) is next-level crazy. A friend of mine who has more mechanic’s certifications than I could list likes to call it “the difference between being able to afford the payment and being able to afford the car”. There is a very wide gap betwixt the two.

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Ferrari 458 Italia
The same can be said for bicycles but to a much more reasonable extent. I have about $4,000 into my bike – it’s not top-of-the line, but it’s nice, and a lot closer to tops than you might think. The only difference between my bike and a $10,000 dream machine is a couple of pounds, a set of $3,000 wheels, a nicer crank and cassette and an upgrade in shifters. There is no equal to my bike on the car market. I have one of the very best frames available, just with heavier (cheaper) wheels (1/4 – 1/2 pound between the two), a heavier crank (3/4’s to a pound) and heavier shifters (maybe 1/4 pound). I have made some upgrades too, $300 for the handlebar, $400 for wheels and $160 for a lighter, much sexier stem (well, as “sexier” as a stem can get anyway). Throw in $150 for pedals, $40 for H2O bottle cages and I’m well over $4,000 (if I’d paid full retail, I’d be approaching $5k).

Now bear in mind, my Venge is my full-on midlife crisis toy and it is more than I ever hoped for in fulfilling its purpose:
IMG_5184

Not quite a Ferrari but close enough for government work.

There are numerous benefits to choosing cycling over sports cars as a midlife crisis hobby:

1. An oil change for a bike costs about $0.45, takes ten minutes and can be done in my living room whilst watching a baseball game or movie. An oil change for a Ferrari must be done by a $100-$150 an hour highly trained technician.

2. Replacing a chain on my bike costs $50 – a new timing chain on a Ferrari would cost a month or two’s salary (if not more, guessing on this one).

3. Tires on my bike: $110 (for a nice set of racing tires). Tires for the Ferrari: $2,000 or more (and I guarantee I’d get more miles on a set of bike tires, about 4,000).

4. Transmission on a bike: <$1,000 (cassette, chain rings, shifters). Transmission on a Ferrari: “Sweet Jesus! No you can’t have my daughter”!

5. Gas for the Bicycle Engine: $0.06 per mile. Gas for the Ferrari: $0.24 per mile (at today’s price of $2.30 a gallon for premium unleaded)… And the bicycle engine fuel tastes a hell of a lot better too! Dude, you’re the engine! Feed the Engine™!

6. Weight lost per 100 miles on a bike: 1.57 pounds (give or take). Weight lost per 100 miles in a Ferrari: 0.00 pounds – unless you take into account that I couldn’t afford to eat, in that case, it’d be pretty close to a half-pound.

7. Insurance for my Venge (includes crashing the bike while riding, the helmet, wrecked clothing, etc.: $18 per month. insurance for a Ferrari: $1,200 per month (that’s more than my mortgage payment).

8. Fresh Air per mile on a bike: Full “Bugs-in-the-Teeth” Saturation $0.00. Fresh Air per mile in a Ferrari: 73% Saturation $20,000-$50,000 for the convertible package (ouch!).

The point is, folks, a super bike runs on my ass and gut fat, a Ferrari runs on my life savings (I’d have written “wallet” but who can stuff that much cash in a wallet?! Impossible!).

Winner by a Shit-ton:
IMG_4693

A very common question, amongst those riding an entry-level aluminum road bike, is, “Is a $4,000 bike worth it”? Well, yes and no.  The practicality is the aspect that can be debated… I’m just over 2 seconds per mile faster on my Venge than I would be on my Cannondale (see My Bikes, scroll down to the bottom) if all things were equal but they’re not. While I could easily make up that two or three seconds with a little extra “want to” on my part, my carbon fiber Venge is so much more comfortable to ride I can sustain a higher pace and cadence for a much greater distance (because it absorbs road chatter spectacularly).  Now, I’m not quite done yet because I didn’t go from the Cannondale to the Venge, I went from the Cannondale to a 13 year-old (at the time) used Trek 5200 to the Venge and the Trek is has a composite frame and it feels like riding a limo compared to the Cannondale.  The Venge, being a 56 cm compact frame, fitted my riding style better than the 58 cm Trek, after 14 years of technological advances in composite bike manufacturing, there are significant weight and comfort advantages to a newer bike, the color scheme and bike better fit a project that I wanted to delve into and finally, I worked hard for it – in part, it was a personal reward for a job well done in 2013.  I had been cycling for three years and I absolutely love it (as much today as I did then, if not more) and I was ready to commit to the sport as my main way of staying fit and trim – and the Venge was a part of that.

In one sense, yes it could be argued that I did spend more than I had to. I could have gotten a different bike with a carbon fiber frame cheaper, it just wouldn’t have matched everything that I wanted, perfectly.  That notwithstanding, and I’m not messing around here, the jump from an aluminum frame to a composite, in terms of a comfort to speed to distance ratio, is a leap of truly epic proportions in awesomeness. It’d be akin to the difference between driving a Chevy Cobalt and a Cadillac CTS-V. I am not exaggerating. I also can’t overemphasize the greatness of a carbon composite handlebar for quieting road chatter (the difference is amazing in the arms and hands). I have always loved cycling, no matter what I rode, but the difference between an all-aluminum bike and an all-carbon fiber bike is like my life drunk and my life after twenty-two years of active sobriety. It’s just a touch smoother. And because you don’t have that chop reverberating up your legs, putting greater power to the pedals is much more comfortable and sustainable.

Don’t take my word for it, take a composite bike for a test ride. You should feel it immediately. Then, after about 6,000-10,000 miles, trade that alloy handlebar for a composite bar. I couldn’t be happier with the money I spent on my bike(s) and the subsequent upgrades. They were worth every penny.

Either way, my bike is my toy. It’s my one thing that I get to look at on a daily basis and say, “Thank God for my job and for hard work and for the blessing it is to be me”… And it keeps me young and healthy in the process of using it.  Is it necessary to own a super bike?  Well that depends on your definition of necessary. In my case, I’ll never willingly go back to an aluminum frame, not at my age, but my definition of necessary absolutely includes my Venge.

Either way, when it comes to cycling as a midlife crisis hobby, you can’t beat it with a stick. Or a Ferrari.

You know it’s cold when the fog freezes…

Ah yes, winter is here but with only 1-1/2 months left to March, I can do this standing on my melon!

On walking out the front door to start my vehicle, I felt a sensation I dread every year… The first day my residual snot instantly freezes in my nose. -10 degrees Fahrenheit is the cutoff. Not minus three, not minus eight, minus ten degrees Fahrenheit .

It was actually -13. Damn.

Many people don’t get to experience this kind of cold. They know when the air temp cools if the ground was warm (or vice versa) you get fog. Well, when it’s minus 13, this is what fog looks like:

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That fog is frozen though – those are ice crystals suspended in mid-air. We’ve had frozen fog for two days in a row and while you do have to watch your speed, it is absolutely breathtaking to drive through – even better in the morning when your headlamp beams reflect off of the crystals. I didn’t snap a picture because there’s no way it could have done the experience justice.

In any event, no outdoor cycling this week. Been cranking the miles out on the trainer.

This Girl Can… Well, Let’s Just Say Irony’s a Bitch.

Every now and again I let myself get fired up over the ignorance displayed by certain grievance-driven groups, I mentioned so in my post yesterday. Well, what do you know, a perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about… And frankly, another reason I should leave righteous indignation to others.

Women have been trying to convince themselves (and anyone else who will listen), for decades now, that they should be able to accept themselves as they are and not as they believe they’re seen by “society” [ED Hate to be the bearer of bad news but there isn’t anything between you and acceptance but air and opportunity – it’s none of your business what someone else thinks about you]. Unfortunately, that belief is often carried into the solution. At the same time, “society” has sought to get men fired up about women’s sports, lamenting the lack of support for anything that doesn’t require a string bikini as the uniform… And we decent, level-headed Twenty-First Century men do our Sunday best to give a damn.

Then, along comes a video that squanders a perfect opportunity:

I know it’s a wasted opportunity because I dutifully watched the whole clip… Here are two screenshots from that video, a double-take was required:
IMG_6048IMG_6049
Deal with it? Oh, we’re all supposed to get all weepy at some football players and stars getting weepy when it comes to talking about the abuse of women but left to their own, what do the women of “This Girl Can” do? They put out a juvenile double entendre about kicking a guy in the sack – about doing exactly that which we are supposed to deem abhorrent forevermore.

Brilliant.

Makes a feel long for the good ole days…

I won’t link the blog from which I viewed the video because I greatly respect the woman who writes it and in truth, her kindness helped me with my father’s passing quite a bit – this post is not about her anyway…she didn’t make or edit the video (the “movement” originated in the UK). On the other hand, I do find it awesome when the shoe ends up on the other foot.

Irony, ladies. It ain’t the shit chastity belts are made of.

Now that the rant is over, here’s the reality behind the politics.  I really do get it and I’m not all that upset about the fact that a female soccer player does indeed kick balls and I most certainly can deal with it.  On the other hand ladies, you can’t have it both ways – you can’t decry violence against women while promoting violence against men.

Is this a little nitpicky?  Possibly, but I’m not the one who created this culture, this tendency to find grievance with every little written word.  Nope, I’m just a squirrel living in that world.

Please, Just Call Me Jim… The Origin of “Bgddyjim”

When I started this blog three years ago, as one would expect, the username “Jim” was taken.

I had the woman who designed my business website helping me with the blog setup over the phone and one of the first (if not the first) items on the agenda was picking that all important username… Interestingly, I believed I’d be relatively successful at blogging – I’ve always fancied myself a fair writer, even though I’m quite under-educated – so I wanted to pick something that would A) Stick out in the crowd, B) Be funny, C) Be slightly offensive to certain grievance-driven social groups and D) “would begin a comprehensive discussion challenging the acceptance of common roles in a traditional marriage… Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah” [Dammit]… You know what? I have a tough time with Political BS English so let me just use plain English: Folks, the arrogance, call it cockiness, exuded in calling oneself “Big Daddy”is huge… I am, almost without exception, the best-looking man in the room, anywhere I go (or so I am often told) but I really don’t think that highly of myself. Granted, I walk into a party where Hugh Grant, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are in attendance, I’m just as hit as Honey Boo-Boo’s mom but in the real world, I’m pretty smokin’. Now, a certain segment of the population is going to see that nickname and be immediately turned off, even angered, by the assumed level of arrogance required to pick that nickname in the first place and that’s the idea. My over-doing of the arrogance, even though I am anything but, helps keep this blog relatively jerk-free.

Now for the true origin of “BgddyJim”, my wife’s nickname for me, for years had been “Big Daddy”. That was an answer to my nickname for her: “Babymama”… Before you get all fired up because you don’t know the context, I am, and have always been, an Elvis man (as opposed to a Beatles man – please see Pulp Fiction for the explanation). “Babymama” was chosen as the “Elvis”, southern, term of endearment, not the newer “producer of my babies” term which I find quite deplorable.

With that background, I took “Bgddyjim”.

So, while it may be commonplace to use a person’s nickname when commenting on a post or replying to a comment, That’s not necessary with me. Dude, just call me Jim.