Razik Vortex First Impressions: Play Kerplunk, Look Exotic, Grate Cheese

03.13.2014 | 2:21 pm

Sixish years ago, I wrote An Open Letter to Delta 7 Sports, Maker of the Arantix Mountain Bike, where I related my impressions of the then-new Isotruss frame. It’s one of the most popular posts I ever wrote, in spite of the fact that it’s possible I made an occasional sarcastic remark therein.

To my surprise, in spite of the considerable attention I brought to them, the good folks at Delta 7 never invited me to come take a ride on one of their bikes. 

And then Delta 7 became known as much for the way their bikes self-destructed during the 2008 Interbike Outdoor demo day as for their exotic-looking (with pricing to match) spiderwebbish frames, and  went out of business. Imagine that. 

I wept bitter tears, knowing  I would likely never get a chance to ride something that looked like a bike mated with a Hoberman Sphere

Well. Never say never. Except for when you’re saying “never say never,” in which case it’s perfectly fine to say it twice in a single sentence.

All of this is, of course, the nonsensical preamble to the fact that a new company—Razik Bicycles—has emerged, rising from the ashes of Delta 7 like some unholy latticework-constructed phoenix. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way, naturally.) And last Saturday, I got to spend an hour or so riding one myself.

And this is what I thought.

How It Looks

Let’s start with how the bike looks, because–love it or hate it–there’s no getting around the fact that the Razik Vortex is eye-catching.

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Heath Thurston of Razik lifts the Vortex.

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The frame, up close. Yup, took this shot with my phone. Steady hands, eh?

There’s an exotic geekiness to the look of this material, and you’re going to make your own decision as to whether you like it. In photos, I don’t. Not really. It’s too “We’re doing this because we can” for me. But when I looked at it in person, the wildness of the material kind of grabbed me. I was drawn to the rough, Klingon-y look of the Isotruss weave, and I thought, “Well, that looks pretty darned cool.”

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Let’s Ride

Heath at Razik was awesome enough to let The Hammer and me take a couple of the demo bikes and ride them for half an hour or so. Which, by the way, turned into 90 minutes, since neither The Hammer nor I have anything that resembles a sense of direction; we got lost and rode around the industrial warehouse maze for quite a while. In fact, it’s only due to a rare piece of luck that we aren’t still out there now.

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Foolishly, as The Hammer and I began our ride, Heath did not ask what I was carrying in my jersey pockets, which I figure he’s going to regret in about three paragraphs.

I tooled around for a few hundred yards, getting a feel for the bike, then I stood up and sprinted, wanting to see whether these airy tubes made for a flexy frame. 

Nope. The Vortex sprints great. Stand up, grab the drops and fly. Not flexy at all. Which brings up the question, is it too rigid? The answer is easy: it’s not. The lousy chip seal roads we were riding on are buzzy and harsh, but the Vortex smoothed it out.

As far as handling goes, the Vortex corners nice and tight. In fact, it’s a little too tight for my taste, with a shorter wheelbase than I’m used to. Riding hands-free takes more concentration than usual, and turns can feel just a little twitchy. Part of this, granted, may be that I had to ride a 56cm frame, which was too big (I usually ride a 52). 

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To be honest, though, the ride characteristics of the frame material — the Isotruss carbon weave — are almost impossible to tease out. The frame is light, sure, but no lighter than other carbon frames. It’s stiff when you pedal, but frame stiffness is absolutely a choice nowadays, not a material characteristic. It dampens out some chip seal buzz, but adjusting your tire width and pressure affect that ride attribute way more than your frame choice.

There were a couple of things I thought might be a problem that turned out to not be problems at all. It was a windy day when we rode, and so I listened for whistling from the frame. I confess to being disappointed that there was none. 

I wondered if rocks would get stuck and rattle around in the frame, so I stopped at the side of the road, picked up a few pieces of gravel, and dropped them into the frame. At which point I found that anything that falls into the frame easily also falls out of the frame easily. Which, alas, deprives me of getting to say, “They should have named this the Razik Rattler.”

Dammit.

There were two things that bugged me, however. First, the tubes—including the top tube— are thick, and the Isotruss weave juts out. So the inside of my knees and legs grazed the top tube pretty often.

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Did they graze the top tube more often than they do on my own bike? I honestly don’t know. But I certainly noticed it more often.

Next, the brake cable comes out of the frame at an odd place, so it extends out (to the left) rather than up. The inside of my (admittedly massive) quads bumped this cable dozens of times  during the ride. Would I eventually adapt? Probably. But should I have to?

So, do I like it? Sure. Does it ride well? Sure (again), but some will like it more than others…which is true for every bike in the world. Was the ride life-changing? No. 

Is it wild-looking and eye-catching? Yes. In fact, for the first time ever, a couple of guys on recumbents going the other way actually swiveled their heads as I went by.

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Although if I were the Razik marketing guy, I might be hesitant to go with the tagline, “Even wackier-looking than recumbents.”

Bonus Features

To think of the Razik Vortex simply as a bike—something to ride—is a mistake. It is so much more, as I took the time to discover while on my test ride.

First and foremost, what other frame allows you to do this? 

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The ability to grate some cheese for a mid-ride picnic cannot be overestimated. Nor the ability to strain pasta with your bike. 

And what if you and (up to three) of your riding companions (ages 4 and above) gets bored of riding and wants to mix things up a bit? Well, with the Razik Vortex, a handful of gravel, and some coffee stirrers (or, in a pinch, twigs from a tree), you’re all set for an afternoon of KerPlunk-style fun:

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And don’t even get me started on what a cool tanning pattern you might be able to give yourself if you were to lay out in the sun with this bike on top of you. 

Other Things That I Should Probably Mention

What haven’t I talked about yet? Well, how about the fact that Razik bikes are fabricated and handbuilt in Utah. Check out this in-process, pre-baked tube: 

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I only wish they’d leave that metal tube in the completed bike. Now that would be Klingon-y.

And the whole handmade-in-Utah thing is at least partially where the price comes from: a frame costs $3999. That’s a lot. And once you build it up, you’re going to be looking at a $10,000 bike. [UPDATE: Heath at Razik tells me you can get a Shimano Ultegra build for under $5799; this isn’t yet on the website but he tells me it will be soon.] If you want to go top-end electronic (Shimano Di2 Dura Ace, Campy Super Record EPS), you’re looking at $15k or above.

Which is not unheard of. For an exotic builder, in fact, it’s not even outrageous.

But Razik has some Delta 7 baggage it’s automatically saddled with, and if I were them (which I’m not), I’d focus on getting those prices down and on making it clear that this is not Delta 7. I’d be clear that Delta 7 was focusing on the novelty of Isotruss, instead of focusing on being a good bike manufacturer that happens to be using Isotruss for a frame material. 

And I’ll be interested to see what else Razik builds — Razik says they’re going to build a FS mountain bike, as well as a 29er hardtail.

Is the Razik Vortex the new dream bike, made with a new dream material? Well, ninety minutes of riding in a flat industrial park (fifteen of which was spent taking ridiculous photos) is probably not enough to answer that question.

I will tell you this: I’d be interested in riding one built my size, on a big climb. I have a feeling the Vortex might shine there. 

And if not, well, at least I’ll have the wherewithal to make a nice cheese and pasta dish at the summit.

 

Last Day to Register for Weight Loss Challenge (Plus Helpful Tips)

03.11.2014 | 10:44 am

A week ago, I posted an announcement for the FatCyclist / Beeminder Challenge.

So far, more than 100 of you (including The Hammer and me) have signed up. Which means that more than 100 of us are serious about hitting our weight goals by June 21, and that we’ve raised more than $2000 for World Bicycle Relief.

That is awesome. 

Today, I wanted to let you know that it’s the last day you can register. 

Tomorrow, we reset the points back to 0, and the contest begins for reals. 

So now seems like a good time for me to give you a link to details of how the challenge works, along with a link to register.

And give some helpful tips for making it easy to leave comments to each other, as well as maximize your points right off the bat.

Use Retroratchet TODAY 

When you start a Beeminder program, Beeminder automatically gives you a weeklong grace period — time for you to get on the good side of the yellow brick road. And, probably, even to get below the yellow brick road before the road starts dropping down. Like my chart, here:

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Normally, that’s awesome. Because it feels good to look at the chart and be able to say to yourself, “I’m doing great. I’m doing better than what’s expected of me.” 

But with this contest, when you’re below the yellow brick road (green dot territory), you are getting only two points per day, instead of the three you get when you’re on the good side of the yellow brick road (blue dot territory).

So, today you can use the “Retroratchet” feature to drag the yellow brick road to wherever you are, and adjust the path of that road toward your goal starting today. 

Here’s what my chart looks like after I used Retroratchet:

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Tada! Now instead of being way below the yellow brick road, I’m on the yellow brick road for when the contest starts in earnest (i.e., tomorrow). This way, everyone who has signed up has the same fair chance of doing well in the contest, regardless of how they did during the practice period.

Note that for the purpose of this contest, today is the only day you can use Retroratchet. After that, the feature will be disabled so you can’t constantly drag the yellow brick road to where you are, giving yourself more points in the process.

Also note that Retroratchet is a two-edged sword. You can use it today to put yourself on the yellow brick road, but by doing so you eliminate any buffer you might have built up by getting below the yellow brick road. And that means if you mess up, your odds of derailing are better.

So, do you want to Retroratchet? It’s up to you. I did, because I’m confident I can keep up my progress, and felt I had too much buffer, which for me is an incentive to slack off.

How do you “Retroratchet?” Well, log in to Beeminder and go to your personal page. Below your chart, you’ll see several links in a tab format, like this: 

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Click the “Retroratchet” link and then click the Retroratchet button. Suddenly, you’re right in the middle of the yellow brick road, and whatever safety buffer you’ve built up this week is gone

It’s a gamble. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth taking.

Comments

One thing I’ve really liked in past weight loss challenges is being able to leave encouraging comments (and where appropriate, encouraging taunts) to each other, so I asked the folks at Beeminder to add a Comments feature. Impressively, they did it pretty much instantly.

So now you can go to anyone’s personal page (the Leaderboard is a good way to see others’ pages) and leave a comment. Just look below the chart, log in with any of your popular social media logins, and you’re set to leave a comment. Easy.

Good luck with joining, and meeting your goals. This contest is gonna be great. 

Bad Stuff That Became Awesome Stuff

03.10.2014 | 10:25 am

First came the fires. 

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Specifically, back in July of 2012, Lambert Park — a small but well-crafted network of singletrack at the foot of the mountains above Alpine, UT, just one mile from where I live — caught fire in a huge way. 

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It could have been a lot worse,” we said. Presciently, as it turns out. 

Because a year later, the floods came. And they were amazing. Without any vegetation holding the water back, it cut an amazing gash down the mountain.

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That’s me, standing at the bottom of one of the trenches the water cut — it was well more than twenty feet deep and thirty feet wide. 

And all those rocks and dirt that the water picked up? Well, they had to wind up somewhere.

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Anywhere the water went, it left boulders behind.

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Yeah, that trail suddenly gets a lot more technical right there. 

And honestly, I didn’t think the flooded, rock-strewn part of Lambert Park would ever be rideable again.

And I am so happy to announce that not only was I mistaken, but I was mistaken in the best possible way.

UtahMountainBiking.com To The Rescue

UtahMountainBiking.com is one of the sites pretty much every single mountain biker in Utah knows about — it’s the best resource there is for getting ride information and access info for trails throughout Utah. 

But they also do a lot of trail work.

So after the rains and the floods, the UtahMountainBiking.com guys got to work. Within a few days — amazingly — they got parts of the trail into rideable condition.

And then more rain…and floods… came.

I thought it was over; I assumed this section of Lambert Park was done. 

And I was wrong. The UTMTB guys went back at it.

And they made the trail better than it used to be. Specifically, they took the Zag trail, which used to be one of the least interesting trails in the park, and turned it into a fun and challenging ride.

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It’s twisty and technical, but if you pay attention you can keep your momentum.

The Hammer and I have been out to Lambert every day for the past few days; the trail salvaged by the the UTMB folks has become our favorite.

Who’d have expected that fire plus flood could equal a fantastic reimagining of a new trail? 

Thanks, UtahMountainBiking.com guys. You’re amazing.

You + Me + Beeminder = Weight Loss (With Accountability) Starting Today

03.4.2014 | 1:31 pm

The Hammer and I were in Southern Utah last weekend.

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Hiking. 

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Biking.

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And in general just having a great time. 

As we rode and hiked, however, I constantly noticed something: my gut. I’ve managed to put back on a bunch of the weight I dropped last year (which is why all the pictures I’m showing above are of The Hammer, not of me). And it seems that, in the absence of an imminent race or a reason to keep my feet to the fire, I haven’t dropped much of it at all since the beginning of the year. (And what little I had dropped, I’ve put back on during our anniversary trip).

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one who’s put on a few pounds during the winter months. And I suspect I’m not the only one who hasn’t done that fantastic of a job with keeping the weight off, and who would like to lighten up before summer gets into full swing.

So: time for a weight loss contest.

Fair warning, though: this is not something you will want to join unless you are committed now, and plan to stay committed for the next few months (at least). Because this is a contest with some teeth. 

The Short Version

I’ve partnered up with my friends at Beeminder to create a weight-loss contest. It’s not about how much you lose, and it’s not about how fast you lose it. It’s about setting a goal, then staying committed to the goal and being accountable when you slip up. 

Between now and Summer Solstice (June 21), you’re going to need to weigh and report in every day. As long as you stay on track (or better than on track), you earn points that will keep you up on the leaderboard. At the end of which, either the outright winner or a person randomly drawn from all the tied winners (because that’s possible and even likely) will win a pair of Rapha bibshorts (worth $235), which I am going to pay for myself. 

So, that’s the carrot. But there’s also a stick. 

Every time you go off-track, it will — very literally — cost you. And the more times you go off track, the more it’s going to cost. 

It’s a tough program. And if you’re serious about losing some weight, maybe a program tough enough to hurt when you cheat might be what you need, too.

And I’m stoked to get started.

The Details

So here’s how it works. 

First, you go to the sign-up page at beeminder.com/fatcyclist. Toward the bottom of the page, you’ll have the options to sign up for Beeminder and set your current and target weight (i.e., the weight you want to be at on June 21). 

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The first thing you need to do is click the “Need to Sign up for Beeminder” link, which will let you sign in using your Twitter or FB account, or just signing up with Beeminder itself. 

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 Once you’ve registered, you can set your current weight and your target weight:

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And then you’ve got to have your credit card ready, because in order to sign up for this contest, you’ve got to ante up with the $19.95 entry fee. Why a $19.95 entry fee? Three reasons:

  1. I don’t want people signing up who don’t intend to play for reals. Consider this $19.95 an “are you serious” test. 
  2. To raise money for a good cause. Your $19.95 is completely in support of The Hammer’s fundraising efforts as a new ambassador for World Bicycle Relief. As in, all of your ante goes to WBR. 
  3. Because $19.95 is a bargain. Hey, it’s less than $20.00! (Isn’t it clever how I used psychological tactics to make what is essentially a $20 purchase feel like less than $20? I’m the first person to do that, ever.)

Once you’ve paid your $19.95 (via credit card), you’re all set to go and are taken to your own personal page. You should bookmark this page and come back every day to report your weight (Beeminder also has options where you can text and email your weight in, keeping it all pretty darned convenient). 

Recording And Understanding Your Data

As you record your weight each day, Beeminder builds you a graph, giving you a good sense of how you’re progressing toward your goal. Here’s a look at mine, from last year’s weight loss effort:

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There’s a lot going on there, and it will take a little time for you to be able to read it at a glance, but you can grasp the basics easily:

  • The Yellow Band: The yellow band going down the chart is called “the yellow brick road” and is the range of weight you want to be at to hit your goal. If you can keep your weight somewhere on the road, you’re doing OK. 
  • The Dotted Orange Center Line: If you can keep your weight below the dotted orange center line, you’re doing awesome. 
  • The Dot Colors: Each dot is a weigh-in data point. A green dot means you’re actually below the good side of the road. A blue dot means you’re on the “good” side of the road, below the dotted center line. An orange dot means you’re in danger: you’re still on the road, but in danger of moving off it. And a red dot means you’ve moved off the wrong side of the road — you’ve derailed — and you’re going to have to pay up.

Of course, your chart won’t look like the one above for a while. Here’s my new one:

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From here, I can see my yellow brick road for getting from where I am now (172.4) to 158, by June 21. And I’m determined to stay on (or really really close to) the “good side” of that yellow brick road for the duration of the contest. Watch me fill this graph up with data as time progresses. Darn it, there’s gonna be lots and lots of blue dots.

Of Points and Prizes and Data

For the duration of this contest, you can earn points. Here’s how:

  • 3 points: Every day you’re on the right side of the yellow brick road (a blue dot), you get three points.
  • 2 points: You get 2 points every day you outperform the yellow brick road (a green dot). Yes, you get fewer points for losing weight too fast. This isn’t a contest about crash dieting; it’s a contest about being slow and steady.
  • 1 point: Every day you’re on the wrong side of the yellow brick road (orange dot), you get one point.
  • 0 points: If you go off the yellow brick road or don’t report your weight for the day, you get 0 points. 

During the registration period (now until midnight, March 11), points are for practice. On March 12, everyone’s points reset to 0 and the contest begins in earnest. Whoever has the most points on June 21 wins a pair of what have become my favorite cycling luxury item — Rapha Classic Bib Shorts (or the women’s equivalent thereof). If there’s a tie for first place, I’ll draw from the winners randomly. If I win, I’ll buy the shorts for myself.

Why an expensive pair of bib shorts? Because these are really good shorts. I love mine. I have two pair (one that Rapha comped me, and one that I told The Hammer I wanted for Christmas because then I can pretty much wear them for every ride).

The Stick

So, what happens when you derail and go off the bad side of the yellow brick road? 

Well, the first time, you get a warning. It doesn’t cost you anything. The second time, it costs you $5, which is charged to the credit card you give when you start this contest. The next time, it costs $10. Then $30. Then $90. Then $270. And so forth. 

So yeah. You don’t want to derail more than three times. Or four at the most. Because that’s going to hurt.

So, once again: you shouldn’t sign up unless you’re really, truly committed to making a change and sticking to your program ’til at least June 21. 

By the way, half of your “derail” money goes to WBR, and the other half goes to the folks at Beeminder, who deserve to make at least a little money off this project.

But What If You’re Freaked Out by the Derailment Escalation?

If you want to join but simply cannot deal with the hardcore escalation of Beeminder, you can change that from your personal page by clicking the Settings link (it looks like a gear), then deselecting the “Increase pledge” checkbox:

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Be sure to save your changes (the site will warn you if you try to leave without saving, by the way). 

Sign Up Now

Okay, enough jibber-jabber. It’s time to sign up. Weigh in and get out your credit card. And then start posting your weigh-in info every day — and watch to see how others are doing over at the leaderboard.

You stand to win a pair of very nice shorts, and you stand to lose whatever weight you’ve been wanting to get rid of forever, but haven’t been quite motivated enough to really step up your game. 

Sign up now. And I’ll see you on the leaderboard

PS: The Beeminder folks have promised to watch this site and answer your questions as you sign up and configure your goals. 

Concession Speech

02.28.2014 | 12:38 pm

A Note from Fatty: Remember when I talked about the weight loss grace period? How I was giving us until the beginning of March to lose weight without having to divulge our starting weight? How I was giving us one last try at keeping our new year’s weight loss resolutions without subjecting ourselves to public humiliation and ridiculous gamification tactics?

Well, that grace period is about over. 

I won’t be posting Monday cuz that’s The Hammer’s and my anniversary (our fourth) and we’ll be out cycling and hiking in Southern Utah. But this Tuesday I’ll be revealing a new weight loss contest — one that focuses on accountability and long-term success. 

So. Find your scale. We’re about to lose some weight together.

Concession Speech

Good morning. Thank you for taking the time to be here today. I have a short statement to make, and then will answer questions.

I am a competitive person. I love a challenge, and have in fact based an inordinate amount of my adult life on my willingness to participate in contests, whether the contest is a weight-loss contest, or a race.

Because of this trait—call it a weakness if you will—I agreed to a weight loss contest with Adam Schwarz last year. We both succeeded in our goals (although he has since kept his weight off, while I have not). 

Following the conclusion of this contest and my subsequent participation in last year’s inaugural St. George Half Ironman, Adam challenged me to race him in the 2014 edition of this race.

Recklessly, I agreed.

Since that time I have watched, chagrined, as Adam related his podium positions in numerous triathalons, not to mention his relentless training in all three disciplines.

Meanwhile, I have enjoyed what I like to call my “off season.” Which is to say, I have ridden little, and eaten much. And have reaped what I have sown.

And in short, I am currently as pudgy as a pot-bellied pig.

Clearly, Adam would handily defeat me in St. George. I began  to mentally compose my mental blog post, wherein I would set forth my list of excuses, in a manner that somehow was simultaneously self-deprecating and convincing. It wouldn’t be an easy challenge, but I felt like I was up to the task: I would lose the race between Adam and me, then write a post that cheerfully acknowledged his win while making it seem trivial and ridiculous. 

And then, suddenly, I was confronted by a genuine, actual problem: Kenny — without consulting me, if you can believe it — had the temerity to have his fiftieth birthday on the same weekend as the St. George Half Ironman.

Further, Kenny elected to host his annual Ride Around White Rim in One Day (RAWROD, where I — almost nine years ago — got the idea for this blog) on that same weekend.

And then Bob said he’s coming. And so is Dug. And Ricky. And in short, the whole core team. And possibly a very recent winner of Survivor. And they’re riding the 7Up – Mag7 trail the day before RAWROD. And then having brats the night before.

And in short, Kenny is putting on what I would describe as the most perfect Moab weekend possible for his fiftieth birthday.

And I just don’t want to miss that. Which is to say, I won’t miss it. Which is to say, I’m going to Moab.

For this reason, I feel it is necessary for me to proclaim to the world that — had we raced the St. George Half Ironman — Adam would have absolutely, positively kicked my ass. 

He would have demolished me. Destroyed me. Left me sad, lonely, and questioning my life choices.

Let’s take a look at my splits from last year: 

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My swim time was 41:32 (pathetic). My bike time was 2:29 (pretty fantastic). And my run time was 2:06 (astonishingly slow).

Now let’s assume that this year I would have been exactly the same as I was last year (in spite of the fact that my current fitness is nowhere like where I was this time last year).

I get the sense that had we raced, he would have been about eleven minutes faster out of the water than I was. That puts him at 30 minutes. 

On the bike, things would have gone (somewhat) better for me. Thanks to the fact that I live about 3,000 feet higher than St. George and he lives about 3,000 feet lower than it, combined with the fact that I own a high-zoot TT bike and he doesn’t, I would have reversed the time deficit, so I would be five minutes ahead of him. That gives him a cumulative time of 3:20.

And then he would have slaughtered me on the run. There’s no two ways around that fact. I am not running at all this year. Every time I’ve tried, I’ve been crippled for about a week after. Meanwhile, Adam has taken to running as if it were actually an enjoyable sport, rather than a hideous mockery of all that is good in the universe of exercise options.

Hence, let’s be generous (to me) and say that Adam would be about a minute per mile faster than I am. He’d do the run in 1:53, for a total time of 5:18. 

All up, this totals out to him beating me by approximately eight minutes. That’s close, yes. But still a clear and convincing win. 

My speculative numbers don’t lie, probably. Adam would have beat me. And thus I concede to him. 

Adam, you are the superior athlete. I bow down to you.

That said, I reserve the right to retract this concession if Adam has a slower race time than 5:26:07. And don’t think I won’t be checking.

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