Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Win this Bike and help fight childhood Exploitation

The statistics are mind numbing.  Every month, 375 young girls are trafficked into Georgia, the state in which I live, for the purpose of prostitution.  The average age of these young girls is 14, but young girls as young as ten have also been exploited. I have donated a bicycle to be raffled off with 100% of the proceeds going to StreetGRACE an alliance of churches, community partners, and volunteers dedicated to the elimination of childhood sexual exploitation.  Your donations will go to the advocacy, aftercare, and mentoring of these young victims.  Stop the candy shop, get involved and help us stop the horror of childhood sexual exploitation.  Just $5.00 will get you a ticket for a chance to win a new Gazelle Chamonix Xtra, you do not have to be present to win, and we will have the drawing before Easter.

About the bike, the Gazelle Chamonix Extra is an 8 speed hand built beauty from the Gazelle factory in Dieren, Holland.  This is the Rolls Royce of bicycles, it comes with full factory warranty, and features too numerous to list.  The bike is on display at Nearly New Thrift a non profit thrift store located at 123 West Main Street in Buford, Georgia.  Kate, the owner, ran a successful bike shop there for over a decade, then about three months ago decided it was time to give back.  Kate is still the best bike mechanic in these neck of the woods, and she will  still work on your bike if you ask her, she still has her service area in the thrift store, but all her fees go to charity.  Kate says it's in her blood, when we spoke today she was replacing some transistors in a donated big screen TV.

About the raffle, as I said you do not have to be present to win.  We are a 501(c) so all donations are tax deductible.  You can stop by Nearly New Thrift and see the bike and buy some tickets, if you want to mail a check, make it out to StreetGrace, and send it to 123 West Main Street, Buford, GA 30518. Be sure to enclose your email and phone number so I can contact you and give you your drawing number(s).    Each ticket is $5.00, no limitation as to how many you can buy.

For you out of state or out of country readers that would like to contribute,  if you win and are within 300 miles of Atlanta I will personally deliver the bike to you.  Farther than that, we ask that you pay just for shipping, we will box the bike up and take care of those details, just let us know which method you want us to use, or send us a shipping label.  If you have any questions, please contact me at matthewforbes@charter.net

Thank you for your support, the drawing is scheduled for April 21st, 2011 in downtown Buford,  I will let everyone know the time so hopefully you can attend. Updates to come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quit jammin' Me-Anyone for some common Sense?

I'm not in the bicycle business because I think everyone should ditch their cars, put solar panels on their roofs, and only eat seaweed, I'm in it because I enjoy cycling for the pure fun of it.  Remember when you were a kid, playing cards in the spokes, a make shift cape made from a towel, flying down the hill pretending to be Superman? Remember when the "Chopper" craze hit about 1967,  Schwinn started making those Krate and Stingray bikes with the shifter built right on top of the frame, really cool until you caught the "twins" on the shifter knob, which you would do about every time you got on or off the bike. My brother was older so one Christmas he got a Lemon Peel and I got your basic Murray single speed.  I think my dad eventually felt sorry for me, so one weekend he brought home a used fork from another bike and we cut the two forks in half and fabricated a chopper fork for my Murray.  Now that Murray is a crap brand made in China, if you have a newer Murray bike and want to do the fork fabrication thing, don't go through the hassle of cutting the fork, just ride over a few bumps and the fork will split for you.  My Murray was American made and built to last, and with the chopper fork it did everything I asked it to do except turn.

Common sense says that very few people here in America are fortunate enough to be able to commute by bike to work on a regular basis.  The roads and infrastructure are just not bike friendly in most urban areas. Here where I live the county commission just approved $1.2 million for a bike path which is good news indeed, even if the new bike path will only connect certain public parks and not really have much of an impact on commuting to city centers.  But it is a start and will encourage more folks to start riding again.  Most of the designated bike paths where I live are not what Europeans know as bike paths, here they are just a four foot wide striped lane on the side of the road, and ironically are mostly on sparsely traveled rural back roads.  As soon as you get to a major intersection or close to a heavy populated area you get a sign that reads "End of Bike Lane" and the single designated stripe is gone. The bottom line for people deciding if commuting to work by bicycle is an option for them is practicality. It doesn't matter how many Green Peace, Save the Wales, Kiss Me I Recycle stickers you have on your bike, if you work thirty miles from home as the majority of people do in the county where I live, commuting by bike is not practical.

Unless you are Ed Begley, Jr.  For those unfamiliar with Ed, he is a B list actor here in the US and one of the many self proclaimed guardians of the planet, think Al Gore and that liar Paul Watson from the Sea Shepperd Society.  But Ed can walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to bicycling to and fro. On Saturday you may see Ed in his cycle garb (he never takes his helmet off when the cameras are rolling just so you evil planet killers know he rode his bike here) at a benefit for the Spotted Owl in Hollywood, and then on Sunday here comes Ed rolling up at a fund raiser for the Dimpled Beaver in Denver.  And since Ed wants you to think he rode his bike to Denver from Hollywood overnight, he's out of breath and chugging on a bottled water. And of course Ed will recycle that water bottle even if it does cost twice as much in energy to recycle a plastic water bottle than it does to produce a new one. Here's a clip of Ed's tires coming off the rims in an interview with Fox News http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-rFmnhIdes  Hey Ed, quit jammin' me.

The benefits of bike riding are numerous, it's good for you health, it's cheap, it's fun, and yes it is environmentally beneficial.  But how eco friendly can it be, I mean they make bike racks for cars for a reason.  Just a week ago the BPA Power Company in Eugene, Oregon drafted a policy that would turn off several energy wind turbines because they are producing too much power.  The Endangered Species Act makes it a federal crime to shoot a bald eagle which is good, but also makes it a federal crime to pick up a feather from a bald eagle if you happen to find one laying in your front yard.  And if God forbid a couple of bald eagles decide to build a nest in a tree on your property, guess who has to move out?  Which is why some people may be inclined to shoot an animal on the endangered species list, it happens a lot for that very reason. In Georgia where I live, you cannot purchase alcohol on Sunday, but you can drive to a bar and drink enough to float a battleship and then drive home and hope you don't kill somebody.  Where's the common sense?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chevy Volt rhymes with Dolt

Today I think I will weigh in the highly anticipated electric car from General Motors, the Volt.  This offering from GM is going to make the Vega look like the greatest feat of automotive engineering of all time.  Which is not surprising when you consider that the US government is involved, much like the Post Office, this lemon is going to cost us taxpayers a boat load of money. At first glance, the Volt seemed like a game changer based on the initial specs from GM, 230mpg in city driving, a small gasoline engine to charge the batteries, but not used to power the car, a car Jesus would drive.  Problem is, GM lied.  Big time lied.

The Volt costs over $40,000.00 and here is what you are getting for your investment. The Volt gets around 25 miles on a fully charged battery before the engine takes over, so make sure you fill up the gas tank (Premium only) before you head to grandma's. And the good news is, once the battery is out of juice and the engine kicks in, expect to get about 37mpg, less than the 40mpg the 2011 Ford Focus gets and the Ford costs over 20k less than the Volt.  You can buy a lot of gas for the difference. But say you are fortunate to have a daily commute of less than twenty five miles, and you never venture out of your neighborhood, basically never go anywhere, then the Volt may be for you. However a better alternative may be an e-bike, or electric bicycle.

E-bikes are becoming very popular,  globally there were 26 million e-bikes sold last year, an increase of 81%.  Several cities in China have banned gasoline powered mopeds and scooters which has contributed to the increase in demand for electric bicycles.  Being involved with Dutch bicycle manufacturer Gazelle, I am familiar with their line up of e-bikes.  Basically, they provide pedal assist in two modes, Eco and Power, and have a range three times that of the Volt, up to 75 miles. The lithium ion battery sits under the rear bike rack and can be removed and charged anywhere there is a wall socket.  You can ride the bike like you would any bike, and if you get a little fatigued, or start to sweat on the way to work, just hit one of the assist buttons for a little help. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAOjBrmTQKE

GM sold a whopping 281 Volts last month, including one to a lucky customer in Washington DC who drove over three hundred miles to be the first Volt customer at that particular dealership, even the local news folks were there to cover it. Unfortunately, he didn't get out of the parking lot, the brakes failed. It took five days for the dealer to fix the problem.  And I wonder if the customer encountered any buyers remorse after he finally picked it up and on the way home had to put gas (Premium) in it?  I wonder if he is starting to budget for $8,000.00 battery that will eventually have to be replaced?  I wonder if the salesman that sold him the Volt reminded to tell him to drain the gas tank if he drives on all electricity for an extended  period of time, GM forget about the fuel tank rotting out from extended exposure to stagnant gasoline. 

Webster's defines "dolt" as a stupid person.  I define a person that buys a Chevy Volt as a "voltdolt."

Gazelle Orange Innergy about $39,000.00 less than the Chevy Volt

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I No everything, just ask Me

I get several questions daily about bicycles, photography, and other subjects, so I thought I would pass on some of the recent emails I have received.

"Matt, what kind of bike should I get?"  William from Raleigh, NC

Good question Bill, I would suggest a blue one.

"Hey guy, what is the best bicycle for under $300.00,  I am getting into triathlons and am on a budget." Jerry from Houston, TX

Jerry, I would look for a Nishiki International circa mid 1980s, a great road bike, Tange frame, very fast, I have one that I bought new in 1986, still rides great. Look for them on eBay, they come up every so often and are a bargain at any price under $425.00.

"Matt, my buddy has a Canon D7 and I have a Nikon D7000, he says his camera is better, but I think my camera is better, who is right?"  Artie from Macon, GA

Thanks for the question Artie,  but let me ask you a question, say I'm standing next to Picasso and he has a Richeson Student paint brush, retail .35c, and I have a Da Vinci Maestro brush,  retail $520.00, who's paint brush is better?  

"I take it you are not a fan of Chinese made bikes, but in doing so you eliminate about 80% of the market, how can you say all Chinese made bikes are bad?"   Leng from Pensacola, FL

Thanks for your question Leng, however I have never said, nor do I think that all bikes made in China are of poor quality.  In fact, some very good bicycles come out of the factories in China, but not the Schwinn I bought my daughter a few years go when the kickstand separated from the frame on Day One, or the Mongoose BMX bike that my neighbor had that almost turned him into her when the seat stem split in two, or my nephew's Raleigh Venture that brought new meaning to "bouncing baby boy" when the front fork broke.  When shopping for a bicycle, look to see where it was made, personally I would avoid a "Made in China" bike, but  likewise I would not be hesitant to purchase a 'Made in Taiwan" bike, they do not seem to have the poor quality issues found in the bikes made in China.

Amanda from New Orleans asks, "Matt, how come the video from my Olympus E-PL1 sucks compared to the video Olympus shot with their E-PL1 to make the commercial for the camera? Should I return it and get a Panasonic?"

Great question Amanda.  The commercial that Olympus made for the E-PL1 using the E-PL1 is very impressive indeed. Now, when you shoot your video, do you usually have about six assistants with you, a sound man, a focus puller, a few folks handling the lighting, a dolly, a post production crew, and about $5,000.00 in editing software?  Well if not, don't worry, you can get very good video from your Olympus, or any other dslr, or micro 4/3rds camera, but it takes practice and you need to know the limitations.  Keep in mind that the really good videos you see on You Tube made with these types of cameras are made by skilled photographers adept in video and post production.  Keep your Olympus, and with a little practice and patience you will get good results. And get a tripod.

Got a question about something? Just ask me.