cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

May 2024
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Pen Cam Slam-a-rama
Filed under: general, pencams
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:18 pm

Knew it before I even heard it. 

Got to work a little late, and whipped off my jersey to change.  As it passed over my head I felt a subtle change in the mass of the garment, a slight fluctuation in the air pressure, thought, “oh.  crud”,  and then the sound came - “twack”

Not a large sound, mind you.  Just a definite ceasing of vertical motion of a small plastic housing upon a reasonably solid concrete floor. Only one part jettisoned.  The battery housing contact plate. Ever hopeful, I  placed it back where it went and closed the cover.


There was as small impact gouge at one end, and that was pretty much all it took.  Certainly, taking the jersey off had jettisoned the pencam in an upward arc, so it was a little more than just a clumsy drop-to-the-ground. I tried a few little digital-device CPR tricks, but it was to naught. 

So, that makes - what? - five I’ve munched. 

I’ve found myself thinking about this too much in the last 24 hours. My spirally recursive thought loop goes something like this: I bought the pencam so I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking a good digital camera.  But, because the pencam doesn’t cost much, I’m more prone to putting in into a jersey pocket so I can easily get to it to snap a photo or two. The inexpensiveness of the pencam encourages me to engage in risky behavior. If I used a higher quality piece of gear, it might lead me to use more care in its protection - putting it into my bag, for example. But then, I’d take fewer photos.  Of course, if I had to pay for film and processing, I’d probably take fewer photos.  So, the whole cycle begins with supreme ease of snagging digital images, which is in turn amplified by the attractiive venues for sharing them. Which leads me to want to have a method for taking them.  Since using my camphone is reasonably high-risk, using my regular digital camera is slightly less so, we’re back again to wanting a cheap camera to have at the ready.

The problem is that this is also making me realize why I don’t really like cheap stuff.  It too easily becomes disposable. And as Annie Leonard articulated all too well, disposable has real costs. So I find myself fantasizing about an impact-resistant camera (or phone), kinda like those Panasonic Toughbooks. Maybe there out there already. 

But then again, so is another pencam. Cripes, maybe I should just start numbering ‘em like Pete Townshend. Or, I guess I could be a bit more careful next time.

Cap’n! We’re Listing!
Filed under: general, pencams, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 2:26 pm

List, listy, listering…Once again, I find myself with a bunch of odds and ends that would be padded paragraphs or a succession of bullet point items - as they tend to block up the actual writing-entries, which has been light of late. So, here they are:

- PBP photos and reports. If you haven’t seen the reports, it was a thumper of a ride. Rain and cool temps contributed to the highest attrition rate in recent memory (one report said since the ’30’s…!).  Lots of good folks prepped for this and then got the red card.  In no particular order:

Jared’s Photos
Rob Hawk’s PBP Photos - Bikes of Paris & PBP photos
Ed Felker’s Bleriot at PBP Report
Jon Muellner’s PBP Report
Campy Only’s Eric Norris Report
SIR’s Flickr Photos

I know there’s more, but these are to get ya started…  The next one is in 2011, so get riding!

- I find myself one bike down these days, as what started as a quick conversation about road bikes turned into me selling my open-wheeled racer.  It was smart-light and a fine riding bike, but I’d been out on it something like 3 times in the last couple years. I did pull the spotless-and-new SOBA bars off of it though…

- The Pencam SD has died unceremoniously…

I guess it didn’t take too kindly to the last bounce off the pavement. (Innards photo was from the exploratory surgery, not the fall itself…).  It lasted about a year, and something in the shutter/switching seems to have gone piffle. It will turn on, won’t react to the shutter (or the microswitch) being pressed, and then will not turn itself off. I was worried after I had to snap it back together during the Marin Century. Since I’ve got a couple SD cards, I’ve already ordered a replacement with no memory installed.

- Hilsen, oh Hilsen, oh where is my Hilsen?  Just wondering. Not that I’ve actually picked up the phone and followed up to find out.  And it is to have a few non-stock bits, so it’s not a straight-forward build. There’s been enough other distractions of late to prevent really enjoying it yet, but I’m starting to clear that tunnel…

- The all-singing, all-dancing Rivendell website means that they can post new product photos pretty seamlessly, so the result may be that the Cyclofiend RBW page will have less photos like that.  It will continue to be where things Rivendell get aggregated (in addition to the RBW Owners Bunch on Googlegroups), and I’ll try to find photos, links and other Riv-in-the-news type stuff.  If you see something like that, send it my way, eh?

- Lion of Fairfax CX race on September 29th. The logo really cracks me up.  Last year, this was the White’s Hill School CX race, and came about a month later. This year, it’s part of the new “Nor Cal Cup Series” which picks one race from a bunch of scattered promoters and has a points thing. They say they’ve reworked the course (which was long) and will be giving a “mediocre” prize for the mid-pack finisher in each race. It’s something to aim for…

- Been running still. Suprised myself the other day by cracking off some incline repeats and not falling into a gibbering, quivering heap afterwards. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be anything approaching competitive, but it will hopefully make me look less like a waddling waterfowl on the hoof-it bits.  Then again, my right calf keeps turning into hardwood at odd moments, so I may be doing the Herman Munster gait imitation…

- On the other hand, I haven’t been riding much on the trails. Rolling downhill on new fireroads and singletracky bits is not an equivilent. Gotta get them knibblies slapped onto the Quickbeam.

Anyway, that’s sorta it right now.  Other longer missives to follow.

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Snippets and Such
Filed under: rides, photos, pencams, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:09 pm

Whew!  Seems like a whole hunk of stuff has been going on for the last couple of weeks and I can’t seem to get my fingers focused enough to type… I’ll try to get a few items out of the “IN” box -

After meeting a bunch of iBob’s at the NAHBS a couple weeks back, I got a chance to meet up again with Chris Beatie (who sent in photos of his 650B Wanta to the Current Classics Gallery) for one of my favorite southern Marin loops - up Conzelman Road to Hawk Hill, followed by the steep descent to Cronkhite Beach.  Much of the summer finds this part of the SF Bay Area hemmed in by fog, but spring (and fall) often mean clear days. This was one of the latter, and we had a good time roaming around the old gun emplacements and enjoying the day. Photos here.

A few days after that, Chris sent along some photos of some other rides, as well as this warning shot -

Mental note, never place pencam on bed of truck for self portrait, then
get back to work.
            sadly, the memory was bent also…

Now, the reason that I first got the pencam was so that it wouldn’t ruin my day if just this event occurred… Still, it’s a sad sight to see the thing flattened.  Just glad that it wasn’t attached to the rider at the time…

Also in the “Demise of Things” file is the decision announced this past weekend of Rivendell ending its involvement with the RBW list over on bikelist.org. According to the email by john@rivbike.com, the folks over in Walnut Creek have decided to “bow out” of their involvement with the list.  While I find this to be a shame, it’s also understandable. There have been a number of prickly comments recently, some clearly designed just to twist people’s lugs.

Now, the months of February and March are typically the worst on many online communities, particularly when normally active people are staring at another day of snow, or thawing snow and mud, and wondering why the heck they ever bothered to buy a bike in the first place.  Even the best of online friends get a little testy.

But, some of the recent posts which floated down the RBW List flume seemed rotten at the core. Folks hiding behind what appear to be fictitious names, going off on really odd tangents in fractured language, hammering on subjects which had no place on the list.  Then people reacting to those initial posts with civility tumbling like a falling house of cards.

It also seemed as though folks began to look at the list as the means to communicate with Rivendell, rather than a discussion about Rivendell. Confusion in the customer service chain is a bad thing. 

I reckon those were the events which became too much load to tote, and the folks at Rivendell decided to pull the pin and let the cars roll back down the hill.

The good news is that most of the people who make the list enjoyable have stated or implied they would like to keep the discussion going.  In a fit of post-ride bliss, I conjured up a Yahoo and Google group, which I can make active if alex wetmore decides to pull the plug on the RBW List.  I can also conjur up a Mailman feed via the cyclofiend site, but it will lack the search and archive flexibility which is maintained over on bikelist.org. It may also end up a section of my anticipated bbs. My honest hope is that alex continues the list, which should hopefully morph into some sort of iROB group.  (And I do find enough difference between the RBW list and the iBob list to subscribe to both.)  Anyway, it’ll work itself out, I suppose…)

Speaking of rides, after a nice little loop on Saturday, JimG and I met up on Sunday to see if we could cheer on Carlos as he finished up the SF Randonneur’s 400km brevet.  We thought we’d be able to head up towards Nicasio and pick them up there, as he was estimating a 24 hour finish time. As all plans with variables tend to go, this one changed appreciably.  First off, Tashi got a bit wobbly as I was setting up to leave, so I ended up trailing her around the house until she steadied up and fell back asleep. After hitting the road, I called JimG, who was also getting a slightly delayed start. When we met up in Mill Valley a bit before 9 am, he said, “You’re not going to believe this, but Carlos and a bunch of rando-riders just went past!”  So, after a quick debate, we headed off after them, arriving to find Carlos, Rob Hawks and bunch of other successfully finished riders hanging out by the Strauss statue. He seemed tired, but in great spirits and fine shape after riding 400km in 21:30!  Huge congrats on a great ride!

JimG got some good photos and Carlos already has his ride report and photos posted.

We hung out and chatted with other brevet folks for a bit, then a very familiar-looking pair of Rivendells rolled past us in the parking lot - turned out to be none other than Rich Lesnick from Rivendell and Ron Lau, who has sent some beautifully set up bicycle photos into the Galleries. A nice chance meeting!

When Carlos picked up and began his ride (ride!) home, JimG and I headed out on our planned “find Carlos” route, looping up through Marin, climbing White’s Hill and coming back via Nicasio and Lucas Valley.  Despite his statements to the contrary, riding the 300k-from-hell seems to have pushed JimG’s fitness up a noticable notch, as he scooted up the climbs with frightening speed. I plodded along thinking about gear ratios. Not a good idea, exactly, while riding a fixed-gear, but it did pass the time a bit. As we reached the civilization end of Lucas Valley Road, I began hearing an odd “tick-tick-tick”.  We pulled over and found that my rear tire had picked up a nail piercing the sidewall and the tread. Curiously, it still held air, so we skedaddled homeward and got within a couple blocks of our destination before it gave up the ghost.

No Vid Yo
Filed under: general, pencams
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:46 pm

Just had to step away from the video dalliances that
I’ve been on for the past couple weeks.  It’s been one of those
silly little technology-driven events where you start out just wanting
to solve a simple problem and end up fixing tangents of tangents just
so you can slog your way back to the first problem.

Mind you, I’m not against that sort of thing, and in fact, actually
enjoy it.  But, there’s a time when you just feel the whole thing
slipping over the edge, taking up too much time with nothing to show
for it, or, worse, having gone through a series of diversions, find
yourself right back where you started with no results to show for it.

Which is kinda where I found myself on Friday.

Sorry if this sounds unnecessarly cryptic —
The Aiptek cameras have worked well for Flickr Pix (mine, pencam group), but getting the video to work on the Mac OS has been a royal pain. Thanks to JimG’s
tugboat guidance to my Exxon Valdez coursework, I got the terminal
conversion program to work.  However, after the files all got
converted, they still don’t show up as files that I can view in
Quicktime.  Reckon it’s got something to do with the QT/OS version
I’m on.  But, that was sort of it.  Just don’t want to deal
with that this weekend (or maybe even this coming week), and it’s been
slightly tiresome to go through the Google upload just to end up with wobbly, swelling, spastic images from a too-flexy mount. Time to put everything up onto the project shelf for a few days and end my increasing frustration.

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Camera Mount Beta Test
Filed under: photos, pencams, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 6:36 pm

So, this was the idea. 

The still photos are here.  The videos are on the aggregated video page.

It was, to be generous, not a screaming success.  As I rode to the
trailhead, the camera could be seen visibly vibrating from the bumps in
the roadway.  My feeling is  that the idea is good, but the
composite material of the blinkie-mount allowed the vibration. 
The same execution in aluminum or stiff material (pvc?) might prevent
it.  Most of the video is pretty much headache-inducing, so it’s
not that much of an improvement over the hand-held-while-riding-fixed

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Camera Fixin’s
Filed under: photos, pencams, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 3:54 pm

One of those weeks which just seemed to take the set out
of my sails, so since no one in SF Rando group agitated for a group
mixed-terrain epic, I was happy to ease out into the morning on my
. It was one of those mornings, though - fogged in and cool,
warning of the end of summer, forcing me to dig out my knee warmers for
the first time in a while. I had caught a whiff of the fall this week -
cold ocean breezes and cooler temps on the commutes.  Sun came
out, but the tick-tick-tick of approaching fall  is now audible.

After returning home, I looked at my really awful footage that got shot by holding the camera on the bars. Painful cinema. Both JimG and Carlos have gotten tricky with velc- umm…. hook & loop fasteners (and their footage looks good - here & here.) 
I’d been thinking about some sort of clamp which would let me mount the
camera on the top tube for that “cockpit” view. While avoiding some
work this week, I’d sketched out a couple of thought-fixes.  It
needed some band for the frame tube and some angled connector for the
camera.  The light, both figuratively and literally, suddenly went

The blinkie!  It has a seatpost mount band!

Which it gladly sacrificed for the purposes of this excercise…

I also had a little mini-tripod that had a removeable camera mount screw, so I just used that.  And hot-diggity!

The band slid under the cable on the top tube and I think it’s mounted far enough forward to miss my knees.

Unlike this position, which I think has limited application - especially if I’m runnng fixed…

This shows some promise - of course, I was using the QB
for test  purposes - I’m not in a big hurry to wrap something
around the headbadge.  With a rubber spacer, I could easily mount
this onto the stem, although that would possibly bring in the wiggly
potential from turning the bars. (Although JimG didn’t really have much
of that here.)

The problem now to solve is leveling the camera. The plan is to find a
convex and concave surface, using those as done on the pads used with
an Avid canti/v brake (and others).  With a longer 1/4″20 bolt and
a winged nut, I should be able to  run the convex/concave surfaces
against one another, then clamp everything down. I also plan on using a thin hook & loop cable tie as a safety strap.

The first option shown above does not require that, as the camera is
more or less on a horizontal plane.  The mount on the headtube
will require a bit of correction (even just an angled shim would
probably work) or there will be a lot of sky in the footage.

Ride Head Tunes:
“One More Time” & “Happy Loving Couples” by Joe Jackson, plus some
snippets of Graham Maby’s bass work from the first two albums.

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Real Movie
Filed under: pencams, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:48 pm

I’m mentally and physically cross-eyed from runing down
the various video issues this past week (and trying to look like I was
working while doing it…) All for little snippets of things shot more
for the excercise of transfer than anything else.

Here’s a real movie you should watch.  It’s got bikes in it.

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Bars & Knees
Filed under: pencams, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:35 pm

Still no quick xfer method for getting from AVI to Mac, but tonight I eliminated several variables.

So - here’s how I got to work today…



mmmm…. fixed gear…..
(Shot with the Aiptek SD, hand-held obviously…)

Video Killed the Radio Star
Filed under: pencams, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:10 am

It would seem that I’m now a certified videographer…

From the Aiptek, via Google Video.  Some of the “how-to” saga here.

Pencams and other diversions
Filed under: general, pencams
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:27 am

Pencam<br />
MegaThe Pencams arrived this past week. I’d been pretty consistently impressed by JimG’s
and the writings of other folks on the iBob list about using them as a low-cost, easily toteable, won’t cry if it gets
fried/crushed/soaked solution to taking photos on rides. 

I’d been using my camera phone, which, to put it poitely, pretty much
sucked: exposures based on who-knows-what, a preset focus which worked
on virtually nothing, and an extremely easy lens to smear with grimy
paws. The photos which accompany the Ashland ride journal entry are
from the camera phone.  To be charitable, they are sort of

My working plan was to use the
Mega Cam (at left) as the still camera, and mess around with using the
1.3 SD (at right) as a cheap video camera, as they claim you can shoot
about 5 or 6 fps in high rez mode, or about twice that in low rez. The
1.3 SD also has a removeable 128 mb SD card (which comes with the
camera for the $19/refurbished price). 

(I will not digress
here into my too-oft-told story of early ’80’s 10 meg vs 20 meg hard
drive discussions we all had - you’ve probably heard it before,
anyway.)  The Mega comes with a little webconferencing stand
and the SD actually has a rudimentary tripod.  Both have neck
straps so you can have them accessable during raves or
actions.  Probably won’t be using mine.

cameras are roughly the same size.  The little guy - called
Mega Cam, which may have some sly Godzilla reference implicit -
measures up at just over 3″ x 1″ x 1″. SD is just under 4″, is held
horizontally (as shown in the photo) and is about an inch and a quarter
tall x 1″ deep.  Both run on AAA sized batteries, and I’m
using rechargeables, and will probably tuck a couple of alkaline
“photo” batteries in the pack for longer rides. 

 The first issue to wrangle was software. The
CD’s which come with the cameras are for Windows.  (I can’t vouch
for the implementation, but it at least loaded onto the old Toshiba
laptop that is running NT. More if I actually plug the things into that
poor, beaten up thing).

I was hoping that the Mac would just
see the camera as a drive and I could copy photos over to the
computer.  No go.  Although the USB port powers both
camera models when they are attached, they didn’t appear on the desktop
or anything sophisticated.  I poked around a bit with the
System Profiler, and could see something attached to the USB port, but
it wouldn’t open or access. With a bit of prowling, I found a mac
driver from Aiptek
(keep scrolling down), and another from
IOXperts. Neither worked on my system. The one that worked was Maccam
from Sourceforge
, which I stumbled upon here
(and I then found a few other references  to it as

So Far -
I’ve used the Mega on a couple of
, and think that the scanning
are pretty cool - it has worked well, although I’d
like to figure out how to cover the lens so it doesn’t get dusty or

  I used the SD yesterday
and other than a little hazing/flare from sweat on the lens, it worked
well. The only problem that cropped up was the last 3 shots (#’s 24,
25, 26 on the bunch) wouldn’t transfer. When Maccam did the transfer,
it took an extra 10 minutes for the last three to come over the mojo
wire. Nothing I had would open the files, so I lost the photos of the
smiling dog and the black on black fixed gear.  I went through
a card format procedure on the SD, and then tested it up to
#30.  Everything worked fine. So, maybe it makes sense to go
through the format before trying to take photos.  The lens
moves easier than the Mega (they are both guess-ti-focus designs), but
notches into the “normal” setting and the “close” setting. 
The close setting seems to be about 12″, which introduces a fair amount
of parrallax error.