Friday, August 21, 2009

Weaving and Stash and Bikes

I recently enhanced my fiber stash.

This beauty is 4.6 oz of 50% Merino, 50% Tencel fiber from "Perchance to Spin". I bought it from The Loopy Ewe. The colorway is called "From Kansas to Oz", and I love the concept. The fiber starts out in tones of gray (Kansas), and then gradually escalates to the Technicolor riot of Oz. I visualize maybe a thin 3 ply yarn out of this? One interesting thing about this roving is that it's REALLY dense. The package was really small, and I was wondering why, but the Merino / Tencel is just really packed together. Lots of predrafting ahead!

Here's my first WEAVING project! It is the "Thousand Flowers" towel pattern from the Handwoven magazine e-book, "Top Ten Towels on Four Shafts". I really love that they make an effort to supply books that focus on either 8-shaft or 4-shaft looms, so you don't have to wonder before you buy a book whether you can use the patterns, or at least adapt them to work for you.

The pink, orange and yellow stripes below are meant to be flowers, so I am hoping everything tightens up and fills in a bit when I block these towels, but even if they look a little abstract, I do like the shot of color they give. It is amazing how quickly things moved once I got into a groove with weaving last night - as long as the space for the shuttle was opening up correctly, I could throw the shuttle through and keep moving!

Here's a shot with too much flash, but it shows the overall effect of the loom I have, from the front side.


And now for something completely different!


I tried out some road bikes today! This was totally a new experience for me. I have a Cannondale hybrid bike, which means it's a bike that is meant for 'casual' riding, and is basically geared to ride around in a city, not necessarily emphasizing going fast or scaling mountains. You sit upright, which most people find comfortable, and you just mosey along.

I've been frustrated because the bike is just slow - even when I feel like I'm barreling down a hill, that might be around 20 mph. The bike is somewhat heavy, and I feel like the rolling resistance from the slightly wider tires is holding me back.

MAN!!! I tried out three bikes today, and two just blew me out of the water! First, I tried a Bianchi Imola, which is a steel-framed road bike. The three general types of frames you'll find for a road bike are steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber, with component-combinations thereof (a steel frame with a carbon fork is a pretty common combination these days). In general, here is what I've found:

- steel is flexible, cheap, and can give a "smooth" feeling to your ride.

- aluminum is light, strong, and can give a "stiffer" feel to your ride. (That is, the frame won't flex as much as steel, and you might feel more road vibrations).

- carbon fiber is REALLY light, stiff, and it ain't cheap. I'm pretty sure Lance Armstrong's bikes are some kind of carbon fiber composite.

Now, "stiff" and "smooth" can mean different things to different people. Some folks swear by aluminum, saying it translates all their energy to the road, and some people love the smoothness of steel.

For me, I'm not a professional cyclist. Probably never going to be. But I do like to ride, and I want to get into farther rides - 50 or 100 miles. I can do 20-30 miles (with little to no hills) pretty comfortably at this point on my hybrid, but I feel like I want "more". I am betting I'll probably end up with a steel frame and carbon fork, just based on preliminary evidence from today.

I also tried an aluminum bike, a Cannondale Synapse. It was interesting, and I did notice it felt stiffer, but I couldn't decide if that was REALLY the bike vibrating more, or me having a psychosomatic reaction and deciding that I'd read so much about aluminum being stiff that OH GOD IT MUST BE TRUE. (*I would link to the Synapse, but I had trouble finding the exact model I rode at the store online earlier*).

I tried a third bike, but it's barely worth mentioning. It was a commuter bike, and to me, it felt like an expensive version of the bike I already have.

So, what does this mean? Reviews? Well, I loved the Bianchi, only the distance from the seat to the handlebars was a little too long for me, and made it hard for me to squeeze the brake levers really well. The Cannondale felt better on that note (shorter distance to the handlebars), but the other geometry of the bike put a lot of noticeable stress on my knees. I also feel like, in general, I would like a handlebar with a smaller diameter. My hands aren't huge, and it was hard for me to grab everything securely and I never launched the bikes into an all-out sprint because I felt very insecure about being able to stop the bike quickly.

Best thing about the experience? I never really knew how LIGHT road bikes were! I could have picked one up with just a few fingers! It takes both hands for me to hoist my hybrid onto my car rack. Worst thing? Not being able to grab the handlebars, and being tentative about riding around a neighborhood with very narrow streets.

Luckily, there's a few more bike shops in town, so I will be able to try out many more types of bikes. This was definitely educational, though!

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