Saturday, December 20, 2014

Star Alliance Gold!!!!

Oh man. Just had to write this down. Never achieved airline status before (and crazily, never tried to...). But just achieved Star Alliance Gold for 2015. I forsee a lot more awesome travel (and future free flights!) in my future... good times! :)

Bike research continues: Specialized Sirrus line

Today I went to a shop in London, Ontario to ask some details about Specialized bikes and got some really useful info. I think I'm now convinced, after a lot of research, bike demos and discussions, that I ought to pick a class-up of city/fitness bikes, rather than just going for the "best bang for the buck" model.

Recently in SF I tried the Trek FX 3 bike, and was told it was "the best value for money" given the price and features. While I still think that's true, it's probably not actually the bike for me. Looking upwards at the Trek FX 5, I'm actually still not that impressed with the whole package -- I do love Trek and will very likely still get one of their Trail Mountain Bikes when I upgrade, but for the city/commuter/fitness/hybrid range, I am leaning towards Specialized. For instance, the Trek FX 5 retails at MSRP of $1200, same as this Specialized Sirrus Comp Disc... but this one comes with a pretty solid disc brake option. Some have said that's not necessary on a light bike, but in damp weather I think it's gonna be a better choice, given the option.

What's funny is that I've all-but-decided I'm going with Specialized before even riding one. Just seeing their general quality and combination of features, I'm very impressed. Turns out my Dad also researched his newly-purchased hybrid bike for the past year (see where I get it from), and he also came to the same conclusion -- Specialized is likely the best choice.

After looking at some at the store today and then going through a bunch of the features, I think I've got it drilled down to one of these three bikes. At least, these are the ones I will take on a test ride as soon as possible, and if I like one best I will probably go for it. This is the Specialized Sirrus line, and it's really awesome. It's a little more "road-y" than other hybrid bikes, with thinner (28 or 30) tires and other road-bike components. But, it's still very much a city-friendly hybrid. I do really quite like the balance that they have struck with this specific line... it's a truly beautiful design and wonderfully functional for the purposes I'd be buying it for.

Check this out.

Sirrus Comp Disc 2015 model (

Sirrus Elite Disc 2015 model (

Sirrus Elite Disc 2014 model (

Sirrus Comp Disc 2014 model -- not going to get this one, but it's here for comparison (

So those bikes sure are epic.

I took a look at the Elite 2015 and the Comp non-disc 2014 model today in the store and they were both in a total different class than the bikes I've seen previously. The combination of features and style is really hard to beat, I think. I didn't try riding them today, so that will be the real test of these for me personally, of course, but in terms of theoretical awesomeness, one of these may be my final choice for my new bike.

The verbage on the Specialized site about these types of bikes ("Multi Use", "Up to the task, ready for adventure") encourages me that I'm on the right track with these bikes. "Whether you need a bike for around the campsite or around town, we've got the solution for you. From recreation and urban exploration to rolling on dirt, our multi-use bikes deliver on their name."  

The Sirrus is classed as both a "Fitness" bike ("Getting fit is no longer confined to just the gym. The Specialized Fitness line will give you everything you need to explore the open road and your own ambition. Whether it's on the road or on the bike trail, all you'll need to focus on is setting a new goal to crush.") and a "Commute" bike ("Who says commuting to work has to be a drag? With bikes that are just as nimble as they are stable you'll be passing the morning grid-lock with a smile on your face. Plus, free donuts never taste as good after a ride into the office!") These both seem like the exact description of why I am looking to get a new bike for riding into work.

These are listed in order of my interest, how you see them above, Sirrus Comp Disc 2015, then Sirrus Elite Disc 2015, then Sirrus Elite Disc 2014, then Sirrus Comp Disc 2014. But first, a video explaining the bike features.

Usually you don't expect a bazillion things to change in a bike release year-to-year, necessarily... but WOW Specialized really upgraded the heck out of both the Elite and the Comp for the 2015 model. First off, BOTH the Comp and Elite in 2015 have a Carbon fork, which is nuts, since the MSRP is the same for both the Comp and Elite in 2014 and 2015, but it's gone from an Aluminum to a Carbon fork. Incredible. That's pretty epic.

The other piece about 2015 that's different is both the bikes are now using the slightly-fatter 700c x 30 tire, over the 2014 choice (700c x 28). This is pretty close so may be neither here nor there, but the tires are quite slick so a 30 is probably a little better for city commuting (eg. damp San Francisco-y foggy weather) than the 28.

One thing the 2015 Comp has over the others is it is a 2x10-speed, while the other 3 choices are 2x9-speed. The 2015 Comp has a range of 12-30 on the cassette, with the 30 being important for those big San Francisco hills. Strangely, both the 2015 Elite and 2014 Elite also have 30 as the max size on the cassette... but the 2014 Comp has a max size of 25! Whoops! Would much rather go bigger on that size in SF, so that's why 2014 Comp actually moved to the bottom of my wish list.

Another thing I preferred on the 2015 models is it seems Specialized consolidated their shifter and derailleur choices -- in general the Elite 2015 picks Shimano Sora components across the board, and the Comp 2015 picks Shimano Tiagra across the board. On the 2014 Comp there is quite a mix-and-match of component types, including the sortof "unbranded" Shimano shifter. No idea if that's good or bad, but it just feel like they are coming into their own and "perfecting" what was an already-pretty-good bike now that they have had some time to think about it in more detail and have designed the 2015 range. Not sure about the truth of that, but that's my impression, and I'll ask the bike store guys in SF about that.

The disc brakes have been changed from the Tecktro Drako to the Tecktro Gemini on both models between 2014 and 2015, not sure if that's a version-up or just the next step from the disc brake manufacturer, but in any case I gave those 2015 ones a look today and they were pretty impressive.

In summary, the Specialized Sirrus Comp Disc 2015 model is my favourite choice from the features -- I like the idea of the 2x10 gears, I like the slightly wider tires given how slick they are, I like the carbon fork (for no extra MSRP?!?! WOW), and the "horn" grips are kinda nice too for climbing hills. Overall, this bike is a real winner, and I think it's gonna ride like a champ. The sad story is that if I like the Elite better for some reason, the 2015 picture here is an awful drab colour. I feel like I saw a picture of it in bright red which would be much better :) But that crazy Orange of the 2014 Elite might be an option. Interesting, the Elite actually changed much less than the Comp did between 2014 and 2015 -- it is a much more similar bike this year -- the most notable change being the carbon fork. But the Comp changed a lot -- and I think for the (way) better, making the 2014 a less attractive option, having a consolidation of the components, a bigger cassette, and the other items in common with the 2014 to 2015 change (carbon fork, wider tires).

One thing I also need to ask about is the frame design change. I am not sure if the "bend" at the back of the top bar is going to move your riding position closer or away from the front of the bike. If it's closer, which presumably it should be, then that will help since I often have to stretch to reach the handlebars and a slightly closer seating position would be much more comfortable.

For now this is all theoretical until I can actually get to the shop and try one out. But, I'm convinced of the kind of bike I want now after chatting today and seeing the options. I am also finally sold on disc brakes -- this bike seems of sufficient quality to purchase disc brakes. I wouldn't want to get them on a cheaper bike, but on this one, I think it's the perfect fit.

Can't wait to try it out and then start riding this bad boy like crazy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Bike Tests: Trek FX 7.3 vs. Cannondale Quick 4

I am getting closer to deciding which hybrid/city bike to buy and I made some good progress this weekend. I tried 2 bikes, which I thought would ride very similarly but were overall quite different from each other.

The first one I tried was the Trek FX 7.3.

This one has an MSRP of $649 but I found it here in SF for only $599. This is a pretty stellar price for the quality of this bike -- 27 speed (3x9), nice slick 700c x 32 tires, a nice light-enough frame, and of course, it comes in fluorescent green which is a requirement for me (at least, the fluorescent part).

It rode pretty well on the streets of Cole Valley, lots of potholes and random sidewalk jumping etc. The grips on the handlebars were nice and had a nice squishy feel to them. The bike had good pickup (though, at first glance, not as fast as the Cyclocross I tried a couple weeks ago, as expected). The pedals were nice and the shifters were in the "good-enough" category. I didn't love the brakes (not super responsive) but the sales guy (who was very good) said they could be tightened up a bit. Overall, pretty excellent, and this might be the winner for me. You can upgrade to a Trek FX 7.4 or a Trek FX 7.5 which comes with a carbon fork for a nominal extra fee. This seems like a potentially good idea as it dampens the bumps in the road without adding extra weight of a front suspension. That said, Trek reaaallly sucked it up with the crappy colour schemes in the 2015 models.

Dude. Seriously. They need to hire some more wild artists up there -- beautiful bikes, but man they need some more pizazz! This Trek FX 7.3 thankfully not only comes in drab something, but also comes in this epic green beaut. But the 7.4 and 7.5 both only come in plain and simple, black, white, grey. It's really plain, and suuuuper boring. Not a fan. Honestly, I may by the lower model just because the upper models look so boring. Not a great reason, but what are you gonna do when your colour choices are Grey or White?!?! Bah. C'mon guys.

Something that does rock a lot is Trek's 2014 model of the FX 7.5. This is super awesome, really funky, and I love it. I am trying to find this one in my frame size (17.5") currently... it sure is epic. :)

Now THAT is how you paint a bike! The extra blue on the pedals? Nice touch.

So I did really like the Trek FX 7.3, and I'm kindof a Trek man these days given all my Trail bike testing. I may go with one of these, and I really do like how this year they are putting the cables inside of the frame -- that's nice when you're constantly stuffing a bike in a trunk. Nice to have those tucked away. Overall, a great and comfortable ride, but a little bumpy. I need to try the carbon fork and see if that makes a difference. The tires were 700c x 32, so a little wider than I was planning maybe but they are slicks, so that's good.

Today, I went to go try to Cannondale Quick 4, as well. This does have a Carbon fork, and is somewhat equivalent to the 7.4 or 7.5. This was a fun ride as well, but I didn't like it for a couple of reasons as compared with the Trek.

Cannondale definitely hired someone to pick out colours other than black and white, so they beat Trek on that front (at least for 2015). But otherwise, Trek is the winner.

The Quick 4 is one of the highest of the Quick range of bikes, comes with 700c x 32 tires as well. Having not just been on the Trek this weekend I would have probably enjoyed the Quick more, but I felt it was missing a few things. I didn't like the (presumably, nylon) pedals only -- I thought that Trek's metal caging was a nice touch. This bike also comes with 3x8 gears instead of 3x9, with those extras being pretty useful on the San Francisco hills. The brakes were more responsive than the Trek 7.3, and it did actually feel a little less bumpy on the roads (may be due to the carbon fork). The pickup was pretty good, but the tires were a bit knobbly compared to the Trek. I feel like the shifting was similar. The "feel" of the Trek was better since I am so comfortable with Trek.

In general, this was a nice bike, but some components of it felt "cheap" and not as buttoned-up as Trek. The cables inside the frame was a nice touch on Trek as well as the metal pedal cages. I also prefer the slick tires, since I'm getting this thing to do a faster commute on. The seat on the Trek was better, just generally it felt like a better "final product" than the Cannondale, though this Quick sure does market itself well -- all the parts of it, the tires, the seat, the pedals... everything says "Quick" on it.

I think my next step is to try out a Trek FX 7.4 and 7.5 and see if I like those. I think the Carbon fork may offer some nice shock absorption and I suspect those will be a bit lighter too. The only concern I may have at that point, stupidly, is the lack of colour choices. If I can score a 2014 Trek FX 7.5 in that crazy blue, I might be all set.

Oh yes, and by the way, these are the first flat-bar hybrids I've tested. They are great, much more comfortable and city-friendly than the other bikes I've tried. I think my arms are actually just not long enough to ride a bike with my hands over the bike "hoods" on a road/cyclocross bike. I didn't find either of those as comfortable as I suspected it should be, and I think I'm pretty sure I'm gonna end up getting a flat bar. I could always add new handlebars later if I really need to... but this seems like it's going to work better for my needs.

Judging for upcoming SF Web Series Festival 2015

Hi friends,

Exciting announcement time: I'm going to be judging for the inaugural SF Web Series Festival in San Francisco next June, 2015!

Here are some details about the festival. And for more information, check out the website at: Film submissions are being accepted now!


SF Web Fest seeks to connect premium content, platforms, and reach in this growing digital space of entertainment.


SF Web Fest vision is to create the key link between original content, digital platforms, and marketing reach by leveraging our critical seat in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. We discover and showcase emerging talent and develop relationships between creators, capital and audiences.


A forward-thinking hub where independent web series and show runners can network with fellow creators and distributors, screen and receive recognition for original content, and develop and share new formats in digital entertainment.


Poised at the center of the digital stage, the SF Web Fest is the exclusive channel which  merges premium web content with next generation distribution.. We aim to grow and nurture the top web series  by developing a market festival to bring together creators, executives, sponsors, partners, and viewers to discover original content and tap into new audiences.


Create an engaging and responsive forum that provides access to industry experts and distribution channels, accomplished speakers and panelist, networking opportunities and theatrical screenings of premium web series.


We grow and nurture creative innovation by developing a market festival for creators, executives, partners, financial channels, and viewers to discover original content and tap into new audiences.


SF Web Fest participants include web series creators, content seekers, distribution and finance channels, filmmakers, film industry, music composers, marketing and PR professionals, animators, engineers, and festival goers.