The Downtown: a Better Brompton Bag from Ortlieb

Brompton sells a bag made by Ortleib.  The good folks at Bicycle Habitat have one in stock and it’s beautiful.  But they’re asking $350 for it!  That’s too much money.  Eric, at Bicycle Habitat, showed me the Ortlieb “Downtown” and we both agreed that with some tweaks (he reckoned one Sam-Adams’-worth, I figured closer to two) the bag would fit easily on my existing S-frame.  The Downtown retails for a still-steep, but slightly more reasonable, $150 (ouch! REI is selling it for $104).

I don’t normally drink Sam Adams, but in honor of Eric I got two from the corner bodega and broke out the tools.  Happily, the inner lining of the bag zips open to reveal the padding and guts within.  With a phillips screwdriver and torx wrench I removed some grommets, nuts, and bolts and the quick-release mount came off easily.  Then I measured and drilled new holes for the straightened bracket.

The finished product. Quick release with s-frame mounted.

Measuring for the S-frame, the bracket landed between the two existing mount points, about a half inch (at center) above its factory location.  I had to relocate the stabilizing cleat to the upper radius to clear the Brompton S-frame’s hardware.

The Downtown bag is slightly larger than the Brompton O bag (30 liters vs 22 liters, based on my own measurements) and is, in my opinion, better looking.  The mount certainly isn’t as elegant as the built-in Ortlieb/Brompton O bag mount (which is really nicely done).  But come on… the modified Downtown costs half (or 1/3) as much and is twice as flexible!  I can now use this bag on any of my other bikes with a rear rack (I’ll simply remove the bag from the S-frame and click it onto my other bikes’ rear pannier rack).

Also, I have the satisfaction of having built it myself.  Degree of difficulty: 1/2 Sam Adams.

God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise

I stopped by Music Matters this evening and dropped $23 then headed home and dropped the Ortofon on the 180-gram vinyl of Ray LaMontagne’s most recent release, God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise.  I was blown away by this album once again.  I’ve been listening to it on my phone for weeks and it’s the album I’ve liked most since Sound of Silver.  From start-to-finish (other than the last song on the album, Devil’s in the Jukebox) each song is better than the last.  Bravo, Ray.

Why I Only Buy Vinyl (and Don’t Buy Many E-Books)

In 1982 I bought my first LP: Echo and the Bunnymen’s Crocodiles.  In 1986, I recorded the vinyl to tape so that I could listen to it in my car.  In college (1990), I bought the same album on CD.  In 2002 I converted that CD to MP3 and I am listening to it on an iPod as I write this article.

Six months ago I bought Crocodiles again on for pennies north of a dollar because I didn’t have my iPod with me.  I didn’t “own” that copy, I had “rights” to listen to it while on Lala’s site.  When the site closed down recently, my rights evaporated with very little recourse.

Today, I have reverted to buying all of my music on vinyl because inside the sleeve of each new album is a little card with a URL and a code that I can use to download a high-quality, DRM-free, MP3 copy.  (In one case, Beck’s Modern Guilt,  I found that the digitized copy was of the vinyl itself… clicks, pops, and all.)  This is a brilliant scheme!  I get the music I want to hear in the formats I prefer (the best sounding and the most convenient).  Though I pay a premium for it (albums cost about $20 each), I’m still happy.

Books (and their e-book counterparts) do not yet follow this model, so I will not be buying a lot of e-books this year.  It has been noted (by people more astute than I) that printed book has excellent battery life, is portable, and has very high resolution.  Not only that, books are transferrable.  Most of the books I’ve bought recently have come from Strand or Powell’s (used book sources) or, even more likely, have been gifted by friends or relatives.

Recently, my sister-in-law sent me a used copy of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, which I have been enjoying greatly.  Because I have an iPad, I visited Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle storefronts to see if I could get a digital copy of the book (there are times when I haven’t had the book with me, but wanted to read it).  However, for $9 I was loath to buy license a copy of the book that I wouldn’t be able to pass on to someone else when I’m done.

This is the crux of my problem with e-readers and online music services.  Though they provide convenience and instant gratification (books and music can be bought directly from the device in an instant), the content is thereafter locked to the device.  The DRM, in effect, allows me to buy, consume, delete, but little else.

So, until I can buy a paper copy book that comes with an epub version that I can download and put on my iPad, I’ll rummage through free book bins on my neighbors’ stoops, accept hand-me-downs from literary relatives, occasionally plunk down at the local retailer, and less-frequently buy overpriced, DRM-free epubs from the likes of

Brompton US Championship

I participated in last weekend’s Brompton U.S. Championship in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park.  The race was only six miles long, but it was brutally hilly and unseasonably warm.

In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Brompton as a commuter bike, all participants are required to wear business attire during the ride (coat, tie, collared shirt, and helmet).  The event begins with a Le Mans Start where each racer runs to his/her bike, unfolds it, and pedals across the start line.  My buddy Ted was first out of the gate and I was four riders behind him much of the time.  He finished 10th overall and I came in 12th (in a field of approximately 60).

Tons of photos are available here.

If you own a Brompton and this event is offered in 2011, it comes highly recommended. The event went smoothly and was a lot of fun.

Epson R-D1s

Body pictured with 15mm f4.5 Voigtlander & finder and Jupter 3 (50mm f1.5), Jupiter 11 (135mm f4.0), and Jupiter 12 (35mm f2.8) lenses.
Body pictured with 15mm f4.5 Voigtlander & finder and Jupter 3 (50mm f1.5), Jupiter 11 (135mm f4.0), and Jupiter 12 (35mm f2.8) lenses.

There are many good things to be said about youth (not just that it’s wasted on the young), but there’s also something to be said for growing older. At 40, I’ve become the recipient of a long-awaited, but well-timed gift: an Epson R-D1s. Craig’s list brought me a body and lens that were well used, but well cared for and they will continue to be. I’ve been able pair it with a number of old Russian lenses that I collected during my Peace Corps days and the results are very pleasing.

Downtown 1 approaching 116thI won’t try to review the camera (that’s been done very well here), but I will second one complaint I’ve read about inaccurate framing lines. Other problems I’ve had with the camera are due to “user error” (it’s so hard to remember to focus and set apertures in this world of full-auto digital SLRs and P&S cameras), which I hope will be remedied over time. Regardless, a couple of missed/soft-focused shots are worth it from a camera that’s such a pleasure to use.

Public shots that I’ve taken with the camera will appear here.

A Post About Classical Music and Blog Syndication

There are a number of blogging solutions at Columbia (CUIT and Pressible both offer personal blogs and CCNMTL offers course blogs via EdBlogs). One interesting use is to have students’ personal blogs (like this one) feed into several course blogs via a tag. As an example, I’m feeding this post into this fictitious Music Humanities site via the tag “humaw1123”.

Now, to satisfy the other element in this post’s title, since I don’t have much interesting to say about classical music, I’ll simply mention a CD that I’ve liked for a long time: Schubert: Impromptus, Moments Musicaux perfromed by Ethella Chuprik. This CD was originally released on Naxos in 1995 (?) and if it were vinyl I would have worn it out. If you’re on Columbia’s campus, please feel free to give it a listen.

Project Bike

I’ve been working on this 1993 (?) Specialized Allez for a while. It’s been neglected for a few years and needs some updating (or maybe “retrofitting” is more appropriate). I replaced the bar tape and saddle. Now, all I need are an American Classic front hub (to replace the Campy understudy that’s standing in for the original, broken AC), a set of 36 hole Mavic Open 4 CD hoops (just like everyone else in the world who’s looking for a pair of bulletproof 90’s rims), and a clamp on FD-7400 Dura Ace front derailleur. Got any you want to sell?

Halloween in the Slope

I live in Park Slope. Park Slope loves Halloween. In the past I made off-handed comments to friends and colleagues that “a lot” of trick-or-treaters come to our stoop every year (I’d claim wild numbers like 200+ kids). This year, we decided to be scientific about it and collect some real data.

There’s not much to report, really, but with trusty cadre of helpers/candy-passers/pumpkin-carvers on the front stoop along with an ample supply of beverages and snacks to keep them all happy we set about our business. I downloaded “tally counter” to my iPod touch and KW (and TB) brought a combined total of over 14 pounds of chocolatey, “fun-sized” goodness. (Averaging ~1/2 oz per bar, that adds up to 450 pieces of candy). A not insignificant portion of that candy was eaten by the aforementioned “helpers”, but most of it went to the kids. the grand total: 359 (that’s three-hundred-and-fifty-nine!) individual costume-clad kids graced our front stoop. Tom Beeby would be proud (not of the kids, of the accuracy of this report!).

To get an idea of the scale of Halloween in PS, check out this photo by hijirik near the corner.

24 Hours at Daytona

I spent last weekend in Daytona, FL at the “Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona”, a 24-hour endurance race in which Bruce Ledoux was competing with the Guardian Angels, a team is raising money for Children’s Hospital Boston. The car came in 29th after completing 572 laps and raising nearly $70,000 for the hospital. More info (and videos) at the Guardian Angel race page.

The event is strange because it runs two car classes simultaneously: Daytona Prototypes (DPs) and Daytona GTs. The DPs are much faster (top speeds over 200 MPH in the straightaways vs the GT cars’ 160 MPH). My small role on GT car #63’s crew was to act as a spotter. The goal was to warn the driver that a much-faster DP car (or many of them as the case may be) was approaching so that the driver was aware of the passing car and so that he didn’t veer into any of the hidden cars trailing behind. This is a picture of T and C up on the grandstands spotting the car towards the end of the race.

All-in-all it was a good time. We were all sleep-deprived, but we ate well (thanks Bruce!) and got to participate in the race as in a behind-the-scenes way.

Update: C got some pics together here.