Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pashley Test Ride

I'll preface this post by saying that I'm not getting the Princess Sovereign after all... not because I don't want her (quite the contrary - I absolutely love this bicycle and will have one someday) - but because unforeseen circumstances have left me unable to get one at this time.

It's interesting (serendipitous, really) that these circumstances happened when they did - exactly the day I found out the Pashley shipment had arrived, and not after I spent my now-needed  $$ on the bicycle. I had not put a deposit down nor was the bike ordered specifically for me; my Princess Sovereign would have been purchased out of the LBS' regular order - so I don't feel badly about not purchasing it at this time. I'm disappointed things didn't work out the way I thought they would, but I firmly believe everything happens for a reason!

I still went to check out the shipment, though. There were some lovely Britannias, a Poppy, and a Roadster Sovereign built... but I was absent-minded and forgot to snap some pics! I did manage to hastily take some crappy iPhone pics of the Princess Sovereign after taking her out in the snow:

Pictures (especially these ones) do NOT do this bicycle justice! She's absolutely gorgeous in person!! I can't even begin to describe how pretty she is when she's all shiny and sitting amongst a bunch of fellow Pashleys. And she rides like a dream... my test ride was awesome.

I'm a huge fan of the upright position while riding this bike. I felt tall (well, as tall as someone 4'11" can feel), which allowed me to better see and be seen. The upright position also allows you to better take in your surroundings. I love riding a bicycle simply for the experience of it - the sounds and sights of the road, the feel of the wind against your face, etc. and this bike almost forces you to simply enjoy the ride. My position also felt natural, not cramped or stretched out or anything like that. The swept back handlebars allowed me to keep my arms and wrists in a nice, relaxed position.

Despite the snowy and icy roads on my test ride, the bike handled very smoothly and felt sturdy. The steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle also made for a smooth ride. She would be a great winter bike for these reasons and because of the internal gears, hub brakes, fenders, skirt/coatguard and full chaincase. No messy clothes or fiddling with frozen brakes and derailleurs!

I felt that the gearing was on the higher side but that can easily be improved with a new cog. I guess that opinion might be different with dry road conditions so I wouldn't make any changes before riding this bike a significant amount of time first.

The other details also make for a wonderful bike - sturdy Pletscher rack, roomy front basket, rear wheel lock, dynamo front light, battery rear light (I'm ok with that), and smile-inducing ding-dong bell. There is really no need to further accessorize this bike, save for maybe a double-leg kickstand and a more secure lock. I would not use the rear wheel lock as primary bike security.

So where does this leave me? I'm not sure. I hope I'll soon be able to get my dream bike, but it won't be both the Princess Sovereign and the Betty Foy at the same time. Ultimately what I want is a bike that's comfortable, able to take me on long-ish rides on varied terrain (namely hills), and built for practicality (carrying my stuff!). Seems to me that Betty Foy fits the bill... I'll see what the next little while brings!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mixte Lust

With my Pashley Princess Sovereign arriving (hopefully) this week, I've been very excited! But I'm also fearing that she will not be the best choice for longer, hillier rides, such as my commute to work. The ride to work is nearly 20 km, which is not bad in itself, but the ride home would be mostly uphill. Doable, I'm sure (Katie Doncaster comes to mind), but I'm nonetheless looking for something lighter, zippier, and with a larger gear range for hills.

Enter Betty Foy...

Not only is she gorgeous, she's perfect for filling in the gap the Pashley would leave. For now, I'll spare the technical and aesthetic details (if and when I end up getting her I'll post a detailed review), but suffice it to say that she's an incredibly well built machine.

I could very well forget about the Pashley and just get Betty, but I love Pashley for her all-weather durability (hub gears, hub brakes, fully enclosed chaincase, etc.). I like that I won't have to worry about my pants getting caught in the chain or getting my leg scraped. I don't want to worry about derailleurs while riding in the snow. She'll be perfect for shopping excursions and just riding about the city (minus the big hills). Plus, the Pashley is also an incredibly beautiful bike. As you can probably tell, I'm a sucker for feminine details.

I'd like to see how things go with the Pashley first, then make a decision on whether to get Betty (although I think my mind is already made up... I can't imagine her not in my life!). Keven at Rivendell Bicycle Works has been extremely helpful in giving me ideas on how to customize Betty and I think I have the specs almost narrowed down. Basically, she'll be much like the above pictured bike (Brooks B17S saddle, cork grips, bar end shifters, Albatross bars) but with fenders and a rear rack. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Portenzo iPad Case

It's been a while since I received my Portenzo iPad case so I thought I would post a few pics and thoughts. Here it is:

As I mentioned previously, it is a Moleskine-style case, which I loved due to its simplicity. I wanted something that doesn't advertise that I'm carrying an iPad, but is still functional and offers some degree of protection (i.e. from dust and dirt). I can't say how much protection this case can provide in terms of shock absorption, but I try to be as careful as possible not to drop my stuff. I suppose it would at least protect against nicks and scratches in that type of situation.

Back view with Portenzo logo and double-glued elastic band:

Inside view (Deep Purple interior):

There are no extra compartments, which I prefer. I initially looked at wallet-type cases, but those are too bulky and I don't want to carry the contents of my wallet with me around the house. When I really thought about it, all I wanted was something stylish to protect my iPad. The case does add a little bit of bulk to the iPad but I don't mind (the case is about 2.5cm thick).

The iPad is held inside with "Sure-Grip invisible corners". You basically push the corners of the iPad into the case, and the corner grips hold it in place. Other manufacturers' cases have similar mechanisms of securing the iPad, but I had seen videos and read reviews of iPads easily falling out. Some easily fell out and others took a wee bit of shaking and then easily fell out.

With this case, however, the iPad is held firmly in place - it is definitely not going anywhere. I've tried shaking the crap out of it and it does NOT budge once it's in. I often read on my iPad in bed, lying on my back and holding the iPad over me - no surprise attacks as of yet, and I don't expect any. Despite this, it's not difficult to take the iPad out of the case, although I've only done that once. I have no reason to remove it from its case so I can't speak to the durability of the corner grips with repeated removal/replacement of the iPad.

Bamboo frame with cutouts for the ports/controls:

The frame is smooth, beautiful, and durable. I have not experienced any warping of the frame.

"Audio-flow sound ports" that amplify the sound coming from the speakers:

The sound ports really do make a difference in the volume and richness of the sound. Not that you get fantastic audio from an iPad anyway, but the sound ports are a cool touch.

The cover can be folded backwards to create a slight incline for typing. As you can see below, the incline is not as much as that of the Apple iPad case but it works for me. In general, I'm not a huge fan of typing on the iPad (I prefer my laptop if I have a lot of typing to do) so this case is perfectly fine for that purpose.

The case can also be propped up for watching movies, slideshows, etc. There is nothing to secure the case in this position, so it can get a little precarious. 

To put it simply: I love this case! It's simple, stylish, and functional. I initially thought it was a little spendy but I think it's entirely worth it, especially considering the other, more expensive cases out there of inferior quality. If you're in the market for a similarly-styled iPad case, I highly recommend Portenzo!

My New Office

My yarn collection and associated crafty objects were beginning to make our spare room look like something out of Hoarders so W & I finally took it upon ourselves to give it all a proper home! It took a few hours to clear the room out but here's the before:

And after:

Excuse the crappy photos. I'm not a photographer and I haven't the slightest idea on how to edit photos.

The wall colour is a much brighter aqua than the pictures depict. In the daylight it's like a robin's egg or Tiffany blue. It's bright and cheerful and I love it. HUGE thanks to Omz and Blair for their painting expertise!!

My cutting/blocking table with yarn swift and ball winder:

I would have liked a larger table but this one works just fine. It's from the Ikea Vika series. My blocking board is 51 x 33 and fits fine, it just hangs over the edge a little.

Billy bookcases for my yarn, fabric, and notions:

The doors make an otherwise cheap-looking bookcase look so much nicer! Plus, it protects my yarn from dust, curious cats, etc.

And finally, my computer/pressing/sewing area:

It looks cramped but it works for me. The press is an Elnapress Alizé. It's fairly new so I haven't had the chance to develop a strong opinion about it, but so far I'm enjoying its ease of use.

Yes, it's Ikea city in here but the stuff is just so practical and affordable. More $$$ for yarn!

Now I'm on the search for a chair and items to adorn the walls. It's cliché but I'd like an inspiration board over the workspace.

As for the chairs - I would like something different than the usual task chair. It also needs to be a fun colour; I think chartreuse would really pop and break up the monotony of the white furniture. I have it narrowed down to the Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair and Vitra Panton Chair.

Both come in the green I'm looking for. I love these midcentury chairs. W prefers the Eames but I'm leaning towards the Panton - something about its futuristic, yet classic look really draws me in.