Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Italian steel road bike - Pegoretti Marcelo

Colnago, Bianchi, Tommasini, De Rosa, Cinelli, Pelizzoli and Ciocc. Italian bike names that roll off the tongue and to drool at if you are a cycling addict. When I was considering getting a steel bike to complement my aluminium Cannondale, I considered these names and more - including bicycles made in the USA. Throughout my search, however, one name kept on showing up in people's conversations. If I wanted a thoroughbred race bred road bike, made by an Italian master who had himself been a pro racer, who had built frames that actual pros rode - it had to be a Pegoretti. Dario Pegoretti was one of the first builders in Italy to TIG-weld bikes and his patented blend of geometry, funky long headtube and outrageously painted frames was what appealed to me. And if you happen to surf bike forums often, you will hear his name and bikes mentioned repeatedly by fans who wax lyrical about the magical ride his bikes produce.

Which Pegoretti to choose was going to be easy. I was only considering non-stainless steel (couldn't afford stainless!) and there are only three main steel models - the Duende, Big Leg Emma (BLE in short) and the Marcelo. For the sake of simplicity, the former two models are variations of the Marcelo - the Duende has a softer rear end and the BLE has a massively oversized (and I assume stiffer) rear. Most people I talked to told me the Marcelo was the way to go.

Buying a new Pegoretti was out of the question for me. Firstly, there is a minimum 12 month waiting list and this is not guaranteed. Secondly, prices for frame only for a new frame is about USD4,000 excluding shipping and taxes. As USD4000 is about my budget for a fully built bike, I had to look for a second hand option.

Scouring websites like craigslist, thepaceline forum, and also specialized websites like the Velocipe Salon forum didn't garner any results. Turning to eBay as a last resort - I finally spotted a size 55 Pegoretti Marcelo for just over a grand. Granted, it was an old bike - more than 10 years old - however I was hoping that there was plenty of miles left in the bike which would allow me to experience what was so special about the Pegoretti ride.

After waiting anxiously for weeks for the frame to arrive all the way from the US, I finally had my Italian bike. It needed touching up of the frame for rust spots (see pic below of the frame at my trusty paint touch up shop) and a good spray of anti - rust in the inner tubing plus waiting for parts to arrive but finally (after 2+ months), I finally had a ridable end product.

The final build (an Italian bike naturally has to have Italian parts :) was:

- Campagnolo Chorus 2013 - 11 speed. I decided to try out a compact crank (50/34 rings in the front) to appease my tired knees and went with a traditional 11-25 in the rear.
- Campagnolo Shamal 2-way fit aluminium wheels. Had a difficult time deciding between this and the Neutron Ultras but decided on this instead as these are the top of the line aluminium wheels made by Campy - wheels have a huge effect on the ride of the bike and how it feels.
- 3T ARX PRO stem and Rotundo Pro bars
- Fizik Arione saddle - its tough to find a saddle that fits. After years on the Selle Italia SLR, and experiencing soreness every so often after longish rides, I decided to revert back to the Arione which I used previously on an old bike.
- WR compositi carbon seatpost - a no brainer as my Pego came with it.
- Mizuno carbon fork - came with the bike. Thinking of changing to a Falz or an ENVE 2.0 later.
- Shimano Ultegra PD-6700 carbon pedals - decided to treat myself with some more carbon.
- Continental GP4000s tires - good in dry and wet conditions, durable as well

Weight of the bike fully built was about 8.2kg or about 18 pounds which was a fair bit heavier than my Cannondale. Was a bit worried that I would really feel the weight in the climbs however in reality, I did not feel the weight that much in actual climbing efforts.

The ride this bike provides is smooth and predictable. The major "hits" one feels while riding a carbon or an aluminium frame over uneven patches of road are ironed out and this ultimately gives a more comfortable ride. Handling is very good as well and cornering is very stable though not as fast as my CAAD10. A friend of mine likens a good steel bike to being more of a GT car (like a Maserati Gran Turismo) vs a out and race car (like a Honda S2000). Looking forward to many miles of riding before an upgrade on this one.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

SIDI Zephyr Shoes

Bought my first pair of SIDIs recently after using my old Shimano R087s for a while. After deliberating on how much I wanted to spend, I decided to get one of the lowest models of SIDI - the Zephyr. It uses velcro closures entirely vs the higher end SIDIs which have a cable tightening system. Even though the R087 uses a ratcheting mechanism, I must say that I did not miss them at all. Velcro is fine for me and micro adjustments feels like something that only the pros would need (if at all). Carbon composite sole is a plus to me, I was actually fine with the fibreglass sole of the Shimano.

All I can say is that even though they are made in Romania and not Italy, the quality and fit and finish of these shoes are top notch. The quality of the "leather" is very good and thick vs the Shimanos. Even the inside of the shoe is nicely finished and smooth to the wearer. All in all, I think its a great buy for the money - around 80 Euros.

A few gotchas - a lot of people say the sizing of SIDI shoes are smaller compared to Shimano, for me they feel identical which means if you wear a size 43 for Shimano, go with 43 for the SIDI. I have fairly wide feet and the normal fit is plenty wide enough for me, I see no need to get the MEGA (extra wide) version of the shoe unless you have feet like flippers. The other potential problem for these if you use Shimano cleats is the bolts provided could be a bit short to screw in the cleats. Not a major problem as you can just source longer cleat bolts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Property curbs in Singapore for foreign buyers

Despite numerous curbs initiated by the Singapore govt, property prices in Singapore are in no way coming down, especially the new properties. Came across an article last Thursday on the Straits Times about property curbs across Asia which was kind of interesting. There was a map showing property curbs in multiple countries, Singapore being one of them.

It is a no brainer looking at this map why prices aren't falling despite curbs on loans, increases in stamp duties etc. If I were a foreigner looking for some place to park my money, a 15% stamp duty isnt going to deter me. If the govt was serious about cooling the market, they should bump up stamp duties for foreigners and PRs to a larger number like 35%. PRs should be forced to sell properties once they do not reside in the country any more. I do not have the data on this but, before you know it, half of Singapore will be owned by foreigners and foreign countries (if it hasn't happened already...).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Big Wet Taxi Problem in Singapore

I am writing this post as we speak at Changi Airport. It was raining this morning and as all Singaporeans know that spells big trouble if you are looking to get a taxi. From home, I tried in vain  to book a taxi for 30min and just gave up.

Where do these taxis go during rainy periods? Do they hibernate or more likely hide at coffeeshops and have their kopi? That and the other half of taxi drivers who just camp at the airport waiting for passengers to arrive could be the reason. I have no idea honestly. It just is frustrating if you need to go somewhere urgently.

The solution? Short of monitoring where taxis go and mandating that each taxi driver has to circumvent the island repeatedly instead of clustering around areas where an easy fare is, I really have no idea. The government should step in or else allocate more cars for everyone and start removing taxis from the road.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wilson Pro Staff 85 and variants

Since the early 80s, the Wilson Pro Staff 85 (sometimes called the Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 Original) has been winning tournaments in one form or another. Notable wielders of this racket included Chris Evert, Jim Courier (before he went to the Wilson PS 6.6 Stars and Stripes model), Stefan Edberg (after a brief dalliance with the Wilson PS 6.1 95), and of course Pete Sampras, who pretty much used this same racket albeit the much touted St. Vincent model his entire career. Much less known is the fact that the Fed Express aka Roger Federer used this racket at the start of his career beating Sampras in the process in that infamous round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Since then, Federer has gone on singlehandedly to champion the pro series 90 sq in variant of the original Wilson Pro Staff 85.

I have been using the PS 85 (how I like to  call this stick) for almost 19 years. Efforts to replace it have failed and believe me I have tried. Over the years I have tried nearly all the variants of "Federer's rackets" bar the first few models - the Ncode Six-One Tour, KSix-One Tour, the BLX Six.One Tour and the BLX Prostaff Ninety. I also got the "one off" KProStaff 88, which is honestly a really ridiculous racket - extremely powerful and extremely unwieldy at the same time. Which one did I like? Well I go back to the PS 85 nearly everytime but if I had a choice I think the newest incarnation - the BLX Prostaff Ninety comes the closest. Without lead tape it feels like a slightly head heavy version of of the PS 85 with more power but less controllable and not so nimble at the net. 

Will I be getting another PS 85 variant? I seriously don't think so. There are only so many rackets a man can have! Better to spend the time learning to master these great rackets and getting to know each of their strengths and weaknesses..

Friday, May 03, 2013

My 2012 Cannondale CAAD10

My first bike was one of those "chopper" style bikes - the one that had a gear shifter on the top tube on the bike which I am sure did nothing for gear shifting - but it sure looked cool.

Since then, I have gone through a whole series of bikes - ranging from steel to carbon fibre and now to aluminium. Why downgrade - some might say. Carbon fibre has to be the best material for a bike correct? Well to a point yes. Carbon fibre bikes can be built to be both compliant for comfort(horizontally!) and stiff for responsiveness. It can be made light - oh yes. If you have ever held a carbon fibre frame in your hand you would swear it was all made out of cardboard - thats how light it would feel. However, I still wager that carbon fibre still cannot match the smoothness of a real good steel bike and the zippiness or zinginess (some call it sports car like feel) of a good aluminium bike.

Which brings me to the Cannondale CAAD10 - I have always wanted a Cannondale. Whats not to like about the name - "Cannondale" ;). But those things are expensive. A ready made Cannondale in Singapore will cost you easily USD2k if not more unless you manage to capture a late model variant like a CAAD8 or a CAAD9. But me - I wanted a CAAD10. After taking a few test rides - I just loved this Taiwan built CAAD10 frame (the older CAADs were supposedly handmade in the USA). It was light, it was smooth - relatively anyway and it was responsive.

After scoring a deal on the 'Bay, I bought this size 56 frame and built it up with a Deda cockpit (Deda Zero 100 stem and Deda Newton shallow bars) and seatpost (Deda Zero 100), a Selle Italia SLR (Update in Oct 2013 - I have since replaced this with a Fizik Arione) saddle, SRAM Force components (Update in Oct 2013 - SRAM BB30 bearings failed due to corrosion and replaced at 2200km :( ) and beautiful Campagnolo Eurus wheels. Frame weight was around 1.2kg and total build weight was around 7.5kg / 16.5lbs. I probably could have built the bike lighter by using weight weenie components and by using carbon wheelset but as this bike was meant to be a daily thrashabout bike, I decided to spec components that were tougher on it e.g. aluminium parts throughout. Frame specs-wise for my size 56 - it has a 56cm top tube and seat tube length, a "traditional" 73degree seatpost and head tube angle, a 80cm standover height.
How does it ride you might ask? She (bikes tend to be referred to as females gender-wise) feels very stiff, accelerates very easily and retains speed well. Turn in in corners with the Cannondale fork is very predictable and there is very little "jitteriness" in terms of controlling it. Compliance-wise, it is a harsher ride compared to carbon fibre or steel or titanium over rough roads. To tune the ride for more comfort, you might consider adding a carbon fibre seatpost and or cockpit and or wheels. For me, I just trust aluminium a lot more in terms of reliability in terms of components. I have had this baby for a year or more now and am looking for a change soon. Maybe back to steel again - we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Trading for a living

Today is my 6th work anniversary at my current company. I have been at a job for more than 18 years - solidly at the mid point of a typical 40 year work life.

At some point in a person's life, you might start to wonder if you are becoming redundant to organizations in terms of being a desirable worker. At the beginning of ones work life - after graduation, the prospects seems boundless - there seems to be lots of jobs and lots of opportunities. At my current stage of work life - the reverse seems apparent. You would never consider lower level jobs any more - they pay worse and the higer level positions seem impossible to do.

At such a stage in one's life, you might start to contemplate having a career change - be your own boss maybe and some might consider trading for a living.

What is trading for a living - my simple definition is being able to trade (on the stock market, bonds, commodities etc) to sustain your current expenses at a minimum and prefereably to return a profit - to allow you to save up for a rainy day.

So is it possible to trade for a living? Well if you have never traded stocks before or have made big losses in the past, it is probably a bad idea. If you have traded part time and made a decent profit i.e. never made a loss, it would probably sound to you like a great idea.

Trading <> investing in my book. Investing means putting in the cash into an investment e.g. house, stocks, bonds to achieve returns however with a long term outlook and without constant monitoring of the investment (maybe an hour or two a week?). Trading means having to switch on your computer in the morning/night and monitoring your current positions constantly and looking for new positions to get into. Day trading would require one to track positions in a day and ideally close off those positions at the end of the day to reduce exposure. I dont trade however my impression of it is that assuming that I have 200 dollars of expenses a day, I will have to trade to achieve an average of 200 dollars of returns a day over time - this would mean that I have to trade x amount of single stock   to get a % return e.g. trade $10000 and get a 2% return or the equivalent (less trading expenses) in many smaller trades. 2% seems achievable - in a single day a stock can fluctuate by 2% several times - however it is probably harder than it seems.

To me, a part time job or a job that allows one to have a lot of free time (with lesser pay) is a better option. You can use that free time to research for investment opportunities ie. stocks to invest in. An alternative is to buy a property and rent it out for at least $4400k a month (after deducting property expenses and taxes).