Just one small problem…

This post is about things that are just a nudge, a prod, or a tweak from excellence. These are the things that I think “oh, what a bargain” instead of “O, thy perfection.”

It’s hardly ever a matter of function and only seldom a matter of usability, but these small design flaws become so much more. They are what makes me want to throw out all of my shit. It’s these flaws that make me want to not have anything at all if I can’t have what’s perfect. These are the small infractions that keep a score at 97% or even 99% instead of what I really want it to be. They make 99% feel like an F+.

It’s probably going to sound like incessant and overly critical nitpicking, and that’s what it is. But please understand that these are some of my favorite things I own, and some part of my heart and mind loves each and every one of these ‘things’ on some deep level that at once comforts and frightens me. So when I nitpick at these things, please imagine that you understand it to be because I care about them so very deeply that it pains me to know they’re not perfect.

Because as I will now catalog, they’re not.

Let’s start with my Kilo TT frame. I’ve been riding this bike since September of 2007, and it’s been wonderful. One would be hard pressed to find a nicer riding steel frame for less money, especially one that is offered as a complete bike in the Kilo’s price range. I’m only talking about the frame here… obviously any track bike shy of the 800 dollar mark produced today is going to be a long way off from perfection… but as a cheap frameset, the Kilo nearly achieves it. Except for a few things…

The geometry is great, but it has decidedly “track bike” clearances. The geometry induces toe overlap with nearly all sizes and will only fit 28c tires to those that are truly zealous rubber lovers. It’s perfectly well suited to road riding- it’s not a 75 degree head angle twitchy keirin frame and it’s meant for people to ride around town as well as at a velodrome… but it’s not a bike made for commuting. It’s a beginner’s track bike, made for use on the street or the velodrome if you want to dip your toes into racing. And at this aim it succeeds wildly.

But there are two things that for me, eclipse perfection with a maddeningly immutable certainty.

First, there are the rack brazeons on the chainstays.

Now the kilo can accommodate a rack just fine. It has a single set of eyelets on the dropouts and it has strong enough rear triangle that your ortliebs(packed chubby with your change of clothes and a bag lunch) aren’t going to break the frame after years of jostling around. However, this frame is not a touring bike. It’s not a commuter bike. It’s not a pedestrian road bike and it’s not a fredmobile. It’s a beginner’s racing bike. It’s a fixed gear for those that want to look good and start racing without spending an asston of money. And it most certainly does not need rack brazeons. They ruin what would otherwise be a perfectly beautiful rear fastback seatstay cluster.

While we’re at it: that brake bridge. Just make it a single straight gauge tube. No one should be putting a rear brake on a kilo. That’s what the Windsor Hour is for. The bianchi pista has a straight brake bridge and no one complains. Okay, no one who matters complains.

This brings us to the dropouts, or ‘track fork ends’ as they are called.

They are shaped nicely enough, but they lack the sharpness and hard looks to really make this bike godly. This is mostly due to the way they shape the stays ends where the dropouts are fitted. See how fat and lazy those look? I know lots of nice frame builders used to do it in this manner, but those bikes had lugs. The kilo would be beautiful beyond description if the stay ends didn’t round out in spherical nubs like they do. A smooth tapering fillet brazed stay/dropout juncture is key on a tig welded frame like the kilo. It would make the dropouts look better, helping the overall shape of the dropouts to not look so chubby.

That, and they have goddamn fender eyelets. Why does a track bike need fender eyelets? It doesn’t. Dear god.

Okay, that’s about it for the kilo. The fork could be lighter, and the frame could be stiffer, and on and on. But all of that drives the price up. What I mentioned, aside from the stay/dropout junctions, would actually decrease the price of production and labor.

At this point you’re probably thinking “jeez, if you care that much just get a real track bike.” That’s not the point. The point is that the kilo is what it is, but it could be that much better if it had these few small tweaks. Yes, these are basically all ‘looks’ based complaints. No, that doesn’t make me feel any less about them.

So let’s move on.

Next we have the Arc’teryx jacket. I believe this one is called the Gamma AR but I could be wrong.

It’s a beautiful jacket. The materials are flawless, the texture is perfect, the stitching is, well, not perfect but darn close, and it’s generally a fantastic jacket.

However, generally does not quite do it for me. I bike and I would love to have three of the features the rapha softshell has.

Notice I am not saying I want the rapha softshell. Firstly, it’s more expensive than this jacket is, which is already wildly exorbitant. Second, I don’t particularly care for the two black and red color choices. Black is nice but it’s too techy. I like the Arc’teryx color palettes much more. However, the rapha jacket is a design stroke of genius in many ways, and those are what I feel lacking in the Gamma AR.

The first is a reflective detail. Not any huge stripe or piping, but a small reflective detail like the rapha logo on their rear skirt, or the blk label swrve beltloop on their knickers. Nothing that isn’t already on the jacket, but something that would reflect headlights so I can have a little added safety. I am not trying to look good for on camera flash photographers, nor am I trying to sneak into secure buildings undetected in this jacket. I’d like a reflective bit, no larger than a square inch or so of material. Just a very small, ultimately subtle, nearly unnoticeable reflective detail, somewhere visible from the rear of the jacket. My choice would be the thread they use to embroider the arc’teryx logo on the rear of the neck, or maybe just a printed logo along the back waist, about the size of the logo in the inside label.

Second is the flipout thumbhole/wrist warmers found on the rapha jacket. This idea is genius and seriously invaluable to any cyclist. Wind up the sleeves is one of the worst things that can happen in the cold. Cold arms are cold hands, and it’s just unpleasant to all hell. These things can flip inside the jacket when you don’t want them, and flip down when you do. Perfect.

Third, and most of all, I’d like the zipper to be asymmetric. I don’t know why more jackets don’t do this. Again, the rapha guys got this dead on. Asymmetric zippers disrupt the front of the garment less, don’t bunch up funny in bent positions, and are less prone to wind penetration. Okay, so not everyone zips with the same hand, and maybe it’s harder to craft this; but I still think it’s a good idea. When a zipper goes all ‘s-curve’ around my stomach because the waist has ridden up, it’s the absolute single most unflattering thing that can happen on a garment. Asym zippers won’t do this. That alone should be reason to cut the zipper in asymmetrically. it’s only an inch or two more zipper material, and when you have a jacket that costs this much there’s no excuse not to other than some people may think it looks funny. Screw those people.

A back ‘jersey’ style pocket for cycling would be nice, but that would make it a cycling jacket, which I don’t want. This jacket would be great and these three listed improvements would still make it perfect whether on or off a cycle. I share the opinion with companies like outlier, swrve and the like that good urban cycling clothes are normal clothes that are of the highest quality and only show their cycling functionality when you get on a bike. My cycling clothes of choice wouldn’t look like cycling clothes at all. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the three things I listed above.

Let’s move on now to the P7 flashlights.

These would be great if they worked.

For some reason, both of mine(two separate models) only work at full brightness for  a moment before stepping down to about 1/3 output. What would be a wonderful headlight for distance vision at speed on the bike quickly turns into a walking lamp, incapable of lighting the road far enough ahead to be of use. It must be something about the power supply and driver or switch regulating the power across the LED, but dear god is it frustrating that these things don’t just work like they should. Yes, they’re cheap dealxtrm chinese crap with no quality control- if that means i have unrealistic expectations, then fine. Again, you should have realized this by now.

Unrealism is what this post is about. That is the entire point of this post; expecting perfection without paying life savings for it.

And then finally we have the Samsung Reality.

This phone wants to be a smart phone so badly, it hurts. It tries to look like one, it tries to act like one, but it has software that makes me want to throw it off a cliff and that makes it dumb. It’s a dumbphone.

For example… the music player is so dumb, it trys to predict which way you’re holding the phone so it can orient the display and controls to your horizon. However, what this ends up doing is effectively taking away all of your function controls to display some sort of ridiculous cover-flow-deformity that not only doesn’t work, but also reverses the volume keys on the side of the phone. Worst of all, it will switch between the two with no warning so when you put the phone in your pocket, it goes to landscape cover-flow-abortion mode after you’ve stopped looking at it. Then you go to change the volume, and it does the opposite of what you’re telling it to do. There’s no way to disable this setting, and there’s no way to change how the phone plays music.

Another hilariously disgusting pestilence of this phone is that it has SEVEN VOLUME SETTINGS FOR MUSIC. that’s six notches, from “OFF” to “LOUD ENOUGH FOR A MIDDLE AGED EASY LISTENING AFICIONADO.”

You can’t get another application or change the music app in any way.  Now it does have features, like several ‘equilizer’ type presets and playlists and shuffle and the like. But the problems aren’t limited to UI and lack of settings. It will do some really funky things to the audio on certain formats and certain frequencies. Dubstep, even with a set of 40mm driver headphones, is not going to play on this phone. It has low tone frequency handling of a wasp. The music might as well be recordings of girls sneezing, with the distortion and clipping that the phone exhibits, before it even gets to the speakers.

Not all phones can be smart phones. And not all phones need to be. But if you’re going to be a multimedia phone, which the reality is sold as, you need to be able to play multimedia halfway decently, and the reality just can’t. The UI is horrible, the features are stupid, and the settings aren’t settings at all, they’re arbitration. Reality bites.


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