Thursday, February 16, 2017

Specialized Rockhopper Sport

Review of the Specialized Rockhopper Sport

The Good:
Low Weight

This is a good, solid starter bike. The 27.5" wheels is a good beginner's size to help become accustomed to riding trails. More experienced riders will want to go with the 29s. Specialized has a long history of putting their experience and knowledge into their bikes. Overall it handles very well and can take on most beginners and intermediate trails. It gets taxed when taking it through more advanced trails. The RockShox XC28 is good enough for this entry level bike. Brakes are grippy but lacks the power probably due to the Tektro brakes not having been sufficiently bedded in. The 2x10 SRAM X5 package shifts well and reliably. This is a great starter bike for someone who is just getting to XC mountain biking. More advanced riders will want to get the 29s and better components.

This bike excels for the enthusiast rider getting started and want to make sure they like riding before committing more money for a more advanced bike. It succeeds in it's mission for durability, low weight and quality. You gotta love the lifetime warranty on the frame and you know Specialized isn't going anywhere. 

With a Shimano Alivio and Acera mix for the drivetrain, it is very functional and durable. Even after a few dozen rides, it didn't need any adjustments. Cranks are a SR Suntour set up with a 3x9 drivetrain. They have an octalink bottom bracket. This is a threaded unit that sits inside the frame.

The RockHopper uses the tried and true 32 hole cross 3 lacing method, so long term maintenance is something any shop worth spending any of your money at can maintain them. The tires are really nice. The Fast Trak rear and Captain Control front handles any terrain that was thrown at it.

Brakes are Tektro Draco. They are dependable and reliable. You could upgrade to a better set but it fits with this bike.

Fork: SR Suntour fork is solid. The action is good and predictable. It works best if you're between 155-180lbs with about 3 inches of travel. If you're over 210, ask your shop to firm it up. For riders under 140, you'll need to lighten the spring.

It is a good climber because it is maneuverable. The lock feature on the fork made it a breeze to make your way up inclines. Although this is a feature that many won't use, as you advance in your biking skills, it will be something you are very happy to have.

This is where this bike shines. It's lightweight agility and frame geometry makes the bike very nimble. It wants you to push the bike to show what it can do. As you become more experienced with riding overall, you'll begin to appreciate the Specialized heritage.

This is a really fun bike to go downhill on. You can push harder and the bike will respond. You'll begin to notice it's limitations on drops more than 5 feet but otherwise, it's a lot of fun.

This bike is an excellent beginners bike for anyone getting back in or starting mountain biking. When you master this bike you'll be ready for the more advanced bike. For casual riders that want to push it now and then, this is perfect fit.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Columbia River Knife and Tool's M21-04G Black Folding Work Knife

This is a review of the Columbia River Knife and Tool's M21-04G Black Folding Work Knife.

The Good:
Solid Construction
Great open action
Lifetime warranty

The Bad:
A bit heavy to carry in your pocket
power coated handle  

Unpacking the knife
The knife came in a well packed box with instructions and registration materials. It seems simple enough and documentation is straight forward. They give you instructions on how to close it with one hand but I've not been able to master it. Maybe bigger hands will find it easier to do with one hand. I see the risk injury high if you try to close it with one hand.


Overall Construction
This is my first Columbia River knife. It has solid construction and you can tell it'll hold up to most abuse you'll give to a knife. It's a tab bit heavy to keep in your pocket on a everyday basis but I guess that's why they have the clip on the side. A great feature is that you're able to move the clip to the other side of the knife if that works better for you. I could see the clip breaking with heavy use. I don't use the clip so it's not a factor for me. It comes with a life time warranty which is very nice for knife.
It is designed by Harold "Kit" Carson. He's a retired Sgt. Major and high profile member of the knifemakers' guild. I'm not that into knives so I'm not sure what factors this brings into the knife but at least it tells you that it was well thought out when they built and designed the knife. It's well balanced for a folding knife and feels solid. 

This is why you buy a knife. It is a solid piece of of well constructed 3.875 inch stainless steel blade. It's coated in a nitride finish which will wear off but the blade will hold up very well. It's held up very well to the odd tasks and jobs I've asked it to do. I'll provide an update later to see how well the blade holds up. 

The handle is very comfortable in your hands. The holes on the sides gets enough air through so you don't get too sweaty if you're using the knife for a long time. As with most folding knives, the weight is more on the blade when it's unfolded. It's black power coated so that finish will wear off in time. 

Opening the knife is a dream. This has been the best opening knife I've used. It has a flipper knob to start the opening action and you can either flick with your wrist to open it all the way or continue to use your finger on the knob. The open action is very smooth. We'll see how it hold up to thousands of opens.
I use two hands to close it but I could see you could do it with one hand. I would rather keep my fingers so I'll always use two hands to close the knife. 
It feature the innovative and strong AutoLAWKS knife safety. This sets a pin against the locking liner which converts it into a virtual fixed blade when the knife is open and locked. To disengage the blade, simply pull the red pin back, slide the locking liner over and close the knife. To deploy quickly, press your finger on the Carson Flipper, the blade flies open, and this innovative safety system automatically has your back.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Acer R13 Chromebook

Review of the Acer R13 Chromebook

The Good:
Awesome display
Great battery life
Very lightweight
Keyboard action
Best when used for what it was designed for

The Bad:

I've heard good things about a chromebook so I decided to see how good they really are. I decided I wanted one that will last (software and hardware wise) so I chose the Acer R13. It's one of the a very few currently that support the Google Play Store. There isn't a stable build so you have to configure it with the beta option. You can google how to enable it. I'm going to wait until there is a stable build before I enable it. I want it work well when I enable it which will come sometime this year.


It definitely has a premium feel to it but is light enough to carry around. The base is a machined aluminum and it reminds me of the MacBook Pro. Acer placed the R 13's USB Type-C port, HDMI port, USB 3.0 port and microSD card reader on the Chromebook's left side and the headphone jack and lock slot on its right side. That Type-C port is used mainly for charging, but it also supports USB 3.1 data transfer and DisplayPort monitors. 

The micro SD slot acts as additional storage which you will eventually need since it only has a 32gig hard drive. I suspect as memory gets even cheaper, it'll go up approaching a normal laptop storage capacity. What would be good is if Google decides that you can integrate that sd slot memory for onboard memory like you can on Andriod 6.0 phones.

The R13 can be used in a standard laptop configuration or a touch pad configuration. It has a touch screen display that is responsive enough but it works best as a chromebook. You can even lay the touchpad configuration on a flat surface as the keys are sunken into the body so you don't scratch your keys.

Key are responsive and offer a very nice tactile touch. The keyboard and touch pad is not as nice as a Macbook Pro but then again, I didn't have to shell out over a grand, just $350 at

Battery life it top rate since the Chrome OS doesn't really tax the processors. It's been going 3 days without a charge  for about 4 hours a day and still has over 50% battery life.

The display is a full 1080p and it is fantastic. Chrome OS does not play all mkv files well but it can play some. It will be able to play any file when you enable google apps. Having the full Google Play library really makes for the short comings of Chrome OS. All you will need to do is download the VLC app.

Camera and Speakers
The R13 comes with a 0.9 megapixel camera. Come on 0.9M? What is this 2004? I'm not sure why they skimped so much on the camera. It is functional but just barely. Skype calls for the people on the other end will be not great.

The speakers are located under the chromebook and one on the side. It doesn't sound well at all when used in the laptop configuration but sounds decent when put in the tablet configuration.

This is a great chromebook. I guess when you start going up in price, you expect more functionality, like a laptop. When you try to use it as a laptop, it has its shortcomings. The key is going to be how well Google integrates the play store and how stable it will perform. Then it can be a great tablet as well as a chromebook and when that happens, this is a fantastic deal at $350. If it's just a chromebook, then it's a good deal.

CPUMediaTek MT8173C Core Pilot Quad-Core ARM
Operating SystemGoogle Chrome

Hard Drive Size32GB

Display Size13.3
Native Resolution1920x1080

Graphics CardIntegrated Imagination PowerVR GX6250 Graphics

Wi-Fi Model802.11AC WiFi featuring 2x2 MIMO Technology (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0

Touchpad Size4.1 x 2.4 inches
Ports (excluding USB)USB 3.1 with Type-C
Ports (excluding USB)USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB)Headphone
Ports (excluding USB)HDMI
USB Ports2
Card SlotsmicroSD
Warranty/SupportOne Year International Limited Warranty
Size12.8 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches
Weight3.2 pounds

Specialized Rock Hopper Comp (2015)

Review for 2015 Specialized Rock Hopper Comp

The Good:
Great Starter Bike to grow with your skills
29" Tires
Great handling 
Local Bike Store
Great Price

The Bad:
Mediocre components 
Terrible seat
High seat post

After 27 years, it was time for a new bike. My 1994, Univega chromoly frame bike with 21 inch wheels just could not handle the trails. It was rough riding on that bike. It has served me well but it had outlived it's usefulness.

I wanted a bike under $1000 and narrowed it down to either a Cannondale or Specialized. Both great names in mountain biking which I knew would be around should I have issues in the future. I almost bought a bike on Craig's List however, after visiting 3 bike stores, I bought one from a local bike shop (LBS) near where I live. 

The clincher was that I was able to get a 2015 model for $150 off, plus lifetime warranty on the frame (which would not apply to bikes bought on Craig's List) and the local shop offered FREE lifetime tune ups!! (usually $60 each time)

I knew I was going to be really hard on the bike so the lifetime warranty was really important. I've read on the forums that Specialized is pretty good about honoring their warranty. You will have to pay for assembly. I didn't really like any of the 2016 colors and was really happy to find that I could get a 2015 plus and extra $150 off. The best times to buy a mountain bike is Sept-Oct (when new models have arrived and the shops are trying to get rid of the older models) and in Jan-Feb (when there is almost no mountain bike activity). Nov-Dec is when people buy bikes for Christmas. 

I'm not a bike mechanic nor do I claim to be one on the internet. I may eventually get into fixing it on my own but right now, I don't have much time or interest in learning how to fix my bike. I wanted something that was virtually maintenance free. 

I decided on the Comp version of the Rockhopper due to the geometry of the rear fork pictured below. 

I have not metal stress test to prove my theory other than how it rides. Think about coming on a hard landing. The stress point of the torque and weight stress is in the elbow above instead of it all coming into one joint like most hard tail bikes. This reduces stress on the frame and translates into a more stable bike. 

The seat they provide was really uncomfortable for rides longer than 30 minutes. I purchased a new seat that I will post a review on later. The seat post is a bit long. I guess I have long legs for someone who is 5'8" because I need to cut the post to make it just a few inches longer. 

I had to take the bike into the shop for an adjustment due to the shifter setting not being set properly. It should be free fix since I bought the bike a few months ago and if it's not, it's covered under the yearly free tune up (love it). 

It handles the rough terrain very well and soaks up almost all bumps. Where it could be better is in rough downhills. Granted it is a hard tail so I can fully understand why people like full suspension bikes. I think it does a decent job on those jarring down hills for a hard tail. It's wide handle bar makes steering a breeze and really comfortable for long rides. 

The 29 inch wheels make a huge difference. I don't even really need as many gears due to the large tires. The tires it did come with are fantastic. They are rough on the streets but that is what you would expect from mud/snow tires. 

Brakes a first rate. Very biting with little fad. the crank gears are something less to be desired. This would be my first upgrade if I did one. I probably wouldn't upgrade unless I broke the frame and had to reassemble the entire bike. 

I know I'm going be very hard on this bike. I've been on about 10 rides so far and it's handled everything I've thrown at it like a champ. Let's hope this bike will last another 27 years. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thuja Green Giant Arborviate from Sandy's Nursery (Amazon)

Review for Thuja Green Giant Arborviate Trees from Sandy's Nursery

The Good:
$40 for 10 trees
Healthy when arrived
Packaged well for shipment

The Bad:
They are really small
Small pot
Need to let them grow before planting

These trees are suppose to grow to be 50+ feet. They are a good deal for getting ten trees and they seemed healthy. They are wrapped in plastic so if you get them in summer be sure to get them out of the sun. I had ordered scotch pine trees from another vendor and they were out in the sun all day when the USPS delivered them and they ended up dying. The vendor was terrible because you had to ship the dead trees back to get a refund which costs more than the cost of the trees that I purchased which basically negates the refund process. I can't recall who I bought them from but just be aware when you order live plants that this can happen.

This is a picture of the day they arrived.

I potted them in 12 inch pots the next day and waited 6 months before I planted them in the ground. I am happy to say that five of the six I planted are still alive after a year. They are between 3-5 feet tall now and are doing well.