Archive for October, 2010

A supersonic ride at Mach 2.02 with my Road King Classic

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by bleiglass

Yes, again, the title is misleading, but not completely untrue.

These Sundays in October all seem sunny, and again Hogsback Chapter organised a ride, this time to the Brooklands Museum, where a old Concorde can be seen and a virtual flight at Mach 2.02 taken.

Also as on most sunny Sundays in October, it all started at Rykas, a tad too early.

The Empress is waiting for a quick dash to Brooklands – its about time I remove the ugly Swiss road tax vignette

checking out details – boys and their toys

Andy, the ride leader on this Sunday morning

Hope we do not fall asleep when we drive

Concorde Trivia: The aircraft was initially referred to in the UK as “Concorde”, with the French spelling, but was officially changed to “Concord” by Harold Macmillan in response to a perceived slight by Charles de Gaulle. In 1967, at the French roll-out in Toulouse, the British Government Minister for Technology, Tony Benn announced that he would change the spelling back to “Concorde”. This created a nationalist uproar that died down when Benn stated that the suffixed “e” represented “Excellence, England, Europe and Entente (Cordiale).” In his memoirs, he recounts a tale of a letter from an irate Scotsman claiming: “You talk about ‘E’ for England, but part of it is made in Scotland.” Given Scotland’s contribution of providing the nose cone for the aircraft, Benn replied, “It was also ‘E’ for ‘Écosse’ (the French name for Scotland) — and I might have added ‘e’ for extravagance and ‘e’ for escalation as well!”

no, this airplane did not crash in the woods

a rare picture of me – with Jayne

The Brooklands Concorde G-BBDG was the second production Concorde and the first British production Concorde. Construction began in early 1970 at Brooklands and Toulouse.

Concorde G-BBDG, Delta Golf’s first flight was piloted by Brian Trubshaw (29 January 1924 – 25 March 2001) on 13th February 1974 and its first flight at Mach 2 on 10th April 1974 during its 15th test flight. Following a series of proving flights, she became the first production Concorde to land at Heathrow on 6th July 1974.

Used for engineering tests, route proving, CAA certification, public relations and promotional work and even flying in formation with the Red Arrows, “Delta Golf” was also the first aircraft ever to carry 100 passengers in supersonic flight in 1974.

Delta Golf’s final flight was made from Filton on Christmas Eve in 1981 piloted by Peter Baker and Roy Radford.  She had flown for 1,282 hours over 633 flights, and the aircraft was stored at Filton before being sold to British Airways in 1984, who used it as a source of spare parts for its Concorde fleet.

Richard playing with the nose of the Concorde, which can become 127 degrees hot. This temperature on the nose was also the natural speed limiter for the Concorde (Mach 2.02) , as this was the highest temperature that aluminium could sustain over the life of the aircraft.

the old Rolls Royce engine

After Concorde’s retirement was announced in early 2003, British Airways offered “DG” to the Brooklands Museum. Dismantled and transported by Air Salvage International (ASI), the Brooklands-built front and rear fuselage sections arrived on 5th May 2004 and the rest of the airframe followed on 5th June.

A ‘Brooklands Concorde’ restoration appeal was then launched and an ASI team reassembled the main structure from March to December 2005. With considerable help from sponsors and many Museum volunteers, this aircraft was further restored and complete with a unique on-board exhibition, before officially opening to visitors on 26th July 2006.

interior pictures by Richard

‘Delta Golf’ carried out a large part of the certification work that saw Concorde flying in commercial service between 1976 and 2003.

cockpit picture by Richard

Delta Golf was the fastest production Concorde and in 1974 she became the first aircraft ever to carry 100 people at twice the speed of sound – 1,350mph.

Impressive view along the fuselage

Our Road King’s waiting to take us home. The easiest way for me to recognise my Empress are the rear comfort protection bars, sightly angled downwards.

On 29 May 2010, it was reported that a group comprising the British Save Concorde Group and the French Olympus 593 had begun work on inspecting the engines of a Concorde at Le Bourget Air and Space Museum, with the intent to restore the plane to be able to fly again in demonstrations and air shows.

Flying in the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics is also a goal.

The closest I ever saw the Concorde flying was during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on the 4 June 2002 in London. Here is a picture I could take with the same camera I am using today (Nikon D1) and my long lens (here at 370mm at 1/400 and f8) during the flypast

Strangely this was a quite emotional moment…

View all 77 pictures in high resolution here:

Art Bleiglass - View my 'Brooklands' set on Flickriver


Chicago firefighter sues Harley-Davidson

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , on October 23, 2010 by bleiglass

Usually I would not comment on such tragic accidents, but here is a issue that concerns us all:

product liability versus  user responsibility

The wrecked Harley-Davidson sitting in a
Daley Center courtroom

The background: McMahon, 53, a longtime Chicago firefighter and motorcycle enthusiast is suing Harley-Davidson, claiming the company produced a faulty motorcycle that led to his 2004 crash on an Arizona interstate. A resident of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighbourhood, McMahon now requires a wheelchair and around-the-clock care.

In the ongoing trial, the lawyer pointed out that his clients Harley-Davidson “weaved and wobbled” before it crashed, and continued with the rather obvious statement that “a weaving and wobbling motorcycle is not a safe motorcycle.” The attorney continued: “They sold it knowing there’s a problem with it and knowing there’s a way to fix it.” Really? Even I know a bike can wobble, whatever make, and one can make it stop to wobble.

I admire firefighters for their job dedication and courage, and I feel sorry for McMahon, but this court case shows me some big problems, not with our Harley-Davidson’s, but our society.

Every bike has a tendency to wobble under some conditions, some more, some less, depending on speed, street condition, tyre pressure, to mention just some few factors, while a harmonic feedback is generated and increases in amplitude.

I had a bike that like to wobble, even do something called a “tank slapper”, a speed wobble so severe that the handlebars bang  against the sides of the fuel tank. It only did it under certain conditions, slowing down under no brake while riding free hand, and the experience was so bad that on this one bike, my hands never ever left the handlebars anymore.

Did you know gasoline is flammable?

Should this case go before court? I do not think so. My sympathy is with the rider, and his high medical costs, but it were his actions and his acceptance to drive a dangerous motorvehicle that ultimately lead to the accident.

Did you know gasoline can explode?

What I do not get is that it took 6 full years before this case went to court, the accident happened in 2004, now its 2010. The question arise: did McMahon run out of money, or did a underemployed lawyer convince him to try his luck in the courts, no win, no fee?

Do you understand the indicators?

I fear many of these product liability lawsuits, accepted through misunderstood political correctness, will mainly lead to more expensive products, but not necessarily better ones. Bike riding will remain as dangerous as before, even after a multi million dollar settlement may have to be paid. The millions in cash will ultimately not be paid by Harley-Davidson, but us, the Harley enthusiast.

Did you know poor visibility is dangerous?

I hope common sense will prevail, but as the legal system regularly produce such crazy judgements as the million dollar McDonalds hot coffee settlement, I am not very confident. And if you carefully read the owner manual of your Harley-Davidson, you will quickly see that it was written by lawyers, not bike riders. You can not find a single page without the warning of quite obvious dangers.

How stupid do they think I am?

But after the ruling in this case, I am sure a further warnings will be added to the owners manual: beware of the wobble and more importantly:

be prepared for death or serious injury

Looking at my Road King Classic through a new lens

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , on October 21, 2010 by bleiglass

As announced in one of my latest posts, my camera (a Nikon D1) and the main lens need urgent replacement, as they are both now over 10 years in intensive use and start to become unreliable.

Now I took the first step, and replaced my workhorse lens. This was the original Nikon 24-120mm AF-D, which has been a very popular lens if you wanted to travel light. It went from wide to close up in the twist of the wrist, and only on rare occasions did I replace it with either the wider angled AF-S 12-24 DX, or the long tele zoom 80-400 VR. For detailed pictures I use a 65mm Nikon Macro lens:

Build form 1996, I bought my old 24-120 lens in 2000, and it was discontinued in 2003, replaced by the 24-120 VR. I never bothered with the VR, as most reports came back quite negative. Ken Rockwell (I recommend his site if only to get a second opinion) put this new 24-120 VR in the category of the 10 worst lenses Nikon ever made. It was build form 2003 to 2010.

Now in 2010, Nikon launched the third instalment of this lens, the new and improved Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR. It is said to be worlds sharper than its predecessor, the fuzzy 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR better ergonomically than my old one, the clunky 24-120mm AF-D, and I can already confirm the ergonomical improvement .

Here a comparison, not exactly to scale, of the old and new 24-120mm Zooms.

The new one is visibly larger, feels more robust, and has a filter diameter of 77mm, compared to the 72mm of the old AF. One major optical difference is the fixed F4 maximum aperture and it features Nikon’s latest VR II stabilization system. All this makes it also quite more heavy: 710g vs 560g, a full 150g more to lift.

But it feels great in my hands.

Here the internal diagram, the optics consist of 17 elements in 13 groups, with 3 aspherical elements and 2 ED glass elements.

ED stands for “Extra-low Dispersion” glass, which Nikon started using in their super speed super teles in the late 1960s. The lenses including “ED” glass have a gold band around the barrel (see above picture), but can also easily be recognised by their substantially higher price.

New in this lens is also the “Nano Crystal Coating”, a new anti-reflection coating which surpasses the multi-layer coating that’s been popular in older lenses.

So, where are the pictures? I did some test shots in weak lightning, very good but boring to post here. But I hope to be able to do the first field test of the new lens on my Harley-Davidson during next weekend’s ride. Already now I know it was a worthwhile swap, as the zooming is much smoother and the auto focus considerably faster.

The old lens started to fall apart, the electronic connections to the camera were unstable, resulting in about 20% useless black underexposed frames. This was not acceptable anymore, and the danger of coming home with no picture at all increased day by day, specially in poor light conditions.

And where is the D700 I wrote about? The shop specialist recommended me to wait until December, as the new next model (D700s or D800) could be announced just before Xmas, or not. Either way, the prices for the D700 will continue to fall slightly, which is very much welcomed by my wallet.

Until then, a new life is given to my old D1 with this new lens. If the first real shootings prove to solve most problems I presently have, I may delay a replacement even further.

The Lobster Pot Cafe

Posted in Harley-Davidson, HOG with tags , , , , on October 19, 2010 by bleiglass

A ride to Felpham, Bognor Regis, for breakfast at the Lobster Pot Cafe, on a cold but sunny Sunday. For once somebody took a picture of myself, not riding, but making pictures. Thank you Richard.

As for most rides of the Hogsback Chapter, the meeting point was at Rykas. Box Hill and Ryka’s are one of the best biking destinations in England and is the place to be seen on your bike.

With more the 20 Harley’s we had a great ride lead by Colin to the south.

My Road King Classic parked at the beach

This is how the place looks from a bird eye view. Before you ask: yes, I can fly…

at least we share the same taste of sunglasses

The sun wasn’t in the best position to take shots toward the sea, high noon

The beautiful posing black Lab of Graham

A big thank you to John for using the Garmin Zumo 660 mount chrome cover I made for him. He used a nice golden Bar and Shield logo of Harley-Davidson as motive on his Street Glide.

Click here to view all 95 pictures in high resolution:

Art Bleiglass - View my 'The Lobster Pot Cafe ride' set on Flickriver

GPS-coordinates in Decimal Minutes:

The Lobster Pot Cafe: N50 47.164 W0 39.269

A new DSLR for my Harley-Davidson, the Nikon D700

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2010 by bleiglass

It is time, after 10 years of use my old digital brick, a Nikon D1, reached retirement age and it is time for a new camera. I hope you find my thought process and analysis interesting…

Back in April 2010 I wrote a 3 part series about photography, and one was called:

Which camera for your Harley-Davidson?

Back then I was more looking at the different classes of camera, from a economical and small “point and shoot” to mid range DSLR. I compared 5 cameras:

  • Sony DSC-TX5
  • Canon S90
  • Panasonic GF1
  • Canon EOS550D
  • Nikon D300s

capping the recommendations with the best of its class, the Nikon D300s. I was not yet considering a replacement for my old D1, which I bought in 1999, but now, nearly 11 years later, it is time to let the old lady retire, so I started my research again, concentrating on the upper end of the DSLR range, something for the keen amateur, or even prosumer.

The question of “Which brand?” was not relevant, I decided this over 10 years ago: Nikon. I had a Canon befor that, and wanted a Canon, I trutsed Canon, but back then Canon had no digital SLR on the maket. Today, the choice is simply based on the lenses I bought over time, all Nikon lenses, and to switch brand would mean to buy a new set of expensive lenses, and that was not a option. Nikon it is.

There are presently 3 competent models in the upper range of NIKON:

  • D3s: a truly professional camera
  • D700: for the so-called prosumer
  • D300s: will satisfy every keen amateur

The D3s comes from the same professional heritage line as my old D1, but then, these 2 can not be compared anymore, even the D300s beats my old heavy brick in most of all technical categories. One important factor in deciding on a camera is of course the budget, and when writing this, JacobsDigital offered these 3 cameras (body only) at the following prices:

  • D300s: 1,140 £ (100%)
  • D700: 1,760 £ (150%)
  • D3s: 3,590 £ (315%)

Steep for many of us, and for me it excludes the D3s. The 2 other key points excluding the D3s at such early stage were:

  • the D3s has same sensor as D700, but a tad faster in maximum burst rate (fps, frames per second) and
  • size and weight are similar to my old D1, and I wanted to loose some weight

This now keeps 2 contenders in the race to jump into my camera bag, the D300s and the D700:

As you can see from this picture, the D700 is a bit larger, mainly due to the larger sensor and the higher grade viewfinder.

Here the key features of these 2 cameras, compared to my 10 year old D1:

It is incredible how quickly the technical features evolved over time, and how the initial retail price collapsed. But most frustrating is the decline in street price, I could cry seeing my trusted D1 being flogged on eBay for less then 200 GBP. The old lady still makes fantastic pictures, and its a real bargain for anybody wanting to venture into the prosumer class of very heavy cameras, tank class full metal, indestructible.

Making a long analysis short, the D700 wins over the D300s, but narrowly. The D700 is older, now 2 years, and a successor is expected very soon, either the D700s or a D800. Technology evolves very fast, but in this game I am not a early adopter, as most new models receive firmware updates pretty quickly, ironing out little software errors reported by mass market usage.

That is fine for me, I like the street tested mature ones, as it also means that the street price is comparably low, and at the moment the soon to be replaced D700 is price-wise comparably close to the newer D300s, well below its introduction price 2 years ago. Also, the next generation of D700 will mainly feature a higher pixel count and 1080p video capabilities, 2 features that are not most important to me, as I mainly shoot for web consumption.

Beside the relatively good price the D700 wins for 2 other key reasons over the D300s: its FX sensor and the viewfinder.

FX vs DX sensor

As I wrote in the earlier post, size matters, the sensor size, and the derived pixel density, is very important for the picture quality.

The FX sensor has the same physical size as the old, well know film, negative or diapositive, 36 mm by 24 mm. The DX format (above called digital SLR), introduced 10 years ago in high level digital cameras, is much smaller, as thus results in a crop of the image, as only part of the picture can be captured.

The reason for the DX format introduction were technology and costs, as 10 years back it was not yet possible to build for the mass market a properly working 35mm film sized sensor at a affordable price.

The smaller DX sensor, requiring a smaller image circle, also led to the development of so-called DX lenses. These are lenses that will not work well on a film camera or FX digital camera, because their image circle is smaller and would not fill the whole FX sensor.

DX lens used on a FX sensor

I got used to the DX sensor size, it defined my digital SLR life for many years, and the irritating discussion of crop factor in focal length was quickly forgotten. But with the new FX sensor, which is the same as in the D3s, its finally: back to the future. Now the digital sensor has again the same size as the image on the old 35mm films (also called 135 film), which is 36mm wide by 24mm high, and a 50mm focal length lens finally produces again a full frame 50mm picture, no more 1.5x crop factor. YES!

Confused about the 35mm <> 36 mm film talk? Here is the background:

The old film stripe was 35 mm wide,
but a image on this film was 36 mm wide, and 24mm high

The viewfinder

Also for the viewfinder, size matters, a big viewfinder provides clarity and comfort. For this I compared my old D1 with the new D700. Here a overlay of the 2 cameras:

The shutter release button and viewfinder are pretty identical in size and position, the whole right side of the D700 feels very similar to the D1, no radical change here. The heavy fat is cut away on the left side and under the body, fine for me, as I am holding the camera with my right hand, and the lens rings with my left. As long as the right side doesn’t change, I feel at home.

Comparing the D300s and D700 viewfinder, big differences become visible, and these seem so important to me that the D300s received a big minus.

One important feature I often used in my D1 was the viewfinder blind (small arrow A), as you should better close it when you take pictures without your eye on the finder, as the light entering via the eyepiece may cause the metering to underexpose your picture.

So, the Nikon D700 it is – not right now, but very very soon.

I will monitor the market prices for some weeks, check rumors on the launch of the “next generation” model D700s or D800, mainly to avoid the D700 suddenly running out of stock. But more importantly I now have to sort out my workhorse lens, the 24-120mm I am using most of the time, as it is also not working properly.

As for the D1, to which it was attached most of the time during the last 11 years, this lens earned the right to retire.

However now that I made up my mind to move away from the DX sensor size to the bigger FX sensor, the focal length range of my standard zoom becomes a new factor. Suddenly 120mm are real 120mm, and not virtual 180mm due to the crop-factor.

Do I need a longer zoom lens with the D700? I will analyse and discuss this in a later post…

to be continued

Betty Boop is riding a Harley-Davidson

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , on October 9, 2010 by bleiglass

Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer with contributions from animator Grim Natwick among others. She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop series of films which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. Betty Boop has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising.

Betty Boop

And now, Betty Boop is riding a Harley-Davidson, the Road King Classic of Gary France, who is riding a epic journey through the US.

With her overt sexual appeal, Betty was a hit with film-goers, and despite having been toned down in the mid-1930s to appear more demure, Betty Boop became one of best known cartoon characters in the world and remains popular today.

Clara Bow

The character was modeled on superstar actress Clara Bow, whose sweet and seductive baby-doll looks was a well established marquee at the time, and the choice of name for the cartoon, is built on Clara Bow’s three syllable name.

I send a unit of my Garmin Zumo 660 chromes cover to Gary in the USA as a sincere “Thank You” for his very interesting daily blogs about his trip. In another of his reports (get Your Kicks…) Betty Boop already appeared in the background:

I am worried how to start the day once Gary is back to the UK an nothing new is posted….

Read more background on these unique chrome accessories and “The empress with the big boobs” here.

RTTW – Ride To The Wall 2010

Posted in Harley-Davidson, HOG with tags , , , , on October 6, 2010 by bleiglass

A emotional  spectacle and a amazing opportunity for bikers all over the UK to pay their respects to those who have fallen since WWII.

As predicted, RTTW 3 was the biggest yet, with over 4,000 bikes pre-registered. The organisers did a great job of marshalling the event and the speeches and messages at the National Memorial Arboretum were very moving.

These include an address from fellow biker and patron of RTTW, Major General Lamont Kirkland CBE, Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, and a message from the wife of the UK Task Force Commander in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Last years’s amount of £30,000 raised for the Arboretum will be easily surpassed this year. A good day in lovely weather .

It is estimated that up to 8,000 bikers made their way to the memorial attraction as part of the third annual Ride to the Wall (RTTW) event. RTTW is a unique event which gives bikers an opportunity to gather together to pay their respects to serving and fallen service men and women, along with raising cash solely for the purpose of maintaining their memory and recognizing the sacrifice made.

Hogsback Chapter started very early in the morning at 6:45 am near Guildford to arrive at Drayton Manor early.

M25 – M40 we were eating miles on the highways for this 317 mile roundtrip

arrival at Dayton Manor

It took more the 1 hour to get all bikes moving

The Hogsback Road Crew rode out with many other Marshals ahead of the main ride to cover all the roundabouts, intersections and pedestrian crossings on the 18 mile route to the National Memorial Arboretum.

a very unique trike…




A team of uniformed Royal Military Police outriders accompanied them on the 17-mile ride from Drayton Manor Park near Tamworth. Other bikers included the Harley Owners Groups and the Royal British Legion Riders Branch.

Andrew Baud, of the Royal British Legion, said: “We had the support of an enormous number of bikers and they created an amazing spectacle as they processed slowly through the countryside. You could hear the bikes coming a long time before you saw them and it took nearly three hours to get them all parked. The event was a chance for the motorcycle community to show their respects to the Armed Forces and, in doing so, they have also raised a very significant sum for the Arboretum. Many travelled hundreds of miles to be there and our sincere thanks go to everyone.”

National Memorial Arboretum

View all 88 pictures of the RTTW in high definition here:

Art Bleiglass - View my 'RTTW - Ride To The Wall' set on Flickriver