Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Commuter Sights

It must be a form of judgement when I'm suspicious of someone that I see riding a bike and holding another one. My first reaction is that the person is stealing one of the bikes.

Reminds me of a joke my father once told us. Every day an old man would cross an international bridge pushing a wheelbarrow full of straw. When he would get to customs, the officers there would dig through the straw looking for contraband. Every time they would find nothing in the straw. This went on for quite some time until one of the customs agents who had developed a rapport with the old man aked him why he would push a wheelbarrow full of straw across the bridge every day. "Because I'm smuggling wheelbarrows!"

It makes my daughter roll her eyes (I read in Sunday's paper that a city in Wisconsin has drafted a bylaw forbidding eye-rolling)when I imagine something about someone that I've never met and know nothing about. In the photograph, the old gent, Ambrose, is on his way home after going to one of the pawnshops on Stony Plain Road and buying his nephew a mountain bike. It has taken him a year of collecting bottles but he finally has managed to raise $85.00 and get his nephew James a bike for his graduation from highschool.

The disheveled old man, Mortimer, with a bandaid holding up one arm of his horn-rimmed glasses is on his way home from his menial job at the "Royal Fork" (my friend calls it the "Royal F_ck") emptying out the buckets of grease from the deep fryers. His boss Mr.Wang, in a moment of uncharacteristic charity has given Mortimer the bike that has been left in the stock room by a long since fired employee. Mortimer is sure he can sell it at the First Baptist Church rummage sale coming up on the August long weekend and he is excited that the pastor has agreed to use some of the money raised at the sale to buy one of those "Hurricane-Force" leaf blowers that would help Mortimer keep the grounds of the church over on 163 Street clear of all the leaves that inevitably blow onto the church yard from the poplar trees surrounding Westlawn Memorial Gardens across the street.

I don't know anything about this fellow except that he helped me by pointing out that I had dropped a package of gum onto the sidewalk while waiting for the light to change at 156 Street. He mumbled something else when the light turned green and I think he was simply encouraging me to take the lead as he would slow me down because of the extra bike he was carting along.

Just goes to show you that that old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" is true - things aren't always as they seem.

Monday, July 26, 2010


We all wonder at times why we set goals for ourselves - maybe it's losing a few pounds, cutting back on smoking - the sky is the limit. This year I set 3,000 km. as a goal to ride this season and as you can see from the photo, I hit 2,000km. during my morning commute to work. I was going to wait until I hit 2001 and title the blog "A Space Odyssey"or something to that effect.
Who said I had to ride 3,000km? I did 2,835 last year - isn't that good enough? However, I do like to measure things. I wear a heart rate monitor when I ride, I measure my cadence, I record my Max. speed for the day etc. I guess I get a certain satisfaction from knowing all this stuff. One thing I can tell you is that by recording this info, I can look back at the beginning of the season and compare and see that my conditioning has improved over the season.
I still have my annual Kettle Valley Railway bicycle camping trip coming up in a couple of weeks and that will add another 500 kms. and then there is the MS Mountain Tour in Hinton in September which will add 100ks. and I plan to take my birthday off and since my wife Janet is working, I'll treat myself to a ride which will add another 65+ kms.
And so it goes - I haven't even added in my daily bicycle commute which I'll do until Halloween - blah, blah, blah.....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Learning Curve

This owning a road bike is turning out to be quite a learning experience. A road bike is so different from what I`m used to riding (a mountain bike)that I`m really enjoying having to learn new things.
Take for example the braking set up. Last week when I rode the bike for the very first time I was scared s--tless that I would have to brake suddenly and not be able to get on the drops fast enough to stop the bike. What I needed was a braking system similar to what I`ve had all these years with the brake lever close to my hands (up on the handlebar). I had seen one on the internet but do you think I could find that site again?
I ran into bike guru Alex Hindle at the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters shop (Bikeworks) and he mentioned that he had ordered a pair of ``in-line`` brakes and didn`t have the time to install them on his bike and would I like to try them? I had nothing to lose as he told me that if they didn`t fit, I could give them back.
Have you ever opened up an instruction sheet and not been able to understand the directions? Luckily with these instructions, installing the upper handlebar brake levers was a snap and as I was telling my Kettle Valley Railway cycling buddy Roy how they worked I was again reminded at how different road bike gear can be from any other bike stuff.
The person who thought up this solution is a genius! As I explained to Roy - the main brake levers on the lower handlebar cause the brakes to engage by pulling the brake cable tighter whereas the upper brake lever engages the brakes by pushing the cable housing (making the housing longer). Simple and clever. To install it is just a matter of cutting the housing where it enters the upper lever and inserting two housing caps onto each new housing end and presto! A top mount brake lever.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


On Thursday, I bought a previously owned road bike - while I wasn't actively looking for one, when the opportunity arose I couldn't help myself. If I hadn't have been working on my future son-in-law's downhill mountain bike, I would have called my cycling partner Roy to tell him the good news. When the phone rang and it was Roy calling to tell me about his own new bike, I wasn't surprised because whenever I think of calling him, he calls me. Curious that we should both buy bikes in the same week!

Mine appears to be custom made and has had a very good paint job (with no bike badge it was a cinch to figure that out). The Italian Modolo brakes interest me as they are well designed and the pads look easy to replace. The rims are Australian? and the front crankset is SunTour.

The thing that impresses me most is its 18 lb. weight! I've never owned a bike so light and I vow not to over-bling this baby like I usually do with my bikes. Roy and I are going to cycle in France next year and I'll have to decide if I want to turn this gem into a touring bike.

But there I go, thinking about adding stuff to my very light new bike!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Raised - Up handlebars Con`t

I will tell you that I`m experiencing some difficulty in learning how to ``Bunny - Hop`` in preparation for the MS Mountain Tour in Hinton in September. And I think the problem is that my handlebars are too tall and I can`t seem to generate enough lifting power through the handlebars to clear obstacles.
In practising, I tried a good - sized log and ran into it as though I had hit a concrete curb. I went to a nearby park and tried a stick which I managed to snap in two as my front wheel descended. I tried an imaginary line to no avail.
So, my next step is to bring out ``Furry Lewis`` and use him for commuting and take the extender off the blue Trek which will lower the handlebars and perhaps allow me to begin to ``Hop`` over the smallest obstacle and also allow me a respectable finish instead of coming in last like I did in Hinton on my first Mountain Tour.

``Furry Lewis`` is my first serious new bike that I bought 5 - 6 years ago and have since replaced everything on it except for the seat post and the rear rim. I named him ``Furry`` after the old bluesman who was discovered in the 1960`s and he himself was well past retirement. (While reading the articles in PLAYBOY ((Sure!)), my brother Chris told me about the PLAYBOY article in which ``Furry Lewis`` was featured). And even though my silver Trek MTB is past retirement (20,000+ Kms.) he is still performing and while maybe not wowing crowds of young people like his namesake, he is still wowing me!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raised - Up Handlebars

My main bike is a mountain bike although I`ve converted it to be more of a hybrid. I`ve taken off my knobbies (and shaved a few minutes off my commute) and put on slicker tires that I bought at ``BikeWorks`` and I use a Satori ``HEADS UP`` handlebar adapter to raise up my handlebars.

I`ve ridden 1,900 km. so far this season with this configuration and my hands have only experienced a minor degree of numbness which I cured by lifting my each arm up to the sky for a few moments (one at a time I might add!). Even spending 12 hours in the saddle on the MS Tour was no problem.

You can see from the photo that this device lifts up the handlebars considerably and does it in a safe manner. You may have some experience raising up handlebars and have discovered that only so many spacers can be used on the stem and the Satori product is easy to install and negates the problem of needing more spacers.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Funky Whyte

I was excited to go riding after my good friend Perry called and made the suggestion. Everything at home was under control and all I needed to do was put the chicken in the slow cooker and when the ride was complete, I could prepare a nice supper of ``Lemonade Chicken`` and summer vegetables.

With the FIFA World Cup on TV, the river valley was deserted except for a soapbox derby taking place on Victoria Park Road. It looked like tremendously good, clean fun and I was a little envious as I had always wanted to enter one when I was a kid but my brother Chris and I could never manage to get beyond constructing the chassis and deciding the colour of our contraption. We knew for sure that our father would go ballistic if we had ever used the wheels from the lawnmower to finish our vehicle and not have asked his permission (which is unlikely he would ever have granted).

Perry and I left the river trails by ascending the steep road up to the Leg. - something I had never tried before and found that it really wasn`t too difficult at all. As we crossed the High Level, we could see the mountain biking event going on down below us and we decided to check it out on our way back.

Some sort of music festival was happening on Whyte Ave. and it was a delight to push our bikes through the crowds and view the myriad of tents set up right on the street. Whyte was closed to traffic from 103 Street to 105 Street and once we reached Second Cup, it took some waiting to snag a table out on Whyte. It was well worth the wait to sit in the sun and watch all the action and our sojourn became even more enjoyable when an old and mutual friend stopped by to chat. He`s a great guy and we`ve had some good times together. He described the numerous changes his life has experienced since the last chat and Perry and I joined him in quite a few laughs as he described the dating scene for someone over 50. Then 2 more old friends walked past and joined our ``Old Home Week``. Ted and Rosemary have been together for a long time and were proud to tell us that they were expecting a phone call any minute to announce their becoming grandparents of a baby girl. The first female grandchild. Something very special!

After our friends left and we finished our coffees, we headed into the throng along the Ave. and came across the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters table where they were handing out info and looking like they were having a great time. When you`re young and 20 feet away from the concert stage, it`s summer and you`re in the funkiest place in the city, how could you not have a great time?

I showed Perry how to get to the trailhead at the Millcreek Ravine from Whyte which involved Argyll Road and 99 Street. We were able to ride side by side and chat while we virtually coasted back down to the river. The trails were bare due to both the music festival and the World Cup and it reminded me of getting up at 4am to train on the trails without any traffic congestion.

We parted at Victoria Park Road where Perry went straight ahead to 149 Street and I had the pleasure of riding up Vict. Park Road itself (instead of the adjacent sidewalk) as the road was still closed to traffic but the soapbox derby had finished. A woman stopped me half way up to ask why there was so much straw on the road and I tried to explain to her about the event which was a hard thing to do as I couldn`t remember the name SOAP BOX DERBY. Her male companion must have thought I was either slow or perhaps suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration or all 3.

It wasn`t until I sat down to write this post that I remembered our agreement to check out the mountain bike event underneath the High Level. Just shows you what being slow, heat exhausted and dehydrated can do to you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Summer Commute

With "Ridin' the blinds" by Robert Lockwood Jr. (supposed son of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson) running through my head, and a beautiful 28 degrees outside, I started for home looking forward to the cool wind that riding my bike would generate.

Maybe the hot sun outside was affecting people in strange ways, but I came across two unusual happenings that made this commute different than most. While stopped at the light at 142 Street and Stony Road Plain, I heard the unmistakeable sound of "SCREEECH - BANNNNG!!" although I could not see the cause of that sound. When I made the curve just west of the intersection, there sprawled across the sidewalk was the fellow on the Cannondale road bike who had passed me earlier. A shocked looking woman was getting out of her car and traffic was beginning to back up behind her. "I'm alright! I'm okay!" the cyclist was shouting to reassure her. Another fellow at a bus stop asked in a loud voice "Do you want me to call an ambulance?!" I stopped to see if everyone was okay and when I glanced down at the bike, I noticed that it seemed okay too - no wheels looking like pretzels, no twisted handlebar. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what had just happened but thankfully everyone was okay.

Not far from there, and older gal rode passed me as I walked my bike across an intersection. It wasn't long before I passed her and before I could ring my bell, I observed that she was talking to herself in a loud voice and slapping herself across the arm. Maybe she was swatting a bug. At the next light, I walked my bike and she rode across the intersection and when the time came for me to ring my bell and pass her, I heard her berating herself and slapping her arm again. The best I could figure was that maybe she was trying to quit smoking and everytime she thought of having a dart, she would hit herself. Who knows? Again, perhaps it was the heat frying her brainpan.

One thing I do enjoy about bicycle commuting is finding stuff on the road. Like the Honda emblem pictured above. A few months ago I found a sweet bike tool and when I was in at United Cycle I discovered they wanted $20.00 for the same one! On the MS bike tour I found a bike chain that could be made into a bracelet. Any pop bottles/beer cans, I save and donate to charity - and believe me, especially on a Sunday morning, there are lots of cans and bottles to be had.

The rest of my commute was unevetful and I enjoyed the fine weather and the fact that I heard no more metal-crunching sounds or the slap-slap of someone hitting themselves!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Tour De France

As a lot of people know, the Tour de France is happening right now and keeping in the spirit of things, I'm reading "The Tour" written by Dave Shields. While the story itself is fiction, Shields has filled the book with factual information about cycling's premiere event.

A profile of each stage of the tour starts off most chapters and it is helpful to refer back to the profile as the story (and race) progresses. I found some interesting advice on what to eat while on a tour:"Ben regarded his own heaping plate of spaghetti. He and the rest of the team were eating a meal similar to the one they had last night. Homemade noodles in a light olive-oil sauce, a little Pearmesan cheese sprinkled over the top. Lots of carbs, no spices. Their internal organs were too taxed to deal with complex foods. The only big difference from dinner was that the evening meal always included a protein source for rebuilding muscles. At breakfast, highly accessible energy was the priority."

I'm looking forward to reading more of Shields books. This guy knows what he's writing about and if you're a cyclist and/or a reader this book would make fine winter reading when day-dreaming of summer cycling is at its richest.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A ride and a Recipe

The sun had hidden behind dark clouds and it was necessary to put on the ole cycling jacket by the time my cycling friend Charity and I got together for a training ride. The plan was to travel the river valley trails from near the High Level to Hermitage and back. It was time to step up Charity`s training and I thought she was ready for lots of hills. Anyone can ride the flats but it`s the hills that build muscle and cardio fitness.

I was surprised at her development compared to just a couple of weeks ago when a crew of ten of us went for a ride and she looked like she was hurtin`. This time with most of the hills she powered up and left me in the figurative dust - especially the switchback at 75th. Street that brings you up to the surface. The one hill at the east end of Rundle Park I thought for sure would do her in but when I caught up to her she said her secret was to look down at her feet and keep telling herself to push down and pull up, over and over.

Our timing was perfect at the off-leash area in Hermitage as there weren`t too many dogs to worry about and Charity really had to gear down quickly to make the last hill up to where there is a sandbox to sit on and fencing to lean the bikes against. I pulled out two packages of my favourite snack to eat when I`m on the trails - what I call ``Cyclist`s Horse Chow`` based on a recipe created by Scott Nearing. Charity liked it and thought I should share the recipe.It is simple and wholesome.


1 cup of rolled oats

3 tblspn. veg. oil or olive oil

2tspn. lemon juice

1/3 cup of raisins

pinch of salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together

Place in a small baggie with a small spoon


Friday, July 2, 2010

Making A Bike Chain Bracelet

Step 1. Take a bike chain - I chose a ``V`` 8 speed chain because I liked its chrome finish

Step 2. Measure your wrist

Step 3. Break the chain (I assume you know how do do this...) at the link closest to your wrist measurement. A Filzer chainbreaker is recommended as they are very robust.

Step 4. Use the conveient ``Quick Links`` to join the two ends together and Voila! A handsome bike chain bracelet!