Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Faster This Time

At - 5 degrees and a few more minutes of sunlight every day, it seemed again that it was going to be a fine commute.  After donning a tank top, long sleeved cycling shirt, a hoodie, winter cycling pants, track pants and my cycling jacket plus of course gloves, a helmet and my neck tube , it was 5 after 5 and time to hit the bricks.

Since I ride on the sidewalks, there were still pedestrians to dodge and to try and circle around.  Just before Mountain Equipment Co-op, the pedestrian ahead of me turned quickly to look at me and then he stepped aside.  As I passed him he said "You sounded ominous!" and I didn't have time to tell him that it was just my studded tires making the unusual sound.

I wasn't much farther west when I came across an older lady on her way home from grocery shopping - to judge from the heavy laden grocery bags in each hand.  The sidewalk had been cleared by a narrow snow blower and there was no way to pass her.  Luckily, she stepped into a driveway to let me pass.  Considering I'm not even supposed to be riding on the sidewalk, she was sincerely apologetic exclaiming "I had nowhere to go or I would have let you pass!"   Such accommodating walkers!

The difference between the riding conditions before and after the halfway mark were still noticeable but not as pronounced as my previous ride home.  While the city still hasn't cleared off the 14 block bike path, I was smart enough to simply cross the avenue and ride on the sidewalks on the north side of 100 ave.  And I hit some deep brown sugar not far from my friend's house on 163 Street which caused me to dismount and push the bike 1/2 block to where the sidewalk resumes.

Large flakes of snow were falling making the trip that much more enjoyable and I appreciated their beauty as a way of distracting myself from the fact that eating only one Cliff bar wasn't enough to power me home.  I ran out of gas at 170 Street and had to grind myself the rest of the way home.  The thought of a cold Rye and Ginger also helped propel me to my goal and since I had the gingerale in an outside pocket of my knapsack, I knew it was going to be fairly cold and maybe I wouldn't have to fortify my drink with ice cubes.

I made it home 15 minutes faster than the night before and I attribute that decrease to 3 factors.  I pushed myself a little harder, I had my route already figured out and whatever new snow had fallen during the day had been shoveled onto the already monstrous snowbanks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nick's Hardcores

In Friday's paper, Nick Lees wrote a fine article about the hardcore winter cyclists that inhabit our city.  According to the article, 25,000 bike trips are made each day in our fair city - and increase of 10,000 in just 10 years.  That is a lot of cyclists on the streets.

The article goes on to describe the bone-chilling temperatures that cyclists endure in their commutes around the city.  Karly, who has been commuting for ten years describes how all the bicycle commuters back in the day all knew each other and would say hello to one another as they passed on the street.  Stephanie talked about riding last winter when the temperature at the international airport dropped to -46 Celcius - the second coldest place on the planet.  I remember when I moved here how my family described this place as "Siberia but with jobs".

Derek doesn't use his car except to visit his parents in a distant suburb and Stephanie doesn't own a car at all.  I've joked with Chris that if a motorhome was a bike, it would be his bike.  As a year-round rider, he has a ton of bling on his bike.  Out of fairness to Chris, most of the bling involves batteries and numerous forms of lighting so he can be seen during our dark winter days.

Looking at the photo, I only recognize these riders because I know 5 out of the 6.  They all are so bundled up in helmets, multi-coloured scarves, reflective vests, ski jackets and every type of mitten known to man that they are nearly unrecognizable.  Except to their mothers who worry about them riding their bikes everywhere.

Monday, January 17, 2011

That Baby has Disappeared

On December 28 I wrote a blog about a bike in my neighbourhood that appears to be abandoned.  While I realize that it is not a person, I still believe that inanimate objects have "feelings".  It has been established without a doubt that everything has energy or to put it a different way,  everything has a vibration.  You know this yourself when you go somewhere and it just doesn't feel right.  And for some unknown reason you don't feel comfortable there or simply want to leave.  Conversely, you go somewhere and feel relaxed and comfortable.  The place feels right for you.  I feel that way about Banff.

I feel bad about this bike.  Out in the cold, no one loving it.  Just the other day when I loped off to the corner store to get a paper, I couldn't even see the bike because of all the snow piled up on the edges of the parking lot, hiding the bike's resting place.  The snow pile is so tall that I don't think the bike could be moved without a lot of difficulty and perhaps it serves the owner right that they can't access their bike right now even if they wanted to.

Without seeming to let my imagination get away with me, I can forsee a time in the spring when, because of its proximity to a bus stop, that someone will cut through the thin cable that attaches the bike to the pine tree, save themselves $2.85 in busfare and ride off with the bike.  Or one Saturday I'll pass through the parking lot and glance over to the bike and discover the wheels missing.  Another visit to the store will show the seat scoffed.  Then the chain will be disengaged from the sprokets.  The frame will sink into the earth and begin it's inevitable decay.  Dried, brown grass clippings will fleck the once shiny handlebars.

  Chances are, the bike belongs to the owner of the convenience store and they had to ride the bike in to work because their car was being used by a visiting relative.  Then they caught a ride home with an employee and the next day the snow began to fall and the bike was forgotten.  You see, there I go again letting my imagination have full rein...

I'll keep you posted (no pun intended).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A** Freezing Weather

Check out the little dots made by the studs.
For me it is too cold to ride today.  Minus 27 degrees is a little nippy to say the least.  Although, as I sat in my warm vehicle, I did see a lone cyclist stopped at a red light, breath streaming from his mouth, eyes goggled against the cold.  He was wearing lots of flourescent reflective clothing so he was easy to spot.  And I say he.  Everything about this person told me it was a male but if you cover up a female with tons of clothing, she could look rather masculine too.

I'm telling myself that I shouldn't feel bad about driving to work.  Chris Chan, one of the most dedicated year - round riders I know said on the internet that the weather was so bad that he took a bus - which for him is a rare occasion. As well I had read an excellent blog entitled "The Most Difficult Thing About Winter Cycling" on "Breaking Chains and Taking Lanes" one of my favourite cycling blogs which gave me pause for thought.

 On Sunday,  I was already dressed in my overalls and ready to volunteer at "BikeWorks", the Commuter Society's bike repair shop when I stepped outside to check on the weather to decide if it would be worth opening the shop in the afternoon.  I needn't have worried.  When I checked their website, there was an announcement that the shop would be closed due to the weather.  It was expected that no one would be out in the deep snow riding let alone needing repairs at "BikeWorks".

So I sit here at my computer admiring those stalwart cyclists who brave every type of weather and placate myself with daydreams of finer cycling weather.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What could be better?

Isn't it a wonderful thing to be a cyclist and want to join in one of the many rides that are organized for a good cause or simply to have fun?  My nephew who is currently visiting us showed me a hat that he wears that commemorates a ride in his area.  While I don't know that part of the country well, I figure that according to the design on the hat, the ride goes from Northwest to Southeast across British California.  My reasoning is based on the fact that when my cycling buddy Roy and I cycled to Castlegar from Rock Creek a couple of summers ago, I recall seeing Terrace on one of our maps and it didn't appear to be far from Castlegar.  I once was in Prince George doing a shoot for CN Rail about a new locomotive that the railway had purchased and I knew it was somewhere up in the Northwest of the region.

Myself, I involve myself in two organized rides - both for the MS Society.  There is the 197 Km. Nisku to Camrose tour and the 90 Km. Hinton Mountain Tour.  Last year I read a magazine article about the "Tour De L'Alberta which looks like a fun jaunt which can be customized as to how much (or little) distance one would like to ride.

The bicycle commuters society that I belong to has a Tour De Perogy - a 140 klick ride out to the Ukrainian Village and back that starts at a diner on 99 Street.  Included, but not limited to is a tour of the village and all the perogies you want to scarf down.  If web postings are any indication, it would seem they had a bit of a slog into the wind on the way back into town.  I felt sorry for some of the novices who I knew would be hurting just to get to the village, let alone ride back fighting the wind.

There are gargantuan rides from Vancouver to Edmonton, tours to the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennesse and back (from somewhere in Tennesse and back - not from Alberty).  Nick Lees wrote an article about Le Tour of Hope, an eight day excursion exiting from Calgary and including the summit of the highest paved pass in Canada.  The Cancer Society also has a tour from Calgary into the foothills that has upwards of 2,000 riders (someone who took the ride told me 20,000 riders but I didn't believe her). 

Being a cyclist is a gratifying enough experience and when such an enjoyable diversion can be combined with raising funds for a worthwhile cause, I can't think of anything else I would rather do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joys of Winter Riding

On my way to the hardware store the other afternoon, I cut behind a community center with an ice rink set up behind it.  Unbeknownst to me, I had ridden across a huge sheet of ice a couple of inches thick.  When I realized what I had done, I dismounted and marvelled at how well my studs had handled that slick surface.  So slick that I couldn't stand on it to photograph, but had to kneel down to maintain my balance.  Upon reflection I realized that the ramp leading to the rink had been coated in ice to aid skaters venturing from the community hall changeroom to the ice surface itself.

Bike riding in the winter is enjoyable on many levels -  one of them being the fact that streets and sidewalks are free of pedestrians and cars.  Another joy at this time of the year with our many hours of darkness is the display of "Winter Lights" that brighten the long winter night.  With more and more of these lights being LED lights, the harm to the environment from producing electricity is lessened.

I went out last night to photograph a nice scene I had found two nights ago on a ride around the neighbourhood but alas the scene was no longer lit by the spotlights the owner had strategically placed to great artistic effect.  The virgin snow I had wanted to capture in the picture had been trampled by kids playing outside so I rode around looking for other possibilities.

The possibilities seem endless even though the nights are getting shorter (another way of saying the days are getting longer).

Another thing about winter riding is that everything gets levelled out.  You wouldn't know it from the above photo but in seasons of the year that don't have snow, there is a very nasty bump where the roadway meets this bicycle trail (just behind the snowbank behind the rear wheel) and when it snows you can ride over this joint smooth as silk.  The same with rim-bashing curbs and those annoying concrete parking stall dividers.