Monday, March 28, 2011


Fiberfix Emergency Spoke
Whenever my cycling buddy Roy and I pack for our annual cycling adventure (the last four years has been south central British California), we have a discussion about my packing an emergency spoke.  Our conversation ususally goes something like this:
Roy - "Don't tell me your adding the extra weight to your already burgeoning saddlebags?" 
 Me - " Yeah, 3 ounces is going to make a big difference"
"I've never, ever broken a spoke"
"Just like in the 12 years you've owned that bike, you've never changed the chain!"
"When you buy the best then the best is going to last."
"Well, you just wait until we're 40 kilometers from the nearest bike store and we'll just see how far you can pedal on a broken spoke before all your spokes break and then we have to walk our bikes 40 k!"
"Never going to happen!"
At this point I'm thinking that if it were to happen that Roy breaks a spoke then he can kiss my a**.

In reality, my team spirit would kick in and he could use my emergency spoke which would save his wheel from extensive damage.  Especially if it was a rear spoke.  What with 20 - 30  pounds of camping crap on his back pannier rack, a broken spoke would be a fairly serious matter.  If it happened to my bike with my 30 -40 pounds of crapola strapped above and around  the rear wheel.....

There is a lot of debate about the causes of broken spokes and when I look at my friend Perry's bike and the way he rides that thing, I can't help but wonder if his broken spokes are caused by him sitting so close to the center of the rear wheel and that his spokes breaking aren't caused by improper weight distribution.

When I Googled "Broken Spokes", the internet spewed this:

...Also, I cannot stress enough the benefits from ponying up the dough to get a set of good quality hand-built wheels: they will save you a tremendous amount of weight, make your bike lighter by a factor of pi of the original weight savings, and also be stronger and more durable in the long run. On the issue of weight, if you spring for quality aluminum spoke nipples, you save a good 4 grams per nip compared to brass nips. Over the course of a 32 spoke wheel, this adds up to a savings of 128 grams, or 4.5 ounces. Now, because this is rotational weight, the actual amount of force required to get that mass moving is multiplied by the ratio of the wheel's diameter to it's circumference: pi. So just by going with alloy nips, you'll effectively be saving 13.5 ounces out of the weight of your bike, per wheel...

So I'll just pack my little plastic pill - container - sized emergency spoke kit and hope that neither Roy nor I experience a broke spoke when next we ride the Kettle Valley Railway.  But if he breaks a spoke, I just know I'll have so much fun teasing him until I relent and help repair his wheel.  I mean I had so much fun razzing him about the five hours we spent on three occasions last year fixing his flat tire in 30 degree + temperatures. 

The opposite of +30 degrees

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can I quote you on that?

It is unlikely that you would read this blog unless you had some amount of interest in bikes and biking and so I recommend a tome that relates an epic, 46,000 kilometer journey from Siberia to London, England with stops in Australia and Southeast Asia.  The book is: "Cycling Home From Siberia" by Rob Lilwall

Each chapter begins with a pithy quote and just in case you don't read this book, I'll give you a taste with some of the quotes.  If you plan on reading this publication, then the quotes might just whet your appetite!

Siberia...impends through the darkness as the ultimate unearthly abroad.  The place from which you will not return
Colin Thubron

When I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think that there are no small things
Bruce Barton

I will go anywhere as long as it is forward
David Livingstone

I laugh in the face of danger, I drop icecubes down the vest of fear
Edmund Blackadder

We walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail.  Or worse yet, afraid we may succeed
Sean Connery in Finding Forester

One kind word can warm three winter months
Japanese Proverb

I thought of that while riding a bicycle
Alberta Einstein (on the theory of relativity)

It is and unnatural business to find yourself in a strange place with an underutilized brain and no particular reason for being there and eventually it makes you go a little crazy
Bill Bryson

Never,never,never give up
Winston Churchill

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
Oscar Wilde

People don't take trips...trips take people John Steinbeck

Monday, March 21, 2011

Adventure Cycling

Photo: Adventure Cycling Association
With the promise of spring (and its cycling!) in the air, I joined the Adventure Cycling Asssociation after breakfast this morning.  It has been an idea that I've been toying with for some time and finally committed myself to joining.  With 42,000 miles (how many klicks is that?) of routes to follow, it is easy when you're snowbound to dream of all the wonderful experiences when the call of the road becons.

We are part of the Americas and there are routes into Canada that are mapped and ready for the rubber to hit the road.  Following the Great Divide north of the Montana border, the Canadian Great Divide route travels north to Jasper National Park.  Anyone who has ridden the Icefield Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper knows what awe-inspiring vistas greet the lucky two-wheel voyager on that particular stretch.

I like nothing better on a cold, snowy day than to sit in my comfy chair and thumb through catalogues and newsletters.  I'm an avid reader so McNally Robinson's newsletter inspires me to read authors I have never tried.  Lehmann's non-electric catalogue encourages thoughts of living in the country off the grid.  Lee Valley's colourful, glossy pages evoke memories of working in the yard.  And the Adventure Cycling's "Cyclosource" gives promise of happy trails using any of their hundreds of gizmos, implements, gear and cycling/camping accessories.

I'm too young and independant to consider a "supported" tour, although the ACA offers those types of outings.  My self-supported cycling experiences on the Kettle Valley Railway have been successful and I look forward to this year's trip and all the things I'm going to learn about "Adventure Cycling"on that anticipated excursion. 
If I'm not mistaken, 42,000 miles is the equivalent of 67,200 kilometers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Do You Make of That?

Artwork by Kat

It is always a pleasant surprise to find out what people can craft from used bicycle parts.  You could call it rebicycling.  Taking something that was destined for the landfill and then using that item to make something something beautiful or prcatical.
Last evening, an avid year-round cyclist aquaintance of mine showed up at an outdoor picnic with a strange contraption strapped to her pannier rack.  Knowing this lady and how handy she is, I wanted very much to find out what on earth was this?  It struck me as looking like a woven quilt made from black suausages, about two feet long and 16 inches wide with a corrugated plastic bed.

Black sausage creation by: C.F.

Once she unfastened the contraption from her bike, she announced to one and all that this was her toboggan.  Made from discarded bicycle innertubes, it did look like it might offer a comfortable ride down our many snowy slopes.  I didn't look closely enough at the "toboggan" to detect how the inflated rubber tubes were fastened to the corroplast bed and my cycling chum did reflect that she would have preferred to use 20 inch tubes as the 24 inchers on the sled did hang over the rear of the craft.  But still, a fine idea and probably a lot of fun.  I might have tried it except I wasn't wearing enough winter clothing and I had a "Lemonade Chicken" in the slow cooker at home that needed my attention.

Jewellery by: Jan's Treasures
The above photo displays a necklace made from various bike parts and some copper wire.  The smaller toothed wheel is a lockring from a rear cassette but the larger wheel I can't place.  Any ideas?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sales Job

A sign of the times
 A co-worker was in the mall yesterday and was handed a flyer for the "Ride to Conquer Cancer" which he brought back to the workplace and showed  me.  My colleague very much wants to do a bike tour but was dismayed to read that an entrant to the "Ride..." needs to raise a minimum of 25 hundred beans to qualify.

I tried not to be too enthusiastic about the MS Tour to Camrose and back.  But I couldn't help myself.  And I energetically described what the tour was like and that to enter, a person needs only to raise $275.00.  A lot of riders that I've met on previous tours paid the 275 simoleons just to participate.  Think about it.  If you were to go away for the weekend and have everything taken care of for you (accomodation, food, entertainment etc.), you would undoubtably spend more than that.

Everything is taken care of for you by the MS Society.  Raise $1,000.00 and they will partially dress you as well.  In a very snappy Louis Garneau cycling shirt.  Raise more and they will outfit you with matching cycling shorts to go with the shirt. As well, your safety is never a concern in that marshalls patrol the length of the tour on both days to ensure that everyone is safe.  Pickup trucks (flaggin' wagons) connected by radio communication are there to pick up you and your bike should the tour prove to be too much for you.  I found out last year in talking to one of the "slouch wagon" drivers that if you pull to the side of the road and take off your helmet, it is a clear signal that you wish to be picked up.

Every 15 klicks is a rest stop where fresh fruit, liquids and food are provided.  Plus portapotties and United Cycle will be happy to make minor repairs to your bike.  At the early rest stops, the lineups can be daunting (especially if you have to go) but as the tour progresses and riders spread out, you can usually have and do what you want without waiting.

Riders have started to spread out....

When you reach the finish line, volunteers will be there to cheer you in and a huge barn is provided to store your bike.  The barn is locked up tight and has security as well.  Then a huge banquet is prepared for you including live entertainment.  Masseurs are on hand to unknot your muscles and moving trucks are there with your luggage all laid out in numerical order.  A campground is located right at the finish line (away from the beer gardens) for you to pitch your tent.

Breaky is served the next morning starting at 6:30 and the trucks are ready and waiting for your luggage.  The start of the second day is rather haphazard and the early birds really do catch the worm. Meaning that there won't be any crowding when you pull into a rest stop.  Since I stay in a nearby motel, I have my bike with me and can leave the start line as soon as I scarf down b'fast.

In an effort to not oversell you, I'll leave you with this thought:

All you have to do is ride.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

American Cheese

At -23, I decided that it would be best to ride downstairs in the basement rather than outside.  There is an area I have set aside in the basement for exercising which includes two bike set-ups and a weight lifting area.  One of the bike set-ups is freestanding on top of rollers and the the other set-up is a stationary trainer.  When I really want to concentrate on watching a movie while I ride, I choose the stationary option.  If what I'm watching is not too exciting then I ride on top of the rollers.

It wasn't too long ago that I was watching "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and the excitement on the screen was so stimulating that I rode off the rollers which in itself is no big deal except when you are travelling at 15 Kilometers an hour, the basement wall comes at you pretty darn quickly!  If I crash into the entertainment center and DVD's fall to the floor or the remotes bounce around, my wife will call down to see if I'm okay.

Which brings me to a movie I partially watched while riding - "American Flyers".  Starring Kevin Costner, the movie is a tale of a complicated relationship between two brothers.  A love/hate thing going on there.  Made in 1985, the movie for the most part is cheesyola.  Hokey music, cellphones the size of walkietalkies a van the size of a school bus.  But Kevin Costner has a state-of-the-art top loading VCR!

The plot is thin and usually I'm not one to figure out the outcomes of most movies I watch, however, even though I have yet to watch the "big race" part of the movie, I can already tell that the younger brother David, by his forced smile when watching a video of crowds cheeringa trophy wielding champion, will win the "big race"  and who will be in the crowd cheering him on?  None other than the hippy-girl he met at the McDonalds!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Our city's streets are in an abysmal condition and I may have to complain to Silly Hall.  From what I've heard on the radio, thousands have phoned in to voice their displeasure at the city's snow removal or lack thereof.

My commute last night wasn't too bad until I was half way home.  Then the fit hit the shan.  I walked a good part of the way home as I couldn't stay upright on my two wheeled steed.  What incensed me the most was the fact that a seventeen block long bike path along 100 Avenue had not been cleared at all.  A skinny, loosely packed trail made by pedestrians was the only path leading me home.  So I switched over to the other side of the avenue where home owners had cleared the sidewalks.  (I have a confession to make.  In the winter I ride on the sidewalks even though it is against the law).

Riding on cleared sidewalks got me to thinking that the city can fine a property owner for not clearing the walks adjacent to their property - but what about citizens fining the city for not living up to their responsiblities and clearing their walks?  As I rode along, I imagined a bylaw enforcement officer ticketing a property for not having their walks cleared and that owner organizing a movement to oppose such a blasphemous act.  Citizens armed with protest signs converging on City Hall, residents out on the streets measuring the depth of snow on nearby sidewalks.  Pencils in hand, scribbling infractions onto "CITY BYLAW INFRACTIONS" tickets and marching down to hand in the infractions to their councilperson.

I can see the Yahoo news story headline "Citizens Fine City For Lack of Snow Removal" as this movement gains in poularity and begins to spread across the nation.  Sounds like something that would come out of California or Oregon.

Meanwhile I dodge snowbanks taller than my head and I duck underneath tree branches laden with tons of snow that with the merest twitch will send a cascade of ice cold snow down my neck.  The ride takes twice as long as normal and after two hours, I'm happy to snag an "adult" drink out of the fridge and relax knowing I don't have to exercise this evening.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Seek of Vinter"

Oh man, is this winter ever going to end? Minus 20 temps and blowing snow. Today I'm at Bikeworks and the only phone call was someone inquiring if we had refurbished bikes for sale. But the person didn't want to come in right now to pick one out (too wintery)?
I took apart one bike (a Univega) and threw most of the parts away into the metal recycle bin. Keith ( suggested that we keep the frame as it could be made up into a fine bike. Apparently, a Univega is just below a Miyata in quality. Who knew?

Bikeworks is a volunteer run community bike shop whose aim is to promote safe cycling in our fair city. I volunteer here as a mechanic and as such, the idea is to teach people how to fix their bike rather than fix it for them (as a for profit bike shop would do). When it gets incredibly busy here during cycling season, the temptation is to do the work for the person as it would be faster than teaching them how to do it. It can be stressful only because you want to help everyone that you possibly can during your 4 hour shift. You can't walk away from a bike to get a part or a tool without someone accosting you with a question or needing some advice.

So to sit up here in the loft where the office is and be working on this blog, chatting with Alex and Anna (two employees) and watching Keith clean his bike is a rare opportunity to volunteer in a relaxed fashion and one that I'm enjoying knowing that in only a month or so, when the majority of the snow has begun to melt that on the Sundays when I volunteer, it'll be 4 hours of pandemonium and then looking at all the money in my pockets and trying to decide if the 20 dollar bill was for a membership or for shop time. And the 2 five dollar bills - were they for the new chain I sold or were they for the knobby tire that that university student needed? What about the loose change - what was that for?  Inevitably when I get home I find I still have a number eight wrench in one of my rear overall pockets that will have to be returned ASAP.