Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lycra Spandex

As hard as it is to believe, some cyclists don't like Lycra Spandex!  It is no stretch to say that there are two very distinct camps when it comes to cycle wear.  Personally, I love the stuff.  I'm not pulling your leg when I say that I have on occasion grossed out my co-workers when they've seen me wearing the stuff as I prepare to leave work.

It can be argued that Spandex has very practical applications - like how it helps the downward leg to flex down and spring back up during a pedal stroke.  Or on a long ride where loose, flapping shorts will chafe your legs from constantly rubbing against the skin whereas with Lycra Spandex that never happens.

Mark Beaumont, the man listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having cycled the world in record time, wore Lycra Spandex cycling shorts for his whole trip (he did wash them occasionally).  You see all the Tour de France riders wearing form-fitting cycle wear so there must be something to it.

However, the contingent of cyclists in this town who frown on wearing Lycra Spandex for cycling feel so strongly about not wearing this material that they have named a popular cycling/jogging trail "Lycra Lane".

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tire studding tips

The first shot of the video shows how I screw the studs (5/8" sheet metal screws) into the knobs of the tire from the outside first.  This accomplishes two things:  it creates the correct angle for the stud to protrude from the tire and it makes an easy-to-find starting hole for when you screw the stud into the knob from within the tire.

As you can see from the last shot, the studs, while not absolutely perfectly aligned, are for the most part, in two straight rows.

You may also note that I'm wearing mechanic's gloves to protect my hands from the very sharp points of the studs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It was with the best intentions that I wanted to bring my summer commuting bike home from work.  The temperature hovered at minus 10, and for the most part the roads had been cleared of ice and snow.  Perfect conditions to ride a bike home that didn't have knobby tires.

Uh oh

Within half a block I discovered that my tires, which had been leaking air for some time, needed some more air.  I pulled out my handy compressed air pump and filled both tires which helped considerably.  Except for hitting some brown sugar near 109 Street, I felt I had made a clever decision to ride home on an out-of-season bike.

Being eager to get this bike home (the Schwinn MOAB), I wasn't fully prepared for the windchill that assaulted my hands as I had forgotten my mitts at home.  The thin pair of full fingered mountain bike gloves I was wearing offered little protection.  I figured I could make it to Mountain Equipment Co-op and warm up in their lobby where I could also pull out a pair of gloves from my backpack.  I hadn't pulled them out earlier because I had discovered that they were both right-handed.
Ta Da! Instant left-handed glove!

With a lot of finagling, which warmed up my fingers, I managed to turn one of the gloves inside out to wear on my left hand.  MEC is used to having bikes in their lobby so I didn't stand out too much.

Crossing a bridge over a ravine, I could feel that my rear tire had gone flat and after pushing the bike to the end of the bridge where a streetlight cast an orange glow, I pulled out the compressed air pump and filled the tire once again.  Within half a block it was flat again and I knew my ride home was pooched.  I could have put the bike on the bike rack of a #1 bus, but I figured that I would still need to walk the bike home from the mall as the 109 bus doesn't have a bike rack.

I also ruined a fine pair of Sugoi bike shoe booties...

An hour and a half from when I started, I pulled back into the parking garage at work and vowed to be more prepared for winter commuting:
1.  Make sure you have all the proper clothing.
2.  If you tires have been going flat - fix them!
3.  Ride the proper bike for each season.
4.  Don't walk for great lengths wearing bike shoe booties


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cycle reading

Photo: Ibiketo.ca

As a volunteer at our local library I get first crack at books and audio visual materials that need to be sorted for the next book sale.  The box I have set aside for choice finds is overflowing with cycling books about epic cycling adventures like the fastest cycle around the world or cycling in search of the perfect meal.  My latest find is a book called Smart Cycling and just skimming through a few random pages, I found a simple explanation for setting up a rear derailleur.  Or is that derailler?

To me, winter cycling is more about getting from place A to place B, so I find myself delving into the written word about cycling trips (usually in hot sunny places).  It was with a lot of joy that I strutted back from the mailbox the other day when I discovered curled up in my pigeon hole the latest copy of Adventure Cyclist magazine.  Splashed throughout its pages were colourful photos of cyclists enjoying the fall colours in rural USofA.  I going to do some curling up myself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Man Who Cycled the World

The Man Who Cycled the World
Mark Beaumont
Bantam Press 2009
419 pages

"After only 10km, I was exhausted.  My legs were fresh but my head dropped and my eyelids started slow-blinking.  The surge of adrenalin at the start had passed, and I felt shattered.  The last few weeks had been a series of ridiculous and unsustainable routines that had left me completely void of energy at the outset of my 18,000 mile cycle."

So begins the tale of Mark Beaumont, a Scottish adventurist who has decided to break the Guinness World record of cycling the world which at the time stood at 276 days.  As Mr. Beaumont explains "...I would have to cycle 18,000 miles, start and finish in the same place, go in one direction, and pass through two points on opposite sides of the world, among other criteria" (which included using the same bike).

Making the story even more interesting is the fact that the author has never been obsessed with cycling.  His younger passions included horseback riding and skiing.  It is never satisfactorily explained why he chose this particular epic and novel journey and it should be pointed out that this bike trip is a race.  Which means the author never has much opportunity to stay for very long in any one place.

With his head down and eyes focused on the route in front of him, the reader never gets the impression of reading a travel book by the likes of Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux.  Like Theroux portions are a repetitive litany of stats: "90m ascent, 179km, 32 degrees.  7.30 start, 8 and a half hours cycling in 11 hours and 5 mins...Really tough day.  So low on energy and left calf really sore.  Shit lunch and breakfast.  Shouted at police escort."

At 419 pages, the book does offer a nice long, winter read, curled up in your favourite spot and dreaming of cycling adventures of your own. Cycling around the world is a remarkable achievement and for those who have made long distance cycling trips, Mr. Beaumont's journey will astound you and you will be left shaking your head in amazement that he did in fact break the Guinness World record.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lock It or Lose It

Dig it
It drives my bicycle camping friends crazy, but I lock everything up - even when we are deep in the woods as far as fifty miles from the nearest habitation.  My thinking is that some backwoods jaloonie may very well mess us up by stealthily stealing our bikes while we peacefully snore the night away.  As much as it disgusts us when we meet a motorized vehicle on the trail, we make sure not to hassle the drivers and anger them.  They might very well live in the area and return to raid our camp.

To save weight when we're bicycle camping, I use a seven foot length of aircraft cable which I have looped at either end and then fasten the cable with a light lock.  My idea being that this method, if nothing else will slow down the perps.  I go so far as to hide a bear bell amongst the cable and bikes so that no matter how quiet the creeps are if they try to steal from us, the bell will ring and alert us to the potential calamity.

Cable from Home Despot

Even in my garage, I lock my bikes up using this same cable to thwart an opportunistic thief who might dash into the garage while we are working around the yard.  Again, it will slow the jerk down and give pause to trying to steal one of my bikes.
Two potential winter bikes locked up in the garage

As much as my cycle camping friends scoff at the idea of locking the bikes out in the woods, I notice that they make no fuss when, after all the gear has been removed, I suggest that it is time to lock up the bikes as it is getting dark and becoming difficult to see fine work.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Studly Do-Right

As the days shorten, it is only a matter of time before the snow flies and ice begins to form on our streets which means it is time to stud a pair of tires to use on this winter's commutes.  And you'll find that with a minimum of mechanical expertise, it is easy to do.

The knobbier the better

The first step is to use a pair of knobby tires - the bigger the knobs the better.  Using a drill, you'll want to screw 5/8"sheet metal screws into the inside of the tire.  With a bit of luck, you'll end up placing the screw right into the center of one of the knobs.  50 screws per tire will do the job.

With self-tapping screws, drilling is easy

Alternate the knobs that you put the screws into otherwise you'll find that your tire will go bump,bump,bump as you ride.  The ends of the screws are very sharp so handle the tires carefully.  Through riding on pavement, the screws will eventually wear down to a smaller size and lose some of their sharpness.  Don't worry - that wearing down won't affect their performance.

You can also use 1/2" screws
Next: Part Two - Lining the tire and mounting

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Where Is That Stuff?

"Furry Lewis" stripped down for MTB'ing
When the cycling season changes and we head into winter, I often find myself in the predicament of finding all my cycling gear.  Have you ever found yourself in a rush to head out the door but you can't find your long fingered biking gloves?  Or "Where is that helmet cover?"

What complicates things is having five bikes, two different sets of panniers, three pairs of cycling shorts, three bike tools, two compressed air inflaters, two pairs of short fingered bike gloves, one neck tube, one balaclava and...

Add to that the fact that most of the bikes are configured differently.  Two mountain bikes (the MOAB and Furry Lewis) have pannier racks, but the road bike (Mississippi 'Red) and the folding bike (Foldey Hawn) don't have any kind of rack.  The 1963 Triumph and the tandem both have a rack on the back but the panniers don't fit them.

So it easy to understand how I can be stumbling around the house in the morning dark trying to find my helmet cover or my winter mitts to put over my cycling gloves.  I will have already looked at the outside temperature station to determine what I need to wear and if it is cold enough, I will begin my search for missing items.

I tell myself that when I get home from work, first thing I'll do is organize my stuff for the morrow but then I discover that my daughter and her boyfriend are staying for dinner and nothing has been started.  My own hunger from my commute will propel me into the kitchen where I'll be grabbing vegetables and trying to find the rice since our guests are vegetarians. While I'm cooking, I tell myself that after supper I'll gather everything together but after dinner Roy calls and we spend the rest of the evening planning next year's bicycle camping trip and then...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Critical Miss

Maybe it was the near zero temperatures that kept most cyclists away, but when I showed up at Silly Hall there were only six other hardy cyclists there waiting for more people to show up to do the "Critical Mass".
Forgetting it was Halloween time, I was unprepared for some of the riders wearing costumes.  One guy (see photo) had Zombie makeup and his friend Steve had blackened his eyes (or maybe he'd been in an altercation) and Lee, who had recently ridden his bike here from NYC, shrugged on a clown suit that he had purchased for five bucks at Villue Vallage.

Mr. Zombie,Mr.South America and Steve with 2 black eyes

My experience in the past on these rides has been to ride near the front.  Reason being that if you ride right in the front, you have to make important decisions that affect everyone especially those riding in the rear.  Do we go through this red light?  Can we all make this advanced green?  When is the best time to change lanes so that it is safe for everyone?

If you ride in the very rear, then you might have to tolerate impatient drivers who are honking their horns or provocatively driving close to your rear tire.  As far as I'm concerned the best spot is close to the front where you can easily follow their lead.  If they decide to turn left on a yellow, you can put the pedal to the metal and charge after them.  If they suddenly decide to stop, then you can brake as well.

As we rode along Jasper Avenue, I reflected on something my friend Anne had mentioned about her last Critical Mass ride.  As she had pointed out, it is liberating to ride at a leisurely pace on a major traffic artery.  Waving to pedestrians rushing home from work, ringing our bells at the "Occupy" occupiers who shouted encouragement to us as we cycled past their camp.  It has been a long two years since I have ridden with this group and I found it to be quite  novel experience.


A quick vote was taken at the red light at 109 Street and we all decided to take the western lane of the High Level Bridge.  By the time we had reached that trestled structure, we were fifteen riders strong and had a terrific ride across the bridge.  I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  When do you ever get to cross the High Level except by motorized transportation?

Riding down Whyte Ave elicited many hoots and whoo yoos from costumed revellers already into the Halloween spirit(s).  I found myself in the rear somehow and rationalized that it was important to ride in every position in the pack.

Before I spun away to head off to work, I enjoyed watching a black bearded, long haired clown holding up traffic and signalling us to make the left turn toward Gazebo Park. That sight made my Halloween for me.