Friday, December 28, 2012

Even Though I Have Posted A Year - End Blog...

For the cyclist, Christmas is always a great time to receive bike related gifts and this year was no exception.  A friend from work gave my a bicycle bell whose inscription I really enjoyed:

Dring! Dring!

My son Chris and his lady Erin gave me a bike repair manual that had an appropriate bumper sticker tucked into its pages:

Above my desk at home I have a small collection of metal badges mounted with magnets onto an earthy brown, 1970's fridge door and I get a kick out of adding cycling themed badges to the collection:

A funky belt buckle gives me joy whenever I see it on the fridge door (I like it too much to wreck it by wearing it):

  We had a Secret Santa gift exchange at work and I was given a cute wooden picture frame with several hand drawn  bicycles painstakingly sketched onto individual frames.  I was touched by how much effort my friend expended to give me such a thoughtful gift:
Not exactly as shown
As a cyclist, I can look forward to using the MEC gift card my daughter and cycling buddy Jackie gave me - perhaps a picture of the cycling shoes I'll buy there will appear some time in 2013...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Great Year of Cycling

Snobby riders in the park
Early in the year I had the pleasure of being in London with a few days to myself and since I try to ride a bike in whichever city I find myself, I rented one in Hyde Park and pretty much had that historic place to myself.

North of the river pub
I've burned a few brain cells since the first group ride of the year took place, but if I'm not mistaken, it was somewhere around St. Patrick's Day.  Brett, the Raving Bike Fiend, Coreen Wholesomefun and I did some pub hopping on both sides of the river that neatly cuts a diagonal from southwest to northeast in our city.

Jerusalem loungers
A few months later, I managed to convince a small group of young Jerusalem residents that by lending me one of their bikes, they could earn some easy schekels while I had a quick ride around the park where I found them lounging around.

The wet MS Bike Tour
The MS Tour in June: the first day of the tour was nice and sunny, but the second day saw 1,500  out of 2,000 plus riders being bussed to the finish line because of a severe thunderstorm warning.
Critical Mass
June is Bike Month is our neck of the woods - so there are any number of cycling events to participate in - seminars, bike-in movies, bicycle commuter breakfasts and free bike repair stations set up in prime cycle commuter locations.  The Bike Month Critical Mass ride is the biggest one of the year.

SteamPunk Ride
Bike Month also offered our city's first SteamPunk Ride which was a huge success - fine weather for most of the ride and an opportunity to saunter around a festival in the downtown core (the above picture is Keith sauntering around).
A "Relaxed" couple

 My cycling partner Roy and I did the "Route of the Coeur D'Alenes" and the "Route of the Hyawatha" in northern Idaho - a cycling trip the Adventure Cycling Association calls "Relaxed".

September saw the second MS Tour - the Hinton Mountain Tour where the MOAB needed an overdue overhaul.  At the last check stop with only 15 kilometers left to negotiate, the mechanic from United Cycle installed the proper gears for mountain biking and a new chain.  (Making the last 15 k. a breeze and the next trip a lot easier).
Jackie signing in at Mile Zero

My second bikepacking adventure was on familiar ground - the Kettle Valley Railway in south central British Columbia - with my daughter Jackie riding with me and my wife Janet driving the Flaggin' Wagon (the support vehicle which can give you and your bike a ride if your energy flags).
Snowy bike lanes
It was just my imagination but it seemed that we had just gotten home from the hot Okanagan area when it began to snow and the temperature plunged down to limb - numbing minus numbers and it was necessary to put on extra layers to be able to commute comfortably.
One of the many sights

The last group ride of the year was the night-time Jingle Ride which saw a collection of winter cyclists scooting around both sides of the North Saskatchewan River to absorb the sights and sounds of our city's Christmas displays.  We ended the ride while having the Legislature ice rink all to ourselves and enjoying some fortified hot chocolate in the heated shack.

All in all another great year of cycling!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Idaho Relaxed?

The postman delivered one of my favourite items yesterday.  Not an Xmas parcel (although those are fun to open), not a cheque from the government (a rare occurance), but the 2013 Adventure Cycling Tour catalogue.  Each glossy page augmented with inspiring photos from previous tours.  Cycling on beach at sunset.  Riding next to a Great Lake.

It is tempting to want to do every tour in the book and when I got to thinking along those lines, I realized that in fact I've already done one.  What the catalogue calls "Idaho Relaxed".  This past summer with my intrepid cycling partner Roy.  The guide lists it as an easy ride and the picture used to illustrate the tour is one taken on a section of highway that replaces the trail.
The route follows the highway       Photo: Chris Lipinsky

That very part of the trip was difficult in that the temperature soared uncomfortably high which led Roy to cover his head with a soaking wet towel which he placed Arab style under his helmet.  A technique I was to copy a month later when my daughter Jackie and I attempted Anarchist Mountain.
The Arab Bugman

 Compared to other bikepacking trips that we have taken, the Idaho Relaxed was easier given that a lot of the 320 mile route was paved.  We cycled the old railway bed for as long as we could and the St. Joe River that followed the trail offered inviting vistas and always the opportunity for a dip in its deep and fast moving waters.
The old trail and St.Joe River

The trip was so relaxed that there was time for a little trail tomfoolery:

Somehow a banana ended up in my Spandex shorts - and Yes!  I'm happy to see you!
(Perhaps I'd gotten too relaxed!).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ride Sally Ride

For everyone, this is a busy season and because it is so hectic, I've decided to downsize the decorating of my bike for the Jingle Ride tomorrow night.  Not that it took much time last year to wrap white paper around the frame and a thin strip of ribbon to make the bike into diamond - framed candy cane.

I say thank God there are Dollar Stores everywhere and when I popped into my local one, it took being side-swiped by a rabid shopper for me to find the Christmas section.  She had a cart full of tinsel, bells, plastic baubles and assorted green and red decorations.  Being Canadian, we both said "Sorry!" and then she directed me to the numerous isles of Xmas tat that only a Dollar Store can provide.

Being Canada the word ornament has to be spelled in French
Wanting my decorating to be rather understated, I chose two thin felt stockings that could be personalized.  The idea being that I could hang them from each handlebar and label one "JINGLE" and the other "RIDE".  When the impracticality of that idea dawned on me, I chucked the stockings onto a shelf of leaking cans of cat food and reached instead for a bag of plastic snowflakes that I could pin to my handlebar mitts.

Rum storage containers
Since I'll have two panniers (mostly filled with rum - laced hot chocolate), I figured that a simple ornament on each saddlebag would suffice.  The ones I chose have dangly bells and when combined with the bearbells on my pedals, should make enough racket that they will clear my way when I slide into whichever holiday display my friends happen to be admiring.  After all, I will be taking up the rear so I can secretly sneak the odd swill of that fortified hot chocolate!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three Men On A Bike Book

Apparently one man loses a testicle.  Three men, three seats, three handlebars, three sets of pedals and 5 testicles.

The Goodies

The bike came from a British television show called "The Goodies" and there were numerous variations of the bike which they called a trandem. The show involves a lot of falling off the trandem which the British audience found hilarious.  A good video with lots of falling off a bike that you might find amusing is this one set in New York City.

If you've ever ridden a tandem, then you know that the second rider (called the stoker) has a limited view of the road, so I can only imagine the narrow view that the third person gets.  The third person - called Bram (stoker)?  Coker?  Rear Admiral?

I recently came across this quote: "As a stoker I pedal, contribute to worthwhile conversations and (when advised) provide hand signals . If you're not abusive and ask nicely, I'll advise you of traffic or tell you what gear you're in. And if you overlook the occasional misdirection, I'll even agree to help navigate. But please don't presume that I can somehow choose a line through a corner, assertively weave though traffic, se lect the proper gear or stop the bike at a signal. Face facts--I can't steer or see the road in front of the front tire. In short, it isn't my job to "drive the bike" and I therefore refuse to take responsibility."
Goofy stuff

As the second person on the back (whose title is unknown), you can only imagine that person's quote: "As an untitled person, I contribute by adding weight to the rear wheel which provides traction, I can if asked nicely, scratch the stoker's back, I can screw my body around and try to reach something in one of the rear panniers, but don't even consider expecting me to do much of anything except add weight."

Most people have seen the BIG BIKE with 20 or 30 yelling and shouting cyclists ringing bells and blowing horns and attempting to raise awareness for whatever cause they are promoting.  I've never ridden one myself and I can only imagine the captain having to deal with a gaggle of stokers claiming "It's not my responsibility to....".
"Hey Captain!  Is that a cellphone you're using?  Don't you know we have a distracted driving law?"

Friday, November 30, 2012

That Jingly Feeling All Over Again

According to a new posting on FB, there is going to be another Jingle Bike Ride and it's in a couple of weeks.  Last year's Jingle Ride was a lot of fun and I got to stay up way past my bedtime!
Candyass - I mean Candy Cane
Last year, I went overboard (not!)  - I decorated my bike in a candy cane motif and the bear bells on my pedals were a nice touch to my two wheeled sleigh.
Ice skating at the Legislature

Part of the Jingle Ride includes ice skating but in the heated changing shack no one was available to tie up my skate laces so I had to settle for skidding around the slick surface of the Legislature rink on my boots.  My friends looked like they were having a lot of fun playing "Whip the Snake" and their exuberance attracted a conga line that rivalled any I'd seen at a wedding.
They announced that the ride was "Leisurely" but once we hit Whyte Avenue, those "Leisurely" riders were Movin'!  I watched  cyclist Bret on his fixie pedaling like mad along the flat avenue but later, coasting down the spiral  ramp of an empty parking garage, he had to put his feet up on his handlebars to make sure his feet didn't get sliced and diced on the way down.

The announcement of the Jingle Ride might just keep me awake in the nights leading up to the big event - just like Christmas used to do when I was a kid - before I got hooked on cycling.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Should Know Better

Even though I feel like I handled our Kettle Valley Railway bikepacking trip in the best shape ever, my daughter reminded me that not everything was a piece of cake.  Oh, the bike riding part of our trip was no problem (I've bikepacked this part of the trail three times now).  It was the camping part that was sometimes a challenge.

After a long day in the saddle, I like to have a beer as soon as I get to camp.  We'd ridden our bikes from Beaverdell and after 70 kilometers, we were looking forward to meeting my wife Janet at the camp in McCullough.  My throat was dry and I calculated that we'd each done 33,000 pedal strokes to reach our prescribed goal for the day.

When we showed up at the Forestry campground, Janet had everything set up - the huge mansion sized tent for the two of us stood in a clearing, she had left space for Jackie's tent, arrangements had been made for firewood and Janet was hunched over the picnic table busily chopping and slicing up fresh vegetables soon to be roasted over the fire for supper.

It was an idylic scene and a welcome sight after pedaling uphill all day.  As I approached the cooler in the SAG wagon, Janet stopped me in my tracks to inform me that she hadn't been able to stop at a beer store but she had a stash of Pusser's Navy Rum hidden in her carpet bag in the trunk.  My heart was set on a cold beer.  However, a tot of British Navy Rum might hit the spot.  Maybe even a couple of tots would be acceptable.

That fine elixir
The first glug of the amber hooch warmed my insides and it was only a few minutes later when I tried to disengage my panniers from their perch on the rear rack that I felt the first effects of that devil's brew.  I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't remember the simple three number combination of the padlock to lock the bikes to a nearby spruce tree.
The locking system

It was while I was preparing a second dose of Caribbean rum that Janet suggested the bed of red hot coals in the firepit had reached the ideal temperature and that it was time to place the roasting rack full of vegetables onto the grill. Through some fluke of nature, the slick handle of the grilling rack slid from my hands as she passed it to me and the whole contraption slammed into the side of the steel firepit base strewing diced celery, frenched beans, shredded carrot, chopped peppers and a host of carefully prepared vegetables onto the gravel and dirt that made up the floor of our campsite.

Not for us
My daughter the vegan and my wife to cook were not impressed in the least.  You can imagine everyone's chagrin - no supper of nutritious food and no beer to wash down the tidbits of grilled vegetables that survived the bashing.  My jest about having tossed salad for dinner fell on deaf ears.  They didn't like my pun "Instead of a stir-fry, it's a dirt fry!" either.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tours Seven Months Hence

Even though it is still only November, I just registered for the MS Bike Tours which take place in June and next September.  Logging onto the MS website was easy enough and the site is tastefully loaded with pictures from the tours and brief descriptions of each ride.
One lady is riding a GIANT bike but it doesn't look all that big to me.

Looking at the above picture closely, I can't tell if these people are smiling or grimacing.  The hill is on day one of the Hinton Mountain Tour and is the first real incline of the day. When cycling toward it, you can be easily fooled into thinking that it doesn't look all that steep.  And that is because you are approaching the hill by ripping down a slope towards a bridge at easily 45 km./hr..  Then the incline after the bridge slows your bike so fast that you are almost catapulted over your handlebars.
Everyone in the above picture looks like they are having a swell time.  Waving and smiling.  Good times.  But if you look at the picture carefully, you'll notice that they are all wearing mittens.  And this is in June!  Also the second rider from the left has his/her head down.  Not a good sign.  Sure, they're probably looking down to see what gear they are in, but the clever producers of this website want you to believe.....
Niagara Tour
I like the look of the Niagara Tour.  The start line is also the finish line.  So by placing your bike on the start line and pedaling far enough to turn around, you can cross the finish line in less than a minute.

The generic tour

The MS Tour website lists 22 different tours taking place around the country but they use one photo to illustrate 7 of the tours - Sussex to Saint John, Windsor to Wolfville, Fraser Valley, two in Manitoba and two in Saskatchewan one of which includes a place called Waskesiu which I think is pronounced Wask Ka Soo.  I think I'll change my registration to one of the tours with the generic pictures.  Looking at the photo, it appears the tour is downhill, the riders are well spaced out and I have a cycling jacket that I could bring with me to stay warm.  It will be June after all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let There Be Light

The first thing I noticed on waking the morning after we arrived back from our KVR adventure was that our city had installed new street lights in our absence.  It was easy to see that the new lights were brighter and gave off a blue light rather than the salmon - coloured mercury vapour instruments that had been used for so long.
My blue heaven

In the winter, the covering of snow that blankets every surface acts as a reflector and bounces any ambient light into the surrounding atmosphere.  So when you're cycling, it is not all that dark.  Oh sure there are spots that are dim - like the service road that I come across about at the halfway mark of my commute.  It is so dark along that road that one must pay close attention to avoid the hundreds of potholes and the lake that forms every time there is a melt.  As you may remember dear reader, I took an ice cold bath in that lake on my way home one evening and since I was at the halfway point of my commute - did I continue home or go back to work and find another means of transport?

I went home shivering and at every stop light I bent my arms straight to break the glossy sweater of ice that threatened to freeze my arms into a permanent handlebar position which would mean I couldn't turn left or right.  In theory, with our city's grid system, that would work, except my commute is not a straight line and besides - what about the continual alterations to avoid pedestrians, cars, busses, ice, cats, snowplows, errant rabbits and other bicycle commuters?
My friend Molly

My friend Molly contends that if you have a light on your bike and you set it to flashing, the strobing of your light can catch the attention of motorists and cause them to actually steer toward you. I like that idea.  Maybe then they would see me and avoid a collision.  Upon sight of me, they's have to steer clear of me - I might have taken a frigid bath and not be able to move my ice covered limbs in time to prevent a auto/cycle incident.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yee Haw! Winters Here!!

It's not enough that it is cold outside,  but dealing with the low temperature is compounded by a huge dump of snow we had last week - a month's worth of snow in one day!  It was so bad that enlightened employers let their staffs leave for home early that particular day.  What this means for cyclists is that their winter commute will be lengthened considerably by slogging through thick snow.
Bike lane all pretty

Just recently, the city added bike lanes to a nearby street which motorists have been using all to themselves, and is now divided up into one parking lane, one bus/bike lane, two automobile lanes and one single bike lane.  To remind drivers of this change, a large sign has been erected indicating one of the bike lanes which you now can't see because of all the snow the city has dumped on said bike lane.

It makes no difference to me since I ride on the sidewalks in winter.  I don't have the co-hoenees to ride on the street like the hardcore cyclists I know and the many I see but don't know.  In fact, one pulled up beside me yesterday and thinking it was my friend the Raving Bike Fiend, I struck up a short conversation with him.  I admired his Surly Pugsley and noticed that the searchlight sized light on his helmet cast its beam way across the intersection and the law enforcement Maglight on his handlebars made my puny 2 watt light pale in comparison.  I was especially impressed with his nerves of steel when a transit bus pulled to a stop just inches away from his rear fender and he didn't bat an eye.
In real life it is really big!
Our city just hosted the Canadian Finals Rodeo and I can tell you that if this snow keeps up and the humps and hills on the sidewalks harden, I might just enter the rodeo myself since in winter I ride a bucking, squirming steed that seems determined to throw me off - 8 second horn blowing or not.
Courtesy of EBC

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jingle All The Way

In choosing a winter bike, one must choose very carefully.  You'll want a bike that is robust and one you won't mind if it gets banged up.  So when my eye caught the Norco Kokanee with its flourescent yellow frame dappled with bright orange specks, I thought "This baby will do the job!" as I pulled it from the pile at "BikeWorks".
The pile
The bike which I want to call Big Bird, has the requisite two wheels, two brakes and two shifters.  What it did need were two studded tires, a wider handlebar, flat pedals, a better seat and more comfortable handgrips. Keep in mind the bike only cost $35.00 to start with and if I like it, I might very well ride it for several years.
Big Bird ready to roll

On a test ride to work the other day, I counted 12 bicycle commuters passing me with their fancy dancy lightweight machines.  In all the years of cycling to and from work, I've never heard so many "On your Lefts" as I did riding this bike named after a beer.

I spent a couple of hours at the shop swapping out the shifters, the pedals and the brake levers, the handlebar and the hand grips.  The fun part is using the air compressor with its tiny nozzle to blow air at tremendous speed into the handgrip and thereby allow it to be shimmied onto the handlebar.  Note to reader:  make sure everything else is mounted onto the handlebar before placing the handgrips into position - otherwise you have to use the compressor with its tiny nozzle to blow air at tremendous speed into the handgrip...

My coup de grace was attaching bear bells to the pedals to avoid having to use not only a frozen finger but one covered in many bulky layers to try to ring a bell that is only going to be muffled by the material of my mitten.  What with the ripping sound that studded tires make and the ching ching emanating from the bear bells, nearly every pedestrian and cyclist I come up to inevitably turn around to see "WTF?" is behind me?  Meaning I don't have to ring a bell anyway even if I had one on my handlebars.
The rippers
Added bonus this year
An added bonus this year is a rearview mirror - now I'm able to see what is behind me making that ripping sound along with that irritating Ching Ching noise.