Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You're Getting Warm

After freezing my extremities off riding my bike this winter, I've come up with what I think is a bright idea.  Over-sized mitts that fit on the handlebars that I can place my gloved hands into to keep them warm on my commutes to and from work.
As seen on the "Jingle Ride"

I've seen commercially made bar mitts and a fellow on the "Jingle Ride" had a pair made of neoprene that fitted onto his road bike handlebars.  Maybe that is where I got my inspiration.

There was no problem finding ripstop nylon for the outer shell and a fluffy/downy material for the insides.  The big problem was to sew these different fabrics together into some semblance of a large mitt.  This was going to require sewing on a machine as the materials when placed together would be too thick to sew by hand which is what I am used to doing.

The desire to sew has always been there but footplates and tensioning and bobbins intimidated me no end.  With a lot of coaxing I convinced my wife that I wouldn't destroy her sewing machine and could she please show me what to do?  Using a scrap of cloth, she showed how important it was to make sure that both the top and bottom threads were pointed to the back of the machine.  Then there was using the zigzag option to keep the edges of the fuzzy material from fraying and then to make sure that the footplate was in its proper position and to be sure to start the seam by turning the balance wheel or what some people call the machine pulley by hand and then...

 Remembering to place everything into the correct order when sewing the item inside-out was challenging as well and it wasn't long before I went to track down my wife in her woman-cave.  She was really impressed I assure you to find out that not only had the thread broken but the bobin was jammed and even though the machine was not set to zigzag, looking at my crooked seam, she was sure that the settings that she had so carefully adjusted just minutes ago had been tampered by you know who.
I have one of the mitts almost completed and as cold as it is outside, I can't bring myself to ride to and from work with only one mitt on the handlebar.  How would I know which hand needs covering the most?  Seams  to me that both my hands freeze up equally as well as just one.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kettle Trestles

One of the key facets of the Kettle Valley Railway is the number of trestles over rivers, creeks, washouts and other inpediments to train travel.  One cannot traverse a long section of the trail without the pleasure of crossing one of these structures.

Photo by: Kenneth Roy

In the Myra Canyon, until a cyclist was killed by tumbling off one of the trestles, the structures themselves had no guardrails of any kind which made for very hairy riding I'm sure.  My cycling friend Roy has ridden the canyon trestles with no guadrails and described it as being okay as long as you stay in the center.  Signs had been posted at that time commanding bike riders to dismount. (As if).
One of the vicims of the OK Mountain fire

The Okanagan Mountain fire destroyed a number of trestles as it swept uncontrolled through the canyon and it was with a great deal of expense and effort that the destroyed trestles were rebuilt for the enjoyment of thousands of cyclists, hikers and interested parties.  I rode a steam train a couple of years ago and the engineer explained the phenomenon of great clouds of steam being ejected from lower down on the engine - very picturesque.  Turns out the train engineer would release steam pressure when travelling over a trestle so that the moisture would dampen the railway ties and prevent cinders from the smokestack from igniting the wooden trestle.  Who knew?

A good place to find out more info on trestles is the book "McCullough's Wonder" which I found at the railway museum in Midway, B.C.  In the book are numerous pictures of the incredible engineering that went into building even the smallest trestle and you will be amazed at how the larger structures were constructed - you can see from the photo below how complicated they can be.  If I'm not mistaken, this is the trestle over Poole Creek in the Myra Canyon.

The guy is headed toward the train!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Presto! Presta

I wish it was as simple as Presto! when using a Presta valve. When it comes to bike valves - I can't stand Presta valves.  Who invented these confounded contraptions anyway?  What is wrong with Schrader valves?

Cofounded contraption
 Oh yeah, they tell you that on high pressure road bike wheels that the valve stem hole needs to be smaller to help with keeping the rim strong.  Does 2 mm. make that much difference in strength?  Other people argue that using a Presta valve saves weight versus using a Schrader valve.  Does a couple of grams affect your performance that much?  With the kind of non-competitive riding I do, I can't see it making that much of a difference.

On my Proctor Townsend which I ride in the basement, I've taken to threading on those brass adapters to convert Presta to Schrader and this has made me happy.  Plus I'm not using up compressed air cylinders which are the only things I have found that work consistently well in pumping up Presta valves.

As a volunteer bike mechanic at "BikeWorks", I've seen a few cases where the cyclist has drilled out the Presta hole and replaced the tube with a Schrader equipped tube.  Not that I think it would weaken the rim but I can't see myself drilling out my valve stem holes - what if I screwed it up and ruined a fine rim?

Brass adapter

Thursday, January 19, 2012

All By Myself

It must have been 7 years ago that my friend Roy must have mentioned bicycle camping and the trips that he had taken on the KVR.  While I had never heard of it, he described exotic sounding places.  Zack's campground in Beaverdell.  27 trestles in the Myra Canyon.  Mudslides near Princeton.   Exorbitant fees for everything at Chute Lake.

My imagination was stirred when Roy described how he and his nephew rounded a bend in the trail, deep in the forest and there standing in the middle of the trail was a soldier who informed them that they were not going any further.  "We have enough people lost in the woods - we don't need any more.  You'll have to go back and find another route!"  This was during the Okanagan Mountain fire.  Just the encouragement I need to go!
The fire Richard, Roy and I experienced near Princeton

When I think of how far I have come in the last five years riding almost the full length of the KVR, I'm now prepared to lead an expedition of my own.  And I describe it that way as I sit here indoors and the temperature is still - 30 Celsius outside and too cold for me to be out riding - although I admire the cyclists who are out there right now braving the cold - people like Coreen.  So I daydream...
Swimmers under the Cascade trestle

The expedition will claw our way to various summits, camp in the middle of nowhere, be excited when we come upon a country store, enjoy any food that comes our way and most of all, discover history together and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment as we swagger into town and act as though our trip was nothing as we regale neighbouring campers will tales of our exploits.
Love those tunnels!

Like an expedition, there will be decisions to make on the trail, choices to be made.  Weather is a always a factor.  Too hot can be just as taxing as too cold.  Conditioning (training) will play a key role in the amount of enjoyment riding the trails will bring.  It will be easier for my daughter and I since we will train for the MS Bike tour in June and by doing the KVR, we will have a leg up on our training for the MS Mountain Tour in mid September.

The good old MS Tour in June

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This year's bikepacking trip

My family and I are in the process of planning a family bikepacking trip along the Kettle Valley Railway this summer and the idea is that my daughter, son and I will ride the trails on our bikes while my wife who doesn't cycle will drive the support vehicle.
Expect the unexpected

Already I can sense some disagreement as to how we're going to do this.  One child is more than happy to put all his camping gear into the car and ride his bike unencumbered to the next campsite.  Whereas my youngest wants to carry all her gear on her bike. I'm in the middle - the idea of just carrying the day's requirements is appealing, yet to do the trip proper, I want to carry all my gear.
We will find peaceful campsites

There are two major scenic routes along the KVR.  There is the loop from Penticton east to Rock Creek and then up to the spectacular Myra Canyon but includes the deadly Anarchist Mountain climb.  The campsites are plentiful and most of the overnight stops have full washroom facilities.
Could run into forest fires
Then there is the route from Castlegar to Midway and back which includes the longest tunnel on the KVR and very fetching views that last for hours as you ride above Lower Arrow Lake and Christina Lake.  Not to mention the gorge at Cascade where on a hot day you can watch people swinging from the railway trestle into the ice cold, churning waters racing past the sheer granite walls beneath you.
A cool patio at a winery could be in the cards

Who carries how much gear on this trip will depend on how much conditioning each of us has had during the season and since we are thinking of going after the Labour Day weekend, all three of us will have had the maximum amount of training time possible to prepare before departure.  My wife points out that she won't have to train at all to be able to press the accelerator on the car.

While she won't have to train, my wife will miss scenes like this

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Dream Board

Right next to where I write the majority of my blogs I keep a large cork bulletin board which I cover with photos of my bike adventures.  This display never ceases to put a smile on my face every time I glance that way.

Currently, the cork board is covered in pictures from last summer's Kettle Valley Railway excursion.  One of my favourite pictures is of my two friends, Perry and Roy riding almost side by side up ahead of me.  I timed the taking of the picture so that they would be passing through sunlight and out of the shady grove of lush forest.
The boys exiting the forest
The one picture that really grabs my eye is PIE!  Look at that thick, sugar covered piece of art!  See an earlier blog that says it all:http://bikewritersblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/british-california-pie.html

As I occasionally let my eye wander over to the cork board I'm inspired to plan another bike camping trip or as I've recently learned, these trips are now called "bikepacking" trips.  Which makes complete sense to me as your panniers really are small versions of backpacks that strap onto your bike.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bicycle Mail

Who doesn't like to get mail?  Especially in winter if it is a catalogue of bicycle tours arranged for the summer?

My wish book

My copy of the Adventure Cycling Association's 2012 Tours showed up in yesterday's mail and I couldn't wait to open it and dream.  You may remember that Sears used to call their Christmas catalogue the "Wish Book" and this booklet is no different.  Sitting in my most comfortable chair and enjoying the warm, low sun that is shining through my south facing windows, I became lost in a bicycle reverie.

Blissful reading
Taking me back to Charles Frazier's 1997 "Cold Mountain" I found a tour called the "Blue Ridge Bliss".  A dismounted cyclist resting against a stone wall and soaking up the view over the hazy blue mountains that stretch to the horizon.

Doesn't that look inviting?
Every left hand page has an enticing, glossy photo of some sort of cycling adventure - a couple cycling along a mountain lake, a group of cyclists resting against the weathered boards of a barn wall or tandem riders breezing along a sinuous, canopied road.

The Adventure Cycling Association offers a range of bike tours to suit all ages and all skill levels.  Everything from self supported tours to guided trips with a stop at a hotel or other accommodation each night.

While I might have my own plans for bike trips this summer, I still can dream can't I?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cycle gifting

What a wonderful time of the year to be a cycling enthusiast.  Your loved ones find you easy to find a gift for since they know you are a cyclist.

Take this year for example.  In our Secret Santa event at work, Greg, one of my co-workers gave me a set of bicycle shaped page markers that as an avid reader (especially in the winter) I will use repeatedly.  Guessing that I'm old enough to enjoy a lava lamp, he gave me one of those as well.

My son Chris found an excellent cycling book that I'm very much looking forward to reading and perhaps reviewing on these pages.

A friend of mine, Alison whose little dog we baby-sit, gave me a lovely picture frame made from bicycle chain.

My wife gave me a pair of arm-warmers for my winter rides and a pair of boot covers (I almost said booty covers but you might get the wrong idea).

And my daughter gave me an MSR camp stove which I very interested in using when we hit the Kettle Valley Railway this summer and cook up some delicious backwoods meals.

Isn't it great to be a cycling enthusiast?