Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Makin' A Deal

When I travel, I like to ride a bike in whatever place I find myself.  And Jerusalem is no different.  Earlier this week in Tel Aviv, I had seen plenty of evidence of bike culture - bike rental stalls like I had seen in London and Vienna, dedicated bike lanes and bikes locked to every imaginable structure.

Here in Jerusalem, with the city existing on many, many hills and having seen people wearing T-shirts that say "I walked my feet off in Jerusalem", I was excited to see a large number of people traversing the hills and valleys on bikes.  Mountain bikes especially.  In fact, nighttime tours of the old city with its narrow cobbled lanes are held for cyclists wanting the thrill of being able to ride on the same stone - paved streets as Jesus once did.
The same stone street that Jesus walked

I had no luck finding the automated bike rental stalls that I had seen on the coast and while riding "Shank's pony" through a West Jerusalem park, a group of three youths wizzed past me on their bikes, one of them striking my plastic shopping bag full of last minute gifts and a prized olive green T-shirt with the inscription "Israel Defence Force" emblazoned on its front.

The boys surprised me by stopping and apologizing and I was pleased to find out they spoke English.  That's when the idea hit me that I could ask one of them to borrow his bike and go for a little jaunt around the park.  Independance Park to be exact.  They were sceptical and it wasn't until I left my bag of gifts with them as collateral and promised to ride within view (and only for a few minutes) and give them all the coins in my pocket for their trouble that they thought that my gifts might just be worth more than the MTB that I was going to use.
The deal makers

While they cavorted on a basketball court, I rode around its perimeter for a few minutes while they talked and joked amongst themselves.  Probably saying something like "Look at that goofy foreigner with his white legs!  or "Did you see how many sheckels he had in his hand - we got ripped off! or most likely "Hey Shlomo, why don't we just take off with this goy's stuff and let Avriham deal with the Americano and besides, the guy is so old, he'd never catch us on such a shi**y bike!".

After an experience yesterday with a pickpocket, and having trouble riding such a poorly maintained bike, I cut short my little ride and when I joined the small group, I made sure I got my bag back before handing over the bike.  Their disamy was palpable when I emptied out my pocket and showed them the meager amount of sheckels they were going to receive.  I tried completing the deal by throwing in a baseball cap and it wasn't until the one called Avriham demanded the cold can of Heineken that a deal was successfully struck.  Thank God they hadn't rifled through the bag enough to discover the rare black licorice pinwheels I planned to munch on our flight home. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

View From Israel

It looks to me that here in Tel Aviv, people like to cycle and it also appears that the government encourages cycling by providing dedicated bike lanes and ample places to lock up your bike.
Dedicated Bike Lanes in Tel Aviv
Folding bikes are very popular and I'm surprised at the number of mountain bikes I've seen people riding - have yet to see a road bike or a tandem.

I plan to rent a bike either here in Tel Aviv or in the next few days when we move over to the capital.  We're staying on the Mediterranean because there was literally no room at the inn in Jerusalem!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Old Friends

While out on my bike yesterday for another training ride, I got to thinking about my bike and the assorted cycling gear that I use to cycle.

It was looking at my gloved hands that sent me down that path of thinking.  My gloves are an old pair of AuClairs that don't cause any numbness in my hands when I'm on a long trip.  I have other gloves (read newer) but this pair I choose over and over.
Ratty old gloves
My Spiderflex seat which I figure has over 10,000 miles on it, is still the most comfortable seat I have ever ridden.  Other cyclists never fail to mention it's unusual shape and I've recommended it to I don't know how many people.
Look at that hairy arm in the above picture!
Even though my cycling shoes are shot, I still figure I can get another year or so out of them.  Maybe my feet are widening, but this year I have found some cramping while wearing these very narrow shoes.  Looking at the soles, I can see how the heels are worn down and it's a wonder that the SPD cleats fit into their respective clipless pedals.
Worn but still working
Just like old friends, my gloves, shoes and seat are very familiar and I know all their faults, their dog - eared appearance and their very comfortable feel.  Their comfort add immeasurable joy to the fine sport of cycling.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rainy Day, Dream Away

Rainy Day
Dream Away
Let the Sun
Take A Holiday

Those were the lyrics to a Jimi Hendrix song running through my head as I biked to work this morning.

When I awoke at 5:30 and got up to look out the bedroom window at a soggy landscape, I grabbed a cup of black plasma and went back to bed.  While I sipped the hot coffee a debate raged in my mind as to the merits of taking the bus or riding in the rain.  The only reason for the debate was not knowing if I had at home the cycling gear for wet weather.

  Last night after watching two episodes of Gray's Anatomy and taking the puppy we're babysitting out for a walk, it seemed that it was time for bed.  Let the decisions as where all my gear is wait until the morn.  That's why, after slurping the hot brew, I could be found wearing my Tikka Plus on my forehead and searching around for my cycling rain jacket, cycling pants, mittens, boot covers and helmet rain cover.  My thinking was that if I could find all those things then I would ride.  If my scratching around was unsuccessful, then I would have to look for three dollars and then take the bus.

Luckily I found all the gear without waking up my wife who often complains about being woken up by the searchlight intensity of the Tikka Plus as I get dressed in the very dark bedroom in the morning.

Which meant that by 6:08, I was on the road and while I found the wind cold on my neck, I did bask in the warmth that my Sugoi shoe covers provided my little feet.  I was feeling so contented that the rest of the Hendrix song echoed through my mind.

Lay Back and
Groove on a Rainy Day...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oh Joy!

Even when training for a bike tour, there is still time to stop and small the roses - or in this case, the delicate pink flowers growing on a plant next to the bike path.
Smells good!
Ah!  The aroma of melted sugar and the underlying bakery scents wafting across the road from a grocery store's kitchen.  I could swear the I could small bacon and eggs as I passed one house on the eastern leg of my trip.
One of my favorite trees
When I see this tree I often stop to admire its symmetry - on closer inspection the branches are randomly placed yet seen from afar, their disorder turns to order.  To me, there is something African in the shape of this deciduous splendor.

An energizing snack of "Horse Chow"
Stopping in the scenic river valley near the paddle wheeler, I pulled out what I call "Horse Chow" which is simply oatmeal, oil, lemon juice and raisins.  This recipe was created by Scott Nearing and after working up a huge appetite - to quote from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar "A dish fit for Gods!"
Out on the river
While munching on my oat dish, I caught the rare sight of an old motorboat whose slow progress against the current gave me plenty of time to stop and "Smell the Roses".

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Potato Run

In a phone conversation with Roy (the intrepid bikepacker), we decided that instead of cycling the Kettle Valley Railway this summer, we would pedal the abandoned rail beds of Idaho which aren't that much farther away from southern British California.
Idaho Rail Trails probably look like this

We don't have much information about their trails but we figure that we can manage.  Looking at photos on the web, the trails look very similar to the ones we have ridden for the last five years.  I guess railroad engineering is the same where ever you are.  Creating a 2% grade through a mountain pass or through a valley is the same on either side of the border.

Perhaps we'll come across old mining towns that have a particular abandoned charm.  The trouble with these towns is that they are picturesque but have no services - like the one pictured above.  We were very much looking forward to having lunch there.  If I'm not mistaken, the place was called Coaldale and after cruising its quiet streets, we had to cycle six miles further up the trail to Tulameen where we were offered fish and chips without the chips!

Without a doubt, we'll have good times on the trail and enjoy every evening meal after a long day of pedaling and I'll leave it to Roy to choose a fine red wine to go with our "Hungry Mountain Man Mexican Spicy Chili".  Then by eight o'clock it'll be time for me to go to bed.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Some would think that as a bike mechanic, all of my bikes would be in top condition and perfectly maintained.  Such is not the case as we speak (so to speak).  Here's the state of the nation:

"Furry Lewis"  is in pieces as I wrestle with the stubborn headset that won't go back together.  Last year, before the MS Mountain Tour, I took it into United Cycle to get a pro mechanic to solve the problem.  In an effort to make the bike weigh sub thirty, I had purchased a used suspension fork and that's when the problems started.

The MOAB is on the repair stand as I swap out parts from it to get "Furry" up and running for commuting.  The MOAB wasn't shifting worth a s**t and I had the brilliant idea of riding my most loyal bike to and from work.  Things like the mirror, the headlight, handlebar bag etc. need to be changed over.

The fun ride that "Foldey Hawn" offered turned to disappointment when I pedalled part way down the driveway and discovered a rear flat.  It was only a week ago that I had fixed the rear tire.  I'm wondering if someone in my neighbourhood is peppering the roads with sharp objects.

The 1963 Triumph, after having its tires pumped, proved to be almost fine as I rode it to a couple of garage sales this morning.  The second gear seems to be missing as the pedals spin freely whenever I shift into that gear.  I'll have to get the Raving Bike Fiend to show me how to fix it.
1963 Triumph

The tandem needs some work on the handlebars and my wife (the stoker) is convinced that there is something wrong with the shifting.  I think it is more that she might be a tad out of shape.  I'm just sayin'.  Plus its rear tire is flat after a short ride around the neighbourhood.
The tandem

The Proctor Townsend which is the bike I plan to use on the MS Bike Tour is operating just fine and it will just take some getting used to since it has the drop down handlebars and skinny skinny tires.  While all my other bikes need some loving care, cycling to work on the P.T. has cut my commute by 10 minutes.  I'd say the cup is half full.

The Proctor Townsend

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Steamin' Along

 With an email from Karly at Bikeology to propell us along, my daughter Jackie and I made the final decisions as to the Steam Punk Ride on June 24th, the starting point, the end point, the route itself and any prizes to be given out.

 Generous assistance was provided by Darrell over at Sanctuary and CITY TV has offered to advertise the Steam Punk Ride on their version of a Community Events Calendar.  I'm hoping to convince their Promotions Co-ordinator to give us some swag to hand out as well.  Jackies' company Golden Lady Wholistics has offered prizing as well!

 Never having arranged a Steam Punk Ride, we chose a route that will not only take us along an old railway and across a spectacular railway bridge but will also take us past an old abandoned brewery that has a definite industrial look to it.  So some steam and some punk.

 The ride starts off at Sanctuary Curio Shoppe where the owner, Darrell has offered to open his store early for those who need to embellish their Steam Punk look and the ride will take us to Winston Churchill Square where we can all parade around in our far-out get-ups and our fantastic machines.  It is there that we plan to hand out prizes for the best bike, best outfit and best spirit (and anything else we can dream up!).

 June is Bike Month in our fine city and our hope is to offer up something a little different and smart - the route does end at the Clever Rabbit after all.