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.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Icy Dicey

Before I got on my bike to ride to work, I looked at our remote weather sensor and saw that the outside temperature hovered at a reasonable -7 degrees.  The image of the little man on the display of the sensor was bundled up in a coat and a scarf - in the summer he sheds clothing and it has only gotten hot enough for him to strip down to a Speedo and I often wonder if it got any hotter than 30 degrees, if he would appear naked or wearing a thong?

What the weather sensor didn't indicate was the wind blowing from the east that burned my face and began to freeze my gloved and mittened hands.  It took pedaling 33 blocks until I hit a red light and could jam my ice cold hands into my armpits where they could suck the warm from my upper body.  As the light turned green, I wished I knew how to ride without any hands and I looked forward to riding through the neighbourhood of Oliver where I imagined that its tree lined streets would give me relief from the wind.  But Oliver was still 46 blocks away and I was a little dismayed when I turned onto 100 Avenue and freezing rain began to fall on the already slick roads.

The fact that I'd left the house in such a hurry that I hadn't eaten any breakfast was weighing against me as well.  Another disadvantage was that I'd left my "Bar Mitts" in my locker at work and the freezing rain was soaking through my mittens and gloves and turning my hands into rock hard claws that I would need assistance to pry free.

I rode the whole 93 blocks without the freezing rain jamming my brakes and shifters and I took satisfaction in knowing that I had all day at work to warm up. Once my hands were melted enough to remove them from the handlebars, I looked forward to that first cup of black plasma and I might even order up a large oatmeal to make up for all the extra calories I had burned shivering.