Monday, April 29, 2013

Snow Way!

It sounded like rain when I went to bed last night but when I pulled my bike out of the garage this morning, that rain had turned to snow.  Big, white fluffy flakes filled the sky and changed the just-turning-green lawn a clean white.

Here we go again
After nearly seven months of snow, I had hung the winter bike up in the rafters of the garage when the first melt began a few weeks ago.  Putting the winter bike away meant having to dodge the odd patch of ice (mostly in the shady spots) since my regular commuting bike doesn't have studs - just big knobby tires.
The big knobbies
For all intents and purposes, this snowfall is more like a white rain and it reminds me of Dustin Hoffman's line from "Wag the Dog" when he says "This is nothing!"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Big Brother

Last week at a public meeting, the city presented the final plans for additional bike lanes to be added to the ever expanding bike route system.  Sitting and listening to the address, the thought struck me that it must be very difficult for this department of civic employees to have their voices heard over the noise coming from their big brothers in the transportation department.
Big Brother is watching

Someone asked why build bike routes when in the winter that is where all the snow is placed?  Judging from the answer, it reminded me of having to ask my father for my allowance and being afraid that he would brush off my request knowing I could do nothing about it.  The civic employee reponded to the question of snow removal by saying that they had mentioned it to the big, bureaucratic traffic department and that group shot back with: "It's the perfect place to put the snow!"

As part of the information session, long and detailed black and white photographic maps of the affected streets were displayed in the auditorium.  A part of the route I cycle was represented by a map 30 feet long that snaked across most of the room and it was fun to trace my commute along its black and white path. 

When I noticed that a bike lane was still planned for a section of my commute that is always dangerous because of large puddles of rain water and melt water, I had to conclude that the city's bicycle department had mentioned the problem to the transportation department but were probably told "Tell the cyclists that they will get a free bike wash when they ride on that lane!"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Belongs at Cabelas

Recently I came across a photograph of a tent trailer designed to be pulled behind a bike and while it is a nifty piece of equipment, I can't help but think that it is a little over the top.  Those of you who bikepack know how easy it is to pack too much stuff and pulling a trailer would only encourage such behaviour.
This is where it all starts
At Christmas, my son Christopher and I managed to separate ourselves from the women of the family so that we could go and explore all the things we like (which they don't).  This included visiting Cabelas, a monstrous sporting goods store which I had heard about years ago when a co-worker insisted that I would be impressed with that American retailer.
XL sized stuff here!

Its not the variety of goods available at Cabelas but the size of the equipment that made the biggest impression on me when Chris and I ventured down every aisle of the store.  Just about everything was designed for car camping - meaning size didn't really matter.  For those of us who bicycle camp, size matters a lot.  There is only so much gack that can fit in a saddlebag.  There are limitations to how much stuff can be attached to the bike itself and still be rideable.

If you are pulling a tent trailer behind your bike it is too tempting to fill it with large equipment like you would find at Cabelas.  A Coleman stove and lantern, a cooler, a hammock would be nice and how about some firewood for that quintessential backwoods campfire?  And of course if you're having a fire, why not pack a pie iron to make some of those scrumptious desserts to round out the menu?  I'm sure the staff at that giant store would be happy to help you fill a gigantic shopping cart so that your bikepacking experience is all it can be.

Be all you can be

Saturday, April 13, 2013

That's The Way I like It Uh Huh Uh Huh

Someone showed me a picture on Facebook of a combination of a bicycle and a lawnmower. When I showed it to my daughter she became quite excited by the idea of being able to cycle and do an onerous chore at the same time.  And she does have a reason to be excited when you consider that the leg muscles are so much stronger than arm muscles which seems to be mostly what I use when I shove our electric lawnmower around the property.
I'm no engineer (much to my father's disappointment) but I can't help but think that those little wheels on the mower would present a challenge when trying to overcome inertia.  Perhaps using a studded tire on the back would help give the propulsion necessary and have the added benefit of aerating the lawn when the studs poke their numerous holes into the turf.
The Lazy-Boy model
My friend Tim would appreciate the recumbent version since they are the only type of bikes he seems to ride.  I think I might prefer reclining while working too - although negotiating my way around the fire pit and the patio would be tricky.  My wife's many gardens that border the whole property would take a terrific beating when doing the edges of the lawn.  You can see from the above picture that one of the front wheels would have to go in the flower beds to allow the reel blades to trim the very edges of the lawn.
Now we're talking
When I was a kid, my brother and I had to cut the grass as one of our chores (mind you I don't remember him actually doing it) and our father had purchased a TECUMSEH motorized reel mower to aid us in our endeavors.  Dad spent a lot of time training us on the use of such a powerful machine and seemed very concerned  that we would cut off our toes if we weren't careful.  My toes were never the problem.  The real difficulty began when I would run over one of my mother's wooden clothes pegs and their tough wooden fingers would put an immediate halt to grass cutting.  Then I would have to shut off the mower, try to extract the peg and then my reel (sic) difficulties would begin when I tried to rope start the engine.  My skinny, under developed arms could never seem to create the velocity necessary to spin the whatchamdingy fast enough to start the machine.  Then I'd have to go get my father who cursed softly under his breath on the way to the yard to help me (probably wondering why he didn't just do the grass cutting himself!).

Maybe leg muscles aren't as important as my daughter thinks - perhaps it is arm muscles you need when the blades on your mower come to a complete stop because they are jammed with the cap from a beer bottle which your son so carelessly tossed over his shoulder last summer. Then you have to stop pedalling, turn off the mower engine and after pulling the cap from the blades, begin pulling the rope start...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You Got To Know When To Fold 'Em

My interest in folding bikes has been piqued by my daughter showing me a folder that she is interested in.  As you may know from reading this blog, I have an older Dahon and it is one of my favourite bikes.  I love how responsive it is and it provides a fun ride.  Being rather unusual in shape, I've had pedestrians shout things like "Hey nice circus bike!"
Foldey Hawn
My daughter is interested in what looks like a regular bike but has a hinge in the middle of the downtube.  I think I know why she wants that type of folder.  She carries a huge amount of weight when she grocery shops and needs a bike that is fairly robust.
Myself, as much as I love Foldey Hawn, I'm getting interested in a Strida - I like its unusual shape and the simplicity in whch it folds up.  One criticism I heard is that when you brake hard, you man parts can get slammed into the seat tube.
Another thing I like is that I can ride on the sidewalks here legally because of the small size of the wheels (18 inch).  The bi-law states: "Standard size bicycles are only allowed on signed, shared use sidewalks that are 2.5m wide or greater. Bicycles with wheels less than 50cm in diameter (children's bikes) are permitted on all sidewalks."  I might be stretching things if it is determined that my folding bike is not a children's bike.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


All weekend long during my son's visit this past Easter, the talk was about survival techniques and equipment.  Chris explained in great detail a movement afoot called Every Day Carry in which a person carries basic emergency equipment - something I've been doing for years as a cyclist.
Every Day Carry?
I so badly wanted to go to what used to be the world's largest mall that I was willing to get my daughter to fix the front flat on my winter bike.  For some unknown reason, I've been suffering a number of flats this winter and I suspected that the 100 studs in each tire might be the culprit but no amount of checking them solved the problem.  Besides, Jackie needed practice fixing a flat since the last time she'd had one while climbing Anarchist Mountain, she'd gotten the old man to do it.

The black dot at the curve is a cyclist climbing Anarchist
It was after dealing with the throngs of Easter shoppers that I approached my bike with its nice hard, front tire that I noticed that the rear tire had now gone flat.  Luckily, every day I cycle, I carry a bike tool, a new tube, patches and glue, tire levers and a CO2 inflator.  What I didn't expect was that the tire inflator's compressed air cylinder was empty.  What I vowed to do was to buy a small pump so that every day that I cycle, I would know that I had a method of pumping up a flat tire.  I should remember to use the CO2 inflator for when I'm on a mountain bike tour - not when I'm traipsing every day around town on my bike.

What it felt like
It was only 20 blocks of pushing my bike to get home.