Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Confessions of a cycling shopaholic


So it’s Bike to Work Week here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’d like to say that I’m going to all the cool events, but given my commute to Oshawa and the wacky hours I keep (up at 4:00a.m. and in bed around 9:00pm) I probably won’t get to any. I should have an article in the summer edition of the BUGLE though, whenever that comes out.

A cyclist got on the Go Train yesterday, leaned his bike up against mine and we chatted for a little while. He was from Ottawa but now lives in Pickering and works in Courtice. A long time Ottawa cyclist, his plan, which he was trying for the first time yesterday, was to get off the train in Oshawa and then bike to Courtice (looking at gmaps later I figured this was about 9km).
I felt really bad for him. He was talking about how bike friendly Ottawa is – how many bike lanes there are, how you can take bike lanes from Carleton University to the University of Ottawa etc. Meanwhile I’m sitting there knowing that Whitby/Oshawa, and Durham in general, is potentially the least friendly biking place in southern/central Ontario. Actually, it’s not even that they aren’t friendly to bikes out here, they just don’t know what bikes are. If you told someone that you had ridden a toaster to work you’d get the same quizzical expression you do when you say that you rode a bike to work.

Anyway, I told him to be careful, and to swallow his pride and dive into the gravel when things got sticky. I hope he’s still alive.

Aside from doing a century on some kind of sexy Italian road machine with beautiful companions (and maybe Vinokourov and Robin Williams thrown in for fun) – I’m doing the cyclists’ favourite thing at the moment: Bike Shopping.

What I’m after is a cyclocross bike with full fender and rack capability which could sub in for a race bike if I get back into doing duathlons anytime soon. I was making my own little chart for the bikes that I’m considering, and then I found this one online. It’s pretty good, but unfortunately it doesn’t reflect Canadian prices, especially the wacky guesses that American manufacturers seem to make at what a logical Canadian price should be.

I’ve so far ridden the:


  • Specialized Tricross Sport Triple – about Can $1200.00 for a Sora, Tiagra, Deore mishmash. I didn’t like it. The front end is really beefy, especially the fork, and when you look down you feel like you’re pedaling a transport truck.

  • Bianchi Axis – nice bike, but Urbane is selling it for $1700.00 for a Tiagra and Deore mix for God’s sake. That’s silly.

  • Jamis Nova – G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Lightweight steel frame and full Shimano 105. This is my favourite ride so far and I love the way it looks. Unfortunately it’s going for $1850 at Cycle Therapy when the U.S. price is $1300.00 and you’d figure (with the current exchange rate) that a good Canadian price would be somewhere around $1500.00 bucks.

  • I’m still hoping to ride these bikes:
  • Raleigh RX 1.0 – about U.S. $1200.00 for 105, Tiagra and an SRAM cogset. This got well reviewed in Bicycling magazine. Update: I've had an email from Raleigh Canada and it turns out that this little guy is not available in Canada. Darn.

  • Kona Jake the Snake. Oh Kona, you’re so annoying. I know that I’m going to try this bike and like it, but there are various problems associated with the Kona. A) I’ve already owned two Konas in my life and just want to try something different B) Everybody and their dog in Canada has a Kona C) the 2007 version of the bike is a neon lime green colour! Unfortunately, Kona cross bikes are by far the best bang for the buck that you can get. This bike has a lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fork, full Shimano 105, for Canadian $1500.00. Somebody make sure that I don’t cave. I really don’t want to buy a neon lime green Kona.

Friday, May 25, 2007

derailleur hanger

B.U.G.G.E.R.

I just took a few of the broken parts off the Cannondale, to discover that I cracked the derailleur hanger.

GRRRRRRRR.

P.S. - to British readers, for whom the above curse will sound a bit more inappropriate, I apologize.

I guess I'm going to have to test ride one of these and one of these a lot sooner than expected.

things fall apart

I find the contrast between my last post and this one quite striking. The last one was about my pastoral little weekend up at my parents' place in Bancroft. This one is about the shredding of metal on my bicycle on the busy rush hour streets of Toronto.

broken_cannon1
I don't even really know how the dumb accident happened actually. It was my own fault, I can admit that at least. Every afternoon when I leave the Danforth Go Station, I have to cross over Main Street and then start heading south. Main Street is always busy with cars so it's a tough cross (this is a complete "jaywalking" style of cross incidentally - there's no crosswalk or streetlight) and as a bonus, Main Street isn't flat right here, it swoops up over a high peaked bridge so that when I'm looking to my left at the northbound traffic, cars can suddenly crest the bridge at 50km an hour only 100 metres away from me.
Oh yeah, and there are streetcar tracks along Main Street. That's the other fun bonus here.
broken_cannon2
Anyway, yesterday I let the traffic clear, I pedalled my bike across the streetcar tracks and started heading south. Another guy on a bike was crossing the street diagonally ahead of me, and I figured I could speed up a bit and scoot through between him and the curb before he got fully into the lane. BUT - I somehow angled myself at the curb and plowed into it with my right foot still clipped in. I fell forward and off the bike (onto the curb), the rear end of the bike jumped into the air and came down again on my rear (Shimano 105) derailleur.
broken_cannon3

I picked myself up. Called "Yep, thanks" to the biker ahead of me who was kind enough to shout back and ask if I was alright. I put my chain back on and worried a little bit about the angle my derailleur was now on. But I spun the cranks and the chain was moving okay so I figured I'd ride home and deal with it better there.
And I rode home happily enough, though totally embarassed about the bonehead crash. About 200 metres from my apartment I figured I'd better shift the gears a bit to see what was and wasn't working, and the derailleur immediately threw itself into my wheel, snapping it off the hanger, and breaking a spoke at the same time.

Goddamnit. I just had the Cannondale tuned up as well. Now I have to figure out what to do - just replace the derailleur and fix the wheel? Since the drivetrain has over 5000km on it, do a complete drivetrain upgrade? Finally buy a cyclocross bike?

To buy some decision making time I might set the Cannondale up as a singlespeed for the short term, throwing on the Easton Circuit Wheels that I just bought at half price from Wheels of Bloor.

It's weird. I've heard about derailleurs snapping off the hanger, just like I've heard of chains getting thrown up over your biggest cog into your spokes, but nothing like that has ever happened to me. It's funny - you can pedal thousands of kilometres and still not experience everything that could happen to you on a bike.

P.S. - Bike helmets really work apparently.
"I didn't see it coming, but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head."
Ryan Lipscomb, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on being hit by a delivery truck after he fell from his bike. Lipscomb, who wore a helmet, suffered only a concussion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Walden, or, Life in the Woods

Here's the long weekend report from Bancroft - and all these pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and going to the flickr site (and if you want a really big image, click on the little "All Sizes" icon that you'll see above the photo on the Flickr site).

baylake_bike2
I got in one bike ride with my sister. We did the old ride out to Bay Lake. When I'm home in the summer and have a bike with me I do a long ride well past Bay Lake, and then on the way back jump into the water here to splash around.
matt_forest
This is my brother Matthew keeping his eyes open for the deer that we startled not too far from the house. We heard the deer crash away through the bush, but never actually saw him.
pond
This is our little version of Walden Pond. If you're on the main hiking trails back behind our house, this pond is a wee bit hidden so only a few locals know it is there. I always expect to come down to the pond and see a moose or deer standing there, but I never have.
railroadtracks
There used to be a railroad line up through Bancroft to Algonquin Park. Before I was born they pulled up the railroad ties and all that was left was a long trail through the central Ontario forest. Growing up I used to jog along this trail and it was gorgeous. Now, unfortunately, the 4-Wheeling groups use all these trails and it can be rare to have a nice quiet moment on them.
trail_mud
And this is what happens when the guys with 4-Wheelers leave the old railway lines and detour up into the bush onto the nice hiking trails. I really don't understand the fascination with driving a noisy motorized machine through the forest. What's wrong with hiking? You get some exercise, actually enjoy the scenery, and as a bonus, you don't tear anything up!
That's my brother and Annalise surveying the mud.

Friday, May 18, 2007

it's not the thing you fling, it's the fling itself

I've heard Ann Coulter's name before, but always in a vague way, and aside from thinking she was a commentator on U.S. politics, I didn't know anything about her. I came across this video on You Tube which is a splice of a Fox News segment where Coulter calls Canadians ungrateful for not supporting the Iraq war, and says that we're lucky that America hasn't crushed Canada yet. The second part of the video is Bob McKeown from CBC's Fifth Estate interviewing Coulter and setting her straight about how we hadn't gone into Vietnam with the U.S. either.
I was initially quite pissed with the viewpoint Coulter presented - i.e. Canadians are babies who are lucky that they have America's nuclear shield protecting them and we'd better be thankful. But as I researched Coulter a bit more I realized that she makes a living spouting the "uber-republican" crap that Steven Colbert pretends to spout in his Colbert Report. If she didn't throw about insults like that she wouldn't have a job, so realizing this I calmed down a bit.

Coulter, incidentally, is such a rabid republican that she even gets fired from conservative newspapers. The National Review fired her when she wrote a column suggesting a "final solution" to the Muslim problem: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity".

Hmmmmmm.

I doubt she had any idea what she was getting into when she agreed to be interviewed by Bob McKeown either. He's a Yale graduate, spent many years with CBC but also spent five years with CBS where he covered the first Iraq war for them, also spent eight years with Dateline NBC, and for God's sake - he's even won a grey cup!

Anyway, it was nice seeing a very polite, competent, dignified CBC dude looking this imbecile straight in the eye and saying "No, you're wrong."


I noticed recently that two American democrats are supporting a Bike Commuter Act in the States. It appears to ask for something similar to what we recommended in our (now closed) petition from a while back - according to Bicycling magazine "the Act would change the definition of transportation in the tax code to include bicycles, allowing bike commuters to receive a benefit of up to $110.00 a month."
More information is available on Congressman Earl Blumenauer's website.

I keep monitoring the House of Commons debates waiting for our petition to be presented. Nothing yet however. I did see Olivia Chow presenting a petition on the heavy truck side guards issue however.

anyway, I'm off to Bancroft for the long weekend. I probably won't fling any pianos through the sky, but you never know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Love's labour lost

I'm on Craigslist all the time these days. A lot of things catch my eye, but what I'm really hunting for is an old cheap road bike that I can tear apart and build up into a single speed cyclocross bike to leave up north at my parents' place. I should have bought a steel 1989 Nishiki that I saw a week or so back, but I was too late.

So, if anyone has a fifteen year old bike gathering dust in their basement that they want to get rid of, let me know. I ride about a 52 - 54 size road bike usually.

This ad really caught my eye today. A guy wants to trade an engagement ring for a bike. This adds a new wrinkle to that old "is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" riddle.

I.E. is it better to have loved and lost AND wrangled a $3500.00 bike out of it, than to have never loved at all?

This makes me sad. Everyone wants the earth to survive and wants their children to enjoy clean air and clean rivers, but not if it means they have to pay for it personally.

I didn't ride today because it was thunderstorming when I was leaving, and though it has turned into a half decent day, it was supposed to rain all day and thunderstorm again this afternoon. I just couldn't be bothered to ride in that much rain, so I did the full "commute by public transit" thing.

So anyway, I walked to Union Station through a lightning storm, which made me think about going to Astronomy Picture of the Day and checking out what photos they had of lightning.



P.S. - you'll have to click this photo and enlarge it to see the lightning.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

touring your own city

As far as biking news goes - I took a chain link out of the Kona's chain to remove some yucky skipping that was happening yesterday. It didn't skip once on the bike to work today, so I think maybe I'm set! Yay! Freakin' Finally!

Here's how you spend a weekend being a tourist in your own city - and all these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them:
marketbuilding_exterior
You and your girlfriend ride your bikes down to the St. Lawrence Market at Front and Jarvis. Although the picture above shows the more famous building, you don't go in there, because it's basically all meat and you and your girlfriend have been vegans for a few months now.
freshveggies
Instead you go into the (mainly) fruit & veg building, where you buy veggie samosas and wolf down two of them while your girlfriend isn't looking.
vegbuilding2
If you're really lucky, your girlfriend has a "plan" and whatever you pick up this morning will very soon become apple/potato soup and various other yummy things.
vegbuilding3

And then on Sunday - the same day that you visit the Riverdale Farm, you go to your girlfriend's "Hike for Hospice" fundraising event.
hospice_sign
These are the people who take care of the dying. That's very blunt, but that's the gist of it. When your uncle is dying all alone in his home and doesn't want to spend his last days in a hospital, these are the people who visit your uncle, assess his needs, and line up truly truly truly wonderful volunteers who visit your uncle and take care of him through to the end.
canoers_don
And while you're on the hike - walking up and down the Don Valley trail - you might get lucky and see flotillas of canoers making their way down the Don River towards Lake Ontario.

And to finish, I'm going to steal two links from George:
a) Why you should never eat Factory Farmed Chicken again.
b)Why George Bush, aside from the Iraq fiasco, will go down in history as one of the most muddled presidents ever.

And here's proof that Google has a sense of humour:
1. go to Google
2. click on "maps"
3. click on "get directions"
4. type "New York" in the first box (the "from" box)
5. type "London" in the second box (the "to" box)
6. scroll down to step #24 for directions...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

more Kona tinkering

So the great Kona singlespeed conversion wasn't quite as finished as I'd hoped.

Annalise and I went for a ride yesterday, and parked our bikes outside the St. Lawrence Market while we loaded up on fruits and veg. About halfway through our ride, just after Annalise split off to go visit a friend, I started losing the chain every five seconds, and it just drove me batty. The chain had been loose from the get-go, and I think I'd put just enough kilometres on the new and improved Kona to stretch the chain a little bit more. People with lots of single speed experience probably could have guessed this, but chains that are loose to begin with don't stay happy campers for very long.

So, when the chain on your new singlespeed mountain bike set-up is slipping off the cog and ring all the time, here's what you do:
a) Go up to the bike shop and buy a chain tensioner. b) Call your buddy Smut, who is coming down to watch the hockey game anyway, and see if he still has the chunk of chain that you guys had removed last week. c) After he says "yep, I'll bring it down" you get even luckier, because he also finds his spare spacers and he remembers to bring his chain whip and cassette-lockring remover as well.

Once you have all that stuff, things go pretty smoothly. Break the chain, play with the spacers to improve the chain line, install the chain tensioner, measure the chain to see how many more links to put back on, put the chain back together, and la voila! You have your bike working again!

I don't love the look of the bike with the tensioner on there. It was much more simply elegant with just the cog - but hey, aside from buying a Steelwool SweetCity SS, what are you going to do.

Friday, May 04, 2007

maidens bleach their summer smocks

Steve out in Halifax got hit on April 30. Best of luck with your recovery, Steve. Hope you're logging your miles again soon.

Monkey Martian has some neat things in his May 2 post on bike transportation developments. I especially like the Complete the Streets idea of designing roads to include car, bike and pedestrian traffic all at the same time, so that people will have a very real choice regarding which manner of transit they prefer to take.

A while back I posted some thoughts about the hidden moments of cycling. In a similar vein here are some cycling moments I’m rediscovering now that I’m a) riding again (as opposed to taking full-on public transit through the end of the winter) b) riding my road-bike commuter to work (rather than the Hybrid I used in the early winter) c) enjoying legitimately pleasant riding weather, with the sun breaking around 6:00a.m.

Moments and sensations I’m rediscovering

  • The bike shove. So let’s say that you’re at a red light. It turns green. You grip the hoods and stand up on the pedals as you churn through the intersection, and after you’ve gained momentum you shove –with some part of your body – the bike forward a little bit so that your butt ends up on the seat and your hands move from hoods to bar. Anyone know what I mean here? I don’t feel like I’M moving back on the bike, I feel like I’ve remained (mostly) motionless and have just somehow punted the bike forward a bit so that my hands and butt fall where I want them to.

  • The leg groan. When you carry the bike out of your apartment building, get on, take a pedal stroke or two and your cold, uninspired legs say “what the heck are you doing?” but you continue on, build a bit of speed, and your legs, quickly finding their own cycling memory, say “oh yeah! This! Cool – hey let’s go catch that Hummer.

  • Being cool. Yeah, I’ll admit it. In good weather, when you don’t need big thick pants, boots, balaclava etc, and are wearing shades, tight fitting top, cycling shoes, and you’re zipping along roads in the suburbs with your legs churning out the miles below you, I feel cool. What kind of “cool” is it though? It’s not 80’s Judd Nelson cool, and it’s not 2006 Weakerthans cool. It’s not even 1974 Eddy Merckx cool or 2002 Mario Cipollini cool. It’s more like Grungy bike courier / Broken Social Scene cool. "Get that car away from me man! I'm trying to ride a bike here!"

  • The coolness (yes again) of the average joe-commuter’s mini-mountain attack. This is when you’re rolling along and the road slopes up just ahead and you don’t want to lose momentum so you grab the hoods and stand up on the pedals and drive your way into and up the little hill like Pantani in 1998 deciding he wanted to lay some hurt on le Peyresourde. The coolness lies simply in the form of it – because basically it’s “attack” position, and you know it, and you know that no one who has just passed you in their car and simply pressed their foot on the gas a little bit more to climb the slope will ever know how the “attack” position feels on a bike.

  • Simply being a cyclist again. When I was using full public transit I was leaving the house in jeans, some kind of coat, a baseball cap, and kind of a one strap messenger bag thing. Now I’m leaving with a helmet on my head, cycling shoes, backpack, and appropriate for the temperature cycling gear. I find it very different from a “perception of self’ perspective. As soldiers refer to the general populace as “civilians”, I kind of think of myself as a “civilian” when I’m in jeans and a baseball cap. I’m an ordinary guy doing the normal everyday thing. When I’m in my cycling gear I’m something else – I’m fighting for something – for the right to be on the street, and I’m fighting the great battle – especially in Durham – to show all these motorists that bikes belong, that they work for long distance travel, and that they’re the better way to go.



P.S. although this story comes from the Toronto Star's Wheels section (which I find generally repugnant), I thought the first few paragraphs were funny:

The U.S. Department of Defence last year released a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night. The picture shows South Korea ablaze with light, a milky way radiating from the heart of its capital city, Seoul.

North Korea, on the other hand, sits in utter darkness, aside from a dim glow around Pyongyang. Whatever else you can say about North Korea's Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il is doing more to prevent global warming than any other person on Earth.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

how come arizona hasn't gone solar

Toronto has a new cycling website at I Bike T.O.. Very well done mes amis. Hopefully the Advocacy area under Forums will get lots of use and we'll be able to get some more petitions and letter writing campaigns started and get some of Toronto's bike money spent.

I came across Real Climate recently. In the words of Choice magazine, it is a respected scientist-contributed discussion forum that aims to objectively educate and inform other scientists, the public, and the media about climate change.... a resource for anyone who wishes to be scientifically aware of the most up-to-date research and the current state of our climate.

There was an article in the Globe yesterday called Gas Prices Hike Across Country. It's about the quiet surge in gas prices recently (I say "quiet", because Canadians pay 3 to 4 times LESS for gasoline than Europeans do). So far almost 200 people have left comments on the story, and they are LOSING THEIR MINDS over this topic.
There are the lefty cyclist/peak oil enthusiasts who are saying "let the prices climb baby! WooHoo!!" and then there are the pissed off surbanites who can't quit bemoaning the fact that the oil companies are charging high prices and screwing the consumer over.
Although I know it is simply me - that I live a very odd little life - I find it really surprising how worked up all these people are about gas prices. I guess it just goes to show how much more freedom you have without a car. If you need to fill up with gas, your pocketbook is affected by rebels in Nigeria and lighting strikes on oil refineries.
If you don't own a car you can simply sit back and be amused.

And I can't believe how awesome this video and song is, and that I've never heard of
Feist before. This almost makes me believe that videos can be good entertainment again.