Thursday, August 30, 2007

Could I buy you a scotch and soda

Steve in Winnipeg has just posted some definitive advice about buying department store bikes. That really is a cool project he's got going on over there, well done sir, I wish I had the mechanical ability (and patience!) to do something similar.

Along with the flat I mentioned yesterday on the Jamis, I noticed a few days ago that the fairly cheap front tire I have on my Kona had bulged, and a lot of seam was showing through the panels of rubber on the tire. So much so that I gave the bike up as unrideable until I replaced the tire. I already had a Specialized 26 x 1.5 slick Armadillo tire on the back, and I shelled out the $56.00 (Canadian) for another one yesterday, and put it on the front wheel of the Kona.
It's kind of weird - with my Kona set up as a singlespeed, my tires on this bike are now worth more than my drivetrain, more than the fork, and since the Kona is six years old, maybe even worth more than the entire frame.

Oh yeah, and the deal with Specialized Armadillo's is that they're meant to be the most puncture proof tire you can get. I agree - when I was riding all the way to Oshawa last summer, I put 4000+ kms on 700 x 25 armadillos without any punctures, and I've only had one puncture on the 26 x 1.5 armadillo on the Kona. A stupid staple pierced perfectly into one of the grooves in the tread and flatted me.


I don't plan to make a habit of this, but here's another music mix for you all. It's at this address. Click, type in the little code, wait 45 seconds, unzip the file and play the songs in RealPlayer or something.

Here's the playlist.

Weakerthans – A New Name for Everything

Martin Sexton – Black Sheep

Groove Armada with Richie Havens – Hands of Time

James Brown – Too Funky in Here

Great Outdoors – Land of my Deceased

Waifs – Lies

Malvina Reynolds – Little Boxes

Daniel Lanois – Lotta Love to Give

Ricardo Lemvo – Mujer Divina

Solomon Burke – None of Us Are Free

Bruce Cockburn – Pacing the Cage

Steve Forbert – Romeo’s Tune

Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – This is Us

K.T. Tunstall – Universe and U

Lyle Lovett – What do you do (live)

Staple Singers – Will the Circle Be Unbroken

David Bowie – Young Americans

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First flat on the Jamis

It took 1200 km for the Jamis to get it's first flat, and it was such a convenient flat that it might as well have called me up beforehand and said "what's a good time for you?"

I was on my way back to the Whitby Go Station in the afternoon, and the flat happened about 800 metres from the station, so I had lots of time to just walk the bike to the station and still catch my train into Toronto, without having to pull a fast and furious tube change on the side of the road.
On the train platform I turned the bike upside down while I was waiting for the train to check the tire (it was the rear wheel by the way, I can't remember the last time I had a front wheel go flat) for glass etc, but I couldn't find anything.
When my train came in I set the bike upside down in the car, did the tube change, and then went to the little bathroom on the train to wipe the grease/dirt off my hands. (Some people, like my buddy Oliver, have the knack of the quick and dirt free tube change, but not me. I get d.i.r.t.y. everytime). So when the train pulled into the Danforth Go Station I pedalled away like normal without having lost anytime at all. I'd love it if all flats worked themselves into my day this nicely.

The only annoying thing was that I couldn't find the cause of the flat. I don't feel satisfied unless I'm able to pull the offending hunk of glass etc out of my tire and can feel satisfied that I've really solved this problem. This tube just had a pinprick hole kind of in the high sidewall area, but I couldn't find anything that would have caused that.

Oh yeah - and the pump I carry (I realized this afterwards at home) actually got my tube up to the maximum inflation. Road tires call for about 120 psi, which you can never attain with a portable pump. But cyclocross tires only call for 75 to 80 psi, and my pump actually managed that.

So there's a wacky blogger, and expatriate Canadian, in Nashville, and she posts music mixes on her blog more or less monthly.
I've been downloading her mixes at work and using them as my music at work, and thought I'd make a mix from her mixes for other people to download and play off their computers.
So - if you Click Here, within the next 20 days, type in the little code and wait about a minute, you'll be able to download a zipped file of 21 songs from the folk/rock goddess of nashville.

Here's the "Nashville Hits" playlist:

Ryan Adams – Cherry Lane
The Boy Least Likely To – Be Gentle With Me
The Lovely Sparrows – Chemicals Change
Bishop Allen – Click Click Click
King of France – Mexico
The Foundry Field Recordings – Warning Raids Over Kiev
Jose Gonzalez – Hand on Your Heart
The Mountain Goats – Dance Music
John Doe – A Little More Time
Black Bear – I Believe in Immediacy
Sarah Blasko – Perfect Now
Amy Winehouse – Wake Up Alone
Walkmen – We’ve Been Had
Deb Talan – Ashes on Your Eyes
Rilo Kiley – With Arms Outstretched
Tom Petty – Square One
M. Ward – Let’s Dance
Feist – One Two Three Four
Aria C Jalali – Postmodernism
qR5 – Revisited Gone
Justin Rutledge – Don’t Be So Mean, Jellybean

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Have wrench will pedal

I just found three blogs dedicated to chronicling life on a Supercycle.
Kind of neat - three guys who have taken on the challenge of performing all the repairs needed to keep their Supercycle bikes running, and seeing how many miles they can get on the bikes.

The blogs are:
Bike of Doom out in Winnipeg.
In this post the writer ponders the question of how long it is worth it to keep repairing his bike, and when you officially declare (after installing replacement parts) that the bike you are riding is no longer the bike you bought.

Urban Xavier in Montreal.

Maple Leaf Test Rides in Toronto.
He doesn't say where he got this stuff, but in this post he pastes a long rant from a Supercycle owner about bike shops, and then a rebuttal from a bike shop employee.

Anyway, just thought these were interesting cycling blogs. And it is an interesting question - when is the bike you ride no longer the bike you bought? After the first drive-train replacement? Bottom bracket? Wheelset?

And a Monday update:

On Pinch Flat today, the Bike of Doom guy discusses the fact that he has unwittingly inspired people to buy Supercycles.
And this is the Bike of Doom Upgrades section - the posts where he discusses the various problems and repairs he's gone through with the Supercycle.

And on a totally other topic - Alberto Gonzales has finally resigned. Rumsfeld, Rove, and now Gonzales. Now please, will the democrats start subpoenaing these people and hammer Bush and Cheney as well!

(the following from Andrew Cohen's Washington Post blog)
When historians look back upon the disastrous tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States they will ask not only why he merited the job in the first place but why he lasted in it as long as he did. By any reasonable standard, the Gonzales Era at the Justice Department is void of almost all redemptive qualities. He brought shame and disgrace to the Department because of his lack of independent judgment on some of the most vital legal issues of our time. And he brought chaos and confusion to the department because of his lack of respectable leadership over a cabinet-level department among the most important in the nation.

He neither served the longstanding role as "the people's attorney" nor fully met and tamed his duties and responsibilities to the constitution. He was a man who got the job not because he was supremely qualified or notably well-respected among the leading legal lights of our time, but because he had faithfully and with blind obedience served President George W. Bush for years in Texas (where he botched clemency memos in death penalty cases) and then as White House counsel (where he botched the nation's legal policy on torture).

For an administration known for its cronyism, and alas for an alarmingly incompetent group of cronies, Gonzales was the granddaddy of them all. He lacked the integrity, the intellect and the independence to perform his duties in a manner befitting the job for which he was chosen. And when he and his colleagues got caught in the act, his rationales and explanations for the purge of the U.S. Attorneys were so empty and shallow and incoherent that even the staunchest Republicans could not turn them into steeled spin. Devoid of any credibility, Gonzales in the end was a sad joke when he came to Capitol Hill.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Even St. Christopher needs some company sometimes

Herb from I Bike T.O. and I met up recently at the Urban Herbivore. He took a photo and I handed over my interview answers and I'm now written up in one of I Bike T.O.'s cyclist profiles.

I was careful with my words in the profile. I could have been a lot more disparaging about cycling in Durham, but I held back. There is simply no cycling infrastructure in Durham, and the single occupancy vehicle rate out there is staggering. It is so frustrating to ride your bike knowing that you're doing the right thing, but have to fight tooth and nail for your precious few feet of the road against motorists that you can't help feel aren't trying hard enough to find alternatives to their car.

I have been thinking about getting a sign that read "Honk if you love clean air - get out of your car if you want to do something about it" made to go onto my backpack.

Additionally - I'd be so much happier if I EVER saw another bike commuter on the road in Durham. I see roadies once in a while, headed for the country roads to the north, and I see the odd dude riding a BSO (bicycle shaped object, like a CCM) on the sidewalk, but maybe once every two weeks do I see someone who looks like they're actually doing a commute by bicycle.

Anyway, although I always feel like I'm leaving the Whitby Go Station each morning and battling motorists on my own, I know Darren and Joe and Mike and Snake and many others are out there demanding their share of the lane. Cheers guys - to those of you about to pedal, I salute you.

Here are two quotes, kind of on topic, from a book by Paul Hawken called Blessed Unrest. The book is a history of the grassroots movements which have sprung up to battle things like globalization and climate change.

Speaking of previous battles like this, Hawken provides this quote from Rachel Carson's fight against the pesticide companies in the 1950's.

Miss Rachel Carson's reference to the selfishness of insecticide manufacturers probably reflects her Communist sympathies, like a lot of our writers these days. We can live without birds and animals, but, as the current market slump shows, we cannot live without business. As for insects, isn't it just like a woman to be scared to death of a few little bugs! As long as we have the H-bomb everything will be O.K.
P.S. - She's probably a peace-nut too!"

Letter to the New Yorker protesting the publication of Silent Spring.

And this one about Bhopal:

The Bhopal tragedy is a symbol of the cruelty of corporations against humanity. The day that we succeed in holding Dow liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal will be good news for people all over the world. From that day on chemical corporations will think twice before peddling poisons and putting profits before the lives and health of people. We are not expendable. We are not flowers offered at the altar of profit and power. We are dancing flames committed to conquering darkness and to challenging those who threaten the planet and the magic and the mystery of life.
Rashida Bee, Bhopal survivor and organizer

P.S. Title of this post comes from the Justin Rutledge song, Special.

P.P.S. I know I've used this Terry Fox photo before, but I was in a "why can't we do what's right - like Terry would" mood, and it's such an evocative photo.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Long lost art of placing foot in mouth

I'd actually forgotten that I'd corresponded with Momentum Magazine out in B.C., and that they would have an article on the petition coming out soon. Thanks to Herb over at I Bike T.O. for reminding me about it.
The (now finished) cycling petition generated a few news stories, and I've read them all with a lot of trepidation, because I tend to shoot my mouth off more than I would usually like when I talk about cycling. I think I did that again in this interview, but hopefully any harsh comments will be forgiven.

Sounding like a moron in public got me thinking about former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle. There are actually Dan Quayle quote books because he was such a rich source of weird statements, like We don't want to go back to tomorrow, we want to go forward.

Ronald Reagan had some good quotes, though to be fair, Reagan was usually a witty guy. Robin Williams has a story though about Reagan making a crack about how nuclear weapons were no more dangerous than trees. A few weeks later Reagan was giving an outdoor speech on some university campus in California, and students strung banners across all the trees reading Stop Me Before I Kill Again.

And Bush, who is working hard to put food on his family - how do you even know where to begin with Bush?

And, although I'm kind of a Jimmy Carter fan (especially after he slammed Bush back in the spring), there's a funny Carter quote at the end of this post.

P.S. I've been trying to figure out why I feel like this is a non-story. I guess it is because the ice caps are melting and the species extinction rate is somewhere around 137 species per day, and therefore we have a problem right now, no matter which years in the last century were actually the hottest ones.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hiking and the Bicycle Film Fest

Next week (August 22-26) is the Toronto Bicycle Film Fest, at the Royal Theatre in Little Italy. That sounds like a pretty cool combination - I hope I can make a couple of the shows. Lucas Brunelle - the genius filmmaker behind this crazy video has a special screening on Saturday the 25th.

Anna and I had a mini vacation this weekend and did a couple of the Bruce Trail hikes. This one was near the (tiny) town of Mono Centre. It was quite nice and we had some veggie samosas that we ate while enjoying this view. We did another hike though just north of here, and in my opinion this book got us lost with faulty directions. It definitely wasn't my fault - had to be the map. Dumb thing. Getting lost did have its advantages though - we saw a deer, a turtle and some turkey vultures (which ran out of the bush in front of us quite suddenly) that we wouldn't have otherwise seen.

And near Shelburne Ontario, where we saw the Canadian Olde Time Fiddle Championship, we saw a pretty cool looking wind farm, which was way too big for a photograph to accurately represent.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Global Warming Deniers

The most recent issue of Newsweek has a good article titled Global Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine. If you hate big corporations and kleptocracy and really want to brew up some angry resentment, give this article a go. Basically we're talking about the coal and oil industry sponsoring groups with misleading titles like the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) to counter all the scientific evidence that was coming out regarding human driven climate change.

All these pictures below are also from the Newsweek site incidentally.

The Newsweek article also mentions Republicans like Joe Barton and James Inhofe who very suspiciously were the heads of Senate Energy and Environmental committees, and would both froth at the mouth with rage and rabies whenever human-driven climate change reports came out. Hell, Barton would even launch an IRS audit on you if you were a researcher who'd written a "Yes, humans are causing it" report on climate change.

Man I hate these people. They're just like the tobacco companies and the fuel companies that tried to keep us buying leaded gasoline back in the 1920's. When their own workers were going insane due to the leaded gasoline fumes, one company told reporters "These men probably went insane because they worked too hard."

Regarding the photos, the polar bears are standing on what was once an iceberg, the duck is looking for food on a dry riverbed in China, and the elephants are standing before what is left of the Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer

The second to last long weekend has come and gone. I rode Geoffrey's bike several times, and though it often wasn't pretty, I made it up every one of the hills that my route takes me along. I was riding with no hands at one point adjusting my sunglasses and promptly sailed into the ditch and the bush, but both the bike and I survived.

I pulled my Dad's old Raleigh out from behind the furnace in the basement to take a picture of it. Dad thinks it is a classic but I'm not so sure he could get more than $150.00 or so for it. That's what most of the bikes from this era seem to go for on Craigslist.

Dad figures it is from about 1970. It's a three-speed with Sturmey-Archer gearing and hub. It still works great, but wow, it is so weird to ride a bike like that. Your posture is SO upright, and with the handlebars coming towards you, I kind of felt like I was steering a kitchen chair around.

My Dad incidentally is not a cyclist, despite what these pictures might imply. He probably has cycled about 5 km in the last 25 years.

P.S. if you are a bike history nut, and want to read about Raleigh, try this article.

Friday, August 03, 2007

oh to be in Cape Breton

I commuted to work on this bike today. If you add together the Toronto and Durham portions of my commute, my one way trip is about 23 km, and that is the furthest I've ridden this bike so far. The bike needs some upgrades, particularly the wheelset, since they're the wheels I put thousands of kilometres on last summer when I was riding the whole way to Oshawa, and they weren't even new at that time. Anyway, the front wheel in particular is creaking like hell, the brakes are a bit past their prime, and the gearing I ended up choosing (I forget now actually - about 40 up front and 15 at the back?) will probably be a bit tough for the country roads I plan to use the bike on up north, but oh well, it was still a good ride today.

The September issue of Bicycling magazine has a teaser on the front cover titled "The Best Ride in North America". When you open it up, what does the best ride turn out to be? The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. On behalf of my fellow Canadians I'll say - Thanks Bicycling!
I'm letting my subscription to Bicycling expire actually. I basically just drool over the bikes and never read the articles, but I'm also dismayed with all the car advertising in the magazine. The Sept. issue has 10 pages devoted to car ads, and I recently counted 17 pages of car ads in another recent issue. Not for me.

I don't know what to say anymore about Bush. A little while back he commuted the guilty verdict passed on Scooter Libby for obstructing a CIA leak investigation. Now, "Citing executive privilege, President George W. Bush on Wednesday rejected a subpoena for his close adviser Karl Rove to appear before to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a probe over fired federal prosecutors.

Sufferin Succotash. Apart from the war and the wire tapping and all the other reasons that the U.S. could impeach Bush, shouldn't it just be done because he is setting an unbelievable precedent for future presidents? That they don't have to be accountable to anyone?
P.S. - here's a good article about why Bush needs Gonzales to remain as the Attorney General, and here's a funny but no longer unbelievable piece about Bush cancelling the 2008 election if it looks like the GOP will lose.

Steve in Halifax is back on his bike after being hit a while back. That's awesome Steve, I hope all your journeys are incident free from here on out.

I read a bit of Steve's newspaper interview and found it interesting about his growing up in Nigeria and Zambia, and therefore being a cyclist partly because he didn't grow up in a "car culture" environment.

I did grow up in a car culture environment. So how did I become a cyclist? I guess it was due to two things a) having spent most of my adult life working and living in downtown Toronto, a bike was simply the most sensible way to get around the city. b) I read voraciously, and when you read about urban sprawl and the environment and peak oil and diabetes and obesity rates and all the other reasons why car culture sucks, I guess you become a cyclist.

Have a great long weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tuco wants a bike lane

I was talking to my buddy Oliver recently about relaxed cycling versus wound-up, nervous, bitter cycling, and came to the conclusion that the majority of the miles I pedal through Durham fall into the latter category.

Here's kind of a definition of the terms I'm using - "relaxed" cycling is when you're on a true bike trail, and you're sitting up on the saddle, your shoulders loose and your arms just dropping down to the bar and you're looking around enjoying the scenery.
"Bitter" cycling is when you are hunched down on your bike, gripping the handlebar tightly, a nervous pissed off aggression in your shoulders as you pedal over crappy pavement that is threatening to throw you left or right suddenly, and you have single occupant vehicle after single occupant vehicle squeezing past you with centimeters to spare.

"Bitter" cycling basically epitomizes bike commuting in Durham region, and after a year of doing this, it has really worn me down. I basically ride along fuming and writing apocalyptic letters to the city council in my head.

What really has me wound up is the lack of bike access to the region's Go Stations. I don't know about Ajax and Pickering, so I can't talk about them, but Oshawa is a total write off, and of the two exits out of Whitby, both are crap, and you'd have to be a moron like me to try either one of them on a bike.
If you go to the east and come out onto Brock Street, you're dealing with traffic merging on/off the 401, which is loads of fun.

Henry Street to the west SHOULD be the answer, but it is so damn narrow, and the road is so torn up, that you just rattle along with cars squeezing past you hoping that you don't get a shattered elbow, or worse.

So Whitby city councilors, if you have a shred of decency, or any ability to show leadership on this issue, I want you to pulverize and melt Henry Street, repave it, widen it, and paint me some bike lanes on both sides.

P.S. - I agree, impeach the hell out of Bush and Cheney.