one cyclist's adventures through the urban jungle

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Scottish Drivetrain

A year ago I put a new chain on my Marinoni. It skipped ike mad over the cassette so I just put the old chain on (and committed the sin of re-using the chain pin) and figured I'd squeak a few more miles out of the whole works. Then winter came and went (along with the abrasive road grit). and still the drivetrain worked well. When Spring hit, I started wondering how much life it had left, but things were still very smooth with pedalling and shifting. There was one gear that it consistently missed on the downshift. No big deal.

On my way to work a few weeks my chain decided enough was enough. "I'm outta here." It said. "I'll be inside grabbing a Coke."

There I sat, outside the Richmond Coca-Cola factory removing the broken chainlink, shortening my chain and getting good and greasy. 10s of thousands of miles I've carried a chainbreaker. Today I got to use it on the side of the road.

The original Campagnolo Veloce drivetrain lasted me 10000+ km (I reckon 12) before it decided to pass. And yes, if you are curious, the pin that broke was the pin that I re-used.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ride Locally. Shop Glob...Locally?

An interesting set of articles and opinions regarding shopping at your LBS vs Online Retailers are popping up on the blogosphere at the moment. The argument has been had or will be had in every industry buy it online for cheap or locally for more, but (hopefully) get better service. Its a tough choice to make as a consumer - but, then again, why should it be hard for consumer?

I spread my bike related dollars out to some degree. Local shops get the majority of my money - I can walk in, they remember my name, know what I like, give me trustworthy advice and don't BS me. I'm lucky that there are plenty of LBSs in Vancouver and that I've found one (plus a few backups) that I can count on for goods.

I've bought some things online too. Generally I have researched the bejeepers out of said part online and found a good deal or some other perk that makes it make complete sense to buy from the Interwebs. I've yet to go to a physical shop, ask a pile of questions about doohickey X (and or Y) and then go buy it online. If I thought I was getting screwed on price at LBS, I'd see what wiggle room there was, but I wouldn't appreciate being kicked in the junk like that if I were the LBS. Sometimes buying things from the US, as a Canadian gives you the benefit of a favorable exchange or the ability to take advantage of lower prices due to better distributor pricing.

In Canada there exists a not-to-be-named group of active, outdoor stores that sell some cycling related gear. Tools, consumable type parts, clothing etc. I buy from them too, at least some bits anyways. Over the years they've made more things available to their members/customers, probably because they kept getting requests for more parts. Because of their size and business model the stores have some items for prices that I am sure are below wholesale cost to most shops. I don't go their for advice or for maintenance, but I'll go grab a few things that I don't need to be sold to me and continue on my way.

So-called brick and mortar stores of all types have a lot of hard work ahead of them - haven't they always? Be savvy, but try to get comfortable with some local shops. Chances are you need them more than your other options than you may realize. At the same time, appreciate that you have several choices. There is a balance to be had with relationships and value. The cost of something can be more than just the price.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New Route

On Sunday when Eileen and I were traipsing around the city - me trying to determine if the asthma was going do me in - we stumbled upon a new route for me to take to work. Ironically the route is really just an extension of the bike route that passes down our street! I've only taken it so far...until Sunday. I've been using it all week so far and it is pretty quiet. There's one spot where people seemed to be rather stunned, but its really only one block, better than the several blocks of the other route.
One of the bonuses of cycling to work (or anywhere) is the ality to mix up the route every now and then. For a year now I've missed an entire neighborhood, complete with sleepy streets. I wonder what else I am missing?

soundtrack 2009-04-08

Interesting mental playlist today.

Biohazard - Judgement Night
Biohazard - Tales fromt the Hard Side
Drive-By Truckers - Outfit

On the way home:
Jill Barber - For All Time

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

soundtrack - 2009-04-06,07

David Myles - When it Comes My Turn
...went to see Jill Barber on Saturday night. David Myles was the opening act. Phenomenal, both of them.


Last week I put the bike away and dealt with a allergy-related cold. For the first time in many years my asthma kicked in to gear to make the matters worse. I haven't needed to use my inhaler like that for, no-joke, 15 years.

Anyways I claim to be mostly through all of that. I still have a lingering cough and my sinuses still enjoy be clogged most of the time (that's typical for the spring) but my energy is up and I'm back on the bike.

On Sunday Eileen and I took a tour around the city for a few hours, I was hoping to ride the 100km Pacific Populaire this year but didn't want to push my luck. Dang.

As of yesterday I've recommenced riding to work, flinging snot rockets as I go. Today I was thanked by a guy on a recumbent for 'shoulder checking before unleashing', No problem.
Its been very sunny out the past few days - its great being able to get some much needed vitamin D.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


After 3 years in service, many miles, too many soakings, not enough thorough dryings I have retired my Sidi shoes as the top shoe for my feet. They smelled like death. They are rotting, I'm sure of it. At the moment, I have them perched in a windowsill to hopefully get exposed to the SUn's bleaching rays. In a few days I think I'll soak them in a hot water + baking soda then air dry (with a fan) and back in the Sun. Bombarding them with some rubbing alcohol might be good too as it will stop future generations of bacteria from getting started. Obviously, I'd like to keep the Sidis around as option B. They've given me a lot of miles, I'll give them some love.

One of my flaws is that I often ride bare foot. Not having the sock in there to act as a barrier between foot and shoe . With the new shoes I vow to ride sock'd.

After trying on a few different shoes I opted for a pair of Diadora X-Trail Evos, a mountain biking shoe with a sole that has very thick tread. The shoes were quite comfortable, and seemed to be well made. They've got a ratchet adjustment that keeps things nice and tight to your foot. I've steered clear of the ratchet before in fear of getting stuck in it, but I've never heard any stories about it so I figure I'm safe. The thicker lugs come in handy when I'm off the bike and wandering around as my cleats won't grind on the ground non-stop.

I've only just got the cleats on the new shoes today so I don't have much of a review so far. Once I get a few rides in, I'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Outside of bicycles and beer, lurks something else that is very important. It's not love, or bail money, rather its food. Amy of trithinkingpink fame has allied with some of her triathlete friends to form a new blog centered around food. There are plenty of delicious recipes to come, I'm sure. Rumor has it that some of mine will be transposed. While I can't condone triathleticism, I do enjoy a good meal. Czech it out:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

MMS - Monkey Maintenance Session

I did a Monkey Maintenace Session yesterday and installed the Sugino XD cranks. Old BB was right size and still had lots of life (long live the UN-52 or was it 53) so it stayed. After 4 years of one 170mm and one 175mm crank arm that stuck out differing lengths, I can now say that everything matches and sticks out equally!

The other part of the maintenance was to begin operation dinglespeed. I kept the 38T Surly SSSS ring (stainless steel single speed) and used the 36T ring from the Suginos. On the stern of the bike I have an 18T and 20T freewheel so a flip of the flip-flop (bustin' out lyrics straight from hip hop) results in not having to adjust the brakes. With the Nanoraptor tires in place those combos are pretty good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

soundtrack 2009-03-17 - 2009-03-19

Typical few days, with music across the map. I've realized I don't know the name to a lot of songs so this may turn into band listings. For the past few days:

Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger
No Use For a Name - Loaded Gun
Josh Ritter - Minds Eye

Monday, March 16, 2009


I think I threatened in the past to start doceumenting the mental soundtrack that goes through my head as I ride (its not just screaming, honest). Lets see how long I can make it. Let's see how often certain songs repeat - I know there are favorites.

home: The Yoko Casionos - Cameras On

the grass has almost ris

I'm saving the "It's been a long time..." post.

"blah blah blah"

Spring is in the air - most of the time - these days in Vancouver, but I'm not convinced its here to stay. yet. It feels as if any given day it will just start snowing, and yesterday it did. Today I rode in a light rain the whole way to work, on the way home it rained and blowed off and on - I felt threatened with snow. It was good though, no snow, not that wet when I got home.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

rail trail

My daily ride to work runs near a pretty long stretch of abandoned railway track. Last year a fellow commuter suggest that I try riding it as part of my route. I rode parts of it a few times and didn't give it much thought. A few weeks back I was feeling my lack of off-road riding and figured some gravel trails would be good medicine. The bike has skinny slicks on it these days so they are not the best for off-roading it, but they are holding up fine. On the way to work I stick to the roads, but on the way home I manage to sneak in a several km stretch of singletrack. The singletrack route, if anything is faster than the roads because there is not a lot of road crossings and you don't always have to be on the lookout for vehicles. At the moment I am considering putting some bigger tires on the bike to take the harshness out of the ride, but I am happy being able to spin along on the road and do quite well on the trail.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

braking news - Avid BB7

So I'd heard a lot about the Avid BB7s and there relative cats-arsedness when it comes to mechanical disk brakes on bicycles. When I had my Marinoni built up I made sure I spec'd them (they were the spec anyway). The bike came fully assembled for me so I played no part in the installation. The brakes worked out of the box with no problems, no squeeling. They were awesome. Last summer when I crashed the rear caliper was loosened. I played around with them a bit and got them re-tightened on my own without putting much thought to it. I figured they were fine.

Really, by all accounts they were fine but I didn't line up the pads perfectly so I ended up wearing down the pads a wee bit unevenly and they wore out prematurely. My rotor seemed to be fine thoughout this ordeal, I was a bit concerned that I had wrecked it too. So far so good.
Instead of dumping the bike at the shop to have them change the pads, I figured I might aswell learn how to change the pads myself. I'd read that it was an idiotproof process. Enter me.
I had the old pads out, purchased a new pair and figured I was 5 minutes away from having aligned and full strength braking once again. Not quite. What I didn't realize was that I had bent the pad retention clip (not the spring, but the little clip inside the caliper) and it was forcing the outboard pad to be off center). I fiddled around with the caliper, the spring, the pads for a few hours before I took everything apart and started from scratch, complete with the help of the manual from SRAM (I find there website to generally be horrible, but they do have a good service section). Oh, I opened a beer too. That always helps, though never really speeds the process up any.

Eventually I got it, got the pads in properly then trued the caliper to the rotor, tightened the cable and I was laughing.

I have no problem getting my LBS to do work on my bike, but I really try to do as much work on my bikes as possible so that when I am stuck miles from nowhere and something breaks, I'll have an idea how to fix it. Disk brakes were a new thing to me so much like figuring out how to adjust the pads on my cantilever brakes in my early teens, I needed to take the time to figure out the BB7s. Now that I have been through it once I am confident that future pad changes and adjustments will take minutes.

The Avid BB7 disk brakes really are a dream to use. The power is excellent, the wet-weather performance is great. They pair well with my Campagnolo Veloce levers, and they really are dead easy to adjust, install and maintain, at least after you get a chance to learn how they work.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More on Sheldon Brown

Grant Petersen over at Rivendell has a great story about Sheldon Brown up on their news page. I have read countless postings this week with everyone's personal message about him. There is no doubt that the cycling community has suffered a tremendous loss.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ride some miles for Mr. Brown

Yesterday Eileen and I were traipsing around the neighborhood in search of avocados to make some guacamole. She pointed to the rear wheel of an old Raleigh and noted it was kind of different looking. I explained that it was an old internal geared hub and thought about telling her about that 'guy' on the internet that raved about them and still sold hard to find parts to keep them ticking.

That 'guy' was none other Sheldon Brown (aka CaptBike), one of cycling's greatest resources. It was with much sadness that I learned that Sheldon Brown passed away yesterday. We'll miss you.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

been a long time coming

I have never been much of a person to make new years resolutions and I am not really about to start. I have been thinking a lot about the blog, or lack thereof, for a while now. I have composed many posts in my mind. Titles like "I can't believe I rode without decent lights for so long", " I (heart) messenger bags", "Rain Gear: friend or foe?", "Care and feeding of your mechanic". The list goes on. I suppose it is time to get off my arse and start typing.

I have been doing a lot of riding though, that is good. My girlfriend has been getting plenty of miles in aswell. Her trusty Jake the Snake is doing quite well. This year, along with getting in more miles than ever, we are planning on doing some light touring. The idea of spending several days on the bikes is appealing to both of us. In the meantime, the daily spin to work is pretty nice too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back on the horse!!!

My Karate Monkey might not appreciate being referred to as a horse, but it suits the metaphor. Plus, I consider it a noble steed.

Last week I got back to riding to and from work on a regular basis. Since my accident I had been using a combination of buses, driving and sneaking rides from coworkers. Not no mo'. Until then my shoulder (which took the brunt of a minivan hit) was too sore to ride for very long on. I have been slowly rebuilding the strength in it and the stiffness is going away.

As my new bike (that I received around the same time as the blog went on hiatus) is in the hospital still, I am back to my tried, tested and true Surly Karate Monkey and its one speed. When the new bike arrived I still rode the KM off and on, but I was starting to get used to the non-single life. Getting back to the SS reality has been a welcome change. Not riding SS for very far in the last two months coupled with a further 3 weeks of no riding, the rather low 38x16 gearing on the Monkey has been whooping me back into riding form quickly. I passed a roadie going up a hill today, that is always a good sign.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

bikes are replaceable

Cyclists are not.

I am just going to pretend like nothing happened to the blog. Pretend like I didn't miss posting for 3 months.

I'd really like to pretend that one of my closest friends, Amy, didn't call me last weekend to tell me that she was okay but just got out of emergency after going over the bars , cracking her helmet and getting some not so tasty road rash.

I'd like to pretend that I didn't get hit by that minivan 3 weeks ago when a driver failed to give me the right of way in a traffic circle (blog irony perhaps) and hit me.

I can't pretend that any of the above did or did not happen, whichever is the case. I am happy to still be riding, I could have been killed. Amy is happy to be healing up too. Neither of us are happy that our bikes are both possibly ruined.

I am happy to be back on the blog too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ride of Silence

In cities all around the world cyclists gather for group rides. Vancouver has all sorts from the international, to the local, to the specific and local. If I ever get my new bike, I may even try to get my own going.

As cyclists, we all love to ride. As commuters, we all ride on the streets with cars. This bike-car relationship can be rocky sometimes. Sometimes people get hurt, sometimes people get killed. Enter the Ride of Silence, a group ride that exists to remind the world that roadways are here to be shared, to remind people that cyclists can easily be hurt or killed on the road by motor vehicles.

The Ride of Silence has spread its wings to cover many cities in its 5 year tenure, a list of locations complete with information is is provided on their site. In Vancouver, the local site is and the details for the ride are:

Meet at Grandview Park at 7:00 on Thursday May 17th 2007. The riding pace will be easy and last about an hour, ending downtown the way it will start: in silence.