one cyclist's adventures through the urban jungle

Monday, April 30, 2007

Some new literature

I have a hard time finding good bike mags. Dirt Rag and Singletrack are about the best 'big publications' that I'll read. I long gave up MBA and Mountain Bike. Bicycling never really did it for me. Matt Chester has been taking forever to get out all of the first edition of 700See so I haven't bothered sending him any money. Cranked looks like a worthwhile publication, I intend to send a few dollars down to Washington State to find out - looks like a safe gamble to me. Otherwise I stick to the web for my dose of bike-readin'.

Today on commutebybike they mentioned that Urban Cyclist has just released issue#1. Limited edtion of print, but, are you ready, for this? You can download the whole issue for free. PIYIYW (print it yourself if you want). I have given it a quick read, it looks good. Check it out. Also let me know about Cranked if'n you've read it.

The return

S oI hopped on the fixed monkey today after about a 10 day hiatus from riding (...out of town see below) Ugh, I wasn't the fastest Johnny on the bike route this morning but it felt great to be out in the morning air. I was up a bit earlier today so I headed to work about a half an hour earlier than usual. To no surprise I didn't leave any earlier...
On the way home I ran into one of my usuals, well at least a guy I see every 6 months or so. Until today he had a Johnny-name, the name I give to people who I don't know. The format is like Johnny Red-Shirt, such that the last name has to describe the person. Anyways this gentleman always comments on my singlespeededness and I usually ask about his efforts in doing the Trans-Rockies race which he has told me about. He met some fellas that did it singlespeed last year, that's nuts. The race is something obscene like 600km in 7 days in the rockies. Today we talked shop - racing mainly (a bit of work talk too), but he gave me the heads up on a local race that is starting this summer. One that looks really cool, cause it starts in my back yard, the BC Bike Race, a race from Victoria to Whistler. That looks pretty sweet, I'll have to keep my ear to the ground about its goings-on. I ain't been racin' fer some time, I just might have to do a cross race this fall though.
Back to the commuting aspect of this post - ahem, where was I - so the cool part about this was that although I took my sweet-arsed time getting to work this morning, on the way home I got to ride and talk about 2/3rds of the way home and it seemed like no time at all, plus I took the long way home. Time flies when you are talking bikes.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

whoa, what happened there?

Sweet, so I made it about a month before disappearing for two weeks, that was longer than I expected. I'll just have to start blogging from work. ha.
Actually, I was out of town for about a week - just got back from the Souther US. Tucson AZ to be more precise. Before I left I learned that Tucson is a pretty bike-friendly city. With 360(!!!) sunny days every year, it'd be hard not to ride in that town. My first morning out in the city I was wayyy early for my appointment so I took a drive around town to check things out. FIrst bike I saw was a Surly 1x1. I knew that Tucson would be a cool town from that moment on. There were bike lanes all over the place in the city and on secondary highways out of town. A friend I made during my stay showed me the UofA Campus; it was loaded with bike racks and a multitude of bikes showed that they were well used.
On one of my adventures through the area I took a drive (sucks that I didn't have a bike) out of town towards Saguaro Natl Park East which involves taking a trip over a small mountain pass. The road seemed to be pretty popular amongst the roadies, I saw many packs of them out in the hot sun. Where there weren't painted off bike lanes there was signage to remind drivers about what was going on.

I don't know how they do it in that temperature, I'd be dead. It was well over 30deg C and it was only the end of April.

All in all, Tucson seems like a pretty good place to ride a bike.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

car door'd, pain you can't afford

I have had a few close calls with car doors, never been hit. In all cases myself or the driver has corrected the problem before things got messy. Always keep an eye open for signs of a driver about to escape. Watch for lights turning off, check for heads in drivers seats - anticipate their movements. Slow down if you aren't sure. If the lane is free, move over a bit don't ride in the door zone.

In BC it is the person swinging the door that is at fault if a cyclist gets hit. When a cyclist gets hit by a door, it doesn't matter who's fault it is - the cyclist is already hurt, or worse. Try to avoid the problem. If you do get hit and feel fine, don't be quick to brush yourself off and ride away. Get the drivers info, file a police report, see a doctor if need be. You may feel fine in the present, but that might change when the adrenaline wears off.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

trouble a brewin'

The Karate Monkey got wind this week that, probably within the next few weeks there would be a new bike in the apartment. The Karate Monkey isn't too happy about it. "Gears!?" it says. Then it came back with this image and rode off into the darkness.
It is going to be a rough few weeks when the new bike arrives. It'll mellow out after a while - I hope.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I am not a messenger

nor am I a posenger, but I don't really care about what I am not.... anyways.

Besides lugging my clothes to work day in day out, I don't often carry much else (what I carry is another post). Today I had to make a few stops so I had to do some hauling. First I packed my lock, which I don't usually carry as my bike sits in the machine shop at work, then headed out. First stop was my 'old' office with which my company is now separated from. We still like to borrow tools from each other though and I was in search of a 1/4" NPT die which I did not find. weak. So after a few minutes of chit chat with old friends and coworkers I was on my way. This stop was on my way, but I got to take a different route for a while -always a nice change. I rode by my LBS and shook my fist at it for not having my bike in yet and continued past a friend headed in the opposite direction. Stop 2 was at Home Depot for some plumbing supplies. Have you ever tried to find a place to lock your bike at Home Depot? No, didn't think so. I ended up using some temporary fencing as an anchor. I guess they don't get too many people in there buying drywall and loading it onto their xtracycles. After Home Depot it was off to work via some previously unexplored territory.

Using my bike as my vehicle to run errands for work is particularily liberating. Most of the things I deal with comes from afar or in great quantity so the chance to pick up a few wee things here and there is nice.

On the way home I noticed a friend's truck parked on the road near his house - a sign that he was back in town. A quick call revealed that he was not home, rather at school finishing up a paper. My attempts at extorting beer from him had failed. I could have resorted to B&E and theft I suppose. Instead I continued on. A handful of blocks from my house is a liquor store. I figured since I was hauling my lock around I would stop in for a visit. Ten minutes later I left with a bottle of red wine, a 6-pack and a 'big beer' (the essentials) which I proceeded to stuff into my messenger bag on top of my clothes. It all fit. Sweet.

All in all a great day for riding. The differences that a lock and a few places to go can make....

Side note: posting title provided by shirts that used to be available from Dustin at Cadence.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

MEC merino wool longsleeve lovin'

My early childhood experiences with wool scream itchiness and fullblown states of discomfort.

So what?

For Christmas of 2005 my parents bought me a pair of MEC merino wool lightweight long underwear bottoms. I had a sneaking suspicion I that I wouldn't use them, so I brought 'em back and exchanged them for the same garment, only in upper form. It's been 15 months of bliss.

I have worn the shirt year round, it regulates temperature really well. In the winter I wear it sometimes under a thin fleece (perhaps another review) but often I can get by with it just under a jacket; my windbreaker when it isn't pouring rain, or my rain-jacket when it (almost always) is (as if it will NEVER stop). In the summer i wear it on its own; its perfect for the early morning chill and in the afternoon I just hike up the sleeves. There is just the right amount of elasticity in the very fine wool fibres, that it doesn't feel too tight when I bunch up the sleeves to my elbows, and they stay put.

Another, most excellent, feature of this shirt (and anything made out of wool in general): ZERO STANK. It takes a fair bit of abuse to get this thing smelling bad. If I wear most of my wicking tops for more than 2 days, the smell factor approaches unbearable; after 1 day they usually hit anti-social. My wooly little friend, on the other hand, can be worn for days without any sign of stink. I am not too easy on my stuff, but I do hang it up to dry at work and most of the time it gets hung up or draped over something at home at night. It wicks moisture incredibly well, I have watched beads of water form on the outside surface on a few occasions, it look like the fibres pull the water out. In anticipation of this post I wore it on my daily (45+ minute each way) commute for 7 days, generally under a windbreaker, always with my Chrome bag there to make for some moderate back-sweat conditions PLUS I wore it on a 10 hour hike/snowshoe trip over the weekend. After the first 4 days (before hiking) it still smelt fine, I could even smell detergent in some areas. I eventually gave up, but after all of that it still wasn't any worse than a regular synthetic shirt after a few hours of use.

The garment is pretty bare bones, which I like. No neck zippers, no pockets front or back, no extra length in the back to cover your stern; just a basic crew cut fit (wear them on the snug/tight side otherwise they don't wick or keep you warm).

As you can see, I love this garment. Year-round functionality, able to go the distance between washings, very nice cut (I find MEC stuff to be very hit an miss on garment fit) and fashionably neutral (I gots the black one). The price is right too; under $65 for something of this quality is cheap, err.. I mean inexpensive. Highly recommended and easily one of my favorite pieces of clothing, cycling specific or otherwise.



Monday, April 02, 2007

If there ain't brakes...

Karma may have caught up to me today. During my ride to work, into the Sun, i heard a 'tink' as I rode over a metal object. The glare was great enough that I wouldn't have really seen anything on the road to begin with so I just kept riding - uphill. Eventually I got to a major intersection requiring some stoppage.

whoa nelly

My rear brake lever engaged - pas de problem. My front brake lever seemed to be AWOL though. &^%$! the bolt must have loosened, fallen out, leaving my lever to just plop out.

so that's what that noise was 8 or so blocks back.

Needless to say, I turned around and went on the hunt. I have Magura HS33 brakes, so the lever is pretty much only attached by the one bolt. There are obviously no cables to hold onto it. Thanks to the little red, pad adjustment knobby, I found it pretty easy. The bolt was nowhere to be found though. I pocketed the lever and rode on, wounded. Luckily, I ran into a buddy a few minutes later, who invited me over for some beers - that is a bonus that would not have come if my decellerator had not come apart.

I managed to rig up a fix for the brake at work (thank you bag o' mixed screws) and was fully repaired for the ride home. Having only a rear brake sucks, I would much rather have the front (which gives you loads more stopping power) if I were to only have one. For a while on my singlespeed I used only a front brake - it was fine. When I ride fixed, I sometimes use a rear, but it s not at all necessary. I just use my legs and a front brake for fixed. Sure, there is always the chance of doing the fear'd over-the-bars journey, but I highly recommend getting to know your front brake. Find out how hard you can brake before endoing. Find that combo of speed and body position (the further back and lower you are the less likely to go over the bars). It may come in handy when some Johnny cuts you off in his racecar.

On a side note - I have been listening to a lot of Silversun Pickups recently. It may be that I am pumped for their concert in a few weeks, but they are a wicked band. They were my mental soundtrack on the ride home, fully braked. Listen to them, they are good. Check out the bassist too, she is wicked cute.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

guilty pleasures

My commuting bike at the moment is a singlespeed, it's been the bike that I've ridden for 99% of all my kilometers (that's like 99.5% of all my miles) in the past two years. Obviously I am a big fan, but I must admit to having a geared bike on order. Not as a replacement, but as a compliment to my stable.

This week while riding I will admit to smiling at two things that maybe I shouldn't have:

  1. On one occasion I saw two cyclists at a traffic light, one all singlespeeded up (perhaps fixed?) the other geared to the heavens. Both of them were itching to take-off at the first sight of green light. As the light turned green, the geared fellow clanked and thumped as his chain stumbled to engage on his cassette. In the meantime, the one-speedified chap pedaled smoothly through the intersection. Yeah....
  2. On Friday during the ride home I passed a guy on an electric scooter/moped contraption.
With singlespeeds, you never miss a shift and with 38x16 gearing you don't win too many drag races on flat, paved roads.

ears back

This probably isn't the only cycling website that you read, so this may very well be old news. I've seen it in a number of places, but I am not regurgitating it because I have nothing else to talk about. I will repeat it because it concerns everyone, especially those of us that ride our bikes.

A few weeks back a City of Toronto Councillor made a comment regarding bicycle lanes that just happens to be the most asinine, ignorant thing I have heard in a long time.

"I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

-Rob Ford,Toronto City Councillor

I had to bang my head against my desk for a while when I read this.

Apparently this isn't his first statement devoid of reasoning. It looks like there are more. That is not my concern at the moment. Right now I am concerned that someone in Mr. Ford's position has not only no idea of the laws of his own Province, but also that he can assert guilt to cyclists that are killed on the road. Mr. Ford, my heart bleeds for people like you who do not have a care in the world for the rights of other humans.

Rob Ford's email address is plastered all over the Internet. If you're concerned, do let him know how you feel. It would be easy to send him a sting of profanities, but don't do that. We're more intelligent than that.