Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winterbiking in the Toronto Star

Some great exposure over at the Toronto Star for Winter biking.  I love the graphic personally.  It’s a bit of delicious overkill.

Check it out.

All you need to know about winter biking in the GTA

First thing first.  I was in Toronto this weekend and they have absolutely no snow.  None.  It looks like cold fall day from ‘Sagua to the ‘Shwa.

So, studded tires are definitely not needed right now in T-dot.

There are some good nuggets in this article. I like their:
  • Tips for breaking (i.e. cleaning rims regularly and doubling your breaking distance).  Rim brakes are prone to slipping profusely in slushy conditions.  
  • Suggestion that a cleaning regimen be followed.  I just gave Lieberman his first bath this winter and I should have done it two or three times already.
  • Advice regarding regular weather checks (I do it every morning while I walk the dog.  A process that gives me better weather info than any smartphone app!).
Things I’d add:
  • Have a brush handy to brush off snow and road grit after your ride.  I usually do it when I get to my destination, then again when I get home.  Helps to decrease the number of times you’ll have to bring the bike into the house for cleaning.
  • Keep enough change for the bus, in case you break down.
  • I also like to keep a small container of antifreeze on me.  For those times that ice builds up on the sprockets, or derailleur.
  • Keep your ass in the saddle as much as possible.  That will reduce back tire slippage and keeps you balanced and ready to ‘pontoon’ when you have to.

I've established the disease, not the cure

I have discovered the root of Lieberman’s ‘sickness’.  Here’s a little context. 

My LBS told me my bottom bracket couldn’t be replaced, and that it’s likely it will degrade completely over this winter.  

This is problematic for several reasons. 

Most importantly – I bike everywhere.  As such, a contingency plan had to be hatched. 

That’s how I came to posses a new GT.  I’ll post pics later.  At any rate, I digress.  I

t would seem that my current fenders don’t deflect snow, slush, water, rocks etc. from hitting the bottom bracket.  It just builds up.  I brush it off after sticky sessions, but apparently it isn’t enough.  Here’s evidence. 

When Lieberman bites it, I’ll have to do a better job keeping the BB clear on the GT.

Santa's present to Ottawa’s Baseline Road bikers

Happy Holidays!

It seems Santa dropped a gift to Ottawa’s Baseline Road bikers.  I found this painted on Baseline this morning.

I really have no idea when they painted this 20 meter bike lane, and I certainly hope they extend it along the road, but it’s a start.  I recently did a biking survey for the city of Ottawa, and one of the things I lamented about was the lack of bike lanes on Baseline Road.  While I doubt that my comments have directly resulted in the addition of bike lanes, I am going to take credit.  I mean, nobody reads this anyway, so I can make any claims I want.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What I saw from the other side

On Thursday, I had to drive K into work. 

And it was an interesting experience. 

I’m never on this side of the equation. 
I’m never driving a car to work in the morning.  Battling rush hour.  Finding parking. Crawling down Carling behind the slowest Lexus in the world.  Nope.  I never do this.  

You can tell.  See, I almost ran a yellow while a black and white sat watching (thanks for the warning K, you saved Christmas!).

While driving in rush hour traffic, was kind of interesting, I really missed my bike in.  I could have been zooming by the traffic and would have made it home in about half the time.  

The thing that struck me the most was the number of winterbikers. 

Oh, I wish I could have taken pictures of them all.  

I saw a minimalist fixie riding my old backroad route, an apprehensive sidewalk pusher, an electric/peddle hybrid, and two people geared to the nines. 

Good stuff.  Nice to see you guys out there.

As an aside, I’ve inquired as to whether or not I can join the Ottawa Bicycle Advisory Committee.  Here’s hoping I get a chance to do my civic duty.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bike History

Here’s a fantastic photo that’s been rolling around the internerd pretty fast.  It was sent to me by my friend CT, a fellow bike fan. 

It’s just beautiful.  A bike shop from the early 1900s.  If you follow the link (click the pic) you can take a look at an enormous photo.  Things to keep an eye out for:

  • Even in the 1900s bike shops had to diversify in order to stay in business.  You’ll note in the bike shop is also selling pretty rudimentary motorcycles and phonographs.  They’re working all angles!  Come in, get your motorcycle tuned up, borrow a bike, and leave with a new record.
  • The picture is taken from the back of the shop, maybe the work area.  So if you look closely, you’ll see the name of the shop in the glass.  “Excelsior”  It might also say “Auto cycles and Cyclery” below the store name. 
  • Lastly, the cargo bike in the forefront of the picture is hella tough.  Basket up front and caged trailer out back.  That is a work vehicle if I ever saw one.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today in Bike News

Today’s innovation isn’t a bike in the traditional sense. 

I mean, look at this monster!

It has the style of a recumbent, and questionable geometry as far as I am concerned. 

I feel like it might be a bit ‘tippy’ up front.  Not that I have Hulk sized legs or anything, buy my plans for a beast like this include hills - both up and down.  And I don't have a lot of confidence in the down.

It does put the bulk of your body weight (ass) above the treads, which will help avoid slippage.

Two parting thoughts.  Why are these things always just concepts - I mean, if they have merit, don’t they get built?  Lastly, how would this be better than my cross country skis?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Cycling in the News

But first, a transcript of this morning’s good-bye.

K:  It’s cold out this morning, do you want a ride to work?
Me:  It was just as cold yesterday, and it was even colder Monday when winds were at 45km.
K:  But I can give you a ride in if you want, or you can drop me off and take the car.
Me:  Naw, I’ll ride in.
K:  You’re just being stubborn aren’t you?
Me:  Yup. 

A short conversation that, by itself, is fairly typical of our morning ritual.  But given yesterday’s article in the Globe and Mail, it resonates a little deeper today.

Seems every year we get one or two fulsome articles on winter riding.  (In fact, I wrote my own for this imaginary blog last year - check it) These articles typically polarize the activity.  On the more conservative side of the argument, authors will allude to the activity as dangerous, its participants often crazy.  The other side of the argument sees winter bikers as tough and stubborn riders, pushing as far as they can. 

Ultimately, regardless of the article’s leanings, the authors tend to move from the poles and settle somewhere in the middle with a line like:

“The reality is that winter cycling is about as dangerous as its summer equivalent; in fact, it may be safer. Motorists are actually more careful of winter cyclists because they realize how easily a biker who has not winterized his or her ride can become a casualty.”

Today’s article, referenced above, was found in the Globe and Mail.  Andrew Clark’s piece found it’s way into the Globe Drive section.  An interesting place for a winter biking article, but Clark gives the topic the balanced evaluation it deserves.

Sure, he tosses out the standard clich├ęd references to winter biking elitism, “They form clubs and give themselves dangerous swaggering nicknames like “ice riders” just to let everyone know how bad ass they are.” – but the article moderates these views by painting winterbikers in two very distinct tones. 

He sees a clear delineation between the practiced riders and those that foolishly attempt to navigate the slippery streets with too little experience and no consideration for safety or proper equipment.

Here, I have to intervene and indicate that his short reference to equipment is fairly typical of those who don’t ride in winter.  It’s a classic case of overcomplicating and overcompensating.

Clark writes: “The maniac you see out there with his Avenir Frost gloves, Sports Science Wicking Training shirt and Icebreaker Pocket 200 Beanie is not the one to worry about.  Odds are that this true believer spent money winterizing his ride, bought studded tires, wears reflective clothing and may have even equipped his ride with disk brakes, which are not as affected by adverse weather conditions.”

And while I agree that this type of rider is less of a worry, I disagree with the underlying assumption that good winter riders are those that have frost gloves, studded tires, wicking shirts and state of the art equipment.  I don’t think this level of equipment vanity is the norm, or even necessary for the winter commuter.

It’s about being comfortable.  This morning it’s -13, with a wind kicking the temp down to -22.  I rode in layering a hoody under a fleece.  A thin scarf that K bough me and some cheap, slightly insulated, work gloves that cost 8 dollars at Home Depot.  It was warm enough without overheating.  And Lieberman is just a regular department store bike with knobbies.  And he does just fine (we ran a fresh single track through the farm last night in the dark!).

Apart from the article veering from ‘serious’ to ‘seriously trying too hard to be funny and failing completely’ Clark’s done a good job making the case for the winterbiker.

And his article actually forced me into some self-reflection regarding how I want others to perceive me as a winterbiker. 

K asked me this morning if I was just being stubborn.  And honestly, the answer is yes.  I am being stubborn. I relish being the only bike I see riding in the morning.  I love being the only bike parked on the rack.  And I am proud, probably a vanity thing, of biking in when it’s awful out. 

But I don’t do it to impress anyone but myself.  I do it to prove that I can.  To beat the system by not buying an overpriced pass for an OC Transpo bus that is unfailingly late and always too cramped.  I do it to keep our drive time down and to avoid buying the dreaded second car.  And most importantly, I do it for the fun and adventure.  And let’s face it, being stuck behind this keyboard all day certainly makes a guy crave for a little adventure.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Herd is Thinning

Well, it's been a mild winter so far here in Ottawa.  And for a lot of people, having no snow meant that the bike season was extended.

But last night, we got our first blanket of snow. Nice and fluffy, easy to shovel, but slippery to ride through.

And although my cycling census data collection techniques are still very rudimentary I'd say it's rendered biking impossible for half of the remaining bikers. Note:  my current census methodology includes observing my street, keeping track of riders

Which is nice, because now I get my spot on the rack regardless of what time I roll in.  Check out that cherry spot.  Right at the front of the rack, and ready for an escape.

Those of you that are particularly astute - and given a readership of zero, there won't be many - will notice that Lieberman is a) still kicking and b) wearing a slick on the front rim.  It's not a new system I am trying out, in fact I find a slick up front to be troublesome and dangerous.  Rather, it's evidence of my ongoing laziness.  But have heart, I have that rim off and drying out in the laundry room sink as I type.  Should have a nice knobby up front for tomorrow's ride.


Another quick point.  They need to make longer boots.  My gaiters just don't do it on these slushy days.