Friday, December 30, 2011


In the farmland south of the city where I live there’s a particular T-intersection I’ve always loved. It’s the meeting point of two quiet, poorly-paved country roads, the kind of roads that don’t really go anywhere and are only used by the handful of people who live on acreages and farms along those roads. There’s a small U-pick farm on one side, a couple of modest country homes along the other, and a long straight row of aspens planted close beside the one road for about two kilometres, the kind of stately tree row I associate more with the roads of France than Alberta. It’s a sleepy, pretty corner atop a gentle rise, and it feels like it could be a million miles away from the city, even though it’s not (and will, no doubt, be swallowed up one day by the tentacles of urban sprawl).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best Cycling Picture of 2011

My favorite bicycle picture of 2011 does not have great composition.  Yes, there is the back profile of a formidable cyclist, wearing a pink “Fat Cyclist” jersey embossed with a prancing horse; yes, far off in the sunny background you can make out a mountain; and yes, to the right side of the cyclist, the flowers on the bush are in bloom.  But, as you can see, I didn’t even capture a bicycle in the picture.  It appears as if the virile cyclist is merely standing—I assure you that he is on a bicycle.  Why, you ask, do I like this picture?

Look closely at the signs.  Look closely at the road.  Notice that the picture depicts a road lane for cyclists.  Behold the sign says “Yield to Bikes” not once but twice.  Pinch the Albertan in me.  A place exists where roads are smooth, where bikes take priority on the road.   

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bicycletiquette #3 (Kickstands)

Dear Jasper,

I’m nine years old. I told my Dad that I was going to ask Santa for a kickstand for my bike. My Dad got this funny look on his face and said, “Trust me, kickstands are gay.” Is that true? Are kickstands really gay?


Wondering about Gayness

Dear WAG, 
Yes, indeed, your father is quite correct. Kickstands on bicycles are most certainly gay. Remarkably so. As gay as rainbows, I’d venture. In fact, the bicycle kickstand may well be the merriest, jolliest, bicycle accoutrement ever invented. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Penn Loves His Brooks B17 (Pt 1)

This Might Play a Role
Penn threw a challenge at me last week, one that I'm going to take up here.  My task is to explain why he likes his new Brooks so much more than the generously padded saddles he used to ride.  That is to say, I am to explain the counter-intuitive truth that a thinner saddle is, as a general rule, more comfortable than a thicker, more cushy one.  This is a challenging task, especially if my reader has experience both with an ass left sore by hours in the saddle and with the inviting appearance of those giant, couch-style saddles hanging around the fringes of the bike shop.  Still, I think I'm man enough to succeed here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bugle, Please, Santa

I want a mini-bugle for Christmas. Not an iPhone or a Garmin or some other technological marvel.  I just want a small cycling bugle like the one this Victorian dude has.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stuff That Works

Venerable, humble, perennial, utilitarian—damn, even smooth and sexy for a centenarian —yes, I am talking about a black Brooks B17 saddle.  Those in the know (I only recently joined this club of aficionados—but now I can proudly put my finger to the side of my nose in a gesture of knowing) have heard, or have, a Brooks B17 saddle.   The saddle has been in production since the late 1890s and its design has changed little: a single piece of saddle leather (5mm thick or more) stretched over a steel frame, and riveted in place.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spinervals Review

Winter is here.  No question.

We've got big plans for next season, everything is in the big goals/big dreams phase now, but we intend to do more than ride back and forth to the Safeway.  We have Intentions.  So here we are, mid-winter, huddled in our huts and sharpening our knives. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Vélivre: The Rider

In the spirit of Christmas consumption, I encourage you to buy a bike-book this festive season, either for yourself or a cycling friend or loved one. And while there are dozens of great titles out there to choose from, I’m going to recommend one in particular as a guaranteed hit with any cycling aficionado. Don’t be fooled by the slim profile of Tim Krabbé’s novella The Rider, originally published in Dutch in 1978, and translated into English by Sam Garrett in 2002,; this book has the heart of a champion.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Woolly Tales of Fashion and Philosophy

Ol’ Penn is going to tell you a wee tale of two things important to cyclists: water and wool.   This tale begins with one of his favorite eccentric cyclists, not of the racing variety, but of the literary variety—George Bernard Shaw, the renowned playwright, a “nervous specimen without much physical courage” but a “mad cyclist,” according to his biographer, Olivia Collide.  Shaw loved to ride his bicycle, but the historical record suggests he was prone to prostrated positions (he fell off a lot), and he liked to wear wool. Of course, wool has been worn by cyclists for many years.  But for Shaw, wool had protective qualities, not unlike, perhaps, the cotton “magic underwear” or temple underwear worn by Mormons, and medicinal qualities, much like a daily dose of cod liver oil.  Shaw wore wool garments because he believed they promoted healthy living.  

Monday, December 5, 2011


Looked at from a certain angle, one can see that brothels, casinos, and the bike companies are all in the same business.  Their buisiness models depend on ruthlessly separating you from your money, but in a way that ensures you'll be back in short order, and whatever they're giving you for your money, what you're actually buying is the opportunity to participate in your own fantasy. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bicycletiquette #2

Dear Jasper,

So there’s this guy I sometimes cycle with, more of an acquaintance than a friend, and he always wears these old spandex riding shorts which he’s probably had since 1993. Thing is, these shorts are wearing thin along the centre seam at the back, and the lycra there has become pretty much see-through. To be clear: his nether region is clearly visible through the disintegrating fabric of the shorts!  I don’t think he knows this. But he needs to. How can I let him know without embarrassing him or creating an awkward scene?


Bothered by Crack

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Penn will not be posting anything this week.   Not much bicycling news has happened to Penn.   With Val’s patience and help, he made one of his bikes winter ready: changing the peddles, changing the tires, oiling the chain—pedestrian mechanical feats, he knows.  But he was proud of himself, proud to have bicycle grease on his paper handling hands.   Penn will return next week with a blog entry.  He has been spending his spare time riding in Val’s garage, not writing or thinking bicycles, just sweating and spinning to the directions of cycling videos (which have been enjoyable).