I recently felt like I was on the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City of cycling even though I was not riding a bicycle. Sojourning in Budapest, Hungary, and Prague, Czech Republic, Vienna, Austria, I was elated with wide eye wonder at the integration of cycling into these castle-laden societies. The signs of cycling stood out, perhaps, because I did not have a bike with me. I was a tourist, a peripatetic foot-cycling tourist, paying attention to the minutiae of directions, and occasionally out of necessity asking the awkward but necessary questions of suspicious looking strangers “where am I” and “how do I get to….” I have no doubt had I been on a bicycle, I would not have been a lost or confused scarecrow without a directional brain. Seamlessly meshed into the social milieu, cycling is not a peripheral activity in these cities: the signs and the streets clearly demark the importance of two wheel life.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
The Semi-Serious Cyclist loves his fenders.
The SSC likes to be comfortable when he rides, and everyone knows that cycling with soggy feet is not comfortable. In fact, it sucks. Indeed, no matter how wet the rest of him gets, the SSC will be happy so long as his feet stay dry. And fenders will do just that, most of the time. Bicycle fenders are practical, simple, and civilized. On rainy spring rides, they keep feet dry and jackets mud-free; they protect the undercarriage of bicycle and rider; they provide a small opportunity for smugness when passing soggy-assed non-fendered cyclists; and best of all, they allow a cyclist to blast straight through the middle of puddles with impunity, like any brazen 8-year-old.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Some time back, I announced my plans to build up a new utility/commuter bike out of all the spare parts lying around my garage. It was the kind of thing I thought would fill my winter days with interest and productivity, but a whole bunch of other stuff volunteered for that job. So my winter project has become a summer occupation, and I have, finally made some headway on the project.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I know that the Giro d’Italia is a big deal in bike racing circles—with its long, storied past, it is, in the view of many, second only to the Tour de France in terms of prestige. But to be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to the Giro. I know the leader wears a pink jersey, that there are Alps and Dolomites involved, and that Italian roadside fans are even kookier than French ones. Beyond that, I admit the details of the race remain somewhat vague to me. Every May I seem to forget that the Giro is even taking place at all, so preoccupied am I by all the outdoor activities we can finally pursue again around here, such as baseball, gardening, and, of course, cycling.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Let me tell you about my favorite public toilet.
Tucked away in a western cranny of Edmonton’s river valley, between Fort Edmonton Park and the John Janzen Nature Centre, stands a marvel of elegant, simple, sanitary-engineering design. It’s a composting toilet (CT), made by Advanced Composting Systems of Whitefish, Montana, and it’s situated in a small raised structure next to a cycling path. The staff of the Nature Centre look after it, and they keep it remarkably clean and well stocked; I’ve used it many times and never been caught wanting for supplies. Sometimes there’s even actual Purell in the hand-cleaner dispenser.
Monday, May 14, 2012
A few weeks ago, Penn asked that I talk a little more about the Pugsley. I'm flattered, of course, that he would turn to me for the backstory on this bike, but I'm not sure that there's much I can contribute to the field. 2011/12 has been the year of the fatbike, with both Salsa and Surly bringing a range of models to the mainstream. Bikes which once were available in small numbers through niche specialists like 9:zero:7 or Speedway are now, nominally, available through any local shop with a QBP account. But despite this exponential increase in the number of fatbikes available in the world, its been almost impossible to buy one this year. This boom in the popularity of fatbikes have been accompanied by a boom in writing about them: from Vik over at the Lazy Rando to the excellent Joe Cruz to our own pal Jasper. If there's anything you want to know about fatbikes, I suspect it's already out there in some corner of the internet. Yet I still need a post this week, so I'll stir some more words into the mix.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Now that spring has finally sprung in these parts, it may seem an odd time to review a book about extreme winter cycling, Jill Homer’s Ghost Trails: Journeys through a Lifetime (2008). But it’s been on my mind a lot since I first read it about a month ago. Haunting me, you might say, mostly in a good way. The central thread of the narrative is Homer’s blow-by-blow account of her participation in the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational, a gruelling 350-mile cycling race from Knik, Alaska, to McGrath, Alaska, in harshest winter. But the book is more than mere race reportage. It is also a kind of autobiography, in which Homer contemplates some ghosts from her past, as well as an introduction to the ethos of extreme endurance cycling by a recent convert.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Jasper Gates’s black, Mountain Equipment Co-op cycling tights have been retired.
They passed on peacefully, with dignity, of natural causes, on May 4, 2012. Jasper laid them to rest gently in the garbage can in the alley behind his home. “It was time,” he commented quietly as he fastened the lid on the can and, head bowed, turned back toward his house. “They were done.”