Friday, January 31, 2014

January Orange

Check out the cassette on my winter commuting bike. We’re half-way through Edmonton’s endless winter, and the snow, slush, and snirt have done their seasonal business on my drivetrain. The chain, sprockets, and cassette—the whole meal deal—is now thoroughly oxidized, rusted to a startlingly bright orange. The chain, which I lube frequently in winter, doesn’t actually look too bad. But the rest of it? Flaming rings of fire, baby. Forget Kiev’s orange uprising. Cyclists only have to look down between their legs to see an orange revolution. Who needs fancy LED light on one’s spokes? In the right light, my sprockets glow like the elements in my toaster.

Friday, January 24, 2014


This is Prunella. She’s a Haro sidewalk cruiser, and she belonged to my friend Karen, who died a couple of weeks ago, and whose funeral I will attend this afternoon. Karen, a writer and editor, was 56 and died of a rare, incurable neurological disease. She was one of my favorite people to be around.

Karen wasn’t a serious or even a semi-serious cyclist. In fact, in the years I knew her, I don’t think I ever actually saw her ride her bike. But it was always proudly displayed in her apartment, and when we visited her place, Karen would sometimes say to me, knowing my fondness for cycling, that she adored her bicycle. “I love Prunella,” she’d tell me.

Friday, January 17, 2014

On-One Fatty: Preliminary Report

I’ve only had my new fatbike for a couple of weeks and only gone for a couple of  substantial rides, but here’s my early report: I like it. A lot.

At this point, I won’t even pretend that I can offer much useful feedback on how it rides. I will have to get some miles under it and test it out on a variety of conditions before I’ll be ready to pronounce on that side of things. (I’ve only ridden it on packed snow; we haven’t had a dump of the white stuff since the boxes arrived. Can’t wait.) But there are a couple of things I can report on.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Garage Band

Given the sounds emanating from Val’s garage—a cacophony of thumping music, spinning rollers, whirring fans, and occasional yips and yells—passers-by might assume that a band, maybe a bunch of pimply teenagers, is jamming away in Val’s garage, perhaps with dreams of one day making the cover of Rolling Stone.

Except for the fact that it’s 7:00 am—a time that no teenager has ever played a note in any garage. In fact, we—that is Val, Penn, and I—are not a garage band but rather just three middle-aged guys spinning on their bikes in front of a blaring Spinervals video, trying to work off some winter weight and keep our legs from atrophying completely. It’s January, and garage spinning is what we do around here come January.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Look Ahead: Iron Horse Trail Preview

Smoky Lake's Pumpkin Park: Possible Pit Stop along the Iron Horse Trail
At the top of my to-do list of rides for the 2014 season is Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail (not to be confused with the Iron Horse Trails near Seattle or Waterloo and I’m sure dozens of other places; let’s face it, it’s not the most original name for a converted rail trail). This 300km, gravel, multi-use trail (part of the Trans Canada Trail) stretches along a Y-shape north-east of Edmonton; the western starting point is near Smoky Lake (an hour from the capital) and the eastern tips of the Y are at Cold Lake and Heinsburg, close to the Saskatchewan border. The trail runs through farmland, boreal forest, and a series of small Ukrainian towns and villages (Vilna, St. Paul, Glendon, Elk Point) in a pretty part of the province known as the Lakeland.