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).     

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Bonus Post

Hey Kids,

One of our very own bloggers has broken big and gone international!  The Adventure Cycling Association digs on one of Jasper's epic adventures, and we do, too:

Check it out here:

Big props to Monsieur Gates.  Take a bow!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turning The Screws

The snow and ice are here, putting an end to the long road rides of cycling season.  I know making a graceful transition to xc-ski or snowshoe season is the normal thing to do here, but I'm mostly a bike guy.  No, the arrival of ice and snow signals the start of another season altogether for me:  wrenching season.  Not wrenching as in its-all-too-terrible-to-be-kept-off-the-roads wrenching, but a season devoted to the turning of actual wrenches.  And every other tool I own.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vélivre: Reading and Riding

Winter is the perfect time to read about cycling. And although I heartily condone reading cycling blogs, the best of which can be diverting and enlightening, at this time of year I also like to read cycling books. Perhaps there’s something about this longer form of writing that enables it to sort of stand in for the longer bike rides I miss at this time of year. My winter spin class is short, concentrated, intense; it provides a somewhat satisfying workout, sure, but it’s not as enjoyable or rewarding or immersive an experience as going for an actual long bike ride. Similarly, blogs tend to offer tasty morsels, the salty snacks of the literary world, while books offer a more substantial and filling literary feast.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Music and Cycling

So here we are: snow covers the streets, the temperature chills the body, and day light fades early.  So, the road bikes sit on trainers in Val’s garage, sheltered from the cold, dark, winter.   To ride but to go nowhere, to train indoors takes a particularly stubborn dedication.   We ride in consort to videos and we listen to music to motivate. Spin classes at health clubs (they will remain nameless here) play vapid music.  I want to start a play list for indoor training that does not deal with mainstream music and that provides the incentive to get on the bike and ride hard.   

Could you please make suggestions? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lunar Cycles

“And so to sleep!  And I dreamed that I rode my bicycle seven times around the moon and climbed a hill to find Orion at the top.” 

Charles S. Brooks A Thread of English Road (1924) Illustrated by Julia McCune Flory

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Adventure(les)s of an Indoor Cyclist

The daunting months of winter have arrived to suck the cycling marrow out of me and to asphyxiate the air in my pneumatic aspirations. I can well imagine cold, blizzardly nights, city roads virtually impenetrable, nary a car in sight. Certainly I can still ride a bike outside in the winter. I did buy snow tires recently and plan to try them out soon. But I do not plan to ride the summer distances. Still, I feel the need to ride my bike. Of course, this is not a new problem for snow bound cyclists. (Val will no doubt be talking about his Pugsley (I am envious). What options do I have except to pull the trainer out of storage, set up the bike and go nowhere as fast as possible?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Full Moon Ride

I could forgive you for thinking me drunk.  I am talking a little too quickly, a little too loudly, probably a little too much.  I feel light, a little giddy. Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" comes on the radio and I turn it up, promising to buy it and blast it next time.  I focus on keeping the truck in its lane, want to bounce in my seat.  I am self-conscious about all of this and a little embarrassed.  I cannot do anything differently though, and, in my heart, don't really want to.  I have had nothing stronger than tap water to drink--the full moon and a strong bike ride are to blame. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Last Rides

“My ideal cycling day is in November or December, when a keen frost has held the earth in its icy thrall for some time and the roads are beaten flat and smooth. When not a breath of wind is stirring and the sun shines brightly and with a warmth which is genial, but tempered by the sharp clean air. Then to the well-trained muscles mere exertion is a joy… the wild scamper down-hill affords an intoxicating pleasure, and one can gaze forth on the glories of an ideal winter scene until one is possessed with the soul-sufficing enthusiasm which animated the bard.” 
                                                         R. J. Mercredy “Winter Cycling” (1891) 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Requiem for Cyclist

In a week dedicated to commemoration and remembrance, I want to acknowledge the dangers, not the pure pleasures, of riding a bicycle.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Here's a surprising thing about starting up a blog about cycling: every time you get on a bike, you can't help but think about what you might write in the blog.  This might seem self-evident, too obvious even to comment on, but I'm not really talking about the existance of the link here.  I'm talking about the power of that link, about how much space it takes up.  The entire Dusty Musette crew managed to get out for a ride together this weekend, and, not four kilometers into the route, someone asked "what are you writing about this week?" and the whole conversation turned to our potential musings. Having to say something every week results in a lot of time spent thinking about what you might want to say.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 2

The Semi-Serious Cyclist takes breaks during a ride. 

To eat, to drink, to pee, to take photos, to check blood sugar, to investigate road treasure, to watch nerds fly model airplanes, to check out local finery, to look around. Or, simply, to rest for a few minutes. Taking a break mid-ride is not necessarily a sign of middle-age fatigue or general out-of-shapeness (though who cares if it is?); rather, it is evidence of the SSC’s commitment to civility, natural curiosity, and the long leisure tradition of cycling.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I break shit.  I break a lot of shit.

That's today's bill.  Or rather, that's the thing from today that will result in me forking over another hundred bucks sometime in the very near future.  Put that on top of the chain I busted on the fixed gear the week before last.  Put that on top of the frame I busted at the start of the season.  It's getting to be an expensive year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bike Karma

I adopted an orphaned bike the other day—a trick bike, found by a good friend. Well, “orphaned” probably isn’t the most accurate term. Not unless you’d call a child stolen from its parents an “orphan.” The bike was almost certainly swiped from its rightful owner and then ditched and forgotten. My friend noticed it stashed behind a bush in a vacant lot. As the leaves fell, the bike slowly emerged. Taking pity on it, he eventually brought the bike home, and kindly offered it to me. (He knows I’ve got a garage that always has room for another bike.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Sort of Cycling Ghost Story (Part 2)

Jonathan broke the peloton coming between Quincey and myself. Jonathan was a formidable rider. He was a burly, roaring, roistering bear of a man, with enviable feats of cycling strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered with short curly black hair; his countenance mingled an air of fierce determination and passion. From his ursine frame and great powers of leg, he was famed (at least to us) for great cycling skill, being as dexterous as a downtown bike courier with a deadline. Front rider for all our rides, he pulled us in wind, rain, sleet and soon to be darkness with the ascendency his bodily strength acquired from many rides and many hours in the saddle. Breaking not a stride, he broke the silence: “Hey, I propose that we sprint to the top of all the hills!”He yelled, but not loudly. “To make it worthwhile, if you can beat me, I will buy dinner after the ride.”

Monday, October 24, 2011


I think one of the greatest gifts cycling can give you—outside of fabulous calves and farcical tan lines—is the opportunity to transcend.  You can put almost any direct object with that verb.  Cycling lets you transcend hills, mountains, terrible weather, bad drivers, bad pavement, urban claustrophobia, anything.  Swift wheels and a strong chain will get you up and over almost any obstacle.  But in terms of real value, even a few minutes on a bike can help you get up and out of yourself, and that’s maybe the best thing riding has to offer. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bicycletiquette #1

Dear Jasper,

With this cool autumn weather, I find that my nose runs a lot while I’m out cycling. I’m a Kleenex man myself, but I’ve observed some of my fellow cyclists employ what my Granny called the Farmer’s Hanky while riding (you know, the tissue-less nose blow, which involves pressing one’s finger against one nostril and then blowing snot out the other). Is this revolting practice really appropriate?


Confused and Disgusted

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Sort of Cycling Ghost Story (Part 1)

So it is true: we set off for a late afternoon autumn ride in the Eastern Township. The three of us took longer than usual to get organized, to arrange the route, to finalize who would drive with the road bikes. Knowing darkness would descent early, we thought we could squeeze a ride into the threshold between late afternoon daylight and dusk. Crisp and cool, not a malevolent cloud was in sight; it was one of those light blue days of autumn where the sky appears higher and wider than usual, a day that besmirches the notion that the season soon fades and does not let you fully participate in the forces of life. The weather was perfect for cycling. Quincey, the cartographer among us, calculated the drive to Hillingham Ridge, the starting point, would take us 40 minutes. Thus, if all went well, we could ride a loop that would take us less than two hours, a combination of hills with flat portions, and be back to Hillingham Ridge before the day was indiscernible and pitch-black. It would be a race against darkness.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Techy Bits

Robert Penn's It's All About the Bike seems to be the spectre haunting our blog this October.  So far, we’ve seen it as the shadow behind the scenes of our own Penn's winter bike project and the explicit subject of Jasper's book review this week.  I have vowed not to read the book in order to avoid whatever spell it seems to cast, but I find myself about to engage it anyway, if only third-hand.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It’s All about the Book

This love-letter to the bicycle has a simple yet rich premise: life-long cyclist Robert Penn needs a new bike. Like many of us, Penn cycles almost every day and owns several bikes (purchased the conventional way, off the rack). But while these bikes all work just fine and bring a certain pleasure, none of these bikes feels entirely his, he claims.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A cycling friend lives in a small downtown condo. Over a dram of scotch (an 18 year old Bowmore whose “waxy apple peelings, with a citrus fruitiness” will become “more evident with time”) my friend told me he found a bike in a bush not far from his condo. It was exposed by the fallen leaves. It was not a bike he wanted; it was a small trick bike with bent handle bars and rims, a ripped saddle, hacked blue paint, and a rusty chain. He walked by it several times over several days before deciding to take it back to his condo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why You Won't Miss A Cassette

The project of Monsieur Reveaux’s current dream-bike draws a lot of focus around here.  I will steal none of his poetic thunder, but I will be chiming in from time to time to pontificate on the technical side of the endeavor.  One of the first specifications for this project was fat tires, but close on the heels of that decision came the suggestion of an internally geared hub. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part One

The Semi-Serious Cyclist (SCC) is never too cool to say hi to other cyclists. Or to at least somehow acknowledge other cyclists. Or, for that matter, pedestrians, people sitting on their front porches, seniors on scooters, even folks in vehicles on quiet country roads. Heck, anyone who’s outside, period, within eyeshot of the road. Even a dog, a cluster of cows. This acknowledgement may take any number of widely accepted non-verbal forms: a ring of the bell (a favorite with cows), the full on wave, the handlebar wave (either full hand or one or more fingers), the nod, the smile, the raised eyebrows, or, simply, eye contact.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Have This View

I have this view frequently: a long flat, gravel country road, under a portentous sky, with my riding partners ahead of me some distance, engaged in a conversation I cannot hear. That I am consistently behind the lead doesn’t bother me: I blame it on my riding ability (not my age) and the narrow tires that make riding on gravel unstable and exciting. My stalwart touring bike, however, doesn’t feel comfortable grinding on the back roads of Alberta. To address these problems, I am going to attempt to build a bike—not from scratch but piece by piecemeal over the winter—to ride on gravel roads.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Fall is here: astronomically, but in the leaves all over the road as well.  And, what’s more, where I’m riding now I might as easily write that winter is here.  In northern Alberta, those two seasons travel in tandem, working as a frosty and decisive team.  Today the leaves turn, and tomorrow the sun turns off.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011