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.