Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve 2012

Well, there you go: another year down.  All the idiots who don't understand the Mayan calendar can breathe easy, though, because it looks like there's still at least one more  year in the chamber.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Xmas Eve Is Upon Us

Hey Kids,

Just a quick message for you. If you haven't asked Santa for that new bike yet, you may have missed your shot. BUT MAYBE NOT.


The Dusty Musette Crew

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bicycletiquette: Stocking Stuffers

Dear Jasper,

I’m looking to buy some inexpensive gifts for cyclist friends and family. I see your colleague, Val Garou, has suggested gifts to avoid, but do you have any recommendations for stocking stuffers that I should buy?

Happy Holidays,

Miss L. Towe

Ah, Miss Towe, I have fond childhood memories of rising early of a Christmas morning, starting a blazing fire in the grate, slaughtering the family goose, and unpacking my Christmas stocking. 

What small wonders I recall digging out one by one: a lump of coal, a bent stick, a few linty bon-bons, a vial of cod-liver oil, and, in our more prosperous years, a firm parsnip or rutabega in the tippy toe. Of course, Santa always included something for my bike, be it sparkly handlebar tassles or a homemade reflector fashioned out of a turkey wattle. Such, such were the joys!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Dusty Lens (#6)

Autumn Nights

Blurry, out of focus, but glowing. That's mostly how I remember the end of the riding season, so this shot from the discard pile is actually the best one for the job.

Monday, December 17, 2012

All I Don't Want for Christmas . . .

This is the time of year when both gifting and gifts occupy a significant amount of mental space. I'm a bike guy, and, naturally, I know a lot of bike guys, so I've been thinking about bike-centric gifts a bit lately. What I think, mostly, is that I am afraid of them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 8 (Camera)

The Semi-Serious Cyclist likes to roll with a camera. In a back pocket, in a handle-bar bag, around his neck, mounted on his helmet—anywhere handy and ready to point and click in a flash, from the roadside, or even, dare I say, from the saddle on the fly. 

No matter where he is riding—be it on a tour in an exotic land or on a well-worn loop in his own backyard—interesting, weird, beautiful, tacky, bizarre, photo-worthy shit abounds. There’s something magical about the perspective from the saddle: the lovely and strange details of the world around us are just so noticeable when cycling. So why not take a moment to capture these sights?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dusty Lens (#5)

Not all photos are great, and this is really just a snap shot.  But it's an evocative one for me--especially this time of year. This is a road trip in-progress, a mobile base about to deploy, an escape from here and a ticket to there. Sleeping quarters; bikes and backup bikes; food, water, and a kitchen.  This is road biking, emphasis on the road.

Friday, December 7, 2012

“White Flannel and Nickel Plate”

That’s what Karl Kron, author of Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle

(1887), gives as his answer to the question he found himself frequently bearded with in the 1880s: “What’s the best costume to adopt for touring on a bicycle?”  While this question may be almost as old as the bicycle itself, it remains now, as it was in Kron’s day, a “tremendous subject of cycling” discussion. Check out some bicycle touring forums, and you’ll see what I mean. Today’s debates tend to be about comfort, utility, and style, but in Kron’s day, cyclists had to consider much more practical needs when selecting a “costume:” namely, finding a place to sleep.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The MB 2000 Project

One way to help get through a long Alberta winter without (much) cycling is to have a bike project, some kind of substantial undertaking that can be stretched out over several snowy months. This winter, my 12-year-old son Gil and I have the MB 2000. That’s the code name for the bicycle we’re building.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vélivre: Just Ride

Grant Petersen is on a mission. The author of Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, and chief dude behind Rivendell Bike Works, explains in the introduction of his provocative book that he is out to draw attention to what he sees as “bike racing’s bad influence” on cycling and “undo it.” In 89 short bloggish chapters, Petersen makes the compelling argument that many “serious” cyclists are living a fantasy in which they uncritically adopt the training strategies, equipment, and accessories of professional bike racers for no good reason other than “it’s what the pros do.”  Petersen points out that such a line of thinking is not only illogical, but it also leaves most cyclists uncomfortable, pretentiously dressed, and with needlessly lighter wallets. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fatty in the Snow

An early November snow dump, a borrowed fat bike, and a day off work –all the ingredients for the ultimate Snow Day, fat-bike style.

Penn, my good friend, is so far under the weather I can barely see him, but he graciously offers me his Pugsley and points me toward Edmonton’s river valley. “Go forth, ride hard, have fun!” he exhorts in a scratchy voice. Val meets me under the Groat bridge. My hands are already cold, so I bust open my chemical warmers and begin massaging them inside my mitts. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Earned Rest Day System

"How many miles do you guys go in a day?"

When you're out on tour, that's a question you hear a lot. Almost every day, actually. In this small way, at least, the common man seems to recognize that it really is more about the journey than the destination.  And, really, figuring out that number is a key element of the ritual of trip planning.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pushing the Season

That’s what the marketing business calls it when retailers roll out their Christmas crapola the day after Halloween. It’s only the fledgling days of November and yet there’s festive egg nog on the Safeway shelf, “Christmas Blend” at Starbucks, “White Christmas” oozing out of the speakers at the mall, and even a big display of “gently used” Xmasy knick-knacks at Value Village. Marketing geniuses are stretching out Christmas like some cheap spandex shorts. “Christmas Creep” it’s sometimes called. (Though that might also be an apt description of the marketer who came up with the idea.) It’s more like “pushing the season” down our throats before we’ve even swallowed our Candy Kisses.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tasting Notes: Sharkies vs. Worms

For some reason, I find myself thinking about candy this week. While the kids have been chomping away on Rockets, mini-chocolate bars, and Tootsie Rolls, I have turned my attention to cyclists’ candy.  I’m talking about the latest energy snack sensation: chews, those semi-solid gummy-bear-like confections marketed to athletes who want easily digestible, portable carbs. These days, almost all the big players in the energy snack market produce some version of this product: Stinger’s Energy Chews, CliF’s Shot Bloks, Powerbar’s Gel Blasts, just to name some of the big boys.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Importance of the New Revisited (Pt 2)

In last week's post I told, at length, the ordeal of my various tire failures during my tour down the Pacific coast.  Taken at face value, that post would seem to be a refutation of my original position on the importance of buying all new running gear before setting out on an adventure. In reality, however, while it cost me a fair amount of extra coin, the whole affair solidly vindicated my position.

Friday, October 26, 2012


“The pleasure of ‘riding alone’ depends very much on whether or not a man takes good company with him.”—Karl Kron

As any 5-year-old can tell you, the key to riding a bicycle is balance. Once this is mastered, it rarely requires any conscious thought. As a 45-year-old, however, I’m finding myself thinking about balance of a different kind when it comes to my bike-riding life. I’m talking about a kind of social balance, riding sometimes with friends and other times alone. I like doing both, but it’s not always easy is to strike the perfect balance of the two.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Importance of the New, Revisited

Just before leaving on tour, I wrote a blog post about the importance of overhauling your rig before the departure date hits. In retrospect, after all of that preparation--and preaching about it--it almost seems like I was asking for some sort of divine punishment.  So for the follow-up post, I'll just start by saying that I didn't finish on either of the new tires that I set out with. But despite what seems like an existential rebuke, I stand by every word I wrote.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tricycle Dreams

I can’t stop dreaming about tricycles.

For the second time in the past two weeks, a tricycle has figured in one of my dreams. The latest one happened a few nights ago. In my dream I was walking along the road near my office going where-I-don’t-remember when a very old but very fit-looking woman, a svelte granny, you might say, appeared before me on an adult tricycle (the kind you see codgers slowly pedalling along the sidewalks of Florida), booking it across the road in front of me. She hopped over a curb and disappeared around a corner, turning so sharply that one wheel lifted right off the ground.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 7 (Team Kit)

The Semi-Serious Cyclist doesn’t wear professional-cycling team kit. No Garmin-Barracuda jersey, no Lampre bib, no Team Sky cap. Why not? Simple. He’d feel like a knob wearing it.

That’s not to say that the SSC doesn’t have a casual interest in pro cycling. He does. In fact, during Tour de France season, he even gets to know which of the main GC riders are on which team. But the SSC knows that he’s not actually a member of any of those teams, nor is he likely to get picked up by one of them any time soon.

So, for the SSC, wearing that Sky jersey while out riding a bicycle in public only invites unflattering comparison. It shouts out, “I think I’m fast, like Mark-Cavendish fast.” Or it implies a kind of unselfconscious game of make-believe: “Look at me, I’m pretending to be Chris Froome!” (Admittedly, there’s something naïvely sweet about enacting this kind of cycling, dress-up-in-public fantasy—at least, if you’re twelve.)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, DM

The Dusty Musette is one year old this week. It was on a grey, early October day 12 months ago that Val offered up this found-graffiti image of a mini-rocket as emblem of the low-key launch of this blog. Our goals when we set out on this 3-man mission were modest: to offer an unpretentious buffet of considered, more-or-less literate commentary on our idea of cycling—without taking ourselves (or anything, really) too seriously. We hoped we might find a constellation of readers, start some conversations, provoke a few smiles, and celebrate, in our small way, our twin passions of reading and riding.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Karl Kronicles

"This is a book of American roads, for men who travel on the bicycle."--KK

There’s still plenty of good riding to be done this fall, but as the leaves drop, I'm beginning to think ahead, to plan some over-winter projects, one of which is to finally read—and I mean, full-on, cover-to-cover read, read—Karl Kron’s 1887 eccentric cycling classic Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle (TTM). For those of you who aren’t familiar with this text, here’s the backgrounder.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bicycletiquette (Gloves)

Dear Jasper,

My husband’s cycling gloves are disgusting. They’re dirty and snot-covered. Plus they kind of stink. But here’s the weird part. For some reason I can’t fathom, he refuses to wash them. What’s up with that?

Baffled Spouse

Dear BS,

I’m afraid your husband is absolutely right on this one. Under no circumstances should cycling gloves ever be laundered. Occasionally they may—and really should—be rinsed with rain water, perhaps while riding on a wet day, and then hung up to air dry. But that’s the extent of it. Whatever happens, one should never allow even a drop of laundry soap to sully the glovey fabric, lest the gloves be ruined.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The crash happens—as always—so fast. One second I’m riding along a range road behind my 12-year-old son, the two of us chatting away about the drunken yahoos at the campground the previous night. I take a quick peek over my shoulder for traffic (good, no vehicles in sight). Then boom. I’m lying on the pavement, tangled in my bicycle, a bit stunned. My leg is bloodied, my front brake lever a little bent, and my left hand kills. In fact, I can’t move my fingers. The pain courses through me in distinct waves as I try to make sense of what just happened.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vélivre: Travels with Rosinante

"Hey! Hobo on a bike!” That’s what my 12-year-old son said when he looked at the photo on the cover of Bernard Magnouloux’s classic Travels with Rosinante: 5 Years’ Cycling Round the World. And the boy is bang on. Bernard Magnouloux (BMag) does, indeed, look like a hobo on wheels, what with his grizzled beard, patched up mish mash of a wardrobe, and beat up bicycle loaded with all manner of suitcases, ratty sleeping bag, and what appear to be the pelts of several wild critters. All that’s missing is the pole with a red kerchief wrap.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dog Days

Got chased by a dog again the other day. I was enjoying a blissful summer morning ride, alone, along a gravel road in southern Manitoba, between the Mennonite towns of Winkler and Plum Coulee. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge, menacing white dog burst out of the yard of a farmhouse and was after me. Instinct kicked in—for both me and the pooch. I bolted, pedalling furiously, while unleashing a string of loud and profane threats.  But the Moby Dick of dogs was not deterred; it pursued me, and for a long time. Usually a dog gives up after about 10 seconds of chasing; however, this time the game seemed to go on for ever—at least 30 seconds. A narrow escape. My heart was thumping to beat the band. Thus did I learn that Mennonite dogs are not necessarily pacifists.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dusty Lens Archive (Bicycle Tree)

Harry's bicycle tree is one of the first things visitors to Hornby Island, off the coast of Vancouver Island, encounter when they roll off the ferry. When I stopped to take a picture, Harry came bounding out of the house, and proceeded to tell me the story. About 5 years before he was looking for some place to stash his kids’ outgrown bicycles. Then one day, it occurred to him to hang the bikes on the dead tree in his front yard. Soon enough, Harry’s neighbours brought their old bikes to Harry’s tree too. One neighbour even tried to hang an old lawnmower in the tree, but Harry drew the line. “Make your own lawnmower tree,” he said. “This one’s for bikes.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bicycletiquette #6 (Bells)

Dear Mr. Gates,

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Isabelle. Isabelle who? Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?

Dear K.K.,

The use of a bell on a bicycle is only mandated by law in certain jurisdictions. However, in my view it is required by the unwritten codes of common civility regardless of where one lives. The main purpose of a bell is to signal pedestrians and other road and path users—from motorists to Segwayeurs to fellow cyclists—thereby avoiding collisions, confusion, and coronaries. A simple ringy-dingy takes little effort but can convey so much.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rural Alberta Advantage

I recently returned from a family holiday at a cottage on lovely Moyie Lake in southeastern British Columbia. Of course, I brought a bike with me, my gravel grinder, thinking that I would explore some back roads while the kids were busy tubing, kneeboarding, and generally enjoying the pleasures of obnoxiously loud motor boating. The cycling turned out to be okay, but at the end of the week I was happy to head back home to good old central Alberta where, I have to say, the back road riding is markedly superior. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Requiem for a Road

So there we were, and so we have been many times before. But this time it was different. The road had been turned in to rubble. Serene cycling, pastoral, a gentle 3 kilometers or so: this road was a pleasure to ride. It was part of an oft cycled loop. It was the leg that was the turning point back into the city. It was on this road, I had my first spill of this season, that I left my skin and blood on its flat surface. It was on this road we saw deer and geese in the surrounding fields. Damn, I liked this road.
The bulldozers, the land movers, the survey teams, have moved in to expand the every expanding city: building on prime agricultural land; putting oily gravel over the pavement to accommodate the heavy vehicles. Soon, the sewer, power, gas systems will be in place and the builders will start pouring foundations, framing the behemoth houses for those who will soon demand the social infrastructure of schools, stores and professional offices—a familiar pattern of urban development. 
  No more, it is.

Soon houses will line the road; maybe the pavement will improve, as is the case with suburban expansion.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 6 (Bike Count)

The Semi-Serious Cyclist generally owns between two and four bicycles at any given time.

At the moment, I have four bikes: a fast bike (skinny tires), a touring bike (fatter tires for gravel and trips), a commuting beater (my old high school special that's unlikely to get stolen), and a mountain bike. The last one is the newest in my posse, a second-hander I picked up from Penn in exchange for a bottle of Scotch. I keep the last three stabled in my garage. The fast bike hangs in a corner of my basement in what I call The Bike Nook.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Feature

Val and Tando's tour down the Pacific Coast is going well, but updating a blog can be tricky from a tent.  For those who wish to follow along, a Twitter feed is up and running along the right-hand side of this page.  Hopefully you'll find something you like in the stream--feel free to use this post as a place to respond.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Importance of the New

Having new stuff is always nice, but sometimes it's pretty important.. Even though I've talked about trying to avoid the seductive calls of new gear before, there are times when I'm the one insisting on the necessity of dropping coin at the local bike shop. Clearance sales make up a big chunk of those times, but I get most insistent around the start of a new tour.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tasting Notes: Honey Stinger Waffle

The website for Honey Stinger Waffles recommends, with a wink, that their waffles be hidden away from children. So tasty and addictive are these wafflettes, the website suggests, that kids won’t be able to keep their little hands off them. In my experience, though, it’s not just little gaffers who love the gaufre Stinger, as it’s known in some parts of this land. Young and old chew back this crack-cocaine of sports snacks at an alarming rate. For the Stinger seems to defy the cardinal rule, the Prime Directive of Energy Snackage—which is that if it’s good for you, it can’t be entirely yummy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dusty Lens Archive (Escargot)

It had been a wet night at the campground in the French Pyrenees. In the morning, these big-ass French snails were everywhere. Funny thing, though, that neither Penn nor I noticed this dude on the handlebar of Penn's rental bike--until we had been riding for about 30 minutes! I encouraged Penn to fry it up in garlic and butter but he passed. Still, I say, when in France . . .

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pit Stops: Edmonton Model Airplane Flying Field

Got caught out riding in a thunderstorm the other day. The online forecast had called for little chance of rain, so I foolishly ignored the dark clouds overhead and set out sans jacket. Fortunately for me, though, when the heavens opened I was close to one of my favorite pit stops in the farmland south of Edmonton. I took shelter at the Capital City Flyers’ model airplane flying field. It’s tucked kind of in the middle of nowhere: a small covered viewing area, complete with picnic table and bench and some metal platforms surrounded by carefully tended lawn—a perfect spot to escape the worst of the rain and take five. 
View of the Flying Field from the road. On a sunnier day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Anatomy of the Tour

The Dusty Musette’s compilation of some famous—or infamous—body parts of Tour de France riders over the years. 


Hugo Koblet’s Coif: Great care was taken to ensure the Fonzie-like perfection of Koblet’s 'do. Rumor had it that he carried a comb in the pocket of his racing jersey while taking the 1951 Tour. Thumbs up!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Short Hills Thrills

Southern Ontario’s Niagara Region, a peninsula wedged between Lakes Ontario and Erie and the Niagara River, is famous for its vineyards, orchards, canal, and big ol’ waterfall. But its also got some damn fine road cycling. When I head back there to visit my old stomping grounds, I bring my road bike so I can hit the excellent network of quiet, paved roads that criss-cross the region’s main topographical feature, the lushly forested Niagara Escarpment. I grew up riding my bike around Niagara and thought I knew most of the best back roads in the region. But this past two weeks in Niagara, I’ve found that my bike keeps taking me to a spot I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past: the area around Short Hills Provincial Park.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Road Trip: Indiana

The Midwest, though looked down on by all the serious riders who have relocated themselves to Colorado, Arizona, and California, has a lot to offer the passionate cyclist.  There are no mountains, no year-round riding season, and not really much in the way of bike lanes, it's true.  But there are endless, endless miles of quiet country roads where one is surrounded by pastoral scenery and almost never delayed by an ill-timed stoplight.  Plus, you know, buffalo.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vélivre: Slaying the Badger

It’s early July, which means school’s out for the kiddies, the year’s hot dog quota has long been filled, and almost every other day seems to be a national holiday of one land or another. And, of course, it means Tour de France season. Now, cycling fans have their Tour traditions. Apparently some French fans like to don body thongs and run along the side of the road cheering on the competitors. Others, on this side of the Atlantic, may simply choose to take their breakfast with Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin while watching the day’s stage unfold on tv. Me, I’ve got my own take on Tour traditions: I like to suit up in my body thong, tune in to Phil and Paul, and pick up a book about the Tour.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Road Trip: Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells is a semi-legendary destination for those who dwell in the American Midwest, and a place entirely unknown, I suspect, to the rest of the world.  A summertime mecca for generations of families from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and other regional states, the Dells have always been synonomous in my mind with station wagons and mini-vans. (And cheap Indian headdresses, foam tomahawks, and the Ducks.)  It's a substantially different city than it was when I visited it in my youth; the current incarnation is something like a Las Vegas aimed squarely at 11 year old kids and their beaten-down parents.  As a result, the amount of minivans and, yes, station wagons, jamming up its streets with desperate fathers and sun-stroked kids have increased exponentially.  It seems an odd place to take a cycling vacation.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Team Type 1

With a bit of prompting from Val, I’ve found myself paying some attention to this year’s Tour Divide bicycle race, which is in the course of wrapping up. In particular, I have been tracking the story of one rookie participant from Colorado, Jarral Ryter. You see, Ryter (what is it with these names? First, Ryder Hesjedal, now Jarral Ryter?), like me, is in his mid-40s and has Type 1 diabetes, so I find his story especially intriguing. For the last few weeks, I’ve been periodically checking his progress on the Tour Divide tracking website, marvelling at his progress up the leader board and trying to get my head around how he’s managing his diabetes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Every Day May Update

Folks, May has come and gone.  So has most of June.  But I don't want to let our experiment with getting aboard a bike every day for a month fade into the Summer air without comment.  What I'd like most is to hear from those of you who tried it in the comment section below.  There's no praise or shame here, just the dispassionate reporting of scientific endeavor--so cough up the details.  I will, of course, have to begin the whole thing with my own data. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bicycletiquette #5: Libations

Dear Jasper,

I have some cycling friends who occasionally drop by my place in the summer. Can you recommend an appropriate, refreshing beverage that I can serve them mid-ride on a hot day?


Curious about Beverages

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Notable Run

Three Alberta wheelmen completed a century run of 101 ¼  miles on June 15, making a grand circuit between South Cooking Lake and Lamont, Alberta.

Once the gentlemen had mustered at the Twin Island Airfield, Captain Jasper Gates sounded the starting bugle 7.17 o’clock. During their run, they took a leisurely lunch at the Elk Island Inn and two other rest breaks of 20 minutes each, including one where they enjoyed the fortifying contents (sardines and Oreo cookies!) of a mystery cache prepared by Secretary Val Garou. The trio, accompanied awheel by their club mascot monkey, Bernard, rolled across the finish line at 3.45 o’clock in the afternoon.
Roads were hard and smooth, with the exception of one two mile stretch of soft gravel. Conditions were fair to good all the way, with favorable winds on the homestretch. No other wheelmen were encountered on the road. The only hardship of the ride occurred when Dr. P.C. Reveaux made a small header on a slippery rail crossing and was thrown violently to the ground, bruising his hand and bending his brake lever. The good doctor mounted again and rode on without further incident. It was a splendid run.

The next day, all three wheelmen declared themselves ready for more wheeling, though Reveaux said he couldn’t move his hand and Garou and Gates reported that their asses were sore. Bernard was feeling the ill effects of too many Oreo cookies.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Century

The date has been circled on the calendar for weeks. The route has been carefully, no, meticulously, selected. The chains have been lubed, the tires pumped. The mystery cache is prepared. The legs are as ready as they’re gonna get. The buttocks are primed. Today, we ride a century.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shaving the Cat

(Warning: graphic pictures are included in this post)

I fell off my bike:  wiped out; body slammed the pavement, slid across the bitumen.  Cycling on one of the oft-ridden stretches of road on the periphery of the city, I swerved on to the edge where the gravel and pavement blend: a trompe l'oeil. The road appeared to be flat and solid but covered with fine gravel.   When my front tire touched the grit, I realized (not soon enough) that there was a ridge and the fine gravel was deep, so down I went.   I was not going fast, and I was not seriously injured.   I did receive fine road rashes on my leg and arm, and good blue bruises on my left shoulder and hip.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tour Divide 2012

Photo Credit to's mtngirl
I know that Jasper normally provides our race coverage here at the Musette, but I'd like to call some attention to a little-watched event going on even as we read.  We are, as of Monday morning, on Day 4 of this year's edition of the Tour Divide's Grand Depart.  On the 9th of June, over 100 riders took off from Banff, Alberta on a 2,745 mile (4,418km) dirt-road trek to the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  The race recieved a lot of press last year, and the field is made up of a record number of riders, but I'm guessing that it's not yet on a lot of people's radar.  So here's a little bump of attention for our readers.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No Exit Ride

I’m pretty sure that at one time or another I’ve ridden my bike on all the country roads (paved and gravel) southwest of Edmonton, as far as the town of Devon and a bit beyond. With one collective exception: the No Exit roads, the dead-enders that bump into the North Saskatchewan River, some of them only a few hundred metres long, others a few kilometres. I’ve tended to pass by these No Exit roads without much thought, since, well, they don’t go anywhere. Why would anyone take such roads, unless you actually lived on them?

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Taste of the Fatbike Life

The swollen tires of the fatbike are good for more than just traction in the sand and snow; they're getting some real purchase on the pages of this blog.  Jasper has wondered if they're too much bike for the average rider, but I think their appeal mainly lies in their bulk-packaged simplicity.  It's true, of course, that they not only let you ride places you might not have otherwise ridden but actively dare you to do so.  And yet the dare they offer isn't an adolescent Red Bull-fueled adrenaline festival, but a child-like exhortation to poke your nose into all the places that you're not supposed to be.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Canadians

One bonus of this year’s Giro coverage on U.S. television, for me anyway, is that I think I’ve finally figured how to pronounce “Hesjedal.” Until a few weeks ago, I had just sort of guessed that the three syllable approach was the way to go: Hes-je-dal. (Like the only other Norwegian name I thought I knew how to say: Thor Heyerdal.) Then I noticed the American announcers went with a two syllable pronunciation: Hezh-dal. I assume they must know, that they checked with Ryder himself, so I’ve decided to make the switch.  It’s taking me a while to get used to that shorter “zh” version, but I have to say that I kind of like it. It makes a name that’s pretty weird to start with sound even more exotic, slightly Russian somehow. In fact, I’m thinking of changing my own handle to Jazper Gates—sounds more Euro-chic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Signs of Cycling

 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. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 5 (Fenders)

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

Parts Bin Utility Bike Update

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

Maglia Rosa Canada?

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

Pit Stops: John Janzen Nature Centre CT

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

Year of the Fatbike

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

Vélivre: Ghost Trails

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’s MEC “Tights” (1989-2012)

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.”

Monday, April 30, 2012

Every Day May

I'd like to propose a little experiment to our loyal readers.  I'm going to undertake something I'm calling Every Day May.  Quickly tossing the phrase to Google will make clear that I'm not the first person to think up the idea or enjoy its simple rhymes.  This guy claims to have invented it, though there's some triathlon version out there, too.  And, of course, the arts crowd has their version.  It's entirely possible, however, that the term is so popular precisely because it's such a good idea.  Or catchy.  But I'm going with good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tasting Notes: CLIF Shot Energy Gel—Vanilla

I have long thought of sports gel packs in much the same way I think of fluoride treatments at the dentist—as disgusting but beneficial semi-fluids. In my experience, most gel packs and fluoride treatments taste awful, like some unholy combination of artificial flavor and rancid yak butter. Both are a cruel tease: you’re offered a misleading array of “flavors” to choose from, as if you’re selecting ice cream, pop, or candy. So you get your hopes up, only to have them dashed when your taste buds get involved.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ride of Spring

I happened upon this photo the other day, in a pile of old papers on the corner of my desk. It was taken last July, on an early morning ride with my pal Penn, at a secret location somewhere south of Edmonton. I remember the ride well; it was one of those startlingly bright summer mornings we get here in central Alberta, and we found ourselves on a nice stretch of new pavement. I did a double-take when I saw this photo. The colors—that intense green and gold and the impossible blue—just about took my breath away. I'd forgotten that such colors were even possible.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Donnybrook in the Desert

Phoenix sucks for cycling. At least that’s what Val, a one-time Tucsonan, had told me (many times, in fact), and that’s what I had heard from more than one contributor to on-line forums discussing Arizona’s version of the great cycling debate: Phoenix vs. Tucson—which is better for cycling? Phoenix, so goes the argument, is enormous, sprawling, freeway-laced, concrete-filled, and generally not cycling friendly. Tucson, however, according to loyalists, being a more manageable size, is easy to get across on a bike, close to some great climbs, and home to a thriving bikey culture—in other words, it is a fabulous cycling centre. Now that I’ve visited and cycled in both cities, it’s time to weigh in with my two bits on who gets the nod in this epic battle. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Post by Anon A. Moose

Our first guest post at the Dusty Musette arrives courtesy of Anon A. Moose:  She's shared a little flake of memory, a prose poem of sorts.  Enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The 2012 24 HITOP (Part 2)

This year's 24 was our most successful yet.  Rendered unable to ride, I jumped in to crew the race for my compadres.  This was going to be Tando's fifth time in the ring and Penn's first.  Tando wanted seven laps by the end of the ride, and Penn hoped to put in four.  I was going to stay up around the clock, fill water bottles, and generally provide good spirits and motivation.  My goal was to drink the most coffee.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Phoenix Postcard

Found a perfect desert road this morning. I’ve been riding around northeast Phoenix (Scottsdale and Fountain Hills) in the mornings all week while on a family/cycling/baseball getaway from the crappy Alberta April. Although the roads here have been technically excellent—wide bike lanes, clean shoulders, smooth surfaces—and the scenery chock full of grade-A desert vistas, something had been lacking in the rides so far. I’m still relatively new to desert riding; this is only my second visit to Arizona. Just this morning I realized what it I liked so much the first time around: desert silence.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The 2012 24HIOP (Pt. 1)

After last week's depressing post about my depressing shoulder injury, I think it necessary to talk about the event itself.  Penn gave a taste of the festivities shortly after his return, but I have yet to share my reflections.  Despite the gloomy start, the whole thing was, as always, an enjoyable and regenerative experience.  It was also, I think, the first year in five of trying where all of our plans and experiences came together to produce an unexpectedly happy outcome.  Oh, and we also indoctrinated Penn into the endurance riding lifestyle.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Velivre: A Dog in a Hat

In the spring, a cycling fan’s fancy turns to thoughts of . . . Belgium. That’s right, the land of grey skies, waffles, white beer—and the Spring Classics, the one-day events that mark the start of the European racing season. (Not that I, a mere semi-serious racing fan, actually follow these races, but I have seen enough pictures of the cobbles and mud to get the significance and mystique.)  That makes this the perfect time to read Joe Parkin’s A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer’s Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium (2008). It’s an engaging memoir of Parkin’s experiences in the mostly minor leagues of the Euro pro bike racing scene in the late 1980s. The book also has the feel of an exposé at times too, capturing the gritty, behind-the-scenes details of what really went on in the peloton. Parkin’s prose may be more workmanlike than winning, but the fascinating details of his story and the compelling account of his identity crisis won me over in the end. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fat Bottom Bicycle

Sunday, Val and I went for a spring-time ride.  The weather hovered around 0 degrees, and we bundled to accommodate.  He rode his Surly Pugsley, that beast of a bike, that ready for anything brute, that big tired beauty. I rode my trusty Cannondale T800 with winter studded tires.    Towards the end of the ride, we switched bikes.  Val took a picture.

Monday, March 26, 2012


It's rare that you find yourself sitting around hoping you've fractured a bone. Yet that's the position I found myself in awhile back, sitting in my local ER after parting ways with my bike while traversing a patch of ice. The fall itself was nothing spectacular, nothing noteworthy even. Just a simple sitting down in the middle of the street, accompanied by the sound of some velcro straps tearing open. The problem, though, was that I didn't have much velcro on me and the noise was coming from inside my shoulder.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 4 (Spandex)

The Semi-Serious Cyclist has a complicated relationship with spandex.

When it comes to shorts, the SSC acknowledges that the wonder fabric has its practical advantages: it’s light, form-fitting, aerodynamic, and virtually chafe-proof. And when worn by the svelte athlete, spandex can look terrific, emphasizing the best features of a lean physique. Serious cyclists almost always wear spandex. Nothing complicated about it. Spandex shorts and serious cyclists are BFF’s.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bicycletiquette #4: Smoking

Dear Jasper,

I saw this stoner-cyclist-dude puffing away on a cigarette the other day, something I haven’t seen in years. He looked pretty ridiculous. These days, is it ever appropriate to smoke while cycling?
Wondering about Smoking

Dear WAS,

You are right. A cyclist smoking a cigarette is a most unbecoming sight. The cigarette, as everyone knows, is a vulgar and unmanly tobacco product. Yet it is all too often the choice of the uncouth and ignorant cyclist. This misguided (and, alas, often, young) wheelman fails to understand that there are much healthier, more robust, and civilized smoking options available for cyclists at your friendly tobacconist’s shoppe.

Friday, March 9, 2012


During my stay in Austin, TX, a few weeks ago, I stayed at a VRBO that came with a bike. I figured this had to be a plus. Even though I had no idea what the bike would look like or even how big it would be, I just figured, hey, I will make it work. It will be nice to have some wheels—any wheels—to help me get around the city. I imagined a utilitarian department-store mountain bike, maybe even some version of the dreaded “comfort bike.” It would probably have a squeaky chain, a kickstand, lots of reflectors, and under-inflated tires. No worries. When you borrow a bike, and sometimes even when you rent one, you take what you can get. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vélivre: Pilgrims on Wheels

F.W. Bockett’s Some Literary Landmarks for Pilgrims on Wheels (1901) is one of my all-time fave cycling books. It’s an obscure gem, from a different age, and full of poetry, wisdom, curious tangents, eccentric advice, and a touch of sentiment. Each chapter tells of one of the author’s pilgrimages by bicycle in southern England to the birthplace or gravesite of one or more (mostly) famous authors whom  Bockett admires, such as Jane Austen, Percy Shelley, John Milton, George Eliot, and Charles Lamb. Bockett provides the expected meditations on the authors` lives and literature, but along the way he offers up some insightful and occasionally bizarre commentary about cycling, all presented in the genial, old-timey voice of the “gentle cyclist.” As quaint and dated as this book feels in some ways (“Whatever you do, do not drink water [while cycling]!”), a surprising amount of what it has to say is just as relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago. Plus Bockett makes some extraordinary (and quite convincing) claims about the ways in which cycling improves one’s life.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Musings on a Bike Race

It’s 1:30 a.m. I am tired but dogged determined: I am riding a rented BMC mountain bike in the middle of the Sonaran Desert, just outside of Tucson, Arizona.  With the outline of the Catalina Mountains in the horizon in front of me, I stop and turn off the headlight to look at the unobstructed sky.  I revel in the moment and think,” This is one amazing sensation.”  Among the celestial constellations, the big dipper is vivid and clear; the air is crisp and I can see my breath.   Life is good.  But then, someone shouts from behind, pulling me out from my solitary musing, “on your right, buddy.”    The cyclist blasts by, then another, and another—I am in a competitive race, after all, even if  I am going at my own pace trying to enjoy the experience  and the surrounding. 

 My first mountain bike race: I decided to fly to Tucson Arizona and participate in a 24 hour contest, riding on a single track in the Sonaran Desert.  Located outside of Tucson on an old farm, now turned in to state owned property, the race was a loop.  Val talked about the event and convinced me the experience would be remarkable—and it was 16 miles of sinuous desert pleasure.   I thoroughly enjoyed my experience.  The objective of the race was to ride as many loops as possible.  If top riders did the same amount of laps, then time was factored into the outcome.  The winning rider in my category did 18 laps.  I didn’t enter to compete.  I didn’t ride many loops, but I didn’t come in last place.

The first event of the race was the requisite captains’ meeting, a preamble citing the rules and  giving a friendly message  to the contestants—to be kind—to look out for each other out on the track: sensible advice for riding in the desert with hazards such as cacti thorns and sharp rocks inches away from the trails.  In the corner of my eye, I see a toddler lying in the dirt.   A woman in a vibrant blue, puffy down filled coat, holding in one hand a cork wrapped, paper coffee cup, and in the other hand a dog leash, turns to chastise her crying toddler and says, “That’s what you get for trying to ride the dog.”  A comment that aptly describes my participation in the race.  Like the indomitable dusty toddler trying to ride the dog, I was on the ground three times:  I was run off the trail twice by aggressive riders trying to pass and fell off once all on my own. 

The night was my favorite time to ride, but the day loops had highpoints too.  Fueled with jelly beans, pretzels, and coffee, coffee, coffee, I made several daylight rides—each time accommodating the changing weather conditions.   Mid afternoon in February the weather is pleasingly warm; sunless and dark, the temperature is cool.  Riding during the day was amusing for the oddities encountered in the loop.  At one point a banjo player was sitting on a rock, playing a tune; at another turn someone put a gnome at a table; rumor had it that women were also dancing near naked around a whiskey tree.  The singular feature of riding during the day, however, was the numerous dead rodents on the trail.   Packrats, perhaps, but nonetheless, they were plentiful.   And, they would be mysteriously gone the next round.  The desert is not static.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Call of Ventoux, Part Two

No one ever talks about the middle section of the climb up Ventoux. Accounts of the ascent tend to focus on that final seven kilometres: summit, summit, wind, summit, moonscape, summit, wind, summit, Simpson, summit, eerie, summit. Summit. For obvious reasons—the top of Ventoux is unique, memorable, ominous. But, as anyone who’s ridden up that mountain knows, the hard part of the climb, on most days, is not the summit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Happy ERP Day, everyone. Today is the birthday of Elizabeth Robins Pennell (or ERP, as I like to call her), one of the pioneers of cycling writing and a particular hero, or, I guess I should say, heroine, of mine.  She was born in 1855 in Philadelphia but lived a good portion of her prime years (1884-1917) in London with her husband, Joseph Pennell, a well-known illustrator and sometimes-writer. Together, they were a prolific creative duo, producing dozens of books and hundreds of magazine articles on their favorite subjects: art (especially him), food (her), travel (both), and, especially in the 1880s and 90s, cycling (both). They produced five illustrated cycle-travel books (some of which I’ll discuss in detail another day) and dozens of illustrated magazine articles about their adventures on a tandem tricycle and, later, bicycles in England and across Europe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stellar Cartography

They call me the Cartographer. By “they” I mean my regular riding partners, the other two Museteers, Val and Penn. It’s a half-joking reference to my default role as designated route-finder. In all honesty, it’s a role that I relish: creating well-designed ride routes that meet all the criteria of a satisfying semi-serious spin. That would include low traffic roads or ones with generous shoulders, few stoplights, scenic views, and, of course, a coffee stop located somewhere close to the midpoint. My tools are web resources like mapmyride and Gmap, the trusty Alberta Road Atlas, word of mouth, and, of course, old fashioned trial and error.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tucson Bike Race, Yee Haw!

Val and Penn are off Tucson this  week to ride in a bike race.  Next week, you will hear all about it.  Until then, here is a video about the race.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Austin Is, Indeed, Weird

They say Austin is weird, and I’ve certainly seen evidence of that in the area of East Austin where I’m staying. Even if that weirdness is now somewhat self-conscious or contrived at times (how can’t it be when that phrase makes it on bumper stickers and t-shirts?), I’ve seen plenty of authentic, genuine-seeming weirdness too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Texas Roadkill

An auspicious day here in Austin, Texas, where I’m visiting mainly for work, but also with an eye to escaping Alberta’s winter and getting some riding in.  True, I did get out for my first honest bike ride of the year, first real one in months. That’s cause for celebration itself, sure, but that’s not what made today’s ride special. No, what made this run one for the ages was the post-apocalyptic carnage strewn along the roadside.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inspiration #4

This one is a little more commercial than I normally feel comfortable bringing into a space like the Musette.  But I cannot deny that about halfway through the video below, I was seized by a powerful urge to jump from my desk chair and go for a ride--so I'm saying that it makes the cut as inspirational material. 

It's also a great argument stopper.  If you find yourself having an endless debate with yourself (or someone else) about whether or not you need to buy that new doo-dad, this should convince you to save your money.  You are not going to go faster with those new rims.  You are not going to clean that trail you've never mastered with another 20mm of suspension travel.  Do not get conned into the belief that the right piece of gear will do the riding for you. 

Put your money back in your wallet.  Go practice riding your bike.  Practice a lot.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Call of Ventoux, Part One

“Watch out for the crazy Belgians.” That was the advice of Bernard, our genial Swiss host at the lovely gite my family had rented for a week in the Vaucluse, a northern department of Provence.  After being there for a week in early July, I had announced my intention of cycling up Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence, one of the most famous mountain climbs in Tour de France history. The Belgians had also come to cycle up Ventoux, Bernard explained, but they were doing it three times in one day, as part of an annual Cinglés (that is, “Madmen”) du Mont-Ventoux pilgrimage.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Walker Overtakes Cyclist

Penn is off pondering deep thoughts on bicycles and anachronisms.   

Inspiration #3

Where did you ride your bike today?

This is available in HD.  It is good for your soul to watch it full-screen and in a quiet mood. 

Nepali Trails with Sandman Titanium. First Details from Martín Campoy on Vimeo.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fixing the Fixed

Sometimes you have to show a bike a little bit of love, and winter is generally the best time to show your affection to your steeds.  With good weather a distant memory, there's no temptation to just let the work slide another day and go for a ride.  Locked away together in the garage or basement, one has both the time and the inclination to do a little work repairing or upgrading the damage of a season awheel.  This weekend seemed like a good time to give a little attention to my fixed gear, perhaps my least-rewarded bike.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Recyclists Extraordinaire

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I want to give a hearty shout out to my friends Cindy and Brock Garvin who run RecycledAccessories, a web-based recycled bicycle accessory business in BC’s Okanagan. The Garvins have been making and selling high-end recycled bike trinkets since 2007—chains, spokes, and other high-end components transformed into stylish bracelets, necklaces, belt buckles, tie pins, and cufflinks. 
Hidden Link Bracelet

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bicycle Be-spectacle

A cold morning last week, I decided to ride my rarely-used winterized bicycle to Val’s Monday spin session in his garage—a distance of about 3 kilometers.  I took the necessary precaution of extra layers of clothing: a base layer, including a balaclava; a secondary level of wool, including a hoody; and a tertiary level of heavy winter coat, boots and mitts.    I was physically tired and hot before I left.  The bike worked well, and I was warm in the minus 40.  However, I did not think through the problem of wearing my glasses. Without my glasses, I can see no definition, no distance—hell, not much of anything. Of course, after a few blocks of riding, pushing out the warm air from my lungs, my glasses were covered in frost.   But I made the commitment to ride in the frigid conditions, so I forged on with limited vision and a love of riding my bike nonetheless.  Thankfully, I encountered no traffic, and the sidewalks were obvious to a man frost-blind.  I made it to Val’s garage, and I made it home.