Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Cycles

Santa Claus, at least in his modern-commercialized form, is almost exactly as old as the bicycle. Some would argue that our image of Santa as jolly-fat-man-in-a-red-suit was invented by American illustrator Thomas Nast, who, in 1863, created illustrations for Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit by St. Nicholas” (aka “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”). These illustrations in Harpers magazine helped establish the image of a rotund, bearded, mischievous St. Nick.

Meanwhile, the earliest version of the pedal-driven bicycle, the velocipede or “Boneshaker,” was invented just a few years later in France and/or Britain, depending on which origin story you believe. By the end of the 1860s, velocipede fever had gripped Paris, New York, and London.

In a sense, Santa Claus and the bicycle grew up together in the late nineteenth century. Both captured the imagination of the late Victorian Age. And although the jolly fat man is generally associated with another form of travel altogether, he was, in those final decades of the nineteenth century, depicted aplenty on cycles of various kinds. It may seem an odd combination but it’s not, really. Santa Claus doesn’t look so different from the kinds of men so often depicted astride cycles in the 1880s and 90s, with their beards, pipes, bugles, and quasi-military costumes.

So, as a small yuletide gift to our readers this festive season, here’s a selection of some of our favorite old-school Santa rides. Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

Friday, December 12, 2014


I’m a regular reader of Tom Babin’s cycling blog, Pedal. Babin’s day job is Features Editor at The Calgary Herald, but Pedal gives him a chance to write about his passion for cycling, especially bike commuting, bicycle infrastructure and culture in Cowtown (er, I mean, The Heart of the New West), and winter cycling. Babin’s posts on Pedal are always engaging and accessible, a provocative blend of the personal and the topical. 

Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling is a longer-form exploration of several ideas Babin initially explored in short bursts on Pedal. It’s the only book I know of about winter cycling specifically, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is bike-curious about winter. It’s a breezy read, and a mostly compelling combination of personal narrative, light research on the history and geography of winter cycling, and an argument for embracing both winter cycling and just winter, in general.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tasting Notes: Gu Salted Caramel Gel

For a flavor that I don’t even recall being an actual flavor until about 15 years ago, salted caramel has come a long way in recent times. It’s popping up everywhere—Haagen-Dazs, Starbucks, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Wal-Mart chocolate toffees, that gelato bar I went to in Ottawa last summer—and consumers can’t seem to get enough.

The combination of sweet and salty is an ancient one, but as this 2008 New York Times piece explains, its recent fame can be traced back to France, where salted caramel, like Jerry Lewis, was popular in the 1970s. Foodies in New York and San Francisco gradually caught on, and by the 1990s, salted caramel started showing up in everything from macarons to milkshakes. Next thing you know, Obama proclaimed a thing for salted caramel dark chocolates, and the once obscure combo was bound for the mainstream. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


My last day in Portland, a few weeks back, I woke up early and went for a walk in the pre-dawn dark. After grabbing an Americano at Crema, I began meandering back to my guest-house, when the skies opened, and I found myself under a full-on down-pour.

It had been drizzling pretty much the whole time I was in Portland, but I quickly learned that true Portlandians just ignore drizzle. (In fact, I stopped using my umbrella the first day when I sheepishly realized no one else used one. I was made to feel like a wuss holding that thing over my head.) But that was a mere mist; this was real rain.  Looking for shelter, I ducked into the nearest place with lights on, which happened to be Universal Cycle. It was 6:45 am. And the place was open for business.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Toes

My feet are humming. They’ve been like this all day. Tingling, buzzing, a low-level vibrating. Call it a circulatory hangover from this morning’s bender of a frigid bike commute. For me, this thrumming sensation in my toes is a surefire sign that winter cycling season is upon us.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Is this the Last Nice Day of the season? Could be. It’s 10 degrees C in Edmonton, downright balmy for a time of year when the highs and lows are dominated by single digits and minus signs. You barely need a jacket out there. On a gift of a day like this, I think to myself: I absolutely have to get out on my bike.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in Portland

“Halloween is tough in Portland.” This according to Terry, who runs the Everett Street Guesthouse where I stayed in the funky neighbourhood of Laurelhurst. What she meant is that Portlandians are generally so tattooed, pierced, bearded, and eccentricly clothed, that, as Wolfman Althusser might say, it is always already Halloween in Portland. When October 31 rolls around, how do you step it up?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City of Fenders

I’ve never seen so many fenders. Or, for that matter, so many Subarus, or Priuses, or beards, nudie bars, doggy daycares, or really fine craft beers I’ve never heard of. But it’s the fenders that warm my heart. Rain is reality in Portland, so if you’re going to ride a bike here—and an impressive number of Portlandians do—then it only makes sense to fender up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Portland Postcard

This is Saltzman Road, just west of Portland, Oregon, easily my favorite part of today’s ride up along Skyline Road and then around lovely Sauvie Island.

Saltzman Road isn’t really a road so much as a path up a mountain. Cars, technically, can drive part way up a narrow, switchbacky, crudely-paved laneway, but a gate forces the car people to park and walk. Bikes, however, can keep going up. And up. The climb is about 3000 feet, and the road gets narrower and narrower, while the forest gets thicker and thicker, ferns and moss closing in on all sides. Near the tippy top, fog filled in the few remaining open spaces.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review of O2 Cycling Rain Jacket

My O2 cycling jacket is mortally wounded. As you can see, it’s got a huge gash down the back, a bloodless death wound that severely compromises its status as “raingear.” I will attempt to patch it up with duct tape, but I fear the jacket’s days are numbered. Which is too bad because it served me well.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pit Stops: Pee-Horse Corner

Somewhere out Villeneuve way, there’s a little pull-out beside a fenced field populated by a couple of horses. In our little cycling community, this pit stop has come to be known as Pee-Horse Corner. We almost always stop at the pullout to say hello to the noble beasts and take a quick break. And to pee.

The correlation between this corner, horses, and peeing is not something we ever planned. It just kind of happened. The corner is a convenient halfway point on our usual northern loop, so it makes sense to stop thereabouts.  But over time, somehow, I’ve become conditioned to associating horses at the corner with the act of urination—my own.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Green and Gold Ride, Cooking Lake

It’s full autumn in Edmonton and for a few short weeks we've been enjoying a narrow riot of color in the trees and shrubberies of the capital area. No gaudy oranges or hectic reds for us.  In the aspen parkland  we get a limited but still rich palette of greens and golds.

The peak of autumn color here was some time last weekend. By Tuesday, the brightness had already begun to leach out with every passing second and many of the leaves had decided to make a break for it. With every commute past Alexandra Circle I see less green, less gold, more sky through the trees. Soon enough all will be brown. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Whistler Gran Fondo Report

This isn’t easy for me to admit but the Whistler Gran Fondo (WGF) may just be worth it after all.

A few months back, when I signed up for this event, I wrote here about how I had to hold my nose when clicking “Purchase” on the Gran Fondo registration website. The fee was a whopping  $270 for a one-day ride and that didn’t even include transportation back to Vancouver from Whistler. (That shuttle ride set me back another $85.) I was skeptical yet willing to give it a shot, mainly because of the rare chance to ride my bike along the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pavé Postscript

Alas, I wasn’t able to attend any of the final stages of the Tour of Alberta because I was in Vancouver riding the Whistler Gran Fondo (more on this another day) the exact weekend that the race passed through Edmonton. I did, however, watch some of it on television and read some of the press coverage of the race, and I’d like to follow up on my earlier post about the inclusion of dirt road and “Canadian Pavé” sections in Stage 4 in Strathcona County.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Canadian Pavé

Real European pavé

With the Tour of Alberta wending its way north in the coming days, I’m looking forward to stage 4 Saturday in Strathcona County. As I mentioned a few weeks back, this area just east of Edmonton features one of the most extensive and scenic networks of rural paved roads in Alberta, so it’s an obvious choice for a stage locale.

However, the Tour organizers have introduced a twist on this stage that, at least in theory, I really like: as the Tour website explains, parts of the stage (three sections for a total of 5 km) will take place on roads consisting of “dirt” and “Canadian Pave.” (Why it’s not “Albertan Pave,” I’m not sure.) This latter, of course, is a nod to the European tradition of racing on cobblestones or “pavé," as in the famous Paris-Roubaix race/mudbath. (Not sure what happened to the accent.)  

Friday, August 29, 2014

In Memoriam: The Long South Loop

The beloved Edmonton cycling route known as the Long South Loop (LSL), a 58 km-circuit which extended south of the city via 111 Street and 184 Street, connected along 41 Avenue SW, is kaput.

The official cause of death was a combination of urban sprawl, rampant development, greed, stupidity, and a general lack of resolve on the part of Edmonton’s civic politicians. The major roads of the southern half of the loop have been wrecked by massive construction projects and are no longer worth riding. The once-pristine farmland has been usurped by soulless developments with sinister, bucolic-sounding names like Chapelle, Keswick, and Kavanagh.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tour of Alberta 2014 Preview

The second edition of the Tour of Alberta bike race runs September 2-7 and the race route includes some notable changes from last year, some of them intriguing and others perplexing. Here are one humble fan’s observations about this year’s route (which can be found on the Tour website):

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Victoria Trail Ride

View of the North Sask River from the Victoria Trail
72 km. 20 plaques. 7 dogs. 2 cars.

That’s the stat line from our ride along the Victoria Trail last Monday. But the real story of our glorious Victoria Trail excursion can’t be captured by the numbers alone.

For a few years now, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of riding the Victoria Trail. I don’t mean the drab arterial road in northeast Edmonton; rather, I’m talking about the remnants of a nineteenth-century settler trail that runs along the North Saskatchewan River south of Smoky Lake, Alberta (about 130 km north east of the capital). In the 1860s, the Victoria Trail made up part of the much longer Carlton Trail, used by Hudson’s Bay and Metis traders, which joined Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to Fort Edmonton.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pit Stops: Meewasin United Church

The outhouse at Meewasin United Church is a little miracle.

I discovered it one day while out riding along Highway 627 west of Edmonton near Keephills. The church steeple drew me in for a look-see. Nothing out of the ordinary, at first glance—the usual graveyard, spruce trees, small bell tower. Then I saw it: the shimmering white aura of the most beautiful outhouse in the world.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tour de Pants

This is what I love about the Tour de France.

In what other major sporting event do you find the competitors rubbing up against semi-drunk, almost-naked, enthusiastic, male spectators? Imagine Lebron James heading in for a layup and having to weave around a dude like this guy Vincenzo Nibali had to deal with in the Pyrenees the other day. Or Rafael Nadal retrieving a smash down the line and having to dodge a fat bastard in a speedo. Bicycle racing in Europe, and the Tour especially, is unique in the sports world in this regard. No fences, no barriers protecting athletes from the crazy fans. It’s all freestyle, fans and athletes figuring out how to co-exist on the roads. It's wild. And I hope it never changes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Vélivre: Dancing on the Pedals

Phil Liggett. Poet?

He’s dancing on his pedals
              in a most

                --Phil Liggett`s description of Dag Otto Lauritzen climbing during the 1989 Tour de France

For me, and, I imagine, a lot of cycling fans, one of the pleasures of watching the Tour de France on tv is hanging out with Phil Liggett, the “Voice of Cycling,” and his sidekick, Paul Sherwen. Let’s face it—bike races can make for pretty boring tv—hour after hour of turning of pedals with occasional bursts of drama. But Phil and Paul have a way of making those hours delightful, entertaining, even funny (though not always intentionally).  A big part of their charm comes from Phil Liggett’s quirky, eccentric, insightful, sometimes-bizarre, sometimes-poetic play-by-play. (Just the other day, for instance, he referred to the attacking Thomas Voeckler as “an absolute imp.”)  So famous are Phil’s utterances during bike races that there are several websites devoted to collecting and relishing the best of them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dusty Lens: Spin Grass

This ancient York exercise bike sits in a field along
Sunnydale Road, north of Edmonton.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Iron Horse Recon

After scheming for months about cycling the Iron Horse Trail, I finally made it out there on the weekend for a little lookie-loo at part of the southeast leg of the trail. In fact, we made it a family overnight: me, my wife, and our two boys, ages 13 and 11. The plan was to pack up the bikes and Bob trailer, drive to St. Paul (two-hour drive northeast of Edmonton), park our car at the staging area there, cycle 32 km to Elk Point, where we’d camp and then ride back the next day. Things didn’t quite go as planned, but the trip was a fine adventure nevertheless. We ended up getting a pretty good sense of the Iron Horse, and gathered some valuable intel for future, longer forays along the trail.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dusty Lens: July 1

From a ride out to Canada Day celebrations at Elk Island National Park

Friday, June 27, 2014

Two-Church Loop

Holy Trinity, east of Devon, Alberta
When you live in Edmonton, dropping off a friend or loved one at the airport can be a hassle. The Edmonton International is a long piece south of the city—a 1.5 hour round trip, and that’s if the traffic is good. But I’ve found a way to make that trip much more enjoyable. Bring a bike—any wide-tired bike will do—and take the long way home: tack on a gravel loop ride around the farmland west of the airport.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cycling Amish

When I hear about the latest hi-tech cycling gizmo, like this Vanhawks smartbike, which features internal sensors, blind-spot monitors, and security devices (it’s a bike that is also a gizmo), it awakens my inner cycling Amish. I begin to feel my moustacheless beard sprout. I find myself instinctively resisting, even scoffing at, such so-called advances in technology.

Some Luddite part of me refuses to accept that a smartbike is a good idea. Yes, we have the technology to make it, but that doesn’t mean we need it or that it will improve my cycling experience. In fact, the more I think about the Vanhawks, the more I get an urge to pop a bonnet on my wife’s head, and move my family to rural Pennsylvania, where I can live out my days making furniture and pedalling my trusty ordinary to barn raisings and shaming ceremonies.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ciclovía Edmontonia?

Ottawa’s got one. So does Vancouver. Portland. Baltimore. Washington. Even Winnipeg. I’m talking about a Ciclovía—that is, a dedicated day of the week or day of the month or summer or even year when select streets of an urban area are closed to automobile traffic and wide open to cyclists, pedestrians, roller-bladers, runners—all manner of folks not in motorized vehicles. This phenomenon is also known as “Open Streets.”

The Ciclovía originated in Bogota, Columbia, in the 1980s and the practice there has grown to the point where over two million citizens, in various Columbian cities, take to the car-less streets each Sunday between 7 am and 2 pm. And Ciclovía-type events have spread, springing up in cities around the world. Last May, for instance, when I was in Washington, DC, I spent part of a lovely Sunday riding down the middle of the Rock Creek Parkway, which is a busy car-commuter corridor during the week and a beautiful, tree-lined bicycle-only road on Sundays.

In Canada, the longest running Ciclovía-type event is probably the Sunday Bikedays Program in Ottawa, where, for decades, each Sunday in the summer over 50 km of roads from the heart of the city to Gatineau Park are closed to car traffic. Some cities, such as Winnipeg, make this a once-a-year deal. Sometimes, a one-off event grows into a more regular one, like Portland’s Sunday Parkways.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vélivre: Fallen Angel

The highest mountain climb of the Giro d’Italia (this year,  it was the Stelvio in stage 27, this past Tuesday) is known as the Cima Coppi (the Coppi Summit) , in honor of the greatest Italian cyclist—and some would say greatest cyclist period—Fausto Coppi, legendary climber and winner of five Giros. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Coppi dominated the cycling world, winning Giros, Tours, a World Championship, numerous classics, and countless track and pursuit races.

Coppi’s status is legendary, and not just because of his prowess on a bicycle. A romantic scandal in the early 1950s and then his shocking death from malaria (contracted while cycling in Africa) in 1960 elevated Coppi’s life story beyond the realm of sport into that of myth. Today his name is revered in Italy and throughout the cycling world.

So when I was looking for a book about Italian cycling to read while following this year’s Giro, Coppi seemed like a good place to start. British journalist William Fotheringham’s Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi (Yellow Jersey, 2009), the first biography of Fausto Coppi by an English writer (there are numerous Italian ones) has made for fascinating reading these past few weeks. It’s a fine account not just of Coppi’s remarkable and tragic story but also of the role of cycling in a tumultuous period of Italian history.

Friday, May 23, 2014

S24O: Echo Lake

The Freedom Express on the Athabasca Trail
There’s a curious moment at the beginning of a bike overnight, when your bike is loaded up like you’re going cross country, and you feel a little ridiculous cycling down your block, past your kid’s school and neighbours walking their dogs. It’s sort of like lugging a couple of packed suitcases down the sidewalk through your neighbourhood. The neighbours’ puzzled expressions say Don’t you know that trips generally start with driving to the jumping off point?

But this feeling doesn’t last long. The folks in your ‘hood have no idea what you’re actually up to—that you’re embarking on a micro-adventure, riding your bike to some distant campground beyond the city, into a little bit of wild, only to ride back tomorrow in time for a late lunch at home. It feels a bit like you’re on a secret cycling mission, a sub-24-hour foray out of civilization and back while everyone else carries on with their daily routines.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pit Stops: Johnny's Store

Whenever I roll up to Johnny’s Store in Namao, AB, one of my favorite pit stops on north Edmonton loops, I feel like I should tie—not lock—my bike to one of the old posts out front, the way a cowboy might tie his horse to a shop-front rail in an old western. Johnny’s store is that kind of place. 

Walk in the front door, and whoosh, you’re in a different era. Smell the old wooden floor, notice the old-timey advertisements for motor oil and tires, the ancient wooden crates. I’m always reminded of childhood visits to Hargroves’ General Store, across the street from my grandmother’s house. My sister and I would buy Black Cat gum and poke around the toy section, the floorboards creaking underfoot, savoring the smell of sawdust and licorice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Viva Viscacha

For a while now, I’ve been a man in search of a bag—a commodious seat bag, to be precise. I want something I can attach to my carbon fiber road bike or my fat bike (I want something that is easy to switch back and forth), and which can hold all my rain gear and a couple of other key items essential for long rides. I’m not just looking to stash some squishy little rainshell and a gel pack or two. I want to be able to bring pants, booties, gloves, sweater, etc. My dream bag’s got to have some serious capacity, the potential for some major volume.

So for the past few days I’ve been test-driving a Revelate Viscacha, which I borrowed from Val. (He is a man of many bags. Why? Let’s just say he’s a fellow who takes his on-bike storage seriously.) And I have to say, I like it. It’s a definite contender.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bike-Rack Profiling

The bike racks at my workplace (an urban university) are full of mysteries for me. Every day I see mostly the same bikes parked there (just a few in winter, lots in spring and fall; summer time is somewhere in between), but I hardly ever see the people that belong to the bikes. Such are the schedules at a university that people arrive and depart at various times throughout the day. As a result, the bikes seem to exist only there—inert, in the racks, detached from any human agency.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Excellent Friday

I always associate Good Friday with the beginning of the road cycling season. It’s a holiday and spring time—who wouldn’t try to get out for a ride on Edmonton’s post-glacial roads? But last night I was bummed. The forecast called for 5 cm of snow overnight with a chance of freezing rain. Road-riding was definitely out. That’s when I remembered: Hey, I own a fat bike! Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, April 11, 2014


I really need to get studlier. I’ve been thinking this for a while. Time, gravity, friction—they all take their toll. My wife hasn’t said anything, but I know she’s been thinking it too. I don’t mean “studly” in the chest-hair-muscle-mass-Sex-Panther-Viagra-Speedo-package way. I’m talking about the tires on my winter bike.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Whistler Gran Funds, Oh!

I have a philosophical problem with paying for two things: drinking water and bike rides. Doling out money for either just feels wrong somehow; I sometimes think it should be illegal to even charge for them. Drinking water and cycling are basic human rights, as far as I’m concerned, like access to the air we breathe or the right to go to the bathroom (which, come to think of it, I have had to pay for in some airports of the world. So make that three things I don’t believe should ever be monetized.)  I’m not a cheap person—really. I have no problem spending freely on lots of things. Ask my wife.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vélivre: A Canterbury Pilgrimage

The history of cycle-travel literature—I mean Literature with a capital L, as opposed to arid itineraries of cycle trips—begins with the Pennells—the husband and wife duo of Elizabeth Robins Pennell (writer) and Joseph Pennell (illustrator and writer), from Philadelphia. In 1884, they settled in London, where they would stay for 30 years, producing countless books and magazine pieces about art and travel and food. But in their early years abroad, their shared passion was cycling, and they wrote extensively—both together and individually—about their cycle-travels in England and Europe, producing five books and dozens of magazine articles about cycling between 1884 and 1905.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Moon Rules

Full moon this weekend—Sunday, to be precise. That means a moon ride is in order.

We here at the DM made a New Year’s resolution to go on a night-ride every full moon of 2014. Moon runs are something we’ve done on occasion in recent years (like this time and this). Don some lights, find some quiet roads or trails, and go for a spin under the primal lunar light: it can be magical. But now that we’re making a more systematic effort to do this regularly, it would seem that some establishment of moon-ride rules is in order. So here goes:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dust Cloud

There’s a dust cloud brewing to the south. Over Nebraska, above Iowa. Kansas, Idaho, Montana, Oregon. Wheels are turning and dust is flying. Gravel-road cycling is exploding in popularity in the mid-western and western USA as more and more wheelmen and women discover the freedom and joys of going gravel.

Used to be, only a few years ago, gravel riding “events” were rarities, oddball gatherings. Think Dirty Kanza, the TransIowa,  the Cino Heroica, and a handful of other hardcore races which you had to dig deep into the web to find out about. (Gravel riders have long depended on for the latest race info.) But now gravel races and rides—not to mention blogs and forums and stories about gravel riding—seem to be popping up all over the web and the west.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fat Acceptance Movement

It was a mistake. I knew it almost immediately.

Heading home from a fatbike ride on the North Saskatchewan River, I decided to take a shortcut through the Laurier off-leash dog park, something I would not normally do. But I was tired, and  it was the most direct route home. I knew that bikes were prohibited in the dog park, but I figured I could zip through it quickly; maybe no one would notice me.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bicycletiquette: Cycling Caps

Dear Jasper,
What are your thoughts on wearing a cycling cap when not actually cycling? Is it kosher or uncouthe?
Cap Curious

Dear CC,

Ah, the cycling cap—my good friend! That simple, elegant design is exquisite—a flimsy cotton headcover with a bit of elastic at the back and a budding semi-brim at the front. (I can tell you, CC, it’s an improvement over the loose cabbage leaf, nicked from my mother’s garden, that I used to wear on my head when I was in short pants on my first push-bike.) Then, as now, what the French call a casquette is a classy look almost anytime, anywhere, on or off the cycle.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Double Duty

I’m a happy man. I got a cheque in the mail the other day—actually two cheques—from the Government of
Canada, Border Services Agency, in response to my request for a partial refund on the duty I paid for my On-One Fatty delivery in late December.

As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, the bike arrived at my house in two boxes (as fat bikes are wont to do), on two different days, and the Canada Post delivery guy required payment of $122.15 (all amounts in CAN $)  and then another $104.15 (for a box containing one wheel!) before he’d hand over the goods. The charges struck me as exorbitant at the time, but, truth be told, he could have asked me for a thousand dollars and I would have happily forked it over (on my credit card, of course) to get my hands on that shiny new bike.

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.