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.