Springtime in Alberta

24 03 2010

And I need to clean my bike, again.

I just keep reminding myself that more snow now means less drought later.

A Little Bit of Green

18 03 2010

It's the one day of year green corduroy is THE thing to wear.

I have an emerald corduroy jacket that’s is just a little bit too light to wear on it’s own on that mid March green wearing kind of pseudo holiday, except it was so unseasonably warm today I wore it. It would have worked out well if I didn’t have to work late and ride home after dark,  brrrr. Plus, one of Marjory’s cable stays took a bite out of my tights, so it’s been a fashion fail day all around. Even though every pair of pants I own have a hole in the inner right cuff, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a clothing/bike malfunction.

Marjory's also sporting a touch of green.

This little magnetic character has been tagging along on adventures since a friend stuck him to my bike (ah, steel frames) last year. I call him “Ding Thunk” after an incident last summer when I rode through some really thick bush (yes, on the cruiser) and thought I lost him and broke my bell. For two weeks he clung onto the bottom of the ding dong bell, completely out of sight, making the bell go “ding thunk” every time I rang it. I keep him on the center of the bell now, where he has a better view and doesn’t affect the quality of the ringing.

Breaking Out the Summer Bike

11 03 2010

Three years ago, a couple of friends rescued a rusty old Raleigh from a dumpster,  got her working, dubbed her Marjory Stewart Baxter and gave her a second life. Sadly, they moved away not long after, but left Marjory to me to take care of. I’m so thankful they did, because she’s become my favorite bicycle ever.

Marjory Stewart Baxter and me. From this angle the tires look flat. It's the angle, I swear. Bicycle fashion shots with flat tired bikes are a pet peeve of mine.

That summer, I took a 4 week bicycle mechanics course at EBC where I learned by overhauling every part of that bike, cleaning and regreasing each nook and cranny, replacing all the ball bearings and cables, adjusting and tightening every nut and bolt. I found six different types of (dead) insects in her bottom bracket, including wasps and moths. I spent hours sanding off rust and trying to get those rusty steel wheels true, and I had a pretty good ride to show for it, until I had to replace the tires and found out that her wheels were an oddball 26×1-3/8 (597 instead of 590 for the bike nerds) size that was only manufactured for a few brief years in Canada. This meant any new tires I put on her would not be perfectly round and feel like I was hitting a bump on every revolution of the wheel, not fun.

Eventually, I ordered in some modern cheap alloy 26×1-3/8 wheels. I had to switch out the cones and lock-nuts on the axles to match the dropout widths but is was so worth the hassle. She weighs half as much as before, brakes 10 times better, fits standard tires and with a little love will glide smooth as sorbet for thousands more miles.

So this week, I’m riding Marjory for the first time since fall. How I’ve missed sitting upright on a perfectly balanced bike with a soft cushy seat, the only resistance the wind in my hair as I zip past cyclists with gear more costly than cars. Her only weak point is that her matching pinstriped fenders that gracefully save me from the puddles fit so close they leave no room for winter studs and can completely clog up with snow or mud. I’ve rode her everywhere else possible though, from mountain bike trails (as long as they’re dry) to overnight trips into the countryside, in style.

A Fail Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

7 03 2010

This actually isn't the first time I've encountered cops driving or parking in a bike path, though this is first time it's been one emblazoned with "Think & Drive!" and "saferoads.com" blocking the lane.

So the cop noticed me snapping this flick. He backed up the old “think & drive” mobile & got out to talk to me. What transpired went something like this:

Cop: Why are you taking my picture?

Me: Don’t you think it’s ironic that a car that says “think & drive” is parked so it’s blocking the bike path?

Cop: (awkward silence)

Cop: Don’t you know what we’re doing here?

Me: (Trying to hold back the flood of smart-ass responses that question left an opening for) Um, no. What are you doing here?

Cop: We’re cracking down on seatbelt and restraint infractions (and something about it being crackdown on seatbelt infraction month, trying to make it sound all important like).

Me: Okay. Look, I know it’s early in the season…

Cop: (interrupts) it’s the beginning of a month long campaign.

Me: I meant the bicycling season, and there’s not as many of us cyclists out here as there are in the summer, but…

Cop: (interrupts again) Do you want me to move onto the street? There’s room there for me.

Me: (smiles & nods)

Cop: Get out of my way so I can move this car then.

Me: Thank you. Have a good evening.

And then I continued on my journey down the busiest bike path in E-town in my little bikey world as the cop took a break from protecting us from ourselves to back up the bike path and reposition himself next to the gridlock. The dude was the one of the least jerky cops I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.

Things I’ll Miss about Winter Cycling

4 03 2010

Even though this winter in Edmonton started late and seems to be letting up early (though mark my words, winter isn’t done with us yet), everybody I talk to has had enough of the old man. And while I’m also fed up with wearing 6 layers of clothes every time I walk out the door, I’d rather skip the messy streets that freeze anew every night, the melting snow that reveals an entire season worth of garbage and dog shit and the mass exodus of domesticated humans loitering confusedly as they become re-accustomed to sun, exercise and fresh air.

So, here’s some stuff I’ll miss about winter:

  • The sound of packed snow creaking under studded tires.
  • Riding across the High Level Bridge at full speed with hardly anyone in the way.
  • People thinking I’m hardcore and bad ass just because I ride.
  • Not getting stuck behind slow cyclists (because in winter, everybody who’s riding is in a hurry to get out of the cold and everybody’s in great shape from powering through the snow).
  • Extreme bicycle parking.

Extreme bicycle parking.

  • Not having to dodge the “Soldiers of Fitness” on the bike paths.
  • Less dogs in the parks and the bike paths, and the ones that are there tend to be better tempered because they have more responsible owners who don’t just exercise them when the weather’s good.
  • Days that are too cold for puddles or slush.
  • Drivers all have their windows up so I can’t hear their crappy music or listen to them swear at me.
  • No road rash thanks to layers upon layers of clothes acting as padding and soft snow to cushion falls.
  • Puddle photography (thanks to Dottie at Let’s Go Ride a Bike for inspiration on this one).

Reflecting on a change of season...

Now, it’s time to dust off my lovely cruiser, which has been sitting idle all winter, to take her for a spin.

Critical Mass, February, Winter City

1 03 2010

Like many other cities around the world, Critical Mass rides happen on the last Friday of the month in Edmonton (5:30, City Hall, FYI). Winter rides tend to be a less than massive affair, though, with a small but determined group of hardy cyclists.

This month, I had high hopes. The weather has been warm for this time of year, the main streets are dry & clear and more cyclists are coming out of the woodwork. I packed my skates, hoping that I could get to City Hall early enough to fit in some skating, but was foiled by weather determined to turn the rink into slush. So I set off on a little jaunt on my bike to pass the time before the big ride.

The Muttart Conservatory, an iconic E-town landmark, through the spokes.

But back to Critical Mass, I was hoping for a larger turnout to compensate for my skating disappointment. There were about 15 of us all together, and I was the only woman riding. Because of the small number, the group decided to not take over both lanes of traffic on the High Level Bridge, as the tradition has been since the beginning of Critical Mass rides in Edmonton way back in 1994, so the sweetest part of the ride (not to mention sweetest photo op) was marred by loud & aggressive passing cars. Oh well, it was still nice to hang with some familiar faces who I don’t stop and talk to on the street when it’s too cold to stop moving. And with spring on the horizon, the mass will only grow (unless there’s a blizzard at the end of March, which there probably will be, because E-ville’s weather is always evil at the end of March).

Critical Mass ends in Old Strathcona, where it fits entirely within the Gazebo instead of filling the entire park when summer rouses the mass.

Warm Winter Sun

21 02 2010

Chillin' in the winter sun.

During the depths of winter, clear sunny days can be some of the coldest. This week, I could finally feel some warmth from the sun. Realistically, it’s still two months until clear spring riding, and it’ll get a lot colder before it gets any warmer, but I sure appreciate the brief reprieve.

Sundown on E-town, and the melting ceases.

Ding Dong Vision

12 02 2010

Sunshine, blue skies, a bike path and a concrete plant.

Finally the days are getting long enough that I can actually ride home in the sunshine! It looked like my reflection in the bell was doing a celebratory jig as I pedaled along.

By the way, you may notice the holes drilled through my bell. One perspective could call them speed holes for aerodynamic purposes. Another perspective could say that they were put there by the bell’s previous owner who thought it would be a good idea to mount his cycling computer to the bell, and then threw out the bell in disgust when it no longer rang properly. In that case they could be called “free” holes, cause it meant that I got this sweet, loud, musical bell for free. Unfortunately, the holes let in the weather and after 2 winters my bell is rusting prematurely from the inside.

Hit and Run and Snow Fun

3 02 2010

This blog is becoming “Coreen’s Crash Diaries.” I never intended that, but I don’t know what’s been going on lately, it’s been so crazy I hate to relate yet another tale of woe on the roads. Even my friends who’ve known me through the better part of  a decade of winter cycling are wondering what’s going on. As I started to recap the most recent events, an old friend of mine asked if I’d been having trouble with my balance and should I get my ears checked out? Truth is, if I had a balance issue, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

A burgundy pick-up truck struck me while I was riding down Jasper Ave on Monday. I was taking the lane, riding in the right hand tire rut, as the shoulders were slick with fresh snow. The truck in question first pulled up behind me at a red light, so there is no doubt that the driver saw me. After the light turned, I proceeded straight through the intersection, still taking the lane. The truck stayed behind me, revving its engine, for about half a block or so and then floored it, striking my shoulder hard with the rear view mirror and grazing my bike and the rest of my body. The pickup then sped away, recklessly weaving through all lanes of traffic. Conveniently, the truck’s license plate was completely obscured with road splatter and snow.

Thankfully, I somehow managed to stay upright and keep control of the bike, and keep my wits enough to steer to safety. As soon as I turned onto the bike path a couple blocks away, I stopped and had a little cry. I’ve had falls and accidents and have even had assholes in pickup trucks (why is it always the pickup trucks?) try to run me off the road, but this is the first time that someone has maliciously struck me with their vehicle. And for what? What message was that driver trying to send me that was worth an attempt on my life? What delay was I causing him that justified vehicular homicide? How twisted a psychopath must one be for that action to make sense?

But I survived, with a jarred sense of decency and an appetite for U-lock justice, still kicking, still riding, still determined to hold my own amongst the dinosaur burners with my sense of humour intact. So what better hit and run therapy than ridiculous snow biking?

Powder up to my hubs!

This lovely print, and copious giggling, result from falling sideways into powder up to my hubs.

A ride across the unplowed expanse of Borden park is nearly impossible right now. However, it’s also next to impossible to get hurt trying.

Not exactly pretty, but a cheap & functional tip.

25 01 2010

I recently came across a tip to use a piece of old inner-tube to create  a barrier against dirt, water and salt for the bottom part of the headset, so I thought I’d try it out while replacing a fork on one of the bikes in the bike library.

A section of tube is pulled over the bottom of the headset.

With the fork and bearings removed from the head tube, simply pull a section of inner-tube on, leaving some hanging below,  then carefully trim it so it doesn’t touch the fork. Then fold the bottom of the rubber up (carefully – you don’t want to move the whole piece) and out of the way while you work. It can be folded down again after everything’s back together and the adjustments are all made.

I think I’ll do this to Ol’ Nelli next time I overhaul her headset, which, due to its poor quality (it’s pretty shot) and unusual size (difficult to replace), will probably be soon (again, sigh). I hope a little rubber can be enough to change my twice yearly headset overhauls into an annual event.


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