Autumn Critical Lass and Bridge Musings

14 10 2013

I’m sure I’ve said it before that fall is the best time of year in these parts, what better time for a ride?

While it’s true that there was snow on the ground by this date last year, this fall has been comparatively kind with many sunny days and minimal wind but still not too warm. On a late day Critical Lass ride we could bask in the golden glow of the last of the leaves and the setting sun.

Looking over the river valley, enjoying the last light.

Looking over the river valley, enjoying the last light.

Crossing the High Level Bridge was the highlight of this ride.

Crossing the High Level Bridge was the highlight of this ride.

The High Level Bridge is part of my regular stomping grounds, so I somewhat take for granted what a monumentally huge, vertigo inducing piece of century old engineering it is. On this ride, however, there was a young rider making her first trip over the bridge who reacted much the same as I did on my first time crossing the bridge outside of a car at approximately twice her age..

First bridge crossing.

First bridge crossing.

Which is to say, she got a little freaked out. Enough that riding down the hill to the LRT Bridge and up the killer switchbacks to the University was looking like a reasonable alternative for returning to the south side.

Another lass crosses the bridge.

Another lass crosses the bridge.

I remembered the time when I was a teenager that I was with a freind and we were walking downtown from Whyte Ave. When we got to the bridge, she expressed her fear, and me and the other folks we were with convinced her that she could cross. She ended up having a panic attack after we’d barely started over the span, and it took three of us to get her back up the hill and onto a northbound bus.

I was really glad our young companion wasn’t as freaked out as that. She and her mom ended up taking the train back across the river while the rest of us cycled back across the bridge in the crisp fall evening air.

For more on Critical Lass, check out Loop Frame Love.





Of Never-Ending Winters, Girly Italian Foldies, and a Fixation

17 05 2013

It’s been far too long since I made a post, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously busy (I’ve had one day off of work in the last 6 weeks thanks to multiple jobs). Still, it’s been a relatively short amount of time since the landscape looked like this:

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

And only a week after the following picture was taken, the temperature had increased by 30 degrees Celsius:

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, the seasons changed as if a light switch had been flipped, and suddenly the weather is summerish.

I’ve been mostly riding the Fixte. I love the speed, the engagement, the challenge, the feeling of connection between woman and machine and the road. It feels a little weird to go on about it, because I feel like I’m saying the same things the fixed gear riders would rave about to me, the same things that wouldn’t convince me to open my mind to it being something that might actually be safe and fun. I get it now. After riding fixed for a while, when I get back on a bike with a freewheel it feels like the bike is out of control, like “holy crap, this bike is moving all by itself and I’m not even moving my legs!” Yes, I’m liking this fixed gear thing. I’m even planning to convert another one of my bikes to fixed.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

I had built up a front wheel to match the back, a high flange hub and a white deep-V rim, but was waiting for the gravel to be cleared off the roads and for the city to get a start on patching potholes to install it and my new tires. They even came to my street and very crudely filled some of the worst offenders, so my bikes still rattle and bump uncomfortably every time I leave the house. I guess feeling like your fillings are going to rattle out is still better than worrying about dieing on the street after wiping out in a pothole. Deciding that things weren’t going to get any better and that I wasn’t going to wait any longer, I upped the hipster quotient of the Fixte.

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

I wouldn’t say that the 700 x 23 tires are ideal for E-Ville’s cratered roads, but it sure is fun and looks cool. Bright lime green is a colour I’d never wear but I thought I’d try a pop of brightness on the bike, and if it gets old, it’s just rubber and can be easily changed. I have a goal in mind, though. I’m working on how to skip-stop, and I plan on leaving a trail of bright green skid marks around this town by the end of summer.

In other bike related news, there was a Critical Lass Ride to celebrate CycloFemme, a Global Women’s Cycling Day. A small group of us took a jaunt across the High Level Bridge and around the Leg Grounds.

Critical Lass at the Leg

Critical Lass at the Leg

Thanks to Deb for organizing and scoring some really cool temporary tattoos!

This time has gone by in such a blur. Always busy, always something interesting going on, always another challenge. My job at the Bike Library is finally over, and though I’ll miss it, I should have a little more time for myself, to enjoy riding, instead of spending nearly every waking minute encouraging other people to enjoy riding.

Another night, another river crossing.

Another night, another river crossing.

With my fleet of bikes feeling full and my joyriding time close to nil, the last thing I expected was to feel the need to acquire another bike, but guess what fell from the sky?

What's that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

What’s that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

This bike was donated to EBC after it didn’t sell at the annual Bike Swap. How could so many people looking for bikes pass over this gem in the rough? Sure, it needed quite a bit of work. I switched out the saddle and tightened the bottom bracket to make the bike rideable, but it was only after I’d been working on it a while when I discovered its secret. That worn down sticker on the seat tube that I initially read as DOOMATIC was actually Duomatic! Much to the amusement of the rest of the folks in the bike shop, I freaked out. For years, I have wanted to get my hands on a 2 speed kick-back hub to build into Porta-Bike, and here was a bike that had one, that had all the features of Porta-Bike plus more, was prettier and in better condition, and it didn’t have a sketchy looking home weld job at the hinge.

So, I bought it.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Meet Annabella. I’ll be posting more detailed pictures soon and as I fix her up. She needs a new saddle, tires, chain and everything overhauled, so I guess I’ve got another bike project. It’s so little to ask to get this lovely Italian Annabella back on the road.

Ciao for now!





Critical Lass – Northside!

5 08 2011

This is the blog post where I nearly fail at Critical Lass. The weather was hot and sunny after days of rain, the rides are now regularly scheduled on the fourth Sunday of the month, and this month our starting point was the Taste of Edmonton Festival, where dozens of local eateries offer up samplings of their fare outside, in Churchill Square.

Feeling late, I was really booking it on Poplar as I crossed The Bridge, so much so that I nearly blew right by Deb and Angel from Loop Frame Love. They were taking it pretty easy, and another lass caught up with us as we headed towards the square. I still wanted to stop at the bank as well as pick up a cold beverage before the ride, so I left the group so I could bike fast, “ride” the errands, and meet up in time to rendezvous with everyone.

Except it didn’t happen. I arrived to a Churchill Square filled with thousands of people, but I couldn’t find the Critical Lasses.

Look! I'm not that hard to miss! I'm tall and wearing a sparkly hat!

I pushed my bike through that crowd for more than an hour, munching on some Padmanadi and taking a break to splash in the City Hall fountain along the way. Even in such a large crowd, how difficult could it be to find a bunch of well-dressed ladies with vintage bikes and foldies? Were they enjoying a Taste of Edmonton? Had they already left? Did the volunteer anti-bike gestapo get them? (I once was tackled, that’s right – tackled, for riding my bike through an empty festival site on a rainy day, and on this day was told several times by festival volunteers that I couldn’t ride my bike anywhere near the square, even though I wasn’t riding it.)

Growing tired of the suffocating sea of domesticated humans, I rode to a little place I know where there’s always room to breathe.

Blue skies self-portrait.

I knew which restaurant we were scheduled to eat dinner at, so I chilled in the park for a while before setting off to 118th Ave for one last attempt to join the ride.

Back on Poplar, in search of more lasses. BTW, I made that skirt the night before and hemmed it right before leaving the house for the ride.

I was overheated and wondering if I should have just taken a nice shady ride through Mill Creek Ravine instead when I spotted the bike pile in front of Habesha on 118th. Everyone had just ordered when I walked in, so I was able to eat with everyone else, and for a hungry vegan, Ethiopian food is good, good eating.

The Lasses! Hooray!

After dinner and good conversation, we got back on the bikes to head  downtown, stopping by the legislature grounds for a photo shoot and a little splashy splashy in the fountains.

Sweet bikes and good comapny in the shady rose garden.

The fountains at the leg (pronounced “ledge”) grounds are one of those rare singular things that vastly improves the livability of central E-Ville. So many days, on my way to or from ye olde sweatshop, I stop to dabble my feet in the cooling waters (FTR city hall is colder) and find momentary relief from the summer heat. The fountains, it is claimed, were never designed for wading and swimming, and were built with materials that don’t react well with chlorine (which they started adding to the water after finally giving up on constantly trying to chase people out of them). So now they are now scheduled to be replaced next year, so it was nice to get a little extra splashy time at the end of the ride. (And, um, I was too busy getting my splash on to take a picture).

View from a rose garden.

All in all, it was another lovely day out. For the whole story of the ride that day, check out Deb’s post on Loop Frame Love. See you at the next Critical Lass Ride!





Critical Lass – Summer Solstice Edition

28 06 2011

On an unsettled summer evening, a group of classy lasses set out on their bicycles for a little fun, food, and camaraderie. There had already been some storms that afternoon, and I suspect that the threat of rain prevented more folks from coming out, but the small group turned out to be just right.

Waiting to cross a huge suburban thouroughfare.

For this ride, we started at Bicycle Bottleneck and headed south towards Whitemud crossing.

Selen and Deb on their classic steeds.

We checked out the new paths adjacent to the LRT, which were pretty nice, except where they suddenly ended and we had to detour through suburban streets.

Miss Sarah, looking poised and stylish as usual yet still completely prepared for the weather.

Because of the threat of rain, raincoats and trenchcoats were de rigeur.

Geneva's ensemble was jaw droppingly awesome, never mind that her bike and bag were scavanged.

I ended up coming to the ride straight from work, and decided that getting poutine (I was famished) was more important than going home to change bikes. Except for Marilyn on her Brompton, I was the only one riding a modern style bike, but I don’t think anyone was too bothered. I had been caught in a downpour earlier in the day, and was very glad to be riding the Transend with its disc brakes, mud flaps and chain guard.

This is what my hair looks like after being caught in the rain.

We rode to a south side Japanese restaurant, where we crammed into a private booth and loaded up on sushi and had a great session of girl talk. As I said before, the size of the group was just right for a good conversation that everyone could engage in. The food was quite good, except I didn’t explain to the waitress about my dietary restrictions and inadvertently ordered a veggie cone with a mayo bomb in it – sigh – it’s sometimes difficult to strike a balance between not being “that annoying vegan” and asserting my lifestyle choices. Geneva said it was also pretty tasty though.

Riding into the sunset. Though the clouds looked threatening all night, rain never materialized.

After supper, with full bellies, we split up and headed our separate ways, which included going to the LRT station for some, and taking a joyride down the hill in Mount Pleasant cemetery for others.

Selene rolling down Mount Pleasant.

Whenever I pass it and have a few minutes to spare, I always like to ride up to the top of Mount Pleasant and roll down the winding roads. It’s one of my favourite rides in the city – it’s quiet, the view is spectacular, and it’s one of the only non- river valley hills in town. And maybe it’s just me, but the extra degree of creepiness of it being a graveyard adds to the excitement. Anyway, it was the cherry on top of an absolutely lovely evening of hanging out with other fab cycling ladies. Hope to see y’all July 24th, if not sooner! <3

Also, check out more Critical Lass pics on Girls and Bicycles and Loop Frame Love!





Critical Lass Goes Downtown

15 05 2011

Last weekend marked the fourth Critical Lass ride, where a group of lovely ladies on bicycles took to the streets downtown for a little riding, some refreshments, a little shopping and some Mother’s day merriment. We met in Churchill Square.

Group photo at City Hall. Huge apologies to Monie for cutting you out of the picture.

In the picture above, everyone is delightfully distracted by a skateboarding bulldog named Buttercup tearing up the square. We tried out each other’s bikes and chitchatted for for quite a while before setting off.

Last minute adjustments before riding away. Art Gallery in the background.

There was also a couple of lads that joined us on our ride. Baby Robert trailed along in a chariot (he was also at the first CL, in utero :-)), and uber-mechanic Keith rode his ’51 CCM converted fixed gear.

Front: Marilyn and Miss Sarah, behind them, Monie & Angel, behind them, Karen with Robert in the trailer and Deb and Judy bringing up the rear.

Miss Sable, looking ultra-hip on a red Dahon.

Getting together with other ladies who bike is always a fun time, and getting together with so many ladies who write bike blogs takes it to a whole other level. It was like half the people riding were taking pictures for their blogs, and as a result, we have pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. Check out Miss Sarah’s pics in Girls and Bicycles, Deborah’s collection on Loop Frame Love, and Keith’s pics on ravingbikefiend.

Red light means photo time! The downtown Pedways are one of my favorite E-town architectural features.

We biked down to 104th and checked out the shops and cafes (at least the ones that were open on Sunday), and then headed back to the south side over the High Level Bridge.

Deb from Loop Frame Love on her new (to her) Raleigh on the High Level Bridge.

It felt like every time I’d pull out my camera, the sun would disappear, but I finally did get a couple of sunny shots on the bridge.

Karen on her Linus with baby Robert on the High Level Bridge.

All in all it was a lovely day, and even though we did need our jackets and sweaters, the rain that was forecast never materialized, and by the end of the ride I still wanted more. The sun was a teaser for the rest of the week, which has been the warmest we’ve had so far this year, and I’ve spent all my extra time and energy since riding bikes, and breaking bikes (well, one), and fixing bikes (like, 40), which is why it took me a week to get this blog post up. Hello warm weather, it’s about time!





Fall Critical Lass

6 10 2010

Last weekend, on a beautiful sunny day that may be the warmest we see until spring, a group of lovely ladies donned their most summery fall frocks and went for a little ride.

Wheee! There was hardly a car on the street.

Critical Lass is the brainchild of the ladies from Loop Frame Love. In a bicycle culture where the boys make the most noise, this ride is a time where the ladies can get together and do cycling our style: pretty, relaxed, elegant, fun!

A golden moment.

Stopping for pictures near the Faculty Club.

Monie & Selene

I was so happy to see Selene’s vintage Raleigh back on the road. She was hit by a car a few weeks ago and has since spent many hours at EBC bringing that bike back to life.

Micah throws leaves up into the air!

Corby strikes a pose.

Hitting the road again.

We rode down Saskatchewan Drive around Belgravia and Windsor Park (one of my favorite routes in the city for a leisurely ride), ending at bicycle bottleneck, where we checked out the latest accessories at Red Bike, and refueled at the Sugarbowl.

Lasses on the move.

After the ride, some of us went to a sunny stoop nearby, where vegan corn dogs were being fried up. They were ridiculously awesome, stuffed with Daiya vegan cheese and bacon bits, then generously battered & deep fried. I ate two.

Megan and a vegan corn dog, fried on the stoop.

Be sure to check out more (and better) photos from the ride, including the group pictures, from Deborah at Loop Frame Love and Judy at the Penner Chronicles! Thanks everybody for a great way to spend a Saturday! I’m already looking forward to the next Critical Lass.





Critical Lass!

17 06 2010

I had a plan for last weekend. The idea was to work all day Saturday to finish planting my garden, then head to EBC in the evening for the 24 hour Repair-A-Thon (details coming up in a future post), where I’d help people fix up their bikes and then, once things had quieted down, work on doing the final repairs to the 1950’s loop-frame CCM I had been previously working on (and blogging about). This plan, if executed properly, would allow me enough time to sleep & get dressed up for the first ever Critical Lass ride on Sunday.

Critical Lass riders roll through Old Strathcona

In reality, things never really quieted down overnight at EBC, and I didn’t get out of there until 8:30 Sunday morning.  Still enough time for a nap, shower & change of clothes before heading back to EBC for the ride, right? I sure don’t recover from allnighters like I used to (hence a 3 day late blog post). Pure stokedness (Is that a word? It should be a word, a three syllable word.)  kept me lucid & chipper throughout the afternoon.

Megan tries out the newly rideable CCM.

Critical Lass was conceived by the ladies of Loop Frame Love as a sort of girls-ride-out: pretty bikes, stylish clothes, and leave the machismo at home, please.

Hot midday sun = skirt weather! Note that there are pics of Megan riding three different bikes in this post.

It was also an opportunity to meet some of the other writers whose bike blogs I’ve been following, and as it turns out a few who’ve been reading mine.

Bringing the cool into the summer heat. Shooting from the hip while riding, I failed to capture Selene's equally cool vintage bike.

The best parts of the ride were just hanging out and getting to know so many different women who were all interested in important things like bikes and cupcakes and kids and having a laugh on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Stylin' at a stoplight.

Our first stop was to pop by bike polo to check out a special Bike Month match (though it was slow to get started so early on a Sunday afternoon).

Polo grrrlz! Megan plays in a skirt, blouse & sandals, while Micah rocks the court in more typical polo style.

Our next stop was a short, relaxed ride through tree-lined boulevards and bike paths away. We’d get coffee before finding somewhere shady to hang out some more & take pictures.

Walking our bikes across Whyte Avenue en mass. Oh, yeah, we stop traffic.

Sweet ride + cool summer outfit = made in the shade.

Bike pile near the cafe.

Note to self: construct pretty tool roll to affix under saddle so I don't feel compelled to lug around the "utility purse" on future fashion rides.

I loved how everyone brought their own unique styles but the real beauties of the day were the conversations, the supportive atmosphere and the all-round-warm-fuzzy-confidence-enhancing-goodness of being your fabulous self rolling with a group of different, but equally fabulous ladies.

Final stop - cupcakes!

Loop frames all in a row! I love the colours of these bikes, they kinda even remind me of cupcakes.

Kudos to the organizers for getting us all together for a fantastic day! I had such a wonderful time I hardly noticed the sleep deprivation (though I do blame sleep dep for nearly escalating the little incident with the dude who moved my bike in front of Fuss). When the majority of riders on the road are dudes focused on speed and performance, it’s a huge breath of fresh air to be with folks who take style over speed, and companionship over competition.

Edit:  Check out more Critical Lass photos at Loop-Frame Love and Girls and Bicycles. If anyone else has pics they’d like me to link to (or if I spelled your name wrong or you rather I hadn’t put your name up at all, etc.) let me know!








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