An Army of Green Aerial Assault Caterpillars

30 06 2010

A Larger Boxelder Leafroller crowds my poplin.

Word to the wise if you’re riding the river valley trails in Rossdale and Riverdale these days: watch out for green caterpillars parachuting or rappelling out of trees on silk strands with the intent of hitchhiking and possibly grossing you out. They seem to really like bike paths and can be seen in the hundreds, just hangin’.

I grew up in this region, and I don’t have any childhood memories of what’s become an annual creepfest on the flats, and have often pondered why. Turns out my memory is not just selective, and that the masses of larger boxelder leafrollers are a new phenomenon to these parts, the infestation starting in Rossdale in 2005. It almost makes me nostalgic for tent caterpillars – at least they don’t swing down from trees to latch onto you.

I have a skirt full of caterpillars and am trying to stay calm.

Bike Shops Are For Dancing

28 06 2010

Before I get to the sweet rhythmic fantasticism that was the “Crank That Beat!” BikeWorks dance party, I just want to send a shout out to all the people who busted ass to make it possible (and to one busted ass in particular): Thanks for being solid, energetic, tenacious and for being your usual lovely selves. It turned into an amazing, dare I say, legendary night.

This photo of Kim on the dance/shop floor leaves me speechless.

Rob surveys the party from upstairs.

Killer DJ's + a kickass assortment of people + mood lighting + smoke machine = Dance Party Success!

I never though of combining Critical Mass & lasers before, but clearly this picture has a point...

Mind the hanging wheels when there's a whole lotta awesome brewin'.

And if you missed it, don’t fret, even though it was only THE bikiest dance party of the summer, and the best bang bike month has ever gone out on.

Hauling Foliage

28 06 2010

Marjory Stewart Baxter, my 30 year old Raleigh, has become my bicycle of choice whenever I need to carry anything bigger than my purse. It’s not because she’s a great cargo bike, but because my Bike Bins don’t fit on my new bike’s rack, and I haven’t bothered taking the studded tire off of Ol’ Nelli (my way-more-suitable-for-hauling-shit winter bike), Marjory’s become my default workhorse for groceries and whatnot.

Today, I rode out to the the Home Despot to find some sale priced plants to fill out my garden (especially for where my landlord mowed my perennial herb & flower bed – jerk) and pick up a couple of things for ECOS.


Right bin - small veggies & edible flowers tucked safely inside. I wouldn't put plants inside just any pannier.


It turned out that tropical plants were on sale as well, so I picked up a couple that will hopefully be cat proof, but it left me with more to carry than I had originally intended. Still, I managed fine. I put the smaller plants in the left bin and closed it, then bungeed the ECOS tool hooks on top, hooking one bungee cord so that it was holding the left bin open, where I put the taller plants. I dangled the remaining plants from my handlebars, in a maneuver that I perfected long before I ever knew what a pannier was. (Tip: if you ever have to carry something this way, tie the bag as tight as possible and hang the knot over the handlebar. The higher the bag hangs, the less it will swing and the the less likely it will hit your feet or the front wheel. I used to do all my grocery shopping this way.)


Bungees hold my other purchase as well as holding the left bin open so the larger plants aren't crushed.


I get a lot of comments about my Bike Bins, and overall I like them quite a bit. They are the best way to carry stuff I have ever used, but I still can only make a qualified recommendation about them. The pair I have is mismatched because one of the original pair broke, and I have scrounged every usable part off the broken one to replace broken parts on the other two. At $60 each for a chunk of plastic that might last 2 years if you’re lucky, you could get much better value spending a little more on something that’ll last you a decade, or could DIY something out of buckets or other large plastic containers.

But I didn’t pay full price for them. Altogether I’ve spent $60 on all three (two from EBC, one on clearance at MEC) and I’d say I’ve got my money’s worth (even though only one in three has a working lock). They’ve survived daily use through Edmonton winters and remained perfectly waterproof (which is awesome squared, unless you pack ’em too tightly and puncture a can of pop). Additional benefits include a flat surface on top you can strap even more stuff to, rigid sides that protect delicate cargo (like plants) while asserting your space on the road, and an audible warning system when they’re empty and it’s just the pump & tire levers rattling around in there.

I would love to see a second generation Bike Bin with more durable components. If I could count on them to last for, say, twice as long, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at paying full price and wholeheartedly recommending them.

This post is an entry in the Let’s Go Ride A Bike Summer Games, in the carry a load on your bike event.

Crank That Beat!

23 06 2010

Coming this Friday, it’s just you’re average dance party at your local community bike shop. Which means, if you miss this you’ll miss the most fun you can have off of two wheels.

Friday June 25th, 9pm.


10047-80th Ave – Entrance through back alley.

Be there, or be a square wheel!

The Cygnet, an Antique Design Revisited

22 06 2010

Last weekend was the annual Bikeology festival, and this year it included another component, Park(ed), that closed down 4 blocks of downtown streets. As cool as that sounded, I was more excited about seeing some of the work of local master frame builder Arvon Stacey after super-mechanic Keith tempted me with this picture of a Cygnet (complete with skirt guard!) and a promise that there would be one at the festival.

The Cygnet, this one purple, sans skirt guard.

Here’s the skinny:

A little background on the back of the single sweep frame.

When Keith told me I could take it for a spin, I was so ecstatic! I’d never ridden any bike quite like this before.

What a sweet ride!

The Cygnet lived up to it’s promise of an elegant, cushy ride, and the only hiccup I had involved getting used to it’s slightly longer turning radius and coaster brake. With such an ingenious design that simply & stylishly integrates fender, chain guard, skirt guard and suspension, it’ll be no surprise if more bike makers revive this style of bike in the future. I’m trying not to covet this bike, as it is out of my price range by an order of magnitude, but I can’t help but imagine taking her on a ride on an autumn day, in a frock with balloon sleeves, long split skirt and big hat to an idyllic rural picnic straight out of an impressionist painting.

After the test ride, I realized that that test riding a different bike was also one of the tasks in the Let’s Go Ride A Bike Summer Games. Double sweetness!

On the Curious Behaviour of Trees

20 06 2010

Ubiquitous to this part of the world, aspen poplar are fascinating trees that are scorned and overlooked because they are so common. They spread quickly by suckering, and whole groves of trees can actually be just one single organism, connected underground. In the fall, because of this, entire stands of trees’ leaves will change to gold on the same day, and in turn the golden leaves will all rain down at once in a magical display. And on a hot June day, a forest of poplars will simultaneously release their fluffy seeds, covering the ground like snow.

The poplar fluff angel that made my ride.

Beautiful as this is, the poplar fluff is thicker than usual this year, and it’s a sign of something a little more nefarious under the surface. As the river valley has greened out, to see the amount of trees dead and dying from drought is shocking. All the trees, including the “weedy” poplars, are stressed, and this surplus of seeds is a last ditch effort for forest survival.

Kicking up the fluff.

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!

Oh The Things That You’ll Find…

11 06 2010

Oh, the things that you’ll find when you’re riding!

Sheer genius on my companion's behalf.

Hooray for people who make fun things and place them to surprise curious alley-rollers!

Pylons for pedal power!

What treasure will be in the next nook or cranny?

Saturday Night on Swift Wheels

6 06 2010

Saturday night + no cash + a motley crew of old and new friends + bikes = crazy night ride!

It started with a rendezvous in one of those rare spots, off the map and out of sight, but still comfortable with benches and flowers where friends can laugh and plot away from judging eyes, perched upon the grand refuse of an historic construction project. There were 6 of us, exploring a part of the city most people never see, and waiting for the last of our group to converge for a night time ride. There was no one else around, so when another cyclist approached, we thought he was somebody we’d invited but in fact we’d never met him before, (though he and one of our posse were wearing identical shirts). It turned out that his Saturday plans had been suddenly derailed and his new plan was to “find somewhere to go and chain smoke,” and he was on a bike for the first time in years. Did he want to join us for a ride? “Sure! Why not?”

Shortly after, the last of our party arrived and we set off to cycle into the rooftops.

A quiet perch above the city for those who cycle up off the beaten path.

Of course it did mean riding uphill.

Spectacular views above the street were one reward.

Being on the roof of an unused parkade is strangely tranquil and relaxing, at least after getting over the dizziness of cycling up and around and up and around… but nothing compared to the way down.

So, how're your brakes?

I was pretty dizzy when I hit the bottom.

“Wanna do it again?”

“Sure, but let’s use the elevator this time.”

Anti-gravity machine.

I think our new friend was a bit surprised at the bravado of such an unassuming looking group who dare to play where cars roam, but he did say that it was “way better than chain smoking.” No one in this crew disagreed. Welcome to the wonderful world of bicycles, Mike. I hope we helped you take the suck out of your night.

This post is also an entry for the Let’s Go Ride a Bike Summer Games in the social cycling category for going an a group ride and saying hi to (then riding with) another cyclist.  Fun contest on one of my favorite blogs! Check it out if you haven’t already.

The Woodpecker Laughs Last

3 06 2010

Living at the speed of bike strikes the perfect balance between being able to take in all the lovely little details in the environment you’re moving through with enough mobility to always have new places to explore. Some of the best moments in cycling are those little things that normally get overlooked from the perspective of a steel cage.

For example, meet this little guy:

He is a pileated woodpecker, and he's not that little.

I was leisurely riding down a bougie boulevard and noticed him digging holes in someone’s lawn. He didn’t seem bothered that I was there, so I stopped and watched him forage.

Woodpecker fishing for subterranean snacks.

He was flicking dirt all over the place, and looked like he was eating something. As I continued taking pictures of him at unusually close range, I started to feel weird about being a stupid human stressing out this poor bird who was just trying to get some grub(s) during a rough season. Then, as if on cue, a BMW pulled up behind me and stopped to see what I was looking at.

The woodpecker still seems pretty unconcerned.

The driver rolled her window down and started taking pictures as well, and we both watched the woodpecker while it more or less ignored us. Another vehicle approached and slowed and I rolled my eyes at the prospect of a wildlife traffic jam a la Jasper National Park on Jasper Avenue, but it didn’t stick around long. Meanwhile, the lady in the BMW was inching closer and closer to the woodpecker.

Profile of an urban woodpecker.

Eventually, the woodpecker had his fill of either us or the creepy crawlies and hopped up a nearby tree. The woman backed her car up towards and me and said “That was amazing! Thank-you so much for stopping. I would never have seen that if I hadn’t seen you first.”

That left me sort of speechless, and I made awkward conversation with her (still sitting in her running car) about birds for a couple of minutes. “Thanks again!” she said as she started to roll up the window and drive away, when suddenly the woodpecker swooped down from the tree, flying only a few feet directly over our heads, and shit on the BMW.