Tweed on the Block

29 09 2010

The tweed ride last weekend was a smashing good time. The only thing I could complain about was the spectacular fall weather was actually too hot for tweed, but that’s a stupid thing to complain about, so I won’t. (And, for all the ladies who haven’t got enough style riding in for the fall, there’s a Critical Lass ride this Saturday!)

Here’s some snapshots from the 3rd Edmonton Tweed Ride, Ink on a Block.

Darren and Nathaniel looking dapper.

Tweed riders take Whyte Ave.

Bernadette and the shiny red cruiser.

I rode Poplar and wore plaid. It was too hot for the jacket.

Sorry about the weird photo, Selene, I didn't get any better ones of your lovely outfit.

Micah rocks the blazer.

More super stylin' riders.

B. looks on from his favorite perch.

After the sun went down we rolled into the river valley. Unfortunately for my 60 year old coaster brake, we went one of the steepest ways down possible. By the time we got to the LRT bridge, you could fry tofu on my coaster hub.

Checking out the action below the LRT bridge.

Keely and a wineskin, caught on film.

Riding into the tweed hours of the night.

I would like to add that on our way out of the valley, even though it was really difficult, I made it up Connors hill on the old cruiser, without stopping or walking. I think there were folks on multi-speed bikes who couldn’t say that.

Kevin demonstrates the required panache to pull off tweed in style.

And then there was a soapstone bear...

We finished off at a small “Irish Pub” that wasn’t prepared for 30 thirsty woolen clad cyclists looking to take over the bar for the night. One of the regulars, who was standing outside when we arrived and asked what we were doing commented “Well, I guess you can’t ride around looking like that alone.” Thanks for the reminder that we’re still in Alberta, dude.

Bike ‘Shrooms

23 09 2010

Something different has been popping up near the new student residences on campus.

Mushroom-like hanging bike rack.

My initial response was “that’s so awesome!”

I told a friend about it who demanded we head out on a night time mission to investigate this new species of bike rack. The first thing we did was try to put my bike up in it, and the second thing we did was determine that there was no way we could mount my bike, or any bike with front fenders, onto the wheel holders. These racks weren’t looking so well thought out, after all. Our interest piqued, we set out to do more investigating.

Unassembled bike mushrooms.

There were more bike mushrooms, some assembled, some not yet, at least 6 in all. We did not find any other types of bike racks in the new development (hopefully there’s some on the way).

My companion demonstrates the structural integrity of bike mushroom caps.

I found the tops of these to be the most visually striking aspect of the new racks, but they won’t be visible from ground level once they are installed. The design also doesn’t allow for securing the wheel and frame with a single U-lock, even though it looked like it would be really difficult for a thief to detach a wheel, which was one of the few positives. I appreciate the idea of a sheltered bike rack very much, but when I checked back at the rack on a rainy, blustery day, I found wet seats. Rain never falls vertically in this town, and I consider fenders to be a necessity at times. I’m not even going to get into how much of a pain it can be to lift bikes into hangers every day. If these are the only bike racks going up, it will be a huge disappointment for a supposedly green development.

Anyway, remember to lock your bikes up properly, everyone. Don’t end up like Bruce.

And watch out for your fellow cyclists, too.

Summer, We Hardly Knew You

19 09 2010

With relatively early hard frost the last couple of nights, there’s no denying the slightly cheated feeling of the end of a lackluster summer. To put things in perspective, (or at least quantify the crappiness of the weather) the last spring snowfall was on May 30th, leaving E-ville with 98 frost free days in between. Hey summer, you better have a great encore, or I’m demanding a refund!

But I won’t stop riding, I’ll just wear more clothes. Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year, perhaps because of the need to get out and enjoy every fair, sunny day, because it could be the last.

Fall - changing leaves, pants, scarf & sweaters.

This was also my first pictures with the (probably stolen but whoever lost it hasn’t filed a police report) bike I recently found near my house. If you (or someone you know) is missing most of a Transend Ex, you should either contact me directly or put up a notice on Stolen Bikes in Edmonton (and do it soon, before I become more attached to this beauty, and name her or something). Even if you don’t have the serial number, a detailed description of its unique modifications (some of which I’ve already changed in case anyone was getting any ideas) should suffice. I’d love to keep this bike, I’ve already built a sweet new wheel for it, but I do want to exhaust all avenues to find its proper owner. I’ve spoken with a cop about this, who informed me that there wasn’t much else I could do, and that if I turned it over to the police, it would just end up being auctioned off as the serial number is not in the system. The cops only keep found bikes for thirty days. I’ve had this bike for more than half that amount of time already. How long do I keep searching for the person who lost it?

Tour de Perogy 2010

16 09 2010

Early on a Sunday morning, 16 cyclists gathered at a neighborhood diner for what has become an annual event, the Tour de Perogy. Starting in central Edmonton, we ride 60km east to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village for their harvest festival, gorge on perogies and other Ukrainian delicacies, and ride back before dark. This would be the farthest I’ve ever attempted to ride in a day, and knowing that vegan Ukrainian delights would be few and far between, I packed pretty heavy on the food.

Photo by Keith. He powered ahead of everybody (on his Twenty!) so he could take photos of us passing, and then powered ahead of us again so we could draft him.

Partly cloudy, not too hot and not too cool once we got moving, and with a bit of a headwind (that teased a tailwind for the way back), the weather couldn’t have been better on the ride out. The leaves are just staring to turn, and the prospect of being the last big ride of the season was pushing the riders to their limits, whatever their skill level.

Stop at a country intersection, refuel & wait for the stragglers.

When a group of roadies turned into our peleton on a country road, it became obvious what a motley crew of cyclists we were. Besides the touring bikes, there were hybrids and mountain bikes, a recumbent tricycle and Keith’s folding Phillips Twenty. There was a little bit of lycra here & there, but nothing compared to the kitted-out roadies who aggressively passed through the pack like the country back-road was a racing course.

Bringing up the rear. I uploaded this photo full size, so you can click on it to see details like the riders' hats, and the confused looking horses.

Some of the group turned back before we got to our destination, and when we finally arrived, we got an unexpectedly cold welcome from someone directing traffic who didn’t seem to know what to do with a group of cyclists.

Even the bison drove to the harvest festival. We're definitely not in the city anymore.

After eating some of the vegan kielbasa I’d brought cold, and watching everyone else down copious amounts of deep fried dumplings and cheese, I set off to explore the living museum. Actors in period costume tend the animals and gardens, operate the grain elevator, blacksmith, run telegraphs, make quilts & pillows, harvest the fields – basically do everything that the early Ukrainian settlers and townspeople would do in their day to day lives. The actors really get into their parts, and invite you to ask questions about their lives and characters (who are based on real people) and join in with their daily activities.

Most importantly, there were kittens.

Kitty in clover!

The village was quite busy with tourists taking the same touristy photographs over and over again, and I just wasn’t feeling it, so I never actually took any pictures of the buildings or the actors. I found the field of flax and the chicken pen more interesting.

Vegans like flax very much. The fatty acids in flax seeds aren't found in very many other plant sources, and are essential for a healthy body. Also, it's what linen's made of.

This chicken kept trying to attack my camera, ruining any potential hen photos.

As we prepared to head out, dark clouds began gathering to the south, and we weren’t on the road long before light rain began. It became a full fledged rain storm by the halfway point, and was with us the rest of the way home, leaving me soaking wet with numb hands and feet when I walked in the door, with plenty to reflect on as I hit the shower.

I don’t have a bike computer, but according to those that did, we rode about 120km altogether, with a respectable average speed of 27km/h. It was my first century, and I found myself quite a bit behind the main (lead) group at times, leaving me to work harder without someone to draft. Thankfully, Keith slowed his pace down to mine, and let me draft him for a good chunk of the way back to town – talk about class! If I hadn’t packed so much, or been riding upright, or been wearing cycling shoes instead of my canvas No Sweats, maybe it would’ve been easier to keep up with the front of the pack (or maybe I just would’ve seen a lot more ass and a lot less countryside), but I think I’d have preferred going even slower, making more stops, taking more pictures, because what’s the point of riding in the country if your chief concern is how fast you can ride back? The next day, I was pretty stiff for my usual 10km commute, but I’m happy to report that I felt strong as ever by the next day. I wonder if the speed demons at the front of the pack all ride can say the same thing?

While You Were Sleeping…

14 09 2010

Here’s to friends who creep onto porches under the cover of darkness and leave flowers in unsuspecting bicycle baskets.

Morning surprise, dumpster delight!

Factory farmed flowers from the florist bring me no joy, but the same buds unsold, discarded and then rescued from a dumpster are pure delight, if only for one day.

Bikes Lost, Bikes Found, Bicycles on the Edge of Abscontion

9 09 2010

Did you know that around 1500 bicycles are reported stolen in Edmonton every year? And that only a minority of bike thefts are reported?  I’ve been thinking a lot about stolen bikes lately, since finding a very nice bike crudely stashed, unlocked, and missing its front wheel, while walking around my neighborhood.

The scenario likely played out something like this: cyclist locks bicycle to something by its front wheel, which had a quick release axle, and goes about their business. Then, opportunistic bike thief removes aptly named quick release skewer and carries off the rest of the bike, leaving the front wheel, still securely locked for its owner, before stashing bike to pick up later. You don’t have to look far to find evidence of stories like this.

If the U-lock had been on the frame and the cable through the wheel, we never would've had this sad vignette. This is one of the better locks on the market, but no matter how much you spend, it's pointless if you don't use it properly. No lock's foolproof, but cables are easier to cut than U-locks.

The more I looked at the fleets of bikes parked around my high-bike-theft neighborhood, the sadder I became for all the cyclists’ potential sorrows, because only a tiny minority had secured their bicycles well enough to thwart a bike thief.

Even though this is one of the nicer bikes at this rack, this bike will be here when its owner returns. The U-lock securing the front wheel and frame to the rack plus the cable through the rear wheel will send potential thieves looking for an easier target.

So, if you have to leave your bike locked anywhere out of your sight, here’s how to make sure it’s still there when you come back for it:

  • Use a U-lock to lock the frame AND wheel to a fixed object.
  • Always lock through the inside triangles of the frame, not the fork or handlebars.
  • Use a cable lock only as a secondary lock to the U-lock, to secure the other wheel, or seat, or any other easily removable parts.
  • If your bike is so valuable that it would still be a profitable venture for a thief even if they had to go to a hardware store to buy a tool to cut your lock(s), you probably shouldn’t let it out of your sight.
  • Record your bike’s serial number. If it is ever stolen, you will need this to recover it.
  • If you keep your bike in a garage or on a porch, lock it down to something.

And now, here’s how not to lock a bicycle:

Scrawny cable lock over the handlebars, how could one steal thee, let me count the ways...

This bike's frame is locked but not its quick release wheels. Had this bike been here when the bike frame belonging to the wheel beside it was stolen, an observant thief could've taken the unsecured wheel off this bike and rode into the sunset.

A double sheet bend knot would work better. But seriously, do you know how easy it is to cut this cable (even the snipped cable in the top picture is, like, 10 times stronger), or how easy it is to take the handlebars & stem off? And I used to have one of those combination locks when I was in elementary school, until a bully picked the lock then rode my bike around me, mockingly, in circles. That's a pretty nice bike to be trusting to a lock that can be picked by a not-so-bright 10 year old.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve helped someone fix their bike and seen a crappy cable lock. I’d ask them if that was their only lock, and if it was, advise them to purchase a U-lock post haste. They’d usually assure me that their lock was adequate, even though they were regularly parking on campus or Whyte Ave, and that they couldn’t afford a more expensive lock, and that no one would want to steal their bike anyway. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the same person a month or two later, with a different bike and a brand new U-lock. Every time it happens, it makes me sad and angry, but it no longer surprises me. And after seeing so many badly locked bikes on such a short exploratory journey, I’m actually surprised that more bikes aren’t going missing.

With all this focus on locks, it should be noted that bikes are most commonly stolen when they are left unlocked in public and semi public places, yards, sheds, porches and garages. It should also be noted that no lock is unbreakable, and with the right tools even the most expensive locks can be defeated in minutes or even just seconds.

As for the nice bike, a friend and I went back for it, left a note where we found it, and brought it home. I ran the serial number through CPIC (any bike reported stolen to police Canada-wide will be in this database, provided the serial number is known), replied to a missing similar bike ad on kijiji, have checked out the online stolen bicycle registry and contacted a local bicycle registry. If the owner of this bike reports it stolen through any of these channels, I’ll so happily return it (with bonus cleaning and tune-up). Even without the serial number, a specific description of its unique characteristics will suffice for the latter two registries. In the meantime, is it wrong for me to build a front wheel for it and (ahem) ride it like it’s stolen?

Ducking Out Of The Rain

2 09 2010

When volatile prairie skies bring sudden downpours, knowing a place to take shelter can make surprise rain more bearable. One of my favorite spots is the band shell in Borden Park.

Did you know that at one point, the roof of this band shell was filled with pine cones by some very industrious squirrels?

The local saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes,” was pretty spot on today. The sun returned before I even left the band shell, glaring and reflecting off the wet streets, blinding anyone who had the misfortune of heading west.

Look at the road and risk going blind.

Sunbeams dried out my clothes as a rainbow formed over refinery row.

This about sums up my complicated feelings toward E-town.

And suddenly a cool, fall-ish day was unbearably hot, and the shelter I needed was from the sun (at least for the next 15 minutes).