Rugged Gongs

28 10 2010

Recently a friend of mine confidently informed me that it was not a bell that graced my handlebars, but a gong, the difference being that a gong is struck on the outside while a bell is struck from the inside. My response was to tell him that if he was going to get picky about bell vs. gong terminology, I was going to get picky about spindle vs. axle terminology, ’cause that’s the kind of bike geeks we are. Subsequent semantical research has revealed the line between bells and gongs is not so distinct, and that many people consider a gong to be a type of bell. Still, the word has now permanently entered my vocabulary.

Gong show & tell.

One of the prizes from last week’s big dumpster score was a broken bell, um gong, er technically none of the above cause it’s made of wood. I was smitten with the woodpecker bell from the first time I saw it on for the love of bikes, so I yoinked that “bell” out of the dumpster (with $25 price tag still attached – yowza) at woody woodpecker speed, even though the wooden “bell” part had snapped in half. But hey, I had carpenter’s glue and nothing to lose, and now the tiny (too quiet) original handlebar gong has a companion that simultaneously confuses the ipod adorned pedestrians of the High Level Bridge and makes them pay attention, if not to the bell, to my manic laughing because the pecking sound is hilarious. The woodpecker bell, like the the bird, is both awkward & awesome, and you’ll find me rolling ’round town, peck-peck-pecking and cackling, until the glue fails.

A Four Letter Word That Starts With “S”

26 10 2010

Honestly, I’ll take -3C and snowing to +3C and raining any day (well, any day that I have access to a bike with a studded tire). Snow doesn’t soak in and chill you to the bone, you can just brush it off you, and as long as you’re dry, staying warm is a cinch.

First snow on the High Level Bridge.

As the snow started to accumulate last night, I put my new studded tire (Schwalbe Marathon Winter, supposed to be the champagne of studded tires) on the Globe (which I’ve started calling the Glow-Bee, for lack of a more creative name). The tires need to be run out on hard pavement (good, good, goooood, good vibrations) for the first 40km or so, to make sure the studs are permanently affixed, and, as expected, most of the snow that fell on the roads and paths melted away quickly, but I sure was happy to have the studs for the half mile journey across the High Level’s cold bridge deck.

Bring on the tire bling - like riding a diamond encrusted tank!

There’s something about how the snowy crosswind bit at my cheeks, the familiar tingling made strange by it’s absence since spring, that was just so pleasant and refreshing. I always compare the sensation of winter cycling to downhill skiing. You’re going fast, snow’s flying in your face, there’s a cold wind but you’re warm cause you’re exercising, the snow’s creaking, and there’s an underlying feeling of being almost out of control. And it’s a total blast.

Interested in learning more about winter cycling? There are some classes coming up: ECOS is presenting an introduction to winter cycling seminar Nov 5th at noon at the U of A, and EBC is holding a winter cycling discussion on November 12th at 7pm, or you can just walk into either of those two places during drop-in hours and start up a conversation with the mechanics about winter cycling; they have lots of first hand experience to share.

Last Cruiser Days

25 10 2010

I’ve been riding Marjory this week, knowing that it won’t be long before I have to put her away for the winter. With that 4 letter word that starts with “S” in tomorrow’s forecast, it’s entirely possible that I’ve taken my last ride on her until spring. At least it was a good one.

Moon rises over Marjory.

Through the rolling ridges of Dawson Park (where the guerrilla art installation from last week is still up!), over the fresh tarmac in Riverdale into a breathtaking sunset over the river, followed by the caresses of cool air in Mill Creek Ravine.

I popped into a bustling EBC to say hi to a couple of folks, and was convinced to go on a dumpster raid for what was rumored to be a big score of bikey stuff.

As the sun set and the temperature rapidly dropped, under-dressed and patience running thin, we hit the motherload. Among a smorgasbord of accessories were several matching wicker baskets, each of them broken in a different way, so I grabbed two, making sure there was enough good parts between them to reassemble one working basket.

Squeeks tests out Marjory's new basket.

I put the basket on Marjory to try out (even though I’m not really a fan of baskets for day to day use) and took her out for one last ride. I don’t know why, but suddenly Marjory wasn’t so fast anymore. I didn’t realize how much I relied on seeing the front wheel in my peripheral vision for accurate steering, because it felt clumsy and awkward like the bike had sprouted a cow catcher. A friend who knows my riding style well predicted that I’d end up taking off the basket in no time, but I guess I’ll have to wait for spring to see how long it takes for me to get sick of it.


21 10 2010

Fear vs living in fear.

I’ve already made several (failed) attempts at starting this post – I think I’ll just start with what happened. It may seem off topic, but I will bring it back to bicycles, I promise (and there’ll be  some coarse language along the way).

It was late on a work night, and a small group of folks were at my place until all hours preparing food for an upcoming event. The music was bumping, the windows were steamed up from pounds of roasting peppers, onions, garlic and other veggies, and the air was thick with the delicious aromas. After everybody left, I still had to wait for stuff to cool down enough that I could refrigerate it, so I was puttering in the basement around three AM when I heard footsteps above me, and not just of the startled kitties stampeding down the stairs.

Wondering if one of my guests had returned, I marched quickly up the stairs, through the kitchen, and into the dining area to find myself staring at a strange man standing in my living room. What I did next I did without thinking; I went completely berserk. It plays back in my mind in slow motion.

“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU AND WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE!?!” I yelled as I started to run towards him.”GET THE FUCK OUT!” He turned around and ran out the front door and I gave chase, me still yelling and swearing. He hopped on a ten speed and started riding away, down the sidewalk. I wasn’t sure if he’d just stolen the road bike a friend left parked in my living room, or anything else for that matter, so I kept chasing him on foot, halfway down the block until he finally accelerated away from me, yelling and swearing the whole way, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU”RE DOING!?! YOU CAN’T JUST FUCKING WALK INTO PEOPLE’S HOUSES YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” I actually don’t remember exactly what I said, my memory is in so slow a motion as to make my words indecipherable, but it was peppered with profanity and was loud enough to wake the neighbors.

I returned to the house full of adrenaline, but also terrified, shaking and crying. A friend rushed over after a frantic phone call (thank goodness for friends who will get out of bed at 3am to take a teary phone call and then come over to spend the night) and helped me relax, though between jumping at every little noise and the somberness setting in about all the fucked up shit that could have happened, it was still a restless night (er, morning). I don’t remember being so afraid, ever, nor can I think of many times I’ve been so strong.

The next day, tired, still feeling down about having my space violated, still in shock. Being my own shero is tough.

Two summers ago, police warned women in my neighborhood to lock their doors and windows because of a violent serial rapist (and some women in the ‘hood responded with some more pertinent advice to prevent sexual assault than blaming the survivors for not using enough security gadgets). This incident made me think of that series of assaults, and I’m sure it also crossed many friends’ minds as they heard the details. I made a decision back then to not live in fear, to not imprison myself in my own home, because a cool breeze in my bedroom on a hot summer night does far more to help me sleep soundly than any facade of security. Even though one is a hundred times more likely to be assaulted in their home by someone they know and have invited in than a stranger, women (and men) are cultured to believe in stranger rape as the ultimate reason to live in fear, and then use that fear as a reason to not walk alone, to not go out after dark, to not live alone, to not wear what you want, to not let children play outside, to avoid alleys and parkades, to not do anything (ahem, riding a bicycle) without a chaperon.

Perhaps the early 21st century will be known to history as the age of living in fear and preoccupation with safety (the flipsides of the same coin), when we were so afraid of each other that we locked ourselves indoors, sentenced to a lifetime of unhealthy inactivity and an earlier death. The culture of fear that tells women it’s unsafe to walk on the street (when they’re more likely to be assaulted in their own home) is the same culture of fear that makes people think that cycling is dangerous (though driving is, statistically, equally dangerous and worse for your health). The same people who are always on my case for “putting my life on the line” through cycling (especially without a helmet) are the same ones who chastised me for having the reckless audacity to not double check that the front door was securely dead-bolted.

Fear is powerful, but when we are living in constant fear, besides being miserable, we negate the strength and insight that can come from being truly afraid and become paralyzed in the face of things we need to take action on.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on what happened in the days following the incident, and realized, that for my sanity, I had to focus on what happened, rather than what could have happened. The man in my house wasn’t there to rape me or otherwise attack me. He may have been there to rob me, he may have walked into the wrong house, he probably walked in through an unlocked door, he probably wasn’t stalking me, he couldn’t have been watching me through the fogged up windows, he probably won’t be back, and if he does come back I will make him regret it. It’s likely that (if he is a thief) the bike pile out front is what first enticed him to my threshold, and considering someone tried to jack Poplar a week earlier, it was time for a change in bike security, so I channeled my nervous energy into a little DIY project.

Long chain + super strong fabric cover + badass padlock = bike pile that will neither be moved nor scratched

While I U-lock all my bikes’ wheels to their frames, they weren’t always locked down to something else, as was the case the night I retrieved Poplar (U-lock still attached) from the sidewalk out front. (What kind of drunken crackhead tries to steal Poplar anyway?). I sewed a cover for a hunk of chain long enough to secure all of my bikes, in bright red fabric so it’s hard to miss. I don’t know if it’ll prevent any more douchebags from darkening my doorstep, but I needed to just do something, even if only symbolic, to assuage the fear and get on with my life.

Sassy inspects the leftover fabric. Kitties and hundred year old squeaky floor are the best security.

It’s been more than two weeks since this shit went down. All in all, I’m fine, and even though I got a little jumpy writing and reliving this, it took less than 48 hours to feel “normal” again. When I told a friend (who has also appointed himself my unofficial blog content manager) that I was planning to write about this he said, “Why? Because that dude escaped on a ten speed? It doesn’t have much to do with bikes.” Actually, it speaks to one of the core reasons I started this blog to begin with – to inspire people (especially women) to liberate themselves from fear, because the biggest reason people don’t do awesome stuff (like cycling) isn’t other people or the environment stopping them, it’s the fear inside their heads.

River Valley Art Gallery

15 10 2010

Yesterday, I found that some art had popped up along one of my favorite trails in the valley. With no camera to document it, I was forced (riding in the river valley on a beautiful fall day – what a hardship) to return today.

Marjory does just fine on this path, thank you.

Along a gravel path, somebody (or bodies) put up a bunch of art that delightfully surprises anyone traveling over the crest of a ridge. I never would have found this spot had I not been traveling by bike.

To whomever did this, it makes me so happy to find such spontaneous awesomeness can still sprout forth from this gray burg. Thank you so much, it made my day, two days in a row.

Cartoon faces overlook the trail.

A bird hides in the trees.

Portrait on Reader's Digest.

I love how this art incorporates its environment.

With the reflection of its surroundings, this piece becomes pure magic.

Have I mentioned how much I love fall riding? No leaves in the valley means more sun as the temperature starts to drop as well as more wildlife sightings. While I was checking out the art today, I saw a pileated woodpecker and two downy woodpeckers, just pecking at trees & dislodging big chunks of bark. Every beautiful day from now until winter is a gift. When the winter comes, I don’t want to have any regrets about fairer days wasted and every cross town commute is another opportunity for a lovely river valley jaunt.

It was one of those match my bike to my outfit kind of days. Come winter they'll be few & far between.

Hunting by Bike

13 10 2010

On a sunny (Canadian) Thanksgiving day, I headed out on the new bike to my parents’ place outside of town, for a rather uneventful ride (no pictures because I was running really late).

After dinner, my Dad invited me into the garage to see his new hunting bike.


So if you don't know, that brown thing is a rifle scabbard. He has also affixed sticky backed foam to the top tube to prevent the stock of the rifle or shotgun from hitting the top tube.


In one of his favorite areas to hunt, where motor vehicles are not permitted beyond the staging areas, riding a bike allows him to quietly cover lots of ground and find isolated hunting spots. He had been riding a too small ten speed with upturned bars for years (complete with “saddle bags” and rifle scabbard) and also constructed a trailer from kids bikes parts to transport his kills (mainly deer) out of the bush, to his truck. A relative gave him his first mountain bike last month, and after just one hunting trip, I think it’s safe to say he’ll never get back on the old ten speed again, especially in the muddy back country where the deer & elk roam.

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.