Road Bike Season

25 04 2012

All spring I have been watching the road and trail conditions, waiting for the last remnants of ice to disappear and for the city to sweep up all the gravel it’s laid down throughout the winter.

Notice that there's so much debris in the counter-flow bike lane that it obscures the markings. More notable is the awesome neighbour who pressure-washed clean the lane where it passed by his house. I sure appreciate not having to choose between no traction and oncoming traffic.

Road bike season started for me the day before my b-day when I realized that one of the stays on Marjory’s rack had snapped as I was loading it up, and I just couldn’t bear another day of chugging on the heavy Transend. I had been wanting a long ride on le Mercier for my birthday, so I thought I’d better break it out and give it a try. I’ve missed that bike: so swift, so light, yet handles so well I can trackstand forever and never have to take my feet off the pedals.

So, if you’ve been following my blog for a long time you may remember that last year, I got a flat tire for my birthday. This year, after a roll through a short but intense rainstorm, I wiped out. I was rolling through the leg (pronounced “ledge”) grounds (where it looked like it hadn’t rained) and hit several inches of pea gravel as I was navigating around the stupid traffic control arms they put up after 9/11 that they never open for cyclists, even though it’s a designated bike route. There was a peace officer in the little booth who saw me go down, but didn’t come out to check on me until I was ready to get back on my bike again, when he was a patronizing ass about it. I rode home slowly and carefully, avoiding jarring potholes, ordered a pizza, and spent the rest of the night taking it easy and icing my sore spots.

The next day the sun was shining, my body was hardly aching at all, and Mercier seemed no worse for wear, so I decided to try once again for an epic ride.

Keeping an easier pace than usual through the valley meant I was more prone to seeing little dirt side paths and wondering "what's down there?"

Le Mercier, after a roll through the grass.

Signs of previous visitors.

There's still a little ice on the river.

Obligatory awkward self-portrait with bicycle.

Sundown.

Finding myself famished in a far flung suburb after most places closed, onion rings and root beer was the best I could do for fuel while still keeping an eye on my bike.

After turning back towards home, a long, lighted, clear bike path was a welcome sight. Not pictured: more deer.

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Plenty of Bikes

15 04 2012

It’s obvious why any cyclist would be excited with the arrival of warmer weather (though it’s snowing again as I write this, but it’s a warm snow storm). Spring is doubly sweet for me because I finally get to deploy the Sustain SU bikes that I’ve been working on all winter. The Sustain SU Bike Library lends out bikes to U of A students & staff for a month at a time, and nobody ever walks away sad after getting a bike with only a $40 deposit.

The bike library after a crazy busy rental day.

I wanted to get a picture of the whole fleet, but I didn’t have time before half of them went out the door. Oh well, with such a small space I can only pull so many bikes off their hangers at any given time, even after I’ve cleared out all the scrap rubber & metal.

A season's worth of scrap metal & rubber: three bins of rubber, one of metal, a box of cables & housing, and a bunch more wheels, tires & frames on top, all headed off via bicycle power for recycling. I'm a truck. This is what I was up to when I broke my fender stay.

While I’ve been turning wrenches and generating scrap rubber, the Campus Sustainability Volunteers have been working on profiling all the bikes for Plenty of Bikes, our new approach to matching people with bicycles. And now (drumroll please!), I’m proud to share the brand new Plenty of Bikes video!

I cannot understate how giddy this makes me. The volunteers did a fantastic job!





Electric Blue

11 04 2012

Something’s up with the architecture of the new electric company HQ. It’s like they’re trying to manifest TRON on their front steps.

G's Red Bianchi

I like it. It’s weird in an eighties futuristic way, and this bland town needs more weirdness.





My Pants Are Falling Down and Other Spring Stories.

10 04 2012

Ahhh spring… the season of rebirth, the season of returning warmth, the season of random intense snow storms. For the record, I think that the morning of the latest storm was the worst riding conditions of the winter, and I was very grateful that I still had the Globe set up for winter riding because walking or transit would have been way less fun.

You know it's coming down hard in E-Ville when you can't see the other end of the High Level bridge.

The snow came down so fast it just obliterated every distinctive feature on the ground, but it wasn’t too bad to ride through where it hadn’t been packed into treacherous mounds of ice.

In the winter, there are many commuters who ride this path every day. Even with the snow erasing all traces of where the pavement ends and where the gravelly puddles begin, the regular riders have memorized where the path zigzags.

The nice thing about spring snow is that it’s easy come, easy go, and it melts almost as fast as it comes down. And in no time at all, it’s clear for summer bikes and summer clothes (meaning a lot of the same clothes as I wore in the winter, but less of them at any one time). With my recent weight loss, though, I was not looking forward to having to put away the long johns, because it meant I would have to deal with this:

So, without extra insulating layers, even the skinniest of my skinny jeans are constantly falling down. Also, check the summer bike! Transend makes its first appearance of the season. (PS, nice to see Rast getting up again.)

Um, yeah, so if anybody has any good vegan weight gain strategies (I’m having trouble with this 4 meals a day thing), I’d love to hear them. Food’s cheaper than a new wardrobe, right?

Wardrobe malfunctions can’t ruin the feeling of the first spring rides though, when the loss of of the drag & friction of extra clothing layers & metal tire studs make riding seem effortless. Transend is a heavy bike though (in fact, the heaviest I own), and since it’s not clear enough for the road bike yet, I yearned for a bike that balanced swiftness and utility. In other words, it was time to revive Marjory.

For those of you that don’t know, I crashed my 1982 Canadian-made Raleigh Lenton, dubbed Marjory Stewart Baxter, last fall, and I was very sad. I’d been putting off fixing it all winter, mostly because of the logistics of getting a non-functioning, non-rolling bike to EBC.

While it is possible to bend a steel fork back into shape, I chose not to try because it was bent so badly in two different directions - backwards & splayed, and because a reasonable replacement was available.

I decided to take advantage of of a nice break in the weather to borrow a cargo trailer for some errands, and would haul Marjory into the shop on my last trip. If all went well, I would be done fixing her before it got too late, and be able to ride her home. What I wasn’t planning for was Transend falling onto a cinder block while I was unloading the trailer, breaking an integral plastic bit of the fender stay. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this had happened until I was on my way with another load, when the now dangling stay was sucked into the disk brake rotor in a series of thunderous whacks, followed by a massive outburst of profanity.

I was in a very dark alley, and I had to take off my front light to assess the situation. I did not like the prospect of pushing the crippled bike and trailer, actually, considering where I was and what time of night it was, it was out of the question. I’m a good scout though, so I had another option – I always carry some zip-ties in my purse.

Zip ties are the duct tape of bike repair. I can't count the number of times that a zip tie has been the difference between me walking or riding home.

After limping back to EBC with Marjory in tow, and already late, I switched into bike mechanic triage mode. Knowing how unlikely it would be to find the replacement part for Transend at the bike co-op, I decided starting with Marjory was the best bet for having a working bike the next day. The fender was mangled beyond repair, but the the rest of the switchover of the fork & headset went off without a hitch. The colour of the new fork is almost a perfect match, and though not quite as stylish, it’s not fucked, which is the most important part.

Marjory Stewart Baxter rides again! AKA obligatory crappy early morning hours photo. Also, the new fork is not bent, it's just at a weird angle. I freaked out a little after I initially saw this picture and double checked.

I rode her home triumphantly, and quickly walked back to the shop to turn my attention to Transend, the silver beast. As expected, I couldn’t find a replacement part, so I re-secured it with zip ties which kept the fender off the tire until I hit the first bump on the way home. At least I had one working bike.

Sometimes, when you’re fixing bikes, the most frustrating situations are simple repairs requiring a part you can’t find. After checking my neighbourhood bike shop without any success, I figured a trip to a shop that sells lots of Giants was in order and took the long slow ride to Western Cycle, where they not only had the part, but they insisted on installing it right there and not charging me for it! Thanks a bunch guys! For someone who’s used to being the one on their knees, getting dirty, fixing someone else’s bike, it was a treat to be able to keep my hands clean for a day.