The Femme Bike Mechanic

29 06 2012

Bike shop culture is changing (though not fast enough if you ask me)! No longer a boys club, women are stepping up and fixing bikes, and doing it our style.

How to spot a femme bike mechanic:

  • Purse is super heavy because it’s full of tools and tubes, you know, just in case.
  • Wardrobe is chosen on the basis of how well the clothes will hide bike grease. Skirts are chosen on the basis of how easy it would be to test ride an oversized diamond frame while wearing it.
  • When teaching people how to mount a tire, uses an analogy about pulling on tights or pantyhose if they get frustrated.

When this happens, it’s not a bother, not even a little.

  • Has a personal nail brush stashed at the shop.
  • When getting ready for a BikeWorks dance party, nail polish is chosen on the basis of how well it will camouflage the dirt under the nails.
  • Speaking of nail polish, possesses colours that were chosen to match bikes to touch up paint first, and go all matchy-matchy second.
  • Despite the above, still knows which hand cleaner’s the best.
  • Can recommend a saddle that’s actually comfortable for a woman.
  • At the salon, requests a haircut that will look good after being windblown on a bike – “My bicycle is my blow-dryer.”
  • Never scoffs at the idea of putting a chain guard, fenders, kickstand, etc. on any bike.
  • Bike shorts under skirt.
  • Gets a little irate every time someone walks into the bike shop and asks for advice from the dude she’s helping and ignores her.
  • Gets slightly more irate when greasy-handed, apron-clad, and the sole person in the shop, someone walks in and asks her where the mechanic is.
  • Knows every trick for increasing leverage but never strips a bolt.
  • Talks about spoke nipples, lube, and male and female parts without blinking.
  • Like gender pioneers in other male dominated fields, has to be twice as competent to get half the respect.

So, to all the dudely dudes out there turning wrenches, get ready, because the ladies are coming to shake up the bike shop backrooms!

Deep South Excursion

27 06 2012

E-ville is one of the most spread out, sprawled out cities in the world, covering more area than cities with 10 times its population. This place was built for cars first, people second, and beyond the central core that I inhabit with the rest of the green, radical and artistic types, there’s seas of suburbs. Before people started questioning the wisdom of infinite suburban sprawl, the city annexed large tracts of farmland for future ‘burbs, and in the outskirts, some of the agricultural land still remains. With friends, I’ve been taking rides out to explore this country side within the city limits. On this day, we headed south.

First stop: fuel. Loma House Vegetarian Express in Millwoods was a delightful surprise that was definitely worth the ride.

As I got my gear ready and pumped up my tires, my friend mentioned that she wanted to check out a yard sale at a nearby housing co-op on the way out. I wasn’t too excited about the idea, because if either of us bought something it would mean carrying it with us the whole ride. It was rather ironic that I was the one who ended up making a purchase – a pair of red sunglasses that couldn’t leave my face after I tried them on. With my new hipster-vision, we hit the road.

Deep South side, FTW!

My impression of the area was a little bit country & a little bit country club.

A little bit country, a little bit country club, whatever, le Mercier is a class act wherever it goes.

Every time I go down this way, I have to cycle further and further to escape the metastasizing suburbs. It’s sad to know that the land in this area is now worth too much to use it for agriculture, and that it won’t be long until the only semblance of countryside will be the privatopias and gated clubs where the rich play.

Amongst the new developments, we found a long abandoned homestead.

Loft no more.

Looking out from the farmhouse onto someone else’s idea of dream homes.

It looked as if the house & barn were nearly on the property line of a new development, as everything  had been bulldozed to within a couple meters of the house on one side, while the secondary poplar growth sheltered it from the other side. I suspect that this house was once completely hidden by the trees, which would explain why there was so little evidence of vandalism or graffiti in such an easily accessible abandoned building. I doubt it will last long once the bored children of the new residents find it.

Looking in. Recent residents include barn swallows and honey bees.

Luckily for us, the private clubs in the area aren’t used to cyclists crashing their digs, so we picnicked on some fairly exclusive real estate (not pictured) before starting on our return journey to the center of E-Ville.

Self portrait, with bicycle.

On returning from every excursion to the outskirts, the biggest issue always seems to be how to get across the bloody Anthony Henday freeway/ring road/exclusion zone. Things weren’t looking good as we approached the Terwillegar overpass. The whole thing (this is a major thoroughfare) was closed for paving, including the bridge, and the detour to the next overpass would have taken us miles and miles out of our way, and we didn’t have lights or that much time before sundown to be riding on unlit backroads. There was a construction worker manning the barricades, but it looked like the overpass was clear and still passable beyond that. We looked at each other and said “wanna just go for it?” We rode straight for the closed road and gave the worker a cutesy wave. He looked confused for a second, and then made a gesture that said “I’m averting my eyes and I didn’t see you.”

We encountered a crew at the top of the overpass and told them our sob story about trying to get home before dark. They seemed mildly sympathetic and gave us tacit permission to pass so long as we gave the workers & equipment a wide berth. We took off before they could give it a second thought and began riding & gallivanting down the middle of an empty freeway, woo-hoo!

Terwilliger Drive with no hands!

I must say, I’m running out of freeways and other major roads in this town that I haven’t ridden while they were car free, but it still never gets old for me.

After the joyride, we got lost in the twisty streets of T-town before finally finding a familiar bike path to take us home. Overall, it was an amazing day including good riding, good exploring and good company, and I can’t wait until the next long ride.

The last and biggest hill of the day.

Railway Museum Ride

11 06 2012

A couple of weekends ago, a few friends and I set out for the the city’s rural outskirts to check out the Alberta Railway Museum on opening day of 2012. While it’s technically within city limits (it actually sits beside the line), it’s in a part of town known as the “rural northeast” that is mostly farmland, and is far enough away that we rode more than 50km that day, though that included some backtracking because we couldn’t figure out how to cross the newly constructed Anthony Henday freeway.

Finally, a sign that we’re on the right track! Groans from the back of the pack ensued when the next sign, around the corner, informed us that it was still another 5km to go.

I love taking Le Mercier out on the paved country roads.

Uber-cool companion is also too cool for gears.

The last stretch: a gravel road along the tracks.

Not pictured: the part of the sign that said “All unattended children will be given a cup of coffee and a puppy.”

There were lots of things to be stoked about at the museum, but none got me so stoked as the rail bike. It looks like Porta-bike with a few extra stays and the brace for the third wheel on the other track. The wheels looked like regular steel bicycle wheels with the rail wheel welded to the outside.

There are many different types of train cars in various states of restoration that you can tour that are also used as museum exhibits. Others, like the one in the background that are beyond repair, slowly decay on overgrown tracks.

Rockin’ the cycling shoes (don’t worry, no cleats) in the Northern Alberta Railways caboose. This caboose had side bay windows instead of the more common “bird’s nest” lookout points because of the twistiness of the track that went up to Fort McMurray. Caboose lookouts were used to spot fires caused by sparks from the wheels.

Boxcar hoppin’

First class, 1920’s style.

The 1940’s passenger car was once fitted with a bike rack at the front. Alas, only the sign remains.

Heading out. The train museum was lots of fun, interesting and affordable. It’s completely volunteer run, and there’s lots of cool old people who know lots about trains. One of the better kept secrets in E-VIlle, I’d say.

Single speed on the wide, flat prairie.

Not wanting to ride the huge detour on the Manning Freeway we took on the way there, we tried to find another spot to cross the Henday. I knew I saw an overpass around here somewhere. Why don’t any of the roads lead to one?

We decided to chance a dead end and were rewarded with a freshly constructed overpass, no cars, and an incredible view.

Woo-hoo! We’re across the Henday! Who cares if we have to navigate a closed dirt road.

Looking less promising still.

There was a lot of earth moving going on.

I could have sworn there was a road where this massive hole in the ground is now.

But I could see the light – bike paths were near.

And where the hole in the ground turned back into street, a bike path also awaited to whisk us back into the urban core.