Of Never-Ending Winters, Girly Italian Foldies, and a Fixation

17 05 2013

It’s been far too long since I made a post, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously busy (I’ve had one day off of work in the last 6 weeks thanks to multiple jobs). Still, it’s been a relatively short amount of time since the landscape looked like this:

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

And only a week after the following picture was taken, the temperature had increased by 30 degrees Celsius:

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, the seasons changed as if a light switch had been flipped, and suddenly the weather is summerish.

I’ve been mostly riding the Fixte. I love the speed, the engagement, the challenge, the feeling of connection between woman and machine and the road. It feels a little weird to go on about it, because I feel like I’m saying the same things the fixed gear riders would rave about to me, the same things that wouldn’t convince me to open my mind to it being something that might actually be safe and fun. I get it now. After riding fixed for a while, when I get back on a bike with a freewheel it feels like the bike is out of control, like “holy crap, this bike is moving all by itself and I’m not even moving my legs!” Yes, I’m liking this fixed gear thing. I’m even planning to convert another one of my bikes to fixed.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

I had built up a front wheel to match the back, a high flange hub and a white deep-V rim, but was waiting for the gravel to be cleared off the roads and for the city to get a start on patching potholes to install it and my new tires. They even came to my street and very crudely filled some of the worst offenders, so my bikes still rattle and bump uncomfortably every time I leave the house. I guess feeling like your fillings are going to rattle out is still better than worrying about dieing on the street after wiping out in a pothole. Deciding that things weren’t going to get any better and that I wasn’t going to wait any longer, I upped the hipster quotient of the Fixte.

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

I wouldn’t say that the 700 x 23 tires are ideal for E-Ville’s cratered roads, but it sure is fun and looks cool. Bright lime green is a colour I’d never wear but I thought I’d try a pop of brightness on the bike, and if it gets old, it’s just rubber and can be easily changed. I have a goal in mind, though. I’m working on how to skip-stop, and I plan on leaving a trail of bright green skid marks around this town by the end of summer.

In other bike related news, there was a Critical Lass Ride to celebrate CycloFemme, a Global Women’s Cycling Day. A small group of us took a jaunt across the High Level Bridge and around the Leg Grounds.

Critical Lass at the Leg

Critical Lass at the Leg

Thanks to Deb for organizing and scoring some really cool temporary tattoos!

This time has gone by in such a blur. Always busy, always something interesting going on, always another challenge. My job at the Bike Library is finally over, and though I’ll miss it, I should have a little more time for myself, to enjoy riding, instead of spending nearly every waking minute encouraging other people to enjoy riding.

Another night, another river crossing.

Another night, another river crossing.

With my fleet of bikes feeling full and my joyriding time close to nil, the last thing I expected was to feel the need to acquire another bike, but guess what fell from the sky?

What's that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

What’s that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

This bike was donated to EBC after it didn’t sell at the annual Bike Swap. How could so many people looking for bikes pass over this gem in the rough? Sure, it needed quite a bit of work. I switched out the saddle and tightened the bottom bracket to make the bike rideable, but it was only after I’d been working on it a while when I discovered its secret. That worn down sticker on the seat tube that I initially read as DOOMATIC was actually Duomatic! Much to the amusement of the rest of the folks in the bike shop, I freaked out. For years, I have wanted to get my hands on a 2 speed kick-back hub to build into Porta-Bike, and here was a bike that had one, that had all the features of Porta-Bike plus more, was prettier and in better condition, and it didn’t have a sketchy looking home weld job at the hinge.

So, I bought it.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Meet Annabella. I’ll be posting more detailed pictures soon and as I fix her up. She needs a new saddle, tires, chain and everything overhauled, so I guess I’ve got another bike project. It’s so little to ask to get this lovely Italian Annabella back on the road.

Ciao for now!





Finally, Some Thaw

4 04 2013

When the snow starts melting at a rate greater than it falls, it must be April, and maybe even spring? When kitted-out road warriors on slicks inexplicably yell at you on the bike path, could that be a sign of spring? When bike parking starts to become possible as the bike racks emerge from the piles of snow they’ve been buried under, does it mean spring is finally on it’s way?

Your business claims to be bike-friendly, yet you use your bike rack to pile snow on...

Your business claims to be bike-friendly, yet you use your bike rack for snow storage…

When finally, FINALLY, that omnipresent layer of slick bumpy ice that’s covered all but the busiest roads since October, has melted, and despite the fact that what it revealed was a road surface more pothole than not, greeted the asphalt remains with joy, does it signal spring is in the air?

And the winner of the title for most pothole laden street is my street!

And the title of most pothole laden street goes to … my street!

The cyclists foe changes from ice to potholes.

And the cyclists foe changes from ice to potholes.

When the reason to ride includes fun, not just transportation, could it mean that a change of season is here?

In creating this blog, sometimes I have strange photographic misfires. I thought this one was share-worthy. Also, bare fingers? Spring must be in the air.

In creating this blog, sometimes I have strange photographic misfires. I thought this one worthy to share. Also, bare fingers? Spring must be in the air.

So I went for a joyride, and created the first timer photos that I’ve done in a while.

And then I slipped and nearly landed on my ass and recovered just in time for the camera to catch me. Self portraits can be dangerous, you know.

And then I slipped and nearly landed on my ass and recovered just in time for the camera to catch me. Self portraiture can be dangerous, you know. Also note the Canadian kickstand.

OK, this is more like it. A girl and her bike on an early spring day.

OK, this is more like it. A girl and her bike on an early spring day.

No pothole foiled me. The Fixte rode responsive and nimble. I haven’t taken it down any hills bigger than the one to the High Level Bridge yet but the bike is proving to be a trusty city bike. I’m liking this fixed thing so much that I’m considering converting Porta-Bike.

A mixte fixie, a white tire while I wait to build my white rim, shiny blue tights, and a sunny spring day. What more could you want?

A mixte fixie, a white tire to tide me over while I wait to build my white rim, matching shiny tights, and a sunny spring day. What more could you want?

And so I ride into spring in a new direction, one I never would’ve predicted when I started this blog. Bring on the fixies! Bring on the road bike! This summer’s going to be fast and light.





The Mixte Fixie

15 03 2013

If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be building up a fixed gear, I would have laughed at you, but something (or should I say someone) has piqued my interest. And seeing his poetic flow of constant motion, whether accelerating past traffic or at a relatively pootling pace to stick with me on the Dutch bike, has made me curious in the ways of direct drive.

So I decided I was going to build myself a fixie, but there was one condition. The frame had to be a mixte, so the bike could be called (with a nod to Sister Sprocket) the Mixte Fixie.

Presenting the Mixte Fixie. The front wheel is temporary.

Presenting the Mixte Fixie. The front wheel is temporary.

The frame is a Canadian made Raleigh Challenger that had been sitting out in the yard at EBC since at least last summer. The wheels and all the components were completely rusted, but the frame itself was in good shape. Plus, it’s as tall as a mixte gets, which is important for this taller than average lass.

Cleaned up real nice.

Cleaned up real nice.

I built the rear wheel with an old school, unnamed track hub and white deep-V rims, and I have a rim to match for the front for as soon as I can find an appropriate high flange hub. I used one of the existing chainrings, not sure how permanent that will be, but the gear ratio and chain line were good, and the cranks are 165. The bike originally came with 27″ wheels, but the new wheels are slightly smaller 700C, so shorter cranks are a plus to help avoid the pedals bashing into the ground.

There's animal, vegetable, and mineral in that there bottom bracket.

There’s animal, vegetable, and mineral in that there bottom bracket.

I really wish I’d taken some “before” pictures of this bike, but the above pic of what I found in the bottom bracket will have to suffice. From the rust patterns on the components, it looks like the bottom bracket was partially filled with a rusty leafy buggy soup for some time. The original drop bars were solid rust, and the original wheels were on their way to matching, so it’s pretty cool that the frame itself is fine.

As I announced my new ride to my friends, the raving bike fiend, ever clever, christened it the “fixte,” which is probably going to stick as “mixte fixie” is a bit of a tongue twister that led to alternate pronunciations like “mixte fixte” and “mixie fixte.”

Looks like the Fixte label is sticking.

Looks like the Fixte label is sticking.

With the bike rideable, I did tiny laps around the shop floor until I was dizzy, getting used to the toe straps and braking. My confidence increasing and my patience wearing out, I took it to the relatively clear streets as the first flakes of the latest snow storm came down.

Dodging ice patches on the Fixte.

Dodging ice patches on the Fixte.

After only a half hour ride, and despite the discomfort of activating some muscles I usually don’t use, I think I’m going to like this. Coasting is over-rated. Too bad that with 6 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, I have no idea when I’ll next be able to take it for a ride.





Passion for Fashion

21 01 2013

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted, and the last month has had it’s ups and downs. On the downside, I got this nasty, lung-clogging flu that kept me off my bike for the longest period of time since 2005. On the upside, I’ve built up my newest winter bike and am enjoying a little bout of newbike-itis.

Introducing the Romein Fashion 90210. The distinctive down tube/seat tube connection seems to be a hallmark of Romein bicycles.

Introducing the Romein Fashion 90210. The distinctive down tube/seat tube connection seems to be a hallmark of Romein bicycles.

This not so little dutch bike came into my life last fall sporting a back wheel with a cracked rim and a half dozen broken spokes and front wheel that wasn’t much better. But it also came with a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub, drum brakes, full fenders & mudflaps, a skirt guard, a fully encased chain, matching rack, cafe lock, rack straps, and a super solid kickstand. It was exactly one generator (it even has the lights) short of being the perfect winter ride. But there’s also a bit of mystery surrounding it. This Romein, with it’s two-tone purple paint job was far brighter than your classic dutch bike, and it’s moniker, colour scheme and mountain bike-ish influences placed its birth square in the nineties.

It's Fashion! Also, check the cafe lock.

It’s Fashion! Also, check the cafe lock and matching purple rack. I took off the skirt guard to repair it.

I don't think anyone in Beverly Hills in the 90's would be caught dead on a bike.

I don’t think anyone in Beverly Hills in the 90’s would be caught dead on a dutch bike.

I decided that since the bike needed new rims anyway, that I would lace up those Sturmey Archer hubs to bright blue deep-V rims. Why? Because I can. Coloured rims, being the fashionable choice, would not only update the bike, they’d make it a bit of a show stopper.

New studded tire bling on the new blue rim.

Fresh studded tire on the new blue rim.

The early nineties Sturmey Archer hubs, (plastic) shifter and (plastic) brake levers aren’t exactly a classic vintage, however. If I can, I’ll probably replace them with older school metal components.

There seems to be a lot of plastic on the brake levers and shifters. I hope it will stand up to the cold.

There’s a lot of plastic on the brake levers and shifters. I hope it will stand up to the cold.

The chain case is also plastic and doesn’t seem very robust so I’m expecting to have to remove it sooner or later. Overall, it seems like it started out life as a low-end bike even though it has features that are either hard to find or only available on a higher end bike in North America.

One more clue:

A dealer sticker from Groningen in the Netherlands.

A dealer sticker from Groningen in the Netherlands.

What an age we live in that I can, with a few keystrokes, go to a Google street view and find a picture of a street half way across the world where this bike was first purchased. It’s a quaint, narrow street in the city of Groningen where there’s bicycles a plenty, but no bike shop. Groningen has been called the “World Cycling City” because 57% of all trips are made by bike (Wikipedia). Sounds cool.

Speaking of cool, the Dutchy's getting a taste of winter with an ice bear.

Speaking of cool, the Dutchy’s getting a taste of winter with an ice bear.

I still haven’t been able to find out much about the manufacturer/brand name Romein, save a couple of photos of bikes older than mine. If anyone out the has any info on these bikes, I’d love to hear about it!

This bike looks sweet with any colour.

This bike looks sweet with any colour.

In the meantime, I’m still adjusting things and have already changed the saddle (twice, and may again) and will probably change the pedals and handlebars as well. Part of me (specifically, my back) wants a bar more swept back. Another part of me has been eying this magenta flat bar currently on the shelf at EBC…

Fashion is best when you play around with it and switch things up.





How to Kick Out the Blues (with BMX)

19 10 2012

It’s been one of those days…

My weekend needs a kick start.

Or maybe just a kick in the ass.

http://www.pinkbike.com/video/43330/

BMX kung fu – kicking ass since the 80’s.





Welcome to EdmonTRON

4 10 2012

Calling out to E-Town – the Master Control Program is running amok. Get on your light cycles and head for the CPU!

Keith & Rob’s bikes, decked out for the occasion.

It was the first ever TRON Ride. Why? Well why not? It’s not like there’s very many 28 story monuments to the 80’s sci-fi classic out there for inspiration.

I’m pretty sure you can find the MCP around here, somewhere.

The game is light cycle. The object is to force your opponent into the light wall trail that your bike leaves behind.

This event called for my most modern looking bike (for once), so I decked out the Globe with lights & glowsticks.

Globe goes glow.

This is it rolls.

Chris on his amazing light bike / sound system.

If I had a helmet, I would’ve totally worn it for this ride.

And at the end of the night, everything de-res’ed.





Ride Like You’re Trapped in a 1980’s Super Computer

20 09 2012

This Saturday night we’re going back to the future. This ain’t just another retro theme ride. It’s the long awaited TRON Ride!

Don’t miss the TRON Ride this Saturday!

After escaping the insidious Master Control Program on our light bikes, we’ll reconvene at BikeWorks to party like it’s 1982, with retro arcade games and a screening of the first ever computer-animated feature film. No movie before or since has looked like TRON, and no bike ride before or since will look like the TRON Ride. So break out the lights and glow sticks and get ready to explore the digital underbelly of this computer program we call “Edmonton, ” cuz we’re ditching the game grid.

Be there, and be square.

TRON Ride: Saturday September 22, meet at 7:30pm at BikeWorks North, 9305-111 Ave.





Retroreflective Manicure

2 09 2012

You  know those moments when you think of something so awesome but also so obvious and wonder “how did I not think of this before?” I had one of those last week – retroreflective nail polish!

Retroreflective means that a material reflects light directly back at its source. For night time cyclists, this means that the light from a car’s headlights is reflected back at the driver, making you look far brighter and more visible from a longer distance. Retroreflective materials are used in things like street signs and markings, high visibility safety wear, and to improve visibility of trailers & train cars.

Last year, I procured some traffic grade retroreflective glass spheres (spheres so small they’re almost a powder). I used them to turn bracelets and silk flowers high-vis in Retroreflective Goodness and to make the magnets in Bike Art Galore. The technique is easy: pour the glass powder over wet paint, let it dry & shake off the excess so there’s a single layer of glass spheres on the surface.

To apply to nails, simply embed the spheres in the final coat of wet nail polish! I did a blue stripe over a purple base coat and then just gently laid my nail down in the powder.

I only did the pinky and ring finger with the retroreflective material because this is still an experiment. The camera flash replicates the effect of headlights.

Hand signals just got way more awesome! Like with paint, the lighter the colour, the brighter it will be, and metallic colours look amazing.

So far, the retroreflective nails have worn better than just the regular polish, leaving me with another problem: how to remove it. I usually rub polish off with an acetone soaked rag but I don’t dare rub the retroreflective glass. Remember the Mohs hardness scale – glass scratches fingernail. I figure I’m going to have to invest in the type of nail polish remover where you dip the whole finger in if I’m going to have any chance of getting it off without damaging my nails. Another issue I’m having is keeping it clean. If I do up my whole left hand I’ll have to start wearing a glove (which I’m not a fan of) while I’m wrenching to prevent any bike grease from taking up permanent residence. At least one thing that I was worried about, the glass spheres detaching and getting into everything, hasn’t happened though.





Midnight Magic

22 08 2012

The ingredients:

  • A hot summer night, preferably one where the majority of people are at home sleeping because they have to work the next day.
  • Friends.
  • Bicycles.
  • A mobile sound system hooked up to an amazing disco bike.
  • A sense of adventure.

Chris brings the party with his bike.

Add a splash at the legislature grounds.

Too bad this is last year for the leg (pronounced ledge) reflecting pool.

And a chance encounter with some more free spirits (people, not bicycles), and suddenly we’re supplying the soundtrack for a fire jam.

Fire spinning!

Making art with kerosene…

…while the city sleeps…

Just don’t drop the flaming staff.

When we pulled up to the fire jam, the folks were stressing about the lack of tunes. When they saw/heard us, several of them ran up and spread hugs all around. Later, we showed them that cyclists could spin fire too, by weaving sparklers through our spokes, lighting them & riding into the darkness.

The night ended with the cyclists riding up the hill to the soundtrack of Hot Butter. I don’t care how tough the hill is, with that you can’t help but giggle & smile.

Anyone who tells you E-Ville is dead on a Sunday night isn’t looking in the right place. Sunday night belongs to the cyclists.





My Longest Rides

21 08 2012

This summer, I decided that I was going to try to see just how far I could go on my bike, with the goal of doing an American century (100 miles = 160km) and still be up for more the next day. So, whenever I’ve had a free day, I’ve tried to spend it on my bike. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time on my bike that I haven’t had time to write about it.

Before this year, my longest one day ride had been 140km on the Tour de Perogy. After doing several “shorter” long rides this year, mostly with friends, I decided I was ready to take the next step and attempt a ride that would rival my personal record, and get me some beach time – a round trip to Lake Miquelon.

Hittin’ the highway. You don’t realize how big those signs are in a car.

Pit stop in New Sarepta where all the fire hydrants are lovingly transformed into cartoon characters. Biking is the perfect way to appreciate this public art project.

I had a sunscreen fail on this ride. In addition to a blotchy burn, I got a burnt stripe between my bike shorts and the hem of my skirt. I only sunscreened to the bottom of my skirt, but of course it rode up as I rode, leaving me with bike short lines for the rest of the summer.

Miquelon has a big sandy beach and salty water that prevents some of the algal blooms we see in other lakes in the area. The water quality was pretty good early in the season, but having been there again since, I’d recommend waiting until next season for a visit. But on this day, a long float in the lake left me feeling like I hadn’t just rode 70km.

Found a shady table just off the beach to make some dinner.

Fuel: frying up veggie drumsticks.

More fuel: “accidentally vegan” cherry strudels.

On this first ride, I was particularly concerned with getting enough food and not bonking. On average, cycling burns at least 500 calories per hour. That means that for 8 hours of cycling you’d need to consume an extra 4000 calories over and above your regular food intake (which is 2000-2500 calories a day for most people). I loaded up on complex carbohydrates in the days leading up to the ride (those calories are easier to store), and took more sugary snacks with me on the ride (those calories hit your bloodstream quicker). At every stop, I shoved a granola bar or some other snack into my face. Even so, I have rarely felt as ravenous as I did the next day.

Getting ready for the return trip.

Racing the sun to the horizon. Man those signs are big.

The evening ended with a little side trip to see family, lots of leftover fake jerky, and 145km under my tires. The next day I had enough leftover to head out of town again to see my parents for dinner. They probably wondered if I’d been eating at all after scarfing down every vegan thing in sight then raiding the fridge for more.

My next big ride was to Sandy Lake, a place I vaguely remember going to as a young child with the all important nice beach. Learning from previous rides (including the peril filled Wabamun trip), I was sporting some stronger sunscreen, a white shirt & skirt to reflect the heat & UV of the incessant northern prairie sun, smaller panniers, and a handlebar bag care of the Raving Bike Fiend.

Whoa! I don’t remember the last time I was wearing so much white. I wasn’t much of a fan of wearing white before becoming a bike mechanic, but wrenching makes it impossible. It’s my new favorite colour for touring, though.

Stopping to explore an abandoned homestead along a back road.

Inside the little house on the prairie.

Pit stop at the Angus & Agnes memorial swing set.

An operational grain elevator in the wild! Elevators were the sign posts and landmarks of the prairie of my youth, but now they’re just memories.

There was a vague familiarity to the road that snaked down to the lake to a memory imprinted in a preschooler’s mind so many years ago, face eagerly pressed against a car window. Not everything was as I remembered though.

Sandy Beach on Sandy Lake. Yep, it’s sandy. It’s a lot of other things, too, like green.

Sandy Beach is a summer village that has seen better days. It seemed like every second cottage had a for sale sign, many of the rest looked run down and on a thirty degree day, the beach was completely abandoned. I cooked some lunch in a picnic shelter with the company of barn swallows and gophers before moving on, with the promise of a nicer beach on the other side of the lake.

Another county line.

A slightly nicer beach, but the water was so green that I decided not to chance entering it.

At least the road to Sunrise Beach was fun – freshly paved rolling twisty.

I decided I’d better start heading home, and stopped in Sandy Beach again for food, water and gatorade (of which I bought the last bottle).

It’s the Sandy Beach store, where you can get gas, groceries, smokes, booze, fireworks but not lottery tickets.

At the Burger Bar, the other business in this sleepy hamlet which was surprisingly busy for a Sunday night, I met some of locals, who were both colourful and refreshing. The cook noticed my bike and asked where I was heading, and was shocked when I told her I was going back to E-Ville and that I’d also ridden out that day.

“Why did you come out here?”

“It was about the right distance, plus I was kinda hoping for some swimming and beach time.”

Loud laughter erupted from everybody within earshot.

“Well actually, there are some kids who paddle out to the middle of the lake on boats and swim there, but everybody usually goes to Nakamun lake, it’s about 15 minutes away by car.”

Unfortunately, it was too late to be headed anywhere but home, and once again I raced there against the sunset.

Sun’s getting low and I’m still in the country.

Having not had my planned swim, I was still covered in greasy sunscreen. This was a problem because as the sun got lower in the sky, swarms of tiny black flies hovered above the land, and whenever I rode through these swarms, hundreds of the flies would get stuck to my greasy legs until it looked like I’d been playing in the mud (but it wasn’t mud, it was flies!!!!). I’m not doing too well with sunscreen. I ought to go back to using the powder that comes off of aspen trunks.

Sunset over St. Albert.

Gross but safe, I made it home in the twilight, but not before a stop at the leg grounds for an unsuccessful attempt to remove the greasy mess. Later, when I sat down with google maps, I was pleasantly surprised to find that at 147km, it was my longest ride to date.

The next step would be to ride the full century. I decided a return to Wabamun would be in order as it would be the right distance and I knew the beach there was lovely and swim-able.

Hello Wabamun beach! It’s good to see you again.

When I rode out there earlier this summer, I was going slower than I could because of a damaged bike and slower companions. This would be the day to really test myself, with no excuse to hold back.  I knew I’d have to ride farther than the provincial park to complete the century, so I headed to the town of Wabamun.

Welcome to Wabamun. Bike, meet boat.

Rode out onto the Wabamun pier.

My original plan was to ride up Lakeshore drive to coal point (where there’s a beach made out of coal) but I got a rather late start, and if I went that far, the prospect of riding on that narrow road in the dark was quite real. Also, with the railroad tracks & allowance between the road and the lake, and blandly reclaimed former coal mines on the other side, Lakeshore wasn’t nearly as scenic as the name suggests.

I rested at one of the many little beaches that dot the lake, Notice there’s still signs warning of the aftermath of the 2005 oil spill.

With darkness creeping up behind me, I rode the 80km home in an astonishing (for me) 3 and a half hours, including snack, drink, bathroom & smoke breaks. Riding the highway in the dark wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be. I had lights & lots of reflective gear, the traffic was light, and cars gave me a wide berth. The white line on the highway became my guide, and the scariest moments were when that line disappeared at intersections leaving me in disorienting blackness. As I rolled back into E-Ville, I was still energetic, and may have inadvertently serenaded another cyclist who was riding right behind me on Stony Plain Road with a complete version of Short Native Grasses, ipod singalong style.

Because I turned  back earlier than I planned, when I got home I plotted my route carefully to find my total distance, intending to head back out if I came short of the century mark. The tally? 160.9km! I did it (barely)! I’m a centurion!

A couple days later I rode back out to Miquelon with friends. I didn’t take very many pictures that day, but I’d like to share this one. Because, for me, it isn’t all this riding that leaves me breathless.

Watching this left me more more breathless than the biggest hill in Beaumont.

In cycle touring, it’s about the journey, not the destination.