Ride Like a Girl

5 03 2016

Cycling in the winter – as a practitioner and an advocate, it’s a topic I’m always interested to read other people’s takes on. The media represents winter cycling in predictable ways such as during a snow storm, “look at the tough/poor cyclist in the storm” pics, or vaguely supportive pieces including tips for winter riding, or first hand accounts of reporters doing it for the first time. The comments sections are even more rote, so I came up with this to spice up the experience:

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It’s winter cycling comments BINGO!

Meanwhile, I’ve been living with the side effects of making over my fatbike with a very eyepopping and gendered colour.

Pink in the pines. (Actually they're spruce, but pines sounds better).

Pink in the pines. (Actually they’re spruce, but pines sounds better).

I chose bright pink over equally bright green or orange – but really it could have gone any way. I’ve already got another bike with fluorescent green tires, and the only reason I didn’t go orange was because with my blue rims, it would emulate the colours of the local last place professional hockey team. This would’ve resulted in a barrage of drunken pickup truck passengers shouting “Goilers!” on any game night or in the rare event that they actually win. I don’t like getting anything shouted at me from pickup trucks, thank you very much.

Riding on water.

Riding on water.

Colours carry so much symbolism, and no colour in western culture is as heavily weighted as pink. I honestly didn’t expect the colour to completely take over. Nobody notices anymore that the rims are shiny blue and the frame is white.

So now I’m the woman with the pink fatbike. So much for being inconspicuous. Part of the appeal of getting a fatbike was being able to access areas that are hard to access, and the ability to not stand out can be helpful in that regard. Every time I ride it, people stop me to compliment my bike, or ask questions, or do U-turns mid block on 4 lane streets to say “cool bike!” (or just try to make themselves feel smart with passive aggressive statements-as-questions that they clearly don’t want a response to).

Look, I'm not entering!

Look, I’m not entering!

The main objective, though, is to bring joy, and I don’t say that lightly. With the fun, the exercise (especially in winter), the fresh air, the nourishing escapes from life’s stresses, this bike has been one of the best investments in my mental health I’ve ever made. Just looking at it makes me smile.

This bike brightens my day and coaxes me into fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.

This bike brightens my day and coaxes me into fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.

So, may as well go fabulous all the way. After all we’re talking here about an entire season in which the landscape is regularly covered in glitter!

Perfect snowflakes on black cordura on a perfect winter day.

Perfect snowflakes on black cordura pogies on a perfect winter day.

My plain black pogies were warm, but their look ultimately utilitarian.

Check out the frosted tips!

The black pogies reduce the visual lightness (if you can say that about a fatbike) of the bike.

I decided that custom pogies would be a nice touch, and had a little time over Xmas holidays to make it happen. The fabric I decided upon was perfect, except a certain cat became completely obsessed with it and kept running off with pieces as I was trying to sew.

Meet my sewing assistant.

Meet my sewing assistant.

The end product was a pair of bright pink, faux fur pogies, so glam that they distract from the huge pink tires. (Those same huge tires that a certain tubby cat tried to climb up to try to chew on the fur.)

Taaadaaa! Is there no limit to how fabulous a fat bike can be!?!

Taaadaaa! Is there no limit to how fabulous a fat bike can be!?!

Now the pogies were getting all the attention and comments. My partner, out cycling with me one day, asked “is this what it’s like to be famous?” after being stopped for the umpteenth time to be complemented on my “mitts.”

One night, headed to the sketchy corner convenience store on an errand (the one-stop-shop for munchies, crack pipes, and knives in the neighbourhood), I was stopped by the local constabulary who happen to patrol the area by fatbike.

“That is the girliest fatbike I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed one of the cops.

“Uh, haha, thanks?” They stopped me all authoritarian like to comment on my bike? As I turned toward them, they recognized me from my job at a local not-for-profit, changed their tone a little, offered to come by work with some donations, and then turned their attention to creeping the patrons of the neighbouring head shop. Awkward (which I guess is the best one can ask for in a police interaction). This creates additional complications to exploring and testing limits, so to speak, and will ensure I’m on my best behavior riding this bike, at least until I unpink it. If my fattie ever gets stolen, those dudes had better be on it.

Talus balls looking pretty clean for the middle of winter.

Talus balls looking pretty clean for the middle of winter.

As I mentioned in my last post, the original impetus to get a second set of tires was to add studs to grip ice. I was surprised how long this winter I didn’t need them, but when January rains ended the perfect winter riding conditions, I knew it was time to add metal.

First you drill the tires, then you put the screws in...

Does this still look “girly?” Does it roll like Furiosa?

There’s something confidence inspiring about having 7 dozen steel spikes protruding from each pink balloon tire, and I’m not just talking about ice. But still, bring on the ice, because ice is awesome!

Aka rollin' on a river.

Heading up the creek without a paddle.

Depending on conditions, you don’t necessarily need studded tires to ride over frozen bodies of water, but what a game changer. It feels like my tires are velcroed to the ice.

Aka still rollin on a river.

Winter makes pathways out of rivers. And rivers are pretty flat, so woohoo!

Riding on the river has been my favourite thing this year. Splashing over the gravel beds and beaches through the summer, and navigating around ice flows and over outfalls in the winter. The river is the reason for and life blood of this city, but once you are actually on it, the city fades away.

Following a lone coyote track in the dying light through tonnes of giant chunks of ice stacked by the river’s force, I passed the point of no return. In an alien landscape I would have balked at had I been able to properly see what I was getting into, I found riding skills and confidence I never knew I had. Getting safely home came down to the river, me, and my bike – pink didn’t matter. This is what riding like a girl is about.





The Pink Rubber Effect

5 12 2015

Given the choice between riding and writing about riding, it’s no wonder that I’ve been choosing the former for my sparse spare time lately. When I last checked into this blog, I was just beginning to explore fatbiking. In the interim, I’ve had a lot of fun on those four inch tires, and have got more spring, summer, and fall mileage than I ever expected.

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This is what happens when you try to commute by fatbike.

On a fat bike, the journey between two points is never a straight line.

With winter approaching, however, I had to be honest with myself. As much as the fatbike is the best thing ever on snow, it’s the worst thing ever when it turns to ice. I needed studded tires if I didn’t want to be slip sliding falling around between snow storms.
And so it started innocently enough, searching for reasonably priced tires that I could put studs in and wouldn’t suck for winter.

Here is how it turned out:

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My already flashy fatbike is now predominantly shocking pink.

I’m already used to this bike getting a lot of attention, but I didn’t foresee what would happen next.

The day after changing the tires over my boyfriend and I went out for dinner where we sat beside the window to keep an eye on our locked bikes. Watching the passersby we witnessed many double and triple takes, people stopping dead in their tracks to turn around to get another look, people getting so distracted that they tripped or bumped into other folks. As the new pink rubber glowed in the darkness, I wondered what exactly I had created, while the boy wondered if its mere appearance could cause a car accident.

The next day, the snow began.

Working late across town, I had the bright idea of taking the scenic route home through 8″ of fresh snow, forgetting how much extra effort that would actually take.

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Scenic route

I was less than halfway home before starting to feel the bonk, and by the time I was off the trail and back onto relatively easier car packed snow, I was struggling not to collapse. The streets otherwise deserted, a pickup pulled up to a 4-way stop sign just ahead of me, to my right. Taking a moment to catch my breath, I waited for the pickup to go, but it didn’t move. I motioned to the driver to go, as he clearly had the right of way. Stillness. Finally he rolled down his window.

“Go ahead,” I said, motioning again.

“No,” he said, “You go. I want to check out your cool bike!”

Momentarily stunned by his words, the likes of which I’d never had directed at me from a driver during a snow storm, I wobbled forward in front of his truck.

“Awesome tires!”

“Thanks,” I said, as I waved and trudged on.

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The fatbike rolls beautifully over the oatmeal snow that currently infests all of the side streets while the colour scheme pops from the grey winter scenery. So I’ve been riding it a lot lately.

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The other day, I was riding past a playground. A family was trying to enjoy a sunny winter day, except for a screaming, crying toddler. As I slowed and redirected to give them a wide berth, the older child caught sight of me.

“Look at the bike!”

Then the adult, “Oh, look at the bike!”

And then, silence.

I slowed my pace right down to stretch out the moment, wondering what other strange powers beyond quelling tantrums these giant pink tires bestowed.

As I said, I’m used to people commenting on or asking me about my fatbike. Though 80% of the comments amount to “that looks good for winter” and “that must be hard to pedal,” they are still overwhelmingly positive. Since the makeover, I’ve heard “nice tires,” a lot, but some of the reactions have been much less predictable.

Waiting at a red light, a random dude crosses the street in front of me.

“Nice tires!”

“Thanks.”

“They look really tastey.”

“Huh?”

“Like, I could eat them! I want to eat your tires!”

“Um…”

“Mmmmmmmm! Yum yum yum!”

At which point, the line between funny and creepy being crossed, I jumped the red light.





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!





Bye Bye Bonelli

26 03 2013

If you have read this blog since I began it 3 years ago, or have just read all the archived posts, you may remember a little bike called the Bonelli that really got around. It’s the bike in the banner picture of this blog but Bonelli hasn’t made an appearance for quite some time, mostly because I haven’t been riding her.

Ol' Neli, fresh from the basement.

Ol’ Neli, fresh from the basement.

I’ve probably put more miles on this bike than any other I’ve ever owned. It was my only ride for years, and it was integral to me learning bike mechanics. The only original part on this bike is the left shifter, every other part, cable, bearing has been overhauled or replaced, often repeatedly, by my own hands. She got me through every possible situation, from winter ice to summer trails, and took all the abuse I could give.

So, why haven’t I been riding her? Now that I have my own personal fleet of bikes, I have bikes that are specialized to do the things I used to do on Bonelli, only better, and more in synch with my personal style. This is a super utilitarian bike, but I’ve come to expect more of my bikes – I need them to be useful, cool and unique, so given the choice, I always ended up choosing another one of my bikes, until eventually Bonelli ended up in the basement collecting cobwebs.

I don’t have infinite storage for bikes, though, so with the addition of yet another bike to the fleet (the Fixte), I decided it was time to find Ol’ Neli a new home. I brought her down to the local community bike shop, where Tim cleaned her up and I gave her a complete tune-up to get her ready for her new home.

Now, she's waiting for her new rider down at BikeWorks South.

Now, she’s waiting for her new rider down at BikeWorks South.

It’s a common pattern amongst I’ve seen amongst women who really get into cycling: start on a hybrid that can do anything, though nothing particularly well, and then move on to more specialized bikes as you get a better idea of what kind of cycling you like to do (which can, of course, change, like who knew I would’ve been riding fixed?) and begin exploring different challenges and riding experiences. Eventually, the hybrid becomes redundant and unneeded.

I hope Bonelli finds a home with a bike commuter and gets put to work every day, because I know first hand that this bike is up for it.

In the meantime, I learned how to ride fixed during the biggest snowfall all winter.

A foot of fresh snow is good for two things: Canadian kickstands, and learning how to skid stop.

A foot of fresh snow is good for two things: Canadian kickstands, and learning how to skid stop.

I think I’ve caught a case of the fixie fixation. I’m having a blast on this bike, and am really enjoying how it challenges me in new ways physically and mentally. It’s also handled pretty well on the snow and ice – I’m glad I didn’t wait for better weather to start riding it.

Too bad I can’t wait for better weather for decent bike parking.

Here's what's going on in this picture. See the slant-lollipop style of bike rack? Of course not because it's almost completely buried in snow. To lock up, I had to hike to the top of that show pile then lean over low to get the lock on the rack. In the background, there is a limo and the cops. Because that's who's out on Whyte Ave during the worst storm of the year: a limo, the cops, and me.

Here’s what’s going on in this picture. See the slant-lollipop style of bike rack? Of course not because it’s almost completely buried in snow. To lock up, I had to hike to the top of that show pile then lean over low to get the lock on the rack. In the background, there is a limo and the cops. Because that’s who’s out on Whyte Ave in the middle of the night after the worst storm of the year: some limo, the cops, and me.





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.





Helmets Aren’t Stupid But Using Them as the Sole Measure of Safety Sure Is

27 09 2012

Before I get into this rant, I want to remind everybody that this is my personal blog, and all opinions expressed here are my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the positions of any organizations that I may be affiliated with. So if you’ve got beef with what I’m going to say, direct it at me please.

So, here we go. Helmets. Their use, efficacy and mandated use are possibly the most polarizing issues in the cycling community today. I’ve purposefully avoided directly addressing helmet use in my blog because I don’t want to host a regurgitated, staid debate that does nothing productive and just pisses people off. But something recently happened that I feel compelled to share.

I was excited to hear about an educational bike tour that the city was putting on. I even shared links to the event over facebook and through local bike related organizations, invited friends, and was genuinely looking forward to it. On the day of, I agonized over which bike to take, and decided I’d challenge myself with the old CCM as the organizers classified the difficulty of the ride as “beginner to intermediate.”

The CCM was ready for some river valley adventures.

I rushed to the rendezvous after work and immediately felt out of place. There I was on a single speed loop frame wearing a skirt, and everybody else there (with the exception of the folks I knew) was sporting spandex and fancy road bikes, looking ready for a race. Admittedly, I was confident I wouldn’t be the first one walking once we hit the hills in the  river valley, and was loving the thought of showing this homogenous group what a real cyclist can look like. I’d even brought my tools in case someone broke down.

It wasn’t meant to be, though. As we were socializing before the ride started, one of the organizers approached me and told me that I would not be allowed to participate because I wasn’t wearing a helmet.

I was stunned. I thought this was going to be a casual ride, and nowhere on the event publicity had it mentioned that helmets were mandatory. Some of my friends came to my defense and told her that I was a very safe and capable cyclist, but she claimed that if the group were even seen with a non-helmeted rider, it would make them look unsafe and irresponsible.

It was all so arbitrary. They were judging my skill, safety, and whether I was a threat to myself or others by my choice to not wear a styrofoam hat. If I’d been riding a bike with no brakes and flat tires I’d’ve been good to go in their eyes as long as I was wearing the prescribed head gear. Part of me wonders if they would’ve been so hard line if I’d been decked out in cycling gear and riding carbon, but it still boils down to fashion sense and not sporting the right uniform. I have a little bit of experience in organizing group rides myself, and safety is also a priority for me (hey scoffer, I said safety, not legality, they aren’t always the same) as I would feel responsible if something bad happened at my event. This means that if someone’s having mechanical issues, we don’t ride until it’s fixed, or if they’re riding like an idiot, they hear about it. Preventing accidents has way more safety benefits than all of the best protective equipment. That being said, there is one piece of safety equipment that I almost never forget – my gloves.

Regular readers may have noticed that there aren’t any pictures of me wearing a helmet on this blog. In the last 10 years, the only place I’ve worn one is on the bike polo court. I’m not knocking anyone else’s choice to wear a bike helmet because it is just that,  a personal decision. I live on my bike. I’m more comfortable riding than I am walking. Do I need a helmet to walk, even though I’m clumsy sometimes? Of course not! So why would I think I need one to bike? The chance of me falling on my head is equally unlikely. I also know that not everyone has the same amount of practice/skill/balance/confidence/sobriety that I do on a bike, so if they feel safer wearing a helmet, then great! I support anything that helps riders gain confidence.

I could go into how promoting helmet use increases the perception that cycling’s unsafe, or how drivers give more space to riders without helmets, presumably because they either identify them as humans before cyclists, and can therefore better relate to them and their fragility. I could talk about how helmets only seem to be effective in mitigating a very specific and uncommon injury.

For me though, the truth is simpler. I don’t like them. I hate they way they feel, I hate the way they look, I hate how I can’t feel the wind in my hair, I hate how they smell, I hate how bulky they are, and I hate how they effectively increase the diameter of my skull by two inches, making it more likely that I’ll bump my head into things (this was my experience during the few of years of my life that I was wearing a helmet all the time). Because of how integral bikes are in my life now, if I chose to wear a helmet, I’d have to do everything but sleep in it, and for me, the hassle and disincentive to ride far outweigh the potential benefits.

So, I wasn’t allowed to join the ride. There was a bit of a debate with the organizers and my friends stayed back with me in solidarity. Instead, we went on our own rides. I had this urge to take the CCM offroading, and Christal had a new 29er to test out, so we headed for the valley as the other riders walked their bikes down the block.

We can ride if we want to, we can leave your friends behind… (girl without hat & the safety dance).

Christal & her new ride.

I had a good time on our alternative ride. We explored some gorgeous corners of the river valley and challenged ourselves with some fairly difficult single track. Going up steep gravel paths definitely wasn’t the CCM’s thing, but otherwise it rode fine. “Gravel, pffft,” says the tenacious old bike, “when I was young all the roads were gravel or dirt. You kids today have it too easy!”

OK, so I wouldn’t want to bike here every day, especially with this bike, but I still had an awesome time. I felt so old-school. It reminded me of being a kid and exploring the ravines on my old mixte.

From what I heard back from the people that stayed on the main tour, it was also a really good experience with exceptionally knowledgeable guides (minus their views on bike helmets, of course). I haven’t singled out the event for criticism because I want to see more events (educational bike tours) like this, and I don’t want to start up petty beef with the organizers when they’re doing something that I really support, it’s just this one stupid little thing…

One of my friends wrote a lovely letter, expressing his displeasure with how this was handled. The response wasn’t the one I was hoping for, but it was the one I expected. In the future, it will be clearly expressed in all promotional materials that helmets are mandatory, and the organizers will have some extras on hand in case anybody shows up without one. In other words, the helmet fixation will continue.