Meet the Olmo

26 07 2014

When you haven’t updated your blog for 6 months where do you start? My last post was about setting up the new BikeWorks South. Since then, the shop has been mostly finished, has opened, and has been extremely busy. More on that in a future post. I don’t want to talk about work as I’ve been working nonstop, but have had a little time to squeeze in a bike build and a ride here & there.
So, meet the Olmo.

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This Italian beauty started off with a set of tubular wheels, which I haven’t exactly had luck with in the past. My lucky streak continued when one of them exploded after the test ride.

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Around this time, a large, generous donation of high end road and triathlon parts came into BikeWorks, presenting me with an opportunity to upgrade this lovely old steel frame with some ridiculous modern components. This is actually my first bike with drop bars, so I felt a set of interuptor levers were in order.

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Yep, that’s carbon.
I also added some swanky low spoke count wheels as well as a small purse to act as a handlebar bag.

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It’s taken me zipping to the ends of the bike paths.

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Meanwhile in suburbia…

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Note the sky. That ain't clouds, it's smoke.

Here we have a public art installation in the extreme outer suburbs in a neighborhood that hasn’t even been built yet. In typical Edmonton fashion, instead of commissioning original art by a local artist, the developer got a Seattle artist to recreate pieces that he’d already produced for Portland. Still, I really dig the weird irreverence of it all. I live in a central neighborhood. Cycling out to see these fibreglass monoliths was nearly a 50km round trip. That’s how ridiculous this city is.
Of course I had to go back to see them at night, cuz they light up.

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Not sure why, but I always feel compelled to take my road bikes off-roading. Not the best idea at 130psi.

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This area has been cleared for E-Ville’s next footbridge, and you can see the corresponding clearing across the river. It won’t be long before you can ride down here on a road bike without feeling like your eyeballs are going to vibrate out.

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I think I like this bike a lot. I’m working on improving the stamina of my back, arms & hands as the riding position is way more agressive than any of my other bikes. I also have a few more plans for it. The old Campy shifters and derailleurs are lovely but can’t handle a modern gear range, so I expect to be making more changes yet, and to be riding centuries on it soon.

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Biking Through Blizzards in the Coldest Place on Earth

13 01 2014

As hard as winter has come on this year, this past week has really taken the cake (except I started writing this post last month and got sidetracked). The work week began with blizzard warnings and ended with windchill warnings as the coldest temperatures in the world were registered in this province. In E-Ville, though, life doesn’t stop for the weather, and bicycle is still the best way to get around.

With the snow coming down and drifting on Monday night, I had to ride cross town. As I’ve always said, riding through fresh snow isn’t a problem, it’s when the cars start packing it down and churning it into oatmeal that things start getting dicey. Still better than waiting in the cold for a delayed bus.
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A little trail maintenance is a nice touch, though.
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And while the approaches to the High Level Bridge were drifted over and close to impossible to navigate, the upwind side of the bridge deck stayed clear.
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With days of warnings of the storm, the streets were empty, the desolation more striking than the bitter wind.

It’s all enough to make a girl stud a green tire for her fixte.
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For the record, I haven’t used my front brake since I installed the studded tire up front, though I have had a couple of hilarious slow motion falls into snowbanks while getting my riding boots caught in the pedal straps.
My long awaited bottom bracket and large track cog came in time to witness more than double the average snowfall through the the first months of winter. Unfortunately, it appears that Shimano doesn’t test their grease in E-Ville conditions as the bottom bracket starts getting extremely stiff below -15C. I’ve compensated by bringing the bike indoors whenever possible. We got long runner mats for the living and dining rooms to deal with all the slop melting off the bikes. 

Blizzards, too, must pass, usually not without some subsequent arctic air.
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I celebrated the cold snap with vegan Froyo for me and my sweetie. When it’s this cold, it’s very easy to transport without it spilling or melting.
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Life is sweet. Cold and sweet.





Riding With the Boy

20 05 2013

When bicycle advocates are espousing all the reasons you should ride a bike, there’s something often forgotten. Fun, play, romance.

Here’s to late night rides with loved ones.

A quick turnaround.

A quick turnaround.

When he wants to fly, he goes so much faster than me. In fact, he goes faster than anyone I've ever met.

When he wants to fly, he goes so much faster than me. In fact, he rides faster than anyone I’ve ever met.

Flying down empty steets on the fixies.

Flying down empty streets on the fixies.

Skinny tires seek out fresh pavement.

Skinny tires seek out fresh pavement.

Faster, into the night.

Faster, into the night.

Exploring twisty corridors.

Exploring twisty corridors.

This ride brought to you by... these two bike geeks.

This ride brought to you by… these two bike geeks.

Here’s to looking forward to a summer of passionate nights.





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.





Happy First Day of Spring From E-Ville

20 03 2013

Because in Edmonton, “the first day of spring” is nothing more than a date on a calendar.

At least it's sunny.

At least it’s sunny.

There have been 10 inches of snow in the past week, with more in the forecast. Oh well, at least it’s sunny right now.

Before this week’ s snow, we’d been enjoying a bit of a mild streak, and I’d heard many speculating that this was an early spring. I suspect those folks haven’t lived in E-Ville for long, have a short memory, or have a rosy view of climate change.

second winter

Pretty par for the course in March, I’d say.





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.