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.

A little trail maintenance is a nice touch, though.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Life is sweet. Cold and sweet.

Season of Artificial Light

11 11 2010

There’s no more sunlight for pictures on the way home from work, and every commuter on the High Level Bridge has fresh batteries in their headlights (point those things down a little, if you don’t mind). Winter, with its snow and cold, will brighten the darkness and dim the glaring hundred watt lumen uber lights. In the meantime, November is not entirely about dreariness.

A rare day that these lights are actually working and in sync. BTW, this is (accidentally) the best photo of the Art Gallery I've ever taken.

Portabiking through the "waterfall."

I’ve been putting lots of miles on the Porta Bike – it’s just too fun to stop riding, though if I had been riding a faster bike today I would’ve caught a twenty (bill, not bike) blowing in the wind (a faster cyclist got it).

Intergalactic pedal powered transport.

I’m particularly excited about the opportunities for getting into places that aren’t usually bikeable, even if the end result is only weird photos and minor mischief.

New shoes. I got them at a thrift store brand new, but the studs were already starting to fall out in the store. I figured I couldn't go wrong for a new pair of hightops for 8 bucks, but I didn't wear them for months because I was worried about one of those studs ending up in a tire. That would be the ultimate bike fashion fail. Now that I've finally started wearing them, I'm leaving a trail of studs everywhere (and I'm still worried about pulling one out of a tire - I've already pulled two out of the sole of the shoes!).

Porta Bike's now sporting a basket courtesy of the dumpster score the other week.

Did I mention I love this bike? I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s like the perfect balance between ease and eccentricity. I’m even contemplating winterizing it.

When Shit Happens

4 07 2010

Some days you’re the bird. Some days, you’re the statue.

So, what do you do when you’re on your way to work, and suddenly find yourself covered in more shit than you could picture coming out of an ostrich?

Regular readers of this blog may be interested to know that the avain offender was a common seagull, not a woodpecker. He got my skirt & head too.

Step one: scour E-ville’s unusually clean streets for something to wipe off the chunkage. I found a single piece of newspaper about a block away from the initial incident.

Step two: ride to city hall, pushing bike through the throngs of children (it was Canada Day, so there were literally thousands of families crowding the square), trying not to rub shoulders with anyone.

Step three: immerse entire left side of body in the cold fountain, regardless of the 15C air temperature, to remove any remaining gull residue. Splash around and rub hair & face manically, emerge half dripping, half dry, and shake hair to scare off any gawking tourists.

Step four: ride away triumphantly with the knowledge that having just been shit upon, the rest of your day will be better in comparison. I was smiling within 5 blocks, and dry by the time I got to work, 20 minutes later.

Living without a steel cage forces us to engage with public space in case we need a contingency plan if shit happens. On & near my regular commuter route, I’ve explored dozens of places to take shelter in case of a severe storm (ever been caught in hail?), escape routes if I encounter a bad scene, and public restrooms for obvious and not so obvious reasons. Life can be messy, and it’s nice to have places to clean up.

Last week, I had stopped to take some pictures when I heard my bike fall over. To my disgust, I found that one of my grips & brake levers were embedded in rotten apples.

Nope, don't like them apples. Notice the brake lever imprint in the top one.

Step one: don’t panic. Use leaves to wipe off as much apple chunkage as possible.

Step two: ride to a little used, bicycle accessible bathroom. A security guard actually directed me (bike in hand) to the brand new washrooms in Louise McKinney Park.

Cleaning up the bike in a lovely, though underused modern facility.

Step three: using water and TP, clean everything. Don’t forget to air dry to prevent corrosion!

Dry thoroughly.

Step four: ride to EBC to disassemble levers and clean out remaining apple bits. Swear off applesauce for the foreseeable future.

Step five: ride to 99th street to pick a rose and rub petals on hands, grips & gloves to cover any remaining odors. Ride away triumphantly, smelling of roses.

The moral of the story: there's no security like a bicycle accessible bathroom.

Scofflaw, Canadian Style

1 06 2010

A cyclist rides through the vast expanse of concrete known as Churchill Square.
Two police officers on foot see her, shout “Hello,” wave, and move to intercept her.
She says “Hello!” and waves back.
The cops are now in front of her. One says “Please get off your bike and walk it. You’re not allowed to ride here.”
She says “Oh, sorry about that,” maneuvers around them, and rides away unfettered.

Churchill Square. No bikes allowed.