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.
image

A little trail maintenance is a nice touch, though.
image

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.
image

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.
image

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.
image

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.
image

Life is sweet. Cold and sweet.

Advertisements




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.





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.