So, Winter, Eh?

31 10 2012

Given the crazy weather in other parts of the continent right now, I’m going to refrain from the favourite Canadian pastime – complaining about the weather. But, yeah, it snowed, and it’s cold, and it could be a lot worse.

I put a studded tire on Porta-Bike in time for some late night riding in the fresh snow.

S’no problem.

Playing with my new front light.

A flic before crossing The Bridge.

Knowing that the weather in late October here can be a toss-up, back in early fall I committed to doing free bicycle tune ups, outdoors, as part of Sustainability Awareness Week on campus. That gamble sure didn’t pay off. I did have a tent & a heater, but I still couldn’t feel my toes after 4 hours. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t very busy, though I did fix about ten bikes (not including my own), gave a bunch of referrals and talked a lot of winter cycling.

Giving Porta-Bike a little TLC during one of the slower moments of Sub-Zero Bike Repair session.

I’ve been riding the foldie since it snowed because I found that the freezing temperatures have brought out some issues with the Globe (my other winter bike), and I’ll have to replace cables before I can ride it far. Not a big deal, I just need to find some time to dedicate to it. I also have another winter bike on the build, but I am waiting for rims to rebuild the wheels before I can launch it into the great Canadian winter. Stay tuned for more on that one later.





Rolling Through a Wacky Winter

27 02 2012

Living on the northern fringe of the Canadian prairie, winter is a serious affair. It’s seriously long, seriously cold, and requires serious adaptation & preparation to really be able to get out and experience it, whether riding a bike or on foot (or skis, or snowshoes, or skates – so many options!). I have a hypothesis that a portion of the traffic I get on this blog in the winter is from other year-round cyclists, trying to figure out who’s the most hardcore (I nominate this guy).

My studded tires have been grinding more pavement than snow & ice this winter.

Except for the this year. Save a couple of cold snaps that I’ve previously posted about, it’s been the warmest winter in memory, with hardly any snow and many days above freezing.

Reflections on a clear street.

It’s meant that riding through the winter has been super easy, and it seems like I have to go out of my way to find any surface to put my studded tires to work.

Sunset on the Globe.

Even an easy winter has its challenges, though, and with all the clear riding I wasn’t giving my chain as much attention as usual.

Oh chain, how have I abused thee? Let me count the ways...

I gave it a thorough cleaning, but it became obvious that is was too little, too late, and that I needed a new chain. Oh well, there were thousands & thousands of kilometers on that chain (no derailleurs make for longer lasting chain), and I knew its time was near, I was just hoping it’d last the winter. It was also a good excuse to break out Porta-Bike.

Have I mentioned how fun this bike is?

This is hardly winter riding.

And this is just wrong for February in E-Ville.

Riding Porta-Bike is always a joy, and I pumped the tires up hard to try to keep the studs off the ground and maximize zippiness. I had a lovely ride, but on the way home noticed a strange bump every time the back wheel went ’round. I pulled over and found a large bulge in the tire, with one of the screws I used for studs dangling from a screw-head sized hole, and another hole sans screw. The bulge was visibly expanding, and I quickly let air out of the tire to prevent an explosion with screw-stud shrapnel.

I took this pic after letting air out of the tire. It was initially even bigger but diffusing a potential bike bomb trumps diligent blogging.

The next day, I replaced the studded tire with a summer tire and marveled at how close that tire came to letting go. The DIY studded tires were lined with a double layer of inner tube, and I think that’s all that kept it from blowing.

Notice how all of the supporting fibers on the inside of the tire have broken in the area the studs were forced out from. Intact screw-stud at the bottom of the pic.

I figured “No big deal, two studded tires is overkill anyway.” and set off on my daily traverse, enjoying the smoothness of the non-studded tire and riding without a jacket.

So then, of course, this happened:

The deities of winter cycling decree that if you remove your winter tires, it will trigger a surprise snow storm.

In E-Ville, winter’ll catch up with you if you don’t take it seriously, even if it’s just for a day. And now, with more snow in the past 48 hours than the rest of the entire winter, winter’s back with a vengence.





Darkness

21 12 2011

Combine the unseasonably warm weather with one of the longest nights of the year and you have a recipe for a dark ride through the river valley.

The rain made the wooden bridge shine.

It started to rain just as I left (and December rain in E-Ville is always freezing rain), which soon turned to sleet, which greased up any exposed asphalt and made me second guess whether I should be joy riding in the valley (on a single speed foldie no less) on such a night.

Things started getting dicey after this picture was taken.

I’ve said it many times – freezing rain is my least favorite riding condition – specifically, when freezing rain forms a very thin but effective coating on hard surfaces that renders tire studs useless. As I rolled over the black roads and paths, I could feel my back tire slipping back and forth, and hoped I wouldn’t have to try to stop, because I doubted if I could and still remain upright.

Once I got into the shaded ravine where the trees protected the last snow we had from disappearing, the freezing precipitation formed a hard crust that my studded tires easily bit into, creating perfect traction. If I had been walking, it would’ve been a much different story.

The sepia glow of darkness in a city lit with sodium streetlights.

Through the night, the rain turned to  snow, and I awakened on the shortest day to the sun reflecting off a blinding white landscape. And even though the worst of winter still lays ahead, I can at least look forward to every day being a little bit brighter.





Arctic High

25 11 2011

One of the nicest things about northern prairie winters is that the sun still shines and brightens the short days, reflecting and sparkling off of brilliant snow. The catch? Those sunny days happen when the air is so cold that it can’t even hold enough humidity to condense a cloud, meaning that many of the coldest days are sunny ones.

Mid afternoon, -20C, sun is low, not a cloud in the sky.

The equipment needed for enjoying such a day is simple: warm clothing (with a sleeve big enough to keep my P&S camera warm) and studded tires to navigate the snow that’s been packed down solid and polished to ice.

The only 20" studded tires you'll ever see are DIY. Edit - apparently Schwalbe makes 20" studded tires, but DIY is the only way I've seen metal on a 20.

Sudden cold snaps in November also make for slow days at the bike shop, leaving time for Porta-Bike pampering. After taking these pictures, I overhauled its bottom bracket and coaster hub. The best part was finally finding the proper cotter pin for the left crank. In the picture below, you can see that the cranks are not aligned 180 degrees from each other, but I am proud to say that now, for the first time since I cobbled this bike together, the cranks are perfectly aligned. Additionally, the rubber plug I made last year for the bottom bracket hole seems to be working well, and the old grease was still pretty clean.

Polar Porta Bike - now pronounced with a preceding kazoo flourish.

At least this first wintery blast didn’t last long, and it’s made the last few days, with their average, near freezing temperatures, seem balmy in comparison.

Cold sun.

I’ve been helping out a lot of other people get into winter cycling lately, but I’ve also become increasingly disconnected with some of my fellow citizens. Cycling year round is  normal to me. Spending time outside, no matter what the weather, is normal to me. So I’m finding it difficult to understand how someone can live their life in a winter city and feel entitled to a 21 degree, climate enclosed shell 24-7, and balk and complain should they ever have to feel the wind for thirty seconds because of the absence of indoor parking. These are the same folks that tell me it’s impossible to ride my bike in the winter (or for transportation, period) despite the fact that I”m successfully doing it, and have been doing long enough that the incomprehension now runs both ways.





It’s Baaaack!

15 11 2011

Winter, that is.

And the Polar Porta-Bike.

Porta-Bike, where the bike path runs along the LRT tracks. And see - a train!

I put the studded tires on last weekend because of the threat of freezing rain, but on Monday morning it felt like overkill as I plodded into work on the clear & dry streets. An unexpected snow storm (ha! – like you wouldn’t expect a November snow storm in E-Ville) descended on the city by evening, turning the streets into an Ice Capades Demolition Derby. On my little winter special though, I was the most stable vehicle on the road, further insulated by a thin layer of smugness.

This year set a record for the latest first snow of the season, and it was almost like everyone (myself included) were just hoping it wouldn’t snow at all this year. That would’ve been nice, but back in reality, riding single speed foldies through snowy winter wonderland Mill Creek Ravine after dark is pretty nice too.





Let’s Be Friends!

12 07 2011

Last month, a little gold folding bike from the ’70’s was donated to EBC. The CCM Traveler was in rough shape, but the shiny gold paint under all the dirt and car stickers looked promising, so I decided to clean it up and give it a makeover to create a quirky sweet bike like my own Porta-Bike.

Porta-Bike meets Goldy Foldy. I think they want to be friends.

The wheels needed replacing, so I salvaged a set of purple rims and white tires that were too sexy for the kids’ bike they were on. Add some white pedals, a white saddle and overhaul most of the bearings, and an uber-cool one-of-a-kind bike was born.

The 20 inch white tire club.

It didn’t take long for Goldy Foldy to sell, and it’s been at its new home for a while now, but, hopefully, Porta-Bike will get a chance to go for a ride with the Goldy Foldy again.





A Little Orange Sign and a Little Orange Bike

18 04 2011

It’s federal election time here in Canada, and I’m proud to be living in the only riding in Alberta that didn’t elect a conservative representative last time around. Of course, I’m cheering on NDP incumbent Linda Duncan again.

A little orange bike and a litle orange sign (and yes, it snowed again).

Though I’ve been politically active all my adult life, and have worked on many campaigns (though not this one, I should clarify), this is actually my first lawn sign. Or, I guess I should say was my first lawn sign. Less than 12 hours after this picture was taken, the sign disappeared. I hope it was someone from Linda Duncan’s campaign that took it to put somewhere that there isn’t an orange sign on every second house on the block (I heard that they had already run out of signs), but I have my doubts, especially considering it disappeared overnight/early morning and, coincidentally, there was a conservative flyer stuffed in my mailbox.

S’pose I should be glad they took the sign, and not the bike.