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!





Oh Alberta…

3 05 2012

Alberta: Canada’s Texas; land of cowboys, oil, rednecks, truck balls, and an ultra conservative political climate. It’s not exactly a friendly place to be in if you’re a bike riding environmentally conscious radical activisty type, but still, here I am.

There’s no recession in Alberta. However, in the name of mining the tar sands, more earth has been moved than any other project in human history. To mark this, and to divert attention from the communities protesting the poisoning of their land from mining & pipelines, the city celebrates by displaying oil patch equipment in Churchill Square. I was going to take a picture with my bike in the bucket of the giant bulldozer, but there was a homeless looking dude pissing on it, and I did not want to interrupt his solitary act of protest. Now that I think about it, there was liquid inside this tire… ew.

I often think of this place as the belly of the beast. Many people escape, enriching other places with their energy and creative spark, turning other communities into friendly shores. I sometimes wonder how different it would be if all those collective efforts had been focused here, because if change can happen here, it can happen anywhere. As I read that last sentence, I shake my head and think of the recent election, and how the conservative party that has been governing this province for the last 41 years (fortyfuckingone!) promoted itself as the choice for change in the face of the even more right-wing-looney Wild Rose Party?!? This is a place that chews up and mockingly spits out people working for anything but their most selfish interests.

Click on picture to zoom in on all the juicy details. This election even got the graffiti writers riled up.

Still, there’s something about living in a hostile environment that galvanizes those working towards a more progressive community. I suspect it’s a big part of the reason that E-Ville is home to one of the oldest community bike shops in North America (now with 2 locations), why everybody knows your name when you visit Earth’s General Store, and just ask an Edmontonian about our dump.

The point of all this? Only that this place is more complex and nuanced than the superficial stereotypes, and as a reminder that there is still hope and resistance in the belly of the beast.





A Ride Through the Alley of Light

2 09 2011

Located between Jasper & 102 Ave, and 103 St & 104 St, local artists painted  an entire alley in an attempt to reclaim it as public space. Check it out before it returns to alley grime!

Mercier gets down to some YEG lovin'

An entire block of alley driving surface was covered in colorful patterns in three directions.

An invitation to look down.

I doubt this will last the winter, so I highly recommend having a look at this ambitious and stunning piece of public art soon!

 





An Interlude

3 08 2011

Summer is here. The riding is good. Much has been going on. And I haven’t updated my blog in a while. Sorry folks. I have a tonne of backlogged posts and untold adventures that I just need to get off my bike long enough to write, and I promise some updates on why life has been so crazy soon.

Duct Tape Street Art Test Pattern.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to get unblocked.

Bicycle Bottleneck has also been blocked by construction. This was the only way through until this semi parked on the bike path, over the curb cut.

See you on the streets, friends! Summer’s clock is ticking!





It’s Sorta Like Flying…

30 06 2011

A little street art spotted on campus:

Wheee!

Here’s to bike commutes that make you feel like Superman (but without actually pulling a Superman).





Spring Scenes

28 04 2011

Finally, FINALLY, this long E-Ville winter has let up. The robins have returned and most of the snow has finally melted. More cyclists are popping up, the bike paths are mostly clear, and the city’s finally making a little bit of progress (hey, every bit helps) in cleaning the streets and filling the potholes.

Street art is also starting to pop up again. Hooray!

This past week, I took two epic rides in honor of me getting older. The first was with a half dozen of my closest friends, followed by a lovely dinner. The idea was to meet up in a park near my workplace and set forth from there. I was so stoked for just a simple ride with good friends for the first time after such a brutal winter, I don’t remember the last time I was so excited about a bike ride.

So, of course, I also ended up getting my first flat tire in forever on the way to work. The back wheel that came with the Transend included a “self-healing” tube filled with tire slime, which bled fluorescent green slime reminiscent of you can’t do that on television all over the back end of my bike and into a small pool on the ground. Given the quarter inch long shark tooth shaped piece of metal that was completely embedded in the tire, the slime probably slowed the release of air enough to get me down the road instead of immediately and completely deflating. Still, I was on the cusp of an epic ride with a flat tire and a bike that looked like it ran over a gremlin, and though I had a pump and a patch kit, the patches wouldn’t stick to slime so I would need a new tube.

Luckily, my friends are awesome. I sent out text messages with my tube size, pumped up my tire after work and set off, hoping the tire would hold air long enough to get to the rendezvous point in the park.

Transend, ready for service!

Eventually, someone showed up with a tube, and we fixed up the bike, and even though we spent way more time hanging around the park and less time riding than originally planned, it was still a lovely evening. Thanks everyone for an awesome birthday! (And special thanks to Geneva for pumping my tire up to 60psi with the little frame pump!)

Bathroom break in the valley. There were ski racks, but no bike racks.

This week I also hit the highway and made my first ride out of the city of the year to see my folks.

On the shoulder of the highway. Nothing but rumble strips and a white line between me and 120kmh traffic. At least most of the gravel's gone.

Within city limits, the shoulder of the highway was still covered in an inch or two of gravel, and it was a tough slog, especially on Marjory, but after I passed the county line it looked like there had been some effort made to clear the winter debris. Riding in the city all winter is good exercise, but you never have the chance to just ride flat out for miles and miles, and I was a little surprised at how winded I got on some of the long overpasses. Other than that, it was an uneventful ride.

Later, on a warm spring night, riding with a friend, I decided to stop at a dumpster I know is often good for food and flowers. I needed bread, but I wanted flowers. I guess you can’t always get what you need. I didn’t even have to dismount from the bike, I just stuck my arm in the dumpster and pulled out a dozen long stemmed roses that were laying on top of the rest of the trash.

No bread, but roses for Marjory!

The best things about the arrival of spring are not having to always ride alone, and being able to stop and look for treasure (Terrence and Phillip got one thing right about this canuck) without freezing your butt off.





River Valley Art Gallery

15 10 2010

Yesterday, I found that some art had popped up along one of my favorite trails in the valley. With no camera to document it, I was forced (riding in the river valley on a beautiful fall day – what a hardship) to return today.

Marjory does just fine on this path, thank you.

Along a gravel path, somebody (or bodies) put up a bunch of art that delightfully surprises anyone traveling over the crest of a ridge. I never would have found this spot had I not been traveling by bike.

To whomever did this, it makes me so happy to find such spontaneous awesomeness can still sprout forth from this gray burg. Thank you so much, it made my day, two days in a row.

Cartoon faces overlook the trail.

A bird hides in the trees.

Portrait on Reader's Digest.

I love how this art incorporates its environment.

With the reflection of its surroundings, this piece becomes pure magic.

Have I mentioned how much I love fall riding? No leaves in the valley means more sun as the temperature starts to drop as well as more wildlife sightings. While I was checking out the art today, I saw a pileated woodpecker and two downy woodpeckers, just pecking at trees & dislodging big chunks of bark. Every beautiful day from now until winter is a gift. When the winter comes, I don’t want to have any regrets about fairer days wasted and every cross town commute is another opportunity for a lovely river valley jaunt.

It was one of those match my bike to my outfit kind of days. Come winter they'll be few & far between.