Friday, February 27, 2015

Under Pressure

Val keeps telling me to let air out of my fat bike tires. I’m still pretty new to the fat bike. Val’s been riding his longer and he’s more up on what fat bikers say on the forums. He explains that the serious fat bikers all say that playing around with tire pressure is key to maximizing the fat bike experience.

On an intellectual level, sure, I understand how this works. Lower air pressure increases the surface area of the tire, providing better traction in soft conditions like, say, snow. I get the science of it. But the long-time roadie in me still has trouble letting air out of those valves. I’m so used to riding on hard tires and associating low tire pressure with inefficiency that I’m having difficulty adjusting to this new way of thinking. I know I should try it but I haven’t much.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bugle Lessons

A horn or bugle is used on club runs and at meets to give signals for concerted action; the lightest and simplest construction being preferred.

--Charles E. Pratt, The American Bicycler: A Manual for the Observer, the Learner, and the Expert. (1879)

I once wrote a half-serious post about wanting a cycling bugle for Christmas. Well, it took a few years, but my wish came true this past December. My wife gave me this fine specimen, made in India (?!). It’s the real deal, shiny and solid, a military-style cavalry bugle of the kind used by nineteenth-century cycling clubs to call out signals to riders. I love it. It sits on the piano in my living room, and has sparked numerous, usually short, conversations.  (A cycling bugle? Oh.) Now I just have to figure out how to play it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Brown Sugar Blues

Shimmy, shimmy sugar—SHIT!
February slush-squish, root beer Slurpee, mashed potatoes
with gravy

What is this crap?

Front tire side-swerves, back tire spin-slips
You look so soft, your mish-mush patches of plantation raw—
Or is it demerara, turbinado, or dark muscovado?

I won’t be fooled by your sweetie-pie schtick
You are sweet misery on asphalt
Bastard child of global warming and half-assed snow plowing
Succubus of slirt
Take my eyes off you and I’m down for one lump, maybe two

Give me a meringue of snow drifts
Give me a skating rink of a road
Give me an archipelago of potholes

But—ENOUGH with this brown sugar!

How can something that looks so sweet suck so bad?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jasper in September

I went downhill skiing in Jasper this past weekend, taking full advantage of the Jasper-in-January discounts. While driving up Marmot Basin Road en route to the ski hill, I kept thinking to myself, man, I’ve got to ride my bike up this mountain someday! The road up to Marmot is a stunning and steep ascent of a full-on mountain road, one of those climbs that just keeps going up and up. Think mountain goats and yetis.  Yet I, somehow, had never cycled up it. I’ve ridden my road bike in the Jasper area, and, in fact, cycled right past the turn off a few times. How is it that I’ve never thought to cycle up to the chalet?

So imagine my surprise when later that day I stopped for coffee on the way back through town and saw this headline in The Jasper Local: “Tour of Alberta creates mountain stage in Jasper.” Seems I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about riding a bike up to Marmot. In the article, Tour Executive Director Duane Vienneau explains that the September 5 stage of the Tour will begin in the Jasper town site and end at the top of Marmot Basin Road.  He wouldn’t reveal any more about the specifics of the route at this point, but that hardly matters to Tour organizers and fans who can finally say that the Tour of Alberta has a true mountain stage. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Frozen Balls

I’ve been thinking about frozen balls lately, both the City of Edmonton’s and my own. I frequently pass this sculpture, officially known as Talus Dome (talus being a geological term for a pile of gravel that sometimes forms naturally at the base of a cliff)  situated beside the southeast on-ramp to the Quesnell Bridge, a busy stretch of the Whitemud Freeway leading to west Edmonton.

Some Edmontonians, however, unofficially refer to it as a pile of gigantic silver rabbit turds. The mound of nearly 1000 big, hand-crafted stainless steel balls is a controversial subject for some locals. The sculpture cost $600 000 of public funds, and naysayers point to it as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Others, like me, kind of like it. It’s shiny, striking, dazzling in certain lights, a sort of man-made attempt at cool, natural beauty.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tomorrow, We Ride . . .

I love the photo on the cover of this book: two men—the Bobet brothers, Louison and Jean, riding side by side, so close together that they’re touching, in that way that only veterans of the peleton can do, despite having the whole road to themselves. The image captures the bond between these very different brothers. In some ways, they lived in different realms—Louison was the acknowledged champion, Jean the bespectacled intellectual—but throughout their eventually divergent lives, they shared a passion for riding bicycles together, one that lasted far beyond their professional cycling careers.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chickakoo Review

I’m pleased to report that Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area, 40 minutes west of Edmonton, is not only winter fat bike friendly but also winter fat bike fun.

Finding trails to ride fat bikes on in winter can be tricky around here. Sure, the river valley is the go-to place to ride fat, and the valley does offer a fair bit of variety, but sometimes a fella just needs to get out of town. Some of the most obvious places for winter trail rides around here are cross-country skiing facilities like Cooking Lake-Blackfoot and the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. The packed and groomed ski trails at these facilities are ideal for fat biking. There’s just one problem: the skiers.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Cycles

Santa Claus, at least in his modern-commercialized form, is almost exactly as old as the bicycle. Some would argue that our image of Santa as jolly-fat-man-in-a-red-suit was invented by American illustrator Thomas Nast, who, in 1863, created illustrations for Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit by St. Nicholas” (aka “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”). These illustrations in Harpers magazine helped establish the image of a rotund, bearded, mischievous St. Nick.

Meanwhile, the earliest version of the pedal-driven bicycle, the velocipede or “Boneshaker,” was invented just a few years later in France and/or America and/or Britain, depending on which origin story you believe. By the end of the 1860s, velocipede fever had gripped Paris, New York, and London.

In a sense, Santa Claus and the bicycle grew up together in the late nineteenth century. Both captured the imagination of the late Victorian Age. And although the jolly fat man is generally associated with another form of travel altogether, he was, in those final decades of the nineteenth century, depicted aplenty on cycles of various kinds. It may seem an odd combination but it’s not, really. Santa Claus doesn’t look so different from the kinds of men so often depicted astride cycles in the 1880s and 90s, with their beards, pipes, bugles, and quasi-military costumes.

So, as a small yuletide gift to our readers this festive season, here’s a selection of some of our favorite old-school Santa rides. Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!