Friday, January 27, 2017

Turd Window

One thing you can’t help but notice when winter off-road cycling is all the frozen turds. I guess it’s a matter of context. I’m sure there are just as many turds on the paths and trails at other times of the year; turds are just less conspicuous without the white background of snow. In spring, summer, or fall your typical turd blends in with the surroundings, neatly camouflaged amid the leaves, dirt, branches, and grass.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Baiyu Superbright Spoke Lights

Got me some cheap Chinese spoke lights for my crap commuter bike. I had been thinking for some time about the need to improve side visibiIity on my daily ride and concluded that some kind of wheel lighting was the way to go. So I ordered these on amazon for $13, shipping included. They arrived remarkably quickly, shipped from China complete with curiously worded “English” instructions, in time to make a little Christmas gift to myself. I see them as an experiment. I know they’re cheap, in every sense. But, hey, 13 bucks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gravel & Creek

Our first ride of 2017 was a winner, an auspicious undertaking that has me hopeful for the year ahead. I mapped out a route that combines gravel roads and a frozen creek west of St. Albert, between Meadowview Road and Highway 633, to be exact. Val, Penn, and I parked at Sandpiper Golf Course and rolled off into a fierce north wind, with the plan to ride straight gravel roads north and take the meandering creek back. (In hindsight, I see we probably should have done it the other way around, to account for that north wind. Next time, I’ll work that into the plan).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pedal & Skate

Image result for frank patterson cycling artist

Happy Holidays, my friends! Here's to getting outside and enjoying winter.

Illustration by Frank Patterson. Cycling magazine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Corners

That’s been the mantra around our house the past few weeks as our family (me, my wife, and two teenage sons, all winter commuters) once again gets accustomed to riding in winter conditions. It’s been a good seven months since we negotiated icy roads, and it’s amazing how easy it is to forget just how cautious winter cyclists have to be when making turns—even with studded tires (which we all have).

In the days following the first ice, I heard three different friends’ stories of wipe-outs, all occurring on turns taken just a little too aggressively for the conditions.

I find it takes a conscious effort to shift from the mindless leaning into corners we do for three seasons of the year. Winter cornering generally means slow-mo, ever-so-gradual turning—not a single sweeping motion but rather a series of incremental micro turns and corrections as you attempt to keep the bike at a 90 degree angle to the road. I think of it as perpendicular cornering, an action both impossible and necessary. And it’s almost as good for the core as planking. 

Winter corners, winter corners. We say it to each other as we leave the house. I say it to myself as I approach the first turns of my commute, reminding myself to slow to a deliberate crawl as I attempt to change directions.

Winter corners, I recently learned, is also a scrapbooking term used for certain decorative touches in the corners of a page, usually some variation of snowflakes or holly. Since learning this term, I’ve found myself picturing my own scrapbook page, a variation of those “my-first-bike-ride” pages that parents create to commemorate that milestone. Except my imaginary “My-Winter-Cycling” page features a shot of me splayed out under my bike in a snow bank, having taken an unseasonal corner—complete, of course, with festive snowflakey curlicues and scrolls of holly along the edges of the page.

If you’re riding in winter conditions, be careful out there, my friends. Winter corners, everyone. Winter corners.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

One More Kilometre and We're in the Showers

Image result for tim hilton one more kilometre

Tim Hilton’s 2004 cycling memoir, One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers, is my kind of cycling book. It’s a charming account of Hilton’s cycling life in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century, and it covers both his fan’s perspective of continental pro racing as well as the history of Britain's unique club cycling and cycle-racing cultures. Hilton’s background as an art critic (biographer of Ruskin), together with his communist upbringing, gives him a unique perspective on this world. His delightful book is literary (full of poetry and descriptions of club magazines from the 1950s and 60s), nostalgic (celebrating the romance and mythology of English cycling’s past), visual (an image accompanying each short chapter), and chock full of stories that capture a time and place when cycling mattered in almost every town and village.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Most semi-serious Edmonton road cyclists know Halicz-Glidehurst—even if they don’t recognize the unwieldy name. It’s a 20-km zig-zag paved road that runs through a quiet rural area southwest of Devon, Alberta. The noteworthy feature of H-G (as I call it) is that it is the only paved back road in the area. It is surrounded by a grid of gravel. I’m not sure why H-G is paved; apart from being a back-door route to Devon, it doesn’t seem to connect anything to anything. But it’s an exquisite piece of asphalt for skinny-tired cycling, an unlikely but pleasant respite from truck-infested highways 19 and 60, and the kind of road you can ride down the middle of, most of its length, almost any time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Onoway Getaway

It was back in May, during the Dusty 100, in fact, that Val, Penn, and I received an invitation to visit Bigfoot Ryan’s cabin near Onoway, northwest of Edmonton, and ride some gravel roads around Sandy Lake. Finally, a few weeks ago, we got our act together and ventured out there. It was a glorious, sunny, clear day—a rarity in recent weeks—and perfect for autumn riding. But the cycling was only part of the reason for going. I’d heard Ryan and his partner Gigi talk about their cabin at the lake for years and just wanted to check it out.