Friday, April 10, 2015

Orphan Glove

People love to complain about dog shit in the spring time. As the glacial drifts recede from sidewalks and streets, and the detritus of the past five months slowly emerges, once-frozen dog turds shed their icy cocoons and come back to a mushy, pungent second life.

But spring cyclists don’t care about such things. When they look down, they notice other seasonal phenomena, namely the spectacularly shitty state of roads at this time of year, all gravelly, sandy, potholed, and litter strewn. It can make for a grim scene, all that flotsam along the shoulders. For me, though, a sure sign of spring is the ubiquitous orphan glove on the side of the road.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bicycletiquette: Natural Breaks

Dear Bicycletiquette,

What is the proper protocol for peeing mid-ride? Is it okay to pee on the side of the road? Just how discreet should a cyclist be?

Pee Protocoler

Dear PP,

That depends on what kind of cyclist you are. Exactly how and where a cyclist pees reveals much.

In the 1950s, when the great Fausto Coppi was the padrone of the peloton, he had a pet peeve about the indelicacy of his fellow cyclists whizzing on the side of the road. It drove him bananas. European pro riders in those days felt like they owned the roads and, therefore, were entitled to mark their territory freely, letting ‘er fly while standing over their bike frames on the edge of the roadway. The surprisingly prudish Coppi saw such behavior as gauche, juvenile, really, and beneath the dignity of respectable professionals. He insisted that his team, at least, be more discreet, dismounting and seeking out some leafy privacy before heeding the call of nature.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Winter Gravel

A few weeks back, Val, Penn, and I fled the city on a Sunday morning and took to the gravel of the Glory Hills west of Edmonton.  We rolled our fat steeds along frozen back roads under a brilliant, cold sky. We encountered five cars and three deer in our 30 km. It was a glorious ride, indeed.

Now, we all know that gravel-road cycling is on the verge of becoming a thing—all the big manufacturers are putting out gravel bikes and gravel events are popping up like dust devils across the Midwest and elsewhere. The benefits of gravel riding have been extolled by me and others for some time—namely the lack of car traffic and the almost endless route possibilities. But winter gravel? Could it be a sub-thing of that gravel thing?

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Night Bridge

I’ve only got one rule for a night ride these days: it’s got to include a crossing of the night bridge.

That’s what I’ve taken to calling Edmonton’s High Level bridge since July 1, 2014, when 60000 LED lights fired up and the 100-year-old bridge was transformed into a spectacle of color. The Light the Bridge project was the result of a creative fund-raising campaign that saw no public money spent on the lights—citizens and businesses “bought” bulbs (though the city now pays for the electricity to keep them running.) The project led to a healthy discussion of the benefits of large-scale aesthetic projects like this—whether fancying up civic infrastructure, essentially transforming a utilitarian structure into a work of art, is a worthwhile undertaking.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Under Pressure

Val keeps telling me to let air out of my fat bike tires. While I’m still pretty new to the fat bike, Val’s been riding his longer and follows what fat bikers say on the forums. He says that the serious fat bikers all claim 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.