Friday, December 12, 2014


I’m a regular reader of Tom Babin’s cycling blog, Pedal. Babin’s day job is Features Editor at The Calgary Herald, but Pedal gives him a chance to write about his passion for cycling, especially bike commuting, bicycle infrastructure and culture in Cowtown (er, I mean, The Heart of the New West), and winter cycling. Babin’s posts on Pedal are always engaging and accessible, a provocative blend of the personal and the topical. 

Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling is a longer-form exploration of several ideas Babin initially explored in short bursts on Pedal. It’s the only book I know of about winter cycling specifically, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is bike-curious about winter. It’s a breezy read, and a mostly compelling combination of personal narrative, light research on the history and geography of winter cycling, and an argument for embracing both winter cycling and just winter, in general.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tasting Notes: Gu Salted Caramel Gel

For a flavor that I don’t even recall being an actual flavor until about 15 years ago, salted caramel has come a long way in recent times. It’s popping up everywhere—Haagen-Dazs, Starbucks, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Wal-Mart chocolate toffees, that gelato bar I went to in Ottawa last summer—and consumers can’t seem to get enough.

The combination of sweet and salty is an ancient one, but as this 2008 New York Times piece explains, its recent fame can be traced back to France, where salted caramel, like Jerry Lewis, was popular in the 1970s. Foodies in New York and San Francisco gradually caught on, and by the 1990s, salted caramel started showing up in everything from macarons to milkshakes. Next thing you know, Obama proclaimed a thing for salted caramel dark chocolates, and the once obscure combo was bound for the mainstream. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


My last day in Portland, a few weeks back, I woke up early and went for a walk in the pre-dawn dark. After grabbing an Americano at Crema, I began meandering back to my guest-house, when the skies opened, and I found myself under a full-on down-pour.

It had been drizzling pretty much the whole time I was in Portland, but I quickly learned that true Portlandians just ignore drizzle. (In fact, I stopped using my umbrella the first day when I sheepishly realized no one else used one. I was made to feel like a wuss holding that thing over my head.) But that was a mere mist; this was real rain.  Looking for shelter, I ducked into the nearest place with lights on, which happened to be Universal Cycle. It was 6:45 am. And the place was open for business.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Toes

My feet are humming. They’ve been like this all day. Tingling, buzzing, a low-level vibrating. Call it a circulatory hangover from this morning’s bender of a frigid bike commute. For me, this thrumming sensation in my toes is a surefire sign that winter cycling season is upon us.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Is this the Last Nice Day of the season? Could be. It’s 10 degrees C in Edmonton, downright balmy for a time of year when the highs and lows are dominated by single digits and minus signs. You barely need a jacket out there. On a gift of a day like this, I think to myself: I absolutely have to get out on my bike.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in Portland

“Halloween is tough in Portland.” This according to Terry, who runs the Everett Street Guesthouse where I stayed in the funky neighbourhood of Laurelhurst. What she meant is that Portlandians are generally so tattooed, pierced, bearded, and eccentricly clothed, that, as Wolfman Althusser might say, it is always already Halloween in Portland. When October 31 rolls around, how do you step it up?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City of Fenders

I’ve never seen so many fenders. Or, for that matter, so many Subarus, or Priuses, or beards, nudie bars, doggy daycares, or really fine craft beers I’ve never heard of. But it’s the fenders that warm my heart. Rain is reality in Portland, so if you’re going to ride a bike here—and an impressive number of Portlandians do—then it only makes sense to fender up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Portland Postcard

This is Saltzman Road, just west of Portland, Oregon, easily my favorite part of today’s ride up along Skyline Road and then around lovely Sauvie Island.

Saltzman Road isn’t really a road so much as a path up a mountain. Cars, technically, can drive part way up a narrow, switchbacky, crudely-paved laneway, but a gate forces the car people to park and walk. Bikes, however, can keep going up. And up. The climb is about 3000 feet, and the road gets narrower and narrower, while the forest gets thicker and thicker, ferns and moss closing in on all sides. Near the tippy top, fog filled in the few remaining open spaces.