Small-Wheeled Summer

Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

Summer has passed, leaves are falling and cool autumn weather has arrived. Rather than looking ahead to the approach of winter, I’m consoling myself by retreating into memories of this summer’s rides. Since I was a terrible blogger during those months, you can come along for the review.

I did pretty good job of showing all the bikes some attention (I love you ALL, my bikes. I really do). Today’s post looks at my late 70s Raleigh20 3-speed folding bike. The R20 is a really fun little city bike. It’s sturdy, maneuverable and (with the stock gearing) surprisingly fast. This year, I treated the bike to a set of MKS Lambda pedals that came in as a donation at BWN and rolled those 20″, 451 wheels through many kilometers.

Sheltering from a shower.

Sheltering from a shower.

The low height of the Pletscher rack on the R20 makes the bike stable even when carrying a fairly heavy load and I loaded it up on a number of shopping trips. The rack only has two supports, not as sturdy as most current racks, and it swayed a bit under the heaviest loads. I may have been skirting the edge of destructive testing on a few occasions.

That's more than 40 pounds of water - destined to become homebrew.

That’s more than 40 pounds of water – destined to become homebrew.

At the Downtown Farmer's Market with a heavy load of foodstuffs.

At the Downtown Farmer’s Market with a heavy load of foodstuffs.

Back in June, the R20 had as chance to spend an evening in the company of its peers. The Raving Bike Fiend organized a group ride on folding bikes and there were 4 people riding Raleigh 20s of assorted ages. In fact, as nobody at all showed up on a modern folding bike, it turned out to be a vintage bike ride as well. Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

 

Raleigh 20 Folding Bike

 

The whole group.

The whole group.

There were two 80s era Dahon V bikes, as well. I have one of these in the garage at home, but I rarely ride it.  Although they do fold up into a considerably small and tidy package, I was never fond of the ride quality and the general creakiness of the folding connections. The steering is twitchy enough that I was sometimes nervous to take one hand off the bars to signal a turn. By contrast, the R20 is very solid and feels much like a regular sized bike.

Dahon V Folding Bike

The RBF demonstrates the fold.

The RBF demonstrates the fold.

This is good advice, as if you do press this button the bike steering will be free to fold. In fact on two occasion, this happened to me while riding my Dahon V, without me even touching the button. Another reason I'm leery of these bikes.

This is good advice, as if you do press this button the bike steering will be free to fold. In fact on two occasion, this happened to me while riding my Dahon V, without me even touching the button. Another reason I’m leery of these bikes.

There were three other old folders, each with interesting features.

Evilleriders Portabike, converted to fixed gear and a veteran of more than one winters riding.

Evillerider’s Portabike, converted to fixed gear and a veteran of more than one winters riding.

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Also from Evillerider's fleet,  this one with a two-speed kickback hub.

Also from Evillerider’s fleet, this one with a two-speed kickback hub.

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This one has the best name. I forget where it was made. Eastern Europe?

This one has the best name. I forget where it was made. Eastern Europe?

My camera stopped working just after we started riding, so I don’t have any pics from then on. We cruised around the edge of the river valley, stopped at a pub for a beer (where the manager asked the RBF to remove his folded Dahon from the table), stopped at my favourite local playground in Borden Park where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset, and finally did a bit of parkade exploration downtown.

I’d say my R20 has no reason to complain of lack of attention this summer. We commuted and rode recreationally,  through fair weather and foul, by night and day. I will include one parting photo, taken on the soon-to-be-replaced downtown pedestrian bridge on the way home from a friend’s birthday party. In the instrument case is my resonator mandolin.

R20 and mandolin

Normal Programming Will Soon Be resumed

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I’ve had little motivation to write or read blogs this summer, but I’ve been riding my bikes all the while – mostly commuting with a few recreational rides squeezed in. In the coming weeks I hope to catch up on my own blog as well as the activities of all my fine blogging correspondents. I hope you’ve all had a fine summer and have a great autumn to come. Here in Edmonton, we’ve already had dismayingly early snowfall on Sept. 8th.

Edmonton Night Cyclists

I apologize to my small readership for my month-long absence from this blog. While there has been no shortage of cycling activities, the non-bikey part of my life (It’s true – I do have one!) has been occupying the greatest part of my attention for several months now. Still, I’ve still been gathering material for the blog all the while.

I have been working on a truly harrowing bit of investigative journalism, a descent into the murky world of Edmonton’s urban nighttime cyclists. These enigmatic riders can be sometimes be spotted cruising the darkened city streets on a startling variety of light-bedecked bicycles, possibly with a music booming, laser light show beaming trailer in tow. Let me provide a necessarily incomplete glimpse into this shadowy society.

Having had some slight contact with a group of nocturnal riders last summer, I began preparations for this investigation during the past winter. My first action was to purchase a set of Monkey Lights to install on my bike. Although moderately pricey, they seemed to be an effective way for me to blend in with the group.

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Nishiki-san at night.

Next, I made discreet inquiries into ways of contacting the night riders to find out when the events might be happening. My efforts lead me to an obscure corner of the internet where some of these people gather. Having made contact I waited patiently for a ride to be announced. Near the end of May, I had my first opportunity.

The trip departed from a certain south-side community bike shop. With a myriad of lights flashing, we glided down  Whyte Ave, accompanied by music blasting from the trailer towed by one of the ride’s ringleaders. Passersby seemed bemused by our presence and many shouted or whistled calls of encouragement. It’s fun to make an electronic spectacle of yourself.

Over the course of the night we bombed through a parkade (slaloming among concrete columns), cruised down the unlit river valley trails, and loitered about on the Fort Edmonton pedestrian bridge. There was worrying moment of excitement when two riders collided, sending both to the asphalt. One rider flew through the air, rolled, and came to his feet like an acrobat. Happily, neither cyclist was injured, although one front wheel was badly tacoed.

I also joined another ride last weekend, but was unable to photograpically document it due to a camera failure. Urban exploring was the order of the night, and several incomplete bits of the new LRT line were investigated.

As the opportunity presents, I will continue to update this blog with the results of my continuing investigations into what one of my informants has referred to as “harmless badassery”.

Again, The Fabulaous Light Bike.

Again, The Fabulous Light Bike.

The Parkade Summit

The Parkade Summit

The Light Cyclist's latest surprise from his trailer of wonders: a projector and Nintendo system beaming Tetris onto the parkade wall.

The Light Cyclist’s latest surprise from his trailer of wonders: a projector and Nintendo system beaming Tetris onto the parkade wall.

I've concealed the identities of the riders.

I’ve concealed the identities of the riders.

The First Mountain Bike Commute of 2014

Finally, finally, FINALLY!

The Iron Horse is back in working order and ready to dive into the mighty fine Edmonton river valley trails. I had wanted to do a ride on Victoria day morning, but was forced to spend my few free hours at the Bikeworks North tuning the bike up. All is well now, and on the very next day I rode the Iron Horse on my daily commute.

I love that my city has such a great network of singletrack, so easily accessible. I’m particularly lucky that I can plot a route more or less directly to work on these trails. My trip in the morning was more on pavement than I planned because I was running late, but I took my time on the way home and spent as much time as possible rolling the big tires through the dirt. I hope to do this sort of commute at least once a week this summer, weather permitting.

I was mostly having too much fun to stop and take photos, but I did manage a token few.

Commuting at its best.

Commuting at its best.

Take your choice: abandoned stairs or tree roots.

Take your choice: abandoned stairs or tree roots.

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I never tire of the prairie cloudscapes.

Changing Seasons

Back when I used to put the bike away for winter, I would always look forward to that first exciting ride of the spring. Now that I’m cycling year round I miss that feeling. However, there is a compensation in watching the slow turn of the seasons from the seat of my bicycle.

We’re currently passing through one of my favourite periods.  At this time of year the sun is just clearing the top of Mill Creek ravine as I pedal to work in the morning. This is quite nice, but even better is the fact the the trees are just starting to bud at the same time. The poplar trees are laden with downy, white, young seed pods that catch the the low morning sunlight and and shine with a pearly glow. The elm trees are still heavy with last years seeds that shine with warm amber light.

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In little more than a week the poplar pods will slowly change from white to a vibrant green, and together with the budding leaves will make the morning woods seem to be suffused with a jade mist. Get out there and enjoy it Edmontonians.

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This picture does not do it justice.

A Trip to Jasper

All-Absorbing-Real-Life-Concerns have kept me mostly away from the computer for the past few weeks, but never fear, the cycling kilometers have continued to slowly accumulate. Spring has more or less installed itself here in Edmonton. I’ve put the winter bike away, and I’ve been doing my best to start giving each of the bikes a bit of time on the road. The R20, the Kona Jake, the Moulden, the Norco fixie and Nishiki-san have all had their day in the sun.

My biggest cycling accomplishment so far this season was making it out to the mountains almost a month ago. My wife’s mother and her husband were taking our kids out for a bit of spring skiing in Jasper, and I tagged along with my bike. This turned out to be a pretty good way to start the non-winter riding season. Considering that it’s early in the season and the bike trails would probably still be snow covered, I chose the Jake to take with me as it’s my best all around bike – at home on pavement and gravel.

2008 Kona Jake

2008 Kona Jake

The trails were indeed mostly snow covered.

The trails were indeed mostly snow covered.

On the first day, I started off with a lazy spin around the town and then headed up towards Pyramid lake. The air was crisp but not cold and the sun was shining down from a ridiculously blue sky – a perfect spring cycling day. My immediate thought was that living in flat, flat Edmonton does not prepare a person for cycling uphill for 6km. Still, I managed to mostly avoid resorting to the granny gears and with only a moderate amount of wheezing I made it first up to Patricia lake and then Pyramid lake. The quiet, wooded mountain roads were a real treat, and the view was fantastic.

Patricia Lake - Pyramid Mountain

Patricia Lake – Pyramid Mountain: Patricia lake was the site of a WWII experiment to determine the feasibility of building giant island-like ice ships for use against U-Boats in the Atlantic. Unsurprisingly, it was found to be impractical, but the history of Project Habakkuk is an interesting one.

While stopping to take a picture I found a Toonie, freshly melted out of the snow.

While stopping to take a picture I found a Toonie, freshly melted out of the snow.

During the trip there was no shortage of beautiful, quiet mountain roads. Automotive traffic was light and considerate towards cyclists, of which I was one of only a handful.

Jasper Trip

Jasper Trip

Jasper Trip

A shoulder almost as wide as a full lane.

I also headed down to the banks of the Athabasca river, to dip my hands in the bone-numbing glacial run-off.

Jasper Trip

Mandatory bridge photo.

Jasper Trip

The distinctive colour of the river, caused by glacial till, was particularly apparent from under the bridge.

The distinctive colour of the river, caused by glacial till, was particularly apparent from under the bridge.

Clear, cold and fast running river.

Clear, cold and fast running river.

There were a lot of Elk loitering about just outside of town. In fact, the amount of droppings littering the grass beside the sidewalks showed that the Elk were comfortable with wandering around the town at night. My 5 year old son was impressed with all the poop.

Jasper Trip

Jasper Trip

There were several reassuring signs to be seen as I cycled around the mountain roads.

Jasper Trip

Staying with my vehicle, the Kona Jake, would likely not have helped protect me from a bear.

Jasper Trip

On the chance that anyone reading this blog has an interest in lichens (and there were a lot of them), I offer the following photos:

Jasper Trip

Jasper Trip

Jasper Trip

Without doubt, the highlight of the trip was my ride up to Maligne Canyon, a beautiful testament to the erosive power of even a small stream. I could have spent an entire day gazing at the smooth-flowing whorls of rock, and exposed slabs of strata but was under a time constraint to get back to the town for the drive back to Edmonton. If I’m back to Jasper again I will budget my time differently.

Jasper Trip

At this point, Maligne canyon is not particularly wide. . .

. . . but it's an impressive fifty-one meters deep.

. . . but it’s an impressive fifty-one meters deep - a narrow slot cut in the rock.

A view of the same bridge from farther down the trail.

A view of the same bridge from farther down the trail.

A different bridge. Here thew canyon is narrower but a mere 10 meters deep.

A different bridge. Here the canyon is narrower but a mere 10 meters deep.

For a sense of scale, please notice the walkers on the trail along the edge of the canyon.

Some walkers on the trail along the edge of the canyon giving a sense of scale.

I found this obviously well traveled route down to the floor of the canyon. If there were less people about I might have skulked down there, myself.

I found this obviously well traveled route down to the floor of the canyon. If there were less people about I might have skulked down there, myself.

After reluctantly leaving the canyon, I hopped back on the bike and raced down the long descent back towards town, an  exhilarating  plummet down a winding, wooded mountain road. The effort of travelling up was well repaid here. Once back in town, I met up with the others, loaded the bike on the vehicle and settled in for the drive home.

Getting into the mountains was a fantastic way to inaugurate my recreational riding season I’ll have to try to do this again but next time on the trails and with a mountain bike.

Jasper Trip