A Fine Little Breeze

My current home of Edmonton isn’t very windy by the standards of the place I grew up. When the people here get worked up about how strong the winds are during a storm, I’m most often underwhelmed. Are trains blowing off the tracks? Are truckers driving down the highway two-abreast to try to stay on the road? No? It’s not that windy, then. Go to Wreckhouse during a Southeaster and then we can talk about wind.

On other hand, we do get  intense winds here in Edmonton during summer thunderstorms but they usually only last for less than half an hour. When a breeze settles in to stay a while it is quite the occasion. And then there are tornados on the prairies as well – something I hope to never see.

Given all that, our recent day-long storm with gusts exceeding 100 km/h was a pretty big deal here. I rode to work in the morning on my Raleigh Superbe through a steady downpour and with a strong tailwind. The storm kindly expended most of its force while I was snug inside at work listening to radio reports of the storm damage, power outages and fallen trees. By the time I was heading home there was only a stiff headwind with driving rain that fizzled out as I rode.

The were were certainly a lot of branches and twigs stem across the asphalt. I decided it was probably safe to dip down onto the Mill Creek paved trail for a short distance and see if there was any storm damage. In what was likely less than a kilometer of riding I had to get past about eight trees fallen across the path. I forgot to count at the time. I didn’t take any pictures due to the rain, but the next day on my way to work I took one shot before detouring back to street level.

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The city announced that all River Valley trails we closed for the day, but the foresters put in a hard day’s work and almost all the paths were reopened by time time I was headed home.

All in all, I do have to admit that it was a fine little breeze we had.

 

Three Speed October Challenge: Week Three Finale

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1965 CCM Continental

Challenge complete! It was warmer this week, most of the early snowfall has now melted and the normal autumn weather felt like a reprieve from a winter that hasn’t officially arrived yet. I found the time to get my third three-speed bike into service to ride for the challenge and met my additional personal goal of riding each bike at least three times during the three weeks.

The last of my bikes to be used in the challenge is the first three-speed I ever owned. I bought this 1965 CCM Continental a few years back from the Raving Bike Fiend. It’s a lovely old bike that has only seen light use since I acquired it. Unlike the Superbe or the R20, and for reasons I can’t quite pin down, this one insists on being ridden at a leisurely pace. I’ve mostly used it for relaxed family rides or as a show bike for group rides.I rode it for the 2011 Edmonton Tweed Ride. I dressed it up a bit for the first 2012 Edmonton Steampunk Bike Ride. On the more practical side, I rode it to work one frigid winter morning when it was so cold that the freehub on my winter bike was freezing up – no need to worry about that with the Sturmey-Archer three-speed.

The bike has front and rear lights intended to powered by the dynamo built into the AWG rear hub but I’ve never got around to wiring them up properly. It has steel rims, a one piece crank, fantastic high bars and weighs about 40 pounds. The bike is a bit small for me and as nice as it is to have some Made in Canada content in my little bike fleet, I think I will soon sell this one. I hadn’t ridden it in all of 2016 and I don’t believe I rode it more than once in 2015. With this October Challenge I was glad to have a reason to shuffle it out from the back of the bike pile in my garage, dust it off and ride it for a few days.

Day Three: Tuesday

On Sunday and Monday I played it safe and commuted on my winter bike but by Tuesday the conditions seemed suitable for bringing out a three-speed again for the 20km round trip to work. Road construction caused me to detour onto a short segment of footpath.

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On the way home I stopped to take a few pics of the rapid progress that’s been made on the new footbridge that’s part of the city’s funicular project. Given the foul weather on the previous Friday I had been cranky about the lengthy detour this bridge construction forced me to take. However, now that the hill is open again and I can see how much work they got done over the course of four days I have to be impressed with the good job the workers seem to be doing.

That evening I also completed a second qualifying ride when I rode my Raleigh 20 on a 5.5 km round trip to Kingsway mall to run an errand. I didn’t stop to take any pictures but I did notice just how much more nimble and zippy the R20 is compared to the CCM.

Day Four: Wednesday

On Wednesday I rode the CCM to work again for another 20km roundtrip. On the way back I stopped at the southside Earth’s General Store for supplies. My bike was in good company at the rack with a Kuwahara Super Tour and a Norco Eurosport Tri-A with an appealingly gaudy pink & white splatter paint and added moustache bars. After leaving the store I indulged in another beauty pic of the CCM and a riding bike selfie. (Remember when they were called Panda Shots?)

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Day Seven: Saturday

I managed to get one more qualifying ride in on the CCM with a 8km roundtrip downtown to visit the bank, shop for supplies at the downtown farmers’ market, and drop in at Bikeworks North on the way home. I couldn’t let the entire October Challenge pass without getting tweeded up at least once so I dug out my Harris Tweed for this ride.

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It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon ride under a bright blue sky while breathing in the crisp autumn air. While downtown I snapped a few pics of the recently completed Kelly Ramsey Tower. The original building was badly damaged by a fire in 2009 and was eventually demolished. However, much of the original facade was salvaged and reassembled as part of the new building. I often feel ambivalent about projects that preserve the only exterior of a building but in this case it was well done to save something from the aftermath of the fire.

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After popping in to Bikeworks to say hi to the other volunteers I rolled across the avenue to the Hungarian deli to buy a couple of links of their medium-hot sausage. This little unassuming shop has lots of interesting products and is also my source for jars of thick, tangy rosehip jam.

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That was my final ride for the October Challenge – it was lots of fun to get out and ride these pleasing and practical bikes. During the challenge I rode my Raleigh Superbe seven times with six qualifying rides totaling 106 km (66 miles). I rode my Raleigh 20 four times with three qualifying rides totaling 30.5 km (19 miles). I rode my CCM Continental on three qualifying rides totaling 48 km (30 miles). Of all the rides only one was strictly a pleasure ride – the others all qualified as utility rides.

Thanks to Portland’s Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League  & Society of Three Speeds for creating the challenge.

Three Speed October Challenge: Week One

The first week of the Three Speed October Challenge has wrapped up and I’ve done some respectable three-speedin’. On each day of the week I managed at least one trip on an appropriate bike. Not all met the requirements of the challenge but I will present them here anyway because in accordance with Rule#3 of The Society of Three Speeds I did indeed ride my “my three speed bicycle with pride and immense enjoyment.”. 

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Raleigh Superbe

The main bike this week was my 70’s era Raleigh Superbe. I do so love this one – for me it represents a perfect realization of one type of bicycle design. It’s no lightweight, coming in at about 45 pounds, but it has a wonderfully smooth ride and strikes that elusive balance between responsiveness and stability that is so valuable in a practical machine intended for transportation and recreation. This bike came to me in nearly factory-new condition, with pristine bronze-green paint and all thoughtfully specified components in fine working order, including the hub-dynamo driven front and rear lights. The only additions I’ve made to the bike are new tubes and tires (having replaced the cracked originals with some spiffy new Rubenas) ; a Brooks B67s saddle;  Kool Stop Continental brake pads for a bit of assistance with the steel rims; an old double-legged kickstand; and a cheap alloy bell (soon to be replaced with a nice brass Crane). Riding this bike is a true delight and makes this October Challenge no challenge at all, really.

Day One (Sunday)

Sunday’s ride was an easy 10km round trip to pick up my son. Towing the trailer with the Superbe was a snap, although with the lesser braking effectiveness of the steel rims I wouldn’t want to do this in the rain. I don’t know how many more trips there will be with the trailer anyway, as by springtime I expect I would have to fold the boy over twice to fit him in there.It’ll be the end of an era.

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Day Two (Monday)

Monday’s ride was a 20km round trip commute to work on the Superbe. I didn’t have much time to dawdle and took no photos.

Day Three (Tuesday)

Tuesday’s ride was another 20km round trip to work on the Superbe. I zipped in briskly  on the morning trip but took my time on the return and allowed myself the pleasure of riding some of the gravel trails and sampled the fading autumn splendour of our urban forest. My ride took me over and under bridges and I stopped to take several pictures.

I stopped to look at the construction progress where the City will be demolishing the old pedestrian bridge and replacing it with a fancy new one that will accommodate both pedestrians and the trains for the new LRT line. While I support the new public transit project, I will very much miss the old bridge which offered a peaceful place to linger as one crossed the river. The new bridge, while much more visually striking, will offer, at best, a practical way to get across the river. I don’t see it being the pleasant social hub that the old one was. On this day, the area was a proper hive of activity, with a stream of trucks delivering the boulders being used to construct the berm that is required for tearing down the old bridge.

On the way up the hill from the construction sight I stopped in at the Chinese Garden. I hadn’t been there in quite a while and was pleasantly surprised to see new carvings of the Chinese zodiac installed. These look quite tamper proof and should last longer than the previous ones that suffered badly at the hands of vandals. Behind these statues you can see the little bridge over the water-less pond. I don’t know if the City ever intends to fill that pond but the bridge will remain a somewhat pointless object to me if they let it remain dry.

Day Four (Wednesday)

This day was another 20km round trip commute on my Superbe. Once again, I was racing the clock in the morning but had time to enjoy the ride on the way home. This summer brought more rain than I remember experiencing since I’ve been in Edmonton. It seemed like there was a least a shower per day and many heavy downpours. The greenery in my garden thrived, but the trails in the river valley and ravines experienced accelerated erosion and many trails have been closed. The Superbe offered a civilized and refined ride over some mild singletrack and I was reminded how little difference there is between the common old standard of 26 X 1 3/8 wheels (650A) and the new bike-industry darling of 650B.

Day Five (Thursday)

On Thursday I was on a very tight schedule and didn’t commute on a three-speed, opting instead to ride a faster bike. In the evening  I did ride the Superbe to my weekly volunteer shift at Bikeworks. I’m not actually sure of the distance for this trip, but as a round trip it likely exceeds the three mile requirement of the challenge. I didn’t take any pictures but on my return home after dark I was able to enjoy the warm (if feeble) glow of the original headlamp and bulb on the bike.

Day Six (Friday)

Friday’s ride was another 20km round trip commute but this time on my 70s Raleigh 20 Three-Speed folding bike. This bike has appeared in the blog before but I will comment that it is a rugged, fun little bike that moves fast, maneuvers well and is a surprisingly good choice for hauling cargo. I’ve laced new alloy CR18 rims onto the original hubs making it speedier and also enhancing the effectiveness of the brakes. In gesture of cultural solidarity I’ve installed a lovely old French Ideale saddle on this utilitarian British bike (actually it’s there because it looks good and is comfy to sit on).

On the morning ride to work it was quite chilly at -5°C and there was a heavy frost on the ground. I resisted the urge to stop and make a frost angel in the grass. Lately my commute has been plagued with routes closed due to construction and nonsensical detour suggestions on the part  of the city. At one point I carried my bike up a short flight of stairs instead of taking the ludicrously long official detour and observed from the tracks in the frost that I wasn’t the first person to make that choice.

On the way home I stopped for a scenic bike picture against the background of the river valley.

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Day Seven (Saturday)

The view from my window Saturday morning showed fine Christmas weather outside which is unfortunate because it’s actually the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

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I spent a good portion of my day sipping piping hot tea and playing guitar but eventually I did stir outside and rode my Superbe to Bikeworks. While there I cut some spokes to length and used the spoke threader to roll new threads on them. These are for the new wheel I’m building for my winter bike and I felt perhaps I had delayed this project too late.

A massive group ride had been planned for that evening (one to two hundred riders expected) but it was cancelled due to the weather. That was sad and disrupted my plan of bringing out my third three-speed bike to end the first week of the challenge with a flourish.

Thanks for reading (or skipping ahead) to end of this week of challenge. Next weeks riding will include at least some snowy riding and hopefully one more three-speed bike.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I’m the sort person that sometimes rides around with my commuting bike in much worse operating condition than I would recommend to anybody I was helping at Bikeworks to maintain their own machine. Maybe once a person has a certain familiarity with bike maintenance they know how to push components just to the edge of failure before replacing them. Or maybe my DNA would be a perfect source for scientists to finally identify the elusive procrastination gene. Either way, I have recently had a close call with a Just Riding Along sort of catastrophic bike failure. As in “Gosh, I don’t know what happened! I was just riding along when for no reason at all my rear wheel disintegrated into a twisted mass of spokes and rim fragments”.

A few weeks ago I had my winter bike in the stand for a little cleaning and lubrication, when I noticed that the rear wheel seemed to have a hairline crack running along a lengthy portion of the rim. If I noticed that with the bike of a patron at Bikeworks I would recommend that they replace the wheel at once, before riding it any further. In fact, I would be quite insistent. Of course, I did no such thing myself. Instead, I rode my bike to and from work over bumpy, rutted, icy winter roads while slowly getting around to building a new wheel (all the while conspicuously not keeping a close eye on how my old wheel was holding up).

When I finally completed and installed the new wheel, I took a close look at the now shudder-worthy failing wheel. There is a very good chance that even one more trip with the old wheel would have resulted in an “exciting” mechanical failure.

Some of it looked like this. . .

Some of it looked like this. . .

 

Cracked rim

And some of it looked like this.

 

So, don’t do that folks – it’s just stupid. Please replace your wheel promptly. Luckily, my story ended happily, with no accident, and a spiffy new rear wheel installed.

Replacement wheel contructed from ALL used components, built around a nice older Hope cartridge bearing hub (already getting dirty and earning its keep).

Replacement wheel constructed from all used components, built around a nice, older Hope cartridge bearing hub (already getting dirty and earning its keep).

 

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.

Finishing the Errandonnee: Booze, Books, Yoda and much more!

I’ve been busily going about my normal, everyday cycling life and whenever I remembered, I’ve documented my errands for the Errandonnee challenge:

Errandonnee: Complete 12 errands in 12′ish days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike between March 7-19, 2014

Errand #2 – March 11th – Commuting – 10km

After the previous day’s splashing through puddles, an overnight temperature drop provided lots of icy surfaces on the morning commute. Some behemoth had crashed through the frozen LRT puddle, leaving a field of ice panes across the path.

There’s a steep hill that I pedal up every day to climb out of Mill Creek. During the spring thaw it’s a babbling brook during the day but after a frosty night it freezes into an ice slide. This hill is my personal benchmark for studded tire performance on ice. With my DIY sheet-metal screw tires I could never pedal up it. With Schwalbe Winter Marathon Tires, I can make it to the top as long as I am very careful about how I apply torque to the rear wheel – too much and it spins out. With my Nokkian Hakka WXC300 tires I can zip up the hill without even thinking about the ice, enjoying the Velcro-like grip of these aggressively studded tires. On this day, when I was almost to the top I saw another cyclist carefully heading down the hill, staying close to the side.

Errand #3 – March 11th – Wild Card – 10km

On the way home from work I detoured downtown to City Center Mall to buy a cell phone top-up for my daughter. This is only the second month with her first cell phone, so I’ve been reluctant to hook it up to any of my credit cards until I see how she handles it. On the way out of the downtown core I stopped for a pic by the LRT tunnel free-wall, a place where graffiti art is officially permitted by the city. It’s a constantly changing mural, and if there’s an image you like one day it might be painted over the next.

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Errand #4 – March 12th – Commuting – 20km

On the way to work in the morning I was treated to a wonderful sunrise that peaked just as I was crossing the pedestrian bridge. It’s a perfect place to stop for a peaceful few moments to enjoy the morning. I’ll miss this bridge when it’s replaced to make room for LRT expansion.

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Errand #5 – March 12th – Grocery Store – 1.5km

This is about as boring as errands get. I will note that I am now a fan of bike baskets, with the Wald shown being good for bulky but light loads. The panniers are filled to the top.

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Errand #6 – March 14th – Personal Care – 6km

On the way home from work I headed downtown to deposit a few checks in the bank. When I was crossing the river I spotted my first two geese of the year. It’s a good sign that spring might actually be here.

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I'll bet I'm not.

I’ll bet I’m not.

Errand #7 – March 14th – Personal Care – 0.5km

After the bank I headed to the liquor store, deVines, to pick up something interesting for the weekend. If you don’t think that alcohol counts as personal care, then you just don’t know me. I bought a bottle of German Schenkerla Marzen Smoked beer. The malted barley for this beer is kilned over beechwood logs and sipping this dark beverage is like drinking a campfire. I mean that in a good way. I also picked up a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling for my wife, who has recently started working out and dusting off the moves she learned when we were studying the martial art more than a decade ago.

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Errand #8 – March 14th – Non Grocery Store –  3.5km

Before heading home, I popped in to check out the new space for the Wee Book Inn, an Edmonton used book store chain with several locations. They have just recently downsized their downtown location by moved into this smaller space. There are still lots of books to peruse: I bought “The Sherlock Holmes Scapbook”. Published in 1986, this book has lots of interesting photos chronicling the use of Holmes in a variety of media , from ads for Crawford’s Cream Crackers to a great picture of William Gillette the first actor to portray Holmes on the stage back in 1901. There also also some cycling content, with a photo of Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife riding a velocipede. I’m to lazy to scan it, but you can see it here.

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Errand #9 – March 15th – Bike Shop – 2km

I celebrated the Ides of March by getting up early and heading to Bikeworks North to clean some of the winter grime off my bike and to put my lighter duty studded tires on. These Schwalbe Winter Marathon tires are great for when there is mostly bare pavement with a few ice patches. It was odd to see my bike emerge from under the encrusting dirt for the first time in months.

Errand #10 – March 15th – Grocery Store

After I left Bikeworks I headed to the Downtown Farmer’s Market. During the cold months it’s hosted in City Hall, another example of Edmonton’s brief and peculiar fascination with pyramids. I got a heap of food as usual.

IIn my opinin, City Hall is not really enhanced by the addition of a Wacky, Waving, Inaflatable, Arm-Flailing, Tube Man

In my opinion, City Hall is not really enhanced by the addition of a Wacky, Waving, Inaflatable, Arm-Flailing, Tube Man

A pretty swanky location for the Farmer's Market.

A pretty swanky location for the Farmer’s Market.

Errand #11 – March 18th – Wild Card – 1.5km

Before work I had to zip out to 7-11 to pick up a pack of bus tickets for my daughter who had lost her bus pass right in the middle of the month – inconvenient.

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Errand #12 – March 19th – Dinner – 10 km

The categories for the Errandonnee were a bit problematic for me as three of them were for going out for meals or coffee, things I almost never do. On work days, I pack a lunch and bring a thermos of tea with me. Other meals are pretty much always at home with the family. However, I’ve been intending to try out the Burger Baron location near my home for more than a decade so I popped in on my way home from work. I’ve gone past it hundreds, if not thousands of times, without going in. Established in 1957, Burger Baron was the first drive-through chain in Western Canada and it was pretty popular until big American chains muscled in and the original franchise went into bankruptcy. The locations are now independently operated and have their own widely varying (and slightly…creative) menus. I’ve been to several in the city, but oddly, not the one a few blocks from my house. The locations are often a little shabby and run down, but I really enjoy their distinct personality, very different form the big chains. Where else can you get Donair Poutine with sides of Corn Fritters and Mushroom Soup?  I had a double mushroom burger, one of the Baron’s signature dishes that comes with a heap of mushrooms in a sort of gravy, fries (piping hot) and a chocolate milkshake. I haven’t had a shake in a long, long time and this one was so thick that I could feel my cranial sutures creaking under the vaccuum force of me trying to suck it through the straw. I was uncomfortably full by the time I was finished the meal.

In it's heyday, I imagine the drive-in was packed. Now everybody uses the drive-through.

In it’s heyday, I imagine the drive-in was packed. Now everybody uses the drive-through.

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Some interesting menu items: Tatertots Poutine & Deep Fried Mush. Although, It turns out that it’s actually Deep Fried Mushrooms I would not have been surprised at all if they were offering some sort of deep fried hash,