Pros and Cons of Winter Cycling

PRO: A Winter Wonderland!

PRO: A Winter Wonderland!

CON: Long stretches of pure ice.

CON: Long stretches of pure ice.

Yes, here we are again with a blog post inaugurating a new season of winter cycling in Edmonton. Saturday night’s snowfall transformed the landscape into a mix of winter wonderland and tortuously icy roads. I’ve been for a few rides in the new conditions and I think I’m getting my winter cycling mojo back a bit more quickly than last year. Of course, we haven’t yet had a really big snowfall yet, or a real blast of arctic temperatures…

Bike of the Week: 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

WARNING: This post contains tedious, bike nerd content. My feelings won’t be at all hurt if you skip the text and just look at the pictures.

Introducing the 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

Introducing the 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

This winter I retired my old winter  ride, a 2007 Iron Horse Commuter. This bike served me well as my only bike for a couple of years before it was demoted to only winter service for two more years. By this time I was looking for something a little nicer for my winter ride. Preferably an older, good quality rigid mountain bike. What I ended up using was a slightly scruffy Rocky Mountain Fusion frameset  that had been kicking around, neglected, at Bikeworks North for several months.

About the Fusion Model:

The Fusion was first introduced in 1988. This bike’s frame was made overseas and then assembled in Canada. There was nothing unusual about this for the company, however, as in the previous year  six out of nine of the Rocky Mountain models were imported. By 1990, the year my bike was made, only the Fusion was not made in Canada. The 1989 model was made in Taiwan and I’m guessing that my 1990 bike was as well.  In the following year all the bikes including the Fusion were made in Canada. Ironically, I’m pretty sure that the pendulum has swung back and most if not all of Rocky Mountain’s bikes are made in Taiwan now. During these early years, the Fusion sat close to and sometimes at the bottom of the Rocky Mountain lineup. Even so, at  $760 in 1993 this was not an inexpensive bike.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

It has Ishiwata triple butted chromoly tubing. Triple butted was a marketing term from the period and functionally it’s no different from double butted. The tubing mostly has a circular cross-section, except where the seat tube joins the bottom bracket. At this point it is shaped to an oval cross section, purportedly offering better stiffness under pedaling torque.  Looking at the bike you can see the hint of a sloping top tube, something Rocky Mountain was making a big deal about at the time. It’s nothing by today’s standards, of course.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

It has sturdy rear rack bosses, eyelets for rack and fender in the rear, and for just a fender in the front. There is also nice attention to detail in the form of threaded holes for accessory mounting in the chainstay bridge, the seatstay bridge, and the fork crown

There are a few details that definitely place the era  the bike was made in. Firstly, the stem is the short lived 1 1/8″ theaded size. This size was briefly used in the early nineties but was quickly swept aside by the now familiar  threadless system. This isn’t  a big deal, but it will make sourcing replacements parts a bit more inconvenient. Secondly, while it has cantilever brakes in the front, it has a seatstay mounted U-brake in the rear. U-brakes were a fad in the late 90s, initially appearing on the chainstays, but later migrating to the seat stays before disappearing from bikes in the early 90s. There will be about that stupid U-brake later in this post.

Building the Bike:

Building this bike was the first time I’d ever started from mostly just a frameset. The only original parts are the frame, fork, headset, and probably the stem. All of the other components I either transferred from the Iron Horse or scrounged from my parts bin or the ones at BWN.

Starting off, the non-driveside crank threads were stripped. As we don’t have a puller at BWN, I cut the crank off with a hacksaw. The bottom bracket parts were worn out and I discarded them. Next, checking the frame with the alignment gauge showed that the rear triangle was bent to one side. Although this was my first time using the frame bending tools, the internet helpfully instructed me and I was able to realign the tubes, dropouts and derailleur hanger.

1990 Rock Mountain Fusion

I mounted XT levers with the shifters removed. These are great short-pull levers with good braking force and modulation. I used Suntour ratcheting friction shifters. Friction shifting is much less fussy than indexed in winter conditions, when your bike is coated in sand,salt and ice. These Suntour thumbies are as good as it gets. Levers and shifters are mounted on a Zoom 170 butted aluminum handlebar.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

I used a set of older LX cantis on the front. A little finicky to set up but with good braking power.

Biopace triple crankset. Some people loved the biopace chainrings, some hated them. I'm indifferent. The front derailleur is a nice,earlier Deore. Te rear derailleur is a nothing-special Alivio. Winter is tough on the drivetrain. No  sense in using anything too nice.

Biopace triple crankset. Some people loved the biopace chainrings, some hated them. I’m indifferent. The front derailleur is an earlier Deore. The rear derailleur is a nothing-special Alivio. Winter is tough on the drivetrain. No sense in using anything too nice.

Dratted U-Brake.

Dratted U-Brake.

When I started building the bike I assumed that it was supposed to have rear cantis. Posts on the seatstays equals cantilevers, right? Wrong! It wasn’t until I tried mounting a set of V-brakes that I noticed that the posts didn’t have a hole for the brake springs. I also belatedly noticed that the posts were higher than cantilever posts, above the rim in fact. What the heck was going on? U-brakes, that’s what.

U-Brakes are a sort of caliper brake on steroids.They do have plenty of stopping power, but have a few peculiarities. When bike manufacturers started using U-Brakes they placed them on the chainstays. These tubes are stronger than the seatstays, resulting in less frame flex during braking. Unfortunately it also put the brakes down near the ground where they tended to get clogged with mud and dirt. Builders, didn’t quite give up on them yet, though, and for a few years they located the U-brakes up on the seat stays. However,in this location they didn’t really have any significant advantages over cantilevers.

The geometry of the U-Brake system causes the pads to contact the rim higher and higher   as the pads wear out. Eventually, they will start rubbing on the tires with unfortunate results. This is not an endearing feature. While riding my Fusion this winter I made a special point of monitoring the pad wear to ensure my skookum studded tires were not ruined. Also, these brakes didn’t make it easy to squeeze fat tires and fenders on the bike. If you look closely at the photo you will see that I had to grind slots in the fenders to fit them inside the brake calipers. Add, a rack to the bike and it’s a real pain to make adjustments. Enough about brakes.

The front wheel is a Mavic something-or-other rim with a DT Hugi hub. I’d rolled with this wheel for two winters on the Iron Horse before using it on the Fusion. It’s continues to be great. Winter riding is one application where sealed cartridge bearings are very useful. Next year I may do something similar for the rear wheel (currently Mavic on an 8-speed LX Hub).

I wasn’t able use my DIY studded tires with this bike as the front fork clearance is quite tight. However, I lucked into some great second hand Nokian Haka WXC300 carbide studded tires. These have fantastic traction (I was down riding on the frozen river one day this winter) but are a beast to roll when you’re on bare pavement. The narrow fork clearance meant that I couldn’t fit a fender with these tires, either. I also used a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires for a while, too. These 26 X 1.75″ tires were narrow enough that I could use the front fender with them. They don’t have anywhere near the grip of the Nokians but they roll much better on pavement. I used them throughout the last part of winter when there was a lot of bare pavement but still a fair number of icy patches.

RIDING THE FUSION:

Riding through the winter months on the lighter weight Fusion was much more enjoyable than on the clunky old Iron Horse Commuter. It’s stable, fast, and nimble. I churned through deep powder, ground across pits of brown sugar, climbed hills of sheer ice, and pounded across rutted hardpack. All the while whistling a jaunty tune (or maybe not).

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

In the autumn, after building the bike and before the first snowfall,  I had the chance to take the Fusion for a test ride on the river valley singletrack. It flowed smoothly through the twisty trails, urging me to ride faster than my terrible off-road skills would normally permit. The difference between this bike and my previous imitation mountain bikes was noticeable. When I was racing down the the long, straight stretch leading to entrance to Kinnaird ravine I felt like I was outpacing the photons carrying  the visual information to my vibrating eyeballs. Good, clean fun.

It’s worth noting that the longish stem without much rise results in a very stretched out riding position.This aggressive stance felt great  on days when I was really digging in and pedaling hard.  However, on those commuting days when I was feeling less energetic,a more upright riding position would have been nice.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

The Fusion also did a fine job of hauling cargo. I’ve loaded up the bike with panniers full of groceries on a regular basis and have hauled a few large awkward packages with no problems. These older rigid mountain bikes really are great all-around bikes. As a bonus, you can still buy them for cheap as they tend to be undervalued. However, there has been a lot more internet buzz about them in recent years so that change soon. If you are the sort that absolutely MUST have drop-bars,check out this forum thread to see some  conversions. For the summer, I’m thinking of going the opposite way and temporarily transmogrifying the Fusion into an upright city bike style. Stay tuned for details.

Whichever configuration it ends up in, this bike is now one of my keepers.

There will be a caption here

Bike Commuting At Its Best / Geese In the Mist

I started this morning’s commute in a grumpy mood.  The temperature had dropped overnight to-14C and that thrilled me about as much as bathing in a tub full of garden slugs would.  The snowfall late last week didn’t faze me. I expect a few spring snowfalls. However, I do resent dealing with temperatures that low in April. The average low temperature for this date is-2C.

On the other hand, the roads were free of snow and the rising sun was blazing brightly in the clear blue sky. Once I re-accustomed myself to the effort of moving my heavy, clown-sized cold-weather boots around in circles I started to enjoy the ride a little. The studded winter tires whizzed pleasantly over the asphalt.

When I reached the river valley the commute got very good, indeed.

Geese in the mist

Geese in the mist

Tendrils of fog and small pans of ice race past each other.

Animal tracks stitch the ice like the work of a drunken tailor.

Animal tracks stitch the snow covered ice like the work of a drunken tailor.

Over the warming river a heavy fog was rising in the icy air.  The vapour was moving against the swift river current making it seem to race upstream at improbable speed. Even though I was running late for work I stopped on the pedestrian bridge and peered down at the streaming, roiling vortices  of mist. I watched its mesmerizing progress for several minutes.Two geese were slowly making their way upstream. They didn’t seem perturbed by the unusually cold weather. Why should they be? They’re covered in goose down.

Geese In The Mist

Geese In The Mist

Geese in the mist

At this point I wasn’t much concerned about the temperature, either. It was small price to pay for the spectacle over the river. As I rolled up through Mill Creek ravine I reflected on the benefits of bike commuting. It is certain that without the motivation of getting to work I’d not have been out cycling that early on a frigid spring morning. If I was in a motor vehicle I’d not have been able to impulsively stop in the middle of a bridge and watch the mist. Just as I was about to leave the ravine trail and head back up to street level a woodpecker started tapping away off to one side of the trail. Then another started on the other side, treating me to a percussive duet in real life stereo.

At this point my forward momentum drained away and I stalled in the middle of the trail caught between two conflicting forces. The river valley was urging me skip work and just spend the morning watching the river and riding the trails. I was already late for work because of my stop at the river. On the other hand, my knowledge of the huge backlog of jobs to be done at work and my sense of responsibility were pushing me to continue. I can’t remember the last time I skipped work without a legitimate reason. Legitimate in the view of an employer, that is. I don’t think that being momentarily overwhelmed by the joy of life counts.

Unfortunately, adult responsibility won the day: I left the ravine behind and cruised off to work. Still, it was a danged good commute.

Geese in the mist

Spring Cycling (Edmonton Style)

Spring Snowstorm

This is what the second day of spring looked like here in Edmonton. During the mild weather of late February and early March I was getting used to riding on asphalt again. Dreams of zipping about on summer bikes were starting to overwhelm me. No worries about that happening soon. I am fully back in winter cycling mode.

It was a pretty good spring snowstorm that settled in on my fair city on Thursday. The morning ride to work was through an idyllic winter wonderland. The snow was falling heavily but had only accumulated a couple of inches deep. It was such a perfect winter morning (pardon me, spring morning) that I was tempted to call in sick at work and spend  the day cycling. Instead, I dutifully toiled the day away on the huge backlog of work while frequently glancing out the window at the ever deepening snow. During my lunch break I went out for a quick ride around the industrial neighbourhood and had a lot of fun.

The ride home promised to be interesting. The radio was reporting the closure of major roads and many accidents. There was a 100 vehicle pile up on the QE2 highway with as many injuries. One of the trucks was hauling a load of cattle that had to be moved from the scene of the accident. I can only imagine the chaos. It took 12 hours for the police to get the highway open to traffic again. The news reports presented such a dire image that our boss shut the shop down 2 hours early and sent us home.

I am pleased to report that my ride home was tranquil and pleasant. My route was through lightly traveled residential roads and the MUPs. Close to a foot of gorgeous white powder had blanketed the city streets. In these conditions you just stick to the low gears and churn steadily and slowly along. Sometimes, the back wheel acts more like a riverboat paddlewheel than anything else. On the rare occasion that a motor vehicle approached me from behind I pulled over to the side and let them pass. On days like this you can’t be sure that drivers have control over their vehicles. On most occasions the motorists gave me a friendly thank you wave for the courtesy. It’s nice when cyclists and drivers can get along like this.

As approached my usual entrance to the trail system I found that the way was completely blocked by a car that had slid down into the trail.. I stopped to talk to the woman in the car to see if she was OK. She was fine and told me that she was calling for a tow truck but was on hold. Later that night I heard on the news that people could expect to wait for up to 6 hours for non-emergency tows. I wonder how long she was there

The ride through the ravine was beautiful. I was the only cyclist and I saw very few pedestrians. It was a real pleasure to break fresh tracks through the deep snow. I stopped frequently to snap photos and shoot a little bit of video. I only had to resort to pushing my bike at a few spots. All the while I was happy to not be in a vehicle creeping along the main roads through the glacially slow traffic.

As I neared home I found that the trail by the LRT tracks had been plowed. This was a very happy way to end the ride. I arrived at my house wobbly legged and drenched in sweat but quite content.

Riding through beautiful snowy Mill Creek Ravine.

Riding through beautiful snowy Mill Creek Ravine.

aking these photos while plowing through the snow with one hand on the bars and one hand holding the camera was....not easy.

Taking this photo while plowing through the snow with one hand on the bars and one hand holding the camera was….not easy.

Having taken the effort to snap these photos I'd hate to not use them on the bog.

Having taken the effort to snap these photos I’d hate to not use them on the blog.

One more...

One more…

Be careful where you set your bike down. You might not find it again.

Be careful where you set your bike down. You might not find it again.

Spring Snowstorm

I went for a short walk in the woods.

I went for a short walk in the woods.

Back on the roads for some contrast

Back on the roads for some contrast

Home again with a smile on my face.The winter beard earning its keep.

Home again with a smile on my face.The winter beard earning its keep.

Errandonnee: Creeping Across The Finish Line.

Yes, I have finished the Errandonnee.This news will doubtless come as a relief to any non-utility cycling readers. Will my control card pass muster? Time will tell. My documentable errands had dropped off throughout the week and the last ones were completed over the course of a few days. There were a some trips that could have qualified but as in the case of shopping for my wife’s Valentine Day gift, I choose not to regard them as errands.

Thanks to MG for organizing the Errandonnee. It has put a bit of fun into the daily drudgery of chores.

ERRAND #9, Friday, Trip to the bank.

On the way home from work I detoured to downtown to deposit a cheque at the bank. The weather was so fantastically and unseasonably warm that I cycled home without a jacket, hat or gloves, just because I could. For those who doubt, I have photographic evidence.

Look Ma! No gloves!

Look Ma! No gloves!

Errandonnee #9

The Errandonnee rules state that participants must record an observation about each errand. In the Sherlock Holmes story ” A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes points out that he is in the habit of observing his surroundings whereas  Watson is not. He illustrates this by asking if Watson knows how many steps there are in the stairs leading to the the Baker Street flat they have both walked up so many times. Watson of course does not know, whereas Holmes has the ready answer: 17 steps. In this spirit, I observed the number of steps leading up from the river valley to the Hotel MacDonald.

There are 201 steps.

There are 201 steps.

Errand completed!

Errand completed!

ERRAND #10: Sunday. Trip to the Post Office.

I made a rare trip the post office to mail a post card to the States. My neighbourhood office closed  a year or so ago and now I  usually use the one at Kingsway Mall. While there I observed that not the new LRT line under construction seems to be creeping towards completion. I imagine the winter slows things down somewhat.

A rare trip to the post office.

ERRAND #11: Monday, Trip to Bikeworks North to work on one of my bikes.

A significant perk that comes with being a regular volunteer at Bikeworks is access to the shop after hours. I could probably count this errand in the Bike Shop category but I think it’s better to use my wild card for this one.

Today I was finishing up my “Ravine Bike”. I found this abandoned bike when volunteering at a ravine clean-up last spring. It was missing many parts but over the months I managed to cobble enough together to resurrect it. Today’s mission was getting the brakes working properly. I had tried once before but it’s the first bike I’ve worked on with disc brakes and I didn’t quit get it right. I rode the nearly brakeless bike very slowly to the shop and had another crack at it. This time, partly due to truing the rotors I was able to nail it.

As of today this bike is complete and ready to ride. While riding to the shop I observed that the shocks work much better at -7ºC than in the -20ºC I last road this bike in. I’m not ready to reveal the bike itself yet, but will feature it in an upcoming blog post. You will find a small hint below.

Rotor truing.

Rotor truing.

Errand #11

ERRAND #12: Monday, Bargain hunting at a local thrift shop.

Once or twice a month I usually drop by one of the second-hand stores to look for bargains. Lately, I’ve been having a good run with the best finds being new or like-new merino wool clothing and gore-tex outerwear. The store I visited today seems to have been getting shipments of brand new clothing from a major work wear store, so I was hopeful.

I tried on a new pair of good quality steel toed work boots. They fit well but were heavily insulated and not suitable for my purposes so I left them for somebody else. The big find today turned out to be an Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex parka with goose down fill. This thing is so warm that it’ll have to be pretty cold out to use it. I certainly won’t be cycling in it. Wearing it, I felt a bit like George from Seinfeld. It was missing the hood, but for $30.00 I brought it home anyway.

Errand #12

More Errandonneuring!

Continuing with the Errandonnee Challenge I mentioned in my last post, here are Errands #4 through #8. And a few bonus photos, just ’cause I’m feeling generous (or maybe mean).

ERRAND #4: Sunday Afternoon, Volunteering at Bikeworks North.

Normally BWN isn’t open on Sundays, but during the water problems at the south shop it was announced that BWN would be open instead. Even though the water was restored in time for the weekend we still opened the north shop. The shop is only a 5 minute pedal from my house so I popped over to put in a few hours. While there I spent a little while salvaging some hubs from a couple of damaged rims, starting tuning up another bike, and helped a fellow who was working on his first wheel build.

Bikes for sale. Come and check them out! Choose one that has already been tuned up by  the volunteers or buy one as-is and fix it up yourself.

Bikes for sale. Come and check them out! Choose one that has already been tuned up by the volunteers or buy one as-is and fix it up yourself.

I started working on this old Kuwahara Savage MTB.  It's a bit scuffed up but will make a great stealth commuter (a sweet riding cromoly frame that most theives would't look twice at). BWN seems to be Kuwahara/Apollo central right now. There are several more.

I started working on this old Kuwahara Savage MTB. It’s a bit scuffed up but will make a great stealth commuter (a sweet riding cromoly frame c/w eyelets for racks and fenders that most thieves would’t look twice at). BWN seems to be Kuwahara/Apollo central right now. There are several more.

I also cleaned and oiled my own bike.

I also cleaned and oiled my own bike.

ERRAND #5: Sunday Evening, Purchasing a new printer at Futureshop:

Our old printer died a little while ago and my wife has been in dire need of a replacement (me, I didn’t use it often). After finishing at Bikeworks I headed downtown to buy another printer. I’m picked one with a small foot print as space is at a premium in our small house. Even so, it was about as big a package as I was equipped to carry on my bike. The main routes with bare pavement were no problem but the box slid around a bit on the heavily rutted side streets. Nonetheless, the printer arrived home intact and is now installed and working perfectly.

I used the omnipresent Canadian Kickstand to get this picture.

I used the omnipresent Canadian Kickstand to get this picture.

ERRAND #6: Tuesday. Work. Again. Wheee.

I was treated to another gorgeous sunrise on the way to work this morning but was running late, so I can offer no photo. After work I snapped a few pics of the road conditions near my workplace. These are on an official bike route. The unseasonably warm weather has continued and so real, honest to goodness asphalt is emerging from under the thick snow hard pack. The city keeps the main roads cleared to the asphalt ( and does a pretty good job) but only blades residential roads to a 5 cm snowpack. They kept up on this through the first part of the winter but have been falling behind a bit and in many areas there is a good 6 inches or more of rutted, hard packed snow and ice.

Gasp! The asphalt emerges! Dreams of riding speedy road bikes through summer  days momentarily overwhelm me.

Gasp! The asphalt emerges! Dreams of riding speedy road bikes through summer days momentarily overwhelm me.

I discover that

So that’s what was under the snow! I discover that the winter months have not been kind to the road surface (none too good to begin with). This area is due for repaving this summer.

ERRAND #7: Tuesday evening, Grocery Shopping at Earth’s General Store

EGS is conveniently located on my homeward route and I occasionally stop to pick up foodstuffs there. I was disappointed to find that they were out of Ohsawa Namu Shoyu soya sauce. Best…soya sauce…ever. On the other hand, that stuff ain’t cheap. I did come away with numerous other items.

Note the bike racks made from old bike frames.

Note the bike racks made from old bike frames.

ERRAND # 8 Tuesday evening. City of Edmonton community meeting on bike lane projects for 2013.

This  was one of two open house meetings that the city is holding to communicate the bike infrastructure plans for the 2013 construction season. This meeting was held in a school right next to one of the bike routes and was well attended with neighbourhood residents and cyclists: at least a hundred people, maybe more. Rolled out on long tables were maps of the proposed work, with post-it pads so people could make comments about specific issues. City engineers were present at the various tables to answer questions. I watched the presentation, left a couple of comments, chatted with a couple of other bike commuting types I knew, and I headed for home.

Errand #8 Bike Lanes Meeting

There was a lot of local news media in attendance.

There was a lot of local news media in attendance.

THE TRIP HOME: Tuesday evening

Not at all related to the errands, but it was a beautiful night so I stopped to take a few pictures on the way home.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

Edmonton: The City of Pyramids.

Edmonton: The City of Pyramids.

The pyramids are the Muttart plant conservatory, a green haven during the bleak winter months. At night they are well lit and change colour….a lot.

Errandonnee Saturday

MG over at the blog Chasing Mailboxes D.C. has issued a winter utility cycling challenge: The Errandonnee. Participants must complete 12 cycling errands within 12 days and ride at least 30 miles while doing so. Documentation of the errands is required, including photos and a randonneuring inspired (could you tell from the term Errandonnee?) control card. Errands fall into 11 categories of which you must complete at least 7, using each category no more than twice. For more details on the rules of the challenge, check out this post.

This seems a natural for me as I’m pretty much in pure errand mode these days. I haven’t been on a purely recreational  ride since my New Year’s Day Bridge Ride. It should put a bit of fun in my daily pedaling around the city.

ERRAND #1: EARLY MORNING COMMUTE

I don’t normally work Saturdays but we’re swamped right now. I’d agreed to go in and open the shop so that myself and two other employees could clock some overtime and chip away at the backlog for a few hours in the morning.  This past week I’ve been enjoying the lengthening days and some beautiful sunrises on my morning commute. Today, however, I was going in an hour earlier than normal so it was back to commuting in the dark.This was useful for the purposes of the Errandonee, as two of the errands must take place during the hours of darkness. The pre-dawn temperature was a balmy 3°C, a pleasant change from the statistical average low of -16°C for this date.

Riding the well  cleared path beside the LRT tracks. A nearly empty train passes.

Riding the well cleared path beside the LRT tracks. A nearly empty train passing.

Downtown and the river valley.

Skirting the edge of the downtown core.

I detoured a little to get a picture overlooking the river valley. The trail down to the bridge seen on the left side of the photo was a fun, fast ride and I was pleased to see that it was well plowed and maintained.

ERRAND #2: GROCERY RUN

We called it a day at noon and after locking up the shop I headed off to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market to pick up some groceries for the coming week. I had noted in my last blog post that the Market wasn’t doing a great job of keeping the bike racks clear. Today the bike racks were so snow covered as to be unusable so I locked up to a lamp post. After a quick trip through the market my panniers were well filled (and heavy) with food. Onwards  to the last errand of the day.

Slushy Saturday at the Farmer's Market.

Slushy Saturday at the Farmer’s Market.

Just  a little closeup pic  of the winter bike.

Just a little closeup pic of the winter bike.

ERRAND #3: BIKEWORKS SOUTH

Since  Bikeworks North opened in my neighbourhood early last year I haven’t got down to the south shop very often. As I was in the area, I zipped over to say hello to the south volunteers and rummage through the used parts room for any handy odds & ends. After having been shut down for a week because of a water problem elsewhere in the building, there were a gaggle of volunteers in the shop. I found a couple of items I could use and headed home.

Bikeworks,, the community bike shop operated by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society.

BikeWorks, the community bike shop operated by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.

Piles of parts to keep the bikes of Edmonton commuters on the road.

Piles of parts to keep the bikes of Edmonton commuters on the road.

HOME WITH THE GOODS:

The ride home was fun even if the slush, ice and brown sugar were making things messy. My total Errandonneuring distance was about 22km. This is only approximate as I don’t have a bike computer on my winter bike (they tend to freeze when it’s sub-zero) but I’m well familiar with the distances for my regular destinations. Here’s what I brought home with me:

There was still a little room left in my well worn 56L MEC pannier set.

There was still a little room left in my well worn 56L MEC pannier set.

Cycling fuel.

Cycling fuel.

This ratcheting friction shifter appears to be a copy of the old Suntour ones I have on my winter bike. I love those shifters and hopefully this will  b

This ratcheting friction shifter appears to be a copy of the old Suntour ones I have on my winter bike. I love those shifters and hopefully this’ll be a good spare.

I'm building up a MTB from an abandoned frame that I found last spring. Apparently it's almost impossible for me to build a bike without putting a rack on it. This solidly built aluminum seatpost rack should do the trick. It also has a sturdy quick release mounting clamp so I can remove it without much problem if  want.

I’m building up a MTB from an abandoned frame that I found last spring. Apparently it’s almost impossible for me to build a bike without putting a rack on it. This solidly built aluminum seatpost rack should do the trick. It also has a sturdy quick release mounting clamp so I can remove it without much problem if want.

Winter Bike Parking in Edmonton

As a year round commuting cyclist, poor winter maintenance of  bike parking locations is something I should probably be annoyed about. It’s true that a lot of businesses seem to regard the bike rack as the logical place to dump the snow they shovel from walkways. After all, nobody cycles in winter. If they do, they’re probably crazy enough that you don’t want them wandering into your retail establishment.

In practice, it doesn’t usually bother me. There actually are less cyclists competing for rack space in the winter so I can usually manage to find a spot.

There should be no expectation of finding statistical significance in the contents of this blog post. My sample size is a whopping four parking locations that correspond to the times that I actually had my camera with me and I remembered to take a photo.

Save-On Foods (112 Ave and 82  St.) This is a hilariously perfect example. A completely snow free walkway and a buried rack. It actually as not been a problem, as there is enough room for two bikes at the rack, and I've never seen even one other.

Save-On Foods (112 Ave and 82 St.) This is a hilariously perfect example. A completely snow free walkway and a buried rack. It actually hasn’t been a problem, as there is enough room for two bikes at the rack, and I’ve never seen even one other.

Strathcona Farmer's Market. This one is a bit disappointing. I expect better of  Farmer's Market. Even in the winter there are usually a number of bikes parked outside. They should do a better job of keeping this rack free of snow.

Strathcona Farmer’s Market. This one is a bit disappointing. I expect better of Farmer’s Market. Even in the winter there are usually a number of bikes parked outside (such as the nifty Peugeot and Kuwahara seen here in the front). They should do a better job of keeping this rack free of snow.

Value Village  (Whyte Ave location). This one is pretty bad. The rack is one of the low ones and it's been covered almost completely. I locked my bike to the pole.

Value Village (Whyte Ave location). This one is pretty bad. The rack is one of the low ones and it’s been covered almost completely. I locked my bike to the pole. On the other hand, at least they have a rack, unlike the northside location.

Safeway (118th Ave & 82 St.) My local grocery  store is  the surprise winner in my small survey. The bike rack is always free of snow and has the bonus of being well lit and close to the doors. Congrats  Safeway! You get the Tuckamoredew Bike Parking Seal of Approval.

Safeway (118th Ave & 82 St.) My local grocery store is the surprise winner in my small survey. The bike rack is always free of snow and has the bonus of being well lit and close to the doors. Congrats Safeway! You get the Tuckamoredew Bike Parking Seal of Approval.

Urban Adventure League loot in the Mail!

In another epoch, I used to receive cool things in the mail on a semi-regular basis: magazine or comic subscriptions, letters from friends and relatives, mail order catalogues, etc. Sadly, as time passes more and more of this has moved online. Even unpleasant mail such as bills mostly routes itself to me through the shiny plumbing of the internet. The electronic convenience is nice, of course, but it is still particularly fun to receive an actual physical object that has traveled a distance replete with stamps and postal marks.

Earlier this week I received an envelope from Portland’s wool mantled, retro-grouch blogger Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League.  Back in December he  ran a giveaway contest on his blog and I was the lucky winner of two zines and three buttons.

A nice selection of stamps. Any reader of my blog will see the suitability  of the cycling stamps, the bridge and the the grasslands. The lamp is eerie, though, as I don't see how anyone would know that I consideed learning stained glass making a few years ago. Could Shawn be a PSYCHIC retro-grouch?

A nice selection of stamps. Any reader of my blog will see the suitability of the cycling stamps, the bridge and the the grasslands. The lamp is eerie, though, as I don’t see how anyone would know that I considered learning stained glass making a few years ago. Could Shawn be a PSYCHIC retro-grouch?

Granton Goods

The New Old Stock is a collection of his comix illustrating the life of a civilized cyclist. There’s lots of good stuff here, including nifty bike illustrations and non-pretentious commentary on bike culture from America’s cycling mecca, Portland. This is one of my favourites. Check his blog for more.

He’s also an accomplished at bicycle touring. This is how I first became aware of his blog, as he stopped here in Edmonton during his Cross Continental bike tour in 2011. The Cycling Touring Primer is a nicely condensed introduction for the novice bike tourist. It’s full of good advice and reading it increased my frustration at not getting my act together and hitting the road myself. After all, that’s why I bought the ’83 Nishiki Continental two years ago.

From the selection of buttons at his store I chose two mechanically themed ones (’cause I like wrenching bikes) and one of a woman cycling (’cause I’m  a sucker for a dame on a classy bike). He also added a fourth button that I eventually realized is a detail from his illustration of himself in winter cycling garb (Portland style, that is. Edmonton requires sterner measures). I appreciate that one as I am in full winter cycling mode at this time.

Granton  Goods

I have a general policy of not bedecking my actual cycling gear with bike buttons or badges.  I feel that the cycling equipment is sufficiently bikey as it is and I tend to put the buttons on things I wear off the bike. However, since I don’t feel like poking holes in the Gore-Tex jacket I’m using right now ($8.00 at Value Village!!!) I’m wearing the Winter Cyclist pin on my helmet. Thanks Shawn!

Helmet Pin

The Great New Year’s Day Bridge Ride

It was a slow starting day. I was less than lively on the New Year’s morning. Was it the late night? The perry, champagne and scotch? The cold I had felt starting to settle into my head the previous day? None of these things were going to stop me from having a good, long bike ride to start off 2013. The long stretch of frigid temps in the -20C range had finally broken and the afternoon promised a balmy 0C with brilliant sunshine.

After sleeping in and puttering around in kitchen cleaning up the detritus from the night’s get together it was nearly 1:30 before I was finally getting out the door. I had originally planned an ambitious trip through the entire length of the river valley trail system, from Hermitage Park to Terwilleger.  An honest assessment of my energy and the daylight hours available caused me to scale that back to just Hermitage to downtown. To ration my strength a little more I took my bike onto the LRT, riding the train to Clareview a short distance from the start of the trails.

The start of the ride. Northeast Edmonton.

The start of the ride. Northeast Edmonton.

Although the trails were cleared as I expected, I had made one significant miscalculation. I knew that there would be lots of other people using the trails on this beautiful New Year’s Day but I had not realized how many of them would be walking dogs. In the first couple of kilometers I must have encountered at least 50 people and more than a hundred off leash dogs. Progress was slow to start.

The trail choked with dog walkers. A sight to send a chill down the spine of a cyclist.

The trail choked with dog walkers. A sight to send a chill down the spine of a cyclist.

After passing the popular dog walking area I was able to make better time. I passed under a railway bridge, and the two bridges carrying the eastbound and westbound traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway.As I snapped photos of the bridges my theme for the day occurred to me. This was going to be a bridge ride. The railway bridge was made in 1908 only four years after Edmonton was incorporated as a city. The other two bridges were pretty functional affairs but I like the windows in the piers of the first and the simple cusp on the piers of the second.

Not much further along I approached the first of the many pedestrian bridges. I love the fact that at some point in the past the city council decided that building these bridges was a good idea. Having a number of these spans dedicated to non-motorized traffic really adds to the pleasure of using the trail system. This first one leads to the pleasantly post-apocalyptic Strathcona Science Park. While crossing the bridge I looked back and noticed a train passing over the railway bridge which annoyed me as I’d like to have been under it at the time. Looking over the bridge I spotted a number of ducks in the water, apparently content to remain in Edmonton through the winter. I can’t imagine why.

The trails in the science park weren’t  well cleared so I didn’t go far. I stopped at a snow covered picnic table and carved out a spot to have a snack: tea, cookies from my local bakery and a teeny celebratory sip on Macallan 12 year old scotch. On the way out of the park I stopped to help a young couple push their car from where it was stuck in the snow and back onto the road. There is something very satisfying about zipping up on a bike to help a stranded motorist. When my bike becomes stuck I can lift it free with one hand.

From here I crossed the river twice more on pedestrian bridges, the Ainsworth Dyer (Rundle Park) and the Capilano. The trail around Rundle park was cleared to the asphalt and I zipped along a good pace. I also crossed a little wooden bridge but I won’t include that in my total as it didn’t span the river.

I crossed under the multi-laned Capilano Bridge next and then pushed my bike up the stairs to the pedestrian walk way. Although there is a nice simple geometric appearance to the bridge from underneath, the top is completely without charm . It was a dirty, slushy crossing accompanied by the din of traffic.

By now the sun was setting and I started pushing the pace to wrap up the ride. My camera battery was also running out of energy. So were my legs. The last  crossings of the trip were the Dawson bridge, the Cloverdale pedestrian bridge and the Low Level Bridge. As I was snapping pics at the Low Level a couple of cyclists zipped passed and I got a shot one popping a wheelie.

Once back at street level I headed directly home, pleasantly tired. Over the course of the day I had passed under 3 bridges and crossed over 7 more, something I had never done before. Not a bad way to start the new cycling year.