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.


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


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.


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?)




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.


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.


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.


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 Two


In this second week of the Three Speed October Challenge I completed the minimum criteria of three rides of at least three miles. A pair of autumn snowstorms and other logistical problems limited the number of three speed rides and frustratingly prevented me from bringing my third bike into play again. Next week. . .

Day One: Sunday

The snowfall that began on Saturday continued through the night and into Sunday morning. I lingered about the house once again before heading outside. I wheeled my trusty grocery-getting Raleigh 20 Three-speed out of the garage and through the garden, ducking under branches sagging under the weight of the heavy, wet snow.

This ride turned out NOT to be qualifying ride as it was less than the required distance but I include it anyway in the interest of promoting the practicality of three-speeds.

I’d like to claim that the riding conditions were like this:


. . .but that was just a gust of wind blowing snow off the trees. It was actually fairly pleasant out and looked more like this:


The snow was already starting to melt on the streets so the trip to the grocery store was a sloppy, slushy ride but the fenders did their job. Once I was finished shopping I loaded up the R20 with the goods. The small wheels and low center of gravity makes this bike practical little cargo carrier. That old two-stay pletscher rack has been often loaded up with far heavier loads than I suspect it was ever meant for – in this case 40 pounds of kitty litter plus two panniers of food.


Later in the day, I brought out the Raleigh Superbe for a qualifying ride of about 16km, heading down to Whyte Ave for a burger, beer and socializing at the Next Act Pub. By that time, the roads were clear of snow and the temperature had risen to merely bracing. I traveled by way of the Legislature grounds and across the high level bridge. While on the High Level I stopped to take a pic of the new bridge being constructed to replace to old Walterdale Bridge. It’s well behind schedule, but is going to be quite impressive when finally finished – in the pic one can see both the smaller old green bridge and the swooping arches of the new one.



Day Two – Monday

Monday was Thanksgiving, and my only ride was to pop out on the R20 to The Italian Center Shop to pick up some feast ingredients. This locally owned neighbourhood grocery store has everyday staples as well as lots of interesting imports and is one of my regular stops. It also has a nifty mosaic outside. This trip is usually about a three mile ride exactly, but in this case I forgot my lock and had to double back for it putting it easily over the qualifying distance.


Day Three – Tuesday

This day’s ride was another 20km round-trip commute on the Superbe. At -6°C it was another brisk morning, but beautiful under a wonderfully illuminated mackerel sky. Much of the snow had melted the previous day and now the resulting roadside puddles were frozen over with a thick layer of ice. The asphalt roads and paths, however, were dry and offered good traction. I was already close to being late for work but I stopped to make my annual frost angel.

And that was all the three speed rides I manged for the week. On Wednesday and Thursday I rode speedier bikes because I was on a tighter schedule. On Friday I rode my winter bike as another snowstorm rolled in, dumping a much greater amount snow, causing traffic havoc as cars slid and spun out on the slushy, icy roads. I chose my route carefully and avoided interacting with the city-wide bumper car madness.




A spot of brightness.


On Saturday evening, I rode the winter bike to Bikeworks for a bit of after hours bike repair and socializing. While I was there I spotted this gem of a wheel that somebody had donated:


Sturmey Three Speed Hub with Drum Brake

It didn’t take long for me to convince myself to buy the wheel to use for a future project. I’m thinking I’ll use it to build another winter bike. When temperatures drop below -20°C an old three speed hub keeps working perfectly while freewheels and freehubs sometimes freeze up. And of course, the enclosed drum brake is perfect for nasty winter riding conditions.

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.”. 


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.


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.


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.


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.

Bike of the Week: Motorized 80’s Kuwahara MTB


This week’s bike belongs to a patron who came into Bikeworks North looking for a suspension fork for his motorized Kuwahara.

Normally, I’m not much of a fan of gasoline powered bicycles, but this one is such a tidy conversion that I had to take a picture. Also, the bicycle is a rather nice early 80’s Kuwahara. This winter I tuned up a very similar for sale at the shop, and if it had been a little bigger I’d have bought it for myself.

In the past, I’ve had  a sort of knee-jerk, negative reaction to motorized bicycles of all sorts.    This attitude was exacerbated by often having to patiently explain to  family members and acquaintances that I really DO like riding my bicycle to work and that getting a motorized one would definitely reduce the amount of exercise I was getting. Gasoline powered bikes, in particular are also loud, exhaust producing, and require trips to the gas station.

I recent years, however, I have come to appreciate the utility of the new generation of electric bikes. While I don’t have any plans to get one for myself any time soon, I can see how they are useful for many people. In particular, they let a person make commuting trips of longer distances than they would normally be capable of. My instructor in a solar energy course used his in this way: riding his e-bike he was able to greatly cut down on the number of days he commuted using his truck. He also measured the energy required to charge the battery and determined that he was only paying 12 cents a day to use the bike. That’s a heck of a savings over the price of gasoline for a truck.

Another natural application is in cargo bikes. Adding an electric motor gives a cyclist the option of hauling heavier loads for longer distances. There are a number of electric cargo bikes on the market. At a local bike shop I was recently looking at a Trek Transport Plus, a slick looking machine. The nearly $3000 price tag puts it somewhat out of my reach at this time but I could imagine myself cobbling together a DIY version, as our local RavingBikeFiend did. However, in the near future I already have plenty of bike projects lined up to keep me busy.

The Military Folding Bike

I generally try to avoid re-blogging and instead generate new content of my own. However, my computer is not working at the moment at my ability to blog is seriously limited by the small amounts of time I can sneak in on my wife’s computer.  Today, I’d like to draw your attention to a really excellent WordPress blog: The Online Bicycle Museum. As I have grown increasingly interested in vintage bicycles, this blog has provided endless reading and I highly recommend it. There are numerous “rooms“ in the museum to visit.

It being Remembrance day, I have been reading about the use of bicycles by the military. I was aware that the folding bicycle had its origins in military use. I  had the vague idea that it had first been invented for the use of WW2 paratroopers, but apparently they date back at least to 1900 and were used in the Boer War. The early technology seems to have left something to be desired:

There are, more especially on the Continent, critics who advocate the use of the folding cycle for military purposes. I cannot but believe that these must mostly be people who have never ridden a folding bicycle. It is heavy, lacks rigidity and strength, entails loss of time in folding and unfolding, and even when it has been folded and is strapped on to the back in such a manner, by the way, that it cannot possibly be unstrapped except by the assistance of a comrade, it is the most unwieldy burden I have ever carried.

The advantages claimed for it, even if real, would hardly compensate for these drawbacks; but the advantages are theoretical rather than practical. It is claimed that cyclists when they wish to cross fields, etc., will dismount, fold their bicycles and stow them on, their backs. I was once the proud possessor of a folding bicycle, which I used for experimental purposes, and I can assure you that for half a dozen excellent reasons nothing would induce me to take one on service, or if I did it would never be folded except when the spring got out of order and it collapsed automatically, which is one of its unexpected habits.

By Captain. A. H. TRAPMANN, Adjutant, 25th (Cyclists) Battalion (County of London) The London Regiment. 16th December, 1908

I assume that the shortcomings were addressed, as these bicycles continued to be used by various militaries. Here are two early folding bikes from the WW1 period , one British and one Italian:

And here is a later example, a WW2 paratrooper`s folder:

I could post many more links here, but my stolen computer time will soon be over, so Ithink I will spend it wandering through the online museum myself.

I’m glad it wasn’t the brake cable housing.

A couple of weeks ago I rode my recently acquired 1989 Raleigh Rocky II to work with the intent of leaving it there to overhaul it. On the way,  the rear derailleur stopped responding to my attempts to shift gears. At first glance I didn’t see anything wrong  so I just chugged along the rest of the way in the same gear. When I got to my destination it didn’t take long to find the problem.

The Iron Horse Returns Home

It’s time to give my trusty ol’ 2007 Iron Horse Maverick Commuter a bit of blog love.  I wrote a few unflattering things about it HERE and while they are true this bike has served me well and perhaps deserves a bit better. This department store quality bike did the job commuting, river valley trail riding and utility riding. I worked it hard for many thousands of kilometers until the effort of keeping the low level components working was too tedious.  After a brief retirement in through most of 2010 , followed by winter riding duty in the memorable winter of 2010/2011, it is now in the project queue  again. It spent several months tucked away behind a storage building at work but I finally rode it home last week.

Getting the grips on was a PITA. I stretched one beyond usefullness on my first try. The next time I lubricated the bars with a little water. The grips slid on easilly then and remained firmly in place when the water dried.

The latest change is the new set of bars. These are ’90s Scott AT-4 bars that I picked up at a garage sale for $5. How can you go wrong? The idea is that they are supposed to provide a bit of a aero riding position in addition to multiple hand positions. I’m not sure of the usefulness of an aero position on a mountain bike, but what the heck. They look interesting so I’m giving them a try.

I’m also thinking of swapping out the lousy

The winter riding was not kind to this fork. That's OK, it wasn't very good to begin with.

suspension fork for a rigid one. Oh, and I need a new rack and fenders. And tires. And cable housing. And maybe a stem. Already I’ve spent more on upgrading and maintaining this bike than I originally spent on the bike itself. That’s OK, though. It feels good to make this a more useful machine.

Last year's upgrade. A very nice used wheel with DT hub, spokes, and Mavic rim.

Recommissioning Nishiki-san : Unsticking the Seatpost

I am in the process of slowing restoring my 1983 Nishiki Continental touring bike for active touring duty.

I say restoring, but really this bike is in very fine shape and it needs little work. When I bought it it was with the intention of using it for light touring. Then I found out just how light, smooth and fast it is to ride just as it is. I began to question whether I should start encumbering it with all the touring accessories.But, in the end I am a practical, utilitarian sort of cyclist. This bike was built to tour and tour it shall. Besides, this gives me an excuse to shop for another vintage road bike to use as a speed machine.

This was supposed to be a quick first check to see how stuck the seatpost was.

The fellow I bought the bike from warned me that the seatpost was stuck. He had brought it to a local bike shop and they were unable to remove it. “That’s OK”, I thought, “It’s set at about the right level so I wont worry about it.” However, as I rode the bike over the next month it became obvious that the seatpost was actually a little bit too low. It wasn’t enough to be a big concern over the course of my 11km commute but I could definitely feel a slight extra strain on my knees. This wasn’t going to be good if I tried to ride it for 8 hours a day.

Researching stuck seatposts on the internet I discovered that I might be in for a bit of a struggle. Some  are easy to remove, I learned, and others….not so easy. Given that the bike shop mechanic had failed, I figured this would be a tough one. Most likely I’d have to cut it out and buy a new post.

I brought the bike to work where I have a greater assortment of tools. My first step was to clamp it in the vise and use the bike frame as a lever to torque the post out. I was careful to not apply too much force as I have heard that it is possible to bend the frame doing this. To my surprise, after only a moderate amount of twisting the seatpost broke free and turned! Take that LBS mechanic! My initial elation was a little dampened when I realized that it still wasn’t going slip out easily. Nevertheless, after less than half an hour of straining and twisting (and wondering how long the damned post actually was) it came out.


The post was chewed up by the vise but was structurally undamaged (EDIT: It only now occurred to me that I should have clamped the post near the top where any damage would be hidden by the seat) . A quick trip to the sandblaster and a little buffing afterwards and it was looking a little more presentable. I figure I’ll ride with it like this for a while and maybe replace it at a later date.

Next project: mounting some metal fenders.

Cleaned up it doesn't look so bad. At least I can shop for a replacement at my leisure.

Weird Things #1

I spotted this interesting traffic obstruction while cycling through downtown Edmonton a few weeks ago. Liquid nitrogen was being moved from these  large containers, through an elaborate system of pipes and down through a manhole to the depths below. Why they were doing this, I have no idea.