Long Weekend Ride

This past long weekend I finally – after what seems like an eon since the distantly remembered autumn – finally, got out of the city for a moderately long ride. Though I’d planned a ride between 75km and 100km, it ended up being only 50km. Still, a good inaugural ride for the season.

Despite the forecast of gloom and showers the weather of the day lived up to the promises of this sign.

Despite the forecast of gloom and showers, the weather of the day lived up to the promises of this sign.

Last summer I took a number of rides through the countryside north of the city. This year I want to explore the many unpaved township and range roads in the area. With this in mind I brought the Kona Jake on this first trip. It’s a sort of rugged road bike that is great at handling a mixture of paved and gravel roads, rolling nicely on the 700 X 35 Schwalbe Marathon Dureme tires.

There was a stiff headwind as I rode out of city, but I was happy enough to finally be on the open road that it didn’t much bother me. I took my normal route up 82nd street and over the Henday, then over to 50th street and north from there along familiar territory. When I finally reached one of the roads I wanted to explore I discovered that it appeared to have been recently graded: new loose gravel and loony sized rocks covered the entire road surface. I tried riding along it for a ways but it was very rough going, with my wheels occasionally firing little stones off to the side with pop and whine. I persisted for about a kilometer but was not really all that disappointed when my phone rang with a call summoning me home. I’ll go back and try the road another time once it gets packed down a bit.

There's not much shelter from the wind out on these roads.

There’s not much shelter from the wind out on these roads.

As I sped homeward with the wind at my back,  back I encountered a large group of road cyclists on their way north , I assume on a club ride. There were between 20 and 30 of them spread out into three groups, appearing to take the business very seriously as they were pedaling with a rather intense look and for the most part declined to acknowledge my friendly nod and wave. I did get a  companionable “hello” from one fellow and a cheerful, sunny smile from one woman. I suppose I didn’t really fit in with the Lycra Lodge what with my sandals and socks, 3/4 length cotton pants, commuting helmet with lights strapped on,   and baggy jacket snapping in the wind like a flag.

The rest of the ride home was speedy and uneventful. It was a nicely gentle start to the seasons riding and next weekend I hope to manage a longer ride.

2013 Inaugural ride

 

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

People, I have a serious blog jam that I need to break. My hard drive is so stuffed with photos from this summer that they’re oozing out the computer’s ports onto my desk. What a mess! To clear this up I’m resorting to a series of no frills photo blog-posts. Minimal text. Fear not, normally programmed wordy blathering will be resumed in short order.

This first post features  my July trip to Saskatchewan. Previously, I could barely claim to have seen any of the province. Our small convoy of motor vehicles hauled 8 people on a 9 hour drive to our neighbouring province. And,of course, we took some bikes.

Grain ‘n Trains. The modern grain elevators are less photogenic than the old wooden ones but you still can’t beat them as a prairie icon. I took a raft of photos on the drive out but I will spare you the majority as most of them were taken through bug smeared windows at highway speed.

Early on the first morning at the campground my daughter and I went for a walk. Two deer trotted past us about 10 feet away. My daughter was instantly charmed.

A few minutes later, while we were walking through a field of waist-high grass, a duck exploded from nearly under our feet.

My bike of choice for the expedition: the2008 Kona Jake. This cross bike is a good compromise between road bike and mountain bike making it a great all rounder. The trail you see it on here is a rough heavy equipment “road” that circled the campground. The Jake gobbled up the heavily rutted sandy track with no problems. There was one steep hill that was so much fun that I went down it three times. The only mishap was when the front wheel lodged  deep in a soft patch and I had a pleasant trip over the bars.But hey, that soft patch meant a soft landing too, so it was all good.

There was a big wind storm at the campground a few days before we arrived. A lot of big trees were blown down, one of them crushing a brand new RV (luckily unoccupied). By the time we were there they had the power restored and most of the storm damage cleaned up.

Cross carefully.

Another prairie staple. These pump-jacks liberally dot the framer’s fields.

The campground also had a golf course. I think that this is the clubhouse.

There was a certain practical approach to the maintenance of the putting green. I didn’t feel unduly worried that anyone was going to yell at me for riding my bike across the course.

There were a lot of these little cacti on the golf course.

Pelican over Antelope Lake.

I also took a few rides on the surrounding country roads. TheJake showed its versatility again as I easily explored both paved and unpaved roads. The 700cX35 Schwalbe Durano tires were great on both road surfaces. This road extended in a straight line to the horizon, exerting a mesmerizing effect compelling me to cycle endlessly forward. But then I’d have been late for supper.

Here we see another example of that Saskatchewan practical approach, this time as applied to roadway maintenance.

This antelope was standing by the roadside and fled into the field as I cycled closer. As I pedaled past, it retreated to the crest of the hill where it was joined by a few more antelope. They decided to follow me. First they’d run, then they would stop to watch me for a while, then they’d run along pacing me again, and so on. They clearly could not decide what the heck I was. This went on for a couple of kilometers before the novelty of my presence wore off. Cycling along with the company of the antelope may have been the highlight of the trip. All the creatures I encountered (including humans) exhibited the same bemusement at the approach of a cyclist. One herd of cows studiously ignored passing motor vehicles but turned as group to gape at me as I approached, eventually deciding to flee. Passing motorists did not flee but certainly did gape.

River Break-Up

The short stretch of the North Saskatchewan River that I see each day has been ice free for a little while now. However, a few days ago there was a lot of ice moving through from further upstream. This is a spectacle that only lasts for a little while an I’m always glad when I don’t miss it. The implacable force of the river suddenly becomes obvious as it pushes the pans of ice downstream regardless of obstacles. There is constant low rumbling noise accompanied by a crystalline tinkling. When I was standing on the pedestrian bridge watching the large sheets of ice split against the piers it was reminiscent of the ice-breaking ocean ferries that I traveled by back on the East coast. Powerful. I took a short video clip of the river break-up but it doesn’t really capture the experience.

In bike related news, I have been riding the Kona Jake cross bike again for the last couple of weeks. This was my first real bike and I still love it. It’s fast, nimble and rugged: a good compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike. The Jake is Kona’s entry level cross bike and I really think it’s aimed at people like me rather than anyone who might actually race it. This is my favourite bike to ride once the snow is mostly gone. And someday soon it will really be gone. I hope.

2008 Kona Jake

Mounting a MEC Mountain Front Rack on my 2008 Kona Jake

My Kona Jake has been my commuting and utility bike since I bought it a year ago. I’ve hauled lots of cargo on the rear rack, pulled children in a trailer and even used it for a couple of weeks of winter riding when my mountain bike was out of service. It’s been reliable, versatile and fun to ride. Still, I wanted to increase its utility capabilities. A front rack seemed like the next step.

I picked up a MEC Mountain Front Rack. For only $13.00 I thought that if it didn’t work out it wouldn’t be a big deal. The first problem was that the Kona P2 fork didn’t have eyelets for attaching the rack. I could have attached it with clamps to the fork blades but that would have positioned the rack higher than I wanted. Instead, I picked up a replacement fork at a gear swap. As an added bonus, the new fork has bosses for a lowrider rack if I need one in the future.  I spray painted the fork black to match the bike (and, boy, did that take longer than I thought it would).

I made the removal tool from an old seatpost. It turned out to be a bit weaker than I had hoped and I had to straighten the tines a couple of times, but it did the job.

Next, to install the new fork I  improvised some headset tools to replace the old headset with the better one that came with the new fork. I hadn’t ever replaced a headset before but I was able to manage it without too much trouble. Cobbling together the tools only took about 15 minutes.

Finally, I was ready to install the rack. Not having done this before (and because the MEC rack comes WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS) I tried researching the task on the internet. To my surprise there is very little information and few detailed photos. Nothing showed a similar setup to my bike. Since this rack seems to be a copy of the venerable Blackburn front mountain rack I was surprised by this lack. Maybe this is considered to be such a basic task that nobody would bother showing their setup. I must just be dense, because I had to do some head scratching to figure it out.

The metal tang that attaches the fork to the rack was formed in such a way that I had to reshape it considerably to install it so it would work with my fender and not interfere with my cantilever linkwire. If I had a straddle cable instead this would have been a  little easier. Just now, looking at the picture on the MEC website of the tang in the hardware kit, I see that the slot is longer than on the one I received. That would have made things easier as well.

My mini-anvil is a hammer head I unearthed when digging in the garden.

Instead, I  channeled my inner blacksmith. I had to re-bend it several times before I got it just right. I was worried that it might break because of this but it seems solid so far. After that, the installation was straight forward. The mounting kit supplied DID NOT CONTAIN a bolt long enough to fit through the top of the fork. This wasn’t a problem for me as I was able to use the bolt from my fender. There was some leftover hardware that is doubtless useful for installing the rack in other configurations.

Once installed, the rack is solid. Certainly it is enough to carry anything I might reasonably want to put on the front of my bike.  My MEC 40L front pannier set  fits securely and I’m looking forward to putting them to some serious use.

Utility Cycling #1

Today I took a short ride to deliver some Green Party lawn signs to houses in the neighbourhood. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. If you’re going to deliver Green Party signs by bike is the way to do it. The metal frames were a bit unwieldy but after couple of tries I figured out a way to secure them to my rack with just one bungee cord. This sort of thing would be easier with a cargo trailer I suppose, but the problem solving is part of the fun.


Here's how I secured everything.

It's the second day after officially retiring the winter bike. The Jake is looking sharp and is SO much more fun to ride.

The Ballad of The Winter Cyclist

You cycle spring and summertime
and in the autumn, too
but as these three will not suffice
you ride the winter through.

On city streets and frozen lakes
and snowy singletrack.
Your bike and you can boldly go
and safely travel back.

There’s drifting snow or swamps of slush
or arctic winds outside.
But through it all without concern
the Winter Cyclist rides.

 You seldom see the sun at all.
You pedal in the dark.
With flashing lights, reflective stripes
you always will embark.

When asphalt’s but a memory,
and black ice lies in wait
buy studded tires or make your own
to be a real cheap skate.

If you wear prescription glasses
fogging is a trial.
Though you stop to scrape and wipe them,Toasty Warm!
it doesn’t last a mile.

If when you ride you underdress,
no colder can you get.
But if you overcompensate,
you’ll soon be soaked in sweat.

The mercury is plunging down
and frostbite nips your nose.
Balaclavas, goggles, pogies
will leave no skin exposed.

The weather shifts from hour to hour,
the forecast often lies.
But through it all quite unperturbed
the Winter Cyclist flies.

 When your freeheub freezes solid,
the ratchet sounds no clicks.My old commuting bike recomissioned as my winter bike.
To no avail you spin the cranks,
and wish you’d ridden fixed.

And if you switch to riding fixed,
the snow falls axle deep.
You sweat and strain to creep uphill,
for lost low gears you weep.

Perhaps you’ll try internal gears,
though greater weight you’ll lug.
Gears sealed away from sand and salt,
you’d roll on feeling smug.

Maintain your bike with vigilance,
the Winter months are hard.
Sand and salt are constant foes.
Against them you must guard.

To fix a chain or change a flat,
while crouching by the road,
with fingers numb and in the dark,
good cheer does soon erode.

The Winter months stretch endlessly,
the season takes its toll.
Yet through it all with firm resolve,
the Winter Cyclist rolls.

You see a car stuck in the snow,
to push it out takes three.
But if your bike should become stuck,
one hand can lift it free.

If first it thaws and then comes snow,
to quickly be packed down.
Lurking low, obsidian shoals
of ice will then abound.

You strive to keep your bike upright
and not fall to the street.
The cars that follow close behind
you do not wish to meet.

The ice extends for endless miles,
the hills are daunting slides.
But through it all without dismay
the Winter Cyclist glides

Now Winter fades and Spring returns.
You shed your winter clothes
to sup the Sun through longer days
and thaw your frozen toes.

You put away your Winter bike
though faithful it has been
and rip the roads on faster rides.
‘Round corners you careen.

But roads and paths seem duller trips.
Less challenge now than then.
So when the snows and ice return
the Winter Cyclist rides again.

Yes, when the snows and ice return
the Winter Cyclist rides again.

 

By Tuckamoredew
Edmonton, Alberta
March 2011

For helping me make it through my first winter of bike commuting I’d like to thank:
 
Icebike – The first website I found when I was considering winter riding.

The Raving Bike Fiend – for Winter Cycling 101

The folks at the Winter Cycling Forum for their collective winter wisdom.

The good volunteers at The Edmonton Bike Commuters shop for helping me keep a winter bike on the road.

The City of Edmonton for plowing the MUPs in a timely fashion (although next year maybe they could be sanded more promptly when they turn to ice)
 

The Untracked Snow

An early Saturday morning commute, overtime bound. Fresh fallen and still falling powder blowing past and thrown up under Jake’s wheels to encrust my legs. Gloriously vacant streets. Few car tracks. No footprints. No bike tracks. Clear, unridden snow down the LRT trail. I’m the first out and pass no other  tracks until Mill Creek where I follow one single bike line up into the broad path through the trees.

Riding home at noon on the road the snow is half-packed by cars and I make constant corrections as the skinny, unstudded 35s skid and slip looking for purchase. I conciously loosen my tight  grip on the bars and relax. My course is like a drunkard’s walk.

After 20 snowy kilometers Jake wants more but duty calls. Momma’s sick and the children need minding.

Daylight and Deep Freeze

I am truly relishing the slow return of the sun. Pedaling home by the stark light of the late afternoon sun is so much preferable to toiling away in the dark with all lights flashing. It  made a breezy -22°Celsius ride pleasant. I even took the time to stop and snap a couple of photos on the pedestrian bridge over the North Saskatchewan river. I only had my rather poor cellphone camera to use. The impulse to photograph while riding arises so often that I really should get a decent camera to take with me. 

After all these years living in Edmonton I still am struck by all the buildings venting steam on frigid days. It looks like a city afire to warmer climate East Coaster like myself.

Sunny Ride Home

And a picture of yours truly:

Prepared for the cold

 

 

Since I’m doing some maintenance on my winter bike I’ve been riding my Kona Jake for the past few days. It’s a much sweeter ride than my lumbering, studded-tired, stupidly heavy mountain bike. I like it too much to subject it to a full winter of riding, though. Next week I plan to be back to the winter bike.