Late as usual, my year-end review.

Just when you thought you had seen the last 2011 retrospective…

2011 was a big year for me as a cyclist. Cycling through all the months of the year I was able to pedal 5800km in 313 days of riding. This is up from 4450km in 212 days in 2010.

2011 was my first year of riding through the winter. And what a winter! In my decade of living in Edmonton I have never seen so much snow. Heavy snowfalls alternated with unseasonable thaws, resulting in endless sheets of ice. Of course, we also had our customary days with temperatures plunging to -30C . I skipped three days of bike commuting because of heavy snowfalls, but none due to frigid temperatures. It was quite the learning experience for me and I enjoyed the challenge. I commemorated this first winter of cycling by penning “The Ballad of the Winter Cyclist“.

In 2011 I joined the Edmonton Bicycle Commuter’s Society, volunteering as a mechanic  and general helper through the summer months.   My normal circle of friends aren’t much interested in bikes, so I enjoyed the opportunity to meet other bike enthusiasts.   Volunteering required me to talk to lots of people I didn’t know, not something I have ever been great at, and that was probably good for me. I went to the fabulous EBC Bike Art Auction and while I didn’t win any of my bids, I did help to power the music by pedaling one of the bicycle powered generators. The artists in residence used a lot of my pictures in a photo installation, which was pretty cool.

2011 was a good year for pulling wrenches. I extended my mechanical knowledge and tackled a number of bike rehabilitation projects. I also fabricated a few tools, most significantly  my DIY Dishing Tool and DIY Wheel Truing Stand. These allowed me to complete my first ever wheel build. My ’08 Kona Jake was pleased to receive the newly laced rear wheel and I was happy to not pay someone to make a wheel for me. This process has also made me feel much more confident in my wheel truing skills. I also completed converting two kid-hauling trailers into cargo trailers.

In 2011 the household bike fleet grew by leaps and bounds. Notable acquisitions included the  MEC Dahon Origami folding bike and the Apollo Super Sport. Including children’s bikes, the total now stands at 14! How the heck did that happen?

In addition to my normal commuting I managed to do more recreational riding this year which was great. Aside from the Tweed ride and my 100km ride, my favourites were the large number of rides I did with my 9 year old daughter. She only learned to ride her bike this year (shame on me, bad cycling Dad) and she’s been doing fantastic. My 3 year old son accompanied me on a 2km walk pedaling his tricycle all the way! That was pretty amazing, too.

Finally, 2011 was the year I stared this blog! This was no doubt a relief to my friends and family as it gave me a place to share my bike obsession, preventing my boring them to death. My heartfelt thanks to all those who read Tuckamoredew for your encouraging comments.

2012...so far, so good!

Quadragenarian

My 40th birthday arrived near the end of October. I had  been regarding its approach  in a thoughtful mood. My 30th birthday had been at the point of major life changes, with marriage and fatherhood each arriving within a month of my birthday. Since my crystal ball tells me that this decade will  also bring  major changes, I felt the need to mark the day with a personal challenge to set the correct tone for the coming years.With cycling occupying my mind more and more over recent years I decided that it was appropriate to attempt my first long bike ride.
 
I set a goal of 100km. This is no big deal to many, many riders but it is twice my previous longest ride. Although I ride a bike almost every day of the year they are always short trips, averaging about 20 km per day. I felt that I was in good shape, but would it translate into the ability to achieve longer distances? Also, I would now be 40 years old. Surely I would wake up on the morning of my birthday in a suddenly decrepit state.
 
My bike choice was obvious : my 1983 Nishiki Continental Touring Bike. It is a really lovely ride, smooth, light and reliable. For the trip I picked up some skookum new Schwalbe Marathon tires and a bike computer so I could know how far I had cycled. I had recently bought a used Arkel handlebar bag just because it was cheap and I now had  reason to use it. I had hoped to finish setting this bike up for touring this summer but it never happened. This trip would hopefully make up for that a little.

On the morning of my birthday the temperature was near the freezing mark. I dressed accordingly and brought a small pannier to shed layers into. As I don’t actually own a water bottle I had to borrow one from my unsuspecting, sleeping  wife. I supplemented my lunch materials with a few items from the local bakery . I probably have the wrong attitude to ever be any sort of sporting cyclist: I didn’t pack anything for hydration or nutrition but instead brought food and drink. The Environment Canada weather report informed me of steady winds from the Northwest. I accordingly decided that the first part of my trip would be to the North and West so as to tackle the winds when I was at my freshest. I planned to cycle just North of the city and explore the surrounding countryside.The first part of the trip was easy. I sped through familiar neighbourhoods and enjoyed the sights. I dipped into the river valley and headed North past Hermitage Park.

Ready to depart.

This was the first real test of the vintage Ideale saddle I had recently put on the bike. It made for a very comfortable ride.

Picking up food at the Portuguese bakery.

Heading North through the river valley.

I was soon on the outskirts of the city. This was the best part of my ride. It was very peaceful moving briskly along the empty road. It was strange knowing that there were no vehicles approaching from behind and I wondered why it had taken me so long to get around to riding outside the city. These quiet roads were  such a short distance from my house. Nishiki-san was running smooth and silent. I varied my route at my whim, sometimes North, sometimes West. I headed an extra 5 km along one road to check out the Railway Museum although I assumed it would be closed. I was correct.

I pedaled past farmer’s fields and small groups of houses.  I discovered an abandoned mountain bike ( a nothing special Supercycle). There was a field of at least 100 geese lounging about before continuing their flight South. Smart geese.  Fleeing the Alberta winter sounds like a good idea.  I stopped a one point to cut a cat-tail that I stuck in my pannier as a standard.  Considering the length of time I’ve lived in Edmonton I have escaped the city very few times. Mostly I just enjoyed the feeling of riding in a rural setting.  Though the details of the prairie rural landscape are different from the East Coast were I grew up there is a similar overall spirit.

Country roads!

This Hay Bale Jack-o-Lantern alone was worth getting out of the city to see.

Prairie Nishiki

Cat-Tail Rider

Oh boy, I do so love this bike.

It's just as well the Railway Museum was closed as I likely would have lost a lot riding time here.

The big Sikh temple North of Edmonton.

I never did use the map.

Once you get out of the city there is very little to block the wind. The weather report from the city center airport tells me that the wind was still from the Northwest at about 25 km/hour. I can tell you that it definitely felt to be more from the West than the North. As I struggled West on highway 37 my speed rapidly dropped. At one point, as I toiled up a very slight hill into the wind my speed was an unimpressive 16km/hour. By this time I had started to get a feel for how long my trip was going to take. I knew that I couldn’t continue Westward and hope to get home in any reasonable amount of time and I was even tempted to give up. Instead, I decided to put my tail between my legs and flee back South into the city to continue my ride. It turned out that this was easier decided than done and it took some time until I reached the next good road South. This was Range Road 244 at Namao.

Idyllic postcard scenes like this made the ride into the headwind worth it.

This helpful sign amused me

I like this tiny but well maintained church.

Across from the church was this very typical little prairie store.

This is the point at which I fled back to the city.

I rode briskly back towards the city, not entirely sure what my chosen route would be like.  It started with more pleasant country scenery and light traffic until I neared CFB Edmonton. At this point I encountered another cyclist headed in the opposite direction! This would be the only other cyclist I encountered. As I passed by the Edmonton Garrison I learned that it is important to remember to zip one’s handle bar bag closed after use. Otherwise, when you hit a bump your lunch and camera may be violently ejected onto the asphalt . It turns out that my camera is more shockproof than I thought, thank goodness!
 
 As I drew closer to the city I had to alter my route to avoid busy thoroughfares and dense traffic.After the idyllic country riding it was somewhat deflating to return to the urban blight of the far North end of Edmonton. Tightly packed, grandiosely named developments of bland monster homes clustered around stagnant looking ponds. I stopped for a brief rest in the pleasantly landscaped park surrounding Lake Beaumaris, a human-made lake that I used to visit when I first arrived in Edmonton and was living at my brother’s. I rode two quick laps around the lake and headed back up onto the city streets. Castle Downs is a good example of the sort of city planning that I dislike. Unless you want to ride on the few main streets you get trapped in confusing, intestinal, looping  roads and cul-de-sacs. I rode in circles for some time and was absolutely denied the chance to make any real progress West or South. I returned to the main roads.
 
When I eventually worked my way back into the core of Edmonton my spirits started to lift. I rode the grid down the tree-lined avenues of the older neighbourhoods. This is the Edmonton that I love and have roamed for the past decade. Although I was starting to feel a little tired, the ride started to be fun again. I dipped down onto the familiar river valley trails looking for the perfect spot to finally eat my lunch. The perfect spot eluded me and I eventually stopped on the grounds of the Muttart’s to rest beneath a tree. Lunch was leisurely and pleasant. I discovered that the lady at the bakery had completely misrepresented the flavour of the cheese I had purchased. Instead of mild and creamy it was crumbly, pungent and incredibly salty. It was good, but a little odd. I ended the meal with few celebratory sips of scotch from my flask.
 
After resting under the tree for a spell I climbed back on the bike and pushed on through the river valley, wanting to reach my goal quickly. As I toiled up the steep hill to Forest Heights I reflected that at this late part of the ride I should probably have remained up at the much flatter street level instead of descending into the valley. On the other hand,when  I paced behind a slower cyclist near the top of the hill I could easily have overtaken him. That made me feel better. I gradually headed homeward watching the odometer for the big moment. As it turned out, I misjudged the distance home and I had to ride a few laps around my neighbourhood to reach the 100km mark. When the moment arrived I rang my little brass bell several times in self-congratulation. Minutes later I was resting comfortably in my kitchen rocking chair sipping a home-brewed apple cider. Ah, the cycling life is good.
 

Another prairie postcard-like scene.

This path got me through some of the North Edmonton quagmire.

Down near the river.

80 km into the ride.

Tea, Scotch, Bread, Cheese, Apple, Brownie

This is the view from flat on my back after lunch.

My home for the past decade.

 Although I was somewhat fatigued I felt that I could have ridden farther still. With a little preparation I feel sure that I could complete a century ride.  It was a bit late in the season to contemplate it, but it will definitely be a goal of mine for the summer of 2012. It is heartening for me to note that despite the headwinds, my numerous stops to take photos, and an extremely un-hurried lunch that I still completed the 100km in under the allowable time for a randonneuring populaire. I am quite happy with this result.Furthermore, on the following day I experienced no real soreness or other after effects. Not bad for a quadragenarian after his first long bike ride.
 

Night Ride

Night Ride with Instruments

On Sunday night I pedaled off to play music at a friend’s Solstice party. The temperature was a pleasant -5Celsius, so I didn’t have to worry too much about the cold affecting the instruments. There had been a fresh fall of snow to cover the ice but I rode cautiously nonetheless as a fall would have been unwelcome. There were fiddles, recorders, guitars and some singing .  I contributed mandolin, cittern and bodhran. One musician brought a bass recorder, which is a beast I hadn’t seen before. I had a very nice solitary ride home through the silent, empty ravine. I spotted a hare but didn’t succeed in getting a good photo.

High Level Sunrise

On my way across the High Level Bridge to the Farmer’s Market this Saturday morning I stopped to snap a pic of the lovely sunrise. I offer the usual apologies for the quality of my cell-phone camera. I really need a decent camera to carry with me. There was another man on the bridge photographing the sunrise with a tripod  and a real camera. I was envious.

How to make a shuriken with your bicycle.

Step 1:
Arrange for your chain to break during your morning commute. It is important to do this in the dead of winter when the temperature is about -22 Celsius. You can be assured of the best result if  this happens when you are traversing a particularly dark section of wooded trail.

Step 2:
Fumble about in the dark with your chain tool while your hands rapidly go numb. Peering through fogging glasses is helpful as well. Drop parts in the snow if you can arrange to do so.

Step 3:
After you finally manage to reassemble your chain, pedal to work and continue about your day.

Step 4:
This next part is very important.  DO NOT INSPECT THE CHAIN TO VERIFY THAT YOU REASSEMBLED IT CORRECTLY. Instead, continue commuting on the bicycle for the next two weeks.

Step 5:
When you start to experience horrendous chain slip is the time to inspect your bicycle. You will find that the teeth of your cassette or freewheel are badly worn out and you will have to obtain a replacement. You will now check the chain closely and discover that you lost a roller while assembling the chain in the freezing dark. This resulted in a link with an exposed pin that then did a very nice job of wrecking your drive train.

Step 6:
Swear.

Step 7: 
The following Autumn when you are overhauling your bike for Winter service you will notice that one of the derailleur pulleys has been neatly transformed into a shuriken! Wasn’t that easy?

Edmonton Tweed Ride 2011

Last week I participated in the fourth Edmonton Tweed Ride. While I was aware of tweed rides elsewhere, particularly the original  in London, I hadn’t known about the local one until recently. This was my first Tweeded group outing.  In fact, this was my first group ride of any sort as I am something of a solitary cyclist.

I already had a nice Harris Tweed jacket that I like a lot, some climbing pants that are a  plausible substitute for plus-fours, and a nice vintage bike. The day before the ride I zipped off to Value Village  in search of further articles of clothing. I found a nice pure virgin wool sweater-vest and an acceptable hat. There were no knee length argyle socks, but you can’t have everything. I did find some nice long green woolen socks that were OK.  I also bought an decent bike for a very low price but I’ll save that for another blog post.

The Gentlemen Cyclist and his 1965 CCM Continental

The day of the ride was grey and cool. I thought this appropriate weather for cycling while wearing layers of heavy wool.  Shortly before I was to leave for the ride a steady, cold rain began to fall . How thoughtful of the ride organizers to arrange for us to have some authentic British weather. I briefly considered staying home but after putting the effort into getting the clothing together I was determined to ride. I resolutely went out the door and set off on my bike.

While passing through downtown I spotted two other cyclists in tweeds. I pulled up behind them and commented that they could only be headed to one place. As it it turned out, I was correct and we rode together the rest of the way to the gathering point at the U of A Quad. They had improvised some effective cardboard fenders for their bikes and also seemed determined to see it through. Crossing the High Level Bridge in the wind and driving rain seemed to promise a bleak ride.

Wen we arrived at the Quad there were others already there. We milled about for quite a while waiting for late arrivals and for the route details to be finalized. While the rain stopped, it remained overcast. Flasks of booze appeared from jacket pockets. Pipes and cigars were lit. There were lovely bikes and some very nifty costumes. I was envious of the array of fine argyle socks.

I met these two fellows on the way to the ride.

He gets my vote for best Tweeded Man. That is also a splendid bike. The umbrella was a nice touch.

I like this Raleigh with the nifty kickstand.

Eventually we were ready and embarked sedately . There was some road riding and a lot of trail riding. There was a comic moment when we encountered another group ride of road cyclists well decked out in modern sporting bike gear. We stopped for a good natured chat about temporal anomalies and anachronisms and snapped photos of each other. Afterwards we headed down into the river valley along a steep series of switch-backs accompanied by the sound of a multitude of squeaky brakes. While my trusty CCM Continental is a lovely bike it does not especially like to stop quickly in wet conditions. The ride down into the valley was nice but lurking behind was the specter of pedaling back up on a 3-speed bike.  The wooded trails were beautiful in their Autumnal splendour. Throughout the ride I was  impressed as to how comfortable and suitable the tweed was to the cycling conditions. We stopped a few times along the way as the group spread out to let every one catch up.  Our destination was the new footbridge across the river. Up to that point, I was only vaguely aware of it but having seen it I was now impressed.

A moment of anachronism.

A lovely afternoon of Autumn cycling.

She is my pick for the Best Tweeded Lady.

Two impeccably dressed cyclists. I particularly like the helmet.

Bridge, Bikes and Trees

The ride back was uneventful except for a delay caused by a mechanical difficulty. Fortunately one of the riders lived nearby and was able to speed home and return with a ratchet, socket and a replacement crank nut. Riding up out of the valley was moderately strenuous on my 3-speed but I was able to complete the climb without dismounting to walk my bike. Those of us with no other previous commitments headed to the Next Act pub for well deserved food and drink. The pub staff had been forewarned but the other patrons seemed bemused by our arrival. The food was good, the drinks refreshing and the pub stood us to a round of shots. Very nice. A pleasant ending to an excellent afternoon of cycling.

Fish and Chips (of course) and a very large mug of beer.

And now, if I haven’t exhausted your patience you may want to view the video I made from the ride. It was my first trip with my new bike-cam and it performed tolerably well, I think.

Foggy Morning Commute

On my way to work this morning there were some great lighting effects as the early morning fog burned off in the sunrise. The angle of sunlight was just right to make for some interesting illuminating reflections off the downtown high rises. I really have to carry a better camera with me than the lousy one in my cell phone.

Strathcona Science Park

Last Sunday I took an early morning ride out to the semi-abandoned , post-apocalyptic looking Strathcona Science Park that sits at the Eastern edge of Edmonton.

I find this park to be a weird and wonderful trip back in time. It was created in 1979 to protect an archeological site from industrial encroachment. It enjoyed a brief life as public science center but this was soon ended (by provincial budget cuts,  I suspect) and it has remained frozen in time since then. My wife remembers a junior high school trip when her class went to the park to explore the varying science displays in each of the bunker-like subterranean pods.  On a bicycle related note, she recalls that it was the first time she saw a bike hooked up to produce electricity. The park is still maintained by the province in a minor way. The grass is cut and the garbage cans emptied. However, the interpretive buildings and the archeological lab and site have been abandoned and allowed to slowly crumble into a decrepit state.  The first time I cycled out to this park it seemed to me that it was the ideal site to shoot a low budget post-apocalypse SF film.

I have a fondness for public park architecture of this period , no doubt instilled during the numerous camping trips my family went on when I was a child. Ah, nostalgia. Though it is a sad waste of resources, it also seems ironically appropriate that a park established to protect an archeological site is itself crumbling into a historic relic.

As a tribute to a fine blogger ( Yes, I mean you Steve!) I have included a few pictures of signs with historical information about the park’s site.

This vintage sign is misleading. I do like the illustration, though.

This is the first sign that all may not be well. However, there are lots of mountain bike trails in the woods right along this stretch.

Beautiful sunny Sunday morning.

Well, this looks OK. The flags are a bit tattered, though...

Some historical plaque goodness!

...and more!

Hey, this seems pleasant!

Don't worry Mr. Park Official, I haven't used a pair of roller skates in decades.

Golly, I'm such a rebel!

These bunker buildings are pretty nifty looking. There are several of them on the grounds.

The two entrances are on the side of the big loading door in the middle. They are pretty overgrown too. Hey, what does that sign say?

Oh! Well, there's only one thing to do when you read a sign like that.....

....and that is to climb up onto the roof! Yep, looks pretty bad.

Here is some more of that earth berm / bunker vibe.

...and more of that.

Ummm....Mr. Park Official, Sir? This section of the cycling trail could use some attention

...and also this.

...and this also. On the other hand, the cattails are pretty.

The abandoned Archeology Lab! Do forgotten archeologists lurk within plotting their revenge?

A boardwalk and a dig site. Cool!

This looks OK....

....or maybe not. At least it didn't collapse while I was on it.

Lastly, a nice view over the river.