Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iron Curtain Ride

Just when I was feeling kinda cutting-edge smug about being on top of things, reality jumps up and once again shows me up as an unimaginative person. The latest reality bite is a 3,600 kilometre bike route that follows the old Iron Curtain. OMG, what a ride that would be. Check out an article and some photos here from Paul Kaye's ride. Talk about taking the lane!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Girls on Bikes

The Guardian today posted a link to its bike blog, lamenting a dismal statistic. In the UK, teenage girls cycle an average of 24 miles a year, compared with 138 miles travelled by boys on bikes.
How to get more girls on bikes? The issue is discussed pretty quickly, covering in particular the problem that many bikers have of arriving somewhere dirty and/or sweaty. Maybe girls don't want to be tousled and grubby, is the suggestion.
Two more sensible suggestions come from the blog posts after the article. One blogger points out with whimsy that based on his associates' fawning over pink sparkly tvs and technology, well, pink sparkly bikes would have more appeal to some girls. But the best suggestion comes from the blogger who points out that there is a perfectly good cycling infrastructure in most towns and cities in the UK (and probably most urban areas in Western countries) -- it's just clogged with rude MOTOR VEHICLE drivers. Thin out the vehicle traffic and it just might be safe enough to ride around a lot more.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crap Bike Lanes

You think the bicycle lanes in your city are bad? Check these out. The Guardian has posted an album with the fitting title of "Crap Bike Lanes," a collection and unsafe and just plan ridiculous bike lanes, like this one with a lamp post in it every 100 feet. But wait -- there's more! They even have a flickr group! Check it out, then hang your head in disbelief.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Winter is coming

And it's time to prep you and your bike. Check out this checklist from the Guardian newspaper in Britain. Here's the first two on the list. Oh, and check out some of the cool gear links-- like Dashing Tweeds.

1. Winterproof your bike

To help your steed cope with gritted roads and grimy puddles, you need to prepare it for the horrors ahead. Clean it properly and then apply an all-weather lubricant to the chain and any other parts where metal meets metal. Don't go mad. The oil should not drip and must under no circumstances must it touch your brake pads or wheel rims.

2. Get lights

With the rapidly decreasing number of daylight hours, a good set of lights is more important than ever. Any brand will do, just check the running time and avoid any that use expensive, awkwardly shaped batteries. Knog lights are very popular, and clip straight onto most bikes without fiddly brackets ( You can also get flashing pedals such as those made by Pedalite (

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mes nouveaux vélos

I promised the gang a report from Montréal on the subject of Bixi, the new public bicycle system, which I joined just in time for Anticipation, the 2009 World SF Convention, and here it is. No pictures - keep forgetting to go out and snap some bikes at their stands. But my effort may be redundant.

I signed up and paid my initial subscription on-line while still in Victoria - $28 for a month, which covers any number of 30 minute trips (as long as they're at least 5 minutes apart) during the month. Any number, not one per day. When I arrived back from Victoria, helmet in holdall, my package was waiting, including a shiny red plastic key with an identifying number and embedded chip-that-tells-all, and a small foldout map indicating stations and coverage and bicycle routes. The only complaint I have about the latter is it doesn't show the direction of these bicycle routes. I had to log in to the website to activate the key, and on Wednesday August 5, I was ready for my maiden voyage, down to the Convention Centre to help set up.

So, out to the stand nearest where I lived, put the key into the slot by the bicycle. Yes! Green light. Tug at bike. Nothing happens. Tug a little harder at bike. Nothing happens. Try another bike. Oops, red light. Back to original bike, insert key, get green light. Tug firmly, bike releases. Magnetized holder.

OK, I haz bike. It's a solid, sit-up-and-beg design, dull silver finish, broad black plastic handlebars. Cradle with a bungee cord in front to function as a carrier. Helmet on, adjust seat, hop on, wobble into bike lane. Haven't done this for a while. After a couple of blocks I discover first a second and then a third gear, accessed by twisting a ring medial to the right handlebar. By then the wobble has evened out considerably, and I'm picking up speed in the bike lane heading down St Urbain, dodging the cracks, the manhole covers and the potholes.

That first run was straight down St Urbain to the Convention Centre, the only hazard some construction that narrowed the street down uncomfortably. I missed having a handlebar mirror - my neck ain't made of rubber no more. It took 13 minutes, according to my trip record on Bixi Space. There was a stand with vacant spaces just outside the Convention Centre, so I cruised to a stop, lifted the bike into place, pushed, green light went on, all done.

Getting home proved to be more of a challenge, since by the time I left the Convention Centre, my straight route through the centre was blocked off due to a street festival. I worked my way east and west and eventually found myself going up Saint-Laurent with all the diverted night traffic, jousting with a bus and dodging parallel-parkers. Trip home, 29 minutes, one shy of the 30 minute free limit. Based on that experience, the next home trip I did, I caught the metro past the centre of town, and then picked up a bike.

The longest trip I've done so far was a 33 minute run to the limits of the service at Jean-Talon. For that I will have incurred a $1.50 fare. That was the first bike I reported as having problems, having discovered after I started out that not only was one of the brake levers broken in half, but the gears were slipping - I suspect a previous rider had tried to force 10 gears out of 3. Every time I hit a bump, it would spontaneously drop a gear. Mind you, that was to be preferred to the Millennium Sparrow's (my 1980 Nishiki, aka the Spuggie) trick of gearing up in cold weather, particularly on hills. Reporting in consisted simply of pushing a button on the station. The only other problem I've encountered is a bike that refused to check in at the first 2 stands I tried, but I requested an extension on my time, went round the block and it checked in fine. It would be an advantage to have a cellphone for such occasions, and it would be best to make allowances in timing for not getting the bike into the first station.

The one-way deal is wonderful. It frees me up to, for instance, bike in daylight and take the Metro back late at night (the bike is, however, equipped with reflectors and a flashing head-light), or bike to the market with empty bags and take the Metro back with 5 lbs of tomatoes and 3 lbs each of apples and pears (I go a little crazy in the market). I get the impression the bikes are well used: I see quite a number of them during commuting hours along the main cycling thoroughfares, pedalled by people in business suits, and I see them by ones and twos in the side streets off hours, pedalled by tourists. The same rack, completely full in the morning, will be completely empty in the early evening. There are iPhone apps for tracking availability.

Bixi announced recently that it will be moving into London and to Boston, and I see they are doing a trial run in Ottawa-Gatineau. Hmm, I wonder if my key would work ...?

Friday, August 21, 2009


For a new NZ-built electric bicycle.

To quote:
“YikeBike is a super light small electric folding bike with
carbon frame weighing in at less than 10kg. The radical
mini-farthing wheel formation is designed to fold into
less than a third the volume of any other 20 inch folding
bike. It has a powerful 800W motor and anti-skid
regenerative brakes. Given the super small size and
weight it can easily be taken on busses, trains, cars and
easily stored under a desk or in a cupboard.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Commando Brian

I bumped into a former co-worker last weekend, and we discovered that since we last worked together we've both taken up kayaking.
While I've gone into sea kayaking, he bought an inflatable and started exploring commando kayaking. But he's developed his own unique twist; he rides his recumbent trike to the launch point, then loads up his trike on his kayak. This way, he's taken his ride home with him and can peddle back from wherever he puts in.
I have to say I'm somewhat dubious about this set-up, especially if it goes over. But it is an ingenious set-up, and I'll get a look at it live and in person later today when Brian joins us for a paddle on the Gorge.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Shweeb is Shweet!

You jump into an aerodynamic capsule and race like a bullet for three laps. With seven gears to play with it’s easy to get up to your top speed.

Feel the adrenalin kick in as you fly around curves swinging out 60 degrees! You soar 4m above the pond and then miss the ground by inches!

Your seat adjusts to your exact height and is as comfortable as a hammock. The highly efficient vehicles let you go much faster than a bicycle.

The above comes from the Shweeb website. Now check out the promo video....

Sure, Shweeb is only available inNew Zealand, but the simplicity of construction makes me think that there might actually be a role for Shweeb in mass transit. I could see myself cranking one of these home from work each day. The pods would be the expensive bit, and mass production could minimize that expense. Just one more option for a varied transit system.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cleaner Cycling

Here's something cool that I found while looking for green household items and gift ideas.
Gaiam's handmade vegetable soap is made with bike power! The unique invention pairs a bicycle power train with a soap-mixing vat allowing the soap-makers to pedal their way through every batch without electricity, synthetic scents or chemical hardeners. The soap is then cured for two months.
I wonder how many soap-makers and how many shifts of cyclists it takes to make a vat of soap.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Wheels

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Bought new wheels last week. A Salsa Fargo.

Supposedly it's the only bike of it's kind - a mountain/touring bike with 29" wheels. There are range of "29'ers" available these days. Your average mountain bike has 26" wheels and you're average road bike has 27.5" wheels.

It's outfitted with all top quality Shimano XT components and Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes. While not a road bike per se it goes pretty quick with a sweet spot for cruising on the flats at 30-35 km/h. Super comfy ride, brazings for six (6!) water bottle racks, and designed to take racks for front and rear panniers.

It was over my $1,500 budget by $1,000 but it was love at first ride. Shout out to Jon and the guys at Oak Bay Bikes for making me an offer I couldn't refuse, they gave me a fantastic deal.

And to compete with all the silly gps-enabled kayakers around here, here's my gps-enabled 40k ride from last night. ;)

View Track 2 in a larger map

PS. You'll notice that the stop point is a little short of the start point...had to make a pit stop at the Penny Farthing to do some carbo-loading at the end of the ride.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Did decide to push out a bit today. The sun was out, the weather warm, so I headed out to the transition point of the Galloping Goose/Lochside trail to decide which way I would go: north or west. West won. I headed out along the Goose to View Royal and Colwood to see if I could find this:

Lee Valley on  Wale Road

Yes, the rare Vancouver Island Lee Valley Store. In fact, I think this may be the only one on the Island. As you can see, I got lucky and found it, and only 17 kilometres from my own front door! It's still early in the year, and it won't really be out of hibernation for another couple of weeks, but still it's nice to know that its okay and has made it through the winter.

About 500 metres from where I spotted the Lee Valley (and yeah, I'm still jazzed about that...), I stopped at one of my favourite places on the Goose:

Bridge over creek on the Galloping Goose Trail

This bridge is only accessible from the Goose, and only by bike, or on foot; You can't drive there. And why would you want to go there? Well, it's just over a really pretty (and pretty deep) gorge with a stream rushing through it.

Creek on the Galloping Goose Trail

I've often wondered if I could take the Pamlico down it, but it's probably too narrow for that. The creek boat I sold Joel last week might have made it, but that will have to be up to Joel now.
On the other side of the bridge, the creek gets a bit gnarly, before settling down.

Creek on Galloping Goose Trail 2

This is what I love about Victoria; if you bike, hike, or kayak, there are these amazing places within an hour of your front door that are completely inaccessible by other, more conventional means of transportation. Heck, add the bus and a huge area of the lower Island opens up to you.

As for me, well, after getting home, I have to admit, the legs were pretty empty. Not the crippling pain of my Nelson ride a couple of years back, just empty and noticing that there wasn't a whole lot of energy left available to them. I'm really glad there was no crippling pain and missing out on that feeling that I was about to have a fatal heart attack, it's only good.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Well, here's what £7000 will buy you. This is the "limited edition 'Prince of Spain' Pinarello, named in honour of the cyclist Alejandro Valverde and decked out in Spanish national colours". That front chainring? 59 teeth. The front forks have a barley twist to them--just marketing according to its owner, Sir Alan Sugar. You can read the story of a ride in the Daily Mail.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Hurtin' Unit

Yesterday (Saturday 21 mar) Paula and I met John and Richard at the ORS spring gear sale, and then I picked up my bike from the in-law's place and headed out for another ride. It's going to take a lot of rides between now and June to even be halfway ready (as well as quite a few trips to the gym for core strengthening). About 4 km into my ride, I pulled a John at about 35 kph.
I still don't know exactly what happened, but I was moving nicely past Reynolds School and then I was over the handlebars and sliding face first down the street, shedding speed and parts as I went.
Everything worked the way it was supposed to--my helmet took a shot (when I took it off I found some gravel embedded in the Styrofoam), my gloves shredded, avoiding serious damage to my hands, and so on. Interestingly, it was my left hand glove that shredded the worst, while it was my right hand that took the most damage (all my knuckles are skinned like I punched a grater, and the side of my hand has been seriously bruised).
And, of course, both elbows have significant road rash. The brand new (3 weeks old?) bike jacket is shredded and the zipper destroyed, but the on-sale and quite cheap jersey was left in perfect shape. So there wasn't even any dirt in my elbows.
I did head for the doctor' office immediately afterwards, as I have some quite significant pain in the right side of my neck where the muscles attach to the skull, but the doctor seemed quite unconcerned by it. The muscles over my collarbones are strained, and I appear to have really sprained the pectoral muscle on my right side, but overall, I faired way better than John did when he went over his handlebars.
The bike sustained almost no damage--some tearing to the left handgrip and I bent the crap out of my seat--mostly, I think, because the bike rode most of the stopping distance on my back rather than on the road.