February flora

1 03 2015

 

This is the blog post in which I get to boast about wonderful spring riding conditions… in February.

So, if  you’re in a part of the world where winter still has you gripped in its icy claws, and you’re going mad pedalling the stationary trainer, you may want to point your browser elsewhere…

For the second winter in a row we’ve… well, we just haven’t had much of winter. Sure we endured some cold snaps and stretches of rain that seemed never-ending. But the only snow happened right at the beginning, quickly melted and never returned.

That’s made for dry, mostly clean roads.

And, the best part, a lot of the nice days have actually coincided with riding opportunities!

The past two weeks have been exceptional. The crocuses are already starting to wilt, the cherry blossoms and daffodils are bursting. That’s the earliest I can remember that happening.

The cherry blossoms are already bursting!

The cherry blossoms are already bursting!

Daffodils are always a welcome sight in the spring. Even more so in February!

Daffodils are always a welcome sight in the spring. Even more so in February!

On the last day of February, it was warm enough to keep the tights in the closet and wear knickers.

A true February rarity: knickers!

A true February rarity: knickers!

The rides still aren’t long or particularly fast; the legs start to feel it at 60 km. But they’re more frequent than winters past, 400+ km in the first two months of the year.

Hopefully that portents well for the coming season. Which seems to be coming faster than ever!





Bikeman: The unexpected virtues of cycling

16 02 2015

Cycling comes with surprises.

A new discovery on a familiar route.

A lousy weather forecast that turns into sunshine.

A sunny day that turns into a cloud burst.

New vigour from leaden legs. Or vigorous legs that turn leaden.

Strava trophies.

Friday’s ride surprised in many ways. With a busy schedule of things to do and places to go, the ride itself was a surprise, made possible by an unexpected bonus morning of daycare for Little Ring.

The ride started in sunshine, but, unexpectedly, it started to rain as I ascended Burnaby Mountain.

My legs that felt good at departure, turned to stone on that climb. It was laborious.

But the best surprise came near the summit, when I passed a family of deer nibbling on early spring shoots right beside the separated bike path. They paid me no heed as I rolled by. Probably because by that point I was so slow, they knew they’d easily outsprint me if I turned out to be a wolf in bib tights.

A family of deer could care less as I ride by on my way up Burnaby Mountain.

A family of deer could care less as I ride by on my way up Burnaby Mountain.





Not that I’m complaining…

7 02 2015

I’ve got some bones to pick.

Dear Weather:

Why do you insist on raining my ENTIRE week off? This little bonus of vacation time left over from last year was supposed to be a nice chance to build some pre-season kilometres into my legs.

Instead, it rained EVERY DAY. Even on Wednesday, when the day started sunny, by the time I got half way through my 65 km ride, the clouds had rolled in and the showers started anew. The Lapierre and I were a gritty, soggy mess by the time we got home.

The nice thing about midweek mid-winter rides is the quiet solitude of usually busy pitstops. The down side is the rainy weather.

The nice thing about midweek mid-winter rides is the quiet solitude of usually busy pitstops. The down side is the rainy weather.

Thanks for nothing, Weather.

Dear Strava:

Why do you build us up, then bash us down? Surely you know by now we’re all addicted to those little badges and trophies of achievement?

Of course you do, that’s exactly why you decided to reset the clock at the beginning of 2015 so we could all rebuild those PB’s and overall records anew. That made for some pretty heady early-season rides; a leisurely flat jaunt on boggy winter legs would still achieve 20 or 30 icons of achievement as segments had been ridden so infrequently.

We all like that little ego stroke.

So imagine my disappointment when Wednesday’s ride (half of it in the rain; see above) realized exactly ZERO badges or trophies. Especially as my legs felt pretty good. Not July good. But good enough to chase down a “rabbit” at the tail end of my day out, and then elicit a “thanks for the pull” after I passed and dragged him along for a four or five km stretch. Surely there was an early-season badge or two buried somewhere in that effort? Nope. Bupkuss.

Thanks for nothing, Strava.





Snakebit

3 02 2015

I’m snakebit.

Of the five rides I was able to achieve in January, two of them were stalled by flats. Friday’s ride up Burnaby Mountain included TWO flats.

There’s a lot of crud on the roads.

Even though we’ve had a relatively mild, snowless winter so far, the grit and grunge still builds up along the shoulders and bike lanes.

Friday, a day so mild I wore knickers, I knew I was in trouble when I spied the small chunk of jagged plastic or ceramic that shot out into the roadway as my rear tire rolled over it. Sure enough, 100 meters along I could feel the tire softening. Deflate-gate this was not.

I pulled off and gave it a pip with a CO canister, hoping I just had a very slow leak. A second pip and a quick inspection revealed the leak’s source, a cut in the sidewall, likely from that earlier shard.

Too cheap to want to replace a new tube I’d just installed after my previous flat, and too stubborn to admit defeat, I rode on in hopes the tire would hold up until I got home.

It didn’t.

I pulled off the road again and resigned myself to swapping out yet another tube.

Another winter ride, another flat.

Another winter ride, another flat.

Now I’ll admit I’m not the quickest tire changer in the world, and my fingers aren’t always strong enough to manually run the bead into the rim without a little help form my plastic levers.

And that’s where I got into trouble this time.

I took care to ensure the tube was properly seated in the tire and managed to get most of the tire into place. But a little tweak with the lever must have nicked the tube. By the time I got home, it too was softening. Snakebite.





Double agent

28 01 2015

I lead a not-so-secret double life.

For 23 years I’ve played out my hockey dreams every Sunday morning, from early October through to early May or late April. On the road, not the ice.

It’s an adult continuation of the game I played on the street as a kid. Same hodgepodge of ratty equipment, same plastic orange ball from Canadian Tire that stings like the dickens when it gets cold.

October to the end of April is road hockey time. The season culminates with the Stanley Stick championship.

October to the end of April is road hockey time. The season culminates with the Stanley Stick championship.

The weekly games last a couple of hours and take a physical toll. Especially as my legs get older.

So Sunday afternoons are usually spent relaxing, or enjoying some family time.

But this past Sunday, after I lamented my sub-par performance that morning, Princess of Pavement suggested I take advantage of the spring-like weather and hop on my bike and ride the morning’s demons away.

It was a bold idea; I’d never before done the “double.” Never thought I had it in me.

But with Little Ring soundly napping, and P of P giving me her blessing, the opportunity to get in a Sunday ride was too good to pass up.

I didn’t push it, kept to a flat route of about 35 kms. And once I found my rhythm, the legs remarkably good.

A little afternoon delight of the cycling kind on an unseasonably warm Sunday.

A little afternoon delight of the cycling kind on an unseasonably warm Sunday.

Not sure if I could have gone dancing that night though. That would have been the “triple.”





What goes in, must go up

12 01 2015

Slow cooker, where have you been all my life?

At the risk of treading the same ground forged a couple of years ago by the Princess of Pavement and her monthly recipe challenge, it’s time for the Big Ring to turn its attention to food.

This Christmas I was gifted a small slow cooker by my mother-in-law. It’s an appliance that had never before been on my culinary radar.

It just seems so old school.

We’re more for grilling our meats. There’s no off-season for our BBQ.

But this slow cooker posed new culinary challenges. And opportunities.

So I typed “slow cooker recipes” in the Google.

In the first two weeks we’ve cooked jambalaya (a little too much cayenne pepper), pulled pork and a pulled chicken/lime/cilantro  concoction.

Two tasty achievements in the slow cooker, jambalaya and pulled pork.

Two tasty achievements in the slow cooker, jambalaya and pulled pork.

The convenience is amazing. A little work in advance pays off when I turn on the slow cooker in the morning and then don’t have to think again about dinner until it’s time to eat, eight or ten hours later.

Next up? Turkey chilli, brisket and some sort of cinnamon apple oatmeal that’s been requested by PofP.

Of course, all that comfort food has to get burned off.

So with the roads and weather dry on Friday, the Lapierre rolled out into the fresh air for the second time this year.

PofP’s new school schedule for this semester necessitates Friday rides happening in the afternoon. Which, in the foreshortened daylight hours of winter, means a short, sharp ride.

There’s none sharper than Burnaby Mountain. Especially in January, when climbing legs are anything but.

What's wrong with this picture? It's nice there's now a separated Multi-user path on the top stretch of Burnaby Mountain; but parts of it are steeper than the road!

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s nice there’s now a separated Multi-user path on the top stretch of Burnaby Mountain; but parts of it are steeper than the road!

Tackling the 3km ascent this early in the season is also a bit of an act of defiance, a shout out that the winter sloth hasn’t been that bad.

But watching the Garmin speedo barely click into double digits is humbling. So is getting passed by the dude in shorts doing hill repeats. In January!

At least I’ve now got a baseline. It can only get better as the cycling gets more frequent.





Around and around and around…

5 01 2015

I want to love track racing. I really do.

It’s fast.

It’s a spectacle, with so many riders racing around and around on the high-banked boards, often only inches away from each other.

But it’s also confusing as hell.

On the last Monday of the year, FRF represented at the 4 Day races at the Burnaby Velodrome. Not as racers; as spectators.

It’s a pretty good night out. Cheap too.

Five bucks gets you an evening choc-a-bloc with races, live entertainment between those races, and access to a beer garden in the infield where some quality draughts were on tap for $4.

It’s a fun, festive atmosphere. Hardcore trackies mix with curious roadies and fixie hipsters.

And there’s some star power on the track, as accomplished road racers like Zach Bell and Tyler Farrar, get in some pre-season training and their competitive juices flowing against top national and international track racers.

Around and around and around at the 200-metre Burnaby Velodrome.

Around and around and around at the 200-metre Burnaby Velodrome.

But deciphering the program is as dizzying as following the pack around the 200 metre banked plywood track.

There’s Scratch races, Dutch Win & Out, Belgian Win & Out, Progressive Elimination, Elimination, Madison, Flying Madison, Chase, Match Sprint, Point-a-Lap and something called a “Derny” where the racers are paced by a small motorbike.

(Alas, the latter was on the schedule for the night we attended but for some reason it didn’t happen).

Trying to discern the sometimes subtle differences between all these disparate races is a mysterious science I’ve yet to decode.

All I know is once those men and women cranked it up, they were travelling really fast. And the beer was tasty.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers