Summer’s swan song

31 08 2011

The evening shadows are getting longer earlier.

Summer is coming to an end. And with dusk settling in its gloom by 8 p.m., so are the opportunities to squeeze in decent mileage after dinner.

Now’s the time for quality K’s over quantity K’s.

The shadow of fall looms longer and longer.

Despite the constant grumbling about our weather through late July, it’s actually been a pretty productive summer; exactly 2700 kilometres productive from June to the end of August. That’s good for eighth overall on the logging website’s “summer challenge.” August was awesome, lots of sun, warm but never really hot.

The legs are in good shape.

The fondo is a month away; can't wear this till then.

I’m not sure how I’ll do with the 100 mile distance of the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo, but I’m feeling more confident that I can meet the challenge. I’m more worried about the weather we’ll have than anything; doing that distance in Flanderian rain and cold would not be much fun at all. But people who’ve been to that part of California assure me it’s always nice there. Here’s hoping they’re not just blowing smoke up my chamois.

Out with the old…

25 08 2011

I hate cell phones.

Loathe them as a matter of fact.

Mostly because I can’t figure them out.

And it’s not like I’m some luddite technophobe.

I love technology. I can wire a home theatre setup like there’s no tomorrow. In my former bachelor pad, I even had a 7.1 sound system. I still have an HD-DVD player integrated into my current setup.

I’m perfectly comfortable in front of a Mac computer. I can sort and stumble my way through new software without cracking open manuals.

Digital cameras, wifi, bike computers, I’ve conquered them all.

But the lowly cell phone continues to vex me. Maybe that’s why I resist acquiring one of my own. Well, that and the outlandish rates extorted by Canada’s cell phone pirates providers.

All the cell phones I’ve ever had in my possession have been from my employer. I’m out on the road a lot, and that’s how reporters can get a hold of me with new assignments, or further information about the assignment I’m headed to.

I had my most recent cell phone for seven years. Compared to the current generation of phones, it was a relic; it had a tiny screen, no photo or video capability, it could barely do texting. But it was rugged, with rubbery gaskets all around that allowed it to bounce if I dropped it. Which I tend to do. Often.

The half life of cell phones these days is about three weeks, at which time a newer model is released with even more features and gimmicks that have nothing to do with actually making a phone call.

Do I really want to use my cell phone to play music? Make lottery picks? Watch movies? Tell me where to go?

The old cell phone brick has been replace by one that's not an iPhone

I just need a cell phone on which I can reliably make and receive phone calls, the occasional text, and email would be nice.

Oh yeah, and the ability to download new ringtones; I’ve got my ear on one that sounds like the horns used by the procession of cars that accompanies the riders in the Tour de France!

I’m hoping the new cell phone which was bestowed upon me the other day can do that.

It’s no iPhone, but the numbers in the little display are HUGE; the numbers can be seen from space, I’m sure.

Thank goodness Katie was around to help me figure out how to make make a call.

Sharing the road

21 08 2011

Sharing the road is a pretty fundamental concept to safe cycling. More and more communities are erecting signs along busy thoroughfares reminding motorists to share the road.

In Maple Ridge, a rural bedroom community east of Vancouver, local school kids have painted unique signs that are erected along some of the busier roads reminding drivers they aren’t the only vehicles on the road; there are also cyclists, pedestrians, wildlife, tractors, kids at play, horses.

A heartfelt civic project in Maple Ridge that isn't really heeded by motorists

Too bad the motorists don’t really heed them.

My buddy RDM and I were buzzed by an endless parade of SUVs and wide-ass pickups hauling boats as we hugged the non-existent shoulder en route to Golden Ears Park. Maybe they were in a rush to get to maximize their time on the lake because it was one of the warmest days of summer. But if that was the case, they should have already been there, as it was already one o’clock. Guess they were sleeping off their Labatt Blue hangovers from Saturday night.

A salute to our destination on one of the hottest days of the summer

The entrance road to the park is one of the nicest pieces of pavement in the Lower Mainland, a smooth, undulating aisle of hardtop through a cathedral of majestic second-growth forest leading to a mountainous pulpit. It’s guarded by a mighty goat that, apparently, we must salute for good luck. First I’ve heard that, but why tempt fate?

A beautiful drive, an even better ride

To catch a thief

16 08 2011

New signs have started appearing on hydro poles and lamp standards along my route towards UBC. They’re paper notices complete with one of those gobbly-gook code boxes that people can point their cellphones at advertising some sort of online lost and found service.

These signs are suddenly everywhere

I’m not sure of their business model, but they did get me thinking about the two bikes I’ve had stolen.

There are few sadder moments than coming out of a library or market to find only the severed cable lock or broken chain with which you’d secured  to a tree or rack your beloved steed.

My first mountain bike was stolen in Oshawa, Ont. while I was in the library. It was the late 1980s, when mountain bikes were still a fairly new phenomenon, and my grey Diamond Back was a little over a year old. When it wasn’t where I was sure I’d left it locked to the rack outside the library, in a busy civic square, I was dumbfounded. It took a few moments to sink in that it had in fact been pilfered. And when it did, I embarked upon a desperate search of the surrounding blocks to see if the thief was still in the area.

Eventually I accepted the reality that my bike was gone and walked home, devastated.

Luckily, I had always been prudent about getting insurance for my things, and replacing the bike turned out to be a pretty painless exercise.

A few years, and two bikes later, my beloved charcoal grey Kona Explosif disappeared while I was shopping on Granville Island. This time there were witnesses who were able to tell me how the thief cut the thick cable lock and rode off. One of them even tried chasing the bike burglar down.

I may have lost a bike at Granville Island once, but I've never lost my appetite there

Their sympathy softened the blow, but it was still a very long walk to the police station to report the theft so I could file an insurance claim.

I also think that may have been the last time I combined riding with shopping. Now, whenever I ride the bike stays with me, always within arms reach. My choice of lunch venues is determined by the availability of an outdoor patio or seating area so I can keep my bike next to me. I don’t even carry a lock, but I still insure the bikes; you can never be too sure.

Full moon riding

12 08 2011

My first clue was the Segway.

Cruising along Marine Drive this morning, I spied a guy on the opposite side of the road walking his dog while riding his Segway.

Then at an intersection I got stuck behind an ambulance. Next to getting stuck behind a garbage truck on a hot day, getting stuck behind an ambulance can be a bad omen.

Being stuck behind an ambulance feels like a bad omen.

Then there was the Hare Krishna world tour.

If Hare Krishnas have a tour bus, do they also have roadies?

But I stayed the course. My legs were feeling good, and the Lapierre was feeling particularly swift and lithe.

Even getting wheel-sucked by a guy with panniers didn’t diminish my riding moo. Although, after riding my slipstream for a good 10 kilometres, including one significant climb, he could have at least offered a thank you for the tow when he finally peeled off.

After all, it’s a full moon, and weird stuff happens.

We’re finally locked in for the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo on Oct. 1.

Our original plan had been to do it as a road trip, drive to Northern California via the Oregon coast, then a few days post-Fondo in San Francisco. But the prospect of such a long, arduous drive was causing me angst. So much so, that I dithered. Almost to the point of bailing altogether.

But after discussing my trepidation with Katie, we decided to check out the flying option.

It’s been a while since I flew with a bike. The rules and cost with various airlines can be all over the map. Of course the fact we have to pay anything at all, when golf clubs fly free, is pretty ridiculous. Haven’t the airline companies heard, cycling is the “new golf?”

Anyhow, it turns out the road trip and flying options are a wash, cost wise. But, of course, the latter is a lot quicker; two hours in the air, plus an hour to drive up to Santa Rosa, versus four days. So that’s what we’re going to do, a couple of days before and after the Fondo to relax and visit some wineries. We’ll be staying in a guest house cottage in Forestville, about 20 kilometres from Santa Rosa.

The distance of the Fondo, 100 miles, still concerns me, as I’ve never ridden that far before, and I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance before we go. But if my legs today are any indication, I think I can do it without too much trouble.

Despite the relative lack of summer weather, it’s been a pretty good season for cycling, without any days lost because it’s too hot. And my mileage is slightly ahead of last year’s pace for the Whistler Gran Fondo, which was 30 kilometres shorter.

Now it’s time to start monitoring

Peeved by peds

8 08 2011

Recently, a woman in Toronto called for all cyclists to be licences after she was run down by a red-light-runner cyclist for the second time in a matter of months. In the first incident, the cyclist fled, a hit-and-ride. In the most recent collision, the offending cyclist stuck around and was appropriately ticketed.

But I doubt licensing those cyclists would have prevented those mishaps. You can’t license against stupidity.

Motorists need to be licensed yet that hasn’t prevented them from getting into accidents.

Pedestrians are also guilty of making stupid decisions, but nobody’s calling for them to pass a test before being unleashed on the sidewalks and crosswalks of the world.

Can't we all just get along?

Of course a stupid pedestrian is a prime example of Darwinism; eventually it will catch up to them. But when a pedestrian does something stupid in the vicinity of cyclists, it puts them both at risk.

Here now is my list of “ped peeves:”

1. The Blithely Oblivious Ped: This is the ped who walks pretty much wherever they want, whenever they want as if they are somehow protected by some sort of strolling force field that will protect them from harm.

Subsets of this species include:

• the Righteous Blithely Oblivious Ped who thinks they have every right to walk wherever they want whenever they want and will yell, swear and flip the bird to anyone who dares divert them from their mission to eventual self-destruction.

• the Drunk Blithely Oblivious Ped.

2. The Compulsive Jay Walking Ped: Jay walkers are bad enough, but who can possibly understand the motivation of a jay walker who steps into busy traffic despite heading in the very direction of an upcoming crosswalk. These pees are the human variation of the old joke, why did the chicken cross the road? They just want to get to the other side and screw everyone else.

3. The Lazy J Jay Walking Ped: Most jay walking peds realize what they’re doing is wrong and likely dangerous, so they commit their dastardly deed as quickly and efficiently as possible; but the Lazy J Jay Walking Ped takes the most leisurely route possible to the other side, curving their crossing, likely in the direction of the nearest crosswalk.

4. The ADD Ped: These are the peds who repeatedly press the Walk button on traffic light poles at intersections, as if pressing the button dozens of times will somehow convey their impatience/urgency to the circuits that control the signal’s timing. The ADD Ped often quickly evolves into…

5. The Existential Ped: “I have pressed the button, therefore I can now cross.” Never mind that the light is still red. Neverrmind that the purpose of the button is just to alert the traffic control system that a ped is waiting and the crossing light should also be activated when the traffic lights change. The Existential Ped is one of the most dangerous species to cyclists because they are often oblivious to our presence as we speed along, enjoying the right of way the green light has supposedly given us.

6. The Teaser/Indecisive Ped: These are the peds who are stopped along the curb at a crosswalk, but they’re so engrossed in their thoughts, lack thereof, or conversation with imaginary entities, or gabbing on their cellphone, they fail to heed the traffic skidding to a halt to allow them to safely cross.

7. The Tunnel Vision Peds: These peds see cars, sometimes even respect them, but they look right past cyclists, often stepping off the curb right into our path.

8. Squirrels: These are the ultimate nightmare ped, they scoot across the road right in front of your wheels, then reconsider their decision and scoot back to where they started across your path again. No wonder there’s so much squirrel roadkill.

What are your Ped Peeves?

Fast like Fabian

5 08 2011

You can have your cake and eat it too. You just have to earn it.

Since my week off in which I managed to ride more than 600 kilometres, I’ve been slacking off. Oh sure, I ascended Killer Hill twice and had one of my best ever rides up Burnaby Mountain, but the motivation on most days has been lacking. In fact, I’ve shirked my Friday ride for three weeks in a row to go to a matinee instead.

This week I was determined to break that cycle (pun intended).

But then I started to read the positive reviews about the new Planet of the Apes prequel. The trailer had looked good. I wanted to see it. And Friday matinees are my guilty pleasure, especially at the new mega-screen theatres with reserved seating.

I wanted to ride, but I also wanted to see this.

You see my dilemma?

Could I possibly pull off both?

The challenge would be daunting, as I didn’t want to do just a cop-out ride to Steveston, which I knew would get me out and back in about two hours. My goal was UBC, a route that usually takes me about three hours. I had 2.5 hours to cover nearly 70 kms, get home, change and make it to the theater for the 12:50 p.m. screening. That meant I’d have to average about 30 km/h, even in the heavy traffic areas.

To achieve the "Friday double" I'd have to match or exceed the speed limit in places

So I channeled my inner Fabian Cancellara and kicked into time trial mode. I mashed those pedals like Spartacus. And while a couple of long lights held me back, when I reached the campus in less than an hour, I knew I had a chance.

Even Spartacus himself thinks he's a Super time trialist.

I circumnavigated the grounds, then pointed the Lapierre for home. A couple of “rabbits” on the horizon probably didn’t realize what flashed past them.

My Garmin read 69 kms in 2:16 when I pulled up to the condo, an average speed of 30.3 km/h. I made it to the theatre with five minutes to spare.

The movie?

Not bad, certainly a lot better than last week’s distraction, Cowboys and Aliens.

An old joke; renewed vigor

1 08 2011

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Why did the slug cross the road?

Seriously, why does the slug cross the road?

Because every dewy morning, or after a rain shower, they’re out there, gamely abandoning the shelter of the woods and grassy shoulder alongside the road up Burnaby Mountain to try and slowly slime their way to the other side.

A slug begins its ill-fated journey

There’s other creatures on the edge of the roadway as well, a mouse, a mole; but they’re already dead, flattened road kill.

The slugs soldier on. Crossing that four lane highway must be like their Tour de France, an epic journey to an unknown world. What can the allure be? Glory amongst their slug peers? New sliming opportunities? A cornucopia of babe slugs (an oxymoron if ever there was one)?

There’s no doubt it’s an ill-fated journey. If they’re not squished by passing car or bike tires, they can be picked off by hungry crows. And the odds are, the road will dry up in the middle of their adventure, turning their traverse into a sandpaper test of fortitude that will likely leave them in a shriveled, pebble-encrusted state of demise.

The slugs were out in force on Sunday, like little dark comas on the quickly-drying pavement after an unexpected, and unforecast squall rolled through, delaying my ride at first, then drenching it as I caught up to the isolated storm cell.

As Katie’s parents were hosting a big family barbecue, I was en route to my second encounter with Killer Hill in a week. But with only one easy ride in my legs since my previous ascent, I was feeling fresh, invigorated by the challenge. Although that might have had something to do with the drenching I received when I caught up to the rain and then sheltered under a tree for about 20 minutes.

I hit Burnaby Mountain with fire in my legs; dodging those slugs along the way, I pounded my way to the top in the Big Ring, the first time I’d been able to do that in almost two years.

In Port Moody, I achieved another first; my first flat on the Lapierre. A staple was the culprit, piercing a tiny hold in my back tire.

In your face Lance; most cyclists can change their own flat

After swapping out the tube, reinflating and then a quick pitstop at a nearby bike shop to get a new backup tube, the rest of the ride was uneventful. Even Killer Hill seemed more like Mortally Wounded Mound. The (mostly) week off the bike seems to have done me some good.