Bard of the bike

22 05 2012

Storm clouds threaten.

To ride, or not to ride; that is the question;
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The cold and dampness of a sudden spring shower,
Or to concede to the forecast and ride another day,
And stay warm and dry at home? To pedal; to ride;
No more; and to ride to say we end
The sloth and the extra weight
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consequence
Devoutly to be avoided. To pedal; to ride;
To ride; perchance to risk the storm’s onset; ay, there’s the rub;
For in that storm what rains may come
When we have ventured far from the couch’s comfort,
Must give us pause; there’s the grit and grime
That makes calamity of such a soggy ride;
For who would bear the wind and rain of storms,
The decision made, the determined cyclist departs
The clouds all around, the sun in shroud.

Life of grime

21 05 2012

Riding in the rain is rarely something I do on purpose.

It’s not a lot of fun. It can be dangerous. But mostly, it’s very very messy.

Rain seems to pull up all kinds of crud in the asphalt, and most of it seems to end up on my bike.

Sunday’s Fuggitivi group ride started under steel grey skies, with full awareness that it could rain at any time. We set out undaunted, hoping for the best.

Perhaps it was that threat of rain, and the afternoon of bike cleaning that would be sure to follow, drove our pace as we maintained a consistent 34 km/h clip. The first few drops barely slowed us.

But by the time we hit our pitstop at the Musette Caffé (of course), the rain was light but steady. The return leg was unrelentingly wet, giving us an easy out to avoid the fast, but slippery, descent down Burnaby Mountain.

By the time I got home, my beautiful Lapierre was a gritty, grimy mess.

I love a clean bike. I take pride in a shiny ride. When someone asked me if my old Orbea was a new bike, because it looked so clean and well-maintained, I smiled inside. I like to think a gleaming bike makes me faster.

The rain didn’t let up until Monday evening, which meant the Lapierre sat, dirty and forlorn for more than 24 hours. It bugged me. What if Eddy Merckx dropped by? He would be appalled.

Cleaning the bike isn’t hard, just methodical, being careful to get the rag into all the nooks and crannies around the derailleurs, inside the sprockets, even in the hollowed frames of the brake callipers.

But just when you think you’re done, and it’s looking great, you turn the bike upside down to replace the wheels, and there it is, all that underside grime. Ugh.

The cleaning begins anew as soon as you turn the bike upside down to replace the wheels.

Vacation of the mind

16 05 2012

This post should have been coming to you from Naples, Italy. Or perhaps London, England.

Since Princess of Pavement and I got together, we’ve slavishly pursued our mutual love for travel, including three trips to Europe.

Our first trip to Paris together, 2007.

Eighteen months later, we started our next Euro adventure in Florence.

In 2010, we made a chilly, but heartwarming journey to Belgium and Berlin.

We’d started doing research for our fourth, checking airfares and researching vacation apartments, when circumstances intervened. We pulled back our desires, perhaps another visit to San Francisco to catch the first two stages of the Tour of California. But in the end, we made the responsible decision to paint our condo instead.

Of course, in anticipation of our journeys, we’d already booked the time off from our employers.

So here we are, vacationing at home.

But when life hands you lemons, you’ve got to get busy making lemonade. We’ve been doing some hikes, visiting parks and trails where we’d never been before.

Hiking the Lynn Creek headwaters trail.

And I’ve been trying some new cycling routes.

One of them is even a designated cycling route, which I usually avoid because more often than not they’re a ghetto for inexperienced and unpredictable cyclists. But this one, through Strathcona, East Vancouver and north Burnaby, is well-established and a popular conduit for roadies looking to avoid heavy traffic en route to their country rides.

A spring interlude in Strathcona.

Another is Zero Avenue, skirting the US border.

Of course, when riding so close to the US border, you have to take precautions that nobody has planted explosives in the soles of your cycling shoes.

This rolling country road has become a popular cycling route since speed bumps were constructed at every intersection to discourage speeding cars. Now there’s barely any traffic, and the rolling hills all the way into the Fraser Valley are a good workout. Especially when there’s a cold beverage awaiting on a seaside patio at the end of the day.

The reward for a rolling day on the bike.

The pause that refuels

14 05 2012

The snack stop is a key component of any good ride.

Sometimes it’s nothing more than a pause at a scenic vista to enjoy an energy bar and some water. Sometimes it’s a sweet treat and coffee at a favorite café. Sometimes it’s a full-on lunch on an outdoor patio.

It’s a well-earned break; after all four or five hours in the saddle can burn 2-3,000 calories.

Cyclists in Vancouver now have a destination pit stop they can call their own, the Musette Café. In the middle of the busy downtown, it’s a bit of a roadie-geek refuge.

The Musette Café isn’t easy to find; it’s located in a back lane amidst a car dealership lot (ironically enough).

The walls are decorated with displays of the colourful cloth feed bags used by pro teams, vintage jerseys suspended on towel racks, a mishmash of signage from various Euro races, all lorded over by a beautiful classic Bianchi hanging on a set of deer antlers. Display cabinets are filled with other cycling paraphaneliia like Tour de France figurines, trophies, water bottles. Magazines like Rouleur are available for reading. The cash drawer is even mounted on a set of curved handlebars.

The Musette Café is roadie geek heaven.

Wood wheel blocks on the floor inside the front door accommodate  riders who want to bring their bikes inside, but there’s also a hanging rack with heavy chain locks outside, as well as benches if it’s just too nice a day to snack inside.

While I can’t vouch for the coffee because I don’t drink the stuff, all the warm beverages are served in pretty celeste cups from Parallel, the café’s bean supplier. There’s also a selection of Italian sodas and nectars, and water is always on tap.

Finally, a place to call our own!

I haven’t yet tried the panini sandwiches, but I’ve heard compliments. The banana bread is tasty. There’s also muffins, pastries, cookies and homemade raw energy bars. In other words, everything a cyclist needs to fuel the second half of a ride.

Riding routes have been adjusted to include a stop at The Musette.

With the latest Euro races always playing on the two flat screen televisions and the cycling chitchat ongoing, it’s little wonder many roadies, including some of the pros who happen to be in the area, have adjusted their ride routes accordingly to include the Musette for their snack break.

A new pelotini

11 05 2012

I’ve never been one for group rides.

My road rides tend to be solo outings, or perhaps with one or two newly minted riding buddies. No pressure to learn the group dynamics. No testosterone-fueled pace to maintain when all you want to do is stretch the legs and enjoy the sunshine..

But when a long-dormant discussion about riding routes from New West on a cycling forum I frequent was resurrected by a post announcing a new weekly group ride from the waterfront, I was intrigued. It might be a way to learn some new routes, meet some new roadies. There was a vague promise of snacks and camaraderie. And if things got too competitive for my taste, I’d just go back to my old solo routine.

I missed the inaugural Fraser River Fuggitivi as our road hockey season wound down.

Finding new routes, and new riding friends, is what group riding is all about.

The second week promised a climber’s route of about 60 kms. This past week was a flat burn out to YVR and back that introduced me to a new destination.

So far the group is more pelotini than peloton, but everyone is of a similar age and mind, just riding for the fun and fitness of it. No sprints to the next stop sign. No en masse blowing of traffic signs. And a snack break at a coffee shop somewhere along the route.

Chaos theory

7 05 2012

“Hey Big Ring, we thought you were dead?”

“Hey Big Ring, did you fall off your bike?”

“Hey Big Ring, did the Camosunberg eat you for lunch?”

Everywhere I go, these are the questions and comments I’m getting. Yeah, yeah, the Big Ring has been quiet since those epic seven ascents of the Camosunberg. That’s because we’ve been busy.

Instead of traveling to exotic Euro locales this year, we decided to throw our disposable shekels at getting the condo painted. Since then, it’s been three weeks of chaos. Breaking the condo down, taking things off shelves and putting them into boxes, moving furniture, storing pictures. It’s like moving without going anywhere.

Living in a loft is cool and funky and oh so stylin, but getting paint to those 17 foot ceilings and walls is better left to people who know what they’re doing, or who have more confidence on ladders than I do.

Painting is as painful as moving, but without going anywhere.

So Princess of Pavement disappeared for the duration, and I made myself scarce, hitting the road on the Lapierre at every opportunity.

The spring weather has been decidedly dismal; full tights and four layers at the beginning of May just isn’t right. But at least we finally had some dry days. That allowed for an early-season crack at the first Tour de Cinque Ponts, some fine lunch stops at Mix Bakery and a bit of a new twist, a weekly group ride! More on that in another post.

Mix Bakery is a favorite lunch stop…

for it’s oh-so-tasty tuna waldorf sandwich.

Giebelhaus gets his first taste of the Tour de Cinque Ponts.