Some enchanted evenings… on the bike

15 04 2015

There are few better harbingers of spring than the first evening ride.

But a lot of pieces besides nice weather have to fall into place for it to happen. The shift ahead by two weeks of Daylight Savings Time a few years ago was a boon for the evening ride. It used to not happen until late April/early May. Now it’s a possibility as soon as the first week of April, right after the clocks change.

The evening ride is a sure sign spring has arrived. Even if it still gets cool as the sun sinks to the horizon.

The evening ride is a sure sign spring has arrived. Even if it still gets cool as the sun sinks to the horizon.

That’s when the evening gloom doesn’t descend until 8 p.m. Late enough to make a 35-40 km spin happen right after dinner.

That is, if dinner can be assembled, consumed and cleaned up in time. Which only happens if Little Ring is cooperative getting out of his daycare, getting into his car seat and getting down to the serious business of eating dinner without too much fuss.

And that dinner has to be somewhat simple, at least partially prepared in advance so the only thing left to do is cook it.

Twice already all those pieces have clicked into place. That’s a record for me for in mid-April.

The rides aren’t long, mostly flat, along a favoured route with minimal traffic lines. That keeps the legs spinning for most of the hour-and-a-half.

The air cools quickly as soon as the sun starts its descent to the horizon.  And if clouds roll in, darkness can come on unexpectedly.

But at this early stage of the riding season, the kilometres are bonus, exercise capital to deposit in the cycling bank.

Requiem for a killer… hill

5 04 2015

It rises gently from the horizon then curves sharply left into the trees.

In the heat of summer, those trees bring welcome shade after the beating sun of the flat valley floor.

At any time of the year, the canopy hides the true menace of the slope.

Killer Hill doesn't get serious until it sweeps left into the stand of trees that camouflage its 20 per cent gradient.

Killer Hill doesn’t get serious until it sweeps left into the stand of trees that camouflage its 20 per cent gradient.

For years, Lefeuvre Road has been the last hill to conquer on the 52 km ride to the Princess of Pavement’s family homestead in the tiny crossroads of Bradner. It’s a killer, maxing out at 20.6 per cent along its 800 metre ascent. If it had cobbles, it would be the Paterberg.

Too often, climbing that hill, I’ve heard the auto pause engage on the Garmin. I’m just going too slow; the satellites think I’ve died.

In 2009, I climbed Killer Hill en route to my wedding. Talk about a last hurrah to bachelor life.

Sometimes Killer Hill is more murderous than others. Especially early in the season. Never does it spare you.

Saturday, I almost bailed from my first ascent of Killer Hill of the season. I had a multitude of excuses; it was cold, it might rain, I wasn’t feeling the right mojo for a ride. Basically, I feared Killer Hill, wanted nothing to do with it.

But Princess of Pavement convinced me otherwise. Do it, she said. Just suck it up and do it.

Perhaps she knew this might be the last time I get to climb Killer HIll. You see, her parents have sold the family homestead; they’re downsizing into condo life.

Soon there will be no reason to ride Killer Hill. No beautiful wedding to call me to its summit. No roast pig on a spit to fill my belly. No cold beer offered on a hot day. No great family gathering.

It did rain on the way to Killer Hill on Saturday. It also hailed. It was cold at first, then warmed as the sun tried to break through the towering slate clouds.

Killer Hill didn’t end up killing me after all. I’d leave it at that, but I’m sure we’ll meet again.

The mystery of the random urban bike

1 04 2015

They’re kind of an urban mystery; bikes that randomly appear in a neighbourhood, locked to a tree or post for days or weeks at a time, left there by someone with no regard for the bike’s survival in rain, or snow. A thief perhaps?

But what kind of thief would steal a bike then go to the trouble of locking it up somewhere? To prevent someone else from stealing it? Or maybe bike thieves are like squirrels; they steal bikes then lock them all about town to give them transport in the coming months of nicer weather, much like a squirrel buries caches of nuts to prepare for winter.

This week an urban mystery bike turned up in our ‘hood. It’s locked with a solid U-lock to a bus stop sign, creating all kinds of inconvenience for people embarking or disembarking from the bus. Nobody knows who left it there. All the buildings around here have bike lockers or storage places for cyclists to secure their rides (or like me, just keep it in the condo proper). And there’s other poles available that don’t cause inconvenience, or offer some shelter to the bike from the elements.

It’s a decent city commuter bike, apparently in good repair. It’s got fenders, a rear rack, even a little mirror. The handlebars are taped. The tires are fully inflated.

Our random urban mystery bike has caught the attention, and ire, of the city.

Our random urban mystery bike has caught the attention, and ire, of the city.

But it won’t last that way for long.

Already it’s starting to fall askew.

If it’s like other urban mystery bikes, parts will soon begin disappearing; first a front wheel, then the rear wheel, then the seat and seatpost. Eventually it will just be a rusting frame and derailleur, still getting in the way of people trying to board or leave the bus.

Or maybe not.

A printed sign has been affixed to the bike’s rack. It’s from the city. It warns the owner of the bike that it is locked to city property and if it’s not removed within a few days, the city will be glad to remove it for the owner. Who’s likely completely unaware of its presence in our ‘hood, and is hopefully already shopping for a replacement.