Going commando

27 11 2015

When the weather gets cold, I like going commando.

It’s not what you think.

In this season of sloppy roads and variable weather, most cyclists prefer parking their “good” bike and hauling from storage their “winter” bike, otherwise known as the old bike they couldn’t bear to part with then they got their “good” bike.

The theory of the “winter” bike is reasonable; it’s a lesser bike that doesn’t mind getting dirty and abused by the weather and road conditions. It had its glory days and now it’s become a serviceable workhorse that gets the call when better bikes cower inside where it’s always warm and dry.

For a brief moment, when I acquired the Lapierre, I pondered converting my former Orbea to my “winter” bike.

But the condo lifestyle affords barely enough room to accommodate the bikes we already have. Keeping another for a handful of seasonal rides is a luxury beyond our limited capacity.

So the Lapierre must be my year-around ride.

And I’d prefer not to add fenders, thank you very much.

A little road gunk is easy enough to clean; the Lapierre must retain its sleek good looks, so no fenders in the winter!

A little road gunk is easy enough to clean; the Lapierre must retain its sleek good looks, so no fenders in the winter!

I’ve never really understood the logic behind adding an ugly accessory like fenders to a sleek road bike. Sure they prevent water and muck from kicking up your backside and the bottom of your frame.

Bur if it’s that sloppy and miserable out, isn’t it better to keep yourself, and your sleek ride, inside?

Laundry will take care of the muddy streak up my back. A little soap and water will clean the road crud from the frame.

Most fenders can’t do much about the gunk that gets into the drivetrain or derallieurs.

Odds are, even with ugly fenders, you’ll probably have to invest some time to clean the bike after a winter ride anyway.

The current cold snap means frost persists in the shadows.

The current cold snap means frost persists in the shadows.

So the Lapierre maintains its aesthetic integrity year-round, a bike with no garment to protect its undercarriage. Just as Eddy Merckx intended.

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Chilled out

25 11 2015

There’s no problem riding in the cold.

It’s stopping that’s troublesome.

We’re in a late-fall cold snap, a sort of Coming Attraction for full-on winter.

The sky is crystalline. Which means the temperature struggles to get much above zero.

But the roads are clean and dry.

No excuses not to ride.

So on go the six layers, including three Underarmours and a pair of long-sleeve cycling jerseys, all topped by a wind vest.

My helmet also has to be adjusted, to accommodate theRapha winter cap, with insulated flaps that pull down nice and tight over my ears.

By the time I’m done, I look more prepared for an Arctic expedition than a 70 km bike ride.

It's a clear, cold day. Just how cold didn't become apparent until we stopped for lunch. Getting going again proved a chilly chore.

It’s a clear, cold day. Just how cold didn’t become apparent until we stopped for lunch. Getting going again proved a chilly chore.

Oddly, even though the air temperature was colder than last Wednesday, it didn’t feel as cold. The sun’s rays helped. So did the freshly-cleaned and lubed bike, that cut through the frigid air like a warmed knife.

The upside of the cold weather is crystalline skies.

The upside of the cold weather is crystalline skies.

In fact, the ride was as energized as a summer roll, through the downtown canyons, around the Stan, over the Burrard Bridge.

And then we stopped. For lunch

That’s when the cold of the day kicked in. Getting back on the bike was a chore. Suddenly chilblains bolted through my toes like electric shocks, my fingertips numbed, my forehead froze.

A sure sign of a cold snap - salt on the roads and walkways.

A sure sign of a cold snap – salt on the roads and walkways.

Once the chill truly settles in like that, there’s no warming up again. We pedalled furiously towards every sunny patch, trying to find warmth.

It wouldn’t come until I parked in front of the fireplace.

I’m still here.





No longer fall; not yet winter.

18 11 2015

November is the grungiest month.

Sure, well-meaning people can try to dress it up by growing facial hair for a good cause and change the name of the calendar’s 11th month to Movember.

But the harsh reality of November isn’t tempered.

The roads may look dry and clean; but the bike always comes back a mess from November rides.

The roads may look dry and clean; but the bike always comes back a mess from November rides.

It’s no longer fall in November. And it’s not yet winter. Wind and rain storms have stripped the golden leaves off the trees to decompose into muddy mush along the sidewalks and in gutters.

The radiant light of October has dulled to flat grey.

The sun’s rays no longer warm.

It rains. A lot.

The wind blows cold. And often.

The grey sky and flat light mean it's November; no longer fall, not yet winter.

The grey sky and flat light mean it’s November; no longer fall, not yet winter.

So when there’s a break in the bleakness, it feels like a stolen opportunity to ride. More often than not, it turns into a chore.

The summer fitness is wearing off.

Evening snacking as if you’re riding 3-400 kms a week takes its toll when you’re lucky to get in one 70 km jaunt.

Tights and wooly socks and booties and multiple layers just add to the feeling of bulk.

And even though it hasn’t yet snowed, the roads and bike paths are already a mid-winter mess. The asphalt may look dry, but the decomposed leaves have turned into a viscous, dark goo that kicks up the tires, coats the carbon fibre frame, splashes around the ankles.

The Lapierre will sleep outside tonight, until she can get properly cleaned in the morning.

Can’t afford to bring that November grunge inside, where it’s warm and cozy.





The cycling gods must be crazy

3 11 2015

The cycling gods must be crazy.

When the sun broke through the autumnal cloud deck for the fifth consecutive Tuesday, there was no doubt about the day’s itinerary.

But it seems the cycling gods had other designs. It’s as if they were saying, “It’s November and it’s barely 10 degrees; what the heck are you doing out here?”

Their toll for my temerity was two flat tires (or at least the same flat twice), three wasted CO2 cartridges, a long slow walk in bike cleats, and an awkward slow-motion rear-ender when my riding partner was unexpectedly cautious at a right turn into a bike lane. Oh yeah, and our train luck ran out.

It had all started so well.

We beat two trains at level crossings and we were making good time on our intended route eastward.

But after a short stint on the debris-riddled shoulder of a busy highway, followed by a long stretch along a gravel dike, I was feeling more bumps through my rear tire than I should. Sure enough, it was getting soft.

There was no apparent cut or gouge in the tire itself, so perhaps it just needed a blast of air to compensate for the colder temperatures and my inattention at topping it up before the ride.

That’s when the trouble began.

It seems the threads on my CO2 valve had become stripped and I blew through both cartridges without a single puff of air entering the tube.

Neither of us carries a mini-pump.

I was hooped.

Or was I?

As it turns out, Norco Bikes has a distribution warehouse just up the street from where we were stopped. Many of the cars in their lot have racks. Surely someone who works there has a pump?

The receptionist pulled a RaceFace from her desk drawer.

“It happens a lot,” she said.

Then one of their technicians appeared and offered a much more robust floor pump.

He topped both our bikes and we were on the road again.

Thanks Norco dudes for topping us up and getting us back on our way. For a bit.

Thanks Norco dudes for topping us up and getting us back on our way. For a bit.

For a bit.

Until it became apparent that my tire problem was more than just insufficient air. I was flat again.

I plodded along for a bit, then hoofed it to the nearest bike shop.

I rearmed myself with a couple of new CO2 cartridges and a new trigger, Grant invested in a mini-pump. Our bases were covered.

This was an all-too-frequent sight in the summer. Seems my flat tire luck has now extended into the fall.

This was an all-too-frequent sight in the summer. Seems my flat tire luck has now extended into the fall.

Until I crashed into him as he stopped to make a right onto a bike lane. Our bikes went down in a tangled heap of carbon fibre.

It was a pretty slow speed collision, and apart from a couple of minor scratches, the damage was minimal.

But the message of the cycling gods was loud and clear; time to cut our losses and head for home.

Except for that long train we weren’t able to beat at the next level crossing.

And the coup de grace, our train luck runs out.

And the coup de grace, our train luck runs out.