Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ride for Heart, Toronto, 2010-06-06

A great big thank you to all my sponsors for your generous support. You made it possible to reach and exceed our fundraising goals; both mine and our DFS team's.

Also, thanks to everyone for stepping up to my challenge.  So as promised, I completed the 75k distance on that old rod-brake bike wearing a sport coat, slacks and dress shoes.  In this post you'll find the photos I threatened you with ;-)


I think everyone who took part in the 2010 Ride for Heart, perhaps especially those who did the early starts (the 75k and Early Bird) would agree the Ride went, um, swimmingly. By far the wettest Ride for Heart I've ever done.

Early that morning I woke to a deluge.  A "don't look up or you'll drown" deluge.  A "you've left it too late to build that ark" deluge.  Quick change of plans:  rolled up my ride clothes into a waterproof bag and loaded them, together with flat tire kit, ancient Brit-bike multi-spanner, plus water bottle, into the wicker basket.  Then out into the downpour in wet weather gear.

Heading down the Dufferin hill I learned a simple little truth about rod brakes on steel rims.  Oh sure, between my LBS and myself we had them working well enough in the dry.  This isn't a racing bike after all.  This is a go for a stately ride bike.  The relaxed seat tube angle puts the cyclist's feet well forward, making it difficult to apply much weight to the pedals.  The generous head tube angle encourages the cyclist to stay in the saddle; stand on the pedals and your knees are nearly into the handlebars.  So no one expects these bikes to be fast, it's just not what they do.

That morning however, despite brake levers held hard against handlebars, this bike was picking up speed.  Shyly at first, but with increasing ardour, it was seeking a closer embrace with the planet's core.  A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, with plenty of scope for disaster on the way.  Fortunately neither motorists nor pedestrians were keen on an early Sunday morning and a heavy rainstorm so hardly anyone was out.  But clearly I'd need a better answer, and quickly, to the Dufferin hill!

I slipped off the saddle, stood on the left pedal and planted my right foot firmly on the pavement.  The additional friction was enough to bring the bike gently to a stop.  Not wanting to repeat the rod-brakes-on-wet-steel-rims-on-steep-hill experiment I dismounted, tightened the brake blocks closer to the rim, then took to the sidewalk and walked down the hill.  I've since learned a better way to adjust these old brakes but they'll never be brilliant in the wet.

After the DFS team photo I just made it in time for the 7:15 close of the 75k start. Then it's out onto the Gardiner, setting course for the Don Valley Parkway.

Climbing the DVP the first time I came across Richard Goodridge from our team doing the 50k route.  By now I was as wet as if I'd just walked out of the lake. Trousers dragged on my legs so much I stopped and rolled them up like plus fours.

RFH participants at the York Mills rest stop.

Struggling up the DVP hills the first time on a bike not meant for putting down power, I wondered if I'd make the Bayview turnaround in time for the second trip up to York Mills.  Even if I was there on time, would I have either energy or motivation to turn around and drag that bike up those hills a second time?

At the York Mills rest stop Richard & I took each other's photos, hence this pic of Richard on his sensible bike, wearing sensible gear, looking happy and relaxed.

And this pic of me, sopping trousers rolled up, water squishing out of my shoes.

But at least the weather had reverted to the 'light rain' the Weather Network predicted for the entire morning.

Back at the Bayview turn around I'm less wet ('drier' is too strong a word), and feeling a little restored after the descent. Having decided to go back to York Mills I bid Richard farewell. I'd hate being defeated by a little discomfort.  Also I didn't want to have to admit that I'd bailed on the distance. So it's back up the hill, drying on the way. Eventually I could unroll my lower pant legs so they could dry out a bit too.  Back at York Mills around 10:40.  

A bit drier, so pant legs rolled down.
Evidence of second climb to York Mills?
A random cyclist cheerfully took this picture, me sans helmet in an attempt to 'look my best' (har) ... but forgot to take off the glasses. My image consultant (good chum, inside joke) will probably say I should've accessorised, perhaps a pocket square or something?  I don't think anything could've saved the 'dapper cyclist' look at this point!

The reward for climbing a hill on a bicycle is that you get to come back down, spending kinetic energy you've earned on your way up (insert gratuitous Reverand Spooner quote here).  I was still cautious about descending too quickly, but on one of the steeper sections, and with no other riders nearby, I felt comfortable letting that heavy ancient bike get to just over 50kph.  Oh yes, this day would have been one of your few opportunities, ever, to see a Raleigh Roadster fitted with a bike computer!

11:45 finds me back at the CNE and still damp. Grab some lunch, sneak in a 10 minute massage just before they close down. Then head for home climbing that hill one more time, only this time riding through town with the sun beating down and the mercury rising.  Fall exhausted into bed.

Thanks again everyone!  I wouldn't have missed this for the world!

Large frame Raleigh Roadster DL-1, 1969 vintage (or is it 1966? numeral stamped on the Sturmey Archer AW hub could be either a 9 or a 6). These bikes were little changed from the thirties, so it hardly matters.

I'd fabricated a mount so I could hang that great big wicker basket from the Raleigh headlamp bracket. Given the brake mechanism there was no other way to fit it. The weight of the basket caused it to loosen during the ride and from then on it was a nuisance. After the ride I removed the basket and it's never been back on.  Anyway it kind of hides the rod brake bits, which are 100% genuine vintage charm so a shame not to show them off.

I had a couple of selections ready. For the jacket I had considered a lightweight linen sport coat, however when I woke and heard the weather I quickly settled on this black wash-and-wear number I'd picked up from Lands End. It's best steam cleaned or dry cleaned, and I don't think the care instructions had this 'rinse' in mind, but it survived.

Trousers were also wash and wear, light weight. They take a crease nicely but somehow lose it and wrinkle badly if you go all scuba in them, go figure. When dry they're a lighter colour than in these photos.

The shirt's short sleeved with pin stripes picking up the colours from the jacket and slacks. Something with a bolder stripe might've worked better in the pics. Worn over a white technical tee to give some options in case it turned blistering hot. On the day I was glad of all of the layers, most of the time, and would've preferred a long sleeved shirt for much of the ride!

The shoes are Nunn Bush with Kiwi polish liberally applied as defense the morning of the ride. They survived very well despite the abuse, literally full of water for quite a few kilometers. Careful drying over a few days by stuffing with newspaper (frequently changed), given a good polishing and stretched a bit on shoe trees, these are still quite nice.

The cycling gloves are from MEC. On seeing the pics I think a classic, old fashioned, light coloured string-back glove would've worked better with the jacket:  these blend with the sleeves making them look too long.

TOTAL RIDE STATS including the trip to the CNE grounds and back:

Distance:  97.14km (did this feel like a double century?)
Total ride time:  5:55:14
Average speed:  16.40 kph (puff puff ...)
Maximum speed:  50.26 kph (whee!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

An automotive journalist lets his attitude to other road users show

Jim Kenzie, the Toronto Star's chief automotive correspondent, has a curious attitude to the recent Ontario Legislature private member's bill on a safe distance for passing bicycles.

Jim it's a pity that someone with your public platform has such little understanding of the moral responsibility that comes with operating tons of machinery, at speed, in a public space. The attitude you describe should be kept to the race track, or at least to controlled access highways where you won't encounter legitimate, vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

I both drive and cycle, and I can tell you that if you look down the road the way a skilled driver does, instead of at your hood ornament or blackberry, there's never a need to 'swerve' into another lane to pass a cyclist at a safe distance. There's also a level of driver courtesy that rises above the 'intimidation with a deadly weapon' approach to interacting with other legitimate road users.

If driver training taught, and courts enforced, a level of responsibility that would actually reduce the mayhem, deaths and maimings on our roadways, motorists who behave the way you imply would soon find themselves in the back of the cab, taking the bus, or dare I say, riding a bicycle.

The wind from passing vehicles blowing bicycles over is, I believe, largely a myth except in extreme situations. The danger is much more from drivers who create a situation where a slight error in judgement from either operator can lead to death. The other aspect of this are the threats, both deliberate and unintended, from drivers who think passing within a few inches at speed is the way to go.

Oh, and for any driver who doesn't have an accurate sense of the distance between their vehicle and other people's children whom they're passing, there are remedial driving programs available.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Found this survivor on e-bay, all original and complete.  An old Raleigh DL-1 rod brake roadster, just like the one Dad rode as an Oxfordshire constable in England in the early '50s.

Put the hundreds of bits together and last weekend took it to Morgan at Bikeland to make it right.

This is Dad's birthday present, sort of like buying your Dad a baseball glove. Ok, well exactly like ;-)  I'm hoping to borrow it for the RfH, as a 'reward' to my sponsors for helping me raise $1,000.

Dad's expressed an interest in cycling as an exercise that'll be easier on his knees than walking.  I'd like to see him on my mtb initially as it should be a bit easier than the DL-1 after nearly six decades off bike, then have him try this oldie.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tough bike computer

This past weekend I put a load of clothes through the wash (heavy cycle, hot wash, cold rinse), then tossed some into the drier for 20 minutes.

Something in the drier kept clunking around.  Thought 'the plastic buckle on those pants' though it sounded heavier.

Emptied the drier, and found my Sigma 1609.  Still working.  Since then I've had occasion to check all its functions, no damage other than maybe a few new scuffs.  This has worked flawlessly through its first winter going between my Barrie and Toronto bikes.  Still a happy little bike computer!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hyperdrive bicycle

with apologies to readers: this was posted early on the morning of April 1st, 2010. But due to an incident with a really high spoke count bicycle wheel it may have appeared briefly in the late evening of March 30th. Please be assured that no detectible tear in the fabric of space time occured, and I'm quite confident that any black holes that could have been created would have been very, very tiny and of short duration.

Last year while on the GWTA I stumbled upon an extraordinarily sustainable means of augmenting energy.

It came about when I was in a bike shop having a broken spoke replaced. While there I asked for a new cadence magnet for my crank; mine had come off somewhere enroute. The mechanic grabbed one off the wall and tossed it into the bag along with the chamois cream and one or two other odds and ends.

When I got to camp that night I took out the bag intending to fit the new magnet so I'd once again have cadence indication, only to discover they'd given me a spoke magnet in error.

That night I had a revelation. If the magnet were mounted to my wheel, on the spoke opposite to the existing magnet, my bike computer would confirm that for the same pedalling effort I'd achieve twice the speed, this without any change in the wheel circumference calibration entered into the computer! I can ride comfortably all day long at an average 20kph, so with this I'd be able to achieve 40kph without any significant increase in wattage!

What's more, if two cyclists, one with and one without this technology, start off together and ride the same route, reaching their destination together, one will have travelled twice as far and twice as fast. This analysis alone proves the technology can bend space-time! More work needs to be done to develop practical applications, but the potential is obvious.

Thinking further about this I realized that putting magnets on each spoke of a thirty-six spoke wheel would allow me to maintain an absolutely terrifying average speed of 720kph all day long with peak speeds up to 3 times that or more, if only I could find a road where this could be done safely. Unfortunately our highways are choked with old fashioned automobiles, creating unacceptable traffic delays when this bicycle technology is ready for release.

I remember once reading a theory that UFO's use a form of magnetic drive technology, of which this 'double-helix onion drive' system is but one of the more sophisticated examples.

Further developing the concept, how many spokes could be fitted within the outer wheel of a device based on a monocycle? Would it be possible with such a device and a really, really high spoke count wheel to travel in time? Is it just a coincidence that this 1873 monowheel bears a passing family resemblance to illustrations of H.G.Wells Time Machine?

I can't reveal any more of my research at this time. Further developments must be done in secret, as powerful interests have conspired in the past to suppress much smaller threats to their dominance of mankind. Once all is ready I promise to release it for free, to the benefit of all. Then it will be too late to stop us! "The history of science is the history of the suppression of great inventions".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ride the City Toronto, amazing response!

I checked out Ride the City's new Toronto cycling route selection early this morning, putting in my Toronto digs and work address to test it.

The "Safer / Safe / Direct" routes all were the same including putting the cyclist the wrong way on a one way street, and the destination address showing the same error as Google Maps. At 04:49 I submitted feedback pointing out the errors and suggesting some other routes.

Got an absolutely amazing response (at 06:26!) from Jordan at Ride the City, reproduced here:

"Thanks so much for your feedback. We've fixed the one-way problems and
adjusted the new safe and safer routes accordingly. Funny you should
mention Google as we're using Google's geocoder to find addresses,
including the incorrect address for xxxxxx. I'm going to
submit an error report to them and hopefully we can get the problem

"Please let us know if you run into any other routing problems!"

If this is any indication of their commitment to evolving a truly useful mapping tool I hope many more Toronto cyclists will take part.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the gutter or in the road?

This year I have new digs in Toronto about 5km from the office just for during the week. Saves that long bus ride from Barrie every day. A sweet, simple life in T.O!

I had a little encounter riding home from work tonight along St Clair Ave W.

For those who know it the road is two narrow lanes each direction with the new raised section for streetcar tracks between eastbound and westbound sides. The default Toronto speed limit of 50kph applies and most seem desperate to do 60, though in this section traffic can only reach those speeds mid-block in the race to the next red light. Average speeds, counting time sitting at lights or waiting for people to make turns, is probably not much more than 20kph when traffic is moderate judging by the way I see many of the same cars at light after light during my little commutes.

I was properly taking the right hand lane and proceeding at a decent pace, maybe 25kph up that little grade, when an overtaking white van decided to buzz me. An obvious attempt to intimidate or 'teach the cyclist a lesson', he passed within half a meter (actually less) as he cut through my lane, though there was plenty of clear space ahead in his lane. This was three or four seconds after my last shoulder check. Traffic was loud enough that I didn't pick up on him until he was almost beside me.

As I came up to the line of cars at the next red light a guy in an SUV stopped beside me and put his passenger window down. "You keep riding like that you're going to get yourself killed".

I explained this was the safest way to ride, following the same best practices and course the police bike patrols base their bike training on (true - CAN-BIKE 2). He seemed surprised. "Well I guess most drivers look where they're going, but you won't catch me doing it."

He seemed a nice, reasonable guy. Pity we didn't have time to discuss it further.

Buddy in the white delivery van (forgot the van's first licence plate digits after chatting with the guy in the SUV, but it was "xxx 1EH") had no problem looking where he was going. He knew exactly what he was doing.

At the red light the van was just the second vehicle ahead. I'd briefly considered going up to him for a friendly conversation about safe passing, but after my short talk with SUV guy I judged there wouldn't be enough time for a meaningful exchange before the light went green ...

SUV guy may turn out to be right in the end. None of us knows what the future holds. Any of us can be killed while driving, cycling, crossing or just walking beside roadways. They're the most dangerous place most of us ever go near thanks to bad human behaviour and inadequate enforcement. Someone like an Antonio Cellestine could run any of us down. But cycling vehicularly is still safer than driving.

Had I been riding slowly, inches from the gutter as subordinate cyclists do, and as SUV guy probably thinks is safer, I'd have been buzzed by fifty or a hundred vehicles before I got home instead of one. Many of those fifty or a hundred drivers would have divided attentions, worrying about who might be closing up in the left lane as they squeeze beside me in the right, or thinking about their dinner or their day's work. Emotionally-immature-delivery-van-man on the other hand was giving me his full attention, just me, as he cut across my lane. His entire focus was on making his point, but also making sure he missed me. He wouldn't want to make trouble for himself or scratch his van if he could help it.

When are we going to make responsibility for the safety of others the most important element of driver training, licensing, and enforcement?

Share the Road, Share the Planet.