He was a Christmas present | 5 Day Story Challenge


He was a Christmas present.

A surprise gift from my partner 25 years ago. A hand-made, rigid mountain bike. Perfect for exploring the local lanes with my 2 young sons. Or, so she thought.

He has served me well, and like all of my bikes, has seen several reincarnations. In the beginning, we did explore the neighbourhood lanes with my sons, teaching them how to ride safely. When they were ready, we began cycling the trails in Pacific Rim Park. The park boasts a network of trails, including several lengthy climbs and fast descents, where you can easily lose yourself for several hours. And then, when they were ready, we progressed to the legendary trails on the North Shore. These are more challenging, more difficult, and for some like me, downright dangerous. At this point, the bike wasn’t enough. I needed suspension. We needed suspension. We now have a stable of hard tails and full suspension bikes suitable for the North Shore, Squamish and Whistler trails.

These days, my Christmas present serves a different purpose. He is equipped with a set of narrow, slick, street tires, a pannier rack, a decommissioned Brooks Professional saddle, and an assortment of used parts from other bikes. Now, he serves as a utility bike and commuter.

Chas: “Hey! That’s my saddle.”


I have put a lot of kilometres on him. Still do. He is my main ride throughout the work week, and in the winter, when the weather is wet and cold, I continue to ride him regularly. Chas and Lou don’t like wet.

Chas: “Hey. It’s not me. It’s you. You don’t like getting me dirty.”


We have shared some great times.

He accompanied my son and I to London, England for a month. My son had a trial with one of the top London “football” clubs. He was only 15 at the time, and I wanted to be with him, but needed something to do throughout the day while he was training. Every day I cycled throughout London and points north exploring every park I came across.

Thatch: “That was fun. I like going to new places.”

Another time, we climbed up to the Elfin Lakes, a popular hiking destination. It’s a long, steady climb up, and no place for a rigid MTB, particularly on the way down. I had my hands on the brakes all the way and could barely straighten them by the time we were down. The trail is rocky, and without suspension, it was a very uncomfortable, and dangerous, descent.

Thatch: “I’ll say. That was hard but I did it.”

Once we even cycled to Squamish, a popular, very hilly, 80 km route popular with road cyclists. It took us a long time. Four hours I think. The rest of the group were on road bikes and waited patiently. Or, so they said.

Thatch: “I think you liked doing it with me. My small chainring made the long, steep climbs easy for you.”

I have even flown him to the cottage several times to cycle the quiet rural roads. So, you see, he has been a good friend for a long time. Almost as long as Chas.

Thatch: “I’m not that old.”


Here he is leaning against a tree overlooking English Bay. His tree. The same tree he has leaned against for 20 years. When we first started stopping here to rest, enjoy the view, and exercise a little, the tree was a sapling, only a few inches in diameter. Today, it is wide around the girth, a bit like me.

Thatch: “This is my favourite place! Take note. I haven’t put any weight on.”

Unlike Chas and Lou, he didn’t have a name until recently. That’s because he isn’t a he. He’s a she. Her name is Thatch. An iron lady. Strong. Tough. Determined. Resolute.

Thatch: “That’s me. Not like those other two that can’t handle heavy loads, rough surfaces, and inclement weather.”


5 Day Story Challenge 

Becky of Restart Urgently Needed nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky 🙂 I have to write 5 posts about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge. This time, I am nominating Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read a story about how music has shaped her life.





In praise of Brooks …


Brooks England is an English company that has been manufacturing high quality leather bicycle saddles, and other accessories, since 1866. I was given this Trouser Strap for Christmas this year, and today, while sitting in the sun on a park bench, I was reminded how good their products are.


The saddles even come with a waterproof cover. I keep mine in my pannier, and whenever rain threatens, I put it on. Water can be damaging, even if the leather is regularly treated with waterproofing product.


My saddle is 35 years old, and is more comfortable today than when I purchased it. There is wear, and it looks old, but it is unbelievably comfortable. My son rode my commuter last year and said “How do you ride this bike? The saddle is so uncomfortable.”.

You see, over the years, a Brooks saddle moulds to your bottom and begins fitting like a glove. It fits me without any discomfort, even on long rides. The leather is hard. There is no padding. No gel. No prostate cut-out. If you look closely, you can see the indentations, or “dimples”, where my sit bones have imprinted themselves.

To look at my saddle is to look at my bottom.

I don’t use this saddle on the road bikes. It’s too heavy. Rather, I have it on the commuter which occasional doubles as a touring bike. I spend hours on this saddle, and expect it to last as long as me. Perhaps longer, but it won’t fit anyone else as comfortably. 🙂


The power is back on …

The power is back on. I adjusted my saddle height before heading out to the office. And, I put a multi-tool in my bag.

I didn’t have time to properly measure the height.  I have all the fitting specs for each of the bikes recorded and will look at this again when I have time.  For now, I used the age old technique for determining the correct saddle height.  Sit on the saddle, place the heel of your foot on the pedal with it positioned at the 6 o’clock position and make certain there is a slight bend in your knee.  The leg should not be fully extended nor should the knee be bent more than a few degrees.

Voila!  Immediate power.

Bike improvements …

A year ago, I rebuilt my city bike with a combination of new and old parts parts and have used it mostly as a commuter for the past 12 months.  Recently, I have changed things up as I begin to plan a few solo trips.

I added a set of carbon bar ends.  These are not new.  They were on the bike previously.  I found as I began doing longer rides, my hands would tire and I became uncomfortable.  The bar ends get me leaning forward in a more aggressive position and lower.  This helps a lot with climbs.  And, they also give me an alternative hand position preventing numbness in the palms.

I added full size fenders for the wet weather.  These were a “hand-me-up” from my son left over from his previous commuter.  They wrap around the wheel protecting the drive train much better than the mountain bike style of fenders that were on the bike before.

I put my Brooks Professional saddle on the bike.  This saddle is 37 years old and was initially on the Roberts bike.  I have taken very good care of the leather over the years and it looks and feels like new.

I put my Filzer bike computer on the bike.  I like to know my speed and distance.  In fact, I sometimes train on this bike after work.  It is not the fastest.  It is heavy but smooth rolling.  Climbs are harder and descents slower.  On the flat, with no wind or grade, I can easily average 20-25 kph.

And, I added a rear rack and panniers.  I use the panniers in the city instead of a backpack.  It is much more comfortable and safer.  But I purchased the panniers for touring.  These are 40L, waterproof with pockets inside to keep valuable items separated and easy to access.

Non of these items were necessary but they each have improved the functionality and comfort of the ride.

Selecting components for my c. 1980 Roberts

I have decided what components to purchase for the Roberts re-build.  It has been a lengthy endeavour.  There is a lot to consider.  Part sizing.  Gearing.  Wheel diameter.  Stem type.  Use.  Cost.  And, all this while respecting the period and integrity of the frame.
My son introduced me to Feather handcrafted bicycles from Yorkshire, England.  They build beautiful custom steel frames and fit them with contemporary components.  Feather was an inspiration for my Roberts project.
Now I can begin shopping.  My son shops online for components.  I have been sceptical but he saves a lot of money.  I preferred to support the local bike shops.  This time, I am going to compare the relative cost between shopping at my favourite local shop and shopping online at eBay and and the likes of probikekit.ca.
Stay tuned.  Once I am done, I will itemize the actual cost.  So far I have spent $2.00 for a new set of bearings for the Campagnolo headset.

Selecting components for the Roberts

The next step for the the Roberts rebuild is to select suitable components for the frame – saddle, seatpost, stem, bars, cranks, derailleurs, brakes, bottom bracket and wheelset.

I have given this considerable thought and consulted with all of the local bike shops (at least those that have considerable experience with steel frame bikes).  I considered both a road and MTB setup.  Both have advantages.  In the end, I decided on a road setup.  It better suits the type of riding I have planned.  I have all the tools I need to build the bike.  And, I also have a number of wheelsets that I can interchange with other bikes.  In addition, I want the bike to retain a classic look.  The frame was not built as a MTB.  It is a long distance road bike.

After the frame was successfully cold set, I measured the seat tube diameter, seatpost diameter, bottom bracket shell width, the previous stem length and crank length so that I had all the specifications required when searching for a new component set.

These are the specifications for the items I need:

  1. A clamp on style front derailleur measuring 28.6 mm in diameter;
  2. Bottom bracket for a shell measuring 68 mm wide and English threading;
  3. A seatpost measuring 27.2 mm in diameter;
  4. A stem measuring 80 mm in length;
  5. Cranks measuring 172.5 mm long;
  6. Handlebars measuring 42 cm wide; and,
  7. Long reach dual pivot caliper brakes to fit 700 C wheels.

In the gallery above I have included some of the items I am currently considering.  If you have an opinion or other suggestions, I would appreciate your comments.

Cycling and Prostititus

Prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate gland, is a common problem for men and there is evidence that longer distance cycling may be a possible cause.

The constant prolonged pressure from the saddle and the jarring forces felt through the bike seat when riding over rough terrain may be the source of cycling-associated prostatitis. The close proximity of the prostate gland to the seat can cause prostate swelling. This swelling clamps down on the urethra, resulting in urinary symptoms that include incomplete emptying of the bladder, urinary dribbling and frequent urination. Other symptoms may include pain and tenderness in the genital area.

Saddles have evolved accordingly over the years. In fact, there are noseless saddles that eliminate any possible pressure but these have not been well received by the cycling community despite success in several trials.  The saddle on my commuter is pictured above.  I wasn’t thinking of my prostate when I purchased it.  It was comfortable and the price was right.  Little did I know that the design purposely relieves pressure on the prostate.  I have other saddles on my road and touring bike – a fi’zi:k Antares and Brooks B17.  They are both comfortable and seen many miles.  But I have to admit the selle italia is the most comfortable and I seldom feel any pressure or numbness as a result of longer rides.  The recessed area at the back and cut-out in the nose minimizes pressure in that area.

If you suffer from cycling-associated prostatitis there are several things to consider:

  1. Find a saddle like the selle italia;
  2. Tilt the saddle forward slightly to relieve pressure in the area;
  3. Stand on the pedals from time to time on long rides to take pressure off the prostate; and,
  4. Get cushioned cycling pants (along with a cushioned saddle) to lesson the constant pressure and jarring when riding.