I have a new helmet … 😂

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I have a new helmet. And beard.

Did you notice they match 😂

I smashed the back of my previous helmet during a high-speed crash last year, and needed to replace it. I have two other helmets but they are 3 and 5 years old respectively. Manufacturers recommended not wearing a helmet longer than 3-5 years. Apparently they disintegrate over time, and gradually become ineffective.

So, I began looking for a new helmet. I frequented all of the local cycling shops to try on every model I could find looking for the safest, and best fit. In the past, I was more concerned with the look and price of a helmet, careful to chose one that matched both my bikes and kits. This time, I was less concerned about these things. Safety, and fit were foremost in my mind.

I tried on everything ranging in price from $65 – $400 CAD. Not once. Several times over the span of a month or more. I would even take selfies of myself with the helmets on and share them with others who I thought could help me make a decision. That was a mistake. Everyone had a different opinion, and they were subjective having nothing to do with my priorities. So, I turned to the internet, carefully reading consumer reviews, and manufacturers’ specifications.

In the end, I selected the MET Rivale helmet. Without question, it is the most comfortable helmet I found. It is rounder than most other models, and seems to fit my head better. It also has high safety ratings, is well vented, and considered aerodynamic. You may even see it on TDF riders, including Mark Cavendish.

This is what MET themselves say about the helmet.

The specific shape of the Rivale enables a rider to save up to 3 watts at 50km/h: this translates to a 1 second time advantage compared to other similar road helmets.

The Venturi effect allows the maximum air intake with the lowest drag possible. Through air channels inside the helmet hot air is pulled to the rear exhausting vents producing a great cooling effect.

The Rivale is the new standard of aero.

Interesting 🤔 And I have been training to improve my power. All I needed was this helmet 😂

BikeRadar have a more impartial view. I selected the helmet because of the fit, and they seem to agree.

The Rivale’s shape is more rounded than most aero helmets, which met with approval from most of our testers. The internal padding is minimal yet well placed, and the retention system is impressive, combining lightweight soft-touch straps and a new version of MET’s Safe-T retention system. The micro-adjust dial offers plenty of circumference tensioning, and we loved the 4cm vertical adjustment on offer, which enables you to sit the cradle in just the right spot. The straps can occasionally tangle and twist due to their thin material, but that’s the slightest of niggles. – BikeRadar May 21, 2016

The helmet doesn’t move on my head. It tightens snuggly, and sits a little lower on my head where a helmet is supposed to sit. I didn’t know that. Did you?

The fact that it is more aerodynamic, cooler, and matches my beard  😂 had little to do with the purchase. It’s a good fit, and safe. That’s all that mattered this time around.

Oh yeah, it looks good, and does match my bikes and kits 😂

 

Is there a safer colour … 🤔

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Since my high-speed crash, I have been thinking a lot about cycling safety – the confidence fostered by dedicated bike paths, separated bike lanes, traffic-calmed streets, and, the increased visibility of florescent, reflective clothing popular these days.

I walked to the gym for a spinning workout yesterday. Without much thought, I placed my new runners and cycling shoes beside one another as I was packing up. They both feature florescent yellow-green markings.

Why is that? What is there about this colour?

Well, it has been proven to be the most noticeable colour, standing out from all backgrounds, and thereby making it safer for cyclists (and runners) to share the road with motorists. In that moment, I realized I frequently wear the most dangerous kit colours of all. Black. Black shoes, tights, bibs, jerseys, and jackets. I do wear some colour but no florescent yellow-green. None.

So, I had a quick look on-line at one of my favourite cycling apparel shops. Guess what? They feature numerous jackets, and jerseys that are florescent yellow-green.

Is it time for a new cycling kit 🤔

You guessed it.

I purchased a florescent long-sleeve, cycling jersey, and wind jacket. If nothing else, I am going to be seen on the road this spring.

 

Notes to my former self … 🤔

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Adele Archer introduced me to the idea of writing a note to my former self. She said it would be “a very cathartic exercise!”

If only I knew back then what I know today.

The above picture is of me, taken about the time I first became serious about cycling. I was an adjunct professor at the time, and had been cycling more seriously for several years.  I was concerned about my health, stopped eating meat and dairy, disposed of my car, and began using my bicycle as my sole means of transport.

So, what would I say to my former self 🤔

Yeah, what would you say?

Well, I’d begin with a discussion about cycling. There is a lot we could discuss but cycling will be a common thread throughout the remainder of your life.

We can start there. I love cycling but am pretty well informed already.

Really?

You are young, and you think you already have all of the answers. Well, you don’t. You have inconceivable hardships ahead, and a move you never imagined. So, pay attention, if you can.

First of all, be more patient. Don’t make dramatic lifestyle changes too quickly. It may seem easy for you, but very difficult for your friends and family. Remember, food is not only providing nourishment to sustain your health, it is also the focus of social events. You share food when you visit, and entertain. Don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for those around you. Take the time to explain why you are making changes, and involve them more in the process.

You are right about this. I have already seen the consequences.

Recognize that cycling is your sport. It is an integral part of your life now, and always will be. You’ll have a lot of opposition but persevere. For you, the benefits greatly out number any possible detriments.

What kind of opposition?

Friends that aren’t interested. Employers that don’t support bike commuting with secure bike lock-ups, and adequate change facilities. Municipal governments that have never heard of dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, or bikeways. I told you it wasn’t going to be easy.

Purchase the best bike you can afford, and always upgrade it with better components when necessary.

Find hills to climb. Think of them as your friend. They may be difficult at first but will make you a stronger, better cyclist.

I don’t mind hills. It’s just there aren’t many in these parts.

There are always hills. You just need to search them out.

Learn to clean, and lubricate your drive train. Do it regularly. It will reduce the wear and tare on your drive train. And while you are at it, learn basic bike maintenance. You need to be able to install a new chain and cassette, replace your brake and shifter cables, fix a flat tire, install new tires, true your wheels, replace a broken spoke, and re-pack your hubs and bottom bracket. Don’t worry. It’s not difficult, and there are a lot of resources available to help.

But bikes require specialized tools. And they are expensive.

That’s true but cheaper than a tank of gas every week, or annual car insurance.

You are not fast. You are built for endurance. Open water swimming, distance running, and road cycling are your sports. Accept you may never win a race, but will always finish strong.

That’s true. Runners and cyclists are always passing me on the road no matter how hard I try.

If you learn to train properly, instead of just going out for a ride when you please, you will get stronger, faster, and more confident.

How do I do that?

I told you. Find hills, and climb them repeatedly.

Purchase more than one bike. You need one for the roads. Maybe two. One to train on. The other for organized cycling events. And, you need one for getting around the city to commute, and run errands. You may even want a mountain bike to enjoy the trails as well.

How can I afford it?

Make bikes a priority. Instead of spending money on a car or public transit, invest in your bikes.

Live where the weather is suitable for cycling all year round. And where the municipal government, and local businesses are supportive so you have a safe commute on dedicated bike lanes, and traffic calmed streets, and at the end of the trip, a secure place to store your bike for the day.

Yeah! I hate the snow and ice in these parts.

Learn to dress for all weather conditions. The heat. The cold. The wet. Weather is no reason to stop cycling. You need a waterproof kit – booties, pants, jacket, gloves, and  helmet cover. And, learn the benefits of wool. It keeps you warm, even when its wet.

You are right. I need proper cycle clothing, especially those padded shorts. And spandex 😂

Build a bike shop. Find space in the basement or garage for your bikes. A place where you can store them out of the weather, out of site, and where you can work on them easily. This will encourage you to keep your bikes in good running order at all times.

What more can I say 🤔

What about women? My education? And, a suitable career? 🤔

Well, I have one last suggestion for you. Don’t procrastinate. Get to it! I waited too long, and don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

 😂

 

 

 

 

I’ve come full circle …

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In 1980 I purchased an English, bespoke, steel touring frame, hand crafted by Chas Roberts of Croydon, England, the son of Charlie Roberts, founder of Roberts Cycles, one of the finest bespoke frame shops in the country.

I subsequently named the bike Chas, not after the frame builder, but rather my father whose name was also Charlie. Those of you who follow this blog know that I still ride Chas regularly. He has been rebuilt several times, first as a touring bike, then a road racer, and now as a bike to train on.

Chas Roberts is on sabbatical and has temporarily (I hope) suspended operations.

I purchased Chas from a fellow named Michael Barry who, at the time, owned a bicycle shop in downtown Toronto called BicycleSport. A black and white decal with the shop’s name and address is still affixed to Chas’s down tube. Michael is an ex-racer from England, and his shop was a cyclists’ candy store carefully displaying top end components from Cinelli, Campagnola, and other elite component manufacturers. The shop was close to the university where I was teaching at the time, and I would drop in frequently on my way home.

Michael Barry also made frames. Shortly after opening the shop he introduced a bike brand he named Mariposa. His frames were beautiful but, because I mistakenly thought he was new to the business, I preferred the Roberts. He named the brand after cottage country north of Toronto, an area now known as Kawartha Lakes where my family cottage is.

Can you see this circle yet?

After 30 years of operation, Micheal closed BicycleSport and ended the Mariposa tradition.

Micheal Barry had a son, Micheal Berry Jr. You may have heard of him? He is a retired “domestique”, racing with the likes of Team Sky, T-Mobile, US Postal, Discovery Channel, and the Saturn Cycling Team.

I was given a copy of the December edition of the Canadian Cycling Magazine for Christmas. It’s the one magazine I read cover-to-cover, including all of the advertisements. The feature article of the issue is entitled “A Family’s Tradition” written by Michael Barry Jr. The headline reads “After years of racing abroad, a son’s passion for cycling now picks up where it began, at home in his father’s shop“.

You got it.

Michael Barry Jr, and his wife Dede (Demet) Barry, time trial Silver Medalist from the 2004 Athens Olympics, have resurrected the Mariposa brand, continuing the long standing family tradition of crafting custom frames for randonneurs, racers, and tourists.

I need a new bike. Well … I would like a new bike. No cyclist needs a new bike, but every cyclist would like another bike.

I would like a Mariposa bike.

It just makes sense. It is meant to be. The frames are made by the son of the fellow that sold me my first bespoke bike, and taught me the intricacies of bike geometry and fitting. And not only that, the bikes are named after the very place I enjoy most – the cottage at Mariposa.

The Mariposa shop is located on the east side of Toronto, close to where I used to live. Next summer, while at the cottage, I will visit the shop to place an order for a new, bespoke, steel frame.

I just have to decide what style of bike I would like.

You see. I have come full circle.

iPhriday – cold, sunny rides

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We have had several sunny, cold days this week – snow on the local mountains and, at times, black ice at sea level. I have enjoyed my rides more than usual for this time of year.

These photographs were taken with my iPhone 5C while cycling by the water, and have not been edited in any way.

I’m joining Lisa from GrayDaysAndCoffee to share smartphone photos each Friday. Please join us each Friday and share your favourite iPhone photographs.

He’s unpredictable …

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I dressed for rain, and look what happened. Sun. Blue skies. And, no wind. Rain and blustery winds were forecast when I headed out the door this morning. Had I known, one of the road bikes would have gotten a turn.

Lou: “That would have been nice. I’ve been hanging here next to the furnace for a month. And by the way, you need to replace the furnace fan. The noise is driving me crazy.”

Apparently, we are between systems. Another low pressure system, and rain, is headed this way tomorrow. This sunny break was unexpected. It seems forecasting the weather in these parts is as unpredictable as what Donald Trump might say next.

Trump’s hate-mongering is relentless, and his thinking suspect. Build a wall to keep Mexican’s out, because they cause crime in the US. No Muslims either, because they are terrorists. Everyone needs a gun so the mass murders can be quickly stopped in their tracts. And, shutting down the internet to prevent radicalization.

What will he conjure up next?

He has turned the Presidential election into a circus. The Republicans are stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard spot. They can’t win with him, and they can’t win with him running as an independent.

Hilary Clinton must be gloating.

Condemnation has been swift, and surgical.

Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP in Canada got it right when he said today, “I say we … should make sure Donald Trump stays out of Canada”. And, there are calls for the Trump Towers in Vancouver and Toronto to be renamed.

A former prominent planner for the city of Vancouver, Brent Toderian, suggested on Twitter that Vancouver residents call on the owners of the Trump Vancouver building to remove the aspiring politician’s name.

He tweeted, “As #Trump calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., I seriously suggest that Vancouverites call on @TrumpVancouver to remove his name,”.

Hear! Hear!

Grey skies can’t darken my day …

The weather has changed. The high pressure system that brought clear skies, and cold temperatures, has given way to a moisture-filled low that is threatening rain and warmer temperatures for a week. Maybe longer. Never mind.

Grey skies can’t darken my day.

I cycle rain, or shine. You see, for me, a day without a ride is a day without sunshine. It’s my time. We all need my time. Right? Time alone to get our thoughts right. For me, I do that best on my bikes. My mind clears. Problems dissipate. Solutions emerge. At the end of a ride, I am renewed. Strengthened in a way not possible otherwise. It’s moving meditation.

You see, I have this daily ritual. I do laps on the seawall and perimeter road in Stanley Park doing 35-50 km depending on how I’m feeling that day, what bike I am on, and the weather. When it is warm, and I’m feeling well, I’ll ride for 2-3 hours. Sometimes longer, challenging myself to faster climbs, and riskier descents. When it is windy and wet, I may only do 1 lap around the flat(ish) seawall.

And then, I stop for a post-ride meal. A veggie wrap, salad, and a black drip coffee. Every day it’s the same thing. Laps and a wrap.

You would think I might change things up. I do on the weekends, of course. I have several longer routes I enjoy but during the week the park is my place. It is close to the office. Close to the house. And, connected by a traffic-calmed bike pathway.

“Can’t you at least eat something different once in awhile?”, you ask.

No. I can’t!

“Can’t you try another route just once?”, you ask.

No. I can’t!

You see, this is my advanced health formula. It boosts my immune system. I’m seldom ill. It increases my energy. I accomplish a lot each and every day. I sleep soundly for 8-9 hours a night. My weight is managed. And, I have a positive attitude basking in sunlight, even when it rains. It is just part of my day. Part of getting to and from the office. I don’t have to make time for it. I don’t have to book a tee time. A court time. Or, make time for the gym.

I just do it. It’s involuntary, like breathing.

New fenders …

It’s that time of year again. The rainy season. It is clear and cold right now, but that won’t last for long.

My commuter has a set of full length fenders, and I don’t mind riding her (Thatch) in the rain. As I have said many times, I enjoy it and view it as more of an adventure than anything else. The key is to stay dry and warm. Once I figured that out, my life changed. I generally don’t ride the road bikes, particularly the Garneau (Lou), in the rain. But I do go out when the roads are still wet after a rainfall, usually taking the Roberts (Chas). When the roads are dry, all of the bikes get a turn, but I digress.

I need fenders for the weekend club rides. When you are tight on someones’ wheel, you don’t want to wear wheel splatter on your face. And, you don’t want the dirt and wet to spray up your back. Do you?

I wanted a pair of fenders that were easy to install without bolts and wrenches that I could, when necessary, quickly switch between the Roberts and the Garneau, between Chas and Lou. I came across the SpeedEZ Road fenders from Planet Bike in my local bike shop. They mount on any bike with 700C tires up to 25 mm in just minutes. No bolts. No wrenches. Just a little patience. More than I had initially 🙂

I have them on the Roberts right now. It took a ride or two to get them properly centred over the tires without rubbing. There is a trick. There always is a trick. But once I understood symmetry, and put my glasses on, it was easy 🙂

Cold but clear …

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A strong, arctic, high pressure system is hovering over the south coast, and is expected to last for another week. It’s cold. And clear. Highs of no more than 7C during the day. And below freezing overnight. When I awake there is frost on the roofs, and some of the roads.

Some of you will say, “So what”. You are used to the cold and snow but you have to understand it is unusual for these parts. There is actually more snow on the slopes of the local mountains than last year, and the ski facilities haven’t even opened for the season.

The cold hasn’t stopped me from cycling. In fact, I enjoy it.

Did you hear that Bri?

I find if I layer up, wear neoprene booties, a toque, and a helmet cover, I put in the same mileage. I may go a little slower – the faster I go the colder it gets – but it’s actually enjoyable. It sure beats the spinning bike!

This weather won’t last, I’m sure. The warmer, wetter weather is certain to return. In the meantime, I’m going to get out on the bikes as often as possible.

Chas: “I’m glad to hear that. I’ve been hanging, staring at this wall for a week now.”

I may even take Lou out for some repeat hill climbs tomorrow.

Lou: “Yikes. I’ll need a coat. Layers like you. Right?”

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I made a commitment …

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Three years ago I made a commitment to myself. I committed to commute by bicycle throughout the year, not just when it is warm and dry, or when it suited me. I committed to cycling to and from the office every day regardless of the weather. No excuses.

Cycling was not new to me. After all, I had trained, toured, and even commuted for years. It’s just that when the weather got cold and wet, I would drive, walk, or take public transit. This time, things were different. This time, the stars aligned. I had a suitable bike, and clothing for all seasons. I could bring my bike into the office without fear of the ubiquitous bike thief. The office had a very casual dress code. There was a shower in the office to clean up, and change when necessary. And, there was a community of like-minded cyclists in the office.

What started as a one year experiment, turned into a three year adventure. Although I had cycled seriously for years, cycling became an indispensable part of every day. Every day I cycled 40 km, and very often, a lot more. It is only a 5 km trip to the office in the morning but a 35+ km workout on the way home.

There are the obvious benefits. I saved money on gas and parking, managed my weight without much effort, and spent more time outside.

And, there are unexpected benefits.

I didn’t expect to become a much better cyclist. I guess I thought I was good to begin with. Today, I am more technically proficient. I pedal in circles without even thinking about it. I spin faster in lower gears minimizing the wear and tear on my knees. I climb, and descend faster. I shift easily, and often, maintaining a consistent cadence. I cycle longer, and farther. I complete centuries faster, and more easily than ever. And, the wind and hills are actually fun.

I take better care of my bikes. I need to. I depend on them. I’m a better bike mechanic confident installing and adjusting stems, saddles, bars, derailleurs, tire, tubes, wheels, chains, cassettes, cables …

I eat better. I eat to fuel my rides, not to feed insecurities. No meat. No fast food. No sweets. And fresh, local produce whenever possible.

I’m acutely aware of how inefficient the automobile has become, creating more problems than it has solved. Congestion. Noise. Pollution. And, the wasteful use of land for roads and car parks.

And, perhaps most importantly, I live more simply. I need less, but have more. What began as an experiment to cycle more has shifted my priorities.

Cycle commuting isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Some need a vehicle for work. Some live too far from their work. And, others are not able. But, as urban densities increase, there is an opportunity, no a necessity, to get more people cycling. Municipalities and local businesses have a part to play by providing the necessary infrastructure – bike paths, dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, end-of-ride change facilities, bike lock ups … A carbon tax and bridge tolls are being considered here, and if implemented, will spur commuters to look for alternatives.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?