Chas and I have been out …

I have been training inside a lot this year but Chas and I have been able to accumulate over 1,000 km on the road in preparation for the upcoming Pacific Populaire.

Chas was well prepared for winter riding. First, I put wider profile tires (28 mm) on an old set of Shimano training wheels. The wheel hubs and rims are worn but more than adequate for winter riding. I didn’t worry about getting them wet, and the wider section tires grip better in the wetter conditions. Then I added a small set of fenders that simply snap around the front forks and the rear stays. They help to protect the bike parts, my back, and anyone drafting closely behind from wet and dirty spray. And lastly, I had a bike fit which resulted in several minor adjustments to the saddle height and lateral position as well as a new, flatter saddle. The new saddle reduces the pressure points considerably, and has me sitting more on my sits bones at the back of the saddle.

The bike fit was revealing. I learned that I had lost flexibility in my left hamstring and hip abductor muscles which resulted in uneven weight distribution on the saddle, and a right knee that did not track perfectly perpendicular when pedalling. Despite training in front of a full length mirror when on the spinning bike, I had not noticed. Like many cyclists, I neglect to stretch, particularly during the cycling season. Consequently, I have included a 15-20 minute stretching routine after each and every spinning session for the past 8-10 weeks, and have noticed a significant difference. The knee appears to track correctly, and when on the bike, I tuck into a more aerodynamic position easily.

I plan to ride Chas in the Pacific Populaire. He is built for this type of cycling. His heavier, steel frame, longer wheelbase, and wider section tires make for a more comfortable ride over longer distances. Weather permitting (that means no rain), I’ll switch out the wheel set to my newer Shimano RS61 equipped with narrower 25 mm tires. These wheels are faster, roll more smoothly, and quite frankly are a treat to ride.

So, Chas and I have not been idle. Both he and I are better prepared for this century ride than we have been in previous years.

I’ve come full circle …


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.

First ride of the year …

2016 began the same way 2015 ended, only longer.

Chas and I did a 80 km workout around the city enjoying the cool but clear weather, stopping at our favourite watering hole, JJ Bean, for a customary, mid-ride coffee and wrap.

I can think of no better way to start the year.

Chas’s new drive train and tires stood the test of several lengthy climbs and fast descents. He is a wonderful ride despite his 35 years. His steel frame and new, wider 28 mm tires make a big difference on the bumpy city streets and bike paths. A steel steed. I feel like I could ride with him forever.

We are quite the pair, Chas and I. Long past our prime but intent on being outside, continually challenging ourselves, and discovering new roads to share. I think we have a long trip left to make, one last epic ride to places we have never seen before. But that is for another time.

Today is about a new start, and new possibilities. Chas and I re-traced a familiar route but in a new way. He was better dressed with his new chain, cassette and tires. And I start this new year with a more open mind. I am finished with work. Retired. I’m not certain what that may look like. All I know is that I am looking forward to spending even more time with Chas, Lou, and Thatch. We have a few trips and cycling events planned but I’m open to new possibilities. New places. New people. New challenges.

Today I was introduced to Kajsa Tyler, a young British woman set on breaking the women’s world record for the Furthest Distance Cycled in a Year. The current record (29,603 miles) was set in 1938 by Billie Dovey on a 3-speed bike. Think about that for a moment. 29,603 miles. That’s 47,641 kilometres – 131 km each and every day for 365 days. That is a lot of cycling.

Setting a new world record is certainly not on my Cycling Bucket List but Billie and Kajsa are an inspiration for us all.

I’d like to make a toast. Here is to a new start. Happy pedalling and may the wind always be at your back.


Chas gets a turn …


Chas and I went for a ride today. This is the last day of clear, but cold, weather. Rain and warmer temperatures are forecast beginning tomorrow.

It’s really not bad cycling in the cold provided you have the proper clothing. For me, that means a helmet cover to dissipate the wind, a balaclava, yellow tinted sun glasses to block the wind (and cold), a cycling specific wind/rain jacket over at least 2 layers, full-finger winter gloves, lined cycling wind tights, cold-weather booties, and heavy wool socks.

Last week I purchased a new pair of lined cycling tights – MEC Flyer Tights – that I can’t say enough about. The front panels block the wind, and repel light rain. The knees are articulated providing a full range of motion when pedalling. And, inside they are warm and cozy, perfect for winter cycling.

It was 2 degrees Celsius when Chas and I headed out. We don’t cycle as fast, or as far in this weather. I concentrate on maintaining a consistent cadence, and an efficient pedalling stroke. And, the scenery. It was beautiful by the water.

Tomorrow it will be much warmer. And wet. Thatch will get a turn tomorrow, and the rest of the week. And, I won’t be stopping to take many pictures.


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 …


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?”


Bike Chat | Triples


Chas: “Hey Thatch, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

Thatch: “What?”

Chas: “You have 3 chainrings. Lou and I only have 2. Why’s that?”

Thatch: “Is this the first time you’ve noticed?”

Chas: “No. I was embarrassed to ask.”

Thatch: “Don’t be. The third, much smaller chainring gives me a really, really low gear, a “Granny gear”, so I can climb long, steep hills even when hauling a heavy load. I’m a climber. I may not be fast, but I’m a climber.”

Lou: “I’m the climber, and I don’t need 3 chain rings.”

Thatch: “Well, that’s true. You guys have compact cranks. Your top gear is higher than mine, so you can go faster, but your low gear is almost as low as mine. Not quite, but almost. This means you can also climb pretty well, but I can climb even when the panniers are loaded.”

Lou: “What’s a pannier?”

Chas: “Now I get it. You are like a pickup truck. More powerful. We’re like a sedan. No. A 2-seater sports car. Thanks.”

Chas Takes a Bath | 5 Day Story Challenge

IMG_3860The most important thing you can do for your bike is to keep it clean, particularly the drive train – chain, cassette and derailleurs. Your bike will thank you for it. It will look better, perform better, and last longer. And, you will too 🙂

Chas: “You’ve got that right. I hate looking dishevelled.”

There is no one way to clean a bike. It’s controversial. What isn’t these days. I have changed my methods over the years, but my bikes look forward to a weekly wash, sometimes more frequently, depending on use and road conditions.

I love washing my bikes, and detest working on a dirty one. I won’t do it. So don’t expect me to work on your bike if you roll up to the back gate and your bike is encrusted in dirt and grime.

A thorough bike wash doesn’t have to take long. Chas doesn’t have to soak, sip on a scotch, and read a good novel like I might. I have it down to 10-15 minutes at most. In fact, the more often I do it, the quicker it gets. So, don’t tell me you don’t have the time. You do. And, you don’t need a lot. A hose and water, a pail, mild soap, a wash cloth or glove, a scrub brush, degreaser, and a chain cleaner.

IMG_3859This is how I do it.

First, I put my gum boots on. If possible, I pick a warm sunny day but have been known to wash my bikes in the pouring rain. I bring the work stand out of the shop and place it next to the vegetable garden. This way I can serve two purposes. Chas gets clean and the garden gets watered. And then, I lightly hose Chas down to loosen any dirt. I used to worry about getting Chas wet, particularly his bottom bracket, hubs, and headset. I don’t now. They are pretty well sealed and, besides, they get cleaned and repacked every year anyway. Right?

Then I fill a pail with water and mild soap. Chas prefers warm water, so I occasionally fill the pail inside where I have hot water just to stop the squawking. Yesterday, he had a chilly bath.

Chas: “And you picked a cold day. It may have been sunny but it was too cold for a cold bath. When are you going to learn? My tires rattled for hours.”

Using a wash glove once used for the cars, I srub down the entire bike – frame, forks, tires, rims, derailleurs, brakes, cassette, chain, cranks and pedals. I’ve got this step down pat. It only takes a few minutes.

Next, using a gear cleaner from Filzer, I scrub the cassette and chain while back pedalling to make certain all links and cogs are cleaned. If it is really dirty, I will pour degreaser on the brush at the same time.

Chas: “Stop it. That tickles.”


Filzer Gear Cleaner

The chain is next. Using a chain cleaner tool filled with biodegradable cleaner, I pass the chain over the brushes 10-15 times by turning the cranks. This is the most important tool in the shop, and the one used most frequently. Whenever I’m preparing for a long ride, I always clean the chain beforehand. I want the shifting to be smooth and precise.

Chas: “I’m always amazed at how much dirt this removes, how dirty the cleaner is afterward. And, it feels so good.”


Flilzer Chain Cleaner


Biodegradable Heavy Duty, Water Soluble Chain Cleaner from MEC


See what a clean chain looks like. No dirt. No grease. No oil. While I’m at it, I may also check the chain wear. I watch this carefully and replace the chain and cassette whenever necessary. Chas’s chain has some life left. Riding 3 bikes cuts down on the wear and tear so I usually get a 9-12 months on a chain.

Chas: “That feels better.”


Filzer Chain Wear Gauge

Lastly, I wipe Chas down with a clean cloth removing any excess water, and then hang him to dry. If I’m in a hurry to ride Chas, I will lubricate his chain but I prefer to let the chain dry completely beforehand. It only takes a few minutes to lubricate his chain and I prefer to do that immediately before the next ride when I also check the brakes, stem bolts and shifting but that’s a subject for another post.


Chas patiently awaiting his next ride.

Chas: “How come Lou waits in the house and you keep me out here in the shop? It gets cold out here sometimes you know. And while I’m at it, why do you insure him and not me? I know he costs a lot but have you ever considered that you could never replace me at any cost. That’s gotta be worth something.”


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. 


With the first post, I nominate Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read how music has shaped her life. And, I want to hear more of her music.


With the second post, I nominate Bri (Bike Like Crazy) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read more about cycling in cold, and snow. Bri is an inspiration to all cyclists.


With this third post, I nominate Gail (a bike for all seasons) for the 5 day story challenge because I would like to learn how she has been changed by her cycling project – an experiment to cycle more and use her car less for a full year.  

The perfect bike …


Roberts Cycles c. 1980

I remember the first time I saw him.

He was hanging proudly on the wall behind the counter at the local shop. He was exquisite. A rich British racing green, sporting stylish black and white decals, and gold engravings. That was 35 years ago.

He hung there for months, and every time I visited the shop, I marvelled. He was the shop’s centrepiece. At least for me. He needed a few things. Accessories, if you will. Wheels. Handlebars. Brakes. Cranks. Saddle. Derailleurs. At nights I would dream about building the perfect bike. Buying the best components. Assembling them myself. I had never built a bike before but was confident I could. Why not? I had most of the necessary tools. And, a work stand.

For a months, I researched, carefully considering the type of cycling I enjoyed, all the while imagining the perfect bike. One day, after much deliberation, I walked into the shop, money in hand. $350 CAD. That was a lot in those days. He didn’t have a name back then but we were close from the start. In the ensuing months, I outfitted him. You see, in those days, I couldn’t afford to buy everything at once. I had an infant son at home, and there were other priorities. We lived in a 2-bedroom suite, the top 2 floors of a house on the east side. One bedroom for my partner and I, and the other for him. Yes, in those days, he had his own room overlooking the yard. I had converted the second bedroom into a workshop for the winter as I meticulously assembled, and tuned, him.

He had nothing but the best. Cinelli. Campagnolo. Brooks. Weinmann. As he came to life, I photographed him. B&W of course. Artful photographs featuring his magnificence, sophistication, and subtleties. I still have those photographs. Some are mounted and grace the walls in the den, and the cottage.


Cinelli bars and stem

We, he and I, have experienced several incarnations. We were cycling tourists at the start, touring the country roads in rural Ontario, Quebec, Maine, and parts of England. Then we began to commute regularly until he was almost stolen one sunny afternoon whilst locked to a tree outside of the office window. He has the scars to prove it. A large dent in his seat tube, a sad reminder of how careful you must be. And, then we began training together, challenging ourselves on the local hills and mountain roads. The same roads we enjoy today.

He has been rebuilt with each reincarnation, always with the best. Tubular tyres on ultra light rims. A small chainring for long mountain climbs. And, most recently, he sports indexed shifting, integrated brake levers, compact cranks, and a 700c training wheel set – the perfect setup to tackle the hills, and dry weather commutes.

And, he is nowhere near done. He has a lot of life left – that’s the advantage of steel – and, more reincarnations to come. If not with me, and I have another in mind, then with my son.


At rest – Summer 2015

There is no one perfect fit …


Lou at rest mid-climb overlooking the bay

I have come to realize there is no one perfect bike fit.

This past weekend, I cycled 120+ km with Lou.

Chas: “What’s with that? We rode all week. Did the most difficult climbs over and over again. Then you do the easy ride with him.”

On Saturday we did a 40+ km solo ride with a lot of hard climbing and fast decants. All the while I kept thinking of how comfortable my son’s Cervelo felt the previous weekend; and, how far I was reaching on Lou.

On Sunday, we did an 80+ km group ride hammering around the river delta. Apart from the climb home, the ride was flat and fast. I was on the drops most of the time, and all the while I kept thinking how comfortably the bike fit.

Lou: “You felt just fine. Not uncomfortably stretched. You see. We are a pair.”

Two different rides, two different feelings. You see, when I’m on the drops hammering or battling a wind, I benefit from the more aggressive setup, and it feels comfortable. On the other hand, when I’m climbing long hills, I prefer a more relaxed fit because I’m on the tops most of the time.

I understand why the tour riders have different bikes for different stages; even different bikes for parts of the same stage; different gearing, and, different positioning.

Maybe that’s the answer. I need more bikes 🙂

One for each of the different rides I enjoy. One for long, difficult climbs with lower gearing and a stiff, light frame; one for the flats with higher gearing and more aerodynamic fit; and, one for rolling terrain with …

Exactly. What do I need for rollers? Something in between 🙂


Lou at rest in a cabbage patch in the river delta

Chas: “I don’t like the sound of this. You think I’m old, heavy, and slow. Well, you are older and heavier than me you know.”

In my world, there is a lot of climbing. A lot of hills, mountains, and rollers. Occasionally, I do a long, flat ride around the river delta, the only place to find flat in these parts.

Is there an in-between setup? A compromise? Perhaps? I’ll try a shorter stem, but after this past weekend, I’ll keep the longer ones on-hand.

Maybe, just maybe, I have the perfect compromise already. Chas is perfect for the long, flat and rolling rides. His longer wheel base, larger section tires, and steel frame quiet the ride, and once rolling, inertia takes over. He rolls effortlessly. And, Lou, with a shorter stem, lighter, stiffer frame, and lower gearing is ideal for long, difficult climbs.

Maybe I don’t need another bike after all 🙂

Chas: “Now you’re talking!”


Chas at rest at the “big lake” this past summer

But it would be nice 🙂

Chas: “Be careful what you wish for.”