Victoria Populaire 100K

31 03 2011

Sean ready to ride...

The day of the BC Randonneurs Victoria Populaire started overcast, blustery and cold. The forecast was for light rain which in Victoria is usually a lie, but the skies looked like they might open up for real. I got up early and rode over to Sean’s place down in Oak Bay. We did some last minute futzing and made our way up to the University of Victoria starting point for the ride. We were early – very early and that meant we were cold – very cold! Next year we’ll roll up about 0945am for the 10am start. The upside of getting there early was meeting some nice folks I chatted with online, but never met in person. That was fun. We also got to check out a whole lot of cool rando rigs. I’ll post a bunch of photos in a separate post.

So far besides being cold and so windy the sign in booth nearly went flying a few times it seemed like the rain might hold off. I was stoked…=-)

Paul showed up for the 50K and it was good to see him again since we hadn’t managed a ride together since last spring.

Photo: Mikael - BC Rando Site...

The start was a bit chaotic so I hung back and just rode steady not making any fast moves. It didn’t take long for the group to get split up by lights and I lost Sean to a group further up the road. After a few tense moments with folks doing silly things I decided it would be safer to be riding on my own so I got ahead of our group just in time to fly through an intersection as the light changed. I was happy to see Paul was with me as well as someone on a Surly LHT. I was happy to be riding by GPS as the first 15km of this 100K had more turns than a 300K ride in Alberta! Things were going pretty well until we hit the ocean. At that point a howling crosswind caused a lot of mayhem.

I lost Paul behind me and could see everyone was struggling to stay together. I was feeling a bit bad that I had lost Sean since I convinced him to come out so we could ride together. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to keep going slowly and finish the 100K in a decent time so I hit the gas and pushed on alone. Ultimately I ended up riding just behind Sean the rest of the way to the 50K turn around point and I didn’t see Paul again. Apologies to both of them – the best laid plans don’t work out sometimes!….=-(

Although my GPS was working okay a few wacky directions made me lose 100% confidence in it so I started using both the route sheet and the GPS. When they agreed I was solid and when they didn’t I knew I needed to take a second to make sure I made the right move. After one wrong turn a nice rider stuck with me for a while to make sure I stayed on track…=-)

When I did catch up with Sean he seemed in good spirits, but ready to make the run back to UVic. It’s too bad we didn’t get to ride together, but I can tell his stoke for doing some more road riding this summer is in full effect…sweet…=-) BTW – Sean was the fastest 50K rider at 2:20hrs….nice job.

Cruising up the east coast to Sidney is becoming a familiar experience as it’s a great cycling route. I was following a couple of guys when we hit a dirt MUP and with my 40m tires I just kept rolling while they slowed a bit to accomodate their narrow rubber. I was feeling pretty good as I rolled past the 50K mark nearing Sidney. I decided to stop in town for a cup of hot tea and a muffin as well as use the washroom at a cafe.

You may call me the Plumpkin Randonneur...=-)

My clothing choice for the day was working well:

  • wool 3/4 tights
  • wool leg warmers under tights
  • wool socks
  • wool thermal zip neck
  • medium weight wool jersey
  • fleece gloves
  • ear warmer
  • neck warmer
  • rain jacket [in bar bag]
  • rain gloves, rain chaps and boot covers [in bar bag]

The only issues I had were that the gloves I brought had a lot of holes in them!! and my sunglasses wouldn’t stay in place with the ear warmers on. I’ll use different ones next ride.

After my tea stop I worked my way to the last control before the run home down the west side of the peninsula. I ran into a few familiar faces from earlier in the ride and we all left together, but I didn’t have the legs to stay with them for long. Given my lack of training I really need to start out slower and not do foolish things like pulling a pace line along the ocean in a headwind! I was smart enough not to kill myself to stay with them and since the scenery of these quite backroads was so nice I was happy just to roll along on my own. To my surprise I found a couple of those faster riders waiting for me 15kms down the road. That was nice of them for sure.

Sadly the last 15kms or so into town I was a lot slower than them so they had to really soft pedal and wait for me the whole way. I had to work harder than I would have on my own to do my best not to hold them up anymore than absolutely necessary. I’m not sure anyone had fun that last bit, but it was very kind of them to shepherd me in.

Sean on the road...

In the end it was a great day of riding without any rain. In fact in got sunny at points during the ride and made me happy to be on the Best Coast [BC]…=-) I was really happy to see so many rando types in one spot and ride with them. The turn out was 50-60 riders which is about 6-10 times what it would be in Alberta for a brevet [no populaires in AB!]. My fitness sucks, but at least it can’t go anywhere, but up.

My speed was 22.5kph on the bike and I spent about 38mins not moving for a total ride time of 5:05hrs. My distance ridden to and from the event was ~40kms for a total of ~140kms on the day. I was carrying my full brevet load [incl spare tire + 2 tubes and full rain gear] rather than striping down the bike for the shorter ride. I can ride up to a 600K [I think] with the same load by just replenishing food/water.

Victoria Populaire results are here and photos are here.

Paul coming into the 1st control...Photo: Jim - from BC Rando Site...

Lessons learned:

  • Going to Mexico kiteboarding for 6 weeks and then going away for work for another 2 weeks just prior to the rando season is not ideal for cycling fitness.
  • I’m going fast enough and I am comfortable enough to complete the 200K next weekend.
  • I’ve got a few minor tweaks to do to my cockpit in terms of bar/stem/saddle.
  • My white Oakleys don’t work great with ear warmers – wear a different pair next time.
  • The last bit of the 200K next weekend will not be fun.
  • 80% of the time when the forecast is for rain in Victoria it’s a lie.
  • The roads and scenery around Victoria are awesome for cycling…almost makes me glad I am going slower so I can appreciate them…almost…=-)
  • I need to start out a bit slower and build my energy output towards the end vs. the other way around.
  • I need to eat more at breakfast, but my on the bike eating is fine.
  • I will open energy bars and split them up so I can eat more easily on the move.
  • I want to pack a sandwich I can eat along the route. The weather is cool enough to keep it fresh and I prefer real food when possible.
  • I mixed my second  bottle of sports drink way too strong. However, I may do that again for the 200K so that once I am done the first bottle I can buy some water and mix two fresh bottles from the strong second one.
  • I will use the cue sheet as well as GPS for the next ride as I don’t completely trust my GPS.
  • Too late to do much training, but I’ll go out for some night ride action on Wednesday and then just do my normal about town errand cycling.
  • I really like riding a rando event with more than 4 other riders on the course!

Map, control card and cue sheet...

Up Next Spring Islander 200K

  • the route looks sweet with long dirt/gravel sections to and from Sooke [ideal for 40mm tires!]
  • I love the quite rusticness of the Galloping Goose Trail when it heads west out of the city.
  • So far the weather looks good on Saturday…nice…=-)
  • I only have to ride 7kms each way to start…=-)
  • I’ve swapped in the new cantis and levers – what a PITA!
  • So I need a test ride [Wed PM] to confirm all is good before Saturday.
  • GPS has been programmed.
  • Spring Islander 200K Info

Dave Horton: Fear of Cycling

30 03 2011

At least she's wearing a helmet!

I came across this interesting discussion of how fear plays a key role in keeping people off bikes via the Los Alamos Bikes Blog. Both links are worth a read if this subject interests you.

Read the full article here:

“Cycling has formed part of UK society for over a century. For much of that time, the bicycle was the most numerous vehicle on the roads, a major means of everyday mobility (Alderson 1972; McGurn 1999). But the amount of cycling in the UK has fallen dramatically and more or less continuously over the last half century; it accounted for 37 per cent of all journeys in 1949, but accounts for only around one per cent today (Department for Transport 2002). The number of cycles bought has never been higher, yet the number of cycling trips made on UK roads has never been lower.

Across government, cycling is now seen as ‘a good thing’. But despite growing pro-cycling rhetoric and policy in the UK, many people appear remarkably reluctant to ‘get on their bikes’. Why? Discussion about impediments to cycling tends to concentrate on lack of good cycling infrastructure, such as cycling routes and cycle parking. Seemingly insurmountable barriers, such as hilly topography, high levels of rainfall and cold winters, are also considered influential. But what about emotional barriers to cycling?

Numerous studies have shown fear to be a significant barrier to cycling (British Medical Association 1992; Davies et al 1997; Gardner 1998; Gardner and Ryley 1997; Pearce et al 1998; Ryley 2004). One study based on quantitative and qualitative research, Barriers to Cycling (CTC et al1997, 7), concludes ‘the most prominent practical barriers perceived to be deterring potential cyclists were danger and safety’. The UK Department for Transport (2007, 2) reports that 47 per cent of adults ‘strongly agree that “the idea of cycling on busy roads frightens me”‘. Nor is fear of cycling confined to the UK. Gary Gardner (2002, 76) reports how, in ‘surveys in three U.S. cities in the early 1990s, more than half of respondents cited lack of safety as an influential factor in their decisions not to cycle’. This fear of cycling impinges on cycling promotion; for example, one person who tried to encourage colleagues to cycle to work during National Bike Week notes that: ‘Several people have criticised my efforts as irresponsible as cycling is “Dangerous” and by encouraging it we are putting employees at risk’ (email to cycle-planning discussion group, June 2004).”


Sean’s Bike with Crud Roadracer MK2 fenders…

28 03 2011

Sean on the move...

I installed a set of Crud Roadracer Mk2 full coverage plastic fenders on Sean’s road bike Saturday. They went on in about 15mins without any hassles and fit well. They look like they’ll provide excellent protection for a quick attach fender although it didn’t rain on the Victoria Populaire yesterday so I can’t confirm that yet. They run quietly and don’t move around a ton. In terms of first impressions they seem like a nice option for bikes with minimal clearance that would preclude a more traditional plastic/metal fender. They look pretty nice as well.

Sean's ride...


Surly Saturday…

27 03 2011

I loves me a Surly day of riding...=-)

No Promise of Safety…

27 03 2011

Photo: No Promise of Safety

Someone [sorry I’ve misplaced the person’s name!…=-(] posted this website’s URL in the comments section of my blog. I’ve only scratched the surface reading about their exploits, but so far I love it.

Here is what they say about No Promise of Safety:

“Most of us enjoy the benefit of living in a safe society. We live within defined and defended borders. We sleep soundly under the ever reaching umbrella of government protection. Our food and water are monitored, our consumer products tested. Cups of coffee are sold with warning labels, “this is hot.” Seat belts are required on most roads in most developed countries.  The benefits of this recent rise of safety cannot be denied. Infant mortality is down, life expectancy is up, and more and more people are gaining the material markers of a so called “modern world.”

But what of the detriment they have caused? Adventure has become a packaged commodity. One can take an afternoon course in skydiving, or a pre-planned six day trip to Jerusalem. Even Everest has become a tourist trap. Rich men and women shelling out six figures for a guided treck up the mountain. The danger has been minimized for the convenience of the consumer; the difficult planning already done.  These adventures are not adventures at all. They are vacuum packed, sanitized bastardizations of an original independent spirit.

The things described on this site are not “safe” in the way that modern society has come to understand safety. We are not experts in our field. We don’t always use tested and accepted equipment. We don’t always go where it is deemed safe for us to go.  The risks are plain and clear to all involved, but we face them and weigh the options. Climb that crane and take a slight risk of death or incarceration? Or stay home and watch another uninspiring television show? Rather than pursue solely the recreational products and services offered to us we choose to follow our own aims.

Want to summit that skyscraper? No need to jump through hoops trying to arrange a guided tour. Just use your own head and get up there yourself. When you abandon the child-parent relationship between yourself and society and start to act and think for yourself a whole new world will open up. The consequences truly pale in comparison because, lets face it, what we do is not that dangerous and a night in the cells is really not that bad.

Don’t approve? Hey at least we don’t kill innocent people.

Photo: No Promise of Safety

No Promise of Safety is Vikapproved…=-)

Weekend Projects…

26 03 2011

Time to get to work...

I’m happy to be home again and I’ve got a few projects to take care of this weekend.

  • my Boulder Bicycle All Road needs the v-brakes/levers pulled and cantis installed. The v-brake on the front interferes with the Nitto M12 rack. It’s been at least a decade since I last setup up some cantis so I’ll be referring to Sheldon Brown and Park Tools online expertise!
  • Most of the folks I had hoped would ride with me on the Victoria Populaire have dropped off for various reasons. But, my friend Sean decided to give it a go. He was worried about his road bike’s lack of fenders and asked me to help him install some Crud Roadracer MK2 fenders on his rig. I’m stoked about that because I wanted to check a set of these out, but didn’t have a bike that they made sense on.
  • the Victoria Populaire takes place on Sunday so I need to upload the route into my GPS. Now that I know what a limited route mapping ability it has [50 waypoints for turn by turn navigation] hopefully I can massage the route so that  it works without any road side edits or cursing on my part! If this doesn’t go well you’ll be seeing a new GPS review on this blog next week….hahaha!
  • I’ll be riding the 100K route and Sean will tackle the 50K route. Kurt may come out and ride the 50K or 100K route.

I heart helmets…=-)

26 03 2011

Mtn biking I fall off my bike regularly...

I own several helmets and I do wear them.


Fast road riding...

I think they are great pieces of gear that can be very useful. I don’t wear a helmet 24/7. I put a helmet on when I feel the activity warrants it.

I'm a fall waiting to happen on a mtn board!

I use a few guidelines to determine if I should wear a helmet:

  1. am I likely to fall/crash?
  2. if so how fast am I going and what can I hit?
  3. is the activity more dangerous than taking a shower or driving my truck?
  4. special conditions [ie. sickness, icy roads, fog, etc…]

I was going to keep going with a logical analysis of how I used helmets to back up my whole rationale safety post. The problem is when I looked into my helmet use more closely I discovered to my dismay I am not very logical about when and why I wear a helmet…=-(

Kiteboarding helmet & impact vest for 30' high crashes!

I don’t wear a helmet at home in the shower even though it’s pretty damn dangerous:

“Nobody ever expects a home accident to happen, but a slip down the stairs or a kitchen grease fire can happen in the blink of an eye — even with careful homeowners. In England alone in 2007, nearly 2.7 million people were injured in a home accident. In the United States, injury is the leading cause of death among children and young adults and nearly half of these accidents occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council. That same group states that in 2002, there were more than 33,000 deaths and 8,000,000 disabling injuries that occurred in the home. That makes one death every 16 minutes and one disabling home injury every four seconds. When it comes to injury and death in home accidents, the leading culprits are falls, toxins and suffocation by ingested object or smoke inhalation.”

I don’t wear a helmet in my truck even though driving is pretty damn dangerous:

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those age 5-34 in the U.S.1 More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.2 The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005.”

Watch out for the trees!

Now I could just put on a helmet the moment I woke up in the AM and then keep it on until I was back in bed that night. However, I’m a wild  man. I jump into the shower each AM and lather up without a care in the world. Sure the bathroom is competing with the kitchen for most deadly room in the house, but I am so bold that I not only don’t wear a helmet in the shower I add liquid soap to the mix just to make my footing less secure. No seriously I do! If that wasn’t enough I then pad over to the kitchen [again with no helmet on] and get something to eat. Like bacon, eggs and toast with no body armour or eye protection – let alone a skid lid.

I suppose because of this crazy reckless attitude I’ve become immune to fear and after breakfast I’ll climb into my truck and get this…not wearing even a baseball cap…I’ll drive through rush hour traffic to get to a meeting.

So when it comes to sports I weigh the risks up against the crazy death defying deeds I do every AM. If the activity is more dangerous I put on a helmet and possibly some other protective gear. If not I don’t.

Now before you leave me a comment I know what someone will say…“…are you nuts you can easily slip in the shower and crack your skull open!…I wear a helmet in the shower and in the kitchen…It doesn’t bother me and if I do fall I’ll sure be glad I had it on…” This is all very true. The bathroom is indeed the most dangerous room in the house for falls and car accidents are the #1 cause of brain injuries. So I cannot deny that it’s possible I could fall and hurt myself or dent my brain in a car wreck.

And yes you are also right that it’s a bit silly for me to wear a helmet road biking when I’ve never even fallen off a road bike once in my life – yet I’ve slipped in the bathroom several times and I’ve had 4 or 5 car crashes. So why no helmet where it really matters? I’m a kook. I’ll admit it. I don’t want to look like a geek driving around town in my truck. Sure after the shower it’s the most dangerous thing I’ll do that day, but at some point you just gotta stop worrying and crank up the tunes…you know?

One of the most dangerous things I do all day and no helmet - WTF?

I’m a bit torn – my cavalier attitude aside. I mean I know a guy whose cousin’s wife’s uncle slipped in the shower at a hockey rink after a game and would have died if he didn’t still have his hockey helmet on. I guess it was cracked right in two where his head hit the water temperature knob. OTOH I’ve slipped in the bathroom, but never actually hit my head on anything. I had a full on tumble on the stairs between my kitchen and bathroom last year. I went from walking to BAM! on the ground laid out…not sure what happened and I didn’t hit my head, but I could have and it was over so fast I didn’t have time to protect my melon at all.

I guess I have to decide if I want to take risks at home and in the truck for the sake of style and convenience or be safer and wear a helmet as soon as I get out of bed. Tough choice frankly!

Ultra Mums!

25 03 2011

Baby expedition...

When I die if I am reincarnated I want a mum like Megan. This is how to raise a kid. And if you are saying to yourself I’m not an expedition mum…no worries Sarah is a kick ass stylie urban mum.

Heinz Stucke’s Bike Friday Pocket Llama…

25 03 2011

Heinz Stucke's PL...

I saw this Pocket Llama at Bike Friday HQ recently that Heinz Stucke rode for many miles on his far flung tours.

The man and the machine...

8spd Shimano Nexus IGH like my NWT...

I love all the place names he's written on the frame...

Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires...

Well earned dirt and rust...

If this bike could talk...

Heinz at Bike Friday HQ in Eugene OR...

I need to get my NWT dirty again...=-)

Frame tube detail...

Heinz made it to Hawaii - smart man....=-)

Faded pannier...


The Safety Myth…

24 03 2011

Who is the most safer-est cyclist?

Let me start with these three statements:

  1. Safety doesn’t exist. It’s an abstract concept that’s incorrectly utilized by cyclists to justify fear based reactions to the world around them.
  2. Fear is a reactionary emotional state that results in impulsive decisions that are not arrived at using rationale thought processes.
  3. The number one threat to cycling in North America is fear – nothing else comes close to doing the same damage.

Safety, as the term is used colloquially, is trying to express the lack of a significant negative outcome. So you rode your bicycle home from a friend’s place and you might text them when you get home..”Made it back safely.” As social shorthand for “I didn’t have an incident on the way home” I have no problem with word “safety”.

Where “safety” has started to hurt cyclists is when people disconnect the term from its meaning “lack of significant negative outcome” and start to re-conceptualize it as a positive thing that is additive. I call this Most-Saferism. To a Most-Safer-est cyclist “safety” is like a change jar that you fill towards a goal. If you keep adding enough “safety coins” you can eventually “buy a safety pizza” with it…=-) When in fact safety is not an additive quantity. You can’t accrue more and more safety.

As a simple example let’s look at safety gear/techniques for what it is – risk mitigation or the reduction of risk of a significant negative outcome. Imagine a shot glass on a bar and the bartender is a friend who starts pouring you a free shot of tequila. The liquid represents risk reduction in a specific situation, say riding home from a friend’s place at night on a quiet suburban road. Once the shot glass is full you can keep pouring tequila into the glass, but it just flows over the top and spills onto the bar. It’s wasted because once a risk or set of risks is mitigated doing additional things to reduce the risk is a waste of time and resources. I don’t know about you, but I hate to waste tequila!..=-)

What fuels this process is fear and anxiety. It’s shocking to me that one of the safest things I do everyday, cycling, is enmeshed in such an unhealthy culture of fear. People who don’t ride think cycling is dangerous, too physically taxing and painful. I can almost accept their misguided concerns since they don’t bike. What blows my mind is that there are lots of regular cyclists – heck I’ll go as far as saying most regular cyclists who are living in a world of fear verging on paranoia about riding bicycles. They’re worried about getting hurt, worried about getting flat tires, other mechanical failures, they’re worried about other cyclists getting hurt, they’re worried about getting their bikes stolen or damaged when locking them up, drivers not treating them with the respect they deserve, worried about other cyclists not riding the same bikes or viewing them with disdain because they belong to a different bike tribe [roadies vs. commuters, recumbents vs. upright bikes, fixed gear vs. everyone!], etc… Just read any online cycling forum for as much fearful content as you can handle.

The trouble with fear is that it’s an unlimited resource. You can have as much as you want and when you need even more you can have it! So in that tequila shot glass example it takes the fatal flaw with Most-Saferism and solves the problem by giving you an endless supply of fear to spill on the bar. I mean if one light is safe and two lights is safer than 5 lights aimed all over has to be the  Most-Safer-est right? No wait 6 lights has to be even Most-Safer-est-er…damn no it’s 7, etc…You can’t argue with a Most-Safer-est cyclist for the same reason you can’t argue with someone who is paranoid – their worldview is not based in reality and they are using fear to justify whatever emotional response they are feeling at that moment. They’ll use some irrational logic like “…it can’t hurt…” or quote a statistically invalid anecdote to support their un-logic.

Since these reactions happen so frequently it’s worth taking a moment to expose their flaws…


It can’t hurt!

I cry inside a little every time someone says this to me…it’s so sad…=-(  It actually is hurting them a lot and in that very moment. Here’s why.

Your brain is a computer. It’s got a bunch of programs running, but the most important and challenging one is called Your Reality. Note I wrote “your” reality…not reality or “our” reality. You do not live in the world. The world lives in you…or at least a model of the world does. Consider for a moment what you think of as “The World” and how you gained the information about it you used to populate the model in your head. “The World” is a big complex place and you’ve only interacted with a small part of it. So how can you have this feeling like it’s a real thing when it’s built from such a limited data set? Your brain uses a sub-routine called MSU to fill in the blanks. MSU stands for “making shit up” or for the math geeks interpolation. If you’ve biked on one side of an apple orchard and seen rows of apple trees and you’ve biked on the other side and seen more rows of similar apple trees your brain fills in the gap between the roads with apple trees. Even though that farmer may have only planted apple trees along the roads and there are in fact pear trees all over the middle bit of his property. The more data you have about something, say your neighbourhood, the more finely resolved your model for reality in that area of “The World” is.

I was born in India, left when I was 3 and I went back when I was 10 and when I was 36. Given the size and complexity of India that amounts to nearly no data. Yet India exists in my brain and I feel like I have a sense of what goes on there. My model is poorly resolved, but since I don’t actually need a real working knowledge of India to be successful at my day to day life it causes me no problems.

By now you are wondering where the heck this is going. I don’t blame you!  Hold on we are almost there.

So your world is a model and you don’t have a lot of data about a lot of things. Since we are talking about cycling and safety…or more precisely about cycling without getting hurt – consider that there are very few cyclists riding around who have been hit by cars 10 times and lived to tell the tale. Most of us don’t have much data to incorporate into our cycling models about the negative outcomes that are possible because 99.99999% of us don’t get run over by a bus and the 0.00001% that do don’t chat much about their experiences since they are dead. So you are left with building your cycling model largely based on feelings and a few unreliable anecdotes. You can feel fearful and fill in all the blanks between stuff you actually know about cycling with negativity or you can be optimistic about cycling and view it as a very low risk activity with many benefits which fills the blanks with happy thoughts.

So fear and irrational anxiety doesn’t just hurt you down the road it hurts you the moment you accept it into your life. It’s the ultimate karmic kick in the butt.

What’s worse is the risk mitigation actions fearful cyclists take often are ineffective against the most likely risks they face so not only does the fear poison your reality all the time, but you still may end up under that bus. So sad…=-(

Photo: Anthony DeLorenzo

“One time at bike camp…”

The fact that someone you know got hurt on a bike is sad, but it doesn’t mean that cycling isn’t safe or that you need to be afraid of your bike. Cyclists love to talk about other cyclists getting hurt or killed. It’s like a morbid obsession that’s based in fear and feeds the vicious cycle of paranoia. People get hurt in the shower, in the basement, walking, driving, playing golf, etc… who cares? I do my very best to avoid reading online “cyclist got killed posts” because I just don’t give a shit. That’s not to say I don’t sympathize with the person who died or for their family, but the fact a cyclist died is of no more relevance to me than someone dying from a slip in the tub. It happens – that’s life – move along! Just so you don’t think I am a cold heartless bastard let’s be honest here – reading about an accident online or talking about it over coffee with your riding buddies is of no benefit to the person hurt/killed or their families any more than gawking at the scene of a car crash is useful to anyone involved. This behaviour isn’t about sympathy for the people involved it’s about feeding our own need for entertainment. Of course if your best friend was hit by a car around the block from where you live that’s a different situation and you have every right to talk about what happened and how you feel as you move through the grieving process.

As I noted above very few people live to be hit by cars again and again combine that with the fact that cycling is very safe so most cyclists have no real safety data to work with. When you made it home without incident last night was that because of your lime green safety vest or because you had the chicken vindaloo at dinner? You have no data to support either conclusion, but if you want to believe the vest is essential to your continued safety you’ll use that safe trip home as justification for wearing the vest. In fact it may have made no difference at all to your arriving safely home. You just don’t know so you have to MSU and why not err on the side of Most-Saferism? It can’t hurt!!


That looks dangerous!

You may be thinking that I’ve been super lucky and never had a close call before which is why I can look at things this way. Let me relate three quick anecdotes:

  1. my cousin’s wife decided to try sky diving. She jumped out of a plane one time and her chutes didn’t work so she hit the ground and died.
  2. I was nearly run over two summers ago when I was riding my MTB around town on an urban assault mission. The accident was my fault and I luckily bounced off the side of a truck when I fell into the road. Had the tuck been 10′ back I would have been dead.
  3. when I was a young officer in the army 14 of my friends and another 3 or 4 folks I didn’t know were killed in an explosive training accident. I completed the same training the following year.

It wouldn’t be hard to react emotionally to these types of incidents and decided the world was very dangerous and I better do whatever I could to stay as Most-Safer-est as I can. The trouble is I’d poison my everyday experiences with this irrational fear and I have no confidence that being negative or afraid would make me any less likely to have an accident.

Even in a very safe world sometimes bad stuff happens. There is nothing more to take from that…err….except maybe don’t ride your bike like a jackass in traffic!

Jedi Logic…

Fight fear with logic…

Assuming you don’t want to be Most-Safer-est how do you remain alive and unhurt without being afraid?

  • use your brain
  • look at the cycling you do and determine what are the most likely risks you face
  • be specific…consider being hit by a car isn’t as useful as considering being hit from behind when stopped at a traffic light
  • consider what you can do to mitigate the specific risk and the potential consequences
  • prioritize the options
  • select the ones that reduce the risk to an acceptable level
  • take action
  • stop thinking about it and ride your bike

This sounds like a lot of work, but in most situations there are only a few elements that result in the majority of the risk so by tackling a small number of things you are mitigating most of the risk. Additionally there are only a few situations you need to consider as a cyclist in any given area so once you’ve done this mental heavy lifting you only have to revise your plans to take into account changes on a specific occasion such as fog or the fact you are sick and don’t have the sharpest reflexes that day.

The real benefits of mitigating risk vs. increasing safety are that there is a finite amount you need to do to address a specific risk and since you are targeting a specific risk you can take action that most effectively addresses it. Trying to be Most-Safer-est is like trying to pack the right tools for an unspecified repair to your car vs. being told the fan belt is worn and may have to be replaced. In the first instance you have to either take every tool you own with you or guess what’s most likely to be used and then you’ll worry the whole time “…did I bring the right ones?…”…in the later instance you can bring along just the tools you need for the job and you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Let’s look at two common bike-car interactions and how a Most-Safer-est cyclist and how a logical cyclist addresses them.

  1. getting hit from behind while riding or while stopped at a light
  2. getting doored

First off the Most-Safer-est cyclist doesn’t even think about things this way. They are worried about cars in general and want to be safe on the road with them. So they’ll do the following:

  • wear bright colours including a safety vest
  • use extremely bright flashing lights
  • wear a helmet because if they do get hit it can’t hurt!
  • use a bike with disc brakes because they are the best for fast stopping
  • they won’t ride too far over into the traffic lane because that’s not safe with cars coming up from behind
  • ride slowly past parked cars so they have time to brake and peer into the rear windows for signs of life
  • at a red light they move right over to be out of the way in case they get rear ended

Since cycling is very safe the Most-Safer-est cyclist gets to where they are going without incident, breathes a sigh of relief at surviving the mean streets of their town and starts to think that maybe the new 10,000 lumen red LED from Dinotte might be a good idea for an even Most-Safer-ester commute.  It can’t hurt right?

The logical cyclist spends 60 minutes one evening over a cup of tea pondering these issues in terms of their commute to work and does the following:

  • decides taking a quieter route two streets over is the best way to avoid unpleasant interactions with cars
  • rides out of the door zone since you can’t get doored if you are not close to a parked car
  • isn’t worried about getting hit from the rear because they are on a quieter street with less traffic and because they put a rear view mirror on their bike so they can see if there is a car behind them and what they are doing
  • when in doubt they take the lane to be directly where a motorist is looking for another vehicle and they act like traffic
  • in the rare case of a car that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down when viewed in the rear view mirror evasive action is taken
  • since speeds are lower on a quieter street the cyclist can ride at nearly car speeds and blend in with traffic
  • doesn’t wear bright cycle specific clothing or use any lights because they only commute in the day
  • 3 times a year when it crazy foggy they take the bus to work

The logical cyclist arrives at the same office as the Most-Safer-est cyclist at about the same time after a similar commute – just a couple streets over from the main road the Most-Safer-est cyclist used. . The logical cyclist isn’t relieved when they arrive safely at work because they weren’t worried about their safety to begin with since they made smart choices about how to cycle and they know that statistically cycling is extremely low risk. The logical cyclist isn’t thinking about buying more safety gear or how they can be even more Most-Safer-ester!


Feeling plenty safe-esterer!

Taking things one last step – in my opinion the logical cyclist is likely to be at lower actual risk than the Most-Safer-est cyclist since they are making specific choices that address specific risks directly. Wearing a safety vest and using an ultra bright rear light assumes the driver who is about to hit you is actually looking at the road and will see you better because of your safety gear. In fact they might not be looking at you at all or they could be high and so fascinated by your brightness that they forget to brake and kill you despite your lovely $300 super safe helmet! OTOH riding on a quiet road with fewer cars while using a rear view mirror and staying out of the door zone makes no assumptions about what a driver will do and puts the cyclist firmly in control of the situation.

If you aren’t totally sick of my ramblings about fear this post I wrote a while back may provide some addition insight into cycling and fear.

Almost done!

23 03 2011

I love towing through a marsh!

I’m nearly done…=-)! By the end of the week I will have hauled that 30-40lbs of gear a minimum of 40kms through snow, forest, marsh, uphill, downhill, across slopes, while it was snowing & raining, while the wind was howling, etc…

I just hope to God that there is some crossover fitness benefit for my upcoming brevets…well other than the ability to suffer while physically exerting yourself for long periods of time!…=-)

Aushiker’s Hebie Stand on a Surly LHT…

22 03 2011

LHT with Hebie 2 legged stand...

Aushiker posted a nice review of a Hebie 2 legged kickstand mounted to his Surly Long Haul Trucker [LHT]. I’ve used an ESGE 2 legged kickstand in the past on my LHT and really enjoyed having it available anytime I wanted on tour. Currently my LHT is kickstand-less as it came off during my last big maintenance session and I haven’t put it back on yet. For around town rides I don’t find I need a kickstand on this bike because I have to lock it to something when I stop anyways so I lean it against the object I lock to. For a long tour I’d definitely reinstall the ESGE stand.

My LHT on its stand...

Victoria Spring Islander 200K

21 03 2011

Route for 2 April 2011 200K around Victoria BC...

The route for the 2 Apr 2011 Spring Islander 200K wasn’t posted on the BC Rando website, but Phillip [one of the ride organizers] pointed me to this GPS route on Bikely.I’m just bookmarking it on my blog so I can find it easily when I want to program my GPS prior to the ride.

Cycling to the Moon…

19 03 2011

Cycling to the Moon...

Katja left a comment on my Traffic Cone Fashion post and provided a link to this picture and the text below.

I am from Germany.

I come from a country where cycling is the norm.

There are no strange whisperings and looks when you whiz past on your bike. Or shouting abuse from your fellow road users.

I am struggling to understand UK cycling. It is weird, and I really don’t mean it in a wonderful way. Recently I went to a cycling conference, where someone described a mainland European saying: “You UK cyclists always look like you are cycling to the moon, and back again.”

That simple sentence summed it all up for me. That’s how I feel about UK cycling too. Cyclists look serious, almost on a mission. A secret sect. It doesn’t look fun and certainly doesn’t look normal – you need a uniform and safety equipment to participate in that special activity.

But I believe this is now changing. Change is coming. Slowly. There are rumblings. People on bikes are not prepared to take it anymore. We know we are an intricate part of the solution to one of the biggest problems we are facing in the UK: tackling the World of Indifference.

Be different. Be strong and be proud of being different. For that even I may sometimes dress if I were cycling to the moon. Return ticket always included!

– – – –

The Newcastle Cycling Campaign wants cycling to be normal and commonplace”

TNF Pants

18 03 2011

North Face Paramount Pants...

I’ve been wearing a pair of North Face pants similar to these ones all week long. I have other pants with me, but for working in the field they kick the most ass.

What I like about them:

  • very rugged…I’ve had several pairs for 5-6yrs+ and never done any significant damage to them or worn them out.
  • lots of pockets
  • quick dry…I wash them in the shower to get the mud out and they are dry for the next morning
  • lightweight
  • look decent…dressy enough to go out for a nice dinner on a trip
  • reasonable cost given the performance
  • available in longer inseams…I like 34″ long pants

Scouting out frisbee spots in Death Valley...

What I don’t like:

  • they’ve got that “I’m ready to climb everest at any second” vibe that’s not always what I’m after
  • when converted to shorts they look uber nerdy!
  • I’d prefer just regular pants without the shorts, but I rarely see them in the 34″ inseam I like, but the shorts don’t cause an issue even though I never deploy them
  • lots of outdoor geeks own them so be ready to show up at the gear swap dressed like 4 other folks!

Mount Yamnuska...

For style and urban adventures I prefer the Prana pants I posted about recently. When things are going to get gnarly and I care more about toughness and functionality I’ll wear these North Face pants.

I wish I was SUPing…

17 03 2011

...instead I'll be doing more of the post below...=-(

Working it!

16 03 2011

Super busy at work - not much time for blogging!...=-(

I’m sponsored by Catrike!

15 03 2011

I'm never standing up again...=-)

Hahaha…just kidding. I only wish I was a sponsored Catriker…=-) I helped my boss buy a Catrike Expedition just like this one. Sweet rig.

Do I look like a natural born triker?

The nice folks at Fairfield Bicycle let me ride this Catrike around their store a bit, but they said if I scratched the paint or burned too much rubber I’d have to buy it. So I kept it under 15kph…=-)

If you don’t know what a Catrike is watch these videos.

I’m a Patagoniac!

14 03 2011

20yrs+ old and going strong...=-)

I was tromping through the bush at work today and it occurred to me the Patagonia shell gear I was wearing was bought over 20yrs ago. It started life as ice/alpine climbing gear and then became snowboarding gear and now is in my arsenal of work clothing. Both pieces have seen many repairs and although they are faded and don’t perform as well as they did two decades ago they still work well enough that I’ll pull them on in challenging conditions. I remember when I bought them I was a student and I thought they were crazy expensive, but I spent a lot of time on mountains and hanging off frozen waterfalls so I figured I should own high quality gear. These pieces fit me really well and have lots of useful features – such that where ever you lay your hand what you are looking for is right where you naturally reach for it.

Same jacket - Mont Blanc near Chamonix, France 20yrs ago...

I’ve owned quite a few low cost shells that either were disappointing performers or wore out in a few years. Ultimately when you look at the cost per year both Patagonia items together cost something like a large pizza each year and they are going strong so I won’t be surprised if I’m wearing them in 10 more years.

Snowboarding at Lake Louise...

I hear people complain about the prices of Patagonia clothing and I can sympathize as there are a few items I’d love to own, but can’t quite throw down my VISA for them at full retail…however the prices might be high, but if you choose carefully the value you’ll get from their gear can make the price seem like a bargain – particularly when you look back 20yrs from now. Obviously the item in question has to fit great and needs to be something that is sensible given your lifestyle.  I would also suggest that if you want to wear the same gear for 20yrs+ pick a neutral colour that’s not going to go out of style.

20yr old Patagonia shell pants in action with a 12yr old Burton down jacket...

Given the lifespan of quality gear and the fact that when I retire in the not too distant future I’ll have to cut back on purchases so I better make good choices now since it’s likely I’m selecting my outdoor wardrobe for my 60’s right now…=-)

Petzel e+LITE…

13 03 2011

Petzel e-LITE glamour shot...

The night ride I posted about yesterday made me aware I was in need of a small LED light I could clip to my Bern helmet’s visor to use for viewing the cue sheet/map as well as for any on bike repairs/looking for stuff in my bar bag. Mike B on the Randon Group pointed me to this Petzel e-LITE mini light….which at the moment is the best option to meet my needs.

What I like:

  • small & light
  • red LED which won’t affect my night vision
  • bright enough white LEDs to use as a back up be seen light and shine at road signs
  • long enough battery life to be useful [probably will get used less than 5mins/hour of the ride
  • clips to visor
  • waterproof/able to operate at cold temps
  • I’ve had good luck with other Petzel products

I won't be using the headband for brevets, but it's good as a back up light in my truck or on tour...

What I don’t like:

  • expensive non-rechargeable funky batteries that will end up in a landfill
  • not enough light to be a backup light for the bike’s headlamp
  • not sure how secure the visor clip is
  • not sure how easy it is to operate with gloves on

If anyone owns one of these I’d love to know what you think of it. I won’t be buying anything for a couple weeks so I am open to other options.

E+LITE will be attached to this helmet's visor...

Almost made it home…

12 03 2011

I was just as soggy!

I’m out of town for a couple weeks working so I wanted to score some much needed training on my bike before I went away. Unfortunately the forecast was for rain all week. Aaron and I picked one night and decided to just see what happened. I figured a bit of night riding would be smart to confirm that our lighting was working adequately. We met at a coffeeshop in town with the plan to see how the weather was looking. I had downloaded a 100km route of the internet that looked good, but I am no glutton for punishment so I won’t set off on a long night training ride in the pouring rain.

When the appointed hour came things were looking dry and clear – nice! Not being foolish enough to count on that holding we decided to ride the south part of the route and if things got gnarly we’d be close to home so we could bail. My Garmin Etrex Vista Cx wouldn’t follow the route I had downloaded because it had too many waypoints! So I had to quickly hack off the last 23 turns to get the GPS to load the route. I had the whole route backed up so when we reached the end of the current shortened route I could hack off the top bit of the route and get the GPS to work the rest of the way. I’ve been trying to hang on to this unit and make it work for at least this year, but this kind of lameness isn’t helping its cause!

It was just getting dark as we rolled away from the java stop with a working GPS and headed down to the ocean. The road along the coast is a nice way to circumnavigate Victoria. It’s winding and scenic with neat houses along the way. There are so many cyclists in town that drivers are courteous and aren’t shocked to see a bike on the road. The coastal roads were quiet in any case and I had fun getting to know my Boulder Bicycle All Road a bit better. After 21kms or so we reached the official start of the route and the weather was still holding – sweet! After a short snack break we headed north along the coast. Victoria is located on the 30km long Saanich peninsula which is surrounded by water nearly 360 degrees. Which allowed a lot of the route to be near the coast in view of the water. In the dark it was peaceful riding and it seems like the views would be lovely during the day.

The route...with Victoria at the bottom and Sidney at the top...

We reached Sidney in good spirits and decided to stop for a snack. That snack consisted of turkey soup and toast washed down with a pint of beer! Going back out on the road was tough as it had cooled down and we were a bit damp from our efforts. I had a double layer of wool on my legs and torso plus a wind vest on top of the wool as well a neck warmer and ear warmer under my helmet. The weather was still nice so we got out butts moving to warm up and rounded the north part of the peninsula where the ferry terminal to Vancouver is and started our return south. I love hitting the halfway point on a ride and knowing every pedal stroke from now on was talking us back home.

The route down the west coast on the peninsula was really nice. Very winding with more climbing, but nothing outrageous. Traffic was light and the rain held off for quite a while, but sadly not long enough for us to get home.

With about 20-25kms left a moderate steady rain started. *sigh* I pulled on my rain jacket, but skipped the Rain Legs, rain gloves and shoe covers figuring it was warm enough for my wool to get me home. Slightly tragically I goofed looking at the GPS and we rode a few bonus KMs in the rain up a steep hill. Luckily I didn’t totally zone out and follow the pink line back to Sidney! Retracing your path after an unnecessary excursion always seems twice as long as it did to ride that leg in the first place…the rain didn’t help…=-(

Not much to say about the last 90mins of the ride in the rain. It was wet. I wished I was home, but it was warm enough that the suffering was not awful. I will never be one of these folks that enjoys rain riding. I was very happy to peel off at my house and throw my bike into the garage before eating some chocolate, having a hot shower and passing out!

104kms covered in 4:45hrs on the bike with an 1hr off the bike at 22kph avg. Nothing revolutionary, but given the fact this was all night riding with a good chunk of rain at the end and neither of us have been out for a 100K in months – I’ll take it.

Wet and ready for the garage!

Although I could have done without the rain it allowed me to put my gear through a more challenging test on this ride. The 100kms my legs needed was priority #1, but it was great to get a chance to try out how my gear worked at night in the rain and when it was dry and cool.

  • bike worked great overall, fast and climbed well
  • lighting was great when dry and adequate when wet, not having to think about batteries was nice
  • Superflash taillight [sealed with electrical tape] didn’t mind the rain
  • fenders w/ mudflaps kept road spray off me so I only had to deal with the clean rain that was falling
  • I only used the middle ring the whole ride and didn’t get as far as the 32T cog so I may need to simplify my gearing at some point
  • bike was comfy no hand, foot or saddle issues
  • cotton front bag was easy to use at night and stayed dry inside during rain
  • 42mm tires are fast and smooth as expected which allowed me to relax even when I rode over a bump or some gravel I didn’t see until the last second
  • GPS can only handle 50 waypoints in a route [lame!] so I’ll need to break out a longer ride into several legs
  • GPS worked well to navigate us with turns indicated early enough and it was nice riding along in the dark without looking at maps or cue sheets
  • my DIY GPS waterproofing repair seems to be working
  • I couldn’t read my bike computer or the cue sheet as I didn’t have a small light and I need it attached to the helmet in any case…I’ll track one down before the next night ride
  • my REI Vertia rain jacket performed well keeping me dry and warm with no more sweat build up than when I was riding with just a windvest earlier
  • wool tights and leg warmers did okay when wet at 8 deg C, but next time I’ll take the time to put my Rain Legs, MEC rain gloves and shoe covers on

Not too lumpy...

Thanks to Aaron for coming along on this ride. I’m enjoying having company on my rando prep and since we are well matched in terms of speed and personality I think we’ll do well on upcoming brevets. I can’t imagine going back to the solo TT vibe that characterized by rando training/rides back in Alberta…not to mention I have to say the scenery and roads on Vancouver Island are top notch.

Sannich Metric Century route info – click here.

Boulder Bicycle All Road Build…

11 03 2011

My Boulder Bicycle All Road...

Boulder Bicycle All Road

  • frame size custom tweaked but essentially size E 57.7cm TT
  • frame welded by Waterford
  • skinny standard size tube set [7-4-7mm TT and 8-5-8mm DT]
  • 1″ steel fork with 70mm offset [~30mm trail]
  • colour pearl white
  • Nitto Noodle 42cm bars
  • MEC white bar tape
  • Nitto 95mm 5 deg rise stem UI 5GX
  • Miche needle bearing headset
  • Nitto seatpost [single bolt]
  • Selle Anatomica Titanico
  • Cane Creek brake levers
  • Tektro 720 canti brakes w/ Koolstop salmon pads
  • Jagwire brake and cable housing
  • Shimano 9spd bar end shifters
  • Front derailleur Shimano LX
  • Sugino triple cranks [48/36/26] 175mm
  • SKF BB
  • Time ATAC XS pedals
  • SRAM 9spd chain PC971
  • Shimano 9spd 11-32 or 13-26 cassette
  • Nitto M-12 rack
  • Velocity Synergy 650B 32H rims
  • Front hub SON Deluxe
  • Rear hub White Industries
  • Grand Bois Hetres 42mm 650B tires
  • Honjo hammered fenders
  • Edelux headlight
  • Planet Bike Superflash/Blinky 7 taillight
  • Berthoud large [28] black bar bag
  • Cateye Strada bike computer
  • Velo Orange bottle cages
  • Planet Bike frame pump

Crud Road Racer Fenders…

10 03 2011

Full coverage fenders for road bikes...

I saw these full coverage plastic fenders on a road bike at Russ Hayes Bikes recently.  If you want to ride regularly here in the winter you need fenders and to ride in a group you need full coverage fenders.  That can be quite a challenge on most road bikes given their minimal clearance for even 23mm tires let alone adding a fender to the mix.  The SKS Race Blades have been around for a while, but they are fairly useless…better than nothing, but not by much.

I haven’t tried these fenders so I can’t say how well they work, but given the limited options for wet weather road bikers beggars can’t be choosers!

Looks like a clever design...

If you have a set of these I’d love to know how they are working for you.

Seating Hetres 42mm-650B Tires…

9 03 2011

Hertres on my Boulder Bicycle Allroad...

Getting the Grand Bois Hertres 650b tires on my bike’s Velocity Synergy rims was no problem by hand.  Later when I tried to seat them so they were even on the rim there was nothing I could do by hand to solve the problem.  If I pulled out one low spot another would form – yikes!  It was a bit maddening.  Then I remembered to ask Google who reminded me to ask Sheldon Brown what to do!

“In some cases it may be beneficial to lubricate the side of the tire. This can be done with soapy water, but I usually use spray window cleaner for this, because it doesn’t leave a soapy residue on the braking surface of the rim.” – Sheldon Brown

I followed Sheldon’s advice…sprayed windex around the beads and inflated to 80psi. Bead settled in pretty well – not perfectly, but 1000% better than my initial efforts. I’ll left ’em at 80psi overnight and then set to my riding pressure 50 & 40psi. Thanks Sheldon!

I hope a bit of riding will stretch these tires enough that any roadside flat fixing isn’t a PITA.

CETMA Cargo Bike Upgrades…

8 03 2011

Jacking up the CETMA to install a rear fender...

My CETMA cargo rig needed some fenders. I had a set of Planet Bike Cascadia ATB fenders that were not being used. The rear went on with no issue. These fenders are ~60mm wide with loads of room for a 26″ x 50mm Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. The fenders didn’t fit the outline of the tire well, but they bent easily to get a reasonable fit. I won’t be using this bike for a ton of rain riding so fender perfection isn’t important here.

I also added a Brook B17 saddle as I stole the Selle Anatomica Titanico for my rando bike. I don’t need 15hrs+ saddle comfort on a cargo bike. I’ll probably replace this Brooks with a decent plastic saddle by the summer as even the Brooks is overkill for the length of rides I’ll be doing.

Rohloff off!

I took the opportunity to wipe the old girl down and adjust the brakes. I’ve got a front disc brake wheel and Shimano SLX caliper/lever I’ll put on soon. I’ve decided not to bother with a disc on the rear.

Not perfection, but good enough!

The back end of the CETMA is pretty standard so you don’t need anything unusual to get a fender mounted.

Coroplast DIY attempt...

The front of the CETMA Cargo Bike is not standard at all and needs a customized approach. With a Schwalbe Big Apple 20 x 2.35″ tire on there clearances are tight. I figured a DIY coroplast fender in memories of Kent Peterson style might do the trick.

Amazing what you can do with zipties and electrical tape...=-)

My DIY project wasn’t very satisfactory and rubbed on both the tire and the steering stop so I scrapped it.

Power tool upgrade!

For the last 3 or 4 years I’ve been using a battery powered dremel rotary tool to do jobs like cutting off excess metal fenders. It was a pain since the low capacity battery would barely make it through a single fender strut and a recharge was 60mins. That made a simple fender install an all day procedure. So I finally coughed up $20 and got a plug in version. Had I known they were that cheap I would have done so much earlier! It was nice to cut 4 fender struts in under 6mins…=-)

Beggars can't be choosers...

My next move was to try the front PB 26″ fender on the CETMA. It works – sort of. Looks a bit fugly, but at this point I don’t have a better option at hand. I hope Lane at CETMA scopes out a fender for the front end of these that will work with a 2.0″ and/or 2.35″ Big Apple plus disc brakes. It’s one part that is specialized that every owner could use.

Ok for now...

I’m going to live with this for now. I’d have to refit it with a disc caliper so I’ll come up with a better plan by that time.

Time for a test ride...

My GF’s mother is in town so I loaded her up for a ride to Swan Lake for a short hike. We are calling the CETMA the Fox Box to make it sound more appealing to my lady passengers. I gave her the option of the CETMA or the Big Dummy and she said Fox Box all the way…=-)

Hike it up!

The visit to Swan Lake was a success. It’s quite nice there. I think I’ll pack a lunch on less busy days and bike over when summer comes.

Maybe it should be called Duck Lake?

We didn’t see any Swans!

Bikes taking a rest...

Biking to a hike is much more fun than driving.

I wore my high visibility gray bike gear...

Riding with an adult passenger is no problem on the CETMA. The frame is plenty strong and the Rohloff provides a wide range of easily accessed gears.

Cruising back home on the MUP...

Why don’t I dress up like a traffic cone?

7 03 2011

One of my typical high visibility black/gray cycling outfits...

Most of the time I wear dark colours cycling.  Why don’t I wear one of those traffic cone inspired bike outfits? This question has 3 answers:

  1. I mostly ride for transportation so I wear the clothes I would wear if I walked, drove or took a bus.
  2. My risk assessment tells me street clothes are safe for cycling.
  3. I want to promote cycling as something beyond a sporting activity or transportation for a select group of geeks.

Bikes are serious business...


The ideal forms of transportation are quick, cheap and low hassle.  The more you get away from these qualities the less likely someone is to utilize them – assuming they have a choice in the first place.  I wear the same type of clothes most days. So if I decide I need to run an errand I can walk out my door and jump on a bicycle without the need to locate and put on any specialized clothing – that really simplifies the process. When I get to the other end I just hop off my bike and blend in with the rest of human society. Additionally many of my transportation needs are to get to social events. I want to get there looking normal. So I either wear my street clothes to the event while riding my bike or I have to get there and find away to change. At the very least I need to put away my neon yellow cycling jacket or my hot pink high visibility jersey.

The other non-sporting use I put my bike to is touring. I like blending in with my environment when I travel. I want to step away from my bicycle and be just one more person at my destination without some major Superman finds a phone booth to turn into Clark Kent process. That’s far harder to do when you look like a space traveler who has just landed wearing tap dancing shoes!

Cycling for everyday people...

Cycling is Safe

My comments on cycling safety only apply to places I’ve lived and travelled.  This would include most of Canada, a good chunk of Western Europe, portions of the Western US and Baja Mexico.  Cycling is safe – period. No special safety gear is required for non-extreme forms of cycling [ie. riding to get a coffee or pick up some groceries]. You don’t need to look like a traffic cone to be safe. I think the most important aspects of cycling safety are intelligent route choice and effective cycling skills [ie. where to be in a lane and how to make turns,etc…]. I don’t have regular close calls while cycling in dark clothes. Cars can see me. So can pedestrians and other cyclists. I do occasionally wear bright clothing even cycling specific visibility clothing [my rain jacket is bright orange because they didn’t offer it in black! and I own a few items of street clothing that are quite bright] and I am treated no differently when I do.

Black for visibility on a rainy day...=-)

You might think I am a high risk individual which is why I don’t take special safety precautions.  I’m 42 years old and have been to the emergency room 4 or 5 times in my life. I had two factures and never had a clean break in a bone. I don’t get hurt often. I’m actually a low risk person, but I get to that state not by a paranoid application of every possible safety measure, but rather by a reasonable assessment of the specific risks I am exposed to and a logical application of the appropriate mitigation measures.

In fact I would go so far as to suggest the fetish some cyclists have for neon colours may actually put them at higher risk of an accident if they feel over confident of their safety because they assume they have to be visible to traffic given how blindingly bright they jacket is. I feel the same way about our helmet obsession. By all means wear a bike helmet, but be honest about how much safer you are with it on and don’t forget that when that bus runs you over it really won’t matter a whole heck of a lot that your helmet was CSA approved.

Photo: Scattomatto56 on Flickr - click image to see original...

Cycling for the Masses

I want more people to ride bikes. Currently in North America cycling is viewed as a sport like football/tennis/running or as a hobby for a bunch of geeks that like to dress like traffic cones. This view of cycling limits the public’s desire to ride bicycles. They see a roadie going full tilt down a highway in a body hugging spandex number and they want no part of that foolishness. They see a hardcore traffic cone wearing bike commuter battling their way through traffic and they see a geek who is fighting for their life – not appealing. On the other hand if they see someone riding through town on a bike wearing street clothes looking relaxed they can relate. It starts to look like cycling is safe enough to try and can’t be that tough because normal folks are doing it.

Sharon commuting to work...

I drink tap water for 3 reasons:

  1. it’s cheap
  2. it’s convenient
  3. it’s what I want to see others doing

I can afford bottled water, but I think it’s bad for the environment and I know that many people can’t afford it. If everyone who made more than $30K a year drank bottled water would society really care what happened to the water supply? I doubt it. But, by being invested in the public water system for my own health reasons it forces me to ensure that it is safe and available to everyone – including those whose voices are not as well heard.

What the heck does that have to do with cycling? Well I can afford all the latest safety nonsense for my bicycle. If the only way to be safe was to spend money on cycle specific gear that not everyone has – the solution, in my mind, wouldn’t be to equip myself with the latest gear and battle to stay alive on the mean streets of my city. It would be to advocate for safe streets for normal cyclists. Just like safe drinking water there should be a reasonable level of safety for any cyclist. Not only does that make cycling more accessible to everyone, but it means my own cycling is more pleasant.

Cover your eyes!

Don’t I ever get my traffic cone on?

You got me! I do sometimes. Like in Calgary when I was undertaking a snowstorm Pugsley assault of downtown I wore a high visibility eye searing vest like the one above. At night I’ll use reflective leg bands and a reflective sash that can be removed in seconds and stashed in a pocket when I arrive at my destination. If it was densely foggy on my way to work I woud take some extra precautions. These sorts of conditions occur a handful of times a year where I live. So a prudent person need only do/wear something unusual on occasion.

Aaron gearing up for a rando training ride...

What if you want to dress like a traffic cone?

Go for it! I’m not telling you what to do. My purpose for this post was to get people to think about what they wear cycling and why. If you love eye searing bright colours and/or you feel they are absolutely necessary for your continued survival – then be my guest! You gotta ride your own ride…=-)

My high visibility black rando gear...=-)

As a pedestrian I deal with cars at every intersection I cross and every time I cross mid-block at a cross walk. I feel more at risk on my feet crossing roads than I do on my bike riding in traffic. This is because on my bike I am riding like a car going with the flow whereas on foot all my interactions are at 90 degrees to the direction cars are moving. In every city I’ve lived pedestrians get hit and seriously injured/killed by cars. I never hear anyone suggest that pedestrians should wear neon safety jackets or wear helmets. When I go downtown walking with my friends nobody sports specialized visibility gear yet we might well cross the road 30-40 times. If dressing like a traffic cone on a bike makes sense it would make equal sense for a pedestrian that has to contend with traffic. Of course nobody would go for that!

Rene Herse 650B Video…

7 03 2011

This video discusses some features of a custom Rene Herse 650B rando rig. Functionally my Boulder All Road is the same, but without some of the custom details like the internal wiring, lugs and my bike uses the skinny ultralight tubing Mike talks about at the end.

Living Room Hoop Dancing…

6 03 2011

You can’t say you don’t have enough room to hoop it up just because winter has you confined to your living room!…=-)

Soaking in the sunshine…

5 03 2011

Countryside ramble...

Given the nice weather today I wasn’t going to miss my chance to pedal. Heading out of Victoria is easy from my house. Within a few minutes I’m on rural bike paths or quiet country roads. Spinning along on wide tires I don’t really care if the surface is paved, gravel or dirt. My bike just wants to roll. Passing fields, farms and houses as I ride through the trees and then along the ocean it’s not hard to figure out why so many cyclists call Victoria home…=-)

Why a 650B Boulder Bicycle All Road?

5 03 2011

Semi-Custom Boulder Bicycle Allroad...

If all goes well I’ll be riding my Boulder Bicycle All Road in the SIR 100K today.

All my previous brevets have been on recumbents so I had to think long and hard about what bike to use for brevets this year.

I knew I wanted a bike that:

  • was a fast climber
  • was comfortable for all day riding
  • was reliable
  • could carry a loaded handle bar bag
  • easy to ride when tired
  • had dynohub lighting
  • full fenders for rain riding
  • didn’t suck to look at!

Having a stack of Bicycle Quarterly Magazines at my disposal I was interested in trying out a number of things I had read positive comments about:

  • low trail front end geometry since it seem optimized for use with a loaded bar bag
  • wide supple 650B tires ~40mm for efficient comfortable moderate speed riding
  • ultralight standard diameter steel frame tubes to aid in uphill climbing speed through their flexiness
  • full coverage metal fenders on a performance bike
  • SON Deluxe dynohub because of its lightweight and low drag
  • Edelux dyno light for its powerful beam with a smart vertical cutoff to avid blinding oncoming traffic

There aren’t many sources for a bike like this and I knew I didn’t want to go the fully custom route for the reasons I posted recently not to mention it would be the 2012 brevet season before a custom bike showed up. So the positive review of the Boulder Cycles Randonneur 700c frame in BQ caught my attention. Browsing the Boulder Cycles [aka Rene Herse] website they seemed to have everything I wanted in a readily accessible package that other folks have been riding and giving positive reviews on. I dithered between the 650B version and the 700c version for a bit, but realized that all my riding has been heading in the direction of wider supple tires so it made no sense to stop now. Jan Heine from BQ was kind enough to answer a few 700c vs 650B questions which was very helpful given the fact he had ridden quite a few of each type of bike.

All Road parts unpacked...

So I went ahead and ordered a 650B All Road frame/fork. Mike Kone [owner of Rene Herse] chatted with me about my sizing and we settled on a slightly tweaked version of their size E [57.5cm TT] stock frame. Since I was tweaking things I ordered a non-stock pearl white paint job and silver decals. I wanted Shimano bar end sifters and derailleurs so I ordered the All Road without them and used my own parts. The result was close to a Boulder Bicycle All Road production frame, but met my needs better.

If you read BQ you are familiar with the term constructeur bicycle.  It’s a hybridization of French & English that really means fully integrated bicycle.  Such a bike has been designed for a specific purpose and equipped with everything needed for success.  Lights, racks, fenders, luggage and tires have all been selected and considered as the bike is designed and built. The result is a harmonious optimized bicycle that works well, looks attractive and is easy to maintain.

The Boulder Bicycle All Road is what I would call a semi-constructeur bicycle. It has been designed for a specific purpose – fast comfortable travel over any type of road surface with a modest amount of luggage.  All the components that are required for this to happen have been considered in the design.  However, the level of integration has stopped short of perfection at a level that is functional.  This has been done to keep costs down and to allow the purchaser to equip the bike with a variety of components.

Rene Herse constructeur 650B all road bicycle...

Rene Herse will make you a fully custom integrated constructeur 650B all road style bike if you wish. The cost will be approximately double that of a production Boulder Bicycle All Road. Looking at these photos you can see some hints of what makes the fully integrated bike so special, but it takes a much closer look and keen eye for detail to really understand the effort and thought that goes into making such a bike.

To my mind the semi-custom Boulder Bicycle All Road, which is not an inexpensive bike, provides the best blend of performance and cost.  Although I will admit she is not nearly as stunning a ride as the chromed Rene Herse.

Dealing with Mike Kone at Rene Herse was a pleasant experience. He is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about the bikes he sells. He accommodated all my requests without hesitation including building my bike from ultralight standard diameter tubing vs. the oversized tubing normally used for a production All Road and getting me the custom paint colour of my choice.  Given that these frames are built off site at Waterford the level of organization and management involved in getting an unusual frame through with fast turn around to meet my schedule was impressive.  He assembled my parts list and installed a few items I wanted taken care of in advance of shipping [install fenders/then pack, install headset] since he was at it he installed the BB and cranks.  That wasn’t necessary, but it speeded up my build which was nice.  The frame and parts were packed professionally and shipped to a US address so I could grab them on my way home from Baja.

Parts detail...

The only criticism of my Boulder Bicycle/Rene Herse customer experience was that Mike is super busy and the amazing amount of details that need to be communicated back and forth for a semi-custom bike presented some communications challenges. In the end everything I asked for arrived and the bike looks fantastic. I publish this comment not to identify a problem that Mike should feel bad about, but rather a note to any potential customers that you may need to send an extra email or make an extra call to confirm some detail.  If you are not sure Mike has some bit of info you sent him or if he doesn’t reply to an email don’t assume it’s been read and actioned. Take the time to confirm.  The result is worth it and I would happily buy another frame from Mike.

Photo: Chris Richards - click on image for a lot more lovely bike porn...

The obvious question you might raise is – could I not have ridden a bike I owned on brevets this year? Yes – of course I could.  My Surly LHT touring bike and Bow Cycle 24 cyclocross bike both would have worked.  However, both have a high trail front end geometry which results in compromised handling with a handle bar bag.  Two of my main complaints with my rando recumbents were excessive effort for climbing and difficulty accessing my gear while riding.  I was not prepared to ride brevets without my gear/supplies in easy reach while pedaling.  Had money been tight I would have made one or the other work as best I could.  Since I could afford a rando specific rig I decided to build up a bike that is optimized for my long distance riding needs.