Tuesday, November 29, 2005
In the end, the most unpleasant part of the ride was putting on my shoes that were wet from yesterday's ride home. Once I got outside, I had nothing to complain about. My hair and my feet got wet. The horror.
The rain pelted my face while going down the big hill at Hogg's Hollow. I wore my DJ Jazzy Ravemaster yellow sunglasses, so that was no problem. The cars behind me must have been convinced I was taking my life in my hands, because they actually stayed back and gave me BOTH lanes of Yonge St northbound. I couldn't believe it.
When I arrived at work, my suspicions were confirmed. The people I talked to seemed to think I was crazy to ride a bike in this weather. There are probably hundreds of people riding their bikes to work today in the downtown core, but somehow it becomes a sign of lacking mental capacity out here in the suburbs.
Maybe they're right. With all the focus on the rain, I did forget my belt today. I feel like a bit of a goof walking around the office pulling my pants up all the time.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Too much information
The tires were out of stock in the Toronto store even though they were in stock just about everywhere else in Canada, including balmy Vancouver (but they do have actual mountains nearby). Does this mean the Toronto store doesn't bother ordering many, or that they're selling like slurpees in Winnipeg?
It'll be a few days before I receive the new tires. Fortunately it looks like it'll be warm next week, so the road bike will be back in action.
As for the debate about studded versus high quality grippy road tires, from talking to people and reading discussions on the web, the main points against studded tires seems to be that they're slower, they make noise, they're expensive and possibly overkill. The expensive part is the only one there that I care about. I figured I'd rather spend some money on them for the unexpected black ice, or unexpected dumping of snow in the middle of the day. And the ones I picked have 100 studs running along the sides, so most of the time I should be on the rubber. When I slip or turn, the studs will touch.
There was one more argument against the studs that made me apprehensive. Apparently they can reduce traction in some cases because the hard metal on pavement is not grippy at all. I think this would be most important if I kept trying to corner hard with these tires on. This is something I can easily live without. The time saved from a fast corner doesn't mean much to me.
To make you feel good about pedal power, I'll leave you with some thoughts from some thinkers on bicycles.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
For some somewhat thematic reading, check out this article in Toronto Star about Iraq war deserters. The most prominent one (possibly the first) apparently has become a bike courier in Toronto. And he is trying to be considered a refugee here. Makes me feel pretty lame for picking this blog title.
Regarding the figure of 12 known deserters in Canada, this was a significant line:
"Nobody knows the exact figure, but the Pentagon admitted at the end of 2004 that desertions at that point numbered 5,500. It's a fair assumption that many of those slipped into Canada." -- Christian Cotroneo, The Toronto Star
I should bump into one of these guys on the street some time soon. Or maybe I have already.
This is the kind of story that I expect gets very little coverage in the US, but gets covered enthusiastically here in Canada. I'm not sure what to conclude from that. Is it more evidence of our superiority complex?
By the way, I just realized that I've been linking to all these Toronto Star articles, but I've been logged into their site without paying attention to it, because it's all automatic. It's not too difficult to register with, but I know this isn't ideal. Or do they let you look at the odd article without registering?
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Ontario goes ahead with wind power
Is this a sizeable minority in our power generation mosaic? It will work out to about 5% of our sources of power if everything else stays the same. This is significant. Take a look at this great map, if you want to see where our power is coming from.
Is Ontario a practical place for wind power? We do have a lot of large lakes, which tend to be good generators of wind. If you look at this impressive study on wind power, you can see that we have a couple spots that are in the "black dot" category. There aren't as many here as there are in northern Europe, but we aren't in bad shape. West Texas has black dot as well, and that is another region that I've heard is making some effort to increase its wind power generation.
As for the negatives about wind power, the newspaper article I pointed to above mentions concerns about whirring sounds and birds getting killed. From what I understand, these are the problems of old style wind farms, with small fast moving blades like the wind farms of California. Modern wind turbines are huge and slow moving, but still generate more power because of their size. It makes sense that a larger blade would be capable of higher torque.
Ontario has plans to close at least its worst offending coal power plants. You can see from the numbers that this would require a hell of a lot of wind turbines. I doubt that this will be the real replacement. If cost of power is the main deterrent to building more wind turbines, when Ontario Power Generation starts to give consumers the choice of paying a higher price for their power based on the source, this will be irrelevant. Call me idealistic, but I don't think it would be hard to find the 5% of Ontarians who would happily pay more for their power if it meant reducing smog and nuclear waste problems.
"Even if only ~20% of this power could be captured, it could satisfy 100% of the world's energy demand for all purposes... Several practical barriers need to be overcome to fully realize this potential." -- from the wind power study by Archer and Jacobson
Sunday, November 20, 2005
It was a beautiful day today. I took my repaired road bike for a spin down to the hardware store. On top of getting the derailleur and chain replaced, I had the bottom bracket overhauled. The newly greased bottom bracket lets my feet glide in perfect and smooth circles around the axle. I didn't know what I was missing.
Now that I've seen the ToolWorks facilities, I'll do the next job like this myself. It'll probably be my headset that needs new bearings and grease. If I have the right tools and a good place to work, I'd really enjoy being able to keep things tuned up and running smoothly on my bike. Everyone complains about how cars are so computerized now, forcing them to visit mechanics all the time. Maybe they're all just bike advocates and they don't know it.
Here's the letters page this week. If you're having trouble picking out which letter it is, search for "hood" or "ornaments".
Is this real? Has Now been saving this letter up for the next time they were hoping for a glut of letters from angry cyclists? It's not like I needed a newspaper to tell me that there is the odd jackass out there who only has respect for people living their lives in the exact same way as him.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Icy bike ride home
I hopped onto the sidewalk and rode in the snow for about 1 km until I got onto residential streets. Things got better. Traffic was jammed, so it was moving slowly. I had a very courteous driver stay well back from me as we went down a big hill. He or she wasn't getting anywhere ahead of me anyways, so I'm glad the driver was so observant.
On a positive note: I didn't have a windshield that needed scraping. The air was fresh. I wasn't cold because my heart was beating at 120 bpm. I loved the part of the ride where the traffic was slow and light.
As defeatist as this may sound, I don't think I'll be riding to work again when there's going to be precipitation near the freezing point. Icy roads suck.
Now, studded tires. I know Jim recommended a set of Nokian studded tires a while back. I can't sensibly get into that. I've done everything I can to optimize my route so I can avoid high speed traffic, but the fact is I can not avoid some riding on major roads where cars could be doing anywhere from 60 to 90 km/h (40 to 55 mph). In the ice, I might feel nice and stable with my studded tires and the cars probably won't be going that fast, but I still can't trust the guy behind me to stop safely.
That said, this doesn't mean I can't ride in the winter, as has been pointed out to me before. Most days won't be icy and the roads are almost always cleared, so I haven't given up.
I went to the winter bike clinic put on by Toolworks of the Community Bicycle Network today. It was a thorough, casual discussion about what to do to get ready for the winter. I know there are online resources on the subject. Sometimes it does so much more to see something demonstrated and hear it spoken in person. And this was very much tailored to the urban Toronto bike commuter.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I'm on my mountain bike today. It doesn't have metal studs on the tires, but I feel alright about it in 5 mm of snow (or whatever this is). It's the idiots behind me that I'll be thinking about on my ride home. Hopefully this first snowfall will cause everyone to panic and create a traffic jam, so I'll be on the fastest vehicle on the road.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I'm constantly trying to select my clothes so that I'm not too cold at the start of my ride, and not too hot after I get going. I wore a tuque under my helmet today for the first time and still I was not too hot. It's time to upgrade my gloves. This isn't cold enough that I'm worried about frostbite on my face. In theory it really is cold enough, especially with some wind, but when I'm riding, I know I've got enough blood flowing in my cheeks. My main concern is getting chilled in my torso before I get my furnace burning. Next time I'll be adding a thin long sleeved cotton shirt.
Helping you prepare for winter
Saturday, November 19, 12-3 pm (not sure if this time is correct!)
at the Community Bicycle Network
761 Queen Street West, Suite 101, just down the stairs.
I'm not in any way the official information source for this so I was a bit reluctant to post it here, but it sounds like such a good idea that I didn't want someone to miss out who it could help.
I just found the notice on their web site, which says it's at 1:30, so that'll need some confirming.
I'm considering going. I think it would be good for me to work on my bike mechanic skills. I doubt the session will involve pulling apart a drivetrain, but it's always good to hear people use the lingo (as the kids say) so I use the right words when I go to buy parts.
I crossed my first patch of ice this morning! It was about 1 foot long. All's well.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Turning randomly downtown
This is up near what used to be Varsity Stadium.
The stop in Kensington included a great discovery: an empanada shop where I could walk my bike right up to the counter. I'm so tired of the minutes lost while I lock my bike up outside empanada shops! Actually, this may have been my first empanada, so I was cautious and ate the beef version. It was one of about 15 different flavours. I'll definitely be returning.
I stopped at MEC and bought another one of those "emergency" turtle LED lights. I've attached it to my helmet on the front and it is a perfect addition to my lighting. I received two compliments on my ride home on Monday! One of the good things about having a helmet headlight is I can aim it right at a driver if I don't think he or she saw me.
Here's what I saw after leaving MEC. (I've probably taken this photo half a dozen times).
I took a spin down to King St and looked for the skateboarders that are always in front of the CBC building. No one was there so I took a picture of myself instead.
I headed north up through U of T. Cool campus. I haven't been through here for years.
Then I went through a time machine in the physics department and stopped in front of the soccer field.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Road bike vs mountain bike. And motor bikes
It's definitely more work now when I start off after a stop sign. I find myself standing up on my pedals all the time. It makes me feel like I'm a little kid on my BMX. And going up hills I lose my momentum much quicker. Fortunately I have about 10 or 12 gears on this bike that are lower than my lowest road bike gear. Now instead of cruising up some of the smaller hills, I almost immediately drop into the easier gears and spin my feet in circles for the next few minutes as I inch my way up the hill.
I'm really enjoying the trigger shifters on the mountain bike. This might be what's keeping my overall speed up. Like natural Timotei shampoo, I can use my trigger shifters as often as I wish. (what simile!)
So the mountain bike is working out well for me.
On to the motor bike. Apparently they are being encouraged by Toronto city council by giving them free parking. Vespa dealers must be happy. One of the reasons being cited for the law is the practical problem of giving them tickets. I guess wind is a big problem when the vehicle doesn't have a windshield wiper. It sounds like a problem that must have a solution. Wrap it around a handle bar with some tape. Send it in the mail. There has to be more to this. The other motivation being cited is an environmental one. I don't know a lot about city politics, so I won't comment on the backers and their histories.
I'm still open to the idea for now. If motorcycles and scooters actually follow the speed limit and don't start driving like they do in Italy where every spare foot is treated as a motorcycle lane, I'd rather have them around me than more cars; as a cyclist, a pedestrian and a car driver for that matter. I'm going to look into the pollution issue. A quick search showed that fuel mileage is much better on a motorcycle or scooter. Pollution is much worse on a two stroke engine on a per kilometre basis, but if the engine is four-stroke, the pollution is either similar to a car or cleaner.
As for references, everything seems to point to a french study (in french) that was timed with a campaign to ban motorcycles in Paris. People were very angry about the potential law and forgot how to do math. I'll try to find some better discussion on the topic.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Real Sport Utility Vehicle
It's too dark outside now to get a good action shot, unfortunately. I just took this knobby machine for a test ride through my neighbourhood to check out the rack, panniers and lights. I even got to take it for a novel offroad run down a hill. It looks like it's ready to go for the commute tomorrow.
My road bike is now in a shop waiting for parts to get all the repairs done that are needed. I'm sure I could have done the repairs myself with a bit of reading and buying some tools. My excuse to myself was that I didn't want to risk ordering the wrong parts then figuring it out after I installed them half-way. Plus the jobs would be pretty messy to do in my apartment.
New bike, so new odometer. For purely record keeping purposes (and nothing to do with my ego), the old computer says: 2591 km. Before I installed the computer, I estimated that I did around 500 km or more. So, let's say I'm at 3091 km for the year so far. I put a brand new computer on the mountain bike that I got as a gift a couple months ago. Among some new features, it gives me my pedal cadence, which I'm looking forward to playing around with and finding out about.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
There was a sort of natural progression to the ceremony that didn't require any leadership, but there were a few people there who seemed to know well what to do next. I wondered how many ceremonies like this they must have attended.
Monday, November 07, 2005
And now it looks like environmentalists should be praising State's rights. Feel free to correct me, but 60 Minutes and 20/20 have taught me that cheering for State's rights is usually the domain of people who keep tanks in their back yards just in case the federal government tries to open a hospital in their county. Finally the environmentalists will have something to talk to them about at the next rally.
This doesn't seem like such a bad outcome, and is a good first step. It must be related to the smoggy summer we just had. Smog is much more tangible than global warming.
I always thought those guys with the tanks made some good points. Flexibility and freedom to make changes (or not) on a small scale is always going to be the best way to demonstrate a good idea and make progress.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Don Valley Ride
Now back to talking about me. The blog really can be the ultimate in self involvement.
Today I added a bunch of lights on my bike and really wanted to get outside in the beautiful weather this afternoon. I was ready to ride down to the lake, then ride back in the dark on the bike paths. This would give me a good chance to test out my new lighting setup, which consisted of a new Halogen light on the front, to complement my flashing white LED light; and new second flashing red LED light on the rear.
You can see that I'm running out of space. Probably not the best solution.
About 7 kilometres into my ride I started to crank hard up a hill when I heard the strangest grinding, mashing noise. My pannier strap had gotten caught in my chain. This caused my derailleur cogs to get jammed then pull all the way around to the top of my hub. The whole thing looked so out of place, I felt like I was looking at a photograph of someone with their elbow bent backwards. My derailleur is now cracked and my bike is totally out of commission. My wife came and rescued me in her car, since I was too far away to walk and nowhere near the subway.
This will force me to get a few things done I’ve been putting off for months now. One: get my chain and rear hub changed. My chain is so stretched, you can see it easily just by looking at the front chain ring where the teeth only match up with the chain part of the way around. Two: I’m going to go see if I can get my mountain bike into commuting condition. My mountain bike doesn’t have a rack right now, and it doesn’t have the holes built in for bolting a rack on. I’ll have to do a bit of figuring out for this. Better get started.
Politics, bikes and Africa
There are a few upcoming television and radio shows that could be worth watching. On Tuesday night, Jack Layton will apparently be giving a bike tour of his neighbourhood to Rick Mercer. For anyone who isn’t so Canadian, Jack Layton is the leader of our socialist party known as the New Democratic Party. I mean “socialist” in a nice way, because they seem like nice people. And Rick Mercer made himself famous from his “Talking to Americans” bits.Despite his mustache, Jack Layton has a surprising amount of influence right now. It's because of the pickle our controlling party has gotten itself into. It’s kind of interesting that our politicians have gotten themselves in so much trouble at the same time as the US White House has done the same. It emphasizes some of the differences in the way the two systems work. I like that our problems will probably result in an election very soon, compared to the
Speaking of politics, today would be a great day to write to
Sometimes I feel like complaining to the government about bike infrastructure is futile and ignored by the politicians. OK, I almost always feel like that. But it’s one of those things that I hope will slowly make a difference. And it really can make a difference. More bike paths would lead to more people biking, lead to fewer bike accidents and hopefully fewer car accidents.
You may remember that in the early summer this year, there was a huge media campaign (I think created by the provincial government) to inform parents about the dangers of having a swimming pool. The campaign focused on the fact that drowning was the second most likely cause of death for children under five years old. If you read the newspaper articles or looked into it a bit further, you would find out that the number one way for children under 5 to die is in a motor vehicle accident.
In case that hasn’t gotten you down enough, the other broadcast item of interest this week covers AIDS and HIV in
CBC should be paying me for this.
Friday, November 04, 2005
What it should say: Bike commuting in York Region is great. The weather is usually comfortable. Riding on the less busy roads works out well, taking you through friendly neighbourhoods, filled with trees and a few factories. But if you want to cross a highway you're pretty much on your own. And if you're looking for a bike path that leads from anywhere to anywhere, go to the city of Toronto or maybe Ottawa, otherwise we would have put a good link to a bike path map here.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Mississauga and being car-free
Today, a meeting brought me to
The city is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. It seems that all the companies I deal with have located their offices there. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say “well it’s the best location for our office because it’s a half hour drive to everywhere.” This is far from true. Not only is it typically 45 minutes to the eastern suburban office center (Richmond Hill/Markham), but if there is any traffic, that time could easily be doubled. And traffic problems are so persistent, the traffic reporters always just refer to the traffic as “building normally”. Fortunately I was able to avoid rush hour this morning.
Days like today would be much more challenging if I decided to live without a car. I would have had to either skip the meeting, or rent a car for the day. Actually, renting a car for the day is a pretty reasonable solution if I were even a tiny bit organized.
The discussion Jim has started about going for job interviews by bike is making me think about my concerns about office image. I know it sounds like a high school concern, but there are always going to be people who make decisions, sometimes based on intangibles. My reputation is fairly well established at work, as far as I know, but in the end it’s hard to tell how people view someone who goes to lengths to live his or her life a little differently from others.
Even with any solutions I come up with renting cars or taking transit, living entirely without owning a car in my field of work (high tech, to be vague) could leave me labeled as eccentric by any colleagues who don’t know me very well. I don’t really care too much about such a label, except if it were to affect my progress at work. One of my friends was talking about how good it is to work at an office where you can lock your bike, enter near the showers, change and arrive at your desk just like everyone else. He was concerned about appearing “too into his hobbies”.I don’t really have a conclusion to this line of thinking. So far, the balance I’ve found is working well for me, even if it does cost me a fair bit more. I choose to keep my car for practical reasons.
My Bike Lane
This is a short path that I really like. It's not because I get to ride off the road for 20 metres. The great thing about this is that it turns the roads on both sides into dead ends where cars are forced to head over to the main roads to get anywhere. Traffic is low and calm.
I guess some of our tress are still green. What's going on?
And a final photo, to show my bike parking solution. I threw my jacket down in front for dramatic effect.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
It is scheduled for Monday at 7 PM.
I've been bringing my camera with me every day for a while now, but I rarely take it out of my bag. Today I put it in my pocket for easy access, and actually took some pictures, so I hope to get them up here tonight.
Second Cyclist Killed in GTA this October
Tanya gives some very important reminders about cycling near trucks (and any motor vehicles). I find it really helps to read her pointers and the other sites on the web about cycling safely in traffic. Like anyone who has studied any martial art knows, it's the repetition and drilling it into your way of thinking that matters when it comes time to react quickly. And sometimes it isn't even about reacting quickly. It's about shaping your thoughts about what is safe and what isn't. Seeing so many other cyclists around us zipping on the right past turning cars doesn't mean it's safe.
Maybe we'll find out more soon about what happened.
I've been watching for news about the Richmond Hill man killed in Vaughan and haven't heard anything yet.