Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holidays!

I'm liking the sound of 'Happy Holidays' more, now that I know how much it annoys Bill O'Rielly. I mean that in the most Christmassy caring way. Just trying to help him out. You need to watch the Daily Show if you're not sure what I mean.

Anyways, Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah! Or both, if you like! Hope you have a wonderful day and holiday season. I wish you many happy turns of the pedals in 2006.

Thank you for visiting my wee web site. I've been honoured that you take the time to see what I write.

Darren

Darren J 12/25/2005 08:19:00 AM | 1 comments |

Friday, December 23, 2005

Time to start taking the train?

I recently found out about a good deal from a friend of mine. Usually I wouldn't want to be an advertising venue, but if I see a good deal that might help someone avoid hours of mind numbing driving on the 401, I'll pass it on.

Via Rail, which recently avoided a Christmastime strike, offers a deal they call a BizPack. It sounds like it's aimed at businesses, but that doesn't matter. If you buy 6 or 10 tickets at a time, the price of taking the train comes down to about the price of taking a Greyhound bus. And since the train is usually faster and more comfortable than the bus, it looks like a very good deal if you're traveling alone.

I hope Via can come up with more deals like this because their prices are the biggest down side to their service right now. I haven't taken a train in Canada since my student card and my student pricing expired many years ago.

Darren J 12/23/2005 03:37:00 PM | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Excuses

As you may have figured out, I've been pretty busy and mostly disconnected from this network we all share.

I finally rode my bike into work today. Since the snow has started to build up, I've been limiting myself to recreational rides or grocery store trips (it may be a short ride, but it's always fun trying to figure out how to pack everything into my pannier or on my rack).

The ride in today was actually not that different from my fall rides. It was bit cool at times, but not uncomfortable. My new wool socks (they are thick and brown, and look like I've wrapped my feet in well-done hamburgers) and some heavier boot-like shoes are taking good care of my feet. My second pair of gloves is taking care of my hands. And my thin balaclava is taking care of my ears and neck surprisingly well.

I liked seeing this posting on Craigslist in the New York City ride share section. If the last time there was a strike was 25 years ago, this opportunity really could make a difference for a few people.

Darren J 12/22/2005 05:52:00 PM | 1 comments |

Fatal Collision

There was some saddening news in Toronto this week, as you are probably already aware. Another cyclist has been killed, and it was by a large truck again. Information is limited, and the Star giving out plainly wrong information hasn't helped. Tanya has been sifting through conflicting details.

Many people are focused on whether the cyclist was riding on the correct side of the street. As Martino pointed out on his site, "either way it's very tragic". I agree with that wholeheartedly, and at the same time, I think it's very fair for us to be concerned over the details, since all of us want to do what we can to avoid a similar collision, and be reassured that our cycling techniques are reasonably safe. After this story is heard by people we know, many of us will have to defend the very idea of cycling once again to our friends and family.

Darren J 12/22/2005 04:27:00 PM | 0 comments |

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cruising the Don

I went for a little tour of my neighbourhood and the Don River this morning. It looks like the local hockey rink is ready to play on. I didn't realize it's been cold enough for long enough already. This is an excellent rink. It's maintained by a couple of guys who obviously put a lot of their own time in to keep it in such good shape.


The trip down into the Don River Valley wasn't far away. On my way, I passed many Conservative Party signs. I saw the local Conservative candidate out canvassing yesterday, and it looks like he got a big jump on the Liberals in getting signs put up. I wonder how many people don't want to have a Liberal sign on their lawn, even if they plan on voting Liberal, because of the frequent use of the "crook" label.

Near Sunnybrook Hospital, this is either the Don River or Burke Brook (no doubt the inspiration for Brooke Burke's name choice).


I met up with another cyclist in the park. He had gotten a flat, so talk turned to tires. He was sporting the Nokian 106's, which he seemed to be happy with. My Schwalbe 100's are working out alright, by the way. They aren't guaranteed to keep me in control, but I've been feeling comfortable with them now, unless the snow or slush is too deep and mushy. We had a good chat on other topics, and hopefully I'll see him out there again soon.

Those pictures are both in colour, by the way.

Darren J 12/18/2005 11:29:00 PM | 4 comments |

Saturday, December 17, 2005

With Bananas


DSCN4615
Originally uploaded by Shawna S.
Here's another one of my friend Shawna's photos from her time in Uganda. I posted one back in October.

I find it amazing to see what people do with bicycles when they have a reason.

A little searching tells me that an average bunch of bananas weighs 25 pounds. I guess if that bike is balanced, there are at least 6 bunches on it, so 150 pounds or more. I don't come anywhere near that on my big grocery store trips.

Darren J 12/17/2005 08:56:00 PM | 1 comments |

Golf out - cycling in

I haven't been able to travel by bicycle much lately. I've been having some longer days at work, so the extra time it takes to bike isn't so welcome right now. This means my inspiration for my writing and philosophizing here has been limited.

If all the hours I'm putting in don't get noticed, at least my cycling may pull through for me. Apparently the Star is reporting on an article in the Economist (I thought the articles referring to articles is supposed to be the domain of the blog), that talks about the new trend of cycling and bragging about it work. From the article:

And hard cycling has become a way to impress the boss and get ahead. It may even be pulling ahead of other sports as an opportunity to network and seal deals.

I may not be riding centuries, but I don't see anyone else doing it at work. I guess "hard cycling" is relative and I'm set for success.

I'm hoping to get out for a two wheeled cruise alongside the Don River this weekend. I might even make it down to the Leslie Spit for a wintry view of the city.

Darren J 12/17/2005 11:00:00 AM | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ontario bicycle promotion plan

The Ontario government has come up with a plan to get more people riding bikes!

Maybe they should make drivers to get an education on driving also. I know that sounds grumpy, but I had to say it.

I was surprised at how many US states have similar laws.

From the article:
Currently, nine American states require attendance at school to receive a driver's license (Alabama, Rhode Island, Georgia, South Carolina, Idaho, Texas, Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina), and five additional states have attendance and performance standards (Illinois, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia and Oklahoma). Ten states suspend licenses for truancy and/or academic problems (Arkansas,
Louisiana, California, New Mexico, Delaware, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin).

Darren J 12/14/2005 04:52:00 PM | 1 comments |

Monday, December 12, 2005

Grocery run

I took the long way to the grocery store yesterday.



I'm starting to feel much more comfortable riding on the snow covered roads. A little bit of wobbliness and slipping doesn't mean I'm guaranteed to fall. I tore around in the park and went up and down some small hills. I fell over once, backwards and sideways into the powder while going up a steep hill and losing all my momentum.

There was lots of room available on the bike rack at the grocery store.

Darren J 12/12/2005 10:22:00 PM | 0 comments |

Friday, December 09, 2005

Attempt number 1

I tried. And failed.

I left the house pretty excited about riding in the 5 cm of snow we got last night. With my new Snow Stud tires, featuring 100 hardened steel spikes, I carried my bike over the snow bank, mounted it and started rolling. I was smiling at everyone I went past. Shoveling the driveway obviously didn't fill people with the same joy, judging by the looks that were being returned.

It was tons of fun and unpredictable. I felt like I was learning to waterski for the first time. I rode a few blocks, then after nearly falling over 3 times (it was sort of a continuous falling over), and having very little choice which direction my bike would head, I decided it wouldn't be safe for me to ride on the busier minor unplowed streets. There was no glorious wipe-out, just a decision from higher levels. My brain does this sometimes.

I wish I didn't have to give you this report, but don't despair! I will return to snow covered roads. I think I need to spend some time practicing on the weekend. Maybe I was choosing the wrong part of the road to ride down, or maybe I just need to get a better feel for it so I can balance better.

Part of the problem was that I was riding on the hard packed tire tracks left by the cars. It felt steady until the packed snow started to break away under my tire. Then my tire would slip down to the asphalt level, in a way that I didn't expect. I'd loose my balance and weave to the left or right.

After I decided not to ride, I turned down a less busy street and went for a quick spin through some powder. What a great feeling. It felt like too much fun to be part of my morning commute. I'll have to wait until next time to prove that idea wrong.

Darren J 12/09/2005 01:13:00 PM | 2 comments |

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Big plans

"Everyone gets one new knee and one new hip joint!" That'll be my promise if I run for office, so I hope no one steals it.

With all the promises and big plans I've seen from our politicians in the past two weeks, I have the feeling that the media is missing out on the most important point. None of the politicians have any intentions of putting these plans in place. As long as there's a minority government, anything remotely controversial will be stopped by the opposition parties, and no one has broken a promise. "We tried really really hard."

I liked the summary from Geoff on Rubber Side Down.

Darren J 12/08/2005 04:55:00 PM | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cold weather update

As for cold weather commuting, I needed to just get out and do it. The more reading and research I did on it was just discouraging me, because it all focused on what could go wrong and how ruined your bike will be by the time spring shows up.

The local temperature was -8 to -7 C (high teens F) on my way in today. I know this isn't setting any North American records, but it was cold enough that most people went out the door of their house and wished their car was already warmed up. My fingertips were cold at the start, then after my core heated up, my fingers warmed up too. I've been planning to get some new gloves for weeks now.

My toes got cold by the end of my ride. This morning I tried wearing running shoes with warm ski socks with a layer of plastic on the outside of my socks. I figured the plastic would cut down on the air flow through my shoes. I'd give it about a B+ for effectiveness. It worked, but if it were much colder it could have been bad.

I installed my studded tires last night. They definitely feel more sluggish. Noise was not an issue at all. All those complaints must have been referring to tires with full ice studs. My tires have about 100 studs and they don't stick out very far.

When my ride started, I was thinking about how my tires were a bit of overkill for these dry clear roads. Then in the final 20 minutes it started to snow and the roads turned a deep grey colour with a mischievous glisten. I was happy to have the little bit of extra grip in case the asphalt decided to ice over. A little later on, I hopped up onto a paved snow covered shoulder and felt no slipping at all. I haven't put them to the real test yet thought.

With the tires, the cold, and a general feeling of calm this morning, my ride took a full hour instead of the usual 50 to 55 minutes. That's perfectly fine with me.

On top of all the usual benefits of cycling, exercising in this colder weather is great decongestant. It gives me that feeling of having satisfying, lung clearing coughs. Everyone around me is probably convinced I'm getting a cold, but I'm sure they're wrong. (really, I'm sure)

Darren J 12/07/2005 11:03:00 AM | 2 comments |

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Liberals

With our "marathon" eight week election campaign underway, I've been thinking about our government situation lately. The impact of federal politics are less immediate than municipal and provincial politics. And all the debates that make American federal politics so urgent and relevant play out differently here. We can't choose whether or not there are troops in Iraq fighting for oil for western economies, but we will benefit from it, and the biggest choice we can make is how much of that oil we use everyday.

"Adscam" and the current Liberal government is not a connection that I make as readily as most of the people I hear on the radio. I view it as something associated with a few baddies who I hope will lose all their savings and end up in jail. I don't expect one party or another to be directly involved in the criminal trial that should be taking place.

What I do hold our Liberal Party responsible for is their lack of action on Kyoto and energy consumption. If you have any sort of remote feeling that Canada is doing well in this area, read this. The only thing we have done is agreed to Kyoto. Individual US states are probably going to end up implementing Kyoto-like regulations faster than us.

My studded tires arrived late last week, but things have been too busy around here to get them installed and grease up my bike for the salt. I'm hoping tonight will be my chance to get it ready, so I'll be able to ride tomorrow and tear it up through some snow.

Darren J 12/06/2005 07:45:00 AM | 4 comments |

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bicycle Carolling!

I just got this from Toronto's Community Bicycle Network. It's for this Saturday!

>>>

“Just hear those Bike Bell jing-a-ling; ring, ting tingaling too.

C’mon it’s lovely weather for a bike ride together with you!”

Greetings from the Community Bicycle Network!

We’re getting together to sing some bike-friendly holiday carols at this Saturday’s International Day of Action on Climate Change and we need your support!

As you may know, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (first of its kind since the Kyoto protocol came into effect) is now underway in Montreal. The eyes of the world are focused on this conference and we as Canadians have a unique opportunity to promote immediate and globally inclusive action to deal with the current (and looming) climate crisis.

The rally is on Saturday, December 3rd and is scheduled to begin in Toronto at 1:00 PM in Nathan Philip’s Square. We’re going to meet at the Intersection (761 Queen Street West) for 11:30 AM so that we can decorate our bikes and become familiar with our “sustainable” new lyrics. We will depart for the rally at 12:30 PM.

Bring costumes, bicycle ornaments, bells and any other sort of sound-invoking device. Lyric sheets, juice and muffins will be available. Feel free to create your own versions of the holiday classics and e-mail to margaret@ms.com for inclusion in the handout.

Oh come all ye cyclists, joyful and triumphant! Bring your family and friends as everyone is welcome to join the chorus; the march will be pedestrian paced.

See y’all Saturday!

Darren J 12/01/2005 01:00:00 PM | 0 comments |