Thursday, September 27, 2007

Photos from Bells on Bloor


I was at the Bells on Bloor ride on Sunday. It was a very fun event. Well organized and amazingly well attended. I've heard numbers all over the place. My original guess was 300 people, but everyone seems to disagree. 500 is probably a better guess. Watch Martino's video and if you have the patience, you can do a count.


I have a few photos of the event up on flickr.

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Darren J 9/27/2007 12:56:00 p.m. | 3 comments |

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A soldier

Friday's ride home ...

A young guy, with hip hop blaring, rips past two cyclists, one being me. My friend and I pull up alongside at the red light. The driver's side window is open but he won't look through it. I talk with my friend. The driver has perfected his angry look. He sneaks a glance at us before making his right turn.

Two houses down from a school, a soldier and his sweetheart stand in a driveway beside a car. He's dressed in full camouflage. She's draped over his shoulders, hanging heavily from him. He's standing tall, no emotion in his face.

A boy, 12 or 13 years old, pulls his bike up beside me on the sidewalk as the light turns green. I accelerate. He accelerates. Repeat. He pulls ahead. "OK then, let's go!" I say.

"How long have you been riding?" is his response. We've put the race aside for now. He has a huge smile.

I need clarification, "In my life?"

"No, just now."

"30 or 40 minutes."

"Wow, that's long."

"How about you?" I ask.

"I'm just coming from school."

"It's great that you ride your bike." I speed up.

"See ya," he says, still smiling.

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Darren J 9/25/2007 09:05:00 a.m. | 1 comments |

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sharing part 2: Reconciliation

This morning, I was in pedestrian mode, walking my bike instead of making a normal left turn. While standing on the sidewalk, starting to cross, a minivan pulled up to the stop line in front of me and started to ease through to make a right turn on red. I yelled "hey!" and pointed at the light. He stopped, albeit in the ped-crosswalk. The guy rolled down his window as I passed in front of his van. He looked a little stunned.

I said, "I'm sorry". I'm getting tired of yelling at people, adding to the anger on the streets.

He said, "I'm sorry too."

Me: "I just face a lot of bad stuff out here and I get a little testy sometimes."

Him: "Don't I know it."


Darren J 9/20/2007 06:02:00 p.m. | 3 comments |

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The people we share with

These are some of the responses I got from a driver who passed me less than a foot away while I was going down hill at the speed limit.

“Don’t worry. I knew exactly where you were,” he says smiling.

“You were too far out into the lane anyways.”

-- Me: That lane belongs to me! You have to wait til it’s safe to pass me.

“Oh really? I don’t remember seeing a bike lane.”

-- Me: No, it’s a vehicle lane, and this (pointing at bike) is a vehicle.

There were a few more comments, and the vigorous debate quickly became heated. I called him an asshole and he told me to fuck off. I’m not proud of how it ended. There’s a good argument for avoiding these discussions altogether, but I can’t imagine this guy driving away with the idea that it’s alright to keep passing cyclists less than a foot away, especially if they’re doing 50 km/h.

The kicker: The driver not only had a roof rack with bicycle mounts, he had a bicycle in the back of his station wagon and was wearing his MEC cycling jacket.

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Darren J 9/18/2007 08:28:00 a.m. | 4 comments |

Friday, September 07, 2007

A New Ride

Last week, I became the owner of a shiny new bicycle. It's a Bianchi Volpe, technically a cyclo-cross bike, but I plan to use it for commuting and fun long rides on the weekend.

Bianchi at the Leslie Spit

I don't buy a bicycle often, so it took me a couple months to decide what to do. The last bicycle I bought was a mountain bike in 2000. I've mentioned here before that the road bike I've been using for commuting and distances was a gift to me from my parents on my 13th birthday. I've made good use of it. I always suspected it was small for my adult self, and now that I've been riding my new full size bike, I can be sure of it.

A cross bike fits my needs well. It has a strong frame that can handle having some weight tied to the rack. It has lots of tire clearance with room for fenders and large tires. It has excellent brakes. Drop handlebars, and their many hand positions, is a feature I didn't want to lose. And I didn't want to shock myself with the price, but I was willing to spend enough that my car driving friends would be shocked. ("I could have told you where to get a nice bike for $300!") This bike is cheaper than any good touring bike I saw, probably because of the component selection. Overall, the bike has a good reputation.

Things I like on the Volpe: The brakes - I can actually skid on dry pavement now. The steering - The large handlebars and brake hoods give me very comfortable places to put my hands. The feel - I don't know why, but I feel like I have a lot of control. I wish I could explain that better. The gear shifting - some cyclo-cross bikes have bar end shifters. This one has indexed brake lever shifters. It's been pretty nice climbing hills and coming up to stop lights, shifting quickly without even moving my hands.

As for negatives: What I've conveniently left unclear in my photograph is the saddle. The bike has a leopard print saddle that seems to attract a lot of attention from anyone looking at the bike. Personally, I find it's strangeness slightly attractive, much like the "gang green" paint job. On this 2007 model, the wheels have 32 spokes, as opposed to last year's model with 36 spokes. I'll see how that plays out after I drop off a curb with some weight on the back. The tires are knobby 700x32's, so there's a bit of a hum as I ride. I had planned on swapping out the tires with my smooth 700x28's, but after riding for a week, I'm finding I really like these tires. The extra girth makes riding over the cracked road very comfortable. I think I'll wait until I have a long ride planned before I swap the tires. There's no rack on the bike. I'll take care of that soon enough.

All in all, I'm a very happy cyclist. As someone used to riding a bike from the late 80's, I might have enjoyed any new bike, but I really feel like I made a good choice. The bike has a smooth ride and solid feel that I really like. I'm looking forward to seeing how it handles with some weight on the back going down those big rolling hills in the country.

Check back with me in 2025 for my next road bike review.

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Darren J 9/07/2007 05:40:00 p.m. | 8 comments |

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Crossing Canada for Children

This Labour Day, while biking around the city, I stopped in at HTO park where I met Bertrand Lemeunier, a cyclist passing through Toronto on a cross Canada trip. He was relaxing on one of the teletubby hills with a conspicuously loaded bicycle.

Bertrand is doing the full edition, cycling from St. John’s to Vancouver, plus side trips along the way. This means he’ll complete the trip at the end of the year, by his estimate. Being full of good news, I pointed out that he’ll probably be facing some winter weather and a head wind. (Just call me if you need a pep talk.) He was unfazed. He was already aware of the Viking Biker, and had, in fact, stayed at the same place as him when they crossed paths in the Maritimes. "You just have to wear the right clothing," he said casually.

A photographer from Lyon, France, Bertrand is using his skills to raise money for a Canadian charity while he crosses the country. Thus far, he has brought in $5797 for the Children’s Wish Foundation. As well as donations, Bertrand is giving the larger part of the sale of his photographs to the Children’s Wish Foundation. Plenty of information is available on his site, Enfants O Canada, in French and English.

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Darren J 9/04/2007 12:40:00 p.m. | 1 comments |