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Category Archives: Cycling

Cycling is awesome

This is a cycling nerd totally geeking out.  He might be me.

This is a cycling nerd totally geeking out. He might be me.

Okay, just to warn you in advance, this article is a doozie. I also meant to post it months ago.

Today – Sunday, September 8th, 2013 – was a life defining day for me. Not in a “I’m quitting my job and living off the Earth from now on” kind of way, but in a life-defining “I know what I love” way. It’s a day when you recognize at the end of it that your life will never be the same, because you understand yourself that much better. My dad would have said it represented being on the path to self-actualization.

It’s a day when you catch foreign tourists photographing you as you make a phone call at a telephone booth while leaning on a mountain bike and are covered head to toe in mud; a day when you see your father cry as you approach him holding a piece of paper that says “degree” on it; a day when you turn to your brother beside you and scream “we’re going to the Stanley Cup finals!”; a day when you stand on a beach and watch the first place team paddle in and cross the finish line at Eco-Challenge; a day when you see your future wife walking towards you with barely contained emotion; a day when you stand on a mountain ridge and look around at 360 degrees of forever and realize it’s exactly the place you want to be at exactly the time you want to be there; a day when you get goosebumps as people cheer you on crossing the finish line at the Ride to Conquer Cancer; a day when you first hold your son or daughter, look down at them, and feel their warmth and their movement…

So now that you know my biography, what happened to me, today? Well, I went to a bike race. Sounds pretty stupid, right? Read more of this post

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Riding… Snacking…

Photo evidence! Bikes parked at the candy shop.

Well, as summer winds down, we reflect.  With family and things happening around us, we didn’t get a chance to ride as much as we wanted.  We did do a couple of great (easy, low-impact) rides with our friends Russ and Lucie though, and I thought I’d share.  We did the Canmore-Banff Legacy trail along the river, and we also did a loop from our house to downtown Calgary and back.  In both cases, we took full advantage of our surroundings halfway through the rides to snack.  Hey, if you’re riding, you need to reload, right?

Canmore-Banff Legacy Trail

Here’s the GPS plot.  First off, we need a rematch on this ride.  It was Adena’s first ride on her roadie in quite some time, and we ended up stopping a few times to make adjustments and repairs as we went.  That’s fine, but it detracted from the rhythm of riding a bit.  She was thrilled, though; she loves going fast on the road bike way more than riding her mountain bike.  Whenever we’d stop to make an adjustment, it was like she was being tortured… she wanted to go!

The only trouble is that the trail starts on the Canmore side just at the park gates.  There’s also nowhere to park there.  The way we did it was to park in Harvie Heights (right here), ride along a trail towards the park gates, and then go the wrong way over a one-way overpass to the other side of the highway.  Once there, we rode about 1km up the Trans-Canada against the flow of traffic (the move looked like this going from B to A).  A bit unnerving, but there were lots of people making the journey and it’s the only way to hook it up.  Access:  a small oversight on the trail designers’ part!

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We rode the Big Dipper.

Our 12-Mile Coulee mashup. Because of construction, the “scoop” of our route turned into a “well now where do we go?” mashup.

Okay, that title makes absolutely no sense, but check out the plot of this ride that Russ and I did yesterday.  I’ve seen some impressive GPS plot routes in my time (Space Invaders ftw!), but those are intentional from what I’ve seen.  If they’re not, that’s a series of miracles of coincidence and all parties involved should likely buy lottery tickets.  Ours was accidental.  It’s mirrored, as you can see, but it’s pretty darn close.  Ursa Major mirrored on Earth!  One minor difference is that in our dipper, the ladle has some steaming soup in it.  Nice.

Or it’s a steaming pile of something else, because what that ladle represents on our ride is a big pile of fail.  We wanted to do a fast mountain bike ride, and what easier target than the Coulee?  Heck, we’ve even ridden it in the pitch black in winter.  Summer should be an easy rip, right?  Well, with the City finishing off their ring road by removing the light at Nose Hill Dr. and Stoney Trail, they’ve completely blown up the nice meadow and tree-covered brook that used to make up the bottom of the trail in the park.  In fact, we had to trespass across the construction site to even get to the base of the trail to climb up (it was an up and down trek).

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Carrots, Cross-eyed, and Electric Bikes.

I’m gunna git ya!

It’s hot in Calgary right now.  I know there are a lot of places a whole lot hotter than Calgary right now, but when we have been struggling to make it over 20 degrees for all of “summer” so far, a sudden blast of 30 degrees makes everyone both happy and sad right now.  The same way that we laugh at other cities in Canada who shut themselves down after a foot of snow, people laugh at us for when the heat goes above 25 and we have to start having rolling blackouts because the system can’t handle the sudden load of air conditioners turned on for the one week of the year we might “need” them (because, it still drops to almost 10 overnight… seems like a decent air-conditioner to me).  Well I don’t have an air conditioner, and I do have a lot of grumpiness, so here goes.

I did a nice commute route home tonight, as can be seen here.  I don’t get to do it in 30 degree heat that often, so I take days like this as being a bit of a treat.  The wind seemed favourable today instead of the usual blast out of the west straight into my face on the way home, so I lengthened it to the funny finger-trap bridge before looping back towards the northwest.  As always happens when the weather improves, the fair-weather commuters appear on their bikes to get to and fro.  I’m 100% behind this, I think it’s great that more people get out and on their bikes, it’s just too bad a lot of them don’t know the rules of polite cycling on city pathways.  Seriously, buy a bell, people; the pedestrians will thank you – they thank me!

Now let me state this outright.  I don’t like you, electric bikes.

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New Ride – 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

Well, the time has come.  After a lot of years riding my excellent and faithful Trek 2200, it’s time for a bit of a technology leap.  I went out looking with only a couple of requirements in mind:  I wanted carbon to improve my ride quality/comfort (not just to have carbon), and I wanted Shimano Ultegra.  Well, it’s landed, and I ended up with a 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert X2, in American Flyer Red:

The New Hotness, 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

I had expected when I started poking around last year that I would end up in the Trek camp again after I shopped around for a while.  The Trek Madone 5.2 was right around the requirements spec, and at the time the 2011 models were being blown out.  By the time I got to it, they were sold out everywhere, otherwise I would likely be riding one now.  I was offered a blow-out deal on a 2012 , but I didn’t pull the trigger as the two bikes I wanted to sell to help fund this project didn’t sell in the fall.  I test rode the 2012 Madone and I liked it, so I sat back to wait until spring.  Now, even the regular price on the 5.2 is good (it’s one of the better mid-high-end values out there), but when the blow-out offer was rescinded when I started to look a few weeks ago, I began to explore a bit more.  Boy, am I glad I did.

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Old Fernie Footage 1

I was talking to a friend about riding a couple of days ago, and then that night while I was doing some work on my home computer I kind of stumbled upon some old footage I took at Fernie in 2010.  I’m not that talented a downhill rider, but I love mountain biking and I had fun watching some of this!!  The footage takes up a lot of disk space for not ever being seen, so I decided to work some of it up to post so I could ditch the raw footage (there’s a lot of standing around before runs).

Here’s post #1, which I think is Bin Loggin’.  Phil and I are following a guide who we hung out with for a bit and who gave us some pointers on how not to suck so much.  Phil took those pointers to heart, but they didn’t really sink in for me.  I guess that means:  rematch!!  Stay tuned for more old footage from this trip.

Riding the Rollers

OK, with renos nearing completion, we’ve got most of our house back.  That means I’ve managed to carve out a space in the basement to set up the rollers again.  I was always big on the idea of using my own bike on a trainer indoors, as opposed to an exercise bike, but this takes it to the next level.  With a static trainer, you’re riding the geometry you’re used to, but the bike is supported by the trainer itself.  You spin, and that’s the workout.

With the rollers, it’s an entirely different story.  It’s like a treadmill for your bike.  When you supply power, that spins the two rollers supporting the rear wheel of the bike.  They are attached via belt to the front roller (which provides additional resistance).  The front roller spins the front wheel.  It’s actually a fairly simple design, and with both wheels spinning you create the force required to keep the bike upright.  In essence, you just ride the bike.

As for the workout, it’s much more intensive than a static trainer.  Because you’re riding the whole bike, you’re using stabilizer muscles to keep the bike upright and pointed straight, muscles that you could otherwise be lazy about on the static trainer.  You have to be smooth too, so it can help improve your balance, cadence and tracking on the bike.  You don’t know how bad you ride until you try to take it to a roller!

With all the benefits highlighted, some folks have said that it looks a little dangerous.  What if you fall off?  Well, I do fall off occasionally (way less than at first).  Because you have no momentum, you can just kind of step off sideways and put your foot on the ground.  If the bike wheels happen to hit the ground, you just get a “whizzzt!” as they stop suddenly, but that’s about the worst of it.  There is no flying into the wall or anything.

Hopefully I can figure out how to start without having to hold onto a chair, because I still do have to do that.  Anyways, here’s what a roller workout looks like:

My 20km Commute

So I live pretty close to work, but I quite often take a detour on my way home to give a bit of a longer ride.  I credit the longer commutes with helping me to lose 10 pounds over the last couple of months.  I really enjoy the route, but it’s a hard thing to describe to people as parts of it can end up being a through fields and parking lots and holes in fences type-thing.  The easiest way to describe it is to show it, so I recorded my commute last Thursday to show the route.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit through the full 50 minutes of the commute, it’s time-lapsed with comments here and there.

I chose an excellent tune by Orbital called “Time Flies” for the soundtrack because that’s kind of what the video represents!

I can stretch the route out even further by going all the way downtown before heading back to the west, but I find that’s a bit of a time trade-off, and it’s better to stick to the 20k and stay under an hour to get home and see the family.  I’ll still go all the way downtown once in a while, but not too often.

Dead Smarties

RIP Crank Bros Smarties, 2008ish-2011

Well, that’s that.  The drivetrain on my commuter bike has been making some nasty sounds this week, ever since a very wet ride home last Wednesday.  I put it up on the stand last night to check it out, and though the drive-side crank was a tad loose, the bulk of the problem was that the pedals are toast.  Rest in peace, Crank Bros Smarty pedals.  The $20 I spent on you bought me roughly 3000km of commuting on several bikes and through several winters before you finally succumbed to your own cheapness.

I would buy them again in a heartbeat because they just work, and they were so so cheap.  Thankfully, I had a spare pair of eggbeaters that I could install.  They are definitely nicer, and the zero play in the pedal bodies versus the several millimeters of play on the outgoing Smarties is not anything to discount!

I did it.

Wow.  After I got home from my ride today, I decided to check out my weight.  I did it, well, almost.  I’m close.

I originally thought that the Withings scale I got from my company was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen.  I mean, who the heck wants a wi-fi bathroom scale?  Turns out it’s one of the most motivating things in the world.  It’s not because the scale uploads all your weight data for the world to see (I don’t publicize it), it’s that the graph is right there in your face.  I’ve got it on my phone, and I’m addicted to loading it up, and seeing the downward trend on that weight line.  It’s just awesome.

Back to today.  I started at around 180lbs, which was an all-time high for me.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve been not doing any exercise besides commuting by bicycle (which I love to do).  I experimented with a brief stint of removing pop completely from my diet (I was off it for a month), but have since started drinking it now and again and am still losing weight.  Today, the scale read 169.5 lbs… that is the first time I have been in the 160s in like 2 years.  I’m pretty jazzed really, and I feel the difference!  Well, to be honest, I had a pretty sluggish ride home, and I was expecting to find I’d gained like 4 lbs or something.  169.5 though, it’s awesome.

My goal is 165, and it is decidedly in reach.  Maybe I will set a new goal when I get there, but I am not addicted to weight loss.  I will only lose weight to the point that it’s healthy and helps me to have more fun at the activities I love to do (such as cycling, duh!).  Here’s the plot since I turned the scale on:

My weight from June to September - a little upslope is in there for "had a kid, didn't sleep much."