Archive for the 'Just plain awesome' Category

Charity Rides: Make them Cool.

Is it only Tuesday? Seriously?  In my quest not to fail in life, I’ll make this short. I thought I’d share some more images, this time from my personal collection.  For the past couple of years I’ve done the same charity ride each summer.  Two days on the bike for a great cause.  We’re always organized in teams, and it’s always our goal to win best team name.  Fortunately, charity ride participants tend to gravitate towards names like “the old cranks,” or “team pedal power.”  So, we kill it.  Our t-shirts are always the best, too.

The Richard Gears. Ya dig?

Two years ago we were the Richard Gears.  We won.  Obviously.  I can’t find a picture of the tshirt, but you get the idea.

"Are you tellin' me that this sucker is nuclear?"

Last year we were “Cycle J. Fox in Bike to the Future.”  Serious points for incorporating the best trilogy ever, and I had a lot of fun putting the logo together.  However, I think we should have been docked a few points for using “bike” as a verb.

Red shirt.

Aside from generally looking awesome, our team also managed to be the sole participants to visit the LCBO upon arrival and wander through a small town drinking from inconspicuous brown bags.

The “Wheelin’ Wonders” never stood a chance.


We are what we watch: YOUTUBE!

In Canada, all stock images of watching TV feature hockey. It's the law.

As avid cyclists, the one thing we like almost as much as riding bikes is watching other people ride bikes.  Ever since Mark Zuckerburg invented the internet, we’ve had an unending supply of videos to watch.  Thought I’m tempting to suggest that the kind of videos we watch reflect our personalities, I don’t think that’s always the case.  Based on my own experience, I might favour old-timey races and “classic” moments in cycling history, but I’m also likely to watch Vimeo trailers for track bike tours and bar spinzzzz.

Some videos appeal to almost all cyclists for one reason or another.  Usually it’s because the video represents something we can’t attain, either because we can’t go that fast, or because we can’t afford to take time off, purchase expensive clothes, and hire a camera crew.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Other videos are harder to watch.  For example, deep down we are troubled by fighting in cycling.  Though fodder for the “is cycling gay” debate, these altercations provide no real answers.  It is only when professional cyclists fight that we can truly witness ambition tempered by ability.  These men seem to want to hurt each other.  They just can’t.  I’m guessing they both had cyclist fathers who, tragically, taught their sons to fight in the same way: “Now son, remember to keep your arms straight, aim for the ears or the back of the head, complete at least one full spin, and for the love of God only close your fists when you get tired!”

Cycling fans, however, are another story.  Put simply, don’t fuck with them.

But what about taking inspiration from cycling?  What if we want to know why people race bikes professionally, but aren’t satisfied with the answer “because we get paid to. Why do you go to work every day?” Most importantly, what if we’re totally disappointed in the amount of cycling featured in Love Actually?

And then, of course, their are the videos that simply seem as if they were made for you alone.  In all likelihood, cycling is tangential to the video and it strikes at something deeper.  In this case, a dark, dark sense of humour.

Maybe we are what we watch, we just hate to admit it.

Babylon Wants Its Bike Back: Mile-a-Minute-Murphy

Draft? Draft.

The town of Babylon, Long Island, is willing to pay top dollar for the return of Mile-a-Minute Murphy’s famous bike.  Though it’s not from Hipster Ikea, it is a fixed gear. The bike belonged to Charles Minthorn Murphy, who became a national celebrity as the first cyclist to ride a mile in less than a minute.  He also claimed to have invented the concept of drafting, which seems not unlike Al Gore claiming to have invented the internet (when everyone knows it was Mark Zuckerburg).


Here’s the bike, for which Babylon is offering $20,000.  The Springfield Museums Association (Massachusetts) owns the bike, but it has been kept in storage for the past 3 years.  Babylon wants it back, and who can blame them?  In 1899, Murphy (who was a seasoned cyclist and had covered a mile in 37 seconds on rollers) boasted that there was not a train in the world that could drop him.  He theorized that he could ride in the slipstream of any vehicle and keep pace with it.

In a fit of old-timey insanity, a length of track was covered with boards so that both a train and cyclist could ride on it.  Dozens of journalists piled into the last car of an empty train (which had been modified somewhat to create a slipstream), and Murphy instructed the engineer to go as fast as he could.  On the first run, Murphy finished the mile in 1 minute 8 seconds, but that was because the conductor couldn’t get his train over 60 miles/hour.  A second attempt was necessary, and this time the engine’s regulator was removed.  This has Back to the Future III written all over it.

Covered tracks. Totally safe.

The second attempt proved challenging in other ways.  According to Murphy,

“Within five seconds the rate of speed was terrific; I was riding in a maelstrom of swirling dust, hot cinders, paper and other particles of matter. The whipsaw feeling through a veritable storm of fire became harder every second. I could feel myself getting weaker every second I saw ridicule, contempt, disgrace and a lifetime dream gone up in smoke. I saw the agonised faces, yelling, holding out stretched hands as if they would like to get hold of or assist me somehow.”

Near the 45 second mark, the train was starting to drop Murphy.  He dug in, closed the gap, and then crashed into the back of the train as it crossed the one mile marker (he was able to grab the guard rail and was pulled aboard by journalists). He had covered a mile in 57.8 seconds.  Like the winner in a track-stand competition, Murphy was overwhelmed by his success and the ensuing celebrations.

“I lay motionless, face down, on the platform. I was all in. I was half-carried to a cot at the end of the car; the roar of the train was challenged by hysterical yells. Grown men hugged and kissed each other. One man fainted and another went into hysterics, while I remained speechless on my back, ashen in colour and sore all over.”

Come on, Springfield Museums Association.  Do the right thing and send this piece of history home.

On his way to 1 million: Lindsay Gauld

Bad ass. For real.

Like most people who spend their leisure time on a bike, I have a cyclocomputer.  Although I don’t “train,” worry about my “wattage,” or go particularly “fast,” it is fun to keep an eye on my speed and watch the odometer increase.  Unlike cars, which depreciate with every additional kilometre, a bike (and especially its rider) longs for the bragging rights that come with great distances.

As we get older, we cover more ground; instead of resting on our laurels (the “laurel” is a special Brooks saddle available on or after your sixtieth birthday), some of us push harder and create new goals.  I remember one man who I rode with in Aix-en-Provence.  He was the founder of the local club, and he looked about 70.  Foolishly, I thought the ride would be leisurely and that I’d get a chance to chat with the patriarch.  I’m fairly sure he rolled back into town a good 45 minutes before I did.  A week or so later, as I was riding through Aix, I felt a hand on my back and heard “Toronto, ça-va?”  Like most people who are awesome, his mnemonic device was to associate a person with their place of origin.  So, I was Toronto (I supposed he also could have called me the French equivalent of “slow poke” or, more insulting, “bonk boy.” Both terms were apt descriptions of my first club ride).   He was gracious enough to invite me back for another ride.  It old him I’d do my best to make it, but I doubt any of them were surprised when I didn’t arrive the following week.

I bet that man is still at it.  Every weekend.  I was reminded of that story by an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about Lindsay Gauld.  A former Olympian, and currently working (at the age of 61) as a bicycle courier, Gauld has recorded his kilometrage for over 40 years.  In 1981, he founded a bike and ski shop, which he sold just four years ago.  Instead of retiring, he decided to work as a messenger.

“It’s a healthy way to spend my life. Somehow it feels righteous to keep one car off the road. It’s a way of going out riding all day with my wife (Lynne’s) blessing,” he said.

Gauld is at 919,000 kilometres.  At this rate, he hopes to hit 1 million by May 2013.  Put in perspective, that’s like going to the moon, returning to earth, and getting half way there again.

Old-timey awesomeness.

To spend 40 years cycling (and still want to do more) is quite an accomplishment.  We should all be so lucky.

Getting What You Pay For: The Carradice Bike Bureau


You're sooooo good lookin'.

At some point not too long ago, I quit wearing messenger bags.  As my days of student-hood draw to a close, and the glinty glare of an academic career comes into focus (which is really just an extension of student-hood, but I digress…), certain changes are necessary.  It is no longer appropriate (or practical) to sling a fakenger bag over my shoulder.  Sadly, this leaves me with few options: a backpack? a briefcase? one of those super sport pannier-to-shoulder bag combos?  Obviously, none of these would do.  After a little soul searching (the “soul” is what I call the internet), I found myself back at the Carradice website. It did not disappoint.

The Carradice Bike Bureau isn’t “hip” so much as “classic.”  I paid about $160 (including shipping and customs), so it wasn’t cheap but also wasn’t prohibitively expensive.  Cotton Duck, leather straps, and thoughtful design made it an easy choice.  It’s a pannier-to-shoulder bag that looks as at home on a bike as on your back, which is no small feat.


Back view. Pannier clips covered.

When used as a shoulder bag, a flap (for want of a better word) covers the clips.  This is a zippered compartment, which I have used to store a rain cover (thus providing extra padding over the clips, which dug into my back a little).

Flap (held by velcro) flips over to reveal clips.

The mounting system isn’t the easiest I’ve used, but it’s no real challenge.  The important thing is that once on the bike, the bag feels secure.  The velcro flap folds over to help protect the bag and keep it as clean as possible.

Visible. Nice.

So far I’ve been using the bag with my winter bike (a modified Dahon Jack) with a standard rack, but I’ve also tested it out on my Surly LHT (with the beefier “Nice Rack“), and it fits like a charm on both.  I had to slide it all the way to the back of the rack, but once positioned there I had lots of foot clearance.

Sweet slippers.

Most importantly, the bag feels good to wear (especially with the extra padding), and looks devilishly handsome.  It doesn’t look like a pannier, which is key.  It also holds a tonne of stuff (26 litres worth, to be exact).  Not pictured is the padded laptop compartment, which is removable (but when installed suspends the computer a little to ensure you don’t smash it up if the bag falls). This is a huge benefit for pretty much everyone, because who doesn’t have a laptop?  It will also work well with a tablet, if you’re one of those early adopters.

Contents. Including retina-burning rain wear.

Here’s what I had in the bag.  And it wasn’t full, or too heavy.  Needless to say, this bag can pretty much handle whatever you throw at it.

So, for those of us for whom the messenger bag simply no longer fits the bill, there are other options.  Better options, I dare say. Yes, you will have to install a rack on your bike, but that’s not the end of the world (even if you, like Dubya, fawn over the clean lines and simplicity of a fixed steel frame).  Racks are awesome, get over it. Less back sweat and fewer shoulder aches are well worth it.

In conclusion, some things take more than four sentences to review.  Others agree.

Where the A-holes are: Philadelphia

Here’s one for the weekend.  I love this show.  It’s like Seinfeld on crack.

The internet is abuzz with news that USA! USA! USA! will be hosting the CX World Championships (not the entire country, just Louisville) in 2013.  If you happen to love riding your bike, dismounting it to run up some stairs / hop over a hurdle, and getting really muddy (and really, who doesn’t?), then this is good news.

There’s also a video edit of Steve Bauer’s announcement that Canada has a Pro Tour team.  It’s partly in French, partly in English, and mostly in music.  Weird.

In other good news, it feels like -30 (Celsius) in Montreal today.  Good weather for merino everything.

It’s Fin du Monde Friday, so do something fun tonight.

Tour Down Under: ALLEZ VICHOT!

Quoi de what?

You’ve likely never heard of Arthur Vichot.  Me neither.  Sure, he rides for one of the few teams with a quasi-stylish kit, but that really has nothing to do with him.  So, why was he such a fan favourite at the Tour Down Under?

Not the work of the Chalkbot.

It seems that Australian cycling fans like to have fun.  According to various news reports, a group of fans decided to pick one unknown competitor in the TDU and make him a star.  After a little research, they settled on Vichot and went about transforming this 20-year-old water carrier into a cycling celebrity.

“Only two weeks ago the idea came up to create an Australian fan-club for an unknown rider who would be doing his first race here, who had never been to Australia before and doesn’t speak English,” said Alsbury [from the Port Adelaide Cycling Club]. “We went through the start list and we found Arthur on Facebook. That’s how we got to know that he came second at the U23 French championship. The club has grown from words of mouth.”

During his first training ride with local cyclists in Adelaide last week, Lance Armstrong was asked by Alsbury: “Do you know Vichot?” The seven-time winner of the Tour de France had never heard this name but he was told: “You’ll know him by the end the Tour Down Under.” That’s exactly what’s happened.

To his credit, Vichot is being a good sport.  “It is fun that this story occurs to me,” he noted in one interview.  I just might try and snag one of those Allez Vichot shirts.

Good on you, Australia.

EDITED TO ADD: Be sure to check out the Facebook page.  Lots of great pictures.

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