Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yearly Bike Mileage

Found this old post from last year when the odometer turned 10,000 to compare to. As of February 24th of this year, my odometer is at 15,239 km making for a total of 5239 km ridden in the past year. Not bad for not having a regular commute to make, and mostly for transportation, with the exception of course of things like biking to Lake Simcoe and back just for the fun of it.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Random Observations

  • Too much cold weather is giving me a bad case of February blahs. I was momentarily ecstatic by the spring-like feel when the temperature finally rose above the freezing mark for the first time in thirty days earlier in the week. Yay I can happily ding-a-ling my bell because my hands aren't so bulked up to keep warm that I can't push the button. But now back to deep freeze with wicked winds.
  • On one of the springy days I took an old bike out on my street to test ride which I've been fixing up to sell. (call this my bike maintenance learning project) The brakes of course required more fiddling. Its a narrow residential street with on street parking and with the still piled banks of snow from the plow, not room to move over for the car behind. Our street is supposed to be getting speed humps installed but I thought I could be the human speed hump variety. Ha. Not recommended. Dude hits the gas to intimidate me towards the snow bank and then guns it through the bank on the other side spraying me. Thanks a lot. At this point I was only 150m or less from the stop sign.
  • Biking is quite a social form of transport, but as I've mentioned before in winter its a bunch of cyclists bundled up in balaclavas. I miss the socialness of taking public transport, where there's the possibility of running into a friend you haven't seen for a while and you can just sit and chat as the world goes by. So far this year 509 km of biking to 3 one-way transit trips. Alas the social appeal is not enough incentive for me to want to pay for transit, or to have to be stuck with its schedule vs the freedom of the bicycle. And the number of times you actually meet up with someone to chat to on transit vs. getting annoyed at loud and obnoxious passengers is probably not the greatest ratio.
  • Of course in figuring out the cost of cycling I can't forget to add the cost of a tea or coffee at my destination in order to warm my numb digits.
  • What happened to the bike lanes on Beverley? I haven't used that street in a long time, and I was heading along it from Dundas to College... definitely I nominate that for worst bike lane in the city. At some point they must have dug a big hole all the way along the edge of the road to put in new pipes or whatnot, and filled it back in with that temporary pavement stuff, but at nowhere close to level. Whee. Mountain biking in the city. (while the bike lane is psychotically wavy, the adjacent lane is normal)
  • The bike lanes on College are always pretty much useless due to lack of parking enforcement, but with the winter snowbanks pushing the parked cars out entirely into them (well I blame 50% snowbanks and 50% bad parking jobs), they are now entirely useless. At least there are 4 lanes so I don't feel so bad about commandeering the next lane over. With snow piled Dundas bike lanes, two lanes and heavily used during rush hour, I pick a different route. I'm not big on constant blaring of car horns.
  • While taxis unloading in the bike lane may be a necessary evil, please dear taxi driver, realize I am a moving vehicle that cannot stop instantly before you cut me off.
  • Today I closed a door that a taxi passenger opened in my path and it felt immensely satisfying. I had yelled "Don't open..." first.
  • Despite it still being damn cold streetcar track reconstruction season has begun. Dundas between River and some point a couple blocks west seems to be the first target, narrowing traffic to one narrow lane per direction. I try to avoid these routes if possible, but if I come across them I try to cycle fast to not piss off the driver behind me too much as you really don't want to attempt to share these. Cold air + February hibernation + trying to bike fast = wheezing me.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How soon is spring?

Well at least the groundhogs are predicting it will come early. The first two weeks of January were positively balmy, leaving us to wonder if winter was ever coming, which had the bonus side effect of putting global warming into the consciences of the mainstream. But to us cold-hating Torontonians (as the rest of Canada loves to make fun of us when our then goofy mayor Mel called in the army for what would be to them a regular snowstorm) it was pleasant. Something we could get used to if it didn't have bigger ramifications.

And now with three straight weeks of below seasonal temperatures, the average of it all probably works out to... average. Right now I'm just dreaming of 0C. Instead of -10C with bitter winds that rip right through you. To have a day where I don't have to spend 10 minutes putting on layers of clothes before leaving the house on the bike, which comes back looking like a salt lick. On the major downtown east-west roads, the salt gets applied in the center (streetcar track) lane, and only marginally hits the curb lane (where parked cars presumably prevent salting/plowing), leaving only about 6 inches of clear patch between the streetcar track and the slippery stuff to ride in.

For a day just to put on ear warmers rather than bundling up under a balaclava. In my unscientific survey on cold days about three quarters of the cyclists out there are wearing balaclavas. The rest are bundled up pretty warm with about 1 in 10 obviously being the lucky warm blooded type that are totally bare-headed. Balaclavas make it difficult to ogle cute bikey boys. So I can ogle the bikes (character and practicality are much cooler to me than expensive impractical bikes) and the riding style.

And of course there are the fingers. I seem to never find the right combination of glove and mitten layers to prevent finger numbness from setting in. But there's a couple things I've figured out so far. Have an underlayer glove that is easily dextrous. If you have to unlock your bike with bare hands, and then put on gloves the cold air seems to get trapped. Buddy up. Mitts are warmer than gloves when you're fingers can touch. Mitts are less dextrous but lobster claws are a happy compromise. Keep the blood moving. Try to anticipate traffic signal timing to make for minimal stopping. Generate your own heat. Ride fast. Avoid the temptation to ride at a social pace with a friend. Although friends are good to take turns with blocking the wind. Make sure the rest of you is warm enough. Fingers and toes will lose heat first. Keep the thumb warm. Circulation is good. When you've been sitting for four hours in a movie theatre and you're freezing indoors, you're likely going to be colder heading out into a bitter winter night. When you don't need the dexterity on your handlebars hold your thumb against your palm for more warmth.

So after all this complaining, why don't I trade the bike for a transit pass during the cold snap? First of all, generating heat by riding is much warmer than standing around wondering when the next streetcar or bus is going to come along. I would miss the exercise too. The rush of zipping along with the cold air in your face. The thrill of conquering the elements on days when cars are moving along slower than you are due to the weather conditions. The freedom. The comraderie glances at the other balaclava-clad bikers. The cup of hot chocolate when coming in out of the cold. I would love it all if I didn't wonder if my fingers were going to get frostbite. And a day or two with temps at or above freezing would be a lovely break.

All of my cold winter trips are practical transportation trips. I don't tend to ride around just for fun when its below 0. Most of these trips are less than 10 km one way, so I always know that warmth is not much further now. But if you really want to get inspired to ride your bike in the winter, check out Viking Biking guy. This Norwegian is doing a cross-Canada tour... in January. Follow his progress through the prairie snowstorms. Check out the picture on the Icefield parkway. Brave soul.