Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dear Winter

Dear Old Man Winter,
We've had some good times over the past season. The other weekend I went to Ottawa for the Winterlude festival, and enjoyed a skate on your world's biggest outdoor skating rink with about 100,000 other folks that had the same idea.

Now of course you had to subtly (or not so subtly) remind me that you, Winter, are more powerful than mere man-made plastic:

You may be able to break my skates, but you can't break my spirit.

Along the lines of trying to break things, I'd appreciate if you'd leave my bicycle alone. Yes I know, it wasn't you, but silly humans, that thought pouring tonnes of destructive salt was a good way to make the roads safer to travel on. And salt-a-plenty we've been doing in this doozy of a Toronto winter you've thrown our way. The salt managed to seize up my rear brakes so well I took them in to the bike shop for some new ones. But I wasn't about to let you win twice with the front brakes. Fortunately I was able to remove them, clean and gob up some fresh grease on the posts, and presto magico working brakes (and no randomly leftover bits, an always disconcerting experience of crazy biker chick bike repair experimentation projects)

However, I have to suspect that my violent lurch into my saddle today did had something to do with you, dear Winter. Apparently the bitter cold weather can make an already suspect freehub function even worse. And yeah to us wimpy Torontonians I think -15C with -25C windchill counts as bitter.

But not bitter enough to take the smile out of my morning commute. You'll have to try really much harder for that one. Fortunately the Arctic chills seem to come along with clear skies and sunshine, and I thank you for that. To my neighbour that suggested "today is not a good day to be on your bicycle" I think I mentioned "What do you mean? Its a bee-yoo-tee-ful sunshiney day" I now appreciate however why I see some other cyclists wearing ski goggles when they ride. You did manage to rip the wind right through my useless winter cycling three fingered gloves on the way home though, but my commute is short enough that I could escape to warmer air before frozen became frostbitten.

Through icy roads and fierce wind and freezing rain and chilly temps and fresh falling snow and blizzards I've attempted to beat everything you've thrown my way. With a smile of the simplicity of the bicycle, the warmth created by the engine, and dreams of tea on the other side. You narrow the road space with mountains of plowed snow, but it just makes it that much easier to find space to occupy. The joys of cruising down the middle of a bustling city street bundled against the elements, knowing the onlookers have no idea why I'm smiling madly.

Occasionally when the snow piles deep and the four-wheeled boxes are sliding about at randomly I decide its not worth it and have to abandon the bike. But those are the fun days for giddily trundling with boots through the piles of snow, or grabbing the toboggan and making my way to Riverdale Park to fly my way into the Don Valley.

So yeah we've had some pretty good times. But you know, I'm about more than ready to say so long, farewell, adios, until next year... I know you are officially scheduled for the next three weeks. But I'm dreamin' of spring, and if you could just maybe uh step aside and make way? I'd really appreciate it.

Dreamin' of pansies in the milk crate on the Twenty, trading in the balaclava for hair blowin' in the wind, a skirt instead of wind pants, sandals instead of boots, bright blooming flowers, waffle cones, bikey traffic jams, good mood breezes, daylight long into the evening hours, fresh asparagus, deck lounging, barbequed portobello mushrooms, and of course crazy-long-bike-ride season vs. short-enough-to-avoid-frostbite-bike-ride season.

Yours truly,
Crazy Biker Chick


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Winter Cycling in the News

(click for larger version)
Full text (sans lovely photo) here.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Catching up!

Did you miss me? I didn't intend to disappear for so long. Just haven't felt inspired to write. But always inspired to keep on riding.

What's new?
  • I have a new homemade cargo trailer that my friend Mark helped me build. Its perfect for bulk kitty litter and cat food shopping. And garden supply buying in the spring! (okay so I may be dreamin' of spring about now) I'll post some construction photos later, but its a frame built of metal electrical conduit to hold a rubbermaid container. Here's the return from winter shopping, after carefully shovelling out a trailer width gap in the snowplow bank:

    Locking up for shopping is easy with a looped cable around the frame. Not so easy that bike racks are not generally dug out:

  • With the really destructive salty season (so far I have had seized brake arms, and my new chain and cassette are looking very worse for wear) I'm waiting to spring for any new bikey purchases. I'm eying the Bacchetta Giro 26 first as my new randonneuring and touring bike, hopefully as soon as the salty season vanishes.

    Photo by Steeker, shamelessly ripped off from the The Lazy Randonneur
  • What do you think of the new banners? I've put up some of my favourite bikey photos, and it randomizes so you'll get a new one each time.
  • I have discovered new joys in winter riding. I like it when the crappy snow plowing job ends up creating new motorist-keep-out lanes like seen here on Richmond:

  • Some winter cyclists are really adept at riding in slippery icy conditions. I am not one of them. I simply look ahead for what looks slippery and slalom my way through the clear spots. A good rearview mirror is a very helpful way to navigate the obstacle course. Almost always the ice pools up on the edges of the road - sometimes just in the gutters, but other times across the entire curb lane (note to city: are the no parking snow route signs just festive decorations?)

    I think often winter would have me bitching and moaning about what a crappy job the city did of clearing the snow. Not only are bike lanes non-existent, but on four lane roads several feet of the curb lane are snowy and parked cars are almost on top of streetcar tracks. But I've discovered something new...

    Just ride in the middle of the clear lane, wherever that happens to be. There's something kinda cool about just groovin' along with the rest of traffic on a main city street like Danforth or Adelaide. If the parked cars are too close to the streetcar tracks, just ride between the streetcar tracks. (for those not in Toronto, the streetcar lane also during non-rush hour is the only vehicle travel lane making public transit quite inefficient) In the summer, try riding between the streetcar tracks, even at the speed of traffic as an experiment. Pass by the next opportunity to make a left hand turn. Count 3,2,1... at that point all hell will start breaking loose with freaked out drivers. Winter is much nicer. Drivers generally won't question your right to take a curb lane that the snowbanks narrow too much to share safely. Never mind these same lanes aren't safe enough to share when they are clear either, but many drivers see that differently.
  • I love winter cycling. The invigoration of the cold air on rosy cheeks and a nice hot tea when getting inside. The aforementioned extra space. The whee feeling making a track through freshly falling snow and catching big snowflakes with my tongue. The feeling of conquering the elements after battling stormy cold headwinds. The fact its much quicker to warm up a bike engine (me!) than a car engine on a extremely cold day. Not having to worry about being snowed in.

    But shhhh I'll still let you in on a little secret. After our third blizzard in a week and a half, some days of slip sliding around and the rare time I decide its not worth the risk of falling in front of two tonne weapons, I am dreaming of when it will be spring. Winter is the season of clunky winter bike with wind/slush pants, a couple layers, a safety vest for extra visibility, a scarf, balaclava, bulky gloves, and aa helmet sometimes with a bright rain cap on top to block the cold wind. Dreaming of riding the Twenty with fresh flowers in the milk crate, in a bright flowery skirt and tank top with bare legs and sandals, and the wind in my hair. Ah to ride along Queen street feeling free...