Archive for April 2011

Bicycle Times – a magazine review   Leave a comment

The other day I noticed on a magazine rack, a cycling magazine that I had not read before. So I picked up a copy and here’s what I found.

Bicycle Times magazine

This is issue #10 of Bicycle Times, a magazine published 6 time as a year out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The subtitle “Your Everyday Cycling Adventure” was my first clue as the nature of this magazine. It is down to earth, practical and comfortable. I like it.

This issue contains six feature articles:

  • Cycles – a poem that starts, “To work off the ice cream…” Not something you see in every cycling mag.
  • Of Melons, Mountains and Travels Through Turkey – I like to read about cycle touring adventures (especially of places I’ve never been and may never get to)and this is an interesting article with good accompanying photos
  • The Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program – fascinating  article about the cycling activities of this San Francisco area organization. Interesting discussion of handcycles.
  • An Outfit for all Seasons – a good review of everyday cycling clothing with suggestions on “coordinating” outfits for different occasions
  • Advocacy: Portland is Not a Different Planet – well I wondered about that? Seriously, important stuff! The article starts: “Their farsighted bike policies can be adapted and even improved upon in other cities”
  • An Interview with Bruce Gordon – an interview with an American bicycle maker – insightful!

In addition to these features articles there are a number of regular departments. In this issue I see:

  • Spoke’n Word – reader feedback
  • Wheel News – story about “The Ride of Silence” – this Grand Rapids version of a worldwide series of rides to honor cyclists injured or killed on the road.
  • Vintage Velo – a look back at a 1980 Schwinn
  • Yehuda Moon – a full page cycling comic
  • Between the Lines – very practical discussion of riding on the road amongst traffic
  • The Candy Store – reviews of four really interesting, unique bikes and some accessories
  • Bike Socials: Events – announcements/previews of half a dozen major cycling events around the US
  • How We Roll – an end of  the issue editorial (this one an ode to the writer’s “paperboy bike”)

Obviously there is a lot of info  in this issue and if you are interested you will just have to pick up a copy. You an also check out Bicycle Timeswebsite for reviews, news and subscription information (including an available digital edition).

This is a magazine that to me, just fits very comfortably, so I will be reading it going forward, I’ve got the website bookmarked and don’t hesitate to recommend Bicycle Times to you.

Posted April 30, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Commuting, Cycle Touring, Cycling

Tagged with ,

Downtown to Terwilligar (testing the trails)   Leave a comment

Today (2011 April 25) marked my longest right of the year. I ventured on one of my favorite routes, a 40K out and back from Downtown to Terwilligar. This was my first ride on most of these trails and roads this year so I’ll share what I encountered.

The bicycle paths on the northside of the river from Riverdale, through Rossdale and down River Road were great – dry and clean (except for a few wet patches in Rossdale, at the southeast corner.

The first hazard encountered was a lot of sand on the path connecting the River Road trail to the northeast end of Groat Bridge. this is a steep little section and sand is not welcome either going up or coming down. It’s not bad if you are the only one on this section but if  there is traffic, be prepared.

North Saskatchewan River looking east from Groat Bridge

The view from the bridge was quite dramatic as I crossed, with many chunks of ice floating downstream (on my return crossing the river was pretty much clear)

Once across the river and up the hill, I turned onto Emily Murphy Park Road to take the overpass over Groat Road. Very sandy! Sand would be a serious issue all of the way up Groat Road – on the road leading up to Hawrelak Park entrance and then on the sidewalk/path running on the west side of Groat Road.  Caution is in order when on the road and especially when changing lanes. The sidewalk is very sandy on the road side  put clear on the park side – again not an issue if  pedestrian/cycle traffic is light.

Sandy path between Hawrelak Park and Groat Road

The path from the traffic circle to the top of Keillor Road was pretty smooth cycling – clean and dry for the most part.

The Keillor Road hill was wet, and sandy. On is not going to want to cruise down like you would on dry summer pavement. Part of the bike path were still covered by snow and there was lots of run-off on the paths.

Snow, Sand and Water on Keillor Road Hill

Once down on the flat section beside the Whitemud Equine Center the road was pretty fast although there was snow on the road sides and there were wet sections. Back on the bike paths around the little bridge over the Whitemud Creek I again found a lot of sand – slow and cautious riding called for.

looking west down Keillor Road

Blocked Path at Quesnel Bridge

The next hazard was at the Quesnel Bridge construction site. The bike path is inconveniently blocked by construction trailers right where the trail intersects the road under the south end of the bridge. Cyclists must go off-road and ease their way down the square curb.

Once under the Quesnel I connect to the bike path running back behind Fort Edmonton Park. on the south bank of the river valley. I should know better than to expect a dry trail  on this side of the river before mid-May. True enough, this section was mostly wet and very sandy – that mix that drives me crazy with the crunching once it gets into my drive train. The good thing is that it was only water, there was no snow or ice that I had to cross along this path.

Beautiful but wet path to the south of Ft. Edmonton Park

From the end of this bike path I took the Whitemud Road – up the steep, gravelly hill. The hill was rough as usual but not overly muddy, so I didn’t really think about it.  I continued along Whitemud Road through the residential community.

Awkward Off-road Connection

There is one little off road connection that I usually take  between Riddell Street and Romaniuk Road  but today it was wet and muddy and I had to make a detour on to the nearest road. I continued for a few kilometers south of Rabbit Hill Road along  relatively dry but sandy residential roads before backtracking my route to get home.

Overall the ride was a success (my longest of the year, the weather was decent and my camera worked out well ) but I think I will not venture out on this same route again for a couple more weeks (hopefully by then  the paths will be dry and the sand will be swept up).

Fort Edmonton Footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River (viewed from Ramsey Crescent)

A New Tube and Back on the Road   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago when I last rode I developed a slow leak in my rear tire. Over the last couple of kilometers, the pressure fell and the riding got increasingly difficult – but I was able to ride home. The tire did go completely flat, so it had to be repaired before I could take the bike out on the road again. On Saturday, I gave the tire a thorough inspection looking for any obvious sign of a puncture – there was nothing obvious. There were a number of grains of sand stuck in little  grooves in the almost slick tires but those would have not caused a problem. Looking closer I found probably half a dozen tiny but sharp little dagger of sand that had penetrated the tire. I pulled these out but it didn’t seem like any of them were long enough to go all the way through to the tube – especially when I had a layer of Mr. Tuffy between the tire and tube.

a tiny puncture

Next I took the tube out of the tire, inflated it and gave a visual inspection – still nothing seen. I put a little more air in the tube and very carefully inspected it, listening for any hissing. That worked, I did not have to resort to putting the tube under water and looking for bubbles. the whole was very tiny (maybe 1 mm long) and virtually impossible to note without the tire being stretched.

I patched up the hole but decided to put in a brand new tube just to be safe. I didn’t want a repeat puncture so I tried to  analyze what caused this one. It”s possible, but I think unlikely, that one of those shards of sand embedded in the tire caused the puncture. My best guess (unlikely as it seems) is that a piece of sand worked its way in through the opening at the valve stem (Schraeder valve). In any case I was cleaning out the inside of the tire and the protection strip. I didn’t notice any sand, just rubber crumbs. In any case, the new tube was mounted, tire inflated and all seemed fine.

I lubed up the chain again and headed out onto the trails and road. Today’s ride was the same 20K loop (between Dawson and Rundle Parks) that I’ve done for my last couple of outings – but today was faster. It was sunny and 14 degrees Celsius so I was able to ride in shorts for the first time. It also helped that the paths and road were very dry. With my tires at rated pressure I felt like I was flying.

There were a few places where snowmelt run-off was flowing across the path (particularly just north of Dawson Bridge. For the most part though the paths were completely dry. The bike path through Dawson Park was also surprisingly clear of sand. I do think it must have been swept recently. the main road on this route, Ada Boulevard was also very dry. It however was still very sandy. The sand basically took out the south most lane of this road but with minimal traffic this was not an issue. Even Rundle Park, which had large sections of flooded paths 2 weeks ago, was now perfectly dry.

Bridge in Rundle Park on 2011 April 24

Thawed Pond in Rundle Park

This ride was also my first opportunity to test a new point and shoot camera that I have bought, specifically to have something small that I can take with me cycling. In a future blog I’ll write more about what I was looking for, what I got and what I think about it.

As you can see from the photos, the Edmonton landscape on this last Sunday in April, has not yet started to green-up. Nonetheless we are moving in the right direction and the cycling season is young.

The Local Scene – Edmonton Cyclist’s Blogs   2 comments

Today I’ve been concentrating on putting together a list of local (Edmonton, Canada) cycling bloggers. I have not found as many as I thought there might be, so I will continue looking and I certainly invite any suggestions from readers of this blog.

With a Google search and by following links, I found these local blogs  (by Edmonton area individuals writing primarily about some aspect of cycling):

  • Tuckamoredew – Car-free cyclist and sometime busker
  • ravingbikefiend – in the frozen reaches of Canuckistan who works to build and lives to ride bicycles

I have now subscribed to these blogs in my Google Reader and look forward to learning what these local cyclists will have to share.

There are probably more local blogs. In fact I explored a few other links but couldn’t decide if they were active  blogs, Edmonton-based, non-commercial or primarily about cycling. These other blogs and websites are still of value and interest, so I’ll catch up with them on a future blog post.

Posted April 23, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

Tagged with ,

Paved – the magazine, reviewed   Leave a comment

The other day I noticed a magazine on a news stand that I hadn’t heard of before – it is called “paved” with the sub title “A brand-new skinny tire magazine from the editors of BIKE.

They call it “brand-new” but the issue I picked up is Issue 1 of Volume 2. I did get the impression from the editorial however that Volume 1 consisted of just a single trial issue in 2010.

I like this magazine. I like that it is a substantial 98 page publication on good paper with good photos and interesting articles!

Among my favorite articles in this issue is an inspiring story of Lindsay Crawford, an American rider I’d not heard of.  What a good read, this article by Gary Boulanger, of  late-blooming racer who at age 40 received an invitation to ride on a Tour de France team ( but never did ride). Then as a 61 year old, Crawford earned himself a yellow jersey. Lots of interesting history here. Still on road racing, Volume 2, Issue 1 also has a good article on the spring classic road race, Milan-San Remo

This magazine isn’t strictly about riding on paved  roads. there is an article riding the mud at World Cup cyclocross races and a photo essay about riding the boards on the track for six-day races. Overall the quality of photos in this magazine is excellent. The section called “[proof]” has a number of full page photos of cyclists on the road – from Oregon to Banff to Nicaragua.

What’s a cycling magazine without some equipment reviews? This one’s got a review of half a dozen high-end bikes ($10K price range) and a couple pages highlight of new gear (clothing, shoes, lights etc.) The magazine also includes a number of high quality ads for cycling gear.

Overall, a good cycling magazine and I will definitely  be looking watching my news stand for the next issue of paved (probably around mid-May?)

You can learn more about paved from its website, which includes links to their Facebook and twitter presence.

Posted April 19, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Cycling, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Memories of the South of France   Leave a comment

As a mid-April  snow storm blankets the Edmonton region and possibly wipes out hope of a weekend ride, I stumbled across this photo that takes me to a warmer, happier place:

The photo is not great, being just a poor scan of a slide, but it is enough to take me right back.

That is me, on my fully loaded touring bike, probably about to take a photo. The year was 1985, the place France, presumably in the south, perhaps near Arles. That summer I was on a three or four week cycle tour that started in Arles in the south and ended at Strasbourg in the northeast.

I really hope I can get some more and better scans of my photos and find a journal I may have kept, in order to share more stories from that adventure.

Posted April 15, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Touring

Tagged with , , ,

What a Difference a Week Makes   Leave a comment

Today (Sunday April 10) I got out on my bike for the third time this year. I rode the same route as I had  a week earlier – but what a difference. While last week’s ride was slow, careful and deliberate, today I felt like I was really riding. I’d forgotten how well my mountain  bike move with the City Slicker tires. I was cruising along at 25 Kmph along some stretches and it felt good!

Dirty and Rusty Chain

Before I could hit the road I had to clean up my bike a bit. Last weekend’s ride had left it very sandy and this was especially  an issue on the drive train. I  knocked off as much dirt and sand as I could then applied some White Lightning lubrication to the  chain.

The route I took was along the bike paths and connecting roads from Dawson Park in central Edmonton to Rundle Park in the east end of the city.

The first difference notices was that the paths in general were much drier and almost completely free of snow and ice. Last week I found the most dangerous part of the trail being a very muddy section beside a construction site in Dawson Park. Today this section was a bit dirty but dry – no issue. Through Dawson Park and up the trail beside the Highlands Golf Course, the  path had a few wet spots – either puddles or sections where the run-off flowed across the path. There was also still a lot of sand on the path.

Once I got up to to Ada Boulevard I traveled  on the relatively quiet residential street. Again there was a lot of sand on the road but for the most part the the surface was dry and fast. The biggest thing to watch out for was the pedestrian traffic: runners, dog walkers and strollers. Overall, the few kilometers along the street were a pleasure. This is where I got up a good pace, a good rhythm and felt wonderful.

Reaching the turn-off down into Rundle Park the only obstacle encountered was water completely across the path about half way down. This was the first  (and probably the smallest) of a number of small  patches of water across the path in Rundle Park. It was just a matter of going slow. I wouldn’t want to have been cruising down the hill at a significant speed and hitting this patch of water. One of the neat parts of slowing down was seeing the pond amongst the trees beside the path – great reflections!

The trail down onto the flats of Rundle Park  was completely clear of snow. It was amazing how much snow had melted in just a week. I was most curious to see if the large patch of water across north of the ACT Centre had drained or dried up.

Rundle Park, 2011 April 10

Rundle Park 2011 April 3

Alas, although a lot of snow was gone, the path was still a low spot filled with water. At least this week it seemed like a reasonable alternative to go off-pavement and ride along the grass beside the path – but I didn’t. since it had worked fine last week  I just coasted slowly straight down the path.

There would be quite a bit of standing water on the Rundle park loop, both on the west side and  then again in numerous places along the river side path. So I just had to go very slow through these stretches and since there was no ice under the water this strategy worked. This  part of the ride was also slow because of a few stops to take photos of  some attractive scenery, such as reflections and snow like this:

The ride back to Dawson along the same route was very similar – fast back along Ada Boulevard. The only issue, downside to today’s ride came in the last kilometer or two. I notice that I wasn’t moving as smoothly as I had been earlier. I thought I detected something wrong with my rear wheel – perhaps the hub. I eventually noticed that my rear tire was very low. It didn’t go completely flat, I was able to ride home on it but my speed dropped to about half. A quick inspection did not reveal the problem – no obvious puncture or other cause. I will have to do a closer inspection of the tire later this week, once it is dry.

Overall, a good 20K ride. It was about 8 degrees and sunny this afternoon. I was tempted to ride in shorts but stuck with my long tights. I was glad I did  because my legs would been pretty cool after getting wet from the spray of riding through puddles. I rode with regular half-finger cycling gloves and  without a hat under my helmet and felt very comfortable. I’m looking forward to my next ride!

Goldbar Footbridge from the Path into Rundle Park

Posted April 10, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

Tagged with , , , ,

Adventures in the East   Leave a comment

Today, Sunday April 3rd I continued my early season exploration of cycling conditions. Yesterday I had gone west from downtown along the north side bicycle paths. Today I made the journey east  – basically from Dawson Park to Rundle Park.

The first section of today’s ride was along the path through Dawson Park on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. The path had been plowed through the winter and is relatively exposed to the spring sun so there was not “much” snow and ice. These was however lots of snow on the sides of the trail and sometimes those sides spilled over onto the path. There was also plenty of run-off water in places and lots of sand over the pavement.

For the most part the route was quite passable but there was one stretch of maybe 50 meters, beside the construction site that is worthy of note and caution.  The path just east of and beside the constructions site is very muddy – mud,  water, loose snow and ice. It was difficult to tell quite  what I was riding over – but by taking it slow and easy over this, I got through.

the path north of the west end of Highlands Golf Course

Coming out of the east end of Dawson Park, the path winds up past the west end  of the Highlands Golf course to reach Ada Boulevard. This section of the trail is sheltered by tree so it wasn’t surprising to discover the path partially  covered by snow. Cycle and pedestrian traffic was relatively light this Sunday afternoon so I encountered no issue with one lane being blocked.

Once I reached Ada Boulevard. I cycled along the street for a few kilometers. The road was pretty typical of streets at this time of year – mostly clear of snow in the middle but with about a meter or two of snow beside the south curb of the road. The roads had wet patches and plenty of sand

Snow and ice take up a lane on a street near Rundle Park

The descent into the west end of Rundle Park had worried me but was fine. There was one small section of water across the trail at the bend, but since the trail was clear and ahd been which was resurfaced last year the descent was safe.

Now Rundle Park was interesting. I did the loop clockwise around the park. Just as I entered the loop I encountered one little hazard. There was a small gap in the snowed-across trail. I took this gap and then realized that there was ice beneath the water – a bit of a slip but it was such a small section I was through it before I knew it.

Mind the Gap

Around the  bends of the little lakes I ran into a different kind of hazard – wild life!

Canada Geese at Rundle Park

There were a number of geese in this area but really they were not an issue at all. I continued on north past the ACT Centre where the path runs flat and straight between the sports fields. It sounds pretty safe but going around a bend this is what I saw:

A Lake on the Path

The path was completely flooded for maybe 20 or 30 metres, then there was a brief dry section and another big lake. I briefly considered my options for getting by this obstacle. I could have tried to cycle through the snow beside the “lake” or walked through the snow. In the end I decided to just ride, slowly  right through the water. It appeared that there was just water over the path, no ice and the depth was probably no more than 10 cm. It was a good decision.

Along the east side of Rundle Park I encountered a few more flooded sections but again, riding slowly through the centre of the path, worked.

Flooded Path Along East Side of Rundle Park

Once around the Rundle loop I retraced my path back along Ada Boulevard and through Dawson Park. The sand continued to build up in my drive train, which always make me feel cringe a bit, but again like yesterday the feeling of being out on two wheels in the sun left me feeling good. I cycled about 20K today with the temperature of only about 3C (still about 5 degrees below average).

My conclusions after these couple of early April rides. The riding is in the adventure category. It is not a time  for fast cyclng on skinny tires, not a time for multi-hour recreational rides. Hopefully those days will come within a few weeks as the trails and roads dry off and are sweeped of the grit. For now I recommend riding cautiously and sticking to quiet streets and bike paths that are fully exposed to the sun. By all means though, do ride and enjoy the adventuere!

My Season Starts!   Leave a comment

Just a week ago, the first weekend of spring 2011, I was out cross-country skiing here in Edmonton’s river valley. The snow was great, the temperatures winter-like and the prospects of getting out on the bike anytime soon seemed remote. However what a difference a week can make, especially a few days when the sun shines and the temperatures rises  to seasonal highs of around +8. Don’t get me wrong, there is still lots of snow on the ground and I’m sure the skiing would still have been great today but something inside me changed this week and it had to be two wheels not two “boards”.

Happy cyclist (me) on the Edmonton trails

I kept my expectations moderate for today. I would have been happy to just get in a 15 minute ride. As it turns out I was out for at least an hour and covered 16K – with many stops to take photos. I stuck to the paved paths on the north side of Edmonton’s river valley trail system from Riverdale to the base of McKinnon Ravine. It was mostly sunny so I was surprised to learn that the temperature at the time was only +3C. I guess I was properly dressed wearing a couple of layers plus a Gortex jacket. I had a head cover under my helmet and was wearing full-finger winter cycling gloves. The only part which was a little cool by the end was my feet as I was wearing  just a single pair of socks inside my regular cycling shoes (the same as I would wear in summer).

gloves for the "just above freezing" temperatures

I knew it would be messy so I rode my “mountain” bike. Last year I had replaced my knobby tires with some relatively smooth road tires so I was a little concerned that I might have trouble on the trails, especially if I encountered patches of snow. It turns out my tires were fine. There were a few patches of snow and ice but I was able to get by these obstacles without incident.

My machine for messy first day conditions

The key to riding the trails today (and I expect it will be for a couple of weeks at least) is to take it easy. It is more an exercise in technical riding than technically riding for exercise. It is more brain and fine motor skills than a strong cardio-vascular endeavor. This is just as well for me, at this point of the season.

So what was it like on the trails? Pretty much like I expected – the first two descriptors that apply are wet and sandy!

My tire, wet and sandy trail, water and ice on the edge

There were only a couple of stretches where there were puddles right across the trail. Most of the time there was a clear path although not necessarily both lanes. Most of the trails I was on today had been plowed during the winter and I rode the trails on the north side of the river which have been exposed to the sun, leading to rapid melting of what snow had been left on the trail. There were a couple of sheltered areas where there was slushy snow across most of the trail. The greatest hazard I noted was ice on the sloping trail under the Low Level Bridge (the north side of the west end of the bridge).

Debris and puddle on trail south or Rossdale Power Plant

Water in one lane, snow on the other - trail northwest of Groat Bridge

 

Snowiest trail section - a couple turns south of Low Level Bridge

Icy trail section looking west to start of McKinnon Ravine

Overall the trails were better than shown on these four last photos and they can change quickly. In fact looking the other direction  from that last icy section is this nice clear stretch of trail:

A mostly clear, dry bike trail (note the frozen North Saskatchewan River on the right)

Although the trails were not ideal there was not much traffic on the trails which made it easy to move from side to side to choose a safe path. I did encounter few cyclists and a number of walkers and runner. I found myself going very slowly around the others so as not to spray them with water or sand.

I knew it was going to be dirty and I could feel the grit in my drive train throughout the ride. This is what my bottom bracket area looked like after 16K out there:

Yes, there is some cleaning and probably some re-lubing to do which isn’t particularly fun, but overall it was sure wonderful being  out cycling again. It is comforting to know that things (weather and trail conditions)  can only get better for the next 4 or 5 months.

 

 

 

Posted April 2, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycling, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,