Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My Hybrid, Miele Umbria

A few years ago the cycling bug bit me.  I had always enjoyed mountain biking in my youth and I wanted to take it up again.  This time around I wanted something street-able but able to hit an easy dirt trail as well.  Something upright and something with a flat or riser handle bar.

My Miele Umbria, aka The Hybrid.
After a few test rides my wife and I settled on a pair of Miele Umbrias.  It seemed to fulfill all of our needs and we did get some rides on it.  Then winter settled in and my health started to go downhill.  So it was left forgotten in the garage until I got my diabetes diagnosis and the determination to get healthier.

There's nothing fancy about it. But having achieved several milestones on it, it had sentimental value.  And honestly, its comfortable and easy to ride.

When I bought my road bike, I was told that I'd probably get rid of my hybrid.  But that hasn't happened.  It's my backup exercise when my road bike is in the shop.  There are a lot of dirt and gravel trails around my house where the hybrid excels.  When we went on our last bike vacation, we brought our hybrids as well as our road bikes just because they're fun and easy to ride.  And they can't be beat if you just want to dress in normal clothes and go to the grocery store or the restaurant.

I haven't done much in the way of upgrading.  I put on a rear rack right away.  I got a double walled rim when the rear stock one bent.  I have been thinking about trekking bars (aka butterfly bars) just for some alternate hand positions.  Maybe even add in some fenders to make it a little more rain friendly.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Just In Time for Autumn

I injured myself the week before vacation and didn't ride.  On vacation there was some cycling but it was a lot less than I'm used to riding at home.  Then a couple of solidly booked weekends with a mostly rainy week where I only rode twice.  Then I got really sick for over a week.  So I've been looking forward to my regular routine.

Ontario rural county road, limit of 80kph.
My enthusiasm was tempered when I heard about a cyclist who got killed recently.  It happened in rural Ontario, along a county road much like the route I take.  It was a nice smooth road, had a big paved shoulder and generally seemed pretty safe.  At least, I thought they were pretty safe.  It has me watching the road (ahead and behind me) with a renewed vigilance.  I find having a glasses-mounted mirror helps.

Sunsets are beautiful when they aren't trying to blind you.
I feel like autumn always sneaks up on me.  I don't notice the signs until they really stand out and surprise me.

One of the more unpleasant surprises is the sun setting much earlier.  As a cyclist this has multiple impacts.  The weather gets colder, which means you need to dress warmer.  Some of the area is wetland and river, so there are lots of bugs at dusk; which is now a lot sooner.  Heading west at any part of the ride is pretty blinding.  Gotta pack 2 pairs of glasses too; a tinted one for sunset and a clear one for when it gets too dark for the tinted ones.

The local wildlife.
Last but not least, my province's HTA insists on both lights and reflector-covered forks when it's near dark.  Also, it is easier to be seen during daylight.  So I just avoid the 30 mins prior to sunup/sundown.  That has been happening a lot sooner.  Eventually I will have to do my weekday rides in the early morning instead of after work.

As I was peddling down a road, a local runner was smiling and flagging me down.  As I approached he pointed out some deer at the side of the road.  There are three in the picture but the third one is a bit hidden.

It felt really good to get back on the Valence again.  I'm hoping with a bit of luck, a little help from DST and layering, I will be able to extend the Valence right into the end of October.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Project: SubZero

The Project

I wanted to try my hand at winter biking.  It seemed like a poor investment to buy an expensive bike just to see if I liked biking in the winter.  So instead I opted for something that was cheaper to try out.  If I'm really into it, I can invest in a better ride at a later date.

So I established Project: SubZero, my winter biking project.  Something that was within a small budget that I could taste the on-road and off-road conditions that Canadian winters offered.  I started shopping for a bike using the criteria below.
  • Cheap. Both for the initial price and how much I would have to invest in repairs and upgrades.
  • Resist Corrosion. Winter here means lots of snow and ice and salt. I figured something with an aluminum frame would be a good start.
  • Winter Features. Winter tires, fenders, disc brakes. Any features that would make it appealing for winter usage. Anything it was lacking, I would need to add.
  • Off-Road. With low visibility and icy conditions, some of the safest driving will be in the countryside. Literally. And if things don't work out with winter cycling, I'd have something I could take off road in warmer seasons.

The Bike

Project SubZero, pre-upgrades.
I found a 2010 Norco Scrambler that met with a lot of my criteria.  You can see some of its stats at Norco's web site.  It was cheap, it had an aluminum frame and it had disc brakes.  The tires were pretty knobby; not ideal for ice but could be fun for snowy conditions and open fields.

First thing to go was the handlebars, it had risers that someone had cut short.  This was replaced with a used riser that was full length.  The disc brakes were fixed up and the derailleurs were cleaned and tuned.

So after a bit of a refresh, it is in great operating condition.  Took it for a quick spin around the block and amused my wife while trying to drive in and out of ditches.  It is definitely fun to ride!  I'm not sure I'll wait until winter to start riding around on it.

Bike Upgrades

Now that the bike is in running condition, its time to prepare it for Project SubZero.

  • Fenders: Some mud guard style mountain bike fenders.  Front ones attached to the fork and a rear one coming off the seat post.  This should help with the snow and slush issues.
  • Lights: Canadian winters mean reduced daylight.  So it's very important that you can be seen by drivers.  I will probably move my existing lights onto this bike for the season.  I'm also thinking about doing my own setup using high intensity LED strips.  It may end up making me look like a gaudy UFO, but that still looks much better than the view from under a car.
  • Tires: I've been thinking about this one.  The existing knobby tires seem like they'd be fun to run through snow.  But with some studded tires, I could ride on the road during freezing rain or packed ice.  I'm still thinking about it as studded tires don't fit in with doing it on the cheap (they sell locally for ~$100 each).  But it would be pretty awesome to go riding on some frozen rivers!

I'm still kicking a few ideas around.  Like switching to a flat bar and adding in bar ends.  But it might be better to stick to the riser and just go with pogies.  Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Almost got Fabio'd!

I can't believe its not duck!
Remember that male model Fabio?  I remember him from the "I Can't Believe Its Not Butter" commercials from about 20 years ago.  In 1999 Fabio had a bizarre and unfortunate accident on a roller coaster; he got hit in the face by a goose!

Since I have similar length of hair on my head, my wife sometimes teasingly calls me "Fabio." 

Well I guess I have more in common with Fabio than I realised.  Not only are we sporting awesome hair, but I almost took a goose to the face; a thing I like to call "Being Fabio'd."

Poor lady who got goose mauled.
I was out on a cold September ride when I ran into a pack of Canada Geese.  These geese are very big and (in my opinion) poop at a large dog level.  Despite their non threatening appearance, they can pack quite a punch. Here is a link to a news story about a recent goose attack.  I've had a few nip at me in the past.  So nowadays I'll try to shoo them off with my horn (sometimes with a little added booming voice).  I'd rather have them scared than angry; scared geese are less likely to mug or maul me.  And scared geese are off the path where its safer for them and humans using the path.

Out of the whole flock, there was one goose that decided they weren't interested in moving until the last second.  And when it started flying, it chose to fly in the same direction I was riding.  So we ended up having a very close encounter of the goose kind.  No worries, no geese or cyclists were harmed in the making of the film below.  Forgive the grainy quality of the film, its a cheap camera on a handlebar mount.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Brace Yourself, Winter is Coming!

So last Thursday it was around 13C (for you metric haters, that's 55.4F).  Didn't seem too bad out.  Not my favourite shorts weather but I'd be warm enough riding my bike, right?  I had picked up some knee and arm warmers earlier, so I wore them "just in case."  If it got too warm, no worries, I could just take them off.

Too warm... cue maniacal laughter.

As they say in Quebec, c'est esti frette!  In other words it was damn freezing!  While the arm and knee warmers seemed to do the trick, any exposed skin was ice cold upon return.  Namely my fingers (gloves have exposed fingers), my feet and my shins/calves.

I did another ride tonight.  Temperature was 13-14C (55.4F-57.2F).  This time I wore long, thicker socks and gloves that covered my fingers.  As long as I kept moving, I didn't feel cold at all.  But once I finished my ride I felt cold pretty quickly.

When I bought my road bike, I figured I'd be able to easily cycle right until it started to snow.  It never occurred to me how much colder it would be moving at speed.  As autumn sets in, I'm going to move on to layered clothing and a few extras to stay warmer.  This should carry me until the snow sets in.  I have a few ideas on what activities to do over the winter.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to speak up!

Stationary Bike
I have a perfectly good recumbent stationary bike along with lots of room to use it.  In front of a Netflix equipped TV.  It is not as fun as actually being outside, but the seat is definitely more comfortable.  If I start to miss cycling I can always watch old action cam clips while running a fan.

Spin Class
I've been looking into joining a spin class.  The class that interested me required you to use your bike with a trainer.  Again, not as fun as actually riding outside, but this would be pretty close.

Cross Training
I'm told there are a lot of core exercises I can start doing that will help me ride faster and further.  Not a bad idea as it would let me start next season strong.  I heard running helps with cycling too -- I don't like to run but I'd be willing to give it a shot.

Rollers are like trainers except both tires are spinning and you are required to maintain balance.  Due to a mix of bad luck and extreme clumsiness, I don't see myself using it in front of a group of people, so I'd just ride it at home.

Winter Bike
I thought about getting a fat bike so I can just continue riding in the winter.  I've been eyeing a Norco Bigfoot 6.2.  I seriously doubt there's room in the budget this winter.  Maybe next year?  There is a fun video of it below:

Winter Bike, Budget Edition
I could always do things on the cheap.  Buy a used mountain bike beater and do the best I can to winterize it.  Not as fun as a brand new fat bike but a hell of a lot cheaper (and thus more likely).

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Cycling Fredericton NB & Rose Bay NS

So when looking for a weekend getaway, my wife and I set off to tour the east coast of Canada.  Since it was a road trip and our vehicle was equipped with a bike rack, bringing bikes with us seemed like a great idea.

We weren't sure if the paths were paved or off-road, so we decided to bring four bikes with us (a hybrid and road bike each).  Our rack could hold four bikes and we managed to Tetris (yes, I'm using that as a verb) them on.  Yes, it was a bit excessive.  Yes, people teased us about it. Yes, we'll probably do it again.

Hybrid Riding in Fredericton

Our first ride was on an off road trail that was part of the Sentier NB Trail.  We had heard there were a few rough parts so it seemed a good time to put the hybrids through the paces.  The trail exposed us to a lot of the beautiful wilderness New Brunswick has to offer.

As we headed into Fredericton, gravel paths eventually gave way to paved trails.  We got to ride over the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge.  They even had a Bicycle Center that had washrooms, cold water, cycling maps and up to date info (weather, list of current city events, etc.).  The maps showed bike paths all over the place.

One of the trails listed was an off road trail that ran along the St John River.  It seemed like it would be a fun trail but not too challenging for the bikes we had.  It was a lot of fun!

The only thing that I disliked was one trail that went through town.  It felt like it had stop signs every 30 feet.  And several of those stops were at streets with an obscured view.   But the other trails more than made up for it!

Road Riding in Fredericton

So for our second ride we took out the road bikes and took to the roads towards Fredericton.  We picked a secondary highway that seemed to have something of a shoulder.  And it did, most of the way.  There were some patches where it got a bit iffy.  Fortunately people in New Brunswick tend to be extremely courteous and most drivers gave us plenty of distance.

I'm not kidding about the extreme courtesy of the drivers.  At one point I had pulled to the side of the road so I could check my map and have a snack.  I looked up and noticed drivers on both sides of the highway stopped, looking in my direction and smiling.  They thought I wanted to cross the road!

I found the roads on the outskirts of Fredericton to be very hilly, a stark contrast to our ride in on the off-road trail.  Since its fairly flat around my place, I found the change to be refreshing.

On the way back I started having problems with my chain.  If I changed gear with my front derailleur, it would just fall off.  Then it happened a second time.  I got off the bike and tried to adjust it with my (non-existent) bicycle repair skills.  It seemed alright at first but the chain fell off a second time.

When we got back to our stopping point, my wife turned off the highway while I continued on.  I probably should have exited with her but I really wanted more of a workout.  I was so focused on the workout that I forgot I had those chain issues.  The chain slipped off again while I was heading uphill and my luck ran out as my front chain ring bit into my leg, Jaws Style.  Didn't even notice until I finished the ride.

Road Riding in Rose Bay Nova Scotia

Before heading out I had messed with my derailleur some more and it seemed to be working good.  I really wish I had just taken the time to get a bike shop to check it out before hand.  But I was far from my favourite bike shop and having too much fun visiting with people.

We ended up near Rose Bay and thought we'd have a ride into Lunenburg.  We used a nearby ferry as part of our route.  To say the scenery is amazing would be an understatement.  I'm looking forward to checking it out again one day.  Wish I had taken cameras but I couldn't find my action cam at the time.

Unfortunately our ride didn't last long before my derailleur ran into issues again.  This time it had slid loose and began grinding on my front chain ring.  While trying to get things fixed up, we realized that there was no cellular reception.  My wife left to try to get some help while I tried to get the bike running, even if in just one gear.  I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but I definitely don't have any bike mechanic skills... yet!

After some time I got back on the bike and headed back the way we came, hoping to meet up with my wife.  Some people from the road waved me down and told me she went back to the ferry.  I found out why -- no cellular reception at all!  So after waiting for the next ferry, my wife came to the rescue with the car.

I got pretty grumpy as I really wanted to cycle in the area.  But we had a great consolation prize, lobster dinner in Lunenburg!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Bicycle Law in New Brunswick

I was surprised when looking up New Brunswick bike laws.  There are incredibly specific laws (helmets much be approved, have chin straps, and they have to be fastened under the chin) and there are incredibly vague ones (just what the hell does "regular attached seat" even mean anyway?!).

Some of the fines have a series of three numbers.  The first is the minimum fine, the second is the maximum fine.  The third number is the re-offend fine.

NB law is pretty clear that cyclists using NB roads have all the rights of a vehicle in addition to being subject to all applicable duties.  Motor vehicles must also give cyclists a 1 meter distance when passing.

Beware Users of Irregular Unattached Seats
Cyclist must use a regular attached seat on NB roads.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

No Double Riding Unless its a Tandem
Number of persons on a bicycle on NB roads are limited to the number it was designed for.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

All cyclists must wear approved helmets (w/ chin straps that are fastened under the chin) when cycling on NB roads.
Fine: $20

Helmets and Kids
Parent(s) or Guardian(s) shall not allow cyclist under the age of 16 to cycle on NB roads without approved helmet.
Fine: $20

No Attachment to Other Vehicles
Cyclists on NB roads shall not be attached by any means to another vehicle.  Guess that means no lassos and no charging your smartphone via extension to someone's car!
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

High Towing Fines
Motorized vehicle(s) shall not tow a cyclist on N.B. roads by any means, unless it is capable of being registered under the Act and is so.
Class E Fine $240 / $2,500 / $10,200

Stay to the Right
Cyclist using N.B. roads shall do so as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, use caution when passing standing or moving item(s) traveling in the same direction.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Single File
Cyclist shall not ride abreast while on N.B. roads unless on paths or parts of roadway set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Stay on Bike Paths
Cyclist may not use N.B. road(s) when a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a road.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Keep at least one hand on the handlebars
Class C Fine $140 / $640 / $2100

Lights and Reflectors
Bicycles must be equipped with an approved forward facing white color light and a rear facing red reflector for night time use on roads.  A rear facing approved red color light may be used WITH the red reflector.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Noise Makers
Bicycles must be equipped with an approved bell or device giving a audible signal, a siren or whistle is not permitted.  A kazoo might be legal.  But a tuba would not (must keep one hand on handlebar).
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Bicycles must be equipped with brakes adequate to control, stop and hold the bicycle in place.  In other words, unbroken brakes that brake.
Class B Fine $140 / $640 / $1100

Introduction to Bicycle Laws in Canada

Unfortunately there's no easy list of Canadian laws that can be presented.  Each province has their own set of laws.  Some are universal, such as obeying normal traffic signage.  But some are different.  And of course, municipalities can also have their own set of by-laws involving cycling.  Very important to know what you are dealing with; especially if you are touring, visiting another part of Canada or simply live in a border area.

I spent some time in my youth in a border area.  Two different provinces and two different cities, each with their own set of laws.  It became very confusing on which law was in effect where!

When we decided to take our bikes with us on vacation, II ran into this again.  So while I'm gathering all this info anyway, I figured it would make for some great posts.  Even if I can just use it as a reference for myself.
As I add more posts, I will link them to this post: