Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bike Trials in Scotland

Normally I'm not a big fan of this kind of cycling. When I see guys trying to pull this stuff off on the streets or bike paths I secretly want to run them off of the road. That said, if you can watch this video without being in complete awe of this this guy's amazing skill and fearlessness then you may have forgotten what adventure means.

I love how they show him actually waiting for a light to change at one point. Beyond that it would appear that the city doesn't hold too many obstacles for Danny MacAskill. This is definitely one thing that recumbents certainly can't do... I'm still trying to master hopping up onto curbs.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Does cycling make you truly happy?

If you commute by bike every day it can become a labour. There are likely days when you look out the window and the weather says, "Take the bus dopey." But once you've strapped on all of the sweaty rain gear, covered your panniers with little shower caps and checked that all of your lights are blinking away, you're off. If you're actually out there doing it in those conditions then it's fair to assume that it probably it makes you happy.

Charles Foster Kane was not happy.

Because I ride a recumbent I smile like an idiot all of the time anyhow, but I can honestly claim that during some of the happiest times in my life I was riding a bike.

Twenty years ago I rode across Canada and although I was none to enamoured with the persistently consistent landscape of Saskatchewan (not to mention the wind), that cycling introduction to this impressive country is one of my fondest memories. I'd have to concede that cycle touring in general has given me some of my most cherished memories.

I get a very similar pleasure these days from my daily commute. When I took my current job I readily admitted to my employer when he asked me how I liked the place that my favourite thing about it was my daily commute. I see aggressive and angry people from time to time riding bikes and I really don't know how they manage it. For me commuting is one of the best parts of my day. In my life 'Rosebud' was a bike!

Soon to be on a t-shirt near you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Share your route...

When you find a great route that you like to ride over and over you (probably) don't want to keep it all to yourself. At you can be as generous with your knowledge as you want. Bikely is a great tool that lets cyclists from around the world log in and share their favourite routes. You can view the elevation profile of a ride, or get a cue sheet so you can follow the route, and all routes are available for download as .GPX files for use on a GPS device.

It's just as easy to create a route. You can upload a .GPX file or you can draw it right on the map. The routes have as much detail as the person who makes it wants there to be. Some are quite sparse while others are jammed with info about potholes, traffic and sights. When you create a route, you can include whatever information strikes your fancy.

Try using it when you're up for a ride around town but don't want to follow your old creature-of-habit ways. The routes are posted by people like us, so expect them to occasionally steer you in a strange direction. I followed a route one day that took me all over UBC, weaving and overlapping through streets and paths that I didn't know existed and led me through some paths down by the river that were very cool. I had it on my GPS so I just kept following it and it eventually got me home, having taught me a thing or two about Vancouver that I didn't know before.

So in the spirit of sharing, I offer up my contribution to Bikely. This is my favourite take-a-nice long-ride-for-lunch ride. When they open the new bike bridge that's under the Canada Line crossing the Fraser river, I'll update this route to replace the Oak street bridge crossing.

Here is the long way to a fish & chip (& beer) lunch...

Go here and start sharing your rides.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Out with the old...

When you cycle a lot you go through parts. Depending on how much and where you ride (and the quality of your bits) your experience may vary. Drive trains tend to last me between 5,000 & 7,000 km although my previous one crapped out a lot sooner because I cleaned it improperly with WD40 and let it dry out so it wore too quickly (I have since learned --never, never clean moving parts with WD40).

This particular drive train has been on my bike for around 7,500 km and has finally gotten to the point where I'm getting phantom shifting. And it's spring so what better time for a little face lift.

Old chain and cassette ready for the bin (note fancy recumbent bike stand).

To be sure that any problems you may be having are due to a worn drive train, the first thing to do is check for chain stretch. The easiest way is to use a chain checker like the one pictured below. Note that it reads 1.0 in the little window to the left. It actually would have read more stretch than that if the tool went further but once it's at 1.0 it's time for a new drive train. Since the chain and cassette wear together it's always a good idea to replace both at the same time.

These tools are a bit pricey for what they do but very handy. You can always take it to a bike shop and have them check it for you.

The process is fairly simple and involves more cleaning than anything but you will need a couple of special tools to remove rear cogs.

The rear cogs are attached to the hub in one of two ways. Newer bikes tend to use a type of hub assembly called a cassette. Cassette sprockets slide over splines on the hub. A lock-ring threads into the hub and holds the sprockets, or cogs, in place. Older bikes may have a large external thread machined into the hub. The cogs and ratcheting body assembly, called a freewheel, threads directly onto the hub. You'll need to determine what style of hub you have to get the right tools for the job.

My bike has the newer type so I needed a wrench, chain whip and a cassette lock-ring removal tool.

In the end the hammer was needed to "assist in turning the removal tool" and the vice grips were needed to yank the damn tool out of the hub again.

New cassette and chains (you need two chains and about 1.5' more for a recumbent).

It's all assembly work from here. Use a chain break tool to remove the old chain put on the new cassette and chain and voila! Ready for another 7500 kilometers.

Just in case you're wondering, the strange looking bits on either side of my axle are Bobnuts fixed to homemade extensions to attach my Bob trailer. Due to the Sram Dual-Drive hub that has a click box on the drive side I can't use the standard Bob skewer to connect my trailer or simply attach the Bobnuts to my axle. But that's another post.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bike anti-theft spray...

Anyone who uses their bike regularly in the city has more than likely had some experience with bike theft. Well the good people at Work Cycles have come up with a solution -- Bicycle Anti-theft Spray!

You'd better just go here and look for yourself.

And if that fails contact Bike Rescue.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The last piece of the puzzle...

There remains a few pockets here and there that interrupt the Central Valley Greenway but the biggest one -- at least on my trek to work -- is the yet-to-be-completed bridge across Winston at Sperling. These are a couple of the architect renditions of the completed project.

In the three and half years that I have been doing this commute Winston has become increasingly busy and dangerous. Last year they repaved and finally painted bike lanes all of the way from Sperling to Caribou road. That helps, but crossing Winston to get from the bike lane to the Central Valley trail (there is a train line as well) is a sketchy business, especially on the evening commute.

It does look like they might be getting close. I have been watching, with great anticipation, the slow progress of the new pedestrian/cycling overpass that will eventually cross this danger zone and connect the trail, bike lanes and Sky Train. Right now there are three great white skeletons and some concrete ramps and yellow substructures all scattered about on either side of the road.

Here are a couple of snaps I took on the way home today of the current situation.

Looking North towards the Skytrain Station.

That's looking south past the train tracks... through my bent.

So how goes the construction on your commute?

So, I'm gonna try to be a blogger...

It's finally spring and the Central Valley Greenway is almost completed. My commute used to take me down Lougheed Highway for a long stretch but with most of the work done on the greenway I can get from home to work and back on either designated bike paths or bike routes. That makes for a great ride most of the time but there still are traffic, pedestrians and other cyclists to contend with.

I ride an HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte... (ooooh, sounds cool). It is cool. It's a short wheel base recumbent with full suspension and rides like a lazyboy on rockets. It's as fast as a bike that is this comfortable can be. And it's a mule in that it can carry a ton of crap... and I do. I've had the bike for just over a year now and I ridden over 9,000km on it. I've gone through two drive trains and am just about to replace it again for spring. I'll swap out my winter tires for something slicker while I'm at it.

This is a shot of my bike a few weeks after I bought it. It's got a few more bits on it now and is a little more lived in. I'll get a more recent shot soon.

Anyhow, I've been barking on to anyone who will listen about the joys and wonders of commuting by bike (or bent if you will) and I thought, "What the hell," maybe I'll try blogging about it. I'll try to keep the topic to cycle commuting and related subjects and I'll try to have my camera with me so it isn't all my boring blather.