Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Comment Is Awaiting Moderation

When I was writing about local London bike shops and stand-offish sales people, I went looking for some funny online material that I could include in the post. One thing I found was an "article" on a "blog" about "How to Silence Rude High-End Salespeople". The title sounded good, but the article wasn't, in my opinion, so I left a comment saying so. Now, to be honest, I had consumed a few beers at the time, so I was over-reacting a little and being a little more dramatic in my commentary than I might normally be, but I certainly wasn't rude or profane in any way:

OK, let's see...

#1 - Do not even enter the store unless you are ready to buy, and know precisely what you want. Do not shop like rich people by just walking in and looking around.

#2 - Make an appointment with a personal shopper, but you had better be 100% ready to buy... changing your mind is not allowed, because you are poor and have no right to waste their time.

#3 - You must spend money to spend money, and so make yourself into a desperate poser.

This post is disgusting to me. (that's the over-the-top beer-fuelled part, in case you were wondering)

Yer Pal,


As you can see in the picture, I was presented with a "Your comment is awaiting moderation" version of my comment. Well, go and figure, my comment never made it past the "moderation" part of the beauty contest. It would seem that criticism has no place on a web site aimed at the Modern Southern Belle. I had a feeling that might happen at the time, which is why I noted the URL and took a screen shot of my comment, and waited a few days to see if my comment would make it through. I figured if they wouldn't allow my post there, I would allow it here, on RANTWICK.

Done! Thanks for Reading,


P.S. - Does anybody out there know if there are such things as comment-bots that people can send to their own blogs? The comments that did make it seem kind of generic and fake to me. Check it out at

The Blog That Made Me Mad

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fixed Gear Bicycles - I'm Too Square to be Hip

When riding on snow and ice, I prefer a mountain bike with gears and studded knobby tires. The rest of the time, however, my commuter bike is a fixed gear. When some people think of fixed gear bikes, they think of the track bikes favoured by lots of young trendy people in big cities. Bikes like this:

or this

The thing is that track bikes look dead cool, but they aren't particularly practical for carrying anything with you or staying dry, and many track frames are not drilled to accept brakes. Because you can stop a fixed gear bike with your legs, some people ride them brakeless, just as they are ridden on the track. I have no interest in blowing out my knees or learning the skip/skid stops commonly used by urban brakeless riders. Just so you understand what it is I'm not inclined (or skilled enough) to do, here are some examples:

Skip Stop

Skid Stop:

I can stop faster braking than I could skidding, and skidding eats up your tires. I use my legs to slow my bike down sometimes, of course, but my knees can't take much of those hard "backward" forces without complaining. So, I have a brake.

After some trial and error with pre-built bikes and some clumsy but educational experiments with building a fixed gear using an old road frame, I built up my current bike from scratch, gathering new or almost new parts from all over the place and taking my time. Everybody is different when it comes to what bike will suit them best. For getting around in the city quickly while still being able to carry stuff and ride in the rain (i.e. commute), this is my ideal bike.

It's many beautiful but un-hip features have been highlighted for the benefit of anyone who may mistakenly think that it is cool.

Rantwick's Bike

Fenders: Not cool, but right. Unused cable stops and guides: so much for the much touted "clean lines" of the fixie ideal; I saw no reasons other than BS ones to remove them. Over-researched panniers: well, they are panniers. Automatic un-cool points. Cheesy graphics: to be honest, if they hadn't been under the clearcoat, they would be long gone. Since they are under the clearcoat, I see no reason other than excessive vanity to remove them. Wheels: those are good, solid wheels. They lack sufficient colour and/or non-rimbrakeableness to be cool. If that big hyphenated made-up word confused you, you are normal, if a little un-hip. Rear rack: rack. enough said. Cantilever Brake: it's a brake on a fixie. To be fair, many fixed gear riders use a brake, just not the very hippest ones. By the way, it's not a break, it's a brake; that particular mistake, and its frequency in bike-related Internet stuff, bothers me quite a lot. Mud Flap: It's home-made, from a rubber stair tread for god's sake! Don't I at least have enough self-respect to buy a leather one for $40? Will the nerdiness never end? Well no, not yet...

What's the most un-cool? Knowing a word like kludge? Using it? Alliterating those K's? Using an old bicycle tube in two, no, wait... three distinct ways? The fact that it looks WAY nerdier with the camera (it was in use somewhere else at the time, I forget where) mounted on it? It doesn't really matter, does it? Special weirdo measures taken in order to mount a camera on your bike (thank God it's not my head/helmet) boil down to GEEK, full stop.

Stay Hip,


P.S. During my final read-over of this post, it occurred to me that this whole thing looks like a thinly-veiled excuse to to say, "hey, look at the bike I built! I am so very proud of myself!" Self-awareness blows. Add one more tick to the geek meter...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

London Ontario's Best Bike Shops for the Annoying Customer

Since I have gotten into building up my own bikes over the past couple of years, I have become a rather annoying bike shop customer. I show little to no interest in complete bicycles. I often ask for parts that nobody would normally have on hand, but am reluctant to order them. Since I get bits and pieces from all over the place including eBay and Internet stores, I seldom represent much profit to any one retailer, yet take a lot of the staff's time asking all kinds of obscure questions. I read tons of stuff online and take strange biases and beliefs about what I need into the store with me that I'm sure seem stupid much of the time. Normal people develop a relationship with one or two stores and do almost all their business with them. I show no particular loyalty to any one store, but shop my annoying self around.

Don't get me wrong; I do buy / order stuff at some local bike shops (LBSs). I also represent the more rare customer who is interested in and buys bike stuff year-round. Overall, though, if I was running a bike shop, I might hide in the back if I saw myself coming in yet again.

Most people have experienced specialty stores that make you feel stupid and annoying and nowhere near well-heeled enough to warrant serious attention. I have certainly felt this in some bike shops. Shopping for guitars or other musical instruments has left the same sort of bad taste in my mouth.

I just don't get it... why do some retail staff need to rub your nose in how much you don't know or can't afford? This post was supposed to be about just giving some praise to the London bike shops I like best, but when I look at my list, I see a pattern: the shops that have treated me best are small enough that the victim of my aforementioned faults is more often than not the owner, or a singularly passionate employee.

The theory I'm currently hatching is that the people working in some of the larger stores have insecurity complexes about working in retail at all, and these complexes manifest themselves in stand-offish, dismissive behaviour. It's a kind of "I may work in a retail store, but man are you stupid" defence mechanism. Please note: I worked in retail as a sales person for many years, longer than friends and family thought I should, after graduating from University. I get how crummy customers can be, but I hope I didn't act like that. I don't think I did, but self-perception is a tricky thing; who knows?

Anyway, this post is about giving some praise to the shops who put up with me best, and they are as follows, in no particular order. Please note that the businesses I mention here don't have any foreknowledge that I'm singing their praises, and therefore certainly haven't paid me anything:

First Cycleworks - 525 First Street - hands-on, really experienced bike people. Better than most for BMX and MTB, as far as I can tell. More Details.

Village Cycle - 344 Ridout St S. - zero attitude, much help and info, and a real love of all cycling. More Details.

South London Cycle - 479 MacGregor Ave - repair central, also good for finding Park and other tools. More Details.

All Seasons Sport & Cycle - 790 Dundas East - Note: October 2009 - sadly, this bike shop has gone under.

There are many other bike shops in London. I have been to most, if not all, of them. You may love them, and that's cool, but for me they have not been as good as the picks listed above.
Go buy like a whole complete bicycle or get a full tune-up from one of these places. I'm trying to keep my annoying self away during their Spring rush.


PS - I have not frequented the store enough to put it on my "Best Bike Shops" list, but Outspokin Cycles is at 994 Huron Street near Briarhill and I have heard good things.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All People Must See This

I just saw a video on Fatty's blog that was just unbelievable. Whether you ride a bike or not, this is simply amazing. Although I'm sending you to look at the video, don't miss the fact that there's a worthwhile fundraising effort being promoted by Ibis on that same post. I bought a ticket just for showing me that video...

Click Here To See What I'm On About

That's all, I just needed to share.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode two: Inspector Goose's extreme pie plate vigilance

If you don't read bikesnobNYC like I do, the title of this post won't make any sense. The short version is that the snob hates pie plates, but it's geese who have been doing something about it.

Pie plates are those plastic or metal discs that come on many bicycles, and are also called spoke protectors.

They supposedly guard your spokes against chain damage if it ends up way up there. The truth, however, is that any properly tuned bicycle would never need one thanks to the limiting screws on any modern derailleur.

I commute on a fixed gear bicycle (one gear only, no coasting, no derailleur), so in my case a pie plate would be extra super duper useless. Perhaps this was why I was subjected to my harrowing meeting with Inspector Goose:

Those three quick steps still cause me to shudder with fear when I see them. Most of you have pie plates on your bicycles. I have no personal interest in your removing them, but beware Inspector Goose, man, beware Inspector Goose.

Spring is Here! Ride that bike and I'll see you next Monday.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Ortlieb's Inferno - A Descent into Cycling Forum Hell

Like many people who try to make good use of the Internet, I am often discouraged by the level of discourse found on message boards and discussion forums. There are many who reduce themselves to really crude language and active hostility for reasons that I can't understand. Nonetheless, if you can stand to wade through it all, you can sometimes find that others have already found an intelligent answer to a question of your own.

Such was the case on, where I found that somebody else had already been weighing the relative merits of two very similar types of expensive-but-supposedly-worth-it bicycle panniers from the same manufacturer, Ortlieb.

Upon starting to read the forum discussion on the matter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that people were just answering the original question as best they could, in very reasonable English. As I progressed, however, I came to understand that there is another type of Internet discourse that is much, much worse than the crude assertions of cranky adolescents of all ages; the well-intentioned opinions of people who care about things. Most of the on-topic comments in the discussion (and there were several) have been left out of the following summary, since they in no way contributed to my descent (see title). Excerpts from the forum are in blue, and I have added some pictures to, well, illustrate the points as they come up.

I should have known what I was in for; since the forum topic just screamed controversy:

Touring - Ortlieb Classic vs Plus fabric

In case your're thinking "wow, what a weenie for caring about different pannier fabrics" like I am right now, yes, I am that kind of weenie. I can't help it. Back to our story...

The Dutch are famous for being some of the cyclingest people around, so it didn't surprise me that they made an appearance, this time to inadvertantly send the discussion on its hellish tangent without ever having to read it... they just pipe up from the outer circle of the third person, and so the descent begins:

we met a nice Dutch couple while traveling who told us of a European based boycott of Ortlieb packs a few years back because the classic material is PVC

That is, by the way, a real Dutch couple, and hardcore long distance cyclists with a social conscience who may well pipe up about the relative merits of different bicycle panniers and PVC to boot! They are not, however, the Dutch couple as far as I know. My search for the Dutch couple continues, but I fear that it may ultimately be fruitless. Anyway, discussion of PVC naturally followed...

PVC is evil. That is why I chose the new style Ortlieb.


PCV is poly-vinyl-chlorine, and is a huge environmental nightmare. The dioxin pollution from PVC manufacture is horrific, and if burned and/or landfilled when you're done using them, dioxin, lead, and other contaminants are released. There are other nasties, but, this seems enough to list here.

The original poster is somehwat dissappointed to find out his preference may be bad news for the planet:

Damn... so every time I buy an Ortlieb Classic pannier, God kills a kitten?I was getting ready to decide on the classic style

At this point a new voice joins the discussion, and "opens it up" a little...
I don't think it's good for anyone to be using PVC when there are lots of other alternatives. I also don't think it's good when people buy 10,000 sq foot Mcmansions for their family of three to live in, or when they buy SUVs or for solo twenty mile commutes to work, or that people still think it's OK to have pizzas delivered to their house. But people do things that deleteriously impact the sustainability of our society all the time. Mostly, I think, it's due to a lack of education and societal norms that are shaped by marketing.

Hey, is that a dead elk on the roof of that pizza delivery vehicle? Are they justing mocking me or the forum discussion or both? This deserves a closer look. Ahah! It's just a plastic (PVC?) moose because the car is from Moosejaw Pizza. Whew. Now, back to our story:

So, people do all kinds of things they shouldn't because of norms shaped by marketing. Would these norms overwhelm our pannier-choosing brother? Sensing an imminent rationalization-to-purchase-anyway, the anti-PVC lobby plays the "wild card"...

Not just kittens, but fish and deer and elk and elephants and tigers and birds (think soft egg shells) and ... people, especially around the areas where this stuff is produced, who also don't have the money to go to a doctor when they are sick from the poisoning and are less likely to have a lawyer to defend them and force this kind of thing from being manufactured.

This ultimately sends our pannier purchaser into a fit of writing, research and rhetoricals (the three R's of descent into forum hell theory) that results in a very lengthy ramble-on, bits of which are excerpted below:

...I guess the PVC thing is one of those "where do you draw your line" things... for example... Computers. They are incredibly toxic, people in Asia are getting very sick from scavenging through piles of old discarded hardware. And electricity - we all use it, and in the US it's produced often by coal, which is a huge polluter. And that computer (and websites) you're using now? Apparently carbon dioxide emissions from information and communications technology is on the same level as the aviation industry - 2 percent of global emissions (New Scientist, 5th Jan 2008, p.20)... Even if I shop organic and buy local and ride my bike, I'm pretty much a polluting scumbag along with everybody else in one way or another, and I know it... the biggest possible benefit any of us can do for the world is simply to not have any more kids... PVC panniers... I dunno... what if the Classics do last longer? Doesn't that offset some downside?... Damn, ignorance really was bliss... I really shouldn't ask so many questions.

I'm not even going to try to put together a picture for that one! Our pannier purchaser wrote much more than what I posted here, in a single entry. The poor guy really does seem quite serious and concerned about his choices, which is laudable. Some people, however, didn't think him tortured enough, it would seem...

God won't kill a kitten. The PVC kitten has rabies and will come to play with your children and grandchildren.
Again, I'm not going to attempt an illustration, and I am not making this up. Soon, a supportive soul makes an appearance and attempts to smooth things over a little for our beleaguered friend:

I think you have the right outlook on this. Nobody can be perfect, and it sounds like you are doing the best that you can. You've researched all of the alternatives, and you are making an informed decision to go with a PVC bag. It may be polluting, but it's still infinitely better than traveling in an RV. Maybe the next time that you need to purchase panniers somebody will have invented a good replacement for PVC.

But wait! Another important bone of contention has been found!

umm, I think dioxins are actually worse than traveling in an RV--unless there's more PVC in an RV than the PVC bags.

hang on, there's more room for useful insight here...

If I remember correctly, the insulation for a lot of electronic wires is made of PVC. RVs have miles of wiring and dozens of electronic devices. The amount of PVC in an RV could easily be comparable to that of a set of panniers.It was at this point during my descent that I began to question my own sanity. Perhaps this was not a descent into hell at all, but simply a good old fashioned descent into madness! That was starting to seem like a pretty nice option, when an angel of forum-based mercy posted something to give me the strength I would need in order to continue:

Just buy one of them and forget about it.No damn difference that you'll notice.

Mind... clearing. Sanity... restored! Hang on...

Assuming that you don't live downstream from a PVC factory, you'll never notice the difference.

and then this:

If you have any children, that's probably the biggest single negative environmental action you will ever take in your life, propagating the human species. Over that child's lifetime, they will produce yet more pollution and consume yet more resources. If we were all totally honest about it, then the best thing we could all do is just leave. I mean it. We're bad for the place, it's better off without us.

Leaving Earth - The Earth's curvature becomes apparent just a couple of hours after the Trans-Lunar Injection burn (TLI) which takes the human race departure spacecraft out of Earth orbit and off to the Moon.

So began the final descent into the ever-tightening circles of cycling forum hell. I am at this time unsure of their precise numeric designations, being no theologian, but I can name them, thanks to travelling through them personally. They are, in order:

The Circle of Biological Imperatives and Cleaning Ease (a good combo, when you think about it):

The world was created for our use (not abuse, though). The answer is to stop being so wasteful, not stop having children..... We're supposed to propagate the species.My vote goes for the classic style panniers. Cordura isn't so easy to clean.

The Circle of Big Words and Propagation Moderation:
Most anthropocentric post EVER! What a ridiculous idea, that the world was created for us. The world existed long before humans got here, and it will be here long after we are gone. I don't think there is any call for the elimination of the human species, but reducing our global population would probably be a smart move, in addition to reducing the per capita consumption and impact on the planet.

The Circle of Demanded Proof (aka The Circle of the Doubting Thomas):
I'm simply pointing out that nobody in this thread has demonstrated any significant understanding of the specific life cycle environmental impacts of either choice and therefore any conclusion based on it is meaningless. You have no idea if the buying/using a set of Classic panniers has more or less environmental impact than a pair of plus panniers.

The Final Circle of Cycling Forum Hell: Circular Pseudosciephilosophy
...The earth was in fact, made for us only days before the first man was created. This earth is not some accident of evolution or whatever other convoluted theory modern science is pushing these days. I am in in fact a scientist myself and used to buy into the whole evolution thing until I did some research. There are so many holes in the whole "big bang" theory. I could spend 2 hours talking about them all. Hole #1: Life cannot "evolve" from non-living matter. If you agree with this, the debate is over.Hole #2: An "explosion" cannot create ordered complex things. It creates disorder. You don't explode a stick of dynamite and expect to get a BMW.....Hole #9,999,999: Where did the first matter come from?

What is life? It is a complex series of chemical interactions. No mystery there. You take an aqueous solution of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc, and add energy, you get complex chemistry. Given a lot of time, say hundreds of millions of years, and trillions of chemical interactions, it isn't surprising that life results.

Matter comes from energy (E=MC^2). Where does the energy come from? Well that is a hole. Nobody knows why the big bang happened, or why it was so energetic. But creationists can't explain the origin of a supernatural all-powerful deity. And any explanation of such a deity would inherently be more complex than explaining the origin of the energy that is contained in the universe, and no religion offers any reasonable explanation for the ultimate origin of any deity in the first place. Thus Genesis offers an inferior hypothesis to the big bang theory.

If you accept that you can't explain the origin of energy or the reason for the "explosion" from science, you by default have accepted that there is a supernatural being. You have confirmed that God exists.BTW.... you have more to lose here. If I'm wrong, I've lost nothing. If you're wrong, you go to hell.

I must now make an observation. How creepy is it that Ortlieb's Inferno (Cycling Forum Hell) finds its most pure form in circular arguments? Hey, wait. Did you see that? A rhetorical question! I am also writing! I did research (remember Moosejaw?)! The aforementioned three R's of descent into forum hell theory! That %&^$! forum stuck to me somehow! Get it off! Get it off...

Thanks for reading. If I can just scrub these cycling forum hell spots away, I'll see you next Monday.


P.S. I did not make any of this up. To view the full discussion in all its glory, follow this link:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode one: it would seem that I am hideous

I know I said Mondays would be my posting days, but I have been having fun trying out some new stuff on the computer, and I couldn't wait. My commitment to posting every Monday (at minimum) still stands.

In the absence of creativity, there's always amateur video. I encounter a wide variety of people and vehicles and creatures (sometimes all three combined) on my commute, and since I happen to own a mostly broken digital camera that's just right for strapping to a bicycle, I thought I would share some of these encounters with you. Who knows, if you're in London Ontario, you may end up starring in an episode of Encounters with Rantwick!

In this episode, I encounter three young people on the bike path. Seeing me coming, 2 of them begin heading to my left and 1 veers to my right, and then things get a little weird...

I wish to assure you that I did absolutely nothing to freak these girls out, just in case you're thinking I'm some sort of bike path weirdo riding around scaring people. In addition, I would also like to state for the record that I don't know who these people are.

Now, of course I know why those three really went a little crazy, but I'm rather enjoying this Quasimodo gig. I welcome you to guess what happened, and I will tell you if you are correct.

Try not to freak out too often,


Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Knew? Blogging is Difficult

Like so many bloggers before me, I started my blog thinking that I had lots to say and that posting quality stuff often wouldn't be too hard. As you can tell from the shortage of posts on this this site in 2009, that did not turn out to be true at all. Family life and other interests/obsessions, it would seem, easily come between me and writing regularly.

I don't know how the few bloggers I like to read post so much funny and well-written material so often, but I have a renewed respect for their dedication and ability. I'm writing this post, however, not to declare defeat but to serve notice that I am re-committing to my goal of writing regularly, and to win back that one regular reader I thought I almost had for a while there.

I can appreciate why people seem to like twitter, since it requires very little thought and does not allow lengthy expression. My goal, however, has always been to write well and be interesting or entertaining, and toward that end I am planning to start slowly, but remain steady by posting something once a week for now, starting with this one. I guess that means my regular post will be on Mondays! Please tune in next week to see if I fail right away or make a good start.

Since this post hasn't been about anything, really, here's something cycling related that might make this visit worth your while:

I'm wondering if there is a little motor with a remote installed on that bike. The chainguard is kind of odd looking, and the "trainer" looks a little fishy. Your thoughts? Thanks for stopping in, and I'll be back next Monday.

Yer Pal,