Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Puzzle People

Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

If you have a theory about why on earth somebody would do that, please share it in the comments.

Yer Pal,


Monday, September 28, 2009

If You Were Riding the Bicycle #2

Sometimes it seems like no two cyclists will approach a situation the same way. In this scenario, you'll see several different approaches to a situation, and I would like your feedback on what you would do. Here's some lead-up:

In London Ontario there's a spot where the MUP (Multi-Use Pathway) joins York Street at Wortley Road. Lots of commuters and other cyclists hit that point after work each day. It's always interesting negotiating with traffic at this spot, but this time there was just one car in play.

Amazingly, all 5 cyclists aim to ride on the street, southbound on Wortley Road. The Private Drive I use runs next to a Law Office and a small apartment house. One of my questions is whether I should use it or not. It is marked Private Drive, but it also puts me in what I consider the best spot for crossing the intersection. The other 4 cyclists used the pathway, which is part of the reason they were piled up on the sidewalk in various spots.

So, here's the video showing what we all did:

What would you do if you were riding the bicycle?


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interbike Schminterbike

As a regular reader of many bike blogs, I always know when Interbike is on. I couldn't possibly care less. Sure, I buy bike stuff, but not bleeding edge new fangled stuff, and I can happily wait for useful innovations to prove themselves and come down in price before making a purchase. I have lost any desire to buy a complete bicycle since I started building them up for myself, so new models don't turn my crank either.

I do realize that Interbike is at its heart a tradeshow aimed at retailers and those in the bike industry. I guess I just don't understand why normal people would care, which many really seem to. There are, of course, "early adopters" in every kind of consumer activity. The people who had cell phones when they required a shoulder strap, for example.

image from

Does Interbike hold interest for you? If so, please tell me why. I'm not being facetious here... is there something I'm missing about the experience? Perhaps it is the chance to hang with people who love cycling more than anything else. I've always been a loner cyclist. Is it my antisocial ways that are making me fail to see the attraction?

When it comes down to it, like many trade shows, I feel like Interbike is nothing more than a materialistic orgy coupled with a nice dose of self-indulgent debauchery. Hey, wait! I love self-indulgent debauchery! I love bikes! Self-indulgent debauchery centred around bikes! Never mind, I get it now. I don't have the time or money to do it, but I get it.

Remember, what happens in Las Vegas gets re-broadcast all over the place.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Thought I Had a Bad Diet

I am guilty of eating pretty poorly a lot of the time. I buy food out of vending machines at work, and I don't get enough fruit and veggies. However, no matter how bad you are, there is always somebody worse (unless you are Satan, I suppose). Most of us are familiar with some of the ultra-junky food that can be found at a fair or carnival, but I was taken aback by what I saw at the Western Fair (London Ontario's big one) last weekend. My wife is the one who spotted it and said I should take a picture, so you have her to thank for this:

Mmmmmm! Doesn't that look awesome? Don't you just want a plate RIGHT NOW? Well too bad, this kind of goodness is fair-specific. Just hope and pray that the eaters of this delicacy don't join you on some wild ride soon after enjoying it!

Yer Pal,

PS - Although I am fond of "photoshopping" things, I did not modify that picture in any way other than cropping the sides. Truth, as is often the case, is grosser than fiction.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode six: Visions Divine and Deshaken

This instalment of Encounters with Rantwick will make sense if you have already read my posts about Cruise Night and Deshaker. If you haven't, it won't compute, so read 'em if you like, or watch the video and go back to them, or just skip it altogether and go ride your bike in what I consider the very best season for it! The WTF factor on this video is pretty high, so it won't be like you'll be missing anything.

I know it looks like I was swaying from side to side in some sort of freakish ecstasy in the video, but that was just how the camera panned on the handlebars while I was stopped there.

Thanks for reading and watching! Yer Pal,


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trek 520 Build - Part One - A Bike Needs a Frame and Wheels

Since several of my favourite blog people are doing articles in several parts and I am nothing if not a sheep-like follower and imitator, I'm jumping on the bandwagon. There may be months between the parts of this documentation of my Light Loaded Tourer build, since the restrictions of time and money will make it a very slow process. To see all posts relating to this build, use the "Post Series" link near the top of the sidebar on the right.

On previous builds, I have been asked by people, "so how much did it cost to do?" I could ballpark it, but in all honesty I didn't have any good answer. This time, I'm going to keep track of everything in these posts, right down to the bar tape. I've got a bad feeling the total amount will be more than I ever guessed, but I know I do that to myself by needing to upgrade lots of stuff that probably would have been fine. As such, please don't treat these posts as a "how to build a good bike for cheap", but rather as a "how Rantwick builds a bike he'll love". Also please know that this is not a restoration project. Lots of new bits and pieces that have nothing to do with the original 520 will go into it.

Of course the first step in building up a bike from scratch is getting your paws on an appropriate frame. In my case I found a local classified ad for a "90s Trek 520". The back wheel was trashed and the frame would require a complete re-paint to look nice again. When I got the bike home, a little online research at
Vintage Trek revealed that my bike was actually an 1988 or 89. The serial number puts it in 1989, but the 27" wheels make it a 1988! Anyway, here it is, just as I brought it home:

Double-butted made in the USA lugged steel goodness. Long chainstays. Braze-ons and eyelets for racks and fenders, including eyelets midway on the front fork, two water bottle cages and mounts for the downtube shifters (which you can switch between friction and indexed for the rear).

Like I said, the rear wheel was trashed, and the 6 Speed freewheel cogs showed the signs of a long life spent with the same chain, so I couldn't use it either. The front wheel was OK, but the spokes were grungy with oxidation. I needed some decent 27" wheels if I didn't want to replace the perfectly good cantilever brakes or get into moving the braze-ons. Once again, the local online classified gods smiled on my project: I picked up a pair of Mavic G40s (double eyelet, 36 spoke) laced to sealed cartridge Specialized hubs. They even had nice silver skewers without a mark on them.

Brass nipples, DT Swiss stainless spokes, and 6 Speed freewheel (the original was a 6 speed too) in excellent condition. I didn't measure, but the rear spacing of the bike is a perfect match. It's gear range (12-19) is higher than that of a typical touring bike, and I'm debating with myself about how to proceed. I was intending on replacing the Deore/BioPace crankset (which was also really worn) anyway, so I've been playing with gear calculators to see if I can get touring-style gear ratios by choosing the right crankset. I'm thinking the smaller chainrings of a MTB crankset might do the trick. I know some bike people who would gasp in horror at the notion of using MTB components on a road frame, but I'm way more interested in function than convention. That said, I'm a sucker for a nice Ultegra crankset... obviously I'm still percolating on the matter. Maybe a road triple crankset with no rings off ebay? Buying rings one a time can be expensive. Gaah! Ack! I love this, and I hate this!

Sorry you got dragged into my tortured thought process there. So: A frame and wheels that I really like. What an excellent start!

Build $ Tally:

Used Frame + some parts I will re-use: $80.00
Used Wheelset: $100.00

TOTAL to date: $180.00

This was Part One.

Click Here for Part Two: I Strip and Get Blasted

If you were expecting something funny or interesting to normal people, I apologize. Like I said, it will likely be quite a while before I post on this build again, so come back soon for something more entertaining.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He Made Me Mad

CycleDog posted about someone that made me mad. Fritz posted a link to the someone's apology, and the apology made me more mad. Since the author-owned website that posted the apology left me no avenue for comment and was very very ready to display the face of the person that made me mad, I have decided to combine the two.

First, the face, from the website of the one who made me mad:

You know, I'm not certain you got a good enough look at this guy...

Now, the man who made me mad's "apology":

May I take this opportunity to apologize for any offence I have caused through the article in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday. It was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country. What was intended to be a humorous piece was clearly misjudged. Further more I do not condone any form of reckless driving.

Once again, I am sincerely sorry for any upset caused in relation to this article.

Now, my Comment:

I am certain it was not your intention to offend the many cyclists who share the roads. It was, however, your stated and gleeful intention to scare the living shit out of the cyclists on your road. You are a dangerous idiot, unless, of course, I have clearly misjudged. It is my sincere hope that you made your little scenario up, but I'm guessing that you didn't. I hope you are sincerely sorry for the upset caused to the people you threatened with your car. Otherwise, you're just blowing smoke, right?

I had a bunch of writing full of expletives one minute ago that I deleted before posting; I am confident that you get my drift. If my response seems a little over the top, please forgive me. I just got mad, and I strongly believe that if you put yourself out there in the public space in this way, you had better be prepared to be criticized when you write something so repugnant to so many.

Yer Pal,
PS - I almost forgot to link back to the apology that made me mad. You can see it here.

Brooks Saddles - Worth It?

Some quick comments on my last post about Brooks saddles have given me the idea of pumping my readers for information. You are few but mighty, and I want your help deciding some stuff.

Brooks saddles are legendary in the cycling world (among others), but I've been reluctant to fork out the money. As you may or may not know, I'm in the beginning stages of building a light touring bike on a 1988/89 Trek 520 frame. Since this is the bike I am most likely to spend long hours on, I'm thinking my choice is a little more important than on other bikes I've built.

I'm writing this in an effort to collect unbiased feedback from "normal" people, rather than just buying one, regardless of cost, because they're "the best". If you have never had a Brooks saddle, please refrain from commenting on them, since what I'm after here is first-hand experience rather than "common knowledge". If you've got a different touring saddle you love, though, bring it on! I'm guessing this stuff has been discussed ad nauseam on lots of bike forums, but frankly, I'm not as interested in the opinions of total strangers. I've come to learn a lot about how and where and for how long many of you ride, and I trust you more. There's that, and of course I am afraid of falling back into Cycling Forum Hell. It took me forever to recover last time, and I never want to write a post that long again.

Some questions I've got:

Are there any other saddles that come awful close at half the price?

Are there particular models well suited to a "speedy touring" style? I hope to remove the racks and panniers sometimes and ride this bike fast once in a while. I don't see myself investing in a full-out road bike, so this one will probably be it.

If one accepts that Brooks saddles are way better, are they so much better that their cost is warranted?

One last note: Please just go full out with your own opinions; boss me around! I'll make up my own mind, but I'm not interested in diplomacy. I don't want to end up with a bunch of comments that contain "I am sure you would be happy with your choice..." or "It really depends on your personal preference". I know that. I want to hear about your preference, and why.

If you are in a position to comment, please accept my thanks in advance. I really appreciate your help in this matter.

Three cheers for the Hive-Mind! Rah! Rah! Rahhh!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Cargo Shorts & Air-O-Space

Not Me.

I'm not overly concerned with being all aero or racer fast when I ride. If I were, I would have grave misgivings about my panniers, fenders and single fixed gear. Nontheless, I built my summer commuter to be as light and fast as a practical commuter bike could be. I enjoy going as fast as I can where conditions permit, and I will hunker down in the drops when riding into a headwind or just for optimum speed once in a while.

Before I continue, I wish to reiterate that people should wear whatever they want when they ride. Whatever you're happy in works, and you'll be more likely to ride in what you find comfortable. Lots of people wear cargo shorts. I've been wearing lycra cycling shorts for a few years now, despite the weenie factor, because they are what I find most comfortable.

Recently I found that I was out of clean cycling shorts, and threw on a pair of cargo shorts instead. After all, I used to wear them all the time. Having become used to leg-hugging bike shorts, however, they felt like gigantic air scoops, especially when riding into the wind:

No, that is not my butt. Those are the massive air intakes of a Harrier jump jet. My cargo shorts, however, do not come equipped with Pegasus turbofan engines, and so do not allow me to hover or propel me forward even at the Harrier's somewhat mediocre sub-sonic speeds. If they did, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this nonsense, but instead be hovering and blasting around town impressing the hell out of everyone. No, I think perhaps this picture better conveys how cargo shorts feel to me now:

There, that does it for me. Now in describing my opinions on cargo shorts for bike riding, I'll just say they "give me the 'ol reverse spinnaker". Wait, maybe not. I don't like sound of that at all. Ah well, I'm sure you get my drift, and that's good enough for me. I'm just gonna shut up for a little while now.

Talk about hopeless wind bags!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Getting Left

A post at DFW point-to-point inspired me to make a quick post of my own using some video of a nice smooth "getting left" I had yesterday. The more I do this, the smoother it gets. There are always jerks who must pass although you obviously need to get over, but that's no different than in your car. As I note in the video, I think I'm more likely to be allowed my lane change on the bike!

I'm a Lefty. I wonder if that helps somehow?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Danny Mac is Back, This Time as a Bike Commuter in a Commercial!

Thanks to bike commuters for passing this on. I still watch the other big Danny MacAskill video once every couple of days. I'm addicted and amazed and in awe.

Youth. It is glorious to behold sometimes, isn't it?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Find Dignity in World Naked Bike Rides

WARNING: The following content contains a text link to a video that may not be safe for work or children, depending on where you work and what kind of children you've got. I don't think it's so bad, but I'm just one person, and so you have been warned just in case.

If you're into cycling stuff, there is a good chance you have heard of the Naked Bike Rides that appear to be gaining in popularity around the globe. For me, riding naked just sounds painful, and as someone who can't handle exposing even a hint of butt crack, I can't get into the idea myself. That said, I have no problem with others who might get a thrill from getting naked in public; whatever floats your boat, you know? I can also appreciate that many people want to protest the dominance of cars and reliance on oil. What leaves me scratching my head is how the two could be related. Since I'm always up for a little enlightenment, I googled up the World Naked Bike Ride web site:

Sadly, the road to enlightement can be a confusing one. The mission-statement-like blurb in the centre of the main page left me as puzzled as ever. Perhaps in reviewing it you, my intelligent reader, can help me understand. First, the answer to my primary question, "why naked"?

So the naked bike rides are all about defending ones dignity! What? Maybe the guy in this youtube video could explain.

What could be more dignified and natural than naked roadside bicycle repair? Well, lots of things I can think of, but to each his own, I guess. All I can say is that maybe the logo found on the WNBR web site doesn't mean what I thought it did... it looks different to me now somehow...

So, anyway, we left off at "We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity". And?

I'm just guessing here, but I think they are really only exposing the unique dangers faced by naked cyclists and pedestrians. The dangers faced by clothed cyclists and pedestrians aren't unique in the same way, I don't think... I must be missing something. There has got to be an "as well as" to this phenomenon...

So the nudity is a way of exposing the negative consequences we all face due to dependence on oil? What? How? Huh?

Having none of my questions answered to my satisfaction, I was simply left standing naked in the men's department at enlightenment-mart, with only this new question to hide behind: If you think it would be empowering or a hoot or whatever to get a group together for a bike ride, why do you have to attach it to a form of protest? Why not just get naked and go? And then it hit me!

If it's not a protest, it's just a bunch of people getting naked because they feel like celebrating bikes and the human body, and in lots of places that'll get you arrested! Huh! That's pretty clever, I think. And who, you may ask, is the Clever Originator of these rides? A fellow Canadian from Vancouver BC by the name of Conrad Schmidt. Believe it or not, Conrad and I have more than our citizenship in common! I am a Clever Originator of something too!

Did you notice that "engergy" typo at the end of the central statement? I was going to get snarky about it, but then I thought, "hey wait, that may be some new word in the naked environmentalist's lexicon! You know..."

I tried googling it, and nothing came up. I checked the
online slang dictionary, no joy. That's good enough for me. I, Rantwick, hereby stake my claim as the Originator of the slang word "engergy", meaning energy sources used by combustion engines! Somehow, I feel more important now... almost... Dignified!

Thank you, Conrad Schmidt! Thank you, WNBR!

Yer Pal,

PS - After writing pretty much this whole thing I found another web page that contains a lot of answers to practical and other questions about naked bike ride events around the world. Nothing enlightening in the way I had been hoping, but better information than that main page anyway. That FAQ can be found here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Without Sunglasses, I Fall Over.

I experienced an embarrassing fall last Thursday, and thanks to some sort of bizarre personality disorder, I feel compelled to write about it in detail on the Internet rather than just suck it up and hope too many people didn't see. I didn't have the camera mounted that morning (arg!), so I will have to make do with a long-winded description of events, beginning with some introductory groundwork:

1) The day began poorly. When I started getting my stuff on to leave the house, I discovered that my customizer had worked some more on my sunglasses. I thought they were perfect the way they were, and said work was non-commissioned. My customizer further reduced the weight of the sunglasses, but in so doing, decided that they no longer needed to be integrated, which was really one of their best features. Now in three or four pieces, I could no longer work out how to use them, and my customizer wouldn't tell me. I left the house with no glasses.

2) I am a lazy, lazy person. When I was a kid, I was forever getting in trouble for pulling my shoes on and off without untying them. My parents said it would wreck my shoes, which indeed it does. I still do it, at the cost of ruining shoes more quickly than necessary.

3) I have never learned to trackstand. Many fixed gear riders figure out how to trackstand at some point, since it is easier on such a bike. I can achieve just-barely moving status, but I can't stop fully and stay clipped in. Thanks to my aforementioned laziness, I have never tried to master a proper trackstand, so it is no surprise that I don't know how yet.

4) VC (Vehicular Cycling) concepts have taken over some parts of my brain. At intersections, I behave as a car or motorcycle would. This is a very good thing.

So Here's What Happened:

Riding along without glasses is just no good, especially when you are as blazing fast as I am. Tears streaming out of the outer corners of my eyes, I arrived at a 4 way stop right near South St. Hospital. There was only one other car to wait for, since they got there first, by a good second or two. They did not proceed, and instead sat there, looking at me. I was sitting there doing my almost-track-stand. I motioned for them to proceed, but they did not, instead gesturing that I should. It was too late. My almost-track-stand was out of time, and I started to fall over. I got my usual first foot out of the pedal quick enough, but I was falling the other way, and I couldn't get out of the other pedal, because my foot was drifting around in my worn out, loosely tied shoe, unable to disengage the cleat. I got out of that pedal on my way down, but I was beyond saving by then.

The people in a few cars behind me, a bunch of people at a bus stop and of course the two people in the car who had waited for me all watched a grown man (who appeared to be crying) gracelessly struggle to stay upright and fall jerkily to the ground. I was completely unhurt, not a scratch.

Go and figure. I fall immediately outside a hospital, and don't get hurt at all. Anyway, I raised myself and my bike from the pavement with the kind of speed that is only attainable by the highly embarrassed, banged my front wheel on the ground in anger, and rode off. As I was getting up, the woman in the passenger seat of the courteous car was looking at me with a big fat grin on her face as they finally passed through the intersection. At the time it made me angry. Now, however, I am not. What isn't funny about watching a 200 pound man in spandex shorts and reflective stuff fall over while at a dead stop? Nothing, that's what. Man, I wish I had video.

Thanks for reading! I still can't trackstand, but my slothful ways with my shoes have been mended (for now at least), and my new cheap sunglasses are kept well away from my customizer. He's gone over the edge. Such a shame...

Keep it upright; You're Much Cooler That Way.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Bike Messengers

The recent killing of a bike messenger by a car in Toronto has spurred a great deal of debate about cyclists, cars, and their behaviour on city streets on most popular media here in Canada. It has become quite apparent that some people really don't approve of bike messengers or cyclists in general, and messengers and many other cyclists are quite prepared to hate them right back.

I've got just a couple of things to say here.

Bike messengers are not representative of most cyclists. To put messengers and cyclists into one bucket is like saying that all motorists are just like long haul truckers. The differences between what urban core messengers do and what most commuter cyclists do are huge. Many bike messengers also live in a subculture that is not particularly mainstream, and I think many who bash them are as much annoyed by their failure to meet certain social norms as by how they ride. All that aside, there is something else important to say.

Bike messengers are specialists who are PAID by people working in urban centres to RIDE LIKE THEY DO. People pay them precisely because they can move aggressively through dense downtown traffic. If you've got a beef with the way bike messengers behave, go tear a strip off the nearest downtown office manager, or lobby local politicians to ban the business. Give these people doing something terribly risky in order to make a living a break. As specialized and seemingly reviled as they are, it is no wonder a subculture has grown up around them. They need it as insulation from all us hypocrites.

I am not a Bike Messenger, and Bike Messengers have not approved this message. Hey, waddaya know? I managed to really rant about bike stuff!



I always feel like posting something on Fridays, but never feel like working on something in advance. So here for your enjoyment are just a few images of people smoking on bicycles, because as we all know, smoking is super cool. Bikes are also super cool. So smoking on a bike is super super cool, right?


When it comes to smoking, no one does it like the French:


They even have a different mental image of "smoking tires"!


I'm half French, and if I don't get out and do some non-commute riding again soon I may begin to resemble that French Michelin Man! Have a great holiday weekend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Roman Mica Update

UPDATE: When challenged over his sidewalk riding behaviour in the comments section for that video, Roman Mica wrote the following:

romanmica // Sep 1, 2009

Sorry you guys are correct. Riding a bike on the road in traffic is much safer because car is slim 4000 pounds of metal and a bike is a massive 20 pounds of carbon I do have a helmet and as much lycra as I can wear to protect me from all the drivers who are texting, talking, eating, drinking, reading, putting on make-up, drunk driving or just not paying attention.

I mean you never hear about a fatal car vs. bike accidents, but the news is full deadly bike vs. granny with poodle collisions. Sorry, what was I ever thinking!

Roman Mica is also a Tri guy. You know how sometimes it feels like other cyclists are giving you a bad name? I wonder how most triathletes feel about this dude?

Don't Despair, I'm doing it for you.


iReporter Roman Mica

Keri at Commute Orlando posted this first, so I'm just going to link to her post. I am not even going to try to comment on the content, because I may launch into a string of expletives that get me sued or something. Keri was left speechless. I am left bemused and deeply annoyed. At times like these I despair for the future of humankind.

Yer Pal,


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Toronto Cyclist Killed in Altercation

Wow, this one is going to get some serious attention, since the driver may have been a figure of note. See article here. As usual, my advice is to beware the comments section of this article. Just don't engage. The people who put up the craziest and most stupid comments are not worth your time. Please remember that crazy stuff like this is the exception, not the rule. You are as safe or more safe on a bike than you are in a car.

Let's also remember that if every fatality suffered in cars was reported in the news, there would be no time for any other kind of news, and we would all be scared witless of driving.

Pet Peeve: Is there ever an incident in which somebody doesn't automatically call for more bike lanes? There are almost no details available on the incident at this time, but the bike lane mantra can't wait on some silly old facts, it would seem.

Keep it alert yet calm, and nobody gets hurt.