Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Bike Existence

This blog has never been about the details my personal life and never will be. That said, I do have to admit that this Christmas has been one of the most interesting ones ever. If you are a friend or a member of my family and are thinking "oh crap, he's writing about me", rest easy. There have been several kooky aspects to this season and you're just one of them.

I was sitting on my porch, sipping a drink and mulling over all the stuff that has happened this Christmas, when my eyes settled on my bike.

My bike had all the qualities that Christmas for so many (including me) sometimes lacks; simplicity, strength and purpose all rolled up into a machine that brings peace of mind and even joy. I'm going to ride again soon, if only for the brain calming effects.

Knowing that pretty much everybody who reads this blog rides a bike, I'm gonna use this mid-Christmas season post to wish you all a Merry Bike Existence. Bikes love us all year round. Let's take a moment in this hectic season to love them back. They can feel our good vibes y'know.

Yer Pal,


Monday, December 21, 2009

Metridiplomacy: I'm A Celsius Man

Canada began implementing the metric system in 1970, the year after I was born. Metrification, as carried out by a special government body, the Metric Commission, was not welcomed by all Canadians, no sir. It was a long process, and stuff like speed limit signs were in MPH well into the 70s. As such, most Canadians my age are quite fluent in both US and Canadian units of measurement. This is particularly true when it comes to measures of length, since most people here still refer to things like height and weight in feet, inches and pounds.

I have never heard anybody say "wow, it was like getting hit over the head by a 5X10!" (2"= 5.08cm, and 4"= 10.16cm). I wasn't planning on ranting in this post, but that last sentence reminds me of a pet peeve of mine. Why the hell do we and the lumber industry refer to cut lumber in its pre-planed dimensions? After the first time you figure out that a 2X4 is really a 1.5X3.5 it is not that big a deal, but when you are using materials to build or design something, why should you have to remember something like that, huh? I'm really glad bikes aren't made of wood; well, not usually anyway:

Speaking of bikes, American cyclists are probably among the more metriliterate US Citizens, since metric units on bikes and bike components are common. Most Americans, including cyclists, however, are not very likely to use metric in referring to temperature. Temperature is pretty much the only area in which I have been completely metrified. I have difficulty thinking in Fahrenheit. I know that 100F is a stinkin' hot day, and that 32F is freezing point, but otherwise I have to stop and use a converter or table when I write about how cold it was.

The lion's share of visitors to this blog are American, and I want the measurements to be relevant to them, but it is a pain in the butt to do the conversions because math is not a strong suit of mine and I can't do them on the fly in my head. I am no longer going to stop and convert the temps I write about into Fahrenheit, because I am lazy. So: What to do?

I have added the little table on the right so everybody can arrive at a ballpark understanding without having to do conversions. I tried some conversion javascripts out, but then my page warns about scripts when you load it (at least in IE), and I hate that. I only bothered with cold weather temps for now, since I don't refer to temperature much in summer.

C you later,


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nothing to Report

Thanks to the general madness that is the Holiday Season, I've not been thinking much about the blog or had time to write anything when I did. Knowing that things will only get crazier in the days to come, I'm going to take a Holiday Semi Hiatus from this space. Maybe just post on Mondays like I've said before... anyway, whatever your religious thing or lack thereof, please have an excellent time with the remainder of the year. May you breathe deeply of the joys you find and let the rest just slide off your shoulders.

I won't be surprised if declaring that I won't be posting much results in a bunch of posts, but who knows, maybe it'll stick this time.

Yer Pal,


Monday, December 14, 2009

My Very Best Advice On COLD Weather Cycling

If you are the type to try cycling in winter, you will arrive at a nice mix of clothing, footwear, tires and other stuff without me or anybody else telling you what to do, if you are at all determined. Same for the bike you choose to ride. That said, here's the one thing I would like to share or recommend about cold weather riding: get goggles. You won't know how you did without them if you do.
Clear (unless you only plan to ride in bright conditions) goggles have been by far the best addition to my winter riding getup. They provide a warm and protected place for your eyes, and when you're not crying or feeling your eyes dry out in cold wind, you ride better and enjoy it more.
I use motocross goggles, but I strongly suspect that most winter goggles would be just as good. That is all. It feels very strange refrain from being odd or stupid or overly personal in one of my blog posts, particularly on a Monday... but for a change I have nothing more to say, and since everybody knows what a pair of ski goggles look like, a picture would be superfluous.
Yer Pal,

PS - Doing a post this direct and nonsense-free is killing me. Stay tuned for something extra stupid sometime soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is That A Camera In Your Pants, Or Are You Just A Freakish Mutant?

Hmmm, how to answer... my answer is... Yes! Yesterday afternoon I had a camera in my pants, because I am a freakish mutant. I've been noting the sad fact that I've been riding when it is too dark to get any good video lately. Well yesterday, I managed to get out of work earlier than usual and was pumped about shooting some video again. I had my doubts about the condition of my camera batteries, so I attached the camera to the handlebars but didn't turn it on at first. The same strong west wind that gave me the joy joys on the way in was COLD riding home on the return trip. That's OK, I'll happily pay for a tailwind one way with a headwind in the other; that's only fair.

When I did turn the camera on, the lens/zoom mechanism must have been a little frozen, because it tried to extend, beeped repeatedly and then just closed again. I tried warming the camera in my bare hands, but it behaved the same way. This is where the freakish mutant part comes in.

It is well known that freakish cycling mutants who mount cameras on their bikes love getting that video, even when it is totally boring video, and can't stand to miss the opportunity especially when it has been a few days since they last got their fix. I needed to warm up that camera, so I stuck it down my pants, into the warmest possible position. No one saw me as I rode along warming my camera, which is really too bad, because if you're gonna shove a digital camera down your spandex pants, my bike camera must be among the most flattering models ever made:

Warming that thing in my pants worked like a charm; the lens/zoom recovered! Thanks to some of my unspeakable zones I can now show you the admittedly boring video, which includes some footage of the tree Mother Nature took out just to teach me a lesson. You may notice that I am moving very slowly in some shots... that headwind was a killer.

London usually gets lots of snow. I can't believe we haven't gotten the snow that seemingly everybody else did!


Extra Special Friday PS!

image source: here

I have posted the above image only because 1) it is Friday and 2) I don't trust myself to comment on it in a tasteful fashion. Done. Gone. Whew.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mother Nature Sets Me Straight

You know how I was taunting Mother Nature in my last post? That was a mistake, as is messing with your real Mother. I was hoping to goad her into some good snowfall in my city, but I should have known better. My longtime friend and adversary Mother Nature knew precisely how to hurt me in retribution for my insolence, and it was not with the heavy snow I had hoped for. No, she knew better than to reward the manipulations of a transparent and petulant child with precisely what they desired. Instead, she punished me. If I had thought before I wrote, I would have remembered that Mother Nature has a temper when challenged, as even the advertisers of my childhood knew well...

The morning after my last post on Tuesday, Mother Nature responded to my taunting. Remember, what I was after was snow. As I left the house, I was treated to precisely 2 flashes of lightning and 2 claps of thunder, which are pretty damn rare in London Ontario in December. It was as though she wanted me to know that she, and not chance, was at work.

She gave me 0 degrees C, a strong headwind and lots of cold, cold rain. It was miserable by almost any standard. My gear, while pretty good in rain, was no match for what she laid on me. I was soaked. One of the beauties of cycling, however, is that so long as you are working, you remain reasonably warm. My goggles were a godsend and freak that I am, I quite enjoyed my gnarly ride.

If there was any doubt that Mother Nature was at work, it vanished in the afternoon as the strong East winds I battled in the morning changed to even stronger West winds for me to fight on the way home. She tried to knock me down with the wind several times, but was unsuccessful. My best guess is that she was accustomed to knocking over thin, fit roadies rather than a 200+ lb man riding Mutant Winter. I came away from my PM commute energized by the fight and ready for more, so much so that I considered writing an open letter to Mother Nature here on RANTWICK, telling her she had been unsuccessful in keeping me off the bike, and that I had enjoyed the cold, wet and wind because I am a masochistic freak. I was tired and went to bed instead.

This morning it was -5 C, with the wind still strong out of the west. An inch or so of snow had fallen overnight, but it was the nice light, blowing kind. I thought my ride complete with beautiful tailwind was a sign that she had given up on trying to punish me. Sadly, not long into my ride I discovered that Mother Nature, like a thug who knows their enemy will not be broken, had lashed out at something I loved instead:

The tree pictured above was a favourite of mine. It used to make that sharp corner of the bike path extra interesting by sprinkling it with pine cones that could wipe you out if you weren't careful. As you can see, it was kind of on its own, a landmark tree along the path. I liked that particular tree quite a lot. Mother Nature took it down:

The destruction of that tree bummed me out, and took some of the fun out of the remainder of my ride. Much like a parent who has meted out some stern justice, however, Mother Nature followed it up with a little tenderness, reminding me of how magical she can be.

The ride included several of those wondrous moments when you are riding with a stiff tailwind and your speed matches that of the wind precisely. The air seems as still as it would be in your living room despite the fact that you are moving fast, which is just so cool. Throw in some light snow cover unspoiled by the track of any other foot or wheel with just a few ice patches, and it was great. If it had not been tainted by the sadness of losing such a great tree, it would have been as close to a perfect winter ride as I have ever experienced.

It was too dark to get any good video, which kind of sucks, but snippets of video are incapable of conveying how good Winter riding can feel anyway. If you haven't tried it, take a few steps to keep your important bits warm and give it a shot. There is an excellent chance that you will love it, maybe even as much as I do.

Man I Love My Bike.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm A Patient Man, but A R I Z O N A ?

Take a look at the lack of weather occurring in downtown London Ontario as I write this, from live webcams I took a screen shot of. We have had tantalizing little flurries that didn't add up to anything, but as you can see, no snow worth mentioning.

I have been eagerly awaiting snow and winter riding for 2 MONTHS, as evidenced by this post. It is common for London Ontario get some real snow in November, but this year, nothing yet. For some mysterious reason some of my most regular readers are from the Southern United States, and I have been dying to deliver some sweet unspoiled snowy bike path video among other things. Instead, I get to watch this:

image links to video on CNN , sorry it starts with a commercial.

Now, I can handle being out-snowed by places in the Northeast and Midwest of the USA, but ARIZONA, complete with video of people on bicycles? GAAH! At least that dude looked pretty miserable. How am I supposed to play the Canuck Card this way? It is Maddening I Tell You, Maddening!

What is it Mother Nature, huh? Is it because I ENJOY tangling with you every winter? Are you punishing me? You are a selfish, insensitive little... besides, I thought you kind of enjoyed our crabby relationship, as I do. In any case, enough with the passive, my quarrelsome darling; bring on the aggressive. There is snow in the forecast. I DARE you, Mother Nature, to show me what you've got. I'm not afraid of you. Bring it on, ya little wimp.

Hoping I don't get struck by lightning and carried off into the upper atmosphere in a freakish blizzardicane of vengeance and fury, I remain Yer Pal,

PS - One of my many knowledgeable readers filled me in on the fact that Flagstaff AZ is way above sea level and gets snow normally. Oops! Mother Nature, please know that my challenge still stands despite my inattention to detail.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Matter How You Say It

Products intended for use on your nether regions have names that sound stupid or weird. I suppose that is a simple function of trying to name something nobody wants to talk about. Let's take a quick look at the ones aimed at cyclists. I've never used any of these products and I hope I never have to. I'm not really interested in which ones work best or anything like that (I suppose I will be if I ever need the stuff); a recent discovery that I'll get to in a minute has sent me into this review of the funky names.

DZ Nuts - Dave Zabriskie's chamois cream. Somebody naming a product after their own nethers has got to be a sign that naming such items is difficult. The fact that people are quite willing and able to use something named after somebody else's junk is puzzling to me.

Beljum Hard Core Budder - Perhaps the suggestion that the product is "Hard Core" makes people feel a little tougher or serious about cycling or whatever. I don't know. I do know that applying this stuff would not make me feel all Marlboro Man though.

Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle - Word play on Butt and Butter. I guess it helps avoid the distasteful notion of applying foodstuffs to your privates. I wonder what makes it "Eurostyle"? European styling helps to sell all kinds of things, I suppose. I guess anything that makes such substances seem more cultured or refined helps people forget the ugly truth of its purpose.

Assos Chamois Creme - Assos decided to just play it straight, since any word play combined with their unfortunate company name would probably just result in something unsellable.

Betwixt - I think this is perhaps the classiest name for such things that I found in my brief search. Kudos to whoever came up with this subtle and simple name.

Like I said earlier, I (or more accurately, my 8 year old son) made a discovery at a local drug store recently that got me thinking about the difficulties of naming such things. Mrs. Rantwick and I were looking at something else when our boy exclaimed "hey, look at the Anti Monkey Butt!" We began shushing him and were preparing to scold him for his crude turn of phrase when we followed his pointing finger to this:

What can I say, the kid has an eye for intriguing products. Mrs. Rantwick and I, being the lovers of all things odd that we are, immediately scooped up the 4 containers available on the shelf, because nothing says Merry Christmas to friends and family like a $6 bottle of Anti Monkey Butt. My Mom is gonna love it.

While not strictly for cycling and a powder rather than a cream, Anti Monkey Butt lists cycling as one of its best uses. Being curious about which company might use such cutting edge marketing, I checked the small print on the label. I didn't get the satisfaction of linking Anti Monkey Butt to some big manufacturer; I got something better. It is produced by Anti Monkey Butt Corp. I went to their website and found some excellent and bizarre stuff, including videos! Check them out: Video 1 Video 2. I love this company. They are obviously being funny as a method of marketing their hard to market product, but what I like best is that they aren't trying to be cool in any way. They are the reverse of cool, which is cool.

I guess I should state for the record that I am not affiliated with Anti Monkey Butt Corp, and that I have received absolutely nothing in return for posting about their product. I also have no idea if the stuff works. I just like the approach. It speaks directly to my inner 8 year old, and managed to do so directly through my actual 8 year old!

If you live in London, please don't go buy all the Anti Monkey Butt you can find. That's my plan.

PS - For those of you about to comment about the prevention of saddle sores being very important to competitive or long-range cyclists and no laughing matter, etc., I know. I just wanted a cycling-related way to introduce my discovery of Anti Monkey Butt, so forgive me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode ten: Industrial Bright And Tragic

My cycling specific garb for winter riding has been joined by several bits of industrial work wear lately, three bits to be precise. One thing I've begun wearing only recently is a pair of clear safety glasses:

I really like my clear goggles for cold weather riding, but that's the problem. This year it has become dark during my commute without becoming cold enough to warrant the goggles, which can be quite warm when you're working much. So, I tried the clear safety glasses, and I must say I quite like them.

The next item is one that I haven't really felt the need to use until recently. My work has had me commute to some new and different locations lately, some of which force me to ride on some roads that most sensible cyclists would rather avoid. I wasn't feeling quite visible enough some of the time on these roads, so I added a reflective vest to my usual getup:

I must say that I like what the vest does, but I hate wearing it. It makes me feel like a nerd, which is totally stupid because Mutant Winter with her pink cables and plastic tub have already completely established that I AM a nerd, so why should I care? Perhaps I attach more importance to clothing; after all "clothes make the man", right? If that's true, do "gloves make the hands"?

I've never really believed that specialty mitts or gloves, like "lobster claws" and stuff like that were necessary for winter riding, as evidenced by the stuff I was forced to retire thanks to being worn out:

I've only had those $5 gloves for about a month! I must have super strong thumbs. Damn video games!

I came across my replacements when I was at a work wear place buying jeans. I am really excited about these (not a nerd. right.) because they may well be the perfect winter cycling glove despite the fact that they were not designed for the purpose:

They are fuzzy on the inside, the backs are a knit material and the palms and fingers are rubberized. They are extremely grippy on the handlebars regardless of weather conditions. Last but not least, they are really hi-vis! I have read Steve A and others talk about lights to make wrists or hands visible so that their signals don't get missed; these wouldn't do in the summer of course, but in the dark of winter when these things might matter most, I think they are a pretty darn good solution. Last but not least, they were $16. But never mind all that. These things make me look cool, because they make my hands and fingers look like those of Master Shake:

If you don't know who Master Shake is, shame on you. You are so un-cool. I didn't know who he was either, but a young colleague of mine said my hands looked like his in those gloves, so I looked him up. I don't get the channel needed to watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but I really wish I did... it seems like my kind of strangeness.

OK, where was I? Ah yes, I was stylin' in my industrial evolution:

So, I am Industrial Bright and lookin' special. Where's the Tragic? I was in my full industrial bright splendour when the following occurred:

The tragedy lies not in the fact that the truck driver didn't like me being where I was and using his air horn. The tragedy is that for reasons I can't explain, I lost my temper and flipped him off very clearly with my new hi-vis finger held high for his rear-view mirror. He didn't miss that signal, because he touched his brakes for no reason while I did it, like he might stop for a chat. I know lots of cyclists would consider that pretty normal, but it isn't for me. That was the first time in my many years of driving and cycling that I have ever given someone the bird, and therein lies the tragedy. I pride myself on keeping my cool and refraining from reacting to stuff like that dude's air horn. Civility is important and as my Mother would say, two wrongs don't make a right.

Keep Yer Cool. Until Next Time,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hell No, Mo Won't Go!

I've come to quite like my Mo, mostly because Mrs. Rantwick does too, so I'm gonna keep it for a while. Movember is over. If you are one of those people who thought, yeah, I should donate to Rantwick (Patrick), this is your last chance. Click here to visit my Mo Donation page before it is too late! It is a completely secure donation site run by a legitimate charity, and you'll get a receipt for tax purposes you can print right away since you'll be using your credit card. I'm the team captain, but other people on the team are kicking my butt! Help me save face, please!

Here is the last Mo update picture you will see until Movember 2010.

Thanks for putting up with my Mo promotions this last month, and see you again next year!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something I Couldn't Do

I'm working on a post about some funky new stuff I've been wearing on the bike that will prove without a doubt that I no longer care very much about how I look. Wait, that's wrong. If I didn't care, I wouldn't write about it. Let's say instead that increasingly, function trumps form when it comes to my choices. Sadly, that means I look a little more freakish with each new development. Thank goodness I'm not single and looking... my prospects would be grim. Not as grim, though, as they would be if I were sporting one of these:

image source:

That is Something Even I Just Couldn't Do.