Friday, April 30, 2010

Ah, That Forester!

The "father of vehicular cycling", John Forester, born 1929, is getting up there. Nonetheless, it would seem he has lost none of his ability to move people. I bike T.O. , a Toronto based cycling blog that I read often, has had a couple of posts about John Forester and Vehicular Cycling lately. For those of you who have been living and breathing the tenets of John Forester for decades, it may seem quite bizarre that these articles make VC/JF seem like something "new". The fact is, however, that for most recreational cyclists and the encouraging numbers of transportational cyclists taking to the road lately, he is. For a great many people, John Forester's ideas and the Vehicular cycling concept are still some pretty crazy talk, especially now that bike lanes and cycletracks and sharrows and such are becoming the most popular answers to cycling woes.

People sure do get passionate about this stuff, and John Forester has become a rather polarizing figure who people either love or love to hate. The first piece I noticed set the table for a critical analysis of VC stuff and the second piece started in with gusto. Of course there are plenty of people ready to blast those critics right back. Most of the comments, while heavily biased, have been pretty polite so far. I do wish, however, that people who ride bikes would try a little harder to ride and let ride... everybody has a right to their own opinion, so please go for a bike ride and settle your nerves before you type. Warring factions within an already tiny army begin to look kind of ridiculous after a while.

The people I like reading best in such matters are those that don't deal in absolutes and show some flexibility in how they think and open minds to how others might think. Treating others as you would like to be treated in print as well as on the road is an important first step. That sounds suspiciously like Civility to me. I like that word. It sums everything up pretty nicely.

Your Civil Servant,


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hey, Don't Forget...

The obstructionist art comment contest is still open and awaiting your stunning submission! Do you want to win $5 in Canadian Tire money? Huh? Click Here.

Yer Pal,

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Prefer People

As much as I've enjoyed posting winter cycling videos, I sure do welcome the warmer weather. Warmer, of course, is nicer for riding, but I find myself especially appreciative of the return of people to my videos. To demonstrate:

That nice old character wouldn't show up on one of my winter rides, let alone wave. I've seen him a few times before. He's difficult to make out in the video, but he reminds me of this guy from "UP", except he's not so grumpy:

When it comes to what my camera can see and the videos I can present, people beat snow and salt trucks every time. That said, I've not yet set up my home-made camera mount on the summer fixed gear commuter. I really should get my act together... I'm just finding it hard lately.

Thanks for coming out, People!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Obstructionist Art

Keri from Commute Orlando once wrote about moving garbage cans out of the bike lane. I once wrote about moving a crippled car into a bike lane. Lots of people rant and rave about bike lanes being blocked by cars and delivery trucks and pedestrians and so on. When I come across a bike lane obstruction, I usually just go around it. No big deal, you know? Like anyone who's into swallowing weird stuff can can tell you, obstructions happen.

I recently came across a beautiful and fantastic obstruction that transcended the mundane presence of cars or trash cans in the bike lane:

click image to enlarge

Now, a piano in the bike lane is remarkable in and of itself, but when I started taking pictures, I discovered that this particular bike lane obstruction (and some of my photos) included several elements that turned it into an imaginative treasure trove...

click above images to enlarge

There is just so much to work with here that I am paralyzed. I mean, this stuff has the potential for an almost infinite number of back-stories or at least sarcastic observations. When something can be interpreted in so many ways, I think it approaches the lofty status of Art; let us name it Obstructionism.

You know how sometimes people post a picture and say "caption this picture"? Well, while my readers are few, I believe they have the chops to do much more than write a clever caption. If you are so inclined, please feel free to write a story or posit a theory based on any or all of these images... I started to try, but was so overwhelmed by the possibilities that I have come up with a contest instead.

Best story or theory or whatever (as judged by me) will be re-published in a new post, and as with my only other contest so far, I will send the winner $5 in Canadian Tire money! Just put your observations, theories, stories or whatever in the comments of this post. All submissions must be at least three words in length and become the sole property of Willie Nelson and Spiderman unless you want to republish them for real, in which case they remain yours. I'm willing to wait a pretty long time to get submissions, so let's end the contest on July 1, 2010.

Should there be no submissions, that's OK... I am confident that many of you will have cooked up some nice mental contexts and backdrops for what you have just seen, and that's good enough for me. Obstructionist Art, by definition, moves people (as they go around it) and does not demand anything more from the viewer. Neither will I, but, you know, if you feel the urge...

Thanks for visiting! Yer Pal,


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking Back On Looking Out Back

As noted previously, I was away for the last several days. I went home to Thunder Bay to hang out with my Mother. The RANTWICK mothership is doing well, thank you, and we had a good time. I mostly drank beer and watched hockey in the evenings. Mom watched with me but skipped the beer part. In the daytime, we did various kinds of errand-y stuff and on one fine Sunday afternoon we went out to our cottage, walked on a big beach (because the water was low), tossed a stick for a dog and sat in the sun. One rantsister and one rantbrother joined us and it was really nice.

You know what else was nice? Flying. I get a little uptight when I travel, but I always love to fly in airplanes of just about any description. I am blessed, because I only fly every couple of years or so, so it stays kind of ever-new. I love take-off and I love landing. My landing in Thunder Bay was in super strong wind, and the small 80-ish passenger plane was getting kicked around quite a lot. People clapped when we were firmly on the ground. It was scary and fun. Our pilot earned his money that day for sure. My brother-in-law is a pilot, and I stole that "earned his money" thing from my younger sister, his wife, who commented on the wind when she picked me up at the airport. There's one other thing about flying that I really like. I get an inexplicable sense of happiness and/or satisfaction when I spot a golf course or a baseball diamond from the air. I don't why... that's why I used the word inexplicable a moment ago, I think.

Despite the fact that I just relayed such ultra-exciting details about what I've been up to lately, that wasn't the reason for writing this post. While Mom and I were buzzing around town, we swung by the house I grew up in. I noticed that subsequent owners had replaced a normal sized window on the back of the house with a nice new big one:

No stinkin' wonder. Look at what you can see from that window:

That, friends of mine, is known as the Sleeping Giant, because it resembles a man in repose on his back. I took that picture just before heading to the airport to leave town. This picture stinks because on some days the features of the Giant are really clear and he's way more interesting and "lifelike" and even seems much bigger.

Anyway, my Mom reminded me that when I was little I would ask to "Go to the Ships", which meant walk a block towards the lake (Lake Superior, for those who care) in order to get a better view of the big cargo ships that come and go all summer long in Thunder Bay Ontario, loading up on Canadian wheat and taking it all over the globe. Here's the view from that spot (no ships at that moment, sorry):

It is really too bad I didn't take pictures when it was just stunning the day before, but these give you the idea. Click on 'em for pretty big versions.

This post is mostly about the fact that as a child and for much of my youth I had something utterly beautiful just outside my back door, literally. A city spread out beneath the houses on the hill, houses that look out over the largest lake in the world and one of its mythical characters. Of course I didn't think about it that way because it was all I knew. In Southern Ontario, where I live now, a house anywhere near such a view would probably cost a couple million dollars. So, short version: wow, homesick, after 20 years. Crazy.

That's all I suppose. I guess I just wanted to mention that fit of nostalgia before it too became a fading memory. It is very likely that something bike-related will turn up here soon, I think.

Yer Pal,


Friday, April 16, 2010

Trek 520 Build - Part Two - I Strip and Get Blasted

Before I begin, if you are enough of a bike freak to want to follow my Trek 520 light-loaded tourer build from beginning to end, use the "Post Series" link near the top of the sidebar to the right. If, on the other hand you are only here for the "strip and get blasted" part, here we go:

The Trek 520 I picked up last fall looked like this:

The frame was going to need attention in the paint department, which meant it was time to strip. I mean, like, take it all off! WooHoo!

Before I did that, I took closeup photos of all the parts I thought I might have trouble reassembling. Then I put everything I meant to keep in little plastic bags. They eventually went into a larger bag.

Bars, stem and crankset will be replaced. Anyway, I and the 520 stayed in the bag for 6 months. Everything just sat in my tool room until this week. The paint and decals on the frame were in pretty bad shape. I have stripped a frame using a combination of chemicals and wire brushes on a hand drill. It was a lot of work and yielded acceptable but less than perfect results. I wasn't going to screw around this time. Given the situation, I knew in my heart that it was time to get blasted, which I proceeded to do a couple of days ago. I picked up the frame just yesterday:

As you can see, all that messy stuff was cleaned right up. Finally clean, me and my Trek 520 are ready for the next steps. We will try not to get all freaked out on powder...

Build $ Tally:

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

Used Wheelset: $100.00

Blasting of frame: $50.00

TOTAL to date: $230.00

PS - I'm going on trains and planes for a few days. Be good while I'm gone, and maybe I'll bring you something back from my trip late next week.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I was interrupted while changing brake pads yesterday and forgot all about it. When I was engaged in my usual insane morning rush today, I discovered that my fixed commuter was, for the first time ever, brakeless. I had no time to fiddle around because I was already late. I grabbed the pads, made sure I had an allen wrench and hopped on my brakeless bike. Other fixed gear riders do it, right? Surely I could manage one ride into work and install the new pads at lunch time...

I managed fine, but I hated it. I lost time because I needed to be going slow enough to stop without blowing out my achy old knees and the thought of an emergency stop scared me witless. Thankfully no sudden stops were required. Even so, my knees hurt now. So, it is as I have always suspected: I am way too un-hip and old and risk averse to ride brakeless. Other than on the track, I don't know why the hell anyone would want to. I think I understand why at least some of those fixed gear riders seem so crazy... crazy is way easier to learn than stopping without brakes.

Never Stop Stopping...


Friday, April 9, 2010

Affair? What Affair?

I fall in love with the big heavy studded tire monstrosity known as "Mutant Winter" in the Fall. I mean, I can ride over or through just about anything on it. And it has gears, 8 of 'em! It has the 2nd sexiest plastic tub in the city. It has pink brake cables. It is caked in road sludge and has rusty fender stays. It is slow-ish. It is perfect.

I also fall in love with a fixed gear commuter known simply as "Summer" each Spring. It is light and practical and fast-ish. It sports panniers of deep philosophical meaning that came from across the sea. It is my best build so far. It needs new bar tape and brake pads. It is perfect.

Once I have switched bikes with the seasons, I don't like going back. I like settling into the clothing and daily packing and riding patterns associated with each commuter bike and staying there. I also like to equip the bike with appropriate tubes and tools and just leave them on board rather than transferring stuff from one bike to another. I've been holding off on switching to "Summer" because there's a chance snow will fly again, but I can't take riding "Mutant Winter" in such fine weather any longer. Plus, MW's bottom bracket has passed well beyond creaking; it sounds like there are broken marbles in it. The whole bike needs a complete tear-down. Thus I have resolved to ride Summer through anything nasty that comes up between now and hot weather.

Anyway, I love them both, but at different times. If they were women, it would be like having two wives I totally adored and lived with exclusively depending on the season; a more solidly built one for winter and a lighter, more athletic one for summer. Both would be practical life-partner types who selflessly support me in getting through my day-to-day existence.

Original artwork: Fernando Botero - Woman With Pearls

Original artwork: Domenico Ghirlandaio - Portrait of a Woman

The thing is, I want more. Don't get me wrong, riding for practical reasons through the work week brings me joy every time I do it, but I'm ready for some weekend fun. As some of you may know, I've got a Trek 520 frame I've been meaning to do something with. Unfortunately, there has been little cash and even less time available to apply to my project, and I have not progressed beyond having a frame and wheels. Just the same, my heart (if not my shed) definitely has room for a third bike. This time, the kind of woman she would be changes entirely, since the bike isn't about day-to-day practicality, but rather about a partner for weekend adventures:

Original artwork: Emily Balivet - The Muse of Music

Now you can correct me of course, but I'm guessing that "Mutant Winter" and "Summer" might have a problem with my built-for-weekend-fun-bike-woman friend that I will name "Highway":

Yep, it sure would be awful, if it weren't for this staggeringly wonderful fact: They are all bikes. They don't care. In fact, they are not capable of caring, because they are just things. Holy man, do I love bikes. I love them most for what they are, but it would seem that I also love them for what they are not.

Be True.