Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cycling Fashion, Chic and, well, Otherwise

Quite a while ago I did an experiment with virtual cycling style that proved to me that I will never really look good on a bike no matter what I do. I didn't know it at the time, but some of the pictures I was altering were textbook examples of the newish trend sweeping the globe called Cycle Chic. Just because Cycle Chic doesn't work for me doesn't mean it shouldn't for anyone else. I have been schooled in that fact recently right on this very blog... but enough about that. Some people make it look very good, which, I suppose, is the point of, um, fashion. I think the phrase Cycle Chic itself has a ring to it that may be partly responsible for its current popularity.

Anyway, I was thinking if Cycle Chic might be represented by images like these recent ones from copenhagen cycle chic:

pic source

pic source

There are many other images out there of cyclists doing their thing. Are there names we could give to other cycling fashion choices that would give them more widespread appeal, like the ride painted thing?

pic source: wikipedia

Or the ride knitted thing?

image source:

Or, god help us, this?

image source:

You know what? What the hell was I thinking? Wave off, wave off! I don't want these things to become any more popular. We should all probably avoid giving them appealing names of any sort, and just file them in the "Life's Rich Pageant" folder. That folder is getting huge. Maybe I should alphabetize it... wait. That would require names. Better not.

By Any Other Name, I Remain Yer Pal,


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I've Got It! Well, not really. But soon! I hope.

The Autumn Tree Smackdown is becoming much more real for many of us. No submissions yet, but that is to be expected. The King, for example, remains green while close neighbours get down to business. I know he'll come through. Or I hope so. Because I want to keep the awesome prize (the one I don't have yet) for myself.

The prize for the winner of the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown will be a very small bottle of Canadian Maple Syrup!

For those of you who are thinking, "well I guess that's fitting; kind of boring, though", the maple syrup I mean to acquire is something else. Most people have tried real maple syrup before. It is fantastic in almost any grade, from the heavier Ambers all the way up. The vast majority of syrup sold in little gift bottles (like the one pictured above) here in Canada is "Canada #1 Medium" grade. What I'm talking about for the prize is Canada #1 Extra Light maple syrup. For a listing of Canadian maple syrup grades, click here, but don't believe the "Uses" column. More on that in a sec.

I hope I'll be able to find some local stuff. It is quite possibly the most exquisite thing I have ever tasted. We've only ever had a bottle in the Rantwick household once. I consumed most of it while researching the best way to enjoy it, the results of said research I am happy to share with you now.

In my opinion, putting Canada #1 Extra Light on something is an insult to the syrup. Unless that something is some sort of uberpancake that doesn't exist. Or does it? Anybody got an uberpancake recipe?

Anyway, I have come to believe that the best way to enjoy this stuff is cold from the fridge, sipped straight from the bottle or for the more hygienic among you, from a teaspoon. More than one teaspoon per hour is a waste and disrespectful. I know I'm a weirdo, but to me it seems the closest I've ever been to consuming some sort of supernatural "essence of tree"... if you love trees like I do, that is a powerful statement. Wish me luck as I try to find some from around here. I don't even know if anybody will have stock, since Spring is the season for harvesting.

Stay tuned for more fascinating tree news,


PS - From those of you living in Maple country in the USA, I hope the opportunity to compare is appealing, if the prize less than exciting.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forest City Velodrome: A Night At The Races

London Ontario is blessed in that we've got one of only 4 indoor velodromes in all of North America. It isn't fancy, but it is very cool. The Rantwick family went out there last Saturday night to watch some racing. It was a very good time. There was some pretty darn good sprint racing:

There were kids and youth riders competing for their very first time, one (in yellow) as young as 9. As you'll hear, some instruction goes on during the race:

There were sprints, endurance, points and other races many of which I didn't know existed before now. The racers covered the whole spectrum from kids to young women to teenage boys to grey-haired veterans. The place had a great vibe, one of competition and support and encouragement all rolled together. The cost was $10 per adult and my kids got in free. We found it worth every penny. If you haven't attended a Race Night at the velodrome I encourage you to do so... I'm sure glad we did.

FCV is a not-for-profit organization that runs on grants, membership fees and race night earnings. If you live around London Ontario or are here for a visit, please check it out. I want this thing to flourish and be around for a long time, and it ain't cheap to heat an old hockey arena through the winter. I think non-cyclists might find it even more entertaining than those of us who ride all the time; who knows, maybe you'll catch the bug like I think I may have.

I was a little surprised at how scary the track looked with its 50 degree banks. FCV offers something called "Track 1", an introductory session where they train you up, rent you a bike, and give you a couple of hours of track time. Since I already know how to ride fixed gear, it would be a shame if I didn't try this out. When there is something as cool and rare as this right in my own city, how could I not?

I wonder if they would let me run a camera...

Yer Pal,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Commuting by Bicycle: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Yesterday was an interesting commuting day. Here's a video that sums it up:

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 Fall Foliage Smackdown - Update

Response to the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown (FARATS) has been very good so far. There are rumblings from all over that make me fear for The King. Correspondence from many of you, including this disturbingly beautiful non-entry (because there are so many trees and it is from last Fall) from Corey all make me wonder if my best tree is going to hold up.

Oct 2009, Moab

Despite all of this, the King seemed quite unconcerned this morning:

I'm still percolating on what to select for the prize. I don't want to use Canadian Tire money again, but I'm finding it hard to come up with something nearly valueless yet worth receiving.

Keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready. I would suggest holding off on making an entry until you feel confident you have taken what will be your best shot of the season. When you are ready to submit, please make it clear that this is your official entry and not just a warning shot to strike fear into my heart.

When taking pictures of The King on my way into work this morning, I couldn't resist a gratuitous pic of my bike hangin' with The King:


Yer Pal,


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Rantwick Family's Komoka Hiking Adventure

A couple of weekends ago the Rantwick family went for a little hike in Komoka Provincial Park. My brother asked me to take some pictures, so I did. He enjoyed them quite a lot, so I thought I would frame them with a little writing and show them to you as well.

Komoka Provincial Park isn't like lots of other Provincial Parks... it is really just a nice wild area with meadows and trails and trees and no facilities other than a couple of parking lots at the entrances located just outside of London Ontario. It would seem that this unstaffed area was being misused with no consequences by some people, so the man put up a sign to indicate that the party was NOW over:

That should snuff out any monkey business; damn kids. Anyway, because my brother had requested some, we stopped and took family photos. First, kids with Mrs. Rantwick:

Then, with Dad:

Having gotten those pics done, we headed down the path. Almost right away I saw a bush with red berries:
pic source

I'm not very knowledgeable about plants or bushes or trees, so I immediately gathered a big handful of the bright red berries and ate them. They tasted awful and made my stomach hurt. I figured the best thing to do was follow them with some mushrooms that looked like they might help:

Well, let me tell you, I forgot about my stomach ache almost right away. Remember how I saw Mother Nature in the city a little while ago? She appeared before me right there in Komoka Provincial Park!

She didn't say anything. She just kind of hovered there for a few seconds and then faded away. It was wild. I immediately felt very much at one with nature; the birds, the grass, the flowers...

The hike had been going great until that point, as you can see. But then things started feeling weird. I started to become afraid of meeting wild animals. I was particularly terrified of meeting a "grumbear". A grumbear is a fictional bear who is angry and crazy and who was invented by my son in construction paper and wool form three or four years ago:

I keep the grumbear in my office at work and use him to scare away co-workers who are annoying me. Anyway, I had become afraid of meeting a real grumbear. Sure enough, one showed up on the trail right next to my kids!

As you can see, since my son was the grumbear's "father", he was not afraid and just gave him a friendly wave. The grumbear, like Mother Nature, vanished with no harm done. I was beginning to think that maybe this hike wasn't so fun as we walked down to the river's edge:

It was at that point that I lost consciousness. When I woke up several hours later, Mrs. Rantwick said I had been acting crazy on our walk, like I was possessed or something. I did a little research, and sure enough, those red berries are bad news!

pic source
I bet those cursed berries could have poisoned me or doomed me to some sort of supernatural torture! Thank goodness I found those mushrooms! Anyway, my family had a very nice time out in Komoka, I think. I can't really remember. There's a lesson to be learned from all this, but I just can't put my finger on it. In any case, I'm bringing bear and shark repellant on our next little walk in the bush just to be on the safe side.

May all your Hiking Trips be good ones,
Yer Pal,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Miracle Bike Upgrade

John Romeo Alpha of One Speed: Go! just posted a little something I thought was pretty darn good, because you know, it is often the simple things that work best.

Another reason I'm posting this is that his blog is always interesting because it is sometimes a little artsy (in a good way) and even makes you think once in a while...

The "T" is for Thinker.

Enjoy your Weekend,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Observation on Chic Commuting by Bike

Being an online bike guy, I read lots and lots of stuff about bicycle commuting, and I'm getting kind of tired of one popular notion about commuting by bike. It is that it is feasible and/or easy to commute in the clothes you plan to wear all day.

When the weather is nice and the temperature just right, one can indeed commute to work and back without becoming a sweaty mess or a sopping wet one. That means that depending on where you live, you might be able to wear your regular work clothes quite a few times without incident. My concern is that people who plan to do it this way will inevitably get caught in the rain or get their clothes dirtier than planned sooner or later. That experience will suck, and they may be less inclined to ride next time.

Don't get me wrong; I don't think everybody needs to get all bike-specific with their commuting clothes (although bike clothes do dry more easily while you work). Keeping your work clothes dry and clean on the way in or leaving enough clothes at work on the weekend or whatever will prevent the aforementioned nasty experiences and make you more likely to keep it up.

Another bonus of commute clothes vs. work clothes is that you are more likely to ride harder and/or have more fun. Yes, you may sweat more, but some deodorant and a towel are enough to be fresh and pretty after you change for lots of people, at least the ones who shower every day. I don't know about you, but I commute by bike mainly for the sheer fun of it. Different clothes = more fun. That means that even fair weather only riders could be having more fun too.

I know some people are into this cycle chic thing, but I just don't get it. I mean, many of their bicycle choices are driven by the fact that they will be wearing "lovely shoes and trousers/skirt" (see the fenders section)... are these chic people really going to remain regular bike commuters in the long term? Not after the rain and sweat and dirt of commuting makes them look un-chic at work a few times. C'mon, chic people, instead of reducing the fun of cycling in order to increase the fun of wearing stuff, including your bicycle, just drop the high style and let your bike sing! A dutch city bike just looks like a depressed pack mule to me. That is what happens when you make a beautiful machine a mere servant of your clothes. Even if you really like that style of bike, why not do it some justice and ride the hell out of it instead of using it as an accessory?

You know what? Who am I to tell you what to do? Get your kicks however you like. Might I suggest, however, that a set of clothes separate from those you intend to wear at work all day would allow you to 1) ride more days of the year and 2) offer the opportunity to wear TWO fabulous outfits every day! The healthy glow and relaxed good nature that really commuting for fun will give you, combined with your awesome clothes, will make you even more attractive, I promise!

Yer Pal,

PS - Rain gear only makes your work clothes that much more hot and uncomfortable to ride in. Please feel free to argue with this or any of my points in the comments.

PPS - Counter-point comments of reasonable depth have been coming in... I invite you to read them, because cycling starts with balance.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First Annual RANTWICK Autumn Tree Smackdown

Autumn, what I consider the best cycling season of all, is almost upon us. This post, however, isn't about cycling. Last year in October I did a post about a remarkable tree here in London Ontario that I dubbed "The King of Autumn". Some comments on that post prompted me to promise a competition next year. Well, next year is here, and with it the First Annual RANTWICK Autumn Tree Smackdown! I have no idea if The King will be as brilliant as last year, but I'm putting him up against all comers. He is not tipping his hand at all yet:

Please send me your pictures of Autumn trees giving us a show. I would prefer shots of one or just a few trees, since even The King can't reasonably defeat a whole mountainside of fall colour. That said, all pictures of fall foliage are welcome. Submissions will be accepted until Dec 15, 2010. I'll post the pictures here and then we can all vote on the winner over the Christmas season, with votes being collected until Jan 1, 2011. I haven't come up with a prize yet, but I can promise you it will be something of dubious value.

Yer Pal,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Encounters with Rantwick, episode thirteen: Extreme Optimism

It seems like an awful lot of things are Extreme these days. People seem to be into lots of Extreme Sports, that's for sure, like this extreme mountain unicyclist I saw yesterday on bikesnobnyc. When things get popular, like extremeness, marketers and manufacturers start getting a little, um, carried away. One example is this restroom hand dryer:
We have this thing at work and it is indeed extreme. It makes your hand skin go all woogly it is so strong, and there's a reason you can't point it at your face:

That dryer is so strong and loud that almost nobody uses it. Man, that image is distracting. It makes my gums feel like they're drying out. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, extremism. It would seem you can also apply extremism to other "isms"! I'm not on about nihilism this time, but rather Optimism. I encountered Extreme Optimism out on the bike a couple of days ago. Behold:

Yer Pal,


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trek 520 Build - Part Six - Getting Started

This is Part Six of an ongoing series of posts documenting my painfully slow progress in building a light loaded touring bike. If you care to read the whole thing so far, use the "Post Series" link near the top of the sidebar.

Before I begin with this instalment on my Trek 520 build, I need to issue a disclaimer. I don't really know what I'm doing and I learn as I go. If you are looking for guidance in building up a bike, you're better off going to one of the many excellent instruction sites out there. If, however, you're into seeing the process of an unskilled hack, read on.

Having gotten most of the necessary bits and pieces together, I finally got a start last weekend. I elected to assemble the headset and fork first. I began by giving the headset parts a nice bath in degreaser. After they were all cleaned up, I was happy to find that the cups, cones and bearings showed no pitting or scarring worth mentioning. I wondered if the headset had been replaced at some point, they looked so good.

On the last bike I built I almost wrecked the headset trying to use a home-made headset press that consisted of a long bolt and some big washers and stuff. I had gotten the design from one of those DIY/MacGyver style web sites. This time, I was going back to the tools I had used in the past...

I use the PVC pipe to seat the crown race. I just slide on the race, then slide the steerer into the pipe, flip the fork over and bang it on the floor. The hammer and block of wood are for seating the cups in the head tube. Like I said, don't look to these posts as an example of how to things the right way, but rather the Rantwick way.

Next, I installed the bottom bracket. I had the correct tool for that, at least. Up until now I have just used some good grease to install a bb, but my bike shop friends had suggested anti-sieze compound instead, so I used that this time. The bb went in smoothly.

Having suffered a little confusion about what spindle length would be correct and having become something of a chainline nazi thanks to my fixed gear build, I was anxious to see what chainline I ended up with having used the 115mm bottom bracket. I installed the crankset to see what I got.

Chainline measures 47.5mm. From what I have read, that chainline probably favours the middle ring and granny over the big ring. That is likely a good thing since a loaded tourer and a less-than-fit me will probably make more frequent use of them than other bikes and riders might.

The used bike I originally bought came with a black stem that I didn't like much. I replaced it with a silver Nitto stem that I had lying around. It is slightly shorter, but that is good because the frame is a little big for me anyway.

I love the look of a classic "7" shaped quill stem. It is just plain sweet. I popped on the bars, seatpost, saddle and wheels, and here's where the bike is now:

There's something about a bike that doesn't have any of its fancier components on it yet that just looks beautiful to me. I guess that's why so many people love the look of a track bike. I know the bars look a little whacked, but I'm nowhere near final adjustments yet. Anyway, that's how far I got last weekend. The more fiddly components come next, but I don't know when I'll have time. It's a busy old life, ain't it?

As Always, Thanks for Reading. Yer Pal,

I'm skipping the build $ tally this time, because nothing I did cost me anything. OK, anti-sieze. But I'm not counting that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How's My Driving? - Final Post

Authors note: the following post was supposed to be the last one about my "How's My Driving" sign, but I ended up displaying it again in early 2013... so what was a Final post then isn't anymore, if you know what I mean.

I rode around with a "How's My Driving" sign on my bike for a few months during the summer of 2010. To read about why, read this. I've decided to wrap up my little experiment. For what it is worth, this post includes the small amount of feedback I did get.

On June 29, Dave said:

You're an idiot...plain and simple. Any moron that cycles in the middle of a lane on a busy road slowing rush hour traffic down to a crawl must have brain damage. It's morons like you that lead to motorists despising cyclists. Get your head out of your ass. Bike on the right side of the lane where traffic can safely pass. Taking the entire lane and peddling along at 25 kph is ignorance.

Screw you.


To which I replied:

Dave,Thanks for answering to my sign, despite your pretty angry approach. I have two main points I want to make in response.

1 - I am simply a slower vehicle that doesn't want to get hit or squeezed into the gutter. There are lots of things that slow cars down, including other cars, heavy equipment, buses, etc. Why do I get the special angry treatment?

2 - I only take the whole lane when there isn't room for cars to pass me safely, and get out of the way to the right when I can. Remember that even though your car may fit OK at that moment, I have to also think of the moron in a cube van who figures they can squeeze by. Since I'm the one who would pay the price for their bad decision, I have to take away their opportunity to make it in the first place. As much as I would like to, I can't risk my own safety for your convenience. I have kids and stuff who would miss me.

Last thing: I drive a car almost every day too.

Dave responded:

Dear Moron,

Thanks for the garbage response. Addressing my rant as "petty" only tells me the kind of guy you are. You're asking for feedback and I gave you exactly the feedback every single person you slowed down was thinking..."Screw You".

With respect to your points I call BS.

1) You are slow despite your best efforts to squeeze your plump body into spandex. This is something no one of your build or stature should ever try to do. The tight clothes aren't going to reduce drag...they're only displaying things to the world that no man, or woman should ever display. There are slow cars, trucks, vans, ice cream trucks out there...but they avoid downtown during rush hour - as should you.

2) You are a liar. You were happily annoying traffic despite the fact there was a right line next to you that was "under construction". There was a good 2-3 feet of lane you still could of used but instead you chose to ride in the middle of the left lane. I get it - you don't want to get hit. If you can't occupy 3 feet of open lane and avoid getting hit - you shouldn't be riding a bike.

So...I suggest you do one of two things. Either stick to your car, or be considerate of the people you share the road with. That means letting faster traffic pass, and not wearing an outfit that puts your grapes on display for the world.


To which I replied:


Thanks for getting back to me on this. To your points:

I did not call your response "petty". I called it "pretty angry" which I think was fair.

Yes, I am slow. Slower than I would like to be anyway. I am sorry that you and others had to see me in spandex, but I find it most comfortable to ride in. We all suffer at the hands of other people's clothing choices sometimes; I'm afraid you will just have to get over it.

If I had chosen to ride in 2-3 feet of construction zone, how would I have gotten out of that lane when I ran out of room? Would you have graciously waved me in, grapes and all? I have been riding in the street for a long time. My choices (was it York street?) are safer and easier for everybody, believe it or not.

Last, I was not aware that slow vehicles avoided downtown.

Dave's 3rd reply is below, with my comments in blue:

To anyone reading this (and i doubt anyone is), let me conclude with this.

I'm all for cyclists. Go ahead and peddle to your hearts content. If you're going to jump on a bike, consider the following:

Dave, please know that I am not "cyclists". I am me. As such, I am answering strictly for myself.

1) You can't take the middle of a lane unless there is another lane available for cars to pass. It's ludicrous to think you can/should hold up other commuters. By every law that I know of in North America, I can. What I find ludicrous is that it is a problem to slow down for the short time (usually just seconds) it takes for me to arrive at a place where I can safely get right or where you can safely pass. Please just pretend I am a garbage truck.

Safety is paramount for you guys...In my car I’m bigger, heavier and can do a lot of damage to you - so think!!! Do you really, honestly, think that you understand this fact better than a person who would put a sign like this on his bike?

Take appropriate routes. I do. I only display my "How's My Driving?" sign when I am commuting to work and back. I often choose to take a more busy, direct route in the interest of getting to work or back home on time. Most times I'm on the bike, I am commuting, just like you, and don't have time for the scenic route.
Where there isn't a cycle lane, stick to the side and let cars by you safely.
While I completely trust you and your judgement about what a safe pass is, Dave, I'm afraid I don't trust everybody else on the road. In the interest of my own safety, I can't do that all the time.

DON'T make cars pass you, and then pull to the front of the line at a light - you're only making us all pass you again. This is the single biggest pet peeve of all motorists when it comes to you and your bikes. I'm a motorist, and I disagree. My biggest pet peeves about cyclists are sidewalk and wrong-way riders. They often dart out in front of you without warning, because they are difficult to see. My sign said "How's My Driving?", not "How's the driving of every cyclist who ever made you mad?". I have spent years becoming a much better bike driver. Displaying that sign has made me an even better one, because I know people might call me on what I do on the road. I used to sneak up to a light on the right of cars, but I almost never do that now. It is called "queue jumping". Strangely, the times I do it now are when I'm in a bike lane.

2) Clothing is comfortable but don't go out looking like Lance Armstrong unless you can pull it off. Wear quick-dry tops if you need to but don't wrap yourself up like Liza Minnelli attending a hot yoga class.
Dave, I told you before, get over it.

Thanks for the forum to vent...this has a lot to do with terrible eco-cyclists who have no clue how to ride a bike safely and alot less to to with RANTWICK (aka Moron) himself. His selfish cycling with a sign attached to his back simply let me type this somewhere.
Dave, you are welcome. Please remember, however, that I am no more a representative of all cyclists (including the terrible ones) than you are of all motorists (including the terrible ones).

I bid you all adieu.

D (AKA Pretty Angry)

Many days passed without any kind of comment, then this:

Please forgive the redundant info in the video... since it is on youtube I want it to make some sort of sense if people find it there instead of here.

Then, only a few days later, another shoutout on the very same street...

As you can see, it was something of a failed experiment, because I was hoping for some useful discussion of why I ride like I do. Just the same, thanks to those who responded, even Dave.