Monday, January 31, 2011

Introducing a New Member of the Rantwick Clan

Some of you may remember that the Rantwick clan were the proud owners of a dog who I called my "customizer". I am sad to inform you that he met an untimely end last summer. He was still very young (about 18 months) and it has taken me this long to even feel up to writing about him at all. I have no desire to relay the sad details of his death online, so please don't quiz me about it. Here are a few links that feature him in one way or another:

Thank you for remembering him with me. I wanted to mention him before moving on to this happier stuff. There is a new dog in Rantwick town. He arrived in our home around Christmas. Here's a picture of him taken just yesterday:

Normally I crop away a lot of stuff, but there were so many colours and textures and patterns going on here that I left it alone because I thought it looked kind of cool...

Despite the fact that he is a Havanese, a breed from Cuba, being born in the winter seems to have given him a certain affinity for the white stuff. He enjoys burying his snout in the snow and snuffling around like a truffle-hunting pig...

Just as I never told you the Customizer's real name, I think I will continue the tradition... behold the dog to be known henceforth on RANTWICK as Snow Face!

Snuffle on, friends, snuffle on. Yer Pal,

Friday, January 28, 2011

With Friends Like These...

I don't often have visitors from the outside world into my office, but it does happen now and then. That's why I was glad to spot this on an unopened printer box in there before anybody else did:

The culprit is my best friend at work. He does things like this. He's a good guy, but with friends like these...

Have A Wicked Awesome Weekend,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Slow As Sap

Hey, remember the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown? Remember how 3 lucky entrants won the awesome prize of a tiny bottle of the very best maple syrup I could find? Remember when I wrote "Congratulations you 3! Send a note to rantwick at gmale dawt cawm with your maple syrup shipping address and I will get to work."? Well, RTP, Big Oak and Paddy Anne all diligently supplied me with their addresses and I did get to work:

Those stubby tubes are from special light bulbs for photography we don't do much of any more. The longer box is from a neat thing my brother and his wife sent to the kids called a "drawdio" or Theremin. They all contain the same thing:

big picture, tiny bottle

Trouble is, that's where my work stopped. These three ready-to-go packages sit on my dining room table even as you read this. With God (or whatever floats your heartfelt pledge boat) as my witness, I'll get 'em shipped today.

Yer Pal,
 R A N T W I C K

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Public Apology for An Idiotic Move

I am just in from work. About half an hour ago (4:45 my time) I made a completely idiotic move on the bike that I am ashamed of. I have to make dinner and stuff right now, but on the tiny chance that the driver I almost crashed in front of while crossing the train tracks on Egerton at Brydges is looking me up, I am really sorry. That was the most stupid thing I've done on the bike in a very very long time. I don't know what the hell I was thinking.

I will explain all later tonight or tomorrow, but I just wanted to get my sincere sorry out there right away.

---- about five hours later ----

OK, I'm done my chores and I thought I wanted to relay every little detail, with diagrams and everything, but now I just want to try and forget it.

I don't display my "How's My Driving" sign any more, but the blue tub on the back of my bike has reflective vinyl letters spelling "R A N T W I C K" on it. That's where the tiny chance that the driver I impressed today could have looked up this blog comes in.

Let's just say I was coming in perpendicular to a long line of cars just as some railway arms were lifting and in an effort to join the traffic flow rather than wait "forever" for the traffic backup to clear I put myself badly out of position, so much so that I had to push my way in ahead of a car from the left. That established me as a jerk.

So eager was I to get to where I belonged in the lane, I then failed to handle some train tracks properly and very nearly went down right in front of that same car. That established me as a moron.

I'm really not sure how I stayed upright, but I ended up careening off to the right on to the sidewalk, where I brought myself to a stop, hung my head and waved my apology to the car. That established me as one of the reasons cyclists have no place on the road, particularly in winter in the minds of many who witnessed the event. Damn it! Other cyclists are out there saving the day.

As some of the comments have already reminded me, everybody makes a bonehead move once in a while. That of course goes for cars and bikes and everything else. I think there should be a universal "I'm sorry. My bad" hand signal of some kind so others could at least know that you know you were in the wrong and wish you could take it back.

Steve A said he hoped I learned something, as he recently did, from a riding mistake. I did. Unfortunately it was something I already knew, that saving a little time is never a good reason to take extra risks with your safety or anybody else's. Cyclists rant at motorists for not being willing to just slow down or wait a few seconds extra all the time... consider me re-schooled.

Yer Shame-Faced Pal,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making the Switch - Signalling Right

I'm starting to wonder how many people properly understand this hand signal.

pic source

It is, of course, the hand signal for a right turn used by motorists (and some cyclists). It is made with the left arm because drivers are typically sticking their arm out the window to make the signal. Cyclists, however, have the option of sticking out their right arm instead, like this:

I have witnessed two different cyclists signal with the first method only to turn left over the last couple of years. When I use it (correctly) many motorists just stare at me, stopped, and wait to see what I'm going to do. Either they don't trust that I know what it means (which is a little insulting, but not totally unreasonable) or they don't know what it means themselves.

As a result, I have begun using the second signal more often. I am experiencing less "lack of faith" from motorists, since there is little room for misinterpretation of the signal. The bummer is that I have my front brake lever on the right side on two of my bikes, partly because it allows me to apply my stronger brake while signalling the first way. Ah well. I will sacrifice that convenience for better communication, I guess, and if I need more brake, I'll just do it the old way again.

I know this is fascinating stuff. I hope your excitement level hasn't gone through the roof and freaked you out or anything. Out of curiosity, though, how do you normally signal a right?

Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

PS - Hours after posting this, I took a look at my blog and saw this:

It fried my brain for just half a second and for some unknown reason I wanted to share it with you too. That guy in the ad is doing the "mess with your head" bicycle signal, I guess.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Waving Flag of Doom

This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. It depicts Descartes opining on the notion that "Steel is Real". Now, to our regularly unscheduled program...

As Friday afternoon rolls by and work proceeds, I've been sneaking peeks at the waving flag outside my office window. The brisk wind that blew me in to work has stubbornly refused to turn around and push me back home. It is -11C right now and likely cooling. I think I'm finally going to need to cover my whole face with my balaclava.

This is not me. Or my balaclava.

If you ever need to know which way the wind is blowing, ask a cyclist. They will be happy to tell you tales of headwinds, tailwinds or crosswinds experienced in your town that very day.

That reminds me of one other bonus about riding in winter. When you aren't sure of the wind direction and you are outside, you don't have to find a flag or windsock or watch the trees or anything. Just keep on eye on your breath, or any nearby chimney.

A local cyclist who reads my blog and goes by "Skyers" commutes in the opposite direction I do here in London. I guess it is just as well that the wind has remained the same, because if I got my wish for a tailwind both ways, he would have been totally screwed over. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. It seems to me that Mother Nature can be tricky enough without my selfish wishes adding to the mess.

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Am I So Warm?

When I read about what other people wear for cold weather riding, they always seem to be much more heavily dressed than I am. This morning it was -8C on my ride in. I was running late and did not layer up properly and wore what I consider the minimum amount of clothing for such weather. I found that I was pleasantly cool but not cold the whole way in. The thing is, I wasn't wearing that much really:

Body: 1) Cheap old MEC Bike Shorts under 2) MEC Cold Weather pants (neoprene fronts, Lycra backs), 3) a light wicking T-shirt under 4) a scarf to plug the neck hole of 5) an O2 Rainwear cycling jacket with pit zips wide open.

Head: Lightweight balaclava (pulled under chin, face exposed), MX goggles, helmet

Hands: Light Gloves (best used above -10C)

Feet: Regular cotton socks (tsk, tsk) under Exustar E-SM450 Cold Weather Cycling Shoes (not sure if these are available any more).

Do As I Say Not As I Do Disclaimer: I would strongly recommend wearing more stuff than this just for safety. You can remove layers when you're too hot, but you can't add layers you didn't bring in the first place if you are cold. This outfit was perfect because I was able to keep moving. If I had had to stop for any reason along the way or crashed or something, I would have become very cold very fast.

So anyway, I've been thinking about the differences I see between how much stuff I wear compared to others and have four possible reasons for how little I wear:

1) Noggin/Eyes Covered: Once your head is covered, staying warm is simply quite easy. Or maybe humans lose a whole ton of heat from their eyes, which my goggles retain for me. Anyone? Anyone?

2) Blubber: At 5'11" and about 210 pounds, I carry a built in insulating layer.

3) Distance: My winter commute is only 7km (4.3 miles) one way. If I rode much further most of me would be fine, but I know that my feet and hands could begin to suffer past that distance in these clothes.

4) Lateness: I am almost always late. That means riding hard, which means loads of heat generation. If I tried a leisurely commute in this outfit, I would very likely feel chilled.

Any other theories or guesses or insults? Bring 'em on! I like it.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Despite a pretty dramatic start, the winter so far has been very nice for riding. This morning was the coldest ride in so far this winter (I think) at -14C. The thing is, -14 is great. Anything below -10 is fine with me. Getting a little more below freezing really makes everything less messy and wet, and I'll happily trade colder for dryer any day.

For me, -14 is cold enough that I consider covering my cheeks mouth and nose with my balaclava, but don't do it. My goggles and covering my head and ears remains enough. I went sliding (sledding, tobogganing, whatever) with the young Rantwicks yesterday and it was fun. I left my more serious gloves in the car however, and Mrs. Rantwick drove off with them this morning. My lighter (and brighter) gloves aren't great in truly cold weather. My fingers did hurt at first, but -14 is warm enough that if I make a conscious effort to ride hard it will take care of fingers and toes, which it did today.

So, thus far I have been spoiled this winter. If every winter ride could be done at -14 under clear skies, I would be a very happy winter bike commuter. Sadly, the "normals" for London Ontario in mid January are closer to -4 or so. I hope the abnormally cold weather holds up... it is way nicer to ride in. Who knows, maybe I could break my record of -23! That would be cool.

I sometimes wonder if other winter cyclists in London like it colder too. It doesn't seem that way because I see fewer riders out there with me. Maybe I'm just weird because I was born and raised in Thunder Bay and Kenora, where normals are quite a but lower.

How About You? What Kind of Cold Suits You Best?

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Most Dubious Honour

Like several of my blogging pals, I recently got an email from somebody who claimed to Love RANTWICK so much that it had been selected for a Top 50 bike blogs list.

I did not link to their website as their snazzy image links urged me to, because frankly the whole thing seemed a little fishy to me. I got an email from somebody else warning me of their unethical practices and how linking to them would damage my google page ranking a couple days later. I had no idea if that was true, but I had one other reason not to link or promote that list, because here's what it said about my blog:

"A bit of humorous ranting does take center stage in this blog. Most of it is bike-oriented: How sad to see the bikes covered in snow! How annoying to share the road with vehicles!"

Holy crap! When I pasted that text snippet from their site a "source:" link got added to my editing window automatically! That site must have some pretty funky scripts running on it to do that! If I had let it stay, I could have suffered honest to goodness Google-anger! Oh, that site is scummy for sure.

Anyway, back to my other reason for not linking to them: If you want a one night stand, you at least have to buy me a few drinks, miss Cate Newton (if that is even your real name)! Put another, less cryptic way, if you are gonna use me and my blog to forward your own webby interests, at least read the blog enough to get somewhat close to what it is about.

"How sad to see the bikes covered in snow!"? What the hell? Any bike with snow pic found on my blog is likely accompanied by much celebration.

"How annoying to share the road with vehicles!"? Are you insane? I very rarely, if ever, complain about other vehicles. I understand very well that the roadways are for everybody, not just bicycles. I don't rant about motorists, in fact I actively invite discussion with them on my blog, discussions in which I have displayed a great deal of diplomacy, I think.

In summary, these idiots are being sneaky with their website and using unethical linking practices, but on top of that, they are making my blog look like it is written by some whiny moron. About that, I will rant, because I am not whiny.

Yer Pal,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kia Sportage Commercial - Share The Road

There is a car commercial that is airing (or aired) recently here in Canada that has me kind of intrigued. I have no idea if it has aired in any US  or European markets, so I figured I would post it and see what my very intelligent readers thought:

I find it encouraging and positive and manipulative and sort of ironic all at once, but I'll save the rest of my ramblings for the comments. Am I just being stupidly cynical about a perfectly good sign? What's your take? 

Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cycling in Sticky Snow: Speed and Funky Fenders

This morning's ride was quite difficult since there was quite a lot of what I've heard some people call "shortbread" snow on all but the busiest streets. "Shortbread" seems pretty apt to me... it is kind of soft and squishy and sticky but not at all wet. Part of the fun of riding in winter, at least for me, is rising to the challenges and learning how to ride better in somewhat ugly conditions, so overall this morning's commute was great.

I wanted to write about this shortbread kind of snow that sticks easily in between the knobs on your tires and on just about anything else it hits. This kind of snow may be one of the best arguments for thinner tires in winter since they would be less likely to get gummed up. I currently use "standard" 1.9 inch MTB tires. They are Schwalbe Snow Studs and they have been fine for several years. The knobs have worn down enough now that sticky snow represents more of a problem than it used to. This morning a couple of things occurred to me that I wanted to mention.

If you have to stop for some reason while riding in the sticky stuff, your tire treads may be full of snow. Resuming riding can be tough, because you need some speed for centrifugal force to throw that sticky snow away and give you some grip back. If you can find a bare spot, even on the wrong side of the road, go to it if it is safe to do so. The small amount of speed it will offer may well clear your tires so they can better handle the next serving of shortbread.

Speaking of throwing snow out of your treads, fenders that are a real boon in the wet can be a real curse in the shortbread. Since my winter ride is a snow-specific Mutant, the fenders are set up in a way that might look wrong, but they work just right in my opinion.

The Front

I originally attached the fender in this funky way because it wouldn't work well with the disc brakes. I think something snapped off of it at one point too and that's when I zip tied that other stay to the fork. As a result, the fender shakes and rattles around quite a bit. Some might find that highly annoying, but the up side is that snow can't stick to it for long!

The Rear

One down side to this shorty fender setup is that it doesn't really protect the bike from the usual upward spray of the rear tire very well. I've always meant to add a bit of metal or something to it to push it back further while still allowing me to attach it to the rear bridge. Thankfully the 2nd best tub in town is there to block any spray until I get around to it.

If the colour of the pics is puzzling you, it is the result of some amber/pink lighting where I work. I didn't sepia tone pictures of my dirty mutant. That would be weird.

I know that designing a bike for such specific conditions is overkill for most people. I also know that many people would prefer a nice looking, attractive bicycle rather than this thing. The last thing I know is that this bike throws off the shortbread like nobody's business and never suffers from buildup under the fenders. Yeeeehawww! 

Thanks for reading! It feels good to write about cycling again, almost as good as cycling itself. Almost. Yer Pal, 

Monday, January 10, 2011


This is pretty much a tweet I guess, because I'm only posting to update anyone foolish enough to come here often on my status. I've acquired the additional maple-rific prizes (inlcuding some for next year) that I needed and should be mailing them out soon.

Hey RTP, shoot me a note with some info on where you would like yours sent!

I'm hyper busy and may not have much time for the blog in the next while... stay tuned and I'll get back at it asap.

Thank you for you patience,

At almost 500 characters, the preceding was, like, 3.5 tweets! No wonder I don't use it much. It would seem I need to blather on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The FARATS Winners!

The winners of the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown are:

Rat Trap Press' "Charlie Brown" tree, with 117 (read back in the FARATS saga for the whole story) votes:

PaddyAnne's "Empress", with 26 votes:

But you likely knew those would win a prize. The big question today is who is the wild-card, randomly selected winner of the mighty maple prize? I arrived at that answer by putting all other entrants (excluding myself) on slips of paper:

I then dropped them in this cup:

After covering the cup and shaking vigorously, I asked a co-worker to draw a slip of paper from the cup. Here is the slip they drew:

Congratulations you 3! Send a note to rantwick at gmale dawt cawm with your maple syrup shipping address and I will get to work. Thanks again to all who participated and to all who read these never ending posts about the contest. The good news is that it is finally over. The bad news is that I may have to think of something else, perhaps even something interesting, to write about now.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Day to Vote on FARATS Entries!

After what seems like a lifetime, time is almost up for voting on your favourite FARATS tree. Thanks very much to all who participated; I will be back tomorrow to announce the winners, including the wild card randomly selected one! I can't hardly wait!

Yer Pal,