Monday, August 29, 2011

I Love E-Scooters!

The introduction of e-bikes has been interesting to watch. The first ones I heard about were very much based on modifying an existing bicycle or were purpose-built using a "normal" bicycle frame. You know, something like this:

pic source
I haven't seen too many of this style of e-bike. It is possible I haven't noticed them precisely because they look like bikes. What I have seen are tons of these:

Although these things have pedals, they of course are not bicycles. They do, however, qualify as a "Power Assisted Bicycle" under Ontario law. Also by law, they are not capable of going faster than 32km/h (or 20 MPH for my American friends). Riders of such vehicles don't require licenses and must abide by the same laws as bicyclists. For more on Ontario laws regarding E-Scooters, this page is pretty good.

It seems to me that the riders of these things abide by the laws about as well as cyclists do, which is pretty poorly in many cases... you see some on the sidewalk, some salmoning in the bike lane, some on the multi-use pathways (I don't know what our local laws say about that), some on the street and only very rarely have I seen somebody taking the lane on one except to turn left and sometimes not even then. I have seen a great many hugging the gutter like crazy. One reason for this may be how slow some of them are, which is really really slow when their batteries are running low. I know that for myself, the slower I'm going, the greater my feeling (misguided or not) that I must get out of the way, particularly on 2-lane streets.

I love E-Scooters because motorists seem to hate them even more than they hate me on my good old Rantwick-assisted bicycle. Normally my conversations with other people about cycling with cars go pretty well. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree. Not any longer! Now when those conversations get even a little contentious my motoring counterpart will usually say, "you know what I really hate though? Those little electric scooter things!" Whether the e-scooter craze will continue is an unknown, so I intend to enjoy this vacation from top spot in the annoying-to-motorists category while I can. Thank you, e-scooterers! Whir On, baby. Whir on.

Yer Pal,

Friday, August 19, 2011

One Way Cyclists Die

Sorry for the rather forceful title, but you know, it is what it is. A great many readers of this blog are experienced, knowledgeable cyclists who don't need to read any further. On the off chance that you are not however, I strongly urge you to read on. I was riding home yesterday and cringed as I watched this:

Now some cyclists might think a move like that is a calculated risk and not so bad. I disagree. Do that move with a car and you might get knocked over, injured or worse. Do it with a truck and you'll get knocked over and then be crushed by its rear wheels and have an excellent chance of dying. The guy in my video obviously came out just fine. But what happens when the truck driver isn't all over his mirrors for a couple of seconds and then sees a break in traffic? In addition, few people realize how huge the blind spots on a big truck are. Here are a couple of videos to illustrate:

The next video is good too, especially the blind spot bits at 3:10 or so.

Lorries, LGVs, Semis, Cube Vans, Big Ass Trucks ... no matter what you call 'em, I hope you get my drift.

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Danny MacAskill Gets Industrial

Danny Mac is back with a great new video. I first saw this on Bicycles and Icycles and as always feel compelled to share it with as many people as possible. Watch this.

Good Lord.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coldplay Viva La Vida - Stop Motion Lego Video by Dylan Woodley

Hey all! here in Canada we have something called the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Funded by the government, the CBC runs radio and television stations in both English and French right across the country. This morning while listening to CBC Radio 1 on the way in to work (I drove today) they interviewed a 16 year old Canadian (Stratford, Ontario) guy named Dylan Woodley. You can listen to the interview by clicking here and finding the August 15 entry. Dylan spent the last couple of years creating a stop-motion lego video for Coldplay's Viva La Vida and it has been getting lots of attention here in Canada and in the US as well.

Perhaps you have already seen this, but if not, I thought a shout out to my fellow Canuck was in order, because I think it is pretty damn cool. Here it is:

I am always blown away by good stop-motion stuff. I just can't imagine having the patience to do such painstaking, detailed work. Wow. Well done, Dylan.

Yer Pal,

Friday, August 12, 2011

London Ontario's Mountain Equipment Co-op: Location and Jobs

While perusing my web stats, I noticed that quite a few people who landed on my recent post about MEC were looking for the store's planned location. It is in "Wellington Commons", which means, in localese, "near the PetSmart and Pizza Hut down on Wellington near Exeter". Being a slightly Obsessive and Curious sort, that much info wasn't cutting it for me. So I called up MEC and they were kind enough to give me the exact location, which information I transformed into the handy map below:

Since I am a member of the mec co-op, I also received an email from them about hiring people for the store:

MEC is looking for a Store Manager, Team Leaders, and Front-line Staff for our new London location. Know some excellent people for these roles?

As a member and part owner of MEC, you have a say in how the business operates. If you know someone (why not you?) that would love to surround themselves with good people and great outdoor gear, encourage them to apply today.

The way I see it, if you live in London Ontario and are reading this blog, you are "excellent people". If you, in addition, would love to surround yourself with good people (and who except anthrophobes wouldn't?) and great outdoor gear (and who except hylophobes wouldn't?) I am hereby encouraging you to apply today by providing this link to MEC's current job opportunities. When I followed the link myself (being the Curious type mentioned above), I was greeted with this:

New Bike? Wah? Needless to say, this image interested me beyond easing my mind about where the missing half of the woman from my email's face had gone. It turns out that MEC offers its Full and Part-Time employees (sorry, no joy casual workers) "Interest-free computer, bike, or boat loans". My mental image of new employees being issued new bikes was dashed. Still pretty cool though, if you ask me.

Well, that's it. Hopefully I can now move on to addressing something else, like my self-diagnosed Porphyrophobia. I know I have this fear, because one time about fifteen years ago Mrs. Rantwick was awakened by me banging around in our bedroom closet, sleep walking. She turned on the light and apparently there I was in the closet with a wire hanger in my hand. When discovered thus, I said "this will help in the battle against Oprah." Pretty weird, I know. True story though, and it obviously means I once suffered from porphyrophobia and probably still do, right? Right.

Diagnosis: Pal.


PS - Don't go down to that planned MEC location and expect to find anything. I've been by and there's no sign of activity at all yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mixte Feelings

I was reviewing some video files, wondering why I kept them, when I came across some footage of a poor lost Mixte. It was leaning, unlocked, against a tree. It had flat tires. Stolen and dropped? Drunkenly used and abandoned as "broken"? It was an Eaton Road King. Eaton's was once the biggest and best department store in Canada and is missed by many of us... at least those of us who remember it. It went under in 1999. Anyway, here it is:

I was riding to work and had no time to think about what should be done. It was a lovely Mixte in nice condition save the flat tires. Beyond that, it was a bit of Canadiana of a variety that is beginning to vanish quickly. After work, I looked for it and sure enough it was gone. If it had still been there, I would have debated with myself about whether I should take it. God knows few would love and restore it the way I would have. Is taking an abandoned, flat-tired bike stealing? I don't know. I just hope whoever picked it up knows what it is and treats it accordingly. The park where it was left is literally right beside a scrap metal yard. I shudder to think. $%^%$*!! I should have saved (stolen) it.


I started this post thinking that it would start and end with my sadness about this bike, but as I wrote I got to thinking: Why is it I can get all emotional about a derelict bike, a thing, one of trillions of manufactured things floating around the world, yet drive or ride by a derelict person without a second thought? Things are easy, I guess. People are hard. Perhaps one day I'll grow into somebody who is better at loving and restoring more than bikes. Wish me luck, and sorry for getting all heavy.

Yer Pal,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Encounters with Rantwick, episode seventeen: I Am a Cat 6 Racer

I am completely unfamiliar with organized competitive cycling of any kind. I don't even ride in a group, ever. Don't pity me though. For me, the solitude is part of what makes a bike ride beautiful. Commutes, even. Like some other commuters, however, I am afraid I'm a bit of a Cat 6 racer.

I had to research a little bit about competitive cycling in order to explain that label here. The short version is that real bicycle racers compete in Categories based on their skill level. Category 1 is for elite cyclists who compete at the National and International level. Category 5 for men and 4 for women is where beginners at racing do their thing. "Cat 6" is not a real category. It is used as a euphemism for the informal racing that people on the street or path sometimes engage in, often spontaneously. I am a Cat 6 racer and I am AWESOME. Check this out:

Yer Pal,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case - Goodbye, Good Tire

Exactly one year ago I posted something about cuts in my rear tire. I received many fine comments about how I might extend the life of the tires with internal patches, krazy glue, all kinds of stuff. I told my readers that I would try some of those things and see how it went. I was a stinking liar. I didn't try any of it. I just kept riding on it. I didn't even check on it once in a while and since I rarely flip my bike upside down the full fender hid it from view. It was a simple case of out of sight, out of mind.

Yesterday morning while riding in the wet my rear wheel was making a peculiar noise. I stopped and checked things out and could not believe how far gone the outer rubber was, but the fabric / anti-puncture layer was still intact and containing the tube. I rode it home after work, waiting for the flat. It never came. The following video clip will remain an online testament to my deep cluelessness and laziness in terms of bicycle maintenance, but that's OK. Here's how it looked when I got home: 

I am tempted to continue riding it until it flaps off like truck trailer rubber does sometimes, leaving behind a "road gator":

As much as I kind of want to see how far I can go in abusing this tire, it is on my commuter bike and getting to work and back in a timely fashion trumps my curiosity. For the record, that tire doesn't owe me a thing and has never been punctured in over 4+ years of daily city commuting. I don't track my miles the way many do, but I can attest to the fact that this thing went pretty damn far before giving up. Just spitballing it based on my commute length and months of the year I'm on this bike, I would put it at about 7200 km or 4473 miles. Not having to deal with the brunt of my  considerable weight, the front tire may last me a couple more years... I like these tires. Goodbye, good tire.

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Good News Bad News - Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Coming to London Ontario

The good news: I am very happy. MEC is opening a store here in London Ontario. Mountain Equipment Co-op is a store very much like REI in the United States. I just read a snippet about it in the London Free Press here. Some of the comments about the article questioned why MEC would open here since we have a very good outfitters called Novack's downtown. I like Novack's too, but they don't do bikes. Which leads to the bad news...

I fear that the wide variety and lower prices on bicycle accessories offered by MEC could be bad news for my favourite local bike shops. Quality isn't always as high, but they do sell some good brands like Planet Bike that are harder to find in Canada, and their cheap house brands of cycling clothing are pretty popular too. I have no idea how much of a lbs's profits come from clothing and accessories like fenders, racks, lights, etc. but this can't be good. MEC expanded into selling bicycles as well a couple of years ago which is also troubling.

I'm torn. Selfish me is happy. Unselfish me is a little worried for the local shops. Time will tell, I guess.

Yer Pal,

PS - Thanks to lots of people ending up on this looking for London MEC info, I have collected everything I have written or learned about it here.