Monday, October 31, 2011

Snow Face Hates Halloween

Mrs. Rantwick and I really like Halloween. Snow Face not so much.

I've got a new SARATS entry, but I think I'll save it for tomorrow. Halloween belongs to the ghoulish, not the tree-based joyjoys.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blissed Out in Spring and Autumn

As I mentioned yesterday, I had one of those memorable, soul-feeding Autumn rides on Monday. I have made a video similar to one I did in the Spring a couple of years ago, one that has become my most popular youtube video by far. In these days of youtube vids with millions of views, that isn't saying much since that one has been viewed just over 600 times, but that makes it #1 among mine.

I've skimmed the archives and don't think I ever posted that video here on the blog. If I did and missed it somehow, please let me know. Anyway, here's the "old" Spring video:

Now, Autumn blissed-out action from Monday Oct 24:

Perhaps this type of video is more popular because I'm not trying to be funny or anything. Who knows? In any case, I secretly hope that when you're sitting inside during a snowstorm in the long deep dark days of winter, jonesing for a bike ride in the fresh air, you'll come back to these videos for a dose of bike zen. Of course, that could just make things worse...

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stress Leaving You Green? No Worries, SARATS Accepts All Comers

Another SARATS entry has arrived and this one is green! It comes from Kenny of Kenny's Blog of Greatness and his email explains:

Mr. Rantwick,

I had the pleasure of riding my bike around Washington DC (USA) last Friday, and hoped to get a good picture of a tree for your smackdown. It's been a strange summer here in this part of America, with extremes of hot, dry, and wet stretches. Adding in an earthquake and hurricane put many trees on notice. It was such an extreme summer that weatherman Bob Ryan said that when trees go through such stresses in one season, sometimes they just drop their leaves without letting them change color!

I don't know how true this is, but the trees I saw mostly had just dead leaves or were half bare already. So I took this great picture of one of the Japanese Cherry trees that surround the "tidal basin" area near the Jefferson Memorial (Thomas Jefferson, as you may recall, drafted the Declaration of Independence, had a slave as a mistress, and discovered penicillin (that last part may or may not be true)). Many of these trees are about a hundred years old and have seen a lot of action, as millions of tourists converge upon this area to bask in the glory of the cherry blossoms for a couple weeks each spring.

Yes, the leaves are still green, but the trunk and branches are so gnarled and twisted, I hope you'll accept this as an alternative entry for your SARATS competition.

I enjoy reading your blog.

Thank you and have a great day,

See that? Kenny called me Mr. and said he enjoys reading my blog! In addition I had an outstanding Autumn ride last night after work, video with soothing music to follow tomorrow. Overall, these things are making me feel pretty damn good today and I wish you the same until next time.

Yer Pal,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trees. Oh How they Rock.

I am pleased to report that I have received two more SARATS entries! First, Cor from Life in 360 sent one with the following comment in his email:

I never thought I would enter a tree but I couldn't help but snap this one.  Ottawa River Parkway on a dark but bright stormy afternoon. 

Then Carolyn of Carolyn's Flight of Fancy sent me this one. From her email:

Well, as it's getting cold and the weather is changing (I swear that Winter is on it's way as it tried snowing the other day), I'll submit the photo of the tree by Nechako River on the Heritage Trail in Prince George [British Columbia].  I love biking that trail, it's my favourite in the area.  Lots of people use it daily. The trail follows both the Nechako and Fraser Rivers.  It's one of those awesome things about Prince George.

Things are shaping up nicely, don't you think?


Friday, October 21, 2011

Ottawa Driver found Guilty on All Counts

Whew. For the sake of cyclists having to go through it all again, I'm glad that part is over. Sentencing won't be until January 6, according to this article.

Have a great weekend everybody. As you ride all over the place, don't forget that I feel the need for trees.

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Other Other Other Woman

When cycle blog reading people see a title like "The Other Woman" they naturally make the assumption that "she" is yet another bike. Car enthusiasts use the expression all the time for their secondary passions too. Indeed, I have posted on three bikes in just such a manner in the past. In this case, however, "The Other Woman" actually refers to a woman. I love her. It's a good thing Mrs. Rantwick is OK with my fixations on unreal women like Mother Nature and my new flame, Billboard Bike Woman:

She speaks to me every time I ride by, whispering sweet bike path nothings filled with the promise of freewheeling sun-dappled romance and a nice red wine buzz. She is a stylized, unreal swoopy-figured lady purposefully crafted to drive me mad. She is the natural advertising result of the current popularity of cycle chic, transportation cycling and many people's deep love of red wine; in the immortal words of Meatloaf (the only true authority on love), two out three ain't bad, baby. Cycle Chic isn't really my thing... although maybe I'll make an exception in her case.

my latest devastating crush

Now, contrary to the abundant evidence otherwise, I ain't stupid. I can see through this billboard lady's wine and dress and bike and basket. I know that she is really just another famous woman, repackaged for the gentle cycling wino set:

I don't care. In fact, her less refined and more lurid past in the mud flap trade just makes her even more attractive to me. I mean, everyone has a past, right? Who am I to judge?

Yer Pal,

SARATS Entry #4

Cafiend of Citizen Rider has sent me his SARATS entry. His email:

Imagine this one with all its leaves and better lighting. I never seem to catch it at its best when I have the camera and time to stop.

Cafiend, my man, of course I can relate. Missing the King at his best started this whole contest thing! Thanks very much for your entry... I can see how that tree could be a killer. I also think it has been a pretty tough year for catching a tree at its best for many of us. Into the contest it goes!

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You #%^1n' Kiddin' Me #6

This installment of "Are You #%^1n' Kiddin' Me" made me feel that way three times over. Here's how it went.

I saw a commercial on TV recently that I really liked:

I liked it because I thought, "Are You #%^1n' Kiddin' Me? That guy just said "Yes, the money's expensive, but there's no collateral""!  That kind of candor isn't something you normally ever see in a commercial. Cool.

When I went on youtube to find it, the comments made me want to throw up. There were a bunch of stupid racist comments about Native people. I know I shouldn't have been surprised... comments sections on big sites like youtube seem to bring out all the worst and dimmest rather than the best and brightest. Just the same, Are You #%^1n' Kiddin' Me? In 2011? Really?

I was, of course, intrigued by this straight-shooting lender. That dude said right out that the money was expensive. How expensive? I went to their website to find out:

I'm not gonna say it a third time. I will also leave you to do some of the math. I agree with the guy in the commercial. Keep the costs down by paying it off as fast as you can. Like, really really fast. Really.

Yer Pal,

Monday, October 17, 2011

London Ontario MEC: Signs of Life

Since I continue to see a surprising number of people visiting this blog thanks to having googled after info on MEC here in my home town, I feel that an update is warranted.

I've been swinging by the as of yet unopened Mountain Equipment Co-op store here in London Ontario once in a while to see what, if anything, was up. After several weeks during which all was quiet on the MEC front (storefront, that is), there are now signs of life. Very green window coverings are proclaiming that the store will open in Late November. Knowing how such things sometimes go, I'm not holding my breath.

As you can see, there's some signage and they've plastered over the scars from the previous store's signs up top. Those green things have been there for at least a week, but this time when I swung by, there were contractors on-site. I stopped short of taking their picture through the window because I figured they might find that a little weird, haul me inside and question me under the glare of a trouble lamp and with threat of nail gun. Maybe I should have though, because if they chose to speak to me I could have at least thanked them for removing that ominous demising wall.

For every single scrap of London MEC info or oddness that I have posted so far, click here.

Yer Pal,

SARATS = Autumn Action and Adventure!

Trevor of PurpleTraveller from the UK sent me his SARATS entry several days ago. Here's what he had to say in his email:

Ever since I read about SARATS I have been out on the bikes searching for a tree that has a good enough display of colour for your competition.

Over this past week we have had a lot of very windy days which have managed to strip a lot of our trees of their Autumn colours.........however just before the winds started I managed to capture an image of this beauty on my second day of searching.

It was seen in the private gounds of a country estate here in Dorset and I had to climb over a wall in order to get a reasonable shot of it....
I am convinced that not wanting to boast of his exploits, Trevor left out a great deal concerning his wall-climbing commando style SARATS raid... but I'm here to fill in the blanks.
I'll bet you didn't know that Trevor was a giant, but pictures never lie!

The Best Maple Syrup You Will Ever Taste is on the line. Pull a Trevor if you have to, but get me those trees, dammit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011's King of Autumn

Well, here he is for this year. This constitutes my official not-allowed-to-win-the-prize SARATS entry:

Speaking of pictures that aren't allowed to win, Ryan from St. Catharines Ontario sent me a link to this outstanding photo. Try as I might, I couldn't get blogger to use the flickr link properly and display it here on my blog.

Since it features many trees instead of one obvious star power tree, it will not be entered in the smackdown, but man, do I ever like it.

I have received another entry, but I'm gonna save it for Monday.

Yer Pal,

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Is Stuff A Bunny In a Jagged Rusty Hole Day!

I love seeing stuff like this. I spotted this forlorn little fellow in a parking lot. Funny? To me, yes. How about you?

Since I'm obviously not on about cycling or trees or any of my usual stuff today, I think I'll take this opportunity to ask if anybody else has noticed an increase in the use of the expression "it is what it is" lately. Am I just going a little OCD, or is this common expression becoming more popular like "think outside the box" was, or "take it to the next level" or whatever? Random thought, I know. Have a super weekend, everyone.

Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

Thursday, October 13, 2011

POW! And We're Off!

Yes, foliage fans, it has begun. Recumbent Conspiracy Theorist sent the first SARATS submission yesterday!

From his email:
Hello Rantwick fellow foliage freak. The leaves have peaked decently here in north central Ohio but like you noted today on your blog today I also am not seeing the vibrant color I remember from last year on my dearest old man maple. I went out this weekend on my bike to photograph my favorite specimen for the smackdown and ended up riding around for nearly two hours taking pictures on a beautiful afternoon. As I've gotten older fall has become my favorite season and as you know there is no better way than to enjoy it than on a bicycle.

My submission is a huge maple about a 1/2 mile from my house I pass often when my chosen route takes me in a westerly direction. Like I said not as stunning as I remember from last year but a tree-juice winning contender none the less.
Agreed, RCT, and thanks for getting us started! For more pictures from RCT's tree tour, hit his blog at .
Got Yer Sap Started?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

5 Injured Ottawa Cyclists - Driver in Court 2 Years Later Pleads Not Guilty

I've noticed that some people are landing on my blog looking for information on the court case involving the man who ran down 5 cyclists over 2 years ago. I made some comments back then and because of those some new visitors have been turning up as they search for info.

Here is a link to the most recent articles in the Ottawa Citizen:

The articles include some information on how bad some of the injuries were, which was very bad in at least one case. None of the cyclists died as many at the time had assumed. I wish those 5 cyclists well as they recount and doubtless relive the ordeal and earnestly hope that justice will be served.


PS - The articles from the Ottawa Citizen are coming out so fast and furious that updates here may become a problem. For the latest I recommend hitting their Home Page and searching "Sommit", the driver's first name or using this link which does the same thing. I'm getting better results with that than "cyclist" and similar search terms.

Stranded Without SARATS Selection

I'm at work right now, eating lunch and wishing I hadn't run out of the house without any cams or picture files to add to this post. Some of you may be encouraged to know that the dry weather has created a less than impressive King this Autumn. I mean, he looks good, but the pic doesn't have "winner" written all over it either.

I hope some of you have seen some good trees to enter, or even not so good ones... you never know how my judges will vote! For those of you who have not found an individual tree to showcase, maybe you could get away with cropping a picture of a bunch of trees to isolate a good one. I'm getting a little nervous that I won't get enough entries this year.

Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SRAM Automatix (A2) vs. Sturmey Archer S2C

I'm in trouble. I've been thinking about my "next" winter bike. That is bad news, because I have neither the time nor the spare cash right now. Then again, I'm only thinking... thinking is free, right?

One of the most common problems with riding in a combination of salty slushy muck and sub-zero temps is that brake and shifter cables sometimes don't want to work properly. Careful attention to lubing them and "sealing" them from the elements helps, but careful attention isn't exactly my style. I have also been thinking about trying skinny rather than fat studded tires this time, but that's not what this post is about. Another post, perhaps.

With winter bikes, less is often more. There are two internally geared hubs on the market I am interested in (see title). Both offer two speeds and a coaster brake and both would eliminate the 2 cables normally running to the rear of the bike. In addition, a coaster brake will never be affected by wet/icy/slippery rims or brake rotors. For these reasons I am excited to build a winter bike that uses one of these hubs.

The SRAM Automatix (A2) shifts automatically. The S2C features a "kick shift", meaning that a little back-pedal will switch it between it's two gears and a harder back-pedal will engage the coaster brake. Gearing is very similar, with the S2C offering 100% (direct drive) and 138%, while the SRAM Automatix (A2) offers 1:1 and 1:1.37 gearing. The SRAM site shows a "bandwidth" spec of 124% while the Sturmey site lists an "overall range" of 138%. I must confess I'm a little confused... shouldn't the "bandwidth" of the SRAM be 137%? I'm hoping somebody smart will read this, comment and sort me out.

Another consideration is that the OLD (over locknut dimension) on the S2C is 116mm (although the axle is long enough to space it out far enough for 130mm rear spacings) while the SRAM OLD is 130mm. I tend to favour the 130 for potential frame (as in a bike I already own) reasons.

I almost wish one of the hubs was significantly less expensive than the other, but they both appear to retail for 60-80 bucks US, which is awesome in my opinion, considering what more elaborate internally geared hubs sell for. I'm further torn by the manual vs. automatic issue... if the auto works well, it is one less distraction while I'm riding in conditions demanding my full attention. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to give up control of when the bike shifts! Arg!

So, what on earth am I gonna do? I've read some bikeforums stuff, but as usual there are arguments for both and they're most often about Bromptons and bikes like that. Can you, dear reader, offer me any insight? (Cafiend, any thoughts?) If so, please comment. Can you instead offer weird, incomprehensible ramblings? You should comment too, but I warn you that I might actually get you.

Note, July 24, 2012: When I wrote this post, I had no experience with either hub and still don't. However, there is a bunch of useful experience / performance info in the comments now. If you're considering a purchase, I strongly encourage you to read the comments on this post.

Yer Conflicted Pal,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SARATS Insider Report: London Ontario Will Provide The Mysterious Panel of Judges

As has been proven to me a couple of times now, Internet voting can present some problems. In order to avoid said problems I had been percolating about how to collect my SARATS votes this year. Had been. I now know what I'm gonna do. My intention is to take to the streets and collect video of impartial local strangers as they vote for their favourite trees, which will be presented to them in hard copy form in a binder or something using a laptop slideshow.

I will attempt to spread my vote collecting around; shopping malls, the University of Western Ontario, Dundas & Richmond (the most interesting downtown intersection), and any other spots that pop into my head. The one neighbourhood I might avoid is my own, because this activity is going to prove for once and always that I am a total freak and/or weirdo. I'm thinking I should leave the cam on the helmet and wear it as I do my vote gathering and maybe even create a RANTWICK T-Shirt to wear while I do it... there's no such thing as bad press, you know.

When I'm done I will create a dramatic and suspenseful video that tallies up the votes and declares the winner of 500mL of pure joyjoy tree juice, to be released early in 2012. Such is my dedication to you, dear reader, that I will happily humiliate myself in order to represent your tree in the Second Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown. Mrs. Rantwick is somewhat vexed, but as always will roll with my stupidness because she is awesome. On one of her Birthdays (years ago now) I did something similar, collecting video of strangers saying "Happy Birthday L****", and she loved it.

Please keep your eyes peeled for trees and spread the word... our esteemed judges must be given a reasonable number of choices!

Yer Pal,

PS - Guesses at Mrs. Rantwick's first name might be my next contest, although the winner will have to keep that secret right to the grave.

PPS - Since I'm going to print the pictures, smaller, email and Internet friendly pics probably won't look as good, so feel free to send larger attachments. I'll smallify them for the web site, but keep the big 'uns for printing.

PPPS - Never mind that PPS print thing... I'm gonna use a laptop instead.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Better Cyclists? Am I Crazy?

Or are there more cyclists out there doing it "right"? I don't really care to get into a debate about what "right" is... in this case I mean 1) riding on the street rather than the sidewalk 2) riding predictably and 3) using hand signals.

I still see lots of sidewalk riders, salmon, and other reckless riders, but I also see what seems to be a real increase in "good" cycling. Does it seem that way where you live too?

While cycling instruction is available if you look hard enough, I seriously doubt that most of these cyclists I enjoy spotting so much ever had any. I'm betting that many of them are like me, people who were pretty good to begin with but who in the course of googling stuff because they were getting more serious about commuting learned a whole lot more.

The Internet can be a really great thing, especially with very helpful and informative sites like Commute Orlando among many others. For all of you who take the time to instruct, online or in person, thank you very much. I'm all for "butts on bikes" advocacy in some ways, but what you do reduces the number of "buttheads on bikes", which is good for everybody, two-wheeled or four, period.

Hey, if you stumble across this post and have good information to share on where people can go for in-person training, especially in Canada, let me know and I'll add it to my sidebar. I confess I haven't looked very hard, but I'll bet there are some good resources here in Ontario and Canada that I should be promoting in my own small way. Who knows, maybe I'll show up for a little schoolin' myself. I would like to learn that emergency "snap turn" thing people sometimes refer to...

Yer Pal,