Friday, September 28, 2012

A Trip to Dundas Ontario - Studying the Wildcat

As some BikeSnobNYC readers may know, the Wildcat himself was in Hamilton (well, technically Dundas) Ontario last night. I hemmed and hawed all day yesterday about whether to drive an hour and a half just to meet the guy. I mean, he is kind of my blogging hero, but still... Then I found out there would be beer! Decision made.

I am a super lame person. Before leaving London, I went to Chapters and bought a copy of BikeSnob's latest book, not knowing if they would have any for sale at this cafe thing. Of course they did, but I am naive and lame. While driving down the 401 I took said book and abused it, banging the corners and messing with the pages and spine in the hopes that it would look like I had read it. More on this later.

Mrs. Rantwick had to work late and could not come along. So I was highway driving, having a couple of beers max, and then driving back. Quite literally a buzzkill. To add insult to injury, my phone rang just as I was arriving in Dundas. It was work, reporting a fairly serious problem. A server was down. I couldn't do anything from where I was, so I made a call and delegated like a good little manager. There was only one other person who could handle it and they were good enough to go in, but I am a worrier.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I got there. I followed my printed google map (gps is for the weak) with decent success and parked the car. I looked at the recently roughed-up book on the passenger seat and thought to myself, "man, that is f^#$!;n' lame. You have read his blog for years and just want to meet the guy, for f*%^k's sake." I left the book in the car. I will read it shortly.

So, mood bad thanks to feeling like a tit plus the work badness, I entered Domestique CafĂ© Cyclo Sportif. This is a cool little cycling-themed cafe/pub thing owned by somebody with a rich past in cycling and a love of the good java. Here's a link to some pics of the decor and an article about the owner.

It was a nice place. The kind of place that cyclists who are not loners like me would naturally gravitate to, almost like a bike shop with coffee and beer. As it often feels when you're flying solo, everybody else seemed to know each other. One guy asked me if I had seen Krys. I said, "Chris who?", and he looked at me like I had two heads and informed me Krys was the owner.

The Wildcat had not yet arrived. I grabbed a pint of Stout and went outside to the back patio, where I uncharacteristically spoke with a couple people. That was nice.

When BSNYC did arrive, he said a couple of quick words praising Canadian politeness and asked us all to yell "you suck" on the count of three:

Wildcat Rock Machine is not fond of sharing photos of himself on his blog, so I have graced him with an honourary Rantwick head. I hope he's not insulted; personally I think it is an improvement.

Then it was informal book signing / mingle time:

Observing the Wildcat in a setting like this one was really fun. There were many Freds, several messenger wanna-be's, generic hipsters and all types in between chatting him up. Some, like me, were disgusting blogging sycophants or suck-up readers. He treated all of us with the same kindness and respect; I think perhaps as much as he is caustic with certain groups, he has trouble being a prick with in-person real individuals, which makes sense and says to me he is probably not a sociopath... I sure wish I could have stuck around and drank some more and witnessed whether he got a little more cranky. I like the cranky.

I got my chance to have a few words. They will not be related here, because they were the kind of powerful and deeply personal and philosophical revelations that are bad spondee to reveal online.

Well, hang on. I will share two things... number one, his haircut, despite being less than Budnitz price, was OUTSTANDING. Number two, he asked how my contest was going and suggested I needed to actually give people stuff. I had been offering a thrift store trophy... WRM said, "yeah, trophies are always good" in such a way that I knew that he despised me and my stupid contest. Easy for him; he gets free stuff. I do too, but am I supposed to offer contestants bread crumbs and juice? I think not.

Overall, I really wish I had been able to stay longer, which is a pretty good indication that I'm glad I went. I know that if I had not gone, I would have been kicking myself today. So, good deal! Thanks for hitting America's passive-aggressive neighbours to the North, Wildcat! It truly was a pleasure to meet you.

Yer Pal,

PS - If you don't read this guy's blog on a pretty regular basis, many references in this post will make no sense to you. That is OK. They barely make sense to me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bicycle Saddle Height: Higher and Higher

Something strange is going on. Year after year, I have raised my saddle a little more. This year I had to move it slightly forward as well, since raising it has the effect of also moving it slightly further back.

I finished building this bike (Summer) bike in February or March, 2009. In each year I've ridden it, the fit seemed perfect in the Spring and not quite right in the Fall. I would understand if it had something to do with my fitness level or riding style changing through the season so it went lower,higher,lower,higher, but instead it has gone higher, higher, higher, higher! I think I have hit the upper limits now; I would probably be over-extending my leg if I pushed it any further.

To answer the bike fitters in the group in advance, no, my hips are not rocking at all while I pedal. I don't even try to stay on the saddle and get a toe down any more, though... I'm not sure I could. The bike's fit seems perfect to me right now; but it felt perfect before, too, until it didn't!

Have any of you experienced something like this, or am I, as I have always known deep inside, just a big weirdo? 
Yer Pal,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fat Bikes and Grip Studs

pic source:

As much as I am happy and excited about Mutant Winter III, there is another winter cycling solution I am interested in. Fat Bikes. These are bikes that are designed for use on snow or sand or generally ugly terrain, characterized by crazy wide rims and very wide and usually rather soft tires. Good examples of the most popular are the Salsa Mukluk and the Surly Pugsley.

The reason I'm interested is that I could ride the unplowed and icy MUPs in London Ontario on one of these wonderful mutant-by-design bicycles. Studded skinny or even MTB tires aren't good enough to handle them; I have tried. The thing is, crazy wide rims and tires require crazy wide forks and crazy everything else. Crazy is expensive, especially when 1 in 1000 cyclists* will really want and actually pay for one. To give you an idea, searching for "surly pugsley" or "salsa mukluk" doesn't even yield any results featuring full bikes... $300 rims, etc, but no bikes.

I don't have the money to buy one of these things. A Pugsley sells for about $1700 on REI. A Mukluk runs about the same. I started looking into building one, but quickly realized that even the parts and tires put these things out of reach for me right now.

One nice thing I discovered while looking into building one of these monsters was There have always been DIY methods of studding bike tires, but I've never really believed that hardware store screws would hold up very well. Grip Studs fill the gap nicely. They are expensive, but with these you could stud any tire you wanted with high quality studs rather than trying to find a finished product like I have so far.

I think I'm gonna go talk to the people at First Cycleworks... they seem to enjoy building mutant cycles more than most other shops in town and I'm hoping they might have some useful and doable fat bike advice for me. Wish me luck!

Yer Pal,

* That statistic is based on nothing tangible. The 1000 could as easily be 500 or 10000. The author of this blog is thinking you'll get the idea whether number is accurate or not.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cycling in Traffic: Irrational Fears

If the title of this post drew you in because you care about Vehicular Cycling or Cycle Driving or any of those crazy notions about roads being shared without special paint or lanes or infrastructure, you are in for a real disappointment, despite the fact that bikes and roads and cars are nowhere near mutually exclusive. This post is about my stupid brain and its totally unfounded, irrational fears:

Since I have not been buried in concrete, you can expect to see another post here soon. Have an excellent weekend!

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Childish Again

I have posted in the past about bringing clothing that belonged to my children (socks, underpants) into work instead of my own stuff. Those incidents were accidental. Now I have started taking their stuff on purpose...
 My Left Foot - no, not that My Left Foot; My Left Foot.
Allow me to explain. If you have children who play organized soccer, you may well have found yourself with a rather large supply of soccer socks, your children having been issued them in year after year of playing. Strangely, those soccer socks, although intended for the children, are usually big enough to fit me quite nicely. I wear them under my long work pants, of course. They are comfortable, breathe very well and are a nice dark black colour. They even feel good on my legs, like girdles for my calves!
Hey, wait just one damn minute... have I started wearing black knee-high support hose? Crap! They're just my kids' soccer socks, dammit! I swear!
I will not be this now, at the age of 43. No way. Maybe later. Maybe.
Forget that, man. Those socks are going back into the kids' clothes. As far as you know, anyway.
Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Turn About is Fair Play

See what I get for scaring people the other day? Dude startled me bad on my way into work on Friday morning...

People sometimes pop out of the bushes down by the river, but it was so rainy and deserted he really got me. The camera was in its waterproof cocoon, so you didn't get to hear me say "oh, ****!", which is what really happened. That is good I guess, because I wouldn't want you to think any less of me.

Yer Pal,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Distant Early Warning

I must confess, I used to see people running blinky lights in the day time and think they were overcautious nerds. Why would they want to just waste their batteries that way? They were just plain smart, actually. Still nerds, but smart nerds. Hang on, this raises a question for me; are all nerds, by definition, smart? Is there any such thing as a dumb nerd? Help me out if you can.

Here's the thing: the more warning a motorist has about your presence, the better they can plan how to get around you. The less time they have to think, the worse their decisions become. If you could reach backward with some sort of signal to let them know you were there, wouldn't you?

Simple, right? I can't speak to other brands of tail lights, but the very popular Planet Bike Superflash Turbo really is visible in daylight when using the blinky setting.

Click image to see it on

I read that claim sometime before I bought it and thought, yeah, right... but after running it in the daytime and feeling like passing behaviours may have improved a little, I did an experiment in a parking lot at work and I learned two things:

1) The human eye is amazing (I already knew that... I've been thinking about it a lot lately as I review all my bike video and wish cameras worked like eyes). Anyway, I could see my Superflash blinking away in strong direct morning sunlight with my eyeballs, but video taken both from my phone and helmet cam could not. That sucked, because this post was originally supposed to be about showing the video "test".

2) The distance I used was roughly 100 yards. I could see that thing. I don't know how far away I would have had to go to lose it. Had I been driving, it would have caught my eye.

Short version: It might feel kinda stupid, but check and see if your rear light is visible in sunlight and if so, run the sucker. Early warning for motorists = better treatment and less craziness. Usually.

How Do You Use Rear Bike Lights?


Yer Pal,

Friday, September 14, 2012


I feel like there wasn't nearly enough fanfare about TARATS (the Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown) in my initial post. I mean, this isn't about a bunch of tree huggers taking pictures and being all nice, you know. This is a SMACKDOWN. With Autumn trees. And the people are usually kind of nice and some may actually hug trees on a regular basis. But make no mistake, people, it IS a SMACKDOWN.

I have decided that the prize will be something else entirely this year. The winning tree will be crowned 2012's King (or Queen, if you want) of Autumn, a title formerly reserved for my perennial favourite (pun intended) alone! A used Trophy from some thrift shop, hand-modified by yours truly, will be sent to the lucky soul who captures for posterity the image of the most majestic juggernaut of Autumn leafy joy witnessed this year! It's gonna be AWESOME! Click HERE for rules and stuff.

Since this is a SMACKDOWN, I strongly encourage all entrants to talk as much over-the-top trash as possible (all in good fun, of course) and demoralize their opponents if they can. Let me get things started:

I stopped by to visit the King of Autumn this morning and let me tell you, he looked good. Green, but obviously gearing up for this year's competition:

Can you see that? He's flexing his foliage! What? What? You don't see it? Look again, and be very afraid of my tree, baby. He's gonna chew you all up and keep the title of King of Autumn all for his majestic unbeatable self:

That, for those of you that don't recognize it, is proper SMACKDOWN talk. I hope it puts you in the mood to bring some badass fall foliage action this way...

Share this image with yer friends and let's get ready to leaf it up, hard!

PS - I know I am ridiculous. It's fun. I also think that "poster" qualifies as a WTF attack... cool.

Mutant Winter III

My winter bike is becoming more run of the mill and less mutanty every year, but that "Mutant Winter" label is something I just can't walk away from. I still think those two words are just awesome together.

Anyway, I am really excited about this year's winter bike. Thanks to finding a different bike that suits Mrs. Rantwick just fine, I have re-appropriated my most excellent Devinci Oslo (2004?) Devinci is a Canadian bike manufacturer I would strongly recommend... good components and overall quality + very reasonable prices.

Can you tell I write my posts at night? All aluminum, good trigger shifters, Deore derailleurs, Truvative Isoflow cranks. Great ergo grips. All this thing needs is studded tires, a big ugly tub and some fenders... oh yeah.

This was the bike I seconded (gave to Mrs. Rantwick) when I started building fixed gears and then the Trek touring bike. One of those kind of sporty hybrids, it is a pretty nice bike by my winter bike standards, so I'll have to take extra good care to rinse the salt away and boeshield the hell out of it before the salt comes at all.

My 26" Schwalbe Snow Studs were getting pretty worn and the studs less studly after three winters of excellent service. Guess what, though? The Devinci has 700c wheels, so I got to buy tires!

I don't know why, but among all bicycle related purchases I get the most excitement out of buying quality tires. My day-to-day summer riding needs don't really warrant high-end tires, but when you start talking studded tires things change a little and there are really only a couple of choices, both of them good. I just received these beauties:

700c X 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires! I touched the studs... so sharp and new! I have smelled these tires repeatedly. Fresh rubber smell... as good as gasoline, maybe better. More studs than I've ever had at 240, and a "narrow" 35mm will be something new. My hope is that the more narrow tires will "cut through" snow and find hard surface for the studs to grip, which is a totally different approach than seeking traction from a large contact patch and the "float" provided by wider, softer tires.

Once again the UK proved to be my best source. Once again, I saved money by having stuff shipped ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, which makes no #%^1n' sense! Chain Reaction Cycles (UK) ships free to Canada for purchases over $99 and was selling my tires for $55 each. US online retailers were charging $62 - $84 and don't ship free to Canada, without exception in my experience so far. I ended up paying Canadian tax and a $10 Canada Post "handling fee" that seemed kind of bogus, but no Duties or customs-related stuff. I don't know if Canada has free trade agreements with the UK or if some sort of Commonwealth stuff has an effect, but I got my tires for $145 all-in. Nothing from the States or Canada could touch that price. So stupid. One more time: I saved money by having stuff shipped ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. It is just plain wrong!

Sorry for getting a little manky there. Short version: I am so pumped to finish equipping this bike and try it out in the snow and ice. Woohoo!

Yer Pal,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hard Times

Hey, you ever just ride on the plastic shell of a bike seat instead of a real bike seat? I did it for a couple of years when I was young and it suited me just fine on the frequent but short rides I was taking at the time. I thought I could probably handle the pain associated with adjusting to such a thing again; after all...

As might have been expected, my experiment was a total failure and the plastic shell pictured below was replaced with the saddle sitting on the wall behind it after only 2 days of trying. I prefer a fairly firm saddle, but this thin plastic shell turned out to be too much for my older, wussy self.
What's the worst excuse for a saddle you've ever used? I'll bet there are some doozies... let me know in the comments!
Yer Pal,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You Know What's Fun? Scaring People!

I startled or scared no less than three people on my way into work yesterday. 1 by accident, 2 on purpose. It was fun. Well, the on purpose ones were fun. The other one made me feel like a bit of a tool; you know how when you're riding up behind people on a path and have to decide whether to announce your presence (which sometimes makes them scatter in all directions) or just slide by quietly? Well, I misjudged on this one. Maybe I really should just get a bell.

Anyway, here, for your enjoyment, is a video showing me startle or scare three people:

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown!

Last years winner from JAT in Seattle

Attention, foliage fans, the Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown, North America's premier fall-foliage-posted-on-an-obscure-website competition, is looking for your best tree pictures once more. Keep your eyes peeled and send your pics to my email address (rantwick at gmail dawt com) with the subject line "TARATS". Oh, and use the Like and Tweet links or that Google +1 thing on the left to tell your friends! I want to break last year's record of 18 trees in the smackdown. As always, I will enter the King of Autumn but can not win the contest.
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you may wish to review the many posts from the first and second years of my contest, or just read the following rules:
1) Your entry should should feature 1 or if necessary just a few trees featuring an obvious star-power tree. This is a Tree Smackdown, not a "forest face-off" or "copse competition".
2) Since I hope to continue to run this competition annually, your picture should be of a tree from this 2012 Autumn season.

3) Your picture should be one you took yourself. Including some information about where the tree is from in your submission would be appreciated.

4) Your tree can be from anywhere you like. PaddyAnne from Vancouver won with a tree from New York. If you snap it, you can send it.

5) Submissions are due by midnight, Dec 15, 2012 EST. I wait so long because many of my readers seem to come from the Southern (United) States.

I think I'm going to offer a new prize this year. Maple syrup is great, but I'm kind of tired of writing about it. Also, I am told a change is as good as a rest. As usual I am also undecided about how a winner will be selected at this time... I might just decide it all by myself. What do you think? Was the voting thing fun last year? Should I try to collect video votes again? Should I open voting up to the online masses and hope nobody finds a way to mess with the results? Any other bright ideas?
Yer Pal,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yep, That'll Happen.

Hi all. I sincerely hope others have been enjoying some excellent riding weather like I have since I last touched base. Not much time to think of the blog or write anything lately, again.
Snapped a drive-by picture that should tell a story for me, though. A cautionary tale, if you will:
Yep, that'll happen.