for the past few days the temperatures have been floating between minus ten celsius and minus twenty celsius depending on the wind. on the way into school i travel down some long hills and the windchill on those downhill stretches digs deep behind my balaclava and grabs with little icy metallic fingers
at the tender parts of my ears.
when the snow falls i take the lane. brave words when you have cars who already own the lane. but i'm warm in my layered garb - four layers top and bottom - warm but not fearless.
front and back i have flashing lights, on my arm and leg really good reflective bands earned from riding in cliff mccarten's former project getting workers out of their cars!! worked for me - i don't even have a car!
otherwise the only deep cold i'm feeling is on my right thumb and both big toes. i'll take that in exchange for riding this deep into the year!!! people are generally supportive although i get the sense that after the initial shock and awe, they are definitely thinking "this guy's either nuts or a glutton for punishment".
a fave moment. the other day riding home through the dark, a gusty wind blowing from the west into my face - windchill minus nineteen - i finish the climb to the top of a hill and a guy is standing at a bus stop. my lights are flashing all over the bike and he yells out "no f---ing way!!!" i yell back, "way man!!!" and he yells "go f---ing go!!!" i laughed so hard i had to pull the balaclava away from my mouth so i could breathe.
but nothing says goodness like home - even from a couple of kilometres away - because there's my family and warmth and nice beer and good food and nobody to have to protect my body from. some nights that's what pushes me on regardless of the snow, the cold, the really close cars and even closer trucks.
speaking of my body, i've got to be thankful for the simple fact that in the last six months it has propelled me around lake ontario through a humidex of 45 c and is now pushing me
former neighbour, one half of the infamous "racing for booze" championship duathlon team, primary salesperson and chief wrench for all my wheels and parts in-between, wild boy matt has a sweet article in this month's issue of canadian cycling that you can read right here or better yet
sink some money into at your local magazine shop.
hey, while you're here.
here's a shot of matt and i after another podium finish in the peterborough dirty duathlon.
the following year - after we ascended to the top - a team of such raw talent and unbridled competitive ferocity was assembled (we believe expressly to address our ambitious assertion that we could set a new track record), that we were bumped one notch down the podium.
we still received our boozy rewards but the view from the second place podium spot was not quite as exceptional........
needless to say, matt and i bailed after that and matt has focussed on many things - domestic and recreational.
i've focussed on using the bike for good and not evil!
looks like matt's adding sportswriter to his long list of creds.
a gorgeous photo of the thursday night fight night ride appears in the same issue
the rides are suddenly sketchier courtesy of the snow and then too the evening temperatures that drop below the freezing mark rendering any free-flowing liquids into thin films of barely visibly ice.
to put it simply: in the murk of an early-morning ride, clarity (especially in terms of the road surface and conditions) is a critical and essential quality i look for in the information entering my eyes!
by the end of today the roads had dried somewhat due to the one degree above zero temperature we hit
as well as some well-placed sunshine.
so i got to ride home.
i was so truly and deeply happy!
at the end of my ride are the fields.
i leaned my bike against a pile of yesterday's snow.
this is what i call my commuter bike.
this bike has seen me through four years - over twelve thousand kilometres of riding - so many beautiful rides, so many rides through the most torrential rain, thick fogs, roaring winds, snow squalls,
this is a 30 to 40 mile ride through the streets of la.
the rules: from the east to the beach. 5 person teams with minimum 1 fixed gear per team race any route they choose from tang's donut in silverlake to docweiller beach by lax.
the first complete team to cross the finish line wins
"wolfpack hustle is dedicated to fixed gear, track and road bike culture in los angeles, a city currently dominated by the lowly automobile. no they aren’t olympians or roided-out weekend warrior types… they are simply here to ride stronger, faster and to assert our rights as riders to the gritty streets of la."
for about a year and a half i've been thinking about a different bike.
strange that isn't it.
the bikes i have - the commuter and the road bike - are both good bikes. they have been well-used and cared for, but there's an itch that i can't scratch. so i've been scouring the net, bookmarking this manufacturer and that manufacturer in the hope that somewhere, i'll see a thumbnail picture and a glowing description that describes the next bike for me.
after much deliberation, soul-searching, head-scratching and several beers over the year and a half, i had settled on buying one of two bikes. the cervelo s1 and the argon 18 krypton.
my first rule of thumb is that bikes - like clothes, furniture, wall-paint and book covers - must look good and both of these do. having become a little more knowledgeable through experience and research i also knew that within my budget i could afford a shimano ultegra drivetrain and peripherals.
not a cyclist? then reading all that stuff likely put you off.
so i'll continue for the benefit of the two of you still reading.
i shop for my bike bits and even whole bikes at wildrock in downtown peterborough. it's an excellent shop with cool, knowledgeable and real people working there, some of whom are chums and even riding friends from africycle in the summer.
so i had more-or-less decided to try and buy one of the two aformentioned bikes through wildrock when an e-mail arrived informing me that my fave bike shop was having a "ridiculous sale" of all 2010 models. i saw two bikes listed that caught my eye and their prices - neither were the two i was looking at and for, but what the heck.
perhaps you can help me understand why i have this deep-seated compulsion to own a bike that is the antithesis of the slick machines that take care of my need to move from point a to point b. for reasons i can't articulate, i am drawn to old english bikes like the raleighs with the three-speed sturmey archer and i get the same sort of butterflies-in-the-gut feeling i get when i see a bike that is far beyond my pecuniary abilities to afford and even more importantly - which couldn't possibly be rationalized to
she who provides reason to my life.
maybe that's what makes my heart sing when i watch this very short but oh-so-lovely video on the hero bike.
as one small feature of the tyrone mill ride, a decision had to be made by five riders - do we take the easier way that we had already taken to get to our midpoint, or take a route that has a hard climb with a really incredible view at the top and a steep descent with a very sharp stop at the bottom because of the very sketchy railway crossing? then a really steep, thigh burning climb out of the valley.
oh, and there's a beautiful swimming hole - too cool at this time of year for swimming but still beautiful.....
"i'm happy no matter what we choose because i'm right here right now."
top of the hill . . .
bottom of the hill . . .
sometimes grace just shines on a place, on a moment.
returning over familiar territory - in reverse - seeing scenes that are both familiar and unfamiliar.
always with the background knowledge that at some point, you'll be back home.
that doesn't have to be a bad thing of course, but the journey is - well an immersion into experiences as diverse as newness, innocence, escapism, ineffable goodness - and so the return is . . . well bittersweet.
fueled up with honey, coffees, pastries and of course some really spicy cheese curds we headed up the very short very steep hill that leads northeast away from the tyrone mill.
big skies chased us. we were able to watch clouds parallel to our journey move across the landscape, rain a little and continue on their journey.
they rolled along like the great soft beasts they are!
while we rolled along in quiet appreciation through the ganaraska forest.
here's local bike czar clifford on the glory glide.
a dangerous practice for a cyclist - looking skywards at speed while holding a camera.
but worth the risk.
then onwards through the land of long rolling hills.
where laughing egos were toyed with on climbs ill-suited to those of us who are flat land speed demons!
egos easily and smirkingly crushed by those with the stamina and will to drop them (me included)
as they race on up the hill at the same speed i just descended at.
the post after this one will tell you about a moment. a decision that was made by a little group of cyclists. take the easy way and see what we've seen in reverse. or take the hard way and see something truly beautiful. something i'll not forget. please check it out when it arrives here. for now though, one of my fave moments on a ride.
so like the gurdjieff stop exercise. stop. examine the moment. examine your presence in its entirety.
begin. onwards past windswept early autumn fields.
i've noticed that on longer rides, my eyes start to focus on the details of the ride. the vistas, the little clusterings of plants, the moments. it's almost as if the experience becomes more refined.
maybe there's another word or explanation for it.
i've noticed that even though i put my bike away for the night,
any ride has many objectives when you sit back and think about it. which, because of the way i was brought up as well as the way i have chosen to be - i do! this bike ride was about riding through the rapidly changing fall colours. the mid-point destination was the tyrone mill - a lovely old bakery that by reputation alone has managed to draw countless generations of people to get out of their comfort zone and make the trek to its relatively isolated self and give them good grain, good wood, good breads, and good honey and fruit. all good motivators for sure.
the bicycle ride - well it was about all of that and then also, bicycling in the company of really good people.
i know i crave and treasure that, and this ride was so much about that.
the mill is situated at the bottom of a steep hill and so the anchors were out the whole way down as we negotiated our way into a space (next to some old gears from the mill) for the bikes.
and then made our way inside past this display of local apples to sample the fare.
a gentleman offered samples of cinnamon and regular honey. both were stunningly tasty and filled with the fullness of a summer clearly good for busy bees. i made my way to the sales counter and asked for a white chocolate-raspberry scone and a cup of coffee. both were incredibly good. really truly!!! we sat out in the gorgeous early fall sunshine and enjoyed the luxury of sitting back and sharing life stories and the very simple luxury of good company while eating and drinking pure goodness.
here we are outside at the mill.
now i feel kind of bad that i didn't get more about the mill itself so i am relying on this video tour
if you're a cyclist and you don't belong to a club but you hang around with like-minded people, these are the sorts of e-mails you love to receive:
"last week i was driving back from a work appointment in the oshawa area and i stopped in at tyrone at the bakery for some awesome snacks (fresh blueberry scone, and a dozen donuts). as i drove home from there i kept thinking about how great it would be to be on my bike instead of in my car. and so, the idea of a big group ride to tyrone and back was formed."
it took me a couple of moments to reply in the affirmative and from that point on, each moment in which i wasn't involved in doing or thinking about something else came back to the prospect of a ride through the early autumn landscape southwest of peterborough with some really awesome people!
well, the day dawned cool and sunny. i had just bought a brand new trek madone 4.7 the day before and so i was pretty jazzed to see if it was comfortable. you see i don't try out bikes, try on clothes or any of that junk, i just get 'em and hope they work out!! what better way to see if a bike is for you than to
ride it through 120 kilometres of hilly countryside?!
so we all gathered at the famous silver bean at roughly nine a.m. some of the riders put back a strong coffee. others nursed hangovers from the night before, some were too mature for any of that, and still others were just glad to have a chance to get out of the house.
along for the ride were africycle chums jim vyn, dave breukelar, andrea and michael vanderherberg, as well as bike bud dave blondell, bike manufacturer and local cycling czar cliff mccarten, and three new riders
who i knew as jim, kim, and meg.
the early part of the ride proved costly as we lost jim vyn and his son-in-law (who very generously (and wisely) offered to accompany his father-in-law back to peterborough) about fifteen km in.
here's the group riding out of peterborough along wallace point road, recently reopened after
being closed all summer due to bridge reconstruction.
within five kilometres we said goodbye to kim and meg who had planned all along to travel to a certain point and then turn back. it was becoming a lot like an agatha christie novel - who will be last on the bike?! not to worry, there were other steeper, longer distractions to fill our minds called hills! you climb up them . . .
you race down them . . .
it all sounds so easy unless you factor in headwinds that don't let up. headwinds with that pernicious, cynical, hurtful tone that accompanies your very best efforts and ever so gently, ever so remorselessly crushes you!!! or not. see the thing with these riders is, they were - like me - motivated by the prospect of fresh baked goods at the mid-point. so working together, keeping it positive, laughing, stopping for photographs,
stopping to regroup was an integral part of the ride.
on this - the triple ten of days - i'm really pleased to share something that has a little bit of that
cooler than cool quality we all crave.
david byrne has been one of those iconic figures in my life who have lived louder than i dare.
his work with talking heads and then as a solo artist and especially the seminal work "my life in the bush of ghosts" which he co-created with brian eno, drove me to think beyond my thinking at that time, to see the world as something completely different and richer than i had previously known.
that david is a cyclist came as something of a revelation when i came across some mentions in his online journal that got me to thinking about how a guy who is a slightly off-centre personage, could fit cycling
into his persona and lifestyle.
it brought me to think about my own relationship with my bicycles and especially my own rationale for being a cyclist. which brings me to my own reading of david's book "the bicycle diaries". i read the book a little bit at a time last year, sort of like eating a bento box of sushi - the experience being a lot about unpacking small spaces and letting the unpacking extend into the bigger spaces of your experiencing.
i enjoyed the book from the perspective of reading words written by david because even though i haven't ever met him, he has a place in my life - a good place actually. i enjoyed the book because it's about an intelligent creative person talking about swimming ever so slightly upstream - riding a bike brings with it a very slender coolness quotient and regardless of how many other people are doing it, you really are on your own, carving your niche, making the space within which you wish to move from point a to point b and survive and thrive
and especially to love the experience for ever after.
if you're not a reader but you are a listener then you may be delighted to have the opportunity to hear the first audiobook i know of that features a guy talking essentially about cycling in an urban context.
an intelligent, hip, cool, insightful, streetsmart, artsy, wish he was my friend sort of guy.
curious at all?
good, then you belong here and you should give this a listen.
wanna spend some of last weeks pay cheque on more of it?
then go here for the book or you can go here for the chapter by chapter audiobook.
i've had it for four years now and i love it for its huge gear range which gets me up hills and gives me good speed across the flats. it's relatively light and comfortable,
plus, it has a blackburn rack at the back so i can carry stuff!)
it's got about ten thousand kilometres on it.
i'd thought about stopping in at dreamers for another crazy cookie and americano but i'd had a good lunch at my mum's and figured i'd just pass through.
the climb up and out of port hope is long and fairly steep. lined with old houses and little shops, the distractions are many but eventually i reached the turn for hwy. 2 north and left port hope behind.
at the point where hwy. 2 becomes country road 10, i passed through the lovely little hamlet of "welcome".
it was not long before i was riding through a very rural landscape.
many of the farmers were working in their fields. i like to wave at them when i pass by -
sort of a thankyou for their work which helps get food to my table.
many of the fields are filled with tall corn plants.
i'm not sure what's growing in all of the fields but i was really drawn to the distant hills - despite having ridden up and over the oak ridges moraine, there were many more hills yet to go.
in fact on this ride there are a dozen or so good climbs.
each has an excellent view either in front or behind.
you can see that the skies are filling with grey fluffy stuff.
i came over one hill not far south of millbrook and saw this lovely old farm.
so many farms have the most spectacular views.
as i approached cavan the skies opened up. gently at first and so i was grateful for the cooling rain, but the tempo gradually increased and then i heard the distant ominous rumbles of approaching thunder which naturally drew closer and closer until they were passing overhead.
this was the third ride i've been on in two weeks in which i've ridden through thunder and lightning!!
it goes with the time of year but there is nothing to match racing along a road with the rain pelting down and the sudden flash of a lightning bolt coupled with a grand boom of thunder to remind you of
how tiny and insignificant and vulnerable you really are.
the cows know what to do at times like this. just sit down and wait patiently.
i had about ten kilometres from here, so on i pushed.
happily i made it home in one piece, had a hot shower, changed into dry clothes, got the laundry started up and was tucking into a nice dinner before very long.
about 70 kilometres. two and a half hours of riding.
once a year i ride my bicycle down to my mum's home in cobourg.
i see her more often than that, but this is a ride.
which means it takes extra effort.
so there's a form of satisfaction in not only getting there, but getting back home.
leaving my own family is always hard.
but then there's the open road, a bicycle propelled and steered by myself.
so the trade-off of a small amount of misery for a large amount of happiness works out - eventually.
to get to cobourg means crossing lots of long rolling hills. if you look at these two photographs, you should know that the hills in the distance are the height of land also known as the oak ridges moraine.
there are many other steep climbs and racing descents before i even get there.
riding almost entirely through countryside. the road is fairly quiet and you can hear the birds, the crickets, cows, the odd bit of farm machinery, the wind rushing past your ears,
and of course the sound of the tyres on the pavement.