Monthly Archives: March 2011

Insurance

I remember when I was younger asking my Dad what ‘insurance’ was.  When he started to explain, I got confused.  Not because he was explaining it poorly, but because the idea seemed so totally foreign to a young boy who, at that stage in his life, felt he had absolutely no need for insurance of any kind.  The concept of paying for something that you may never use was more than odd.  You had to be stupid, I thought.

There’s all kinds of insurance out there, and then there’s the analogies that we use all the time playing on insurance as a concept.  As you’re packing for a five day trip you slip in six pairs of underwear.  That last pair is ‘insurance’ in case you sneeze a little too aggressively one morning (come on, it’s happened to all of you, I know it!).  The spare wheel in your car is also a form of insurance.  You lug that thing around for years, driving your gas costs up and taking up precious cargo space, and you may never even lift up the rear floor mat to gaze at its alarmingly puny appearance compared to your regular wheels.  But you know you have it, and if you need it, you can have that wheel changed in minutes and you’re on your way.

Riding a bicycle does not involve carrying around a spare wheel.  It would be cumbersome and even dangerous.  You do need insurance though, and it comes in the form of a spare tube and a pump.  Both can be cunningly carried in a variety of ways, even in the back pocket of your road jersey, but whatever method you select you don’t have to worry about them.  You can have them on you at all times, and as is the nature of insurance, you can ride relaxed knowing that should a rascally piece of rogue glass slice your tire you’ve got it covered.  You’ve got your insurance.

I always ride with insurance.  8,000 km last year, all of it carrying my insurance with me.  I had two flats last year and both times I was back up and running in less than ten minutes.  The beauty of insurance!  Well, it’s only beautiful when you have it, and today I made a very amateur mistake.  I rode to work without my insurance.  Blame it on the sales announcement I had to make while eating breakfast, the stress of which undoubtedly resulted in me not performing my usual checklist.  Whatever!  I left without my pump and spare tube, and I realized it about half way to work.  I found myself dodging the bits of glass and metal debris that litter the sides of the road after the snow melts and groaned as I saw, in my mind’s eye, the pump and tube sitting on the dining room table, just where I had left them earlier.  “I’ll be fine”, I said to myself.

Well I got to work no problem.  I then spent the next eight hours literally glued to the phone on conference call after conference call.  All the while my motivation was not only the weekend that was fast approaching but also the 45 minute ride home that would allow me to burn off all that work related stress.  It was going to be a good ride home.  My heart sank, however, as I walked into the bike room in the basement of the campus.  I spotted it immediately.  One very flat rear tire.  Bollocks!

I spent the next twenty minutes searching for a pump with a very helpful security guard.  “We have one somewhere”, said he optimistically calling his colleagues on the walkie-talkie to see if they knew where it was.  It wouldn’t have helped even if he had found it.  When I studied the tire in more detail I saw it: a thin piece of metal, tiny in diameter, that was probably from some electrical cabling or some such, had pierced through the tire and into the tube.  I needed more than just the pump.

Cursing my stupidity, I called home to ask for a rescue pick up.  It’s not funny asking your wife to come all the way from the suburbs to downtown to pick you up during rush hour.  I felt absolutely awful, knowing full well that it was going to be a tedious drive down, and then an equally tedious drive back again.  And so it proved to be.  So to Marie, I say both sorry and thank you in the same breath!  Oh, and also lesson learned: always double check that you have your insurance with you.

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Roadie Ridin’

I have tackled the challenge that is iMovie and managed to create something that vaguely resembles a film of my ride yesterday.  The result is two minutes of adrenalin packed excitement.  I dare you to watch it!

So if you’ve got two minutes and 26 seconds and you like John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers click the crank below.

Enjoy.

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Roadie

Bloody gorgeous day today.  A little on the cold side but not a cloud in the sky and almost no wind.  The only thing for it was to get out on the VR2 for the first time this season.

VR2 on maiden voyage of 2011

I decided to film a lot of the ride on my Flip and the footage will feature in a short later on this week, if I ever find the time to do it.  Of course I’m missing the last third of the ride as my battery went dead on me.  I also had the Nikon with me in my new trusty over-one-shoulder back pack (which the guy in the store had to show me how to put on as I was having a serious ‘dumb’ moment and couldn’t work it out…..really) and was happily clicking away with that as well until, yup, battery died on that as well.

So guess what.  We’re getting 10 cm of snow tomorrow.  Yeah, that’s right.  It’s not enough that we’ve already lived through 3 1/2 months of cold ice and snow, we finally get some nice weather, we’re teased with dry roads and ever clearing bike paths, and then BHAM! we’re getting more snow.

Campy 10-Speed at your service

We’ll see what actually happens in the morning, although I shudder at the thought of seeing the sky filled with angry vicious looking snow flakes once again.  The only up side of a snow storm this late in the season is that it rarely stays on the ground for more than a couple of days.  I’m planning on working from home tomorrow but hoping to be commuting on two wheels again by Tuesday.

Don’t screw with my plans snow!

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It’s dark out there

It is currently 6.03 a.m. and I am fuelling up on Espresso and Fruit Loops.  Surely the breakfast of champions.  The adjustment for Daylight Savings has given us that extra hour in the evening, but it has also resulted in us being plunged back into darkness for an additional hour in the morning.  Even with super bright LED lights, I’m not moving for another thirty minutes at least.  No problem.  Time for another coffee.

I am virtually riding the route to work in my head as I sit here staring out in the blackness.  I’ve ridden it so many times before, and I feel like I know every single bump and crack in the asphalt, but I know that winter will have brought on fresh craters the size of small cars that can easily cripple your progress.  In fact, Andy last night sent me and Paul an email simply titled “First Casualty”.  Sure enough, he had planted his front wheel squarely into a pot hole that would not have looked out of place in the Australian outback and not only blew his tyre but even buckled his wheel.  The only piece of good news in this story, aside from the fact that no serious injury was incurred, is that he was within flamme rouge distance from home, so less than a kilometre to go.

Alright, we’re back home and it is now the end of the day.  Apparently there are a few more cracks and bumps to learn now that Ma Winter’s effects are being revealed.  Also a good third of the bike path is not navigable as yet, but the roads are clear of all ice and snow.  Not, however, of wetness.  This is what happens when the thaw comes and you have many thousands of tons of snow melting all at once.  The ground underneath becomes saturated and there is no where for it to go but sideways, desperate to find another way down into the depths of the earth.  This results in streams, and I do mean streams, of water that suddenly appear as if out of thin air and flood the road from left to right.  With no where to go but straight, you simply have to plough through it and accept the fact that your pristine and shiny 2011 Kona Paddywagon is going to get dirty.  Very dirty as it turned out.  By the time I arrived at the Campus the bike, and me, were looking slightly the worse for wear, but with the magic that is a rear mud guard my bottom was completely dry.  How’s that for a miracle?  I have never ridden in the wet and come out of it with a dry arse.  It felt magnificent.  Wet feet, yes.  Wet legs, yes.  Dry bum!

A decidedly grubby but happy Kona Paddywagon, back from the commute

The ride down had been pleasantly supported with a light tail wind.  I knew that this was likely to mean a tougher return journey, but I had no idea what was in store for me.  Sitting at my desk around 2.00 p.m. I was startled by a creaking sound.  Seeing as I was in a massive building that was no more than three years old, I knew this was not the floor boards.  No, it was the windows straining as the hurricane of a wind that was blowing outside was buffeting into them.  I checked my trusty Weather Network and it confirmed to me the following: Winds 50km/h West, Gusts 65km/h.

Oh joy.  This was going to be a doozy.  And so it proved to be.  A headwind of that magnitude is debilitating at the best of times, but when you don’t have the luxury of jumping down into the ‘Granny gear’ ‘cos no-one’s looking, it becomes a trial of mind over matter.  You have to will your legs to keep turning and at the same time try and get past the frustration of feeling as if you’re getting no where.  The headwind is one thing, but when one of those 65km/h gusts comes at you from the side, you’d better be ready for it.  Try adding the streamlining effect (insert heavy sarcasm here) of a 30lb back pack and you’ve got yourself a sail on your shoulders, making it even more challenging to resist the power of the wind.  On the plus side, it was mainly dry.  Well, except for those rogue streams that had not dried up yet, and judging by the amount of snow still clinging on, it’ll be some time before we experience a truly dry ride.

Ride safe everyone.  Watch out for those pot holes.  They’ll get ya!

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I declare….

….riding season officially OPEN!  Yup, finally the day has come where I feel the wind in my face and the rattle of Montreal’s winter ravaged roads beneath my buttocks.  All hail!  Spring is finally here and I am out of the bloody basement!

The roads are dry, but it's still winter-esque all around

I spent the whole morning champing at the bit, going from one conference call to the next.  My goal was clear and simple: lunch time was ride time.  The first outdoor ride of the season, and given the beautiful sunshine that was streaming in through my little basement office window, it was going to be a good one.  I love those first few rides of the year.  They’re awesome for a number of reasons, but one element that always fascinates me is how it is still technically winter all around, yet the emerging sun has warmed everything up enough that the roads are dry and free of ice and the cool 2c temperatures don’t feel cold as long as you have the sun right on your face.

Paddywagon enjoying his first day out of the basement

I was not disappointed.  What a feeling!  I took the fixie out.  I mean come on, did you have to ask?  It’s been sitting in my office for the past three months taunting me each and every day.  There was no way this was not going to be the first ride of 2011.  I’ve been dreaming about riding that bloody bike.  It’s an easy transition in fact, from the road bike on the trainer to the fixie outside.  I say that because the one thing you have to remember about the fixed gear is that you keep pedalling.  Don’t “relax” and stop moving your legs because you’ll get a rude kick as the pedals continue their forward drive due to momentum and you could end up on the ground before you know what hit you.  On the indoor trainer I find that I never coast, partly due to the fact that I do a lot of hills and also because I typically set up a race against my previous best time and so it is not in my best interests to slow down and coast at any point on the course.  And so it was that I found myself happily blasting along the Lakeshore during lunch, soaking in the cracked road and doing my best to avoid the salty puddles.

I’ll tell you one thing, it sure feels like you go fast after a quarter pedalling like a demon and getting nowhere.  Long live riding outdoors.  To those in warm temperate climes who cannot relate to tis feeling of euphoria, I say that you are actually missing out on something truly magical.  It’s only when you have something taken away from you for a spell that you can truly appreciate it.  That’s true for pretty much anything.

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