Monthly Archives: September 2011

Official RWC 2011

It would be very remiss of me not to have some mention of the ongoing Rugby World Cup currently being played in New Zealand.  I love rugby.  Always have, although now it is purely as a spectator and not a participant.

In school I played rugby from the age of seven up to about fifteen, when sadly I realized that I could get away without having to participate in sports at school anymore, and so I made an unfortunate decision that many teenagers make: I quit.  I have since regretted that decision, but nothing to do about it now.  That was then and I was, like so many of us, young and stupid.

Another try for England

Anyway, watching the game has always remained with me, although only on the World Cup level (much like football).  I was watching the game live in 2003 when England raised the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft after Johnny Wilkinson’s magical drop goal only seconds before the end of overtime.  What an awesome moment in the sport that was.  The following cup they battled back as the defenders of the crown from a poor performance in the pool games to make it once more to the finals, but this time they were beaten by a better team.

Try number 6 against Georgia

Now we find ourselves in 2011 and so far England’s performance is, as per this amateur, on track.  They should go through the pool round without suffering, and then it’ll be “go for it” time in the knock out rounds.  The next pool game is on September 24 against Romania.  I am not going to jinx it by making any bold proclammations, but I am hoping their form continues.

For those of you keeping tabs on team Canada, you will surely recognize this man, whose beard is becoming more famous than the tournament itself.  Go team Canada and Adam Kleeberger!

Now THAT is a beard.

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Grippy

Now them’s some grippy tyres!  First ride out on the new tyres and I have to say I am very pleased.  They are seriously solid.  I am certain that I could ride right over shattered glass or a bed of nails and still keep going, such is the robustness of these Continental Contact 28C shoes.  It’s a good feeling to know that you’re not going to be getting a puncture (there we go, I’ve gone and jinxed it surely).

Some tyres them Continental Contacts.

Despite the sturdiness and confidence that the new tyres gave me, the ride to and from work was anything but normal and comforting.  Some days odd things happen, and some of those things are good, and some not so good.  I hate being honked at.  In fact, any kind of harassment from a car is both irritating and frankly unnecessary.  This is of course the cyclists point of view and therefore very one-sided.  I heard the horn, and the fact that it was 7.00 a.m. and there were not many cars around I immediately assumed that it was directed at me.  The fact, however, that I had just left the road and joined the bike path left me wondering whether perhaps I was being paranoid.  Perhaps I should calm down and realize that it’s not always about me.

But then there it was again, and this time it was accompanied by some shouting.  This time there was no doubt as to whom the shouting was directed at, because they were addressing me by name.  I didn’t stop to wonder how a complete stranger would actually know my name and use it against me, I just turned and got ready to give my best glare, the kind that even the most hardened veteran of war would shrivel under.  And there he was.  My friend John, driving on the Lakeshore, shouting my name out of the rolled down window of his car, his two children in the back waving at me on their way to school.  Bloody brilliant!

Andy's awesome shot of me riding to work.

My scowl quickly transformed into a smile and I waved back, all thoughts of animosity having evaporated as quickly as they built up.  I managed to keep up with them for a good few kilometres.  John had to obey all the stop signs, but being on the bike path I could continue freely, so it was only when he arrived at the turn off for the kid’s school that we parted ways.  Andy, his son, had been quite bust snapping a couple of pictures through the back window of me, and as you can see above, he captured the moment!

It's a crazy world out there and some people don't know when to calm down.

I didn’t have to wait all that long for the next drama to unfold.  Pedalling along, minding my own business as I always do, I heard some serious creaking coming up behind me.  We were crawling along with some traffic, stopping every 30 yards for s stop sign, and this bloke on a clunky looking hybrid with the driest chain I have ever had the misfortune to hear, decided that he was going to pull a Lemond and show me his metal.  I didn’t even have time to think “What a dork” to myself when he realized, too late, that the cars were all stopping in front, which was precisely why I was going to slowly, and after a lame last minute attempt to go round the left of the car he instead slammed right into it.  His rear wheel lifted off the ground as inertia took over, and he clumsily got one foot on the ground and narrowly avoided having his jewels removed by the seat as it came flying up.  The bloke driving the car jumped right out, a look of genuine concern on his face, and asked the by now adrenalin-filled idiot “Are you alright?“, to which the response was “Of course I am” as he mounted his trusty steed and pedalled away furiously.  Embarrassment and humiliation bring out the worst in us, and so I don’t hold it against the fellow, but a word of advice should he find himself reading this while nursing his ego: if the traffic is slowing down right in front of you, it is not the right time to speed up and show off.

That was about all the drama I could take for one trip.  The journey back did provide a little colour of its own though.  I was riding into a headwind.  That’s not the colour, that’s just to set the scene that I was going slowly, at least a little slower than usual, which is what allowed me, unfortunately, to see what I saw.

He didn’t look unusual from a distance.  Just a regular guy waiting for the bus, standing on the sidewalk.  As I approached I could see that he was a little shabby looking, but once again, I don’t hold that against anyone.  You don’t know what their story is and so you shouldn’t judge.  It was then, just as I was almost alongside the fellow, that I noticed his tackle hanging out for all the world to see.  Yup, there it was.  Just hanging there.  Judging from the puddle on the ground the gent had just finished urinating but had evidently decided that there was no rush to pack away the equipment.  Oh well.

On a brighter note, the UCI WordTour is in my neck of the woods.  Gilbert just pulled out a stunning victory on the streets of Québec City and I’ll be on Mont-Royal this Sunday to watch the 180 riders battle it out for 17 laps live!  You won’t want to miss this.

Ride safe.

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Conservative estimate

I lay awake last night trying to work out how many kilometres I had done on the fixie.  It had seemed strange to me that I’d worn out the rear tyre, right through to the thread, but now that I’ve taken a moment to sit back and work out some basic calculations, I actually think that I was due a hole or two.

As my mate Bruce said to me last night, “You got your monies worth with those tyres”.  I think he is right.  Here’s how the math goes.

  • Started commuting to work on the Paddywagon in the second week of March
  • A conservative average of two return trips to the campus each week.  (Some weeks it has been three, even four, some it has been one, and I had a one week break in Connecticut)
  • A quick count of the calendar tells me that 28 weeks have passed
  • That’s a total of 56 round trips.
  • Drumroll please……….2,800 km
Not bad.  In fact, I have to agree with Bruce that that rear tyre did me proud.  The distance is one thing, but there are a couple of additional factors that make it all the most interesting.  One being that the fixed gear just takes more out of the rear wheel.  It’s a more aggressive ride and then there’s the occasional sliding, or skidding, that can happen when performing any kind of emergency stop.  The second major factor is the 30lb back pack I ride with.  As it is slung on my back it is right over the rear wheel adding a lot of additional stress on the rubber.  Every bump bounces that thing about and has surely caused more severe wear than if I was riding without it.  There’s also the fact that it pulls a lot more of my own natural body weight onto the rear wheel, so the usual 60/40 weight division (rear/front) is not respected.
All that to say, I have accepted that I needed new tyres.  Ride safe.

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Thread bare

I hadn’t seen it before I left home this morning, so when I heard, for like the fifth time this year, the all too familiar HISSing sound signalling a puncture, I was livid.  Can I not get a break?  What did I run over this time?  There was no glass!  I am more vigilant than a bloodhound chasing a smokey Polish sausage.  I’m telling you the road was clear of sharp objects.  Just your usual grit and small stones.

Well, turns out that when you’ve exposed the inner thread of the tyre because there is no rubber left, you don’t actually need all that much to pop the inner tube.  As I got off the bike, only six kilometres shy of the office and swearing to myself quite excessively, I wondered how big a nail I was going to find to justify such a loud hiss.  Nothing.  I spun the wheel once and there was nothing sticking out.  What the..?  Oh wait, what’s that?

I have actually worn a hole through the tyre. Not bad.

It was a hole.  Well, more accurately it was a lack of rubber that caused the thread to be exposed and therefore the inner tube.  I didn’t need a nail to spell the end.  The small gritty, and evidently sharp, little stones that I roll over routinely had been enough.  All it takes is one to nestle in the threads and slowly weaken the tube with the regular friction of rolling and then all of a sudden POP! it can’t take it any longer.  My tyre had gone flat very fast and so it was that a decent size tear was visible.

Alright, time to get out the tools and change the tube.  Of course, I knew that replacing the tube was going to temporarily solve the problem, but with the whole in the tyre still being very present I was not convinced that I was going to get very far.  The tyre changing exercise proved to be an exercise in managing my anger as well.  The first tube went in, bunt when I had got the tyre back into the clinchers I noticed that the valve was not coming through as it should.  A little frustrated yanking and wiggling resulted in no improvement so I removed the tyre again.  I don’t know whether I tore the new tube when I put the tyre back on, or when I rather aggressively took it of again, but that was hardly important.  What was, was the fact that I now had a new tube with a hole in it, and staring at it in disbelief was not going to change that fact.

OK, nobody panic.  I have another tube.  I knew it would pay to have two in my back pack.  Worth the extra weight now, hey?  But be careful.  You’re not carrying three tubes, so you pop this one as well you really up up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Alright, I am on my way again, and I am doing my best to avoid every single pebbly looking object that I see on the path in front of me.  I am dodging here and there and frankly if anyone had been following me at that early time in the morning they would have cited me for riding under the influence.  I did, however, get to the office, something I put down to my skilful if not erratic bike handling skills.  Would I get back though?

I didn’t have to get the whole way back.  I wanted to, but I at least wanted to get within 8 km of home because it was there that I planned to stop at Rossi’s bike shop and pick up a couple of new tyres.  I can be stubborn sometimes and really try and bleed my monies worth out of a tyre, but I figure I already had one bald patch in the rear and it wasn’t going to get any smaller so I should bite the bullet and invest in a couple of new tyres.  In the garage at the office I squeezed the rear tyre and it felt a little soft, no doubt due to my lack of caring that morning and simply not putting in enough air.  I topped it up as best I could using the little hand held pump, and set off.

By the time I reached Rossi’s thirty minutes later I was elated.  I’d done it.  I’d cheated the inner tube gremlin and defied all the odds, and once again I put this down to my über bike handling skills.  The bloke at Rossi saw my tyre before I even said anything and suggested that I might like to get a new one.  With the fall fast approaching and the likelihood of more wet riding, I opted for a set of Continental Contact 700 x 28C with some pretty darn good treads in them.  I am not sure how many litres a second of water they can move out of the way on a rainy day, but they’ll certainly be a far safer fall/early winter riding tyre.  I was also dead chuffed at the price: only $40 each.  I am used to paying double that and more for just one road tyre.

I rode the rest of the way home with a rather stupid grin on my face, now almost looking for sharp objects to ride over, and with my two new tyres slung over my shoulder à la Tour de France circa 1930.

Two new Continentals adorn my shoulder. Ah! The smell of rubber.

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Storm damage

I am a little late in getting to this post, but I wanted to share a couple of pictures I took the other morning when I rolled around my neighbourhood on the Paddywagon to survey the damage left by Irene as she passed through.  I have to say, we got off very light indeed, and for that I am grateful.  We had plenty of rain, plenty of wind, and a large tree that came down on Andy’s street, but outside of that it was largely branches, twigs and general debris.  Certainly I did not hear of anyone getting hurt in our area, so thank goodness for that.

The calm after the storm. It was a glorious morning.

The tree that came down on Andy’s street was a freak accident that could have had dire consequences but fortunately did not.  It is nothing short of a miracle that nobody was driving down that part of the street at the very moment the rotten-to-the-core tree decided that it had had enough of bracing itself against the wind and came crashing down.  It brought with it a complete pilon as well as a couple of transformers and all the associated cables that usually provide power to the neighbouring homes.  All of that coming down and landing on anything other than the tarmac would have spelled disaster.  Andy and the boys witnessed the whole thing, and were entertained through the night.

Tree on the ground...most of it already removed but the wires are still hanging down uselessly.

Hydro Quebec, the City of Dorval and numerous other crews were on site well into the night to remedy the situation.  Each has their own specific role and don’t even suggest that they do something that is not in their precisely documented job description, but that’s all OK as long as the teams work well together.  By the time they knocked off, the Hydro Quebec team that is, power was not yet restored, but not wanted to have to pay out overtime they called it a night.  One of the crew had the nerve (or stupidity) to confess to Andy the next morning that had they just continued for a few more hours they would have had the power back already.  But such is the way of the large monopoly-like conglomerate.  Customer second.

Andy and the boys were out of power for over 24 hours.  As we live only a few streets away we enjoyed their company for dinner and then for breakfast the next morning before school.  Toast, peanut butter and chocolate flavoured cereal.  You can’t go wrong with that.

We had lost power on the Sunday afternoon for about five hours.  Not long enough to be a real pain, but short enough that we could enjoy the experience somewhat.  Emma and her friend Christina set the living room up with candles and I got a fire going.  We played Scrabble to rules that certainly are not described on the instruction sheet and at this point I am not even sure I remember who won.  Wait, it must have been me.

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