Category Archives: Misc.

charliebucketcycles.com is where it’s at

The time has come, the walrus said…..in this case the walrus has indicated that it makes sense to focus my energy on the team blog, Charlie Bucket Cycles.  You can click on our logo above to get to the sight and I hope that if you’ve subscribed to ridefixies you will take the time to follow us at Charlie Bucket.

Why would you want to?  Well, there are plenty of reasons, but surely the most exciting one, is that not only are you dazzled by my writing genius there, but you will also be able to share in the lives of two of my closest friends, Paul and Andy.  We al love to ride our bikes, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of bike it is.  The important thing is that you’re getting out there and riding.

So don’t be shy. Come over to www.charliebucketcycles.com and follow us (the link is in the top left column).  It’s completely free and we won’t pester you with offers and advertising.  You only need to read what’s interesting to you, and frankly the only reason you would want to follow us is if you’re into riding bikes.

ridefixies will remain here for a while but all new content is going to be published at Charlie Bucket.  Thank you for following me up ’til now, and I sincerely hope you’ll come over to Charlie Bucket with me.

James.

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The Big Smoke

Been quiet for a few days as I have been travelling on business.  Oh, it was not all that exciting, let me tell you.  A quick two day trip to Toronto for some back to back meetings.  That being said, it was very productive and I am feeling exceptionally buoyed by the opportunities at work currently.  I have just recently accepted a new role within the organization and this is one of the huge benefits of working for such a large company.  You can continually test yourself by taking on new challenges with the added benefit of not having to start fresh in a new company as the man at the bottom of the totem pole.

The main purpose of this trip, therefore, was to meet my new team, and that went very well indeed.  It also presented me with a chance to re-connect with some of colleagues with whom I interact weekly, and sometimes even daily, on the phone and yet so rarely have the pleasure of meeting with them face to face.  I am lucky that I work with a very good bunch of people.  They make it fun to work, and that is so important.

I like Toronto, but sadly this time around I did not get a chance to go downtown and experience the city.  I spent the entire 48 hours in Mississauga, sometimes known as ‘Misery-saga’ for reasons which become evident as soon as you get there.  It is huge, flat and totally commercial.  One large sprawling business complex after the other.  A block here is the equivalent of perhaps ten normal city blocks.  You simply cannot get around without a car.  Don’t even think about it.  As for the traffic, well it can take north of three cycles for you to get through a light.  Madness.

It doesn’t matter how long or how short I have been away from home, that feeling of coming home is awesome.  Flying in over the city and looking down at a bunch of easily recognizable landmarks such as the Olympic Stadium, I felt a surge of comfort coming over me.  I feel so sorry for those that don’t have a good home to go home too.  I cannot imagine anything more depressing.  Touching down brings you one stop closer to holding your loved ones in your arms again and not even a thoroughly pissed off taxi driver could dampen my spirit.  Why was he pissed off?  Simple: I was not the fare he had been waiting in line for all afternoon.  I was a minimum fare customer just going about five kilometres away.  I was a waste of time.  He shouted at the taxi control fella something in a language that I could not place nor could I understand, but judging by the tone, he was clearly expressing some displeasure.  When I asked him if there was a problem, he remained silent.

Excellent.  No problem then.

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Cinquecento

The Fiat 500.  The iconic Italian car from the ’60s has received, like the Mini Cooper and the VW Beetle before it, an update that maintains and honours the car it used to be whilst making it even better.  I am now the very proud owner of my very own cinquecento, but before I get into how much I love it, let me set some context to this entry.

I am obviously not writing about bikes for once, but I could not let this big occasion go by without giving it some airtime.  The last time I bought a new car for me was back in 2002, and the car was a Mazda Protége 5.  Until just yesterday, this was the car I still drove.  I like to think I got my money’s worth with it, but lately it had reached the stage where a minor repair was costing north of $500 a shot, and these repairs, or ‘maintenance’ as some like to call them, were becoming more frequent and more serious in nature.  The bottom line is that a few weeks ago we had to take the decision to continue sinking more and more money into a car that would realistically only keep going for another year at the most, or cut our losses and move onto something new.

I resisted the idea of a new car for some time.  I did not want to spend the money and I thought of numerous excuses why we should not buy a new car.  But then all of a sudden the idea becomes appealing and from that moment you kind of know you’re going to end up buying sooner or later.  The reasons you had used to justify keeping the old car all of a sudden turned around in your head and you are now using them to justify buying a new set of wheels.  So, having made the decision to take the plunge, the next decision was what car to buy?

I had, for a couple of months or so, had a mad craving for a Jeep Wrangler.  I am not sure where this came from other than the fact that I have always like WWII films and of course they feature the original Jeeps on which the Wrangler is based.  I thought it would be kind of cool to have a Jeep and ride around with the doors off and the roof down and even the windshield folded down onto the hood.  I refused to listen to the comments from friends and family warning of the ludicrously thirsty engine as well as the completely impracticle aspest of parallel parking such a monster anywhere downtown.  I just had it in my head that I wanted one.  Well thank goodness for test drives.

I had not been behind the wheel of one for more than 500 metres when I realized that I did not want a Jeep afterall.  They’re big, heavy, clunky and not terribly exciting to drive.  Coupled with the aforementioned drain on the fuel tank and by extension one’s wallet, I only drove the 2011 tank around the block and announced to the salesman, “So, what else have you got?”

Fiat 500 in Mocha Latté

This is where the Fiat 500 comes in.  Not because the sales rep recommended it.  He would have been taking quite a leap to suggest a Fiat 500 to someone who had just test driven a Jeep.  No, it came from Marie.  As soon as she saw the little red one on the showroom floor as we walked in earlier that afternoon she had remarked to me “That’s the car you should get.  It’s awesome!”  I wasn’t convinced at first.

It’s not that I didn’t love the car.  I really did.  I love the retro throwback to the 60s and the smooth European styling.  It’s look has changed very little from the original, but at the same time it has definitely arrived in the year 2011.  I really liked it.  But I acted cool at first and pretended like I wasn’t that interested.  Marie was surprised and a little disappointed.  Of course, she knows me really well, and I mean really well, and she knew something was up.

What don’t you like about it?” she asks me.

Nothing.  I like it.  Just not sure that’s the car I want”  I say, probably not sounding terribly convincing.

I don’t get it.  I thought you’d love this car.  It’s fun, very cool looking and there aren’t many of them adding to a semi-exclusive appeal….”  I am paraphrasing of course, but that was the gist of it.

Time to be honest.  “I do love it.  It’s just, well, isn’t it a bit of a chick car?

Now I don’t really know why I thought this.  A car is a car is a car.  Marie gave me the kind of look that summed up just that and said “There’s no such thing as a chick car!  If you like it, buy it.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine.  But if you don’t buy it because you think it’s a chick car, that’s just dumb!

Once again I am not too old to learn something new and this was another invaluable lesson.  I don’t let what others think affect as much as they did when I was younger, but I suppose it’s hard to let go of all one’s hangups.  This was one I was well and truly ready to let go of thanks to Marie.  I like the car.  No I love the car, and this was the car I was going to get.  And just let one of you call me a chick for buying one!  I dare you!

So I bought it.

The stylish interior of the Fiat 500.

I am now the very happy owner of the 2012 Fiat 500.  Sporty, yet classic.  Luxurious yet still fun and peppy and without any of the stuffiness that accompanies larger luxury cars.  The interior has managed to maintain a lot of the extreme simplicity that was a key part of the character of the original Fiat 500.  The painted dash, the same colour as the exterior, screams 1967 (or thereabouts) but the upgrades include a steering wheel that features all the controls you could possibly need to ensure you never have to remove your hands from the wheel, and the chromed gear shift is an awesome though not over-the-top touch that makes the amateur driving enthusiast (read me) feel like their behind the wheel of something distinctly sporty.

As far as the driving experience itself goes, it is brilliant.  The car is small and very responsive.  Put it into “Sport” mode and you stiffen the suspension which provides a noticeable difference in the feel of the ride.  It’s a small engine, but then the car weighs no more than a large smoked meat sandwich, so pulling through the gears you feel something like real acceleration.  The dash is very simple and initially looks as if it has no bells and whistles, but hidden in there is all the information you could possibly want from your car, including range in the tank, average speed and exterior temperature.  To top it off you have the Bluetooth connection which allows you to pair your iPhone (or any phone) so that as soon as you step into the car and turn it on your phone is active through the voice recognition system.  All this is controlled from the wheel, so once again you don’t have to take your hands off the steering wheel to place a call.  Unbelievable!

There are fancier cars out there, but this is the car I wanted.  Thank god I have a wife who knows me and knows how to get me to admit to myself when I am being a tool.  It’s not the first time she has helped me see reason, and I am fairly sure it won’t be the last.  I love this car so much that I drove to work today instead of taking the Paddywagon.  Yup, it was a beautiful sunny, dry day, perfect for riding.  But it was also perfect for cruising with the sunroof open.  Awesome!

This ain't no girl's car!

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What the?…..

Still in Ottawa and for most of the day locked up in this windowless meeting room deep in the bowels of the old Revenue Canada taxation building, now a Bell Canada office. Despite this, I did manage to escape into the sunlight briefly to scrounge up a cup of coffee, and it was on one of these little sojourns that I happened upon this:

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Words escape me. The car is a beauty. A wonderful example of how to update a classic and give it new life for a whole new generation. The same was done for the Mini Cooper and before that the VW Beetle. In fact I think the Ford Thunderbird also received the same treatment. All brilliant examples of how a classic design can be updated without taking away what made it a classic in the first place.

But wait a minute. What’s that I see? No! It cant possibly be a pair of……eyelashes? There’s really nothing I can say. I was tempted to hang around so I could meet the owner and ask her (I assume it’s a female, but you just never know) what she could possibly be thinking decorating her car with such paraphernalia. Well GDGTGIRL, you’re lucky I did not have time to waste, but know this: your little Fiat 500 has feelings and right now she’s awfully embarrassed.

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Our glorious capital

I have the pleasure of visiting our great nation’s capital today: Ottawa. A quick two hour blast down the 417, Ottawa is the complete opposite of what you would normally expect a capital city to be. It’s far from being the largest city in Canada, thus goes against my childhood theory that to be the capital city you had to be the biggest and the best. I’m not knocking Ottawa as a city, in fact I really enjoy visiting, but it is true that it is quite possibly the farthest thing from a sprawling metropolis as you can get. An it is this very fact that is a major part of its charm.

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As you can plainly see from the look on my face and the delightful scenery behind me, I did not get to enjoy any of Ottawa’s charms today. From the moment I got back from Ottawa airport with my colleague Paul, we were sequestered in a conference room hidden from the light of day by virtue of it being situated in the middle of the building. What is it with meeting rooms that have no access to natural light? Is it that the higher ups don’t want us distracted by, dare I say it, the view of a tree blowing in the wind or perhaps a squirrel nibbling on a nut? Nah, it’s not that. The reason is actually a good one: they place everyone’s regular desks by the windows as it has been proven that access to daylight stimulates productivity. It’s a shame, therefore, that the meeting room, which is used to gather groups of people for high productivity discussions, is usually placed in the darkest part of the building, the centre, because there is no other place available.

I’m here until Thursday, but I don’t think that my prospects are going to get much brighter. Back to back meetings will almost guarantee that I will be as pale as a sheet when I get back from lack of sun. I shall probably have a malnourished look about me from drinking far too much coffee and consuming too many Tim Hortons breakfast sandwiches. I’ll need one hell of a hardcore interval training session when I get back to feel normal again.

I tried doing Face Time with the family this evening from the hotel. I was on the iPhone and they were back in Montreal on the laptop. Things got off to a terrific start. I had managed to connect to the free wifi provided by the hotel and soon I was staring at the smiling faces of Marie, Em and Ollie. Only problem was I couldn’t hear a word they were saying. Their lips were moving and they seemed happy to see me. So why weren’t they telling me how awesome this Face Time thing was? Before I had a chance to figure it out the picture froze and the call dropped. “Wha’ happen’d?” I said to myself. Needless to say we switched to that ancient technology, the cell phone, to complete our conversation. Until tomorrow when I try again.

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