The Slow Spoke is a place where I put my thoughts to words and hopefully some will read them. Since I'm a major bike geek most entries will be bike related but, not always. I'm also guilty of thinking far too much so you never know what the topic will be. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Just A Short Entry Today

I had the day off today because of a scheduled 100+ km road ride that was planned by some friends of mine. There was actually a heap of folks coming out. It was lining up to be a stellar outing!

Unfortunately, when I got up, I discovered it had snowed. Needless to say, the road hit was out. Too bad: I was ready to deal with the cold.

So.........since I was still off for the day and I was off because I was supposed to ride; I rocked the Pugsley again today........solo.
It snowed.............. I had no choice! Hahaha

For the second year in a row, I was fortunate enough to make it out on the first snow of the year. It was a blast.
Nothing like being the only one around. Incredibly relaxing and I was able to clear my head and recharge. No better way to do that.

Thanks for reading folks.
I appreciate it.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Where Has The Time Gone??

Incredible how much time has passed since my last entry. I do apologize for that. I've been incredibly busy doing a laundry list of things ranging from, keeping the kids busy, to working on the house, to riding, to a bit of racing (and I stress "a bit" of racing) and I even got to working on an old motorcycle. It's been crazy!

I haven't forgotten about the blog and actually had typed up a few entries but never got around to finishing them enough to post. They were lengthy and, once I was able to return to them to finish, I had lost interest in the content upon re-read. I decided not to bore anyone else with what I had to say and just left them. Hahahaha

Anyway, things are picking up in my cycling world nowadays again and I'll have loads to talk about in the next bit so I figured I'd best kick the blog up again.

For now, I'll just drop a quick one. I headed out on a solo hit today and snapped a pic while I was out.

You'll notice, during said blog hiatus, I've acquired some Large Marge Lites for the Pugs. I love the damn things. Just as stiff as the previous Marge rims I had but 30 times more rad!

Hey. There's nothing wrong with buying stuff strictly for the sake of looks, is there? Because that's exactly what I did! Hahahaha Sure, you can argue that there is some weight savings to be had but, let's be serious here: this is a Pugs. It's no featherweight no matter how you cut it. The bit of weight saved through the cutouts in the rims is a drop in a bucket.

I won't lie to you: it was a decision based strictly on "what I wanted". I don't typically pull that kind of thing but, hey, the opportunity was there and I went for it.

And I'm glad I did.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sweet Rides: Entry #12

Well, I've been sitting on this one for some time now but have been too busy (read lazy) to post about it. A shame really. I most certainly hadn't forgotten about it though. I didn't really feel an "urgency" until I got talking to a buddy about how I would KILL to have someone develop a 5 or 6 speed drivetrain. And by, say, 5 speed, I mean 5 speed too. Not 5 speed with multiple rings on the front making that “5 speed” actually a 10 or 15 speed. You know?

I have been saying that for years and I am not the only one in this world that isn’t satisfied with the state of drivetrain tech and/or trends. Many of us are not happy with single speed but don’t feel the need to overkill something with a million gears either.

Cyclist (mostly mountain bikers, dirt jumpers and hipsters it would seem) unhappy with something will very often take matters into their own hands. We’ll make stuff happen for ourselves, share our findings with other looking to do the same when no one else provides us with the goods: we’ll make stuff work. We’ll make ourselves happy when we want something and it is for this very reason I bring you this beautiful Kermit green bike.

At first glance, some of you may be rolling your eyes thinking, "He's just putting this up because it's got nice parts on it and it's a Niner. He too owns a Niner shouldn’t count."

Well, if you are thinking that way, I can assure you, that is not why I'm posting this bike in this "Sweet Rides: Entry#12”.
Yes, I agree, at first glance this bike is pretty, but, it's what is seen once one looks closer that caught my attention and stoked my goat. Once I learned more, I knew I had found another worthy steed. Kudos to the owner for this stellar rig.

The owner not only assembled this bike with lovely bits like red Marta SL’s, matching headset, bottle cage bolts, seat post clamp etc. but decided to smartly pack a small, modified, 6 cog cassette onto his single speed hub. An absolute masterpiece!! And it works flawlessly too!

Do you see what we can do when we put our minds to it??
He achieved this 1X6 sweetness through the use of a SRAM PG-970 11-23T DH cassette mated to a Hope Pro II SS rear hub. Shifting was setup using an Ultegra short cage road derailleur, Dura-Ace bar-con shifter and Paul Thumbie for mounting purposes.
The parts are all quite different in their own right but collectively perform their newer roles perfectly. Perhaps not “as designed” by the manufacturer but, like I said earlier, if we’re not happy, we’ll MAKE ourselves happy and MAKE it work. In this case, the only real modification (if you want to call it that) was a longer derailleur limit screw. Everything else fit without issue. I have read others sometimes need to grind down the rear of the cassette a bit but not in this case. This.........a perfect example and exactly the type of thing that gets me excited. It’s exactly the type of thing I wanted to focus on too when it came to my “Sweet Rides” entries: rides that aren’t off-the-shelf.
This one’s extra special. It’s stuff like this that the big boys pay attention to as well. This sort of “home-engineering” is usually adopted by them years later when they claim “they” came up with it. I look forward to the day when we can specify the number of gears we want. Or, at the very least, have far more option than we do today.

If for some reason that doesn’t happen, it’s nice to see that there are folks out there who have similar views/ideas as I do and have experimented and worked an issue enough to give anyone of us a head start.

Or, like in this case, the full-blown answers!
Thank you!!

Nice fuckin' job on this one.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Quick Entry........a Pugsley Update.

Well, winter's over but the Pugsley's still rolling. I recent'y slapped on the Alfine 8 and some moustache bars.
It changed the bike in a BIG way (obviously) and it's even more of a treat to ride now than it was before. Despite being the time of year to be out hidden in the woods on singletrack, I can't stop riding this thing around on regular non-technical gravel outings. This bike is simply a riot to be on. I love it.
One word sums up today's most recent adventure............
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Paris to Ancaster 2012

A race update - short and not-so-sweet.

In a nutshell, exactly what I was worried was going to happen, DID happen.

In the week leading up to the event I ended up pretty sick and was forced to stay 100% clear of the bike. I obviously gave up on the idea of beating my best time (which is my goal each and every year) but still, at the very least, I hoped to not create a new personal worst time. new personal worst time is now 2:53. A full 11 minutes slower than my previous worst and over 35 minutes slower than my best!

I was actually doing not too badly considering the sickness thing but then blew a chain and lost 7 minutes there. I then overcooked myself trying to make up for lost time (hahahaha - so stupid of me). I absolutely came apart for the last 5k. I was so finished that I started laughing while I nearly crawled up the final climb of the day.

LOL I was done! I had nothing left.

No excuses though, even if I didn't have the chain issue, it still would have been my slowest day.

I still had fun. That's what matters.


Is it bird shit? Nope. Is it bug guts? Nope. Is it a milkshake that someone threw at my windshield? Nope. It's Ancaster Cycle's brochure that pasted itself like wallpaper to my windscreen right in my line of sight. I couldn't even scrape it off with my ice scraper.

Thanks for that.......

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Little Escape.

I stopped by a place I hadn't ridden in a very long time and certainly now feel that I should visit more often. I was the only one in the entire area except for one walker and their dog. It was a thing of beauty!

I guess there was at least one beaver around as well but........

Not even the Navi knew where it was.....

Another thing of beauty was that I witnessed my first Bald Eagle in this particular area. They had disappeared long ago but have finally recovered enough and have made their way back. It was very cool to see that. Conservation and protection really does work.

Anyway. Took the Pugs out and mashed that single cog at a nice steady pace. It was peaceful.

Filmed a little to help you visualize.

Cheers and thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

My Cold Wet Foot (written way back in 2008)

A quick mental scan of my riding-buddy-list knocked it down to less than 4 candidates. The filter on this particular occasion was rather fine. The first condition, which sliced 90% of the list, was the fact that I had to be on the road headed to my favorite trail by 6:30am and, the second, which took care of the rest of the list, was the speed at which I wanted to do the trail. My plan was to do two fast loops in time to make it back for a family thing (dad’s 65th) starting at around 2pm. Being a Saturday morning, most of said friends would certainly be in no condition to ride that early in the day let alone at almost race pace. It didn’t take long (only 4 phone calls) before my short list was exhausted and my ride plans were changed to a solo outing. Extra provisions would now need to be packed but, it didn’t bother me. A disappointment, no doubt, not to have some friends there to heckle or to be heckled by, but, I knew I could now go at my own pace and not feel pressured about either being held up or holding them up. I don’t normally like to rush my rides but in this instance there was no alternative. It had to be done this way or I’d have to settle for spending my day doing yard work or cleaning the house or something: not today!

I arrive at the trailhead at 7:40am and get out stretching the highway from my legs. I’m surprised to see a couple of hikers coming out of the woods (they must have been hiking in the dark if they did the entire loop) as I let out a big yawn and try to rub the red from my eyes. As soon as my mouth closes I excuse me rudeness and say good morning. My fresh bold cup of coffee and the 1 hour drive did nothing for me as I felt as though I had just rolled out of bed and stood up. It’s usually a bad sign when you feel like this before a ride.

I make my way to the back of the car and quickly realize that, despite checking over and over like someone with an obsessive-compulsive disorder what I had packed the night before, I had forgotten my towel that I use for changing. My changing tactics now had to be quickly refigured. A swift run to the back of the car in the cold morning air while the coast was clear gave me just enough time to change from my old torn blue jeans and black CBGB’s ‘T’ into my tights and riding shirt. As I wrap that up, I hear a “good morning”……”giggle giggle giggle” from behind. It scares the hell out of me. I follow the sound of the giggling and see two twenty-something girls come around the corner who had also, presumably, been hiking the trail in the dark. I acknowledge them and I’m convinced they were completely aware of the look of concern on my face.

What were they giggling at? I felt an incredible urge to yell out “The air is really cold this morning!!” like George Costanza did in the episode where he was seen after getting out of the pool. You know the one.

Unfortunately for me, the cold air wouldn’t change much at all if I’m to be totally honest ;-/

Anyway, I shake my head with embarrassment (or should I spell it em-bare-ass-ment) being fairly certain I had just given them a show. As I continue to change I watch them as they walk down the road to see if they are with the other group of hikers that had passed not long before. At this point I’m putting my shoes on standing on one leg as I do so. Just as they reach the vehicles parked a little ways down amongst the other group, the Velcro from my right shoe grips my sock as I try to put my foot in. I loose my balance and try to grab the corner of the car to catch myself and completely miss. This then forces me to put my foot down: something I was trying to avoid at all costs. The reason is simple. Looking out over the nicely trimmed lawn of the parking area, you could see the sun shining through billions of droplets each clinging to its respective blade of grass. They looked like diamonds spread over a nice green blanket of felt. It goes without saying then that, despite being picturesque, my sock wouldn’t go well in the middle of it especially on a morning as cold as this.

The Velcro grips my sock and my sock holds on to the Velcro and it’s two against one - no fair! My shoe is ripped from my hands and I almost roll my ankle as I half step on it’s side when it hits the ground. My foot is instantly soaked and my socked foot leaves a perfect size 9.5 print in the pristine piece of water art. I curse as now I have to ride the loop with a cold wet foot. The chuckles start up again in the distance. I look up. The entire group had just witnessed that little scene as well. The man of the group (I assume the dad) yells over, “Off to a good start!” and to this I have no response. I just laugh, nod and give him the thumbs up as I bend down to pick up my shoe. He’s right. What can I say? So far it isn’t good and I haven’t even hit the trail yet!

Oh we go.

I’m finally changed. With tights extending beyond my baggies, my trusted old black jacket keeping my upper half warm and all the extra provisions packed in my Camelbak I’m looking more like a bike courier who took a wrong turn than a guy out for a few hours on the trails. I head off at speed. It hasn’t rained but the trail is just soft enough to allow the knobbies to sink into its upper layer and this robs a lot of the energy I’m trying to put down. It’s not long before I feel that my legs had not yet fully recovered from the 80-something km road ride I had done the day before in the wind. My thighs begin to burn after only a few km’s so I quickly decide to slow up a little.

The trail starts out a little mellow but allows for some very nice, fast, twisty acrobatics between the trees and over some small drops along the way. The air is cool but it’s refreshing and smells of springtime. It’s a beautiful moment. The silence of the forest is broken by the sound of my starving lungs as I climb and my buzzing freewheel when I descend. It’s the first “real” test ride for my new bike and so far I seem to have dialed the settings in perfectly for the conditions. With each revolution of my cranks I’m propelled deeper in to the forest and deeper into bliss. I’m so happy that my rough start is turning out so well but still can’t help but feel how cold my foot is.

After a time I enter the pine area. The area smells especially strong this morning as I assume that the brisk winds from the past few days probably cause a lot of needles to fall. At this moment the air is calm and the smell hovers, still, it drifts nowhere as the source holds it in place. The pines are densely packed in this area and are surrounded by low-lying vegetation unable to take any real root. The large pines starve out much of the sunlight and the ground is rich in its acidic sap. The trail snakes though it and stands out well against the green surroundings.

Instead of tall buildings surrounding this “courier” I’ve got trees scraping the skies above! Sweet!

The reason I like this trail so much is that it takes you through many different sections in a relatively short mount of time. Each section has its own uniqueness. They’re distinctly different. One section may be flat but lightning fast while the next is technical and slow-going. One may be higher up densely covered in trees and the next low lying covered only in grass such is the pic below.

I descend a rocky part of the trail and through some 4 foot tall ferns before ending up in a low lying grass area which is where the river’s bank spills over during the winter and early spring months. Only the hardiest of trees can survive here amongst the naturally occurring grasses as the rushing water will either sweep them away or the over-saturated soil will drown them to death. It’s another quick and simple section of trail that sees most everyone hammering the big ring and zipping along the river’s edge before darting back into the woods for more singletrack.

On this day I stop for a break and enjoy the sights and sounds. The grass gives away the invisible wind’s location. The blades teeter over slightly as the wind tumbles across it. The lush green turning grayish momentarily as it does so. The grass does a perfect wave across the field and I feel like I’m in the center of a stadium. The fans are showing their appreciation. Collectively the blades sound like hissing or static on a TV screen when they rub together. Yet again, I’m thankful for not pulling the plug on this ride. My foot is still cold and wet.

I head back into the cover of leaves and straight for a section I like to call “the brain”. This part of the trail is so heavily covered with roots you’re lucky if rubber actually makes contact with dirt. It’s off camber, very uneven and there are several large rocks that nature has strategically placed for some added excitement.

Of course the pictures never do any of this stuff justice (as you all know) but trust me, when this is wet, it can be tough to stay upright.

I’ve hit this section enough to know the secrets to clearing it but I’m a little nervous on my new steed. I question if it’s capable of carrying me over if I use the same devices I used on my old rides. I hit the opening section pointing slightly upward and across with heavy speed and the bike heads right where I want it to before it slow with the incline. I twist and maneuver slowly but steadily over the section applying nice gentle pedal strokes when the need arises all while trying to keep my weight even above both wheels. One pedal with too much force and you’re down before you know what is happening. The bike bumps along progressively while I swing my weight from side to side and front to back before finally clearing the section without slipping too badly even once. I’m stoked and really starting to fall in love with this new rig. It’s a beauty to ride so far.

Shortly after exiting one technical section I’m faced with another that requires concentration and some finesse. I’m heading up a short climb. A section that I feel will be the last true test. My ride passes with flying colors.

I’m not sure of the grade on this climb but it’s very steep. Loose, perfectly round stones cover the path and it looks like a giant bag of golf and base balls have been dumped down the hillside. Again, nice gentle pedal strokes are needed to clean this short climb and the classic circular pedal stroke is the only effective means of getting over it without dabbing. It’s tricky but if you can keep certain urges in check, it's doable.

Smooth consistent pedaling action will see you up without incident but uneven pressure simply spins the wheel below you and all momentum is instantly lost. There is no recovering from it when on the climb. I'm uncertain at the climbing prowess of my latest quiver addition but head straight in for the fight. I lower my shoulders, slide forward on the saddle and get to work. The rear end stays where it needs to and I have no issues with grip. I muscle through growing more and more confident on the bike the further I go. My legs burn as I crest the top and my lungs are filling to capacity but calling for more. I slowly pedal along to allow my systems to level off again as I was definitely in the red.

I wrestle the trail for 20minutes or so after it flattens out again without incident. That is of course until I reach a gradual descent that I like to take at speed. I like to come into the section fast and freewheel down the short grade which twists its way to the river’s edge again before coming back up and almost running over itself. Littering the trail are basketball size rocks and some hefty exposed roots but nothing too crazy if your line is right.

As the section approaches I stop pedaling. I’m content with the speed I’m carrying. Just before the trail begins to dip downward I feel, and hear, something strange that isn’t going away. A quick glance to my left reveals the source.

Startled, I realize that there is a bird attacking me. Not a big bird either (please no jokes about Sesame Street) but a tiny thing about the height of a coffee mug. All the same, it takes me by surprise as it cries out loudly for its size, flaps its wings in my face and I can hear it repeatedly pecking at my helmet whenever it gets around behind me. The distraction sees me go off the trail after missing a turn and suddenly I’m bush whacking – not good. Judging by the plant life that is toppled over ahead of me it’s clear that I’m not the first to have had a run in with this little angry mother. She’s nesting and, to her, I’m the bad guy. She’s gone now, happy to have sent me on my way and I’m astonished by her bravery. I mean would you go after a 7-story building if it were barreling toward you? I think not.

Immediately after regaining my composure and getting back on the trail I remember that it turns back up and in right towards her. The one down side to the popularity of this trail at this point is the fact that she has certainly learned that the threat will be back momentarily. She’ll be waiting for me.

As I head back up I slow towards the top. I know I’m getting close to the little mad momma. I scan the trees and spot her I think right when she spots me. She lowers her head and begins walking slowly sideways along the branch to get a good line at me on the trail. I pedal back a little to get my right foot in the 2 o’clock position for maximum acceleration.

If this were a western movie, this would be the scene where there would be a close up of my dirty sweaty face as my eyes start to squint; I stare down the bird. Then there would be the close up of the bird slowly crouching and squinting as she stares me down. Next the camera would be focused on my hands that are tightening around my grips and her maybe slowly rolling her wing feathers ready for me to make the move.

We stare each other down. Each of us is waiting for the other to make a move. I leave it to her and by now she has had enough. She starts to call out her warning and I know the sh!t’s going down. As though in slow motion I watch her lean forward and drop from her perch a full 15 or so feet before spreading her wings. She’s got some serious speed going. I’m barely rolling despite full power and she’s already on me. I curse and swat at her kinda laughing at the same time and she stays with me for a good 2 minutes (that’s a long time to be attacked). That was the first time (on this trail) that I’d been attacked by a bird and I just hoped that she didn’t pick that same spot next year. Man she was tough but damn that was funny. The only thing that was good about that whole scene was that I’d forgotten about my wet foot!

Once she disappears I relax again taking in the sights and sounds. My knobbies hum as my speed is up again and the trail is dryer here. I hit climbs and downhills without a soul around and feel refreshed in this air and thankful for my freedom. I know it is only a few more km’s before I hit the car parking area but the good news is, I’ve made good time even after taking photos along the way. The plans won’t change.

Me and my wet foot are heading straight back in for some more wrestling and I know that bird’s gonna be mad as hell.

Bring it on.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sweet Rides: Entry #11

I'm not sure there has ever been a time where I've felt such a need to hop on a bike and blast off as I did the first time I spotted this pic. The pic itself is really cool and the talent of the photographer could in itself be the topic of a blog entry but, for this entry, it's the content, the ride, that is blowing my mind.

I'm not going to say much in this case because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and with a pic this cool, it's worth at least twice that in my opinion.

The bike, a Phil Wood single speed all decked out and waiting on what is becoming more and more my favourite surface to get lost on. God damn......

I want it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

This is SO worth sharing. 90% rider 10% bike?

There are a load of people who can learn from this.

Here is proof positive that it IS "90% rider 10% bike".

Thanks to my buddy Tom Meraw for pointing me to this video and to the rider for making it happen. Mad skills for sure.....

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I've Been Busy As Usual.

I'll enter something with more substance very soon. Probably another "Sweet Rides" entry perhaps.

Anyway, there has been lots going on in life but I'm still finding time to get out when I can. Here's a short clip from last week. A nice easy cruise on the Pugs along the beach. It was a STELLAR day.

The bike is proving to be a ton of fun indeed. Post ride pic from a different day.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Cracker.

Today’s entry all started on Christmas Eve while having dinner with my family. We all sat around talking, joking and pigging out to no end as most of us do during the holidays. Somewhere during that time, we started popping Christmas crackers.

Ohhhhhhh...............the Christmas cracker.

The Christmas crackers were nothing really and I’d lost pretty well all of them in competition (to my daughter) except for one on this night. It was what popped out of that one cracker that had me thinking this time, and, my prize? A hippopotamus bottle opener.

Again you’re probably thinking “Now what the hell does a hippopotamus bottle opener have to do with cycling??”. Well, absolutely nothing but the thoughts it stirred up after the fact have plenty.

Here’s what it started. About a week earlier I purchased a new Thule hitch mounted bike rack to transport my Pugsley around as it didn’t fit in my trays up on the roof. I don’t want it up there anyway. Also, I’d wanted a hitch mount for some time and this was a perfect excuse to go out and get one. Anyway, I brought the rig home and began the assembly using the tool provided in the box. Typically, I don’t do this as tools provided by the manufacturer are usually junk. They’re flimsy, don’t fit right and end up stripping everything all to hell: think, IKEA. Despite this, I decided to use it regardless: of course, this was mostly due to laziness on my part. I didn’t want to go all the way to my basement to get my own tools.

When I was done with the 10 minute rack assembly, I paused a moment and looked at the tool I’d been using. It actually wasn’t bad! I was pretty impressed. It fit very well and was robust enough that it didn’t flex or get all out of shape. I thought to myself that it would be very handy to keep in the back of the truck for whenever it was needed for the rack. As a bonus, I noted that the engineers at Thule took the time to add a bottle opener to the tool as well! Why not? There’s room there! Good job!

See how I’m starting to tie this together now?

Hell, Thule aren’t even the only rack manufacturers thinking beer either. Here’s Yakima’s idea.

Once I remembered that, the flood gates opened.

The Tuggnut on my Pugs.....................................bottle opener

Pretty much every multi tool...................................openers.

Like the Park MTB-3

or the Mako by PocketToolX

Some bikes come standard with openers too.

For example:

The Santa Cruz Heckler’s rear drops.

Ibis makes an opener dropout for some of their bikes as well.

If not, no problem; we improvise and use what we can. Like a pedal for example, it's perfect.

Or how about this?

And if all of this fails, we're still doing alright. We add stuff to make it happen.

How about the Road Popper option? Now that’s handy!

A stem cap perhaps?

No? How about a spacer? The Wise Cracker.....

A quick release might be good. Here's one by Sunlight.

Even bike tool specific companies like Park and Pedros get in on the act and provide openers. Hell, if you don’t want to give them any more cash than you already have given them, how about this? This is probably one of the coolest openers I’ve ever seen.

See? There is a use for all that spare shit in your basement.

I’m not saying anything is wrong with all this, not at all! I just thought it was funny how obsessed we are about getting into that bottle. A real love affair.

For recovery? Suuuure. OK.

I’m thinking it’s more for the good times and, for some, the real connoisseurs, it for the pure enjoyment. To savor that post ride beer, reflect and unwind.

I'm not saying you need booze to have fun but, hell, it often makes a good time even better doesn’t it? Nothing ruins a good time more than a forgotten bottle opener but for us, as cyclists, we’ve got plenty around. Just have a look.

Of course this is all for nothing if you bring cans, have twist tops or, like me, drink mostly whiskey if you're going to drink anything :-)

but for that, everyone knows.............

Thanks for reading.