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.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Life...........It's Busy!

I keep telling myself that it will slow down and things will go back to the way they once were. Truth is, it won't. I have a hard time coming to grips with that. What I'm continuing to do though is trying and adapt. Trying to adjust and manipulate all I have to do in a day and cram in as much cycling as possible without sacrificing anything else.

It's bee getting better lately. Been doing a fair bit of fat biking.

Here's a manual-style wheelie for you. HAHA Good times....

Today's entry will just be a few random shots I've taken while out over the past couple of weeks. It's been fun. Just wish some of my buds would get on board with riding fat.......and in the cold.

Here's a pic I took just down the street from my house while riding the beach. Lake's starting to freeze up! Soon it'll be time to ride out there a ways. Looking forward to it.

A little further down the beach I stumbled upon........

Anyway, gotta get going here. Gotta get some shopping done so I can get back and maybe squeeze another ride in. That would be nice. We'll see.

Sorry for the obvious lack of effort in this post. Just dropping in to show that all is well and we're still rolling.

Really wanting to ride my Guru right now but, not freaking way. Too much salt down now.

I'll post about it eventually I suppose.


Here too is a quick/short little video I slapped together a few days ago. Didn't spend much time on it as I wanted to rack miles up instead.

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to comment so I know you're out there.
Steve A.

A Great Escape from Steve Arseneault on Vimeo.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fall Ride After a Crazy Schedule.

Just a quick entry today since I finally managed to get out and we took a few shots during our loop.

It's been a ridiculously long time since I was able to turn any cranks (aside from a few commutes). My work schedule was INTENSE as of late. I'd been working 13hr night shifts straight through since August 13th right up until mid October. There were a scant number of days off - maybe 4 or 5 in two months. It was insane but we got through it.

Any days off were quickly (and obviously) filled with chores to catch up on and hanging with my kids who were missing me dearly. I can assure you, that feeling was mutual.

Now that life and workload are back to normal, I have time again to make a few things happen. The other day, I called a buddy James and off we went for some fall riding. I hate fall but I enjoy riding in it.

A pre-ride shot taken by my buddy. I missed my bike. I was dying to roll.

Once we rode in, the colours were intense in some areas and the lighting was perfect. The sun popped in and out of the clouds and all was wet so this helped to really make the colours contrast and pop. Especially in the more dense areas.

There, when the sun hid, the blackened bark of the pines contrasted beautifully with the rust coloured trail and its green coloured edges. I didn't capture a good pic of that because every time I reached for the camera, the sun would pop out again! GRRRRR...... missed out on that.

I did capture this in the more leafy, less dense part of the trail though. Gives you a good idea of some of the glorious colour to be seen.

The ride was wet and quite slick since, below the layer of wet leaves was a rain-soaked, saturated trail just waiting to catch you out. We were rolling some pretty low pressures. I did go down and slide a fair distance through some sticky gumbo. This, after my front wheel washed out on one of a billion hidden wet roots. Serves me right though. I was getting complacent on a flowy downhill section. No harm done though. The bike and I both slid for a bit before coming to a stop half off the trail. As you know, always better to slide than to come to any abrupt stops.

Thick gumbo is quite good at dissipating energy!

Got up, mud-soaked on my right side and laughed a minute or two. The bike was fine too so all was good: great in fact.

I missed this stuff and I didn't even begin to know just how much until I got out there. I missed the trails, my bike, chatting with my buddy, the unique challenges of riding in the fall, the smells, sights and sounds - all of it.

God damn. That was good stuff.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Guru; A Fait Accompli.

Well, I did it again: another bike. 

Another bike I mulled over for quite some time: a bike, slow to come to light. I imagined a bike, matched and worked with different component combinations and different color combinations over and over in my mind. Countless builds were dreamt up over the last year or so and often, it’s what helped me fall asleep on many nights in that time. 

I imagined and planned how I could bring this to fruition. This second, pure, personal “dream bike”. Once again I thought about how would I make this happen? What would be the best way to build exactly what I wanted. What DID I want? What would I hang from the frame? How would everything tie together to satisfy my needs. More importantly, how would I do all this and still keep a reliable bike possible? I didn’t want a “show bike”. I wanted a workhorse but one that also looked good (at least to me). So many unknowns. So many options. The only thing that was certain was that it would collect many miles and that the frame would this time be titanium.

Yes, another alloy ride. One that would perhaps help satisfy my insatiable appetite for them. 

Those who know me or read fairly regularly will know that I have a ridiculous penchant for alloy builds. I’ve done every material under the sun and keep coming back to steel. I had yet to own a ti ride so now was the perfect time to delve into it. Why wait for a knee or hip replacement to experience the benefits of titanium? Why not have a road frame made of the stuff?

I turned 40 this year and so, at 39 looking forward, I felt the appropriate gift to myself would be a bike that, to me, is as beautiful to look as it is to ride. A bit selfish perhaps but..............cycling is my thing and I'd hit a rather large milestone. 40 sucks. It even SOUNDS shitty. How could I make it less so. I could have gone and bought a Corvette like many guys my age decide to do but, no way. After awhile, I knew what I wanted but, it took some serious time to plan out.

My visions and nightly reflections had eventually lead me to one place: a frame with classic geometry, classic tube shapes and a classic titanium finish. I’m not a retro grouch by any means but my desire for a bombproof bike guided me to stick to what I know works - and will work for years to come. 

I avoided press-fit BB’s and tapered steerer tubes and opted for a classic threaded BB shell and standard 1 1/8 headtube to house external headset cups. Nothing wrong with any of the features I chose not to add but for the sake of simplicity, known reliability, and the aesthetic ride I was going for (with a classic look) I went old-school. Sure, the bike wouldn’t be as light as it “could” be but, I’ll always give up a hand full of grams for something that will be a nice representation of my vision and meet my needs on the road. I had finally decided on a manufacturer; a step that actually turned out to be one of the hardest things to do. 

I went with Guru Cycles: a company based out of beautiful Quebec, Canada that has a strong race history, a strong support and backing of their product and a reputation that is out of this world! They offer fantastic carbon, titanium and steel frames ranging from full blown custom tubesets, geometries and finishes to standard frames and finishes...........and built in house. The fit and finish of all the bikes I’d seen from them have always impressed me so they were a consideration right from the get go.

Early on I reflected on the possibility of a full blown custom build and driving out to their facility for an all out fitting and assessment but, one day, while nerding out during a coffee, I began drawing up a rough sketch of numbers I was looking for. I didn’t get a pic of the final drawing as it became quite elaborate but drew a second one up later to absolutely ensure no changes to my plan would be required (again, not the final drawing but, you get the idea about how bad I can nerd out).

I jotted down numbers that were currently working for me on the road bike that I’d be retiring (my Bianchi L’Una). What I’d discovered was that, based on the geometry of Guru’s standard Praemio frame, I could easily mirror my current numbers. It was a win! I didn’t need to go custom thus freeing up some money for other details I’d need to get this beauty built precisely as envisioned. 

The Praemio was also offered in countless finishes and paint colors/combinations but, although tempted, I decided on a naked look. Remember my longing for a “classic” looker? 

To me, ti should be shown off. I love the look of the stuff: always have. I love welds that are perfectly symmetrical: completely uniform. The proverbial “stack of dimes” if you will. The meticulous work that one pays for essentially. A look that makes a titanium bike - a titanium bike. You just know it when you see it. Why cover those details and take away from the impressiveness that those welding hands laid down in Quebec? No way. For me, I love a well built bike whether I own it or not. The finer details of a build capture my attention and seeing as I was in charge of my bike’s destiny, in terms of its appearance, naked it would HAVE to be. It was final.

My friends James and John at Blackwell Cycle  (and on facebook Blackwell Cycle) were the obvious choice for me to help see this all through. Guru dealers themselves, friends, riding buddies and experienced with my “I’m-on-a-mission” ways I knew they’d survive another run with me building a bike.

I opted for the Praemio “Pure” with raw brushed tubes followed by the bead blasted logos and black fork. No decals for any logos and, aside from the fork, no paint. In a way I got lucky because for once, my vision lead me straight to the lower end of the price point for this particular frame therefore, again, freeing funds for the remainder of my build. It was working out great so far!

Despite my desire for as much ti as possible, I knew that at least a little color would be necessary to make this ride special to me. Not a large overpowering splash but a minuscule amount. Just enough to tie everything together. What color would that be? Once again, I got lucky, thanks to the sticker.

"A sticker? What the hell are you talking about?” is what you’re probably thinking.

Well, here, one will see a glimpse and be able to validate just how fixated and unwilling I can be to deviate or change course once I have an idea in my head. I know it’s been discussed amongst friends through which they (and I) laugh. Yes it’s true at times but, in my defense, I don’t build really high end bikes too often but when I do, I want it right. I want it my way and exactly my way.

So, where does the sticker come in? Well......

Guru frames just happen to come with a sticker expressing its Canadian origin and these stickers just happened to be largely red. Again, luck was on my side as I’d planed to reuse at least a few of the parts from my previous ride. Namely my Eurus wheelset, FSA K-Force calipers, seat post and K-Wing bars. All were consistently black, white and red. Even my ti bottle cages were going to be reused and they themselves have red accents. The red sticker just sealed the deal. Red was my decided target accent colour.

The first red accent piece purchase was a new Chris King headset with the Sotto Voce styled logo to steer me over a billion miles and pop some red into that area of the bike.

I also decided to order a red seat post clamp for something to do. Why not?

Some aspects needed nothing for me to admire as they were though straight from the factory. The rear dropouts are works of art as far as I am concerned. Good lord!

After a dozen or so years with Campagnolo, I decided on making a change to SRAM. Nothing against Campy. I absolutely loved everything about my Campy groups over the years and they ran flawlessly (still do as I still run it on my cross bike) I just felt that to make this new bike “new”, I needed change. I’d heard great things about the SRAM Red groupo and I’ve always been a fan of their stuff in the mountain bike world (have run SRAM X.O. for years). Besides, as an added bonus, the Red groupo is, you guessed it, black and red! Perfect! I was confident it would all work great and fit in nicely with my black and red motif. I also decided on the SRAM Red ceramic BB to finish it off. The BB came with nice red cups of course.

I made my list and ordered the remaining parts. The distributers/SRAM were a little weird in getting the parts to me initially and I became quite concerned about crankset colours.  A colour change was in the works at SRAM and a large backorder was in effect. Luckily however, everything eventually arrived as planned. 

While I waited for a final part (Shimano freehub body for the Eurus wheelset) I assembled the bike with parts that were being swapped from the now retired Bianchi.

Then off to the shop to measure 14 times and cut a perfectly good carbon steer tube once. This part always makes me nervous. I measure, check and re-check so many times. HAHAHA.

Once everything had arrived, I retreated back to my house and into my basement. A straight forward assembly saw me emerge the following morning after a good night's sleep with my new ride. My 40th b-day gift to myself.

My fait accompli. 

Bead blasted logos.

I LOVE how the headtube looks.

Sadly, I also built this bike in a year that refuses to allow me to ride. Things beyond my control are keeping me from the bike(s) but I am not concerned. I am determined to make up for this year’s loss of saddle time in spades next year and seeing as this particular bike is made of ti, it’ll be ready and able for many years to come.

It does have a few hundred KM's on it already but it's been mostly, so far, a collection of shorter outings but hey, better than nothing. Soon enough I will get to know this bike well with the epic days in the saddle that I crave. I'm looking forward to working this bike out on the road and making it earn its keep as all my bikes do. I had one person suggest that the bike was "too nice to ride". Although thankful for the comment, I replied "Not a chance." Besides, if I don't ride this wife will kill me.

Cheers, thanks for reading.

Special thanks to Lesley for not getting “too” mad at me for this one. I owe you again! :-)

Thanks also to James Grant and John Elliott for allowing me to stop in for coffee and talk shop with respect to the build. Appreciate the help boys! 

Steve A.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Missing The Niner and The Warm Temps Today.

I spotted this pic from an 8hr race I took part in last year and I got a crazy urge to get the hell out there again.
I really need a fix. I'm sick of this cold weather crap. It's time to get warmed up and out on the Niner.
It's ready to go! I just need this weather to swing a bit more so that the trails become doable.
God damn! Let's get this show on the road!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Yeah, I know. Hell of a title, eh?

On Sunday morning I headed out for a ride with a couple of friends. Nothing over the top; just a good ride at average pace and fairly short. Both were basically going for a shakedown run on new rides so I knew it wouldn't be a hard-pressed ride. None of us have managed much of a season so far anyway - truth be told. Each of us with our own legitimate reasons I suppose but....... Since they'd be running brand new rockets I told them I'd be "slumming it on my CrossCheck".

Sunday morning came and from the outset, I wasn't sure. I had a puking son on Thursday night, and on this particular morning (also his birthday) my stomach was trying to tell me something - or was it?

Sometimes I can, admittedly, be very stupid, but, most times my stupid actions are based on stubbornness and unwillingness to conceive defeat: something I most certainly should have done that morning. I'd later regret my denial and unwillingness to read the signs.

From the first turn of the cranks I felt totally off. Straight away I knew something was up. I couldn't find a good rhythm. I couldn't get comfortable. I could't get my heart rate down. I couldn't settle: breathing hard and struggling even at lower speeds. I just kept telling myself that it was due to the lack of "real" riding I'd managed to get in so far this year. I struggled for the duration, grabbing a wheel and hugging it which is very unlike me. I'm not the type to cling to wheels for the span of a ride and ALWAYS make sure I do my share of the work but, today that changed. I stayed behind wheels on the road sections of the ride and only held the front for short bursts. I just couldn't do it. Not sure if my friends noticed - no one said anything - but that's not my style.

The first hundred feet of the ride saw my computer stop working which turned out to be a broken (worn through) computer wire so I couldn't even tell if I was feeling this way due to elevated speeds or what was happening. With no heartrate, speed, cadence I was blind and couldn't rationalize "why". I was still in denial.

Fast forward to the midpoint of the ride and I had to sit on the ground for a break. I didn't talk much choosing to listen instead which, again, is unlike me (HAHAHA). My gut started to tense up and it hurt like hell when it did so. Now I knew I was in trouble. I quickly got up and said "We should probably get going!! Right??" I threw a leg over and started off. Another attempt to deny any issue I was having.

Now on trail, I was able to concentrate on my riding and I did have my mind taken off my stomach for a time. I pressed on at my own pace knowing full well that I just needed to get home.

Once home, I literally walk in to the house with my daughter now puking in the bathroom (moments before she puked on the front door and porch). I'm quickly on my hands and knees cleaning this all up as we have guests coming over for my son's 4th wasn't to be for me.

By 12:30pm I'm chucking cookies and in bed. A house full of guests and I'm missing my son's birthday. That is the hardest part of this whole thing. I missed my son's birthday. I slept a full 24hrs getting up only to throw up. Totally crazy. Stupid me. I should not have ridden. I should have read the signs. I should have stayed home. Maybe the ride is what pushed my body over the top. I'm convinced, like my bike, my head has some fucked up wires.

It's killing me that I missed his birthday. Killing me I tell you.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Sweet Rides Entry #13: A Green Machine

         It’s been a while for one of these “Sweet Rides” entries so I thought I’d better throw one down today. 

To someone new to the blog, at quick glance one might think the color is the key to a ride’s selection (seeing as the previous Sweet Rides entry is also lime green) but I can assure you that their color is pure coincidence. There are rides of all colors in past SR entries. Steel's the reason then? Nope. Despite my admitted "soft spot" for steel bikes, those who have read past entries already know that there are bikes of all materials that are spotlighted. Some may still think that only bikes that require us to visit our respective banks to discuss our financial plans may be the key, but, again, as I’ve said/shown before, that is not always the case. Most expensive doesn't always mean "best" as I've learned the hard way myself over many years spent abusing bikes.

So.......... What is it about this particular bike? 

Well, put simply, I friggin’ like it! That is the biggest rule (obviously) I must adhere to with respect to these entries.  

The other big motivating factor for an entry choice is that the bikes must be assembled for a purpose and  built up in such a way that they serve that purpose well. Whether that objective is to exist as a pure racer, a bomb-proof grocery getter or an epic all-day steed doesn’t matter. Bikes just need to be assembled for a reason, by the owner, with hand picked parts..............and WORK. When you take this into consideration, you’ll get a better sense as to why I chose this particular bike to write about.

The bike belongs to my buddy James’ daughter. Built by James because his daughter needed something to get around town on: a commuter.

The bike itself appealed to me but, I must admit, I thought it was cool as hell that he whipped this bike together (a very long time ago) for her to use as a reliable means of transportation - and she dug it. And THAT is a big reason this bike appealed enough to make the cut. It is nowhere NEAR a choice the average dad would consider but, this dad did and with good #1 and wickedly unique style for his girl #2.

From a small town, her bike attracts a lot of attention, as it would, even in bigger towns. It’s different. There are very few 1x1’s in her neck of the woods. A resilient, simple bike. Ruggedly, but, intelligently built and ready for absolutely anything. James left nothing to chance and a closer look quickly reveals both the father-looking-out-for-his-daughter (with respect to nearly-indestructible parts) along with color matching bits and small details for that visual appeal his daughter was undoubtedly looking for.

He started with a Surly 1x1 frame and rigid fork for the sake of simplicity and reliability. Let’s face it: we all know that the less “stuff” on a bike, the less can go wrong. His daughter would be rolling whenever she needed to. He wanted her to have no issues. 

He assembled the drivetrain with quality parts that would work flawlessly for probably a hundred years in this mostly light duty roll: and it’s perfect. A Race Face XC crankset and BB mated with an e.thirteen bash guard: the guard serving as both a chain guide and providing ring protection just in case. 

Nothing less than a nicely machined Rennen Design Group cog paired with a brass Wippermann Connex chain to finish it off. 

The high grade brass offers a reliable protection against corrosion. Again, reliable and very low maintenance. A Pazzaz wheel tensioner helps keep everything in alignment.

No dad wants his girl riding around with flimsy controls and equipment that doesn’t help foster confidence, so, naturally, a Deity riser bar secured via a Thomson Elite X4 stem was in order! Hahahaha
Bling Bling!
Dad was cool enough to route the front brake housing through the stem too for a nice touch.

Race Face seat post and comfy, yet rugged, WTB saddle offer support.

Nicely sized Maxxis Hookworm tires provide loads of durability and traction for any urban outing. Their volume help soften the rigid frame as a bonus. 

Peeling all the stickers off the Mavic rims help provide a bit of a cosmetic touch as well. I'd use the term "stealthy" but, since the bike is lime green..............well.............stealthy doesn't work here :-) Besides, I'm positive James wanted his daughter to be seen while in traffic so that color has a natural bonus of a visual pop.

He decided that stopping would be provided by reliable and well adjusted set of mechanical Hayes disc brakes he had kicking around. Lots of power and a more than adequate choice for their intended use.

Also on the cosmetic front are some nice Steven Hamilton Animal pedals. Green! Imagine that!

Can’t let that sticker go to waste. Hahaha "Animal" on this top-tube seems appropriate. I dig it.

The bike's been assembled and has been used for a few years now. A well thought out dependable machine that went on to perform as planned, never leaving anyone who used it (mainly his daughter of course) stranded in any way.

Now starting to drive her own car, she doesn’t ride it as often. The bike hangs around for the most part now but one thing is for absolute certain. Should the car break down, there is absolutely NO way, the bike wouldn’t be ready to rock at the drop of a hat should the need arise. 

Simple, low maintenance, bomb-proof and reliable. Now that's a sweet ride. An extremely well thought out whip that could handle far more than commuting if anyone decided to test its limits. 

Not really sure if James’ daughter ever truly realized just how “cool” of a bike she really was riding (she did really like it from what I hear though) but I hope she pulls it down once in a while for a nice ride. It really is a beauty.

I’d gladly add this one to my quiver.

If you’re reading this, give your dad a big hug. He deserves it. It’s a damn nice bike: a very respectable build indeed.

Final verdict; Super freaking cool.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Another Quick Entry

Work's been nuts and winter's been cold but I've been getting out whenever possible.

On my most recent "stand-out" ride, I rolled out of my driveway and right down to the frozen shore of Lake Huron not 15 seconds away. It was like my own private frozen wasteland coming across only one other person on all of my outings along the lake.

It was refreshing as hell and incredibly satisfying to have this almost literally right at my front door. All new, all untouched and all mine. I experimented with the route a little this year and found I could get way further out and away than I had previously thought. Next year, I'll be ready and waiting for similar conditions and will press further. I also need to recruit a few fat bikers to come along and make a day out of it perhaps. 

Gear up right though!!! I managed to still stay warm with a windchill of more than -28C!! Hahaha Yeah baby. 

The ice still isn't as far out or as stable as when I was a kid but still quite good and safe closer to shore: which is where I was able to stay (if not right on shore) and still get to where I wanted to go. It really felt EPIC.

Great fun.

Day two.........not so blue. That's open water in the upper middle portion of the frame. When I was younger, it was always ice as far as you could see.

Another sad sight that I was surprised to see at this time of year were zebra mussels: IMO a sign of just how bad it's really getting.

The mussels are not native to our great lakes and were accidentally introduced via ballast water from ocean going vessels back in the 80's. Since then, the mussel problem has grown exponentially. The mussels are very intrusive and are changing our lakes in a BIG way. It's a tough battle; an impossible one in fact. I think they are here to stay. If I ever see an asian carp on the shore though..............oh boy.

Anyway. Mild weather returned for a time so my shore outings are all but over. Soon it will be onto the muddy trails and gravel roads again. It's the time of year where I can't get enough cross bike action so...

REALLY looking forward to some singletrack days though. I'm committed to getting out on the MTB as much as possible (despite a HUGE work year that is coming). I'll try to spend some quality time updating the blog and make it worth reading as opposed to typing these little 2 minute spout offs (like this entry was). Totally un-planned and not really thought out at all. My apologies for that.

Thank you very much for checking in and reading.

I appreciate it.

Don't forget to leave messages or comments. Always stoked to know someone's out there.

Ride on.