It starts out innocently enough, a favour for others, a gesture of appreciation if you will.  Today being Thursday it is of course Doughnut Day.  Day of Sugary Carbohydrate Invasion.  The Thin End of the Sugary Wedge.

They look innocent...

Most days I shuffle these evil things off my desk and out of my office but today I was invincible – no need to move anything.  I subsequently paid the price for my arrogance.

It started with a Tim Bit – a doughnut hole marketing scheme and as it turns out, an even thinner wedge end.  It is food from the devil.  Evil.  The bite-sized bit lures you into thinking you can have just one but it is truly the gateway drug.  By the time the dust had settled, there was spittle and drool splattered about the place, my desk littered in doughnut-remnants, evidence of the carnage that had just ensued.  The look on my co-workers faces was a mixture of horror and disgust with a trace of admiration.  I won’t add to you, my dear reader’s discomfort by putting an exact number on the victims, it is enough to know it was sufficient to feed a house of aspiring runway models for a week.

Having not ridden for a week I was already enjoying an overwhelming sense of self-loathing before my hubris had been thoroughly vanquished by the devil’s food.  Full of easily-accessible sugary fuel and disdain for my activity level, I took advantage of today’s Chinook – the wind, not my bike – to get out for a ride before the sun went down.  I headed north along the canal path, a section I don’t often get to ride.  It’s been under construction most of the summer and eventually fell off my ride list which is funny because I don’t have a ride list.  From 32nd I headed for Nose Creek Park and its short, steep hills to try to erase some of the day’s earlier carnage that was settling into my waist.

I made it to McKnight before the universe reminded me I know naught about riding in general and less about riding in faux winter.  As I came out from under McKnight, in a gentle right-hand corner, I realized the shadow across the path was in fact a thin layer of wet mud.  Immediately after that realization I learned that it was in fact a thin layer of very slick mud.  The front end washed out and two things went through my head in quick succession:  WWTS and; oh man – these stretchy pants are almost new!  Luckily for me, the slick mud gave way to a skiff of gravel providing a relatively low-friction surface on which to smash my hip without the added insult of melting the lycra to my thigh.

Enter here but beware the trolls

Fall down here (the trolls did it)

Remarkably there was no damage to the stretchy pants and no damage to the bike save for more character on the previously-characterized bar end.  My pride was bruised but otherwise I seemed to have escaped unscathed.  My right hand hurt a bit as one might expect when it’s called into duty to save the elbow.  I straightened my bars and brushed some of the dirt off before I hopped back on to continue my ride.  Get-off or not I was going on a ride.

As I rode out to Nose Creek Park, I couldn’t help noticing that my wrist was in fact much more tender than having just suffered a slap-fest with the pavement.  Putting any weight on it was excruciating but I could pull, break and shift without any drama.  I pushed on determined to get a few kilometres in before the sun disappeared and made things more treacherous than I’d just discovered they were.  I didn’t get far before my wrist, the rapidly setting sun and an unexpected head-rush that affected my hearing <?!> made the decision to turn around a prudent one.

I cycled home nursing an increasingly tender wrist, wary of anything that looked like it might be shadow, mud, water, gravel…I’d lost some confidence in the stiction of my front tire.  As a made my back along the path I’d just travelled, my hearing returned to normal but my wrist did not.  I stopped to take a picture of the offending mud before I made the climb back up to Centre.  I passed another cyclist headed for the mud and tried to warn him as he went by “it’s slippery under McKnight!” though it probably sounded more like nonsensical gibberish.  I imagine him skipping across the same gravel thinking to himself “oh…that’s what that guy was yelling about”.

Upon arriving home nurse Tracey tended to my wrist with a combination of homeopathic  treatments.  I’m starting to think it may be in worse shape than first thought as it’s rather swollen and stiff.  We’ll see how bad it feels in the morning and if it’s worse I’ll get it looked at after the Remembrance Day service.  In the meantime I’m extremely pleased with the performance of my MEC Roubaix stretchy pants – no holes, no damage of any kind.

One skid, no flesh damage, no holes - perfect.

I also have a new appreciation for roadies who turn and flee at the slightest indication of imperfect road conditions.  It’s time to – at the very least – put on the knobbies.  Studded tires – you’re in my future.





*What Will Thomas Say?

It's just a flesh wound...isn't it?


Snow finally arrived and gave my grand winter-riding plans a dose of reality.  The reality is I need more gear if I’m going to ride across ice-covered pavement in minus 15C temperature for an hour each day.  Are my MEC Roubaix stretchypants warm?  Yes…for a while, but they’re not made for out and out winter and -10 seems to be the limit on their own.  Do I like my smooth street slicks?  Yes, but the traction they provide on the frozen puddles on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being sticky, 1 not) is like Robert Downey Jr. – less than 0.  I need snowmobiling quality mitts to keep the brake lever fingers functional but bicycle controls are not designed for mitts.  And what about my water?  And that guy with his blinding, flashing helmet light?

So all the bravado and bluster came to naught at the first sign of ice-slicked roads.  Studded tires are widely available but highly-rated ones are $130 each.  While I have no doubt they’re worth every penny, I don’t have those pennies in my pocket, especially as we approach Christmas.  Same for the $200 aluminium-fiber Pearl iZumi tights

Pearl's Aluminium-containing winter tights modeled by someone who unexpectedly slipped off of both pedals.

Assos bib shorts make my arms spring out like I'm smuggling grapefruit in my armpits.

It goes without saying I can’t afford to stray over to the Assos line either.  Besides, I haven’t perfected my what you looking at Assos stance.

I believe this is my excuse to buy an indoor trainer.  Just need a few more pennies.

In the meantime, I’m going a bit nuts.  I’m bored out of my ever lovin’ mind.  None of my normal pursuits capture my attention.  Standing in a library surrounded by books – which are my 2nd most expensive habit – I’m bored.  Pick up my favourite technical manual – bored.  A programming book?  Meh.  A hardware guide…nope.  I look out at my car and a long list of suitable to-do tasks reels off in my mind.  I resolve to do none of them.  I head out to the garage anyway and stare at the disarray of completed-but-not-cleaned-up projects that took over during the summer and quickly leave lest I trip, fall, hit my head and die alone, hidden in the mess that was once my mechanical sanctuary.

Food has lost its flavour and it’s fun, I’m craving everything yet nothing scratches the itch.  Television?  Whatever.  A movie?  Bored.  I’m bored of the internet.  Of Facebook.  My email.  Work.  Play.  Sleep.  If it is true that only a boring person can be bored, I’ve become a very boring man indeed.

He Blinded me with Science

I no longer look at the weather before I head out. I know it’s cold – that’s a given – I won’t be too hot wearing my stretchy pants. Don’t need to carry my shorts for the warm ride home because there isn’t going to be one. It’s going to be windy, likely a crosswind in the morning with a head/crosswind on the ride home. The wind will be okay in the morning and anywhere from annoying to hurricane level in the evening when all I want to do is get home and relax. I know all of this in the back of my mind, yet when confronted with it as I stare into my iOraclephone first thing in the morning, it can be enough to send me out on four wheels. If I’m going to continue to ride this winter, it’s best I don’t know just how bad it’s going to be. Which reminds me, I’m might need snow tires soon.

When I started writing, it was ostensibly because I wanted to pass on my newbie experiences to the next budding Fredcyclist. The idea being I could answer some of those new-rider questions not with any authority, just the results of my own trial and error methods. It’s veered away from that and into a blather of this is what happened on my little commute today and that’s boring. Part of that detour off course is a result of this: I’m at a post-newb plateau.  I’ve learned the easiest stuff…maybe?

I’m not smart or learned by any means. My authority on matters cycling comprises the following nuggets: don’t pedal while leaning hard unless you enjoy pavement-surfing with your flesh; make sure you have air in your tires; ride as often as possible. On the other hand, here’s what I’ve learned:

• Yes, you do want stretchy pants with a chamois if you ride any distance unless you like friction burns on your most sensitive areas.
• “Slicks” or street tires on your mountain bike are definitely smoother and quieter but they were not the limiting factor in my quest for speed. The factor turned out to be me.
• Lube your chain or the squeaking and squawking will make you even more insane.
• Tires don’t hold air indefinitely – my 80psi slicks drop to 40 over a couple of weeks but make for a handy lie excuse reason you can tell yourself when you get Chicked.
• There may not be any car traffic on the bike paths, but a rear light will keep the rest of us from running you over in the dark because we are riding with
• The 3-LED headlight from MEC – makes an excellent targeting device for on-coming cars and may keep other riders from clipping you in the dark. Also serves as an excellent defense against establishing effective night-vision while simultaneously completely failing to illuminate anything far enough away to still avoid. Note to the city of Calgary – if you really loved cyclists, you’d fluoresce the yellow stripe in the middle of the path.
• If you insist on using a 1 million candle power strobe-light on your helmet while riding on the darkened bicycle path, I reserve the right to push you into the canal while claiming disorientation and blindness thanks to your head-mounted smugness device. Save it for the road where it’ll flash in everyone’s mirror after they’ve passed you and are no longer in a position to nudge you with a bumper.
• The colder it gets, the slower I go. I blame the increased air density and layers of clothing. It has nothing to do with laziness.

It was most definitely this increase in clothing layers and air density that turned me from rabbit to rabbit-chaser this morning. As is typical of my rides these days most of the path traffic is on-coming, which is good because my MEC night-vision-disruption light which as the name implies handily keeps my eyes from adjusting on the darkest sections of the path, combined with riding sans prescription glasses means I’m essentially navigating to work by muscle memory and feel. When I was kid with a big-block drum-brake hotrod, I learned all about over-driving your brakes – travelling faster than your brakes could stop you. I’m now over-driving my eyesight as, even at my reduced winter speed, there is little chance I will be able to avoid an unexpected obstacle.

Anyway – back to the engrossing tales of What I did on my commute this morning. I was passed, unexpectedly and totally off-guard by a high-cadence-pedaling rider whom I’ve seen once or twice before. My first instinct was to ignore the obvious Cat 6 race we were now in and continue as I was but as Dwernie noted last week it is not possible to simply ignore this challenge. I gave chase and didn’t lose any further ground until we got to the pedestrian bridge. I managed to maintain some semblance of speed but failed to stand and hammer when he did (note to self – stand and hammer is appropriate when in Cat 6 mode). By the time I’d reached the end of the bridge, he’d almost disappeared and our diverging routes put an end to the match. I was however given a small reward as I wound under 17th Ave and tried to run over a flagging rider making the climb up to 26th. I allowed myself a small degree of pride as I pedaled past him and he got off to start pushing. “At least I’m not pushing” I thought as I wobbled up the slope.

In recognition of the Cyclist’s Imperative to Chase Rabbits, I wish to congratulate Dwernie on his first blood. A successful pass and defense of position – job well done!  Way to represent Canadian Cat 6 riders abroad.