Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Biking in a Winter Wonderland...

Well, it seems that winter has come a bit early this year. I've now got two fixed gear bikes that will, hopefully, carry me safely through most of what's in store for the next four months. The Kona Lavadome on the right is a converted mountain bike with studded tires. This is the "last-resort" bike. Next to it is my recently adapted Miyata, my first road bike from the deceased Scattalon Cycles in Hamilton, purchased in 1991.

The Lavadome sees the streets and bikepath when there is snow/ice still hanging around. I wish the path along the river was accessible year-round, but alas it's only the first few snowfalls that I'm able to navigate. I have to say that 20km on this rather plodding bike is a bit much when the temperatures start to drop. I usually sweat enough by the 30 minute mark in my ride that a chill begins to set in for the remainder.

One thing I do like is having the paths to myself. There is a certain satisfaction in being the first one to blaze a path in the early morning. Being the only one around lets me indulge in one of my favourite riding pastimes -- singing songs off key. Today's recurrent distraction was REM's Superman. Crazy Dominique is a strong proponent of the benefits of singing while on the bike, and who am I to argue with the likes of her?

When the roads are clear, I'm riding the Miyata. The hub is threaded on both sides so I'm riding a 53-21 ratio in these conditions. When the weather is better, I flip it around to 53-19 which gets me to work about 5 minutes faster. Either way, this bike is a lot faster than the Lavadome. It's not about speed for me, it's about time outside. Anything above 45 minutes and I start to cool down.

My feet in particular seem to be the limiting reagent. I bought a pair of Lake Winter Cycling Shoes which get me an additional 10 degrees of temperature resistance, but below -10C I have to add on neoprene booties and shoe covers that steal me another 5C comfortably. Below -15C, it gets a little annoying. I survived at -26C last winter but this year I'm considering working from home below -20C. We'll see how that pans out.

The Lakes list for some ridiculous price, but I got them for 50% off at Performance Bikes online. Shop around! I looked at the current product line at MEC and they don't compare to these Lakes.

I got home tonight about 45 minutes after the snow started falling. My handy chain-saw oil dispenser is sitting on the table, ready to minimise the damage from the salty roads. Despite most people's misgivings, riding in this weather is not a big deal if you're dressed for it, and there is no evidence that it is any more dangerous, for experienced commuters, than driving a car in the same conditions or riding in the summer. However, it is a sad fact that you will get harassed by drivers who will lay on their horns, claiming, rather ironically, that you shouldn't be on the roads for safety reasons. Yes indeed, nothing makes my ride safer than having someone sneaking up behind me and blaring their horn at close range. Sometimes the horn isn't enough, a fish-tailing deliberate swerve into your path as they pass by is employed to increase your safety. Grrrrr...

Today's ride home was brought to you by the letter "V". Fuel for keeping me warm and transporting 200lbs of person, bike, gear, and lights 20km was supplied by Mealtime Matters delicious Thai Vegetable Curry. And a great deal of coffee.
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Winter Cross Training

Just to follow-up my comment on Craig's earlier posting, I thought I'd provide a little more information on snowshoe running.

I started last year after realizing that my time was becoming more and more limited. However, and somewhat contradictively, I wanted to go the summer of 2007 in the best condition I've ever been. I succeeded, and frankly with very little effort relative to past practices.

I ended up trying out snowshoe running and love it (coming from someone who hates running). Actually, it's more like snowshoe trotting because running will kill you in less than 3 minutes. I personally added poles to equation to further increase the cardio effect and get more upper body (UB) workout. Typically bulking up the UB is not ideal for cycling but in this case it's very high reps with little effective weight so mass should be kept in check. Don't underestimate the effect of poles though, your arms will feel like jelly. But the strength you'll gain throughout the winter will pay dividends in technical riding. You core muscles get a great workout as well.

But don't just take my word for it, see what Andreas Hestler has to say (ironically linked from BC Bike race site).

Because snowshoe running is so intense, last winter I only had 2-3 outings per week on the snowshoes lasting about 45-60 minutes each. I supplemented it with 1-2 outings/spins on the bike at about 1 hour each. That's it, 3-5 hours per week and you'll be a hero going into the spring.

BTW, if any of your guys want to try it out, I've got a spare set of running snowshoes you can try. All I use is a pair of Gore-Tex Trail running shoes with cycling booties and you're good to go. Oh yeah, severely under dress b/c you'll be shedding like crazy otherwise... Kind of a nice segway into a naked gear review eh?

Monday, November 26, 2007


We are very pleased to welcome Bike2Body on-board as another Big Ring Racing team sponsor for the 2008 season.

Mary Paterson was the first to bring professional bike fitting to the Ottawa cycling community in 2005. Mary is the first certified Serotta bike fit professional in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. Serotta has set the industry standard in bike fitting technology in the United States since 1972. She is also the only certified F.I.S.T. Tri-Bike Fit professional in Ottawa.

Mary is a registered physiotherapist with over 15 years of sports medicine experience. She applies her knowledge of biomechanics and the body to arrive at the perfect bike fit. A properly fitted bike will be comfortable, efficient and powerful.

Mary is also a cyclist and has an extensive cycling background:
• Avid cyclist both road and mountain
• Ottawa Bicycle Club member
• Former OBC time trial award winner PB: 22:31 15km, 1:05:56 40km, 2:16 80km
• Winner of numerous team triathlons on the bike

A professional bike fit will get you back in the saddle again and get the most enjoyment out of your ride.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Screw You Nature

It's the time of year when I need to break out the winter fixie, a recycled Kona Lavadome donated to me by my friend Jessie. I got caught by surprise by the snow today so spent much of the night madly trying to re-assemble her in time for Thursday's potential snowfall:

I put around 1000kms on this bike last winter but am hoping that my "new" roadbike fixie recently assembled with help from the folks at Phat Moose Cycles will absorb most of those kms when the roads are bare.

The Lavadome was assembled last fall with assistance of my buddy Christian who gave me a Surly Conversion Kit for my birthday. I went with fixed gear over free hub because I found my hub was freezing below -10C, meaning that my single-speed was turning into a zero-speed. One solution was to carry a thermos of hot water with me and thaw the hub when needed. The other alternative was to pedal the single-speed as if it were a fixie since keeping the palls engaged the whole ride didn't allow them to freeze up. Not an easy thing to do for an hour through the city . But I digress.

For tyres, I have gone with the Nokian Hakkapelitta W106, which you can read about at Peter White Cycles. These are an excellent tyre for winter as they have decent rolling resistance with studs where it matters. The studs are carbide, which is a must on asphalt (bitumen) since steel studs will wear out in no time.

I usually oil the bike up carefully at the start of the season and then leave it outdoors until spring as I've heard it said many times that the temperature cycling resulting from bringing the bike indoors is harder on it than the accumulated grit from winter riding.

Once the bike is outside for good, I douse it with a nice light chain saw oil at the beginning and end of every ride. It's messy, but the beauty of a fixed-gear bike is that messy isn't a show-stopper.

Oh, and check out the cool reflections in the above photo! Those are not a Divine roadmap, but the result of 3M Scotchlite available by the metre from MEC. Good shit that. So, when I get do inevitably get run down, remember that it was intentional and avenge my death.


Slushy Streets 1; Tanya 0

Well the slushy streets of Ottawa kicked my butt today in my daily 13km commute. I live in a basement apartment with no windows so the weather outside is often a mystery to me or left up to interpretation of the weather network's forecast. Today it said snow. I thought okay, a couple of flurries, no problem. In reality it was SLUSH! Loads and loads of slush.

What a shock when I walked out my door to our winter wonderland. I wasn't dressed appropriately at all. I wasn't wearing the right pants or shoes and really should have had gaitors or booties on. Rather than change into proper clothes, I perservered as I was because I'm a sucker for punishment.

As I rode along cars would throw buckets of slush on me and I'd throw a string of curse words back. Eventually I had to laugh because I had no one but myself to blame for being out there; ill prepared as I was. At least every now and then I had the presence of mind to shake my legs and feet off and gobs of slush would slide off of me.

Like the cars, I seemed to have forgotten how to ride in the snow. Even though I'm not a rookie to the winter commute, I was tentative and nervous and expecting a fall at every moment.

Once as I was riding along Island park I remembered to look up and noticed that it was so beautiful. The trees and the lawns were covered with a layer of snow. I was mezmerized. Then a car brought me back to reality as it sprayed a stream of slush into my face. &#%$*%!!

Finally I made it to the bike path where I was safe from the cars. I had a warm fuzzy feeling when I saw that there were other tire tracks on the path (okay there was nothing warm about it but I did feel happy). I decided I will pick up a pair of skinny studded tires and take the all bike path route to work from now on. They don't plow the paths in the winter so it can be pretty treacherous and studs are necessary in my opinion for that route. Last year I just used the roads and regular slicks which also works fine but I think I'll give this a shot.

So I finally made it to work and now I'm wrapped up in a blanket, wearing some cozy slippers and sipping on hot tea. Yes, I do keep a blanket and slippers in my cube!

I hope I didn't scare any budding snow commuters with this post. Its really not so bad as long as you are dressed properly and mentally prepared. After all this complaining, I'm still looking forward to the ride home!

Tip for keeping your bike in good shape all winter:
okay the road is full of salt all winter here so when I get home I usually dump a hot bucket of water over my drivechain, dry it off and then spray it with silicone lubricant. I did this all last winter and my bike is still happy. I did not do this the winter before and my chain was glowing orange by the end of the season and needed to be retired.

Happy Commuting!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spin spin spin

Some blurry action shots of tonight's spin class at the RA Centre with Gilles leading us. Nice to see four other BRR team members out.

Despite what most feel towards riding the spin bike, I actually don't mind it. I'm looking forward to some structured training over the winter. In my experience, it's the only way I make gains in speed, endurance, strength and power.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

No riding

I have not been riding for the last couple of weeks, taking some intentional time off to let some nagging injuries/aches heal before I start trying to rebuild my fitness from an overall perspective. Some base fitness, some core work, flexibility and light weight training are in my future. Looking forward to starting the forced part of this with Gilles next week at the RA.

In the meantime I have been busy taking care of my little girl while my wife works.

This year we went to our first ever Santa Claus Parade together, good times.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Magic or Tragic?

This is something that I came across on the heels of the media circle jerk that is(was) Interbike.
The Masi town bike. ..first off it needs sayin' that I'm all over any kind of bicycle.

..well, almost any kind of bicycle (but that gap may fill itself in subsequent posts). but back to the Masi town bike.

Luxurious? yes, Beautiful? yes, Striking? Sexy? yes, yes. Ludicrous? um, yeah, probably that too. Usefull? Well.. here’s where I have a problem. This is supposed to be a ‘Town bike’.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone but for me a ‘town bike’ is synonymous with ‘pub bike’ or ‘milk run bike’ or any other transit chore that involves getting where yer going then locking pub bike to a lamppost or something equally unattended and/or insecure while you ignore it for as long as you need to. It’s the kind of bike for which you’d expect to pay $50 -$200 bones (second hand of course) for then lube the chain once a year (or not) and get years of dependable use out of.

And that’s where the Masi Town bike falls down. The utility department.. In fact I’d go so far as to say that its got more capital in the ‘status symbol’ department than the ‘utility’ department. Its taking the noble concept of a utility vehicle and fuking it up by blinging it up and inflating its price to the point that it can’t be treated like a true utility bike should be for fear of theft, damage etc. I mean really, for a town bike to really fill the shoes and earn the title I think you should feel more comfortable learning to curb grind on the damn thing versus treating it like some poncy faberge egg that you’re forever worried about being scratched, bashed or stolen.

And that’s a shame cause this bikes got styles for miles otherwise. Nice curves, comfy lookin geometry, plush tires, internal gears. ..all kinds a good stuff going for it, but its just a bit too dolled up for the workaday street duties of a true town bike. Like a prize fighter that’s gone all soft in gucci shoes and taking Perrier baths, or a Willies jeep with heated seats and a wine cooler its lost its credibility for the intended duty. which is to say mucking it up in the streets.

And yet. Its still sexy, if overpriced so if you don’t mind paying more (way more) than you should have to for a simple pub bike and/or if you just need something shiny to sate that inner magpie or even just need the perfect garage accessory to collect dust and keep your Cadillac Escalade company then hop on down to your local Masi dealer cause this is the shit for you.

What's a guy to do?

You awake early on a cool Fall, Sunday morning in November. Sleepily get dressed to take the dog for a walk. As you leave the house with the dog bounding excitedly to, you notice as you shut the door two tupper ware containers sitting by your doorstep.

It's a bit too early to feel so inquisitive, but your senses are stirred by what may be in the packages. You know it's food, but what kind. While the dog inpaitently runs back and forth waiting for you to get underway, you pry the lid off one of the containers only to find this looking back at you . . . .

What would you do?

Eat it of course. "It" being singular, as in one, and only one.

However, you are not me now, are you? One is too many, and a pan full is not enough.

This is unlike anything you've ever tasted. It is like those moments in life that completely define every aspect of your soul. This is no mortal food. It must have been left by the gods themselves.

Not only has the sweet, delicious taste of chocolate brownie and pumpkin pie made it's way past your taste buds, but the decadence has made it's way into your brain and through your body, like a heroine junky getting their first fix of the day.

Nothing like dessert in the wee hours of the morning to send your better judgment off the deep-end and kick in your sense of selfishness. You become like a drowning sailor clinging to a life preserver, no one else is getting any and you guard them with your life. It's all for you.

By noon, your sitting in the corner of a darkened room shaking uncontrollably . . . suffering from withdrawal and in a deepened sense of depression - they are all gone. There were only six. Cold sweats take over you. Frantically you try and call your "pusher", but they don't answer. You madly search the kitchen, then the entire house for any stash of sweetness that remotely resembles or tastes like the decadence that was once yours.

Your wife finds you on the curled up on the floor of the bathroom, face resembling a powdered donut, you're surrounded by white powder and an empty bag of confectionary sugar lay beside you as your legs twitch uncontrollably.

"Oh Dear!"
She shakes her head in shame and disgust. She feels sorry for you, but cannot stay.

*Tanya, please, please, please . . . . the next time you deliver meals to the house, please be sure to put the dessert into Christine's hands! ; )

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Fall gem...

Sunny and warm... well relatively warm for Remembrance day. Tammy and I did a tour of SMH today. The trails were a little bit greasy in spots. I think it's that inbetween stage before they freeze up and too cool to dry up. I thought they would be in pretty good shape today but not so much.

I'd also like to report on Mother Nature's amazing healing powers. A few weeks back I rode in SMH with Peter among others and this was shortly after he started beefing up at the gym. We rode through the 2nd v-tree on outback and after he went threw it one side of the v-tree fell over as he flexed his mass. Much to my surprise when I rode past there again today the v-tree is again in tact!!! I even took a picture for proof... check it out!

Tammy looks pretty happy here, funny how that works... She was struggling along on our ride today and did an endo entering the rock garden, right where Mike J did one a few weeks ago, and then after that she was much happier! I guess it knocked the bear right out of her!! It was a nice fall day to get out there, haven't been doing anything as I've been struggling to shake a cold.
Did anyone watch the Riders today? They actually won..!

Joni Mitchell was a mtn biker

Am I the only one riding and blogging?? What's up with this team?

The weather and days have been too nice not to be out there! Today was another awesome ride - rode from Stef's place in Chelsea and hit some wicked trails - fast, flowy, some good climbing and with technical features to keep you on your toes. These trails are becoming some of my favourite around Ottawa.

Joni Mitchel must have been a mountain biker and knew that Chelsea was a wicked place to ride. Didn't know that she spent some time writing in Chelsea while staying with a friend? True!

Playing around with the settings on the camera. Stef in black and white.

Gilles ripping on some rock.
Well, truth be told, when he wasn't getting lost he was riding his bike.

Weeeeee . . . . leaf angels!

Stef with that I'm so sexy and "come hither" look.
Kind of creepy, ain't it?!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


The cold, cold November nights are leaving frost in the ground during the day. In the shade it stayed, any sunny, warm spots and it would turn the ground into a muddy, slick-as-snot mess to ride through. Some corners today were sssssslippppppppery!

The Vegan Vagabond rolls out a step down.

My damn chain kept coming off on the inside of my ring. Flashbacks to Kingdom Trails and bike tossing.
Fritz, you got to get me that 'third eye' dealie.

Sunset silhouette on slick rock.

Fall single track.

Garter Belt
(I made it!)



Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Sponsor

Just got word today of our new frame sponsor. Happy to have on board Bison Bicycles.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Met up with Fritz and our "Littlest Big Ring" on Outback today. This kid can ride!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Off-season training

Hey Big Ringers. Just a heads-up about my winter spin and core program. It will run every Tuesday night from 7-9pm at the RACenter. The program focuses on base-building and core strength. We spend about 1h30 in the saddle followed by core session using balls and weights. We start on Nov 20 and the program will go for 16 weeks (to March). We already have a couple of Big Ring members on board. I have 3 spots left.

It beats the boredom of riding in your basement! Any questions, flip me an email.


Greetings team

A big hello to my BRR teammates, I know less than half of you, hopefully the rest of you can make up for the ones I know :-) Seriously, keep an eye on Kark, he as been known to quit and leave it up to Tanya to carry the day. I'm here to make the original big ring's weight problem seem less severe.

Like a few others here, the original big ring has dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century and I am posting my first ever blog post.

I'm a bit of a generalist on the mountain bike (only ever been on a road bike once), which can be safely interpreted as not being very good at anything. My riding opportunities appear random as the rely entirely on my better half's shift schedule but I'm looking forward to getting out with the new teammates and seeing people at various events.

Though I don't know Fritz, I appear to be the exact opposite from a bike setup point of view, I set and forget then only worry about stuff when it is clearly broken. I did about 20,000 vertical feet of DH descending at Whistler before I realized the reason something didn't feel right was my rear shock and had been blown for 1.5 days. Also just figured out I'd been riding in SMH with no rebound in my fork for 2 weeks. I can be a bit oblivious.

Thanks Craig for getting this going, lets schedule the meet and greet and drink.

The straw that broke the camel's back

It's too quiet in here still so I thought I'd post some boring stuff about my week of MTBing.

Ever have one of those rides when inferior/inappropriate equipment finally makes you snap?

I had such a ride the other day. Everything started great as I rode dab-free on OutBack towards rib cage. Unfortunately I dabbed so I took a short break to enjoy the day and ride. 100 meters later it turned to hell.

One pinch flat, one expoded tube, one reopened slashed sidewall (damn crazy glue didn't work), and one leaking tire that was impossible to spot when outside of the tire (resulting in a fun new interval involving furious pumping session of about 1 minute followed by a 1 minute sprint then repeat 15-20 times), I finally completed the final couple of kilometers of OB in what must have been close to 1 hour.

I decided to quit being such a cheap bastard (I am part Scottish afterall) and pony up for a proper SMHL/Outback setup. Some $700 Cdn later, I've got some goodies coming that will make a freeriding baggy short dude impressed. Stan's Flow 29er rims, phat 2.35" Panaracer Rampage tires, and Hadley 72 point engagement hubs complete with QR-compatible bolt-on setup. One word comes to mind: BURLY

I know my previous latex post had a nice spiel about their benefits - and I still stand by it for racing needs (which my current wheelset will see), but they simply can't handle SHML with the pressure and speed I want to run. I was able to make it work for the last couple of months but everything changed when I mounted my new 100mm White Brother's fork (and the resulting dramatic increase of speed). Seriously, who needs brakes with 2.2" 29er tires and that thing mounted up front?

Finally, it looks like some folding tires do unofficially work on a 29er Stan's rims and the Rampage is one of them. So what better place than SMHL to test if that's true?