Saturday, 31 January 2009

Alberta Road Riding

Today was a fantastic day to be a bike rider.  More accurately, to be an intrepid bike rider. tells me what I already knew - the winds were strong and gusty (50-60km/h according to Wx), and it was fairly cool all day.  Softies need not leave the house.

Having said that, it's a Saturday, and why waste a Saturday when you've got a group of guys who are intrepid enough to blaze our own trail?

It took us about 3 hours to get to Cochrane for a coffee stop.  In those three hours we rode some primary roads, those that most people are familiar with.  We also plowed westward into the strong winds on some secondary roads, such as Airport road, that 95% of avid cyclists are familiar with.  We knew we had a good thing going, so we continued onto some tertiary roads, those without pavement and names, only known by their township or range numbers, that a small group of cyclocross/mountain bikers/dedicated winter cyclists are familiar with, say 5% of the riding population.  With so much fun and good exercise at hand, we descended into the world of roads beyond the tertiary system.  Those that are only faint grey lines on maps, or not even on maps at all.  They're used by ranchers, marked only by which ranches or wells they access, and have no fences on them between us and the local bull population.  They're beautiful, windy, remote and fill us with a sense of adventure.  It's likely no other group ride has ever sat down for a cup of coffee at Cochrane Coffee traders, having arrived by that route, other than 4 of us - Keith, Craig, Shawn and myself.

That's Alberta riding.  Most of our provinces roads aren't paved.  Most of our land is sparsely populated.  The terrain we rode through today is why film crews visit to make western films.  The panoramas that stuck with most are true wild rose country.

Maybe it's not that profound, but you can't tell good riding stories without stretching a few notches beyond "normal".  


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Commerce flunkie

Not only am I sans credit card, but my drivers license currently is a piece of paper from a registry office, as I finally made it down last week to request a new license due to my home address changing.  As someone who's taken the ability to conduct commerce (especially simple retail stuff) for a lifespan as a given, it's odd to be in a temporary position of not being able to provide the two most asked for items - credit card and photo ID.  My substitute photo ID was always my Canadian Landed Immigrant card... but... my Canadian Landed Immigrant card expired (need new one every 5 years I think) on December 31, 2008, so I've sent mine in with my application for a new one.  The Vegreville processing office has an un-inspiring (for those in a hurry) waiting time posted of 77 days last time I checked.
I'm losing the basic credentials of modern society all at once here, and it's a total pain in the ass, I hope I can get everything back before I go to Tucson!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Credit card-less

I've just cancelled my Visa card.  A sign of reigning in my finances in light of the economic downturn?  Not so much.  Moreso that I managed to identify (only a few days post transaction by looking at my online statement), that I was not the individual who is the mastermind behind  the shipment of thousands of dollars of goods to Georgetown, Guyana.  Sounds more like a job for international charities, not a job for me!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Let's call this an "off week"

After the joyous bliss of hammering out nearly 300km in the relative warmth of last weekend, this weekend has taken a decidedly different pace.

First, I acquired some undesirable sickness, likely at work.  Not that bad really, but I've been congested/headachy/sore throat for a week.  I don't get sick too often, and therefore I'm not good at coping with it.  

Second, it's -23C again.  In health I don't mind any temperatures... but in sickness, I figure I should take it easy on the respiratory system.

I've done little exercise this week to allow my body's energy to go toward battling this cold.  Unfortunately this "piles up" enough extra energy that I can't sleep as soundly, so now that it's the weekend I need to get some exercise otherwise I'll go nuts at night.  Instead of miles and miles of cold sunshine weekend riding, I'm doing ultra low intensity spinning on my trainer, while devouring a box of kleenex that's on the table next to me.  Lame.

I'm dreaming of the outdoors.  Midnight singlespeed rides up to the Barrier Lake lookout under a full moon.  Pouring rain midsummer rides on my 'cross bike when everyone else is smart enough to stay inside.  The epic point to point mountain bike rides we've been dreaming of trying when we're at the time of year when we have long hours of sunlight to try to pull them off.  Hopefully the baking heat of TransPortugal.

Anything but more trainer and kleenex!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Near tropical January weekend

This is how weekends are supposed to be - light on office overhang, heavy on good weather and fun times with friends.

I rode a lot this weekend for this time of year. I might even go so far as saying that I rode a lot this weekend for any time of year. The magic ingredient, other than sunshine and lots of friends to ride with was definitely pancakes.

I've been murdering pancakes lately. Not too many of them, and definitely not with syrup, as I want the doughy good flavour to come through. By murdering them I mean these things get metabolized into atmospheric CO2 and little else mere minutes after consumption. Their light fluffiness makes them ideal for consumption during a ride, as you can go out and hammer right afterwards without feeling awful.

Plus they seem to have the (unexpected?) effect of improving my riding almost as much as day old muffins from the Cinnamon Spoon.

It was great to see Dallas, Mical, Craig, Devin, Keith, Shawn, Trev, Steve K, Lauchlan (sp?) out racking up the miles, along with countless others who weren't with us. Devin still seems to have kept his sprint handy in his holster post Christmas, he's quick on the draw with it!

Why can't it be Stampede time yet? The sunshine and pancakes has my body clock confused.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Island Lake Cat Skiing

Lots of vertical, not much horizontal.

I just got back from a fun filled trip to Island Lake Lodge for some cat skiing/boarding. Despite rain at lower elevations and unfavourable snowpack at higher elevations, we were able to get in 3 days of great skiing while avoiding being buried in any avalanches. Our wonderful hosts from BD&P, made sure our legs were tired each day and our apres glasses were full!

Other than great snow, Island Lake rounds out the experience with great food, great hot tub scenery, a wide selection of "cleansing ales", and awesome guides and staff.

Any correlation between avalanches and bent over trees, little saplings all around, and standing on hardpack instead of powder? Nahhh.

In the beginning, god created mountains and powder!

Good times had by all.

Full photo set here.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Rohloff hubs in winter

Over the last few weeks, I've been pondering Rohloff hub efficiency in the winter.  For winter riding, the utility is unmatchable - the dual cable actuation means wimpy springs and frozen grease aren't obstacles to shifting (I had a few problems last year as linked below, but I'm thinking now I may have had moisture in my cables freeze as it was slushy for a while right before it cooled off), and my custom blend of oil has kept the hub in service and seems to have prevented freezing.  Rohloff ships the hubs with quite a light oil, almost whiskey like in it's consistency.  I had experienced it freezing last year, in fact their web site only recommends it down to I think -10 or -15C, which eliminates  much of the winter for me if I follow the rules.  I decided to mix in some synthetic motorcycle oil (40 weight) as motorcycle oils don't have the detergents that auto oils do (they need to do double function as clutch lubrication too).  

Back to efficiency - Rohloff claims a 96 or 98% efficiency of power transmission, depending on which set of the 14 gears you're in.  For the sake of averaging, I'll call that a 3% loss.  On top of that, I'm riding a Schmidt dynamo front hub which has a 3W drag to generate electricity.  So if I'm riding along at 250W, I'm actually only putting 239.5W to the ground.  Not too bad really, but that combined with the monster 29" wheel weight relative to a set of cyclocross tires has me sucking wind to keep up to my friends.

But this analysis overlooks one critical part I discovered this morning - my oil mixture's performance at cold temperatures.  Last night it was near -30C, and this morning it was about -25C.  I decided to put some additional lube on my chain, and with the bike leaning against a table on the outside porch, pedaled backwards with my hands while applying lube to the chain.  It was HARD to pedal backwards, like the hub was filled with grease rather than a fluid.  No doubt that hours of riding might soften it up a little, but I'm guessing that a thermal balance analysis has the outside air temperature winning the battle when it's that cold versus the friction heat generated.  I don't have any way to measure the power transmission loss, but for example when I spun the crank backwards with my hand at a crazy fast pace, maybe approximating 100rpm or so then let go, the crank stopped BEFORE making it a quarter turn past where I let go.  Good workouts in the offseason!

What does this tell me?  Rohloff hubs are awesome in the winter, I'm very happy with my entire setup but it's worth noting that low maintenance reliability and all weather functionality are definitely coming at the sacrifice of speed... fine if you're riding by yourself, but challenging if you're riding with people on external drivetrain bikes.