Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bogota rains

We're in a rainstorm with sharp cracking thunder and a volume of rain in an hour that feels like what Calgary gets in a year. It's novel, I don't get exposed to many real rainstorms very often. Within 10 minutes the ground has several centimeters of water on it and it simply can't drain anywhere fast enough.


This morning's Bogota traffic.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Moisture in Bogota

The levels of precipitation in Bogota in a couple hour period one afternoon are markedly higher than Arizona! A quick "afternoon shower" that left this. In Calgary this level of rain would be epic, but for them its normal.

Whiskey 50 Aftermath

There was talk all day of KFC post race, not sure how that came up, I don't even know if I'd ever really eaten there before. But it happened with a vengeance.

We had two self proclaimed bluenosers in the back of the van, one from "the mainland" and one from "the island" of eastern Canada. It takes them about 2 minutes to drink a beer, and that's allowing time for jokes and sing alongs in that time. Odes to Rita McNeil, Led Zeppelin, etc. Man they're a funny breed, it's pure entertainment. Our cheeks hurt from the 2h drive of laughing.

Packing bikes proved more challenging for some. The wrist injury really knocked the wind out of this fine gentleman's sails. Or it could have been the 5:30 wakeup, 50 mile bike race (plus another 5h of chamois time), and 15 "recovery drink" beers.

In retrospect we all had such a fun time, that we feel predisposed to doing it again. Not only for the event, but for philosophical aspects of Calgary's "spring" weather. Easier too if we didn't have to layer in a business trip, and if we could get at least 4 days riding in warmth. Also nice to see the faster Canadian cycling bretheren like Mical and Cory.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Whiskey 50

I didn't win, but we all did. This picture is winning in a nutshell. 3.5-6.5h ride for our group, then a concert, beer garden, in sunshine in a city center park.

Shawn came closest to actual winning with a 4th overall (awesome!). John was next, place unknown (maybe like 100?), but about 5 mins ahead of me (about 4:25 for him). We traded back and forth 3 times at the end, John had cramping, and I had to CO2 my tire a few times. Brian and Thian came in about 10 mins more each. Darren was just under 6.5h.

Climbed out of town, moved up lots of spots on pavement (we started behind 200 priority spots). Got to the singletrack comfortable and in a place where we all rode well together. Really flowy trails, kind of blue square difficulty all day, nothing really hard, but just smile inducing fun. Great course. Smooth and flowy. I had a great first 2h, then it "warmed up". Into aid 2, the climb had no wind, and I could feel BakkeBaking. In all honesty it's not that hot, maybe 25C is the reported day high, but I haven't been riding in anything other than icebreaker and gore tex for months, and I've learned I'm not much of hot weather person.

Got some water and descended the long road. Saw Shawn in 3rd on the climb. As I u turned and climbed, I just kept slowing down. Sun on the back and a 25k climb just sapped me, granny geared it, kept drinking. Legs felt fine, energy just wasn't flowing (or it was going in a proportionally high amount to cooling).

Guy at the aid 3 asked me if I wanted drinks "cause you look hot man". I said sure. I asked if this was hot or cool; he said this was a cool year. Ugh. Climbed 3 more miles then the big singletrack descent. Really fun, but I got a weird hole in my tire - pinhole like just a millimeter above the rim on the sidewall, like almost by the bead. Hard to shake sealant there. It was fine, just needed a few CO2 stops. John and I started exchanging spots (I though he would get me on the climb how I was feeling). Had to do last CO2 like 500m from finish as it was too mushy to make it. That probably took 4 mins overall, where climbing like a wimp for 25k was probably 3-4x as much.

Festival here is great. Music, fat tire ale, burgers and fries, frisbee being played on green grass by kids and golden labs. That's the serious winning part. Just so awesome.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Scottsdale relaxing

I forget how few morning's of the year I see a sunrise at our latitude.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Well, my colleague's taxi never came this morning, so he chucked the kids seats out and drove to get me, then got pulled over by cops en route with a hefty ticket for an arcane street rule in Mt Royal to dissuade commuter traffic in the high rent district. On top of that it was lost luggage and a gong show in the airport.

But that can't take away from 6 guys riding in beautiful jersey and shorts temps, in beautiful scenery, on beautiful bikes and staying in an amazing place.

I didn't do a great job with the pics, but the cactus's are in bloom in mom's favourite colors.

After 3h of riding, I showered up for dinner with the cousins. Great time, great chats, and their little guy was just tranquil as could be.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Dirt jumping, Sideshow Bob, COP eastlands

Sideshow Bob is a classic northwest Calgary within city bounds trail.  Dries out relatively early and is fun, and in the longer days ahead, even can make it as part of the evening commute home.

The portion along the gravel pit has some low areas that have been a no mans land of derelict industrial equipment for years - and a decent setup for some people who've built a set of dirt jumps.  It's out of site, out of mind, and probably not a bad place for enough people to turn a blind eye to.

Issue is, some dirt jumping aficionados are building more.  And they're building them in places that are very very visible to the rest of the public.  And in the process of building them, they're also digging up the existing trail.  Sideshow Bob is on an escarpment that's prone to erosion.  It's one thing to add a mild kicker to a rolling portion of trail that fits existing contours, so a rider has an option of a little air.  It's another thing to cut J bends across/perpendicular to erosive slopes.  Those are disasters in the making from a PR perspective.

If you're these dirt jumpers, please use better judgement.  I was asked by a walker this weekend if I was "up there doing those jumps".  I pointed out to them that I've loved riding those trails for 20 years, but those weren't mine, and the kind of bike that I was on can't really do that.  But it was apparent that they were looking for someone to be upset at.

That type of excavation draws very apparent attention to other users.  I support people's passion for riding, and dirt jumping.  Hide yourself in the old part by the gravel pit, or head over to COP.  If I have to give up a place I've ridden for 20 years cause one spring a bunch of jumps got [poorly] excavated, I'm not going to be a happy camper.  You might graduate from dirt jumping to just "regular" mountain biking and wish you hadn't brought the hammer down on everyone who wants to enjoy that area by a few short sighted jumps.

As a side note, this will happen at the COP eastlands too eventually as there's some huge, erosive, and poorly made jumps cut into public land in sensitive areas.  For now they're mostly out of the public's eye, which doesn't make them right, it just doesn't make them a flashpoint just yet.  Please don't cause an issue that will get the privilege of use revoked for the responsible end of the two wheeled spectrum.

Northwest citizens that use the trails for running, dog walking, or riding, or City employees - please understand this isn't all people on two wheels - and if you see them out, please address the topic with them!  That piece of land is a resource for everyone.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Enmax Solar Power Program, LED home lighting

I've spent a little time with an individual lately who has had Enmax manage a solar power installation for him.  Due to his prominent role in the renewable power industry, the commitment he shows by doing this outweighs the economics, which are at present, not the cheapest in cash cost over any period of time if you're making your decision on that basis.  Andrew Leach has done a good writeup on the economics of this at current, saving me the need to duplicate my own, but his appear pretty on track with the spreadsheet I started creating over the last week.

The reality is, you'll pay a lease cost, generate probably about 20%, or maybe a little bit more, of your consumed power, be able to sell what you don't use back to the grid, and therefore continue to pay about 80% of your bill (that's a bit of a misnomer, since your bill doesn't fluctuate entirely linearly with consumption given transmission and hookup charges).

The economics probably mean you're donating a couple thousand dollars to some nether space of solar power over 15 years.  Having said that, there are portions of this program I like.  First, it's a single call to an established organization.  They do the rest.  You don't have to tinker with inverters, panels, permits, etc.  This is good.  This means when economics do come around, there'll be much much less barrier to a residential customer deciding to participate.  They bill you monthly anyway, so swapping some of your bill to a lease payment makes it easy.

Which brings me to my second point - the way to actually save on energy costs currently is to use less.  Now I don't know about others, but I'm not one of those people to sit in the dark, turn my fridge to some crummy setting that doesn't keep food for more than a couple days, turn the house temps to barely warm enough to keep me alive, etc.  I want comfort and a normal behaviour pattern.  Which is a longwinded way of saying that I expect most of my reduced power consumption to come from improvements in technology.

Lighting is a relatively small portion of a/my household's power consumption.  6% is the North American average, but the point of the below is you could get that to 1% in a few years... we're nearing the economics of the step change.  I've tracked LED bulb pricing now for 4 years.  These will generate equivalent spectrum and candlepower of light as my current bulbs, with 80% less juice.  I bought one a year or so back to try it out.  But it was economic at that time only if a) you used a high power price (ie. interestingly enough, still lower than I pay at retail in a deregulated, natural gas saturated market... hmm), b) a high usage rate, and/or c) put a high value on your time spent changing bulbs.  One house is one thing... but when these become unquestionably economic  by easily meeting all those economic hurdles, light isn't going to cost us nearly as much.  On a national level that'll move the needle.  The rough math is for GE/Phillips/Sylvania type brands, the 4 year trend for a single bulb at retail is approximately $50->$40->$33->$23.  First, it's telling that the first years they were few sizes, more science and technology type retailers, and costly.  Now they're Home Depot, Wal-mart, dimmable, warm or bright white, and on the verge of being truly economic.  Second, as they become more widespread, I now can find wholesale, bulk and OEM better than previous, which means it looks like I can source 50 for $17 each... although I'd like to actually try those ones first/see them.  Even if their light specs are stated, it helps to see before placing big orders.

What does that tell me?  We're 1-2 years away likely from mass adoption when they get to the famous ending in 7 Wal-mart price of $9.97.  You can buy 50, not change bulbs in your house for 25 years, and be better off without even recovering any salvage value for your existing bulbs (which I'm sure you can do on Kijiji).  In Alberta, with our retail prices per kWh that are "shown" to be less than what the package economics read (they seem to use 11 cents), you might think this isn't worth it.  Truth is the effective is higher than the cents per kWh your bill shows, as the "administration fee", "delivery charge", "distribution charge", "transmission charge", "balancing pool charges", "local access fees" and"rate riders" are all associated bs that generally scale with consumption - so you want to keep yours low if you can.

And what else does that mean?  I've seen that the average North American home consumes 20,000kWh/year (Canadian stats seem to be more along the lines of 17,500kWh/year per person).  Seems high as mine is about half that, but I'm not around a lot, have a small family, and an efficient house, and don't have TV's and use electricity for heat.  Regardless, that average has  lighting at 6% or 1,200kWh.  But if you could actually trim that proportion inline with a per bulb LED efficiency, that takes you to 1% or about 180kWh/year to generate the same light.  That's 5% of the "average household's" consumption.   That helps.  I think starting in 2 years and stretching out for 5 years, that transformation will happen for the most part.  But I'd still suspect we're 5-10 years away from the improved yield from the sun in terms of panel technology, economies of scale in manufacture and installation, that make it more viable to pursue at Calgary's average annual sun volumes.  Twice the powergen at half the cost and we'd all have them, but those are monumental changes.  A key hint on progress will be when you see the thousands of acres of Wal-mart roof in North America twinkling with panels.  When that time comes, the price insensitive, socially motivated pioneers will have your one call local utility warmed up to install them.

For those who are aggressively into "green" power, don't panic if you're in Canada.  ~65% of Canada's electricity is produced from renewable sources (mostly hydro, but some wind).  So we're already "green" without going nuts for the "green" movement without understanding the stats.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Much less aged

Cousin Kristin and I, back in the golden sunshine age of simplicity.  Ahh… to have nothing more important to do during a day than fiddle around at a lake, throw some rocks in the water, and track down a hot dog for lunch.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Friends, Crazy Friends

The last week has been interesting.  I've had the Yak Attack on my radar for a while, and the 2014 edition which was shortened (by 2 days, by combining 4 days into two, not making them shorter), seemed within the realm of what I could fit in a vacation without doing a full leave of absence and hoping I was employed on return.

I had hoped to stew on the idea, talk to all my bike friends, see what everyone's far out (in time, and in crazyness) plans were, and see if we could get a group together to make a go of it.

So a week ago I hit the Yak web site, and to my surprise, the text has changed.  Yikes, it said accepting applications now, with 25 person foreigner limit!  I put in my blackberry to bring my passport in to scan.  I signed up before work the next morning, hoping I wasn't the 26th acceptable sounding rider. 

After that bit of impulsiveness that got my heart racing, I let my friends know this was on, and I was comitted, thinking I might find a (as in singlular) person whom I know to go along, as a nice comfort factor to also meeting a couple dozen new adventure seekers.

But of course I was wrong.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I underestimated my friends, you never want to do that.  I just didn't really give it that much forethought.  Sometimes wildfires spread fast.  I think the hit rate was over 80%.  Thomas Vandendale was in before I could blink.  Then Kate Aardal.  Then Gerry McCuaig.  Then Jeff Nielson.  Then Craig Stappler.  A friend I haven't met yet, although I've met his brother - Keevy Raes (Dave was at Andalucia with Thomas).

That's a crazy bunch.  In the space of a couple days, without much doubt, each of them went through a thought process something like this:
a) Erik is weirdly impuslive, but as long as it's biking, that's probably not too bad.
b) I've heard of that race before, that seems like an awesome way to spend some time in Nepal.
c) I've now brushed up on my reading, this sounds incredible (Thanks Carena, Carena's husband Jeremy, and Sonya Looney).
d) Do I think I can get the time off work?  Heck, do I think I can count the time out of my life working instead of living my one life?  I'm in!
e) Let's do this application thing and convince an organizer I'm not going to croak on the first couple stages.

That's an amazing group of people; I love you guys!  I've seen people take longer to decide where to meet for dinner on a Saturday night.

Gerry and I have already booked tickets, my first time around the world in its entirety.  Calgary-Vancouver-Beijing-Bankok-Kathmandu, then Kathmandu-Bankok-Frankfurt-Calgary 38h each way!

ps.  I've heard Yak's are large and reasonably nice.  There's two ways to ride a yak.  Touristing, or life saving.  I hope to do the former, especially after reading Jeff Kerkove's account of his yak ride last year.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Yak Attack 2014

I'm going to the Yak Attack 2014, and suffice to say I'm excited.  I keep looking at these things online... should be a teriffic, serious outing to add to the annual adventure quotient!

Pinkbike has some pretty good pictures up.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Whatever's Comfortable

This made me laugh this weekend, not the least of which is that this dude is enjoying way better weather than we are, but cause you've gotta be who you've gotta be.  I keep getting "encouraged" to do "luxury" vacations from office chatter, but I'd way rather do mountain bike races.  Not sure if the analogy fits a guy in not much beach apparel, but I just gotta be me.

Odetta Holmes - Hit or Miss, 1970.

Two versions of Spring

I got up to watch Amstel Gold race online, and basically right when I tuned in, the commentor was marvelling that there were even heat waves appearing over the pavement when seeing the racers. We don't have that problem here.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

April 13 and still snowing!

The only way I could justify to myself to get out on the road today was that I'd be super comfortable in my new Gore-tex jacket, which is about what it takes to survive the spring here.  80km of snow and sleet, and I was dry and warm inside, and just watched the gusting wind roll the beaded droplets right off my jacket.  The Gore-tex helmet cover is a saver too - so light, so small, and breathable.  Looks like another night of snow to make the spring training harder.  All in I don't mind it, it's fun to get geared up and be able to ride comfortably, but I do aspire to shorts and jersey rides just around the corner.

Cervelo R3 2013 update!

The original incarnation of this Cervelo R3 was early in 2007, and for the last 6 years it's done everything I've asked of it without so much as a squeak.

But 6 years of riding is about what a parts kit can take.  I could have held it together longer, but instead I stripped it down to the frame and sold everything on ebay.  The frame is under warranty, and new frames are like 100g lighter - this R3 was sort of the first of the ultralight, ultra stiff frames - so extra dollars there didn't really achieve much.  Plus I've always liked its ride, look, stiffness and handling - so instead it got a sweet redressing.

The major changes are cabled Dura-ace 9000 (man I love the shift quality and overall lack of maintenance of that product line), some featherweight eebrakes, the SRM now rebuilt as wireless model to clean up cabling (and twice the battery life), a normal sized seat post (this frame came with a very uncommon size so I shimmed to give more options on what to use), my favourite Fizik Gobi but in the all carbon "00" build, super light Look Keo Blade pedals, and those beauty Enve 6.7 wheels which are lighter than my last set, stiffer, wider twice the depth, and now are shod with 25mm tires.

That's 16.0lbs of beauty as pictured, without any sketchy parts that can't do the next 6 years of duty at least!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Continental GP 4 Seasons 28mm tires

I feel like I've approached a bit of cycling nirvana with larger road tires.  I ride road and race with smaller tires, but I've found the transition from the limitless exploration of 'cross tires all winter to "road bikes" to be difficult on the soul.  So little of the world is paved - it's worth reaching well beyond the pavement.  Alberta has lots of beautiful gravel roads, and our crew isn't beyond connecting other roads with gravel, or even bits of single track, if need be.

Although I wish I could keep that free rolling, 170g Ultremo feeling throughout all this, it isn't practical as there's so little to those tires in terms of protection, it's virtually guaranteeing flats.

Enter the Continental GP series.  I've always had good luck with these, and a few layers of Vectran seem to work magic out in the real world.  The 4 seasons 28mm tire is only 260g, which for what it offers, sure isn't much.

Now that Enve has pressure gradient rated their XC rims, I'm exploring the possibilities.  The 28mm GP 4 Seasons, when installed, is almost exactly the width of the rim itself.  It's such a clean looking profile that way.  28mm tires are allowed up to 100psi, I've gone at 90 just for some comfort, as I'm not a fan of rock hard pressures overall.

On a little test ride, they soak up the road very nicely, and give a lot of contact with the ground.  They feel secure.  Their 260g doesn't spin up too poorly either.  If it can do duty at Paris Roubaix, it sure can work around here!

Gore Bikewear (Gore AlpX 2.0, Gore Fusion jackets), Gore Helmet Cover Ligh

Gore's fabrics are like magic.  A couple hundred grams of armor that breath, yet stop wind and water.  Indispensable for Calgary's weather.

I had earlier this winter picked up the Alp X 2.0 jacket that comes with front pocket, hood, back pocket, and back "tail" that drops down to protect from more rear tire spray.  It's pictured below.  Only problem was I couldn't pull the tags off or wear it outside.  After a few tries around the house and in the garage on the bike, I just couldn't figure it out.  It's marketed as a "mountain biker" jacket, but the only bike position this thing is made to fit is riding a penny farthing.  It's perfect standing, but that's not the riding position.  It's still a nice jacket, but remember this is sold as "bike wear".  It's on its way back.

I actually considered keeping it as a ski/outdoor activity jacket, but I can pick up one with a few more pockets just as easily for that (especially this time of year).  The hood to me makes little sense in a bike application too, maybe if you get off and are fending for your warmth in the elements...

Instead, I opted to buy, and wear, a Gore Fusion 2.

You can tighten the hips and cuffs, elbows are pre-bent, and the jacket is less boxy.  I think only their Oxygen model fits more "cycling shape".  This has one chest pocket.  240g, fits in a jersey pocket (overflowing).  But that's half a pound that can make you windproof, waterproof and breathable.  That's worth it.

We rode pretty hard out of the wind at COP for a half hour.  I sweated, which I noticed when we hit the road crossing the TransCanada.  5 minutes later I felt fine.  It snowed and sleeted, and then proceeded to roll off me.  Amazing.  Quality product.  This is going to do lots of duty over the next few winters/springs.  You really can think a bit broader about comfort when wind, water, and steamrooming yourself into a frigid state are things you don't have to worry about.

Lastly, I tried out one of their Helmet Cover Light.  I'm a fan of showercaps for spring rides, races, etc. as their packed size is virtually nil, but they're for emergency not riding long distances, as they don't breathe.  This thing packs up decently small, say like having an extra phone or walled in a pocket, but that's probably 5x larger than a shower cap.  Having said that, it breathes, and does so well, as even when we were going hard today, there were only a few beads of perspiration on the plastic parts of my helmet, where when I've tried with a cheaper nylon helmet cover, the entire inside is condensed water.  I think this will add a lot of flexibility for comfortable warmth addition on winter/spring rides.

2013 Cannondale Lefty review

I did a first ride today on a 2013 Lefty Carbon XLR as pictured on the left.  First impression is it's smooth and stiff as ever.  It felt better than the "booted" 2012 model, but that could be just that my old one had a lot of wear and tear (I still have that one, this is a replacement for a 5 year old one).

The pop loc is great, the travel is smooth.  I'm going to make one comment I hope Cannondale fixes shortly.

If you squint to see the top of the brush guard, there's a little clamp for holding your brake hose.  Good idea.  It's like a two bolt stem cap that's rounded out to approximately the dimension of a brake lines.  Sounds good right?  Except for the bolts are basically as small as reading glasses hinge bolts.  I'd guess this is to not have people crushing their brake lines.  Better way to achieve this is to make a bigger arc to the metal, then put some sort of grommet inside, or just tell people to put in a piece of tire or glue.  The bolts that hold it are probably 1 or 1.5mm allen keys - I grabbed a 2mm from my Pedro's set, and it was way to big.  I had to find a multitool with one small enough.  One side stripped without even force of screwing in half way.

Gimme a break, that's ridiculous.  Or put a hole through the brush guard for a couple zip ties.

Happy Birthday Craig!

Craig, Kate and I got out for about 3h of riding for Craig's birthday!  Despite the "spring" conditions, the riding was fantastic.  Mud was frozen, so no slop.  Snow just stuck to the ice enough nothing was slippery.  But the ice had all melted last week for most part.  Other than the blowing wind, conditions were exceptional.

I like the ridge pictured above, the relief to the left is a probably 100 feet.  

Kate's new ride is beautiful.  Trek Superfly Pro SL.  It felt like a road bike on the road, just no resistance anywhere.  I like it that she and I ride the same size bikes, I should just start buying used bikes off her every year.  It's beautiful.  And it'd deadgoat colors!  I really like the optional internal brake and shift cable wiring, as well as the seatstay mounted rear disc.  Just looks so clean.

Let me just say it says something about your riding group when I show up with a Cannondale Flash Ultimate and it's the heaviest bike at the ride (Craig's Scott is starting to get freaky light - like it's only about 2 pounds off my Cervelo... uh, yes he's got an 18.3lb 29er mountain bike going).  

Naturally, I came home and pulled the heavy pedals, swapped out my grips for the same ones that are lighter, and most importantly, pulled off my heavier tires, for a quick one pound diet.  That's it for now, although Shawn keeps telling me how awesome Furious Fred's are, and I was eyeing Craig's Renegades.  

Pivot Mach 429 Carbon first rides

Last year I went looking for a 4" travel, 29er.  I prefer carbon, and I prefer naturally efficient suspension setups vs. ones that depend on a shock "platform" valve to keep things efficient.  I had ridden a couple 26" DW-link bikes and liked them - so began looking for a carbon, 29er, 4" DW-link.

As far as I could tell, none were available until Pivot announced theirs late last fall, so I put in an early order through Bow Cycle.  Rumor has it this was the first one shipped to Canada.

It's a nice bike, probably the most engineered bike I've ever had.  Pivot has no real carbon "tubes", they're almost all custom shapes.  Very few straight lines.  In an effort to reduce future breaking down of parts hassle, XTR filled the spec.  The XTR shifting is as good as cable shifting gets, especially when new, it's really quite impeccable.  The "trail" brakes need nothing more than a single index finger for powerful stops or long descents.  That's really quite an amazing amplification of a finger when you think about it.

This bike has as close to zero pedal induced bob as a full suspension bike could have, in any one of the three Fox modes (essentially stiff, trail, downhill).  I thought it might feel mushy in DH mode, but really it just sits a bit lower in the travel then is easier to activate on bumps, but it doesn't wallow around.

Front and rear wheels track the same line.  It's longitudinally stiff that way, surprising really to feel it be so stiff through the rear linkages.  The DW implementation is spot on, exactly why I opted for this in the first place.  It feels firm and akin to "pushing" you on the climbs as it resists squat.  Yet the rear wheel is supple over little bumps.  It's so easy to just sit and pedal - it makes at least tame terrain mountain biking like road riding - a spin game.

There's something about either the DT hubs and/or the carbon rims that just go.  Cruising back home from Nose Hill, they just never stop accelerating on the road descents.  Those are roads I've ridden for years commuting on mountain/road/'cross bikes.  It's feels closer to a 'cross or road bike - they just continue to pick up speed instead of topping out.

Downsides?  Only a small bottle fits.  Second cage is on bottom of downtube.  I consider this a Pivot oversight.  This isn't a DH or an "all mountain" bike.  It can pretend to be the latter.  It's a luxe cross country and half capable all-mountainer.  One full bottle would be better - this is likely to force me to use a camel back for BC Bike Race.  Secondly, it looks like the suspension linkage could have mud pile up in it pretty easy.  We'll see.

All in, this is the nicest riding full suspension bike I've ever tried.  It's not the lightest (25lbs), but it doesn't ride heavy - those extra few pounds can be felt in overall rigidity and the "features" of the suspension system.  I'm gonna swap out the front Racing Ralph for a Nobby Nic, put my heavier pedals on it, and my bigger grips.  This isn't really meant to be a racer or compete with the hard tail, it's meant to be fun.  

"Cindy, how does your new bike feel?"


Calgary Spring

We didn't let a lack of actual Spring keep us from a first ride on the new Pivot's today.  Frozen ice on the prairie grasses at Nose Hill.

Mean new machine.  

Enchanted ice forest where we stopped to chat with a walker.

Friday, 5 April 2013


I'm deviating a bit from bike talk here, but it's irked me for years how media, and therefore the collective social intelligence discuss unemployment rates as barometers of the economy. 

For those who are innately familiar with the statistic, how it's calculated, and therefore it's measured changes have a context to you, that's great.

It sounds so simple, but it isn't.  Unemployment rate is the ratio of those who are unemployed divided by the labour force.  Makes sense.  However, those two variables have a lot of caveats, which statistically speaking, are valid.  In reality though, they give a lot of ability to modify the number - who's discouraged?  Who's in the army?  Who can't find work at their level?  Who is actually in the labour force?  The descriptions here illustrate where, and why there's leeway.

Sometimes its good to step back to the more abstract.  Less unemployment is good, meaning more employment is good. 

Why don't we look at something more fundamental.  If we're measuring the health of an economy, why not use Employed/Population?  The only way to fudge that one is to not count illegal immigrants, although most census data appears to capture them, and/or to hire more people on the taxpayer dollar (not the best system, but at least you in theory get more output that way than just paying benefits).

You may say this is irrational, as babies and grandmas aren't workforce.  But they are part of a nation's population, and they do consume national resources to care for.  Therefore, in comparing health of nations, those with higher Employed to Population ratios are likely to be somewhat better off.  Each person employed is one less on the dole, one more paying tax, one more paying into pensions, one more person who has better cash flow than collecting government checks provides.  If you're on a boat crossing the Atlantic with 100 people on board, you're better off wit 64 people rowing than with 57 people rowing.  Simple.

At times the US and Canada have appeared to be 4 percentage points apart (low-mid 60% level vs high mid 50% level). 

At the very least, help me understand how the US' poor trend correlates to the incredibe performance of major US indicies such as the S&P 500 and DJIA year to date.  It just doesn't make much sense to me.

IMHO, this is also why countries who surpress an additional half of their work force capability into not being able to be productive, are economic backwaters.  Women are capable of much more than what many places on earth let them contribute.  Not hard to pick those countries off this list.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Urban Sprawl Myths, Bicycle Tariffs in Canada

The debate I've heard on bicycle tariffs has brought up some interesting side discussions.

One is that cycling as transportation is not feasible with the size of sprawling North American cities, Calgary included.  I tend to reject that, this article and link give that some creedence.  I'd say the more practical barriers are weather and road attitude.  Road lanes, bike paths are great for riding on, convenient, and help deal with road attitude via separation of transport types, but in the presence of a collaborative citizenry, probably wouldn't be as necessary.  Excellent google work from Copenhagenize.com!

I've actually been on a several month stretch where, for the most part, car traffic has been totally cooperative.  It's nice, as I try to be the cyclist that is predictable and follows the rules, such that I'm not actually irking motorists by disobeyment of the law (although some will always be irked by the mere presence of a bicycle). 

It's helpful when people's minds function more like "oh, some person riding a bike.  interesting.  I'll just nudge over and give them a smidge of space, no big deal, I'll still get where I'm going just fine."  That's great.  Only once in the last few months have I had the "oh look, some dumbasses on a bike.  ha I'll show them.  I'm gonna downshift my 1989 Dodge diesel truck, semi flood the engine, then smoke them out with black exhaust soot.  Ha, watch this.  I'm so unaware that each of their bikes is worth more than my truck right now and that besides being on bicycles, these are productive members of society who will help subsidize the costs of my eventual emphysma, but I'm emboldened by my truck's size, and really enjoying my cigarette, and I own these roads!".

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bicyle Tariffs in Canada going up - and why they shouldn't

Tariffs in theory can serve several purposes - protection of domestic industry, raising of revenue, and discouragement of a behaviour due to increased costs.

Canada is looking to raise tariffs on a wide variety of sporting goods, including bicycles, with carve outs for the political hot topic of hockey gear.  My first suggestion is that all bicycles now should be labelled as "offseason hockey training equipment", but there are more fundamental reasons why this is questionable policy.

If you agree with any of the below, or have issue with tariffs on sporting goods in general, please consider participating with the petition here.

Here's at least a few more reasons why increased tariffs don't make any sense:

Protection of a domestic industry.  Canada doesn't have any meaningful bicycle manufacture industry.  It's not like we're talking a nationally critical industry which could be argued for some strategic protection, or an employment concentrated regional industry that'd be a pain to have erased by offshoring.  Even Canadian brands manufacture abroad (Dorel/Cannondale, Rocky Mountain, Norco).  The manufacturing we do have is generally Quebec based, which is fine, but kind of raises the debate on regional wealth transfer through protectionism of specific industries.  But regionalism isn't what this is about.  Bicycles are, in the grand scheme of manufacturing, relatively simple to create.  They are well suited to offshore applications, and have been made offshore for years - that's a comparative economic advantage in simple manufacturing that isn't worth combating through policy.  This tariff increase isn't going to do more to foster a significant Canadian bicycle industry.

Raising of revenue.  It's quoted that these broad sweeping tariff changes will add $330mm to Canada's revenues.  First, let me remind us that a) the tax system is the most efficient, appropriate place to garner revenue for the country, which doesn't single out industries or subsectors, and b) any time spent by civil servants running numbers on incremental revenue from tariffs on bicycles is a complete waste of time, when we've been selling crude oil to the United States for decades on discount, continue to do so, and haven't achieved export capacity to other customers, which could be measured in the [call it $50 million per day according to this link] millions of dollars per day for decades should we be able to narrow the discounted pricing we recieve as a nation.  80/20 rule here on priorties... this is like deciding to spring clean your entire house one weekend, then starting in the corner of your living room with a Q-tip rubbing away some dust.  Senseless.  But let's pull back that digression to why we want more revenue - we have large governments in the modern age.  They attempt to do so many things for us that us simple citizens didn't really know we needed help with - and it has become comedic.  Let's look at trimming costs first rather than finding more revenue to fund bloat - gun registries, military purchases, and other projects of questionable excess expenditure could single handedly have multiples the impact that extra taxation on sporting goods could have.  The world I envision has government providing reasonably unobtrusive yet peaceful and organized living conditions for citizens, rather than prolific and deep reach into all aspects of the citizenry's life, business and being on a daily basis.

Discouragement of behaviour due to increased costs.  Tobacco is cheap to grow, dry, and roll into cigarettes.  Cigarettes are very expensive.  Why?  Because it's detrimental to society to have smokers who then become high probability of high cost health care patients for everyone to share treatment costs of.  High costs of cigarettes through taxation is disincentive.  Lets step back a second here - this is a broad tariff increase encompassing sporting goods?  So we want to curb sporting activities through raising their costs across the board?  What kind of country are we in?  Sports are healthy, generate camraderie and entertainment.  Bicycles in particular are inexpensive,  pollution free health machines.  Why retard the spread of such a wonderful invention?  Bikes should be a child's, a university student's, an athlete's viable form of casual transportation.  Do we not want this?  Canada, do you have any idea what the health care cost line item on your national budget would be annually if we could magically replace every 2 pack a day smoker with a set of fresh lungs and a person whom instead of smoking rode their bike to work daily?  This in itself would probably entirely solve our national budgeting quagmire.  Bicycles are low up front cost, virtually nil variable cost transportation machines - for students, urban dwellers, and athletes.  In the abstract, a road exposed to a million bicycles vs. a million cars would need monumentally less repair and upkeep, again shifting Canada's cost structure.  This will never happen in practicality, however as a nation, the points illustrate that each percentage increase in those who cycle in this country have postive aggregate benefits.

If all this fails to be heard, "hockey offseason training equipment" imports will be through the roof.  Bicycles offer excellent threshold interval training potential that will help anything from hokcey kids to pros to speedskaters to skiers further their excellence in their sports.

Want to turn the dirty word of "import" into "exports"?  Look at Canada's role in progressing mountain biking, where we export film media worldwide that is cutting edge in terms of what humans on bicycles (Kranked series anyone?) or unicycles (thanks to Chris Holm) can accomplish.

Monday, 1 April 2013

engine lights back on

Bunnin and I caught up on the weekends events with a duo ride on Sunday.  After backtracking a ways through town to find a dislodged brake pad of his, we were off.  Did a Cabin Jam loop, save for a small detour by Cochrane for some additional nice roads. 

It's funny - after yesterday's sufferage of the engine room having no power, Sunday felt great.  We jammed hills, we traded pulls, we held tempo.  Now of course I'm not going to make it to the top of climbs before that guy, but let's just say I wasn't embarassingly in the rear view mirror.  What a difference a day can make, and how much fun is it to carelessly burn matches knowing your energy is flowing vs. having nothing to give.  Awesome!

Water Valley 200 2013 edition

8 of us departed from Cadence, plus one who joined on in the NW, but wasn't going to complete the ride once he asked what this group was up to this morning.  From left to right: Gary "Big Ring" Chambers, Devin "Surprise I'm here" Erfle, joiner, Cesar "getting in as much riding before the twins as I can" Martin, Trev "I've wanted to do this ride for 4 years" Williams, Jeff "cramming all my volume training into one day" Nielson, Craig "I did a loop of the Water Valley this morning before breakfast to check it out for you mere mortals" Stappler, and Kate "I'm so happy from my coolest birthday cake ever" Aardal.  Erik not in photo.

Mmmm... cake.  So I hadn't felt good the night before, and Saturday morning my stomach felt ok but not super.  I struggled up the first couple km's of climbing out of town, but held in expecting to feel better.  I kept wanting cake.  I didn't feel much better all day, but true to word, this was a no drop ride, and I got pushes from everyone involved at various times.

The cafe in Water Valley supplied excellend mid morning snacks for us before we headed further west, and also served as Devin's turn around point.  From there we did the beauty gravel roads of climbing, and Craig used his supercharged engine to help me along.  Very impressive.  Gary of course didn't shift out of his big ring, Trev dressed light like it was a summer road ride, Kate just motors on with a smile and no complaints.  Jeff and I kept each other good company, and I helped his leg strength and diesel training by being dead weight for him to push at points ; )

The forestry trunk road went well, nice gravel fast pace we held for kilometers and kilometers.  No flats all ride other than my double flat in a paceline on the last stretches of gravel where a rock pinched out both tires.

I'd like to have reported on the race to the top of Wildcat Hill, but I was so far off the back!  I actually zig zagged the road while the rest were hammering.  After lying down at the top for a minute, we coasted down then pedalled into the surprise-wind-shifted-perfectly-for-us late in the day headwind once again.

Quick refuel in Cochrane and the paceline home, I felt decent.  All the peel-offs into town left Jeff and I as the two standing outside Cadence at the end.  I sat down on a bench waiting for my ride while Jeff packed his stuff into the car, both of us chatting with Alana.  Some kids walked by, then turned left into a shop I didn't look at twice before.  Pizza by the slice.  Holy cow that's exactly what I needed.  We slayed a few slices of deliciousness.  It's hard to communicate just how good cheap pizza slices can taste after 210km of depletion!

All in it was a great day.  Fair weather, good company, great friends to help me along when I was suffering, and what goes around comes around (I got back more than the pushing I gave Cindy in Andalucia, and last year Jon was having a rough day on the long ride).  It's not a training ride, 9h rides aren't really something that needs to be worked into most people's training efforts.  It's an adventure, it's camraderie, it's scenery, and in some ways it's been kind of the ceremonial closing of the 'cross bikes/gravel roads/winter season of riding.  

About 9h and 210km!

Tandem ride of commitment

Sometimes a tandem ride goes down as a memorable one, this definitely falls into that category.