Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday cheer = Beer!

Or maybe it's beer = holiday cheer. Either way, today is day 5 of 5 of lazing around, doing the holiday thing, not working, eating, playing with Lil' D, doing some bike related stuff (cleaning the winter commuter and hopping on the trainer), and last, but certainly NOT least, drinking beer. At this time of year, there are lots of seasonal beers around, as well as gift packs at the LCBO, consisting of beers that aren't stocked year 'round, so if you're lucky, you might score a rare beer or two. One such find was the Wychwood Bah Humbug Beer. An English ale with a hint of cinnamon. I'd have to say I was slightly disappointed with this one, mainly because I could barely pick up on the cinnamon. Now, as a stand alone ale, it was quite nice, and most Wychwood beers that I've tried are pretty good, but because I was searching for cinnamon and couldn't find it, I was slightly disappointed.

Another beer that I found, available in limited quantities, was the Innis and Gunn triple matured oak aged beer. Because of the reputation of Innis and Gunn, I was expecting a knockout beer. Well, I guess I had my hopes set too high. Don't get me wrong, this is a good beer, but compared with the original, I didn't see much of a difference. If anything, it was not as sweet and less fruity than the original, but more malty... like a good dark ale. Was it worth the extra $$$ over the original Innis and Gunn...not really. Was it a good beer? Yes. In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye out for the Innis and Gunn Rum cask aged beer.

Tomorrow it's back to the grind for two and a half days of work, and then 3 and a half days off. Commute #201 tomorrow, and more beer drinking to come, including some Samuel Smith's and St. Peter's.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I did it! Today I rode into work for the 200th time this year. Quite the day for a commute...the roads were slick and snowy this morning...really put my studded tire to the test. Funny thing is that on my way home today, I didn't think I would make it....I was about 5 minutes from my house when I rode through some snow that I thought looked slushy but turned out to be hard and icy. The front end got jerked around a bit, and my heart eased its way back down into my chest by the time I got home.

No ride tomorrow (no work), but I'm working 3 days next week, so who knows...maybe I'll hit 203! 'Till then, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Journey Through Hell

Coffee table books. They're not something that I go out and buy on a regular basis. I've either gotten them as gifts, or bought them on sale. Well, with Christmas just mere days away, and boxing day with all of its madness almost here, there's no excuse not to add another book to your collection (or get one started). Last year on Boxing Day, I picked up "Paris-Roubaix, A Journey Through Hell", and it is one hell of a book (no pun intended). I'm not about to even attempt to write a review of the book (click the link above for that), but I will tell you that a year after I bought it, I still love to sit down and leaf through it, staring at the incredible photographs.

There is writing in the book, too. Good writing, at that (much better than what I'm capable of). On top of that, the chapters in the book are organized by themes, from the cobbles themselves, to the velodrome where the race finishes. It's a good way to ensure a smattering of pictures from different eras spread throughout the book. The pictures span from the first edition of the "Queen of the Classics", way back in 1896, all the way up to 2005.

In the meantime, you can check out some pictures that I took of pictures from the book. (Hopefully that's all I need to say to cover my ass from some lawsuit happy yahoo.) You can also drop me a line and swing by for a coffee and a flip through the book.




Sunday, December 20, 2009

A week of commuting

I meant to post this a day or two ago, but life happens and some things (like this blog) take a back seat. So, here's a quick synopsis of the last week in my little world of commuting to work.

Monday: The morning commute was warm (relatively speaking...minus 2), but MAD foggy. Since I'm MAD visually impaired (otherwise know as having to wear glasses), I had to wipe off my glasses about every 3 minutes to get rid of the moisture that accumulated on them. Makes an already hairy commute all the more hairier. I sometimes think that if I were alive back in the hunter-gatherer days, natural selection would have taken me out of the picture early on as a saber-toothed tiger that looked like a big fuzzy blurry blob made me his lunch. Hopefully I would have figured out that I would be better off staying home in the cave mackin' the ladies while some other chumps were out hunting.  Oh, and on the way home, there was sleet coming down pelting me in the face. LOVELY.

Tuesday: Morning commute, more sleet, OUCH, OUCH, OUCH. Being nailed in the face with tiny bits of ice is not exactly how I want to start my day, but it sure as hell wakes you up. On the way home, the temps dropped and the wind picked up, forming snow drifts on Baseline road along the Experimental farm. Again....hairy.

Wednesday: No complaints here.

Thursday: Colder than....I don't want to say colder than a witch's tit 'cause that one is overplayed, but it was f@#$*n' cold. On my feet: two layers of socks, shoes, and two outer layers. Down below: a pair of tights and shell pants. Up above: three layers. On my hands: merino liners and lobster mitts. On my head: face mask, fleece hat and helmet. Vaseline went on exposed skin on my face. Made it to work toasty and warm.

I didn't commute on Friday, but I just have to get in 3 more commutes to hit 200 for the year. Cold and clear weather is in the forecast, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I HATE taking the bus!

Wednesday, we had our first big (snow) dump of the year. (I added snow in brackets just to clarify that I wasn't talking about my daughter's diapers.) It would have been way too dicey to try and ride in on Wednesday...actually, the ride in to work would have been ok, it's the ride home that would have put me at the mercy of the driving skills of people unprepared for the first snowfall of the year. Taking the bus Wednesday morning was fine, and I got a ride home after work. Thursday though...

I wasn't sure what the roads would be like Thursday morning, but the real nail in the coffin was a killer headwind, so I decided to bus it. Well, I left my house at 6:30, anticipating that it would take me an hour to get to work. According to the OC transpo route planner (the biggest waste of programming EVER! DO NOT click on the link!), I would get to work on time, before 7:30. So I left the house, planted myself at the bus stop, and waited. And waited. First bus, 5 minutes late. No problem. I wouldn't have to wait too long when I transferred to my second bus. Well, I got off to transfer, and waited, and waited, and waited. My bus FINALLY came, but it was one of those damn buses that didn't do the whole route. Sh*t! I got on it anyways, figuring I could transfer to another bus later. Well, I figured wrong 'cause when I got off to transfer again, I waited, and waited, and waited, and my bus didn't come. I ended up hopping on another route, but of course it was a route that wound its way through random residential streets. By the time I finally made to work, it was 8:00. An hour and a half after I left my house and half an hour late for work. GREAT!
The ride home wasn't any better. Two buses to get me home, but with a 25 minute wait to transfer buses, it took me ANOTHER hour and a half to get home. F*@K!!!!!!!!! 3 hours of commuting using the bus! Had I biked, it would have taken me HALF that time. ARGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

At least today the roads were clear enough to bike in. On top of that, I had a 20km/hr tailwind pushing me the whole way to work. The only downside was that the wind hadn't let up when I left work, and had a killer workout on the way home. Nothing like a wicked cold headwind and blowing snow to bring on the weekend! Time for a beer and some heavy reading.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bring on winter riding

In my last post, I mentioned getting in some weekend riding. Well, last Saturday morning, I slept in 'till 11am. The thing about sleeping in that late is that it kind of kills all motivation. Looks like most of my riding for now will be relegated to this:

Looks inviting, doesn't it?

At least I can get a decent workout riding to work now that I've installed this bad boy:

Schwalbe Marathon Winter...A 2 pound tire = 4 pounds of rotating weight, plus it sounds like you're riding on velcro.

Last winter I rode with one winter tire on my bike, on the front wheel. It seemed to work well, although I had the occasional rear wheel slide or drift. I'm gonna stick to the same setup this year and see how I roll. For now, though, I need to get re-acquainted with how my bike handles in snow and ice. I'm thinking some riding sessions in a parking lot testing the limits of my bike's handling and cornering will be on the agenda this coming weekend.

Friday, December 4, 2009

10 more....

10 more commutes. That's how many more commutes I need to get in this month/year to hit 200 commutes for the whole year. I've already passed my previous season high of 171 commutes from 2007, but I think that 200 would just be a nice round number to hit. Has a nicer ring to it than "one hundred and seventy one" or "one hundred and ninety nine"....."Two Hundred"
I have 16 work days left in December, so as long as it doesn't get too snowy, I think I'll be safe. One of the things that amazes me is that my current job is further away than any other job I've had. Round trip commute is 33km. If I hit 200, that's 6600km this year from commuting alone. Add in road bike, mountain bike and other bike mileage, and I should be somewhere between 12000 and 13000 km for the year. That's almost as much mileage as we've put on our car in the past year! Part of it has to do with the small amount of snow we got back in February and March. The lack of snowfall made for dry clear roads...perfect for getting those early season commutes in.
I'm also hoping to get in a ride this weekend, which would mark the latest non-commute I've ever done. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The wind.

Headwind. It sucks. I hate it. Can do without it. You get the picture. When I was looking at today's weather forecast last night, I knew it would be rainy. No problem. Went to bed, slept, got up, looked outside...yup, rain. Checked the weather details: Wind, E 27km/hr. Lovely. 27km/hr headwind. Given the choice between wind and rain, I'll take rain anytime.Cold and rainy over warm and windy any day of the week.

I like commuting to work...I arrive awake and in a good mood. But today, I arrived feeling totally worked over. Part of it has to do with commuting on a fixie. But I guess I shouldn't really complain, 'cause a geared bike would definitely make things a lot easier, and I do have that option. Out of stubborness I just choose not to exercise that option.

So, when I arrived at work, it would have been nice to go back to sleep and then wake up to good cup of hot coffee. Of course, that would NEVER happen. So instead, I worked, and as the day went on, I kept an eye on what the wind was doing. My workplace overlooks St. Laurent Blvd and the Museum of Science and Technology, and there's a nice big flag and a weather vane on top the lighthouse. The flag lets me know how strong the wind is, and the weather vane tells me where the wind is coming from. Pretty neat, huh? Over the course of the day, the weather vane gradually made it's way over to the west, and the flag kept on flappin' in the wind. Just before leaving work, I looked at the weather conditions, just to confirm my suspicions about the wind. And what was the wind doing? West, 31km/hr. YESSSSSS!!!!! Headwind AGAIN! Well, at least I got in two good workouts today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not so great expectations.

Last weekend, I had conjured up a crazy notion that I "might" race the last cross race of the year (yesterday). I had stated this notion out loud, which is apparently one of the ways to set verbalize them. However, in the space of the last week, not once did the thought of racing cross (no pun intended, really) my mind. And really, when it comes down to it, cross is about suffering, but having fun, too. I really didn't want to suffer, SUCK HARD, and not have fun.

So what did I do yesterday? I went out for a ride on my road bike.  I was humming and hawing over what route to ride. Head south and do a quick 40k ride? Do the Cyclelogik loop through Carp? Explore some new roads? I ended up heading out on the same route as the Cyclelogik loop, but turned around early because of time constraints more than anything else. Just over 50k (53 to be exact), and a not too sucky average speed, 29km/hr (29.1 to be exact). Looking at the forecast for the next little while, this will probably be the last road ride of the year. Not bad considering there's just 31 days left.

Elk at the "Elk Farm". Considering how often I ride by here, I don't think I've ever seen the elk out in there full glory.

Some of the local domestic life. 

I think that the season is definitely coming to a close. I'll commute as much as I can during the winter, so hopefully there will be enough fodder for the blog-o-sphere. Of course, there will be product reviews (bike and beer), and the odd lamentation about how riding on the trainer is driving me crazy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Good lights!"...and a crap beer.

"Good lights!" That's what I had a motorist say to me one day last week on my commute home. A minivan in the opposite direction was waiting to make a left hand turn, and as I passed, the driver made the comment about my superior illumination. It definitely wasn't made as a sarcastic remark...I had just replaced the batteries so my lights were nice and bright. The way the motorist said it, it was more of a "you go Mr. bike commuter! I'll commend you on the bright output of your blinky lights! Woot woot!" Ok, there was no "Woot woot!" thrown in there, but it was definitely implied.

I run a red blinky on my seatpost and a white blinky on my handlebar...pretty standard fare. But what I think sets me apart from the common commuter is my helmet mounted BLT Lid LED. I find this gives me a lot more visibility (as in being seen by others) over a standard light set up.

The Lid LED....

....up close and personal.

The Lid LED has alternating red and white LED's, with 360 degree visibility. I think that the key thing about this light is that because it's up high on my helmet, it's visible over the tops of cars...useful when a car is turning into oncoming traffic but their view is blocked by another car.

The other lights on my commuter, Topeak Highlite Combo.

I just realized....I'm not sure if it's a sad sign of things if I've been reduced to posting about my commuter lights....

As far as the crap beer goes, I noticed that Alexander Keith's has expanded their line-up once again, and it now includes a dark ale. I've been trying lots of dark ales lately, so it seemed natural to give this one a whirl. I've come across some really good dark ales in my short tasting career, but the Keith's dark is among the worst. It could be best described as a watered down excuse of a dark ale. No aroma, no taste, no good.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Safety is my Concern"

Two funny things happened to me on my commute today:

1) This was more of a scary-then-funny kind of moment. Biking down Baseline, approaching Woodroffe, I was passed by a pretty big was orange, maybe a City of Ottawa truck, and had a big opening in the back like the type of truck that is used for wood chipping...Anyhow, this big ass truck passed VERY CLOSE to me, enough to catch me off guard and make me say "Holy shit", and then as he kept driving past, there was a sign on the back that read "Safety is my Concern". Hilarious. Safety is his concern when he's not within inches of running cyclists off the road.

2) Continuing down Baseline, this time as I approached Prince of Wales Drive, I passed a bus stop with two people standing there waiting for the bus. One of them, out of nowhere, said, really loud, "BEEP BEEP!!" as I passed him. Gave me a good little chuckle, especially since he looked a bit like this:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amsterdam Brews

I feel the need to post something new, so here we go. Every time I pop into the LCBO (which is often enough, maybe a little too often), I'm always on the lookout for new beers to try, especially Ontario beers. This time around, some cans from Amsterdam Brewery caught my eye. First up, a blonde lager. The website describes it as a "very clean and well balanced hoppy beer". I have to agree. It was an easy drinking beer, not bad, but not great, either. I found it had a slightly sweet and citrusy taste.

Hmmmm, looks a bit like the Heineken label.

Mmmmmm, beeeeeeer.

The second beer, a nut brown ale, is described as "delivering an uncommon smoothness and distinct drink-ability". Yes, it's also an easy drinking beer, but it lacked the character that I like in a dark ale. It had a nice smokey flavour when it first hit the toungue, but the flavour wasn't lasting. Overall, an "ok" beer.

 The nut brown ale.

There you have it, my quick, unpretentious, tell it like it is beer reviews. Both beers are "ok", and most likely not a repeat purchase for me. Stay posted for some more seems that as time spent biking goes down, the time spent drinking beer goes up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family Outing

Put together Friday afternoons off, with unseasonal weather (for November), and you get plans for an after work ride. I mentioned this to Sonia yesterday, and she came up with the idea of driving up to the Park, and from Gamelin I'd go for a ride while she pushed Dalia in the stroller. Re-reading what I just wrote, it sounds like Sonia would have to keep up with me on foot AND push the stroller. I'm not that mean. I was originally thinking of a road ride, but as my mind was wandering during my commute home today, I decided to bust out the mountian bike instead. Fast forward ahead to getting ready to go. Now, the last time I rode my mountain bike was almost 2 months ago (yeah, I know, pretty sad), and all that needed to be done was switch over the pedals from my Mendotta and switch out the race wheels for the everyday wheels. I was about to do this when I looked at my Mendotta and decided, hell, I'll just ride that instead. I figured I could ride up to trail 15 and keep on truckin' untill I needed to turn around and come back. I've never taken my Mendotta out on the trails, so I was keen to see how it held up.

 My "cross" bike.
 Dalia, ready for her first stroll in Gatineau Park.

Sonia: "Hurry and take the picture. The sun is in my eyes and I can't see crap."

Leaving the parking  lot, I had about an hour to ride. When I hit the first climb on 25 towards 15, I was surprised at how well the bike climbed. Later on, I found myself picking lines through the bigger rocks on the trail, but whenever I did hit a rock or a root, the bike kept rolling along. I guess that's what all the fuss is about over 29er's. It didn't take long though, until I was missing my fuel ex, and my hands and low back started to ache. Not much later, I got to take a break, but not voluntarily. Barreling down the trail after crossing Notch road, I went over some good sized rocks. It didn't take long until I felt my back tire get mushy. Great, a flat. Switch out the tube, inflate it, and gave the tire a squeeze to check the pressure. Hmmm, lets compare with the front. The front feels.....soft????? Motherf*cker!!!! Double flat, and no way to fix it. The only consolation is that I was near the parkway, so as a last ditch effort, I filled the front with some air in the hopes that it would hold for a bit. ....It didn't. Now, if you ever find yourself in the park with a flat and no way to fix it, the grass at the side of the road is reaaaaal smooth...makes you forget that you're riding on a flat and makes you forgot that you're a dimwit without a patch kit.
When I got to the bottom of the Pink Lake hill, I decided "what the hell", I'll put some more air in the front. And lo and behold, it held air! On the road the rest of the way. Back at the parking lot, Sonia didn't fare much better. Turns out that about 10 minutes into her walk, Dalia decided she was hungry and started WAILING, so Sonia had to feed her as soon as she could. So, neither of us got in the ride or walk that we were hoping for, but at least we got out for a bit, and one of the three of us was happy:

Dalia in a milk coma.

Monday, November 9, 2009

3 hours and 20 minutes.

That's how much riding I got in this weekend. The last time I had a weekly ride total greater than that was 8 weeks ago. Dalia is going to be 7 weeks old on Tuesday. Coincidence? I'll just blame it on the shorter daylight hours! Saturday's ride was a quick little 50 minute spin. Due to family time during the day, I didn't get out until 3:30. I figured I might as well try and get some good pics with the late day sun, but then clouds decided to roll in.

Quick no look pic on Richmond Road.

Of course the sun decided to peek out just as I finished up my ride.

Sunday I got out for a loop of the park. The last time I did a complete loop was 2 months ago.

 What a beautiful sight!

Me, myself and I.

Fortune climb, a little wet from melting snow.

Fortune climb, and me, apparantly, about to fall over.

Token picturesque shot of a pond.

View from Champlain.

My loop of the park was a solid 10 minutes (12 minutes to be exact) slower than what I usually do in the summer. But with no races on the horizon until next year and no training plans to stick to, shit don't matter right now. It was just damn good to get out for a ride that wasn't my commute.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dry Feet - Gore Bike Wear Paclite socks

Rain. Mother Nature can be a bitch sometimes. It always seems to happen on a weekend morning. You plan to go for a ride in the morning, and you wake up to the pitter patter of the freakin' rain. Do you still get up, and tough it out for a wet ride, or curl back into bed under the warmth of the comforter, eventually wake up and bum around the house, sipping coffee and wasting time online looking at overpriced bike clothing. Um, so, where am I going with this? Oh yeah. If you decide to head out in the rain rather than bum around the house, chances are you have the gear needed to ride in the rain...especially if its wet and cold. Otherwise, you're really dedicated, perhaps a little insane, and really should find some other hobbies. So I digress yet again.  I think the worst part about riding in the rain is getting wet feet. It's not THAT big of deal when out for a road ride in the heat of summer, but it sucks to arrive at work with cold, dripping feet in the spring or fall. My solution has always been plastic bags:

 Plastic bag goes over sock.

Foot, with plastic bag, goes into shoe. Booties then go overtop.

The problem here, though, is that water can still get in through the top of the bag. One thing that does help, is a fender extender:

When water bottles become too grungy to drink out of, recycle and attach them to your fenders.

Enter the Gore Bike Wear Paclite socks. A waterproof/breathable sock, and completely seam sealed. The nice thing about these suckers are the height...almost calf high.

Check out those tall socks!

When combined with a bootie and somewhat water resistant tights*, water doesn't stand much of a chance.

Bootie goes over top of shoe.

Tights go over top of bootie.
*These tights have a wind resistant front panel, so in a rain storm, they don't do much good. But they keep water at bay for a little bit.

I finally had the chance to test out the Gore socks last Thursday. It was raining in the late afternoon, and by the time I left work, it was snowing. This made for some pretty wet conditions on the roads. The whole way, my feet stayed nice and dry. When I got home, my shoes were wet, even on the inside (due to spray working it's way up from the bottom), but my feet were as dry as can't think of a witty comparison right now, but the point is, my feet were dry. I have to admit that these socks were a little pricey ($69 retail), but worth every penny. Gore bike wear is quality stuff, with a lot of thought put into the design of the product. You can find it at Bushtukah (shameless plug...actually, they should be paying ME to mention them, well I guess they do, in a way...I digress again). Another thing to keep in mind is that these socks are strictly a shell, so you need to layer with a thin sock underneath. If you like tight fitting bike shoes, layering these might be a problem. But, if there's room to spare in your shoes, and you find yourself itching to get out on a cold rainy day, or need to keep your feet dry when commuting, this accessory is a must.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kanata Cross Race....Lots of pictures.

Made it out to the cross race today, but didn't ride...I just cherish my sleep too much these days. The whole fam got out to spectate and I tinkered with the camera to try and get some good shots of the action. There's a ton of pics of Tall Tree riders, but a lot of people I know happen to ride for them...I'm not some sort of weird Tall Tree Stalker. So here's a sampling of some of the pics I got. Enjoy.

 This is Kent after the first race. I thought that maybe he wasn't doing so well, but seeing as how there was no one around paying any attention to him, I figured he was ok.

 Start of the second race.

 Nick coming down the mountain. Um, well, hill, really.


 HUP HUP!!!!!!

Shawn, gunning for another Master A win.

 "The hill"

Ryan Atkins.
 EMD riders everywhere.

 Matt sucking wheel. His words, not mine!

 Shawn, chasing down Neil.

 Anna, coming down the hill.... 

.....around a bend and barrelling down the rest.

Matt, showing his "I love cross!" face. (Click on the picture for a bigger version and a better look at Matt's pain!)

Jamie's turn to "come down the hill".

Neil, getting close to the finish.

Nick, glad it's over.

 One last barrier before the finish.

Matt, with his...

...."happy I'm done" face.