Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend riding and a happy ending.

Alright, what you've all been waiting update of weekend riding. I hope you're reading this on your iPhone and simultaneously Tweeting! Saturday morning, I got out for the Cyclelogik loop to Carp. I joined a little later in the ride (so I could sleep in an extra half hour), which put the group ride portion for me at 67km, at an average speed of 35.8 km/hr....not too shabby. At one point in our ride, we had to slow right down because the road was flooded over; about a 20 metre stretch was covered in a couple inches of running water! The amount of rain we've had lately has been pretty crazy. Later on, we passed a soccer field that had literally been transformed into a lake! With the goal nets up, it looked better suited to waterpolo than soccer!

Sunday, I rode to Hull to meet up for a ride through Cantley, Cascades and Wakefield. (You can read Matt's account of the ride here, 'cause I'm feeling too lazy right now to tell you myself. That was my plan all along anyway....wait for someone else to write about the ride, and just mooch off of what they wrote!) On the way, I passed these rental bikes by the Museum of Civilization...part of a pilot project by the City of Ottawa. Looks promising, but I'd like to see more money put into building proper bike lanes on some of Ottawa's major roads. But I suppose it looks good in the eyes of tourists!

View across the river...the haziness gives you an idea of how humid it was.

Part of our group, which consisted of Shawn (in orange, cool story a little further down), Matt, Jeff, Rodd and Andy. Not pictured here are Jamie, Glenn, Mark, and myself.

On the Cascades downhill (18%!), Matt hit 101.65 km/hr! BADASS!!!

I managed this picturesque shot while careening no handed down a baby head riddled downhill on my road bike without any shaking or blurring!*
*Slight embellishment.

"Man, I wish Stu would stop making us pose." "Friggin' bloggers I tell ya."

Bikes and Matt's behind at the usual stop in Wakefield.

On the way to hook up with route 105 (which has nothing to do with the Shimano road group of the same name).

Post ride goodness. Just don't try to strap the empty glass onto your head and expect it to protect you in a crash....would do quite the opposite, I would think.

Okay, story time. So Shawn (pictured earlier in Orange), and his wife Keli, are expecting. In fact, they are a week over due. When Shawn met up with us for the ride, he said that Keli started having some light contractions that morning, but nothing major. A couple hours into our ride, when we had come out of the Chamonix neighbourhood near Cascades, Shawn got a call from Keli saying that her contractions were becoming more frequent, and lasting longer. Well that was our cue to practice our team time trial riding along the winding road from Cascades. We were going at a pretty good clip, and just before Wakefield, Shawn split off to do a solo time trial the rest of the way home.....

Monday morning, at 5:06 am, Leiden Virginia Marshall was welcomed into the world by her proud parents. CONGRATULATIONS!!

Watch out, she's gonna be pretty fast on a tricycle in a few years!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Battle of Ontario Darks

The weekend is over, and you're all expecting a post on the riding I did this weekend....Well sorry to disappoint. You'll just have to wait a bit before "Tweeting" or updating your Facebook status with "reading Stu's blog, and it is DA BOMB!!!!". Don't worry, soon enough, soon enough...

In the meantime, you can read my long awaited FIRST beer related post. Yes! Beer! Enough about bikes and a guy who shaves his legs and wears skin tight clothing! Now, I don't claim to be a beer "expert" by any means, but I enjoy a good beer, and I equally enjoy trying new beers. So the idea here is to share what little beer knowledge I have and maybe introduce you to a new favourite beer, or two. Lately, I've been on a bit of a quest to find a good dark ale, and (perhaps) by coincidence, many of them are Ontario beers. Hey, that's fine with the local economy (and the LCBO!). So, up to do battle are Wellington Brewery's County Dark Ale, and Upper Canada Brewing Company's Dark Ale.

The Contenders....

First up, the Upper Canada Dark. On their website, they describe this beer as having a "moderate bitterness" and "a well-rounded, robust malty flavour with a smokey, velvet like finish". Whew! QUITE the description. Well, right from the start with the first sip, I have to say that I didn't pick up on any of those aforementioned qualities, and as a dark ale, this beer was a little disappointing. I suppose you could say that the qualities of this beer were subtle, but everytime I had a bottle, I couldn't find any redeeming value. Overall, this beer wasn't bad, but like I said, for a dark ale, it was disappointing.

So almost by default the winner is.....

....the County Dark Ale.

This beer possesses what I couldn't pick up on in the Upper Canada Dark, especially the "robust malty flavour" and "smokey, velvet like finish." The Wellington website describes this as having malt, nut and toffee flavours. I definitley picked up on the malt, but really, my tastebuds are like a kid in remedial class, and I have a hard time trying to pick up on different flavours. Either I like a beer or I don't. Anyhow, this is a pretty good dark ale, but there are some serious contenders out there that could knock "Ol' Welly" out in the first round, and I'll get to those in a future post.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Frustration...hence the title of this entry. First, because I can't settle on a damn blog layout/format that I'm happy with...not even the colours! Sheesh! I'm sure it'll come to me in some sort of Eureka type moment. Second and foremost.....
Last night, I went out to ride the A loop of the park, and had the pleasure (I'm trying to keep this positive) of riding with several people who possessed some special skills in the area of riding in a pack. In trying to keep things positive, I'll focus on what these riders did well:
1) Ride all over the road
2) Ride in a line...shaped like an "S"
3) Suck other people's wheels
4) Let other people pull
5) Come close to cutting off other riders
6) Cross the yellow line

Every single one of these exceptionally skilled riders wore a Tri-O-Lacs jersey...I always thought triathletes could only ride in a straight line on aero bars, but apparantly they are gifted group riders as well with excellent handling skills. Hats off to you!

Please, please, PLEASE, if you are not comfortable in a pack, get some practice in a group ride with some friends or team-mates, not the weekly hammerfest.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Commuter Bike Makeover

Last weekend, I gave my commuter bike a much needed makeover. Here's the deal: My commuter is a Gary Fisher Mendotta, a flat bar fitness hybrid with mechanical disc brakes, and some other sweet features like a carbon fork and Bontrager paired spoke wheels. When I first got it two years ago, I wanted something that I could use for commuting, cyclo-cross, rainy road rides and maybe one day, some touring. That being said, I needed something with road bars. I figured that I could convert a flat bar hybrid to something resembling a cross bike, for less than an actual cross bike. On top of that, with the Mendotta, I would get the added bonus of mechanical disc brakes. Changes that had to be made included swapping out the flat bars, Avid BB5 brakes, Sram X-5 shifters and X-7 rear derailleur for a drop bar, Avid BB7 road brakes, 105 STI levers and a 105 rear derailleur. Even with the parts swapping, it still worked out to be cheaper than a cross bike.

I ended up with a pretty sweet ride, pictured on the left here. Now, the only catch....the braking SUCKED. Even for a bike with mechanical disc brakes, stopping power was CRAP. A road bike in rainy conditions could stop better (no joke). There was absolutely ZERO power when braking. On top of that, the brakes were super finnicky to set up, and while braking, the levers would almost touch the bar. I put up with this for two years, and decided I had enough.

So I did away with the drop bars and STI levers, put on a flat bar, XT shifters and Speed Dial brake levers. The result is on the left.

So how about the ride and braking?

First off, braking power is 100 TIMES better!!!! The way disc brakes SHOULD feel! I couldn't get over the difference! I can actually modulate while braking (although not really necessary when commuting, but it just FEELS better). The other bonus was the handling of the bike (as a result of the flat bars)...overall a lot quicker and more responsive. This bike is more comfortable and enjoyable to ride, and I'm considering using this setup for cross in the fall, minus the fenders and rack, of course. (NB: Any kind of bike can be used for the cross series in Ottawa, mountain bikes, road bikes, single speeds etc... I'd like to see two people try cross on a tandem!) The braking and handling should make it fun to ride in a cross race.

So, the moral of the story....disc brakes and STI levers don't produce the greatest stopping power. A better alternative might be bar end shifters and a dedicated brake lever, on a setup like this. The real solution of course, is to get a dedicated cross bike, oh, and while I'm at it, a single speed 29er, and a pimped out fixie, a stylin' cruiser, and a.........

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lazy Sunday

This morning I slept in, drank some coffee, checked out the Tour, watched Contador kick some ass and then grudgingly went out for a ride. I felt sleepy, kept yawning, and all I could think about was more coffee. What was supposed to be a 3 hour ride turned into a 1 hour easy spin. Oh well, that's the way the ball bounces. At least I'm getting better at taking pics on the bike...or it just APPEARS that way. If you take a million shots, you're bound to get at LEAST a few decent ones!

A little over....

....the speed limit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Power Bar Gel Blasts

The other day, I got some NEW! (just like it says on the package) Raspberry Power Bar Gel Blasts. In fact, they are so NEW! that they're not even on the Power Bar website; they only list cola and lemon as the available flavours. These are on par with all the other "energy chews" coming out, like Sharkies, Gu Chomps, Sport Beans, etc... These guys are little different, since they are liquid filled...hmmmm....not sure how that will fly. The package is pretty big (60 grams), for a total of 190 calories, about twice the calories of other energy chews. There's also some sodium, protein and vitamin C thrown into the mix.

Ooops, should have taken the picture BEFORE digging in!

When I first pulled one out of the bag, candy is definitely the first thing that came to mind. More specifically, the wierd chewy-marshmallow type candies that are usually pretty disgusting.

Hmmmm, candy that's good for you?????

However, these things were pretty damn tasty, and actually very sweet, too. I was expecting a "BLAST" of liquid from the centre, but was let down here...perhaps a good thing? They were pretty chewy, more so than any other energy chews I've had. When I tried them on a ride, they were easy to chew, but like most sweet things, left a bit of sticky feeling in my mouth...nothing a bit of water couldn't take of.

Overall, these are pretty good, I'll definitely add them to my repetoire of various energy foods.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009


That's what I was expecting for tonight's ride, the B loop of the park. Why was I gonna suffer? I felt tired all day long, was in desperate need of an afternoon coffee, and could have fallen asleep at any time. On my way up to the park my legs felt heavy and the smallest hill made me pant....great!

At Gamelin, there were quite a few people out, which is normal for this ride the week of the Grand Prix. Everyone is out to test their legs one last time before the race. No racing for me this weekend...the idea of a road race doesn't get me excited right now, PLUS, a buddy of mine is in town this weekend, which means Friday night could be rough, which would pretty much make Saturday a write off.

So, the ride. Once it got underway, I felt pretty good, and at times, REALLY good, so much so that I even went off the front of the pack, not once, not twice, but THREE times! What the hell?!?!?! I NEVER do that! Huh! And every time, I managed to get back in with the group and keep riding without feeling totally spent. Crazy. I tried to contest the sprint at the end, but I wasn't in a good position, and when it comes to sprinting, well, let's be honest, I just plain suck.

It ended up being a pretty fast ride....just over 40km, riding time was 1:06, and average speed was 36.9 km/hr.

Now it's off to bed. ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....................

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Loooooong Mountain Bike Ride

8:50, Sunday morning I headed out on my trusty steed to meet up with Mr. Big Ringer, and join him as he trains for his suffer-fest. (His words, not mine, I swear!!!!) The plan was to meet at Gamelin parking lot, and do a big ass loop of the park, heading up 15 to Kingsmere, trail 1 to 4, down into Fortune, over to O'Brien, trail 36 to 50 towards Wakefield, Lac Phillipe, Lac Taylor...well, you get the picture.

When I met Craig, he was talking about how his stomach was giving him grief and overall felt like crap; luckily we were riding side by side, 'cause if I was behind him and down wind, who knows what kind of surprise he'd have for me. (For the record, he didn't actually say anything about gas, but I need to get my shots in one way or another!) But really, it was a perfect day, forecast high of 21 and the sun was out, we were holding hands....whoops, that was a *different* perfect day when the sun was out and....well, never mind!

I was looking forward to this ride because we were heading out on some trails that I've never actually been on before, in particular the stuff beyond 36 heading out to Wakefield and Lac Phillipe. The nice thing about these trails is that you can get in some good tempo and endurance mileage while on the mountain bike...a nice change from long miles on the road bike. This was also "just a ride" for me, no training agenda, no races in the near future, just riding. As we chugged along, Craig said he must have been "overtraining" this past week 'cause his legs felt like crap. (Note to reader: overtraining is in quotes. I've discovered that Craig makes excuses, like it's his "wife's" Pink on his Ipod, and so on..... There it is! Shot #2, a little below the belt, though, I might add). It was nice, though, having a tour guide, so to speak, showing me around on the trails.

When we made it back around to O'Brien parking lot, Criag headed up 40 and then 1 to the Firetower, and I made my way to Fortune, up 4 to 1 and the long steady downhill home. That's one thing I love about this spend a good chunk in the beginning climbing, climbing and climbing, and then you're rewarded a fun, long, and at times flowy downhill.

Well, now thatI have one of these bloggy thingies, I figured that I have to include some of the pre-requisite-cool-angle-self-portrait-while-riding pics. Here are my feeble attempts:

Man I suck at this, let's try another:

OK, I REALLY suck at this. Never said I was a photographer!

Well, by the time I got home, I had put in a little over 6 hours of riding, and I'm not sure about mileage, but it was difinitely over 100km. Not bad for a Sunday ride.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ganaraska Marathon Race

Here it is, my first post. I'll be using this site to talk mostly about riding (bikes that is), the odd race report, bike products I love or hate, the occasional beer review and whatever other nonsense is on my mind.

So this past sunday, I raced in the Substance Projects Marathon race #3 at Ganaraska Forest. I headed up with the Original Big Ring and the Vegan Vagabond. Turns out that Craig is a closet gangsta hip-hopper who also loves listening to Pink, while Tanya is a HUGE Celine Dion fan (although she won't admit it). Who would have known?!?!?!?!?

Anyhow, I was looking forward to this race, as I've done Paul's a couple of times and was expecting pretty much the same, just 78Km instead of 100. From the start, I felt pretty good, but after about 5 minutes, my rear derailleur started going skipitty-skip on me, with some grinding and crunching thrown in for good measure. I fiddled with my barrel adjuster but to no avail, and for the first hour, I couldn't focus on riding smoothly. I was constantly being distracted by my derailleur. I told myself to screw it (not the barrel adjuster), and to keep riding, but the skipping didn't get any better. So, I kept riding, and riding, and riding...the full 78Km for roughly 4 and a half hours with a skipping chain and a derailleur that would not co-operate. I was dissapointed because I knew I could have ridden harder/faster, but at least I got in some riding on fun trails that I ride on average once a year.

I have to post what I ate after the race, because it impressed Craig so much:
1 recovery shake
1 Clif Bar
1 packet of Sport Beans
Half a big bag of Chips
A bottle of pop
Chip Wagon fries
A bowl of pasta
Two bowls of salad
A huge peice of Baguette drenched in olive oil
A Kawartha Dairy Death by Chocolate waffle cone
4 chocolate chunk cookies
1 Baconater combo from Wendy's

And DAMN it was good!!!!