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Brantford Cyclepath Blog

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Comfort And Joy 2 (the frosty edition)

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Back in May I wrote a piece targeted towards recreational cyclists entitled Comfort And Joy, which covered suggestions concerning items that would make summer time cycling more enjoyable. It would appear that the big blue and green marble has rotated far enough around that we now are entering the winter portion of the year. What better time to whip up Comfort And Joy Part Two?

You’ll see a fair number of people out riding their bicycles during the colder, snowy months of the year. They are not clinically insane. They are not genetically modified. They ARE of the human race. What might seem really odd is that these people are actually ENJOYING being out there. Whether (weather) for fun or out of necessity, how in God’s name do they do it?

The answer involves no magic whatsoever. Appropriate clothing plays a very large part as does the addition of a few accessories to your bike setup.

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The key to doing this successfully is to dress in layers so that you can add or subtract items as the temperature changes while on your ride. The idea with all of this is to leave the house feeling slightly cool but comfortable. You will warm up as you ride. There are long sleeved cycling jerseys available that are microfleeced on the inside to provide warmth but also wick sweat from your skin. You can also use a normal lycra cycling jersey as a base layer. The important wicking properties are still there. If using a dedicated winter cycling jersey, just add a wind and waterproof shell jacket over top. If using a regular lycra jersey, you can consider adding a polar fleece garment between it and the shell. An outer shell designed for cycling will have the added bonus of a longer tail, which helps greatly in keeping your seat dry and will be cut in such a way that it won’t bunch up in front either. The arms should be slightly long so that they cover the cuffs of your gloves while reaching the handlebars.

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There is nothing nicer than a pair of microfleeced tights for cold weather cycling. Not only do they wick plenty of moisture from your skin, they also keep your knees warm as you move through the cold air. These are available with or without a chamois padding in them. The ones without padding are great for other cold weather activities too. A winter walk, snow shoveling or even tobogganing can be that much more comfortable! Bib tights are considered by many to be even better since they eliminate any gap between waistband and jersey. A pair of waterproof pants can be added over top of any setup for wet days.

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Choosing gloves can be fairly straight forward. There are many long fingered gloves available for cold weather cycling. Once again, they are designed to wick moisture. The outer layers are very weatherproof. One unusual but very effective type of glove is commonly referred to as a lobster claw. These may a better choice for a few reasons. Your fingers are separated so that two fingers go into each half of the claw. This allows more warm air to circulate around each finger. In essence, one finger keeps the other one warm. If riding a road bike, these are ideal for braking while riding on the brake hoods. Many gloves have secondary, removable inner liners.

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While not a glove, Bar Mitts are really handy for eliminating everything from cold, moving air to rain, sleet and snow. These neoprene “mitts” attach to your handlebar in a few minutes and allow you to wear less bulky gloves, even in sub zero temperatures. They are available for both road bikes and bikes that use handlebar grips. Being more of a gauntlet in length ensures that much of your forearm is protected from the elements.

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There are a few different options for keeping your feet warm. Start with a pair of socks that also wick moisture away from your skin. If you don’t use a clipless pedal system, then a pair of good hiking boots or winter boots will work well. For clipless pedal use, there are wind and waterproof shoe covers and toe covers that are worn over your regular cycling shoes. There are different thicknesses and materials available for any given weather situation. For the ultimate protection, look into a pair of dedicated winter cycling shoes such as Specialized’s clipless specific Defroster boot.

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It’s no secret that keeping your head warm in winter to prevent heat loss is of utmost importance. There are several ways to combat this when wearing a helmet. The most popular item among cyclists seems to be the microfleeced beanie. This is a tight fitting lycra cap that is worn under the helmet. The best beanies will offer some ear coverage. Many cyclists also prefer a balaclava for more complete face protection. One item that is gaining in popularity as word spreads is the helmet cover. This stretchy lycra cover is rubberized on the inside and is worn over the helmet. The idea with a cover is that it prevents wind, moisture and cold from entering the helmet in the first place. They work well, especially when used in combination with the beanie. Can’t be bothered to keep track of separate gear? Some helmet companies are offering winterized cycling helmets such as the Specialized Centro Winter LED, pictured above. This all season helmet features a removable winter liner complete with ear covers. It IS cozy! For added safety a removable LED taillight is included…..

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…..which conveniently leads us into the topic of lighting. “If I had a nickel…..” for every time that I saw a person riding a bicycle in low light conditions while using zero in the way of lighting, I’d be wealthy enough to be sitting on some warm beach, doing nothing more than writing a dozen blog entries a day. How do we sum this up? It’s dangerous. If the person on the bike could sit in a car and see their doppelganger ride by, unseen until the nth second, the majority of them might be shocked enough to invest in lighting. Lighting doesn’t have to cost a lot. The most basic silicon rubber blinkies will do the job and make you visible. More money buys more power and therefor more visibility. The bike industry has given us some very compact, lightweight, long lasting technology. Many lights are intended for use in the daytime as well as in the dark. Incidentally, studies have shown that using a single headlight on the front of the bike and a single taillight on the rear is far more effective than loading your bike to resemble a rolling Christmas tree (guilty as charged). The idea is that if you are TOO visible, a driver will become overly focused and might edge over towards you. Who knew?  Anyhow, we love all cyclists and would be incredibly happy to see everyone staying safe by using lights.

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How indispensable is a good pair of fenders? Very! Just ask anyone who uses them. It doesn’t matter whether you use the clip on kind or the full coverage set, once you try them, you’ll love them. The advantage of the clip on type is that they are easily removable on dry days and if you ride a road racing bike, there are partial fenders that are designed for bikes that have no traditional mounting eyelets. A full coverage fender set has the advantage of offering more complete protection. No matter which style you choose, the days of enduring a cold, soaked rear end or wiping splatter from your face will happily be over. Be sure to get the right width for the size of your tires and start smiling.

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With a little preparation, winter cycling becomes more of a case of mind over matter than anything else. Whether you intend to commute, or just escape the confines of the house on a Sunday afternoon, the change over from warm weather riding can be refreshing. Exercise is never bad and who knows? This could be your next big thing. You just have to get out and try it!

#brantfordcyclepath

#wintercycling

#cyclingblog

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Cycle On (beaters, trainers and fatties)

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I’m no mind reader, but I know what you’re thinking. “Gosh, he’s a little early with this snowy doom and gloom, isn’t he?” Looking outside, that may well be the case, but taking a look at the calendar, I couldn’t help but notice that the end of October is upon us, and the uncertainty of November is indeed about to usher us into much shorter days and colder temperatures.

We’ve arrived at that time of year when most recreational cyclists have noticed the increasing nakedness of the trees on their lawns and diminishing color in their gardens and have set about putting their outdoor spaces to bed. Bicycles are given one last wipe down, tires are inflated as a precaution, and the machines are retired to the vinyl covered storage hooks from whence they came. Winter training might look like this:

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That’s all well and good. There are days when I wouldn’t mind cocooning in front of that flat screen either. There are, however, alternatives to hiding away with remote in hand and Doritos on lap.

Here at the shop, we’ve noticed that many recreational cyclists are looking to keep moving throughout the winter months. They’ve seen the gains in physical conditioning that a summer of cycling has brought about and aren’t too keen to have it all taken away through idleness. Apart from traditional activities such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing, there are a few other ways to keep active during the colder months ahead.

We could make an addition to that cozy room above by way of a stationary trainer. You’ve no doubt seen these or know someone who uses one. For the uninitiated, these indoor training stands are designed to make use of your bicycle as an exercise machine. There are several types available, the most common being either magnetic, fluid, or centrifugal in nature. They are relatively affordable when compared to the price of a purpose built exercise bike and the nicest feature of all is that using one actually FEELS like riding a bicycle because you ARE riding a bicycle. They are also portable and can be folded up and easily stored away if limitation of space is an issue.

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Many of the more experienced cyclists actually enjoy riding outside in the colder temperatures and refuse to see snow as a deterrent. There are several ways to safely ride during the winter months. One time honored method is to build what is commonly known as a beater bike. An old mountain bike is absolutely ideal for this purpose. Adding a pair of fenders makes riding in wetter conditions quite comfortable. The key to winter riding is to be sure to install a good head and tail light as well as the consideration of extra reflectors and reflective decals.Many older vintage road bikes can be fitted with modern cyclocross tires, which have a more aggressive tread to make them more suitable for snowy conditions. Incidentally, these bikes are perfect for use on an indoor trainer.

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Finally, we have a newer way to conquer colder weather riding. Fat tired bikes made an appearance quite some time ago but have become more readily available over the past few years. These year round mountain bikes have large tires that roll over and through any terrain regardless of the weather. The benefits of using a fatbike are many, the main one being increased safety due to a significantly greater amount of traction and control. The ability to easily ride off trail adds to the adventure. Tires are available in three, four and five inch widths to suit varying grip requirements, commonly referred to as “float”. Once considered to be fairly expensive, the price of a decent fatbike has become quite affordable.

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As the calendar edges ever closer to the end of the year and the chilly days ahead, the general consensus may very well be that the cycling season is over. While Doritos and a television remote may be an attractive reward for a season well done, the best course of action may just be to keep calm and cycle on.

#brantfordcyclepath

#wintercycling

#keepcalmandcycleon

 

 

 

“So Long, Summer!” (don’t let the door hit you on your way out)

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It really wouldn’t be too far out of line for all of us to give each other collective high fives and perhaps even a great big group hug. After all, each and every one of us are survivors of what is being touted as the “hottest summer on record”, which apparently beats out last year, the old “hottest summer on record”.

And what a summer it was. Lengthy stretches of torridly hot days, heavy with humidity, dry and dusty trails and sleepless nights. As a rule, when the summer heat becomes too much to bear, the bike paths and bike shops become noticeably emptier. Since this was a standout summer weather wise, why shouldn’t this years cycling habits be just as unusual? People decided to defy mother nature and ride their bicycles as if the heat was a non issue. They bought more bicycles this summer than in any year previous. No one seemed willing to let these less than ideal cycling conditions get the better of them. A big round of applause for all.

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Heroics aside, it’s certainly a welcome relief to see autumn making its colorful grand entrance. After all, these are the days that are tailor made for cycling. Cooler temperatures promote longer and more spirited rides. As each week rolls by, the trees display increasingly more vibrant colors. It’s difficult not to have ones spirits lifted when seeing red and gold leaves displayed against a perfect blue sky. In the woods the foliage pares back, leaving the trail feeling more open and visible. The last of the summer insects buzz lazily about. Wildlife becomes easier to spot as animals make preparation for winter. Does the sound of geese on the wing ever get old?

Going forward over the next several weeks means remembering where you’d squirreled away your thermal riding tights and long fingered gloves. Where did you put that fleece lined beanie and helmet cover anyway? The air is so crisp that you can ride all afternoon. It’s always a surprise to see fewer and fewer leaves on the trees with each passing weekend and hear the whisper under your tires as they roll through ever increasing drifts of golden leaves. That irresistible autumn scent is in the air. Late season sunlight is softly diffused. The opposition of chilled air and moderately warm sun on our faces feels invigorating. There seems to be nothing like a brisk autumn ride to stimulate the appetite and the last few kilometers of a Sunday ride can usually be spent thinking about a hot tea or latte and a pastry or two.

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From this point forward it’s the realm of the true cycling enthusiast. Colder weather means shorter days and quicker rides. The trails are all but abandoned save for the few like minded souls that enjoy the solitude of a late autumn ride. Cold weather cycling gear makes getting out in late October and November extremely comfortable. Whether you’re a die hard racer on a training ride or a recreational rider on a hybrid it’s the little secret to being able to stretch your season to the limit.

Shed no tears when bidding goodbye to summer riding. For many of us the best cycling of the year is upon us. Pull on your favorite sweater, grab your bike, and hit the trails. Latte or tea, muffin or pie. What’s it going to be?

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Pas Ce Que J’Appelle Recyclage

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One of the nicest things about being into bikes and being a self admitted “bike watcher”, is that when travelling to different places it’s always a guilty pleasure to observe and take in various local bike cultures. Whether it’s lesser numbers of cyclists going about their business locally, or the bicycle heavy activity of a city like Toronto, it’s all designed to be taken notice of. Once upon a long time ago, when I lived in bicycle rich Edmonton, I became part of the daily cycling buzz of that city. Bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. It felt good to be alive and on a bicycle. It felt good to be part of the scene.

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A few weeks ago I found myself standing in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. You couldn’t have asked for better summer weather. Due to this, or perhaps in spite of it, bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. I couldn’t help but soak it all in, taking mental notes as we walked the streets. That old feeling of being part of the scene came creeping back.

It didn’t take long to notice a few interesting points concerning the bicycles that people were riding… or locking to signposts and railings. A very large majority of these machines were older drop barred road and touring bikes. There were old Cannondales and Miyatas. Treks and Nishikis. Velo Sports and Bianchis. Nearly every one of them were reasonably maintained. There seemed to be no rusting hulks in dire need of repair. There was the impression that these bikes were not so much what you would call recycled junk, but machines that had continued to be ridden regularly since being purchased new some twenty or thirty years previous.

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Not to be left out, there were also plenty of modern bicycles being ridden. Flat bar commuters were plentiful. As were road racing bikes made of aluminum or carbon fiber. You would see the occasional mountain bike, but the machines of choice both on the city streets and on the bike paths and the bridge crossing over to Gatineau, Quebec were of the narrower tired variety. Nearly every bicycle, whether modern or older, used a rear carrier rack to tote the riders personal belongings. Busy people busily cycling about their business.

The point of all of this is that it felt pretty good to be amid this hive of activity. There were plenty of cyclists and bikes of all description to watch as they pedaled past. There was the hopeful “bike shop employee feeling” of seeing bikes used for utility as well as recreational and competitive use. And for the bike geek in me, there was the fantastic rolling museum of vintage steel to catalogue and file away in my brain. As the saying goes, old bikes have to go somewhere. It was really nice to see them being used in Ottawa. I just wish that I had brought a proper camera!

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Bicycle Rx

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Spend enough time working in a bike shop and you’ll see just about every type of bike in just about every stage of disrepair. Most shop employees tend to think about bikes and bike related subjects for most of their waking hours. It’s part of why we do what we do. One of the more interesting things to think about is trying to decide which point in time it is when someones brand new shiny “baby” becomes a neglected, poorly shifting, corroding piece of metal and rubber. This phenomenon is not solely held to cheap department store bikes. No sir. We often see what were once very expensive, high end machines in various stages of neglect as well. For a bike shop mechanic it can be like a trip to the local animal shelter. These once proud machines stare back at us forlornly, their silent voices whispering “save me”.

Bicycles are amazing machines. Bearings and sprockets and chain links spin and whir literally thousands of times an hour as our bikes carry us to work, the grocery store or along the rail trail on a Sunday afternoon. Bicycles are built up of many wearable components and all of this repetitive activity slowly takes its toll. Unfortunately one thing is certain. Bikes do not heal. They stay worn out and broken until their owners take action.

PEEWEES BIKE

All is not lost! Every bicycle can be saved from a horrible fate. Some simple routine maintenance and an awareness of which components WILL wear over time is all that is needed. It takes surprisingly little effort to keep your bike running smoothly and looking great for many years.

We hate flats. We’d rather avoid the walk home in the hot sun. The solution is to buy a floor pump and routinely top up the air in your tires before each ride. It’s surprising how much air loss can take place over the course of a weeks time, and over an even shorter time for road racing bikes. Harder tires generally roll better and resist becoming punctured. Follow the recommended air pressure on the side of your tires.

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The subject of lubricating your bike is an interesting one. Too much oil can attract dirt and turn a chain into a grimy black mess, which causes sluggish performance. Too little can invite corrosion, and a dry chain is much harder to pedal. Use a good quality oil made for bicycles. Lightly oil the chain and wipe off any excess lube after a few minutes. You can also add a dot of oil to your brake lever pivots as well as the ones on your brakes and derailleurs. It’s best to keep lubrication away from disc brakes.

It can be a good idea to periodically remove the seat post from your bike and add a thin film of grease to it. You can also remove your pedals and add a small amount of grease to the threads before screwing them back into the crank arms, bearing in mind that the pedals have opposite threads. This will prevent galvanic corrosion which causes these parts to become permanently stuck over time.

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Rail trail riding will soon cover a bike in a decent layer of dust. This dust is very abrasive and works its way into the various pivots of your drive train, causing premature wear. What to do? It isn’t necessary to constantly wash your bike. Taking an old towel and dry wiping the dust off of your bike is often enough. If you DO find it necessary to wash it, a bucket of water and a sponge or a garden hose with a regular gun attachment will get the job done. Towel dry the bike afterwards. Pressure washers or the local car wash will force water into the bearings of your bike, ruining those components. After cleaning your bike, whether by wiping or washing, lubricate it as mentioned above.

It’s also a good idea to routinely check the various nuts and bolts of your bike, especially those that were used to attach racks, mirrors and fenders.

What about “wearable” components? How do bikes age? As was said before, those thousands upon thousands of rotations that occur as we ride end up taking their toll. You might remember the performance of your bike when it was brand new. Everything was silky smooth and felt tight. The bike rolled forever. As certain parts wear, the performance of the bike degrades. But as was said, all is not lost. Replace these wearable pieces, and the bike will feel new again. Sometimes this can be difficult to perceive when living in a throw away society.

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Modern bike chains are only designed to last for a given mileage. Once they wear to a certain point, the freewheel on the rear wheel starts to wear as well. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to replace both of these affordable components each spring if the bike sees regular usage. Tires become thinner as they wear. It doesn’t take much force for the smallest item to punch through. Couple this with under inflation, and you can easily guess why your flat tire occurred.

Gear and brake cables can oxidize and become dry over time, especially when coated with trail dust. They won’t slide as easily through the outer casings. This causes very sluggish braking and shifting and leads to the most frustration. It’s very cost effective to change cables. The ones made of stainless steel are highly recommended due to their high resistance to corrosion. Lastly, brake pads are quickly worn down.  Checking and replacing them not only improves braking performance, it is also important for safety reasons.

Those are the most basic of the wearable components of your bike. Taking it a step further, you could also consider your handlebar grips or tape as well. Ditto with your saddle. Replacing your grips or tape is the fastest way to make a bike feel new, due to them being a direct touch point. The foam and gel inside your saddle ages and hardens. It breaks down over time not unlike a bed mattress. If it doesn’t feel right any more, replacing it will usually help. Not to mention, there are constant improvements in saddle technology.

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As you can see, it’s really easy to get many more years out of your bicycle investment by following a simple maintenance regimen. All it costs is some time. Your bike will spend less time in the shop or the corner of the garage, and more time out on the trail. That’s a good thing!

 

 

 

Happy Retirement Roger!

Dear Roger,

Thank You!

After many dedicated years, you deserve your retirement!

We cyclists all have tales to tell, and here’s mine. In 1998, we had these strange looking, Specialized Body Geometry saddles show up at the shop. The sales rep waxed poetically about them. He told us these were the “New Thing”.  In an industry full of “New Things”, including regularly reinvention of the wheel, I was highly skeptical. What could Specialized know about bike saddles beyond slapping their logo on the side?

“Lighter is better” I believed! My worn and well-enjoyed Selle Italia Flyte TI railed suede saddle was comfy! I had saved up my meagre bicycle mechanic’s salary to buy it. I was proud! One day, the Specialized sales rep suggested I try the BG. I looked at him with disdain! I was mortified at the thought! Give up the Flyte!? No, I think not! The Flyte gave my bike some pizzazz, and those saved grams were worth it!

After a very a short conversation with my girlfriend, she insisted I give the BG a whirl. How bad could it be?

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I installed one on my Specialized Stumpjumper. The saddle covered with black vinyl, was way too plush and was a boat anchor. There was nothing sexy about the thing! Thank goodness my butt would cover it, saving me any embarrassment when my riding chums saw me perched awkwardly upon it. I rode on it for a few weeks and thought very little of it at the time.

This was 1998. The MTB Ontario Cup race at Hardwood Hills was coming up. I needed to do my best! I gave my Stumpjumper a full service. I was ready to rock that course! The saddle? I pulled the Flyte out from my “Box of Bike Bits” where it have been enjoying a short reprieve. I quickly took the BG off and re-installed the Flyte with care, making sure to brush it’s suede finish. It was time to get back to riding a real saddle and race my best!

I went for a training ride…..

Out onto the road in front of the shop, I headed towards my usual training trail, known locally as “Hardy”. That Stumpy was light, efficient, and a sheer joy to ride (1993 Stumpjumper M2 in Dark Black, I really loved that bike). I stopped at the first stop sign. The saddle felt too high. I lowered it and rode on. Now it was too low. I raised it again. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I was numb in all the wrong places. Surely my much-loved Flyte couldn’t have been bad!? It was broken in! It had never let me down! I rode on.

I had ridden a total of 1.2km (we know exactly how far from the store the Dairy Queen is!) I turned right around and pedalled back to the shop, standing the whole way. I threw the bike up on the workstand in disgust and proceeded to pull the Flyte off…. and re-instal the BG which had been unceremoniously thrown onto a greasy workbench. I was perplexed! I went straight back out for that training ride without incidence.

I have never ridden anything other than a BG saddle since! They are a sexier now, (thanks for that!) and much lighter (Yay!) and have gone through many obvious improvements. These days we don’t carry any other saddle in the shop!

IMG_1034Without a BG Saddle (I rode on a few early models, eventually settling on a Romin, then recently switching to Power), I don’t know if I’d be riding today! Our business and my career have been enhanced, in a large part due to your innovatons. I no longer race, but I am now a Certified Body Geometry FIT Specialist, which, as you know, all starts with the saddle! Many of our customers now take the Minkow Wedge for granted, but your contributions to our beloved sport are not lost on us!
Thank-you Roger. You have earned your retirement! I look forward to enjoying more of your photography!

Trying to find something witty to say…… Here goes! “Many asses have you to thank for their cycling happiness”

Cheers.

Stuart Querney

The Family That Plays Together…

FAMILY RIDE

Other than the obvious well known health benefits of riding a bicycle, an additional one to add would be the benefit of cycling being a family activity. It’s interesting to note that most of the more traditional recreational activities for children, those such as soccer, baseball, and hockey etc, are more or less spectator sports for the parents. We go to watch our sons and daughters play. Cycling is different. We become active participants in the activity along with our children.

When our children are very young, we can tow them along behind us in child trailers. These trailers boast plenty of cargo space for diaper bags, teddy bears, extra sweaters and picnic baskets. There are infant slings that can be placed inside for families with young babies. Many trailers can be converted for strolling or jogging. Some have ski kits available for year round fun.

Trail-a-bikes are the next step in riding as a family. These are essentially the rear half of a bike that attaches to the seat post of the lead bike, creating a tandem bicycle of sorts. Since the drive train of a trail-a-bike is separate, the child can choose to either coast or pedal. The amount of extra push that can be generated by a small child when pedaling can be surprising. There have been some instances where the lead bike is pulling a trail-a-bike which in turn is pulling a child trailer. This makes for quite an attention getting passenger train!

TANDEM TRAIN

It can be a very proud moment in the life of a parent when their little one moves up to riding their own bike. How time flies! It is important to bear in mind that the smallest bikes are only capable of moderately slow speed and short distances. For children that still require a bicycle with 12″, 14″ or perhaps even some 16″ and 18″ wheels, the trail-a-bike may still be the best option for longer family rides. For those on 20″ wheels or larger, this is where the fun begins. These bikes are more than ready to go the distance at a decent speed. BMX bikes are popular with most boys and while many parents voice concern over the lack of multiple gearing, rest assured that it’s usually the child on the single speed bike that is leading the way and setting the pace.

TORY NYHAUG

Speaking of pace, be sure to reserve a decent amount of time for the outing. Be prepared for numerous stops to pick flowers or look at squirrels, chipmunks, ducks and geese. It’s important to keep the mood light and the pace casual. Frequent rest stops allow for an “I can do it!” experience rather than a “I can’t keep up!” disaster.

DUCKS

Preparing to ride with children is much the same as riding solo, but with a few differences. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. Snacks satisfy hunger and give added boosts of energy. It’s especially important to make sure that you have inner tubes or a patch kit for not only the adult bike, but the trail-a-bike or child trailer as well. Mechanical failure on a hot day can be serious for a child. Don’t forget the tire pump.

Riding as a family can set the groundwork for future competitive or lifelong cyclists. Many dedicated riders start conversations about biking with the phrase “when I was a kid…” You can never tell where the next future winner of the Tour De France or world champion might come from. Maybe he or she is living in your house at this very moment!

CANADIAN JR TRACK TEAM

 

 

 

Comfort And Joy

As a followup to the previous piece entitled Trailing The Rails, I decided to focus some attention towards our newer recreational cyclists and share suggestions regarding items that will most certainly add to the experience of riding your bicycle.

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The two most important items that a casual cyclist can have are a bell and some way to carry water. Having a bell on your bike when the trail is in heavy use can be akin to Moses parting the Red Sea. Give a well timed ring and people move to the side of the trail, oftentimes offering a “thank you” for your courtesy. Sheer magic. A bicycle engine (you) requires fuel in the form of water. Most bicycles have at least one place on the frame to attach a water bottle and cage to. Some have two. If your bike has space for one cage, buy a larger bicycle water bottle instead of the smaller size. If you require more water, you can buy a bottle cage that mounts onto the handlebars. If your bike has the space for two cages, buy two cages and two bottles. It’s better to carry too much water than run out on a hot day. It’s interesting to note that there are now bottle cages called sidemount cages that allow a larger bottle to fit a smaller frame.

CANNONDALE TOURER

 

It’s nice to be able to bring needed items with you for the day. Things such as your cell phone, lip balm, sunscreen, snacks, energy foods and money etc. There are plenty of ways to tote your things on a bike. You can go all out and attach a carrier rack to the rear of your bicycle. This allows you to carry the traditional pannier or saddlebag. Many people use what is called a trunk bag. This is a box-like bag that sits on the top of a carrier rack. It isn’t as unnecessarily large as a saddlebag and most of them keep food and drinks cool. You can also buy traditional small bags that hang under the seat of your bike. A newer type of bag that is gaining in popularity is called a gel box. This small bag was designed so that triathletes could carry energy foods in a convenient location during a race. The bag sits on the top of the bike frame directly behind the steering stem. A magnetic flip top allows easy access to your cell phone and other small items without having to stop and open a rear mounted bag. There are also many handlebar mounted cell phone holders to choose from.

To take things further, you can add a small portable tire pump or CO2 air cartridges to your bike or bag. It’s also a good idea to have an extra inner tube, sized for your bike, with you. Many people carry a small tool kit or a multitool with them. The thinking behind this is that in the event of a breakdown you’ll have all of the tools needed in case someone comes along with repair knowledge. You don’t necessarily have to know how to fix it yourself. Most cyclists are willing to help.

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The final pieces of the puzzle might include a kickstand, a good lock, and a front and a rear small light. Many casual cyclists and commuters like the extra confidence that a mirror can give. There are mirrors that can be added to your handlebars, your helmet, or a pair of glasses.

For the rider themselves, a helmet makes good sense and on a hot day it provides more cooling than a bare head. Cycling gloves offer extra padding for additional hand comfort and may help to alleviate numb hands. If you find yourself heading out for longer rides it might be time to consider investing in a pair of padded bike shorts. There are many styles available. You can even find padded “underwear” that you wear underneath your regular street clothing. Once you try them, you’ll be hooked.

FEMALE ON FBR

There you have it. A list of basics that will make your cycling very enjoyable. You’ll be sure to discover other items that you can use. Every year the cycling industry comes up with another interesting widget. That’s what makes cycling fun.

 

 

 

 

Trailing The Rails

hamilton-to-brantford

When it comes to enjoying leisurely summer activities, there’s plenty to do in Brantford. Thanks to the conversion of many kilometers of unused railway lines into recreational rail trails, cycling has quickly risen to the top of the list. Riding these trails is scenic, fun and safe. The absence of automotive traffic makes them especially attractive for families with children. Choose a short route or a longer one. There’s something for every ability.

To get started, there is a very popular loop of trail that follows along the Grand River, eventually crossing over into West Brant. There are several handy access points that offer vehicle parking. Hardy Road, Wilkes Dam and D’Aubigny Creek Park are three of the more popular ones. Here you’ll ride along a section of trail that overlooks the Grand River, eventually making your way across the river via a bridge, to Brant Park. From Brant Park pedal to Oak Hill Drive. From there it’s a smooth ride through West Brant on the Ballantyne Drive bike lane to the Brantford Casino.

BRANTFORD RAILTRAIL SIGN

 

From the casino, an additional section of trail makes its way to Mohawk Park, passing by the Earl Haig waterpark and the Mohawk Chapel along the way. If a bigger ride is what you’re looking for, you’ll find this trail continuing on through rolling farmland and Carolinian forest, ending in Hamilton. The access point for this trail is at the bottom of Locks Road.

DUNDAS RAILTRAIL

You may want to ride from Brantford to Paris, which can be a little challenging due to some hills. From Paris you can enjoy a shaded section of rail trail that pauses in Glen Morris. For a longer ride, continue on from Glen Morris and pedal your way to Cambridge. You’ll find access to parking at all three points.

MILL AT GLEN MORRIS

A newer trail that is gaining in popularity begins just outside of the Maple Leaf plant, with parking once again at D’Aubigny Creek Park. It’s a great route to ride in all four of the seasons due to changes in scenery as the year progresses. There is a duck marsh that is lush with greenery in the spring, dry in the summer, colorful in the fall and frozen white in the winter. The expanses of farmland and woodland along the way also experience change. This trail contains a large paved section in addition to the usual compressed dirt surface. A scenic afternoon or evening ride can be enjoyed by riding to Mt Pleasant or continuing on until you reach Willow Lake Park. For the more determined, this is the trail that makes its way to Waterford and Simcoe, eventually ending in Port Dover.

MTPLEASANT RAILTRAIL

Fill up your water bottles, pump up your tires, grab your helmets and some riding companions and discover Brantfords rail trail system. You’ll want to ride the trails time and time again.

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