Saturday, July 31, 2010

galloping geese

Fulfilling one of the goals on my Mighty Bike List, today I went for a bike ride with my family while visiting them in Victoria. We rented bikes in the Railyards and rode the Galloping Goose north until it turned until Lochside Trail.

We rode over bridges...

Selkirk Trestle

...through field...

through field

...through forest...

through forest

...and through traffic.

through traffic

Our goal and turnaround point was Mattick's Farm, where our initial intention of a summery snack like ice cream turned into coffee, thanks to fog that had rolled in and chilled the air.

Mattick's Farm

Cons: I wouldn't recommend this rental shop, Selkirk Station. The bikes had no bells, baskets, or even bungee cords for the back rack (which basically rendered them useless unless you brought your own panniers, but who rents bikes if they have their own panniers?). The bikes were all typical hybrids (they didn't have any 'comfort' options, let alone any cruisers) and halfway through the outbound leg we were all feeling uncomfortable in such a hunched-over position.

The trail, although not busy (and not even comparable to the seawall in Vancouver), is not divided into bicycles and pedestrians. This becomes a problem when you hit a congested area, both inbound and outbound lanes are occupied, and you have to slow to walking speed while waiting to pass. Waiting to pass a bicycle is one thing-- waiting to pass a pedestrian (particularly old ones or those with small children) is nearly impossible. I ride every day and it was still hard to ride that slow without losing my balance.

Pros: The Goose/Lochside Trail is beautiful. How else can I describe it? For a trail that cuts across the city from downtown, it runs through an impressive variety of environments: farmland, rural roads, residential neighbourhoods, industrial parks, forest, bog, and across the historic Selkirk Trestle that spans the Inner Harbour. The route was once a rail line, so it's very flat. Road crossings and potentially confusing intersections are well-signed. There may be no "sea" involved, but this ride is justifiably Victoria's most famous recreational cycle route.

the gang's all here

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

seawall: alternative transportation

This blog is called "On Few Wheels", after all... so no need to limit myself just to bicycles, right? Must avoid bicycle-elitism. If you're getting yourself from A to B on your own power (and hopefully still enjoying what happens between A and B), utilizing the efficiency of task-appropriate-sized wheels to speed up the process, then that's ace.

I'm not sure rollerblades count as 'few' wheels (8!), but if you add up their mass, the total is significantly less than that of even scooter or motorcycle wheels. So I'm saying it counts.

Bushy / tie-dyed / cut-offs. Crazy! (From the I-think-I-would-go-bonkers-if-everybody-looked-the-same department. I love my neighbourhood (the West End) for being a really accepting, "anything goes" kind of place.)

Sometimes you have to lean into it.

Yes, he's on a bike, but that's somewhat alternative for the police, a typically car-centric (or originally horse-centric?) group.

The gang's all here.
Photography, hockey, and an extra from a science fiction action movie.

Sometimes you just have to go back to your roots ... and walk.

Monday, July 26, 2010

on floor-length skirts

Mini historical reminder: From the 1800s (when the bicycle was invented) into the early 1900s, women wore nothing but long skirts on bicycles.

Nowadays, thanks to the valiant efforts of many women over the past century, we have significantly more options. (Is this a good time to say that I am eternally grateful with every fibre of my being to all the women who made this happen? Because it's really, really important to me. I like being a person, thanks.)

Perhaps it's because of all these other options that you don't often see long skirts on bicycles anymore. Or maybe because you tend to see floor-length skirts in only one of three categories: (1) boho-style hippy ladies who don't really care much about fashion, (2) formal gowns, and (3) summer maxidresses.

Number 3 -- maxidresses -- is what led me to this post. My skin is extremely fair (and if you ever use the word 'pasty' in front of me you will risk a punch in the nose as I like it this way and put considerable effort into maintaining it) so more coverage means less surface area to slather with sunscreen. Although I'm known to wear full-length pants even on the warmest days of summer, this year I'm experimenting with maxidresses (or, um, 'a' maxidress) as a seasonal alternative.

I don't think I need to remind anybody that my bike is not a step-through (#@$%!) and has no skirtguard. (Skirtguards aren't even standard on all of the old-school European bicycles and still seems to be considered somewhat quaint.) Supposedly a skirtgaurd would keep long skirts or coats out of the back wheel/brakes, so their itself existence did cause me to stop and think about how I would avoid such a scenario. And how I would pedal at all without getting tangled up.


Solution: bunch up the fabric above my knee and fasten with a hair elastic.

Despite that fact that the highest point of leg I'm showing is still far beneath the bottom of most summer shorts, somehow it still felt as if I was "showing some skin". Weird pyschological effect: rational brain overrided by illusion of long slit in dress.

Verict: worked like a charm! It stayed put while riding, I undid-redid it in seconds when I got where I was going, and the dark fabric didn't wrinkle much.

Coincidentally, TorontoVerve just posted a bike+maxidress photo yesterday.

The rest of yesterday afternoon (the day of this experiment) included novel-reading on the beautiful grounds of City Hall with good friends (and you know they're good friends when you can just hang out silently without having to talk) and writing on this seriously sweet (yet unbelievably empty) patio above the Starbucks at the entrance to Granville Island.

Ah, summer. I love you so much.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

mighty bike list

Inspired by the combination of Mighty Girl's Mighty Life List and Let's Go Ride a Bike's Summer Games, I've decided to start a Mighty Bike List (you like that? so original) of bike-related things I want to do.

In no particular order:
1. Take my bike on the skytrain.
2. Take my bike on a bus (on one of those racks on the front).
3. Go on a group ride.
4. Be part of a Critical Mass*.
5. Wear a fancy party dress and ride to dinner at a nice restaurant.
6. Ride to the beach, complete with towel, umbrella, and a cooler/basket full of munchies.
7. Ride to a picnic in a rural-ish area.
8. Take a repair class.
9. Ride over the Lion's Gate Bridge.
10. Put a kickstand on my bike.
11. Ride a folding bike. **
12. Ride an old-school, steel, high-quality loop-frame bike. **
13. Ride a fixie. **
14. Watch a bike polo game.
15. Double somebody on a bike I'm riding.
16. Be doubled on somebody else's bike.
17. Visit another city and rent a bike there.
18. Try out a bike share system like in Montreal or Paris.
19. Ride all the bike routes in Vancouver.
20. Go on a tweed ride.
21. Ride with my family.


* Jury's still out on whether I agree with how Critical Mass happens. The idea of not stopping for red lights, thereby disrupting the regular flow of traffic beyond simply going slower than cars, rubs me wrong. On the other hand, I can also see some benefits they describe, such as keeping the group together. That said, I don't believe in my full right to critique/analyze anything without experiencing it, so consider my participation as research.

** I really ought to combine these into "Ride as many different kinds of bikes as possible", but that wouldn't be as easy to cross off the list. Because who doesn't love crossing things off lists?

I've posted this on a perma-style "page" (as opposed to a post) and add things/cross them off there as I go. Hopefully I'll remember to take photos and post about them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

seawall: guys on bikes

From road bikes to mountain bikes to hybrids to cruisers, there's a bike that's right for every guy. I love seeing such a variety of ages and styles and when I stop clicking maniacally and start to go through my photos, it's a chance to slow down and remember: "Oh, yeah! All kinds of people look awesome on bicycles when they become an extension of who we are and how we live."

Cool hat cruiser. Does it look to you like he's whistling?

Storage galore.

Big wheels, white hat.

Minimal gear but still drinking 8 glasses a day.

Who says you can't wear flip-flops on a road bike?

Relaxin' and rollin'.

Anti-gravity hair!

Laid back and hanging out. Gotta love a guy that can rock pink wheels.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

celebration of bike

Last night was the first of four fireworks shows for the Celebration of Light. My friends and I snagged a picnic spot near Sunset Beach behind the Aquatic Centre, looking over the seawall, the beach, English Bay, and Kitsilano on the far side. Naturally, this kind of view led to much people-watching (cute shoes, cute dogs, and not-so-cute behavior were all up for discussion) especially of the well-used bike path several feet in front of us.

To pass the time while the light dimmed, I pointed my camera towards this rolling show and practiced snapping pics of the passing riders.

Some were alone:

Some were with friends.

Sometimes I was too late.

Eventually it got dark. The bay filled with boats, the beaches with people, and moving objects became nothing more than a blur on my lens.

Finally, the sky exploded!

What happened after that was awesome, too. But I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

free parking

Although I was skeptical about the implementation of on-street racks as the barrier separating the new Dunsmuir bike lanes from car lanes between Granville and Seymour, I'm happy to see that they are, at least, being used.

BCIT has a campus near that corner and I think there are a number of ESL schools nearby as well, which may account for the use (and possibly, unconsidered by me earlier, the initial decision to install them?).

While I remain aware of the potential negative emotions they may invoke in non-cycling drivers, I do concede that a full lineup may certainly invoke positive emotions in many others.

Like me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

two very different wheels

I have a vice.

It's related to my love of bicycles.

It still has two wheels...

...but it also has a motor.

There, I said it. I love motorcycles. Don't have my own license to ride them, but I've been a regular passenger since I was 10-ish and completely adore this method of travel. Road trips in a car = meh. Road trips on a motorcycle = absolutely marvelous. Every winding mountain road is an adventure in physics and balance and power and speed and grace.

Once a year for the past few years I've been given an opportunity to take a multi-day trip. This year it was last weekend, it was 3 days, and it involved a clockwise loop around south-western BC.

I call it a vice because I'm well aware that it's consuming gas and producing carbon for pleasurable, not practical, reasons. So are all those plane flights to Vegas and Peurto Vallarta and cruises in the Caribbean that other people take. The way I see it, I've bicycled and walked and transited and re-used and recycled all year long, and this two-wheeled rocket ride is my reward.

Besides, we did see some interesting non-motorized wheels on the trip, too.

Now this is what I'd call a lowrider. I wonder if he or she worries about bottoming out when going over speed bumps?

E.T. ... ride home?

gelato and summer dresses

I've been quiet for the past week. It's not that I haven't been riding (every day, to work and play!) but that I haven't been taking any photos worth posting or thinking any thoughts more cohesive than: "Sun! Sandals! Bicycle! Novel! Warm!" Ah, July: one of the 2 months that makes November to April worth suffering through.

false creek

A day like today is summer at its purest, so Melanie and I broke out the summer dresses, the bicycles, and headed out for a ride. The Trout Lake Farmer's Market was over by the time we reached that side of the city, but we did stop at La Casa Gelato (200+ flavours!). She had Cabernet Sauvignon-flavour (!) and I had Gingerbread. My love of gingerbread is serious; in my opinion it's one of the best parts of the Christmas season. (I know it's July... so what? It's gingerbread-flavoured gelato.)

They have a wonderful little patio area across the street that has stone benches, lights and garlands strung overhead, and loads of flowers.

From there we took the Adanac route on to Science World...

...where you can see the brilliantly striped Cirque du Soleil tents going up.

Such a blue and yellow tent would look wonderful in my backyard, no? (Which backyard? The one that exists in my imagination.) Kooza opens July 22 and I think a viewing is definitely in order.

Doesn't it look similar to the line of the mountains in the distance?

From there we kept our eyes out for a suitably industrial-looking wall to serve as a backdrop for some photo experiments.

The conclusion, after all this, is that walking wouldn't have allowed us to cover so much ground in such a short time, and driving or taking the bus wouldn't have allowed us to be outside, enjoying the beautiful weather and the calm, lovely residential sidestreets and parks. So on a day like this, bicycling is really the only way to go.

Here's to many more!

Friday, July 9, 2010

strawberry shortcake

My call has been answered!

Two new old photos of me and my strawberry shortcake bicycle arrived unannounced today, courtesy of my Mom. Mom, you are awesome!

strawberry shortcake

These really show off the bike well. (Or as well as possible considering they are photos of photos, taken with a digital camera because I don't have a scanner and taken hastily under non-optimal lighting.) Love the little detailing on the chaingaurd, the training wheels, and the gumboots.

strawberry shortcake

Here I am older but on the same bike. I look so tall! That one period of growth could likely have been my only brush with anything resembling lanky.

There's something wonderful about remembering carefree summer days of childhood. I may have more cares these days, but one thing hasn't changed: I do have a bicycle.

(Although nowhere near as cute a bicycle as this.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

just bikes: yellow banana (seat)

Spotted outside an eyeglass shop downtown: a magnificent yellow-framed, yellow-gripped, yellow-banana-seated (apropos, no?) bicycle, locked to a...

yellow banana seat bike

...garbage can?

That's a new one.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

skirt firsts and a bridge to somewhere

I've never been a skirty person. My favourite style is a pencil skirt, which would be a challenge even if my bicycle was step-through.

Still, I do have a few dresses, and -- emboldened by the fearless lady cycle bloggers of the internet kingdom and my always-stylish, much-skirted friend Melanie -- tried one out today. Oh, the breeze! The first few blocks contained much self-concious skirt-patting-down, but by the time I'd made it to the office, I was starting to care less.

On the way home, I took a long route through Stanley Park to "clock more time" in this new sartorial mode.

look up

"Look up," she said, "It's the sun! I'd forgotten that it exists."

These tights make me feel like doing the can-can. Thank goodness for the civilizing power of cardigans.

sleeping bicycle

Self-portraits have a learning curve. They make it look so easy! While I fiddled with my camera propped up on a bench, my faithful steed took a nap on the path. Poor thing looks awful like that. What's that you say? Where is that kickstand I was talking about getting a few weeks ago?

bridge to somewhere

This is one of my favourite bridges. It's wide and old and oddly empty, as if there ought to be a procession of ladies in bustles and parasols strolling arm in arm across it. Perhaps there are other routes now, more direct and with a water view. Me, I prefer this one: after all, it's not the destination that counts, but the way you take to get there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

change your handlebars, change your life

About a month ago, I took the plunge and replaced the handlebars on my bike.

I lack many good "before" photos because I disliked the stock bars enough to avoid aiming the camera in that direction, but here's a partial one:

You can picture it. They're the kind of bars on the majority of modern mountain and hybrid bikes built in the past 2 decades. They're everywhere. They make you lean forward so that part of your weight is on your hands.

I had it done by Rain City Bikes. It's not the place where I bought my bike (who don't carry any kind of scandalous swept-back bar, apparently) but from a few brief conversations it seems that they share my philosophy on cycling. They're a bit farther out of my way and are a small shop, but I like them.

And now, the 'after':

The difference is incredible! I see the world in a new way: I sit up, look around, and feel dignified and practical. Instead of participating in a sporty hobby, I'm controlling my own vehicle and navigating through the city. Surprisingly, it doesn't look strange at all, but natural and aesthetically pleasing.

When I told my friend that I felt like the Wicked Witch of the West, she laughed and replied that on her vintage beach cruiser she feels like Dorothy.

What do you call these bars? Occasionally (e.g. some Craigslist ads), I've seen similar ones called "cruiser bars". Really? Aren't cruiser bars the kind that would look at home on ... a cruiser? Lots of rise and very wide with that on-the-boardwalk vibe. So I've taken to saying: "More swept back, like a city bike." City bar? Not a "road" bar, a "mountain" bar, a "cruiser" bar, but something that is appropriate for the "city".

To be honest, I'd consider something even narrower: more like 90 degrees instead of the 45-ish that I currently have? Why? Velo Orange describes it well when explaining the dimensions of their Montmarte handlebar:

"Like most traditional French bars, the Montmartre bar is narrow, 42cm center-to-center. The streets of Montmartre are also narrow and it wouldn't do to knock over a drink at a cafe table or snag a Citroen's rear view mirror."

The wider the handlebar, the more they get tangled when locked in the racks with other bikes. I'd love an even narrower footprint to match the small spaces of the urban environment.

Do I feel less badass? Yes. And I'm okay with that. Transporting myself around the city on a daily basis is not a badass activity. Maybe one day when I have storage for a fleet of bicycles, I'll have something racier. (Because there is something so sexy about drop bars...)

My eyes have been opened and I've started to notice other bikes where the swept-back handlebars seem unlikely to be original. I hope more people -- both men and women -- do this. It made sense 40 years ago and it still does now.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

kids bikes are awesome

Mystery of the day: why are kids' bikes SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than adults' bikes?

In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned the banana-seated Strawberry Shortcake bike that I had as a kid. I thought all the photos were at my parents' place but had forgotten that I did have one:

That's me in the back right (funny face!), my sister Shelley in the middle, and a friend named Amanda on the left.

Really ... just look at them! Way-high handlebars, coaster brakes, chain guards, step through (does that look almost like mixte frames on the 2 outside ones?), fenders, kickstands, cream tires, and a cool style uncluttered by a tangle of cables and levers. Granted, as an adult I'd like at least a few gears (we lived in a flat suburban neighbourhood back then) but otherwise these are rockin'. And we're wearing cute outfits, including dresses and sandals.

Next time I visit my family, I'm going to see if I can dig up some more.