Thursday, December 24, 2009


waiting for a toddler to fall asleep is an act of endurance worthy of some grainy photo essay and hyperbolic prose of Rouleur. this one would be a mainstay column in Rouleur's sister publication, Tristeur. there's something rather pathetic and cute about the infinite snot stream, the self-sabotage regarding the process of falling asleep, and the trembling gasp-breathing that echoes like aftershocks from sobbing. i'm going to leave soon. i said that a few minutes ago, and a few minutes before that, and a few minutes before that. it's like hill reps: the courage exists in coming back for more, and achieving it again. the only problem is, what i'm achieving is little more than boiled over frustration and self-pity. there's no sweat. there's no blood. there are plenty of tears. maybe this is the training i need for the mental aspects of riding bikes fast. my pain threshold in my head gets further and further from pansy and approaches zen with each unending session of attempted 'nap time'. 

it's a good thing she's cute.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

vitamin d.

i need a sunburn.

toronto is a cold place to be, this time of year, and winter has come with tooth-chilling cold but zero snow. this means that it is still plenty good to ride a bike around the cracked and swollen streets, blistering one's face in the wind chill and forsaking the cool vented helmet for the windproof cap and goggles (and less vented, and much less cool helmet). it's just that it kinda sucks. and it's cool.

it's hard enough to get out and ride a bike when it's warm and beautiful and there are a million other things on the to-do list. it's quite another challenge to get dressed, get out, and ride when it's minus 20 celsius with the windchill when you're standing still, and there's just enough salt on the road to refrain from taking out the fancy bike. this means planning to ride on the not so fancy bike, and that's almost not even fun. wait, it's not fun at all. more bumps in the winter. more cracks in the road and in my knuckles. more rattling going through a harsh steel frame right to my frozen sits bones. more smiles frozen solid on my face underneath my fleece neck gaiter. and then - wait for it: at least as much time undressing as riding. it's like being in kindergarten again, but without the cookies.

it's also cool. 

in fact, it's f-ing freezing. but really, there is still that juvenile self-glorification (see: rapha) that results from subjecting oneself to unnecessary suffering, particularly when one is the only one subjecting oneself (everyone else opted for spin classes in full assos kits and running shoes). one begins to think: i am hardcore. i am practically enjoying myself. i love bikes. i am so fit. i can't feel my..anything. there is also that juvenile fascination/self-awareness upon return of experiencing the slow full-body thaw, inch par excruciating inch. winter hurts, even as it leaves the body.

yeah, so winter sucks in toronto for people who like riding fancy bikes up smooth hills past vineyards and orchards toward ecstasy-inducing goat milk gelato. winter also rocks. sometimes. some wheres. it's quiet, cold, crisp, and most certainly epic.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


the morning away from work is a glorious thing.

i have walked through the misty and at times, heavy rain in waxed canvas and tweed wool from donnegal, pushing a stroller, drinking a coffee, and enjoying detachment from the bustle.

there is space in this moment for ideas. 

ideas about how to cook tofu, composing a portrait, methods of seduction, and a drawing. time. peace. caffeine. all good things for bringing about ideas. i even thought about bikes.

this blog is titled threadless because that's what it is. it doesn't really have an obvious common thread, other than its being authored by me, and i like bikes and stuff. you just have to grab on, torque to spec (or thereabouts), and steer the best line. threadless.

i talk about bikes. i talk about commuting. i think a lot about a lot of other things. i usually have no time to write about any of it. then i remember that no one will read this, i have an idea, and i sit down to type. toddler sleeping is a glorious thing. without a daily two-wheeled commute through the wilds of rich and poor toronto, writing about bikes is almost obsolete. i know: i should get out there and train and write about the suffering i put myself through for the sake of rapha-esque epicness. but today it's raining. and there's a doctor appointment in the afternoon that i'll probably run to with the jog stroller. and the serotta is so beautifully clean right now...

anyway, off to other ideas. here's to rain drops on moldy bathroom skylights.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


this is going to be my second-last week of bicycle commuting in the city of toronto, and i'm trying to decide if i'm going to miss it.

due to recent job switching and general whatnot, my commute to work will be cut in half by frequency, and that half will be cut by about 80% in distance. i feel like some part of my identity will erode as my chain will corrode from lack of use.

i have been commuting by bicycle for the last 8 years or so, making my way around toronto in a gradually maturing fashion. it began with carefreeness and happiness and the challenge of threading tight lines through traffic. then i became aware of doors and poor nighttime vision for drivers and unlit cyclists. then i got hit by cars. then i hit cars. i rode with a messenger bag. i rode with panniers. i almost always rode road bikes. i tried fixies. i rode mountain bikes through the winter. i switched to a messenger backpack. i tried panniers again. i rode through the winter. i became a true bicycle commuter. neoprene booties, reflective anklets, panniers, fenders, huge lights, tires called 'city slicker', i've had it all, and all of it was completely not hip. 

i look enough like a commuter to get the nod from fellow co-mmu-ters. i ride a singlespeed that's not fixed and i don't have a moustache so i get no nod from hipsters (the pannier and backpack also throw them off, along with the helmet). and there's no nod from messengers because, although i kinda ride like they do sometimes, i'm not as fast and there's nothing so non-messenger as that damn pannier (or helmet). it's a lonely niche that i occupy, but i was startled to run into someone in the same niche just yesterday. we looked at each other and tried to figure out if we were seeing straight. it was uncanny yet satisfying. sometimes it's nice to not be so alone.

one of the problems of no longer commuting is that i will actually have to motivate myself to get on a bike every(other) day. right now, it's the only way i get anywhere, especially to work, so there's no question. of course i'm riding my bike 16 miles today. sometimes it's a question of which one. sometimes it's a question of how i'm going to fit everything on the trip. but it's never a question as to whether or not the trip will be made on two wheels. in fact, i've only missed one half-day of riding to work thus far, and that was because i already had too many bikes at school so i had to take some home without taking any more in. all this aside, i do wonder what it will be like to have the necessity taken out of the daily riding. in all likelihood, it should increase the enjoyment and rapha-esque nature of my time on a bike. commuting has a certain way of wearing down my love of riding. like brake pads after a good salty slush ride home, my love of bikes is sometimes worn down past the indicator lines, and left dripping all over my hardened, structured resolve. perhaps the lack of necessity will turn it into pure joy. unadulterated by pragmatic influence, two wheels will once again become a metaphor for escape, satisfaction, self-improvement, discipline, fitness, and all of those other things i forgot about in the last few months of work, and commuting to it.

whatever the case, i will continue to love bikes. i hope to continue to ride throughout the winter. i hope to keep up some form of two-wheeled fitness. but most of all, i hope to get the nod from other closet commuters who wish they could be out there, wearing their resolves to the bone when it's minus 40 and snowing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

something is wrong.

of course there is something wrong.

i made the mistake of opening my mouth again, and after a long stretch of not getting in trouble for so doing, i was thoroughly parked in the lambasting chair and thrashed for voicing my opinionated questions. unfortunately, i hadn't planned well and my audience/thrashing mob was not familiar with my previous entry which essentially acts as a disclaimer regarding my tendency to come off as an arrogant bastard. of course, i am an arrogant bastard.

unfortunately, too, is the fact that i have fundamental assumptions that are consistently wrong. one might argue that this would render me a psychopath. i have these things that i just assume everyone else, or just maybe someone else, probably also considers/believes/ponders/assumes. for example, aren't we all on the same page about wearing underpants with riding shorts? right: it's something we NEVER do. or that whole thing about tire pressure on road bikes - if you can squish it, that's bad. don't put milk in herbal tea. always hold the fucking door open for the person behind you. always say thank you (in any language you feel comfortable using) to the person who holds that door open for you. mamas are to be respected. we never dance as well as we think we do. apples and grapes go well with cheese. smoking is dumb. and we're all here to find and propagate some form of Goodness.



am i all alone in these thinkings?

fine. whatever. probably. the only thing is, this is the internet and i can say whatever i want and not be lambasted because this blog is invisible to search engines and contains nothing of note to anyone ready to lambast let alone read long enough to lambast anyway. (isn't lambast a fantastic word?) the point is: i think we're all here on the planet to live and hopefully quest for some kind of Good, with a capital G. obviously, Goodness is unfortunately open to the flawed interpretations of billions of flawed humans, and one person's Goodness is another person's Goofness. however, questing for Goodness seems to be a valid, and necessary, aspect of a human life. we're human. we have brains (but not governments) that have capacity beyond the basic food, shelter, clothing bit. we want to do a bit of thriving, transcend that surviving. right? and maybe while we're here, we'll put in some time and work and make some part of this vast place a little better than it was when we left it, and we'll do it ON PURPOSE.

i write this in obvious frustration with some things. the mainstream is necessary and vast and varied and i certainly participate in it from time to time, likely unconsciously (like everyone else), but i fancy myself foreign to it all the time. i also quest to share knowledge. i seek knowledge. i seek to impart it. it's my job. it drives me a bit insane when people elect to surrender their agency, reject knowledge-seeking, and dive headfirst into the mainstream to follow like jetsom a sticky slow current of stupidity and mass. gone is the quest for Goodness. gone is independent thought. gone is curiosity. gone is all that shit that my grandmother fought for in the 60s.

now, for the post-disclaimer.

i only write this because i can write. i have the luxury of being detached from all kinds of earthly states that would keep me otherwise occupied and far too busy to think about how we should all be questing for my idea of Goodness. whatever. a lot of people quest for Food before Goodness, and they don't even get that every day so who the fuck am i to sit around talking about Goodness? well, i'm someone who recognizes that there are people who don't eat in this world and that's pretty bad so maybe i can keep that in mind when i'm living my day to day. it's a consciousness thing, and it's pretty depressing when people sign out of being conscious. if they've never been conscious, they're not awake and it's not much their fault necessarily. but to surrender it, that's just deplorable. keep thinking. keep questing. do shit that you actually believe in.

let's ride bikes.

Monday, October 19, 2009


i am an arrogant bastard.

while working with children and commuting on a crappy-yet-meticulously-dedicated singlespeed and hanging out at children's parks and generally observing 'the public', i have come to the conclusion that i am arrogant. i imagine that this arrogance was begun during my primary years, fostered further by my immigration to this glorious country and all its smalltown prejudice against my first country, capitalized upon during the undergrad years, and finally left to slow-burn in my hardwon adult idiocy. i think i'm better than all of this.

i think i'm better than most of this. i shouldn't be so poor. i'm smarter than the advertising that lines the roadways. television that i catch glimpses of is beyond categorization in its stupidity and profound lack of meaning. textbooks i work with provide no answers (kinda cool) and terrible questions (not cool). my employer has no idea how valuable i am. people in my profession get surplussed after 4 years of 'permanent' work. everyone else's bike is too fast, too slow, to shitty, made out of too much carbon or steel. no one seems to know how to inflate their tires properly. it's amazing that the drivers out there ever managed to get licenses. i can't believe that so many people ride on the sidewalk and think it's okay. i rent a mouldy house full of drafts and no insulation on a block of $600, 000 homes. my utlities bills are about to head through the uninsulated roof. i sell things on craigslist to buy groceries. i've had bronchitis for a month. i hate the suburbs. i think i'm better than so much of this.

i'm an arrogant jerk.

my arrogance, however, is not necessarily an attitude wherein i believe that i am always better than my own situation, but that i am more conscious of all of it than anyone else. i see more, feel more, understand more, and thereby, get pissed off at a lot more. my bike is amazing and nice and wonderful and custom and ti and a 'dentist bike' and full of italian components. my commuter is not nice in any way other than it does its job relatively well and doesn't cost so much that i'd be that pissed if it got stolen. but with either bike, i feel like i know and am conscious of more of their quirks and clicks than the chubby guy i pass on the way up yonge street, as he huffs and puffs his colnago through the lights. i hear that lady's tires squishing all over the pavement as she spins slowly to work and it bothers me knowing that she's running 20psi lower than proper pressure. i hear kids in the halls talking about what 'happened' on tv last night, and it saddens me that they think it's real, that it matters, and that they have authority over it because they picked the channel. doesn't anyone see?

regardless, it is a fine thing to be an arrogant jerk in this uber-conscious kind of way. even oscar wilde thought so when he said that thing about all of us being in the gutter but some of us looking at the stars.

Monday, October 12, 2009

rough translation.

once you got it up, keep it up.

i was a terrible bike racer in high school. i liked going up hills on my road bike, but i hated going up them on my mountain bike. i was also just bad at it, overtrained, and doing too many other things (girls, volleyball, girls, XC running, school, girls, etc.) to focus on excellence. but to be absolutely honest, the main reason that i was bad at going fast on two wheels: it never occurred to me to go faster. 

riding was a whole lot of fun. i'd get out there, cruise around the local four-wheeler and ski-doo trails in my lycra, feel like some kind of extreme athlete when i made it over a rock or root stretch or a 10-foot wide (and long) bridge over a picturesque stream. i'd take a break, eat half a powerbar (those things were too expensive to eat all at once!), and continue on, probably at a breakneck pace of about 2 miles an hour. sure, those trails were rough and not made for bikes or any kind of cyclical rhythm of human power transfer. those hills were steep. but really, i was slow, and i didn't really know it. i was enjoying myself, and going uphill seemed to hurt, so i must have been doing fine. right? right.

as part of my 'let's change the world with bikes' campaign of high school ridiculousness, i attempted to start a mountain bike team (i also had huge dreams of being sponsored by the local pizza pizza - imagine how sweet orange and white checkered jerseys would have been!). we went on a bunch of rides, and even competed and did well in the provincial high school championship series. but it all came clear to me on one 'training' ride we convinced the high school to drive us to in algonquin park. many many kilometers of rough ass singletrack and rock gardens and mud, and i learned everything i needed to know about reality and my failing mountain bike racer extraordinaire dream. 

we got to the trailhead, unloaded the bikes, got ourselves ready, and took off. i went at my usual pace, and was immediately left in the dust by all other 'team members'. 

they were gone. 

off and away. and not for any particular reason other than that was how they rode. fast. fucking crazy breakneck fast. and so i learned: you have to pedal faster to go faster. the curve has gotten a little less steep at times, but i continue to learn and enjoy my bike-based learning.

this past spring, i spent many hours pouring over old race videos of the spring classics. i bought lance's 'big six' dvd and have memorized every segment. i trained to sastre's/andy schleck's alpe d'huez 2008 stage (yeah, i can only stay on a trainer for the half hour they're on that climb). i watched people ride bikes fast until it became an unconscious expectation that scenery should go by that quickly, people should be blurs, and cornering is always tricky. i trained myself, once out on the road, to pedal quickly. high cadence, in a higher gear. 20mph should be average, and faster if downhill or with a tailwind. no dipping below 17 or 18mph in a headwind. climbing should be beyond painful, for as long as possible. this summer was the best shape i've ever been in for riding. i rode almost every day, hard, after a great base-building spring. i watched what i ate. i slept tons. i was relaxed. and i did hill reps all the time (not a lot of fun riding to do for long distances in toronto). i watched races and racers going fast. i rode fast. simple. no spinning easy, unless it was warm-up, warm-down, or inter-interval recovery. give'r.

now i'm at the back side of my peak. it's fall. it's freezing here in toronto. skinny tires will soon give way to skinny knobbies on the cross single speed, and the neck gaiter and goggles will come out. i peaked a long time ago. now i'm just putting in miles. i went for a ride yesterday, full of bronchitis and phlegm, and still managed to enjoy myself on a sunny thanksgiving spin. sometimes it's okay to plateau. sometimes it's okay to sit up, eat an apple that your daughter picked in an organic orchard miles away from the bustle of downtown, and say good morning to roadies (who actually said goodmorning back. every one of them! amazing...). i got it up. i kept it up. now i coast. now i spin easy, try to recover, get dormant for a while, build for next spring. i set myself up for so much success, now i revel in the aftermath. it's a sticky sweet hangover with no headache or vomit. i should start wearing some rapha or something...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


the last post was two weeks ago. i guess it's been a busy month. no. i know it's been a busy month. there will be plenty of time to share my observations over the next few pages worth of typing, so maybe i'll try to pace myself like the last entry, and leave things hanging until i have a bit of breathing/typing room in the daily schedule.

where was i? ah yes, things i learned over the course of a hundred miles on a windy day in september...

i learned that if i have nothing nice to say, i probably shouldn't say anything at all; i should just save it and blog about it later. honestly: no one wants to be grumbled to or about, unless it's suffused with humor, eloquence, and some form of self-deprecation. my time suffering under marshall lee was not sufficiently humorous or eloquent, and i was too angry to self-deprecate. i was, moreover, pleading my case as a capable cyclist (though many would likely slot me into the 'avid' or similarly demeaning 'enthusiast' category) just out to have fun, not ride in a prescribed paceline to the halting rhythm of gruff commands by marshall lee. sit back. relax. don't take everything so personally. enjoy the view and the fact that i can ride a bike. it's a charity ride for kids with cancer - think about the kids and what they have to suffer through. that's enough to shut anyone up for a long time. 

machismo is fun, and will consistently get me into trouble, particularly with the powerful and strong women with whom i've chosen to surround myself in my life. blasting out of the starting gate, blowing through suburban turns, catching up to and sprinting past a much stronger little brother, giggling raucously while doing it, challenging, laughing, challenging again, stretching the legs, sniffing for points on the climb, bombing the descents in full tuck - all of these things are truly and genuinely fun, fun like kids on bikes in the summer time fun, and they are all things that got me into trouble. it's fun to go out and see who's got legs today. but it's not part of the 25km/h pace. it's fun to easily slide past people of lesser body mass on those open country road descents. but passing them involves breaking up the two-by-two imperative paceline. giggling is fun. yeah. marshall lee, the lady i was riding with, and i'm sure some other lady in the group were certainly not impressed with these elements of bike-based fun as enjoyed by myself and my brothers. stick to the rules. challenge later. let's all just keep the pace and we'll have a great day. yeah fuckin right.

i learned that everyone has a different code for different situations, and sometimes codes take hierarchical arrangement, canceling each other out, or dictating less than optimal outcomes. i take a general code of survival of the group - no one left behind. it's an attempt at honor, an attempt at doing what we set out to do: ride bikes together. we could go out and hammer a hundred miles by ourselves, but it wouldn't be the same, it wouldn't be the point. the point of the whole ride was to hang out together, and we could've done that sitting in adirondack chairs and drinking creemore. after buddy's flat and our prompt dropping by the marshall lee group, everything dissolved into random groups and odd mood undercurrents that would shape the rest of the day, for better or for worse. one lady rode up ahead, afraid that if she didn't, she would never be able to keep up a finishing pace (going alone is generally a bad idea if one is worried about 'keeping up'). buddy with the fixed flat set a blistering pace, as a matter of honor, feeling bad about having made all of us get dropped because of our pseudo-sub-group status. he dropped half the group. feeling fine and trying to keep everyone together, i worked to bridge the widening gap in the paceline, but another group member was under-fueled and over-hungover, so we lost that pace group too. then there were three. i could have chased. i could have hammered through the wind, up the hills, through the beautiful scenery, right up on marshall lee's ass, just to prove that i knew how to ride a bike and could hold a pace if i wanted to. i could have set up in a paceline and gotten my breath back, saved my legs, preserved myself until the 60-mile lunch rest stop. no one left behind. i stayed back. i pulled like i've never pulled before. listening for my companions. easing up when someone got dropped. dropping back to give up every caffeinated gel i had. offering water, support, mutual suffering, a slipstream. no one gets left behind. and this was no longer fun.

i learned that riding bikes is not always fun. even riding bikes for fun is not always fun. hills are fun. searing pain ripping through the capillaries in quadriceps is fun. rapha styles epics are fun. pulling a couple of hungover hard-heads through miles of farmland headwind while trying not to drop them on hills and after being called an asshole for joking around at the start..this is not fun. it's like treeplanting: it's all in your head. you could be the fittest fucker out there, just ready to enjoy the day on the nicest bike you've ever ridden, then someone you care about calls you a jackass for being silly at the start of a charity ride and all of a sudden the day becomes gray and windy and smells like cow shit and corn.

i learned that i still like bikes. i still like riding. and i might even do it with people again, but i will be prepared. i learned that knowing the game plan is better than going in and doing improv. i know how i ride. no one gets left behind. and we all have fun. one rule is better than marshall law.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


the ride for karen is a century ride north of toronto that is put on each year as a fundraiser for camps for kids with cancer.

this is obviously a good cause.

traditionally, some of the members of my family participate in the NYC century put on by transportation alternatives, as an awareness-raiser for the cause of non-four-wheeled-transportation. this year, as time and money and a huge family ordeal schedule would have it, we opted for the ride for karen. thankfully, we did this early and managed to fundraise enough to make sure that the steep entry fee was waived in lieu of funds raised for the cause. long term plan. checklist. feels a little like teaching.

the day began finely enough with a hangover and some ibuprofen, then a drive to the middle of nowhere where parking is plentiful (except on century sunday) and the driveways are identical and many. we parked, registered, peed, and lined up at the start. modestly, we chose the slowest pace group, figuring we could always speed up, but would, more importantly, have a better chance of not getting dropped off the back. this was a fine decision. we rolled off, and my brother and i, having almost left with the wrong group, chased each other around like kids on bikes through the hideous suburb streets. we laughed and said stupid movie lines to each other, making fun of ourselves and having a blast. oh, and the ride had barely started so we had the energy to do this. bikes are fun, and we were giddy.

as soon as the marshall, lee (or maybe it's 'leigh'), showed up, all fun and games came to a screeching halt. we were told/ordered to ride in a two-by-two line, at the specified speed, in order 'for everyone to have a great day.' no getting out of formation. no chasing each other around like idiots. no tucking the hills to pick up any more than 25km/h of speed. no stopping other than at rest stops (there are two, at 50 and 100km). no whining. no having fun. enjoy the scenery. slow down. stop laughing...

a blast was certain to be had by all. my experiences of century riding are limited to those of the NYC century. no rules. few marshalls. fewer marshalls who knew the way. thousands of turns and lights and signs and intersections and cars and weirdos and helpful citizens. lots of fun. lots of laughter. lots of pain and suffering and deteriorated bum skin. lots of food. more volunteers. amazing rest stops. traffic. bike lanes. people and cars in the way. poorly marked routes. fun. fun. fun.

i made the mistake of trying to express my concern for this stick in the mud marshall, quietly, to the lady riding beside me. she was none too impressed. she insisted that despite her carbon bike and hours of hill repeats, the power-tripping marshall was her only hope of not getting dropped by irreverent assholes who just want to make their own rules and ride their own ride and 'have fun' or whatever. oops. this is the second time in a week i've made such a mistake. i should stop opening my mouth, particularly to complain about anything.

the ride was not going well. i had to pee. i hadn't yet sweat into my garments to the point where they become comfortable. i had to pee. i was in trouble with the lady. i wanted to rile against the marshall and all her rules. i felt like i was at school, in the principal's office, for something i didn't even do. i had to pee.

out of nowhere, the events of the day were changed immediately and definitively.

there was that stomach-sinking sound of a revolving tire, spewing its precious pneumatic contents into the air at the regular intervals of an easy 25km/h spin. hiss. hiss. hiss. hiss. hiss. i knew the sound, and looked up to see its victim. my brother. poor guy just got his bike tuned up yesterday (by yours truly), and was told that his tires were shit and old but might hold up for this ride. not 20km in, and he's blown the front one, a wear mark straight through the casing. 

i peed. 

after watering a nearby cornstalk, i assessed the situation, and was glad. we had lost the marshall and her rules and the group to which we had been so unassumingly assigned. i peed. and now we had an impromptu rest stop. this was going to be a great century. we started to get ready to rig some kind of solution, when we were told that the SAG wagon would still be coming by, and they would have tires. perfect. no mcguivre moves here boys, just a little SAG action and we'd be on our way. sure enough, a white van pulled up, slapped on an $80 tire, and left us to our own, repaired devices as it drove away to find the next rider in need. i love the SAG!

back on the rode, my brother, feeling bad that he had lost us the group and the 'pace' and the marshall and any time (this is not a race), took lead in the paceline and promptly dropped just about everyone. feeling responsible for the other relatives/riders i had invited to this thing, i fell back and did my best to pull them in a rag-tag paceline across some of the windiest and straightest and flattest road i've seen in a long time. this was the picture for the rest of the day. we met back up with all of our friends at the first rest stop, and at lunch, but were always dropped by higher-pace riders doing their thing. and i always hung back, feeling like i should 'help out' with the slower paceline.

ultimately, it was a great day and a great ride, but i learned some things, and i should write them down so that i don't forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


complaining is all too easy, common, and unproductive.

i am a natural complainer. pessimism makes sense to me, is a handy defense mechanism, and has never failed in predicting outcomes. self-fulfilling or otherwise, i have an 8-0 track record for being dumped versus dumping them. these are solid statistics.

however, when complaining is completely impossible, when to do so would be to make a complete ass of oneself on all levels, a new approach is necessary. of the myriad approaches possible, i took the prone position, flattened by the wonder of so much goodness, all at once, continuously, for days and nights on end.

we left the kids and flew to kelowna, with our bikes.

kelowna is a prime spot for recreation. everything everywhere is ready and waiting for humans to get out there and play hard. there's wine, there are orchards, there's an enormous and beautiful lake, there are mountains, endless roads with shoulders and/or no traffic, trails in the hills, local beer, two absolutely wicked bike shops, and ridiculously attractive people on every corner. even the guy collecting cans has a not-unattractive gleam in his eye.

the point of the trip was to enjoy ourselves like we were kids again, like we were on vacation, like we hadn't a care in the world. we took this point to heart, and gave'r from the get-go. upon arrival, our bikes were unboxed and assembled within an hour, and we were on the long road to paradise - lakeshore is a long road around the east side of the okanagan lake, and at the top of one of its many hills there is a goat farm that sells goat cheese and goat gellato, which, of course, we had to sample. we rode long and hard, relishing the view, the sunshine, the breeze, the terrain. rolling hills, small climbs, switchbacks, it was all there. i tried to do a bunch of 'epic' looking rapha-esque shots of us 'suffering' for 'the glory', but there's only so much suffering one can do when one is having the time of one's life. no, no complaining here. positively impossible.

i'm going to leave it at that. oh, and bikesnob's column in the bicycling magazine that we had bought for the trip was about how much of a hassle it is to travel with bikes, and that it's usually better to just leave them at home, but i have to say, he was completely and utterly wrong. the exorbitant surcharge for brining our bikes on the plane, and the hassle of all the airport shuttles and transfers was immediately erased within the first five minutes of tires on pavement. bring bikes; they make life better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

fellow down.

today is one of mourning.

i'm sure it happens everywhere, every minute of every day, but this is so rare to so many of us, so comfortably insulated from mortality, that it is deafening when someone on two wheels is silenced forever. 

last night, a toronto politician and a toronto bike messenger had a collision, an altercation, and then a murder by vehicular assault wherein the cyclist was killed. it's one thing to have a collision, another to have an altercation, but to run a car, cyclist attached, onto the oncoming sidewalk and into stationary objects, then ultimately run him over is murder. assault with a deadly weapon resulting in manslaughter. cars are deadly weapons and you only have to be sixteen and semi-literate to wield one. guns are meant for the singular purpose of bringing about death. knives are more like cars, where they are available for a variety of uses, and, depending on the intent of the user, can cause severe harm. like my dad always said: the most dangerous part of a gun is the person holding it.

there are too many things to consider here, and i don't even know much of the details. besides, i bring too many bicycle-centric biases to be even somewhat 'objective' (a stance that i believe is entirely impossible in this world), and i don't even vote Liberal. however, i ride a bike, in traffic, in this city, on that street, at that intersection, and i have had plenty of my own close calls and near-misses and collisions and confrontations and altercations, and it gets me. right there. someone died doing what i do every day. they died right where i could have died. and someone killed them, on purpose.

i ride like no one can see me. i slip here, cross over there, figure that i'm invisible and the only thing i can trust a motorist to do is the wrong thing. yes, it's biased and disappointing and utterly untrue to my tendency to expect the best of people, but it keeps me alive. i used to pick fights. i used to ride too-close to cars and people. i used to flip people off, bang on their windows, yell in their faces, fantasize about taking their keys and throwing them into a trash can or the river or traffic. then, through time and bad experiences and worse experiences, i grew up, gained a little perspective, wore a whole lot more lights and reflective shit, and got on with the ride. i'm not saying everyone out there should ride like i do. it takes me too long to get places, because i try to stop for lights and stop signs and pedestrian crosswalks (not pedestrians if not in crosswalks though, give me a break already). couriers wouldn't make any money if they rode as slowly and almost-law-abidingly as i. however, if it's going to let some helmetless messenger live, or some meandering asian mango-shopper make it across spadina, or some overburdened mother of five make it from Holt Renfrew to Harry Rosen in one piece, i think it's time to give a little. give just a little room, a little space, make things a little smoother, and this might be a better place for it. i know we have to fight tooth and nail for every inch we take on the road. i know the battle gets far more lethal and frightening the further we venture out of the downtown core. i know that we are the ones who are out on the limb, risking life to get around the best way we can. but i think we are in a great position to lead by example, and give a little. 

it's the old age talking, but it seems to work. i hold my tongue and don't have anything regretful to answer for. i anticipate that no one will look for or see me until it's far too late, so i ride further ahead and behind all that heavy steel on wheels with too many blindspots and cell phones and ipods blaring. and i wear a fucking helmet. always. wind in my hair? tons. they're called 'vents', maybe you've heard of them. look like a freak? of course, and isn't that what your colorway and messenger motif are all about? hit by a car? yes. hit a person? yes. dead? no.

anyway, peace to you, mr. sheppard. this city is less without you.

Monday, August 31, 2009

just as it has arrived, summer is ending abruptly here in toronto.

the days are warm and the nights are cold and it's anything but wonderful. yes, the weather is nice. yes, one could swim during the day and wear a fleece around a campfire at night. it is the best of the temperate climate, and there is no rain, in a good way.

the only problem is the date.

today is the last day of august. august is the last day of summer, and tomorrow marks the beginning, or the return, to an existence i had left so far behind as to not recognize myself in 'work clothes' anymore. i even subjected myself and my family to the abhorrent experience of Back to School Shopping at a mall of all things. terrible things.

back to school, the end of summer, and the return of a paycheck are all very mixed in their effects upon my mood. much of the time i find myself just signing out of consciously considering any of them, and opting for more immediate sensations such as sleep, or depression, or the smell of those fruit-fly-infested-dirty-dishes-that-i-should-have-washed-three-days-ago. i found, it turns out, the perfect remedy.

one of my favorite topics is context. so much can be understood and misunderstood based on simple contextualization exercises, that it leads me to spiraling existentialism and i have to stop, but not before rationalizing something along the way. insulation is another of my favorite topics, because it works in direct contrast to contextualization, and i've been quite a subject to insulation these days. it's wonderful being detached from the 'working world', the 'consumer culture', the 'workplace', etc. i haven't bought things i don't need for some time. most, if not all of my allowance goes toward groceries and household expenses (these are generally not made out of carbon fiber, either). one problem, though, of being so insulated from 'the rest of the world', is that i often lack context. this comes out in my overexuberance regarding responses to questions like, 'what's your bike made out of?', or 'how do you like your bar tape?'. this is also expressed in my disatisfaction with 'the day'. i have no money, nothing good came in the mail, the weather's too hot, the rain is too much, the house is a mess, etc., etc., all means that the day is bad. HOWEVER: riding a bike lends perspective which, through sweat and physical exertion/pain, pushes through mental fuzziness (insulation by isolation), to ultimately achieve a frame of mind that will allow for contextualization. brilliant. go hurt yourself so that you can think clearly and realize that the day is a great day. truly, bikes are amazing machines.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


poetry and art doesn't happen in the normal everyday stuff. there isn't a photograph in every glance at that dumpster. there isn't a sonnet in the unrhymed ballad of weather complaints. she ain't venus. and i sure as hell ain't shakespeare.

this is untrue.

tolerance and expectation - dangerous, inseparable, and key driving points behind innovation and excellence. my best friend and i were discussing what made us so intolerant of mediocrity, for ourselves and for others, and how we came to expect so much of ourselves and others despite entirely different familial and cultural bases. my buddy sent me an e-mail full of all the wrong uses of there/their/they're and its/it's and whatever else he could think of. i rode a 4130 chromoly singlespeed with fenders today. and i bet that somewhere in there, some art came about, and some poetry was had, and all of it was within the limits of the everyday.

i have high expectations of a lot of things. some of these include, but are not limited to: my body (performing the physical tasks i ask of it); my bicycle (rolling noiselessly and shifting flawlessly and generally out-riding me every single time); my camera (producing sharp shots with the light metered the way i want it)... the list goes on, endlessly to be sure, but i noticed in the writing of it that i've grown accustomed to keeping my expectations nuclear. particularly when talking/writing about expectations and tolerance, i don't want to get into anything over which i have little or no control. i shouldn't talk about my expectations of others. i should not mention how much it annoyed me to have a fellow customer's belongings all over the lid of the bulk bins i needed to access while he sampled the goods (expressly outlined as a major NO-NO in bulk stores) in another aisle, and how intolerant i found myself of this man and all of his 'presumptions'. i expect people to hold doors for people behind them, but i know this only because i'm consistently disappointed when i witness it NEVER happening. i expect people to check their blindspots before turning, changing lanes, or opening doors, but i ride as if i'm invisible, because i'm sure that my expectations for safe driving on the part of others will never happen. crunching metal poetry. and it happens every day.

in having high expectations and lowered tolerances for some things, i've grown accustomed to a pampered lifestyle in many ways. one such indulgence is my collection of bicycles, ironic in that i can only ride one machine at a time (why the collection?), and each one points out glaring deficiencies of the others. the road bike is SO much lighter and more comfortable than the singlespeed commuter. the commuter gets around the city SO much more effortlessly and cleanly (fenders) than the mountain bike. the mountain bike is SO much more plush on the bumps than the road bike. et cetera. today, however, i was forced to ride the singlespeed, to tow the double kid trailer along the bike path along the beach, and i liked it. i realized that all i had to do was some mental stretching, some letting go of preconceived notions about how 'road' bikes 'should' ride, about how 'bike rides' should go, about how 'i' should 'ride', and it all fell into place. i couldn't look at my speed because there's no computer. i couldn't figure out a perfect gear and cadence because there's only one damn speed. my full kit was reduced to helmet, shoes, and gloves, and the sound of the keys in my baggy shorts pocket reminded me that i was out for topics a little broader than 25c. so i looked at the trees. i noticed the wind, even the headwind, and thought about how nice it was to feel the breeze. i turned around and talked to the little wonders in the trailer. i drank water because those wonders are really, really heavy. i rode smoothly so that they would have a smooth ride. we took in the scenery. it was beautiful. 

and all along i was thinking to myself: i should do this every day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

anonymous generous.

i received a package in the mail today containing a very nice pair of used sidi carbon road shoes for my brother. they didn't smell great. but they were nestled around a can of Dale's Pale Ale from colorado. amazing stuff. i washed the shoes. i washed the insoles. i washed a mountain of dishes. i swept the floors. i mopped the floors. i folded all of the laundry. then i drank a can of Dale's Pale Ale from colorado, and had it in a frosted glass. life is perfect. the sender of the shoes didn't have to include 355ml of excellence and wonder. i haven't even sent him payment for the shoes yet. he included his business card. he taped to the back of said business card a fortune cookie fortune regarding compassion. did i mention that all of this was uncalled-for? amazing. i was just trying to buy a pair of shoes for my brother to get into road pedals and shoes, and here i am, dizzy on pale ale and generosity from a lawyer in jersey. fantastic.

topic number two: anonymity. a blogger was sued by a model for slandering said model on said blogger's blog. the major fallout entailed the forcing, by court and Google™, said blogger's true identity to be revealed. that's bullshit. anonymity, perceived and actual, is an assumed, necessary, and important aspect of writing. even if an author's name, address, publisher, and cheesy black and white headshot are on the back of the book, they are still essentially anonymous because they are not effectively saying the things in their book to an actual audience that is present. to me, anonymity is feeling more like whether or not you can be hit by the person to whom you are eloquating. that's right: eloquating. impossible to do, according to Webster, i'm sure, but i'm going to do it anyway. and i'm going to do it anonymously because you can't hit me while i do it. anyway, anonymity is important, and shouldn't be revoked because some middle-aged model feels slandered by some blogger whose site has apparently never been visited (we may have had a contest for least visited blog, and now that model has ruined everything). don't people get 'slandered' every day by much more popular media sources whose 'authors' aren't 'anonymous' unknowns? what about the tabloids? oy...

so, i imagine it's obvious that i didn't get out on two wheels today. i got out on two feet, 'cause i figured that i should go and do that kind of painful activity while i'm still too asleep to fully appreciate the pain, and save the riding for a state of wakefulness wherein i may enjoy it. the evening gave way to more pressing obligations, but i remain hopeful of tomorrow morning and its 30% chance of showers. i've been wanting to try my new 25c maxxis re-fuse tires in something wet. stand by...

Monday, August 24, 2009

hunger and thirst.

i once wrote a column for a magazine that didn't exist (high school project), outlining the need for inspiration and how i had nothing to write about and then, three hundred words later, the column was written and all it really said was that i didn't have anything to write about.

this may be similar, but we can hope otherwise.

i watched The Soloist movie last night, and enjoyed finally watching a movie of some quality, despite several instances of visceral reactions to the unglamorous realities of homelessness and mental illness. at least jamie foxx put forth a good performance, and robert downey jr. was impeccable as per usual (what a comeback from that guy, hey?). anyway, at some point in the movie, foxx's character remarks about imagining beethoven and mozart out there, in windows we see every day, still hungering and thirsting, like the rest of us. that line got me.

i don't know that 'the rest of us' hunger and thirst, and if we do, i'm pretty sure it's not on a daily basis. movies are supposed to do that thing that poems do: condense some specific part of the human condition into an experiential production that can be had, from start to finish, in a fraction of the time it actually takes to experience the topics conveyed. so i thought about the hungering and thirsting. i thought about an e-mail i wrote to a kid once explaining that he must quest for authenticity, for something to which he would give enough of himself to honestly be exhausted and able to give no more. and then i thought about my stomach: full, satisfied, needing of nothing; not hungering, and not thirsting.

much of my daily existence of late has been blissfully free of hungering and thirsting, because what i usually hungered and thirsted for has little merit when placed next to the daily needs of family. carbon shifters and a new derailleur and a compact crank that would match both of them are really all just a bunch of things, and it's arguable as to whether or not they would get me out of bed to ride. hunger and thirst here, is about inspiration. and i think that inspiration can be bought, just like sex or 'love' or credit or experience, but it is that which is internally forged that means more, lasts longer, and yields greater results. 

i planned to ride this morning, to be out the door before 6 am. it worked. i was pedaling hard, trying to warm up when the sun wasn't even up, and it was 5:58 when i looked at my watch. getting out of bed is very difficult for me. these past few months away from work have done wonders for my sleep, and i've become very reluctant to give it up. but i was trying to be better, to ride stronger, to hunger and thirst for something spiritual and enriching on two wheels. 

it was really, really difficult.

maybe it was the fact that i got to ride with a beautiful lady for two meandering hours yesterday. maybe it was the lack of breakfast. maybe it was 5:58 in the morning. maybe i do better in sunshine or daylight. whatever it was, i was not inspired. i did not hunger for more miles or thirst for more sweat. i did not feel like experimenting with the limits of my body. the bumps didn't melt away. the breeze didn't shift to push me from the back. i labored. and i was going downhill.

eventually, i forced myself up a hill, and then a long way along the water, and then up another hill. i picked up my pace. i worked up a sweat. i imagined phil ligget narrating my every move. and then i was done. just an hour. just 16 miles. just a morning ride. but i will carry with me today, the lesson that i can make myself do just about anything, regardless of whether i hunger or thirst for it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

and just like that, the day faded and melancholy swept over my lightheartedness with a nostalgic familiarity, like an aftertaste of something much better than inevitable.

these days have a way of ending more quickly than i can stand. it's not enough to photograph them, ride a bike through their hours and sun-dapplings, or bumble around wondering what to do while a child naps. it's not enough to make grandiose plans of the highest productivity, enjoyment, or personal improvement. it's not enough to wish that they would stay.

september seeps back into consciousness with the sure-footed cadence of an atomic clock, bringing closer, one catastrophic second at a time, the end of a summer that will always be golden, regardless of how many days it rained or how many rides i couldn't make. this kind of sadness is routine. it lacks the panache of unrequited love, or the all-encompassing and clinically recognized depression. it is subtle, unavoidable, and absolute.

i wish i was riding right now, but it's eleven thirty-seven on a saturday night, and the kids will be up in a few hours, and there's breakfast to be made, hands to wipe, floors to sweep, meals to prepare, a season to end, a sadness to set in. 

thank goodness no one will ever know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

three point zero two times ten to the exponent eight meters per second.

physics was one of my favorite subjects in high school. the two teachers who brought the subject to the masses were very different, and each uniquely gifted at making the stuff utterly fascinating. there's also something beautiful about sub-micro and super-macro analysis and quantification and theorization about things that are otherwise unconsidered. (ever thought about the mathematical conundrum that distance is never closed to actual zero (you never actually get anywhere), or that most of everything we are and touch is made of empty space? mindblowing, really.) one thing that confounded and fascinated me was quantum physics, and one of the things i (think) i remember from it was that at the speed of light, time stops. 

there is an event where i grew up called The Hilly Hundred, and it's a century ride that tours the back roads of rough pavement and merciless climbs. the climbs really are 'just hills', but they lend themselves to suffering, and the views are spectacular. this, coupled with the propensity to cover gravel and bad pavement amidst unpredictable fall weather, would be a heyday for rapha.

i love riding these roads, and i took the opportunity the other day to preview some of the route. i nearly puked. one recommendation i can offer: do not fuel your body pre-ride with pancake and maple syrup rolled into one sticky wrap of gut-wrenching pain. no good. also: drink more than coffee. i was lucky, as neither the pancake nor the coffee were revisited during my ascent of the first climb, but the day was sticky hot and the road wound up, and i had only been riding for four and a half minutes.

hills defy physics. climbing, regardless of how fast or how fit or how good or bad i feel, always reduces the pace of seconds and minutes. pedal strokes, however numerous, are not mirrored by whirling clock hands. effort seems to be suspended, pain held in perpetuity, as time oozes and my body labors on. it seems, at the speed of old-man-going-up-hill-on-fancy-bike, time stops. upon finally reaching the crest of the first climb, i looked at my computer with marked disappointment to see that i had been riding for a mere fourteen minutes. i won't even mention the miniscule distance i had covered in that time. time stopped. the hill stood silently. and i emerged at the summit, questioning my resolve. of course, there's nothing like a long, windy, sun-dappled descent to recover one's resolve. 

that descent gave way to another climb, though nothing epic or rapha-esque, and i powered up past bulldozers and pick-up trucks, on to another green-leafed and pine-scented descent. this continued for miles, until time had caught up to itself and it was time to turn around. a couple of miles of gravel, a detour, and some harrowing passes by loaded dump trucks, and i found myself retracing the route, getting ever closer to the first climb, where physics would again reign supreme.

the fastest i've ever gone on a bicycle is 56 miles per hour, down the famed letterkenny road 'killer hill', on a mountain bike with knobby tires, one damp april in high school. the first climb of my tuesday ride, where the hill defied physics and time stopped because i was going so agonizingly slowly, was featured in last year's Hilly Hundred when a group of cyclists misread the first turn, and careened into a ditch and a field at high speed, requiring air evacuation and various emergency medical measures. they are not 'from around here'. i took that first turn at 25 miles per hour, and sprinted out of it to maintain speed across the hill, then pound through the rough pavement that would bring me to the top of the steepest section. in the big ring, i rode close to the fading center line, avoiding potholes and flying past the speed limit sign that distinctly read: "50 km/h Max". 

as i passed the speed limit sign, i stood up one last time and hammered down on my pedals, before sitting down into a tuck with my hands in the drops and my chin hovering above my stem. 

and then, time stopped.

the wind in my ears. the lack of tearing in my eyes. the unrecognizable blurs of my surroundings. all culminated to a deafening white noise, and then i found silence. i glanced at my computer as i approached the bottom of the hill. 54.6 miles per hour. i tried to hoot and holler, but i had no voice. the wind rushed in and took my breath. i waited, then laughed as the hill twisted around and leveled off. time started again. i started pedaling again, and everything seemed slow.

it's dangerous to go fast on open roads and thin tires and light bikes in the middle of nowhere. one could fall, one could crash into a pick-up truck or a deer. but every now and again, it's important to get outside of the everyday, gain a little perspective, and then go back refreshed. it's probably more dangerous to go slow on safe courses with nothing to give us goosebumps or perspective. 

Saturday, August 15, 2009


in normal speak, 'roadies' are very efficient, often silent/softspoken, superhumanly strong, virtually invisible instruments of the arts/entertainment industry. they hoist 300 lb. amplifiers without exertion. they arrive early and stay late. they have long hair and weird nicknames. they all wear all black. 

in my speak, 'roadies' are a bunch of jerks. kind of like runners, triathletes, and other sport-based geeks/dorks, 'roadie' is a category into which i will never fit (like 'hipster' or 'hottie' or 'hotelier'). this may be because my decade-old helmet is too big, or my on-sale bib shorts aren't squeezing my fat hard enough. or, this may be because i refuse to surrender my humanity and sense of community as soon as i put on a funny outfit and swing a leg over some skinny tires. i retain my manners, and i am genuinely happy to see other people out there doing something similar to enjoy the day/time/life/weather/ability to breathe or move. 

roadies don't say hi. roadies don't give the recognized nod of camaraderie. roadies don't wait patiently for the rollerbladers. roadies don't ask if a roadside stopper needs any tools or water. roadies don't complement other riders on their bikes/fitness/kit unless it's in the interest of sarcasm. roadies assume every ride is a race, every racer, an opponent (no, not just a benign fellow competitor, but one to be opposed). roadies yell 'on your LEFT!' to people who don't speak english, are spatially challenged, and probably dyslexic, and they do this at the last possible second. 

roadies are as bad as hipsters and fixies and WASPS and whiners and everyone who self-righteously exhibits snobbery toward like beings with like aspirations whom may be perceived to be somewhat less worthy, somehow. i shave my legs, wear a helmet with no visor, and ride a bike that, when new, would cost more than many people's cars (thank goodness for ebay and craigslist). yay, i look like a fancy schmancy roadie. but wait, i wear full-fingered gloves, hop speed bumps that don't appeal to me, prefer wool to lycra, and, oh yeah, i say 'hi' and 'goodmorning' to other people on two wheels. (no, there is no saying hi to rollerbladers, though i do wait patiently for their lane-wide strides to taper enough for my own safe passage.) as can be noted by all posts thus far, my favorite form of snobbery is self-deprecation and the assumption of the humble role, while hosting a much loftier view if only in my own mind. since no one other than the one friend i told about this blog will ever read this, this is essentially my own mind. and i am no roadie, but i feel like i'm better than they anyway, because i still have the decency to share a greeting as we pass.


there is a road in the middle of nowhere that possesses some of the greatest difficulty, mystique, and cult respect afforded a stretch of pavement outside of the EU. it is called Letterkenny Road, and it stretches through the thoroughly unpopulated backcountry of rural ontario. it was on this road that i learned to love hills.

the way my current lifestyle has turned out, i remain tethered to my home, and am rarely able to venture beyond a 10-minute riding radius from my house. this has led required significant resourcefulness on my part as i work to map out routes with challenge, continuity, variety, and enough distance to prepare for centuries and the odd duathlon (let's not even go there). toronto is not a particularly hilly city, for that matter, but i have managed to land in a great area for small, steep hills with little traffic that i can ride to and repeat until my legs blow up completely.

the other night, some friends from days of yore came out for a hill ride in my part of town, according to my own ten-minute-tether, in preparation for a ride from vancouver to kelowna. i figured they're going to be going through the rockies or something, so loblaws would be a good place to start. to me, loblaws is the benchmark hill. it's not very long (500m or so), but it is astoundingly steep, and consistently devastating. i've never ridden it more than 6 or 7 times in a row, and i've certainly never found it less than 'very difficult'. my only saving grace, in fact, is that it ends.

so we got to the hill, flew down it, and turned around to begin the 'ascent'. it was fun, and painful, and steep. i was thoroughly impressed with my friends' performances, as they seemed to make it without much difficulty, and i started to question whether any of the pseudo-training i try to do every once in a while was actually worth anything in the long run. after a recovery lap at the 'summit' parking lot, we resolved to do it again. we chatted up the beginning of the incline, then another roadie passed us and called out encouragement and kept going. in an experimental mood, i accelerated to sit on the roadie's wheel. not wanting to be completely outdone by the team kit and viner frame, i struck up some conversation, asking him about his repeats and if he comes here often and FIFTEEN TIMES UP THE HILL was all i heard in response. the man was on his FIFTEENTH repeat of the hill that was deftly annihilating my very will to ride bikes at all, and he had the breath to talk about it. alas, i dropped off, more out of respect and despair than physical anguish (though there was that too), and slowly ground out the last few meters to the top. 

letterkenny road has one climb on it that i've only ever done twice, and both of these acts were long before i was of legal drinking, voting, or driving age. ahh, youth. the climb is called 'The Killer Hill' among members of my family, and is always referred to with a hushed tone and a moment of silence. it's never killed anyone i know physically, but it certainly has a way of divesting its challengers of their ambitions (or wills to live). the last time i climbed letterkenny, i was in high school, in the middle of the biggest ride of my life to that point, on a $300 steel department store mountain bike, equipped with very knobby continental tires and the first SPD pedals shimano ever produced. we took to the hill with the primary purpose of maxing out our speedometers on the descent, and that remains the fastest i've ever gone on two wheels. the world slows down at 56 miles per hour on a cool day in april. snowbanks stop melting, birds chirp once every three heartbeats, and friends atomize into the only static figures in an otherwise general blur. 

here's to long climbs.

the epic discussion continues.


more posting to follow...

Friday, August 14, 2009


some things have happened/are happening/will happen shortly.

  • i went out and rode hills with some buddies yesterday
  • during the second gut-wrenching, head-exploding journey up the first hill, a "Lapdogs" team rider passed us, so, naturally, i accelerated to stick his wheel, then promptly dropped off after he mentioned that it was his 15th time up the hill.
  • my buddy broke his spoke on the ride back to my place.
  • i got to replace the spoke with one of the perfect length that i just happened to have, and stella artois helped us with the process.
  • i crashed my bike without hitting the ground myself.
  • it was the first time i really laid the bike down, and it hurt.
  • it was entirely my own careless fault, as i rode into a curb while looking back for my buddies.
  • duh.
  • i didn't break anything on my bike.
  • i am about to go true the front wheel.
  • a pork gyro from louis' is about to help with that process.
  • i like 28c tires.
  • the day is only getting hotter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

glory and suffering.

rapha sucks.

and i kinda like it.

when i was in high school, i spent much of my time obsessing over mountain bikes and cycling culture. i memorized gear reviews and the names of mountain bike racing stars. i composed ad tag lines, invented ludicrous and nouveau frame designs, and fantasized daily about winning races, working for Mountain Bike magazine, and meeting leigh donovan.

things have changed.

my mountain bike is currently providing structural support to a vast network of spider webs, and it is almost as far from 'cross country racing efficiency' as one can go without putting linkage pivots in the rear triangle. i love the thing. i tried to sell it, but ended up needing to keep it for nostalgic (and hopeful?) reasons. my road bike is my current vehicle of choice. even my commuter is a singlespeed/fixed 'road/cross' bike, with its MTB precursor having gone the way of craigslist. i still love bikes, but there's something completely fascinating and addictive about the sheer efficiency, human-powered, of a road bike. the simplicity of its nature – go forward, quickly – leads one to challenge limits and pursue goals. this is why rapha sucks, and i like it.

rapha is all about the 'glory and the suffering' of road cycling. this is ridiculous. the main focus of my pre-emo (emo didn't even exist as a demographic label back then; it was just called 'artistic', or 'hippie') ad campaigns for my products that didn't exist was quite similar to that touted by rapha: suffer to achieve. rapha can't get through a paragraph of its copy without referring to suffering, pain, glory, or its all-sacred concept of 'epic'. (tell me, are these quotation marks 'getting' you yet?) rapha makes really nice, really expensive clothing and stuff geared primarily at people who ride road bikes. that's fine and normal. rapha also engages in the masochistic practice of glorifying pain and suffering. that's fine and normal. furthermore, rapha revels in the concept of epic as a religious experience where a new state of consciousness is reached, zen is achieved, enlightenment occurs, and richard sachs gets his tan lines sorted out. oh, come on! i love suffering as much as the next jerk on 28c continentals, but epic? rapha copy reads like my verbose, emotive, and generally hyperbolic poetry from broken-hearted high school days. ever lose all of your friends in three months? ever been dumped by every girlfriend you've ever had? ever felt like no one understood you save for Bono and the guys from Weezer? cool. now take all that feeling, tangle it up in a thread-on seven speed freewheel and watch it get woven into the greasy textile that is rapha copy, replete with grammatical errors and references to french words that sound funny when said with british accents. epic is about things that are long (often too long, like this paragraph), require much commitment and strength of constitution to complete, and provide some sort of epiphany during or after the journey. please tell me where this fits in with riding custom made bicycles by the finest handcrafters in the world, up the world's most beautiful terrain, decked out in thousands of dollars of kit (which usually doesn't even include a helmet (that would cost less than the gloves or socks they're wearing)). right. epic. i bet those guys pray for rain and cracks in the road every time they go out, just to make the photo shoot look like it was suffering and glorious. 

rapha sucks.

but i like it.

i like nice stuff. i have caviar taste and fish stick budget, always have. naturally, i like rapha stuff because a lot of it, ridiculous as it can be, is pretty damn nice. and pretty pretty, too. the main thing, however, that i like about most of the rapha premise, is that for all its excessive emoting, it really is about a purity that is rare to much of roadie culture. it really is about riding for the sake of riding, and that's meaningful. sure, they have 'teams', and they enter 'events', some of which are even sanctioned races, but their main purpose is to ride for the sake of riding, to suffer, to tell you about little-known routes and backcountry roads that are gems of road riding. and if you read between the lines, i think it's evident that they really do like to ride. as much as they may want to sell a silk scarf or $70 cloth purse, probably they really  just want to ride their bikes and tell you a bit about it afterward. count me in for that part.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


my grandmother has a blog. she's a feisty almost-80-year-old with a million grandchildren and even more friends, she's on facebook, and she updates her family weekly with the goingson of just about everyone. i bet obama is on her mailing list, lucky guy.

anyway, i began this blog in the hopes of writing more, maybe gaining some kind of cohesion, and ultimately to stimulate the typing/theoretical/verbal side of my brain which generally goes a bit dormant during the summer (or, any time between 7 am and...). the address for this blog is tucked neatly into the top left hand corner of my browser window, the first icon i see. it's been intimidating me all weekend. the reason i have refrained from 'posting' on my 'blog' is the simple fact that i lack focus. 

i have lots to say. i have too much to say. i don't know that any of it is even worthy of air and sound, but there's lots that could take such form. i could write about all the craigslist posting that drives me crazy because no one seems to know that your and you're are entirely different things, somewhat similar to the relationship between its and it's. i could write about bike things on craigslist, like peddles (that means, s/he/it sells something) on bikes that won't stop because 'there' wheels don't have good 'breaks'. i shouldn't have started. this could go on for days. i will stop here. however, i still have lots to say. too much. my brother noted that a new friend of his talks really quickly. i mentioned that it might be because she's a teacher, and as such, she may be used to ever-shortening attention spans in overcrowded classrooms and has thereby adapted a hastened pace of verbal communication in the hopes of effectively communicating within the reduced time frame available (this is about 5-90 seconds, depending on demographic). ironically, focus has now become a problem for me. please pass the Ritalyn.

alright. so today's exercise will be focus. i will focus on one topic, write, and end. i will likely attempt this again, per post, to eventually yield some kind of text that errs more on the side of interesting than that of blithering.

upgrading is a dangerous disease. it is based in the 1950s-esque tradition of creating envy, whereby an audience is recognized for what they are/have, but told explicitly that they could be better/complete/happier/______er if only they bought this. it is within my heritage, culturally and genetically, to like stuff, particularly gear. it is also within my heritage to be subject to–and base my self-worth upon–the judgement of others. i am the perfect audience. i think i'm alright, but i will believe you if you tell me that i'm alright, and i'll believe you again if you tell me that i only need this to be better, to be my ideal self. i know this, because tyler knows this.

my bike is a technological wonder. not only does it shove my sorry ass up hills faster than i would ever go unassisted, but it's pretty, resilient, and it works! further to its technological wonder status is the fact that it is quite a frankenbike, built through the extensive network of ebay, craigslist, various online vendors, local shops, friends, foes, and even a box of shotgun ammo. (that's right.) up until this spring, the bike had a part from every line campagnolo put out, ranging in age from early 1990s to the mid 2000s. the ever-changing bar tape is the only thing that isn't older than my lease. and all this to say that i recently thought about stripping the whole thing and starting anew with a complete, coherent, maybe even focused groupset. i thought about carbon fiber things. i thought about titanium nuts. i thought about (ridiculously) eleven speeds. don't worry though: i stopped thinking as soon as i thought about other things, like re-building yet another wheel, changing the bar tape, again (it is currently perforated, red, and absolutely perfect), and ultimately, my bank account/unemployment/fiscal responsibility/beer fund. my bike will remain the technological wonder it is. i will adjust the rear derailleur once i get the barrel adjuster hole re-tapped. the shifting will return to normal. and i will have saved myself $698.47 USD including shipping and handling. damn it... 

i was almost enviable.

Friday, August 7, 2009


there remains a list of things about which i continue to be squeamish. 
after two children from home births and a garbage strike in toronto, poop is not one of these. however, after a childhood among the rural region of central ontario and countless summer jobs working with, in, or among the trees, nature continues to be a challenge for me.

as much as i love to be ‘home’, among the pine needles and mosquitoes or snow drifts and dripping maple trees, there is always a barrier that i must cross before fully communing, happily, with nature. i don’t like getting my hands dirty, and i look forward to being able to wash them. even while splitting wood and standing ankle-deep in muddy sawdust mixed with granular ice, i habitually wipe off my hands after picking up a piece of wood, and before grasping the handle of the splitting maul. i don’t like dirt between my body and the tool. it’s like a rock in my shoe, or sand on my wet brooks saddle. there is something wrong with it. and yet, time and again, i subject myself to the grit and grime of it all, because the end experience, the epiphany or revelation or simple non-event is always worth more than my dainty preferences about getting dirty.

my friend j was never like that.

j was always a nature child, right out of a woodstock or
spiritual midwifery or morning glory photo album, the blonde beauty never had a problem plopping herself in the grassy, itchy, bug-whirring mess of it all, to further concentrate on an SPD cleat stuck in the pedal, or a conversation about the meaning of it all. j never seemed cold or uncomfortable or shivering and wet. j was the kind of lady who always yearned to participate fully, the kind of lady who would work in the rain, wring out her clothes, and put them back on to go at it again. i doubt j would wipe her hands before picking up the maul.

i thought about j yesterday. i was participating fully in a communion with nature that, although it had nothing to do with really getting dirty, and my tools were perfectly shiny and clean, reminded me of her. i was sweating. on my bike (not even touching the ground through the comfort of shoes!), pointed uphill, and under the watchful eye of a humid but endearing sun, i was sweating through each and every pedal stroke, to the top of the steepest long hill i could find. it was glorious. i enjoyed it, participating in the pain, in the pursuit of getting stronger, and i thought about j. i thought about trying to keep up with her. i thought about how many times she would repeat the hill and if i could even muster the strength to do it half as many. probably not. but j was there. and the ride was wonderful.


there is no reason to add. the internet is full of writing, much of it very very poor, and the mere act of posting assumes some kind of belief that i have something ELSE worth saying. this is, of course, debatable. regardless, i embark.