Sunday, January 31, 2010


(i just started reading david byrne's bicycle diaries and i must say: it is excellent.)

what, if anything, do you believe?

i work long days with a bunch of people who don't seem to believe in much of anything. they, the insulated masses, come in, sit down, do nothing, leave. if they do do something, it's probably destructive or disrespectful or some motion in a backwards direction, opposed entirely to constructive progress. and i believe in them. i believe in the work. i believe that the completely flawed and outdated system in which i am supposed to work with them is, regardless, necessary and (can be) good. i believe that they are worth every minute of wasted time or late arrival or stupid act.

as the kind of person i am, i run often on inspiration. this has gone from the white-hot, stroke-of-genius, i-need-to-be-published/represented/shown/picked-up-by-a-scout-NOW, to a more patient, cautious, and unrelenting slow-burn type of inspiration. i glean inspiration from little things, glimpses here or there, and i keep them to myself, saving them for later when i get up the gumption to do something about them. i still want to create the best though, and my perfectionist attitude, coupled with my extremely limited time, (intelligence), and attention span, often keeps me from signing in, sitting down, and committing myself to a good college try. 

this is the part where discipline would be extremely handy.

reading david byrne, it is refreshing to see words that look and sound like things i have been thinking, but put together so much better, and from a much broader scope. i've barely been anywhere, let alone with my bike (i ALWAYS wanted to take it with me on any trip, but was never allowed as a kid, and couldn't afford it as a not-kid, and i really don't know about those fold-ups of which byrne is such a fan). the main gist, however, is elementally the same: bikes take us to cool places, and bikes make us better people. 

when i was in high school, i lived in a constant state of moral incongruence. my body and some of my brain and all of my heart wanted to do things a certain way, but my learned/parent-influenced brain wanted to do things a certain other way. make out with this girl. feel bad. don't know why. solution: go ride. go to party/not go to party. feel alienated. solution: go ride. feel like liquified testosterone on a spring day with pollen on the wind and the sun not setting until after dinner need to feel taste touch lick something. solution: go fuckin ride. riding was always the solution. something about sweating, getting an endorphin buzz, meditating without distraction, and mechanically revolving over and over and over again really helped me figure things out. it's still this way. this is the reason i miss my old commute. thirty minutes there. thirty minutes home. nothing but wind and wheels, and i arrive better. 

when my brother was really little, he had a hard time fitting into the system, namely preschool, and was asked to not come back for second semester. he was three. my parents, at their wits' end as to what to do with this kid, pooled together some grocery money and did the only thing they could: they got him a bike. it wasn't his birthday. he wasn't being a good little boy. he needed a fix, and this one came with two wheels.  to this day, i can still remember acting like race announcers (we hadn't heard of phil liggett as yet), calling out the turns and spectacular maneuvers of the other, as we took turns on his brand new bmx, complete with training wheels. up and down the sidewalk, no helmets, winter coats, and smiles trimmed with the wind-drawn tears on our cheeks, we had the time of our lives. my parents figured it out, and it was perfect. to this day, my brother and i continue to connect through our love of bicycles. 

the big deal is: we're brothers.

so i'm starting a club at work. it's a club about fixing up crappy bikes. i want the people i work with to help me fix bikes. i love working on bikes. i kind of hate working on dirty, old, crappy bikes, because they're not plug-and-play, they're sooo dirty, and they usually require primitive tools like hammers and channel locks. un. cool. but i think it'll work. i think if i can get even one of these people to hand me a wrench, once, that person will become hooked, eventually, and it will start a chain reaction that may end up saving that person's life/soul/sense of being in the world. drastic? yes. profound? i certainly hope so. inevitable? absolutely not. but i think it's worth a chance. i picked up some starter bikes today. i have some old parts in the basement. i'm going to ask for sponsorship for tools and work stands. and it's all for a good cause. byrne knows it, my brother knows it, and i know it: bikes make us better.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the better way.

the best way to get around toronto is by bicycle.

this is a concept of which i have been advocate, proponent, and die hard idiot since it dawned on me a decade ago. i started my time in toronto in a shared residence room at U of T's whitney hall. a beautiful old building full of beautiful young people with high graduating averages and low alcohol tolerances. alas, what a difference an academic year can make...

but that's beside the [point].

the point: my consciousness of toronto was nucleic from the beginning, and only spread outward in atomic, then molecular, and finally viral awareness with the passage of time, the gaining of maturity, and the biannual event of moving. i hated moving. the two good things about moving: i got to discover a new part of the city and thereby come into a new perspective, and, i was forced to do away with a whole lot of unnecessary crap (figuratively and very literally). in four years, i moved from 'center of town' to 'way out in the east end'. i couldn't have done better. i got out of my shared room down the hall from gorgeous and previously-engaged women with whom i had to share the floor bathroom. i started to like my former roommate. i switched out of the ridiculousness of life sci./pre-med and got into things that really matter: visual arts and english. i stopped living on a victor ng lease (woah.). i built my own room, installed my own kitchen, lived under 11 1/2' ceilings, and rode my bike to and from school, a whopping 15 minute commute. it changed everything. school was just one part of a much bigger picture, and my bike was my means to all parts of that big picture.

riding was faster, more direct, more dependable, more efficient, cooler, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and it made me happier. there is nothing that defragments my mind better than a good, solid ride home. 

the ride home today was only after two whole trips to the heart of downtown in what was (thankfully) not at all rush hour. i rode the subway. twice. i walked up and down steps and escalators and stood and sweated in my down jacket, hanging on for dear life to greasy rails and wondering just what that man put in his hair to give it that texture and aroma and how much of it will come off on the window against which he's sleeping before he slides far enough to wake up. the subway, apparently, is the better way. and it cost me more than my lunch to ride it today.


Friday, January 22, 2010

today it's freitag.

there is something so perfect about the slow slip of reisling out of its glass, the slippery slide of the sunset behind buildings of steel, and the gentle and subtle satisfaction of friday. it holds much promise, much potential, and absolutely no more momentum. 


as the tips of my fingers split and crack from dry winter air and re-washed and re-washed and re-washed handwashing, i feel a smile curling. this afternoon, i was beaming. i looked like a goddam rapha shot, meandering (with suffering and determination) up a cracked pavé surface toward some sense of glory and suffering and suffering gloriousnessness. really though, it was glorious. beechwood avenue is always "closed to traffic", but this makes it perfect for dog walker enthusiasts and riders to enjoy the hill or the valley in relative car-free-but-paved bliss. the hill is where it's at. 

it's rough. going down is more cautious than carefree due entirely to the surface (lackof)quality rather than the sharp left curve at the bottom. i mark my efforts up the hill based on transition points between this part of somewhat smooth pavement and the next part. they are long enough to mark sustained effort and achieve effective training. it's rough.

it's also next to the Don Valley Parkway, a meandering freeway designed to bring traffic in and out of the downtown core from the 401 that skirts the top of the city. this proximity makes it doubly exciting to ride beechwood for the hill, as the congested and choked freeway is right next to a perfectly broken road, aimed uphill and into the sunset, and the relationship couldn't be more literal in its metaphor. show me the steep and thorny...

the sun sets. everything becomes gilt golden in the process. the cars, petrified inside and out, stop moving. the tableau is set. and then someone rides, slowly and steadily, upward, from stage right diagonally up to stage left, one pedal stroke at a time, the sun glinting off of his fancy helmet, the frost forming on his chin. epic.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

this is the part where i really miss you.

the girls are asleep. the day is almost done. and i miss you so much i feel it in my stomach.

i have forgotten what this lonely is like; it’s been a long time since you were out all day and night, helping someone come into the world on the best possible terms. you’ve been around, and i got used to that.

now you are away, and i am not used to it. i miss you.

i have all kinds of things i want to do because they’ll remind me of you, warm me up, and make me feel like i’m doing okay and holding down the fort while you’re gone. i want to do the dishes, ride the trainer, get the compost and recycling ready for tomorrow, iron some shirts, drink wine when it’s all over. i haven’t done these things. i put some things in the dishwasher and removed the obvious food particles from the table and did 10 pull-ups, but i’m spent. i miss you. i’m tired. and i’m not even sure i want to go to bed.

i got an e-mail from sally today, vaguely suggesting that i should have gone about leaving school a little differently today, and called in a supply and blah blah. i’m not sure she understands the detail of my leaving or coverage or whatever else, but i am sure that her comments come from a self-perception of her working harder than i. she probably does. many people think this, and i’m starting to think that they may even be half right. like i said: i forgot how to do this.

i will remember, and i will be better.

i picked up the littler girl and played with the both of them and we ate tortillas on the cold kitchen floor, one in my lap while the other stirred and sipped her hot chocolate on the cubbies. i made chicken soup from the can and grilled cheese from homemade bread for dinner. they both ate lots. we cleared our spots, wiped down table and hands, and went up to the bath. they both sat on their respective potty/toilet, and they both produced items of note. then they got in the tub together and i bathed their little chubby bodies so they smelled like flowers and herbs instead of perfume and daycare. they got dressed in matching oversize fleece pyjames, piled into the big bed for an out of season reading of The Polar Express, and promptly headed to bed, tiger balm on their feet and droopy eyes on their faces. they are now asleep, and they do not cough.

i miss you. i will now go and be better. i will tidy the kitchen more, get ready for recycling and compost tomorrow, maybe iron a shirt, maybe stretch instead of ride, and i’m already drinking hot chocolate instead of wine.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


it was supposed to be three degrees and sunny today.

it was three degrees and sunny today. however, today is thursday, which means that today is ballet day which means that before and after the hours of 'work', every minute is spoken for by the demon-god of the snowsuit and his/her corollary partner, the mitten god. winter sucks when you have to dress a toddler for any weather beyond 'naked' or 'beautiful and sunny and perfect'. regardless, it was three degrees and sunny, and i went out in it for no reason at any chance i got.

i had resolved yesterday, upon hearing news of this wondrous forecast, to take out the old titanium dream machine and give'r on some hill reps just for the fun of it. really though, i'm suffering from substantial cabin fever and a not-so-subtle longing for higher temperatures, longer days, and a lot less clothing on me and most other people (toddlers among top of the list). sunset happens before we even get home from ballet. i mean, there is a whole lot of sex appeal to sorels and fur-trimmed parkas, but it wears off after about 5 minutes of trudging through snow. and every castelli ad for endless climbs and form-fitting clothing that's built for sun protection instead of windchill tolerance really doesn't help. i am dying to ride in the sun. i would love to have to take extra water because it's humid and sticky and so hot no one should exercise in such weather. and if i spend any more time on my computer, trolling craigslist and the serotta forum for all the groupsets i can't afford (anyone got $500 lying around? come on: it's like a third of the actual price! and my shifting could use some help lately...) and saddles that won't feel like my granny-looking b17, i will end up buying something i don't need for a ride or race that i just wish i could do. and then i'll have to wait three more months anyway to even be able to ride outside without corroding my everything with road salt, only the wait will be even worse because i'll be doing it staring at an even more impeccable machine than usual. ARX stems going for good low prices. carbon setback seatposts just waiting to be joined to lightweight and trendy fizik saddles under brand new bib short chamois. ah, the list goes on. and there's still enough salt on the road to pay a legion of roman soldiers to build it. no serotta today. too salty.

however, the serotta is titanium. this means all kinds of good things for its resistance to corrosion, but only the frame. lots of other stuff on it is aluminum, another non-corrosive element, but there's just something so nasty about crunching over salt. salt seems to mean death and dehydration and punishment. i don't want to punish the serotta. but i do want to punish myself up some hills and test out that new compact crank i got in honor of getting old recently. maybe i'll go out and do it and then come home and shower with it. put a plastic bag over the old brooks and lovingly lather down the metal bits. we'll see.

either way, i still need a sunburn, a warm day, and some sweat in my jersey. here's to chinook.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


there are times when restraint is a difficult thing to do, and there are times when it is impossible.

today, it was impossible.

now, i have often prided myself on being a bit of a miser. i didn't start enjoying the expenditure of money until well into my twenties, and even then, it was always better when it was for someone else. i believe that this miserly outlook was derived from goal-based seasonal occupation and the lack of employment during my school year. routinely, i played sports and chased girls and did projects during the school year, then left the country to go landscaping in virginia all summer. i would usually return with a few thousand dollars for tuition, or a bike that cost as much as i had earned. spending money in the meantime was only wasting the dollars and cents that could afford me bits of titanium and cool acronyms. this was not acceptable. i saved.

today, i got paid, and i got paid half of what i thought i was going to get paid, and i still went out and bought a fancy camera lens. the lens is not new. the lens is from craigslist. the lens cost less than a hundred dollars/a week of groceries/gas to my parents' house/1 item of bachelor party debauchery/30 pieces of special pepperoni slices at Papa Ceo's on spadina. however, i still bought the damn thing and here's why: 1) for those times that i actually manage to get the camera out before it has been 'tidied' away, i need a wider lens (my subjects are wide..i mean..nice) 2) i started looking and e-mailed a guy and it was in my neighborhood and 3) i hate being a non-committal schmuck who starts transactions and doesn't finish them. it being a craigslist thing, and me being self-conscious, i showed up somewhat on time and was very nice and agreeable and paid the asking price with no attempt whatsoever at last-minute bargaining (i really hate that) and then i left and tried not to slam any doors and wake the guy's kids. the lens is great. there will be shots from it on this blog soon. i did not save. i did not restrain. i went and bought a lens and now i have to use it. actually, i can't wait.

i also started looking at other bikes. the serotta will never get jealous, because it is a sublime wonder of a machine, aloof in its classic nature and perfectly secure in its time-steeped beauty. it is not a race machine. it is not made out of plastic (mostly). it is traditional and gorgeous. but today, i started coveting things. fast things. things still made out of metal but out of..aluminum. and not just aluminum, but fast, custom-extruded aluminum. i looked at cervelos. there. i said it. i looked at cervelos. whatever. i got my ass handed to me in the ride portion of a short duathlon in my hometown last summer by one of my good friends and his cervelo. jerk put 2 whole minutes into me and that, after he had swum 750 meters in a lake! (while he was swimming, i was tailing the world champion of duathlon in a 2km run so we were almost even. but not really. swimming is sooo much harder than running. especially when one doesn't float. and we don't.) i managed to put a minute into my other hometown buddy who was also doing the race, and he was on his carbon trek pilot 5.0, so it wasn't all a loss. however, i trained my ass off last summer, for riding (definitely not running), and to have 2 minutes put into me was just devastating. i did, and continue to, blame it on technology - the cervelo is a faster bike.

so, cramped up in our moldy house in cold-ass toronto and lusting for spring (approximately a gazillion months away), i couldn't help but covet things that would make me feel the opposite of cramped and asthmatic. i researched bikes. i priced out cervelos in my size. there are none in the realm of my budget ($-23, 567). i tried to figure out how i could be racier, by buying what. and then i remembered: i already bought a lens; i already have a really nice bike; i already have a commuter bike; i should get out and ride and run in spite of the winter; buying stuff will not make me faster, especially when it's months before i can even ride it on a road. 

here's to spinning in blundstones on platform pedals in the dark to pick up a camera lens instead of groceries, and having phil liggett narrate the 'pavé' of east york toronto. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

read it.

i just finished reading a book, two different books in the last week, actually, and i think it's time for some change.

the first book i read was tim krabbé's The Rider, highly recommended by rapha (of course), and an engrossing read that i finished within 24 hours of receipt. one of my favorite aspects of it is that krabbé was just starting to race when he was twenty-nine. having just turned twenty-nine before the holidays, i can identify. and i fantasize about being able to race, and then to write eloquently and existentially about it. so really, i'm just like tim...

the second book i read was The Shack. given to me by my curious and amazing and spiritual grandmother, i was skeptical before i even opened the thing and read the (terrible) first sentence about weather. thankfully, my skepticism and judgementalness were thoroughly addressed and forgiven a hundred pages later, by which time my theological musings had turned my brain to mush and the bailey's wasn't helping either.

the best option in such a state: subject (inflict) myself to the blog.

the holidays come with a few things: expectations, obligations, and resolutions. though this is not the most joy-promising list one can imagine, i figured all of it out in my adventures of last night and the day before, and all in the kitchen.

you see, i don't have a home work shop. we have a home. we have lots of bikes (minimum 2 per family member, so at least 8 in full working order...). we ride lots of bikes lots of the time. but no shop to keep these bikes in repair keeps things interesting. hence, the kitchen. also, learning from both mr. miyagi and my dad, much mental progress is to be made while performing manual labor. whenever i needed to figure things out in high school, i went for a long ride or a run or whatever. now, i inventory the long list of problems with any of the bikes at hand and devise reparations, then get my hands full of grease. i do this in the kitchen because the floor is tile and easy to sweep. it's also the furthest away from the kids' room that i can get without going outside (it's january in toronto). 

so there i was, in the kitchen, figuring things out.

i figure out many things in the kitchen, some culinary, some machinery, some theory. i figured out a couple of things in the last couple of days, and i'm going to write them down here so that i don't forget, or maybe so i get a kick out of myself later. one: things aren't always as hard as they look (and a little WD40 goes a long way). i was somewhat dreading, somewhat looking forward to the necessary overhaul/replacement of my lady friend's commuter's bottom bracket, as it was old, it was loose bearing, and it was in a steel frame and ridden in the rain and salt. probably it would be stuck forever. and seeing as we don't have a bench vice in the kitchen (yet), it would probably have to stay that way. nevertheless, i brought the bike in, propped it against the play kitchen and the wooden step stool, and spritzed/doused the BB area with WD40. fantastic stuff, and the aroma goes nicely with brie and pecans. i then set about bringing in my own commuter, righting the brake lever knocked awry by an unprecedented meeting with mr. front bumper of unsuspecting minivan, and adjusting brake cable length and headset tension as well. then i left on some errands. upon return, i had secured a cheap sealed BB of the shimano type for under $20, and was cautiously planning on swapping it out for the loose bearing one in the frame. now for the critical moment: would the cups come out of the frame?



the cups came out so easily, they were practically loose to the point where i could unscrew them by hand. ridiculous. all this dread and fear for what? naught. 

so the old BB came out, the new BB went in, the crank went back on, the rear tire got switched out to a treaded cyclocross jobbie, and i washed my hands for the 28th time that morning.

things are not as hard as i think they are (sometimes).

another thing i learned: i am getting old. following the holidays and all their materialistic, familial, and post-coital wonders, i am slowly recovering and realizing as i rinse of the stupor (yes, of) - i am old, and i need things that will make things easier for me. i need the third hand tool to adjust brakes (i even used it for the front derailleur cable and it was good to go, if upside down and backwards). i need one crankset tool that does everything, including switching the pedals. i need..a..compact crank. yeah. for real. whatever. i hear tyler hamilton used to use them. racers i know use them. okay. i don't know any racers. but i'm sure someone fitter than i uses one. and maybe one day i'll be fit like him or her. in the meantime, i'll just revel in all the new hill-climbing gears i have, at a quarter of the price of a new cassette! the truth, however, remains: i'm getting old. i guess it's time to buy a workstand for all of this learning...

anyway, happy new year. happy getting old. may as well. tim krabbé did it. and he even won. no powermeter, heart rate monitor, carbon fiber, or anything. just a good 5 speed cassette and the need to hurt. love it.