First (real) ride of spring

bike_shadow

First ride of the season – Toronto to Oakville (and back):
Total distance: 103km
Avg Speed: 28km/h
# of Red lights: 1 million

It’s great to see your winter training pay off on your first ride of the season!  I’ve been riding to work all winter but it’s only 5km each way.  I do this about 7x/wk over 5 days, amounting to about 70km altogether.  It’s better than nothing.  I’ve also been riding the Wattbike 3x/wk for an hour at a time.  It’s an over priced piece of crap (IMHO), but that’s another story.  Those rides add about 110 more km to my weekly total, depending on the workout, still not a lot, but I wondered if it would be enough to allow me to pick up where I left off last fall without having to ramp back up again.

So with the promise of temperatures rising to 6C I downed my espresso and set off on my fixed gear bike with the sun still low in the sky, casting a long shadow before me as I headed west along the shores of Lake Ontario.  The temperature was just below freezing, around -2C, and my fingers, just above freezing, just…

I traveled south through town, going briefly east down the very chilly Rosedale Valley Rd, eventually hopping on the bike path until around Ontario Place, and taking the Lakeshore the rest of the way to Oakville (and back).

Last year I felt the need to ramp up gradually to that distance, so this season is off to a good start!  🙂

See you on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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DIY Cycling Mittens

$85 for new Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves?!?  Okay, I loved my old pair but I’m just not willing to part with that much money to keep my hands warm this winter.  Truth be told, I suppose they are worth the money.  Lobster gloves are the perfect blend between the warmth of a mitten and the dexterity afforded by a pair of gloves.  Riding a fixed gear bike though means no gears to shift and only one brake lever to grasp so I can get away with mittens if I want which gave me a great idea.  I decided to upcycle my old Louis Garneau jacket into a pair of gore-tex cycling mittens.

My LG Gore-Tex jacket lasted for years!  I wore it for my daily commute from October to April for 7 years before bits of the gore-tex began to peel away in some high stress areas, like where my shoulder bag would sit, until I was left with a wet back and shoulders on rainy days.  There were of course a few spots that could still hold back the rain and I decided to put them to use.  Full disclosure: I never took Home-Ec and have never been taught how to sew, but, like Jeremy Clarkson so often asks on BBC’s Top Gear, “How hard could it be?” 🙂

I started with some liners that I made from fleece that I’d picked up at Fabricland.  The minimum purchase by the yard will cost about $8 and will get you enough for at least 6 pairs of mittens (if you’re feeling ambitious).  What I have here certainly won’t constitute a pattern, but if you decide to give it a try for yourself, just fold the material over your hand and trim off the excess and cut a pac-man for the thumb hole.  I’d actually started by making one that turned out a bit tight, so I started over, using it as my pattern.  Seen here:

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I sewed these by hand, using some extra strength thread and a loop stitch   The thumbs were a bit of a pain in the butt to put together.  I put my thumb through the hole, folded some material around it, pinned it in place, trimmed the excess and sewed.  Voila, liners are complete and are a perfect fit!

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I’ve had some deer hide sitting around for a while that was supposed to go into another project.  Instead they became the leather palms for my mitts.  Less than 6$ worth.  Here they are after being cut for size:

mitten (5)

Then it was time to rough cut out the gore-tex covers and complete the thumbs before adding the leather palms.  Leather palms do take a while to add.  First you need to mark all of the holes with a pin wheel, then punch all of the holes with an awl.  Finally saddle stitching them into place with a braided nylon thread will set you back another hour each.

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and many hours later:

mitten (8)

There we have it custom fit, Gore-tex riding mittens with deer hide leather palms.  No, the gloves aren’t seam-sealed and they’re not perfect, but they’ll do just fine.  I used them last week and they were great.  I made the thumbs a bit longer than standard fit so that the tips of my thumbs have a bit of extra space, and gave my fingers a bit of wiggle room as well.  They were wind-proof, gripped my bull-horn bars well and were very warm!  If winter ever arrives then I’ll be ready, or at least my hands will be warm…

Serfas USL-5 Helmet Light

My Planet Bike LED helmet lamp has served me very well for the last 8-10 years, but lately it has been letting me down.  I was on my way home from a 100km loop on Friday that finished in the dark and my light didn’t quite make it home, despite its relatively new AAA batteries.  Still no complaints, it owes me nothing after all these years.  So I was out looking for a replacement.  This time I had only a few criteria:  Lightweight, bright and USB rechargeable (One of my old lights used “N” batteries that were hard to find and cost almost as much as the light itself, so I was not going to make that mistake again).

After a bit of online research and a visit to the local bike shop I decided on the Serfas USL-5 Raider headlight.  It is USB rechargeable, produces 70 lumens of blinding light, has a flashing mode, 180deg of visibility and weighs in at just 37grams (according to their website).  The burn time is a bit of a let down though at just 6.5hrs compared to nearly 100hrs on my old light (which was only 20 lumens, 100g and required 3 AAA batteries).

So I charged it up last night and tried it out my way to work this morning.  It has a low-beam, a high-beam and the only mode that I’m likely to ever use, a flashing mode.  This light is bright!  Riding into the darkness that December brings to Toronto at 6am, I could see Stop signs flashing back at me that were two blocks away!

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Serfas USL-5 Headlight

It mounts securely in seconds with a silicone strap.  I attached mine to my helmet to be as visible as possible, although it will fit around a handlebar easily as well.  Here it is (upper light) on my helmet compared to my old Planet Bike light (lower light):

I’m really amazed at how much light it casts to the sides.  It really is visible at 180deg.  At $40 I think is a great replacement to my old light.  Let’s just hope that I don’t have to write about it again for 8-10 more years.

Ride safe!

Part 3/3: Today’s ride – The Bakery

Sometimes you just need an excuse to go for a ride.  This wasn’t going to be a long ride, or a hard ride, just a little tour of town as I head for Bunner’s Bakery.  Bunner’s is a gluten-free (and vegan) bakery located on Dundas St West in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto.  I knew they had plenty of choice offerings, but I had just one thing in mind, their gluten-free cinnamon bun!

I arrived soon after they’d opened and the cinnamon buns were still warm.  Sweet, sticky and mouth watering just like they’d promised.  It did not disappoint.

Mmmmmm still warm 🙂

At just over $5 this certainly isn’t going to be a regular treat, but it’s nice to know that you can still indulge once and a while even while going gluten-free.

So there you go, another great excuse to go for a bike ride.

Part 2/3: Today’s ride – The West Toronto Railpath

With my flat tire all pumped up I was on my way towards the Junction neighbourhood to check out Bunner’s Bakery, but first a little detour to check out the West Toronto Railpath.  Phase 1 of this project was completed a couple of years ago but I’d forgotten all about it.  A couple of weeks ago NOW magazine mentioned that the railpath had received a National Urban Design Award, so it was back on my radar.

The first phase is only 2km and runs from Cariboo Ave down to Dundas St West at Sterling Rd.  Once the next two phases are completed it will take riders, walkers and runners from the Junction as far as Liberty Village, that’s 6.5km of car-free riding.

If you want to check out a map of the path and read about its development then check out the railpath blog.  I took a few pics along the way and posted them below.

Here’s a great mural behind the Osler Fish Market.

The view from the foot bridge at Wallace Ave

The streets are all well marked. From here stairs take you down to Bloor St.

Lots of great graffiti along here

But here’s a sample of what is referred to as “art’ along the path, and there’s plenty of it:

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Okay, time for some carbo loading in part III.  🙂

Part 1/3: Today’s ride – The Flat

Well, I’ve ramped up my riding this year after a few slow seasons, unfortunately more miles = more flat tires 😦   I’ve had 8 flats so far and my latest was on today’s ride.

I may not be the fastest in the puncture repairs department but things really sped along for me a few years ago once I began to skip the wheel removal.  Yup, just leave your wheel on and pull out the punctured tube along the affected section.  This works really well when you can still hear the air hissing out (and when you have bolt on wheels like me and forgot your wrenches…).

So here I am at the corner of Dupont and Davenport, just 5km into my ride when I noticed my rear tire was a little soft as I’d rounded the corner.  It was 110psi just 10min ago, now it’s down to about 60 and I can hear the air hissing out even over the noise of the traffic.

So as you can see I don’t use the instant peel and patch variety.  I talc all of my tubes so I haven’t had the best of luck with the instant patches.  I use the kind that requires applying glue first.  They do take a bit longer, but they have been much more reliable for me. Total time around 6min including some picture taking…

Onto part II.

Toronto to Hamilton: My first century ride on a fixed gear

For the last few years I have cycled very little other than to get to work.  This year I have started ramping things up again.  I trained fairly regularly on a Wattbike over the winter (but that’s another story) and by spring I was ready for some longer rides again.  From Yonge/Eglinton I have been riding south to the lake and then west pretty much every time venturing a little further as my legs allowed.  At first my turnaround was the Humber river.  After a few weeks I’d venture as far as Port Credit where I’d stop for an espresso before the ride home.  Eventually my usual espresso ride would take me to Oakville (95-100km), a handful of times on my own and once a week with a friend from mid-June through most of July.  After 8-10 rides to Oakville my riding buddy and I decided to explore a little further.

Here our bikes wait patiently for us to finish our drinks and to keep riding:

So with no particular destination in mind we set off from Oakville to the west along the Lakeshore.  After a few kms we agreed that we might as well make it official and ride right into Burlington. So we followed Lakeshore to North Shore Blvd East and did a quick turn around at the Burlington Golf and Country Club figuring that we’d gone far enough for one day.  So that loop worked out to around 145km, and definitely the longest ride I’ve ever done on my fixed gear bike!

145km.  Phew!  But that was a week ago.  Time to move on.  I was working on extending our route while keeping it interesting so I decided a ride around Hamilton Harbour might be best.  It would add about 30km to the ride.  See my earlier post for that part of the route (https://eatpedalpaddle.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/google-told-me-to-jump-off-a-bridge/).  Unfortunately my riding buddy was away this weekend so I decided to go it alone.

I set off from Yonge/Eglinton around 645am, after launching the GPS app on my Blackberry and stuffing it into my jersey pocket.  I checked my phone as I rounded the base of Bayview and turned onto King St East and it had yet to acquire the satellite signal.  Ugh!  Oh well, I guess there’s about 10km that won’t be captured in my ride history.  Into my jersey pockets I also stuffed a patch kit, a small pump, a couple of water bottles and a couple of my home-made energy bars.  I also brought a camera but I placed it, my house keys, some cash and a few allen keys into my frame bag.

I stopped briefly at my usual spot in Oakville for a double-long espresso.  As I enjoyed it I sat and wondered why I would stop with 120km to go.  It might have made more sense to stop later on, maybe closer to the 1/2 way mark, oh well, a habitual stop I guess.  I stopped again at the Burlington Golf and Country Club on North Shore Blvd at 9:15am for a quick photo op about 70km in, but otherwise I didn’t check my watch all day, so I’m not entirely sure how long each leg of the journey took.

The ride around the bay was a great.  Well, most of it. Riding through Hamilton’s downtown and industrial sector is just a section to get through, but the rest of it is incredible!  North Shore Blvd is a beautiful road, quite smooth, with some small gently rolling hills and with very little traffic on a Saturday morning.  This leads you to County Road 2 (Plains Rd W) and finally to York Blvd, taking you right around the western side of the harbour, mostly along bike lanes.  Once through the downtown and industrial sector you get to the best part of the loop, the Waterfront trail.  If you know of a more bike friendly route please offer it in the comment section.  See the map link at the end of my post for all of the details of my ride.

Why oh why does this picture get rotated 90deg when viewed in full size?????

In this section of the Harbour loop you’ll cover about 10km along the lake on the Hamilton Beach Recreational trail.  The path is smooth and offers a great view of the lake.  There are also plenty of benches to soak it all in from should you need a break.  If you you need a nature break along here there is one washroom about 4km down the trail, almost as far as the Burlington Lift Bridge.  There is also a water fountain there so be sure to stop, this is your last chance to fill up for a while.  At this point it is tempting to just keep on riding, to get ‘er done, but stop, relax, savour the moment.  You’ve got about 70km to go, but this can wait another moment, you’ve earned a break.

You’re on the home stretch now, the Toronto skyline is calling you home and is but a muted spec in the distance.

So there’s my first century ride in about 12 years and my first century ride ever on my track bike.  The total distance worked out to about 170km, but my gps app only recorded 160km worth, making it an official century ride either way, 100 miles or 160km.

…but only averaged 28.6km/hr 😦

Ugh!  And my average was not even 30km/hr 😦  Oh well, I’ll blame that on the headwind that picked up on my way home, on stopping many times to enjoy the view and to take pictures.  Total trip time was, according to my stop watch, 6.5hrs.  Either way the century is a milestone to many a cyclist.  It was a milestone that I had reached at least 15 years ago, but probably haven’t repeated since.  So there it is, a little reminder to my legs and mind (and butt) of what it takes to cover that distance again.  If a 6.5hr ride doesn’t sound like fun to you then just ride faster, ride a bike with more than one gear, one that allows you to coast, go with a fast friend and take turns drafting or if this doesn’t sound like something that you would be interested in trying in its entirety then check out Go Transit schedules.  They offer service to Hamilton all the time and depending on which station you’re leaving from and the time of day you can usually bring your bike on board.  From the Hamilton Go station you can then tour the Harbour and transit home again, or ride back to TO from there.  You have plenty of options and hopefully one less excuse.

Here’s a link to the full map of the ride, which by the way could not be saved into google maps because Google keeps guessing which way you’d want to go which never makes any sense so you have to keep moving points along the route from Google guess to the actual route until you literally run out of points that you are able to enter….  So, I had to use the gmap-pedometer, which is far more user friendly:

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5584895

Have a safe ride!

Google told me to jump off a bridge!

I use Google maps before I go anywhere new.  When cycling to a new locale I’ll use it to measure out routes and look for cycling friendly bike lanes and paths.  Before my ride to Hamilton yesterday I was looking for an easy way around Hamilton Harbour.  There are a ton of bike paths around Hamilton and they are all marked in green when you’re viewing the map with Google’s beta cycling directions turned on.  When giving you directions between 2 points Google can however be a bit overzealous when it comes to getting you onto one of those bike routes, often adding a lot of distance to your ride to make it happen.  Well, this time it offered a great short-cut, or at least a short cut, to get from the Wolfe Island Bridge to the bike path below through the Botanical Gardens.  It only looks to be about an 80ft drop!

Yup, just ride right up over the curb, across the road and over the guard rail:

Well I skipped that section altogether, and rode Plains Rd W all the way into town, following a bike lane most of the way in, riding past Copps Coliseum, down Wilson and then more or less following the Around the Bay road race course.  Next time I’ll follow the race course more closely.  Their route takes Spring Garden Rd off of Plains Rd W to get down by the water.

Here’s the race map as posted on http://www.aroundthebayroadrace.com:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=114954809910133418529.00045a7921454be2ed2ca&ll=43.280955,-79.821167&spn=0.167959,0.215263&z=12

Gmaps is a great tool for route planning, but be sure to double check its suggestions.  Their routes could add more distance than would make sense for your travels or, like some of your coworkers, Google could tell you to “go jump off a bridge”.

Ride safe!