KnackSot ne Runtreis Gravel Grinder

by CycleChick on August 3, 2013

chasingAltona is a small Mennonite town in Southern Manitoba, surrounded by a million other small Mennonite towns. In Altona, there is a group of bicycle enthusiasts, appropriately called the Altona Bicycle Enthusiasts, or ABES, which I think is pretty darn clever. Last Saturday, they, along with the good folk of the OCC, held a 170km race called the Knacksot ne Runtreis Gravel Grinder. Heavens. With a name like that, how could I refuse?ABESPlus, word has it the ABES put on a pretty good party.IMG_5443In case you can’t tell what’s going on here, this is Shaun smoking both a real AND an electronic cigarette just before the start of the race. I think in a past life Shaun was an Italian bike racer.

For those not from around here, it is important not to confuse Mennonites with Hutterites. While they share similar roots and beliefs, they are very different in many ways. For example, Hutterites tend to live in colonies and pretty much keep to themselves, while Mennonites live willy-nilly wherever they want.

However, both groups wear distinctive outfits that make them pretty easy to pick out in a crowd. These are Hutterites:HutteritesThese are Mennonites:FGBCOr most of them, anyway.

Many Mennonites speak low German. I’m no expert, but from what I can tell, low German is to regular German what Yiddish is to Hebrew. Since I don’t a word of German, low, high, or otherwise, the meaning behind the name of the race was a complete mystery. KnackSot has a bit of a dirty sound to it, and the ABES do have a pretty bawdy sense of humour, so I assumed the worst.

The KnackSot happened to correspond with Altona’s annual Sunflower Festival, and as such all the racers were invited to participate in the festival parade, which was as awesome as it was slow.

IMG_5452I ‘ve always wanted to be in a parade. Mind you, I may have pictured myself sitting in the back of a convertible with a tiara on my head and a sash reading “2o13 Altona Sunflower Festival Queen” instead of ratchet pedalling a bike at two kilometres an hour in a helmet and sweaty black lycra, but we can’t all be winners. Sniff.IMG_5446IMG_5449Nevertheless, starting the KnackSot gravel race (or any race for that matter) as part of a parade is a pretty big deal, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.IMG_5448The race officially got going at the end of the parade. I should mention here that there were actually three distance options in the Knacksot – 50, 80, or 170 kilometres. When I asked The Dark Lord which distance the Roosters were planning to do, he said “170 of course”, like there was any question. If we Roosters are known for anything other than our love of beer, it is our complete disdain for moderation.JP WinsAll the racers started together, with different routes mapped out for each. Seven kilometers from the start, the Roosters made their move. Or rather, the really fast ones did. I saw the move from too far back and began chasing madly to catch the back of the splinter group. I managed to catch them, but the effort was enough that even hanging on was very difficult. Finally I just had to accept that in terms of this group, I was punching above my weight. If you feel crappy in the first hour of a 170km race, chances are you are in for a world of pain that will last for approximately an eternity.

WinnersHere is the lead group at a rest stop one third of the way through the race. Chris, Terry, JP and Daniel would stay together until the end, finishing in 5 hours and 50 minutes. I hope Terry is puking here, because that would make me feel a bit better. The fact that Chris is laughing at him makes me think he is. So we’ll go with that.

Dave Gerrard gallantly waited for me after I dropped from the group, and we picked up Scottie and Adam shortly after, and had intermittent contact with other racers here and there. But for the most part, we stayed together.chase groupAdamIMG_5454IMG_5456We had various stops along the way: food stops, nature stops, and where the hell are we stops. Each of us took our turn feeling terrible, while the others offered food, encouragement, and a wheel to follow.

After a particularly heinous uphill gravel climb with a grade of about 14%, Dave’s knee gave out. I could tell because I am so very in-tune with the subtle signs associated with knee discomfort, such as pedalling with one leg whilst lamenting “My knee is fucked”.IMG_5459We called the SAG wagon for Dave, and resisted the temptation to join him. By this point Scottie had ditched us to try to close the gap on the lead group, leaving Adam and I to complete the remainder of the race together. Adam was feeling slightly crappier than I was, so while I offered my wheel as much as I could (or he would let me), he provided excellent company and navigation, without which I would have ended up in Thunder Bay. Thanks Adam!

After the race, we were invited to the amazing Krahn Barn in Neubergthal, a charming Mennonite heritage village five miles from Altona.IMG_5468IMG_5471ChickensIMG_5469The Krahns bought the barn in 1998 (or I think that’s what their daughter Genevieve told us) and converted it into a jaw-droppingly beautiful home. I snooped a little inside, but sadly missed the grand tour while visiting with one of the residents.IMG_5466Kitteh!

I am a lifelong city gal, but after seeing the Krahn barn, I think I could adapt quite nicely to life in a small Mennonite Village – growing eggs, planting and tending stuff, or whatever else country people do. This dream is completely contingent, however, on being within five minutes of an operational source of liquor – which in these parts might be a deal-breaker.

Paul and Marguerite were perfect hosts, feeding us locally-made sausage (MUST GET MORE), malt beverages, the requisite shit-ton of chips, and, of course, KnackSot.Yes, it turns out that KnackSot (pronounced ka-NUK-zoat) is low-German for sunflower seeds – or “crack seeds”, if you were to translate literally.

…Crack seeds (giggle). I knew I could count on the ABES.

The rest of the evening was spent, in the words of our host, doing what friends do.Paul KThanks to Jared Falk for the use of his lovely photos. You can tell his from mine because his are good. And huge thanks to Scott, Adam, and David for being such great riding companions. Most of all, thanks to Paul, Marguerite, the ABES, Ian Hall and the OCC for giving us such a great day.

Finding Yonder: The Abitibi Trail

by CycleChick on July 26, 2013

You are HerNinety-nine percent of great adventures end happily, and serve to inspire each other to step outside of our beige tupperware boxes and go farther. Do more. The other 1% – the adventures we don’t like to talk or think about – end in epic catastrophe, like sawing your own arm with a Swiss Army Knife, or eating a sherpa.

As much as I try to think about the 99%, it is that one percent that lingers like the rotting smell of old sherpa as I ride through the Abitibi Trail – alone and untethered to the world by anything other than an iPhone that shows my location as a lonely blue dot somewhere in the vast sea of green that is Nopiming Provincial Park.

I was in Nopiming Park on a family camping vacation, you know, the kind where you cram your car to the roof with half the shit you own and leave the other half – the half you actually need – safely at home. After many years of similar family vacations, we have gradually moved from (me) “Uh, honey… um, I was thinking – only if there’s room – that maybe I could bring my bike?” to (him) “Which bike are you bringing?” Let me tell you, it is a wonderful thing.IMG_5323I found out about the Abitibi trail because of a tip from some folks on Twitter. I had mentioned being in the Park, and they knew the area. ”Head east on the 315, then turn into Flanders Lake.” they instructed. “At the end of the road there is an old ATV trail into the backcountry. The fishermen use it to get to the remote fishing spots.”

And so, since it is my custom to venture alone into the wilderness on the advice of total strangers, I hopped on my bike and went to find the trail. My first attempt was unsuccessful and almost ended in a trespassing charge and a nasty case of lyme disease. But the next day, I found the trailhead

IMG_5398As fashionable as riding gravel roads is these days, five day of it is enough to make any self-respecting roadie go half mad. My pristine white Rapha socks were (gasp) dirty, and these old bones were getting a sound thrashing, given the fact that my tyres are never inflated below 200 psi. I am now of the firm opinion that washboard belongs on Chippendales dancers, not roads. Needless to say, I was happy for a break from the gravel and excited for some new scenery. washboardThe trail itself was lovely, and perfect for a cross bike, even one with less-than-ideal 25c road slicks. Rolling and wild, the mud, sand, rocks, and water made the gravel seem almost like pavement by comparison. Almost.IMG_5397
It was around this time I began, in spite of myself, to think about the 1%. Not with any more intention than anyone thinks about unpleasant things, like what their ass will look like when they are eighty years old. But I was essentially alone, in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a bike and a cell phone. I’m pretty useless with GPS technology, but if I ran into a bear I would certainly be able to document my demise through a series of great Instagram photos with artful sepia tone filters.

If you have ever had the misfortune of camping with me, you’ll know I have an irrational fear of bears. While they are naturally timid creatures, if you take one by surprise it could very well respond by taking your head clean off. I find this contradiction both curious and terrifying. And so, to announce my presence as I rattle down the trail I find myself whistling the first tune the comes to mind: The Lumberjack Song.

“I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok. I work all night and I sleep all day…” (Oh God please don’t eat me)

IMG_5391

“I dress in women’s clothing, and hang around in bars….” (If I make it out of here alive I swear I will go to church. Sometime.)

IMG_5396

“I wish I was a girlie, just like my dear Papa.” (Who will look after my bikes if I’m dead?)

After a while I started to calm myself down and feel better. I came across a pretty little stream that puddled across the trail and into a lush marsh surrounded by evergreens.IMG_5386It seemed so peaceful and serene I decided to stop for a moment to wash my now filthy bike and take a few photos, trying not to think about thirsty bears. I stopped and took my phone out of my back pocket and was immediately attacked by a swarm of ten million carnivorous insects. It is clear to me now how so many of our rugged and unbreakable ancestors went mad from the relentless buzzing and biting of these blood thirsty little vermin.

I had to remove my helmet to release the deer flies that had flown into the wind vents, become trapped in my hair and were now tearing chunks out of my scalp. I barely escaped with my life. This was the only picture I took.IMG_5395Helmet dangling from one hand, I hightailed it out of the Abitibi trail swatting the air with my free hand like a crazy person shooing away the voices that tell them to light things on fire.

I wasn’t thinking about bears anymore.

So why, you might ask, amid the risk of getting hopelessly lost, devoured by insects, or messily eviscerated by a bear, would someone venture deep into the backcountry on a bike? I’m not sure I’m best qualified to answer that. After all, the trail was only 3km long. It felt much longer. Perhaps you can ask Hal and Dan, who are down south right now riding the Colorado Trail Race, a completely unsupported 500 mile journey through the outback of the Rocky Mountains.

I’m 99% sure they know the answer.

Sister Cycle Workshops

by CycleChick on July 23, 2013

sistercycleReason 3,487 to love The Wrench – over the summer they will be offering a series of workshops geared (no pun intended) specifically to women and LGTB folks who want to get down and dirty with some bike anatomy in a safe and comfortable environment. Fabian asked me to let y’all know about this great opportunity and I was all to happy to oblige. Did I mention that they are free? No I did not. They are free.

All Sister Cycle workshops happen at 7pm  Sundays at the Bike Dump on Main Street, just like the snazzy flyer says.

Additionally, there are other fine workshops happening throughout the summer, for sisters and non-sisters alike, like so:

July 24 (Wednesday), 6:00 – 8:30 PM – Brakes @ the dump
July 28 (Sunday), 12:30 – 2:00 PM – Gears @ the wrench
August 18 (Sun) 12:30 – 2:00 PM – bottom brackets @ the wrench
August 21 (W) 6:00 – 8:30 – 3 speed hubs @ the dump
August 28 (W) 6:00 – 8:30 – unsticking stuck parts @ the dump

Considering where I am at with the Guerciotti project, the one on bottom brackets can’t come soon enough. The “unsticking stuck parts” is a little late, but them’s the brakes.

Ha. Brakes. See what I did there? Awesome.

L8R

Looking for Lindsay

by CycleChick on July 11, 2013

LindsayOn Saturday morning I was (what else) observing the eighth stage of the Tour de France when a message from my friend Jason Carter came in that Lindsay Gauld was in St. Malo. Which was pretty weird, since St. Malo is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and I was there too. The difference was that I was sitting on a couch at my cabin glued to a Twitter feed on a screen the size of a deck of cards, and Lindsay was three days into a 1,300 kilometre journey across Manitoba via the Trans Canada Trail. There was a time when I thought I had my fingers on the pulse of the local cycling scene, but I have since learned there are far more pulses out there than I have fingers. I was oblivious.

For those who might not be from around here, Lindsay is something of a cycling legend in these parts, having recently clocked over a million kilometres on a bike, completed the Iditarod Invitational, and been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. He also went to the Olympics back in 1972 while I was otherwise occupied with napping and eating PlayDough.

Fortunately, a proper cyclist always has a bicycle and at least one full racing kit at their disposal, so in a single bound I was up and on the road dressed head to toe in fashionable lycra to go find Lindsay and wish him well on his epic journey.

Jason was tracking Lindsay via an online spot finder, but the internet connection out in the country can be sketchy at best – and at its worst not unlike the tethered coconuts one might find on Gilligan’s Island. So Jason became my director sportif, e-barking out directions and time gaps via email, which I would then retrieve on my trusty i-gizmo.

11:20am
JC: As of 3 minutes ago I show him near the intersection of Hwy 59, right across from St. Malo park, along chemin LeRang.

This is ridiculously close to where I was, yet there was no sign of Lidsay.Le Rang11:25
JC: Probably headed to Epic de St. Malo to get food.

Confused, I rode into town. Epic de St. Malo is a recycling depot, not a restaurant. Still no sign of Lindsay, and I was feeling more than a little conspicuous cruising around town in my racing kit. It turned out just prior to my arrival in town Lindsay was in fact having a nice hot breakfast at the St. Malo Chicken Chef next door with the Men in Tights.

11:32
JC: He’s now heading Northbound on St. Malo Avenue towards St. Hilaire Street. I’ll keep tracking him until you tell me you got him or have given up.

Given up? Clearly JC has me confused with someone else.

11:39
JC: He’s moving toward the park. De la Grotte Avenue.

I hightailed it into the park. At this point Jason included Lindsay in the emails, to let him know I was chasing him.

CC: Lindsay, are you on Hwy 59?

JC: No, he’s not on 59 at all. I was wrong. He’s going into the park, near the dam.

At this point I was standing at the dam amid some very confused campers. Lindsay was not one of them.

11:46
JC: Go to Lakeshore Rd. Northbound. That’s the Trans Canada Trail. Lindsay is probably heading to Lakeshore via De la Grotte. Both are on the Crow Wing Trail.

Ah, of course. I rode the Crow Wing Trail a couple of years ago during Actif Epica – a fact of little help considering I have difficulty remembering where I park my car, never mind a race course 2 years ago in the dead of winter.

11:48
JC: You’re chasing him now. He’s 3 minutes ahead of you, northbound on Lakeshore.

I found Lakeshore – a gravel road that wound into the countryside and landed me at a dead end in a farmyard. The cows were of little help. I had no choice but to backtrack.Lakeshore CowsCC: Shit. Lakeshore ended in dead end at a farm. Will backtrack.

11:55
JC: No, too far. He’s now gone from Lakeshore and taken the mile road west on Goulet, gone along that for awhile, and turned north again on an un-named road or trail.   Careful, there’s another west portion of Goulet – but he is not on that.  He’s going north on the Crow Wing trail. He will soon be turning west on Wiebe Rd. towards La Rochelle. From Goulet northbound, turn west on Weibe Rd. for a mile and a half.  Then north on Padoue for a mile. You’re a mile or two behind, now.

Shit’s getting crazy now. As Jason madly continued to relay directions, I madly pedalled my bike hither and thither through the rural Manitoba countryside, becoming less concerned about Lindsay’s location than my own.

Then I found the little blue arrow signs that (mostly) indicate the Crow Wing Trail. Better yet, I found tire marks. BIKE tire marks – at least 3 sets. I rode like the devil through farmers’ fields, gravel, and dirt to try to catch Lindsay and his crew.IMG_5292IMG_5293IMG_5295Lindsay Gauld is not an easy man to catch.

12:29
JC: Lindsay says you’re too far behind on gravel. Go west to Highway 59, then north to St. Pierre. Meet him at the intersection of 59 and Hebert.

Of all of the surfaces on which you can ride a bicycle, pavement is the one with which I am most comfortable and familiar. The tailwind helped.IMG_5297I came screaming into St. Pierre and was standing at the designated corner for roughly 30 seconds when Lindsay and company came into view. I let Jason know our mission was accomplished. I had finally found Lindsay.IMG_5301

12:58
JC: Yaaay!!! I thought you’d be way behind and I’d get yelled at for making them wait for you. Good work. Better workout, I bet.

Unfortunately I had to get back to the family, but was able to take a moment to chat with Lindsay and his crackerjack support crew consisting of Charles, Cory and Peter. I asked him about the motivation behind this latest ultra undertaking and how things were shaking out so far.

Lindsay finished his 1,300km ride and is no doubt in the process of planning his next adventure. One might be tempted to say this was a pretty amazing feat for someone his age, but to do so would be both wrongheaded and inaccurate – because to say that implies that anyone younger would have the knowledge, inclination and ability to do the same. Which falls somewhere between unlikely and ridiculous.

Lindsay traversed our fair province from border to border in 5 days, 10 hours, and 2 minutes. Or roughly half of what it would take someone half his age, if they even had the cojones to do it in the first place. Congratulations Lindsay! Thanks for taking the time to stop and chat. And thanks to Jason for remote navigating someone who is, by most standards, directionally challenged. It is indeed a miracle I’m not in Miami.

Feature photo by Cory Pratt

The Guerciotti Project, Phase 2: The Not-So Simple Question of Colour

by CycleChick on June 28, 2013

Although it may not seem like it, considerable progress has been made in the bike rebuild. The majority of the time incurred so far has been spent buying a shit ton of beer, web surfing, and driving all over hell’s half acre picking up the wrong bike parts. No wonder Italians drink and swear so much.

In Phase 1, you will recall the frame was prepared for powder coating – a process that involves sandblasting the hell out of the metal to get the old paint off, patching, priming, then coating it with a powder that is then baked at four hundred degrees in a big oven like a big pot roast. Considering my oven isn’t nearly big enough to hold a bicycle – not to mention the fact that I just told you everything I know about powder coating – I knew I would require the services of a professional. Everyone from the hipsters to The Establishment were unanimous in naming Villian Ride Company as the place to go.Villian Ride CoI contacted shop owner Paul Overwater to arrange the procedure. Paul was pleasant and helpful, and told me the process would take 1-2 weeks considering it was his busy season. Of course he hadn’t take in account the fact that it would take me 3-4 weeks to decide what colour I wanted.

Having been a graphic designer for twenty three years (I started when I was eleven) can be both a blessing and a curse. I probably know more than the average bear about colour – a skill far less useful and lucrative than knowing about, say, the inner workings of the human heart – but I also know that there are only a couple of minuscule nanometers between a gorgeous Bianchi celeste and a putrid pastel turquoise à la Miami Vice.

So what, out of the infinite number of choices – both dreadful and divine – would I choose for my precious project bike?

I considered a nice light blue, like this gorgeous Space Horse from All-City Cycle:8535169518_c8d0b5eae4_o1Then one day I happened to be at Parlour Coffee (ok, I’m there most days) and spotted this kindred Guerciotti locked up outside.PinkyYou all know how I feel about pink bikes, but this has to be one of the prettiest bikes I’ve seen. It’s hard to tell from this picture (taken by The Assassin) but there is nothing  even remotely Barbie about the colour – it is 100% dead sexy Giro Italian pink.

I seriously considered it, but realized two things:
1) Winnipeg is too small for two dead sexy pink Guerciottis
2) If I had a pink bike I would never hear the end of it

When I stumbled upon this classic original Guerciotti from the VeloClassics blog, I knew I had my colour.Image 6Deep oxblood red – regal, classic, and the colour one of the other true feats of Italian genius: red wine. This would be the perfect colour.

All of this said, I was aware (since Paul Overwater told me) that powder coatings only come in specific colours, so I was keeping my options open. I decided as long as the colour was awesome, I’d be happy. He said he had swatches to choose from, and if there is anything I understand intimately, it is swatches. One of the first things they teach you in design school is that colours don’t have names, crayons do. Computer monitors can vary greatly, and my perception of sky blue may be completely different than yours. The only truly accurate way to pick a colour is by physical sample (swatch) or by number.

I dragged myself and the Guerciotti to the Villain workshop to go about picking a colour and getting the process underway. Paul was super friendly (if a bit camera shy) and led me to the table o’ swatches.IMG_5019I don’t know if it was the designer in me, or the anal retentive mother, but  it took everything I had not to pull up a chair and organize the table of swatches by colour families, hues, tints and shades. Instead, I rifled through the colours and tried to find something I liked. Coming up empty, my only option was to pick something from the powder manufacturers website. On screen. Eep.

After perusing the Prismatic Powders website (which was unexpectedly well thought out and comprehensive) I narrowed it down to two colours:Image 3The one on the left is called “Cherry Crunch”, the one on the right is called “Super Cherry”. As you can see, the colours looked identical on-screen. And as you recall, screen colour and crayon names are about as useful as … well, not useful at all. But in the absence of a suitable alternative, I did the colour picking equivalent of a Hail Mary and picked Cherry Crunch.

First the frame was sandblasted naked.Image 2The frame was naked, not Paul. One should never sandblast without clothes on.

Next, the dents were filled with a weld epoxy that is good to 600 degrees and will therefore withstand the heat of the 400 degree oven. Image 4 The frame was then primed with a black undercoat.Image 10And finally, the powdercoat was applied and cooked.

As soon as the frame came out of the oven, Paul sent me this photo with the following message:

“It’s not as purple in person.”Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 9.05.01 AMHoly. Shit.

Colour is a very subjective thing, and our perceptions are formed by a complex combination of experiences and exposures, both conscious and subconscious. But I’m not sure on what planet the cherry crayon is fucking purple.

While there is nothing wrong with the colour purple per se, I am not really a fan. Perhaps it’s because when I think of purple, I think of this:princeOr this:Liz TaylorOr this:BarneyI also think of the grandkids of our elderly neighbours that we were forced to play with, who were annoying and always seemed to be sporting grape Kool-Aid moustaches. Awful.

Needless to say, the colour of the bike was disappointing – so much so that I almost aborted the project altogether. But after a couple of days of pouting the colour started to grow on me. A lot. I found myself dragging the frame out of the back of the car to look at it, amazed by how the colour changed in different light.

And then there was the workmanship. Paul (who was as surprised as I was by the colour) did an amazing job at patching the dents in the top tube, and even powder coated the water bottle bolts. The finish is nothing short of spectacular. And oddly, in the warm light of the morning sun, it is exactly the colour I wanted.IMG_5185I have also surveyed a number of people about the colour – both men and women – the the reaction has been unanimously positive. And so the project continues.

One lesson I did learn was the importance of seeing an actual physical sample of the colour before committing, something I should have taken the time to do given the relative ease of doing so through the manufacturer’s website, not to mention my fussy sensitivities when it comes to colour.

Compared to the complicated colour conundrum, building the rest of the bike should be a snap. After all, parts will either fit or they won’t, and there is no subjectivity required to install a bottom bracket. Or so I hope.

Bike to Work Day, Ringo Style

by CycleChick on June 21, 2013

I have a confession to make.

I have not ridden my bike to work in three weeks.

I know.

As you may be aware, I usually ride my bike to work in the winter, regardless of how shitty the weather is. And believe me, it is often shitty. Right now, the weather is lovely, or at least that’s how it appears from behind the windshield of a Subaru Outback.

The reason behind this heinous first world injustice is this:
IMG_5067Meet Ringo, the latest addition to Team CycleChick. Sure, he’s cute  – but he’s also seriously cramping my style. I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of shame in driving to work, to the point that if I see someone I recognize I turn my head in hopes they won’t see me. Some days, I wear a fake moustache, just to be safe.

Today is Bike to Work Day in Winnipeg. I was going to ride if it killed me. And Ringo.

I’ve been trying to figure out a safe and practical way to get me, Ringo, as well as all of our necessary accoutrements (which are plentiful to say the least) to work. A baby chariot seemed a reasonable solution – and it just so happened my friends Donna and Gianni had one they had purchased for their dog, who was unabashedly dissatisfied with that (and most) mode of transportation. They kindly offered it up for us to give it a go.

IMG_5202Our test ride did not go well. I tethered Ringo to the inside of the chariot with his leash  and ventured out for a ride to the local 7-11, a place a often frequent at ungodly hours of the morning to buy milk and $50 packages of bologna. By the time we returned home, he had managed to hog tie himself and was crying like he was caught in a bear trap.

Against my better judgement, for the trip to work I had no choice but to ditch the leash and Team CycleChick hit the road.IMG_5196IMG_5199IMG_5203IMG_5204

And it was good.

I am very pleased to report that the commute was without incident and if Ringo could talk I’m sure he would say it was super awesome in spite of having to look at my butt for twenty minutes.

When we got to work I immediately took him for a walk and a pee. He ate some gross stuff off the sidewalk, as is his custom, and settled into the office for his morning nap.IMG_5210

Ah, the life of a dog.

Bike to Work Day

by CycleChick on June 18, 2013

m1_659429This Friday is Bike to Work Day in Winnipeg! For those of you who bike to work all the time, this might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is. Imagine your usual commute, but with LOTS and LOTS of other bike commuters to hang with. Imagine that this is what it is like everyday in places like Copenhagen and Oulu. But with more blondes.

And if that isn’t enough, there are 48 pit stops around the city with smiling people who  will be really nice to you and maybe even give you food. That’s right, it’s like cruising through the sample tables a Costco, ON YOUR BIKE! There is also a big wind-up BBQ at the Forks beginning at 3:30, with food by Boon Burger (the first 500 people who show up get a FREE burger!), live music, prizes, and Half Pints Pedal Pusher Ale. mmmmm. beer.

There are countdown events happening all week, and ACU is donating $0.25 per registered rider to The WRENCH. So be sure to register. mmmm. WRENCH.

You can register and get all the other deets here.

Beer, blondes, bikes and BBQ. What more could you ask for?

The Impaler has a Posse

by CycleChick on June 15, 2013

PosseBrad and his posse. l to r: Annie, Frank, Brad and Victoria.
Photo by fellow rider (and Frank’s wife) Karis.

A few weeks ago, as part of the Winnipeg CycleChick International Media Tour, I was pleased to be a panelist in a discussion about winter cycling with local city councillor Justin Swandel and Paul Jordan, Chief Operating Officer of The Forks Renewal Corporation. The discussion focussed on what could be done to make Winnipeg a better, safer winter cycling city – besides waiting for global warming to make our weather less arctic, of course. As you can imagine, many questions regarding improvements to road maintenance and cycling infrastructure were directed to the guy who frequents the restroom at City Hall.

As C.O.O. of the city’s largest tourist destination, as well as former Chair of the Winnipeg Trails Association, Paul Jordan had a lot to contribute to the subject of pathways and getting people off their couches and into the great out-of-doors.

As for me, I sat between them and gave the occasional fist pump while shouting “YEAH BIKES!!!”

In the course of the discussion Paul suggested that we should all, as riders of bikes, adopt a “ride buddy” – someone who has shown interest in commuting by bike, but is intimidated by the many puzzling or terrifying aspects of carrying both themselves and their shit from home to work using nothing but a bicycle.cargo bikeAmid all the talk of bureaucracy, legislation, and feats of Finnish engineering too complex and expensive to fathom, this struck me as a beautifully simple solution. It also struck me because just that morning my friend Brad the Impaler (buy him a beer and he’ll tell you the story behind his nickname) had told me he was organizing an ad hoc “ride to work” day with some coworkers who live in his neighbourhood.

“The cool thing is that they initiated this, it wasn’t me selling,” he said, “They watch me ride to work and wanted to give it a try. Annie rides to work semi regularly in the summer, Frank hasn’t been on a bike since grade ten, (he borrowed his son’s eighties road bike) and Victoria toodles around her neighbourhood on the baby blue cruiser but hasn’t ridden to work. They all rode with helmets and took them off the second the bikes stopped moving. I don’t even notice mine anymore.”

I should mention that Brad and his posse work at Siloam Mission (a shelter offering services to the homeless), in what might be a described as a rough-ish part of town. They all live in North Kildonan – a roughly twelve kilometre commute. I should also mention that since the group ride, Frank has ridden to work on his own several times and hopes to make it a regular thing.

Brad showed a handful of coworkers the way get to work safely by bike. More importantly, he showed the rest of us the way to get more people on bikes.

Valley Girl 2 – The Sequel

by CycleChick on June 11, 2013

IMG_5115The last time I rode the Pembina Valley was also the first time I rode the Pembina Valley. If you’ll recall, I was pretty sure I was going to die on that first harrowing descent. The fact that I didn’t die made it possible for me to participate in last weekend’s Pembina Valley Challenge hosted by Woodcock Cycle and run as an Omnium (points) competition. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but it sounded a lot like Omnomnom, so I figured at least the food would be good.

Seeing familiar faces at the start always helps calm the pre-race jitters. The only other racer from Dark Red Racing was Mel, smiling as always. And who wouldn’t smile if they had this sweet custom polka dot Pinarello!

Mel and her Pinarello Ben and Scottie were there too. Scottie was there as Ben’s domestique – but heaven knows when it comes to climbing, neither of those guys need much help.IMG_5114By some miracle, the C-Truck managed yet another successful voyage with Coach Rick at the wheel. This would be Rick’s first race after having a bionic hip inserted this winter. Way to go Rick!IMG_5103Now if only someone would do something for that poor truck.

The first event in the Omnonmon was a time trial. I really dislike time trials, so when I saw that it was only ONE kilometre, I surmised it was either a mistake or the best time trial EVER! The thing about valleys is that they are really just hill cleavage, and the time trial started right at the bottom of the cleavage, requiring one to ride upwards to the finish. Trust me, it wasn’t nearly as fun or dirty as that sounds.

IMG_5107IMG_5108As much as it hurts to ride straight uphill as fast as you can for a kilometre, there is no denying how beautiful the Pembina Valley is. Especially from the top.IMG_5112There is also no denying how awesome our volunteers are.IMG_5110The second event was a road race, with Cat 4 racing three laps of a 25 km course which looked something like this (but greener and much bigger):

photoThe first lap of my race was pretty relaxed until the second climb when the Belgians and Kids started to dole out the ass-whuppings. Needless to say I did not amass any KOM points.

A lead group broke out on the second climb and I fell off, but hoped to catch back on with the tailwind flat section. It was right about the time I was having these silly delusions that I saw people lying on the road. Oh no! One of the Brandon guys had rubbed a wheel and went down, taking Scottie and Ben with him. Scott was just getting back on his bike, but was (literally) a bloody mess.IMG_5116OW! Too much Hoogerland!

Much like The Dark Lord in the Catskills, Scottie rode with a potent mixture of rage and adrenaline, pulling me along until we picked up more riders and began to work together to catch the lead group. Incredibly, Ben joined us – also hurt but still riding. We pushed hard into the wind to catch the lead group at the start of climb #3. Then we climbed. And it hurt like the devil.

What followed was a series of gaps, bridging and all the things that make a road race both beautiful and miserable. Moments of strength and invincibility. Moments of pain and despair as you struggle to move your pedals in a circle. Moments of relief as you finally catch the right wheel.

I had managed to stay mid-pack until the second last climb. I was riding with Devo rider Sebastian, and finally had to let him go. I felt awful and I limped up the hill on my own and rode the last half lap alone, watching helplessly as everyone behind me passed by, losing 7 spots in the last 6km.

Ah, bike racing.

After a little finish line lie-down and 7-up kindly offered by race director Jeff, I mustered up the energy to ride the endless three kilometres back to my car.

As if the crushing weight of defeat weren’t enough, upon my return my appearance came under some scrutiny. Apparently a zebra print shirt, skirt, flip-flops, salt-crusted nostrils, runny mascara, and trailer park tornado hair do not fit some people’s idea of proper post-race attire.

To set the record straight:
1) I had come straight from the cabin and had limited clothing at my disposal
2) That was stupid
3) I did not, as was suggested, have a wedding to go to after the race
4) If I did, I certainly would not have gone dressed like a homeless cocaine addict

awardsThe Kids are riding well. Too well. They are making us look bad. A total sweep of the Cat 3 podium. In order to reverse this troubling trend, I’m afraid we all need to quit our jobs immediately and train more.

The KidsAnd by the way Willem, I hope you got as much flack about your outfit as I did about mine. Just saying.

Ben and Scottie completed the road race with the lead group, with Ben coming in third in spite of a busted helmet and badly sprained wrist. They are badass motherfuckers. If you’ll excuse my French.

Many thanks to Woodcock, Jeff Ayres and race sponsor Danny Bubis of Tetrem Capital Management, as well as chief commissaire Arlene Woodcock and the volunteers who made this race possible. It was a really interesting and challenging format that was a great addition to the race calendar.

Now stop reading and go do some power intervals people!

 

Remember Winter?

by CycleChick on May 27, 2013

WinterCyclingForEveryoneMay302013PosterWEB

It seems like only yesterday we were groaning about the endless winter, but deep, deep down, I know you miss it. After all, as long as you can ride your bike, who cares what the weather is like? Join us Thursday for an evening that celebrates the challenges, joys, and adventure of winter cycling, including a presentation by Anders Swanson, who, as you will recall, attended the International Winter Cycling Congress in Oulu, Finland this winter. There will also be a remote presentation from Finland (since it was “too spendy” to send us all there), as well as a panel discussion including some experts, and me.

Monday May 27th, Lunchtime
MPI Theatre downtown in City Place (2nd floor, east side, door north of elevators).
12:00 noon – 1:00pm

OR

Thursday May 30th, Evening
Winnipeg Free Press Cafe in The Exchange. Arthur at McDermot.
Doors at 6:00pm.
6:30pm – 8ish.

Both events feature: 
- a short film about experiencing and exploring a landscape full of people and bikes and snow.
- “Oulu and the top winter cycling cities of the world”: a short presentation by Timo Perälä remote from Oulu, Finland.  Mr. Perälä is the CEO of Navico ltd., a small consulting firm specializing in mobility management. He holds a masters degree in civil engineering (construction economics) and has completed several studies and projects related to winter cycling and winter maintenance throughout Finland. Timo directed the 2013 international winter cycling congress – the only event of its kind bringing together experts in the field from around the world – and goes regularly by bike year-round himself (no lycra, just a cruiser).
- Refreshments provided.

Thursday Evening Only
- Panel discussion: A big-ideas panel featuring Paul Jordan, COO of the Forks, Councillor Justin Swandel, Andrea Tétrault and speaker Timo Perälä. Moderated by Bartley Kives.
- Exciting event announcements.
- Hors d’oeuvres provided. Alcohol available.

Seating is limited. RSVPs appreciated but not required.
Email andersswanson[at]gmail.com

Hope to see you there!



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