Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bowling Shoes For Your Head

These helmet rental Vending Machines aim to keep cyclists using a bike share program safe… buuuuuuut part of me thinks it's a way to cover liability issues surrounding rented bikes without helmets.

HelmetHub hasn't rolled out in any cities yet but I imagine they are targeting cities like London, Paris, Montreal and New York with extensive bike share programs. Users can rent the helmets or buy them. One reason Bixi can't even approach Vancouver is their tyrannical local bike helmet law means you'd have to bring your own helmet to ride a rented bike. Now that there's been a death in Toronto after someone tried doing bmx style bike tricks on a Bixi, there might be some acceptance of the idea of this bowling shoe for your head here too. The details of that death, a guy not wearing a helmet trying tricks on a Bixi bike at 3:45 AM at Underpass Park, led police to conclude "Death by Misadventure" – in other words not a typical use case – meant it didn't really lead to any helmet law rally. That and mayoral scandals have kept any other issue off the radar. Though CBC did their best by constantly referring to the bike as a "Bixi" as if the brand should sound alarms.

My reaction is somewhere between "Ugh…" and "what the 'eff'?" or similar derivatives. Who would want to wear someone else's lid? Also the size of the kiosks are akin to two stacked refrigerators which I doubt would be acceptable in New York City where affluent neighbourhoods have already complained about the scale of the bike share racks appearing on their streets (take one of many pills you probably have laying around to control your mood, New Yorkers). Not to mention how these things vend the helmets out the bottom into a metal rack where if said helmet were to fall to the ground it would void the warranty (another issue I have with helmets is any unseen crack makes the thing instantly useless so say standards agencies such as Snell and CSA thus fuelling fasle sense of safety and righteousness of the wearer).

I do wear a helmet but only so I have a place to put my Obey sticker, and maybe to shut people up about it. Yet, I don't care for it all. Not so much for the helmet hair (you need hair to have that problem, I presume) but my particularly and peculiarly small noggin and unique physiology mean the strap of any helmet of any sport puts a most unwanted strangle hold on my throat right where that gag-reflex starts.

So then, "thumbs down" on another convoluted way for one group to cover their ass by making another group cover their head.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Greenbelt Bike Route

This interesting development came to light today. Someone is finally realizing that Ontario could replicate Quebec's Route Verte with only a modest investment in signage, planning and marketing by focusing on the Greenbelt. Ontario is full of 100 km rides that are disconnected by rail lines and expressways, leaving only the most intrepid cyclist to endure. Providing a planned route through the Greenbelt will make bike touring easier and bring tourists to locations they might not go to.

All of this makes perfect sense. Cycling is a popular tourism activity. To my knowledge a recent report suggested some 80% of tourists in Canada are domestic (that is, from other regions in Canada). As the number of Canadian tourists rise, the number of international visitors have dropped. Promoting an Ontario bike touring route around 600 km could prove a popular week long visit. At a glance the Greenbelt tour could easily be extended by joining up to the existing (though questionably supported and signed) Waterfront Trail thus making Niagra Falls a Western end point, and Kingston an Eastern node. Which might tack another 150-200km to the route and make interesting connections to Via rail links.

How much would such a plan cost? About $500,00 apparently. For an industry that generates almost $400 million that means an additional outlay of about less than 1/100th of a percent. That's the way tourism works right? You spend a little on advertising and you make a bit more when you attract more customers. This "additional" funding isn't even new but comes from existing money from the Greenbelt Foundation. Win, win, right?

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments section. Don't know why I did that. Sort of like stepping in dog shit even though you saw it there and told yourself to watch out for that. While there are many positive comments there are the typical snarky ones as well. In that mix are people who inevitably believe:
  • This will cost a lot of money to maintain
  • It will be paid for by new taxes
  • Cyclists will be getting a free ride, because "tax payers" are paying for it thus cyclists should pay a licensing fee.
Let's go point by point, here.

No New Funds Required
They are spending $500,000 of existing funds. No new money required. When was the last time any new tourist attraction cost as little as half a million anyway? Toronto Aquarium anyone? Most transit studies won't even get out of bed for less than a million.

No New Taxes
See above. Why would you have to raise revenue for something that isn't using new money?

Cyclists Get a Free Ride
We already pay for those roads and their maintenance. Not to mention, if the ministry of transportation widens the road shoulder, which could accommodate cyclists free of charge, these roads will last up to a decade longer before needing remediation. These roads aren't even toll roads so that means drivers are the ones getting a free ride (or heavily subsidized rides at least). By the way, who do people think cyclists are? Tax-free nobility? Cyclists are tax payers too, so they are in fact, paying for the roads they use. If drivers believe fuel taxes pay for their roads, they are mistaken. Property taxes, HST etc. pay for these roads, which are taxes everyone pays. Even people on inline skates pay taxes (I assume).

Bicycle Licensing
Do you require a license to walk down the street? A license for ice skating? A license for skiing? A license for skateboarding? Rollerblading? Of course not. That's silly. I do believe if you are operating a thing with a motor, you need a license. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats – all need a license. E-bikes? Please, yes. But a bicycle? Back in the day when Beaver was leaving whatever Beaver was being left to, someone tried to introduce bicycle licenses. In the end, police forces said, "This is stupid" and so everyone agreed.

I'll never understand this way of thinking other than those opposed to everything are opposed to everything. I mean, "Lighten up, morons." A thing that you don't have to pay for and you won't even notice will bring revenue to your town and the province. Let it be.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rainy Nights

The intention of this blog isn't to shill products but I recently picked up this Castelli Leggero Jacket at MEC and I think it's changed my life. In the four days since I've bought it, I've been caught in a hard rain three times with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 6°C. The ride home tonight was a hard rain and heavy wind making it feel more like 2°C. My hands were red and stiff when I got home, but otherwise I was warm and dry. Two days ago I was riding at full pace to reach an appointment. I was expecting rain so I threw on the jacket. It didn't rain but it was warm and muggy. Yet, I arrived comfortable and dry. I had long ago given up on the practicality of breathable fabrics. I own an expensive Gore-Tex wind jacket that works well when worn over other techy breathable tops but worn in any other context it still feels as sweaty as a 70s K-way anorak.

But this is… different. I have to admit, you have to be working pretty hard to feel any sweatiness. Recently I rode across town wearing a waterproofed jacket and the sweat inside was as wet as the jacket outside from the rain. That isn't the case with this Castelli jacket. It's so surprising to throw it on and not feel clammy at all. Mind you, I haven't worn it longer than 30 minutes at a time yet and I do have one important caveat. Lately, I've been wearing a lot of Merino wool shirts and base layers, and the breathability and wicking of this material is legendary. So perhaps this jacket's performance was aided by the equally high performance of the shirts I was wearing beneath it. Still, I'm impressed. I've never really owned a piece of "performance" clothing before, other than my Castelli cycling shirt, but I'm going to say I like this brand. Of course it's more expensive than MEC's in-house products but less so than brands like Pearl Izumi. I bought this jacket for wet training rides but it's so comfortable it may become the jacket I take with me anywhere.

I will advise that you may want to go a size up for any Castelli kit. I usually wear a medium (even in close fitting cycling gear) and at 1.73m tall and 70 kg I'm not exactly a mountain of a man. Fat for a cyclist perhaps, but not tall. My Castelli cycling shirt is a size large, where other brands are a medium. Girth isn't the problem with the Castelli fit as much as the length. The Leggero jacket I bought is an XL - and even though it is roomier than the Large, it isn't much longer. Keep it in mind if you are thinking of getting one.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From Top of the World

There'll be no defining moment for Ryder Hesjedal atop the Stelvio Pass this year – but you can still have the poster. The Leafs crash out as only the Leafs can, and Hesjedal is out of the Giro. What's left? With another couple of mountain stages set before Sunday's finale, there will always be the scenery.

You really should check out this set of images on Flickr. Stunning. And to think I was whinging on about a 12% grade that lasted all of a few metres.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Too Much To Ask

Apparently, the Universe doesn't want Torontonians to be too happy. Too smug. Too self-assured. The Leafs can win a couple of games against the Bruins but Ryder Hesjedal can't gain time in the Giro d'Italia. Sure you can have a comics book festival, but you can't have sunshine, or even approximate May temperatures. Is it too much to ask that more than one thing go well at a time? I guess so. As Hesjedal continues to lose time against other G.C. contenders, now +3:11 mins off the pace, I have to wonder if he can claw it back. Even with the toughest mountains ahead, more than three minutes is the toughest mountain of all, especially in this time-trial-heavy Giro. Even if Ryder scratches and crawls back into the leader pack, there will still be time trials to win, where the other big names are certainly favourites. All we can do is watch and wait and bide our time. Just over three minutes of time.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


This month the prestigious grand cycling tour, Giro D’Italia is off and running and on the Giro d'Italia official site, there is this great infographic / volvelle outlining each stage of the three week race which is all whiz-bang animated whenever you choose a stage. Each segment shows the start and end towns, the total distance, the date it will run, an overview map of the stage, links to more technical information, the points available (or difficulty rating; the more difficult the more points in play) and most importantly, the elevation change. I hadn't really been using the official site as I've been getting all my updates in Twitter or from cycling blogs. At first glance it looks like any other Flash thing, but looking under the hood it’s a curious mix of bootstrap.js library and images. It’s an impressively compact design that shows the progression of the race over 21 days. I’m a little surprised they didn’t go further in making the text and graphs CSS or use an interactive OpenMaps. Still, it’s a pretty neat way to see all the information in one place no matter how it is built.

I've always said there is strange nexus where designers, typographers, coffee aficionados and cyclists meet and the Giro is one of those events that perfectly encapsulates that.