Friday, March 27, 2009

My First Bicycle.

Today in Toronto it is sunny and the temperature is 10°C. I'm stuck indoors for only a few more hours and then it's off for an afternoon ride on the new bike. Bliss!

This time of year, when we're all just getting back to the streets that were covered in ice and snow only a month ago, I always think back to my first days on two wheels back in Port Elgin.

I have a lot of great memories of riding laps around our cul de sac (first crit?) with my sister and all the neighbourhood kids. I remember the sound of the leftover sand between my tires and the pavement, the smell of the lawns thawing from the deep freeze and the joy of finally ditching the winter coat for a new spring model.

And I remember my first ever bicycle. The picture above was taken right after bringing it home from the store. As you can see, the protective foam is still on the top tube. It's a Rainbow Rider. My twin sister is beside me on the red one. We thought these bikes were the shit. It came with a banana seat (which has a very pretty rainbow on it) and not content to just ride stock, we added on our own honker horns and upgraded streamers shortly after this picture was taken. The training wheels came with it.

At first I was hesitant about choosing the Rainbow because all my friends had "Blue Angels" and so I of course wanted one too. But I'm glad I went with the Rainbow Rider (although I still opted for the blue ...). I remember every moment of picking this bike out. Important stuff. I thought the best part was that when the sun shone through the reflectors, little rainbows appeared on the concrete. "How cool is that?" I thought ... then found out later that this is not a unique feature to Rainbow Rider reflectors.

My first bike was the ultimate freedom for a 6 year old. I remember the first time I made it off the training wheels. All of a sudden, the ride was quiet -- the clatter of the worn out trainers silenced -- and I really felt like I was flying. My dad saw that the time had come, and he took them off. Although I was super nervous, and not quite sure about his judgment, I pushed off and with every pedal stroke my smile widened til I was laughing my way around our street.

I spent all my play time riding that Rainbow Rider, making sure to be home when the streetlights came on. Thus began my love for bikes.

Since that blue Rainbow Rider, I've had the pleasure of riding:
  • Yellow Supercycle I crashed on my first dirt jump (I wasn't dirt jumping on purpose ...)
  • Purple Raleigh Tarantula which I had for years and years until it got stolen in Toronto
  • Red Rocky Mountain Fusion I bought to replace the tarantula -- my first race bike
  • Red Giant NRS -- my first bro deal
  • White Giant Anthem 0 -- my first pro deal
I hope they're happy, wherever they are.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toronto Skills Park

Attention Toronto riders. We need you.

Turns out that the City is actually trying to make good on all its trumpeting about cycling-advocacy. That's a good thing. A really good thing.

For the mountain bike community, that translates to a proposed skills park that's already got a lot going for it. Word is locations have been scouted. Top builders have been approached. And IMBA Canada is backing it.

The only thing missing is the kind of support a park like this needs from the community. It needs riders, builders and people willing to help out keeping it maintained. It needs you.

If you think Toronto needs a Skills Park, then you need to fill out this form. It's been posted on Dropmachine, PinkBike, blogs and sent around on email, and now it's reached you. So please, put down your name.

If you don't think a Skills Park has anything to do with you because that's not the kind of riding you like, then you need to fill out this form. This is just a first step in truly making Toronto a bike-friendly city. Be a part of it.

If you have kids who ride, who might ride, or who just don't ride yet, then you need to fill out this form. Hanging out at a skills park sure beats a lot of the other 'extra-curricular' activities Toronto's youth have found to fill their time.

So that's the bandwagon. Get on it. See you at the park!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Race Tracks

The robins hopping around on my front yard tell me Spring is here and that means that the time to pack up the trainer is just around the corner. Oh, how that makes me happy!

During the trainer season, I owe a lot of mornings to "The Collective" and Seasons. That movie makes it worth getting out of bed. Perfect length for a spin before work and somehow I never get sick of it. I especially love the part with Peaty racing MSA to "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine. Perfect pick, and definitely a Race Track.

And for fun, here's the Seasons trailer. Pick it up at your LBS.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Days of Dirt - Coming April 2009

With more and more filmers moving to HD these days, action sports films are that much more fun to watch. Days of Dirt features sick tricks, fast lines, tight pants, racing, stunts, crashing, shenanigans, boobs and beer. Rad rad rad, thank you very much.

Days of Dirt Trailer #2 from allout productions on Vimeo.

Original here.

I feel funny ...

Please excuse this interruption to regularly scheduled programming. But I just wanted to say thanks to NeoCitran for making me feel so nice. I warmed up that 8 oz of water, and carefully poured the powder-pack contents into my big red mug, careful not to let any of those precious crystals escape. I waltzed around my kitchen sipping NeoCitran goodness while waiting for my next hot drink - chai - to brew.

It's been scarcely half an hour since and my sore throat feels coated in honey. My headache has been replaced with a soft fuzzy feeling and it feels like I'm floating away.

A little while longer and the aches in my arms and legs are gone. Suddenly I feel like I could bust off 100km without breaking a sweat. I haven't coughed in like, 20 minutes.

So thank you NeoCitran for making my day.

The truth is, I needed the pick-me-up. I really thought I was going to make it through the entire winter without being sick. I faithfully took all my vitamins every day. I washed my hands. I got enough sleep. But, it just wasn't meant to be I guess.

Falling ill is every athlete's thorn in the side. It derails all the calm, collected focus you've been practicing all winter and fills your head with doubt. Should I train through? Am I really that sick? What if it takes me out for a week? How much fitness is this going to cost? How do I get back to pre-illness fitness in the least time possible?

This close to the season, I'm especially anxious. No wonder I have ... er, had (thanks again NeoCitran!) ... a headache.

My strategy? Lie down and take it. Get it over with, and then get on with it.

Stay calm, carry on.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


In my last post, I mentioned my mission to enter every draw I could find at the Bike Show. Thanks to Velo Quebec, my mission has been accomplished! They called me today to confirm I am the winner of a trip for two to Montreal for Bike Fest! Can't wait!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Toronto International Bike Show

Marked on cyclists' calendars from far and wide, March 13-15 was the weekend for nerding out on bikes. Held at the Direct Energy Centre, the recession didn't keep folks away from a day at the EX.

The Bike show features all the manufacturers in the industry hawking the newest and greatest parts, gear, apparel and bikes. There's a marketplace where shops can set up their wares and sell them for special deals. (I gave all my money to Kona for their rad hoodies at low low prices! I even got to meet the "Kona Lisa", who's name is on every Kona women's bike.) Charity rides and bike tours take up a corner on the show floor, along with advocacy groups and race organizers. BMXers gather to watch pros and amateurs jam. At the indoor dirt-track set up for the weekend, 4X racers and tricksters show their stuff on mountain and bmx bikes. And for a real treat, Ryan Leech set up for Trials demos and a seminar offering his views on the mind game of riding.

The Show Floor
I set out from work as soon as I could on Friday afternoon to register in the 4x event and visit the boys at the Sweet Pete's booth. Once I was signed up, wrist-banded, bike-banded and armoured, I went to check out the dirt track.

I bought the STP last year after test-riding one at the show, and never expected to be strapping a number plate to its handlebars. Racing 4X is not in my area of expertise. But where else can you ride dry dirt in March? My $30 entry got me show access for the weekend, a ton of practice (read, FUN) on a decent course and three rounds of racing. Pretty good deal, considering the show is ~$15/day on its own.

My only race goal was to avoid breaking anything, so I won! In my first moto, ("moto" is to bike-racing what "heat" is to track and field) I tried to pass a girl on the inside of the final berm and washed out my front wheel in the loose dirt. Crashing in 4X isn't the same as in XC -- in XC, I usually know it's coming! I was caught completely off guard on this one and hit the ground lacking all grace and style. I brushed myself off and rode another two rounds, improving my performance only by not bailing. But I didn't embarass myself either. I was racing girls with a ton of experience and they didn't leave me in the dirt, so I count it a success.

The Race Track

Once racing was over, I decided on another mission: enter every single draw possible. So hopefully I win a car/weekend getaway/bike/gift basket/gym bag. That mission forced me to check out all the vendors' booths. Some cool stuff out there that's for sure. I saw bike boxes that don't look big enough to hold a bike, hold a bike. I saw skin suits that claim to help muscle recovery. Insoles that make your feet happy. I sampled some power bars that didn't taste quite so "power bar". I saw all kinds of fancy new bicycles. I saw foodstuff charged at four times what you'd pay outside the EX. Truly amazing stuff.

Probably my favourite part of the weekend was the talk given by Ryan Leech: "The Mind Game of Riding". He told us he was inspired by a book he read when he was 12 called "Inner Skiing" (he started out as a skier! who knew?) that changed his life. The seeds that book planted helped him become one of Canada's great cycling treasures. He talked about not letting your ego get in the way of your riding. The ego is that voice in your head that won't shut up. It's usually concerned with what other people think, or how whatever you're doing translates into self-worth. It's not the "self" you should be relying on. The "self" you should rely on is your "true self" -- it comes from a place much deeper than your ego. You know you're doing it right when you get into the zone. I call that my "Racy Place". It's really tough to get there, and once you're there, your ego usually starts yapping again and it's gone. When I'm in my Racy Place, everything in my head is quiet and the harder it is, the easier it is. I feel like a Jedi racing through the trees, but at the same time, it's like slow motion. Conversely, if I'm suffering in a race, I stop focusing on what I'm doing. I just get frustrated with other riders, clumsy, and very unhappy. Ryan's talk really helped put some more context behind what's happening upstairs when I'm racing, training ... existing in general.

Ryan and his adoring fans

All in all, it was a great geek weekend for riders. The best part of the show is seeing all your riding buddies, racing pals and shop friends all in one place. You get to hear about how they spent their winters preparing for the next season. And soon ... it'll be here!
In 4X, where you start in the gate can be a huge advantage. To keep things fair, your moto-position is "in the cards." Here a rider draws a favourable spot!
The dreaded Gate Start. Riders must balance in the start gate until the green light drops the gate. There's an art to the timing of it all and a good gate will usually earn you a win. It's intimidating the first few times, for sure.
Here's me on the course. Photo cred: Liz!
Kona will give kids a sticker if they sing, break-dance, high five someone they don't know, or tip their caps to passing ladies. When they ran out of stickers they gave out Fun Dip instead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

seXC - The Maiden Voyage

After a week long stint in the window at Sweet Pete's (on a red carpet I might add), the new Trek is now in my possession. Thanks to the unseasonable weather we've been having (thank goodness), I was able to ride it home from the shop.

Thanks to Chris and Owen for spending some extra time getting the sizing just right. It sure seems to fit! Small issue is that the components on the Trek are all "newest and greatest" which means that tools to match them were tough to find. I was a little nervous I'd have to leave without the bike when we couldn't find a cut-guide to accommodate the oversized carbon seat post. Once we remedied that, getting the bike into a trainer for fitting was our next challenge: she's a fat-bottomed girl and needs an extra long skewer. With some ad libbing, we were able to jimmi a good fit nonetheless.

It was such a great feeling being back on an XC rig after a winter of spin bikes, trainer and the odd escape on the jumper. I tried to imagine favourite sections of trail as I pedalled Toronto's rutted out city streets (almost as gnarly as any XC race course!) I tried moving my weight around, getting behind the saddle and popping up and down curbs to see how it felt. I did have a little "new bike" anxiety though and so I didn't put it through the paces too much. I was gentle because I didn't want to break it the first time out. Not that that was even remotely possible.

The only time I felt a little wobbly was a tight corner I attempted. This is my first time on a flat bar, so I wanted to see if I could tell a difference ... and I can. It felt like I was falling into hole on the inside of my turn and my stomach flopped for the instant I thought I might be on my way for a digger. Granted, this feeling could be caused by a few different things -- handling not the least of which. I've definitely got some dust to shake off.

I played with the lock out a bit on the handlebar and it was fun. It was a weird feeling when I let it off as the dampening turned really slow for the release but otherwise, the Sid was a fun fork to ride. Very responsive and I've got it set up nice and supple too.
I matched the rear suspension to the front and so it was a very smooth ride. Quiet too, in that special "brand spanking new" kind of way.
After a few laps at the CNE and the scenic route home along King, I ended the ride with a climb up the hill beside my house in the middle ring and felt like the bike had a motor of its own. That's a perk!

Couple cool things about this bike: the EVO Link, ABP, BB90, and Full Floater technology.

The EVO link refers to the rocker that gives the rear suspension it's pivot on the frame. Trek has moved beyond the plate and bolt system -- joining two plates together around the suspension with a bolt -- that was so common and crafted a one piece link. It's stronger because there is no longer a join in the link. It's stiffer because it's one piece of molded magnesium and as an added bonus, the whole thing is lighter too, helping get the bike's overall weight to just 22 pounds.

ABP stands for Active Braking Pivot. This is Trek's answer to interference from brake application while the suspension is engaged. It kind of reminds me of another braking acronym: ABS. Because of ABP, I won't lose control in the rough where the suspension is required, just by scrubbing a little speed.

BB90 means more efficient pedaling! The bottom bracket (where your cranks are mounted) on a mountain bike is usually much wider than on a road bike. That measurement is called the "Q-factor". The narrower the Q-Factor, the more efficient your pedal stroke because it more closely resembles the natural line of our bodies. This bike's Q-factor is only 5mm wider than most road bikes. Since I train on a road bike this is a big help.

Full Floater rear suspension is not connected to the seat post or the down tube, isolating the rear triangle of the bike. As Trek explains, "traditional systems mount one end of the shock to a moving link and the other end to a fixed mount. Full Floater connects the shock to the EVO Link on the top and the extension of the swingarm on the bottom, allowing each attachment point to 'float' as the shock moves through its travel." One of the main drawbacks to a full suspension bicycle is wasted momentum that comes from bobbing. If the design isn't right, when you pedal, you divert energy that should be moving you foward to a dead zone of vertical motion. Full Floater is Trek's answer to that concern -- every stroke will earn you forward momentum.

Can't wait to put it all to the test!

Race Tracks

First Race Track -- and my personal fav -- Galvanize, by the Chemical Brothers. Second verse is clearly about mountain biking.

Dont hold back...
If you think about it too much, you may stumble, trip up, fall on your face...
Dont hold back...
You think it's time you get up, crunch time, like a sit up, come on keep pace...
Dont hold back...
Put apprehension on the back burner, let it sit, dont even get it lit...

Galvanize is also featured in this sick vid showing time lapse of a dude "painting" on his computer. Read the article.

Get stoked!

Bicycles: Love Poems

Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

"Bicycles: Because Love Requires Trust And Balance"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

February Blahs?

It's funny that February is the shortest month of the year, because for athletes prepping for the upcoming race season, it can sure feel like the longest. For this reason, February usually ends up being the month to pack the bike into a box and head to warmer climates ... with palm trees, sun and lots of climbing if you're lucky. Changing the routine on the monotony of base-miles shakes things up and sets up the next phase of training perfectly. 

Never one for the conventional, I threw caution to the wind and instead of loading up on miles, took a refreshing jaunt across the country on a snow mission. 

While the obvious drawbacks to skipping a training camp are, well, obvious -- I'd argue that the mental benefits help make up the difference. And it's not like I lazed around the whole time. For the seven days I was away, I did what I could without a bike around (although now that I know what Squamish -- home base -- looks like in February, I won't make that mistake again!). Skiing and running kept me well maintained. With almost 80cm of fresh snow on Whistler and Blackcomb, I was rudely reminded how hard skiing can be on the ol' quadriceps. 

But the most enjoyable time I had to myself were the hours I spent running in Squamish. Coming from the -20s of Toronto, imagine my surprise to be overdressed in just a light jersey and trackies. The sun was shining when my running buddy, Timber, and I set out. At first, my view was narrowly focused on my HRM and ipod. Then my gaze widened to include blue skies, mountains, thick brush, rocks and a river. Eagles flew over my head and Timber showed me the way to the mountain bike trails. I was grinning like an idiot. 

Back at the house, I found out I can still do lot's of pushups. Next time I won't make the mistake of leaving a bike at home. 

So after a week of relaxing and some light maintenance I was a little apprehensive about returning to spin class with the RPM crew. My first night back, the rest of the class was gearing up to complete a 20 minute time trial at full power. I had completed mine before I left, but I felt so good being back on the bike, I jumped in and improved my score by almost 10 beats on my average heart rate. Not only that, I did it feeling like a million bucks. 

So while I would never knock an opportunity to hit up training camp, a week in the mountains of BC to clear my head and rest my body doesn't seem to have done any harm either. 

A morning run by the river

Blue skies

Some moss by the trail side

Timber, my new favourite training partner

Hip-deep powder for the quads