Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The weight is over. This year, less is more - more or less.

OMG! Where did the time go? I can't believe it's almost 2015. Seems like just yesterday we were down on the beach, hanging out in the sunshine!

I should really stay away from New Year's resolutions at all costs, cause they are nothing more than a recipe for failure.  The last couple of years I tried to quit swearing, but I just can't fucking do it. This year is different. This year I am joining the masses, as it were.  In 2015 I am going to shed a few pounds. Sure, almost everybody wants to lose a little weight. Every New Year, millions upon millions of people resolve to eat healthier, and to exercise more, and that's why the diet industry is worth billions of dollars. And even though I am not carrying a whole lot of fat round the middle, I do want to lose some weight. Five pounds. I want to lighten the load by five pounds.

It's not going to be easy. Or cheap. Some people say it costs as much as a thousand dollars a pound when you're dealing with a hefty, big boned frame like mine. 

Where to begin? The frame isn't going anywhere. Not yet, anyway. And I took care of the seat post last week. What about the crank? There's a few ounces in that baby, for sure. But it's soooooo pretty. I love my Campy crank... it looks like a flower.  See?

But it's metal, and that means it weighs more than crabon.  And this year I resolve to lighten up, so at least for the moment, it's gotta go.  Luckily for me, one very kind and generous soul happened to have a crabon fiber crank laying around in his parts bin, and he very generously donated it toward the lighten up babble project. Blessed be.

Zipp Speed Weaponry - truly a weapon of MASS destruction
It even has ceramic bearings.  How cool is that?! Never mind that until a few days ago I didn't even know that there was such a thing as ceramic bearings for a crank.

These ceramic babies have a lot of bearing on my overall weight.
My friend very kindly offered up some deep dish carbon wheels, too, though only the front wheel is compatible with my bike and its eleven speed Campagnolo groupset.

She's helping, too, only she's shedding hair instead of weight.

I need all the help I can get. I'd have passed on the wheel, but on January 1st, 2015, Escape Velocity is holding a two-up Time Trial on River Road, and as you should always begin the year as you mean to continue, I intend to go out there and give it my very best, bum knee n'all. They're giving teams with girls on them a handicap, and I have always avoided thinking of myself as someone with a handicap, but today I am happy to claim one.

Me and my handy cap.
I have always loved pretty things, too, and yet my precious Ti Baby has become a frankenbike for the sake of a ride which means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things, but matters to me as the best way to begin a brand new year.  What's become of me?!

Cat 1? Naaah. One Cat.
Never would have guessed in a million years that I'd care about shaving weight off a bike. I don't even weigh myself! My bathroom scales have siezed up, so rarely do I use them, and when I bought Ti Baby I chose titanium because other than the odd Gran Fondo, I planned to use the bike to do some touring in the summer. I chose something light but sturdy. Now I dream of riding one of those fifteen pound Fred Chariots, and I hardly recognise the person I see looking back at me from the mirror.

I have become everything that my hero Snobi Wan despises.  I am a stravaddicted weight weenie who loves nothing more than the Saturday club ride, and the Tuesday night criteriums. Yet the one thing I know for certain is that happiness is never 'out there' somewhere. It always comes from acceptance, especially self acceptance, and from finding peace in the moment. So in the end, who cares what people think of me? Lol!! In fact, maybe they should all take a page out of my book and lighten up a little. :D

But who knows? Maybe I'm just being lb foolish.  I'll let you know how tomorrow's race goes.
Thanks for joining me on this beautiful journey, peeps. I hope you enjoy the happiest of new years!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The year of living dangerously.

What. A year. As always you'll have found me mugging it up for the camera throughout. It was a big one, 2014, and scary at times, too.

January started off with a bang when I went into sinus arrest and found myself in the Cardiac Unit at VGH after drinking some tea which disagreed with me.

In June, I crashed and burned on the Vets' Ride in Richmond, destroying both my scapula and my clavicle in one fell swoop.

The spectacle
It was way past time to bone up on my skillz, so I shouldered on and joined the guys at Escape Velocity, once I'd spent the summer healing up, that is.

My shoulder is much more stable now, but this body is nothing if not unpredictable, and for the last month I have been struggling with a very painful knee. The doctors even kept talking about trying to save the joint.  !!
They say cannabis makes for great pain relief, but this is NOT my idea of a swell joint!
It looks as if the doctors succeeded in their mission, fingers crossed, cause most of the tissue swelling is gone now, blessed be. But the bones themselves are still enlarged. Who knew bones could swell?! Er... never mind! That kind swelling is strictly on a a knee-d to know basis.

It's funny. Even though it hurts something fierce sometimes, and even though I was lucky just to have survived the 2014, I really do love my life.  Seriously. What a gift!! I've been blessed with two gorgeous, kind, sweet, bright sons; I have a remarkably tolerant family; beautiful, wonderful, paitent friends; and the coolest job. Ever. And even though this crazy old body is unbelievably mutarded, it has taught me how to live well, and the pain involved has even made me into a decent athlete. See?  I'm a very lucky woman.  Aaaaaaand, if you ask me what Santa brought for Christmas, I'll smile and tell you it is long and hard, with a knob on top, and  that you can sit on it. Mmmmmm.  That's happy making. :)

You might be a little bit surprised to learn that it's shorter and narrower than the one that it's replacing, and that I'm good with that.

I was surprised to discover that of all of the many the things that happened this year, and of all of the stuff I did, handling the shim was likely amongst the most dangerous of them all.  Really! What, you don't believe me? See for yourself:

You see?  It might look harmless enough, but it's practically a lethal weapon, the shim. 

Cycling can be dangerous, and failure to heed those strident warnings up there "may result in very serious injury or death!"  Even just handling said shim can cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm!  Good thing I've already had my kids.  Poor boys share my defective genes - the last thing they need is some life threatening shim messing things up. And wouldn't you know it? Whilst installing the bloody thing, I didn't wear my hazmat suit. It was at the cleaners.

What a risk taker!
Cycling can be dangerous they say. That's why I like to wear safety shoes as often as possible. When I used to teach kids how to ride horses - now there's a safe sport - we always insisted that they wear a heel so that their foot wouldn't slip through the stirrup, so I like to wear a proper heel to ensure my foot doesn't slip off the pedal.

Safety shoes - they're good for the sole.
Cycling can be dangerous... In this, the year of living dangerously, I couldn't help but notice just how many people driving vehicles were running red lights. Almost every day, I see at least one person in a car run a red, but the real hazard is Vancouver's bus drivers.  In the last month alone, I saw nine separate bus drivers honk their horn, speed up, and run a red - not a stale yellow!!- light.  I kept track of the bus numbers, the times and the routes of the vehicles involved, and after the first two, I wrote to Translink to let them know about what I've seen, and their response was to ask me to keep the details of thier private investigation private.  They asked me not to talk about it. I asked them to ensure that it doesn't happen again, and then I saw seven more drivers do the exact same thing - within a few weeks!  So I'm talking about it. Loudly. In this city living dangerously can mean something as simple as walking across the street with the walk signal. So please, the next time you see some crazy-assed, determined cyclist out there on the roads, trying to get to work and back, please just suspend your judgement for a minute, think about the big picture, and slow down a little.  Cycling can indeed be dangerous, but it doesn't have to be.  Just stop for the lights, and stick to the speed limits, please and thank you.  Cause, y'know what the sticker says... failure to heed these warnings may result in serious injury or death.

Plenty of people think that cycling is a dangerous pastime, even without riding a roadbike, or joining a race team, and sadly, maybe as things stand it actually is. I like the idea of riding safely off into the sunset to live a healthy life - happily ever after...

but humanity is a long, long way from a healthy happy anything. The small boy wanted a snowboard for Christmas, so Santa -mummy indulged him. Only he can't use it yet, because there isn't any snow on the hills. Nothing. None.  De Nada.

Ironic, isn't it?  Sandbags for rising sea levels, and no snow on the mountains. 
But we continue blithely on, consuming without any thought for tomorrow, with cities full of motorists commuting daily, and driving everywhere, all the time. Worse, much of the time it's one person per massive SUV, whilst the tides rise higher and higher around us. Last month the king tide caused damage throughout the lower mainland, and now sandbags seem to be a permanent feature down at Jericho beach. 

Forget bike racing. That's living dangerously. Sit back a minute, and contemplate the big picture. We really are all in this together, and your choices absolutely do make a difference - every single day.

Have hope. The times, they are a changing. This week, a judge awarded a cyclist $100,000 after a confrontation with an angry truck driver who used his vehicle to threaten the men on bikes caused a cyclist to crash. That might not give YOU hope, but it cheers me up immensely. But there's all sorts of evidence that humanity is slowly but surely changing course, if you look closely. Take Medicine Hat, for example. This is a city in Alberta with a history in the natural gas industry dating back over a century, and yet they are facing the future, and embracing renewables. They have installed wind turbines, and even Canada's first solar thermal capture plant in an effort to achieve their 2025 target of supplying 25% of electricity from renewable resources. And even better yet, Toyota has promised to mass produce a hydrogen fuel cell car by 2015.

Who knows? Maybe there's hope for us yet. With any luck... well, and with the courage to make a few unpopular decisions, we can turn this mess around, so that we won't be living quite so dangerously in a few years time.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The day of rack-oning: is your city bike friendly?

Hey... hello! 

How have you  been? I've been looking for the breast rack. No, I am not drunk, though I am into my cups. Bike Snob has mentioned David Byrne's pretentious racks a couple of times, but anyone who appreciates the intimate link between function and form will likely find them irritating

Have you ever noticed how beautiful a round rack is? I'm quite partial to a nice full set, personally, and judging from the chatter you find all over the interwebs, I am most definitely not alone in that regard.

So I've been racking my brain for some time now, trying to think of a way to make bicycles more mainstream. If you lived in Vancouver, and you heard people talking about bike lanes

you could almost believe that cyclists are finally making some headway, but paint on the roads can be deceiving. Plenty of people are in a real fuhrer over the whole thing. 

You might fool yourself into thinking that society as a whole has come to accept us, but you'd be lulling yourself into a false sense of security. Car is still king, and cyclists are still an anomaly, still just one election away from a "Give the streets back to the cars" Robba the Fordian transportation policy. Even so. It is important to celebrate success as it happens, and in this town, those of us who choose to travel on two wheels are making a small inroads.

You can tell by the cute little lanes on the roads set aside for cyclists which drivers tend to ignore at will.

and by the stenciled bicycles (and unicycles!) in those lanes, telling the sometimes illiterate drivers just who the itty bitty lanes are actually meant for.

Just as a home reflects its inhabitants, so does a city reflect its citizens, and if you take a tour around Vancouver, you'll see a growing if oft resented reflection of a city with a commitment to a two-wheeled way of life. People who know me well know I totally buy the Hermetic Creed:  As above, so below, as within, so without. And so it is that any city with a determined population of cyclists will eventually show signs and symptoms of that way of life. These days, many of the office towers downtown have bike parking in the underground garages, and above ground you'll find a few creative places to leave your bicycle, too.

Not everywhere, of course. Most of the racks in town are standard fare, but every so often someone plays with a sense of humour or creativity,

or experiments with scale. And as with everything else, often the simplest solutions are the most effective, beautiful, and elegant.

And sometimes they play with simplicity itself, though as ever and always, without function, even an elegant form loses its appeal.

The arts are a litmus paper; taken together they indicate a society's state of mind.  And while music, sculpture, and painting are the most obvious outlets for the creative human spirit, artistic expression is all around us- it's in everything we do, from a sense of style in fashion and a gift for creating fine food food to an appreciation of a gorgeous garden path or even an exquisite turn of phrase.

Alex Colville - Cyclist and Crow
Remember what that clever cookie Keats taught us, that beauty is truth.  Just as form and function are married, so to are art and architecture. In my simple mind, the pinnacle of human achievement is when function, form, art and architecture converge, and that's what makes the bicycle so incredibly beautiful. And so any city which openly embraces bike culture expresses the epitome of civilization.

And that's the naked truth

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! :D

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends! 

To another good year!
I am mighty thankful to be here for another year, that's for sure. I've missed you guys the last week or so, and this. It's just that we are building a whole new kind of escape room in Vancouver's Gastown district, and until it is open, I am working more hours than I'd banked on. Still. It is the coolest job ever, and I am ever so grateful to have it. What are you appreciating about your life these days?  I am incredibly grateful to all of my fellow Vancouverites who decisively voted Mayor Moonbeam back into office, despite what appeared to be a close race prior to the election. Before the civic election, it appeared to be a tight race, and those of us who use the roads without necessarily driving a moving lethal weapon had an awful lot to lose.

The NPA's close contendor LaPointe said "It's time we give the roads back to the cars." I could almost smell the Fordian crack pipes burning, and I could definitely sense the unrest on the city streets, as all of those angry motorists longed to take back the bike lanes.

And just last weekend, on our club ride, we rode right by a youngster who had been struck by a vehicle in the bike lane on SW Marine Drive.

Burrard and First
And the very next day, I was witness to a young woman who was hit by a pick-up truck, This particular truck:

The driver felt horrible, it was plain to see. And you can't see it from this angle, but there was damage to the truck on the right front panel. The girl who got hit was riding east through the Burrard St intersection at First Ave. She was riding with the lights, and in the light of day, when he turned left directly into her path, so that brake as she tried, it was too late to stop. I had turned left in that intersection the moment before, headed for the bridge, and had stopped to turn on my rear light when I saw it happen. It was a shock to see, and it made the most sickening sound.

So I was driving a Zipcar around for my boss today, when I heard the CBC interviewing an officer about the nine pedestrians and two cyclists who were hit by vehicles last weekend.  Vancouver isn't a big city, but even in a big place, that is an awful lot of people whose day was spoiled by inattentive drivers. And as I was listening, I noticed how many of my fellow motorists were speeding, and swerving from lane to lane in an effort to get where they were going quickly.

Two things I took from this week.  1) SW Marine Drive might pretend to be a bike lane, with all of those painted bicycles, but it's definitely not.  It is a narrow shoulder, riddled with potholes, full of debris, and chocka block with parked cars. It's a death trap, and the most dangerous place in the city to ride a bike. It's high time somebody did something about it. Fortunately, the city has it blocked off from 5 Dec to 5 Jan, so we will soon see what they have in mind.  I will get back to you about that the moment I have the scoop. And 2) The only way we will have safer streets is if there is a concerted effort to slow traffic down.  We have to make a concerted effort in both education and enforcement.

Because let's face it.  We all want our loved ones to come home to the holidays safe and sound. So slow down, drive safely, and enjoy having your nearest and dearest healthy, happy and whole, mmmkay?

                                    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everybody! :D xo xo

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Keep on Truckin'! The drive towards global warming continues, with car sales starting to pick up.

Hello, and welcome to spokeNscene!

After last week's dismal news events, I decided to host a little dinner party mid-week, just to brighten my spirits.  After all, sharing good food with good people is one of life's greatest pleasures, don't you think?  Besides, it is hugely important to celebrate often, just to re-align your frame of mind.  I decided on a hummus and pita starter, rosemary chicken, roast potatoes, and greek salad, and when I went to the shop to pick up cucumber for the salad, I was shocked to find that the price had risen from just over a dollar a little while ago to a whopping $3.75! I keep hearing warnings that broccoli is going to cost seven dollars a pound soon, too. WTF?! News reports say it's because of the drought in California. Climate change. Extreme weather events are happening all over the place in ever increasing frequency, but that doesn't seem to bother anybody here. I used to be proud to be Canadian, but lately?  Not so much.

Even though thinking people the world over have understood and agreed for a good long time now that we simply must curb our polluting, carbon emitting ways, and even though it is fairly obvious that we need to change our uber-consumer habits before climate change becomes disastrous, everybody just continues blithely along on their merry way.  The North American automotive industry was booming this year. That's right.  Sales of new vehicles were up all over the place.  But it's not like everybody got substantial raises over the last few years and decided to treat themselves to a new car with all of the money they put away.  Oh no...

Moody's this week warned that Canadian banks are exposed to some serious risk because of the crazy number of automotive loans Canadians are taking out, and the CBC's morning business consultant, Chris Carter said that we are going into debt en masse to purchase new pick up trucks.  That's right. Canadians are purchasing monster sized new vehicles like never before, and what's worse: they are doing it on credit.

WTF?!  And what really bugs me is that nobody sees even the slightest connection between their dumbass monster truck and the four dollar cucumbers in the supermarket.  Everybody seems to think that changing their habits to prevent a climate change disaster is somebody else's responsibility, that their lifestyle is not at issue, and that they haven't any responsibility for the mess we're in.  And OMG, even if you don't think that carbon is an issue, do you really think that the planet can cope with unlimited emissions?  Does the whole world have to breathe the kind of toxic sludge they try to pass off as air in Beijing before people stop driving fucktardedly huge vehicles around town?!  It doesn't take long in a closed environment with your beloved pick up truck idling before you are no more.  Exactly how many billions of cars and city dwelling pick up trucks do you think this closed atmospheric system can handle?

Kissing clean air goodbye.  Giving it the boot.

For the last few years, Canadian banks have raked in record profits.  Billions and billions of dollars in profit, every single one of them. Scotia bank, for example, scored a record $6.7 billion in profits in 2013, a mere five years after we the taxpayers BAILED them OUT and yet they have just announced that they are cutting 1500 jobs. How greedy can you possibly GET? Someone explained to me that it is because their insitiutional investors insist on a certain level of performance (read growth), but that brings us right back to the argument that infinite growth on a finite planet is a business model which doomed to fail.

So... the banks are offering low price, long term car loans to lure apathetic, complacent, carbon emitting Canadians into buying the massive SUV or pick-up truck of their dreams, and then the cheeky bastards have turned around and sacked plenty of those very same citizens, leaving them unable to repay their debts. Takes a lot of balls, that.  Heyyyyy I know!  We should call them Scrotia Bank.

And are all of those big trucks really making people happy? Ha!!  That's a joke.  Um, I think not.

The other day I was riding down Cypress Avenue bike route toward First, when a big truck kept gunning to get by me, even though the speed limit is 30 km/hr along that stretch. I was travelling downhill on hefty Bea bike, where gravity is my friend, so I was cruising along at a good clip IN the BIKE LANE, and was in fact travelling faster than he was. Never mind that by law, when I am travelling at the speed limit, I am allowed to take the whole lane, and not just half of it, but I didn't get greedy for space the way he did.  I stayed in the bike lane. Still.  He was foiled in his attempts to pass me again and again by the traffic coming up the hill in the other lane, because he had to yeild to the cars coming in the opposite direction, whereas I was permitted to pass, using the little bike lane work around. He was furious. Fuming. Just like his smelly truck. That's a great way to exhaust yourself. He looked pretty monstrous himself, getting his hate-on in that massive beast of a vehicle. (OMG! That's it! It's probably a phenomenon similar to the one where people resemble their pets, or their life-long partners!  That must be why there are so many monster sized Canadians fuming in their butt-ugly, monster sized motor-vehicles.)

Anyway, he made his anger clear by driving into the bike lane and pulling to a stop just before First Avenue, blocking over half of the bicucle access with his massive truck.  But he only blocked half of it, and I am pretty comfortable in tight spaces, even though Bea bike is a wide load, so I cruised right past him anyway, with the wind in my hair and a smile in my face.  Man oh man did that piss him off.  He caught up to me a couple of blocks later, and laid on the horn as he sped past me, to which I replied with a smile and the middle finger salute.  When we were both stopped at the next light, he rolled down his window to say "Genius move, you fucking twat."  Again, I laughed, because he looked funny all red and apoplectic like that, though I can't see him living long, bless his hatred filled heart. I've had lots of guys chat me up from inside their vehicles before, but this definitely wasn't a pick-up line! Ironic, too, him calling me a twat, when he was the one with the long box. Still chuckling, I told him that he should go back to school, since he obviously can't read the picture signs painted all over the road.  And then I suggested to him that the next time he wants to drive in the bike lane, maybe he should get off of his fat ass and onto a bike.

After all, you know my motto:  Use Your Ass, Not Gas! Though, come to think of it, maybe some bicycles are a little more gas powered than you'd like to think...

You see, this is a great town in so many ways, but even here, people refuse to take any responsibility for the state of affairs in our own neighbourhood.  Because of the ungodly price of real estate, and because ours is a fairly temperate climate, (at least by Canadian standards) Vancouver has a serious homelessness issue. And Mayor Moonbeam, our very own cycling advocate, may well lose his mayorality because he tried to do something  about it.

Housing is a basic human right, and homeless people have half the life expectancy as those with homes, but Mayor Robertson is being villified for trying to address the issue. None of the civic parties up for election has a great solution, but at this point, we have to do something. Anything.  It's madness. Here in Canada, one of the G8 countries with more wealth than most places on earth, one in five children live below the poverty line, and the situation is worst in BC. But somehow it seems that most Canadians who are really well-off are also completely cut off from any social conscience; they are sadly lacking in any sort of moral fibre. 

For example, that plotz currently holding title as the govenor of the Bank of Canada, Mr Poloz, suggested this week that graduates and students who can't find work should instead work for free.  I have to wonder just how willing he would be to model the behaviour he is suggesting. Or maybe he could donate his salary to the poor here in Vancouver to help house them. He and the head of Scrotia bank alike.  Between the two of them, they could build some bridges between the haves and the have nots, and in so doing, improve a lot of lives.

But I'm not holding my breath. History will judge us by how well we treat the less fortunate amongst us, and I'm afraid Canadians won't be sitting pretty.  Still, we have to do what we can to make ours a better place to live in.  And there IS some light at the end of the tunnel.

So... take a deep breath, hop on your bike, and join me on the road to world peace. Some people are already on it.  Like the Phil, the fit appliance repairman. Or like Russell, the Tikki Tikki pedi-cabbie, a bright guy who has travelled around the world for seven years, offering a lift to weary pedestrians...

It's not an impossible dream, you know, the bike path to world peace. If we each do what we can, and if we take it one day at a time, then some how, some way, together we'll get there.