October 22, 2008

on commuting

It came as a surprise to one of my co-workers the other day when I told him that I stop at every red light on my commute to and from work. He said he just loves to weave in and out of traffic, and was quite taken aback when I told him that I don't really do that anymore, unless I'm in a big hurry. Nope, I'm all about riding safely these days, and I think it sort of just happened naturally to me. I think I've picked up those habits from reading about how to commute safely, in various bike magazines, and on websites. Some of it has just sort of presented it to me as the best way to ride, for me anyway. The way I ride most of the time, is not only the safest way (in my mind anyway) to get between places on my bike, but it is also the most laid back and stress free way of doing that. I ride aggressively when I need to, I take the lane, I don't ride close to parked cars I always filter to the front on stoplights (unless someone has their right-hand signal light on) etc. Most of the time however, I try and treat the other commuters (cyclists, drivers or pedestrians) on the road with the same respect that I expect from them. Interestingly enough, it even bothers me in the rare instances when people do me special favors because I'm on a bike. For example, I came to a four-way stop today, and there was this lady in a Toyota Camry that came to the stop sign well before me. Now, if I come to a stop sign at the same time as a car I usually go first simply because I accelerate faster. But this time I saw that she came to the stop sign ahead of me so I grabbed the brakes and made eye-contact with the driver, trying to imply that I saw her and was expecting her to go. She didn't go. She looked at me and waved me across, thinking she was doing me this huge favor. At that time I had slowed down to a stop, lost all my momentum, and then had to get going again to cross the intersection while she waited. If she would have just gone ahead like she normally would, my timing would not have been messed up, and both of us could have been able to cruise through that intersection in a far more fluid and efficient manner. I thanked her for the courtesy though, even if I wasn't too pleased with her. I should probably mention here that I contradict myself when it comes to stop signs. I stop at all red lights, but stop signs I regard as slowers, not stoppers. You see, we cyclists are using our own energy to propel us forward, and it takes a lot of energy to stop completely at every single stop sign. So even though I stop for red lights, I don't stop completely at stop signs if it's not busy. Then again, nobody really does that anyway, unless there is traffic that makes them stop. Sure enough, people slow down and look around carefully before going ahead, but in all honesty, not many of us really stop. My excuse for not stopping is to conserve my energy, my tires and brakes. At the same time I believe that cyclists see their surroundings better than drivers, and that notion should account for something. There are no b-pillars in our line of sight, right? But back to the red lights and my bewildered co-worker. "You seriously stop at every red light," he asked me. "Well, yes I do, unless I'm making a right turn," I said. "I practice my track stand." This made my friend understand things a little better. To him, my lame commuting ways all of a sudden seemed like a game. Which it is to a point, it's the "no foot down commuting game," and it's fun. Not to mention useful, as improving your balance on the bike is going to be helpful in every aspect of bike riding, weather it be mountain biking, road racing, or just going to the store to get the paper. www.yehudamoon.com

October 20, 2008

Vancouver Island Cyclocross

Russel Anderson hammering on his way to the expert category win in the 3rd race of the Cross on the Rock series. For more pics of the race please take a look at my shots here: 1, 2, 3. And pictures of the 2nd race at Juan de Fuca here: 1, 2. I raced in my first cyclocross race on the weekend. That will make a total of three races I've done on a bike, one Alleycat, one Super D and one Cyclocross race. Hopefully there will be many more to come. The Cross on the Rock is a set of cyclocross races on Vancouver Island, BC and the goal of the organizers is to introduce people to the sport. Therefore the rules are slack and there's great atmosphere at the races. You can race whatever you want to. If you want to race a full suspension 29er, go ahead. I've seen anything from full carbon cx rigs, road bikes and even a touring bike with aerobars which the Bike Snob would most definitely not have given his seal of approval. This time I even saw a Santa Cruz Nomad, which seemed slightly out of place to say the least. So after watching the last race I figured I might as well try this cyclocross thing out, and see what's so great about it. I brought out my Cannondale M500. That Cannondale started out as my mountain bike in Iceland and has been my singlespeed commuter for a few years here in Victoria, and enjoyed a second life as such with chopped bars and slicks. But now it was time for it's third life, so I threw on a flat bar (which is 4 inches wider than my commuting bar), as well as a pair of Bontrager Jones XC tires that came with my Fuel EX-8 and were kicking around in my apartment. After stealing the Shimano DX pedals off the Fuel, the bike was close to being ready. I tried to think of a good gear ratio to run, and was advised by various websites to run a 2:1 ratio which would have meant and 32 tooth chainring in the front since I'm running a 16t in the back. By looking at what was offered stock on commercially available single speed CX bikes I saw that most were running 2,3 to 1 ratio, or 18t cog and 42 tooth chainring. I had heard that the race coming up would be a fast one, so I went with a 36t ring in the front giving me a ratio of 2,25 to 1, "and I even have smaller diameter tires than those CX bikes," I thought. I was worried that the ratio would not be fast enough for that course and I'd be spinning like crazy the whole time. These worries turned out to be unfounded. There was a loooong hill on this course and I had a really hard time with it to say the least, so as my vision was blurring and I had slowed down to nearly a stand still on the last lap, I was certainly thinking about how nice a 2 to1 ratio would have been. The only thing that got me up that hill that last time was picturing Geoff Kabush's amazing show at the last race, as I reported on in this blog. I thought: "if Geoff can ride up unrideable hills, I should be able to ride this lame ass incline one more time," and that got me over the hump. I was so drained by then that I could not get any closer to the leader and had to admit defeat and be happy with 2nd place, some 40 seconds behind the leader. That was in the beginners race mind you, and those four laps we did were peanuts compared to what the other categories did, but certainly enough for me. In fact, I'm surprised I didn't puke. After I sort of caught me breath, I grabbed my camera gear and photographed the rest of the races that day, which was fun as always, even though it was a little bit harder than usually, not only because my legs were reduced to jelly, but also because of the unusually long laps, which meant a lot of running around for different angles. A good day at the races though all things considered. Here's my Cannondale before and after cx modifications. Some adjustments will need to be made to the bike before I race it again, the chain slipped under heavy pressure and I'd love to get some skinnier tires for more mud clearence and lighter rolling weight. These have peaked my interest.

October 19, 2008

Night Riding

Every Tuesday night I go night riding with a group of friends. This week I did not feel like once was enough, so I got my coworker,Andrew, to go out with me on Thursday as well. I've been meaning to take a picture of this particular part of the Southridge trail at the Dump, and since it was just the two of us it made sense to do it on Thursday, I'll try to do this again in the future and have other riders light up the trail as I'm shooting so it won't be this dark.

October 13, 2008

Geoff Kabush kicks ass

As I mentioned in the last post it the cycling facilities at the Juan De Fuca Recreational Centre have been in danger of being leveled for an indoor soccer facility. Everything is still unclear about the velodrome, but the Greater Victoria BMX association managed to strike a deal with the WSPR that runs the facility, to save one of the BMX tracks on the site. This means that the recreational BMX track that is next to the Velodrome will still be flattened as planned but the new one, built in 2007, will be totally redone to work better with the younger age democratic that is the biggest part of the BMX Vic. users. The track will be flattened and drainage issues will be dealt with, and a new more moderate track built possibly as early as next spring. That is most likely great news for the BMX community in the area, although it is possible that some of the more advanced riders will be peeved about loosing the more advanced course. So, it looks like one of the three cycling facilities has been saved, but the other track, and the Velodrome still face demolition. That work will not commence until the court case is settled and hopefully the court will decide that it should not commence at all. On a lighter note: The Cross on The Rock Cyclocross series on Vancouver Island are in full swing. The second race took place on October fifth and I had the privilege of being able to attend. The series are cheap for competitors (I believe about $15) and the racers don't need a racing license. This and the added interest in Cyclocross in general, resulted in a great race with over 80 competitors in 4 skill divisions. The events are free for spectators, and I can't really think of a much better use of my sunday afternoon than to go watch a bicycle race. I have to admit that I'm not all to familiar with who's who in bike racing, weather it be road, mountain or cyclocross, but I was exited to get to see Wendy Simms (kona) the four time Canadian CX Champion, and the olympians Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), and Errine Willock (Webcor). Geoff was amazing and a crowd favorite as he rode up the "unrideble" run-up. I watched him do that two times with a smile on his face the whole time, and he did it with such an unbelievable skill and ease that I was blown away. I think he just did it because he could, since running up would probably have been quicker, but what I show! Here's a picture of Geoff climbing the run-up, I don't think I'd make it up that on my mountain bike and its 2,35" tires, but Geoff made it look easy on his skinny tubulars. I heard cheers from the crowd after I moved locations to get a more complete photographic documentary of the race, so I can only assume that he rode up that hill on all of his ten laps. The great thing about photographing Cyclocross is that you can catch every competitor at all parts of the course, that is if you're willing to work for it and run about a little bit. I had a great time at the race and by the looks of things, so did all of the competitors. I've fallen for just another part of the cycling world, and I'm now dreaming of a Cyclocross bike. In the meantime I'll cobble together a bike to race in the beginners race this coming Sunday. It'll be my first Cyclocross Race and my third race of any kind on a bicycle. I'll be racing my trusty old M500 Cannondale mountain bike with a singlespeed set up. I won't be winning anything, but I'm sure as hell going to have some fun, and then I'll shoot the rest of the race after competing.

October 09, 2008

Velodrome in peril at Juan De Fuca Recreational Centre

The second race of the Vancouver Island cyclocross series took place in Victoria last weekend. The location was the Juan De Fuca recreation centre, wich is managed by the West shore parks and recreation. The race was a great success and a blast to watch, and I'll write and post about that in the next few days. However, at this point, I want to mention some sad things about the area where it took place. In many ways the recreational area is great. It has a huge indoor swimming pool, Two ice rink arenas, and everything from a Lacrosse box to a Par 3, nine hole golf course. All in all, it's one of the most impressive sports complexes in the Greater Victoria area. However, what makes this one special and sets it apart from the others is the attention they have given to Cycling in the past. There is a velodrome there (1 of 2 in BC and 1 of 7 in Canada), built for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and two BMX tracks one of which hosted the BMX qualifier for the 2008 Olympics. The West Shore Parks and Recreation which is run by representatives from the City of Langford, The City of Colwood, the District of Langford, the District of Metchosin, the District of Higlands, the Juan De Fuca Electoral area and the town of View Royal, has decided that they need to add an all weather soccer/rugby/CFL arena to the existing facilities. Their choice of location is odd to say the least. They intend to build this complex on top of both the velodrome and the BMX track and have no plans to replace the facilities they intend to tear down. This plan is ridiculous, and when announced to the municipalities of the WSPR there was not even a detailed estimate of how much this would cost. The elected officials in the surrounding municipalities did not seem to annoyed by that, and bleated their support like the good sheep that they are. That is to say all but Mayor John Ranns of Metchosin. Not only did he consult with cyclists in his electorate (which no other mayor bothered to do), and of course the cyclists shot the idea down, but he also had independent parties put together an alternative plan for the all weather field that would not include tearing down the velodrome or the BMX track. Mayor Ranns idea, utilizes one of the three existing outdoor pitches for the all-weather field, and proposes repairs to the infield of the velodrome on the basis that that field is one of the most used field in the sports complex, since it's size is perfect for youngsters and for recreational sports that don't require the full size courts. The Victoria Velodrome society has also launched a lawsuit against WSPR to try and prevent the Velodrome from being torn down. While this is going on, the velodrome has been fenced off and closed until further notice. Hopefully the WSPR will see that there is a need for the cycling facilities. Not only because team sports are not suitable for everyone, and that the BMX track is a great place for kids to get into cycling, but they're also taking away training facilities from some of the nations best cyclists. If the WSPR decide to go ahead with this plan it would be just another blow to cycling in the Greater Victoria area, and we are supposed to be the "Cycling Capital of Canada." Not that we deserve that moniker anyway, but it would just be nice if there was something that indicated that things are turning around for the better not for the worse.