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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bicycle Tourism: Pros and Cons

PROBLEM ONE: How to get there...

Lets say you decide to go overseas and whilst there travel via bicycle. Do you:

OPTION A) Ship your bicycle air freight back and forth. A good route if your bicycle is one of a kind / super expensive. ie. A prototype recumbent.

OPTION B) Buy a new bicycle when you get there and sell it on craigslist before you leave.

I'd argue option B is the better solution. Saves on unnecessary costs and you get most of your money back when you sell your bicycle (assuming its still in reasonably brand new condition and you cleaned it / fixed anything broken before selling it).

But there is also...

OPTION C) Rent a bicycle (ie. BIXI in Toronto). Depending on the cost of renting a bicycle this might be the cheapest route, but only if its a short time period. Longer time periods you are better off just buying a bicycle and selling it before you leave.

PROBLEM TWO: Where to stay...

When you get there, where do you stay? Hotel, motel, hostel, park bench, friend's couch, camping? Well if you are a cyclist camping might sound like the best option, but then you have to carry all your camping gear and that can be pretty heavy if you don't know how to pack light. (Seriously, why are you bringing so many books with you???)

I think one of the best options is Bed and Breakfast places. Cheaper than hotels, great service and if you're lucky they might even have some tools you can borrow for any small repairs. Of course not all bed and breakfast places are "normal". Check out this Toronto B&B that is on a ship. Sounds like a fun thing to do, but better call ahead and see if they have room on the ship to store your bicycle. (I imagine some fancy hotels would be upset to have a dirty muddy bicycle on their carpets...)

If you went the camping route depending on the time of year you may also need a heat source. I found this out the hard way in October 2010 when I went camping with my ex-girlfriend and we used candles as our heat source. Its not like we can carry a furnace with us, but I am sure there is small portable heaters out there that would provide more heat than mere candles. (I feel silly writing this during the height of a Toronto heat wave.)

PROBLEM THREE: Cleaning and maintenance...

I recommend taking a list of bicycle mechanics with you so you know where to find them. Google Maps or an app on your smartphone would be helpful. The real problem in bicycle mechanics with a WAITING LIST... they stick your bicycle in the back and call you 2 weeks later when its fixed. Its not like walking into a Yorkville salon and getting your nails done at the last minute. A lot of bicycle mechanics are busy busy busy!

So the SMART thing to do is to carry basic tools with you and only go to the bicycle mechanic when its obviously a repair you can't fix yourself.

PROBLEM FOUR: Food... mmm... food...

OPTION A) Carry food with you from supermarkets. Lots of it...

OPTION B) Only carry necessities (ie. Poweraid) and emergency food  / snacks. Stop for food when opportunity / need arises.

OPTION C) Carry nothing but water (and dine out).

This really comes down to personal choice. When in Rome its presumed you will stop and try the pizza... Option B seems like the obvious smart choice, but some people might prefer options A or C if they are treveling in the deep woods or in a city with lots of great restaurants you want to try.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How To Fix Your Derailleurs

Please help me I'm so stressed over this. I just bought a new Supercycle bike from Canadian Tire. They did not adjust the derailleurs at the store so I decided to try it but I wound up loosen the cable too much and it came out of the derailleur all together. I am planning a cycling trip to Toronto on the weekend and I don't want to rent a BIXI bike for the entire weekend because that would cost a small fortune. Is there anyway I can fix this myself in a hurry? PLEASE HELP ME. - Andrew in Whitby, Ontario

Not to worry Andrew, help is available but it won't be easy. Derailleurs are basically the most complicated things to fix on a modern bicycle.

#1. First check to see if you have a bent derailleur tab. (You probably don't because your bike is brand new, but lets follow procedure here in case other people have problems.) If it is please see this other post on "Fixing a Bent Derailleur Tab".

#2. Get yourself a copy of Barnett's Manual (the books aren't cheap so a PDF will suffice) and read chapters 33 and 34.

I cannot possibly fully explain all the intricacies of fixing derailleurs in one blog post. Barnett takes TWO chapters to do it, one for front derailleurs and another for rear derailleurs. If you view the PDF it is pages 591 to 649.

Failing that check out this website: sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html which is reasonably helpful, but has really shoddy graphics and skips over a lot of parts (It should be sufficient to help fix Andrew's problem however). That site does however get the point across that derailleurs are basically the most complicated things to fix on a modern bicycle.

Maybe someday I will do a detailed post on how to fix derailleurs, but if I am anything like Barnett such a post would take me a week to write and be 50+ pages long.

Good luck Andrew!

Toronto City Council votes to scrap Jarvis bike lanes

CANADA - Yesterday in a 28-9 vote Toronto city councilors voted to spend more than $400,000 to erase bike lanes on Jarvis St. downtown as well as Birchmount Rd. and Pharmacy Ave.

This isn't going to change the habits of cyclists however, who use those routes on the way to work. Myself included, I take Jarvis several times a week so the stupidity of spending thousands of dollars to REMOVE a bicycle lane is just silliness and a complete waste of taxpayers money.

It will also mean mapmakers will have to redesign their maps of Toronto's bicycle lanes and paths.

Toronto city councilors also agreed to physically separate 14 kilometres of bike lanes on downtown streets — two of them north-south, two east-west — at an unknown cost - and in an unspecified way. It is unknown exactly how cyclists are supposed to get into these new cycling lanes from intersections... and furthermore, what if situations arise where cyclists refuse to use these protected cycling lanes because its better (perhaps even safer) to be using the normal road?

Cycling advocates got one concession — the two-kilometre Jarvis lanes won’t be removed until AFTER new separated cycling lanes on Sherbourne St. are separated from other traffic, expected by December 2012.

In which case what is the cost of building these new separated cycling lanes on Sherbourne? One city councilor estimated the cost at $200,000 but I think he is full of ****. If it costs $400,000 just to remove bicycle lanes just made of PAINT, how can it cost less to create new separated bicycle lanes made of CEMENT?

Rob Ford's gravy train apparently goes to the Land of Stupid Wastefulness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bicycles as Mechanical Genius

Sometimes bicycle mechanics display their talents in ways that are unforeseen and really a testament to both their skills as mechanical geniuses... and as artists.






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