Stylocycle’s Blog

Night Rider
March 3, 2010, 2:51 am
Filed under: around town, winter riding

In a fit of inspiration my dear spouse decided this evening that we ought to go out for dinner to our favourite Northern Indian food place (Masala Bay) in uptown. We planned at first to take the bus because although it’s only about a 20 minute brisk walk his toe is healing from being squashed (accidentally) last week during a bit of furniture re-arranging. Boy feels very bad about squashing his dad’s toe (for the record).

On our way out, Spouse asked if I’d rather bike (yes!), but I told him to check his own ability to pedal first before we set out. Lo! The pedalling was easier for him than walking and so within 10 minutes we were uptown, cozily and happily seated in the warm and aromatic restaurant.

On arrival I discovered, much to my dismay, that my camera was absent of batteries. Perhaps more accurately: my camera and batteries had been separated by the household battery poacher (Boy!). I really wanted a photo of our bikes — his and my Batavi… 🙂 — parked by the massive snowbank, with twinkling lights all ’round, but it was not to be. Even the batteries I went ’round the corner to buy turned out to be dead.

The weather forecast says that tomorrow is our last day of below-zero daytime temperatures. The bird songs today concurred. Spring is upon us, folks!

And I pedalled all the way through winter.


C-c-c-c-cold, and then the comforts of home.
January 5, 2010, 1:16 am
Filed under: winter riding

OK, so I’ve volunteered to get fitted with the GPS unit to track my winter cycling habits, and even though I haven’t yet had a reply from the planner researching how to accommodate winter cyclists, I thought I ought to start off on the right foot for deep-winter cycling, you know, just so I’d already have the momentum in case they do ask me to take part in the study.

So, I packed my basil winter saddle-bags and slung my purse over my shoulder, and headed out in my big motorcycle books (with thermal socks inside), tights, a thick skirt that came down over the top of the boots, a t-shirt and sweater, my winter jacket that covers my hips, and my faux-fur flap-hat.

And I froze. My hands, face and torso were warm enough, but my skirt kept riding up and my legs got all tight from the cold. It was -11 C when I left the house, and then there’s the wind chill on top of that… so it was about -20 C with that factored in.

It was the first ride I’ve done in which I’ve thought to myself, “You have gone barking mad.”

I stopped on the way to work to get a coffee (and WARM UP a bit). That made things much better. Still, I was really annoyed when I parked at school and had my bike topple over when I removed the stuff from one side of the saddle-bags before I emptied the other. Note to self: always empty the side opposite the kickstand first. Arg.

Teaching was all good. Honours seminar. My field. 25 students. Should be a nice way to spend the next 12 weeks.

The ride home, in the dark, which I expected would be even more chilling was, in fact, more pleasant than the ride in today. The roads were quieter, and the lights especially icy in the inky black of night… the hum of my tires and my dynamo lighting my way home providing a reminder that home was only a few, short minutes away.

And when I got home: dinner already for the table.

Very warming.

December 16, 2009, 3:37 am
Filed under: winter riding

So… I was not as careful as I ought to have been when I set up my new front-mount basket. I lost the rubber seal that prevents steel from slipping against steel, and decided to hitch up the basket anyway on the rationale that I was heading for the bike ship anyway to get a new tail lamp. At the shop, I reasoned, I’d buy and install a new piece of rubber. Between my house and the bike shop, the basket wiggled its way downward and severed my dynamo lamp cable. So… now the bike is in the shop to get the cable repaired.

Seems I’d also managed to fray my gear cable somewhat, so that’s getting repaired as well.

But I also have an exciting new addition to the bike (provided that the fit is correct): winter tires! My ride across town today convinced me of the need for tires meant to handle winter riding, so I’m getting the full deal: metal ice spikes in the treads, heavy chevron/diamond patterned treads, thicker rubber… each tire is $65.00 and it’s easy for me to balk at that kind of sticker price. However,  the dear spouse frequently reminds me, “The bike is your car; it’s OK to spend money on maintaining it.” OK.

So: new lamp wiring for front and rear.

new tires for front and back

repaired gear shifter cable

Will probably cost me about $150-$170.

That’s about what I would otherwise spend on transportation for the Jan-Feb period (in my pre-Batavus days), and the tires will take me through to the thaw (usually end of March). I’m going to call that a good deal.

I’m also coveting a pair of vintage style motorcycle goggles for riding in winter. Hello? It’s my birthday soon! I hope someone is paying attention!

Glorious — readying for winter
November 27, 2009, 9:30 pm
Filed under: around town, Get outta town!, winter riding

It’s been a good week.

I’ve stayed on top of the work rather than racing to be a step behind and I’ve even managed some down-time too.

On Monday my grad students impressed my socks off with their great research paper proposals. I’m really keen on the end of term reading I’ll receive from them.

Tuesday found me in Toronto to visit a dear friend who was over from Bristol. I actually landed at the central bus terminal right at the point when the local SPCA was rescuing a deer that had wandered into downtown Toronto and found herself disoriented and endangered. Though the take-down wasn’t pretty, she is apparently resting and under veterinary care and doing fine. Much better than had she been hit by a car. Certainly we are not accustomed to finding deer at Dundas and Bay, but on that morning we heard from many sources that the deer from both valleys that run N-S through Toronto can find themselves in the centre of the city because the roads are still pretty quiet in the wee hours, and in the fall when the deer are on the move all it takes is a little thick fog for them to wander right into the centre of things.

Anyway, my friend, Nath, who now lives in the UK picked me up at the terminal and we trotted all over town. Ezra’s Pound for coffee in the annex; Fragipane for some ginger molasses cookie treats for my boy (who recognized the bag on the counter when he came home late Tuesday night and took it upstairs for himself with a knowing grin; Curbside cycle to look at bikes for my honey for Christmas (he thinks he wants TWO new bikes — one similar to mine for commuting, and a road bike for I’m-not-sure-what) and to pick up a new front-mount basket for the blue beauty; the AGO to see the Tutankhamen exhibit (which was disappointing) and then a tromp back to the terminal to ride home on the Greyhound. Along the way, Nath and I shared many stories, good laughs, the comfort of an old, established friendship and the excitement of two folks who don’t get to see each other much.

My Wednesday wasn’t so exciting… just academic advising and other administrivia, and a tumble on my steps in the day meant that my walk to the speciality store for Montreal style bagels took about double the expected time. The bagels, however, were worth it, and it was a pleasant walk. The evening was glistening from earlier fog and rain, so the lights sparkled and reflected off pavement and windows in a cheerful way.

Yesterday was a grant reading day. OK… so that’s not so much fun. I like readng the proposals, but I hate knowing that there isn’t enough money to fund everything. That means that I end up feeling like I’m working in a triage unit. Thankfully, none of these decisions is ever taken alone, but I hate making my priority list. I find it often comes down to a question of whether $$ denied would mean a project in process would be aborted, in which case the entirely worthy and excellent proposal for new work must be denied. Arg.

Today I went out on the Blue Beauty to run some errands. There’s great buzz about a California wine (and I’ll grant that when Napa and Sonoma get it right, they REALLY get it right), and my dear spouse consumed a bottle with his brother in Toronto last night at some swanky advertising affair (yes, it’s really like Mad Men and I’m glad it’s my brother-in-law who works in it, not my spouse). So…. I went to see if I could get us some for less than the $100+ per bottle they were charging at the steakhouse in T.O. Short answer: yes. Two bottles purchased and tossed into the front basket.

Thus I found myself uptown, so I took my bike in for a little servicing. The rear lamp isn’t working. My bike repair guy could not figure out why. Anyone else had difficulty with the rear lamp on a dynamo on their Old Dutch???

While the bike was being serviced, I picked up a winter coat ON SALE — down filled, with a faux fur collar, removable hood…. $49! Woot! I also picked up some winter boot/trainers from Puma. They are like a trainer that goes 2/3 up the calf. Lined, winter-worthy, and with great grips for riding through the winter. Very pleased! And while I was out I found jeans and a knit -t-shirt for the boy. I’m so proud of the way he’s been handling himself lately…

Let me throw in some pics… and wish you all an excellent week-end.

ps: I’m hating the new image insertion feature on word-press. I really didn’t mean to have 2 copies of me reading files… I just want to get this post up and done so I can head out on the blue beauty to runa  few errands before night falls.

Twenty Below
February 24, 2009, 1:58 am
Filed under: helmets, winter riding

The temperature this morning when I left the house was -12, but with windchill we had a -20 estimate. Nonetheless, with roads that were basically clear (though the bike lanes remain decidedly obscured  by snow and ice) there was no reason to avoid cycling into work today. I have decided that for winter riding I really prefer to wear dresses and skirts. Today’s choice was a pullover cashmere sweater-dress that I just got from the last-call clearance sale at Neiman-Marcus. Even with delivery and duties and exchange rates I can’t buy a gorgeous cashmere anything, never mind a knee-length, 3-quarter sleeve dress, for under $160 each — so I bought two. The one I rode to work in today is fire-engine red — though I toned it down with my black patent Fluevogs and a black vest over the top.

Here’s the link for anyone interested in a bargain:

Anyway — why dresses or skirts? For one thing, they don’t crease while I am pedaling, but more importantly, I can pull on my merino-wool icebreaker ‘long underwear’ and keep my legs completely roasty warm (and not sweaty!) for the ride. When I arrive at work I pull off the leggings and I’m ready to go. No problem.

I concede the fashion point to warmth and continue to ride with my downhill helmet and massive goggles. I know it does kind of fly in the face of the ‘we can be fashionable’ mandate, but the helmet does not wreck my hair, keeps me completely warm and is designed to protect the brain in high-speed full on impact… so for winter riding, I’m OK with the concession. I also love wearing my goggles for winter riding. I admit that I have to turn my head a little farther around to do my shoulder-checks, but I never have to worry about slush getting in my eyes, or having my vision impaired by road glare. Plus, the goggles and helmet combine to protect about 2/3 of my face from the cold. My neck warmer pulls up to take care of the rest of the exposed face.

Plans for the Week
February 22, 2009, 7:46 pm
Filed under: around town, winter riding

It’s not going to be too nice around here this coming week, but the snow that is on the way won’t be too deep. Yesterday’s snowfall has been cleared from the streets, and the weather won’t be nearly so cold as it was in December and January when I would still ride. So my plans are to cycle to and from work every day this week (M-W-F) and to get out to my evening yoga classes by bike as well, and across town to my hair appointment. The hair appointment will actually be the high point of my week as I’ve not had mine cut since early November, and it’s looking ‘past time’.

I may have to wrap my yoga mat in something more waterproof than my cotton carrier, but I’m looking forward to getting all the things done that I want to even though my spouse will be out of town with our car for 4 days.

I’m also relieved that we are no longer housing the friend of our son; the boy had taken off from his house about 10 or 11 days ago and seemed to how up at our place most nights to sleep. His mother came to retrieve him this morning.

So, my plans are not ambitious… keep writing, continue to do my usual teaching and advising work. My great satisfactions this week will come from getting out and about on the Blue Beauty.

The promise of spring
February 8, 2009, 5:38 pm
Filed under: around town, winter riding

Today’s entry will direct your attention to the website of the Sabletine bakery in Waterloo, newly added to the links on the side of my page. I’ve been terribly excited about this bakery since its establishment was announced in the summer of ’08 and its opening that fall. I tend to measure the quality of a pastry chef by the quality of the simplest things s/he produces: croissants, baguette and a pain-au-chocolat. In this case, the owner/chef’s simplest concoctions are lovely little masterpieces. Her croissant and pains-aux-chocolats are crisp on that first outer edge, then sweet (bt not sugary) and tender through the inner layers. The quality of choolate matters too, and the chef at Sabletine uses lovely Belgian semi-sweet in the fillings.

And so it was that with the first thaw I and my dear friend M. thought first of heading to Sabletine. It’s probably about a 6k ride to the bakery from my house, and it’s an especially nice ride because I can choose to get there with a combination of side-streets, winding sloped roads, and park trails. I crossed the Laurel creek on the university campus, and went around the big lake in Waterloo Park, peddaled past the llamas who were pawing at the grass under the snow in their pens, and then wound my way through the Uptown area looking to see what everyone has in their windows… I stopped at the nice little organic grocer and replenished my dry herb collection, and then continued on my way. I like to fold a variety of little stops into my end-goal, partly because I like those encounters with the people who run and work in the shops. Having little chats along the way makes me feel more as though I live ina community of people, and works to battle that sense that contemporary life is all about getting most quickly and impersnally from A to B.

Yesterday’s riding weather was a little bit… uh… mercurial (!), and ranged from brightly sunny to quite misty, so I wore my running tights under my skirt, and my London Fog rain coat, and my cute little capthat I bought last year in Dublin. And because they are made from patent leather, I wore my Fluevog boots with the enamel heel — materials that resist the damp and clean up easily.

Sure enough! just when I was parking the Blue Beauty by the little grocery shop a woman coming out stopped to remark on my fabulous boots, and to marvel that I was wearing them while cycling…! And in the slushy weather! But, of course, with my skirt guard and chain guardbig fenders and panier, I wasn’t actually messed up. People continue to be boggled.

From left to right below: leaving from home, parked at Sabletine, the pastry case at Sabletine.