Category Archives: bike

MTBing the Glen

My buddy O’Malley and I got up early Saturday morning, strapped our bikes onto the back of my family’s van and drove up to East Duffins Headwaters for a few solid hours of biking. This fairily well-kept secret of the GTA is a hiking and mountain biking park located in Glen Major forest. The park is owned by the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA) and, although not fitted out with large berms, beams or MTB-specific structures, it is spectacular for its single track and quite a few good hills. Not to mention the *huge* length of its trails – there are enough winds, forks, and parallel paths that you wouldn’t have seen them all in one full day of riding. Its on Sideline 4, a few kilometers north of Concession Road 9.

Here a map of the place:

Lots of multi-use, and MTB-oriented, trails.
I fooled about with my phone and set it up so that GPS was on, and tracked the expedition:

View MTBing the Glen in a larger map –> There are some more routes on the page 2 of the map

What a great park – but shhhh! Don’t let the word spread about this well-hidden treasure just outside of Toronto.  

Italy Trip: Itinerary in Brief

The planning continues, and now I’ve managed to figure out all the stops, the route and where we will camp on our journey from Florence to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. The aeroplane has been booked – leaving May 31 from Toronto Pearson, to arrive June 1 in Florence. We will be returning almost 3 weeks later, flying out on June 18th with 2 layovers (Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, D.C.) before we arrive back in Toronto.

The Itinerary in Brief:


5/31 –  18:40 departure from Toronto
6/1 – 14:00 arrival in Florence! —-> Rest-up day.
6/2 – Touring Florence, seeing the sights.
6/3 – Florence to San Gimignano: 74km
       – 8:00 departure by bike
       – ETA 17:00
       – 17:00 – 20:00; dinner + evening in town
       – 21:00; Lodging – arrival @ Camping Baschetto di Piemma
6/4 – San Gimignano to Colleoli: 53km
       – 8:00 -13:00; breakfast/tour/lunch
       – 13:00 Depart
       – ETA 19:30 Colleoli
       – Lodging: Local Agriturismo
6/5 – Colleoli to Pisa: 43km
       – 8:00 Depart
       – ETA 13:00 Pisa
       – 13:00-17:00; Visit Leaning tour + duomo, museums, and explore town + got to market for food
       – 17:00; Lodging @ Camping Torre Pendente + Dinner
6/6 – Pisa to Orciano Pisano: 43km
       – 8:00-11:00; breakfast, early morning exploring town
       – 11:30 Depart, after lunch
       – ETA 17:30 Orciano
       – Lodging @ Camping Elena Country House
6/7 –  Orciano Pisano to Castagneto Carducci: 49km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – 13:00-14:30 Stop @ Rosignano Marittimo for sights, lunch
       – ETA 18:00 Castagneto
       – Lodging @ Camping Belmare
6/8 – Castagneto Carducci to Scarlino: 57km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 17:00
       – Lodging @  Camping Baia dei Gabbiani
6/9 – Scarlino to Grossetto: 40km
       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 16:00
       – Lodging @ Agriturismo Il Querciolo
       – 16:30–21:00 Ride into town, Dinner, explore sights.
6/10 – Grossetto to Montalto di Castro: 73km

       -8:00 Depart
       – ETA 18:00
       – Lodging @ Camping Pionier Etrusco

6/11 – Montalto di Castro to Civitavecchia: 43km
       – 9:00 Depart
       – ETA 14:00 Civitavecchia
       – 15:30; FR5 Commuter ‘Ferrovie Regionale’ into Rome
       – ETA 16:00 Roma
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/12-13 – ROMA!
       – Two full days of exploration, sights, rome.
       – Lodging @ Cheap B&B near Termini Station
6/14 – Rome to Amalfi (by Train)
       – 8:00 Breakfast/ Packup
       -9:40 Train form Termini Stn. to Vietri-Amalfi
       – ETA 13:10 Amalfi
       – 13:30; Hotel check-in/drop off bikes, lunch
       – 14:30-21:00; Explore area/sights + market for groceries
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/15 – Amalfi Coast!
       – More exploration & sight-seeing
6/16 – Amalfi to Pompei (by Train)
       – 8:00-12:00; Morning in Amalfi, breakfast
       – 12:00 Hotel checkout/ pack-up + lunch
       – 13:15; Depart from Vietri-Amalfi Stn.
       – ETA 14:05 Pompei Stn.
       – Explore the scenery/countryside by bicycle until evening
       – Lodging @ Hotel
6/17 – Pompei to Napoli (by Train)
        – 7:30; Early breakfast
        – 9:00-15:00 Explore Pompeii Ruins + On-The-Go lunch
        – 16:00; Depart Pompei Stn.
        – ETA 16:30 Napoli Centrale Stn.
        – 16:50; hotel check in, lock up bikes in room
        – Dinner, Exploration & Night on the Town
6/18 – Napoli/ Last-day Packup + Flight
        – 9:00 wakeup + breakfast
        – 10:30 Head to Naples Airport
        – 13:10 Departing flight
        – ETA 23:10 Toronto Pearson

Most of the beginning of the jorney is by bicycle, is the far-less-crowded Tuscant leg of the journey. Shortly after Civitavecchia, the only direct-route roads become crowded, fast-traffic Via Regionale (Regional Highways) – not nice for cycling. Therefore, for the rest of the trip, we will be bring our bicycles on the train with us as we travel which adds ~5.00 to each train ticket), and use them for sight-seeing and local rides in town. The economic and short 30 minute and 1hr Ferrovie Regionale (Regional Train) rides will allow us to see the Bay of Naples, Pompei and the Amalfi Coast without taking a longer trip, and without risking our necks on the hillier/more crowded roadways of south-western Italy. 

Toronto International Bike Show – Spring 2012

Got up early this past Saturday morning at the behest of my pal, who reminded me that the Toronto Int’l Bike Show was on this weekend, March 2-4. It’s a place where all of the big names in cycling in Toronto (plus a few other major brands) meet to strut their stuff, and where a few bargains can be found for those so inclined – such as myself. This time it was held in the Better Living Centre of Exhibition Place, as opposed to the Fall “Blowout” show, which is much smaller, and held elsewhere at Exhibition Place.

Here are some shots of the show:

From Entrance

Trek Bike store’s display

And of course, there are a buncha bikes to drool over. Lots of carbon, whether road or MTB. The bike show seems to cater to “what’s new”, of course, so there were tons of fancy lightweight components on the road bikes, and 29er bikes galore!

Enough carbon here to solve China’s energy problems…
…with more carbon!

Argon’s display
All-carbon rigid 29er. Nice!
Surly Pugsley Alert! Now available with BionX power assist:
Talking with the fellow from the BionX stand there, the BionX/Pugsley combo is his personal set-up, and rocks with about a ~100km range, with a top speed of ~40kmph. Would love to do that offroad!

The white hub is the BionX’s hub motor. You too can own
one for $1200 CAD
The huuuge tires still amaze me!

Lots of more typically-equipped bikes on sale as well; commuters, MTBs, and tourers and especially aluminum road bikes were abundant….

 Even managed to score some deals:

Regularly $25ea!

Booty!
– 2 Knog “Ringmaster” cable locks
– 2 sets of KMC x.8 chains
– 1 Alivio 9-Speed Alum. body Derailleur
Bought for $20, regular price of $50, and MSRP of $35;
it should be a significant upgrade to current system.

My friend bought the tires, a new 26in wheelset, a new derailleur also, and an SRAM 7 speed cassette, for a total of $126.75. My total was about half that, all told, including the $13 admission price.  

New 29er Monstercross from Surly

Quite a few years ago, Surly introduced the then-revolutionary Karate Monkey frameset (they claim it was one of the first commercially-produced 29er frames). Now, Surly has taken the concept behind their utility bike, the Troll, and bumped it up from 26in wheels to 29in:

The new Surly Ogre.  Credit: Surly Bikes
Surly says that their new frame has geometry similar to the Karate Monkey (which, by following their numbers, it does), but with all the function of the Troll. What does this mean? Well, it has:
– Front and rear Canti/Linear brake mounts
– Disk brake tabs
– Double dropout eyelets, both front and back (so you can mount fenders and racks all round!)
– Specifically design for fender clearance (yay!)
– Fits up to 29 x 2.5″ tires, more that one should ever reasonably need
– Full-housing cable mounts 
– Surly-compatible trailer mount
The bike seems well-equipped to be an all-rounder, off-road (or road) tourer, or nice singletrack companion. 
The only quibble I have with this frame is that there is no down tube cable stop, or place to bolt one on (as in the Origin 8 CX700). Be prepared to have to DIY a cable stop if you want to use drop bars. I like the offset seat tube, which will definitely aid in fender-izing your bike. 
So far, the bike frames aren’t yet in stock or in stores, so there isn’t much to go buy in terms of user reviews. Twentynineinches.com reports that the Ogre frame+fork combo will likely be offered at a sub $500 price, similar to the Karate Monkey ($475 MSRP). However, don’t forget the price on novelty! I suspect that the price will be slightly higher than the Karate Monkey, due to this model filling in a niche market (with the Salsa Fargo, Orgin8 CX700, Singular Peregrine and little else competing with it). 

"Tandem"

Lets get to the picture first:

I’m on the left; O’Malley is on the right. Pay no attention to
the photo-bomber in the back. 
Explanation: With the parts removed from my old blue GT Vantara frame, it was simply sitting around, and with a rusted chain stay that proved troublesomely flexible on the Peugeot UE-8 frame of my friend  (the “$33 Touring Bike” ), we thus decided to swap all of his parts over the Vantara. 
I am lending the GT frame to my pal (under the condition that he guard it well), and so was stuck with figuring out how the get the Peugeot frame home with him riding on the other bike frame. Quite quickly, this freak was born. First, the front wheel was removed from the Peugeot, and the rear chainstays (which, remember, were too flexible) were bent to fit the front hub. The front wheel was slipped onto the back of the frame, and the fork was zip-tied through its eyelets to the other bike’s rack. A bungee cord was added for good measure. 
It worked; he got home safe and sound, with both frames. 
The Vantara, interestingly enough, is able to use old 27″ wheelsets, even though it has cantilever brakes and is designed for 700c. By adding a a thick washer to both sides of the rear hub, we were even able to adapt it from 126mm to fit the Vantara’s 130mm rear spacing. Worked like a charm. Too bad the same couldn’t be said about the Peugeot’s front wheel – the “French Standard” 90mm front hubs from back in the day never work with any new frames (which are 100mm). The bolts and quick release are always too short, nor would I really want to add washers if I could, and possibly jeopardize the front’s handling. 
Technically, it is still a $33 dollar touring rig, with a loaned ~$70 frame (the front wheel is lent also!). But don’t  let that fool you! Decent, non-rusty, frames can be had all around for free, and just a few will give you all the parts you need to build a cheap touring-ready steed. For any Torontonians out there, I recommend “Bike Pirates“, and even better still is the “Community Bicycle Network“. These guys sell quite a few complete old bicycles for cheap, and have used parts from derailleurs to BBs to handlebars for only a few dollars each, so you too can build up an entry-level rig.  
 
   

Screw It; I’m Making Studded Tires

As the title of this post implies, I’ve gone and gotten myself a pair of studded tyres on the cheap – by fabricating them. Those old Chen Shins I had on the bike’s rims came off without a single stud, but went back on with a ice-grippin’ 104 studs per tyre. Total cost: $12.78 for 250 1/2 in. 8-size screws, compared to $100 + tax for the cheapest pair I could find elsewhere (including the interweb).  My time is valueless, so I won’t put a dollar value on the 2 1/2 hours I spent on the endeavor.  

Drilling, and a lot of screwing-in 

On the road, they are really grippy on ice – like being glued to it, even while riding on an outdoor skating rink! But, since the tread pattern isn’t that deep, it still has trouble in the slush or packed snow. On fresh snow, however, it performs quite superbly! One really can notice the clickity-clickity-clickity of the screws on the pavement, and feel the drag also.

Tyre #1, finished – look at that! 1/4 in of spike showing!

Here’s how I done it:
1. Pulled off the tyres
2. Flipped tires inside-out
3. Drilled holes, from outside in, into the knobs I wanted studs in.
4. Spent a whole lotta time screwing screws into these holes, inside to out.
5. Turned tyres back to right-side-in
6. Got duct tape, and covered all the screw heads with multiple layers of tape to prevent puncture
7. Re-install and re-inflate. Be careful – it’s like wrestling with a rosebush!

Mounted and ready to roll!

I plan to get at lest 100km on the tyres this winter, if for nothing else but to measure the longevity of the screws.

Warm Breakfast … Cold Adventures

Happy New Years everyone! A bit late, yes, but better late than never. Now school is getting busy – exams come in a month, and many final project on the way. But, before all this business started, I managed a few more ice-capades during the last bit of the holidays.  Woke up, and made the best darn breakfast you could hope for – eggs a la over-easy, a few strips of my special cheese-filled pork strips, and an improvised hash-brown-like-thing (involving a few fried onions, potatoes, carrots, and a mushroom or two for good measure). Mmm.

It tasted much better than it looks

I needed a good load of carbs for the day, if I was to be out, so I complemented the protein from the eggs, cheese and meat with a few slices of toast. Can’t be the smell of toast and fried eggs in the morning. Met up with my pal and we biked out to the lake, finding a bay partly frozen. Knowing it wasn’t (too) deep, we ventured out on the ice-floes to see what it was like. Not deep enough to make it over the head, but one could be very uncomfortably wet until they get back home.

On the ice. 
Chris, steadying himself for the jump

Then came ice-bowling.

It’s actually more like curling. With the object being…
…just to even knock the other person’s rocks.
Sunset/ Stormy

The Guild Inn is full of interesting sights… it is essentially an abandoned place, and good for some UEing. But I wouldn’t enter the actual hotel part (well, what’s left) as they supposedly have a silent alarm to alert the police.

The abandoned green house.
My snow-covered steed. O’Malley
prefers an MTB.

We next went cycling a bit west to explore the lake front near Rosetta McClain Gardens. My camera’s battery died, but I would have loved to take a picture of the homeless camp down there. Why? Exactly. Why is there a homeless campout here of all places? I wouldn’t have expected. Well, it looked like it may have been abandoned, but we didn’t want to disturb if it wasn’t.

This ride more than confirmed the unsuitability of the waterfront trail. Kingston road took 15 minutes on the uphill return, but the waterfront trail path took 45 minutes on the downhill to get to Rosetta McClain gardens. However, I was almost sideswiped by a truck on K-town Rd…. frightening, when you have to deal with ice already.

Bulldozers and the Bluffs

Last post involved the path down at the base of the bluffs, and how it would make a great bike path (read the dedicated “Commuting, a Trail Proposal” page). However, construction efforts have been stupendously slow. Almost no actually progress has been made since two summers ago; dump trucks are only piling up the fill at the one end of the path.

The red circle is where the current construction is ongoing. 

Upon closer inspection of the site, a bulldozer and an excavator can be seen – these have served only to force the dumped loads into mounds. In the future (who knows how long), the rubble will be pushed into the water to construct the remaining section between Gates Gully and this path situated below the Guild Inn.

The red line indicates the path being built now – about 240 meters. This is less than 1/17 of the amount of the path needed to be newly constructed (including breakwater trails), and has taken a full year to get only the building materials collected. It’ll be another 20 years to get the thing finished! Oh, well. With some motivation, we may just be able to get city council to push the project up on their “To Do” list.

It may be interesting for you to know that the heavy equipment they use is not kept under lock-and-key at all; it is simply abandoned at the end of a working day:

The unlocked bulldozer
Is it considered “breaking in” when there was
no breaking involved?
My buddy, for relative size
Operating the control levers, but with
no great success.

Note the metal paneling over the windows and door: it
may be easily removed with only a wrench.

The ‘dozer was left completely accessible, minus the operating keys, but it still had enough hydraulic pressure to lift and lower the bucket, twice! While I don’t recommend it, one only needs a wrench, and they can get in and fully operate the excavator – the workers leave the keys inside, but slide on metal coverings over the door, and keep them in place with only a few bolts!

They are still around the end of the path, for anybody interested, as of Dec. 27th, and don’t look as if they are moving anytime soon. Just watch for the workers between 10 AM and 6 PM once the holidays are over. Cheers.