Bicycle

May. 9th, 2010 02:26 am
osmie: (Default)
I learned to ride my bicycle at about age six. I rode around my neighbourhood, a few blocks either side of my house, and learned quickly that I wasn't very good at it. Going uphill, I lasted about half a block before getting exhausted -- and going downhill, I lasted about half a block before panicking. Mostly I filed it as another one of those things other people can do.

My parents gave me a new, adult-sized, ten-speed bicycle for my fifteenth birthday, and that fall I even cycled to school a few times. I learned that handlebars were cold, and that the wind and rain were much worse at high velocity. It never occurred to me to wear gloves, or bundle up in a scarf; I blamed the bike.

I kept my bike in storage, buried under a pile of other bicycles in one corner of our garage. Everybody in my family owned one, but none of us ever rode anywhere. One spring during university, I exhumed it, dusted it off, and cycled to university, hoping to mitigate that ten-minute run from the MacMillan building to Buchanan D-wing. Every day I arrived late and exhausted, grateful that I had a quicker way of getting across campus, but dismayed that my bike made it impossible to walk with friends. And there was never anywhere to lock it up! When I left for grad school in Edmonton, I thought about cold handlebars and lonely walks between classes, and left my bicycle at home.

By the end of the millennium, I hadn't ridden in almost a decade. I no longer owned my old bike: one day in 1998 I'd thrown it in the back of The Armadillo, driven it out to UBC and donated it to the new AMS Bike Co-op. Then in the summer of 2000, my friend Jenni lent me her shiny new red bike, and I decided to give cycling another shot.

It was 13.5km from my house in Marpole to my office at UBC, with a 70m elevation gain; it took me an hour either way, and…I…I actually enjoyed it. I rode to work most of that summer, and spent most of the trip dreaming up an analogue shifting system, which would involve a belt wrapped around an inflatable ball of unobtainium. The ball would naturally tend to shrink, which would decrease the gear ratio and make pedaling easier; turning the bike wheels would divert a small amount of energy to keeping the ball inflated, increasing the gear ratio (and speed) and effectively shifting up. With the gear shifter, one would set one's desired pedal tension; greater pressure on the pedals would deflate the ball slightly faster, effectively shifting down. The net effect would be a constant -- and adjustable -- pedal tension, for a smooth ride regardless of one's speed or terrain.

I never built my design. I honestly hadn't the slightest idea how. I could have phoned one of my engineer friends, but the unobtainium seemed like a bit of a dealbreaker, and so I talked myself out of it.

Cycling to work didn't last. But for the first time, I knew that I could travel across the city by bike -- and when the bus strike hit in 2001, I bought a used bike of my own.

I never looked back. It's been nine years since then, and cycling has been my principal mode of transportation for almost all of that time. Yes, I took a few months off in 2005 to read War and Peace on the bus, and then Moby-Dick, and Don Quixote, and any other Really Large Novels I could lay my hands on. (Leo Tolstoy is the enemy of cycling.) But I've always come back. It's just 8.5km to work now; it takes me half an hour out and 40 minutes back. Even after a minor collision with a car this spring (I'm okay; I'm very lucky; I tore just one muscle), it's one of the high points of my day.

But I've never used my bicycle -- never yet -- to travel outside the city. I've ridden to North Vancouver and Burnaby plenty of times, and even Coquitlam once, but never cycled across the Fraser, Pitt or Capilano Rivers.

This summer, I plan to vacation with my bicycle.

I'll need to start by practising some longer distances. Today I celebrated the amazingness of the day by cycling 35km to work, getting lost in south Burnaby and winding up in Coquitlam instead of New Westminster. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll cycle a similar distance a few times again -- maybe finding New Westminster next time, or perhaps looping over the Second Narrows Bridge to get to downtown. Then it will be time to set out into the wide world.

On Victoria Day weekend, I'd like to celebrate by cycling to Victoria. I'll solicit crash space for a night or two, ride the Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke, and then cycle home again.

Either June 6th or 13th, I'd like to make a day trip to Squamish. I'll cycle out in the morning, spend a few afternoon hours exploring the town, and then cycle back before nightfall. I expect this trip will take me about 5 or 6 hours of cycling each way.

On the Fourth of July, it makes sense to ride south. Bellingham's about the same distance as Squamish -- I can make another day trip.

Finally, by the middle of August, I should be ready for a longer vacation. And so, on a date to be determined, I will book two or three weeks of vacation, pack my panniers, and vanish into the east. Day 1 will get me as far as Hope, and Day 2 to the start of the Kettle Valley bike path in Merritt. By the end of the week I'd like to visit Kelowna, and maybe even Nelson. There's even a chance I could get as far as Edmonton -- but then I'd probably have to load my bike on a Greyhound to get home.

That's my plan. I'll spend other Sundays hiking on the North Shore, because this is also the year I'd like to walk the Baden-Powell Trail, return to Lynn Peak, and learn the Grouse Grind. And I would love company. If you've been reading this far, and you'd like to come with me on any of these expeditions, by bike or by hike, please let me know! Let's make plans to take a trip together.

Bicycle

May. 9th, 2010 02:26 am
osmie: (Default)
I learned to ride my bicycle at about age six. I rode around my neighbourhood, a few blocks either side of my house, and learned quickly that I wasn't very good at it. Going uphill, I lasted about half a block before getting exhausted -- and going downhill, I lasted about half a block before panicking. Mostly I filed it as another one of those things other people can do.

My parents gave me a new, adult-sized, ten-speed bicycle for my fifteenth birthday, and that fall I even cycled to school a few times. I learned that handlebars were cold, and that the wind and rain were much worse at high velocity. It never occurred to me to wear gloves, or bundle up in a scarf; I blamed the bike.

I kept my bike in storage, buried under a pile of other bicycles in one corner of our garage. Everybody in my family owned one, but none of us ever rode anywhere. One spring during university, I exhumed it, dusted it off, and cycled to university, hoping to mitigate that ten-minute run from the MacMillan building to Buchanan D-wing. Every day I arrived late and exhausted, grateful that I had a quicker way of getting across campus, but dismayed that my bike made it impossible to walk with friends. And there was never anywhere to lock it up! When I left for grad school in Edmonton, I thought about cold handlebars and lonely walks between classes, and left my bicycle at home.

By the end of the millennium, I hadn't ridden in almost a decade. I no longer owned my old bike: one day in 1998 I'd thrown it in the back of The Armadillo, driven it out to UBC and donated it to the new AMS Bike Co-op. Then in the summer of 2000, my friend Jenni lent me her shiny new red bike, and I decided to give cycling another shot.

It was 13.5km from my house in Marpole to my office at UBC, with a 70m elevation gain; it took me an hour either way, and…I…I actually enjoyed it. I rode to work most of that summer, and spent most of the trip dreaming up an analogue shifting system, which would involve a belt wrapped around an inflatable ball of unobtainium. The ball would naturally tend to shrink, which would decrease the gear ratio and make pedaling easier; turning the bike wheels would divert a small amount of energy to keeping the ball inflated, increasing the gear ratio (and speed) and effectively shifting up. With the gear shifter, one would set one's desired pedal tension; greater pressure on the pedals would deflate the ball slightly faster, effectively shifting down. The net effect would be a constant -- and adjustable -- pedal tension, for a smooth ride regardless of one's speed or terrain.

I never built my design. I honestly hadn't the slightest idea how. I could have phoned one of my engineer friends, but the unobtainium seemed like a bit of a dealbreaker, and so I talked myself out of it.

Cycling to work didn't last. But for the first time, I knew that I could travel across the city by bike -- and when the bus strike hit in 2001, I bought a used bike of my own.

I never looked back. It's been nine years since then, and cycling has been my principal mode of transportation for almost all of that time. Yes, I took a few months off in 2005 to read War and Peace on the bus, and then Moby-Dick, and Don Quixote, and any other Really Large Novels I could lay my hands on. (Leo Tolstoy is the enemy of cycling.) But I've always come back. It's just 8.5km to work now; it takes me half an hour out and 40 minutes back. Even after a minor collision with a car this spring (I'm okay; I'm very lucky; I tore just one muscle), it's one of the high points of my day.

But I've never used my bicycle -- never yet -- to travel outside the city. I've ridden to North Vancouver and Burnaby plenty of times, and even Coquitlam once, but never cycled across the Fraser, Pitt or Capilano Rivers.

This summer, I plan to vacation with my bicycle.

I'll need to start by practising some longer distances. Today I celebrated the amazingness of the day by cycling 35km to work, getting lost in south Burnaby and winding up in Coquitlam instead of New Westminster. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll cycle a similar distance a few times again -- maybe finding New Westminster next time, or perhaps looping over the Second Narrows Bridge to get to downtown. Then it will be time to set out into the wide world.

On Victoria Day weekend, I'd like to celebrate by cycling to Victoria. I'll solicit crash space for a night or two, ride the Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke, and then cycle home again.

Either June 6th or 13th, I'd like to make a day trip to Squamish. I'll cycle out in the morning, spend a few afternoon hours exploring the town, and then cycle back before nightfall. I expect this trip will take me about 5 or 6 hours of cycling each way.

On the Fourth of July, it makes sense to ride south. Bellingham's about the same distance as Squamish -- I can make another day trip.

Finally, by the middle of August, I should be ready for a longer vacation. And so, on a date to be determined, I will book two or three weeks of vacation, pack my panniers, and vanish into the east. Day 1 will get me as far as Hope, and Day 2 to the start of the Kettle Valley bike path in Merritt. By the end of the week I'd like to visit Kelowna, and maybe even Nelson. There's even a chance I could get as far as Edmonton -- but then I'd probably have to load my bike on a Greyhound to get home.

That's my plan. I'll spend other Sundays hiking on the North Shore, because this is also the year I'd like to walk the Baden-Powell Trail, return to Lynn Peak, and learn the Grouse Grind. And I would love company. If you've been reading this far, and you'd like to come with me on any of these expeditions, by bike or by hike, please let me know! Let's make plans to take a trip together.

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