Wednesday, 28 September 2011

On a new word I just invented by accident

In the last two days, I misspelled the word "aristocrat" or its derivatives several times as "artistocrat". The last time I so misspelled the word, I had the idea that I should coin the word. "Artistocrat" would mean upper-class and wannabes in the art world, either aristocratic or pretentious artists or artistic or artistically pretentious aristocrats. Actually you could throw in artistic prima donnas, their sycophants and the rest of the demi-monde as well. Please use the word.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

On chuckles, trials and tribulations

A little over a week ago, I was in my gym in the midst of doing some bends when I realized that my ride in the Eastern Township's Challenge that I had completed the week before, covered nearly exactly the same roads as had been ridden by an old friend of Margo's back in July.

She had contacted Margo looking for ideas for a three day bike tour in the Eastern Townships. Margo then passed on the request to my mother and me. We provided her with a suggested itinerary and as well a place to stay for a night (my mother very kindly offered Margo's friend the use of her house despite the fact my mother was in Newfoundland). Margo's old friend took up our advice and my mother's hospitality and seems to have had a great time.

The route was Stanstead-Compton-North Hatley-Magog-Stanstead. Shift that one notch and you get nearly the same as the longest version of the Eastern Township's Challenge, i.e. what I did. Only, I had done it in one day, whereas she had done it in three!

This thought gave me the giggles to the extent that I had to stop my exercise for a bit.

It is not a fair comparison as I was in "go fast mode" on a lightly-laden bike whereas Margo's friend was out for a sight-seeing tour with clobber for three days. As well, her route was probably a bit longer and took in some less well-surfaced roads. Also, there is the age factor as she is about Margo's vintage.

One morning last week, I was getting my bike ready to go to work when one of my neighbours commented that "Y'a pas personne plus en forme que toi!" ("There isn't anyone more in shape than you.") I demurred out of modesty and the fact that I have body image issues. However, I later reflected that given my performance at the Township's Challenge I should think of myself as being in very good shape.

Trials and tribulations
On the same Saturday as the chuckle event, I took Leonardo in for a tune-up and wash prior to going to Australia. The guy at the bike shop embarrassed me by pointing out one of the bolts on the rear rack was missing, and that others were loose.

In addition to pointing out a few things I wished them to look at, I also asked them if they would sell me a spare derailleur hanger. As the bike shop isn't a Devinci dealership, the guy suggested I try Le Yeti (another bike store and one which I patronise from time to time) instead as they would likely have the piece in stock. I did so, but as Leonardo was being tuned up, I was riding die Fledermoose. Unfortunately, it seems you have the exact bike on hand to figure out which hanger to use, even though I knew I had a 2006 Devinci Destination. I wasn't overly impressed.

The following day, I took my iPhone to a Bell Boutique hoping to get it unlocked by them so I would be able to get a temporary phone number in Australia. The people at the store told me that Bell didn't offer unlocking services, but directed me to another store nearby. This was something of a storefront operation. The guy made a comment I didn't understand about the iOS of my iPhone being too up to date. What I did get was that it would be more expensive than if it had an older version of the operating system. In any case, I left the phone with him overnight.

After work on Monday, I picked up Leonardo at the bike shop. The tune-up had just been finished. The person I dealt with had been doing the work. He observed that threads on my derailleur hanger were a bit damaged and suggested that it should be replaced. As I had already noticed this the last time I had reassembled Leonardo and was already going through the motions of getting a new hanger, I think I was very well prepared for his observation. I did, however, verify with him the the proper procedure for replacing a derailleur hanger. ("Remove the rear wheel, unbolt the derailleur, unbolt the old hanger, bolt in the new hanger, bolt on the derailleur and replace the wheel.")

After bringing Leonardo back home, I set off to get my iPhone. The person I had dealt with the day before wasn't there, so it took a surprising amount of fiddling around by the shop people to find my iPhone. Not very impressive. A quick examination of the device showed that it had been wiped. "No big deal," I thought, "I can restore it by plugging it into iTunes." This was definitely not the case. Three hours later, at least five attempts at restoration and a lot of sweat and anxiety later, my iPhone wasn't working at all. I phoned Apple to see if there was anything they could do about it. After taking my particulars, I was instructed to take it to make a Genius Bar appointment at my local Apple Store. Fortunately, you can do that on a Windows computer, and I made an appointment for after work the next day. However, as I was of two minds as to the legality of what I had asked to do, I was rather scared that I might have turned my iPhone into an expensive paperweight. I called James to vent. As usual, he was able to calm me down and I admitted to him that this was possibly a good time for something bad to happen as I have a comfortable amount of money in my bank account.

Riding to work the next morning, I was crossing Sherbrooke Street when I heard and felt an alarming clunking from die Fleddermoose. A quick check revealed that the back tire had been pierced by a screw. This happened at the same spot where this had happened to me last year! To add further insult, the tire so pierced was the Schwalbe Marathon that I had bought to replace the tire damaged in the previous incident!

Already upset by the iPhone situation, I was very agitated. I attempted to get a taxi. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go home or to work. I eventually decided to replace the inner tube and ride carefully to work. I had phoned my superior at work to let her know that I would be late. Actually, I had phoned my superiors as the first time I called, I dialled my old superior by mistake.

At lunch time, I wrote up a problem history for my iPhone and tried to make it clear that I had done what I did in good faith. I printed out a copy and took it with me to the Apple Store. It may sound nerdy, but I knew I was under stress and that I communicate better by writing than by speech. Also, the Apple Store is fairly loud. In any case, the guy at the Genius Bar at the Apple store read my document. He then took a quick look at my iPhone and then my file at Apple. Luckily, I had gone for an extended warranty and he interpreted my actions being in good faith. He therefore simply replaced my iPhone, free of charge.

My relief was very substantial. I had (and have) a lot of warm fuzzy feelings towards Apple. In fact, I decided then and there to get an official Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The latter has the various bit you will need to plug your iPhone into the wall in most countries. I had been debating between various recharge options.

The session at the Apple Store was over quickly enough that I was able to get to a major bike store just in time to buy a 700x28C Continental TouringPlus tire before the store closed. I am very sympathetic to store employees not being happy by customers coming in at the last minute. On the other hand, I was there to quickly buy something very specific and not entirely inexpensive.

In case, you didn't guess, this last purchase to was to replace the tire that had been pierced in the morning. A case could be made that I might have been premature in replace the Schwalbe, but as the screw had pierced the tire substantially (I'd had trouble removing it), I felt there was no percentage in keeping the tire. The structure of the tire had probably been compromised to the point were it was an accident waiting to happen.

On Friday evening, I went up The Main on Leonardo, first to Schwartz's and then to Le Yeti for not one but two derailleur hangers. Earlier today, I replaced the existing hanger and then gave Leonardo's wheels and mud deflector a scrub.

I spent part of this afternoon re-entering phone numbers into my iPhone. This has resulted in at least one person getting a blank e-mail from me. If you got one, please accept my apologies.

It hasn't been an easy week.

When we were in Newfoundland, Margo commented that the saddle on Leonardo was looking a little rough around the edges. I had been thinking the same thing. As well, I had found the saddle wasn't as comfortable on the first few days as I should have. The root of that problem is that the saddle on die Fledermoose isn't the same type as the one on Leonardo. At one point, they had been the same, but time and weather meant that I had to change die Fledermoose's saddle to another similar but not identical saddle. All this to say that if I get a new saddle for Leonardo, I have to get one for die Fledermoose. In fact, I have chosen and bought new saddles.

However, I don't want to go through the saddle breaking-in process for both bikes right now. My trip to Australia is three weeks away and I am simply not going to get enough riding on Leonardo in. Instead, as Leonardo's old saddle now has a finite life expectancy, I have put it onto die Fledermoose in order to get my bum into the proper shape.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

On a potential hitch in my plans

It seems that Air Canada flight attendants have voted to go on strike starting September 21st. As I plan to be leaving for Australia on October 15th and that I am a union representative at work, I hope that Air Canada manages to reach a deal with the flight attendants to avert a strike.

If that fails, I really pray that Parliament will order the flight attendants back to work before October 15! This probably makes me a hypocrite, but late October, early November is a lousy time for a stay-cation in Montreal.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

On Continental TravelContacts, rolling in the Townships

I did the Eastern Townships' Challenge bike tour today. As I wrote earlier, the route this year was on very familiar roads. Most notably, it went through North Hatley, my home town. Having lived in Montreal for a baker's dozen of years, there were some changes to some familiar sights, but also a lot of nostalgia. One relative downside was that I was frequently tempted to take some of the shortcuts that I knew of. The only temptations I gave into were those to use a pair of bike paths on the rail bed of the Massawippi Valley Railroad: first from Beebe to Ayer's Cliff and then from Capelton to North Hatley. The former shortened my distance a bit and let me avoid the 143 between Stanstead and Burrough's Falls. Both of them let me avoid a number of relatively unnecessary hills. As my total distance was 152.38 km, I think I was justified. The theoretical distance was approximately 154 km.
I did this on my relatively fat 700x37C Continental TravelContact tires. I didn't really need such heavy duty tires, but today was my main chance to try them out before Australia. I went like a bomb on them. At lunch time on this cool but sunny and nearly windless day, I had an average speed of over 25 km/h! Going down the legendary Katevale hill, I hit 74.8 km/h! That is my highest biking speed ever! I am now totally sold on the TravelContacts!

Admittedly, there may be a math factor involved as the tires may have an actual circumference less than their theoretical circumference. This is important as the circumference is fed into my bike computer so it can figure out how fast I am going and how far I have been. This also calls into question a previous statement of mine that wider tires are typically slower. I will need to figure this one out.

Of course, it wasn't all cruising and claret, so to speak. My bum was sore at lunch, and remained so until I lowered my seat slightly. The after-lunch portion was a bit of drag. I had to remind myself to pace myself rather than let myself give into the urge to push myself too hard in order to get over the frustration of not going faster, especially as I knew that I would be facing the long and steep hills out of North Hatley on the way to Katevale. There are two hills. The first goes by the old family summer house and ends with a decent downhill that is utterly ruined by the fact that the pavement is poor and it ends in a rough wooden bridge just before a longer and steeper climb. The surface means you can't convert much of the kinetic energy you gained going down into potential energy, i.e. altitude on the other side. As I was aware of these long climbs, I stopped in North Hatley to attach my iPhone to my handlebars and play Midnight Oil on it to give me a boost. Just after I got into Magog, I began to feel some pain in the big toe on my left foot. After a while, I changed my socks from lightweight biking socks to heavier wool ones. This seemed to help somewhat.
My parents also participated in the Challenge. My mother did the basic route which was theoretically about 110 km, and she came out with a total distance of about 111 km. My father “wimped out” ( ;-) ) in North Hatley with a distance of 78.52, thus avoiding the 35 odd km to Orford and the associated hills as North Hatley is distinctly lower than the Mount Orford ski center. (Of course, he then mowed the lawn which is something I would ride 35 km to avoid doing!) My mother finished before me, and I was very glad she was there as I could let her do the driving back to North Hatley, right away as I was somewhat exhausted. I could have driven home, but only if I had waited about a quarter hour.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

On the number of bike tires in my flat

The number is 10, though only 8 if you ignore the ones currently on Leonardo. The latter are 700x37C Continental TravelContacts that I installed this morning. I had ordered them from a local bike store back in July and they only arrived on Wednesday. I am hoping they will proved useful in Australia. In the meantime, I have put them on to break them in and to get a better idea of their characteristics. This has meant that I had to take off the close fenders and put on simpler deflectors.

Of the others, 2 are the knobby 700x35C Kenda Kommandos that came with Floria. 2 are the 700x28C Kenda Kwick Rollers that Leonardo came with. 1 is the 700x28C Kenda Kwest that I bought in at the Canadian Tire in Gander. I don't have a high regard for Kenda tires. There is also the 700x32C Continental Touring Plus that I ordered from the MEC while in Newfoundland, but which failed to catch up with me on the Rock. This was briefly on Leonardo before the TravelContacts arrived. Its "mate" is a 700x32C Schwalbe Marathon Plus from before Schwalbe's quality control went South. (These last two are Leonardo's "pavement" tires.)

The final one I am uncertain as to its exact nomemclature. It is a 700x28 tire produced by Specialized as part of its Armadillo line. The exact variety is unknown as the identifying label has faded over the years. It first saw service on the Castafiore before doing yeoman duty on Floria. However, it was getting very old so I replaced it a few weeks ago on the advice of my local bike shop. It was replaced by a 700x28C Continental Touring Plus, from the MEC in Montreal. I should have added it to the recycling pick up.

The five assorted Kenda tires have seen relatively little use but on the other hand, I don't see a real use for them. Well, apart from using the "Kommandos" if I were to know I would be riding in a mucky environment. Of course, if someone wanted them, they could have them gratis.

On the other hand, Leonardo's "pavement" tires are simply waiting for their call to arms. What that would be, I don't currently know. Next year is a long way away.

The fact remains, that having 8 bike tires not currently fitted to a bike in one's flat is at least one too many!