Sunday, 26 May 2013

On getting ready for Scotland

I will be leaving for Scotland in just under 2 weeks. This has brought on the usual preparations along with some less usual ones.

In particular, I did the Défi Métropolitain this year under conditions that might be described as both as physical and mental preparations for biking in the Highlands. To begin with, it was quite cold. Mummy said that her bike computer said the temperature was only 4 degrees at the start.  There was also a stiff wind out of the north which drove the rain at the cyclists with a vengeance.  It was fricking miserable. A lot of people either dropped out or simply didn't go.

But I did it. 120.02 km at an average speed of 20.1 km/h on relatively flat ground except for the Rigaud hills. At lunch time in a hockey arena, there was a photographer from Vélo-Québec who mistook the woman sitting beside me, a man sitting the table from her and myself as a group. In fact he first took the woman and myself as a couple.  Which we weren't, though the woman commented that she wouldn't have minded drafting behind me, echoing Margo's comment on the subject. ("A large nephew makes a good windbreak.")  This broke the ice and the three of us started chatting.  The man lacked adequate wet weather gear and was probably going to abandon the tour. He had run a 10k in the rain in Ottawa the day before, and had only got home at midnight, before getting up at 6 AM only to read a bunch of text messages from his actual biking group saying they weren't going!

Thankfully, the rain gradually stopped in the afternoon, as a psychological factor started to wear on me.  As the Défi Métropolitain is very popular, the organisers have taken to sending the participants in varying directions and slightly different routes depending on the distance they anticipate doing, which can be broken down for simplicity's sake into short (75 km), regular (100 km) and long (120 to 145 km).  I doing was in a "long" version on Leonardo.  While he is fairly fast, he simply isn't as fast as carbon-framed lightweights most of the long distancers were using. Consequently, I passed slower people much less than I was passed by faster people. This has the effect of making me feel like I'm slow, even though I knew that I really had nothing to be ashamed of.  I simply wasn't as fast.

One thing I can also take away from this is that my waterproof-breathable rain gear needs washing and re-proofing.

The parents also completed shorter versions of the tour, though I think I should get them proper wet weather biking gloves for Christmas.

The bath beckons.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

On the science of biking

Last week, I catalogued a book the science of cycling. It was quite interesting in a number of respects.  The first was a page that showed how fast bicycling was compared to other sports. It was quite revealing in a number of ways.  It gave the speeds and distances covered of a number of disciplines.  It had Usain Bolt's record over a 100 m of some 36 km/h, a 40 something km/h of a speed skater over 500 m, and the 56 odd kilometers covered by a cyclist on a track in one hour, i.e. 56.9 km/h for one hour.  It also listed the peak speed of 118 km/h of an enclosed bicycle. 

What intrigued me in particular was the record 56 km in an hour record as my peak speed on relatively level ground (admittedly with a very strong tail wind) is 60 km/h.  In still air, I have 40 km/h on level in sprints. I am no great athlete, yet with my bike I am able to perform at a level that comes much closer to that of high level athletes than I would be able to in, say, running. Bicycles are evidently a great force multiplier of ability. This is further reinforced when it remembered that the 56 km record was over an hour whereas the skating and running record were sprints.

The book also showed the relative efficiencies of assorted modes of transportation over a standard distance in terms of carbon emissions.  Unsurprisingly, biking and walking were the most efficient.  The book included a number of possible sources of associated carbon emissions, such as infrastructure, operating costs, and manufacturing.  Walking and biking had near identical totals. Biking had lower operating costs than walking but had a greater manufacturing cost.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

On earning my red shirt

My readers may remember that I got a red Star Trek biking jersey for Christmas. If not, here is the link to it.  I was wearing today on a preparatory jaunt out the the East end of the Island of Montreal. Coming back along Rivière des Prairies, I was called upon to by a father to help him fix a problem with his young (6ish) daughter's bike. The chain was jammed between the highest gear and the frame of the bike. As it was a low-end bike, it's wheel was bolted on, so I had to get my wrench out to free the wheel. Unfortunately, while the chain was free, there was something amiss with the derailleur causing it to refuse to change gears that I couldn't identify. I suggested that he should find a bike store to solve the root problem. Luckily, his daughter could still ride the bike for time being.

In the original Star Trek, people in red shirts were either short-lived "security" personnel or part of the engineering staff under Scotty. I like to think today "proves" that I fall under the latter category! ;-)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

On April birthdays

This post is late, but then the "Official family Birthday Party" took place in May this year.  My family is large and has a surprising percentage of people born in April. Among those is my oldest niece, Désirée who turned 5 at the beginning of April. I went out for her specific birthday about a month ago. It had been decided that she was now old enough to get a bicycle so my Mother and I picked her up at daycare and took her on her first bike buying expedition.

At least, that was the plan. Her parents arrived at the daycare slightly before us in an act of confusion. Luckily, they waited for us. Dominique, Désirée's mother, firmly instructed us not to get Désirée a pink bicycle and suggested red or mauve would be acceptable.  Dominique and Philip have strong Views on gender associated colours. Dominique has a strong affection for the red and mauve end of the spectrum.

We took her to a store in Sherbrooke owned by Laurent, a friend of the family. The store has been around for many years. Indeed, I bought the Castafiore there in 1986.  Mummy and I had reasoned that it would make the event more special for Désirée if the owner was also the salesman. Laurent was happy to oblige us. Not that there was much that needed doing, as at Désirée's age bracket, all that really needed doing was selecting a bike that was appropriately sized and didn't have gears. As Laurent was temporarily busy, I picked out one that was white with a few flowers and which lacked frilly bits. The only other option was one that was aggressively boyish. This bike fit Désirée and she rode up and down the aisle a few times. In addition, she picked out a new bike helmet, which I paid for as Mummy insisted on paying for the bike.

I had mused about biking out to North Hatley on Friday for the Saturday party. However, I didn't feel I was quite up to the challenge either physically or organisationally.  Consequently, I ended up putting Leonardo on the bus, and biking from Magog to North Hatley via the dreaded Katevale Hill.  The next day, the Parents and I biked around the Lake in a counter-clockwise direction. This involved a significant amount of down on a dirt road.  I found it a distinct waste of an otherwise interesting descent as the surface was pebbled, meaning speed had to be kept to a minimum.

Among others at the party was my wonderful and slightly crazy aunt Isabel and uncle John (and I love them dearly). They remembered my visit with them in Bromyard fondly and asked when I would be seeing them again.  Being the devious bastard that I am, I said I was hoping to visit them in June and would they mind putting me up for a night or two! ;-)   And the deed was done.! ;-)