Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Round about the middle of January, I started recording my rides in parallel on Cyclemeter and Strava. The reason was that Strava seemed to have a pretty active ecosystem, and I was particularly interested in the features offered by Veloviewer. Veloviewer offers many of the features of Strava Premium, but at minimal cost. For example, it can plot fun infographics like this:

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It can also provide a personal heat map.  Here you can easily see that my riding is dominated by my regular commute from High Park to downtown.

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In addition, there is a subculture of  veloviewer riders that collect tiles, which are squares about a mile on a side, that are a measure of how much area you have covered with your riding. It is a clever incentive to vary your riding so that you explore different areas around your home. It certainly works for me. This past weekend, I took advantage of a little more leisure time than usual to add to my tile collection. On Saturday I rode with Scarborough Cycles, and collected about six tiles in the east end of the city. They are shaded on the map below.


You can see that there are gaps in the pattern of my riding, so today I decided to take a really long detour on my way into work to fill in some of the gaps.

First up: adding a little riding on the southwest corner. Here you can see that the Humber Bay Bridge is now clear of ice, unlike last weekend.


Heading east on the MGT, I check out the ghost bike for Xavier Morgan.


Next up: checking out Trillium Park and the William Davis trail on the east side of the Ontario Place lands. One nice surprise is that the gate to the rest of Ontario Place is open, letting me get this picture of a really scenic smoking area.


On the way back to the MGT, you can see the city from a new vantage point.


Here’s a good shot of the fixed choke point on the MGT. It took several years and the cooperation of all three levels of government to get a small triangular area of pavement installed so that the sidewalk is separated from the multi use trail.


The waterfront proper had a series of art installations called Icebreakers. The easternmost installation was a giant percussion instrument.



The second was this giant gummy bear. It was covered in a lot of pink pile fabric.


The third one, Winter Fanfare, actually looked better in person than in photos.


A driftwood sign with the inevitable hashtag.


This piece was called Black Bamboo.


The final piece is a cabin made of tree roots. What was sad was the traces of clothing indicating that this was used as a makeshift homeless shelter.


Now working my way further east, I see these crazy balconies on the side of this condo; they look like diving boards.


Now that’s a pothole (Unwin Ave)


After my little ride, I see that I’ve filled in seven more tiles


and Veloviewer also tracks how many tiles I collected this weekend.

tile count

It’s a fun incentive to ride more, and to explore the city at the same time.

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When life gets a little stressful, I often find it therapeutic to set aside a little time to work on bikes. This afternoon, I took advantage of a break in the cold weather to do a little cleaning of the two bikes I have been riding this winter. I’m going to be overly optimistic in calling this a “mid winter thaw”, as it was a brutally cold couple of weeks from about Xmas up to a couple of weeks ago, and it’s not quite the end of January.

I put studded tires on the Haul a Day for the first time this winter, with a little assist from buddy Tim. You can see that it’s looking a little rough now.


The chain looks especially bad, even though a quick wipe shows that it is not as rusted as it appears.


My Norco doesn’t look nearly as bad, even though it is my regular winter ride.


In particular, you can see that the stainless chain I put on it two seasons ago is doing well.


Before I put a coat of Chain L on it,


I wipe off some of the grime.


You can see the strings of oil after application, while running the chain backwards.


and here’s a video. This stuff is tenacious.


Back to the Haul a Day. Here it is after a little clean up. I also wanted to make sure that I cleaned up the rear disc brake caliper as I’ve gone through two avid units that have seized due to corrosion due to being on the rear of long tails where they are out of sight, out of mind. The rear caliper on the HaD was replaced this summer after about two years.


The other odd thing about the HaD was that in the two weeks after I put on the studded tires, I got a flat on both the front and the rear on two separate days.


The second flat was particularly bad as I was out and about, and it was bitterly cold. The picture above was the only one that I got since my hands were freezing, and my phone was almost dead from the cold.

There was a little chatter on the internet claiming that the 406 size of Schwalbe Winter Marathons can be prone to flats due to the studs coming through the inner surface of the tire. I don’t know why I got those flats. It could have been a combination of using very wide tubes, and inflating the tires to 45 psi (which is still below what I would use with the summer tires).  Just in case, I decided to install some Mr Tuffy tire liners.

Here you can see that there is no evidence of the studs coming through the casing.


Mr. Tuffy installed.


The final touch was to replace the well worn seat cover that I got from Bike Law.


I brought over the waxed canvas seat cover from the pink bike, made by Randi Jo Fabrications. It was the last of the Tarik Saleh editions.  The seat cover is great since it has a flap that protects the underside of the seat as well. (not necessary with fenders, but a nice touch nonetheless.)


All set for the rest of winter. It’s not going to snow anymore is it?


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So we’ve been dealing with unseasonably cold weather for the past couple of weeks, just like most of North America. This has been an opportunity for me to reevaluate some of my clothing choices for bike commuting, when the nominal temps have been between -15°C and -20°C. My commute is about 9 km, meaning about 30 minutes in normal weather, and 40 minutes when it is colder.

Last week, I used ski goggles while biking for the first time ever, even though it was only about -20°C.


The googles were definitely overkill in the morning (at -20°C), but they were great the same evening, when I was biking into a bitterly cold headwind. Another plus was that they reduced the amount of fogging that I typically get when I have the balaclava covering my mouth. However, I didn’t like the tinted lenses reducing my night vision. I’ll probably only be using them when it is very cold and windy.

My more typical headgear for winter riding is this, without the goggles:


Wool balaclava.

My favourite is now the one by Trew, which is constructed so that it is easy to pull down the lower half when I don’t want my face covered. It also is made of what they call Nuyarn, which has a synthetic core covered by wool, and I think that it is holding up to washing better than my pure wool balaclavas.


They look a bit puffy right now because I am actually using them to stretch over a pair of Cat ears.


the velcro taps on the helmet are for a velcro mounted visor.

In terms of clothing, I’ve been wearing the following:


wool T shirt, then a specialized thermal jersey, and my Proviz jersey.IMG_7672


Either my Makers and Riders winter pants, or my new Swvre blue pants. I think that the M&R pants are marginally warmer, probably because they seem to block the wind better. Note that the M&R pants would be way too warm if it is -10°C or above.


thick wool socks and light winter boots on flat pedals.


Here is where it seems like my past winning combination of ski gloves and pogies just isn’t hacking it this year. Perhaps this is because the insulation in the gloves has gone downhill after about six years of use. Perhaps it is because I’m getting old.

Inspired by someone on the Toronto Cycling FB page, I broke down and got a pair of snowmobile mitts from Canadian Tire.IMG_7678 $33 after tax. Nothing fancy, but the kept my hands toasty warm for about 40 minutes of riding. At the end of my ride, the tips of my thumbs were a bit cold, but my fingers were fine. No problems braking or shifting. I could see my hands getting very sweaty in these above -10°C.

One last thing: the shock cord that holds up the kickstand on my Haul a Day is sagging in the cold, and I’ve had to effectively shorten it by moving the actor hook. This picture will only make sense to HaD owners.


Note to self: must clean up all the salt off this bike in the spring.

Now that I’m all set for the bitter cold, of course it’s going to warm up this week.

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Being a fan of domestically produced clothing, and wool as well, I recently bought a pair of Swvre pants in a “Blue Ink” colour that were put on sale. I’ve bought Swvre pants before, and their black label line is still sewn in LA.


I was hoping these would be a backup pair for the Swvre three season pants that I really like for colder weather. As a bonus, the new fabric had 25% wool content.

What was a surprise upon unwrapping them is that the fabric is quite heavy.

The weights of the long pants that I use for cycling (all 31/32 or 30/32) are in ascending order:

  • Swvre downtown pants: 374 g    (prone to shrinkage)
  • Outlier Slim Dungarees: 413 g    (my default pair of long pants; I have two pair)
  • Swvre 3 season pants: 432 g        (no longer made?)
  • Makers and Riders winter pants: 558 g (a thick Polartec fabric pant)
  • Swvre blue pants: 709 g

Accordingly, since it was -20°C this morning, it was a good opportunity to try a ride with the blue pants. They are the flash of blue in the lower right corner of this photo.


The fit is the same as the 3 season pants, which is what I was hoping for.



At the same time, the look is sleeker than the Makers and Riders winter pant.


It looks like I’ll be reserving the new pants for colder weather. I’ll update when I figure out just how warm they are.

As a side note, here is a picture of some wear on my Outlier SD’s, which have had heavy use over five years. I see that I put more weight on my right hand side bone for some reason. Still a long way from wearing through.


Update: The blue pants were washing (permanent press cycle) and then hung to dry (even though the care tag suggests tumble dry low) and there was no detectable shrinkage.

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Maker and Riders is a company is one of many companies that make clothing for cyclists that is meant to double as street wear, or more accurately, street clothes with features that might make them attractive to cyclists. As I am a prior customer of theirs, I got an email a while back advertising their “4 Season AeroDri Wool Trousers“.  Since they looked like a dressier alternative to my default long pants, Outlier Slim Dungarees (SD), I decided to buy a pair.

You can’t really get an impression of the fit of the pants from a picture, but here they are beside my SD’s. Both are waist size 31.


Taking the Outlier size chart as a comparison:

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the M&R pants measure 16″ across the top, 11″ at the upper thigh, and have a leg opening of 7.25″.  This doesn’t really capture the difference in fit. The SD’s are roomier in the thigh than indicated, partially due to the gusseted crotch, and also the fact that the material is stretchier than the wool blend. The M&R pants also have about 1″ higher rise. I find the SDs more comfortable, due to the differences in fabric and fit. To be fair, these SD’s have seen at least three years of hard wear.

A comparison of weight shows that the SDs are of heavier material (403g vs 327g). This is borne out by the fact that they are warmer than the M&Rs. I bike with the SDs down to -10°C, and I’d say that the M&Rs are good to about 0°C. The M&K’s also do a surprising good job of blocking wind.

The M&Ks are also much dressier, and turning them inside out, you can see that the pockets are generously sized and their material looks durable.

The rubber fly button is a nice touch.


I’ve also run them through the wash (hung to dry) and there was no detectable shinkage.

In summary, the M&R Aero Dri Wool pants are well constructed pair of pants with enough stretch that they are comfortable while riding. I can’t speak to the 4 season claim since I have not ridden with them in hot weather, but I’d say that they wouldn’t quite do for a Canadian winter. They have the advantage of being much less expensive than the Outlier product, due to the fact that they are sewn offshore. I’ll keep them in the rotation, and see how they do over the long term. They are more suitable for office wear than my SD’s.

Prior posts on pants linked here

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Ever since I had the chance to compare my Bike Friday Tikit to a Brompton a couple of summers ago, I’ve been thinking about getting a Brompton. Last Thursday, I finally caved, and look what followed me home from Curbside Cycles.


2017 model, nickel black edition, 6 speed. I have a very understanding wife.


And here I am riding it into work for the first time this past Monday.


My initial impressions reinforce what I experienced before:

  • the frame and stem are nice and stiff.
  • for me, the riding position is adequately stretched out horizontally.
  • I prefer the 2017 shifters to the earlier version. Ultimately, the shifting is not as nice as the Alfine 11 on my Tikit, but since my commute is flat, it seems that having the hub gear in 2nd and using the derailleur as a half step will be fine.
  • the braking is much better than the Tikit, and I don’t really see a need to convert to disc brakes in the future.
  • not in love with the left hand folding pedal, but I suppose I’ll get used to it.
  • going to have to swap out the saddle before longer rides
  • ditto for tweaking the handlebar position. Ideally I’d want a bullhorn set up like I have on my Tikit, but I don’t want it to interfere with the fold.

Oddly, since switching to riding the Brompton, most of my rides have been faster than average:


Of course an important part of having a Brompton is to shop for accessories. Since I didn’t immediately want to invest in one of their fancy bags, I was riding to work with my trusty Tom Bihn bag.


Fun fact: this bag, circa 2004, has a hidden message on the care tag inside, for which the company got into a bit of trouble.


Just for completeness, I will point out that their current bags have the following tag:


The bottom line says “Made in USA” in Chinese. The other side has the company motto.


At any rate, back to Brompton luggage. Most of their bags are designed to be mounted on a carrier block in front of the head tube, and this has the benefit that the bag does not turn with the handlebars. This is like the front basket on my Haul a Day. The bags have a rigid integral frame that quick releases on and off the bike.

Ideally I wanted a bag sewn in North America. Curbside carries the YNOT bag which was ideal since it is made locally, so that seemed to be the top choice. However, a search of the internet also turned up a very sweet bag by Swift Industries. Regrettably, they informed me that it was no longer in production.

With a little more research, I realized that the Brompton bag frame had virtually the same dimensions as my Tom Bihn ID Bag, notably a width of 40 cm, the critical dimension. Thus I was off again to Curbside to check to see if one of the frames would fit by bag.

A quick aside to admire mechanic Eli’s Brompton.


Back home with the frame laid out on the bag.


Using a good old sliver Sharpie to mark the necessary cuts


Now with the frame inserted.



Of course a real Brompton bag inserts the frame from underneath and there are special straps to hold it in place. However, the fit of the frame to my bag is quite tight and I don’t anticipate any issues. The frame also as a but of a protruding shelf that holds the bag from underneath.

Here is the bag on the bike. The design of the bag is such that the shoulder strap can tuck under the front flap.



There you go, a bag that hasn’t seen much recent use now repurposed for bike commuting. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Regrettably I see that this particular model, the ID bag, is no longer made. However, the Cadet has about the same nominal width, and the back flap construction is such that it might fit a Brompton frame as it is. If anyone is willing to try it out, let me know if it works.

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Just trying to get as many rides in before the salt descends and I have to put away the Brompton for the winter.


I found this video

Update #2:

The front bag makes the handling of the Brompton fractionally more stable. I am pleased. Also according to use Killeri on the Tom Bihn forums:

“A T-bag frame does not fit in the back pocket of Cadet. Otherwise the concept feels sound, so a smaller frame probably works fine.”



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First snow on ground 2017


A few flurries this morning. Roads are clear though.

Gear for today:

warm and toasty


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