Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I am truly blessed to have these two fine fellows as friends. Tim Potter (left) is the director of the MSU bike project, long time bike advocate, and webmaster for the Ride of Silence. http://www.rideofsilence.org/main.php His brother Jeff is also a life long cyclist and blogger at http://www.outyourbackdoor.com/DSC00441

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Cycle Hamilton  is a relatively new cycling advocacy group. They were running a Cycle Advocacy Week, and I figured that a ride they ran today would be the perfect opportunity to check out some of the bike infrastructure  and to get a bit of a feel about what was going on in my hometown. Given that it’s been 40 years since I’ve actually lived there, I knew that a lot had changed.

We gathered at City Hall. Kudos to them; this is the first bike related event that I’ve ever been to where more people showed up than were “going” on Facebook. There was a mix, everyone from a bike dad with son to a bunch of roadies in Lycra.


Johanna (co-founder of Cycle Hamilton) gives us the scoop on the ride before we start. She says that today’s ride focuses on the fact that a popular route up the escarpment, Sydenham Rd, is due for some infrastructure improvements, but that bike lanes are not included in the plan, even though this route is on the Cycling Master Plan.


And off we go. Look, a bidirectional bike lane!


Parking buffered bike lane on Charlton.


Note the wayfinding signs.


Entering a section of trail that goes along the northern border of Chedoke golf course.


Stop to regroup.


Here we go.


The lead group.


The rail trail.  Very nice and wide.



Threading through the Mac campus.


and down towards Dundas along Cootes Dr.




Pulling up to the Shed Brewery.


A brief stop to figure out who was going to brave the hill. It turns out that pretty much everyone was going to do it.


Here we go.


Not steep yet.


OK, time for the granny gear.


People arriving.


Proof that I made it. Thanks to Mark for taking the photo.


The historical marker talks about how this is called Clara’s Climb, after Clara Hughes.


These folks rode Sobi bikeshare bikes.


Group shot.


That’s Dave, chair of Cycle Hamilton, in the centre.


The ride down was quick, and then it was time for beer. The Shawn & Ed Brewing company was kind enough to let us bring bikes in. I hauled a heavy lock up that hill for nothing!


A good turnout. I was told that the building used to be a firehall, and then a curling rink, and now a beautifully retrofitted brewery.


It was great to talk to these guys about what was going on bike wise in Hamilton. We argued over who had the more dysfunctional city council. Of course, I could always pull out the Rob Ford card. Their main issue with the bike lanes is that they don’t form a continuous network. Sounds familiar.


The fellow on the right Mark Chamberlain, runs a ride called Bike for Mike that raises funds to provide underprivileged youth with bikes. They have a multi pronged approach to getting young people on bikes, including having them earn their bikes by pledging to bike to school, etc. They are taking the long view on encouraging the next generation of bike riders and potential bike advocates.  I can’t remember the exact date of the next ride, but I believe that it is going to be the first Sunday in May.

A few pictures of infra on my way back downtown. We biked by this sign on the way out.


I like this bollard shielded bump out for pedestrian safety and traffic calming.


The bike lane on Herkimer which is the one way complement to Charlton. These bike lanes just went in this year just went in this year.


Thanks to Cycle Hamilton for running this event!


Update: Don’s much better pictures on facebook.

Update #2: my ride report from Bike for Mike 2017.

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Biking in Oslo

I’ve made a quick trip to Oslo on business, and after arriving in the city before 7 am, it was time to check out what it’s like to bike around early Sunday morning. I elected to buy a season subscription to the bike share system (299 NOK is about $50 CDN), rather than renting on a day by day basis from local shop Viking Biking. Here is the bike station nearest my hotel.


After a quick launch of their app, it prompts me to take a specific bike by number. Each ride can span up to three hours which is very generous. The season runs from April to November.

Here is the bike. It has a Nexus 3 spd hub, and also 24″ Schwalbe Big Apple tires. As bike share bikes go, this one is pretty light. I can boost up the front wheel to mount curbs pretty easily on this one.


This is typical of one of the official bike lanes downtown. Note the wayfinding signs. At the same time, parts of the marked bike routes did not have obvious bike lane markings, and were more akin to the bikeways that you would find in Vancouver.  Biking this early in the morning with limited car traffic was a pleasure.


One of the pages that I visited about biking in Oslo (apparently not this one) noted that the Akeselva river was a good route to follow. It has a beautiful multuse trail along parts of its length, but just because it’s along a river doesn’t mean that it’s flat. Fortunately I rode it in the downstream direction. This is a picture of a steep section: note the fairly substantial waferfall.


A little further down, another waterfall.


Another bridge, this time encouraging the practice of putting padlocks on it.


Right beside this point, I note a huge forest of bike racks, and some swanky buildings. Turns out it is the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

Early in the morning, people are fishing down at the waterfront.


Lots of bike parking near the ferries.


I eventually make my way westward around the harbour to a swanky new neighbourhood called Tjuvholmen. Here is a waterfront promenade with cafes that haven’t opened yet. (note that it was not possible to find a cafe open before 9 on a Sunday morning, although I did ride by a bakery earlier in the ride).


Going as far as I could, I ended up just a little past the Astrup Fearnley Museum, and then water.


Lo and behold, I’m beside an outdoor bathing area, and there were already two hardy souls in the water around 8 am. I did check the water and it was surprisingly warm. I regret not bringing a swimsuit.


At this point, I do a quick check with the cycling app to see where the nearest station is. You can see that Google maps thinks I’m in the water.


Turns out that the nearest station is right beside the Nobel Peace Prize museum.


All you do to return a bike is lift up the front wheel slightly and engage a bracket just above the fork. You can take any open slot.


and now the app tells you that you’ve returned the bike.


To check one out again, you click “unlock bike” on a page associated with the nearest bike station.


Here is the prompt page that tells you which bike to take.


Now off further to the west along this bidirectional bike path to check out the Bygdøy neighbourhood which has a cluster of museums.


The huge amount of foot traffic is coming from that cruise ship.


I hope this is Norwegian for “share the road”


On my way to the Norwegian Folklore Museum, I’m directed onto this gravel path that is a nice green break from the city streets.


Eventually I got to some museums to see stuff like this:


I will note that the nearest bike station to the maritime museum is still a brisk 20 minute walk away, which is a bit disappointing, given that they are promoting biking in this area. In this respect, short term renters might be better opting for a rental bike with a bike lock, like these from Viking Biking, but bike share is cheaper on a per day basis for more than two days.


I saw these signs posted in the neighbourhood that seem to argue against further expansion of bike infrastructure in this corner of the city. (It turns out that the bike lanes appear to have been approved over some local opposition).


By now it’s mid afternoon, and when I get back to the same promenade that I shot earlier this morning, it looks like this:


and now people are having trouble finding open slots to park at the bike share station as well


and later that evening, I see the truck used to redistribute bikes.


Overall, it’s been a fun first day, made better of course by biking. The bikeshare system works well, although I wish that I could park anywhere (like Glasgow). Perhaps the best solution would have been to have a cheap cable lock so that you can park away from a bike share station for sub three hour periods. That would have given me a bit more flexibility moving around today.

The other thing I can recommend is the Oslo Pass. It gives you free admission to many museums, and free use of public transit as well. Very easy to get your money’s work in either a 24 or 48 hour period.

Update: a few more shots around town.

Here is a bike lane with speed bumps. I couldn’t help noticing that many cyclists avoided them by riding on the sidewalk.


Contraflow lane, Oslo style.


I really like the realism of the bike part of this sculpture.


Bike counter. Unfortunately, the display was multiplexed so you can’t see the numbers in this photo.


Dapper sells clothing, Brooks, and haircuts. Unfortunately, their bike shop around the corner was closed at the time.


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Was in Hamilton this weekend, and I noticed some changes on Locke St since our last visit to the neighbourhood. Firstly, I see that Steam Whistle Brewery bike repair stations have made it to the Hammer.

Also, it seems that the bikeshare system is a hit, and I noticed some nice enhancements at this station. I like the fact that the advertising on the rack and sign is hyperlocal.


Also, it looks like wayfinding has been added as part of a 100 in 1 day project. This should be done in Toronto.



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I’ve been in Glasgow for a few days, and the bikeshare system has allowed me to explore a bit more of the city that I could have on foot.

First step: getting a bike. I noted that Tammy Thorne had reported some issues with the bikeshare system on the Dandyblog, so I prepared by loading the Nextbike app. Here is one of the bikeshare stations.


If you have the app, you can scan the QR code on the bike and it will let you know if it is available for rental. This seemed to work better than manually keying in the number on the phone or the keyboard on the bike. The app responds by giving you the combination to the lock.


and we’re off. Here is the bike on one of the pedestrian and bike bridges across the Clyde. It is a chunky bike with a Shimano 3 spd Nexus hub, but it strikes me as being less heavy than our bikeshare bikes in Toronto.


There are some nice paths along the north side of the river. In some sections, there are separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Here it is multiuse.


To get around some buildings, the path sometimes becomes a glorified sidewalk.


Approaching the Transport Museum, which was designed by the late Zaha Hadid.


The museum holds a sample of everything on wheels, plus some models of ships. I’m going to concentrate on the bikes.


Unfortunately, many of the bikes were suspended on a round track that was hung from the ceiling.



You could use a touchscreen display to get descriptions and pictures of each bike, but it wasn’t the same as being close up to them. I guess the advantage is that you can provide text in different languages, and that you could provide more text than on a static display, but it was a little disappointing none the less. Here are a Moulton and Raleigh 20 on the track.


A USS recumbent dating from the 30’s.


A display of trikes, with a Windcheetah in the foreground.


A vintage tandem trike on the same display. The front person has the option of not pedaling, and just using the footrests.


A view out the front of the building, with a huge wall of cars to the right. The same complaint applies to the cars: you can’t see them very well.


From another angle.


A special edition Raleigh chopper that was released for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It didn’t sell very well. Perhaps the really heavy mag wheels had something to do with it.


A display of touring bikes. You could object to the fact that 2 out of five were not human powered, but one of the two motorbikes was used by Ewen McGregor, so I guess that’s OK.


This is allegedly a model of the first working bike in the world. Made in Scotland, naturally.


Finally, the thing that I really wanted to see was the replicas of Graeme Obree’s bikes.


One had the original narrow bars meant to be under the rider’s chest, and the other featured the extended superman position. Both positions were banned by the UCI.

Here is a shot of the narrow bars, with my hand barely in front of them, to get a sense of just how narrow these are.


Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Obree display as the replicas were rather crude, with no attempt to show the ultra narrow Q factor or the special cranks that the real bike had.


Nevertheless, it was a fun visit, doubly so because I got there by bike. Here I am biking back as the weather turned rainy.


These wayfinding signs were helpful, with timings given for both cyclists and pedestrians.


It was often difficult to tell if a given sidewalk was part of a bike route. It was more clear where the pavement was a special colour, such as red which seemed to indicate multiuse.


Elsewhere, blue signage was helpful.


When you return a rental bike, you just pull up to a bike station, lock the bike and then indicate the return on the app. One thing is that if you are on a roaming data plan, it would be inadvisable to keep the app running for the whole time that you have the bike. If you turn off the app after you check the bike out, it is helpful to note the combination beforehand, especially if you plan to lock up the bike during your rental period. I got into the habit on taking a screen cap as soon as I rented a bike.

When you return the bike, relaunch the app and it will figure out where you are.


Note that this screen is also providing you with the lock combination. Press return, and then you can select the actual location where you are doing the return. You will be rewarded by this screen.


The app also lets you review your rentals to make sure all your returns were successful.


On our second day in Glasgow, the weather was much better and it was great to see so many people out and about on the two main pedestrian streets downtown: Buchanan and Sauciehall.



A cool non US model Cannondale with small wheels and a kid seat.


This is Mitchell St, which runs parallel to Buchanan but one short block west. This street seemed to be used for loading into the backs of buildings that fronted on Buchanan.


The pedestrianization of a good deal of downtown has transformed these streets into a big, outdoor shopping mall. There was definitely a huge amount of foot traffic, but I’m not sure that this would be the best model for revitalization. I would hope that the second floors and above of the buildings would be given over to offices and such so that employment as well as retail activity could anchor downtown.

More Glaswegians enjoying the sun. You might wonder about the slogan posted in many places: “People Make Glasgow”.  Well I must say that everyone we’ve met in Glasgow has been very friendly!


Some flaggers in the Merchant City district, practicing for a street festival that starts tomorrow. This section of the city had pavers put down in 2011, and it gives this area a distinct character, along with all the old buildings with their impressive stonework.


and here are two Dutch bikes belonging to the owners of a very cool jewelry shop, with one of them trying to get out of the picture.


All in all, an enjoyable visit, but all too brief. I also went by a special bike shop, but I’ll write that up in a separate post.




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This past weekend, I rode Seattle to Portland (STP) with roughly 10,000 other cyclists; this was an annual ride organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club. According to their stats, most of the riders are from WA, only 248 are from out of country, roughly half are riding STP for the first time, and a fraction of the total ride the full 205 miles in one day. The rest of us do it in two days. I rode it with good friend Steve, as well as M and J.

Here we are about to leave for the start line at about 5:30 am. (thanks Peg for getting up to take the picture)


All smiles at the start line.


And we’re off. The person with the megaphone is yelling at mister 7274 for not wearing a helmet.


Still riding with the much faster M&J near the start.


We took a break at the Seward Park rest stop. Unfortunately just prior to this, Steve clashed wheels with another cyclist who braked suddenly and then someone ran into him. Fortunately, he escaped with just bruises on his wrist and thigh.


On the way to the REI rest stop at mile 24, I am overtaken by this mysterious bike. I manage to catch up briefly and the rider verified that this was indeed a Ti folding bike. She was much faster so I didn’t get any more information.


A little sleuthing turned up the name: the Burke 20, which does not appear to be on sale according to the website. No information on pricing either, but it would be an interesting thing to compare to the Helix (another Ti folding bike that has yet to see the light of day).

Unfortunately, before the REI rest stop I also lost track of Steve and when I tried to use Glympse to track him, the app gave me the impression that he was ahead of me. This turned out to be wrong, and we didn’t get back together until the overnight stop Saturday evening. For the record, Glympse didn’t seem to work very well during the whole ride, even in Portland.

The REI rest stop was a mob scene. I learned later that experienced riders avoid this stop by riding on, or by stopping at a Starbuck just before this point.


For the Washington State portion of the ride, all turns were indicated by pink road markings, although most of the time you just followed the line of cyclists ahead of you.


People working hard about 2/3rd’s of the way up “the Hill” which turned out to be not too much trouble.


Two Team Joy riders being greeted at the top of the hill.


Lunch stop was at Spanaway. With 10,000 cyclists, expect to line up for everything. This is the line for one of the banks of portapotties.


The food line was similarly long: about 15 minutes each.


Lunch the first day:

IMG_3566 I could have also grabbed an assortment of cookies or granola bars. People who are severely allergic to peanuts should note that one of the two choices for sandwiches on both days was PB&J.

The only thing for which there wasn’t a line was filling up your water bottles. I ended up having to spend about an hour here. I would have been better off finding lunch and a bathroom elsewhere. There was a Home Depot just a few blocks away, along with some other stores.

Shortly after lunch we entered Joint Base Lewis–McChord, which restricted traffic to military personnel.


It was actual wonderful riding, with next to no car traffic. I did see the occasional sign that warned of things like: “live artillery fire over roadway”.


Just past the base and on the road to Yelm, we see the first sign for Centralia.


About 14 miles of the stretch between Yelm and Centralia was along a very peaceful multi-use trail. I was enjoying this enough that I only took this one lousy picture.


This gives you a slightly better idea of what it was like.


The trail ended at Tenino where there was another mobbed rest stop which I bypassed.


Some local people were situated just a little further along, and were selling bottles of water at a county park with bathrooms. Much better!

The end of the first day at Centralia College.


Overall, my strategy of eating either a pack of energy chews or a Kind bar every hour on the hour kept me from bonking, but my legs really started running out of gas for the last 20 miles or so. When I got to Centralia, just past this gate I lay down on some grass, and I didn’t get up for about thirty minutes. I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to do the second day, but after about an hour, I was up and about looking for my luggage, and figuring out where my riding friends were.

Here are the number of bikes in the guarded bike corral that had kickstands, my Tikit among them


and here are the bikes that didn’t have a kickstand


including these two Bromptons.


I saw about ten or so Brommies either at Centralia, or at the very end of the ride, but I never saw any on the road. Kudos to my fellow 16″ wheel riders!

A few notes about staying at Centralia:

  • food options were varied enough, with a few vegetarian or gluten free options. There are also grocery stores in town.
  • we stayed in the gym, but the great majority of people camped. I guess they knew it was not going to rain.
  • if you stay in the gym, bear in mind that the men’s bathrooms on either side are different. One has more bathroom stalls, and the other has more shower stalls.
  • unaccountably, if you wanted to get coffee with the paid breakfast, that was a separate line outside the cafeteria.
  • they are smart enough to start serving breakfast at 4 am. We left Centralia around 6:30, and I got the sense that most had left by then.

Just south of Centralia, we get a small section of bike path just along I-5. However, the rest of the day was on roads.


Just after the first climb of the day is the small village of Napavine where apparently this woman gives out free banana bread every year. Regrettably I was not able to sample it as it had walnuts.


Rolling hills and nice country riding.


Another mobbed mini stop at Winlock which Steve and I bypassed. I guess we missed the world’s largest egg.


Miracles of miracles, we meet M&J who did stop at Winlock to check out the egg.


Lunch at Lexington was much more efficient. There was almost no line for food.


Lunch the second day included a garbanzo bean and potato salad with pesto.


A little past the lunch stop was the Lewis & Clark bridge where we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. Here we are turning left towards the bridge.


We were directed onto an offramp to wait the canonical 15 minutes before we were allowed to cross as a solid mass of cyclists.


And off we go.

Welcome to Oregon.


Riders were warned not to use the shoulder because of expansion joints. Sure enough these were covered by large metal plates, and on the fast ride down off the bridge, about 20 feet passed one of these plates I saw many water bottles by the side of the road.


Curving onto HWY 30.


A look back at the bridge.


The next 40 miles was on HWY 30, which was the least pleasant part of the whole ride. In some sections there were two lanes of traffic in either direction but there was usually light enough traffic that the curb lane was left empty. Signs indicated to drivers that there would be cyclists on the road this particular weekend.


Road narrows to one line in each direction in the town of Rainier.


Other sections had a relatively narrow shoulder, and things would get a little dangerous if there was car traffic along with cyclists insisting on passing, as many of the pacelines would do.


There were also some sections of rumble strips on the approach to St. Helens.


One bright spot along this road: we meet up with M&J again just as we stop to take selfies at the city limits sign. Thanks to blue Colnago guy for taking this picture.


One final bridge towards downtown.



and here I am crossing the bridge, trying to look happy for the photographer.


Not surprising to see good bike infrastructure in downtown Portland.


Just before the finish, we see one of the bikeshare stations that are still in the process of being installed. Branded by Nike by the looks of them.


Here I follow Steve down the finish chute.


Another picture of Bromptons that did the ride. I was told that some of them belonged to one day riders.


Overall, it was a very well organized ride. All of the volunteers were wonderful, and my fellow riders very friendly. I enjoyed myself, although I was somewhat undertrained for the event, and I was seriously wiped out after the first day. My GPS stats showed that I spend about a total of about 10 hours on the first day, and 10.5 hours on the second, with an average riding speed of about 20 kph, which was about what I expected.

I did get of comments on my Tikit. Aside from the usual jokes about having to pedal harder, most people gave me a big thumbs up. I did see three other Fridays on the route (no other Tikits) as well as a Family Tandem and even a triple. However, nothing tops the dad of the year with the kidback tandem and trail-a-bike with a trailer behind that!

Interestingly enough, I also got a lot of nice compliments on my wool jersey.


I would certainly consider doing it again. The weather conditions were near ideal: overcast most of the time, and not hot (max of about 75°F). If it had rained or been very hot, it would have been much more difficult. My only regret was that I didn’t have any time to explore the cycling mecca that is Portland. Maybe next time.

A big thanks to my riding buddy Steve for inspiring me to do the ride, and to Peg for logistical support i.e. hosting before and the ride back to Seattle.


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This morning, I had just enough time to pack in another bike shop visit (suggested by a comment on my previous blog post) to Cycle House Shibuya, which despite the name, was on the opposite side of Tokyo from Shibuya. I was told that it specialized in cargo bikes and folders so I was intrigued.

Getting off the train at Ohanajaya Station, I see a shopping street heading north, where pedestrians and cyclists freely mixed, and there doesn’t seem to be any car traffic. Woonerf in Japan!


This must be the place!



As you go in, a wall of Birdys to the right


and a wall of Bromptons to the left.


This one was dressed up with nice wheels.

DSC08836 (1)

Straight ahead, you see a variety of interesting bikes.


This is a ETRO 451 wheeled Reach by Pacific Cycles.


Note the really small disc brakes and the elastomer front suspension.


This is a Dahon with a vertically folding frame that folds almost as small as a Brompton.


However, the really interesting bikes were displayed outside. Here is a mini velo that almost looks like a kid’s bike.


This is a very light Japanese model by Tyrell.


It has a rear swingarm with a brake mounted by the chainstays.


It also has a carbon fork, but I was surprised when the salesperson folded it for me. Closer inspection shows that the carbon blades are bonded to an aluminum crown. Beautiful workmanship. Price: roughly $2000.




Most of these bikes won’t fit in a suitcase, but I guess the motivation is to throw them into a car trunk, or to fold them so that don’t take up much space indoors.

This is his personal ride: a Cherubim mini velo version of a Mustang (Stingray to you Americans).


Very sweet, with a coaster brake, and a Schlumpf speed drive.

The things that originally caught my eye on their website were the OX bikes. They have a form factor similar to a Strida, and are meant to fold into a train luggage locker. The shop had several models to try including this 8 spd version. Mini disc brakes and a derailleur. I was told that there was a 27 speed version (with the 3×9 SRAM hub).


Here it is folded, and check out the cute kickstand. Also, my favourite quirk is that it appears to have braze on mounts for three waterbottles!


It was surprisingly pleasant to ride.  I can’t really compare it to a Strida as I’ve never ridden one of those, but I could go at a fairly good clip, and it felt rigid enough that you could stand on the pedals for short distances. The brakes were also very effective. Very quick fold as you can see on this video from OX bikes website.  A credible solution to the last mile problem.


Around the corner, they had another branch that was supposed to have bikes to carry kids, etc. I was hoping for cargobikes, since they had a pink Bullit parked by the folder shop, but it turned out to be a shop selling much more conventional bikes.


A Bridgeston Picnica folder in front of a row of mamachari.


They also had a wall of minivelos sold under various labels.


Out front was a bike that I was told could be a cargobike: a Bridgestone “Tote”. I didn’t want to bother the owner to pull it out of the row, as it didn’t look very interesting. He said that I’d be better off with this Louis Garneau model, which had an aluminum frame, integral rack, and frame mounted front basket. This seven speed model was 74,000 yen. This would be a direct competitor to the Nois cargobike at a lower price point.


All in all, the visit was totally worth it to see the variety of folders at the first branch. In particular, if I was a Brompton enthusiast and I spoke more Japanese, I probably could have spend another hour geeking out at all the stuff they had.

As I walked back to the station, I was struck by how much space this lone car took up as it parked to make a delivery. The JDM Honda Odyssey is not a large car.


This brings my bike reporting from Japan to an end. Here I am riding a bike share bike to the train station with all my luggage as the first step in my trip back to TO.


Signing off from Haneda!

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