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Fleet of Fleetwings

October 5, 2011

I’ve done a lot of looking for Fleetwings on the interwebs since acquiring mine (now 2). There really is very little out there about these bikes. The ones I have might be a department store brand but all I really know about them is that they say made in Canada, and I like the way they ride.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it earlier in the summer, but the same week I got Flo, I was doing some reading and realized that one of the big right wing movements in Japan around the turn of the 20th century was called the Fleetwing movement. I found that a bit serendipitous.

Anyway, I finally, FINALLY, found out the years of production for the two Fleetwing bikes when I switched wheels out this weekend and realized the rims say 1982 for Florence and 1983 for the new bike.

But I have been surprised to spot THREE other Fleetwings on campus this week. One exactly the same as Flo but with some changes made, and then two similar to new red bike but one in black and one in a red mens frame.









someone else’s version of Florence





I guess there are more of these around than I thought there would be. I may be biased, but I think mine are prettier… Here is mine in front of it’s dark twin.



October 4, 2011


This weekend I was doing a little preventative maintenance on the new (yet to be named) bike. I thought I would get some new tires on (the ones it came with were new, but were definitely the bottom of the barrel–they weren’t even molded straight) and check the gears and such.

So after taking the back wheel off, I realize–DOH–I have managed to break two spokes on it. AGH. While clearly not tragedy, still very frustrating. I wracked my brain trying to figure out when I could have done this and then I realized…

A few days after I got my new panniers all made, I um, well, the white one I strapped on empty. I put a bit of cardboard in the back to give it structure, but being empty, that wasn’t really enough and as I whizzed along one morning, I got it completely garbled in my back wheel. I had no idea I had broken spokes, I just thought I had mangled the bag a bit and put the whole thing down to a learning experience on making my own pannier (research and development, you know–with failure comes innovation.)

On the bright side I was able to pinch the back wheel off of Florence for now, being the same size and all, but it involved me doing some gear adjustments that were more substantial than before. Cross your fingers I make it to school today.

Where do you park your bike?

September 26, 2011

I park mine here, between the pinball machine and the arcade games.



It’s true, our house is awesome.


Upsizing: troubles in geometry

September 19, 2011

After riding Florence for the summer, I now know that lovely as she is, she is too small a frame for me.  A super long seat post has not fixed the problem and I still hang off the back of the seat.

This bike thing is a learning process. And I am making a lot of mistakes. On the up side, I can probably sell Florence for as much as she cost, so there is no net loss.

So this weekend, I thought I would try and upsize since I found a very similar frame in a larger size. This made sense to me, since I could then switch out parts pretty easily from the two and take the best of both worlds.

After a long drive out to the countryside to see the bike, this Fleetwing was a bit more dinged up, but overall a good frame. We even took a tape measure. I was disappointed to find that this bike was not that much bigger, maybe and inch or two, than Florence.

But, after some humming and ha-ing, we did buy her, thinking that any increase in size would at least be a benefit.

When we got home and compared them, there is only about an inch difference in the tube length. I’m a bit disappointed.

We will have to see if this makes much of a difference at all. You know, in an ideal world, I would go out, and buy the perfect bike in the perfect size, possibly new. But in the real world, second hand bike buying is an imperfect science, and new bikes get stolen every day. Two dear friends had their bikes stolen this week, and one from right where I park mine everyday.

I feel like I’m bumbling through this a bit. You live, you learn.

Too busy for words

September 16, 2011

The first week of term… I forgot how busy it can be. So many meetings, so many things to sort out. It’s literally been too busy to get words down on paper.

So I give you this for the moment. (I apologize for the image quality, I didn’t want to stick around)

A picture from my first ride home in the dark (night coming earlier, me staying on campus later) since the spring. I stay off the DPP greenpath after dark since there are animals and who knows what else about.

So instead I go right by the pig processing machines… and in the evenings, they keep the doors open so the stench just hits you full blast. Ah, what a away to enjoy a nice late summer evening ride.

Canada. Life.

September 12, 2011



This was the view from Starbucks today. This is Canada Life.


It’s more than just a building. On the top is a weather beacon.

  • Steady green = fair weather
  • Steady red = cloudy skies
  • White flashes = scattered flurries
  • Red flashes = rain
  • Lights running up = rising temperatures
  • Lights running down = falling temperatures
  • Steady lights = steady temperature

(I punked that from Wikipedia.)


It’s also the company my father came to Canada to work for. So really this is where we began our “Canada life.” We later moved across the country, but this is where my father worked when I was born. So since I’ve moved back to Toronto, it’s always had a special little place in my architectural understanding of the city. The next “doors open Toronto,” when all kinds of buildings open up to the public for one day, I should actually go inside and take a look around. (

It was a good place to sit, drink coffee, and wait to pick up Florence and Grover, who are now safely home.








Beauty in Bulk

September 11, 2011

Pretty things you can find in bins.

The DPP. Oink.

September 8, 2011

One of the better parts of my ride in is the DPP, a greenway of sorts, although unmarked and with no official name. Around here, it goes by the DPP. Why? Well….let me tell you,

So, although it is quite pretty and green, and often sprinkled with flowers, this path smells on any warm day, absolutely FOUL. When I first started using it as a traffic free slow climb up the hill from my place, I wondered if I had just chosen garbage day to ride or something. Ick.

Then eventually we figured out that the DPP runs along next to a row of abattoirs. I didn’t even KNOW there were still abattoirs in Toronto, but let me tell you, there are. And they stink. So, each day, on my way in, I get to pump my way up the hill taking deep breaths of poor slaughtered piggies. DPP= Dead Piggy Path.

It has it’s beauty as well. Wonderful flowers, and quite a few ground hogs. Who can’t love a ground hog? They are like big teddy bears standing in the grass. Over grown hamsters. I once saw one on the DVP (the real street name on this one, the Don Valley Parkway) running through the grass with a red ball in its mouth. Freaking adorable.

And on the way home, it is down hill allllllll the way. Which is an unbelievable treat at the end of a ride. Except for the black flies that whip up your nostrils, down your throat and into your eyes. I try not to think about how they are probably there because of the dead pigs.

I thought I’d share a shot of one of my home-brew panniers on Riley too. I think it works quite well. There are a few adjustments I would make if I had a sewing machine, but overall, it’s pretty satisfactory.

Ignore the jaunty angle of the seat, the bolt is misbehaving. Today I had to whip out the tools a few times, but only to save myself.

rainy day pleasures

September 5, 2011

It’s so grey and sad here for labour day.


So I made up this little tray of happiness.


Chai tea soy latte in a cup from a potter in Japan. Accompanied by a pairing of Purdy’s (a cream and a caramel) and a sprinkling of Soma chocolate covered almonds. Possibly the best two kinds of chocolate in the world, together in one small bowl. Emphasis on small. All on a lovely wooden tray that was a Christmas gift last year.


It was fantastic while it lasted. Which was brief. Not even long enough to post the photo. I’m staring at an empty bowl as I type…

DIY. Make your own pannier. From scratch.

September 5, 2011

For the last few weeks panniers have really been on my mind. With my Basil pannier breaking after just 2 weeks use (and almost causing a laptop disaster), I have been befuddled about what to do with the new semester about to start.

I’ve looked up all kinds of panniers. I like these the best so far, but ordering from Aussie is a bit tough. I’m pretty picky about a few things. I want a pannier that also functions as a bag and comes off the bike easily so I can go from commute to library or teaching easily (so more bag than pannier basket). It needs to be mostly waterproof. Not too big so I don’t carry the library with me, but big enough to hold my laptop and small enough to not let it rattle around. But I also, apparently impossibly, want a bag that looks like something I want to carry under normal circumstances. I don’t want it look like I ripped it off Holly Hobby (cough Basil) or like I’m about to go canoe-ing (it’s great that the ortleib can float down a river, but honestly, if my bag ends up in a river on my commute home, I’m going to assume I didn’t make it). I don’t want it “chic” NOR “sporty.” I want a bag that looks like a normal human being would carry it, and doesn’t scream “I RODE MY BIKE SO I HAVE TO LOOK CRAPPY OK?” You know what I mean? Oh, and it has to match the bike. tee hee.

I don’t get why everyone waxes on about wearing normal clothes on a bike and then all the selection of bags are pretty ridiculous. Do I need to “dumb down” my cycling side by adding daisies and lace?

But the worst part is, even if I can find something good online, I don’t really want to drop a lot of money on something I’ve never seen for real.

So, eventually, it came down to the obvious. Make my own. I’ve made quite a few bags in my time. This is my favourite and the one I use the most:

I’ve been wanting to make a new pannier myself for some time, but with all my sewing gear all in Vancouver, that too was a problem. But sometimes, it just all comes together.

I had a messenger bag I made a year or so ago that  I never really took to. And then I had the pannier hooks I bought at Mountain Equipment Co-op thinking I might try and fix the Basil pannier.

I actually took great joy in ripping out the guts of the Basil pannier. It kind of looked unfortunately like a diaper bag anyway. I wouldn’t have gotten it but it was on sale for 20 bucks. Got what I paid for I guess. In ripping it apart, mostly what I wanted was that plastic cardboard stuff that is sewn in for rigidity. I repurposed it into the messenger bag by reopening the lining and then, with the help of the Boy and his dremel, putting the holes in the plastic for the rivets and attaching the pannier clips from MEC. (In my defense, I have my own dremel, also in Van, and I have other good tools like a strong leather punch which would have done the job, but also in Van so I’m not a total wilting daisy in reality) For the final attachment of the clips, we actually needed 4 hands to hold bolts, screws, screwdriver etc in place.  The sad side of this story is one of the rivets that came from MEC was not manufactured properly so the job is not quite done. But I will ride down there next week and get a replacement. They are good with fixing problems like that. I’m pretty happy with the results and looking forward to trying it out on Florence when she comes back from loan.

I mis-measured a bit. Actually I was very careful about the distance, but it turns out the distance is too tight for the black cord loop (that works as a latch release on the clips) and I had to snip it in half into two pull tabs. I can fix that later though…

I used the other guts of the Basil to add some form to another bag I had made as a handle bar bag for the fold up (Paris) a few years ago. It’s worked well, but now I think I can use it as a back pannier on the bigger bikes too. I like that it’s just velcro–super strong velcro–that holds this one on. So far I’ve had no problems with it and I don’t really know why no one makes something like this. It’s already a bit beat up, but a decent, if plain, bag.

So there you go. Two panniers for school for less than 7 bucks. I have to give the boy kudos for talking me out of the big online purchase and pushing me to make my own. And I actually like the messenger bag better now that it has something making it hold it’s form.

I’ll post pics once I have a bike back to put them on.

Now I know how to do this, I see a world of pannier opportunities opening up to me…

DIY hints:

any bag with a flat side can be a pannier in my mind, but it’s better if it has a some kind of reinforcement in there. There are several web tutorials on turning cheap shopping bags into panniers, but why not go nicer? You can but the clips at MEC online or instore. They also have a more complicated attachment system available for sale. Have an awl or strong leather/plastic punch on hand.