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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.

Super Grover.

September 2, 2011

I have a secret desire to be bicycle super hero who swoops down and helps people adjust their seat heights. It drives me to distraction watching people’s knees almost hit their handle bars (augh, get some extension!) or the reverse where you see hips going flippity flop on those with seats too high.

So Riley’s first real test ride was a bit of a buzz as it provided not one, but TWO excuses to pull out my multi-tool and help a fellow cyclist. I had packed tools because I still wasn’t convinced Riley’s back wheel wasn’t going to just pop off mid ride. It stayed on, but something was a bit wobbly. I’m not sure if it is the funky front rim or the pedals and crank need new bearings, but something is still a bit amiss. That said, we both made it to downtown unscathed, and while it did take more effort than it would have on Florence, it was not so bad.

I had built in plenty of “possible repair stop” time before my meeting, so being early, I took the time to treat myself to a coffee at the Green Beanery. They have a fantastic walk up window so you don’t need to park, or even really dismount, from your bike. Coffee stowed in my cup holder, off we went.

(You’ll notice Riley still needs lights that look a little nicer, and man, this bell… USELESS)

Just outside the coffee shop, I saw this twin of Riley’s. My part time mechanic/boy had tried to convince me that white wall or gum wall tires would be better than the all cream I put on Riley, so this twin also gave me a chance to evaluate as it had the white walls. I am smugly happy with my decision.

Just a few blocks later I ran into a friend and fellow cyclist who was so smitten by my cup holder. She raved about it. At first I offered to pick her one up next time I’m at Canadian Tire (where they cost about half of what they do at the bike shops). And then I thought, meh, I have 2 more at home, and I can pick up another later. I hate the way you get people things and then it takes forever to actually get round to passing them over. So I said, you know what, just take this one. I whipped out my multi tool and had it on her bike in minutes. Ta Da! I felt like Super Grover (but on Riley).

By complete fluke later in the afternoon, this guy walked up to me holding a saddle in one hand and pushing a bike in the other to ask me where the nearest bike shop was. Well, turned out he didn’t really need a bike shop, just a set of allen keys, so TA DA AGAIN! So fun. I think if I had a cape though, it would get stuck in my chain or spokes.

Super Grover or Super Geek?

Maybe a little of each.


Family Photo

August 30, 2011

It’s not often you get 3 bikes out at once. So I thought I would take a snap. This is Riley, Grover and Florence in front of a Canadian Tire shop. You might notice that Grover’s seat is on top of the garbage can. On this day, Riley’s back wheel almost feel off, and Grover’s seat would not stay adjusted for the friends who were borrowing Grover and Florence for a few weeks. This turned into an unnecessarily long quest for a bolt and something to tighten it with, but in the end it all worked out and Grover and Florence went on their vacation and Riley and I made it back home.

Lots of things went wrong this day, but at least they went wrong in front of Canadian Tire.

Meet Riley

August 30, 2011

I’d like to introduce you to Riley, my gender-neutral named 3 speed Raleigh Sport.

In about two weeks, Riley has gone from being a heap of rust in the front yard of a house down the block to this fairly decent beast.

Some things have been simple. Other’s have not.

First we bought a new tube for the flat front tire and got the old tires (the originals) inflated to see what else we might need to do if we wanted to fix her up. Really, until the wheels were moving there was no sense of whether the gear hub worked or the brakes. Or anything.

Putting in the new tube was the first time I had ever put a tire in on my own. I’m pretty chuffed really. A year ago I was just really getting my bike mojo on, and I had no idea how to change a tire. And that embarrassed me. Being in Tokyo meant I didn’t really need to know though as everything maintenance wise was covered on Maru through the bike shop I got her from. But I did start to feel I should know some basic maintenance.. (new tube, $6)

Of course I did start to learn with Grover and the visits to the university Bike Chain, and then again with Florence but to be able to almost competently fumble through a tire change alone felt pretty awesome.

Once up on her/his wheels (this gender non specificity has to do with convincing the boy it’s not really a girl’s bike…) it was clear the rear brake cable was shot.  So, lesson number two involved figuring out how to install the brake cable. Thanks for friends and the internet, we got that settled. ($1.25)

Of course, major idiocy moment was that I didn’t properly tighten down the back wheel. This meant the wheel started to loosen while I was ridding. I only really noticed because the chain got too slack to pedal. So, I  had to stop and fix that by the side of the road. Good thing I had packed a wrench.

Lemon juice and steel wool took most of the rust off the chrome. The back wheel is in lovely condition, but the front has irreparable corrosion. Better the front than the back with the gear hub in it. The handle bars and back rack and wheel rims for the most part came up sparkly sparkly. ($=who knows. had both lemon juice and steel wool already)

The old tires were splitting and the rear had a flat spot so I coughed up the dough to get these Delta Cruisers (inspired from lovely bicycle and by coincidence the same tires that are on Maru). Since I would be changing both, I also got a second tube. (this is where the ominous music should begin because things went downhill from here). (second tube $6, tires $75)

The front tyre went on pretty well. Me and the boy had decided to do one each so that we both would feel confident in our tire/tube change skills. He had the front. We paid careful attention to tire rotation direction, followed the direction to lay the new tube flat inside the rim, line up the tire on one edge, partially inflate the tube, line up other tire edge, check for no pinching and then inflate fully. The front went on fairly smoothly although the tube seemed a bit big for the rim, despite several checks that we got the right size.

The back wheel was a disaster. The tire would not go on. WOULD NOT. I pulled, I pushed. I deflated the tube back down to give me a little more give. I pulled, I tugged, and finally, finally I got it on. However as soon as we started to inflate it, it popped. In all the struggle I must have pinched it at some point. Not one, but TWO holes.

This led to my first experience with a patch kit. Also part of the learning curve. ($=one hour babysitting for the neighbour in exchange for his patch kit). Again, the boy and I did one each. We fumbled it a bit (not enough glue the first time as it says “apply sparingly”!), but eventually got it sorted.

And off we go to make a second attempt to get the tire on. Again it was a struggle, but we carefully avoided pinching the tube. Finally we got it on. Only… well, it clearly wasn’t in right. It wasn’t sitting in the right grove on one side, and the edge had kind of slipped down into the tube area. Terrified we were going to puncture the tube again we did what any bike repair novices would do: checked the internet, gave up and took it to the neighbourhood bike shop. He worked magic with some WD40 inside the rim and an air hose. He inflated it, and inflated it, as I closed my eyes terrified the whole thing was about to exploded. He yanked and WD40-ed and then POP, the tire slipped into place. ($=nothing. Nice bike guy)

Finally I’m thinking I can get this bike back together. So we put the wheel back on, reconnect the hub cable and grind, grind, grind. BLAST. At this point I have no idea what we have done but the gears won’t work and the hub is grinding.

Thank god for Sheldon Brown. Turned out I had accidentally overtightened the hub cones (something I had no prior knowledge of its existence) AND we had overtightened the hub chain screw and not done the adjustment right. Translation: I learnt a lot about my hub very quickly without ACTUALLY taking it apart. After much tinkering, and much help from boy, we got it sorted. Cross your fingers that is, as I’m not sure the hub is properly tightened onto the axel right now but I have no tool for that.

Anyway, tomorrow will be the real test as I attempt to do a real commute on Riley. Florence is still out on loan so Riley needs to be up to the task. I’ve temporarily put the Brooks saddle on Riley, but it’s not quite the right saddle for her/him. (I don’t know if it is selfish that I put Florence’s other seat back on before lending her out, but I thought downtown and parked outdoors night and day, it was a fair precaution. I don’t want my bike borrowers worrying about things like that either.) So eventually Riley might be sporting better grips and a matching brooks seat, if she turns out to be a good ride. AKA if I haven’t destroyed the hub.

Oh, and the chain case! currently not installed for some fixing up. There is a bit of it that is bent and has the potential to rip up a calf nicely if it was to catch.

So the “free bike” has now cost….$88.25

But what an education it’s been. Who needs to take a night class on bike repair once you’ve had to figure all this out?

Florence v2.0

August 24, 2011

I was in London this summer for a workshop, and other than Cadbury’s the only thing I was desperate to pick up was a Brooks saddle for Florence.

At 60 pounds at Bike Fix I think it was a steal. I had read on the Brooks website before I left in the customer comments that quite often bike shops sell them cheaper than Brooks itself does. And was it true. This same saddle, a B17S retails for 130 before tax in Toronto.

So far, I haven’t really had too much trouble with the breaking in process. The first day it seemed a bit hard and too far forward, but after we flipped the seat post clip to give me another inch or so in length, it has been quite lovely.

I do think that Florence might be a tad small for me though. Since I bought her earlier this summer, we have added a longer seat post, pushed the saddle as far back as possible, and I just can’t quite seem to get full extension or sit as far back as I would like. I’m considering getting a seat post with a switchback in it, that pushes the seat even further away from the handle bars, but I need to look into it a bit more.

I hope I can get the geometry to work out though because otherwise Florence is a lovely ride. I find her gears tend to “pop” out at the MOST inopportune times, generally in dicey traffic, but if I can solve this, then she is pretty much exactly what I need in a bike. That plus another two inches of extension somehow. Really, I need to figure it out, because I really don’t think I can go looking for a seventh bike. I suppose I could and then sell Florence. But I haven’t fully digested that possibility yet.