Commuting is Awesome

April 27, 2011

While cycling past a rage soaked traffic jam the other day, I wondered why more people don’t ride a bike to work. I’m not talking every single day, that’s just silly, but maybe once or two a week, when the weather’s nice. I really enjoy the days I commute, and make an effort to do the 25 km ride in to work twice a week. I see a good list of benefits:

  • Cycling is cheap
  • Consistent commute time
  • Fitness
  • Happiness
  • Green-ness


With gas prices increasing steadily, currently hovering around $1.35 in Vancouver, driving is more expensive than ever. It costs me about $7 to drive to work and back each day, and that’s not including insurance and maintenance. My wife and I are already a one car family, and the savings of not having a second vehicle are huge. Sure it takes some compromise, but it’s well worth it. When the weather is gross, and the wife needs the car, I’ll tolerate public transit, but really I hate the bus. Having to actually pay $5.50 a day to have to sit in a small uncomfortable box with a bunch of degenerates is just insult to injury. I’d like to find the man who designed the seats on the bus and Skytrain … does he have unusually short femurs or something? Mine certainly don’t fit. And those bus drivers that for some reason can only operate the damn thing in binary. I’m pretty certain the gas and brakes work somewhere betwen fully on and full off. I digress, a fellow at work looked at how quickly he could pay off the purchase of a bicycle if he uninsured his car and cycled in to work every day. For him it worked out that he could purchase a $1000 bike in less than 3 months … $1000!!! There are lots of fantastic commuter bike options, such as the Norco XFR, for as little as $675. Wanna go even cheaper, there are endless options for used bikes on places such as Craigslist. Heck use what you have in garage for the first time and see if you enjoy it. I challenge you to figure out how much money you’d save by riding a bike, I bet you’re surprised. With all that saved money you can go and buy yourself something nice … like beer … or maybe some new jeans.  

Getting to work is usually fairly pain free, by car it takes me from 25 – 35 minutes. However when driving home if anyone in the lower mainland sneezes, which happens quite often, traffic becomes a giant mess. Add a Canuck game, Friday, construction, police car on the shoulder for no reason with lights flashing, or a long week-end and things get a lot worse. As a result my commute home by car takes an unpredictable 35 – 90 minutes. This means I’m always an hour early or an hour late for any appointment after work, which greatly annoys me. In contrast my bike ride takes an hour each and every day. I could catch the bus, but it takes the same amount of time, and I usually spend the majority of the time trying to find a way to hang myself. Again the bicycle wins.

The fitness aspect is obvious, riding a bike is low impact and healthy. What isn’t obvious is that riding a bike to work is really killing two birds with one stone. I’m getting an awesome work out WHILE moving my sorry ass to work. Genius. Instead of enjoying some gents musky aroma on the bus, or stewing in my car while dreaming up colourful ways of harming another motorist, I’m getting in a work out with the breeze in my hair.  

Cycling makes me happy, especially when I’m cycling past a giant traffic jam, all those cages of bottled anger sliding on by. Why do us humans take so much joy in observing, preferably closely, others pain and suffering? Even when there isn’t a traffic jam to enjoy I quite like cycling to and from work. There is a sense of accomplishment, that feeling of win that you traveled all that way self sufficiently, powered by a perfect blend of Nutella, toast and coffee. Concerned about traffic and route finding. No problems, the internet is your friend. Google maps (is it just me or has Google taken over the entire world?) has a directions cycling option that is very handy for figuring out good routes. There are loads of other resources with cycling maps published by each city. You can plan a route that is long or short, hilly or flat, busy or quiet. Splendid.

I’m not a hippy by any means, in fact I rather dislike hippies. I also don’t particularly like the Global Warming activists, Al Gore, David Suzuki, tofu, or Green Peace. Commuting to work has become synonymous with saving the planet. Being green isn’t my primary motivation, but I am mildly happy at the thought that I’m doing some small part to reduce my consumerism. Burning less decomposed dinosaurs can only be a good thing. Reducing traffic jams can only be a good thing. I can’t see a downside to cycling, everybody wins … except maybe those motorists on Dunsmuir.

If you already ride a bike to work occasionally, good on ya. If you don’t, give it a thought. It doesn’t work for everyone. Some folks need a vehicle for work, need to carry heavy things etc. However I bet those are the minority. Give it a thought, drop by your local bike store like John Henry Bikes and check out what a commuter bike will cost you. I bet after a couple rides to work you’ll be a convert.

Some handy links:

Glenn Franks (Angry Dad) and I loaded up into the Element, and headed for Kamloops. The game plan was to arrive in Kamloops around 1pm and meet up with Duncan and his crew from Bow Cycles. I haven’t been to Bow Cycles before, but it sounds like a rad store, and if you’re in Calgary and ride bikes, I’m told you need to check it out.


After meeting up with the boys at the Bicycle Cafe we went and did a couple laps of Rio. Rio was in great shape, and we all had a great time getting our bikes setup for a week-end of racing. There were loads of familiar folks also riding Rio, and it made for some super fun laps down the trail.


One really good lap down Rio with some of the funnest folks around

Friday night was Glenn’s birthday, which necessitated some celebration. We got the evening started in the parking lot of our hotel. Things were going well, and Glenn was well lubricated on beer and tequila. Later we went out to the Kamloops clubs, and had a good time with some of the other race guys and girls.

You know you're staying in a classy joint when Adult Movies are a selling feature. For the record the Adult Movies were complementary.

Saturday came around pretty quick. We got some greasy breakfast in us, and got out to the Kamloops Bike Ranch. It was great getting back to BC Cup racing. The BC Cup is supported by a great group of regulars, and it was good fun catching up with everyone after a long, wet winter. I was happy with my riding all week-end. I felt fast, consistent and smooth on the track. I had no crashes, and hardly put a wheel wrong all week-end. I was piloting something fairly special this week-end. I had done some testing on the 2012 Norco DH prototype over the winter, and was blown away by how much fun the bike was to ride. I spent the spring back on my Session 88, all the while yearning to be back on the 2012 Norco DH Proto. I asked the boys at Norco a few weeks ago if I could borrow it, which they graciously agreed to.

One very good looking piece of engineering

Race day went off really well. The organization was excellent, the course held up well and I had a ton of fun riding my bike. Glenn wound up winning the old man category with a time of 1 minue 59 seconds. I finished up with a time of 1 minute 58 seconds, and had a good run. I pedalled as hard as I could, and rode a very smooth run. It seems as though I’m a bit down on horsepower as I was 5 seconds off the win and wound up 15th in Elite. I guess I need to do more intervals or something. Congrats to Glenn and Martin Newman for their respective wins in the old men categories.

Finishing up my race run airing into the final flat section


Race The Ranch 2011 Results


I’m looking forward to getting some more riding in over May before the next BC Cup at Bear Mountain on June 19th. Until then there are a bunch of other events I may enter, so keep checking back for more updates.

The usual gong show of Glenn Franks (Angry Dad), Ryan Walters (Emo), Rob Stead (Hoff) and myself met early at the ferry terminal. The goal was to walk on to the ferry, and then about an hour and half later meet up with some friends in Naniamo, who’d give us a ride up to Cumberland. Angry Dad and myself were to meet up with our friend Chris, while Hoff and Emo were catching a ride with another Ryan.

The ferry trip over was fairly uneventful. We were all pretty tired, and there wasn’t any new material for us to make fun of. So we quietly sat, mostly bored, waiting for someone to do something dumb. That didn’t take too long because once we arrived in Naniamo we met up with Ryan and his Taliban-mobile. Ryan drives an unknown (because the badges have all rusted off) 1982 diesel Mercedes. All it needs to fit right into a a middle eastern conflict is some bullet holes.

How to look like a terrorist by Ryan Gustafson

This gave us great material for the drive up and created much laughter. Thanks for that Ryan. We arrived in Cumberland safely, got changed into our riding gear, and started hiking the course. The race course in Cumberland is really fun. It’s only about 2 minutes descending time, but packs in a good variety of terrain in that short time. The top is a bit flat and pedally with some tricky corners and a couple jumps. As the trail enters the trees the speeds increase, the trail gets steeper, and offers up a series of corners loaded with rocks and roots. A blink of an eye and you’re spat over the finish line with big grin on your face. We hiked the course twice on the Saturday, and retired to laughs and drinks at the Riding Fool Hostel.

If you’re ever planning on doing a riding trip to the Island do yourself a favour and stay in Cumberland at the Riding Fool Hostel … even if it’s just for a night. We all really liked the hostel. It was clean, had great amenities, and the staff were rad. The trails in Cumberland looked awesome, and I’ve heard good things from riders who’ve actually ridden more than just the race course. As per usual we drank a bunch on the Saturday night and had a bit of a party.

Dodge City Cycles is the bike shop in Cumberland, with the Riding Fool Hostel perched above it, two fantastic institutions

Classic Cumberland. What exactly is a Patch Big Store? Do they sell Patch Bigs? Or did someone get English mixed up? Either way it doesn't seem to be working as the windows were boarded up. A spring sale was promised, but we were unsure as to which spring they meant.

Come Sunday we all headed out to the race site. We got in 3 runs in the morning (uplift lines were lengthy), and were all enjoying the course thoroughly. The weather was glorious, and the track was slowly drying out. After practice was chatted with some other buddies, and soon headed up for our race runs. We could see a nasty system of weather moving our way, and luckily Emo, Hoff and I got away before the hail storm came. Some elites weren’t so lucky, and had to race down in near blizzard conditions. I made a couple mistakes on my run that were costly given how short the course was. I felt strong and fast on the bike, but obviously need to work on my consistency and pace to keep up with the faster guys. Once the dust and hail settled the Polartec Team John Henry Bikes Powered by Ethical Bean DH team placed 16th, 17th and 18th with myself on a 2:13, and then Hoff and Emo respectively on 2:15s.

Complimentary burgers and drinks for all the competitors was just icing on the cake of what was already one kick ass event

There was a bike toss (for a prize that I can't remember) to keep us entertained between when racing finished and awards

One of the fast rocky sections on the Cumberland DH course

A photo from my race run. This section was also really fast and rocky.


2011 Cumberland Island Cup DH Results

Cheers to the gong show for an awesome week-end. There were some epic laughs over chimp frogs, drunken dudes getting off the ferry, sketchy ladies in Cumberland, Jenga, Scrabble, cheeky kids stealing ice cream to name a few. Cheers to Chris for picking us and giving us a ride up and back.

These enterprising young rippers engineered a way of making a cup of ice cream much larger by using stir sticks. When the ferry people told them they'd be charged double they threatened to leave it on the counter. Pretty cheeky.

It’ll be a hectic week for me as I prepare for BC Cup # 1 in Kamloops this coming week-end. I don’t believe Emo or Hoff will be joining, but some others from the downillers from Polartec Team John Henry Bikes Powered by Ethical Bean will be coming along. Until then Happy Easter.

RockShox Lyrik Review

April 22, 2011

I have been bashing about the local mountains on a 2011 RockShox Lyrik Solo Air RC2DH for the past few months. I wrote a review about the fork and it was recently published on NSMB. Check it out here.


Riding the 2011 Lyrik Solo Air RC2DH that was mounted onto my Norco Range on Mt. Fromme

The Hoff (Rob Stead), Angry Dad (Glenn Franks) and I pilled into Glenn’s obnoxious Pathfinder and drove out to Belcarra. 60mm of rain was forecast, and Mother Nature was valiantly holding up her end of the bargain. We reluctantly put our bike gear on, and headed out for a practice run. As soon as we got moving, grins on our faces developed. The ground was soft and loamy, and sliding around every corner was mandatory. The three of us couldn’t help but let out bellows of laughter as we roosted out of every turn. Glenn whined pretty much the entire time about pedalling up the hills, while Rob and I made fun of him. Just as soon as Rob thought he was a complete hero the woods of Belcarra sorted him out.


Between practicing and racing the rain continued to pour down. Come race time the rain was harder than ever, and the ground was completely saturated. Rob was lined up in the start gate behind me … only 30 seconds would separate our start times. I leaned back and told Rob that if he caught me that I was going to punch him in the mouth. I rode well, nailed all my lines, and generally had a great time. Except on the climbs and flats. Pushing through ground that soft was agony. Just moving took gobs of effort. 12 minutes later I crossed the finish line with a distinct taste of lung in my mouth. Rob hadn’t caught me, which was in his best interests really, but crossed the finish line frighteningly close to 30 seconds after me. Darn it.


Next were the excellent draw prizes. Many folks left with fantastic prizes. The main prize was a Norco Rampage, graciously donated by John Henry Bikes. The bike was a size small, an odd choice I thought as few people ride a size small. As luck would have it, a young ripper won the prize. He couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. This little ripper was seen still riding his new bike (in the pouring rain) over anything he could find an hour later.
Then the results were up. I finished up 10th overall, Rob was 8th, Jeff Bryson was 6th. Team JH represent! Damn those two guys though. Hoff got me by 3 seconds … seriously 3 measly seconds over 12 minutes of effort. Glenn has been eating too many pies, and finished in 18th. You win this one Rob. All in all the Super D was a fantastic event, and regardless of the weather I had an absolute riot. Props to the organizers for putting on yet another excellent event!


The proud winner of the grand prize. A Norco Rampage donated by John Henry Bikes

Next week-end the downhill portion of the Polartec Team John Henry Bikes Powered by Ethical Bean will be at the Naniamo Island Cup. Oh and Hoff, it’s on!