A Shift Back To Winter

Since the bit of snow that we got on Christmas Day, the weather in Calgary has been unseasonably warm and dry. Even our street, which often has hard-packed ice that lingers well into the spring, was clear. It got to the point where we all went for bike rides on Sunday the 13th. I went for a 47-km solo ride, and Tammy and the kids rode 10 km to the library and back.

Yours truly enjoying a mid-winter ride

But this week, the temperatures dove down under freezing and it snowed yesterday. Before the snow was an ice fog, which always leaves the trees in a beautiful state.

Ice crystals on tree branches

Today it’s -17 out there. It’s supposed to be back above zero tomorrow, but we’ll wait and see. I’m off to Halifax next week. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with my air travel.

Miranda’s class went to Bowness High School for a field trip yesterday. She has put her application in to Sir Winston Churchill High School for the International Baccalaureate program for next year, but if that doesn’t pan out, she will attend Bowness. She was impressed by the various programs there, so it’s good that she is excited about Plan B.

In other news, I have jumped back into writing/editing mode. I have three novels that make up a long story, which I started in November 2015 with All Too Human, then followed up in 2016 with Outpost Tyranny and I partly completed between 2017 and 2018 with Who Writes the History Books. WWTHB is probably about 30,000 words from completion, but I decided to go back and revisit everything up to now to ensure continuity and to fix any outstanding edits. I am enjoying that process, and what I’ve done is created a PDF copy of the novels, and I am using the PDF Viewer app on my iPad with the Apple Pencil to make red-pen markup that I will incorporate later. It’s allowing me to scribble quick notes instead of worrying about getting everything perfect. Once I get to where I left off in 2018, I think I will be ready to push through the last part of the book.

This is exciting for me, because it’s been a long time coming, and I can envision the end.

 

2018 Cycling Roundup

Don’t worry, the general 2018 Retrospective is coming tomorrow. Today, I met my distance goal for cycling: 9,000 km for the year. With that, I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the cycling year.

As I mentioned, I met my goal for the year, but my initial target was 8,000 km. In October, it was clear that I was going to pass that, so I upped my sights.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but back in 2014 I wondered how I would ever top 3,000 km.

But enough about me. If 2018’s cycling story was about anything, it was about the rest of the family. Both Miranda and Tammy joined the Bow Cyclist Club, and Ian was one of my biggest riding partners.

It all started in January, when I enrolled Miranda and myself in the Bow Cycle Service School. Miranda had “inherited” Tammy’s bike the previous year, but it was her opportunity to tear it apart and make it her own. I took my Giant commuter and replaced its drivetrain with a 1x system, which was my major cycling investment of the year.

The spring took its own sweet time coming, so while there were a few rides in March and April, nothing really started happening with regularity until May. Then the 2018 pattern established itself: I commuted pretty regularly, rode on Wednesdays and Sundays with the BCC (and Miranda would join on Sundays), Tammy would ride the Tuesday morning ladies’ ride, Tammy and Miranda would ride the Thursday night ladies’ ride with the BCC, while Ian and I would go for a spin along the pathways.

I had two early season “special” rides, both in June: the MEC Century Ride and the Gran Fondo Badlands. Keith came out to stay with us to take part. The weather cooperated, even if the integrity of our tires did not.

Ian turned eleven this year, and while his legs might not be long, he was super enthusiastic about riding his new road bike this year. I got the bike for $275 from Tara, whose son had outgrown it. Ian’s first attempts at riding it were comically tentative, but soon he was pushing himself to try new things, including riding up Canada Olympic Park and registering for the Tour de Victoria. That forced an additional bike rack for the Tiguan, as the Biickerts were all represented in the Tour de Victoria this year. That was the highlight of the year.

The weather didn’t cooperate very well this year. Calgary was choked with smoke through August from the BC wildfires, Victoria followed suit while we were there (thankfully not on the Tour day). Then winter arrived early. There were some further BCC rides in October, but only for the hardcore. For Tammy and Miranda, the season was over when we got back to Calgary from Victoria.

Faced with the prospect of a long, long winter, I opted for variety in the form of a set of cycling rollers. Technically an early Christmas present, it has already been a welcome change from Zwifting every day.

Stepping back and looking at the year again, it was huge steps forward for Tammy and Ian. Tammy will end the year with more than 4,300 km. That’s huge! Ian stepped up and rode lots and with enthusiasm. For myself, I can’t help but think that it was a bit of a step backwards. I know I didn’t reach the levels of fitness in the summer that I did in 2017. I only rode three centuries, instead of six or seven in 2017, depending on how you count them. I was very regular and my totals show it. And there is something very rewarding seeing the others reach new heights.

But looking ahead to 2019, I have already agreed with the BCC that I would shift to leading the Saturday ride instead of the Sunday ride. That will hammer me into shape: 90 hard km instead of 45 easy ones. I also am pondering entering the Tour de Bowness next August and there is something new called the Alberta Gran Fondo Series for 2019. Who knows, I might get back to 2017 levels next year.

Fat Biking

That is not a description of the rider. It’s the tires! 🤪

Today, I borrowed a bike from Bow Cycle and met up with a dozen or so club members to ride up the Powderface Trail, west of Bragg Creek. I was more than a little sceptical. After last year’s ride which was more ice than snow, I was worried that this was going to be an hour and a half of butt-clenching.

It turned out pretty good. The conditions were good, and the temperature was just below freezing.

At the trail head

It was a heck of a climb. Only about six kilometres in, but half a kilometre up.

Powderface Trail map and elevation

There was more than a little bike pushing going on. I know my heart rate spiked over 180 bpm on the climb up.

Pushing up one of the shorter climbs

It was fun, but exhausting. There’s gotta be easier ways to move around in snow than this.  I think fat bikes are cool, but I don’t want to buy one. I’d rather rent one every once in a while. The studded tires alone cost $700.

Rollers

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally bought myself a set of cycling rollers. Here they are, set up and ready to go tonight.

Norco Valence and Tacx Galaxia

I’ve borrowed rollers from other cyclists twice in the past: once from Brian and once from Kurt. As an owner of two cycling trainers and a regular user of Zwift, it took a fair bit of thinking to get me to add the rollers to our jumble of gear. If I had to sum up the reasons why:

  • It’s a singular sensation, balancing on the rollers. Always feels like you’re one twitch away from disaster (see video below). And interesting is always in short supply in the long winter.
  • It’s a different workout. I can already feel sore muscles from my short ride this evening. It works the core when you are balancing and it forces a smooth pedaling stroke.
  • Higher cadence, lower resistance. Should be healthier for my knees in the long term.
  • It gives months of bike handling practice. Things like learning how to turn your head without your bike drifting, and things like that.

I’m not cancelling my Zwift membership. I expect to intersperse trainers and rollers through the winter.

Thanks to Bow Cycle for granting me the staff discount for being an ambassador with the club. It makes a big difference.

Updated

I made some adjustments before my ride today:

  • Raised my handlebars
  • Shortened the rollers from #3 to #4 (Tammy helped me measure the axle length)
  • Put a hard surface (some wood) under the rockers/rollers on the bottom to allow them forward/backward movement.

These all were very positive changes, making the rollers much more stable. I’m still the weakest link, but it’s good to know that things are set up more optimally.

Brr. Cold September!

It’s been a lousy, rotten September. And I’m not kidding. I went to Winnipeg and Toronto in the last two weeks, and they are having lovely early Fall weather, while Calgary has been cold and wet, with dustings of snow. Now the forecast for tomorrow is warning of up to 20 cm of snow. There is an actual reason for it. Strongest ridge in 60 years. Arctic air is shooting straight down through Alberta.

That has meant for little outdoor cycling, and yet at the same time, I am not ready mentally to throw in the towel on the riding season. I have found some days to commute to work. And today I showed up for the Bow Cyclists ride with six other hard core (hard-headed) members. It was -3 and dry, with a windchill of -9.

Bundled up against the cold (Bart, Derek, me, Kevin, Wing, Mark and Kurt out of picture)

It was chilly, but the camaraderie was good. When we were leaving the nice, warm shop I did point out that I was there “ASA: Against Spousal Advice”. 😆 There were a few comments during the ride that “we should have listened to Simon’s wife”.

I am still hoping that the weather will revert and give us a nice October and November. We’ll see.

2018 Tour de Victoria

I am having trouble choosing where to start. I could tell the story about my ride and what I know about everyone else’s ride, but that would be missing the forest for the trees.

The most important thing about yesterday was that everyone participated. It was an unlooked-for thing and yet makes me so proud I could burst. Ian rode 30 km, Miranda and Tammy rode 60 km and I rode 140 km.

It was a culmination of different stories. We each got there in different ways. I got here by Tammy kicking my butt six years ago to get onto my bike because I’d hurt my foot in karate and I wasn’t exercising and I was gaining weight. Now I am strong and fit. This was my fourth TdV, and I consider it a regular date on the calendar. Tammy got here by declaring when we moved to Calgary that she and the kids were going to take advantage of all of the bike paths near our new house. That led to a new bike, commuting to work, and joining the Bow Cyclists ladies rides. It was her second participation. With the changes this year to the TdV, the 45 km distance that she did last year wasn’t available, and she took a big step up to 60 km. Miranda had the quietest path: she always was a good bike rider (once we shipped her off to Pedalheads, anyways), and when Tammy got her new bike we almost sold her Specialized, except Miranda quietly asked if she could have it. A week later she registered with the club, and she has been riding twice a week since. I thought the 60 would be a challenge, until two of the club rides ended up over 60 km this year. Those didn’t bug her at all. And then there is Ian. The little one, with short legs struggling to keep up but refusing to give up, waiting until he was big enough. Tara sold us her son’s old road bike because he had outgrown it this winter. Ian was so tentative on his first ride this spring, but has taken to it with massive enthusiasm, with two rides per week plus he started riding on his own. He wanted to ride with everyone else at the TdV, but he was anxious about it. I extended our rides to the same length and amount of elevation gain to prove to him that he could do it, and with our encouragement he signed up.

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Ian Made Up His Mind: He’s Riding the Tour de Victoria

It was months ago that we discovered that kids were allowed to ride unaccompanied in the 30 km distance of the Tour de Victoria, as long as they were 11 years old. I mean, it’s a closed road, with police officers at every corner. Safer than when Ian goes for rides on his own around here…

We gave him the option to ride, but he didn’t make up his mind. He wanted to, but:

  • He was worried that he would have to ride in a peloton like in the Tour de France. Not an issue: the ride isn’t like that.
  • He wanted to spend time with Grandpa. Not an issue: they will be together in the morning and then Grandpa will be taking him to the starting line.
  • He was worried about the distance and the hill to climb. Not an issue: Ian and I have ridden 30 km each of the last two weeks, and climbed more on those rides than you do on the Tour de Victoria route.

So we finally had to corner him, because if we were taking his bike to Victoria, that would be four bikes on the car, and they wouldn’t all fit on the rack. We needed to get a roof carrier as well.

So he said yes, and we now have a Thule Up Ride car roof rack.

Thule rack installed

It wasn’t too hard, and we put Ian’s road bike on and went for a test drive. It worked well.

In other news, today was the Tour de Bowness Hill Climb. I led the Bow Cyclist ride this morning, and ended it at Mackay Road, where the race was going on. Tammy rode down with Ian, and back with Miranda, and Ian and I checked out the racing. It’s a 500 m drag race up the hill. There was a lane for riding up and down the hill (not a racing lane), so Ian and I rode down from the top to the starting line and then back up. He got some cheers from the onlookers for climbing the hill.

Ian making it to the top

Bow Cyclists Group Photo

Last night, I led out yet another Bow Cyclists Club ride. This time, we headed for Emerald Bay, a little cul-de-sac looking out over the Bearspaw Reservoir on the Bow River.

It was a nice evening, with the thunderstorm holding off until about 10:30 pm. Roy, one of the club members, took this photo.

Bow Cyclist Club. I am front and center

Ian’s First Ride up COP

As is our usual, when Tammy and Miranda went for their Thursday night ladies’ ride with the Bow Cyclist Club, Ian and I went for a ride of our own. This night was a special one, because Ian had been bugging me for a long time that he wanted to try to ride up the hill at Canada Olympic Park. COP is a bit of a byword around Calgary as one of the world-class local hills for cycling. It’s not long at 1.3 km, but it is steep. It averages 8%.

COP hill

To put that in perspective, that’s in the same ballpark as famous hills in Europe such as Alpe d’Huez.

On this night, Ian and I rode up it. He stopped only once, but he made it!

Ian just before the last hairpin

When I posted the ride on Strava, Ian got lots of support.

  • Adam Clark Was that Ian’s first time up COP?
  • Simon Biickert yep!
  • Adam Clark Well he must be getting ready for A group rides then.
  • Tammy Biickert Way to go Ian!
  • Phil Arsenault Great job Ian. COP is tough!
  • Karyn Silenzi Nice – that hill is my nemesis!