Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bike Gripe (shouldn’t, wouldn't, didn’t) 

Bike Courier Outside Moscone West
Welcome to the high intensity sport known as Urban Cycle Commuting. Image via Flickr

Despite not having ridden my bike for pure pleasure much this summer, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been a man about town everyday on one of my bikes. The last few weekends I’ve gone for little 70+ KM sojourns, more or less trying to find a new training route without much success. Worse yet, all of this biking purely for transportation has meant I’ve tired of riding and I long for a day when some automatic device would carry me from place to place. Not like a car or a motorcycle but more like a smoothly walking leviathan who would pick me up and swaddle me until I am delivered safely where ever I need to go.

I just want to get somewhere safely. Is that so much to ask? Apparently, it is. Even streets with bike lanes are crazy. My current problem is I have to go East-West across downtown, right through the core of the city. From about Sherbourne to Spadina, it seems insanely dangerous and akin to an American Ninja obstacle course. I’ve tried every route from Dundas to Queens Quay but the combination of road conditions, speed of traffic, drivers making illegal u-turns, drivers never signalling while they turn, drivers running red lights, drivers running stop signs (actually just add “pedestrians and cyclists” to that list too), and a general overwhelming number of a-holes have created the most intimidating cycling conditions I’ve experienced in 15 years of riding in Toronto.

Plus I feel old. It’d be nice if my mode of transport felt like it had some real mechanical advantage. I like my single-speed bike for the simplicity and ease of maintenance but for the love of God it does not make it easy. I shouldn’t really being having trouble with the 42-17 set-up (42 tooth cog on front, 17 on the rear) but I’ve been struggling to even get started off a red light or a stop sign. It’s probably due to some ongoing weakness in my left leg from my back problem last year but that seems a lame excuse. My ongoing age is most likely the real answer. I suppose I can’t really complain about “ongoing age” as the alternative is less than desirable.
“Basically, if you ride, you will sweat.”

I'm guessing this guy's jacket isn't Gore-tex. Why can't I look like this when I ride? Because I'm not Italian. Image via The Sartorialist

And another thing… I have totally and utterly given up on any kind of “breathable” water resistant jacket. Breathable fabrics have their place and work well, but only in particular conditions, but the summer isn’t really one of them. For years I’ve had a dream of a really great commuting jacket, but now I’ve put the dream to rest. Not because I don’t want one, but because it is so impossible to create. Not only does this apparel not exist, it cannot exist. Like nuclear fusion, it may be theoretically possible, but in practice everyone will die. How can any jacket, not feel like a jacket but, while not feeling like a jacket, keep the rain and muck off of you… you know, like a jacket. I mean, wearing a Gore-tex type jacket over a fleece on a cold damp day is terrific. It works great if you are walking or hiking. I’ve played ice hockey on a rink in -30-something wearing appropriate base layers and a fleece and a breathable jacket and it was amazing. The problem with riding is, you go from moving at 20 km/hr to 0 all the time, thus you feel cooler moving than when stopped, so your personal air temperature is always in flux. In cooler times of the year, the wind chill while riding is off-the-charts terrible. If next winter, some jack-off suggests the wind chill factor is nonsense, kidnap said individual and stick their face out of the window as you drive down the street on a day that is a modest -10 C. Then ask them if “wind chill” exists or not? They won’t be able to answer because their lips will be frozen to their teeth.

In the summer, if you ride with any kind of jacket, you will sweat. If you ride wearing a backpack, you will sweat. If you wear trousers, you will sweat. Wearing a helmet? You will sweat. Basically, if you ride, you will sweat. The only jacket that I have (and I have too many) that is any way comfortable in Toronto’s June-September temperatures is my Castelli Leggero and as great as it is, it really only stops a light drizzle and not actual rain. Which makes me ask, why would I even need a jacket in a light drizzle? Recently on an unusually cool August day with the threat of rain, I thought it would be perfect to don my most expensive breathable waterproof jacket. Forget about it. I perspired until I expired. I figure the temperature has to be somewhere in the 15C range to really think about wearing a jacket. Also, it has to be really raining to even bother.

When it rains. It pours. It really, really pours. Image via Top Left Pixel

The problem may really be Toronto’s new climate. This year has been cooler and more comfortable (read: less humid) than most summers, yet we’ve still had two or three really substantial downpours that have flooded road ways (the Don Valley Parkway follows a river valley and engineers have suggested no amount of drainage can fight flooding so they’ve proposed raising the road bed – substantially). Assuming this summer is unusual, Toronto has somehow migrated to a near tropics like climate with 95% humidity and regular and devastating monsoon rainstorms and tornados (there were three tornados northwest of Toronto in July). In that environment, there really is no possible jacket to help you.
“I haven’t eaten great food on patios, drank cold beer on decks, ridden down unknown roads, run on trails nor have I swum under the sun.”
I guess despite the mostly comfortable summer we’ve had in years, I’m really disappointed I haven’t taken advantage of it. I haven’t eaten great food on patios, drank cold beer on decks, ridden down unknown roads, run on trails nor have I swum under the sun. Well, I did. One day. Once. The entire summer. You hope every day in your summer will be like that. Not just one day. I’m hoping it’s just a phase. A phase of stunted fun created by some earthbound inertia. A blurry fugue state of uncertainty or certainly a lack of imagination left me standing at the station as the train/boat/plane pulled away. This was the summer I should’ve, would've, could’ve done something. Instead it’s become the summer I shouldn’t, wouldn't, didn’t do anything. They say youth is wasted on the young, I say the same is true of summer. The young can have fun in any weather but we grown-ups need our vitamin D.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home