Some tune-ups, upgrades, and another 50km ride

The last weekend, I had enough of leaning my bicycle against everything.  I wanted a kickstand.

Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times...at propping up a bike.
Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times…at propping up a bike.

I also noticed that the bike was making some really squeaky noises as I was peddling — I figured it had to be the chain.  It needed some TLC, so I took a stroll down to the Trek store near Yonge and Eglinton and picked up the kickstand and a bottle of chain lube.

Ideally, I would have picked up stuff from MEC but it was too far out of the way for me and I didn’t have any time to spare before the weekend.  It was a busy busy week.  Have I mentioned that I was about to change jobs after nearly 8 years?  Well, now I have.

Anyhow, setting up the kickstand was a bit of a pain.  Instructions were pretty hard to interpret and it didn’t help that whoever put the price tag on the package, decided to place the sticker right on the instructions (which were on the plastic packaging of the kickstand).  It more or less felt like I was trying to piece together a puzzle but I figured it out eventually.

The good news about all of this is that despite the effort, I gained a sense of pride in figuring this out on my own.  That said, I still don’t see why they could not have improved the user experience and instructions.

Next up was to apply the chain lube.  It grabbed an old rag and started cleaning the chain by winding the pedals backward — just as I was taught in the MEC class!  Pretty amazing to see all the grime and dirt come off of the chain but I got pretty tired of dealing with it after spending 10 minutes winding the chain and still seeing tons of dirt and grime show up on the rag.  Then I applied the chain lube and wiped the excess off.

It was pretty amazing to ride my bike and immediately feel the difference.  Last week, I could hear my bike squeaking.  As my friend phrased with respect to her bike after a major tune-up, it was like butter — super smooth.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was an attempt to tackle 50km on the East Don Parkland.  Just like last time with some solid hills to climb up.

We were ready for this round but unfortunately the weather ended up surprising us.  While the weather reports were informing us that there’d be less than 1mm of rain that day (40% probability of precipitation) — my friend and I ended up in the middle of a thunderstorm and multiple showers!

Thank goodness the trail we were on run underneath bridges such as these.  They saved us numerous times from hail as well as pouring rain.

Bridges like these saved us from hail
Bridges like these saved us from hail
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge

We managed to get in about 35km despite the crazy weather and since it was Mother’s Day — there were important plans for the remainder of the day.

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Trying to Bicycle 50km with Hills

I knew it would be difficult but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be.  The other weekend, my friend had to take her bike into the shop for a tune-up not realizing that it’d take more than a day to tune it up.  It had taken quite a bit of rust over time — a result of water damage.  Sometimes it’d sound as if springs were going to just explode and fly in all directions.

Anyhow, while the weekend wasn’t due for a training session — I set out to go for a test run with my bike.  Discovered that the hills did take a toll on my endurance in my attempt to tackle 50km but that also my allergies were literally destroying me.  The weather had gotten warmer … trees were starting to bud, dandelions blossoming, pollen in the air … you get the idea.  I am quite the sight… looking like I’m crying all the time.

Test Ride with the GoPro
Test Ride with the GoPro

So as I make my way on to the East Don Parkland trail in North York, starting near Leslie and Sheppard — I soon run into signs indicating that parts of the trail were closed for construction.  Really?  Now??  Suffice to say, that it was a pain turning around and having to make my way all the way around to another entrance point on to the trail.

I only made it 35km … between the hills and allergies … I was just too tired.  On the bright side, I successfully tackled a really big uphill afterwards on the way home.

I was hoping to get a successful time-lapse on my GoPro.  This was a test run after all but I soon realized once I got home and uploaded everything onto the computer that it didn’t work out.  A 10 second time-lapse just doesn’t work well so after some research, I’m going to give the 2 second time-lapse a try — fingers crossed!

The Push to a 50km Ride

Over the weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to set up the GoPro Bicycle Mount that I picked up from BestBuy. I had attempted to get some third-party stuff from Amazon but they all failed to fit my bicycle handlebar properly. Apparently it is too thin.

Setting up the GoPro Mount
Setting up the GoPro Mount

I also attempted to set up the Blackburn bike pump holder on to the bicycle frame, but unfortunately — one of the screws that the Blackburn provided totally failed on me.  The screw head was messed up after I set up the pump holder.  Normally, I’d walk away and say that’s fine because it was installed but I had to make further modifications to the set up and now I couldn’t get bike pump holder off my bike.

The consequence of a single broken screw. Time wasted and the presence of the red toolbox.
The consequence of a single broken screw. Time wasted and the presence of the red toolbox.

I tried all sorts of tools and it just wouldn’t work so I ended up trying to wiggle the bike pump holder and most of it snapped off.  Oops, but by that point I didn’t care — I just wanted the bike pump holder off so I then grabbed a pair of pliers and worked at twisting the remaining part until the screw was loose enough.  Not cool as some paint was scratched off my bike in the process but at least I learned something and was able to get rid of the problem.

The broken air pump holder
The broken air pump holder

This time, we were going to tackle 50km make our way east along the Waterfront Trail in Toronto.  Unfortunately that particular trail itself wouldn’t make up for the full 50km so we tacked on some of the Don River Trail as well as the trail that runs through the Leslie Street Spit (otherwise known as Tommy Thompson Park).  We also accidentally ended up on the Taylor Creek Trail which was a nice surprise for us because it was quite the pretty trail.

It was a much colder day than last time and we fortunately had gloves and additional layers.  It was however, nice in the sun and once we left the core of the city and made our way into the Beach area — it was rather comfortable (albeit a bit too windy when cycling).

Having an opportunity to sit down at a bench dedicated to Larry "Hot Tub" Hayes.  Pretty cool.
Having an opportunity to sit down at a bench dedicated to Larry “Hot Tub” Hayes. Pretty cool.

Once we reached the furthest east we could go (or thought we could) — we sat down for lunch.  The view was great just to chill out and rest for a bit until some squirrel came along that was a little too comfortable and jumped right next to me and then proceeded to try and rummage through my bag.  I’m guessing that people fed the little critter a bit too often so I’ll refrain from doing so in the future.

Good view for lunch.
Good view for lunch.

The ride was a success but we were definitely feeling the burn near the end.  My quads will probably be paying for it tomorrow but at least it is for a good cause!

A Weekend with my Bicycle

With some great weather over the weekend of April 16th, I finally had the chance to work on my bicycle AND do some training.

So I woke up on Saturday and then pulled out the bicycle multi-tool that I had crowdfunded on Kickstarter some years ago.  Until now, it had sorta sat in my drawer but I was happy that The Nutter from Full Windsor was completely helpful to me as I worked on adding a new pannier rack.  I managed to pick one up from a local Trek store near my work.  It just so happened that they had a sale on so the discount was a bonus.

The Nutter bike multi-tool was helpful because I really had no idea what tools I needed to work on my bike...
The Nutter bike multi-tool was helpful because I really had no idea what tools I needed to work on my bike…

As I was adding on the pannier rack to my bike (a 2010 Trek 3700), I found myself fiddling around with the tools and even almost removing the wheel by accident.  Oops.  So I took a step back and made sure I knew what I was doing.  I had initially thought that I’d have to remove the wheel in order to install the pannier rack.

What I soon realized was my bicycle frame had specific holes in place for specific upgrades or components.  I also realized that I eventually need to get a bicycle stand.  Relying on leaning the bicycle against the wall is eventually going to drive me nuts when I have to pump my tires and install components.

Successfully installed! The new pannier rack on my bike
Successfully installed! The new pannier rack on my bike

So that was Saturday.  Success!

On Sunday, a friend and I began preparing for our 75km Ride for Heart by opting to train on the Toronto Waterfront trail.  I’ve never biked on this trail before so it was a pretty cool experience.  We managed to tackle about 25km by riding around some areas off-route after realizing that the route we took would only cover approximately 24km.

Using the empty spot where fold-up seats are to park my bike.
Using the empty spot where fold-up seats are (to the right) to park my bike and not get everyone’s way. [Photo via BlogTO]
On another note, because I live in the suburb of North York — I had to take my bicycle on the subway to the downtown core.  Now, one of the things that subway trains still fail to tackle is the transportation of bicycles.  This is why bicycles aren’t allowed on the TTC subway trains at certain times.

Surprisingly, I found the perfect spot to park my bike while on the subway.  I didn’t get in people’s way — I merely took up a spot.  Of course, if someone were to come into the subway train who required that space for the wheel chair — I would immediately move out of the way.  Today, there were seats galore — everywhere.  I was just simply enjoying the subway experience when suddenly I heard a, “Hey buddy, move out of the way — I need to sit.” — to which I immediately apologized and got out of the way, moving my bicycle aside.

This is when I came to the realization that he had just gotten on the subway and there were seats available immediately left of the entrance as well as opposite of where he was standing.  I guess he really wanted to sit down in those fold-up seats.  Can’t please everyone!

Aside from that peculiar experience on public transit, bicycle training was a success this weekend and the goal is to aim to tackle 50km.  Let’s just hope the weather will work out for us again!

Between the Bike and the Weather

With spring time fast arriving in Toronto, I am hoping to get started with some early spring training once I return from a quick trip to Utah.  I don’t know this’ll happen if temperatures continue to be looking to be in the low single digits.

A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016
A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016

I’m hoping that once I return from my trip to Utah, things will be significantly warmer for the first weekend of April.  I’ve been doing a bit of reading on training and it is suggested that cyclists training should start off with short one-hour rides.  I might even start with less than that if the weather is that cold.

I’ll also need to see if any of my toques can fit under my helmet and will work effectively.  I think I caught a brief cold in mid-late March as a result of wind chill and my toque was practically useless as I could feel the cold wind blowing right through.

In the meanwhile, I’ve focused on learning more about my own bike, a Trek 3700, a 2010 model if I remember correctly.  There’s a lot to learn and I haven’t figured out which bicycle maintenance book to buy yet — but a friend and I have signed up for a bicycle maintenance clinic at MEC.  It’s $10 for an hour’s worth of learning, and you don’t have to bring your own bike (which is good because I live a fair distant away from the MEC store in Toronto).  I’m excited to see what I’ll learn and be able to put into practice when I bring out my bike for some spring cleaning!

My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)
My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)

Between the bike and the weather, I’ve got a lot of figuring out to do…!

’tis the Beginning of a Journey

Since I returned from my trip in Tanzania, I’ve been itching to do something new.  I wasn’t really sure why I was so restless.  Perhaps it was a result of being away for a month and getting back into the groove of things was a challenge, but I didn’t think so.

One day, I happened to be chatting with a bunch of folks at work about the Ride for Heart (disclaimer: I used to work (up to May 2016) for the Heart and Stroke Foundation) and one colleague happened to mention she had completed the 75km bike ride last year.  We were all commiserating amongst ourselves about how cold and wet the ride was last year, although I thought it was worse before in the past.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Ride for Heart, it is a fundraising event hosted in Toronto where two main highways (the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and the Gardiner Expressway) are closed down for half the day so that cyclists get to ride on these highways while fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Route Map for the Ride for Heart in Toronto
Route Map for the Ride for Heart in Toronto

I’ve cycled the 50km route for the Ride for Heart over the past 6 years and although I always wanted to tackle the 75km, things just never worked out.  When I heard that one of my colleagues had done it and toughed it out through the rain and cold — I suddenly felt as if I needed to take on the 75km as well, but it still wasn’t enough for me.

So I began browsing some training routes for cycling in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and I came across the Greenbelt Route.  About 475km long, it follows environmentally-protected land that surrounds Toronto and the municipalities (GTA).

Now the thing is … I don’t know the first thing about bicycle touring or even bicycles themselves.  The only thing I know is how to ride one.

Looks like I have a lot to learn first… this blog is to detail my journey…

Toronto Reference Library #TPLFoodHunt

Lisa and I decided the next library to visit would be relatively close in vicinity to our offices.  This led us to one of my favourite libraries in Toronto — the Reference Library.  I remember the first time I stepped into this library back when I was researching some materials for a history paper — walking into this institution was one of the few times I felt inspired.

This is a part of the #TPLFoodHunt exploration series.

Lisa and I decided the next library to visit would be relatively close in vicinity to our offices.  This led us to one of my favourite libraries in Toronto — the Reference Library.  I remember the first time I stepped into this library back when I was researching some materials for a history paper — walking into this institution was one of the few times I felt inspired.

This was what a library should feel like!  Times have changed and the Toronto Reference Library has gone through some major renovations.  In addition to the 5 floors of great reference material and a number of special collections, this library now even hosts a small retail store and cafe.  This is great for anyone who wants to grab a quick bite or drink without stepping outside — particularly during the cold winters.  But what if you still have a craving for something different?  We’ll get to that later.

The rather glamourous front entrance of the Toronto Reference Library.
The rather glamourous front entrance of the Toronto Reference Library.
A look down the cascading levels of the library.
A look down the cascading levels of the library.

I’ve always enjoyed just sitting in this library and just taking in the atmosphere.  Whether it was just observing the other folks or just the ambient noise and light, this place can compete against the fanciest of coffee shops and cafes in the city.

I enjoy the beautiful architecture of the Reference Library.  Particularly because it lets in so much natural light.
I enjoy the beautiful architecture of the Reference Library.  Particularly because it lets in so much natural light.

Toronto Reference Library

Photo above by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Toronto Reference Library also has some interesting tidbits about it.  Due to its brilliant architecture, it has been the filming location for a number of movies.  One of the more recent and notable ones would be Red (2010), with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, and Helen Mirren.

Looking down at the makeshift auditorium and stage on the ground level of the library.
Looking down at the makeshift auditorium and stage on the ground level of the library.

For lunch, Lisa found a great little lunch place, Eat a Pita, just steps away from the Toronto Reference LIbrary.  Practically across the street.  Great place for take out but not so much for eating in — it’s quite small but that shouldn’t pose a problem because you can take your schwarma plate or pita.  What’s even better is that the lunch special is $5 or $6 — hard to find that sort of deal around town these days.  I’ll leave it to Lisa to dish out details over the food.

Our meal of choice:  Eat a Pita -- with a great $5/$6 lunch special!
Our meal of choice:  Eat a Pita — with a great $5/$6 lunch special!