On The Road: May 2017

April showers brings May flowers... my @ss. The past month has been wet! Here in Toronto we received an entire month's worth of rain in just a few days, and that's just how May started. Lakes and rivers are now at an all time high and patience for Mother Nature is at an all time low. The good news is that June is already giving reprieve.

Around the bike though, May managed to be a pretty good month both on and off the road.


Off The Bike

This month we kind of kicked it into high gear on putting together a studio space at Blacksmith Cycle. The idea is to help them set up a simple and professional space to photograph their work. Since becoming a photographer I've built my own studio, and helped many others to build theirs, but this is a different challenge. While temptation may be to do a complete build out for the space, it has to be fully functional yet simple and uncomplicated. The latter part being critical. Therefore the goal is to create a setup that is simple to put up and take down, and even easier for them to use on their own. The space has a large south facing window that fills the room with natural light. Just not enough. So what I'm working through is a natural light setup with a low power strobe as a key fill. I later added a reflector to fill possible shadows on the back wall. The first few shoots have gone well and there are a few more details to iron out but I'm happy with how it's coming along. Building a studio with friends is a lot of fun and I appreciate the trust, support, and collaboration.

As I mentioned in last month's road report, I'm on the organizing committee for the Northern Pass charity ride. The event takes participants through 40, 100, 150km lakeside routes of northern Ontario while raising money for the Princess Margaret Hospital. This is my first time helping to form a large Fondo type ride so it's been cool to be a part of all the behind the scenes action. The event just posted the route and registrations have been picking up. Most notably, the Bikes On Wheels Women group has signed up and it's really exciting to see a women's group joining. These are a super strong and passionate group of women whom I'm sure are going to whoop some ass. If you're into an exclusive experience of riding the lake fronted cottage roads of Northern Ontario, check it out. If you register this weekend, Friday June 8th through Sunday June 11th I've got a promo code for a discount on your registration fee. Use the code "LIFE" and then come ride with us.

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On The Bike

Saturdays in May took us out to the David Dunlap Observatory and back. The route itself isn't necessarily my favourite because A) it's all within city limits and B) it has too many turns to really get into a groove. But the stopping point is worth it. The observatory was built at a time when the surrounding area was absent of suburban housing, however it has long since been consumed by urban sprawl. The working telescope sits as an unexpected escape within a wooded oasis. Most people have no idea there is working observatory in the city and it's always fun to bring people there for the first time. If you haven't been, make a point of checking it out. 

Just before the end of the month I got out for one of my favourite kinds of ride. A guided tour of Toronto's east end. On the long weekend Mike from Blacksmith and I hatched a last minute plan to get on the road. We met up not far from my house and I got to lead him through a showcase of Toronto's lower east side classics. On a trip out towards the nuclear plant we hit up the art deco R.C. Harris water treatment plant and its switchbacks. Although we decided to pass on Brimley, the king of Toronto climbs, I dragged him down and up the wall on Fallingbrook. Who doesn't love 22* of suffering? After fighting a 40kph headwind on the way home we stopped for a caffeinated recharge before parting ways with a promise to ride east again. 

 Ready to roll out from the Dunlap Observatory

Ready to roll out from the Dunlap Observatory

 Overpasses count as climbs right?

Overpasses count as climbs right?

 The R.C. Harris treatment plant always impresses newcomers to the east end

The R.C. Harris treatment plant always impresses newcomers to the east end

 The east end wall, a 22 degree S bend climb up Fallingbrook.

The east end wall, a 22 degree S bend climb up Fallingbrook.

 The R.C. Harris treatment plant is as fun to descend as it is to ascend.

The R.C. Harris treatment plant is as fun to descend as it is to ascend.


Road Safety

Unfortunately not everything on the road is so positive. Cycling is clearly a risk involved sport. Whether it's professionals or commuters, there are too many stories of cyclists getting hit by or getting run off the road by drivers. The goal of every ride should be to have fun and always to make it home safely. On a ride this month I got a stark reminder of just how exposed we really are as cyclists.

This year I've been riding with a GoPro mounted out front. Mostly for capturing content. Fortunately it's proven to be far more versatile. In the short video excerpt here you can see a close call that happened when a transport truck passed within a few feet of a group ride. I'm posting this not in an effort to lay blame on the driver or to absolve ourselves of it, but to serve as a reminder of how dangerous cycling can be and that we have to be aware and take extra precautions.

The circumstances of the situation were that our group was riding at a quick pace, ~40kph, and had just veered left around a hazard before beginning to move slowly back to the right. That's when I heard the loud horn and the engine of a transport truck bearing down on us. In the video you hear me yell "SLIDE RIGHT" just second before the rig catches up to us. While the rig of the truck passes with plenty of space, the rear of the trailer passes far too close. This pass breaks the 3 meter law but you have to take into account that we are 2 abreast in a bike lane and our left riders are very close to the line as we had just finished veering into the car lane to avoid an object. Everyone made it through safely and the video serves as a real reminder to ride right & tight.


New Gear.

What would this blog be without a focus on new gear? This month I'm really stoked on some new stuff.

My friend Eryn turned me onto the new Oakley Evzero glasses. Not that I was unhappy with my previous interchangeable lens glasses, I just wanted something with a better quality lens and something completely frameless. The Evzero fit the bill and when I came across the photochromic version, my mind was made up. So far I'm really impressed with their performance on the bike and not having to worry about what lens to put in for each ride has been a time saver. Will definitely have more to say on these later in the season.

The road bars I initially built up my Cherubim Uli with were a bit too wide. I started to feel spread out and it was giving me neck pain. After a consultation with Mike, we decided to swap out the bars for the Schmolke SL EVO. In my mind I wanted something that was close in design to my favourite bar shape, the Storck RBC 180, and these were perfect. They are the right compact dimensions, have an oversized and slightly aero top, save a few grams, and match my matte 3K weave fork perfectly. They even have a gentle sweep back through the tops. After about 200kms on the bars I'm really impressed with their stiffness but mostly with how comfortable they are.

At the beginning of the month, Bryce from 22 Bikes, hooked me up with a Fabric ALM Saddle. When I reviewed the Fabric Scoop saddle, my critique was that the shell was a bit to flexible for my liking. The ALM is significantly lighter and definitely a lot stiffer than the Scoop. Aesthetically the ALM saddle is a work of art while tipping the scale at only ~150 grams. Before I can start using it though, I've got a saddle position issue to sort out on my Mosaic RT-1. To try and avoid working through two variables, I'll keep my current saddle and finalize the position before swapping in the ALM to the same measurements. I'm keen to get it going.

The last bit of new gear isn't really all that new. In the ride section I mentioned using a GoPro. To be specific it's a GoPro Hero Session 5. It's a small addition that packs a lot of punch. I'm running it set to 4K 60fps which means I can capture super high res video and pull 10mpx stills from any frame. This has proven to be really useful and it means I can leave the compact camera at home to enjoy more of the ride. To get a critical center mounting position on the bike I had to make a DIY GoPro mount for the ENVE stem of my Mosaic RT-1. I'm currently working on a write up and instructions on how I made it. The photos are shot and the rough notes are done so keep an eye out for that.

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 Custom DIY GoPro dual mount on an ENVE stem mount.

Custom DIY GoPro dual mount on an ENVE stem mount.