Sunday, January 31, 2016

Break Forth 2016

 Inside the busy concourse of the Northlands Expo Centre during the Break Forth Canada 2016 conference, and a scene from a breakout session with Danielle Strickland speaking about Jesus and justice, from the story of Jesus' encounter with the 10 men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Stephen Avenue, Calgary

Stephen Avenue, Calgary's pedestrian mall (during the day) through a historic portion of downtown, on a balmy 9 degree Celsius lunch hour... my first outdoor urban sketch of the year!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Steeds: Number Three (B): The Mountain Bike

I never had much of a desire to ride off-road or on dirt trails until last fall, and during its reincarnation this Marin mountain bike took on a more commuter character with the addition of fenders and slick tires, making it more of a hybrid than a true mountain bike. Despite my initial bent towards road bikes, I have to admit it rides much more comfortably on city roads. Through the summer, it became my default weekend bike for hitching a Trail-a-Bike to, for excursions around the city with the kids; the sturdier ride and wider handle bars made this especially appropriate, and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the neighbourhood in search of garage sales.

I learned a lot from the transfer of parts from the smaller frame, including the difference between forks and how to make DIY headset cup presses (the previous "version" of this bike had a threadless fork that would not fit the larger frame... one of many upgrades made by the first owner), but I never managed to master the intricate art of adjusting the derailleurs to work smoothly, and I now have a cracked cog needing replacement... more opportunities for hands-on learn in the spring.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Unibroue beer

Four different bottles of beer... (from different days!) brewed by Unibroue in Quebec.
"La Fin du Monde" and "Maudite" bring back memories of that exhilarating night right after handing in my thesis years and years ago, when a friend I graduated with introduced me to these strong beers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Steeds: Number Three (A): The Mountain Bike

The other bike that was sitting in my garage for a good part of the last 15 years was an early 1990s (?) Marin mountain bike that I bought second hand almost 20 years ago. Three years ago, as a birthday present, my wife took it to a bike mechanic to have it tuned up and made ride-able again... but it didn't see much action for another two years. That birthday present, however, was the catalyst for my recent re-connection with the bicycle.

There's a reason I didn't end up riding the bike... I found out it was too small. Luckily (or, as fate would have it), on the same day I picked up the Sekine frame from the local community bike shop, I found the exact same Marin frame, but 2 inches larger. Transferring all the parts from the smaller frame to its larger counterpart was my second bike build.

These sketches are of the old retired frame... an old friend whose spirit lives on in a new creation.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

the pianists

The kids getting in a week's worth of practice, the day before their lesson.

My Steeds: Number Two: The Single Speed

This was my first bike build.
My cycle commute involves no real vertical challenges... and on my road bike there was no need to ever shift gears; I quickly realized it was "too much bike" for such a simple route. Meanwhile, I spent six months intrigued by the notion of a fixed gear bike, reading about its aesthetic, philosophical, and practical benefits. I agonized over whether to buy one... including an internal struggle on whether I had the right reasons. In the end, I thought it best to take on the challenge of building my first bike as a fixed gear. It was, at first, an intimidating prospect, but I committed to the project in April 2015 with the acquisition of a 1970s Sekine frame for 40 dollars. And through hours of Youtube videos, internet how-to articles, helpful blogs, and much trial and error, my first bike was built in the summer.

Doing some research on the now defunct frame maker was a great way to feel an affinity with the bike even before I built it -- a Japanese bike manufacturer operating in the hinterlands of the Canadian Prairies. Despite its modesty, the frame is well crafted; it's an emerald green, lugged steel frame with beautiful chrome fork ends. The rest of the bike is a mishmash of new and used parts -- new Tektro brakes (they needed to have long reach because of older rim sizing) and 700C wheelset, with the remainder being whatever second-hand stuff I could get my hands on. Most of what I learned about the mechanics of bike-building (and I don't profess to know that much... quite yet) was from putting together this bike.

On my first test runs, I ran into major problems: first I realized my rear cog was too small, then the left crankarm fell off, and finally the bottom bracket suddenly seized up. The fixed-gear thing was uncomfortable too. Modifications followed, and I settled on a flywheel. I've not looked back. It became my default commuter through the whole summer, and I've appreciated the bike's practicality, elegance, and sense of sheer freedom that comes not only from the way this particular bike with this particular setup handles, but also from the satisfaction that I can build and power my own means of transportation.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Steeds: Number ?: The Hardtail Bike

Actually, this is not my bike. It belongs to my wife, who (compelled by me, of course) bought it second-hand at a bike swap in the spring... a Kuwahara mountain bike with front suspension and a rather small frame. It was still a little large and I modified the bike  by cutting the steerer tube and changing the stem to a shorter one.

I am, by personality and inclination, the type that chooses the harder way over the easy way on certain things... for aesthetic reasons. Suspension on bicycles is one such thing --  that's what legs are for! My wife, being a much more practical person, wanted suspension. After being on some pretty rough trails this fall, I could be convinced...

That means I have to add another bike to my collection.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Steeds: Number One: The Road Bike

In my mind, 2015 was the year of the bicycle.

In late 2014, I had in my possession, two bicycles that had been lying dormant, neglected in my garage for well over ten years. A year later, it's grown to a collection of six bikes, plus 3 more obsolete frames and a box full of old miscellaneous parts. None were bought new, and all except two were built up or significantly modified from old frames and a hodgepodge of new and used parts bought on the internet or at the local community bike shop.

What started as participation in a charity bike ride quickly became my primary means of commuting, and then blossomed into a hobby, an infatuation, a way of life, a philosophy... and all I could think about was bicycles through most of 2015. To my surprise, I became one of those crazy guys riding in Edmonton's dark mid-winter through slush, ice, and snow. I am now in the business of converting others into this cult. I see it as a healthy expression of middle-aged-ness.

Although I haven't been able to ride as much as I would like, I spent more than enough time learning how to tinker through Youtube, stealing away to look at bucket-loads of parts at the shop, and drool over vintage steel frames and folding bikes on the internet. However, surprisingly, I didn't sketch my trusted companions that much... so here begins another series: My Steeds.

One: The Road Bike

This bike, a Viner "Special Professional", is the spiritual descendant of my first road bike, a Panasonic DX-1000, which I rode in high school but which I regrettably parted with a long time ago. I've had this bike for just over 15 years now, and it's one of the two bikes that lay neglected for the most part of the last 10 years. I believe it's from around the early to mid 1980s, and has a combination of Shimano and Campagnolo parts, including Biopace chainwheels.  As the one I've had the longest, and because of its vintage, handling, and ride quality, I have a special affinity for this bike (it got me through the 4-month long 2001 Vancouver transit strike!), and remains my go to road bike for summer weekends. I wish I took better care of it... an overhaul is in order this spring.