Biking, Apps, and Gaming.

So, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been tracking my rides, even my commuting, with an app called Strava. Now, I really like Strava. It’s got some faults (like, shutting itself down while it’s tracking a ride, to perform an update) but as a whole, it’s very, very good.

And one of the things it does that really floats my boat is turns riding into a video game. Specifically, a racing game.

See, what Strava does, that the others don’t, is socialize the ride: ok. More like, “gameify”. Riders in a particular city isolate “segments” (point A to point B) and that becomes a segment. Then, anyone who rides that segment, with the app tracking them gets a time for their ride on that segment.

And the get placed on a leaderboard.

You can see where this is going, right?

Here’s the thing. That week (I wrote this two weeks ago, been sick and lazy since) has been spectacularly good for me.

Sawmill Creek – Huntclub -> Walkley (2.4km)
Previous – 4m43s. Monday 4m27s, Tuesday 4m37, Thursday 4m24 @ 32.9km/h (8th in the city) Friday 4m27s

Sawmill Creek – Walkley to Brookfield (1.1km)
Previous 2m03s. Monday 1m51s, Tuesday 1m52s, Thursday 1m50s (12th in the city) Friday 1m48s @ 35.1km/h (10th in the city)

You’ll notice that Wednesday isn’t in there. That’s because I had one of those mentioned “reset to update” events and it didn’t track my run.

I don’t know what changed. I’d been off for a couple of weeks (flat tires, sick, etc) and actually drove to work for the best part of two weeks. Huge break in riding. As mentioned, sick.

And then I start up again, and this happens. I’m fast as fuck.

And I know I’m fast as fuck. Because the tracker tends to be right. Also, if I see other people on the path, it’s because I’m passing them.

I wouldn’t say I’m obsessive about it. Ok. maybe a little.

But, the upside is, I’ve ridden for approximately 200 minutes this week (so… 3.3hrs) commuting. That covers about 85km. The ride home is slower, for some reason, but even considering that, I’m averaging somewhere around 26km/h for the entire week. The calorie burn (if you can trust the tracker) is around 3300 cal, for the week (10 rides, approx 300cal per ride). Seems fairly legit to me, as I’m working hard to achieve the speeds/averages that I’m getting.

At the end of the day though, those segments? Damn. That’s actually motivating me. The ride on either side of them isn’t commute anymore, it’s “how I get to my charge point”. Seriously. You cannot (or maybe you can) believe just how motivating that leaderboard is for me.

It does help when that ride looks like this though (this is from this, Friday, morning):

I’m almost done for the season: it’s middle of October, I’ll probably get three to six weeks more of bike commuting before I quit for the winter. I used to ride the winter, too, but the reason I don’t anymore is another story entirely.


Cycling: Turn Down For What

Ok, that was gratuitous, but I love that video. No good reason at all, but dem articulated boobs make me giggle.

This week, I started getting serious about the riding. Previously, I’ve not ‘tracked’ my commute: I did realize that, for the most part, my commute is more than 15km (about 8km each way, depending on route). So, it’s actually worth tracking. I sweat when I do it, so… yeah, I’ll “keep” those miles. But this week, I have a plan to jump face-first back into the heavy riding.

The prologue to all this is that in February, after eating my stress from preparing to sell a house, selling a house, buying a new house, moving, wondering if the roof on the new house will collapse… you get the idea… left me at 235lbs.


That’s the heaviest I’ve been in nine years.

So, that had to stop. Since February, I’m down about fifteen pounds: that was mostly some biking, walking to work until the roads improved, and not eating like a complete imbecile. It works. But now the serious work begins.

And that means actively trying to lose weight again.

I’m hoping 215lbs by Canada Day (July 1st), and 200lbs by Labour Day (September 1st). I’d by lying if I said that at least some of this is due to wanting to look comfortable in my clothes for the wedding next spring, but that’s not all of it. I’m not really worried about the weight per se, but rather, how I feel in my clothes. I’ve got a ton of shirts right now that I don’t wear, because they bulge in the wrong places for me to be comfortable in them. So… yeah. Gotta get back to me.

Like I’ve mentioned before, what works for me is biking. And it’s been a while since I was serious about it.

This week so far:

Monday – 8km to work, 27.4km home (35.4km)
Tuesday – 8km to work, 13.9km home (21.9km)
Wednesday – 5.5km to work, 32km home (37.5km)

Total so far, 94.8km.

Tuesday was tough: like I said, getting the eating under control too means that I underestimated my requirements. By that, I mean, by the time I was onto the final 5km section of my loop, I was getting dizzy, and out of breath. Basic sugar crash. So, yeah, gotta increase intake during the day, and decrease in the evening. Tonights plan is 30km, out to MEC because I need a couple of bike-related things that Joe Mamma doesn’t sell. Also, it’s a nice ride out through Westboro, and the Experimental farm and down Prince of Wales. Also, I’ve no choice but to finish the ride, because have to get home. So, there’s that.

Basically, I’ve set myself a goal this week of 175km. I’m actually hoping that’ll be closer to 200km, but, hey, baby steps, right?

As of Wednesday night, assuming I did accomplish my goal (ed. I did), I’m at about 92km.

Thursday will be the usual 8km to work, and then probably 20km home. So, that’s around 120km. Friday, 8km to work, and 20km home again. 148km. That means Saturday or Sunday, I need to find time for a 25-50km ride. Or, I need to do a third ride in the evening either Thursday or Friday to balance a shorter weekend ride.

We’ll see what happens. But the weekly goal is totally achievable.

Unless I fall over.

[BIKING] Commuter Stuff

So, a thing happened yesterday: had my first ‘hit’ of the summer.  Minivan on Bank St South.  For those who know the area, right at the crest of the bridge, north of South Keys, northbound.  The road there is awful: it’s basically impossible to bike within a meter (three feet) of the curb, due to sunken drains, foot wide potholes, and winter debris, including broken glass.  It is also a stretch of road that runs “fast” for cars.  It’s a sixty entering a fifty (KM/h), but most people tend to crest doing seventy to eighty.

And I took a mirror to elbow.  Guy never even noticed.  Or if he did, he didn’t slow down.  And he was going fast enough, and I was worrying about keeping the bike upright, that I didn’t get a plate number (although he did have, irony of ironies, a “This vehicle does not exceed 100km/h, for safety” bumper sticker). 

So, this morning, I figured I’d try out a new route.  I’d head south from my place, instead of north, and cut across Hunt Club.  Now, Hunt Club isn’t exactly bike-friendly around the Bank/Bronson/Airport Parkway area: it’s the only section where they didn’t bother with bike lanes.  But at 6:30 in the morning, it’s better than Bank Street itself.

However, it IS longer.  How much longer?  This much:

This: (8.6km)
This: (4.5km)

Now, add another 0.2km to the first one, and  .75km to the second (shorter one), and that fits the directions to my house, NOT my neighbourhood bar.  😉

So, it’s a lot longer, a little over 3km longer, via the safer route. But it is a LOT safer. 

Keeping all the fun going, the next two days will look like this:

commute to work, leave work go get new bike tire in the Glebe (at my friendly neighbourhood bike store, Joe Mamma Cycles, ride home via … probably Col. By/Riverside/Huntclub.  So, like this:

Then tomorrow, Work, downtown (Trillium Dental), back to work, and then home again, for just shy of 30km total:

Man, it really is a shame that google.maps won’t let you embed any route except driving.  It’d be way more fun to have visible maps, rather than links to maps. I suppose I could expand my run home tomorrow to hogsback/riverside, and bump up to 35km, but why be crazy about things?  (Yeah. I’ll totally end up doing that).

[Commuting] An Interesting Proposition (as Opposed to a Modest Proposal)

So, it just occured to me, that, yes, I’m talking about commuting a lot at the moment. But this is really starting to intrigue me. What I hear regularly from my coworkers is:

“you’re insane”
“I’d never do that, that’s way too much work”
“What if I sweat?”
“Ugh. Cycling.”
“6 kilometers? that’s like, an HOUR on a bike!! why would you do that?”

And no one believes me that my commute, by bike, is between ten and fifteen minutes. And right now? I’m not in particularly good shape. Walking the same 6km (45 minutes each way) has been beneficial, but I’m not in GOOD shape right now. But here’s what’s interesting to me. I’ve complained about the buses in Ottawa for years. I’ve lived in two places where it was literally quicker to walk a straight line (one street, Bronson, to work) than wait for a bus, take it, wait and transfer to another, and then get to work. Plus, I didn’t have to stand around freezing in the cold, because movement/exercise = warm. So I have….


And my idea is this. A Top Gear-esque challenge.

I need someone (preferably someone I know, so this isn’t creepy) to arrange with me to “race” by bus, to work, from their home. On the map, I’ll use an intersection close to them, but not their address, and to their workplace ( I’m currently using 333 Laurier Avenue as the “workplace” but that can change). Right now, I’m basing things on a “mid-point 10th Line, Orleans” map, but I’ll straighten it out so it’s accurate. I want to gauge door-to-door, rather than “once I get on the bus”. This will actually make things more difficult for me, because… I’ll have to bike from Ottawa South to their place in Orleans, FIRST. So, I’ll already have done about 25km. I’ll be warmed up, but I’ll also be the beginning of tired.

Now, I have two choices, as I lay this entire idea out in my head. First the bus route:

So, that gives a few options: as short as 34 minutes (at 8am, on a Monday), and as long as 48 minutes. I’ll leave the busing route up to the experts, BUT, I’ll want to know what route they’re using.

For myself, I have two choices.

First there’s the shortest route (sorry for no visual on this: GoogleMaps won’t let me embed a route that isn’t car/bus based). This is physically the least distance, at 20.2km on the map. Sounds like the smartest route, right? But it’s St. Joseph, Ogilvie, St. Laurent. In the thick of the morning commute (and obeying all traffic laws) this is going to be stop’n’go on a bike, and relatively tense. I would assume. So, IS the shortest route the fastest? I don’t think so, but maybe I’ll have to do this challenge twice.

My preferencial route, however is about four kilometers longer. UP 10th line, away from my destination, and then across the parkway, and bike paths (some of which are gravel). The majority, in fact, is bike paths, and then cuts down through Rockliffe Park, into Vanier, and then over into downtown. The majority of this ride can be done avoiding traffic. In fact, along the paths on the parkway? I can probably go non-stop, full-out, for ten or twelve kilometers. And, it’s prettier.

Now, google maps claims that either of these routes (20.2km for the most direct, shortest route and 24.1km for the “off the beaten path” route) should take me an hour to an hour and a half. HOWEVER. That seems to base average speed on about 18km/h. I tend to average closer to 25km/h, and on the right bike, with the right, open route, with little in the way of signs and lights to slow me, I can easily break 30km/h. The last “race” I did, I averaged 29.8km/h, but got stopped in traffic through downtown, where they hadn’t shut traffic down for the event).

Assuming I can hit and maintain my last-summer average of 27km/h, well… That 20.2km should be about 35 minutes, and the 24.1km should be around 50 minutes. That’s squarely in line with the bus route’s estimated 34-48minutes. But, that’s also best case scenario for the buses, and I don’t know how accurate that is.

I will be choosing my weapon carefully. Specifically, for this, I’d leave my commuter at home, and bring out the Cyclocross. I’d never planned on commuting on that bike, BUT, at the same time, I was never planning a 20-25km one-way commute. If I was doing 50km a day? I’d be riding something faster and more efficient than my fixie. I’d be willing, at some point, to try this again, and ride the single-speed. But realistically, a single speed would not be my commuter of choice with a 20+km one-way commute. So, lets be realistic about it.

I’ll be rolling my Opus Stern for this one.

So, all that said, there’s a solid-ish plan… is anyone willing to play James May to my Richard Hammond?

What, you’ve not seen the Top Gear Commuter Challenge?

Ok, so who’s gonna be the Stig? I’m thinkin’ sometime in late June?

Car Guys, Environmentalism, and Carbon Taxes.

This has weighed on me for a while. I’m a car guy (obviously). When I’m “in the mood” I can see mileage in my car in the 20-30L/100km range (and worse, even) in a car that is ostensibly rated at 6.6L/100km highway/10.4L/100km city. When does it happen?


Wide. Open. Throttle.

Why? Because it’s fun, that’s why. I bought a sports car, and once in a while, I drive it like one. I plan (once the clutch and suspension is done) on taking it to the track. I may do some autocross this summer. All of these are desperately bad for the environment, because. WOT. I’m also at least a medium-intelligence, critically-thinking human being. I understand the science (some of it, at least) and trust scientists rather than bible-wielding politicians and preachers, about just what we continue to do to our environment. And have no doubt, we ARE negatively affecting our environment.

So, how do I balance that damage, that, lets face it, I’m part of, with my love of cars, driving fast, and pissing off the neighbours with a nearly completely open exhaust?

Well, lets see. I walk to work… most of the winter. I admit, since we got the Subaru, I’ve woken up, rolled over, and gone back to sleep for forty-five minutes mroe than I should have, because I can drive the Subie to work in a storm. That’ll change next winter, because honestly, parking is ridiculous.

Realistically though, I walk 6km to work, and 6km home, call it four days a week, in the winter. Come spring, I bike. Again, 6km to work, and 6km home. In my prime (which, really, over 6km is always) I can cover that 6km in approximately twelve minutes. Obeying the traffic laws, before anyone says anything about cyclists. In fact, historically, I can do my commute by bike FASTER than I can drive it in the car. Think about that.

And every day I walk, or ride, I keep 12km off the car. Even at optimal fuel economy (call it 10L/100km, for ease of use) that means I’m not using approximately 7L (1.75 US gallon, approx) of gas a week, commuting.

7 litres you say? Well, big deal, right? who gives a fuck about 7 litres of gas?

I said the same thing about coffee, too. Coffee costs about a buck fifty a cup at Tim Hortons. Who cares about a buck-fifty for a coffee, that’s nothing.

Ok, do the math though. I’ve done it before. $1.50 x 10/week = $15/week. $15/week x 26 weeks = $390. And that’s on the cheap side. But it’s “just pocket change. Like the gas.

So, lets look at the gas.

7L a week, at (for regular, at today’s price of $1.30.9) is $9.163/week. Times 26 weeks, is just about $240/year. On top of that, though, is PARKING. Parking at work is about $90 a month now. So, $240 in gas, plus $1080 in parking for the year. Oh, plus the extra your insurance company charges you for driving to work/commuting, too, that’s about $100/year.

My commuter bike cost me about $600.

So, in one year, ostensibly, by NOT driving, actually, by simply NOT DRIVING MY COMMUTE, I’ve saved approximately $1500. But, I’ve also kept the emissions from about 200L of gas out of the atmosphere, as well. How much? Burning 1 gallon of gasoline (3.73L) with 10% ethanol, creates approximately 17.68lbs of CO2. Basically, not commuting saved about thirty-four pounds of CO2 a week, for me. Which comes out to around 1768lbs a year. That’s pretty damn good.

In my case, “being a tree-hugging hippie socialist” saved the environment 805lbs of carbon dioxide, and my pocketbook about $1500. So, that’s negatively affecting the economy, how, exactly?

Which brings us to back to carbon tax. It turns out that the Carbon Tax in BC turned more people into, you know, me. The change isn’t made by extremes, on either side. It’s made by average people who do the math and modify their lifestyles accordingly.

I remember the palaver when BC’s Carbon Tax was instituted in 2008. It was a SERIOUSLY big deal. But here we are, five, six years later, and… look at that. It appears to have worked without a] destroying the economy and b] ruining the lives of lower- and middle-class incomes. In fact, it’s actually (apparently) HELPED. The article here (beginning of the paragraph) is worth a read. I’ll wait.

So, again, it’s not turned BC into a province of tree-hugging hippies who hate cars, and anyone who drives one. It`s made them think about how being environmentally conscious can help their own bottom line. And it`s proved that it can be done. In fact, it can even be incentivized. And you don`t have to give up a lot, beyond, you know, getting in the car to drive three blocks to buy a bag of Snickers. Which, really, you should quit doing anyway.

Look, for all the joking, I’m seriously not the poster-child for the anti-car/enviro movement. But my feelings on the matter are simple. We either are (likely, well supported by science) damaging the environment or we are not. We can either do something to create efficiencies and cleanliness, or we can not bother, because it’s easier not to. The outcome is either we’re right, and by doing something, we avert a larger problem. Or, we’re wrong, and we save some money long-term, and create a cleaner environment while doing it. It’s actually win/win, not, as the various conservative factions would have you believe, lose/lose. I mean, being eco-friendly is KILLING Tesla, right?

At the end of the day, from a purely selfish stand-point, I drive for fun. I do. I use it to get around, and get things done, but I love to drive. So, why would I do it, spend the money to do it, in my commute? That hellish, stop’n’go, mind-numbing idiocy of a commute? Not only can I commute faster by bike, but I can also save my gas money for when it counts. On the track, and going on cruises, with the windows down, the stereo up, and that marvelous exhaust noise getting me right down in my cockles.

**My math was off dramatically. Corrected, and actually, saving the same amount of money saves a shit-ton more carbon (7L/US Gallon? WTF? I know better than that! 3.73L/US Gallon

[BIKING] The Curse of the Three Yellow Dots

A little while back, the City of Ottawa started doing something really cool. They started expanding and marking the traffic loops, under the road at intersections, to accomodate bikes. The running problem with traffic loops, and lights that are loop-initiated is that it’s tough to put a bike anywhere where the loop will be interupted by the prescense of the bike. So, a lot (and I mean a lot, they’ve moved quickly on this, and a lot of props to ’em) of intersections now have a second, smaller loop, and three yellow dots.

You line your bike up on the yellow dots, and voila! the light’ll acknowledge that you’re there, and the light’ll change. It means bikes get a safe way to get across/through an intersection, rather than making the decision to blow that intersection knowning that the light won’t change in their favor until either a] a car comes up and triggers the loop, or b] they get on the sidewalk and press the “pedestrian” button (if there is one).

There is a problem I’ve discovered though.

Take a look at that picture. Notice where the dots are, where the car for the left turn would be, and where the bike needs to be to activate the loop.

Now, think about a car trying to turn RIGHT, legally, on red.

Yup. IF there’s a bike on the yellow dots, the car can’t turn right, even though it’s legal to do so. And that, as a driver, will be INCREDIBLY frustrating. And, I’ll be honest, that doesn’t help anyone, cyclist or driver. The driver gets frustrated, at best starts honking at the rider, who won’t move, because that pulls them off the loop, and delays them getting through an intersection too.

•If you wait ‘on the dots’ for a while and then move your bike off the dots- your request will be cancelled by the controller. Stay on the dots until you see the traffic signal change to a green signal.

Now, I’m not berating the city for this. they did something awesome here, and I applaud it. It may well be that they thought of this, but the only way to place the bike-looops was this way (I mean, closer to the left-turning cars isn’t necessarily safer, further back blocks everyone, and further right towards the curb doesn’t help, EITHER). More, what I’m suggesting is, cyclists, if you can (especially if there’s a car turning left with you: they’ll trigger the loop on your behalf) do what you can to make room for that right-turning car. And drivers? Sometimes, just wait that three minutes it takes for the cyclist to activate the loop and get out of your way following the traffic rules: don’t berate the cyclists who are ACTUALLY trying to follow the rules the law, and drivers, demand they obey. Three minutes isn’t going to kill you, and there’s no requirement for you to turn right on red: it’s a convenience that you use if it’s safe, and there’s room. Sadly, if there’s a bike on the loop, it’s not safe, and there isn’t room, same as if there were two cars turning left, and you couldn’t get up to the right-hand corner. Just… wait. You’ll get there.

I have, once so far, backed my bike up to talk to the driver honking at me to move out of the way and let him turn right on the red. He was actually REALLY reasonable about it, wasn’t aware of the yellow-dots, nor that they ‘reset the call’ if you move off them. Obviously, as I was going to have to wait through the cycle again, I let him go, but I like to think that he now waits patiently for a cyclist doing this. This is a conversation cyclists need to have with drivers. CALMLY AND POLITELY. And drivers, if a cyclist approaches you calmly and politely? Don’t be an ass back to ’em. If only because, under the law, they’re not required to move to let you make a right on red. But realistically, because it makes you a fucking asshole if you are an ass back to them when they’re being polite.

Here’s a REALLy indepth piece on how traffic loops work, in terms of bikes, cars, and keeping traffic moving in general. There’s a lot here I didn’t know, I’ll be honest. Also, if you read the comments, someone else had the same “right on red” experience as me, but the driver tried to push them out of the way to make their point.

There’s common ground here, common ground that technically already exists, in the highway traffic act, and that both sides need to spend more time thinking about, and acting accordingly.

[biking] Back In The Saddle

So, I’ve been saying it all summer, and spring, and well, lets be honest, last fall and summer too. time to get back to serious riding, and get back in shape.

The last week?

I’ve done just that.

Yeah, I know, a week doesn’t put you back in shape. But, it does start to reset the habit, which is the killer for me. And, I’m finding “excuses” to go ride, rather than excuses not to.

For one, I’m riding after work, on the single-speed. That’s been really interesting. I don’t think I’d want to do sixty or seventy kilometers on this one (not without swapping the saddle for something else, at least) but for a 30km, hour-and-a-quarter circuit after work? Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I’ve fallen into an after work routine with it too. Leave work, twelve kilometers north-east on a cycle path (Riverside, from billings to Sussex, for you Ottawa types), accross the top of the city, shoulder my bike over the locks at Parliament, keep going across the Ottawa parkway Path (west), south at Island Park, down through the experimental farm to the roundabout at Prince of wales, south to Hogsback, and down through Mooney’s Bay to home.

Like this, in fact:

That’s not quite right, but it won’t let me embed the riding directions, for some reason, so this ends up about three kilometers short. that run (the full cycling run, of about 30km) is taking me about seventy to eighty minutes, depending on conditions.

Secondly, I’ve settled into a new routine with @DogAndGarden: She goes to the gym a couple of times a week, and I’ve been driving her to and from. Rather than end up at Timmies with my tablet and a donut, we’ve started taking the subaru, rather than my coupe. Throw my Opus Stern in the back of the Subie, and while she’s at the gym, I knock out thirty-five kilometers up over the Aviation and Rockliffe parkways:

Interesting thing about that particular ride is, it’s about fifteen percent road, forty-five percent path, and forty percent gravel. It’s pretty hard-packed gravel, like a country driveway, but it’s still gravel. Which makes for some interesting riding at 30km/h+. And, on that bike, on this route, I can nail some pretty interesting speeds. There’s a section through the trees where I can just about touch 50km/h.

So, what that means is, in the last few weeks I’ve done:

July 4: 28km
July 9: 34km
July 10: 25km
July 12: 30km
July 15: 30km

This week, the continuing plan is:

July 17th: 23km
July 18th: 25km
July 20th: 35km

The reason for the two-day break is that the weather looks like it’s going to snap. And, as I keep being told, I do kinda need to get some rest periods in there too. Which, funnily, is really tough. I start to feel guilty when I’ve finally got the riding habit back, and I miss a day or two. But, I am looking at maintaining around 150km/week. And, that’s outside of my daily 9km round-trip commute, as well. So, all in all, I’m probably putting about two-hundred kilometers a week on the bikes. that’s not bad at all, as far as I’m concerned. The trick is keeping it up.

So, while yes, I’m going to take a break on Wednesday and Thursday, if the weather’s looking ok, I may do short rides after work, maybe just 20km, to keep the gears lubed, so to speak. And, if I feel good… maybe I’ll extend those a little bit while I’m doin’ ’em.

Because masochist.

Because I can rest when I’m dead.

And, honestly, because I’ve been sedentary far too long again.

The goal for the next few weeks is to push my distances up again. That’s more time, so it’s hard sometimes: there’s other things that need doing as well. But I’d like to be back in the forty to sixty kilometer range at least once a week, say, on a Saturday or Sunday morning. This summers short term goal is Ottawa->Stittsville->Ottawa, about 60km round trip. The secondary goal is to do that in about two hours twenty-five minutes. That should give me about 26km/h, even accounting for traffic lights, etc. And, I’d hope I’m doing that by mid-August, too.