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Easter weekend bike ride

Easter weekend bike ride

April is a tough month to ride in Edmonton, but I’m going to give 30 Days Of Biking another whirl.

Unfortunately right now the roads in my neighborhood look like this:

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… and the bottom of my driveway looks like this:

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…and I don’t have a winter bike yet, and studded tires won’t fit under the fenders of my Raleigh-built 3-speed lovelies. The roads inside my neighborhood will look like this until they melt. Many sidewalks are not much better, because the many houses under construction, awaiting purchase, or with snowbird owners mean long stretches of sidewalk are left unshoveled. Typically, in a city where people use brooms instead of shovels to clear their sidewalks, that would only be a nuisance, and so I’ve been considering winterizing a vintage folder or shopper to extend my cycling season. With a couple of dumps of wet heavy snow this winter, it means the terrain is pretty rough right now.

Luckily the multi-use paths in my neighborhood have been plowed by the city, and I have wonderful neighbors who shovel, so I can ride on the sidewalks for errands until the residential roads are clear. Not having studded tires will pose a problem if when the weather turns colder again, but I can use a regular bike for now. So, today I topped up the tires, oiled the chains, and took my daughter for a ride down the MUP alongside Rabbit Hill Road to the shops at the corner of 23rd Avenue. We had a particular mission in mind…

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Hot cross buns from Prairie Mill Bakery. Mission accomplished. (How lucky am I to have them in my neighborhood?)

We also crossed the road to go to the drug store. Apart from a rack hidden in a snowbank, some mud, and a couple of large puddles to roll through, the conditions were lovely, sunny and above zero. Who’s to complain?

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Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

The snowbanks are melting, although the 17-storey Mount Slushmore in the west end may take until next winter. My five-year-old is delighting in pointing out hints of green among the brown blades where grass is exposed. My seven-year-old is thrilled to be wearing a thin fleece-lined jacket instead of an adapted sleeping bag. Today I saw a robin, and yesterday, when we took the kids for a long walk, we saw a pair of migrating geese (and boy, they looked pissed that their pond was still frozen over).

Best of all, today I took Ms Trudy Phillips out for a (too-short) ride around the block:

Happy to be playing in the sunshine. Someday I’ll figure out the art of the panda shot.
Sensible shoes: my shiny black rainboots, worn with thick knee-high socks and capris.

The sun and cool breeze on my face were absolutely heavenly. I must put more air in her tires and have another go, ASAP.

The residential roads are finally ice-free in my neighborhood, although the margins are covered in a winter’s worth of the dirty sand that makes Americans who visit Edmonton in winter think we don’t have paved roads. These shots are typical of conditions in the back alleys:

Skeptical bicyclist is skeptical. I’m wondering if my iPhone camera will get a decent shot.
As you can see, there’s a little stream running down the middle of the alley behind my home.
Some of the puddles are fairly deep.

So, things are improving! Hopefully we’ll be able to come fully out of hibernation soon and announce a Critical Lass date for May…

Winter in the suburbs sucks

Winter in the suburbs sucks

*sigh* Here is what my husband has worn to be able to safely walk the dog for the past month or more:

(photographed on a section of our sidewalk that we can’t seem to keep ice-free no matter how diligent we are)

Yes, tungsten carbide cleats attached to galoshes, found at the local cult-of-jogging emporium. That’s how treacherous the half-not-cleared, half-frozen-puddle sidewalks are in our neighborhood. The roads, finally cleared after weeks of waiting of 6 inches of hard-packed snow that turns to oatmeal on warm days, are little better. Lanes beside curbs are usually reduced to half their width by uneven windrows of snow (which the city is now working on clearing on the main arteries), two-way car traffic is no longer possible on roads where cars have parked, and where sharrows have been painted, they’re usually invisible under layers of ice and wheel-polished snow. This is the sad reality of living in a car-dependent suburb (WalkScore: less than 25 no matter what street you pick. Sigh).

So you can see how having a properly-equipped winter bike really is a necessity for riding in these conditions. The main roads are clear now, but I need to be able to get to them without falling off my bike.

I am currently without a winter bike (sadface). I was going to throw snow tires on Bert, but my gurus at RedBike say snow tires won’t fit onto any of my Raleigh-built bikes without removing the mudguards, and mudguards are not optional for me if I’m going to ride in my everyday clothes. So I’m still weighing my options. I only recently learnt to ride confidently with traffic, so the road conditions are really discouraging as well. Perhaps my best bet would be creating (or buying? do they come that size?) a set of snow tires for my Norco foldy, so I could run local errands and legally stick to the suburban sidewalks and multiuser paths (which not many pedestrians are using in these icy conditions). If I won a lottery I’d just buy my midlife-crisis bakfiets and order snow tires for it at the same time.

Rabbit tracks in the waist-deep snow on top of my front garden 

I am NOT complaining about the wait to have residential roads cleared – Edmonton has enough roadway surface to reach to Cancun and back, thanks to the sprawl that comes with being a Prairie city, and I knew what was coming when we moved to the suburbs. The main arteries and the bus route one street over were cleared within 24 hours of each of the recent snowstorms, and that’s all I expect. It would be nice to see the road the new elementary schools are on added to that clearance priority list, as will likely happen when the city reviews its’ snow-clearance policies in light of this winter’s unusual challenges. However, poor conditions on residential roads are a definite hurdle for making bicycling an accessible year-round alternative to driving in a winter city, and if the city wants to encourage more than the core-dwellers to use bicycles more, they’ll need to consider this factor. Maybe adding the newly-sharrowed roads in the ‘burbs to the plowing priority lists might be a good compromise?

Meanwhile I am eagerly awaiting enough warm days that the roads are clear. It’s hard to write about bicycles, or even to motivate myself to work on my bicycle craft projects (instead I have been working on my other blog and planning a trip to Japan). I hate hibernating.

Winter Wear

Winter Wear

We’re already having damp, blustery winter weather here, though the snow hasn’t stuck yet, so we’ve been thinking about what is needed for comfortable early-to-mid-winter riding (besides, you know, lights and awesome studded tires) (Yes, I am speaking collectively here – it’s been a frequent topic of conversation between Angel and me in the past month.).

As total newbs to winter riding, we’re hardly in a position to offer advice, so instead, here’s where we turned:

Of course a big part of fall and winter riding is wearing tights with great boots. Ever noticed how hard it is to find a comfortable, well-fitting pair of opaque winter tights – especially if you have womanly curves and muscular legs? Well, so had our friend Fiona, from the Girl Can Bike Retro Rides & Prairie Skies blog. With the help of some friends (including us), she is doing an ongoing series of posts reviewing hosiery at her other blog, A New Me. So far we have reviewed tights from Maggie’s Organics and Sock Dreams – complete with embarrassing-to-us photos and the real skinny on where the crotch seams actually fall. Reviews of tights from Chinese Laundry, Addition-Elle, and We Love Colors are coming soon.

Now if only I could find a great pair of stylish, waterproof, warm winter boots…