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Dec 29, 2012

Urban Fatbike Adventures - COP Eastlands

It's no secret that we love exploring Calgary by bike. But come winter, many folks simply have to put away the bike and patiently wait for spring to come. Not us! This is the first in a short series of posts all about Urban Fatbiking in some of Calgary's wild places.

Come wintertime, Calgary's famous Multi-use Pathway System (MUP) turns into an epic snowy singletrack network the traverses this city in every direction. You can literally ride completely around Calgary on the trail networks.

Todays ride started in Edworthy Park, heading west along the tracks to the Calgary Olympic Park "Eastlands" cross country trail network, and back again.

Eastlands Trail Map
Starting into the Eastlands at its east end, at the parking area at the bottom of Sarcee Trail, the loop taken was basically, Slim Shady to Turtle Soup, to Supersize, to Ridgerun, Lame-o, Beater, Beaver Fever, to Jawbone, down Oasis, and back to the start.

Sticky snow.
The loop has been walked on by hikers so traction was quite good around the entire loop.  Climbing up through the ravine on Turtle Soup was really nice - no wind, no noise, just the crunchsqueak (that's my word for the sound fatbike tires make when they pack down snow) of my tires on the snow.  The only spot too steep for me to ride was Lame-o, which sometimes gets me in the summer too, so no biggie.

But once at the top of the trails the real fun began with the downhills offering nothing but slip sliding fun, snow covered bridges, and even a babling brook down the Oasis trail.

Dead car on Beater.
One thing I am learning (quickly) is that braking on fatbikes is a lot different than almost any other bike I've ridden.  The way you use the brakes reminds me an awful lot of how you use your brakes in cyclocross - which is to say, not much and not very often - you just have to surf it out and look ahead!

Once at the bottom I decided to head back the way I came out except instead of riding along the tracks I decided to pop into the Sidetrack trail which basically parallels the tracks but runs up high on a tight little single track.  There were other bike tracks present and it also looked like some folks have been working on the trail to open up the tight areas - cool!  They even created a new link about halfway along that smoothes out the trail no matter which direction you ride it.

The Eastlands Trails are easily accessed via the parking area at the bottom of Sarcee Trail and are a fine enough place to start.  The trail network can be ridden in a few different ways offering a couple loop options depending on where you decide to go.  

A Strava map of the entire ride is here.

We have a small handful of fatbikes available for rent - just call the shop for availability.

Dec 28, 2012

Top Bike Related Stories for Calgary in 2012

'Tis the season of lists - lists of the best/worst of everything under the sun are all aflutter this time of year.  What would list season be without a list of Calgary's Bicycle Related Stories, right?


Bike Share Debate - One of the more ambitious, expensive, and contentious action items in the Comprehensive Cycling Strategy was a BIXI-style bike share system for the downtown/Beltline area.  January saw this item land in the Transportation Committee and after debate was finished the idea was sent back to City Administration so they could plan how it would be implemented and paid for.  Hint - no City money will be spent on the system.  Hope exists that a private sponsor will be found to fund the system when it is finally ready for roll out in 2013 or 2014 at the earliest. The Calgary Sun weighs in here.


Downtown Bike Count Breaks 10,000 - Our city's bike advocacy organization - Bike Calgary - broke the news that for the first time ever bicycles travelling into the CBD (Central Business District) crested the 10,000 mark in 2011, proving to those of us that cycle regularly that indeed, more people were choosing to cycle and we weren't just hallucinating all those bikes we were seeing.


The Peace Bridge Opens - Much has been written about this beautiful river span and there is not enough pixels available here to cover it all, however, the bridge opened to people during this month and the celebration on the day was massive with thousands of Calgarians coming down to check out the bridge.  One of the cool features of the bridge is the bike lane running down the middle, separated from peoplw walking on the sides.  CTV News covers it here.

The Good Life Community Bike Shop Finds a Home - Every city needs a community bike shop and thankfully The Good Life found a home, at least over the summer, as it appears they are now on the hunt again for a more permanent space.


Calgary Hires First Bicycle Coordinator -  Arguably the most important item in the new Cycle Strategy was the hiring of a person to coordinate all the improvements called for in the strategy.  Finding that person was a challenge but eventually a fellow was found and imported to Calgary from Tuscon, Arizona.  Say hello to Tom Thivener - our new Bicycle Guru.

Another first for our fair city - the first ever Tweed Run It took us awhile to finally get one of these great rides up and running but better late than never, right?


Calgary's newest and already biggest bike festival - Cyclepalooza - returned for a second year of bike fun.  A whole new committee of volunteers brought the festival up to a new level of grand bikery and the events organized by Calgarians were better attended, more varied, and generally more awesome than 2011.  Let's hope 2013 sees the festival return with even more energy!

Here is a short edit of one of the events on the calendar - The Crowbomb!


Not much happened in July, except dressing up like cowboys and cowgirls and going for a bike ride!


MacLeod Trail to get bike lanes? Not quite. - One of the worst stretches of road in Calgary for people walking and people on bikes is the MacLeod Trail corridor.  Non-existent bike infrastructure is coupled with narrow sidewalks and parking lots separating the businesses along the roadway from the sidewalks makes this road perhaps the worst stretch in Calgary for people.  On top of that, crossing this roadway is a nightmare no matter where along its route you try to cross.

The plan being floated by the City does not indicate bike lanes on the roadway proper - it is actually more about creating space for people walking and people on bikes where the sidewalks currently are.  We'll see what city administration comes up with for this corridor but honestly anything would be better than was is currently (not) there. 


3-1-1 Online Updated with Bicycle Specific Reporting Options - 311 is a great tool here in Calgary for reporting all manner of city related concerns and this year the system was upgraded with more bicycle specific options to help keep bike riders rolling all season long.  Again, Bike Calgary did some amazing work with the City, where would we be without these hard working volunteers?


Calgary to Prioritize Bike Lane Snow Clearing -  While the title of this seems like a really big deal, and believe me the bike hater crowd sure thought so, it was perhaps the biggest non-story of the year.  Sure, it sounds great that the City will be telling snow plow operators to push the snow to the curb instead of into the middle of the lane but reality in the bike lane is a different story.  Not much has changed. 

Calgary's First Separated Bike Lanes Announced - This was probably the biggest bike news story of the year for Calgary.  2 lanes will be installed in Spring 2013, one going north through the downtown and one going south, eventually linking up to a wider network of separated lanes criss-crossing the downtown, where they are needed most.  Thankfully, the expected backlash to the story was muted, perhaps we'll need to wait until the lanes are installed to feel the full force of the bike haters.


Community asks for bike lanes, then doesn't want them. What a weird and wonderful world we live in.  The southwest community of Lakeview had some utility improvements installed and as part of the reconstruction efforts the local Alderman, Brian Pincott, worked with the community to have new bike lanes installed at no extra charge by the contractor.  However, soon after the lanes were installed people in the community started complaining about them, eventually asking for them to be removed.  Thankfully that didn't happen but it does sound like they will be reduced in size at some point in the future.  While not on the scale of what happened in Toronto (removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes) this situation showed how important it is to work hard to get everyone on board with new projects.

On a fantastically positive note, Alberta Transportation responded to concerns from Bike Calgary that the current new driver handbook needed to be updated with more accurate information on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the road.  Recommendations were made to the Provincial Transportation Minister and all were accepted.  Score one for the good guys!


West LRT Opens - On the face of it, how does the new C-Train line qualify as a bike news story?  Well, because of this!  In my opinion, this is one of the biggest bike news stories of the year for a couple of reasons - 1) it shows that the City is very serious about improving bike infrastructure and bike/transit integration and 2) the City installed our first ever "bicycle superhighway" in Calgary right beside the line.  I blogged about it here - lets hope that the City continues this precedent when new train lines and bus rapid transit roads are built in the future.

In fact, talk is already happening about trying to retrofit another bicycle superhighway along the existing south line.  It will be interesting to see if this happens in 2013.

Will 2013 have as many positive bike stories?  Let's hope so!

Dec 19, 2012

Bicycle People Know How to Have Fun!

Bilenky Bicycle Works is a custom bike manufacturer based in Philidelphia PA and for the last few years have been organizing what might be the only cyclocross race in the world where you need a tetanus shot to compete - the Junkyard Cyclocross. 

I don't know about you but to me, this looks like it is right up my alley, erm, junkyard!


Dec 17, 2012

Fatbiking the Goldilocks Loop

Another free weekend, another fatbike ride at West Bragg Creek.  This time out I decided to ride the "Goldilocks Loop" which uses new trails that were built specifically for mountain bikers.

These cozy rock seats offer a great view of the valley west.
The loop uses 3 trails to complete the loop.  Starting at the parking lot the trail heads south and immediately heads straight up the Ranger Summit (South) trail for about 45 minutes of lung busting climbing to the summit, pictured above.  I found the climb to be quite challenging but almost entirely rideable bottom to top.

Once at the top the trails basically heads straight back down along Strange Brew and Boundary Trails. The trail back down was so much fun!  Berms, switchbacks, jumps, and swooping singletrack take you all the way back to the parking lot.  I wish I had brought some eyewear or goggles for the descent though since the cold temperatures werer causing my eyes to sting and water, hardly a bummer but noteworthy for next time out.

Looking west from the summit.
Conditions in West Bragg are great right now.  In fact, for fatbiking, I'd suggest that Mother Nature needs to "get busy" and dump some more snow in the area.  The trails I rode were well boot packed and easy to ride on, in fact, I'd suggest that many of the trails could still be ridden on a regular MTB.

The completed loop.

Once I was back down to the parking lot I ran into Brett and his buddy Chris who were also just finishing up a ride on Bragging Rights and Long Distance.  It's obvious that the West Bragg Creek trails are THE place for great fatbiking close to Calgary - could it be our very own fatbike mecca?

Strava info here - Goldilocks Loop.
(Looks like I placed 17th on the downhill segment, not bad considering I've never ridden that trail before and it was snow covered!)

Dec 5, 2012

Calgary's First Bicycle Super Highway?

The much anticipated west leg of Calgary's light rail transit system is due to open on December 10th and along with it, many improvements to Calgary's bicycle network.  There is a comprehensive list of the improvements here but one of the most exciting components is a new multi-use pathway (MUP) that runs parallel to the line from Westbrook to 69 St.

69 St station head with the new high school and parking garage in the background.
In the past, if you lived west of Sarcee Trail and tried to cycle from there east towards the inner city you would run into the very bicycle (and people) unfriendly corridor that is Sarcee Trail.  Getting across this road required that you either A) detour north to the Bow Trail area B) try to navigate the wretched intersection at 17th Avenue or C) detour south towards the pedestrian overpass near 26th Avenue SW.  All of these options were not the best and made cycling and walking between these areas difficult.

It's all downhill from here! And look at the view!
The new MUP is a very direct route, almost a bicycle superhighway (ok, I know its only a couple miles, not 11) and provides great access to all the businesses along the 17th Avenue corridor including Westbrook Mall and West Market Square.  Running along the north side of 17th Avenue for its entire length it connects the communities on either side of Sarcee Trail to each other and makes it possible to quickly and safely walk or cycle between these areas.  For bicycle commuters, there is now a very direct route to downtown (if used in conjunction with other West LRT bike improvements).

Westbrook station head in all its post-construction glory.
I bicycled the route this morning from the 69 St station down to the Westbrook station, a Strava map of the route can be found here.  And just for the fun of it, here is a video of the new line from the City of Calgary. The official opening isn't until December 10th however on December 8th there is a celebration going on during the day at all the new stations - details of the celebration events can be found here.

Perhaps the City can look at adding these same sorts of bicycle superhighways when designing the South East and North Central lines in the future?

Dec 3, 2012

Fat Biking the Telephone Loop

Mukluk's at rest, Telephone Loop, West Bragg Creek
Conditions were perfect to head out to the mountains so we could run our Salsa Mukluk demo bikes through a long ride on XC Ski trails in the West Bragg Creek area west of Calgary.

Hommie and Krocker were up for the challenge so we loaded up the bikes Sunday morning and drove west into what we hoped would be epic winter conditions and lots of sweet single track.  Both were eventually found - as well as a new desire to get out to the mountains in the wintertime on something other than skis. Arriving at the trailhead and were surprised to see a little less snow on the ground than what we had in Calgary, would the fatbikes be overkill?

Front range of the Rockies in the distance.
Once we were organized and ready to go it was decided that Telephone Loop would be the trail of the day.  At 15 kms long and not maintained right now (logging is in progress along part of it) we guessed it would take about 2 hrs of riding to complete.  We also knew that there were no really steep and long sections on the trail so we figured it would be a good option since fat bikes can still have a hard time on steep, snowy climbs.

The trail itself was really fun for fatbiking.  The entire loop had been hiked on so there was a slightly packed down boot trail to follow in the deeper snow usually found in the open meadows.  We had to employ our Jedi balancing skills to stay within what was basically a 12" wide trough (I cannot explain how hard it was to stay in that trough!) through the open areas but once we were back into the trees the trail was usually wide with a little less snowpack and easy to pedal on.

The absolute best part of the ride was the look on xc skiers faces as we pedaled past them: How do you adequately convey the look of jaw hitting the ground?  All three of us would burst into belly laughs when passing these ghastly looking faces, so funny!  

Nature being rather natural.
I recorded the loop to Strava and you can find the info here.

If you are interested in trying out one of these amazing bikes book your test ride with us.  We have 4 bikes available for demo - but be careful, you will want one!

Nov 21, 2012

Everyday Bicycling, The Book

Everyday cycling, it sounds so simple.  But to cycle every day, for every thing, well that is not as simple as it sounds.  I have been living carfree for almost 3 years now (wow! has it been that long?) and in that time I have learned a lot about what it means to use a bicycle as my primary means of year 'round transportation.  But before that, I had plenty of other bicycle riding and bicycle racing experiences that gave me a base knowledge of bicycling in general so the choice to go carfree did not seem like that big a deal at the time. 

Everyday cycling, or transportation cycling, or utility cycling - the terms are somewhat interchangeable - is more than just bike commuting to work or school.  Indeed, bike commuting is one aspect of everyday cycling.  But so is going grocery shopping, so is taking the kids to school/practice, running errands, and even buying/transporting furniture and appliances.  It is simply the act of living out your life most of the time on a bike instead of on a bus, behind the wheel of a car, or in the back seat of a taxi.

I am going to guess that people new to the idea and/or practice of bike commuting may not think that doing these other activities on a bike is smart, fun, or even possible.  But it is all of those things and more.

Lucky for you, someone out there loves you a lot and decided to save you years of trials and tribulations by writing this sweet little book - Everyday Bicycling - how to ride a bike for transportation (whatever your lifestyle).

It is packed full with everything you could possibly want to know about riding daily - which bikes to consider as an everyday bike(s), clothing strategies, choosing routes, it's all here in an easy read.  You could cruise through its 125 pages easily but my suggestion would be to work through it slowly.  There is a lot of information to digest and perhaps employ, so slow down, and take your time.

It is available here from the author or if you would like to borrow ours that's cool too.

So, get out there and go pick up that bag of potatoes - by bike of course!

Nov 6, 2012

Interesting Bike News Nov.6, 2012

Our (sort of) weekly compilation of interesting bicycle related media and news. 


- Post Hurricane Sandy Cycling Surge - "that" storm on the East Coast sure did pack a wallop, knocking out power to millions, flooding car and train tunnels, and stranding millions in their communities.  However, if you had a bike you were able to get back to normal simply by hopping on a bike and pedaling away.

- Here is a great video from the night the storm hit New York.  A couple of people on bikes were able to navigate around a deserted downtown Ney York City, wild.

- In local advocacy news, Bike Calgary has been able to have the Alberta Driver's Guide (the book you need to study to get your learner's licence) updated to include proper wording and considerations for bicycles. Sure, it may seem like a small victory but they all count!

- A neighbourhood in Calgary ok's bike lanes, then wants them removed, reasons unknown.  What gives? 

- A bike share system (like Montreal's BIXI system) is included in Calgary's Comprehensive Cycling Strategy however the City is hoping it will be funded by a private company

- A network of cycle tracks is coming to the downtown core of Calgary - yippy!

- Have we entered the "Age of the Bicycle", the Times of London asks aloud?

Oct 29, 2012

Why You Should Try and Reduce Your Car Usage

There has been a little more chatter than usual in the media about how people in North America are using cars and how those usage patterns are contributing to all sorts of problems to us as individuals and to our society in general.  Health problems like obesity and heart disease are on the rise for children and adults.  CO2 emissions from transportation are a huge contributor to global warming.  Gridlock in the biggest cities in North America is getting worse everyday.  People are spending hours per day commuting in their single occupant vehicles, wasting time, wasting resources, and slowing productivity. Car crashes continue to be the #1 killer of children and teenagers.

I can summarize it like this - we drive too much, it is costing us zillions of dollars, and it is costing us our health too.

However there is a way forward and it is pretty easy to do. Stop driving so much.

Just to be clear - we are not anti-car.  We understand cars are an integral component to the mobility of our society and that cars will be around for the foreseeable future.  Our cities have been built around the use of them and we cannot just "turn on a dime".  Converting everyone to transit, walking, and bicycling overnight is not the goal here.  Changing the way we live our lives takes time, but how much time do we have?

What we can do though is make the choice to use our cars less.  The Pembina Institute in Canada has recently released a report called "Behind the Wheel" showing us just how much time, money, and resources are wasted by excessive driving and how we can help correct the problem.  The benefits for the average household in Canada can be huge, get rid of one of your vehicles and you can keep $10,000 in your pocket.

Less driving is really good for business too.  People and goods stuck in traffic costs the economy billions of dollars every year, even the average Jane/Joe who owns a car has to work 2 hours per day to pay for that car.  That's added to the 1 hr+ that many Canadians spend car commuting to work.  Seems crazy when you look at it like that.  Why not get rid of one of the family's cars, move closer to where your family members work and go to school, pocket the $10,000 per year and invest it somewhere else?

The best part about driving less is biking more.  It saves you money and you get to feel like a kid again.

Oct 18, 2012

LikeLike Your BikeBike!

Bobbin Birdies waiting for you to love them.

You know what time of year it is?  Yes, it's autumn,  Yes, it's costume wearing season.  And yes, it's get-a-good-deal-on-some-Bobbins season, not to be confused with wabbit season.

All  of our currrent inventory of Bobbin bikes as well as select accessories are on the deepest discount of the year.  You'll more than likelike your new BikeBike, you'll love it!  Especially considering that every Bobbin sold during the sale will come with a free Nantucket basket too - a $55 value.

Limited quantities in some colours and sizes.

Birdie 3-speed - light blue, mint, yellow available - regular $699 - on sale for $529
Birdie 5-speed - red and light blue - regular $799 - on sale for $629
Vintage 5-speed - black only - regular $899 - on sale for $649
Vintage DLX 5-speed - black only - regular $999 - on sale for $729
Daytripper 5-speed - rootbeer - regular $799 - on sale for $549
Daytripper 3-speed - blue - regular $699 - on sale for $449

Also on special is the Bobike Mini+ front mounted child seat - regular $170 - on sale for $99

Hurry in for best size and colour selections.

Jun 13, 2012

Calgary's New Cycling Coordinator

Last May, city council passed the Comprehensive Cycle Strategy and in November they funded it as well.  Bicycle advocates in the city have viewed these developments as huge victories for a more bike-friendly Calgary and those of us involved in advocacy are full of hope that maybe we'll finally see more bicycle infrastructure installed throughout the city.

Have you read the cycle strategy?  If not, here it is, in all of its 82-page glory - Calgary's Cycle Strategy.

One of the most important action items in the strategy was to create the position of Cycling Coordinator and to find a qualified person to fill it.  Enter Tom Thivener - our new city cycling guru!

Jun 11, 2012

News Roundup June 11 2012

""Us versus Them" Must Stop"
The “us versus them” divide between cyclists and drivers has to stop, says the founder of a provincial cycling advocacy group.

 "Bicycling can be fun, but can it be a form of transportation?"
Today’s show gets behind a growing appetite for cycling as an everyday mobility option.  Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, explains the significance of creating lanes that feel safe enough for someone as young as 8 or as old as 80 to use. Councillor Brian Pincott sheds some light on Calgary’s newly-funded bicycle strategy. Mia Birk, president of Alta Planning + Design and author of Joyride, describes how bikeshare can be a game-changer. And Hans Moor, president of Ottawa’s Citizens for Safe Cycling, talks about the pilot project of Laurier Avenue. 

"Can Ditching Your Car Make You Feel More Free?"
Los Angeles once showed the world that the car equaled freedom. Our vast parking lots and spacious two-car garages offered the utmost convenience. Even our roads were named after the idea—freeways—that automobiles provided this feeling of independence as a personal transportation experience. It worked for awhile. That is, until those painted lanes choked with Sigalerts and gas nosed towards $5.00 per gallon.

"The Rise of the Citizen Cyclist."
In the past few years, New York has become a national leader in urban transportation policy by redesigning streets and taking back space for bikes and pedestrians. With the advent of the nation’s biggest bike share program, the city could radically change the way that Americans see bicycles as public transportation. But unless police and courts start treating drivers and bike riders equally, we’ll be going nowhere fast.

"Independent Canadian bike shops limited by "protectionist tariff" 
 ...According to the CBSA, "dumping occurs when goods are sold to importers in Canada at prices that are lower than the selling price of comparable goods in the country of export." Essentially, the tariff keeps the Canadian market from being bogged down with cheap bikes from China, so domestic producers , such as CCM and Raleigh, can compete. 

"18 Future Bikeways in Calgary"
In the coming years, Calgary cyclists will have a plethora of new options for travelling throughout the downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods. The city has mapped 18 "future bikeways" within Centre City that will some day welcome both commuting and recreational cyclists.

"Bikelane in the Beltline creates confusion"
A new bike lane created last year in Calgary’s core is confusing and dangerous, according to one critic.  The lane on 10th Avenue S.W. is reserved for bicycles during rush hours, but many motorists aren’t clear on the rules or are just ignoring them, said Const. Kevin Bubis.  “If we're finding that's it's merely an education scenario, we'll explain in a not too time consuming way so we're not bogging down the lane and we'll let them on their way,” he said.

"New LRT line to the west side is a boon for cyclists"
The new on-street cycling routes the city plans to string around west Calgary neighbourhoods like Wildwood and Westgate will feature many of the city’s newest bicycle lanes.  But it’s a multi-gear plan that transportation officials have pitched for community streets, rather than just painted lines. They will be installing a range of devices and traffic changes to make the roads friendlier for cyclists, ranging from the confident commuter to the sandal-clad weekender and those just losing their training wheels.

Jun 3, 2012

Weekly Roundup of Interesting Bike News June 4 2012

 The "Weekly Roundup" is a new series we'll be running on the blog to keep you up to date on lots of interesting bicycle related news floating around the intranetwebs (my new favorite non-word!).

Bikes are cool again and everyday there seems to be more news coming from all over the world about how bicycles are changing our communities for the better.


"Bike your way to a fitter, happier you."
Look around the streets of any major city today, and it's obvious that the cycling landscape has changed. Once the domain of a lone spandex-clad athlete, the road now hosts throngs of well-heeled cyclists pulsing along, baskets and backpacks stuffed with lunches and laptops.

"Faced with legal and financial challenges, BIXI bike sharing program in a cycle of uncertainty."
Calgary had a short, if heated, debate this winter about launching a service that is painting cities green across North America: a public bike share system.  The concept got a lukewarm response from politicians, who balked at the potential $2.5-million price tag and, before demanding further study, prohibited the use of public cash for a start-up.  As Alderman Shane Keating told a newspaper at the time, “if we’re going to get in business, then we better make sure it’s one that makes money and doesn’t cost the taxpayer.”

"Bike Island: Festival rolling out cycle-friendly initiative"
Sled Island and biking go together like cold beer and a hot day," says Colin Smith, Sled Island’s sustainability coordinator. "Ever since Sled started people have been biking, but we’ve never really supported it.

"Wheels for Wells ride inspiration of 10-year-old Calgary boy"

Clean, fresh water: it’s the elixir of life and something that Canadians take for granted. Sadly not all of Earth’s inhabitants are so lucky, a fact that 10- year-old Alex Weber has taken to heart.  “I found out that there are thousands and thousands of kids dying every single day from water-related diseases, just because they didn’t have access to safe water and I thought that was crazy,” says Alex.

"Pedal Revoultion"
New York City isn’t known as a biker’s paradise. Overcrowded subways, pedestrian packed sidewalks, yellow taxis snarled in traffic and noisy buses – yes. Yet even fast-paced New York City is heading in the direction of places like Portland, Paris and Copenhagen, which have embraced and promoted bike culture and bike sharing in the urban environment.

"Inspired To Ride By Her Son"
 It started last year, when, in a desperate attempt to rid myself of the nagging guilt I felt at leading my son into a life of inactivity, I hatched a crazy plan to not renew my driving license. I’m pretty sure even that would have been a fad, had I not very purposefully painted myself into a corner by starting a blog about my proposed journey.

"Canadian Automobile Association Promotes Bike Safety"
In Canada, an increasing number of people are commuting to school or work on a bicycle while many simply ride for fun or exercise. With so much traffic on the road, it’s important that motorists and cyclists work together and understand their roles and responsibilities and share the road.

May 28, 2012

Weekly Roundup of Interesting Bike News May 28 2012

The "Weekly Roundup" is a new series we'll be running on the blog to keep you up to date on lots of interesting bicycle related news floating around the intranetwebs (my new favorite non-word!).

Bikes are cool again and everyday there seems to be more news coming from all over the world about how bicycles are changing our communities for the better.


"Chain Reaction."
The cycle-chic movement sprang from a single photograph taken by a Calgarian in Copenhagen. It’s now a worldwide phenomenon, with cyclists choosing style over speed. They’re contributing to a more sustainable city and looking good, sans helmets.

"High school kids suspended for riding to school"  
On Monday, 64 Kenowa Hill High School seniors biked to school in Walker, Mich. Nice, right? Well, the principal didn’t think so. She suspended the kids for the day and threatened to keep them from walking in their graduation ceremony. Somehow, this one story manages to encapsulate everything that is wrong with American attitudes towards biking.

"What do bicycles, backyards, and basil have in common?"
Erica Lemieux has ingeniously incorporated all three of these elements into her urban agriculture business, City Seed Farms. As the planting season begins, you’ll find her cycling between backyards in the High Park and Junction neighbourhoods of Toronto, with a trailer full of tools and seedlings.

"There is no “War on the Car.” War implies a fair fight."
The conflict between bikes and cars is more like a skirmish between a weak civilian militia and a military giant. The giant has heavy artillery, while the militia is armed only with rocks and a whole lot of pent-up anger.

"What kind of cyclist are you? An illustrated guide."

May 5, 2012

The Tour Divide - adventuring on an epic scale!

Bike touring can take many forms - from the single overnight trip all the way through to around the world. Some like road touring, some like offroad touring. No matter what style you prefer, the same is always true - adventures are found, people met, and adversity overcome. These fellas decided to tackle one of the toughest adventures possible - The Tour Divide. Enjoy!

Mar 22, 2012

Need More Bike Parking? 3-1-1 Your Request

The fact that Calgary is lacking bike parking is no secret to those that cycle in this city.  The vast majority of neighbourhoods have no bike racks at all and most of the major shopping areas in the downtown area are also sadly under-racked, especially true when the City switched over to the Park + system and removed all the parking meters.  Insuring secure places to lock up your cherished bicycle has, in the past, been a non-thought to many new building projects and apartment/condo complexes too.

But change is in the air.  Can you smell it? (no, it doesn't smell like thawing dog poop) You can certainly 3-1-1 it!

When City Council passed Plan It a few years back part of that plan included provisions for bicycle storage in new developments - ya!  So, new developments will be making space for bikes, but what about all the existing buildings and communities? 

There is a solution - Calgary's bike rack sponsorship program.  All you need to do is to request that a bike rack be installed where you need it.  Outside your appartment?  Yes!  Near your workplace?  Yes!  Close to your favorite bar/pub/restaurant?  Yes! 

Get 3-1-1ing people - we need more bike racks and the city wants to install them for us.

Mar 8, 2012

The Perfect Bicycles For Summer Charity Rides - Touring Bikes!

Charity rides like the Ride To Conquer Cancer and the MS 150 have been going on, in one form or another, across Canada for decades and continue to offer an accessible way for very casual cyclists to try a light version of bicycle touring and experience the enjoyment of cycling for longer distances.

I'll never forget my first charity ride - known at the time as the Bike-A-Thon in Toronto.  I would collect pledges from my paper route customers (pennies per km) and was always very proud of the meager amounts of money I was able to raise.  The loop was 35kms and I was 14 the first year I did it.  I'll never forget how empowered I felt after riding that distance on my own.  The next year I decided to do an extra loop to try and raise more money - much to the chagrin of the people who pledged to my ride - they suddenly had to pay twice what they expected!

Mar 5, 2012

Will We Ever See A Provincial Bicycle Strategy In Alberta?

We are all expecting a provincial election sometime in 2012 and with all the talk of austerity measures, deficit budgets, sustained high energy prices, and out of control heath care spending, it got me thinking that many of these problems could me mitigated with a provincial focus on getting more people bicycling.

All the municipalities in this province are facing the same challenges of increasing traffic congestion, ballooning road costs, and a desire to try and get people out of their cars and into transit, carpooling, walking, and of course, bikes.  In some cases, municipalities are looking at trying to create separated bikelanes, which can sometimes run afoul of provincial road laws.  Without any sort of provincial direction and accommodation, all of these individual municipalities are forced to fight the exact same battles as the next community - wasting time and energy - and ultimately making progress at best slow and at worst, virtually impossible.

We need a comprehensive approach to creating better cycling conditions in Alberta.  Here are just a few ideas of what we need to tackle to make Alberta ripe for more cycling -

1. Better traffic laws to protect cyclists including 3-foot passing law, more information and testing of new drivers and how to deal with cyclists on the road, stiffer penalties for drivers in collisions with bikes and pedestrians, and stronger penalties for distracted driving infractions, including demerits.

2. Mandate that schools develop a phys-ed curriculum that includes safe cycling training in elementary and junior high schools.

3. Tax credits/incentives for people that bike to work and for families that want to purchase cargo/utility bikes instead of a second, or third, family car.

4. Connectivity between rural communities using "rail trail" and routes with lower traffic.

Good For Economy

Would it not be incredible if you could cycle safely between all these cities?

Quebec's famous Route Verte is generating nice revenues for the province.  Why doesn't Alberta look at creating something similar to Quebec's network, using the numerous decommissioned rail right-of-ways or try to install bike paths along/near our main highway right-of-ways?

Alberta is already a popular destination for cyclists from all over the world, with some relatively inexpensive infrastructure installed we could see solid increases in people visiting our province to cycle with all of the associated tourists dollars attached.  Can you think of a better image to portray to the world than happy people on bicycles - especially considering the image created by (IMO overheated) oilsands development?

People who cycle to work are more productive and take less sick days than their motoring brethren too, making them more valuable employees over the long term.

Rural Development 

There are many jurisdictions around the world that have begun harnessing the buying power of people touring on bicycles.  Europe is the obvious leader, but closer to home, Quebec (Route Verte) and Oregon have been studying the effects of encouraging more bicycle touring with very positive effects being found for rural communities.

This video sums up the benefits quite concisely -

The possible economic benefits to small communities in Alberta is obvious when you think about it.

Good For Health care

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade you will know that our society is facing a health care crisis due to a many coinciding events including - record levels of obesity and diabetes, an aging population, and tightening provincial budgets.  I am not going to bore you with links to this stuff, its in the news all the time.  What is important to recognize is that if more people were walking and using bicycles for short trips (80% of all car trips are under 8kms) we would have a much healthier population and less burden would be applied to our health care system.

Bicycling is an easy way for every citizen to get their daily dose of exercise for good health - watch this video that went viral from a Toronto doctor that explains this very succinctly.  He speaks about walking as the magic bullet that can help us all be healthier - and the more walkable communities and cultures are, the more bike friendly they are too.

Our society is facing an obesity, diabetes, and heart disease epidemic due to so many people living inactive lives.  There is also now evidence that suburbs are making people sick.  The dollars being eaten up by our health care systems to deal with these diseases growing drastically every year.  More people being more active is a proven strategy to deal with these diseases.  More people cycling should be considered a public health priority going forward.

Good For Transportation

Every person on a bike is ONE LESS CAR.  Pretty simple, right?  Well, sometimes our politicians cannot see the forest through the trees.  More people cycling means less congestion on our roads.  More people cycling means less strain on an already overcrowded transit system.  Could it be any simpler?  

Yes, it could. For starters, bicycle infrastructure is cheaper is to install then roads, cheaper to maintain, and has the potential to move more people for less dollars then any other form of transport.

Good For Families

Back in the good 'ol days 80% of kids would cycle to school, now it's closer to 10% - and we are surprised that kids are becoming fatter and more unhealthy?  When children cycle and/or walk to school they not only live healthier lives they also learn better.  On top of that, kids who cycle to school very often take that experience into their adult lives and stay healthier as they get older.

One often overlooked issue is that almost half of the population cannot drive.  Everyone under 17, people with medical conditions that limit their ability to drive, many seniors - so many people are pushed to the margins of our society and forced into what is essentially a lower class of citizenship because they cannot or will not drive a personal automobile.

So, my proposal is pretty simple.  All of the alternative transportation groups in Alberta need to start pressuring the government on this issue ahead of and during the upcoming campaign.  However, before they can do that I believe we all need to be singing from the same song sheet - and the best way to do that is to draft a position paper that can be circulated to the media and politicos alike.

BikeCalgary, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, Alberta Bicycle, Alberta Triathlon, Civic Camp, Sustainable Alberta - all of theses groups plus some I cannot remember need to get together and get this going.

What do you think?  Would a provincial focus on helping create alt-transport options make a difference? 

Mar 2, 2012

No Wonder People Stopped Using Bikes For Transportation!

Found here.

These will give you a quick glance into our society's dominant view of cycling, which is really sad when you consider that the number one cause of death to children and youth is car accidents, not bike riding.

Those of us that want to create safer conditions for cycling are not only battling city council's and planning departments, we are also battling the predominant viewpoint of society that bikes are dangerous and cars are not.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Feb 16, 2012

The Economic Case For Bike Lanes

The case for and against installing more bicycle infrastructure in cities all over North America has been raging all over the media in recent years, with the fervor of arguments from both sides growing with every passing season.  On one side of the debate, lets call them "Pro-Bike", are of course bicycle advocates struggling to get safer places to cycle, forward thinking city planners, new urbanists, social justice groups, and health professionals - just to name a few.  On the other side of the debate, lets call them "The Status Quo" are car-centric transportation planners stuck in old paradigms, city politicians using outdated logic, the average Joe/Jane who has subconsciously bought into the idea of "The American Dream" with all of the trappings that come with that concept, and of course the auto-industrial-complex.

Those who are against more bicycle infrastructure on our public roadways love to portray the issue as some kind of "war on cars" or grand ideas of social engineering gone wrong when in fact the last 50+ years of suburban sprawl, subsidies to the oil/gas industry, and promotion of The American Dream is the real and dominant social engineering experiment we are living with today. 

Sadly, the results of following this dream has led to an obesity and diabetes epidemic that is bilking our health system of billions of dollars, cities that are going broke because they cannot pay for the infrastructure upkeep associated with sprawl, and choked road networks that cannot handle all the suburban residents driving virtually everywhere for everything. 

Our society is in deep shit and most people are clueless - or suffering from cognitive dissonance - to the implications barreling down the road at them. 

All is not lost however, so long as we face these realities head on and start to make the changes.  One of the changes that needs to happen is to get citizens moving in our cities more efficiently - with bicycles playing a very important role.  Thankfully, there are many city planners, aldermen, and citizens who see the opportunity placed in front of us and are actively pushing to get more and better bicycling facilities here in Calgary.  We are fortunate to have a new cycling strategy passed and funded by city council for the next 3 years to the tune of $24 million.

Cities all over North America are creating safer cycling conditions through investments in bike lanes, car free events, and bike share programs.  All of these cities have seen dramatic increases in ridership following these investments and there is no reason why here in Calgary we won't see the same increases.

Here are a few links and news articles to get you thinking about this important issue.

Bikes are Good for Business
Toronto bike lane study supports bike lanes on Bloor/Danforth
Streets with bike lanes are good for local businesses
Building bike lanes creates more jobs than building roads

Bikes are good for better health and stronger economy
Bike lanes should be an election issue
Health benefits of cycling outweigh any perceived risks

Bikes are good for motorists too
Drivers should advocate for more bike lanes

If you support more bicycle facilities in Calgary it is very important that you make your views known to your Alderman and Mayor.  Take a few minutes and send them a note indicating that you support the cycle strategy and want to see it fully implemented. 

Bicycling is an important component of the overall transportation network.  With safer places to cycle more people will choose cycling as a mode of transport.

Build it and they will come.

Feb 6, 2012

Urban Bike Fun aka Bike Polo

If you like riding bikes, have a competitive streak, and enjoy urban environments, you may be interested in one of the most fun urban cycling activities available - bike polo!

Hardcourt bike polo has been experiencing amazing growth over the last few years all around the world and unbeknownst to most, Calgary has a thriving bike polo scene, with 2 main clubs - Calgary Bike Polo Society and Rogue Polo.

In the summer season Calgary Bike Polo has been playing for the last few years at Richmond Knobhill Community Rink on Wednesdays with Rogue Polo playing at Highwood Community Rink on Fridays and Saturdays. In the winter, when temperatures are reasonable and there isn't a show at the Jubilee Auditorium we have been playing on the lower level of the ACAD parking garage on Sunday afternoons.

However, beware. Hardcourt bike polo can be addictive. Like speed? Check. Like big time laughs? It's got that too. Want to practice your bike handling? Yessiree. Looking for a full body workout? You betcha.

Like snowboarding, the learning curve can be steep and sometimes painful. Finding your balance on the bike while holding on with one hand, the other hand grasping your mallet, falls are commonplace during the first attempts. However for most people improvements in balance and braking come fast and before you know it you are dodging collisions and scoring goals - all the while also experiencing the exhilaration of riding so close to other players you literally are banging elbows and bikes.

New players are always welcome, all you need is a desire to try and a bike. See you out there someday?

Feb 2, 2012

26 Months on Without a Car

After reading a post on Lovely Bicycle I was reminded that I too have been without a daily driver for over two years now - wow, has it really been that long?

One of the things that Velouria mentioned in her piece about not owning a car was her desire to not make her decision to be car free as some kind of "if I can do it so can you" narrative - it is simply a lifestyle choice that is easy for her.

However, for me, choosing to live a car free lifestyle was definitely influenced by a desire to lead by example -

1 - I was taking a huge pay cut quitting my job to open BikeBike and I wanted to make sure the business would have enough cash flow to get us through the critical first year so by ditching the car I would pull less wages out of the shop.

2 - Most importantly, I wanted to know what it would be like to live car free in a city known for being very spread out and populated by car loving people so I could better converse with my customers about the realities of daily bike commuting in "Los Angeles of the North".  Contrary to Velouria's position, I want to show people that if I can live without a car, so could you!

It has been an interesting ride to be sure.

I have written a trio of previous posts about this topic here and here and here and since the last post not much has really changed.  One thing I did decide was I needed to find a way to get out of the city more often as I was finding myself getting a little squirrelly and badly missing trips to the mountains for the usual fun found out there - mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking, and camping.

So last fall I bought a vehicle - gasp!  However, not a daily driver, far from it.  I picked up an ancient RV and have had a blast using it to get out of the city on fun missions as well as used it during the cyclocross race season last fall.  99.9% of the time it sits quietly in the backyard patiently waiting for us to plan the next adventure and never is used in the city since it is a gashog and not the most comfortable thing to drive in the city.

Beyond that, life is still as it was - I enjoy riding everyday, my son loves cycling together on the cargo bike, and I am just as content as a year ago.  My health is getting better everyday due to the daily activity but also because I am choosing better foods to fuel myself, my bank account is very happy not dealing with car payments, gasoline purchases, etc and I still love breezing past those long lines of traffic.

Cycling everyday has reduced my stress levels so much that I do not think I want a car anymore.  I can afford it now and find a few cars very attractive (looking at you Fiat 500).  Aside from the cost associated with car ownership which I am not interested in taking on, I am also concerned about the effect on my contentment level, which is currently sky high.  The psychology of driving has been something that has been facinating me since I reduced so dramatically the kilometres I drive and I still to this day cannot figure out why so many people are ok with being so stressed out while behind the wheel.  I think people need to ride bikes more often to chill out.

I feel like I have been able to show some of my friends and customers that car ownership is not a requirement to live a fulfilling lifestyle in this city.  A handful of customers have told me that I have been able to inspire them to look at their own lives and reevaluate their notions of transportation - some have even ditched their second car.  One employee sold the last of their two cars and a close friend has also ditched their car.  Will you take the time to look in the mirror and see if you too can get by with one less car or no car at all?

It is a question worth asking.

Jan 19, 2012

2012 New Bike Brands

Happy New Year Everyone!

2012 is shaping up to be an exciting year for us - we've made it past the dreaded first 2 years as a new business, we've met and beat our projections (thank you!), and we are diving into a new part of the bicycle industry - touring bikes!

As well of offering a full selection of touring bikes and products, we are also diving deeper into the world of classic city bikes with 2 new brands - one brand new, the other over 100 years old.

First, the brand new brand - Bobbin Bicycles.

Bobbin Bicycles was created by a retail shop in London UK of the same name.  Here is what they are all about, in their own words -

"Bobbin reinvents romantic notions of traditional upright bicycles and makes them relevant to modern life. We’re interested in recapturing the magic and excitement we all felt from riding our first bike. Bobbin bicycles have personalities (and sometimes even names) of their own. The idea that cycling doesn’t have to be sporty is very important to us. Buying a Bobbin means you can arrive at a meeting, an art gallery or a date on time and in style. Our bikes are beautiful, romantic machines. They have useful design features like mudguards, covered chains, hub gears and carrier racks. On them, you can wear your everyday clothes, carry your shopping, portfolio and dog whilst looking effortlessly chic and unflustered.  At Bobbin we believe that bicycles are magical contraptions, charged with the power to transform a journey into an adventure. If you daydream about cutting gracefully and effortlessly through the cityscape then follow us... ...we'll show you the way."

The full range of Bobbin's bikes are expected instore in March. 

Next up is one of the oldest bicycle brands on the planet -  Royal Dutch Gazelle.  

Gazelle is the original Dutch bike brand and is known worldwide for producing bicycles that last a lifetime.  Attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of Gazelle, as well as fantastic durability and maximum comfort for daily cycling use.  The range of product available from Gazelle is vast, everything from the coolest kids bikes ever right on through to MTBs - for our purposes we will be stocking just the Tour Populaire (8-speed) in both stepthrough and classic frames as well as the Tour Basic (3-speed) in stepthrough.

Quite possibly the last city bike you'll ever need!

Finally, we are branching out from upright city bikes into some of the most practical bikes available - touring bikes.  Speedy like a road bike but with a more upright position, bikes that are incredible for carrying gear or simply a weeks worth of groceries, and perfect for commuting during the workweek and adventuring in the countryside on the weekends - the swiss army knife of the bike world.

Brodie's range of cromoly touring bikes are already in stock with Salsa's range of touring bikes arriving this week.  We will have a complete collection of pannier options from Ortlieb and Arkel arriving in March as well as plenty of rack options from Toba, Salsa, Surly, and Old Man Mountain.

2012 may be the year that the world ends for some people, but for us it is the year when we really get going!

Ride your bike - live the adventure and happy 2012 to you!