Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to take your kid mountain biking

A few weeks ago it was "take your kid mountain biking day." I believe it was October 6th. I was planning to take a few kids from the neighbourhood, but it was a really ugly day, rainy and windy. My son was keen though, and at seven, has no real idea of the elements yet -- he just wanted to go biking. So he and I went and I was "schooled" appropriately. He showed me how to ride off ledges and up tricky rocky sections, it was humbling.

In general , however, it is difficult taking your kid mountain biking on the North Shore, all the terrain is difficult. What is also difficult, for him, is the fact that his dad, me, doesn't believe in shuttling. So whenever we ride we have to ride up to go down. This significantly limits the types of trails that we can do. One of our early favourites was Griffin on Mt. Fromme. Griffin gives kids a taste for the Shore without huge amounts of climbing. But what happens when they are ready for more?

This summer we spent some time at my family's cabin in the Interior of our province. We take all our mountain bikes, but like the Shore, all the riding is "up" to begin with. I rode alone most of the time. One day though Ai asked if he could come along. The ride I usually take is a gut busting, no warm up ascent through some abandoned logging roads to the top of the mountain behind our cabin. I wanted him to come so we set about thinking of a way to get him up the mountain. We found some rope on our dock and decided that if we attached our bikes together that I could maybe help him up the mountain if I pulled him. I had seen this done in adventure races where the stronger members of a team pull the weaker members of the team. As it turned out we had some Dock Buddies, ropes with bungee cords inside. As we soon found out these are the perfect things to help kids get up the mountain. We attached one end to my bike around the seat post and I looped the other end over his handlebars. Off we went. I got an awesome work out, he got to the top of the mountain. There was only a couple of times where things got a bit hairy. On a couple of switch backs I "dragged" him to the ground, but we were going slow enough that no damage was done.

The great part about being "tied" together was that we were able to talk the whole way up. He was absolutely stoked about going with Dad to where Dad goes. We chatted about all sorts of things. We got spooked by sounds in the woods -- he was sure he saw a bear. It was really a great time. In fact I'm going to go and get another one of those ropes so we can go for another ride. Soon my daughter will be old enough for this as well. Happy days ahead. Go out and take your kid for a drag, it will do you both good.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack Review

This has been on my "todo" list for a while now. I purchased this backpack in July, but I haven't used it consistently until recently.

Disclaimer: I paid full pop for this pack, so I can say what I want.

I have been looking for a waterproof pack for quite some time now. Most packs in this category are expensive and I do have to say that the Banjo Brothers pack is dirt cheap for what you get. I have been bike commuting for about 20 years now. I used packs in my early days of commuting, but then moved to panniers. For the past 10 years I have used the MEC Aqua-Not Panniers. They have been absolutely bullet proof. Everything is dry when I get to work and I don't have any weight on my back, which is nice.

The problem started when I began bringing my laptop home from work. I wanted to protect the laptop from the shock it would get in a pannier by putting it in a pack. This worked out Ok, but what I really needed was a pack that I could use year round in Vancouver. It rains a bit in Vancouver (that could be the understatement of the century).

Now there are quite a few reviews of this pack out there on the net. I particularly enjoyed Fatty's review -tres awesome, and the boys from Commute by Bike and Bike Commuters showed that if you hose down the pack it stays dry inside. But what about rain? None of the reviewers live in areas where it rains. It rains in Vancouver, so this will be the ONLY credible review of the ability of this pack to stay dry inside.

So far this fall it has been wet in the Pacific Northwest. So wet in fact that I haven't been riding too much -- yes that wet. On the occasions that I have ridden, I have done so with this backpack. I carry a some clothes, lunch, laptop and camera. To date nothing has seeped in from the outside. One day my wife made me lunch, which in itself is unusual, and I packed it in the pack -- the lunch leaked (I think it was spaghetti and sauce) but nothing made it through the pack -- so it's waterproof in both directions, in and out. That was an uncomfortable day, spaghetti sauce in the skivvies and all.

I have ridden in torrential downpours and even though I am soaked to the skin --even with an entrant jacket on, my laptop has never short circuited due to wetness.

The pack is also generally comfortable. It has extra long straps so that it can sit low on the back and be supported by your hips as you are riding. This is a significant improvement over most packs that sit high on your back and lead to a sore neck and extra weight on your arms.

Those are the positives, now some gripes. Those long straps I spoke of aren't very padded. Being a skinny cyclist I find that they dig into my collar bones and after about 20 minutes it actually becomes a bit painful. The straps are also very wide apart and, again for a skinny cyclist, this width causes the straps to slip off my shoulders. To combat this there is a sternum strap that I find I need to use all the time.

One of the reasons the straps dig in so badly is the fact that with some clothes, my laptop and lunch -- no shoes or pants-- the pack weighs about a thousand pounds, ok maybe not a thousand, but at least 15lbs. In fact with my pump spare tube and a multitool the pack weighs 5 pounds. Now you have to remember that this pack is 1500 cubic inches. It's huge, which is good, but you can get carried away packing too much stuff into it and then, no matter where it sits on your back, it is going to take you where IT wants to go.

After having this pack for a few months now I do have to say that it is nice that everything stays dry in it. There are other options out there though. In fact a regular pack with a dry bag in it -- the Outdoor Research ones are beautiful (light and waterproof) -- and a rain cover would do quite nicely and be a LOT lighter. The only difference is that regular packs do sit higher on your back.

So bottom line time:


Lots of reflective material
U-lock pocket
Sits low on back for good visibility (over your shoulder) and good weight placement (on your hips)
relatively inexpensive


Uncomfortable shoulder straps

Pros win. I'll keep it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Richard Juryn

There have been many other tributes to Richard. And to be truthful I didn't really know Richard. I had met him when he ran the North Shore Mountain Bike Festival and Conference and then the following year when the conference turned into the World Mountain Bike Conference and I used to bump into him now and again in the neighbourhood. I was also happy to see him get the reigns of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association this year. Richard was very involved in the mountain bike seen here in Vancouver.

Although I didn't really know Richard I do have memories of him. My best memory of Richard was during the 2005 North Shore Mountain Bike Festival. It was at one of the smaller events -- the kids race. My son was entered, it was his second race ever, the first was in the same event the year before when he was four. But in 2005 the rain was heavy. Spirits were low. Ai, my son, was still keen but I think he was nervous about the weather. I think Richard saw this and came up and started to talk to him about mountain biking. I don't remember the conversation, what I remember was Richard's infectious smile. By the end of the conversation Ai was ready to go and even though he was soaked he had a great time. He still has the medal from that day. I hope he remembers some of Richard's enthusiasm.

That is Richard in the background in the orange jacket. That is my son blue jacket with the strip and the huge smile. Ai still loves mountain biking. We ride all the time together. It is something I hope he and I can do for a long time. I hope it is something that we can do for at long time as a family. I am sorry that Richard and his family won't be able to do that again.

We have lost an enthusiastic advocate for mountain biking in Vancouver. Richard's family has lost a father and a husband.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I have been planning for a while now a review of wines with a link to cycling.
Last night I was reading Momentum Magazine, a BC based bike culture periodical that is really quite good. Anyway there was an article about wine, more specifically wine with some sort of link to cycling (they beat me to it). They discussed 3 wines, each of which I have tried and enjoyed. One wine that they missed was the Cycles Gladiator 2005 Syrah.

Now I am not a wine snob by a long shot. My wife and I have used wine touring as an excuse for some bike touring. We have toured the Napa Valley and around the Naramata Bench in BC's Okanagan, both by bike. So we at least have an interest.

I saw this wine in the liquor store the other day. Although I know a bit about wine, I know I like drinking it, I am a sucker the little "helpful" promotional material that the BCL Stores put on display with the wines. The note on this wine was that it was a Gold medal winner from some wine festival and that -- and this is what I really look at -- it received 91 points. Now I don't know if I have ever had a wine that received 91 points. I stick to the affordable 88 point wines.

Now I must admit during the past couple of years my attitude towards wine has changed. Before I was singularly focused on finding the best inexpensive wines possible. There are a lot of great cheap wines (around $10.00, around US$5.00 probably), but recently I have raised my focused price range to the mid-teens. Even with this increased price range I can't seem to afford the wines over 90 points. That is why I was surprised to see that the Cycles Gladiator 2005 Syrah, that won a gold medal and received 91 points, was under $17.00 (I noticed on their website that it is US$9.99 -- ah the joys of socialised health care).

I bought a couple of bottles a few weeks ago and was really surprised by the smoothness and rich flavour of this wine. It was really wonderful. I did a little more research on Cycles Gladiator's excellent website and found that they sponsor a couple of bike racing teams and are really into the whole bike culture thing. So really it is a win win wine, The product is good, and the proceeds of my purchase help support bike culture. I was so thrilled that I actually went out and bought a case last night.

Ahh I have a winter of good wine drinking ahead of me.

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