Breaking (new) tradition, I've consolidated July and August into a single update. Why? It's mid season here in Canada and I'd rather spend the limited time I have riding, rather than writing. The good news is that summer has been really good. Lots of incredible riding happened and my favourite time of year is about to start, fall. Here's a look back at the highlights of summer 2017
On The Bike
Outside of the usual club rides, this summer has had some pretty memorable adventures. Growing up, my family had cherry trees in the back yard. I remember going out back with a bowl and always coming home with a full belly, and an empty bowl. The particular cherry that always got me was the sour ones. Although those childhood cherry trees are now long gone, some friends of ours run a cherry farm out near Niagara Falls. Last year a few of us decided to ride around the lake and pick cherries with the family. It's just over 80kms/50miles from downtown Toronto to the farm. This year the group was a bit smaller and we decided to ride it both ways - for a total distance of just under 180kms. The route takes us along the lakeshore while crossing Hamilton bay at the draw bridge. Due to hail storms in late spring, the picking was a bit of a bust. But all was not lost. In the barn I spotted a vintage Cyclops, still ridden by its original owner. Although the Toronto area may have the largest concentration of Cyclops bikes, because it's the hometown of Mike Mulholland, they are still a very rare site. Mike's frames were popular during their time and have gained further notoriety after his death in 2005. There are two types of Cyclops and you have to look close to tell them apart. Some were built and painted by Mulholland, and others are frames that were repainted by Mulholland. This barn find was an original built and painted by Mike for, Don Smith. Friend of the farm, Chris Bozek, proudly helped show it off.
Toronto Vintage Steelies
Switching my stable of bikes over to all metal frames has opened up some new doors. This year I got an invite to a small local ride for classic steel and modern Ti bikes. Sort of like the official L'Eroica - but smaller and less formal. I wasn’t really sure what to expect or even how big it was going to be, but I knew a few good people were going to be there. It wasn't easy choosing between riding the Mosaic or the Cherubim. But since ride organizer, Mike Chung, was riding his brand new Cherubim Uli for the first time, I went with the Cherry Bomb. Turns quite a few people were pulling their classic steelies out of the garage because we departed with ~16 people before picking up excited spectators along the way. You know something special is going on when people come out just to ride along and see the bikes. By the time we left the city the group swelled to about 30. The participants were a mix of riders from various clubs and groups from around the area. Some even drove hours to take part. One really notable rider was Phil White. If you're wondering. Yes it's the Phil White from Vroomen White design of Cervelo. The ride was a total of 122kms with a half way stop for pastries in Schomberg, Ontario. At the rest stop we there was a judged contest for the best vintage, best modern steel or Ti, and best vintage kit. Best Vintage when to a 35 year light blue old vintage Pinarello which was repainted by VeloColour. Best modern steel went to Ali for his jaw dropping Cherubim R2 - no contest. And honestly, I can't remember who took home best kit because I was too busy staring at bikes. I can see this event growing.
Toronto Morning Crew
Maybe one of the best things in cycling is the way it always connects you to new people. Whether it's through a cycling club or just a group of passionate cyclists getting together on their own - there's always someone up for a ride. One such ride is the Toronto Morning Crew, a group of enthusiastic cyclists from across different clubs and neighbourhoods all coming together to ride the east end of Toronto before sunrise. The lack of formality to the ride is a feather in their cap. It's got a stress free vibe and the route includes some of the east end big hit hills before stopping to swarm the local coffee shop patio. If you need another reason to get up before the sun to share the quiet roads with friends, this is it. It's quickly become a highlight of my week. The timing is perfect for a good climbing session before the weekend endurance tests.
The crowning event of the summer was, without a doubt, the Northern Pass. This was the inaugural year for the charity event and I am so honoured to have been a part of helping put this together. The ~70 riders helped to raise ~$160,000 for cancer research at the Princess Margaret Hospital. From what I've heard, this may be the most successful first year event the hospital has put on! From a cyclists and a participants perspective, it was an amazing event with an incredible group of riders challenging themselves along some of the most picturesque roads of northern Ontario. My favourite part of the route was the northern extension around Lake Rosseau that was included in the full century. Helping to design the route was an incredible (but stressful) opportunity and thankfully the feedback was unanimously positive. There are some changes in the works for next year that will make it even better. If you're interested in riding the Northern Pass, you better sign up fast because it's almost sold out. After only two week!
For me, the ride had more ups and downs than just what the terrain provided. At almost exactly half way through, and about 5kms after the second rest stop… I blew a hub. I mean I completely knackered it. We were ascending one of the larger climbs and about to crest when the flange of my front hub sheered right off. It made a loud bang, followed quickly by the sound of spokes whap whap whaping off my fork. At first I thought my day was done… but then Jamie came to my rescue with a spare wheel out of the Blacksmith support car. The exact same wheel too!
Despite the broken wheel, the most memorable moment of the ride didn't happen on the bike. As we pulled in to the third rest stop I was surprised to hear the elated cheers of my 3 year old daughter. We shared an ice cream and I introduced her to some of the other rides before heading back out on the road. Some of those riders were the Bikes On Wheels Women group and apparently they made quite the impression on her. When my wife drove off, my daughter said "Mommy, when I grow up I want to ride bikes with those girls." That alone made my entire day, season, year….
The last part of the Northern Pass coverage is a follow up to my pre-event post. Not only was I a part of the advisor committee for the event but Life was a sponsor. My prize was for a personal photo session either on the road or in the studio. So very proud to say that the winner of the prize was, Laura Robbins. She has an infectiously positive spirit and she's an inspiration to others as one of very few people who have cycled coast to coast in Canada. Congrats Laura!
Gear reviews are the heart of this site and each month I'm always adding new stuff to the test mix. Over the summer months I'm usually in full swing with the gear that will form the upcoming indepth reviews. Here are some of the notable gear not already mentioned;
When we built up my Cherum Uli I wanted to change out the bars. A set of carbon bars that left a hugely positive impression on me were the Storck RBC 180. They had a really great combination of weight, shape, stiffness, and I loved the slight setback of the ovalized tops. I didn't want to add off brand bars to my Cherubim (vain I know), so I searched for something else. Also an opportunity to try something new. I settled on the Schmolke EVO SL Oversize. So far my experience with them has been overwhelmingly positive. The vintage steel ride (mentioned above) was the longest ride I've put in on them and they were comfortable from start to end. Definitely a deeper review in the future.
Conti GP4000S II
I grew up riding on Michelin tires but after the disappointment of the Lithion 2 and the troublesome sizing on the Pro 3 & 4, I went searching for alternatives. I found my way onto Vittoria tires - especially the gum wall Corsas. They are fantastically comfortable and quick tires but they pay a penalty with their weight. During my research on new tires I was intrigued by the popularity of the chart topping Continental GP4000S II tires, their lower weight, and their pack leading low rolling resistance. I decided to slap a set on to my Xentix Squad 2.5 climbing wheels that are setup on my Cherubim. With a ~10% weight savings they are perfect for uphill battles. It's taken some time to get used their different feel but I think I’m sold on them.
Catella Cycling Kit.
No not Castella, Catella. I'm always looking for new bits of kit with a technical mindset. Late last year I was approached by Catella from Los Angeles about reviewing some of their kit. What sets them apart is that they are trying to build a better kit with stitch-less construction and cold black fabrics sourced from Schoeller in Switzerland. I was intrigued because stitching can really be a cause for irritation in tight fitting kit and Schoeller fabrics, while not new to outdoor sports, are fairly rare in cycling. They shipped me a kit based on their website sizing but unfortunately it didn't quite fit. I called on a friend, Jesse Merson, to test it out. Expanding the group of gear testers has been on my mind for a while and this was a perfect opportunity. Jesse has been riding in the kit all season and just submitted his impressions. Now time to work on putting it together for a full review.