Friday, September 15, 2023

To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

Peter Sanderson and Steve Williams, who are dear friends and fellow bloggers, are rethinking their blogs. Peter has already discontinued his blog, and Steve revealed in a post I recently read that he is considering whether to do the same.

I mentioned in a comment I posted on Steve's long-standing Scooter in the Sticks blog that my blog is now really more my journal than anything else. Not only do I like to document things I do that give my life meaning, I also have come to appreciate the ability to revisit my past by going back to older posts. This blog keeps an important part of my past present for me.

Recording my daily life as a journal is not really why or how this blog started.

In the many months preceding the purchase of my first Vespa, I was doing research, and gathering information.

Steve's blog Scooter in the Sticks was an important source of the information I needed. Once the Vespa was a done deal, I decided to start this blog to return the favour by posting the lessons I learned on Vespa commuting, so that others who might contemplate doing the same would have yet another source of information and support. It was returning a favour, helping others in this same way I received help others who shared their insights that helped me  

Now the blog is more about me, about my life. A place where I can share my thoughts and experiences.

In the beginning I knew no one was reading.

When, over time, an audience formed, it was a little unexpected. I am blessed, because my blog led me to make some very dear friends, Peter and Steve among them.

My favourite photo of my Vespa and I was taken by Steve in the Pennsylvania sticks that gave his blog its name.


Now my audience has shrunk, I think. In truth I don't really follow my blog's statistics any more. 

All of which to say, this blog is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 11, 2023

A break

Is it because I bought a leather saddle that needs to be broken in?

Is it because we will be taking a break vacationing in Spain this fall?

Is it because I was a little stressed-out in the days leading up to a half-day course I had to teach solo to a class of thirty or so colleagues on records management? 

It's hard to say.

Why would I stress out on giving a lecture when I literally wrote the book?

What's certain is that my body got itself into a funk that has required that I take a break. A break from my morning exercises, trading time in the saddle for time with Melina, our brilliant physiotherapist. The clock is ticking, as it always does, and I need to take this break, fix what needs fixing, and get back in the saddle.

I am closer to that this morning that at any time since the early days of this month, when my right leg went AWOL.

That's deeply ironic, because it's my left leg that has had issues, never my right. No massive skiing sprains, no dumb idiotic blows to my kneecap... my right leg has always been fine. Until it wasn't.

Melina showed me all the leg muscles on a cool application on her phone. They are the largest most formidable muscles on our bodies. They are all focused on our knee. Go figure. It seems that in the week or so before my right leg called riding quits, I was being, shall we say, a tad competitive. Resisting quiet relaxing contemplative rides, in favour of challenging myself on the uphill stretches. Can I do this hill at the same speed and pace as the level ground that precedes it?  And there I was, all hill long, focused on my cadence, feeling myself pull on the handlebars, breathing getting obvious... and YES!! I did it, WOW!

What did I do exactly?

It seems I antagonized the right leg muscle union, and the union called an unceremonious halt to the festivities. No more riding for you buddy.

And that's how my left leg muscles and I now find ourselves in mandatory mediation. Melina is the mediator. She gets the muscles' gripes. She gets mine. For a person who is much smaller than I am, she can sure work my leg muscles into submission in short order while we chat about stuff, interspersed by the occasional gasp, yelp or moan... on my part of course. Melina takes it all in stride with a smile, a dig, a pull, push, and stretch. Slowly, methodically, coaxing my right leg muscles into submission.

Thank heavens, it seems to be working.

Lesson learned (I hope).

Friday, September 1, 2023

My new Brooks saddle

 I have been a good boy.

My Brompton has been a good bike.

My Brompton and I have accomplished more than I expected when we were first introduced, hombre a bicicleta. If that sounds weird, please take into consideration that in three weeks' time Susan and I will be on the Costa del Sol...  practice is warranted. 


I felt like it was time to mark our - bicicleta's and my - considerable accomplishments, so I splurged on our new Brooks B-17 Special saddle. What makes it special are the hand-hammered copper rivets.

I hope my Brompton likes it. It matches her Ergon grips.

They say it takes roughly 250 kilometres or maybe six months to break in a Brooks. It's hard to say anything about time, because it's the actual riding that counts. I'm doing, conservatively, 8 kilometres each day I ride, so 250 kilometres is just over 30 days. I generally ride on weekdays, so in time, that's 6 weeks from this coming Tuesday. 9 weeks taking into account our - Susan's and my - Spanish adventure.

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. And whether I'll ultimately be happy with our - bicicleta's and my - treat.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Ken Wilson

Corrie Vaus, a professional videographer and producer reached out to me yesterday in an email to request permission to use an interview of Ken Wilson I posted on my YouTube channel, informing me that Ken had passed away.

He passed away earlier this summer in June.

The news left me deeply saddened. I had no idea.

In February 2017 I was very fortunate to participate in an Oyster Tour, a Vespa tour ranging from Tampa Florida to the town of Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle, so named by Ken Wilson and Bill Leuthold in honour of an iconic little oyster bar on the Gulf coast.

I now know that Ken succumbed to a very aggressive cancer that manifested as significant back pain in January of this year, claiming his life in June.

Bill dedicated his participation in this year's cross-continental Cannonball scooter rally in Ken's honour. Corrie Vaus' husband was also participating, and Corrie went along to record the event including its dedication to Ken.

I very much look forward to seeing the film. 

Ken Wilson was a remarkable individual. He was outgoing, inquisitive, adventurous, genuinely kind and welcoming. He had recently bought a Vespa 300 GTS that he lent me so I could ride with him, Bill and Jim Mandle on the Oyster Tour. I learned from Corrie that Ken left that Vespa to Bill, and that Bill rode it on the CannonBall Run.

As I rode my Brompton on yesterday's weekday ride, I found the flag at half-mast.

It was as if the familiar landscape of my morning ride sensed and was manifesting the grief I felt.



I can do no better than to repost my interview with Ken following that Oyster Tour, recorded in Ken's driveway in St-Petersburg. Ken gets the last word. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Too old to ride?

 At 71, I don't think so.

Marc is my very dear friend. Susan and I went to Montreal last week to surprise Marc on his birthday. He is now 82 and he has been exploring his neighbourhood on the West Island on his bicycle for as long as I can remember.

Marc still rides his bike.

Yesterday I was on YouTube nosing around and I watched a delightful video on Susanna Thornton's channel that I am sharing with you here. Susanna's dad took up cycling at 60 and cycles roughly twenty minutes each day. Now he is 87. Have a look to see how well he toured with his daughter along the Welsh borders, in Herefordshire.

I truly feel that Susan and I are riding our bikes on the right path to longevity and happiness. Buying our Bromptoms was definitely the right decision.

I encourage you to take the time to explore Susanna's channel. You will be inspired by her singular courage, her humility, and amazing adventurous spirit. I would like to propose Susanna for a British honour for her strong character and amazing poise in the face of the challenges that life brought to her doorstep. It's not easy. So far I don't have enough information to support the application that I received from the the UK Cabinet Office.

Flat Monday

 It was my second flat.

Having already repaired one puncture, this morning I had the benefit of experience, and some excellent patches. I didn't want to give up or postpone my weekday morning ride though.

A simple alternative was obvious. I rode Susan's Brompton.

It's fascinating.

The bikes are absolutely identical other than my bike has:

  • a saddlebag holding
    • a Gerber multi tool
    • a high pressure air gauge
    • a little emergency cash
    • a rag, and
    • a packable back sack
  • a water bottle holder bag
  • a telescopic seat post
  • a RAM X-type cell phone holder
  • a loud bell, and
  • a Brompton tool kit
Individually none of those items are heavy (to be honest the seat post and the Gerber tool are not feather-light). Combined they clearly add weight to my bike. Susan's bike felt... leaner.

Her bike also feels very different. The angle of the brake levers is a little different, and even at maximum extension, the saddle is lower. I understand the saddle height test to be whether, with your bum in the saddle and your left heel on the pedal, you leg is straight. At maximum extension on Susan's bike my leg was not quite straight.

I opted for my short ~7 km ride.

Oddly, I have been having some discomfort I can only describe as tendon pain in my right leg. With the saddle in a lower position, I felt no discomfort. I suspect I have been riding with my saddle a touch too high. I plan to experiment a little in the coming days and weeks to see if lowering the saddle a little might eliminate that discomfort. 

When I got home I had breakfast and tackled the flat.

This time I didn't remove the wheel. I pumped up the tire, found the puncture site, deflated, extracted about six inches of the inner tube at the puncture site, scuffed up and cleaned the inner tube at the puncture site, applied the patch, tucked in the tube, pried the tire back on, pumped it up, and voilĂ  my Brommie is as good as new.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

I did it!

Actually, I did 'them'.

The 'it' happened on Friday, August 18, 2023. I rode exactly 11 kilometers and that brought my kilometers logged to 3,000.03 kms. 

I wouldn't say it was a goal, it's just a milestone, yet well worth celebrating.

The other thing I did was much more complicated, very boring to many, but once done, something that came with quite a bit of satisfaction.

It’s computer-related. So if that has you rolling your eyes and stifling a yawn.  Maybe stop here. 

Oh, right… it’s all about my Apple iMac. I’m guessing a bunch more of you are already off to TikTok.

I’ll just jump in. I used to run two iMacs, with the older Mac doing double duty serving music and acting as an external monitor for my Big Mac. The older Mac died last fall. 

I bought a used Thunderbolt display, upgraded the Big Mac to 40 gigs of RAM, and soldiered on with the one computer doing all the work. 

In the last few months the Big Mac would occasionally freeze. What  pain. 

All my data is backed up to the cloud and to a local backup drive. So while there might have been cursing and much colourful language, there no tears.

Still, it’s frustrating, a waste of time, and a risk to my data. It needed to be  assessed, and changes needed to be made to tame the beast. 

I will immediately confess to being what I call a ‘RAM pig’.

I love the Mac because in addition to all the other nice features like continuity, I can have multiple desktops. Each desktop is like a separate computer.

I like to use 13 desktops. One is devoted to music, one to my activity tracker, one each to Outlook and Apple Mail, one to my browser, one to my Apple calendar, one to brainstorming and planning, one to managing my records management process, one to managing accounting and billing, and the remaining four to client work.  Technically, the Thunderbolt monitor is kind of another desktop. Photos run there, when it’s not being used as an expanded desktop. My Excel workbooks chew up the most RAM. Followed by Outlook. 

I had concluded, whenever the Mac crashed, that it was because I had basically depleted the available RAM and left my poor computer with too few resources to do my ridiculously demanding bidding. You see, I basically never shut the poor beast down. I do put it to sleep nightly but... sleep mode doesn't refresh the RAM. This became clear once I discovered the MacOS Activity Monitor. The other thing that became clear, is that my habits gobble up increasing amounts of RAM. The RAM does increase and decrease, but applications I use remain in memory when I close their windows, unless I take the trouble to actually quit them. Which I rarely did. Until things would seem a little unstable. By then it was typically too late. CRASH!

Knowing what I know now, I have changed my habits.

I now reboot weekly, whether the available RAM is below 32 GB or not. If it hits 32-33 GB I reboot. Simple.

The only issue with rebooting is setting up my 13 desktops. The fiddly bit of that is finding and opening the five Excel workbooks in desktops 12 and 13. The tricky bit to saving time and effort for that was building shortcuts in an application called Better Touch Tool. The interface is complicated and takes getting used to. It's complicated because the app can automate pretty much anything. So there are a lot of menu items. In the end, with a little bit of trial and error, I set up a one-finger press to the top right corner of the trackpad that launches all those workbooks. Cool.

And now I am back to a nice and stable, very productive work environment.

In spite of the fact that I'm definitely a RAM pig. RAM hog?

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Reasons to ride

Here are the reasons I love to ride. As it happens, they appear below pretty much in the increasing order of their importance to me. 

1. Exercise - That has to be a very popular reason, if you were to conduct a survey. In fact, it was that article in the New York Times that got me riding again "For Successful Aging, Pick Up the Pace or Mix It Up". 

Exercise all on its own, is definitely not the reason I love to ride. It was just the prompt that got me back on the saddle, pushing pedals.

2. Physics - This is the thing I love most about the act of riding. Not necessarily, or even primarily speed, but kind of that, but not really. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't ride, and completely unnecessary to explain to anyone who does ride, or has ridden. 

The joy is rooted in the circularity of the wheels and pedals, and the friction of the ground and the brakes. It's the same thing on a motorbike... except for he pedals, but the motor performs the same magic as the pedals on a bicycle by allowing the rider to modulate the force rotating the wheels. That inexplicable feeling emerges as the two-wheeler turns, and it changes with speed. Weird things like counter-steering (press the handlebars left to go right - yes, not a mistake or a fantasy, but an actual fact) that happens at speeds mostly attained only by motorbikes, and other mystical things that happen at very low speeds, always as the bike turns. With a bicycle that has direct drive pedals, it's amazing that the rider can actually stay in the saddle with the bike upright and only moving in small tiny ways, basically at a full stop.

At normal cruising speeds, bikes handle turns by an intricate interplay of centrifugal and centripetal forces. The rider feels those forces in their body, because the rider is one with the bike.

To witness what that very complicated formula looks like, you need look no further than right here, literally mind-blowing feats. If it's speed you like, watch how motorcycle grand-prix riders handle the corners on the race track.

3. Exploration - Bikes take you places, and allow you to see things, to experience things, that walking and driving just never seem to. In fairness, walking certainly offers pleasures driving doesn't. The fragrance of freshly mowed lawns, of flowering lilac or gardenia, and the sounds of birds, insects, dogs, seagulls, and geese, to name a few. 

Bikes offer that as well. So how are bikes different?

They let you cover more ground and they are nimble.

On a Vespa you don't hesitate to explore lanes and alleyways that you would just never do in a car.

On a bicycle the range of experiences is much greater, including walkways and trails where all motorized vehicles are forbidden. When you have a Brompton, taxis, buses, subways, trains and planes also become options, opening opportunities for exploration to pretty much anywhere in the world.

4. Sights and experiences - Riding allows me to see and experience things that I am pretty sure I would not otherwise have. I can't possibly attempt an inventory here, because it would be endless, and I feel it would ultimately be pointless.

Perhaps the best I can do is share my most recent experiences in no particular order. These things stand out from my weekday rides in the last few days and weeks.

  • The hawk on Flaming Rosewood
  • The Unicyclist
I saw him in the distance on the Finch Trail last week. The way he seemed to be moving was strange. It seemed for a moment that he was prancing, his legs making exaggerated up and down motions. As the distance between us slowly closed I finally understood that he was riding a unicycle. A serious unicycle, with what seemed to be a 24" or 27" wheel. I hadn't seen a unicyclist in... to be honest I can't remember when. Was it in a circus...? The new-fangled electric unicycles, now I have seen quite a few of those in the recent past, but an honest-to-goodness human-powered unicycle? Never saw him before, haven't seen him since.

  • The Morning Tai Chi sessions

  • The corn cowboy
In the last few weeks I saw crude hand-scrawled cardboard signs in the parking lot at the southeast corner of Finch and Bathurst: "Sweet Corn". But it was always before eight o'clock, so it was just the few signs. A few days ago, on Monday, my usual morning schedule got messed up and my daily ride postponed to just past 10 a.m. When I got to that parking lot there was a guy with a pickup truck and a ton of corn in the back, selling corn. How could I not pick some up? I knew we had four ears of grocery store corn in the fridge, but this was fresh off-the-farm corn. Corn doesn't agree with Susan's Crohn's, so I am the only ravenous corn-eater. I picked up three ears. The fellow selling the corn had an English accent I couldn't quite make out... Australian? South African? Nope! He said he was originally from Nottinghamshire. "Robin Hood" he said with a smile. I asked if I could pay with my phone. He said sure I could, just do an Interac bank transfer "let me know when you're ready and I'll give the email address" he said. Finally, I was ready. "thecorncowboys@hotmail.com".
  • The roller-blade acrobat
A young woman, coming down the trail on rollerblades, but her long confident strides were punctuated by amazing graceful pirouettes. As our paths crossed she was rolling backwards down the trail. "Nice moves" I said.
  • The early morning sun
  • The fog

In the kind of serendipity, coincidental, totally unpredictable way that things are known to happen, the last word on this topic goes to someone else.

I was speaking to my friend Peter the day before yesterday, who, like me, is a former Vespa, motorcycle, and sports car addict. Peter, also like me, has most recently taken to riding a bicycle. He told me that the previous evening he had an errand to run. He rode to the grocery store along a bicycle path that passes through some woods. On the return trip through the woods, the canopy of leaves forming a lush green arch over the path made everything extremely dark. It was then that Peter had to stop and stare. The woods were awash in fireflies. Peter was stunned. He said it was amazing, surreal, and astonishingly beautiful, that while he had seen fireflies before,  it was the first time in his life he had seen anything remotely like this. He added, without any prompting from me, that but for the fact that he chose to ride to the store, he would never have had that experience.

For a delightful view of that incident from Peter's perspective, see his blog... click here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

20230817 - The last word almost went to someone else. What are the odds? This morning, Thursday, August 17, 2023, I crossed paths, in the following order, with i) unicycle man, ii) corn cowboy, and iii) rollerblade acrobat. Go figure. Jamais deux sans trois... let's see if that old saying holds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

On a failed path to discovery

 A long time ago, in 1986, we were living a few houses from Yonge Street on Fairlawn Avenue. I remember riding my Norco road bike to a park on the east side of Yonge, just south of Lawrence.

I remember riding in the park, along paved trails, down into the Don Valley ravine, all the way to the Toronto Science Centre, and back home.

Later that year I followed that same system of trails, then south, all the way to Lake Ontario, and to the very end of the Leslie Street Spit.

Since I got the Brompton I have had my sights set on a repeat performance, with a twist.

Instead of starting the ravine trails at Yonge and Lawrence, I want to start from the Finch Corridor Trail just north of where we live now.

I have literally spent hours on the satellite map on my tablet, zooming in, trying to spot the trails among the trees in the parklands from Yonge and Lawrence to the Don Valley and the Science Centre. It's certainly not obvious. Since many, if not most of the trails are paved, and since they have names that show up on the satellite map, it shouldn't be this hard.

The trail-name sequence of the route I planned to take looks like this: Finch Corridor Trail, East Don River Trail, Betty Sutherland Trail, [city streets], Don Mills Trail, [cross at York Mills ave. and Leslie], Edwards Gardens, Wilket Creek Trail, Sunnybrook Park Trail, Burke Brook Trail, Sherwood Park Trail, Blythwood Park Ravine Trail.

Last year I made my first attempt. I made mistakes and missed where the trailhead for the Don Mills Trail sits where a bridge along York Mills avenue crosses over some railroad tracks. I eventually made it to Edwards Gardens at Leslie and Lawrence, but only after riding west along York Mills quite a ways to find park trails going south, then taking city streets to get to Edwards Gardens.

I know that once you make it to Edwards Gardens, the interconnecting trails go all the way to Lake Ontario. The reality is that the trails don't currently get exactly to the lake due to construction down at the end of the Don Valley, but close enough is good enough.

This morning Susan went with a friend to do some shopping. I decided to take another stab at Edwards Gardens, now that I know where the Don Mills Trail starts on York Mills avenue.

Another failure. 

I made it to Edwards Gardens, after a detour to Don Mills road because construction has cut off the Don River Trail at the 401, and in the course of the detour I misunderstood the route, and wasted some time and energy getting back on course.

From Edwards Gardens I made it onto the Wilket Creek Trail.

At that point I knew I could get into the Don Valley trails, and eventually get to the lake. My goal however, was to find the trails that head northwest, duck under Bayview just north of Lawrence, and eventually go to that park at Yonge and Lawrence.

I failed. I was hoping I was on the Burke Brook Trail, but after a kilometre or so, as the trail went from pavement, to gravel, then over a series of derelict little bridges, it dead-ended. It was a 30 degree day. Fortunately I had picked up a couple of bottles of water before heading south from York Mills Avenue. I was tired, sweaty, disappointed, and basically lost, all by myself, on a decrepit trail, in a forest, deep in a ravine. 

Of course 'lost' is relative. My phone had a good charge, I had the satellite map, and at that point I activated the compass utility on the iPhone. I doubled back, keeping an eye on the compass. 

I found a road leading west out of the Don Valley at Sunnybrook park. It's a climb. I pedalled my way out, in first gear, but it was a chore. I got out of the ravine at Sunnybrook Hospital. Went north on Bayview to Lawrence, then west on Lawrence to Yonge where, mercifully, I folded the Brompton and hopped on the subway up to Finch station.

I lugged my Brompton up the stairs out of the Finch subway station, then basically coasted downhill and back home. That's where Bromptons truly excel. Fold and ride public transit. It's truly a game-changer.

Here is this little adventure by the numbers: duration 2 hours and 40 minutes; 26.3 kilometres from the beginning to the Lawrence subway station, then 0.61 km back home, for a total of 26.91 kms in the saddle; 177 metres of elevation gain; average heart rate of 137 beats per minute, 102 min, 164 max; 9.8 kmh average speed.


Overall, I enjoyed the exploration, I really did, but I still haven't unlocked the path I took in 1986. I need to tackle it again, next time starting at the opposite end at the park south of Yonge and Lawrence. It's quite possible that in the 37 years that have passed, real estate development wiped out the path I took back then.

We'll see.

Here are some photos I took along the way. They provide a glimpse of the amazing network of parkland trails that are available in the heart of Canada's largest metropolis. You can go very long distances, kilometre after kilometre, isolated from the urban sprawl and city streets that surround you, enjoying nature, far from cars.

Finch Corridor Trail

East Don River Trail

East Don River Trail

East Don River Trail

Don Mills detour over the 401

End point Don Mills Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

Friday, June 30, 2023

Sling shots

It's not what you're thinking. 

Though my name is David, my target is not Goliath, and this has nothing to do with stones.

It's about my slings.

No... I didn't break or sprain my arm.

I'm talking sling bags.

My first sling bag

Before our trip to France last year I picked up a very basic sling/waist bag from Mountain Equipment Coop. It did the trick for our trip and it also worked well for bike rides.

What I don't much like about it:

a) the strap is too thin

b) the bag is ORANGE. Definitely not something that will pass unnoticed, and somewhat unlikely to match whatever it is you're wearing, even if you work in construction or for the fire department.

What I do like about it:

a) it's maybe the lightest of all slings on the market.

b) it folds into itself and zips up, so when not in use it takes up very little room. It's very packable.

c) it can hold the jackets I take on all our trips:

        i) my super-packable, scrunchable, minimalist Uniqlo semi-water-resistant wind breaker.

        ii) my very packable, scrunchable, Uniqlo featherweight down jacket.

        iii) my packable, wind proof, and super-waterproof, Arc'Teryx jacket.

Those jackets, and, depending on the weather, wearing all three at once, will keep you comfortable whether it's an unexpected slightly too cool summer evening breeze, a sudden rain storm, or out-of-the-blue frigidly cold winter-like weather. I like to be prepared.

d) it can also hold, at the same time as a jacket or even two of those jackets, my phone, and my camera.

It did the trick in France last year. When we got caught in rainy weather way up in Montmartre at the SacrĂ© Coeur basilica, I just pulled my Arc'Teryx jacket out of my sling and it kept me nice and dry as we strolled down to the equally iconic Galeries Lafayette department store, several kilometres away, to grab a bite to eat, and to do some shopping. 



Not bad at all, but not perfect.

My research continued.

We're off to Spain and Portugal in the fall and I wanted to see if I could find an even better solution. Perhaps one that I could use daily, rather than only when traveling, hiking, and biking.

My new sling bag

I went out on a limb and purchased a Tomtoc EDC sling bag.


It has a lot going for it.

a) it's not ORANGE. It's black.

b) the strap is nearly seatbelt-wide, and comfortable.

c) it's compact, but it can still hold any one of my jackets, plus my keys, my wallet, my sunglasses, my phone, my AirPods, and my camera. And there still some room left over for a few other odds and ends, like theatre tickets. Yay!

And yet, nothing is perfect.

Taming the drift

The ORANGE one drifts more. The Tomtoc drifts less. It drifts less due to the smart design of the strap and its anchor points.  Yet drift it does.

What is sling drift?

Every sling has a place where it likes to be. You can find that place by wearing the sling and walking a kilometre or so. If you resist the temptation to tug and poke, the sling will find its happy place all on its own. 

I can more or less guarantee that wherever that place may be, it's not a place you'll like having the sling.

If you're riding a bike the sling will begin taunting your thigh with each pedal rotation. Bump, bump, bump, bump, bump... Ya, that's annoying.

If whatever it is you're doing makes it necessary to bend forward, like folding or unfolding your Brompton bike, the sling will jump for joy and swing into action, gleefully interfering with whatever it is you're trying to do... Ya, that's annoying.

The drift fix is pretty easy. Just like a loyal loving pooch, your sling needs a leash.

Here's my leash trick:

Get a short length of paracord and a small carabiner. Sew a small loop at one end of the paracord and attach the carabiner to it. Clip the carabiner to a belt loop opposite the side where the sling sits. Find an attachment point on the sling bag, for the ORANGE sling it's the strap where it meets the bag, for the Tomtoc it's at the end of the bag where there's an attachment loop; measure the required length of the leash you are making, cut the cord to that length allowing for sewing a second loop, use that loop to attach the leash to the bag (feed the leash around the attachment point and feed the other end through the loop you made), clip the other end of the leash to the belt loop that works best, and just like that you have tamed the sling drift. When the leash isn't needed, just tuck it into the sling.


Clipping keys

We have two cars with remotes, and a garage door control fob that also opens the main lobby door, and the door from the garage to the elevator lobby. That means that the garage fob needs to stay handy. Just leaving it in the car isn't really an option.

Keeping keys and fobs handy is simple. Clip them to the outside of your sling.

Instead of a traditional key chain, I use a carabiner and a key ring for the car and garage door remotes. 

I use a more traditional key chain for the other keys (in my case that's a bunch: our townhouse key, the locker room key that also opens other keyed locks in the condo building, the key to the padlock on our locker, and the mailbox key.

I use the carabiner to clip the key chain to the car and garage remotes. I hang my keys on a hook in the closet. That keeps them handy and all in one place.


When you go out and about, unclip the key chain, lock the front door and toss those keys in the sling. Clip the car and garage remotes to the outside of the sling bag. 

Problem solved.

In my case, due to the design of the Tomtoc sling, I ended up trying more than one configuration. In the end I bought three small metal carabiner-like things that screw closed, at Mountain Equipment Coop.


They are quite small and don't clutter up the sling. They provide really good anchor points: one on each end of the sling serving as the anchor point for the anti-drift leash or to hang the sling on a hook in the closet, and one attached to the sling strap where I clip the remotes.


I've been using this set up for a little over a month. 

It's taken a little McGyvering as I mentioned, some getting used to, and some trial and error, but it is turning out really well. I like that the Tomtoc is comfortable, and that my pockets are more often than not empty. It's a better look for the pants, and it just feels nicer.

It's going to be really handy for our fall adventures.

And yes, the ORANGE sling is coming along too. We have some really interesting hikes planned, including the Caminito del Rey, and snacks and water will go in that other sling. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Cool tools!

I am not, definitely not, absolutely not, a "tool guy".

My father's lifelong hobby was woodworking. He was really good at it. My sisters and I have some serious furniture our dad created for us. Our dining room table, stunning, solid, refined, and generous, with cherry, oak, and ebony hardwoods, exotic veneers, and exquisite and rare inlays. Truly special. My father's legacy literally lives on in our daily lives. That is the true meaning of treasure. 

I inherited some of his tools, but only the everyday tools, and only those I might have an actual use for. A hammer my dad owned for ever. Some vice grips. A laser level, a Vernier caliper, a few hand power tools... basically very little. 

The serious tools (table saws, drill press, lathes, planers...) went to my brother-in-law who could actually use them.

That doesn't mean that I don't have an appreciation for great innovative tools that meet a real need. Tools that fit their purpose to perfection. Tools that take very little room, yet are reliably there when they are needed, but otherwise, are all but invisible. That is my definition of cool tools. 

My Leatherman Wave fits the bill. 

But move over Leatherman, I have two other even more amazing and mind-blowing examples to share. If you want either of these, read on, the links you need are at the bottom. To get there, just read on and allow your interest to be piqued along the way.

The Brompton tool

I'll start here, because I own this tool, and it is a true joy to put to use.

This tool has all the components needed to all but completely disassemble a Brompton bicycle.

With the Brompton tool you can

  • Adjust, or completely remove, the saddle;
  • Remove the wheels;
  • Remove the tires;
  • Remove the grips
  • Adjust or completely disassemble the controls
    • Break levers, calipers
    • Gear shifters
    • Cabling
  • Remove the handlebars
  • Remove the mudguards
  • Remove or replace the easy wheels
  • ...
This list literally goes on, and on. If you were to use the tool to remove every component possible, all you would be left with would be the frame and the cranks.

Like everything about the Brompton, the tool kit is highly, highly engineered and exquisitely mated to the bike. 

How does it disappear when not in use?


It lives in the front section of the frame.


When the bike is folded it is obvious and easy to see, but only if you know where to look, and what to look for. The wrench does double duty as a handy way to pull the tool out of hiding. 


If you didn't know anything about it, for instance you bought a second-hand Brompton and didn't know about the tool, it might take you quite a while, perhaps weeks, or even months, to find it and figure out what it is, what it does.


Basically it's a ratchet driver that is also a wrench, with all the right bits for the ratchet, and two tire levers that also serve as wrenches.



The MetMo Pocket Driver

I mention this amazing tool second, because I don't actually own one.

You see, this is one of those fascinating things about the world we live in. In this case it's Kickstarter. A platform that allows smart people with brilliant ideas to bring their inventions to life.

There is something enticing about this tool. It's similar to the Brompton tool in many respects because it's also a ratchet driver, it's incredibly compact, and also because it is highly engineered to be robust, and to perform in tricky situations. 

Another thing the Brompton, the MetMo Pocket Driver, and Brompton tool have in common? They are designed and produced in the U.K. Wow!

Because of its form factor, the MetMo Pocket Driver fits in your drawer, in your pocket, in your glove compartment or console, in your purse, even your evening bag, in your saddlebag, top case, handlebar bag, in your backpack, or your travel sling. Super easy for it to be right there whenever there's a loose screw, a stuck bolt, or a fiddly bit of gear that needs a quarter-turn, a tweak, a twist, or a twirl.

Now that I've got your attention, I'll let MetMo's arty images tell the rest of the tale. 






If you now realize that you simply can't live without one, or the other, or even both of these wonders, here are the links I promised. Have fun, and have no fear, you will have spent wisely.

Hmmmm... I forgot to mention that although MetMo reached out to me asking if I would do this, I am not compensated in any by Brompton or MetMo for this post. It's 100% motivated by my love of cool tools. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Trashcan solutions

 We just returned from a family event in Florida.

At some point I mentioned to Mason that for many years and in multiple locations at our home in Montreal, my offices at CGI, and now at our home in Toronto, I have used trashcans as a solution to the wire mess that is inevitable with computers and network gear. 

Mason was interested to learn more, and I promised photos. Mason expressed concern that bundling power supply cabling with ethernet was not recommended due to electro-magnetic interference. I acknowledge that, but it's something I have always done, and haven't had any issues that I am aware of.  Although see below about a magnet war that destroyed some key equipment.

Sending one photo by email is fine, but multiple photos is a trickier challenge due to file size.

I thought about alternatives, and decided that a blog post could do the trick.

So here goes.

There are a number of ingredients that result in the wire mess:

  1. Power supply
    1. There are the power bars needed to plug in all the devices. Sometimes the power connection is direct (for instance with a Mac computer) more often the power connection is indirect and requires plugging in an AC/DC adapter.
    2. In addition to the little brick that takes up space on the power bar, the AC/DC adapter has a long-ish cable, often with a micro USB connection that plugs into the device. That is the first source of excess wiring. Modems, routers, bridges, they each have a little brick and excess micro USB wiring.
  2. Network cabling
    1. Modems, routers, computers, printers, microphones, and other devices that depend on rapid and voluminous data use RJ45 ethernet network cables, as well as phone or optical cabling. While it is possible to make custom length cables, I have never bothered, you will soon see why.
    2. Often the ethernet cable runs to and from from the network components are short, in the case of my network gear, maybe from mere inches to a foot or three max. That means more excess wiring, depending on the length of the ethernet cables.
There are readily available tools you can use to tame cabling, but tie-wraps are essential.  In my most recent cable management for my sit-stand desk I installed Ikea undermount cable trays. I posted a video that you can get here. A word of warning about electro-magnetic interference that I did have though. In the video you will see that I mounted two Ikea lighting remotes next to the remote for the sit-stand desk. The Ikea remotes are held in place by strong magnets. Over time the magnetic field from the Ikea remotes destroyed both the sit-stand desk remote, and the control unit for the motorized legs. It took a lot of brainstorming with the amazing support folks at Progressive Desk to figure out what was happening. You will see in photo #1 below that the Ikea remotes are now installed on the risers for my monitors. The sit-stand desk is back to working perfectly. Hopefully the Ikea magnetic remotes aren't working on destroying anything else, like my Mac.

So here is what I do.

  1. I plug everything in.
  2. I use tie-wraps to route the cabling.
  3. All the excess cable gathers at a single point along with all the DC power supply cables. From that point, the cables are gathered and from there descend into a trashcan (most recently I used a Muji storage cube). The excess ethernet cable takes the same path. All the power bars currently there are four, and all the AC/DC adapters live in the trashcan.
  4. That's it. Wire mess tamed. Easy-peasy.
Here are the photos. In the first photo if you look carefully you will see 7 cables on the desktop in this order: lightning cable, micro USB cable, female USB, female USB, lightning cable, USBC, lightning cable. I can pull on each of those cables to extend them. The reason that works is that you can see in photo #5 that the excess cable simply falls in a controlled way into a trashcan. The other cable that falls into the trashcan is the main power cable that connects to the power bar that sits in the Ikea cable management tray. As my sit-stand desk rises and lowers, the cables lower into the trashcan, or rise up, as the case may be. Kind of cool, very functional, very handy.

Photo #1
Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #4

Photo #5

Photo #6

Photo #7

Photo #8


The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.