Saturday, February 11, 2023

Bicycle Man

 This week I logged the kilometres that took my total distance recorded to over 2,000 kilometres.

I started tracking of my daily routines exactly 500 days ago today. That count of days is a coincidence, truly. I was pleasantly surprised when the count in my spreadsheet yielded that nice, precise, round number this morning. Tracking my activities began about a year after I read James Clear's Atomic Habits. That's an average of four kilometres a day. I find that a little difficult to grasp to be honest. I don't typically ride on weekends, but for the past year I do ride every week day, except when other priorities intrude, like vacations.

During the winter I ride indoors down in our condo garage on what I like to call the P2 Loop. I posted a video of what that looks like when we first got our Brompton bicycles. You can see that here if you skip to the 12 minute mark.

When you do something like that regularly, at roughly the same time each day, you get to know a tiny bit about other folks as they come and go when you are down there looping away. 

There is a mother with two young daughters I often see. To say that the daughters are adorably cute is an understatement. As I ride by them I smile and do a little wave. Yesterday they giggled and I heard their mother as she glanced in my direction say "yes it's bicycle man!" 

It's those little things that add happiness to my routine, and help to set the tone for my day. 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Raising kids

 My parents relied on Dr. Spock. No… not Mr. Spock, Dr. Spock.

My mother had a dog-eared, tea-stained, well beaten-up, paperback bible from the good doctor aptly titled Baby and Child Care. I see in the Wikipedia entry that Benjamin McLane Spock was not merely a pediatrician but also a left-wing activist. Can that account for my progressive political inclinations? Unlikely, because I’m pretty sure that most of the parents of my conservative-inclined peers were also slaves to that seminal book on post-war child-rearing.

I spent the best years of my childhood in the early 1960’s in a brand-spanking-new Montreal suburb with a ton of other kids. For grades three and four I walked one-and-a-quarter miles back and forth to school, often solo, four times daily. The path was along the shoulder of a country highway. The destination was a quaint, modest, very retro, 19th century, two-story, four-room, red-brick schoolhouse. It had a bell in a gable on the roof with a cord that dangled in the ground floor hallway. Lucky kids got to ring it. That was before the new, closer to home, mid-century modern elementary school was built.

My friends and I spent our summers ranging all over the former rural landscape on our bikes, hunting frogs, digging in sand pits, climbing trees, building forts, slogging along creeks in our billy-boots often mired in deep mud and getting “soakers”. We often collected empty soft-drink soda bottles from residential construction sites. We trucked hundred of bottles home in our wagons, rinsed off the mud in our driveways, then took them to the grocery store a couple of miles away to collect the deposits. As soon as we pocketed the cash, we headed down the mall to Woolworth’s to buy plastic model cars and WWII fighter planes, glue and paint. 

We did all that as 9 to 12 year olds, all on our own. No cell-phones. No parents. Most often miles from home. We’d set out for hours at a time. Our mothers had absolutely no idea where we were, or what we were doing. I never recall any motherly-angst, from any of our mothers. 

In the evenings we’d gather in front of a TV and watch some shows, on a rainy day maybe Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian and that crazy gang.


It was wonderful.

Leap forward 20-30 years, and we were raising our own kids. TV played a much bigger role. Our two or three year-old daughter memorized Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Team sports like soccer and hockey were also a big deal. Bikes, much less. Foraging in fields and forests, not at all. Our kids didn’t roam like I did. Never. There was no Dr. Spock. We bought diapers in boxes, and baby bottles were plastic. As a parent I don’t recall being stressed out. Sure there was an occasional trip to the ER, some head-scratching moments at parent-teacher nights. But overall, I wouldn’t say any of it was a challenge we felt we couldn’t comfortably handle.

Fast-forward another 20-30 years. We have grandkids. They request an iPhone from mom or dad and at three and four years old, they swipe through photos and videos on the phone with what I can only call great skill and confidence, easily finding their favorites from among hundreds and hundreds of tiny thumbnails, with an ease that sparks a certain envy on my part.

And that’s where the looming challenge lies for our kids as parents. It’s as scary as a leopard stalking unseen in tall grass. When do their kids get their own phones? Obviously not now, but almost certainly that day will come all too soon. And with that phone, come games, messages, email, and SOCIAL MEDIA.

There is no doubt whatsoever that social media is poisoning public discourse and infecting society. That’s the least of it. Much too often it is proving to be lethal among children and teenagers. Truly deadly. Often suicide, lately spawning swarming by kids who commit assaults, and here in Toronto, a recent random murder.

How do you raise children to become confident, resourceful, socially mature, responsible, and capable adults when there is a truly threatening, ubiquitous, and poisonous environment, constantly present that’s impossible to see or apprehend and neutralize?

Ban cell phones, computers and tablets? No that’s not really an option. The schools are increasingly requiring those devices as part of the curriculum.

That means that  the worst aspects of social media are inevitable in the near future for our grandchildren. Likes and dislikes,  misinformation, inappropriate selfies, virtual cliques and gangs, bullying, extortion, blackmail… 

I wish this was an unreasonable overreaction on my part, an irrational delusion, my unreasonable fear, or my paranoid delusion. 

Unfortunately I truly believe, very regrettably, that it is a not-too distant reality.

I find myself asking what I would do as a parent? Where would I turn for reliable guidance? Where is the Dr. Spock for today’s parents? 

Is the answer to be found in just a few clicks on the internet? It’s a sea of information, and there is no Dr. Spock dominating the digital horizon, offering wise advice to spare. There is no shortage of advice, but where is the good, effective, reliable advice?

I don’t know.

Do you have any insights or guidance you can share? 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Another year ends

 Seven degrees Celsius at seven o'clock this morning. 

22 years into the century, and there are many mysteries. Why are we so poorly behaved? Who would have ever thought that many who worshipped George Washington for his honesty, would shrug truth into irrelevance, without so much as a pause, or second thought. It boggles my mind.

The weather is another head-scratcher.

SEVEN DEGREES!!! It's December 30th for heaven's sake. Buffalo, a mere 100 kilometres south of Toronto, has suffered an unprecedented winter storm. In a city that gets more than its fair share of snow, where people know how to cope with winter weather better than most, more than 40 people have lost their lives as a direct result of the storm that paralyzed the city. It boggles my mind.

As I write this, it's now 10 degrees here, headed to eleven degrees.

Yes, you are correct! I did not loop the P2 loop this morning. It was truly a joy to ride outdoors: south to Mel Lastman Square, west through the cemetery to Senlac, on through the side streets to Bathurst, north to the Finch corridor path, east to Yonge, and south back home. In all 8.5 thoroughly enjoyable kilometres.

I bundled up (3 layers, including a top waterproof one; mitts; ear warmer band; neck thingy). IT WAS BALMY when I left the garage. Warmer outside than in the indoor parking. I had to lower some zippers. Sheesh!

Look at this.

Yes, we did get a blizzard while the rest of Ontario, Quebec and New York was getting slammed with snow.

This is all that remains. Many Torontonians prayed for the snow so we could have a white Christmas. Evidently we prayed a little too much. We owe our neighbours a heartfelt apology. 

In truth, praying for a white Christmas is not the cause of all this unprecedented pain and grief. It's global warming. At least that's what I think. I could be wrong. But why risk life on earth when we could act to become carbon neutral and substantially address the threat of a global catastrophe?

My very best wishes to my family, dear friends, and dear readers. Let's all hope and pray that we right the course and sail to better times.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The P2 Loop

 Have you ever ridden a bike 9.6 kilometres in a garage?

It's a very different experience from riding outdoors, that's obvious. I know.

The thing is, that when you do anything very often, you come to appreciate the experience more deeply. Even when the thing you are doing seems dull and completely uninviting. Like riding a bicycle in a garage.

Repetition and focus are the key factors, but there are others that distinguish riding in a garage from riding outdoors. Each experience has features that satisfy.

Outdoors, there is a rich and varied soundscape. Cars and traffic, dogs that bark close by or in the distance. Vehicles approaching with that distinct whirring of tires on pavement. Pedestrians walking in pairs chatting. Their conversation drifts in from completely indistinct to just a very few words that make it to your brain, and the words instantly drift away into oblivion. Jets glide by sounding like they are tearing a strip out of the sky. Sirens scream and honk aggressively, and recede, eventually to be replaced by the soft airflow of an approaching car, or the rustle of leaves in a breeze. In a quiet moment the bike intrudes. The click of a shift, the faint noise of the thin hard tires on the pavement, the clunk, clunk, clunk of seams in the sidewalk. The slope of the landscape, sometimes letting you glide effortlessly, and inevitably reclaiming that gift as you lose your momentum, hear your breathing, and pull on the bars to reclaim that altitude. The bell speaking to pedestrians. Or to shifty squirrels. The ride repeats perhaps once a week, because there are alternate routes. And in a single route, there are few repetitions. Not none, but precious few.

Outdoors, even in an uninspiring place, like a busy street, or a parking lot, a million details compete for attention. Traffic and pedestrian flow. Potholes. Linear gaps and lines made by uneven seams or slabs that run parallel to the line of travel and light up your brain as your tires threaten to drift into their potent trap and jerk your bike off-balance. The sky in its infinite glory. Sunshine warming your body. A sky that is constantly shifting, familiar, yet never the same. Clouds, unobscured blue sky, fog, mist, light rain, grey featureless swaths of endless boredom. Dark mid-day skies, heavy with the threat of rain, as the leaves on their branches show their undersides in the breeze. You expect thunder at any moment, and you are wary of lightning. Yes, there is risk, but generally I  see it coming in plenty of time to make other plans. So far.

Indoors, each loop is 0.16 of a kilometre. There are 60 loops in a 34 minute ride, timed on my watch, each loop taking 34 seconds. 9.6 kilometres. It's much more science than it is art. That's not to say that it's artless. What you see seems always the same, but there are differences. There are also subtle differences. The parking spaces seem always home to the same car. But there is a cycle of change, ever so slow, yet it's there. When someone gets a new car, you notice. Then there are two types of parkers: nose-in, and nose-out. I have a theory that people who like what their car looks like tend to back in to their spots. They are nose-outers. When a consistent nose-outer parks nose-in, you notice. 

Indoors, the light is white, flat, and constant through the loop, yet it also varies. There are bright spots, usually reflections of the LED ceiling tube-lights in the eight semi-circular convex mirrors that dot the route, helping you see around corners. But also glinting off the surface of cleaner cars. My flashing headlight pulses off cars at certain angles. There are patterns. patterns in the concrete floor, but more importantly, patterns of behaviour. People are fairly consistent. If I ride between seven and seven-thirty a.m., the comings and goings I see are very different than if I ride from eight-thirty to nine. Usually I am looping from 7:15 to 7:45. I get to know the 'regulars'. With some I exchange a greeting. Others have their eyes on their phones.

Indoors, safety is as important as ever. People don't expect a cyclist in their garage. My bike is like a ghost, it only makes noise in one place, where the floor slopes towards the corner. That's where I hit maximum speed. The tires make an exciting whirring, almost whining sound in that curve. Otherwise I am so silent, it is up to me to avoid the comers and goers. I listen to jazz streaming on my AirPods. I keep the volume very low because ambient noise is key to avoiding cars and people. I can hear as soon as a car is in motion, either coming in, or leaving. Often even when the car is in motion on P1 or P3. My headlight and tail lights help the drivers see me. Kids often chatter, which is good because they sometimes run, weaving their way from the elevator lobby to the family car. Mostly people are as silent as my bike. I am always listening, always watching. There are cues. Is the door to the elevator lobby closing? Is there movement in the big corner mirror? Did a car door close? Did an engine start? If a car just parked on P1, where are the people as they make their way to the elevator? Every 34 seconds the pattern repeats, check the door, check the mirror, check the path through the cars, check the mirror, check the door... I am the alien, it's all on me, I yield to all comers and goers.

The P2 loop is about more than exercise. I love to ride. When the weather makes riding outdoors impractical, I loop on P2. The repeating patterns, the need to read the cues, the constant focus, the aural backdrop of jazz playing softly, the occasional greeting, smile, or wave, the patterns on the floor as I follow the same path that avoids oncoming cars and drain covers (they make a horrible clank that reverberates jarringly in the space).

All of this adds up to an ethereal, rarified, calm, and focused experience, very different from riding outdoors. It brings its own brand of joy that I have grown to appreciate.

That's why I decided to share it here.

Today was my 76th P2 loop.  730 kilometres of indoor life, on two wheels.

Friday, December 2, 2022

On the brink, the cusp, the verge...


 I mentioned that Atomic Habits has altered the way I live my life.

One of the tips I got from James Clear is to build structures around your desired habits that help to make those habits a reliable part of your daily routine.

One of the structures that James recommends is a "habit scorecard". It's really simple. You make a list of the activities you want to include in your daily life. My list is, of course, in a spreadsheet.

I started tracking my daily activities on September 29 last year.

When I do the thing that I feel ought to be part of my daily routine, I get an "X" in that activity's pigeonhole for that day. I never cheat. I never exagerate.

One column is "Move - walk, ride, swim". If I walk the pigeonhole gets a "W". If I ride my bike, it's an "R". Swims are rare.

When I ride in the underground garage doing the P2 loop, the pigeonhole gets a "P2".

In March of this year when my morning rides went from the garage to the great outdoors, I was able to use the activity app on my iPhone to track my rides. From that point on I not only noted the fact that I had ridden, I noted the distance.

In that way, in the early morning on November 11, I knew the exact moment and the exact place where I reached 1,000 kms.

I then went back in time (in my spreadsheet) to February 2, of this year. That was when I determined that 60 P2 loops adds up to 9.6 kms. I then added those kilometres.

My early morning rides, as I write this, amount to not less than 1,483.68 kms. 

That's a lot of kilometres. All in under a year.

If I stick to my routine, Monday I will cross the 1,500 kilometre line.

Wow! 

A bunch of little steps can really add up to something BIG! Quicker than you think!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Cold hands? No more!

 Minus 4 Celsius (24.8 F.) this morning.

Yesterday I happened to be at Winners with Susan. I wandered over to a wall of gloves and poked around until I found a pair of ski mitts. For $20 it was worth a shot.

This morning I did a 8.55 km frosty outdoor loop.


I assumed that at one point or another I was going to need the little rechargeable hand-warmer in my pocket.


Not so! What a pleasant surprise.

To be honest I don't know why the mitts surprised me. There was a time when I used to ski. Mostly my hands were fine in mitts, I think.

Oh well.

On a side note, the Brompton stock bell that comes with every Brompton was not happy in the cold. I also had a little difficulty with my super bell (mitt clumsiness, it seems). On the other hand, I had no trouble using my WWII cricket clicker. Worked like a charm.

WWII cricket clicker????

Yes indeed. Picked it up a few weeks ago at the Canadian Juno Beach D-Day landing museum. 3 euros. Worth every centime! If you're interested, go to a museum boutique where you'll pay 3 euros, not Amazon, or Etsy,  where they'll charge $25.

I'll be back.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed posting to the blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Time to hibernate


This morning it was -4C (24.8F).

Nevertheless, though snow was in the forecast, it seemed willing to hold off till noon, so I followed my 'default' cycle route that amounts to 6.64 kms.:

I have adopted a layering approach to the weather that, in almost all respects, works really well for me.

It is based on the following items:

  • fingerless cycling gloves
  • waterproof gloves
  • a light versatile neck warmer I picked up in Florence years ago
  • a headband runner's ear warmer
  • a light down jacket
  • an ultralight windbreaker
  • a high-end waterproof jacket.
  • waterproof running shoes
I don't yet have waterproof pants, but they are on my radar.

All of these items are extremely packable, and come with me on all my travels. They will take me from a chilly or wet summer day, to a very wet rainy late September stroll in Paris from the Moulin Rouge to Galeries Lafayette, and then on to our hotel in the 5th, comfortably warm, bone dry, and umbrella-free; and all the way to this morning's very chilly ride, all in almost perfect comfort... except for my hands.

By the time I ended my ride this morning, two pairs of gloves (winter leather gloves plus glove liners), left me with uncomfortably cold hands - but always a warm heart.

Besides, snow is here. Witness our balcony bistro above.

What this all means, is that it's time to shift gears and move the morning cycle to the P2 Loop. Like a bear entering hibernation, if the bear rode a bike in its cave. Maybe circus bears?

In preparation for the shift, I took the Mini down to P2 and drove the Loop ten times: 1.6 kms. Last fall I used a counting application on my phone to count the number of loops in my usual ~34 minute morning riding routine: 60 P2 Loops. I'm far from a math wizard, but that seems to yield a 9.6 km morning ride. Not too shabby.

My average outdoor ride is 8.6 kms and lasts a little longer, to as much at 50 minutes for a ten or eleven kilometer jaunt. Outdoor rides have intersections with traffic lights, uphill grades, headwinds, pedestrians, dogs, cats, squirrels, coyotes, geese and photo ops. The P2 Loop has few things getting in the way of my ride. On the P2 Loop I'm more like a piston making its way around an engine block. So it makes sense that I cover more ground in less time on the P2 Loop, than on my usual rides above ground. Besides, all this data is the product of fancy computer applications, satellite links, and a spreadsheet. So it must be true. (20221116 Ed.: it's now tomorrow, and I did the P2 Loop this morning, with a 34 minute timer, and an application to count the loops to keep me honest, and the result was exactly 60 loops in 34 minutes, to the second. That means that my speed in the garage is a relatively constant 17 km/h. Also, my packable down jacket was all I needed for comfort. I had JazzFM91 streaming very softly in my AirPods. Overall a very zen-like way to cycle through the winter.)

And there you have it.

I have done my best to make a very boring shift underground as captivating as possible.

Speaking of cycling underground, did I mention that last month Susan fractured her collar bone crashing a bicycle into a stone wall, while on a guided tour of ten kilometers of pitch-black wine caves in the Loire valley? She's been convalescing nicely since the accident on October 2. This week she is more often sling-less, and physio is paying dividends. What a nightmare. 

_________________________________

Update: today, Friday, November 18, with a seasonal temperature of -3C (26F), I ventured outdoors for another ride. Riding outdoors has that much more appeal than the P2 Loop. This time I managed to wear my normal leather gloves over my Showers Pass waterproof gloves. It was a tight fit. By the time I got to my furthest point of that 8.92 kilometer ride, my hands were cold, but only my thumbs were cold to the point of discomfort. My conclusion is that heated gloves might be required. Everything else was nice and warm (except my legs, but who cares about cold legs?)

Here is the route  - home south to the residential streets just north of the 401, east to Bayview Avenue, then back west to Yonge and the 401, then home:




Monday, November 14, 2022

Building habits

Here I sit.

At the keyboard.

It's a weekday.

Another week.

If I weren't living in a calculated, intentional way, that might describe the basic rhythm of my life.

Thankfully, it doesn't.

I have had a little exercise routine that kicks off my mornings. 

I can't quite remember when the habit set in. It was definitely after our move to Toronto in 2016. There was an exercise hiatus from January to June in 2018 when I was qualifying for my license with the Law Society of Ontario. Six months of 10 to 12 hour days. Crazy. But very much worthwhile.

That period of intense work sitting at the keyboard resulted in a pain in the neck. A chiropractor  helped me to sort that out. Other body aches led me to MECH Physiotherapy. That resulted in 'homework'.

Self-imposed torture really, combined with my own exercise routine that I built from a variety of sources, including Mount Sinai's back care exercises, and inspiration and exercises plucked from Miranda Esmonde-White's Aging Backwards.

I mustn't leave the impression that I enjoy exercising. I don't. I need a prod. Not quite a cattle prod. More like a stiff index finger poke to the chest.

And that is where the most life-changing and life-affirming book came into play.

In October 2020, not that long ago.

That book is by James Clear. 

Sorry, but I have to digress just a bit.

I have this fantasy where I return to university to work on a graduate degree in sociology or anthropology, or psychology, to explore how our names affect our life choices. Like Bernie Madoff. I mean, he made off with millions! I have come across numerous other examples, where names seem to have set people's courses, often for the best, but like Bernie, in other directions as well. What about T****? I wonder. I decided quite a while back not to spell his name out. Colbert taught me that.

James Clear may well be an example. The introduction to his book, entitled simply My Story, is epic. Atomic Habits is the book. If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be "clear".

I digress no more.

Adopting good habits, like a daily exercise routine, or breaking bad habits, can be daunting.

I started smoking in my teens. I quit smoking successfully three times. The last time was on December 31st, 1983. The only New Years' resolution that ever stuck. Over all, I must have tried to quit smoking hundreds of times. Many attempts lasted mere hours.

James' theory is that failure is far more likely if you try to take big steps. That is the way most most of us attempt to tackle habits. And that's why people aren't more successful.

Thankfully, atomic habits have nothing in particular to do with nuclear particle physics.

Rather, James' theory is that by taking tiny steps in the right direction, it is much easier to build good habits, or break bad habits, and do so with a high rate of success. There's more to his approach than just baby steps. He provides excellent advice on building habit forming structures designed to promote success.

I don't want to get into minute detail. There is no way I could do the book justice. 

My advice is really simple. Get your hands on Atomic Habits and read it cover to cover. The only way it won't help you is if you are a monk, a saint, or the Dalai Lama.   

If exercising for, on average, eighteen minutes each weekday morning is something I don't like, riding is something I love to do.

I love to ride in the morning, preferably at or near dawn. Even better when fog casts a veil on the landscape. The trick I learned from Atomic Habits is that I will only allow myself to ride once I have done my exercises. James Clear taught me that.

Oh, the things I see on those rides. 

People...

... animals...










That's a coyote ambling along, minding its own business.

The landscape photos I take are always the landscapes that pretty much stop me in my tracks. The view compels the photo.








 It's difficult to understand when you look at those photos that I live on one of the busiest urban streets in Canada. Minutes north of what we call the "401". Twelve and more lanes of heavy, heavy, urban traffic. Our street, running north from the 401 to where we live, is lined by sky scrapers, including our condo complex. 

And yet on my daily Brompton rides that average just under nine kilometres within a radius of half that, there are those amazing vistas.

I am blessed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Another intersection

 I am at yet another point in my life on two wheels where important changes are underway.

I feel Susan and I have emerged from the pandemic, along with our family, a family that has grown exponentially since my retirement in 2015. From three kids, to six members of the family with our new son and daughters, to two grandchildren and now four grandchildren. Our immediate family has expanded to ten wonderful, cherished and well-loved members. What a joy, what an amazing joy.

But that is not the change I feel the need to discuss here.

This blog started in 2010 when I began commuting on a Vespa. I felt a need to pay forward all the invaluable advice and assistance I received from other moto-bloggers.

Those decisions, to commute on a Vespa, and to share my adventure on this blog, were life changing decisions. I could never have guessed the joy, friendships, discoveries and adventures that came my way as a direct result.

The move to Toronto and the recent pandemic have, once more, fundamentally changed things for me.

I work from home, so I don't commute. The pandemic killed the Toronto Moto-Scooter Club.

I have no reason to ride my Vespa. It sits mostly idle.

Riding a motorbike is risky. The more you ride, the more you learn, the better your skills, the greater your confidence, the more you ride.

Unfortunately the reverse equation is also true. The less I ride, the greater the perceived risk, the less I am inclined to ride.

There's that, and then there's the Brompton factor.

I have a long history of getting around on two wheels, it's a story I have shared here before, and there is no need to repeat it here.

I just love to ride, whether it's on a bicycle or a motorbike.

What I have most recently discovered, is that getting around on a bicycle is more satisfying for me in many ways than getting around on a Vespa.

Sure it's slower, but it was never about speed. The range is nowhere near comparable, but range is not by any means a simple consideration. The Vespa is unquestionably superior when the trip on two wheels is a long one, such as Toronto to Montreal and back.

The Brompton wins hands down however when leisurely exploring is the objective. The reason the Brompton wins is that anywhere you can walk, you can ride a Brompton. That's not so with a Vespa. Vespas are much better at exploring than cars, but are nowhere near as versatile and adaptable as Bromptons.

There is one particular aspect of the Brompton that is truly a game changer. It is unmatched by any other means of transportation I have ever used.

That's because the Brompton is a parasite.

Deeply ingrained parasitic qualities that serve as Bromptons' fundamental DNA are what distinguish Bromptons from all other forms of transportation.

Name your destination, then pick your vehicle: car, Vespa, subway, train, bus, airplane, or boat. With a few flicks of fingers and wrists the Brompton shrinks to suitcase dimensions. That's how my Brompton has gone from my home in Toronto, to be my exploration vehicle in downtown Toronto, and in Montreal, Ogunquit, and Vancouver. And that's just a start.

Have I ridden my Vespa in Montreal and Ogunquit? Yes.

But... and it's a huge BUT... my Vespa got me there on its own. My Brompton in each of those long range explorations piggybacked on other vehicles: In our car to Montreal and Maine, and on our Air Canada flight to Vancouver. When I rode a scooter in Toronto, or in Victoria, or a Vespa in Florida, or an MP3 in Tuscany,  it's because the scooter was rented or the Vespa was borrowed. That's great, but it's not the same as having your very own two-wheeler whisking you around.

In each case the Brompton is always by my side, whether in our car, on the subway, in a restaurant... yes, in a restaurant for one of my firm's team meeting events.

As you can see, what the Brompton really needs in order to be the perfect vehicle is a range extender.

And that is the segue-way to the introduction of my new toy.

What many of you do not know is that I have always been attracted to convertible sports cars. First when I was four or five years old to the MG TD, then later on to the 1960 Corvette that starred on Route 66, and on to the Triumph TR6 when I was a penniless student in college. When I was in Florida sitting in a car outside a shop where Susan was picking up treats for kids, I saw my first Miata. And that was it. In June of 1993 I bought a very special 1990 Miata. That car was mine for seventeen or eighteen years. Nothing quite compares to the joy of driving a sporty manual-shift convertible with the top down.

I sold my Miata to my friend Marc because it just couldn't compete with my Vespa in terms of the joy of getting around. It was just sitting idle. That's not good for a machine.

From time to time I regretted that decision, but it was the right one at the time. 

For the past year or so the convertible itch has been begging to be scratched. I recently came into some mad money and that's what led me to the six-speed manual shift 2012 Mini Cooper S Cabriolet that is now sitting in our second parking sport.

And now the Vespa is sitting idle. The Brompton is in part to blame, aided and abetted by the Mini Cooper now serving as a delightful range extender for the Brompton. 

Long, long, long story short, the Vespa will be sold.

Yes it's sad. Truly it is.

But life goes on.

What about this blog?

It no longer serves its initial purpose, that's for sure.

I may return to it, after this long absence, more as a personal journal, as a means of sharing the interesting things Susan and I do. Like Paris this fall (no, the Bromptons are sitting that one out).

I have taken to bicycle rides each weekday morning. They happen at about 7:00 a.m. and run between six and twelve kilometres in our neighbourhood. When I come across a scene that I find remarkable, I stop and snap a photo with my phone. 

I should share that with you.

As for YouTube videos, much as I enjoyed making them, the effort far outweighs the benefit. The advertising on YouTube is so intrusive and pervasive that I have no interest in contributing painstaking efforts to generate advertising revenue for Google.

Bye for now.

Keep an eye on this space, there may just be some stuff worth seeing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

You need a Brompton rack... and the reasons may surprise you!


 A new episode of the vlog has finally landed.

In the last episode I warned subscribers that I was a S-L-O-W editor. That was no joke.

Is it because I am a perfectionist? 

Heavens no!

If I was a perfectionist, I wouldn't have uploaded ANY of the previous 49 episodes. Seriously.

Why do I bother? 

Am I looking for a lucrative audience? Not in the least. I am a realist and that is never going to happen, of that I am reasonably sure.

I do it because it's challenging and I learn something new every time I produce a video. One day I'll go back and view them in the order of publication and see if spot the gradual grind of improvement.

This episode is another technical post that explores the function of a rear rack on the Brompton folding bicycle. It serves the obvious purpose of allowing you to carry things that otherwise would be a challenge. Thought most of that aspect of the Brompton is addressed by the ingenious carrier-block that allows you to click luggage onto the front of the bike in a very accessible and secure way.

The most useful feature of the rack, I have learned, is the four little wheels that let you wheel your folded Brompton when it's folded, typically indoors. That's what allows the Brompton to go anywhere with you, indoors and out.

In my case there is another useful aspect of the rear rack that I may have hinted at, and that will not come as a surprise to my readers. Watch the video for the reveal.

Here are the links that I promised in this episode:

Curbside Cycle, Toronto Links to Videos mentioned in this episode: Brompton gear hub setup: Brilliant Bikes and Chris by Bike Brompton rack installation: Brompton Traveller Tensioner installation: Brilliant Bikes Link to Walkstool Link to ROK straps The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Panama Hat by Audionautix, Bluesy Vibe by Doug Maxwell, Ratatouille's Kitchen by Carmen MarĂ­a Edu Espinal, and Minor Blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, all made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library. Panama Hat No Voice by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Brompton phone mounts


I'll keep this mercifully brief (especially given that it's my longest video ever).

If the Brompton were a motorbike, this would be a farkle post. I'm not sure what the term is in the cycle world since I'm new there. I suspect that it's just an accessory. In time I'll learn the patois, most likely.

As I mention in the video, our smartphones are our R2D2's and there is therefore a compelling need (speaking for myself, of course) to have them anchored to Bromptons in the same way that they're anchored to our hands, arms, pockets, cars, Vespas, furniture...

I asked Siri "are you related to R2D2?", and she feigned ignorance. We all know the truth though.

This episode is about installing the RAM X-mount on our Bromptons. There are 239 reasons I couldn't find any videos about RAM mounts on bicycles, and 59-60 reasons why there is no shortage of videos on Quadlock and Trigo mounts. Watch the video. I think it's a little funny.
  
I compare the RAM X-mount to the other more popular mounts by referencing Victor's Quadlock and Trigo product review video. Victor is a brilliant product reviewer. I'm only fair to middling. My RAM X-mount review leans heavily on Victor's methodology and scoring metrics.


For the very few among you who are now craving a RAM X-mount they are available at GPSCity.com and GPSCity.ca.

The music for this episode (that I really like) is Parisian Street by Martin Carlberg, and Enough to Get By by Daniel Gunnarsson, both available on Epidemic Sound

Friday, March 12, 2021

Bromptons in the house!!!

It seemed like it would be forever until we receive our Bromptons, but they are finally here.

I can't begin to say how great it is to have these iconic bikes sharing our home.

Today's video explains how a pair of House Red Bromptons wormed their way into our home.

It all began... well, no. That would spoil the video.

We haven't really begun to enjoy them. Well, that's not quite true.

Yesterday I took mine out on its first little trip in the real world, a modest jaunt down the street to Starbucks at Mel Lastman Square to share a coffee with my friend Glenn. I realized that I hadn't seen a friend since last fall when I dropped in on Ed. The full sense of the deprivation sinks in when you meet that first friend in many, many months...

Not quite unexpectedly, my Brompton became an instant star of the encounter. Glenn needed to see it unfold, and fold, no surprise there. But the only passer-by stopped to marvel and ask twenty questions about my mechanical jewel. I guess that's something I'll have to get used to. Imagine when someone spots my Brompton riding pillion on my Vespa, because that day is near.

If you think that yesterday was my first time in my Brompton's saddle, think again, and watch the video, it may just amuse you.

If you are reading this and you are intrigued, and a little unsatisfied and frustrated that I am not really providing nearly enough detail, having perhaps piqued your curiosity... watch the video and be prepared to take notes. Actually, put the pencil down, the details are in the show notes, or... well, that's not fair because the video says that there are show notes here, as well. 

So here goes:

We bought our beautiful Bromptons at Curbside Cycle at 412 Bloor Street West in Toronto. They had to be special-ordered from the factory in London, because there is no such thing as Brompton inventory. Just as well, because there are many, many different configurations. You can occasionally find one for sale, second hand, but be prepared to pay double the retail price, no kidding!

The life-changing eleven best YouTube channels for everything you might want to know about Bromptons but that you didn't learn just by watching my video, are, in no particular order [drum roll]...

  1. Brian's i bike unfolded
  2. Gianni's Brompton traveler
  3. Christine's Chris by bike
  4. Victor's Everyday cycling
  5. Hannah's Brilliant bikes
  6. Pam & Gilbert's 2bikes4adventure
  7. Peter's Petrelli on wheels
  8. Susanna's Susanna Thorton
  9. Heather and Pier's Bromptoning and their blog Bromptoning.com
  10. Michelle's One car less (was called Ride on cycling)
  11. and the Brompton commuter channel Cycle every day

Be prepared to be amazed, and maybe even tempted!. If you want it all in a brilliant nutshell, then click here to watch Victor's brilliant summary "What makes it so special".

The special music for this episode is Jazz in Paris by Media Right Productions, and my favourite outtro track, Minor Blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both courtesy of the YouTube audio library.

Be prepared, there will be more Brompton content, and Vespa content, and even Vespa-meets-Brompton and Brompton-meets-Vespa content. That is not a joke. You'll see.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Guess what?

Yesterday evening  I got an email I have been waiting for since September of last year.

Hey David,

Your bikes have arrived YAY!

The mechanic will call when the bikes are ready for collection.

Timm

I can't begin to express how exciting this is! 

I just had to post to mark the occasion.
 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What's with branding and logos?

 My friend Steve Williams of Scooter in the sticks fame asked questions, and he deserves answers.

"Where will the new logo appear? A new logo for the blog? A new blog? On a T-shirt?"

Some answers are simple and straightforward:

Definitely not a new blog. If this blog's confines become too much, the blog will evolve, there won't be a new blog; but... 

... the YouTube channel will adapt to featuring bicycle content and as I began to prepare for that, I felt that the Brompton bits will need their own context, hence the logo. It still needs words. This morning in the shower "the fold" came to mind. I think that works for me.

On a T-shirt? I've never done that. Bill Leuthold of Rocket and me gave me a T-shrt with his blog branding on it. I generally avoid all branding on clothing if possible. To every rule there are bound to be exceptions. My two armoured moto jackets are those exceptions. I have badges sewn on those jackets for ModernVespa.com, the world's best Vespa forum, for the Vespa Club of Canada, to commemorate my Vespa jaunt in Tuscany, to mark the first 10,000 miles commuting on my Vespa, and yes... the logo for Life on Two Wheels is sewn on there too.

I have debated getting stickers made for the new Brompton adventures logo and sticking them on my bike and on the Vespa. The jury's still out on that one.

Mostly the new logo will serve on the vlog to brand videos that are Brompton specific.

Why bother?

I suppose that's really where I should focus this post.

I have always been interested in branding.

Branding was something that was only an option for the largest fanciest companies, and logos were the sine qua non of every branding exercise. Growing up with 1960's TV culture in the suburbs, logos were prominent everywhere, for grocery and drugstore chains, gas stations, TV and radio stations, and other large national retailers.

When, many years later, building my own web presence became possible, branding became something I could do too.

And so it began. I could brand myself, brand my ideas, brand the vehicles of my modes of expression, both tangible and intangible.

My first logo was for my personal web site. I wrote the code for that site from scratch. Computer technology went from the beast I thought would doom my career, to a beast I managed to tame and that helped to advance my career. I personally wrote all the code for my firm's web site with the result that my firm was one of the first law firms in Canada with a web presence.

My early-adopter computer literacy made it a no-brainer for me to co-opt @, one of the dominant iconic internet symbols as a basis for my personal logo.

My personal web site dates from 1997. Until then I used my law firm's web site to publish my ideas. In 1997 I left the firm to take on new challenges. I couldn't give up having a web site. My dear friend Andrew got in touch at about the same time to suggest that I snap up my name in the .org domain. and that is how masse.org was born. The logo came along just a little later.

My next foray into branding came along much later, in 2015, when I redesigned this blog. That was when the Life on Two Wheels logo was born.


That was back when my life was caught up in a slow motion explosion. I am glad I documented that. It was among the most amazing and enriching experiences of my life.

An opportunity came along in the wake of all that change to teach records management in the context of corporate governance. Once more branding exercises more or less imposed themselves: one for the cover of the book I wrote...


... and one for the related governance consulting business...


So perhaps now the inevitability of the new logo for Brompton adventures becomes more apparent.

None of the foregoing branding exercises generate anything resembling income. In that respect these are are not sources of tangible value. In fact, after mulling it over, even if Brompton videos generate a lot of traffic, I'm pretty sure that I don't want to monetize the YouTube channel. I find YouTube advertising increasingly annoying and intrusive. It's as if the algorithm is being used to make the experience of watching YouTube videos you like so painful that you'll opt for the paid subscription to get rid of the advertising.

There you have it Steve.

My love of branding is just a hobby. Something I do just for fun, as I enjoy masquerading as a bunch of logo-worthy enterprises.

10-year-old me would be so impressed.

Although in truth, my logos would fail to tear his attention away from flat screen TVs, iPhones, iPads, AirPods, GPS, proximity sensors in the car, all the remote controlled lights and thermostats... 

Friday, January 29, 2021

The story of life on two wheels

 

One more than one occasion I have told the story here about the two-wheeled path my life has often taken. I won't cover the same ground again today. Those stories are easy enough to find on the chronology page above. I re-read them just now. They brought back fond memories, and while I read, it was like traveling in time. I could see the scenes unfolding in my mind, experiencing the same emotions I felt all those years ago. That is the wonder of keeping a journal, and the amazing thing about keeping one online, like this.

I don't recall explaining how Life on Two Wheels became the new name for this journal. I looked over the posts I wrote when the new look was unveiled, but I didn't find that topic covered.

 Life on Two Wheels owes its name in no small way to my mom.

My mother was someone who was always ready for whatever the day's mission was a good half-hour to forty-five minutes earlier than the most punctual person would have dared.

It was annoying. 

Picture Queen Elizabeth, standing ramrod straight, in a signature bland sky blue cloth coat, her purse hanging on her arm bent at the elbow, a matching bland hat topping off the look, with a slight  but unmistakable "we are not amused" scowl.

That was my mother standing in the hallway, visibly annoyed that she was the only one in the household poised for departure. When, moments later, my mother would begin hectoring us to leave without further delay, she would often plead "Please, I want to get going, I really don't want to be heading there on two wheels!"

"... on two wheels..."

Whenever that happened, I pictured a car careening around a corner on two wheels.

Perversely, I developed a certain appreciation for things going off on two wheels. In my way of seeing things, it evoked a dashing adventure rather than the impending disaster my mother always feared.

And that's a part of how this journal got its new name.  The other part is well... two wheels.

Today is, by my reckoning, 31 days to Bromptons. By that I mean that our Brompton bikes are supposed to be in the production line, in London, within easy cycling range of Buckingham palace, on week 7, from the 15th to the 21st of February. Once built, they arrive here within two weeks. Hence the 31 days. Yes, I know, that's foolishly optimistic, what with Covid mucking up the works.

If it sounds like I'm counting down the days, I certainly am not. I have an Excel function doing that for me.

What to do as the dawn of a new two-wheeled adventure remains just over the horizon?

Work on a logo of course.

A new adventure like this deserves its own branding.

I wouldn't dream of misusing or abusing the manufacturer's logos, that just wouldn't do. 

So I came up with my own that is mine and mine alone, to do with as I please.

 
I also ordered two new bike helmets, a white one for Susan (her choice) and a black one for me.

Hmmmm... the temptation to order stickers...
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.