Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin: Epherma & Other Epiphanies

As a connoisseur of vintage Hallowe'en dross and other ephemera, I keep a keen watch on pumpkin crop predictions.  However, unlike previous years where I just wait for The Weather Network to run some human interest story to fill in the gaps between the rote repetition of plausible but improbable predictions about the weather, this year I planned an Homeric bicycle tour of local artisan pumpkin nurturers ('organic farming' is so over, the more holistic 'food nurturing' is topping teen trend charts at the moment) to survey their colour, heft, and general orbness personally.

Pumpkin surveying is thankless work.
In preparation for my fantastic voyage, I donned a pair of vintage Rayban Wayfarers, enwrapped myself in a plaid hoodie to brace myself against the frigid elements, and saddled 200lbs of touring supplies on my moderately immoral and sniffly brakeless touring bike (I stop by the sheer power of my will), and then walked it down the sidewalk like a pretentious twat

Walking my moderately immoral and sniffly brakeless touring bike of doom down the sidewalk to the outskirts of town, I realized that I would be missing tomorrow's much vaunted Art Spin finale.  Since traveling trivial distances by bicycle to view trivial visual stimulus is also an important part of my life, I decided to catch The Weather Network's round the clock coverage of this season's pumpkin nurturing on the TV later and turned back to prepare for the Art Spin ride instead.

Wondering about the proposed route for the Art Spin ride, I sat down beneath a tree and pulled out my Toronto Cycling Map to review what route planning the City of Toronto thought fit to send cyclists out upon.  However after staring at the map for sometime in a desperate search for some sensible and meaningful route, my mind gradually began to wander and my eyesight began to blur.  Gradually my sight focused and my mind noticed, not the bike lanes and proposed routes, but the enormous blank spaces between them.

I saw meaningless stubs and yawning chasms and began to feel strangely trapped.  Gripped by this alien sense of entrapment, I wondered when new urban planning would liberate Toronto with more facilitating infrastructure till a kindly hobo interrupted my train of thought and offered me a cupcake and a swig of his bourbon.  We chewed the moist cupcake in thoughtful silence when he suddenly extended a hand and introduced himself: "Estragon."  At that moment, I was suddenly seized by a realization so shocking I nearly added extra cushioning to my riding shorts.

I glanced up at the barren tree leaning over me.  Sitting under a barren tree?  With a hobo named Estragon?  Waiting for something that will never come in my life time?  And then I saw it...

I fell into a dizzy stupour and swooned into the kindly hobo's arms.  Coming to my senses, I stuttered madly like St Michael of Monday, so overflowing was I with prophetic revelation.  The hallmarks were all there: the apparent randomness of our journey; the search for meaning and guidance; the ultimate realization of the aimlessness of it all; the frustration and despair at the emptiness and the sense of insignificance; the attempt to impose a path to meaning and instill a sense of personal significance from within if not from without.

A gap in a bike lane that dead ends a few blocks away anyway?

Yes, I suddenly understood: Toronto's infrastructure isn't real infrastructure at all; it's actually an enormous Absurdist art installation.

Seen in Etobicoke: 'Use other sidewalk'?  What other sidewalk?!
Toronto cyclists aren't participants in an alternate modal scheme; they're the audience of the greatest wool-pulling in human history.  They pick their way across a patchwork of ridiculous routes, encountering disparate and random bits of 'infrastructure' that appear to offer meaningful guidance but ultimately lead no where.  Some search for guidance, but find none and begin to despair.  In the face of such despair, some impose their own routing of their journey and set forth regardless, while others wait for the Godot of Progressive Infrastructure under the wilting tree of city hall.

This realization got me wondering: who needs Art Spin when there's an entire exhibit waiting outside your door?

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Bicycle: Just Ride the Damn Thing

As part of the instituted regime of proselytization, cycling advocates often market cycling to the uninitiated by highlighting the benefits of cycling over driving, like improved physical fitness, the opportunity to flaunt your enviable sense of inappropriate attire for the physical task at hand, and the chance to relish hidden cafés nestled in vibrant communities while other patrons politely nestle themselves away from your olfactorally assertive person.  (I'm sure there's some dope somewhere trying to market the pungent reek of a sweaty cyclist as a trendy 'green' fragrance.)  Some even market the personal transformation that follows one's conversion of modal choice as practically a religious experience, which is plausible given this post I recently saw at

One can literally watch the author's prose deteriorate into incoherent babbling as he ascends from jubilation to ecstasy until, stuttering madly, his mortal soul is conveyed by angels unto the rapturous heights of beatification.  

Unfortunately, I've never been so lucky.  I just ride my bicycle.

For me, riding is rarely so satisfying, much less so orgasmic.  I rarely notice the rich, vibrant neighborhoods I ride through nor do I chance upon some hip new boutique selling artisanal oven mitts while I'm cycling.  All I notice is crappy pavement, crappy art on the pavement, actual crap on the pavement, nuisance traffic, nuisance orange pylons, and so on.  For me, commuting is a blur of honkbumphonkpylonbumpbumpzoomhonks.

In other words, it's like being humped by a Dutch clown.

As a oafish and misshapen clod with a poor sense of smell and socialization issues, being humped by a Dutch clown is sometimes the only human touch I receive during the month.  To make matters worse, my personal time with the Dutch clown is often invaded by swingers hoping to join in and make it an orgy and the whole thing just gets very messy: the roadies are always too fast; the randonneurs are too slow and have those unsightly, saggy bags; the art bike crowd wants to play with their toys; the fixie pixies don't know when to stop; the recumbent riders are only interested in one position; the sartorial cruisers insist on the pull-out method, rather than using a rubber, to maximize their quality of life; the messengers are only in it for the money ...and then there's the so-called utility cyclists, always the repressive Calvinists, who try to quash the fun by pushing their agenda of bicycle chastity by covering up the bits with naughty names 'bottom bracket', 'nut', and 'push rod', and by browbeating others into wholesome and sensible cycling, which as near as I can tell entails becoming an uptight tit with a reflective orange vest and a helmet mirror.

I find it all very intimidating and confusing, and so try to ignore it.  Again, I just ride my bicycle.

Finding one's self in cycling is difficult to do because there's so many prepared molds ready to shape your doughy mass.  Watching new cyclists crank their first timorous few gear-inches is fascinating because one can watch a grown adult re-endure all the uncertainty, image anxiety, and eagre but naïve exploration of their teenage years as they strive desperately to fit in.  I too went through bicycle puberty, but being an misshapen clod my misshapen peg didn't fit into any hole.  So I just ride my bicycle.

As some guy once said, "Go, and do thou likewise."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ambiguity & Acronyms: Imposing Narratives (Pun Intended?)

In these heady days of media saturation, garnering attention for your cause or institution requires persistence, keen cultural insight, and focused acumen.  However, if you don't have any of those, you can just make an old school hip hop reference and hope for the best:

The COC 'maintains authenticity' by referencing the mix tapes of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, not all institutions are able to sustain relevance through a judicious appliqué of such pregnant cultural references.  Some are forced to remind the world of their existence through more oblique methods, such hosting an extraordinarily 'crunk' pig roast, holding a 'nude-in' in protest of pretty much everything, or, in the case of the Urban Repair Squad (a.k.a. U.R.S.), by picking at a scab.

The U.R.S. recently attempted to address the gap between bike lanes on Harbord St by painting an image so ambiguous that it needed a supplemental heremeneutical key to decode its message:

At a glance the ambiguous stencil could imply an area with a high risk of wheel theft or refer to parking space for art bikes.  From the angle shown it also looks a like a descending invasion of Space Invaders aliens (that'd really trip somebody out as they cycled up to it):

Never mind the alien, here's an ambiguous bicycle stencil!

However, U.R.S. has employed its position of power to impose a narrative of coherence on the installation and proletarians of Art such as my clodish self must submit to their prescribed interpretation that the symbol is to represent confusion over the gapping bike lanes.*

Derp?: Proletarian of Art

I'm a little uncertain why there's so much fuss about connecting bike lanes when cyclists travel so much unmarked pavement without incident throughout the rest of the city.  The same advocates who encourage cyclists to ride defensively and use sound judgment, 'taking the lane' when there's insufficient space for a vehicle to pass and so on, are attempting to characterize this stretch of pavement as a veritable Gauntlet of Doom that will swallow you alive if you go wheeling into its jaws.  The inconsistency confuses me more than the stenciled item splayed out on the pavement in front of me.

I also question why U.R.S. couldn't be a little more productive and just go ahead installing the sharrows that would offer a bit more guidance than their ambiguous stencil series (A.S.S.?).  Such a gesture would put Rob Ford in a bind because they'd be cutting costs by installing infrastructure themselves while using a medium that Ford would consider vandalism.  It would be so rich in irony that flocks of hipsters would migrate down Harbord St from Sam James Coffee Bar to gather in their vicinity and smoke poutingly while complaining that "the old pavement was better."

Tooth Paste for Dinner
However, I'm glad to see that U.R.S., like typical white people, having raised awareness are now sitting back and leaving the real work of urban renewal up to the City of Toronto because, frankly, the city is in dire need of practice.  The city's fledgling foray into installing sharrows on College St was a farce (sure, they're visible when there isn't a car parked over them), but their Lansdowne Ave attempt showed some promise.  I'm sure they'll improve.

Here's hoping that in the interim U.R.S. will refrain from installing more bike lane infrastructure for getting from here to there (B.L.I.G.H.T.?) on the assumption that Toronto's cyclists are too stupid to travel a few blocks without being coddled by a few white lines.  They've made it this far, and I have some faith in them.

In the interim, I'd rather U.R.S. focus their acumen at those riding along the sidewalk even though a bike lane has been provided for their convenience.  Now that's a farce.

* A note from THE CLOG: If your mind didn't wander at the word 'gapping', then be blest; you are truly pure of heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy By-law Day: Enriching Life Through Enforcement

Firstly, I must wish everyone a happy Car Free Day, a special memorial day in which the privileged nations of the West consecrate the Ascension of The Ecological Movement to improbable heights (the birth of our Saviour, The Ecological Movement, is consecrated on Earth Day).  I spent the day in meditation, general feasting, and the imbibing of festive booze.  In other words, I spent the day as usual I do.  However, like most socially progressive middle-class white people in Toronto, I felt a slight pang of guilt that I should 'do the right thing', and so decided to make some sort brief acknowledgment of the occasion.  As today is also the Moon Festival and I like to be efficient, I decided to also make some gesture to the Chinese community in appreciation for their good food, cheap crap, and beautiful women.

I cast around for a suitable ethnic and vaguely ecological sacrament and decided, after much leafing through trendy lifestyle magazines, to celebrate with a tea ceremony: the boiling of the water, the savouring of the tea's bouquet, the admiration of the its colour, all consummated by the general slobbering and slurping of the cup's contents while I jingled the change in my pocket and watched squirrels lock in a gladiatorial embrace over the remnants of the neighbour's bird feed. 

Watching squirrels lock in fatal struggle over sustenance eventually got me wondering how the Toronto BikeThink Workshop had gotten on yesterday.  Though I was unable to attend, I was able to pay-off a few saddle-sniffing low lives  for the scoop: Team Oranje finally won a play off ('Dit is het jaar'!) with their revolutionary concept of copying other cities.  Sure, it was only a hastily put-together rough outline based on a brief observation of the infrastructure, but hey, it's the fact that they're Dutch that counts, right?  I'm sure its goal to improve cyclists' safety will impress the city council mightily.

Unfortunately, I doubt it will.  The proposals may have sent cycling advocates into raptures of infrastructural orgasm, but it just plain reeks to the roughened nostrils of the hard-nosed suburbanites who are catapulting Rob Ford's mighty impression into the mayor's chair.  After listening to their comments, one gets the impression that they sincerely believe that every vote for Rob Ford takes one cyclist off the road.  I wouldn't rush to dismiss them either because, by a shrewd appliqué of policy, it very well could.

Rob Ford sincerely wants cyclists and pedestrians to be safe.  His answers to TCAT's 2006 survey reflect that.  Ford also wants to save money.  Ford also wants to clear the road for cars.  How can he do all three?  Pass a Toronto by-law making helmets mandatory for cyclists.  The precipitous drop in cycling has been lamented in other nations that have adopted such policy.  It's a inexpensive by-law with the convenient consequence of appearing sincerely concerned for the safety of 'those people'.  And Torontonians, ever vigilant of their vanity, will be unknowingly coerced, just to avoid helmet hair.

Unfortunately, Rob Ford may be an ass, but he's not a dumb ass, and I'm afraid that Toronto's cycling advocates are severely underestimating his administration's capacity for dirty politics.

That said, there are some genuinely positive things for Toronto cyclists from Ford's campaign.  For the time being, Ford's team has become hyper-vigilant to avoid costly losses in voter support, which means we don't have to worry about their motor homes parking in bike lanes for at least another six weeks.

A fitting conveyance for people who treat their cars like a living room on wheels.
And now, back to the squirrels...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Full of Win: Goodbye Vélo

While fantastically voyaging down Front St on Saturday evening, I glanced longingly at the displays of pizza at a local artisanal pie maker when, in a rather brutish appropriation of my attention, my subconscious fault-finder bade me turn and behold this:

My mind raced furiously to identify what my subconscious fault-finder was trying to tell me.  Was it the questionable clearance of the STI brake lever?  The unnecessarily precipitous ergo position of the bullhorns that has been solved to everyone else's satisfaction with a judicious appliqué of time-trial bars?  The comically low spoke count for what is very likely a commuter bike?  (Oh sure, you could race on that old Cannondale CAAD frame.  Sure, you could...)  No, it was the fact that the owner had disappeared inside to order a pizza and had not locked the bloody thing up or even appointed someone to watch over it.

Sometimes my heart is softened to compassion and I am compelled to try to interpret this scenario charitably.  Perhaps this bike actually belonged to famed Canadian racer Ryder Hesjedal, who'd been let out to carb-load after being recently confiscated by his handlers at Pearson Airport and put on display at Hello Vélo before being shortly returned to storage till his scheduled contractual obligation at the Queens Park Grand Prix the next day.  Perhaps squads of Hello Vélo enforcers lurked in every Volkswagen and Audi on Front St and there was no threat to Hesjedal's Cannondale what so ever.

More likely, the owner's just an incautiously optimistic dumbass.

I prefer the latter interpretation for two reasons.  Firstly, Hello Vélo's enforcers are incapable of protecting a Cannondale; it's too inexpensive to induce the average Hello Vélo grunt to pay attention to it.  And secondly, Cannondales seem to have an inglorious history of being left unattended by their equally inglorious owners here in Toronto.  I previously saw this stunning specimen of bike theft languishing in the ham-fisted grip of an oafish fool who was clearly 'just browsing' at Urbane Cyclist, and then later saw it shackled on Dundas St outside the AGO, where I documented its suffering:

Yes, those are Ultegra STIs shorn of their shift cables on upturned drop bars:

Speaking of misappropriation and disappointment, I'm pleased to announce that the University Ave prix lane was removed in time for Monday morning's influx of Ford supporters.  Despite its short flowering, the prix lane was an excellent venue (though I'm sure those pushing for Copenhagen style infrastructure are still fuming over the firm rejection of their petition to install cobblestones on the course).  The course proved sufficiently challenging to cleave the field into two pelatons during the Pro-Am race, effectively creating two races to help satiate the short-attention-spanned of the crowd.  (For reasons I've never been able to uncover, the women's races need no such distraction.  I simply do not get it.)

Like other fans in attendance, I was extremely pleased to see talent such as Ryder Hesjedal and Michael Barry perform well.  However, I was extremely displeased to see fans and other Canadian cycling bloggers fail to pause their triumphal procession for Hesjedal and give due credit where credit is due: Jeffery Schiller kicked ass.

That said, however, I must admit that, despite the fierce competition of the Pro-Am race, I found the event's most thrilling moment of rivalry flourished during the post-race bitching from the amateur men's riders, who competed with vigour to see who could out-rationalize their failure or out-piss-and-moan each other about equipment malfunction or poor strategizing.

I'm not a loser, I just win at the wrong things. | Get Fuzzy

The clear winner was a perpetrator of a momentary fracas in which he complained vociferously to a friend of another's encroaching too closely to his side, while the offending rider followed shortly behind hollering "Yo, I'm right here.  You wanna start something?  I'm right here."  There's something about lean, white dilettantes in spandex that lends an elegance to their nerd rage.

To quote an excerpt from Toronto's latest bike plan to be dismissed on the grounds of impracticality: "Settle down, boys, settle down."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Homeric Payloads: Portaging Croissants On Your Forehead

Some people just refuse to accept limitations.  Sometimes this creates moments of remarkable achievement and personal transformation.  The rest of the time, however, it creates this:
I want to be charitable when I see the owner of an otherwise respectable hybrid trying to enhance the payload of their bicycle.  I want to think that perhaps, just perhaps, it was recently vandalized by a bicycle-hating stumblebum.  Or perhaps the air turbulence generated by the front wheel at road speed creates sufficient lift to hover the front basket while riding.  Unfortunately, no, the wear pattern on the front tire confirmed this as just another case of stupid.

Ever since cycling fell under the turning wheels of fatuous fashion trends, a plague of goiter-like payload enhancements has been ravishing Toronto's bicycles, threatening the health of the bicycle, and by 'extension', the rider's as well.

You see, after seeing two examples of suspiciously high quill stems on the Common Elite's blog, I've been monitoring the situation and found a veritable multitude, such as these:

Incensed, I convened an emergency meeting with Toronto's bicycle service providers to find out what the hell was going on with Toronto's bike mechanics.  No one showed up though, mainly because I'm just some wanker and they've all got better things to do.  Also, as a kindly hobo pointed out to me as we shared a cupcake and a jug of bourbon, most people are probably installing their baskets themselves or letting their ham-fisted significant other do it for them. 

I'm not sure when the 'pull-out method' became standard procedure for adjusting quill stems to compensate for generic front baskets.  I'm sure the manufacturer, Wald (whose designers I'm told speak fluent Campagnolo, as proven ever-so-woefully previously), did what they could to design a decent product to satisfy consumer optimism, and that the tag line "Know your limit, play within it" was already taken.

Unfortunately, consumers ravished by burning desire to cycle sartorially snapped up the product and during the--err... 'installation' eschewed the fore-play of 'carefully unpacking' the 'product' and 'reading' the 'instructions'.  Instead, they just threw out that little rubber thing that eliminates the need to 'pull-out' in the first place and went right at it.  I refer of course to the rubber shim that allows the brackets to be mounted securely in positions other than vertical, thereby allowing a veritable kama sutra of basket positions that allow for correct quill stem insertion depth, fender placement, and optimal cable routing. 

Or you could just replace your current stem with a, (*ahem*), longer one.  Just sayin'.

The Nitto Technomic at Rivendell; all 8" of it.  It'll hang your basket.  It'll hang it good.

And speaking of unlubricated rods rammed into tight holes, I regret to inform you all that there's still one more sleep till the next mass shaming of Toronto's hipsters.  I refer of course to Pirate Alleycat:

As much as I dislike going to bro-downs like this and watching Tom Mosher herd cats into something socially fashionable, Toronto's lone contribution to the collective culture of cycling, the alleycat, is one of the rare moments where I can watch hipsters huddling awkwardly at a distance, gazing longingly at real-live messengers who refuse to acknowledge the hipsters pleading for the sweet embrace of their approval and instead stand around, drink beer, and ridicule each other.

I thought about attending and even knitting myself a costume.  I'd hoped to dress up like that guy who asks for the DFL spoke card during registration (DFL isn't asked for; it's earned), but after buying in 100 cables of yarn and sharpening my needles, I had misgivings.  "Can an event featuring an ass skull be all that good?" I asked myself.

Pirate Ass-skull / Internet meme: J. Gresham Barrett winning an Asshat Award

One would think that anything featuring an ass skull would be truly Homeric ('epic' is so over), but after hiring consultants to decipher the semiotics and plumb the bowels of the asshat metaphor, I was informed that it's actually a testiskull foreshadowing the DFL prize: death by tea bagging.

Testiskull: Teabag of Doom.  As always, the lowly croissant preserves modesty.
Fearing for my chastity, I decided to stay away.  But if being tea bagged by people who consider you inferior is your thing (and if you commute by bicycle in Toronto, it probably is), then do attend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fools on Parade: You're Just Imagining Things

I want to be this person's kid.

While washing and tuning my bicycle in preparation for my daily "fantastic voyage" to the corner artisan stand for a cupcake and some bourbon, I reflected on the significance of a George Smitherman campaign vehicle caught parking in a bike lane and decided that there was none.  I then reflected on the significance of his opponents' haranguing.  Joe Pantalone, the personification of minimality these days, made convenient use of Smitherman's indiscretion to emphasize the likewise minimality of his own error in comparison to Smitherman's clearly larger and prolonged use of the bike lane for unauthorized purposes.  Rob Ford in turn proved that his rapier wit is about as agile as his fat ass with this flaccid zinger: "“I hope he parked there by mistake because he was so busy looking for the $1 billion of taxpayers’ money he lost on eHealth."  But even these condemnations were of no significance.  What is significant is the all the feigned indignation over someone blocking a bike lane with a vehicle at all.  I'm waiting for the remaining candidates to get caught too so that all of them could, in a rare moment of consensus building and shared responsibility, issue a public statement explaining their behaviour:

"Thy coilings stinketh as much as our coilings."

At least then they'd actually be honest for once, rather than all this dissembling.

Continuing on the theme of misused infrastructure, I'm pleased to announce that a separated bike lane will be installed on University Ave after all.  This Sunday, in keeping with Toronto's official bike lane installation protocol, a segregated bike lane to nowhere will be installed, used for purposes other than the efficient movement of commuters from points various to sundry, and then removed in deference to automobile convenience shortly thereafter.  I refer of course to the heretofore ignored Queens Park Grand Prix, which only lately gained notoriety when Canadian competitive cyclist Ryder Hesjedal deigned to grace us with his presence.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the event.  I enjoy attending such events, not only to ogle fit women in spandex ("So what?  Everybody does it."), but also to take in the fascinating spectacle of pretentious white people trying to get more into competitive cycling for the same reasons they want to get more into soccer.  It's a physically demanding athletic pursuit steeped in European tradition, making it an excellent hobby for discerning (read 'class conscious') white people who like to telegraph through their possessions and pursuits that they're not the type of person who would vote for Rob Ford.

Fortunately, for those looking to telegraph their voting patterns through frame choice but are blessed with only a moderate sense of taste and suffer from chronic lapses in judgment (known elsewhere as 'conformity') there is a made-in-Toronto solution: Cervélo.  While not ubiquitous on Toronto's streets per se, thick flocks of Cervélos can be flushed out into the open with pro- tactics like decoying (ride a steel road bike on the Martin Goodman Trail) and baiting (erect a red stoplight on Lakeshore Blvd W or hang a sign offering espresso for sale).

Like a dingo to an unattended baby.  (Field photography by

Their riders are rarely anything more than aspirants and, being copious in numbers and low on Power Gel, are readily easy to capture.  The subsequent dilution of Cervélo's pedigree in Toronto is already starting to trickle down.  Indeed, so passé is the Cervélo in Toronto that they're already being abandoned for commuting and fixie conversions, as seen here.

(For the record, fixie riders don't vote; they have a single-tarck mind.)

Those with more discerning tastes and a less than discerning sense of what they actually need, the GTA offers still more superfluity.  Vitesse, an Oakville bike fitter that milks the concept of prestige harder than middle-class hotel and brands itself through 'lifestyle partners' like Porsche, custom tailors bicycles to demanding riders who don't find stock frames acceptable for whatever reason.  This is supposed to sound prestigious.  All it implies to me, however, is that the purchaser's probably a deformed clod with poor flexibility and delusional aspirations.  But $6,000-$11,000 is a steep price to pay to learn that your old frame was fine and that you suck.  Being adverse to risk (among a host of other allergies) I prefer to just assume I do and pocket the money.

On the opposite end of the pay scale, there are those in Toronto who labour to affect bike snobbery under the strictures of a budget and the result sometimes leaves me apoplectic.  I do not refer to the uppity on Specialized aluminum road bikes with a 105 group.  I refer to this:

Mating a KHS Flite 100 with a single Sram S80 (or likeness thereof) is just... just... I'm sorry.  I can't go on...

Monday, September 13, 2010

T.O. Luv: Literary Speed-Dating & Ill-informed Ryderz

As I stated previously, I'm a lonely and misshapen clod with low self-esteem and socialization issues.  Consequently, I was genuinely surprised to receive flirtatious messages via Biking Toronto's internal messaging system:

Since my profile is empty, I can't fathom what this person could see in me.  Perhaps they're just really into shallow, vacuous people?  If so, they'd have better luck flirting with patrons of the Dark Horse Espresso Bar, where the simple act of pulling out an iPad causes a measurable increase in the café's humidity levels.

Either way, I'm skeptical that this relationship would blossom and I would encourage my secret flame to send their missives elsewhere.

Moving on, I was recently accosted by an advertisement for the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival.  I'm a little concerned by the header image featuring various musicians with one pant leg rolled up.  Ironic hip hop throwbacks being all the rage with the white folks of today, I fear this may be a poorly thought out reference to the west coast gangster fashion popularized by the likes of LL Cool J in the heady days of yesteryear:

The gangsta allusions are especially unfortunate because in authentic gangsta culture (a 20-through-40something white yuppie would accept nothing less) the car is the modal ideal of the affluent, whereas the bicycle is the modal necessity of the chump.  Heady west coast gangsta of yesteryear, Coolio, models this cultural attitude well in his epochal masterpiece "Fantastic Voyage."

Here, a benighted Coolio languishes in despair and denies an offer to rollick with some "females" because he is stranded by his modal necessity:

However, through the cinematic device of deuce ex machina, The Mack materializes to save the afternoon:

...and transforms Coolio's bicycle in dazzling early 90s SFX!

...into a modal choice much more amenable to his aspirations:

Certainly, by consulting the city's official guide to safe cycling infrastructure to plan a safe route that accommodates all levels of riding ability, pre-riding the route, appointing ride marshals, filing an application for a parade permit, printing spoke cards, etc. Coolio & The Gang could organize an in promptu afternoon group ride to the waterfront, even stopping to sample locally grown, sustainably harvested, organic pastries from various co-operative cafés along the way.  If done to suitably 'ill beatz', such an event would certainly be within the scope of the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival's agenda.

However, if you're nodding in agreement, I regret to inform you that you're too white to hang with Coolio & The Gang.  If you're now marshaling your indignation to interject that bicycle culture should be inclusive of all forms of cycling and that west coast gansta bicycle culture (if the oxymoronic depth of that sentence doesn't phase you, well...) can be actively assimilated into bicycle culture in general because it shares many points of tangency, including an especially rich bike art tradition:

...and a predilection for bangin' sound systems while riding:

I again regret to quash your good intentions.  Unfortunately, what may appear to you to be a rich and indigenous North American cycling tradition, in the eyes of everyone else looks something more like this:

Note the gang sign for local hoodlums, Da Limp Dikz
...and this is hardly the image that should be associated with cycling in Toronto.  The one we have is bad enough.  Consequently, I would encourage the organizers of the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival to eschew ironic references to cultures they've absorbed entirely through music videos and instead create something more meaningful to the good people of Toronto.

And by that I do not mean this:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Travelling in Style: A Matter of Life & Death

While my betters attempt to imitate their betters by attending things like the Toronto International Film Festival and making the correct sniffing noises at the correct moments of great poignancy, I spent the entire day stuck in a streetcar crawling along The Gardiner Expressway.  Thankfully, as an experienced Toronto commuter, I had packed supplies and a spare Crayon set, and hired a Sherpa from Parkdale to assist my epic voyage to Etobicoke and back.

We foraged for food on the streetcar's floor, kept warm by burning refuse and Metro newspapers, and when the light failed we drew pictures on the walls by firelight detailing our skirmishes deep into the rear of the streetcar, where an urchin kept a jealous vigil over an orange that had rolled into his territory during the steep assent over the Humber River.  Thankfully, I am pleased to announce that I eventually returned safely to Toronto, paid my Sherpa a fair wage (against Rob Ford's advice), and hiked the Pathway to Enlightenment back to my home.

I initially spent time scrutinizing the mass of faces hoping to glimpse some celebrity of note attending the TIFF, but since facial reconstruction has erased any vestige of familiarity in the celebrities that were popular back when I used to pay attention, I took to studying the rich mosaic of chewing gum on the sidewalk instead, until this caught my attention:

I understand suffering for money, but suffering for fashion confuses me utterly.  The impulse to adorn one's bicycle with detachable front basket stems from an urge to telegraph to beholders that "I am a European type of person who goes to market and buys fresh legumes with a reusable an therefore sustainable wicker basket."  However, orienting your brake levers into a drag-inducing, carpal-straining position to accommodate the aforementioned basket just telegraphs to the world that you're an idiot.

Speaking of idiocy and fashionable bicycles, I am concerned to announce that the good dilettantes of Curbside Cycle appear to be short on fatuously fashionable Toronto cyclists to photograph for their blog and, in the tradition of all Toronto cyclists suffering moments of self-doubt and anxiety, have looked to Europe for consolation and reminder, as seen here in this photograph of Christopher (because 'Chris' is insufficiently European):

I am pleased to note that there's very little wrong with Chris' bike, except the inadequately closed quick-release skewer on the front wheel, but since Curbside Cycle eschews modern componentry like the derailleur, the alloy rim, and the battery powered light, I'll give them some slack on the grounds of inexperience.

I will not however cut them some slack for missing gross stylistic errors, such as Christopher's misaligned buttons/belt/zipper, the black laptop bag that screams corporate IT nerd, and the whole lack of colour co-ordination.  That sort of inattention is inexcusable, especially when name dropping Alexander Mcqueen.

Before long, the Common Elite blog will be filled with fashion fox-paws like this foppish art student bobbing furiously along the Pathway to Enlightenment on a crappy mountain bike, every action being equalized by an opposite reaction from his dopey front suspension system:

Yet it is the tendency of all fashions to cycle every 20 years or so, and having counted the rings on Gary Fisher's jowels and carbon dated strands of his facial hair, I fear that a grand cycling of cycling fashion may yet make this sordid combination fashionable.  I fear we may eventually move from the Continental Period of Cycling Affectation to the Colonization Period of Cycling Affectation, when we will be suddenly beset by Eric Kamphoff hawking stump-jumpers designed by 'indigenous' Afrikaners for the rugged gated communities of Johannesburg to Toronto urbanites looking to 'slay' some epic sidewalk in style.

Fortunately fashion in Toronto is, at the moment, turning towards the cooler weather and therefore to warmer clothing, except this Queen St W store:

Looks more like 100% off to me...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spadina Ave: Pathway to Enlightenment?

Being a misshapen and awkward clod, I sometimes need to resuscitate my self-esteem.  Rather than splurge on a new Crayon set, I console myself by strolling down Spadina Ave and gazing upon those less fortunate than I.  In other words, I stand out front of the Dark Horse Espresso Bar and point and laugh at the foppish exhibitionists huddled around its oaken harvest tables, morbidly obsessing over 'strategically positioned' textiles and conspicuously consuming the baked and brewed equivalent of class pretension.

Having thusly calmed my spirit this past Monday, I turned to plod back from whence I'd came ...when my eyes fell upon it:

At first I thought I'd encountered yet another instance of the hottest trend amongst Dutch cyclists: advanced locking freestyles.  Then my eye chanced upon the red tag tied to the handle bars, boding ominously.  With the practiced hamfistedness of an Uncle Jacob's mechanic, I flipped the note over on its bars and saddle and read:

Constoopid say, "BiKe RACKS ARE For BiKes Not Street SIgns."

At this time I would like to pause for a moment and make the following Public Service Announcement:  For those who haven't tried it, writing is really, really hard work.  The outlining, the rough drafting, the erasing and subsequent desperate pulling of ideas out of one's ass can all be exhausting.  Added to the labour of putting piffle to paper are the strictures of spelling, syntax, punctuation, grammar, stylistic and conceptual coherence, and so forth.  Nonetheless the desire to communicate spurs one on like the promise of $3 spurs on a bike messenger.  Yet the hotblooded desire to communicate must be restrained by the chaste temperance of good grammar.  In other words, when dangling, watch your participle.

The lowly croissant preserves modesty.

Our author likely conceived himself as striking a vengeful and devastating blow to the Toronto cycling community's hubris and sense of entitlement by reminding us through his act of menacing vigilantism that we should know our bike's place: shackled to the appropriate facilities rather than cluttering up the street scape of Spadina Ave like mechanical graffiti.  However, I think our author would benefit more from a bit of fresh air, a bowl of organic fairly-traded puddin', and a good book, such as Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" with the relevant sections about 'Picking Your Battles' highlighted for his convenience.

Amusingly, however, the author's observation is both technically correct and socially valuable for the same reason that "Dead Eye" Dick Cheney was actually a pretty good shot: both made slight but meaningful progress in the advancement of the public good, however aimless their own small gestures may have been.  Verily, I was profoundly edified to learn that bike racks were intended for locking bikes, not for locking street signs.  In the spirit of all that is genuine and pure, I confess that such an item of civil decorum never once crossed my mind until that moment.  I apologize and bow obsequiously in deference to our author's wisdom.

In other news Rob Ford has, in a rare moment of stunning brilliance, identified the sole source of Toronto's traffic congestion: stop signs, speed bumps, and street cars.  All these years I'd thought it was just excess volume squeezing its fat ass down the chimney of inadequate capacity, but Ford's revelation has shown me the dawn of a new day!  Just imagine how much faster traffic would flow if we removed the stop signs from the 401 and Don Valley Parkway!  How briskly we'd fly along The Gardiner Expressway if we tore the streetcar tracks from its sprawling six lanes!

What penetrating brilliance!  What striking leadership!  It almost brings tears to my eyes...

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Dutch Oven: Toronto Guilty of Pedalling Foreign Influence?

Dutch cycling lore being all the rage in North America, trend watchers are scouring Dutch urban centres (read 'scraping the bottom of the barrel') for the hottest new trends in Dutch cycling.  This season's must-ape protocol is the advanced locking technique:

The Hollander High Lock.
Toronto cyclists, eager to flaunt their progressive (and therefore Dutch) attitude to cycling, are adding a sprinkling of Dutch Delight to their own locking techniques, as can be seen with this cruiser shackled outside the entrance to University of Toronto's Bike Chain:

So coercive is the allure of Dutch cycling (and so powerful is the sucking vortex created by the gapping vacuum where Toronto's indigenous cycling wisdom should be) that the City of Toronto, in partnership with the Royal Consulate of the Netherlands, is importing Dutch urban planners to assist Toronto in developing dynamically synergistic and integrative 'movementways' in partnership with cautiously optimistic public-private community initiatives on a going forward basis.  In other words, they're going to tell us how to do stuff we're apparently too stupid to figure out ourselves.  Organizers are publicizing the epic meeting of minds as the Toronto ThinkBike Workshop to create the illusion that genuinely reflective thought will be done at the event.

Toronto's Team Blue is tasked with the tasking task of making a network a network to free up Team Orange to tackle the more difficult issue of separated bike lanes, something Toronto has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that it's too stupid to figure out on its own.  Dispensing my usual pessimism, I'm genuinely eager to see the Hollanders' plan.  The Dutch, having mastered dikes before mastering the art of cooking, are also masters of the installation and routing of alternative transportation within urban centres.  I am convinced that Team Orange's system of dikes, sluice gates, canals, and locks will revolutionize cycling in Toronto:

When approaching an intersection, the cyclist will be floated up to street level through a series of locks powered solely by the cyclist's own smugness.  Exiting the canal system at destinations along the route will be facilitated through the use of sluice gates opening onto individual buildings, which will be paid for through public-private initiatives and will create much-needed jobs for local sluice gate artisans (when they've taken up rug-making, you know times are tough).

Given the rich Dutch content of the event, one marvels to see Curbside Cycle's Eric Kamphoff conspicuously absent from the event bill.  Perhaps he'll feature as a surprise guest speaker, ready to embiggen us all with a slide show and lecture on the vast superiority of cycling in Europe, topped off with the de rigueur image of Kamphoff sucking on a pastry:

It wouldn't be European without it.