This site is a place for me to muse about the things I like to do. My main intent is to focus on bicycles and coffee, with a bit of ‘misc’ thrown in for good measure. My interests do vary as time goes on – the most recent years have included drones, 3D printers, Arduinos software, drawing machines and more. Bicycles and coffee have been a steady constant and so they get prominence in the blog title.
A little context: I’ve been riding bicycles since I was 10 years old. My first bike was a BRC mountain bike, not to different from this beauty:
I have a very specific memory of riding around Kingsway and Welwyn in Vancouver, BC on this bike, Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” blasting from the combination AM radio / headlight / horn that I had mounted to the handlebars. The local radio station LG73 played all the hits of the day and cruising around my neighbourhood, exploring the parks, backyards and alleys was pure bliss for me through my early teens.
It helped carry material for the assortment of backyard forts me and my friends would build each summer, lifting scrap wood from nearby construction sites and balancing our found bounty precariously on the handlebars as we pedalled carefully home.
As I grew older, this bike took me further. From Renfrew Heights where I spent most of my teenage years, I would ride to Trout Lake with my brother and best friend Dennis, where we would spend the day fishing, mostly catching catfish, with the exception of that one time I caught what someone at the dock told me was a sunfish.
Some nights we would stay close to home, but the darkness was perfect for taking apart flashlights we found in our homes and reattaching the resulting parts to our bike spokes and frames. The game here was to ride our newly illuminated bikes up the large pitch black runoff pipe in the Renfrew ravine, balancing carefully as we pedalled our bikes up the smooth concrete surface that was made extra slippery because of the constant water flow.
Eventually I started driving so bicycling took a back seat for some years. The BRC stuck around, forgotten in the garage for some years, slowly rusting and collecting dust and cobwebs. I remember taking it out once in a while, and I think I sold it or gave it away to a family friend.
Late 1998 I was introduced to mountain biking by my boss at the company I worked at. He spent a lot of time on his bike near his Port Moody neighbourhood and hearing about his escapades on his home trails reminded me of the freedom I loved when exploring my neighbourhood by bike. He offered to show me a few of his trails, so I bought a new mountain bike and was instantly hooked.
The new bike was a 2000 Norco Kokanee. It was candy red, with a rigid tail and maybe two inches of suspension on the fork. I think the suspension was rubber dampened – it rebounded pretty fast and bottomed out constantly. Man that was a heavy bike but riding it for two years taught me some pretty good bike control as I rode to keep up with Robert on the loamy trails we would ride. I also learned to fall really well.
Mine did have the awesome front fender and did not have a disc brake. Man, that thing was so much fun.
After two seasons of skills development I was ready to graduate to a new ride. I saved a bit of money and eventually bought myself a blue Norco VPS-Drop.
I LOOOOVED this bike! It cost me a pretty penny for the time, but I felt invincible on it. Internet video was quickly becoming easy to use on the internet, and I spent a lot of time at home (and at work) watching videos of mountain bikers riding big travel bikes off school buildings and off busses, jumping over roads and dropping off crazy tall logs. The Whistler bike park was also just opening up, and this bike soaked up everything I pointed it at, with 5″ rear front travel.
My group of riding friends changed though, and I found myself in the midst of cross country attuned software developers. What this meant was they liked to climb up hills and loved to go fast back down them. I probably had the most expensive bike out of the group, and definitely was the most naive. I liked going fast and I liked the group of friends I was in. But hills were a bitch and handling at speed was terrible. Drops were fun but I loved the exhilaration and focus of finding technical lines through fast single-track, dodging roots and trees the whole way. Time for a bike upgrade!
One of our group got herself a sweet Rocky Mountain Slayer. It was light, it was also made in Canada (Norco is Canadian), it looked sweet and after a few test rides I knew it rode pretty sweet. The next year I traded my VPS-Drop in for my own Slayer.
This bike was touted as the best “All Mountain” bike of 2003 if I remember correctly. People raved about it, magazines wrote about it and I owned it. All-Mountain is what I did. We rode up and down Seymour, Cypress, Grouse and Whistler. Single track, drops, jumps, even some Point Grey rides for burgers and beer. I still get an ache in my throat and heart when I look at this photo – the bike is so familiar and I can still smell the oil on the chain and the forks, and feel the cold aluminium of the frame. Clipless over skinnies, off four foot drops, burning up Burnaby Mountain and back down again at night with headlamps and SLA batteries duct-taped to the frame to power 12V halogen bulbs from Home Depot. Adventure was out there and I rode out to it eagerly. I would buy this bike again in a second if I ever came across another one.
While I was busy conquering hills and logs with my pals and aluminium steed, another bike snuck its way into my life. My dad did some mechanical work for a friend and accepted an old steel Bianchi in exchange. It was way too small for him and I remember it hanging out in our garage when we were kids. It was always too big for me and I never really cared for it as it was so light and skittish for me to ride. I’d spent a lot of time restoring old VW beetles in my 20s and had grown an affinity for old metal mechanical things. I don’t remember how or when but I asked my dad for the bike and it was mine. It might have been for triathlon training, because that’s what I used it for, eventually cross training for outrigger canoe racing by mountain biking, running, swimming and road cycling.
When you have two bikes you might as well have six, right? Well that’s what I believed. There’s a township nearby where I lived at the time and every year they allow their residents to throw out whatever they want, to be picked up by the city. Mattresses, kitchen appliances, bedroom furniture – you name it, it would be picked up for “Spring Cleaning”. We had sponsored a family to come live with us at the time and this spring cleaning date was perfect for picking up some used odds and ends to help a family get started in their new home.
Well wouldn’t you know it, people also got rid of their old bikes. I saw a lot that were junk but three that were diamonds in the rough. A his and hers pair of old steel Raleigh Superbe and a metallic purple road bike of some kind. They were old and in disrepair, but I loved projects like that and so into the bed of my truck and home with me they went. A thorough wash, polish and regrease of the important parts and my stable of bikes had grown to 6.
If my 20s were years of fun and freedom, my 30s were years of real growth and learning. I decided to return to University which proved to be long and expensive. Time on bikes was super limited and so was money. I eventually sold off the bikes one by one as I found myself short on tuition or money for food or books. Time behind bars was replaced by time behind a keyboard and as I became more proficient with code cycling became a distant memory. A couple of weeks in Florence, Italy reminded me of the freedom of cycling, and I still had one steel Raleigh bike for myself, but living in the West End of Vancouver meant transit was my travel method of choice. Long gone were the days of exploring my neighbourhood by bike as my priorities had shifted to higher learning, design and creative code.
My career path lead me to Kelowna, where I’ve been for the past 6 years. Only the Raleigh pictured above made the trip with me, the other bikes having been sold off to hopefully good homes. The Raleigh eventually went as well – I didn’t ride it much and it took up space in the apartment where I now live with my now wife and dog.
This is where this blog starts. 6 years into Kelowna and having rediscovered the magic of bicycles. Things for me have changed in the decade since me and my small crew paid for our downhill rides of the BC coast mountains in sweat and sometimes blood. I’ve tried single speeds and am now transitioning out of them and into road and hopefully cyclocross soon. The draw of the mountains hasn’t set in yet, but I’ve been putting around 60km of road riding in a week, exploring Kelowna and Vancouver on two wheels, the wind in my hair and caffeine in my blood. Here’s to another decade of fun.
(The name of this blog is a hat tip to A Tribe Called Quest’s fourth album, “Beats, Rhymes and Life”.)