Saturday, April 28, 2018

Lezyne Love


Its shape is phallic. Its name is Sapphic. And it always gets my tires hard.

I pay tribute today to my Lezyne Tech Drive HP aluminum mini hand pump.

I bought my Lezyne about five years ago. At the time, I thought it was expensive, as far as hand pumps go. But it’s been worth every penny, and over the years it’s become something more than just a tool to me. I carry it with me on every ride, tucked snugly in my back pocket or stuffed into my gas-tank bag. I rarely have to use it, but I know that when the time comes, it will work. Mostly, though, I just like having it around.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Woodbend Postcard

Photo credit: Strava Jeff.

The fields may still be covered with snow and the air cold as crud, but the roads, they are clear. It’s April, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it. That means it’s time to bust out the road bikes with Strava Jeff and head out of town, away from the snow-and-ice-and-crap-cluttered shoulders of city streets and onto clear country pavement just west of Edmonton.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sugar Ride



I’ve got to be pretty much the perfect reader for Yvonne Blomer’s literary travel memoir Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur (Palimpsest, 2017). Not only am I a touring cyclist and type-one diabetic like Blomer; I’m also an English professor who’s fond of poetry and literary travel writing. No wonder no less than five different friends offered me copies of the book. And no wonder I like it so much.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Farewell to the Tour of Alberta

At the Tour of Alberta Prologue, 2013.
When the news came down last week that, after a five-year run, the Tour of Alberta professional bike race was kaput—a victim of Alberta’s economic downturn was the official reason cited—I don’t think anyone who follows the world of bike racing was surprised. Disappointed, sure; sad, maybe. But probably not surprised.


This has been coming—in fact, has seemed inevitable—for a while. Government funding for the event has been dwindling the last couple of years, and Alberta’s struggling economy has meant that other sources of funding—corporate sponsorships, community host fees—have been getting scarcer and scarcer. When the size of the event shrank in 2016 and again in 2017, it was starting to look like the beginning of the end.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge 2018


Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying . . . 
                                                  --Tennyson

The fourth annual Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge happens Sunday, June 3, 2018.

The start/finish is, once again, Metis Crossing, AB (1.5 hour drive northeast of Edmonton); park one km east of the campground entrance, by the monument.

9 am bugle call and roll out.

The route is a 107-km loop on quiet, picturesque GRAVEL roads that include the scenic Victoria Trail, the oldest continuously used road in Alberta, and the option to ride a rustic section of the Iron Horse Trail.

Everyone is welcome: gravel lovers, the gravel-curious, and anyone up for a dusty adventure.

See our event page on facebook.

A few things to know:

This is not a race (though times will be recorded); no real prizes will be awarded, though we tend to give out a Surprise Bag to the Dustiest Rider. 

RIDERS MUST BE COMPLETELY SELF-SUPPORTED.

Riders will be given a GPX file and cue sheet--that's all.

There is a lovely Petro Can and a restaurant in Waskatenau at the midway point. That's the only supply point.

Almost any kind of bike will work (cyclo-cross, touring, mountain, fat) but tires 33 mm or wider are strongly recommended.

WHILE NOT A RACE, THE DUSTY 100 IS HARD. THAT'S WHY WE CALL IT A CHALLENGE.

And did we mention that it's dusty?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Across Siberia on a Bicycle


Siberia. The word conjures images of endless ice and snow, not to mention hints of forced isolation and punishment. The vastness, harshness, and remoteness of the place makes the very word Siberia cause shivers of trepidation for many—and tingles of excitement for a few hardy adventurers. Riding a bicycle across Siberia may sound like a mad feat, but it’s been done, and more times than you might imagine. I can think of a handful of books about trans-Siberian bicycle trips, by Erika Warmbrunn, Jane Schnell, Mark Jenkins, and Rob Lilewall, to name a few.

But one of the first to do it was the English cycle-adventurer and author Robert Louis Jefferson. Born in Missouri in 1866, Jefferson grew up in Victorian England, where, as a young man, he was an impressive athlete and, later, a journalist. (He shares the Christian names of the celebrated contemporary Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jefferson admits that these names came in handy more than once in the world of writing. He once told an interviewer, “anything by a man with those prefixes was certain to sell.”)

In the 1890s, as the bicycle boomed, he embarked on a series of extensive adventures awheel, which took him from London to Constantinople, Russia (twice), Mongolia, and Uzbekistan. Jefferson wrote a book about each trip, the first published in 1894 and the last in 1899. Although the cycle-travel-adventure books of his contemporaries Thomas Stevens, William Sachtleben and Thomas G. Allen, and John Foster Fraser are better known, Jefferson was one of the most prolific cycle-travel writers in this inaugural golden age of trans-continental bicycle adventures.  Yet for some reason, his legacy remains obscure in comparison, and his books, today, are hard to find. Not a one is in print, even in this age when some of the most obscure Victorian texts can be acquired via print-on-demand publishers.

But with a little work and the help of inter-library loan, I got my hands on a copy of Across Siberia on a Bicycle (1896). And while the volume is brief and uneven, to be sure, it offers enough insight into early bicycle-adventure travel and some perverse bits of entertainment to make it worth checking out.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gravel Alberta 2018




Could 2018 be the year of gravel cycling's big breakthrough in Alberta?

The lack of a thriving gravel-cycling scene in this province—and the prairie provinces, in general—has long been a puzzler to me. South of the border, in the equivalent landscape known as the Midwest or Great Plains, cycling on the thousands of miles of gravel backroads has been a thing for years.

It’s difficult to find data on the actual number of gravel riders, but just consider, as an indicator, the number of gravel-cycling events in the midwestern and western United States: competitive races (such as the Dirty Kanza and Gravel Worlds); more recreational rides and fondos (such as the Cino Heroica and Rebecca’s Private Idaho); and any number of informal, unsanctioned, no-fee rides. Throughout Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas you’ll find some kind of gravel-grinder event happening almost every weekend in the summer months. Check out the event listings on Gravel Cyclist to get a sense of the burgeoning American scene.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Victorian Cyclist Stocking Stuffers

Cycling accessories have long made for perfect gifts for the cycling enthusiast, whether the sporting gentleman or the adventurous New Woman. 

We at the Dusty Musette have assembled a small list of suggested gift items--both sundries and accoutrements--for the Victorian cyclist in your life. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kuwahara Death Pose


My winter commuting bike died last week. It was a red and white Kuwahara mountain bike, fixed fork, circa 1987, which I purchased second hand (more likely, seventh hand) for $80 from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters three years ago. The bike was, by any measure, a piece of crap, and always had been. But I had grown fond of it and feel a little sad that it’s now toast, its scavenged carcass splayed out in my backyard.