Friday, November 29, 2013

The art of shopping (apologies to Sun Tzu)

It's the season of frenzied shopping, which in Vancouver means it's time for the annual "Warehouse clearance sales". I suspect they're not clearing old stock at all and it's all a sinister experiment, which I am the unwitting (or not?) subject of. But anyway, the most notable sales are Arc'teryx, Sugoi, and Icebreaker and I'm not the kind of experimental subject to ignore the chance to own made-in Vancouver things at sub made-in-Vancouver prices. Icebreaker of course isn't made in Vancouver, but it is made from sheep. Having had my fair share of being buried alive under 1000 pairs of extra-small Capri-pants (not as much fun as it sounds) and having had to tear people limb-from-limb to secure socks in my size, I don't enter these endeavors lightly.

I know my limits, and I only have enough fight in me for one warehouse battle-royale per year. This year I skipped Arc'teryx entirely, which is the most fearsome of them all. It's like the Somme of warehouse sales: people clambering listlessly over mounds of purple ski-suits in the hope they might find that special soft-shell jacket that will make existence tolerable. There's probably already a line of people waiting in the rain waiting for next years sale in order to buy... raincoats. But I escaped by the good fortune that I already have a raincoat.

Next, Icebreaker. Now this is a tough one to miss as sheep's clothing is some of the finest (and best for disguises according to legend). I managed to contract my shopping list out to Kala, who's deft rummaging skills netted me a few fine new woolies. Two down, one to go.

The Sugoi sale is for me the softest target of the sales. It's somewhere in the darkest recesses of Burnaby, starts on Friday lunchtime, and invariably falls on a day when it is raining cats and dogs. This makes for a somewhat civilized opening day. For me, it's also easy to stay focused on the prize as the only thing Sugoi make that I want is bike shorts. Of course I've been tempted by fluorescent triathlon singlets, but I'm not sure I can really pull off the tri-geek ensemble without a torpedo helmet and some disco slippers. I did make the rash decision last year to ride my bicycle to this bike-clothes sale, which turned out to be a mistake. There was nothing handy to lock it to and my damp arrival-state caused me to freeze to death several times before my part of the line made it to the door. My conclusion is that cyclists shouldn't ride bikes. This year I did it right (?) and drove the car. Even better, I ran in to two consecutive groups of people I know in the line, scoring me cutting-in opportunities. Yes, I am that queue-jumping person. Pour down your hate on me.

Once inside the "warehouse" (or as I suspect, experimental shopping environment) I located the "ugly" rack and started the search for the finest ugly-shorts. I should probably explain ugly-shorts. Sugoi make custom logo'd stuff for whoever wants it, so in the "warehouse sale" (or as I suspect, human battery-farming experiment) there's a special section reserved for all the leftover goods, usually festooned with awful corporate logos and nonsensical slogans. "Be incredible". But, they're really cheap. The browsing was good and I managed to locate not only ugly shorts for all the people I'd agreed to buy for, but also myself. I'm usually a loser in these retail experiments, what with being a medium-sized male in a warehouse full of spandex-crazed medium-sized males. However, I made my escape with satisfying sack of chamois.

I did have a moment of weakness, influenced by Marc, where I ended up buying my first ever pair of bib-shorts. I've always regarded these things with suspicion, but they have their devotees and I'm not afraid of trying something new, so long as it's cheap. I was swung by their availability in my size, cheapness, and their pure embodiment of ugly-short-ness (they're asymmetrically pink). Then I got home and tried them on. Other than making me look like a long-lost member of Kiss, they're ok I guess. I'm not sure I really "get" why bike shorts need braces, but whatever. If it's hot enough next summer I might go for a ride on the the Shore wearing just these... and my full-face helmet and goggles (to avoid detection).

The spoils of war

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some things are so good they're worth doing nine times, and then planning again for next year.

Firstly, here's my entry for the first ever Mud Ride video/slideshow contest... celebrating the Mud Ride since its inception in 2005.

This year the weather was kind to us and we were treated to marginal amounts of mud and even the big yellow thing appearing in the sky (briefly).

The main ingredients of this year's mud ride: bikes, dogs, bike riders, and curry (not shown).

Day 1 on Burke featured various slippery wood to ride over. Demonstrated here by Suzanne and Pippa.

Lina and Cashew tackling some rotting cedar.

...and finally Natalie and Nikki.
The evening was taken up with curry eating and then annual reports in the form of slideshows from Paul and Angie (studying and bike adventures), Alex (a revisiting of the Burning Man festival), Johnny (a bike voyage through the UK), Lina (Molokai to Oahu SUP), me (Mud Ride anthology) and Marc and Nikki (Newfoundland). It's a great new tradition, I'll have to make something new for next year.

Day 2 started off feeling like Christmas. No-one could explain why, but everyone agreed. At the crack of noon we headed out for a ride on Sumas Mountain, but I failed to take any photographs. Our link-up of Knob Gobbler / Holiday Sauce / Extra Sauce / Emma Peel got us back to the car just before dark.

The extra bonus day allowed us by the long weekend saw Johnny, Marc and Lina head off paddling up Widgeon Creek with the salmon and Kala, Nikki and myself heading to The Woodlot for a final ride.

The trail is called Crazy Carpenter. Go figure.
Next year will be the tenth year of the Mud Ride, and will hopefully see us revisit Comox, where it all began. Wherever it is, I am glad of it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

This one remains on the list

This weekend has been one of contrasts. The incredible wetness of yesterday was offset by blue skies today, which was a relief.

Today Paul and I rode up Fromme in search of a mountain-biking right of passage... and missed slightly. The Jet Boy trail remains on the list for next summer, but we did have a lovely (?) haul all the way up to the ski runs on Cypress complete with a dusting of fresh snow. Then we enjoyed a somewhat hair-raising descent, past an excellent example of a BC "ghost toilet".

BCMC's finest convenience
There was sunshine poking holes through the mist, and a pretty enjoyable steep and technical trail until we realised we were going the wrong way. Then followed quite a lot of bike carrying, clambering over fallen trees, and an unintentional visit to a nice waterfall on Mosquito Creek, where a large cliff halted our progress.

If you look closely, you can see a mountain biker in the picture

We eventually made it back over to Fromme and had a more conventional ride out on Dreamweaver and Lower Crippler back to the car. Then we picked up Lina and Kala from the end of their Hanes Valley run, and went to the pub.

Despite the lack of actually finding the right trail, I feel pretty satisfied with our efforts and also just unblocked the bath drain... so celebration is due all around I think. I may have also managed to enter an excellent bike race for next year, but we'll have to see about that.