Saturday, April 28, 2007


I always wondered what it was like to ride in a critical mass. Critical mass was created 15 years ago in San Francisco when a bunch of cyclist decided to reclaim the streets on their own by just getting on the streets once a month and taking as much space as possible. Now there are critical masses all over the world, including Montreal. I was contacted this winter to check out there site and this Friday I decided to join in.

Now these rides are notorious for being very unorganised affairs in some places. The one in New York City is, from what I hear, a monthly clash between cyclist and the very well manned NYPD. The Montreal ride as also it's extremist elements, but being Montreal it's in a civilized manner. The morning before the ride I was watching the weather on a regular basis and I was hoping for the rain to vanish so I would be able to take part. Mother nature decided otherwise!

I was about to call it at around 3 O'clock and it made me realise that I was getting soft. I used to ride to work 12 months a year in way worst weather and here I was being held back by a little rain. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. Out came the high-vis raincoat and I headed downtown with the 45 lbs cruiser. The ride down to Phillips Square was a blast and when I got there I was surprised to find at least 50 people who had gathered in spite of the rain. I even met a reader of this blog who put together a trailer from one of my articles. Riley used the trailer to carry the music for the ride, sweet!

With no Police escort, we took to the street and rode for at least 30 minutes without any trouble. The rain was on and off but that didn't affect our spirits. Pedestrians on the sidewalks cheered us on and motorists were cursing the very fact that we were alive! Then somewhere on Park Avenue, we crossed a Police car that was waiting in the oncoming lane and by the look on the officers face, I knew we had just ruined what must have been a very quiet shift.

We had three Police cars join us after that in no time. We were intercepted at the corner of St-Laurent and Mont-Royal were they tried to escort us. One car was preparing to open the ride up front, but the mass decided to turn on the street before on Drolet to start a game of cat and mouse. The cruisers caught on pretty fast and the mass was boxed in within 2 minutes. The officers from station 38 were pretty ticked off. You could see it in their face, body language and deployed straight batons! They really didn't won't to mess around. But station 37 came behind us and the sargeant on duty from that station managed to calm things down on both sides. Great work on his part prevented things to go ugly. The ride was over, this was confirmed once we were advised that it was an illegal demonstration. The Police took down the names of 4 people without advising them of why I was told. The group broke up and we ended up at the Mont-Royal metro station for chat and snacks. I rode back home at around 8H30 pm and that ride was a blast.

What made this ride enjoyable for me was not the mere fact of riding in the streets in a spate of what might be interpreted as civil disobedience. The people I met there, the ride-in in traffic, the ride-out in the darkness were even more fun. Meeting a reader of this blog that actually put together one of my crazy ideas was also a great kick I must admit. Almost as exciting as a brush with the law.

So if your bike riding or your life is getting too boring, get to Union and Ste-Catherine at 5H30pm every last Friday of the month and go for it. For the readers of this blog that are out there in the world, just google critical mass to see if there is one in your town. If not, start one.

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.


Monday, April 23, 2007


One thing that I've seen often in bike repair and experienced myself was to have a crank arm just falling off the bike. Now if that doesn't ruin your day, imagine a few days later riding along all proud of having fixed the problem, riding with joy, birds singing in the trees, life is good....and the darn thing falls off again! Of course this happens in the middle of nowhere with no handy tools at hand. Option A: Pedal with one leg Option B: walk and push the bike home.

To prevent this from happening in the first place, take the time to tightened the nut attaching the crank arms to the axle at least once a year. This can be done with a 14mm socket ratchet wrench. If your crank arm just keeps on falling off, even after you've asked your muscle building neighbour to tighten that nut as if his life depended on it, there is one simple reason. When the crank arm is loose and you pedal with it, you damage the four corners of it's socket that rest in the axle. Somehow this damage causes the crank arm to wiggle enough to unscrew the nut little by little until it just falls off again. You will have no choice but to replace it. You can try locktite, but I've had no success with that either. Bring the old crank arm with you to make sure you buy the same size, that's unless you have a leg shorter than the other!

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Norberto is one of our readers from Buenos Aires in Argentina. He didn't know much about fixing bikes when he found this blog, but now I think that this is not the case anymore. Norberto also went and registered on the Rat Rod Bike forum and got bit by that bug. He found this wreck, a cruiser made by an Argentinian Company called the Reynoso, took his newly found skills and decided to enter the Rat Rod Bike Build-Off.

What you see in the pictures is the result of some very well done work. The bike was totally stripped down to the bare frame and fork, litteraly! He simply coated the entire bike with a few clear coats to protect the metal finish, added some nice fenders and a set of brand new wheels. I love what he did with the chainring, a simple piece of black tin sandwiched behind it makes for a very cool effect. Check out the entire build thread.

Norberto didn't win the build-off, but he made us proud and now has a pretty cool bike to cruise around in the sun of Argentina.

Great job Bro !