Monday, June 12, 2006

My Good Luck with Bicycles

When I first moved to Ottawa, I had a policy of only owning bicycles that people gave me free when they didn't want them any more. This saved me money, not just on the bicycles, but on the locks. I never worried about anyone stealing rusty, lime green or pink women's bikes.

Another feature of the free bikes was that it took more work to ride them and thus I got more exercise from using them.

Eventually, I began to see that there were disadvantages to free bikes:

  • They're not really free. A tune-up runs between $25 and $40; fitting a bike out with lights, reflective tape and carriers is another $50. (Never mind the additions for a fully-tricked out bike.)
  • Sometimes you take a cab because you just don't want that much exercise to get somewhere.
  • Having your chain fall off and get jammed in the chain guard every time you go somewhere so that you have to travel with a wrench is another thing that will make you take a taxi.
  • Bicycle thieves will eventually steal even the most sissy and wrecked looking bicycle.

So when Susan G offered to sell me her Schwinn CrissCross for $125, I took it. And became a convert to good bikes. The Criss Cross rode like the wind. One year in mid-December, I found myself biking to Vanier on it.

The next fall I was taking it home on the O-train and started talking with another guy with a bike. I told him I'd like to start cycling through the winter, but not on the Schwinn, I needed a bike that I wouldn't mind getting salty. "I've got a mountain bike I'll sell you for a hundred dollars," said the guy. It turned out that Murray fixed bikes in his spare time. I went by his place and wound up taking home a Kuwahara.

The Kuwahara took me through four winters. The first time I had Bert tune it up, he told me it was worth $300 easily. But this winter, the chain broke for the third time and the guys at Pecco's told me after the second time that the gears had become so worn, that if I had to replace the chain again, I'd have to replace the gears too. That's one of those repairs you have to question on a bike you paid $100 for.

So the Schwinn became my late-winter bike. It's not quite the smooth, beautiful ride it used to be. I've been thinking I'll make it the winter bike and get myself a new summer bike maybe after labour day from the bike rental place at the Chateau Laurier.

Of course there are always contests that award bicycles. On Friday at the Bridgehead, they had a ballot box for Oceans Fest with a little quiz about the environment. I filled it out while Jim, Keane and John C mocked the Oceans Fest and me. (They mocked the Fest because Ottawa has no ocean, me for wasting my time and really, I think they just like mocking.)

Does the run-off from Ottawa's storm drains get treated? "No", I ticked.

I was puzzled by the question "Are blue whales endangered in the St. Lawrence River?"

The lads informed me there are no blue whales in the St. Lawrence. John is a professor of marine engineering and used to be a first-mate on oil tankers that ran from the Great Lakes down the St. Lawrence and up around the coast into Hudson Bay. He should know, right? So I ticked off "no", because if there are none and they should be there, they're extirpated, and if there are none because they aren't supposed to be there, they're just endangered somewhere else.

Here is my new bicycle. It turns out that blue whales swim right into the estuary of the St. Lawrence and World Ocean Day was declared in Rio de Janeiro, not Killaloe, but I got all the other questions right, which was "exceptional" and I won the grand prize.

The bike is an Ottawa. Raleigh custom builds it for Kunstadt Sports who donated the prize. I was offered the choice of the Ottawa or the Bank Street, and picked the Ottawa because, as everyone knows, red bikes are faster. My Ottawa is smooth and beautiful and rides like the wind. I told the nice woman who called me last night that I'm going to become a big booster for Oceans Fest.

In other Great Victory news, I scored a 1089 in MuMu yesterday. I believe that is a world record.


Anonymous said...

So Dave any mumu strategy tips for those of us who can't get past 300?

Anonymous said...

Cool bike. Keep it that way (i.e, no sissy buckets, etc.)

David Scrimshaw said...


My Mumu Strategy Tips

(1) Before you place a tile, check to see if you might do better by placing another tile first and thereby get a quadruple or better.
(2) Tiles with only two colours are your best friends. Concentrate on placing them so that the single colour is immediately removed by two of the same colour already on the board. This can lead to long chains of tiles being placed and removed at the same board location.


If I followed your lead on bicycles, my new bike would hit the road about once every five years.

PhilG said...

Okay, that answers my question about MuMu. Excellent grad snap, btw; did you get a second one with the powdered white wig?

Asteroidea Press said...

I *saw* a blue whale in the St. Lawrence once, sitting on the rocks at Cap-de-Bon-D├ęsir. Pretty impressive, more by imagining what was under the surface than watching what was visible. I'm glad that you included the bit about them swimming down though, or I might have started to question my grasp on memory.

David Scrimshaw said...

Hey Megan, I would love to have seen a blue whale!

You should have heard Jim B last night when he found out about my bike. I'd have thought he'd be a bigger man, but no, bitterness and jealousy rose to the surface. "I guess anyone could have won that bike," he said.

It reminded me of Paul Irwin in high school when I told him about my SAT results (Since I like to pretend to be modest, let's just say that I didn't get into MIT on the basis of my grades at school.) "I guess the SAT isn't that hard," he said.

JuliaR said...

Great bike(s) story! I'm sure you will get fenders for it too. Can't ride in anything but dry conditions without 'em.

Anonymous said...

In my own defense I will point out that the question asked "Are blue whales endangered in the St. Lawrence River?" and since blue whales are on the endangered list everywhere (and have been since the list was initiated) I stand by my answer.

I am somewhat surprised that as a lawyer you had to have this pointed out to you.

However congrats on the bicycle - it looks like a beaut! Nest time I am in Ottawa I expect you to give me rides everywhere!!

John C.

David Scrimshaw said...

John C:

I am not a lawyer. But I am pedantic about words, and if there are no animals of a species in a place that they used to exist, according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, they are "extirpated" not "endangered" in that habitat. And you said there are no blue whales in the St. L.


Yes, indeed fenders and a rear carry rack are numbers 2 and 1 on my list.

The complicating factors are how to acquire these while meeting these goals:

1) free or minimal cost;
2) adding to the beauty of the bike, not subtracting from it; and
3) making the dave-formerly-known-as-the-other-dave eat his intolerance-promoting words about "sissy" buckets.

Anonymous said...

You're on a roll Dave - bike, graduation, mumu, everything. The planets are aligning - time to buy a lottery ticket.

David Scrimshaw said...

Zoom, I'm afraid my luck doesn't work that way. If I bought a lottery ticket while on a good luck roll it, it would end the streak. Maybe something bad would happen even.

JuliaR said...

My husband found this guy who makes his fenders out of coroplast.