That’s what she said: the ups and downs of sweatshop-free shopping (and going off on tangents)

Lucas really isn't a violent person, just to clarify.

Lucas really isn't a violent person, just to clarify.

Yesterday I ventured along St. Laurent to this vegan shoe store/vintage shop/local artist co-op. I had a feeling, before going, that there was no was I’d be able to find shoes in Montreal. And that’s depressing because I have no idea what my shoe size is on a whole, and I picked up these Macbeths.

But they’ll do for now. And seeing as I’m one of those people who left the womb and jumped straight into high tops, it’s crazy to be walking around in something with padding. They’re technically skate shoes, and they absorb shock a bit when I walk. 

    So I have shock absorbing shoes, that means that I need to start doing things which will allow me to take full advantage of the shock-absorbing qualities. I’m buying a skateboard. That’s right. When I bought my longboard, people were happy because they thought I’d never start riding a short board. I didn’t think I’d get into it either, to be honest. I mean, I’m really good at Skate. And while I don’t have a television anymore, and I gave R. Petti my Xbox 360 because he’s trying to up his Guitar Hero 3 skills, I still maintain that my skill set learned from Skate will carry me through.

    However, I feel like I’m buying a whole lot of sports-related paraphernalia recently… Okay, so I’m living in an apartment full of bike parts. I actually recently took apart the Marin, because the wheelset is prime. The cranks are pretty sweet too, so I’m going to use them to make up a black and chrome cruiser. I suppose it’ll be Xan’s until I can build her something more tailored. But back to the Marin, there are parts all over my house. And I think I’m just going to take it all apart, then build it back together again, then take it apart again. Why would you do that, you ask. Well, While I know a fair bit about bicycles, the majority of my knowledge works around fixies. Fixies are pretty light on the componentry, so when people start talking to me about brake types, or shifter sets, or even rear derailleur issues, I tune out. Shifters? Brakes? Derailleurs? All I need to do is wipe down my bike and clean my chain, tighten my bolts and fidget with the angling on my saddle and I’m good to go. 

    When you want to build bikes, as I do, you eventually come to the realization that not everyone wants a fixie. And not everyone that wants a fixie will actually be able to ride one. If you’re not out playing in traffic every single day on a bike, I worry about building you a fixie. It’s such a different style of riding that I don’t think people grasp how your motivations. Putting a foot down at a stoplight when your pedals aren’t well aligned to get you going quickly? You’ve got a problem. Can’t work with toe cages? Problem. Won’t swerve into harms way to get out of stickier situations? Problem.

    Do not even get my started with new fixsters deciding they want to only wear cycling caps. I do it on occasion, but I can maneuver my bicycle. Yes, helmets are ugly. Especially cycling helmets, ick. But people are crazy, and until you’re at a point in your riding when you can almost anticipate what’s going to go on around you, you should be wearing a helmet. Texas dismounts, while terribly unfortunate and at the same time hilarious, happen. And that’s when you’re going to be so happy that you’re wearing a dinky fucking helmet; mostly because you’ll still have the mental capacity to look back and laugh about it later on in life.

[ First posted: 24/10/08 ]

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Compromise: just say no.

Note the quotations... yup.

Note the quotations... yup.

While i would love to be lecturing you about how to not compromise and stay in a relationship, I am not. Mostly because I am not in a relationship, nor have I ever been in one that I felt needed me to compromise. Today, children, I am talking about a different kind of compromise. Now gather around while Aunty Lauren tells you about how to not put off building a bike even though you live in a shitty apartment that you’re fixing up. 

    Once upon a time, in a land some 600 km away, there lived a girl named Lauren. Who, of course, is of no relation to me. Lauren had recently moved out to a place which may or may not still be a part of Canada (while some would argue it never was), Montreal, the one glimmering hope in the back hole of bilingualism known as Quebec. Lauren, in her infinite naivety, decided that a vintage apartment was the way to go. Much like a growing majority of her wardrobe, Lauren enjoyed vintage things very much. Aside from her vintage apartment and vintage wardrobe, Lauren loved vintage road bikes. Silly, silly, Lauren! 

    One morning, after assembling a bed Lauren purchased from IKEA, she thought so herself “golly gosh! This place could use a lick of paint!” Despite the fact that the above quote makes you think she is extremely intelligent, even a person of such a higher thought process can, apparently, be led down the winding road of home renovations.

     But Lauren was spunky, savvy, and was already not being challenged at school, so she decided to fix a thing of two. The list of to-do’s soon took over pages in her notebooks, and hours of her precious teenagedom. Despite all odds, Lauren persevered. Sanding down walls, putting in holes, stripping paint and waxing floors until her dream was nearly realized. But during this period of betterment, Lauren’s vintage road bike sat. With no wheels, no seat post, no saddle, and cranks which still needed to be de-threaded. How could her poor road bike be cast aside? Especially with it’s new paint job, rust-free frame, and new grip tape? Nobody knew. And as winter approaches, and bike shops became weary of inquiries into cheap deep v’s on Miche high flange hubs, Lauren was in a bind.

    “I can’t ride a freewheel in winter,” she thought to herself, “for I know the winters here are harsh, and that brake cables often fall victim to the sub zero temperatures. Inhibiting my ability to stop properly for all those stop lights, stop signs, and pedestrians which I always stop at because I am a law abiding citizen with all the time in the world.” Then, after reflecting on such a thought, she proclaimed “I will put my reno on hold!” Silly, silly, Lauren! You can’t use paint stripper in the cold, and you’re not about to sand off infinite layers of paint by hand. You can’t put off your reno, either!

    And there the story ends, kids. It seems our protagonist, the infinitely naive but well-meaning Lauren, is in a bit of a bind. I, er, she, has yet to figure out how to free herself from this bind. However, I, as a third party, would suggest that Lauren take up something less strenuous, like making friends, which do not come with temperature restrictions or seasonal hours.

[ First posted: 20/09/08 ]

This just in: I’m one bolt away from being a total badass.

My fixed gear conversion is almost complete, and in saying that I mean that I can start riding just as soon as I buy a new saddle and get my wheel built. The only thing standing in my ego’s path is the bolt on the left hand side of my free wheel. Having no real cycling equipment, formal bike dismantling training, or relevant information other than “take it all off”, this bolt has proven to be a worthy opponent for my can’t-do-5-push-ups physique.

    I don’t want to bring it in to the bike shop because I just know those crazies are going to charge me an arm and a leg, or $15. But it’s a matter of principle. I enjoy the fact that I have ripped out every innovative piece of machinery on this bicycle, and that I really don’t need much of anything to make it into what I want it to be. And that makes me feel as if I am far superior to most everyone inhabiting this planet

    In other news which is entirely unrelated to bicycles or my poor upper body strength, Chloe leaves tomorrow! I am incredibly depressed just thinking about it, however I know letting my friend go free into the land of the free and the campus filled with cheap, free and plentiful under armor accessories is the right thing to do. Chloe heads out for Utica to start training with her team tomorrow, so tonight, and possibly all throughout today, I am treating her to something which I have put no planning into, seeing as this date has snuck up on me. I am willing to offer free tequila to her though, and if that isn’t the sign of true friendship, well, I don’t know what is.

    Speaking of friends near and far, Sarah Batzold called me yesterday. I haven’t seen her in an entire year, which is incredibly depressing to admit to, but it was really good to catch up with that girl. Her and I have the worst timing, however. You see, she’s going to U of T next year for psychology, and she’s moving down a day after I leave for Montreal. If only Concordia had residences that were convenient for vegans, that way I wouldn’t have to live alone, in a building full of hipsters. Oh, I am so very hard done by. I live 2 km away from Montreal’s Brakeless shop though, so I think I will just get by. 

(First posted: 13/08/08)

It seems chivalry is not dead

Today I literally went all the way across the city. Yes, north of Steeles. And I know you’re thinking “Lauren, no one goes there. No one. Why would you enter such a dead zone?” Well, concerned readers, while it is no secret that Craigslist and I have been on the rocks recently, the List has finally pulled it’s weight. Indeed, I have found the frame, and at $45, it is looking pretty awesome. I rode it home, partially, because the back wheel was terribly flat. But really, who cares about the back wheel? When I have the money, I’m getting a custom back wheel built… possibly with a flip-flop hub!

    I’m blogging at 12:50 because I just finished ripping my poor frame apart. Literally all I need to do now is take off that damned free wheel and choose my chainring, and it will be kind-of, sort-of, finished. I realize that last line has instilled no faith in you, and to that, I state yet again that fixies are my crack. And I will probably be living under an overpass, centimitres away from my bike, clutching my box full of bike maintenance goodies while I spend my nights in an unfortunate smelling sleeping bag. Clearly, I realize the consequences of my addiction. And I’m cool with that, underpasses are the new studio lofts, anyways.

    On to more pressing matters, I think the fixed gear community hates me. Why? Because I’ve been yelled at by numerous motorists and fixie riders over the past week. But I’ve now come to realize the joys of drop handlebars, and I don’t think I’ll be going back for a long while. Anyways, the main issue before was my beyond large straight bars on the Marin, allowing me to hit most every car mirror in my path, so I am often forced to stop prematurely. My drop bar worshipping, brake free friends did not like such things, and pulled the time tested tell-off-and-bike-away-quickly. I know it’s time tested because I do it all the time, and I feel good afterwards.

   And I have just now realized my title, today while I lugged my new two-wheeled friend all the way back down to safety (south of Steeles), 3 separate men, or at least I assume they were, offered to help me carry my bike up or down stairs, through gates, held open doors far longer than one would expect out of common courtesy and my faith in humanity was momentarily restored.

    If you’ve seen my latest YouTube video, you know why I have to go to bed. Miley Cyrus has been on loop for the past, 10 minutes. Way to go, tiger!

(First posted: 12/08/08)

Can’t rain out this parade

Mother nature, if you read this blog, which you should. I have a few suggestions. Firstly, I would like to trade in however much good karma I have accumulated over the years for one day of this month that it will not rain on me during a bike ride around town. That being said, August has just begun and I have been caught in 4 rainstorms thus far, 3 of them being torrential, 4 of them being trips of over 10 km, and, as per usual, I have almost died on each trip. Thus the urgency of this plea. 

    Speaking of urgent pleas, what is going on with Craigslist today? And I’m not talking the whole site, I love Craigslist, I’m talking the only page not working is the Toronto bikes for sale section. Which leads me to be depressed, and subsequently click on the “casual encounters” tab. See what you do to me Craigslist? If I can’t get one fix (actually that’s kind of a pun), I will find another, significantly more destructive, one. And eBay is not helping me either. Where are these incredibly tall people who ride 65 cm frame? Where? Not here, I’ll tell you that much. I suppose I have short legs, or something, because I fit a 50 cm frame, and there are none of those on the market. Although someone did try to sell me what I could very easily call the ugliest Raleigh I have ever straddled. Not to mention the fact that it would cost me a little more than a pretty penny, more like 35000 pretty pennies, before tax. Yikes! I’m pondering the new KHS at Urbane now, it’s 500 or so, incredibly light, and doesn’t involve digging through old junkers all day long.

    I’ve realized recently that bicycles have taken over my life, as well as my blog, to the point of unhealthy obsession. Yet, I still maintain that I can both have morals and check out bikes. Today this incredibly good looking girl in a plaid shirt on a vintage bicycle smiled at me seductively as I rolled by, I wish there had been 12 broken beer bottles right there so she would’ve come to my rescue. But that is neither here nor there, the fact is that if you appreciate bicycles, you start making roadside acquaintances, even for a brief moment which renews my faith in the sense of community thrust upon you once you become a bicycle commuter and enthusiast. All I need now is a fixie, so I can be like the new guy on the block who you always see driving a Corola (okay, so my Marin is not exactly a Corola, more like, a new Altima), but you know they have a 1960’s Ferrari in the garage under a car cover. And if you didn’t just figure this out, I used to be a car fanatic in the 8th grade. So I have makes, models, wheels and horsepowers engrained in my head, to the point that I speak automobile fluently.

    Anyways, what I meant to post about was how bad the weather is and how much finding an old track frame is sucking. But I’ve been lead astray all because of the cute girl on the bike, one would think I would’ve learned by now. I think I will just start dumpster diving, or alley surfing late at night, on recycling days, for discarded gems. I actually stumbled upon 2 unlocked road bikes outside the coffee shop across the street from my building 2 nights ago, and I will say that I showed enough restrain to not steal them. Okay, so they weren’t my size. But I could’ve sold them on eBay, or Craigslist, if the bikes section ever becomes active again. None the less, I did not steal those beautiful specimens, which shows restrain, let me tell you. I’m going to stop now.

(First posted: 10/08/08)

If you thought being horribly disfigured would hinder your social life, try being a fixie addict.

I don’t know if bikes without brakes could actually constitute an addiction. But I can’t stop looking at them, looking for them, wanting to learn more about them. I mean, I sound like a creep! But seriously, I’m going crazy. I must have a fixie, I’m almost willing to sell off all my worldly possessions, with the exception of my Mac, acoustic guitar, and D80, so I can buy cool rims, and nice handle bars, and custom frames… so good. See? I’m like a pedophile, only for bikes. I search the internet for pictures of these bikes, message people about bikes, I talk about bikes, ride bikes, and my guilty pleasure is, not surprisingly, bikes. And if you didn’t get the pedophile joke, replace “bike” with “8 year old boy” in that last sentence. 

    Anyways, I am so crazy right now. It’s the bikes, really. I wish it weren’t Canada Day weekend, because all the stores are closed today, and most of them are closed tomorrow too, so I’m twisting and turning in my sleep until Wednesday comes around. Literally. Last night I was trying to sleep, and I just couldn’t get to bed for at least 2 hours, so I got up, threw on my glasses and a beanie, grabbed a pan of vegan carrot cake, and I inspected my Marin, to the point that I was measuring my wheels and cleaning my rims. I have a problem.

    Other than the fact that I am now, apparently, a cyclophile, I feel great. I’ve been on my bike for at least an hour a day, everyday, for maybe the last week or so? And might I add just how good looking I am recently? That was sarcasm, just incase you’ve never heard me talk before, so don’t take my statements to heart, I’m just a crazy person.

    Oh! I’ve realized that even though I hate hats, with the exception of beanies, I’ve found a new hat-love. Cycling caps, surprise! I’ve been looking at them for the past 3 days, and I realized they were actually functional yesterday. The two days before yesterday, I kind of thought they were a sort of cult fashion statement, which didn’t deter me in the least. That’s my kind of cult!

(First posted: 04/08/08)