The Ride for Duart: One Man's Journey to Help Save a Castle (Part II) October 12 2019

No matter where you’re from, there is always a landmark that, once passed, says “you’re home”. For Cape Bretoners, that landmark is the Canso Causeway. A physical stretch of rock and asphalt that connects the Island to the mainland. I am sure that when visiting or returning home by sea, the first site of Duart Castle in the distance felt the same for Maclean’s. Two of us on the RFD are from Cape Breton and felt the embrace of the Island. The RFD was only two days away from reaching Washabuck, and excitement was building!

Crossing the Canso Causeway  Duart...

(Two pictures: One of the Cause way and one of Duart)

The crossing of the Causeway marked the end of day five. We loaded the bikes into George’s truck and headed to the Maritime Inn, Port Hawksbury, where once again we found the generosity and hospitality of the hotel owner and management heart warming.

We had a dinner date set for 6:30 with friends of Ian that we didn’t want to be late for. Rilla Mclean, exuded sweetness and was one of those people you just wanted to hug and squeeze. A grand-motherly figure, Rilla immediately made you feel like family by finding something in common and taking a sincere interest in your story. Her support and fondness for Ian and what he was doing was palpable. Once you meet Rilla, you will never forget her.

Sandy Mclean and his wife Nancy, also joined us for dinner. Sandy is a tall gentle-man with a keen mind and knowledge of the history of the area. Originally from Whycocomagh (Gaelic: Hogama) he spoke proudly of his Maclean roots. He grew up when Gaelic was spoken more commonly than present, and it was evident in his subtle brogue and the few Gaelic words and phrases he scattered about his sentences. 

 Although I just met these three supporters of Ian, I couldn’t help but feel I was part of a family that was just reunited. Maybe there is something to having the same surname that elevates the connection between otherwise acquaintances. Even without the same last name, I felt no less included; maybe it’s just the Scottish way.

Rounding out our dinner party was an unnamed beatnik, jazz musician we somehow (somewhere) acquired on our travels. Missing from this photo was George MacLean.

Myself, random Jazz Musician, Sandy, Nancy, Rilla, Ian and Karen

Sadly I had to leave the tour for a day and return to New Glasgow for work the following day. I missed what was another chance encounter, this time with a young couple who had been following the RFD, and for a very special reason.  Brad MacLean and Brittany Muise were to be married at Duart Castle later in August. They had been following the ride and drove down from Cheticamp to meet Ian and contribute to the cause. 

Not only did they add to Ian’s experience, but the RFD contributed some pre-wedding excitement to their lives. They are now married.

Brad MacLean and Brittany Muise on the steps of Duart Castle

 Following the short stop in Whycocomagh, the band of merry travellers continued to the Stewartdale cemetery where many of the descents of the Maclean’s from the area are laid to rest. Sandy Maclean and his brother, Dougald, were the tour guides and historians for this part of the trip. It was a highlight for Karen whose husband’s Mcleans are descendant from one of the original Maclean settlers, the Gobha Ruadh (Gaelic: Red-haired Blacksmith) as he is affectionately known by his twenty-first century family. 

Everyone has a story and some have a story that borders on fiction by today’s standards, yet Dougald Mclean’s was a true life-experience. The now 92 year old Dougald joined the army just after WWII. He was present during the Suez crisis, served in the Congo and was posted to more than one tour in the Arctic. After leaving the military he worked in the Canadian parliamentary security service for well over a decade. While on duty in Europe, he made his way to Duart Castle where he met the current Chief’s father and was given a personal tour of the castle by Chief Charles Hector Fitzroy Maclean himself. After such an adventurous life Dougald returned to Cape Breton to retire.

Having made good time and with time to spare, Ian road the 11 km to the exit for the Little Narrows ferry, where this day ended and tomorrow, the last day would begin.

The RFD was not the TDF (Tour du France) but the excitement on the last day was still noticeable. The weather was great, as it had been for the entire week, and my money was on Ian “to win”. The final stage was 24 kms to Lower Washabuck along a road that seen little traffic and little maintenance except that today happened to be a day when road work was underway! Nonetheless we made good time and arrived at the Cairn and grave-site of Lachlan MacLean just before noon.

The reception at the cairn was small but meaningful. Here was buried one of the brave Scots that sought a new life in a new land. I think if Lachlan could see his land and clan now he would be very proud. Even more so that he hasn’t been forgotten and still gets visits from family.

Vince, Ian & George The Clan at Lachlan's Cairn, Washabuck Overlooking the Bras d'or
Vince, Ian & George MacLean The Clan at Lachlan's Cairn Overlooking the Beautiful Bras d'or

Lachlan was no average man. According to his head-stone his lived to be 114! One can only imagine the century of experiences, challenges and changes Lachlan was witness to. We said goodbye to Lachlan and rode to the home of one of his descendants, Vince and his wife Charlotte. Our first item of business was to drive up to the top of one of the fields overlooking the Bras d’or Lakes and take in the scenery. The immensity of the place was almost overwhelming. To take in that much beauty all at once almost made your eyes water; but that’s what beautiful things do. We could see Baddeck and Beinn Breagh directly across the water and to East Boularderie Island splitting the Water of the Bras d’or into St. Patrick’s Channel and St. Andrew’s Channel.

If the view from the hill wasn’t intoxicating enough, we arrived back at Vince’s and celebrated a toast to Ian and the RFD with a drink of Glen Breton Whisky.

At Vince and Charlotte’s, several friends and relatives of the hosts joined us. Vince shared a toast before settling in to some great conversation. The talk around the RFD was upstaged however by the jam and biscuits lovingly made by Charlotte; there was more talk of the biscuits than the Castle I think. 

Sometimes we forget that contributions come in many forms. It may be money that will see the restoration of Duart through and was the goal of our ride. But it was the hospitality (and meals and biscuits) that always restored us at the end of the day. If it wasn’t for the later, the former would never have been realized. It made me think about how often we over look the contributions made by the “behind the scenes” folks when the big show comes to town.

At some point, disappointingly, we had to leave Vince and Charlotte’s. So in the late afternoon we said goodbye and expressed our thanks then got back in the saddle to finish the RFD as we rode towards Iona. For me, as a cyclist, this is the saddest part of any trip, the final day. I never want to stop riding; to know that the only thing on my agenda won’t be simply riding my bike is something I must come to terms with at the end of every trip.

The last 20K of the RFD took us across the rolling hills of central Cape Breton towards the community of Iona. We were watching Ian’s odometer closely. I knew Ian’s odometer was reading “short” and we had passed the 400K mark by now. Yet the display read 300 and 90 something. We knew we would drive in circles to have the 400K display on the odometer, but it wasn’t necessary. The last three kilometres of the ride put us over the 400K mark for the picture we were after. But the last 100 metres were quite special to witness. Not because they were the last few pedal strokes per se. Rather they were up the driveway to the inn. I’m not great at estimating grades, but I’m suggesting it was between 15-20%. I thought Ian might dismount and walk up the hill but that didn’t happen. 

Paris Newspaper L’Équipe Headline (June 2019):

Ian wins the Polka-Dot Jersey as “King of the Mountains” in an amazing
100m dash to end the 2019 RFD!


Ian rose from the saddle and put the hammer down. He buried those pedals, one after the other, as close to the ground as their rotation would take them.  Ian and his Maclean-stickered bike inched up the hill without pause until the hill was crested. A display of true Scottish stubbornness. Every other pedal stroke may have been for Duart, but I think the last hundred or so were for Ian himself, they only thing he wanted, for himself, from the RFD. The RFD was over.

 But not really (that last line was just for literary effect).

At the Inn, two good friends of Ian showed up unannounced to surprise and congratulate Ian. George, greeted Vanessa and Michael Bass from Sackville NB first, and made an attempt to surprise Ian by having him back up several times for a random photo until he bumped into and discover for himself the presence of Michael and Vanessa. It was about 70% successful but 110% worth it when Ian turned to avoid stumbling, glancing at his friends and then back to George only realize he just laid eyes on Vanessa and Michael who we supposed to be anywhere but here! Ian was overjoyed. All along the RFD I witnessed the tangible expressions of the sublime meaning of “friendship”.

The evening was one of rest and reflection. With no weather, route or gathering to consider for the next day, we were more subdued. Ian was relieved to have completed the ride without incident. I was experiencing that bittersweet feeling of success and finality, similar to the moment when you crest the apex of a long climb. You pause, feel the temporary feeling of exhaustion and triumph and then begin to think of the downhill.

Everyone who travels knows the trip really never ends. I can recall being in a cafe in rural Saskatchewan in 1999 on a cross-Canada cycling trip as if I were sitting there now. It has been nearly three months since the RFD concluded but I can still see and hear Ian shifting into low gear and escalating up the hills; and will for years to come. 

Congratulations Ian!  Not bad for a portly, 73 year old!

And so we cycle. 


There is so much more to this story. I learned you don’t have to go far from home to have an “international” experience. Whether your German, Dutch, English, First Nations or identify as from elsewhere, Nova Scotia has a story for you about your past. Some are sad, others are jubilant, but all are stories to embrace and share.

I learned that no matter where you are in life, with the right preparation and planning you can achieve anything. You can find proof all around, and there are people everywhere to inspire you. But to live your best life you need to challenge yourself. (Photo: Pinterest, 2019)












































I also learned from an email I received from the Clan Chief Sir Lachlan, that I am now obligated to take up arms in support of Clan Maclean’s defence if called to do so… 


 “Ian also tells me he’s made you an Honourary Maclean and I’m absolutely delighted with that.  It’s not a very onerous job, except if I call all the Macleans out to fight, you might get an email or letter which you can easily ignore!”

I agreed and proposed to the Chief that he commission the 1st MacLean Kilted Bicycle Battalion, with “Ian of Tidnish” at the helm. I was obviously honoured to receive an email from the Clan Chief!

Although I wasn’t present for all the legs, I know Ian would want me to thank all the sponsors, without whose financial support and personal investment of time, Ian would have never got off his trainer. 

  • Acadian printing, Amherst
  • eOpen Solutions, Amherst
  • Bicycle Specialist, Amherst
  • CIBC Maltby-Casey, Amherst
  • McLean Micro, St. John, NB
  • R. MacLean Forrestry, Antigonish
  • Maritime Inns and Resorts, Antigonish
  • Maritime Inns and Resorts, Port Hawkesbury
  • Pictou Lodge, Pictou
  • Iona Heights Inn, Iona

The RFD was a smashing success! Ian raised over $20,000 CDN and the work on Duart continues towards completion. Thank you for reading, following and supporting the RFD. You can still support the RFD by donating to the Restoration of Duart Castle through the Clan Maclean Atlantic Website at: Oh, and I am neither a Scot (as far as I know) or a historian, I tried to learn as much as I could along the way and represent the people and events as accurately as possible. If you have comments or corrections, please send me an email, and I will try to resolve them.


Take care,


The Ride for Duart: One Man's Journey to Help Save a Castle (Part I) July 08 2019

Ciamar a tha thu an-diugh? was the Gaelic greeting awaiting us as we pulled up to the cemetery in Glen Bard. “How are you doing today?” Then came the playing of the bagpipes, followed by smiles and hugs. A fine Scottish welcome for a guy who at 73, decides he wants to ride a bicycle 400km to raise money...

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Path Racer: Sturmey-Archer Two-Speed September 08 2017

I may be the only one to admit this but winter commuting has become my favourite type of riding. Since I no longer have the time and opportunity for extended summer tours, riding to and from work has become my solace.

The last few years has seen the demise of my 1994 Deore LX equipped mountain bike which has long been my commuter and favourite bike to ride. Despite regular maintenance, the salt and snow has really taken its toll. I wanted its replacement to be a fun, snazzy, reliable, simple, economical bicycle for all year riding about town. This list of adjectives defines a bicycle known as a “path racer”. A quick Pinterest or internet search will give you the back story to this style of bicycle and all the eye candy your two-wheeled desires can handle. This is the story of my path racer.


Future Path Racer

In the beginning I was trying to decide if I wanted a really good frame as the foundation for this bicycle or something everyday, inexpensive and reclaimed. Since it will be ridden all winter I didn’t want to ruin a good steel frame and the later was consistent with the mission of FreeLander Bicycles. So I chose a department store mountain bike frame from the 80s.  Although original path racers would not have cantilever bosses/brakes, I felt this was the best brake option for my style of riding and the look I was aiming for. I needed the eyelets for fenders and a rack, proper hub spacing for the rear hub, and not much else beyond that.

The frame was stripped to bare metal. A rust neutralizing compound was used to neutralize any unseen rust.  Two coats of metal etch primer followed by two coats of filler primer were applied.  Then several coats of Ivy Bronze Green and clear coat finished the job.  It came out great! I refer to this green as “Raleigh” green since it was originally mixed to restore and repair vintage Canadian Raleighs of this colour. It is similar to “British Racing Green”. The other option was matte black, which I plan on using for my next build. Both classic colours. 


Chang Star Cantilever Bicycle Brakes

I have always been partial to cantilever brakes. They are simple, rugged and provide ample braking power.  Road grime, ice and snow don’t usually affect their performance much. These are low end Chang Star alloy cantis modelled after the common DiaCompe 980 brake of the 1980s. Although the quality is not there, they function well. In fact, for a year-round commuter, they may the perfect blend of simplicity, economy and performance.


Flipped "North Roads" FreeLander Bicycles Leather Handle Bar Grips

The steering is a large part of what makes a bike a path racer. The “flipped” North Roads are sporty, offer a semi-aggressive riding position and are luxurious to hold; not a description typically associated with a generic steel chromed bar. It is not the brand or materials that make them great but the riding position afforded. It places my arms perfectly shoulder-with apart with a slight bend in the elbow, wrists in line with forearms and very little weight on my hands: perfect!  It all adds up to comfort, control and the ability to aggressively ride out of the saddle which = FUN!

The exact height and reach is determined by the stem. This is an alloy bar clamp with a steel 1” post, nothing fancy. It has a 10 cm (4”) reach and a large positive rake.  It just works. Its like finding the right belt for your trousers.

I used a vintage steel chrome headset.  Largely for looks. I suspect it will show some corrosion over the winter.  I didn’t want to invest in a lot of new parts, not knowing how this build would turn out. I will likely swap it out in the spring for a quality alloy one.

The steering (coupled with the gearing) is what I love most about this bike.  I’ve never ridden out of the saddle more. Every corner reveals another opportunity for short sprint ending with a leaned-in turn around that corner and another sprint.

Wheels & Tires

FreeLander Bicycles Path Racer

Since I was using a new, moderately priced hub I wanted to use a decent rim and spokes. I had two factory built Alex DM18 double walled 26” (559) wheels in inventory from a previous buy-out. I used the front as is (laced to a formula alloy hub). I de-spoked the rear wheel and laced it to the hub with 254mm Sapim Leader Spokes.  It was an easy build for a relatively new wheel builder. It tensioned up nice and even. Both wheels are staying true even under the many quick accelerations, short climbs and sprints it has seen in a relatively short period.

Path Racers need cream tires like James Bond needs a tux; it wouldn’t look right any other way. These are Rubena City Hoppers. They are plush and have good traction which is all I need and wanted for these tires. They have a cool reflective stripe adding an element of safety.

Drive Train

Sturmey-Archer Two-Speed Hub

Sugino Super-Maxy Crank

The two-speed Sturmey-Archer SC2 was the focus of this build from the very beginning. After a winter of poor shifting on my trusty 21 Speed Deore LX equipped mountain bike, I wanted something simpler. The idea of only two gears, one for the hills and one for the flats, was very appealing. No shifter, no derailleur, no cassette and no lateral chain movement. The crank is a Sugino Maxy double with the big ring removed and the 40T ring in the outer position. A 22T rear cog gives me 47 gear inches in low and 65 in high (an increase of x1.38). This is perfect for the short hills and descents and flats I find on my commute. A new cartridge bottom bracket was installed giving a perfect front to rear chain-line. This is one item I would strongly recommend for winter riding.  Most cup and cone bottom brackets just don’t have the weather resistance of a sealed cartridge. Although the front ring is 3/32” the chain is 1/8” as is the rear cog. The TAYA brand chain runs very smooth. 

Shifting is achieved by back pedalling about ten degrees and then forward peddling in the new gear. It takes a little getting used to. If you “miss” the shift by back-pedalling too little or too much, a quick second attempt usually finds the sweet spot. When freewheeling, the hub is either silent or sending out a ratcheting purr. The volume is quite loud relative to other freewheels but distinct and easy to get used too. I wasn’t sure how I would like this set-up during the build process.

The pedals are alloy bear-trap I’ve had since high-school. They are really the only pedals for winter riding. Perfect in all kinds of weather and with all kinds of footwear, including boots.

Now that I have several rides in, I am now thinking about making two- and three-speed path racers the focus of FreeLander Bicycles bicycle offerings. I like it that much.

Saddle & Accessories

The saddle is from my old bike and the seat post alloy. Eventually this perch will be swapped out for a Brooks. Leather Freelander Bicycles grips add a distinguished look and degree of comfort and connection with the bars and bike.

As the bicycle took shape I also began to see it as a “company vehicle”. One that will eventually have a frame sign installed. So I absolutely wanted it to look good too. I had a set of chrome fenders salvaged from a vintage 26 x 1 3/8” wheeled bike. They were a tight fit requiring some flaring of the fender edges, shortening of the front stays and drilling to attach to the front fender fork eyelets. The minimal clearance gives the bicycle a real sporty look.

FreeLander Bicycles' Path Racer

As winter approaches I’ll need to install a set of lights. I have a couple of options in stock, but none that match the vintage look. Ideally a chrome, dynamo powered headlight would fit the bill. Also the chrome fenders with be replaced with plastic and the creme tires will be replaced with more aggressive treads around mid December. 

If you have ever admired those dashing path racers on Pinterest and wondered if they ride as good as they look, the answer is yes. What I love most is how easy it is to rise and ride out of the saddle. The ride quality of this bicycle is reminiscent of barreling over hill and dale on a single speed coaster brake bike as a kid. Now that was fun!

As always, If you have thoughts, questions or suggestions please leave a comment.

Take care,


The Original Bicycle Multi-tool March 05 2017

Over the past year I acquired four vintage CCM multi-functional wrenches. At first I seen these as cool vintage pieces of bicycle maintenance history. But the more I thought about these wrenches the more their utility became evident. They stopped being an artefact of another time and took on the role of workshop sage; it seemed they had something to tell me.

Vintage CCM wrench

Each one, some time ago, was the mainstay shop and road side repair tool for someone and their bicycle. The rider’s best friend in a time of need, when their bicycle didn’t work the way it should.  

As they sat on my work bench waiting to be cleaned for sale or use, I found myself working away on bicycles of the same vintage. I was reaching for 13, 14,15, 17 and 30 mm wrenches. Hardly a hex/allen key was lifted. On more recent bicycles with calliper brakes smaller wrenches (9, 10, 11 mm) were used.  But on the three speed and single speeds with coaster brakes it was the larger sizes that were used almost exclusively.  The sizes included with the CCM “one-wrench”.

This CCM wrench measures 150mm long and 35mm wide.  Here’s what is has:

Vintage CCM Wrench Specifications

It then occurred to me that if the owner of a vintage bicycle went to a bicycle shop to buy a multi-tool for road repair, chances are they would leave with a costly and useless tool. Modern multi-tools typically include a few smaller sized sockets, allen keys, flat/Philips head driver and the more expensive ones, a chain tool. (A broken chain, especially 1/8” chain, is rare.) Very few modern multi-tools could be used to adjust or repair a coaster brake bicycle or three speed. You wouldn’t even be able to loosen the axle nuts to repair a flat. And axle nuts aren’t uncommon on entry level modern bicycles!

In my experience, you are most likely to encounter a loose pedal, stem, headset, seat or seat post and flat tires while out riding. These repairs are a greater cause for concern or could cause you to walk home more so than other minor problems like misaligned derailleurs. Some of these issues can be remedied on newer bicycles by a quick release skewer or the turn of an allen key. However, others, like tightening a pedal, still require a wrench.

When I decided to use the CCM one-wrench I did notice some limitations. It is not the most ergonomic of devices, but for an emergency repair that is not critical. The sizing is a bit off. It may the difference between the metric and SAE sizing differences but on my SAE 1967 CCM Rambler the fit is still not snug. It works but the likelihood of stripping a nut is real.  The metal is also soft. This leaves the opportunity for some entrepreneur to design a suitable well made, ergonomic, snug fitting mulit-wrench for vintage bicycles. 

In the meantime it is important for vintage bicycle owners to realize that in order to be road repair ready they will need to carry an assortment of wrenches; including a 15, 14 and 13 mm wrench. A (30mm) wrench to tighten the set head is a good tool to have on hand but may not be practical for this one purpose. (I really like this inclusion on the CCM one-wrench.)

Quik Stik Tire LeverYou will need a (mini) pump and tire levers.  I fell in love with the Quik Stik® tire lever.  It is strong and has lots of leverage, especially for tight fitting tires.  A patch kit (be sure to know how to patch) or a tube in the correct size will complete the kit. If the bicycle has cable elements (calliper brakes and derailleurs) then an appropriate headed screwdriver and smaller wrenches (or sockets) such as 8, 9, 10 mm are good to have. A final note for pedals is to ensure your 15 mm wrench will fit into the crevice between the crank arm and pedal body.  Some wrench heads are too thick for this application.

The often mentioned drawback to carrying wrenches is the additional weight. I find this concern a moot point as it is small considering the weight of the bicycle and rider.  These are also the tools that are required regardless of weight.

The Point of this Story…

is to be sure you know what tools you need to fix YOUR bicycle. Find the best you can afford, learn how to use them and be sure to take them with you when you ride.

Take care, Daryl

The Lost Art of Shovelling Snow February 10 2017

Winter Bicycle

And so sits my old winter bicycle on this snowy day in February. Still waiting for me to bring it in and create a new winter bike from it and the frame of another.

Overnight left us with 30 cm of the white stuff. Once the snow stopped, and the sky cleared, a beautiful winters’ day appeared. But since snow doesn’t just fall where you want it to, before anything else could happen the driveway had to be cleared.

The lost art of shovelling snow

I don’t mind winter like some, nor do I mind shovelling snow. In fact, I kind of like it.  It is an opportunity to get outside before any other winter activities are possible. It does however, require a mental shift from the established belief that shovelling snow is akin to the punishment Sisyphus received; to repeat an activity over and over again with no end in sight.

However a slight change in perception can reveal many things.  

First of all snow shovelling is an excellent workout. Why travel to a gym when your workout is waiting in your driveway? If done right it strengthens the upper back, shoulders and core. Lifting 10 lbs (4.5 kilograms) of snow upwards of 200 times and throwing it as much as 10 ft (3 metres) equals a good workout by any measure. And according to MyFitnessPal it burns 585 calories per hour. Cyclists could benefit from the mid-winter upper body work and the calorie burn.

Any time spent outside tends to relax and open the mind. Add exercise and even better. For however long it takes to clear my driveway, my mind is able to reflect on recent events; creative ideas come and go by the dozen it seems. I become more in tune with who I am and can create space for what remains in my day. It’s all good!

Personally, what I like most about shovelling snow is that it takes me back to the times when I shovelled snow beside my Father. As a commercial fisherman, he was home more in the winter than the spring, summer or fall and that time was golden. I probably didn’t like shovelling then, but I’m glad I did it. The conversations, the sense of security and the lessons learned made me a better person. He actually taught me how to shovel snow.  Yes, there is a “better” way in case you were wondering.

Blocking snow in Nova Scotia

It is a simple technique: You just block-up the snow. This way you only lift as much as you or your shovel can handle.  There is no spilling of snow from the shovel requiring more clean-up. You readily see the progress of your efforts.  It makes a really neat clearing.  You can throw the snow further back making room if a larger snowfall should happen later and snow doesn’t tumble back down on the recently cleared areas. There is likely more reasons that didn’t come to mind in that brief brainstorm.

The best snow shovel

I find a basic long handled shovel perfect. I replaced the original handle on my shovel with one that increased the length to nearly 6 ft (180cm). I can reach further and throw farther with almost no involvement from my lower back. The plastic blade doesn’t stick to the snow, it is light and durable. I have shunned the use of snow scoops for various reasons. Snowblowers burn gas, break sheer pins, lose chains, get clogged, produce large plumes of snow that blow back in your face, cost a lot, can be hard to maneuver and sometimes just wont start.

Since starting FreeLander Bicycles a few years back I have taken a minimalist approach to most things.  As with vintage bicycles, a simpler approach is often better.  Why would you ride a bicycle with all the components for 27 speeds when a three speed is perfect for city riding?  This is consistent with Patrick Rhone’s Amish approach to technology and the ubiquitous minimalism movement which are liberating to say the least. I love my simple shovel. Just something to think about. 

Take care,


Snow Shovelling in Nova Scotia

Ahhhhh...Winter! January 08 2017

I have discovered that winter riding is really what I love the most.  I shouldn’t be surprised since I consider myself a winter person anyway. Most of my childhood leisure time was spent outside with my father during the winter months, while his commercial fishing boat sat idle frozen in ice at the wharf. That and the fact that I find the heat of summer uncomfortable at least.  Besides, extended summer touring rides, I prefer the crisp, fresh air and white landscapes for everyday rides.

Winter Riding

Of course winter riding comes with its own demands on equipment, preparation and perceptions.  I have written about some of my favourite winter riding apparel here and the public perception of the winter riding here. But at the centre of any riding, winter or otherwise, is the bicycle used for the task. Historically winter riding bicycles were beaters; old mountain bikes that no one cared about.  This made sense; in many climates road salt and grim will make quick work of any bicycle irrespective of the cost or quality.  Lately, fat-tire bicycles have made their way onto the scene as the premier choice for winter riding. These mammoth wheeled velocipedes seem ideally suited for this environment, although I have never ridden one. Their cost however can be a deterrent.

I have always been more of a generalist than a specialist when it comes to my bike choices. My go-to bicycle for the last 20 plus years was a rigid forked, hard tail, Deore LX equipped mountain bike purchased at a “sports store”, not a bicycle shop.  It has served me very well.  I used it to tour Newfoundland in 1993, do some light mountain biking, teach my kids how to ride and commute to work.  The LX components were smooth and reliable and the smaller mountain bike geometry was comfortable. I rode it everywhere.

Winter Riding

Sadly however the 21 speed drive train has been giving me increasing difficultly, despite regular maintenance and replacement, and the frame corrosion is causing me some concerns.  I think it is time to retire “Blacky”, the name my daughter christened this bicycle. But Blacky has taught me many lessens about winter riding.  I know that my next winter bike will have a single ring crank and I’m leaning towards a two-speed kick back Sturmey-Archer internally geared rear hub.  Front and rear cantilever or v-brakes, although I am partial to cantis. A used alloy frame with horizontal drop-outs is a must, if I can find one. The bars will have bar extensions for leverage when I need to muscle my way through deep snow. As for tires, I plan to use my current tires.  They are not studded but have great traction, making me question the need for studded tires for the majority of riding conditions.

I’ll keep you posted as to the progress I make with this project.  Hopefully I’ll be back on the road before winter is over.  I may be the only bicyclist to lament winters end…

Take care,


Out with the New and in with the Old! January 01 2017 1 Comment

You may have needed to read the title twice but rest assured it is written correctly.

We are very quick to dismiss with something familiar in exchange for a promise of something better. Do you ever feel that the pinnacle of performance has been reached in a past version and that the pursuit and development of newer (“better”) often falls short of the previous. I feel this way with bicycle gearing.  

Since the appearance of derailleur gearing, the number of available gears has steadily risen with some bikes now sporting 30 speeds or gears.  With this set-up comes a lot of specialized, individual parts that need to work seamlessly together but often don’t.  Performance is directly related to cost.  

Compare that to an Sturmey-Archer (SA) internally geared 3-speed hub that has fallen out of favour with the masses since the ten-speed boom of the early 80’s.  This hub provides you with three different speed options (hills, flat roads and late for work), easy shifting (the chain doesn’t move) and years of “no maintenance required” operation. Maybe the most desirable feature is that shifting doesn't require any technique. In my opinion, these hubs are the go-to gearing choice for everyday riding. Every time I salvage a bicycle and discover a SA 3-speed hub I feel like a kid looking down and spotting a $50 on the sidewalk with no claimant in sight. The best part about Sturmey-Archer is that they are still being manufactured today.  

Sturmey-Archer 3 Speed Shifter

I just finished installing a SA 3-Speed hub with drum brake on a 1950’s Sunshine-Waterloo (A full review of the restoration is forthcoming). Along with easy 3 speed shifting, this model has a lever operated drum brake.  The brake is also internal meaning fewer parts to rust or get knocked around that will later require repair or servicing.

My next project is building a bicycle with a SA 2-speed kick-back gearing whereby I have one easy gear and one easier gear. I simply back pedal a quarter turn to shift from one to the other. Of course there is also the single speed coaster-brake bicycle.  With the right gearing you’ll wonder if you even need gears.  You would be literally fascinated with the number of very useful bicycle technologies that are out there that have been overshadowed by modern day bicycle monoculture.

Bicycle shop

I’ve noticed this trend in other areas of life as well. Although new clothes may be appealing in the short term, buying used (old) better made clothing from thrift stores is a much better investment.  Often the brand name clothes found at thrift stores lasts longer and performs better than newer articles bought at department stores.

Whether it’s bicycles, clothing, furniture or most other things, there is value and economy in buying quality, previously owned items. This is to say nothing of the environmental benefits, the change in consumption patterns and the enjoyment you get from stuff that works like it should.

Thrift Store

I prefer striving for continuous improvement in stead of resolutions.  So in 2017 I hope you are able to consider each of your purchases individually and think more about the options available to you. This time next year you can reflect on the money you saved (or spent) and the difference your choices made, whether in the quality of the experience that item provided or the overall impact on your well-being, the earth or others.

Happy New Year and Take care,


Disclaimer:  I do appreciate the need for multi-speed derailleur gearing for racing, touring and certain terrains.  However, for everyday riding I think three-speed gearing is ideal.

Excursion Around The Bay May 27 2016

I feel fortunate to have grown up and live in Nova Scotia. The Maritimes in general is the land of clean ocean air, nearly vacant secondary roads and ever changing scenery;  for a cyclist, this defines paradise.

So not to miss the opportunity to explore a little piece of Cape Breton that I haven’t ridden in a while, I drove to North Sydney to meet up with my sister.  On Sunday morning we drove to St. Anne’s Bay at the Base of Kelly’s Mountain to ride a 60km loop that is part of the infamous Cabot Trail.

If you haven’t been up early and outdoors in a while, let me remind you of what you are missing. As we pedalled away from the car we soon were soon cloaked in sunshine and the cool ocean air.  The songs of several species of birds welcomed us to the area and then at once the stillness left only the sound of our tires to break the silence.  May is a great month here. The temperatures for riding are perfect and every living thing is in a state of uncontrolled excitement; trying to get as much out of the short summer as possible. Just like us.

The first ride of the year is all about feedback.  Listening for (the presence or absence of) sounds from both the body and the bike to let you know everything is okay. Little accelerations test your legs just as short climbs test your lungs.  After several kilometres without cause for concern we relax into a rhythm and our bodies and bikes embrace like old friends. Our conversation to this point ends with Kelly making a reference to Avitar that I didn’t fully get.  (Must see movie!)

Gaelic College, Cape Breton Fishing Boat, Cape Breton St. Anne's Bay

The early part of the ride took us along the many tiny inlets of St. Anne’s Bay. The road follows the shore, twisting and turning, changing elevation only slightly as we go.  Views of the water are filled with geese and mergansers, wooden boats and the white dots that are houses on the far shore. We pass by the Gaelic College and beautiful riverbeds that were once invisible under a much greater sum of water.

St. Anne's BayThe scenery is simply superb.We cross the North River, the source of two beautiful water falls and the home of North River Kayaks.  On through Tarbot and Tarbotvale passing lots of interesting pioneer cemeteries, old abandoned houses and the shops of several artisans. By now we are fluid on our bikes and feel as much a part of the landscape as the river itself. Except our butts are beginning to hurt. The one question I get asked more than any other by my customers is “…have they learned how to make a comfortable seat yet?!” The answer is yes and no.  There are many excellent saddles out there.  It really comes down to choosing the right one for fit and firmness (the squishiest one not necessarily being the best and most comfortable). However, a good seat will do its part but you need to do yours, and that is to ride more. Just as your bike saddle may need a little breaking in so does your “seat” every season. Continued riding of increasing distances and frequency will relegate any uncomfortableness you may experience to a distant memory before long.

After 27 km we reach Route 312 and turn North. Nine more kilometres and we arrive at the Clucking Hen Cafe and Bakery. For reasons unknown there seems to be an explosion of restaurants being named using verb-animal combinations (e.g. the Prissy Pig and Dancing Goat). The Clucking Hen is a great little spot that serves a variety of healthy and more traditional options as well awesome coffee and baked goods. It is also in very close proximity to some wonderful shops. The Glass Artisans is a must see.  They host a variety of established international glass blowers and crafters at their studio in the community of North Shore.  You could spend several hours visiting the shops in the area including the WoodSmiths Studio and Leather Works by Jolene. We actually got to meet John, the previous owner of LeatherWorks, and had a wonderful conversation over lunch. Cycling is not just about the miles. The stops along the way are as memorable as the scenery.

The Clucking Hen Cafe and Bakery Wild Strawberry, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Englishtown Fishing Boat

The final leg of our ride continued South along Rte. 312 to the Englishtown ferry and onward to the head of the bay.  The wind picked up which made it a little more challenging but we had flat roads along the shore and causeway leading to the ferry. After 15 km we arrived at the ferry.

Englishtown is probably best known as the home of Giant Angus MacAskill. At 7’9” he was a true giant who was equally comfortable at home fishing as he was travelling the world entertaining with his height and strength. The giant is buried in Englishtown just down the road from a museum that displays many artifacts from his life.  Until recently (2008) the ferry that shuttles passengers across the bay was named the Angus MacAskill until it was replaced by the Torquil MacLean, named after a long time ferry operator.

The road along the Southern shore of the Bay includes 6 kilometres from the ferry to where rte 312 meets the Trans Canada (105). The last 2.5 km of this stretch kicks up 60m in elevation followed by a 4 km descent along the 105 back to the Lobster Galley Restaurant where we began.

Englishtown Ferry Torquil Maclean, Englishtown Ferry Torquil Maclean, Englishtown Ferry

As any cyclist will tell you, the ride doesn’t end when you dismount. In fact the adrenaline, euphoria, “runners/cyclists’ high, or whatever you want to call it lasts much longer. Even the fatigue that is waiting for me later today is a pleasant reminder of having done something awesome between waking up and going to bed. And when the fatigue is gone, the images from the ride will both sustain and inspire me until the next time.

Take care, Daryl

The Perfect Bicycle? March 23 2016

What would your perfect bicycle look like; comfy seat, easy to pedal, a beautiful colour? I agree. These are all characteristics of the perfect bicycle. The bicycle has evolved to be more that just a recreational vehicle. It can be much more. Today it is equally a symbol of conscious living, an extension of your personality and a way of exploring and getting around on this planet. So comfort and character should rank high on your list.

However, the bicycle you choose has to function first and should reflect your consumer values in terms of production and purchasing, then you put your stamp on it. So let’s look at the functional elements of what may become your perfect bicycle.

First of all, there is no such thing as a bicycle that will do it all. Although hybrids exist and lots of options provide many opportunities to customize, bicycles will always work better in one environment over another. Chances are you will be doing most of your riding on paved roads and smooth trails in a community setting. You probably want to get around at a good pace but wouldn’t sacrifice comfort for going faster and want to feel steady while riding. As you gain confidence you will want to ride as often as possible, even in less than ideal weather to do more and more by bicycle.

So be that our criteria for the perfect bicycle, it would likely fall under the heading “City Bike”. First of all a bicycle has to fit. If it doesn’t, then it just won’t feel right. A lot has changed in term of bicycle geometry, frame sizing and tire size so the best way to choose a “size” is to ride the bicycle and have a knowledgable person guide you through riding position while making some adjustments to the setup of the bicycle. Feel is often more accurate than frame size in finding the right fit.

Numero deux on the list is gearing. Most bicycles have a lot of gears these days which are unnecessary and detract from the joy of riding a bicycle. Many casual riders are so focused on how and when to change gears, they never get to experience the euphoria that comes from a long, pleasant bicycle ride. My advice on multi-speed bicycles is to find a gear you like on the easy side and just stick with that for a while. Once you are comfortable with that one gear then learn to use the one harder and one easier gear on either side. That will be likely all you need. And remember the most fun and easiest gear is called “coasting”.

That said, you may only need one, three, five or ten speeds, not 18 or more. I am partial to three and five speeds. But what is even more important is the size of the chain rings on the front and sprockets on the back. The front is the more important; and the fewer teeth the easier.  I like  32-36T, but most would say that is too low. Most bicycles have between 38 and 48T on a single chain ring or for the middle/small chain wheel on a triple or double front set respectively. Just remember, smaller/easier on the front.

A "Mixte", which means "unisex" in French. An upright that gets its pedigree from road bikes! A Canadian Made Raleigh 5 Speed The Classic Raleigh 3-Speed Sports. By the way, owned by a female rider; There are no ladies and mens bicycles, just bicycles!

I think a general consensus would be that most bicycles (including vintage) are geared too high (hard) for the average rider. They are fine on very flat roads, but truly flat roads exist almost nowhere. Most places have hills and some have lots of them. In most cases it is easier to lower the gearing on a vintage bicycle (and for less money) than to convert a newer bicycle to lower gearing.

Fenders! Fenders were standard issue on most bicycles built before the 1980’s ten speed bike boom hit. If you speak to a European about bicycles, they often question why most of the bicycles sold in North America are sold without fenders. For those who compete on their bicycles, fenders are not necessary as weight and accessories detract from the function. Unless you fall into that category, your bicycle should have fenders for obvious reasons. It is nice to see the resurgence of bicycles that come with fenders as standard equipment.

Baskets and racks (carriers) are also essential equipment for the average rider. Racks are best for carrying any amount of goods securely. Lots of options exist for loading up on groceries or carrying other rather bulky materials around by bicycle. Baskets are great for smaller lighter items such as a small purse, water bottle, lunch, etc. In the end, it will take a while for you to decide what you need to carry on your bicycle and what (basket, rack, etc.) is best suited for the job. Just be sure to try different options and to speak to other riders about their preferences.

Then there is the seat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “have they learned how to make a comfortable seat yet?” The answer is “yes and no”. Seats (or saddles) are made of very comfortable materials these days. The problem isn’t really the seat in most cases, it’s your bottom where the discomfort exists. You need to break in your butt more than the seat. Yes, there are  good and bad seats, and fit is a factor, but generally speaking you will always need to break in your butt as well. Try taking shorter trips at first and increasing the time in the saddle over a period of weeks and months. Usually this will resolve the conflict. If not, do visit your local bike shop and discuss a replacement.

Now that all the mechanical, technical stuff is out of the way, we can talk about the fun stuff.  The style should match your personality so long as it fits and is comfortable to ride. Some like road bicycles and some like loop framed city bikes. Other like classic English three-speeds while others like the raised “camel’s back” top tube of vintage CCMs. Of course this wide of a selection in only available in vintage bicycles. With vintage bicycles you have access to every style ever made!

Once a Raleigh "Racer" road bike; Now a cruiser One of my favourites; Jodi's low geared city bicycle in beautiful blue Pure "10 Speed Bike Boom"! Canadian Tire SuperCycle 10 Speed

Colour is also important. If you decide to go with a full restoration of a vintage bicycle, you can choose whatever colour you like. It seems that bicycles once came in many different colours compared to todays selection of new bicycles. Then there is that one of a kind, only age can do that colour, called patina. As paint ages it takes on it own characteristics like good wine and great friends. And don’t be afraid to put your own touches on it. Decorate it if it’s your style. Just enjoy riding it!


Take care,


p.s. Your's may be in here somewhere :)

Metamorphosis March 14 2016

About a year ago I was fortunate to get to speak to a small audience of bicycle enthusiasts about bicycles and my "greener" approach to acquiring a bicycle, namely restoring an existing one. This took place at our local public library and Greg, the branch manager, I discovered was a strong supporter of the bicycle culture here in Pictou county. We had a wonderful discussion about cycle touring and he expressed interest in doing more of it.

So when I received a message from Greg recently saying he had a frame he wanted built into a sport-touring road bike for an upcoming week long tour, I was excited and envious; excited for the restoration and envious of the trip.

Greg's bike was a c.1981 VeloSport Escapade 10 speed originally designed as an upright city bike/commuter. The frame geometry was very typical of road bikes of that vintage so it was ideally suited for the intended conversion.

VeloSport was a truly Canadian bicycle company that made bicycles of all styles during the 80's. In my opinion they were some of the best valued bicycles made.  The fact that 36 years later this bicycle could be easy converted is evidence of that fact. Not only did they make quality entry level bicycles, but some rather well designed and equipped road and touring bicycles

So Greg and I met over coffee to discuss details of what he wanted.  After about 30 minutes we had decided what stays and what goes, identified the quality of components he was looking for and the budget and time line to work within.

Velo Sport Escapade Velo Sport Escapade Frame Velo Sport Escapade Conversion FreeLander Bicycles

Original VeloSPort Escapade

Credit: Stephane LaPointe

Greg's Original Escapade Frame

Sport Touring Conversion

This first order of business was to get the wheels turning.  The rear wheel is an Araya (Japan) rim laced to a Suzue (Japan) hub. The front wheel consists of a Weinmann (Belgium) rim with reinforced eyelets laced to a Mallard (France) hub. Both hubs were completely disassembled, cleaned, polished and repacked with Mallory marine wheel bearing grease and the rims were cleaned/polished and checked and adjusted for “true”. New 27 x 1 1/4” (32-630) Kenda Kwick Tendril tires were installed. These tires are a blend of durability, efficiency, and control. They now turn beautifully.

Drive Chain

The original steel, cotter crankset was replaced by a Sugino #6 52/40 crankset consisting of alloy arms and steel rings. The bottom bracket was upgraded to a sealed Shimano 122 mm cartridge style.  These units require zero maintenance and the length provided a near perfect chain line. A very nice indexed Shimano freewheel was installed.  Indexed freewheels provide smoother shifting even on non-indexed drive trains. A new KMC Z33 5/6 speed speed chain was cut to length and installed. The Vintage Shimano RS rear derailleur (RD) was removed, cleaned and reinstalled. The front derailleur is a Shimano FE model in very good condition both mechanically and cosmetically.  Shifting on the front rings is smooth and precise. A set of vintage Shimano stem shifters controlled the new front and rear derailleur cables. The cables and the cable housing were sprayed with a rust preventing lubricant.


A vintage set of Dia-Compe road brakes were installed. These are a quality brake set that include quick release cable tension levers for conveniently removing wheels. Two sets of new Alhonga 50mm brake shoes were installed. The cables and housing are all new. A period matching set of Dia-Compe brake levers completed the setup. The stopping power is very good.

Handle Bar, Stem and Headset

What make this a road bicycle in  visual terms is the alloy road (drop) handle bars that were installed. I used a short reach alloy stem and wrapped the bars with red foam tape. It was double wrapped around levers for extra cushion. The headset was in very good condition. It wa disassembled, cleaned and polished to make it sparkle.  Mechanically it was repacked with Mallory marine wheel bearing grease. A second spacer was added to compensate for the removal of the centre-pull cable stop of the previous brake set.

I took this bicycle for a test ride on my commute to work one day and absolutely loved how it performed; I didn't hurt that it was the perfect size for me. It was quick, agile and responsive.  There was a great transfer of power from the pedals to the road. It also had that perfect bit of flex that softens the bumps in the road.

I have two other Velo Sports in my inventory to be restored; After riding this one they will need to get done sooner than later.

Take care, Daryl


Is my bicycle too old to restore? March 09 2016 2 Comments

As spring creeps ever closer our minds start to fill with images of things we love to do.  Gardening, swimming and just maybe, riding a bicycle. It may have been some years since you last rode a bike. Yet of all the memories you could recall, riding a bicycle is a perennial flashback for many. Spliced on the end of that memory of you coasting down your favourite path is a new trailer of you doing the same thing this summer. And sadly, it often quickly fades in a cloud of doubt. Doubt that you could, yet you know you can.

The greatest buzz-kill however, is the thought of buying a new bicycle.  "Buying new" is what we have been conditioned to do when when need or want something. You may ask yourself questions like, "how many speeds?; what size?; what if I buy it and don't like it?; Can I afford it?" etc. This is a common scenario played out in the heads of would be bicycle riders.

Here is an alternate scene, a retake if you will.  Imagine riding that bike of your youth that you loved and then fast forward to the Summer of 2016 and imagine riding that same bicycle again. The one that fit you. The one you knew how to ride in all conditions. The one you could shift gears on, or not, and brake safely whenever you needed to. Did you think of this as an option for bicycling this season?

1979 Raleigh 5 Speed 1973 SuperCycle 3 Speed 1967 CCM Single Speed/Coaster

To get this show to theatre, lets begin with finding that bicycle of your past. In fact, you may still have that very bicycle.  Unless you grew substantially taller since last riding it, it probably still fits or could be adjusted slightly to fit you, maybe even better than before.  If you still have it, I bet you kept it inside somewhere, maybe even your parent's garage. It is likely in very good condition overall. Sure it will need some replacement parts (tires, chain) and a solid tune-up, but that may be all that is required to get you rolling again.

Don't be sold by anyone who looks at an old bicycle and says, "You'll never find tires for that; That will never be safe to ride; You should get a new one...they have 21 speeds now and are made of light weight aluminum; etc., etc.". You can still get tires for almost every bicycle ever made. Vintage bicycles were made of steel and built to take the abuse of several generations of everyday riding. And yes, new bicycles are lighter and have more gears, but is that an imperative for you to ride your bicycle.  In fact, bicycles sold by most chain stores (albeit, light, multi geared contraptions) are less safe because of the lack of quality manufacturing and failure of parts to work properly. As long as it is in reasonable condition, your bicycle is NOT too old to restore!

To cut a long story short, if you think of bicycle restoration in purely monetary terms, you miss the environmental value of repair and re-use. In other words, we should not just keep buying new imports of poor quality and throwing things away. Chances are, if you are reading this then you have some sympathy for this view. Bicycle Hub, 2010

I also happen to believe that your body remembers the bicycle you spent many hours riding.  Some call it muscle memory; I call it a feel for what's familiar.  I know that my 20 year old mountain bike, which is a tad small for me is the most comfortable to ride. Even more so than my seven year old, ideal sized, modern touring bike.  My mountain bicycle just feels familiar.

If you were to restore bicycle you already own there would be no learning curve.  No need to learn how the gears and brakes work.  No need to get used to the style and position of the handle bars or the way it feels on the road. A short, simple reintroduction is all that is required.

So now you are wishing you never got rid of your old bicycle.  Don't fret.  You can likely still find the same or similar model out there.  Either from a vintage bicycle shop, Kijiji, yard sale, private sale, auction, police sale...and who knows from where/who else! It is best however (unless the bicycle is in obvious "mint" or close to that condition) to have someone look at it.  Do be careful of "pickers", those who buy and sell at an absurd price, seldom knowing anything about a bicycle's condition and only about current eBay pricing of similar models. See this blog post for more on buying vintage. This actually happened to me this past summer.  I stopped to look at a bicycle I spotted while driving by a yard sale. The asking price was $40. I was told it was $40 because, despite a broken shifter and many other issues, it was "vintage". It was a late '90's big-box store brand worth exactly $0.  Don't let this story discourage you though.  There are many good people out there selling good bicycles at a fair price.  Your perfect bicycle is out there somewhere.

Rhonda's Dad's 1951 Raleigh

Leanne's 1985 ProTour Sole's 1980's Peugeot

So before you let that annual dream of riding a bicycle to town for brunch fade for another year, hop on the internet and search for your favourite bicycle of recent memory. Then contact your local bike shop (LBS) or one that specializes in vintage bicycle restoration and service, and start making some new memories. 

Take care, Daryl

#mykithasnospandex March 03 2016

I have been meaning to write this blog for a while and today was the perfect day to do it.  We have been having some great riding weather in Northeastern Nova Scotia over the past month.  No snow, perfectly dry and clear roads; heaven really. But today was a little different.  It rained hard and blew strong. Nonetheless, it was another great ride home from work. I credit the experience to the cycling “kit” I have put together over the past several …decades. For me it is the perfect assemblage of winter (spring and fall) cycling apparel I could ask for. It keeps me warm and dry, without any restrictions in movement.  It is light, portable and simply perfect. I’ll start with a jacket I purchased at Winners (yes Winners,) about three years ago. I am a thrifty, practical shopper always looking for something great for less.  I happened upon this jacket one evening and couldn’t believe my find.  It is a Mountain Hardwear and it has been absolutely ideal. It is a little big for me, but that means extra comfort and capacity while riding.  With taped seams, large utilitarian pockets, drawstring hood, underarm zippers and superior water proofing, I couldn’t ask for more.  The best part: I found it for $100 CDN (Reg. $350). If you are in the market for a new jacket, I can, without reservation, recommend this brand.

I belong to the group of men who washes their hair with a face cloth.  So keeping the heat in during cold winter rides is paramount. Up until several year ago I wore a very stretchy, thin, kids, purple polyester hat of a thing under my helmet.  It was thin enough and just warm enough to pass as a winter cycling cap.  Then I discovered Red Dots Cycling Caps. I ordered a Presta 100% wool winter cycling cap. I LOVE this hat, I mean cap! It is stylish, warm, easy to care for and has the best retractable ear protection. At $52 (USD) I now consider it a bargain. I would recommend contacting Red Dots directly when ordering to discuss size.  It was suggested I order a S/M despite measuring as a M/L. The S/M is the right size.  I since ordered a summer cap in M/L based on my original order form (before speaking to the sales person) and it is too big.

My kit was lacking leg protection since forever.  I absolutely hate (strong word, I know) wearing rain pants. So when I found RainLegs it was like the heavens had granted me a wish.  These light weight nylon “chaps” are super easy to put on and take off.  They don’t restrict movement in any direction and cover just the front/tops of your legs, where the rain and snow lands. You can’t over heat or sweat in them. Although the material is waterproof, on occasion I get a little wet depending on the angle of the precipitation or the speed at which I put them on (sometimes leaving a spot not covered). For riding pleasure I would give them a 8.5/10 in their current design. By comparison I would rate rain pants as a 0/10 for riding pleasure (…hate them).

Mountain Hardwear Red Dots Cycling Cap: Presta Rainlegs

Combining RainLegs with gaitors was my next great discovery. Gaitors tuck up nicely underneath the knee flap on my RainLegs and give unparalleled articulation at the knees. I use a pair of MEC gaitors like these that I purchased for hiking some time ago.  I really like the construction and quality of materials. The rubber boot strap and stainless buckle are well thought out construction details for this climate. Deep puddles, slush, curb dirt and the great salt lakes of Westville cannot breach these fortresses.

For pants I wear jeans. I ride in what I work in. 

Then there is my most favourite foot wear (even if you’re not supposed to have favourites. Oh, that’s your children): Blundstones!  I have been wearing these boots year round for two decades now and will likely never buy another brand of boot. I wear them everywhere, for everything. They never let me down. On the bicycle my foot feels safe, protected from injury and the elements. My feet never get cold, hot or uncomfortable. They are true to size always. Once you choose a size you don’t ever need to try them on again.  Buying boots now takes me about 60 seconds.  “Can I have a 560 or a 500 series in ten and a half please; …Debit;… no bag, thank you;…see you next time”. Done. Some also come with a built in temperature gauge.  Whenever the temperature falls below-12C, my soles will click on the floor for the first five minutes after entering a building. Cool, eh!

Finally, my gloves.  I don’t remember where, when or why I bought these gloves. But I can’t imagine being without them.  Discovering I no longer have them with me when out and about puts me into an immediate state of panic about where I might have left them.  Everything stops and rewinds until I recover them.  I am not sure if Activa is the brand or model but that is all I have to go on.  They have been with me for a while and continue to impress me. No less than seven materials are listed on the tag with synthetic leather coming in at 55%.  Made in China, these gloves have kept my hands warm on all but the coldest of day and even when wet! The fit is perfect and the feel is uncompromised. Sadly they are near the end of their life. But I think I have found the Holy Grail of Cycling Gloves through another blog.

Oh and Finally (the sequel) is my wool sweater.  Everything about wool is amazing.  It is warm, flexible, wears well and doesn’t trap odours. I found this one at Frenchy’s (second hand clothing chain).  It cost about $7 CDN. and came with a few holes (included in the price). I never leave home without it. I have grown a little, it has shrunk a little, but we are unstoppable together. Go find yerself a wool sweater!

Gaiters and Blundstones "Activa"? Gloves My Cosy wool sweater - Kiah!

So after many years of cycling and sparing you from many unwritten reviews of less than great apparel, I give you the all-stars. I wish you to know that I make no claims about these being the right items for you.  I am sure they would rank highly in any objective evaluation nonetheless.  The point I am trying to make is that they are perfect for me.  So the message to you is to keep your eyes, ears and wallets open for the gear that is perfect for you.

Oh and #mykithasnospandex

Take care, Daryl




Of Bicycle Crates, Boxes & Trunks (Part II) February 27 2016 2 Comments

Getting around by bicycle is a liberating experience.  Once you make the decision to leave the car at home the first time, taking the car will always seems like second choice. After your first few trips by bicycle you will begin to think of ways of doing all of your transportation by bicycle.  You will begin to devise ways to complete the most onerous of errands by bicycle and even the impossible tasks will not be forfeited without a fight.

On most rides you will need to carry only the essentials. My essentials amount to a satchel (or purse), Rain Legs® and extra mitts and a balaclava in winter. The only other items are a few bits and pieces of projects I am currently working on and a few tools.

Therefore a large wooden crate does not appeal to me for the reasons mentioned in Part I of this post. I much prefer small wooden boxes with a lid or some other similarly sized up-cycled item designed for carrying a small amount of stuff. That brings us to two of my favourites: the vintage metal picnic basket and hard-shelled luggage vanity.  

Metal Picnic baskets made in the c.1950’s from General Steel Ware (GSW) and similar companies have much to offer.  Their size, at approximately 10 x 10 x 12” (25 x 25 x 30cm), is almost perfect.  They are neither too high nor too long to be interfering with your saddle or hanging off the rack significantly. My favourite feature is a lid that completely seals the contents from any form of moisture that should test it. The weight (~2.5 lbs; 1.2 kg) is half or less than that of even most smallish wooden crates.  The ~1 cubic foot volume is often more than enough for the essentials and a few extras.

You can usually find these baskets on Etsy, and at yard sales and flea markets.  The variety available is catalogued well on Pinterest.  As with anything that increases in popularity or function, the price will rise to reflect that.  

Before you buy ensure that the joins and hinges are still sound.  It is not uncommon for the joins near the top to begin to open up.  The second thing to look at is the hinges. They too can become de-crimped. The third would be the handle rivets where they attach to the sides.  Although some rust is typical, look for one that has minimal rust.  Some baskets have a painted interior and others are left as bare metal. Painted is always preferred. 

Since you are likely choosing this item for aesthetic as well as functional elements, you will want to know if it has been cleaned.  The best looking ones will have been cleaned and treated with a rust remover/neutralizer. As added protection they should be waxed or sprayed with several coats of lacquer.  The ones sold by FreeLanderBicycles through Etsy are treated this way. Don’t buy the first metal basket you happen upon. Watch for a good one, as described, and expect to pay between $35-50 CDN ($25-35 USD) for it.

Then there is the Hilton of Bicycle Trunks. The hard shelled (Samsonite) luggage vanity. I mention a brand name here because they are the best. The Sears “Forecaster” model is a close second.  The appeal of vanities is their perfect size and style. At approximately 14" (36cm) x 8" (20cm) x 8" (20cm) they fit neatly behind the seat and do not extend beyond the length or width of the carrier. With a lid (that often locks) and detailing typical of 1970’s luggage they really are handsome.

Sears Forecaster Vanity Sears Forcaster Vanity Samsonite Vanity
Sears "Forecaster" Interior with tray and mirror Samsonite

If you are looking to carry just a few personal belongings like a small purse, lunch, book, hat and a few tools, these are great. Many also contain a tray, useful for items like keys, hand cream, etc. On all the vanities I have up-cycled, a mirror in the lid is a standard feature as are 1-2 pockets. Some have a fabric lining as well.

The only concerns are the condition of the plastic.  All of the Samsonite and Sears brands I have seen were in excellent condition.  I have seen one other (name unknown) whose plastic was thin and had dried and cracked. A few minutes looking closely at the exterior will tell you whether the condition make it worth purchasing.

Vanities seem to be increasing in price. Whether you plan to use one as a bicycle trunk or not, they make wonderful pieces of luggage even today. Expect to pay the same as you would for a metal picnic basket ($35-50 CDN ($25-35 USD)) from a seller. Again, it should be thoroughly cleaned and in very good to excellent condition. If you find it for less, grab it.


Regardless of whether you have a wooden crate, picnic basket or vanity, the installation is the same. The most important step is determining the position.  Position the trunk on the rack so that it is far enough back not to interfere with you saddle and riding comfort. If it has a lid, be sure it can open freely (i.e. clear the seat). It is no great concern if it hangs over the back of the rack slightly.

Racks (carriers) are all different.  Some have rails, cross members and decks that need to be worked with when fastening your trunk.  Ideally while the trunk is in position, the holes to be drilled should be marked from underneath, using a Sharpie®. I prefer to drill the holes so the fasteners are located on the out side of the rails if possible.  If the combination of the rack and trunk prevent this, then look at moving the holes/fasteners to just inside the rails as long as the brace extends far enough under the rail so that any shifting will not have the trunk detach. Once the position of the holes are marked, remove the trunk and measure the distance of the holes from the sides and each other and adjust to ensure they are evenly spaced. Finally drill the holes, from either direction using an appropriate size and style bit for the material and fasteners to be used. Be sure to take the time to do it right. 

The choice of hardware is between wood and metal plates. I use both.  I prefer wood for wooden crates and metal for picnic basket and vanities. The wooden braces need to be cut to length.  I generally use 1/2-3/4” thick by 1-1 3/4” stock.  Maple, oak, birch and poplar are best and pine and spruce will do (although a little too soft in my opinion). Each (2) of the rack braces will have two holes drilled in the middle of the width the same distance apart as the holes marked on the trunk. If using metal braces you are limited to the position of the pre drilled holes. I find this painfully limiting. If you’re lucky, they will align with the holes marked.  However, more often than, not you will need to reposition the holes on the trunk to meet with the holes on the brace.  Do not compromise the union between the trunk and the rack with poorly positioned holes.  If necessary, consider drilling new holes in the metal braces to match the ideal location in the trunk.

Wooden Braces on Bicycle Trunk Metal Braces on Bicycle Trunk
Wooden Braces on Bottom Steel Braces Interior Brace

Fasteners should be stainless steel or galvanized. The diameter should be sufficient for the task (#8 size). I prefer a pan-head that sits flush on the inside of the trunk. Whatever trunk you choose, use a interior brace or suitably large washer (e.g. fender washer) to prevent the bolt from pulling through and/or damaging the trunk. Once the bolts pass through the trunk, rack and exterior brace, install a washer of suitable size and a nylon lock nut.  Nylon lock nuts are really dependable for keeping your trunk in place. You can let the bolts travel in either direction (inside to outside or vice versa) based on preference.  Tighten until good and secure but don’t over tighten.   

Ride cautiously for the first few trips and adjust if necessary.  Also be sure to get a feel for how the trunk and contents affect the handling of your bicycle. 

A complete guide to installing a pre-drilled trunk can be found at:

We list of our trunks on Etsy. It seems to work better for this item. You can find them at as well some of our other up-cycled goods.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any comments or questions, feel free to join n the conversation.

Take care, Daryl

Of Bicycle Crates, Boxes & Trunks (Part I) January 10 2016 2 Comments

Bicycle boxes and trunks have been gaining in popularity for a while now. They are a practical solution to the need to carry goods and essential items when travelling by bicycle. They were standard fare on the early “cargo” bicycles of the early to mid twenty century for moving items like groceries and mail, and as likely to be installed on a front rack as on the rear. Up until recently, the practical and thrifty model was the milk crate, which in all honestly is an ideal item for transporting goods in this way.

FreeLander Bicycles' Wooden Bicycle Crate Bike Pittsburgh
FreeLander Bicycles Photo Courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh

However the recent increase in popularity of commuting by bicycle and using it as a primary means of transportation, at a more fashion conscious time, has lead to the desire for something a little more aesthetically appealing and original.  Coupled with increasing environmental awareness, up-cycled items and new or vintage wooden crates have become the items of choice. A box, crate or trunk is of course for the average bicyclist, in lieu of a full on cargo bike designed specifically transporting children or large or commercial loads.

I personally like the idea of crates and boxes.  Although I have done it on occasion, I do not like to ride with bags strapped to my shoulders of any configuration. Baskets are great but just not my style. And I prefer panniers of the fabric type more for touring than commuting (more on hard shell “panniers” in a future post).

Choices for a rear, top-rack, container are many. The most common/available and most desirable from my standpoint can be grouped into 1. Wooden crates, 2. Metal picnic tins and 3. Other items that were intended to carry a small to medium load with their original purpose. These include hardshell luggage vanities, lunch boxes, etc.

Wooden Boxes

HOBO Wood WorkingThese are by far the most common and sought after.  Wood as a natural, renewable material is very appealing both to look at and use.  Many who choose wood crates also do so for the vintage element often seeking out one with a producer or regional logo or text emblazoned on the side or end. My heart soars when I see something repurposed rather than abandoned and discarded. There are also new, hand crafted wooden boxes, often with slated sides as opposed to solid available from merchants on ETSY and others. The benefits of going new is again the material, look, ease to work with (install), but also the variety in choice and availability.

I do have some concerns about using wooden crates however, especially the up-cycled ones. Firstly, it needs to be in sound condition. Damage to the crate may only add to the character and atheistic, but if the damage compromises the structural integrity, stay clear. Some may be repairable, but that needs to be added into the cost and time it will take to get it ready. Also one needs to have, or find, the available resources and skills. Most notable and often however, a wooden box is discovered and no thought is given to whether it is suitable for a bicycle.

Often the size and weight of a crate can make it dangerous and uncomfortable.  The size and construction of the box determines it weight and the potential weight of it contents.  Thicker wood, hardwood, heavier fasteners all contribute to the weight. Many crates I have seen for sale are simply too heavy. Weight varies, but 5-10 lb. (2.25-4.5 kg) is average. If size and weight are too great, it increases the “sway” a rider will feel as they pedal, especially out of the saddle. If it is too long, it will extend beyond the rear carrier too far and/or be pushed up against the rider’s saddle and “seat”. If the size is generally too large, the potential weight it can hold may compromise the rack or its connection to the frame, especially if there is sway. For me, it is the location on the rack, against my seat (it sometime feels as if you’re sitting on a wooden rail,) that makes large crates so undesirable. There is also the issue of scale; some large crates simply look odd on bicycles.

Smaller crates however are a joy. Light, low sided, not too long and made of a softwood such as spruce or pine, or a thinner hardwood fit this criterium. Even though it may be shorter in the sides, you can still carry a significant amount of cargo as it will extend up slightly past the sides and can be lashed down with a net or shock-cords. Smaller vintage crates negate all the concerns mentioned above. Best of all, although new materials are being used, is a crate designed specifically for bicycles. Although they will generally come at a greater cost, you are helping someone pursue their passion and you are getting a well-made, hand-made, beautiful, practical and purposefully designed crate.

FreeLander Bicycles' TrunkThe only drawbacks to ideally suited crate as I see it, is the open top and security. Contents must be secured to prevent loss.  More significantly may be their exposure to the elements.  Many will use a waterproof bag of some sort to put their goods in before placing them in the crate.  Others will make, or try to find, some type of cover or lid.  This may or may not be possible or even entirely water proof in the end.  Also, without a locking lid, leaving anything in the crate, is not advised. 

Maintenance should be a consideration of any item you own. Wooden crates are best protected with an annual application of tung oil or some other similar protectant that is comparable with the existing finish.

The cost of both new and up-cycled crates varies greatly from $30-$100 USD or $45-$140 CDN at time of posting. At times there can be just as much, or more, work put in restoring a crate as compared to building one with new materials. In the vintage category, the rarity, condition and iconic value will also be factored into price. 

Maybe this is more than you wished for or needed to know, but hopefully you will now be able to choose the perfect wooden crate for your bicycle. But wait! There are other options. The next instalment will look at two alternative to wooden crates: the hard shelled luggage vanity and the metal picnic box. It will conclude with installation considerations for all three types. 

Take care, Daryl


Jodi's Custom Blue June 28 2015

It is great to know that others see the merit in restoring vintage bicycles. I met Jodi briefly at a market.  Later she emailed me about the possibility of building her a bicycle:

Hi there - I saw your bikes at the market in Antigonish on Saturday and fell in love!
Ive been looking to buy my first bike since I was a teenager (Im 44!) and have been looking at different options. I cant afford to buy a beautiful new light blue cruiser with a box on the back and a basket on the front (my from a bike shop...I do see bikes that fit this description in Walmart and Can tire but doubt they have any quality at all. I like the idea of refurbishing rather than landfill filling. Do you have anything currently in stock that may suit me? Im a single mom with university aged kids, so Im on a tight budget. I appreciate your response. Have a good day!

This warmed my heart. It is exactly what FreeLander is all about.  Helping people find a bicycle that they can enjoy, afford and is easy on the environment.  So after a few more emails and pictures, we set off to build Jodi her "dream cycle".We started with a generic step-through frame and stripped it to bare metal.  The colour blue was chosen and the paint applied.  It came out fabulous. Next we looked at the existing parts that came with the frame and what used parts we had that were suitable to see where we could add environmental "value" to the bicycle.  In the end the frame, wheels, one brake calliper, stem, headset and seat post were all recycled.

Next came the drive train.  Personally I find most bicycles geared too high (hard) for everyday riding.  The size of the front chain ring ('sprocket') is a major factor in how easy a bicycle is to pedal.  They are sized according to the number of teeth present.  For example a road (racing) bicycle will typically have two chain rings, a 42T and 52T. The other determinant is the size of the cogs ('sprockets') on the back wheel. The most common set of cogs are 14T-28T. The easiest gear is when you place the chain on the smallest in front and largest in the back. We gave Jodi's bicycle a 36T chainring.  This made cycling up hills a breeze and still allowed cruising at a good clip on the flats.

The other aspect of the drive train that makes for ease of use is indexed shifting.  Shifters (gear control levers) were once all friction.  That meant having to "feel" for the gear, often resulting in the chain not finding its place precisely on the desired cog.  Newer index shifting, means when the shift lever is pushed or pulled the chain will automatically find its place aligned on the next cog, either up or down, as desired. The remainder of the drive train (rear derailleur, chain, pedals, bottom bracket and freewheel (cogs) were all new.

A cruiser style handle bar was chosen to provide Jodi with an upright riding position and a new contour comfort saddle was installed to match the new tan FreeLander Leather Handle Bar Grips with cork underlay. Seat are like shoes; sometimes they need to be broken in and sometimes they need to be returned. So the option to swap the seat after a trial period is a great idea. A rear carrier (rack), flat brushed aluminum fenders and an House of Talents hand woven grass basket completed the look.  But more importantly, these are essential items for getting the most from you bicycle and being able to use it for commuting to work or running errands.  Sadly, these are left off most bicycles nowadays. Ah, but the real character of this bicycle comes from the Skull and Cross Bones decals chosen by Jodi to reflect here occupation as an x-ray technologist.

So as with all FreeLander Bicycles, Jodi now is in the "evaluation" phase. It is difficult to know if a bicycle is right for you until you have ridden it on many occasions along roads with different contours and elevations.  Hopefully, this bicycle will meet with approval.  If not, there is always the option to return it and try something different either from us or from another Bicycle shop. It seems that is is working out so good:

Hey Daryl,
I'm loving this bike so much. It's a real piece of art and certainly getting a lot of attention. I've been biking everywhere and getting better all the time. Thanks again so much. It makes me so joyful and full of light energy...

Take care, Daryl

Apollo MK II & Suntour Power Shifter Assembly June 10 2015

I acquired this really nice Apollo MK II.  One of the coolest things about this bicycle is the Fred Deely HeadBadge.  I understand these bikes were common on the West Coast but this was the first I have seen in my region.  Apollo bicycles were made in Japan and sold in Canada by Deeley Cycles out of Vancouver.

The Apollo MK II is nicely equipped with Suntour components including a V-GT Luxe RD, Compe-V FD, power shifters, Sugino Maxy Crank and BB, Dia-Compe brakes and levers, Shimano high-flange hubs and ARAYA rims.

The shifters were stem mounted Suntour Power Shifters.  These shifters were designed to offer minimal resistance when shifting into a lower gear.  It achieved this by employing a ratchet wheel and spring loaded pawl.  When the lever is in its desired position the pawl and friction from the [screw] would hold the derailleur in gear nicely.  To shift to a higher gear the rider would push the lever forward and the pawl would rotate the wheel breaking the friction allowing the derailleur to drop down into a higher gear.

Click for video on shifter actuation

Whether it was due to this type of shifter design or the concept of keeping both shift levers operating in the same direction while shifting to lower gears, the front derailleur cage moves inward or down when the lever is pulled moving the chain to the smaller (lower) ring. This takes some getting used to but I tend to like the concept.  To me, it feels easier and smoother to pull the chain to the lower ring than push it to the larger. [Click picture at left for video on shifter actuation]

While completing a restoration it is customary to disassemble most parts to clean and inspect and/or learn about the bicycles history and design.  Such was the case with these shifters. Most mechanics will carefully disassemble and reassemble in a very methodical way keeping the parts in order. However on occasion the reassembly goes awry and there is a need to consult technical diagrams and pray that someone on some forum, some where has encountered the same issue and resolved it successfully.

The problem I was having was that the right shifter was ratcheting in the wrong direction.  I looked to be assembled correctly yet did not hold the lever in place causing the RD to drop into the highest gear when the shifter was released. It seems that whatever information you find does not refer to the exact model you're working with. So I went with logic and knowing that the shifter ratcheted down.

The problem was an incorrectly positioned pawl and spring. I reversed the pawl and spring and although this orientation seemed the less likely one, it was in fact correct.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation, here are my notes and advice:

1. Do try to keep everything in order.

2. It does not seem to matter which way the ratchet wheel goes. Teeth up or down does't matter and the depth of the depression on the ratchet wheel seems to be the same on both sides. I did however face the teeth downward at the pawl. It seemed to make sense to do it this way.

3. The are two different size (diameter) slotted washers (#8 & #12). the larger one goes on the inside of the ratchet wheel.  The chamfered side facing the stem. The "washers" are thick unlike the "spacer spring (#11) which are very thin.

4. On the diagram #9 "slot washer" doesn't look like a slot washer.

In this particular style of power shifter the lever housing is symmetrical, meaning the position of the pawl and spring can easily be changed to an incorrect configuration. This photo shows what worked in this case.  Looking closely at the orientation of the teeth one can see I choose to orient them down.  This seemed like the more logical position allowing the pawl to ratchet over them as the lever is moved down.

After a 14 km test drive everything is shifting great. I'm looking forward to getting some miles in on this one before someone makes it their own.  If it hangs around too long I may need to paint it and call it mine!

Thinking of Buying "Vintage"? April 05 2015

FreeLander Bicycles Restored Vintage BicycleThere is something rewarding about owning and riding a vintage bicycle.   Vintage bicycles say a lot about who you are; your character.  You have bucked the consumerist ideology of buy now, buy new. You value the environment more than the latest trends in bicycle technology. Maybe it is the look and workmanship of a decades old bicycle you admire.  You likely ride a bicycle more for practical and recreational reasons than as an athletic pursuit. But buying a vintage takes a little more effort to ensure that the bicycle you buy will perform well and safe mechanically and lives up to your expectations.  First of all, there are many categories of “vintage” bicycles and bicycle sellers out there. Just to clarify, I am speaking of bicycles that are at least 25 years old and not simply a bicycle purchased recently and being sold.

So in an effort to identify some of the sources and post-purchase expectations for buying a vintage bicycle I offer some advice.  These are of course generalizations since every seller has his or her own reasons for selling. As well, every bicycle has its own unique story and condition. Overall, my best advice is to be patient, get some help if needed and do some research.

Vintage Bicycle Sources

Yard Sales:  These are bikes that are being sold because the owner has inherited it from an estate, their parents or it is their personal bicycle from a time when they rode a lot.  The owner simply no longer wants, needs or has space for it.  These are usually your best find.  These bikes have often been stored indoors and are being sold for a very reasonable price: $20-50. They are sold as-is.

Used BicyclePickers (to use the modern day vernacular), Antique or Second Hand Shops: These are bikes bought or obtained by sellers hoping to make a profit.  In my opinion, these bicycles are often overpriced and are of most uncertain origin and condition.  Often the pricing is based on a comparable bicycle seen listed elsewhere of unknown or better condition.  As a result, the prices are often inflated.   The seller will often gauge your knowledge of bicycles and use some general bicycle terminology or the brand name to convince you of the asking price.  Of course this is not true of all in this category but prudence on the part of the buyer here is essential.

(Retired) Neighbourhood Bicycle Mechanics and Shops that Sell used Bicycles:  These are often retired gentleman who have some/extensive experience working on bicycles either on their own or as a former mechanic.  They enjoy the work and sell bicycles to supplement their income.  They often have a variety of styles, makes, etc., including vintage models. Their bicycles have been tuned-up to varying degrees and are usually sold at reasonable prices ($100-200). They are a relatively good value. Bicycle shops that sell used bikes will also fall under this category.

Bicycle Restorationists: These are businesses that specialize in taking an old bicycle and making it new again.  They often work on and sell better quality bicycles or bicycles of a particular vintage/maker.  The main difference is that these bicycles have been stripped down and every part inspected, cleaned (replaced if needed) and the bicycle is rebuilt.  In many cases, this includes refinishing, or polishing and waxing the original paint. Some deal in only high end bicycles. These bicycles are the most expensive to purchase but also work like new and look great. In many ways, it is similar to buying a new bicycle, but with character.

Road Ready

What the potential buyer needs to acknowledge at the outset, is that buying a vintage bicycle from a yard sale or picker, will require that the bicycle be tuned up and have worn out parts replaced. Often the cost of having the work done by a bicycle shop will exceed the purchase price up to several times the original cost.  This off course depends on what you expect from your new ride. If “ridable and safe” is what you desire, then tires, tubes, cables (if present) and a tune-up may be just enough to get you going.  Expect to spend between $100-150 minimum.  That is assuming there are no major issues and this does not imply that the bicycle will work at its optimum. If the bicycle has parts that no longer work and need to be replaced your vintage bicycle dreams may come to an abrupt end (see below). The converse is also true.  You may have found a real gem that will cost you nothing but some air in the tires to get you rolling. The later is quite rare, however.

FreeLander Bicycles 26 x 1 1/2 F12 Bicycle wheel

Be aware that parts for many vintage bicycles are not commonly stocked by main stream bicycle shops.  For example a pre 1980 bicycle will likely have a non standard 26" (not the same size as the common 26” mountain bike wheel) or a 27” wheel which are no longer the standard wheel sizes. I guarantee you that the majority of local bicycle shops (LBS) do not have one in stock.  Nor would they have the tire to fit one. You may be able to convert the bicycle to a newer sized wheel, but then you are talking even bigger money.  Coaster hub, three speeds and freewheels are all part of the history of bicycle technology. They require special tools and knowledge that may or may not be available at your LBS. It often depends on the age of the shop and the age of the mechanics that work there.  Nonetheless, they do still exist. Or if your bicycle mechanic is willing, there are lots of resources out there, like Sheldon Brown, that they can get the “how to” from.

More often however, the conversation between you and the sales/service staff at the shop you go to will gently drift towards the amount of time and money it will take to “repair” your bicycle and for just an extra $__.00 you could have this shiny new bicycle with the most recent brake and shifter technology. It comes with a warranty and we will give you 20% off accessories at time of purchase.  And in all truthfulness that may not be a bad option depending on what you wheel into the shop. Just remember why you wanted a vintage bicycle in the first place…the look, the quality, the environmental considerations, etc. (But if you do decide to buy new, I may buy that “vintage trash” from you just the same.)

FreeLander Bicycles Restored BicycleOf course I would encourage you to buy a restored bicycle if vintage is what you’re after. That’s what I do and what I believe offers the greatest value in getting a vintage bicycle.  But it is not the only or best choice for everyone.  The important thing is to know your options. Then factor in your expectations and your budget.  Then go buy the bicycle of your dreams (or at least the best you can afford). In the end, just make sure you get a bicycle and enjoy riding it.  

Take care, Daryl




The Restoration of Brian's Norco Monterey March 03 2015

Sounds like the title of a novel. And there is a wonderful story behind this bicycle.  I met Brian at the Alderney Landing Market in the summer of 2014.  I had several restored bicycles on display and he asked if I do restorations and I said "yes!", of course. He told me that his bike was in need of paint and it was a bicycle he had for some years and didn't want to replace it.  Brian is a very tall man (~6'6") and his 65cm Norco Monterey Frame is not easily replaced. He had already invested in having it converted from its original Sport Touring set up to a more relaxed upright commuter; something I would encourage many more owners to do once their road bicycle becomes uncomfortable to ride.

The Norco Monterey was an entry level Sport Touring that was simply great value. The frame was built by Yamaguchi Sports in Sakai Japan of High Carbon Tange Seemless Steel Tubing.  It has a really nice Sugino 52/42 crank but most of the original parts were swapped out for index gearing. I previously restored a Norco Monterey SL which was the slightly more expensive and better equipped model. This bicycle rides smooth and fast. The steel frame is flexible yet snappy when asked to go fast.  The shifting is smooth and the geometry is comfortable. It is unfortunate that more attention isn't given to these bicycles by the average rider. There is a great deal of pleasure to be had in riding a steel bicycle that delivers on both character and performance.

The paint on Brian's bicycle was severely damaged.  We blasted the frame, primed it and painted it a metallic red. It wasn't entirely apparent until the finish was set that there was a fair amount of "pitting" which caused some slight irregularities in the finish. In hindsight, powder coating my have been a better option, but we wanted to go with paint to keep with the look and feel of the original finish.

A set of decals was created that was close to the original, but without the black border around the font. The gold down tube bars and the script Monterey were printed in vinyl and look quit dashing against the Red metallic. There were no mechanical issues to fix and no upgrades to install. The corroded chrome headset was replaced with a necco sealed 1" threaded set and looks and feels great.

The best part of restoring bicycles like Brian's is knowing that a great bicycle has been spared from the landfill; that others recognize the value in restoration. By keeping an existing bicycle rather than purchasing a new one, the environment has been spared the cost of production (in terms of energy and materials) and the waste produced in the process.

Other Options? January 24 2015

I am one of two riders I know of who lives in Pictou County that commutes to their daily commitments.  I am sure there is probably one or two more but we haven’t met yet. This is probably consistent with other small towns in Nova Scotia and increasing bicycle ridership is something both individuals and municipalities would benefit from greatly. A search for the “benefits of bicycle riding/commuting” will keep you reading for days!  

Now there are many reasons why someone may choose not to ride their bike to work, but the most common reason I read about and hear is rider safety. Fair enough.  However, most of the studies seem to come from urban centres where traffic congestion, limited routes or the shear pace of life are significant factors in our perception, and the reality, of being safe. 

Safety is always a concern in everything we do but in small town Nova Scotia, the threats to rider safety may be different. I seldom encounter any amount of traffic on my ride into work even at the busiest times and on the busiest streets. My route is divided between residential streets and main avenues (that connect adjacent towns) of which I have several routes to choose from. And in my communities no one seems to be in a rush, likely because they generally do not have far to travel. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that along the route I travel, drivers are very courteous.  So many urban concerns don’t seem as applicable in small town. 

To get more people riding their bicycles, most advocacy groups lobby for the creation of bicycle infrastructure that separates bicycles from car lanes, with European cities being the ones to follow when it comes to designing more safe places and ways for riders to get around. That would be nice but isn’t realistic here for one main reason: cost.  Small towns have little money to redesign or create bicycle transportation routes. 

Even though bicyclesSidewalk along commercial area entering Stellarton from Westville share the same rights and responsibilities as cars, the reality is the bigger vehicle often intimidates the smaller. Regardless of how safe or unsafe riding with traffic is, it is one’s perception of being safe that is the deciding factor as to whether someone rides their bicycle over extended distances for a purpose. Now I may be way off in suggesting this option, but there might be a partial solution in: Sidewalks! We all know that riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is not permitted; that they are designed for pedestrian traffic.  However, the reality is that they are often under-utilized “big-time”.  Most sidewalks (with the exception of “main street” business districts) see very few if any pedestrians throughout the day. It likely differs from town to town, but here in Pictou County it is surely the case. And in Pictou County there are sidewalks that connect the municipalities along many of the main routes through non-residential areas where there is no foot traffic anyway.

The goal is of course, is to get more people riding their bicycles with a purpose, such as commuting to work, running errands, etc., rather than just on occasion for recreation. Having access to the safety of sidewalks, removed from direct contact with traffic, may be an answer to the question “how can we get more people riding their bicycles?”  

So to begin the conversation, here is a few points to consider:

  • Pedestrians would still retain the right of way
  • Bicyclists would be required to use a bell to notify pedestrians when approaching
  • Bylaws may have to be amended
  • Signage and education would be paramount to success
  • Only specific sidewalks may be designated as “shared”.
  • The more a person rides, the more likely they will become comfortable with riding in traffic

The biggest concern I see with using sidewalks, even only if it is along certain corridors, is forfeiting the gains made in being accepted by motorists as riding in our rightful place along side them on roadways.  I am sure however that with the right approach, this too can be avoided.

So what do you think? Could it work?  Would you ride your bike more and further if you could legally use sidewalks for a part of your journey?  Let me know!

Everyday Change January 01 2015

So another new year has begun. I never really liked New Years’ celebrations. They always felt a bit contrived in their modern day form. But even more than the celebrations, I disliked the notion of making, and keeping, a New Years’ resolution. The promise and anticipation of a swift, successful, life changing commitment seems like a scam to me. We are made to think that by crossing this annual threshold great things, miraculous changes, are obligated to happen. Maybe it is not the idea of a New Years’ resolution that I dislike as much as the notion that if we fail to reach our goals, then we failed and need to wait almost another full year for the same opportunity. Like the day after December 31 holds some portal to a new you that doesn’t exist every other day. 

Probably the biggest single resolution made each January 1 is that of the promise to be more fit, active, healthy (stop smoking cigarettes) and to eat better. And these goals, and the way we approach them (think starvation and intense physical workouts, after two weeks of gluttony and lethargy) is like setting out to slay a dragon in your underwear. 

Some say telling others of your goals help improve success. Working under that pressure is sure to bring failure. I also think that when we broadcast a resolution, we are unconsciously looking for praise for just making a resolution. I think the true measure of successful change is when people ask you about a change they see several days, weeks or months later, to which you humbly reply with a simple “thank you”. Since it is not about appealing to others, the feeling that recognition brings is superfluous.  It is about appealing to yourself in a positive way.

To do list:  (by @WorldBikeForum)

To do list: (by )

In fact I would argue that before any change or challenge is undertaken, most of us need to eliminate and simplify, that is, make room for change. Trying to squeeze a workout into an already packed day is very stressful. Trying to eat better without the time to prepare a meal equals more take-out.

Real change generally takes time. Something we really have lost a sense of. When anything can be microwaved in seconds and complete homes can be built in the 38.4 minutes of an hour long HGTV episode, we begin to think the same way about personal change. We think that the more we do, or the faster we do it, the more time we will have for the good stuff. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but that seems to be how western culture has taught us to deal with busy schedules.

Change is a great thing, embrace it. “A change is as good as a rest” they say. The key is to choose your change and work it into your life; don’t attach it like an item on a project list, something you need to get to or get done!

Resolve never again to make a New Years’ resolution. Just be your best self. Target those things that you want in your life, be it better health, more control or greater joy and work slowly and make room for each. It is kind of like bicycle touring. There are so many things that get in the way between you and your goal for that day, mechanicals, weather, road construction, and every other imaginable obstacle, that if every setback was named a “failure” you would never reach your goal or the destination. More importantly, the joy of the journey and the little victories would be lost. Focus then not upon the big things but the little things, each pedal stroke, each apple eaten and each moment of joy that comes with just being in the moment.

Happy “Just-another-day-to-enjoy-life”. If you really want change then start by planning and making priorities. Then push off slowly, maintain your balance and feel the excitement of moving faster and farther in the direction of your goals. Off course I had to end with a couple of bicycle metaphors!

Take care, Daryl



December Wishes December 01 2014

Finally December is here.  There are few non-holidays that get my kids as excited as December 1st.  It is the date that assures them that Christmas is getting close. It is also the day that our Elf on the Shelf, Criddle, returns to keep an eye on them while Santa is busy fulfilling the Christmas list they made in October.

I also get to share in the excitement of the season as I travel to markets through Northern Nova Scotia and Halifax.  I am there to make sure that those buying for bicyclists have something fun, practical or unique to choose from that can’t be found in their Local Bike Shop. It is also great that in an age of overconsumption, many of the products we offer are practical and have been up-cycled or recycled.  Our Belts are made from discarded tires and our Bicycle Taxidermy keeps even more material, like seats and handle bars, out of our landfills. And of course our Bicycles are the epitome of buying and living green. 

And when a purchase you make help others, it doubles the giving.  That is how I feel when someone chooses one of our House of Talents Hand Woven Bicycle Baskets.  The baskets are handwoven from a tropical grass called elephant grass or veta vera. Asungtaba (the name given to the collection of baskets) means “helping each other succeed” in Frafra, the language of the community of weavers in Ghana where they are made. Thanks to the success of these baskets, House of Talents’ has been able to ensure that all the basket weavers receive health care as well as dramatically and sustainably increasing their household income. Now that is truly Giving!

I too have a wish list. Not a long one and with only a few items that can be bought since Christmas is really about family. But since this is a bicycling blog, I need to share my hopes for Christmas morning.  As any winter bicycle commuter knows, driving home in an unexpected snow or ice storm can be uncomfortable if you are not prepared for it. Currently the only piece of armour I am missing is something to shield my thighs from the elements.  However I would rather get wet than ride in rain pants. But my heart soared when I discovered RainLegs! I am hoping these are the answer to my quest and that Santa reads FreeLander’s Bicycle Blog.

And to help you buy for the bicyclist on your list we have lowered our prices on everything by 15%.  No exceptions! We want you to experience the joy of giving and receiving this season.  But more importantly we want you to ride your bicycle and live the life you’ve imagined. The sale runs from December 1-24 with guaranteed shipping if ordered by December 14th.  Just use the Discount Code “2014Sale!”. If you live in our region, there may be other ways to insure your purchase gets in Santa’s sack before Christmas Eve. 

Wishing Everyone a wonderful December of bicycle riding and a joyous Holiday season!

Take care,


FreeLander Bicycles

What do you mean, cold? November 22 2014

Each day I arrive at work on my bicycle I am greeted by colleagues who always have some words of envy, disbelief or congratulations to share: “I wish I was that ambitious” or “not a very nice day for a bike ride” or “that’s awesome that you take your bike to work”. 

Today it was “you looked cold”.  Hmmm? What does cold look like I wondered? I definitely didn’t feel cold.  In fact it was a beautiful, almost cozy ride in to work. It was a seasonal -20C, and there was a westerly wind, but it wasn’t “cold”.  Besides, I was dressed perfectly for the ride.  Wool socks in Blundstone boots, jeans, gloves and a long sleeve T under a wool sweater all wrapped up in an awesome jacket meant I had the upper hand in staying warm once I left the house. My wool cycling cap and the collar of my jacket left only my eyes and nose exposed.  Once I began to pedal, my muscles started generating enough heat that warm air rose up around my neck and kept even my nose from being able to tell the true outdoor temperature.

So what did I do to look like someone who was loosing heat? Or was it something else, an assumption, that was the basis of the “You looked cold” comment. If you want to encourage more people to ride a bicycle to work, and in the winter, you certainly shouldn’t look cold doing it yourself.

So I thought about what I saw on the ride in. There were construction workers bundled up, their breath condensing on exhale.  Car exhaust also rose up thick and white as cars stopped and started as they moved through the construction. But maybe more noticeable than the rest was the was the continuous stream of drivers that looked frozen to their cars’ steering wheels. To me they looked cold.




The conclusion I came to?  That sitting still in a cold car, with cold air blowing on your while you wait for the engine to warm up (which it never does on a 15 minute commute), dressed fashionably rather than practically for the climate controlled office meant that most drivers were in fact cold. And since we have come to believe that the separation between inside (indoors) and outside (outdoors) determines whether someone is cold or not, I was viewed as the one cold. 

My hypothesis that “cars are cold” was supported just the other day when I awoke early, threw on a thin jacket, left unzipped, no hat, no mitts and jumped in our van to get milk at the convenience store just 550 metres (.3 mi) away. I nearly froze. I drew my limbs in as close to my core as much as I could and proceeded to drive with only a single thumb on the lower part of the steering wheel. I was, and looked, cold. Somehow we have be conditioned to think they once inside a vehicle we are spared from the elements and that proper clothing is optional.  No wonder so many people dislike winter, when the day starts out with a hypothermic 15 minutes drive to work. 

On the very same day, I was leaving the office to get a coffee and do some marking at the nearby Tim’s.  As I was leaving I greeted a student with “How are you doing?” Her reply, a single word: “Cold!” I retorted with a smile and an equally simple phrase “Wear more clothes.” It seems we either have forgotten how to live in winter or convenience has made us lazy and fashion has conned us in to thinking it is not necessary to dress warmly.

Last winter during all the weather media reports, Rick Mercer of The Mercer Report had this to say:;, with apologies to Torontonians. Maybe he is right.

By coincidence I just finished reading Frost Bike by Tom Bain.  There is a chapter on how we, and other nations, deal with winter. It is becoming clear that we simply lack the desire and knowledge, or more so wisdom, to face and embrace winter.  And the cost is our health, happiness and the loss of opportunity to enjoy life at it fullest for a full quarter of the year.

Cold? Maybe a little transfixed on the scenery or the physical sensations of exercise, but cold? Far from it. My apologizes for looking that way but I was, in Maritime colloquial terms, warm as toast!

The Bike-it List October 06 2014

Probably the most challenging ride for a Nova Scotian cyclist is the Cabot Trail. The route starts and ends in Baddeck, a hamlet on the Bras d’or Lakes. Baddeck is well known for its restaurants, inns, golf and for being the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell.  The trip around the Cabot Trail is usually done over three days and takes riders through the beautiful Margaree Valley and over three serious climbs by the names French, North and Smokey Mountains. The highlight is traversing the Cape Breton Highlands National park from Cheticamp to Ingonish. If it is natural beauty you are looking for, you can trust the endorsing words of Alexander Graham Bell himself, “I have traveled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”

The first time I cycled the trail was in 1986 on a Norco Bigfoot Mountain bike and my companion was on a Fiori Modena road bike.  It was my first serious bike trip and inspired a lifetime of cycle touring and bicycle love. My bicycle became my ticket to personal freedom and discovery. But the Cabot Trail will always be my first great ride, and no matter where my bicycle takes me, I have no memories more vivid that those of the Highlands.

This year my sister Kelly made a commitment to cycle the trail with a friend on the Labour Day long weekend. Kelly is herself a lesson in how to make the things you enjoy doing a priority, like cycling.  This year her personal goal was to ride the Cabot Trail in the more common clockwise direction. With her friend Dave (who at 67 is only getting started by the looks of things) she completed the trail after a seriously long first day of headwinds followed by the day 2 mountain stage.  In her words…

"The morning [of the final day] started out with the climb up Smokey mountain which was pretty easy compared to yesterdays mission. Coming down was pretty steep and I'm thankful for my new brakes I got this year for Christmas. The rest of the way to Baddeck was in a headwind, but we didn't care. It was an awesome weekend. I feel so blessed and grateful for my friend Dave (who is 67 by the way) for encouraging me to do this trip again. Now I can say I've biked the Cabot trail from both directions and it’s officially OFF the bucket list.

Whether your male or female, 41 or 67 (give or take a decade or two), experienced or beginner, bicycle touring is a great way to live life to its fullest.  It doesn’t have to be a three day trek along the Highlands of Cape Breton.  It can be a half-day trip along a country road.  Wherever you go in Nova Scotia you’ll find ample nature to explore and enjoy which is second only to the feeling of elation you get from riding your bicycle.

Congrats to Kelly and Dave for completing one of the most challenging and beautiful rides in this part of the world. It may be off the bucket list, but it will always remain on every cyclist’s bike-it list.

Let’s go for a ride!


In thirty days... August 20 2014

I will turn thirty! Ok, so maybe not thirty. But it did occur to me that this would be a great opportunity to throw a party and let you all in on what I've been up to!

So consider this your invitation. Visit and take a tour. At FLB, we've been really busy this summer meeting new and old friends, hitting the road and getting this adventure rolling.  We'd love to stay in touch with you. If you create an account (no purchase necessary) you will be entered to win a set of FreeLander Bicycles' Leather Handle Bar Grips of your choice (Retail value: $30 CDN). So drop by and say Hello, Happy Birthday or 'How she goin' as is common in these parts and your visit may have you leaving with a little swag. 

Contest draw date is September 20, 2014.  Entries will be accepted until midnight September 19, 2014. Winner will be contacted by email.