November 25, 2012

Calgary Centre By-election: Nov 26

Well it looks like the left is about to do it again. I’m talking about handing the trophy to the Right without a fight.

The biggest disservice to Canada by a political party in recent memory has to have been the NDP handing the reigns of government to Stephen Harper in the first place. Until then he was a scary figure to most Canadians. He was unlikely to have won an election for Prime Minister outright.

By defeating the Liberals and handing power to the Conservatives, Jack Layton broke the cardinal rule. He handed power to the enemy thereby giving them the tools of government and all the perks one has to influence the outcome of future elections. What the NDP did was allow Stephen Harper to look Prime Ministerial and not so scary. They allowed him to position himself for the subsequent drive for a majority.

Of course, the NDP has always considered the Liberals the enemy and not the Conservatives in their naive drive to move Canada toward a two party system where they feel they would have a better opportunity to achieve power (a la Britain). In doing so they handed the reigns of power over to a brilliant tactician.

Tomorrow is a bi-election in Calgary Centre. The Conservative candidate is polling at 37% with the liberals in second place at 32%. The Greens are at 17% and the NDP at 12%. The riding has been Conservative since it’s inception in 2004 and prior to that the same area has been Conservative since dinosaurs roamed Alberta (which, in fact, they still do).

In the last election the Conservatives got 56% of the vote with the NDP in second spot at 16%. So the bi-election polls are showing a major realignment of voters’ sympathies. And as we know from Stephen Harper’s election, it’s easier to fight from an incumbent’s position than a challenger. What a sea change this would be for the political landscape.

The polls show that no one but the Liberals have a chance to knock off the Conservatives. Everyone else is way back. Nathan Cullen, when he ran for the NDP leadership spoke of cooperation among the progressive parties to unseat the Conservative. Elizabeth May expressed  similar thoughts.

Why then has it come to this? There is a chance to take a seat in the centre of the Conservative holy land. There is a chance her for a model of cooperation to unseat Stephen Harper in the next federal election. No one is asking the opposition parties to stand aside and not contest every close riding. But there are ridings where only one opposition party is close enough to unseat a Conservative and where the difference in polling suggests it would be an easy take. Calgary Centre is one such riding at a crucial time.

To think that the parties of progress might not be able to do the right thing is unbelievable. What we are witnessing is the handing of political power to Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada for the next federal election. If this is the future of politics in Canada then it will result in a real and significant cultural change as the Conservatives continue to stamp their misdirected interpretation of our history on this county.

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November 19, 2012

Shopping Advice re: stores that price match

I just thought I would add this observation as we enter the frenetic shopping time of the year. For several years now I’ve noticed that stores that price match are over priced.

For example, I went to Best Buy last week to buy a smart cover for my iPad Mini. I went to Best Buy because it was more convenient than going to Apple. Anyway, the cover is $45 at the Apple Store and they were charging $49.95 at Best Buy. Best Buy has a price guarantee so I was able to get them to confirm the price difference and sell the cover to me for $45.

However, the point is that they were over charging by 11% on the item.

I find this a typical scenario at such stores. They bring in customers with a promise to beat any other retailer, thus setting up an expectation that they are cheaper than other retailers. I presume they figure that most customers won’t price check and will just pay the higher prices. But it’s interesting that I have noticed that stores that offer price matching are usually more expensive.

A word of warning: if you’re shopping at these stores, do you homework first.

September 28, 2012

Playing with my Volkswagen

Ok, so call me superficial. I decided to buy a new car two years ago. At this point in my life I decided to finally get that ‘fun’ car that I always wanted: the quintessential ‘hot hatch’. I bought a 2011 VW GTI.

Since it’s a hatch that comfortably seats 5 and had folding rear seats and handles very well in the winter, it is also a practical car. It even gets good gas mileage for the performance it puts out. I’ve gotten two foldable kayaks and all relevant gear in it and can easily get three good sized hockey bags in the back.

So that was my starting point.

For some reason (mid life crisis or simply leaving children and therefore I can indulge myself) I got into this car and its possible modifications in a way I have never done with a car before.

And, being progressive, it is of course politically incorrect to be into cars. That might have been one of its appeals.

First mod? A tune. A chip. A reflash. These are all the terms used for after market reprogramming of the ECU (electronic control module–the brains of the car) for more power. Most cars, and VWs are known for this, are over engineered. That is to say, they can safely (up to a point) deliver more power without negatively impacting durability of components than the factory tunes them for. That means if you take care of your car then you can safely squeeze out more performance.

There are several companies that do this for VWs and the VW turbo engine (2.0l TSI) is particularly adaptable. I decided to go with the most popular North American tuner, APR, based in Alabama U.S.A. There is a Canadian company, Unitronic, a European, Revo and GIAC (? country of origin). They all deliver similar results but APR seems to have a very good reputation for customer service as well as a good dealer here in Toronto. So I went with them.

By the way, tuning the car actually increases efficiency and so increases km/l a bit.

Because VW doesn’t approve of this, the tuner must bypass the ECU encryption by removing the ECU and bench flashing it. There is a slight risk involved in doing this and so you must choose your tuner carefully and make sure they re-seal the ECU when it is replaced under the hood. Failure to do so has resulted in destroyed ECUs at a cost of just under $2000.

I chipped mine 18 months ago and am quite happy so far.

Chipping it increases horsepower by about 10 to 15% but increases torque by about 20%. It is noticeable when you step on the gas. It’s all very controllable, though. You just have to know how to drive.

So now I have a more performance oriented engine which will do 0-100 in about 6 seconds. As important, however, is that the stock suspension on these cars is great and cornering and on-ramps are a hoot.

A word of warning: if something goes wrong with the engine and VW determines it was the fault of a chipped ECU, they can deny repairs under warranty.

Applying power is nothing without control. I know I should have dedicated summer and winter tires but I decided to change over the stock (and pretty crappy) tires to Continental Extreme DWS (size: 225/45/17). These tires have a bit of a soft sidewall so aggressive cornering can feel a bit squishy. Personally I find them just fine but others have complained.

What is amazing about these tires is their grip on dry put particularly in the wet and slush. These tires are truly great in the rain and I feel a real added safety factor in wet weather. They have also been very good in the past two winters. I know last winter had very little snow but I was pretty impressed by their performance.

The DWS stands for Dry, Wet, Snow. As the tires wear and lose tread depth the S, then the W on the tires are worn down and disappear. That’s how you know what to expect from them. Two years into them I think I still have about another year on the S. In other words I should be good through this winter.

Next year we will see but I would buy these tires again.

I should note that I kept the 17″ wheels (most GTIs I see have upgraded 18″ wheels). The 17 s have better road feel (more comfortable as compared to lower profile tires), are cheaper to replace the rubber on and, since they are lighter in weight by at least 5 pounds (less inertial mass) they perform better in the corners. They also have better winter traction. I don’t know why people insist on getting the 18″ wheels. Looks, I guess.

So now I have the power and the contact with the road. Next I got a short shifter. The Audi TT has a short throw shifter that is an OEM direct replacement for the one that comes stock on the GTI. It is under $100 to purchase and instal. The difference isn’t huge but it makes the manual transmission just that bit nicer.

By the way, the DSG automatic transmission on the GTI is very nice. I’m just a ‘row the boat’ kind of guy.

These three mods are my main performance changes. I’ve done a couple of cute cosmetic things. I bought some decals to go over the dummy buttons that all cars have. The eject button on my console is my favourite.

I changed all the light bulbs in the interior of the car to LEDs. They are much brighter and much whiter. For $25 I really like the ambience that much better. I went with SuperbrightLEDs superwhite 5000.

To enhance level cornering and stiffen the body a bit I installed a Unibrace UB body brace underneath the car. As well, to prevent wheel hop and tighten up shifting through the gears I installed a modified polyurethane lower engine mount (cost all of $10 and makes quite a difference). Shifting gears is now a tighter more precise experience.

I’ve done a couple of minor cosmetic stuff I won’t bother mentioning for now.

Last week I disconnected the Soundaktor–a device under the hood that responds to the ECU to essentially pipe noise into the passenger cabin. They have so well insulated the passenger cabin that people can’t hear the growl of the engine, thereby detracting from the performance experience of driving the car. A number of high end cars do this.

I decided to see what the car sounds like with it disconnected. It’s not hard to do. You have to remove a rubber gasket under the hood, lift up the rain tray and reach under the windshield and disconnect. I am pondering this one.

The car is definitely quieter. On the highway it’s very nice. Around the city I kind of miss the growl that makes me feel I’m sitting on a more powerful power plan than I actually am. I may reconnect it in the future but for now it will stay disconnected.

September 28, 2012

Getting into squash

About 3 years ago I began playing squash. A little late in life but better late than never. It’s a sport that I’ve really come to enjoy. And the Athletic Centre at the University of Toronto has almost a dozen courts in pretty good shape… not to mention that the AC is a great facility that is very handy.

So, anyway, after several years I’m wondering about a new racquet and some stringing options to enhance my otherwise lame game. Me being me, I’ve researched the topic and thought others might benefit from some of the stuff I’ve learned.

Racquets:

There are two basic shapes. Almost everyone these days is using the teardrop shape with the open neck. Because the strings in these racquets are longer they give more bounce to the ball after being struck. They, therefore, result in more power. However there is always a trade off of power for control. A teardrop shaped racquet will impart less control.

Most teardrop racquets have a lower string density (usually 12 x 17 or so–that’s 12 vertical by 17 cross strings). That means each string is less tethered down and moves more with each ball strike, again decreasing accuracy of the shot.

The other basic shape is oval or quadra shaped. These racquets have closed throats. The string pattern is about 16/17, ie: a denser pattern for more control. But, there is less power imparted by an impact of the same speed and strength.

Contrary to what many people think, a tighter strung racquet is a less powerful one. The deformation of the strings and the resultant trampoline effect is what imparts speed to the ball. Tighter strings don’t move and therefore don’t trampoline as much.

That’s why teardrop racquets with longer string length and lower string density are used for power while the reverse is true for control.

Depending on your game, you should use a racquet that either enhances your strength or smooths out your weaknesses. I’m still working on what is best for me. My current racquet is more of a control oriented one (Dunlop Liquidmetal). More on my next choice later. Of course most racquets promise to to enhance both, but there is always a trade off.

Strings:

Aside from string tension (as above) there are other attributes to string technology. First is gauge. The higher the gauge the finer the string. The finer the string the more power (they usually stretch more) as well as the better the control (based on finer ball indentations). But the world is unfair and finer strings will break more easily. That’s $40 for a re-stringing. Gauges are 17, 18 and even 19. I think you’ll likely find it hard to get anything other than 17 or 18. By the way, 16 gauge is pretty thick for squash and not recommended. I have heard of shops that don’t do much squash stringing who have used 16 gauge because they have it is stock for tennis racquets.

String can be nylon monofilament or braided and natural gut (from cows). I have yet to try gut but if you’re a serious squash player it sounds like gut is one of those ‘you gotta’ try it once’ kind of things. Gut is about $40 more expensive, raising the cost of a re-string to about $80. But gut holds it’s tension longer so you get better playing for longer. As well, it is more forgiving in that it imparts less tension through the racquet to your hand/arm and is therefore recommended for players who are struggling with tennis elbow. I haven’t personally tested this yet so I’m just going on written advice. Gut is very sensitive to moisture and can rot and sag with high humidity. You can’t leave it in the hot trunk of a car or a wet and smelly locker (oops, that leaves me out).

Ashaway makes most of the string sold in North America and the U.K. I am currently using a textured Ashaway string, the Supernick XL. It is a 17 g with a textured surface for better ball control. Next time, though, I think I’m going to try the 18 gauge Ultranick or Powernick. The Powernick comes in a 19 gauge but I haven’t heard a lot of good things about it. It confers power but with a real lack of feel I understand.

Re-stringing costs anywhere from $15 (at Sportcheck) to $20 (Sporting Life) for labour. String is $15 to $30 (more for gut). Usually you will walk out with a bill for $30 to $40. Rule of thumb is to re-string your racquet as often per year as you play per week. So if you play twice as week, as I do, you should string your racquet twice a year (which I haven’t adhered to).

By the way, the strings that new racquets come with are usually pretty bad. Depending how anal you want to be and how much you want to spend, you can play out the factory strings or pay to re-string your new racquet at the time of purchase. If you are new to squash just play with the new racquet as is until you decide what you want to go for in several months. Get to know your racquet and your game style.

So where am I at regarding my purchase? Well, my current racquet definitely needs to be re-strung. So I thought this might be a good time to put that money toward the purchase of a new one. For some reason, I’m stuck on buying a Head racquet. For me the price/performance ratios seems to be right and they have several models that might work for me.

Luckily all the models I’m thinking of are sold at the UofT Athletic Centre and all three models are available for trial before purchase. So I’m going to try:

Head Youtek Cyano 2: this is a 115 gm racquet. It’s very light, and as typical of such a light racquet, it is head heavy. That means the balance point is past the half way point of the racquet toward the head. Otherwise the racquet would feel too light. New players like lighter racquets because they feel they can swing faster. But a lighter racquet can impart less power and can be harder to control, even though you can get your swing off later than might be wise. Pros can use the lighter weight to greater advantage than can a beginner.

At 115 gm it may be too light for me.

It is a teadrop racquet that, in spite of being so light, is built for power.

Head Youtek Anion2: this is the same racquet as the Cyano but is heavier at 135gm. As well, it is head light. Where the balance point of the Cyano is 365mm, the Anion is 335. because the balance point is closer to the handle, the Anion feels very similar in weight to the Cyano.

Head Neon2: this is a 130gm racquet with a 370 balance point. It is quadra shaped and built more for control than power.

I am just going to have to try each of these for a game and then see what feels better. They can each be tweaked by a re-stringing as well.

They range in price from about $130 to $160 (even though ‘MSRP’ pegs them at about $200).

By the way: Dunlop double dot balls. Period. When the balls become shiny (and therefore less grippy), wash them under water and give them a rub (to roughen them) on a carpet.

Opinions vary on when to replace balls. Some say when they break, others when they get shiny and feel dead.

I signed up for squash lessons at the Athletic Centre to help improve my game. Who knows, with a better racquet and lessons I might be able to return the odd serve yet!

UPDATE(Sept 30): So I played squash yesterday and talked the Pro Shop at the AC into letting me serially go through the three racquets I’m interested in.

First I went with the Cyano2. I must say I liked it quite a bit. Although it is quite light the head heavy balance seems to work well to give it the feel of a bit of heft. I wasn’t blown away by the power but it did hit a bit harder than my current racquet. I didn’t feel any real loss of control. I appreciated the lightness.

The Anion2 just felt heavier and not as quick as the Cyano.

The Neon2 had quite a different feel. I think I could sense the lack of power in return for more control. My partner/opponent thought I was making more accurate shots. Hard to know.

In the end, I found a great deal on the Cyano at Sporting Life and decided to buy it. I may or may not keep it.

I’m thinking if I string it with 18 gauge Supernick XL string I may have the perfect balance.

I should also add that I developed some bad habits over the last several years of playing and since starting lessons my game has definitely fallen off as I concentrate on technique. In other words I’m playing at the bottom of my correct style rather than at the top of my bad habits. So far I’m down on my game. But, hopefully, it will all pay off in the end.

UPDATE (Oct 2): So this afternoon my new squash racquet arrived by UPS. Tonight I broke my old squash racquet! Karma.

September 27, 2012

Is Rob Ford really an indictment of our educational system?

This has been troubling me for a long time.

Rob Ford was elected on the basis of ‘respect for the taxpayer’. Having said that, he has skirted conflict of interest issues for several years. He has been caught using City staff to help in his private affairs (like coaching football kids).

Now there are allegations that he wielded influence to get the City to do some paving at his business.

He has cost the City millions in cancelled transit plans that were previously committed. He wants to build subways in places that planners warn are not economically viable and will, therefore, cost us millions down the road.

He hires expensive consultants to advise on budget cuts, none of which have panned out.

And now that he cannot ram through City Council any of his ideas he has taken his marbles and, essentially, gone home. At taxpayers’ expense. He calls this ‘respect for taxpayers’.

His brother this week called all reporters ‘pricks’ for asking the Brothers Ford questions they don’t like.

Just two weeks ago a public opinion poll showed 42% of Toronto residents (yes, mainly suburbanites) have a favourable view of Rob Ford.

So, what’s happening here? Why is Rob Ford so obviously a useless Mayor with so high an approval rating?

The only thing I can come down to is our educational system. We may score well internationally in Math and Reading skills. But I am guessing if there were a test for critical thinking Canada would do awfully poorly. How else could people read the newspaper and not say about Ford: ‘what an idiot’?

Surely it’s time to question an educational system that allows this to happen. Now, I know that there is a tendency for all progressive people to assume that an educated populace with perforce be left wing. And I admit to similar feelings. However it is possible that one could come to an informed conservative conclusion. But even so, people like Ford would not be electable. The point is that people should be able to at least spot a sham and ask questions to come to an understanding of issues.

And isn’t that really the main purpose of our education system? Oh, I know. Everyone is all up in arms about teaching kids things so they can get a job. But an informed citizenry is really what it’s about. And we are failing miserably at that. And our toady and uneducated press isn’t helping.

Frankly, if I were a teacher (or any kind of educator) I would be embarrassed by the election of people like the Fords. I think every school teacher should look in the mirror and ask what they can do in the classroom to make sure that their students can think. Otherwise, why go through the motions?

July 26, 2012

Losing creativity for safety.

In the next while over several instalments I want to write about a topic that has troubled me for a while and has become more urgent in recent months. It’s a complicated issue of the struggle between oversight and creativity, between guarantees and risk taking.

Our culture seems to have quietly been overtaken by a sense of wanting guarantees that nothing will ever go wrong and a sense that when they do that someone is to blame. It began as a legitimate sense of oversight of services. In the 60’s society finally matured and democratized a bit with a sense that we cannot just leave ‘the powers that be’ to govern.

For instance, police services needed oversight, there had to be civilian watchguards of policemen and the police department activities. Spying on citizens is not acceptable. Arbitrary arrest and beatings, while they still occur, are no longer acceptable. We no longer take the word of a policeman/woman who arrests a citizen. We want to see proof of wrong doing.

But somewhere along the line that desire led to ‘keeping a paper trail’ which became a huge burden to the point where now upwards of 40% of police personnel’s time it taken up by paperwork. The cost is enormous in financial/economic terms. But the cost is even higher in lost creativity, which I will get into in future articles.

In medicine, where I work, I spend increasing amounts of my time satisfying Ministry requests of proof of my compliance with guidelines and other administrivia to the point that it really does impact how I work.

But what bothers me most is the sham that these bureaucratic procedures represent. Everyone I speak to at the Ministry claims these regulations are to safeguard the health of the public. But I know that they are simply there so that if something goes wrong, the shit will land elsewhere but on their shoulders.

Today I was talking to someone who does basic research in a hospital lab. He was telling me about the numerous procedures he must go through and the compliance paper work he completes that are mandating by administrative authority in hospital and government. The joke is that these procedures are promulgated ostensibly to protect the public and lab workers against accident. But he freely says that they do no such thing. They are simply there to assure then if and when something goes wrong highers-up can say they took all precautions and it’s not our fault.

Examples abound everywhere. Everyone working in the real world knows what I am talking about.

The sad thing is that many people on the left are the perpetrators of these regulations. Partly they do this in a genuine desire to protect the public service. But too often they do it because there is a bureaucratic and non creative, almost fearful strain in the left.

Progressives all too often see any criticism of the public service as an attack on social values. And hiding behind this misunderstanding they allow the public service to rot from the inside.

Government bureaucracies and social services are of the people not above the people. It’s the same theme of people as citizens and not consumers of services from the government. It’s the rejecting of the management based system instead of the creative provision of services.

Unfortunately the right and left are afflicted with misunderstandings of the provision of service by the public sector. The right sees us all as consumers looking for ‘bargains’ in the provision of service. But the left, while not using the label of consumer, can nevertheless be patronizing in what is to me that absolutely galling manner of managerial correctness. They never saw a round peg that couldn’t be squared to fit in their much neater square holes.

July 18, 2012

Mayor Rob Ford–really??

I am just apopleptic today. A day after another outbreak of gang violence in Toronto and the Mayor has spoken.

This is the Mayor who cannot deal with public transit improvement–who can only say ‘no’ to every workable plan, a Mayor who cuts back on libraries, public housing and community expenditures.

This is a Mayor whose sole focus is on Torontonians as taxpayers rather than citizens. A Mayor whose sole focus is tax cuts.

This Mayor’s solution to gang violence is to increase the police budget. And, this Mayor is so gutless that he won’t even try to fund such increases out of the City budget but rather is asking other levels of government to pay. He doesn’t even have the guts that Councillor Karen Stintz has. At least she believes that citizens of Toronto are mature enough to be asked to pay more in taxes in return for an increase in transit services.

Nope this chicken of a Mayor doesn’t even have the courage to spend Toronto’s money on something he truly believes in (notwithstanding that it is entirely misguided).

I’m disgusted by his lack of ANY understanding of social mechanisms and his complete lack of guts in tackling real problems.

He’s just the bully we always thought he was. Talks loudly and runs fast.

June 29, 2012

‘I’m one of a kind’

There’s a new commercial on TV for Dr Pepper. Guy is walking down the street drinking a Dr Pepper when he tears off his shirt to reveal a t-shirt underneath. The t-shirt reads ‘I’m one of a kind’. The camera then pans out to dozens and hundreds of others tearing off their shirts to reveal identical t-shirts.

You have got to love the concept of hundreds of people looking exactly the same doing exactly the same thing proclaiming their individuality!

What f**n chutzpah. Do not buy Dr Pepper (who would anyway).

If the whole thing weren’t so trivial I would organize a boycott just because they think we’re all so stupid.

June 12, 2012

Addendum: How my parents met: grandmothers ring

In view of a recent family event I feel compelled to add this comment.
When my father returned to his home town of Radom after the war he headed to his old family apartment.
His father had buried some of the family valuables in the court yard at the start of the war. My father began digging but soon discovered the items had already been plundered
He knocked on the door of their neighbour to ask if they knew who had dug the stuff up or what had happened.
The man responded that he had no idea what my father was asking about.
Then his wife appeared at the door. She was wearing my father’s mother’s engagement ring.
My father confronted her asking how she had obtained it. She screamed some anti-Semitic comment at him, threw the ring at him and slammed the door in his face.
My father scooped up the ring and left.
A couple of years ago my father gave me the ring to keep as the only heirloom remaining from his family.
Just last week my son told me, on return from a driving vacation with his girlfriend to Quebec City, that he had given it to her and that he was now engaged.
Full circle.

May 26, 2012

Ask the Bike Maven | How to get your bike ready for the season


Everything you need to keep you–and your bike–happy: a pump, chain cleaner, degreaser fluid, chain lube, helmet, u-lock.

By The Maven | I was in Portugal 18 months ago for a cycle trip from Lisbon to the Algarve. We rented bikes from Portugal Bikes, a locally owned small cycle touring company–great people and good prices if you ever go.

Riding to Lisbon’s Belém Tower, built in 1515.

The shop owner asked our nationality before prepping us on basic bike maintenance. He was relieved to hear we were Canadian, mechanically competent people.  The Dutch, he said, were completely incapable of doing any maintenance work on their bikes. Since a cycle shop can be found on every corner in Holland, they can’t even fix a flat tire he told us.

So as Canadians we have an international standard to maintain, to wit, some advice.

1. Cleaning: Clean your bike. If it’s been in use in the salt and slush of winter, hose it down. If it sat outside or in the basement for the winter it still needs to be cleaned and lubricated.

Cleaning the chain is the most important for a smooth and happy ride. You can just hose it down, let it dry and then oil it.

Take the top off the bike chain cleaner, add de-greasing fluid, fit your chain in the cogs, snap on the top, and rotate your pedals backward about 100 revolutions.

But best to clean it properly. MEC sells a nice chain cleaner for only $5.50 and a bottle of citrus-based biodegradable degreaser for the same amount. Why degreaser? Because the oil on the chain picks up dirt and abrasive particles and this grit acts like sandpaper to wear down and destroy your chain, cogs, and chain rings. Shifting becomes  rougher and requires more force, you skip gears, ugliness–in the form of a repair bill to replace your drive chain–soon ensues.

With a chain cleaner you simple fill up the chamber with a degreaser, click it on to the chain and run the chain through it for a couple of minutes. The chamber will become black and disgusting while the chain will become shiny and silver again.

I also pour some degreaser directly on the derailleur and cogs and let it sit a while. You can then wipe all these parts down with a rag or rinse them with water. After everything has thoroughly dried (I like to do cleaning on a sunny day and let my bike sit in the sun for an hour to dry) you need to re-grease the chain. Do NOT use 3-in-1 or household oil. By oil specifically for a bike.

Or make a homebrew like I do. I mix one part light grade synthetic motor oil to three parts mineral spirits (pain thinner). I apply it liberally to my chain and all moving parts of my bike. The idea is that the mineral oil thins the oil and helps it penetrate and carry into metal parts. The mineral spirits then evaporates leaving behind the lubricating oil. About $10 worth of ingredients has lasted several years for me, and I maintain four bikes of my own and three of my son’s. I oil my road bike chain after every one or two rides. I will wipe down the chain and re-lube. I do a full clean ever few weeks.

Information about optimum inflation pressure is printed or embossed on the sideall of your tire.

2. Tire pressure:  Information about optimum inflation pressure is printed or embossed on the sidewall of your tire.

Tire pressure is crucial. The maximum inflation is on the tire side wall. If you are heavier go toward the higher end. Up to a point a higher pressure will aid efficiency but your ride may be a bit bumpier. Too little air can cause ‘pinch’ flats by pinching the sidewall of the tire between the road and the rim. And the bike won’t ride very nicely on half flat tires.

Tires lose air daily. The rubber tubes are not entirely air proof. There is some leakage. The higher the tire pressure (eg: road bikes) the faster the leakage. Pump your tires twice weekly at least. A good quality pump is worth the extra few bucks as it makes pumping so much easier.

I even use my bicycle pump to pump up my car tires (ok, I’m a little obsessive about these things).

3. Inspect your bike

Check your bike now and again to make sure the brakes aren’t rubbing, and that nothing is loose.

It’s a good idea to just walk around your bike and do an inspection now and again.

Check the brakes are not rubbing and that they stop a spinning wheel promptly. Check that the crank and headset have no play in them. If you are riding a single speed–particularly a fixie–the crank is your bread and butter. Keep it tight!

Use an

An Allen key set or hex wrench is all that is needed to adjust and tighten most parts on your bike.

You may not realize it but metal not only fatigues and breaks but also stretches. For instance, not only do your brake and gear cables needs tightening but your chain stretches. Not checking and replacing the chain when it needs it can wear the rear cogs and front chain rings, and then they too will need premature replacement…something that is much more expensive than a new chain.

If you aren’t confident enough or knowledgeable enough to do this stuff on your own, spend a few bucks at your local bike shop. Rob Bateman of Bateman’s Bicycle Company at 913 Bathurst just north or Barton is a great local guy and cycle enthusiast. He and his guys will look after your bike for a reasonable price.

A well tuned bike is a pleasure to ride.

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