I haven’t grown tired of running to work. It’s an both an economical and spiritual method of transportation. Along with running, I have a passion for experiencing the open road on a bicycle.

My 16 year old mountain bike was re-purposed to be a winter commuter, albeit, one that was used infrequently. I also have a 2011 Giant TCR Composite 1. However, something was missing.

On those short errands or short rides to work, it’s hard to justify riding the Giant, so I began my search for a more urban commuter. I settled on a ‘fixie‘, the Echo, from Pure Fix Cycles.

It’s utilitarian and simplistic design is part of its beauty and the idea of riding a fixie, was part of the allure.

Today was the first day I used it to commute to work. I’m not talking long distance here, rather a short bust of effort to get to and from work, and allow me to continue running, but over the lunch hour.

Today’s journey taught me a few lessons:
1. The bike needs a back brake: This kind of talk might go against all that a fixie is meant to be, but if you have ever biked in Ottawa, you know that the the extra stopping power provides an invaluable sense of comfort.

2. Clip-less Pedals: This is a no brainer for me. More power and again more control.

3. Hills: I won’t be climbing, with any regular frequency, any steep hills, but inclines are a tad more challenging with one gear. Please refer to lesson #2.

4. Headwinds: No matter if you are a weekend road racer, a daily commuter, or back-country rider, headwinds are your nemesis.

If you have any suggestions for this fixie newbie, please share them. In the meantime, cycle safe!

More information on Pure Fix Cycles:
Facebook: Pure Fix Cycles
Twitter: @PFCycles
Web: purefixcycles.com

More information on cycling in Ottawa:
1. City of Ottawa
2. National Capital Commission
3. GoBiking.ca

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New Music Monday

April 28, 2014

Full disclosure. My admiration for the Tragically Hip is unrelenting. From the late 1980’s, their music has been a constant for me. I’ve seen countless shows, crossed international borders to see them and have a library of photos from past shows.

So when I heard that Justin Rutledge was releasing an album of covers, I was intrigued. I have heard various covers of various Hip songs, from Sarah Polley’s cover of Courage, to the Sterephonics’ cover of Fiddler’s Green, I’ve been surprised by his imaginative and creative interpretations.

Daredevil, Justin Rutledge’s latest album, came out on April 22 and it’s been on heavy rotation over the last week. I don’t know the history of the name of the album, but can only imagine that it’s a reflection of the guts it took to take on a project like this.

These are not simply covers, but rather stripped down and rebuilt testaments to a band and the music from Justin Rutledge’s formative years.

You won’t hear the anthemic ‘New Orleans is Sinking’, or the culturally entrenched ‘Wheat Kings’, but you will hear an album of covers that will surprise you. The arrangements and the guest voices of Andy Maize (Skydiggers) , Jenn Grant, Brendan Canning and others have produced an eerily haunting album – one where when you close your eyes, you are transported to this surreal state of wonderment.

Put it Off, Fiddler’s Green and Grace, Too are some of my favourites! Whether you are a fan of The Hip or Justin Rutledge, you’ll be happy with Daredevil.

Take a it for a spin. Let me know what you think!

To learn more about Justin Rutledge:
Facebook: Justin Rutledge Music
Twitter: @JustinJRutledge
Web: justinrutledge.com

Music Mondays

April 21, 2014

I’m switching gears a bit this week, but the focus will still be on music. This past weekend was Record Store Day (RSD). Being new to the vinyl & vintage audio scene, I really wanted to get into the spirit.

This year, RSD landed it squarely in the middle of a long weekend – an added bonus. The Record Centre is in my ‘hood, but I wanted to make it extra special and decided a trip south of the border was in order. I’m not talking a long road trip, more like an afternoon excursion to the border towns of Massena and Potsdam, NY.

I figured what better way to experience RSD than to visit small town America, after-all RSD has it’s genesis in celebrating and supporting small independent record stores. I imagined walking into an ageless record store, hearing the sounds of Bob Dylan or Neil Young blasting from a pair of vintage speakers and talking with a time-weathered music aficionado about the must have records and the latest releases.

High on my list was the latest offering (posthumously) from Johnny Cash, Neil Young’s surprise release of an album of covers and some older releases from the Drive-By Truckers.

I seemingly forgot about some of the messages often heard in the sounds of Cash, Young and the Drive-By Truckers – hard times continue to cripple small town America. Although I asked – there were no longer such places of musical escapism in either town. The last one shuttered its doors over two years ago. I was too late.

Dejected and feeling a little guilty (Catholic guilt I suppose) for not supporting RSD earlier, I pointed the car north and headed back home.

Notwithstanding this disappointment, I made a mental note to follow through on an idea that has been percolating in the back corners of my mind – more on that in a later post.

Fuelled by disappointment I ventured into the basement of the ex-laws to paw my way through their aging collection of vinyl. I managed to find some some albums which fit squarely within my musical leanings and some I am interested in learning more about. I have already managed to listen to Black Uhuru and some Mississippi John Hurt.

Later today, I will put on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA‘, U2’s ‘Rattle and Hum‘ and Bob Marley & the Wailers’ 1973 release, ‘Catch a Fire‘. Am looking forward this journey back into our musical past.

Monday’s drawing to a close and so is this post. Before I head back home, I’ll take a stroll up to The Record Centre and say hello to John!

Take care and happy listening.

The Personal Day

April 16, 2014

It was only two weeks ago I decided to take the ‘Personal Day’ afforded to me under my collective agreement. In years past, I usually coupled this day with the ‘Volunteer Leave’ and spent a long weekend with the Alumni Association of Lakehead University‘ either helping with Convocation or with its yearly strategic planning session.

This year was different. I wanted to take a day with no real plans and no real commitments. I wanted to take the time to let this day happen and it unrolled wonderfully.

I’m not saying it wasn’t filled with some mundane, but required tasks, but those took all of about 60 minutes of my day. The rest of my day included a lunch with friends, followed by an afternoon nap and a chance to get caught up on Lilyhammer.

Later in the evening, I enjoyed a fine dinner out & the chance to share stories with my Mom. I returned home and finished my day with a movie.

Nothing earth shattering or very introspective, but rather a day that focused on what I wanted to do. No schedules. No rules. Just personal.

What’s your ‘Personal Day’ story?

New Music Mondays

April 7, 2014

When it comes to finding new music, we look to our friends, we explore our local music scene & there may be a chance we find something on our local radio station.

For me I have relied heavily on CBC’s Radio 2, and the focus of this post NoiseTrade.

With NoiseTrade, you have access to thousands of songs, thousands of albums. It’s free (sort of. there is value in your personal information) and it’s legal. In exchange for your email address and your postal code, you can find your next favourite artist, the next emerging big hit or that gem that you’ll want to keep to yourself.

So how does this all work? Artists can upload an entire album, live recordings, b-sides and other rarities. Instantly their music becomes available, ready to be explored and enjoyed.

Like what you hear? Well you can leave a ‘tip’ for the artist. There are examples where artists have released an entire album and through the ‘tips’ raised money for a variety of causes. From where I am listening, it’s a win-win-win!

Like the Blues, Country, Folk or Indie Rock? You can search by genre. Have you heard a new artist and want to check them out? You can see if they have posted any additional music.

Frequently there are collaborations and great samplers that are offered. These samplers are a wonderful way of being introduced to new music. Someone has taken the time to put together the ultimate mixed-taped for your listening pleasure.

So – the next time you are feeling a bit tired of the radio or your own personal music collection, go check out NoiseTrade. If you find an artist you like, please share it!

Happy Listening!

Marc