21 July 2012

Sleepless in Vancouver

Strolling around downtown Vancouver on sunny Wednesday, I reach the Northern harbor area.
I arrived in Vancouver on Thursday morning local time, and got a good night's sleep Thursday, took a nap on Friday afternoon, and now Friday night ... I slept shortly after 9PM and awoke at 1AM.  It is now just after 3AM and I am still wide awake and have failed, so far, to sleep again.

I still have 43 hours before the start of the Rocky Mountain 1200 and so can hope to get over jet lag between now and then.  And since the event has a 10PM Sunday start, the key is not really that I get over jet lag, but just that I get plenty of sleep, at whatever time of day.

Vancouver looked spectacular on Thursday, its summer best.  The city has grown a lot since I was last here, long ago, and I saw plenty that reminded me of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and also Sydney, even a little Hong Kong.  It is more cosmopolitan, and more East and South Asian, than Seattle or Portland.  It looks prosperous, but prices are not as steep as Sydney, and it seems like it would be an easier place to live.  The day before I arrived, the U.S. press was full of reports that Canadians are now, per capita, significantly wealthier than Americans, despite lower disposable income.  Those "socialist" Canadians with their "socialized" medicine ... have done pretty well.  This is a result of the U.S. housing bubble burst, the 2008 (and ongoing?) global financial crisis, Canada's natural resource/energy driven prosperity and, yes, their much better healthcare system.

 ... On the other hand, the weather here is grey much of the year, and was on Friday.
On drizzling Thursday, I cross the Burrard Bridge heading toward the ... main exhibits closed for repair Maritime Museum.
Vancouver seems quite bike-friendly, now turning over entire street lanes to bicycles -- retrofitted at the expense of cars, rather than designed from the start for bicycles.
Bike lane for commuters on Dunsmuir.  It was well-used when I passed on Thursday and again Friday, and I waited a few minutes until it was empty before taking the photo. After all, Canadians are shy, and I did not see anyone else snapping photos of strangers.
Bike lane on the Burrard [Street] Bridge.  The barrier from traffic made it quite pleasant not only for cyclists but also for a pedestrian (me) to walk across.  A cyclist would pass me every minute or so.
Thursday afternoon I stopped by Costco (less than 10 minutes' walk from my hotel) and a nearby pharmacy and picked up a box of Clif Bars, a large bag of trail mix and a few other last minute supplies (sun screen, bug spray ("deep woods sportsman" version of mosquito repellent) and a "bear bell" so that when I am riding in the dark I will not surprise any big critters.  In the evening I unpacked my bicycle and prepped my drop bags.  This time I actually listed what goes in which drop bag and what goes on my bike.  Surprisingly long lists.  At least carefully prepared.
Ready to go!
Gear I will take with me from the start.  Zoom in to read.
Content of three drop bags -- Jasper, Golden and Amstrong
Friday, I visited a couple of bike shops.  Each had a HUGE selections of fenders -- if you don't ride in the rain here, you might as well put your bike in the basement for 9 months of the year here.  And they also have large selections of racks, bags and the like, for commuting and touring.
JV Bikes -- Wall of racks

JV Bieks -- wall of bags ... with reflective strips, of course
The shop that stood out is JV Bikes.  They have Brooks and Fizik saddles - only the best.  They had a wall full of panniers, handle bar, saddle and rack bags.   They have Dahon folding bikes -- again, an excellent choice.

And they have a big collection of BionX-powered electric bikes (a highly reviewed hub-based system of electric assist with regenerative braking that can be used to retrofit a normal bike with electric assist).  The rear wheel with BionX hub, plus battery pack, cables and throttle/display etc. cost between $1200 and $1800.  The system weight is something like 18 pounds, I was told.
The BionX hub-based electric motor -- throttle sets different assist levels, with a smooth torque-based control system, so the harder you pedal, the greater the assist.  250 watt and 350 watt versions.

The battery pack can be placed on the downtube, or another flatter version fits on a special rear rack.

BionX version of a Dahon bike.
I would love to experiment with one, eventually -- maybe for my Dad so he can still get up hills as he rides into his 80s, or for my wife so she would ride up a hill with me in the countryside in Japan.  The manager said that they are very difficult to install with road bike handlebars, since the throttle and regenerative braking system use a magnet on the brake lever that is tough to install on a road bike with STI brake levers.

According to a recent consultant's report, there were 430,000 electric assist bicycles sold in Japan in 2011.  Sales in the first half of 2012 are up 17% yet again from the first half of 2011.  More are sold now than motorcycles/motor scooters.  Some localities even offer a "green incentive" rebate now.  And the average selling price, around 90,000 yen, makes this a much bigger market than the market for "normal" shopping bikes.  But they are heavy, and ugly.

A BionX that can be retrofit onto a "normal" bike -- a huge advantage, and it is possible to make one of these look nice, at least compared with the typical ugly Japanese electric assist bike.  Remember the BionX-powered Pereira Cycles bike that won the Northwest Constructors Challenge last year, and  was shown at NAHBS this March?  It was a thing of beauty -- though I would have prefered a different crankset.


Gueorgui said...

Good luck for the Rocky Mountain 1200! Hope you manage to get enough sleep before the start. The CanAm pin will be yours!

David L. said...

Thank you Gueorgui.
I made it to Kamloops and just had a pasta dinner with 2 riders from Vancouver (who said you "usually" will see bears on the mid-part of this ride -- both had done so within the past month). Now sleep.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast has deteriorated significantly and looks miserable for Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday. What started as "scattered showers", then "showers" is now "rain", with Sunday showing "PM thunderstorms". On Tuesday, when we go over the highest passes (Sunwapta and Bow Summit), the forecast for Sunwapta now includes a warning about "extremely heavy precipitation" being possible in the morning.

This could turn out to be a bit of an adventure.

Chris said...

I remember riding in Vancouver - if you don't want to ride in the rain, you might as well forget about riding at all!

If you're seriously looking for a folder that can take a bionX, you should check out Montague folding bikes at www.montaguebikes.com. I got a Montague last year, and the dealer I bought from also did electric conversions. I tried one out just for fun, and it was a pretty powerful ride.