Colin Sproule and I met at the Kaffeeklatsh in the Community Wise Resource Centre which is just around the corner from where he works. Our fabulous winter riding weather continued with above freezing temperatures and snow-free roadways.
Colin grew up on the south side of Glenmore Reservoir with easy access to the pathways along the river and around the reservoir to ride his mountain bike. He remains a passionate outdoors person and gets out of the city as much as he can – skiing, mountain biking, backpacking and hiking. I asked Colin about fat biking or even biking in the mountains in the winter. He’s tried fat biking, and it’s a lot of fun, but he spends too much time skiing, so anything other than commuter biking isn’t in the cards.
Over the past several years, Colin, and his partner, have taken extended leaves-of-absence to pursue cycling journeys and tours. Colin was inspired by the Ride the Divide documentary to take on the challenge of conquering the entire ride by himself. With his partner he also did an extended trip from Jasper to Prince Rupert on the Yellowhead highway, followed up with tours around Haida Qwaii and Vancouver Island.
Colin rides everywhere and everyday. He switched from mountain biking to more of an urban commuter style when he left the family home. Most of his riding happens in the city right now, and his bike is his means of transportation. He still does some mountain biking, but mostly for off -road touring. Like some of my other interviews, Colin does not have a car or a driver’s license. His partner, who also rides in the city, has a car that they take to the mountains.
He didn’t always ride in the winter, but he sort of fell into it about four years ago after he moved downtown and had been commuting everyday. To ride through the winter wasn’t really a conscious decision. It seems that winter just started and he didn’t stop riding.
Colin commutes from Parkdale on the other side of Crowchild. He usually rides down the bike path into downtown, winding up at his office on 1st Street and 11th Avenue. That’s not the fastest route, though. To gain a few minutes he’ll hit 4th avenue until he can turn onto Broadview Road, then over 14th Street to 10th Avenue and east from there. That’s only in the summer or when all the snow has been cleared from the residential streets (thank you Chinook Snow Removal Company). He also said that there seems to be a lot of aggressive drivers on 4th Avenue.
His winter commute takes him about 35 minutes on the pathway. He starts in the dark, but he usually has a “great view of the sunrise;” one of his winter commuting highlights. Colin says that he “likes riding into work. It’s a great way to start and end your day.” “Ultimately, I just like riding my bike.” “Riding the pathway is super nice. It’s long flowing and almost no stopping.”
About the only bad thing about his routing is all of the construction on 10th Avenue in January (well, still, really). He says that if you’re polite and line up with the cars being funneled around the construction, you can wind up missing three lights. He’s also not terribly impressed with the floating bike lane on 10th Avenue.
Colin is pretty happy with the way the City is going about clearing off the pathways – they’re usually “golden.” He’s looking forward to the cycle track network downtown, and will go out of his way to find a safer route. He’s used the 7th Street cycle track on days when the roads and pathways are overly slippery. “I like the cycle track” because it’s clear, although he feels that they haven’t solved the traffic light “problem” yet.
He has private access to the parking garage at work that has bike lockups for summertime riders. The building has set aside a small room that winter riders can use to secure their bikes. They also have a small shower facility if people need it. He hasn’t had any use for it since he doesn’t change when he gets to work. He says that with a casual work environment, the most he’ll do for his commute is throw on a pair of snow pants when it gets really cold. His only real concession to winter is an oversized pair of Black Diamond mitts, and some clear goggles.
When he gets home, Colin has an old 50’s style garage at his apartment building that no one parks cars in anymore. He uses it to store and repair their bikes. He says that he’s “not particularly mechanically gifted,” so he doesn’t do his own major repairs.
Right now Colin has four bikes. His year-round commuter bike is a Surly Steamroller – single speed, steel frame, one brake, flat bars. It’s pretty minimal and rusty these days. He doesn’t ride with studs but uses a softer rubber tire in the winter. His route is flat and clear, so there’s no real need for studs.
Colin thinks the “bike culture” in Calgary is on the way up. He feels that it’s the perfect place for some kind of bike “counter-culture” to exist. It’s a very friend and inclusive culture – if you want to ride it’s not very hard to find someone to ride with you. He’s noticed that the people riding in the winter in Calgary are mostly people that are commuting. There are not a lot of people that just ride for fun. In the end, he’s not sure if “bike culture” has anything to do with people riding or not.
Colin is on the volunteer committee of Cyclepalooza. He got involved in their second year of operation because he found the first year to be “superfun.” We talked about bike advocacy and Colin said that Cyclepalooza isn’t really an advocacy group, other than advocating for “fun”. Because it’s the “palooza” model – a DIY festival style – the steering committee is only there to make sure it happens.
He thinks that the upsurge in winter bike commuting is because we’ve looped back to the point where biking is “cool” again. It might be because of all the talk about infrastructure, or the fact that there really is more infrastructure – build it and they will come! For whatever reason, it’s up, and more advocacy has to be working.
Colin feels that what the media says has an impact on what people think. The “Crow-Bomb” incident is a case in point. The media were baited for that and fell into line. The Crowchild ride had been happening for five or six years before that and nobody cared. Unfortunately, Cyclepalooza got ensnared because the event was in their calendar, even though they had nothing to do with it.
We finished off talking about helmets and licenses and the like. Colin’s attitude is “wear them or don’t.” He wears a helmet on long tours and in the mountains, but not in the city. He says that it seems “intuitive that if you force people to wear helmets then more people won’t ride.” Licensing is “ridiculous” and a “a big waste of money.” It’s just going to deter people from riding bikes and how would you even enforce it? He says it makes as much sense as licensing people on roller blades, or people that run fast.