More riding on my new bike

March 5, 2023 at 19:37 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I went for another ride on my fancy new bike today. I rode out to Manly, which is a bit more hilly than the routes I took last weekend. And, rather marvellously, the Harbour Bridge was closed to traffic (thankfully the cycle lane was open) because of a Pride march that was occurring that morning. It was lovely to see for a number of reasons. Thousands of people celebrating the LGBTQI+ community, all walking together in the sunshine is definitely something to celebrate. The Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, was walking with the crowd, which is also something to celebrate given the anti-trans hate-filled rhetoric coming from other politicians both here and around the world.

The other thing to celebrate was how peaceful the scene was. I don’t mean in the sense of the people being peaceful (although they were, many dressed in extravagant and eye-catching costumes). I mean in terms of the traffic. The historic Sydney Harbour Bridge, beautiful though it is, is an urban traffic sewer. An 8-lane traffic monstrosity that carves though the city, ruining it with the roar of traffic and the small of fumes. But not today. The calmness and peace was very marked. Of course, it is entirely possible that it could be closed to traffic every Sunday. Clearly people were managing. But the car-centric planners of our state are unlikely to be interested, intent as they are on building ever more motorways in the city,

Having got across the bridge, I continued up to Manly. This involves going across the Spit Bridge, which has a steep descent to get there, followed by a steep ascent the other side. My goodness, this new bike of mine is very fast indeed! On the fixie, I basically max out in terms of cadence at about 50kph – I just can’t turn the pedals any faster than that. On this new bike, though, there are gears a-plenty! You can just keep clicking up, until I was hurtling down the hill. The speed limit is 60kph, and I was going faster than the cars. And there was still plenty of room to push the pedals faster. And I must say, the bike handles the speed with aplomb. Very stable, very comfortable. Well, not completely comfortable, to be honest – I got to a point where caution kicked in, and I slowed down. There’s not much room for error at those speeds.

The climb up the other side, of course, is then a slog. Being able to click down through the gears is good, I suppose, but I actually don’t think I’ve got the muscles yet for spinning up hills in a low gear. I’m used to standing up and mashing the pedals. But this is sort of hard on this bike, it just doesn’t feel quite right. I think it is being used to the momentum of a fixed drivetrain – when out of the saddle on a regular bike I am aware of the ‘dead spot’ at the top of the pedal stroke; something that simply doesn’t happen on a fixie. I got up the hill fine, and it was easy enough, but I think this new technique of going up hill in the saddle whilst spinning will take some getting used to. Although it was in my head that possibly I would not have got up the hill on my fixie at all these days…!

Anyway, Manly was looking very fine in the sun, with surfers enjoying the waves and everyone else enjoying the beach. And it’s nice to be riding again; these are rides that I have rarely done since the kids were born. Where to next weekend, I wonder?



New bike!

February 19, 2023 at 14:40 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It’s new bike time! As you may have gathered from the non-to-subtle hints on this blog, I have a new bicycle. This is very exciting for a number of reasons. Mostly because any new bicycle is exciting, but also because this one is especially fancy. It is the most fancy bicycle I have ever owned.

I was able to get a very fancy bicycle because fancy bike designers have finally figured out how bicycles should be – which is to say they should have at least 32mm tyres, be comfortable to ride and be lots of fun. For years fancy bicycles (or road bikes at least) were super light, twitchy, awkward affairs with horrible narrow tyres that bounced around as you attempted to go in a straight line on Sydney’s rutted streets. I’m sure they were very fast on a new surface in the Tour de France, but for any kind of normal riding they were just very impractical.

But not any more! Fancy bikes have been getting more and more practical, as professional riders slowly realised that wider types are actually faster than narrow ones on pretty much ay surface outside of a velodrome.

But I digress. Enough of the curmudgeonly ‘I told you so’. As it was my 50th birthday, I splashed out on a fancy ‘endurance road bike’. A Trek Domane. Which, as I learned, is pronounce ‘Do-marn-ay’. It does not rhyme with ‘Wayne’. It would be  good to know this before you go into the bike shop.

There were various reasons I had my eye on this particular model, but to be honest it was a lot to do with the fact it has a storage compartment built into the frame. Yes! Actually in the frame! It is carbon fibre you see, so is quite large and hollow.

This is a bike that professionals compete on. Well, not the exact model I got. Same frame, but mine does not have all the crazy expensive components. Which means it is just ‘expensive’. But how many times are you going to turn 50?

The reason for getting it was so I can go out for longer rides. Whilst I still love the fixie, and can blast to work on it, it’s no longer practical for long rides. My days of punching out 100km up into the mountains on a 48×17 gear are, sadly, behind me. I can barely even climb out of Watson’s Bay any more (and that was 2 years ago!). But with this new machine – well, freedom is back.

I picked it up earlier this week, and went out on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. The first jaunt was a spin up to North Sydney via Lane Cove, and the back across the Harbour Bridge, and today I cruised out to Bondi to look at the ocean, before doing a few laps of Centennial Park on the way home.

The bike is super comfortable to ride, and I had a great time. It’s a bit odd going up hills, as I’m so used to getting out of the saddle and mashing up. Just switching to a lower gear is sort of odd! I think there are some different muscles involved somehow. And is is extremely quick coming down the hills. I do now know the brakes work though, as at one point after building up a head of steam coming down a hill the car ahead of me inexplicably just stopped in the middle of the road. I came to a halt literally 2cm off the rear bumper, with my rear wheel in the air. Note to self – watch your speed on this thing.

So now I plan to do some even longer rides as I do that thing that happens when you get older, in that you simultaneously ride slower and also farther.

Happy riding everyone!

PS Sorry for the stance I have in the photo. A friend said it looked like I was doing one of those strange ‘power standing’ poses. I’m not, it’s just my phone was propped up on the ground, and I had to set the timer, grab the bike and run around before it went off, and I don’t think I was even looking at it when it took the photo.


Bike fitting

February 18, 2023 at 16:29 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment

I recently had cause to do something I had never done before – a bike fitting. This is when you get on a sort of super fancy exercise bike contraption, and a physiotherapist moves the saddle and handlebars around until you are in the ‘perfect’ position.

The reason I undertook this exercise will be revealed in due course, but it was an interesting experience. After explaining to the physiotherapist that I mostly rode a fixie (his verdict was that I was mad), I hopped on this machine and started pedalling.

“You look very good on a bike,” he told me. I wonder if some of his clients do not look good on a bike? Sort of “Honestly mate, you don’t look that good, have you considered taking up jogging instead?”. Or if he just says that to everyone. I’ve been riding around Sydney not for seventeen years, so its good to know I look good.

He had measured my fixie, and set up the contraption so it was exactly the same geometry, After a bit of umming, ahhing, taking photographs of my knees and so forth, he declared that I was not in a good position. My back was too straight, by legs too bent and my arms were just not at all correct. So me made some adjustments, and soon enough had me perfectly positioned. To be honest, it didn’t feel a whole lot different, but I told him it was much more comfortable as I didn’t want him to feel bad. You can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos above.

So why was I undertaking this exercise? Well, that’s related to my recent birthday, so watch this space for the big reveal…


Arnott’s Bluey Cheese Flavoured Snacks

February 12, 2023 at 15:56 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Our kids area little bit too old to have watched Bluey. So I have never seen it. But apparently it is a very good show, even reducing adults to tears. Anyway, Arnott’s have jumped on the Bluey bandwagon, and produced a range of snack biscuits bearing the name of the adorable blue heeler. So are they any good? Or will they make you cry?

The box is quite a different design to other Arnott’s lines, although the size, construction, inner bag and weight are exactly the same as for Shapes. So I suppose had the licencing deal fallen through, these could have been launched as ‘Shapes Cheese Delight’ or something. Each biscuit is embossed with an picture of one of the characters from the show, which is most exciting, even if I do not know who they are. But are they a delight?

Well, actually yes, they are! They are extremely moreish. They are softer than regular Shapes, a bit more melt-in-the-mouth, and the cheese flavour is really nice – savoury, with a good balance of salt and unami that charts we very successful course through the cheese flavour continuum. Quite a recovery from their last effort.

I’d go so far to say that these are now one of my favourite ‘Shapes’. Nothing close to the sublime Vegemite ones, of course, but certainly up there with BBQ and Chicken Crimpy. I’m going to give them a nine out of ten.

New cycling jersey

January 27, 2023 at 11:11 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I was buying shoes from the Adidas website the other day, and noticed that they also now do a range of cycling gear. Not much of a range to be sure, but a few things. And, as there was some deal doing if you spend more than a certain amount, I bought a new jersey, as I needed some new ones.

There were two colours – black and white, so I ordered a black one. The white one looked a bit odd. And, as I am reliable a small size in Adidas t-shirts, I got a small one.

Well, they sent a white one, not a black one. And it is extremely small. And sort of see-through. Quite extraordinary. I think I’ll just send it back. Maybe Adidas still have some work to do on their cycling range…

Fixie at fifty

January 22, 2023 at 11:04 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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“I still feel that variable gears are only for people over 45. Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft; as for me, give me a fixed gear!” Henri Desgrange

I just passed a significant milestone – I have now been on the planet for half a century. And for most of that time, I have been riding a bicycle. Right now, I probably ride about 10,000km a year – and most of that I do on a fixed gear.

Not sure what a fixed gear is? It’s a bike where you can’t stop pedalling. Like the tiny tricycle you had as a toddler, your feet just churn around on the pedals, even when going downhill. It’s pure, it’s simple, and it is fun.

It’s also somewhat more hard work than a regular bicycle. The Henri Desgrange quote at the top of this post is very well known, at least amongst fixie riders of a certain age.  Desgrange invented the Tour de France, and was a pretty uncompromising character who did seem to think riding a bicycle should be a test of endurance and suffering. He also remarked that the perfect Tour would have only one rider finish, with the others having been defeated by the magnitude of the challenge. Interestingly this contrasts with the other cycling advocate of the early 20th century, Paul de Vivie. De Vivie was editor of a rival cycling publication to Desgrange’s, and was a strong advocate for utility cycling – his view was that no one should walk if they could ride a bicycle. In his view, gears, lightweight bikes and other technological advances to further this end were to be embraced. I can’t help feeling that, in modern times, the two of them would be on opposite sides of the e-bike debate.

Anyway, I still love my fixie, and still ride it every day. But it’s no longer a bike I think I would do a challenging all-day ride on, or tackle a big hill. And certainly not since I put an even taller gear ratio on it. So there are plans in the works for something new…



Sprockets, age and – something else?

November 9, 2022 at 13:34 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A few months ago, I started to really having problems riding to and from work. Yes, I know, I moan about this all the time, getting old, yadda yadda, but this was the real deal. My ride to work right now is pretty flat, but even the few very short inclines were becoming a problem; I was grinding my way up and gasping for air like I was on Awaba Street.

So I finally did the ting I’ve been wondering about when I would do for a while. I bought a larger sprocket for the fixie. Gone was the 48×17 ratio I have been rolling around on for the last fifteen years; I installed an 18T sprocket on the back to make things a little easier. Would it be easy enough, I wondered? Well it definitely helped. I could get up the hills a bit better. But the fun quotient definitely reduced. Not sure how much of that was psychological, and how much was real, but riding definitely wasn’t the joy it had been.

Then this happened. (Yes, I know my blog is all out of order; more on why I wasn’t posting later). It happened not that long after I put the new sprocket on. And so the bike went into the bike shop. And there it stayed. The rear hub was so shot it needed to be replaced, but there is currently a worldwide shortage of fixed-gear hubs out there. There are none to be found. Weeks and weeks went by. Months went by. And I had no fixie, only the electric bike.

I mostly rode the electric bike. Which maybe partly explains why I was not blogging. The electric bike is sort of soulless, albeit very practical.

But also some other weird things were happening. Overall my energy levels were quite low. I also stopped going to the gym – which may have been because I wasn’t riding (one sort of leads to the other) but may have been due to not having the energy. I wasn’t blogging or reading or doing anything much. I got a routine blood pressure test when I went to donate blood, and my blood pressure was off-the-charts high. My toes were cold all of the time. Even the kids remarked that they looked sort of purple.

What to make of all this? Maybe not riding my fixie was literally killing me. Maybe I’m just getting old. I really don’t know. But I also wonder if I had COVID and didn’t realise it. Because all of those symptoms are consistent with post COVID syndromes.

I went to the doctor a few weeks after that first test, and my blood pressure was still high, but not so bad. He made me do a long-term blood pressure test (where I wore a test thing that puffed up every 30 minutes). It took about another month to do that, and by then my blood pressure was close to normal; just a little high. It now seems to be normal again. And my toes seem to be back to normal too. Who knows. Could be anything. Maybe I was just stressed from work and borderline depressed with the dark evenings and endless rain. But strange nonetheless.

Anyway, back to the bicycle part of this story.  I finally called the bike shop and to be honest got a bit shirty with them over the fact they had been holding onto the fixie for nearly three months with no progress. They were apologetic, and found me a back wheel I could borrow whilst they continued to try to track down a rear hub.

Yay! I got the fixie back. However, after I got it home, I realised something. The track-style wheel they had put on the back did not have my sprocket on it; it had a much smaller one. 15T, to be precise. I was apprehensive. How would this go?

Well my friends, the answer is that it went magnificently. It was wonderful. I danced up those hills. I spun down them faster than I have ever been able to go on that bike before. The first day I rode to work on the fixie even my colleagues noticed something different about me – I seemed happy, and as one person put it, ‘powerful’. The whole thing was a near-spiritual experience. After months of struggle, I finally felt like myself again.

Stay safe out there. Ride a fixie. And wear an N95 mask.

Four thousand electric kilometres

November 8, 2022 at 11:56 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I passed a milestone on my electric bike the other day – it reached 4,000 km on the odometer. I do like my electric bike. It fulfils a different role to my other bikes. Yes, in some cases it is a direct substitute, but it also opens up a range of new opportunities compared to a regular bike. I can ride it to places where I need to arrive in regular clothes, even on a hot day – going to work on an e-bike means I can ride in my regular clothes and go straight to my desk, or I can ride out to a pub to meet a friend, even if it’s the other side of the city. I can ride it when I’m too tired to ride my regular bike. Doing a hilly 30Km round trip to an orchestra rehearsal on a cargo bike after I have also done a 30Km round trip to work on the fixie is, honestly, too much. But with the e-bike I can zip off to orchestra and leave the car at home. And sometimes I just need to pop to the shop, and feel a bit lazy.

I did wonder if I’d end up riding my other bikes less. But that’s not what happened. When my fixie was off the road for some weeks, I rode the e-bike to work most days. For the first few days it was fine, but then I got really frustrated with it. It was practical, but not as much fun. So I’d say most of that 4,000km are kilometres that I otherwise would not have ridden.

E-bikes are gaining popularity, and are an emerging trend. Whilst the mainstream media mostly talks about electric cars, there are far more electric bicycles being made and sold than electric cars. In terms of the electric transport revolution, bikes are where it is at.

And a lot of the initial scepticism about e-bikes are proving unfounded. Here’s a great example from a few years ago of a bicycle advocate pooh-poohing e-bikes. And yet so much of what is in that article has been proved wrong. China is not banning e-bikes; rather they have been tightening regulations to ensure they are safe, and ensuring high-power machines are (rightly) classified as motorbikes. E-bike purchasers are not leaving them at the back of the shed; they are riding them further than ‘regular’ bike trips, and in general they are replacing car trips, not other bicycle trips (lots of references here for those points). They are making inroads into delivery systems; indeed Australia Post has a very large fleet of e-bikes that posties use to deliver mail. It’s even been shown that e-bike riders get as much if not more exercise benefits from riding as ‘regular’ cyclists.

I think what committed cyclists often fail to see is that e-bikes are different to regular bikes. They do different things. It’s a bit like the difference between a laptop and a phone. Pretty much everything you can do on one you can do on the other. You can manage with only one of them. But there are things that are easier or more convenient on one vs the other.

So if you are a committed cyclist, I recommend getting an e-bike. You won’t find it replacing many of your current bike trips. But you might well find it replacing some of your car trips. And if you like the idea of riding a bike, but find it a bit daunting because you don’t feel fit enough? Get an e-bike, and set off. It won’t be long before you can then also get a regular bike so you can set out on a more physical adventure.

New saddle

November 7, 2022 at 11:14 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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The saddle on my fixie has been gradually disintegrating for a while. It’s been on the bike since I bought it about fifteen years ago, so I suppose it hasn’t done too badly; I reckon it has supported by bottom for a good 120K kilometres. Anyway, it was getting a bit uncomfortable, so I bought a new one that is exactly the same as the old one, sans the rather nifty Salsa stitching.

Actually it’s not exactly the same, as it has a much fancier material the covers it – sort of soft-touch slightly rubbery fabric which feels much more high-tech than the vinyl on the other one. Hopefully it will last for another fifteen years.

I also put a new chain on the fixie too. All this wet weather has been taking a huge toll on my drivechain. I seem to be burning through a chain every six months, rather than every two years or so. In part that’s because I am very bad at cleaning my chain, but hey ho.

Arnott’s Obsession Milk Chocolate

November 6, 2022 at 11:02 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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I have a strong feeling these biscuits are not available any more. I bought them back in May, and I don’t recall seeing them in the shops since then. I think Arnott’s keep making forays into ‘expensive chocolate’ things (like here and here), and failing. Still kudos for continuing to try.


I say ‘expensive’, because, phooey, these biscuits cost a bit. They were $4 a pack. And how many do you get in a pack? Six. That’s right. You get a whole six biscuits in a pack. That’s, erm, erm… hold on…  69.2 cents per biscuit. That’s a lot. And how big are these biscuits? Small. They are very small indeed. The box they come in is very large, but there are about eight layers of packaging, and once you get to the actual biscuit you will find they are tiny. When we opened the box after dinner, the entire Chillikebab family burst into laughter as these absurd tiny biscuits were finally revealed.


But are they any good? Maybe they are so exceptional that they justify the cost. Well, dear readers, they are OK. They are a biscuit, with chunks of chocolate embedded in chocolate creme. Honestly, they taste like Tim Tams. I’m going to give them a 7 out of 10 (as they are quite OK biscuits), but if value for money is your thing then you will not agree.

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