New bicycle!

October 12, 2019 at 20:13 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A momentous day! A new bicycle has appeared in the Chillikebab household. Sadly, not for me. But for Chillikebab Jnr 2. It seems only a few months ago I was putting her into a tiny seat, but now she has graduated to hew first real ‘proper’ bike – a 24 inch wheeled beauty with hub gears.

I remember by first 24 inch wheel bike. It was an Enfield racer, bright yellow. And it was freedom. It was the first bike that I could really go places on. The combination of being older and having a bike that could cover distances meant I could really go exploring. It was independence, fun and adventure.

I see some of the same things with Chillikebab Jnr 2. With this bike, she can bowl along. She now leaves her sister behind (who refuses to ride a bike, and sticks to her scooter) on the way to school. She can cover distances. She feels grown up.

But what she doesn’t have is the freedom. She can’t go off and explore the neighbourhood by herself on that bike. Why? Because selfish car drivers don’t want her too. They are too concerned with their own convenience to consider the way they restrict the freedoms of others. They swing around corners, ignore red lights, don’t look where they are going, park on footpaths, intimidate vulnerable road users, and generally make the environment so intimidating and dangerous that an eight year old cannot navigate it alone. This makes me cross.

Still, on a happier note we went for a much longer ride today – all the way around the Bay Run. Chillikebab Jnr 2 did fine – hardly even broke a sweat. And she (and I) both had a ball. So here’s to the joy of riding a bike.

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Bike share shenanigans

September 16, 2019 at 10:47 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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The Melbourne bike share scheme is going to be scrapped. It was the first bike share scheme to be launched in Australia, and was the traditional sort with fixed rental stations. I did take a ride on it some time ago, but unless I get to Melbourne before the end of the year, that first ride will also be my last.

Of course, the post-mortems go on about why it failed – too few stations, too far apart, in the wrong places, not enough bike lanes, too expensive etc etc. But whilst any one of those might have been a handicap, the real reason is Australia’s helmet laws. Given that you basically can’t legally use the scheme in the way they are designed to be used, it is sort of not surprising that it, erm, wasn’t used. And if you think that’s hyperbole, consider that there are only three urban fixed-station bike share schemes in the world that are failing – Melbourne, Brisbane, and Vancouver. The link? They are the only three in jurisdictions where mandatory helmet laws apply. Go figure.

Bike share bikes did make it into the news last week in Sydney too, when prominent ex-politician Sam Dastyari turned up to a corruption inquiry on one. This is a man who lost his job as a Labor senator some time ago because he was linked with dodgy donations from a dodgier businessman. He was due at the corruption commission as a witness in a different case involving a different part of the Labor party taking large sums of money in cash from a dodgy businessman. (If you are not from Australia, that might seem remarkable, but it’s pretty much politics as usual down here). Well, anyway, Sam had the temerity to ride on the footpath for a short distance outside the ICAC HQ, leading to a stern talking to by the NSW Police – including being issued with a caution for riding on the footpath. Keeping us safe as usual. Still, at least he was wearing a helmet.

Apocalypse

September 7, 2019 at 21:46 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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The weather riding home last night was apocalyptic. Dark, ominous clouds scudded across the sky. And a wild wind blew. Not the usual stormy wind that presages a change, with a cooling aspect. And not a steady breeze bringing moisture from the ocean. No, this was a hot wind, dry and dangerous, swirling and capricious. This was not a natural wind.

One of the interesting things about commuting to work on a bicycle is that you get to experience the weather. Every day, I ride for nearly two hours out in the open – rain or shine, heat or cold. Many of my friends an acquaintances I think truly never really experience the weather. They move from one controlled environment to another – home, car, office, shops – and only venture outside if the weather is ‘nice’. And, as a result, they do not seem to know anything about the weather, and how it is changing.

Not that I am claiming some kind of special insight. I am, after all, living a very privileged life – most of which is in the bubble. But at least, in those minutes on my bike, I have one connection with what is going on in the world.

And it is noticeable what is going on. It has been getting warmer and warmer. I have thrown away all my winter cycling jerseys, as I no longer wear them. Ten years ago, I wore them for two or three months of the year. I can’t remember the last time I needed leg warmers. After a hot day, the cool change that flows across the land seems to rarely come any more.

Like many people, global heating and climate change are of great concern to me. I read about islands disappearing into the sea, coral reefs dying, ice melting at unprecedented rates, forests and tundra burning, massive hurricanes, savage droughts.

But last night, I really felt it. The collapse of our climate is here. That wind was the result of unimaginable amounts of energy being added into our environment; heating seas and lands heaving under a suffocating blanket of CO2. This is not a drill, and this is not a problem for the future.

I don’t know what I can do. Like most of us, I am paralysed into inaction by the enormity of it all. But at least I can do this one small thing. To tell those people I know who live indoors that something is very wrong out there, right outside the window.

Puncture

September 1, 2019 at 13:27 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I don’t get punctures any more. Truly. Punctures are a thing other people get – mostly people running silly narrow lightweight tyres at high pressures. Run 32mm, heavy-duty tyres at 85psi, and you will not get punctures.

Well, actually that’s not quite true. You might get one if you don’t replace the tyre when it is worn out. As the tyre gets very thin, you risk of punctures goes up. And as I tend to run my tyres until they are pretty much disintegrating, this does sometimes happen to me.

And so it did, and I got a puncture. So I bought the necessary ingredients, and fixed it all up. Hurrah.

 

 

New pedals

August 24, 2019 at 13:25 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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So I needed new pedals again. Pesky things keep wearing out.  The first lot I had lasted ten years, according to this, but these one only lasted five. Perhaps I’m doing more kilometers on this bike than I was. Anyway, I bought some more, and got out my pedal wrench to fit them.

However, I hit a snag. I couldn’t get them off. They were stuck tight. I tried all sorts of things, different spanners, cheater bars, blocks of wood – but they would not budge. I even managed to break a fancy chrome-vanadium spanner in the attempt. I took the cranks off, and got the guys in the machine shop at work to have a crack at it with their array of professional vices, jigs and tools, but to no avail.

Oh dear. It seemed like I was going to have to replace the cranks as well. I looked at various options for crank replacements, but nothing seemed very easy. In the meantime, my feet were slopping around in the pedals like sloppy things.

Then, on they way to work, I popped into the bike shop. You might be thinking that I should probably have done this in the beginning. And you would be right. Using whatever secret bicycle shop techniques they have they managed to get the old pedals off, and put new ones on. Slightly fancier ones, to boot. They did wryly say ‘it was a bit tricky’. Anyway, kudos to the guys at Park Bikes. I am now set for another five or ten years…

Obstructions

August 20, 2019 at 20:46 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment

It was on the third occasion that I realised it was not the wind, or random chance, but that someone was deliberately placing things on the path to create a hazard. Mostly it was fallen branches from a nearby palm tree, but on this occasion it also included a quantity of empty cans strewn all over the path.

It’s happened six or seven times altogether, starting around April this year. The location is North Strathfield, on the relatively new path that runs alongside Powell’s Creek, at the Pomeroy St end.

I wonder who it is who feels the need to do this? It is aimed at cyclists? Or is it just a general anti-social nuisance? It’s always on the way home, so I guess it happens sometime during the day. When I come across it I stop and remove the obstruction before continuing. I wonder if others do the same, and in fact it happens nearly every day, or if is is just now and again.

Oh well. It’s not a major drama. Just a bit weird.

The long long bicycle

August 18, 2019 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I finally got around to doing something I’d been idly wondering about for years. As regular readers will know, I have a Burley trailer which I hitch to my cargo bike using a modified rack. And I also have a luggage trailer that I sometimes use to go to the airport (although since I have a new job I don’t have to travel any more, thankfully, so the trailer rarely gets used).

But here’s the question – could I hitch the luggage trailer to the back of the Burley? Of course I could! And yesterday I finally had reason to do it – I wanted to take to kids to the nearby Ferragosto street fair, and also drop off a load of obsolete clothes to the charity clothing bin thingy (yes, I also finally got around to culling some of my old clothes).

So I hitched it all up, and off we went. The only snag I could foresee was that because of the short chainstays on the Burley, there was a risk the arm of the trailer would touch the back of the left foot of the child pedalling if I went round a sharp bend. So I instructed the kids to watch out for this on the corners, and off we went.

In practice, this was not an issue at all. We couldn’t really go around sharp corners, and in any case the dual articulation meant that the angle of the trailer never got acute. The kids thought it was all terrific fun, and to be honest so did I. We got heaps of comments and admiring looks, and safely made the trip there and back without incident.

One thing that was basically impossible though was wheeling the thing backwards to park. I now have a new respect for truck drivers who reverse those dual-trailer B-doubles…

Aldi bike cam light

August 14, 2019 at 21:52 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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As you may remember, a while ago my Cycliq rear camera light died on the operating table. Cycliq offered me a 15% discount on a new one, which was sort of nice and sort of not very generous too. Anyway, serendipitously, the very next week Aldi were offering integrated rear light bike cameras for just $69. So I bought one.

It’s clear that someone took a Fly6 to China, and asked a factory there to make something similar but at a very low price. It takes a lot of its design cues from the Fly6, although it’s a lot bigger overall. It has IPX4 waterproofing (which is less than the Fly6, but adequate for most purposes), similar arrangements of buttons and slot covers, and some similar features.

First up, it’s somewhat bulky and heavy. I don’t really care, but if you like your bike to look sleek and / or worry about weight, this is not for you. It uses a rubber bungee things to attach to the bike, and this is actually pretty good – one of the better designs of such things. Better, in fact, than the original Fly6 clip.

It can take a maximum 32GB microSD card, and records in 1080p, 30fps. The video files are broken up into 10 minute pieces, and you can fit about seven hours of footage on a 32GB card.

The light is quite bright, and has steady and two flashing modes, but it’s not spectacular. You can turn the light on and off independently of the camera; there are separate switches for the two functions. A dim green LED lights up to show the camera is operating. The camera automatically overwrites the oldest footage on the card as it goes, so there’s no need to manually delete files on the card.

The battery lasts for about 3 hours, some way short of the claimed 5-6 hours. When the battery gets low, the camera turns off and it bleeps, but the light stays on for a while longer. The manual claims it stays on for 1-2 hours, but it doesn’t; you get about 30 minutes of light before the battery goes completely dead.

There is no function that turns off the camera if you are in a crash, but the recommendation is to put a big SD card in so the battery runs out before your crash footage is overwritten. With the supplied 8GB card, this could happen, but with a 32GB card you are safe – the card will not fill up on a single battery charge.

The quality of the video is just OK. Less good than my 2nd gen Fly6 (which was only 720p), and I’m sure nowhere near the latest Cycliq cameras. There is no stabilisation or other tricks. As is often the case with these cams, the audio is as good as useless. Night time performance is pretty terrible; there’s note much chance you will be able to make out a number plate on footage taken when it’s not daytime. Also the lens seemed to get scratched very easily; it obviously gets dirt on it from it’s position above the wheel, and wiping it away has scratched the lens a lot in a short amount of time.

Here’s some samples of video:

Daytime – road

Dusk – off-road

Dark – Road

One thing you will notice is that the red flashing light leaks into the video, especially at night. That doesn’t bother me, but if you are hoping to capture epic footage for your cycling film, it’s probably not for you. Actually, if you want good video quality, it’s probably not for you. But if you just want a basic cam to record the daily goings on on your ride, it works quite adequately. My Fly6 lasted four years, so at a quarter the cost I will be quids in if it lasts more than twelve months.

New route to work

May 7, 2019 at 15:27 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I have found a new route to work. After nearly being crushed, and then running the gamut of dangerous drivers, I realised that a new parallel route had opened up which means I can completely skip that horrible DFO roundabout, and have a lovely off-road cruise.

It’s because of the Opal tower – yes, that one, the one that is falling down (but which has a bike shop at the bottom, so can’t be all bad). Well, when they built that, they also built a new pedestrian bridge over the road, which now means the path along the canal from Strathfield links up properly with Olympic Park. Previously you got close to where you wanted to go, and then the path sort of veered madly to the left and went off into the wilderness.

This means that a bit more than half of my ride to work is now on lovely off-road paths, through the trees and along the canal. I can hear the birds tweeting, enjoy the swish of my tyres on the path and generally enjoy a stress-free ride.

If all riding was like this, just think how any people would do it!

Red lights

May 1, 2019 at 09:50 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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You may remember this incident, when my bicycle was eaten by an SUV on my way home. Well, since that happened I’ve been avoiding that roundabout by using the footpath, which is designated as a shared path. It’s not ideal, as it’s a bit narrow and bumpy in places, but it’s better than getting squashed.

Or is it? To go around it you have to navigate two pedestrian crossings at the entrance and exit to the roundabout. They are a bit strange, as they do not have a green light – just the amber and red ones. I presume this is in case dumb motorists think the green light is for them to barrel on to the roundabout, not just for the crossing set back ten metres or so from the roundabout.

That said, there are very large signs telling motorists they are approaching pedestrian actuated signals, and even a flashing orange beacon to alert them on approach if they are about to turn red – the flashing lights remain in place until they go off (as there is no green, they just go blank when the crossing phase is finished).

Whether due to this unconventional arrangement or just because drivers are dumb, clueless and absolutely appalling at actually looking where they are going, no-one stops for these red lights.

That probably sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Most days, several cars just drive straight over them, right in the middle of the red phase when the green man is showing. It is both startling and alarming.

I’ve been recording some of this on Twitter for a while:

You get the idea. And just in case you thought my ‘most days’ was exaggerating, check the dates on those tweets. There is heaps more on my Twitter feed too.

So what do the local police do?

Pull me over to talk about helmets. Thanks for keeping us safe, @NSWPolice.

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