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…

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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!

Drivers, parking and entitlement

April 17, 2019 at 08:28 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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Drivers are, of course, the most entitled class of road users out there. Like the bullies they are, they shout and scream about others not ‘paying their way’ and ‘causing danger’, ignoring the massive costs we are all forced to pay to support their choices – the dollar cost of the roads they drive on, the environmental costs of the fuel they burn and the ultimate cost of the human lives they destroy – thousands of people killed every year in Australia by dangerous and negligent drivers.

Cars bring out the worst in us. I drive sometimes; we have a family car. And I have to work hard to resist its insidious effects. Cut off from those around you, isolated from society and from the consequences of your choices we all too easily become selfish and thoughtless.

There are so many examples of this selfish behaviour we have for the most part stopped noticing it – we accept the dominance of the motor car on our lives without a second thought.

But having recently come across a series of examples of swingeing entitlement in action, I was moved to write about it. And it is parking. Specifically, parking on areas of public land reserved for pedestrians (and sometimes cyclists).

Take this spot, for example:

This spot is directly in front of a car park. It is alongside a parking lane on the road. There is always parking available within 200m of this spot. Always. Yet it seems completely blocking this SUP is considered perfectly OK by a range of drivers.

Here’s another common example:

car4

A car that could easily and legally fit in the parking lane (let’s not get into the fact that this is also a bike lane, but one that allows parking) instead is driven up onto an already narrow pavement, pretty much blocking it.

truck

Yes, workmen have to get to their worksite, but absolutely and completely blocking a path, forcing path users into a road when it would be perfectly possible to park in the traffic lane?

I don’t know what the solution is to this type of behaviour. It is so ingrained that we have almost stopped noticing it. Perhaps we could phase out cars, say in the next ten years? Maybe then we could regain our humanity and compassion.

 

Lime e-bike share

April 8, 2019 at 18:28 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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Dockless bike share it seemed was dead in Sydney. Whilst several systems launched with some fanfare, they ultimately all failed; as I wrote back in late 2017 when they launched:

To my mind the environment is against them – a government generally hostile to cycling, apathy on the part of the public and helmet laws could well end up making them nonviable.

lime bike

Pretty much every part of that prediction came to pass. Bikes were vandalised, had the helmets stolen and were dumped, local councils passed regulations that imposed massive fines on the operators and the police kept us all safe with endless helmet crackdowns. I could feel smug about the accuracy of this prediction, but to be honest to bet against any kind of bicycle advancement in Sydney is a very very safe bet.

Notwithstanding all these failures (four systems have completely gone; one limps on with a smattering of bikes and almost no investment or support), another system has sprung up – this time not with low-cost utility bikes, but with more sophisticated e-bikes.

And so, I took one for a ride to test it out.

The first impression were very favourable. These bikes are very comfortable. They are actually large enough to ride properly – the other systems, even the better ones, always felt a bit small for me (and I’m not especially tall). I could get the seat right where I wanted it, and sit very comfortably.

The electric assist is not as refined as on Mrs Chillikebab’s e-bike, but certainly has some grunt. It tends to pull a bit too hard when you start pedaling, and the power seems to fade as you get up even a small amount of speed (but still below the 25kph limit for e-bike assist), but at low speeds it can really haul you up a hill with ease.

motoeThere are no gears, but with the motor this is less of an issue. The app is easy to use, although there is no trial period (perhaps not surprising, given the expense of the bikes). There is a geo-fence, which once again is not well signaled in the app. I have seen quite a few Lime bikes outside of this area, so I’m not quite sure what happens if you go outside. But inside the area there is, for now at least, plenty of them around.

How they keep them charged I don’t know; there must be quite a support system behind them. They are a bit more pricey than the other systems (a short ride will cost $3-5, vs the $1-2 for the non electric systems), but to my mind it is worth it – cheaper than the bus, comfortable and you don’t even work up a sweat.

I’ll ride them some more and give some more impressions in due course, but for now I am a fan. It is the best bike share to have come to Sydney. I just hope it can survive the hostile environment…

 

And again….

July 23, 2018 at 21:57 | Posted in bicycles | 10 Comments
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Yes, it happened again. Again, when I was stationary. Festooned in hi-viz and flashing lights. A car drove into me – a sort of low-speed crunching as my bicycle was devoured by the front of his gas-guzzling SUV. Thankfully the driver stopped before he got to me, leaving my bike jammed under his car, my saddle (where I was sitting) hard up against his bonnet. (video here)

It is getting worse out there. Drivers are increasingly distracted. Mobile phone use is endemic, and rarely properly policed. Most modern cars now feature touch-screens that take drivers attention away from the road for ten or twenty seconds at a time as they prod at it to change the radio or operate the sat nav.

Against this near-universal back drop, in Sydney it is further stoked by the increasing aggression shown by drivers towards cyclists. This is rooted in the aggressively anti-cycling stance of the state government, coupled with heavy handed anti-cycling policing, all capped with a broadly anti-cycling safety ‘industry’ that seeks to blame cyclists for the increasing road toll and a populist media near universally playing the ‘law-breaking cyclist’ and ‘war on the roads’ angles constantly.

I am now at a point, sad to say, where I would not recommend to anyone they cycle in Sydney. I used to encourage my colleagues to cycle to work. I no longer do that. The environment is so hostile that I can’t recommend it. This, of course, makes me very sad, and also very angry. The sheer stupidity and short-sightedness of our policy makers and media is breathtaking. In the latest NSW budget, there are zero dollars for cycling, and all mentions of cycling targets or programs have been expunged from the Transport for NSW website. Pretty much all that remains are pages telling cyclists to wear helmets and ‘share the road’.

Well, I was sharing the road the other day. It just seems others don’t want to share it with me.

 

PS The police, predictably, refused to take a statement or follow up the incident, even when given the video footage. Too busy policing deserted stop signs, perhaps.

New Camera – Shimano CM-2000

June 27, 2018 at 21:40 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A few months ago, the Shimano camera I have facing forward on my bike fell off. The clip isn’t all that great, and I apparently hadn’t secured it properly. After pinging across the road, it still worked – but the lens was cracked. A new lens cost $40, so I didn’t buy one; after all the camera came with a spare one (of a different shape for using under water) which I thought would be fine. Except that I couldn’t find it anywhere. And then it seems what remaining stocks of spare lenses that might have been around evaporated, and were no longer available anywhere.

The great thing about Shimano bike cameras though is that they are absolutely awful. Not the actual camera bit;  the physical design (apart perhaps for the clip) and the video quality is fine. No, rather all the other bits are awful. They WiFi connection is flaky as. The battery life is ordinary. The app is a disaster. The promised video editing software to overlay your data has never made an appearance. This means that, when launched, they retail at $500 but after a while are available for a song as no-one wants to buy them.

And it seems Shimano made a version 2 bike cam, and this too is awful, and is now also available for a song. A $149 song, in fact – which is not a bad price for a high-quality HD waterproof camera, even if none of the other features work. So I bought one. Although they still don’t include a handlebar mount, I was able it improvise a stem mount from the helmet mount and some cable ties.

It’s definitely better than version 1 – especially in low light. But the clip is exactly the same. And on the third outing with the new camera, it too pinged across the road after going over a bump. Luckily, the lens was not broken (the design means it’s a bit less vulnerable than version 1), and it still works…

Another perfect pass

June 4, 2018 at 09:25 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You may remember a little while ago I blogged about a truck driver who gave me plenty of room. Well, I had another very positive experience the other day with a cement truck driver. It was around the same spot, at a point where the bike lane (a painted on one of course, so not proper bike infrastructure) follows the road around to the left, and I wanted to go straight on – meaning I have to go across the car lane.

I was looking behind me, and saw the truck was coming up behind, so I slowed to enable him to pass so I could cross behind him. However, he realised what I needed to do, and was very helpful in making room, not overtaking me and ensuring my safety. I called out thanks, and he gave me a thumbs up from his cab as he went by. Top notch stuff from Hanson Cement – I took a moment to drop a complimentary line to them via their website.

The warm fuzzy feelings evaporated a few seconds later, however, when a bus went roaring past me a few inches from my shoulder. This incident perfectly illustrates why these painted on bike lanes can be worse than no bike lane at all. Because I am in the ‘bike lane’, I am invisible (or at least can be disregarded). But the effect of a large, fast vehicle going past that close to you is extremely unnerving – and the pulse of wind it produces can be quite destabilising.

If you are a driver who does not cycle, please learn from these two incidents. Be a lovely person spreading warm fuzzy goodwill on our roads, not a thoughtless person spreading fear and aggression.

Stop lines and police lines

May 19, 2018 at 11:42 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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[click pic for video] Every day, I cycle through Sydney Olympic Park. As do many cyclists; it has wide roads, relatively light traffic and bike lanes – although they are the worse-then-useless painted on sort.

Some of the junctions have stop signs. But the roads are wide, the traffic is light, the sightlines are excellent (especially on a bike), so traffic pretty much never stops – just slows and then continues.

I, of course, do this on my bike. Having to come to a complete stop and then pick up speed again is tiring and unnecessary. In many places, it’s perfectly legal to do this, of course. It’s called an ‘Idaho stop’, after the first jurisdiction that introduced this rule for bicycles. And interestingly, research shows that places that have implemented the Idaho stop have lower bicycle accident rates at stop lines than those without.

Bu, of course, not in cycling-hating Sydney. Not only is it technically illegal not to completely stop, the police seemingly have nothing better to do that wait behind the bushes at the side of the road, watching out for errant cyclists.

One of those cyclists was me. And, sure enough, neee-naaa nee-naaa, I was pulled over. And I got a ticket. Now, since the even-more-anti-cycling-than-usual roads minister Duncan Gay, fines for bicycle offenses have been jacked up. The fine for this trivial thing? $330. Seriously.

But to make it worse, when I received the ticket it also had three demerit points on it. Now, you can;’t get demerit points for riding a bicycle. Think about it – it makes no sense to lose your licence for something you don’t need a license to do. The NSW Transport Act makes it quite clear that demerits apply only to motor vehicles. But the cop apparently did the paperwork wrong. So not only are the cops vindictive, they are also incompetent.

I didn’t want to schlep to court, but found I could plead guilty by post but ask for mitigating circumstances. I wrote a rather ranty and incoherent letter to the magistrate, and had the fine reduced to $200. But with costs and ‘victims of crime levy’, the total fine ended up being $367. Oh well. At least the demerits were taken off.

If only the police would spend time on offences that actually cause danger and death. Like riding too close to bicycles. Nope, no chance of that…

TheOtherDimension jersey

May 2, 2018 at 15:35 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You’d think, as a successful blogger and cycling activiste, I would be showered with freebies and samples of all sorts of things from companies eager to see their products tried and reviewed on these august pages.

Well, you’d be wrong. I’ve never got so much as a pot of chamois cream (or custard creams, for that matter). Now, I realise that, in general, in order to get such goodies you have to have a blog that people actually read. And it probably helps if you’re not a nutter who keeps going off about helmets, and seems to end up in court rather regularly. But still. Come on, people.

Anyway, there other day I did get a genuine freebie, courtesy of my friend Andrew. Unlike me, he is talented, and is one of the owners of the chic design agency ‘TheOtherDimension‘. They design all sorts of things, from logos to widgets. (And I note in a nice synergy they have invented things for Arnott’s. I wonder if they get free custard creams?)

Andrew is a cyclist, and was frustrated that he couldn’t find a cycling jersey that had the commuter features he wanted but which didn’t look like something you’d wear to a night roadworks party. So he brought his considerable design talents to bear, and created one.

He was kind enough to send me one, and I have to say it is terrific. Apparently it has all these clever features (like hi-viz exactly and only where it needs to be for maximum effect, high-tec reflecto fabric stuff and infinitely large back pockets), but I just like it because it’s super comfy and looks great.

I have no idea if you can buy them. If you can, I suggest you do. But if not, ha ha. You see, that’s the kind of exclusive-blogger-lifestyle that I now lead, with my super-exclusive bespoke jersey. Oh yeah.

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