Riding in Berlin

June 1, 2017 at 15:14 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I recently had to go to Berlin on business, and managed to find a few hours to get away from work to explore the city. Which it did, of course, on a bicycle. There are bicycles for hire literally everywhere in Berlin; it seems every cafe, shop and kiosk in the city offers bicycles for 12 euros a day. There’s also a municipal public bike hire, sponsored by Aldi. I didn’t try this, but it seemed quite high-tech, with bikes having screens and taking payments individually, rather than via a docking station.

I duly explored all the sights; the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Tiergarten, the Victory Column, the Reichstag, Kaiser Wilhelm Church and the Holocaust Memorial. It’s a lovely city, with a great vibe and fascinating history.

The bike was set up with a single front brake and a coaster back brake. Given it was set up in ‘continental’ mode, this meant that the front brake lever was on the left, and there was no brake at all under my right hand – which is the one I do 99% of my braking with. The coaster brake got me out of trouble a few times as my fingers grasped vainly at thin air when I needed to stop!

Getting around by bike was easy. There weren’t heaps of riders, and not that much bike infrastructure, but the drivers were calm and gave plenty of space. The more I ride outside of Australia, the more I agree with the observations of many seasoned bike travellers that Australia, and specifically Sydney, is one of the worst places to ride a bike anywhere in the world.

How does my bike work? – Jan McPherson

May 6, 2017 at 17:06 | Posted in bicycles, books | Leave a comment
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With the junior Chillikebab’s now at school, we have the joy of school readers. Books they bring home to read to us – full of the joy of them learning to read, and the crushing monotony of the repetitive sentences.

The other day, one of the juniors brought home this one – ‘How does my bike work?’. This book I of course approved of. Nothing like some good early education about bike maintenance. Junior read it with aplomb, and I ticked it off on her reading list.

However, it’s not a book I would necessarily recommend as a bike maintenance primer. Take this, for example:

Brake pads press against the tyres? I hope not; that’s a recipe for tyre blow-outs. I resisted the urge to cross this out and change it to ‘rims’ – which in any case I would say is phonically much easier to read…

Still, it’s always exciting to write a post that I can categorise in both Books and Bicycles!

I can ride!

May 1, 2017 at 13:33 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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My youngest daughter has, for many years, been an absolute natural on a balance bike. Since she was two years old she’s been scooting along, balancing with ease and maneuvering like a pro.

However, the transition to a bike with pedals has taken longer than expected. Despite the fact that she can scoot along on a tiny balance bike (long outgrown), lift up her feet and pretend to pedal, for some reason the idea of actually riding a pedal bike just sent her into meltdown. She’s had a ‘real bike’ for nearly a year, but for the most part it’s stayed in the shed, with the ever-more-unsuitably-small balance bike being chosen instead.

Anyway, we finally had a breakthrough. I took her, and her bike, to the park for the umpteeth time, and we tried again. And it clicked. And, of course, she could just ride it – it was purely a confidence thing. She also easily got the hang of braking, able to gently stop when required and put her feet down. She’s been riding it ever since, and hasn’t yet fallen off.

So now she is off. A bike rider. I’m planning to go out for a ride with her soon. Maybe we’ll go and buy ice cream.

Not so whitewall tyres

April 17, 2017 at 14:16 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I finally had to put new tyres on the Radish. The old ones were getting extremely worn; to the point they were completely smooth and starting to bulge. Riding it was very peculiar; the tyres were so squishy the bike handling was very odd, especially around corners. They were the ones that came with the bike, so have done a lot of km over the past seven years or so.

I have been thinking about new tyres for this bike for a while, and even asked in a few bike shops when i had to take it in for servicing, but hadn’t really seen anything suitable – I want a really fat, balloon tyre without much tread. Oh, and is cheap.

I was idly looking at things on the Pushy’s website one day, and I happened upon exactly what I needed. Fat, smooth, and cheap. And with a stylish white wall, to boot! I bought a pair, and they duly arrived.

I fitted the back one first. This was a bit of a pain, as getting the back wheel off is trickier than usual, given the weight of the bike and the panniers. But once done, I fitted the tyre, with my daughter commenting that the new tyre was ‘pretty’. So a tick of approval. then I put the wheel back on, which was again a bit of a pain. I had some trouble getting the chain on properly, getting very oily hands in the process.

Then I did the front wheel.

Now, more seasoned bike wrenches than me are probably sensing a schoolboy error about to happen here. And yes, you are correct. I didn’t clean my hands first, meaning the front tyre has a rather dirty white wall, adorned with hi-resolution imprints of my fingerprints.

 

Oh well. Perhaps I’ll clean it off one day. Or just wait seven years until they need replacing…

One thousand electric kilometres

April 13, 2017 at 16:06 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A small thing, but Mrs Chillikebab’s electric bike ticked over to a thousand kilometres the other day. I was able to capture the event on video, for your viewing pleasure.

This was on the same day that I had to replace the front brake pads – so I can tell you that pads last for exactly 1000km.

And it was also the day after I got the first puncture on that bike. So they seem to come at about 1000km intervals.

You might be thinking that 1000km is not a very high total for a bike that is four years old. This is because, sad to say, Mrs Chillikebab is not a big bike rider. Most of those electric kilometres I have ridden myself (it’s a fun bike to ride). But however you look at it, one thousand is a milestone. Or perhaps a kilometrestone.

 

 

Another one…

February 28, 2017 at 17:05 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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Most days, I ride to and from work along Burns Bay Road. On the upper section through Lane Cove, I probably get at least one motorist a day who comes closer than 1m. It has a 50km/h limit; it’s marked with signs for caution due to pedestrian activity, and has a number of pedestrian refuges along its length. It should be a good road for cycling, but the unfortunate ‘door-zone’ markings make is much more dangerous than it should be.

(As an aside, there’s plenty of room for separated bike lanes on this road, although somehow I don’t see the (rather anti-bike) council ever doing that. Another cheaper approach would be to put a double-width bike lane in uphill, move the centre line over and remove the downhill one, as has been done in places in Leichardt )

The other day I got a particularly egregious close pass; one where I could have reached out and touched the car:

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This was one I thought I would take to the police. Not that I have much faith they will do much, but hey.

So I took the footage in. Unfortunately the front cam was not charged, so I didn’t have the footage with the bike wheel in shot.

However, the reaction from the police constable on duty was not what I expected. “Wow!’, he gasped, as he watched the video. ‘Geez, that really is close!’. Then he looked at me, and asked if I’d brought footage in before.

I said I had, and he seemed to remember. However, he was much more enthusiastic this time. ‘This is much better than last time,’ he commented. ‘You can see it’s really really close!’.

So it seems he is going to follow it up. Which is a good thing. Comparing the footage with the last incident (see here), it looks pretty similar to me. Luck of the draw, or are the police starting to take this a bit more seriously, perhaps jolted by press coverage like this?

We will see!

Freak Storm

February 18, 2017 at 14:53 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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stormvideoSydney’s Inner West is usually a quiet kind of place. Little happens to disturb the sounds of single-origin lattes being brewed in hipster cafes, and kids being driven to school in urban tractors.

However, yesterday there was a Big Storm. Freak winds hit this otherwise quietly complacent patch of inner-city gentrification, bringing down trees and damaging buildings. Those freak winds probably lasted for no more than fifteen minutes, but it was quite exciting whilst it lasted.

It was particularly exciting for me, as I just happened to be on my way home from work at that moment, riding through the heart of the storm. It’s the first time I have literally been stopped in my tracks by the wind – a particularly massive gust just pushed me backwards to a stop. This was coupled with heavy sideways rain that stung my face as I attempted to make progress.

However, I was not deterred. I managed to make it home, And, of course, the superiority of the bicycle was one again demonstrated as cars struggled to pick their ways down roads covered with downed trees an other debris, but I was able to continue pretty much as normal.

Above is some footage from my rear-facing camera. Unfortunately the battery was flat in the front-facing one, but you can get the idea of the intensity of the wind and rain as it is driven down the roads.

Bike on bike nut job

February 8, 2017 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It bikeonbikesometimes happens that I end up with two bikes at work. Some inequality in rides too and from caused by side trips, lifts, taxis and business trips conspire to create this imbalance. For the most part I just wait it out, and it usually corrects itself, but the situation had been going on for weeks, and didn’t seem to be resolving.

So I went with the rather unwieldy option of strapping the fixie to the Radish. This requires removing the wheels, strapping the frame down via the chain stays, and putting the wheels into the panniers. On this occasion I also had rather a lot of other things to carry, so I had to tuck both wheels into the same pannier, which was not 100% straightforward. Still, I managed, and arrived home without mishap.

Or so I thought. When I can to reassemble the fixie, I realised that one of the wheel nuts had gone missing from the front wheel. Damn lawyers. Evidently I had left the nut rather unscrewed, and it had worked loose and dropped off.

I effected a temporary fix by ‘borrowing’ one of the nuts from one of the little Chillikebab’s bikes (sadly she doesn’t ride it much; she’s more a dedicated scooter girl), and then set about ordering a new nut.

Now, this is when it got unbelievably complicated. Apparently no-one knows what size regular bike wheel nuts are. Attempting to google it yields hundreds of threads in hundreds of bike forums with people asking this exact question, and then receiving as many answers as there are types of nut – both literally and figuratively. I was literally unable to find this out. Hub manufactures don’t put in in the specs. Bike shops don’t tell you (and don’t stock them). Even my LBS was unable to help, trying a few nuts out halfheartedly (none of them fit), and then saying they would have to ‘look into it’. Apparently it could be an M10. Or a 3/8″. It might have 24 or 26 threads per inch, or perhaps a pitch of 1.25, or maybe 1.5.  Probably not 1.0, except on some bikes. The front and back hubs might be different. Unless they are the same. And BMX and coaster brakes have different nuts. Sometimes. Or perhaps not. It might be 14mm. Or 15mm. Or M9. Or M9.5.

Usually, answers go through a range of options for what it could be, and airily finish with ‘they are all standard, so you’ll have no problem getting one”. Ha! I tried every nut available in Bunnings, and not one of them fit.

Finally, I found the answer. Thank you, Moruya Bicycles. Both for having the information, and selling the damn things.   3/8″ with 26 threads per inch. Outside dimensions 15mm. (Which seems weird to me; a non-metric nut that fits a metric spanner).

Apparently coaster brakes are slightly different, as they had 24 threads per inch. Except little Chillikebab’s bike has a coaster brake, and the nut fits my hub perfectly. I’ve ordered one of each size, to be sure. Now I’m just praying that when they arrive, one of them will fit…

Tagalongs, kids and cold weather

January 25, 2017 at 13:04 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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tagalongThe Chillikebab family recently went on holiday to the UK, which was nice. And also very cold. I didn’t get to do much riding at all, but there was one small highlight when we stayed at CenterParcs for a few days (as a kind of respite from relentless family reunions…!).

Whilst we were there, I hired a bike and tagalong, to carry the kids along. Leaving aside the fact we could ride legally in our warm hats (the CenterParcs guide recommended wearing helmets, but thankfully I saw almost no-one with one on the whole time we were there), it was a lot of fun. The kids absolutely loved it, and it was much easier than carrying them in a kiddie seat. The bike was much easier to control without the weight on the back, and it was also quicker just to get them on and off it – no straps etc to worry about, they could just jump on and off we went.

hireCenterParcs is really set up for bike hire. Once everyone is checked in, cars are not allowed on site, which makes it very nice for cycling. Lots of people hire bikes, even in winter – and the size of the bike hire facility indicates that it’s even more bicycle intense in the summer.

The taalong fitted to the bike was a Burley Kazoo. This is rather unusual, in that it couples to a special rack, rather than the seatpost. Apparently this makes it more stable, but I’ve not tried the other kind to compare. That said, from my subsequent reading around it seems that the Burley is the kind of Rolls Royce option of these types of things – with a price tag to match.

I did wonder how much I would notice the effort put in by the little Chillikebabs turning the pedals. The answer is that actually you do notice it – it’s definitely easier when they are pedalling. Up the hills I exhorted them to pedal harder. Little Chillikebab Jr took this to heart, standing up on the pedals and going for broke. She also delighted in me stopping pedalling on very slight downhills, leaving her pedalling both of us as we gradually gathered pace.

The upshot of all this is that I now intend to buy a tagalong for use at home. I now have to work out if I can mount one on the Radish somehow, or if I’m going to need to buy another bike specifically for the purpose…

Wearing out…

December 13, 2016 at 10:31 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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tyreIt’s Terrific Tuesday! Time for our dose of cycling good news and upbeat blogging. And today’s theme is – things wearing out.

‘But how is that good news?’ I hear you cry. Well, because it pleases me. I have had a bunch of things wear out just recently:

  • the front rim on the fixie
  • the rear tyre on the fixie
  • the bottom bracket on the Radish
  • the cleats on my shoes
  • the chain on the fixie
  • the brake blocks on Mrs Chillikebab’s electric bike
  • my favorite cycling knicks

Now, I suppose this is Bad News. I mean, that’s all cost I have to bear, goods that have to be manufactured, carbon footprints to be agonised over.

But actually, I feel rather positive about it. All of those things have been well used. They represent thousands of kilometres of happy cycling. Hours of safe, fun riding. Each of those things can tell a story – the places they have been, the hills they conquered, the loads they hauled. And, when examined, it’s really not that much. A few bits and bobs that have made my life easier and happier, and probably have had less impact on the world than one tank of petrol for the car.

And in getting them sorted, I’ve spoken to nice people in local bike shops, chatted online with like minded souls, compared notes with other riders.

So raise a glass to bikes that get used, that wear out, that can be renewed. Not discarded capriciously, nor rendered obsolete, but simply worn out by the actions of my own muscles over months and years. It’s the best way to travel. And a good way to live.

 

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