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…

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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 | 2 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.

Perfect Pass

March 2, 2018 at 12:09 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Anyone who rides a bike on the roads occasionally experiences car drivers passing rather too close. This is, of course, illegal, but given the cops are utterly uninterested in ever doing anything about it, I don’t see that it’s going to change soon. My new commute has a few spots where this is a particular problem. I’ve been planning to write a blog about it for a while replete with hair-raising video of people skimming past whilst texting on their phones.

However, I’m also nervous such a post might be Whispering. So instead I’m going to talk about a good experience. One of the roads I ride on is Australia Avenue, going through Olympic Park. This has a ‘bike lane’ painted down the side, but as is often the case with paint (as opposed to proper infrastructure) it sort of makes things worse not better. Why? Well drivers somehow see that paint line as a magical defence, and don’t consider how close they are to you – the logic is that I have a bike lane, they are in the car lane, and everything is OK. Well, when the bike lane is only about one metre wide in total, and you are driving a large truck where the back wheels are grazing that white line, it’s not OK. It’s terrifying.

Against that background, take a bow the driver of this Toll truck. Not only did he go very wide when overtaking me, he was also aware of the potential conflict when we both pulled up at the traffic light, and waved me past to ensure I was safe and that I knew he had seen me. Well done. I took the time to send in a compliment to Toll via their website, which I hope reaches the driver in question.

And, as is often the case when this happens, I find myself thinking, ‘I bet he rides a bike’…

More Bikeshare adventures

February 24, 2018 at 11:34 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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On Friday, I had a event in the evening after work. It was too far to cycle, and I was going straight from work. What to do? Leave my bike at the office all weekend? No, of course not. The answer seemed simple – ride a share bike!

This would also have additional benefits. There used to be a fair few share bikes around the industrial estate where I work (mostly ReddyGo), and I often hopped on one at lunchtime to ride to a cafe to get lunch. Strangely though, they all seem to have vanished. I even took most of a lunchtime walking farther afield to where there were some marked on the maps for each of the brands, but each time I got there there was not bike to be found. Is the local council removing them? Are they being stolen? Whatever the reason, it’s a bit frustrating. So I figured that by riding one to work, I would at least get one bike there that I could use. And I thought I might park it on company property (although accessible), under the watchful eye of a security camera, to dissuade councils and thieves from taking it.

Given it is a fairly long ride, I wanted either a ReddyGo or an Ofo. And, checking the map in the morning, there was an Ofo right there on my street, just down from my house. Perfect! I jumped on board, and set off – rather more ponderously than usual. The Ofo is an OK bike, but it is just that bit too small, which makes it rather tiring to ride. Still, I got there. According to Strava, my average moving speed was 18km/h, as opposed to my usual 23km/h – overall it took me about eight minutes longer. This is not really very much. It just goes to show that plodding along is still a pretty efficient way to travel – you don’t have to be super fast to cover distances in a reasonable time on a bicycle.

When I parked the bike, I got a warning that I was outside the GeoFence area – in other words, I had ridden the bike further from the centre of Sydney than was allowed. I mentioned this GeoFencing in my review of Ofo, but since then they have expanded the area quite considerably. Given that I had seen several Ofo bikes on the map near my office (although, as mentioned, none of them were actually there when I went to find them), I assumed that the area now extended out that far.

Apparently not. So I have a 20 point penalty on my score. I did use the same bike at lunchtime twice – once to go to the shops, and once to come back. I got the warning message again both times, and was wondering if I would end up with a 60 point penalty – although that seemed a bit harsh. Borrowing a bike that’s already out of area surely shouldn’t result in further penalty just because you didn’t ride it back inside the GeoFence. I think it would be helpful if Ofo shaded the whole area outside of the GeoFence on the map a different colour, as it’s quite hard to see otherwise if a particular suburb is inside or outside the area.

I suppose at some point I’ll have to ride it back into the area, and perhaps swap it for a ReddyGo. Ho hum.

 

More bikeshare – Ofo vs Mobike vs Earthbike

January 1, 2018 at 14:58 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Hot on the heels of ReddyGo and Obike (click here for my in-depth review of those two schemes) three more bikeshare companies have arrived in Sydney. And, of course, your intrepid correspondent has tried out all of them for your enjoyment and education.

First up, Earthbike. These black and orange bikes have been appearing a lot around Olympic Park, although I have’t seen many of them elsewhere. So I downloaded the app and tried one out. Or rather, I tried to. You see, the app is completely non-functional. It’s horribly translated from Chinese (with occasional Chinese prompts and messages flashing up, and a weird thing where it refers to bikes as ‘cars’) and riddled with bugs (e.g. you end up having to use your phone number as your password, because of the way the sign-up form is designed). The map does not show any bikes on it, despite the fact I was standing next to three of them.

And ultimately doesn’t allow you to actually unlock a bike, as when you activate the camera to scan the code it gives an error – and there’s no way to type in the bike number either, as the scan screen closes after the error. It’s completely hopeless. And I’m not the only one with problems; it has universally one-star reviews on Google Play, with everyone complaining that it just doesn’t work at all. I did see someone riding one of these bikes the other day, so evidently it is possible – perhaps the iOS app is somewhat more functional. But I’m sorry, dear readers, I was unable to even try this scheme out – which puts it firmly at the bottom of the list in terms of quality. How on earthbike these people are going to make any money I can’t imagine.

In better news, both Ofo and Mobike are much more polished, and work pretty much as you’d expect. Ofo was the easier to sign up to – much like ReddyGo you can initially scan and use a bike without needing to enter payment details and so on, which is great when you start. Mobike you need to immediately enter a credit card, which is a little bit painful (no PayPal?), but isn’t a showstopper. Overall the two apps are OK, but both had problems in showing me my rides – Ofo gave me a ‘data parsing error’ (which later cleared up), whilst none of my rides actually appeared on the Mobike app – possibly a side-effect of the free rides promotion they are running in December, but a bit of a shame as it’s nice to see where you went afterwards. Overall, I’d still give ReddyGo the title for the best app, but Ofo is pretty close.

One thing the Ofo app has which the others don’t seem to is the concept of ‘operational zones’. There’s actually nothing in the app that explains this, but on their website they explain that you should only leave the bike inside the ‘operational zone’ to avoid having points deducted. This could really do with a clearer explanation, I think. I didn’t try riding outside of the zone, so I don’t know if the app warns you or not – I’ll have to try this another time. The operational zone is pretty tight to the centre of Sydney, so it would be easy to go outside of it.

But what about the bikes? Well, the most striking of the two is Mobike. These bikes just look cool, with their monofork wheels and crankshaft drive system. The Mobike drivetrain sort of hums as you ride, which is somewhere between cool and annoying. There are no gears, so you just get one low-ish gear to manage with.

Ofo is a much more conventional design, with a three-speed nexus hub, normal mudguards and a chain drive. The Ofo has roller brakes, but they work fine (so much better than the woeful oBike ones). I have to say though, the Mobike brakes are awesome. It has a disc brake on the back, and some sort of fancy roller brake on the front, and they work really well – smooth, powerful and without grabbing or locking-up.

Both companies seem to have heeded my complaints about how hard it it to adjust the seats on the ReddyGo and oBike, as they have a spring-loaded seatpost that pops up to its highest point when you release the cam, and can be easily pushed down and adjusted. Both worked really well; the cam was easy to turn and held the seat firmly.

Yes yes yes, but what are they like to ride?

Well, the Mobile is horrible. I really really wanted to like it, as the design is so cool, but it’s just a terrible bike. For one thing it’s tiny – feeling even smaller than the oBike. And the most weird thing is the length of the cranks. They are really, really short. I didn’t have a tape measure on me, but they are only one mobile phone long – or about two-thirds of the length of the ones on my regular bike. This means it feels like riding a kids toy – your feet seem to twiddle round, and you can’t get any leverage. Even with the low-ish gearing, this makes riding the Mobile extremely tiring. Just riding along on the flat is hard work.  Such a shame, as the design is really eye-catching – I got some admiring(?) looks as I rode along on it.

The Ofo, by comparison, is terrific. The seat gets a bit higher, and it just feels like a normal bike. The airless tyres are less harsh than on the ReddyGo, and it’s also surprisingly lightweight, which makes it easy to pedal. The gears allow you to both tackle the hills and speed along on the flat. It’s the most comfortable bikeshare bike by some margin – and so dethrones the ReddyGo as the best one to ride.

So which one should you sign up for? Well, Ofo has the best bikes, but check the operational zone thing carefully. I live outside the zone, for example, so it’s no good for me to jump on one to ride home from the pub. ReddyGo has reasonable bikes and the best app, so is also definitely a contender. oBike seems to have the most bikes out there – they are the ones you see everywhere, so if you’re looking for convenience, then it’s a good choice although the bikes are hard work. And if you’re a hipster who cares more about how you look than how easy it is to ride, go for Mobike with their trendy design.

Or, like me, sign up for all of them. That way, you can get the best one for the occasion and enjoy maximum flexibility. Now I just need someone to create an aggregation app, which shows the location of all the different types on one map…

Seasonal grocery shopping

December 23, 2017 at 13:06 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Ahhh. Seasonal shopping. It seems that no-one really enjoys it much. One thing that strikes me, though, is how much of the stress seems be be centered around parking. Any discussion of it inevitably seems to lead to a moan about parking. So much so it even spills onto the national news. Of course, the option of not taking the car shopping seems to not occur to most people.

Last weekend, I did my present shopping. A quick ride out to my nearest mall, easy parking right outside the door. Shopped, loaded up and out in under an hour.

Today I needed to get the Xmas groceries. So it was off to the shops again. Straight past the queue of cars waiting to get in and a free park right outside the entrance where the food bit is. Here’s my shopping list:

That was a pretty packed trolley…! I did have a minor panic about getting it all on the bike, but in the end it was all fine, with the zip-up cold bag tied on top.

Easy peasy.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Strava again

December 16, 2017 at 19:25 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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So with my new commute, I fired up Strava again, as I was curious about my new rote to work. After about ten minutes trying to remember my password, I managed to log in, and used it to record my journey to work for the first week or two.

So I now know my journey is fourteen kilometres, and quite flat. I have to say, Strava can get a bit addictive. For a while there, I was scrolling after each ride, revelling in the awards and personal bests. I even got a teeny bit competitive about one stretch, pushing harder and harder to try to get on the leaderboard. Which I managed to do – apparently I’m the 8th fastest to ride that stretch. I can only think it’s not a very popular bit of path, because mostly I languish around the ‘489 of 859’ mark…

However, after a while I realised it gets harder and harder. As you do more and more rides, the chances of getting a personal best get less and less. That little ‘Achievements’ icon becomes harder and harder to activate. And most segments are so ridiculously short that it has more to do with traffic lights and wind direction than it does to do with fitness. So, as the number of little award icons started getting less and less, I pretty much stopper using it again.

Oh well. In a few years perhaps I’ll have a new job, and can do it all over again.

 

PS – thanks to those people who gave me kudos. I’m not sure why, or who you are, or even what it is, but I felt a warm glow seeing it…

Tin trail

December 10, 2017 at 13:26 | Posted in bicycles, biscuits | 1 Comment
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My new journey to work is full of excitement. Some of it of the unpleasant kind – there’s more to come on this topic shortly. But, as always, travelling by bike offers all kinds of opportunities to experience things that you would just pass by in a motor car.

The other day, as I rode to work, I noticed a tin in the road. A biscuit tin, to be precise – of the kind that perhaps your grandmother had. You know, and old-fashioned metal tin, printed with pictures of biscuits and heritage. Nothing unusual, perhaps – just the usual rubbish and detritus that accumulates by the sides of our roadways.

And then, a bit further along, I saw another one. And another. And another. I must have seen twenty or thirty of them over a stretch of about five kilometres. They were quite evenly spaced, and was it my imagination, or where they strategically placed around junctions, to show a route? Yes, surely that was it! This was a biscuit tin trail, and I was following it.

Or at least, I was until it petered out. Oh well, perhaps not so exciting as I thought. Clearly I’ve been reading too many Secret Seven books to the kids. More likely just a recycling truck with a badly secured load.

Or was it? Perhaps I will read in the paper about some dastardly thieves and their biscuit tin plot…

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