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.

 

Bicycle fossicking

November 22, 2016 at 13:47 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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oldtonewWell, it’s that time of the week again when we switch on our unrelenting positivism and take a look at the joy of cycling. (Something that is, admittedly, a little challenging this week, with stories like this in the news.) Anyway, this week’s small tale involves me riding to work along a street preparing for council clean-up.

There’s a certain fascination at looking at the things people put out on the verge; a sort of glimpse into the lives of others – and riding a bike is a good way to do it. Slow enough that you can take a look, but quicker than walking (so you cover more ground), and not too quick (as in the car, when you should be concentrating on the road, not the junk on the verge).

Anyway, as I rode past a house this morning, I noticed a broken down cubby house of the same type the Chillikebab kids like to play on in our garden. As it happens, the Chillikebab cubby is not in great shape, as the connecting strut is showing the strain of having excited kids hanging of it. So I stopped, and noticed the house owner was sitting outside on his verandah enjoying the sunshine.

‘Mind if I have a rummage?’ I asked, and he said of course not. I looked, but it seemed this vital piece of the cubby was missing. ‘Do you have the bar thing that goes across?’ I asked, and he said he hadn’t been able to find it. I explained why I needed it, and he said he’d keep an eye out for it, and put it up on his wall for me if he found it.

And, on the way home, there it was! He was still outside his house, so I said my thank yous, chatted for a bit, and then headed home with my prize, which pleased the little Chillikebabs no end. A nice little story – reclaiming some junk, fixing something, having a pleasant interaction with a neighbour. All facilitated by a bicycle.

Vale Peugeot

November 9, 2016 at 12:46 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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img_9172Another in my series of happy tales about cycling. At least, I think it’s a happy tale. You may disagree after you read it.

Do you remember this bike? Well, you will remember that I sold it some years ago to a mate. And, since that fateful day, he has been riding it everywhere. A daily commute from Alembie Heights to the city. Tours of the inner west. And even a stint in Fiji, when he worked there for a year.

img_9175Well, the other day, I received some sad news. The wonderful old lady had pedalled her last. Whilst pulling up the Lilyfield Road hill, the frame snapped. Of course, my friend was adamant that this was due to the awesome amount of power his legs were undoubtedly transmitting through the frame. More likely the thirty-year old frame simply succumbed to corrosion.

Now, this is, I suppose, sad. But I prefer to look at the positive. This is a bike that gave at least two people the passion to ride. It’s a bike that was in use up until the end, rather than rotting away on a roadside verge after a council clean-up. It’s a bike that was loved, and will be remembered and replaced.

We went out for beers to celebrate the life of the Peugeot. Quite a lot of beers, actually. Now I just have to persuade my mate to replace her with a fixie…

Cycling Tokyo

November 2, 2016 at 21:19 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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me-with-bike-in-tokyoAnother up-beat and positive cycling story, but not from Australia. I recently had to visit Japan on business, and due to a quirk of scheduling ended up with some free time in Tokyo – enough free time, in fact, do take a cycling tour of the city.

Tokyo is a city of cyclists. Actually, no, it isn’t. Tokyo is a city of people riding bikes. All sorts of bikes – long ones, tiny ones, ones with kiddie seats, ones with one large and one small wheel, folding bikes, city bikes, electric bikes – the variety is astounding. The only type of bike that is notable by it’s absence is the ‘road’ or racing bicycle. Very few dropped handlebars, even. Also missing is cycling clothing – no lycra in sight. There are bikes locked up to railings and posts all over the city, and endless designated bike parking areas, racks and cages.

My cycling tour was very nice. We covered about 20km at a very leisurely pace; taking in many of the historical and interesting areas of central Tokyo. There were five of us on the tour, and we dutifully followed the guide as he pedalled us from place to place. The bikes themselves were, appropriately enough,  by TokyoBike – an independent Japanese bike brand that I think is both quite trendy and available  in Australia. To be completely honest, they were not actually that comfortable to ride. Rather harsh, with a too-low too-flat handlebar position that led to aching wrists.

footpath-riding-in-tokyoThere are a few remarkable thing about the bicycle culture in Tokyo. The first is the wide variety of people who ride. School kids. Elderly ladies. Mums with kids in seats. Businessmen. Everyone rides. People on bikes represent a cross-section through Japanese society, which is a real sign of a healthy bicycle culture. Another remarkable thing is that so much of that riding is on footpaths. It is perfectly acceptable to ride on the footpath, and the pedestrians and cyclists just seem to get along – the cyclists go slowly, especially when it is busy, and the pedestrians are aware of cyclists and generally move to the side to let them through. There’s a sort of general ‘keep left’ thing, but to be honest it works because people are accommodating of each other, not because of any particular rule enforcement. Cyclists can move between the road and the footpath, taking pedestrian crossings as needed, and it all just works.

But the most interesting part for me is that there is virtually no cycling infrastructure at all. In several hours of riding, I did not see one single bike lane. There were a few half-hearted bike symbols painted on the road here and there, but that was it. It’s really fascinating, and underlines that a healthy, inclusive cycling culture does not require infrastructure – it actually depends on road users being accommodating of each other. Drivers are respectful around cyclists; give them room and are prepared to wait for them, and much like the footpath riding, it just works. It’s very relaxing to cycle in Tokyo, even in traffic.

bike-tourMaybe, on reflection, this isn’t such a positive story after all – it’s hard to not compare this road culture to the aggressive behaviour so often seen on Australia’s roads. However, it was lovely to ride around a bike-friendly city, and perhaps take some heart from the idea that bikes and cars really can get along, even in places where there’s little cycling infrastructure.

T1 bike trailer / towable luggage…

August 23, 2016 at 11:05 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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trailerPushy’s had a mid-season sale recently, and there were some bargains to be had. And given that the objective of buying things ins a sale is not to buy things you actually need, but rather save as much money as possible by buying things you probably don’t need but which are heavily discounted, I found myself purchasing a DOM T1 bike trailer – reduced from $650 to $99. I mean, who could pass that up?

It duly arrived, and my initial impressions were favourable. It’s well made, with a high quality finish and some nice design touches. It hitches to the bike via a small loop / hook which bolts onto the rear axle (an extra-long QR skewer is supplied for those needing such a thing).

So what it is? Well, it’s advertised as a trailer, but to be honest ‘towable luggage’ would be a fairer description. It’s a large-ish suitcase with oversized flip-out wheels and a towing handle that can be attached to the back of a bike. The wheels are pneumatic, but are small and skinny – think pram wheels, rather than bike wheels.

hitchIt’s perhaps for this reason the instructions stress that the maximum recommended speed is 25km/h – less if you are riding on uneven surfaces. A ‘go anywhere’ adventure trailer this is not. It’s not really a touring trailer. It’s for doing short-ish flat-ish slow-ish rides. Think riding to the station or airport (when folded down, it can be checked in as hold luggage – it comes with an external cover to protect it in transit).

I think it could actually be quite useful for me; I’ve been looking for a solution to allow me to cycle to the airport when I travel on business, and this might just work – as is for longer trips, or for shorter trips I can put a smaller cabin bag into the trailer for the airport trip, and leave the trailer locked up with my bike whilst I’m away.

I’ve never ridden with a trailer on the bike before, and it does feel a little odd – you feel it kind of tugging at the bike as you pedal. But overall it goes along quite well. The warnings about excessive speed and bumps are necessary though – I manged to tip it up on the first trip. Admittedly this was with it empty, and it bounced around much less when loaded. However, it does underline the need for caution – if it hit a pothole, there’s a risk it could go over – which might not be fun if you were in heavy traffic.

trailerfoldedThe only aspect of the design I think could do with a rethink is the way the wheels fold. It’s all very cool they way the fold away (they work as pull-along wheels when folded in), but they fold up kind of backwards. This means that when you are riding, the pressure on the wheels pulling them backwards makes them want to fold up – especially on uneven surfaces. This means you have to do up the quick-release cams super-tight to ensure this doesn’t happen, which makes folding and unfolding harder than it needs to be. Some sort of locking mechanism to prevent the wheels folding when in use would be handy,

Anyway, I’m very excited about my new purchase. A genuine bargain for $99! Now we’ll see how often it actually gets used…

 

Here’s a video of me riding with it, and tipping it over going up a pram ramp…

trailervid1

Kids, helmets and changing play

August 8, 2016 at 12:07 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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kids on bike helmetsHere’s the Chillikebab kids, ready for an outing to the park for a picnic. See the excited faces! And check out how different they look form a few years ago

There’s also another difference you may have spotted, too. Yes, they are wearing bike helmets. Not because I made them or even asked them to, of course. But because they wanted to. And whilst I’m no fan of helmets, I am all for personal choice – and if they want to wear them, and feel more comfortable with them on, then that’s what we will do.

However, it does bear some examination. I stopped wearing a helmet before they were born, and up until now they have never had one. So what changed?

Well, going to school. Their teachers promote helmet wearing as part of ‘safety awareness’. They have had in-school visits from Kidsafe (an organisation I have very little time for, btw). And there is peer pressure from their friends.

I have gently asked them about all of this, and told them it’s up to them if they want to wear one or not – that some people do, and some people don’t. But they now prefer to have them on.

This makes me somewhat sad. Not because they are wearing helmets per se, but because of what it is doing to the way they play. They often have their bikes and scooters out in the garden, and used to charge around on them from time to time, in the middle of whatever game. Now they have to come and find one of us to put their helmets on. And then take them off again. Which kind of kills the spontaneity – which means they ride their bikes and scooters less.

It’s quite noticeable. The negative pressure on bicycle usage from helmet compulsion is something I am very familiar with from the academic literature, of course. But it’s very sad to see it first hand, with your own kids. To see that they are discouraged from doing something safe, fun and healthy because of the insidious pressure from the plastic hat brigade.

 

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