Running Board Scars…

September 19, 2017 at 12:21 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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The new look Radish is working out well. The girls love going on it, it’s easy to ride and the running boards are not just nice for little feet to rest on – they are also useful for supporting luggage and trombones.

However, there is one problem. it is extremely easy, when pulling away or manoeuvring the bike, to catch the back of your ankles on the front edge of the board. Given the board is plywood, that edge has quite some abrasive qualities. And thus I have scars forming on my legs due to the near-constant grating. I keep thinking that I’ll get used to it, and automatically start keeping my legs clear. But it doesn’t seem to be happening – the design of the boards just protrudes into a point where your legs sometimes need to be. It’s a bit irritating (and painful), to be honest.

The running boards have actually been superseded by a lower-profile aluminium bar (called U-Tubes), which in the description notes have a ‘clipped front corner to improve foot clearance’. Perhaps I should have got those instead. Oh well, I’ll just have to suffer for my transport choices. At least for now, until I can afford to upgrade…


Convenience and inconvenience

December 4, 2013 at 18:03 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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shoppingA big part of why I ride my bike is because it’s so convenient. It’s often the quickest way to get around, it’s easier than driving or catching a bus, and I can pretty much guarantee parking right outside my destination.

I’ve written several times about my cargo bike, and how it opens up a range of new possibilities for bicycle usage. It was brought home to me again the other day, when I needed to do the weekly shop, visit the library – oh, and I was also in sole charge of two toddlers. I guess to many people the car would be the only option, but we all jumped on the bike, and pedalled away. It was quicker setting up than getting them strapped into the car, an I could chat to them better as we went along. The actual journey (about 2-3 km) was certainly no slower then driving, and when I got to the shops I could lock up the bike right outside, rather than having to drive around and around a subterranean car-park, and then shepherd two small children to a lift. (That whole ‘parking the car’ thing just takes ages, although strangely it’s time that people rarely seem to factor into their journey when estimating travel times. I guess if you’ve never experienced an alternative you just accept it as part of life). We popped to the library, and then the supermarket for a full week’s shop, including six litres of milk, veges, groceries and cleaning things. Then it was back on the bike home again. For sure, the bike was quite loaded up, but it all fitted on fine.

cabbyOf course, there are options if you need to haul even more than that. Mrs Chillikebab spotted this bike at a park recently and took a picture – it’s a Gazelle Cabby, and yes, I do want one!

Some people, however, seem unprepared to accept the inherent inconvenience that driving entails, and so selfishly impose additional inconvenience on others as the price of their transport choice. People like the driver of this Audi, carbikelaneCJV01T. Clearly driving along the bike lane in order to park in front of the kebab shop is perfectly acceptable, despite the problems it causes for passing cyclists. I might suggest to the driver that in future he rides a bike – this way he can experience all of the convenience of door-to-door transportation, but without having to negatively impact others.

(And yes, I was tempted to pour a small amount of water onto the drivers seat – not enough to do any damage, but enough to give the owner a rather inconvenient wet bottom. I did, of course, resist the temptation. On this occasion…)

The trombone conundrum

March 18, 2013 at 11:14 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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trombone on bikeAs I detailed in another post, I recently fitted out the Radish with another child seat, to facilitate the carriage of both my kids. Whilst I’m very happy with the outcome from a kiddie transport perspective, it did raise another issue. The Yepp Maxi seat does not fit directly to the deck on the back of the bike, but to an adapter which it in turn bolted to the deck. This adapter (in essence it’s the top bit of a regular bike carrier that accepts the Yepp seat) then sits proud of the deck by about three centimetres, but only extends a short way along it.

yepp_adapter_on_deckThis means the long expanse of deck I strap my trombone to is no longer available. The problem was a pressing one, as I needed to be able to get to rehearsal with the thing as Mrs Chillikebab needed the car. I had previously considered making some sort of box or short platform to bolt behind the adapter, to raise up the rest of the deck to the same level. However, as I thought about it more I happened to glance at the old wooden deck I had removed from the bike (in order to install the seat I had to switch it for a different design which has mounting holes and is a bit narrower). Suddenly the solution presented itself – simply bolt the old deck over the top of the adapter with some long bolts and wingnuts.

A quicknew_deck trip to Bunnings and I had the requisite parts. I drilled the holes into the wooden deck in the right places, and it was all very easy; secure the bolt to the deck at the bottom with a nut, and then simply drop it into place, securing underneath with the wing nuts. This took me all of ten minutes to do, but looking at it I was concerned that any lateral pressure on the rack would transfer to the point where the bolt was secured to the plywood deck, possibly cracking it. So I added a couple of wooden blocks underneath, glued to the underside of the deck, to give a longer ‘sleeve’ for the bolt to sit in.

And that was it. Mrs Chillikebab was impressed; it was probably the first time I’d ever said a job would take ‘an hour or so’, and I’d actually finished it in under an hour. Usually ‘an hour or so’ means ‘all day’ (with ‘a couple of minutes’ meaning ‘a good hour’, and ‘it will take a whole day’ meaning ‘at least two weekends’).

There’s a few little refinements I need to make; I need a few more washers to get the level exactly right, and I’ve had to improvise some spacers underneath at the back as the wingnuts don’t fit right under the deck as they catch on the tubes at the side. I need to find a more elegant solution to this, as it’s a bit of a fiddle getting the wingnuts on and off. Still, it works, and I was able to strap my trombone to it and get safely to rehearsal. I can also put it on and take it off the bike in a matter of seconds, which is important – when little children want to be taken to the park, they don’t want to wait whilst I track down the right sized spanned to unbolt some bike accessory in order to fit their bike seat.

I guess the only downside of this is that the trombone is both higher and further back than previously, and this does detrimentally affect the bike handling. Its a particular problem at low speeds – you have to work quite hard to balance the bike, which actually creates some strain on my back. In any proper city with decent cycling infrastructure it wouldn’t be a problem, but to get to rehearsal I have to navigate the joy that is Gladesville Bridge  – navigating around all the obstacles and ramps was a little tricky. Still, it’s manageable, and I’m quite happy that I solved the trombone conundrum so quickly and elegantly.

Bike on Bike Action (2)

May 30, 2012 at 16:38 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It’s been taking rather a long time to sort out the problem with my fixie forks, and whilst I was riding it for a while the reaction of a mechanic in a local bike shop gave me pause for thought (he went pale, looked at me and simply said ‘Well, I wouldn’t ride it, not even to go up the street. That fork could collapse at any moment!’).
So it’s been in the garage for a few weeks whilst replacement forks are organised. However, the time came earlier in the week to take it into the shop for treatment to commence. Initially I just thought I’d ride it in, but the mechanic’s words were still ringing in my ears, so I hesitated. But perhaps there was another way?

I’ve carried a lot of things on the Radish over the past few years, but to date I’ve struggled to find a way to transport a road bike. I’ve managed a fold-up bike, but fitting a full sized bike on the back to date has foxed me.

However, necessity is the mother of invention (as they say), and as I considered my predicament (including the horrible possibility that I might have to drive to the bike shop – uggh!) a possible way of getting the fixie onto the back of the cargo bike suggested itself.

So I set too; taking the wheels off and strapping the frame upright on the cargo deck with an impressive array of straps and bungee cords. The wheels (just) fitted into the side panniers, and I was ready to go!

I got a few strange looks as I pedalled along – although secretly I have to admit rather fewer than I was hoping for. The funniest thing was that I kept catching sight of the fixie handlebars out of my peripheral vision, and thinking there was another cyclist right up on my left. The cargo bike handled admirably, as it always does under load, with only the slightest hint of instability from the high weight distribution. Riding along with a slightly precarious cargo certainly brings home just how poor so many of Sydney’s bike routes are, especially the ‘shared pavement’ ones – for example along Victoria Road. Potholes, grooves, curbs and discontinuities in the surface abound. Thankfully my straps held the frame tight, and I had no mishaps even on the bumpy sections.

I arrived at the bike shop, and unloaded outside, in full view of the staff working within. They too were disappointingly blasé about it, although as I mentioned before it’s actually a rather positive sign that people using bikes to carry things is now routine, rather than noteworthy. Still, I was rather proud of myself, and was secretly hoping for some accolades or acknowledgement. So if you would be so kind as to buff my ego with your comments, I would be most grateful…!  😉

Beer delivery

February 25, 2012 at 13:35 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Last week, Toddler Chillikebab turned two years old, so we had a birthday party. it was huge amounts of fun; large numbers of sugared-up toddlers charging about, pushing each other over and then wailing, a ridiculously large cake with butter icing slowly going rancid in the twenty-eight degree heat, and a whole load of thoughtful presents that were mostly broken within the hour.

I had an inkling in advance what it would be like, as all of Toddler’s little friends are turning to two too and we’ve been to a few such parties recently. The key to survival, it seems, is plenty of adult party drinks to dull the sound of the screaming little voices, and if necessary to be used as sedatives after the event (both for the adults and the children…).

Yes, beer was going to be needed, along with bubbles to celebrate the auspicious occasion, and some wine for the shielas. So earlier that day I set off to the local bottlo to pick up what we needed – two cases of beer, three bottles of bubbles, some wine, and two bags of ice.

I loaded up my purchases on the counter, and the buy offered to give me a hand carrying them out.

‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘I’m just outside’.

The look on his face when I dumped the beer cartons on the back of the Radish was priceless; a mixture of astonishment and disbelief. He put the other things down next to me, and wished me luck, shaking his head as he went back inside.

But the Radish swallowed it all no problems. I have to say, the heavy-duty double-arm kickstand I bought for it a few months ago makes this kind of operation much easier, as the bike is rock solid stable as you load up. It was a lot of weight, which is a little tricky when first pulling away, but once moving it cruises along just fine. Much easier than with a passenger. I even got some admiring looks as I set off, with a couple eating in the pavement cafe next to the bottlo seeming very impressed, although what what they meant when they sad ‘we’ll probably read about you in the paper’ I’m not quite sure…

Cycling recycling

April 3, 2011 at 19:36 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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One of the things I like about the area of Sydney where I live is that rather than chuck stuff away, people leave it out on the footpath for a while first. It’s amazing how much stuff gets carted off by people to be re-used; I’ve got rid of all sorts of things this way, and its much more satisfying that putting it in the trash or taking it to the tip.

I generally don’t collect stuff from the side of the road as we hoard enough already, but we went to the park for a picnic today, and saw a rather handsome solid wood table out on the pavement which we thought might fit in the kitchen. So I went back later that afternoon to pick it up.  It was still there; and needless to say I went on the Radish.

I strapped the table on the back safe and sound, and rode home. As I rode back I was reflecting on how much easier and quicker it was than driving; if I had taken the car I would have had to go around the one-way system to get there, find a place nearby to park, carry the table to the car (and it was quite heavy), put the back seats down to get it in (possibly having to remove Baby Chillikebab’s seat first), then circle back via the one way system to get home to do it all in reverse to unload.

As it was I rode right up to where the table was on the footpath, loaded it up in about thirty seconds, then road straight home, pushing my bike right up to the back door to unload it next to the kitchen. I’m fairly confident, though, that most people if asked the question ‘what is the most convenient way to transport a small table‘ would unthinkingly answer ‘by car‘. People are so blinded by automobile headlights that they fail to see that there are other – often better – options.

Xtracycle cruiser

June 2, 2010 at 23:00 | Posted in bicycles | 5 Comments
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I have bought a new bike. It was going cheap in the Dirtworks yard sale, and I just couldn’t resist.

It kind of ticked a lot of boxes. For a while I had been mulling over the following things:
– getting a bike suitable for putting a baby seat on
– finding a way to transport my trombone by bike
– having a more casual, upright ride for local trips and family rides
– a grocery-getter that I could ride in regular shoes (the tourer has SPDs)
– something Mrs Chillikebab might ride
– a bike with internal hub gears, just because I think they are cool

Then, in the Dirtworks sale list, I spotted it. The Xtracycle Radish. I mentioned to Mrs Chillikebab that I was mulling it over, and she instantly told me to buy it. (I have to say, I think I’ve scored a bit of a success here in partner management. The last few bike purchases I have agonised over for so long, Mrs Chillikebab has got thoroughly bored with the endless umming and ahhhing, to the point where she would rather I just spent the money than continually go on and on about something I am thinking about. Hence she now urges me to just get on with it, rather than debate it ad nauseum.)

Here is is, in all its glory.

What a machine! It pretty much ticks all the boxes, with the exception of hub gears. And it just looks so cool. ‘Like a Harley’ was how one (non-cycling) friend put it. Those handlebar grips are hand-stitched imitation leather, people. And those tyres are over two inches wide.

All my non-cycling friends love it. I have had more complimentary comments from people at work about this bike than any other I’ve ridden. People are intrigued by the platform on the back, and ask ‘what’s it like to ride?’. People want to have a go on it. It’s a bit similar to what happened when I bought the Aldi bike, and people wanted to try it out. It makes me reflect on some of the things Mike Rubbo talks about with regard to upright bicycles and their effect on cycling culture. I have to say, it is strangely liberating to jump on this bike wearing my jeans, pedal to my destination and hop off, ready to go. The cool weather helps, of course, but it does make me realise that I probably wear ‘cycling clothes’ when on short trips as much out of habit than real necessity.

Part of the equation is, of course, riding slower. This is a bike to cruise along on, rather than a bike to work up a sweat riding. The seat is set back, the handlebars are right there and you just can’t get up out of the saddle for a sprint. Just sit back, click down the gears and enjoy the scenery as you cruise by nice and slow. it’s a very different way to cycle.

And those gears are quite low. I haven’t actually looked up the ratios, but that’s a small front chainring coupled to some hefty gearing. You need them, as this thing weighs a ton. It’s a lot like driving a bus, actually (not that I’ve driven one, but hey!) – slow to get going, capable of getting up some speed on the downhills but lacking in manoeuvrability. Steering takes some getting used to. Apart form the fact the handlebars kind of bash my knees when cornering it has such an extreme castor angle that it really prefers to go in a straight line. Sharp, low-speed corners feel a bit weird, especially with the extra length and the thick, soft tyres.

Cruising along on the flat, though, is lovely. Big balloon tyres (40psi!) soak up the bumps, and you just feel like waving to everyone as you go by. Especially small boys who point you out to their dads and cry out ‘look at that man on the funny bike!’. Hills are a bit harder, but you just go slow and steady. My best ‘score’* on this bike is only two, which gives you an idea as to the ponderous nature of climbing hills. Still, the low gearing makes it possible, and I can ride this bike to work from the Inner West to the top of North Sydney quite easily. And the brakes are awesome. The long wheelbase and weight on the back, coupled with the amount of rubber on the road means that this thing stops on a dime, notwithstanding the weight. (It has a disc brake on the rear, but not on the front.) The only real problem is that it’s a bit small; it’s a ‘one size fits all’ proposition, but in reality I’m a bit too tall and am not quite comfortable. The marketing for the bike features images of women riding it, so perhaps that’s their target market.

The other gimmicky thing is the pedals; they have a kind of dynamo in them which light up some LEDs as you pedal. Well, actually they don’t; experimenting with them shows that in order to generate enough power to light them up, you need to be riding with a cadence of about 300. Now I know those gears are low, but that’s a tad ridiculous. However, the dynamo mechanism prevents you putting your feet close in to the cranks (as they stick up on the inside edge of the pedal). I’m going to have to change these, I can see, as I like to have my feet closer together when riding. It’s the old one banana thing.

The reaction of my cycling friends to this bike has also been interesting. ‘WTF?’ is a common reaction, and many of them simply cannot comprehend why I bought it. Heavy, slow, less nimble in the traffic. And as for riding in jeans, well, just think of the chafing!

More fool them, I say. I am on the cutting edge of bike fashion; I rode a vintage 80s racer until they got popular, then a fixie until the fashionistas took over, when I bought a panniers-and-rack commuter. Well, this is the new bleeding edge, folks – upright cargo bikes. You heard it here first. Give it three years, and you’ll take back the scoffs as you jump on your Dutch bike in your suit.

*number of roadies in team jerseys dropped on the climb over Anzac Bridge

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