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…


Significant New Bicycle (Part II)

August 7, 2013 at 12:05 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
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gazelle2In a moment of madness, I bought Mrs Chillikebab a bike for her birthday. Her first bike since she was twelve years old. You can read about the lead up to this, and a review of the actual bike in part 1 of this blog post.

She was, it’s fair to say, rather shocked. Flabbergasted, indeed. Not at all what she was expecting. After she had recovered her composure, she gamely smiled and said thank you.

‘It’s very big’, she noted. And indeed it is a very imposing bike; those high handlebars do give it some presence. Although any bike looks quite large in the middle of a small-ish lounge room. After walking around it, Mrs Chillikebab sat astride the saddle – but was unable to reach the floor.

‘I can soon sort that out,’ I said, and went to get my tools to lower the saddle. Then Mrs Chillikebab gently reminded me that I was supposed to be cooking her a birthday breakfast, so I left the bike and attended to my other duties. Grilled English muffin topped with pan-flashed smoked salmon, a soft-poached egg, finished with a dollop of creme fraiche and some snipped chives. Lovely.

Later that day, I got around to lowering the saddle. It wasn’t altogether successful, as the bike was fitted with a rather fancy suspension seat post, which limited how low the seat could go. It also had a very nice sprung seat that sat quite high on the rails. I pondered this for a while, with a slight sinking feeling in my stomach. The problem with Dutch bikes is that they are designed for confident riders. Everyone rides a bike in Holland, so they make then nice and comfy and tall. It’s not a major problem if you can’t really get your foot on the floor- you just shuffle off the seat as you stop.

However, for someone returning to cycling who lacks confidence, this is not ideal. Mrs Chillikebab wanted to get her feet if not flat on the floor, then pretty solidly down. I got the seat as low as I could manage, and my wife somewhat doubtfully said, ‘I suppose I’ll get used to it.’

Later that day, she did have a go. She asked me to take the bike into the back garden, and she rode it around the grass. Which I thought was quite good, considering how bumpy the grass is, and how many obstacles the kids’ toys create. But she was still uncertain about the height of the seat. She did say though that she did want to start riding – she knew it would be good for the kids to see us both riding and set a good example – she just wasn’t expecting it to be right now!

Later that week, I switched the suspension seatpost for a regular one, and the pouffy saddle for the rather flatter one from the Radish. This lowered the seat considerably. Mrs Chillikebab was much encouraged that she could get her feet down without stretching, and rode it around the garden again.

And then the Gazelle went back into the garage. And there it stayed. For a long time.

I had already decided what my strategy was going to be for this bike. I was not going to pester, suggest or even encourage Mrs Chillikebab to ride it. I certainly wasn’t going to offer any advice nor suggest I shepherd her on her first ride. I just told her that the bike was in the garage for her when she was ready – tomorrow, next month, in five years time or never. And I left it at that.

This strategy did wobble a little when Mrs Chillikebab opened the Mastercard bill. Hand-built Dutch electric bikes don’t come cheap. We had a slightly difficult conversation. Bit we got over it.

There then followed occasional comments that got my hopes up – Mrs Chillikebab commenting that the weather was nice, and perhaps we could all ride to the park tomorrow. Or mentioning that perhaps she should get her bike out and try it out. But each time something happened to break those gossamer plans. Unexpected rain. Sick kids. Unforeseen guests arriving. And the weeks ticked by. It was brought home to me how many weeks when, after putting some air into my own bike tyres, I felt the Gazelle’s wheels and found they were very soft. Poor neglected thing – tyres going soft without ever actually going round. I powered up the electrics, and the display glowed warmly, showing the still fully-charged battery, and the seven solitary kilometres the bike had ridden on its inaugural and only trip back from the shop.

car wont startSome three months on from Significant Birthday +1, and the Gazelle seemed forgotten. Rarely if ever mentioned. And then providence struck, in the form of the unreliability of the internal combustion engine.

One bright, unseasonably warm Sunday morning, we bundled the kids in the car as usual to take them to their swimming lessons. It’s only a few kilometres to the pool, but the car is, unfortunately, the only was we can all get there. I turned the key in the ignition – and nothing happened. Tried again. Nothing.

I turned round to the kids. ‘Sorry kids, looks like we night not be going swimming after all. The car is broken!’

Mrs Chillikebab turned to me. ‘We could go on our bikes,’, she suggested.

My eyebrows shot up. ‘All of us?’

Mrs Chillikebab nodded.

Quick as a flash, before the moment passed, I had the Radish set up with both kiddie seats on, and rolled the Gazelle out of the garage. And we were off! I pedalled along, and Mrs Chillikebab followed behind. I’d advised her to put the bike into ‘boost’ mode, but she actually found that a bit disconcerting, as the motor was trying to push the bike along faster than she wanted to go, so we dialled the assistance back a bit and carried on.

We took it nice and easy. I was aware that riding on a busy shared path was exactly the situation Mrs Chillikebab had expressed nervousness about – and the route to the aquatic centre was just that ; a cruise around the Bay Run. But everything was fine, and we pedalled along enjoying the sunshine. Well, I was and the kids were. Mrs Chillikebab looked a bit petrified to be honest. But we arrived, the kids had their swimming lesson and all was well.

On the way back, Mrs Chillikebab seemed to be getting more confident, and even smiled back at me a few times. The children were really excited that Mummy was riding her bike too, and wanted to see her. However, Mummy was happier following behind – until we got into the very last stretch, into our own street. Suddenly the Gazelle was there riding past me, a grinning Mrs Chillikebab resplendent as she sailed up the hill leaving me struggling behind, panting with effort.

Time will tell if this is part of a cycling renaissance, or a flash in the pan. But it certainly made me happy. We had been for a ride as a family. Which has to be a good thing.

A Significant New Bicycle

July 29, 2013 at 14:40 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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Last year, Mrs Chillikebab celebrated a birthday. A Significant Birthday. So, of course, I bought her a Significant Present.

But no, dear readers, it was not that significant. For whilst I think I did buy her a book, and possibly some biscuits, I did not buy her a bicycle. I was very tempted, but in the end just thought it was too risky. Mrs Chillikebab has not owned a bike since she was twelve years old, and not ridden one since we were backpacking in Thailand some years ago.

Then, in April, was Mrs Chillikebab’s Significant Birthday +1 year. I ummed and ahhhed quite a lot, and then with only a few days to go before her birthday, it crystallised in my mind. I would buy her a bicycle. The present I wished I have bought a year earlier.

gazelle e-bikeI already knew which bicycle it would be. It would be a Gazelle – beautiful Dutch-built bikes high on style and practicality. A bike for riding to the park on, for popping to the shops on, perhaps even for joining me pedalling the kids to swimming. And it would be electric. Mrs Chillikebab is quite fit, but she had previously expressed concern about ‘keeping up’ with me. And new cyclists, even quite fit ones, often find the hills a struggle until they get used to using some new muscles. Oh, and electric bikes are just very very cool.

Buying such a specialised bike, in the right size, with less than 48 hours’ notice was a bit of a stretch, I suppose, but the good folks at Sydney Electric Bike came through for me. I daresay it was one of their more unusual sales – I don’t know how many frantic calls they get from people wanting a bike the day after tomorrow (no test ride isn’t important, yes I can come over tomorrow morning), but I suspect it’s not many.

So the evening before Mrs Chillikebab’s Significant +1 birthday I picked it up to ride it home, leaving my fixie at the office. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion when I got home, so wore my usual fixie riding clothes , which I daresay looked pretty odd on a sedate, step-through bike.

So what’s it like to ride, I hear you cry? Well, it is fantastic. You start to pull away, and then this magical force kind of scoots you along effortlessly. It’s like riding with a really strong tailwind all of the time. You do have to pedal, but the hills flatten out and on the flat you cruise along at a good pace with very little effort. I’ve long been a believer in electric bikes being the future, but actually riding one really reinforced that view. These things are awesome. Anyone who resists riding a bike because ‘there are too many hills’ or ‘I get too sweaty’ should ride an e-bike. There really is no excuse. All the fun with none of the pain.

The actual bike itself is beautifully built. From the lights moulded into the mudguard to the satisfying ‘click’ of the manual handlebar adjustment, the whole package just oozes quality. If I have just one minor gripe it is that the battery rattles slightly in its holder – but I will forgive that as the way the battery slides in and out of the holder on moulded rails is a joy to behold.

The riding position is sitting up. Really sitting up, not ‘sort of leaning forward’ which is the posture you need for most Australian city bikes. The handlebars are right there up high, and the saddle is quite high too. It’s almost like riding a horse – you have a very commanding view of the road ahead. It’s very pleasant, especially with the motor helping to scoot you along. I felt like royalty – perhaps why the full name of the company is ‘Royal Dutch Gazelle’.

I safely stowed the new bike in the garage undetected, and went in. The next morning, I got up with the kids so Mrs Chillikebab could have a birthday lie-in, and put the Gazelle in the middle of the lounge with a large ribbon and bow around it. The kids were quite interested, and seemed pleased that Mummy was going to have a bike too. ‘Then we’ll all have a bike!’ Chillikebab I said happily.

In due course, Mrs Chillikebab emerged and came into the lounge. She started saying something, and then the bike caught her eye. She fell into shocked silence.

‘Oh goodness,’, she whispered, ‘What have you done?!’

So was this the start of a lifetime of cycling en famille, or an expensive white elephant? Look out for Part II of this blog next week to learn what happened next!

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