Tyre failures and inflationary pressure

September 2, 2013 at 22:17 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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tyrebulge I have, in the past, been a vocal supporter of Conti SportContact tyres.  I’ve been running the 32mm wire bead version of this tyre on the fixie (and also a tourer, whilst I had one) for many years, with huge success. They are grippy, highly puncture resistant, they roll well and last for ever. I’ve had examples of these tyres that have lasted well over 10,000km, and even when the kevlar was starts to show through the rubber they just keep going.

Interestingly though, others have voiced a dissenting view – that they have found they just didn’t last long, and disintegrated on them rather quickly. Caveat emptor, and all that.

I have to say, my own faith in them was temporarily shaken recently. I was riding to work, and could hear this ‘tink tink’ noise every time I used the front brake. It was clearly something on the wheel, but even though I stopped a few times to have a look there was nothing obvious – no bit of gunge stuck to the tyre than might catch on the brake callipers, and nothing on the rims. When I got to work I had a proper look, and was somewhat alarmed by what I found. The tyre was bulging off the rim, and the sidewall of the tyre seemed to be splitting. Along the split there was threads hanging off the tyre, and it must have been these I could hear hitting the brakes. Even more worryingly, when I looked around the rest of the tyre, it seemed as if similar threads were coming away all around.

tyreshreddingThis was very very strange. This was the first tyre I had mounted since the bike got a new front rim. Could it be that the tyre was not sitting on the new rim very well, and it was somehow putting pressure on the sidewall? I took a look at the rear tyre, and was even more alarmed to see that it too seemed to be shedding threads. This is the original rim that came with the bike, which made the rim hypothesis rather less likely.

I hotfooted it down to the LBS to get their opinion – and a new tyre, so I could safely ride home that evening. I showed it to the mechanic, and he quickly said, ‘I’ll just let the air out of that tyre before it blows up in our faces…’ He examined the rim, checked the wheel for trueness and so on, but there was nothing obviously wrong. I showed him the back tyre, and he was also a bit nonplussed, although he did point out that the tyre was pretty worn. It hadn’t really occurred to me that they were getting worn out. I guess I’ve probably ridden about 5,000km on those tyres since they were new, so compared to my previous SportContact experiences they are just broken in. I mean, you can even see a glimmer of tread pattern in a few places!

I got a replacement tyre on the front (another SportContact – I’m not ready to give up on them yet). The LBS guy didn’t think the rear one was a problem right now, although he did recommend I keep a close eye on it. And then I rode home, contemplating whether getting 5Ks out of a tyre was reasonable, and/or if the stories I have heard about Conti’s quality control being a bit variable were true, and the experiences of some of my correspondents with these tyres.

And then I had another thought. Around the time I got those tyres, I also got a new floor pump, as my old one gave up the ghost. It was very cheap, but seems to work just fine. However, I have always had a nagging doubt about the accuracy of the pressure gauge.  At the shop, the guy had asked me what pressure I usually inflated it to, and accordingly pumped it up to 85psi using his fancy shop pump – the maximum recommended for the tyre, and what I usually do it to at home.

When I got back, I attached my cheapo pump to the valve, fairly confident that the tyre was at or around 85. I put in one small stroke of air to stabilise the reading, and…   my gauge only read ’60psi’. Ooops. So it seems that I have been significantly over-inflating the tyre for it’s whole life. Who knows what it was getting up to, but I guess it could easily have been in excess of 100psi. Could it be that this is the problem, and that the sides of the tyres are literally cracking under the pressure?

Time will tell if the new tyre lasts better now I have inflation under control, but I suppose the moral of this story is if you have a cheap pump, don’t rely on the gauge!

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More cops, more tickets..

May 4, 2013 at 19:06 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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police carWell, it happened again. And again, actually – I’ve really had a spectacularly successful run of collecting tickets over the last three weeks, totalling six tickets. That’s about $400 in fines (assuming the ones I contested for various reasons are upheld). But the one that I was going to write about didn’t happen on Pyrmont Bridge, and is notable as it’s the first ticket I have ever received from non-cycling cops. Indeed, it’s the first time in my life I have been pulled over by a police car, complete with flashing lights (no wailing sirens, unfortunately, although I like to think they just forgot to turn it on).

As is usually the case on these occasions, they were very nice, and listened politely as I explained my reasons. The female officer told me she would have to look up my record and decide whether to give me a ticket or a caution. I did ask for a caution, but did have to wryly admit that she was going to find a lot of helmet offences on my file. Whilst she was taking down my details, I had a nice chat with the other (male) officer about fixed gear bikes; he asked me how it rode and why I liked it. He was a cyclist, as it turned out, and we have a very nice chat.

Unfortunately, it was yet another nice chat that cost me $66. And whilst my dealings with the NSW police have (with one exception) been very cordial, friendly affairs, I am starting to wonder whether $66 for each chat is really good value. And so I have been forced into something I really didn’t want to do. No, I haven’t started wearing a helmet.  I have obtained a medical certificate from a doctor that says I cannot wear one for medical reasons. There are plenty of valid medical reasons why wearing a helmet is a bad idea, and plenty of doctors familiar with them who are happy to write out a certificate. The only flaw in this plan is that, unlike in Queensland and Victoria, there is no specific provision in NSW law for such an exemption. That said, last time I was in court the police prosecutor said that if I had such a certificate then the police would not issue a ticket, and the magistrate did say it would be a reason to dismiss the case. So we shall see. So far, though, it seems to be working as since I have had it tucked into my saddle bad, I haven’t seen a single policeman…

Cleats, creaky knees and global shortages

March 28, 2013 at 21:02 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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cleatsSo my knees have been aching slightly the last couple of weeks. Serve you right for riding a fixie, I hear you muttering, and indeed for a few days I did think about whether I was getting too old for all of that.

But then I remembered the thing I always seem to forget; my knees start aching when my cleats / shoes are worn out. It’s when my feet are not secure in the pedals and roll around that I get knee issues. This thought struck me on the way to work, and as soon as I thought about it, I did realise my feet were slopping around in the pedals, and when I was climbing and pulling up on my feet the cleats were going ‘click clack click clack’ with what seemed to be an inordinate amount of play in them.

So when I got to work I had a look at them. At first sight, they didn’t seem too bad; the yellow bits weren’t especially worn. But then I realised the body of the cleat – where it contacts the pedal – was work right down to the metal (who knew they had metal in them?). I think that since I learned to trackstand and no longer have to walk up the SHB steps every day I don’t actually put my feet down very much, so those protruding bits of the cleat don’t really wear – it’s the main bit of it that is wearing out first.

So I popped into the LBS to pick up a new pair. Too easy, you might think. But apparently not – there is a global shortage. No-one has them, and there’s been none for months. My LBS owner has resorted to buying dozens of the cheapest Shimano road shoes, just so he can sell the cleats that come with them.

None online in Australia. Even Wiggle have none. I managed to turn up a pair in eBay, from a seller who bought them by mistake (he wanted the red ones). they were a good price too – little did he know that he could have charged a premium for them, given their scarcity.

Anyway, I hope they come soon, as I’d like to prevent the creaky knees making me feel old..

A tale of two drivetrains

February 19, 2013 at 20:22 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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ficed gear drivetrainI finally got around to fixing the drivetrain on my fixie. I spend a few weeks ummming and ahhhing about buying the bits online and doing it myself  – I even went so far as to put them all into a shopping basket on Wiggle, but never actually pressed ‘purchase’. The main reason was I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get the lockring off the the fixed sprocket. I do have the right tool, but it’s a rather puny, cheapo affair that I suspected would not be up to the task. I did then consider also buying a decent tool to do it with (which would still have worked out cheaper than the LBS), and perhaps a new lockring (in case I trashed the old one getting it off), but by this time it was all getting too hard, so I decided to go to the LBS instead. Oh, and I am also too lazy to do these things myself.

I took the bike in in November, but for various reasons it took until the end of January to get the work done. Now, I don’t want to slag off my LBS here, as they re really nice guys who are generous with their time and do a good job for me. But, well, sometimes I do thing small stores could be a little more organised. What with my order getting lost in some diary transfer, confusion about what size chainwheel I needed and a discussion about whether it was a freewheel or fixed gear I wanted it all took a long time to get sorted out, what with wrong parts having to be sent back and so on. Customer service is about more than just great service whilst you’re in the shop; it also extends to getting the details right first time and not losing track of orders. Oh well, sermon over. I suppose it meant I eked a few more months out of a pretty-much-dead drivetrain.

Whilst the fixie was in surgery, I of course rode the Radish. And in doing so realised it too needed some TLC; the front brake pads were worn down and the gears were not changing smoothly. So I booked it in for a service. It turned out that the drivetrain on that was ‘end-of-life’ too; the technician put the chain wear gauge on it and declared ‘it’s well over 2% stretched – that chain is never going to change gears smoothly. You need a new chain and cluster.’. Funny; it never occurred to me that it might be worn out – even though the bike is four or five years old and it’s still on the original chain. So this all had to be arranged too; thankfully with no ordering stuff-ups so it was all dealt with very quickly and efficiently.

So now I had two new drivetrains, with both bikes feeling silky smooth and lovely to pedal. The fixie did indeed feel teriffic – all the play in the drivetrain was gone, as was the grinding, rattling sound of the chain. Just smooth, oiled whirring. But the Radish didn’t seem so good; something as still rattling and grinding around. I gave it a quick once over, and discovered the culprit – the bearings in the pedal were toast, and the right pedal was wobbling and grinding around like the ones on an old kids trike. Back to the LBS for a set of new pedals, and things seemed better again. But then not. The drivetrain still felt a bit grindy, and the gears were jumping. I was riding along unhappily, thinking that I would have to take it back to the LBS again, when I remembered something. I pulled up, and had a peek under the pannier. A-ha! Of course! The rear skewer had worked loose again! No wonder it was all a bit odd with the back wheel wobbling around all over the place. The LBS guys wouldn’t have know that it tends to do this, and that it needs to be super tight. So I tightened it up, and continued on my ride (and props to the fellow cyclist who stopped to ask if I was OK at 10.30pm last night when I was sorting it out – much appreciated).

Bliss. Smooth, oiled whirring and slick gear changes. Fellow cyclists unite – you have nothing to lube but your chains!

Strava

January 5, 2013 at 11:59 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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So I put Strava on my phone. Strava, for those not acquainted with it, is an app which tracks your route, how fast you go, how long you take and so on. And then the really evil bit – it compares how fast you ride each ‘segment’ with other riders who have followed the same route (or bits of the route). If you are fast enough, you get an award, a place on the leader-board and a ‘King of the Mountain’ (KoM) badge. This has also sparked some controversy, as it may encourage people to ride too fast or take risks in order to improve their score. Given the somewhat competitive nature of Australian commuter cyclists (something from which I am not immune) I’d say this is pretty much inevitable. Still, I thought I’d give it a go, as being able to measure the distance and speed of different routes to work seemed interesting.

So far, I have used it twice. The first time I was riding the Radish, the second my fixie. So what interesting things can we glean from this experiment?

strava1

Well, on the Radish my average speed was 17.6km/h, whilst on the fixie it was 24.2km/h. This means it took me an extra six minutes to get to work (even though it was a slightly shorter route). However, it takes me about 10 minutes to have a shower, and on the Radish I can ride to work in my regular clothes – which confirms my suspicions that a slow, cruisy ride on the Radish actually gets me to work (as in ‘at my desk’) quicker than the fixie.

strava2

Here’s the speed graph for the two rides – Radish on the left, fixie on the right. Bizarrely, I hit a faster speed on the Radish – and rather near the end of the ride. I wonder where it was? I used the route map function to work out where I managed to crank a cargo bike up to 50km/h in the CBD, and it was here:

strava3

I don’t remember making that detour from the Kent St bike lane, but there you are. From memory there’s a cupcake shop on that corner with Erskine St, so if you were in there buying a dozen mini frosted cupcakes when a guy on a cargo bike came hurtling through the display at 50km/h, please accept my sincerest apologies.

I can also use Strava to find out how I compare to other Sydney racers commuters.

strava_anzac

Apparently I am the six-hundred-and-fifty-first fastest person to ride over Anzac Bridge – and am about 25 seconds faster on the fixie than on the Radish. I’ve no idea when time of day David Evans screams over at 40km/h, (nor what kind of legs he has), but I can only hope either it’s at three in the morning when there are no pedestrians on the path or he’s riding on the road.

Apparently if you pay for a premium Strava subscription, you can see different leaderboards for different categories. So for example I could feel good about the fact I am actually the fiftieth fastest in the ‘old curmudgeons riding cargo bikes in thongs’ category, or tenth fastest in the ‘obsessed with fixies but have very weak legs’ category. It costs $6 a month for such ego-boosting features.

So there you are – my experiences with Strava. So far I’ve only used it those two times, and to be honest, I probably won’t use it often. Whilst I tried to resist I was not immune to the temptation to push a little harder (well, on the fixie at least. On the Radish I just cruised along as usual), and whilst that’s be fine in some circumstances and on some routes, I can’t help feeling Anzac Bridge at rush hour isn’t one of them. Still, if you love Strava and it helps you train more often and harder good luck to you. I can see how it could be motivational. Just be careful out there, and remember beating your personal best on some phone app is less important that the comfort and safety of both yourself and other road and path users.

Fixie temptation

November 21, 2012 at 19:14 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times recently – Why do you ride a fixie? Fixed gear bicycles (bikes without gears nor a freewheel – meaning you can’t stop pedalling) are very popular at the moment, but seem to be associated in some people’s minds with ‘hipsters’ and ‘wannabe couriers’. And whist it’s true there are some high-fashion low-practicality fixed gear bikes out there, there’s much more to riding one than fashion or trendsetting.

When the topic came up again recently on SydneyCyclist, I put together a few points about riding one. Actually more than a few points; I waxed lyrical at some length. Never being one to waste the opportunity to re-use old material, below is an edited version. It seems that it had some effect on the original questioner on SydneyCyclist – so perhaps it might persuade you to try out a fixie too!

______________

Fixies are FUN FUN FUN. Truly. You don’t know what you’re missing until you try it. You have no idea that your pedals have a ‘dead spot’ at the top and the bottom until you experience the smoothness of a fixed drivetrain. You have no idea as to how exhilarating and fast 35km/h can feel until you are spinning down a slope on a fixie. You have no idea how much better you can feel the amount of traction the rear wheel has until you ride with your legs coupled directly to the wheel. You have no idea how fast you can accelerate away from traffic lights until you ride with an optimised, super-efficient gear set-up.

There is no reward in freewheeling down a hill, or clicking down through ever lower gears so you can crawl up a hill at a walking pace. You will only know this once you get comfortable on a fixie.

Getting comfortable takes about two weeks. For the first week it feels very weird. I remember just stopping the bike was odd – you have to get used to taking your foot out of the pedal anywhere in the stroke. For the second week you are more relaxed, but keep forgetting to pedal. Nothing really bad happens, but the bike gives you a bit of a jolt to remind you to spin those legs!
After a couple of weeks, though, it becomes second nature. It’s definitely worth riding singlespeed for a while first, to work out which gearing is going to suit you. If you jump straight on a fixie, you’ll think the gearing is too high because you are not comfortable putting in your normal effort. If you know that you can manage the gearing on a SS, though, it’s more clear that it’s just a familiarisation issue. (In fact, you can probably drop one size on the sprocket when you move to fixed, as it’s actually easier to climb hills on a fixie than on an equivalent freewheel. This is another magical fact you will discover when you get into it).

What else to say? Fixies are FUN FUN FUN. Did I say that already?

Gearing? I run 48×17, and love it. I’ve yet to find a hill in Sydney I couldn’t climb, but it’s high enough to cruise at a reasonable speed and cover good distances. Having said that, that’s probably on the higher side of average. Don’t make the mistake of going too low though. Using your lowest gearing from your normal ride will be too low – you’ll be spinning like mad and not getting anywhere. You’ll be surprised how you can climb those hills when you just have to get on with it, and don’t have the pernicious seduction of clicking down to a lower gear.

Disc brakes? Sure, why not, although you’ll struggle finding a hub that can take one on the back and you’ll probably need to replace the stock forks (I don’t know of any frame / fork sets with rear drop-outs and front disc mountings). However, you’ll quickly find you rarely use your rear brake on a fixie – one benefit of feeling the traction so well is that you can deliver maximal braking to the front wheel – which is the most efficient way to stop the thing. I can perform a better emergency stop on my fixie than on my geared bikes.

Anything else? Fixies are FUN FUN FUN. Did I say that already?

Safety? Once you are used to them, I think fixies are actually safer to ride, too. Few reasons for this.
1) You go slower. You simply can’t built up that massive head of steam you get on a geared bike going downhill. You also have to take corners more slowly, to avoid pedal strike (an oft-worried about problem which in reality just doesn’t materialise. I’ve never had pedal strike on my fixie). However, you don’t sacrifice intensity nor adrenaline – you feel like you’re going fast, but without actually going as fast.
2) You can brake better. That ability to feel the back wheel starting to lose traction is real, and really helps tune your braking skills. It takes a while to get used to it (emergency braking whilst still pedalling will seem very strange to begin with), but it soon becomes second nature.
3) Better in the wet. For the same reason, you are better able to judge traction in the wet on a fixie. It’s quite an eye-opener just how much your rear wheel skids around in the wet – which in turn makes you go slower. On a regular bike you don’t notice so much. Until you lose traction completely…
Yes, there are some watch-outs – like not getting clothing caught in the chain, keeping everything tight so the chain can’t slip off etc which you need to be aware of, as if they happen are more problematic on a fixie than a regular bike. But in reality, I’ve never found them a problem.

Oh, one more thing. Fixies are FUN FUN FUN. Did I say that already?

In terms of pedals, you will need some sort of foot restraint – either clipless or cages. I DO NOT recommend using open platforms. Having your feet come off the pedals on a fixie is a very uncomfortable and even dangerous experience – it’s very hard to get your feet back on to a pedal that is churning round at high speed, and it could even crack into your shins with unpleasant consequences.

In terms of the best system to use – use the one you are most familiar with. Getting your foot in and out of the pedal whilst the pedal is moving takes a bit of getting used to, and you don’t want to be fumbling with an unfamiliar pedal system at the same time.

You will need brakes on a fixie you intend to ride on the road. (Yes, I know a few people manage without them, but you need to have exceptional control of the bike to compensate for the lack of brakes – and even then you will be unable to stop the bike as quickly as you can with a front brake). I have two regular brakes on my fixie, which is nice because it feels familiar, although as I said I rarely use the rear one.

Stopping feels odd at first, because you are used to taking your feet off the pedals at a particular point. Normally, when you stop you cease pedalling just before you reach the point you want to actually stop, and coast with your feet in that position so you can unclip when you stop. This habit takes a little time to break, which means you either stop a metre or two before the point you intended (as that’s when the pedal is in the ‘right place’), or you go a bit too far forward. You’ll have a few uncomfortable moments when you almost do a very slow-speed rear-ending of a car or something, followed by a scramble to get your foot off the pedal in an unfamiliar position. It doesn’t take long to get used to unclipping at any point, however. I remember this quite clearly when I first went fixed – just stopping the thing at exactly the right spot seemed bizarrely hard. As a consequence I rode more cautiously for a while, whilst I got used to it – I was wary of having to do an unexpected stop. Now I’m used to it, i can’t really understand why I ever had a problem, as I can now pull up where I need to and do full-on emergency stops without thinking about it. Still, you will feel a bit more vulnerable in traffic to begin with. It’s not a major drama, and it only takes a few weeks to get comfortable. Think if it as an opportunity to empathise with less experienced cyclists on regular bikes setting out into traffic for the first time!

One last thing – you’ll need to get used to spinning the back wheel round to get the pedal into the right position after you stop, ready to take off again. I do this by putting the front brake on, then pushing down and forward on the handlebars to lift the back wheel. You can then spin it (in either direction!) to get your lead foot into the right position. Again, as you get more comfortable you’ll be able to get going with the pedals in a less optimal position (especially on a downhill slope – hill starts are always a bit more interesting!).

Oh yes, and fixies are FUN!

What to do with a dodgy tube?

October 2, 2012 at 21:11 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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My rear tyre kept going flat. Just slowly, but obviously enough that I was putting much more air into it than the one on the front. Then, on Wednesday, I got my bike out of the garage to go to work and it had gone really very soft.

A puncture. I’d been putting it off, but now I had to do it. Luckily I had a bit of spare time, so I quickly felt around the outside of the tyre. I quickly found a large bit of splintered glass embedded in the rubber. ‘That’s probably what is was.’, I thought, and rather than taking the wheel off (no quick-release on the fixie) I just levered the tyre off at the point and pulled a bit of the tube out to patch the hole. If the hole was there it was too small to see, and I couldn’t feel any sharp edge inside the tyre either , so the splinter seemingly hadn’t got through the kevlar puncture protection layer. Whatever – I had a new tube, so I whip the wheel off, replace the tube, get it all back together and off we go – all done and dusted in less than ten minutes.

This weekend, I had a spare moment, so thought I’d patch up the old tube. Put some air in, put it in a bowl of water and go around to find the hole. Nothing obvious at first, but then it was quite a slow puncture. Put some more air in to stretch it a little, and go around more carefully. That tell-tale stream of bubbles remains obstinately absent.

Put more air in to really stretch it father than recommended, and go around really carefully, and inch at a time, pulling it as I go.

Nothing.

All very strange. A very very very slow puncture? Dodgy valve? Who knows. It’s now been inflated in the garage for two or three days, with no apparent air leakage.

So now I’m debating what to do with the tube. Of the options below, which would you recommend?

  1. It’s obviously fine. Pack it up in your seat bag as your spare.
  2. It’s obviously dodgy. Chop it up and use it to pad out that new rear light fitting that’s too big to fit securely on the seat stays.
  3. It might be dodgy. Buy a new spare, but keep it for emergency use.
  4. Give it to a friend as a gift.
  5. Eeeeygh, I can’t believe you tested a used inner tube in your kitchen sink. That’s so unhygienic.

The fixie is back

July 11, 2012 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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Well, my beloved fixie has emerged from rocket surgery and is back on the road, after all the issues I had with the forks, and then various delays getting it sorted.

Thanks to the nice people at Salsa and Dirtworks I have a shiny new set of forks; after hearing my tale of woe they came through and replaced them for free, even though they were out of warranty. Thanks guys, really appreciate it!

The front rim was almost worn through and the front hub bearings were also shot beyond repair. So in the end I got a completely new front wheel too. This means the whole front of the bike has now been replaced – and it’s especially obvious as replacement forks were only available in black. I suspect this means anyone looking at my bike will probably tut tut to themselves and mutter ‘must have had a stack and trashed the front of his bike’. Still, I can live with that, as it’s great to be back in the saddle.

I went the long way round to get to work the other morning, to have a bit more of a ride, and all was well – just so much fun blasting up the hills (as opposed to crawling up on the Radish!). Hurrah, I love my fixie. Ride and Smile, everyone!!!

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…!  😉

A new skill

May 7, 2012 at 10:31 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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I’ve been working on this for years. It’s something I wanted to be able to do – but not enough such that I went out to practise for hours until I could do it. However, I’ve been gradually getting better, and I think I am now good enough to be able announce <drumroll> that I can at last do a trackstand.

I’m not brilliant, and certainly can’t do all the no-handed, sitting down things of the real masters. Neither can I match the nonchalant way those really good at it chat to each other as they wait – it still takes so much concentration that any attempt at speaking invariably results in me losing my balance.

However, for the most part I can now draw up at a red traffic light, and then stay pretty much motionless (with just a little frantic rocking too and fro) until the light goes green – even if I have to wait most of the phase. I don’t know why, but there’s something childishly pleasing about not having to put your foot down when you stop. And I have noticed that my cleats are wearing out less quickly (although the fact that my commute no longer takes me up the SHB steps is I think a more pertinent reason).

Of course, I can only do this on the fixie. I’ve yet to manage anything close to balancing on the cargo bike. Although I’d like to be able to; I think that would be very cool – especially if it was loaded up.

I suspect that many of my readers have now added ‘poseur’ to the list of my characteristics. Or perhaps something else less printable. Whatever. Somewhere, deep down, you have to admit that you’d like to be able to do it too.

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