Flat tyres

February 6, 2012 at 22:59 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I hardly ever get punctures. Almost never. Just don’t believe in ’em. The last time I had a puncture was in March, and the last time before that was – well, actually I don’t remember. In fact, I stopped getting punctures when I started using Conti Sports Contact tyres. Now, I’m not big on product endorsement, but I do love those tyres. I run the 32mm version, and they sit on the Salsa Cross rims beautifully. They roll well, are grippy like anything, and, well, never get punctures. (It’s probably worth mentioning, in the interests of balance, that upon mentioning my preference for these tyres to someone in the Sydney cycling community, they launched into a diatribe about how awful they were, now they got continual punctures, and how they fell apart really quickly. And the LBS near work won’t stock any Conti tyres, as they think they are unreliable. Caveat Emptor, as they say.)

The last time I changed the tyres on the fixie was, erm, well actually I’ve never changed the front tyre. It’s the one that came with the bike four years ago. The rim is nearly worn through, the hub bearings need replacing, but the tyre is still going strong after what must be at least 25,000 km.

Well, that’s an exaggeration. Not the longevity of the tyre, but the notion that it is ‘going strong’. Actually it’s pretty knackered, with the kevlar belt showing through in some places and big cuts and holes in in. There’s also enough glass embedded in it to open a bottling plant.

And there’s a lot of broken glass around Sydney at the moment. Lots of public holidays means lots of drunken louts throwing beer bottles into the street. From the amount on the bike paths, you could almost believe people break glass there deliberately.  Surely no Sydneysider would be so inconsiderate? That’s the kind of behaviour  you might expect from Melbournian cricket celebrities, but not the people of this fine city.

Anyway, perhaps inevitably, my tyres have succumbed to the glass. Both of them, in fact, in close succession. A flat on the front on Friday, and a flat on the back tonight. The one tonight was particularly painful, as I was on a three-line whip to get home early so Mrs Chillikebab could go out to her dance class. I wheeled the bike out of the rack at work, and realised I had a flat. I had ten minutes to spare, so set to to quickly change the tube for the spare, only to discover the spare (which I have never used, having bought it years ago and tucked it into my saddlebag) was useless – the valve just came off the tube when I attached the pump to it.

This meant I was going to have to actually find and fix the hole in order to ride home. And the clock was ticking. I examine the tube looking for the hole. No, can’t see it – damn, precious minutes wasted there on a fruitless search, I’m going to need a bowl of water. Rush into the bathrooms, fill a basin and work my way around looking for the tell-tale stream of bubbles. I start at the valve and work around to the right, going over the whole tube  only to  find the hole just to the left of the valve.

Quick, rough it up and get the rubber cement on it. Now wait for the cement to go tacky.Wait some more. WAIT! You know you have to wait. I tap my heels impatiently, and, able to stand it no longer, peel off the patch and stick it on. It slides around and the cement is runny under my finger. Too soon! Oh no, am I going to have to do the whole thing again? I will it to stick, holding it on as I rush back to the bike. Put a little air into it, back under the tyre, pop the tyre back on, and now just to pump it up.

I had had a nagging doubt about this part of the operation from the beginning. The last time I used my mini-pump was the last time I got a flat, and it didn’t really work then.  It worked even less well this time. As I pump, the air leaks away, so I pump harder – pumping like a dervish I manage to get just enough air in to get me off the rims. Jeez, I need a new mini-pump.

I get going – a few hundred metres down the road is a bike shop, so I pop in to borrow a pump to put some air in the tyre. More time wasted, but I know that I’ll make up the time compared to riding with a nearly flat tyre. And finally then away, scooting off through the traffic. (I’m in a rush, but I’m still the slowest cyclist on Pyrmont Bridge. People really do need to ride slower on that bridge. Really, they do. Cyclists do themselves no favours zipping across there weaving around the pedestrians – and I catch them all up at the lights anyway.)

I get home with seconds to spare. Mrs Chillikebab does a quick handover as she heads out the door (Baby fed at 5, had bath, looks tired. Toddler ate well, lively, seems to be getting the hang of the potty) and vanishes.

I stand surveying the scene; the usual carnage of toys everywhere. Toddler wants a cuddle but I am hot, sweaty, and my hands are filthy with oil and brake dust. ‘Cuddle now!’, she wails, and then wees on the floor. Baby Chillikebab just smiles up at me from her mat, and then contentedly fills her nappy. enough to start it oozing out around the legs.

Tomorrow, I get new tyres…

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In need of attention

December 12, 2011 at 22:06 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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It seems my idea of getting a new bike for Christmas isn’t going to happen. I took the fixie in for a service, and it seems all is not well. I knew it would need some work; after all I ride it a lot in all weathers. However, the laundry list of things that need doing is quite long.

It needs a new drivetrain. This I was expecting; the chainwheel is four years old and the back sprocket and chain are probably three.  The tyres are also bald, but then the front one is the one I got with the bike four years ago, so it must have done well over 20,000 puncture-free kilometres.

The front rim also needs replacing. This I also suspected, as all the wet weather riding takes a toll, and I’m a shocker for cleaning my bikes, and digging all the bits out of the brake pads (which I read somewhere you are supposed to do. I never have.) The hub bearings are also shot, so new ones are required.

However, the bolt from the blue was the report that the forks are showing signs of cracking. The eagle-eyed repair tech spotted it under the paint. Oh dear. He’s going to try to get Salsa to replace it under warranty, but the forks only have a three year warranty (frame is five years), and the bike is four years old.

So this all could get rather expensive. I have to do it though. I love my fixie. But perhaps the new bike will have to wait a little longer…

Brakeless fixie scofflaw!

April 27, 2011 at 23:12 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Either I am going soft, or having the Radish is metamorphosing me into a full on European-style utility cyclist, as when I left work tonight it was a bit chilly in my cycling shorts and jersey, and for the first few minutes I thought longingly of how much more comfortable I would be all rugged up and riding the Radish.

However after a few minutes I warmed up and started to enjoy myself. However that enjoyment was curtailed by a slight wobbling, loose sensation on the right side of the handlebars. Immediately my mind jumped to this incident, also on a fixie.

I cautiously experimented with where it might be coming from, and was able to ascertain it was not the actual bars, but the brake lever seemed to be coming loose. I continued to ride, putting less pressure on the hoods, but it continued to loosen further. I started to get worried that if I needed to brake hard the whole thing might come off with unpleasant consequences. I therefore switched to riding on the tops, and refrained from using the front brake at all whilst generally riding more sedately.

I reached the first set of lights on the cycleway after the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and as I rode up to them I saw the opposing car traffic signals go red. Excellent; I was about to get a green. I therefore continued into the intersection before realising my error; the light phasing was not what I was expected and I was suddenly in the path of oncoming traffic. Ooops. I quickly got across and out of the way, thankfully clearing the junction in good time and not even getting honked. Not at all clever though, and definitely not a good look.

I did smile wryly to myself afterwards, though – blasting through a red light on a fixie with defective brakes. I managed to tick a few boxes on the stereotype tonight.

Anyway, I have to stop there, as I need to go out and sort out the bike for tomorrow. Not to tighten the brake lever. But to fit some spoke cards…

The Great Awaba St TT

March 9, 2011 at 21:03 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I’ve been meaning to try this for a while; ever since it was raised over a year ago on SydneyCyclist. How quickly can you ride up Awaba Street, possibly the steepest street in central Sydney? I’m not much interested in how fast I go, but of course I did have another much more intriguing thought. Could I get up it on the fixie?
Awaba Street stretches for about 500m from the lovely Balmoral Beach up to Spit Road in Mosman. At its steepest the gradient is nearly 30%, and over it’s length it rises about 70m. It’s not far from where I work, although I’ve never been there.
Until now. On Sunday I got out for a ride, and I decided the time had come to tackle it. I rode out to Mosman, and took a route that would bring me to the foot of Awaba Street. I didn’t want to ride down it; I wanted to contemplate it from the foot of the hill – and then attempt the ascent.
From the bottom, it didn’t look too bad, to be honest. I’ve ridden the fixie up into the Blue Mountains, through the Northern Beaches, climbed out of Coogee – and this didn’t look much different. But then again, I remembered the descriptions people had posted online about it – descriptions from fit cyclists who ride every weekend – and they seemed to think it was something special.
Nothing for it – I was going to have to give it a go. I rode back a few metres along the promenade, and then turned to get a bit of a run up. Unfortunately my run up was foiled by a lady who decided to cross at the pedestrian crossing right at the bottom just as I got there – so my rolling start came to nothing. Oh well, just get on with it from a standing start.
Up we went, and the beginning part wasn’t too bad. Cruisy, in fact. I was out of the saddle, but was making good progress. However, after a hundred metres or so, I started to realise the cruelty of this hill. The gradient gradually increases – so as you get more tired and slower, it gets steeper. Things started to get difficult; my cadence had dropped to very sub-optimal levels and I was really grinding – and we weren’t even half way up.
Was I going to have to stop? Possibly. I dived into a side turning, and rode around in small circles three of four times to regain some energy. Then back to it. Ouch – this was getting really quite hard. It was a real effort to get the pedals over the top each time; the veins on my neck were standing out as I forced then round.
This was no good. A quick look back over my shoulder – no traffic. I put in three or four zig-zags across the road; gaining height at a slower rate but mercifully easier on the legs. Then a car starts to approach, so I have to go back to grinding straight up. I’m really gasping now, head down, sweat dripping off me. I dive into another side street, ride ten metres or so on the flat, turn around and ride back, gathering some speed and then back onto the hill for the final push to the top. It’s in sight now, and the better cadence and motivation from seeing the end point give me enough energy to get to the top. My legs fell like jelly, but I got there.
So did I succeed? Did I conquer Awaba St? The jury is still out. I didn’t actually stop, or put a foot down, so in one way yes. But I did have to dive down two side streets for a quick respite, and the zig zag thing really isn’t very cool. I think I shall have to try again, with a better run-up, and focus on keeping the cadence up in the early stages. But maybe not just yet. Maybe in a year or so’s time…

Hot and red…

February 2, 2011 at 20:45 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I was a bit late leaving work yesterday. I had to get back, as Mrs Chillikebab  had her first dance class of the year that day, and was very keen to attend. I was on a three-line whip to be home by 6pm. It’s about a forty minute ride, so I really needed to scoot out not long after five to be sure of getting home on time. However, it had gone twenty past five as I wheeled the bike out of the lift, and the need for a swift ride home was very apparent.

As the office lobby doors slid open, the heat hit me. According to the BOM it was the warmest part of the day, and temperatures were up around 33C. This was going to be a hot ride…

I should have realised at that point that things were not going to go well. There are two reasons why you get lots of red lights; one is when the weather makes waiting at the lights unpleasant. The other is that you are running late.

I copped that double whammy in spades. Every single traffic light was red. Every single one. Out of the office, first lights on Miller St: red. Pac highway junction: red. Blues Rd: red. Lavender St: red. Pedestrian crossing: red. All the bike lane lights in the city: red.

So I just had to wait there in the blistering sun, heat coming up form the tarmac like a sizzling BBQ plate, clock ticking away. I might have considered blasting through some of them like the fixie scofflaw that I aspire to be, but the traffic was also against me; not gridlocked to weave through, but not light enough for there to be gaps.

I finally got out of the city and onto Anzac Bridge. By now I feel very late, so I push hard up the hill battling both the incline and the oppressive temperature. Keep pushing through, onto the local roads, push push push up one last final hill to the house. Drop bike in yard and run into the house.

“I’m here!’ I gasp, perspiration dripping from my beetroot red face, legs trembling from the effort. It’s one minute past six.

Mrs Chillikebab and Baby Chillikebab look up. “Hello. You look hot. I need to go out in about fifteen minutes, so you’d better have a shower.”

The wisdom of women: building in a margin for error where their husbands are concerned.

Annual jaunt to Watsons Bay…

January 1, 2011 at 09:57 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Well, I did make it out for a ride yesterday, and given the time of year thought I should make my annual pilgrimage to Watson’s Bay on the fixie.

Amazingly this is the first recreational ride of 2010 that I have done on my own. Ive been out a handful of times with friends this year, but not on my own. Strange to think it was something I did pretty much every weekend in 2009. How things are changed by having children!

I was slightly trepidatious as I set off; I’ve done a lot less riding this year and even less of it on the fixie. How would I manage? Would I get up the hills?

As I started the first modest hill climbing up after Double Bay, I started to have doubts. It just seemed like very hard work, and the little derailleur devil started in my ear, telling me I should have brought the ‘wife’ out for one last ride before I sell her. I struggled on, however, and it began to get easier as I found my rhythm.

By the time I got to the big hill up to Vacluse I was well into my stride. I just danced up it (well, puffed and panted a bit, but in a fun kind of way). I love my fixie – and was reassured that riding the Radish hasn’t caused all my leg muscles to atrophy! I whizzed down the hill into Watson’s Bay; my one concession to tiring legs was to use the brakes to slow down. Eighteen months ago I’d have used back pressure on the pedals to moderate my speed, but it only felt like cheating a little bit…

After a quick pit stop at Camp Cove, I headed back. The climb out of Watson’s Bay is one of the steeper stretches, but any attempt to get up some speed to attack it was thwarted by a couple of cyclists coming around the roundabout from the other direction with right of way. I had to go past them, as they were pootling up (using, as I understand it, these new-fangled things called ‘gears’…) which gave me an incentive to push on to the top without pausing for a breather!

I took the Old South Head Road back, taking a detour to Bondi to look at beach; the preparations for the NYE party were in full swing and things were a bit chaotic so I continued through and up to Waverley Park and then on to Centennial Park. I scooted around Centennial, but then remembered it was a place with possible ‘H’ issues, so made my way home.

All in all a great ride. Whilst riding with friends is fun, and it’s nice to share the experience, I do like riding on my own. Alone with your thoughts, going at your own pace, pleasing no-one except yourself. Perhaps in 2011 I’ll try to get out more than once!

Sunday morning ride

August 18, 2010 at 22:20 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I was about here when I seriously began to question my choice of bike for an early-morning ride with a friend. Sunday morning rides have become very sporadic since the arrival of Baby Chillikebab, but two weeks or so ago morning I managed to get out for a ride. I was meeting a mate at 7am in Pyrmont, but he was a bit late leaving me standing around in the freezing cold. He then texted me the reason – ‘doing dump; taking longer than expected’. Ahhh. The all-important pre-ride poo. Still, probably too much information.

When he finally arrived we decided to head north, so first went out to check the surf at Manly before circling back around French’s Forest. We were kind of following our noses without having a real route planned, and turned onto Warringah Rd in order to head back towards Sydney with some vague plan to head for Chatswood. As the road dropped down and down we gathered speed, me pedalling like the clappers and my friend cruising along in fine style. (Eventually he got bored and sped off at about 80kph, leaving me tailing along behind.) However, as the road went down, I suddenly remembered where we were. ‘It’s Roseville bridge’, I thought, and sure enough suddenly there it was. Lovely views, but I didn’t enjoy them much as I’d also remembered the road climbing pretty steeply on the other side.

I’d hardly started on the incline and things started to feel bad. I even entertained the thought that I might have a flat, so suddenly did I find it tough going. Not a god time to bonk. I struggled on upwards, the only thing keeping me going was the sight of my mate up ahead, spinning the pedals in fine style. ‘He is not going to see me walking!’ I muttered, grinding the cranks round and round.

Of course, it was worth it. What elation getting to the top! I love my fixie. We cruised on along, through Chatswood, back down to North Sydney and then into the city, stopping for a celebratory coffee in Pyrmont. What a lovely day for a ride!

And the reward when getting home, of course, is vegemite toast. Bread for the carbs, slathered with butter for the calories and vegemite for the salt. All washed down with a mug of tea. Lovely!

Cold hands whilst riding – a cautionary tale

June 18, 2010 at 00:05 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I was a little late leaving work tonight, which meant I had to dash back so that I wasn’t late getting home. I jumped on the bike after escaping a meeting that had run late, and powered through Sydney.

I was riding the fixie. I love my fixie. I’ve been riding my other bikes a lot recently, including the heavy (and slow) Radish, and the tourer with panniers and so on, and getting on the fixie was just a joy. It is my favourite bike, I have to say. Just so much fun; it accelerates like nothing else as I leave cars behind me when the lights change. And I was a god in the Tour du Pont d’Anzac; my competitors were left floundering, still struggling to clear the spiral ramp as I breached the apex of the bridge (remaining, of course, mindful of pedestrians unaware of the unfolding sporting drama around them).

The cool weather is great too; as the cold air flows over your hot muscles you just feel glad to be alive, your body tingling with the electric thrill of the ride. I shot up the final hill, turned into my street and screeched to a halt at the front gate. Was I in time? Quickly I wheeled the bike into the shed, and went into the house.

I was in time! There was my daughter, in the arms of Mrs Chillikebab. As I entered, she gave me a glorious gummy ‘welcome home Daddy’ smile. Thanks to the trusty fixie, I had got home in time to give Baby Chillikebab  her bath!

However, there was no time to lose; she was getting tired and bedtime was looming! Without bothering to change, I got her a nice warm bath ready. A quick cuddle with Baby Chillikebab, and then into the bathroom for funtime bathtime.

I lowered my daughter into the water, expecting the usual gurgly splashy smiles. But something was wrong! Baby Chillikebab stared at me in horror as she went into the water, before breaking into inconsolable wails! What had happened? Mrs Chillikebab came in, and felt the water. ‘It’s really cold!’ she said.

Oh no. My hands and arms were still very cold from my ride home. What had felt nice and warm to my chilly fingers was no more than tepid to a baby taken from the cosy embrace of its mother’s arms. I attempted to console Baby Chillikebab by wrapping her in a warm towel while the water temperature was adjusted, but it was too late. The spell was broken, and bathtime funtime became a succession of indignant screams which did not abate until Baby Chillikebab was clean, dry, warm, dressed and back in Mrs Chillikebab’s arms.

As a result of this experience I have added this to my list of cycling rules:
#253: If you are going to be giving a baby a bath shortly after riding in cool weather, wear full-fingered gloves.

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