Tags: bicycle, bike, cargo bike, cycling, fingerprints, radish, whitewall, xtracycle
I finally had to put new tyres on the Radish. The old ones were getting extremely worn; to the point they were completely smooth and starting to bulge. Riding it was very peculiar; the tyres were so squishy the bike handling was very odd, especially around corners. They were the ones that came with the bike, so have done a lot of km over the past seven years or so.
I have been thinking about new tyres for this bike for a while, and even asked in a few bike shops when i had to take it in for servicing, but hadn’t really seen anything suitable – I want a really fat, balloon tyre without much tread. Oh, and is cheap.
I was idly looking at things on the Pushy’s website one day, and I happened upon exactly what I needed. Fat, smooth, and cheap. And with a stylish white wall, to boot! I bought a pair, and they duly arrived.
I fitted the back one first. This was a bit of a pain, as getting the back wheel off is trickier than usual, given the weight of the bike and the panniers. But once done, I fitted the tyre, with my daughter commenting that the new tyre was ‘pretty’. So a tick of approval. then I put the wheel back on, which was again a bit of a pain. I had some trouble getting the chain on properly, getting very oily hands in the process.
Then I did the front wheel.
Now, more seasoned bike wrenches than me are probably sensing a schoolboy error about to happen here. And yes, you are correct. I didn’t clean my hands first, meaning the front tyre has a rather dirty white wall, adorned with hi-resolution imprints of my fingerprints.
Oh well. Perhaps I’ll clean it off one day. Or just wait seven years until they need replacing…
Tags: axle, axle nut, bicycle, bike, commuting, cycling, hub, nut, radish
It sometimes 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…
Tags: bicycle, cycling, kids, radish, xtracycle
Well, my youngest finally outgrew the little BoBike seat. Her knees were practically jammed up against the handlebars, so it was time for an upgrade to a ‘big girl seat’.
Fitting it to the bike was very easy; just move the other one back and put it in front. Because this entails bolting two adapter thingys to the rear rack, the bonus upside is that I now have a long flat surface back again, which will negate the need for extra bits when transporting my trombone.
Tthe rear seat is definitely rather ‘economy’, with the seat in front quite close. Perhaps I could fit a tray table..! I might move the front one forward another notch (the holes are spaced about 5cm apart) – we’ll have to see how close to my backside the youngest daughter ends up when we’re riding. In the meantime, it was all good, although the extra weight on the rear made it much more unstable when loading, even with the double stand. It also exacerbated the flex in the frame that Xtracycles tend to have, given it’s not a one-piece frame but a bolted-on extender.
Strangely, however, my youngest seems to have developed some sort of phobia about going on the bike. She’s fine when we get going, and loves going fast down the hills, but every time we stop she starts crying and gets all panicky because ‘it’s wobbling’. Not quite sure what that’s all about – hopefully it will wear off soon, as it’s quite hard to find routes where I don’t have to stop..!
Tags: bicycle, bicycles, bike, cycling, helmet, radish
I got called a d*ckhead by a fellow cyclist tonight. It’s only the second time this has ever happened (the first time was some years ago, so it’s hardly a common occurrence), and as always with these things I start reflecting on how it came about, and whether I should care.
The incident that triggered it tonight came about as I rode through North Sydney. I was lumbering uphill on the Radish, heading to a rehearsal with my viola and various other musical accoutrements onboard. I heard the gentle swish of a cyclist coming up behind me, and I turned, ready to exchange a cheerful ‘hello’.
It was a woman bowling along on a smart road bike, looking quite marvellous. Before I could say anything at all, she shouted out, ‘Where’s your helmet?’, and sped past.
Oh dear. How tiresome. Still, it happened that I was picking up speed anyway as we’d reached a downhill section, and I caught up with her. OK, to be honest I probably sped up a bit in order to do so.
As I pulled alongside, I said hello, and I attempted to explain a little about my reasons for riding bareheaded, but she didn’t seem interested in chatting. Mind you, the pace we were going wasn’t really conducive to conversation, especially when riding a 35kg cargo bike so I was probably gasping and wheezing a bit.
She pulled away again after telling me I was ‘giving us all a bad name’. This is a line of logic I am particularly interested in, and as it happened I pulled up next to her at the next set of lights. However, my next attempt at conversation was met with something that ended ‘…d*ckheads like you’, although I missed the beginning as she was pulling away down the hill, and I in any case was turning off.
So now I’m torn. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, and a cyclist too. Hurrah. But did I do something very wrong, I wonder?
I guess one interpretation is that she called out a comment that self-evidently did not need a reply, and then I pursued her through North Sydney, my attempts at friendly conversation coming out in a series of gasps that was perhaps unpleasant and even threatening. If you’re reading this, and that’s how you felt, then I’m sorry, cycling woman.
An alternative is that she felt it was quite OK to shout abuse at a someone else on the road, confident that she was going to be so much faster than me that there would be no further interactions – which as it turned out was not the case.
Or perhaps normally she would have been happy to have a conversation, but the darkness, lonely streets and my out-of-breath demeanour spooked her. I don’t know.
All kind of sad, really, on lots of levels. Sad that we have these divisive laws that create stupid arguments. Sad that we make value judgements about each other. Sad that there was a moment of unpleasantness that could have been avoided by either party so easily. But, there is a flipslide. We were both riding bicycles. And that is quite marvellous.
Tags: bicycle, bike, cabby, cargo, gazelle, kids, radish, shopping, xtracycle
A 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.
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, CJV01T. 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…)
Tags: bicycle, bike, cargo, kids, radish, trombone, xtracycle
As 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.
This 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 quick 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.
Tags: bicycle, bike, bobike, cycling, family, kids, peapod III, radish, xtracycle, yepp, yepp maxi
What with toddler Chillikebab pretty much graduating into ‘Little Girl Chillikebab’, and Baby Chillikebab II graduating into ‘Toddler Chillikebab II’, I have been in urgent need of sorting out a transport solution for both of them. The little BoBike seat on the front is getting too small for Little Girl Chillikebab, and so the obvious solution was to put a regular sized seat onto the back of the bike for her, and put Toddler Chillikebab II in the BoBike.
All very simple, you might think, and so did I. But whilst I love the Radish, things are not so straightforward when it comes to accessories. That large, wide rack on the back is too wide to fit a regular bike seat to. Indeed, the only seat that seems to fit is the ‘Yepp Maxi’ – this is the one Xtracycle sell to put on the back. There are two versions of this seat – one that clamps onto the downtube, and one that fits on the (special) carrier found on many Dutch bikes (as in real Dutch bikes Dutch people buy, rather than the general style).
So my first thought was the one that clamps on the downtube, as it was going to avoid a whole bunch of additional accessories. But then when examining the Radish, I got worried that the design of the bike, with its sloping top-tube and long seatpost, was not going to be suitable to bolt the bracket to.
And the other issue was the price. The Yepp Maxi is about $200 in Australia, and whilst it’s available in the UK for about $130, being so bulky the shipping cost was exorbitant (or else it could not be shipped).
It all got worse when I started looking at the other bits I needed to bolt it to the back of the bike. I needed a new deck for the Radish, a bunch of mounting hardware and a rack adapter. Together with the seat, the whole thing was going to come to well over $400. Given that you can buy a perfectly serviceable rear seat for about $70, and a perfectly serviceable new bike for about $350, I seriously considered simply buying a whole new bike for the purpose.
So I ummed and ahhhed for some time. Eventually, however, I just bit the bullet and got on with it; the Radish is great bike for this kind of thing, and so I decided to fork out for all the relevant bits; buying the seat locally and ordering the other bits direct from Xtracycle.
It all arrived promptly, so a week or so later I was able to get on with the task of bolting it all together. It was quite straightforward, and before long we were ready to roll.
Toddler Chillikebab II absolutely loved it. She laughed and giggled the whole time on our inaugural ride, and cried when we got home again and I took her out of the seat, pointing at it and saying ‘In! In!’. Little Girl Chillikebab also enjoyed her first ride in her ‘big girl seat’, and the fact she can climb up in and out of it by herself makes it doubly exciting (gotta love that twin-leg stand!). Since then, however, I sense that Little Girl Chillikebab is having second thoughts, having realised that being stuck on the back is less fun than up front with Daddy, where there are handlebars to grab and bells to ring.
For me, well, it’s fun fun fun. The bike handing is dandy, and I can chat to them both quite happily as we go along. The fact that the rear seat is mounted further back than on a regular bike means I can look over my shoulder and see the passenger more easily. The Yepp Maxi is no doubt a very sturdy and well-designed seat (you’d hope so for that price!), and you can easily remove it from the rack when you’re not transporting little people. The only thing about it that’s not great are the straps; the way the adjustment works means that you can’t make them especially small. Little Girl Chillikebab is quite slightly built, and even though she is three years old I can’t really get them as tight as I’d like. Given that the seat is advertised as suitable from two year old, I’m surprised – I’d be very sceptical that you could get a smaller child in there and strap them in securely.
There remains only one problem, however. Transporting the kids is now a breeze, and we go on outings to the park and the shops. And I can remove the rear seat when I’m on my own. But the adapter thingy that the seat attaches to sits proud of the deck by about three or four centimetres – which means I have lost the long, flat surface I need to strap my trombone to. And crates of beer, for that matter. However, a solution to this problem soon presented itself, which I shall detail in a future blog post!
Tags: bicycle, bike, chain, commuting, customer service, drivetrain, fixie, LBS, radish, xtracycle
I 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!
Tags: anzac bridge, bicycle, bike, commuting, cupcakes, fixie, personal best, radish, strava, training, xtracycle
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?
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.
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:
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
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.
Tags: action, bicycle, bike, bike on bike, cargo, fixie, radish, xtracycle
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…! 😉