Finishing touches

July 14, 2017 at 14:08 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Finally, the last few bits for the transformation of the Radish from a 2 x toddler to a 2 x small girl transporter arrived.

Now the rack passenger has a comfy cushion for their bottom, and foot rests for their feet. I had to buy them from the US, and while the prices were OK, the shipping was (as you might imagine) a bit steep. I wish there was an Xtracycle distributor here in Australia. Surely there’s a market for one? Anyway, thanks to Matt at BikeShopHub in Flagstaff, Arizona, for patiently answering my emails and sorting everything for me.

Separately to getting all the rack bits, I also have had the drive train replaced, as the rear derailleur had sort of lost all its springiness – I guess the weight of that long chain takes its toll over seven years, and it was drooping badly and not changing at all well. It’s now all new and snappy, and feels very nice. Oddly the bike shop didn’t change the chainwheel, despite it being worn into sharks teeth. This meant the chain still rattled somewhat, and didn’t feel smooth. I have no idea why they didn’t change this (as they changed everything else), but it did mean I could buy one online and do it myself. It’s not often I get to use my crank-puller. I have most of the tools for bike maintenance, but for the most part am too lazy to do things myself.  Still, this little job was easy enough, and now the drivechain is silky-smooth and silent. I’m sure it makes for a very relaxing ride for the passengers!

Ride and Fly – take 2

June 28, 2017 at 14:07 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Well, I had to travel again, on an aeroplane. So, of course, I rode to the airport. Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t start doing this years and year ago. It’s faster, cheaper and a lot more relaxing. Easy easy easy. Forgot all those traffic jams, those tense moments in stationary traffic where you wonder whether you’ll make your flight, the waiting around for taxis to pick you up, those eye-watering fares. Just an easy, pretty much flat half-hour-or-so ride, with guaranteed parking right outside the terminal entrance.

This time, I didn’t bother with my towable suitcase. I just strapped a regular case on the back of the Radish, which to be honest was much easier. Easier to ride, and easier when I got there.

I had a quick shower when I arrived at the airport, although with the cool morning I hardly needed it, and caught my flight with ease. Coming home, I strolled out of the terminal, strapped my bag to the back on the bike and pedalled away. It’s actually really nice to be able to get some exercise after sitting on a plane for long hours, and I was home in no time.

Yes, it would be nice if bike access to the airport was a bit better. But to be honest, it’s not too bad if you’re used to riding in Sydney. Next time you need to fly, take your bike. You won’t regret it.

Tag-a-long on the cargo bike

May 22, 2017 at 14:07 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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As you may remember, over the New Year period we went to the UK, and had a very successful experience with a Burley tagalong trailer. The kids loved it, and it was very easy to ride with it on the bike.

I’ve been thinking about getting one for use at home ever since, especially as the children are really now too big for the ‘two passenger‘ solution I had – their increased weight coupled with the high centre of gravity was making putting them both into the kiddie seats a tiring proposition. If I could put the tagalong on the back of the rack, and leave enough space for another child to sit straddling the rack at the front, I’d have a more manageable solution.

The issue was how to attach it to the bike. I pondered this for a while, whilst doing some internet investigations. And I found a few people who had successfully fashioned a bracket to attached a Burley trailer to an Xtracycle. I reached out to those people, but the information I found was rather old and I couldn’t track them down. But, after some consideration, I figured that I could probably work something out locally. And if not, I’d just have to buy a new bike suitable to fit the Burley to. So I bought a Burley Piccolo trailer, which duly arrived.

The next step was to find someone who could convert the Burley rack into something I could attach to the Radish. The Burley rack as it comes is a well-built steel rack, which fits in the conventional way over the back wheel of a bike. I needed someone who could take the top part of the rack, and fabricate some kind of bracket so I could bolt it down to the rear deck of the Radish. Luckily I had the adapter brackets for the kids seats as a kind of template.

After a bit of ringing around, I found the inestimable Matt Hopkins, of Hopkins Welding. He gamely agreed to have a go at the job, and duly set to with this metalworking tools and welding gear.

I can share a short lesson here if you are every thinking of doing something similar. Don’t simply take the part you need modified to your chosen artisan, along with a rather vague description of what you need. Yes, that’s right; version 1.0 was not quite right. I hadn’t taken the whole hitch mechanism along, so Matt couldn’t see that he needed to avoid some parts of the frame when fabricating brackets, where the hitch slots over them. However, when I subsequently took along the whole thing, he was quickly able to modify it to version 1.1, which worked perfectly. I have to say Matt was very patient with me over what was undoubtedly a much more fiddly job that he at first had imagined, and is a thoroughly nice bloke.

The other requirement was for something for the child sitting on the rack to hold on to. A bit more internet investigation revealed solutions for this too; with an extra long stem, some small handlebars and the correct shim I was easily able to fit some stoker bars behind my saddle, making for a secure ride for the child sitting on the back.

So, with everything fitted it was time for our first ride. We scooted around the block a few times, with the kids swapping places on the tag-a-long and the rack. And it was a great success. The kids love it, and it’s much easier for me to ride; the lower centre of gravity and less weight on the rack makes the bike much more stable. I can also finally do away with the faff of straps and kids seats.

I’m on the lookout for a cushion and some Edgerunners for the Radish, to finish off the job, but for now it works fine as it is. The dual-kid transport solution is back in action!

Not so whitewall tyres

April 17, 2017 at 14:16 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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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…

Bike on bike nut job

February 8, 2017 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It bikeonbikesometimes 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…

Double radish!

April 22, 2015 at 12:36 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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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’.

doubleradishI showed her the colours available, and (somewhat unexpectedly) she chose black. So I ordered one from the internets, and a week or so later it arrived and we were ready to roll.

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..!

Helmet unpleasantness and cycling marvellousness

July 14, 2014 at 22:29 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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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.

Convenience and inconvenience

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

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

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

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

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

The trombone conundrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Trouble

March 6, 2013 at 20:33 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
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kidsonbikeWhat 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!

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