Freak Storm

February 18, 2017 at 14:53 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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stormvideoSydney’s Inner West is usually a quiet kind of place. Little happens to disturb the sounds of single-origin lattes being brewed in hipster cafes, and kids being driven to school in urban tractors.

However, yesterday there was a Big Storm. Freak winds hit this otherwise quietly complacent patch of inner-city gentrification, bringing down trees and damaging buildings. Those freak winds probably lasted for no more than fifteen minutes, but it was quite exciting whilst it lasted.

It was particularly exciting for me, as I just happened to be on my way home from work at that moment, riding through the heart of the storm. It’s the first time I have literally been stopped in my tracks by the wind – a particularly massive gust just pushed me backwards to a stop. This was coupled with heavy sideways rain that stung my face as I attempted to make progress.

However, I was not deterred. I managed to make it home, And, of course, the superiority of the bicycle was one again demonstrated as cars struggled to pick their ways down roads covered with downed trees an other debris, but I was able to continue pretty much as normal.

Above is some footage from my rear-facing camera. Unfortunately the battery was flat in the front-facing one, but you can get the idea of the intensity of the wind and rain as it is driven down the roads.


Riders on the storm

April 29, 2015 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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‘The storm of the Century’. “Stormpocalypse’. These were the headlines after Sydney recently copped some bad weather. Some areas north of Sydney had some truly appalling weather – with significant flooding, houses washed away, and tragically a number of people died.

Central Sydney, however, got some heavy rain and it was a bit windy. Yes, there were a few local streets a bit flooded. A fair few trees came down. Some houses were damaged a bit. But it did seem a bit odd that the Sydney Morning Herald seemed to devote so much space to the problems of umbrellas being turned inside out. Umbrellageddon indeed…

pathblockedThings did all get quite exciting when the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, told everyone to go home early to avoid the storm. This prompted a mass exodus from our office, and many people offered me a lift, as surely I wasn’t going to ride?

Well, of course I was. As I said to my colleagues, I’d get wet, but get home on time. They were going to be stuck in a traffic jam for five hours. So I rode home, and yes, it was wet and rather windy, but not that bad. I did pass a lot of stationary traffic, however…

The next morning, there was a problem, however. A tree had come down over the path leading to Gladesville Bridge, completely blocking the way. This is the only way to access the path over the bridge, and is a busy commuter route. The steel fence made it rather hard to get round, although I (and several others) managed to lift our bikes over and then climb over ourselves.

pathclearSo the following morning I took a pair of secateurs (I couldn’t fit anything bigger in my bag), with a view to cutting my way through. Cutting through a fallen tree with some small shears is actually rather hard, I discovered, but I am rather stubborn and once I get started I like to finish. So I hacked away at the thick foliage, working the blades round and round each branch until it yielded. After about an hour, I had cleared a small path through. Just as I finished, someone rode through on a mountain bike, barely slowing down. My path was open!

I did report the fallen tree to both the council and the RMS (Sydney roads authority), but as yet it has not been properly cleared. I daresay there is quite a backlog of work to be done; however one wonders if the trees that blocked major commuter motorist routes were attended to rather sooner…

Finally, I must tip my hat to this mystery cyclist, whose image has been flashed across the globe as he powers through Sydney floodwaters. If ever there was a picture that demonstrated the practicality and exuberance of cycling vs the impotent, soulless scourge of the motor vehicle, it is surely this!



Night time wonderland

May 25, 2012 at 00:53 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It was a lovely day when I set off for work this morning – a fabulous day for a ride, in fact. It stayed nice all morning, and then in the afternoon the low cloud came in, and it began to rain.

Cold, wet, drizzly rain. I had a rehearsal again tonight, so afterwards faced the delights of a fairly long ride home, on the laden Radish, with no waterproofs or even sensible rain clothing – I was wearing cotton pants and a sweater which had already got quite sodden just from the short ride to the rehearsal venue.

I set off after rehearsal to the commiserations of my fellow musicians. ‘Don’t envy you tonight!’ they called out, as they got into their cars. And as I set off into the traffic, the cold wind whistling through my clothes and the rain soaking my legs I could see the attraction of a warm car.

But no ride is ever really that bad, and I soon started to warm up. And as I reached the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I had real reason to celebrate riding. The low cloud hanging over the city was such that it was obscuring the top of the great arch of the bridge. The lights that illuminate it were casting their glow into the mist, and the structure was clearly visible, lit by an almost ghostly light. The cloud lay over the top, and it looked for all the world like that great bridge was holding up the sky. Really beautiful; I have ridden across that bridge thousands of times, but there are always new surprises.

As I approached the CBD, the taller buildings were too pushing up into the cloud, and right in front of me as I rode was an apartment block; a bright yellow light at the top illuminating the mist like some kind of urban lighthouse. Magical, magical stuff. The cold and wet was forgotten as I surveyed the wonderland around me.

And who else was enjoying these views? Not the poor people in their cars, that’s for sure; peering through their rain splattered windows, the glare of the streetlights blocking out the view. No, my friends were wrong. They should envy me; this wonderful city is putting on a special show and I am the only one getting to see it. And all because I ride a bicycle.


I took a few pictures with my phone, but they don’t really do justice to the views. Still, perhaps you get the idea.


There’s no such thing as bad weather…

July 21, 2011 at 20:56 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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…only the wrong shoes, as I found out today. Decked out in head to toe GoreTex, I braved Sydney’s wettest seventy-two hours for sixty-nine years to cycle into the city to meet someone. (I do love the way the SMH manages to find some sort of weather record virtually every single day. Things like ”The most rain on a day following a dry day during a week when the wind only blew in a southerly direction since 1972!‘ All good stuff – if there’s one things that has survived from the colonial days it is the oh-so-British obsession with the weather.)

I was wearing my walking boots, as I thought they would be waterproof, but alas they were not. Or rather, they boots themselves were, but the action of pedalling caused a gap to appear around my ankles – a gap into which large quantities of water flowed, neatly directed off my waterproof over-trousers. There weren’t many other cyclists out there tonight, but I did see one who perhaps had a better idea – he was wearing board shorts and Crocs. I guess if your feet are going to get wet anyway, you might as well have shoes that allow the water to flow out, as opposed my my boots which gradually filled up with water. By the time I got home I was carrying my two own private puddles around with me – squelch squelch squelch.

Notwithstanding my wet feet, the rest of me was warm and dry, and I did get a certain satisfaction cruising along, feeling very superior to the pedestrians scuttling along huddled under umbrellas and motorists enduring the inevitable gridlock that seems to accompany wet weather.

Whilst I was (mostly) waterproof, however, my bike lights were not. This is a bug-bear of mine. I have two lights on the back of the Radish, both reasonably expensive affairs from reputable bike shops, and both of which claim to be ‘waterproof’. Well, they are not. Take them out in wet weather, and water finds its way into the contacts. This causes them to switch on and off at random. It was frustrating enough to get back to my bike (which had been parked outside in the rain) to find one of the lights had evidently been on all day and the battery had gone flat. However, it was rather more concerning to arrive home and find that one of them had switched itself off during the journey, and the other had gone from solid to flashing mode. I don’t really want to be riding along in the dark with no tail lights in this kind of weather. Can anyone suggest a genuinely waterproof option?

Riding the Radish in the Rain

June 9, 2010 at 12:45 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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On Sunday, the Radish came into it’s own. Indeed, up until Sunday I had failed to fully appreciate the fun there is to be had on this machine; however I am now a confirmed Xtracycle fan.

It came about because we had to go and get groceries. Mrs Chillikebab initially wanted to go, as sending me with a list wasn’t god enough, as  ‘I wouldn’t buy the things that she didn’t know we needed‘. Hmmmm. Mrs Chillikebab and I have very different ideas about shopping. In my world, you take a list, and the objective is to get in and out of the store with the items on the list in the least possible time. Aisles that do not contain things on the list are shunned. Speed is of the essence; collecting things from the shelf without reducing the speed of the trolley is to be encouraged. In Mrs Chillikebab’s world, you browse all the aisles, just in case there is something lurking that you didn’t know you needed. And each item should be carefully selected, the price of alternatives weighed up, and carefully placed in the trolley to avoid damage.

Anyway, Mrs Chillikebab ended up not being able to go because of Baby Chillikebab’s  feeding schedule. So I had to go with the list. And of course, I had to go on a bike. This was it! The moment I had been waiting for – a fairly big shop was needed, and the Radish was waiting.

An additional complication was that it was pouring with rain. This was about 5pm on Sunday, and it was lashing down. Still, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes, so I dug out the full waterproofs, and armed with waterproof over-trousers and a cagoule I set off.

I actually really like riding in the rain. However, given the weather and the rather ponderous bike, I took the Victoria Road ‘bike path ‘ (aka street-furniture-strewn pavement). Normally I hate doing this; I’ve had pinch flats from the potholes and weaving around the bus shelters is a pain. However, on the Radish, it all seemed fine – cruisy, in fact. There really is something in this sitting up thing…

I arrived at Birkenhead Point, and got the shopping. Lots of vegetables, milk, cans etc. Four of those green re-usable bags worth. I wheeled the trolley out to the bike, and loaded up.

From this:

To this:

Now, there is something supremely satisfying about wheeling a shopping trolley to your bike to load it up. I don’t know why, it’s just a great feeling. Like you are doing something deeply subversive.

Then, the ride home. Uphill. How was this going to go? Well, the answer is like a dream. This bike handles magnificently when loaded. If anything, it rides better with all that stuff on the back. Just so stable and easy. Even the weight didn’t seem noticeable; I just cruised up the hills. In fact, I was so pleased I thought I’d get a bottle of wine to celebrate, so rode into the drive-through bottle shop at the Sackville Hotel. I pulled up behind a car, propped up the bike on its stand and went to get wine. That pleased me too; it just looked very cool seeing the bike there in the middle of the queue of cars. The wine (a nice Pinot Noir, to go with some bonito we bought earlier in the day) was stowed along with the rest of the shopping, and I rode home feeling very satisfied.

Now I can’t wait for the next shopping trip; I reckon I can get a much bigger load than that on the bike. Those green bags were not much more than half full, and I think the Radish will swallow them just as easily when they are filled to the brim.

Not that the trip was a total success. Mrs Chillikebab had asked me to pick up some chocolate for her as I went out the door. But it wasn’t on the list, so I forgot. Unfortunately this fact rather overshadowed my excited recounting of my adventure; ‘Yes, yes, that’s all very well dear, but did you get my chocolate?….’

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