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.

Mudguards, bent noodles and timpani…

July 5, 2011 at 08:11 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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At the weekend I was playing in a concert with the Lane Cove Concert Band. There was quite a lot of logistical effort involved, as I had managed to secure the use of a set of timpani (kettledrums) for the concert, but they had to be transported across Sydney to the concert venue.

Before you get too excited, dear reader, no, I did not therefore load them up onto the bike and pedal them across town – although I did spend some time wondering if it could be done. We took the more pragmatic solution of hiring a truck, although I did ride over to where they were stored, together with my trombone and perhaps even more importantly the cake I had baked the day before as my contribution to the interval refreshments.

I arrived a little earlier than the truck, so I had a cup of coffee whilst I was waiting, the bike working quite nicely as a table outside the bustling café . A few people did ask me about it, what I was carrying and so on. I think it was the cake that attracted their interest!

Once my friend arrived with the truck we loaded up the timpani with no problems. I locked up my bike and we went off in the truck for the concert. It went really well; the second half was the Gunnedah Brass and they were really quite spectacular. Well worth going to hear if you get the chance. There was prolonged applause, and then an encore, which started to cause a little consternation for us – the timps had to be back by 6pm as the place they are stored in was closing – and Gunnedah were still doing their encore at five forty!

The second the applause faded we rushed the four unwieldy drums out of the concert hall and onto the truck, and made a mad dash back across town. We got there with minutes to spare, and quickly unloaded them under the baleful eye of the supervisor on duty.

My original plan was to take all my stuff with the drums, and then cycle home again from there, but in the rush to get the timps on the truck I left my trombone and other paraphernalia at the concert hall. We went back there in the truck, and I put the bike in the back so that I could ride home from the concert venue instead. When we arrived, I handed the bike to someone, and they put it down on the grass. However, the handlebars had spun right round when they had put it down, and when I got it loaded up I found there was a problem with the front brake – it didn’t seem to be working. I quickly realised that in twisting the steering so far the noodle on the cantilever brakes had jammed up against the frame and been more or less folded in half. I pulled it back into shape, wincing as I saw the metal begin to fracture at the bend. Still, this at least got the brakes working, so I set off.

As I went along the road, another mechanical problem manifested itself. The rear mudguard started rubbing on the tyre. Very odd. I pulled it back into place, and continued, but for some reason every time I used the rear brake it seemed to cause the mudguard to once again start rubbing. I have no idea why this should be – I checked the rear wheel was fitted securely, and in any case if the wheel was shifting position under braking pressure then you’d expect the disc brake to start rubbing too.

All very strange; I limped home avoiding using the rear brake where possible, also aware that my front brake was dependent on a piece of fractured metal for continued operation. Still, I made it home safely – I guess I need to book the Radish in for a service…

Gigs, mutes and cargo bikes

April 2, 2011 at 01:05 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I had a big band gig tonight, and as usual packed up all my stuff onto the Radish to get there. Well, actually I loaded it up this morning, then rode to work, and then rode from work to the gig, which meant I did about fifteen kilometres further than necessary with twenty kilos of stuff on the back of the bike. Good for the legs, I suppose.

I had to go to the gig straight from work as we had a sound check at 5.30pm, prior to the guests arriving for pre-dinner drinks. We were due to play after dinner at around 8.30pm, but the speeches ran on and on. We didn’t actually start playing until about ten minutes to ten, and consequently played only about  third of the charts before the venue management told us we had to stop.

We did get given beers though, even thought they were explicitly excluded from the contract, so that was nice (although we did wonder if we would get a bill at the end of the night, Blues Brothers style…).

At the end of the gig I packed up my stuff back onto the bike and rode home (much to the amusement / admiration / disbelief of my fellow musicians). However, I must have been tired as I didn’t pack it very well, and as I got close to home my Harmon mute escaped from the panniers. It bounced along the road, thankfully not going under any car wheels. It does now have a nice scrape and a few dents, which is a pity. The frustrating part is, of course, that we didn’t play any numbers which actually called for the damn thing, so I could have left it at home!

Sunday afternoon ride

August 19, 2010 at 18:24 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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On Sunday afternoon two weeks ago I had a Big Band rehearsal over in Lane Cove. Normally I drive, but Mrs Chillikebab was using the car. The perfect opportunity to try it on the radish!

I had been meaning to do this since my last trombone expedition. That journey was very short, however – how would I fare on a longer ride, along what is perhaps the least cyclist-friendly road in Sydney?

As it happens, I was very late leaving. Such is the way of things when Baby Chillikebab is involved. By the time I set off, trombone strapped to the bike, I only had half an hour to get there – and it’s a journey that takes twenty minutes by car. I texted to let them know I was running late, and set off.

The radish really is fun to ride. You sit bolt upright, and just cruise along. Yesterday I bought new pedals for it, so was able to ditch the bizarre ‘light up when you spin them round’ ones with a more sensible pair of bmx pedals. These offered much more grip on the bottom of my trainers and allowed me to get my feet closer together, which made for a more comfortable ride. Given that it was a longer journey, I was also wearing cycling knicks under my shorts, and that also helped. I don’t find chafing a problem, but when riding the radish to work I had noticed it making my buttocks ache. This problem was much improved with the change of clothing!

It wasn’t a fast journey, but the bike performed admirably on the somewhat bumpy paths – even with about twenty kilos of stuff strapped to the back. It does jump gears a lot, though. I’d asked the shop to take a look at it to adjust them, and whilst they were improved they still aren’t great. I think the chain is just so long (and the gears are only so-so SRAM models) that it just tends to hop over the cogs a bit, especially when going over bumps or changing down several gears. I am considering adding another chain tensioner between the cranks and the derailleur, so see if it helps. (The solution I really want is to install hub gears, but that’s an extravagance I can’t justify – yet).

It took me thirty-five minutes to get to Lane Cove. This surprised me; I had expected it to take over forty-five. it really just does bring it home how driving is really not as quick as you think. Riding a ponderous bike, loaded to the gunwales, along a bumpy, twisty, up-and-down path really doesn’t take much longer than taking the car. Why do people drive? Especially when on a bike you can stop and enjoy the view from the top of Gladesville Bridge (see photo above). I was only a few minutes late, and wasn’t even the last one to get to the rehearsal – others arrived later after getting stuck in traffic. Ha ha.

Coming home was even quicker (more downhill!). I managed to crank the thing up to about fifty kph coming down Burns Bay Road; a few drivers did a double take as this fellow on a sit-up-and-beg bike with what looks like a small coffin strapped to the back overtook them. I felt like the Man with Rubber Pedals.

I can see riding to rehearsals becoming a habit!

Have trombone, will travel

June 29, 2010 at 23:10 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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On Saturday, I was playing for the crowds gathered in the FIFA Fan Fest at Darling Harbour. Well, I say crowds; there actually weren’t many people there. This probably had something to do with the fact that neither the bar nor any of the food outlets were open.
Anyway, given that Darling Harbour isn’t far away, I thought it was an excellent chance to try transporting my trombone (and related paraphernalia – music, mutes, beer etc) on the Radish. So I strapped the ‘bone on the back of the bike, and set off. I didn’t want to get changed when I arrived, so I was wearing the band outfit – black shirt and pants, dress shoes and an orange tie**. I got a lot of strange looks going over ANZAC Bridge; I wasn’t sure whether they were directed at the bike, the trombone on the back or my outfit.

It was pretty heavy, and of course the weight is higher than in the panniers. Still it handled pretty well, and i didn’t work up too much of a sweat going up the hills. The security guard at the entrance to the FIFA enclosure did give me a suspicious look as I rode in, but when I explained I was with the band, he waved me through.

The other band members were a bit incredulous too; there had been some email exchanges about sharing lifts, and I had mentioned I was going by bicycle. ‘Did you actually come by bicycle?’ one of them asked. Kinda strange when my two hobbies collide; I guess my cycling friends don’t see me playing much and my musician friends rarely see me on a bike. Although that may change, now that I’ve successfully taken the trombone for a ride. Rehearsals are in Lane Cove though, so getting over Gladesville Bridge on the Radish with all that weight might be a challenge (although one I shall have to attempt)!

The other cool thing about the event was having the band name up in lights. I was hoping there would be a cameraman to project close-ups of us to our teeming fans as we played, but sadly there was not. Still, luckily there was a crush-barrier to prevent us getting mobbed by the, erm, dozens of people listening…

**all sing together now… ‘ coloured ties…’ We did have that song in the set list, but had to drop it as we ran out of time.

Diary of a Man in Despair

April 25, 2009 at 13:52 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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despairI recently read ‘Diary of a Man in Despair’ by Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen. It was a bit of a wild-card choice, but turned out to be an extraordinary book.

Reck-Malleczewen was an aristocratic German living in Bavaria, and the book is his account of how Germany descended into Nazism. His hatred of Hitler shines through on every page as he documents how German society became ‘infected’ with the mass-hysteria and corrupted moral frameworks of Hitlerism. This is not a book about WWII; it contains only fleeting references to the battles, occupations and holocaust which are the mainstay of most histories. Rather it is a collection of essays, written as events unfolded, reflecting on the willingness of an entire people to ally themselves with tyranny and corruption.

The writing is powerful and evocative, and whilst some of Reck-Malleczewen’s viewpoints and values may be somewhat archaic to modern sensibilities, the portrait that emerges is of a man who refuses to compromise his beliefs and morals, whilst around him society disintegrates.

One of the most extraordinary things about the book, though, is just how contemporary it sounds. There are passages which resonate profoundly with our own society, offering disturbing insights into just how easily such a madness could overtake us again. Or perhaps is already overtaking us.

The book ends abruptly just weeks before the end of the war. Reck-Malleczewen was arrested and murdered in Dachau in February 1945.

Orchestra à vélo (1969)

March 26, 2009 at 16:45 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I bought some cards today to send to people, and liked this one very much – mainly because it contains both bicycles and a trombone.

Orchestra à vélo (1969)

It was taken in 1969 by an unknown photographer. The caption is French, but the riders all have ‘Chris Barber’ on their shirts, and it’s a UK car. As it happens, Chris Barber is a trombonist, band leader and racing car enthusiast, and I’m fairly confident the trombonist in the picture is indeed Mr Barber.

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