Cargo bikes and vintage tea-cups…

October 20, 2010 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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On Monday I needed to drop off a six-piece vintage tea service somewhere on the way to work. So I boxed it up carefully and strapped it onto the back of the Radish, and off I went.

It was a lovely morning, and I was cruising along. It’s all become much more pleasurable since I fixed the gears. You may remember I have been having lots of problems with them. Well, I discovered the cause. The gears are fine; however the quick release on the rear wheel has a tendency to come open. It’s hard to spot, as it’s obscured by the panniers. This means the rear wheel wobbles about, throwing out the gear alignment. (And yes, ahem, that does mean I’ve been riding around on this bike for months with the rear wheel basically about to fall off. Luckily the back is so heavy it never lifts off the ground, otherwise things could have got interesting!)

Anyway, I’ve tightened the thing tighter than a tight thing and all is now well. As I went up Anzac Bridge I passed several other commuters, decked out in cycling clothes on smart bikes, and it just made me smile so much. Not because I was faster (life is not a race), nor because I was wearing jeans (I wear cycling stuff often enough). No, it was the fact that I had a vintage tea service on the back of my bike. Somehow that just tickled me as I cruised past various people struggling up the hill.

The other thing I tried is riding down the ramp at the northern end of the SHB. Not the whole thing; just the last ramp. I’d thought about it a few times, and reckoned that the radish was the bike I was least likely to do an endo on. It’s also the one with the most weight and rubber on the road, so would perhaps be most in control and easiest to slow down. There was no-one else around, so I tried it. Whoa. Very wierd; that ramp feels much steeper when you’re riding down it on a stretch beach cruiser. Definitely not a good feeling; goodness knows how the guys who scream down the whole thing manage it. I shan’t be doing that again…

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Creamy Chocolate

October 20, 2010 at 11:24 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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I take my hat off to Arnott’s; for a company that is basically serving a fairly small market they do manage to produce a huge number of varieties. I’m sure that a hard-nosed, Harvard-educated business executive would take one look at the company and slash the number of lines they do in order to focus on the profitable ones that move in volume.

Well, I hope Arnott’s do not employ any such money-grubbing tycoon, and continue to produce such a glorious multitude. Even I am taken aback sometimes by the sheer number of varieties – and the other day I came across ‘Creamy Chocolate’ (yes, yes, pipe down at the back). I have to say, small corner shops are the best place to discover hitherto unknown Arnott’s biscuits. I guess the big chains decide on their range centrally and carry them in all their stores, whereas in the smaller places you can unearth some rare gems. It was in just such an independent grocers that I found ‘Creamy Chocolate’ (stop sniggering, Biggs Minor), so I bought a packet to try them.

These look like a throwback to some long forgotten past. They are embossed with an olde-worlde font, and somehow lack the polished veneer of biscuit produced on modern manufacturing equipment. Whether this is deliberate, or it just reflects the fact that they are made on ancient equipment, I do not know.

Creamy Chocolate (I’m not going to warn you again, Biggs) consist of two cocoa-flavoured biscuits sandwiched together with some kind of cream filling. The first thing that strikes you when you open the packet is the smell. They have a strong burnt caramel aroma which is tantalisingly familiar yet also hard to place.

The taste is similarly enigmatic. There’s the cocoa there, to be sure, although the cream filling seems to have some faint lemon tang to it, reminiscent of washing up liquid. There’s other flavours in there too; a slight hint of candy and caramel. Finally, the whole thing is overlaid with that most instantly-recognisable-yet-hard-to-describe flavour known as ‘funny’. Yes, these biscuits have a slightly ‘funny’ taste. In fact, these biscuits taste exactly as if they had been lurking in the bottom of your grandma’s biscuit barrel for a long time, and had absorbed all the flavours from the thirty-year-old tin. It’s quite amazing, and not unpleasant – these biscuits kind of send you off into a sort of nostalgic reverie. It’s just all rather unexpected.

Creamy Chocolate (that’s it, Biggs, go instantly and see the headmaster) are a very interesting biscuit, well in tune with the current vogue for things ‘vintage’. You could serve these on your vintage china wearing your vintage clothes, for example, and have people believe the biscuits were contemporary with the surroundings. I’m going to give these a six out of ten, with an extra bonus point for being so intriguing.

My vintage Peugeot bike

October 7, 2010 at 23:35 | Posted in bicycles | 5 Comments
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For some reason, I get a lot of google searches ending up on my blog searching for ‘vintage Peugeot bike’. Clearly it’s something people are interested in, so I thought I’d write about my vintage Peugeot bike. And if you smell a blatant attempt to increase the hits I get on my blog, well, you would be right. (Interestingly another common term is ‘granny smith apple’, which leads people to this post.).

I bought the bike through eBay shortly after we moved to Sydney, as a bicycle seemed to be the best way to get to work. I used to ride a lot when I was younger, but kind of gave up when I got a car. How misguided I was! This $150 bargain not only got me to work faster than the bus, it also rekindled my love of cycling.

When I bought it it was pretty much in ‘original’ condition, and looked like this:

vintage peugeot bike

Note the lovely curvy bars and the close ratio chainwheels – one with 52 teeth and one with 42.  Old-school Wienmann brakes and a six-speed rear cluster on the original Helicomatic hub. These hubs were originally supplied with a tool to take off the cluster which also had a bottle-opener on it, but sadly this was not supplied by my eBay seller. The rims were ‘Rigida’ alloy.

The dérailleurs were Simplex; you can see the rear one better on this photo.

I don’t know exactly when it was manufactured, but the closest I can find to it is in this 1986 catalogue on the excellent www.peugeotshow.com website.

vintage peugeot bike catalogue

My bike is marked as a ‘Galibier’ frame, and has the Reynolds 501 tubing – however the components in this US catalogue model seem a bit more upmarket and clearly it’s red, not yellow.  Still, I’m fairly sure it dates from around this time, as the frame graphics are contemporary.

I rode the bike like this for about six months; too and from work every day. Then, going over the Sydney Harbour Bridge one morning, the rear hub bearings disintegrated on me. It all sounds very dramatic, but in reality it wasn’t; the back wheel went all wobbly and was rubbing on the brakes, so I stopped and gave it a wiggle. I decided to try and keep going, but as I started up again it gave another little crunch, and the wheel jammed up against the frame. I carried the bike the rest of the way to work, and at lunchtime took it to a local bike shop to see if they could fix it.

The hub was shot, and in any case locating parts for a 1980’s French hub I don’t think was going to be easy for a Sydney bike shop, so they fitted a new wheel. To do this I guess they must also have cold-set the frame to widen the rear forks, although they didn’t mention doing it. They put on a rather ugly touring wheel with a seven speed cluster. I never really liked that wheel, so I replaced both the wheels with a new set of Shimano RH-500s with an 8 speed Sora cluster.

The next drama that befell the bike was being hit by a car. Luckily I was not hurt, but the bike took a bash which bent one of the cranks slightly. I took it to a different bike shop in Balmain – Cranks Bike Store. They were very nice, and fixed it all up for me, including replacing the bars (which they recommended after a knock in case they were cracked). This was all paid for by the driver that hit me (she was at fault).

So the bike then looked like this.

vintage peugeot bike

New bars (which meant goodbye to the nice curves), hello to a Shimano Sora crankset (with a more contemporary 52/39 combo) and a new saddle. Note the original rear dérailleur is still on the bike at this point; it was just able to take up the slack in the chain and cover all the gears (given the wider ratios from the smaller front chainring and the 8 speed cluster), although the ‘small-quite small’ combos gave a rather droopy chain. (Not that you should use them anyway…).

It wasn’t long after this that the spring in the rear dérailleur really started to give out, and chain tension became a real issue. So I bought a second-hand Shimano 501 one from eBay for $15 and put it on the bike – this improved the drivetrain markedly! By now I had been riding the bike every day for about a year, and figured I had saved enough in bus fares to splash out on a new bike. The nice people at Cranks set me up with my beloved Salsa Casseroll singlespeed, and the Peugeot languished at the back of the shed. I only rode it occasionally, usually if for example I was going to be locking it up outside for a while. When I did ride it, the thing that really struck me was how hopeless the brakes were. The modern dual-pivot brakes and aero levers on the singlespeed were a revelation, as was the fact that you could ride on the hoods and still be able to operate the brakes successfully, rather than just effecting a ‘gentle slowing’ – about as much as you coudl get from the old-school brakes on the Peugeot. So I got the nice Cranks people to change the brakes on the Peugeot for modern ones – Shimano long-reach brakes and Tektro levers. Hurrah! I could now stop, and I had an idea that I’d use the Peugoet for touring, carrying things and so on. I never really got around to doing that, and despite the shiny new brakes, the poor old Galibier stayed at the back of the shed as I bought bike after bike to do other things with.

Very occasionally, I’d get it out to ride. And two things would bug me; one was that the bars were too narrow and the other was that the tyres were too thin (by this time I was a complete convert to nice fat tyres). Finally I decided that it was time to either get the thing so I would enjoy riding it, or get rid of it. Getting rid of a bike just seems wrong, so I bought new bars, a new stem and a quill stem adapter. I recounted my adventures with installing them here.

By now it looked like this.

vintage peugeot bike

At last the old Peugeot was back to being fun to ride. I rode it for a while, but then disaster struck. I got a puncture. And for various reasons didn’t get around to fixing it. And then Baby Chillikekab arrived.  This meant another spell at the back of the shed, now with a dismal flat tyre. The reason for the flat was that the tyres were so worn – and in any case they were still the old narrow ones. So the other day I finally got around to buying new (wider) tyres. They are only 28mm, as 32mm ones aren’t recommended on those rims. But that’s still a lot more comfy and practical.

So I’m finally riding the vintage Peugeot bike again. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s probably the fastest bike that I own, and certainly the closest thing I have to a real ‘road bike’. Totting it all up, I’ve probably spent $1,000 on this bike since I bought it – money that I doubt I’d get back if I ever sold it. Still, it’s satisfying to give an old frame a new lease of life – and I still sometimes get admiring comments from other cyclists at the lights.

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