Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bicycle Tim - the movie.

Someone's made a film about local cycling identity and frame builder Bicycle Tim Stredwick. Highly recommended if you've got ten minutes to spare, or you're looking for a new touring bike, or both.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A beginner's guide to becoming a cartoon villain.

I'm a pretty unobjectionable bloke most of the time. I go to work, I pay my taxes, I donate to charity. I try to be polite and courteous, I obey the law and generally try to treat others as I would like to be treated myself. Most of the time, as I say, I'm a pretty unobjectionable chap.

There is one thing  I do however, which marks me as a member of a dangerous and lawless minority, whose welfare counts for naught and who is open to discrimination and vilification at any time.

I ride a bike.

Public enemy number one. Also number two.

This revolutionary act, though somehow legal, transforms me from an upright citizen into a target for bile. It doesn't have to be reasonable, it doesn't have to have any basis in fact. You can even try to kill me, and there's a good chance the cops won't even care. And people far and wide will have it in for you, seemingly out of all proportion to the offence you think you're causing.

For example, here's an editorial from today's Australian. Keep in mind this is a newspaper which pretends to be a serious national broadsheet:

The arrogant sense of entitlement in our inner cities is also evident in the ever-growing number of cyclists snaking their way through pedestrians on overcrowded pathways, darting between cars and clogging-up lanes on our congested roadways.

The problem of city cyclists reached their apogee in Melbourne this week when a cyclist was “doored” on busy Collins Street, after a passenger opened a taxi door and a rider crashed into it. Neither the taxi nor its passenger could be deemed at fault because a narrow “bike lane” inhibited the taxi from stopping next to the kerb. The passenger was lucky to avoid serious injury.

What makes this incident even more absurd is that, although the lane was marked by a bicycle symbol, it was not actually a dedicated bicycle lane. Melbourne bike lanes must have signage, fixed to a pole, that shows the start and finish of a lane, as well as clear markings on the road itself. The state’s bicycle operations officer — yes, there is such a position — admits there is confusion for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. Cyclists, including the one “doored” this week, are using cameras to film such incidents so they can make insurance claims. The Victorian government imposed even tougher on-the-spot fines in 2012 for people who opened car doors in the direct path of cyclists.

For too long, authorities have bowed to the demands of selfish cyclists and their lobby groups. Truth is, our cities are dominated by cars because they are sprawling. We have no equivalent of Amsterdam and should stop pretending we do.

Charming isn't it? Now there's a lot of people riding bikes these days, for health and fitness and fun. They probably have an arrogant sense of entitlement to ride on road their tax dollars pay for. We need to get organised and we need to send a message that this sort of thing is just not on just because some fat white middle-aged editorial writer from The Australian nearly got skittled by bike one day ten years ago and got a gobful for not looking where he was going and hasn't gotten over the butthurt of it all. We need tougher penalties for the people who place our lives at risk and we need to stop taking this sort of shit from the media. It's time the bodies which purported to represent us started kicking some goals instead of fighting amongst themselves. And my message to The Australian? Fuck you. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Boeshield T9.

Despite the fact I pay a fair bit of attention to the rest of my bike, I'm a bit slack when it comes to maintaining my drivetrain. I do tend to pull may chain off every few months and degrease it but I've never been too fussy about what lube I put on the chain once it's time to go back on the bike. At least until recently.

I first came across Boeshield when a small bottle was included with a folding kayak we bought as a lubricant and anti-corrosive for the frame members. I heard good things about it an when I saw some online at Abbotsford Cycles I thought I'd give it a try. It comes in both an aerosol spray and a standard bottle, I prefer the latter.

In short: this is seriously good stuff. It's thinner than most chain lubes but really works its way into the chain links, seriously quietening the whole works. I've tried just about every way to lubricate a chain from paraffin wax to sewing machine oil and just about every specialist bicycle chain lube out there and this is the best I've come across by far, it makes a difference I can actually notice. There's a slight downside in that Boeshield T9 isn't as weather-resistant as claggier chain lubes and can sometimes need to be reapplied after 200km or so - although that's really only a matter of whacking some on your chain, waiting a couple of minutes and removing the excess. Highly recommended.

1,339km so far this year.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

I'll Take the High Road 200km Audax

 I can't remember my excuse for missing the Audax I'll Take the High Road ride last year. I suspect it was a combination of poor fitness and a glance at the ride profile. This time around I thought I'd better make a slightly better effort and I was glad I did.

Determined to enjoy the outing, I decided to ride my Thorn Audax. It's not the fastest bike around, but I bought it to do longer rides at a stately pace. Given it has lights and a handlebar bag already fitted, it seemed less hassle than messing around getting the Bianchi racer ready for an Audax event.  Although the Thorn is a lot heavier, it's also a lot more comfortable and reliable and despite the cushy wide Challenge tyres I figured it was the best bike for the job.

The big red mile eater.
Nine riders turned up for the event and after a quick briefing we were off. The faster riders disappeared over the horizon and I settled down into a steady pace at the back of the field. My plan was to ride the first hundred kilometres without exerting myself too greatly, or at least as much as possible given the 1500 metres plus of climbing on the way to Oatlands.

Andrew kindly kept me company and we chatted away as we made good time past Sorell talking about epic rides past and comparing notes on eating during rides. Knowing the course, Andrew was able to preview the hills too. Black Charlies Opening was a good workout and beyond Levendale there was a couple of sharp pinches but with the granny gear on the Thorn I was able to just spin up without raising my heart rate too greatly.

The handlebar bag fanciers club.
The weather was perfect for this type of adventure. The wind was low and the temperature rose gradually from the mid-teens to the low-20s. I dipped into my handlebar bag a couple of times for snacks as lunchtime drew nearer and we stopped briefly to refill our waterbottles around the 60km mark. We pedalled along the mostly-uphill outbound course, amazed to see the fast riders already on their way back when we were still about 20km out from Oatlands. Closer to Oatland we saw Frank and Nathan who were making good time and were on their way back and had a chat. We stopped for a quick lunch and set out again. I was pleasantly surprised how good I was feeling.

The return voyage was just as pleasant, despite a brief episode of upset stomach about 10km from Oatlands. The road seemed mostly downhill and the back sides of the climbs we'd done earlier seemed much less daunting and the country seemed extra scenic. The promised wind change came late in the day and wasn't too overpowering. We stopped again Woodsdale for water and at the firestation a few kilometres past  Levendale. Even the reverse side of Black Charlies Opening wasn't too big a big deal, although the gentle headwind down the highway was a bit of a grind beyond there. Nonetheless the miles were ticking over nicely and I was still feeling strong.

Another hill. I love hills, they make me stronger. Such scenic countryside.

I wolfed down a couple of Mars bars as the miles ticked by although by the time we reached Cambridge at the 185km mark I found myself flagging a little. I wolfed down some sweets as Andrew gradually drew away and stopped at the shop for a quick Coke, which seemed to help and we regrouped for the last push. After the final climb, the last six or eight kilometres were a fast enjoyable downhill to the finish. All in all a most enjoyable day on the bike and a reminder how much fun 200km rides can be.

1085km so far this year.

Andrew leading the way.