Archive for July, 2009

Cycling celluloid and local customs.

As the clouds gather overhead and the first signs of a rainy afternoon build up outside, I’m happy to announce that this little blog has gotten it’s first external link! Wow, out of the three readers out there, somehow Biking In LA blog managed to get hold of my post about my daily commute. Strangely, the link is attached to a story about some poor cyclist who was killed by an underage drunk driver. I thought my posts were generally fairly lighthearted, but now I see that there is a grave undercurrent of seriousness in all that I write.

As a serious journalist, from there I began to look at local cycling industry bodies, and amongst many other serious websites, I found this educational and entertaining film. Seeing as we are in the middle of the Melbourne International Film Festival, I thought I would review this little gem for you, the discerning Bike Lanes reader.

If you have ever wondered if it is quicker to commute by bicycle than by car, then this is the film you have been waiting for. This action packed short film takes the viewer through a series of events in the daily life of a cycle commuter and a motorist. David Thomas’ mini-epic doesn’t rely upon high production values or flashy special effects to carry the story. This piece of Cinema Verité is driven by the realistic scenarios and down to earth performances by the leads. Overall, a highly recommended for any aspiring cycling commuter. 3/5.

Sorry, I couldn't get the embed video working....

Sorry, I couldn't get the embed video working....

In related news, MIFF have set up their own town bike!
It’s armed with a small projector, so look out for guerilla screenings around the city!

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Continuing my journalistic journey into local cycling culture, I discovered a Flickr pool by the name of Bike Fun Melbourne which consists mostly of photos of people standing around with lights on their heads, people fiddling away at work benches, some bike polo, and some innovative bike builds.

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As you can see from the images, the Tall Bike phenomena has been reinvented with a Small-Tall Bike. This style of cycling will undoubtably become widely embraced, as it not only applies techniques of extreme bicycle manipulation, it removes the stigma of Tall Bike riding by having the rider at an almost usual height, also making 3 foot drivetrains un-needed. I live for the day when Small-Tall Bikes are everywhere, not requiring events like Critical Mass in order to pull them out of the shed. On other parts of the internet, I came across this astounding music video on another cycling blog but felt I had to repost it here, because scarily enough, these crusty demons are being filmed in my neighbourhood. I feel very blessed that I didn’t go out to buy some groceries on the fateful day when the Brunswick Free Ride was taking place on Sydney road, as I’m not sure I would have been able to handle the overwhelming smell of patchouli. If you haven’t seen this clip yet, then do yourself a favour and feast your eyes on this!

Until next time, keep on trucking, er, cycling.

Small victories and bad juju.

flatbed

This morning I had yet another run in with a motor vehicle while on my commute. This time is was with a massive flatbed truck, exactly the kind you don’t want to mess with. The truck was going to turn right, and to make enough room for himself he veered left into the bike lane, right in front of me, cutting me off. Funnily I was suspicious as soon as I saw him, in the sixth sense spooky way that you sometimes get while on your bike in peak hour traffic, so I wasn’t altogether surprised when he cut me off. I was still a little pissed of though, because he could have killed me, so in my zen Buddhist kind of way I rode over and began to yell at him to stop and wind his window down. Initially he was quite defensive, as most people are when being yelled at by a loser on a bike. I told him he cut me off, and he responded that he had indicated. I pointed out that he didn’t indicate as he veered left into the bike lane, but did indicate that he was turning right. He thought about it for a minute, and then did the strangest thing I have ever seen in my time as a commuter. He agreed with me! “Sorry mate” he said. I was taken aback, in all of my communications with motorists it is a very rare thing for a driver to acknowledge that they may have been in the wrong, but he did. I thanked him, giving him a thumbs up, and continued on my merry way. Perhaps, I thought to myself, he will look next time. I understand the difficulties he must have driving such a massive thing, and maneuvering it must be a bit of a nightmare, but if my little spat at him will help him look that little bit harder next time, maybe I might help someone else from getting run over in the future. How self important I am, I thought as I trundled down the road.

Speaking of that strange feeling you get when badness is looming out there on the streets, I noticed a whole big bag of bad juju as I headed home from work a couple of nights ago. It’s the strangest thing, that feeling of dread that seems to hang over the city at certain times. I’m not sure if it was because of my notion of doom that perhaps I rode more cautiously than usual, but I made it to the city without incident. Then as I was climbing the hill to RMIT I had to weave through a large group of people who were waiting for the tram to pull up, but felt it was better to wait on the road than on the footpath. “You’re supposed to stop” a woman’s voice called out. I turned to see a middle aged woman glaring at me. I agreed that cyclists are supposed to stop for trams, but once the tram had indicated its stopping with those funny little orange flashing lights on the side, and that she shouldn’t be waiting in the middle of the road. She huffed at me and told me that she would remember that the next time she was driving and “you run a red light.” I told her I didn’t run reds, which isn’t strictly true, although I don’t make a habit out of it, and she replied “you must be the only one in creation.” She then boarded the tram and was out of my life. But she wasn’t out of my head, damn it. I wish I had a chance to talk to her in greater depth about the issues that were raised in ire. I wish I had a chance to tell her that two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that other self righteous crap, but the thing that bugged me most was her “you cyclists” mentality. I am a single cyclist, and by no means do I claim to represent anyone else out there in the world who cycles, nor would I want to. To be fair, I sometimes tend to lump motorists into one evil seething bag of distrust, but mostly out of safety’s sake. I find the safest way to not get killed on the roads is to not trust motorists one little bit. But to lump all “us cyclists” in together seems a little harsh. Of course there are bad cyclists out there, the ones that mountain bike jump onto the footpath in order to run a red light etc, but seriously, come on lady! Maybe if you got in the saddle once in your life you would see what it means out there on the streets.

Anyway, needless to say, the bad juju wasn’t that bad. I just had an annoying run-in with an annoying pedestrian. It could have been much worse. At least she wasn’t driving a flat bed truck.

Fixed, and free.

the-age_fixies

So the fixed gear trend has hit the mainstream here in Melbourne with an article about fixie culture appearing on the front page of The Age’s website. Sure, it was only the lead story for about an hour, but that is still something to behold. When I first loaded the page and saw bicycles, I initially thought it was a Tour De France story, probably something about Cadel, but no…. it was the real deal. An article about the “connectedness of fixed gear cycling” and the people utilising this form of transport.

“The main market is uni students, the art crew, and people who are training — people who are doing competition. They’re a bit of a fashion statement and there’s a lot of customising you can do.”


“Fixies can be blinged out with bright, shiny clean chains — sometimes the chains can be coloured,” said Mr Brennan. “The hubs can be coloured, they can be blinged with special narrow handlebars. They’re groomed like precious poodles.”

Now that my own bike is “blinged out” with a coloured chain, I am happy to know I almost fit within this subculture within subcultures, and although I might love my bike, I would have to admit I have never groomed it like a precious poodle. I may have tried to get it to fetch sticks for me, and often offer it water after a lengthy ride, but I’d say my bike is more like a bike than a dog. At least for now.

The Daily Commute… Photo Gallery.

In the interests of community service, I have decided to put together a little tour of my daily commute. I realise that this may seem excessively interesting, but believe me, it won’t be.

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Here we are at the top of the tour, or stage one of my gruelling three stage commute. The becoming trendy north end of Lygon St. Here we can see that the road is unusually clear. This is because I happened upon a red light which was holding back the hordes of motorists waiting to speed off to the next red light. Also notice that there is no marked bike lane in this section of Lygon St. That fact should help explain why I took no further photos for the next few kilometers, as I was too busy either dodging rear view mirrors or riding in the gutter. Oh the joys.

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This is the only section of my commute where I use a ‘shared’ bike path. Again this morning it was unusually clear. On any given day there are normally people walking their dogs, sans leash, piling their kid out of their cars with their strollers in the middle of the path, etc. I only use the shared path as a shortcut to the next section of my ride….
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… Which joins the shared bike path with the next on road bike track. Here you will see that I have caught a glimpse of a common sight, the Paddle Footed Weaver. If you look closely you will see the shadow of your intrepid writer, thus proving that I am not a vampire.

weaver

Here is a close up of the Paddle Footed Weaver’s pedaling style. This is a common version of Paddle Footing, where the rider slots the pedals in between the ball of their foot and the clunky heel of their boot. This makes for a winning combination of unpredictability and wobbliness.

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Next we come to a stretch of road with a beautifully wide and bountiful bike lane going south towards the city centre. Unfortunately it is also wide enough for a car to fit down, and there normally are a few in it. Also worth noting is the car park to the left, which north driving motorists enter across the bike path without looking or giving way to cyclists. A treat.

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The next section marks our entry in to stage two of the daily commute: entering the CBD. Here you will see a car parked in the bike lane. You will be happy to know that he wasn’t just trying to park, or talking on the phone, he was just there.

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Next we zip past RMIT University, once again encountering an obstruction in the bike path. This is a common sight and we happily cruise around it.

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We now arrive at one of the major intersections in Melbourne. Here cyclists are required to give way to passengers boarding and alighting the trams. Of course this often doesn’t happen as you can see by the cyclist on the right continuing to ride through the stop. The gentleman on the left is walking his bike along in order to continue his commute. I did have a chat to him this morning, and he was very pleasant indeed.

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Now leaving the CBD and onto sage three of the commute. Notice the second cyclist along, who is riding a freewheel singlespeed with no rear brakes and trick pegs. He is successfully combining the aesthetics of fixed wheel culture with the practicality of BMXing, albeit on a much larger and less maneuverable bike.

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Further along St Kilda Road we see that not only the bike lane has been removed, but also the entire left lane, forcing cars and bikes to come together in a touchy feely communal way, not seen since the late 1960s. This section is made more interesting by the entry of busses into the left section of the road, who usually make the cyclists swerve violently in order to not become squashed.

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Another St Kilda Road obstacle, but as this is a garbage truck, I don’t mind that they are in the bike lane. They really have nowhere else to go to do their job. It isn’t their fault that there isn’t enough room for them to unload the bins without blocking the bike lane. They are a bit stinky to pass though.

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Here we are at the next major intersection of my commute. We are in the home stretch now. These lights take an awfully long time to change, and I just missed the lights here by moments. Normally I would take advantage of the time it takes to cycle though the the changes to cycle through the lights, but as you will see, a police vehicle was right at the front of the pack waiting to take off. Just above the nose of the police car you will see the local bike shop whose proprietor got awfully snooty at me when I asked for a chain link to fix my ailing singlespeed chain.

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Almost there now, and as you will notice there has been yet another accident in this intersection. I’m unsure if the accident was caused by people not knowing how to manage the ambulance trying to cross the busy intersection, or if the ambulance was crossing the intersection to attend to this scene. It didn’t seem to be a very serious incident, but one never can tell, unless you are on a bike, in which case any incident is always serious.

I hope you have enjoyed my first foray into the world of photojournalism as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.

Ride safe.

Ghost bikes and expensive rides.

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I ran into a ghost bike recently. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a real ghost bike, as to my knowledge no cyclist had been killed outside that pizza shop, at least not recently. Perhaps, I thought, it was just a cool white bike. It’s hard to tell these days, what with bicycle style reaching new highs. Now that my own bike is becoming cool with its new white chain, I suppose I should raise my standards of bicycle stylishness. A few days ago I spotted this amazing beast on my morning commute.

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To me, this bike is the epitome of cool. It has everything, well it can carry everything at least. I have no doubt that the owner is as pleased with his ride as you can get. I assume that he left his trailer at home because he was only carrying a small load that day. Speaking of cool, I also recently found this news item about Jack Griffin, an 85 year old Gold Coast man who is going to ride the 1,680km from Brisbane to Cairns. He even forked out $11,000 for a Trek Madone, because that’s what Lance Armstrong rides. Fair enough. If he can afford that, then the best of luck to him. He expects to finish the ride in 18 days, which is pretty good. He is looking to buy his local hospital a Stress Machine with the funds raised by his journey. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is doing an admirable thing, but I would expect that the Stress Machine (whatever the hell that is…) would probably cost less than the bike that Jack will be riding is worth. Speaking of Lance, it looks like he is still in with a chance to finish at the top end of the Tour, although he was quite eclipsed by his teammate Alberto Contador in the last stage. I’m not sure how Lance is dealing with this, being forced down the ladder by his own teammate, but I’m sure he can always turn to recreational drug use with his good buddy Ben Stiller if his comeback goes astray.

On my grand tour on Friday evening I was on the second stage of my 3 stage commute when I was stuck behind one of those tourist horse and carriage rides that always use the bike lane. Just because they use bicycle lights doesn’t qualify them to use the bike lane in my opinion. But I suppose it beats getting stuck behind Cadel.
horse-carriage

An idiot’s guide to bicycles….

If anyone needs further proof that I am an imbecile when it comes to bicycles, please read on. A couple of weeks ago I noticed an odd clicking sound and feeling coming from my cranks. I assumed it was the bottom bracket and thought that a bearing must have popped out, or something. I mean, bottom brackets have bearings, don’t they? So, seeing as I have neither the tools nor knowhow to investigate the inner workings of my BB, I tried to ignore it until an opportunity came to visit my Bike Pimp for some assistance. I kept cycling as usual, despite the persistent clicking and the feeling that things weren’t quite right “down there. ” Feeling like one of those strange STD ads that seem to be everywhere, I knew I needed a check up, but was continuing with my head buried deeply in the proverbial sand in order to keep my commute commuting. So yesterday, while adjusting my seat height I looked down and noticed, to my horror, that the master link on my chain was snapped on one side. It wasn’t that the link had come undone, it was physically snapped in two. Evidentially I have riding 30 odd kilometers daily with my chain being held tenuously together by good luck and a small piece of steel. Realising that I have been incredibly lucky that the chain hasn’t snapped on my daily commutes, and that I have been riding as normal, getting out of the saddle and pushing hard, I felt a sinking feeling. It’s funny. When I thought it was the bottom bracket playing up, I was happy to ride as usual, but now that I knew that is was the chain itself, I dreaded the cycle home. I left work and stopped in at the closest bike shop, an ubiquitous triathlon styled store specialising in $3000 Orbea bikes and the like. I frantically dashed in, anxious to at least get a new master link so I could make it home. I asked about the link, and the shop guy grumbled something about how many speeds I had. When I replied that I ride a single speed, he scoffed, saying he kept nothing for single speeds. It was as if I had stormed into a Catholic church asking to buy a crucifix to use for my Satanic ritual that evening. I realise that he probably didn’t have any single speed parts, but he didn’t need to be such an arsehole.

I got back on the bike and set off on my commute as normal, well as normally as I could knowing that there was a hairs breadth between a functional and non-functional bike and the possibility of a long walk home, if I avoided the potential injuries that might come with my chain failing at a rather inopportune moment. With luck I made it through the city without incident, but as I came through Carlton and onto the bike path beside the cemetery I felt something give beneath me. Luckily it was just the chain coming off, so I quickly put it back on and aimed for the next bike shop. having already come 10km, i knew if all failed I could always walk home if it came down to it. I made it to Lygon Cycles and dragged my bike inside. When I showed the shop guy what was going on, he looked at me with an expression of combined amazement and bewilderment. “You are riding on this?” he asked. I explained my idea that it had thought it was the bottom bracket. He understood and went out to find a new master link. As it turns out, my chain was a Shimano, and Shimano chains aren’t compatible with master link adaptors, hence the reason why it had snapped. After all of the shop guys had a look and a laugh about my extreme luckiness, they wheeled my wheels out the back to install a new chain for me. It came back a few minutes later with a brand spanking new white chain! I got my first ‘colourway’ without even trying. Thanking the staff profusely for saving my proverbial bacon, I headed back onto the road and continued my journey home. It’s amazing what a difference a complete chain feels. Cruising home with my my new colour co-ordinated bike, I reflected upon my idiocy and sheer stupid luck that I have made it that far. I must once again give “mad props” to the guys at Lygon Cycles for firstly not scoffing at me, and secondly for fixing my steed and making me look cool. I suppose I will have to get a pair of canvas Vans to complete the look now.

white-chain

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Further proof that I am indeed a fool when it comes to bicycles.

Back from the past to the future to the past…

Last week, while commuting to work, I was treated to one of those “I wish I had a camera with me” moments. A magnificently bizarre sight came my way in the form of a very strange cyclist. Initially he wasn’t that bizarre, but as I was able to absorb more and more details, he became more and more fascinating. Initially, his appearance was farily straightforward for a high-tech roadie. He was wearing a full body black lycra suit, with a snug black racing jacket, topped off with an oversized white visored helmet. He did look rather odd, but no odder than many specimens I encounter on a usual day. The thing that caught my attention was his massive boots. They were chunky hiking style boots, but with cleat holding functionality on the sole. Now, I must mention that he was riding a Trek mountain bike. This was the next thing to really catch my attention. I’m not sure which model he was riding, but it seemed to be quite a decent machine. It slowly dawned on me, that it was modified to be a single speed bike, with suspension and a disc brake at the front, and a freewheel singlespeed with V-brakes on the rear. All topped off with road tyres as well. This example of cycling glory was one of the skinniest people I have ever laid my eyes upon, and I have lived with some skinny people, believe me. So with his massive boots and helmet he looked like some kind of futuristic law enforcement officer. Maybe a little something like this…..

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This morning I was treated once again to this amazing sight, and for once, I even had a camera with me, so I can share with you, dear reader, the wonderment that is Future Cop.futurecop_2

You will notice his skinny attire and oversized boots, as well as his oversized helmet. You can almost see the front suspension in this shot, and the singlespeed conversion in the back. Note the road tires. Notice that Future Cop saw a friend of his on the side of the road. This friend had the appearance of some sort of wizard, and was equally as fascinating as Future Cop himself. Note the loaf of bread. Wizards need food too. I was unable to get any more snaps, as the unlikely pair stopped and chatted, while I rode off when the lights changed. It was a happy occasion indeed. I still couldn’t help wonder about the Future Cop rider. Who is he, where is he going, and why? Initially I assumed he actually was from another time, here to show us commuters the way of the future, but I have reconsidered this seeing as he has a friend in this world. I suppose the next obvious assumption would be that the Wizard is from the future as well, and was procuring a loaf of bread to take back to the future so reverse engineer and save the future of humanity. I would therefore assume the Wizard is holding the recipe in his other hand.