Archive for September, 2009

Bike Lanes Campaign: I Need Spy Glasses!

So I am back on my bike after a week and a half forced hiatus due to the gravity-induced stack I had recently, and I am back with a campaign. That’s right, I am on a campaign. Since I have been back on my bike, I have missed out on photographing some amazing things, so I am appealing to the community to help me fund the purchase of some really ugly Camera Glasses. I realise that the readership of this blog is limited to not very many people, but, if all of those not very many people were to donate two dollars, I would be able to entertain you with amazing 1.3 megapixel photographs of the exciting world of action and adventure that happens on my daily commute.

If you doubt the amazingness of the sights I witness while cycling, then listen to this…. The very best thing I have seen since cycling again was definitely a guy on a fixie which had been converted from a crappy old ten speed. He found no need to get a new rear hub, he had just pulled off the derailleur and chose the gear he liked best, leaving the rest as ‘bike bling’ or whatever the hell you would call it. Come to think about it, I’m not sure it was fixed, but he had no brakes, but that doesn’t mean much these days. OK, so all of that is not amazing in itself, but let me tell you about his mud guards (or fenders, for the hemispherically challenged readers out there). Seeing a fixie or singlespeed with mud guards is pretty rare anyway, and we have all seen people’s innovative/desperate efforts at keeping their arses dry in wet weather while riding, but this one tops everything I, and probably you, have ever seen. Instead of going out and purchasing a nice neat pair of mud guards, this rider has fashioned a pair out of corflute. You know, the corrugated plastic coated board that is often used to make real estate signs, well it also makes stylish, low cost mud guards. I never would have thought, but the addition of severely large pieces of corflute to a bicycle make a serious statement about how far one will go to keep ones nether regions dry. As I had no camera, here is a photoshopped mock-up of a similar (but nicer looking) bike with the addition of corflute mud guards (or fenders).
fixe-corflute
Imagine my delight at coming upon this visionary piece of mobile art being trackstood on at the lights, but the horror of not having a means of photographing it. So here I appeal to you,dear reader, to assist me in bringing to you the latest and greatest in on the street fashion and style. Also, imagine the despair that will abound if I manage to miss out on capturing such elusive beasts as the hypothetical and very rare fixie with Sydney Opera House mud guards/fenders:
fixe-opera_house
Or if I ever see this thing on the streets, and am unable to capture it in all its glory:
phantom_bike
So I appeal to you, once more dear reader, help rid the world of not being able to see weird and strange bicycles as they appear in their natural habitat. Donate today, and help me to help you see some crazy shit.

Til then, ride safe.

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Bike stacks hurt.

Last week I had the misfortune of having my first bad bike stack. I’ve had some minor crashes in the past; running into the side of a car that failed to indicate, running into the back of a pedestrian who failed to look before stepping out into those “safe” Copenhagen-style bike lanes, but this was my first major oops-fall-down-scraping-your-helmet-on-the bitumen accident. I must say that it wasn’t much fun either. Now I realise that everyone who rides a bike has fallen off at some point, and that nobody really needs to hear another tale of woe, but seeing as this is my blog, I will continue with my story.

It began as any other day, cycling into the city, then onwards to my place of work. The day way clear and fine. The sun was shining. I had made it to the crossroads where I had managed to photograph the evasive RoboCop Cyclist, and before I knew it, I was heading head first towards the bitumen. I could feel my helmet sliding along the road, and then I came to a stop. Picking myself up, I realised that I had had an accident. Damn it. I suppose I was a little out of it. Picking up my bike I made my way to the footpath with the help of a couple of friendly cyclists who stopped to assist me. Looking at my bike and noticing the buckled front wheel was when I actually became annoyed that I had stacked. Until then it seemed like some kind of wonky surrealist hallucination, but seeing my mangled bike brought me back to reality. Of course after that I noticed my mangled hand. By this time a few nice old ladies had come to my assistance, offering band-aids and antiseptic wipes from their hand bags. This was only minutes since the accident had happened, and I was still foggy headed. I checked my helmet, expecting massive gouges from the road surface, but there was only a minor scratch. If I hadn’t been wearing a hemet, I though, my head would be scraped along Swanston St, and there was no way I could have walked away from the scene.

I sat in front of the great old church on the corner. sorting myself out, mopping up the blood. I figured that it might be best if I went home instead of to work. So I made the appropriate calls, and finally noticed the time. The date was the 9th of the 9th 2009, and by my calculations my accident happened at 9:09! 09/09/09 at 9:09am! Can you believe that? Well, do, because that’s what happened. Somehow the universe had managed to gang up on me, and tilt the earth so only I would lose my balance. That’s what I figure happened, anyway. It’s funny, though, because the other times I have had an incident, I have been able to learn a lesson, adjust my cycling habits and move on, a little bit wiser. This time however, the only thing I have been able to learn is that falling off your bike really hurts, and that skin grows back pretty quickly. Perhaps I can also learn that on days when the numerals in the date are all the same, catch the train.

In other cycling news this week, it seems that there has been another famous bike blitz, this time focusing on cyclists who illegally ride though parks. 100 cyclists have been hit with $250 fine for cycling in parks where bikes are banned. Oh well, I say. To me it’s the same as riding on the footpath, unless it’s a shared path, stick to the road. As usual, whenever the newspaper publishes stories about cycling, a massive debate ensues, usually between motorists and cyclists. This time the battle is being waged between pedestrians and cyclists, each side claiming that they are being hard done by. Give it up, guys. Don’t you realise it is just a ruse by the motorists trying to divide and conquer the non-motorists! Please! When cyclists and pedestrians can no longer commute because they are too busy pulling each others hair out, the motorists have surely won. Don’t let it come to that.

Till next time, ride safe, and wear a helmet!

2009: Bicycle Oddities

OK, so after my little rant yesterday I thought I would lighten the mood with a selection of the silly things people do with/to bicycles these days.

First up we have a Seesaw Bike, which looks to be a double fixie/singlespeed which is ridden with another person in a seesaw-style. I’m not too sure if this will take off, but who knows…
seesaw-bike
Next we have the back-to-front tandem kinda bike, which is somewhat similar to the seesaw-style, but the riders face away from each other. This could come very useful on those rides with that special someone that you really don’t like that much.
bi-cycle-model
If you are a sporty type, which I am not I’m afraid, you might on occasion be faced with the dilemma of whether to run or to cycle. If you fall into this category, you might want to get yourselves one of these Jump Bikes. I’m not quite sure why it is called a Jump Bike, as there doesn’t seem to be much jumping going on with it. You hop on to the saddle, then instead of pedalling, you run. I don’t quite understand the thought process behind this idea, but as they say….. er, I can’t remember what they say but I’m sure it makes sense.
jump-bike

So, if you can’t decide between running and cycling because you have fancy sneakers you want to show off, then this next one is the bike for you! Now for some inexplicable reason here, the wheelset has been replaced by aerospoke-like rims which carry an array of running shoes in which you “ride” on. Hmmm. Again, I’m not so sure this is for me.
walking-bike

OK, so maybe odd tandems or running bikes aren’t for you. Perhaps I can interest you in the Sideways Bike. It has been hailed as the first major development in bicycle design for 150 years. The Sideways Bike has a steerable wheel with a set of handlebars at either end. Again, I really don’t quite understand the point of this. Apparently it’s more maneuverable than a regular front-back bike, but I can’t imagine that cycling sideways could be particularly effective. Instead of looking ahead into traffic you would be looking into the cars next to you . Perhaps this is a more sociable form of cycling, but I’d say you’d either end up with a really stiff neck, or crushed underneath something heavy.
sideways-bike
Now if you think all of these bikes are impractical and silly, then try this on for size. Here we have the “best circular bike ever made….. by a guy whose last name starts with W.” If that isn’t confidence that I don’t know what is. Now despite the fact that this bike will never get you anywhere, I still think it’s pretty cool, for some reason. So here we are, the Circular Bike.
circular-bike
All of these bikes are unlikely to ever be seen anywhere except bicycle freakshows, but if you ever happen to see someone riding one of these contraptions, please keep your distance, and take lots of photos!

Ride safe over the weekend.

New season, new gripes.

It’s the third day of spring in Melbourne. Mother Nature has rewarded us with three days of glorious weather, which is quite unusual in Melbourne in particular, because spring will usually lull you into a false sense of security and then pelt hail on your head as you commute home in a singlet and stubbies. Last week, to prove to us that it was still winter, we had torrential rain and some crazy winds, something like 100km/h! Oh you crazy Mother, Nature.  Well, so far so good with the spring weather. This morning it was an unheard of 16ºC at 8am! There was glorious sunshine and no need to wear longsleeves for the first time in months. Ideal conditions for commuting to work by bicycle I hear you mutter. And yes, it has been. And it has also been a nightmare on the roads! With the new season comes all of the old season cyclists out of the warm and cosy closets for the first time since before winter. Bikes that have been sitting in the garage since July have been pulled out of retirement faster than you can say Lance Armstrong, and judging by the squeaks and clunks being emitted by these machines, they haven’t had much TLC over the winter break. The riders themselves haven’t had much TLC either, it seems. Getting back on the roads after a substantial break can be daunting, and I would think that starting the season by heading straight into peak hour cycling may not be the best idea. Given the tentative nature of many of the cyclists I have been stuck behind over the last few days, I’d say most of them have just dragged out the old bike, without so much as a touch of Heavy Lube for the chain, and charged off into the carbon monoxide filled cloud of peak hour mayhem without so much as a thought for Road Readiness.

I realise that this sounds like a big old fashioned whinge and I suppose it is, but in my humble and not very educated opinion, I would recommend a few weekend rides to become acclimatised to cycling in traffic once again before heading out in peak hour after several months away from the saddle. Countless times in the last few days I have had to come to a complete stop behind someone who was too uncertain whether to go around the car; whether they would fit through that gap; whether they should give way, etc. I know that as a cyclist you are at risk of injury and even death while out on the roads, but being a tentative cyclist is as dangerous as being a tentative motorist. Ringing your bell at a car that is 20 meters ahead of you to alert them of your approach is likely to be as effective as cleaning your house with a toothbrush, and if you feel the need to be so safety conscious that you have to ring your bell every five seconds, then at least have the common courtesy to stop at a red light!

Speaking of red lights, there is another Bike Blitz going on at the moment. I was alerted by a friend to this press release by the local constabulary, which details their current program to target cyclists who disobey the road rules. Funnily, before being alerted to this campaign, I had noticed an increase of police standing by the side of the road, especially along Princes Bridge and the start of St Kilda Rd. Funnier still, another cyclist and I pulled to a stop a red light directly next to a couple of police who were studying cycles and cyclists intently. Even more hilarious was the fact that while we were stopped at the red light, a car tore straight through it without even so much as slowing. The police didn’t seem to care whatsoever. Perhaps instead of focusing on one particular aspect of road safety, the entire spectrum should be covered holistically. And if police do wish to target cycle safety, as they claim in the press release, then I will happily point out several ‘black spots’ where pedestrians daily flaunt the laws forcing cyclists to backpedal, so to speak, in order not to hit them or become road kill themselves.

End of rant.