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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 Now for some inexplicable reason here, the wheelset has been replaced by aerospoke-like rims which carry an array of running shoes in which you “ride” on.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.

Bike bits, and age old arguments.

I have been away from blogland for a week or so, having being travelling and not really having anything of interest to say. But today I feel like I have graduated, in bike terms at least. Today I got back to my cycling commute, this time with……. drop bars! Yes, the cycling part that most cyclists take for granted is now on my bicycle. I am a relative newcomer to the world of commuting as a cyclist. For years I only had a crappy old mountain bike that was given to me, which I let degrade into a rusty of pile of rubbish. Needless to say I didn’t ride it much. About a year ago I got an urge to get my bike back on, so I enlisted the help of a friend who kindly built me up a reliable steed to take me to work and back. It’s true what they say about just getting any old bike and you will start to find what you do and don’t like about it pretty quickly. So that was coming up to a year ago, and I have just let loose with the latest iteration of my bike. I can count on one hand the amount of components that are still on my bike from my original build. One brake, the chainring, freewheel, cranks…… I think that’s about it. Every thing else is new. Frame, wheelset, saddle…. and now the bars.

Having not ridden drops since I was at high school, it is a little different that the good old risers that I have been used to, but they are great! “Yeah yeah,” I hear you moaning in the back. “We know.” I understand that this is pretty fundamental stuff, but I have proven in an earlier post that I am an imbecile when it comes to cycle knowledge. So the first difference I noticed was that the brake is in a different spot. Duh. Well, you get used to riding in a certain way. But I found myself to be instantly more maneuverable, and that was great! I also noticed how most cyclists on the road use riser bars. I had never noticed this before, or perhaps I just hadn’t paid much attention to it, but the fact was there in front of me….. Risers everywhere. I immediately felt at one with the drop bar community, until I realised that I was indeed being fooled by my new found freedom, and that it is still a battleground out there.

Speaking of battlegrounds, I recently saw this article from Sydney dragging out the age old debate about the compatibility between bicycles and cars. As it comes from the Motoring section, it is not surprising that the argument is geared towards cars. For example, here is the opening from the article…..

Cars and bicycles get on reasonably well in some European cities ??? but that’s far from the case here.

Picture yourself driving to work during the morning rush hour. Ahead of you in the clearway of a main arterial road is a cyclist travelling in the centre of the lane at 15km/h less than the traffic flow.

 

Do you: a) recognise the right of the rider to occupy a whole lane and praise their contribution to reducing carbon emissions; b) shrug your shoulders and change lanes to get past; or c) squeeze past in the same lane while fantasising about opening your car door?

I would like to, as a member of the non-existent cycling community like to pose a series of questions in response to Rachel Browne’s little hypothetical.

Picture yourself cycling to work during the morning rush hour. Ahead of you a motorist talking on their mobile phone turns very sharply into the bike lane without indicating, cutting you off.

Do you: a) recognise that motorists rarely check for cyclists and assume that bike lanes are there as an extra turning lane, when needed; b:) carefully swerve around them, narrowly avoiding injury or death because there is a scooter about to run you over from behind in the bike lane and continue on your commute; or c:) fantasise about taking your U-lock and smashing it through the drivers’ side window. 

Most of you would of answered b of course, because this is a daily occurrence as a commuting cyclist. It seems quite ironic that the motoring article is being written from the perspective that cyclists are a nuisance, something irritating like that aunty that no-one wants to talk to, or that mosquito buzzing around your bedroom at night in summer, whereas the reality is that cyclists are at risk of injury or death from careless motorists. The example cited by Ms Browne for her article may well happen everyday and cause a temporary headache, and so does the example sited in my article, but instead of headaches, this incident can cause severe head trauma!

Anyway, there has been enough written about this debate, so I will leave it there for now. If any of you have any more ideas about Rachel Browne’s article, feel free to leave them in the comments, or email the The Age.

Adelaide, in search of…..

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to travel to Adelaide for my work. For those of you who have never been to Adelaide, it is a very quiet small town with hardly any buildings in the CBD. In fact I had to check with my taxi driver that we were in fact in the CBD. I am used to buildings, people, traffic and all the usual trappings of urban life, but Adelaide had little of this. What it did have though, was bike lanes on every street in the city. It is also the flattest place I have ever been in my life. There are hills surrounding the outskirts of the city, but the place itself is super flat. This combined with the abundance of bike lanes would make it an ideal commuter town. You could even cycle to the airport if you were travelling lightly, as it is only about 5km from the city centre.

I had some downtime upon arrival, so after checking my stuff into the palace in which I was staying I took a walking bicycle tour of downtown Adelaide. Initially I was surprised by the lack of bikes everywhere. Being such a flat town with copious bicycle friendly infrastructure I thought the place would be swarming with fixies, hybrids and crappy old mountain bikes. It wasn’t though. The bike lanes did pick up steam after an hour or so, with more commuters taking advantage of the flat spread, but I still was yet to see a fixed-gear bike. This became my mission, to find the fixies in Adelaide. So I beginning my quest, I came across this folding bike with what looks like a Brooks saddle on it.
folding-bike-dude
I must admit the saddle does play off nicely with the cyclists’ helmet, and the interplay between those earthy shades and the yellow canvas shoes is very nice. But, despite the niceness, it was still no fixie, so I continued my search. One of the other things I noticed was that in Adelaide there must be a higher crime rate than in Melbourne, as many bike were double-locked. In Melbourne it is a rare sight to see a bike with two locks on it, but in Adelaide any old Avanti was more secure than Fort Knox, which I found interesting, just not interesting enough to photograph. So after an hour or so, I was still yet to see a fixie in Adelaide. I turned down a laneway and nearly stopped dead. Had I found it, Adelaide’s fixie? It had spoke cards and a strangely mounted brake-lever so it fit the general profile of a fixed-gear bike. I approached the bicycle with caution. This is what I had found.
faux-fixie1
At first glance it seemed to be what I was searching for. Weird bar grips, oddly placed brake-lever, spoke cards, but on closer inspection it turned out I had gotten it wrong, so very wrong.
faux-fixie2
It seems that this beast was actually a converted crappy old ten speed with the derailleurs removed. This is a simple and effective method of single-speed conversion, if you don’t mind the extra weight of carrying around a few extra cogs, it’s fine. The thing that really made this bike for me though was the fine selection of Magic The Gathering spoke cards! I don’t know much about this game, except that it’s practitioners are usually even nerdier than myself (which is pretty damned nerdy!) so I don’t really understand what “power” these cards may hold, and their relevance to being used as spoke cards. For all I know the cards may ward off the dreaded Metal Beast, thus repelling both cars and Metallica fans, which are both of abundance in Adelaide.
faux-fixie3
So I still hadn’t found the elusive Adelaide fixie yet, but it was time for me to go to work. Thankfully my work occasionally involves standing around with a camera, so I was delighted when I spotted Adelaide’s fixed-gear bike. The photo is a bit crappy because I didn’t want to scare him off with a flash, but with a bit of “photo” “shopping” I was able to bring out at least the read mud-guard, or “filth-prophylactic.” One of the guys I was working with did inform me that there actually was plenty of fixies in Adelaide, but they were mostly vegan, which makes some sort of sense, at least in a global-cultural way. I’m not sure if being a vegan in Adelaide somehow makes you not want to cycle to the city, but I am pretty sure the guy I saw on a fixie was about to head to the steakhouse across the street.
real-fixie-fix
A little later in the evening I found a paradoxical example of Adelaide’s bike locking protocols. I mentioned earlier that I had witnessed double-locked Avanti’s, but it seems that Huffy’s are undesirable to Adelaide’s cycling thieves. I guess crappy mountain bikes don’t need to be locked, at least not to a pole. It appears that it is sufficient to lock them to themselves, or at least have a lock on the top tube. This bike stayed unstolen all night, and even as I walked back to the hotel at 3am, it was still unstolen. The solution to double-locking your Avanti seemed clear, ride a Huffy instead.
bike-locking
‘Til next time Adelaide, fix up look sharp, and don’t forget to lock.

Hip Hop Hispters and Stoned Experiments.

While cruising around some cycling sites this morning I came across this gem of a music video by a man named MC SpandX. Feel free to knock yourselves out with this one….

It seems that Mr SpandX has some issues with fixed-gear riders, and addresses this in quite a humourous way. I quite like his “crew” of dancing girls, and the chorus has been ringing in my head all day. I think I need a drink, or something stronger…..

Speaking of something stronger, over on fixed.org I found a link to these amazing pictures at Fixed Gear Gallery. This must be the original stoner fixie, decked out in Rasta red, gold and green, and complete with a marijuana leaf decal on the front. By the way this bike is set up, it looks like it is being ridden by some kind of stoned giant. I assume that the seat is tilted in such an extreme way so he can suck down some bongs while trackstanding at the lights. Now that I would love to see.
rasta-bike1
rasta-bike2
Perhaps the owner could hook up with this guy, who has taken his love of cycling and grass and “collabo’ed” it into a singularly hideous experiment.
lawnmower_bike
Perhaps the two have hooked up, and that would explain the existence of such a thing as this….
weird-bike
I actually managed to sneak into the workshop of these two stoner-extraordinaire cyclists and stole the designs for a new series of mind altering bicyles they were planning on constructing.
wierd-bikes
Hopefully I got hold of the only copy, otherwise you might get a nasty surprise on your next ride.

Private school, public bike.

Being Friday, and feeling a little on the sleepy side, I decided to take a stroll down the road and see what I could see. The first cycling site I sighted was a ghost rider, well, a ghost bike rider. A young chap riding an all white fixie, brakeless and helmetless, it seemed like he was aiming for the ghost bike style to carry him across the divide between life and death. Seconds later in the peloton came a fully decked out semi-pro riding some obscenely expensive road bike who zipped past the ghost fixie rider with disdain. Unfortunately this happened all too quickly for me to snap any pictures of them, which is a shame as I went out to see if I could get any good bike-related photos. But before I was able to abandon all hope, I spotted a couple spotty private school kids, one of them locking up what looked to be a good old fixie conversion.
private-school-SS
As you can see from this revealing image, the young man is rocking the bike-messenger style, as well as he can in his exclusive school uniform. Crumpler bags go with anything though. As these two lads went off to do whatever private school boys do on a Friday afternoon, I sneakily creeped over the road to have a closer look at the machine. Disappointingly, the bike was only some crappy old steel frame conversion, yet another example of a bike with a single component being of considerably higher value than the rest of the bike combined. of course I am speaking of the electric blue Velocity Deep V on the rear. The frame was shoddily painted black, but the also shoddily applied bar tape beautifully matched the electric blue Deep V. I was a little disappointed he hadn’t carried out his blinged out colourway any further, the chain and the saddle could have helped to take this bike to the next level.
private-school-SS_2
When you start adding expensive components to crappy bikes, it makes the bike look even crappier. I guess he is just a kid, but surely private school boys can just ask their parents for a fancy track bike, or at least a shop bought one. I suppose it is actually a good thing that he has converted an old steel frame instead of buying one off the rack at where the hell ever you buy these bikes. I should also draw attention to the fashionable brake lever mounting style that adorned this beast. It was a good old fashioned right side mounted left brake lever, designed to be just that little bit awkward to use. This seemed a little silly, seeing as he was riding a flip flop hub which was flip flopped to the free wheel side. I am always amazed at non-fixed gear cyclists who only use the front brake. I completely understand that the majority of braking power is in the front brake, and I use my front brake 90% of the time, but it is those occasions when something unforeseen happens that I tend to use BOTH brakes in order to stop quickly without flying over the handlebars. Anyway, I don’t mean to be a grumpy old man, and all the best to everyone out there riding whatever configurations that work for you. As I said at the start of the post, I’m sleepy.

Until next time, ride safe.

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!

bike2

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.

small-tall-bikesmall-tall-bike2

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.