Thursday, April 23, 2009

The cycling capital of the world?

I have the highest respect for cities who use the bicycle as their main mode of transportation. Which capital city in the world do you reckon tops this lists? Copenhagen seems to be the number one contender and this very well made European video shows why.

Copenhagen - City of Cyclists from Colville Andersen on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One way is OK!

It was one of those days that a single way cycle trip was required. Cil had to go into Curtin University for a meeting and decided to cycle there for the first time. With all the excellent bike paths and a ride on a beautiful bridge across the Canning River, the 8.5km was very enjoyable and a breeze.

She took her time and made it easily, enjoying the sights along the way. Not surprisingly, many faculty and students cycle to uni and she blended in seamlessly. But the advantage was she could bring her foldie into her office with no issue.
And as it was rather dark to cycle home at 6pm, I came to pick her. A quick fold and the Speed Pro fitted easily into the small hatch. No drama. While going one way with a full size bike may pose some logistical problems, with a foldy one way is ok.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

To cleat or not to cleat - that is the question.

Pic fm Copenhagen Cycle Chic

The cycling world can be divided into 2 camps, at least as far as pedal types are concern. Those who swear by cleats (the cycling shoe affixes onto the pedal) and claiming power increases by as much as 50% due to additional advantage of being able to "pedal" on the upstroke. The opposing camp (platform pedal) says that is hogwash and cementing your foot onto the pedal is a death trap. Sadly, these debates can get unnecessarily heated.

I can see many advantages using cleat style pedals. An obvious one is that you will not slip and that is especially important in wet weather. Bruised shins are not fun. Also, it will help you to "bunny hop" your bike, jumping over kerbs and obstacles. Better power seems to be a claim that many people make in using cleats and I don't disagree, though 50% better is a bit hard to digest.

My esteem ride buddy Chris of CGOAB fame feels that:

SPD cleats are so efficient, there's no turning back once you get used to it. I've used up more than a dozen and that's spread out over a few bikes. You can push and pull up on the pedals.

Disadvantages can include safety - takes skill to disengage from the pedal during emergencies and spills (I've seen friends falling like pins at traffic stops). Getting stuck with SPD shoes that hamper the way you walk when you get off the bike. Increased cost - getting the shoe/pedal set up can easily add $200 and more.

The freestyle/traditional way is the preferred method for beginner/casual type cyclist. Whatever shoes you wear will work, but a firmer sole is better to transfer the power. Which explains why it remains a favourite among the European commuter cyclists.

No drama pedalling, and easy to jump off the bike if the need arises. Of course, this can be painful when things can slippery. You can forget about jumping your bike and spinning at a high cadence is not as efficient. Also, the lycra brigade will not be caught dead with these "novice" pedals.

Grant Peterson is a strong advocate for pedalling "free" style. He writes:

The most important and liberating thing I've learned in 40 years of riding nearly daily, is that normal shoes and pedaling unconnected is the way to go... and if you're looking for an excuse to head out on a ride in your Hush Puppies, now you have it.

I don't hope to convince you either way but I guess the general rule is if you are looking for that edge in cycling performance, get cleated. If you are just cycling easy to the shops to pick up milk, then platforms rule.

So as an adventure folding bike tourer, what do I prefer? I think the best of both world solution is the Zefal mini toe clip. This is an unbelievable US$8 solution.

I have been touring with this on cycling shoes or Target Crocs sandals with total ease, confidence and comfort. It does the job of keeping my feet from slipping and yet disengages easily when needed.

However, the more important question to ask is which is more your style of riding? Get that answered and settled quickly, then go enjoy quality time on the saddle instead of endless chatting on bike forums. I suspect there is enough room in this big world to accommodate and respect two differing views. Don't you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Unfurling at Club Capricon

Can you spot the foldie in the bag?

It was the start of the school hols and we were invited by The Agers for a camping holiday at Club Capricon, 55km north of Perth near Two Rocks over the Easter Weekend.

I've not been camping for over 10 years and eagerly loaded our small Corolla with all the essentials for the 3 of us - cooler box, chairs, clothes, food, sleeping bags and even managed to squeeze in a foldie, my trusty compact Brompton.

Camping in Australia is certainly not a hardship case as I thought. Our friends got a powered site and that means 24 hrs electricity. They brought their microwave, lamps, kettle, toaster, electric pump (for their air mattresses) and everything else short of a TV. Most folks would have a separate dining tent as well! The camp site there had very decent and clean toilets with hot water showers and even laundry facilities. In addition, a shop selling food, milk, ice cream was nearby too plus tennis courts and a fresh water pool.

But what impressed were the natural facilities - namely sand dunes where we could go sand boarding and the wonderful beach for surfing and fishing. Climbing up the dune was tough work and unlike bikes, our legs don't have a granny gear option but coming down on a well-waxed board was exhilarating.

We boogie-boarded the huge waves at the beach and basically got blown away by the immense power of nature. The kids enjoyed themselves just playing around the powdery sand and building sand castles in the fresh breezes and sunshine. Throw in spectacular sunsets, no wonder Cil exclaimed that this was one of the best hols ever!

Which left very little time for me to cycle unfortunately but Lene my host took the Brompton for a morning workout and came away very impressed at its surprising performance and easy to ride nature. But most impressive was that it could fit into the tent hardly taking any space - keeping safe and secure from prying eyes. Lene, a little shy in nature, found it hard to fight off the many people who stopped her in her tracks too often to ask about the bike.

At nightfall, it was very special just looking up at the clear moon and the twinkling stars on a cool night. Arh, unfurling underneath such galactical masterpiece is certainly one of life's joy and blessing...

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.
He who made the great lights, the sun to govern the day, and the moon and stars to govern the night. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

Excerpts from Psalm 136

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hot Cross Buns?

There seems to be a strong tradition of Hot Cross Buns here in Australia during the Easter period. All the bakeries sell them and I could not resist buying one from Brumby's to try.

I can't remember seeing Hot Cross Buns in Singapore, at least I didn't notice them. Which got me wondering what they actually represent? Well, the cross is easy because it was the day Jesus was hung on the cross. He died to pay the penalty for the sins/wrong doings of men 2000 years ago. But what else? A quick google revealed that the shape of the bun represents the rock that was rolled away from the tomb entrance when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

This message may be "Greek" to some but for us who have tasted and experienced the reality of God's love and goodness through Jesus, it represents LIFE in all its fullness. He invites us this Easter to accept His gift of life.

If foldies were invented then, I believe Jesus would ride them - a breeze to go in and out of fishing boats, able to strap onto a donkey, takes very little storage space in synagogues and people's home, and most importantly, easy to make a quick getaway when needed. O ya, it doesn't need any fuel too.

Wishing everyone a very blessed and meaningful Easter!

Pic from Askville,

"I came to give life—life in all its fullness."
Jesus in John 10:10 NCV

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting to the bottom of it...

Sumatran Rhinosauras Beetle with impeccable taste!

. Some fanatical folks truly love its comfort. Courtesy of Brooks Website

I have a friend who absolutely hates bicycles. CY went on his very first bike ride with me once on a cheapo hand-me-down bike (mistake no. 1) at Pulau Ubin, Singapore many years back and went home with a very bruised bottom. It didn’t help that his pain continued for a few days. Up till today, I dare not ask him for another ride!

Indeed, how can anyone get comfortable on 3 tiny square inches of support? I will admit that when I first started cycling 30+ years ago, the first point of discomfort was my bottom especially after half an hour on that torture device called the saddle. My best friend Simon ingeniously wrapped around his saddle a whole gunny sack to lessen the pain when we were school boys in the 70s on a long ride. It was a case of comfort over style.

DDwings Seat, looks promising - Pic fm

Thankfully, we have much better saddles now with ergonomically designed gel ones in various shapes that do a very decent job. I have gone through many saddles – Velo Gel, Rido, Specialized Ergo, Avocet leather, SDG SL etc all in various degrees of success. Despite all the hype with Gel saddles (they lose their shape after a while), the saddle that really works for me is stretched leather. In my long research for the ultimate touring saddle, my findings led me to try the Brooks B17.

The technology behind Brooks goes way back to the 1866 and remains largely the same. Good old fashion leather stretched out on a metal frame. Like a good pair of moccasin leather shoes, Brooks saddle will break-in naturally into the shape of your bottom after 1000km (usually less) of riding. I got my B17 about a year ago and toured across Sumatra, Laos, Malaysia with a very happy bottom. No wonder it remains the favourite among many adventure cyclists.

Not everyone's bottom will agree with the Brooks but another friend of mine who had a mild case of piles used the B17 and claimed that it cured his piles! Not that I have verified his claim physically (or harbour any desire to) but if you are looking for greater comfort for your rides, give Brooks a try. For me, it’s the next best thing to having a lounge chair afixed on my foldie.

More info on leather saddles can be found on this excellent article by the late guru Sheldon Brown:

Update: One of my regular readers and fellow LHT rider, Nat, adds that Brooks saddles come in different designs (racing, titanium, woman specific etc) as well. Thanks Nat!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Drink-riding the Swan Valley

The Swan Valley is often compared as the poor cousin of the famous Margaret River wine producing/surf/artsy region of Western Australia. That is not a fair comparision as the Swan Valley is pretty enough on its own. My foldie exploration there with Ken on April Fool's Day proved a most enjoyable 40km experience.

Taking the empty train to the city, and then to historical Guildford took all of 40 mins from my home.

A quick 500m ride to the old County Jailhouse, now turned Tourist Info Centre, for some directions and a map and we were soon on the saddle.

What impressed is the new bike path that goes right up north on West Swan Road and it is littered with so many fascinating detours. Numerous vineyards, including the renown Sandalford Wine, parks, tea rooms, schools, stables, galleries, fruit farms, Bed & Breakfast places and even a seminary.

As wine lovers, our first stop of course was at Sandalford where we enjoyed wine tasting. $2.50 a person and you can go through the list of 8-9 different and excellent wines.

We behaved ourselves and stopped at 3 (we swallowed). It was a pity I did not bring along my trailer so that I could take home a case. Feeling a bit guilty about indulging at the start of our ride, we skipped the Chocolate Factory. It was a test of our wills as it offered free choc samples!

We stopped at Maali Footbridge (abt 14km) for a nice picnic lunch by the river where we had to go through 9-10 sharp interesting hairpin descends, very much like the famous Lombard crooked street in SanFrancisco. Our next destination was Whiteman Park and the ride there was absolutely lovely. I stopped by a horse riding school to admire the well groomed horses when a friendly brown one came to say "Hello". It was magic. The country road we rode on was well paved and we cruised at an easy 26-27km/h.

Ken has not been to Whiteman Park since the 1980s and it was a good stroll down memory lane. It has a little village, a mussel pool, train ride, car museum, galleries, restaurants, picnic grounds and is a real family place. The very English Lolly Shop there would be a treat for the kids.

Its a good thing we had our bikes to explore as walking would be too long. However, the paths were not always well paved and some were pretty challenging. It was providence that I had the unequally yoke Big Apple/Supreme tire combination which could handle the sand, gravel and stones that came our way.

Some downsides to this ride is that traffic on some parts are pretty heavy with big trailer trucks plying the Great Eastern Highway coming through. Also, watch out for broken glass on bike paths just by the road no thanks to idiots who toss their empty bottle while driving. Looks like the HD-V guard on my Schwalbes actually worked brilliantly in this instance.

More info about the beautiful Swan here...

Definitely worth a return visit, especially if you love good wines and a great ride!
The fastest and best wine maker in the world...
Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim. "Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did. When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, "Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!" John 2:6-10