Nothing like a Kombi to make you smile


And here is Episode 13 of the Briztreadley podcast for 2016.

  • To cover the World Cup mountain biking in Cairns, we cross to our woman in the rock garden at Smithfield, Cathy Peel
  • As the Eagles almost sang, “There’s a new trail in town, everyone’s talking ’bout it”. Hayden Lester chats with Jamie Borg chat about Kombi, over at Ironbark Gully.
  • And we have a look forward at the Giro d’ Italia and start to get in to the groove for Bike Week.

Hosted by Andrew Demack.

Timothy Papandreou: Make mistakes, and make them often

A protected bikeway in San Francisco.

A protected bike lane in San Francisco. Quick and effective.

On episode 14 of the Briztreadley podcast, we speak to the keynote speaker for the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress, to be held in Brisbane in September. His name is Timothy Papandreou.

And we also preview the 2015 Giro D’Italia, undaunted by the fact that the race is at least four stages old by the time any listeners hear the podcast. Thanks to Nicholas O’Donnell for the preview.

And we look ahead to some pretty cool events, coming up on the cycling calendar in Brisbane. You don’t want to miss …


  • Chris joins the BBTA. You should too!

A surfeit of tubes or The Great Briztreadley Tour De Free-ance Giveaway!!!!!

So buffed.

So buffed.

I don’t know what you do about your ears in winter. Even in beautiful Brisbane’s balmy winter (ha!), first thing in the morning on the bike, my ears just freeze.

Unless I wear a Buff.

I’ve had the same three Buffs in rotation for at least five years now. These things really don’t wear out, but they eventually do start to look a bit ratty. I did have to throw one away, after an unfortunate trailside mishap which really doesn’t bear discussing here.

If you don’t know what a Buff is, well it’s just a tube of woven synthetic fabric, usually made of Coolmax or similar. It’s a soft-feel and stretchy fabric. I wear a Buff as a helmet liner, as an ear-warmer, and as a neck-warmer as well.

So it seemed to me like it was finally time to buy a couple of new Buffs. Checked at my favourite bike shop, checked online, and yes they are somewhere north of $30 EACH.

And it’s true that five years or more ago when I bought each of the Buffs that I currently own, I paid about that. So it’s not like they are poor value. But it’s a lot of money for a tube of fabric.

Maybe I’m just in a stingy mood. So I looked around a bit on eBay and such-like. Wow, there’s a lot of these things available. I actually ended up somehow on Ali Express, which is a place where you can buy buckets of very cheap stuff (mostly from China I assume).

Long story short, I seem to have 10 items of tubular headwear (not Buffs). They cost me $15. Not each, but in total.

I don’t need 10 imitation buffs. Maybe two is all I want.

The quality is probably less good than a brand-name Buff. But equally I am certain they will do the job that the brand-name versions does, quite adequately.

So, for the first eight (8) people who fill in the Competition Form below and correctly answer the super-hard Competition Question, you have the chance to WIN AN ITEM OF TUBULAR HEADWEAR!!!!!

Greenish-blueish ones.

Greenish-blueish ones.

Here are the Terms and Conditions of this Briztreadley Contest.

1. This is not a game of skill.
2. The prize carries no obligation and is 100% free. However, it sure wouldn’t hurt to buy Andrew a coffee sometime if he’s giving you an item of synthetic tubular headwear.
3. Pirates are better than ninjas.
4. The judges decision is final. Correspondence maybe entered into, but that won’t mean much.

Some with blobs on them.

Some with blobs on them.

OK, get to it, I don’t know why you’re still reading this, when you could be WINNING FREE STUFF.

Purpley stripey sorts too.

Purpley blackish stripey sorts too. Woohoo.

Five ways to work


There are small variations from time to time, but here are the main five routes I use to ride to and from work. (I’m easily bored).

I don’t really know when I roll down the driveway at home whether I’m going to turn left or right. It’s often a surprise to me to see what happens.

But this pic is on part of my favourite way to go home … the only way if I’ve decided to ride the Black Hornet.

It’s not cheating if it replaces a car?

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The very first question that almost every bike rider asks when they first encounter the electric bike is: “Why?”

There are so many great things that we love about riding a bicycle that seem like they would be diminished or would disappear completely in the case of electric bikes.

A bicycle is very simple. You get on your bike, you ride, your legs power you, up hill and down dale, and you arrive at your destination through your own effort, your own sweat.

An e-bike, or a pedalec, or a power-assisted bike just seems like it’s probably a form of cheating. The simplicity thing gets a bit lost too, when you have to remember to re-charge your bicycle in between uses.

Well, after sharing a pedal-assisted bike for a month with the other members of the BQ staff, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-bikes are excellent, and I would love to own one. I’m not quite ready to plonk down my own $2500, but given the slightest encouragement by other members of my family, I certainly would.

The first time you sit on the saddle of an e-bike and take it for a spin, it is kind of disconcerting. It’s like an invisible hand is pushing you in the back. Your pedalling isn’t what is causing you to accelerate easily up to 30km. But there’s barely any sound of a motor either. And because you control the power assistance by the act of pedalling, it’s nothing like riding a motor scooter or motorbike.

The eZee Sprint that I used had five power-assist settings. I most commonly used it on ‘4’, the second-most powerful. Sometimes I would drop back to ‘3’, if it looked like the battery was being used up too fast. With the power-assist on level 4, my 11km commute from Salisbury to West End was nearly effortless, and almost as fast as driving my car.

The disconcerting thing about an e-bike is that when you get to a hill, you actually pedal softer, rather than harder. That way you let the electric motor do all the hard work. You keep soft-pedalling, and the bike charges up the hill. It’s weird, but also exhilarating.

The travel times for my commute are (going the fastest way, I often commute by bicycle using many alternate slower routes, for various reasons):

Mode Time
Driving (no congestion, say at 5am) 15 minutes
Driving (peak hour) 20-30 minutes
Riding a bicycle 30-35 minutes
Riding the eZee power-assisted bicycle 25 minutes

The commute example starts to give an inkling of what I liked about the pedal-assist bike. For existing bike riders, I don’t think that e-bikes are competing with your bicycle. You already understand the physical benefits of riding a bike and there’s no way you would give that up.

But if you don’t already ride? Well you probably aren’t reading this.

But if you have a partner or a friend who doesn’t ride because of hills, or because of lack of energy or fitness, or because they don’t want to end up all sweaty … the e-bike addresses all those concerns. Arrive at your destination faster than by bicycle, only slightly slower than a car for trips around 10 km.

For the existing bike rider, an e-bike extends the number of trips you can take without resorting to the car. So you rode to work and home again, but now you have to go out to pick up some groceries or visit friends or go to a community meeting in the evening? The e-bike is perfect to replace the car for those short utility trips. Most e-bikes on the Australian market have plenty of load-carrying capacity. The eZee Sprint I tried had a capacious front basket, and a rear rack which would also take panniers. The average office worker, even one who took a laptop to and from work every day, would have no problem carrying everything they need. Likewise, a shopping trip for a couple of days groceries would be easy to manage with the eZee.

My household has three drivers and three cars. It would only take the occasional co-ordination between the three of us to cut down the number of cars by one and replace it with an e-bike.

The process for charging the e-bike is simple, as long as you remember to do it. The charger plugs into the battery, nothing needs to be taken off the bike for charging. For a round trip commute of 20km, you could easily get away with charging every second night. But maybe charging every night would establish a routine which ensures the bike is always ready to go.

The eZee Sprint was loaned to Bicycle Queensland by Electric Bikes Brisbane.

Bikes and Berlin: goes together like currywurst and chips and samurai sauce

(This is Part 2 of what might in time become a four-part series. Part 1 is here.)

When I left you at the end of Part 1, Annette and I had enjoyed — with excellent help from Christian Cummins — our stay in Vienna. We swanned around on Vienna’s gaudily-decorated City Bikes, advertising mineral water or banks or something.

Our next stop on the Euro tour was Prague. We did see a few bike riders in Prague, but not in the centre city. I would have said ‘not in the old town’, but of course as Prague aficionados will immediately realise, the centre of Prague is not one “old town”, but four. But even so, none of those four towns is bike-friendly. Tram and by foot is the way to see Prague, so that’s what we did.

We arrived in Berlin late on a Saturday afternoon, navigating our way with some difficulty from the ICE (Inter-City Express) to the S-bahn to the U-bahn to get to Eberswalde Strasse station. Our flat was a short walk from there.

So our first day in Berlin was a Sunday. And I was pretty keen to get riding. Our hosts had pointed out some places we might visit … the flea markets at Mauerpark (literally ‘Wall Park, because it is a memorial to the Berlin Wall), and Arkonaplatz. And also, Zionskirche, which I’m sure you are aware was Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s first parish appointment in Berlin.

So while Annette headed off on foot to Mauerpark in the late morning, I went to find a bicycle, at Lila Bikes. Only to find that they did not open until 2pm on a Sunday.

So I put the bike-riding on hold. We walked around Prenzlauer Berg, and also went via public transport modes for our first touristy day in Berlin as well. All while I schemed up a plan for getting on the bikes.

So it was our third day in Berlin that we really got rolling. I think we paid about 8 Euros each for very sturdy bikes from Lila Bikes, a store populated by one slightly gruff owner and several friendly dogs.

From Prenzlauer Berg, the main city centre is slightly downhill, along Kastianallee, the same route as the tram we had taken the previous day, on our visits to Museum Island. That is to say, straight through Hakescher Markt onto Museum Island, and through there to Under Den Linden.

So of course we rode around the various places we wanted to visit, and locked up the bikes while museuming or art-gallerying or morning-coffeeing. And then came back and rode some more.

In the first, long-since-past episode of this adventure, I talked a little about what I am calling ‘German-style bikepaths’. Berlin had the best network of these, although Berlin actually cranks it up a notch above both Munich and Vienna, by providing a lot more specialised high-standard separated paths. We used these on our cruise through the massive and wonderful Tiergarten, and also later on our way back from Kurfurstendamme, along beside the Spree.

We got as far away from Prenzlauer Berg as Kurfurstendamme, a famous shopping boulevard on the western side of the Tiergarten, and it was late afternoon before we started to head back, about 8-10km.

By this stage we were both pretty comfortable on our bikes, and happy using the well-connected bikeway network. So I just planned a route back that seemed the most direct, confident that there would be good bike infrastructure all the way, anywhere in Berlin.

To be fair, this is analogous to just looking at a map of Brisbane and saying, ‘I am at Chermside and I want to go to Spring Hill, Gympie Road looks like it will be the quickest way’.

So we lucked onto some lovely bikeway along the Spree, but then later on I navigated us onto Invalidenstrasse, through Moabit on the way back to Prenzlauer Berg. And there just happened to be lots of roadworks on Invalidenstrasse.

Where there were no roadworks, the bike facility was absolutely fine. But in the chaos of the roadworks, there were occasions where the bikepath was only a narrow footpath, which admitted only one person or bike in either direction.

We made it home eventually, but not before I had put us out into the traffic coming along Veteranenstrasse, on the hill leading up to Zionskirche (and therefore not far from ‘home’). Annette wasn’t happy with that, and fair enough. But eventually, with some stumbling around, we finally made it onto Schonauser Allee, up the last little section to our flat.

All in all we had probably covered about 25-30km on the bikes that day, on paths and roads. All in our normal cool weather clothes. Berlin is pretty flat, and the traffic goes pretty slow, and on almost every occasion there is bicycle infrastructure to ensure your separation from the motorised traffic.

Compared with riding around Brisbane, Berlin is far better set up for transport cycling, everyday cycling. Combined with a superb system of U-bahn and S-bahn trains, it would be very doable to live without a car in Berlin. And I’m sure many people do.

In Berlin, much more than Vienna, I noted that just about every demographic gets around on bike. Older people, younger people, mums and kids, just whoever wants to use their own power to get around. Bicycle riding there is convenient and safe, so why would you not do it?


PS … Currywurst and chips looks like this. Comes standard with tomato ketchup, but samurai sauce, which is sort of like equal parts chilli sauce and mayonnaise, really takes it to a whole new place. Superb, magnificent even, when the temperature drops below 5 degrees C. Otherwise, pretty ordinary. Weird, huh.


Nobody does it bester

I interrupt the inexorable schedule of posts about riding in Europe (believe it or not there are two drafts of the Berlin post in my WordPress back-end system here, but neither are anywhere near finished) with some wonderful news.

Bike Bestie had a launch party last night. (Website design by Michael McMahon, photos by Nick O’Donnell and others, words by Emma with some contributions from me).

Some of the bikes Emma has worked on, which were the 'stars' of the launch party.

Some of the bikes Emma has worked on, were the ‘stars’ of the launch party. Here they are hanging out in the green room before the event (i.e. the garage at Emma’s place).

Which must mean that it is now in orbit.

Here is the video (shot and edited by the super-talented Thomas Day), which gives the vibe of what Bike Bestie is all about.

Couple of things that I like a lot about this video. The first is the subtle and gradual way that Thomas introduces Emma … just as a voiceover to start with, and with the workshop space and tools as the early ‘stars’, but then gradually we see her working on the bike.

And the second one is how the bike goes from basically just a frame to very nearly a completed bike which is ready to ride, in just a couple of minutes! Wow, that woman must know how to build a bike!


Emma has worked so hard to get to this point, and deserves immense congratulations. But mostly, it was just so much fun to be at the launch, with lots of Emma’s friends and family, to celebrate both her efforts in setting up Bike Bestie, and the support and collaborations involved in getting this far. A really great night, and thanks to all those who shared it!

So, do you have a bike in need of a tweak or a service? Or is there a custom bike build that is percolating in the back of your mind, but you’re not sure how to make it happen? Or are you a woman who wants to get out on your bike more often, but find your lack of skills (riding or mechanical) are holding you back?

I think you know who to contact!


The Briztreadley Guide to riding a bicycle for utility and exploration in some European capitals

(Part 1 of what I can only assume will be a four-part series. Part 2 is also now published.)

Although it’s true that I gave fair warning of an absence from this blog, it has been a little while since Annette and I got home from the World Congress on Conductive Education.

Since then, we at BQ have run our biggest event of the year, and there was also the little matter of National Ride To Work Day, which is squarely in my area of interest at work.

So I got home and got straight back into it.

But oh-so-many of my conversations since returning home have been people asking about our experiences in Europe. And I do want to wax lyrical in this space, because — really — the places we went to are excellent examples of what I would like to see happen in Brisbane, and indeed in other places around Australia.

And I am going to invite Annette to contribute to this piece as well, because she has a different perspective on bike riding, and because she rode a bicycle in Vienna, Berlin and Amsterdam.

I sometime read criticisms of Brisbane’s CityCycles for being a garish yellow. The bikes in Vienna are a mix. There are yellow ones, purple ones, and orange ones. No less garish, that’s for sure.

We visited Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Munich. I’m totally going to skip the touristy stuff. If you are my Facebook friend (and why wouldn’t you be? I think you probably are) then you saw way too many Instagram moments from me, and you probably also saw many albums of photos from Annette.

But for my lovely Briztreadley readers, the question is not “What did you see in Europe?”, but “What was it like to ride in _________ (insert Euro city of choice)”?

The first thing to say is that this was exclusively a utility/city approach to cycling. We did not “cycle tour”. All the riding was simply to get from place to place in the city, or to explore the inner city. We stayed as close to the CBD as we could afford in most places (thanks AirBnB). In Munich we had slightly different criteria, leading to some interesting different experiences.

But for Brisbane folks, it would be as if I am restricting my experience of cycling to just include a ring around Paddington, Spring Hill, Bowen Hills, New Farm, Kangaroo Point, the Gabba, Highgate Hill, St Lucia and Toowong.

And the second thing I want to say is that we made most of our decisions about cycling within the context of wanting to get from place to place easily and efficiently. So if we were going somewhere that had another means of public transport (usually S-bahn or U-bahn, but sometimes tram) that would make it easier to get there, then we would take that public transport.

However, on lots of occasions, it turns out that bicycle is the best and easiest way to get from place to place.

Let’s start in Vienna, because it was where my expectations were pretty low, and were quickly exceeded. Let’s also start in Vienna, because that’s where our trip started.

In Vienna, we used the City Bike scheme. It is a close cousin of the one we have in Brisbane, with bikes that are just a slightly earlier version of the CityCycles that I have often used. It is easier to get going with the Vienna version because it uses a credit card system instead of a dedicated card, which is a real advantage for visitors to the city.

Our flat was about 150m from Westbahnhof. So the U-bahn system was totally convenient for getting to almost any venue in the city.

And yet, even closer to our front door was a City Bike station.

We spent the first day or two just cruising around on foot, and via U-bahn. I don’t usually have a grand plan in these situations, so when we worked out which cities we were going to visit, I really didn’t expect to be using bicycles very much until we got to Berlin and Amsterdam, both of which I expected would be very bike-able.

But after a day or two in Vienna, we met up with a friend of a friend, an English ex-pat called Christian. Who was into bikes, and was a great source of local knowledge.

After our chat with Christian, at my instigation we began using the City Bike scheme a whole lot more. And we went to Prater, a massive park in Vienna that was a hunting ground for the Hapsburgs until 1920, and found the Hauptallee, the boulevard through the middle of the park.

We had a great afternoon, first just cruising along the Hauptallee and enjoying the freedom from traffic, and the outdoors, and the green space around us. Every outdoor activity that Vienna wants to engage in can be found along the length of Hauptallee. Frisbee golf? Check! Miniature outdoor railway? Yep. Tennis, amusement park, beer house, cafe, gardens for the feeding of ducks? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

But both Annette and I wanted to see the Danube, and the Prater is pretty close to the Danube.

The funny thing is that Vienna turns its back on the Danube. There is the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) that is a man-made off-shoot of the river, and it runs through the middle of Vienna’s old town. But the main river, well there’s not much in Vienna that faces the river. And the freight railway line runs beside it.

So although we found the Danube, it wasn’t all that nice. And it made for some challenging navigation.

Eventually, on our City Bikes we made it back to Krieau, one of the three U-bahn stations on the length of the Prater. There we ditched our City Bikes and gratefully caught the U-bahn home (all of 10km!).

But by then we had the taste for the City Bikes. The next day, we were headed down to Schonbrunn Palace, which was a bit awkward to get to via U-bahn, so we took the tram, and walked through a park to get there. But we worked out for our trip ‘home’, that by far the easiest way would be simply to jump on a City Bike. So we did.

So in all this riding, we encountered a variety of conditions. Our main thoroughfare from Westbahnhof to the old city was MariaHilferStrasse, a lovely tree-lined boulevard with a mix on on-foot-path bike-path, and shared on-road low-speed traffic. It was about 2km from our flat to the Museum Quarter, which is not quite the centre of town.

MariaHilferStrasse, walking inbound from Westbahnhof to the City.

But further out from Westbahnhof, as we came back from Schonbrunn, the only bike facility on MariaHilferStrasse was a marked bike lane, and sometimes that even disappeared where the tram lines cramped the road space down to one traffic lane in each direction.

So in some ways Vienna was like Brisbane … the network is incomplete, which leads to sometimes finding yourself in a situation where a bicycle rider might have to mix it uncomfortably with dense traffic.

But … it’s also nothing like Brisbane, because those situations were few and far between for us, where in Brisbane you would encounter the need to mix in with the motorised traffic on almost every trip of significant length. And the traffic was almost always moving slowly, and accommodating to bicycle riders when it needed to be.

Vienna was also our first look at what I will call German-style bike infrastructure (yes, even though Austria is a separate country … my large Austrian readership might be up in arms, but I’ll just have to deal with that later).

The dominant type of bike path in Vienna, Berlin and Munich is a bike-only space on the same level as the footpath. In Vienna and Berlin, there is usually a flat kerb that designates the edge of the bike-only space. In Munich, it’s only the surface that differentiates. The bike space is usually bitumen, and the pedestrian space is usually concrete pavers.

These facilities are like an Australian footpath on steroids. They are just wide enough for a good bike path (usually 3m, but maybe only 2.5m sometimes), but that path is predominantly used in the direction of travel of the traffic. The pedestrian space is of course bi-directional.

When crossing side streets and driveways, the combined bike and pedestrian facility usually has the right of way. Chevrons painted on the road denote that both traffic turning into the side street from the main street, and traffic coming out of the side street, must give way to the bike-riders and pedestrians continuing on the shared path.

The limits of flow in such a bike and pedestrian system come at major intersections, when it becomes clear that the bike/ped facility takes a lower order of priority to the main road. But until those major intersections, the level of priority for bicycles can be pretty impressive.

There’s not usually this much priority for bikes … this was Ciclovienna, a happening on the Ringstrasse on the first Sunday we were there.

Next: cruising in funky Berlin.


Easy as A B C

Ever since I tried Stephen Amos’s Gazelle pedalec-style electric bike, at National Ride to Work day in October last year, I have been keen to get on board with the e-bike revolution.

My candidate is Annette’s bike. It’s a solid 26-inch-wheel bike that we bought about 10 years ago. Hasn’t done many miles.

Hi darl! Nette riding at Byron Bay last year.

Hi darl! Nette riding at Byron Bay last year.

So a new high-quality e-bike is well into the $2K and beyond. Haven’t got that for an experiment, just at the moment.

But how could you go past this? I already have a touring rack that would fit Nette’s bike, as a place to put the battery. Add a good-sized wire basket on the front for load-carrying and we are away.

Easy as A B C / 1 2 3 / you and me.

Follow-up Friday: A new name for the Sunday Spin

I know it’s Monday, but we (Phil Smith and I) recorded this last Friday. And it went to air Sunday. And now it’s Monday.

And the reason it’s the last Sunday Spin ever is in fact some really good news.

In 2013, Phil has been asked to start his statewide Saturday Breakfast stint at 5 am instead of 6 am. And he has proposed back to the ABC powers-that-be that the first hour could be the Mens Shed and Sunday Spin segments that he already records with regular guests on Fridays. And it seems like that is good to go.

So from late January we will be back on the air with 30 minutes each week on statewide ABC at 5.30 am on Saturdays, and on the digital ABC across Australia at 2.30pm on Sundays.

We’re going to need a new name … what would you call it? (The Spinsters??)