Filling the soundless void

I’m not recording a Squeaky Wheel this week … Phil Smith’s got a day off or weekend off or something.

But here’s a couple of bits of audio that I’ve listened to during the week that I thought were interesting …

    • Janette Sadik-Khan is the rock-star of active transport planners whose actions have transformed urban environments and made them more human places. New York, no less, was the place that Ms Sadik-khan helped to make into somewhere where riding a bike and walking to get around became much more possible. Here’s the interview she did on ABC Radio National while in Australia for Velo City.

 

  • Alaistair Humphreys does such cool stuff, and makes it so simple that even I can follow along. Here he is on a BBC Scotland radio piece, where he took a reporter and three other people on their first micro-adventure … a walk up to the top of a hill for an overnight bivvy. Great stuff. Not promising anything, but I may record a little bit this weekend when I’m out in the Scenic Rim with Brucewez.

 

Big picture, little picture.

An application of chaos theory and consequences to the difficulties of bicycle advocacy work

or ‘First World Problems: Keep it Down at the Back’

Imagine this mob coming past your front door before it gets light. Seven days a week.

Imagine this mob coming past your front door before it gets light. Seven days a week.

An actual conversation from a cafe not far from BQ HQ, just the other day.

Friendly Barista: So they’re changing the laws to do with bicycles. I know what law they should make. They should make it a law that bike riders can’t be talking at the top of their voices before dawn. My girlfriend lives at [location on the River Loop] and she gets woken up everyday at 5 am.

Briztreadley: Hmmm, yes. It’s a problem.

Friendly Barista: You bet it is! Can you do something about it?

Briztreadley: [inaudible] … is that my coffee? Thanks!

So this is my heartfelt plea.

If my barista’s girlfriend isn’t happy, then he won’t be happy.

If my barista isn’t happy, then the quality of coffee he makes for me at the start of my working day is going to decline.

If that happens, then ALL WORK ON BICYCLE ADVOCACY IN QUEENSLAND GRINDS TO A HALT. NOT A THREAT, JUST THE TRUTH.

So, could we keep it down out there?

Pretty please?

Sunday night round-up

Oh yeah, just briefly ...

Some things I’ve liked or been part of lately …

* not actually the name of the event

Take me home, Sylvan Rd, to the place I belooooong

Open / C grade ready to race. That's why the RAIN started.

Open / C grade ready to race. That’s why the RAIN started. Emma and I (far right and next) were finding it quite funny. Photo (c) ESi Sports Photography, used with permission.

So we had the Bike Week Cyclocross and it was pretty damn good.

I did a piece for the online mag Australian Cyclocross.

The more background blur you get, the faster I look. (Spoiler: I'm not that fast really)

The more background blur you get, the faster I look. (Spoiler: I’m not that fast really). Photo (c) ESi Sports Photography, used with permission.

Getting faster and faster ... smiling or gritting my teeth?? Pic by Sholto Douglas.

Getting faster and faster … smiling or gritting my teeth? Pic by Sholto Douglas.

Here’s the article:

So if we count one of the kids twice, Queensland Cyclocross hit a new milestone at the second annual Bike Week cyclocross event at Wests Rugby Union Club in Toowong, with 60 competitors racing on the day.

And that day, which was decidedly steamy as the set-up crew laboured at noon, turned wonderfully CX-like with aå nice shower of rain just after the Junior race, as Open / C grade were getting ready to go.

Combined A and B grade then took over the course, and with nearly 40 people lapping a course that must have been slightly less than a kilometre, the lap counters were earning their (iminaginary) pay.

All of this occurred in the atmospheric surrounds of Toowong Memorial Park, and with the assistance of the Wests Rugby club’s fields co-ordinator Dean Marsh, who stayed behind after rugby matches were finally over for the day, to supply the cyclocross crowd with beer and other refreshments.

The course included a very tricky off-camber corner on a steep hill, and a short but fast downhill section, some plain flat bits around the footy field, and a small flight of stairs beside the dressing sheds.

Patrick Flood (under 11) and Haddon Kilmartin (under 15) are both CX veterans, and they won their categories with some ease in the Junior race.

The Open / C grade was notable for the strong performance of the women in the field. Mountain bike blokes Chris Lusty and Doug Mitchell took the top two spots, but were followed by first-timer Jaine Mongston, who had too much speed for Qld CX stalwart Emma Best, who may have been slightly worn out by a busy schedule of volunteering at two events on the first weekend of Bike Week. Tracy Williams in 7th place rounded out the ladies’ podium.

The A and B grade races were boosted by a much stronger than usual contingent of the denizens of the fixed gear forum (fixed.org.au), who all seem to have bought the brightest coloured Specializeds or the latest disc-equipped Giants.

But it was business as usual at the front end of A grade for most of the race, as Matt Williams, who is possibly the most consistent winner in Qld CX history, was comfortably in control. He was pursued by bike messenger / fixie wild child Declan Kilkenny, and English gent Jason Smith, but it was only on the last lap that Williams crashed on a slippery grassy corner and let his two pursuers past.

Kilkenny took the surprise win, and the coveted ‘Take Me Home Sylvan Road’ t-shirt, donated by Wests Rugby Club.

Declan chases Shem in A grade.

Declan chases Shem in A grade, early doors.  Pic by Sholto Douglas.

In B grade, Darren Flood overcame his embarrassment that he still has yet to acquire a CX bike, and raced on his 29er mountain bike wearing Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club kit. He was in a road/CX sandwich with Chris Muller and Jonathon Hobson for the whole race. Muller eventually came out on top.

Floody on the 29er and Jon Hobson in pursuit.

Floody on the 29er and Jon Hobson in pursuit. Another Sholto pic.

Next up is Bowl-o-cross, a fun day out run by the team from Pushies Galore. It will be held at Holland Park Bowls Club on Sunday 11 May.

10173538_662915050445985_365436947255778730_n

Last year’s Bowl-o-cross was very memorable. It was the day that Robbie McEwen turned up to race with us.

As member of the organising crew said: “Imagine you are having a game of cricket in the park with some mates, and Steve Waugh rocks up and says, can I have a bat?”

Who knows who will turn up to Bowl-o-cross this year? Sven Nys maybe?

Along Wyaralong’s shore we did roam and play

Lucky for me, Emma waits at the top of the hills.

Lucky for me, Emma waits at the top of the hills.

Just back from a fine overnight mtb micro-adventure: Boonah to Mount Joyce base camp, and back again (a slightly different way).

I’m doing these overnighters both cos I like doing them, but also to gain experience for The Big Expedition later in the year.

So this one was in all respects an excellent success. The ride, which I thought was a possibility of being slightly too easy, turned out to be quite challenging when riding mountain bikes, each loaded up with about 15 kg of gear, food and water.

My good friend BikeBestie, fresh from inter-state shenanigans, agreed to join me for an afternoon on Easter Sunday, and a morning on Easter Monday.

So within that time frame we planned the following route.

We cruised out from Boonah around 2 pm on Easter Sunday, and followed some back roads to the start of the Shoreline Trail, alongside Wyaralong Dam, towards Mount Joyce Basecamp, which is a former homestead, now campsite.

The Shoreline Trail, although it’s not even ‘blue square’ level in terms of mtb singletrack, nevertheless provided sufficient challenge for both of us riding our loaded mtb tourers.

Especially when the trail surface became sandy over the last 10 km to camp.

We made it to our destination with about an hour of daylight left, enough for a scoot down to the dam for some photos, and back up to set up our sleeping quarters.

A man and his bike.

A man and his bike.

A woman and her hammock.

A woman and her hammock.

And then to experiments in camp cooking … mac ‘n cheese on Em’s tiny Trangia, and cous cous with added salmon on my aptly named Jetboil. Both were deemed delicious. I’m expecting to eat plenty of mac ‘n cheese when buying supplies from small town IGAs on the Munda Biddi Trail.

For those who have yet to visit Mt Joyce Basecamp:

  • yes, there’s a toilet
  • yes, there’s a rainwater tank. Both Emma and I drank the water from the tank and had no ill effects
  • it’s very spacious … there are rooms with sleeping platforms, there’s acres of verandah, plenty of room to camp on the grass outside as well, and two large picnic tables under cover on a verandah (the official brochure linked above says it’s a ‘simple shelter shed’, when in fact the buildings are two substantial weatherboard houses joined by a covered breezeway)
  • there are mosquitoes! but they seemed to lose interest in us after a couple of hours

So after a reasonably uneventful night’s sleep and more fueling up in the morning, we set off back towards Boonah.

gellie_dam_flowers

Boonah is one terminus, not surprisingly, of the Boonah-Ipswich Trail, parts of which exist, and parts of which do not.

One part which does exist, according to local Boonah news reports and potentially obsolete maps on the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning’s website, is the Lilybrook to Boonah section.

Once we left the Shoreline Trail and slogged over the hill on Knehr Road, we were able, with only occasional confusion, to follow the signs that pointed us towards Boonah on the BIT.

That’s not to say that the ride was easy. It was hard and steep in some sections, easy and flowing in others, but always with the magnificent views of the scenic Boonah countryside to compensate. Eventually, in the fullness of time, I crested the last big climb to the top of Schneider Road, where Emma was waiting patiently for me.

And we rolled into Boonah less than 30 minutes later, having completed an entertaining and memorable S24O. Thanks for your company, Emma!

em_peace_out2

Next one is … not sure where, but it will be sometime the other side of Bike Week!

Want to go for a spin?

Hey you!

I’m planning a bike-packing trip to the Munda Biddi trail in WA, and I want to make sure that I invite along anyone who thinks they might possibly attempt this sort of trip one day. Because maybe today is that day.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I'm planning on using five of them.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I’m planning on using five of them.

Where: the first half of the Munda Biddi Trail, starting near Perth, Western Australia.
When: 20-27 September 2014 (first week of the Qld school holidays)
Distance: 432 km is what Plan A looks like, an average of 62km per day. Longest day planned is 72.8km.

What’s the terrain like? Most days have around 800 metres of vertical ascent across 60-70 km of riding. So it’s not flat, but it’s also not in the least ‘alpine’. Plenty of pea gravel, so I’ve heard.

Are there towns on the way? Yes. Chance to re-supply food almost every day.
Are there cool shelters to camp in on the trail? Yes, the Munda Biddi trail has purpose-built shelters for bike-packing mtb riders, with bike parking, water tanks and toilets.

Have you mapped out the route, day by day? You know it.

Day 1 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317343
Day 2 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317397
Day 3 (part 1) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317446
Day 3 (part 2) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317557
Day 4 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317701
Day 5 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317748
Day 6 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318375
Day 7 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318546

Where are you finishing? I’m planning to finish at Jarrahwood after seven days riding, and next morning (Day 8) take a bus to Busselton (about 30 mins by bus) to meet up with my very patient wife for the second week of school holidays, down at Margaret River.

Busselton is a large town (about 25,00 people), with frequent bus services back to Perth. And a regional airport too.

I have the complete set of MB trail maps (on loan from the touring guru Sholto), but my route only covers the first 4 (out of 8).

Interested? Let me know. I would love to have your company!

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.

http://www.electricbikesbrisbane.com/collections/electric-bikes/products/ezee-sprint

Cicadas = joy

Just the other day I was riding in the bush with a friend.

Well, when I say riding, at the time this conversation happened, we were in fact pushing our bikes up a steep-ish muddy rocky fire-trail.

And the sound all around us, engulfing us, swallowing us up whole … was the throbbing swirl of cicadas. Anybody who has spent any time in the Australian bush knows the sound. And knows how it surges and subsides.

The question my friend and I were discussing was: Do the cicadas get louder as we get closer to them? Are they louder because we are here? Or is it just a natural rise and fall in volume, as one cicada responds to another, and back again, and the whole crowd just talks louder and louder like people in a bar on New Year’s Eve?

We came to no conclusion. Right now while writing this, I could be looking up cicadas on Wikipedia, and discovering the answer. But the conversation’s content was not really the conversation’s meaning.

What we were really saying was: How cool is this to be able to be out in the bush on our mountain bikes, enjoying the challenge of this trail, and the heat and the sweat and the mud, and each other’s company. And the swim in the creek, especially.

More of that in 2014 is all I could ask for. And a road ride or two. And some cyclocross racing. And a few gravel grinders. I look forward to sharing that with all of you!

My word for 2014 is micro-adventures.

 

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?

currwurst-and-chips-at-curry-mitte-berlinsml

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!

bikebestie