Advanced tips on fixing your flat tyre

Every now and again I see articles and videos online to help new bike riders learn how to fix a flat tyre.

I critique these resources from the point of view of someone who has changed lots of flat tyres, and seen many more changed.

Here’s one I’ve just seen:

But YouTube is full of them …

I have also spent quite a few Bicycle Queensland events doing roving support on the BQ postie bike. And spent plenty of time sweating away in my motorcycle gear on the side of the road fixing flat tyres.

And I think that a few things are often missing from these tutorials.

I’m probably not the most organised tip compiler in the world, and it occurred to me when I was halfway through this article, that the tips might be in the wrong order. That’s OK, you are unlikely to be reading this article at the exact moment in time when it will be useful, so it is probably OK that following the tips in the order presented would be sub-optimal.

Tip No 1. Never ever pump up a new tube in a tyre until you’ve found what caused the flat.

I don’t care if the bunch is getting antsy, or the sun is going down. If you rush past this stage of the process, you will be repeating it at a time nearer than you had hoped. This is related, of course, to Tip No 2.

Tip No 2. Whatever caused your flat is probably still in the tyre.

It is the exception rather than the rule if the shard of glass or short piece of wire that worked it’s way through your tyre, burrowing far enough in to pierce the inner tube, has now just fallen out onto the road. Much more likely is that it’s still there. And it can be only just getting through the tyre, not enough to feel when you run your fingers around the inside of the tyre. So just because you did that, and found nothing, doesn’t mean that the cause has been removed.

That’s one of two reasons why I think the “fingers around the inside of the tyre” check is over-rated. The other reason is if the cause is still there, and is sharp, and is protruding, then the result is a cut finger or fingers.

Which relates in turn, to Tip 3.

Tip 3. Inspect the outside of the tyre first.

You are on the side of the road, moments after the depressing realisation that you have a flat. There might be a group of your bike-riding friends standing beside you, offering “helpful” advice.

But don’t rush into removing the tyre from the rim. Sure, take the wheel off the bike (another top tip, if it’s the rear wheel, change the derailleur across to the hardest gear before removing the wheel … it will be much easier to line up the derailleur when you put the wheel back in later). See this demonstrated perfectly by YouTube sensation Bike Bestie.

Now, with the wheel in your two hands, and the top of the tyre at the perfect viewing distance for you (this is why I take a small pair of reading glasses with me when I ride), go around the outside of the tyre slowly and methodically, looking for cuts in the tyre. When you find a cut, pinch it open and look closely for the glint of glass or metal.

When you find a piece of glass, you can usually lever it out with a finger nail. Don’t worry about making the cut in your tyre bigger as a result … getting the glass or metal out of the tyre is much more important. Finger nails too short or blunt? The flat blade screwdriver in your multi-tool will probably do the trick.

Ok, you’ve found the thing which caused your puncture. Go around the rest of the tyre anyway, and check that you have looked in ALL the cuts on this tyre, because you might remove the potential cause of your next puncture. Or you might not have found the actual cause yet.

Let’s proceed with some more top-level tips for removing the tyre and replacing the tube.

Tip No 4. Tyre Levers are a fallback position. You can change (most) tyres with just your hands.

I’m not going to claim this tip as anything other than knowledge gained from others. Learn from the master mechanic Jim Langley here:

I learned this first-hand by watching John Pittendreigh of Epic Cycles, even though I have a tip for reinstallation that is subtly different from the Pittendreigh method.

Now, some 23 or 25 mm road tyres on some rims are a very tight fit. So the hands-only method doesn’t always work. You need to carry tyre levers for that eventuality.

But for hybrid or cyclocross or mtb tyres … you really don’t need tyre levers. And it’s not about hand strength, it’s about technique, and pushing the tyre into the well of the rim. Look at the Langley link for more details.

OK, so we have the tyre off, we already found the cause of the flat, and now we are putting our new tube in. As all the other tutorials, say, put a little bit of air in the tube to give it shape. Put one side of the tyre bead on the rim.

Tip 5. The valve goes into the tyre first, but gets put on the rim last.

When you put the tube in the tyre, start with the rim held in front of you, resting on the ground, with the valve hole at 12 o’clock, and put the valve through the hole. So far, so standard. If you have a little bit of shape to the tube, you can usually drop the tube straight into the bottom of the tyre, which is waiting with only one side hooked onto the rim.

BUT WAIT! Don’t start working the tyre on from this position. Instead, with the tube all inside the tyre, turn the wheel around and start at the far side of the rim working the tyre back into place.

The reason for this is that the valve can be a useful ally in helping the tube sit properly inside the tyre, preventing the tube from pinching when you pump it up.

So as you work the tyre into place (using the techniques learned above from Langley, or in my case from John Pittendreigh), you will eventually get to the tricky final section of tyre which will just pop into place (hopefully). And just before (and after) you do that, just push the valve into the tyre, ensuring that all the tube is inside the tyre.

There you go. These are the finer details that I think are often missing from the Internet tutorials.

None of this is any substitute for practice, of course. Which is why when you are on the side of the road with the bunch all looking impatiently at you, you can just breathe deep slow breaths and say (to yourself): “This is an opportunity to practice my skills. Slow and steady wins the race.”

Have fun. It’s actually a good feeling to be able to ride around and not be concerned that a flat tyre will spell the end of your ride. Gives you the confidence to go further and have more fun!


Le Tour de Anduramba … a new benchmark is set

On the BVRT What makes a bike ride memorable? Is it the route, the conditions, the difficulty, the weather, the people you ride with, the obstacles or challenges you face along the way, the experience matching the anticipation??

It is probably all of these. I know at this point I should say “it’s the people”, because I’m just back at the computer after three days of superb mountain bike touring with four absolutely delightful friends.

But I think as well, the company you are with yourself is vital to getting the maximum out of these opportunities.

Some basics. It was a three-day tour, largely on gravel roads. We started & finished in the Brisbane Valley town of Toogoolawah.

Our overnight stays were in Blackbutt and Crows Nest. Hence the weekend’s hashtag was #tbcn. Emma and JD at Linville

The team was: Emma (founder and CEO of the internet-famous Bike Bestie, and possibly mentioned on this site before), Brad (a.k.a. Mr Cyclocross), John (“J.D.”, author, tourer, once co-worker with Emma at Epic Cycles) and Susie B (South Bank Bunch’s bubbliest, always up for a new adventure). And me.

Emma and Brad and I have toured together before. JD has toured all over, but this was my first multi-day ride with him. And Susie, although a very experienced roadie and former triathlete, is new to mtb touring.

And the set-ups illustrate this spread of both experience and depth of involvement in mtb bike-packing.

Emma has the most pro bike-packing set-up. Of anyone anywhere on this planet. She rides a Gellie Custom steel-framed bike that is start to finish purpose-built for this type of riding. It has 650B wheels with nice big tyres, a rigid steel fork upfront, high-efficiency hub dynamo lights, 14-speed Rohloff internal geared rear hub, Gates belt drive, and she has fitted it out with a full Bike Bag Dude kit, including front bags, frame bags, chaff bags x 2, and rear seat bag.

And the gear she carries is likewise always fully researched and there are solid reasons for every choice, so there are names like Hennessy Hammocks, and Trangia, and Sea To Summit, and Patagonia and Ground Effect. Emma likes quality kit.

My set-up (the ‘Black Hornet’) I’ve described before, but the best adjective for it is idiosyncratic. The addition since last time is that I bought an equivalent to the Bike Bag Dude chaff bag, mounted on the handlebars. Mine was an eBay purchase, as I was looking for something larger (& cheaper) than standard, so that it would provide a place for my Jetboil stove, which until now had been taking up a good chunk of room in my seat-bag.

So I got a “small nylon waterproof military MOLLE pouch”. Does the job and it cost $12.80, which is less than $60. It worked so well mounted on the right hand side of the Black Hornet’s handlebars, that I will get another, smaller one to mount on the left. There’s less room there, however, because of my Cannondale Lefty fork.

Brad has a combo of DIY and bought bike-packing kit on a vintage red GT Zaskar (complete with weird dual-control Shimano XTR brakes/shifters from about 10-12 years ago). He made his own frame bag, and mounting points for his front dry-bag, and bought a Revelate Designs holster thing for his seat-post mounted rear dry-bag, and chaff bags. It all worked super well, but he didn’t find room for a stove. Plenty of room for snacks. Brad brought lotsa snacks.

JD was all dirt-road touring ready with his sweet Soma Groove and a rear rack and panniers set-up, and a spacious handlebar bag. He is pretty much ready for any road, anywhere. Perhaps not for single-track, but this trip wouldn’t have any single-track anyway.

And Susie had bags strapped all over her Giant hard-tail mtb, mostly to a seat-post mounted rack. And a new tent. New sleeping mat. Etc.

Our new friend Chris took a pic of us at the Crows Nest National Park camping ground on Monday morning. It gives you a glimpse of the variations in set-up. Team at Crows Nest NP

So after a bit of car-pooling and fussing around putting bags on the bikes, we were all ready to go on a Saturday morning, mid-winter in SEQ.


Here’s the happy crew, ready to roll.

Our first day was advertised (by me) as an easy warm-up to the more challenging ride on the second day. We rolled out of Toogoolawah past the showgrounds, which hosts the sky-diving fraternity most weekends. There were parachutistas floating gently to the ground as we trundled past.

The road surface soon enough turned from bitumen to gravel, and the ride proper was under way. There was plenty of light-hearted chat as we got used to the way our bikes handled with all the gear on-board, and how each of our touring companions rode. It was a solid couple of hours before we made it to Moore, via Colinton and a little bit of the D’Aguilar Highway.

There are three cafes at Moore. We chose the one with the outdoor eating area, and proceed to fuel up and chat for a good 90 minutes! Butterfly at Moore Leaving Moore

Eventually we had to get back on the bikes, and start riding again. It was bitumen to Linville, and the scenic surrounds of the start of the best bit of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the Linville to Blackbutt section. The pictures tell some of the story, but it is the best, most gradual way to gain 300 metres in elevation. The trail just slowly rises, and you rise with it.

cruising on the rail trail


A couple of us were feeling the effort though. It seems possible in retrospect that none of us had done very much specific training for this event. Emma in particular had been super-busy with her work (which, ironically, is all about getting other people on bikes!) and had barely ridden for quite a few months.

So it was pretty late in the day that we made it the Blackbutt showgrounds, which are just off the trail as it reaches the township. We reccied the site, as you do on your bike, by riding slowly around, picking out our potential camping sites.

Emma and JD picked out a perfect spot for their hammocks, and Susie set up her new tent. New tent Team Hammock

As the rain clouds rolled in, Brad and I chose to set up in the covered entertainment area.

Blackbutt showgrounds has great hot showers available to the camping set, who are of course mostly grey nomads.

We availed ourselves of the showers as well, and then waited out the passing rain showers before walking to the Radnor Hotel for dinner.

Brad had been served lamb shanks at a previous visit to the Radnor. JD had been building up the idea all day. It was a letdown to get there and find that the menu had changed as a result of new owners.

Undeterred, in typical JD fashion he asked the bar staff person what they would get. ‘The porterhouse steak’ was the response. So JD and Emma ordered up what turned out to be substantial chunks of deceased cow.

The rest of us made our choices as well, but it was the porterhouse steaks which got the oohs and aaahs and the oh-my-goodness what-have-I-dones when they arrived at our the table.

Nobody ordered dessert.

A steady walk ‘home’ to the showgrounds, and everyone had retired to bed by 8.30pm.

I slept quite well, but some of the others didn’t have such a great night. Susie in particular claimed to have barely slept. Claims made around other people’s snoring are always best left ‘on tour’, especially because I’m often named as the culprit. But on this occasion at least I didn’t keep anyone else awake (because I was nowhere near Susie’s tent).

Blackbutt sunrise

So it was a slow start on a cool morning in Blackbutt.

Brad was buying breakfast in town, so after he was packed up he went to find the popular wood-fired bakery to make him some breakfast AND lunch. I had to buy some more batteries, after looking at battery meter levels on my camera and GPS, so I also went up town before Susie and JD and Emma had got their stuff together.

By the time everyone was finally packed and ready to head off, Brad was on his second coffee, and I had munched through a breakfast muffin and slurped a coffee, and Emma was teasing me about my lack of patience.

Straight out of town, we head south on Blackbutt-Crows Nest Road, which makes sense because we’re going to Crows Nest. But I knew that wasn’t the road we would be following for most of the day.

So we got to the first possible intersection to find the way to Nukinenda and Anduramba, and I got my Garmin eTrex out of my jersey pocket.

The thing is, although I had planned the route super carefully, it was along roads I have never been on (to be fair to myself, these are roads that very few people have been along).

By contrast to the first day, which both Brad and Emma had ridden the whole route before. But from hereon out on the second and third days of our ride, nobody knew the route first-hand.

So we were relying on the route I had planned and downloaded to the eTrex.

Which is fine if I was totally in command of what I was doing with the eTrex.

Which I wasn’t.

I’ve only had this unit for a little while … it used to be Emma’s. I used it for the first time on the ride to Spicers Gap, where it disgraced itself by running out of battery. So I knew that I needed to have spare batteries with me this time. Sorted.

But reading and interpreting the pointer triangle and purple and blue lines on the maps on a Garmin, on the side of the road, in various light levels, while four people wait for me? Tricky.

What made it even more of the tricky was the fact that I really had not properly understood how to follow along a pre-planned route. I had the Garmin eTrex in my pocket, because I had run out of room to mount it on the handlebars.

In theory it operates just fine in a jersey pocket. In practice, the unit can get just a little confused by being turned upside down as you get it out of your pocket, and it can take a few seconds to work out whether it is Arthur or Martha.

So I would hold the eTrex the right way up, and look at it. And it would confuse me because the map wouldn’t represent anything like what I was seeing before me. It would say that we were heading East, or North, when we were heading south, or south-west. And the road which was going to the left would be off to the right.

Eventually (it took me most of the day) I worked out a method of getting the eTrex out of the pocket nice and early, holding it as still as possible, and trying to wait maybe 15 seconds before looking at it. I think for future tours, I will have to find the device a spot on the handlebars. Then the only problem is reading the screen with my ageing presbyopic eyes.

So after a few minutes I chose the road which I thought would take us down a massive hill to Emu Creek. Which it did. The road sign just said ‘The Valley’.

What goes down

We would be finishing our ride on this day at a slightly higher elevation than we started. So 300 vertical metres of descent in 6 km was fun. But it meant that we were now at the low point of the day as we crossed Emu Creek, with boulders and trees. It was pretty! But it meant that what happened next was pretty … hard.

Emu Creek gorge

What Brad and Emma saw.

What Brad and Emma saw.

The climb out of Emu Creek gorge was about 1.8km, and gained back about 200 metres of elevation. I don’t know what the average gradient was, but it was a bloody steep dirt road.

We paused at the top (we paused about three times on the hill as well) and got our breath back. “I’m sure that was the hardest bit of today’s ride,” I said, blithely unaware of absolutely all of the roads ahead of us.

But what followed was some of the best riding that I have done anywhere, ever. Big skies, rolling hills, grazing beasts, a smooth gravel road, and four cool friends to share it with. We rolled along, drinking in the scenes as though we were mountain-biking through the Baz Luhrmann film Australia. A few of our photos attempt to capture it.

This is Australia sign


As the ride and the day wore on, legs began to fade, and bodies started to weary. We were starting to pay the price for the effort of climbing out of Emu Creek gorge. “How far till our lunch stop?” was a persistent query.

We stood by our bikes at the intersection of Nukinenda Rd and McGreavey Rd. For more than a few minutes I was unsure which was the correct turn. Eventually we picked the right road, and soon after we pulled into the front yard of the Anduramba Community Hall, with just 37 hard-won yet spectacular kilometres under our wheels.

In the shade at the side of the hall, Susie lay down beside her bike. It seemed possible that she was preparing to spend the night at Anduramba. Only a strategic offer from Emma of some Vegemite to go on her crackers sparked Susie up again.

We ate our lunches, Brad took a selfie in the mirror in the toilets, and off we went.

Team TBCN at Anduramba Hall, after a reviving lunch.

Team TBCN at Anduramba Hall, after a reviving lunch.

The road we left on was ominously named: Anduramba Range Road.

And then further ominousity — a sign ROAD CLOSED in 3.5km. Well, we didn’t have many alternatives.

We had not expected any road closures. We hadn’t researched any alternate routes. I wasn’t skilled enough with the Garmin eTrex to map out a different route on the fly.

So, as foreshadowed, Anduramba Range Road was indeed quite closed. We battled past a barbed wire fence, and got to where the damage was from the 2013 floods.

2014-07-27 14.46.40 2014-07-27 14.52.37

The road had been partially repaired, and was no challenge to navigate on a bike. What was a challenge was the gradient, but fortunately it was semi-paved, with a hard-packed road base. At almost the top of the hill was the other side of the road closure.Another chance to get snagged on the barbed wire, until I noted a gate into the adjacent paddock. Brad could see another gate out of the paddock on the other side of the road closure.

So we added trespass to our list of sins for the day. And went on our way rejoicing.

2014-07-27 15.00.12

There were only a couple of small rolling hills left, and we were quickly onto a road which descended from The Bluff into Crows Nest. Not a moment too soon, as I think all of us were feeling fatigued by the climb up from Anduramba.

We rolled into Crows Nest about 3.30pm, and once again we saw a couple of different ways of managing the bike-packing experience. Brad ‘no stove’ Norman sought out the pizza shop while the rest of us went to the IGA to grab supplies that we could cook or snack on (or drink!).

So we come out of IGA with our pathetic snacks, and find that Brad has negotiated that the pizza shop will deliver out to the National Park, 5km out of town. So much pizza and garlic bread was ordered!

Along with their helpfulness on matters pizza-related, the staff there also had information about the weather (it was going to be cold, but stick around cos in a week it’s going to be freezing), and the likelihood of dingoes looking for food at our campsite (possibly just a ruse to ensure that city folks didn’t leave food scraps lying around the place).

We finally made it to the campsite around 4.30, and were set up before dark. Brad and Emma were building a fire as the pizza delivery guy showed up.

Now don’t think that just because pizza and garlic bread had been ordered that all other cooking had ceased. Not at all. Susie’s got half a chook and noodles. Emma and I are both making pasta, and JD’s prevaricating about his Moroccan cous cous.

But with the arrival of the pizza, we managed to eat ourselves into a stupor. There was enough left over to offer a substantial amount to our neighbours in campsite 7. With much discussion of dingoes, we all drifted off to bed, away from the glorious warm fire.

fire in the morning

And as the fire slowly subsided through the night, so did the temperature continue to drop. The apparent temperature in Toowoomba that evening got down to 1.8 degrees C at 5.30 am.

I can’t find any online observations for Crows Nest, but I suspect it would be quite similar. I had gone to bed originally with my down jacket (from Aldi!) on as well as baselayers top and bottom.

But I quickly removed the down jacket, and went to sleep. The second time I got up for the loo, the down jacket stayed as I zipped myself back into the sleeping bag. I was warm enough in the bag, except I couldn’t find a way to close the hood enough to keep my nose warm. So my nose was freezing.

But in the morning, I discovered that a cold nose was the least possible thing to complain about. Both the hammock dwellers had been uncomfortably cold in the night. John froze all night, said he had never been colder. Susie, with a 3/4 length sleeping mat, also said her feet were very cold.

So Brad re-stoked the fire, and we warmed our delicate extremities once more over tea and porridge and coffee.

The last day’s ride seemed on paper to be by far the easiest. Much more descent than ascent. The thing about that is that even when there’s lots of descending, which takes very little effort, whatever climbing there is still requires the same amount of effort that it always does.

on the way to Perseverance

So there were quite a few sharp hills, mixed in among the good times of the downhills, as we surfed the ridgeline down from Crows Nest towards the back end of Lake Perseverance.

The road turned north after a while, and after a beautiful picnic spot at Ivory Creek, we climbed up a bit and met up with The Bluff Road.

The closer to Toogoolawah the fewer downhills we got. And the more bitumen. And even some traffic. After three days of absolutely no traffic, it was necessary finally to keep left and stay tighter together.

With about five km to go, JD launched a surprise attack off the front. In some story-telling session earlier in the trip, I had mentioned the long-running tradition that Bruce and I have, that if you nominate the name of the town first, you are allowed to sprint for the town sign.

Well it seemed JD was making a pre-emptive burst. So I sat about 50-100 metres behind him, towing Susie along. Eventually Emma came past us both, and put in a strong effort to bridge across to JD.

By that time all of us had realised that in between us and Toogoolawah, there was one last stinking hill.

I was the only one with the energy or stupidity to sprint up the last hill, although it would be a charitable interpretation to use that term if you had seen the speed at which the ‘sprint’ occurred.

We regrouped for one last time just over the crest, and rolled triumphantly into Toogoolawah. It was an awesome three days. There was not a cross word spoken amongst any of us the whole time.

Friendships were formed and deepened, the roads were kind, and the sun was shining. Bikepacking is one activity that gives great reward for the effort put in. As I said on Emma’s Instagram post a few hours after we had all made it to our respective homes: A++. 5 stars. Would bikepack with again.

More stuff:

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.

Spicey road to Queens Birthday fun

Brucewez and the Funstar, on Tunstall Rd, near Mt Alford.

Brucewez and the Funstar, on Tunstall Rd, near Mt Alford.

Went for a ride around the Scenic Rim over the last couple of days. Pretty hard to beat the bike riding we found. Some quiet bitumen country roads. Some peaceful dirt country roads. Some hills, some flat. Some headwind, some tailwind. From Boonah to Spicers Gap. And back again.

A good friend to ride with and chat with and eat with, and sleep in relatively close proximity with (I think I did more sleeping than Bruce did).

Just a damn fine couple of days.

Bruce and I support a tree at Spicers Gap campground.

Bruce and I support a tree at Spicers Gap campground.

Governor's Chair lookout is a couple of km up the hill from Spicers Gap campground. The views are beyond sensational.

Governor’s Chair lookout is a couple of km up the hill from Spicers Gap campground. The views are beyond sensational.

A dirt road to ride along. A beautiful SEQ winter's day. This is living.

A dirt road to ride along. A beautiful SEQ winter’s day. This is living.

Bruce likes everything about camping. Just not every moment of it.

Bruce likes everything about camping. Just not every moment of it.

The route from Boonah to Spicers Gap.

And the ride home again, via a coffee in Aratula (the Halfway Cafe, recommended! Friendly service, and a perfectly acceptable cyclist’s brekky).

This isn’t the post I should be writing

One website I visit frequently when seeking inspiration is And some of the readers of that site contribute their set-ups and describe in exhaustive detail which frame bags and seat bags they have spent their money on. Etc and so forth.

Of course, I love all that nerdery. Shovel it down with a spoon.

And because I have access to this special space on the interwebs, here are some pictures of the present state of my bike-packing setup, attached as it is to the bike known to me as the Black Hornet (although lately Emma started calling it Black Betty, so that’s kind of stuck too).

Woa-oh, Black Betty, bam-a-lam.

Woa-oh, Black Betty, bam-a-lam.

My set-up is determinedly idiosyncratic. The frame bag, for example, is certainly 100% custom built, but not by any of the skilled sewers who do this for a living (.e.g the estimable Bike Bag Dude, who made Emma’s matching frame bags and other bike-packing bits).

No, my friend Dean worked from a pattern he found on the Internet, and took some measurements, and we recycled a couple of nylon bags I had floating around the cupboards at home. Et voila, a red/yellow Griffith Uni/ City Cycle frame bag.

Some aspects of the set-up that are notable (well, to me at least):

The clip to hold the hydration hose onto the handlebars was made by me from Plastimake, working from Emma’s original Bike Bag Dude clip.

The green one was the template. Mine is not so pretty, but I reckon it will work.

The green one was the template. Mine is not so pretty, but I reckon it will work.

The small bags that provide the finishing touches, such as the triangular one under the seat, and the orange one next to that which holds my crocs*, and the black one up there on the top tube, next to the stem … none of those bags are bike-packing specific. They’re mostly me bargain-hunting on eBay, and adapting the result to make it work for me!

The Carradice transverse saddle bag … its a Super C, and the rack which supports it is called a Bagman 2 Expedition, also made by Carradice. And this is the post that I should be writing, and perhaps will write sometime soon. Because I bought the saddlebag and the Bagman support from the UK, working on specs published online. When it got here, it quickly became obvious that the stock setup wouldn’t work for me. Black Betty didn’t have the height from the bottom of the seat to the back tyre to accommodate the stock setup for a Bagman Expedition.

A Carradice Super C saddle bag. Tough as a very tough thing ... perhaps heavier than the Tour Divide bike-packing racer dude would use.

A Carradice Super C saddle bag. Tough as a very tough thing … perhaps heavier than the Tour Divide bike-packing racer dudes would use.

And so I went looking on the internet for ways to adapt a Carradice saddlebag setup when you don’t have the right seat height to work with. I didn’t find much, and eventually Bruce and I worked out a solution, which involved building a mounting bracket to get the clearance for the bag to sit in the support. And the support was re-worked to mount onto the rack mounts at the rear hub, rather than those on the seat stays.

And that post, when I write it, might help someone else who has the same issues as me (i.e. their legs are shortish, meaning less seat height to work with).

But I haven’t written it yet. Maybe soon.

Anyway, Bruce and I are out of here for an overnight in the Scenic Rim area. We’ve stayed near this place before … I wonder if that story will come up tomorrow?

* On the subj. of crocs, which I understand are reviled by large sections of the fashion-aware population. And yet, in my view, the perfect footwear around a campsite. My first pair of crocs, which I bought in 2007, were recently thrown in the bin because I had worn through the sole. They cost $12 from Target. My new pair were $8 at Rivers. I hope to get my money’s worth out these ones as well.

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.

Are you gonna sing along, bro?

I’m not a fan of your laddish downhillers really. But I laughed out loud at a bit at the end of this episode of ‘This Is Peaty’, where Josh Bryceland is on the podium at the Cairns round of the World Cup, with a very serious looking fellow Pom, winner of the round Gee Atherton.

As the PA is playing God Save The Queen, ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland turns to Gee and says: “Are you not gonna sing along, bro?”

Gee gives him a stony look. “No.”

Ratboy: “Yeah, I don’t know the words either.”

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.


So, could we keep it down out there?

Pretty please?