Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Australian Bicycles for Beginners.

Salutations from Perth: Bicycle Backwater of Australia.
It's been a bicycle wasteland but this decade, things are looking up and I'm looking to ride. And learn.
Typographic Anatomy of a Bicycle from HOTaar.
Let's learn about bicycles together, shall we?

Note: It seems I have unknowingly paid 'an homage' (a wankish way of saying 'ripped off') to BikeSnobNYC. That'll teach me to not read his book. As this is Australia specific and regards bikes rather than riders, I can be forgiven?

And now…

Types of Bicycles and the Australian Bike Ecosystem.
 (Images from Wikipedia, Observations more biased than your racist Granny meeting your Japanese exchange student.)

'Traditional' road bike.
  • Road Bike - A 'Serious' bicycle for travelling at efficient speed on sealed surfaces such as roads, pavements, cycle paths and in your face; The commuting bike of choice. Typically characterised by a diamond frame with 'drop' handlebars, thinner tyres and a narrow, occasionally Freudian shaped saddle designed to be splayed over in an aerodynamic position rather than firmly and luxuriously sat on. Modern road bikes are light and without 'comfort' features such as mudguards, bells, chain covers, provision for portage (baskets, racks etc) or even kick-stands. They can range in price from an entry level sporty look aluminium frame (around AU$700) to a traditional, pared back heavier steel (Which can be hand fabricated by a frame maker for thousands of dollars) to the kind of feather-weight carbon fibre, sell your kidney on the black market, decal covered monstrosity you see burning past you during rush hour with the headlight set to 'Epilepsy' and the rider's powerful glutes inescapably defined by logo covered synthetic fabrics.

    'Modern' style road bike.
    Up Yours attitude not included.
    Road bikes have the potential to go very fast depending upon how light and/or expensive they are - we're talking paying over $100 for a carbon drink bottle cage because it's a few grams lighter than the aluminium one. They are as close to the dick-measuring car culture as you can get without adding two more wheels and a roof. Thus they are the most popular everyday bike in Perth and have evolved to become largely the domain of the middle-aged Y chromosome. Just like not all Ferrari convertible drivers are pricks… Anyway, there are indeed pleasant 'Roadies' of all shapes, ages and genders out there. Some of my best friends are roadies, I swear! But the sad majority are speed driven commuter-bots secretly racing every other object on the road in an invisible Tour de France inside their pants. If they ever slow down enough to heap scorn upon less 'serious' cyclists it's only really because their sports Raybans need adjusting.
Those bottle cages cost him an inch.
  •  Touring Bike - A rare beast in Suburban Perth. Take a road bike. Add all the things that you wish your road bike had if every 50 grams didn't deduct a centimetre from your knob. Mudguards, front and back racks, a more comfortable saddle and maybe even more upright handlebars. Treat yourself and buy that aluminium bottle cage. Touring bikes are designed for longer distance travel with varying amounts of luggage so they have to be strong, reliable and potentially able to take a beating. Perhaps the journey itself is your destination - like cycling around Australia to justify all the money you just spent on waterproof panniers. Or perhaps you're only going for a discounted 'mini-break' in your state's wine country but you still want to bring back as much Shiraz as it takes to forget your wasted life. Either way, the touring bike is there to carry your junk. In all senses.

    Touring bikes don't have to be diamond frames, any bicycle you'd feel comfortable riding continuously that is rated strong enough to carry your luggage can be classed as a touring bike but the most popular frames for touring are usually diamond due to their inherent speed, strength and extra space between tubes for attaching things. Mixte frames are also used, their geometry makes them more sturdy than a loop frame, combining road bike like speed along with the more upright position. I've never seen an official touring bike in the wild but there are plenty of ZZ Top escapees pedalling around my neighbourhood with scrap metal tied to their handlebars and 25 plastic bags hung off their pannier racks.

The elusive Mixte.
  • Mixte Frame - A more 'serious' (Read: Men are willing to ride them) step-through frame configured as though the top tube of a diamond frame fell down and became lodged on the back wheel. And sometimes split in half. Just look at the damn picture. Although all basic bicycle frame shapes are technically unisex, Mixte is French for 'Mixed' indicating the frame was deliberately intended for mixed use. Basically, men who require a step-through frame are less embarrassed by the straight lines of the mixte than they would be by the girly associations of the 'loop' frame. Unless they're Dutch and then they don't give a fuck. When it comes to bicycles as pure transportation and not a warring fringe culture, the Dutch don't play. And if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much.

    If mixte frames exist in Perth then their owners are clearly hoarding them inside underground bunkers in preparation for the zombie apocalypse when we cyclists will really come into our own. The petrol reliant will be eaten by the inevitable zombie hiding in the back seat of their Toyota Prado, spraying brains all over their custom 'My Family' window stickers while we bicycle the hell out of dodge. I can only confirm that mixtes exist in Australia at all because I saw some on eBay for sale in Melbourne. Of course.

Cruiser style.
Going Dutch.
  • Upright Bike - Also known as Town Bike, City Bike, Loop Frame, Dutch Frame, Granny Bike, Step Through Frame, Oma or Vintage Bike. Enjoying a Hipsterette led resurgence (but if that means I can actually buy a bicycle from a shop then carry on, Hipsters). With their medium to fat tyres, wider saddles and high, swooped back handlebars - this is quintessential bicycle. Different models may include coat/skirt guards, chain guards, mud guards, cruiser saddles, pannier racks, baskets, lights, bells... Every classic bicycle clichĂ© involving women starts here. Mary Poppins, bagettes and cycling in floral skirts. The common feature of these bicycles is their feeling of stability thanks to their chair-like geometry, extra weight (Dutch bikes in particular will dislocate your shoulder taking them up stairs.) and wide view of the road. This makes them feel safer as well as giving the ability to ride in 'Everyday' clothes and on varied surfaces in most weather conditions. The permutations of the upright bike are endless and personal choice should be made dependent upon your requirements and geography although there's plenty of room for personal style. Perth is slowly amassing upright bike distributors, although it's still only a little corner of particular bike shops and asking to buy one in most of them guarantees you a sneer and a heaping spoonful of head-patting. Nobody specialises in only selling these types of bikes (unlike road bikes) so more exotic made in America models are unheard of but a couple of Dutch and the occasional English model make it out here. Of course, anything made in Asia is abundant and most major mass market brands have one upright offering, like the 'Giant Via'. Melbourne decided to bypass the indignity of relying on imports and opened their own Hipster bike shops. Of course. Some of their bikes are starting to appear here as shop display items.

  • "I nicked the socket set out of
    your shed while doing a sick 360!"
  •  BMX Bike - 'Bicycle Motocross' Bike, small and low for doing tricks off sweet ramps in your backyard or in official competition but more likely being ridden around the neighbourhood by greasily dodgy teenage boys. The skateboard of bicycles. Owned by every 15 year old scrote from 1990 onwards. If you see a BMX near your house you've probably just been burgled.

"This is not a BMX bike, how DARE you!"
  • Mountain Bike - Bike for stupidly flinging yourself down the side of a hill while doing complex tricks like avoiding trees, avoiding animals and avoiding rocks. For people who believe they are superior to BMX bikers because a) Their bike has suspension and cost more and b) They're doing it OUT IN NATURE. If you gather more than one Mountain Biker in a room it will take less than 3 minutes for them to start exchanging gruesome stories about various fractures.

  • Somebody devolve that thing.
    Hybrid Bike - A Road Bike and a Mountain Bike had a hideous baby. Aesthetically (and I hear to an extent functionally) this is the worst of all bicycles crammed into one. That is if you're an everyday person trying to recapture the pleasure of cycling. This is what Perth bike shops were selling to anyone who wasn't a Roadie and wanted a leisure ride around the local park. Then the Hipster bike trend brought back the classic frame shape. I've never seen anybody smile on a hybrid bike except in a bike catalogue.

    "I'm fucking ridiculous!
  • Fixies - Fixed Gear Bicycle. Once known as the shitty bike you had before you were old enough to be trusted with expensive gears, single and fixed gear bicycles have reemerged at 30 times the price of your childhood wheels. To make a Fixie: Take one road bike. Remove anything vaguely useful. Voila! Now you are trapped in your house because Perth has hills. Australian suburbs have hills. Only inner city Melbourne is flat enough and contains enough Hipsters to even make the concept of fixed gear as transport possible. If you aren't currently cycling in a continuous loop around a velodrome and you don't live in inner city Melbourne (and if you do, it's actually designed for walking! Why aren't you walking? That tram is going to send you and your pointless status symbol to a hook-turn grave!) then you've just wasted a lot of money. And will soon have legs like tree trunks. I hope you like Scottish dancing because you're going to be good at it.


    1. For demostrating a dance she sure didn't seem happy, just like those hipsters after climbing a hill..

      Whoever told you Melbourne was flat lied. Lying liar McLying pants on fire lie. (It's why we have trams you see, to take us up those hills).

      Some recent Mixte and (dare I say it) Hybrid frame bikes are actually quite cute; the Electra Mixte and Giant Cypress come to mind but still in terms of comfort and practicality "Vintage style" is best. That's what they call them in shops, never mind the fact that that's what most of Europe and Asia rides.

      Fix geared bike look good. And customising is fun but totally useless. I suspect the people that have them here use them to go around the block/get coffee?

    2. When I said Melbourne was flat enough for fixed gear, I really only meant RIGHTINTHECENTRE, a few blocks around Flinders and across to the gallery. Which is an area so small and congested that there's no reason to cycle, anyway - but Hipsters aren't known for their practicality and like you say, they're only on the bicycle for a block until they reach the 'right' café to park in front of.

    3. I had a laugh reading through your descriptions of the different bicycle types (Freudian shaped saddle) :). There's a bike for every purpose, that's all there is.

      1. Indeed! As much as I take pleasure in mocking - seeing any person on any bicycle makes the world a better place :)

    4. Nice post. I was looking like this. Really it is very useful and informative post. Thanks for sharing. Thanks again!

    5. What a blog post!! Very informative and also easy to understand. Looking for more such comments!! Do you have a facebook? I recommended it on digg. The only thing that it’s missing is a bit of new design.All about bikes