Monday, September 24, 2012

Orange Crush 2.0

Spotted on a perfect Spring Saturday strolling the Burnie boardwalk, this tangerine Electra:

You are sooo good looking.
We'd spent the morning seeing uninspiring hybrid after mountain bike rolling along next to the ocean, the casual riders wearing exercise clothes or safety vests but this Electra belonged to an ordinarily dressed lady sitting on a nearby bench, supervising family on the playground. There was a little childrens bike next to it. The bright pop of the frame made me smile and wish my own bicycle was with me. I was enamoured enough to ask her permission to photograph it and she was kind enough to allow me, even moving the little bicycle out of the way. As I'd already interrupted her conversation, I did not stop to ask where she'd purchased the cheerful Electra but I hope she didn't have to import it interstate. I like the thought of a Tasmanian repository for such joy dispensing machines.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friends With Bikes.

There's a bicycle for everyone. Differences in budget, physical requirements and personality contribute to a delightful variety amongst the casual bicycling community, as evidenced by a sampling of my friends with a glimpse of East Perth café strip. Starting with my own bicycles:

Schwinn Jenny 7 Speed 2011 model.
(With another in the background!)
Pashley Princess Sovereign in Buckingham Black.

When bicycle shopping, my physical requirements are not too difficult to satisfy. I prefer to stay on the saddle and toe-touch stabilise the slightly tilted bicycle when at a stop rather than hopping off and standing astride as some people do. I am injury free from the middle down (some neck and shoulder problems) with reasonable strength in my legs thanks to life as a pedestrian. I am 175cm (5ft 9inches) tall, which is either average height or tall depending upon where you live. In Western Australia particularly, I am firmly average so it was very easy for me to find bicycle frames in my size. The Pashley is a medium  20" frame which was also the only available size in Perth. Being on the line between average and tall, I could also fit a 22.5" Pashley frame if it was offered. Some people prefer their bicycles to feel large, Dutch bikes are very good at this but the Pashley strikes me as being designed more compactly and I don't really have a preference in relative scale. Distance between seat and bars matters less in an upright bicycle as you're not stretching your torso forward to the handlebars so I'm happy with the medium. The seat post adjusts to fit my leg length and the bars also raise accordingly so the overall feel of the 20" Pashley for me is 'neatly tailored' rather than tight.

The Schwinn Jenny is a size S(Small) frame and was also the only size available in that particular shop. However, many Schwinn dealers in Australia offer bikes from XS to L so if your requirements are more specific, be sure to check bikeexchange. A sticker affixed to the seat post declared me at the very upper limit of suitability for the small size (It read 'Up to 175cm'.). Again, the seat is high enough so I don't feel cramped. It also has a handy quick adjustment lever which makes it great for lending to bikeless friends of most heights when on social jaunts. The handlebars stay at my preferred height as they require a spanner.

Ginger poses outside of Toast Café East Perth,
a popular non-lycra clad rider bicycle destination.
'Trek 1.2' 2011 model, 18 Speed Aluminium frame Men's Road Bike.
Schwinn Classic Al 3 Speed 2009 model aluminium cruiser.
Pictured at Burnie Beach. (Storm Trooper helmet not included.)
At 186cm tall (6ft and a smidgeon), Ginger is on par with the average Australian man of Gen-Y and a majority in the generations above and below (Each new generation tending to be taller than the last). His Trek 1.2 2011 road bike is a size 56cm/Large men's specific frame. As men have longer torsos compared to leg length, your average lightweight, modern road bike frame is scaled accordingly between seat and handlebars. Traditional style steel flat bar road bikes tend to be unisex with the smaller sized frames being suitable for most women.

Ginger's Schwinn cruiser is officially a men's frame but has a one size fits most construction thanks to the crank forward (aka 'flat foot') positioning of the pedal to seat post relationship. This means that at rest your feet are both firmly touching the ground, making it excellent for nervous cyclists and yet another flexible bike for lending to friends of different heights.

Australian Giant 'Via 2W', 8 Speed 2012 model, XS frame.
All Giant Via for women frames are slender steel with attached basket and an elegantly
swooping, mixte inspired split top tube. American models differ in features and colours.
Boo and Bike, a match made in very short heaven.
At a diminutive 149cm (4ft 11") tall, our friend Boo had some difficulty finding a bicycle frame in Perth as not many retailers in Australia offer truly smaller sized frames. (Just look at how big my small Schwinn is!) Initially she purchased a size S Giant 'Via W' 8 Speed 2011 model in black but even with the seat down as far as it would go, her toe was nowhere near the ground and Boo keenly felt the lack of stability when stopping. There was a half-joking investigation into children's bicycles until it was realised that Giant Australia do actually offer frames in an XS size. Sadly, the 2011 was not available in an extra small as the models were transitioning into 2012 editions (New models of common bike brands arrive mid-year) but fortunately, the shop of purchase was willing to exchange her small 2011 Via for a 2012 in an XS. Rather than black with silver floral flourishes, the 2012 Via 8 Speed was a quirky chocolate with pops of pink and hints of white, giving the whole affair a distinctly 'Rocky Road' vibe. It makes me happy when I see it because it reminds me of marshmallows at a fondue party. Giant Vias also come in 3 or single speed depending upon country of sale. If you are petite, Giant is worth investigating as their XS is in fact EXTRA small.

Mystery Cruiser, Mystery Hippie.
Perhaps a centimetre difference in height compared to me but definitely the same shoe size, The Hippie is also fortunate enough to be average in her bicycle requirements. Her cruiser was purchased from ebay; second-hand and already resprayed. Consequently nobody knows the make or model but I can tell you that it is incredibly heavy so it must be made of steel and also be the oldest of these bikes. As you can see, the frame shape is the same as Ginger's cruiser. Technically I suppose it's a men's frame but the cruiser style reads as unisex so nobody throws rotten fruit at her in the street for defying gender expectations. Like all cruisers, The Hippie's bike has a 'flat foot' position when at rest so fit is flexible and determined by comfort rather than measurements. Together, the cruiser and The Hippie work in laid-back harmony.

Despite differences in bike type, dress and riding style within my own circle of friends, all of our bicycles are compatible because the riders are compatible, willing to stick with each other on social rides no matter how relaxed the pace. Regardless of personality, height, leg length or comfort level there is a bike to satisfy all of us. Do the research, try as many as you can, add some pleasant people and you can't go wrong either.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vintage Ten Speed is Painless, it Brings on Many Changes.

(Apparently the 1980s is Vintage now. I am so very, very old.)

Jealousy and curiosity being equally powerful motivators, it wasn't long after Ginger went Full Roadie that I began to wish I could experience the social aspect of the road ride without all the attendant arse padding. Especially when special 'family' rides were offered by various organisations and I found myself road-blocked from even the lower end rides because my bicycles were too 'slow'. "Road bikes only!" they inevitably specified. Aside from justified outrage that a 'slow' ride did not appear to exist in Perth (I have since discovered there was a Tweed Ride in Fremantle last year. Fie on after-the-fact facts!), I was genuinely interested in expanding my bicycle skills by experiencing different types of bicycles. I had also seen how slender road rider's arms were, thus invoking the third motivator: Vanity. The pseudo-nonchalant viewing of local ebay listings reached its inescapable conclusion…

circa 1980s 10 Speed Repco Traveller.
The comfortingly solid steel and lugged Repco was purchased with visions of a bicycle touring Tasmanian future. These visions are still a work in progress, as is the Repco. It was sold in technically rideable condition but with more room for potential satisfaction than current jubilation. For a start, the brake levers are an evolutionary dead-end in the bicycle world. A dead-end which I came to discover had been lovingly christened, 'Suicide Brakes'.

Suicide and lavender. A winning combination.
Note that the usual brake lever sitting on the curve of the drops has a strange side projection. This runs parallel to the straight middle of the bars, supposedly providing the ability to brake while your hands are on top rather than moving them down to the drops. According to internet bicycle history, sports cycling was all the rage in the 1970s and so bicycle shops sold drop bar road after drop bar road to Average Joe despite what Average Joe (or Jollene's) requirements and skills might actually warrant. Instead of admitting that one style of bicycle does not fit all, (and likely blinded by dollar signs as they rode the craze for…um…road bikes…that they rode.) somebody clever came up with the idea of 'safety brakes'; extra levers right next to the top of the bars, coincidentally where the drop bar averse automatically like to put their hands because going from zero to drop bars is freaking scary and people don't instantly take to hunching forward with reduced field of view. Surprising, I know. Great, right? Safety wins again! Except: Turns out that a secondary brake lever is not nearly as powerful as a primary one so you actually get less braking power from the 'safety' brake. It also turns out that the top middle of the bars is the absolute worst place for an inexperienced road cyclist to put their hands as it gives the least amount of stability and control. Lastly, the suicide levers made other hand positions awkward. Ultimately, brake lever technology moved forward and bicycling fell out of fashion so that unsuitable bicycles were no longer being forced upon unsuspecting and innocently ignorant consumers. Until the mountain bike craze of the 1990s when it happened all over again. And now the hybrid bike push. And fixie epidemic. Anyway, having personally experienced these 'safety' brakes, I can anecdotally confirm that they suck. Stopping distance is not so much about stopping as it is about hoping there is a cushioned surface somewhere in the next 5 metres. Or at least not a car.

Stem mounted gear shifters.
The other problem with the Repco is one of my inexperience rather than mechanics. The stem mounted gear shifters and the gears themselves are terrifying to me. They are not 'indexed' as I am used to when it comes to gears. By not indexed I mean that they, 1. Don't have any kind of numbers or lines anywhere, and, 2. Do not reassuringly 'clunk' into place in the way that I am used to gears sounding. Usually, when shifting gears there is a nice click or a clunk to signal to the modern rider that teeth and cogs are interacting harmoniously and you are not about to participate in anything awful like the chain making a bid for freedom or your face meeting the pavement. If indexed bicycle gearing is like a staircase inside your house, these gears are like finding your staircase has been replaced with a water slide. They are known as friction gears and I am told they are a pleasure if you know how to use them. Because there is no predetermined sweet spot, you are able to tweak them to your liking. Great in theory but as I am still learning how to deal with indexed gears of more than one chainring, still a little above my skillset for now. I am aiming to conquer them though because I would hate to replace something which works and also because I think the stem mounted shifters are very pretty.

Lastly, I am not a huge fan of the orange and silver colour scheme but that's a problem for Future Fat-bottomed Girl and the powder-coater of her choice. Hmm…I've always wanted a cherry red frame…here's the rest of the Repco without comment. Or a bit of comment.

There's that 'Vintage' patina! You know. Rust.
I have no idea if this is good or bad.
Restrained lugs.
"Repco Cycle Company Huntingdale Victoria"
Australian manufacturing or just a sticker?
None of that Yankee spelling here. Ls and Us everywhere!
The days of the metal head badge were but a memory when this Repco was born.
Shimano branding detail.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We are the Champions…of the Driveway.

After a 10 day long bikeless visit from my in-laws, Ginger and I were eager to return to cycling. When people visit us in Tasmania, inevitably there is a lot of walking up stairs and inclines; this holiday was no exception. We scaled 'The Nut' at Stanley…

When it's already called 'The Nut', innuendo becomes redundant.
View from the top. The Zig-Zag path ascends in only a little over 400m so it's rather steep.
Those ascending tend to share a facial expression,
one of 'Abandon hope, all ye who nut.'
Those descending are generally contemplating arthroplasty.
The casual stance of this man is a LIE.

…strolled leisurely down the many mossy steps to the bottom of Guide Falls…

Grey zip-up Hoodie - $39.95 Grey Cardigan - $29.95
Bland Catalogue Posers with Nature's Majesty - Free to a bad home.

…trotted up and down viewing platforms and generally spent time repeatedly navigating the torturous entrances to our abode. Sometimes it felt like exercise but other times it didn't and in between bouts of walking we ate ourselves sick enjoying all the benefits of a burgeoning culinary tourism industry. (Watching Ginger eat Belgian waffles for breakfast at the House of Anvers Chocolate Factory sent me into paroxysms of Gluten Jealousy.) Unfortunately, I was struck down with a sinus infection just before the major walking and spent the day being very dizzy on the sofa instead of visiting Cradle Mountain. Consequently, I wasn't feeling healthy let alone any fitter over the week and was genuinely surprised to discover last Saturday that I could do this:

Usually, I require assistance at this point.

Triumphant and Fat-bottomed about to crest the summit.
Granted, the Jenny is the lightest of my two steel upright bicycles but it's still heavy and I hadn't even attempted to get it up the driveway since my initial failure just after we moved in. As usual, these photos don't do the driveway justice - it's such that Ginger cannot walk down it when he's wearing clipless cycling shoes. He has to carry them down and put them on at the bottom. Taking the bins out is an extreme sport. It's the kind of slope that whispers temptingly every time you roll a bicycle out to the top, "I bet riding down here would be fuuuuun…until you broke your pelvis." Walking our bikes to the bottom often makes the brakes squeak with effort. I was pleased with my calf muscles for propelling the Schwinn post-ride but also mystified as to their sudden strength. I've since decided to credit infrequent road bike bouts on the bike trainer over winter. Now that Spring has arrived, I'm looking forward to a lot more bicycling outside of my lounge room.

And even more ludicrous poses insulting to the natural beauty of the landscape.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Colour Peugeot.

Seen gracefully gliding to a halt in Devonport shopping district on a rainy day, this purple bit of interest:

It took quite a lot of willpower to not title this post after a Prince album.

Despite the smaller wheels messing with expectations of perspective, this is actually an adult Peugeot brand bicycle in the 'shopper' style that is once again becoming popular thanks to manufacturers like Bobbin. I'd guess it's from the same era as the Indi 500 Family Bicycle, late 1970s or early 1980s? Its compact convenience even appears to be complimented by a basic folding mechanism as evidenced by the hinge on the down tube. The Tasmanian rider of the Peugeot was young, hip and female - a cyclist almost as rare as her bicycle despite Devonport cycling infrastructure being the most comprehensive on the north coast. It made me smile because it's great to see increasing diversity amongst Tasmanian cyclists, hopefully the new spring weather will encourage all the less 'serious' riders to venture out on their bicycles and afford me more bicycle spotting opportunities!