Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hittin' The Ground. (Why I hate the Pashley Princess Kickstand)

Anybody who owns a factory standard Pashley can attest to two things:

1. The Pashley (Princess Sovereign) is a heavy bicycle, and
2. The included kickstand is six kinds of incapable of dealing with fact number 1.

Even without any baskets, without any front or rear load, the included single kickstand just cannot be relied upon no matter how much careful front wheel skewing you may take as a precaution. And the second you add any kind of cargo you'd better start leaning it against a wall or handing it off to a friend if you want to let go of it for a minute. As you can imagine, this makes attaching said cargo an exercise in bullshit if you are travelling alone. All the more frustrating considering the included back rack is rated to carry a child seat! Better have great dental coverage for your toddler before you trust that single kickstand.

Yes, many a time in the first blush of Pashley ownership did I blithely turn my back only to hear the tell-tale sound of gravity beating the kickstand into submission. It's gotten so I am adept at accurately identifying potential kick-stand failure scenarios and with a special kind of vigilance specific to the anal retentive I was enjoying a long period of incident free Pashley ownership - Until last weekend, when the Pashley surprised me with a brand new kind of failure.

I was putting the bicycle away after an invigoratingly chilly 20km through North West Tasmanian coastal farm lands (goose shit included). I began the Pashley propstand/kickstand ritual which is now automatic.

Rural bike path hazards.
Pictured: Almost as much shit as you'll get from the Pashley kickstand.

Standing on the left of the cargo-free bicycle, I deployed the kickstand on solid ground to the right. I then positioned the front wheel to 'maximum skew' so that it could not independently skew itself and send the bike toppling over towards me. I gave the whole thing a bit of a jiggle to make sure it was sturdy, held it steady for a moment and then slowly let go to unlock the door. (I have to do this every. Single. Time.) It was then I heard that familiar warning creak. I quickly turned to catch the Pashley, expecting to see it bearing down on me as usual but as I grasped the left grip I realised it was falling away from me, the bloody useless kickstand having failed to fulfil the most fundamental requirement of the single kickstand/bicycle contract. In a final indignity, my quick reflexes did indeed allow me to catch the bike by the handlebars but only so that I could slow its descent and press the front tyre against my shin where the spinning wheel did a little burn-out on my leg. I was glad to be wearing thick tights or I would have lost some skin. I was compelled to photograph its shame:

"You're embarrassing yourself."

It is now my mission to outfit the Pashley with an annoyingly costly and unavailable locally double kickstand but I do so with a disgruntled sigh, resenting the fact that it did not come with one when the weight and potential for human (and inanimate) cargo so obviously requires something more than currently provided!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Red Right Wheel.

I was pleased when I saw this glistening Cannondale. It was chained up outside a Burnie supermarket like a faithful dog awaiting the return of her owner.

The green pedal/bar tape combo and lonely red wheel caught my eye. It's an insouciantly eclectic colour mix that could either be left over from the factory or due to natural evolution of replacement parts. It made me wonder what happened to the other red wheel. Either way it's the kind of well loved and frequently used bicycle that makes me think the owner would not necessarily be a tool. I also appreciate anybody who matches their helmet to their frame.

Beach Blanket Baby (Electra Boogaloo Redux)

In the fortunately flat town of Ulverstone, the bike shop is helping to disseminate more upright bicycles into the North West of Tasmania. Walking past after closing time, I spied this Electra beach cruiser in their window:

It's the steel framed ladies Cruiser 1 in blue, priced at AU$359. Single speed, coaster/back pedal brake. I have an aversion to back-pedal brakes now that I'm a weak-kneed adult and I'd personally want more than one speed but then, I live on the side of a cliff and not beachy smooth Ulverstone. The colour is certainly a glorious match for the nearby sparkling water.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tour De Bore 2013.

It's that time of year again in the Fat-Bottom household. Time for late nights, tour tracker graphs and the piquant mixing of vague national pride with mind numbing boredom. Really, as an Australian watching the Tour De France this year I could not be more proud:

(Source: au.sports.yahoo.com)

You're welcome, every person in the bicycle sport spectator world. Not only is it the most interesting thing an Australian has ever done in the Tour (And I include 'Our Cadel' in that sweeping statement) it also birthed the best Twitter hashtag of the week. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there as Orica yawningly redeemed themselves by winning a couple of stages or something, I don't know - I was simultaneously reading Game of Thrones so it was a contest between which kind of carnage caught my attention. Something did catch my attention during ad breaks in the long broadcast and it was my adopted state of Tasmania's so-dumb-it's-genius application of, well…look, just see this:

In case you didn't know, Tasmanian Salmon is a B.F.D in Australia. And in case you missed the long form of the campaign, Tasmanian Salmon is a 'natural performance enhancer' (Sneer sneer on YOU, dopers!) as evidenced by the fact that Tasmanian Pride and Tour De France Person Richie Porte is a graduate of 'The Huon Salmon – Genesys Wealth Advisers Pro Cycling' team. You know, that one. I particularly admire the whacked-out VICTORY! closing shot which I get to see every single ad break because the live feed cycles (see what I did) through the same 3 advertisements every. Single. Night.

"Mother. Fucking-"


There's also this:

Yeah, that's a pretend live salmon stuffed near his crack.

Even before moving here I had eaten my own enormous share of Tasmanian salmon and while I can confirm it is delicious, it has yet to propel me far beyond the Burnie Boardwalk. One thing you will see if you watch the long version or visit the website is where Porte got his stamina; A lot of Tasmanian landscape is featured, nonsensically masquerading as France (The Allez! sign) or at least as somewhere more exotic than down under Down Under but you can clearly see it is made up of the kind of gradients that would serve you well if dreaming of the Tour.

Until the bitter end of this event, Ginger and I will continue to stay up until 2am waiting to watch one minute of cycling even though the preceding 3 hours and 59 minutes contain not nearly enough castles and bloodshed. For that, I still have my Game of Thrones book.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Devonport Bicycle Path Picnic.

Last month Ginger and I decided it was high time we experienced both the Devonport cycleway and our new picnic blanket. So like the Middle-Middle classes to which we aspire, we bought some extra special treats from Burnie Farmers Market, packed up the basket and bikes and drove East to grab a perfect piece of the new Winter sunshine.

This is what a fortnightly Treat Buying Expedition looks like.
And also why I am fat.
Devonport (third largest population centre in Tasmania) has an almost fully formed cyclepath network, the council has a pretty decent transportation strategy and the vision to implement it, if not the funds to make it as smooth and continuous as Perth. The section we chose was the Don to Devonport trail, running from the middle of town out along the coast and finishing at the Don River Railway tourist attraction.

The middle of Devonport is not your standard town centre, it's also the arrival point for the Spirit of Tasmania ferries; luxury passenger liners sailing from Melbourne to Tasmania, transporting Grey Nomads and their caravans. You can even walk off the ferry and hire a bicycle or bring your own if you're up for some touring. One of them was in port when we arrived so we stared at it for a while. We also stared at the ugliest lighthouse I have ever seen.

Spirit of Tasmania, Pashley in Picnic Portage Mode™.
Be more quaint and less functional!
Sculptures on the Mersey River path.

We were both eager to have lunch sooner rather than later so I saved most of the route documentation for the journey back from Don. The path led us along the Mersey river through the heart of Devonport and out to the recently refreshed waterfront. There you'll find a burger bar, playground, toilets, beach showers and the bluffs. Also the attractive Mersey Bluff lighthouse if you divert a bit but we were hungry so we rode on.

The beach on the return trip.

The way there, where Devonport meets the sea and I photograph
shifty looking men exiting public toilets.
Briefly considered this beach picnic spot.

Once we left the beach, the path quickly became empty and wound through some rapidly changing landscapes. After the typical gum trees and shrubbery of the main beach we encountered these oddly manicured looking 'transitional' flora, still right next to the ocean though it was hidden from us by their dense canopy and the rise above sea level. (Even though we didn't seem to climb) They looked like they'd spent a lot of evolutionary energy adapting perfectly to the windy, salty bluffs. The first trip through was at high noon so they looked especially odd without shadows, I photographed them on the way home at about 4pm.

The rounded foliage gave way to an open view of the ocean and a brief flirtation with the suburbs before plunging us into some straight-up temperate rainforest. Here we started to descend. I wish I'd taken a picture of the zig-zag trail but the trees made it basically impossible and riding down it was far too much fun to stop. There were swoops and little wooden bridges all through it and I rode with a smile plastered on my stupid face even though the entire time I was dreading hauling the Pashley back up. This rainforest section of the path was quite narrow, unevenly surfaced due to tree roots and very busy with joggers and family strolls in some sections. I was pretty glad to have the weight of the Pashley rolling tank-style over bumps; although I discovered on the way back that a big enough bump will knock a hub brake right out of your front wheel. Fortunately the counter-discovery was that you can just pop it back in with your fingers.

Well after the zig-zag, a return to flat land.

Eventually the forest thinned out, the tree trunks became more spindly and we were expelled into the carpark of the Devonport Aquatic centre before returning to the trail. We were crossing train tracks still in use but there was plenty of signage on the official crossing points. Towards the end we could see we'd left the coast entirely and come up next to the Don river. On the way back I made Ginger hold the Pashley upright (fie on the included kick-stand!) while I took a picture of the afternoon view, wood smoke was sitting like mist in the valley as the sunshine waned.

"Hold my shit while I capture nature."


At last we reached the Don River Railway leisure ground, just in time to see a delightful display of steam (not a euphemism) before 'Getting our Picnic On' (totally a euphemism). Next to a car park. Oh, well. It's a Car, Car, Car, Car World after all. But we had the whole place to ourselves and the banks made it remarkably peaceful. It was very tempting to fall asleep in the sunshine and we were very full of Ribena and cakes so we had a nice rest.

Don River Railway. We've been on the train. It's worth it.
Not using the creepy picnic shelter.
The not quite distant enough tranquility of the Don River Railway car park.
Idiots doing Picnic in public.
The Tourism Tasmania version.
The winter sun combined with my wool tights for a toasty fat bottom.
Another Tourism-ready view.

Sadly, we could not tarry because I had to get the Pashley up the zig-zag and back to town. I actually managed to do it without once getting off to push, though I've never before spent so much time in first gear! We reached Devonport with enough light to spare for a quick spin on a breakwater to mark the setting sun.

As far as you're supposed to go.
There were fishermen/women climbing over the rails anyway.
Public art unimpeded by railings.
(No, I didn't climb over.)
Mersey Bluff sunset before the drive home.