Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yay, at last a ride lasting more than 10 minutes!

Gosh, it's been weeks since I've had a decent cycle. I contracted a bug on 1 December that's plagued me on and off since then, and before that we were interstate for a few days. In a nutshell my cycling muscles have gone to seed.

It was with a ton of joy I got onto Penelope Pashley today and had a forty minute ride. Half way through I was feeling it though. I'm still a bit weak from the bug I had and was coughing mightily. But with the fresh, cool, north east wind blowing on a summer's evening it was pure pleasure, even if much, much harder work than it was six weeks ago.

It's amazing how quickly one becomes unfit. I'd had a couple of rides to the shops lately and found it easy even laden with groceries. But those are mini rides, mere bagatelles. Even a forty minute ride is nothing really, but it was today.

Whatever the case, it was just flippin' fantastic to get out there and pedal. More of it tomorrow!

Just peachy... and then the oil exploded

In my pocket-sized courtyard garden I've got a veggie bed currently producing Rouge de Marmande tomatoes among other things, and it's a real delight to pick a fresh, sun-warmed tomato every day for our salad lunch. For the last few days we've also been enjoying our own peaches. I have a miniature fruit tree in a tub; while the tree is less than a metre high, it produces full-sized fruit and the flavour is soooo much better than anything bought at a shop. The tree is only young, and this year it gave me 13 peaches. We've eaten half, but here's a sample of what's left. A few marks from branches, but grub-free thanks to the EcoLure organic fruit fly destroyer I used earlier in the year.
Yum, yum, yum. But speaking of other yummy things I've been preparing recently....

Owning cats means you occasionally hear weird noises in the house often followed immediately by the sound of breaking glass, shattering china or something solid thumping to the ground. This year we've become accustomed to hearing the small Christmas tree we have fall over. I'm sure the cats think,"TimBERRRR!" as they give it a push. Last night we were sitting in the living room enjoying a re-run of Doctor Who when there was the ominous noise of breaking glass from the kitchen.

"Bloody cats!" grumbled my husband.

"Charley!!!" I yelled, for that is Birman Boycat's name and it's usually he who causes any breakages.

To our surprise no nervous cats came scattering through the kitchen door - they usually bolt from the scenes of their crimes. In fact they were both in the living room behind the sofa looking at us with mild surprise. Why were we jumping up like we'd seen a bird fly onto the fence? Had someone mentioned fish and they hadn't heard it?

In the kitchen my last bottle of Chilli and Garlic Infused Oil was in pieces. The top third of the bottle, cap intact, was on the floor. The rest of the bottle lay in splintered pieces on the bench. The oil was everywhere. All over the bench, all over the floor. The room reeked of garlic.

We came to the conclusion that the garlic - or the chilli - was actually fermenting, and had caused enough pressure during this process to make the bottle explode. I've never had that happen with my oils in previous years. I suspect the garlic clove I'd used for this bottle - which was to be my own - was a little past its prime hence the fermentation. It must have gone off like a bomb as it had knocked a plastic jar 1/4 full of honey to the floor.

Cleaning it up was a bugger. We scraped the oil from the benches into the bin, and used an astonishing amount of paper towel to mop up the remainder. Then it was time for the secret weapon. The Enjo green glove and mop.

I love Enjo. This Austrian company makes the best cleaning products ever. You can't buy them in the supermarkets, you buy them on a party plan basis where the sales rep demonstrates them and takes your order. I'd been sceptical until I bought the starter kit. Then I ordered other bits and pieces as the system is so good. All you need is the Enjo glove, water, and an old towel to dry the bench etc off with. I don't sell Enjo but I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone. Good for the environment, too: no chemicals or detergents are used when you clean with Enjo.

A couple of years ago I'd broken a bottle of olive oil on the kitchen floor and nothing could clean it properly. I tried dishwashing liquid, and floor cleaning detergent, but the floor was still slippery as ice. Then I tried my green Enjo mop and a bucket of hot water - should have thought of it first - and the floor was normal again after only one scrub at it. I was thrilled (gosh, how housewifey this sounds!), and grabbed the mop again last night to sort out the floor without mucking around with other detergents. Once again it worked a treat, straight away.

I think I'll be trying a slightly different process next time I make a batch of infused oil! :-)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Only 363 days till NEXT Christmas...

So now we're knuckling down to consuming turkey leftovers for the next few days. The cats think it's heaven and so does the dog. We had a good Christmas Day at my mother's house, where Birman Boycat amused himself by removing some of the Christmas tree decorations and batting them around the floor, then to make sure we paid attention to him jumped on the dining table. Luckily we'd finished eating. He doesn't dare jump on the table at home but takes enormous liberties at Mum's house. He simply turns those big blue eyes on her and she melts. Dog played politely with guest dog belonging to our friends and Birman Girlcat said "Bah, Humbug!", ignored everyone and slept through the day.

My ear, nose and throat bug is threatening a return, and I felt less than good yesterday. Scottish husband recommended a whisky cure last night so I had two nips followed by a hot toddy, and while I feel better today I still don't have the energy to go cycling. Which is annoying because it's stopped raining. Yes, we had a wet Christmas rather than a white one, and very grateful we were too in this droughty old land.

Never mind... I have eleventy gazillion new books to read courtesy of family and friends, which I can indulge in while my cough goes away and my ears return to normal. At the moment I'm reading a new bio of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir, and it's riveting. The evidence points towards her well and truly being framed by Henry's cohorts and henchmen, who convince Henry she's been unfaithful and treasonous. With Jane Seymour already in his lustful sights Henry is all too willing to believe it...

Another hot toddy tonight and Penelope or Petunia should be able to have some exercise tomorrow, even if it's only a ride to the shops. Meanwhile, Tudor England beckons.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer's day, flowing skirt

This week t'other half and I made a pledge that no matter what we needed at the shopping centre, we were cycling there to get it. It's bedlam this time of year if you drive a car there. Harassed mothers with carsful of children wanting to see Santa Claus; equally harassed mothers pushing overladen trolleys in every direction and hanging desperately onto screaming toddlers; cars circling around and around in the heat trying to find a place. You can leave our place on two wheels and be chaining your bike up inside ten minutes, and that's cycling slowly. No traffic, no waiting around to find a park. The parking angel is always looking kindly on you when you cycle there.

I had to go down there today to get my eyes tested. I've seen a gorgeous pair of frames at half price and needed to know my prescription was still valid. It was. Not that that's relevant to this story.

Anyway, I'm a big wimp when it comes to cycling at temps above 30 celsius, and our neighbour's outdoor thermometer registered 35 when I set off on Penelope. Ugh. However... despite the helmet I stayed cool as whizzed along in the slight breeze; movement itself cooled me down, and if I sweated a little the air rushing past my damp skin did the trick. Now I'm home again I'm BOILING though - it was that last push up that last hill that did it!

Today I chose to wear a long, full skirt of fine, light cotton. I've never cycled in this one before, and it did what full skirts did and blew everywhere. Not to worry; I tucked it firmly under my backside as I sat on the saddle. I also, because nobody should be subjected to a glimpse of these thunder thighs, wore a pair of lightweight bike short-type pants underneath :-).

I usually wear an old pair of prescription RayBans when I cycle in case they fall off; they're so old it's no big deal. Today though, in honour of the pretty skirt, I wore my usual sunnies, vintage 1950s cats' eye frames with my prescription lenses. I love these frames. I bought them two years ago at a vintage clothing fair and it was clear from their condition they had never been used. They'd just sat in someone's drawer, waiting for me to find them and put them to loving use.
As you can see they have diamantes on the cats' eye edges. Gorgeous!

There's a storm outside now, so I've just got back in time. Big spots of rain are splodging against the window. Nice! Think I'll go and stand in the rain for a bit and cool down :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

How hard can it be... (3)

Yay, one of my recalcitrant clients has finally paid me for a job I did six months ago. It's not a fortune, but I'm so delighted that I'm going to splurge a bit of it on a Basil shopper bag. I've been admiring the bags and panniers for months and thought I'd settled on something fairly quiet and tasteful, which would blend in nicely with both Penelope and Petunia, viz:

Then I got thinking. Did I really want to leave expensive panniers like this on my bike while I'm at the supermarket? I heard a horror story from the pet food shop guy today, when I walked in with my helmet still on to buy the cats a week's worth of meat. "Have you tied your bike up?" he said, and I nodded. "Good, because a few days ago a guy left his bike outside and was in here for less than a minute. His bike was gone when he went out." That's the kind of suburb we live in at the moment; if it ain't tied down it's gone, and I could just imagine someone unbuckling those rather nice panniers and bolting with them. And if I got them I'd still have to take shopping bags with me anyway into the supermarket, and then decant them into the panniers. These particular panniers take about 15 litres each.

And that's when I saw the new 2010 range for Australia on the Gazelle website. Gazelle imports the Basil range and while this year's range has been basic it's been expanded nicely for next year. The Mirte shoppers hold 16 litres and this one below just resonated with me.

It's unashamedly girly, and not at all what I was originally looking for in terms of colour for my shopping bag, but I've fallen for it. It clips neatly on and off the rear pannier rack so I can take it into the supermarket and fill it up. I usually wear a little rucksack on my shopping trip for more delicate squashable things, and I have the front basket too, so should be able to comfortably do a grocery shop with all that lot combined.

I rang Gazelle, who are the wholesalers for Australia, and was told I'd have to order it through a bike shop. I mentioned the one we go to for tyre changes and other bits and pieces, and Alex at Gazelle suggested I talk to them and order the bag through them. They have three shops, and I have seen Gazelle bikes in the metal at the biggest of the shops 8km away.

How hard can it be?

Danny, the guy at my local shop 3km away, had never heard of Gazelle or Basil when I rang him. This is a shop which sells a lot of mountain bikes and BMXs. I did see one cruiser in there last time I visited. It's a blokey sort of place though. I explained the story so far to him and that his company did retail Gazelle and Basil. Finally I persuaded him to ring the bigger store and talk to them; at this point I was thinking, "oh hell, stop trying to support the local economy, just buy one from the UK or US on eBay as you'll pay about the same and heaven only knows it'll be an easier process" and wondering if the guy on the other end of the phone did actually believe me and there was truly a brand of bike called Gazelle.

Danny rang back five minutes later, stunned and excited. Yes, the big shop did sell Gazelle and did I know how much the bikes went for? Why, there was one there for $1800; pricey eh? And that wasn't the most expensive. Which model did I want him to order for me? Again, patiently, I explained I wasn't after the bike, I was after the bag, and the Gazelle importer imported the bags as well. Deflated, he finally understood and took the model number for the Mirte bag. However, as I'd investigated Gazelle before buying Penelope Pashley I had a chat to him about the bikes and how lovely they were, if definitely out of my price range (especially the one I'd been eyeballing). He's now going to treat himself to a test ride next time he's down at the big shop.

So it was a bit of an effort, but I've ordered the bag. It should arrive in Australia in about 2 weeks' time. I hope I've done the right thing and shouldn't have got the panniers after all! But no, at the thought of having to ring up and change the order... and just in case Danny's out and I have to speak to someone else and start all over again... AARRRGHH!!! :-))

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Tis the season and all that

Did the last, the very last, of the Christmas shopping today as well as stocking up on so-fresh goodies at the local farmers' market this morning. Not that we'll get much chance to sample them this weekend. We've been deluged with invitations to parties.

Firstly we're off to a BBQ tonight with friends I've known for about 25 years. Sadly our spaniel (below) isn't invited. She used to be when she was a puppy but then she made the awful mistake puppies make when they're a bit nervous with shrieking kids running around them and did a small puddle on their carpet. I was mortified but heck, the two kids in the house had done a lot more damage than that over the years. Anyway, poor pooch, she's on their blacklist even five years later. Even though the party is out in their backyard and there'll be other dogs there. Makes me feel a bit unwelcome as all our other friends like our dog and she certainly doesn't pee indoors any more. I guess we're a bit different as we treat our animals as family members rather than pets whose place is firmly outdoors whatever the climate and weather, which is how these particular friends view their two dogs. Our spoiled lassie sleeps on her own bed in our bedroom. Our cats sleep wherever they want - usually on our bed :-).

And then there's the shoe thing. You have to take your shoes off at their door. Makes it bloody cold in winter when you visit them, and in summer I'm confronted with bare feet en masse, and I'm not a foot person. I guess I haven't seen too much of these old friends in the last few years for these two reasons; I feel a bit uncomfortable in their house. I could understand the shoe rule if they had a posh marble floor or valuable carpets, but it's a suburban house much like ours and has polished floorboards and rugs stained with fruit juice and other stuff the kids spill.

Tomorrow we have a lunch with friends of t'other half, who have become my friends too. Dog welcome. Another BBQ. Far more relaxed than tonight's I'm thinking! These two are a bit bohemian,which suits me fine.

And tomorrow night it's another friend's birthday party. Surprise - it's a BBQ. Dog welcome as their dog enjoys the company.

By then I'll be BBQd out! We grabbed low alcohol beer and wine this morning to take along to these parties to ensure we don't end up with the hangovers from Hell come Monday. I'm on holidays from Monday so am planning plenty of cycling for next week - hurrah! The weather is forecast to be Just Perfect for most of the week.

And finally... a cheerful Christmas wish to everyone from my Birman boy cat... aka Santa Claws in this case. Corny I know - we used this pic for our own Christmas cards to family and friends this year as he has such a cheeky expression.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Marathon Man explodes again - and the good oil

T'other half has a habit of blowing his inner tubes. He'd blown both on my old MTB and I think realistically it was because he was too heavy for it. He got two punctures on his tourer before fitting it with Schwalbe Marathons - and omitting to tell the bike shop guy to put new tubes in at the same time as there were small punctures in both. So since the Marathons were fitted he has to pump the tyres up from nearly flat before each ride.

Both of us have been struck down by nasty bugs in the last few weeks and haven't ridden as much as we'd like. Marathon Man, however, decided he'd pump up his tyres last week and take his tourer for a spin around the block. He got out into the lane and BANG! With a sound like a gunshot the front inner tube exploded with such force it blew the tyre off the rim. Whoops!! We looked at it... there was a hole in the tube you could put your fist into.

So new inner tubes have now been installed on his tourer.

On checking my bikes at the weekend poor old Petunia, whom I haven't ridden in a month, has a dead flat back tyre despite her Schwalbes. I'd expect a bit of deflation but this is annoying. T'other half had 'borrowed' the valve cap from her rear tyre to put on his for a few weeks to test if it stopped the tyres deflating (the bike shop had conveniently neglected to return one of his valve caps when they fitted the tyres the first time). So I'll pump her up and see if was just a leaky valve. I'm finally feeling well enough to get back on the bikes; my ears are still full of fluid and my balance isn't great, but my stamina is returning. A few of my friends have had this bug and we've all been on antibiotics and feeling totally crap.

To keep myself amused I've been making Christmas presents. We have a tacit agreement among our friends that we try and limit spending to about $20 per person. Books fall nicely into this category, as do high quality calendars, potplants and the rest. This year most of my friends are getting plants I've propagated, and either home made marmalade or my own Chilli & Garlic oil, which is dead easy to make. The key thing is to use very good quality first pressed extra virgin olive oil - I usually buy it in a five litre tin and that lasts me ages even with decanting some of it to make gifts. The next thing is to find cheap but pretty bottles to make it in. The "$2" discount shops are a great source for such bottles. The pic below is the result - you can see the delicious and fiery chillies have floated to the top of the bottles and the garlic has sunk to the bottom; for the first couple of weeks you have to gently upend the bottle a couple of times a day. One of my girlfriends liked hers so much last year she'd gone through a bottle twice the size in six weeks! Great for BBQing, salad dressing or pan frying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Loop frame bike in "Lilies"

My bikes are still off limits to me; I saw my doctor earlier this week who told me my inner ears were a lovely scarlet colour, put me on antibiotics and told me to spend the next few days at home preferably lying around doing not much at all. So I can't post about interesting rides I've done, or how nice it is to be out on two wheels on a summer's evening.

At the moment one of our TV stations is showing a BBC series called "Lilies", set in Liverpool, England soon after WWI. Essentially it's the story of three sisters in a struggling household. One of them, Ruby, has been filling in for the postman while he's been at war, and uses her postie cycle to go to swimming training - see her in action on the bike on YouTube (about 1 minute into the series and then again riding down the corridor in the post office about a minute later). It's a vintage men's bicycle, and she's bitter when the postie returns and gets his job and bike back.

She then applies for a job selling corsetry; she's less than impressed with the woman interviewing her and almost turns the job down until she discovers it includes a bicycle. The bike in question is a black vintage loop frame single speed bike with (I think) rod brakes and a front basket, and cream/white coat guard. Ruby rides it confidently in her long skirts and louis heeled shoes and boots. It was shown a bit in the first episode but has been absent since. You can find it here on YouTube - at about 4mins 20secs in this clip. Maybe some eagle eyed person out there can identify the make of the bike; I certainly have no idea!

The postie bike got some airtime in this week's episode with the postie giving Ruby's sister May a ride on the front rack; May sat sidesaddle and I was impressed by the ability of the rack to take her weight and the stability of the bike. I suspect, as the panning was careful not to show the postie's face when they rode off, a stunt rider was involved.

Hmm... take it easy, the doc said. YouTube beckons I reckon!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Curse this bug

I'm having a self-indulgent non-bicycle post moment, heeding the title of my blog. I've come down with a sore throat and murderous ears. I blame it on being stuck on aeroplanes with 100 other people to and from Melbourne and being cursed with a hotel room that had aircon but windows that didn't open.

I hate getting these bugs. I'm prone to sinusitis, so at the first hint of anything nasty I reach for the cold and flu tablets. They turn me into a space cadet but at least I don't feel that my sinuses are going to break through my skin, jump from my head and do a salsa on the floor. Sometimes in bad moments I just wish they would; at least it would break up the pressure in my face.

Viz... yesterday I slept all afternoon as the tablets, supposedly non-drowsy, sent me for six. I managed to get to sleep okay later in the evening but kept waking through the night and finally gave up at about 3am and crept out of bed without disturbing Other Half or cats and delved into The Portable Dorothy Parker. (Thank you, Penguin! Thank you!) I drank it in so greedily it became The Potable Dorothy Parker. Another dose of tabs sent my sinuses back to sleep and thankfully me too, but I felt wrecked this morning.

Today I had to balance the tabs with the need to drive halfway across town for a radio show taping. I help a friend out with her show on community radio, and do a "what's on" segment. While I was able to drive okay, I was very agreeable towards the other idiots on the road who usually make me shout at them behind closed windows and raise my heart rate. Maybe I should drive partially zonked a bit more often :-).

Now the whole lot has settled down to a stable ache: ears, throat and sinus. Lemon drinks with honey await me. I must have a strong masculine side as whenever I get one of these bugs I'm worse than a guy with man flu. Maybe it's just a low pain threshold.

The worst thing about getting a bug this time of year is that the weather is nice. It's gently warm, it's sunny, there's a pleasant breeze. It's cycling weather. In winter you expect to get bugs and huddle by the fire being all sniffly; usually it's raining/blowing a gale outside anyway, and dark by 4.30pm. At the moment I think if I got on Penelope, my balance is so bad thanks to my ears I'd just gracelessly hove to starboard and wind up surprised on the ground. If I had the energy to get on her.

Anyway normal service will resume as soon as possible/once I've stopped feeling wimpily sorry for myself/in about 2.5 days. Pills, please.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Melbourne, cycle city (part 2)

More ramblings around the centre of Australia's second largest city...

Here's a Kronen that was used to advertise a boutique - tethered firmly outside, it was supposed to make you want to come inside. I was more interested at looking at the bike though! I'm guessing the boutique owner used it as transport to and from work. At least I hope so; what a waste otherwise!
Below is an interesting one that you don't see every day in Australia - a Golden Pigeon. Manufactured by the Flying Pigeon company these are the premium end city bikes that they make. 3 speed Sturmey Archer, Shimano Nexus front hub. I didn't even realise these were sold in Australia, but they are and one can be yours for a princely $395 apparently. A company called Cargo Cycles has been importing them, but has chosen not to import any more. Why? Here's what they say about the bike:
"The problem? They are a design dating from the Chinese Revolution, with build quality to match. They need a "Revolutionary" approach to assembly, which may involve liberal use of a hammer, and possibly even a grinder. The bike will almost certainly require replacement parts (pedals, saddle) before it is fit to ride.
You purchase one of these Pigeons on the understanding that you are buying a project, not a working bike. You will need bike mechanic skills, tools and the aforementioned Revolutionary attitude; or an understanding and patient bike shop mechanic (and deep pockets to pay for workshop time)."
So someone with a hammer, grinder, and other tools has clearly taken the time to get his Golden Pigeon up to spec. More information is available on the Cargo Cycles website.
This pretty little bike you see below will never be ridden again unless someone puts some serious work into her. She's used to advertise a florist, and has been cruelly treated - she's been painted from top to toe, including her chain, and is destined to spend her life right here as a static display.
I can't believe they even painted the saddle!!

Aha... a Peugeot mixte, in the wild. I didn't see many mixtes around - was good to spot a Peugeot!
I do like the headlight on the Peugeot! Aside from the modern basket at the back it looks a reasonably original bike to me. I'm no expert though.
What's nice about this little pink bike? I love the rear basket, with a top that's hinged in the middle. No chance of groceries jumping out of this one when you ride over rough bits. Note in the backtround more bikes are parked across the road. And on the extreme right of the pic that's another bike tyre. How had I missed seeing bicycles on previous trips!?
The bike below appears to be a single speed with a coaster brake (quite a few of them around actually). A pretty colour, but the nicest thing about it was the fluted mudguards - see next photo for a close up.

This ladies' bike is apparently white - but the owner has decided to decorate her with all manner of stickers. She's a very utilitarian ride with that milk crate on the back!
Here are a couple of lowrider bikes I spied in a bike shop. Now these aren't my thing, but they were striking enough to take a photo of. Especially the arrangement on the front wheel which appears to be some kind of suspension.
Take a look, it's very attractive with that spiral bar. I've never seen this kind of thing before on a bike - maybe I haven't been around enough! LOL! The metal looks cheap though... you can imagine this bike will rust pretty easily.
So that's Melbourne in a nutshell. There were many more interesting bikes but for various reasons I didn't get the opportunity to use them as photographic models.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Melbourne, cycle city (part 1)

I'm a Sydneysider born and bred, and have grown up with Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, in the matey way Australians do things, as a fact of life. Sydneysiders think Melbourne is stuffy and old-fashioned. Melburnians think Sydney is brash and just a wee bit tarty. Until my stepdaughter moved to Melbourne last year I hadn't visited Melbourne much at all; a few flying business visits which gave me precious little chance to get to know the city.

I've just come back from a long weekend there, and it only reaffirmed what I was already thinking: that Melbourne actually wins over Sydney in many ways. The shopping/Central Business District is well laid out and really, the shops are nicer. The trams are fantastic! Sydney gave up its trams in the 1950s but Melbourne kept them on and they whizz along in traffic snarls with lean efficiency.

But what I noticed most this time was the bicycles - in fact I knew I was in for a treat as the first one I saw was a vintage 70s/80s pale pink lady's bike being pedalled along on a big wide bike lane by a cheerful young woman who was clearly enjoying thumbing her nose at peak hour traffic. This was the first time I'd visited Melbourne since I'd got back into cycling, and boy, does Melbourne do it better than Sydney! Cyclists everywhere in the CBD, lots of women as well as men. There are a few reasons for this:
  • Melbourne is flatter; Sydney is pretty hilly and if you're cycling 10kms or more to work those hills are going to make you pretty sweaty
  • Melbourne's CBD has wide, wide footpaths with plenty of bike parks - several per block usually, and most of them in use
  • Melbourne has easier approaches to the CBD. In Sydney you have to take your chance on the Harbour Bridge (from the North ) and Anzac Bridge (from the west). These are fairly nasty multilane roads driven on by drivers who don't take prisoners when it comes to cyclists
That being said, we saw bikes all throughout the inner suburbs as well, down Chapel Street in Prahran, which is a cool place to wander for a coffee or to check out vintage clothing and other shops. I don't see as many bikes in equivalent Sydney suburbs.

I thought I'd capture some of the more interesting bikes I saw parked in Melbourne's CBD. Apologies for the size of these pics- I processed them fairly small for this blog and then realised some of the details might be a bit hard to spot. The funniest thing was that in taking these photos I felt like a voyeur. It was a little embarrassing taking pics of someone else's bike :-). So I was a bit shy at first and didn't get too close in case someone asked me what I was doing and I blurted out unthinkingly "bike porn!". Some people just mightn't understand...

So let's start with Federation Square. This was around 10pm, and bikes were tethered safely while their owners caroused.
Below.. look at the handlebars on this. I'm not sure what the owner was trying to achieve or indeed how comfortable it is to ride.
Here it is again from the side. Looking at the saddle height and the size of the frame it's not a tall person's bike. And apparently it's a single speed with a coaster brake... those handlebars are devoid of any ornament!
Bikes happily parked in downtown Melbourne. The orange one in the middle caught my eye because of the searing colour.
And here's a closer look at it:
It's wearing a Kronen badge but I wonder if the colour is original; if not, it's thoroughly painted. Even the insides of the mudguards are orange. The owner has chosen to fit a headlight (in this case, spotlight - it's pointing skyward!) on the mudguard and leave the original mount in place.

More on my voyeuristic journeying through Melbourne later.. my cats are both pestering me for dinner :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two wheeled weather again and a note about Pashley kickstand

Oh, the bliss of a cool change! Yesterday it topped 40 here. Somewhere over 100 on the Fahrenheit scale. A haze hung over the sky; thankfully as full sunshine would have made it even hotter. We do often get a hot spell in spring, but it typically contains itself to one or two days of about 30 or 32, not a week of temps over 35 with punishing humidity. The only nice thing you can say about yesterday was that it wasn't humid. Anyway, all week it's been too hot to get out and get riding. We've had aims of getting up early and cycling before breakfast, but we've both had horrid broken nights of sleep all week. Despite the ceiling fan, it's been too hot and we've both woken during the night and felt wrecked the next day.

But last night the cool change came. It's 20 degrees cooler today, cloudy and a bit rainy. Penelope and I hit the road for a ride around and then a trip to the shops to pick up some veggies to complement tonight's roast chicken. I bought a lovely free range chicken at the farmers' markets at the weekend but cooking it in that heat was just unimaginable.

The wind was cool, the rain on and off but gentle and reviving. I usually hate riding or walking in the rain. I wear glasses and it's infuriating when they get covered in raindrops and I can't see properly. After the last week it was a delight to be out there with the cool rain caressing me. It was invigorating; I whizzed up hills with an energy I hadn't had for days.

I must make the most of it because we're flying to Melbourne on Thursday for a long weekend to visit my stepdaughter and her baby. I joke to my husband that I'm married to a grandfather. :-) His daughter is nearly twenty, and the baby coming up for 10 months, so we don't feel too ancient. There's a lot of cycle hire in Melbourne but I don't know that I'll get the opportunity to do it. Worth packing a helmet? Maybe. Whatever, the bikes and I will be taking to the road every day between then and now, revelling in the gentle, mild weather.

Having had Penelope now for a couple of months there's one thing about her that's a little annoying. The kickstand. It works fine, don't get me wrong. It does its job and holds the bike upright when it's asked to. But... the arrangement of cable along the frame above the kickstand means that unless you're careful you catch your toe in the cable when you deploy the kickstand. This is not an ideal arrangement and I'm going to drop the people at Pashley a note about it. Having tweaked the cable several times at first I'm now a lot more careful but I could see this becoming a safety issue for the unwary.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweltering in sweaty Sydney - a shoes and marmalade diversion

Ugh...it's about 35 outside and humid. I was going to cycle down to the shops but having gone outside for a few minutes to pour some water on my wilting garden, I decided to be a wimp and drive my husband's car. At least the aircon works in his. It's broken in mine and I can't afford to fix it at the moment. Isn't that always the way, you save up to fix something non-urgent and then something urgent, like medical bills, takes it all. Sigh.

Anyway because it's too hot and steamy to cycle, my post today is a diversion on my new pair of shoes...

...and my latest batch of marmalade.

The shoes are super for cycling in. I bought them last week, when we had some milder days, and tested them out riding Penelope. The little straps keep them firmly in place. They are lovely soft patent leather. The flower appliqued on there is suede. Nice.

The marmalade I made last Sunday - just the thing you want to do when the mercury is soaring towards 38 celsius or 100 on the Fahrenheit scale. Stick yourself in the kitchen hovering over a bubbling pan. No wonder I look hot in the face! This batch had two nips of scotch added just before adding the sugar for the final twenty minutes simmering. Taste? Divine!

I have enough oranges in the fridge to make one more batch. That should keep Himself going until next seville orange season and allow for sending bottles to friends and family around the world.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Government-sponsored bike hire in Australia

Filigree, in her fantastic Lovely Bicycle! blog, has posted about hiring - or in this case choosing not to hire - a bike from the Citybike system in Vienna. This very European idea is introducing itself to Australia. You can already hire bikes in central Adelaide, which from memory are mercifully without adverts plastered all over them.
Brisbane City Council, however, is being very 'Viennese', and its planned bike hire system will offer advertising opportunities for sponsors and identify bike hirers very easily with brightly coloured and labelled coat guards. See here...
Sydney City Council has also been considering the idea of government-run bike hire. You'll note this linked post was two years ago. Being Sydney, nothing has happened since then.It's all too hard. And that whiney bloke Scruby from The Pedestrian Council hates bikes and wails regularly at the idea that cyclists might hit pedestrians. (As an aside, Sydney City Council last year raised the suggestion of widening footpaths in the City central business district, to make them foot and cycle paths. It got howled down by Harold Scruby of The Pedestrian Council. I thought it a brilliant idea, as drivers in the CBD can be awful to cyclists and it might encourage more people to cycle as they'd feel safer.)
Obviously there are lots of private rentals available already in our major cities. Having cheap, government-run rentals with high visibility in obvious downtown locations would be fantastic for tourism and for people like me who'd prefer to bike around rather than bus or walk in Adelaide or Melbourne. But...
They've all hit a snag. The old helmet problem. Helmets are compulsory here in all States, and there is debate at the moment about the wisdom of offering hired helmets from a health and hygiene point of view. If you want to hire a bike will you have to bring your own? Or will you be made to purchase one? It'll be interesting to see what the outcomes are as Brisbane introduces its system next year. There is nothing obvious on the linked page about helmet hire, only that wearing one is the law. The helmet issue may mean that these bike-hire schemes won't be the success they deserve to be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I've been having a health scare over the last couple of months. In a nutshell my doctor was concerned I could have a tumour on my left kidney. A rather unpleasant day of tests at the hospital yesterday gave me the all clear however. Yay!!!!!! Thankfully I was knocked out for the cystostomy et al, but as I don't like anaesthetics much I was stressing about that too. There's something rather creepy about being unconscious while other people are poking and prodding at you. I guess I have to take the view that it's better to be unconscious than feeling the pain!

So, no cycling until tomorrow night they tell me, but I think champagne is on the cards for tonight.

When I bought Penelope it was with the view that if there was something seriously wrong with me, I'd at least have had my dream bike if only for a while. Looks like I'll be enjoying her for a long time yet, fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Marathon Man still didn't get it right

My other half bought a pair of Schwalbe Marathons this week for his road bike. Like me he got them mail order and then took them down to the bike shop for fitting.
Now they were replacing fairly new tyres which weren't puncture-resistant. In fact their puncture-resistantness was so that they were both dead flat. There's a certain element of human out our way which thinks it funny to smash beer bottles at the side of the road; we spend much of our rides weaving through and around broken glass, which is how both his tyres got punctured.
But, back at the bike shop...t'other half didn't tell chappy at the bike shop to change the tubes as well.
So now he has beautiful new Schwalbe Marathons.
And they're flat.
He's OK with fixing front tyre punctures but doesn't like messing around with hubs and rear wheels. Nonetheless he'll have to unless he wants to stop in the middle of long rides and pump the tyres up.
Men. You gotta love 'em but sometimes they just don't think -!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bah, humbug!

Today is the 7th of November... and already all the shopping malls have their Christmas decorations in place. T'other half and I aren't great on retail therapy; I do enjoy it more than he does, but neither of us is enamoured of big shopping malls. We prefer streets lined with shops, or markets. Anyhoo, this morning we had to hit the enormous Castle Towers shopping centre, as himself needed new boat shoes and chinos. I needed a fix from L'Occitane.

Castle Towers was glittering with tinsel and Christmas trees. To our astonishment a Christmas parade complete with brass band was noisily winding its way through the shops. We scratched our heads. We don't do anything about Christmas cheer and decorations until December in our house. Both of us have fond memories of prettily-decorated shops in December from earlier years, but the decorating and celebrating seems to be getting earlier and earlier each year in a quest to snaffle the retail dollar. By 25 December most people are heartily sick of Christmas. Especially when parades start in November.

I pity the parents who put up with pester power from now till Christmas Eve, with every Ho Ho HO and piped Christmas carol reminding the kids that Santa will be here soon - or rather, in several weeks. I do wonder whether the magic gets a bit dulled a month from now!

The Christmas spirit isn't just about retail. But after almost two months of tinselly shops and giant Christmas trees, you tend to forget the real meaning of the event, and fighting off shoppers, hostesses in fur and Santa hats (and remember we're coming into summer here!) and larger-than-life cartoon characters left right and centre is not conducive of goodwill towards all men.

Christmas happens in December. Not November. There. Grumpy Old Woman has spoken.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Having a growly day. Thank technology.

Gosh I've been grumpy today. PMT? Possibly. But it's the sheer amount of interruptions and 'urgent's that has done me in and given me a headache. While I love my computer for the pleasure it gives me in my leisure time - surfing the net, catching up with friends on Facebook and email, reading other people's blogs - I'm finding technology increasingly annoying during work time.

The bloody phone hardly stopped today. It seems that in my role as admin/marketing/events/chief cat herder for a large Chamber of Commerce I have to be accessible at all times of the day. Of course everything is urgent. From having a great day yesterday where I actually got things done, the General Public has bounced back from Melbourne Cup day in a frantic, nagging mood. I've been lucky to get to the loo without the phone bleating.

If I turn the phone off for a bit to get some work completed, then I get emails which tell me about the phone message they've just left. One guy left three messages asking me to call the other day. I politely told him leaving one would do in the future, as I do get back to people as soon as practicably possible. I think I'm too polite sometimes. I refrained from saying I actually have a life, and two of those messages were out of business hours. I'm stupid enough to reply to emails out of hours if I check the inbox; my own fault for creating a rod for my own back.

But...has technology created rods for backs for most of us? Thanks to the wonders of the mobile phone and the internet, we are now contactable just about all the time. Who hasn't seen someone texting on the train (or, God help us, driving a car!), or even (rudely) at the cinema? Sit at a cafe and you'll be guaranteed people yakking away as they walk by or sit at the next table. We have made ourselves too available. If you want to 'get off the world' for a day, you face a deluge of messages, a flood of 'where are you?s' which induce annoyance in this little black duck.

Life was so easy when I was younger. The pre-computer days (yes, Virginia, they DID exist). The pre mobile-phone days. We didn't have an answering machine at home then. If you were out, you missed a call. Tough. I think it gave me a lot more freedom. If I was out and about and had to phone someone, I used a callbox. The postman came once a day with letters. Things took longer to happen; life was more relaxed. More frustrating admittedly if you wanted to research anything compared to the Internet Joy we have at our fingertips, but I didn't feel the pressures I feel now, this sense of people crowding me into a corner, with demands coming thicker and faster by the day.

Now there's social media to blend into the mix. I've organised a breakfast workshop for later this month with a speaker who'll be explaining how social media works and how you can use it to promote your business. Bookings are coming out of the woodwork. I think about Twitter and sigh that if I go onto it that's one more bloody thing I have to do on a regular if not daily basis; another 15 - 30 minutes a day to put aside for a task. I'm just a bit over it all at the moment.

Am I alone in getting annoyed with the expectancy that I have to be constantly available?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The race that stops a nation

Sweltering at the moment in Sydney - in our part of town it's going to get pretty close to the hundred on the old scale before a cool change tonight. I went outside for a few minutes and decided it was really too hot, humid and revolting to get the bike out. I'm a wimp; fact is I'm not a summer person, and our winters here are so glorious for riding. I loathe exercising in summer, so it'll be rides in the evening from now on. But I digress. This post isn't about bikes, it's about the Melbourne Cup.

Back in my misspent youth I was a horseracing tragic. I memorised the names of every single Melbourne Cup winner as a teen - at the time I would have been able to recite more than 110 winners. I couldn't do algebra to save my life, but I could explain the difference between 6/4 and 5/2 in terms of betting odds, and work out how much I'd have to spend at different odds to win $20. Melbourne Cup day was the best day of the year behind Christmas Day. It was my own joyous holiday, my celebration of horses and racing, and my high school knew there was no chance of me being at school that day. My poor mother... writing excuse notes year after year.

I grew out of all that gradually as left school and got a job, but The First Tuesday In November is still a special, exciting day for me. I've done the form guide and picked my horses. I used to have an excellent system that meant while I'd be backing between three and seven horses, I could just about be guaranteed the winner; and for many years happily made a profit on the Cup. Now with the influx of international horses it's harder to maintain that system and some of the leadup races have changed a little too, so now I'm like any other mug punter with the Cup.

This year I'm backing three horses trained by Bart Cummings. He's won 12 Melbourne Cups and at 81 will be thinking of retiring soon and will be doing his best to make it 13. I'm also backing a rank outsider for very sentimental reasons.

I've mentioned in a previous post my teen lust for jockeys. My first jockey crush was on a New Zealand guy called Noel Harris, who came second in the Cup in 1973 on the short favourite, Glengowan. Many saw it as a boy being sent on a man's errand. Noel was 18 and real eye candy. Yum yum yum. I had posters of him torn from racing magazines on my bedroom wall. I was 11 at the time.

Noel is still riding at the age of 54. Like Bart Cummings, he'll be desperate for a Cup win before he retires. He's ridden more than 2000 winners in his career, but never the pinnacle of Australasian racing, The Melbourne Cup. He's on a rank outsider, 100/1, this year.

Above is Noel's backside. This was taken for a charity race celebrating Jockey underwear; the riders did it Superman-style with their underwear on the outside. And here's a pic of him taken last year. He's pretty fit for a guy in his 50s. (Blimey... where has the time gone? I only feel 21 still.)

I thought I'd do a wee bit of research on Noel this morning... I wonder whether he's riding every year when Cup time comes around and like my other old jockey flame he's fairly recently hooked up with a woman thirty years younger than himself. Heh heh, I can pick 'em, can't I?

Anyway, good luck to "Harry" - I hope he can finally achieve a dream and win the Cup this afternoon. Come 2.30 pm I'll be in front of the telly with a glass of champagne cheering him on.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday morning in the park

Finally some pics of me in Penelope I can send to Kate at Steel City Cycle works for her bike gallery. All my other pics show me without the helmet that is mandatory in Australia - yes, I'm a lawbreaker!! >;-) I do hate wearing the bloody things but I do realise they help protect you from brain damage; helmets seem to be contentious topic on the net. My personal view is that they should be mandatory for children but optional for adults. Usually I'm wandering around the back streets or on bike tracks and it irks me having a hot sweaty head. If I were commuting in traffic I'd certainly wear a helmet without question. I had concussion twice during my horse riding years and would have been dead without my horse riding helmet. Horses are far less predictable than bikes though!

Proof that Penelope can go reeeeaally slow below in these pics. Greg was using my little Lumix digital which often has a lag between pressing the button and taking the photo... so there were a few that showed me disappearing out of shot. And this was on sport mode. Hmm. Anyway I dawdled along hoping he'd manage to get me in frame and these are the results.
This is in a little park about 4km from our house; typically it's the turnaround point for our usual 30 minute ride. At the moment it looks beautifully verdant courtesy of heavy rain earlier in the week, and a wet start to October. Come the middle of summer the grass will be yellowing and tired.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A bit of Pashley info

I came across this article in the UK Independent during a little search to find out more about when the Pashley Princess was designed and put into production. In a nutshell, nobody at Pashley seems to know :-)! But the article is lovely... makes you want to sit down with a nice cup of tea, a digestive biscuit, and hum "Rule Brittania".

And I'd like to think that this chap - or someone very like him - was responsible for turning Penelope from tubes of steel into a masterpiece.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marathons get the thumbs-up

The sky was brilliant blue in spring sunshine today - a great morning to head to Sydney Olympic Park with our bikes. It was a tossup for me: I longed to take Penelope as I thoroughly enjoyed riding her there last time and she gets me fitter, but I did want to try out Petunia's new tyres, so the Mixte got put on the bike rack this time.

The Scwalbes are excellent - I had suspected they would be. They are replacing the original tyres that Petunia had when she was new 25 years ago. Realistically any tyre would be an improvement one would think, but the Marathons are great. Very quiet, very grippy. Sydney Olympic Park is mainly paved bike tracks but there are some clay/gravel tracks there too which we tried out. I felt more confident riding on the dirt tracks with the new tyres :-). They feel much more stable. They are currently inflated to 80 psi but as they can take more I'll put them up to 85 for my next ride and see how that feels.

As usual I had the camera but was so busy riding I didn't think to stop for pics. D'Oh!

Friday, October 23, 2009

And finally... the Marathons

The guys at my local bike shop put my Schwalbe Marathons on today. While they were being fitted I got chatting with a guy who has had a custom bike built for him but is paying it off weekly and can't take it home yet. It's a mountain bike with Really Ugly Welds, front suspension, disc brakes, hydraulic this and that, aluminium frame, 27 gears etc etc etc. It's costing him around $4800. I gulped. He roared with laughter when I told him my saddle and grips cost more than I paid for my bike. Little Petunia came in for quite a few questions from the shop guys; how old was she? Was that a genuine Brooks saddle and was it leather? Where did I get the bike? What else had I done to it? Initially I was told to come back in an hour for my fitted tyres but once they started asking questions they got her up on the rack straight away and set to work. She does have a certain old-fashioned charm.

The white reflective stripe gives them a bit of an old-fashioned look; while they look a little more modern than the ancient Panaracers they replaced, they don't look too out of place.
More to the point, they ride well. I've only done a really short test ride on them (had to get back to work) but if the weather holds over the weekend will try them out. Rolling resistance seems pretty low, as the manufacturer promises. They can be inflated up to 95psi too - hee hee, that should give me an extra km per hour!

So here's Petunia with stage one almost finished. Just have to find a way to mount a light and a front basket. This may mean replacing the stem and cables unless I can find a clever person who can weld me a custom bracket for the handlebars. I have something in mind.

What's stage 2? At some point in the future, when I'm feeling far more financially capable, I want to rebuild the rear wheel with an 8 speed hub gearset. My sister-in-law has done that to her Mixte, and loves it.

Also part of stage 2 will be finding fenders that fit. Now the new tyres are on I can get measuring in earnest. >;-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What a difference a service makes!

I had Penelope serviced late last week and have since then only really ridden her to the shops a couple of times. This morning, as it was sunny and glorious at 6.30am, I jumped out of bed (winced at my knees) and took her for a 30 minute ride. What a difference! Although I love her I confess I was feeling a bit worried about ever getting used to her as she seemed so sluggish compared to my mixte Petunia.

But the simple 30 day service, tightening everything up, checking all was bedded in correctly, made a world of difference. The little Pashley seemed so light and vigorous. For the first time I got her into top gear and pedalled happily without any effort. I've been struggling, on the same bike path, in fourth and even third. But she went like a bird. Last time I rode her up the main hill on this ride I'd had to move into low gear near the top. Today it was easy in second, I was hardly blowing. And it's not as if I've got much fitter in the last five days.

I'm really falling in love with this bike! She is a dream, a jewel. Pashleys rool. They do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brooks love and joy...

Yay, we picked up Petunia's Brooks saddle yesterday! It seems only a handful of high end bike shops in Sydney stock Brooks gear, and I had ordered mine fromWoolys Wheels in Paddington. This is a super shop - three stories of bikes and bike stuff. Most of the gear is aimed at the lycra crowd but there was a tantalising locked cabinet of Brooks goodies. The guys fitted the saddle for me so we headed down a couple of blocks into Centennial Park after that (we took both our bikes with us to the shop).

Centennial Park is a mecca for cyclists in Sydney's eastern suburbs. The main riding track is around 4km, mainly flat, so it's usual to see people on speedy road bikes whizz past you in a flash of lycra and skinny tyres. I prefer a more leisurely pace - we tend to average about 16-17km/h when we ride. I had to laugh at the speed signs which stated that neither cars nor cyclists must exceed 30 km/h in the park. Because I didn't take any photos - too busy keeping both hands on the bars and overtaking small children - you can find out more about Centennial Park and see some lovely pics here.

Petunia looks fab with her new, and very comfortable, Brooks B66S in antique brown. I did some tinkering when we got home and moved the saddle forward on the post a bit as I was finding myself sitting on the fork rather than the flat - as with Penelope. It's seriously comfortable to ride on.

So Petunia's transformation is nearly complete. Next come the Schwalbe tyres (next week). Finally I have to figure out a way to mount the rather lovely old-fashioned bullet light I bought AND keep a front basket. The basket I have is easily removable - it clicks onto that clunky big black thing you can see in the centre of the handlebar. However, when it's on the bike there's no room to mount a light underneath. So ideally I need to find a) a shallower, removable basket or b) a basket which CAN be removed when I want it to, which sits low enough for me to mount a light above it (and hopefully stays firm when I'm riding rather than bounce about). I've had no joy with baskets that meet this criteria to date. Most bike shops here, even the posh ones, sell basic baskets. Looks like I'll have to order in from overseas to achieve perfection or at least some way of having a basket and a light! Any suggestions? Answers on a postcard please... or simply leave a comment.
And finally, below is Petunia as she was when I bought her last year. That saddle (vinyl) was a shocker so the gel saddle she's had in the meantime has been an improvement. The handlebars were narrow and scary to ride with and lasted 48 hours before being changed. I think with her current saddle and handlebars she looks a much more inviting ride :-).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A trip down the coast

Penelope has been for her 30-day tweaking, and it was a gorgeous drive down the coast to Thirroul yesterday. It took about 90 minutes each way. It's doable by train, and you can take your bike on the train, but it's a good two and a half hours each way from where we live... so maybe something to do another time when we are feeling less pressured and not skiving a day off work.

But the view below, from a lookout near Austinmer, was enough to relax us. Heavenly! You can see it was a bit windy - there are tons of white horses on the beach. With a cool south wind blowing nobody was in swimming anywhere we passed despite it being school holidays here.
Here's Penelope on her rack down at Austinmer beach, where we stopped to breathe in gulps of salty air.
The villages between Sydney and Wollongong offer you the opportunity to step back in time. Yes, there are lots of modern houses but lots of charming old ones too, and commercial and public buildings like these two. Here is a theatre in Thirroul which has been put to good use as commercial premises, keeping its intriguing art deco meets Tudor exterior. This area was a popular holiday spot in the first half of the 20th century. Er...it still is! Although these days it's more an extended suburb of Wollongong.
Every little town had its School of Arts back in the day, and this sweet wee one is at Clifton. Here's where ladies practiced flower arranging, art exhibitions were held, and generally the School of Arts was a focus of life in the village.
And finally, the new Sea Gate Bridge at Coalcliff, completed in 2005. The road used to run alongside the cliff, but a landslide in 2003 washed the road away and essentially cut off half the villages from using the coast road - they had to backtrack inland to get from one town to another. Read more about this bridge and see some stunning pics here. It's a remarkable drive - you are held up on pillars high above the ocean.

After all that, Penelope had some minor tweaks, tightenings and adjustments done. I did an adjustment myself today (my middle name is now Spanner) with the saddle, moving it on its runners so it sits further forward. I was finding I was riding on the front rather than the seat; I have short arms and legs. A test ride this afternoon proved much more comfortable.

I also swapped the bolt that adjusts the seat post height for an adjustable one from my MTB. This may sound terribly girly, but it means I can adjust the saddle height now for maximum comfort for each pair of shoes I choose to ride in. Ahh-!!! I found riding in my Colorado clogs a different and uncomfortable experience than riding in my Geox flats, for instance. Mmm, I love tinkering!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A gripping yarn

I was going to wait until Penelope had had her first service, but I couldn't. Those Brooks grips were calling me from the garage :-), so I had no option but to put them on at lunchtime. Measuring them against the existing grips, I realised I'd have to take a few rings out of the grips. I didn't want to mess around with putting Penelope's cables any further along; they are obviously adjusted and made to be just where they are.

I'd fitted the same grips to Petunia some months back but hadn't had to remove any of the leather rings. Well, I could have but I was a little lazy so they're about 1cm too long at the ends of the handlebars, but let's not go thre. The Brooks leaflet stated that adjusting the grips to fit your bike was a fairly easy task achieved with a screwdriver, pliers and a file. Lacking pliers and a file (our tool kit isn't huge) I decided a hacksaw would do the job just as well, and it did. It was just as easy as the leaflet promised.

I had to lose five rings from each grip.
Installing them on the bike was dead easy. Fortunately the other grips came off easily enough thanks to the technique from Bicycle Tutor, and within a couple of minutes I had the Brooks grips on and tightened up.
MUCH nicer than those black plasticky things! Penelope looks like she's itching to go out on the street and show off her new grips.
They look a little on the short side, but then I have quite small hands, so are a comfortable fit as I discovered on a test ride afterwards. I was a little worried that the five rings was one ring too many and I'd be gripping the metal rather than the leather on the edges, but no.

Mmm, Brooks. What an excellent way to use up spare saddle leather and bike spokes!

How hard can it be... (2)

... to get Schwalbe Marathon 27" x 1 1/4" kevlar tyres for Petunia here in Australia? Hard-ish, it seems. Many major bike shops have Schwalbe in stock but typically only in 26", 28" or 700c. I finally tracked some down this morning on bikes.com.au.

Petunia is shod with her original tyres (and she was built in 1984). Admittedly she was hardly ever ridden before I bought her, but rubber perishes over time. I noticed during a regular check of her tyres, brakes etc a couple of days ago that the tyres have developed little hairline cracks where the sidewall curves over to the running surface. Not ideal - I don't want a massive blowout as I'm careering down a hill.

I could get cheap tyres without kevlar at the local bike shop, but time and experience has taught me that it's best to replace broken bits with the best you can possibly afford, as you'll be happier in the long run. My husband has the cheap tyres on his bike (because the local shop, like so many others here, doesn't stock a kevlar or puncture-resistant tyre in 27") and he's happy enough, but I figure I'll spend the extra and go for the Schwalbe. I've read reviews on them, I like the tread pattern, I like the look of them, and I'm happy with their performance on Penelope.

So tyres have been ordered and should arrive early next week. I know the local bike shop has 27" tubes in stock (phew) so then all I'll be waiting on for Petunia's upgrade is the Brooks saddle, also due in next week. *does a little jig with glee*

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Postman Pat's Brooks delivery

Postman Pat knocked on our door this afternoon with a special delivery for the green lady. Penelope is finally getting pretty grips to replace the rather uncomfortable standard Pashley plastic jobbies. I was considering getting her green grips to match her pretty paintwork, but the only green grips I could find were $105 on eBay from the US, and I got these for $65 on eBay from the UK. They are honey coloured, the same as Penelope's. Delivery was super quick - I only bought these five days ago!

Charley our Birman boy gives them the seal (point) of approval. He is the inspector of everything that comes into the house. If it can be chewed, clawed or rolled on the floor it's fantastic by him and the grips meet all three criteria. They are now locked in the garage until I fit them over the weekend.
The venerable Bicycle Tutor has an excellent tutorial on how to replace your grips. I didn't realise the 'proper' way to do things when I replaced Petunia's grips - I simply cut through the old, cheap ones with a Stanley knife :-) (Looks heavenward and whistles tunelessly.) I think I should probably do things properly with Penelope.
Penelope is going back to Kate at Steel City Cycle Works on Friday for her first service. She comes with an impressive warranty but has to be serviced within, approximately, 30 days of purchase. I'm nearer 40 days but the shop is a couple of hours' drive from our place so we have to fit her service in with our work and, lately, our busy or soaking wet weekends. Kate is pretty cool though.
Petunia is getting her new Brooks saddle too, a B66S, finally. There's been a holdup as the saddles come via sea mail from the UK. The new shipment is due in this week and I've got one in Antique Brown put aside for me. I would have preferred Honey to match her grips but sadly not available here in the antipodes. Antique Brown will look just as nice with her champagne frame and anyway the grips go darker the more you use them as I've discovered.
So... a happy weekend fitting new grips to Penelope, and if I'm lucky I'll get the call before the weekend that Petunia's new saddle is in stock too. Just in time to get in the best of spring!