Monday, March 31, 2008

Urban PARKing Day

Last year I posted on how much I liked the idea of urban PARKing after watching a film at the Bicycle Film Festival. Well today i got to do it as an April 1 'Fossil Fools' day event. Thanks to some inspired minds from UNSW's enviro collective, we packed up some turf and trees and loaded them onto our bike trailers to take over one car parking space on King St, Newtown. We paid for the spot of course. We attracted a lot of attention and onlookers were very supportive. Urban spaces don't have to be made just for cars!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Highland fling

Day One: Campbelltown to Moss Vale

On Wednesday last week I had a wisdom tooth taken out. With nothing much to do I decided erratically to pack a few things and hit the road. My plan was to scout out the Southern Highlands. Not wishing to bash though Sydney’s traffic I took the train to Campbelltown then headed out along Menangle Road towards Picton. It was amazing to be riding in the middle of the country only a few minutes from Campbelltown. From Picton I followed the Old Hume Hwy down through Tahmoor and Bagro, then I accidentally turned onto Freeway at Catherine Hill before turning back on to the Old Hume to follow my way around the back on Mittagong and Borwal and onto Moss Vale. I had one flat and a weird defect with rear tire. A large air bubble emerged under one of the layers of the tire to the point that it was catching the break callipers. Eventually it popped and thankfully not the tube but I did get a puncture a few kilometres down the road. I was initially thinking of heading down to Bundanoon to stay at the Youth Hostel but it was getting dark so I pulled in at the Jemmy Moss Inn in Moss Vale. To my delight, the Inn was great value at $30 a night and the food and the atmosphere in the pub was excellent.

(Rail bridge near Menangle)
(Argyle Street, Picton)
(Rural scene from Remembrance Drive/Old Hume Hwy)

Day Two: Moss Vale to Gerringong
I started day 2 at the Il Pranzo café in the mall at Moss Vale. It's by far the best café in the town and they roast the coffee beans on site. I then headed over to Legend Cycles to buy a new rear tire. Eventually at 10am I headed out of town along the Illawarra Hwy then turned right onto Nowra Rd towards Fitzroy Falls. The morning was overcast and very cold and I was fully rugged up with my cycling jacket on. From Fitzroy Falls there was a sharp decent into Kangaroo Valley which involved a lot of breaking. Just before you enter the township of Kangaroo Valley, I passed the Barrengarry Old Store and Post Office that claims to be “The Home of the Worlds Best Pies”. I stopped to try this claim out and I wasn’t disappointed. I avoided stopping at Kangaroo Valley as it looked to be one of those towns that is just full of boring tourist shops. From then it was across the valley then to a sharp climb over Berry Mountain. Halfway up the climb there was fridge on the side of the road that contained a self service fudge shop. From then, there was a lot more climbing then eventually I started to roll down the hill and into the town of Berry. I stopped for a quick feed at the Bakery then pushed on. Berry also appeared to me as one of those charmless town full of various shops dedicated to over-priced kitchen utensils and antiques. I took right turn not far out of town past the hospital then headed directly east along Beach Road towards Gerroa. The road coming into Gerroa was the only part of my entire ride where the traffic was quiet heavy and there wasn’t a very good shoulder to ride on. Finally, there was a steep hill up to Gerringong and the I headed straight to the station to get train back to Sydney.

(Canal at Fitzroy Reservoir)
(View back up to Fitzroy Falls)
(Historic Bridge at Kangaroo Valley)
(Kangeroo Valley)


Each day was approximately 75km of riding which took around 3.5 hours to complete. I’d ended up rushing things because I had to get back to Sydney on Friday night, but I still had a most enjoyable 2 days of riding. Next time I hope to get the week off.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tread Lightly

My touring aspirations have moved one step closer this week as the task of adapting my old road bike into a ‘light tourer’ is now complete. The first thing I did was put a ‘deore’ rear derailleur and cassette giving me much more hill climbing capabilities. Then there was the arrival of the new Carridice Super C Frontbag and to finish it off, I’ve bought a lovely new Brooks B-17 saddle. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the famous B-17. Some people swear by them, others hate em, or profess that the wearing in period is a very long and painful process. I strongly contest this argument. From just spending the whole day on the road, I found the B-17 comfortable from the very beginning. It’s a very smooth and well shaped saddle suited for a relaxed riding position.
I took the new rig out today for a meandering 65km ride from Windsor up to Sackville ferry and back via the Cattai National Park. Everything ran very smoothly although the derailleur is a little jumpy (perhaps a minor barrel adjustment?). I’m aiming to do quiet a few loaded rides around Sydney in the next week as I’m planning to go bush sometime next week. I’m thinking maybe Victoria?
To go with the cycle touring scheme, I’ve also recently purchased a cyclist flap-hat. Harking back to the late 80s when fluro flap-hats were all the rage, I’m now reliving my youth as a more sun-smart late 20 something.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mellow Yellow

I have a new fixie and its yellow.
Its not really new but all the parts from my old Apollo have been swapped onto this frame. The the old bike has a slightly skewed rear triangle which made it impossible to straighten the rear wheel with good chain tension. The other advantage of the new frame is that its slightly smaller and fits me perfectly. I'm a big fan of the colour yellow. Its highly vissible on the road and has something upbeat and playful about it. As I was photographing the bike, my cat Augie decided to come and say hello... although he didn't seem to be too interested in the bike, only snoozing and having his belly scratched.
So, in honour of Augie, I think I'll name this bike:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pedestrian psychopath ahead

I had a really freaky experience on Saturday working as a Route Marshall at the “Gear Up Girl” women’s cycling event. The event was the first all women’s bike ride to celebrate International Women’s Day. I spent a good part of the morning directing women cyclists along he shared cyclepath/ pedestrian walkway at Brighton Le Sands. As they passed, I asked them slow down and watch for pedestrians as they negotiated the shared part of the course. During the day a man with a pram walked up to me in a screaming rage and threatened to hit me. The altercation went something like this:
Crazy man: “Why aren’t these cyclists keeping to the left!”
Me: “Sir, I’m asking them to slow down and watch out for pedestrians as they pass”.
Crazy man: “This is dangerous, we have children walking along here… who is responsible for this?”
Me: “Sir, this is an event run by Bicycle NSW, we have a traffic management plan that is approved by the RTA and the police, we're trying to make this safe for everybody.”
[the crazy man then walks away then turns back towards me clenching his fists threatening to hit me]
Crazy man: “You fucking smart arse, I outta punch you in the head”.
[I stepped back away from him]
Crazy man; [Screaming] “You fucking cyclists, I’ve seen you in the city, you run the red lights, you break all the road rules, you’re fucking hypocrites... hypocrites."
[Crazy man finally walks away].

This altercation scared the crap out of me. I’ve had bad run-ins with motorists trying to run me off the road, but I’d never had a pedestrian abuse me in this way (and I wasn’t even on my bike). Now I know that the man had a pram and probably had some hard-wired nurturing instinct to protect his young from any real or perceived danger, but his reaction was completely over the top. There were signs everywhere saying there was a cycling event on, and the women were not exactly floggin it along the cycleway. I was astounded by the way the man quickly turned his line of reasoning from some moral indignation about safety to broad speaking hatred of all cyclists as “fucking hypocrites”. I wonder, does this man own a bike or have ever or have ridden one? Does anybody in his family own a bike? Do any of his work colleagues or friends consider themselves “cyclists”? If I was a real smart arse, I would have told him:
"Sir, do you think it is interesting that bicycles have outsold cars for the last 7 years in a row?"
To witness such pathological behaviour is understandable and I’ve felt similar outrage when I’ve felt like I was going to be killed by a motorist. I’ve wanted to blow my top, but I usually control my anger and not blow up. I do feel sorry for pedestrians who used shared cycleway/footpaths. They can be dangerous and not all cyclists are sensible they way they ride around on them. However there are risks everywhere in our society. It seems that cyclists find themselves to be “betwixt and between”. Somehow “we” find ourselves as illegitimate users of both spaces. Within some quasi-democratic-spatial imaginary, going for a walk and driving a car holds resonance as legitimate social activities, but supposedly cyclists go about their ways as vile law-breaking monsters.