Saturday, August 26, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

fun bike photos

Been meaning to add these to my website, but why not toss 'em up here?

Lends new meaning to the term "bike shoes" (but are they clipless?)

Hoop Bike in Toronto. Photo by Vic Gedris.

Bike Gate.

This local ladybug bike makes me nostalgic for both Bee Bike and Cow Bike, so I've added pics of them below.

Yes, that's a mix of black and yellow electrical tape. Bee Bike's frame ended up being a little too flexy for me (just a cheap Raleigh Gran Prix), so it was donated to re-Cycles.

I found Cow Bike at re-Cycles and had to have her, and set it up as a basic city bike set up with only 6 speeds. She was stolen from my front porch - my first bike theft. There was a milk crate on the rear rack (quite apropos for a Cow Bike, no?), and the lock went through the crate and around a post. The thief actually somehow melted the area of the crate around the lock to get the bike free!

Friday, August 18, 2006

bike broke

Well, this is the first time I've had a bike break on me!

I was riding my Linear recumbent on the Ottawa River pathway towards Brittania Park, and noticed the rear tire was chirping as it rubbed the frame. Stopped, tightened up the quick release, then kept going. The chirping returned, and so I figured maybe the hub's bearing adjustment was coming loose and causing the wheel to move laterally. So I stopped at the park and flipped the bike on its back (not the smoothest manouvre with that long frame and tailbox). Sure enough, the wheel had some lateral motion to it, but not due to a loose hub. It was due to a rather long crack in the left chainstay!!

This occurred right behind the reinforcing U-plate that joins the two stays together, right where they connect with the main frame (they attach with two quick-releases, because the bike folds at this juncture). This is also right under the seat, as all my weight is on this point, and I guess nine years of that stressed things a bit too much.

Since I was about 12 km from home, I had to decide between calling a cab (and subsequently folding and half-dismantling the beast to fit), or trying to ride home. I figured I'd see how far could get riding, and was actually able to make it back home in one piece, though I of course slowed down greatly for any bumps and dips, and grimaced as I went over them.

I now have three options, because since this broken rear end of the bike can be disconnected I can still save the machine: 1) Buy a new set of stays, but that would cost over $300US., 2) Make a new rear end out of steel, using the same design (welding pal Juergen gave a thumbs-up to this), or something incorporating suspension, and 3) scrap the bike and use the bits to make a new recumbent. Hmm...

The design of this bike has some issues that I'd heard about, and have now had confirmed. The original chainstay design consisted of flat aluminum stock, and the stays were apparently rather flexible. Mine has the second incarnation, where the plates have a shallow "V" formed through their middles for extra stiffening. But those have had their problems as well, and I know that the current builder has a new design in the works (the original company is out of business, but the name and design have been revived by Peter Stull of the Bicycle Man). There have been two other issues with my bike over the years. The first happened when the bike was two years old, and that was a crack in the weld where the BB shell fits into it mounting plate, causing much creaking. That whole unit was replaced under warranty by the original company, but it took six months to get done.

The second was potentially very dangerous. Since the bike has under-seat steering, a rod is needed to connect the steering bar to the front fork. This is done by way of a telescoping tube, and the inner, front section is drilled with holes so that one can adjust the length of the whole rod (to fit riders of different sizes. The seat slides fore and aft as well). The holes are for fitting a pin that backs up the clamping mechanism, and this rod is hollow, so the many holes definitely compromise the strength of this tube. One day I was arriving home and as I came to a stop the steering came loose in my hands. I kept the bike upright and thought "wtf?" I looked down and there was the front, inner tube, snapped in half through one of the holes! If that had happened at any speed I would have instantly lost control of the bike and crashed. I got rather angry at the stupidity of this design, and since the company was gone at that point I had to deal with it myself. I bought a new solid bar of aluminum, and simply drilled one hole where it was needed. That has held up just fine over the past three years. I posted this idea to the Linear listserv, and mentioned to Peter that this is something he should keep an eye on as he works to improve the bike's design.

I have loved the comfort of this bike, and that comfort has allowed me to do a lot more cycling and for greater distances than any of my upright bikes. So I still want to have a recumbent bike, but will take my time to decide if this one will live again, or get turned into another one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Further trike fun

Last Friday and Saturday saw me playing a hotel gig in the wilds of Kanata (western suburb, about 20 km from downtown). A bit too far for Kyoto, but I was at least able to be multi-modal about my transport. My other two musical accomplices were coming by minivan from Aylmer, which meant they had to come across the Champlain Bridge. My younger brother lives a few blocks from there, so I pedaled to his house, unloaded the drums, then parked the trike. The guys then picked me up to continue our journey without having to go out of their way, which would have been in the opposite direction to pick me up a home. That worked out very well!

Next up, I had a noon-hour show to play yesterday in the downtown core. And as I was making my way along Queen St. I see an RCMP car parked at the curb. Now, in my three years of cargo triking not a single police officer has commented on this machine. They've driven around me, driven past me, but never stopped or engaged me. I've just figured they observe the standard SEP mantra (Somebody Else's Problem). So I'm triking along, and the officer must have seen me in his side mirror, as he looked out and back, gave me a big thumbs-up, an shouted "all right, that's great!". I just gave a big smile, shouted thanks, and continued on my way...

BTW, this gig was at the World Exchange Plaza, and the "stage" is that low expanse of flat rock facing the building. So I can trike right up to the stage and unload! Then at the end it's back over the sidewalk, onto the street, and homeward bound.

Goofy pic of the week. While waiting for the rest of the HPVOoO gang to arrive for Sunday dinner, Richard snaps this photo of his son Nico and I having an existential debate regarding the menu items:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

HPVOoO Sunday dinner

The HPVOoO Sunday dinner gathering has been a ritual for close to four years now. And for the past two we've been dining at the Vietnamese Noodle House, conveniently located two blocks from my house. :) Sometimes there may be only three or four of us, but we've also had over twenty, with an average of around eight. One of the handy things about these dinners is that when we meet or hear from people that seek advice about recumbents and fun bikes we can just tell them to join us. If they're lucky we can sometmes arrange to have a machine on hand that they'd like to try out. Quite often we go for a ride afterwards, regardless of the season. And the ride often begins with us hanging out in front of Richard's (RGB) house* around the corner. That's when new folks can check out whatever hpvs are on hand, and / or one of our members can show off their newest creation or purchase.

This past Sunday we were on our way over to Preston St. to have some dessert (gelato) and check out a vehicle. While gathering a RGB's I noticed a funny, and very red, plastic tub chair at the curb. At first I ignored it, as from a distance it looked like it lookd like it was cracked, which upon inspection proved to be just a cord draped over from the dead lamp standing behind it. So I tossed it into the back of Kyoto, and then Adina climbed in and we went for a short hop. I later figured out that there were two chairs stuck together, one perfectly fitting into the other!

Then we eventually all pushed off, stopping behind Pub Italia to check out the owner's cool little Vespa delivery truck (curiously called the VespaCar). This thing has three wheels, and and is registered as a motorcycle (the steering is done with a motorcycle-type bar setup). Joe, the owner, admitted that the handling was "interesting" while cornering, as this type of layout makes for a tippy machine. We put Kyoto beside it, and noted that they were the same length. Now, his truck would be nicer, in that it carries more weight and would keep one dry in wet weather, but on the other hand it needs gas, a vehicle license, and also tips over more easily! ;) Not to mention the challenge of finding parts for this vintage foreign machine...

Then it was over to the gelato place where I pulled in behind a parked car, and then decided it would be fun to pull out the two chairs for sit-down dessert. Note RGB's well-lit tallbike (built by Mike, in ballcap looking at the camera) at the extreme right.

All photos by Richard, found at the day's photo page.

As we were getting ready to leave we noticed a bunch of stuff on the curbside from an emptied apartment. Charles and I grabbed some shelving, along with some venetian blinds, and then we all proceeded to his place to deliver his catch, then home for me with mine. RGB was thinking of heading back to grab some of the filing cabinets...

* Richard lives 2.5 blocks from me, while builders Juergen and Mike Watson live in the east and west ends of the city, respectively. So with these "hubs" of creative activity we thought we needed a good acronym for whatever the heck they are. I came up with ARMPIT (Advanced Research and Meeting Place for Ingenious Transport), with Richard and I being ARMPIT Central, and the others naturally ARMPIT East and ARMPIT West. We'd have a South, but don't know anyone out there, and North, well, from here that'd put you in the Ottawa River...

Oil Safari

A good, multi-part article in the Chicago Tribune.

" What does it take to quench America’s mighty thirst for gasoline? Pulitzer-winning correspondent Paul Salopek traced gas pumped at a suburban Chicago station to the fuel’s sources around the globe. In doing so, he reveals how our oil addiction binds us to some of the most hostile corners of the planet—and to a petroleum economy edging toward crisis."

Thanks to fellow HPVOoOer Brian M. for the link!

Monday, August 07, 2006

trike adventures in burb-land.

So after a week of having e-assist on the trike, what's the verdict?

I like it.

The two biggest features are of course help with hills, but also getting up to speed a bit more quickly, which is good in certain traffic situations. After triking to my Sunday gig, and again to a show in the Market last Thursday (and also just playing around after the weekly HPVOoO Sunday dinner), I thought it was time to see how how it fared further from the downtown nest. So last Friday I decided to head south, which meant using an arterial road like Bank or Bronson, with the Value Village store at Bank and Walkley as a destination.

Bank St. is the city's Main Drag, and for the most part the curb lanes are full of parked cars. I could've taken that route, but I'd have all the cagers breathing (exhaust-ing?) down my neck as I took the only available lane. Plus it has one heck of a hill just past the Rideau River...

Bronson is wider, but is a very ugly road. A former residential road (and in the mid-1800s it was the western boundary of Ottawa) it is now an arterial feeder route with two lanes in each direction, undivided, and the right lanes have precious little extra width for cyclists. On my 2-wheel bikes I avoid it whenever possible, but I do have to cross it to get many places, since I live a few blocks west. After skirting by the upscale Glebe neighbourhood it turns into a 6-lane divided road as it heads past Carleton University, and later shrinks down to a 2-lane route called the Airport Parkway (with an 80 kph limit).

With all these positive aspects I decide to try it! I cycle down my street as far as possible until it gets cut off by the mid-town highway (417), then head east three blocks and get on Bronson. The traffic here is busy, what with the highway access ramps, but not travelling too fast. Once past the underpass it picks up a bit, but traffic lights and sheer volume keep the flow down and allow me to keep pace. A kilometre later past Carling Ave. it picks up, but is also a slight downslope and fly down as fas as I can. Any traffic behind me just pulls into the available left lane and goes around. But shortly it starts to rise as the approach to the bridge over the canal begins and my speed naturally drops. I apply the assist and do my best to make it over, but one buttwipe in a van behind me honks aggressively and then zooms around yelling at me - the first time I've had any abuse in three years of riding this trike. Part of the problem is that at this point the speed limit rises to 60 kph, and the road widens and everyone starts accelerating, because soon they can fly up the long straightaway past the University.

But once over the bridge a bike lane opens up, and I stuff myself in here (just barely) and with some e-assist I pedal up the gradual, kilometre-long hill (perhaps 8% grade). At the top of the hill I turn off at Heron Rd. to make my way east to Bank St., another kilometre or so away. Heron is four lanes divided, and again afternoon traffic just goes around me. Some confusion near Bank, as there's a parking lot outlet for the Canadian Tire store, and some cars are not sure how fast I'm going and whether they can pull out. Trun onto Bank St., which at this point is a busy, undivided four lane (with centre turn lanes that open up) and some impatient drivers. I had to get over into the left and then centre lane make a turn, and even though my signal was on I eventually just had to stuff myself into the lane, as no one was leaving room for me.

I turned in at Altavista so I could visit both a music store and the local Sally Ann. Then back out onto Bank for a block, then turning ino the large Value Village lot. After the usual perusal of the aisles the irony is that for once I found no large items that needed the trike to get them home! Instead of heading back down Bank I headed west along Walkley (divided 4-lane), and found the traffic fairly light. I was heading for Riverside Drive, but first turned down a wide residential street for about a km, then over to northbound Riverside, another undivided 4-lane. Traffic was not too bad here, and I decided not to mess with the lovely traffic patterns needed to get onto northbound Bronson, and decided to head for Prince of Wales Drive (old hwy. 16), since its shoulders are designated bike "lanes". So I got into the left lane to get back onto Heron, which widens here into six lanes. That might sound intimidating, but it means two lanes for others to pass me. ;) The bridge over the canal here is rather steep (for a heavy cargo trike) and the assist was full on to help me over at anything less than a crawl. I then turned north onto PoW, and a nice ride back to Dow's Lake, where I turned onto Preston St., which put me back in my 'hood.

Verdict? Well, pedaling a large vehicle that takes up a lane requires a modicum of persistence and bullheadedness. Downtown-ish it's fine - motor vehicle traffic expects to travel more slowly, so I never feel too pressured. But out in the burbs the car is king, and the speeds are higher, so one's fortitude gets tested much more readily. Without the assist I would have crawled over a few of those hills and bridges, and even with it I was faster, but certainly not keeping up. And that was travelling without any kind of load in the cargo bed. Juergen has suggested eventually putting together a larger battery pack that I could install just for these longer excursions, but for carrying a load it seems that a stronger motor might also be in order. That said, I almost never gig out in the burbs, and can usually get a lift from a fellow band member if needed.

It was good to find out how the assist would help in a more challenging road environment, but I don't plan on making it a habit to trike out there. The machine will continue doing what it does downtown, with the assist helping when needed. Going further afield will need a re-think in terms of both batteries and motor. BTW, after my excursion the battery pack still seemed to have juice, though of course I did not want to run it down completely. It took about 3.5 hours to recharge.