Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stylish sun protection

One thing that annoys me about cycling is the bicycle helmet. No, I am not being a princess about sweaty, hat hair, but your typical helmet could be a bit more interesting. (I always wear a helmet, because Mr Aggy has had two bad accidents and both times his helmet stopped it from being worse.)

I really love the nutcase helmets - they have a great range of colours and sizes. 
Nutcase Street GEN2 Black Hibiscus - very pretty!
However, I have very sun-sensitive skin and I prefer to have a visor of some sort.

My researches also discovered 'Da Brim', but I personally don't like the look of these.

However, after a lot of searching, I finally found RockiNoggins. They have a great range of hats that fit over your helmet. As it is the height of summer, I have been wearing the black and white 'Kate'. I think it is great as it provides a much more shade compared with a visor.

These hats simply attach over your helmet. You put on some strips of velcro onto your helmet (supplied with your hat) and then attach the hat to these.

I actually went into Melbourne and bought a couple of the $5 RACV helmets, so I have a helmet per hat, but you can swap hats easily enough.

I also have an 'Annie', which I also wear. All their hats have a loop at the back where you can attach a light for riding in the dark.

The Seattle-based company is very responsive to emails and Elissa at RockiNoggins is always ready to answer any questions. For instance, for my shaped helmet she advised me to order a S/M in the Annie style but a L/XL in the Kate style.

So if you want a bit of a different look for your helmet, check them out!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Capital City Trail Clockwise

The other day Jules and I rode the Capital City Trail. This is a trail that circumnavigates Melbourne city and is an easy ride - even easier on an electric bike! It's also only about 30 km, so there is no problem with range anxiety. I hardly glanced at battery usage and used Boost wherever I felt like it.

We met at Southern Cross Station (where I was nursing an injured bike courtesy of VLine, see previous post). I had ridden the trail before on my Trek and always gone in an anti-clockwise direction. So this time we decided to go in the clockwise direction. I don't normally go this way as there is a nasty climb at The Boulevard near Kew, but I knew this wouldn't be an issue with the Gazelle.

It was a lovely day, about 27C or so and we had a great day. Our first stop was by the bay at Docklands. We pretty much had the entire Docklands precinct to ourselves at 10:00 am on a Wednesday. Deserted!

Jules at Docklands
Anyway we stopped to look at the view, and then saw these sand sculptures. Very impressive. I'm not sure how they do these. Do they put some sort of glue in them to stop them falling over when the sand dries out?

We had a quick coffee at Docklands and then I forced Jules to look at my favourite grocery store - Costco. Boy, that store is cheap compared with Woolworths and Coles. We didn't buy much because we were on the bikes but we couldn't resist buying some nutbars (not one, not two, but fifteen!)

The next part of the Capital City Trail is up to Parkville by a rather smelly, isolated route. There were a couple of winos around under the bridges, so we went pretty quickly through here on Normal.

If you look at the Strava map, you will notice a bit of a backtrack at Parkville/North Carlton - this is because we both forgot sunscreen and we need to buy some at Barkly Square in Brunswick.

Back onto the trail, past Dights Falls - do they really qualify for the term 'falls'? Then we went onto the Collingwood Children's Farm. We had to make a detour here as there is no way we could lift out bikes up the Gipps Street steps. The detour took us past the Abbotsford Convent which is very impressive. I need to go back there on another day and really check this out.

The view of the river in this area is just lovely. You would never think we were in suburban Melbourne.

The rest of the trip by the Yarra had me straining my neck to look at the backs of the multi-million dollar mansions along the river.

Then back to the City and a stop for a late lunch. We stopped at the Riverland Bar near Federation Square. If I didn't have a train to catch, I think I could have stayed there all afternoon. Good food and a great view.

In front of the Riverland Bar

All in all, a great day. The Capital City Trail is a really enjoyable ride and shows you parts of Melbourne that you would never see otherwise. Highly recommended!

Ride Details:
  • Ride about 30 km, some hills 
  • Riding with no regard to battery conservation
  • One bar used of Gold battery, but probably well into the second bar.

You can view the ride on Strava here.

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Friday, 22 February 2013

VLine - no care, no responsibility

The other day I was very impressed with how easy it was to put my bike on the train. It is still easy - but unfortunately, leaving your pride and joy with the conductor is no guarantee that you will get it back in the same condition that it went in.

As I mentioned, I was meeting Jules in the city on Wednesday to do the Capital City Trail. I duly left my bike with the conductor, and mentioned to him that it needed to lean against something as we had tried using just the bike stand before and the bike fell over.

So at Southern Cross station, I went to get my bike and it was lying on its side in the conductor's carriage. Clearly it had fallen over. When I picked it up it had fallen over onto its right side.

I had a quick look, and it seemed OK so off I went.

Now I have a great metal drink bottle I use on these rides. It keeps drinks cold and is very sturdy. I put my drink bottle inside the pannier and not in the pannier bottle holder when I put the bike on the train. But when I took my drink bottle out of the pannier, it was badly dented.

Now the drink bottle was inside the left pannier. So clearly the bike had had at least one major fall on its left side and then, later on, another fall onto its right side where I found it at the end of the journey.

Good work VLine L.

On riding the bike around Melbourne I also noticed there was a 'click' in the the left pedal, and it didn't feel right. 

Back home after the ride Mr Aggy had a look at the bike and agreed that something was wrong. I put a panicked call to Sean at MySpokes, and he told me to bring it up.

So the next day I had a long, worried drive from Geelong to Mooroolbark. And yes, there was a problem. The left pedal crank was bent. (Now I'm really, really annoyed with VLine.) Fortunately Sean could give me a crank off another bike. He also replaced my pedals, fixed something on the handlebar stem and did a general straighten up of things. 

A plug here for MySpokes  - even if it is not the closest shop to you, it is well worth the drive. You get really knowledgeable advice and great service. (Why else would I travel from Geelong to Mooroolbark?) Thank-you Sean!

So the train trip to Melbourne for the Capital City ride turned out to be an expensive exercise. However, I'm going to use the train again. If I don't, I really limit my range, and thus my fun, on the Gazelle. Next time I think I'll insist that they lie it down in the carriage. Or if possible I'll try to get a VLocity train, where it comes on with me.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bikefest a Bikefizzer

I was pretty disappointed with the Bikefest Treadlie market.

Firstly, one of the main exhibitors I wanted to see, Cyclette, wasn't there. I had emailed them a couple of months before and received a reply saying that they were going; but they were a no-show. I couldn't find them on the program and after looking at the stands, I rang them to see if they were there and I'd missed them, but they didn't call back. (A later email said they had family problems.) So I was loaded down with cash and not a vest in sight.

Cyclestyle were there with their selection of lovely bicycle goods. I was interested in their range of bicycle handbags and tried quite a few on the Gazelle, but I either didn't like the fit or they were too small. I did buy a skirt garter - this attaches to the bottom of your dress or skirt to stop it flying up while riding. I tested it on the weekend - it works well.

Since Treadlie had sponsored the market, I checked out their stand. Treadlie magazine seems like a really nice read - great pictures and interesting articles. I bought a two-year subscription and I am looking forward to getting my first copy.

I also went to the Gazelle stand and met Paul from Gazelle Australia and had a chat with Gary from MySpokes.

The Gazelle Stand at Bikefest.

Other than that, it was slim pickings for me at Bikefest. I spoke to one person about draft-proofing my windows - only around $400 per window (!) - and I quickly moved on.

I was really hungry and could have demolished a burger, but it seems that sustainable living (the market was part of a three-day sustainable living festival) does not include hamburgers. Overall I thought the food at the market was very expensive and most of it did not appeal to me.

One massive positive from the day was the train travel. Taking a bike on a train is really excellent value as there is no extra charge for the bike. Not having out a bike on a train before, I was a bit nervous about how it would all pan out, but I found that VLine could not be more helpful. 

The train up to Melbourne left from Platform 3 at Geelong and this is usually accessed by going up and down a flight of stairs. So I needed someone to open the gates and get me across the rails - no problem! Someone came out straight away and escorted me across. 

The train that arrived a couple of minutes later was one where the bikes go in the conductor's area and again, everyone was extremely obliging. 

The return journey was just as good. 

Tip: Don't rely on the Gazelle bike stand - lean the bike up against a wall in the carriage.

On Wednesday, I am riding with Jules again. We are hoping to do the Capital City Trail by electric bike and I will be using the train again. Jules is meeting me in town but she will be using the suburban network for her bke. I hope her train trip is as easy.

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Bike on a train

Tomorrow I am planning on going to the Tredlie market in Melbourne which is part of Bikefest 2013. I have been looking forward to checking out some of the stores that I have only seen online.

I really like the clothing from Cyclette in Sydney and I want to try on a few things so I can determine my sizing for later online orders. (And probably buy that vest I've been looking at!) My other target is CycleStyle. They have great bicycle handbags and I also want to look at their bags for bike racks. And MySpokes is having a stand there so I'll definitely go and look at the Gazelles.

Rather than taking my car to the Treadlie Market, I am going to try and take my bike on the train. Never having done this, I went down to the local VLine counter today see what I needed to do.

The lady behind the counter told me that first I have to determine if the train is a diesel train. If it is, I have to put my bike in the carriage behind the engine. (Huh, how do I know what a diesel train looks like? I thought they were all diesel?)

If it is a VLocity train, then the bike can go into the carriage. (Hmmm, how is it supported, do I use my stand, do I sit with it?)

Another slight worry is if the train is leaving from platform 3, rather than platform 1, at Geelong Station. If it leaves from platform 3, then the main access is up, over and down a set of stairs. Now there is no way I can lift the Gazelle up the stairs. So, instead, I apparently have to get a VLine staff member to open up the wheelchair access and escort me across. I'm not sure how easy it will be to find a helpful VLine staff member just after peak in the morning.

So a few, niggling worries - but should be right! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Clever cable carrying

I guess if you've been cycling for a while, you might think this is obvious. But all I can say is that it wasn't obvious to me!

Last Saturday, when I looked at the other Gazelle parked at our usual coffee shop (Soft Cafe on Pakington, highly recommended), I noticed that the AXA chain had been looped under the seat and then clicked into the wheel lock. What a great idea!

I have previously carried the AXA chain in my basket and found it annoying as it jumps around a bit. I have also put it in the panniers but it tends to weigh them down.

So from now on, I'm looping it too! If you're not sure what I mean, see the pic below.

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Monday, 11 February 2013

Fitness improving and another winery ride

Don't let anyone tell you that pedelecing does not make you fitter.

On Saturday, I rode with the usual Saturday group up to Ceres lookout on my Trek bike. Those of you who are not familiar with Geelong can probably figure out from the 'lookout' that it was up a very steep hill. I have attempted this before and never made it. On Saturday, I finally made it in one go - no stops. I felt like Cadel Evans climbing L'Alpe d'Huez.

All up, this monumental, unassisted ride was 25 km.

But the story doesn't stop there. I added another 57 km on the pedelec later!

Another Gazelle at coffee after the non-assisted ride - note the basket. Good choice!

What happened was, after the morning ride coffee, Mr Aggy and I decided to test the Gazelle's battery range again. This time we decided to ride to Banks Road Winery. This is about 1 km off the Bellarine Rail Trail in Marcus Hill. I rang and booked for lunch and we were off.

The aim of this trip was really to see how feasible it would be to get to Queenscliff and back on the pedelec. Banks Road Winery is a fair way along the trail to Queenscliff, so it would be a good indicator of whether the pedelec could make it. I made sure I was riding very conservatively and trying to have zero assist wherever possible. Fortunately, the Gazelle has great rolling, so this helped. 

I did the first 11 km with no assist and after that tried to stick to Eco when I needed assist. I had to Boost up from the rail tail to the Winery entrance, as the road is quite steep there. (Poor Mr Aggy had on leg assist!)

Incidentally, some revegetation projects along the Bellarine Rail Trail are sponsored by Geelong companies. This section is sponsored by Tuckers funeral company which I found quite amusing - if something happens on the trail and I shuffle off this mortal coil, Mr Aggy now knows who to call.

A comment here about the trail. In the section from Drysdale to Banks Road, the City of Greater Geelong (COGG) has put down a thick layer of very fine toppings. In some spots, particularly at the bottom of the hills, this is very hazardous as it is hard to see until you are right on it. It is like riding through sand and quite dangerous to hit at speed (hence the advertisement for Tuckers?) We had to ride single file through these areas. I think the COGG should tamp this material down, not just dump it on the trail.

We had lunch at Bistro at Banks. (5 bars left on the gold battery at this stage - 29 km from home). We were a bit hot after the ride, and they moved a table outside for us and set it up while we had a wine tasting and selected a bottle to have with lunch. 

Hmmm, nice hat hair!

The view from our table

The food was delicious and the staff were wonderful.  It seems the Bistro and the Winery are run by two separate people now, so if you want to eat, make sure you check the Bistro at Banks site. (It is not open Tuesday and Wednesday). The toilet is a 10/10 - high praise indeed.

Even though I had all five bars left, I still rode conservatively on the way home. The first bar went at 40 km, which was right at the crossing at Curlewis over the Portarlington Road. 

I had one slight problem on the way home. The drawstring in my pants broke and so I had  to fashion a makeshift belt to try and keep them up. Unfortunately, the Bellarine Rail trail has quite a number of road crossings close to Geelong, each of them with a chicane requiring you to slow down and negotiate around a sharp turn. I had to hop off my seat at each of these - and you guessed it, each time I had to pull my pants up! But I made it home, modesty intact. J

Ride Details:
  • Ride 57 km all up (from home), 52.5 km on trail, mostly flat
  • Fairly hot at times, in some spots deep layers of fine gravel made riding a bit hazardous
  • First 11 km, no assist
  • Riding to conserve battery, mainly Eco or off.
  • Ticked over one bar on Gold battery at 40 km.
  • Trip meter showing 57 km at home, still only one bar used.
Update: Kept the meter running and did another 12 km (riding conservatively) before the next bar went out.

You can view the ride on Strava here.

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Monday, 4 February 2013

Electric bike with attitude!

I recently was out for a walk and passed a motorcycle shop selling a 'chopper' electric bike.

This machine has a throttle, a 200 Watt motor and a wide, motorcycle-width back tyre. The 'Electric Chopper' has a maximum speed of 25 kph. However, the shop owner told me that by simply disconnecting a few wires, I could boost the maximum speed up to 50 kpm!

The battery is the grey thing with the handle in the middle of the bike. I didn't ask the range, but I guess going at 50 kpm would chew it up pretty fast.

I much prefer my Gazelle, and I am a bit concerned at meeting one of these at 50 kpm on a bike path, but to each their own. 

I wonder if you wear leathers or lycra?

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