Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fastest to the end of my street?

I've wanted to try this for a while...

What is the fastest to the end of my street? Bike, car, or walking?

I expected it to be walk, car, bike in that order - but no.

For each test I started in the hall dressed normally, with all the doors shut.

For the car, go into the garage, open garage door, unlock car, get in, fasten belt, reverse out, shut garage door (using remote), drive to end of street - 54 seconds.

For the bike, go into the garage, open garage door, put bike outside, close garage door, put on helmet and gloves, mount bike, ride to end of street - 1 minute 48.

For the walk, unlock and open front door, close and lock front door, walk to end of street - 1 minute 18.

So the car wins!

The distance is only 110 meters, and I really expected walking to be faster.

I'm sure that if we lived in a dream world, where I could leave the bike unlocked outside, and didn't wear any safety equipment, then the bike would be way faster - in fact I'll give that a try.

Back soon.

Well, yes, the bike is now 39 seconds, a clear winner. Also, it's started to rain.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Two months since my last post

So much has happened - absolute turmoil.

So no posts, although in some ways writing the blog is something that I enjoy and that helps me with perspective.

First thing is that following my fall in Dunedin, I had a CT scan that showed that I'd had a stroke in the past - not a good thing. This meant some medication, and an renewed emphasis on exercise, so the biking has continued unabated (if also undocumented). A follow-up visit to a specialist Neurologist, and an MRI scan revealed that I hadn't, in fact, had a stroke - and that my brain is normal (at least physically).

This was obviously a big relief, although the exercise program is going so well, there's no way I'd stop anyway.

There are a couple of other bad things happening at the moment, so getting out on the bike or for a long walk is just the thing even if it does sometimes end in tears.

I've had two decent falls off the bike recently, not counting the gentle ones into tussock on the Port Hills, so am glad of the gloves and helmet.

The bike is going along really well, and with some advice from workmates, my technique is slowly improving and together with improved fitness, Strava is taking a beating (14 PRs today at McLean's Island for example).

The big news is that I have caved in and ordered clip-in pedals - which should be good for a few laughs as I get used to them. Apparently everyone falls over trying to stop so that's something to look forward to.

Commuting has been good, but not as many days as I'd like. I am using the bike more for local errands and it's such a great way to clock up a bit of exercise.


Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm not just in it for the money!


Early on I decided to log my commuting riding separately from my other (more mountain-bikey) riding.

This has been great, and I use Runkeeper for the commuting, and Strava for the other. It keeps all the commute stuff off Strava, but still lets me keep track of what's happening.

From a commuting point of view, I have averaged 29km a week over the last 4 weeks. Work is about 2km away so this equates to about 14 trips a week which is pretty good! I come home for lunch most days, so can easily do four trips a day when I take the bike to work.

This riding is completely replacing an equivalent car ride, I'm not doing any more or less than I would if I were using the car.

The IRD rate for car mileage is 77c per kilometer, so  I am currently saving $22.30 a week by riding - over a $1000 per year.

But wait, there's more!

This also means that I have done about 1 hour 40 of exercise per week, which averaged over the 5 days means an average of 20 minutes a day. Which is close to the the recommended 30 minutes a day - without even trying, dressing up, or inconveniencing myself in any way.

Effectively I'm being paid to exercise.

I find myself using the bike more and more. Since I got the backpack I can go to the supermarket, and carry my laptop back and forth to work - it adds a lot of flexibility.

My ambition now is to take the bike to the airport when I'm going away just for a day. That will save $32 in parking charges on top of the kilometers!

Bike commuting is as quick as the car for the short distances I go, and a lot more enjoyable.

Don't just take my word for it though, here's a link to Mr Money Mustache on the economics of bikes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Biking for mental health

Difficult subject this.

I'd noticed that I was feeling very happy while I was riding my bike, and for some time afterwards. And then I noticed that generally I was feeling better most of the time.

Which made me think - is biking a way to improve mental health? perhaps even more than exercise in general?

To Google!

Why, yes it is.

There are lots of articles discussing this phenomenon like this one from NYC Bike Commuter.

There are a lot of theories about this, the concentration, the extra sunlight, etc.

But to some extent, who cares why? it just works.

Depression is soul-destroying and dangerous and makes me a person I don't want to be. It's hard on the inside and it's hard keeping it on the inside and it's hard on the people closest to me.

The bike is making things better and better. And the more I do on the bike, the better it is.

Commuting on the bike is great, I'm doing it every day I can and actively increasing the number of days. The weather is not a concern - there's gear for that. Every day I ride the bike to work is a minimum of 20 minutes free exercise and extra well-being.

Getting out at the weekend - to a park or trail - is even better.

I know recent converts to anything (non-smoking, religion, whatever) can be a pain, but really, really, if you've got a bike - use it more. If you don't have a bike, then buy a cheap one and just try it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Back in the saddle!

Well, it's been over a fortnight since I last rode. Unfortunately this was due to an accident  I had which kind of curtailed my capabilities for a while. Not a bike accident I hasten to add, but a nasty fall that left me with facial injuries.

Anyway, today I was back.

Before riding I tried out the new pump I bought last time I was in Dunedin - I can't show a photo because my phone was broken in the accident. So when I get a working phone, I'll take some photos and do a min-review. My tires on the mighty 29" were quite soft, and since I am always on the road or well-kept tracks, I decided to pump them up a bit.

What a difference! The bike really does roll on now, and is much easier to pedal again - it was already pretty good, but now it's really good.

I went to McLean's Island this morning and a great day for it too. It was a record frost this morning and by the time I headed out, the sun was well up, but still pretty cold and frosty in the shade. A really good mix and great times zooming through the forest.

It's much more exciting when you've smashed your glasses in an earlier accident and are riding without full vision. Surprisingly, it seems more scary than driving the car - maybe because on the bike I'm looking for smaller things - small rocks and potholes rather than buses and SUVs.

Two loops of the Coringa loop - no Strava because of the broken phone - but I had a very happy 50 minutes of good exercise, followed by a delicious long black in the sun. Is there a better way to spend a sunny/frosty morning?

Looking forward to heading back to work tomorrow morning after missing that for a fortnight too. I'll take the car in the morning because I have to go to the optician to get tested for new glasses, but should be able to swap to the bike at lunchtime.

I am so glad to have got into this sport - there are other reasons why doing more exercise is extra important for me - so this is a great way to do that.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A bad thing happens - a lesson for the future

A lovely day in Christchurch today, and I went back to McLean's Island to try out the track on my new bike.

There were a few more people around than the last time I was there, including quite a few families with young children, as well as the gnarly expert riders.

All went well as I headed off on the Coringa loop, I got passed by a couple of bikes, and I even passed a couple myself (hard to believe but true). I ended up behind a woman and her daughter (I'm guessing here), and we were all traveling at about the same speed.

We came up to a family group that had stopped in the middle of nowhere. The parents and a child or two were off to one side of the track. But, 10 meters further on, there were 3 young children stopped in the middle of the track in line abreast. There was a small gap between child 2 and 3, maybe about 30cm.

The two in front of me went through the gap, and I slowed down and aimed for it too. As I went through I felt contact with my right pedal, just a wee clipping of the child to my right. I thought it was very slight, but as I carried on, I looked back and he was down and I felt very bad. By the time I realised, I was quite a distance down the track, and it didn't seem reasonable to try to go back on a one-way track.

So, I hope the child was ok, and not too traumatised. In retrospect, knowing my abilities, I should have stopped and walked the bike through.

It does seem unreasonable to let your children stop in the middle of the track, effectively blocking it. Even if they had been two abreast it would have been ok. So maybe the parents need to think a bit too.

But I know that if I had been there with a young child and another adult knocked them off their bike then I would be upset - so I am sorry.

I'm still learning about mountain biking and today was another lesson.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I try an electric bike

I'm in Auckland on business and went out to Tamaki to catch up with a friend from Christchurch who is working on some top secret innovation out there.

And he's riding an electric bike as his daily transport.

This is (another) John, and the bike he's built.

The motor is in the front hub - John says if he did it again he would try to put it in the rear, because wheel-spin can be a problem (!).

The thermos-like object on the downtube is the battery - which is good for hours.

The small brown box on the carrier is the electronic controller.

So what's it like to ride?

In a word - too easy. There is a thumb control that pushes as the accelerator after you get rolling with the pedals, and the bike just zooms away when you gently push it. I only rode it round the carpark, but there was a considerable slope up at the side which was completely flattened by the motor.

John tells me the top speed is around 40km/hr and that he easily beats traffic around Auckland's congested streets - which I absolutely believe.

The bike weighs about 30kg, but you don't really notice this when you're riding it, and all the weight is pretty low down, so it feels quite stable.

Would I buy one? Possibly not at the moment, since at least part of the point of riding my bike to work is 'free' fitness training. In 10 or 15 years when I am in my dotage, it seems like a good way to keep riding once the spirit is willing but the flesh weak.

All in all, though, tres cool.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

First visit to Bottle Lake

So, today I went to Bottle Lake to try riding there.

This is the third Mountain bike track I've tried, after Mclean's Island and the Little River rail trail, and definitely the most interesting and challenging.

Well, ok, the bits in the photos aren't that challenging...

The area is huge, and there are lots of tracks of varying difficulty.

Obviously, I chose the beginner's level track.

I still ended up pushing the bike up a few hills, where the lowest gear (out of 30!), wasn't low enough. This was me though, because on at least one of the hills I saw other people flying up them.

Riding through the forest was pretty exhilarating, swooping in between trees, tight curves, and lots of up and downs.

At one point, the track was underwater, and wading was the only option - glad I was wearing my new Ground Effect shorts. My shoes and socks got soaked though, so that made the rest of the ride a bit squelchy, but also made me feel like a hard-core MTB rider(!).

The tracks are all different and I want to go back to all three. Maybe the next one will be McLean's island  - I'd like to see how the new bike (and my slightly improved technique and fitness) work out.

All in all, I'm really enjoying this new hobby. Fun, fitness, and technology all combined - what's not to like?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A visit to Melbourne

Melbourne is proudly home to the world's most unsuccessful bike share scheme.

Which is a shame in a lot of ways.

It has a lot going for it, a flat city, good cycleways, absurdly cheap rentals, and a very easy to use system.

But hardly anyone uses it, and I'll tell you why. The helmet law is credited with killing the bike share scheme.

Above, a long row of bikes forlornly waiting to be hired.

The system is so simple to use, and only $2.80 for the whole day - I'm sure that's cheaper than one ride on a tram. The cycleways are great - in many places they are kerb separated from traffic.

I am so going to do this next time I am here. This cycle rack is just opposite work and then there is an easy ride down St Kilda road to the great little cafe and generally bohemian St Kilda shopping area.

You can even get a helmet at the same time as you get a bike, many of the bikes have donated helmets, or even official ones that you can use.

Actually, not withstanding my earlier comments, it's a real shame that the scheme is so poorly used.

There's really no excuse.

If you're in Melbourne, give it a go - I know I will next time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

First impressions - Rocky Mountain Cycles Trailhead 29

Well, I picked the bike up today (and dropped the red one off to let them have a crack at the perennial flat tire problem).

It's big, blue, and good-looking - just like Avatar!

Compared with the red bike, it's a new generation. It's got hydraulic disc brakes, new split-style shifters, more front fork supension, and a 10 speed rear gear set.

And 29" wheels. I defy anyone to ride this bike without singing Proud Mary under their breath - you know 'big wheel keep on turning ... rolling on the river' etc. I know I certainly can't.

The front wheel won't even fit into that photo!

I was pleased to be able to get the bike into my trusty Jazz (although I had to move my seat forward to get it in).

The first ride was this afternoon, down the rail trail to Hagley Park, a couple of laps there and back again for a total of 23km. All tarmac or well packed dirt, and flat.

The bike was great, I did notice it was a bit slower off the mark than the red one, but just shifting to a lower gear when stopping fixes that. Once it is moving then it seems to have more momentum and just wants to keep rolling on. I noticed that the ride was noticeably smoother, probably a combo of the big wheels (keep on turning), and the better front suspension.

I found the saddle to be ok, which had been a concern for me. On the red bike the stock saddle made me go numb in places you never want to go numb in, and I had to replace it. The jury is still out on this one because I was wearing my great baggy cycle shorts (review to come), and I'll need to see how it is with just jeans or whatever.

All in all, a great ride. It was faster, more comfortable, and more stable than the red bike.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I've ordered a new bike!

I like my red mountain bike, but decided that it is a bit too entry level.

Modern Mountain bikes are just amazing, and there is so much choice of brands etc, that it gets very confusing and intimidating to try to work out what to buy.

I started by setting a budget (of $1000-1500) which narrows down the field a bit.

Then I decided that I really wanted 29" wheels - they are supposed to be smoother, easier to pedal, and better at handling bumps etc. The only downside seems to be a slight loss of agility compared with the more traditional 26" (which is what my red bike is). I don't care about agility at the moment.

I've read lots of review sites and have finally chosen a Rocky Mountain Cycles Trailhead 29.

It seems to have everything I want and the guys at work have approved the technical specs. The main point of interest there is that it is 10 speed at the back, so 30 gears to choose from!

In NZ, the bike shops apparently only get stock once a year, so if you miss out you will have to wait a while to get the bike you want....

So I went in yesterday to Bicycle Business and put down a deposit on one.

Ironically enough, today when I went to ride my red MTB, it had a flat rear tire (again!!!!!). I think there is definitely something wrong with that wheel that is causing this - that's the 3rd flat in 3 weeks. I'm going to take it into work and beg the guys to look at it, I've lost all confidence in the local bike shop.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I buy a helmet (and gloves)

I had come under a lot of pressure at work to wear a helmet. It's kind of an interesting situation. As I understand it, helmet laws overall are detrimental to public health - because they substantially reduce the number of cyclists. But, for any individual cyclist, wearing a helmet is positive for their health.

So one of my biking friends at work pointed out that as soon as I went off-road, I would fall off, and would need gloves and really, a helmet.

I would never ride a motorcycle without a leather jacket and gloves  (used to get quite hot tooling  round Central Otago in summer), so this kind of made sense.

And then the next night I was out in our cul-de-sac, trying to lift the front wheel. You push down on the bars to compress everything and then pull back sort of. Anyway it was all going well until I inadvertently turned the bars a little as they came up.

It all happened so fast. I've fallen off plenty of motorbikes, and even been in the odd car accident and the thing I always remember is that they seem to happen in slow motion. Not falling off the bike. It was instant. One minute up, the next a heap on the road.

I've actually always prided myself on my ability to fall over tidily. Years ago I did Judo for a term or two and the first thing they teach you is how to fall without hurting yourself - that was about as far as I got - so not a lot of use offensively. And I've never been hurt seriously falling off motorbikes either.

I managed to roll and avoid hitting my head on the road this time too. But I lost some skin off one hand, and I must admit I was a bit shaken by the whole thing. Partly because of how fast it happened, I didn't feel at all in control. I was thinking how stupid it would be to have banged my head badly at walking pace in my own street - and I felt it could easily have happened.

I've now bought a helmet - the modern ones actually aren't that bad either to look at or wear. And I've worn it since.

The gloves I got from a great shop in Dunedin, where they were very helpful and knowledgeable, and had a good range of bikes and accessories. They have gel pads on the inner part, to stop your fingers getting numb. But the best part is that the index fingers have little wires embedded so that you can use your iPhone without taking the gloves off - how cool is that. I intend to do mini reviews of equipment I buy, but unfortunately in this case I don't know the details of what I actually bought.

Another problem

The bike shop replaced both tubes.

While I was picking it up, I took the opportunity to ask what sort of bike I own (seemed like something I should know).

It turns out to be a 26" Mountain Bike - so there we are. And it's red.

It's definitely got three gears at the front, and 6 or 8 or something at the back, so it's somewhere between an 18 and 24 speed depending on the count.

I rode to and from work a couple of times.

My biking friends at work said how unlucky I had been to get a flat tire - 'that never happens on Mountain Bikes round town', 'I haven't had an MTB puncture in over 2 years, even on tracks', etc etc.

The next morning, the rear tire was flat.

#$%^&*(*&^%         $%^&*(*&^%

I loaded it into the ever reliable Jazz (never had a puncture), and took it the bike shop where we had a terse conversation.

Monday, April 21, 2014

First problem

Getting to and from work was fine.

It only took about 10 minutes each way, and was no problem.

I can't believe how many people told me off for not wearing a helmet! We never wore them when I learnt to ride, I think they look geeky, I don't even own one. It all seems a bit unnecessary for a ten minute commute.

In the morning I went to ride to work and the rear tire was completely flat - after one ride.

I'm assuming that since the tires and tubes were the original ones, after 5 years of non-use the tubes must have perished or something.

So, discovered that my bike will fit into my Honda Jazz! What an amazing little car that is. With the back seats down and the passenger seat forward, the bike just drops in.

I will ask the bike shop to replace both tubes in order to be sure (fateful words).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Start

Hi, I'm John.

I bought a bike about 5 years ago, rode it around the block a couple of times and then left it in the garage.

When I grew up in Dunedin most kids didn't have bikes because it is quite hilly, although I did learn to ride on friends' bikes.

All in all, I've probably spent less than 20 hours riding.

But now I've decided to give it a serious go, and there are several reasons.

This year I reached the same age as my father was when he died. Intellectually I know that people are different, and the fact that he smoked (while I stopped 15 years ago) makes a big difference, but still it feels a bit ominous.

After always being a skinny kid, I've steadily put on weight (especially since I stopped smoking), and nothing I've tried seems to help. At various times, I've cut out carbs, meat, and even alcohol (worst 24 hours of my life). At the moment I'm floating around 92kg, which is too high.

Mr Money Mustache says everyone should own (and use) a bike in this brilliant post.

We had a bike week at work that seemed like a lot of fun - here is an article about it.


I went to the local bike shop and they came around and sorted out my bike so I can use it to ride to work, which is my immediate objective. Work is only 2 1/2 km away so that should be achievable. Also, I looked up on Google Map's excellent bike route finder and discovered a way to go that avoids some very busy roads, using a track that I didn't even know existed.