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.