Friday, May 30, 2008

3 Cheers for Auckland University Sustainability Network!

I think that's who it was who met us at the end of Critical Mass with hot samosas and a tomato-based sauce! What a great way to finish - all standing around in the cool, clear night air and chatting rather than disappearing into a noisy pub.

My dinner plans had been up in the air, so I dug in for two samosas and ate my bowl for "desert".

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Found an interesting new blog yesterday, with a great post on consent. We need more men in NZ speaking up about the practical implications of consent, in terms that show the simple humanity of the idea (and conversely how non-consensual acts deny the image of God in the other, although I doubt Ari would use those kinds of words).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Need for Speed

Yesterday I had to rush home when Heather cut her hand with a utility knife (making my birthday present!). As it worked out a neighbour drove her down to the doctor for two stitches, and I met them there. Nothing big, but she was worn out by having to make the excursion and sit up for so long in her wheelchair.

On the way home I was wishing for a speedier bike -- the Yuba may be great in general, but I was reluctant to wait for lights, let alone shop or scavenge on this trip. What I wanted was the 'Sunday Sports Car'. I have two spare bikes at work, waiting in the hope of pulling in colleagues for lunchtime rides in the Spring, and ought to set one up for the emergency sprint home. I'll probably configure the fixie with the highest gear I can manage in the homeward direction, which I would not otherwise do since that implies walking at least one section on the way back to work. (Not only is the steepest section uphill on the way in, but anytime after 10am I'm more energetic and limbered up.)

I am still considering whether I am comfortable giving up the motorbike permanently. It wouldn't have helped yesterday anyhow, as I wasn't able to predict the incident. It is good for lunchtime doctor's appointments, and late mornings when I want to get in quickly, but a speed-freak bicycle may help to mitigate the loss in those situations.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

El mundo - mi perla

So last month I finally received my new Yuba Mundo after months of waiting, and suffered two tantalising weeks to building it up. Since then I have taken it camping, bought a sack of rice, and commuted every day.

The big rack looks wide from behind, and gets such respect from cars that I plan to retire my blond wig. In reality it is no wider than the handlebars, so I can still fit through the same gaps. You do have to avoid cutting across the front of a car before you've actually passed into the gap, given the extra length. The maneuvreability is really noticeable with a moderate load of 10-20kg; where my old tourer would have become whippy in the tail, this monster truck rides just like normal.

"Monster truck" I said, but clown-mobile is more how I felt the first week. The whole bike is so big and heavy that you feel ludicrous without oversized boots and a giant red nose. Then you become familiar with the commanding presence on the road. You learn to carry momentum into hills, and settle into the steady rhythm of gearing suitably low for the Mundo's immensity. You learn that you can pick up those extra items at the supermarket, without worrying whether the panniers will fit them or regretting leaving the trailer at home. Then you learn that the load doesn't stop you climbing the hill between stationary lanes of traffic to position for the right hand turn towards home.

For Critical Mass last month I rode the Yuba. One of the ubiquitous fixies had a puncture, and I offered him a ride. He sat on the carrier, and held his front wheel off the ground so that the bike trailed after us. We had to trade off a couple times, as much because it was hard work holding the bike at arm's length, and we walked the last part of the major climb out of town. This was my first real load, and I was pleased with the handling. We wobbled drunkenly for a moment at the low speed of initial movement and just before stopping. In between we were pretty stable. Sadly, although many pictures were taken none seem to have reached the Flickr group and I wait until this month's ride to ask

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Car" Camping

Safe in my hammock, with the fly keeping out the rain, I foolishly assumed myself safe from the weather...Lesson learned: hang your luggage, or pick a campsite that won't flood!

A couple of weekends back I was able to take a respite break and went camping in Shakespear1 Park, Whangaparaoa. I needed to rest more than ride, and desired an excusion just far enough to test out my new bike and newish hammock. Shakespear worked well because there's a ferry to Gulf Harbour, after which you only have to ride 7km to the very end of the peninsula. Until you reach the park itself you are in residential neighbourhoods, and there would be sufficient hostelry if I had to bail out.

Lacking time to pack tidily and efficiently, I just threw an oversupply of clothes into one of those cheap woven-plastic bags and strapped it on the yuba. 16kgs on one side and about 3 on the other, but it rode surprisingly well. I love the simplicity of this bike.Although this was the last weekend of school holidays, the weather has recently turned cold in NZ so few people were in the park. Probably a wise choice by everybody else, as it rained about 1 in every 2 hours from Friday night until Sunday morning. The last night was particularly fierce, and I realised about midnight that I had been flooded out. Thankfully I'd used separate plastic bags inside the large carry-all, not trusting it2, and nothing essential got damaged before I rescued it onto the rack of the bike (under its own tarpaulin).
The only damage done was to my breakfast :-( and a fixable rip in my bug netting when I turned around too vigorously inside the hammock and dragged the corner of my air mat across it.

Despite the rain, I was able to open out the fly during the day and make a comfy campsite. I made a good start on my current reading project, mostly sitting in the hammock and resting my foot on the gas bottle.
I must confess that the bottle was not part of my original luggage - the friendly ranger lent it to me after we got talking about bicycles and eventually it came up that I had mis-understood the level of cooking facilities described on the council's website. That bike got me into a lot of conversations, actually -- must get some business cards or something from Stu.

All in all, a good trip. Got more familiar with my gear, and look forward to taking it on a more adventurous journey. I do need to find some kind of cooking solution - exactly what depends somewhat on whether I expect to retain the voluminous storage of the yuba or choose a smaller bike for longer trips. I also need to find a bit more insulation for my feet - they stuck off the end of the insulating mat and that hammock was quite cold on my un-insulated parts.

1) (No, there isn't supposed to be an 'e'.)
2) Actually, the cheap bag was pretty shower proof. I was impressed.