Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fuel for the road

We all know that human powered bicycles are the most green form of transportation. Zero emissions and no need for petrol. However, it does require fuel in the form of food which is not really a cost factor in the strict sense, as we have to eat regardless of whether we cycle or not. Marvellously, the food we eat is converted to energy. Such is the beauty of how *wonderfully our bodies are made.

On yesterday's bi-monthly ride to Mandurah, we decided to do morning tea a bit differently and more collectively. I brought my home cook fried noodles with Belachan (prawn paste chilli) for all while Ken brought fresh fruit - apples, oranges and some dried cranberries. It was encouraging and slightly amusing that a true blue Aussie bloke appreciated the spicy noodles! But then again, Aussies have moved from meat pies to Laksa a long time ago.

Enjoying all that with the beautiful view of the Peel Inlet of Mandurah, with Pelicans gracing the blue skies, made for a most delightful bicycle break.

We also bumped into an elderly gentleman who rode a brand new electric bicycle. KC, who is researching into e-bikes, pounced on the opportunity to find out more.

Pleasant conversations followed and we learned that the e-bike enabled him to enjoy the great outdoors and manage steep hills with hardly a sweat. Without it, he would have had to stay at home in front of the TV, like a cave hermit. That got all of us excited and immediately, we went to the e-bike shop at Miami Shopping Centre to make more enquiries. The bike could hit 25km/h and had a range of 40km. It costs a bit over A$2000 which is reasonable compared to higher end foldies. This certainly is the way of the future, especially when we get on in age.

Whether fresh food or electricity, these fuels are certainly the right ones for the road. Don't you agree?

*I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pedalling for Votes

Its election time once again in Singapore and the politicians are out visiting voters with big smiles and bigger promises. I was happy to read that a few MPs and opposition team members are doing their rounds on bicycles.

Somehow, the image of being on the bicycle is more acceptable than driving house to house in their BMWs and Mercedes Benzes. To think that the humble bicycle can get men into positions of power.

OK, now which party promises better cycling tracks and paths in Singapore once again?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The necessary accessory

Ask any new buyer of expensive bikes and they will proudly tell you of the lavish upgrades they plan to do. New wheel set, lighter seat, pedals, drive train etc but rarely, would you hear the inclusion of the humble bell. After all, its so uncool to have one and it doesn't add to the whole image of faster and lighter.

But perhaps even more important than wearing a helmet, the function of the bell can mean the difference of running into pedestrains and causing serious injuries to both parties or a smooth and safe ride.

Especially when riding on shared pathways like I do here in Perth, the usefulness of the bell is played out 10-20 times each morning ride. It is a law here to ring the bell before overtaking so someone walking is shown the audible courtesy that a bicycle is coming through. Often, they appreciate it and step aside for us. Its quite fun too to hear our bells ringing together.

There are times when we fail to ring and this resulted in people getting an unpleasant shock and a few colourful expletives hurled at us. So if you haven't yet gotten one, don't wait. It is certainly a very necessary accessory.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Escaping the Tsunami by bicycle

It is with a very heavy heart that I read the daily news of the vast devastation in Japan recently no thanks to the Tsunami. As I write, the death toll exceeds 5000 with thousands more missing. Those who survive face great hardships not just physically with their houses and properties all destroyed. Many also have to suffer the loss of love ones, many still unaccounted for. If that is not enough, the possibility of a nuclear fallout remains dangerously strong too.

But in the midst of the darkness, I was excited to hear of an 82yo granny, fit as a fiddle due to her work as a rice farmer, and probably because of her bicycle. Granny Kimura actually escaped the Tsunami by getting on her bike and pedaled her way to safety, to higher ground!

Let us spare a thought for our Japanese brethren and say a prayer for them. If you can donate to help in their relief efforts, that will probably be the best investment you can make this year.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Photography and foldies

One of the twin joys of being on a bicycle, not just foldies (there, I've said it), is being able to capture beautiful scenery before our eyes as we glide on the saddle. That makes photography a very complimentary hobby to have.

Steven, one of the guys I just got to know last year on our ride to Bintan, has gotten himself a new Dahon D7 and cycled himself silly around the island. He got up early today and snapped this pic of Singapore city in the wee hours of the morning.

I think its a masterpiece, considering its from a fellow amatuer photographer. Apologies for the tiny pic as I got it straight out of FB.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Dahon Show

Its quite normal for new car launches to have race queens to grace their occasion and add some glamour to their product. Well, that has now come to folding bikes too.

Enjoy the Dahon show in Japan!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Small wheels are better?

Bike Friday NWT in touring mode

Change is good. Instead of using a foldie, I took my Bridgestone XO5 hybrid for our Wed ride to Point Walter today. It has 700c wheels, the standard issue for racers and it was a most satisfying ride. It seemed to glide effortlessly on the road and because of its largess circumference, it offered a more comfortable ride compared to the 20" or 16" offerings I'm used to, especially over road irregularities. On the other hand, I found it a bit like cycling on a Penny-farthing - hard to steer and not very responsive. This was apparent when maneuvering around pedestrians on the shared path.

Its interesting to note that the reason for the popularity of the 700c tire today can be due more to a "sheep" mentality rather than for its obvious advantages, argues Velocio, a French bicycle designer who lived 100 years ago. Then, the logic was to fit the biggest possible tire onto the standard bicycle diamond frame.

The famed British designer, Alex Mouton, challenged this sacred belief and went about to re-design the bicycle to make it "more pleasing to own and to use". His idea was to use high pressure small tires with suspension (Sir Moulton after all, designed the Mini's unique suspension system). The results speak for themselves when his Moulton bicycle broke the Cardiff-London speed record in 1962.

It would be foolhardy for me to discount the advantages of big wheeled bicycles but my point is, for all intent and purposes, small wheels are often under-rated by the normal cyclists as well as bicycle manufacturers. They offer so many benefits over the "normal" wheels and you can read more about it in this excellent article by US Cycling Journal Cycling Science.

Velocio's words, some 100 years ago, are a fitting conclusion for the case of smaller wheels.

"That universal agreement has fixed on 70 centimetres as the proper size for wheels does not in any way prove that this diameter is best; it simply proves that cyclists follow each other like sheep.... Make no mistake, uniformity is leading us directly towards boredom and towards routine, whilst diversity, even though it distracts us, holds our attention, our interest and the spirit of enquiry always on the watch. To change is not always to perfect, and I know that better than any others newly come to cyclo-technology. But to stand still, to sink into a rut, that is the worst of things for industries and for men."

So are small wheels better? For the type of riding I do, I would say yes most times. They may surprise you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Who envy who?

An article about the widening gap of the rich and the poor in the news today caught my eye. The picture of a Ferrari vs a 300Y locally made bicycle, and that is suppose to highlight the difference in economic status among the Chinese.

I beg to differ. In traffic grid-lock Beijing, the bike is definitely faster than the Ferrari around the city. Its got no worries getting a parking spot. Much more reliable than the hi-tech super complicated technology laden Ferrari. Infinitely lower running costs. Won't get kidnapped by the gangsters. And most of all, a far healthier option of travelling around the Chinese capital.

Now who is envying who?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why we ride...

Ok, so this is about riding bikes with engines unlike the more noble human powered ones we like, but the message is the same. Our rides and trips are not so much about the impressive bikes we owned or even the breathtaking scenery we experienced, but rather, it is about friendship, love for one another and making great memories in this rather short life.

Enjoy this video from Taiwan. Its supposed to be based on a true story.

For a more detailed reflection on this clip, check out Tan Soo Inn's musings here, dated 23 Feb, "Death vs Love".

Note 8 March Tues: It was really tragic for me to find out that one of my dear friends YK passed away on Sunday 6 March abt 630pm after a game of badminton with his family and friends. He had a heart attack and was only in his early 50s. He was a keen cyclist and his last long ride was to Mersing, Malaysia from Singapore done last year. I am saddened by his lost and miss his friendship dearly but find comfort that we will meet again soon, in the presence of our Creator. 1 John 5:12

First ride in Fall

We are officially in Fall season but its still blistering hot - 35c today. So it was an early start for our Mandurah ride and I left my home at 545am. It was great to have KC with us. He has just gotten interested in foldies and asked if he could test the Brompton. As it is my mission to share the Gospel of Foldies, I invited him for a very long 46km test ride.

I never get tired of this beautiful ride as the scenery is never the same. Different clouds, different colours of the sea, different people we meet, different winds and this time, a new section of bike path was completed so quickly as can be seen in this video.

For some reason, we ended up taking a break from the heat under the shade of the Mens Toilet. And the conversations went on to keeping a healthy lifestyle when Ken the Wisecracker piped out, "A moment of pleasure at the lips is a lifetime of burden at the hips." There's always many barrels of laughter on our trips which make our rides so enjoyable!

KC remarked how amazed the small 16" wheels handle, giving sharp and responsive handling. Although his bum was rather sore (the furthest he rode before meeting us was 20km), he did rather well. A testament to the performance of a good foldie.

With hopefully cooler days ahead, I think our cycle days can only get better.