Monday, September 17, 2012

Al's 50th - Albany to Walpole

Its just under a month before our big ride from Albany to Walpole, WA. This is a ride to celebrate my 50 years on planet earth, a gift of life from a loving and gracious God. So far I have 5 people confirmed and its getting too exciting waiting for it to come.

Meanwhile I ordered these custom T-shirts in Singapore to commemorate the special occasion.

Its an easy ride along the beautiful South Western coast of WA and is one of the most scenic parts of Australia with Karra forrest, emerald blue waters, white sandy beaches and quiet roads that hug the coastline. I can't think of a better way to mark half a century than gliding on small wheels with good mates :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dolphins at Shelley

It was great to do an easy Saturday morning ride along the Shelley Foreshore with B & C. B is a new owner of a Tern C7 foldie and was keen to see how it goes.

It was a real mixture of wheel sizes as C rode a 700c racing bike, B had a 20" Tern and I, A, rode my 16" Tikit.

I never get tired of cycling this beautiful stretch where the excellent bike path just hugs the river. With a cool 18c, blue skies and nice bright sun, life cannot get any better. Until we suddenly heard some loud splashing in the water!

Lo and behold, there was a pod of 4/5 dolphins having a feed, and all sorts of birds (including some Terns) were flying around all excited. That got us excited too.

We took some pictures as well - "proud owner of new bike shots" which B thoroughly enjoyed being my model and had a lot of fun.

My reward was lovely Vietnamese spring rolls for morning tea kindly brought by B & C.  It was heavenly but I could kick myself for not bringing a hot flask to make coffee/tea.

On our way back, we bumped into an elderly couple on recumbents and stopped for a chat. They looked very proud of their machines. One was a Greenspeed and it costs about US$3500.

An altogether brilliant way to start a great weekend, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1000km on one tank of petrol

I regret eating only one of these lovely jam muffins made by Jennifer!

It has been ages since I went down to Mandurah to cycle with Uncle Ken. However with Rod out of action due to a surgery, I thought I better go down to accompany Uncle Ken as we needed to put in the miles for our upcoming ride in the South West of WA in Oct. Fortunately, we met at 745am instead of our usual 7am so I could get a bit more sleep. Jumping into the Golf and making the 45 min drive down to his home in Mandurah was a breeze.

It was so good to be back on the breathtaking cycle tracks from Mandurah to Dawsville, especially with perfect cloudy and cool weather. We had our morning tea at the jetty below the ex-Jolly Frog Cafe. This place is now re-opened under a new owner with a very ho-hum name, Hot Rock Cafe, which is a shame. Nevertheless, they have a coffee/cake special for $8.90 and we shall try there the next time. If anything, the views from the restaurant are priceless.

I was very grateful to Barb for making my favourite cookie, the multi-nut milo slice which Uncle Ken brought for us to share. What impressed on this ride were the heavy surfs along the coast which made for spectacular viewing, especially watching the skillful surfers do their thing.

Our 35km ride ended too soon and what a surprise it was when at Ken's home, Barb handed me a whole box of her milo slice cookies! I was elated and felt so blessed.

I had to scoot off real quick as I wanted to say goodbye to friends I met in Cambodia, Stephen and Jennifer who were holidaying in Mandurah. It turned out that their daughter Eleanor is also into bicycles and I invited her and Stephen to take the Tikit for a ride.

I learned later that she bikes regularly to her clinic, until she became a mom to two beautiful twin boys recently. The blessing at Ken's home followed me to lunch, as I was treated most generously by Stephen and Jennifer! This is the 2nd time in 3 weeks they bought me lunch. Indeed, I am very grateful to God for being given such wonderful and big hearted friends.

It was hard to keep awake after a big lunch for the long drive back home so I kept myself entertained by playing with the Golf's onboard computer system. To my pleasant surprise, the total range of the car registered nearly 1000km and this on a single tank of petrol. This works out to nearly 20km/l or 5l/100km which is hybrid like mileage.

Although nowhere as efficient as our foldies as it gets 20-40km per litre of water depending on the weather, I was pleased as punch. Can't wait for our next ride down south, on the Tikit in the Golf, with my wonderful friends again.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Never shall I forget the times I spent with you; 
continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours

Monday, September 10, 2012

Foldinitis & Bird Flu strike again

I'm happy to report that Foldinitis has claimed yet another victim. Just 3 weeks ago when Y got her new Tern C7, it got her friend B itching for one. The opportunity came when there was a 1 month old Tern C7 in black and blue striping advertised on the net here in Perth. The owner, a Brazilian vet on working holiday visa, is a bicycle enthusiast and bought the foldie as he wanted to cycle and use public transport. However, the beautiful bike paths of Perth saw him riding his expensive $3k Merida racer most times, making his foldie irrelevant.

Hence, I alerted B when I saw his ad and we went to Scarborough Beach this evening to take a look at it. It was an easy drive and I enjoyed getting to know B a little better. Upon reaching the beach/meeting point, I was surprised at how beautiful the authorities have done up the ampi-theatre there.

A quick call and the seller came cruising to meet us. The tall rider on a shining black Tern with blinking lights looked so cool in the dusk and that got us excited. True to form, this Tern was in pristine condition save for a missing magnet to clamp the folded bike together and a gear shifter that was a bit misplaced. Small issues really as it was sold at a price that begged to be snared.

B was more than delighted after a quick test ride, feeling very happy with its comfortable, upright position and the sharp handling of the Tern. As a member of the the Botswana Bird Nature Society in her younger days, B was so pleased to be the new owner of the black unfeathered Tern.

One case of bird flu that is worth getting infected!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Springing to Claremont

Spring started with some nasty weather. Wet, windy, cold and even some hail were thrown in for good measure. I was supposed to ride with ex-Tri coach Patrick up north to Hillarys on Tuesday but I chickened out after looking at the "90% chance of a storm" weather forecast. That day, not only did it howled and rained, but ice pellets came down in the morning and afternoon from the heavens. I was glad I wasn't out there cycling in the open.

The storm caused damage to property and I was fortunate that only my lovely Orchid plant fell victim. All the beautiful flowers that took so long to blossom broke off from the stems in a flash of a moment.

Beautiful orchids before the storm damaged it.

Thus, when the sun finally broke out yesterday, we took the opportunity to be out on our saddles. Our destination was the Bethesda Hospital in Claremont, 17km, where our dear buddy Rod just had a minor surgery, and was nicely recovering. It was time to bring him some cheer.

My 2 latest addition to the fold, M & Y, tagged along too and it was nice to meet Uncle Ken at the traffic lights. It was glorious to ride with sunshine and blue skies. We made our way north towards the city riding along the dedicated bike paths that skirted the Swan River. What impressed is how the authorities incorporated art, in the form of metal sculptures that depicted relationships, at scenic spots along the bike path.

Riding along the old Swan Brewery must be one of the best part of this journey with the Perth skyline in our back and the boats of Matilda Bay bobbing in front of us. At Crawley Baths, the famous statue Eliza greeted us, this time draped in bright red. What intrigues is this 2007 work of art always attracts a change of clothes from pranksters and the like to suit a festivity or occasion. Bears testament to the creativity and fun of this city! Here she is to celebrate the Tour de France.

Pic by David Curtis

The iconic boat shed, there for nearly 80 years, is a famous landmark of this area. It is much photographed too and it is easy to see why, especially when all the wild Spring flowers were in full bloom.

We cycled passed UWA and Matilda Bay before turning off along Princess Road. It was nice to see all the bright eyed students going to class and that made me reminisce about my student days. What caught us unprepared were the hills as we made our way towards Bethesda Hospital. Newbies M & Y were huffing and puffing understandably, so I sent Ken off first while I stayed with them. Also, what was tricky were negotiating the roundabouts. 

Bethesda Hospital is a very small private set up that oozes cozy-ness if there was such a thing for hospitals. We were delighted to see Rod looking so cheerful and bright and we thank God that the surgery went well. He had a lovely room with a view of the bay with nice window flowers and all, and it makes for a most pleasant stay. Rod could not wait to recover and the Doctors say he should be out and about in 3 weeks, more than enough time for our Albany to Walpole trip in mid Oct.

We had a Chinese lunch at Broadway near the campus of UWA. I used to eat there for $5 in the late 90s but prices have since doubled. This little shopping centre had very quaint shops and were filled with hungry students all around us. I spotted a cargo bike and was fascinated especially at how it is used as a marketing tool. Its inverted drop bars also gave it such a character.

If possible, I do not like going back the same way but we had no choice as the afternoon was flying by. Here, M & Y who rode on stock saddles on the Speed Pro and the Tern started to complain about their bottoms aching or more accurately, splitting. I took pity on M and offered him my Tikit with the ultra-comfy Brooks B17. That got Y pining for one too. The poison has seeped in !

The ride back was brisk and we took just over an hour to arrive home in Bull Creek despite the presence of the Fremantle Doctor blowing in the wrong direction. All in, it was a marvellous day, completing a very respectable 41km.

Considering that this was the 3rd ride for M & Y, I am very proud of them. Blessed with a beautiful day, springing to see Rod in Claremont was certainly one of those very special rides indeed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A folding car?

We all know about the benefits of a folding bicycle in how easy it is to store and transport around with, thanks to its compact design. It is in its element in urban cities where space is a premium.

But now the folding concept is taken one step further - the folding car. This car is designed by an ingenius Japanese company called Hiriko Mobility. Their car is easy on the environment as it is an electric powered motor with a top speed of 50km/h and a range of 120km. It is able to take 2 people and turn on a dime due to its 4 wheel steering mechanism.

When the car is parked, it reduces its length from 2.5m to get this, only 1.5m! This makes it possible to park 3 Hiriko folding cars in one regular parking lot.

Absolutely brilliant!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Look before Opening

There is much to be said about a strong cycling culture here in Australia. While its nothing near Taiwan, in terms of bicycle road safety, people here take it very seriously. One example is the Look Before Opening Advocacy Group started by a private company called Twenty4, who specialises in website design and whose folks happened to be keen cyclists too.

Essentially, their message is a call for drivers to look before opening their doors. Many a cyclists have been injured when a car door opens unexpectedly in their path. In the state of Victoria, more than 1100 cases of "dooring" has been reported in a 10 year period, and one resulting in a fatality. Although an experienced cyclist will know the importance of keeping a distance when passing parked cars, some situations such as narrow roads make this difficult.

Another way is to make such an incident costly for drivers in terms of steep fines and demerit points penalty. But that could be hard to enforce if it were passengers or children that open the door carelessly.
Hence, a more effective would be through driver education and they do this in a most creative way -window stickers.

I am heartened by this private initiative by a group of keen cyclists to make the cycling world a little more safer and applaud them for their commendable effort. I hope their example serves as an encouragement and inspiration for more people and groups to take the lead in actively promoting safer cycling, especially in countries where the powers that be have "other" priorities.