18 September 2009

Inner tubes

Is it me or are punctures more common than I remember ?

Also when I was a boy 25 years ago, I did alot of cycling, and I can't remember having to pump my tires up so often, or fix punctures. Perhaps we just forget.

I have very little to complain about with the Yuba Mundo's tyres which have kevlar in them and despite 5 or 6 hundred miles loaded up and running over urban detritus have not punctured yet. Fantastic. I still have to top up the pressure every week or so, but that is the same with all my bikes.
As the temprature dropped this week, and heading for the foothills only 20 minutes away from home seems less of a heatstroke risk, I got on my mountain bike and headed for the hills for some fun. Something I have managed not to do since April.

I rode out from down there...

Had a great time, despite riding out there on the road. The climb out of the last village into the hills on dirt track underlined the drop in my level of fitness since April. Will have to do this more often...

On the way back I had a headwind, but it wasn't that bad because it was down hill. But I still found it hard going. I figured out why when I got back from the school run and noticed that I had two flat tyres. It was tough getting back in because my tyres were slowly deflating because of tiny thorns, but not flat. Soft tyres are tough to push along...

Great two punctures to fix... Are tyre compounds too soft. Are inner tubes now wafer thin ?

At least my bike had the decency to get me home. I realised when I got home that I had my puncture repair kit but not my pump. I was a long way from home. Won't do that again.

17 September 2009

VIP police escort

Another trip out to the bigmetalbox shops in the suburbs to buy DIY supplies... nothing provided to chain up the Yuba Mundo of course. But I suppose I was the only cyclist for miles.

I was on the way back from buying pots of paint for the house, minding my own business, trying not to get killed on the road by white vans and blind OAPs behind the wheel, when a Police motorcycle pulled up alongside me. The cop looked at me with his Robocop helmet and I wondered what I had done. But he didn't point for me to pull over, he just looked at me as we sped along at 17 km/h...
I thought, this is strange but maby he likes bikes too and he's checking out the Yuba. So I gave him a smile as I reckoned that I probably wouldn't be able to out run his BMW motorbike.
He smiled back, sort of.. then I noticed all the people behind us.

It was a class of 25 kids out in school time on a bike ride round the block. Wow. I stopped to watch them go by, lose the cop, and take some photos. It was quite the convoy. 2 elderly lady teachers infront in a little blue lead car (hazard lights on), 25 chatting kiddies on bikes, 1 cycling male teacher shouting constantly trying to keep control, and a motorcycle cop escort to stop people driving through the group of 25 kiddies (Despite the best efforts of a Audi A3 driver).
Is cycling on the road such a dangerous activity that it needs a cop and car escort... ?!? It is not as if it was a busy stretch of road or anything. I think though that this is a demonstration of people's fear of letting kids out of the ever incroaching cocoon, the fear of cycling, and the general bending over to automobile absolute rule of the road. A friend of mine told me this weekend how he was hooted off the road on a Sunday morning family ride by an old woman who shouted from her car window that he had no place to be out on the road. This in a backwater village...
What I saw today was a private school activity I believe, and I am sure alot of kids these days never learn to ride a bike on the road, and what was my first taste of freedom 25 years ago as a 12 year old is now considered impossible by most parents.
What struck me too, and what saddens me every time I pick my kids up from school too, was the number of seriously overweight kids huffing along on their bikes. I look back to photos of me at that age, when I had to cycle 15 miles a day for school, and even my kids who cycle too, and the difference is shocking.

11 September 2009

Oil world

I know its 9/11, and my heart goes out to all those who died and who have since died, but I couldn't help thinking about oil and our dependance on it today. Its a sensitive subject... but I feel linked to many many problems.

I spent an hour this morning lost, cycling round a huge industrial estate on the outskirts of town, I was surprised by its size compared with our backwater town, but I guess it has more to do with the motorway and the frontier 20 kms away than our town. I needed a taylor made bolt for our aging Fiat and had found a small engineering firm to make it. I looked on the map and saw a cycle path run right past it. Great I thought, and 15 minutes later I was heading into heavy industry country.

I was greeted with a truck sitting square on facing the end of the cycle path. The irony of this image hit me hard, two worlds face to face. I then ventured into the industrial estate and was overtaken by tens of very large trucks, overwhelmed by disgusting smells, noise, factories with open doors where you could see more trucks, and heavy plant. I have an industrial background and it was intresting to see all this only a few miles from home. I cycled and cycled in very unpleasant, agressive traffic situations, couldn't find my way through because of a rail line that was fenced off, and the access to the other side was a motorway ramp... No thought obviously for cycles... I had to leave, cycle all round through the outskirts and enter from the other side. I eventually found the engineering firm and it was like an engineer's dream from the 50's. Old men in blue overalls at machines that looked as old as them turning parts for god knows what, everything was coated with a film of black grease. They had made my special bolt and off I went.

It was then that I started to think about all the jobs in the area, jobs that depended on trucks, cars and international transport. And the consequences of the investment of millions and millions of Euros people have put into this industrial estate. My old boys in blue overalls, the countless other obscure engineering, and parts supply businesses, import export businesses, cantines, even the guy selling burgers out of the back of a van to factory workers. They all depend on one thing for their jobs and the means to get from their suburbs to their jobs, and that's cheap oil. When you sweat and pedal around aimlessly, frustrated, surrounded by hundreds of trucks, people loading / unloading, fixing them, cleaning them etc etc... the power of oil and our weakness physically without it is underlined.
If oil goes up again like last year and keeps going up as some experts are saying, they will all be out of a job, and fast. Thats alot of people. What will happen to the miles of metal buildings, who will carry on paying for the loans taken out for their construction, same for the machinery and all the huge trucks. Will it all just sit and rust on the outskirts of town ? Will it happen, or is it a case of when ? In 3, 5, 8 years ? What will all these people do for work, how will they pay for their houses and food... I pedaled home away from all the noise and activity, thinking about all this with my shiney new bolt in my pocket.

10 September 2009

Yuba Mundo !


and after !

That was a big box. I had ordered a recycled/reconditioned (ie second hand) vacuum cleaner off ebay and the guy sent it in a rather large cardboard box. Of course I was out when the Postwoman came, so I went off on the Yuba Mundo to the post office this morning to collect it. I had a couple of people turn round in the street and stare at me on the way home. Quite funny..

As the days are drawing shorter I bought a dynamo lights kit for the Yuba Mundo, and because of the large size of the tyres I needed the extension bracket so that the dynamo wheel meets up with the tyre correctly. Without it it touched at an angle, the top ridge of the dynamo cap wheel only, which would have carved a groove in the tyre eventually. Like this it makes contact with 100% of the driving surface of the dynamo wheel.
Up graded to this rear light which has a battery/capacitor inside that keeps the light onfor 3 minutes, which is good when you come to a junction at night for example. Still have to do the wires, as the wire that came with the kit is 6 foot long and isn't long enough !

8 September 2009

Different planet

This ruined my day... no not the view...

Recently I was walking along the boardwalk by the beautiful river near my house (it runs through town about 100 yards from our road), teaching my kids how to ride their bikes. Up came 2 youths on a scooter ( about 8 and 14 years old. ) One got off the back carrying a disassembled and new looking scooter frame without motor, forks, tank, etc and then chucked it into the river next to a sunbathing woman who stared on in disbelief. When I opened my mouth to say something I was met with abuse, threats and we were followed around and given evil looks for 20 minutes. Perhaps they were waiting to see if I would call the cops or fish out the stolen scooter frame with it's chassis serial numbers.
I don't know what depresses me more; the fact that dumping stuff into a beautiful river like it is their private garbage dump, in broad daylight before witnesses, is normal activity for these children - and what hope can we have for keeping nature in some sort of decent state - or that at a such a young age they are (and need to be) stealing and dismantling scooters. I shudder to think what their life must have been like so far and what the future holds for them... I live on a different planet to alot of people I often feel.