Thursday, December 27, 2012

Video: Mobile Sand-Pit

Today Caleb and I went to fetch some more sand for our sandpit.  We only needed a couple of buckets full, and it seemed silly to take the car, when we could put the bakfiets on a weigh-bridge, again.  So we set off for Marion Sand & Metal who have become somewhat accustomed to our two-wheeled visits.  The trip took a little longer than usual as we kept chatting with people who were interested in the bakfiets.

Caleb had lots of fun playing with the sand in the bakfiets on the way home, including leaving a Hansel & Gretel style bread crumb trail.

Again, I have left the video including most of the adventure to give people a feel for what it is like to enjoy riding a bakfiets with little ones.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Video: Shopping & Railway Maze Traversal

This is the first in what I am to be a series of videos showing life by bakfiets.  I have purposely not edited the video down to just "highlights", because there are already a number of such bakfiets videos out there.  What I want instead is to paint a picture of the lifestyle that a bakfiets can offer, especially if you have small children.

This video shows me traversing a railway maze, enjoying a real "door park" at the local supermarket as well as generally putting about with Caleb on board.

More to come soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bicycle Airconditioning (Part 1)

Having a bike with a cargo capacity of 100 litres, is a dangerous thing at time.  So it was when I started thinking about fitting an airconditioner to my bakfiets for the hot Adelaide summer.

I am not the first person to contemplate strange contraptions on human powered vehicles.  For example,  someone made a fan-powered skate board.

However, more famously the Wile E Coyote cartoons feature an almost endless stream of fascinating contraptions, including powering a set of roller skates using a fan and sail.

Fortunately, I am not aiming for propulsion, just air movement for cooling.

But hang on a moment, doesn't a moving bicycle generate enough air movement?  Well, yes, except when you are riding slowly up a hill, in which case some air movement would be very welcome.  This is especially true for a bakfiets which weighs 35KG empty, which makes for very slow hill climbs indeed.

A bit of hard rubbish scrounging yielded a pre-loved pedestal fan.  I attached this to a piece of plywood cut to the right shape so that it can fit in where the 2nd bench seat normally fits.  A sealed-lead-acid battery and a small 240v inverter, and, presto, one airconditioned bicycle.

Here it is after riding up to the University one morning. I have since put a full shield on the front.

What is surprising is how well it works for something that is superficially absurd.  The small battery can operate the fan for >30 minutes, and it generates a breeze which can be felt at ground speeds of up to 20km/hour, and does make one feel more comfortable while riding up hills when it would otherwise be still.

It does also attract a lot of attention.  Of course to complete the look, I really should add some Wile E Coyote / ACME labelling on the fan and bakfiets.

But the real next step will be to add evaporative cooling, which will hopefully make riding on the flat and uphill much more comfortable during these hot summer days.  More on that in a future post.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Team work

Every year our church has Christmas Carols on the church ground, with lots of entertainment, often including bouncy castles and a live nativity.  We promote this to our local community by delivering about 6,000 invitation cards.  This is a joint effort with many people taking a bundle of a few hundred cards and delivering them. We help out most years.

In the past we have walked, perhaps with the pram with one or more kids on-board.  It takes somewhere from 4 to 5 hours to do the delivery run we normally choose, in large part because of the overall distance to cover.

But now that we have the bakfiets, it occurred to me that a child on board would be at about the right height to post the letters, and of course we could cover the ground more quickly.  So that is what we did.  Here is Isabel being super-helpful posting one of the slips.  It was both lots of fun, and much faster -- we were all done in just under two hours.

Carols this year will be on the 9th December, Marion Church of Christ car park, Corner of Marion and Alawoona Avenue, Mitchell Park.  Entertainment begins 5:30pm, with carols starting at 7pm.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video: Bakfiets the SUV of bikes

While I was thinking about getting a bakfiets, I looked around for any videos that would help me understand whether it was worthwhile.  This video, and several others by the same person, were really helpful for me to realise that having a cargo bike can make a big difference to your lifestyle and quality of life.  

I have found pretty much everything in this video to be true, especially that it makes for a much more social time with the kids, as we can now yabber away happily while we pedal our way around practically for free, and enjoy not having to fight for car parking at work or the shops.

Another video with the same people that explains some of the variety of bakfiets and other Dutch style practical bikes:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

First Flat Tyre

Last week I got ready to leave for work one morning, only to discover the rear tyre was dead flat.  As the back wheel is tricky to remove (think about internal hub gear and brake attachments and no quick-release on the heavy duty axle), I opted for the partial removal method.  

This turned out to be easier than expected.  The Schwalbe Marathon tyres can actually be debeaded by hand, without so much as a tyre lever if you really need to.  Found the hole by listening for air, patched it, and put the tube back in.

The hole was right next to the seam of the tube, so I suspected that it might leak.  But I really needed to get going straight away, but didn't fancy pumping the tyre up with a tiny little pump.  No problem with a cargo bike: just throw in your floor pump (or compressor and car battery if you like).  Caleb also enjoyed pumping while we rode.
In my haste, I failed to clear the tube of the offending item that caused the puncture, so we did indeed make use of the pump three times on in the 45 minutes from home to childcare to work.  Much easier being able to pump the tyre up in less than a minute each time.

Once at work, I used lunch time to investigate, remove the 1cm metal shard from the tyre wall, and repatch.  Still had the problem that the holes were near the seam, and so the patches were liable to leak. As a result pumped the tyre up once on the way home.

Of course I had been meaning for a while now to buy some tyre slime/goo in preparation for caltrop/three-corner-jack seasons, but my purchase was now expedited as the easiest way to deal with two leaking patches.  A quick visit to Standish Cycles a Marion solved that, along with a "aren't you the guy with the bakfiets?" from the guy at the counter. Turns out he was at the Flinders Uni Ride-to-Work Day breakfast.

This whole episode also answered a niggling question for me, which is whether the Schwalbe Marathon tyres could be considered puncture proof in Australian conditions.  My concern was confirmed.  I had already ordered some Marathon Plus tyres, which by all accounts should be practically puncture proof.  The main difference between the two seems to be the Plus tyres have a built-in version of "tuffy-tape", i.e., a kevlar band.

The advantage of it being built in is that the two main shortcomings of tuffy tape are avoided, i.e., the tape is not wide enough to protect the side walls of the tyre, and the overlap of the tape tends to bite through tubes after a year or so.

So overall an educational experience.

Since then I have also replaced the rear tyre, which involves the whole procedure required to remove the back wheel, which would also be needed if replacing the tube.

November 2012 Adelaide Cargo Bike Picnic

Yesterday we made it to the Adelaide Cargo Bike Picnic.  We perhaps got a little over-enthused on the picnic arrangements, with foldup table, chair, a large piece of watermelon as well as sandwich making equipment and undoubtably too much water (probably abou 7L). We also took the bike path along the tram line, which is a pleasant way to get to the city from our place. As a result riding in was a bit slower than hoped, so we arrived around 12.30h, about half an hour later than planned.

The photos don't capture it well, but there were a lot of families with multiple little people, a number of whom were trying out various bikes. At least a couple of the distributors were represented and had bikes for people to test ride.

It was fun watching people get the hang of the steering on the long bakfiets style cargo bikes.  The first couple of minutes are a bit wobbly as they get used to the linkage steering and barge-like turning circle. But after that, everyone seemed to be enjoying the ride.

Our Caleb is almost 2, and still needs a mid-day nap, so I bought along the sheets we use as his comfort wrap, with one for wrapping him, and the other for shade.  However, it rapdily became apparent that Isabel was the more tired of the two. Apparently got up in the middle of the night to clean her room. It was later discovered that this was to make sure that Father Christmas wouldn't trip over anything on the floor.  Nothing like getting ready early.

So, anyway, neither of them slept while at the picnic, but once we were trying to ride home, and all the excitement wore off, both were swaying around like reeds in the wind in the bike.  So we stopped to rearrange them for a lie down.  They still didn't sleep, but 20 minutes of poking each other while laying down seemed to give them the second wind they needed for the rest of the ride home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National Ride to Work Day

Yesterday Caleb and I dropped into the National Ride to Work Day at Flinders University.  See on facebook for more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Riding on the beach. A Qualified Success.

The last blog post for my catchup night is a couple of shots from when we took the bakfiets down the beach to try riding along the wet sand with the kids on board.  I wouldn't take my mountain bike onto the sand, because the salt is too corrosive, but the bakfiets is full galv-dipped to tolerate 20 years in the salt grit and weather in The Netherlands, so I was willing to take the punt with the bakfiets.

It was a fun experiment, but the sand along Brighton beach was a bit soft due to sand carting.  Combined with a 35kg bike with another 35kg of small people and 60psi tyres, there were a few spots where it was quite impossible to pedal, and I had to push.

 But overall it was plenty of fun, and I will might give it a try again later in the year when the sand has had a chance to settle.

Using a Cargo Bike to, well, Haul Cargo

A few weeks ago we did some gardening and needed some compost.  We didn't need need a whole trailer load, so it seemed a bit silly to borrow a trailer, pick up the compost and drop the trailer back.  It was also unappealing to put a pile of buckets of pungent mushroom compost into the back of the car.

Then it dawned on me that the bakfiets was the perfect solution.  Marion Sand & Metal is just a few minutes ride from home.  It took longer chatting with the staff there than it did filling the bak up. I just folded the bench up, put a tarp in to keep the compost off the wood, and a bucket to pile it in with.

I discovered that my bakfiets and I together weigh about 130kg.  Given that I weigh just over 85kg, that makes the bakfiets weigh about 35kg.  Without filling the box right up I got about 60kg of compost in.

All loaded up ready to be weighed.

Me lining up to be weighed after filling up.

The bakfiets on the weigh bridge while I paid inside.

Of course one of the nice things about getting the compost by bike was that the bike could be pushed right next to the spot in the garden where we wanted the compost -- much more convenient than carting it from a trailer.

Adding a 2nd Bench to a Cargo Long

Last week I was in Amsterdam for work, so I took the opportunity to get some accessories for my bakfiets.  In fact, if I am honest, I chose my accommodation partly on the basis of proximity to a store.

The main thing I wanted to get was a 2nd bench so that we could fit three in at once, since we have already had occasions when one of the cousins wanted a ride, and Caleb was rather unimpressed about being removed to make room.

Here is Caleb and Isabel ready to set out for the first time on separate benches.  You can also see the panniers I bought in a Dutch super-market for the equivalent of AUD$44!
The panniers were an absolute bargain at AUD$44 compared to local prices.  In fact, I could have got them for about AUD$23 if I didn't mind pink.  They fit fairly well, and have slots in the top for the built-in bungy cords that the bakfiets rack (and that of most European city bikes) feature.

The guys in the shop were really helpful, and in addition to fixing up the rental bike I was riding, showed me a safer way to install the extra bench with a retaining strap so that the extra bench can't fly out in an accident.
I took a couple of pictures while I was in the shop to see how it all fits together, including adding the retention strap.   You can also see the wedges that screw into the box to support the extra bench.  The bench itself slides down between the two almost-upright parts, and the seat rests on the near-horizontal part.

Here Caleb and Isabel try it out before setting out.
If you are planning on installing one of these yourself, there is a great series of images that I found really helpful.

The kids are quite happy riding on the back bench, or at least were until there were separate benches.  Now if there are just the two of them, they will sit on their separate benches.  This has the advantage that they can't really bother each other too much.

Isabel loves sitting up front, where she is prone to leaning forward into the wind Titanic-style.

I also took the opportunity to get some miscellaneous spare parts and a flat cover for the bike which can be tricky or expensive to source locally.  I was going to say that this is more aerodynamic than the full wet-weather cover, but honestly "aerodynamic" is not an adjective that really belongs with an eight-foot long cross between a wheel-barrow and a statfiets with a riding posture that puts your head above most most of the cars around you.  But it is certainly better to be able to cover your luggage in rainy weather without having to ride a bike with what amounts to a medium sized sail.

With the flat cover on.

And from the side.  You can also see how visible the reflective strip on the Marathon tyres are here with the flash.

A trip to Amsterdam, home of the Bakfiets

Last week I had the pleasure of a work trip to Amsterdam, which was exciting for many reasons, but here I want to show some of the cycling-related fun I had between meetings.   Here is a slightly random photo collection from the trip, showing some of what you can expect in the bike-friendly city of Amsterdam.

Here is a nice Dutch bike path -- separate from the road, and with plenty of bikes parked by people living in the near-by apartments, and also probably some riding to work.  Click on the photo to see in full resolution, where you can see some of the variety of statfiets ("city bikes") and bakfiets ("box bikes") and cargo trikes.
Here is a a nice little lake I rode past.  With the water table typically only a foot below ground level (and in some cases metres above ground level), there are plenty of little ponds and lakes.

Here is a nice canal I rode past.  Most of the canals have single carriage ways along the sides, which are great for riding.

This town had this nice old draw bridge over the river.

A boat even went through while I was there. This picture shows some of the very few lycra-wearing cyclists I saw while I was in Amsterdam.  Most cyclists are just in their regular clothes.  It is only on leisure routes like the Ronde Hoep that "sports cyclists" were to be seen.

Here is a fairly typical Dutch bike while I was waiting for the bridge to go back down, with  a practical sized basket on the front.

The boat finally went through.

and the bridge went back down.

I said earlier that in some cases the water table is metres above ground level.  This is what I meant.  Here the river is several metres above the ground level of the Polder (drained land) to the right.

Here is a beautiful sunrise in Amsterdam near where I was staying on KNSM Eiland.  Very easy to stop for a snap when you are on a sensible bike.
While the bikes are sensible to ride, it doesn't stop the locals from decorating them and otherwise stamping their individualism on them.  Here is the bike of a girlfriend of one of the people at the Amsterdam Hackerspace I visited.  Dectorating your bike makes it easier to find in the big bike parks (see photos below), and maybe less likely to get stolen.  The fake grass with flowers that fit on the cargo rack at the back is a standard item in many of the super-markets!  I didn't buy any, but I did buy some big panniers for 35 Euros (about AUD$44), way cheaper than anything here, and they actually fit and securely attach to my bakfiets, and even have the slots to let the built-in bungy straps through (see photos in a blog post coming soon).

I mentioned the need to find your bike easily in the big bike parts.  In this shot near Amsterdam Centraal Station, you can see some bike parks to the left of the tram, and in the distance to the right of the tram you can just make out part of a two-level bike park. I estimate there must be near 10,000 bike parks near the central railway station.
Here are some more of the bike parks near Amsterdam Centraal.  You can see why pimping your bike up a bit is a good idea if you want to find it again easily.

Here is the view towards KNSM Eiland, where you get an idea of how pretty Amsterdam "streets" can be.

Plenty of nice classic boats around to be seen.

This boat is flying a pirate flag.

This is a typical view next to some shops: plenty of bikes parked along the path.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

70km in a day

At some point, I would like to build my bakfiets-fitness to the point where I can ride with the kids to more distant places, including into the hills, and maybe even do some overnight trips.

In the very least, I would like to be able to ride a loaded bakfiets from Marion to Mt.Barker so that I can ride myself to CE Camp each year, leave my wife with the car, and generally have fun with the bakfiets with a hundred high-school age kids.

I hadn't planned today to be a bakfiets training day, but as it turned out I ended up riding for about five hours and covering about 70km, for an overall average of about 15km/hour, which I was pretty happy with.  I think that this can be easily improved upon, which I will explain later in the post.

My recollections of camping with a loaded mountain bike were of a similar overall average speed, so this is encouraging. This isn't too surprising, as the empty weight of the bike becomes less of an issue when you load it up.  Also, the bakfiets probably has some advantages in terms of better handling than a mountain bike with a large bag occy-strapped to a rear-rack, which translates into an ability to maintain higher speed when corners are involved, etc.

Anyway, my day today started out taking Mr.Grumpy-20-months-old out of the house to let Dione sleep. We set out at about 7:45am, and didn't need to be back until about 9:30am to get ready for church.  I figured that it was probably enough time to make a shot for the Toll Gate at the bottom of the freeway.

Route wise, I followed the Noarlunga line towards the city from Park Holme to Raglan Avenue, Raglan Avenue to South Road, then headed East up Edwards Avenue until Goodwood Road, and then North along Goodwood Road to Cross Road, and then straight up Cross Road to the Toll Gate.  This route is a fairly steady and gentle climb until Edwards Avenue, where it slowly builds in grade until the last part of Cross Road which is quite steep.  I should make an electronic inclinometer for the bakfiets so I can get a good feeling for which grades are comfortable and what angle is too steep to be feasible.

Anyway, I was pretty happy to make the 11.6km or so in almost exactly an hour, given that it was overall substantially up hill, reaching an altitude of 167m, for an overall climb of about 150m.  I found a  mapping site that lets you draw where you went, and shows you the climb etc data for it.  I mapped this trip here.  When we got to the top, it was, as is usual for my morning rides, time for hot porridge, before turning around and getting home in just 35 minutes, the time differential indicating the difference that the grade makes when riding a bakfiets.

Caleb eating his porridge while sitting in the box.  The fog was sitting just above where we were.
The second ride for the day was to church and back with Isabel -- only about 2km and one tricky railway maze each way.  Fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but always fun.  A few of our friends from church took the the time to oogle at the bakfiets, and one was even brave enough to give it a try in the church car park.

The rest of todays ride was from our place to the Zoo and back, via different routes each way.  To get there I followed Marion-Anzac-South and then the along the Torrens for a total of about 15km in almost exactly an hour -- about as fast as getting there by train from our place, once you factor in the walking at each end and waiting on the platform.

Isabel pretends to ride the bakfiets while we unpack at the front door to the Zoo.  You can just see that Caleb is in a backpack carrier, which I stowed in the bakfiets on the way there.  It is so great to have plenty of space in the box.
I was pretty happy with the speedy route to get to the Zoo, but riding along South Road is not the most pleasant, so on the way home I thought I would follow the Torrens further West, and then try to follow the Sturt River Linear Park back home.  The Western end of the Sturt River track was not well signed, and I got lost a couple of times in the backstreets near Glenelg.  Also, I ended up having to ride along Tapley's Hill Road on the Western side of the airport, complete with disappearing bike lanes at inopportune times, and lack of usable shoulder in the 80km/hour section.  The end result was the route was much longer, and amazingly slow, taking about 1 hours 50 minutes to get home.  The map is only approximate, as I did get lost a couple of times, and I am not actually quite sure of some of the parts near Glenelg, but it gives you the general idea.  My claim of 70km today is based on my odometer, not the maps.

The bottom end of the Torrens River Linear Park is very undulating with many short steep drops and climbs between river and road level, and not at all suited to a heavy bakfiets if you want to get somewhere reasonably quickly, or maintain a steady speed.  Thus, even with a fairly fast ride at about 26km/hour along Tapley's Hill Road, the overall average was only about 13.6km/hour for that journey because of the many short, but slow climbs.  With a more sensible route reflecting the overall flat journey, the average on the way home could have been more like 17km/hour or even better.

While at the Zoo I happened to bump into an old friend who had lived in Cambridge for a couple of years and seen plenty of bakfiets and had been looking around at getting one here.  The more the bakfiets in Adelaide, the better.  I also spoke to a few families along the way to and from the Zoo about the bakfiets and how great a way to get around with kids it really is.  This was in contrast to sitting up at the Toll Gate where bike traffic was mostly people on skinny bikes trying to get to Mt. Lofty in a hurry.   It's just a different state of mind.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Useful weather monitoring tools

The weather here in Adelaide has been pretty wooly lately.

Fortunately there are some good tools for cyclists trying to dodge the worst of it.

First, somewhat strangely the Norwegian Meteorology Service has the best hour-by-hour forecasts for Adelaide, including wind speed and direction (both very important when riding a bakfiets with the weather canopy on), and expected rain-fall:

Image copyright © Norwegian Meteorological Institute and Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation 2007-2012. Image used under review and criticism exemption (s41) of the Australian Commonwealth Copyright Act.

The other very useful facility is our own BoM's Rain Radars.  Set these to loop, and you can see where the rain is moving in near-real-time.  Very handy for working out if that downpour is about to stop, or whether you are wasting your time trying to wait it out:

© Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2012, Bureau of Meteorology (ABN 92 637 533 532). 
Image used under review and criticism exemption (s41) of the Australian Commonwealth Copyright Act.

A quick check this morning reveals that the heavy rain and hail outside has just stopped, and is unlikely to recur while I ride to work, so I had better offski while the going is good.