Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ride-on suitcase

As readers of this blog will be aware, I use our bakfiets to avoid airport parking costs.  I have also fantasised about making some sort of ride-on suitcase so that I could avoid the inconvenience at the other end.  The best I had previously seen was the Samsonite scooter cabin bag which I was introduced to by seeing a Lufthansa pilot in Frankfurt airport scoot his merry way -- tie flapping in his self-generated breeze -- in the seemingly endless underground passage between the terminals.  But then today, I discovered that someone in China has create that I had only thought about: the ride-on suitcase.  Top speed 20km/h.  Range 60km.

Here is the BBC piece about it:

Plane and Helicopter spotting

These days we often find ourselves riding past the Tapley's Hill Road side of the airport on our way home.  We like to stop and watch a few planes land and take off before continuing home.  

We used to stop at the official plane spotting area near the southern end of the runway, but there really isn't a good bike path to get there, and Tapley's Hill Road is an 80km/hour zone and quite busy.  

So now we ride in behind Harbour Town shopping centre, and push the bike up to the chain-link fence that marks the edge of the airport and watch from there.  The runway is a bit further away, but it is a nicer experience.  Also, Caleb is currently very interested in helicopters, and our spot is right next to the main helicopter part of the airport.   The chain-link fence causes more trouble for photos than it does for actually looking through.
Here is our parking spot, about 2m from air-side, and well in sight of several helicopters.
Today we were in for a bit of a treat, as they were doing a bit of maintenance on the police and rescue helicopters, running the engines up for a few minutes each.

While this was happening, one of the crew came over and asked if we would like to come in and have a look once they finished doing the engine runs.  No objections were to be heard from our little people. 

A few minutes later, we were given a tour of the different helicopters.  First, the Channel 7 TV helicopter:

Caleb was asked to "smile properly", which resulted in the following shot:

When then asked again to smile properly, and that this meant no fingers in the mouth, Caleb obliged with the following:

We then went outside and looked at the rescue helicopters.  The first one was the one that does double-duty as the Police helicopter.  The last time Caleb was asked if he would like to sit in an aircraft cockpit he was a little reluctant, but not this time. Isabel wasn't feeling brave enough, however.

Then it was time for a look inside the rescue helicopter that is often used for medical transport, with space in the back for a stretcher:

I did have to laugh at the "EXIT" signs over the side doors, as though one might go looking for an exit elsewhere, or that you could some how be so far from an exit that you would need help finding one.  Anyway, at that point the rescue helicopter equivalent of the Octo Alert sounded, and it was time for us to exit from our unexpected and exciting visit, and pedal our way back home.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bakfiets break-down, and I still beat a parent driving to work in her car

This morning as usual I rode my daughter to school on the bakfiets.  At school one of the other parents we know saw me dropping her off.  We both set off around the same time from near where the Seaford Line crosses Diagonal Road near Marion Shopping Centre to our respective jobs at Flinders University and Medical Centre, a few kilometres away.

I had promised my wife that I would check out whether Trim's work wear store was still in one of the out-buildings at Marion Shopping Centre (it isn't), and then whether Ray's Outdoors on Marion Road had work boots her size (they do).  So I didn't have a very direct route.

I only got a mile or so before the bakfiets started having monumental rolling resistance.  I've experienced this before, the culprit being the back wheel not being seated straight.  There is supposed to be a washer+bolt thing that acts as a tensioner to stop the axle slipping.  I have had them move in the past causing the same problem, so had a good idea what was going on.  A quick look revealed that it it hadn't just moved, but had sheared right off. Almost all of the ring was gone, leaving just a bit of a stump:

So I spent the next couple of minutes adjusting the wheel to straight (I carry a shifter in the bike for such emergencies), and then on the phone to Dutch Cargo Bikes to see if they had spares in stock, since I knew that without the tensioner the wheel would shift back out of alignment if I pedalled too hard.

I then pedalled off to Rays Outdoors where I spent a few minutes checking out the steel-cap boot options, before heading up to Flinders, where I bumped into said parent, who had just parked her car and was walking to the building.

As I understood her, she had driven straight from the school to the hospital, found a park, and was almost there no faster than I had ridden to work, stopped to make running repairs, gone shoe shopping, and pedalled quite gently so as not to put my back wheel out of alignment.

For me this was one of those episodes that confirmed what I already knew:  getting around by car in peak hour is now slower than by cargo bike, especially when you factor in the parking hassles.

After all that, I still had to fix the chain tensioner.  Fortunately, the bakfiets includes a tensioner on both sides of the wheel, even though the one on the chain side is the only important one.  So I used a ratchet strap to winch up the back wheel off the ground, popped the back wheel out, move the tensioner to the other side, adjusted it, and put it all back together.

The whole job took about 1/2 an hour.  I also adjusted the tension on the rear brake cable which had got a bit stretched over time.

I had intended to take more pictures during the process, but my hands were a bit too greasy to work the phone.  One day I will do one of these jobs with the GoPro camera strapped on. Meanwhile, for more detailed info on how to do this sort of thing, I have another blog post where I did take a pile of pictures when changing the rear-wheel of the backfiets.

My make-shift winch.

You only need about 5cm of clearance to do this easily.

Chain cover off, and the chain tensioner conspicuously missing.