A long time ago when I was young and famous and often had to go to London to Be Dead Important it occurred to me to buy a Brompton which I immediately did and which my wife immediately adopted (stole) to get from Leicester Station to the sexual health clinic, returning with all manner of startling stories from which it can be (was) deduced that the private lives of film stars are tame and staid when compared with those of the lower orders of Leicester.  Aye, and the upper orders. There was a vicar - get this - and it was just a week before he was due to marry someone else and  - yes, well we won't go into details. This is the Internet after all. (She never told me his name of course so he might be anybody now, you know, a university chaplain, a bishop, whatever.)

I experimented taking it (the Brompton, not the adventurously wayward clergyman) to Scotland and immediately didn't ever again. Twelve miles of Sutherland hills exceeded my Brompton-wimp quotient. A Brompton I concluded is strictly an on-and-off-the-train machine.

Accordingly I lent it to various people most of whom returned it unmaintained and went off and bought their own. One of these souls was my wife's brother.

When you lend a brother-in-law a Brompton, though you don't actually know it beforehand, the deal is this. He uses it for several months in the East End and returns it with tyres shredded with glass cuts, the pump missing, and deep rust on all the rear mudguard stays. Later he gives you a Brompton front bag that you never knew you needed and have never used since. He always was a little unpredictable. Once I lent him a Moulton and a few months later he surprised me by telling me he'd welded up the back suspension, though as he didn't give me the Moulton back it was an irrelevancy in my ordered life. -

When your student daughter conceives a need for a Brompton in London you dig it out and prepare to pack it up for shipping but recalling that her enthusiasm for bicycle maintenance doesn't greatly differ from her uncle's, you decide to attend to the rear mudguard stays yourself because you have a creeping suspicion that spares, necessarily specific to the machine, will not be cheap. - I wonder if Andrew Ritchie has moved on to stainless steel for mudguard stays? - Mine is an early Brompton.

Removing the mudguard tests your vocabulary and illustrates the tightness of all the clearances, no doubt to enhance its folding diminutiveness. Removing the stays from the mudguard involves sheering off the bolts because rust is a form of welding. Undercoating them reveals the shocking fact that I am just fantastick'ly stupid. You know, really, really stupid. Stupider than Dr Phillips's son at school who once took a large sheet of copper and bent it in half merely because the metalwork master wasn't in the room. You would have thought, wouldn't you, that I would know by now that wet paint is wet, and it's paint, and you don't touch it.  But no.  I am so stupid that I think I can pick freshly painted things up and not have to spend hours rubbing zylol and acetone all over my fingers afterwards. I am not monumentally stupid. I am globally stupid.

Reassembly reveals the reason why the entire population of London - what, ten million people - are employed at the Brompton factory. First, you discover - which you didn't realise when you pulled the thing apart - that each stay is a unique length, and since you didn't note which was which you have to start from First Principles and work out why and therefore which stay goes where. Then you need to hold the mudguard, and the middle stay, and the outer little thingy with two plain holes in it, and the first stainless steel replacement 5mm bolt, and the inner little thingy with two 5mm tapped holes in it. And a spanner. Which you have to turn using the sixth hand you grew for the purpose. Which won't like turning because the stainless steel bolt is now trying to get into a tapped hole freshly plugged with paint. -  So that's either everybody in South Kensington in a job putting on the middle rear mudguard stay, or it's the reason why those Indian johnnies have that god with all those arms sticking out.  And that, boys and girls, is why nobody who ever borrows your Brompton ever does any maintenance. And it's also why next time I'm not going to lend my brother-in-law my Brompton. I shall give him one instead. Then he can worry about rusting galvanised mudguard stays, and I need not suffer post-traumatic stress if it suddenly occurs to him to weld parts of the frame together.

Friday, October 21, 2011 7:45:00 AM Categories: Brompton engineering problems

26er Unicycle 


Displacement activity is when you tidy your workshop instead of painting the house, and displacement activity is when you rebuild John's unicycle instead of Getting On With his high racer. But unicycles are quicker to build than high racers, and with four-inch cranks and a twenty-inch wheel, his unicycle has actually worn out his knees. Besides, what else am I to do with all those knackered 26 inch mountain bike rims?

Is there anything of interest to state about building a unicycle? - Discarded front fork, vice, large pipe to bend the fork legs straight, couple of lumps of mild steel sawn and filed and drilled and tapped 8mm metric to accept the original axle bearing mounts, slots in the fork ends with an angle grinder. Of course it came out dented and slightly wonky, but with the original wheel in place, wedged before tack-welding, everything ended up parallel and square and proper and nice and whatnot and besides nobody ever admires workmanship on a unicycle because there isn't anything to admire.

You always thought you were the single worst wheel-builder in the world. You were wrong. First I laced it with a cross-over where the valve lay. Next I laced it so the right-hand rim holes pointed at the left-hand flange. After that I got it right but found that the spokes wouldn't tighten because of a dismal failure to consult WISIL's spoke length calculator. Then I found that the only spokes I had that would marry the large flanges of the original hub, necessitated a four-cross pattern. I laced eighteen spokes with a set of long nipples after getting the calculator measurements wrong, and replaced them all because I only have one matchbox of long nipples whereas I have a full coffee tin of or'nery ones. I used up quite a lot of vocabulary while doing these things.

When it was finished he found he could no longer hop on, and we learnt that there is a whole technique to mounting that you have to re-learn when the seat is three inches higher up and you can't start off with a foot flat on the floor. But after half an hour he managed it, and now, with those cranks and that rim, he reports it's like riding a seven-inch divided by four-inch crank times a twenty-six inch wheel, so that's about a 45 inch gear.

He now zooms. Previously only his knees zoomed.

Friday, October 14, 2011 9:13:00 AM Categories: Unicycle

Recumbent Invisibility 

Mr Knight has been nagging me.

How is John's bike coming along? come on chop chop.


I had to tell him, with some reluctance, that John's high racer sits in a few partly-welded-up pieces on the workshop floor gen'rally getting in the way and annoying me. I have lots to do on it but have made no progress on account of house painting and broken lawn mowers (under guarantee, but I'm left mowing the lawn with the hand-push-mower, which is *much* harder work after three days' heavy rain and frenetic spring growth, but at least it saved me going for my bike ride yesterday to get my hour's hot and pungent exercise) and a desperate need to completely re-organise the workshop so I can put my drawing-board somewhere that I can actually see the pencil-marks.

And then Ron popped in with a couple of bikes for me to repair for him for free. I don't mind doing it for Ron. He's a dead nice bloke is Ron, always volunteering to do stuff for everyone else for free, and he's a Green, and he's a Transition Towns Movement person, and a Community Gardens person, and he's married to Edith a Swiss lady with a fantastic head of hair, all fuzzy and standing six inches up round her head like a halo, who has given up the violin in favour of gardening but who used to practice for 6 hours a day which immediately tells me she was of professional concert standard. Blimey! I didn't know that. - I thought when Herbert said 'a violinist' she would be as bad as me. - Ron rides a Healing Commuter, a 1968 mild steel affair with 27 and a quarter inch wheels, a Shimano 3-speed hub that was out of adjustment and a chain which, on measurement, was 12.5 inches long for 24 links. He needed an entire new drive train. His front fork is bent and among all my spares I don't have one that will fit, so I'm going to have to bend it straight for him. He rides his bike everywhere and hates using his car. Herbert once told me he used to be a Catholic priest, but I don't know if that's true. He's such a nice bloke I can't imagine him molesting children. Herbert was my source of all sorts of goss, some of it even true. Herbert trained world-class cyclists and pulled everyone's leg, but checking his stories was always easier before he died.

Herbert. This is him with Karen Holliday whom he coached. It was taken 20 years ago after she had just become New Zealand's first ever cycling world champion

Last week I nearly died myself, or so I was informed by the lady who almost effected my death. I was riding home at speed and a nondescript grey BMW ("The Ultimate Driving Machine") had stopped on the wrong side of the Motueka Valley Highway and a lady stood astride the road with arms out flagging me down. We then had an Invisible Recumbent conversation.

'Do you know you are almost invisible down there? I nearly didn't see you.'

With a helmet height of 48.5 inches, I discovered that among the misfortunes of middle age is the lack of desire to be brutally rude and point out to her that I sit higher than a child cyclist, am bigger than a sheep or a labrador or a traffic cone, and that if she really has trouble seeing me then perhaps now is the time to relinquish her driving licence. But of course there was no point. She meant well. I did however discuss the matter with a member of the Diaspora living in our colony of Oregon who chanced to be online, and he replied

Yeah, the  'I can't see you cos you are too low and not glowing like a radioactive fallout victim'  does get a little irritating. Funny how drivers don't seem to have a problem seeing the lines painted on the road, at a height, of oh, about 0 inches..... Maybe we should hurry up and burn all the oil to get these people off the road?


Right, must go and mitre some tubes for the seat frame or Mr Knight will think I'm slacking.

Thursday, October 6, 2011 9:36:00 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing maintenance Rob English stupidity

High Racer Frame 

Well now a spy down in Rangiora informed me last night that Mr Knight has been filing his knees, so I have had to pull m'finger out with John's high racer.

The first stage of making a High Racer is to plan everything carefully beforehand and draw it neatly and think about every bit of clearance, and then go and look on the Bike Heap for the necessary parts.

The second stage, when you come back to the drawing board, is to rip the design up and screw all the bits into a ball and hurl them across the room and start again because everything in the Bike Heap's an inch bigger than you wanted it.

The third stage is to retrieve all the bits and put them on your light box and make a sketch of the first stage, with all the alterations added.

Of course if you are a proper engineer you do not do this at all, but you and I are not proper engineers. We are rank amateurs, and leave the professional stuff to Mr Bird and Mr Burrows and Mr OtherpeoplebeginningwithB.

My Bike Heap these days dangles from hooks screwed into the rafters of the shed, a magnificent advance in amateur bicycle manufacture which I commend to anyone who possesses a shed with rafters. Unf. most of the bikes have either been sawn up already or are made of 531 tubing. The Donor Bike selected did not match my drawing, and pencils are easier than welders and paper is cheaper than steel. The next donor bike said Chromoly on the stickers but it also said Milazo and since Milazo is a cheap brand sold by the Warehouse, a New Zealand equivalent of Walmart, I knew it would be mild steel so I sawed it up cheerfully and was a bit startled to find thin-wall seamless tube all over the workshop floor so perhaps it was chromoly after all. Perhaps Milazo was a reputable company before the Warehouse buyers got to it and forced the quality down.

The rear swing-arm pivot will go through the old bottom bracket, and rather than soften and machine the cups to fit, the Dremel was applied. Only a smidgen needed removing since I wanted a 3/4 tube through it, with nylon bushes inserted and a 12mm OD tube as the actual pivot.

Preparing the hole for welding in the head tube

The mainframe is 2" OD 18g mild steel, and I used a 38mm hole cutter in the drill press to bore a hole for the 40.5mm OD head tube. This would appear to be of mildly inadequate size, but I am a Rubbish Welder as well as a rubbish everything else, so the idea is to insert a hacksaw blade through the hole and saw little radial nicks before hammering everything outwards like a mediaeval crown to enlarge the hole. It makes the welding easier, but rather more importantly allows you to delicately adjust (whack away with a hammer) the exact angle of the head tube, which needs, according to my envelope, a backward slope of one degree. This is one case where it pays to have a hacksaw cut on the pull-stroke. - I offer this gem of wisdom as my contribution to the field of engineering, and require tribute in consequence. - No autographs, sorry. This is the Internet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 9:27:00 AM Categories: High Racer

Suspension losses 

Suspension losses

I have formed the habit of cycling to Rocky River on one side of the Motueka river, crossing at the Bluffs bridge, & returning past the aerodrome on t'other side. It is a pretty route, punctuated at various points and on various occasions by wild pigs rooting at the side of the road, by Bill the farmer using profane language and a hammer to maintain the power take-off on his David Brown, and by Watsons omitting to sweep the thorns up after mowing the hedge on High Street. Here's last year's offerings. I pick them up to hand in to the police station where I happen to know half of the officers are keen roadies.

Found on the cycle path on State Highway 60, this time last year

In the last week or so I found myself in perfect health, thank you very much for asking, and yet with no headwind, no brakes rubbing, and tyres pumped hard, the trip had started taking a mysteriously lethargic 70 minutes. Yesterday the bike was bouncing up and down in a soft, comfortable, gentle manner and, after a few miles' thought, it occurred to me to stop and check the suspension, which is composed of inner-tube strips wrapped in tension. And on so doing I found half of them broken, and groping in the saddlebag for spares and re-wrapping the rubber, the machine stopped bouncing and my speed improved and the trip time returned to its rather sweaty 56 minutes. A salutary lesson on the costs of comfortable suspension.

A rubbish picture of the rubber lashing which is my bike's suspension unit

Today it was belting rain upon the Earth, and peeping out of the kitchen window it was pretty hard to differentiate between the waters which were above the firmament and the waters which were below the firmament, at least in Motueka. Peeping out of the kitchen window I couldn't see Mount Campbell at all. Peeping out of the kitchen window all I could see was dense grey rain. Peeping out of the kitchen window it looked like time to start making an ark of gopher wood three hundred cubits long and rounding up fowls of their kind and cattle of their kind and every creeping thing of the earth. (Two of each sort, obv..)

Accordingly Mr Schroder and Mr McLeod who had been idly toying with a ride over here chickened out, the pathetic wimps, which was just as well because I wasn't bloody well going out for a ride in this weather. But Mr Schroder piled his machine into the back of his ute and poled up for a wag of the jaw and a mug of the tea, no doubt with half an eye on the gopher wood situation in the Moutere Hills.

Mr Schroder's new machine - Schroder 3 - is very tightly built. There is not much clearance anywhere. Mr Schroder suffers from short stumpy legs which only just reach the ground and on some occasions, such as when he flies gaily through the air before head-butting the local geology, don't reach the ground at all. These short stumpy legs are huge things, the hugeness entirely composed of muscle. I have ridden with him before: his cadence is about thirty while mine is about ninety and he's a good deal faster than me. He opts for short cranks, a massive chainring, and the use of vast force to go Stinking Fast. But short legs raise the problem of tight clearances, and on front wheel drive low racers, those clearances become Very Tight Indeed. There is exactly 5.5 millimetres between the front tyre and the frame.

Schroder's cat. There's another one exactly like it inside the back of the car.

There is no room at all for the rear mech cable: it has to be threaded through the fork leg. (He threaded the inner cable first, and then the cable housing afterwards, a sneaky trick which I shall steal and cunningly claim as original sometime.) Handlebars have been ditched altogether and he relies on a tiller, with gear changers to fiddle with and go dackadackadacka at the traffic like in the Battle of Britain film. - Did you know Susannah York just died? - Well she did, and she was 72. Hard to believe anyone as pretty as Susannah York could ever be 72. - His frontal area - we are referring to Mr Schroder again - we have put the alluring discussion of Susannah York to one side - is 21 inches square, plus head, plus helmet, and here is a picture.

He'd made a very useful pair of T-stands that clamped to the main tube & allowed for stationary pedalling. He offered me a go but I declined partly cos of the wet road (spray in hair & up legs & on unpainted steel frame) and partly because he is a chain-oiler and I am a wax-snob. Besides, Mr McLeod has had a mishap with his chain on his FWD low racer and I am in no hurry to emulate it:

Tested the new lowracer sans idler chain guide/shield. For all the FWD advantages it is also highly efficient at pulling hair and skin thru the drivetrain without much effort -


He even sent me a photo of it, little thinking it would end up on the Internet. - You can just never be too careful. -

So all of the above are my feeble excuses for failing to Get On With John's high racer. But I will, I will, because Mr Knight presses on with his rubbishy old Geared Facile and I have just read that fully 48% of New Zealanders were wholly indifferent to the opening of the rugby world cup, so there must be an eager 2,080,000 people out there prepared to get all excited about how we're both doing instead.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 9:15:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod Nigel Schroder

John's High Racer 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

John's High Racer

Mr Knight has taken to blogging his Geared Facile and this country is deeply unhappy unless there is some kind of competition going on. Two thirds of New Zealanders don't really give a toss about rugby, we have just learnt, but they still like their competition and are prepared to do almost anything to enhance it. Rural Herculeses (sic) hold sheep-shearing and wood-chopping competitions. Urban damsels hold World of Wearable Art competitions. (No, they really do. Google it.) Even the voters don't like their politicians getting complacent and I have just surprised myself reading that
46% of National voters would consider voting Labour
33% of National voters would consider voting ACT (the far right party)
26% of National voters would consider voting Green (the 'streme left)
62% of Labour voters would consider voting Green
37% of Labour voters would consider voting National
15% of Labour voters would consider voting ACT
(National = the Conservative party. Labour = the Labour party. ACT isn't really the far right party but nobody really knows what it is. It used to be led by a bonkers loony called - um - I forget his name but he actively disbelieved in global warming, but anyway he isn't the leader any more because he tried to get the former leader of the National Party, one Don Brash, a man chiefly noted for his imitation of teeth, to join him, and Don Brash surprised him by accepting on the condition that he, Don Brash, replaced him, the one whose name I've clean forgotten, as Leader, and now he, Don Brash, has sacked all their MPs. - Well, actually I suppose that's a fair definition of a far right party.)

Anyway back to the topick in hand: Mr Knight is blogging his Geared F., and I'm feeling all Left Out, and John now wants a recumbent because he only has a racing bike and a mountain bike and a funny 29er penny farthing and a unicycle and a few other things we've welded up over the last few years, poor deprived fellow.

John before he outgrew everything (Photo: Mike Toohey)

So I'm going to build him one and I shall now blog it and Mr Knight shall lag behind because he is a Perfectionist and uses air-gauged tubing and polishes each molecule of paint wherewith he eventually adorns each of his machines, whereas I wade in with a welder and a hammer and Just Get On With It. The score stands like this:

Me: approx several recumbents.

Mr Knight: approx 0 Geared Faciles.

We ignore for the purposes of this competition sundry 1904 Royal Enfields & Red Racing Bicycles & tricycles & Weird Garden Toys & horse-manure trailers & hand wagons & other useless junk wherewith we have each cluttered our sheds.

So I am the Def. Favourite, and will def. win, & Mr Knight will have to eat humble pie and grovel before me when I have finished and he still hasn't burnished the 54th spoke nipple to his exacting satisfaction.

Mrs Knight's 1904 Royal Enfield after she had indulged in some over-vigorous pedalling

Mrs Knight's 1904 Royal Enfield after Mr Knight attended to Routine Maintenance

Right, here's the brief. He (John, that is) wants it as simple as possible, so it has to be short wheelbase and handlebars over the knees. He dislikes being run over & killed so he wants it to be reasonably high. He wants to be fast so the BB has to be about 5 or 6 inches above the Seat Angle. He wants low rolling resistance so we'll go for dual 700c wheels. - Tyres, in the Colonies, can be a bit of a problem unless you go for what's commonly available. - He can manage a high seat because he's now substantially taller than me. (Yes you can say 'taller than me' because 'taller than I' is pedantick and cumbersome.)

In addition he shall be given rear suspension because I don't want him beating his brain to death with a million road bumps, and carrier racks because a recumbent that can only carry a-person-and-his-Lycra isn't a vehicle, it's a racing machine and only a racing machine and nothing but a r. machine. - Here speaks the wisdom of the years. It's the compensation for grey hair and baldness. -


Okay, where do we start? - Wheelbase of 45 inches because I know it's stable, trail of 1.75 inches ditto, frame of 2 inch 18g mild steel tubing because it's not as expensive as chromoly, fork with 1.75 inches of rake (they generally do) and 15 inches from axle to base of head tube. Pivot of rear swing arm in the middle of the putative chain run so it doesn't interfere. The seat will as ever be the biggest problem because we'll need to fiddle with it to get the lumbar and neck support right but we'll start with the base pointing at the middle of BB because I know that works, and we'll give him 37.5 inches from the seat angle to the BB because his legs are 3 inches longer than mine, and we'll allow some adjustment for growth because he's only sixteen. Coo! What would it be to be sixteen again. You'd have sex to look forward to, instead of only remember.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:40:00 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing High Racer

Mr Knight's Geared Facile Blog 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mr Knight's Geared Facile Blog

Today there was an auction of the Deceased Estate of a Mr Watson, according to the Motueka and Golden Bay News, so I went along to see what a deceased estate of a (presumably) living man might be. The Motueka and Golden Bay News is a weekly source of enjoyable solecisms, most famous among which has been the advertisement concerning the Pasta of the Church of Christ.

Mr Watson, it seemed, was a car restorer: his Deceased Estate largely comprised tools and I had the feeling there would be a large turnout of large people, there often being a correlation between car enthusiasm and girth. Just as I was arriving a 4WD swung out from a driveway opposite forcing me off the otherwise empty road - the driver hadn't spotted my fluorescent jersey - turned left and immediately parked, a journey of a good three hundred metres, and as I dismounted two vast people were struggling their way out of the seats to join the gathered throng. There were fifty-six bidders and twice that number of spectators. The bidders fully met my hopes. A taxonomist would have got all excited and written down a) skinny; b) massive; c) young; d) moribund and immediately drawn a Venn diagram.

One lot was 'an old engineers lathe' and another was 'old push bikes'. On inspection the lathe was a worn-out Chinese affair with a flimsy cross-slide and a knobbly dead centre welded to the tailstock chuck. The two push bikes were of 1970s vintage, one of them the puzzlingly ubiquitous Raleigh Twenty. Nobody has ever satisfactorily explained why so many Raleigh Twenties exist in the Colonies nor why they fetch high prices, but since every one I lay my hands on is addressed with a hacksaw I am doing my best to increase their rarity value.

I returned home to my emails and found a photograph taken of the corner of Mr Knight's drawing-room. Mr Knight like Mr Watson has a shed but there isn't quite enough space for his twenty-eight-plus bicycles, so some have strayed indoors. Should there ever be an auction of the Deceased Estate of Mr Knight it too will feature old push bikes, but I doubt if it will feature any Raleigh Twenties.

When Mr Knight is at work these bicycles double as clothes-drying racks like my astronomical refractor does when my wife's sister comes to visit. You and I of course would never do such an evil thing, for a quick glance tells us that - from the front - we are looking at

a 54" 1883 Bayliss, Thomas & Co. DEHF (Duplex Excelsior Hollow Fork); a 55" c1885/6 racing model of unknowen make; and a pair of c1920. 28 x 1 3/8 (ETRTO 37-642) wooden rimmed wheels on BSA hubs.

I did not spot Mr Knight among the bidders for Mr Watson's workshop effects, but I do know he is building himself quite a useful Geared Facile, and since not many other people are I have spoken firmly to him about recording the matter for posterity. You and I know what a Geared Facile is, of course, but everyone else will have to go to his new blog and keep track of events as they unfold.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:38:00 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing penny farthing

Trike basket 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trike basket

Just come back from stealing apple logs and I find my wife watching Magic Roundabout on Youtube. I don't know if any children did but in the Olden Days all the students used to watch Magic Roundabout after lectures. It numbed their brains. Damn, there's an opportunity missed - we had the new medical students round - one was shaven-headed and competent and the other was an idiot whose teeth stuck out like a fantail - a small but representative sample - and I forgot to ask them what they did to numb their brains. - Blimey, now she's watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men (1953, so it even predates me). - Now John's watching it. He'll start feeling sorry for us in a minute, and then he'll move on to realising why we don't have a TV. - Good gracious me now she's onto Andy Pandy. *uck. Watch Andy Pandy and you'll know why suicide was invented. Five minutes of a swinging puppet along with some of the least scintillating commentary ever heard on television, occasionally breaking into song. *uuuuuuuuuck. Hang on - I'll just check she hasn't gone and killed herself.

Right, I'm back at my computer and she's just made some remarks to me to tidy my desk and whole area. I nearly tidied my workshop but got distracted by my new trike basket which is so fantastick and so wonderful and so brilliant that I have to keep going back into the workshop to admire it.

In the market there was a man selling scythes - no there was - I would'v'e bought one too except I have three scythes, though the truth is when you have three nobody notices a fourth appearing - and another man selling baskets. Baskets I can get away with: we like baskets. Real ones that is. Plastic ones break and end up choking turtles in the Pacific Gyre. I immediately bought one and commissioned another.

'If I bring you my trike, can you make one for that?'

'Trike? What is trike?'

The basketmaker was a Foreigner, from Abroad. Trike had him baffled. But I made him tell me where he lived and called later with the trike in question and beams of sunshine fell on his face. And not long afterwards I had a phone call:

'Oh Ree-chard, I haff made. You a bas. Ket.'

And he had. And here it is. And I'm dead pleased. Because cardboard boxes, however exquisitely formed, aren't - sort of - well anyway, baskets are. On trikes, that is. A cardboard box is Loughborough. A basket is Stamford.

A basket on a trike is unf. not terribly good for the collection of compost. Sarah said that her daughter Alex says we can have her horseshit for free if we gather it up but if she, Alex, has to gather it up she, Sarah, will sell it to 'lots of other people who want it' and when you do the sums you can see why. Because horses aren't cheap.

For compost two 75 litre plastic dustbins are employed and I hope they last longer than washing baskets and don't end up in the gullets of dead albatross chicks. With containers of Known Volume and visits of Known Frequency one discovers that 350 litres of horse compost are generated in 7 horse-days, which = 50 litres of compost per horse per day. In the olden days stage coaches required a horse per mile: a proprietor of one coaching firm owned (I have just read) 68 coaches, 2,000 horses, and 2,000 employees to manage the hundred thousand daily litres of compost. Though as a coach travelled at 10mph, I calculate the roads received 833 cubic centimetres per mile. Plus wagon-horse compost, of course, and that of the local squire and all the other horsemen. Of which there wouldn't have been all that many, because Amber was being shod and the farrier told me that shoeing a horse is $100 and takes place every 8 weeks starting from when the horse is 4 years old. So if a horse lasts 20 years it will cost $10,400 in tyres, so to speak. Sarah recoups $2 a bag for compost but my researches have not extended to buying such a bag and weighing it. My researches extend to building trailers for my two 75-litre bins. - I can't pull more than that. I'm down to 5mph as it is.

Nevertheless I strongly commend compost collection on a bike as a means of personal weight control but you mustn't trust me because I'm an evangelical on the subject of bicycle haulage. In fact I'm a Bicyclist's Witness. I put on a smart suit and carry a small leather-bound copy of Bicycling Science Third Edition and knock on doors and ask people if they've been Saved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:35:00 AM Categories: trikes

Schroder Idler 

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Schroder Idler

The following adventures have taken place this week.

First, my wife & son went skiing. She opines that standing on top of a mountain covered with snow, with planks strapped to her boots calculated to minimise her attachment to Mother Earth, and thereafter surrendering herself to the laws of physics, is done in the certainty that the entertainment will outweigh the broken legs.

I did not ski but rather loaded my recumbent into the van and, the following morning, set out to ride home. It had occurred to me to annoy Mr Knight by telling him of the expedition, because he likes long rides and I knew he'd be mad.

Now then, m'boy, I graciously grant you permission anxiously to check the weather every two minutes tomorrow between St Arnaud and Motueka, because Mrs My Wife is going skiing and I am lugging a recumbent in the back of the van and am going to jolly ride it home tomorrow, with this much training behind me: zero. I am fearful and full of fear because I do not do rides longer than 20 miles. I am going to hypermile. My brother told me about hypermiling: he did it in the Shell Mileage Marathon back in the early 80s. They had to power a person (tiny girl, surprise surprise) at a minimum of 15mph round a figure-of-eight track. The other day I hypermiled in the van, and found the most economical way was to accelerate hard to 70kph, which took 5 seconds, and knock it out of gear, and let it coast down to 50kph which took 15 seconds. Ignoring calculus, I was therefore using fuel for .25 of the distance and since the van does about 38mpg driven normally and probably a lot less when accelerating hard, there is the possibility I was getting lots more than 38 mpg. So tomorrow I shall roll down every single hill and pedal languorously the rest of the time and see if I can get home without my legs turning into jelly. Yes I know you'd do it in three hours - kindly *uck off and die - I think I'm Jolly Brave and need prayers to help me, like the Governor of Oklahoma has got the population to pray for rain, the utter moron. (Google it if you don't believe me. Amazing but true.)


Mr Knight, thus apprised, instantly emailed me. (I knew he would.):

I've just checked this route on and it's mostly downhill with two notable uphill bits at 13 and 37 miles assuming that you are going from the centre of St. Arnaud via Tophouse road. I've ridden all of it except for the bit from Tophouse to the junction near that firing range. I know the second hill just outside Tapawera at 37 miles and it's quite hard but mercifully short, I know nothing about the first hill at 13 miles which looks worserer. Tophouse is the high point at 2450 feet (!) and your house is the low point. I've attached a picture of the elevation over the route to help ease your troubled brow.

Take lots of food and drink with you and drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry. I usually eat something every 30 minutes on a long ride, sometimes it's hard to do.

I'm very jealous and would love to do it instead of sitting here pretending to program but typing to you instead. We have a fablious day here and I'd much rather be riding.

If it goes badly and you die, can I have your hand shaper?


It did not go badly. I did not die. He can't have my hand shaper.

I set off at 8.44 am and the snow was a foot deep at the side of the road and I wore 2 pairs of long cycling trousers and 2 pairs of gloves and 3 cycling jerseys and a teeshirt and I wore earwarmers and I was *ucking Cold. There was an icy headwind all the way to the Tophouse turning and there were patches of black ice all over the St Arnaud roads and there was a mass of fog, but luckily this blew away and I was only in fog for very brief periods. I cranked my way gingerly out of St Arnaud to Tophouse at about 7mph and wondered if I was in fact a Stupid Person. There were black ice patches all the way along the Tophouse road to the Kikiwa junction, and indeed all along the Kikiwa road to Korere. I got very frightened several times when approaching black ice at over 30mph on narrow hard tyres, and did quite a lot less hypermiling and quite a lot more pre-emptive braking than I'd anticipated. Once a car came towards me at about seventy miles (miles) an hour with black ice just round the corner where the driver couldn't see it though she'd obviously passed over some beforehand because I encountered it later. Much better driver than me, obviously, because I would have either driven more cautiously or skidded off and been killed. - I did pass a couple of women placing flowers on a roadside white cross. They were in a car which later passed me with several inches to spare on an open clear road. -

I didn't do the Kerr Hill route past the gun club because I've done that before and it almost killed me. It's a lot steeper and more persistent than it looks on the map, is Kerr Hill. It is in fact *ucking horrible.

There was lots of fog on SH6 to Kohatu and indeed from Kohatu to Tapawera and I once got run off the road by a petrol tanker who very obviously wasn't going to slow down or pull out for me. I stopped at Nutbrown's farm because I saw him fiddling outside his barn and he let me lie down on his kitchen floor with my feet against the wood-burner, and then my feet stopped being as cold as very cold feet. Nutbrown isn't his real name but - well, anyway, - he's a tramper, and I think, doesn't spend excessively on sunblock. - He nearly jumped out of his overalls when I rode up behind him and called his name. (I didn't say "Hi Nutbrown.")

That hill outside Tapawera has a name and I was reminded what it was and I forgot it the moment I was on the bike again. But it's 0.6 miles to the top at 4mph, and a rather terrifying 40mph on the descent before I started squeezing the brakes. At Ngatimoti I ate half a cheese sandwich and drank a litre of water, at which point my average speed was 16.1 mph, but at 50 miles I was tired, and ended up with an average of 15.9mph, having bravely pedalled hard at the end to stop it nudging down to 15.8 which is what the computer was threatening to do.

Arrived home at 1.42. The forecast was for light rain, but I didn't get any at all. The sun was a pallid harrier behind the clouds and I didn't have to wear sunglasses once. A possum ran away from me on the West Bank Road, which surprised me very much because it was half-past one in the afternoon and possums don't do daytime. It wasn't a rabbit because it had a long tail and it wasn't a pig because nobody was shooting it or stabbing it to death.

Trip 67.21 miles

Average 15.9 mph

Max 41.0 mph

Calories 2190.7 (yeah, right)

Time 4hrs 13 mins 23 sec

Odo 7012.6

Then my wife telephoned. Somebody found her on the ski-field and took her to see John who had inexplicably put one of his skis through his trouser-leg and gouged his knee open. It needed stitching but she had no stitches in St Arnaud so she came home. This meant I had to clean the bathroom instead of checking my emails, or I'd have found out that

a) Mr Knight had been in touch to say

We don't get black ice here, we get very cold mornings but no rain ever (except this morning) so very, very seldom any ice, which means that when we do get ice, nobody has a clue how to drive on it. We did have freezing fog last week and when I got to work I resembled a snow man, only colder. And no carrots. Or coal.


b) Mr Schroder has one of those idlers on his new FWD too, so he and Young McLeod of McLeod have obviously been collaborating more than I know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:33:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod Nigel Schroder

Idler video 

Monday, July 11, 2011

McLeod Idler Video

Occasionally, when feeling bored, I like to command Mr Larrington very kindly to put his fag out and his beer down and get on with the task that I set him about ten years ago which is to write a book entitled 'The History of the British Human Power Movement from when I was Eighteen' and I am dismayed daily to find he continues to treat the commandment with disdain. It would be jolly int'resting because he was right in there at the beginning, a mere boy then but a keen observer of the Purple Nasty and other vehicles of the early days, and probably even knows the origin owner and inventor of the red trike that caused the global inch-and-an-eighth tubing shortage in 1985.

However, it's perhaps just as well his book hasn't been completed yet because I now have the video evidence of Mr McLeod's Idler to hand, and this is so jolly excellent an advance that it were a shame to miss it out of said History. (Yes there are those who idly claim that New Zealand doesn't come under the auspices of British but we ignore them, Empire sun never sets, pink across the globe, William to visit etc etc etc.)

Anyway, here we are, Mr McLeod's Idler wheel in action. You have to pay fairly close attention to see what's going on. Of the two idlers at the steering head, the front is the relevant one. The track rod end, from which it hangs, is visible at ten o'clock to the idler wheel itself. As the front wheel is turned to steer the bike there is only a small amount of movement of the idler and it's quite hard to discern, but it allows a full forty-five degree movement of the front wheel in either direction without throwing the chain off.

Mr McLeod does not require any gratitude for giving the world this invention, natch. It is merely his way of thanking the Duke for encouraging his ancestors to emigrate when His Grace, who was terribly, terribly poor had all the houses burnt in the Highland Clearances. - Aye, the McLeods' hame is Sutherland, where the bonny heather hides the wee cleggies. - We used to know Johnnie McLeod. - 'Hoo're you the dee?' he'd ask except when he said stuff like 'Feasgar math dhuibh' but then he never said 'Feasgar math dhuibh' to us because he knew we didn't have the Gaelic, and he never said 'Tha coltas uisge oirre' because it always did.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:31:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod
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