Drama in Real Life 

Yesterday morning I was surprised to find the tandem lying on its side and the penny trike halfway up the drive. We are usually more careful than that. It suddenly crossed my mind to count the bikes, and behold, the rain bike and Frankenbike were missing.

What sometimes happens in these parts is that those who have generously partaken of wine think of bicycling home, and redressing their lack of bicycle by what we prefer to call borrowing, leave them propped up against a tree somewhere else.

Several walks round the orchard and along the river bank but no bikes, and we are left - as is so often the case - with an enhanced appreciation of what we don't have any more. A lady's step-through bike that can be mounted easily in waterproof trousers, with a fully enclosed chaincase, drum brakes front and rear, stainless steel 700c rims with very fine racing tyres on, and waterproof panniers is a truly practical vehicle in a country blessed with adequate rainfall.

Stolen rain bike

And suddenly I feel remorsefully proud of Frankenbike with its Marzocchi front fork and GT Horst Leitner rear suspension that let me cruise the dirt roads in glorious comfort with its swept-back city handlebars that you can't buy in New Zealand despite being a hundred times more comfortable than straight mountainbike handlebars and a Mirrycle that you also can't buy here.

Stolen Frankenbike

However I fancy you will heartlessly observe that having your bikes nicked is scarcely Drama in Real Life, which needs to at least have a sawmill where the operator falls into the machinery and has his legs and abdomen cut from his body so that only arms, chest and head remain, and while using a pair of crutches improvised from a torque wrench and a speed brace to limp along to the emergency ward he gets run over by an unexpected reversing Tiger tank owned by a re-enacter and all that remains is a wisp of hair which, by careful skin grafting and experimental stem cell research, they reconstruct him in a Petri dish and after six months' rehabilitation hand him the address of Reader's Digest to make a few bob on the side. - I always loathed Drama in Real Life. It was horrible and gory and I hated it but at least it put the actual experience of being in the dentist's chair in context. Why did dentists always have piles of Reader's Digests? How many did they think you could get through? They only have National Geographic these days.

Well anyway, I told you I was stupid, didn't I? - In fact I rather laboured the point. - I needn't have done. - Somehow or other this afternoon, after donning eye protection and ear protection but failing to think as far ahead as enormously thick heavy leather gloves, I dropped the angle-grinder with a rotary wire brush and it cut straight through the tip of my right index finger. The brush sliced the nail in half sideways and left the tip of the finger flapping about in a manner an estate agent might describe as semi-detached and a violin teacher might describe as something else. Dr Brewer who has considerable empathy with vexing mishaps was on call and until he could get to me he told me to apply pressure to both sides of the knuckle, which would pinch the artery and stop it bleeding. Useful tip, but I'd have preferred to have learnt it out of context. Throbbing and regret in equal measure right now. Time for a career change. I'm going to apply to be a Visual Aid for Health and Safety lecturers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 9:15:00 AM Categories: injury Stolen Bikes stupidity

Stupidest person ever 

Mr Knight occasionally avers that I am not the cleverest person in New Zealand and sometimes I incline to agree.

Yesterday I took two blocks of wood and some 320 grit wet-and-dry and smoothed a pivot for the swing-arm bushes in the lathe, and when I switched off I promptly applied the finger-test to see how smooth it was, and because it had turned to straw-yellow I was unable to feel its smoothness owing to the fact that all the nerve endings in my fingertip had just been cauterized. 'OW!' is what I cried, before reverting to the more usual word employed on these occasions.

Today I gouged three holes in my left hand while picking an orange from the top of the tree with a dandelion-uprooter. 'OW!' I cried again, before etc etc etc. - You may wonder why I was using a dandelion up-rooter to pick oranges but I decline to address this mystery.

However sometimes - mostly - I am far cleverer than Mr Knight because he accomplishes huge volumes of aluminium swarf in hours and hours and hours to make a former whereas in a few minutes I accomplish huge volumes of sawdust and an equally useful applewood former for bending tubes. You have no idea how useful this can be until you see the price of a 12-ton hydraulic press and you realise that bicycle tube can often be bent in a vice.

Here is a small log of firewood, spun in the lathe for ten minutes, with a groove machined with a wood chisel to fit the rear stays of an otherwise useless Raleigh Twenty. Accompanying it is a stay (unbent) and another stay (bent) and one day, if I can ever persuade myself to finish any project whatever, they will become a Winther Donkey. No of course I don't need one - I just admire the simplicity of the design, and trusting to the good nature of Danes rather hope they never get to hear of it and pursue me with writs and affidavits and other legal instruments that I don't intend ever to waste my lifespan understanding in an attempt to protect their patent.

I do not know what I will do tomorrow but it will involve self-harm and it will be involuntary and yet it will also be entirely predictable. - Hey, I haven't tried that trick of using the wrong side of the disc sander with no eye protection for a while. - Must give it a go while my specs are in Auckland having new lenses fitted.

A real Winther Donkey

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 12:37:00 AM Categories: stupidity wood former

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


When I grow up I'm going to be a Businessman because I've thought of a dead easy way to make money. When computers were made out of lots of tape recorders gathered together in a big room there was this innovation called the Space Invaders machine, a toughened box like all others in the Students' Union fitted with a slot for 10p coins and two electric buttons that you punched wildly until you got exterminated whereupon you abandoned the electric buttons and kicked the shit out of it. All the machines in the Students' Union were toughened. All of them had scuff-marks from frenzied kickings. And the kicking was the important bit. When broken people would still feed them coins, and then the kicking would commence with added vigour and deliver greater satisfaction.

At 20 to 7 each morning RadioNZ broadcasts a brief report entitled Business and the other morning I learnt that 42below, an Auckland company manufacturing vodka, is about to enhance its market share of fragrances and body butter. Fragrances! Body butter! I'm not sure I care to know what one does with body butter, but if people pay for the stuff, making money's going to be a doddle.

TOAD Hall (it stands for The Old Anglican Diocese Hall, sold off by the church due to lack of patronage) doesn't do body butter but they do a wicked line in ice creams. Actually it's the shop where we buy our vegetables. The owner used to be a North Island farmer, but:
'One day we saw our neighbour emptying a drum of old pesticide into the river. "Out of sight, out of mind" he said cheerfully. I asked him if his grandchildren didn't swim at the beach at the river-mouth. "That's their problem" he said, and that's when we decided to move.'

Toad stands at the outskirts of Motueka and draws tourists in but since tourists don't buy carrots and broccoli, Toad sells tourist-grade ice creams of such magnificence that they feature in American gourmets' travel blogs people really feel the Internet needs such reflections as
Wow! Lamb chops and venison sausages in several flavors, Thai rice mixes, flavored tuna (we get Thai chili and smoked) in the can, and interesting chip flavors (prosciutto and brie, chorizo and tomato).? Well yes they do as a matter of fact.)

Yesterday outside Toad I had my recumbent discussed at me by one of these ice cream tourists. Slurping cheerfully at a luminous pink confection with his great big flapping tongue he had watched me ride in, park the bike and go off to buy bananas, and on my return he graced me with a short but instructive talk on why he would not ride such a machine - too low, too uncomfortable, too inefficient and the triangle of forces would prevent my being able to balance properly. At the conclusion of his lecture (slurp, slurp) he asked me if recumbents are commercially available and what one would cost. I told him. He was horrified.
'But that's six times as much as my mountain bike cost!' (slurp).

So when I become a Businessman I won't sell useful things like bicycles or broccoli. No; I'm going for body butter and excess tourist nutriment. Except that to save paying wholesale for body butter - or at least finding out what it is - I'm reverting to student days for an even better idea.

I'm going to make a stout box with a slot in it and a sign that says 'Please give me your advice on something you've never seen before and don't know anything about.'

Tourists are so gloriously stupid that they'll immediately put money in the slot. There'll be a button to press but it will have no effect at all. After pressing the button a few times and finding that the box isn't receptive to advice, they'll kick the shit out of it. Honour will have been satisfied and a useful contribution will have been made to New Zealand's GDP. And once a year I'll don a dark suit and tie and report my profits on the RadioNZ Business programme.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:58:33 AM Categories: New Zealand Shopping stupidity


Yesterday on the radio (I like to keep you all abreast of Pacific affairs) the CEO of Telecom Retail, one Alan Gourdie, apologised for the most recent failure of their dismal phone system, telling the country

'Some of our consumer customers and some of our business customers have had multiple outages and we have to appraise them of their options'.

One can write the usual sonorous letter to the Radio authorities but it saves a lot of bother just to telephone Radio New Zealand's helpline 0800KILLBUSINESSSPEAK whenever you hear a marketing CEO broadcast junk like that, and they promptly send round an operative to shoot him dead on the spot. - This has been found to be consistently more effective than the Plain English Campaign, and also saves buying a dictionary for all the businessmen who use big words like 'appraise' without knowing what they mean. Anyway there's a dictionary shortage. Not enough are being printed. Yesterday a truck pulled over in front of me and the driver climbed out and put his hand up to stop me.

'You're really low and dangerous. I mistook you for the grass verge.'

His understanding of the word 'dangerous' differed from mine: I think I was more in danger than dangerous.

He was an ugly man. He looked like Rhodes Boyson. I should quite like to have had him shot for purely aesthetic reasons and never mind the fact that he was a road menace. But I thanked him politely. There isn't an 0800KILLATROCIOUSDRIVERS number but it probably doesn't matter. Frankly, if your eyesight is such that you struggle to differentiate between a person and the wayside pasture then lorry-driving isn't the best career choice because sooner or later you're going to be unable to differentiate between the road and a tree.

However the immediate issue for me as a cyclist is that blindness and advanced stupidity don't prevent people from driving a truck. Given that the only sensible solution isn't yet likely to engage public enthusiasm, perhaps I'd be more visible, if not safer, on my penny farthing.

A grass verge, and sundry items possibly visible to truck drivers

A worrying thing about penny farthings is that the front tyre isn't far from the backbone when resting, and every bump in the road, every pedal thrust, changes this gap backwards and forwards by a good 1.0295276 inches(1). I hadn't thought about this till the other day when Mr Knight pointed out that should the backbone momentarily make contact with the tyre it acts as the most powerful brake in the world, and if you're riding a penny down a hill and wisely standing on the step above the back wheel, you don't want to apply the front spoon brake because your momentum will bring the backbone forwards and it'll jam on the tyre, and then you really will be lofted up and over the handlebar to the consternation of all your neck bones.

Watching penny farthings at speed brings home the variable wheelbase, and my spies report that at the next Waimate TT the penny farthing chaps propose another race presumably for this purpose. There has been talk of breaking the existing penny farthing records and Mr Knight has been consulted as to what they are (he knew instantly, muy bien) but he rather thinks they will not in fact be broken.

The records are listed under "America and other colonies" and are as follows

1/4 mile 41 1/5 secs (21.84mph

1/2 mile 1 min 19 2/5 secs (22.67mph)

1 mile 2 mins 43 2/5 secs (22.03mph)

5 miles 14 mins 55 3/5 secs (20.10mph)

10 miles 29 mins 23 1/5 secs (20.42mph)

all correct as of 1st July 1891 which was the end of the penny era anyway.I have gently tried to suggest exactly how fast those records are and how unfit *all* today's riders are. Most records are held by one Nathaniel Hall who was a professional rider of the highest calibre. I couldn't get close to those records even when I was fit and young. Also the NZ records are slow compared to the English ones, probably due to poor track quality in NZ. It's a mistake to assume that we are betterer, fasterer and cleverer than our ancestors; we are not. - Bob

I'm inclined to agree. I can't always manage those speeds on my recumbent.

1. The Danish inch, a perky measurement the cycle industry ought to adopt by way of further perverting standardization.


Friday, February 26, 2010 9:00:29 AM Categories: penny farthing stupidity


Yesterday I made a huge advance in Science and they're going to give me the Nobel Prize. I have discovered the smallest particle in the universe.

Physicists have built this huge circular thing in Geneva to see if they can make a quark but in vain because, quite independently, I have discovered an even smaller particle. It is the brain of the motorist who throws beer bottles onto the cycle path across Motueka Bridge. I swept up nine with my broom. (Beer bottles, not brains.)

The best broom is made of broom and no doubt that's why it's called broom, unlike quarks. What goes through the mind of a physicist when he calls a small particle after a soft cheese?

Conveniently broom (Planta genista) grows right next to the bridge, and the way you make brooms is with secateurs, a strip of inner tube, and a manuka trunk. Manuka grows abundantly here, a small tree of very hard, very dense, strong wood, relatively straight, 1,828.8 mm to 2,438.4 mm long and up to 25.4 mm in diameter. (We Nobel prize-winners only use metric.)

What you do is steal a manuka tree, cut three stems of broom 914.4 mm long, and with the strip of inner tube lash the thick ends to the manuka stick. Behold! a broom.

A broom, yesterday

And with this broom you can remove glass from any pavement with a single dazzling swish, and if there happen to be motorists a-passing at the time you can usually spray their paintwork with a hailstorm of road grit at the same time, two birds with quite a lot of small stones. The broom improves with age as it hardens but when it wears out you unlash and replace. The manuka handle lasts forever. For sweeping it's about a thousand times better than conventional nylon-bristled yard brooms, which are hard work and don't do anything like as good a job. Don't trust me. Make one and you'll see.

Right, I must now compose my Acceptance Speech in Swedish and see if I can borrow the Large Hadron Collider to try to make curd cheese out of drunken motorists' brains.

Friday, January 22, 2010 2:02:33 AM Categories: maintenance stupidity

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord 

Our oil drum. And some roses. And our home-made solar drier. [Idea nicked from]

Actually it turns out there is a God, and He's German, and He happens to read this blog, and He's fat.

This morning I was wondering, as one does, how to occupy the valuable half hour immediately after breakfast and went and pondered John's current solar drier experiments and realised that with the summer sun more directly overhead modifications are required to capture the strong rays and dry out his thinly-sliced pieces of apple. We built a solar drier as our contribution to saving the world. It is not a particularly big contribution, but this region has more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in New Zealand and we have to make up somehow for our excess consumption of sunblock. - There's no ozone at all here. Well, four or five molecules, not many more.

Neglecting eye protection just this once, as one sometimes does, I cut some blocks of wood and buzzed them on the sander prior to gluing. God was very kind and didn't lash a twelve-inch adjustable spanner to the second block, but in retribution for yesterday's post, He did allow it to shoot up and whack me in the face. Eyeball, specifically. I reared back in shock and immediately danced round the shed. I really did. I hopped about as if trying to backpedal time and since I was hopping at the speed of light this wasn't entirely unfeasible. If there'd been an audience they would have passed round a cap and put coins in it. In fact if I'd known in advance what was about to happen I would have strapped bells to my shins and turned it into a Morris dance. Anyway it bled inside itself, a haemsomethingorother, and got several doctors all alarmed and now I have to waste the day going to see an ophthalmologist in Nelson.

I felt the best thing would be to ride over there but all the doctors disagreed, saying an eyeball jiggled on top of a bicycle isn't what you want if it's full of blood. Which is a pity, because I always feel energy-consumption guilt driving (in this case, being driven) to Nelson. It costs us ten litres of diesel oil getting to Nelson, which doesn't sound like much until you figure out that it's ten litres of high-grade energy and then you recall from your physics lessons that the energy concerned is the same amount of energy you'd have to use if the engine broke down and you were to have to get out and push it to Nelson. All of which puts transport into true context and makes bicycling rather sensible, because pushing a bicycle to Nelson is conceivable whereas pushing a car isn't.

What I didn't know till the other day was that New Zealand is an oil producer. On the 19th November (one makes a note of these things) I was amazed to learn from Gerry Brownlee, the New Zealand government minister in charge of energy, that oil is New Zealand's third biggest export commodity.

Our consumption of oil is 183,000 barrels a day, which means that 22 of us, combined, use up a barrel of oil daily. This is quite an interesting figure because it too takes oil consumption out of the abstract. You can imagine 22 people - about five households - having a barrel of oil delivered to their doorsteps each morning like the milkman used to do. (Well okay, milk, and pints, but you get the drift.) And using it all up. And expecting another barrel tomorrow. It's a collective thing, not just the business of what we put in our cars, so when you enter New World, our local supermarket, you shiver even in the heat of early summer because just inside the electrically operated sliding doors are huge fridges with no front whatever to them so all the cooled air cascades into the shopping area. I don't suppose this electricity comes from oil, but it certainly comes from somewhere and one does have to ponder the fact that our ancestors managed without electric sliding doors and chilled beer, and it looks like our descendants might just have to too. And do we really need wide-screen plasma TVs? They use five times as much electricity as or'nery ones, I read.

Anyway, God is obviously German because He took exception to my Wandervögel post and punished me accordingly. And He's fat because equally obviously He doesn't take exception to Germans saying Fat God to one other instead of Hello. (They do. Honestly. Everyone in Bavaria does. There are all these old German ladies hanging up their washing calling 'Grüss Gott' all the time. And He doesn't, to my knowledge, whack 'em in the eye.)
Gerry Brownlee is pretty fat too, come to think of it. He's a sort of human planet. Maybe having a fat energy minister is a good plan because when Peak Oil finally arrives, we can boil him down to two or three hundred kilograms of useful lard.

Somewhere here you might just be able to see Gerry Brownlee among the crowd.
[Pinched from]

And Peak Oil's likely to come to New Zealand sooner rather than later because Gerry Brownlee has decided to open up all the oilfields and gas fields that can be found off the New Zealand coast to commercial exploration. After all, why bother preserving a scarce resource? - Anyway I'd better discontinue this line of discussion. Comparing Gerry Brownlee with God could easily get me imaginatively punished again, and by a raft of disparate opinion.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 4:17:51 AM Categories: New Zealand solar drier stupidity


I have been showing off my tandem, as one does, to all who come my way, among whom was Biffer. For reasons that may become apparent Biffer may not wish to be identified. Biffer admired my tandem in a perfunctory way because he is actually not in the slightest bit interested in tandems or indeed anything else with pedals attached - and then - I can't remember how - got onto the subject of the local council, of whom he had recently made enquiries regarding his replacement shower. Biffer had been into the Council offices.
'Do I need a building permit for replacing my shower?'
'Okay. How much?'
'WHAT! For replacing an existing shower?!'
'Can you tell me what I'm getting for that?'
'We have to accept and inspect the correct documentation.'
'Which is?'
The Council officer gave him a long list, concluding with an Original Certificate of Title for the Home.
'What d'you need that for?'
'To prove that you own the house.'
'Hang on. Last week I paid you $700 Rates. You didn't need me to prove that I owned the house then. What's happened in the last seven days? You forgot or something?'
'And another thing. Look at me. Do I look like the sort of bloke who goes about surreptitiously breaking into people's houses and installing a shower when they're not there?'
'And now I expect you want me to provide an architect's drawings of the shower.'
'We will need to see plans.'
'What for? What are you worried about? I'm just replacing a shower!'
'We need to see plans for the drainage pan, to check it doesn't leak.'
'So what will that be? A square with a little circle in the middle of it?'
'Well, yes, that would do.'
'Tell you what. Gimme a bit of paper and a pencil and I'll draw it now for you.'
Needless to say Biffer went away with a pocket full of documents none of which will ever be returned, and should the council officers busy themselves poking into his basement, he will assure them that you can do wonders in making an old shower look like new with a little floor soap. A similar problem arose a while ago when the council took it into their heads to charge a $400 Resource Consent for a solar panel, which a number of people declined to pay, taking their chances on the local council's ability to withdraw access to the sunshine.
Meantime I swept up another smashed beer bottle today, because although the council officers assure me that all I need do is submit the appropriate form to draw the roading engineers' attention to the matter, I'm the one that fixes punctures in this household.
Thursday, September 17, 2009 11:03:13 AM Categories: New Zealand stupidity


A sedate tandem, yesterday

My tandem is now finished and I have ridden it and that is all you ever do with a tandem. Ride it once and hang it up to dry.

Since Bob Knight has a tandem and someone I happen to know was going to a medical course near Rangiora at the weekend, I hitched a ride and took with me various items of mutual interest - a Peugeot frame with no visible means of fixing a seat post in it, a micro steam turbine car, some handlebars with an OD of 24mm - that sort of thing. Why does a reputable handlebar manufacturer suddenly take to churning out 24mm handlebars? Ever tried getting a brake lever onto a 24mm tube? Maybe the designer was having an off day.
'Excuse me sir, but Mr Smith has telephoned to say he has a cold and can't come to work today.'
'What does Mr Smith do?'
'He designs the outside diameter of our handlebars.'
'Right. Okay. Um. Yes. Er. We mustn't panic. - Tell you what - telephone the Breville Kettle Company and see if they can design the outside diameter until Mr Smith gets better.'

The person who happened to be visiting the Knights went tootling off to Amberley to study what to do when someone falls off the roof of a car while mooning and this left me at liberty. Mrs Bob Knight had a prior engagement with her girlie friends and their birthdays and this left Mr Knight at liberty.
Mr Knight knew of three adjacent shops in Christchurch which he felt could be of interest. Mr Knight's views and mine are at variance in a number of matters - his bicycles have to be perfect concours specimens whereas I'm content if the chain doesn't fall off - but we are as one in the matter of shopping. So we abandoned Mrs Knight in a small dinghy with a compass and a map of the Pacific and headed for Pak'n'Save, an emporium where, should you desire genetically modified peanuts, you can probably get a couple of tons for sixpence. Pak'n'Save is a vast hideous yellow box supermarket-like thingy next to the bike shop but we were under no need of the facilities other than gracing their forecourt with Bob's car. I shall not discuss Pak'n'Save any further lest I receive a Cease and Desist letter from their lawyers, and I shall not mention that New Zealand also has a vast hideous red box store called The Warehouse where, as the schoolchildren sing to the tune of their advert, 'everything's open and broken'. Don't want The Warehouse's lawyers sending me a Cease and Desist letter either. (I have been reading a book called Tescopoly by Andrew Simms.)(And another book called The Walmart Effect by Charles Fishman.) The Warehouse is New Zealand's largest retailer, and if you buy a heater there you keep the receipt because it will, actually, break as the guarantee runs out and they won't have any truck whatsoever with you when it does. This happened to us. Unluckily for The Warehouse it was two weeks before the guarantee was up, and unluckilyer for them, I managed to find the receipt. It broke again a month later though. We never go near The Warehouse now and I strongly recommend you don't either. The workers there hate it. I've actually seen one playing football with the goods he was supposed to be stacking, kicking them to his mate up a ladder.

The bike shop was magnificent but it was cheaper to buy new handlebars than to buy special brake levers. 24mm. Huh! The model shop next door was superb too and had the brass tubing that one requires if one is the father of a fourteen-year-old bent on steam engine manufacture, but the tool shop next to that switched off its lights because it was 12.30 and the assistants wanted to spend Saturday afternoon pulling one another's trousers down. (I understand this is the aim of the game of rugby football.) But I managed to get five Eclipse hacksaw blades for ten dollars, which is four quid in civilized money. - Well it is at the moment, though I gather what Gordon's done means it isn't likely to be civilized money for too much longer.

An-y-way, in the afternoon - which is what we were building up to - we got the Knight tandem down from its hook. Mr & Mrs Knight possess an Ibis made in California and my legs-and-arms approximate to the lengths of Mrs Knight's legs-and-arms so I could sit on the back and enjoy myself.
A 22 mph tandem which I did not build

I haven't ridden tandems before but now I've built one I needed to find out how they're supposed to go. One has to have total trust in the chap up front, and sit clipped in while he stands at junctions, and one has to pedal like absolute stink when setting off because the pilot is busy trying to balance and steer and locate his cleat, and this pedalling is done from a standstill at the command of the pilot, and one has to stop pedalling on command too, and one has to refrain from steering. All of these things don't come naturally. However my bad neck which has prevented me riding drop handlebars for a while was now no obstacle because I didn't have to see where I was going but could peer straight down throughout the ride and admire the chainset, and because I do not wish to offend Mr Knight on a public forum such as this web log, I shall not disclose that his left rear crank had fourteen specks of road dust on it.

Approx halfway along the ride someone shot an airgun at my helmet. I heard the pellet whizz past in the air. I said the usual word, then:
' - what the (usual word) was that?'
And then I received a direct hit on my helmet. I said the usual word again, and nearly bringing the tandem down, twisted round to see who was shooting at me. A large bird was flying away with a vicious grin on its beak.
'Hah!' said Mr Knight, delighted. 'Magpie attack!'

It seems that the Australian magpie, which is a handsome crow with a white back and the most magical musical song, has for the two nesting months of September and October a habit of attacking cyclists' heads from behind. These aerial attacks are so startling - I now vouch for it - that people have fallen off, and indeed one wealthy cyclist paid for hunters to shoot every magpie they could find in a certain mountain pass where he fell off and broke his bones.

On the Sunday we did another ride sans magpies managing 22 miles in one hour which is as good as I can manage on a closed oval racetrack on a racing recumbent. I was reminded of the first BHPV event I ever went to which was in, oh, about 1986, where the Crane cousins thrashed everyone including the Vectors, riding a caged tandem.

A 44 mph tandem, 1986. Dick and Nick Crane, Milton Keynes. The shoulder in the yellow jersey attached to the chap who doesn't know which way to arrange his hat is that of one Richard Ballantine Esq.

Home, and I took my recumbent on my daily ride, and slowing on the cyclepath to spy out all its broken beer bottles (I swept up four) I was overtaken by a roadie who cleared first his left nostril in front of me and then his right, which I considered really quite impolite because the spray went all over my face.

So I paid for hunters to shoot him.

However they have to get the right roadie.
Because I had to send a note through to the Police asking them to contact a local truck driver and ask him if he'd very kindly stop driving deliberately close to me, and the Police replied and said three of their officers have had the same problem with the same truck driver. You see, half the local roadies are also Police officers, a fact which isn't as widely known as you might have thought, though when one particular pair of exuberant youths repeatedly carved up a training peloton, they found out on the Monday morning when a uniformed senior officer pulled up outside their house and discovered a bag of cannabis in the offending car.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:45:34 AM Categories: New Zealand stupidity tandem

Stupidity Quotient 

There is this New Thing, and I have Invented It.
It is called the Stupidity Quotient. It is a bit like the Intelligence Quotient, only the opposite. I have an abundantly high one. Mine's about 174. I examined all the bits and pieces and decided that I would need a super-narrow chain and rushed pell-mell to see Josh, who was out. Josh is a boy of 19 and he tells me stuff I don't know about MTBs, which subject he studies diligently. He works in the bike shop, except when he doesn't, and then I prove my high SQ to myself by spending money on things I don't understand. I got them home and was baffled by these new-fangled pin thingies. Therefore I emailed Mr Knight:
My tandem has some cranks and nearly some chains and I got two cheapy seats and I am getting exciteder than my wife is getting. I got two 10-speed narrow chains but they look like as if it will be impossible to split them once joined. Any experience in this matter? - R
Mr Knight emailed back:
Are they new chains? And Shimano ones with the push in pins? If so, you can break them again but you must use a new pin every time you rejoin them; the pins are dead cheap and easily available. However, I do not like the Shimano system and steer clear of them for this reason. I use SRAM chains because they come with a neat little joining do hicky which can be opened repeatedly. - Bob
Having a high Stupidity Qotient I had got on with the job without knowing what I was doing, and therefore was in the embarrassing posish. of having to email back:
The chains have been abandoned. Stuck back in their boxes. Yes, they have little pins, but I am a marvellous angel with chains, removing them and waxing them monthly, and having to buy new pins is against the waxing religion. Each cost me $32 and they will now be stored for when the world collapses, which it definitely won't do because the New Zealand Treasury have forecast a modest recovery. I used three chains from bikes obtained from the dump. I measure all chains coming from the dump, and every now and then one measures exactly 12 inches for a foots-worth of chain and I clean and wax it for making tandems. I had three. And I was much pleased to find they fitted past the crank on the synch side. - R
As a matter of fact I am not the only one with a high SQ: whoever designed a handlebar clamp for a BMX and made the inner bit 7/8 of an inch instead of the otherwise standard one-inch has a high SQ, though I am yet more stupid for not having examined it beforehand to see if this was going to be the case. One should never underestimate the stupidity quotient of any person charged with designing bicycle components. If they can dream up a slightly incompatible part, then I assure you they will. The other day came a phone call from a friend whose son had broken spokes in his back wheel and could he come round to remove the cluster. Which he did. Without the wheel. Which he had forgotten. Which was a nuisance.
'Tell you what, lend me your tool and I'll go and fix it at home.'
I now have a firm policy, friend or not. No tool gets lent by me to any other creature, human or inhuman, friend or foe, Rotarian or interesting person. There is a reason for this, and since every single reader of this blog is utterly certain to know what the reason is, we needn't discuss it further. He went away, and returned with wheel and son, son being under an injunction to watch & learn from proceedings or he (father) would not help with the repair. I examined the wheel. It had the one cluster for which I have no removing tool.
'Can't help you,' I said, fingering my Suntour tool which would nearly fit and which, unattended, he would probably have coaxed into place with a hammer. - It was a millimetre too tight. - And the son's wheel was an old piece of - er - was worth a good deal less than a Suntour block remover.
'Can't help you unless I weld the block solid, and then you won't be able to use it again.'
'He needs it for school tomorrow. I'll just phone home and see if I've got a spare block.'
He had, so I welded it and took it off with a chain whip, and then, because he had wandered off inside discussing the local hospital with my wife, I started to sort through the spokes he had brought. There were 36 of the right length, neatly labelled '700c 36 3-cross small flange' inexplicably in my handwriting on a card attached to them with a rubber band, and there were 16 assorted other spokes of which half had no thread and the remainder were the wrong length. I fitted four spokes, reducing the bundle of 700c spokes to 32. While I was tightening them, the father wandered back.
'I'll do that, if you like,' he very kindly offered.
And then he collected his son, who had been watching from a different room several doors away, and my Stupidity Quotient is so high that when he said the words 'thank' and 'you', they sounded to me exactly like 'Well we'll be off then'.
Monday, September 7, 2009 10:29:53 AM Categories: stupidity
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