Penny trike 

Meticulous care with the lathe - meticulous - and so I was only four thou out when I'd finished making the bearing housings. Four thou for heaven's sake! Again! Heigh ho, so what's new? I'm a rubbish machinist. But I own scissors, and Coke cans are to be had from the wayside. Neatly shimmed, the bearings sort of fit, after a fashion.

The frame angle is a Lowing Joint which is my favourite. The Lowing Joint is named after Dr Lowing who, in a series of complicated emails from the far side of the world, told me how to do this partic'lar weld which he calls a 'Double-D Joint'. When I finally understood I was so impressed that I renamed it, and the Lowing Joint it has now become in the great lexicon of recumbenteers, along with tadpole, which I rather disapprove of, and sitzhöhe, which I like.
 The rear axle got welded to a sleeve clamp so I can vary the wheelbase, and the vile handlebar got itself off that BMX which started the whole project off. No other handlebar would allow knee clearance, and I certainly wasn't about to waste time making one.

I had thought - being realistic - we would now have a completely ludicrous machine for riding round and round the house at a variety of speeds on varying numbers of wheels, destroying the lawn and various boy's (sic.) trousers. But the surprise was how much there was to learn from it.
The seat position puts all the body weight on the muscles doing the work and it's painfully uncomfortable but the seat needed to be well back to avoid putting the weight above a single wheel. Lifting oneself forward and up does make the thing dreadfully unstable because it isn't a bike. Ever ridden one of those Newton conversion trikes? Single back wheel from a conventional bike, but with two front wheels and Ackerman steering. I once rode one through the village along Warner Street, where there was a murder at number 12 and where Johnnie Johnson (1) was born at number 21. At the war memorial I got off and pushed it home. It was a Truly Horrible Machine. Effectively you're riding a bike because you're sat above the single of three wheels, and you're not allowed to balance because the second front wheel won't let you. Ghastly. I mentioned this to my brother-in-law who possesses a disabled child, and who is keen to get through money as fast as he can, and who was about to buy his daughter exactly this layout of trike for six hundred quid. I spoke of the shortcomings. He bought it anyway and whenever the child came to stay with us, she tipped herself off it into the road. (You paid for it, incidentally, not him. He applied for a government grant.)

When the wheelbase is long the trike isn't very stable, but is rideable. With a short wheelbase the weight is on the back wheels so the front wheel spins like a drag racer. But oddly enough, you don't immediately feel you need a wider range of gears. Your psyche seems to say, 'Ho, 26er, eh? I'm happy with that,' and you trundle along at double walking speed on the dirt roads of the orchard. But you soon realise the need both for a brake, and for footpegs for when you've wound it up to speed and don't want your knees to buzz like a Japanese motorcycle. And it has the remarkable sophistication of a reverse gear. And if you forget to tighten the clamps on the back axle it's a lean-steer trike. - Well, a lean-wobble trike.

Immediately, of course, thoughts of miniature penny farthings are provoked, either with a 29er front wheel which I can afford, or a 36er which I can't. 36er unicycles are to be had in New Zealand; I saw someone riding through the middle of no-where on one with a huge rucksack on his back. But Mr English, notified of the experiment, immediately discovered that 36er penny farthings are being made in Taiwan so now I fancy making a penny penny, which means a mountain bike wheel on the back too. Since this would be a FWD MTB fixie I imagine all the locals will get very enthusiastic about it. Or not. As the case may be.

1. Johnnie Johnson was Britain's highest scoring fighter ace of WWII. He shot down my wife's mother's fiancée. Probably.
Friday, October 22, 2010 9:33:04 AM Categories: Moving Bottom Bracket bikes penny farthing trikes


Right, attentive readers of these notes - I flatter myself - the attentive reader of these notes - assuming there is one, which is more than improbable - is aware that I am obsessed with the thought that quite soon all the oil will vanish and everyone will have to gather logs for their cooking balanced on their heads like the ladies in Darfur do. - The logs balance on the heads, not the cooking. - But anyway it seems to me every time I visit the dump I discover some cheery mortal has thrown away three quarters of a BMX and the remaining wheel has a 14mm axle. Ever picked up a BMX with a back wheel? Heavy. Ever tried to carry one home on your head? Cumbersome. Like logs in Darfur. And even carrying one on another bike's no good. So I need a better vehicle for dump recovery operations.
The BMX the cheery m. had thrown away had a wheel which, when coaxed apart, had had the wrong size ball bearings fitted, and when I replaced them with the right size, which ran on the unpitted part of the cone, I suddenly had a smooth bearing on a 14mm axle.
It is a fact that your brain immediately says 14mm = stub axles, if you chance to be a serial recumbent tricycle maker. You cannot help this. It's a reflex action.
I dived into the bookshelf and recovered my 2nd edition Bicycling Science and found the Oxtrike on p 325 and then on p 324 read that in Asia heavy loads of perhaps 330 lb, or 150kg, are carried on a single speed trike with a cruising speed of about 4-7 mph (2/3 m/sec.) Blimey! that's handy. - Any time you forget what 4-7 mph is, you can just back-calculate from knowing the velocity in metres per second. I do like David Gordon Wilson. Well of course everyone likes DGW. He designed the Avatar 2000. Which graced Richard's Bicycle Book. (Which actual bicycle - Mr Ballantine's, not Professor Wilson's - is now owned by Mr Wray, my spies inform me.)
So, quick calculation: cadence of 60 and a fixed gear of 26 inches gives a cruising speed of 4.64 mph. So that's 2.074707788 m/sec, Dave G.W., if you happen to be reading this. And if I want to go at 3.12928 m/sec, I can always pedal faster.
I was very pleased with myself and immediately decided to build a grown-up's child's tricycle. The pedals attach directly to the front wheel and obviate gears and chains and so forth, and all you need is the basic technology of the penny farthing.
Now I'll tell you about my flanges, and it's this - I got an old steel back hub and chopped it in half and bored the flanges to fit a cottered 5/8 axle and adjusted the cross-slide by one thou right at the end of the cut and for some reason unknown it jumped four thou and created a big floppy hole, like a thing that is floppy and not a thing that isn't floppy.
'******* ******,' I said to myself, 'but you're a *******; you've ****** it up again.' (I often say this to myself, because it doesn't matter what I'm doing, somehow I always manage to **** it up.)
So I got another lump of 5/8 from my tin of worn-out cotter-pin BB axles, and I ground the cones off carefully and made it a perfect fit on both my flanges. Then being warned in a dream that a 150 amp MIG isn't enough to penetrate 5/8 steel, I coated it with borax paste ready for brazing, and tack-welded both flanges in place and d'you know what - Juno Watt - both were square and parallel but the spoke holes weren't perfectly alternate.
'******* ****** but you're a ******* etc.,' I said to myself, and set about breaking the tack welds. And d'you know what, they wouldn't break. Had to saw them off. So I thought the MIG will actually weld it; I won't need to braze. So I sawed off the second flange's tack-welds and scrubbed all the borax off and replaced them and welded them up, and d'you know etc. etc. etc., now they aren't bloody well square. They *******  wobble. So I ******* went back to the box of old steel hubs and d'you ******* know what, I had absolutely none whatever that were suitable to machine 5/8 holes in. So now I'm ******* well stuck with wobbly flanges.
'Oh Damn and Blarst,' I said to myself, 'Better not show it to that ******* Knight or he'll know that *once again* I've accomplished a piece of ******* bad craftsmanship.'
Sunday, October 10, 2010 10:44:21 AM Categories: engineering problems penny farthing trikes wheel hubs

Human powered lawn mower 

We all got bored with the earthquake in the end. To liven things up some snowflakes fell on a stadium in Invercargill and its roof collapsed
but we got bored with that too. Luckily it's Springtime, so we can all get back to the national obsession with short grass.
It's Spring and the lawn is growing like mad and our Flymo has died. Our Flymo was given to us as a cast-off by my father-in-law:
'Is will do.'
He was Hungarian and never fully mastered the language. It had already served him for 15 years; it has served us for 25, and now that the skirt has broken in two places, the wire cut in twelve, the blade worn to a sort of metal stick, and the bearings have totally gone, I felt it time for renewal.
Flymo are now owned by Husqvarna and make a light-weight push-mower, and when I spotted one in the junk shop almost new but at a third the price I promptly brought it home to convert into a pedal-powered mowing machine. Did you know 5% of all air pollution in America is caused by lawn mowers?
Besides, I thought Why go for a ride for exercise when you can be mowing the lawn by muscle power and not running the hazard of that woman on the main road with the concealed driveway pulling straight out onto the cyclepath while looking right for cars when you are approaching at 20 mph from the left and have only two yards to brake to a standstill in? (I dodged in front of her bumper. I hope she died of fright, cos I did. This is actually my ghost, writing.)
Lisa runs the junk shop: Lisa concisely said
'Good mower, that. Bloke bought it new but didn't know how to adjust the cutter, and my dad fixed it.'
Lisa was not lying. Her dad had fixed it. I tried pushing it out of curiosity and was sore amazed. I cut the back lawn in ten minutes. I cut the front off-side lawn in twelve minutes. I cut the big lawn in twenty, and the council's strip in front of the house, fifty yards long by five yards wide, in a mere six minutes.
Therefore if Flymo are watching and would care to send me a corrupt payment of, say, $168 (please) for a gratuitous endorsement, I shall recommend their H40 with considerable delight. It weighs next to nothing though there may be a catch in there because when I pulled the wheels off to have a look - as you do - I found that the wheels are plastic and the gears are nylon. So we shall see how long it lasts. Still, at about thirty quid, it's the price of the petrol to run the ride-on all summer, and quicker and quieter and I don't have to worry about the entire blade system falling off. The ride-on, American engineering at its throwaway worst, came with the house. The owners knew what it was like. It is a White Outdoor Product. If the Internet was a bit bigger I'd have a go at listing the faults of our ride-on, though if the financial crisis has any blessings, one will be the extinction of White Outdoor Products. If White Outdoor Products care to send me a corrupt payment to delete this negative publicity it will be $168,000 please. (Bit of luck that too will hasten their bankruptcy.)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 6:51:30 AM


Yet more news from Christchurch, where the aftershocks continue, sometimes as many as four in a quarter of an hour, their magnitude varying from around 3.6 to 5.2. We're beginning to learn that a big earthquake is only the first bit; until the planet settles down again there's a lot of jostling for room among its components. If you're an obsessive like me you subscribe to and get an email for every decent-sized earthquake in the country, though at 178 since Saturday you have to be a True Nerd to maintain interest. Obv. Mr Knight is the office Nerd:

Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 3:26 PM
Subject: earthquake
We're sitting here at work betting on the magnitude of the aftershocks. Where we are, we get to hear a very loud, low, "wump" and then you get the motion. 15 minutes later I get the email and inform everybody of the results. However it is now getting confusing because we've had 2 quakes inside the last 15 minutes, the last one of which was a real whopper. We seem to be getting a lot of them.
There is definitely a feeling of the Dunkirk spirit here although of course I wasn't there, I only imagine that's what it was like.
The old Waimakariri bridge is now shut until further notice, so it's the motorway bridge for me now unless that is going to be shut as well. That will mean a 150km detour through Oxford.

And Martin van den NeiwaalbotherIstillcan'tspellit is reporting hoarding and general shopemptiness. (Shopemptiness is a new word. One has to develop a lexicon to keep up with current events.)

Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 3:14 PM
Subject: Hamstereinkauf
Today I took a stroll and visited the local shops and supermarkets. I stood and watched someone at Pack N Save fill their empty trolley with the entire supply of bottled water on the shelf, leaving... well, none. As Hanna said, unless they are gathering supplies for their entire water-less neighbourhood (possible) .. ooh shakke!!! ooh.. OK, it's over.. Um, unless they are gathering supplies for their entire water-less neighbourhood there's no need to take all the water leaving others with none whatsoever. The supermarkets are doing very well - $$$. They were only down for one day (Saturday), but since then it's been flat out buy buy buy. I went to Countdown supermarket as well and they have signs up; 4 bottles of water per person, 2 packs of juice max .per person. The shelves are still largely empty for 'essentials' such as water, juice, tomatoes in cans, toilet paper, bread (though not as bad), and strangely potato chips.
In some ways I see this whole experience as a precursor to the effects of Peak Oil. I find it interesting to think about the things we rely on day to day, and how, when there is an interruption, a sudden discontinuity, how we can survive and maintain 'normality'. It's easy to survive a 'temporary interruption to broadcasting' by being prepared and stocking up on things. Bottled water, food etc. One thing that has been very useful here where the tap water is not yet safe for drinking, has been a bottle of no-water hand cleaner. It actually goes a long way. The small bottle we (two people) have is only 100mL or so and is still largely full after four days. Some kind of water jerry can with a piddly little tap would also be good (we don't have one), filled with boiled water/rain water. Of course, stockpiling is only good for so long. In a prolonged decline, Peak Oil scenario, the no-water hand cleaner will be used up after a couple of weeks, the store of rice will eventually be eaten, and the meths for boiling the questionable water will eventually run out. That will become the new normal and a real test of our survival skills.
Even with rationing, the Countdown supermarket stocks are slightly depleted (Pic: Martin van den Nieuwelaar)

Mr Knigght (another bad spelling day here) reports everyone is now getting a bit fed up. Apparently there's only so much fun to be had out of losing your water supply electricity job and sewerage system and having your house knocked down.

Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 10:19 AM
Subject: earthquake
I'm getting a little tired of these aftershocks now. We only tend to comment on the bigger (5+) ones. We are still getting these larger aftershocks regularly; I experienced a 5.1 this morning riding to work. I was stopped at traffic lights when I heard a very loud bang and then all the lights started swaying in unison, closely followed by the sound of falling masonry. Usually I'm sat at work and my monitor does a little dance across the desk so it made a nice change. The aftershocks are doing much damage to already weakened structures. The Lyttleton tunnel is now closed due to damage from one of the 5.4 yesterday.
My ride in this morning was cack - mild drizzle - but as the ECan website said the bridge was open I thought I'd ride anyway. Well ECan are a bunch of hairy fat liars and I got to the closed bridge with no signs of any shuttle "service" to take cyclists around so I had to ride down the motorway again. Fortunately going south only requires a short 2km hop. I'm not too sure what I'm going to do tonight coming home since all the roads that lead up to the bridge from the south are now all closed northbound due to damage. I'll have to ride on the motorway again, but this will be a much longer trip.

Anyway I know he did get home because he was very kind and posted all his photos, full-size, here: And we know they're going to be alright because the government have sent in 35 counsellors at the perky price of $2,500,000. I thought I might nip down and have a look myself, but John swiftly countermanded this decision:'Well it's a waste of fuel, and to be honest, we might as well wait till we get one here.'
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 10:22:45 PM Categories: Earthquake New Zealand

Earthquake report 2 

The diligent reader will recall that I keep a German female violin-maker in Christchurch, for the twin purposes of recording earthquake damage and supplying me with A-strings. In fact Mrs Violinmaker only supplies the A-strings; it falls upon the shoulders of Mr Violinmaker to keep me abreast of earthquake damage in his partic'lar zone of Christchurch. The real spelling of Mr Violinmaker is of course Mr van den Nieuwelaar, according to that standard practice in English spelling by which a place called Hazebrur is actually spelt Happisburgh. Anyway I know of no keyboard in the history of computing that doesn't end up spelling Martin's surname as van der Neieiuweellieaarlaieu. So I don't even try. I expect he calls me Minndelont by way of vengeance. He rides recumbents and tandems, and so does Hanna. (Hanna is the violin-maker. See
Howsoever, here's his experience of this merry affair:
Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 10:19 AM
Subject: Earthquake experience...
Saturday evening, Papanui 6km north-west of Christchurch centre.It has been a long day.  4:35am earthquake.  Strongest I've been in.  No power, no water.  Luckily a fine warm day today.All shops closed.  No fuel, no ATMs.  Many (1 out of 3) chimneys down.  Some local Papanui shops with big cracks that will probably be demolished.  Heard it's worse in the city but we're told to stay out.Had BBQ lunch with the neighbours at 90B.  Then power came back on.  Water is back on, but needs to be boiled.  Still getting significant aftershocks. One now!!!! eek...  doors going, house shaking.  OK, it has stopped.  Minor damage here at home, cars rolled forwards and backwards in garage, broken reversing light, lounge furniture suffering gouges but everyone is OK which is the main thing.  Not sure when the shops will sell food again, but we have supplies for a while.Monday morning.There is flooding in the Avonside/Bexley area (east side of city) I believe but haven't heard specific details on that.  They have liquefaction problems there with people reporting geysers spouting from the ground in their back yards.  Lots of silt and goop through houses, and combined with broken sewer and water mains (water is now back in 80% of houses in Christchurch)...  Large cracks in roads (un-passable by cars), bent bridges, downed power lines.The water storage tank behind the supermarket here in Papanui burst sending a torrent through the car par area and into the streams.  Kaiapoi township 15km north of city centre is very badly hit.  In one street all the houses are condemned.  Aftershocks are still going.  5:20 this morning a fairly big one, that's 48 hours later, almost to the hour!  Most people have been ordered to stay home till Wednesday. There is 7pm-7am curfew in the central business district and the army is coming in to help.  The local supermarket was open yesterday, and was very busy.  After reading about the Chilean earthquake we were personally very well prepared.  Others were not of course and I'm sure were surprised to find no ATMs working, nor petrol stations pumping.Our house is OK but one door doesn't close properly any more.  86 Proctor St lost a chimney.  Harolds fabric shop in the Papanui  shops has partially collapsed as has the Egyptian souvlaki shop.  Edex toys opposite also has big cracks.  Alvorados restaurant in town next to where I work is a write-off; you can see tables and chairs on the second level because the walls are gone!  My building, Radio Network House (I hear) is habitable despite bits of concrete falling in the stair well.  It's a hub for communications so is quite important.
Martin van den Nieuwelaar
Bicycle sizing and gearing software -
Internet backbone traffic visualisation -
For myself, of course, I'm thankful that I live in Motueka because we've suffered none of the above, though I don't know that being deprived of an Egyptian souvlaki shop would be too much of a hardship. The last time I needed to buy an Egyptian souvlaki - well of course I've not the faintest idea what one is, and don't look at me like that because you haven't either.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 11:31:27 AM Categories: Earthquake New Zealand


Woke on Saturday at 4.38 am with the bed swaying about, which it did for ten seconds before settling down, so I scribbled the time on a scrap of paper next to the alarm clock and went back to sleep.

But at breakfast there was an excited reporter telling the nation that Darfield had experienced the biggest earthquake since Inangahua in 1969. It struck at 4.35, and therefore took 3 minutes to travel the 260km to my house.
I had a look at a map: Darfield and Christchurch are two points of a triangle (obv.) and Mr Knight, member of the Diaspora, lives twenty miles away at the third point in Rangiora.

His phone was engaged so as a matter of course I dug out his sceptical email of last week

Sent: Monday, August 23, 2010 9:55 AM
Subject: Re: earthquake
I have yet to feel *any* earthquake here yet. I fear they are a myth, a bit like that global warming that those greenies started. Incidentally I hear that the Tasman glacier calved the biggest ever iceberg this weekend..

and replied

Sent: Saturday, September 04, 2010 8:46 AM
Subject: Re: earthquake
So... erm...

- La. - he promptly phoned, telling me that - inferring, that is to say, certain things about my parents' marital state.

Steph and the Knightlets, near Rangiora (All pics by Bob Knight)
He told me one of the fields next to the river has dropped a metre, and the river has dropped into it so it's now a lake. The bridge he cycles to Christchurch over has been damaged so they'll almost certainly close it, and he says it's likely the only contact with the city will be over the motorway bridge - not much use on a bicycle. - Otherwise he said they were fine; all the books fell off the shelves; kids very frightened, immense noise like a train going past, eight loud and shaking aftershocks of 4 - 5 on the Richter scale, but surprisingly no broken glass in his house and no visible damage, and his water supply was okay. He told me the sky was full of helicopters.

Later, I had an email:

Sent: Saturday, September 04, 2010 11:29 AM
Subject: Re: Earthquake
Now then, just got back from a walk into Rangiora town. No visible damage in the immediate area, however people are panic petrol buying - the queues are at least 10 vehicles long in either direction. This will mean that the petrol will run out which will trigger more panic buying elsewhere etc. exactly what happened in Ingerland some years ago: there wasn't actually a real shortage of petrol but the perception and the panic buying really did make a shortage. I witnessed one incident of mild petrol pump rage when somebody jumped the queue by manipulating the give way rules to jump ahead at the entrance.
More later

And indeed more did come later, a total (so far) of 64 aftershocks of about 4.6 - 5.2 on Mr Richter's scale:

Sent: Saturday, September 04, 2010 5:17 PM
Subject: earthquake

Ooh, just had another big after shock, just before 5pm. I went out for a ride at lunchtime to survey the local damage. Rangiora has got off exceedingly lightly. We have a few burst water mains, but we still have water and we still have electrickery. What we don't have is food in the shops or petrol after all the panic buying. I set off south east through Tuahiwi and towards Kaiapoi. Just through Tuahiwi I came upon the first crack in the road across a field through the road and into the other field, probably about half and inch wide and with about the same vertical deformation. I got very excited and stopped to examine it for some time. I then continued to Kaiapoi and began to understand the real damage that had happened. Kaiapoi has suffered very badly indeed. There are lots of fallen chimneys through roofs, lots of walls and a few complete structures down; there are many wide and deep fissures in the ground, some are wide open and some are closed, and high ridges have formed across roads. All the bridges across the Kaiapoi river have significant damage, it appears that the river is now slightly narrower than it was before and the bridges have buckled upwards or snapped completely. There is evidence of serious liquifaction everywhere. Kaiapoi sits at the junction of three rivers and has a high water table and there is silt and sand all through the town centre. Kaiapoi has no water or electricity. The largest vertical deformation I saw was about 1 metre and the widest fissure about the same. I continued south to see if the old Waimakariri bridge was open or not. This is the only way of (Ooh another big one just then) cycling to Christchurch and is my life line. It was open but now has a step to get up on to it. Either the bridge has gone up or the river bank has gone down. The railway line alongside now looks like spaghetti, what was once straight is now buckled and distorted beyond belief.I got home and grabbed Steph and the kids to go rubber necking in the car, I wanted them to see the mess before the cleanup starts. We took some amazing photos which I'll send on later. I don't have the camera here, Steph still has it around a friend's house.

More later

Footbridge, Kaiapoi
Naturally the politicians all came on air to tell everybody the obvious, and the police declared a curfew ostensibly to stop people wandering under unsafe buildings but quite possibly with a view to stopping them inserting their hands into unsafe shop windows and withdrawing souvenirs like plasma screen TVs.

This morning I phoned to see how they'd got through the night - there were 22 aftershocks of around 3.8 to 5.1 between 9 pm Saturday and 9 am Sunday - and demanded all the photos.

Uplift; Knightlets to show scale

As you see, the photos arrived, along with a note about the soil liquification.

Sent: Sunday, September 05, 2010 2:47 PM
Subject: liquefaction
I have been surprised by the amount of sand and silt that has bubbled up from the ground around most of the large cracks and fissures. I'm pretty sure that this is because of the wet nature of the ground that Kaiapoi is built upon, but I don't know if this has contributed to the extensive damage that Kaiapoi has suffered or not. Here's some photos of the silt that liquefaction has bubbled up. I also saw evidence of sewers that had been forced upwards by the same mechanism, the covers standing proud of the road surface by 200mm or so.

Silt volcanoes, result of soil liquification

This is of course mildly off-topic, so we shall try to return to the altogether more fascinating subject of how to make a bicycle go a fifth of a mile per hour faster.
Sunday, September 5, 2010 8:45:16 AM Categories: Earthquake

Susie's Constant 

Susie is revising for her physics NCEA, which is almost unlike an A-level, and has cheerily implored me to name a Constant after her. It was a modest request:
'There's Planck's Constant and Rydberg's Constant and I want a Constant named after Me.'
Luckily I can manage one. I was thinking about it on yesterday's ride because John has a Constant, correlating the number of wallets found with the number of years we have lived in New Zealand. John found the first one and we telephoned the owner who was so pleased to have it back intact that he gave John all the money in it as a reward for his honesty and then called once a week with his Bible, disclosing that he was a Jehovah's Witness. - Thereafter we were a bit more circumspect, handing all wallets in and foregoing any reward. In fact my police station visits were so regular that I became, in the words of the local station officer, a Serial Finder. Two weeks ago I found one Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's wallet stashed between our fence and a tree. Yesterday I found Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's second wallet, also jammed behind the fence. I was mystified. Perhaps we are not dealing with a thief. Perhaps Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw now stores his private documents in our shrubbery, guarded only by woodlice. Perhaps he's a Serial Hider. So I hopped onto the machine and, via Rocky River which scenic detour turns a two-mile ride into an eighteen-mile ride, went along to the police station and handed it in along with the bracelet I found on Sunday behind the sports shop.
There is a limit to how much Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's belongings can retain one's interest on an hour's bike ride, so I fell to thinking about naming my new Sprint-Hour, Mile=Kilometre Law Susie's Constant. The Law is this: whatever top speed you can attain on the flat in miles-an-hour, is the same in kilometres-an-hour for an hour's solid riding.
The respective world records stand at more-or-less exactly 80mph for the sprint and more-or-less exactly 80kph for the hour. (It doesn't do to be too precise.)
1. I can hold 28 mph in a fast and furious dash for about a minute, though it was a bit faster when racing a pig dog who suddenly joined in on Wildman Road.
2. I can ride 18.55 miles in 57.58 minutes.
3. 18.55 miles is more-or-less exactly 28 kms and 57.58 minutes is more-or-less exactly an hour. Sort of.
We'll see if the sums survive Peer Review. And if they do, our family's going to be Dead Famous, inventing new Constants, cos here's another one.
We had that Ash Whitehead to tea the other day, an elite young New Zealand cyclist, who hopped on his bike and whipped over the Moutere Hills from Nelson in an hour and a half and, like Mr English before him, proceeded to eat every single thing in the house even though he's skinnier than this gentleman:
It takes me three quarters of an hour to drive from Nelson in the car, and I use four and a half litres of fuel doing it.
Since a litre of oil has the energy of 20 man-days of hard labour, it costs me ninety days' work to go to Nelson by car.
But it only costs Mr Whitehead ninety minutes' work by bicycle.
So that's the Car=Day, Bicycle=Minute Energy Law and because I'm rubbish at algebra one of the children'll have to work out the details and then they can have it as their Constant.
Of course this is all academic. A bloke across the road told me that 'there won't be an oil crisis, because I just read that with all the squids dying in the oceans more oil's being formed than we're using up, and anyway there's two types of oil, there's another sort naturally made deep in the earth's crust by all that heat and carbon.' I leave you to speculate on my informant's views on Climate Change, Social Security Scroungers (tr. the lower paid), and Whether All The Problems Are Because of Those Bloody Environmentalists, but I must remember to tell him about Davena's Constant concerning aerial cats, which is both more imaginative and more probable.  - Susie had observed that whenever you drop a piece of bread it falls butter-side-down, and Susie's friend Davena had observed that whenever you drop a cat it lands on its feet. So she proposes creating a Constantly Hovering Cat by the expedient of attaching a piece of bread by its butter to the cat's feet and pushing it off the table.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:30:40 AM Categories: comparative energy use, cars

Schroder's Hat 

The bin man calls here of a Monday morning, and from this statement I divine a Great Insight: that I am the vainest person in the world. Paris Hilton thinks America wants to spend its broadband connection examining her limbs and all that pertain thereto; Alan Jones believes Australia wants to listen to his radio show encouraging motorists to run cyclists off the roads; but only I am vain enough to think that the entire Internet wants to know when the dustman empties our bin.
Waste disposal in New Zealand is a private affair: you have to pay for it. Accordingly most people gather their domestic rubbish and lob it out of the car window. (Next time there's a world shortage of used empty paper tubs for Kentucky Fried Chicken, I'll make a fortune just cycling along the Motueka Valley Highway and stopping every ten yards.) The bin man empties an old oil drum for $10.30 - the price occasionally increases to randomly inconvenient sums that aren't to be found in a wallet of a Monday morning - and to get our money's worth there's always a scurrying around at the dawn of the week for stuff to chuck out. Yesterday I remembered a pair of forks which came my way. (Build just one recumbent - one - and people will start to give you old bike bits. I guarantee it.) And I now offer this piece of Wisdom to the World: Unless you are completely stupid, little is to be gained by welding this onto a pair of front forks:

Had I possessed a munted helmet that too could have gone in the bin. Scrolling to the bottom of this discussion
I see there's a photo demonstrating the force of impact of Nigel Schroder's skull on those boulders the other day. (One's concern is, of course, for the rocks. Schroder's a solid beefy sort of lad and if he hadn't had the hat on, I dread to think what might have happened to those boulders.)
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 3:59:59 AM Categories: bike crash injury Nigel Schroder Roll-down tests

Schroder's Cat 

Here, for no very good reason that I can think of, is a picture of the Maruia Falls. I had to steal this from because the one I took got lost somewhere in the dusty innards of my computer. The Maruia Falls are très pretty but that isn't why we send all our visitors there. It's because in 1928 they weren't. In 1928 they were just a plain common-or-garden scenic river. Still Glides the Stream and Shall Forever Glide (1), until the 17th June 1929 that is, when, after a few days of the locals hearing what they thought were aberrant deer stalkers in the hills, there was a mighty cataclysm and the Mairua River suddenly broke in half and dropped  nine feet ten-and-a-ninth inches. (That would be three metres, Mr Hague, though frankly I feel your espousal of these narsty - ew - French measurements borders on the philistine.) This is an altogether more satisfying earthquake than the ones where a picture goes slightly askew in a housing estate on the outskirts of Peterborough, even if a clutch of people have to get buried in landslides for it to happen. We haven't had an earthquake for a while and therefore I suppose we ought to expect one. Pleasingly the estate agents have all bought houses for themselves on the Richmond Hills which command a view over Nelson bay, not thinking about the fact that the Richmond Hills only exist because occasionally they shoot upwards three metres at a time.
Below the Richmond Hills are the Saxton Playing Fields crammed of a Saturday morning with all the Nelson schools' sports clubs, and it falling to my duty to endure a van-load of the truly mindless conversation of my daughter's hockey team, I thought I would skip spectating for an hour and drop in unannounced on James or Nigel or Sam, who all live conveniently nearby waiting, no doubt, for a hearty terrestrial shaking to land a selection of startled estate agents in their midst.
To James McLeod's. James's neighbour was washing his car and had mistakenly thought the entire neighbourhood wanted to hear his choice of what purports to be Music but in fact James, unable to bear the din, had gone out. James is of Scottish descent and, I hope, about to take up the bagpipes by way of retribution.
To Sam McEachern's. There stood his blue recumbent on the verandah with its new seat upholstery but there was no sign of Sam nor indeed of any of his neighbours, so perhaps he had spent the morning giving James some preparatory bagpipe lessons.
To Nigel Schroder's. No neighbour, no Music, but no Nigel either. And there stood Nigel's new low racer, gleaming in his shed, so obv. they weren't all off secretly riding up the Richmond Hills together.
Nigel's new machine is a front wheel drive with a swinging bottom bracket. I knew he'd finished it because he sent me film of him riding it and he seems to be more in control of it that I ever was of the one I made, which after it whacked me in the side of the head got punished with a hacksaw.
However in the evening I had a doleful email:
Well the roll down - at Marsden Valley, the same place we did the last test - didn't quite go as well as planned. The old bike had topped out at 55kph and on the first run the new bike was faster at 58kph but I had to use the brakes a little to regain control as it started to wobble .
On the second run things went a little wrong. I crashed at about 50-55kph.
Fell from the bike and slid down the road a little then into a creek hitting some very large rocks on the way. My helmet was completely destroyed. James drove me home, then we went to the hospital where I spent the next 7 hours being checked. X-rays and a CT scan. Luckily nothing was broken. Feeling very sorry for myself today. As for the bike it's ok but it's the last time I'll ride it as a moving bottom bracket, so I think it'll get a rebuild and I'll go back to having a boom and a twist chain FWD. The moving bottom bracket was just too unpredictable. The speedo had a 55kph max after the crash and I hadn't got to the fastest section of the run.
My daughter Susan gaily said 'If he keeps the broken bits he can call it Schroder's Cat, cos it can be a crashed and an uncrashed bike at the same time,' which stunningly obscure joke can only be understood by quantum physicists one of whom I am not.
Anyway as - surprisingly - there was no gravel rash we can't twin him with Bob Knight, and as there were no broken bones we can't twin him with Geoff Bird. But there were bruises everywhere and he's very sore so we can twin him with oh, just about everybody else in the recumbent-building fraternity, I should imagine.
1. Wordsworth who is famous, or Arthur Streeton who ought to be famouser.
Monday, July 26, 2010 9:27:17 AM Categories: injury Moving Bottom Bracket bikes New Zealand Nigel Schroder Roll-down tests


 It is Winter. (Have I mentioned this?) It is cold. The moth that fluttered round the kettle this morning seemed out of sorts as if he'd prefer to have stayed in bed for a few more months like a teenager. He resented being captured in cupped hands and when I chucked him out of the kitchen door and he was instantly plucked from the air by a fantail, I saw he had a point. New Zealand possesses these tiny birds just like blue-tits who flutter a yard away wherever you walk, on the lookout for disturbed insects. As soon as they take to flight you just know in your bones that they are called fantails; and so it proves. Fantails are not very clever and whenever they come into the workshop they spend hours attacking themselves in the mirror and perching, slightly baffled, on the badminton racquet below for a rest. The Maoris tell me it's bad luck to have them indoors and that's true, because a month later you find they've been dropping corrosive white chemical onto your supply of silver steel. Chickens are not the only bird that don't just lay eggs.
My workshop is full of anomalies like badminton racquets but the mirror isn't an anomaly. It's used for checking one's riding position while building useless fairings, and it makes the workshop twice as roomy, except now it doesn't because I cover it with a garish pink tablecloth to stop the fantail despoiling all my reamers. Why does anyone go to the trouble of making pink tablecloths? My life is full of mystery, including where the pink tablecloth came from. Another mystery is why my cycling tee-shirt has to have a large plastic tab sewn onto it bearing the legend Eden Project. I thought the Eden Project was about recycling and sustainability and whatnot. Large red plastic tabs cannot be recycled, add weight, serve no purpose, and itch. It is as if clothes designer executives have a group session every Monday morning to decide what brainless irrelevancy they can perpetrate upon an insentient and gormless public that week. What they need to do is take lessons from bicycle manufacturer executives, who, as we all know, have group sessions every Monday morning to decide how to make components that work flawlessly and are compatible with all other components. That is how Shimano Index Systems work so well, and why I fitted one to my new perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle.
Unfortunately it didn't work.
Unfortunately the inner chainring needs a whisker of clearance against the frame so that you can turn the pedals round, and unfortunatelyer Shimano's executives didn't think of this on their Monday morning group session so when I tried to fit a front mech I found that the parallelogram frame is actually too short to lift the chain onto the big chainring. And to rummage for alternatives in the box of spare front mechs I had to move the bandsaw and the table promptly broke off, examination proving the attachment lugs to be made of some flimsy brittle substance approximating to metal but possessed of No Strength Whatever.
 Shards of bandsaw
And two minutes later a temporary German damsel (1) came round the corner wheeling a bicycle with a broken chain-link.


Shards of chain

But at least she had the great good sense to keep the chain. The last time I heard of a chain-link breaking was in a phone call from a friend in the village where we lived in England and he had thrown the chain away, being unacquainted with the phrase 'weakest link'. The curious thing was that he was a certain Professor H********, head of department at the largest university engineering faculty in the country. I now start to wonder if his special field of research incorporated bandsaw table lugs, tee-shirt technology and the corrosive metallurgy of bird-lime. I don't think he was a consultant at the Shimano Front Mech Factory.
1. She goes back to Germany in ten day's time, slightly chilled and probably exhausted from skiing


Saturday, July 10, 2010 10:33:32 AM Categories: engineering problems mountain bike New Zealand
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