No Broadband for a month 

We have had no Broadband for a month. Almost. It comes and goes, and we pay Telecom $50 for it to come and go, and our consolation prize has been telephoning 0800 289 987 and talking to Sam, Shane, Janette, Paula and David in Auckland who have variously spent fruitless hours having me check and uncheck various boxes on my antivirus software before finally admitting that the fault is likely to be the Migration which has affected 490 Motueka customers. The Migration is, I gather, an Upgrade. In the meantime we got occasional glimpses of our emails. We do not know what a Migration might be, other than that everything was suddenly to improve a fortnight ago at 6.30 when the Migration was completed and our Broadband restored. The Migration was but the Broadband wasn't.

I looked up Migration in the dictionary and it didn't say Munt Your Broadband For Weeks While We Change Cables, but then it is a very old dictionary. In the end they sent us a new modem and now it works.

Having no Broadband meant listening to the radio for glimmers of news, and I have learnt all sorts of new words as the journalists keep me abreast of the current crop of neologisms in Corporate Speak. I heard that they have removed the procedure from her heart. A procedure is now a thing rather than an activity, and you can make one in a procedure factory and insert it into peoples' hearts and remove it afterwards. I already knew that Telecom underground their cables but from a report about the airline Quantas I have learnt that you can hub the passengers through Brisbane, which implies that hub has also become a verb. I hub, you hub, he she or it hubs. I underground, you underground, he she or it undergrounds. - At least, I presume he she or it undergrounds, though it could be an irregular verb. We have not been told. We hub, you (pl.) hub, they hub. I have been hubbed through Brisbane.

Personally I think verbing our nouns ought to be confined to Shakespeare but after the Arab Spring and the UKUncut demonstrations and the Occupy pepper sprayings I suspect there is a global corporate conspiracy to destroy communication and since undergrounding the cables and migrating the broadband hasn't been wholly successful, they are going to upfuck the language. Anything to stop any more Twitter riots.

Anyway nothing of bicycling note happened here until two days ago when I saw a Bike Friday tandem in Motueka. The last Bike Friday tandem in Motueka belonged to the production engineer of Bike Friday who it will be recalled is none other than our own Mr English, of our colony of Oregon, obv., because that's where Bike Fridays get built. Mr English, it will also be recalled, popped me on the back and because he is such a slow and pathetic rider he was delighted to find that we rode my daily circuit in 46 mins rather than the 56 mins I take on the recumbent or the 64 mins I take on my delicate little Peugeot racing bike. Which I have just noticed has developed a crack in the brazing at the top of the seat stay, so I will have to get out the oxy-acetylene and whitepaint it afterwards. (I whitepaint, you whitepaint, he she or it whitepaints.)

A cracked Peugeot, yesterday

Cracks are easiliest noticed when the paintwork is white because they show up as black lines. I like white paint. If you were as rubbish a welder as I am you'd like it too. Mr English isn't a rubbish welder but it appears he abruptly ran out of steel tubing, a case, perhaps, of carboning his seat tube.

Mr English's latest. Other pics are here

He sent me a pickture and I enquired further.

*Very* pretty. - If y'like that sort of thing. - If y'like to have y'neck twisted off and are prepared to substitute a scalpel for a seat. - Okay okay okay. - So what's it weigh? 'Ere, - also, - how d'you specify how to wind carbon? What calculations are involved? I've never done any composite stuff, ever, incl. not-repairing the knackered canoe that still clutters the sheds. And - and and and - is that seat post contiguous with the seat tube? They appear in my spectacles to have the same diameter. And - and and and and  *and*  - what is the advantage of mixing steel with carbon? Just weight? Or is there some fiendishly clever engineering reason for retaining steel in the stays and crossbar and downtube?

In due course he replied:

Hi Richard,

So..... frame is 1200g, projected bike weight is 10.8lbs, hopefully! Specifying the carbon was fairly unsophisticated - I told them what diameter I wanted and what I was using it for, and they picked their nearest mandrel to give an appropriate wall thickness. In theory they can tune the stiffness through the layup - I asked for it to have a bit of flex for comfort - nope, it is a very stiff bit of tubing (with the old 'bend it across the knee' trick). If I do this again I'll talk to them a bit more about quantifying the stiffness so it does what I want it to do.

Yup, integrated seatmast, no saddle height adjustment (I can get away with this on my bikes!)

Why to do it? The initial idea had been to use the tuneability of the carbon to build in some passive suspension from the cantilevered seatmast. I guess now I could argue that it is to get a stiffer seatmast.... It saves 100g over an otherwise equivalent all-steel frame, and I really like the look. Otherwise no good reason really, it's fun to try new things though. I will be interested to see how it rides once it is all assembled.


It is to be hoped he doesn't suddenly undergo a Growth Spurt.

Anyway this morning I popped John on the back of our tandem and he and I rode the daily circuit and it was like having a motor on board. So I think I now know the answer to the question my wife sometimes asks when she's on the back, which question is 'Why are we going so slowly?' although I've yet to think of a tactful way of telling her what this answer might be.

Right, s'nuff of that. Now we've got some Broadband I'll just nip over & see how Mr Knight's getting on with all the seasoned applewood he nicked off me. He usually blogs on a Wednesday.


Saturday, December 10, 2011 6:46:00 AM Categories: engineering problems Rob English tandem

Prodigal Bikes 

Mr Knight is such a lying git. He fibs like a fibber and he lies like a liar and he tells untruths like a person spreading disinformation and rumour and innuendo and stuff like that. He is a lying, untruthful, fibbing, dishonest, dissembling git and he's a neighbour who bears false witness and he departs from facts and he misleads parliament and makes fraudulent statements and is Generally Bad. He has completely fabricated that wholly false and incorrect and malicious story. I would never, ever suggest he ride the giraffe on the orchard path. (We now call it a giraffe. It isn't a giraffe, obv., but that's the name it ended up with.) Never, ever in a hundred million years would I encourage my son to sprint along next to him in a wild and exuberant pell-mell race along a dry, dusty, pot-holed orchard path on a very high bicycle with a very short wheelbase, because natch what would happen in a Pothole Sitchuwation is the big front wheel would leave it at the same time as the small back wheel entered it and then instantly afterwards the back wheel would be flicked upwards out of the hole and he would fly through the air describing a parabola and land on his bonce shouting 'ow ow ow'.

It is all His Fault.

It is none of it My Fault.

He is an evil, bad, wicked, malevolent, deceitful, libellous influence on the Diaspora and not one of my Followers should believe him for an instant.

What actually happened was this.

Mr Knight saw the giraffe and instantly said 'Please, oh Please may I have a go on that exquisitely designed and perfectly crafted machine with its superb welded joints and meticulously fitted front wheel bearings and faultless paint job and Whatton bars' and I (very reluctantly) said 'Oh well okay but you must treat it with consummate care because so short a wheelbase may lead to pitching and you have so little experience riding penny farthings or other front drivers and I cannot have you jeopardise yourself the very day before your birthday when I have such a large pile of absolutely brand new hand-picked books carefully gift-wrapped for the morrow.' (I hadn't. I had a heap of crumbling old volumes picked up at the local book fair incl. the inevitable child's colour picture book of fire engines that we give him each year because we happen to know that Mr Knight used to be a volunteer fireman, going out along the M4 with a large hose to extinguish the smouldering remains of someone who thought they could text-and-drive at the same time. And we give him old books purely because we happen to know he c'llects old books and wouldn't know what a new one looks like, and not because they only cost us fifty cents each.)

So off he went and I caught no glimpse of him till I was scything the long grass next to the dustbin and I glanced up and there in the distance sat my son on the penny trike gazing forlornly on the corpse of the giraffe and the other corpse of Mr Knight. I was overcome, as you may imagine, with regret, because if I had chanced to glance up a moment earlier I would have seen him fly over the handlebars, and I was overcome with even more regret because if adequately forewarned I could have nipped inside and got a camera out and recorded the event for the entertainment of the Internet. Huh! Whatever you thought Youtube was for was inc'rrect. It's not for that at all. It's so we can watch members of the Diaspora falling off at speed.

Also, I didn't give him a single Campagnolo part. He nicked 'em all. He snuck in and snuck out again and immediately the entire shed was empty, cleaned out completely, and as he drove off his car was packed to the gunn'ls with shards of bicycle that I was saving to keep in a glass case labelled 'Exquisite Italian bicycle jewels that Mr Knight Hasn't Got and I Have Got so nur nur ne-nur nur'. (I have the Campagnolo Super Record rear mech that Walter Haenni used to win the Austrian road championships twenty or thirty years ago. Each year I get it out gloatingly and show it to him, enjoying his misery at the fact that he does not own it and I do.)

Walter Haenni's rear mech

However the good news is that the police rang on Thursday to say they'd recovered the rain bike near the high school, minus its panniers but otherwise intact and they phoned at lunchtime yesterday with the joyful news that Frankenbike has been found. It had been standing outside the Warehouse for a fortnight. - It will be deduced that we do not frequent the Warehouse, a shop rather like Walmart, but bicycle stealers do. - Some rust from all the rain, and the tools had gone from the little saddlebag, but otherwise everything there was intact too. 'A perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle' is what P.C. Morris of Barrow upon Soar would have said, but P.C. Morris doesn't live here and the officer who hauled it out of the police lock-up confined himself to the cryptic remark 'Unusual looking bike?' with which observation it was impossible to argue.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 8:30:00 AM Categories: bike crash front wheel drive penny farthing Rob English Stolen Bikes

Errant fireman's hose 

Well, y'know Saturday's post? - On Sunday my wife went to a Top Team event, which is where some keen work colleague pressurizes everyone to enter a carnival and hop about in four-in-a-sack-race and carry-water-in-your-welly-boots-while-wearing-them games.

About halfway through a fire hose blew a nozzle thingy out of the end and the hose started lashing about like a wild thing, knocking over a pushchair, a nurse, and slicing my wife's foot open to the tendons. She needed seven stitches. The gash was two and a half inches long. It bled through the pressure bandage afterwards and she had to have it dressed again. My finger didn't hurt nearly as much when I saw the wound. She fondly imagines she won't be playing tennis until Thursday. When she cancelled tomorrow's lesson her coach sent her a text:

Sorry to hear that. You never know when you're going to be hit by a fireman's hose.

I consulted a former fireman who chances to be a mathematics graduate. I learnt that fire hoses operate at 130 psi and a 25 metre hose weighs 25 kg. The mathematician calculated that when a hose nozzle thingy breaks and whacks your foot open, the force delivered = Enormous.

Meanwhile my son has found the following two advertisements in the school magazine, whose juxtaposition is not entirely irrelevant in the circumstances.

Monday, November 7, 2011 7:57:00 AM Categories: advertising injury

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



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
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