All Packed But For The Bike

All that shite in yesterday’s post? Here it is in 2 panniers. The laptop will slot down the back of the left one, my cabin bag. The right pannier has all the tools emergency camping and the topbag. It will go in the bike bag with the bike, which gets a lube and packing on Friday or Saturday. Looking like it’s all under my 30kg limit, too.

6 Days Out & Packing Proper Begins

Monday, 2 Feb, I fly to Hanoi to meet my good friend Paul for our adventure, bicycling from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Ho Chi Minh City. I have 30kg (20kg checked and 10kg cabin) to fit my bicycle and 2 panniers of stuff. Yes folks, it’s a “credit card tour”. I’m probably more nervous about this aspect of the trip than just about anything else.

The packing list is…
Bicycle (in travel bag that rolls up with bedroll), emergency camp and cooking (bivi bag/bedroll and a wood fired camp burner, pots to be sourced in Hanoi), 2x Tioga Commuter panniers, 1 iPhone, 1 solar panel, 1 ReVolt AC/DC to USB supply, 1 USB powerpack, cables, 1 Macbook Air, 1 magsafe charger, world travel adapter kit, 1 microphone, 1 mic to iPhone cable, 1 “GoPro lookalike” camera, 1 monopod/selfy stick, 1 mini tripod (turns monopod into tripod or mic stand), 1 iPhone mount for use as camera (also mounts the monopod as a stand or a counterbalance), tools, basic spares and tube repair kit, SPD shoes, riding gloves (still debating helmet, thinking coolie hat locally instead), diabetes meds, antimalarial meds, toiletries, sunscreen 2 pair of trousers (end of day, on plane wear) undies, underknicks, running shorts, coolmax tops, light weight rain jacket and loads of ziplock dry bags. I think that’s everything… It’s all laid out ready to go. That’s the picture.

In Hanoi, I’ll pick up a nice shirt or 2 for end of day wear and some camping pots to boil water or cook in if we find ourselves stranded at the end of any days. Cargo pants will also get some heavier small items out of luggage for weighing :-) and I’ll be wearing my Ground Effect merino jersey on the plane so that I have something warm if needed in the north.

Vietnam Is Looming, Just Let Me Ride!

This basically sums up how I’m feeling as Vietnam looms

So, It’s About To Rain… I Think

It’s 6:24 on a Sunday and it’s threatening rain. Will I ride? I should, I guess.

Exchange Your Dong

A little table to help you play with your dong

Insert Big Dong Here

travelcardI don’t want to take an Australian money card with me to Vietnam. I’d much prefer to take a preloaded travel card. Still, my bank doesn’t do one that can be loaded with Vietnamese Dong (VND), so I’d been planning to upgrade my account from fee free and use my normal card. January 1 comes along and, because of the travel card, I no longer have that option. If I take money out of my account in Dong every day, that’ll be AU$7/day and a big Dong in hand each time. Not too secure.

It seems there is ONE Australian bank which has a travel debit card which can have a big Dong in it, CommBank. The Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card is a Mastercard preloaded debit card. If you’re a CommBank customer, you can have the card issued for no charge but each ATM withdrawal will cost you 50000 dong (approximately AU$2.85), slightly more than 1/3 of the cost to use my normal card.

Yes, this post has been an excuse to make willy jokes, but it has a serious purpose, too, money is survival in a foreign land and carrying more card and less Dong is a lot safer. Now, I’d better go get my Dong out. :-)

Addendum, seems the CommBank Mastercard may only be any good in HCMC. Visa is more widely accepted in Vietnam than Mastercard so, maybe I am better off using my card.

Cutting Cloth To Fit & Still Finding It Tight

PA-StackPA-StackOK, so I couldn’t justify the cost of the LD Dave rig. What I did was add a pair of 18″ Skytec subbies to my 15″ AVE CSA15 bins to arrive at a front of house stack like shown.

The CSA’s run at 200w RMS each and the Skytec subs are 500w each, making for a front of house total of 1800 watts. The crossover is built in to the subs and, allowing for an ideal match of workload, bottom to top, should see quite high SPL generated. I have some cables to make, and then I have to “pink” the room with my iPhone’s noise generator, while spectrum analysing the result with the iPad.

Still need some better wedges and a drum fill but the system is nearly ready to noisy up Filthy Noises @ Home.

Don’t Make Me Wear Hi-Vis Unless You’re Driving Flouro Yellow

roadcamoflageAn interesting article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Rural pages, where a study has shown, surprise surprise, darker cars are a potential safety hazard. From the article

[There is] research by the NRMA and Monash University that has found dark cars are involved in more accidents but.. one is interested in taking up the issue.

I suspect this falls squarely in the political “too-hard basket”, where politicians fear standing between a petrol addict and the shiny temple of their addiction. The full article about what I call “road camoflage” is here

I’m A Citizen of the World!

passportSo, my passport arrived. What’s the first thing to do once you have your shiny, new travel document? Book your leave? No. Sort a visa? No. BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE AGREED DATE AND FORCE EVERYTHING ELSE TO FIT AROUND IT, GROOVY FAR-OUTS! International travel FTW! :-)

The Less Said…

…about hypothermia (mild, ruined my randonnee, had to pull out) and diarrhoea (major, a day off work and 3 off the bike), the better. Huge bite taken out of October’s Great Cycle Challenge mileage. Keep the donations coming, though.

Liveblogging the Moonlight Sonata 200

Moonlight Sonata RouteSo…

This Friday, my personal assistant, Cyclemeter, is going to drop 10km updates on Facebook as I trundle around country back roads at night. While my Australian friends sleep, those in the rest of the world will see my progress as regular posts of my speed and distance. Now I need to upgrade my battery so the lights and iPhone will run all night…

So, I’ve entered a Randonnee…

It’s been since the 1990s (’96?) since I rode my last brevet, a 200km. Yes, I’ve done 2 Round The Bays, since (’06 and ’09) but it’s been a while since I entered a proper 200km randonnee, run by Audax Australia. Well, the one I’ve entered is at night, 8pm to 8am, and has some hills… and it’s in 2 weeks.
Moonlight Sonata Route

Called the Moonlight Sonata 200, the route begins in Kyneton, Victoria, heads for a little sojourn over to Lanceton, back to Kyneton for a midnight snack, then up to Bendigo and Kangaroo Flats, before returning to Kyneton for breakfast, 204km. I’m planning to sleep on the train on the way up and back. I’ve always wanted to do a “firefly” for a brevet and I think, from Sunday’s ride up to Bayswater, my legs are well up for it.

Between this and my planned overnight camping trip up to Upper Yarra Reservoir, that’ll be 400 of my 450km goal for my Great Cycle Challenge, too. Please feel free to donate, too :-)

From McKinnon to “Crazy Baysy” and Back.

Dr Manhattan in Bayswater

Dr Manhattan in Bayswater

Today was my first ride of Victorian discovery away from Port Phillip Bay. With plans to ride to Upper Yarra Reservoir Park in October (my next 3 day weekend) as an overnight touring shakedown for Dr Manhattan and all the gear, I went for a ride to Bayswater to explore the lower third of the route. A good 40% of it is off-road pathway and very scenic. In fact, of the whole 96km route to the campsite, maybe 70% of it is either cycle path or rail trail!

Today’s ride was a steady climb through Chadstone and Vermont to the Dandenong Creek Trail, a scenic, bushland track of hard packed gravel, duckboards, bitumen and concrete. I finished up near Bayswater Railway Station on the Mountain Hwy. It’s about one third of the distance to the camping grounds at the top of the Yarra Valley. In a week or so I’ll probably take the bike in the van to Bayswater and do at least the next third, in one last explore before the actual ride. That will include a little more of Dandenong Creek Trail and part of the Lilydale to Warburton rail trail.

It was an interesting test for Google Maps and Tom Tom today. The Tom Tom app’s cycling routes are strictly on-road only, with some being shitty, high traffic routes (like Springvale Rd!!!!) and made no allowance AT ALL for gradient! It wouldn’t recognise any of the off-road paths, so I very quickly gave up on it. Google Maps started confusing its left and right calls at one point. Restarting the app and route from scratch fixed that and it was not only good with calling cycle path sections, it was more detailed and sensible plain english than Tom Tom in how it called each turn. Tom Tom has in-built maps, Google needs a good 3G or 4G connection. That will be an interesting test for the Vodafone network as I leave urban Melbourne :-)

A Waiting Game

Meanwhile, on the inaugural wheel build, my truing stand and dynamo hub arrived today. The rim is stripped of its old parts and hanging in the bike shed. I’m just waiting for the Sapim Laser spokes to arrive. (2 packs of 20 287x2mm silver finish) There is a sound of fingers drumming on the workbench. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

The truing stand will do until I can justify (and afford) a Park Tools rig. The Shimano dyno-hub is an exquisite jewel of aluminium, steel, copper and neodymium magnets. The rim is a nice recycling of an OEM Rigida that’s seen little to no real work on a ladies bike that looks like it spent most of its life on the windward side of a carport. The spokes… I don’t know, they’re not here yet.

Oooh, It’s Getting a Little Bit Real!

I just started the process of applying for my passport! I know, how does somebody get to 53 and not have visited somewhere else in the world? Pathetic… BUT EXCITING! A LITTLE WEE MIGHT EVEN DRIBBLE OUT! Talk about butterflies in the belly! :-)

Also, and this is the really scary bit, when I get my shiny, new passport, I have to mail it along with my visa application to the Viet Nam Embassy in the ACT! I reckon that will be going via registered mail. No Consular office in Melbourne! Guess they’re a small country in a big world and have to make their budget stretch. Fair enough :-)

Finally, after all of that’s done and dusted, I’ll be able to book my plane fares. Still looking like Tiger in 3 hops as the cheapest option, but both the lowest priced carriers have gone up a bit since I last looked and I’m still looking at AU$1200 round trip from Melbourne with the bike accounted for.

So, while I plan and wait for paperwork, both virtual and dead tree, The next stage of the process is to plan an overnight shakedown ride for the bike and luggage. Train to Geelong, then the Great Ocean Road – 6 hours out on day 1, 6 hours back on day 2, probably early October.

Dynamo/Solar/Battery Regulator Circuit

So, the dyno lights are evolving. I think this is the last iteration for the rectifier/reguator circuit. The ordered module is probably too inefficient, so I went for a much simpler circuit.

It’ll be built on vero strip board to this layout…

The case will look something like this…

Once the wheel’s built, and this is built, I’ll be able to start testing it for efficiency at charging the battery. The box will be hived off in a corner of the handlebar bag, the solar panel will sit in the map pocket.

Dynamo Wheel Build Pt 2

So, I’m building a dynamo wheel with my own hands, both learning and saving money at the same time. That’s all well and good, but what will I do with the electricity the hub generates? Run lights? Charge my iPhone and iPad mini? Charge a battery pack so the lights don’t stop? Yes to all of the above.

I could design and build my own circuit but, frankly, it’s cheaper and easier to buy modules off eBay these days. To charge smartphones, and other USB devices, on-the-go I found a module that will provide 5v at up to 600mA charging off 2x fresh AAA cells with a USB socket soldered on board. Add a 2-way adapter and it’ll do 2 devices at once, but slower. I’m adding a 6v, 2 watt solar panel to the project, and the dyno’s 3 watts is AC, so I need a rectifier/regulator that has both an AC and a DC input. The latter also has to be able to handle low/zero current spikes in voltage from the dyno, too. All found on eBay for a few bucks each.

So, settling on 3x AAA, metal hydride cells as my core power storage (3.6v total), the reg I’ve bought will accept up to 27v from the dyno, limiting that to 3.75v for charging them. The USB module converts the 3.6v from the battery to 5v for running the lights (USB powered) or charging gadgets. The dyno provides nominal 6v at 3w AC, while the solar panel pumps sunshine through a filter to give us 6v at 2w to keep the regulator topping up the metal hydride battery. That’s the likely layout pictured below.

The electronics and battery pack will be mounted in a diecast metal box and stored in my handlebar bag. The solar panel will be placed in the handlebar bag’s map sleeve and its cable will feed to the battery box via a small gland cut in the side of the bag. The dynamo will also feed to the electronics via the hole in the bag and a cable run up the front fork.


The Parts
Shimano Dynamo Hub DH-3N72
6v, 3w Solar Panel
Rectifier/Regulator for battery charging
USB power module

Dynamo Wheel Build pt1

shimanoDynamoSo, I’ve decided to add a dynamo hub to Dr Manhattan, my big, ugly blue tourer, but I didn’t want to put him off the road while I rebuilt the front wheel. The expense of a new rim, and the wait for that before I could measure it up and order the spokes, then the wait for those to arrive, too, ruled out buying fresh parts on eBay, too.

Fortunately, last year I found an old Shogun mixte/ladies tourer on hard rubbish (where most of my bikes come from :-) ) which I plan to restore for use as a guest bike. The front wheel off that looks like a good’n but the hub is a bit old and lumpy, so not suitable as a substitute for Dr M’s front during the rebuild. Still, the rim is a nice OEM Rigida in shiny order so, out with the old Shimano hub to press the near perfect rim into new duty.

Next, I cut the shoulders off 2 of the old spokes and measured up the Rigida for it’s ERD (Effective Rim Diameter) and plug that (plus the hub’s data) into the calculator at Freespoke. Gotta love the interwebs :-) Between learning how to do somethig, buying the parts, measuring existing parts, calculating the right length of parts and buying more parts, you’d only leave the house to go riding these days :-)

The downside of all this, my spokes calculated out to 287mm, 4mm shorter and I could have had a pack of 36, 14 gauge, 283mm spokes for $10. Ah well 2x packs of 20 at only twice as much per pack isn’t too much of a loss, it’s still a sub-$100 wheel, and I get 4 spare spokes for the touring toolkit. Now I’m waiting for the hub and spokes to arrive, while filling time reading Roger Musson’s excellent book, “Professional Guide to Wheel Building.

This will be my first serious wheel build. If this works well, and doesn’t need to be taken to a bike mechanic for tidying up, I may just build the wheels from scratch for my Giant Boulder 2 rebuild next year, out of eBay bargain bits. A human is a generalist, not a specialist. A human should always learn new skills.

My only other wheel building attempt, ever, was a sketchy experiment with trying to build a dual rim (for 2 tyres) 20″ wheel for added load capacity in my trailer. Being BMX rims, there wasn’t enough clearance between the tyres and the trailer frame to be a practical wheel, even running narrow slicks. I might revisit that for a heavy duty custom trailer I plan to build. I can go all out with fatbike hubs on that and the dual rim system should work a treat.

Finally! A Multispeed Men’s Vintage that ISN’T a Fixie!

Reid, who sold me the City 1 which became to donor of parts to my tourer, “Dr Manhattan,” have started selling Virtue vintage bicycles. In that line is the Virtue Seven, a 1×7 speed, chromoly, “sit-up-and-beg”, english style men’s vintage bicycle. This may not seem like anything particularly special but, while the vintage and budget bike retailers have been serving the ladies’ vintage market with sixes and sevens, all the men’s machines have been single speeds. Until now.

It sort of annoys me that sit-up-and-beg, city bikes have been lumped in with the single speed movement. The fixie is a track bike, not a safe commuter, even if flipped to the freewheel side, having only one gear can leave you struggling for speed to get out of the way of a problem, if fixed, it can leave you in a dead skid, headed for death. Gearing, braking and proper pedalling control makes for safer riding, as well as more relaxed and comfortable riding.

The Seven, with it’s upright posture, 12 to 32 tooth rear gears and 46 tooth single front cog gives you all the speeds you’ll ever need and all the elegance you could want for European style commuting or tweed style. Add a rack and some vintage bags, some reflective trouser clips, a woodgrain finished skaters helmet and you’ll still come in cheaper then the only other vintage ride to do a men’s multispeed under a grand, the Papillionaire Classic.

The “Pap” has one advantage, it’s gearing is an internal hub, the simplicity of a single speed, but more expensive ($800) and slightly less parts compatibility. The Virtue Seven vintage men’s bike looks like a serious competitor on the style cycling world. I recommend checking it out.

Divine Rock’n’Roll

Back in early 2012, I was bassist for Alex Cappelli’s “The Collectables” and we launched his new version of the band at Noise Bar, Brunswick. We were supported by two bands but, of those, the one that stood out was The Divine Fluxus, an all girl three piece playing a flavour of rock I describe as Anne Wilson of Heart singing for Rush in Metallica’s studio. We were, all three bands, relatively new to the road in our line ups at the time, but TDF impressed me because they had a sound at once recognisable in known forms, but… different, unknown, edgy and a little dangerous.

We supported them at Revolver Upstairs in Chapel St for their CD launch, a month or so later, the thorns among roses, with the other support, The Anoushka, opening the show. The Collectables were the token blokes in a sandwich of bitchkrieging rock that shook the room, the night and expectations of what loud, electric music could be. All three bands blew the doors off that night and I was hooked on The Divine Fluxus, a welded-on fan.

I always knew women could rock as hard as any of the guys. Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Jett, Anne and Nancy Wilson, to name a few ladies of loudness that had rocked my stereo over the years, but there are many many more. However, until TDF, I hadn’t shared a stage with any. I’d rocked with women in bands, but none with the power Ary, Victoria and Sasha delivered.

So circumstance unfolded, The Collectables “went south”, my health took a dive and it was 2 years before I got along to a gig to see The Divine Fluxus again. Flash forward to The Brunswick Hotel, 2 weeks ago. It’s one of the last gigs with the band’s new drummer, Yahna Pal. It was everything I remembered, growling, rootsy hard rock with Victoria channeling an intriguing hybrid of Anne Wilson and Geddy Lee vocals. It reaffirmed this band’s stunning difference in a Melbourne scene overloaded with tattooed blokes doing AC DC licks like they were Iron Maiden. They rock out in a consistent style but without any of the songs sounding “samey”. The ripped the Brunswick a new one.

Then last night, sharing the bill at The Elsternwick Hotel with Dear Stalker and Saint Henry, The Divine Fluxus took to the stage with the first, and arguably most passionate, drummer, Sasha Campbell. We’d been told on Facebook there was going to be a surprise, that was it, the original and best trio was back in their best mix! With Sasha back on the beats, they ripped rock’n’roll a new one, a big one, and local live music is all the better for it! This is the original purpose of rock, this is it’s new purpose, the beginninng, the end, the alpha and the omega, Ragnarock, as the Vikings might have put it.

The “Wick’s” sound system is a little underpowered, the sound guy was OK, but struggled to get loud enough monitoring on stage. How the girls responded to this could be a lesson to some international stars, let alone local acts. They dug deep and rocked the fuck out. It was like watching a trio of acrobats run up to the precipice, flat out, and stop, teetering on the edge, no net to save them if they fell, over and over again, and every time, the crowd cheers! The music was edgy, dangerous, passionate and thrusting. They might have set fire to the stage if the performance were any hotter.

Being male is no mortgage on knowing how to rock. There are no gender divides on the hard rock stage anymore as these talented young women prove, night after night. Gender is no longer an indicator of balls in music, to paraphrase Patti Smith, The Divine Fluxus are a canon and they NEVER run out of balls. Get your ears around their tunes and get along to a gig. You’re not a real rocker if you don’t.

The Divine Fluxus on Facebook:

The Divine Fluxux on Soundcloud: