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.
FinalReg

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

The case will look something like this…
FinalRegCase

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.

SolarDynoBatteryBoxLayout

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

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: https://www.facebook.com/thedivinefluxusmusic

The Divine Fluxux on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/the-divine-fluxus

St Kilda Rd _IS_ Bicycle Friendly, You Idiots!

Here is yet another reason I no longer support Bicycle Network Victoria and the Amy Gillet Foundation. These organisations have lobbied for, and are celebrating the announcement of, the Copenhagenisation of St Kilda Rd. Amongst the tweets and posts of “triumph”, the line that St Kilda Rd is to be made “bicycle friendly.”

Look, you dickheads, it already is! This is one of the BEST strips of bicycle lane I have ever ridden and I ride it frequently, at all times of the day. I ride this stretch sometimes at 4:30am, on my way to start the early shift at work, sometimes in the middle of the day, starting the afternoon shift, or leaving the morning shift, and sometimes after 7:00pm. It’s a great stretch of cycling!

Riders are hidden behind parked cars and invisible to any driver turning left

Riders are hidden behind parked cars and invisible to any driver turning left

If this stretch of road is Copenhagenised, the bike lane will be placed between the parked cars and the footpath. To the non-cyclist this may seem reasonable, but it’s not. There are many many left turns off St Kilda Rd and the current bicycle lane makes you visible to motorists. If you’re riding straight ahead, they can see you and (mostly, like 99.99%) will not turn on top of you. If you’re hidden behind the parked cars, and cars are parked there 24 hours a day (except for peak times under the proposal, but that leaves 20 other hours when you’re hidden), motorists won’t see you and will turn left without regard for you because, to them, you’re not there.

Then there’s dooring. Most drivers actually look behind when opening a car door. The rare few who do manage to “door” a cyclist are usually inexperienced drivers or the sort of person who thinks they own the road, not just a car. With the bike lane on the passenger side of cars, expect dooring to rise. Sure, there’ll be no cement trucks on that side to crush the cyclist, but many many cyclists will suffer lost time crashes because, even if passengers did look before opening a door, they can’t use the mirror, because it’s adjusted for the driver. Bang! Another cyclist gets ribs broken on the passenger door of an SUV.

The final problem with bicycle lanes on the passenger side of parked cars is “thronging.” This is where people stand beside the car while they decide as a group which cafe they want to eat at. People do that on the passenger side of the car and they stand close to the car. In short, the bike lane will stop being a transport lane and start being a social venue. It already happens a little when two drivers from 2 cars are parked near each other, they stand in the bike lane and chat, right next to all the traffic. These knobs will rarely get out of the way, even if you shout a loud warning at them. Now imagine a whole family climbing out of mum’s SUV, milling around in the Copenhagen lane. They won’t get out of the way, they believe they’re on the footpath. (I was told on St Kilda’s Fitzroy St “Copenhell” to get off the footpath a few years back. I never ride the “Copenhell” anymore.)

In a car mad country, where the majority think driving is a right and cycling a hobby, not transport, Copenhagenism won’t work. It works in Copenhagen because they never had a petrolhead culture. Their town planners could see cars were going to be a problem if there were too many, unlike here, where every new road to alleviate congestion only causes more congestion. In Copenhagen, they have “strict liability” which is where the motorist has to prove they were not in the wrong if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian. That’s why Copenhagenism works there.

Here in Australia? The police will automatically blame a cyclist for a crash, even if they have independent witnesses that the motorists broke the law. I know this, in the 90s I had to get police to show cause why a drunk driver wasn’t breath tested and charged for running down a cyclist who was a Bicycle Tasmania member. I’ve had police try to charge me with running a red when it went amber as I reached the other side. I’ve had police demand to see my drivers licence when stopping me on my bicycle. Will police prosecute a motorist who fails to give way when turning left into the path of a hidden cyclist on a “Copenhell”? Of course they won’t, even though that’s what the law says, you must give way to a cyclist riding straight ahead when turning left across their path.

The great thing about Melbourne is that, so far, it’s not really all that Copenhagenised. If Port Melbourne proceed with making St Kilda Rd a “Copenhell”, my commute will grow by 20 to 30 minutes because I will have to, for my own safety, stop and give way at every single left junction, regardless of green lights or green paint.

This is my safest, most direct route to work, and they plan to ruin it. Remember my 5am start? I currently get up a little before 4am to allow a little contingency in the 40 to 50 minutes. I’ll hve to get up before 3:30am to safely ride that way if this proceeds. I may as well go via Hawthorn Rd, Dandenong Rd, William St and the Capital City Trail, 5km longer than the direct route and nowhere near as well lit.

Pedalling Efficiently

Wait? What?!! Pedalling in the music section?! It’s OK, I’m talking effects pedals. I’ve been refining the pedal board back into the pedal case so as to free up the current pedal board tray for keyboard and iPad duty.

You have no idea how tricky it was fitting this jigsaw puzzle together in a workable way! Works a treat, though.

20140727-174337-63817047.jpg

From top left to bottom right: Jamman AC adapter, patch box, Behringer US600 Harmoniser, Behringer TU300 tuner/mute, Digitech Jamman Stereo Looper, Behringer DC9 compressor and Korg AX-5 multieffects.

The looper has a built-in drum machine, so that’s output on red, the bass output from the harmoniser goes to the right input on the looper, which output goes to the bass amp mix, and the guitar goes to the tuner, goes to the compressor, goes to the harmoniser, the clean out of which goes to the AX-5, which goes to the guitar amp. Perfect for a rocking/bluesy one man band.

One Law For Them…

On my ride to work today, I say this wonderful example of police double standards. While high and mighty about how cyclists are scofflaws and thoughtless, their own consideration of the safety of cyclists is clearly falling short. I tender this video from my ride…

The lane the police were stopped in is a bicycle lane. The parking lane on the left is empty, they could have dropped a wheel further into that parking lane and still had a safety buffer for talking to the driver. Because of the lack of space they left, I had to try to squeeze into the motoring lane in late morning traffic. Fortunately I didn’t have too much traffic bearing down on me.

It’s bad enough when taxi drivers do this, but police, who should know better, are just throwing their weight around when they put their safety ahead of other members of the public and don’t leave enough lane for me to safely pass.

As The Four Skins sing in the video, “ONE LAW FOR THEM AND ANOTHER ONE FOR US!”

A Bucket of Keyboard Win

iPadMicrokeySetupI’m turning my iPad win into a winning keyboard rig. The apps used for fat synth tones include NLog, Arturia Mini and Garageband, to name just a few.

The USB hub and PSU are to power the Microkey37 which, despite being sold as iPad compatible, isn’t in current draw terms. My aging Korg Poly800I is being retired to hang on the wall. It won’t hold its patches unless the external power is connected at all times and is too old for Sysex loading.

I plan to figure out a way to non destructively hang it on the wall like a picture, and I can get an app from Korg called Poly 6 to replace it.

Throw A Sound Grenade – Street Art That Isn’t Grafitti

soundgrenadeIn this age of cheap electronics, it’s possible to buy on eBay an MP3 player for less than $3, an external speaker for it for less than $4 and a microSD card to put media on it for less than $8. I know, I just bought 4 of each as a test bed for a radical street art idea.

Buy 4 spray cans in colours analogous to CMYK and you’ll spend this much money and many more hours visible in a public place, at risk of being arrested, to do street art with a colourful message. Buy the gadgets I mention above and you can work on your artistic statement in the privacy of your own home then, with little more than duct tape and carefully chosen locations, you could place tiny “radio stations” hidden above public spaces where people congregate.

Even those not actively listening will get your message, subliminally. You’re not “damaging” private property, unlike grafitti, and the message will silence itself when the batteries run out. Many of your little audio caches will still be recoverable, reloadable and rechargeable after they’ve done their job for a few hours in a crowded railway station, at a bus stop or in a car park.

This is artistic guerrilla warfare. Keep your statements simple, direct and short, people will not be choosing to hear this, anymore than they choose to see a grafitti piece. Make it entertaining, even be funny, use music like a sedative to help make the audience more receptive. This is advertising mind control democratised! It is also art! It is street art, it is psychological art.

Have your say!

The View From a Lowrider Front Rack

Dr Manhattan On St Kilda Rd
The start of my commute home. There would be more, but the camera doesn’t work according to how the manual says it should. (Stupid camera! Haven’t ruled out the SD card, though.)

I’m On My Way Back

OK, it was wind assisted, but I’m back above 20km/h for my average speed. My muscles hate me for even the small amounts of riding I’ve been doing, but I’m getting stronger. Slowly.

View Larger Map

Flying With a Bike

A baggage handler’s advice on packing a bicycle for air travel…
Flying With Your Bike

Flying with your bike can be a nerve-wracking experience, particularly if the bike is new and/or you’ve spent a lot of money on it. Will the bike make it to your destination in one piece? And what’s the best option for keeping your bike safe – soft case, hardshell or cardboard box? CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef spoke to an aircraft loading supervisor with more than 10 years experience to find out how best to pack your bike when flying and, just as importantly, how to reduce the risks of your bike getting damaged.

Drum Trigger Pulses Need a Kick

Now the mesh skins are fitted to the hybrid kit, the trigger pulse level is significantly less than it was with the “noisy” batter skins. This means the hardest I can whack any drum falls around a velocity of 48 or so in the MIDI signals the controller module sends out. I could fix this with a velocity expander software in the Mac being used as a USB to MIDI router, but I’m contemplating replacing that with a USB-MIDI adapter box to simplify the setup.

So, an easier way to pump up the volume is to amplify the trigger pulses themselves. A dirty 80s analogue solution! :-) So, I spent a few hours designing a simple audio amplifier, to be replicated by 10, to amplify each trigger signal. Then I looked on eBay, and I found an amp module where 10 of them cost a quarter of my circuit design. So, it’s hardly worth having electronic skills as a hobby, these days :-)