Sunday, June 28, 2009

Behold, I have sinned. I have not worked all morning. My friend Susan is sitting huddled in Clapham fondly imagining I am busy writing half a book with her and in fact I am not writing half a book at all. I am busy making a cabinet. Two cabinets, actually. These cabinets are not specifically because I need cabinets; rather, they are because I am supposed to be writing Chapter 2 and in fact I suffer from a dreadful affliction which is to say whenever there is a pressing deadline (though can Chapter 2 be pressing?) I indulge in Workshop Tidying. This is an affliction specific to me. Nobody else in the world suffers from it. Faced with a difficult drawing I will spend two hours sharpening every pencil I possess and then I will hoover the room even under my glass draughting table and - mark this - behind the computer. Amazing how much fluff a computer generates. If the world abandoned computers there'd be a fluff shortage.

Faced with Chapter 2 I immediately note that the four drawers and broken cupboard that Dr Brewer didn't want and very kindly gave me have been sitting idle in the sheds for a month, so naturally now is the time to fetch out the glue and screws and saws and convert them into useful storage space for the lathe chucks which have been sitting bathed in unholy swarf these four years past on the floor where lathe chucks have no business to be, and I am not going to offer a photograph of the resultant cabinets because I happen to know for a fact that Nigel Farrell, whose exploits have been hitherto detailed here, is a cabinet maker and I don't want him laughing at me. His wife's called Annaliisa, by the way. One of us can't spell.

Anyway, my steel has arrived so I have few excuses to make cabinets and ought to be busy rebuilding Sam the Scotchman's trike frame as my chief displacement activity. (I call him a Scotchman because I happen to know for another fact that they hate being called that.)(Everyone knows that.)(Uh?)(So why did I tell you?) Unfortunately John is studying Balanced Forces so further work on trikes/cabinets/Chapter 2 has to be postponed while we deal with this, because harrassed schoolmistresses cannot explain Balanced Forces to thirty fourteen-year-olds in forty minutes with even the remotest chances of success. Luckily his memory of Mr Knight zooming round and round at 50 kph for an hour is fresh, so we focus on

a) how much air weighs (.88 kg per cubic metre, from memory)

b) how much of it you scoop up in your arms when you pedal through it

c) pedalling twice as fast means you scoop up twice the mass in the same time

d) and that you have to accelerate all that extra air not only to how fast you were going, but to how fast you are now going

e) if you can just nudge it aside, diagonally, instead of scooping it up in your arms, then you can go faster

f) which is what Bob's fairing was all about

g) and that when you start off your force isn't balanced which is why you accelerate

h) and that when your forces balance you stop accerating

i) which is why Bob couldn't go faster than 50 KPH.

This is a lot to take in, so we move onto what forces apply when a 22 year old stands on top of a car with his trousers round his ankles and the car suddenly stops. He has velocity, but no force. Accordingly he continues forwards at his constant 80 kph, until his face encounters a force. The force grinds his face off, and as he is not pedalling or running to perpetuate his velocity, he undergoes negative acceleration. John enjoys this greatly. Whenever the concept becomes difficult, we add lurid detail. It is a topic of considerable interest because it so happened that John and I were driving down to stay with Bob Knight on the morning this unfortunate incident took place, and were held up for half an hour at the Lewis Pass watching the rescue helicopter. The fireman told us 'not a pretty sight' but when we were allowed past John reported that he saw a body lying in the road but no crashed car, which mystery was only solved as the news reports came through. The 22-year-old gentleman concerned is now, I gather, on my mate's mechanical engineering course, where he exhibits a Police ankle bracelet, half a face, a surprising amount of conceit at his fame, and occasional absences for further reconstructive chirurgery.

My mate (in the Australian sense, not the animal pairing sense) is the Editor of the New Zealand HPV Newsletter, and further shares with Dr Lowing a misplaced enthusiasm for those front wheel drive bikes where the bottom bracket is allowed to waggle about along with the handlebars and front forks. He's just bought a lathe, and needs to know how to work it. My (Australian) mate that is, not old Lowing. Lowing needs to get on with his dissertation on Intellectual Law. And I need to get on with Chapter 2. And the mooning young man on top of the car needs to grow a new head, this time with a brain in it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


A broken trike, yesterday

Came a phone call this morning. It was Sam. I knew it was Sam because I could only understand one in twenty of the words uttered: Sam is a Scotsman, Scottish, from Scotlnad and very probably wears the McEachern Tartan but very probably doesn't wear it sitting next to the Queen and you very probably can't google Images of him sitting there. - Not that I am in any way suggesting anyone should google Images and try to find pictures of kilted Sctosmen sitting next to the Queen. Why can't I spell Scotlnad? Or Sctosmen?
Sam's trike had broken. We need a discussion of aluminium and whether it is ever a suitable material for making recumbent trikes out of, and I imagine this discussion will become very heated because it's a bit like being able to spell Scotsmen. There are people who can spell Aluminium. There are also Americans. - And in passing, there is a worrying tendency for the smart young journalists who people the airwaves here to adopt Americanisms and I have heard 'nine through five' as if there were sentient being who might tolerate such a phrase, and I have also heard 'A through Zee' and if I hear it again I will actually kill myself. My American friends sometimes ask me why the Arab world hates them and in fact it is because they say Missile as if it were a Catholic devotional service book and the Arabs - well, the devout ones - are all worried lest that is what America is aiming at them. If they knew it was only Missiles they wouldn't be nearly so bothered. Arabs are accustomed to Missiles. - D'you know, I think I ought to get back On Topic lest someone sidle up to me with a rucksac on and someone else blow an entirely innocent bus queue to bits in a deeply committed act of incomprehensible self-sacrifice.

Sam's trike was built locally by a friend of both of us and it handled superbly. But it was made of aluminium. And it sort of - well - snapped. It would not be the first aluminium frame I have seen that snapped. I imagine it is not an entirely unfamiliar theme to anyone in the BHPC. But there is this myth about aluminium and light weight which since aluminium is about three times as light as steel is understandable, but it is also three times less stiff than steel and sometimes basic arithmetic tells us stuff that - well anyway I'm not here to do a sermon because someone might sidle up to me with a rucksac on.

Sam's trike had broken with Sam's companion on board and she hadn't enjoyed it and I have a MIG welder. You can weld aluminium with a mig welder (clue: argon) but only if it's powerful enough and mine isn't - I've tried - so the conversation revolved around using all the trike's expensive components on a steel replacement frame; or building a back-to-back tandem trike; or building a tandem Periscope idea thing that I've nicked off Marec Hase. (We saw two of these when first we came to New Zealand, each being ridden by a German, each with a baby German on the front.) We all like the idea of being able to talk to one another on rides, and a disadvantage here on long empty roads is that if you ride side-by-side, there are people who feel compelled to drive an inch from your handlebars and hoot furiously because they aren't aware that this is legal. Something tells them it isn't. And simultaneously tells them that they are temporarily appointed Guardians of the Highway with especial responsibility for Cyclist Discipline (Single File Only).

Marec Hase's Periscope. Pino, probably, this one.

Either idea - back-to-back or Periscope - allows for conversation. A 'conventional' recumbent tandem couple encountered in Murwillumbah (there is such a place, but it is in Australia) declared that they needed headphones to be heard. I cannot go into whether or not there was any benefit in their hearing one another because I already have Scotland America and the entire Middle East after my blood - oh, okay then - nothing ever said by an Australian was ever worth hearing. But you already knew that. It's why Sherri's voice is so enormous. - er - where were we? -

Sam had also brought with him his Rebel trike, a machine built here and a whisker under a metre wide which is probably to do with New Zealand laws about what does and doesn't constitute a 'bicycle'. (You aren't allowed a sidecar on a bicycle. I would love to research the rationale for such a law.) But we tried putting two small child's chairs next to one another and found that a recumbent sociable trike would be very sociable indeed, and should Her Majesty come over and choose to ride with Sam in his native garb, he would need to keep a very careful eye on the wind direction.

Sam has some experience of sitting on tandems, though not with the Queen, and said we'd need strong wheels and strong bottom bracket axles. And I, by inference, started to get all worried about whether 12mm sub axles and 36-spoke 406 wheels are up to a recumbent back-to-back tandem. I fancy they might not be, but in my case N = 0 and I fancy statistically one might with advantage require a greater sample to make a decision.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rain bike

It is raining. It rained yesterday, and the day before that, and before that; indeed it has rained for forty days and forty nights. Certainly feels like it. Had Noah gone into his garden to pick up fallen grapefruits - I'm extrapolating - he'd have worn wellies because the water would have oozed out of the soil over the top of his toes.

Accordingly I have not been riding my recumbents because they are all wusses. (I believe that is the term. One endeavours to keep up-to-date with these neologisms, though one can hardly claim that 'wuss' is a particularly refulgent term. - Refulgent - now there's a word that shouldn't be allowed to fall into desuetude.) - My recumbents don't like rain because they each possess 150 inches of chain and I am one of those glorious obsessives who boil up chains in candlewax because oil + road dust = lapping compound. Because I am obsessive at least one of my waxed chains has 4,000 miles on it and no measureable wear. But candlewax isn't very good at rain repulsion, is the truth, and waxing chains is - well, you insert an appropriate neologism.

To effect the purchase of two litres of milk I have been riding my Rain Bike. Milk deliveries here ceased when Corporate Executives learnt it was cheaper to have millions of plastic two-litre milk containers bobbing up and down in the middle of the Pacific Gyre than to wash and re-use glass milk bottles. This is called Progress, which Corporate Executives assure us you can't stop. Among car drivers glass bottles remain de rigeur for beer, and after contentedly swigging most of the beer they cast the bottles out of their passenger windows where they turn into punctures. Once I saw a drunken possum, sitting happily at the side of the road licking his paws next to an unbroken beer bottle. He was most comical. We're supposed to kill possums but I can't ever persuade myself to. It'd be like killing a teddy bear. I daresay your average New Zealander would classify me as a wuss.

To buy milk I have to cycle into Motueka and this involves 8 glorious miles up the west bank of the Motueka River and 7 glorious miles back along the other side to Motueka town, and then 2 rather inglorious urban miles, dodging shattered brown glass, back over the Motueka Bridge. The Bridge is actually only a quarter of a mile from our house and one could nip in and out in half an hour if the Motueka Valley wasn't so lovely to ride. - One could probably obtain the milk for nothing if one could cycle with a pail because there are cows all over the place, each producing (according to a new report by Fonterra, a NZ company that trades in milk) 0.94 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per kg of liquid milk. - Exam question: Discuss the morality of not being a vegan. -

My rain bike came off the Dump and cost me $40 which is sixteen pounds in civilised coinage. I bought it for the bits because it has drum Sachs brakes front and rear and I also bought a Raleigh Sports - also a lady's model and also for $40 - because that had Sturmey Archer drum brakes front and rear, but then I noticed that both were intact except for air in their tyres and moreover both of them had chain cases. And on the back of their mudguards there were little stickers that said 'Kersten Tweewielers' and 'Van Megen Tweewielers Willemsweg 98 Tel. 565224 Nijmegen' and I had to keep them exactly as they were to remind me of going Abroad to the Continong where people made exotic sounds with their mouths that sounded very like speech but couldn't have been because it wasn't English, and where there were fabulous little cafes where you could sit and drink cold lager that tasted Foreign and you could buy schnitzel that tasted superb until someone told you how veal is reared. - Exam question: Discuss the morality etc. and we're back to milk production again.

The Dump had these two ladies' bikes, one large and one small, and each had 3 hub gears which are fine for the Motueka valley road which is flat but must have been taxing to a pair of Dutch lesbians who emigrated from the flat lands of Holland, I deduce, to the hilly country of New Zealand. Because otherwise they wouldn't have taken them to the Dump.

My Rain Bike

Anyway now I have two bicycles that don't get their chains waxed. They get liberally soused in oil. And the oil picks up no abrasive road dust because the chains are inside these cases and my trouser-legs pick up no oil, actually because they're safely tucked up inside my wellies when I ride my Rain Bike, and my wife rides her Rain Bike to Motueka secure in the knowledge that nobody'll nick it from outside the surgery because what fifteen-year-old would want a Raleigh Sport with three gears and drum brakes and a chaincase?

However, you are right. That is, actually, the uncomfortablest saddle in the entire world. I just wish I was as clever as Clemens Bucher.

Clemens Bucher's Rain Bike, nicked from

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wheel discs

In between discussing how best to transport his stone otter collection on moving house, Clive Sleath once told me that he used foam for wheel discs. We will not enter into a discussion of Clive Sleath's sanity - this is the Internet, after all, where innocent children roam - but it always struck me that foam would be an excellent wheel disc and so it proved until I left a bike leaning against a pleasant wayside oak in the sun and the air inside all the little closed cells expanded and the foam became all mountainous and started rubbing against various frame parts and whatnot.

Corriboard is the stuff for wheel discs: like foam it is free: all you need is some pre-loved estate agents' signs. - The signs are pre-loved, not the estate agents. We will not enter into a discussion of estate agents etc etc etc though they don't collect stone otters as far as I'm aware, nor three-foot model hydroplanes a small steam traction engine a home-made milling machine a very small wind-tunnel and three lathes. (Quite an interesting place, was Clive Sleath's garage.) 3mm thick corriboard is good for 406 wheels, though you might manage 4mm thick for the flat side of a dished 700c rear wheel and not need to cut out a slice of cake. (This may become clearer later, depending on how eloquent I'm feeling this morning.)

My pre-loved estate agents' signs have bullet holes in them. These are real bullet holes and not those foolish stick-on things that adorn Saunders' wife's car (whatever for? Conversation starter? 'I see you have cheap imitation bullet-hole stickers amusingly placed on your car. Why, pray? Do tell') and I know they're real because I stole them off the rifle range, where some keen-eyed lad had arrived to sight in his rifle and then discovered he had nothing to shoot at. Apparently this is very common. Ross Fitzsimmons, who is a keen rifleman, once told me that 'you're not a real hunter until you get to the hut and find you've forgotten the bolt of your rifle.' (Apologies to all English people reading this, since I'm aware that everyone in England now eschews such things as rifles. Which fact pleases me inordinately because they're all out there busily buying A Certain Book to read up on catapults, bless them.) - Along comes a hunter in his Ute and unloads all his shooting gear. Hunters all have Utes. Wild animals are going to be perfectly safe when the oil crisis comes, because hunters cannot function without a Ute. - It is an Australian word, and means Large Bulbous Ugly Japanese Pick-up Truck. - Anyway then he finds he hasn't got a target, so back down the road, shortly to reappear with an estate agent's sign. He expresses his love for this sign with his rifle, and then drives off again leaving the sign several Coke cans and a fag packet, and all his empty cartridges which I pick up and carry off home so that John can indulge in Trench Art. You can still buy solder in New Zealand.

Early Learning Centre Buyers have thus far not made John any approaches. In passing, his violin teacher is puzzlingly optimistic if she imagines he is going to practice that atonal A Thomas piece she gave him last week. It's horrible. Really, truly horrible. I have this theory about why A Thomas isn't as famous as Bach, but we won't go into it right now.

Okay: what you need is Apparatus, and the special thing for wheeldisc making is a stick with a nail in it. More elegant tools have been made, some by chimpanzees, but a stick with a nail is all you need for corriboard. For a 406 wheel, drill another hole 198.5mm from the nail and into it screw one of those square-headed screws that are all the rage with builders. File the tip of this screw so that it's as sharp as a scalpel. Whack the nail right through the stick, and screw the scalpel far enough to protrude 2mm. Spread the estate agent sign on the carpet, bonk the nail through it where you propose the middle of the disc will be, and if the scalpel-screw is sharp enough, it cuts a perfect circle in one quick sweep. Try cutting it with scissors and it'll take half an hour and still be a bit wonky.

I always try cutting the middle hole in the same way - same diameter as the centre of the hub, natch - but it never works and I always resort to a Dremel. Next, pair of scissors, and cut a radius across the diagonal of the corriboard grain. This theoretically prevents buckling. Then cut out a 'slice of cake' to turn the thing into a cone. You cut another radius about 3/4 of an inch away - I did measure this, and cunningly wrote it on a bit of paper but I mislaid it because I am incompetent, but it was either 18 or 23 mm (can't remember which) at the circumference - and tug the two edges together to make your cone. Fix with duck tape. Do not spell this duct tape, which is wrong. You don't get duct cotton. (I state this to annoy all who hold the contrary view.)

Now apply to the wheel, and using a Phillips screwdriver whack in nine equidistant holes about an inch in from the circumference, and use 6mm nylon nuts and bolts to hold it to the identical wheel disc on t'other side. And then all you need to finish the job is to apply a bandage to your hand where you impaled it making the matching holes. A minor irritant is having to undo all the nylon bolts looking for the valve. Cleverly made holes and flaps always fail and eventually make click-click-click noises. Another minor irritant is trying to cut out a hole in the corriboard to get your wheel magnet close enough to the sensor for the computer to work. Another minor irritant is that it does, actually, slightly swell in the sun. Another minor irritant is that I keep increasing the number of minor irritants, wherefore I shall now stop.

Monday, June 1, 2009


This morning it was Very Cold which I'm aware is a difficult concept on a hot June morning in Coalbrookdale and Ruislip, but icicles stood as stalagmites under the dripping garden taps in Riwaka and our kettle stood in a flood of water on the kitchen bench. Our kettle is a Breville Platinum Model SK50S, Engineered in Australia by Breville Manufactured in China to Our Exact Specifications, all of which I'm sure Breville are happy and contented for you to know because they stamped it on its base. The puddle of water it stood in had leaked out from a small crack which I am equally sure Breville do not want you to know, though they don't need to write it on the base because after a while you'll spot it for yourself. Are Breville a bunch of marketing idiots? Are they in fact some kind of subdivision of the Black and Decker Stupid Design Dept.? What goes through the corporate executive's mind of when its Board of Directors decides to employ an Engineer to Exactly Specify how to make a kettle? Have kettles not been made, with some success, in the past? What exactly is lacking in prior kettle design that requires Australian Engineers to add their tuppeny ha'p'orth of Specification to be dictated to a kettle factory somewhere in China? Is the Modern Kitchen Occupant no longer able to function a kettle without a transparent section at the side to facilitate the assessment of how full it might be? Can't we just take the *ucking lid off? And given the likely differential expansion of plastic and stainless steel, what kind of engineer would specify their juxtaposition in a container that has - let us remind Breville - as its primary aims both to be water-tight and to vary its temperature from 0 degrees to 100 degrees? Note to the Membership: do not buy a Breville kettle. They're crap.

All of which could be a perfectly innocent rant but for the fact that it reminds us of one of the sadly late Steve Donaldson's favourite principles: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And this leads me back to the subject in hand. Some years ago a chap called Rob Wallace built a machine called Red October, still extant and owned by Paul Dunlop, but finding that it was (in the pithy words, I think, of gNick) 'like wrestling with a gorilla in a sauna' and not conducive to mild commuting, it sort of got retired.

One of these is Red October

Therefore I am now going to focus on wheel discs which can be had for free up at the rifle range and which provide a small advantage over spokes if you get um design right. This fairings game is all very well while you're making one, but, face-a-fact (as my Hungarian father-in-law merrily said), a wheel disc is altogether less stressful. And wheeldiscs, too, can be made of corriboard.

Tomorrow, cried Toad.