Thursday, July 23, 2009

Behold! a bra

At the considerable risk of Larrington reverting to a view of what I am bonkers in, behold, I shall now state that I have taken to wearing a bra.

This is not the sort of admission one normally makes unless one is the late Julia (formerly Jim) Wiggins, who rode a Kingcycle and shot Turkish recurve bows and erected a camera obscura from the roof of her (formerly his) Berkeley 3-wheel car and took to wearing high heels and, progressively, other items of effeminata, and I daresay young Carol Hague will now wake up rather abruptly because she's always alert, I find, to mild eccentricities such as public transvestitism. Jim Wiggins was an eccentric right from the beginning, incorrectly imagining the members of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries would prefer to see the Annual Shoot projected, up-side down, in his passenger seat. In fact he discovered that most of us found it altogether more convenient to stand outside in the August sunshine and watch the real thing, upright. Jim rather cunningly tricked the doctors at the private hospital in Leicester into thinking he wasn't on heart medication, whereupon they performed his desired operation and turned him into a her, but unfortunately his heart, deprived of its drugs, couldn't cope and he - I mean, she - died, admittedly content, a fortnight later. (His Kingcycle, should anyone start getting all acquisitive, had already been stolen.)

I have taken to wearing a bra as a result of retail mismanagement and my wife's mendacity. I used to have one of those - er - wossname - Trek thingies that you stick on your head, a sort of hat with the skullcap missing that makes you think a Jewish person from Golders Green visited the shop with a pair of scissors just before you got there and nicked the crown for his Saturday's devotions. - Headband. - A headband, that's the word I was groping for. I got cold ears so bought a Trek headband and my wife thought it so excellent a garment that she nicked it. I went and bought another headband. She lost the first and nicked the second. She denies losing the first because she is a Big Liar, and she denies nicking the second because she is Another Big Liar.
It still being cold I went to the bike shop and behold! no headbands. The sports shop yielded big thick furry headbands such as won't go under helmets, and in New Zealand helmets are mandatory by law. (This is because the politicians here believe head injuries among cyclists are frequent. Head injuries among motorists are statistically more frequent but motorists do not have to wear helmets because politicians drive cars and wouldn't be seen dead in a car with a bicycle crash helmet on. Hey! A humorous joke has just occurred to me involving the phrase 'wouldn't be seen dead' but I will not trouble the Internette with it because I'm kind.) I went to see Jim and behold! even more No Headbands. Jim runs the bike shop in Richmond and also runs Cycling Nelson which is all about racing and whatnot, and in defiance of the UCI he encourages recumbents at all Cycling Nelson events, which is a bit of a bugg - a bit of a nuisance because now there's no excuse to avoid training.

So then it went through my mind that since sawn-off socks, extracted from the bin after my wife has been through John's washing, make convenient ankle warmers, perhaps there was a garment that might make a convenient ear-warmer.
I went to a certain bedroom in search of a suitable garment and behold! there was only a single pixel of carpet to be seen. On the floor of this bedroom, and to avoid embarrassment I shall not say whose bedroom it was, I found the following:
1. A piano score of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor (sic.) Dreamcoat.
2. A pile of clothing.
3. A school bag.
4. Another pile of clothing.
5. Spillage from a bag of clothing. (Hasn't she got a wardrobe?)
6. Another schoolbag.
7. A Harry Potter DVD.
8. A French folder.
9. A tin containing 22 cassette tapes.
10. A maths textbook.
11. Another pile of clothing.
12. A paperback: Popular Card Games.
13. 2 loudspeakers.
14. Another French folder.
15. An office chair with a basket of washing on top.
16. A plastic bag, containing clothing.
17. A graph of a parabola.
18. A hardback: Pride and Prejudice.
19. A bag of miscellaneous paper shapes.
20. A chessboard with two brown sandals in the middle of it.
22. Half a history essay.
23. A plastic bag of university prospectuses.
24. A digital camera.
25. An English exercise book.
26. A physics exercise book.
27. A lunchbox, containing last week's wrappers.
28. Another loudspeaker.
29. A pencil, pen and calculator.
30. A DVD player.
31. A loudspeaker attached to the bedpost with the string from a kitbag, the kitbag still in situ.
32. A straw hat and a resuscitation doll.
33. A Fawlty Towers DVD.
34. A used chocolate cake plate.
And - handy to have teenage daughters in the family - I found a - well, a garment. Which garment, after suitable modification with scissors and thread, does not betray its origins when I cycle up the Mot Valley with it wrapped round m'lug'oles.

An anyonymised cyclist wearing 1. a brown paper bag and 2. a bra round his ears.

You may depend that I have no intention of disclosing any of this to anyone at all. Altogether too many BHPC members would howl jubilant derision. But at least there is a reduced likelihood that my wife will nick it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stub axles

One bad week for diamond-frames, one good week for recumbent builders. I have been to the Dump, and there must have been forty bike frames and their concomitant bits and pieces cast aside by the unworthy souls who once possessed them. I confiscated a tiny BMX frame which appeared to have relatively sound front forks, an Australian racing bike of ghastly mien with 27 inch wheels which I was delighted subsequently to find weighed in at 22.5 lbs, and eight wheels. The racing bike was branded Ricardo, of which I have have never heard, but it has a frame sporting a seamless chromoly sticker and anyway with a name like that my ego was unable to resist it. Among the wheels was a crippled Campag 700c with an aero rim which reverence forced me to save, and which, duly straightened and fitted with a widened rear hub has the potential to become a stiff rear wheel for a trike or something that I haven't yet thought of. And I also found what I was really looking for, which was a rubbishy old MTB front wheel with a fat alloy hub.

If alloy hubs are big enough, and this sometimes applies to MTB hubs, you can unbuild them and knock the cups out and then machine 28mm recesses into the sides and fit 6001 bearings. If there's sufficient meat to bore at least a 16mm hole through the middle for a spacer it allows for 12mm stub axles, which are useful in so many applications from trikes to trailers that I need not rehearse them. Had I done my sums and measured everything beforehand I would have chickened out because when you've machined these recesses you find there's precious little metal inside of the flange, but one of my trikes, which has just such front wheels, has been around for 3,000 miles and gives me confidence.

Elderly wheels from the Dump have to be dismantled with care in New Zealand. You'd be amazed at how many 700c 4-cross wheels there are until you sneak onto the WISIL site!.asp and discover that the spoke length is that of redundant 27 inch 3-cross wheels. At tenpence each (we cheapskates always used galvanized) and with - erm - 28 machines then a stash of spare spokes is a sound investment.

Unfortunately it sometimes rains here - 'tis doing right now - and rain + wheels = chemical welding. When the spoke key really won't turn, a single drop of diesel oil on the outer end and then ten seconds of small propane flame applied to the nipple, is generally enough to make the oil bubble and seep into the thread whereupon the spoke concedes defeat.
Removing the axle and cups is straightforward but locating the hub in the 3-jaw isn't. It is an axiom of Clive Sleath and W.C.O. Pettingill and everyone else with a lathe that if you take something out of a chuck and reverse it, the other end is guaranteed to be out of true. Guaranteed. And if you just nip the flanges, which is all there is to nip in hubbery, then even the 4-jaw is useless because the bit you can clock won't resemble the bit that you're about to machine. The problem is alleviated with a steady, but even so the trick is to machine the other end's recess slightly over-sized, and glue the bearings in with Loctite 660. When nipped with the bolt, the theory is the bearings find one another's parallelism.

Oh, and Mr and Mrs Loctite, since I have just very generously given you a gratuitous advert, I'm happy to accept any free samples you care to pass my way.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


No work on Sam's trike for a week because we have been on hols in a town called Wanaka, 1,000 kms to get there and 1,000 kms to get home which added 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and which I'm 'fraid is one of the reasons why every climate scientist on the planet (other than the half-dozen retained by Exxon) is in a tizz with the world's politicians. The latter seem mesmerised by the world's economists who despite the year's revelations earnestly continue to tell us all that you can have Economic Growth forever. Or that the economy is a perpetual motion machine. Or something.

Everything you need to know about Wanaka is contained in the two words 'no bookshop'. There are four ski shops and five tourist shops and a million holiday homes and a supermarket that is empty until the ski fields close whereafter it is jammed with approximately equal numbers of young adults and security staff.

We have been skiing. My wife, that is, and the children. I have yet to grasp the attraction of standing on two planks of wood at the top of a slippery mountain and accelerating at up to 16.08 feet per second per second (depending on slope) with no brakes whatever. The latest fashion is snow-boarding, Sam the Scotchman assures me, which is to stand on a single plank about the size of a wardrobe door, which must even further limit one's prospect of a controlled stop. One cannot apply excess toe-in, balanced on a door.

I did not ski, but rather cycled and on Monday a Spitfire pilot put on an aerial display for me and on Wednesday there was a rather agreeable earthquake which for a minute made the cottage sway as if it were a small dinghy splashing around in the surf, and on Friday I found a Historic Site on the Cardrona road. There are brown road signs in New Zealand that say Historic Site on them and when you're on a bike you stop and have a look, and on this occasion I found that Robert Studholme tended a tree nursery opposite here. It was established in 1879 and the last trees were felled about 1960. (I like history. I was so excited I copied it down.)

Now because you happen to know that I am a persistent liar you are going to say that I am fibbing on all three counts but the first two are on Ye Olde Internette so they must be true

and the last one isn't so you'll just have to cycle up the Cardrona road yourself and see.

The kettle in the cottage, if this is of interest, was a Breville Model SK60B and it leaked so badly that the base stood on a folded towel. The base bore the printed message Please note that some condensed moisture may gather on the base after the kettle has boiled. This is part of the normal workings of the kettle and does not indicate a fault with the product. As the children, weeping with laughter said, 'Yeah, right.'

On the way there we stayed with Mr Knight and he took us to a secret place he has researched where 14 steam engines were tipped into a river bank to stop the water undermining the railway and I'm not going to tell you where it is because I'm cruel, and on the way back we also stopped with Mr Knight where my children asked his children to say 'Ni' whereupon they told them that they were the Knights who say Ni which caused much delight among the cognoscenti and total bafflement to everyone else.

Mr Knight guided us through the mysteries of the Tour because he has a television and knows what's going on and we don't, and I admired his latest Italian racer, a fully-Campag equipped Coppi, and I am forbidden to broadcast how many bicycles he now owns for fear of alerting his wife. All his bicycles are pristine concours specimens and all of them are red, so he occasionally smuggles new ones in when she isn't paying attention. Mrs Knight told us of the struggles she has learning Maori, where one Maori teacher instructs exact pronunciation and a later Maori teacher disputes the pronunciation telling her there's no point learning it if you get the pronunciation wrong which I fear had us all saying 'Yeah, right' again. One might start by inviting the two Maori teachers to travel to England and ask natives of, say, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Huddersfield, King's Lynn and Brixton to pronounce - well, anything at all actually - and then discuss which is 'correct' English. Funnily enough I have found several copies of Simeon Potter's Our Language in New Zealand bookshops where I never found a single copy in England.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Munted trike

Munting is a verb. - Have we discussed this? - I munt, you munt, he she or it munts. Munto, muntas, muntat as Nellie would have it. Nellie stood in front of a blackboard when I was eleven and waved - well, flapped - her arms about and largely failed to teach me Latin. Latin was not my forte. Burning holes in Mitchell's satchell was my forte. Mitchell sat in front of me - Middleton, Mitchell - it was that sort of school - and a couple of minutes was all that was required with a modest lens such as you might find in your blazer pocket to get the pleasant fumes of burning leather into the atmosphere, and when that palled, it was even quicker to get Mitchell to jump off his chair when the lens was focussed on his ankle. (You had to burn through his sock to get at his ankle.) This wasn't Mitchell who became a judge. This was the other Mitchell, David Mitchell, whose fate (other than having a perforated ankle) remains unknown, at least to me. Mitchell who became a judge became a judge - we sort of deduced that - and forgets my birthday even though he ceaselessly reminds me that his is the 1st of May.

But munting is a New Zealand verb, and a jolly useful one too. I don't know how I managed all these years in a workshop without recourse to it. Yesterday I munted my hand, and it bled all over the place.

You can only do so much in rebuilding a munted trike frame without removing ucky oily bits with only your fingers and thumbs pincing together and all your other fingers sticking delicately out in the manner used when having tea with the Queen. (Of course I know about these things. Whenever Her Majesty phones me it is to ask when I'm coming back.) When I came to pull bits off Sam's trike, wondering why he hadn't cleaned all the ucky oily bits for me, a Horrid Revelation occurred. Lots of us have used track rod ends as the bearings for bicycle kingpins starting with faux Dursley Pedersens and ending with recumbent trikes. We normally put the thing together, ride, and forget about the bearings reassuring ourselves that any resultant floppiness is normal wear.
How wrong we are.

Off came the right wheel on its stub axle, and one of the track-rod-end-kingpin-bearings was all loose and rattly. I examined it. At once it was apparent that the bronze ring on one side was raised. Only on the top side, of course. If you twist the spherical bit you can see that within the bearing there is a division between the top retaining bronze ring and the bottom, so applying a constant jolting force, such as is applied by roads, is going to knock one of these bronze retaining rings out of where it's been mechanically peened in place. Here's a pretty drawing:

So what to do becomes a Big Problem, because replacing it with another track rod end is - well, you know what it is.

And therefore Sam is going to have to wait for me to make totally new new kingpins and stub axles, dammit. And since Susie munted her window this morning, he's going to have to wait even longer.