Monday, May 28, 2007

Apollogy - painted!

Ok the colour is on and despite the not so good photograph I'm pretty happy with the results.


Must be patient now while the paint hardens before adding as much clearcoat as I can to keep it shiny. I am currently experimenting with decal designs identifying the APOLLOgy branding - so that should keep me distracted long enough to let the paint dry.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Royal National Park - Lady Carrington drive Ride

The Royal National Park in southern Sydney (or northern Wollongong) is the second oldest national park in the world and it makes for some pretty fine riding. I decided to catch the train up from Wollongong and ride into the park from Heathcote, scoot along Lady Carrington drive and follow Lawrence Hargreave drive and the coastal cycleway back to home to Wollongong. The first part of this ride was a modifcation of the trip found in Bruce Ashley's Cycling Around Sydney and it's a pretty popular place to ride.

After catching the 7.48am train to Waterfall and changing for Heathcote, I got on the bike at 9.15am and headed off down the management trails to Farnell Ave and the entrance to the park. Met up with a few other riders who helped me out with directions. The steep descent down to Audley was great if a little cold and some guys I met rider out recommended that I leave my gloves on.
Lady Carrington drive starts at Audley and is closed to cars - only bikes and walkers are allowed and you follow the Hacking River south through a range of flora - quite a few red cedars. At one point, hurtling along I startled and was startled by a Lyre Bird running across the track in front of me. To9o slow for the camera unfrotunately but it was only the second Lyre Bird I've ever seen in the wild.

I stopped for a break and some dates at the end of Lady Carrington Drive were it joins the Lady Wakehurst Drive before climbing (slowly) up out of the park. It was still fairly early and only a few motorcyclists roared by. The southern end of the park is pretty popular as a tourist drive and can be tricky in places for cycling.
Stopped for a well earned coffee and energy drink at the Otford Pantry before heading down Lawrence Hargreave Drive and the coastal cycleway from Austinmer to Wollongong. The whole route is on bikely and I recommend it

Monday, May 14, 2007


Browsing the web, as you do, and perving on bike porn, I found an example of how I'm hoping the APOLLOgy project will turn out, (well sort of) at Pereira Cycles.

This particular bike can be seen from many different angles here and is described as a French Bordeaux touring bike in the spirit of Alex Singer and Rene Herse. Love the details - particularly the integration of the lighting system. Nice. The APOLLOgy is more Chianti!

While mentioning Rene Herse, the Chainring blog has an enviable tale and pictures of a junkshop gem Rene Herse found in Australia. Lucky....

Riding around the lake

Had a chance for a ride this afternoon so decided to ride a loop around Lake Illawarra from home on the Montari. It was a good ride, uneventful except for a small problem with a dog and its owner at the boat ramp at Port Kembla. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable excursion. Some low cloud, mild temperature and no breeze to speak of.

While most of the ride is on quieter backroads or offroad cycleways, there are a few lengthy sections of high (and fast) traffic along the Southern Freeway north of Albion Park Rail and the Princes Highway. Both fast roads have a mixture of on and off road cycleways, however the quality and predictability of them is a problem. Many of the offroad cycleways are works in progress, poorly signposted and difficult to decipher from actual footpath. This confusion creates problems in that the path sometimes just end and you find yourself bunnyhopping back into the traffic lane. Don't get me wrong, the cycling infrastructure around here is great, and it's getting better all of the time, however the incomplete nature of a lot of it is frustrating and potentially dangerous. Recent research is suggesting that the most dangerous interface for cyclists is when they are joining or re-joining traffic and at intersections generally. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) the road designers continue to just dump cyclists back into the flow without any warning when their construction budget runs out. In the end I judged it safer to remain on the road and cycle predictably and defensively than to run the gammut of incomplete pathways.
Despite these observations I felt pretty good with the ride, and made sure to stop and smell the roses (or rotting seaweed). The 50k loop took a leisurely 2 and a half hours of riding time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Where's this all headed?

So the big ride 2007 was great and on the ride I get the taste for doing bigger and better rides. On the drive home to Wollongong I start to think about my old bike up on the shed covered in dust and rust and get sentimental about it. Somewhere between Raymond Terrace and the F3 I have this really great idea to get it back into service. Make it my training bike, do some long rides.

I'm thinking at this point of just stripping it down, giving it a clean, a lube and put it back together again. A good plan and a nice project to while away some hours during the semester break from uni.

The project starts, stripping it is easy everything comes away nice and easy and the cleansing commences. While polishing rust off the chrome (with diet cola and aluminium foil) the mind is allowed to wander and my plans for the bike begin to grow. Having been looking at websites like Rivendell, Vanilla Bicycles, Pereira Cycles and other assorted bike porn like Peter White's website, I'm beginning to think about custom frames and fancy Japanese and German parts and begin to mentally improve the aesthetic of the bike with some bright lights, leather saddle and hammered fenders. I happen across some frame building resources, like Little Fish Bicycles and the frame builders forum and decide that I really should try my hand at customising the frame - just a few H2O bosses and cable guides.

Not ever having brazed before I commence a steep learning curve. There's heaps of material on the web but brazing is a tactile skill and its not easy to learn from a book, I complicated things a bit by choosing to use a Bernzomatic MAPP gas torch which was cheaper and easier to get a hold of than a full oxyacetylene rig. There has been plenty of discussion around MAPP gas for frame building on the various frame builders lists which was ultimately helpful but many builders questioned its heat generating properties. Not knowing any better, my first few attempts failed because thinking MAPP was colder I would overheat the metal and boil off the flux cooking the joints and leaving me with a black lumpy mess. I persevered and eventually I get some successful joints. The more I practise the better they get.

The next challenge was finding an accessible source of brazeons. If your in Europe or the States its pretty straightforward, but the closest I could find was in Melbourne at St Kilda Cycles. Still I was going to end up paying more for postage than for the bits themselves and I was impatient to get welding. Ironically after giving up on the web and resorting to the phone book, I found a source of brazeons at Hillbrick Racing in Minto which is literally 10 minutes from where I work, so $20 later we're cooking with MAPP gas. I probably should have spent more time learning and practising, but the end results not too bad and I now make a solid braze with good penetration and a nice shoreline.

Tonight, after a couple of weeks of filing and sanding I laid on the primer (6 coats), so that the Apollo now looks like a lemon. The basic frame now has two rack mounts on the seat stays, two cable guides on the top tube and 3 sets of water bottle bosses. The new bits are visible in the photo and look a lot better with primer on them than I though they would!

I'm planning to finish it off in a burgundy red, similar to its original colour and have renamed it the "APOLLOgy" in deference to my brazing skills and by way of atonement to the original builders of the frame.

I have started a list of stuff I want for the bike, but I must save my pennies for a while so I'll be reassembling with most of the original parts where serviceable and slowly build it up from there. The big priorities for new stuff are a Brooks B17 Special saddle and a Schmidt dynamo lighting system so I can ride comfortably in the dark.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Digression, but why cycling?

Long story, my father and grandfather used to run a newsagent's in Newcastle and maintained a fleet of bikes for the paper boys to make deliveries on. Nothing too special but hard working porteur style bikes with big front racks for carrying the loads, leather saddles, (one had a board in the frame triangle advertising tobacco). I remember being very young and wanting to ride that bike and even though the top tube was above my head I would occasionally scoot around on it when no-one was looking.

Grandad showed me how to repair punctures with vulcanising patches and would let me hold
tools and help repair them. I enjoyed getting dirty and learning to use a spanner.

I read a lot as a kid and would often visit my local library and once I had saved up and got my Speedwell, I'd ride to the library and more often than not borrow books on bicycles. These books had a big influence on me.

A couple of my favorites were "Richard's Bicycle Book" by Richard Ballentine, and Robin Adshead's "Bikepacking for beginners" which informed my purchase of the Apollo III.

Ballentine's book is a classic and I still enjoy reading through bits. It takes me back. I found/find the maintenance section very useful and he also had good advice about dogs and avoiding collisions. Most of all I was apalled at his account of the 1972 destruction of bicycles in Paris by riot police. My humble Speedwell meant alot to me and someone smashing it up was unthinkable.

Adshead's Bikepacking was something altogether different and I guess philosophically the two authors couldn't really be further apart. Ballentine was a bohemian idealist while Adshead, an ex Gurhka was more conservative and pragmatic. Nevertheless they were united in my mind as they both loved cycling, and promoted it in a way that involved your entire lifestyle.

Robin Adshead detailed construction and fettling of his beautiful custom Jack Taylor touring bike. Even though it was reproduced in black and white photographs I knew that this was the style of bike for me. Adshead, introduced me to fenders, padded handlebars and the formula for gearing calculations that would inform my preference for bikes for the next 30 or so years.

So, I'm a little bit retro, maybe even a bit indiosyncratic. I like lugs and fenders, leather saddles a-and a comfortable trail. Exploring the web and finding the likes of Rivendell Bike Works, Heron and many others, means I'm not alone.

Big Ride 2007 pt 1

I'd never been on a big ride before, so was very excited about it. Training rides around Wollongong lifted from and from the IBUGs Tour de Illawarra were great and slowly I was getting fitter, riding farther and faster.

One of the more notable training rides was up in the Dharawal Nature Conservation area, a popular spot for mountain bikers. I'd chosen a route - about 32km of well maintained track riding down along O'Hares creek and back up to the plateau. Looked promising and I planned my Saturday morning around it. Comes the morning, the forecast is for high to extreme temperatures but I ignore the weather reports reasoning that I'd only be out an hour or two, had plenty of water and I was riding along a creek.

So all was going well until I down into the gorge and past the mostly dry creek and start climbing back up to the plateau. The track became very sandy or alternatively very rocky but mostly very steep and I frequently had the resort to shouldering the bike. After a while of this and with the temperature rising dramatically as the morning wore on, I realised that one of the water bottles was missing from its carrier and the other one was very nearly empty. Big Oops!

I calculated that I was about 8km from the car (and water) but it seemed a hell of a lot further. I had no mobile coverage and no idea where the full bidon was so I had little choice but to push on in the growing heat and my rising panic. It seems a bit silly now, reflecting on it, from the comfort of my office, just how scared I was.

I eventually made it, taking it slowly stopping in the shade as much as possible, riding slowly but all the while it was getting hotter and I was seriously worried and thirsty and sunburnt and heat stressed by the time I got to the car. The temperature topped out at C 43 degrees.

The Big Ride itself was terrific despite some very hot conditions but I reckoned I had trained for it. The Avanti, even with knobblies, was great to ride and could spin up the hills without any problems. Sure it wasn't as fleet as some bikes on the ride but then neither was I. The important thing was that I was riding again and getting ideas about riding further.


Story is...I used to cycle a lot, ever since I saved up from my paper round when I was eight and finally convinced my mum that I wouldn't die under the wheels of a truck when I became the proud owner of a Speedwell Mustang Dragster with a Sturmey Archer 5 speed.

I loved it! The freedom, the speed, the sights, the hours in the garage tinkering (breaking), modifying and fixing. Many adventures followed. Next, as I'd outgrown, and let's be honest, broken the Mustang came a racing style bike in 1981, an Apollo III replete with Shimano Altus centrepull brakes and derailleurs, Sugino cotterless cranks, Dia Compe brake levers and alloy wheels with quick release. This bike carried me enormous distances for many years and was my daily commuter, touring and recreational bike. It really flew.

But then life got in the way and the riding became less frequent and as it became less frequent it got harder as I got less used to it. Familiar story no doubt.

So after a long while of at best infrequent rides, a couple of years ago we found ouselves newly arrived in Wollongong. I hung the Apollo on the garage wall and got myself a nice shiny new aluminium MTB - Avanti Montari. Nice bike. I did ride a bit more, but time, oh time - If you don't make it it isn't there.

That is until late last year when I turned 40 and getting fat and lazy began to beome a likely reality. As motivation I rejoined Bike NSW and began cycling more regularly. My partner, Sue chimed in a gave me a ticket to the NSW big ride for christmas 2006, so I have to get fit. So ride I did.

But enough 0f the back story, (I'll post my story of the big ride later on) these days I'm finding myself more and more interested in Audax (or randonneuring) and in the art of bicycle construction and framemaking. Recently and as a result of this interest, I've been renovating the Apollo for long distance riding and I hope to document that process as I write on. It could be boring, but its supposed to motivate me to ride and write, and I at least will enjoy it.

In case you're wondering, redux means to restore or bring back. The OED says "of crepitation or other physical signs indicating the return of an organ to a healthy state" which pretty much sums it up.