Monthly Archives: August 2011

Owner Review: Ay Up Lights

ayups on crx

Ay Ups on my Giant CRX2

If you ride on the road at night, you may have experienced ‘invisible cyclist syndrome’ more than once. While a new set of lights won’t solve the problem completely, they certainly help. After browsing the Australian Cycling Forums, I decided to give Ay Up Lights a try. I have two handlebar mounts and share them between my Giant CRX2 and my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

I chose British racing green, and I bought these before Ay Up did some upgrades to their lighting systems – so they are not as bright as the new versions. They still make my bike look like a motorbike though, and provide more than enough light to see in suburban situations.

The Good

These suckers are bright. I use them on low-beam most of the time as low-beam throws plenty of light for me to see by. I use high beam in dark situations (like the shared pathways near the river). The number of cars who fail to give way, either at roundabouts, or by pulling out of side streets in front of me, is reduced when I have the Ay Ups on my bars, as opposed to the Cateye Opticube that I had before.

The handlebar mount is secure and there is no danger of the lights coming detached and bouncing down the road at an inopportune moment (this is what ultimately killed my Cateye). The battery mount is versatile, so you can mount it wherever you have space. They are very waterproof and reliable in all weather.

They are an Australian company, if that kind of thing influences your purchasing decisions.

I also think they look really nice!

The Bad

You need to make sure the battery is always charged. These lights do not warn you when the battery is getting low by running dim – they just turn off when they don’t have enough juice. I have been caught out once, fortunately it wasn’t far from home.

The beam pattern does seem to waste light, as it has no vertical cut off – which means if you don’t point them downwards enough they can blind oncoming cyclists in low light situations. This is in contrast to my Lumotech Cyo IQ dynamo light which has a vertical cut off and a wider light spread – while it is not as bright as the Ay Ups, it provides a more useful light pattern.

ayup beam pattern

Ay Up beam pattern

The cost is obviously a serious consideration for some cyclists – especially when you can buy bright, cheap lights from Chinese manufacturers at places like Deal Extreme. I have seen many people go for different options because the cost of the Ay Ups turned them off.

The other issue is taking them off if you are parked outside the pub or something – the last thing you want is some passerby to swipe the lights as they walk past, and they are easy to remove, but a bit bulky in the pocket.

In Conclusion

Reliable, bright lights are an important part of a cyclists kit. With advances in LED and battery technology, the choices are many and varied. You can go for cheap DX lights – but they may not be as reliable in the rain. You can go for a dynamo light conforming to German design standards like my Lumotech IQ Cyo, but most bikes sold in Australia don’t come standard with hub dynamos, so that is a bit of a hassle. I love my Ay Ups and I am glad that I forked out the money for them. They are reliable and will last for many years to come.

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Reviews


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Perth Cycling Infrastructure: Kwinana Freeway Bike Path

horses on the psp

We met these girls on horses just North of Lakes Road

The Kwinana Freeway path is wide, smooth and straight, once you get out of the busy, narrow, bumpy areas near Como. It has been a while since I have been down there, but I can’t wait to have a go at it on my roadie. Last time we did the ride was around Easter, and we came across these girls on their horses wearing bunny ears. I saw them and struggled to figure out what they were…. they didn’t look like cyclists, and it would be a mad pedestrian to be out here in the middle of nowhere. I pulled my camera out of my jersey pocket, and they smiled and waved as I rolled past snapping some photos.

The other thing that makes the Kwinana Freeway bike path a good training ground for me is that there is an inbuilt sag wagon…. as the train line runs parallel to the Freeway & the path for the majority of it’s length.


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Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Perth Cycling Infrastructure


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Human Powered Transport: Sydney Northern Beaches School Bans Scooters, Skateboards

If you live near a school, you have probably noticed that very few Australian kids ride bicycles. Many of them are ferried by their parents in their cars, causing frustrating traffic jams. There are still some children who ride skateboards, scooters and even some who walk, but they seem to be an endangered species.

There are a lot of factors involved in this, sure, but a big one is ‘safety’. Riding a bicycle to school is now considered by many parents as ‘unsafe’ because of all the traffic (ironic, much?)

Scooters and skateboards still seem to be popular amongst kids though. A school in Sydney is now attempting to snuff this out as well. 

NORTHERN Beaches Secondary College Cromer Campus has come under fire from parents after it banned students from riding skateboards and scooters to school.

Last week parents were sent a text message announcing that “Due to a number of serious incidents, including a collision with a car, students will no longer be allowed to ride skateboards or scooters to school.”

The ban is also included on the school’s website under its code of conduct.

The response is somewhat mixed – the Manly Daily article states that parents are outraged, but Channel 10 reported on the story this evening, and some of the parents, interviewed vox-pop style while sitting in their SUVs, inarticulately stated their support for the ban. There was a lot of ‘well they should stay off the roads and out of the way of cars.’ It’s hardly fair since these kids are just trying to get to school.

When we talk about cyclist safety on the roads, comments about ‘lycra loonies’ abound. What about the kids, though? When I was in the Netherlands I often had instinctive reactions to sweep children and pet dogs off the street. There was no need for it, if cars were allowed, they were only travelling at 30kph – plenty of time to stop.

As long as we steadfastly stick to the ‘cars always have right of way, and should be impeded as little as possible’ philosophy of road planning, it will come down to a trade-off between the risks of getting hit by a car and the risks of physical inactivity and obesity in our kids.

In fact, according to David Hembrow, cycling was resurrected in the Netherlands in part because people were concerned about children being injured and killed by cars. In 1973 a group called Stop de Kindermoord was formed and started lobbying for changes to traffic and road planning. You can read David’s version of history here.

Also thanks to David Hembrow – this is how Dutch children get to school. Watch the video – it shows massive mobs of kids riding to school on separated bicycle infrastructure. If we had this in Australian cities it would go a long way to helping them get their daily exercise, and helping their parents save a lot of cash on running multiple cars.


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Public Transport: What a day to catch a train (double murder in Maylands)

This morning I caught the train to work. It is an odd thing for me to do, I hardly ever catch the train and choose my bikes instead. As soon as I get to the platform I hear ‘services have been delayed’, and I notice police prowling around.

Every time the train stopped, more police were prowling the platforms, and some got onto the train, clearly looking for someone. It was creepy, and it was making me late.

Good to see that they arrested the suspect, and when I had a browse around the news sites I realised I was lucky to have gotten on a train at all, as early reports stated that all services on the train line had been suspended.

Everyone on the train seemed to be calm about being late, so I guess most of them knew more than me about what was going on. Probably reading the news on their smartphones.

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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in public transport


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Owner Review: Oyama Lexington Folding Bicycle

Oyama lexington in Adelaide

The Oyama Lexington parked on the banks of the Torrens

I purchased this Oyama Lexington folding bike from Chain Reaction Cycles for approximately $500, and rode 500 kilometres on it, including 60km of the Mutual Community Challenge in the Adelaide Hills. It was a tester for whether or not I wanted a small wheeler, and in the end I bought a Bike Friday New World Tourist and sold this bike.

The Oyama was shipped fully assembled, but folded. It is a centre fold bike, similar to the Dahon style, and has an aluminium frame.

Oyama folded

Oyama Lexington folded and packed into it's original shipping box, ready for the Tour Down Under

The Good

The Oyama was cheap and light. The ride felt a bit like a BMX, very responsive and easy to accelerate. I found that people on the shared paths found it less intimidating than my other bikes. It was fun to ride for short distances.

The fold is quick and easy, and there is a magnet that snaps the two wheels together so that the bike can be carried without unfolding itself.

The Bad

The stock seat was wonky when I pulled it out of the box, but that didn’t matter to me much since I was always intending on putting a Brooks on it.

The ride quality was not the best – the first time I rode it, I ended up with numb hands and a numb butt. I put a fatter BMX tyre on the back which improved the ride somewhat. The aluminium frame was quite rigid and the handlebar grips were a bit thin.

It tended to get a speed shimmy downhill, which led to a few scary moments in the Adelaide hills.

The fold means you have to fiddle with the seat height every time you unfold it again which can be annoying.


This bike was a great, cheap, run around town bike, but no good for anything longer than 10 kilometres in my opinion – and don’t try to ride it too fast, it will make you dizzy.


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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Folding Bikes, Reviews


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Owner Review: Bike Friday New World Tourist Folding Bicycle

Bike Friday NWTs

Our Bike Friday New World Tourists on the bank of the Rhein

We purchased these bikes directly from Bike Friday, custom built to our measurements in February 2011.

I based my measurements on my small Surly Long Haul Trucker. The bikes were primarily purchased for our tour of Europe in June – July & August 2011. We chose to get the New World Tourists with the Travelcase system, which consists of a Samsonite suitcase and a lightweight, bolt on trailer frame.

So far I have logged 1,400 kilometres on the Bike Friday, and it has performed admirably, comparing very well to the Oyama Lexington folding bike which I initially bought to see if I liked ‘small wheelers’.

My particular NWT is fitted with a Shimano dynamo hub, a women’s Brooks B17, and some flat pedals with ‘power grips’. It has SRAM X4 running gear and Tektro Mini V brakes.

The Good

Bike Friday promises that their bikes will ride just like your best bike. I was sceptical at first, but was converted quickly. The steel frame with longish chainstays and seat stays make it very comfortable over the bumpy stuff, particularly for the small 20″ wheel size. The bike handles well at speed, is easy to accelerate and could climb a vertical wall. I did find it hard to cruise on the flat over 25kph, but that is more than quick enough for a tourer.

The tyres are tough, without a single puncture on either the bike or the trailer. After 1,400 kms there is some wear on the rear tyre but they have a lot of meat on them so it will take many more kilometres to wear them out.

The SRAM X4 twist grip shifters are the best twist grip shifter I have ever used. They are comfortable to rest your hands on, and very easy to grab and twist, which is important when touring, as fatigue is likely to come into the game somewhere.

The bikes did well both on and off road, and some of the tracks were very muddy and rough. We also climbed the Col du Tourmalet on them.

Bike Friday Tourmalet

Me and the Bike Fridays on top of the Col du Tourmalet

I have front and rear racks for the Bike Friday, though I only use the front rack on tour. The chain stays are long for a folder, but there is a heel strike issue when my panniers are stuffed to the brim on the back of the bike. I have taken the Bike Friday shopping as it is stable and handles well under load.

The trailer hitch is ingenious – it is an air hose coupling which is brazed on to the frame. It is compact and efficient – just make sure you keep the trailer hitch clean and lubed, otherwise it will jam up and will be impossible to get off. It also may cause problems with your trailer bolts if the bike falls over and the hitch won’t rotate…. (see the ‘Bad’ below).

Packing the bike up and taking it ‘incognito’ was awesome, especially for the French trains where taking bikes is a hassle, and for the ICE train from Germany to the Netherlands where you have to pay extra for a bike. Having the bikes in such a compact form was also handy for catching taxis to and from the airport, as we could fit them both in a wagon (it would have had to have been a maxi taxi otherwise!), and we didn’t have to go to the separate ‘oversize luggage’ drop off at the airport as the Samsonites fit on the conveyers. It was also good for hotels who otherwise would not let bikes into the rooms.

The Bad

Initially the buzz from the tyres bothered me. You only notice it when in quiet areas with smooth riding surfaces though, so I didn’t notice it much on tour.

The ‘draw bolt’ which attaches the draw bar of the trailer to the Samsonite suitcase bent and snapped when we were dismantling our gear to put it on a train rendering the trailer useless until I found a new bolt. I did find a new one, but the way that the original bolt bent meant that the hole was widened when unscrewing it to get it out. This meant that the replacement bolt had to be periodically retightened on tour.

The suitcases, while stylish, were the weak point of the system. The handles clogged up with dirt which meant they jammed and did not extend easily. The main lock jammed a few times on tour, making it hard to open the case, and after a while they required a good, sharp whack in order to shut them properly. They were roughly handled on the flight back, and did their job well protecting the bikes, but I needed to use the claw part of a hammer to get the lock open.

In Conclusion

The Bike Friday New World tourist bikes were the perfect solution for our tour. I will also use mine in future for tours that involve the Australind or Prospector trains in WA which make taking full size bikes a hassle. The Bike Friday will also become my summertime commuter when the bike cage is overflowing, and I need to fold the bike, put it in a bag and carry it upstairs to keep in the store room.

Waiting for train in Lourdes

Our Bike Fridays and other luggage stacked on the platform waiting for a train from Lourdes


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Folding Bikes, Reviews, Touring, Touring Bikes


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Giant TCR W – I guess I can’t deny being a roadie now.

My new 2011 Giant TCR W
My new 2011 Giant TCR W – named Lucy

Introducing my new bike. It is light and fast. The disadvantage is that people are more likely to pull out in front of you if you are doing 30kmh instead of 20-25kmh! Once I get some proper pedals on it and put some kilometres on it I will do a proper review, but as this is my first real roadie I expect it will be glowing. My partner just bought a Pinarello FP2, so I will be able to compare them.

I have a long tradition of naming my bikes, and some names take longer than others. When I was riding this bike home it’s name came to me – Lucy – named after my first dog, because she too was small, fast and light.


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Giant TCR W


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What Inspires Me to Ride My Bike

There is a common theme amongst cyclists in Australia – most of them rode bikes as children and teenagers, but put the bike away and forgot about it when they got their first car at 17 years of age.

Mine is not dissimilar. I was a late starter on the bike, not really riding until I was 10 years of age. There were a couple of bikes I used to ride – a blue dragster with a banana seat, and a green ladies shopper type bike with the U-shaped step through frame. The dragster was my favorite, of course. Not only did it look cool, but it was super easy to lean back and pop wheelies.

When I started high school, I was given a flourescent pink bike from Toyworld. It was pretty rough really, heavy steel wheels which very quickly went out of true, a nasty plastic white seat, handlebar grips that gave me callouses, and plastic brake levers. It had U-brakes so it didn’t stop too well either. It was my freedom though. It got me to school, the shops, basketball training, friends houses, and my part time job.

I moved out of home and went to University, and I didn’t take my bike. I had a little green Mitsubishi Colt to drive. Petrol and parking were dirt cheap, even for a poor student.  I found though that I was slowly putting on weight, and getting a little lethargic. I started to borrow my housemate’s bike and used it for short trips to the shops, and for recreational doddles around the neighbourhood.

After I’d had the Colt for about a year, I crashed it. I didn’t have the money for another car and only had third party insurance, so I got my old highschool bike and pressed it back into service. It had faded to a white colour by then. I had moved into a different house, and my housemate bought a nice shiny Haro with alloy wheels. Frustrated by my poor brakes, and clunky gears, I also bought a new bike – a Malvern Star Vertigo for $350 which was a great improvement on what I had. For those who want to keep track of inflation, this was in 1999 or thereabouts.

The Malvern Star was dubbed ‘Dizzy’ and I rode it to uni about 3 times a week. Other times I car pooled with my housemate or caught the bus. I used that bike for my first real bike tour, which was a pretty tame doddle through the Rhine Valley (Germany and France). I revisited this tour recently, but that is for another post. Car ownership was on and off for me over my uni years, but that bike was a constant.

Dizzy met an untimely death sometime in 2005 when I got hit at a roundabout by a car that failed to give way. I got out of it with some scrapes and bruises, but it put me off riding for about a year. It was then replaced when I bought a Giant CRX2, for just under $1000. I was getting sick of catching the  bus to work. I had a car at that time too, I could afford to have a big gas guzzler because I rode to work and most other short trips were also on the CRX. It was during this time that fuel prices started to seriously increase.

I had a few brief breaks from commuting to my job via bicycle, and every time I stopped, I felt a little unfit. I was constantly frustrated by public transport, the bike was always a better choice. Recently, when I hurt my ankle and couldn’t ride, I hobbled to the train. I got the flu for the first time in years for my trouble.

So I ride to work because:

It takes the same amount of time as public transport, and I don’t get exposed to germs/poor hygiene habits and other things that are often prevalent on the train.

Driving makes no sense at all, it takes the same amount of time, I get no exercise, and have to pay $20 a day for the privilege to park.

It helps me keep an eye on my waistline!

I ride to other places because:

It’s cheaper, there are no parking stresses (for instance at IKEA!), and it’s just fun!

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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in History, Reasons to Ride


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