Monday, June 23, 2014

GREEN MACHINE : HAVING A CRACK

Shooting the breeze recently with my mate Andy, we concurred that we both strongly support the notion and culture of ‘Having a crack’.  That’s certainly one of the main reasons I keep posting things on this site – in the hop that sharing things here encourages others to do have a crack themselves.  This little project was much more in the having a crack category than the nailing it category for me.



This one’s a bit of a make over of an ‘plain’ old road frame into a daily communter - note that this 80’s Kojima even came stock with a ‘plain’ sticker!  Now I know the paint on this was in good nick and some purists might scream out to keep this beast original but, really it’s nothing exotic in it’s original form and it made a good donor frame.  I haven’t really played with an oxy torch much and I was keen to get a bit of experience doing some simple braze-ons.  So, the main vision here was off with the down tube shifter mounts, a shuffle of the brake cable guides so that it runs under the top tube and on with a couple more cable guides to accommodate a riser bar conversion.  The torch was fun and this quite basic job definitely opened my eyes to just how much there is to learn.  This project was a good taster.



After the braze-on mods we pursued a special paint job experiment.  I’ve done a couple like this in the past where the first layer of colour is powder coat, providing some heavy duty and long lasting frame protection and then a thin layer of cheap matt black, slightly rubbed back to give the finish a little punk flavor.  The black wears with use making the bike look a little ratty and a lot less attractive to thieves.  This green is a special opaque number that goes on over a white layer.  The Webster family at Southern Powder Coaters were especially helpful here, taking extra time to carefully mask the braking surface of the of the rims that we had done to match the frame.  Special shout out goes to Mark at Standish Cycles Mile End for a very tidy job on the wheel build.








Tuesday, June 3, 2014

METICULOUSLY HANDMADE PENNY FARTHINGS

  

I came across Dan Bolwell by chance, though he was easy to spot, cruising the sleepy Sunday streets of the rural city of Horsham on bright red penny farthing.   And, as it happened, I didn’t really get a chance to strike up a conversation with Dan until we ended up on the same table at the cake competition hosted by the local CWA branch.  In parallel with the meticulously baked sweets we were surrounded by I began chatting with Dan about his meticulous penny farthing.  I became even more excited as he told me that he made his own, from scratch and that he had recently begun taking orders to make them for other people. I wasted no time in asking for a peek inside his workshop.

I have no substantial understanding of ‘Penny’s’ aside from the fact that they fit somewhere in the mythical creatures category of my mind.  I have seen a few variations over time but never really understood what I was looking at.  I had once seen a lone penny rider, with loaded panniers on a deserted stretch of road in the middle of Tasmania, only later coming to understand that Evandale and it’s annual National Championships are a definitive penny mecca in the whole of the southern hemisphere.

Dan made me a cuppa and filled me in on many of the technical traditions of penny building, the majority of which he continues to adhere to, albeit with minor engineering advances.   The wonderful thing about Dan’s building is that his meticulous machines begin life incredibly raw.  His workshop is not a dust free, air locked bunker filled with digital CNC mills- it is a simple backyard shed in which are applied a few simple DIY processes, a few basic skills, an immeasurable amount of passion and a genius approach.

Dan is a humble and articulate man and I am very grateful for the time he took to share his making.  I’ve cobbled together a few highlights from our chat but it’s safe to say that a I left Dan’s place with my mind overflowing and I simply couldn’t retain all of the great details that he openly shared. Enjoy the pics below and check out his site.  You’d better get your order in soon if you’d like one as his waiting list is already quite long.

It turns out you need a somewhat oversized truing stand to build penny wheels.  This is the one Dan made.


Bike nerds know what they are looking at here – radical custom spoke technology.  No heat, pure material, absolutely reliable 600mm (ish) spokes.  Did I mention that Dan makes his own hubs from scratch?  They are based around a modified BB axle – I’ll let your imagination do the rest.
 

 This is the lovely tool that Dan has made to create his awesome custom spokes.


A template for the unique headtube junction that becomes part of the ‘spine’.  Dan's headtubes are a traditional penny 'internal' design rather than the more common and contemporary design.


Prototype penny bars commissioned by Nitto, made in Horsham.


A very particular part of Dan’s design and his commitment to traditional forms are his tapered fork legs.  The best donor material for this happens to be pre-loved tailshafts!  Upcycle mastery.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

DADDY, WHAT'S A GRAVITY BIKE?

Well - let me offer some insight here -
Gravity bikes are two-wheeled machines that require gravity to move.  They most commonly have no drivetrain and are executed to various levels of engineering and finish according to the commitment of the racer.  Various interpretations of aerodynamic efficiency are applied and, whilst the aim of the machine is to go as fast as possible, brakes are an important control element for negotiating turns at high speed and the eventual stopping of the machine.  Personal protective equipment is also important to consider, though, once again, generally invested in according to the commitment of the rider.

Racers compete against one another on steep hills, often in similarly gravity assisted events such as billy cart competitions.  The Macclesfield Gravity Festival, held each year in March, is one such event where both carts and bikes use the same course over a series of rounds to determine a winner.  Here are some pics from this year's Gravfest that illustrate the wonderful spectrum of gravity bike creation, DIY and interpretation of things such as control and safety.

This is your typical entry level approach to creating a G-bike.  Simply flip your favourite BMX frame, attach a seat pan type arrangement of some kind and run your bars upside down to achieve the tuck position.


The variations below include some interesting ballast attachments.  The safety cones are actually in place to create an invisible gravity field so that the bikes don't spontaneously roll away.


 This gentleman demonstrates how to add swagger to your set up.


 Tim Cullen, of Macclesfield Aersospace Engineering, showed off his Moto GP inspired approach.


 Of course, things get most interesting when these beasts are set in motion.


This racer had grown his facial hair into a combination helmet and 'gravity catcher'.  It seemed to work.


 This particular man chose a somewhat unconventional position.  The overall effect became something like an Australian Air Force koala being shot out of a cannon on a roll of fencing wire.

  

And then we have the serious end of town.  You would be right in assuming that this is the fastest machine of the group.


 Meet Mr. Brett Phillips, current national and past world champion.  Brett wears special sneakers that allow him to walk like a normal person when combined with his Uncanny X-Men approach to gravity.  Brett also runs a great website called GRAVITY BIKE HQ which covers all things G-bike in Australia and beyond.  It's got great coverage of gravity events, people and ideas.  If you want more gravity - go there!


And here's one of last year's entries from the Tongue of Fire...


The SCUD - Gravity Bike from James Dodd on Vimeo.

ADELAIDE CARGO BIKE PARTY TROPHIES

If you ride a bike in Adelaide and you haven't heard of the wonderful Darren Wilson-Roberts then you've been riding under a rock.  Daz has contributed endless energy to the cycle culture in the 5000 and his passion is truly infectious.  Daz has worked together with other great Adelaide peeps such as Bonnie Bones and Manu et Manu to significantly shift the benchmark in our fine town.  Mega Tweed Rides, Bicycle Swap Meets, Cycle Food Vendor Fests all have their origins firmly located with these guys.

Their latest project is the 2014 Adelaide Cargo Bike Party.  Featuring various competitive activities, abundant high fives and bucketloads of general good times, this will be an event not to be missed.  I support these legends wherever I can - this time I have made a bunch of fun time trophies for the day.  So, if you think you have champion load styles - get down to the old netball courts on Anzac Highway, near the cemetary, from 11am on Sunday May 25th - bring your backfiets, trailer, boxbike, cycletruck or massive backpack and you may just roll home with one of these....



Friday, May 2, 2014

SCULPTURE STANDS

So, this post's not really very bikey but it is related to all things makey and especially fabricated things out of cold hard steel.  This job was for a youth arts organisation - the bases each have a timber pole that will have various branches and appendages added to them by young workshop participants so that they become like trees.  The overall effect of which will be something like a forest of sculptures.  It was a good job to work on getting my hand in on the TIG welder.  Still a long way to go but feeling good about some of the prettier ones. 




Sunday, March 2, 2014

HANDLEBAR HOOK HACK

Here's a quick one that I've been refining a little bit lately.  Every bike nerd has got a set of old steel drop bars kicking around somewhere.  They are somewhat useless as a thing to bolt on to a bicycle but can be useful for a number of other tasks.  Their hook shape makes them great for hanging things. Here's a set at work in my shed simply fixed to a flat surface by way of a stem face plate. I also have various other sets working as coat racks, hat hooks and to hang other tools.
Further to this they can be mildly modified to become a bike storage hook.  It's a particularly satisfying modification as a set of bars can be cut in such a way as to produce four hooks.  Here's a couple of pics of some lovely shiny ones I made the other day. 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE LEGS EXPRESS : THE BIKE THAT JACK BUILT

Well, to be honest it took two of us to make them but that sounds better as a title.  Certainly it has been Jack’s vision and initiative that has realised his dream.

A little over a year ago a young fella called Jack Ladd approached me with an idea.  We had become buddies through various cycling connections and he had started getting excited by the reconfiguration of cycles and freak riding in general.  Jack started to talk about an epiphany he had -he was going to build a cargo bike, dress it up as a taxi and ride around during the Adelaide Fringe, taking people where they wanted to go, in exchange for money.  He had a handful of loosely scrawled drawings, a printed out instructable guide on how to make a cargo bike and a particularly wild look in his eye. 

I must admit I was mildly sceptical of the whole thing but I do have a soft spot for constructing strange things with wheels and Jack’s energy was somewhat contagious.  So we set about building the beast under the lemon tree of my suburban back yard.  Here’s a few shots of us writhing around in the dust and heat, bringing the contraption to life.  In hindsight it’s difficult to believe we smashed out the first one in just a few days.


As it turns out Jack’s ‘Legs Express’ was a huge success. And so, after spending the year living on a barge in distant France Jack returned with visions of going bigger and bolder.  He decided he would like some assistance to build two more bikes, which would be added to his existing one, forming a kind of fruity fun time human taxi fleet.  This time around we had access to the slightly less dusty but equally sweaty workshop of the awesome Adelaide Bike Kitchen.  I had a few ideas on how I wanted to tweak the design and Jack came with his usual bucket loads of enthusiasm.  After a big fat week of alchemy, brute force and self generated luck we had two more chariots of joy.

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Jack then enlisted the assistance of his lovely creative family and friends to help him decorate some rather fantastic passenger helmets and put the finishing touches on his purple people carriers.  The Adelaide Fab Lab helped Jack to realise his great laser cut rider helmet additions. 

The Legs Express is currently out and about, cutting laps of Adelaide’s CBD, providing great local service and offering much more than just a simple A to B delivery.  The Legs Express is a whole and wonderful experience.  Look out for Jack and his team during your Fringe experience- as he says - “If you’ve got somewhere to be - I’ve got the legs!”





Monday, February 17, 2014

FINDON SKID KIDS : CYCLE SPEEDWAY

These guys have been a long standing source of inspiration in suburban Adelaide.  Even growing up in the country I have vivid memories of them coming to our local agricultural show to perform.  The experience left me dreaming of being a Skid Kid for a good decade or so.  This week it's their birthday and there'll be a little ride across to Findon to check out their action and help them celebrate.

If you are not so familiar with the legend of the Findon Skid Kids, do yourself a favour and check out some of their history here.  Also, for your viewing pleasure I have included a short doco produced a couple of years ago by Tilt Vision.  Cycle Speedway racing is truly exciting and whilst some of you may have seen footage playing as late night gap filler on local television, this does not do justice to the adrenaline filled action that goes down on the track.  Nor does it do justice to the culture and families whose lives revolve around Cycle Speedway.



FINDON SKID KIDS - Both Sides Of The Track. from Tilt Vision on Vimeo.

Oh, did I forget to mention that they also like to jump through walls of fire?!


Friday, February 14, 2014

WILD MOTION

Over the last year or so this blog has provided me the opportunity to reflect upon intersections between my creative and cycling passions. It has led to many great conversations and some fantastic opportunities. Mostly it has revolved around investigations into tall bikes and their various potentials. It has also set my own context within which to begin examining how these things fit together for me and to begin to look at what sorts of ideas might be tied to them. Often the kinds of questions I return to are ‘Is this art?’ or ‘What kind of art is this?’ These are irritatingly massive questions that rarely have a straight answer. 

What is clear to me is that I continue to be excited by creativity, cycling, adventure, performance and public intervention. These things will always be part of my life and may sometimes even make their way into the things that I choose to present in galleries. So, at this point, I am undertaking a mild rebranding of this blog in order to broaden it’s potential. You can expect to see more of the same things with a bit more variation and extension of ongoing themes. I have chosen the title ‘WILD MOTION’ as I believe it implies many of the things I am excited by – adventure, wheels, movement, creativity, risk, to name a few. This is a simple shift in context that allows me to think about, play with and present a richer bunch of ideas. 

An important objective of this project is that it remains driven by content creation rather than content perpetuation. Stay tuned! 



Friday, January 17, 2014

FLEURIEU TALL RAMBLE : WRITTEN REPORT


Late in 2013 I was feeling like there was too much working and not enough riding in my life, so it was with great glee that I began to fit the pieces together for a few days of tall packing in December.  My mate ‘Bushman Dan’ Freeborn was back in town after spending the Top End tourist season misleading European backpackers around the Kimberley and another top shelf mate, Simon ‘Elbow’ Elliot was on one of his biennial returns from his current Francophonic home of Quebec.   Each are great adventurers, cycling and otherwise, and were excited to join a silly two-wheeled touring odyssey.  My mate Jess was non-committal but when I started talking as if he wasn’t coming he became quite defensive and quickly made arrangements to join the adventure. There was a route that had been on my mind for a while – three days across the Fleurieu Penninsula, taking in various elements of Deep Creek Conservation Park and sections of the Heysen Trail.  Of course, the premise for this travel was that it be undertaken on tall bikes – variously providing wonder and entertainment for all those we encountered and offering a challenge to riders who are bored with reality, looking for a fresh approach to cycling and a chance to test their backyard engineering prowess.


On the Thursday evening we loaded our various wacky steeds and gear into the van and drove to Normanville to spend the night in a buddy’s cabin at the beachside caravan park.  After waking early and preparing ourselves a hearty breakfast, we set about strapping our bits and pieces to bikes.  One of the many advantages of having excessive frame and fork space on is that it creates a number of extra places to stow and strap on luggage.  Extra long forks make a great spot for mats, tents and sleeping bags, and Jess has even developed his patented ‘fruit basket’ shaped rack which comfortably supports a 30L dry bag.



The day’s first leg, through Yankalilla and up Kessler’s Hill Rd was relentless and made all the more challenging by huge swarms of free-loading blowies.   Rather than buzz their own way to the top of the hill they preferred to hitch a ride with us, simultaneously licking away at our salty sweat with their tickly probisci, leaving us wishing we’d brought the dangly-corked-jolly-swagman version of our cycling helmets.

Once atop the ridge we were rewarded with great views and a series of big dipper shaped gravel roads that alternatingly invited the rider to ignore brakes, throw caution to the wind, woot gloriously with excitement and enjoy the spoils of anchorless gravity consumption, only to be required to quickly return to whatever lowest gear is available in order to grind onwards to the peak of the next crest.

We climbed all that was to be climbed of our unpaved roads and began to be quite excited by the prospect of descending some glorious singletrack through dense scrub.  It took a little rabbiting around to discover our magical Hesysen Trail marker but we were soon at the trail head salivating at the idea of radical dirt action.  Of course, this mood was tempered by an understanding that we didn’t really know what the trail was like and we weren’t necassarily supposed to be approaching it on bikes  (the Heysen trail is denoted as a walking specific route but often includes highly cycle-able fire trail and open areas).


After about 5 minutes of nervously grinning, giggling and crossing our fingers along a narrow, meandering goat track it became quite clear that this trail was going to get the better of us.  Resigned to accept a battering on behalf of nature, we tramped our bikes for a while before taking a little rest in a clearing.  Refreshed, we pushed on, pedaling along some pleasant fire trail before being confronted by a truly ridiculous section of what some unhinged individual incorrectly described as ‘trail’.   Lugging outrageous machines down the side of cliff face covered in five foot high weeds was not we had hoped for but all we could do was laugh at the absurdity of all for half an hour or so till we finally reached the bottom.



After a short section of rolling gravel we arrived at Inman Valley  where we fueled up on a round of Devonshire teas.  The next section meandered through a section of Second Valley forest punctuated by various lifting bikes over fences sequences.  At this point the trail markers advised us to hop another fence into a paddock filled with fresh cow pats and absolutely no sign of a trail. ‘Follow the fence’ the description said and what was marked as a lovely straight line on the map dipped sharply in and out of a valley of long grass with no clear indication of any trail over the horizon.  We hadn’t expected that the most extreme part of our adventure would take place in a field of cows.  The next hour or so was spent slamming our backsides repeatedly over the perfect wheelsized holes left by our hard hooved companions, dodging sloppy bovine waste and trying not to be too worried about the fact that we had no real idea of where we were going.  A little more bumping, bike rattling and fence hopping later we popped out at a gentle country lane.  Relief was an understatement.  Flocks of galahs squaked at us, red bellied black snakes wriggled out of their sunning spots and we even got to hang out with an echidna which was quite the treat.  By the time we reached the tarmac leading in Victor Harbour we were well and truly weary.  We decided against the last skerrick of dirt trail described on the map and chose to descend the steep, grin invoking main road into town.  We topped up with snacks and refreshments at the local supermarket and set up camp at Victor Harbour Beachfront Caravan Park.

Our second day began with a big grind back up the hill that had given us so much joy the day before.  It didn’t take as long as we thought it might and we were soon cruising gently along Ridge Rd.  As it’s name suggests, this road travels along the ridge of the hills and, as such, yielded fantastic views down to valleys on each side and further to the ocean.  Bushman Dan took a couple of stops to adjust and pack his luggage as well as adjust his package, made significantly uncomfortable by his choice to wear two pairs of knicks.

We took a lunch stop at the Parawa community hall and CFS station, refilling our water bottles and resting in the shade of the verandah.  Ridge Road continued its spectacular meandering for a while longer before we turned back onto gravel towards Deep Creek Conservation Park. It was not long before we arrived at Stringybark campsite, an oasis like zone of tall shady trees surrounded by bushland and made all the more luxurious by the presence of hot showers.  We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon imitating the local kangaroos lazing around in the glorious sunshine.  There was an abundance of wildlife to watch including kookaburras, black cockatoos and heaps of tiny wrens.


Our final day began with a bit of a ski slope style run adjacent the campsite.  It was just the thing to get the blood pumping and the pupils dilated.  It may, however, have been the final straw for Simon’s rack, which began its death rattle in earnest a little way along the day’s journey.  (insert steel is real commentary or various ads for the glory of Tubus racks here)  A trip wouldn’t be complete without a real MacGyver moment and so we happily set to work grafting a timber crutch to the poor old rack via excessive cable ties and PVC tape.  Don’t leave home without ‘em kids!


We doubled back along Ridge Rd for a bit before turning off onto Hay Flat Road towards Yankalilla.  A lovely rolling unsealed section led into the steepest, rideable descent of the trip.  This was a proper heart starter!  We pulled into Ingalala Falls for a snack and a look at the scenery before continuing along our final leg.  The surface of the next section was predominantly super smooth and mildly downhill.  Combined with a healthy tailwind, thoughts of a massive barbeque cook up and refreshing ales made this a supremely enjoyable leg.  We stopped briefly in Normanville to pick up some lemonade and sausages and made our way back to the caravan park we began from.