Sunday, 27 May 2012

Electronic gear shifting #2

Malvern Star Bicycle Factory, c1940. Photo: Llye Fowler.
State Library Victoria collection

Electronic shifting

John W Parsons, 1895, State Library Victoria collection

Friday, 25 May 2012

The bicycle factory

Circa 1940, Malvern Star bicycle factory, Australia.
(images from the State Library Victoria collection)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A bike from scratch...

The bike fitting process:
- measure up the existing steed
- transfer measurements to the 'fit bike'
- pull on the lycra and get sweaty
- make any tweaks to improve position
(in my case longer cranks and bringing the bars up about 5mm)
- transfer the measurements to the computer and play with shapes and angles.

Bike building, involving titanium tubes being tortured into shape
with some seriously chunky machines.

Bike finishing, involving lots of intricate paint work (no decals here).
The frames and forks get the full treatment, but they also strip back
head stems and seat posts to make sure they look the part too.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The dream bike

I've loved bikes since I was in primary school. As was customary in our family, I graduated through a range of hand-me-down bikes and then got my first 'racer' for my tenth birthday. A silver K-mart special. That kept me happy until mid-way through high school, when I started taking an interest in cycling and triathlon magazines at the local newsagent while waiting around for early morning paper deliveries as part of my job as a paper boy. I was swimming competitively at that stage and had always been a decent runner, so there was only one part of the triathlon jigsaw to fill. After a failed attempt to do up an old frame my grandfather had found at the tip (it was an old track bike which I still have, so turning it into a road racer was always going to be a challenge) I ended up buying a shiny new Repco Olympic 12 in blue and white. It had Wolber Wheels, Shimano SIS gears, and I thought it was great. After a year or two it sprouted some Scott DH bars, as I began to enter triathlons and enjoy that kind of competitive riding and the joys of hours on country roads  (which was far more inspiring than swimming training - staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool).

Half way through university I decided that an upgrade was in order and bought a gold Avanti Giro road bike, this time forsaking the aero bars, as my strong interest in triathlon was starting to wane. This bike had Shimano integrated brake/gear levers (which were pretty new at the time, and one of the main reasons to upgrade to a new bike), and red Mavic rims (which stood out a bit more back then than they would now that every second fixie has wheels bordering on flourescent).

The Avanti was the bike that I became a 'roady' on. I started doing big rides with friends, including Audax Alpine Classics, Around the Bay in a Day, etc.

The next bike came about thanks to an unexpected windfall. After working for a year in London (sadly without a bike), I had a tax refund cheque arrive in the mail (in pounds, which used to be worth a lot more than the Australian dollar). It was enough to let me walk into a bike shop and build up a fairly fancy bike. A Wilier 'Angliru' steel/carbon frame with full Dura-Ace and Shimano wheels. It's the bike I still ride today, about a decade later (now with Spinergy carbon wheels, as pictured below).

But all of that is about to change. Tomorrow I'm off to Geelong to take the first steps in procuring a new custom made machine to last me at least another decade, ready in time for my 40th birthday in late December this year.

There are a lot of decisions to make, and a budget to keep in mind, but it's a process I'm really looking forward to. Expect to see more on this blog about it before too long!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

cycling risks

An article in the paper relating to the recent unfortunate death of a hockey player after being struck by a ball mentioned that a sports insurer rated hockey the second safest. The website of the insurance company includes a sports injury calculator that is interesting to have a play with. Although cycling is perceived to be a dangerous sport (and seeing the skin lost in the stage 3 Giro d'Italia sprint tends to make me think likewise), but it is far from the top of the pile based upon insurance data.

Sports that have a greater risk of injury than cycling for a male in the 30-39 age bracket with a good fitness level are:
  • baseball
  • equestrian
  • fencing
  • football (Australian rules)
  • football (Gaelic)
  • gridiron
  • hurling
  • ice hockey
  • motorsports
  • netball
  • rugby league
  • rugby union
Cycling has the same risk as weightlifting, and is only marginally (within 1 or 2 percent) more likely to result in an injury than golf, handball or racquetball.

It's also interesting to note that both BMX and mountain biking are listed separately and have lower risks than 'cycling'.

The calculator also casts doubt on the claim of hockey being the second safest (lawn bowls anyone?), but the newspaper article does state that the overall safety is calculated using 6 risk categories, and risk of injury (as identified by this calculator) is only one. Risk of death is the other obvious one, and apparently this is the first recorded hockey death in Australia ever.

Playing with the calculator, I was also interested to see some of the figures approach 100% risk. People in the 99% risk category include:
  • 'world class' male cyclists over 60 years of age (99%)
  • 'high fitness' male hurlers over 30 years of age (99%)
  • male Australian rules footballers over 50 years of age, no matter what their fitness level (99%)