I found an abandoned bike in the park near my house. It was an old Repco RT Sport. Back in the 80’s, when Repco’s still made decent bikes (at least according to my granddad) I had a Repco ‘Tracer’. It was an awesome bike. But it got stolen one day, and police later reported the corpse had been found in a bush by the lake in my neighborhood. These thoughts immediately returned to me upon finding this deserted soul. Had it been stolen? Vines growing through the wheels suggested this had been laying in the bushes for months. In fact, I think the owners of the adjoining property had just tossed the unwanted bike over the fence. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as bike cruelty. I decided to take it in, and give it a new life. Well, I have been on the lookout for a beater… but the frame is too large for me, so I decided to rebuild it for a family member.
Unloved and deserted
I took it into my awesome local bike store – Bikeforce in Richmond – who through many previous visits and repairs have proven themselves knowledgeable and professional without being elitist, and above all friendly and helpful (despite numerous tire-kicking visits by me). And my dog is always welcome there. They helped me flesh out a plan for re-fitting out the RT Sport as an urban commuter. We decided repainting the bike would lose some of its appeal.
Some goals for the rebuild:
I’m a little over derailleur maintenance, and for an urban commuter I wanted to try out an internal hub. The Shimano Nexus three speed was not available in a 29″ wheels, but Bikeforce got me a decent deal on a Alfine eight speed hub built into a wheel from Shimano.
However, internal hubs are only now becoming more popular on road-ish bikes with drop bars. I felt using the regular flat bar grip shifter was a bit awkard, as were the trigger shifters. Online I found the marvelous little company Jtek Engineering, who make some innovative custom-machined bike components, including bar-end shifters for internal gear hubs! I ordered this directly from JTek.
I ride with a messenger bag, because I never wanted to detract from my bike’s appearance, or add additional weight. However, I was quite smitten with the Tubus Fly rack when I first spotted it on a handsome Orbea Arama tourer in the store some weeks prior. It’s not chunky, has nice sleek lines that rather accentuate a road-come-commuter frame.
Steve of Bikeforce Richmond presents the finished rebuild
When the bike was ready for pickup, I was pleased with the result. Fitting it out with predominantly black components allows the faded blue frame and decals to make more of a statement. It definitely retains some charm, and is understated but handsome. I’m glad we decided against repainting the frame. I love the old decals.
The ride is fabulous. The bike rides nicely, and having the Alfine with bar end shifter makes it a breeze to take a relaxed cruise around, or really put your back into it. It feels very efficient, and somehow I’d say a little ‘classier’ feeling than a derailleur. Great fun!
Here you can see the rather understanded Tubus Fly rack. The black Alfine eight speed seems to be a little more covert at hiding it’s bulk than it’s silver counterpart.
Since moving to Melbourne, with it’s unpredictable skies and generally mucky streets, cycling without mudguards has become an unviable mode of transport. Despite the resulting wet ass situation, it’s not nice for the bike, and sends a clear message that, “hey, I don’t love my bike!” Like Agro Vation used to say, “keep it clean, team!”
So I went on the lookout for some mud guards for my Dahon Hammerhead 7.0. There is not a lot of choice for a 20″ wheel size, and the SKS Dahon special mudguards (although very good) don’t visually fit the slim lines of the Hammerhead. When researching our Dahon Cargo Bike options, I came across Sykes Wooden Bicycle Fenders, claiming to be strong, lightweight, flexible and darn good lookin’! Just the ticket. Finishing my fit-out with a new rear Kinetix Pro wheel, I think the results speak for themselves. You be the judge.
It’s a well known fact that dogs love going for trips. They’re always wanting to go for a walk somewhere new, they’ll leap at the chance to go for a drive in the car, hell, the internet is full of videos of skateboarding and surfing dogs!
This little project started with our desire to take our little doggie with us when we head out on our bikes. The original idea was to get a front basket on the bike. You can’t really carry much more than 5kg on your handlebars, and the choices are more limited if you have a long handlebar stem like most folders. Klickfix has some good options, and the new Dahon luggage truss is genius in it’s simplicity.
We decided instead to go for a rear-mounted system. Again the choices are a bit more limited for a 20″ wheel bike (especially in Australia) and the range is not great to begin with. After seeing some poorly made and some ugly choices, we ended up getting an antique wooden crate, and went about investigating how to mount that on the rear of a Dahon. My conclusions were:
Klickfix – although I like the Klickfix systems, their rack idea doesn’t play well with panniers
Pletcher – another of the better options, but I didn’t like the mounting system too much.
Basil – good availability, and excellent bags, but their rack mounting systems are poorly designed and don’t offer a mounting plate. They have a dog basket with a lousy mount, it’s super heavy and was rated “ugly” by the missus.
Topeak – Workable system, but ugly. They don’t have racks for 20″ bikes, and I just have a bias against their products, I don’t think they are good quality or good looking.
Racktime – A spin-off of Tubus, meaning great quality and good looking racks. Works with regular panniers, they sell a clever range of attachments for their racks, and you can buy an adapter to make anything work with it. I think popularity of this system is set to boom with major players in the industry offering compatible products for it.
With the lack of stuff in Australia, I hunted around online and ended up ordering from the kind fellows at bike-x-perts.com. Europe has all the goods for commuting type gear, and Germany in particular. I purchased:
…and then began the waiting for my delivery to arrive. In the mean time, even my doggie seemed to get impatient to go for a pedal. We discovered together, that my ChromeMetropolis messenger bag is A-OK for doggie portage.
Anyway, yesterday, my exciting package finally arrived from Germany, time to get to work…
You will need a bike tool, or hex keys, and probably a hacksaw depending on your bike.
This is the Mu P8, with the Rackime FoldIt Fix 20″ rack attached. As you can see, it’s a handsome rack!
Foldability is not affected. It adds a bit of bulk over the wheel (as expected) but gives you a nice handle.
You will probably need to hacksaw the front stays to the appropriate length for your frame. The bolts for the front stays are hard to tighten, since they face the middle. My installation guide shows regular bolts, but mine were not. A right angle hex-key will be easiest (like you get with Ikea furniture) otherwise you might have to get them in place, take it apart and then tighten.
This is a SnapIt adapter clicked into the rack.
The adapter comes with a set of screws and large washers which could be used to affix a basket or bag very easily. The base of my box is 20mm thick, so I needed to get longer screws. It didn’t seem as secure to run through the wood fixing into the base, so I instead pulled out these little rubber lugs, screwed through the mounting into the box. Not sure if this is the intended installation, but definitely stronger.
From here, I can now snap on my box for an instant Dahon cargo bike!
The rack plays nice with panniers, and I think you could tour just fine with them. You may need to mount the bags as far back as possible to get heel clearance.
Post-edit: The ClampIt would work well as a human-sized mouse trap. Getting it on is easy, getting it off… expect some very sore fingers!
So I’m about six weeks in to a six month jaunt around the globe. We had a short overnight stay in Vancouver, and whilst there, I got my fill of some good vegan cravings at OrganicLives restaurant.
The food is among the best, if not the best, live cuisine I’ve had the pleasure to eat (up there with Live in Toronto.) We had the lasagna, and a special of zucchini spaghetti. The lasagna was accompanied by a delicious ‘ceasar’ salad, and the spaghetti sauce was incredibly rich and dense, and as hearty as I remember any bolognese sauce being, quite incredible, and most satisfying.
But to top it off, was a ecstatically tasty coconut cream pie. So good, it may just knock off Candle 79’s chocolate-peanut butter bliss as my favourite desert.
How did I end up at this place? A keyboard snob? An elitist? In the early 90s my Mum gave me her IBM Model M keyboard from a previous job. A mechanical marvel, an engineered masterpiece. I couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time, perhaps I was young, but more likely we just had no idea how crappy keyboards would become over the next two decades. I spilled orange juice into the Model M, and although a little sad, I moved on.
Years later, despite getting mild RSI at work I persevered with crappy bottom of the line HP keyboards in the office. My Mac Pro was delivered with the horrendous A1048 keyboard. I replaced this with the ‘funky’ aluminum mac keyboard – hey did I just pay good money to give my Mac Pro a laptop keyboard?
DSI Mac Mechanical Modular Keyboard
Finally I lost the plot. From Fentek Industries I bought a snappy DSI Mac Mechanical Modular keyboard. The idea is that it is expandable in various ways, but I was happy to get a tenkeyless keyboard and save on desktop space. I also wanted a mac-specific keyboard layout, and there really aren’t any alternatives. The DSI Mac Modular has the option and command keys in the mac positions, and no context-menu key. Additionally, the Mac Modular supports volume up, down and mute, and has an eject key. This is all well and good, but I would love to have seen support for pause/play/next track for iTunes – really more useful. My only other minor quibble with the keyboard is that the compact layout is a little dense. Using a Windows layout at work day to day, I get a little disoriented with cursor keys, page up/down etc jutting right up to the regular keys.
The typing action on this keyboard is great. I have the one blessed with brown Cherry switches, blue are also available. Despite using the ‘quieter’ brown Cherry switches, you will get a very distinct mechanical keyboard noise from this keyboard. Drives the wife a little crazy. Doesn’t matter, I’m in my own world churning out wpm on this baby.
My keyboard seems to have a weird issue with USB – it just stops working after some period of rest. Not sure if it’s the keyboard or my computer, but I will contact DSI about it.
I would definitely recommend this keyboard for any Mac user desiring a quality keyboard with a Mac specific layout.
Realforce 87U Keyboard
Now, the real new darling in my life is the Topre Corporation’sRealforce 87U keyboard. The typing experience on this really is fantastic. The keyboard’s reputation of being the best you can get is well deserved. Topre’s capacitive switch technology is really unique. It doesn’t feel like any mechanical switch I’ve used. The keys do not bottom out in a hard, clunky manner. Instead they seem to offer some gentle deceleration before they hit the end of their travel. They are also quiet. The sound is satisfying, but not clacky like regular mechanical switches. The layout is great – a standard Windows layout with everything in the expected location, perfect for programming. The tenkeyless layout keeps the mouse close to my right hand. It’s appearance is totally ninja with black text on black keys, which looks cooler than blank keys and also lets non-typists hunt and peck, should you allow them to touch your keyboard.
Kapow! I decided to power up from the regular understated black escape key to the red one.
The Realforce keyboards are also customizable. I have switched my left [ctrl] and [caps] keys, putting the left control key closer to my pinky. You can also deactivate the Windows key and the Numlock key.
Beautiful blue glow…
To support this, you get alternative sets of [capslock] and [ctrl] keys. You also get an additional red [esc] key (as pictured) and some pretty funky blue WASD keys – for gamers I guess?
Scouring the web, you’ll no doubt encounter many personal dilemmas about shelling out so much money for just a keyboard… wait… just a keyboard? I use a keyboard every day of my life. I use a keyboard to earn my living. Would you expect a carpenter to use a rusty old band saw? Would you risk your well being with poorly fitting shoes? It is utterly worth it. If I lost this keyboard, I’d absolutely buy a replacement without hesitation. Once you lay your hands on one of these, you’ll know exactly why you bought it.
So again, winter is upon us, and the challenge is to find vegan wares to meet the cold.
When I was up in Montreal, I picked up this ‘Delahaye’ sweater for the office.
I also picked up this jacket, from 2 Die For. Not sure about the name, but I guess it’s good enough for a vegan coat :)
The lining has added awesome words of awesomeness, such as ‘dare your survival’ and ‘one in a million’. Apparently it’s also edition 235 of 500, so not sure if that is a contradiction or not. http://2diefor.it
The beanie is a North Face acrylic ‘Caden’ beanie. I’m a huge fan of North Face lately, but whatever, don’t ever buy Columbia gear, they use fur in their gear.
I also picked up the white 100% cotton Ralph Lauren sweater at Paragon sports in NYC. I’m not sure why, but couldn’t for the life of me find it in an actual Ralph Lauren store (is the cotton one too cheap for the high profile stores?)
I’ve recently become a Jonathan Safran Foer addict. His writing is exhilarating, personal and touching. Although I had seen the film of Everything Is Illuminated, I think he really came to my attention in NY Mag by bagging conceited dipshit Anthony Bourdain. His latest book, Eating Animals is one of the most incredible books I’ve read. As a vegan, it’s always hard not to be a crank spouting facts at meat eating friends, which usually is only helpful in starting religious wars. But when one of our times’ great story-tellers approaches the difficult subject of modern day animal agriculture from anew with an open and honest investigation, the result is a much more enjoyable read, yet an astonishingly important and comprehensive work. A must read for everyone.
Foer opens the book with ‘Storytelling’ – a binding and familiar tale about his Grandmother’s cooking. The way we eat is such a large part of our culture, our family traditions and habits, our identity, that it overshadows what may normally be easy, clear-cut decisions. After years of coyly courting vegetarianism, Foer is jolted by the vastly more significant responsibility of making decisions for his soon-to-arrive son.
So rather than cranky veganism or environmentatlism is instead the story of Foer’s conflicted but philosophical journey. A journey which sees him sneaking into a factory farm, visiting family farmers striving to provide “ethically raised” meat products, including a vegetarian rancher (not to mention the vegan slaughterhouse architect), talking with the employees of factory farming operations and slaughterhouses, and not least of all distilling the ocean of data and statistics to provide us with frightening glimpses of the scale of it all.
Given the gravity of the topic, most reviews easily forget to mention the brilliance of Foer’s penmanship. The book resonates so deeply and is so successful because of Foer’s storytelling ability, relating us all through our common experiences with food and tradition, and the decisions, queries and self-doubt we’ve all encountered. Foer is not here to beat you up, instead he wants to discuss the difficult topics, get past the convenient excuses, look into our traditions, look at the discrepancies between what we believe and what’s real, our ethics and our actions, what is visible and what is hidden.
Eating Animals is one the most utterly important conversations we need to have right now, you need to take part. Read this book.