Archive for February, 2013

The darker the shadow …

….  or so goes the melancholy song sung by the Australian singer Stephen Cummings.

city street


When one lives in a mostly hot place, as I do in summer, sometimes the only time to have a pleasant long ride is at night.

I use both dynamo and battery lights and mostly ride in suburban back streets with patchy lighting, in well lit city streets for short distances and for long distances on unlit bush cycle paths. One would think that the unlit areas need the brightest lighting, but in reality I find that less light is needed, for example, on the very dark Fernleigh Track than for areas with patchy street lighting or city streets with car traffic.


swansea rsl

swansea rsl from the bridge

The reason why appears to be that the eyes become adjusted to the relative darkness and can perceive the headlight’s beam faintly enough to see at a further distance than when it is washed out by patchy light/dark ambient lighting in the suburbs or by dazzling distractions in the city. Rabbits, small tree branches, the occasional dangling spider web and light-less walkers (rare) are the only likely dark obstacles to passage on the track at night, and there aren’t many sharp corners either.


two horizons, swansea

two horizons, swansea channel

I recently tried an experiment with a helmet mounted headlight to see if that would improve my city and suburban riding ease, and it did work well there, however in uniformly dark areas like the Fernleigh Track, I found myself wanting to turn it off. Why ?


dark maybe, but not as dark as it looks !

fernleigh – dark maybe, but not as dark as it looks !

The beauty of riding the Fernleigh Track at night is the sense of peace, quietness and alone-ness, with just  an adequate envelope of light around yourself and the bike, in my case adjusted for speed variation via the 3 brightness levels on the Cygolite 170 lumen that I use on my Road King bike for night commuting ). Oncoming riders with super bright LEDs in your face can be extremely disorienting and I don’t want to be another of those. For the same reason I don’t ever use the “epileptic” fast flicker modes (if I may be so unkind), as they are that annoying to me it’s like asking to be run over ( lol ).


with bar clamp on the cecil walker

the lezyne with bar clamp on the cecil walker

Listening to frogs and crickets  in the dark while the wind rustles by is one of the joys of this ride that can be spoiled by visual overload. With the helmet mounted Lezyne Power Drive (400 lumen – usb) light running as well, I felt as though I was ‘roo spotting or something !  Also, the particles of moisture in the air were lighting up in the beam causing an obscuring and unpleasant bright fog in front …. sigh.


stockton shared path - a beautiful ride, but tricky at night

stockton shared path – a beautiful ride, but tricky at night

Where the helmet mount does excel though, is on winding paths like the Stockton Hunter River side where one can then see around dark corners before taking them, avoiding the need to quickly wriggle the bars to get a peek around, as well as for pot-hole spotting on suburban streets in the darkness between street lights.


lezyne helmet mount with velcro strap

lezyne helmet mount with velcro strap is in the “loaded” kit

As an aside, there is a certain poetry in the dynamo lighting systems that automatically brighten up as one travels faster, and modern dynamo hubs like the one on my Gazelle have very little pedalling resistance compared with my 1950’s Millers for example. And, of course, they are virtually maintenance free. I merely take a good head torch on long dark rides on this bike in case e.g. puncture repairs are needed.




Also, while the modern single LEDs are very bright they often seem to concentrate in a narrow beam, perhaps by design and perhaps because of the tiny reflector area and the pinpoint LED source. My halogen B&M Lumotec gives much more light spread to the sides. Sadly you can’t easily swap bikes with these, but if you have only one “night bike”, it may be the way to go.

Incidentally, the main reason that I bought the Lezyne was because the retro Soma “Torpedo” that I fitted is not sufficiently bright for a potentially faster bike like my Cecil Walker, although it does look beautiful. It’s more suited to lower speeds, as one might have guessed !


the soma torpedo is beautiful and clever - but not at speed

the soma torpedo AA headlamp is beautiful and clever – but not at speed – the lezyne micro drive usb rear is on the seat post


If you buy one of the Lezyne lights, try and get it with the “loaded” kit that comes in a padded hard case with the light, q.r. bar mount, helmet mount, usb cable and an extra battery – and also lash out on a couple of extra quick release bar mounts for your other bikes. Almost essential, if you have several bikes as I do. The bar clamp allows a small amount of side to side “parallax” type adjustment that is very handy too.  This should be the last light that I buy for a long time.


the excellent "loaded" kit, with spare battery and protective cylinder

the excellent “loaded” kit, with the spare battery and its protective cylinder

I also have the Lezyne “micro drive” USB rechargeable tail lamp, its brightness is excellent, and I really like the slow pulsing mode that has no flicker. The mount is a simple silicone strap that so far has caused no problems, but it would be worthwhile getting spares of these too, methinks !


There are plenty of customer reviews for the Lezyne on the Wiggle UK site.


bench seat, swansea channel

bench seat, swansea channel

Happy Riding !



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I’ve spent a fair amount of time and money (but no more than a cheap bike shop model might cost) bringing my old Road King up to speed as a practical commuter – guards, saddle, bars, rack, lights, pedals, etc.

multi mode commute

on a multi mode commute

I didn’t mind doing this because the basic bike was in such good condition for an almost 30 year old ride, even though some cycling forum threads cruelly describe Road Kings as low end clunkers fit for the rubbish  tip ! Tsk tsk …

I take the different view, however, that a well set up straight framed and properly maintained bike like this is well worth keeping and improving upon if you can accept its few basic limitations – which are mainly the weight of the steel frame, wheels, and also of other components along with the slightly clunky drive train (mostly things that can be improved).  I even think it has quite a bit of classic style – so there !

Just don’t pay too much for one if you are thinking of buying it – I’ve noticed “buy it now” prices rocketing on ebay lately for this sort of thing :

a repco traveller - a similar low-end '80s 10speed

a repco traveller – a similar low-end ’80s 10speed

I have almost always disliked cotter pins as they can be imprecise and fiddly things that have a tendency to wear out and loosen prematurely, which is a hindrance on a long distance commuter when you’re “pressing on” or pedalling hard. Maybe they are OK on “high end” classic bikes where the components are more accurately machined, but not on this old Woolworths beastie. These steel cranks and chain wheels are quite heavy as well as looking inaccurately made :

cheap pressed and riveted crank-set

cheap pressed and riveted steel crank-set

For the sake of originality on a genuine collectable classic bike I wouldn’t change  the cottered bottom end unless I really had to, but this bike arguably isn’t one of those. Anyway, you can always hold onto the original parts for the future if they are in working condition or repairable.

with mks sylvan alloy pedals

with mks sylvan alloy pedals

So it wasn’t a difficult decision to replace the cottered crankset with the square tapered one from an old Ricardo 12 speed MTB – a Tracer brand that has also done some brief service on other bikes. It has alloy cranks with steel rings, and surprisingly fitted in and worked without even needing the derailleur stops adjusted !

You may need to adjust the height of the front derailleur to fit the new ring size however. As long as the new crank axle is the right width and you have non-indexed friction shifters this kind of mod. is easy. The down side in my case is a slight reduction of top gear chain wheel teeth from 52 to 48 without a corresponding drop in low gearing – they have the same sized 40T lower chain ring – oh well, it was a freebie I suppose.

old and new (size difference exaggerated by perspective)

old and new (size difference exaggerated by perspective)

It doesn’t look too much different to the old set either, and the alloy cranks seem to visually match the newer pedals as well. Most better quality bikes in ’84 were beginning to have this type of crank/axle set-up anyway.

it's a process of improvement

it’s a gradual process of improvement

Hopefully there will now be no more squeaking and creaking…

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