Cycling to Raumati

27 12 2009

John Baldwin on Kapiti Independent News has a good post, again about the Wharemauku Stream trail. I would have voted for all 7 of his ideas if he got around to me that day. They’re all important.

A Pohangina Loop

26 12 2009

In my advocacy for the National Cycleway I have said that a route could be chosen that went on non-busy local roads through the boonies and rural back blocks and sign-posted from one end of the country to the other. Then the route could be altered as off-road routes were completed. That way we would have a cycleway by the end of the new year and it could get people riding it and gaining momentum and popularity. The Pohangina Valley Road is the type of road I meant.

I started by unloading the bike off the back of the car at the Ashhurst Domain in the Manawatu. You know you’re in the Manawatu with views like this:

and the Boxing Day traffic was close to nil, probably like most days:

The road continues up the Pohangina Valley. The Pohangina River rises on the west side of the Ruahine Ranges, the hills on your right shoulder as you ride north.  Here’s a view overlooking the river.

The route is largely flat and paved, except for a few kilometres on the western side:

About 10km past Ashhurst there is a bridge over the river, and a loop can be made by riding up to the next bridge. This sign marks the further point of the ride  for a 50 km loop starting and ending at the Ashhurst Domain.

After Ashhurst there is a cafe open weekends in Pohangina village, and an Irish themed cafe/bar 10kms out of Ashhurst, near Raumai. There is camping at Totara Reserve, with powered sites if you need to recharge your bike’s batteries. The campground would be 40km from Palmerston North if you’re heading north.

Northwards it’s a long way through to Taihape, but also using Gentle Annie a low-traffic, lots of hills, lots of adventure route over to Napier could be ridden. It’d take a few days.

The world of pedelecs

24 12 2009

The figures are exciting – 25,000,000 or more electric bikes were sold in China this year. And a lot of manufacturers of bikes are located in China so I figured that parts of electric bikes sold in the rest of the world, if not all of an electric bike was getting manufactured in China. So I figure that at 25,000,000 units in one year they must be relatively inexpensive. So I thought of the idea of finding the price out, and maybe go to China and buy one over there and then bring it back to NZ. The savings maybe would pay for an airfare and I could see one of the world’s oldest nation’s full of history and culture.

The average price is 2000 Renminbi, which is only like NZ$400 (under US$300). Xinri is a major manufacturer and they have Jackie Chan promoting them (He’s cool – when travelling by bus through Mexico there’s always an action movie playing. Claude Van Damme movies are not so good, so it was always with relief when it was a Jackie Chan film)

I think that they are maybe made for the local market. Selling 25,000,000 units they must be doing a whole lot right for Chinese conditions. They are heavy too, with Sealed Lead Acid batteries. That explains the low price tags. Do you like the styling?

How about this one?

I like the look of next year’s Alpino’s from Wisper in the UK. here it is with the city styling. It has a hub in the front now, and the back hub is one of those internal 8 gear Shimano hubs. Very nice. Probably about NZ $2,500 next year.

And I remember that Sanyo makes bikes for the Japanese market so I thought I’d find out about them. I’ve an invite to Himeji for the new year and what a souvenir it would be to come home with one of them. You’ll have to use Google translate to read about the top of their range Eneloop Bike website and it looks good too:

It has a front wheel motor with regenerative braking recharge, plus there is a motor in the crank near the pedals, and the back hub is the same type of internal 8 gear Shimano hub. Both the new Wispers and this Sanyo bike have in built headlights that run off the main battery, and this Sanyo bike has a carbon fibre frame, so with the battery the whole bike is only 19kg, which is 3 to 5 kilos lighter than the Wisper. Then again the price I think turned into over NZ$9000.

2010 models are getting very, very nice. It still seems like we’re on the cusp of a revolution in bicycles, and the technology is getting there. Now all we need is for those batteries to drop in price, and maybe also become standardised in electrical specs and sizes so spare batteries could be bought from multiple manufacturers. More grunty motors allowed by changing the various laws  in each country will also let the industry blossom.

And Sanyo please start exporting your bikes to the world.

A ride out past Pencarrow Lighthouse

24 12 2009

Tonight after work, which finished early 🙂 for Xmas Eve, with a bike with fixed spokes on the back of the car and an esteemed colleague’s bike too, we headed around Wellington Harbour past Eastbourne to the end of the road at Burdan’s Gate. Then we wanted to know how far we could get around the coast.

The Great Harbour Way website says it wants to go from Fitzroy Bay in the east to Sinclair Head out near Red Rocks in the west. This bit is out towards the East.

I think we got as far as Fitzroy Bay. We got to the Wainuiomata River. On the way back another cyclist said it was possible to get all the way round to Tora beyond the Cape Palliser Lighthouse and claims to have done it. Maybe.

Land tenure is a bit confusing. We had to pass one “Private Property” sign, but it looked like it was out of place, and then there is a public road beyond or something. It’s all very confusing.

The road is a gravel route open to vehicles by permit only. That means it is traffic free and a bit of a joy to ride. It’s not really rough. (I walked out to the lighthouse and around the lakes once, it took 7 hours).

This is me going south towards the lighthouse:

After that confusing, and possibly out of place, private property sign, and a couple of gates the track gives out towards the Wainuiomata River and we pushed our bikes through the pebbles. here is where we gave up on the bikes:

We crossed the river at its outlet on foot and continued exploring:

and on the way back we decided to bike up the Cameron Ridge Track between Lake Kohangapiripiri and Lake Kohangatera for the fine views. In this picture, that’s Lake Kohangapiripiri in the middle right, and Cook Strait in the far left and Wellington Harbour in the background, and then the Miramar Peninsula (Welly’s eastern suburbs) and the little mountain at the back is Mount Kaukau.

So yes the Great Harbour Way’s vision for this bit of track is great. It is perfectly rideable in its current state (despite the confusing tenure – sorry (a little bit) if we trespassed at all).

If there was a bit of tarmacadam laid for a single tyre width in the gravel road so road bikes could enjoy it too, and if there was a short 500 metre section of new track and a bridge across the Wainuiomata River and it was signposted all the way around to Ocean Beach, then an 80km circular trip of the Hutt River Trail, the Rimutaka Rail Trail, Western Lake Road through the south west Wairarapa and this coastal way would make a great 2 day ride. You could do it now, but you’d be a tough bugger.

All those foreign backpackers rushing through Wellington to get to the ferry and the South Island would have a bloody good ride to stay and do a world class ride near Wellington. It’s pretty damn scenic.

I’m getting sued for defamation because of one of my blogs

24 12 2009

Sorry it’s not bicycle related, but on my Clean Air blog I’m getting sued for defamation.

So for you people only interested in bikes I’ll write a short entry about bikes and smoke.

I love riding my bike, all year round, including all winter, or I would, but in winter you go past some people’s houses and you cop a lungful of smoke. How is that fair? I don’t get it. The winter in Wellington is warm enough to ride a bike in shorts at night. I might put on a jacket and sometimes gloves, but I’ve never been tempted to put on a pair of stripey thermals under my shorts. It rarely drops below 0 deg C.

So there you have it, another reason not to heat homes with wood burners, and similarly another reason not to have outside  burn offs in the rural districts, it annoys the cyclists cycling by. That sounds like an overwhelmingly good reason to ban burning off and wood burning heaters.

And you think I could state that without the threat of lawsuits. At least I now know what Dr Evil is doing with his time since the Austin Powers movies ran out of steam.

Dud cycle lanes in Paraparaumu

21 12 2009

State Highway 1 through Kapiti is a bit of an over trafficked road, and the best thing about what follows is that there are alternative routes, such as the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route (along Rosetta Road in Raumati, along Marine Parade through Pram Beach, through the new Kotuku Lakes to Otaihanga and over the walking/cycle swingbridge over the Waikanae River then up Paetawa Road to Peka Peka, and then you’re stuffed)

The speed limit of the traffic at this section is 80km/hr. That is just way too fast to have cars and trucks zipping over your shoulder. This morning there was even a convoy of 3 articulated log trucks. For sending 120 cut logs down a route to the port which is serviced by a railway line parallelling the road sending those 3 trucks with trailers is unforgivable. Thank goodness I wasn’t riding along the cycle lane.

Then the routes are only partially marked in the green paint, for a few tens of metres and then they run out of green paint.

At the northern end of the painted path near Otaihanga Road it finishes at a narrow 100km/hr section of highway.

At the southern end of  the marked cycle lane it is painted to follow SH1 crossing traffic going straight onto Ruahine Street, and if you got past that then you could expect to die when the painted green lane takes you to the railway overbridge, presuming you miss the abrupt green-painted 90 degree turn to go down Hinemoa Street.

Or you could take this confusing marked bicycle exit (near where the green of the top photo stops), but by the end of the off ramp at the Stop sign the highway engineers even forgot it was a cycle lane. So don’t expect to know where to go next.

These marked bicycle lanes were ill-thought out and are going to lead to the death of cyclists. Whoever thought that cycle lanes go on the side of 80 km/hr roads needs to ride a bike and learn something about being shit-scared by the traffic.

With all the current hoo-haa about National Cycleways and Kapiti roading submissions and the NZTA promising to look at cycle options from Wellington to Levin as well as the super-dooper highways, you’d think something good will come of it, but the NZTA came up with these token bike lanes. We need cycle paths linking towns (or at least bridging the gaps between quiet rural roads between the towns), not cycle lanes on the sides of busy highways. If you wouldn’t trust the safety of a 10 year old on their bike on your cycle infrastructure, then it’s not cycle infrastructure at all.

A Pedal Electric reviewed – The Wisper Sport 905se

19 12 2009

This is the week of the failed Copenhagen Summit and therefore it is the week of MIT’s  The Copenhagen Wheel, which has some very cool ideas put into the one package, namely the Bluetooth control where you take your normal (Bluetooth and GPS enabled) phone and mount it on your handlebars and you have yourself an instant dashboard.

And the self contained nature of the motor is pretty choice, and it is designed to go into a standard rear fork so presumably it is quite thin. I’d chuck one in my old normal bike, but it getting energy it seems only from braking does seem pretty limited. It’d be a toy electric bike, not a real one. A real electric bike has a handlebar throttle.

So this is a review of a real pedal electric bike, a  Wisper Bikes bike, the 905se-Sport. I’ve been riding one since May.

They’re an English Company from somewhere called  Hampshire and that means they’re relatively expensive to buy in New Zealand. Try this guy in Whakatane.

So here it is a bit bruised and battered (but cleaned) after a few months of use:

It is a pretty solid bike. The frame is strong. It is also heavy. The bike with battery is 23 kg. That makes it a pain to chuck it over a gate or a fence. It is a pretty sturdy ride too. The riding position is quite upright, so it’s pretty comfortable. The 37v 14a advanced lithium polymer battery (518 watt hours) drops in behind the seat. It is lockable to the frame. Unfortunately it means you have to take the seat out to get to the battery. This means each ride I have to set the seat height again. Usually I charge the battery at home leaving the battery in the bike, but if I recharge at work I take the battery out. I have managed to break the battery handle 😦 It was made of plastic and wasn’t strong enough,

which means the battery is just that bit harder to get in and out. The little black rubber cover for the recharge plug and the fuse are long ago lost.

On the whole for the battery design I would prefer to have them mountable on the back carrier (my carrier is a 3rd party after market accessory). I would also like them daisy chainable. So if I bought another battery (which I can’t do, because the batteries cost too much) I’d like to be able to plug in a second or subsequent battery and then the computer was smart enough to drain one entirely first then the next. And if they were daisy chainable to a battery or two in a towed trailer, that’d be even better. I’d love a range on my battery where I could ride electric assisted all day.

Here’s my bike from the front with it’s after market lights. The bike is trying to do an ET wearing a monocle impression. The pannier is a standard one (not one of the Wisper ones) I bought at a local bike shop. The front end is pretty solid too. The throttle in the handlebar grip that works like a motorcycle throttle is an integral part of the system. I’m not wanting to press the screen of an iPhone to change gears. I like the Shimano gear set that comes with the bike. There’s only 7 gears, and I use about 3 of them, but step through the others. 1, 4 and 7 are the ones I use. I do most of my riding in 7th and top gear. On the flat I can ride pedal assist at 34km/hr and sustain about 28 km/hr in the first hour. I eat hills on it, and can ride up quite substantial hills in 6th or 7th and at 22km/hr, where on a normal bike I’d be in granny gear. My friends on normal bikes can usually keep up with me (and vice versa) on the flat, but I accelerate on hills whilst they drop behind.

Range wise I can do a comfy 40km without too much of a sweat. By the time I get back there’s power still in the battery and in me. I can do 80 or even 100km (depending on hills and wind) and me and the bike have had it with nothing left in either of our batteries. On my normal bike I’m dead after 60km.

On a bike carrier on the back of my car there are a few qualms. Firstly it is so damn heavy. I usually remove the battery to make it 3 or so kilos lighter. Next because the bike is longer than a normal bike by about the width of the battery behind the seat, it hangs over the side of the car by a couple of inches. Next the rear brake cable goes under the cross bar of the frame, when everything else is neatly wired on the bottom bar of the frame. And that back loop of metal for running the brake cable along is just in the wrong place for my bike carrier. So the end result is I’ve stuffed the cable up a bit and put a bit of wear onto the frame. Really it would be better to route the brake cable for the rear brakes with the other cables.

The computer is down low and not well protected. It is only splash proof and not fully waterproof. This I reckon is a design oversight. However I’ve forded a few creeks and it’s been fine. Then again the plug on the purple wires has fallen out the back. What that plug is for I don’t know. I plugged it into its other end and it makes the bike stop working.

The cogs on the back hub have corroded a bit. (Maybe cause I ride it on beaches) and the back connector’s plastic lug doesn’t fit on any more (nor did it very well at the start). I think this should be redesigned as a plug and socket for facilitating the removal of the back wheel. You need two 18 mm spanners to get it off and then it hangs by the wire. Two 18 mm spanners carried in the panniers is actually quite heavy. Some form of quick release that is key locked matching the other locks on the bike would be ideal.

So far I’ve had 26 punctures. Between a heavy bike and a heavy rider and off road riding I’ve had a few punctures. I’ve gone for goo filled tyres and not had a puncture since. If it becomes a problem again, I’m thinking of trying out fancy polyurethane airless tyres shipped over from Colorado.

I’ve had 4 broken spokes. They were due to two rough (but fun) rides. And spoke lengths on the rear wheel are a non standard 20cm. I think I should treat it as a commuter and touring bike, and leave the single track downhill for a different bike (and a younger rider).  It does handle the gravel roads quite well. Flying across hard packed sand at 30km/hr it also handles quite well (but don’t stop pedalling or using that throttle as it’s heavy and it’ll sink into the sand).

The rear brakes being the brake pad against the rim type are pretty bad. The front disk brake works a lot better.

It’s taken a bit of rough punishment from me and it’s held up quite well. The original bike computer was rubbish quality and soon went. It’s replacement fell off and was lost, but that was a crap Cat Eye mount’s fault not the bike’s . The pump that comes with the bike is rubbish quality as well. It wasn’t that hard to put the bike together when I got it either.

On the whole it has been a whole lot of comfortable and fun rides and I absolutely love riding it. Routine maintenance is the key for it to have a long life. I may replace the back brakes with a better mechanism and reroute the cable for it and file off those tabs on the cross bar. I’ll be fussy about any bike computer if I get another one (but maybe I should just get an iPhone with GPS).

In Wellington I can chuck it on the trains, but that extra couple inches of length make it more difficult than a normal bike to get it on. One conductor told me I couldn’t have the battery connected since it was an electric train (I don’t get it either), but he was fine with it if I took the battery out and put it in my backpack.

When I’ve gone for a 40km ride in the evening and I don’t feel like pedalling anymore I stand up on my pedals with a straight back, just holding onto the throttle and leaning slightly forward and looking around into the paddocks, watching the world silently go by. I call that riding position the pukeko. Because the bike is so silent I’ve snuck up on a few pukekos and ducks. And I rolled past a falcon on a fence post 4 feet away who wasn’t disturbed enough to fly off. So it is a good mobile platform for bird watching.

Pedal electric technology isn’t perfect yet. The MIT Copenhagen bike shows there’s a lot more room for innovation. It’s not perfect yet, but what there is, is pretty fantastic. And if pedal electrics get more people on bikes for short (or long) commutes, and if we get pedal electric recumbents, and we get pedal electric velomobiles taking over the city, then we should be able to give up petrol and diesel engine commuting.

The keys to it are battery range and this is where daisy chaining comes into it. The other key to it is speed. A 250Watt motor on a bike doesn’t give enough speed. I think the cruising speed of an electric bike should be around 40km/hr, and for a more stable recumbent 50km/hr. In a velomobile  (which by my definition is a recumbent in a shell) it should be 60 km/hr since you could put some basic safety features into the shell like a roll bar above the head. And if people could commute at 60 km/hr (with or without pedalling themselves) carrying maybe some groceries and a kid in safety then who’d need to have a car in the city at all.

We wouldn’t need to plead for cycleways. We could just kick off the cars and use the roads.

I love my Wisper Sport.