Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tip 131: Right hook vs Left hook.

When a car approaches in traffic, it may not be in solidarity as you #Occupy Bike Lane.
What can seem an intimate gesture, as a couple of tonne of moulded metal, bucket seats and wing mirrors tries to snuggle up, can be quite the opposite.
You've been right hooked.
An appropriate gesture in response is to fold your finger tips into the palm of your hand, wrap your thumb around them, tense your hand muscles, and move your arm rapidly towards the approaching car's panel.
That's what cyclists call a left hook.

BONUS TIP: You don't really need hand bones to ride a bike, so feel free to throw that hook nice and hard.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tip 130: Wear your spare helmet.

It's the shape of the bowl your mum used to make pavlova in.
It features a colourway dominated by the purple dye they were so desperate to exhuast global supplies of in the 90s.
It is made of polystyrene which is visible, perhaps through a stretchy cover.
It does not do up properly, and oscillates from protecting your eyebrows to covering the nape of your neck.
BONUS TIP: Don it if you would like to run into the last two people who thought you were cool, and disabuse them of that notion once and forever.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Tip 129: Rust

Could this be a harbinger of the fall of civilisation? The vibrant ochres of Australia's outback are showing up in its inner city. Is the natural world about to re-claim the metropolises, dark satanic mills, Apple stores, faddish urban ferris wheels, and all?
Ought we be alarmed the ochre is principally clustered around the stems of department store bikes and the chains of old ten-speeds? Is it true this suggests the massing forces of the vast open spaces are employing quotidian locations, much over-looked, even by their owners, as a mobile and most insidious beach-head?

BONUS TIP: Some insist on a fight back, emitting further nitrous, carbon di-, and all the other oxides, until we choke the voracious natural world. Others suggest that is precisely what the forest wants us to trick us into doing.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tip 127: Use your ears

Like a blind man alert to an intruder, or the BFG hearing the cries of trees cut down, the ears of the cyclist are the source of fear and safety.
The faint hum of the tyres of a SUV rolling up in neutral sends you scarpering for the shoulder, the roar of a truck far away gets you out of the saddle and bolting for the roundabout you know you will not be able to share.
Ears, really, are the hipsters' helmet mirrors.
Swooping bats in a sky of evil portent.
BONUS TIP:  Tinnitus can make you believe you are being attacked by huge flocks of swooping bats, which is not as unlikely as you might hope.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tip 126: Pedal strike

Fixie riders know it best - you can't coast through the corner, you have to keep those crank arms moving like the Big Ben clock during a time travel sequence in some shit BBC sitcom the desperately underfunded ABC is using to fill the long boring hours between Bananas in Pajamas and Margaret and David.
You're pedalling fast and you feel so good, so in control that you lean in just a bit more, and that's when you get it.
Pedal Strike is like taking heroin.  It's a tiny moment of nothingness where your brain goes blank, while your senses are totally activated.
You get a big physical shock up your leg, there's the noise of cheap black plastic on asphalt and the smell of fear. You have absolutely no idea what's happened that makes the whole world wobble.

BONUS TIP: Assuming for a minute you've saved up for them nice metal pedals, you are in mortal peril.
In thick traffic it is not unknown for a spark from pedal strike to ignite the exhaust of pre-1990 cars, which  everyone knows is rich in unburned fuel due to spark plug build ups and pre-CAD manufacturing processes.
Last week on Clarendon St, a friend turned around from squeezing the first mangoes of the season at the South Melbourne Market to see a young fixie rider being thrown through the air, looking like a tiny black sun-spot against the big orange orb of an explosion.
Evidently Mythbusters were in town fliming a pedal strike myth episode and this was conclusive anecdotal proof of plausibility. The hipster in question was toast, but Discovery Channel don't like to talk about that. Adam and Jamie reportedly laughed cruelly before slicing the crispy hipster, and making him into souvlakis for the whole crew.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tip 125: Public shame

I rode up to the girls school just after the bell rang.
It was hot and I was on the Repco mountain bike my parents bought me a few years before, which was just starting to be the right size.
The girls school was on top of a hill. Uphill to get there, steep down on the other side. I could see girls emerging from school buildings and drifting to the front gates as I toiled under my backpack full of homework, to the peak.
I was bookish and teen-aged and as far from being confident with girls as Vanilla Ice was from NWA. My bike was fluoro orange. It was the 1990s.
As I summited, many girls in their checked summer dresses were exiting the school. 
They milled around the gates. All of them were dazzling with their long hair and their beauty and their bright bubbly confidence and all of them were definitely looking right at me, thinking “That guy? Is he cool?”
I tried to look straight ahead and thought to myself, “I can look cool, if I just go really fast down this hill.”
I went to change gear.
This was when mountain bikes were hot.  They had taken the mantle from BMX, and the more gears you had the better. 
The gears had to be Shimano. Some people had SIS but nobody was sure what it stood for. Mine said Shimano, so even though it didn't work properly, it was the best there was.
I kept my bike outside, because that was where you kept bikes. My dad, an otherwise practical man, was not given to bicycle maintenance, and it did not occur to me I could improve the functioning of my bicycle gears by mentioning that they were, practically speaking, totally stuffed.
I pushed the shifter, and knew I would, as usual, struggle with it.
I wasn't going to let my gear levers defeat me in front of all those girls.
I turned my whole palm against the crappy black plastic lever and shoved.
The handlebars turned sharply. The bike stopped. My feet left the pedals and I distinctly recall turning my head toward the gates where the girls were standing. I hoped nobody would be watching as the bright orange bike cart-wheeled and the small boy with the big backpack soared. A vain hope.
I did not soar for ever. My descent onto the asphalt - a surface chosen for its unyielding nature - obliterated layer upon layer of skin and embedded loose gravel deep in my palms.
What followed may be the most reticent display I will ever make.
I did not lie on the road and wail. I did not examine my wounds. I did not hope people would come and fuss over me. I stood immediately, focussing my entire being on not crying.
I grabbed the Repco by the handle bar, haughtily, like it had thrown me off quite unfairly. Casting not a single glance at the assembled school girls, I swung my leg over and pedalled down the hill, remaining this time in a rather easy gear. Far worse than the sting of riding with no knee-skin was the way my face burned and my stomach churned with shame.
By the time I got home my socks were red with blood.
I never once rode home that way again.
Quite some years later I got engaged to a woman who attended that very school. One evening I attended a social event with her and had occasion to tell this story. 
She said, “That was you?” before leaving with another man.
Not really.
I would never tell this story at a social event.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tip 124: Ride angry

If your boss has the empathy of a mouldy banana, the logic of a festering sore and the charm of a wafting fart, you regularly get the opportunity to set a land-speed record on the way home from work.
BONUS TIP: In this way, you build the big stonking legs that will enable you to climb the corporate ladder high enough to - one day - be your current boss's boss. Or to leap from the hurtling train that  is your career, and run away, fast.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tip 123: Ride through poo

Despite the best efforts of the auto-industrial plutocrats, cars are yet to obtain exclusive dominion over the paved surfaces of our metropolises.
The road must be shared. Not only with bicycles mind you, but with all manner of excreting beings.

  • Horse poo - while not too stinky - tends lumpy, and is most likely to knock your bike from under you. Found not only on long rides through rural parts, but in the centre, where smiling out-of-towners fritter away large amounts to take short loops using out-of-date transport.
  • Bird poo is the least objectionable, unless you ride through it before it hits the ground. At mouth-height, say.
  • Dog poo has few fans. Depending on the animal's diet, it can create a hazardous slipping effect under a slick tire. Those with low clearance on their brake will find the mechanism becomes rapidly  clogged with hard-to-shift brown stuff.  

BONUS TIP: Fenders, front and rear.  Having the brown sequins up your back is a dubious mark of honour when they have a silent smell, but when it's poo, it's a clear bugle call you have stopped caring, and may soon cease wearing pants.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tip 121: Miss your pedal

It's the second pedal push after the traffic lights.  The first foot is on and you're moving.
Then the other foot begins to feel its way. It gets a tiny, insufficient piece of pedal and plummets earthward.
If you're in the saddle, you might get painful pedal strike around the ankle region.
If you're out of the saddle, your crotch hits the saddle hard and you're lucky to walk away with your junk.
If you were up out of the saddle - really trying to put in power - you can end up missing the saddle with all but the very back of your butt, and having the nose of the saddle wedge right in your crack.

BONUS TIP: Of all the cycling injuries, saddle-induced crack damage is the least discussed and most stigmatised, but really, who hasn't known its torment?
I said: Who hasn't known its torment?

Tip 122: Collide with your mate

Friend, lover, team-mate or mother, you think you're on a wavelength but you're not.
You might be in the middle of a conversation about the European Central Bank, or an excellent new cat video when suddenly:

You make a turn it was obvious you both should take; or
They make a turn without warning.

All of a sudden knees are touching, brake levers are scraping along knuckles, someone is squealing like a macaque and if one of you doesn't hit the ground soon, you both will.

BONUS TIP: The remainder of the ride will feel like an 800 mile epic through a landscape of frigid silence, punctuated with sightseeing stops at the sulphuric geysers of fault and blame.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tip 120: Sticker your bike

Cover your bike up.
Maybe you want to hide the brand to make it less stealable. Maybe you want to cover it because you are a bit ashamed it is an Apollo not a Gazelle.

Sticker up, but beware that like a Pringle, a snort of pure Colombian, or a young lover it's hard to stop at just one.
Soon your Obama '08 will be battling for space with One Less Car, which is in turn eclipsing Triple R; and half the weight of your ride is pvc plastic and glue.  

BONUS TIP: The left wing has a true monopoly on the bike-mounted adhesive rectangle.  No-one wants a bike with a Bush-Cheney 2004 sticker or a Young Nationals sticker.
Which is why they are prime theft deterrent and will soon be made available through this website at very reasonable prices.

Tip 119: Crane your neck.

If your saddle is higher than your handlebars - and you have little chance of becoming the object of a wistful missed connections entry if it isn't - you know neck strain.
On the long trip from your basement "loft" to attend class, pull espressos or occupy wherever, you will become a sort of super yogi, capable of holding a tendon- tearing position for hours on end.
The alternative, of being hypnotised by a spinning front wheel, is a pretty good way of testing the strength of your front wheel compared to the panel on the passenger door of a turning car.

BONUS TIP: Ride far enough like that and as you walk down the street, you will appear to forever be contemplating the clouds, unable to lower your eyes to human level. You need to swap to an upright dutch bike when the missed connections entries start overwhelmingly coming from your BFFs / parents/ housemates.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Tip 118: Be a paragon of virtue

Never ever overtake on the left.  Signal each manouevre.  Announce you're passing.  Pump your tires.  Shoal nobody. Look both ways at cross streets even when you have right of way. Stop to help people with punctures.
Inspire your fellow riders to exalted displays of refined behaviour with a messianic display of flawlessness. Never rest.
BONUS TIP: If you collect a bunch of 12 guys you love to ride with, and they take your word as gospel, and then you all go out for one last supper, and one of them gives you a kiss, it would be safe to be worried about your immediate future.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tip 117: Lift a bike

Choosing a bike is not easy, and the pressure in the bike shop is all too real. There's one thing anyone can do to look wise, and that's lift a bike up.

You need to make a face as you lift it.

  • If it's light your mouth should turn down as your eyebrows shoot up.  
  • If it's heavy your eyebrows crease down and your mouth stays still.  Don't show exertion.

BONUS TIP: Encourage any companions present to lift it. When they do, say "See?"

Tip 128: Name your bike

If it's going to be the envy of cooing onlookers and/or sleep in your bedroom, then sure, name it.
But please, there's no call to dub your bike Jack or Susan or Michael.  Choosing a gendered name can lead to bad puns and confusion centred on "going out with" and "riding."
Bicycle naming is less like choosing a name for your child and more like naming your  ironic eight-piece swing/folk band.
For this reason The Cow, The Ship and The Tank are all acceptable bike names, depending on the machine's colour scheme.

BONUS TIP: Nobler bikes get longer names. If you really love your bike consider naming it something like The Indefatigable Puissance of The Residential Streets, which is not only commands attention and respect, but lends itself to a range of adorable shortenings.

Tip 132: Make your mother worry

You do wear your helmet don't you? I see some stupid boys riding around without helmets.  You wouldn't do that would you?
I worry about you with those cars.
At night? Are you sure you want to? I'm sure I could fit that bike in the back of the car and drive you home.
Can I give you a lift?
BONUS TIP: Don't try to describe brakeless bikes to your mum, or she'll worry you are going to get one.  Don't tell your mum about that one close call where the tram's cold hard flank squished up against you.  Don't let your mum read your blog.

Tip 116: Get black all over your fingers

It must in theory be possible to change a tire or lube a chain without getting black shit from your fingertips up to your armpits.
Once that sticky combination of oil, dirt and atomised rubber particles is on you it aims to colonise.  It relishes that fact you're on way to meet your new boss, the apparently hot babe from the dating website, and / or your spouse's extended family.
Like an Alien species in a George Lucas movie, it's going to take a major climatic battle with a ton of lasers to claim territory back.
No matter how much of Palmolive's finest you splurt on, no matter how tightly your scrubbing technique is modelled on Doogie Howser MD, John "JD" Dorian or Dr Doug Ross, it will still be there the next day.
BONUS TIP: Touch your face and you'll find - possibly much later - you gave yourself a headstart in Movember, mismatched mutton chops, and a gangster tear-drop tattoo.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Tip 115: Wear a helmet inside

You may *know* you look dorky but subconsciously, you've forgotten. Otherwise you wouldn't have walked in wearing that stupid plastic hat.
No matter what claims are made about the charms of helmets - when you step off the bike, hotness rushes out like air from a thumb-tacked tire.
BONUS TIP: If you thought a Mohawk, a skinhead or a hijab were socially divisive, try wearing a helmet into a hipster bar.  Some tattooed douchebag will start up the helmet debate, and there'll be blood all over the ironic decor before you're able to leave.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tip 114: Budget for a new bike

Half your savings?
Twice the monthly extra data costs on your mobile phone plan?
Fifteen times the cost of those totally sweet, ever so now brogues you just bought?
Every cent you've saved by eating two minute noodles that you actually ate only because you are too lazy to cook properly?
Every cent you'll save by not making it to old age, on account of a life-span shortened by trans-fats found in cheap noodles?

BONUS TIP: If you are bold - go large on your budget.
Take a little bit of debt to buy a bike, you'll have to work to pay it back.
Take a truly massive amount and ride around pleased as punch for a while. Then, when France and Germany suggest you should take a few austerity measures to pay it back, ride around throwing molotov cocktails at public buildings.
Complete the sequence by giving up the currency every one else uses, which will mean you never need to save again...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tip 113: Taco a wheel

There are parts of this town a bike should not go to after dark. 
It's a sad day when we have to say the victim should have known better, but certain places attracts a certain kind of passer-by who think a bike is asking to have their wheel stomped.  
They make tacos out wheels and they laugh in the face of justice. 
Be. Careful. Out. There.

BONUS TIP: Rumours of citizens of this town returning to their bike to find the wheels not only taco-ed but stuffed with beans, jalapenos, spiced mince and sour cream are - the police insist - urban myth.  Leading constable Peta McDonald said in a statement this month that a comprehensive search of non-classified bike crime files provided no support for persistent rumours of a twisted bike psychopath defiling the city's bikes with a cruel parody of one of the globe's tastiest cuisines.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Tip 112: Divide people into "tribes"

Plucked, vacant leg follicles?  file under R for Roadie
Ankle in the gap between the rolled up chinos and the brogues, where sock ought to be? File under H for Hipster.
Strappy high heels and calf tone to spare? Under C for cyle chicstress.
Filthy Vans and vast expanses of visible boxer short? B for BMX bandit.
A grown man riding a second hand mountain bike in workman's clothes? Look away.
BONUS TIP: Send your boy for another gin and tonic while you work on your treatise - a complete anthropology of cycling tribes, coming out under Pith Helmet Publishing this spring.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tip 111: Get your smug on

Pass a guy, who can't be more than 21, wearing a tie, in a BMW, stuck in traffic, and just try to not get your smug on.
You can't help it.  As you blast by his 318i the look of self-satisfaction spreads over your face like a "One Less Car sticker" spreads over the top tube of a second-hand Repco.

BONUS TIP: As they say, silent smugness is wasted smugness. But shouting at SUV drivers is déclassé and lecturing your friends is so undergraduate.
Express your smugness clearly but quietly - carry your helmet with you all day, leave your right pant leg rolled, or wear spit all over your shoulder and a big smile.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tip 110: Ring your bell at a pedestrian.

Don't ask why the pedestrian effects a startled pirouette that takes up more path-space when the bell is rung. It's just the way it is: like rain on your wedding day, or a free ride, when you've already paid.

BONUS TIP: Beneath an experienced thumb, the bell can be rung at exactly the right distance to ensure the pedestrian's turn coincides exactly with a handlebar to the genitals and a crumpler bag into the visage. If there's not a YouTube channel for this yet, there ought to be.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tip 109: The Farmers' Market Pumpkin Emergency

Low-milage vegetables sing a siren song to the inner-urban 30-plus hipster - much like the bottom shelf of the boxed wine section cajoled their early-20s selves.
Arriving by car is a shameful act of bourgeosieism, even if it is a Subaru with cyclocross stickers / high-credibility carbon fibre product perched on it. Go by two wheels.
Remember this, however: root vegetables are peril.  Load a bunch of local carrots, spuds and a biodynamic pumpkin into your pannier, and when you cross the Elizabeth St tram tracks you're gonna hear a noise that means you've popped a screw out of your rear rack and snapped a swag of spokes.

BONUS TIP: Tweet the following: "Attack of the killer potatoes! locavorism ruined my bike!  :| "
Then hit the net to buy replacement components made in Taiwan, branded in New York, packaged in plastic and shipped by air. You don't need to tweet that.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tip 108: Learn something

Ignorance is bliss. The flipside is that learning can be quite painful, like using your finger as a front derailleur.
You can learn something new from bike shop guy, like how there's this new kind of bottom bracket that makes everything prior seem to have the weight of lead and strength of paper mâché.
You can learn something new from Sheldon Brown, like how proper chain maintenance is as simple and accessible as ascending K2. ;)
You can learn something from someone you meet on your ride, like the many benefits of gloves.
Lastly, you can learn from a process of trial and error, but the terminology is quite misleading.  It should be trials and errors. No-one learns properly the first time.
BONUS TIP: Lessons learned this last way will send you on the long ride to being a better cyclist, but not until you've stopped in for a hot steaming cup of my-bike-my-gear-and-my-technique-all-suck at Cafe Doubt & Despondency.