How the best photo I’ve ever taken ended my bike blogging career…
I captured the image above at the end of a scorching hot day in the Waikato, right in the middle of the drought. My son’s high-school rowing squad base themselves in Leamington and from there it’s an easy ride down this fantastic cycle path to Lake Karapiro. The 6km stretch was built in preparation for the rowing world championships in 2010 and will eventually join up with the rest of Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride.
I was meandering back to camp when I noticed the parallel lines and the afternoon sun bouncing off the hills. I pulled over, took out the camera, and snapped a few landscapes. As I was shooting several bikes whizzed by and it occurred to me that instead of waiting for them to pass, I’d be better off trying to get one in the photo. This was the result.
Since that day I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes good bicycle infrastructure. You see, that section of path is almost perfect, so very different from anything we are doing in Auckland. It is wide, the surface is smooth, it doesn’t cross any side-roads or run beside parked cars, and it’s not littered with posts, poles and mail-boxes. But although the views are magnificent it’s not a “scenic” route, it’s a logical way to get from A to B. Design like this enables anyone to get around by bike, be they three or eighty three. You don’t need a flash bike, you don’t need a helmet, and most importantly you don’t need to be a “cyclist”.
Making cycling infrastructure so safe, so fast and so easy that anyone would consider riding a bike around town is what it’s all about, “cyclists” are going to ride anyway, we can’t get enough of it.
With that in mind I can’t see any point continuing with Bike Friendly North Shore. I started it up to connect with similar-minded individuals on the Shore and celebrate bike-culture, but with rare exceptions I haven’t found any. Recreational cycling is really heathy, I don’t need to encourage those people, we will ride our bikes anyway.
The blog has lots of readers, lots of followers, but there’s no interaction and rarely any comments. That’s partly my fault, I’m not the most outgoing person, but I gave it my best shot and failed.
The “clicks” have steadily grown since the first post in February of 2010, from an initial 406 per month to the 3,000 or so I’ve been averaging this year. I can see from the WordPress stats that roughly 75% of visitors are Kiwis, 15% from North America and the balance scattered all over the globe.
I plan to keep in touch with the bike-community in Auckland and I’ll do what I can to promote the bicycle as a practical way to get around. My unsociable hours of work make it all but impossible to attend any meetings (thank god!), but I’ll try to stay involved with bike advocacy. Anyway, riding your bike around and having fun doing it is probably the best advertisement for everyday cycling, and I’m pretty good at doing that!
With no pressure to create content for the blog anymore I’ll have time for some other projects I’ve been avoiding. All involve creativity of some kind, and a couple have that magical combo of bicycles and art.
I can see from search-terms used and hits on particular posts that “places to ride” and “cargo bikes” stand out like dog’s balls. There’s a lot of you looking for safe spots to ride with the kids, there’s a lot you looking for mountainbiking opportunities on the Shore. Sanders Reserve in particular pops-up day after day, folks are thirsty for information about it. I find it strange that millions was spent on building the Sanders Reserve facilities, but there doesn’t seem to be any maintenance or promotion?
I will the leave the blog live on WordPress for the meantime, there’s still a lot of information and links people might find useful. Over time links will go bad and it will be less relevant.
Some of the Highs & Lows:
2012′s BicyKill was just the best thing ever to happen to bike-culture in Auckland, I loved every minute of it. This is just the type of activity I craved when I started Bike Friendly North Shore. Tim White and his friends are doing more than anyone else in Auckland to grow the type of bike culture I want to see, they’re single-handedly making bikes cool again.
The Bike Graphic that Bounced
The most frenzied activity on BFNS was when my drawing above went viral (even though I look at it now and want to start over). The graphic was featured in Dutch and German magazines, tee shirts were printed in Austria, clothing and stickers in the States, it was blogged all over the world in many languages, and that’s just the “legal” reproductions.
Writing & Photography
I dreamed that writing, something you can do from anywhere in the world, would be very useful (and a possible career path), but I really suck at it! I hope, at least, a little of my sense of humour came through in those wooden sentences, I was never trying to take myself seriously or anything. Maybe I should do a creative writing class or similar to pick up some tips?
My prose might still be dreadful, but my photography skills have shown improvement. If I can’t spread my love of cycling with words, I’ll attempt to do it with pictures!
My extended test of the Larry vs Harry Bullitt (above) was a real eye-opener. I suspect David from Convoy Bikes was looking for a cargo-bike evangelist down-under and he surely found one in me, I’m now totally sold on the concept. A Bullitt was purchased by an Auckland family after the review (smart family), I’d like to think I helped a little in the decision, well just a tiny bit?
I had a blast riding the Soma Tradesman thanks to Tim at Rode. These front-loaders are so damn practical our cities should be full of them. It’s the courier van you can park on the footpath without pissing people off.
The lads at Bike Barn let me take a Kona Ute for a spin. This bike is well designed, well priced, and the bike most of us need most of the time. If they made a bigger frame for tall lankies like me I’d buy one in an instant.
I tried and tried to get a review bike from the importer, Bikes International. I was so excited by this bike and wanted to promote the hell out of it. I got some names and rang and rang them, but got fobbed off time after time, week after week. Kona is a great brand (and you should still buy a Ute), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the address on the warranty card was a large spherical structure in space and the boss wears a shiny black hat. Did someone say “evil empire?”
That Bloody Bridge!
Every time I look at the harbour bridge I realize I would struggle as a bicycle advocate, I don’t have the patience required. The getacross protest ride was such an empowering experience for me, a top-10 in my cycling life. Although there is a possibility the Skypath will happen, things are moving much too slowly for me to cope with.
I see public access (on foot & bicycle) as a “right” not a “privilege”, and would turn up with the family every six weeks to set fire to cop cars and throw eggs at bureaucrats if that’s what it took. Come on already, it’s such a no-brainer!
Take to the Streets
I tried to get people thinking about a ciclovia style event for Auckland with the posters above, but no one was as amped about the concept as me, not even the bike-advocate crowd. Once again I see this as a “rights” issue, the public should take back the streets, one Sunday at a time.
I’m starting to sound like a flaming greenie here, but the roads are for people, not just cars. Take away the cars and trucks and you begin to appreciate how much space is taken up by roading and how pleasant (and fast) it can be moving around the city under your own steam.
So it’s goodbye from me…
If you’ve made it this far down the page, thanks so much for taking the time. If you’ve ever left a comment on BFNS I want to marry you, one comment was all the encouragement I needed to keep going for weeks.
Keep the rubber-side down, ring your mother, and ride your bike twice as much as you do now!
Since I started bike-blogging I’ve met a lot of cool people in the bicycle community. There’s the fat-bike crowd, the mountainbikers, the (two-wheeled) photographers and the bike advocates.
Having a background in graphic design I’ve had opportunity to create artwork for some of these friends and with one exception (recognise these graphics!) it’s been a very pleasurable experience. Hey, what bike-fanatic wouldn’t enjoy drawing bikes?
The guy behind the global Cycle Chic movement is one Mikael Colville-Andersen. I’ve known Mikael since 2006, initially through a shared love of “everyday cycling” on Flickr (a photo site). Some of my cycling graphics have also featured on his Copenhagenize blog (shown below). Every time they did the hits on my site would go through the roof, he has a big audience!
What started with Mikael posting photos of elegant Danes cycling around in everyday clothes turned into a career as an international urban-cycling consultant. This guy flies all over the globe teaching local governments and cycling advocates how to do it right, like they do back in Copenhagen.
By coincidence I’m also a half Danish, half Engish urban cycling evangelist, what the hell am I doing wrong???
Those of you following the blog for some time will know I love the fun side of cycling, “fun” is my primary motivation for riding bikes. Saving money and keeping fit are a very distant second place and environmental concerns don’t even make the list.
As I hope I got across in my review, I freak’n love the MonkeyLectric wheel-light I’ve been rocking the last couple of months. I night-commute all year round and I’m glad it’s dark out there because with the MonkeyLight doing it’s thing I’ve got a lunatic grin on my dial the whole way home, it’s just too much fun.
With this in mind I just had to buy a second one for the back wheel, twice the fun and more side-visability than you ever thought possible. I leave the units on the standard setting and they randomly cycle through 42 different “themes”, that’s 42 smiles-per-mile by my reckoning, enjoy…
Even at rest the 16 LEDs (on each side of the wheel) are really bright, I’ve never felt safer. The red bands in the photo above were made by me waving my helmet around as the photo exposed. I zip-tied a red Fibre Flare to the back of it and it’s a great improvement on the little blinky it replaced.
The MonkeyLight is a bicycle wheel-light that draws objects and patterns as you ride. With 16 electronically controlled LEDs each side flashing and changing colour it’s a great deal more sophisticated than your average spoke-light.
Since first laying eyes on MonkeyLectric’s previous model some years ago I’ve pined for one badly, writing an objective review is not going to be easy. Exchange rates and shipping-costs postponed that initial purchase but the current generation are now very reasonably priced and available right here in New Zealand.
The unit itself is a 2-part affair. The battery-holder is zip-tied to your hub and connected by a removable cable to the light. That way the heaviest part of the system, the 3 AA batteries, don’t throw your wheel out of balance. The MonkeyLight itself is a circuit-board at heart and gets zip-tied to your spokes out towards the rim. Circuit-boards tend to be a bit flimsy, but this one has been developed with this purpose in mind and is encased in a fully waterproof layer of clear rubber. It’s lightweight, but feels very solid.
Installation is simple, if a little finicky. I made a cup of coffee and took my time (probably 25mins?) as I had visions of it coming loose and flailing around. Those fears were unjustified, it’s proven to be rock-solid and I would have no problem riding rough terrain or popping wheelies with one installed. They can be fitted to a 20″ (think BMX) or larger wheel so even the kids can get in on the action.
In motion the effects are truly stunning. At walking-pace it looks like a very bright multi-coloured glow-stick, but as speed increases the patterns emerge and take-up more and more of the wheel the faster you go. At around 20kph you have full coverage. I’ve actually found myself riding faster than usual as I get such a kick out of the full-blown light-show. So much so that when the weather is good I take the long way home to make it last longer!
There are 3 buttons on the unit. The power button turns it on and off but also sets the light-output, standard or extra-bright. I’ve been running it on full-power for weeks on my nightly commute and the batteries are still going strong. MonkeyLectric reckons you’ll get up to 25hrs run-time.
There are 48 “themes” onboard and in standard mode they automatically cycle through one after another. Alternatively, by using a combination of the theme and color buttons you can access individual themes and alter the colours they are displayed in.
I’m a nightshift worker so I’m riding home in the dark all year round. Despite two lights front and rear and some reflective material I’m always a little anxious about how visible I am to motorists, especially if there’s a lot of ambient light around. With the MonkeyLight doing it’s thing I’ve never felt safer. From side-on you could not be missed, and light spills-out either side of the bike so you attract some attention from the front and rear aswell.
There’s no denying the MonkeyLight is a little clunky looking. That doesn’t bother me on my commuter bike, it’s the most fun accessory I’ve ever used and keeps me safe. Roadies might baulk at the industrial looks and added weight, but if you regularly train in the dark being the most visible thing on the road is worth consideration, is it not?
In an attempt to capture the graphics effectively I scared myself stupid filming the above video on a wet & blustery Auckland commute. Left hand in a death-grip on the bars, forehead moistening, chocolate-starfish in full clench-mode, I failed miserably in that 58sec of terror. But despite my amateur camera skills you can’t argue side-visibility is taken to another level when you’re rocking a MonkeyLight.
The review unit is the 32 LED (16 each side) M232. MonkeyLectric also makes the M210, a more compact model with 5 LEDs each side and 20 themes. They both use the same battery holder and with 2 leads available you can have 2 MonkeyLights on one wheel sharing the same battery.
Future models could be made a lot sleeker and the battery holder in particular is a bit of an eyesore, but overall I’m more than happy with the M232. In the past I’ve had bottles and food thrown at me as I ride home late at night, now cars are slowing down to admire the graphics, that’s a definite improvement!
I purchased my MonkeyLight from Bells & Whistles and have had such fun with it I’ve just ordered another for the back-wheel.
My bicycle blogging days are drawing to a close and I was reminiscing about the cycling “logohacks” I have posted on this site over the years. It wasn’t until I gathered them all in one place I realized just how many copyrights I had broken in the process!
Below are some of the better ones, and although I only received a couple of comments the entire time at least I found them funny… I was cracking-up drawing each and every one.
I know we have a lot of overseas readers, most of these will make no sense whatsoever to you as they’re kiwi brands.
They are looking at why so few users of the Northern Busway arrive there by bike. The busway has proved extremely popular and car parks fill up quickly, but the bicycle racks are relatively empty.
My brief for the flyer and accompanying poster was to “make them eye-catching & colourful”.
I thought my concept was a little clichéd, you know… “bikes are the missing piece of the puzzle”, so instead of an illustration I made the puzzle pieces with Play-Doh for a slightly different look.
Finding Play-Doh in our house not contaminated with cat fur or biscuit crumbs was a challenge so any old colours were used and I fixed them up later in Photoshop. I kept the layout and typography super simple and hoped the prominent picture would capture people’s attention long enough for them to board their bus (flyer in hand) and read some of the text on the trip into town.
It was somewhat ironic that when I popped up to Albany in the car to see how the posters had turned-out I couldn’t get a bloody park anywhere. I ended up legging it across the fields from the mall parking-lot, and as is often the case, the round-trip would have been just as quick by bicycle.
I now understand why the crematorium below was built in the busway car park. Turning up at 8am on a rainy monday morning (praying there is a free parking spot) must be VERY, VERY stressful!
Do any of you guys use the Northern Busway? Do you ride your bike to the station and use the bike-racks or bike-boxes provided?
You might remember Richie Trimble from that 30 Seconds to Mars bike video. He was the guy sporting the rainbow-coloured feather mohawk, and, oh yeah, his bike was 10ft tall!
But Richie has gone up in the world since then. His latest tall-bike, STOOPIDTALL, is over 14ft above terra firma. The man has balls, the man has balls…