Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Friday, October 29, 2010

Seattle Bike Polo

Despite today's forecast for showers and cool temps, the weather turned out sunny, perfect for a fall ride. I was walking my bike through the Ballard Locks this evening, when I saw this curious pair, leaning against the wall that overlooks the fish ladder.

Took me a while, but I figured it out: bike polo! This Halloween weekend there's an event in Seattle: the Emerald City Open.

Here's an excerpt from a Sept 13 post on the Seattle Bike Polo website:

"...Seattle was the birthplace of hardcourt bike polo (as opposed to traditional, grass-field polo, developed in Ireland in 1891). About 35 people currently play in Seattle, and a team from the city placed fourth in the National Championships in Madison, Wisconsin this year.”

Who knew? The event in Judkins Park tomorrow and Sunday sounds wild, crazy and fun.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Wheels Around New Zealand

I just finished reading this book recounting a 1986 bike tour by Scott Bischke and Katie Gibson. The New Zealand Scott and Katie experienced back in the 80's no longer exists. I was first in New Zealand in the early 1980s, and have been back for hiking trips three times: 2004, 2005 and 2008. What a difference a couple of decades makes! I first read about riding in New Zealand in Barbara Savage's classic book Miles from Nowhere, which was written in the 1970s. If I remember, the Savages never visited Australia by bike, as they ran afoul of the immigration folks, but New Zealand welcomed them with open arms. That book must have done more for Kiwi tourism than anything the NZ government could ever dream up. Check it out from your public library sometime. It's a winner.

Scott and Katie did a year long trip on the North Island, then down the West Coast of the South Island to Stewart Island, then back up to Christchurch, and back up the North Island, eventually making it to Ahipara. They camped most of the way, met both wonderfully friendly, and terribly ornery people, and they seemed to have been rained on a lot. Did a lot of fly fishing and even fit in a marathon. Wow. They did the ride on a couple of mountain bikes, and the few color photos in the book are hilarious, showing a couple of scruffy tourers in their half billiard ball helmets. Still, they were both in their twenties in the 1980s (as was I) when they did this great trip. I wonder where they are now? They sound like an appealing couple. I hope they're still riding.

I'm back to planning my North and South Island trip, circa 2011. I've just booked a flight from Melbourne to Auckland for early January, and a return to Australia in early March. Fortunately, Australian immigration is OK with long distance cyclists by now I figure. I don't plan on doing much riding in Australia. I go "home" frequently, and the motorists are still the crazy galahs (my Dad's phrase) they always were. I hope the Kiwis are better. I've read mixed reviews on this, so I'm trying to think positively. I'm figuring out how to carry everything I'll need for about nine weeks' of riding on my folding bike. As far as I can tell, there is no Brompton dealer anywhere in New Zealand, so I have to bring everything I need with me. It's at the Chinese puzzle stage, let me say.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Folding bikes are cool - it's official

On Sat October 2 that source of all things trendy, the Wall Street Journal, ran an article called The Folding Bike Goes Cool. Reporter Michael Hsu wrote a light piece identifying the Montague Crosstown, the Puma Pico, the Citizen Bike Barcelona, the Dahon Smooth Hound and the Freeman Transport Gravel Racer as "cool."

Strangely, although he mentioned Bromptons as being the iconic classic, he didn't include them in the piece. I wonder why? Perhaps he considered them in the class of clownish bikes, as "having tiny wheels [which] can make the bike's handling disconcertingly hyper-responsive."

Heavens no! My Brompton only has 6 gears, which is the most they sell. Their other models only have 2 or 3 gears, which are fine for riding in flat cities, but watch out for any hills. I'm still getting the hang of riding with only 6 gears after being used to having a triple ring on my full sized bikes. But they seem spaced OK for me.

Or perhaps he thinks they're not for sale in the USA. Not so. My local Brompton dealer is called Electric Bikes and is in my neighborhood of Ballard. There are others.

And compared to a Montague, which seems to be built like a tank, it's like chalk and cheese having these two in the same set of transportation options. I have friends with older Montague's and they do seem to handle like military vehicles.

Bromptons seem to induce passion in their owners. There's a gallery of interesting photos uploaded by Brompton owners on the company's website that show the little bikes in various interesting locations.

I've been studying these photographs because I plan to take William the Conqueror, my Brompton touring bike on a 7-week tour in New Zealand in January 2011. I want to test out its touring credentials. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to load the bike so I can carry my touring gear. It seems primarily used as an urban bike, so my little experiment is presenting some interesting challenges.