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21 Nights in July
The Physics and Metaphysics of Cycling
Dr. Ianto Ware

The Author

Ianto Ware claims to be a doctor, and for mine, doctors fix broken people. So with this is mind, what claim does the author have that relates to the book? Well… he cured my cycling literature virginity and cured my complete disinterest and ignorance of the Tour de France. I’ve been riding for a few years but hadn’t ever felt drawn to the tour, however since being ‘treated’ by Ianto, I’ve felt more of an appreciation for it. So while I wouldn’t say I was broken – I feel much better now. Thank you Doctor Ware.

book Ianto Ware 21 Nights in July

The book, 21 Nights in July

the Book

The book is broken up into stages of the 2008 Tour de France and the musings of the author during that time. It’s stimulating, funny and a witty sideways glance at the event and its personalities. Additionally and in parallel, it’s a very personal and philosophical consideration of many issues facing cyclists and Ianto draws on the history of cycling and various ‘ologies’ to bring together a modern cyc-ology of a sort. I found it to be a pretty compelling read and Ianto, true to his background, retains the ‘zine’ feel without losing it’s way into fathomless introspection. It’s introspective, but this adds style and personality to the work, rather than becoming simply navel gazing.

Who’d like it?

Well I liked it alot, and would recommend it to anyone who I thought could read, and had more than a passing interest in bicycles. It’s not a light hearted or flippant book, but It’s not a serious and massive tome either. Some of it’s beauty is that is is broken up into short chapters that don’t follow a strong linear narrative, so you can simply pick it up from time to time and take a bite when you’re peckish – I read it all in one sitting. It probably wouldn’t suit someone after an historical reference guide to the tour, but they’d certainly appreciate the strong reference to the cultural event – apparently it’s more that simply a sporting occasion.

Books aren’t for everyone, but even if you’ve got short attention span this book is worth your time, even if it is only available in 17 minute intervals.

You can purchase the book here for $12

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Child carriers are not all the same, and it’s worth considering a few of the styles before parting with your hard earned coin.  Getting one that really suits the kind of riding you’re likely to do with your little passenger will add a great deal to the utility and shared enjoyment of your cycling; Getting the wrong one will only add to the pile of good intentions in your shed.

Loosely speaking, from the bicycle riders perspective, they fall into two distinct categories. Trailors, which are hitched to the bicycle in some way; and seats which are fixed to the frame either stern or aft of the rider.

The first port of call, is the seat variety. This is the first type that will spring to mind as they are popular due to their availability and modest price. The concept behind their design is pretty straight forward. They are essentially an extra bucket seat for your little passenger to sit with you on the bike, usually behind the rider, sometimes in front on the top tube. The main advantage of this style of carrier is that the child is easy to get in and out of the seat. They are pretty good for short trips with riders that are confident, and can deal with the extra weight up high on the frame of the bike. As you might expect, the extra weight high on the frame does make a difference to the handling of the bike. The effect on the bike is minor when you’re up to speed and coasting, but becomes increasingly evident at slow speeds. I’d say this effect is greatest on the most common style mounted on a bike rack behind the rider – the weight of the passenger can end up cantilevered behind the back wheel and it generally feels more tipsy. The type of seat that I have most recent experience is the one situated on the top tube of the bike in front of the rider, and is from Wee Ride. It is prone to the same lateral physics as the rack mounted rear seat – but feels more centered and stable. Yes you need to spread your knees, and yes you either have a dedicated bike, or remove the seat after use, but the riding position for our little passenger is perfect. On the model we have, there is a ‘desk’ – not unlike of the bridge of the starship enterprise – for your little passenger to place their hands, and if its been a big day, your little passenger can lean forward and sleep with their head supported.

This is the bridge of the good ship “Coffee” by Schwinn, aka the ‘wee ride’ bike seat.

This is the basic layout of the seat and “control desk”

This is the mounting bracket minus seat. The seat can be removed or re-attached without tools in 10 seconds.

The second port of call is the trailor, and these fall loosely fall into two categories. The variety that hitch to the seat post or rear stay and the variety that mount near or at the the rear axle. Trailors are generally more expensive, bigger, heavier, make your bicycle footprint wider and longer, need to be stored somewhere, and it can be a little more difficult to get your little passenger loaded. But for their disadvantages they can be very useful. If you buy one that hitches up high on the frame, it will have similar effect on your handling to that of the high mounted seat. Trailors that hitch at or near the axle handle much better. You can still feel the weight – but unhindered by it’s destabilising effect  – you can ride the bike with gay abandon – or however you normally ride.

This is a low mounted hitching point for the Croozer 737 trailor. This hitching bracket stays on the bike. We have two bikes fitted with the bracket.

I have some cycle touring experience pulling loads with trailors and I like them. Like their cousins, child carrier trailors also excel at handling weight. Some trailors can accommodate two passengers, and most have useful storage capacity. If you’re going to pull any amount of weight, be sure to get one of those trailors that are hitched low to take advantage of the improved handling. Again, if you’re unlikely to load up your trailor with gear and/or children – this may not actually serve much of a purpose. Trailors come into their own on longer voyages – It would be interesting to take one on a multi-day ride – I don’t think you could do family cycle-touring a better way.

bucket(ish) seat with 5 point harness looks pretty comfortable

the trailor pictured is a single seater and has a fair bit of storage space behind the main cabin

The position of the passenger in a trailor is pretty low, so the view from the trailor isn’t as expansive as from a high mounted seat, and some may consider the trailor to be more dangerous as it is closer to the ground. As stated, trailors are pretty large. Motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians can see you pulling it from all angles – this is a matter of personal preference – but if it were a lump of concrete the same size – no one would be falling over it. In this respect, again, not all trailors are created equal. Some have protective bars running around their cabin and wheels – some don’t.

The croozer 737 is a more expensive option, but has many useful and safety enhancing features.

There are a variety of trailors out there and one interesting option is that some come with an attachable jockey wheel that turns them into a pram. A great option – but not perfect for tight spaces like supermarkets – better for boardwalks and footpaths. The croozer also comes with a larger wheel for the front so you can use the pram as a jogger – I don’t condone jogging under any circumstances and hope that one day it will be banned during daylight hours – it is painful for everyone.

This wheel, previously pictured in the storage compartment fits to the trailor frame quickly and easily

Trailors can also be made largely weatherproof and some have UV filtering plastic windows – a really important feature for Australian conditions. Trailors are vastly more sleep friendly so if long trips or outings are on the cards – the extra hassle may be worth you while.

With trailers there’s a certain investment in storage space, hitching and unhitching, width and weight – but if you’re seriously thinking about replacing car trips with little passengers they can go the extra mile and carry that extra kilo.

The wheels on the Croozer 737 come off with a push of a button – useful for storage of the trailor.

If I had to choose one – It would come down to personal preference. I’d probably take the top tube mounted seat because I’m more likely to take trips to the park or beach as a short morning or afternoon trip with my little passenger, but if I was a stay-at-home dad, the trailor would be invaluable for day trips, picnics, shopping and whatever else.

Extra information about the seat and trailor pictured are here: Wee Ride and here: Croozer 737

People cycle for different reasons and many people cycle. The number of cyclists, at least in Australia seems to be slowly, but visibly growing. It follows then that there must be lots of reasons to cycle. So, what are the pivotal reasons? What are the things that could transform a potential cyclist, into an avid one?

The main barrier to cycling, I believe, is the perceived risk to life and limb. Whether it be a real risk from poorly designed bicycle lanes, unaware or belligerent car drivers, or simply the unqualified perception that it is dangerous. There are so many real and imagined barriers to getting on the path to cycling that there must be some strong reasons and a high value outcome to balance out the potential risks. Good experiences of cycling for many seasoned cyclists probably creates a strong “it won’t happen to me” factor with years of experience under their belt. But if you were new to the concept and needed a little nudge in the right direction – What would it be? Why cycle?

As an adult, I started because I thought it was appropriate (not alternative) transport. It felt like a political decision and, at the time, I set about recycling bicycles and selling them cheaply to work toward a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists in my area – the project was called 101 bikes for Newcastle. Back then I felt that riding a bicycle was a statement about being independent, environmentally friendly and smart about transport. In most respects I still do.

Just to be clear about how hypocritical I have been in the past 20 years I will list the cars I have owned.

1965 Mercedes 230 (6cyl)
1970 Jensen Interceptor mk2
Triumph Spitfire (mk1)
1974 Citroen D Special
Daimler 250 V8
Volvo 1800s
Triumph GT6
Jaguar Mk2

I am bragging of course. I like cars, but know they are problematic when it comes to everyday use. Anyway – I am digressing. What got me out of these stylish cars and back on my bike? Cycling is fun and the little bit of practical fitness it provides keeps my body from seizing up and keeps me from the mental doldrums. Cycling seems to be the cure for what ails me. I’m sure I am not alone with these thoughts and motivations.

If there was a single activity that galvanised me as a Cyclist, once i’d started, it would be cycle touring. There a few things better than cycle touring – and all are too obscene to mention here – anyway, don’t just take it from me – get out and try it – It is absolutely awesome!

So how to get started? Is it an event like “Bike Hour” or is it a “commuter buddy scheme” where you mentor a cyclist along the safe routes in and around your neighbourhood? Is it worth getting involved with your local cycling lobby group and pushing for better infrastructure? This could take forever and won’t gain much traction unless there are already many bottoms on bike sets. I think I’ve done all these at various times and now I am coming back to the potency of the simple evangelical act of cycling. To be fair, it’s probably all these things – but the one thing that you can do everyday – the one thing that might make a difference – is getting out there and proving it can be done!

In short, as I am writing this down, I have come to the conclusion that you and I should ride for two, or even three. Ride to work in a suit, then ride home to change into something more casual and ride in again – It may just be the best way forward (and back again).

Somethings are almost entirely about context. I think motorised bicycles are definitely one of them.

To begin with, I think some distinction should be made between the electric powered boffins and the petrol powered, two-stroke, bad boys. To begin with, all two stroke engine users set themselves apart from ‘normal responsible behavior’ by using the most noisy means of power available to them, but noise aside,  both varieties of powered bicycle have problems that set them significantly apart from other bicycles.

Petrol powered bicycles have been with us for a long time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_motorized_bicycle_history), and recently seem to have found new devotees taking advantage of the combined affordability of a bicycle and power of the 2-stroke engine. In evolutionary terms they fall somewhere between bicycle and motorcycle, but having lost the grace and simplicity of the bicycle and having none of the utility of a motorcycle, they seem to the casual observer to be the worst of two worlds, spreading noise, oily smoke and the potential for limb tearing accidents at every turn. It is lucky that they make so much noise, because if they were silent they’d probably kill many unsuspecting bicycle path users. If you are hard of hearing, or too young to know better, you are at risk from these cycle path psychopaths.

Silence brings us to the electric motor, the young, geeky cousin of the powered bicycle world. This is a very different animal, but because of it’s speed and stealth, presents a clear and present danger to anyone using a cycleway, deaf, young or otherwise. Electric bicycles are unforgivably uncool, even with the potential to have them powered from something like solar power, but make no mistake, if you don’t spot them first, they are no slouches and can be upon you very quickly. The true horror of these vehicles is the potential to be knocked over by someone on an electric bicycle – the shame of it all! Given that you’d never actually tell anyone about being mown down by an electric bicycle, I believe injuries from these silent menaces go under reported. The one saving grace of electric bicycles is that they could be a stepping stone in the development of something else – lets keep our fingers crossed.

The biggest problem with powered bicycles is of course their owners, which in a round about way, brings us back to my original argument that motorised bicycles are about context. Many riders of motorised bicycles seem to feel that because what they are riding isn’t as cool, fun or useful as a motorcycle, they should be allowed to use cycle paths. This is patently wrong. They should take their place, at the bottom of the food chain, on the roads with other powered vehicles. They are counter to the reasoning of cycle paths more broadly, which are engineered to separate cyclists from motor-ists. The cycle path context is wrong for powered transport of this kind. On the road however they seem wildly appropriate, using less space, energy and materials to get the passenger from A to B and would be less deadly in the case of mishap.