Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bicycle Cafe

 So, my Bicycle Cafe had its first official outing this weekend.

The 2-month long process of designing a trailer, finding a good metal fabricator and having a wood box and counter built, finally came to an end. My carpenter friend did an amazing job with the box and table. It's all plywood, so the weight of the empty trailer is still under 20kg (+ 20kg icebox inside). 

Had seen a spot the week before on the bike path near the 85F building that looked good. Lots of folks playing with their kids at a wading pool and no coffee or tea shops within 500m. It's a 45 min. ride from my house, so I got a good workout riding there and back. The trailer is about 40kg empty + a 25kg bag of ice + 25kg of coffee and Thai milk tea = 90kg. Rolls great on the flats, but at the slightest of inclines it feels like all your tires have simultaneously gone flat.

Lots of folks came over to enjoy some ice coffee and take photos with their phones. All in all, a great first day with a much lighter load for the ride home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Bicycle Trailer

Have been busy for the past few weeks designing a trailer for the Bicycle Cafe business I want to start this summer. The trailer has to be strong enough to haul about 100 - 120kg and be wide enough between the wheels to fit a Taiwanese-style steel icebox.

Had originally thought about making a trike after seeing this picture of Dr. Szmodics online. The attention to detail and quality of construction is really quite amazing. Finding a trike like this in Taiwan proved quite frustrating, as many of them are made here, but are unavailable for sale domestically.

The closest I could find for sale in Taiwan was this trike made by Ta-Han; a restaurant supply business based in Tainan. $55,000 a unit was more than I wanted to pay though, and they wouldn't sell me just the bare trike.

Then, I saw this picture of Bicycle Coffee in Oakland and it gave me the idea to do a trailer instead.

The icebox I have is 50cm wide , 67cm long and 70cm tall (without the wheels), so I decided upon a width of 65cm between the wheels. Combined with 2 x 10cm axles and 2 x 2.5cm square tubing on the outside, this gave a total width of exactly 90cm. Too wide to go through a standard door, but still safe enough to maneuver in traffic.

The closest I could find to a design I liked was this one from instructables:

The metal fabricator I found to build the trailer turned out to be really good at his job and a cycling enthusiast himself. He gave me some very helpful suggestions to modify my design. Specifically, to move the wheel axles further to the back to reduce swing on the rear corners and make it track behind me better. Nice one.

A few days later he delivered the trailer to me to try, so I loaded it up with my 45kg icebox and took it out for a spin; handled the load no problem.

The only problem has been the hitch. I decided to connect at the seat post because I already have a hitch there that I use for my son's Trail-a-bike. Also, it makes the cart easier to maneuver like a handcart than when you connect to the rear axle.
The problem is that the trail-a-bike has only one wheel and can lean with the bike. The 2-wheel trailer can't and was putting a lot of twisting pressure on the hitch. The builder explained his idea to fix the problem and drew me a picture of it, only to show up a couple of days later with something completely different.

It works, and can allow for a full range of movement, but the tiny bit of slack between the two metal loops makes quite a racket when rolling along. It'll do for now, but I have to think of another solution. Maybe a rod-end (heim joint) like they use in Japan. Anybody with suggestions, let me know.

Now, off to see my carpenter friend to build the wood box.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cycling Couple Killed in Thailand

Another sad reminder today about how vulnerable we are when out riding.
UK cyclist-bloggers on world tour killed in Thailand
Experienced cyclists who were riding safely - killed for what?
Because some fool dropped his hat!
My thoughts really go out to their family and friends.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cycling with Kids

Should I share my love of cycling with my son?

This is a question that I have given a lot of serious thought over the past year; and there's no easy answer.
The reason for my trepidation is safety - Cycling on the roads of Taiwan is dangerous.
Of all the sports that I could introduce to my child, it's hard to think of anything that has as high a potential for serious injury or death as riding a bicycle.  Is it worth the risk?

In the end, I decided to bring him riding with me, but to also make sure he has a chance to try a range of other sports like swimming, tennis, hiking, basketball, etc... He can make his own choices about what he likes and I'll just secretly hope it's not cycling. In the meantime, he can learn how to ride safely with me and be better prepared for when he rides on his own.

 The trail-a-bike setup with my 91 Kona Explosif.

 Cycling near Henchun in Kenting National Park during Chinese New Year.

It's been about 6 months since we started going on rides together, and I've learned a few things that help things go smoother.

*I always include him in the planning of our trips. We look at the maps together and talk about what we can do at the different places we could go. It's always important to him that there is a destination and that there is something fun to do there.

*We each have our responsibilities for getting the bikes ready to ride; checking there's air in the tires, filling the water bottles, etc...

 *We stop for drinks and snacks a lot more often than when I'm riding by myself; every 10 minutes or so.

*The ride is broken up into 20 minute riding chunks. We stop at playgrounds, at 7-11, for ice-cream or if he sees anything interesting.

Stopping for treats on the road after some swimming at White Sand Beach.

*We always bring some games to play during rest stops or at our destination.

*Build up the total riding distance slowly. After 6 months of riding a couple of times a week, we can now do a round trip of 30km.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dapeng Bay

I've been wanting to do a ride around Dapeng Bay for a while now, so I stopped by the Kaohsiung train station the other day to check some times for a train south to Linbian. To my surprise, the staff assured me I could roll my unbagged bike onto trains heading south from KHH at the following times:    
5:36 / 7:49 / 8:34 / 10:04 / 14:33 / 15:45 / 17:18 / 16:20 and 18:52

This made me very happy, as I really hate bagging my bike.
I just had to show up 30 minutes before departure time.

Having been let down a number of times in the past by what the TRA has told me, I showed up at the train station on Friday morning only half expecting to be able to board the train with my unbagged bike. But, it turned out to be no problem. $83 for me, $27 for my bike and a personal escort to the train to help load my bike into baggage car #10.

After a pleasant 1.5hour journey through the Pingdong countryside, I was quite surprised to arrive at the brand new Linbian station. Not quite sure why it's now an elevated station; perhaps so it can pass over the nearby highway to Kenting.

A 20min. ride north on Highway 17 brought me to the massive Visitor Center which provided me with a map. The entire place had the feeling of a abandoned amusement park at which I was the only visitor, so I stayed alert for zombie attack.

The nearby bike rental shop had no less than 5 staff members; 2 more than I was to actually see riding on the bike path that day. I did however, see over a dozen motorcycles and scooters making use of the bike path. They know damn well they shouldn't be there and make a quick exit the moment they see the camera.

The Qifeng wetlands were my favorite part of the ride, with lots of birds to see.

Sadly, much of the coasline along the oceanside portion of the bike path was lined with rows of concrete. I did manage to find one nice section that was still in its natural state, but its fate awaited a little further along; a mountain of concrete jacks.

The enjoyable portion of the ride ended at Donggang harbour, where I found a little shop catering to Indonesian fishing boat crews. Enjoyed a mie goreng with a Kopi to fuel myself for the 25km battle against headwinds through the industrial wastelands of southern KHH city.

A ramp that connects the Gaoping river bike path with the bridge seems no closer to completion than when I last passed here in April.

Overall, it was a decent half-day ride. I would certainly recommend making a detour off Highway 17 along the oceanside between Linbian and the Gaoping river bridge to anyone riding from KHH to Kenting.

Ride Summary
Total distance: 40km
Climbing: 60m

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some More Kaohsiung Bike Shops

Visited three bike shops I hadn't been to before on Friday in search of some new biking clothes.

No. 111 Chunghua (Zhunghua or Junghua) 2nd rd.    (07) 323-1689    10am - 10pm

If you're riding through Kaohsiung on Highway 17 then this is the easiest bike shop to find, as it's right on Chunghua rd (Highway 17) just north of where the road goes under the train tracks at Jouru rd.

I've passed by this shop thousands of times over the years, but had never gone inside and was a little surprised when I did. It has a VERY good selection of biking clothes and gear; much better than the big Giant store near my house. It also offers choices other than MERIDA brand clothes.

I was also impressed by the large bike servicing area and how well laid out it was. An added bonus was that their technician spoke English well and knew his stuff.

Saw some jerseys I liked (that wouldn't turn me into a moving billboard), but decided to check some other shops before buying.

No. 203 Chishan (Qixian) 2nd rd.     (07) 261-0168      *Closed on Sunday
Located in downtown KHH a block west of Chunghua rd.

A excellent bike shop staffed by ex-racers with a very good selection of high-end gear for both road racing and triathlon. If i was still racing and 50kg lighter, then this would be the shop for me. Sadly, my XL body found lots to drool over, but nothing in my size. This was probably a good thing, as the jersey I liked was $6,000NT. Would definitely trust them to work on my bikes though, and get the latest info on upcoming races and events.

No.6-20 Chungshan 1st rd.          (07) 281-2888
Across the street from Central Park a block north of Wufu rd.

A very slick looking shop, but very limited in what they offer in the way of gear or clothes.

Sadly, I was unable to find the clothes I really wanted:

Pee-wee Inspired Skinsuit  by Podium Cycling

Monday, December 17, 2012

Agongdian Reservoir Area

It's been great weather for riding in Kaohsiung over the past week. Took advantage of it to explore some new routes around the Agongdian Reservoir in Yanchao. This area is very popular with local cyclists as it's close to the city and offers a variety of terrain for all levels of riders.

On Sunday, my friend D and I headed east out of Yanchao along Jinshan road toward Cock's Comb Mountain. Very quickly, the sounds of cars and motorcycles disappear and you are surrounded by bamboo forests. None of the hills along this road are very long, but some of them are quite steep and really get your heart pumping.

Around 5 km outside of Yanchao the road name changes to highway 38 and you see some brown signs telling you to turn right for Cock's Comb Mountain and the mud volcanoes. I still haven't climbed this mountain, but hope to over the CNY holidays.

The road out to the mud volcanoes is not in the best of shape and dips up and down very sharply through a couple of ravines.

A new road that allows access to the mud volcanoes from Highway 22.

We went back to highway 38, turned right and went up a short hill to a Y-intersection. To the right is Pidi Lane that is the start of a 300+ meter climb up Cell Tower Hill. All the serious club riders that passed us went this way. We decided to save this for another day and go left, continuing along Highway 38 (Tuojhen Lane ).

An unmarked road that goes right off highway 38 and allows you to cut across to highway 41 on Cell Tower Hill. The road is perched atop a very sharp ridge with spectacular view on both sides of the road of the badlands.

Looking back at Cock's Comb Mountain (雞冠山) as we headed for home.

This was the turnaround point for the ride, so we headed back down to Highway 38, then 14 and down 29-1 along the east side of the reservoir.

A nice place to have a rest at the end of a ride on the Highway 29-1, just north of Yanchao.