Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bike storage for apartment living?

There are many bike storage options out there, as I have recently found out. The recent theft of two of my bikes has encouraged me to re-assess the way I store my bikes and to invest in a more theft-proof solution. Taking into consideration that I live in an apartment block with no basement storage solutions, I was looking for something that would be space saving and would cleverly utilise the small space I do have. Here are some of the options I looked at:

Small shed: Available from most hardware stores for about $200-$600 these sheds are small enough to fit in any carpark alloted space. They are lockable and would be a great deterrant against potential thieves. On the downside, they are fairly flimsy, any potential thief with some tools could break into one of these sheds pretty easily. Also, they are pretty small, you could possibly get two bikes in there, but it would be a tight fit.

The Bike Box: I was put onto this Australian company after I posed the storage question in an online cycling forum. This company makes bike boxes specifically for apartment basement carparks. Having not seen one in person I can only comment on what I saw on the website. They seem to be very well made and they look very secure; a thief would struggle to get inside one of these boxes. The downsides? One word - cost. These boxes are seriously expensive, you wont get much change from $1000!

Outside on the balcony:  Obviously this option is only available to those apartment dwellers who have a balcony. There are many waterproof bike covers on the market which could protect your bike from the elements, but for someone who uses their bike daily, this is not really a viable option. Taking my bike through my apartment every day and re-covering it up would get frustrating very quickly.

Inside: If you are lucky enough to have some spare room indoors you could try to keep your bikes inside. There are a few problems with this solution: 1. you could really upset others that live with you! 2. you could constantly be trudging mud and grease through the apartment, and 3. if you have many bikes, you could lose a lot of space, and for apartment dwellers, space is priceless. If you do go down this path, there are many solutions for storing the bikes, such as hooks, pully systems, bike stands and bike towers.

So which solution did I take up? Well, I have three bikes, and I'm planning to buy a fourth. There is no way I could get four bikes into a small shed or box, so putting the bikes in the spare bedroom was the only viable option. To make them as neat as possible and to try not to take up too much room, I decided to build my own four bike tower. I'd seen bike towers for sale for about $300, but I knew I could build something similar much cheaper. I ended up purchasing all the materials for about $50, and it took about 6hrs to build. It is working so far, and my wife seems to not be too upset with the situation! I have posted some photos below of the tower... it may be ugly... but it works!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hell comes to Melbourne

The 2012 Melburn Roobaix

Today, about 4000 cyclists experienced hell in the 2012 edition of the Melburn Roobaix. Modeled on the iconic Paris-Roubaix, the Melburn Roobaix takes cyclists of all types through the inner city streets of Melbourne, seeking out the bumpiest, roughest, muddiest cobbled streets our city has to offer.

It's funny, most days I ride the streets of Melbourne on my road bike seeking out the slickest, smoothest roads available, taking detours around bumps, potholes and rough surfaces; today I rode the streets, seeking out the worst 'pave' possible! I now have a totally new appreciation for the pro's who take on the real Hell of the North each year.

Amongst everything else, this social ride (there are no winners and it is not a race) is a celebration of cycling in Melbourne. All the subgroups are represented, the roadies, the hipsters with fixies, mountain bikers, average commuters, vintage beauties and contraption captains. All riding side by side, helping each other to navigate to the next sector of cobbles.

Credit to Fyxo for organising their 7th successful Roobaix. I had a ball, can't wait till next year to experience Hell again.

Some pics below, damn phone died about midday, so sadly I got nothing from the awards at the Brunswick velodrome.

The start at Hawthorn outdoor velodrome

The Beer Bike - Free IPA for all!

BlueEdge - winners of the prize for best foursome!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bring back the bike budget

In Victoria, the Baillieu government has been making cutbacks left right and centre, in line with it's ruthless new budget (handed down in May). The education sector has been hit hard, there have been significant TAFE funding cuts and many friends and family have been directly impacted. And now, the Baillieu government has cut all bike infrastructure funding - about $20 million worth. Baillieu hasn't halved the budget; he's cut it fully... to zero. It is a drastic move, and one that has made me, and many other Victorians angry.

As we know, cycling popularity is growing along with our population. This creates increased need for bike infrastructure, and things had been going along well. Funding has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and now, nothing. More and more people are now commuting by bicycle, I myself have noticed a significant increase on my own regular routes over the last few years. We are now a significant minority. A minority that pays it's taxes, and deserves money to be spent on us.  

One of the frustrating things for me is that we still don' know why. What is the master plan for this Liberal government? What are their plans? Why the cuts in some sectors and the blatant overspending in others? This is a government of contradictions - and no one, especially Baillieu, is willing to explain the master plan to us - the taxpayers.

And come on - it's ONLY $20 million, by national and international finance standards this is a paltry amount.

Bicycle Network Victoria has been leading the fight against the budget cutbacks, speaking to media, getting information about the loss of funding out to it's 50,000 members, and generally doing a comendable job of letting the government know that they have made an extremely bad decision.

A rally was held on Thursday morning on the steps of parliament to take a stand against the cuts, and I wished I could of been there... but the cold and the rain got the better of me, and an extra half an hour of snoozetime ended up being the better option. I bet there were many others in the same boat - take note BNV! Make your rallies at lunchtime or in the evening!

Anyhow, this by far the end of the matter. We must stand united against these cuts and show the government that they have failed their bike riding constituents. Photo of the rally and BNV media release/article included below - all courtesy of the BNV website.

Thousands of Victorian bike riders will jam the steps of Parliament later this month to condemn the Baillieu Government’s decision to cut funding for bike infrastructure to zero.

Bike riders of all ages and abilities from across the political spectrum are planning to send the loudest and clearest possible message to the Baillieu Government that bike funding must be reinstated.

Bicycle Network Victoria is inviting every person who rides a bike and cares about the safety of our streets to attend the before-work rally on Thursday, 21 June to express their outrage at the Baillieu snub.

The 2012 Budget papers show the government has allocated zero funding to the VicRoads Bicycle Program. (Some already-announced commitments from previous budgets are still trickling through. The Baillieu Government is trying to hide behind these carry over items.)

No high priority infrastructure projects planned for next year have been funded and desperately needed lanes, signals, intersections and other urgent safety improvements have been scrapped. The decision will increase the level of risk for existing riders and stop new riders joining in an activity that improves community health and cuts congestion.

“We’re urging all bike riders to gather on the steps of Parliament to tell the Baillieu Government that 20 years of bi-partisan support for bike investment cannot be abandoned,” Bicycle Network CEO, Harry Barber said today.

“The massive switch to bike transport in the last decade has significantly reduced road congestion and public transport overload, and all Victorians have benefited.

“More and more Victorians are riding – 1.1 million every week and rising – and a competent government would move to ensure that facilities kept pace.

Bi-partisan support wrecked

"But the Baillieu Government has ignored decades of steady progress by both sides of politics and scrapped funding to the highly-effective VicRoads Bicycle Program.

"The 1.1 million Victorians who ride a bike each week no doubt felt bewildered and abandoned when the news first came through – now they’re finding their voices to express their outrage.

"We want to tell the Baillieu Government that doing nothing on bike infrastructure is not an option," Mr Barber said.

The one year shutdown of the bike infrastructure program rips more than $20 million away from bike facilities investment. And as many studies show money invested in bikes actually reduces the burden on the budget and taxpayers. So rather than saving money, the government's decision is costing us money.

By our calculations, by the end of next financial year the Baillieu Government will be in the red to bike riders to the tune of $25 million.

Cuts will cost, not save

Ultimately this expenditure gap will have to be made up. This will be costly for the government as steady continuous investment is always much more efficient that programs that lurch to a stop and then splutter to a start.

This means the government will need to commit at least $33 million to the VicRoads Bicycle Program in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

"The Baillieu Government's decision to run a bike funding deficit will be costly in terms political support and it will end up costing them more financially than they think they have saved," Mr Barber said.

"The government seems blind to the growing numbers of riders on the streets, are ignoring the number of people that want to join in but are waiting for appropriate facilities to appear and can’t grasp the unique ability of bikes to improve the carrying-capacity of our road network.

“It just isn’t possible to jam more cars down many of Melbourne’s already-jammed roads, and where it is the cost would prohibitive. But what we can do for relative peanuts is move thousands more people down existing roadways just by installing appropriate bike facilities. Thousands are already riding, thousands more want to ride but are waiting for the Government to act – Mr Baillieu, his Government and his zero-bike Budget are letting the Victorians down.

"It’s inevitable the government will come to its senses and get back on track, but it has burned up a huge amount of credibility and goodwill—it will be some time before their claims to be good transport managers will be taken seriously again.”

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The truth about carbs

I am a self-confessed sugar addict, and despite being a pretty keen cyclist, I still do struggle with weight and diet issues. When I'm riding everything evens itself out and I'm able to maintain a pretty healthy weight, but throw a spanner into that mix and it all goes south pretty quickly. With the recent robbery, I found myself off the bike for over three weeks, and even thought this was a short time - my waistline suffered.

This prompted some dieting research and action. I know my problems and I know how to fix them. Basically, I love sweets and chocolate milk, pasta and bread - all of which fall into the category of 'bad carbs'. So, basically I eat too many 'bad carbs' and I really need to replace them with good 'complex' carbohydrates. But I wanted to know why exactly some carbs are bad, when we know that we need them to survive, and we definitely need them to race. I put together the below post to basically summarise what I learned, and I must attribute much of this post to articles from, and Readers, which had some great articles on the topic! Also, I am no health professional, so please don't take what I have here as gospel, and I encourage you to do your own wide-ranging research when trying to work out a diet that is right for you.


Carbohydrates are your body's preferred energy source and are one of the three main macronutrients it needs to function properly. If they are consumed in moderation carbs can provide your body with energy and multiple nutrients. However, excessive consumption of carbohydrates has a number of disadvantages. Forty to 60 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, but this intake can easily come from ‘good carb’ foods like whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

What are ‘bad carbs’?

Bad carbs are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. More broadly, any food made primarily of a carb that has been processed in such a way as to strip out ingredients that hinder quick and easy cooking. Why are refined carbs a problem? Easy: They digest so quickly that they cause blood sugar surges that lead to weight gain and other health troubles.

Carbs making us slow and tired

All of these bad foods and processed carbs can have an effect on the liver. Our livers can get overloaded with toxins from all of the bad foods we eat. It is suggested by some that the liver can get less efficient at ‘flushing’ these bad toxins out. Overloading our bodies with these bad toxins can have an effect on energy levels and can cause ‘fogginess’ in the brain. Our bacterial flora in our stomachs can also become unbalanced from bad carbs and can also have an effect on energy levels and cause ‘brain fogginess’.

Bad carbs making us hungry

Eating too many carbs causes a large, sudden increase in your blood glucose levels. Your body responds by releasing high levels of insulin which causes a large, sudden decrease in your blood glucose levels shortly after. As a response to these low glucose levels your body sends out hunger signals. The overall effect is that you experience hunger pangs shortly after eating a big serving of carbohydrates even though you have eaten more than enough to provide your body with energy.

Carbs causing cell damage and type 2 diabetes

Consuming excessive levels of carbohydrates on a regular basis can lead to obesity and high blood glucose levels. This has a number of negative implications on your body's cells as high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves, your blood vessels, your heart, your eyes and more. Obesity and high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

How to get off bad carbs

Processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, white pastas or white breads, lack many of the fiber and nutrients found in complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, brown pastas and whole-grain breads. To ween the body off refined carbs, gradually decrease the amount of processed carbohydrates you eat and replace them with whole-grain carbohydrates.

Diet changes

Instead of toast, fruit bread, and sweet milk drinks > Eat whole grain cereals, fruit, tea, water

Instead of white bread sandwiches, noodles and pasta > Eat whole grain breads and pita wraps and salads

Instead of rice, pasta and noodles > Eat brown rice, casseroles, meat and 3 veg. Accompany casseroles, pasta sauces and curries with lentils, chickpeas, brown rice or quinoa                                                                

Snacks and drinks
Instead of soft drinks, cordial, fruit juice, milk drinks, chocolate, chips, biscuits, cakes and lollies > Eat fruit, seeds, nuts, and drink water and tea (I find drinking soda water is a great substitute for fizzy drinks)

Giro wrap

Photo by flowizm, Creative Commons licensed.
The 2012 edition of the Giro d’Italia wound up on Sunday night (the 27th May - Australian time). It was a dramatic end to the three-week stage race, with Ryder Hesjerdal only narrowly capturing the pink jersey.

I’m a little late with this post and I don’t have much more to say other than it was a brilliant race and Hesjerdal was awesome. Like Cadel’s first Australian grand tour win in the TdF in 2011, I’m sure this will be huge in Canada and will do massive things for cycling in that country.

I read some news reports in Canadian newspapers and it made me smile to read that the cycling shops, cafés and bars were packed out early in the morning to watch Hesjerdal in the final time-trial. It reminds me of the TdF last year when we were all on the edges of our seats, watching Cadel clench the yellow jersey in the final time-trial.

Hesjerdal’s win just goes to show that nice guys can finish first! I just wish I had some money on Hesjerdal for the win – the odds would have been great!

The course and the race overall was also a victory for the new race director Michele Acquarone. After the tradgedy of Wouter Weylandt’s death in the 2011 edition, and the general rider dissatisfaction with the course, the previous director stepped aside. Taking up the reigns of the race, Michele Acquarone had four objectives; he wanted to make it more fan friendly, safer, international and slightly easier (so riders could also compete in the TdF). I think Acquarone achieved his goals, the start in Denmark gave the race huge exposure, and the well thought out, easier and safer course was also a positive change.

The racing was exceptional also – some of my own highlights I’ve already listed in the previous post. The 2012 World Tour is heating up now as we head into June and there is some great racing to look forward to – particularly the Dauphine.