14 Mar 2010

Bike it or Not (How to cross bike)

Posted by Mike Rubbo

Hi Folks, it’s been a long time since the last post. I’ve been totally consumed by helping to fight against the scuttling of the HMAS Adelaide off our lovely Avoca beach.

If that interests, you have a look at; The Graveyard of the Adelaide, on youtube and the two films which follow.

But now, I’ve found a moment to make the film I’ve had in head for so long, a film about a cyclist who crosses over, why rides different bikes for different hikes

Meet Jill Charlton and enjoy her company.

Jill is part of the revolution we need to have in Australia, to widen our cycling culture from the the present Sport/leisure one, to include serious utility cycling.

That means embracing the machines, the sit-up Amsterdam type bikes made for the job.

All the excuses as to why these marvelous machines are hardly seen here, are furphies. The European who ride these bikes so pervasively have hills in some parts, have daunting distances, and they have headwinds.

Nothing turns them off the best bike for the job of going A to B, the bike they’ve been riding for more than 60 years, unbroken, the sit-up.

Why the subtle exclusion of these bikes here, the put downs in bike shops? I’d hate to think it, but could it be economic?

As David Hembrow explained in Talking to David Hembrow, such bikes need little maintenance, last for 20 years and never go out of fashion.

They do have lots of accessories but these generally come with the bike in Europe, the lights, the rack, the chain guard, etc.

What the sit-ups don’t don’t need is special clothes. There is no need to Gear up Girl l with one of these.

In the film, Jill points to her padding, comfort built into her Lycra shorts. Well, why not have a comfy seat to begin with? Is that such a revolutionary idea?

As we readily admit in Bike it or Not, these bikes are slower. But is that a bad thing? Is it really good to rush around as if you were a car?

What about those slow moments all around the world, starting with leisurely meals in the Italian style?

There is a slow bike movement too, and it needs consideration here as we spin ourselves into early stress based graves.

By the way, thanks to Peninsula Pedallers for proposing that mine are the best bike advocacy films in Australia.

That’s encouraging, folks

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11 Responses to “Bike it or Not (How to cross bike)”

  1. The 200W output limit on the electric motors allowed in Australia is silly. They should fall into line with the European idea of a 25km/h limit on power assistance, which would be much safer and preserve the fundamental nature of a bicycle (relatively slow). It would make it easier to import the models currently available in Europe.



  2. I’ll sound a warning from hard personal experience about your statement that sit-up bikes are hard-wearing, long-lasting and require little maintenance.

    I preface this by sayig that I’m a big fan of sit-ups, by the way. I love riding them and I love the way the look.

    However, I have owned a sit-up bike for the last 2 years which I purchased here in Melbourne, and it has been a diabolical experience. I would estimate that in the course of those 2 years, it has been in the shop for maintenance and/or replacement of parts for 3 months in total.

    Virtually every part on the bike has been replaced, apart from the handlebars, saddle and lights. This includes the frame!

    In fact, I just got the bike back a few weeks ago from being re-framed. It was purring beautifully, when out of the blue, bowling along Dandenong Road, the back wheel fell apart. Pardon the lack of specificity in that description – I’m no mechanic. What I mean is that it started letting out an almighty screeching sound, and bits that were formerly inside the axle started clanging out on to the road. So it is back to the shop again tomorrow.

    When the bike is working, it is a sheer joy to ride. But it is wholly unreliable and has left me stranded in the middle of nowhere with a long trudge home on plenty of occasions.


    Trish Campbell

  3. Another great film Mike.

    @Tali, I’ve been verbose about unifying limits before:


    And my Wisper 905se Sport would not like the 25km/hr limit on power assistance. I have the 250W motor, the max under NZ law, and I happily ride on the flat with the assistance at 30km/hr +/-4km/kr depending on how much effort I feel like contributing. I’ve suggested something that can get the bike up to 40km/hr on the flat, which is what a good rider on a non assistance roadbike can do. And if you power rate the motor then you don’t need to keep track of the bike’s speed, which makes for a simpler system. So I reckon a 500W limit, and no need to have a max speed, or the other dumb one, where you have to be pedalling. After 50km of pedalling along, sometimes I like to just use the throttle and stop pedalling, stand on my pedals, and watch the world go past with the last dregs of my battery.


    Matty T

  4. I totally agree about the sit up bikes Mike. I’ve started demonstrating my electric bicycle range at markets and in my showroom in Marrickville. I have one sit up model which I chose for all the good reasons you point out in your article and it’s been far and away the most popular one. People look at it and just see bikes how they should be. Here’s the bike: http://glowwormbicycles.com.au/node/33



  5. Hi Mike
    I’m a 50 year old bloke with poignant memories of riding to school in Adelaide on my black sit-up Malvern Star ‘gentleman’s’ bike. It had a Sturmy Archer hub, that ‘ticked’ at the different speeds of its 3-gear range; a sound that’s lovingly stored in my aural memory. Now I ride a bike to work in Melbourne that I converted from a flat-bar bike to drop bars, simply because the flat bar set-up leaves the wrists at an angle that hurts after a while. But what I really dream about is putting together a second-hand frame with an Xtracycle extension on the rear, as an all-round utility bike, with ‘North Road’ handlebars! So I have a need to return to my cycling roots, I think. A great video too. Thank you.


    Richard Monfries

  6. I love seeing the conversion! The recognition that different is good is wonderful.

    Funny thing. I ride Dutch everyday and that bike and my daily riding of it is what has brought me back to road riding for distance. I will never use my road bike for daily use, but then, I will never use my Batavus to ride 100 miles : )

    VĂ­ve La Difference! Keep riding!


    Adrienne Johnson

  7. Interestingly, as a child in post-war UK all the men rode racing-style bikes while women tended to a flatter handle bar – we all rode and most of my school friends did too. As kids we envied our dads’ and big brothers’ 5 speed racers as we toddled around on our uprights with rod brakes, chain guards and mudguards. when we got older (I’m talking late 50′s early 60′s) we stripped our bikes of anything that rattled and turned our handle-bars upside down if we could get cable brakes!

    There are a couple of films on YouTube that show pre-war cyclists in Birmingham and Copenhagen respectively. Both city squares are chocka-block full of cyclists in suits and skirts, but the styles are wildly different – drop handle bars v sit up and beg. Just a cultural observation really. I have both styles of bike, but unless I’m going to be carrying too much for my backpack I usually opt for the racer, it’s just more fun. But I do think we should be repealing helmet laws and looking at making cycling safer by increasing numbers rather than quarantining cyclists. (We should be quarantining cars on most roads).



  8. Do you know about Guim Valls Teruel whoi is now riding around the world on a wisper and is still in NZ for a few days. You can reach min via his blog if you are interested. Cheers, Mike


    Mike Rubbo

  9. Not the right reply, Trish. This was meant for Matti above you.


    Mike Rubbo

  10. I’m one such person who rides a “sit-up” bicycle. It’s a 1977-vintage Raleigh Twenty no less! 3-speed Sturmey-Archer gears, 20″ wheels and I have been known to hit about 35kph heading downhill, and I easily cruise at 20 to 25kph on the flats.

    I’ve ridden a number of traditional roadster/dutch/city bicycles. There are a number of new models coming onto the market. The “Vanmoof” bicycle is now in Australia and makes an excellent bicycle for urban-dwellers.

    I’m the sort of person whom because of a lucky combination of short distances to all the facilities I need, and to the local train station means that I don’t need to drive anywhere.


    Martin Hartley

  11. I ride a sit-up, round Toowoomba. Velorbis Churchill. Lovely ride, bit of a tug on the incline but my legs need the work. I’d love to ride something Australian, but that seems to be a dream (and building something’s out of the question – I struggle to operate a mechanical pencil).

    For evidence that we actually had a pretty solid sit-up/everyday cycle ‘culture’, there’s nothing better than to have a play around on the Picture Australia archive. Here’s one of my favourite snaps, four lads, all upright, ambling down a dusty street in Bundaberg, Q (apols for the long link):


    Plenty of proof there that getting people to ‘sit-up’ today is not so much a revolution, as a return to form. And oh, for the abolition of mandatory helmet laws – how good do those hats look?


    Jim Forbes

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