Bad ideas

I’ve had a tough couple of days on the road and I suppose this kind of post was inevitable and is often found in bike blogs the world over.

But first for those interested the Yuba and the Elation are going strong 4 days and maybe 50ks per week, Everything ticking along beautifully.

I have some very set routines in my bike travel and some very tried and true routes. Two days per week I travel in evening peak hour on the very busy but very slow moving Cleveland Street in Inner Sydney. Until now I have not had a problem. I keep up a cracking pace and really only the most inpatient driver could ever accuse me of holding anyone up.

So this week for some reason I have had my life threatened with a car two days in a row. All cyclists have at some point experienced the the close pass but this it the first time I have experienced a driver purposefully changing lanes to drive directly at me; both drivers missing me by maybe 12 inches.

The thing that has shaken me is that these “attacks” were completely unprovoked, not the aftermath of some incident or exchange of words as might be expected if not condoned.

I was simply riding on the road. Indeed this is what the 2nd driver accused me of. “Get off the road you *&;^%&;$*” is about as intelligent as his explanation got as I rode up next to him only 20 metres on. He went on the say he hadn’t touched me and that next time he would hit me! Great death threats..just what I need. To be honest despite his foul language and bravado, I could see in his eyes and hear in the tone of his voice that he wasn’t comfortable being confronted like this (especially when I pulled out my iphone and asked him to repeat his threats, which he wouldn’t). So maybee he will think twice next time. Maybe.

Maybe I’ll think twice about riding on that road again, or riding at all if I can drive, it would be a sensible personal reaction to this kind of thing. So if they are trying to scare me off, it might just have worked.

It was not smart of me to approach him at all, I know this, but in these situations, adrenalin often gets the better of me (as with most males). I mean how do you feel when your life is threatened?

Why does this happen and what can we do about it?

Maybe these are just bad people, but I think they are more often good people with a bad idea. In Sydney and other parts of Australia the print and commercial radio media is in bike story overdrive. There are weekly news stories and shock jock tirades, mostly related to some controversy over bike path infrastructure, but always with an anti-bike slant.

Is this emerging antibike sub-culture giving weak minded individuals a bad idea, swerve at bikes?

What to do? Smile, be courteous, move over, wave drivers past, ring my bell? Well ask me again next week because this week I say *&^% that…

What we need is more bikes, riding in small groups. Mostly in Sydney bike don’t ride together, we are like lone antelope surrounded by leopards, but really there are enough of us around now to form little groups and I’m convinced that this would be safer even if it doesn’t lead to more acceptance from good drivers with bad ideas.


8 Responses to “Bad ideas”

  1. Mark Says:

    Sorry to hear about your altercations. I’ve covered about 6000km on my e-bike now, mainly on quiet roads and paths, nothing so busy as Cleveland St, and have only had one coward driver swerve at me, that was in the middle of Lane Cove.

    This was after I had moved up the queue of traffic on the left, which is actually legal for push bikes to do so. He actually brushed my leg as he swerved in towards me as he passed. I too reacted angrily and gave chase, he didn’t expect that I would catch up with him, so seeing him squirm when I caught up to him and looked him in the eye was some minor consolation.

    I would have spat in his open window, however the thing is, the guy probably travels the same road at the same time, so not wise to make enemies of angry people who drive cars who happen to also be cowards.

    Most likely he was simply expressing some seriously large amount of anger inside of him, maybe his wife just left him, maybe he just lost his job, some other misfortune most likely brought upon himself through his own mistakes, we all get to this position at some stage to varying degrees I guess.

    The only other trouble I have had was a couple of car doors opening up on me. I had been worried about this on a bike lane next to parked cars on part of my commute, so had always kept my distance, to the point where I had to ride outside the bike lane to avoid doors if they were to open. Had never had a door open in some 9 months of riding that road, and just when I started to get complacent, two doors opened on me in the space of 60 seconds.. The drivers didn’t even bother to look. They didn’t even care to notice my 900 lumen LED, this shows that these individuals were pretty stupid and inconsiderate individuals, or very pre-occupied by some other problem they were having. I yelled very loudly at the second driver and hopefully frightened the ___ out of him.

    In any case, I took these door opening incidents as a warning, a positive thing, almost like a message to keep focused on the best methods for staying alive on the road. Why else would I get two in a row in the space of a minute when I had not had this happen for 9 months of commuting?

    By the way, keeping a healthy dose of anger in your system helps to keep you alive on two wheels I have found, it motivates you to sniff out the dangerous situations.

    • keller74 Says:

      Thanks for your comments Mark, sorry you’ve had similar if equally rare experiences, but it’s nice to not be alone. Your right anger keeps me alert but I’m worried I’ll have a heart attack (ironically during one of the attacks I was listening to a radiolab podcast on the topic of stress, radiolab highly recommended btw).

      Ive calmed down this week and I’ll be taking the back roads at least until the summer light returns, or I can organize a Cleveland street bike bus.

      Good to hear your still keeping that old greenewheels on the road, mine is set up for my wife but it keeps breaking spokes!

  2. turbo1889 Says:

    Found your blog while researching available long-tail frames and electric assist conversions. At this point I have mainly been looking at the Yuba frame.

    Anyway, currently I am nursing a nasty road rash on my left arm and leg that hurts and itches so bad I can’t hardly sleep at night although Emu-Oil and Aloe-Vera Vera gel is helping. I received the injury Tuesday as a direct result of a motorist deliberately attacking me on the road while I was commuting to work. As usual I riding on the far right hand side of the road on the shoulder on the other side of the rumble strips about four plus feet outside the white line completely out of traffic. I do, however, have to make a left hand turn across a four lane divided highway that has a one lane wide concrete separation medium between the opposing lanes with left hand turning lanes built into that concrete medium where other major roads intersect with that main highway. My standard operating procedure for making that left hand turn (in direct compliance with Montana State traffic laws) is to wait for a break in traffic and then stick out my left hand to signal my lane-change/turn and then glide across the two lanes on my side and into the left hand turn lane and “take the lane” to make that left hand turn yielding to oncoming traffic and waiting until I can safely complete the left hand turn across the two oncoming lanes when there is a break in traffic. Just as a motor vehicle would do.

    I have had motorist deliberately attack me and try to drive me off the road while am riding over on the right hand shoulder of the road but I am fairly used to that and can hear them coming from behind when their tires pass over the white line and hit the rumble strips. My standard defense in those situations is to go hard right off the paved roadway and out into the grass or gravel outer edge and go around the other side of a reflector pole since normally even the most vicious motorist won’t risk hitting a reflector pole since they are heavy duty thick metal and are anchored deep in the ground and can do considerable damage to the front end and undercarriage of a motor vehicle. Up until Tuesday though I had never had anyone come at me while I was in a left hand turn out lane. This guy did though, after I had safely crossed over to the left hand turnout lane built into the center medium without incident and had ridden a hundred yards or more down the length of that lane which is about 250 yards long I heard the lugged down roar that a heavy diesel engine makes when someone suddenly shoves the accelerator peddle to the floor and turned me head to see a big blue colored newish Ford diesel pickup with a heavy double axel big black cargo trailer in tow bearing down on me in that left hand turn lane with an older male with a big white cowboy hat at the helm bearing down on me at full throttle. As he laid on the horn and I turned me head searching for an easy escape path I found none since I could not go right and swing out into two lanes of high speed traffic and there was a concrete median to my left that was just a little too tall to easily hop on top of with two lanes of oncoming traffic beyond it. In the end I chose the concrete median divider and although I tried I was unable to pull up my front wheel on to it and thus I crashed myself and my bike up onto it instead so I was sitting on top of about a yard wide strip of raised concrete divider with my arms and legs tucked in and my bike pulled up on top of me with oncoming traffic whistling by on one side and the crazy cowboy old fart roaring by on the other. I turned my head after he had sliced by me looking to see the license plate number to find that he had pulled back out of the left hand turning lane back into the main stream of traffic and was racing away and was already too far away for me to read the small size license plate that they use on trailers.

    I have absolutely no doubt that it was a deliberate attack and that he had no intention of using the left hand turn lane to turn left but had deliberately crossed over into it in order to attack me. When one enters a left hand turn out lane to turn one applies the brakes and starts slowing down for the turn. One does not stomp down on the accelerator peddle. And one actually does use the lane to turn rather then swing back out into the main flow of traffic where you came from after entering the lane.

    Now here comes the important part of this, although I think the individual who did this to me should feel the full weight of the legal consequences of his choice of actions against my personage I don’t really blame him for it. Who I blame is the majority of the other bicyclists that ride in the same general area as I do. The vast majority of other cyclists I have observed in my daily travels seem to think that the rules of the road do not apply to them. They routinely and habitually run right through stop signs and red lights and send motorists screeching and skidding to avoid hitting them. They think they own the road and that motorists must always yield to them. I may be the only cyclist up here who stops for stop signs and doesn’t just roll through them. A few others do stop for red lights but there are just as many or more who don’t. Obviously, this really gets under the skin of the motorists and severely aggravates them. I have heard more then one person I personally know state that so long as cyclists refuse to follow the rules of the road they intend to not give them any respect or courtesy on the road.

    Now I realize that you and I are on opposite ends of the globe me being in Montana, U.S.A. and you being an Aussie. Heck we don’t even ride on the same side of the road or use the same measurement systems so to understand what happened to me Tuesday you will need to swap right & left and use meters instead of yards. But I would kindly suggest that you might also want to take a critical look at the other side of the equation and consider the possibility that your fellow cyclists might not be behaving themselves and might have initiated some of the rage against cyclists that you have felt the brunt of. I would especially consider and investigate this possibility before you try to organize group riding since you very well may find that you may not want to be seen on the road with some of your fellow cyclists and risk an even more direct link in the minds of motorists between yourself and them then already exists by you being seen directly riding with potential known offenders of the sort I have infesting my area up here. There is nothing more dangerous then an enemy with a legitimate reason to hate you.

    I should note that I am still riding my bike on the roads despite the recent incident two days ago and the injuries I sustained (thankfully only a bad road rash) and will continue to do so. I refuse to yield to terrorism or have the misbehavior of the majority of my fellow cyclists curtail my riding.

    As to the Yuba Mondu specifically and having an electric assist drive. The legal limit by Montana state law which I am under for motorized bicycles is two(2) horsepower and since two(2) horsepower = 1,491.39974 watts if the electric motor is 100% efficient in converting the electric current to kinetic energy (its not) I can easily use a 500, 750, or 1,000 watt motor and still be well below the legal limit. I am thinking of doing a homebuilt mid-drive set-up that uses a hub-motor (just the hub without a wheel attached) mounted in the rear frame triangle forward of the rear wheel with a double freewheel stub axle that allows either or both the motor and pedals to drive the rear wheel through the gearing system with all the advantages of a stokermonkey set-up without the disadvantage of having to have driven pedals and allowing me to use any hub motor and controller I want to use not the just the one used in the stokermonkey set-up. So far I have found one conversion done by someone else in this manner:

    I can see one problem with the set-up as done and I assume continuing in the kit that is sold that being that there isn’t a chain tensioner (an old rear derailer could be used with the upper and lower range screws tightened down so that it held position without a control cable being attached and just served to keep the chain tensioned while allowing the necessary flex in the chain length to allow gear changing on the front derailer) for the forward chain to allow use of all three of the front chain rings on the crank so you loose your front gears. In addition since that method depends on having a stub shaft with multiple freewheels mounted on it to combine both the pedal and motor inputs there is no reason to use only a one gear freewheel on it. A standard multi gear rear freewheel spool could be used as the output point on the stub shaft rather then just a single gear giving a third set of gear ratios that would allow an even broader gear range expanding both the upper and lower gear range that would be accessible through both the pedals and electric motor since the set-up as done and sold by the Urban Commuter Store is such that only the rear gear spool gears the motor input and any change in the front gear spool on the crank would only adjust gearing through the pedals and not the motor input. I might go with adding the additional gears to the stub shaft and putting a third gear changer on the handlebars (just an old school simple thumb lever) or I might just put a single gear on the front crank and have a seven spool rear gears with a seven spool front gears on the stub-shaft with the front and rear gear changers mounted in the conventional position on the handlebars with no third gear changer. I live in an area with a lot of hills and mountains so you can never have too wide of a gear range or too many gears and the additional weight of another gear spool, derailer, cable, and control on the handlebars would be a very small price to pay.

    I did find your information on the braking system and very informative since I also want to use disk brakes in my build although I prefer mechanical calipers over hydraulic for sake of simplicity since I don’t entirely trust hydraulic since all it takes is the slightest little leak and your brakes are gone where a broken cable can be easily fixed with a spare in the bike bag.

    Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say at the moment besides a thank you for posting your build notes and results on how it has worked out for you.

    • keller74 Says:

      Thanks for your comments and I’m sure people will find the Ideas for electrifying your mundo very helpful. Don’t forget to share when it’s done.

      Regarding being attacked while on your bike I’m sure you’ll agree it is a situation which leaves you feeling very powerless and vulnerable.

      I’m not really looking for answers anymore, I just think it’s about human nature and I’m just going to ride a bit more defensively in future.

      Whilst I agree some bike riders do bad things, I also think some drivers some women and some dogs do bad things too, thats usually not a legitimate reason to try and run over every women and dog I come across.

      It’s complicated just like people are complicated but it sure feels pretty simple when its between you and a car. They win and they know it.

      Thanks for the comment and stay safe out there.

      • turbo1889 Says:

        Believe it or not, what initially attracted me to the Yuda Mundo frame was some advertisement language on the Xtracycle webpage putting it down as “too much bike” and a “two wheeled tank” saying it was way overkill and they you were better off buying their product. Well that negative advertisement had the opposite effect on me especially when I figured out that the Yuda Mundo was more competitively priced then the Surly Big Dummy while being stronger and tougher at the same time and I could get a bare Yuda Mundo frame in the $500 range while just the bare bones Xtracycle frame extension add on unit that is significantly inferior to a single piece long tail frame was in the $350 zone.

        I’m still doing research and haven’t actually shelled out any money yet but from what I have seen so far the Yuda Mundo frame looks like the best value available for a dedicated long tail cargo bike frame.

        I did notice that in your build you didn’t use the heavy duty 48 spoke 14mm axle rear wheel that the Yuda Mundo frame is built for in order to ensure the rear wheel is strong enough to take the full maximum rated cargo weight (400 pounds of cargo plus the weight of the rider). I wondered why not, any specific reason?

        As to human nature, unfortunately, it is part of human nature to “lump and group” and pre-judge accordingly. It is part of our inbuilt basic survival instinct. It is what makes us steer clear of supposedly “dangerous” animals even though a particular individual animal of that particular group may intend us no harm. Up here in Montana we have a wild critter known as a cougar or mountain lion. They are an extremely powerful member of the cat family that weigh anywhere from 150 to over 300 pounds for an adult of the species and they can and do attack kill and eat people as well as their usual food stock consisting mainly of deer and elk. They aren’t no little kitty cat and everyone up here knows to stay the heck clear of them and if one of them comes into your yard you stay inside your house until it leaves because otherwise you could end up being lunch. Now, that said, I know of a couple who has several that are domesticated and have been raised from when they were young and bottle fed. They are as tame as any house cat or dog and are just big babies that will just want to loaf on the coach next to you and have you rub and scratch their neck behind their ears at which they will purr in contentment with their head resting in your lap.

        Point is that the same built in mechanism that is hard wired into our brains that would make you stay the heck away from a mountain line that wandered into your back yard even if it were one of those tame domesticated pet ones my neighbors down the road have also affects how we respond to other people. If for example any of us pedal power cyclist were repeatably harassed and driven off the road by motorcyclists and they were the ones that usually did such not the four wheeled traffic then over time with a large enough percentage of motorcyclists engaging in such behavior a large portion of us pedal power cyclists would begin to see motorcyclists as “the enemy” and would not like them and tend to mistrust and steer clear of them even if that particular motorcyclists we ran into on that particular day wasn’t one of the bad ones and was one of the good ones.

        Now I do realize that logic allows us to move beyond just simple instinctual responses and mental grouping of this kind but unfortunately the human creature still very much relies on instinct.

        This is what prompted my post cautioning you that group riding may not work out for the better for you. I know it wouldn’t in my area, but as I said we are on opposite sides of the globe and I sincerely hope I am wrong and that your fellow cyclists over there are much better behaved then the ones I have to deal with up here where there are way too many bad apples that make things harder for the rest of us. It was an honest concern of mine and when you mentioned group riding as a safety technique it made a knot form in my gut, and I was honestly concerned that you could end up “jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

        Ultimately, it isn’t up to us whether the motorists consider misbehavior by another of “our group or class” a legitimate reason to harass us or not and dismissing or ignoring the instinctual grouping effect that is part of human nature is not wise. It does need to be acknowledged unfortunately.

      • keller74 Says:

        “I did notice that in your build you didn’t use the heavy duty 48 spoke 14mm axle rear wheel that the Yuda Mundo frame is built for in order to ensure the rear wheel is strong enough to take the full maximum rated cargo weight (400 pounds of cargo plus the weight of the rider). I wondered why not, any specific reason?”

        It’s a complicated answer about the difference between hub freewheels and cluster mounted (see here for more info ones but the short version is that in theory when you use a hub free wheel the axle points of force are nearer the frame and the 14mm axle is not required for additional strength. I busted my first rear rims (too narrow for the tyres I was running) and now have a 48 spoke rear wheel with hub freewheel and 10mm axles running simple 14mm adaptors, rock solid.

  3. Mark Says:

    “Good to hear your still keeping that old greenewheels on the road, mine is set up for my wife but it keeps breaking spokes!”

    Hi there M,

    The only thing left of the old greenewheels is the frame and the seat at this stage!

    Have built a new rear wheel, using the same disc only rim as the front, and a new motor, the Bafang BPM, which is 1kg heavier, but more efficient than the older bafang greenewheels unit.

    In that process I learnt all about spoke length calculations, spoke patterns and interlacing, as well as the reasons spokes break.

    I can probably say with 99% sureity that your spokes are breaking because the wheelbuilder did it wrong, and did not interlace the spokes, meaning they are not stabilised by being forced against each other, this results in spoke head fatigue.

    As anyone knows, you cant tear a tin lid very easily, but if you fatigue it by bending it back and forth 20 times, it tears like paper.

    As you brake and accelerate a spoked wheel, the leading and lagging spokes tension up and loosen. This action causes the movement in the heads (in the hub) which causes the fatigue.

    I have used 14G spokes on my new build (2.0mm), these are holding up fine, as they should, they can hold almost 1000kg each in tension. The greenewheels ones, (12G I think or about 2.6mm?) don’t need to be so thick, it’s just that the chinese have over specced them due to breakages in the early days, but these breakages were as a result of people building wheels without the correct knowledge.

    I now have two spare greenewheels motor wheels, so I have more spokes if you need them, or I can give you a whole wheel with hub already laced correctly if you like. The only other option would be for you to undo every other spoke on your wheel and interlace it (lace it so that it bends over itself).

    This will not be possible with the thick GW spokes if you have an alternating head pattern, i.e. heads alternate from inbound to outbound for adjoining spokes. Interlacing can be done with these however if you pull out all of the inbound spokes and make them outbound.

    I know this sounds complicated, and would be easier to just get another wheel, which I can drop down to you if you like.

    Another cheap temp fix would be to cable tie the spoke crosses together so that the fatigue is halted.

    As you brake and accelerate a spoked wheel, the leading and lagging spokes tension up and loosen. This action causes the movement in the heads (in the hub) which causes the fatigue.

    • keller74 Says:

      Hey Mark thanks for that great info re the spokes and the kind offer of spare motors etc. I just figured they were rubbish spokes. I have another 10 or so spare and I even have a spare motor now installed (from a previous time when the hall sensor wiring melted). It is a different brand motor (not sure what) and has taller gearing than the GW/bafang motor. Slower takeoff, faster top speed (about 32kph on a flat road where I found the GW 28kph max with no pedaling), It has sensors but it is such a drag working out the wiring I just run it with my sensorless controller. It also doesn’t have a free wheel in the motor but this is only an issue if you run out of batteries. I think it is laced correctly but I’m going to check all my wheels now you’ve given me the heads up.

      If I do modify the GW any further I think I’ll get a front hub motor and hub gearing in the back (a bit like the newer Whisper brand bikes). I, like you, have replaced almost everything, except the gear set (barely functioning), frame, bottom bracket (well new bearings there obviously!), rear Vbrakes, throttle and wiring, and the seat! It really wasn’t good value when I look at all the problems but it’s likely paid for itself in the first functional 9 months or so, and at least it got me into ebikes.

      My eLation has has a few failures (loose battery in casing, loose front freewheel, and stripped pedal thread in crank arm) but parts were always supplied by Alan very quickly, efficiently and at no cost even out of the warranty period. Along with lots more bikes on my inner city commute I now regularly see 2 or 3 Ebikes per day when a year ago I was luck to see one per month. I hope these people have better luck than we have or they will soon get turned off the whole idea.

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