Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Denial is not just a river in Egypt flows pretty strongly through Prince Albert too.

Why is it that people are so offended when you tell them that their computer has a virus? Why do they fluff up and deny frantically?

I got whacked by a virus about 3 years ago and then went serious on anti-virus software (Panda, top product and even better live (human) service. And NOTHING gets through.

So happens I insert a clean, scanned memory stick into a local office computer (no names no pack drill) and when I plug it into my laptop again, Panda goes wild. Yup, not one, but two viruses off the other computer.

Now for the funny bit. I informed the IT person who looks after the computer that they have a virus, politely, very politely. Holy shit, it might have been easier if I suggested that they personally had the big H. They have the latest free antivirus software installed, so it's impossible.......

Denial flows through it.

By the way, the "free" antivirus software failed to stop the virus (W32/AutoRun.APJ.worm)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Gert Swarts and his trailer

Mobility can mean different things, depends on your situation, I suppose.

One of the greatest limitations of bicycle transport is humping your "stuff" along with you, and that stuff can be anything from your slinky little Apple to a whole pile of garden tools and pretty much anything in between. Well, Gert Swarts is one step closer to overcoming that hurdle.

Bike trailers are nothing new and there are a host of variations on the theme; single wheel, double wheel, short, long, light, heavy, side hitch, top hitch..........
The only thing is that they appear to be few and far between (I only know of one person who has one) and I have never seen one in this neck of the vlaktes.

So that's probably what motivated me to make this trailer for Gert.

Appropriate branding !

The detail of how I made it is in an earlier post, with some rather poor quality pictures, but you'll get the general idea. If there are any "rules" then they must be:
  • weight centred over the axle
  • strength over weight
  • made of locally repairable materials
For the rest, the trailer can be made to order, depending on what's available. Some of the Northern Hemisphere sites talk of using wood (but with Black X SA Pine rather not!)

Interesting to note that both of these frames were about to go off the scrap recycling depot in Oudtshoorn, talk about saved from the knackers!

And what has it meant to me?

Quite a lot in fact, to take two scrap frames and fabricate a pretty decent trailer is very satisfying. And helped along by the legendary Jame Marshall Hendrix.



So, if you have two old steel frames in sight, you'd better tie them down or they could just end up in the Karoo as a trailer. If you have two old steel road bike frames even better. (In fact we've closed in on the old steel frame futures market!)

Hasta la vista, Gert

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"So sleep die ding" (That's how it tows)

Gert Swarts has taken the proverbial bull by the horns, his red "Gerrie Visser" is one busy bike. Gert looks after a number of properties in town, so being mobile is vital.

A week ago, Gert mentioned that he needed a trailer to haul his tools, compost and other work-related stuff around town. This clearly intersected with one of my needs (to make a bike trailer). I said to Gert that if he supplied two old steel bike frames (carbon doesn't weld so easily), I'd build him a trailer.

Anna's husband, Ampie generously donated another old steel frame from his scrap yard and , voila, we were in business.

After some not very fruitful internet research, I felt that I'd just follow my instinct and make the trailer. I'll describe this bit in detail, in case there are others who want to do the same. Unfortunately, I'm not good at documenting this kind of process, so the pics are all "after".

Part 1 : The Trailer

I took two old steel 26"(wheel size!) mtb frames (it helps if they are dimensionally similar, but that's not essential. The older, the better. (The older bikes have thicker steel sections which make for easier welding)

Strip the frames, re-cycle the bits.

Using two one-metre long pieces of 10mm threaded bar, fix the two frames alongside one another, this aids in alignment. I put one through the rear drop-outs and the other through the bottom bracket shell (Here I made large wooden washers)

Now it starts to look like something. You should have two frames, side by side, with a 10mm rod fixing them at the rear drop-outs and the BB. Don't worry about wheels at this stage.

Look at the inside chain stays, this is where you will attach the supports for the load bed. Depending on your design, you can probably remove the "front half" from the frames at this stage. Cut the top tube just in front of the seat tube and cut the down tube just in front of the BB.

The picture gets clearer, you now have two rear triangles which will form the wheel arches of your trailer. And not unsurprisingly, they will fit a standard 26" mtb wheel - what a bargain.

At this stage, you will need to attach the cross supports between the two inside chain stays. I welded them, but I'm sure one could also rivet or bolt them.

You will need to extend the load bed behind the axle in order to spread the load evenly over the axle. Again, welding and flat bar come to the rescue.

I then welded a length of flat bar between the tops of the two seat posts. All nice and rigid now.

Use a decent bit of steel for the goose-neck to attach the trailer to the bike (I used 20mm x 1,6mm square tube)

Old steel frames are much easier to work with (easier to weld) and can be bent to exacting tolerances. Remember, we are using two rear triangles and would ordinarily need to use two rear mtb wheels. Once you have welded the load bed together, it's a simple matter to bend the outer chain stays inwards (carefully) to bring the drop-out width to something approximating a front wheel (110mm, plus or minus half a brick). Because we are weight weenies, this is an important detail.

Put wheels (mtb slicks work a treat) on your trailer and suddenly you feel like this could actually work!

Part Two: The hitch

Gert wants a trailer to carry up to 25kg bags of compost, so I made the hitch accordingly. Gert's bike has mounting points for a rear rack, so I made up a rudimentary rear rack of flat bar and fabricated a simple hitch. So simple that I can't describe it, so look at the pictures please!

The idea is that the trailer is put at 90 degrees to the bike, the hitch is inserted and then off you go. The trailer and the bike have to be at 90 degrees to each other for the hitch to be removed.

This trailer can carry 100kg, although Gert will probably not carry much more than 25kg at a time.

I would appreciate any comments as I think this is the first of many trailers........

Trailer incomplete, rear view

Hitched to bike, almost complete


Close up of rack.

Close up of hitch

Hitch pin (12mm square bar)

Trailer at 90 deg. to bike

Hitch pin going in

Hitch pin in


Daily Trippers

It all started when Steven Thomas of Day Trippers mentioned that he had a number of old mtb's which needed to find new homes.........
Being the persuasive person that I am, I eventually arrived in Prince Albert with a trailer-load of bikes and parts. Thank you Steven and Di.

As many of you will know, owning a good bike (even an old one) can be a life-changing experience. Add to that the fact that most workers in Prince Albert walk to work and you can see where we're heading. Initially we had thought of starting a "cycling club", but after a few false starts I realised that these bikes would have the most impact if they were owned by people who had job, people who were walking to work.

I started a process of identifying people who would make the most use of the bikes, but almost more importantly, people who would take care of the bikes and act as role models for other potential cyclists

So often, when introducing resources (in this case bikes) to resource-poor communities, a range of factors come into play which can cause more harm than good. My years in the NGO world were spent working with impoverished rural people, there I learned the importance of not introducing resources faster than they could be assimilated meaningfully. It's a very fine line between wanting to "help" and causing an undignified scramble for the new resources. We've all seen it and it is both de-humanising and frustrating for all concerned.

After careful consideration, I decided to do this one differently. Bike recipients would be responsible people who have a clear, identified need for a bike while being the kind of person who would take care of the bike. I eventually identified ten people from a broad range of Prince Albert's community, people who are seen as role models, people who would effectively be ideal "marketing agents" for the cycling lifestyle.

My thinking was that these initial bike recipients would pave the way for any future cycle transport work in Prince Albert; and that is exactly what has happened.

I now have daily requests from people who wish to part of what's "going on". My response is simple: "Speak to one of those who has a bike and they will introduce you to the "scheme".

This way we have a network of people who are introduced to the "scheme" who have undergone some form of vetting or approval by existing cycle commuters. This distances me and filters out any who might be tempted to trade the bike for a papsak (a very real prospect in this part of the world!)

Well now that we have the first ten cyclists out there strutting their stuff, I feel that things are finally moving. An extra ten bikes, ten more people who have more time in their day, ten people who might be getting fit while riding, ten more people who have dramatically improved mobility.

Here they are:

Neels and Shuleen

Jan and Gollie

Gert and Arrie

Anna and Abie

Valencia and Petrus

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ten Speed Bicycles

Every now and then something happens to click and off I go again...

Thanks to the unnamed person who sent me the "Life is a ten-speed bike bike. Most of us have gears we never use. Charles Schulz."

To which I am obliged to render..."Life is like a singlespeed bike; sometimes you just have to pedal harder, at other times you can coast. That's why real people ride singlespeed."

Same person puts me onto this........

......... which has forever changed my opinion of rap.

This has to be one of the best takes on the mutha ucker killa beeatch (c) rap

As for riding, rumour has it that there's a stylish new singlespeed flying around a little Karoo dorp. Rumoured to be raw steel finish, coaster hub, clean, clear lines. If I see her, I'll post some pictures.