Metro Cycles, Newcastle West End

FullSizeRender_2
I’ve written before about the Bank Corner Café and how the area around Bank Corner has become a “place” in Newcastle. With its adjoining laneway covered in murals and other art works and its pavement seating and decorative paving, it is picturesque and quirky and you don’t know just what is around the corner. Adding to the ambience of that area is a recently opened bike shop “Metro Cycles”, owned by Bernie Hocking.

FullSizeRender_3

The shop fits in well with its surroundings, as there are always lots of bikes parked in the vicinity during the day, so the lineup of Metro Cycles bikes looks just like another part of the streetscape. Additionally, all the posts here have been yarnbombed, which fits in nicely, adding to the placemaking feel of this small area. The fact that car parks are hard to find around here makes it even more attractive to cyclists.

FullSizeRender

With its lineup of commuter, folders, ebikes and cargo bikes and appropriate accessories for them, Metro is catering to a section of the cycling market that has not been strongly recognised before in Newcastle. This provides the opportunity for those in the market for utility cycles to shop in Newcastle rather than buying elsewhere or via the Internet.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_2

FullSizeRender_1

Bernie’s choices of bikes on his shop floor has been strongly influenced by trips to Europe and a cycling study tour he has done there. It shows in the diversity of town and cargo bikes that are on display and European and British influences are also evident in his selection of stock. Bicycle art work adorns the walls …

FullSizeRender_3

 

Bernie, on the right, talking to a customer

Bernie, on the right, talking to a customer

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Bago Studio: cycling fashion

Bago_weather_jacket
While this blog is primarily about bicycles in Newcastle, I keep an eye out for interesting developments elsewhere, and I am always on the lookout for cycling clothes which don’t look like cycling clothes. So when I saw Bago Studio featured in Treadlie Magazine recently, I could see an exciting new cycling fashion label which is affordable and practical, as well as extremely beautiful. Kellie has a fresh approach to fashion adapted to cycling in our conditions and I could not resist asking her to do an interview to showcase her work ….
Bago_spectrum_dress_front
– Can you tell me a bit about yourself and any business partners you have?
I grew up on the Mid North Coast of NSW on a beautiful property, nestled at the foot of Broken Bago Mountain, hence where the name ‘Bago’ comes from. I have always had a love of adventure developed from exploring the surrounding bush when I was a child, which has carried on even now.
I studied Fashion and Textile design, at the University of Technology in Sydney with a focus upon printed textiles and sustainability. I have always been interested in creating clothing to be loved and cherished as art pieces rather than fast fashion.
After studying fashion I travelled for a few years exploring and working abroad in Italy and London continually developing my experience in textile design. Returning to Australia, I worked in the industry as a textile and print designer for about 6 years before starting Bago Studio, initially whist also working full time for other people. Bago Studio was launched in 2013, but I have only recently started to work full time on the business.
blue_pencil_skirt_side
– Why did you go into business?
I have always wanted my own business, maybe it’s the creative freedom. I watched my parents work endlessly building a small locally run business and as such I see the importance and value of small business. Having also worked for a few small companies I also realise the struggles, but it’s something which I don’t want to regret trying in the future. When I moved to Melbourne after being in London I began cycling and this was my transport everywhere, all year round. I was inspired by clothing which was designed for a life of cycling.
Bago_gathered-circle-skirt-and-scarf
– Do you ride a bike? What type of bike?
Yes, a Kona Honky Tonk. I like streamlined bikes with no fuss.
– What was your vision when you started making cycling clothes?
I believe where possible we should cycle everywhere, like they do in other parts of the world. So cycling is just part of the everyday. I wanted to create practical and elegant clothing for the everyday female cyclist, to look and feel good both on and off the bike. I think Bago Studio has grown into much more now and symbolises a lifestyle of active travel for cycling, traveling, exploring and relaxing.
– Can you tell us about your manufacturing process?
Bago Studio is run as designer-made business from a small studio in Brisbane, I work like a tailor or dressmaker would. I am responsible for the whole production from initial print design to the final sewing. It is a very sustainable process as I am in control of the entire operation and its nice to keep it small and intimate. As such all garments are locally made with a focus on quality craftsmanship. The only process I outsource in the digital printing of the fabric, which is done through an Australian company in Sydney.
– As a small business owner, how do you spend you week?
It really does depend on the the week/time of year. As some weeks I might spend the entire week designing new silhouettes, garments, patterns and prints for my next collection or other weeks I might be sewing in production mode all week.
An average week would have one-two computer days, book keeping, admin, researching, social media updates or designing new prints. I might have a day pattern cutting and two days sewing the garments. As a small business I have to multi task and if an order comes through this will always be the priority.
Thanks so much for this interview, Kellie, for the insight into your business ethic and for the peek at some of your work. I just love the original prints you are using and the styles look so good for wearing around town. I can’t wait to see your winter collection!
Bago_pencil_skirt_side
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tigra bike mount for iPhone 5

IMG_0681

Tigra mount on my Speedwell

This bike mount would be very handy for those who want to use cycling apps or to record their rides or to take photos while riding.

The mount for the casing fits easily onto the handlebars with the use of an Allen key, then the casing clips into it. There is a two part system which attaches the casing to the mount which involves a small screw and a clip, both of which need to be lifted to remove the casing. This is not difficult and the casing clips out easily while being quite secure while on the mount, even when the phone is being rotated. I found fitting the whole thing quite straightforward.


The casing has a double locking system, which involves clips at the front of the phone which are hinged to another clip at the back.

IMG_0689
There is a slightly papery feel to screen and a small loss of sensitivity but not enough to interfere with normal use of the phone.
The selfie camera gives a slightly grainy picture, but the main camera is fine. The blurred effect of the selfie camera could be used to advantage if you wanted a softer focus photo. Photos are not distorted or blurred around the edges, which was sometimes the case with the previous model I had for the iPhone 4.
The case is larger and chunkier than the previous one I reviewed but is still easy to hold and looks as though it would be more water resistant if immersed or used in heavy rain. The casing is very sturdy, and it makes the phone feel much more protected in case of a drop, although this has not happened yet.

IMG_0691
There is some loss of screen visibility in sunlight but not as much as with the previous model.
The ports for charging and headphones are accessible through the casing, as is the on/off switch at the top of the phone, but the volume/camera buttons on the side are not. The camera button can be used via the screen.
The video quality is ok when using the mount, there is a slightly wavy quality in it which would be unacceptable for some, but it is perfectly suitable for use if you wanted to record your ride for safety purposes. I would need to mount the phone onto the other side of my handlebars for the best view for this purpose. The rotational capability of the device allows for some variation however. You can see an example in this short video I made …

Many thanks to Mobilezap for providing this mount for review.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Safe riding in Melbourne

IMG_0413

On a recent trip to Melbourne I was able to borrow a bike for a few days, which gave me an entirely different perspective on this city which is touted to be the leading Australian cycling city.
The bike I was loaned was a little too big for me, which presented a few challenges as far as mounting and dismounting it, but once I got used to making sure I had enough space to lean it over to get on and off, I was at ease on it.
Riding in an unfamiliar area is always a challenge and even more so on a unfamiliar bike. I find that I need to plan the trips I intend to make via Google  maps and even then it is no guarantee that the ride will be along optimal roads for riding safely. The maps can indicate that there are bike lanes present but the quality of them, and of the streetscape for cycling, is not information that is on the maps. So often it’s a case of setting out and taking unexpected turns if the streets around appear better equipped for cyclists or if all the cyclists are going a particular way. And in Melbourne there were plenty of cyclists around.
I was most interested in this street, which had a former bike lane marking scrubbed out and a much wider one painted in. While this improvement took away much of the car lane, making the bike lane feel quite safe, it amounted to making the bike lane almost as wide as the car lane. Even so, I rode as far to the right as the bike lane allowed, placing me closer to the passing cars, but well out of the door zone. This was just as well, as a car door did open as I was passing, but it was not the faintest threat to me, placed as I was in the bike lane. Later that day, I discovered that just a few streets away and at about the same time, a young man was killed by car dooring. The bike lane he was riding along was not nearly as safe as this one, but even on a bike lane such as this, riders need to know where to ride safely.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Changes…

IMG_0550There have been many changes around Newcastle lately. The biggest one is the cutting of the rail line and terminating of trains at Hamilton. This has created a lot of havoc as it means the traffic around the station has doubled, with more pedestrians and now shuttle buses taking people into town after they get off the train. Bikes are not allowed on buses and many riders don’t know which way to ride safely into town. The Throsby creek path is not far away from there and is the safest way to get into town at present.IMG_0517

Other bike related projects are also progressing with the Bathers Way project along the sea front. This will connect all the beaches from Nobbys Beach and the harbour to Merewether Beach for both pedestrians and cyclists. The most spectacular part of this project is the Anzac Memorial Walk which accesses scenic views over both city and sea.

Photo credit: Newcastle Herald

Photo credit: Newcastle Herald


Meanwhile, however, Hunter Street languishes as decisions are not being made about the future of the rail line which may impact on how new bike paths are to be installed.
But that has not stopped the growing cycling culture in Newcastle.

IMG_0539Old bikes being restored and  ridden and new bikes all around town. See this shot taken outside Bank Corner Cafe, it was hard to find a place to lock up my bike that day …IMG_0543
And with a new bike shop opened right next door and murals around the corner in the laneway, it is working well as a place where people like to gather …IMG_0542
With state elections getting closer every day, promises for new bike lanes have been an election promise made by one of the major parties, demonstrating that the need to adopt cycling as transport is becoming a major issue in this region.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Four years of blogging about bikes in Newcastle

IMG_1277It’s been four years since I started this blog and I’m evaluating whether things have changed much in Newcastle to make it more bike friendly.
There are now green bike lanes in some streets and I recall the first time I rode in one of them and how it made me feel much safer. They are used in the lead up to traffic lights and act both as a bike box and a way of better enabling filtering through the traffic to gain a position at the front of the traffic queue. These are both good things.

Spring riders in action. Photo credit Peter McNaughton

Vintage Spring riders in action. Photo credit Peter McNaughton


I’ve also organised three vintage rides which have helped to promote cycling in the city, as well as being good fun. Vintage bike owners always like the chance to showcase their bikes and many thanks to the City of Newcastle for funding them. I’d really looks forward to being able to attend a tweed ride but never thought that I would be the organiser of them.

FullSizeRender_2

Girl with dog in her rear basket

FullSizeRender_1
What I am most interested in though is seeing more bike around the streets and this is something that is much harder to quantify. I think there are more bikes, even though bike counts organised by NCM do not show this. When I am out I unconsciously count the bikes I see and while I used to count up to a dozen on a ride during peak commuting times, I now count twenty or more, once I reach a count of twenty I stop counting …

Family riding at Bar Beach

Family riding at Bar Beach


What I am sure of is that the number of people riding fancy street bikes, old ten speeds or other vintage bikes has increased. This is heartening as it indicates that there are more people just pootling around on their bike because its  convenient. I also see more upmarket bikes than were ever around before. Also, more cargo bikes. Every year after Xmas there is an increase in the number of shiny new bikes, which has to be a good sign. I no longer get told that my speedwell is a nice bike by random strangers on the street and I take this as a sign that it is no longer unique, there are now so many nice bikes out there.

glebe rd path
There has been progress made in the creation of separated bike lanes and shared paths in Adamstown and in Tighes Hill. They are not fully separated but are an improvement over bike pictures in the car door lane. There are also lights for both bike crossings at Kotara and at Throsby Creek, and the bike paths along  the foreshore have been linked to the Throsby Creek path. At Merewether Beach, a properly separated lane has been installed and infrastructure all along the beachfronts have improved cycling there.

Family riding at Merewether Beach

Family riding at Merewether Beach


Looking to the future, the biggest unanswered question is what will happen with Hunter Street and the inner city. This is still the biggest black spot in Newcastle cycling and with the rail line being made inoperable recently, everyone is watching to find out how the rail corridor will be used. A separated bike lane on Hunter Street would be just as good, but that seems to be an obviously needed improvement that does not get made, even though its revitalisation is supposedly high on the agenda of the council and, perhaps, the state government.
There are other improvements that I know of but have not ridden such as at Wallsend and Carrington.

Photo credit; Grant Donnelly

Photo credit; Grant Donnelly


Westfield Kotara has installed a bike parts vending machine, a nice touch to encourage riders.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Problems in Newcastle’s cycling network: Union Street

image

Union street is an important part of the cycling network in Newcastle. It provides a direct link from Hunter Street to The Junction and Merewether and has several important arterial roads crossing it, (for example: King Street, Glebe Road and Parkway Avenue). It also goes past the No 1 Sportsground which can be utilised by cyclists to access Hamilton, Adamstown and Broadmeadow. Union Street is mainly quite wide and also has a lot of suburban residential streets crossing it or terminating at it.
Unfortunately, cycling infrastructure along Union Street is inconsistent, making it a formidable route for cyclists, which is a wasted resource as its width and location give it the potential to be a central part of the cycling network.
The above photo shows the eastern bound side of Union Street. The section allocated to cyclists is very narrow and in the car door lane. On the other side of the street, there is a very wide area for cyclists, about 4-5 metres. Merely changing the line markings on this section of road would make a world of difference to cycling here.
Further towards The Junction is a section where cyclists are directed to ride on the footpath, but then this seems to just peter out and by the time The Junction is reached, it is apparent that cyclists are not catered for at all.image
Closer to Hunter Street, Union Street narrows and in the block between Laman Street and King Street it becomes quite hectic with many parked cars and denser traffic. At this point I prefer to turn into Laman Street and head into Newcastle via Auckland Street and Civic Park.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments