Tigra bike mount for iPhone 5


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.

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.

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.

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Safe riding in Melbourne


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.

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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.

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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.


Girl with dog in her rear basket

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.

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Problems in Newcastle’s cycling network: Union Street


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.

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Problems in Newcastle’s cycling network: Dumaresq Street


The eastbound side of Dumaresq Street in Broadmeadow is a dangerous area to cycle. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is part of the designated route connecting Fernleigh track with Newcastle.
The cycling lane is far too narrow and runs close to parked cars. The cars alongside this lane have little room to move due to the totally vertical edging of the nature strip that extends along the centre of the street. This edging has recently been reconstructed, leaving little doubt that it is not intended to be moved to allow more room for cyclists. So if a dooring incident takes place, a car is not going to have room to move to avoid a swerving cyclist. Added to this, the street is straight and flat, encouraging drivers to drive faster. (The speed limit is 50k along this strip.)
I usually ride along there even though I am aware of the dangers. There is a parallel street nearby but it has an uphill section and is more difficult to enter from the western end. I find that most drivers along Dumaresq Street are polite and wait for an opportune moment to pass safely, which is reassuring.
By contrast, the westbound side of Dumaresq street is perfectly safe to ride along as it is not legal to park there, though occasionally some do. The bike lane is well marked and wide and provides an opportunity to cycle fast in a safe environment. It is a pity about the poor conditions on only one side as this street is very well shaded and this provides a pleasant cycling experience.
I am going to be focussing on some of Newcastle’s problem cycling spots over the next few weeks and would welcome any input into this is terms of either suggested improvements to the problems or areas to focus on and analyse.

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Where to ride?

Glebe Road

Glebe Road

Today as I was riding to Bar Beach, I found myself in The Junction on Glebe Road.

This is an area where I try to avoid cycling as it is inherently dangerous with car doors and close by traffic travelling at a reasonable speed. I have the choice to either ride on the road or on the footpath: a choice between dangerous and illegal. The footpath is also not without its dangers as cars can reverse from driveways.

Today I chose to ride on the road as there was little traffic.
The road has been newly surfaced and marked with bike pictures in the car door zone. This is not considered best practice now and the pictures are all to be removed from our roads, but in the meantime we have to live with them. The trouble with these bike pictures is that they send a message to cyclists and car drivers alike that it is where the cyclist should ride. But it is not compulsory, as this is not a designated legal bike lane. I ride slightly to the right of the unbroken line, putting me out of the door zone and giving cars the opportunity to pass me safely, provided no oncoming traffic is present. Today was a good day – no cars passed me in this area, but every time I ride here, my heart is a little bit in my mouth …

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