Plus fours cycling pants

How to make a pair of plus fours from long pants…photo 1
I had a pair of black dress pants would make ideal plus fours, or pedal pushers, for the Tweed Ride: they are tighter at the waist, holding them up at the back, then loose in the upper legs. I cut them off just below the knee, allowing a little extra length for bent knees and for the seam allowance needed to attach the cuffs. Then I cut two lengths from the offcut part to use as cuffs. These needed to be double the width of the intended cuff plus an additional 2cm to allow for the hem and seam allowance. It’s best to cut them longways down the fabric length as this adds strength to the cuffs.photo 2
I then gathered the bottoms of the pants using a loose running stitch around the whole leg diameter in a contrasting thread, then pinned them to the cuffs. I used back stitch to attach the cuffs to the pants, then rolled them over and hem stitched the cuff to the inside of the pants near the back stitched seam. This could all be done using a sewing machine, if you have one, but as there is not a great deal of sewing to do, it doesn’t take long to hand sew. I had to undo part of the outer leg seams to allow for a small placket so I could get the cuffs over my feet and calves. I didn’t have enough fabric to allow for buttonholes in the cuffs, and this would have been challenging anyway due to the many layers of fabric, so I found some ribbon from hanging loops that were on an old skirt and made button loops to do up the small buttons I sewed on the cuffs.
I am so pleased with these pants that I wear them still, with tights under them. They are more comfortable than jeans and, if worn with black or grey tights, they are quite dressy.

Yours truly in the background

Yours truly in the background

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Placemaking: comparing Beaumont St and Darby St

Darby St

Bicycle planter on Darby St

Both these streets have become “places”, through the growth of cafés and popular eateries as well as a variety of boutique stores. They are also both strip shopping streets for local inner city suburbs and both have a clearly demarcated zone, defined by major intersections and the presence of cafés and restaurants, where traffic is most concentrated and where close mingling of pedestrians, car drivers and cyclists is most likely to take place. Both streets have a 40k speed limit in this zone and both have pavement seating and tables belonging to the  cafés.

Beaumont St

Skateboarder on Beaumont St

Of these two streets, I prefer Beaumont, from my viewpoint as a cyclist, (although as pedestrian and cafe patron, either street works very well). The traffic on Beaumont Street moves slower and there seems to be more space on the road for cyclists. This is no doubt partly because of the greater number of cross streets, and while this might seem contradictory, the cross streets slow down traffic and create an opportunity for cyclists to move over to the left to allow cars to pass. They also create pedestrian crossing opportunities, slowing down cars further; and breaks in the line of parked cars, enhancing visibility for cyclists and car drivers. I’ve written about riding along this street here.
In Darby St, the single pedestrian crossing is at the traffic lights in the middle of the busiest part of the street. This means that pedestrians have to walk to the crossing, then wait for the lights to change, both of which take time. The traffic is therefore regulated more, although there are times when cars have a red light and no pedestrians are crossing, hindering the flow of traffic for no apparent reason. The unlighted and speed humped pedestrian crossings on Beaumont St. work better in these circumstances. Jay walking is fairly common on both streets, although this is not a bad thing as traffic moves slowly.

Sidewalk cafe seating on Darby St

Sidewalk cafe seating on Darby St


“Places” work better when people either walk or ride a bike to them, as it decreases the number of cars in the vicinity and increases the opportunity for human interaction. There is more residential housing close to Beaumont St and it has the additional advantage of a train station, dropping off pedestrians, and sometimes bike riders, nearby. A place does not work as well if you have to get there by car, and if, once you are there, you have to search for parking, as the charm of the place is broken by these demands. Both these streets have on street parking and nearby back streets, sufficient to hold plenty of cars.
Buskers often add to the ambience in Beaumont St.

Cyclist at intersection of Beaumont and Tudor Streets

Cyclist at intersection of Beaumont and Tudor Streets


Both these streets work well as places but, to me, Beaumont works a little better.

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Placemaking in Newcastle: Bank Corner

Bank corner

Bank Corner


I’ve become increasingly interested in placemaking here, in observing the different local places that have become earmarked as such and wondering how they have become “places” and why some places are more successful than others.
The areas I’m most interested in have often evolved into places on their own, the area creating its own vibe due to the people that live near it or visit it, to geographic features or to deliberate input and engineering.
Can a place be created artificially, rather than emerging of its own volition, is a question that keeps presenting itself to me.
Obviously, town planners work on creating places, or enhancing existing places. This can be surprisingly easily done at times, requiring little additional infrastructure to create a place that is inviting and attractive to people. At Bank Corner, a readily defined place in the Newcastle lexicon for many decades, a place has been created with a few simple changes.  The striking Art Deco style of the corner building makes this corner stand out. photo 3
A coffee shop opened there. It wanted to trade on the footpath and the footpath was widened. As part of that project, a mosaic was built into the path and some small trees were planted. Now there is cafe seating on the footpath. In the laneway behind it, murals have been painted, read about some of them here. Since I wrote that former post, the “hit the bricks” festival took place and more murals have appeared in that laneway. A face shaped bike rack has been added to the footpath as well.photo 1
These things could have been done anywhere and not worked together to create a place, but it has worked at Bank Corner. Whether it is because of the location in Newcastle West where there is a dearth of eateries but there is a clientele for cafes, or that it is so quirky that people are attracted to it, I’m not sure.

Mural by Sofles

Mural by Sofles

The art works themselves are a drawcard, and the first of them were done by a local resident who did them to brighten up the otherwise incredibly dingy laneway. photo 5Now that laneway holds a variety of artworks which display talent, diversity and their own brand of uniqueness, enhancing and blending into the surroundings at the same time. The more you look, the more you find …photo 4
I’ll be writing a series of pieces on Newcastle placemaking, looking at places which I think work and trying to work out why each one works the way it does.

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How I’d restore my Speedwell now

photo 1I took this photo of the Speedwell last week and it’s prompted me to think about how I’d do things differently if I were restoring it again. The Brooks B67S aged leather saddle has been perfect. It has worn in nicely and has been comfortable from day one. This is how it looks now …photo 2All I’ve done to treat it has been a couple of coats of Armorall and of a leather conditioner in the two years I’ve had it. It has been ridden in the rain quite a few times and also been subjected to salt at the beach. I had to leave it out in the wet weather for a few weeks last winter too, and nothing has affected it adversely. When I first got it, the leather was matt and paler in colour so it has improved a lot in appearance with use. This is the saddle when new, two years ago …photo 3

The only thing I would have done differently is that I wouldn’t have chosen the Shimano Nexus 3 speed hub, even though it works perfectly now it has been properly adjusted. (The earlier problems were caused by the cable stretching)

I don’t feel the three speeds are really necessary for the riding I do and the addition of the adjustment window at the side of the rear axle means that I cannot fit a rack the way it was meant to be fitted on a bike of this vintage (the bike has no braze ons for a rack). Also, the clicking sound which is inherent in the hub, annoyed me when I first had it fitted, and though I am no longer as aware of it, it is still a factor working against the hub. I have since ridden new bikes with the same hub fitted and it feels quite different, more solid is the best way to describe it. Retrofitting this system to an old bike does not seem to work quite as well. I also don’t like the additional cable that is necessary and the modern style plastic shifter does not look right on the bike. I have been told that I could source an older style trigger shifter but I am reluctant to tamper with a system that is, for now at least, working. The presence of the adjustment window on the side of the bike also means that I cannot fit a device that allows for easy adjustment of the chain, so when the chain becomes loose and the wheel needs to be moved back in the dropouts, which happens every few months, I have to take it to a bike shop to have this done. The back pedal brake, also a part of the hub and the most pressing reason I decided to have new wheels fitted, works very well and can cause the rear wheel to lock if applied with force. I like the options of both pedal and hand operated brakes too.

The modern wheels, although I don’t really love the look of them, I can’t fault for performance. They enable me to ride over rocky ground and down gutters if I need to, without any problems. They have also enabled me to have a front brake fitted. This brake would not have worked on the old painted rims I had before. I feel much safer on the bike since having this additional brake fitted as the chain has fallen off a few times, though never on the downhill, always on the flat when I am in too high a gear.

I am very happy with the front retro style basket and the skirtguard. They are very similar to the originals that were on the bike when I was a child and they work well and look appropriate.

Having said all this, the Speedwell is very functional as a city bike and, with the addition of a small backpack and the bag on the saddle, it meets my carrying requirements most of the time and everything works well on it.

Restoring an old bike is always going to be a constant trade off between functionality, comfort and staying true to the origins of the bike. I feel that I have achieved the best outcomes for me without trading off too much, though whenever I talk to Peter about it, we end up talking through options which ultimately have drawbacks in terms of some of the above aspects. He still has the beautiful old hub, which he has restored but which still awaits being laced into a new wheel to see if the brake now works. So the old parts are still being used in a restoration project, always a good thing!

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New shared path in Adamstown Heights/Kotara

photo 1This is the start of the new shared path that connects Fernleigh Track with Westfield Kotara and the shopping complexes surrounding it.  It crosses Park Avenue in this photo.

This is from the other side of the street, looking back up the hill, the traffic island you see above is behind the white car …photo 2And this is looking downhill, towards Westfield …photo 3The map below hopefully makes the position of the new track clearer, it crosses Park Ave at Dibbs St and runs along the North side of Park Ave to the lights at Northcott Drive in the lower left hand part of the map. If you turn right at Northcott Drive lights, there is a nice wide shared path not shown on the map. This joins up to the track running behind St Pius and crossing the blue drain to go onto New Lambton and Adamstown crossing. Crossing at the lights at Bradford Close takes you on to Raspberry Gully, thence to Lake Macquarie …
Snapshot 2014-07-01 19-35-46

When I first saw this track, I couldn’t really see the point of it, as using it to gain access to Westfield (just off the map near McDonalds on the map) from Fernleigh Track means crossing Park Avenue twice, first at the crossing in the first photo, then at the large set of lights at the bottom of the hill. This would deter many people from using it for this purpose, no doubt, as the track itself is only about 80 metres long. The other side of the road would have been a better choice from this point of view, but the footpath there is narrow and there is not sufficient room to widen it. 

When I was talking to a Council official recently in relation to another matter, I also asked about this new track. I had read the Works Program of the Council Cycling Strategy to see if the track was listed and what its purpose was, but it did not appear there, so asking seemed like the next best bet. I was told that it has been built to link Fernleigh Track with Raspberry Gully, the cycleway that goes behind St Pius College and beyond to New Lambton. It’s not listed in the Works Program as Council does a certain number of short paths every year additional to the overall cycling strategy.

I rode the path for the first time today and it is top quality, easy to ride along with the smooth entry to and from the road and the slight wind downhill to the traffic lights adds a gentle flip flop to the ride. I also like the fact that it is beside a road while being completely separate from it. This would make riding it at night feel safer than Fernleigh, which goes mostly through bushland. The higher visibility also raises awareness of bike riding which I like, especially when riding alongside heavily congested traffic, a commonplace occurrence in this area. Whenever I am in the car here I am usually cursing the traffic and hope that others will do the same and wish they were on their bikes too. The only fault I could find is the width of the island in the first photo, which fits my Speedwell nicely and only just, but would not be suitable to use with a tagalong, cargo bike or tandem. The traffic can be both heavy and fast there and I had to wait on the island. 9/10 Newcastle City Council!

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Tweed Ride thanks

photo-75I’d like to thank the people who helped out with the Tweed Ride this year, both in the promotion of it and the organisation.

First of all, Peter, author of A New Recyclist, who helped so much with promotion, organisation, marshalling on the day, and also a fabulous write up and photos of the event here. Visit his blog for some wonderful bike restoration info and pictures!

Pink Patent Mary Janes did a great promotional post for the ride here. She had a good excue for not being there though, she is in Paris!

Michael of the Juggernaut fame and Tumblr blogger, who posted here.

Polka dots and frocks blog who did a great series of photos of the event here.

Also, my daughter Jess who did such a great job with the promotional images …photo-68

Newcastle City Council Placemaking for providing the funding for the event.

Michael for help with organisation and on the day, Ben and Robbie for their fabulous jazz music, Adrian for being an awesome ride leader and Maudie Macs for their wonderful catering.photo 5And a huge than you to everyone who came along on the day. Hope to see you all again next year!

This blog will now resume normal transmission about Bicycles in Newcastle…

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Penny Farthing at the Tweed Ride

A few months before the tweed ride I met Kevin, the penny farthing man, on Throsby creek bike path. Here is a picture of me and my grandson with his bike…
photo-71
I was envisaging some sort of stool from which it had to be mounted. So I was keen to see this whole process explained then demonstrated to me that day. There is a peg at the back of the frame that you have to put one foot onto, then do a rolling mount from the peg to the saddle. He made it look so easy …photo-73 I told Kevin about the tweed ride and promised to put a flyer into his mailbox before the event. His house is easy to identify as it has a sparkly penny farthing mounted on the wall! I was so pleased when he turned up on the day on one of his penny farthings (he has several of them!) which is a truly awesome vintage style high roller …

Yours truly in the background

Yours truly in the background


It was very popular on the day of the ride with many people lining up for a ride. I was not one of them. But I was told that it was quite easy to ride by one of those who did. To me, the thought of wobbling along on skinny wheels so far above the ground does not appeal, though I am in awe of those who gave it a go. The wheel is, of course, fixed, and the bike needs to be braked as a fixie, using legs as brakes. There is a small push brake at the front, but I was warned that using it guarantees a trip over the handlebars! Not my cup of tea….
Having a penny farthing at the tweed ride was one of my tweed ride dreams and Kevin said he can get others along next year! It will be a truly great event if that happens.

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