Friday, August 29, 2008

Xtracycle Finaly fitted

the Xtracycle fitted
My new Xtracycle - cargo bike - dream machine

With virtually no free time available to me over the past couple of weeks, I've managed to fit the free Radical kit to my old mountain bike without a drama.
It was really easy to put the whole kit together. After whipping off the rear wheel, chain, dérailleur and brakes I was able to connect the frames, mostly with my left hand while holding a baby in my right arm!
Although I rarely had time to go out and actually work on the bike I actually managed to read bits of the instruction manual from time to time! This allowed me time to think about the process before diving in and trying to do it all in a single unconsidered spree.
After removing the rear wheel I discovered that the original wheel had a couple of broken spokes and several bent ones! (I have no idea when or how this happened!) I also discovered that the original dérailleur wouldn't fit well so I bought a new 'free wheel' and made a trip to the tip shop for a dérailleur. I connected the extra chain links to a brand new chain and ran the chain through the cogs of the rear dérailleur. The new chain had more links than I needed so one night I snuck out in the dark and removed the excess from the chain then re-connected it... Not sure if I took too many.
Having thought about how the cables would all go together I managed to thread the gear cable and tune the gears in a matter of a couple of minutes before breakfast (Not something I am at all practiced at!) The cables and extra housing fitted perfectly.
I needed some new brakes but couldn't wait to see how it looked so I put on the free loaders and snap deck, pumped up the tires and took her for a spin. WOW! The gears changed beautifully! The chain felt smooth and peddled easily with no slack! Best of all the bike felt more stable than I'd expected! It rolled true and I could take my hands off the bars and coast along easily! It was awesome! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face!
Over the past couple of years I'd read heaps of testimonies and had become a little cynical. maybe the authors were all part of the Xtracycle propagandah machine? or could they just simply be wanting to justify their expensive purchase? Or were they simply towing the line for the sake of making political or even fashion statements? Maybe? But now that I've ridden an Xtracycle I have to say I love it simply because of the way it feels to ride! And the stand actually holds my bike up straight!

I have now attached a new set of V brakes and have taken my 4 year old for a ride and the jury is agreed. The Xtracycle Rocks!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A FreeRadical

Yesterday afternoon I got home to find a card from the Post Office. My FreeRadical had arrived!
I have finally taken the plunge and purchased an Xtracycle conversion kit.
I have been deliberating over spending the money for about two years since I first heard of the Xtracycle but have decided this is something that must be done!

I could not find a dealer in Darwin, or even Australia for that matter. When I mentioned it to the sales fella at one of my local bike shops, he snuffed at the idea and wasn't interested in them at all. So I searched further afield. I contacted the Xtracycle crew in USA and they suggested I talk to the guys at Southend Cycles in Levin, New Zealand.
Brian and Brenden were really keen to ship the unit to Darwin and had it here within a week of me ordering!

FreeRatical 14.08.08
The conversion kit unpacked

So now I have the hardware, I need to attach it! There are a few issues I am concerned about, such as the frames fitting each other, the long chain and getting the gears working. I will try to give a couple of posts to share these experiences as I progress towards an almost "car(e) free" existence!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Down at The Patch folks are preparing for the Open Day between 10:00am - 11:30am on Thursday 14th August.
The open day is an important opportunity for the students to present their projects and engage visitors. A lot has been done during the first half of this year and there will be heaps to show off.

View Larger Map
Enter The Patch via the gate on Leanyer drive, follow the road straight through towards the big clump of trees at the end of the long Shed, park your car and follow the sound of happy people and you will find The Patch.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Malak community garden begins

As we look towards an uncertain future of high fuel prices, and growing pressure on food supplies there is a movement amongst urban people who have the vision to realize that we need to re-connect with our environment.
At the same time the Northern suburbs of Darwin have attracted a rather bad reputation for crime and violence by young people. There is a perception that the situation is becoming very quickly out of hand and with an election looming Law and Order is high on the agenda. But how do we bring peace and stability to our fracturing society?

It's obvious that the answer needs to be in the hands of the community itself. The general impression I have from speaking with politicians and councilors is that they want their names attached to grand events and big money deals. Many of our elected representatives do not appear to be truly connected with the local community. From my experience they are quick to give lip service to our projects but when it comes to the crunch they are seeking something more grandiose and are reluctant to commit to supporting real community action!

There are all kinds of community building activities happening in our town that are acting against the fragmentation and alienation of our society. After spending a little time down at the Malak shops on Sunday my spirits were raised to see the efforts made by Darwin Community Arts.

Darwin Community Arts, appears to be an unbrella organization for a wide range of community services. As interested as I am, I have not previously had any contact with this group and was awestruck by their connectedness to my local community.

On Sunday they had an official opening of their Malak center which included the creation of a Community Garden. I arrived at 4:00pm with the two kids and watched as a very enthusiastic group set about transforming a tiny patch of dust into a magnificently designed herb and vegetable garden plot. There were bands scheduled to play later in the evening and I noticed the mob from The NEo there but unfortunately we had another event to attend that day.
I did manage to have a chat with on of the organizers of the Malak center who explained the reasons behind moving their operations to this site. Darwin Community Arts is based in Malak so that it could be closer to the people it serves. Malak is very close to where I live and just the area for an injection of community spirit.

Malak community garden.1
Building raised beds and watering in soil

Malak community garden.2
Adding manure and straw

Malak Community garden.3
Preparing beds for planting

Malak community garden
The garden planted out complete with banana trees at on the side

Good on them for realizing what is needed in our local communities! These community gardens have a curative effect on the soul and can address many of the social and micro economic issues faced by many members of our community. There is also another garden in Bagot community. This is another community that could seriously use some TLC. Gardens are the way!
You just have to see what is going on down at The Patch to realize how beneficial these projects can be for bringing communities together.