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A for Art.

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

tate modern

(A-bike at Tate Modern’s turbine hall. Taking down (repairing) of the massive floor crack work by Doris Salcedo on the background.)

19th April, I went out to catch a performance by friend of mine, who is currently showing in a group exhibition at Level 2 Gallery, TATE MODERN. Since I was a bit behind schedule, I took my A-bike with me to do the usual golden combination of public transport and A-bike to be there in time.

I rode A-bike from my home to nearest station, folded A, took A to inside train, off at Waterloo East Station, unfolded A, rode straight to Tate Modern. I saved about 15 minutes there over all. It’s only 15mins, you might think, but the 15mins is big if you are on the verge of being late for important stuff such as business meeting, lecture or rendez-vous with fierce girlfriend.

In the train to Waterloo East, an American lady approached and said “Ooo… America should have one like that.” American A-bike market is a kinda gray zone to me, so I didn’t mention Urban Rider or else to her.

Gail Pickering, Zulu, Speaking in Radical Tongues
(Gail Pickering, Zulu (Speaking in Radical Tongues) 2008, performance view)

Thanks to my A-bikie, I managed to reach there before the performance began. After having satisfying food for thought, it’s time to fill my stomach. There were my girlfriend and three other people joined me at Tate. Two of them, visitors from Japan, insisted to have good drinks and good foods, so I showed them some options in my mobile phone to make a peaceful agreement on the night’s diner. The Anchor and Hope (36, The Cut) off Southwark Underground Station was the choice we made.

Nokia, N95 8GB, iGo, Stowaway, bluetooth, keyboard, wireless
(Mobile essentials: A-bike, Nokia N95 8GB, iGO Stowaway Ultra Slim Bluetooth wireless keyboard. No need to say anything for the bike. Nokia N95 is a nice smartphone, but it eats battery like nobody’s business. Built-in GPS and Internet functions really need unlimited internet access to be companied. Some service providers offer the option in reasonable price. I got my unlimited access for £5 from 3. The Stowaway keyboard is a-must-have item if you have a smartphone. The great foldable keyboard can be purchased as cheap as £18 in UK online shops like play.com.)

The Anchor and Hope, snail, guinness
(I and friends shared Deep Fried Pig Head, Snail and Bacon Salad, and Crab on Toast. They seem small at first, but surprisingly very filling. These delicious plates are also modestly priced at about £6 each. Sorry, no picture of the foods, but an empty Guinness pint on the table.)

(A-bike can be taken to upstairs of Double Decker Bus without fuss. Don’t you love this bike just for that reason?)

Here We Dance at Tate Modern:
The Anchor and Hope (review at squaremeal.co.uk):

Blade Runner.

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

(These people were really fast. No match for A-bike.)

April 13 2008. That’s the day for London Marathon, once again!! One year on since the last one, I was riding A-bike then and Yes, I’m still on the very same bike. Some of my colleagues, whom I only get to see around this time of the year, noticed my A-bike and went “Hey, I do remember the bike! You ARE still riding!?” I took it as a compliment. hahaha.

London marathon runner
(Elite runners were very fast. No match for A…… never mind.)

I was at 35km point near Shadwell. Current closure of East London Line and alot of road blocks make the location less accessible, but with A-bike, no problem getting there from Media Center right next to Tower Bridge. Fold the A-bike, then going through crowd is also a piece of cake. A photographer saw my bike and told his mate, “Have you seen that one? That’s great thing. You can bring it to everywhere!!”. He certainly got a point there.

(Gorilla… maybe a good match. I love this fun bit of London Marathon.)

Tower Bridge

Around 3PM, My A-bike had a treat of having Tower Bridge all for himself (well, almost)!! It’s a real joy to ride there without traffic. If you’ve ridden on there before, you know what I’m talking about. Usually the bridge is so busy and many buses on such a narrow road. On top of that, side of the road has recessed surface caused by traffic over the years. Do not ride A-bike there unless it’s a special occasion like today. The recess traps the small tyre of A-bike and makes it almost uncontrollable. It’s really dangerous road especially for A-bike!! I cannot stress this enough!!

Once you are out of the main road and go for the pedestrian, it’s nice and easy with a great view of Themes, though.

Tour de France in London.

Sunday, July 8th, 2007


7th of July 2007, London hosted Grand Depart of Le Tour de France for the first time in its 104 years of history. I went to see the prologue with my A-bike. This time I made A-bike back to basic by equipping its normal saddle and pedals, but it looked odd with the inverse brake lever & black bar tape, I must say. The yellow bag in the picture is the official “Tour de France kit” contains T-shirt, cap and other little bits — a nice addition to the festive atmosphere.

Road blocks and police cars reminded of the sad day two years ago. However, this year had a lot of sunshine and smiles all over the city. Ironically the 7/7 bombing boosted the numbers of cyclist in London.

London commemorated the two years anniversary of the bombing quietly in the morning, partly because of security concern. It was just a week ago London had a failed attack, and too many big events were already held in London on that day (i.e. Live Earth, Wimbledon Tennis, and Tour de France.) 45 French police officers were posted to London for Tour de France. Interestingly, they all looked cool and like fashion models… It seems somebody in French Police knows how to promote themselves to the public in Britain. (A beautiful officer featured above is from British Police though.)

Many came with their bike and some were also with their agenda to appeal to the public. I wonder if somebody did ride around representing A-bike… It will look like a joke to Tour de France Fans, but at least it’s a funny one.

Special stage and screens were set up at Trafalger Sq. for the event.

Prologue is a time trial session. From start to finish just over 7.9km, from Whitehall to The Mall. This photo was taken at the end of The Mall showing rather relaxed participants right after their goal. The overall atmosphere of the prologue was a kind of polite one. Could it be because many people in London were new to the Tour and didn’t really know how to cheer for riders, and those from France somehow reserved their attitude at this foreign turf?


The next day (8th July) was Stage1. The riders start from Trafalger Sq and finish at Cantebury for over 203km. I rode my A-bike (with Thudbuster&Eggbeater) to Greenwich, where the race really began. (From central London to Greenwich was just a mass ride for show and not counted.)

When I got there at 9:30, there were reasonably many people along the race course, but it was nothing compare to the crowd later on. Some had to climbed up the fance of Greenwich Maritime Museum and Royal Naval College to get the view.

Among the spectators at Greenwich, those construction workers on the scuff folding structure caught my eyes. What a nice auditorium that was! Look at how they kept themselves away from the sweaty crowd down there.

The riders were gone in a few seconds and actually, not much of a drama happened just yet at Greenwich since it was just a begining. Near the center of the picture, you can see Fabien Cancellara who won the time trial yesterday and got an honour of wearing the yellow jersey. He also managed to keep the yellow as over all top scorer after the stage1, but the day really belonged to Robbie McEwen who won the stage by his amaging sprint.

I only watched it on TV, but it was truely exciting to see how he revived from his late crash at the race and suddenly appeared to the top right before the finish line. Nobody expected that to happen, so ITV’s commentator shouted “I don’t know how this happened!” and their slow-motion camera couldn’t even catch McEwen on frame. If you missed it, I’m sure you can find the video at somewhere like youtube, so check it out. It’s a good stuff as McEwen said that was his “the best and most special win.”

I rode A-bike on the race course for short while to head back home, and I got many cheers from the crowd.

Blazing Saddles.

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Difference in philosophy. Bigger the better and Smaller the better.

If you are happy with the original saddle comes with your A-bike, you are blessed. Well, I’m not. The day, I went for 30mins ride for the first time with A-bike, became the last day I sat on the tiny saddle. It knocked my bottom so good, I couldn’t properly sit on any sort of chair for two days afterwards. This made me to get my Cane Creek Thudbuster LT, but let’s look at more generic saddle upgrade this time.

My girlfriend asked me to change her A-bike saddle to more comfortable one. she is a casual A-bike rider and mostly each riding time wouldn’t exceed 10mins. According to her, the saddle was not very comfortable, but not too uncomfortable either for her use. In fact, she never strongly complain about the saddle until we went to Lock Ness Trip, where we rode reasonably long distance.

The clamp and the rail.

A-bike’s original saddle and seatpost are not in any standardised format, which is used by conventional bicycle. If we want maximum flexibility with saddle, it’s best to go for a saddle with ‘two rail system’ and seatpost with ‘seat-rail clamp’ and the clamp better be ‘micro-adjustable’ to get the comfortable saddle angle and position.

The A-bike’s seatpost size is 25.0mm diameter according to official data, but it is actually around 25.2mm to 25.4mm. Since the seat-tube (=where seatpost goes in) is made of thin metal tube, a little difference in diameter can be forgiven by tightening seatpost clamp (=the silver alminium clamp on top of the seat-tube), but anything more than 25.4mm would not even goes into the seat-tube. So, I would say seatpost diameters compatible to A-bike are: 25.0mm, 25.2mm, and 25.4mm. 25.4mm is the most common size among these.

I bought a saddle and a seatpost off eBay UK. The saddle was Velo Plush branded soft comfort saddle with center hole (£8 including postage) , and the seatpost was 25.4mm unnamed black colour seatpost (£10 include postage). Then I found I made a mistake. They didn’t fit together!!

Too bad he was 9mm. I liked him, you know?

The reason was simple. There are two different size for seat-rail. one is 8mm and the other is 9mm. Most of saddles (including the velo) in the market uses 8mm, whereas 9mm is used by some BMX saddle system. Yap, the seatpost was for 9mm and the eBay listing clearly stated “for BMX”. Well, it was a good lesson.

I bought 8mm seatpost again from eBay for less than £10. This time was Kalloy alminium seatpost 25.4mm, the common product we can find it on eBay all the time. As above picture shows, it did fit to the velo saddle nicely…. but my trouble continued. It was fat…

Look at how much dust I had to bite for doing this ‘supporsed to be a simple’ job. haha.

It seems that cheap seatpost often miss its supporsed size. This is why these are cheap. My kalloy was slightly more than 25.4mm. I could put the seatpost into A-bike’s seat-tube, but it was very tight and it was obvious once it goes in, it would never come out again. It needed a bit of sanding with sanding paper to slim it down.

Sanding process was straightfoward. Wrap a bit of sanding paper around the seatpost and rub, then sometimes wash the paper and the post with water. (This should prevent heating up and clogging of the paper.) Phew, it was tiresome, but if I could save £20 or so by going through this, it’s not too bad, is it?

Tube Cutter in action.

Can you see what happened to the cut section?

The kalloy seatpost got right size, but this isn’t the end of the story. I still had to cut the length of the seatpost. My girlfriend is about 155cm (5foot 2″), and she demanded the seat to be positioned as low as possible.So, I had to cut the seatpost shorter.

The lowest position with conventional saddle has to be higher than the one with A-bike’s original saddle. It is because conventional saddles has ‘nose’ and the point this meets A-bike’s top frame is the lowest it could go. (see pics) If we want saddle to go even lower, we have to get one of those ‘noseless saddle’.

Cutting seatpost can be done simply with metalwork saw, or tube cutter, which I used this time. I bought a tube cutter (for tube up to 30mm) for £8 from UK’s big DIY store, B&Q. Cutting was easy. Just clamp on the seatpost with the tube cutter, and rotate it as tightening the black screw at the bottom little by little. However, the thickness of the seatpost and the capability of the tube cutter probably didn’t match — A strange bump appeared around the cut section. Yes. It grew fat once again!! This time I used mini rotary kit to grind down the grown edge. I guess this extra work could be avoided if I’ve used the cutter to only mark and used metalwork saw for the rest.

I refer this A-bike as ‘Hip-Heavy’. My girl isn’t happy with the nickname though.

Anyway, as you can see in these pics, it’s all set and done!! Don’t you think the velo saddle goes well with A-bike?

The ‘Velo plush’ name is used by several different product actually. They have more slim and sporty looking one named same and also in same colouring (other colour also available) too. (pic below.)

My Velo Plush is comfort model and weight about 520g. The Kalloy seatpost weight about 200g after cutting it down, so it makes 720g in total. The A-bike original seat assy is only 330g, so it’s good 390g weight gain. Adding to that, the shape of the conventional saddle doesn’t fit with A-bike’s folding mechanism and spoiles its portability. This is a shame.

Having said that, this saddle upgrade does gain A-bike’s mobility so much by providing comfort to its rider. In my opinion, this is worth sacrificing size and weight for. A-bike is smaller and lighter than any other folding bike even after the modification in the end of the day. I also tried her A-bike with the new saddle for short while. Obviously it was too low for me, but besides that I couldn’t feel any bump of the street at all! It feels even smoother than my Thudbuster. haha. The velo saddle might not be a looker, but this is the power of puffy comfort saddle.

If my words aren’t enough to convince you, hear what the girl said.

“I cannot believe your reaction was so calm when you changed your saddle! This is almost like a different world!! Now I feel like I’m riding a conventional leisure bike. It’s sooo comfortable!!!! Ah, I won’t go back to the tiny saddle anymore.”

Hear that? It’s good.

I heard the stories of A-bike owners gave up A-bike because of their bottom compatibility issue with the saddle. Before you give up, try changing the saddle and think again! It’s not difficult to do! (well, I just went to bothersome path by accident, so don’t take my case as a model.)

There are many other ways of make your A-bike ride comfy. We shall feature them some other time.

Check out saddle/seatpost related topics in A-bike Central Forum for more info!


A-bike came into my heart

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

A-bike model(KR), Lynna

Spiral Jetty.

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

My A-bike’s rear wheel has a strange spiral scrape on its right hand side. It was a minor scratch at first, but it seemed growing bigger day by day. It was an unsolved mystery until this morning.

A topic talking about loose chain inspired me to do a little checkout on secondary (lower) chain when I was pumping tyres (I do pump A-bike’s tyre every weekend). Then I found the tyre scraper. It was the secondary chain!! To be more precise, it was chain-connecter-pins!!

The chain has gotten loose to compare to its first state, but it’s not loose enough to set chain tensioner to “H”. I’m not sure why this is happening. Could it be my rear tyre was bigger than usual? No, I don’t think so. Maybe the chain I got was a rough one? mmm… Since A-bike’s gear box has a very simple fool proof (well, more or less) structure, it seems more puzzling. Anyway, the chain pins gave the initial bite on tyre for sure.

Current state of the scraped tyre suggests I’d better get a new tyre and maybe another #25 chain just in case. I shall e-mail Mayhem to seek some advice on this. They may know what’s going on here.

I setup a new topic on this, so if you have same experience, please share it there!

Going button head.

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Stainless steel Button head bolts and Spring washers from eBay.

Ever since I installed clipless pedals to my A-bike, my trousers often gets catched by A-bike’s top-tube bolts around my thighs. It wasn’t anything fatal — Each catch only lasts for just a fiction of a second. However, it was utterly annoying!!

One of the causes for this nuisance is A-bike’s wide top-tube. While conventional bicycle (including MTB) has less than 5cm width for their top-tube (including outer cable), A-bike’s top-tube width is vast 7cm+!! The socket head bolts sticking out from the side of the tube definitely contributes here.

If you pay attention to your pedaling next time you ride A-bike, you may notice either the bolts scratching your thighs or your feet are on rather outer side of the pedals to avoid the bolts. As long as we use normal pedals, our feet are free, so the wide top-tube isn’t much of a problem. That’s why I never realised this until I went clipless.

Clipless pedals force our feet to be positioned right in the center of the pedals all the time. Thus, it’s more difficult for our thigh to pull out evasive maneuvre.

Anyway, I didn’t want to give up my Eggbeater pedals over this, so I replaced some of the top-tube bolts (edgy socket head), which interfere with my thigh movement, to smoother button head bolts .

Well, I replaced only 3 of 4 bolts so far…. I cannot remove the last one!! I’ve been applying Acetone to the stiff bit, hoping it would break the seal. Soaking the bit in acetone for overnight does extract some brown stuff (grease? Threadlock?), but the bolt is still as hard as a rock. Oh, A-bike factory, what have you done to it!!
I still seek advice on this at this topic in the forum.

At the moment, even though the mod isn’t completed, minimized top-tube width and smoothness of the button head works great. 95% less chance of my thighs get catched!!
(the 5% is the remaining bolt of course.)

The replacement parts for this modification are;

4 x “M5″ size “0.8” pitch button head bolts (2 x 16mm length and 2 x 8mm length)
4 x “M5″ size Spring washers
4 x “M5″ large washers (ext. diameter 15mm)

(I chose rust resistant stainless steel.)
*’Bolts’ are sometimes labeled as ‘Machine screws’ in some shops.
*10mm length M5 bolt canbe used instead of 8mm M5.
*Be careful not to mistake ‘large washer’ as ‘penny washer’. They are different.

Please note, button head bolts have somewhat weaker tightning strength than the socket head bolts of the same size, due to the size of the hex-key they use and the depth of their socket. I would not recommend to this bolt replacement mod. for other part of A-bike at the moment.

(Left) New button head bolt and A-bike original socket head bolt. (Right) Short bolt assembly for top-tube/seat-tube joint.

While A-bike original bolts are for 4mm Hex-key, button head bolts need smaller 3mm hex-key.

The screw assy. here is glued, but still manageable.

(Left) My A-bike with 3 bolts replaced on the left and normal A-bike on the right.
(Right) Soaking in acetone… please! get unscrewed!!