Monthly Archives: September 2014

Fun & value weekend

WordCamp Sydney 2014

My attendance over the weekend at WordCamp Sydney 2014 was definitely interesting, fun & exceptional value. The organisers did a wonderful job & claimed an event cost of over $30K?! For this WordPress & many sponsors gave us great value, with a minimal charge & lots of goodies, food, drink & entertainment. Nearly forgot; WiFi throughout was great (my 3G provider lost the lecture room battle).

With my WordPress interest centering mainly on my WordPress-hosted blog, I sensibly avoided the “Tech Track” portion of the 2 streams & concentrated on the “User Track” events. After all, PHP programming & Plugin expertise don’t really cut-it for me, when WordPress do all my heavy work & I just pump in tales such as this? Some of the User Track talks were still out of my range but who knows? A user-hosted WordPress site sounds very appealing & straight-forward if I were gravitate beyond my free (& mildly customisable) setup?

Overall, the user talks gave lots of food for thought (eg perils of PDFs, passions of WordPress support, pushing your Profile, etc) & also provided plenty of confirmation of my own operations – maybe “Keeping it clean & simple via iPad/iPhone updates” could be my talk next time?

Did I mention the food? Snacks every break & lunches provided

My passion for coffee was satisfied by a WordCamp-funded coffee cart at the door. Indoors, “the Bearded Roaster” put on quite a show of how to do it right (with his own beans)

Walking in to WordCamp on Sunday was accompanied by many extremely well-dressed motor bike riders. Their toots & waves were appreciated but probably aimed at this couple helping to guide them through the city?

Many thanks to WordPress & all the organisers. See you at the monthly WordPress Meetups? (3 locations around Sydney)



This weekend will be a sort of “back to school” for me, as I’m heading for the Sydney WordCamp event –

WordCamp Sydney September 27-28, 2014

Taking some words from the Xen.Com.Au website, WordPress can be explained as “…a very popular CMS (Content Management System) which powers hundreds of thousands of websites around the world. As well as the free version, which allows you to start blogging quickly and easily without any experience, there’s an ‘installed’ version which is hosted on a server of your choosing.”

So, with my interest in blogging I decided to attend WordCamp 2014 to see what the “User Track” portion of the schedule had to offer (while leaving the “Tech Track” for the serious/professional/techie” types?) –

My WordPress blog has been an interesting “occupation” for me & I’m not expecting WordCamp to inspire any layout re-designs (although, who knows?). My blog update processing aims are to “keep it simple” & WordCamp could be an interesting time?

Ignorance is ok

Ralph’s serial number reveals a September 2011 build but I’m unaware of any info about when the conversion to an Alfine 11-speed came about. When I acquired Ralph in Australia in late 2012 I’ve concluded that the local seller had the Brompton about a year. Within that time Ralph probably travelled a lot as cargo (courtesy of the owner’s profession) & I suspect the on-road kms weren’t excessive? From my observation the Alfine rear hub operation seemed fine – although I’ve been puzzled how the right side hub cap/seal came to be butchered (replaced earlier by me – refer “Ralph refreshed” posting – & my assumption is that it was removed & replaced without use of the special tool?). No service history is known & I expect that nothing was due for the hub, considering the likely non-excessive use?

Rear hub gear lubrication is usually via the hub being packed with grease but for the Alfine 11-speed (& the Rohloff 14-speed) the lubrication comes from the hub containing oil. Instead of dismantling the hub, the Alfine 11-speed has an “oil port” in the hub shell & the design provides for oil to be injected via a syringe. Shimano has produced an oiling kit & a special oil (no spec stated but it seems akin to an automatic transmission fluid?). An Internet search located the basic kit at a very reasonable price (with 50ml oil rather than the commercial 1 litre can) & my purchase duly arrived – from Estonia!?

Why have I purchased an oiling kit? Ralph had developed an occasional “gear skip” when changing into 6th gear & I suspected that an oil change may be in order? (contrary to my assumption of limited kms but…)

The oiling kit instructions seemed straight-forward: basically the syringe is connected to the oil port & used to suck the oil out of the hub & then fresh oil is injected via the syringe. However, some practicalities didn’t seem to match the simple steps but fortunately, I discovered a web blog from a young lady who gave far more detail on the difficulties she encountered when servicing her recumbent trike. Her revelations warned me of the need for patience when using the syringe to withdraw or inject oil (owing to pressure in the hub).

Here’s a pic of Ralph with syringe connected, ready to have the old oil sucked out of the hub

In extracting the oil I was surprised to only get about 5ml of oil & that it looked fairly clean? (I was expecting 25ml & that the oil would be black – ie “dirty”?) The next stage of an oil change was to inject 25ml of clean oil, drive the hub while changing gears for a minute & then extract that oil (ie to “flush” the hub). With the seeming cleanliness of my initial extracted oil, I decided to inject about 15ml & see how the extraction went. After the hub & gear operations, the extraction process showed about 15ml of really clean-looking oil. From this I concluded the extraction process was working ok (& my initial 5ml extraction was probably all the oil that was in the hub?) & that the hub was fairly clean inside (as evidenced by “flushed” oil looking pristine?).

With my limited stock of (normally rather expensive) oil, I resolved to re-inject the 15ml & then top that up with another 10ml. (If the hub required extra work then I would still have another 25ml of oil to use.) Here’s a pic of Ralph with the syringe ready for an injection

On completion – & with some trepidation & curiosity – I took Ralph out for a little test-ride. All seems well; smooth changes & no skipping! Phew!

So, quite a mystery how Ralph came to have so little oil in the hub? From the oil cleanliness it seems to confirm the limited kms of riding (pre-purchase & my own use). I’ve read that Shimano Alfine hub seals can leak but I’ve only seen the slightest of evidence with Ralph. Was the limited oil via servicing? (still puzzled as to who butchered the hub dust cap? While the cap wasn’t intended to retain the oil, it’s mangling was indicative of someone “servicing” the hub!) Maybe the lack of oil came from the initial Alfine conversion company? (or Shimano not filling the hub initially?)

Sorry Ralph, hopefully all’s well?

Marathon setup

This blog post is intended as an update to my previous post, “Puncture practice” (the sorry tale of on-road tube replacement?). My order for Schwalbe Marathon tyres for Ralph was delivered within a few days from Kobie, the Australian Brompton Distributor. While our other Bromptons have Marathon Plus tyres fitted, I decided to replace the Kojaks on Ralph with Marathons for a variety of reasons. First would be the likelihood of better puncture protection than the Kojak tyres & second, they may be easier to fit onto the Alfine 11-speed hub Sun rear rim than the M+ tyre. With Brompton recommending the M tyre in preference to the M+ & the distributor offering the M tyre for shipping, my mind was made up! I’m guessing/hoping that the on-road performance difference between M & M+ tyres won’t be noticeable. We’ve had no issues with the M+ operations & if it was any other Brompton than Ralph then I would probably stick with M+ tyres?

The removal of the front & rear tyres was only slightly more difficult with the rear Sun rim & to prove that I wasn’t imagining/exaggerating the difference between the rims, here’s a pic of the Sun rim & the old-style single-wall front rim (both fitted with thin BBB rim tape) to illustrate the profile comparison.

Fitting the M tyre to the front rim was straight-forward & by ensuring the tyre is squeezed into the valley of the rim while the remainder of the tyre is “thumbed” over the rest of the rim, the assembly was rapid. Probably a Kojak may have been easier (sorry, I’ve had no experience with fitting Brompton’s own brand tyre) but I can’t say that the M tyre was any easier than an M+ (apologies that I wasn’t attempting a back-to-back direct comparison).

As for Ralph’s rear wheel, I can only repeat a portion from the previous sentence, “I can’t say that the M tyre was any easier than an M+…” – & from my experience it’s still bloody hard! That Sun rim is terrible: the lack of valley means that the initial tyre fitment stops with about 40cm still to be pushed over the rim. From there it’s a case of rest, squeeze tyre into the well, push tyre further onto the rim & then repeat (& keep repeating). One difficulty-factor is that the tyre is new & “un-stretched”, whereas next time it should be a little easier?

Remembering my first attempt at fitting M+ onto Ralph before last year’s UK trip, I had bruised & raw thumbs. On later tyre changes, I’d installed much thinner BBB rim tape & now it’s tough for the thumbs but ok (not quick, not easy – just ok). For some time I’ve wondered how long the Sun rim will last before being worn out & have researched that Velocity Aeroheat rims are available with the 36 spoke holes required for the Alfine hub. Perhaps I should start checking whether the Velocity rim has a better profile than the Sun rim?

Another of my issues during the roadside tube replacement recently, was my CO2 cartridge tyre inflation “hiccup”. At home in the garage seemed an ideal time to get the practice I needed? I used cartridges to inflate both tyres & the results weren’t very comforting! For one I managed to get 7 bar pressure (100 psi?) but for the other, it was only 5 bar (this measured by connecting my floor pump & checking the gauge). This maximum inflation of 7 bar was what I would want in the tyre but it seems a bit “hit-&-miss”? Whereas my road bike inflations have always seemed successful, I think the greater number of spokes & the cramped space on the Brompton wheels make the exercise more fiddly? Thinking about it now, I should have first secured the Presta valve with the locking ring (or partially inflated the tyre with a hand pump?) to ensure the CO2 adapter pressure against the valve was stable – drat, more practice needed? (For the uninitiated, tyre inflation with a CO2 cartridge is almost instantaneous & if you don’t get it right – or you haven’t ensured the tyre is properly mounted, the tube isn’t pinched, etc – then your inflation result may not be “as expected”?! (Taxi?!…) Another caution to the “almost instantaneous” inflation is that the cartridge becomes freezing cold very quickly! – refer pic showing 2 cartridges: one unused, one just emptied)

Just for confirmation, here’s Ralph now fitted with a new set of Marathon tyres:

Puncture practice

Lovely morning for a ride & so thought we might just check out the progress on some new cyclepath near Parramatta (an extra section that avoids a road detour to skip around a factory – & stay close to the riverbank?). We drove the Tardis to the Silverwater end of Olympic Park & unloaded our Bromptons, Ralph & Peregrine.

While crossing Silverwater Bridge I wondered about Mrs Aussie up-front & carrying Peregrine? (oh no, some mechanical issue I thought, & she’s carrying her Brompton off the narrowish footpath?) Catching up I then realised what the issue was – she was avoiding quite a bit of broken glass! – & I rode straight through it while trying to see what could have been wrong with Peregrine! A quick check of the tyres & all seemed well so we rode on. Later we needed to undertake a detour around an industrial area – lo & behold, some more glass about? Shortly after, I felt Ralph to be weaving slightly & dismounted to confirm my suspicions: rear tyre puncture!

Ralph’s Kojak tyres have held up well (aside from the country-side thorn some months ago?) & this time I was going to try to remember to take photos. Here’s the first –

Parked the rear wheel, whipped out some tools (chose the old faithfuls from my luggage bag rather than the Brompton Toolkit) & removed the chain tensioner.

It was about here that things got out of step. I should have changed to high gear to reduce tension in the gear change cable & then disconnect the cable. Instead, I removed the axle nuts & pulled the rear wheel out – only to realise the gear change cable was still in place (& possibly suffering from the action?). Another pic – this one with all removed neatly.

Aside from the challenge of removing a Brompton rear wheel (Ralph’s 11-speed Alfine probably no more difficult than standard – just different), I was mindful of the next task to remove (& later replace) a tyre on Ralph’s Sun rim (a very flat well in the rim profile making for little leeway when getting the tyre over the rim). My trusty Michelin tyre levers got the tyre off (I wouldn’t have risked using the original-style levers in my Brompton Toolkit – must remember to get them replaced sometime) & I removed the tube. Some air in the tube & I managed to locate the puncture hole. Using the hole as a guide, I inspected the tyre both inside & out before presuming that the glass/whatever was gone & not likely to reoffend? A new tube fitted, it was now time for the worst part of the exercise – refitting the tyre on the Sun rim. Some pics here to reflect my progress: nearly all the way & during a rest-stop, an indication of that last 10cm or so (the thumb-wrecking part?)

Success! Relief! Tyre on! Some air in the tyre to check for tube pinching & then deflation for the wheel refitting (I never disconnect the Brompton brake cables & so my tyres need to be fully inflated after fitment of the wheels, otherwise the inflated tyre won’t fit between the brake pads). Wheel refitted, chain in place & on with the chain tensioner (er, no – some tiredness perhaps, out of practice maybe, but reconnecting the gear change cable with the tensioner in place is “very difficult”) – refer pic –

Oh well, tensioner back off again & cable reconnected (& careful inspection that I hadn’t damaged it on my out-of-sequence wheel removal?). Back on with the tensioner & then re-thread chain around jockey wheels? Some brain-fade here, as to where the chain has to be positioned with the tensioner – perhaps not helped by consistent calls from passing cyclists (with their quick-release wheels) to enquire if I need assistance? (little did they know?). Peregrine saved the day; by being available as a model.

About this time, I decided to re-inflate the rear tyre & so reached for a CO2 cartridge & adapter. I now realise it was the first time I’d used that adapter type & the first time I’d re-inflated a Brompton wheel on the bike with a CO2 cartridge (although lots of experience with big-wheel bikes). Needless, to say, things didn’t go well – the access at the Presta valve positioning wasn’t great, I got the adapter alignment wrong & I was slightly in contact with the cartridge when I opened the adapter tap! The end result was of course, lots of hand pump action to inflate the tyre! (The CO2 progress was something like: open adapter tap, realise/remember that the cartridge temperature drops to freezing – & I was touching the cartridge – & jump/bobble around with the device while most of the CO2 goes anywhere but into the Presta valve?! A definite case of “do practice this at home”?)

All the fun was over, now time to cleanup (really a good motivator to have a spotless bike, & always seems to be the time to think about disposable gloves, hand wipes, etc for next time?)

Here’s one final pic (yes, I did fully tighten the Presta valve locking ring before moving off). Unfortunately, we didn’t get to check out the new cyclepath (instead we headed for a cafe for brunch). Maybe next time? (once the new Marathon tyres order has arrived & been fitted?)

Fotoz birthday

Doing something special for your 50th birthday seems a good idea (can’t immediately recall what I may have done; too long ago?) & sometimes people go to a lot of trouble!

“Mr Fotoz” is a family member, pro photographer, video producer & seemingly a “life-long train nutter”? An invitation for the family to join him on a steam train trip to the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, wasn’t entirely a surprise & was sure to be memorable. What was unexpected however, was that it turned out to be “his train” & he was arranging the lot! ie booking the engine, heritage carriages, crew, approvals to run the steam train on the main lines, planning & marketing the event & selling tickets to fill the train! (apologies to any mates or enthusiasts if that’s over-simplified things but every time I hear or think any more about it, my head hurts)

So, early one recent Saturday morning we set out for Westmead station, one of the intermediate stops along the route from Picton to Lithgow. There we waited with our picnic baskets, wine, cameras, etc & “almost on time” the Fotoz Flyer came steaming into the station – with Mr Fotoz in the driver’s seat!?

Settling back for our adventure, along with 100+ enthusiastic passengers, the 5917 engine hauled us up into the mountains putting on a sight & sound display that was amazing to experience. All along the way spectators were out beside the route or even following in cars. Inside the train we wined & dined on our goodies & plenty of supplied nibblies. The experienced hands donned safety goggles for observing our journey via the open windows (the amount of coal grit on the tables was enough to dissuade me from sticking my head outside) & we all marveled at the sounds of a steam train working very hard (both up the hills & on the flat).

Steam being steam, our trip had a number of stops while the water was replenished (& for once the crowds around the action were parted by a decent shower of rain?).

The whole experience was a step back in time – such as these “mod cons” in our first-class compartment & some of the travellers in period costume?

There was an extra section of the journey after Lithgow, off the main line, when we travelled on to Wallerawang so that the engine could be turned around for our journey home (where we sat & waited in our carriages while the engine chuffed off & later appeared via a cunning “triangular loop”, ready to take its place at the other end of the train – such are the difficulties of arranging steam travel on modernised infrastructure?)

Our journey back to Westmead to depart the train was pretty well on time, perhaps with not quite the same excitement as when traveling up into the mountains? Overall, we had about 12 hours of fun – & really appreciate the efforts of the organisers who would have spent 15+ hours for Saturday, as well as the involvement of getting the train to the Thirlmere start point on Friday, as well as returning to Eveleigh on Sunday (& everything it took to even get the approvals?!)

Finally, the downside of the adventure for the participants was the inability to get the full spectator experience. We’ll have to be content with the excellent video work from Bevan Wall on YouTube –

BTW, regular viewers may be detecting the likelihood of a backlog of posts? I now admit defeat to the notion of keeping my blog posts in chronological order (hey, a new interpretation for doing things “sooner than later”?