“Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?”
Persistent readers will have noticed a quietening in the last month. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been out pounding the roads of Herts’n’Essex, meeting north-easterly snow flurries nose-first, in a diligent programme of revision for the big test in July. The truth is the time’s been taken by a construction project. The realisation of a state-of-the-art shed. This edifice is going up in the manner that Hadrian built ‘his’ wall. I say what I want and teams of skilled craft-workers execute those crazy whims.
There is – however – a double prejudice in favour of not paying expert trades-folk to queue in white vans, reducing costs and motor-traffic, so I’m often the one who flies to the builder’s yard to pick up missing materials.
Admire the new full-height raw, western, red cedar doors that make the back garden entrance look like the gateway to a small fortified chateau. Admire also the logistical elegance of a just-in-time delivery of 15 metres of tanalised softwood. Of course tonnes of sand or ballast, pallet-loads of bricks, arrive on the back of a flat-bed lorry with integrated crane, that swings them across the foot-way and onto the site but – for loads up to a 100 kilograms – the aviation-grade wheelbarrow can often do the job quicker with less complication.
In my previous neighbourhood freight cycles – while not as commonplace as in Christiania – are normal enough to make them unremarkable. Moving five kilometres North means I now spend more time replying to interested passers-by that…
- …I didn’t make it myself.
- …I can’t remember exactly, somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500.
Naive interrogators are sometimes surprised, disappointed, to hear that such a simple contrivance can cost so much. To soften the blow I explain that all bikes are expensive, especially ones specified for residents of the rich world, where people are heavy and bikes light, and that the balance is – unless you pay yourself a management fee – it would take some kind of heavy use, and heroic mileage, to make the running costs more than £100 a year. Which might be the weekly toll of a light commercial motor-vehicle?
If you asked me three weeks ago if I owned a gas-strut – a structural component that incorporates an oil-damped, gas spring, the kind of thing used to support the heavy rear door of a hatchback car – I’d probably have answered:- “No”.
The one I’ve possessed for seven years has been obscured – and almost forgotten – under the tray of a cargo bike where it holds the two-legged prop-stand up, in flight, and down, at rest. Distracted with the building work I’d hardly minuted that the big bike was growing slowly more prone to topple-over when parked without the brake on. When the stand started flopping down under gravity when the bike hit a bump even I was forced to pay attention.
The machine with the gas-strut is an 8freight designed and built – in semi-‘Hadrian’ style – by the Wizard of Rackheath whose many valuable epigrams include:-
“If string will do the job use string.”
…so it’s no surprise that it wasn’t hard to rig up an adequate ‘African repair’ using a length of dead inner-tube to augment the gas-ram’s push with a little pull.
I was tempted for a moment to continue with this rubber solution but am supposed to be a professional, and try to meet the ‘normal’ World half-way by not looking too much like – what was called in the last Century – a ‘new-age-traveller’. When I rang the great man for advice he put a replacement in the post the same day.
Completion of the shed will end an awkward interregnum during which I’ve had no convenient place to park my bikes, hang tools and work on cycles. During this period half the fleet has been out of service due to lack of easy access and the rest more than usually neglected and misused.
When I washed the area around the old gas-strut, in preparation for replacement, it immediately began to push less feebly. The shiny replacement holds the prop-stand firmly where it needs to stay.
Mike has offered to get the old one re-gassed, which will provide me with a spare to file in the new shed, in case I live long enough for another gas-strut failure. In my new space-rocket-laboratory environment even the freight bike will be parked under cover and on a much more business-like washing schedule so loss of oomph in the gas-strut department may be more than another seven years hence. The whole incident can probably be spun to reinforce the patter about cargo bikes being cheap to run.
In this period in history load carrying cycles tend to draw a crowd. Add promotional signage and many small/medium businesses could probably justify booking the running costs under ‘marketing’. The only transport cost is the operators time. And rich people like us are supposed to find ways of getting out of breath.
More good news is that the 8Frieght now has it’s own URL.
This is no doing of Mike’s who doesn’t have a computer and may be the last great technical innovator in the World who uses a fax machine? www.8freight.com is published by collaborators who plan to have the Wizard’s load carrier mass-produced in East Asia. They’ve also incited him to knock up a ‘luxury’ hi-spec. model, the Black10.
The disc-brakes are definitely a step up from the Trommelbremsen on the 8Freight, particularly if you live in West Dorset, but ten sprockets and narrow drive-chain on a wheelbarrow? That’s too pretentious even for me.