Car sharing

Mary laments the limitations of car share companies. Holly is in GoGet, so I thought I'd share our experiences.

First up, "car share" is a misnomer. I'd consider that to be when you let people jump in the car with you for a journey. I'd class this service more as a car micro-hire.

It works like this. You pay a monthly subscription ($15 in our case) and can then hire cars for $6.60/hour plus $0.35/km (higher monthly subscription means lower hourly rates). Petrol is included.

When you want a car, you either log onto the web site and book a nearby car, or you phone up. The phone system is surprisingly useful, and there's normally someone around if you get in trouble and need to speak to a human.

Contention on the cars would be the most common question, and to be honest we've rarely had a problem. Sometimes if you try at the last minute, you might need to walk a bit further or find another form of transport. But if you plan ahead, it's no biggie. We booked a car last week for the four days around Xmas, in a nearby location to our place. Long weekends can be a bit tricky, though you just have to book a week or two in advance. It's really in their interest to ensure there's enough cars. There's also some useful utility vehicles available: a ute and a Tarago in Erskineville are particularly handy and cost no more.

The day rates, it should be noted, include 150km of travel (including petrol!) and if you do the kinds of trips we use it for, driving somewhere, staying there a few days with only a few short drives, then returning, you'll find the 150km included in each day more than covers all the kilometres used in the trip. We find it's good value, and unlike car rental companies, there's no hidden charges and you don't have to be alert for all their sneaky damage, insurance and excess reduction scams.

Now we live in the inner city, which is where most of the cars reside, so it's particularly good for us. The best thing you can do, Mary, is find a few more people out in Hornsby and convince them to promise they'll sign up if GoGet put a pod out that way. They've been pretty rapid with their expansion, and they're not averse to trialling a new area.

The problems with licenses are also a problem for us. I'm on my learner's permit, and basically it seems we're going to have to buy a car if I want to get enough practise in on my provisional license. That's a shame. GoGet are pretty responsive to requests for changes, so perhaps we could propose something like a higher insurance charge for provisional license holders?

As well as the cost savings, these schemes are great because of the convenience. Sure, we have to walk a couple of blocks to the car, but we don't have to book in services, rego, insurance, repairs and all that. For me, that's the best thing about it -- my life is busy enough without having to deal with all that!

Moved into the house

We moved into our new house last Thursday and spent Friday and Sunday nesting. The move was pretty painless, with the removalists getting it all done in one truck load taking about two hours all up. We hired a cleaner for the old house, so we did some outdoor cleaning while he worked. I'd strongly recommend this option to anyone moving!

The house we're moving into was pretty filthy. We kinda wish we'd got the cleaner in there, and even did some painting before moving in. As it is, we spent a lot of time washing walls and will probably paint at some point.

It's a pretty amazing feeling being a home owner. Knowing we can make any changes we like is very liberating. Though for now there's a lot to do!

Oh yeah, the new place is super quiet, after living next to the airport and before that in a very noisy city. Holly got a bit freaked out on Thursday night when we went to bed and there were some noises around the house (possibly a possum?), which we never would have noticed in the other place.

Some new photos

Finally got around to uploading the backlog of photos I've had.

Sydney FC vs LA Galaxy

Sydney FC playing Beckham's LA Galaxy. A team so bad they made Sydney look good!

Critical Mass crossing the Harbour Bridge at the end
of November 2007

Critical Mass crossing the Harbour Bridge in November.

Abigail's seventh birthday
My niece Abigail's seventh birthday, playing putt-putt golf.

Homebake 2007

From yesterday, at an outdoor music festival in The Domain. Pretty cool having a music festival in the middle of the city.

Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race

The team

Last weekend Holly and I drove down to Canberra for the Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race. It's been described as the Glastonbury of mountain biking, and it's pretty amazing. Hundreds of riders all on the same course, with a real party atmosphere. Though it was quite funny sitting around shooting the shit on Friday night and nobody's drinking!

Our team did an amazing job, with someone constantly out on the trail for the whole 24 hours. I only managed two laps, with very slow times, as I just wasn't fit enough, and the climbing was a lot more intense than I expected. I know the scale of the challenge for next year now!

We were fortunate enough to have a great support crew. Holly, Kaz and Majella ensured we were watered, fed, motivated and running smoothly for the whole 24 hour period. An amazing effort and some great food. Kaz's meat and bean chilli jaffles were a real highlight -- perfect race food.

My lighting setup was always a bit of a worry. Our team only really had two lighting sets, so my one was pretty important. As it turned out, the torch worked brilliantly and between it and the headlamp, provided ample light. Graeme chipped in one of his Luxeon lamps as well, which provided a bit of a broad wash to complement the focussed spots.

I really enjoyed the night riding, so I think I might use the lights a bit more now with some night rides around the place.

A thoroughly good time had by all. We're all pretty keen to do it all again next year -- especially Majella who injured herself out of the race only a couple of weeks before.


Disappointed with the Nexus internal hub gears

I bought my commuter bike specifically to have minimal maintenance. In the last month I've been unlucky enough to cop two punctures in the rear tyre. The problem with this is that removing the wheel and putting it back is a fiddly, complicated business. It seems to me that the simplicity advantages of maintenance of the gears are blown away by the time it takes to fix a puncture. What's more, to get he wheel off I need to carry a spanner with me!

So I've put some Mr Tuffies in the tyres yesterday. These are a layer that's supposed to protect the tube from punctures caused by things like glass and thorns. I might put some Slime or similar product in there. I really really don't want more flats on this wheel.

When the tyre wears out, I'm going to look at some of these solid and/or tubeless tyres. I really don't care about weight or rolling resistance on this bike -- it's for commmuting. My absolute primary aim is reliability and minimal maintenance. I want to keep the tyres pumped, lube the chain and otherwise do nothing except for six-monthly services.

Any suggestions?

Torch as bike light

LED torch
with bike mount

I'm doing the Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race this weekend with some mates. To mountain bike at night, you need decent lighting. The proper lighting kit is massively expensive and could easily be more expensive than my bike, so I needed a plan B.

So I bought an LED headlamp and very bright LED torch. The headlamp, fortunately, fits under my helmet. The torch is plenty bright, but I needed to work out a way to mount it. We had a few spare bike light mounting things floating around, so I combined two of them and fortunately they're able to screw together. So one goes around the handlebars, one goes around the torch. Quite neat really.

I'll test this setup out tonight on the way home, with the bumpy and dark backstreets of Erskineville being the test ground. My main worry is whether it'll be steady enough, as there is some movement in the joint. If so, I'm thinking some little bits of rubber acting as braking washers.

The other problem is the torch takes CR123A batteries -- those short, squat things that you put in cameras. These batteries are bloody expensive -- $12 each at Dick Smith! They're Lithium chemistry, which means they hold a fair whack of power, but I really have little idea what my burn time will be like, so I'll probably have to buy another set of these batteries and hope that'll be enough. Longer term I think I'll look at attaching some kind of big rechargeable battery pack.