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This is a post about my experience so far with a Pure Fix single-speed bicycle. I’ve been in this for roughly three months and even it’s been quite cold weather-wise, I see a lot of cyclists on the road. Now that it’s getting slowly warmer, I started looking at ads on eBay for simple, low-maintenance bikes.
I rode a Bianchi roadbike back in Bangalore mostly for weekend long rides (ranging between 30km to 160km), it never was practical for me to commute with it – not because of the bike – but other factors. When moving to this city, I considered carrying the bike, but since I had enough luggage and my wife with me I gave up on the idea and left my bike with my brother-in-law.
Bicycling these days, someone once said, is like Golf. It’s easy to get carried away and spend lot on equipment and maintenance. The road bike required expensive chains, and if not well taken care of, expensive replacement parts in the drivetrain.
I still keep an eye on the Bangalore Bikers Club google group and noticed several veterans taking the plunge on “fixies” and single-speed bikes. I thought to myself: here’s a city which is mostly flat (unlike Bangalore), has smooth tarmac (unlike Bangalore); why bother with expensive bikes at all then? I kept a budget of under 300 EUR and got hold of this bike through their website with additional seasonal discounts!
Why Pure Fix? One, I had heard of it back from Bangalore from the BOTS store. Second, compared to the certain brands made in this city, the pricing is very favourable. There are other similar bike companies (Mango bikes from UK, Velo-something from Hamburg and another brand in Germany) catering to the nouveau fixie / single-speed clientele. But being that almost all of them source their stuff from China and equipment were mostly of the same range, I went with a familiar brand and low pricing.
Once the order was placed on their European website, it was dispatched in a few days from their hub in the Netherlands. DHL had an issue with the address for some reason (apartment number was misprinted as street number) and there was an additional delay of a couple of days – but the customer service was good.
The packing of the bike was well done. I went to the Decathlon store and picked up a small toolkit and grease to assemble the bike from this stage. I gave-up on the warranty which is valid only if assembled at a local bike shop for the sake of learning to how to do this by myself. The bike looked fine out-of-the-box so I thought I’d be fine.
I assembled the bike and over the past few weeks added a bunch of accessories by myself and this is how it looks like now:
I assembled it on a Friday and took it out for a spin to the Calisthenics park on Saturday morning. When it was assembled, the front wheel seemed like it was out of true, but after riding it for a few kilometres, mysteriously the wheel was fine and the rim did not brush the brakes anymore.
The simple platform pedals are quite good. The wheels may look catchy but I’m not a fan of their weight. If they ever damage, I’ll replace them with non-deep-dish wheel. I had carried my Specialized saddle from my old bike and so I installed that here and stored the stock one away.
It’s illegal in this city to not have lights on the bike so I started looking for the usual battery operated ones online. I could either find really cheap be-seen ones or expensive also-see mountain-bike styled lights. Since my primary use for this bike is for commutes, I started thinking of more commute-oriented options. I read up on dynamo powered systems: both bottle-dynamo and the hub-dynamo. Looked up the prices and found that I could actually do this here.
Purchased a Shimano 3N31 hub-dynamo from eBay, a bunch of DT Swiss spokes and nipples off of Rose bikes, Union front light with light-sensor feature and Trelock rear light from Amazon. The Union light is supposed to be a knock-off (or inspired by) of a famous well-known brand Busch&Müller. The fun bit was the part where I undid all the spokes and nipples of the front wheel, measured a few things here and there in order to purchase the right length for the new spokes. The even more fun bit was the building of the wheel with the hub-dynamo.
I looked up a few youtube videos initially and it didn’t go well. It was clearly a mess and incorrect. Undid the spokes again and this time took the help of my wife who found used an app on her phone and guided my from the beginning and inspected my work at every turn. And then I did the truing following a very famous website. Almost seven hours later, it was ready.
The lights showed up later and were fitted. Then I took it to work. Good bike: it’s not Alu-frame like I’m used to, it’s the cheap Hi10 (high-tensile) steel, but I like it. There’s a bit of a rattle from the chain-guard and the reflector pieces attached to spokes, otherwise it’s a solid bike.
The (front) brakes wore out pretty quick (within 70km). I ordered a cartridge-type brake shoe made by Jagwire Taiwan. I installed them last night and I’ve yet to ride it but they seem pretty good. I’ll probably order another pair for the rear ones soon.
A few more pictures with a few details:
Notice the bolt near the rear-hub to fine-tune the tightening of the chain. Also notice the holes for attaching accessories later on if necessary. The chain-guard is nice to have. The paint on the rim is going to peel off due to the brakes.
The wiring for the lights seems ugly, I’ll have to figure out something to tidy it up. Tektro brake sets on both sides. The front light uses reflection of LED beam to not pierce into the eyes of others looking at at from the front. Don’t want to blind a car from the front now, do we? The tyre is 28mm (good for city use!)
And there’s the branding and the platform pedal.
This post was due a long time. I’ve had various thoughts surrounding the topic for about five years now and this seems to be a good time to log this down.
Whither Bangalore – one could’ve asked this question back in early 2000s when a CM such as S.M. Krishna was in power in the state and be hopeful of things to come. I recall back in 2002 how the infrastructure in the city was beginning to don an outfit never seen before. We were getting decent public toilets, public bus shelters with illuminated maps, etc. The elements of an urban city for a teenager in those days were these and more. There was hope.
What was I doing back then? Taking buses to attend tuition classes at Basavanagudi all the way from Shivajinagar area. It was still possible back then to attend my day school, then take a bus around 4pm and still be on time for the evening tuitions. There were not too many cars back then on the road, two wheelers and public transport were the perceivable majority.
Somewhere something went wrong
Fast forward ten years to say 2012. I moved back to Bangalore from Mumbai thinking Mumbai’s traffic was bad after experiencing a rainy season there. I was mistaken. Politically, the S. M. Krishna kind of politicians are no more. I think we had the worst, most corrupt ages in this decade in the city. The public toilets near bus stands had gone out of maintenance in many places. Certain strongholds continue to have them but are still a minority after having a headstart of nearly ten years. The city municipality had shown multiple instances of high levels of corruption in terms of illegitimate dealings, land records, kickbacks and so on.
Environmentally, the last few summers have been progressively getting warmer. Today, in early November we’re experiencing a mini-summer. The tree cover has drastically reduced, I can actually notice the reduction month-over-month for various oddball reasons in the name of “improvement.”
The city is a cash cow for certain “powers that be” which nobody really is sure who they are. Or I don’t know anybody who does know about it.
The “rent-seeking” economy is huge in this part of the country. You have rich landlords from the 80s who’ve acquired a lot of land in and around this city who’re squeezing the most of it by building the most impractical IT parks or apartments in a very congested area. Take a look at the ORR where the Cessna IT park is. A usual occurence today there is an hour-long wait for cars to simply exit the IT park especially when it has rained outside and maybe more than half the road is unusable.
It might be tempting to attribute certain ills in the city to ignorance rather than malice. Example, the steel-bridge in K.R. Puram that divides that part of the city into two by at least twenty minutes.
There are numerous illegal paying-guest houses in the city for the young and single crowd mostly run by a particular people who don’t even pay taxes and have built flimsy buildings with more than the legally allowed four-storeys.
Real estate in this city is poorly regulated and is a mess. There have been demolitions recently of certain middle-class houses because it allegedly runs on a dysfunctional network of storm drains. While habitual big-money builders get away with the encroachment of areas next to lakes! Digitisation of land-records with modern GIS technology is something this IT capital struggles to do even in 2016.
Almost everything that is done by the governing bodies is with the idea of a cash-cow.
Building or repairing new roads? Make sure they don’t have decent drainage so that a. they’re flooded during the rains and b. they deteriorate in under a year so that a new contract is floated and more kickbacks are received.
Want to register your company or get a VAT certificate? Pay every useless person in the government office at least a few thousand rupees unless you know someone personally to waive this off.
Day to day life
Say you work in an IT company and intend to maintain a decent work-life balance. Maybe put in seven to eight hours at the office. Drive an hour each way because a. the public transport is thin on your route and takes much longer and b. you’re having breathing issues with the air-quality and really need something like a car with a decent activated-charcoal-based air-filter in it.
The hours spent commuting is incomparable to any other activity that one might want to voluntarily participate in. It is a tax. It is something unavoidable for some people. It is something that will have an effect on your work when you drive to work and an effect on your time at home once you drive back home. It is something that determines whether you walk in to work or home with a smile or a disgruntled frown on your face. It is something that regular doses of which contributes to a poor quality of life over the years.
When you’re lucky and it hasn’t rained, the roads are somewhat usable. But beware of the users of these roads. I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, the two-wheelers riding the opposite way one one-ways have become a norm now. Even the police do it. There are vehicles parked at inconvenient places slowing everybody else. There are slow goods carriers that hog the right/fast lane everywhere who will not respect your demand for right of way but will expect that you respect theirs even when they’re not going fast or overtaking another vehicle. In fact, I’ve observed the kind of acts most people do on the roads that I’ve become good at expecting the dumb move a road user might make. I would be very pleasantly surprised if a road user doesn’t do what I expected. And this happens extremely rarely. One such incident is when a middle-aged man was riding a bike with rear-view mirrors (9/10 won’t have them) and he was actually using them! That was something I hadn’t seen in years.
Let’s talk about the roads now. The majority of them aren’t flat. You can’t drive with a coffee in your car (I haven’t tried this, but I’m guessing) nearly anywhere in this city. The roads are undulating or riddled with potholes. Undulating because of years of patchwork or improper road engineering. And potholes because the roads don’t have decent drainage to not be damaged by stagnant water. A road that was patched maybe two weeks ago already has potholes now. You buy a fancy sedan and want to drive it in this city? Expect to replace link rods and suspensions prematurely. And when it rains, expect not being able to spot a pothole because of water logging but, hey, at least the two-wheelers have stopped their suicide rides for taking shelter from the rain under those underpasses blocking more than half of the usable road. There have been incidents where potholes at the end of a flyover cause two wheelers to swerve suddenly and then getting hit by heavier vehicles from the back. Pillion riders have mostly died because of that and nobody gets to be blamed but the rider.
Nobody believes in appropriate signage on the roads anywhere. You’ll find very similar accidents on flyover ramps and other places where a road divider shows up out of the blue because there are no reflectors on them to indicate its presence. You’ll be hard pressed to find any lane markings and most of all nothing to indicate that there’s an unscientific speed-breakers ahead of you which would either dent your wheel or cause something even worse.
As a pedestrian, you’re either an idiot or a victim. Idiot because you cross the road when it’s a green signal for vehicles in a road that’s been blocked by inefficiency or a victim because you don’t really have time to cross the road nor does the traffic policeman give you a pedestrian green light. On more residential areas, there are hoardings of various political organisations celebrating their birthdays and what have you blocking the footpaths in many places. As an elderly person, you have to bend even more to go under them or try to walk outside the footpath risking several dangers such as slipping off the footpath or being driven over by a motorist.
About garbage: a garden city once upon a time, now a garbage city. There is a lot of garbage in this city. They’ve run out of villages in the outskirts to dump garbage at. Waste segregation is still a poorly understood and followed topic. Garbage occupies footpaths. Even roads. And of course, most of the famed storm water drains filled with garbage and sewage. The great lakes of Bangalore are literally foaming with chemical effluents from businesses that have paid off the right officials. In areas where gentrification is still in progress, one can find construction debris and teardown debris of older buildings thrown down the street on the sides.
Let’s talk about restaurants now. In areas such as Indiranagar or Koramangala, it’s common to be charged Bay area prices but served one-third the portions. If you cheap out and eat at a smaller eatery, be prepared to hurt your digestive system the following day.
There was a time when I could pursue other activities after work such as attending a gym or some kind of combat training classes. But now one is already quite tired by the time one reaches home there’s no time or energy left to travel to the gym.
Even the Google maps location names are getting worse by the day. Incorrect data confuses all the delivery startups using Google maps data to mark GPS locations with inaccurate and incorrect labels. Today I notice that some smartass has added “5th Phase” to “RBI Layout” and that there’s a “RBI Layout North” now. There’s only one RBI Layout. And there’s an “East Side” for it because two roads belonging to the layout are on the east side of the main roads that divides it. But this actual “East Side” of RBI Layout is labeled as everything but that: Nataraja Layout, Wilson Garden housing colony, even as Arekere which is miles away.
So, yes. Here you are, in the “IT capital” of the country. Paying more taxes than most people on the road each year. Getting nothing of value in return and everything outside of work and home only gets worse year on year. You’re never going to be part of a vote-bank for any political entity. How does it feel? Hopeless? What are you going to do about it?
Commuting in Bangalore can be a soul-draining adventure for some of us. After all, it ranks in the top-10 worst cities in the world’s worst cities for commuting. Public transport is sparse, over-provisioned (i.e. runs with more people per bus than it should), terribly slow, and generally lacking in many routes.
Size and numbers
Ten years ago, it was a big two-wheeler scene. One could spot the various Bajaj and Kinetic Honda scooters. And motorbikes like Bajaj Calibre. Nowadays, it’s a huge four-wheeler scene — starting from a humble Tata Nano going all the way up to the Porsches and Audis that cost more than 3 decent residential flats. What hasn’t changed is the road capacity. The number of vehicles has surely increased (hundreds of new vehicles enter the roads each day) and so has the size each occupies in the streets.
This growth has not only affected commute times, but also: pollution levels, anxiety and stress levels.
One of the major failings of the traffic system here is the fact that driving licenses are given out without sufficiently satisfying tests that demonstrate one’s ability to follow traffic rules — which are there for good reasons. Traffic rules provide a protocol of behaviours one is expected to follow on the roads. Without them, it takes time for interacting entities on the road to figure out what to do in a new type of situation they’ve encountered, affecting those around them as a result. This exact behaviour may not even be reproducible were a similar initial condition to arise again. Rules cut down on time and produce standard operating procedures to follow at appropriate initial conditions.
False assumptions and enforced safety
There seems to be a general misunderstanding with how the brakes of a vehicle are to be operated. Many think that applying the front brakes is asking for trouble because it might topple them forward and therefore never apply the front brakes and depend solely on those on the back. This results in skids. Manufacturers that aren’t myopic (i.e., the ones that think “maybe if we build an image of producing safe vehicles, we might get more customers in the long run”) do things like: a. offer full safety features on all of their models and not just the “top-end” ones. (Honda does this, Indian manufacturers such as Tata or Mahindra don’t), b. shunt the front brakes too with the back brake levers so that the back brake levers never operate alone and always applies the front brakes too. (Honda’s two-wheelers do this: see picture)
The players: two wheelers, three wheelers (auto-rickshaws with a handler-bar steering), four wheelers (cars and upto buses), and the traffic police.
Nineteen out of twenty people wouldn’t use the rear-view mirrors when breaking their straight, onward path. Some make attempts to look back before shifting their directions on the road, but why not just use the rear view mirrors and be aware of what’s happening of the front too at the same time? This is a general problem with all of them.
Two wheelers have a tendency to take sudden zig-zag paths on the road with complete disregard to those behind them. Some can be found texting or speaking on their phones in one hand while handling their two wheelers with just the one other hand.
Four wheelers, too, sometimes perform the similar sudden zig-zag movements, but not as much as the two wheelers. Cars are generally okay to bear except the cabs who are similar to the three wheelers. Buses are not the way they once were — gracious.
The three wheelers are probably the most irritating of them all because their primary prerogative on the road is to be on the road and not to reach some destination and get off the wheels and on with their lives. The three wheelers work is to be on the road, for hire. When they’re on hire, exhibit the agile zig-zagging behaviours similar to the two wheelers while also being more dangerous because of the width of space they occupy. When they’re not on hire, they tend to slow down everybody else by sticking to the middle or the right most lanes and not using the left most one instead. They barely use indicators, if ever.
Everybody plays the game of tetris on the road. Many do not use indicators when wanting to take a turn or to stop, let alone using the rear-view mirrors to ascertain whether to do so is safe in the first place. Vehicles are parked just about anywhere with utter disregard to how it might be affecting others.
It’s just downright horrendous. tiring and grossly representative of a mindset that doesn’t respect or value others’ safety, if not their own.
I just wish all driving licenses were invalidated and everyone made to start all over again with stricter tests.
Testing it out for shorter rant-like posts. I might continue to use wordpress for larger posts. Let’s see how things go.
I’ve been bothered by the Hutch UP(E) service for almost a semester now and I’ve seasoned myself not to react to anymore of it 🙂
I often get automated calls from +919839098390 at the oddest of times – considering that most of us(as in residents of IITK) don’t sleep when the world does and aren’t awake when the world is. 😛
Here is a typical example:
I get an SMS notification when I was busy sleeping. Sent by “Paigaam” (I have no freakin’ idea who or what that is)
Ab Khat, mail Hua Purana Song Dedication Ka Hai Zamana. Tho 3911 Par Call Karke Sune Koi Pyara Sa Gana Aur Bheje India Ke Kisi Bhi Mobile Par. Call @6/min
Well.. what do you do in such cases? Just thank the Hutch guys for waking you up for lunch 😛