Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Black sheep of the family

At the bottom of the post below, I more or less promised to shoot a series of videos about converting your bike to a single speed. I really wasn't happy about the quality of video I was putting up though (shot in hi-definition, I was converting the file a million times to get it uploaded onto youtube). I was also getting impatient and wanted to finish the job, so the series has had to be postponed.


You can click on any of these photos to go over to Flickr and see bigger images. It's amazing how much cleaner bikes look when you take more and more parts off them.


The drivetrain (44 x 16) involved a new bottom bracket, cranks that I got off a friend in a trade, spacers, cog and chain tensioner from a nashbar single speed kit, a chainring from the local bike shop, and single speed chainring bolts. I also put on new brakes, and if you look closely you'll notice a wheelset (mavic rim with deore hubs) that is probably worth more than this whole bike was when it was bought. You really can't beat good wheels though - upgrading wheels makes you suddenly feel like Hushovd.


And strangely, an immensely satisfying part of the conversion process is looking down at the bucket of junk that you took off your bike. If you put it all in a plastic bag and lift it up, you get a sense of how heavy all that crap was, and what a weight it was on your bike.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hear my motor purr

Every once in a while my thinking comes back to taxes on gasoline.

North America has the lowest gasoline tax rates in the world - and the historically cheap price of gas here is why we also have sprawlurbia and mostly ignored public transit systems. Everyone knows that North American reliance on the automobile has caused a litany of different problems, including killer air pollution. So why do we not raise the tax on gasoline?

Ironically, the Americans (even Republicans) are talking about this more and more often. Meanwhile, here in Canada, there is no discussion of this at all. In fact, when oil and gas prices were high this past summer, a southern Ontario group was getting tons of TV coverage by lobbying for a reduction in the gas tax ("Mr Prime Minister, please help the poor struggling families" kind of thing).

My thought is that the gasoline tax should be raised - gradually but steadily, with nearly all of the money going straight into public transit.

By doing this, you wean people away from the automobile and all its various problems, and build bigger, better, faster public transit systems - transit systems which are so good that people will actually give up their car and rely on the bus.

Of all the opposing arguments, the two strongest ones are a) increasing the gas tax hurts rural Canadians who have no access to public transit, and b) raising the gas tax primarily hurts low-income Canadians.

Fine - if you're in a rural area with no public transit, you get a break on your income taxes. The same applies for low income earners. Everyone else though, pays perhaps 2cents / litre (at the beginning) to improve the public transit system in their city.

I really don't understand why this is such an accursed idea in Canada. The federal Conservative government took a step in this direction their very first year in office when they decided to encourage the use of public transit by giving transit users the right to claim money back for their monthly bus pass at tax time. Is it really such a jump to go from rewarding public transit use to penalizing automobile use?

P.S. I'm hoping to shoot a series of youtube videos about converting your bike to a freewheel singlespeed. The series will be aimed at complete beginners, and so far I've done one introductory episode. I actually shot it in high definition with a very good camcorder, but I had to keep converting and degrading the file to get it onto youtube, and now the quality is so bad that I'll probably have to reshoot this one. It's a start anyway.