NZ – Christchurch museum

Posted by jerry on November 1st, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Motorcycling, Travel

NZ Canterbury Musuem, Christchurch

NZ Canterbury musem

This is a good regional museum – well equipped and laid out. The collection is arranged chronologically from the first peoples – Iwi tawhito- whenua hou (Ancient peoples – new lands) covering first settlment artifacts, including stone axxes and adzes and a form of bow drill. There was an interesting note that there s little evidence of tribal warfare until the Moa (flightless bird) was hunted to extinction, with the speculation that resource pressures brought competition and conflict.

Decorative arts from early European settlement are well represented with glass and ceramics and furniture and costumes.

‘Christchurch Street’ – a recreated Victorian period street makes for a good immersive experience of life in the Victorian times.

But perhaps the most fascinating and unique exhibition is that devoted to Antarctic exploration. I was particularly taken by the steampunk looking dome used at Hallett Station. The dome was made from fibreglass and assembled in place by US Navy Seabees in 1957. The dome has a tongue and groove wooden floor and was assembled using brass bolts to ensure that there were no magnetic components. It was used as a weather observation post and housed a sensitive variograph which recorded tiny changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The observatory was kept free of magnetic contamination by ensuring that it contained no metal furniture or other items.


The dome was recovered from the base in 2004 when the Station was closed and the base site cleaned up.

Another interesting exhibit was Ivan Mauger’s 1970 winning speedway motorcycle. He had won the 1968 and 1969 World speedway championships, and undertook a US tour, during which an American industrialist told him that if he won the championship a record third time running he would gold plate the motorcycle. After the 1970 win, the bike was shipped to the US where it was dismantled and every component was gold plated over the succeeding 18 months at a cost of US$500,000 – even the pistons and valves are gold plated. But otherwise the bike is in exactly the condition in which it fininished the last race – so in theory at least it is a fully functional motorcycle.

Ivan Mauger gold bike

That bike can be seen today in Canterbury museum as a piece of motorcycling history.

Little known steam bike

Posted by jerry on October 21st, 2007 — Posted in Motorcycling, Steam

In 1917 William Taylor built a steam motorbike based on an F-N. The bike used a two-cylinder double acting steam engine. But there is little other information on this bike.

Taylor steam bike
Taylor steam bike

But there may be some hints in that at one point in the 1890s William Taylor apparently worked with Wachs – a company that produced steam engines ranging from 1HP-50HP – mainly for the small engine market to power workshop tools and small generators. Such engines might well be ideal for adaptation to motorcycle use. The wachs engines were also double-acting and likely came in a twin cylinder model.

Wachs steam engine
Wachs steam engine

Taylor steam bike

Interestingly, the bike used shaft drive – so there would have been little to wear out.

If anyone has any more information on this unusual bike I’d love to hear from you


Canberra Riders novice run to Tidbinbilla

Posted by jerry on September 23rd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

With perfect motorbike weather it seemed like a good idea to get a bunch of folks together to do a short easy run round the twistys behind Canberra – and there had been some talk on the Canberra Riders forum of doing a novice run – with about even numbers between newer riders and more experienced riders. The idea is that the newer riders can get experience riding with a group without the pressure that can come from trying to keep up with the hard core racers. The Canberra Riders are good that way – a loose group of riders across a wide range of skills from new learners to old stagers and some pretty quick racers in between. But they’re very supportive of other riders and willing to share knowledge and expertise 🙂

So after yesterday’s cruise to Bungendore, the antique Honda Bol d’Or was ready for another gentle run. And Gosling1 had made a suggestion on the forum that a run to Tidbinbilla might be a good one for a novice run. Some of the wrong bits of Seph’s bike had recently come in contact with the ground so he was looking for a gentle proving run to make sure the repair on the alternator cover was oil-tight, and the bike was straight. Ausjc is a learner looking to gain experience, and Gosling1 had done much to ensure that Seph’s bike was back on the road after a couple of weeks.

So with the finishing touches done they all headed over to my place for a quick pre-ride brief and we headed off up the Cotter Road with a stop at the car park at the old Cotter Bridge (now causeway) – this is the site of the old Cotter Road Pub that was destroyed in the Canberra Bushfires in 2003.

Canberra Riders

We met up with a mob of other riders and admired some fine machines (that black Honda Bol d’Or is particularly nice 😉

Then on for the ride to Tidbinbilla Deap Space Tracking Station – there’s a great coffee shop there called the ‘Moon Rock Cafe’ – very friendly to bikers and excellent service

The dishes made a great backdrop to the bikes

Canberra Riders

Funny how that black Honda kept getting into the photo!

And there was some good discussion about some of the local roads and some good places to explore for later rides. And what better backdrop to a coffee is a dish big enough to play cricket on 🙂

Canberra Riders

Seph’s bike needed push starting at every stop – he found later that great results can be achieved by plugging two wires together just near the clutch lever…

And I’d also like to say thanks to the anonymous rider who found my phone on the road, made the right assumptions as to likely destination, and returned it to me at Tidbinbilla – that sort of thing restores faith in human nature 🙂 And I’ll be keeping the phone in a zip-up pocket from now on 🙂 And yeah the phone still worked – they made the old bricks tough!

Thanks guys for a great ride and hopefully we’ll do it all again soon


Blood moon run – lunar eclipse

Posted by jerry on August 28th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Canberra Riders – a loose knit group of motorcycle riders – organised a Blood Moon run from Canberra to Lake George this evening (28 Aug) to observe the total lunar eclipse – only visible from certain parts of the world. The aim was to find a place fairly devoid of light pollution from the city, with a clear unobstructed eastern view. The lookout at Lake George, 32 km out of Canberra is just the spot.

The ride was advertised on several discussion lists and a total of 35 bikes set off from the Mobil Station in Cooyong St Canberra about 7.00pm.

Canberra Motorcycle Riders

We had a smooth run down Federal Highway and regrouped just past the roundabout at Watson. Then a gentle cruise down the highway as the bite out of the moon became larger. We stuck to the speed limit – this run being more about the fun of riding with such a large group, with a leader and tail-end-Charlie to keep it safe.

Suddenly the road was awash in flashing lights as everyone indicated and pulled over to the right lane and slowed to turn at the lookout.

The evening was quite mild and the weather perfect.

Using a canon Powershot A530 camera I managed to get some fairly grainy shots of the moon as the last light disappeared and the face turned rust red. I used a half-second exposure on 100 ISO, with the camera hand-held against the top-case of the motorbike. You can get info on the eclipse and how to photograph it from the ice-in-space site

lunar eclipse August 2007 lunar eclipse 28 Aug 2007

The Riders were friendly and there was a bit of interest in my antique Honda Bol d’Or CB900 – not least of which being that several had noticed my tail light wasn’t working – thanks guys 🙂

Luckily I had a torch and some red gaffa tape which got me home.

It was a great feeling to ride in a big group – and there were enough Ducatis to keep up a nice beat. After about an hour people started to drift off in ones and twos and I look forward to riding with them again – looks like it could be a regular outing for Wednesday nights 🙂

See you there – ride safe!


Paris – on two wheels

Posted by jerry on June 15th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling, Travel

Having a French moped myself, I thought it would be fun to go looking for the current mopeds of Paris. In a city that resembles an ad for Smart cars, in which motorbikes and scooters of various descriptions park with impunity on pavements or indeed anywhere they can squeeze in, two wheel travel is widely accepted as the norm.

motorbikes in  Paris

In such a culture there are intriguing variations on a theme – scooters with a roof such as those from BMW and Renault, three-wheeled scooters, and more traditional mopeds.

taking the last first, I saw quite a number of Motobecanes obviously still going hard, like these ones

motobecane moped

motobecane moped

motobecane moped

motobecane moped

motobecane moped

This one was amazing – three wheels!

thee wheeled scooter

I wondered how they went around corners. Suddenly I had my opportunity as this one pulled away while I had my camera in hand.

Others clearly were workhorses in more ways than one

motobecane with trailer

And if you needed a big truck in a little street you could go for a vespa truck

Vespa three wheeled truck

But the traditional velo-solex is still popular – the bicycle with the engine on the front wheel – very French!

velo solex

velo solex

So the peds still swarm in Paris – even the police ride Peugot mopeds around the cobbled back streets!

Tomorrow I’ll look at Paris architecture 🙂