ON YA BIKE
Cycling culture in Australia has been thriving since the introduction of road bikes, BMX, and the tougher, more mechanically sound bicycles of the seventies and eighties. Bikes that are able to bounce off muddied bumps and thicketed tracks have allowed adventurous cyclists to travel cross-country with minimal concern and maximum sweat. In Australian cities, like Melbourne and Adelaide, the urban cycling culture is so large that it can influence city planning and infrastructure. Ligature Journal spoke with Jake Thomas and Lana Adams of Adelaide’s local one-stop bike shop, Treadly, to give us the down-low on cycling must-haves, bike culture in South Australia, and the innovative designs that have shaped not only the modern bicycle itself, but the landscape and accessories that surround it.
LJ: How do you think the development in cycling technology and design has influenced cycling culture in the last 10 years?
Jake: In everything – from cycling kit to bike frame shape, to the bell on your handlebars, to the width of the rim of a wheel – nothing has influenced cycling more than the internet and our current obsession with connectivity. If you’ve got the drive, it’s possible to start your own company from scratch. And if you get everything right at the right time, you can be a major player in the domestic bike industry, and even start poking your head into the international market. None of the big players in cycling can afford to put out a bad product, and it’s the people who are out there riding their bikes that benefit the most – largely due to the internet and higher accountability for products to perform consistently.
Lana: One word: hugely! Take bikepacking for example again. The industry has boomed – from a handful of guys handcrafting bags for people they know, it has grown to countless small companies popping up worldwide, still offering handmade products but at a much larger scale. Mainstream bike brands have started integrating these products into their product line-ups – allowing customers greater accessibility at a cheaper price point into this area of cycling. The advances in technology have given people a new freedom with lightweight cycle touring. It feels like less of an investment and a big deal to set my bike up to go bikepacking now. I didn’t have to purchase a specific ‘touring’ bike – I can turn any bike I own into a tourer.
LJ: There’s been a lot of development and innovation coming out of the cycling scene in recent years, from souped up suspension systems, to LED helmets. Do you have any stand out products or systems that have benefited you as a cyclist?
J: I get to see a lot of the current trends in cycling come through the workstand in the shop. I’d have to say that where I’ve seen the most benefit from recent innovations would have to be with my touring bike. There’s the dynamo hub up front that uses the energy I’m putting into moving the bike forward to charge electronic devices and power my lights at night (no recharging them!), and an 11-speed internal hub at the back so that my gears are sealed off from the elements in an oil bath to protect them. It means I’ve got peace of mind when I go out to the middle of nowhere, knowing that I can support myself without relying on a bike shop to fix gears that might break, or needing a power point to charge my phone!
L: It’s not exactly a product, but CX and other more off-road-orientated bicycles have really opened me up to a whole new world of cycling. Buying a CX bike, and learning about things like wider tyres and lower pressure, has allowed me to ride places I wouldn’t have been able to before. From there, I’ve started to delve into the bikepacking scene. The innovations in bikepacking bags and on-bike accessories, which make camping via your bicycle a reality, are awesome. Companies are now making more and more products that are specifically for taking with you on the bike. The bikepacking specific seat bag I’m using now means I don’t have to bother with mounting heavy physical racks onto my bike, it fits my sleeping bag, mat and spare clothes, and I barely notice it whilst riding. Plus, I can put it on any bicycle I own!
LJ: There’s been a considerable increase in the number of cycling commuters in recent years. Do you think that you can you attribute this to design development in urban cycling?
J: I think the shift towards commuting by bike is a result of a lot of factors – whether it’s people wanting to get more exercise, being fed up with sitting in traffic, or trying to be more environmentally friendly – but it certainly helps having brands who are constantly working to make better bikes in all areas. It’s so much easier now to find a bike at an ever-decreasing price point, that will suit the kind of riding you want to do and how you want to look doing it. For so long, if you wanted to be comfortable all you could do was buy a hybrid and hope nobody saw you riding it! From classic Dutch bikes, to the latest endurance road bikes that look fast as hell but don’t feel like hell to sit on for an hour’s commute, improvements to the design of the bicycle are coming out every year. It’s never been this easy to swap the car or bus for a bike.
L: It’s not only bicycle design playing a big part here, but urban design as well. Councils and government are investing more money in cycling infrastructure and urban planning. More bike lanes are being included, separated bike paths are being built and an emphasis is being made on cities becoming more cycling orientated. If people feel their cities becoming more welcoming to bicycles on the roads and paths, people feel safer cycling, and then they are more likely to use this infrastructure. In Australia, we still have a long way to go to catch up with areas overseas, particularly Europe. That has a lot to do with our driving culture and current attitudes towards cyclists, which won’t change overnight, but each bit of funding and newly built pathway is a step in the right direction.