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12 January 2006

Costello is a commie!

Steve Edwards isn't happy with our over-taxing, over-spending federal treasurer. Go and read.

It's time this smug, born-to-rule prick gave us some fucking tax cuts, and cut massive chunks out of our dreadful, bloated tax code.

You know you've got a dickhead as a treasurer when even the agrarian bludgers in the National Party start demanding lower taxes.

Christ, if that isn't a reason for suicide I don't know what is.


The grass is just as dumb on the other side

The left has never had a monopoly on idiocy. Proof of this is the always amusing Worldnetdaily website. Essentially a bunch of far-right Jesus freaks, along with some more traditional uber-rightist crackpots like Ann Coulter.

Worldnetdaily has four obsessions which it posts about every single day:

- there is a massive homosexual plot to rape children, spread AIDS and destroy America.
- incoherent ranting about how the latest world events are proof of biblical prophecy.
- creationism is real science.
- Muslim and Mexican terrorists will explode 70 nuclear weapons inside the USA on 6 November 2005 (no explanation for this non-event has been forthcoming).

But the most entertaining part about these freaks is their ever-changing banner headine. The one from yesterday read as follows:

What is heaven like? We ask people who have been there!

I'm guessing one of them is Elvis.



Have any of my Australian readers ever made a complaint to the federal ombudsman? If so, could you please contact me at tex <at> whackingday <dot> com. I'm interested in finding out if it's worth going to them. I'm figuring it might be more productive than walking into a government department and clubbing someone.



I never make New Years Resolutions, but I did this year: I'm going to lose twenty-five kilograms minimum before Christmas 2006.

I'm planning on riding a (non-motorised) bike to work every single day, no exceptions.

So I've been looking at buying a mountain bike, but I remembered reading about recumbent trikes, and decided to try one out.

Yesterday, I took a Greenspeed GT3 for a brief 13km ride around Lake Burley Griffin.

Man, it was one strange experience. Comparing a recumbent trike to a bicycle is an 'apples & oranges' comparison if there ever was one. A more apt comparison would be to a go-cart.

The main advantage of a recumbent trike is comfort: you're sitting on a mesh/elastic lounge chair (which doubles as the trike's only means of shock absorption), leaning back at a 40 degree angle, with your feet clipped into the pedals right in front of you. The handlebars are on either side of your hips. When you first get on the thing (which in itself is a tricky exercise), it's one of the strangest feelings imaginable. Being so low to the ground takes some getting used to, and other riders and pedestrians seem to tower over you.

My trike was identical to the one in the picture, plus a set of front mudguards, a second mirror, a small bicycle computer and a bottle-holder on the front tube. Oh, and a dorky orange safety flag at the back so you can be seen by cars when you go on the road.

The mirrors are truly useless and an awful design: the stems slope inwards, leaving you with a great view of your arms and not much else. They also hit you in the quads while you pedal.

It wasn't really an ideal trike for my size and weight. The GT3 is the entry-level model in the Greenspeed range and is "one size fits most". The handlebars had to be adjusted outwards, and the right brake lever was always jammed against the right mudguard stem, which made it a bitch to use. The extendable front tube was maybe a centimetre or two too far away, so I kept sliding down the seat. Worst of all, the gearshifter didn't seem to be adjusted properly, which made finding the right gear a nightmare. I was stuck in high gears going up a steep slope, and sometimes too low going downhill.

I got exhausted within 5 minutes of setting off, mostly from the bad gearshifting, the too-long pedal stroke and my own lack of fitness.

Still, I was having fun.

For starters, most of the problems I've just outlined are a simple matter of getting the trike set up properly for the rider. Getting the length of the front tube right and properly adjusting the gearshift would have made things much easier, and would have let me focus even more on the strengths of the recumbent trike.

Aside from the remarkable level of comfort, the steering is simply mindblowing. In fact, the steering is so sharp you need to take all the weight off the handlebar grips, because the slightest touch on either handlebar will see the bike steer sharply. It's kinda scary to start of with: I was zig-zagging all over the path, looking like a complete pratt, and was so out of control I nearly collected a bike rider coming the other way shortly before nearly riding into the lake.

Fightng the handlebars only exacerbates the problem. The solution is to just rest your palms lightly on the stop of the bars, and use only small inputs. The steering is self-centreing, so the trick is to just pedal and relax your hands.

Once you've got the steering figured out, it's an awesomely fun tool, especially on fast downhill sections, where you can scream around corners at a frightening pace with a huge shit-eating grin on your mug. Better still, you can use "brake steer" to help you turn even faster. Both front wheels have their own drum brake, so if you actuate the left brake only, the right wheel will pivot around sharply, even without using the handlebars to steer. Once you've practicsed it, it's a useful technique and quite a thrill.

Oh, how I'd love to take the trike to the top of a twisty mountain pass, and make a full-blast descent. While trikes are slower overall than bikes (due to the extra weight and rolling resistance), there's no way in hell a bike rider will keep up with a triker of equal ability on a fast downhill run. The trike is so fucking fast through the corners even a motor vehicle would be hard pressed to pass the trike in the right conditions.

OK, so it's comfy, can turn on the head of a pin, and it's awesome fun on fast downhill runs. What else?

Being on three wheels gives you other advantages. For starters, you can ride as slowly as you want up very steep slopes because there's no minimum speed you need to maintain to keep your balance. And because you're not standing up and mashing down on the pedals, there's no knee strain. And if you do feel absolutely buggered, you can just hit the brakes and sit there until you feel like pedalling again.

There's also the safety of not being able to fall off. Run over gravel or ice in a corner on a bicycle, you'll crash. On the trike, you'll just keep on going. You can tip a trike over in a fast corner, but I didn't even come close to doing it, despite screaming around some corners with my corpulent mass adding a lot of top-heavy incentive for the trike to tip over. It didn't. No-one using the slightest iota of common sense will tip one of these things.

The drum brakes offer plenty of stopping power, even for someone of my size, and have a very good feel at the levers. Greenspeed recommends upgrading to disk brakes, but I don't think I'd bother, unless I were touring with a ton of luggage and anticipated some very long downhill runs, during which the drums may fade. But in a commuting role, the drums bring you to a stop with no fuss.

I was happy to see that the width of the trike caused no problems either. It easily kept on my half of the cycle paths, and oncoming ridiers and pedestrians had no difficulty getting past.

Toe clips/straps are an absolute necessity for a recumbent trike. Your legs are horizontal, and your toes point toward the sky, so gravity is pulling your feet down off the pedals. If you don't fasten your shoes very tightly, a lot of your energy is wasted just keeping your feet on the pedals. Even with toe-straps, my feet gradually started to slip out, and re-adjustment was necessary. For this reason, a pair of secure "clipless" pedals/shoes are a must to get the most out of a trike.

As I said, the GT3 is the entry-level trike in the Greenspeed range, with a small, light build that wasn't suited to me. It also has "only" 27 gears, compared with a whopping 81 on the better models. The GT3 isn't meant for dirt trails or carrying a big load of luggage, and it lacks the super-low gears of the better models have which you'd need to tackle serious-hill climbs. I would have liked a couple of lower gears even for the modest hills I went up, though I doubt anyone fitter than me would have any problem, especially if they kept within the GT3's design brief.

Oh, did I mention that the GT3 can be folded in half? Yep, you can quickly "break" it in two for transport in a car or plane, or even storage.

Despite some obvious flaws and oddities, I had a ball on the GT3. To summarise...

Strong points:

- awesome steering
- comfort
- stability
- unmatched fun and speed on downhill runs
- excellent brakes, even with the basic drum units
- any time you want to stop, you've already got a big comfy chair to sit on
- can be folded for travel or storage

Weak points:

- jarring ride on bumpy surfaces
- mirrors are badly designed and get in the way of your legs
- mudguards interfere with brake levers
- heavier & slower than a bike for the most part
- hyper-sensitive steering takes some getting used to
- light, small build not suited for anything other than smooth roads. Not that good for big riders.
- very difficult to dismount quickly in an emergency

I'm going to have another test of the GT3 in a month or so, after I do some riding on a borrowed mountain bike to build up my fitness a bit. A little more stamina and careful setup of the trike will enable me to give it better evaluation.

I won't buy a GT3. It's not suited to me. I am, however, considering the GTR....

The GTR has 81 gears, higher-spec equipment, is custom-built for each buyer's size & weight and is generally more suited for touring and dirt-road usage.

The biggest problem with trikes remains the price. The entry-level GT3 starts at a whopping $2950, and that's without a luggage rack, bottle holder, second mirror or bicycle computer. The GTR starts at $4950, though does come with a higher level of equipment and a much wider range of frame/seat colours. Add disk brakes, luggage and a headlight and you're looking at $6000 or more.

Still, I'm tempted. If I can have that much fun on a badly set-up machine which was too small for me while I'm so unfit, how much fun am I going to have on a custom-built one when my fitness improves? Quite a lot I'd say. Greenspeed is an Australian manufacturer with a very high reputation for quality, which would make it a little easier again to hand over the dollars.

Would someone like to buy me one, please?

Looking for older whackings?

Wanna see my previous rants against lefty, commie, peacenick wankers, plus lots of fun stuff about motorcycles, music and movies?................ Click here for the full past whackings index


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