Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yet more bleak Fens - the GPS still works, but complains

It is amazing how time flies, especially as you get older - it seems like no time at all since we were welcoming in the new year and new decade and already it is the last day of the month. My Garmin Edge 605 GPS still continues to work, but still complains about the low battery level. despite that it operates for 2.5 hours at least in recording mode and over 16 hours when just on - not bad for a low level of charge in the battery. I am not sure quite what to do next:

  • it is either the battery charge level detection that has gone wrong or

  • has a programming fault or the battery has a problem, say a drop in voltage but still capable of storing charge

    (which would throw the battery sensing circuit but could still allow the GPS unit to function - they are pretty tolerant of precise voltage levels)

  • a loose cable from the battery to the battery monitoring circuitry.

If it continues to work I will probably do nothing - but the next step is to see how long it will continue to record data before turning off. I am also going to send an email to Garmin support and post a note on one of the Garmin forums.

I also need to replace the bottom bracket on my Marin. I am not sure how far I have cycled on the Marin Hybrid - but probably around 5,000Km/3,000miles. I am a little surprised that the bottom bracket has gone so soon - but the bike does take a lot of punishment when cycling on the farm tracks. When on rough ground I generally stand on the pedals using my legs to take the bouncing which puts load into the bearing. I am hoping it will last a little longer though and then I will replace the chain and rear cogs as well and put some new mudguards on. I want to avoid all of that before the worst of the winter is over.

We have not had any more snow, it is colder though. The weather report suggested +3 during the day and -2C during the night. As I type this it is 0C. Yesterday's sprinkling of snow has melted in most places but is still in evidence in the shade. They have also gritted the roads after the reports of a number of accidents yesterday.

Funnily enough what got me out was, everyone else had gone out and the need to check out the GPS. I set off later than I had wanted so stuck with a quick zip through the Fens, but I did try to take some different scenes. Here are the remnants of yesterday's snow.


I did cycle up along some of the droves - this is a picture overlooking Commissioners' Drain by Split Drove near Reach. The water level is quite high. despite it being a bit gloomy the clouds in the sky were nicely lit by the sun.


This track does not have a name on the map I am using - although it is a continuation of Headlake Drove - it has been well used by the farm vehicles and there was a lot of the peat mud on the road. It was quite tricky cycling on the road not sure whether it was slippery mud, ice, frozen rutted mud or potholes causing the bike to jink around. Nothing untoward happened though, except for getting thoroughly spattered by the mud - the bike got its fair share of mud as well.


This patch of water lies on the Washes near Upware - it is quite shallow and is the first to freeze.


Some more bleak ploughed fields, although the clouds looked ominous it stayed dry.


Behind this ploughed field is Fodder Fen with the River Cam behind. I liked the pastel skies behind the clump of trees.


After passing through Wicken Fen it was time to negotiate the Highland Cattle. There was a young calf on the track is I approached it shot of, startled by me cycling by. Fortunately his mother did not see any need to chase me. If you look closely you can see mud all over the bike.


The skies were nicely reflected by Burwell Lode -these walkers on the bridge stayed fairly still as my camera took the seven pictures for the software to combine. It was still so the reflections of the clouds stand out.


Yesterday I saw a deer as I was passing down towards Burwell - it stayed still long enough for me to get my camera out and take its picture as it walked away. I saw another deer today, but was not quick enough to take its picture so yesterdays deer will have to do.


Once again my toes were like blocks of ice so the bike will have to wait until tomorrow for its hose down!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gadgets - huh! Cold days and clear skies

It had to happen, no sooner had I mentioned that my Garmin EDGE 605 GPS was great and it has started playing up. The first problem is one I have gotten used to - it starts reporting memory full errors, even when there is a fair amount of memory free. I then generally delete the history of rides. As these are stored (and backed up) on my computer it is no big deal. Unfortunately my experience is that it only buys a short amount of time before reporting memory full errors again. At this point the work around is to do a power-on reset and re-enter various settings (metric, auto stop start, record every second...) and it is fine again. This problem has been around for quite a few revisions of the OS (Operating System) and is still there on version 3.1 - the current one. I've given up hoping that they will fix it. I don't think I am the only one to rack up around 15 hours per week of cycling (54,000 data points) and so cause the thing to fall over. I ought to report it - but my experience of reporting problems is patchy and life is to short when there is a work-around.

The second problem is a new one. I normally charge the EDGE by leaving it connected to my computer after being plugged in to download data. Well one morning it reported that the battery level was low after a full nights charge. My first thought was maybe I have a problem with the USB port on my computer and tried it with the mains charger. It still refused to charge. At this point I was starting to get annoyed, the unit is around 16 months old - not much beyond its warranty period. Surely electronics kit like this should be good for a longer period.

The next step was to re-cycle the battery - it might possibly be the electronics that monitors the state of the battery that had gotten into the wrong state. So I left it on and disconnected from a charger - it lasted around 15 hours before turning off- hum not bad for a battery with no charge. I then connected it to my mains charger for 5 hours and it showed it was charging, but only ended up with a minuscule amount of charge. I then took it out in the car and let it run for an hour on and recording - it was fine. Hum it pints to a problem with the sensing of the charge level rather than the actual charge. I let it charge again and tried it out on a cycle ride.

It managed to record 3 hours of data - although it did report a low battery level after 30 minutes. I have since downloaded the data and it is fine. So I now wonder if it is a problem with a connection to the battery since it seems to take charge and will run the unit for some time - yet all the while report little battery charge. At this point I am going to try it out for a bit longer - it might be related to the latest version of the OS - 3.1 which I loaded at the end of last year - sometime in the first week of December. If it continues to fail than I might try a re-cycle of the battery again and after that the option has to be surgery.

I have been checking various websites and I will take it apart and check for loose wires and perhaps replace the battery - new ones seem to be available for around £10 - much less than the cost of a replacement Edge 605.

I have also bought a book on HTML and CSS - the wonders of Amazon and have been writing my own HTML and checking out the results. I am hoping that this will allow me to add richer content to this Blog - but so far it looks pretty straightforward. Although not a programmer I have used text markup languages - the first time around 1980, it was a program called ECCE. Edinburgh Context Compatible Editor - I think. They have not changed a whole lot in the intervening 30 years - the content has gotten richer though and the ways in which you call it a bit more sophisticated.

When I woke this morning my first though was - humm the mornings are getting brighter - my wife then, after peeping out of the curtains, told me it had snowed overnight. Although it was not a lot of snow, the roads around where I live had not been gritted and despite cars driving over them they were still white. The weather has turned quite cold and so the snow was not really melting. Fortunately it was also sunny today an despite the cold weather rather nice. We go a reminder of the dangers when we stopped at a set of traffic lights - just before we arrived a lorry had skidded on the back ice and knocked over one of the lights.

Although the roads were icy and there were reports of a lot of small accidents when I went out this afternoon the roads were ok for cycling along - with a little care. The skies were interesting with sun and cloud and some rich red colours as the sun set.

When they build the Connect 2 bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode as part of the plan to develop my pedestrian//cycle/horse access to the fens the left behind some pools = which will over time develop into a wildlife habitat. Here is one of those pools under a dark brooding cloudy sky - mind you the sun shining in under the clouds was almost warm. You can see some of the sprinkling of snow we had on the edges of the pool.


Other parts of the sky were blue though with puffy clouds. This is a farm-track I sometimes cycle along - although not today - the puddles were frozen and the path itself still had snow on.


The fields had a dusting of snow, it was left in the ruts. I like this picture - a pity that there is the green splodge on the right - caused by some internal reflections in the lens.


A close-up of the field without the green splodge.


I have cycled past these buildings, near the Wicken Fen village many times and it was only when I was checking out a route by viewing it in Google earth that I saw a link to the building. It turns out to be a Farm, which offers Bed and Breakfast and is based around an Abbey founded around 1200 AD. A previous owner was the fourth son of Oliver Cromwell There is more detail on the Spinney Abbey website.


The other side of Wicken Fen village are some electricity pylons marching down towards Burwell. I tried to show this as if the pylons were on the march down the footpath. You can see how the sky was already taking on an interesting colour - although the sun had not yet set.


The Lode at Wicken Fen - further up the lode had frozen.


A bridge over Burwell Lode - which features a lot in my pictures. Here the sun was nicely positioned to appear under the bridge.


The same aspect, but with more zoom. The sky was a nice mix of blue gradually changing into orange.


By the time I had reached Swaffham Bulbeck Lode the sky was turning pink.


It was dark before I got home and although it was not windy my toes felt frozen - it was great to soak in a hot bath.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gray Days in the Fens

After the puncture the other day I have taken two steps. The first was to replace the rear tyre and inner tube. I would normally patch the inner tube a few times and if it had been the summer I would have continued to use the tyre. However the puncture was caused by a piece of flint or grit and although the tyre had a reasonable amount of rubber remaining it also had a large number if nicks and cuts in the rubber. So it seemed prudent, given the state of the roads, to replace it. I am happy with its performance to date, I have gotten a good distance out of it with minimal problems. I have also re-started carrying my rack pack, which has a pump, patches, multi-tool, and spare inner tubes

The tyre was a Schwalbe Marathon plus and I have replaced it with the same make and type - in my experience they really are very good. It might not be the fastest tyre, it might not be the lightest tyre - but it has been the most reliable tyre I have used without sacrificing too much performance. The only really gotcha, is that the tyre needs to be carefully seat on the rim, not difficult, but I have found if you don't pay attention then when the inner tube is inflated it will peak out from under the tyre and if you don't spot it soon enough will burst.

The weather has gotten a little colder here in the flatlands. I sneaked out for a ride in the morning - to fit in with other commitments in the afternoon and evening, the roadside puddles were iced over. Although the air temperature was around 2C when I set off. For a while despite my excellent Altura gloves my hands were also a little cold - I made the mistake of not being warm when I set off - my you after a short while I had generated enough heat to warm up my extremities.

When I have other things to do but want a decent (for me 50Km/30miles) cycle ride then it is usually Wicken Fen I head for. But when I am on a tight deadline I tend not to stop to take too many photographs. This is the shared use path through the Fen which forms part of Sustrans National 11.


Sometimes when I cycle over this bridge when it is icy or dark I do worry about sliding into the Lode - but never have. There are some works taking place elsewhere in the Fen and so the vehicles are chewing up the paths quite a lot. There is a sign apologising and indicating that the paths will be repaired once the works are over.

It was a very gray day so I took this field picture with the plough lines emphasising the size of the field almost vanishing into the distance.


On the way back through White Fen a digger had appeared - although the driver was parked up and sitting in his van - not sure why. I presume it will be part of the ongoing Lode upkeep work.


A quick spring home followed by a quick shower and a snatched lunch and yes I made it to my daughter's school in time - phew!

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's it all about - momentum

In a previous post I have commented on the importance of maintaining momentum for cyclists. Today I had to pop into the centre of Cambridge to give a lecture at 4pm. I mostly stick to the cycle-paths but had to venture out onto Regent Street and turn down into Downing Street (not the London one). Here is a view from Google Maps - I was turning into the road the picture is taken from from the right and heading in the direction of the cycle and arrow on the right. I stopped, I had left plenty of time for my journey so that I did not arrive to hot and bothered and stopped at the junction as the light was red. However the person in front of me carried on - almost hitting a cyclist coming out, who had the right of way. Clearly momentum was more important than safety!

As I carried on down Downing Street and was approaching Tennis Court Road two cyclists popped out right in front of me and a third managed to stop otherwise we would probably have had an accident. Why - well I can sympathise, they had momentum and the snap decision was more about conserving that momentum than the risks of cycling in front of another cyclist.

I think that motorists park on pavements because they have spent a large amount of money on the car and want to minimise the risk of it getting clipped. In the case of both the motorist and the cyclist the perceived value is greater than the anti-social (and danger aspect for the cyclist).

On my way home cycling along one of the paths on Midsummer Common the same problem of conservation of momentum raised its ugly head again. The path are fairly narrow - although ok for two cyclists to pass - providing they each cycle close to the edge. There are people walking along those paths as well. I was hugging the left hand side when a cyclist coming the other way found his side "blocked" by a pedestrian so he swerved onto my side and back, conserving his momentum. Unfortunately there was not quite enough room. Of course I did not slow down I wanted to conserve my momentum - fortunately we only clipped handlebars in passing and no cyclists or pedestrians were hurt - but it made me think. Actually I suppose I was also defending, what I saw as my territory as well - even at the risk of a collision. That is something that I feel motorists do - they perceive the road more as theirs than a cyclists. They, rightly feel indignant at red-light-jumper cyclists, but also resent cyclists getting in their way, because they feel that it is their way. Even when it is not!

On the outskirts of Cambridge I did get into conversation with a fellow cyclist - the subject lights - he admired the brightness of my Joysticks. He had a light that could charge from a USB plug. Mind you his only needed charging once a week whereas mine gets charged every time I use it. He did have to optimise his to last the week by turning it off occasionally though! I also learnt he was off to Iceland for three weeks of cycling in the summer - sounds wonderful.

Here is a road-sign we saw in India (my son took the photograph and I have only just gotten it from him). I do not really know what it says - it does make you take care though - perhaps we should have a few randomly spread around our roads.

India skull cross.JPG

One last note - my pothole report yesterday was acknowledged by an email from the Cambridge County Council - that's reassuring.

Living (well cycling) on the edge - without a puncture repair kit!

After 6 months of puncture free cycling my bike succumbed to one yesterday - as usual it was at the farthest extent of my planned ride - just after Wicken Fen. I have become so used to puncture free cycling that I have stopped carrying a pump and patches with me all the time. I set off late on Sunday afternoon - a late night the evening before (friends round for dinner) delayed the start of the day... However it seemed too nice not to get out for a quick spin. The sun was also visible so I set out for Upware and took this picture of the sun setting over the trees.


The reflections of the boats in the Lode also seemed particularly colourful.It was not windy so the water surface was pretty flat and reflected well. I have cropped the picture because there were telegraph wires in the picture and I did not have the time to photoshop them out.


As it was late afternoon I did not stop to take pictures as I went through Wicken Fen I did pop upto CockUp Bridge though to see whether the sunset might be worth photographing from there. As I set off back down towards Burwell the bumpy ride (the road has a lot of mud and gravel on it) seemed bumpier than ever. The rear tyre had gone flat! I was 20miles from home so I took out the repair tool of last resort - my mobile phone and rang my wife to come and collect me and rounded off the cycle ride with a walk of a mile or so, before getting picked up - I must now go and fix the puncture. It could well be that the tyre is worn out - the last puncture was a few thousand miles/kilometres ago.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

As I was going (well cycling) to St Ives...

I've been wanting to cycle out along the Sustrans Route 51 to St Ives and then return via the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) route to compare them for some time - well since around Christmas anyway. I finally got around to it on Saturday and I resolved to attempt to stick with the paths alongside the CGB and not to have to resort to cycling along the actual concrete tracks intended for the buses. When I went over Christmas the area around the Fen Drayton lakes, near St Ives suffered from flooding and ice so it seemed prudent to resort to the concrete tracks. However when the CGB is in action that will no longer be an option.

I should probably have given a bit more thought to the recent weather though. Given the over Christmas the CGB cycle/bridleway was flooded and frozen and that we have had more rain recently it was not likely to be any better, apart from the ice having melted. As I cycled through Ditton Meadows it was clear that the water levels were higher than over Christmas. The meadows themselves were flooding.


It became apparent that water levels were high when I arrived at Victoria bridge - there is a path underneath the bridge alongside the Cam connecting Midsummer Common and Jesus Green - the path was flooded - but I had set out to try and cycle the CGB on the paths, so I though I can't give in here and so cycled through the floodwater. Fortunately the water was clear enough and not too deep so I was able to avoid any rocks/branches on the flooded path.


Sustrans Route 51 passes through a village called Girton, separated from Cambridge by the A14. The recent weather has taken its toll on the roads and I have seen lots of potholes - I have not stopped to take pictures of them all - it would take too long, but I did take a picture of this one next to Church Lane. The local council has a facility to report potholes - here. The last time I reported a pothole there was a map facility- this form is text based. One peculiarity is that it requires the person reporting the problem to make an assessment of the danger. The form allows you to classify it as a non-dangerous pothole. If it is dangerous then you are asked to report it via a different mechanism or direct to the police. They do not however provide a link to report a more serious problem!


The Sustrans 51 Route is quite pleasant, along a variety of country roads, but follows a meandering route. I had to stop to take a picture of this signed Public Footpath to Swavesey - is it just me or is the sign warning that there is a bull in the field just a little intimidating. Mind you I could not see any sign of a bull! So perhaps the sign was Bull!


The view across the fields from the previous picture is of the Tripod and Windmill that are on the path of the CGB - old and modern technology side by side.


Although the route meanders all of it lies on either tarmac roads or tarmac shared pavements and I reached St Ives quite quickly - no sign of the man with seven wives though - must be the other St Ives he was leaving. As I joined the CGB route it was clear that the path alongside the concrete tracks was still as flooded as ever. Here is a picture of the first flooded path I encountered - it looks more like a river than a path. I cycled into the water, in a low gear and mindful that the path surface under the water might be pretty chewed up. Within a few metres I found my feet going underwater! Rather than try and turn around and cycle out I jumped onto the banking and hauled my bike up onto the concrete tracks where I then took this picture. It took me a while to realise that my feet were not too cold despite having been submerged under the water - then I twigged - I had a pair of waterproof Sealskinz socks on - phew I was not facing a 20mile/32Km ride with freezing wet feet.

There was no way to cycle along the path so I had to use the track - judging by the mud on this bit of the track a quite a few people had also had the same problem. As I was taking this picture an older lady cycled past bemoaning the state of the bridleway.


Looking back at one of the bits of flooded path it is a shame that a raised walkway/cycleway was not build at least for emergency use. This water was too deep for horses as I saw some riders also up on the concrete track.


Mind you it seems as if there is very little to do - in most places there is no evidence of work still to be done - as I've mentioned before this part of the CGB will provide very pleasant views for those using the buses.


One of the Fen Drayton lakes as the sun starts setting.


Evidence of the CGB's previous role as a railway line - left remnants of a station platform. The traffic lights are where Station Road crosses the CGB.


I did not even attempt to cycle through this bit of flooding - once bitten twice shy! Judging from the banking the design did take into account the possibility of flooding - but not quite effectively as it might.


Between Histon and Cambridge there is a small monument in a field alongside the CGB - a quick web-search has not thrown up what it might be - clearly the farmer avoids it - so it must have some importance. I did find this piece and this piece on the History of the Chivers Jam making in Histon though. I did not give up though and one of the Cambridge County Councils map portals referred to the stone as a Memorial Stone. The same website that has a history of Chivers also has a page on the Memorial Stone, a memorial to Mrs Elizabeth Woodcock who on Saturday the 2nd February 1799 was on her way back from Cambridge Market and was thrown from her horse - she was trapped by snow and eventually rescued 8 days later - but succumbed shortly afterwards - apparently brandy was involved in the original accident.


On my way round I got to thinking about shared-use paths and how to let others know I am around. On the way out to St Ives I came across two young ladies riding horses on the road. Apparently it can scare the horses if they do not hear you coming and then suddenly you come into view. I have asked some horse-riders what the preferred way to deal with the situation is. The consensus is a gentle ding on the bell (my bell gives a ding - if you want more you keep pinging it!) - it certainly worked for these two - no scared horses and two lovely smiles - it made my day! Later on, on the CGB I came up on two ladies and their dogs - one ding nothing several dings and they froze across the width of the track and then separated leaving a small gap in the middle with their dogs snapping as I went past. It does seem to me that road-users respond thoughtfully - whether they are cars, cyclists or horse-riders - people walking tend to freeze and block the path when a cyclist comes up from behind. Next time I will be a little bit more persistent with the bell - quietly at first and then more loudly. Mind you also on the same ride one group I passed though my bell was something else.

Mind you it seems to me that most road users think in a car-centric way. I came across a van that had parked right on the shared use pedestrian/cycle way leaving a small gap. With a bike I was forced onto the grass on the side of the path and almost fell off as there was also a gravel trap which grabbed at my front wheel - perhaps all the riding in snow has prepared me for such problems. Anyone with problems walking, pushing a pram or shopping trolley would have been similarly inconvenienced. Why was he - yes a he, parked on the path - because he was on his phone. I was passed earlier one by a car that seemed to pass me quite closely and "wibble" as it went by. This time it was a lady driver - on the phone. She carried on her conversation even when parking at a shop, which she overshot and then reversed to park closer to it - but at least a metre away from the kerb.

Finally a sign warning of roadworks - a pity that it was stuck on a shared use pavement - where there aren't street lights - cyclists should use lights but what about pedestrians using the path.


This is a view of my route on Google Earth. the red trace is the route - the yellow and blue are my comments. You can see how the Sustrans 51 route out meanders somewhat.

cgbrt51 round trip.JPG

I wonder when it will be ready - the CGB that is - it certainly looks pretty complete, I hope they sort out the flooding for all the users of the bridleway. It has been flooded for around a month so far- a large chunk of time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yet more Fen Field and Lode Pictures - with HDR

Today was a quick, (quickish), late spin up to and round Wicken Fen on my own. I had a lunch meeting and couldn't resist the steak and ale pie and chips - well you have to support your local pubs don't you. So as a form of penance I popped out for a quick ride at the end of the day. The sun was out and so it was quite pleasant and instead of just cycling I found myself stopping to take a few pictures as well. I also discovered the Google and "Street-mapped" various paths around the internal Wicken Fen paths - here is a pointer! I generally cycle around the public parts of Wicken Fen - it is managed and owned by the National Trust and for a fee or if you are a member you can explore the interior. As it happens I am a member and enjoy walking around the interior - they do not normally allow bikes in through, Google must have had a special dispensation.

So a quick ride needs a fast blog - a flooded field on the Sustrans 51 route - somewhere between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck - the birds enjoy it. I am surprised that the farmer has not tried to drain the area. Actually they probably have or it is way too expensive given the returns they get from farming.


The skies were almost blue and the sun definitely looks bigger when it is setting! I took several pictures here - but there is a problem with taking multiple exposures with plants waving in the foreground - they create very odd shapes in the composite -sort of ghostly blobs.


The fields are already showing signs of plant life - apparently there was a problem with sowing Oil See Rape last year which caused a hit to the yields - so farmers are not wanting to be caught out this year. Mind you I am not sure what is being grown here. I was drawn to the picture by the lines of the plants pointing out towards the edge of the field.


I have mentioned the track through Wicken Fen a few times - well it is still pretty muddy and requires a bit of concentration to cycle through- here it is looking back up towards the cafe/entrance building.


There is still ice on Wicken Lode, it seems to lie in the shade/


By the time I got around to Burwell Lode the sun had pretty much set - but it was still so I tried a few picture (for later HDR-ing) Here is the wide-angle version.


The same aspect but zoomed in a little. There is a small bridge and I used the bridge railings to brace the camera.


The shot repeated but zoomed to the maximum of my camera. The is work on the banks taking place up here as well - the Environment Agency has been busy.


By this time it was too dark and so I was able to scurry on home - despite me stopping to take pictures a faster run than most over the last few weeks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taking two bikes out in one go on a Gloomy Day

Yet another gloomy day, with a damp feel to it - but not really windy and certainly not as cold as it has been. As yesterday's cycle ride with my son was cut short because one of his skinny tyres punctured after about 10miles I lent him one of my bikes - with Schwalbe Marathon Plus (I think) tyres. Actually he had a choice between my Longstaff with the afore mentioned tyres or my old MTB (Diamondback) with fat and knobbly tyres of some make. In the end he chose the Longstaff as it has a bigger frame. It was built for me and so fits me perfectly, he is a couple of inches taller than me though and found the Longstaff tolerable. We could have fiddled around and made it fit better, but it would have probably been easier fixing his punctured tyre. Mind you the Longstaff is a touring bike and so more capable of dealing with the rutted country roads and farm tracks than his Trek racing bike.

What this did mean though is that I went out with two of my bikes, the Longstaff and I used my Marin hybrid. We went out to Wicken Fen the longish way through White Fen, but no puncture this time and then along Headlake Drove. We ended up on a byway junction near the village of Wicken Fen on the Soham side. I wanted to take a picture of Ely Cathedral, but it was too gloomy and even at maximum zoom I could not see the Cathedral. Here is Ben checking his txts whilst I take pictures.


This picture is similar to others I have taken in this area before, although not identical. Even combining several exposures has not really lifted the picture - it still intrigues me that it is quite common to see bits of farming equipment, abandoned to rust in sheds in corners of fields.


It was dark on the way home, the surprising thing is that despite Cambridge being a very congested place, on a bike it is not too difficult to avoid the noisy congested areas, if you have the time to take a detour. We managed around 30miles/50Km with only one stop to clear mud out from the mudguards and this was mud picked up from the roads where farm traffic was working. I did notice that my rear light on the Longstaff was in need of a bit of cleaning - it flickered more than it was supposed to.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A couple of short rides - first puncture - some good cycling kit in 2009

My cycle rides over the last few days have been relatively short. Yesterday I had meetings in London and so cycled to the station to catch the train. With all the recent fuss concerning lack of cycle parking it was slightly annoying to see loads of car spaces but no spare cycle spaces. Mind you I had already made up my mind to leave my bike at Station Cycles. It is on the way through to the station and as I was certain to be returning before 6pm still open on my return from London. I did toy with the idea of using my Brompton - but I was going to a place I had not been to before so it seemed easier. The cycle parking costs £1.50 which for peace of mind is not too bad. Mind you it really does annoy me that the provision for bicycles is so poor. Modern society is ridden with class - transport class. We sit in when flying - !st class, Business class and tourist, but it is also more subtly embedded into the fabric of our transport system. In my view buses are noisy and uncomfortable and here in Cambridge my daughter finds the journey to school less than reliable as she has to catch two different buses with over-crowding.

Until it is accepted that alternate methods of transport to the car should provide a comparable level of comfort and service then the car will always remain the first choice for most people. The alternatives need to add up to an acceptable compromise - but, because a car requires large amount of upfront cash to be spent one generally takes the view that having spent it you might as well use it.

This thoughtlessness then pervades out use of the public highways. Yesterday on my way back from the station, as I was waiting at a junction which controlled the pedestrian/cycle route on a different phase to the cars a car came straight at me - despite his light being red and mine being green. As I passed him I pointed to the big red light - I am not sure quite what he was trying to do - if he was jumping the red light he was very very late.

Later as I cycled along another bit of the shared use pathway I came across a car half parked in a house driveway and half blocking the path. It was a dark car and just after a bend - I saw it - but it demonstrates the sheer thoughtlessness of some people. I am sure that the intent was not to make life dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. The driver probably thought that as it was dark then not many people would be cycling and also having spent a lot of money on a car probably did not want to leave it in the road where it might get clipped by another car.

The other problem I had was self-inflicted, the brakes were really, really in need of replacement. I did not have any near misses because of them, I did have to cycle more slowly though to allow for my greater braking distance! So this morning first thing I replaced both the front and rear brake blocks. Hear is a closeup of a rear brake block before replacement. That rusty nut thingy to the left of the picture is what holds the whole thing in place. The rear blocks were actually worn right down to a pin which sits within the rubber and once it has worn down rubs along the rim and makes a noise. At least that is what I think it is there for - but I am not sure. Here is a useful website for fettling brakes. It did not take long to replace all four brake, the real challenge is to ensure that nothing gets dropped when putting the on - there are a whole bunch of washers and things that allow the brake block to contact the rim properly (almost flat but with a slight angle so that it does not squeal). I also put a bit of grease on the thread of the unit to make it easier to remove when at some point in the future they have to be replaced. Having changed the brakes I then only gingerly use them and brake progressively harder to ensure that they are ok. For the first couple of rides I also carry the appropriate Allen key around for any slight tweaking.


Since I had the camera out - here is the zip tie holding the rear mudguard in place - I will get a bit more wear and tear out of the mudguard yet.


The zip-tie holding the speedometer sensor to the fork. Although you can't see it the sensor with the cable attaches to a bracket on the fork with a couple of bosses. One of the bosses has broken so I put a zip-tie round the sensor and fork. The only problem is that water will also be able to get into the sensor. I might put in some silicon grease. I have looked on the web for a replacement - but the speedometer was bought in 2002 and you can't get spares for it anymore. A shame because it has been very reliable. I do have one sensor/cable/holder left - but it only has a thin cable rather than the tick cable in the picture. Once again the chain looked a little rusty from the salt - I must put some thicker lubricant on it/


My son joined me for a spin today, he wanted me to show him the White Fen route I take. The temperature is around 5C so despite the temptation to put lots of layers of clothing on it was actually quite warm for cycling. I rode my Marin-hybrid bicycle with a fairly upright riding position and flat bars, he rode his lightweight racing bike with very skinny tyres. It was very pleasant having someone to talk to whilst out cycling - pretty quickly we came across White Fen and the new path and bridge built as part of the Connect2 initiative. At this point it went wrong - his front wheel punctured. For the last few weeks I have been living "dangerously" and not bothering to carry puncture repair stuff with me, my Schwalbe marathon plus tyres have been remarkably puncture proof. My son had not bothered either - I think it is the grit they use on the path as I had also had a lot of punctures when using skinnier tyres on it- one of the reasons I switched to the Schwalbe tyres. So he started walking and I cycled home to get my car to pick him up. Thinking back I could have just gotten a puncture repair kit.

I did stop on my way back home (to get the car) and take a couple of pictures across Bottisham Lode towards Stow cum Quy Fen. As you can see it was quite a grey day again. This is near the spot where a Heron roosts, we saw it fly off on a way through the first time.

The brakes were fine - no tweaking was required - although I do plan on taking the Allen key along a couple more times, just in case.


The same aspect but a closeup of the trees across the fields.


The puncture got me thinking on how good the Schwalbe tyres - follow the link for more information. They have massively reduced the number of punctures I get down to one or two a year. The fact I do not always carry puncture repair tools with me shows how reliable I think they are.

The second product that has been great is my Edge 605 GPS unit (Note the 605 has been discontinued - there are the 705 and 500 models though). Whilst there have been challenges with the software I am very impressed with its reliability, battery life and ease of use. I Generally just use it for recording my cycling data (where, when, how fast etc). It has also been great when used to routes I did not know - when I cycled from Hull to Cambridge for instance. I tended to use it to highlight a downloaded route rather than give turn by turn directions. That is more in keeping with the way I cycle.

I have to mention my USE joystick lights - so good I got a second. They are small and light and ideal for commuting. I also use them when cycling along byways and bridle-paths at night - generally with both on full-beam. The level of service I got from them has been great too.

Lastly my Altura Night Vision Waterproof Cycling Gloves have also been great. They are warm but not so warm that my hands sweat and make the gloves smelly - which is a problem cyclists have. The inner glove/out glove combination also makes them really good for my photography. It is really easy to stop slip off the outer glove take pictures and then slip the out glove back on - without losing too much heat.