Monday, February 23, 2015

For whom the bells toll! (Or the start of a long-term test)

Sunday, 22ndth February 2015: Well I have managed to write another post without a gap of several months. My previous habit was to take pictures every time I went for a ride, whether for business of pleasure and then Blog about it, along with anything else, cycling-related, that cropped up in the world and caught my attention.

I am.changing my approach a little, there are still things that catch my attention and still pictures taken on my travels that I want to show, but I am going to cut back on the same-old-same-old. Mind you that is easier said than done. My previous blogging habit provided a routine that meant I would load my pictures and start my blog post based around those pictures, the post might have taken a wee while to then get published but it did sit there to remind me. I have yet to start a new habit that will provide the same “nagging” window to get something done.

This means that although I have thought about several things to blog about, ranging from the accident figures that show a sharp rise in cycling casualties to transport strategy (or rather the lack of strategy in transport planning) through to my new bell, I have yet to even start the posts. Until now.

Last week I found myself working in the centre of Cambridge on four days of the week(Monday to Thursday) in two different locations. Now for me I reckon that most/all of the time, using a car is a bit of a non-starter in Cambridge, particularly when you have to travel during the rush hour and cannot be late.  The snag though is when I have to be “reasonably” smartly dressed.  I have yet to turn up at someone else’s office and have a shower so it means that I have to be careful about what I wear to cycle and how fast I cycle. Which translate into allow plenty of time.

Cycling to a work situation makes me pay more attention to the weather forecast with rain, wind and temperature being my mine careabouts. I also tend to wear my smarter (aka newer) cycling gear – it is less smelly!

Last week was unusual in that on the 8 rides, 4 in and 4 back, I got wet on 3 rides. Although only one of those was on my way in.  That is quite a “fail” rate, if I have even a small amount of leeway rain in these parts can be avoided more often. On the day I went into Cambridge in the rain I wore my cycling cape, it is pretty good and I find I don’t get so hot compared to a waterproof jacket and leggings, but it does act as a bit of a sail and hand signals are much harder as well. It does mean that the bottom half of my trousers – lower shin, do get wet.  The cape works well when wearing shorts – it was a tad cold for that though.

I did have a slight mechanical during the week, the pinger fell off my bell. I much prefer to cycle away from traffic if I can.  The trouble is despite Cambridge being perceived as being cycle-friendly much of the cycle infrastructure has been built on the cheap.  Lots of the shared-use paths are really far too narrow, or swerve around 90 degree blind corners and I find a bell to be invaluable.  The same is true when cycling on NCN51, although it is a Sustrans city to city route it does pass through some rural attractions such as Wicken Fen.  At the weekend Wicken Fen gets very busy and it is pretty muddy at the moment and some of the visitors seem to resent making way for a cyclist, far less trouble to control their dogs.

So all my bikes have bells. I prefer single-pingers to multi-pingers and normally a couple of reasonable tings as I approach people does the trick. As I was cycling through town the pinger broke off. I don’t remember how old the bell is – but it has seen pretty good service. I reckon it has seen 10 or 2o thousand miles of riding.

Here it is in its pingless state.  It feels odd cycling without a bell, every blind corner becomes a threat.  So as I was on the east side of the city I decided to pop over to Ben Hayward Cycles in Horningsea for a replacement. Fortunately the shared-use paths were unusually clear – perhaps because it was half-term?

The bell was pretty good – but occasionally the bell bit would catch and the ring would muffle and die out pretty quickly.

Pingerless Bell

Pingerless Bell – released from active service

So I wanted something similar in terms of size and ability to locate it close to my left thumb on the handlebars. After all when you need a bell you probably also need the brakes. However I wanted something a little louder if possible. On another bike I have a bell that sounds long and clear with quite a pure tone, unfortunately I am not sure that  people twig that it is actually a bicycle bell.

After some consultation in the shop this is what I ended up with – the “Incredibell Omnibell”.  It is slightly larger and the “bell” bit has holes with all work to give it a louder ring, there are also some harmonics that help to distinguish the sound. The pinger can also be rotated to make it easier to reach.

As is common nowadays the bell attaches by means of a stretchy band rather than requiring a screwdriver.

Incredibell Omnibell

The Omnibell in position – although I hadn’t twisted the pinger round. It was easy to fit and I reckon that the bell bit will probably not catch like the other bell.   Here is a review – it gets 10/10.  I will wait and see. One thing I have noticed is that the bell isn’t as close to the brake as the last bell as the rubber strap is thicker. This means that I have to be careful when I hang my thermos flask next to it when heading out into the cold fens. 

Omnibell in position

So far so good. It works in the town and I have alerted a horse rider without scaring the horse too much either.  It didn’t ring so loudly in the rain, but I wasn’t paying too much attention so I will check that out the next time I am cycling in the rain.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A rather late Happy New Year

Tuesday 10th February 2015: This is the time that yet again I say “my how time flies”. What with one thing and another my Blog has taken a back seat. There have been too many other things to do/sort out and so this time around it was my Blog that didn’t get done. Most of the stuff has been good (fun times coding in MATLAB), and a brush with an MRI scanner also turned out to be ok for my wife. So mentally I have pencilled in the start of February for getting back to my Blog although even that slipped into February.

So where to start: a quick round-up of last year’s cycling distance I guess.

Month Distance (Km) Distance (Miles)
January    503    315
February    610    381
March 1,085    678
April 1,150    719
May 1,066    666
June   719    450
July   870    544
August   868    543
September 1,004    627
October 1,077    673
November   682    426
December   416   260
Total 10,050 6,282

I can’t complain, I managed to cycle more than I drove my car, despite a touring holiday in Scotland that accounted for 2,000-odd of my driving miles – well that is what it felt like. What I did notice is that with my cycling tailing off a bit during December all my back ache and knee twinge, well, twinged a bit more.  So far this year I have cycled 900Km and am ahead of the same time last year and the aches and pains have abated. Regular exercise (of the cycling variety) certainly makes me feel better.

I am also still taking pictures as well – so here are a few highlights:


Reach Lode Bridge is back in Action (16th Dec, 2014)

Happy Smaug-mass – we watched the first of the two Hobbit films on DVD at home and then the final of film at the cinema – so as has been the tradition we had a non-traditional Christmas Cake – it was also delicious.

Happy Smaug-mas

Anglesey Abbey Mill – last day of the year

A new year’s ride through a Frosty White Fen

A Rainbow heading into Swaffham Bulbeck on NCN51

A pretty soggy ride along Gun’s Lane and Rampton Drift and Reynolds’ Drove

A very, very muddy ride along the Roman Road to Balsham – it got worse!

A deer in Burwell Fen, I have seen quite a few deer, a fox, some dead badgers (roadkill), short-eared and barn owls and quite a few herons. The highlight was seeing three bullfinches in Wicken Fen. I bumped into the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist who pointed them out to me and let me view them through his new binoculars. They are on the RSPB  watch list with an Amber status.

“You looking at me” – Deer  in Burwell Fen

Sometimes off the beaten track is more beaten than the beaten track!

Harrison’s Drove, near Upware

I will try not to leave it a couple of months before the next update.