Thursday, 29 May 2008

Man with a bicycle...

...and a hat.

(from English Heritage)

Cracker of a joke

Q: Why can't a bicycle stand up on its own?
A: Because it is two tyred.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Neat stuff

Thibaut Barrère manages to combine cycling, Paris, maps, programming,....

Voila: sheer genius.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Democracy in action

Boris answering questions from the London Assembly in City Hall ("the home of London's democracy"). The whole thing, lasting more than three hours can be found here, but I recommend skipping about 40 minutes in, to the question on cycle helmets.
With thanks to the Times for the pointer.

Monday, 26 May 2008


Adjective: of the nature of a bicycle, or pertaining to bicycling (from an old copy of the OED).

Adjective: relating to bicycling (1913 Webster)

It is not a word I come across every day, but now I intend to use it whenever the conversation turns bicycular.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Clean sprockets

In the last seven days I have reached my second highest weekly mileage so far. That was mainly down to a very long ride on Sunday, with a little bit of topping up over the rest of the week. So I'm satisfied in terms of distance covered, but on the other hand, I'm not making any real progress on my average speed.

However, I did make time to clean four months, and more than a thousand miles worth of gunk from the bicycle chain, and I have patched a few bits of Maidenhead that were missing from Open Street Map.

So it hasn't been a bad week on the whole. My mellow frame of mind isn't entirely down to a few glasses of wine over an excellent dinner.

Friday, 23 May 2008


Plan-A for today was to cycle over to meet up with an old friend for lunch, at a pub about 9 miles away. Apart from a good chat, that would have put about 18 miles on the clock.

Then, I started to dither about whether I could afford the time, and wondered if I should take the car instead. So Plan-B was to squash the doubts by booking the car in for it's MOT test - which meant I would have to ride.

Unfortunately my friend had to back out at the last minute.

So instead I invoked Plan-C and spent lunch-time cleaning the bike. I paid particular attention to removing muck from the chain, which had become something of a mess. Then later I took the bike to go and pick up the car from its MOT. On the way I pootled around a few more back streeets that haven't yet made it onto Open Street Map.

So in the end, it was a lot less than 18 miles, but at least I did get out. I also have a clean bike, and the car is signed off by the Ministry of Transport. Unfortunately, as the final cock-up of the day, I messed up the GPS, and lost today's track. So I will have to re-work the back streets if I'm going to plot them.

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The lords debate cycling

If you are interested, then Hansard has the detail, but the bottom line is that they are in favour.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


After my long haul on Sunday, I've only done a bit of pootling about locally on the last couple of evenings. In the process, I've tracked a few local roads that were previously missing from Open Street Map, and I added most of them to the map yesterday. That means that I was just in time to catch this week's rendering (which happens on a Wednesday).

So now my additions are available for everyone to see - complete with a stupid spelling mistake. I have fixed it now, but it will stay there for everyone else to spot until the tiles are rendered again next Wednesday. Oh well.

Adding up the distance I have ridden since January, it would get me as far as Florence on my virtual tour of Europe. No time to virtually admire the statues though - I'm now virtually heading for Rome.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the London Naked Bike Ride is only a few weeks away. Apparently "the ride is easy and upbeat, and riders decorate their bodies and bikes with messages of protest against oil dependency and car culture". There were 1,000 participants last year. I suspect I will be missing it again this time round.

P.S. This is my 100th post on this blog. How about that.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Today's route

This is today's route on Google Earth. Maidenhead is just out of sight on the right. I travelled anti-clockwise.

First I went westwards (diagonally from the bottom right of the image), then I turned north, and crossed the Thames near Hambleden. After working further north, the next left turn took me (more-or-less) westwards in a straight line through Turville, up the long climb to Christmas Common, then down a sharp drop into Watlington.

The first squiggle at the top of the picture shows where I explored Watlington. Then I worked southwest (horizontally in the image) to Ewelme, at the top of the circuit. There is another squiggle as I explored the village.

The rest of the route follows national cycle route 5 down to the bottom-left, through Caversham and Reading. There is a small loop where I lost my way.

I found it much easier to follow the route along the river Thames through Reading from West to East. Across the bottom of the picture I followed national cycle route 4 to Wargrave. Instead of continuing to follow route 4 (the more scenic way), I stayed on the A4 beyond Wargrave and tolerated the traffic for a faster journey home to dinner.

Ewelme, St Mary

Today I reached St Mary at Ewelme, the last of the twelve notable churches that I have been trying to reach this year by bike. The church and its setting are lovely. It also contains a number of interesting carvings, the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer's son, and this magnificant font cover.

As the crow flies, Ewelme is fifteen miles away, but the round trip was 60 miles, and involved a fair amount of climbing. Going out, I went up through Hambleden, and Turville, then over Christmas Common, to Watlington, before coming down to Ewelme. Coming back I followed national cycle route 5 to Reading, then route 4 to Maidenhead (more or less).

The weather was almost perfect: sunny but cool, though the wind was fairly strong at times. Apart from setting a new record distance for myself, this is the second time that I have ridden more than my age in miles, and my Eddington number has moved up a notch. My average speed wasn't much better than normal, though given the distance and the amount of climbing I'm fairly relaxed about that. This wasn't the right outing to try going more quickly.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Local politics

There is a cycle route from Maidenhead to Cookham, which runs across fields along Green Way. It isn't the most glorious route in the area, but it is pleasant enough, and promises a traffic-free alternative route. Except that it suffers from one serious flaw. There are a number of gates at various points, designed to stop vehicles from using the path. Every one of them is too restrictive to get my bike through, and I have to lift it over each gate.

Until last night, I assumed this was some cock-up that nobody could afford to fix. Then I found the minutes of the last Windsor and Maidenhead Cycle Forum in January. This is a body which advises the Council and its partners on cycling matters.

It seems that the story is a little more complicated...

"MB highlighted the on-going problems with cycle access across North Town Moor. A permitted path across the Moor was secured as a condition of planning permission, with access for pedestrians and cyclists. Barriers were erected following problems with motorcycle access. These restrict access for cyclists and the disabled to the permitted path and also to a public right of way. An additional barrier has recently been installed.

The landowner has indicated that he would be prepared to fully withdraw the permitted path should the Council take enforcement action to remove the barriers on the grounds that it would allow access for unauthorised vehicles. However, a road has been constructed across the Moor to provide access to the Cricket Club somewhat negating the argument.

Several meetings have been held with the landowner to resolve the situation and the Chief Executive had promised to write to the landowner on behalf of the Council. Cllr Maxwell/ GO to review the situation with the Borough’s Legal Team and identify a way forward.

Good luck Cllr Maxwell and Gordon Oliver (GO). Tlatet is on your side, and we look forward to hearing the next installment.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Cyclist's paradise?

"Ambitious plans to turn Twyford into a cyclists’ paradise have been given a lukewarm response by village leaders. The town hall’s boroughwide blueprints for strengthening the cycling network include proposals to introduce 14km of paths in the area, but village leaders said levels of traffic in Twyford will make it difficult to find space for the five new routes."

See the Twyford Advertiser

All this touches on some of my local circuits, and the draft plan from Wokingham is here, but I'll not be holding my breath.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A step away from world domination

According to Google analytics, this little blog has had a visitor now from every continent (except Antarctica). Almost 90% of the visits are from the UK, and 8% from the USA. Australia ranks in third place. I've had more than one visit from Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Canada; but Finland, South Africa, India, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Netherlands and Estonia have visited once, without returning.

I haven't seen many comments in Estonian, and it wouldn't help much if I had. So it's difficult to know what all of my overseas visitors make of my ramblings. Most probably arrive by accident and disappear pretty quickly, but it is clear in the stats that a few stay to poke around for a while.

I suspect any kind of personal web publishing is a form of vanity, and I would be ashamed to admit how often I check the visitor figures. But it isn't really about the numbers. Even on this tiny scale, and after having played with this stuff for the best part of twenty years, this kind of global reach is still a source of wonder to me.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Just a number

It was a very pleasant trundle around Cookham this evening, covering about 16 miles altogether. There was nothing particularly memorable about it, except that it took me past 1,000 miles on this bike since the beginning of the year.

It's just a number, but it feels like a milestone.


There is a letter in today's Guardian from the Deputy chair of the BMA patient liaison group, which skirts around the issue, but seems to oppose the introduction of polyclinics on the curious basis that they will damage the relationship between patients and their GPs. Why this should be the case escapes me, but no matter.

In a complicated world, where there often isn't enough time to examine and consider arguments on both sides of an issue, I have found that a decent rule of thumb is that whatever the BMA opposes is likely to be something that deserves support. There are numerous examples, such as: access to doctors outside normal working hours, implementation of decent IT systems in the NHS, alternative models of primary care, and the like.

However, now I find on their web site that they favour cycling, and think that the use of cycle helmets should be encouraged, but not imposed. These seem to be eminently sensible views, so maybe I need to refine my rule of thumb. Since these policies seem to date from several years ago, perhaps it is only more recently that the BMA has lost the plot. Or could it be that they sometimes speak for the interests of members, not those of the public.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


Alert readers will have noticed that I now ride like a snail in more ways than one. Apart from my progress being a little more stately than I would wish, I also leave a trail of digital slime behind me, using this little GPS gizmo from Garmin.

When I get home I can use data on my speed and distance either to beat myself up, or congratulate myself, depending on how I feel. I can also load the digital slime into Open Street Map, and use it to plug any gaps where I have ridden a route that nobody has mapped before.

As the picture shows, I've loaded up the OSM cycle map (here it shows National Cycle Route 61, next to the Jubilee River, near Eton). However, in practice, while I am out and about I still use paper maps to navigate around. Perhaps I will adjust in time.

My excuse is that this encourages me to ride further, and faster - but the truth is that I just enjoy playing with my new toy.

Today's route was 40 miles out to Windsor, pootling about in Windsor itself, then a loop round Eton, Datchett, Old Windsor, Fifield and White Waltham back to home. This picture was taken just before the half-way point.

The weather was hot, but the route was flat. As long as I kept moving it wasn't uncomfortable. I took plenty of water with me, but I also sank a lot more once I got home.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Weekly roundup

With the aid of a bank holidy weekend, there have been several notable milestones this week:
  • The first time my total weekly mileage has gone into three figures (106miles)
  • I finshed marking up regional route 52 round Maidenhead, and have seen it rendered on the OSM cycle map
  • I have cycled to a business meeting for the first time (albeit an informal one, over lunch at a nearby pub)
  • I received a comment on the blog from Fat Lad
  • I completed my Winter Hill loop at an average of 13mph
Things seem to be getting back on track after my unimpressive efforts in April.

I really try not to be grumpy, but....

...sometimes it is difficult.

Here is a depressing survey of what parents allow their children to do on their bikes. The survey was run by Populus, and commissioned by Cycling England.

Populus asked parents about how much freedom they give children of different ages. The headline numbers are depressing enough (55% of parents surveyed do not allow their children to ride their bike on the roads; 24% only allow their children to ride in their own street; 10% do not allow their children to ride out of sight; 3% give their children a bike, and then do not allow them to ride for recreation, to their friends house, or to school; 18% say they would never feel happy letting their child cycle on the road, at any age).

But the really surprising figures are those relating to 15 year olds.

  • 19% of parents of 15 year olds do not allow them to ride on the roads.
  • 24% only allow their fifteen year-old to ride in the immediate vicinity, and 6% only within their own street.
  • 7% do not allow a fifteen year-old to ride without adult supervision.
  • 4% do not allow a fifteen year old to cycle to school, or to a friends house, or for recreation.
Apparently 8% of parents say that they won't let their fifteen year-old child ride on the roads, because of a lack of confidence and skills (I wonder what could be causing that).

There is a range of comments attached to the report in the Times, but the consensus seems to be that children should be prevented from cycling until there is sufficient cotton-wool in place.

There is a Cycling England commentary on all this here.

Call me old-fashioned, but I am amazed that fifteen year-olds are letting their parents get away with this nonsense. However, 25% of parents do admit that they don't know where their fifteen-year olds go on their bikes. That sounds more like it.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


I'm told I should be aiming for an average speed of 16mph, compared to my typical 8mph. So this evening I decided to establish a proper baseline time for my favourite ten mile circuit round Winter Hill and Cookham. That way I can start to work on improving my speed, and I can assess progress (if any).
I reckoned ten miles was a decent starting point, because I can repeat the exercise fairly regularly. This particular route isn't a bad one to work at, because it is fairly hilly, and (mostly) fairly free of traffic.
Last time I timed myself round this ten-mile circuit it took me a full hour. So I can take a rough stab at my previous speed being 10mph, without taxing the brain too much.
This evening the same route has taken me just under 47 minutes, or an average of 13 mph. On the steady climb up to Winter Hill I averaged 12 mph. On the steep drop down into Cookham, my speed is normally testicularly limited to about 20mph, although on this occassion I seem to have hit 25mph a couple of times, and briefly managed to keep up with someone in an Aston Martin (they are not short of a shilling around those parts).
From there on, the route is flatter, and my speed seems to have been a bit more regular, although it dropped off as I climbed back through the edge of Maidenhead, followed by a bit of an effort to finish quickly.
So I'm feeling quite pleased with myself. That was faster than I thought I could do, it shows things are progressing, and what's more it takes my total distance this week to more than 100 miles, which is a new high.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


My efforts to trace regional route 52 have now been rendered on the OSM cycle map, and here it is. I reckon that Andy Allan has done a great job on this, and the number of marked routes is growing rapidly. My small contribution has been to tag regional route 52, which circles Maidenhead, and is marked in pale blue. National route 4 (which others have tagged) crosses just south of Maidenhead, and is marked in red.

Apart from getting to see countryside in its full glory at this time of year, following the local routes gives me a good excuse to get out on the bike and get some exercise.
At the moment it looks as though this just about covers route 52, and my next step in both directions will be to trace the "Round Berkshire" cycle route, as best I can. That should take me through Windsor to the east, and beyond Reading to the west.

Monday, 5 May 2008


A smidgeon under 28 miles today, trying to follow signs for regional cycle route 52 to the west, with about as much success as I had trying to follow them to the east on Saturday. It is clearly time for a rethink.

Anyway, once I gave up on plan-A, it was easy enough to pick up the "Round Berkshire" cycle route, which comes to almost the same thing.

After trundling round various parts of Wargrave, I used part of fully signed regional route 52 on the way home, then diverted through Hurley. Finally, I convinced myself that I could find a route from Bisham that avoided the steep climb from the Marlow bypass, on the A308 alongside Inkydown Woods. I was wrong, and for the first time I had to attempt a 60metre climb in 0.6km. I am mildly chuffed that I managed it without getting off and pushing. I couldn't have done that a couple of months ago.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The rolling plains of Windsor

Yesterday's ride was a very satisfying forty miles or so, trying to extend my trace of regional cycle route 52 towards Windsor, and beyond. I managed to plug some gaps in the route I have been plotting, between White Waltham and the edge of Windsor, but beyond that the trail seemed to fizzle out.

After the last signs in the western outskirts of Windsor, I tried looping round the centre, through Old Windsor, and worked my way out to Englefield Green, and then back through the park (which is great). However, I found no sign of how route 52 continues, apart from a short stretch just outside the park.

Since I got back, I've been trawling through various maps, so I've now got a few more ideas of things that I can try next time. And if all else fails, there is still plenty for me to explore in the other direction, towards Reading.

In the meantime if anyone has any ideas of where route 52 in Windsor has disappeared to, then please let me know. Or plot it on Open Street Map.

April roundup

Some good progress, and some disappointing progress this month - but mostly not a very impressive effort. I can blame poor weather, and pressure of work to some extent, but the truth is that I should be trying harder.

My total mileage in the month was 211 miles. That is significantly down from 285 in March, and 273 in February. My average trip is up slightly, from 13 to 13.2 miles, so the decline is mostly because the number of outings was down: from 23 in February and 22 in March, to only 16 in April. There was only one week in April when I managed to reach both of my weekly goals - of 56 miles and four outings. Even the number of postings on this blog is falling: from 34 in February, to 24 in March and only 20 in April.

Despite that, I am still keeping the weekly average distance high enough to stay on track for my annual goal of 2,500 miles. In April, I also managed my longest ride yet - of 56 miles. That means that for the first time ever I have ridden my imperial age. I have also reached all but one of the Jenkins churches that I am trying to visit on the bike by the end of the year. In the process my Eddington number rose to 15 by the end of April (and to 16 yesterday, on my first proper trip in May).

In total I have covered 876 miles this year, and am now theoretically heading for Florence on my virtual European tour.

The first priority in May is to get the monthly mileage back up to the distances I was managing to cover earlier in the year, which means maintaining the average trip length, while increasing the number of outings. My second priority is to increase average speed. I am still averaging about 8mph on a long trip, and it should be a lot more. If I am going to cover increased distance then I need to go faster.

Neverthleess, my waistline has come down a little bit, and I am feeling better for it all. The Maharajah is well - and so am I.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Postcard from Delft

Last week my mother went to Delft with some friends, and sent us this postcard, using a stamp with a picture of a bicycle it.

It seems there is a club for people who collect stamps wth pictures of bicycles on them. For anyone who is interested, the "Bicycle Stamps Club" is here. The site has links to various lists of stamps of interest to members.

I see that there have been a surpisingly large number of stamps featuring bicycles (over 3,000 in the list I looked at). As one might expect there are more from the Netherlands than from anywhere else (193, or more than 6% of the total). It is gratifying, though, to find that Great Britain takes the silver medal, with 144 stamps listed, accounting for nearly 5% of the total. No other country features more than 100 times in the list - not even France.

I really must get out more.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Giant's Causeway

I've spent the last couple of days in Northern Ireland, and in the process I managed to fit in a detour to drive along the North Antrim coast, with very brief stops at the Giant's Causeway and Dunluce castle.

The weather could have been worse. It was mostly grey, and very windy, but without any serious rain.

It was my first visit to this part of Northern Ireland, and the scenery is certainly impressive. It was something of a flying visit, so no cycling for me, but I did see a number of touring cyclists on the road, and hence quite a parade of varied equipment. Various Dawes models seemed to be popular, and there were other brand names that were new to me - mostly fitted with what I think were Ortlieb bags.

It looked as though there was some pretty serious touring under way.