Thursday, 31 December 2009

It's a roll-over

A year ago I documented my cycling resolutions for 2009, so there is no getting away from knowing which ones I achieved and which ones I didn't. It's a bit of a mixed bag.

Unfortunately I failed to reach my goal of covering 3,249 miles. I've ridden 2,854 miles in 2009, which wasn't even as much as I covered in 2008. So that's a shortfall of 395 miles. I've decided to roll the shortfall over and add it to the goal I had already pencilled in for next year. That makes a target for 2010 of 3,759 miles, which gives me something of a challenge to stretch for.

I wanted to reach an Eddington number of 40 in 2009, and I've done slightly better with an Eddington number of 41. That's 41 rides of more than 41 miles since I started counting about two years ago. In 2009 alone I've done 32 rides of more than 32 miles. My mix of rides has changed. I'm doing fewer short rides and more long ones than before. So although I've not covered the total distance that I planned, I have been regularly doing rides of around 50 miles. As a result, the progression to higher Eddington numbers doesn't look too challenging until I get beyond 50. My plan for next year is to get my Eddington number up to 50, which I'm fairly optimistic about achieving. Beyond that it would be good to lay the groundwork for even higher Eddington numbers by ramping up the number of trips of more than 60 miles. This year I've done ten rides of more than 60 miles, so next year I'm going to try and add another 20. That won't affect my Eddington number in the short term, but it should help to prepare the ground for 2011.

I wanted to do at least one ride of 100 miles this year, and thank's to some friendly support I achieved it. I have a general intention to hit 100 miles in a day at some point in the year, but no specific plans at the moment.

As intended, I managed to visit the next 12 churches on Simon Jenkins' list of England's best. That brings my tally over two years up to 25. Each additional one I visit is a little bit further away than the last, but for the last two years I've reached a dozen well before the end of the year. I'm planning to be a bit more ambitious and try to reach 15 more this year, which will bring the total up to 40.

Last year I took time out to ride the Sustrans Coast and Castles route from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It was a great week, and ever since I got back I've been wondering which route to do next. I still haven't made my mind up, but I am looking forward to another week along the same lines, and I hope to fit in at least one overnight trip as well.

I'm not going to report on how I'm progressing towards the ideal height for my weight. Too little time on the bike in the last few weeks, too much turkey and too many mince pies. I'll take stock of this one in a few weeks time. I also had plans to fill some of the local gaps in Open Street Map, and retrace more of the routes around London that Charles Harper charted in 1902. Neither has worked out quite as I intended, though I have managed to trace some local cycle routes that were missing from OSM, and I've plugged a few gaps around Ascot, and Binfield.

In summary, it would have been nice if I had been able to tick my mileage goal for the year. But in retrospect that doesn't seem terribly important when I set it against lasting memories of the Coast and Castles ride, days out exploring the local area, and the experience of covering 100 miles in a day. It's been fun, and I'm looking forward to more in 2010.

For regular visitors, thanks for sticking with it. And for everyone, best wishes for 2010.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Golden Wheels

A few weeks before Christmas, the Bike show pointed to Tim Dawson's Cycling Books website, which includes a review of The Golden Wheels of Albert Winstanley. That review got the book added to my Christmas list, but since it was published in 1985, I didn't hold out much hope. However, my wife found it somewhere on the Interweb, and it was among the presents that I unwrapped yesterday morning.

The book was written in the 1980's, and seems a little bit old-fashioned for a decade that still feels quite recent to me. But the rest of my family tell me that the 1980's were actually quite a long time ago. In any case the book is a real treat. Albert takes us round some of his favourite rides in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Lancashire, with one outing to the Pyrenees, and it ends in a French jail.

For someone living in the North-West of England I imagine the book could inspire some outings. From my knowledge of the area, he seems to be picking some attractive destinations, but I suspect that most of his routes involve quite a lot of climbing, and he's certainly not averse to a bit of scrambling off the road.

There is a bit of a story to most of the 22 rides in the book. Albert likes to construct reasons for a particular destination. Often these are do with the name of a place (an early example is a cave called Albert, like him), sometimes it's a historical building, or a favourite landscape.

Albert enjoys his picnics, and the pots of coffee that he brews from stream water on a portable stove. He's also a bit of a dreamer, and he paints imaginary pictures from history, such as monks collecting their new shoes in Thorpe.

But the real point of the book is not the destinations, the routes, the histories, or Albert's eating habits. Above all, Albert conjures a sense of discovery, and enjoyment in each chapter. We get to share the pleasure that he gets from his rides. This is my kind of cycling, so thanks to Jack Thurston, Tim Dawson and my wife, for a good Christmas present.

There's an article about Albert here

Sunday, 20 December 2009


For reasons that we don't need to go into, this weekend has involved driving from the south of England to the north, and then back again.

The weather forecast wasn't good, but I worked out that if I took the more westerly route on the way up I would avoid the worst of the weather, and that worked out OK. Coming back I thought the same strategy would be best ,but that may have been a mistake. In retrospect, it sounds as though the route down the east of the Pennines might have been a bit easier today.

Paise Dyke, near HexhamWhen we set off from Northumberland this morning the mix of sunshine and snow made for some glorious views, but from Carlisle we were racing bad weather on the way down. Somewhere between Penrith and Lancaster the snow caught up with us, and that made for a difficult journey down the M6 through the south of Cumbria and the north of Lancashire.

In the end, we arrived home safely, and things could have been a lot worse. The most sensible thing might have been not to travel at all, but that would have caused other problems. In practice, when things were difficult, everyone on the road was being very sensible, and like our fellow travellers, we just took things slowly through the difficult sections until the weather improved, and the road cleared.

It was certainly an experience, but not one that I'm keen to repeat any time soon.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The famous Wallendas


"Circus enthusiasts the world over have been thrilled by the great Wallendas."

"Their sense of balance is nothing short of amazing"

"If they weren't actually doing it before your eyes you would think it was impossible"

From British Pathé in 1937

Friday, 11 December 2009

Bike lanes

There's a nice extract from the Guardian's coverage of the UK's first bike lane in 1934 here.

The gist of it is that Hore Belisha, the transport minister (famed for belisha beacons), opened a stretch of Western Avenue in Ealing with bicycle lanes that separated cyclists from motorised traffic. The Cyclists Union wasn't entirely happy with all this, though I'm not clear why.

At the time, cyclists accounted for 1,324 out of 7,202 deaths on the roads in a year (by way of comparison 2008 figures were 115 out of 2,538).

While recognising that cyclists would no longer be able to ride four abreast, the Guardian seemed to be broadly in favour, and at least one letter writer seems to have agreed.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Free tax advice for entrepreneurs

For my sins, I am having to read some of the analysis leading up to today's pre-budget report, and I've just come across this comment from Tim Gregory. Tim works for Saffery Champness, a firm of accountants who advise owner-managed businesses, wealthy individuals, and the like.

Tim told the FT....

“With a proposed increase in the top rate of tax to 50% (51.5% for earned income), top earners and entrepreneurs are going to shoulder a large burden of tax increases in the coming years, which will inevitably discourage some from putting 100% into helping to rebuild the economy.”

Tim, I think your clients need different advice.

Top earners and entrepreneurs who are in it to rebuild the economy should be delighted that more of their income is going to go to people who need it more than they do. Top earners and entrepreneurs who are in it for the money should work a bit harder so that they can take home as much as they used to. Top earners and entrepreneurs who use their income to measure their worth should just compare pre-tax earnings.

It's the confused and bewildered top earners and entrepreneurs who should be discouraged. And the sooner they stop trying to help the better things should get.

Monday, 7 December 2009


Much discussion in our house this evening about kippers, herrings and suchlike.

According to Office of National Statistics the North Sea herring population was seriously affected by over-fishing in the 1970s. Fishing was stopped between 1978 and 1982 and this allowed stocks to recover. From the late 1980s there was another decline, but things recovered from the mid-1990s. In 2004 the stock was at the highest level recorded for 40 years.

Unfortunately stocks declined in 2005, and according to Cefas the decline has continued since. Cefas say that North Sea herring stocks have shown enormous fluctuation in the past, but the stock is currently assessed as being at risk of reduced reproductive capacity and being harvested unsustainably.

My two kippers earlier this year shouldn't have done too much harm, but the EU is still limiting the amount that can be caught.
Let's hope things get better for the poor herring in future, so that we can continue to enjoy the occasional kipper from Craster.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Crikey, I'm turning into Norman Geras

Normblog says exactly what I thought. How scary is that?

"There was a Guardian editorial in praise of Paul McCartney, and it gave as an example of his 'effortlessly fluent' lyricism the second line of 'Penny Lane', which it rendered thus:

Of every head he's had the pleasure to know

No, I said to myself, that's not right. And I Googled for confirmation. But instead of confirmation, I got disconfirmation and this:

In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he's had the pleasure to know"

I thought it was "pleasure to have known" as well. It isn't

Why bother?

Tracing stuff for OSM is an excuse to get out on the bike, get some relaxing exercise, explore places that I wouldn't otherwise visit, and learn a bit more about the area where I now live, and its history. As I add stuff, I tick it off my list of local things that are missing from the map, because doing this also satisfies my urge to see things completed. I also like to think that I am sharing something which is going to be of value to others. So my reasons aren't entirely selfish.

It's been bugging me that I never finished plotting the Harding cycle route near Amersham that I began to add back in September. Since then I've finished the other two cycle routes that make up the three loops of the Chiltern Heritage Cycle Trail. As they were rendered on OSM, bits of the Harding route were left dangling, which looked wrong.

So yesterday I thought I would try to close the two remaining gaps in the Harding route. One ran northwards from Chesham through Asheridge to St Leonards. The other ran eastwards from Amersham towards Chenies. I'd missed both parts last time because I'd got myself confused with the signage on the ground, and drifted off route. This time, though, I managed to follow both.

It baffles me how I lost the stretch between Amersham and Chenies last time. It's perfectly well signed, and quite straightforward. Presumably I was tired, or distracted at a critical point. This time I misread things at one stage, and dithered a bit, but apart from that it was easy enough to follow the route. It wasn't so easy to cycle a very muddy and slippery bridleway through the woods on a bike designed for the road though.

I can understand better how I lost the stretch from Chesham to St Leonards last time, because the route through Chesham is a bit convoluted. I've now had a few chances to untangle how this works, but until yesterday I never really got it. This time I finally did, but it still meant frequent stops to check the instructions in the leaflet, and a certain amount of back tracking. After Chesham things are much more straightforward. The only challenge was that the road was flooded in a couple of places, so I got the chance to swoosh through a couple of inches of water with my feet off the pedals. Great fun.

Quite a bit of the route that I was following is also Sustrans regional route 30, so I've added that as well. Some of the route 30 signs are very clear, and look quite new, but between Chesham and Amersham they appeared to disappear and then reappear, so I'm not absolutely sure that I've got it right. Looking at the Sustrans map of the area, they seem to leave out bits of the various routes that are properly signed on the ground, and the bits they have plotted don't always match up with what I saw on the ground. Maybe there are a lot of changes going on, or maybe I'm not the only one who is struggling to untangle all the cycle routes in the area.

I hope that spending a day trying to plot this stuff is going to be useful to somebody, but whether it is or not, I selfishly had the benefit of a good 60 miles riding over fairly hilly landscape. I left the daily grind well behind me, got home tired, had a great night's sleep, and my legs are feeling the effects this morning. The weather wasn't perfect. It was dry to begin with, but drizzle turned to rain on my way home, and I was soaked by the time I got in. But I enjoyed the ride through some decent countryside, with decent views. We'll see how the results are rendered in a few days time, but however they turn out, it was well worth the effort, just for the day out.

Friday, 4 December 2009


There's a nice post here about the proportion of pubs that can be found on Open Street Map. It seems that more than 60% of Britain's 53,466 pubs still need to be added (based on data from OSM and the Guardian).

I have to admit that recently I've not been doing as much as I would like to support this part of the UK economy, but I have noticed a lot of pubs that have recently closed around here.