Sunday, 27 April 2008

Following R52

Only about 30 miles in total this weekend, but two very pleasant rides, following regional cycle route 52 to the south-east on Saturday, and to the west on Sunday.

Regional route 52 is fairly well signed, but I can't find any reference to it other than the signs out there on the road. After following them, I've tagged the relevant ways on Open Street Map. By the middle of the week the changes will have been rendered, and I can have a look at the cycle map to see how it turned out.

There was an almighty thunderstorm this morning, before I left, but while I was out the weather was fine. Both routes were fairly straightforward to follow, although I'm a bit confused about a couple of parts, and I will have to revisit to join up the dots. Yesterday was the easiest riding, and today involved a few steeper climbs. The route took me over some roads that were new to me, as well as some familiar roads from a different direction, and the bluebell woods near Burchett's Green were a major bonus. They should be looking even better by next week.

Class struggle

Last week I provoked quite a reaction from an American friend when I described myself as "middle class". He equated this with describing myself as "middle income" which is not the same thing at all: at least from an English point of view.

Sadly, it looks as though I have failed to make the Sunday Times Rich list yet again this year, but then I don't see income as a very important factor at all in social class. I suppose career choices play some part, but it seems to me that the way we see social class has more to do with family background, education, lifestyle, and so on.

Thankfully, it's hard to see any link between social class and cycling. At least I can't think of any way that encompasses bike messengers, David Cameron, Alan Bennett, Vicky Pendleton, and all the different kinds of cyclist that I come across on the roads.

However, we were discussing all this as we drove past Sainsbury's to do the weekly shop at Waitrose - and that probably says more about us than we would like to admit.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Weekly roundup

Not too shabby an effort this week at 61 miles, after a rather pathetic 31 miles last week. The better total was mainly down to a ride of over 40 miles on sunday to reach the 11th church in my list, which was then supplemented by three shorter rides during the week. Given the improving weather, it might have been more, but I had meetings in London on a couple of days, which pretty much wrote off any chance of getting out on the bike on Thursday or Friday.

However, being in London on Friday meant that I could meet up with an old friend ("old" in the sense of "long-standing", I hasten to add) who is a keen cyclist, and offered his support in attempting a century later this year. It's a daunting, but tempting prospect, and I can't quite believe that I am giving it serious thought.

There seem to be astonishing numbers of cyclists on the street in London. It's hard to tell whether that's just because I am noticing them more than I used to, or because the number really is increasing. I guess a bit of both. It almost justifies this chirpy clip of Lily Allen.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

OSM Cycle map

Showing some lovely wiggly contour lines near Salzburg.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A beautiful evening

A short ride, of eight miles on a beautiful evening up to Cookham Deane and back. The ride there is mostly up-hill, which I took fairly slowly, but it makes for quite an exhilarating return journey, with very little effort involved.

The weather has definitely improved, and there were lots of people grabbing an early pint in the pub gardens.

The other sign of the changing seasons was the number of insects in the air - particularly noticeable speeding through the woods on the ride back. I have spent the last few months perfecting the technique for taking out a hanky to wipe my nose without falling off the bike. It seems I must now learn to ride with my mouth shut.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


Almost 43 miles covered today, to visit the eleventh of the twelve outstanding English churches that I am aiming to reach by bike this year. This is St Michael's at Chenies in Buckinghamshire.

Intending no disrespect to the good people of Chenies, the church itself is pleasant enough, but no more remakable than most parish churches. I think Simon Jenkins included it among the top 1,000 on account of the monuments in the Bedford family mausoleum, which are apparently quite outstanding. He is perfectly entitled to do so, of course, and we understand that he tends to see churches as museums, but since the mausoleum is private, and rarely accessible by the general public, it seems a bit of an odd choice to me.

Nevertheless, the 12th century Aylesbury font is worth seeing, and it provided me with an excuse for a very pleasant outing. The weather was kind all day, and there was even some sunshine on the way back.

It has taken me three months to reach 11 out of 12 churches on my list, which equates to 92% of the total. The remaining one will involve the longest distance, and the most hills, so there is still 15% of the mileage, and 23% of the climbing to do; and then I will have to think up another quest.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Open Street Map

The Open Street Map project uses Wiki principles to collectively build a map. Contributors gather information by walking, driving or cycling the area; from GPS traces, out-of-copyright maps, satellite imagery, and the like.

It lacks the detailed satellite imagery and route-finding capabilities of commercial products, and some areas look a bit thin, but elsewhere, including this part of the world, the results are already pretty impressive. Places like central London even more so, and things seem to be moving forward pretty quickly.

Even better: because it is all based on an open philosophy, there is tremendous potential for specialised spin-offs. For example, Andy Allan has produced a version designed specifically for cyclists, which is here, and there is also a London tube map by Steve Chilton.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


"Ever bike? Now that's something that makes life worth living!...Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you're going to smash up. Well, now, that's something!
And then go home again after three hours of it...and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!"

Jack London (1876-1916)

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Old maps

Here are scans of some lovely old Ordnance Survey maps from 1922, covering the whole of England and Wales. There seem to be astonishing numbers of railway stations.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Weekly roundup

Despite a strong start ,with a 56 mile ride on Saturday, this hasn't been a particularly impressive week.

Having ridden 67 miles in total, I've covered enough ground to reach my weekly mileage goal, but I've only taken the bike out on three days, not the four that I aim for.

I've now covered just over 700 miles this year, and I'm staying broadly on track to reach my longer term objectives, but an objecitve assessment would probably be "could do better".

Friday, 11 April 2008

Flickr moves

Taken in San Francisco, California (but not by me, by Shanan)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Lance Armstrong: "I figure the faster I pedal, the faster I can retire"

I had dinner this week, with a group of friends who have worked together on and off over the last twenty years or so. We meet up every six months, and as usual we had a great evening.

We are getting to the age now where each time we meet, the number who have retired goes up, and the number still working goes down. As one of the few remaining workers, I really must pedal faster.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Madonna del Ghisallo

In medieval times, Count Ghisallo was attacked by bandits close to the village of Magr├ęglio near Lake Como, but saw an image of the Virgin Mary, in a shrine; where he hid, and was saved. The Madonna del Ghisallo became the patron of local travellers, and in modern times, cyclists would pray at the shrine.

After the second world war, the local priest proposed Madonna del Ghisallo as the patron saint of cyclists, and Pope Pius XII agreed.

Now the chapel is both a religious shrine, and cycling museum, with an eternal flame in memory of cyclists who have died.

From the Patron Saints Index and Wikipedia. And there is an evocative trip report here.

View Larger Map

Monday, 7 April 2008

Common people

It's a pathetic excuse for the clip, but apparently Jarvis rides a bicycle, and so does Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney. Not to mention Sandi Toksvig, Madonna, Jeremy Paxman, James May, and B***s J*****n. There's a bit of a list here.

They may be in showbiz, but strip away the glamour, and underneath, they're just the same as common people like little old me (and Alan Bennett).

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Imperial age

Today is the first time I have ridden my age in miles, although I've done my metric age (age in kilometres) half a dozen times. I suppose I can call today a milestone.

I followed national cycle route 4 (more or less) to Reading, then route 5 (more or less) to Stoke Row, to see the Maharajah's well. The return journey was through Henley, Marlow, Bourne End and Cookham.

The weather could only be described as variable - when it was good it was very, very good, but when it was bad it was horrid. Well, not really horrid, but cold and windy enough to be unpleasant.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Weekly roundup

This is Summerleaze footbridge, crossing the Thames between Maidenhead and Windsor. It is here to mark one of my standard routes from home to Windsor and back; following the Jubilee river outwards, and following the Thames back.

I took this route on Sunday, after a more imaginative trip to Lower Missenden on Saturday. In the rest of the week I've just done short suburban trundles. The whole adds up to just over 70 miles, which is a little bit higher than my weekly average, and comfortably above ny weekly target, but nothing very exceptional.

Looking at the log over the last couple of months, it turns out that I'm pretty good at getting out on the bike on Saturdays (nine out of ten opportunities), but not so good on tuesdays (six out of ten opportunities). On other days of the week, I manage to get out 70-80% of the time. At the moment I can't see why there should be any particular rythm to this (it is made up of individual decisions based on weather and other commitments) but I will be watching to see if a pattern develops over a longer period.

Meanwhle, the deadlines at work are easing off a bit, so if weather permits, I should have bit more scope for more ambitious trips. However, if the weather stays unpredictable, then it's just a case of grasping as many opportunities as possible to clock up the trips and the miles.

Spring is definitely arriving, but at least as far as this weekend is concerned, the conditions look less than perfect. We shall see what we shall see.

The penguins...

...are three days late.

When amazing things eventually happen on tlatet, you never have to miss them: thanks to BBCi.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The first gymnacyclidium for ladies and gentlemen

I was reading David Herlihy's book "bicycle" last night.

It is written from a U.S. perspective, so not the balance I would have preferred, but there is extensive coverage of developments in France and the UK, and it is nicely written and produced.

This poster comes from 1869 when a wave of Volicipede Rinks opened across north America, offering rental and training. I love the name. There is a contemporary newspaper article here, and some better pictures here.

The achievements of the early athletes is impressive. In the eighteen-seventies, on iron penny-farthings, without gears, pneumatic tyres, or even decent roads and brakes, people were covering ten miles in thirty-six minutes, fifty miles in under four hours, a hundred miles a day, London to John O'Groats (700 miles) in two weeks, and so on. They must have been tough.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

How stupid is your bike lane?

The New York Times has an article today on stupid cycle lanes, with a video from Slate that claims to show the most stupid cycle lane in America. Many thanks to Margaret for the link, but frankly, if they are right, and this really is the most stupid cycle lane in America, they still have some way to go.

March roundup

A couple of weeks of poor weather and pressure of work left a bit of a hole in the log for March, but I have ended up covering a slightly longer distance than I did in February - at 286 miles.

My total distance this year is now 621 miles, which means I have logged more distance on this bike in just over two months than I logged on the previous bike in just over a year. I am on track for my annual goal of 2,500 miles, but I have twice missed my weekly goal of 56 miles, and there have been two weeks when I've had fewer than four rides.

I have now ridden my age in kilometres five times this year, though I have yet to ride it in miles. My Eddington number is up to 13 since January, and 18 for all time. On my virtual European tour I am now half way to Rome.

I've reached ten of the twelve churches on my list of those picked by Simon Jenkins as England's best. That means I've covered 83% of the destinations, but because the two remaining are furtheat away, and at the end of the the most hilly routes, I've only covered 71% of the distance, and done 63% of the climbing.

If you think that all looks a bit of a complicated set of targets, then I'm inclined to agree. The question is, though, whether they are having the desired effect.

Angelo Fausto Coppi (1919 – 1960) was a famous Italian racing cyclist, who won the Tour de France twice, and Giro d'Italia five times. A journalist once asked him what it takes to become a champion, and his reply was "ride your bike". According to Eddy Merckx (who held more records than there is space for here) the secret of success was "ride lots". Now I'm not exactly in their league, but sometimes I feel like going for a ride, and sometimes I don't. Once I am out, I enjoy myself, but sometimes I need an extra nudge to make the effort.

The different objectives I've set myself are providing that nudge in different ways. The end result is that I am getting out more often, and covering greater distances than I would otherwise be doing; and I feel better for it.

So in principle the numbers are doing their job. The Jenkins quest is proving a bit unambitious, and it looks as though I will complete the list well before the end of the year. So that will need adjusting, but at present it is pushing me to attempt regular rides of 30-40 miles.

The annual and weekly distance goals are quite challenging, so I've probably pitched those about right - for now. If I am still covering similar distances in a couple of months time, then perhaps I should revise them upwards, but at the moment they encourage me to get out frequently and cover decent distances.

The Eddington number has definitely got legs. It's proving gradually more difficult to keep pushing it up (which is as it should be), and it looks as though it will continue forcing distances that are slightly longer than normal. So rather than taking half an hour to do a quick five miles, I am now looking for opportunities on weekdays to take more than an hour and do fifteen miles: because that bumps the E-number up. Soon, it will have to be twenty miles to have the same effect.

It looks as though I will need to review the goals in a month or so, but leave the general mix in place. Maybe as time goes on I can also simplify things, but not just yet, because different goals push different buttons. And I am not forgetting that the most important thing is to enjoy myself.