Sunday, 29 June 2008

Signs of the times

I rode past the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston today and this collection of signs outside one of the gates intrigued me.

Why do all these people have to wear cycle helmets? Are there things falling out of the sky that the rest of us don't know about? Or do cycle helments provide some kind of protection from mysterious rays?

And why are their helmets so big? They must need very clever staff, so perhaps they only recruit people with enormous heads. Or do their heads expand as a result of working on nuclear warheads?

Or maybe I've got this bit wrong, and they make them ride tiny little bicycles for some reason.

I can understand why a brand new pass would be viewed a bit suspiciously, but why aren't new cycle helmets any good. How worn do they have to be? My own is a couple of years old now, and it's a bit battered, but I wouldn't describe it as particularly worn. Does that mean it won't work? Where do they get their worn helmets from?

There is clearly something odd going on, and it seems to me that (despite the official secrets act) the great British public should be told what it is.

On the train

Today I took the bike on the train to Newbury, then rode the 56 miles home, mostly along the Round Berkshire cycle route.

Bit, by bit I've now covered the Round Berkshire route from Reading, through Maidenhead to Windsor and Bracknell, then out to Newbury. Though not always in that direction. Today, as well as extending my tags to Newbury, I managed to connect up the gaps that I had left around Crowthorne and Bracknell (from when I got myself lost last time). For the first time today I managed to find my way round Bracknell without getting lost at all.

Since it was the train that had to battle the headwind on the way out it was quite an exhilarating ride back, helped by a fairly consistent following wind. With the wind behind me it was a lovely day: the rain threatened but never came to anything, and the sun was out by the time I got home.

Because I caught an earlier train than I expected, I had to hang around Reading station for nearly an hour waiting for the connection to Newbury, but once I arrived there the route itself turned out to be an interesting one. I pootled around Newbury a bit because it's been quite a while since the last time I was there. Then off I went past Greenham Common and Aldermaston, Arborfield Barracks, Finchampstead, Crowthorne, Bracknell, and so on.

It may just be my incompetemce robbing me of my metacognitive ability to recognise my limitations, but on balance I think I will forget Kruger and Dunning, and count today as a success.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

A timely reminder

Justin Kruger and David Dunning wrote a famous paper entitled "Unskilled and Unaware of it" which points out that the more incompetent we are at something, the less capable we are of realising how incompetent we are. The result is that we over-estimate our abilities (more than half of us think we are above average).

"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities."

After the fiasco last sunday, I will try to bear this in mind for tomorrow's trip.

Weekly roundup

In some ways the last week has been OK. I covered a decent distance: 77 miles in total, which ranks as one of my top five weekly totals. It was an odd week, though, in that the total mileage was made up of one very long trip, and only two shorter ones.

It isn't a very satisfactory excuse, but in the main, the low number of trips was down to the strange weather - which has been an odd mixture of windy and muggy. The long trip was mainly down to a series of mistakes.

So despite the relatively high mileage, there was a bit of a flat feeling about the week. Over the next few days I will have to try and be a bit more imaginative. Meanwhile, I'm just leaning back and enjoying Buddy Guy at Glastonbury (on the TV).

Friday, 27 June 2008

Really silly

From November five, with thanks to The Highway Cycling Group for the pointer.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Favourite blogs

I've just been told (by a less-than-independent visitor) that this is their favourite cycling blog. Very nice of them to say so, but it's time, I reckon, to widen their horizons a bit.

So here are some alternatives:

  • The Bike Show, for a consistently interesting and varied programme from Resonance 104.4fm
  • Bike Munky, Highway cycling group, or
    Fat lad for graphic descriptions of rides, spiced with wry humour. Sample quote: "He is a 45 – 50 year old gentleman easily 6’5” tall slender build riding with ease a bike he’s probably had for 15 years, dressed in casual shorts, t-shirt, no helmet, trainers & flat pedals. I am 27, only just 5’11” stocky build, daily commuter dressed in baggie’s, MTB jersey, Oakley’s, Helmet, cycling shoes & clip less pedals, 5 kg rucksack. Long seconds pass…. “Come on then!” He says and accelerates away cutting across my path. The next few hundred metres were me hanging on his wheel. Every move to pass was countered. He was quick and obviously has the experienced cyclist sense of something approaching you from behind." and as recently as this morning "I woke too late to bike commute the whole way into Salisbury, so I hauled myself into the shower, got into some trousers so enormous it was like wearing a tent, and prepared the Brompton for a sprint down the A361 to Trowbridge station."
  • Copenhagenize, Bicycles and Icicles, London Cycling Diary and Moving Target, because we are all different. Sample quote: "Last week, I happened across Philippe's Bicycle Repair.
    If you're ever in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, you should stop by.

  • The Titchfield Cycling Association for one of the world's great mission statements: "to seek out adventure and good beer using environmentally sustainable transportation..."

More suggestions always welcome (as if these weren't enough to illustrate the standard of material out there on the interweb).

A cardboard bicycle

"If you make a bicycle from cardboard, no-one will want to steal it!"

As reported by the BBC and discovered via Bicycle Design

And it was designed in Sheffield of all places.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The end of bike week 2008

I had intended to explore a bit more of the Round Berkshire route this afternoon. Nothing too ambitious, just a gentle meander around.

So I set off for Reading, intending to follow route 23 south until it joins the Round Berkshire route, then follow that back to Bracknell, and meander back home.

Three slight problems.

Firstly, I had seriously underestimated the total distance; secondly I had to battle a strong headwind on the way out to Reading, and thirdly I got lost, yet again, in Bracknell.

The result was that I got home late for dinner, exhausted, after covering nearly 60 miles. Despite what the sign says, I didn't get anywhere near either Bristol, or Newbury.

However, with the exception of the wind, it was a glorious day for a ride. It turned out to be an interesting route, with a lot of variety. I managed to tag a bit more of the Round Berkshire Route. I covered my imperial age for the third time. And I learned a bit more about my limitations.

I guess that adds up to a fitting end to Bike Week 2008.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The longest day

Because it is.

Here are some pictures of the summar solstice at Stonehenge, from the BBC (30,000 people celebrated the summer solstice as dawn broke at Stonehenge).

And here is the Moving Target Article on their ride to Stonehenge.

And here are a group of bikers riding from Lands End to John O'Groats on the longest day.

And while all these heroic endeavours were under way, I trundled around unheroically, but happily for a couple of hours.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


With thanks to my brother, who sent me the link, that led to the link, that pointed to this wonderful poster from

A snip at £38.99, and Christmas is only six months away.

Monday, 16 June 2008


I've now covered more than 1,250 miles on the bike since January, which means that I've reached Rome on my virtual European tour, and I now face the difficult decision of where I should head next.

However, the more satisfying news this evening (in the real world) is that I've just completed my 10 mile Winter Hill circuit in just over 43 minutes, at an average speed of 14mph.

It's not a huge improvement over the 13mph that I've been doing on the same route for the last three circuits. But I reckon it is decent progress over the 10mph that I was doing on the same loop a few weeks ago.

Remember - I'm virtually in Rome at the moment. So I can't afford to rest on my laurels. It's going to be onward and upward to 15mph - at some point in the future. And onward, and upward to Berlin, I suspect, on my European tour.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Round Berkshire

I've spent a few hours this afternoon trying to follow and plot the Round Berkshire cycle route from near Ascot to Bracknell. On the whole it's a good route, with some pleasant sections. Other sections, though, involve fast roads, and heavy traffic, so they are not for the faint-hearted.

However, the reference map is a bit vague, and some of the signs are a bit dated (as the picture is intended to show).

The result was that I kept drifting off route, and got hopelessly lost part way round Bracknell. This is not the first time I've got lost in Bracknell, so no doubt some of the blame lies with me. Just the same I'm convinced that somebody has been re-orienting some of the signs.

Bracknell is well provided with cycle paths, though, and I'll have to go back and try to pick up the right route another time.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Weekly round-up

On Saturday I visited this year's steam rally near Stoke Row. It would have just about been possible to get there by bike, but it would have made a long day of it, and there were a few other things that needed doing.

So no cycling on saturday, but I managed to get out five times in the rest of the week, and covered 77 miles in total.

That includes almost 35 miles on sunday, a fast ten miles on monday, and a leisurely 17 mile trundle on tuesday.

In the process I have tried to patch up a few gaps in Open Street Map and so I have learned a bit more about local byways.

In summary, as far as the cycling goes, there hasn't been anything particularly notable about the week, and no records broken.

There were no wrecks and nobody drownded,
'Fact, nothin' to laugh at at all!

Fairly satisfying on the whole though, and I did buy my first pannier bag.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Upside down bicycle

An old one, but belated thanks anyway to Dave Walker of - who will allow me to put this on my blog, providing that I include this clause underneath, saying that you cannot manufacture this bicycle unless your people talk to his people first.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


The bi-directional opposing headwind is explained at Bikereader in an article about "Cyclo-math". (that's "Cyclo-maths" to you and me).

To paraphrase:

"A bi-directional opposing headwind (BDOH) ... is a 12-18 knot gale which is in your face on the ride out, and also on the ride back"

"A double-ramped hill (DRH)... is a road which poses a slight uphill climb in either direction, and cannot be coasted back down from either."

And "Cyclo-Math is an obscure branch of mathematics which describes phenomena which defy all known axioms of Newtonian Physics, and Relativistic Bicycle Mechanics."

It is such a relief to know that I wasn't just imagining hills that go up in both directions, and winds that are in my face whatever direction I am travelling.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Winter Hill again

After dinner I used the GPS to race my alter ego around Winter Hill again.

It was a lovely warm June evening, and although I made a decent start, before long I had given up the race, and decided to just enjoy the journey.

As a result I was trailing my previous performance by the time I reached the top of the hill (and the best view). Then the competitive spirit kicked in, I hurtled down the slope into Cookham, and caught up with my previous time. I kept up a good pace along the river and back up through Maidenhead. So by the time I got home I was back in the lead again.

That was my third carefully timed ride round the same ten mile loop: each at an average speed of roughly 13mph, or just over 45 minutes from start to finish. In the process I've improved my speed, but not by very much, and this evening I did it mostly by keeping my bottle and maintaning a higher speed downhill, rather than anything more energetic.

Obviously I would have set myself an easier goal if I had timed the first circuit at an easier pace. But I didn't. The result is that it is more satisfying to see an improvement.

It would be even better to see more improvement. But that will have to come on another (cooler) day.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Virginia Water

It was a little too hot for a long ride today, but I managed to get started fairly early and I covered 34 miles by lunchtime: thereby avoiding the worst of the heat.

It turned to be quite a good route.

I went out to Virginia Water, crossed Windsor Great Park, then followed the Round Berkshire Cycle Route through Old Windsor, Datchett and Eton. I returned along the river to Maidenhead.

The general outline of the Round Berkshire route is becoming more clear from the map, but it is often difficult to follow the signs at a detailed level. Also, I had expected to do a bit better today on average speed than things turned out. But I can always blame the heat for that.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

"Anywhere my imagination takes me"

I bike Manchester.

No, I don't - but this is quite an interesting documentary about people who do.

In particular, look out for the little lad who says "I want to go anywhere my imagination takes me". That pretty much captures the point of it.

Great accents, but flaky sound.

Friday, 6 June 2008

A good end to the week

I've not broken any records this week, having been away over the weekend, busy during the week, and discouraged by lousy weather on a couple of occasions.

So the totals look pretty unimpressive. However, the week ended on a high, racing my alter-ego on the GPS system around Winter Hill and Cookham.

Needless to say, I won, and shaved a little bit off my time in the process. All very satisfying.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

First service

This post is nothing to do with Wimbledon, which starts later this month.

I was supposed to take the bike back to Saddle Safari in Marlow for her first service back in March, but somehow never got round to it, and it was only yesterday that we went in for her to be checked over and generally tweaked. There were no real problems (apart from my failure to find a great big gate into the workshop at nine o'clock in the morning). But by the time I picked her up in the evening, they had adjusted things and she has come back in better shape than before. Changing gears is now much slicker than it had become, and the brakes are tighter.

I've not had much time for a really good stretch since, but I have managed a couple of short trundles, both on my standard short loop round the suburbs of Maidenhead.

In the process I've figured out how to use the GPS to race against myself. On the first circuit yesterday evening I averaged 11.7 mph (compared to about 10 mph last time I measured it) and on the second circuit this evening I averaged 12.3mph. Not a big difference, but at least moving in the right direction.

Now that I have figured out how to do this on a short loop, I will have to see how we manage on the longer, 10 mile loop.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Monthly round up

I'm a bit more satisfied with my progress in May than I was in April.

My total mileage for the month has been the highest so far, at 306 miles. The extra distance was not down to the number of trips (which was higher than in April, but lower than in February and March). It was more the result of longer outings, averaging almost ten miles each.

During the month I've pushed my longest trip up to more than 60 miles, and in the process I visited the twelfth of the list of outstanding English Churches that I was aiming to reach by bike during the year.

I'm still not making as much progress as I would like on my average speed over a distance, but I am on track to reach my target for total mileage over the year. I have plugged a few gaps in local coerage of Open Street Map; and I even improved the number of blog posts over the month (though the number of daily visitors remains pretty flat).

Generally I feel that I'm heading in the right direction, with plenty more room for improvement.

Sunday, 1 June 2008


A few days away from home this weekend, around the general area of the Coast to Coast route (but not on the bike).

There were a few cyclists on the road, braving some impressive climbs, around Hartshead, and Alston.

However, the most interesting exchange I overheard was not between riders of push-bikes, but between a couple of middle aged men on large motor-bikes.

Biker-1: I heard that you hadn't been well recently. So it's good to see you back on the bike again.

Biker-2: Well the doctor told me that it isn't safe for me to drive the car any more, but he didn't say anything about the bike.

I imagine he was joking.