Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll

The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll, by H. G. Wells, was published in 1896, and is the story of Mr Hoopdriver, a draper's assistant, and his summer holiday cycling tour of the English south coast. He meets Jessie Milton, a rebellious, but naive young women, and....

But I must not spoil the plot.

The point is that the story might be implausible, but it rattles along, tongue firmly in cheek, along with plenty of descriptions of cycling in a bygone age.

Available from Wikisource, from Gutenberg, and from Amazon, but probably not on the shelves of many bookshops.

Marlow again, and dark roads

I was a bit late starting out on the ride yesterday evening. Partly because I was engrossed in a good book, and partly to let the day cool off a bit. I followed the route over Winter Hill to Marlow again, but then climbed the hill behind Marlow and pushed on for a bit on the far side, before returning through Bourne End as usual, and covering just over 22 miles altogether.

With a later start and a longer ride I was later than usual getting back. There was quite a buzz of activity in Marlow itself, but away from the streetlamps it was pretty dark. I've ridden in the dusk before, but it's a new experience for me to ride in more-or-less complete darkness. The most obvious effect is that it's difficult to see the potholes (impossible if there's a car coming the other way) so I hit a few hefty bumps. There are more insects than usual as well, and I couldn't read the cycle computer so the only way of judging speed was from the wind and road.

On the other hand there is a lot less traffic. The views along the Thames at Cookham were stunning. It got a lot cooler by the time I was home. And it is a different riding experience. I may not be ready to undertake the 120 miles of the Dunwich Dynamo, but riding dark roads certainly doesn't seem to be something that has to be avoided.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

For every year of life lost through cycling accidents, 20 are gained

Live dangerously, it's safer says an article in today's Times.

In a review of "How to Live Dangerously: Why We Should All Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Warwick Cairns, it says....

Though cyclists are more likely to die in road accidents than motorists, road accidents account for only 1.4% of all deaths. Whereas heart and lung disease account for more than half of all deaths with heart disease killing a third of us. People who cycle 25 miles a week halve their risk of heart disease so more cyclists lives are extended by exercise than ended by accidents. Actuarial data reveals that for every year of life lost through cycling accidents, 20 are gained.

Personally, I'm not convinced that the logic fully stands up, and I suspect some of this is for dramatic effect, but I certainly have sympathy with the spirit.

The alternative to clean living

The other day I was listening to somebody on the radio explaining why time seems to slow down when we are scared.

Apparently, in a frightening situation, our brains start recording memories at a higher speed, so that we can recall all the details. When we play the memory back at normal speed, things seem to be happening much more slowly. It sounded a bit like a film played in slow motion.

What's more, the same principle explains why, in our childhood memories, summer seems to last for ever. As children, so many experiences are novel that we record them in great detail. As we get older, much is familiar, and our memories record less detail. So time seems to pass more quickly.

The logic seems to be that as we get older, we should seek out new and exciting experiences, so that our memory will record them in detail, and time will not rush by as fast.

In a nutshell: novelty and excitement won't help us to live longer, but it will seem longer.

I've heard that said about clean living: it doesn't make you live longer - it just seems longer. Somehow, novelty and excitement sounds like it could be more fun than clean living.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


The government is investing around £140m of our money in promoting cycling over the next few years, and quite right too. In the long-run more cycling will help to save the planet, reduce healthcare costs, and save money on transport infrastructure. In the short-term more cyclists mean better facilities and greater safety for all cyclists.

The money is going on promoting cycling, improving the infrastructure, developing cycling skills, and helping people to buy a cycle through company tax breaks. So the government is making it easier, cheaper, and safer to ride a bike. My only complaint about any of this is that they are not going far enough. Specifically, they are failing to address the most important reason why people don't ride bikes - the hills.

It is clear that a lot more people cycle in Cambridge, Lincolnshire, York, Norfolk, etc. What all these places obviously have in common is that they are flat. Internationally, the leading European countries for cycling are places like the Netherlands and Denmark. Flat places.

So it seems to me that there are two things that need to be done.

In the short-term we all need to move to the flat parts of the country. Not only will that encourage a lot more people to ride their bikes, it will also help with the housing shortage in the rest of the UK.

However, with sea levels and population numbers rising, that might present some long-term problems. So in parallel we need to start flattening the landscape in the higher parts of the country. As well as creating more space, that will provide a valuable stimulus to the construction industry, and hence more jobs.

Clearly, these are fairly radical proposals, and small minded people who lack vision are going to find all sorts of niggles to object to. But I am confident that readers of Tlatet have their priorities sorted, and will recognise that this is just the kind of bold initiative that is needed to ensure that Britain takes it's rightful place among the world's great cycling nations, like Denmark and Holland.

Please support this call to make Britain flat.


It's now six months since I got the new bike, and over that time I've covered just shy of 1,600 miles in 113 outings averaging 14 miles each.

The total distance is equivalent to riding from home, to Paris, then Rome, and then up to Venice on my virtual European tour. I don't suppose Venice is the ideal cycling city, but we enjoyed our only visit (in around 1990, and we flew). It seems unlikely that much has changed since then.

I've not kept track of everything that I've spent on the bike over the last six months, but I reckon that it must work out at something around £7 an outing, or 50p a mile. I occasionally buy something new, but the big investments in the bike itself and the GPS gizmo are now behind me. So the average cost per trip should continue falling until I splash out on something big again.

My fear was that history would repeat itself, and once my initial enthusiasm wore off, I would ride less. Thankfully, it isn't working out like that. I've averaged more that 4 outings a week, and just over 60 miles a week over the last six months. The figures have been slightly lower in the last few weeks, but considering those include some very unsuitable weather, as well as a week of holiday, I don't see them as the start of a trend.

In fact, having set up a complicated set of targets to encourage myself to get out on the bike, my last few rides have been more-or-less purely for pleasure, with no particular objective in mind. All of them have been fairly local, typically around 20 miles in a couple of hours, exploring new roads, or different routes around roads that I already knew. I'm not sure that this is the ideal strategy for achieving higher levels of fitness, but I am consoling myself with the thought that, in these temperatures, riding just for fun is more motivating than riding to keep the numbers on track.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a more mature and balanced approach, but I doubt it. I suspect compulsive behaviour runs a bit too deep for that, and will rise to the surface again before long. Maybe, in order to maintain this more balanced outlook, I should set myself a goal of having at least one non-compulsive ride, purely for pleasure, each week (only joking).

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Nobody stole Thatcher's bike

After posting on bicycle crime, it seems that I am forced to sympathise with Mr Cameron again (BBC Report here). Apparently he chained it to a two-foot bollard, but the thieves just lifted the chain off the bollard. Oh, b****r.

The Daily mirror has a very odd report that tries to link all this to a haunted cottage and a cargo of pilchards. When does the silly season start?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bicycle crime

The latest crime statistics from the home Office were published last week, and tell us something about bicycle crime.

Before I start, lets get something out of the way. Fans of a certain national newspaper will know that, "most people have an instinctive understanding that crime is a lot worse than it used to be". I know that around two-thirds of people believe that crime is rising, but the official figures say otherwise. Personally I place more faith in the falling numbers reported to the police, and by the public in the annual crime survey. Everyone understands that the official numbers are imperfect. Instinct is imperfect too. In my opinion, hard data gathered by professionals is a more reliable guide to these things than instinct.

If you disagree, please stop reading this now - it will only make you grumpy. And don't bother telling me that the government massages the crime figures - it will only make me grumpy.

Anyway, this is what the report says.

Bicycle theft has fallen by 34% since 1995. This compares to a 48% fall for all types of crime over the last 12 years. There were greater falls in vehicle-related theft (-66%) and domestic violence (-65%). Over the last 12 years the decline in vandalism (-20%) and theft from the person (-15%) were less significant.

The decline in bicycle theft over the last year has been 8%, from an estimated 482,000 incidents in 2006/7 to 441,000 incidents in 2007/8. The number has been hovering in the region of 400,000-450,000 incidents over the last four years. Ten years ago it was falling more quickly - from 673,000 incidents in 1995 to 368,000 in 2001/2, after which it had been rising until last year.

This equates to 187 bicycle thefts for each 10,000 households. I find that easier to say as 1.87% of housheholds, or to envisage as one in 53 househlds. Sadly, not everyone owns a bicycle, and the proportion of bicycle owning households that had one stolen last year was 3.6%, or one in 28. Unfortunately for them, 9% of those suffered a second bicycle theft, and 3% suffered even more than two. What that means is that 23% of bicycles stolen in 2007/8 were stolen from victims of more than one bicycle theft.

If you think of your bike as property, then thefts of a bicycle represent 14% of all thefts of property, (excluding burglaries and vehicles). If you think of a bike as a vehicle, then they represent 17% of vehicle thefts. If you think of your bike as a person, then you really need to get out more (but 441,000 bicyce thefts compares to 16,939 incidents of serious violence agains a person; and 944,249 other incidents of violence against a person).

Sadly, only 41% of bicycle theft is reported to the police. That compares to 93% of vehicle theft, and 32% of theft from the person. It is about the same proportion as similar crimes (around 40-44% of thefts from a vehicle, attempted vehicle thefts and robberies are reported). The proportion of bicycle thefts reported in 2007/8 was up slightly on the previous year, but significantly lower than levels of more than 60% reported in the 1990's. Generally the reason given for not reporting this type of crime is that it was trivial, or the police could not or would not do anything about it.

I suspect the relative fall in value of everyday bicycles has something to do with it, but those who think the police can do nothing could be right. Only 5% of bicycle thefts that are reported end up being successfully prosecuted - one of the lowest rates for any crime.

Note that the actual number of bicycles stolen will be higher than the figures I have quoted. An incident is only classified as the theft of a pedal cycle if nothing else was stolen at the same time. It is classed as burglary if anything else was stolen from a dwelling; as theft when a bicycle is stolen from inside a house by someone who was not trespassing; and as theft from a vehicle if the bicycle is one of a number of things stolen.

Monday, 21 July 2008


Sometimes on a ride, I feel as though I am battling against everything. The wind blows in my face, the hills all go up, and no matter how hard I try, progress seems slow. Afterwards there is some kind of satisfaction in having overcome the forces of evil, but at the time it isn't exactly fun.

Other times everything seems to be on my side, and I just fly along.

This evening's ride was one of the second kind. From the moment I set out, it felt good. The weather was ideal, I felt on top form, and the bike just seemed to zing along. Even the climb up to Winter Hill seemed easier than usual. Instead of looping straight back through Cookham, I took the steep drop down into Marlow at a cracking pace (which got a bit too exciting on some of the corners). Then I explored Marlow for a while before coming home through Bourne End and along the river.

I stayed out for a bit longer than I planned, covered just over 20 miles altogether, and was getting pretty tired by the time I got home.

It was great.

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Thames Traditional Boat Rally

The destination of today's ride was the "Thames Traditional Boat Rally" near Henley. This is an annual event, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. It is a rally of traditional boats, on the Thames.

(they also have old cars and some old bicycles on display, as well as a collection of the kind of stalls and exhibitions that you would expect at this sort of event)

The rally has been running for 30 years, but I came across it by accident last year. On the day I visited a year ago the river was very high and in the end the event was pretty much flooded out. This year, the weather was more amenable, and it was well attended.

The ride there and back on the bike came to about 28 miles, which is the longest distance that I have covered in nearly three weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a bit of wind, but on the whole the weather was kind. I now know the area fairly well, and I could choose a route to avoid the worst of the traffic, without meandering around too many quiet back lanes.

The aim was to reach the destination, not see the best of the countryside, rack up the miles, set up a speed record, or any kind of training. So I took things fairly sedately, and by the time I got home, I was a bit disappointed to find that I had only averaged about 11mph. I had already realised that I was using pathetically low gears up some of the hills. What I think that goes to show is that the improvements I thought I was making last month were pretty superficial. They have quickly disappeared over a couple of weeks when I've done relatively little cycling. Obviously I will need to keep putting the work in.

Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable outing, and apart from getting some healthy exercise and seeing some shiny wooden boats, I've also captured some photos of old bikes that will come in useful for illustrating future posts.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

You can't be too safe, or can you?

There is some thought provoking analysis on the effectiveness of cycle helmets, here.

Some of the analysis is quite complex, but the gist seems to be that while cycle helmets offer limited protection, promoting their use raises fears about safety that have negative consequences. Not the least of these is that it discourages people from cycling; and lower numbers of cyclists puts the rest at higher risk. Efforts to improve safety are therefore better concentrated on training.

After reading the analysis, I went to look at the hospital statistics relating to cycling. Out of almost a million incidents in 2006/7 there were 13,649 related to bicycles. 281 of these involve people injured because they were hit by a bicycle (in virtually every case, it was a pedestrian hit by a bicycle).

In the other 13,386 cases it was a cyclist that was injured. The biggest group (9,191 incidents) are described as "Pedal cyclist injured in noncollision transport accident" - basically I think that means that they fell off their bike.

208 injuries resulted from collisions between bicycles, 92 were cyclists injured when they collided with a pedestrian or an animal, 518 were cyclists colliding with a stationery object. 1,940 involved a collision with a car or van, and a couple of hundred involved collisions with other vehicles, including one where a cyclist collided with a railway train (scary). 1,308 involved an unspecified transport accident.

Around 80% of the cyclists involved were male. 42% of them were aged under 15; 52% between 15 and 60; and 8% aged over 60.

The vast majority of injuries among those under 15 were the result of falling off the bike: less than one in ten (around 500) involved a collision with a moving vehicle. To put this in proportion, more than 2,500 children were injured falling out of bed, almost 2,000 falling off a chair, and over 6,000 were injured on playground equipment.

Among almost half a million incidents involving those aged over 60, 200 were cyclists in collision with cars, and 64 were injuries sustained on playground equipment. They really should know better.

All of this confirms that cycling is a relatively low-risk activity. Nevertheless, I will continue to wear my helmet, and I will keep off playground equipment - just in case.

Friday, 18 July 2008

I-Spy bicycles

When I was a youngster, I-Spy books were a big thing - especially for children on long journeys. They were little spotter guides, of a couple of dozen pages, covering subjects such as I-SPY Cars, I-SPY Churches, etc. The idea was that you ticked off the different objects pictured in the book as you spotted them. When the book was complete, you could send it in for a prize, to Big Chief I-Spy, at his Wigwam, somewhere in London (I remember it as Fleet Street, but the ever-dependable interweb suggests it was Edgeware Road, or Paddington Green).

I never managed to complete an I-Spy book, and I always suspected that, since they were published in London, I was working at a bit of an unfair disadvantage up in North-East England.

On the drive home today I got to wondering what an "I-Spy Cycling" might contain these days. Presumably it would have to cover different types of bike (MTB, racer, tandem, etc), cycling infrastructure (Sustrans National and Regional Routes, Sheffield stands, branches of Halfords), different ways that bikes are used (postmen, messengers, rickshaws), and different equipment (derailleur, disk brake, wicker basket).

Whatever the categories turned out to be , I suspect that youngsters living in Cambridge would start with a massive advantage. There are bicycles everywhere - all different shapes and sizes, and being put to a host of different uses.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Alton Water

We hired mountain bikes at Alton Water this morning, and had a very enjoyable ride, taking an hour or so to cover about five miles around the westerly part of the lake, but falling short of a full circuit.

Considering how long it has been since Mrs Gom has been on a bike, it was an impressive first outing for her. The weather was fine, and the ride was quiet and fairly flat. Riding together made a very pleasant morning, and hopefully there will be similar outings to follow - once the injuries heal.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Painter's Trail

We see a few bikes as we travel about on holiday, but not a vast number. There is a remarkably large number of cycle routes around here, though, and rightly so.

As far as I can make out, the nearest significant route is the Painter's Trail, which runs for 69 miles along the Stour valley, celebrating the landscapes of John Constable, and other local artists. There is an article about it here.

Without realising it at the time, I've already covered some parts of the trail in my meanders on the bike this week. We covered a bit more of it on foot today. It looks like an interesting route to me, and well thought out. Oddly though, I can't find any information on what kind of bike John Constable rode.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Stoke by Nayland, St Mary

I managed to cover 13 miles or so this morning, before we got going on the day properly.

In the process, I visited a couple of the churches ranked among England's finest by Simon Jenkins. There is no shortage of those around here. One of the ones I visited was rebuilt by rich wool merchants in the 15th century (this one), and the other (St Mary, Polstead) predates that by a few hundred years. They are both beautiful, within sight of each other, but very different.

As I had already discovered, the back lanes around here are fairly hilly, and it was quite a strenuous 13 miles. But thoroughly enjoyable, nonetheless, and refreshingly different to my normal stomping ground.

I logged the journey on the GPS, with the intent of adding it to Openstreetmap. But most of my traces had already been covered. I am not confident about some of the rest, so in the end, today's ride turned out to be a bit selfish. Great fun for me, but not a lot to contribute to anyone else.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

It's not Norfolk

Mrs Gom and I are on holiday at the moment, near to where we lived thirty years ago in Suffolk. It is interesting to revisit old haunts, and see how much (or how little) they have changed since we were last here.

The main roads are better than they used to be, and there are tighter speed limits on the minor roads. There are all sorts of things we can do that we couldn't do thirty years ago: connect to broadband, watch DVDs. And yesterday we could have bought an iPod in the Waitrose in Sudbury - which we couldn't have done thirty years ago.

They were simpler times in those days. All the 4x4s were built by Landrover, women couldn't become bishops, the Labour party was committed to common ownership of the means of production and the Conservatives thought the Common Market was a foreign conspiracy that we should have nothing to do with, unless Britain was in charge (or perhaps that was the other way round). It hardly seems credible now, but in those days young couples couldn't even afford to buy a house.

But the half-timbered houses, medieval churches, and enormous Suffolk skies don't seem to have changed at all.

Thirty years ago we explored the countryside in a borrowed Ford Prefect, and sometimes hired a car for a special trip, until we could afford our own (awful) Austin 1100. Now we have enough room in the back of the car to bring the bike on holiday with us.

So I managed a short outing on the bike yesterday before we went sightseeing. That was the first time I'd ridden a bike in Suffolk, and it came as a bit of a surprise how hilly it was - particularly on the small country lanes.

I suppose I should have known really. We lived here long enough to understand that Suffolk and Norfolk are very different, but although it still seems recent to me, in reality that was an awfully long time ago.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Them and us

There is much comment in the press today following the trial of the cyclist who knocked down a young girl who subsequently died of her injuries. I don't want to comment on the specific case: out of sympathy for those involved; and because all I know is from press reports, so I must trust the judgement of others.

However, I do have views on the resulting commentary.

My first point is that most cyclists are also motorists and pedestrians. As a cyclist I have suffered experiences of poor driving. As a driver I have suffered experiences of poor cycling. As a pedestrian I have suffered both.

Bad experiences include aggressive overtaking, cutting in, and other unpredictable behaviour from drivers. But it is not all aggression - there are also annoying experiences of over-cautious, rather than aggressive driving. For example, I particularly dislike drivers who remain on my shoulder continuously, when there is ample room to pass. But if I was to rant against one particular group of drivers it would be the silly young lads in hatchbacks who think it is funny to hoot their horn, or yell out at cyclists to get a reaction.

Similarly when walking, I get annoyed at cyclists careering along the footpath - but I also get annoyed at cars that are parked on the kerb and obstruct the path. They are presumably left by people who have never had to negotiate a baby buggy, or a wheelchair along a footpath. When driving or riding, I come across pedestrians who dither on the edge of the pavement, or step out without looking, or sudenly change direction. Groups who stand in the middle of a cycle path, or drift from side to side, oblivious to people trying to get past. Equally, when driving, I am frustrated by groups of cyclists hogging the road, or individual cyclists jumping lights or weaving through heavy traffic.

So there are faults among all groups. But there is also considerable courtesy, and thoughfulness among all groups. At least in my experience the many courtesies massively outweight the few faults. Perhaps I am lucky in the places that I visit. Perhaps the balance is the other way round in places that I haven't visited. Or perhaps this ferocious war of words between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists is a little exagerrated.

When it comes to the practicalities, I am, of course, responsible for my own safety. And if I come into contact with a heavy moving object I am going to end up hurt. So it is in my own interests to watch out for how others behave - particularly when I am not in a car. It seems to me that the fact that some behave badly puts an extra responsibility on me, it doesn't absolve me from responsibility.

I also have a responsibility for the safety of others. I don't want to deliberately harm anyone else, but I also need to take care that I don't cause harm accidentally. Unfortunately, like everyone else, I sometimes make mistakes. So far, I've not made a mistake that ended very badly. Either because I got lucky, or others took evasive action. But anyone with any imagination who has driven a car, or ridden a bike, must know that there have been situations where without a bit of luck, or a bit of help, they could have caused a pretty serious accident.

So it seems to me that when commentators divide the world up into cyclists (them) and motorists (us); or cyclists (us) and motorists (them) they are setting off in a pointless direction. The world doesn't work that way. We are all sharing the roads and footpaths, most of use use a mix of transport, and in any case we all have to rub along together. There is no "them" and no "us".

Secondly, we are all responsible for how we behave, whatever form of transport we are using. No matter how well intentioned, we are all fallible, and we need to look out for our own safety, and the safety of others, whether we are driving, riding, or walking. We have to recognise that anyone can make a mistake, including ourselves, and act to compensate. This isn't something to complain about - it's the inevitable result of being a fallible social animal.

Thirdly, there are a few idiots out there, who sometimes act irresponsibly. Whether they are malicious, misguided, or more likely, just incapable of foreseeing the consequences of their actions, they definitely exist. However, owning a bike or a car does not turn somebody into an idiot. They are not idiotic drivers, or idiotic cyclists. They are just idiots. And they should be censored for that, not for being drivers, or cyclists.

And finally, we should be cautious about drawing conclusions from a very specific case. Historically, any serious rail accident has driven more poeple onto the roads, despite the fact that the roads are inherently less safe than rail travel. Improving safety is pretty obviously a good thing. But while an accidental death is a tragedy, one tragic case should not lead to the conclusion that this is the area that most urgently needs action. Despite the fact that there are at least two other cycling-related accidents in today's news, this remains a relatively safe form of transport. There are plenty of downsides to the alternatives.

We do not have to over-react in order to sympathise with those involved in this particular tragedy.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


There isn't a long list of questions to draw on. In fact there is only one that I've been asked about this blog. But now it's been asked twice, I suppose that I ought to answer it.

Q: What does Tlatet stand for?

A: Tlatet stands for "The Light At The End (of the) Tunnel".

I picked the name because it is short, doesn't meaning anything much, but makes reference to a shocking discovery. Although my head is still in my teens, the rest of me is approaching retirement.

So now you know: the answer isn't as interesting as the question.

And while I'm here, thanks to the Highway Cycling Group for their link, and their kind comments. And welcome to anyone who has arrived here as a result.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Pull your socks up, Europe

More than 500 million people live in Europe, more than 250 million of them are regular internet users, and 165 of them have visited this blog.

Just over 80% of our European visitors come from the UK. A higher proportion of UK internet users have visited Tlatet than from any other European country. In the UK this amounts to one out of every 300,000 of active internet users (0.00033%). That's more than 5 times the European average of one in 1.5 million internet users who have reached this blog (0.00006%).

It's not entirely surprising that the UK should be most active visitors - given that people in the UK mostly speak the same language, and the posts are largely concerned with places in Southern England. Not to mention the fact that my family are almost all living in the UK.

After the UK, we have reached a higher proportion of internet users in Estonia than in any other European country. Our two different Estonian visitors represent one in 400,000 of Estonia's regular internet users. Everywhere else in Europe, we have reach less than one in a million.

Nobody has visited from Austria, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, or Slovenia. 257,211,309 regular European internet users have never visited Tlatet . Around 20% of these unfortunates live in Germany, and 14% in France.

There is so much to do, and so little time. But remember, if you visit Europe this summer, and see somebody using the Internet, they just might be the one in a million (and a half) who has visited this blog. Please pass on our best wishes.

(Based on unique vistor data from Google analytics, combined with demographic and Internet usage data published by Eurostat).

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Friday, 4 July 2008

I like to end the week on a positive note....

Tom Lehrer, and "We will all go together when we go".

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Windsor Castle

Until this evening I have been a lone cyclist, enjoying my own company as I trundle about. But this evening, for the first time, I met up with my brother, and we did a short circuit together from Eton to Dorney along the Jubilee Channel, then back to Eton along the Thames for a quick beer.

The rain threatened, but never arrived, and it was lovely weather for a ride. Riding together made for a very pleasant evening. I will still be enjoying my solitary outings, but I hope I can look forward to ocassional companionship as well.

Round Berkshire

Here is the current state of the round Berkshire route on Open Street Map, now that the additions I made at the weekend have been rendered.

The section around Maidenhead is marked on the map, as it is on the ground, as Sustrans regional route 52, which appears as light blue on the OSM cycle map. The section between Maidenhead and Reading pretty much corresponds to National Cycle Route 4 which is in red as a national cycle route. I have marked the rest as a local route, which appears as dark blue.
I haven't checked every piece of the Maidenhead / Reading stretch yet, although I have marked a slight difference between how the two routes negotiate the centre of Wargrave, and I know there is some work to do where the Round Berkshire Route appears to dive off into Woodley.
The section from Wargrave to Windsor seems fairly complete. I'm pretty confident that I've captured the main outline of the section betwen Newbury and Windsor, though there may be some tweaking to do at a detailed level. The section from Reading to Hungerford and back to Newbury is still to be done. And there are quite large sections away from the Reading / Maidenhead / Windsor area where the route appears to pass through unmapped territory.

The official route map and guide is here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

June round-up

Further progress in June with a new high for the monthly distance at 313 miles. My ride count was about average, at 17 (after 16 and 18 in each of the previous months), but the average ride is now over 18 miles. That includes two more rides above my imperial age, bringing the total to four. My Eddington number is up to 19, and what is more I have already banked 19 journeys of 25 miles, so all 19 will count for a while yet, and pushing it higher isn't going to be a huge challenge.

I completed my Jenkins quest in May, so the more adventurous trips this month have involved following the Round Berkshire route. I've now covered about two-thirds of it. In shorter evening trundles I've managed to fill a few gaps in the coverage of Maidenhead on Open Street Map.

I'm still making slow progress on improving my speed though. The highlight this month has been getting round my favourite ten mile route at an average of 14 mph. But that was two weeks ago, and I'm struggling to better it. At least that leaves plenty of scope for improvement in July.

Tap water

This evening I had another crack at using the GPS to race myself round my Winter Hill loop. Regular visitors will know that I have gradually been bringing down the time it takes me to get round this ten mile route. It's been a couple of weeks since I last tried, and I thought it might have got easier - so I was a bit disappointed at how hard I found it this evening. In the end it took me slightly longer than last time . So further improvement will have to wait for another day.

The odd thing about the journey this evening was that they are preparing to re-surface the road from Winter Hill to Cookham tomorrow, and they have already put out signs setting a speed limit of 10mph. Sod that, I thought to myself, and for a few happy miles I was passing speed restrictions at more than 50% over the limit. It's not every day you get to do that on a bike.

It was a warm evening, and I had worked up quite a glow by the time I got home. Nothing tastes quite as good as a large glass of cool tap water at that point. But a picture of a tap would be just a little bit too boring. So this is a dragon-shaped water pump in the street that I saw on last year's trip to Poland.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Too many variables

This time last year I had just got back home from driving to Poland and back. At the time I had a rather vague objective of getting my weight down. On the way, I took this picture of my dinner, to try and kid myself that I was eating sensibly. I didn't take any pictures of the high-cholesterol travelling food - which I suppose is a kind of denial.

My real aim is to be thinner. I'm not all that concerned about being lighter. So the important test is the notch where I can comfortably buckle my belt. It is still - slowly - moving inwards. However, I also weigh myself fairly regularly - just to make sure that I'm not getting any heavier.

Gradually we are getting to the point of this....

Yesterday I went to the barber and had one of my occassional hair cuts. When I weighed myself this morning I discovered that I was a pound lighter. I knew I was overdue for a haircut, but who would have thought that the barber could have removed a whole pound of the stuff?

My conclusion is that it is much more effective to keep track of how much effort I am putting in, rather than keeping track of the outcomes. It is easy to measure how much further and faster I am riding, and not difficult to set targets that I can reach for, and achieve.

By contrast, my progress on reducing weight and girth seems slow, and patchy, and there are just too many variables. I find one approach encouraging, and the other discouraging. So I will carry on setting all sorts of silly cycling goals, and try to ignore the real objective, in the hope that I achieve it as a side-effect. I also promise to try and avoid unhealthy food - probably.