Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Market rebels

I spend quite a lot of my working life thinking about the way that innovations get taken up. So at the moment I am in the middle of reading "Market Rebels" by Hayagreeva Rao, which was published a few weeks ago. Mr Rao looks at the role that groups of activists play in encouraging (or discouraging) the spread of innovations. 

The book has been endorsed by some pretty impressive names, and it looks at a wide variety of examples. For anyone interested in this stuff there is quite a lot to think about, and I've not really got my head round what it is saying yet - so this isn't a review. 

But I would like to share one quote, from the section dealing with the early days of motor cars. 

Around 1900, apparently, rural areas in America were particularly exercised about the threat that they believed cars would pose to livestock and horse-drawn vehicles. The Farmer's Anti-Automobile Society of Pennsylvania made the following demands:
  • Automobiles travelling on country roads at night must send up a rocket every mile, then wait ten minutes for the road to clear;
  • If a driver sees a team of horses, he is to pull to one side of the road and cover his machine with a blanket or dust cover that has been painted to blend into the scenery;
  • In the event that a horse refuses to pass a car on the road, the owner must take his car apart and conceal the parts in the bushes.
Just imagine how different things might have been...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Bike Show is back

With an excellent item about a the Northumberland coast, which can be heard here

I am hoping to cover similar ground in March, following the Sustrans Coast and Castles route from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It's a wonderful part of the country, and I'm looking forward to the trip.

Jack visits Holy Island and Dunstanburgh Castle. It's a long time since I visited either (the picture is nearly 20 years old). So I  hope I will manage to reach both, but Holy Island depends a bit on the exact date, and how that affects the timing of the tides.  I definitely don't have any plans to swim in the North Sea in March.

Monday, 26 January 2009

New tyres

I've been given a couple of new tyres as a present, and I fitted them at the weekend.

Since then, I've been out on a couple of rides, totalling a couple of dozen miles.

I thought long and hard about which tyres to chose, and in the end I decided to change to something different to the ones that were originally fitted to the bike.

But when it comes to the ride, I have to admit that there's not a lot to choose between these and the previous ones. If anything they feel a bit smoother, but it's hard to be sure.

I had quite a few punctures on the others, and I'm hoping that these are a bit more resistant, but I've not gone the whole hog and aimed for something that tries to be puncture-proof at all costs.

So the main difference at the moment is that they look very fresh and unused. It will take time to build up the patina of wear and tear that enhances the appearance of bike. And, I would like to think, the rider.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Slow cycling

I am a bit of a slow cyclist. Although I can hardly claim to favour style over speed, I do share a lot of other ground with the Slow Bicycle movement. It is the journey that's important. I aim to enjoy the ride, and I do get there, eventually.

But having said that, I sometimes feel that I should be making more effort. After all, part of my rationale is to get fitter, and part of the fun is seeking out new places to visit. With more speed I would get more exercise, and I could reach places further from home.

So yesterday I tried setting the GPS system to bleep every time my speed dropped below 10 mph. I wasn't sure what the best threshold would be, but 10 mph seemed a reasonable starting point for the first experiment.

As expected, some of the time it just told me when I was going up a hill, or into a headwind (which was quite annoying). But it also worked as a reminder when I had relaxed and started to cruise on an easier stretch. The result was that I ended up putting in a bit more effort than usual.

I then realised that my old GPS tracks have distance and time information in them, that show how far I have ridden at different speeds. It turned out to be more difficult to extract the data than I expected, but I figured it out, eventually, and this morning I crunched the GPS tracks from about 1,000 miles of riding in 2008.

It came as something of a surprise to discover that my speed was under 10mph for about half the time I was riding. Of course, in a "glass half full" kind of way ,that also means that I am riding at more than 10mph for the other half.

But I think I could do quite a bit better, and I will try to in 2009.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

No cobwebs

On Friday the weather forecast for the weekend promised a cold saturday and a windy Sunday. I wanted to fit in a long weekend ride, but chosing the day was a bit of a dilemma, until Saturday morning, when I realised just how cold it was, and decided that the wind on Sunday would be preferable.

So I messed around on Saturday, and this morning, fortified by buttered crumpets I set off to visit a couple of the churches on my list for this year. The route out involved the long climb up to Lane End, and Stokenchurch. With the wind behind me, and the sun just about breaking through, I was confident that I had chosen the best option.

Wheatfield, Saint Andrew

I visited Saint Andrew at Wheatfield first, which frankly was a bit of a disappointment. Sitting in the middle of a field, it isn't used in the winter, and was locked, and well protected by a barbed wire fence. So I can't comment on the interior, but the exterior didn't seem very interesting either.

All Saints, Little Kimble
By now the temperature was falling, and the wind rising, but sticking to the plan, I set off to visit All Saints at Little Kimble. From the outside this doesn't look like a very impressive church, either, but the interior is lovely. It is famous for the 14th century wall paintings, which include St George, St James, St Christopher and St Francis preaching to the birds. I'm not sure who it is in the picture above, but it looks as though it might be St Francis. Unfortunately, I missed the 13th century floor tiles, because I forgot to look out for them.

By now the wind was picking up, and time was getting on. I abandoned my plan to plot some of the roads in the area that seem to be missing from Open Street Map, and headed straight for home along the A4010 towards High Wycombe. Because of the strong headwind, it took me more than an hour to cover less than ten miles, even though it was mostly downhill. By then, I was wondering if chosing wind over cold had been the right decision, but at least it was blowing the cobwebs away.

The route home from High Wycombe was more sheltered, and I made better progress. By the time I got home, I had covered 57 miles, but it felt like a lot more.

In today's Observer, I see that Nicole Cooke tells cyclists not to overdo it. "if it stops giving you that sense of achievement and fun, then you need to take a look at your approach". Well, I reckon today ticked the sense of achievement box, but I'm not so sure about the fun box.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

New Avengers

It's become a bit of a running joke over Christmas, that places I visit on the bike keep turning up as locations for stuff on TV.

Turville appeared most often, as the location for the Vicar of Dibley, and Goodnight Mr Tom. The windmill above Turville famously features in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was also shown over Christmas (as usual). Apparently, Turville was also the location for Went the Day Well, and some episodes of Midsomer Murders.

Then on Thursday, we were watching an old episode of the New Avengers. St Bartholomew church at Fingest turned out to be the hiding place of Ian Hendry. He played an agent who recovers his memory 17 years after falling off a trapeze while working under cover in a circus (this is the new Avengers, remember). Steed, Purdey and Gambit must find him before the baddies do, if they are going to discover the identity of the traitor. Who who turns out to be....

But the episode "To Catch a Rat" is repeated on BBC4 again tonight, and I wouldn't want to spoil anyone's fun. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Ice breaker

Today is the 6th January, and it's the first day that I have managed to get out on the bike in 2009.

It was very cold last night, but today was bright and clear. I chose my familiar ride over Winter Hill, and back along the river. The view over the valley from the top of the hill was impressive, but that's not a great surprise. It usually is on a clear day. More of a novelty was finding the Thames at Maidenhead frozen over in the channel near Boulter's lock, where there is little current.

The ice was thick enough in most places to support a duck, and they were landing on it, and slithering around a bit. But the swans were struggling, because most of the ice was too weak for them to climb on top, but too firm for them to push their way through.

This boat was having to proceed very carefully to avoid distressing swans that had trouble keeping out of its way.

I only covered 10 miles, and I reckon that failing to get started until day 6 is a pretty unimpressive start to the year's cycling. But it was a very pleasant and memorable first outing.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Thursday, 1 January 2009

We're going to have a resolution

For the record (and to prevent cop-outs) my cycling goals for 2009 are:
  • Riding a total distance of at least 3,249 miles
  • Reaching an Eddington number of 40
  • At least one ride of 100 miles
  • Visting the next 12 churches on Simon Jenkins' list of England's best
  • Taking enough time out to cover one of the Sustrans long distance cycle routes (probably Coast and Castles)
As a side effect of the cycling, I'm hoping to get within 5.5 inches of the ideal height for my weight. 

I'm also going to try and fill gaps in Open Streetmap within 10 miles of home, starting with any to the North-West, because those are the best rides, and I'd like to retrace more of the routes around London that Charles Harper originally charted in 1902.

The bike has stayed in the shed for the first day of 2009, so there are just 364 days left, and time is running out...

Happy new year.