Monthly Archives: September 2013

Cycling World Championships

For the second year in a row, the GB mens’ team has failed at the Road Cycling World Championships. Last year, they weren’t expected to do very well – Wiggins had just completed the Tour de France as well as the Olympics, and had just pulled out of the Tour of Britain owing to a combination of illness and fatigue. The course didn’t favour Mark Cavendish, the defending champion, and I got the impression that the GB team was really turning up just to go through the motions in 2012 – even Chris Froome was not regarded as a serious contender. The only medals won were by the womens’ team, taking two golds and two bronzes. However, all this was forgiven amongst a general flurry of cycling medals for Great Britain and the World Championships were disregarded. Despite a second British Tour de France win, however, the expectations were high for this year – yet with 100km to go in a 275km race, there wasn’t a single British rider left in the race. This also followed on from disappointment in silver medals from the Time Trials – an event where Wiggins and Lizzie Armitstead were expected to take the gold.

It feels overly-critical to have a go at Team GB’s cycling efforts when they’ve come on so much in recent years, but it would be good to see a British rider complete one of these uber-long distance races and show that Mark Cavendish’s 2011 performance wasn’t a one-off. The trouble is, if Froome can’t manage a win on a course intended to favour climbers, I can’t see where that British winner is coming from.

Shimano have also compiled this excellent video of the day’s racing, showing just how tough the conditions were for the World Championships.

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UCI Presidency – Time for Change

UCI President, Pat McQuaid

UCI President, Pat McQuaid – © Simon MacMichael

Today, the UCI votes on its future in a presidential vote. McQuaid should go. He has presided over one of the most controversial eras of cycling in his three terms and has been dogged with accusations of cheating, corruption and bribery pretty much since he started. Even when he was a professional cyclist himself, McQuaid was undermined by cheating and, famously, when he breached the anti-Apartheid rules in world sport at the time by turning up in a professional event in South Africa under a false name. Even today, his nomination for president relies on votes from Thailand and Morocco; even his native Ireland have abandoned him.

I have commented before on the disconnection of the professional game from its grass-roots, which I believe is a greater divide than in almost any other sport. The UCI is a distant body, doing little to promote cycling and operating as a remote gentleman’s club which owes its existence purely to history. It is as relevant to modern cycling as the MCC is to cricket. McQuaid must take responsibility for this. Professional cycling could do itself a favour today and vote for change.

Edit: The UCI has rejected Pat McQuaid and installed Brian Cookson, former head of British Cycling, as president after a somewhat farcical election process. I’m glad to see the change, but I still question the role of the UCI. Time will tell.

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Tarka Trail Redux

By the time you read this, TWT and Mrs Tubby will have taken Tubbette down to Devon for a week’s caravan holiday. If it’s anything like last year, it will have been a struggle to persuade Mrs T to allow me to take my bike down, but she’s a bit more amenable now that I’ve got the trailer and can take Tubbette with me on my little jaunts.

Last year’s highlight was the Tarka Trail – a near 40-mile trail combining some stunning cycle path at the top end and some appalling singletrack at the bottom. The leaflets warned me about this last year, and I damn nearly finished myself off pushing all the way down to Meath – but the sense of satisfaction as Dartmoor hoved into view was immense.

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The views along the trail were superb – so much so that Mrs T has agreed to get on a hire bike again for this year and is suggesting a tandem. She didn’t seem so keen when I pointed out that meant she would have to pedal too…

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Cycle Superhighways

While I am all in favour of the excellent cycle hire scheme in London, I am considerably less of a fan of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways, which are gradually emerging in the capital. I’m not against the principal of more cycle lanes – quite the contrary – but these rather grandiose-sounding things, in practice, are nothing of the sort, as this picture demonstrates:

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The London cycle “superhighways” are little more than a streak of blue paint on the road, occasionally decorated with Barclays advertising. They do not particularly run to the most popular commuter destinations and many inexplicably stop in the middle of nowhere, usually due to a dispute with borough councils. The lanes are not segregated and there seems to be no penalty for motor vehicles in either entering them or parking across them. They are barely safer than riding on the main road, and the routes that do exist run down some pretty busy main roads. Earlier this year, a young woman was killed riding on one after being forced wide by some roadworks into a busy junction. My experience was similar when riding along one near Greenwich last year, when a black cab swerved into the lane in front of me and stopped to let a passenger disembark.

I understand that there are now plans to add segregation into future CS lanes. My question is – why wasn’t this considered from the start? Was there a political or advertising-driven urgency to get this project off the ground before it was really ready?

London now hosts thousands of cyclists every day, saving millions in fuel, harmful emissions and traffic jams. They deserve better than blue paint on main roads.

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Garmin Edge 200

I have to confess to being a bit of a stats hound and, while I don’t chase after King of the Mountain titles on Strava (as if I could!), I do like to keep a record of where I’ve been, how fast I went and how high I climbed. I love Strava as much as seasoned sporty semi-pros, even though I could never hope to match their achievements. To monitor my stats, until recently, I relied on my iPhone running the Strava app. The app is great – accurate, easy to use and fully-featured. The only downside is the drain on your phone battery’s life; it wasn’t good on the iPhone 4 and I dread to think what it would do to the iPhone 5. So, with a lengthy 5-hour ride down to Southampton in my sights, I decided to purchase a Garmin Edge 200 to save me from a flat battery. The unit is the lowest-priced in Garmin’s range, but I was able to pick it up for about £80 from Halford’s on a special deal. Its standard price is about £87.99 now.

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The Edge 200 is a simple GPS system and cycle computer, and its simplicity is its strength over other units. As you can see above, there are only four menu options: Ride, Course, History and Settings. This is not a touch-screen device, so each option is selected by pressing one of four little bumper-buttons on the side of the unit. Each menu option is context-sensitive, so when you click on Ride, for example, then some new menu options pop up – Start, Resume, Pause, etc. It’s very intuitive and easy to use.

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The screenshot above shows the main Ride screen, and this is what you’ll see most of the time you’re using the Edge 200 (with even the tubbiest of us going a bit faster). This is the “cycle computer” and shows you your speed, miles completed and average speed. If you’re running a Course (more on those later), then it will also show you the number of miles you have left to go until completion. There is no room here for heartbeat monitoring, gradient measuring, power output or any other clutter on screen; it’s just the simple information that you need. If you want more information, you need to shell out for the Edge 500 or Edge 800, which costs about five times the price.

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The Edge 200 has a very simple way of storing some of your historic ride information (see above), but I imagine this is really only for when you want to review something on the go. Ideally, these stats are meant to be uploaded to the Garmin Connect website, which is free to access for all Garmin customers as the unit stores many more statistics than it can display on this little screen. The unit won’t lose your data, though, and can store about 200 rides’ information before it starts deleting things to make room.

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The final clincher for many deciding whether or not to purchase this unit will be the Course mode. It was certainly my biggest question before diving in. The short answer: yes, you can plan routes and then follow them on your Edge 200. Is it as good as the Edge 800 with its maps? No, but that’s why this unit costs £90 and the Edge 800 costs £400. You pays your money and takes your choice.

In order to plan a route, you need to use a computer. You cannot plan anything using the Edge 200, although you can save your ride data as you go along to “create” a route and save it for later – think of it as like leaving a snail trail behind you. You can also reverse your ride data to create a “return” route and go back to where you started. However, the main method of planning is to use an external GPS mapping system, such as that found at the British Cycling website, or using an app such as Cycle Streets, which can export your map in .gpx format. Once you’ve plotted and exported your route, adding it to the Edge 200 is a simple case of dragging and dropping your .gpx file into the Edge 200’s “New Files” folder using your PC or Mac and it will then appear as a Course to follow in the relevant menu.

Following a course can be a little tricky unless you have some idea of where you’re going, so I would always recommend having a map available, but the Edge 200 will show you where to go by pointing a line in the relevant direction. It’s surprising how accurate this can be, but can be tricky to follow if you find yourself at an intersection with multiple paths all going off in broadly the same direction. However, it’s accurate enough that you should be able to pick up any deviations, and the Edge 200 will alert you if you go “off course” and point you in the right direction to get back on it. I managed to navigate myself all the way from Basingstoke to Southampton doing this, but I was also following NCN Route 23 which helped.

When it comes to uploading, the Garmin Connect site is very easy to use – just plug your Edge 200 into a USB port using the supplied cable and it will detect it and, with just a single click, you can upload your ride. The unit is also directly compatible with the Strava website, which works in exactly the same way. The data recorded is accurate and a delight to review, allowing you to see how fast you were at any given point, along with altitude and estimated power. You can also compare yourself to other riders using Strava segments. There are other tools in the Garmin Connect website that I haven’t played with, simply because I’m such a fan of Strava instead, but there looks to be lots else you can do – including route planning from Garmin’s own site.

The battery life on the Edge 200 is amazing. Officially, the battery lasts for 8 hours – but I’ve used it for over 5 and barely lost one bar of energy. The simple LCD screen means that the unit can keep going for hours and hours without a charge, unlike it’s more expensive counterparts. It charges off either the supplied USB lead or USB plug, also supplied. Instructions for use are included, with full-colour diagrams. There is no complicated software to install on your system; the hardest thing you’ll have to do is fit the cradle to your bike to hold the unit, but this is little more than stretching a (very) taught rubber band around the pivot of the handlebars. The unit is then simply mounted by turning it 90 degrees into place.

The Edge 200 is an ideal entry point for anybody who wants to know how fast they’re going and to review their ride data afterwards. It’s perfect for a training aid for serious cyclists and a great joy for those of us who just like to show off where we’ve been. The unit is capable of outputting enough information to keep most cyclists happy, and unless you really need those maps (and have deep pockets), the Edge 200’s course capability is enough to plan most rides with. I take it with me on every ride now, and haven’t used my iPhone app since.

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Tour of Britain

As this year’s Tour of Britain nears its conclusion, I thought it timely to post this photo I shot at last year’s finish on Guildford High St. My disappointment at not getting to see Bradley Wiggins (who pulled out after Stage 4) was compensated by getting this great image of Mark Cavendish storming to a stage win up the cobbles.

This year, Wiggins looks set for a win in the General Classification and needs a race victory here to compensate for a pretty dire season overall – especially compared to his monumental 2012 effort.

Via Flickr:
GUILDFORD, UK, 16TH SEP 2012. Mark Cavendish, the "Manx Missile", breaks away on the final sprint to win the last stage of the Tour of Britain.

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Back on the Bike

After quite some time not writing anything, I decided to ditch several other blogs that I maintained and to focus on this one. Insert standard “I promise to blog every day from now on” that you usually see.

So, what’s changed for me over the past year? Not a lot. I’m still on two wheels, still tubby and still riding regularly. I’ve bought several new gadgets that I’ll write about on here – including the excellent Garmin Edge 200 and a fantastic child’s trailer bought for a bargain price from Halfords. I’ve also bought a couple of cycling outfits from eBay – “genuine”, of course, and ridden some excellent courses that I’ll be talking about.

As always, the aim of this blog is to provide some occasional, light-hearted and (hopefully) informative entertainment about everyday cycling. Thankyou for reading.

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View over the Staffordshire countryside, looking towards Wales – shot on one of my recent rides