Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garmin Edge 605 Update

GPS has been one of the biggest contributors to my recent enjoyment of cycling.

No longer do I get home and tell Linda about the quiet roads and picturesque scenery which surprisingly abounds in central New Jersey, and not know where I've been. I can now plot every yard/metre I cycle.

I use a Garmin Edge 605. I resisted the 705's facility for heart-rate and cadence monitoring because, basically, if I feel good then that's alright with me.

However, the unit isn't without its idiosyncrasies although in this case I think it may just be an issue with GPS itself. When riding with heavy tree cover, the unit has difficulty calculating speed over the ground. This shows up particularly with last evening's ride which included the Ridge Road/Mountain Road section, at about mile11, where the trace begins to divert from the road and, I suspect, because the unit caught up with itself by the end of the road, shows a speed of nearly 80mph towards the end of that section.

I suspect heavy tree cover caused this, although it's possible there are powerlines or radio/micro-wave transmitters causing problems.

Anyone else found this?

PFW : Griggstown Grinder : 20100629

This is the Griggstown Grinders' Longest Day Ride ... a week or two late following last week's downpour.

Steve was due to lead but went down with some sort of lurgy, but Diane turned up having been washed out from her vacation trip.

So, close to 33miles and according to, over 2000ft of climbing, it seems this site accrues every element of where the road is uphill, thus accumulating every single foot ascended. Some sites don't give such a high figure as this. I suspect their sample rate may be lower.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Bit More About Cadence

I recently wrote about the subject of cadence, that is the rate at which you spin your pedals.

In a nutshell, when applying a driving force through the pedals, be set in a gear where you are rotating the cranks as quickly as is comfortable, without feeling your legs are about to fly off the pedals or rocking your hips side to side, usually between 80-100rpm.

There are exceptions to this; fast downhills where you might want to be in a big gear and a low cadence just to micro-manage your speed/acceleration. Similarly, a long smooth straight with the wind behind you will give your legs a change of pace in a big gear.

On hills, it may be you need to stand on the pedals, either because there is no alternative, or because you need a change of position. In this case, your cadence will almost certainly drop.

Finally, a small tip for those moments, either speeding on the flat, or just below the crest of a long climb when you feel your legs have had it, but you need a final acceleration or just some relief, use a beat of three on your pedal strokes;
  • ONE : PRESS HARD on your RH pedal
  • TWO : normal stroke on LH pedal
  • THREE : normal stroke on RH pedal
  • ONE : PRESS HARD on your LH pedal
  • TWO : normal stroke on RH pedal
  • THREE : normal stroke on LH pedal
  • REPEAT ...
After a few revolutions you should find your speed increasing despite your tired legs.

Once again, this article is illustrated by riders displaying excellent pedalling style ...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Le Tour de France: 2010

It's that time of the year!!!

England and the USA are out of the World Cup, Wimbledon's boring, but the Tour de France starts this weekend, Saturday, July 3, 2010.

In the US you can watch it on VersusTV; in the UK, I assume EuroSport will have all day coverage, but I don't know if there will be network coverage.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PFW : Etra Lake to Monmouth Battlefield : 20100627

Today's ride started out in clearing skies for the hillier than usual Sunday Etra Lake to Monmouth Battlefield route.

As usual I sampled the blueberry strudel at Battleview Orchards. I sampled two to be absolutely sure, but they were pretty much as they always are ... very, very nice.

Bike route 562685 - powered by Bikemap 

I think we detected a couple of random drops of rain on the way back, although these did nothing to wash away the array of thunderbugs we all seemed to accumulate on this ride. Very attractive ...

Thanks to GaryW for leading!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PFW : Pennington Y to Sourlands : 20100625

Thanks to Andy, who lead a large group out of Pennington this fine June evening.

I lost my chain ... twice. I need to look at that.

By the end of the ride the pace at the front was frenetic; 25mph+ along the Rocky Hill road into Pennington ... but a couple of pretty lanes I didn't know existed. Nice.

Bike route 560173 - powered by Bikemap 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Glastonbury: live

Just listening to BBC Radio 6 Music from the Glastonbury Festival ...

It's incredible how good live music sounds at outdoor festivals now.

Give it a try. Even Willie Nelson sounds great!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The History of Everything : Well, my old bikes anyway ...

The previous article on the bike catalogue resource got me thinking about my old bikes.

The Peugeot wasn't my first real bike, I mean, other than toy bicycles. As I recall, my first bicycle was a Halford's roadster, rod brakes, single-speed, Westwood rims, etc. It must have weighed a ton. I learned a lot from that bike, and still bear a scar on my right hand from when I jammed it between the wheel and (very substantial) mudguard.

But in the late 60s/early 70s, Mum and Dad presented me with a Carlton Criterium. Not new you understand ... My father found it in a second-hand shop in Plymouth, UK, for gbp10.00. It was previously used by a Mormon missionary who had used it for transport while trying to save us.

I don't know what happened to it after I left home for Bristol in 1972, but the catalogue picture shows it pretty much as I remember it. Those stubby mudguards still look pretty cool ... shame about the riders ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The History of Everything : Well Almost ...

This site is hoping to establish a comprehensive library of bicycle catalogues through the ages, and they're making a good start.

Still haven't got my Peugeot Champion du Monde though ...

Here it is; 25 1/4" frame; Vitus tubing; Weinmann brakes, 10-speed Simplex gears, Lyotard pedals ... actually, I miss it, seamed forks and all ... mine was blue.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PFW : Griggstown Grinder : 20100622

The Longest Day ... and the Shortest Ride ...

We tried, but the first spots of rain fell within the first mile or so, and by the time we reached the top of Hollow Road we could no longer ride between the raindrops.

Steve's iPhone showed we were surrounded by storm cells, so we returned via Dutchtown-Zion Road which was starting to smell of damp, warm dust and had that sheen which stops you letting it all hang out on the descent.

At least ... we tried ...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tour de Cure : Century Ride - 20100619

It was hard ... but we did it!!!

Here we are; Gene, Gary and me just prior to setting out on the 100 mile Tour de Cure for diabetes research, from Brielle on the Jersey Shore.

We don't look like finely tuned athletes, but believe me, your first Century Ride is your own personal Everest. Special credit to Gary, who is proudly wearing the red jersey of a rider who has diabetes.

We took part as the "Old Cranks", our own ad hoc team for riders of a certain age and we intend to get one or two more centuries under our 6-packs before the year is out. We do this instead of buying Harleys or shopping for purses/handbags ...

I cannot begin to tell you the sense of achievement we have from finishing this ride and also the feeling of having contributed a small part towards the search for a cure for diabetes.

The ride itself was largely situated along the Jersey shore, but with several loops which made following the route rather confusing so it was easy to miss one and have to backtrack to get back on course. Large parts also ran alongside the beach so wayward pedestrians, cars diving for parking spots, recreational cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road and potholes made it very hazardous indeed. I fear that a young cyclist, not on the TdC was hit by a car just as we passed. I hope they are okay ...

And for Old Cranks like us, putting the first hills eighty miles into the ride was a bit cruel. I have to say, we suffered them heroically, although a rest stop meant I endured my usual two or three miles of hell while I got back into the swing. Our time was pretty good for beginners. An early puncture/flat put us off schedule and towards the back of the Century riders, but we dealt pretty efficiently with it. The tyre had taken quite a cut but we had an emergency tyre boot and spare inner-tube with us which did the trick.

There were rest stops every 20 miles or so, and these were most welcome. I did pretty well at keeping myself hydrated, drinking about 24fl.oz/hour of various energy drinks, nibbling my way through Clif Bars and eating several bananas.

If organisers are looking for improvements for next year, I'd suggest:

  • Better on road waymarks. Often they were confusing, especially when routes diverged on the loops. Frequently, waymarks were under parked cars.
  • Publish a map of the longer routes as well as a cue-sheet. Making a .gpx map of the route available for riders with GPS units would be a big help.
  • Each rest stop have a pump and a couple of spare inner tubes available.

And finally, thanks to all our sponsors. We raised $665 for diabetes research.

Thank you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle

A chance to admire the art and craft of the handbuilt bike.
Several top builders are exhibiting their beautiful bicycles at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC.

The exhibition is open until the 15th August.

Go if you get a chance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's in your bag?

Yes, what is the mystery of the little black seat-pack?

After collecting their brand-new bicycle from their LBS, apart from buying a helmet - very sensible - most people feel the need to buy one of those little bags which fit up under the saddle, then wonder what to put in it.

Here's what I do.

For me, it is all part of the activity of cycling to be reasonably self-sufficient on the road. And the most common call is dealing with a flat tyre or minor mechanical.

I have two bags; one for local, more light-weight rides and one for longer trips. So these are just what I do. Others will have other ideas, but it's a place to start.

This is my mini-pack. Okay, it's not black, but when I saw this I had to have it to match the rest of my bike.

One of my peeves is a floppy bag ... following riders whose bag is swinging around behind the saddle grates with me ... I know, I should get a life. So I always cinch it up as tight as I can get it up and under the seat.

What's in the bag?

I wrap most, if not all of my stuff in an old sock. Not only does it keep everything together, it also stops rattling - I hate rattling, floppy bags even more - and you can use it to wipe your hands if they get oily. In this picture you can also see a tyre lever. I can manage with one. You may need two.
And here's what's in the sock;

A spare inner tube: yes you can sit in the cold and rain fixing a tube and wondering if it will hold, but take the damaged tube home and fix it later and get the new tube on as quickly as possible.
A tyre lever: you may need two. Remember, this is only used to get tyres off ...
A patch kit: It is possible to get more than one flat, so it's your last resort. I use self-adhesive ones.
A tyre boot: to temporarily repair serious damage to your tyre. This is a get you home strategy only.
CO2 inflator: These will quickly inflate a tyre to a reasonable pressure. Much faster than using a pump, especially one of those modern mini-pumps.
A multi-tool: I use a very compact one with just a couple of Allen keys and screwdrivers on this sort of ride.
Hand wipes: to clean your oily hands. It's a luxury, I know. The sock helps too.

Some people like to put their cell phone, wallet and stuff in the bag, but I prefer to carry that sort of stuff in my back pocket, or on longer rides, in a handle-bar bag. However, I also tuck in a card with my name, address and emergency number on the basis it will never be necessary and a $10 bill for emergency coffee stops. The bill will also serve as an excellent tyre boot if you're really trying to save weight.

For longer trips I use a larger bag. This one also has an expansion zip in case I need the extra capacity, but if I don't it does a good job of compressing the contents.
This time I'm carrying, in addition to the above:

A spare tyre: I actually ride with tubeless tyres and a sealant, but I carry a regular tyre and tube just in case I have a total catastrophe.
A more capable mini-tool: normally I carry one with a chain-tool included.
A Crank Brothers tyre lever: some people don't like these, but it works well for me.
A mini-pump: even if you're using a CO2 inflator, a few strokes from the pump to get some pressure into the tyre before using the CO2 will give you a better finishing pressure.

If you're riding in a group, you can always share out a more comprehensive kit, but the minimum is to be able to fix your own flats.

So there it is. A bit like the mysteries of your mother's purse/handbag. Others will have different ideas as to what's essential and what's not. 

But that is what I do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

PFW : Griggstown Grinder : 20100615

Tuesday evening saw a quick sprint to Copper Mine Road, a hill which gets its retaliation in first by rising steeply from the turning off Canal Road. Any rhythm is ruined by negotiating the junction and the hill really does become a grind right from the start.

For some reason I don't understand the last few miles are showing up on a line north of our actual route ... anyone know what happened there?

We've been relatively puncture free ... ooops! ... I mean, flat free this year, but suffered two on this trip ... annoying ...
As usual, thanks to Diane for a nice itinerary ...

Gary, Gene and I are now contemplating our Tour de Cure Century this Saturday ... It's nearly time ... no news on the route yet ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Contact Me ...

*This is a bit clunky ... but until I write my own script - it is happening - it will be like this ...

Optimists' Ride : 20100613

I took my second turn at riding shotgun on the annual 40 mile Optimists' Ride from Monmouth Junction, NJ.

Same route as last year ... everybody did very well ...

Bike route 541783 - powered by Bikemap
Coming soon ... 100miles on the Jersey Shore ... gulp!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I know every keen cyclist has their own natural cadence, that is, the rate at which they turn their pedals, but I wonder when watching some cyclists pedal along at what seems to me to be a very low spin-rate, straining to turn a very large gear, one crank revolution every hundred or so metres, body racked by the strain and teeth gritted at the effort involved.

Not only does this seem to be a very inefficient way to cycle, but the extra torque and forces involved mitigate against the bicycle's mechanisms to be able to operate and change gear smoothly - see here ... - and the rider's comfort.

There is a tendency for beginner cyclists to press too big a gear - large chainring/small sprocket, often at a cadence below 60 (crank revolutions per minute), but most recreational/sports cyclists will feel most comfortable at a rate between 80 and 100. Competitive cyclists may often pedal above that rate, but this requires a smooth pedalling style and perfect positioning on the bicycle.

I don't know what the correct cadence is for you. That's like that "Am I in the right gear" question.

There are methods described on the interweb which help you to establish the most efficient cadence for you - see here for example - but most riders can achieve this by being aware of their body; are your legs spinning freely, smoothly and as quickly as can be achieved within your comfort zone? Do you feel relaxed and poised? Listen and empathise with your bicycle - a bit Californian, I know; is the power train - crankset/chain/derailleurs - working quietly and smoothly? Do you feel you're travelling as fast and efficiently as is reasonably possible and still enjoying the experience?

Most of the above applies to cycling on the more or less level. Once you're in the hills other factors apply. I'll take a look at that in a future article.

You don't need to be a sports scientist to work it out, although I'm sure you can find one if you feel the need.

There are other means of refining your pedalling action; clipless pedals, ankling and other techniques.

*Apologies for the gratuitous image of the lady displaying excellent pedalling style.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Liquid Lounge

Check out Liquid Lounge, my music streamed direct from my server. It's random but invariably cool. At least, I think so.

You will need a player which can handle .pls files. Winamp, Media Monkey or even iTunes - if you must - should play the stream. There are other players.

I've included meta-data, so if your player is set up properly, you should be able to see song title and artist.

Hope you find it interesting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I'm pretty good at avoiding potholes and other obstacles on the road, but around here it's difficult to miss them all together.

A couple of times lately, I've noticed that when I've taken a hit a loud "Kerrrack" sound emanates from around the handle bar area. This is worrying when you ride a full carbon frame ...

Anyway, after carefully checking forks and frame for signs of stress, I put this down to my GPS unit shaking on the handlebars, especially since the unit appeared to rotate around the bars after the hit.

Last Tuesday, the incidence seemed to be increasing, but it was not until half way through the ride I realised what was happening.

We were making a fast descent off Lindberg with my hands on the hoods, feathering the brakes, when I had the distinct sensation that my hands were sliding off the front of the levers and I was unable to brake effectively without making the position worse, so by the bottom of the hill I was pretty shaken up.

Recently I upgraded my handlebars to a carbon set. I fitted these myself, full aware that carbon is very sensitive to the torque settings of securing bolts, so it's likely I didn't have the bars secure enough.
It seems every time I have have taken a notable hit the bars have rotated a degree or so forward each time, at first imperceptibly, but eventually to the point where I began to feel very insecure.

The first picture shows the bike with the bars set correctly, with the top rails placed horizontally - I may adjust this slightly in the next few rides.
The second picture shows the extent to which the bars had rotated - and why I had this feeling my hands were going to slide off the front.

You may ask why I hadn't noticed this before, but I can only speculate that this situation arose literally by degrees and only when it went beyond my comfort zone did it become apparent.
This time I used a torque wrench to set the securing bolts, then, suffered a crisis of confidence and gave the bolts an extra tweak.

In the future I will not dismiss sounds from my bike so swiftly and try to be more aware of signs which may mean trouble.

Descending at 40mph on a bicycle is exhilarating and a little scary, but it should not be terrifying.

Be aware of your surroundings and be confident in the condition of your bicycle ... listen to it as well as look.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


A while ago I separated my cycling from my Life And The Universe blog. This proved a little ambitious and Life And The Universe suffered.

So having found out how to combine the blogs I've put everything together under one banner; Oh! That British Bloke ... Everything that was on either VeloStage or PhonoStage is now here. They've been consigned to posterity ...

One or two transparent graphics haven't made the transition so well, but generally it looks pretty good for a lash-up.

So ... onwards ...

PFW : Griggstown Grinder : 2010608

Here it is ... this evening's Grind. Lovely weather ... a bit breezy to begin with, but otherwise very nice.

Good company, good ride ... thanks, Diane, as ever.

Monday, June 07, 2010

PFW : Etra Lake to New Egypt 20100606

This is becoming a regular ride, but no matter, it's pretty, it's quiet and uses charming back-roads.

This ride did become a bit of a yomp though. It was very hot. The car said 36C/97F when we got back to Etra Lake and I drank over 100fl.oz of liquid in four hours ... and that was not enough ... anyway ...

Thanks to Gary ... as usual ...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Changing Gear

There is nothing as likely to bring a customer back to the bike store as a problem with their bicycle gears.

Most modern bicycles use variations of a design called the dérailleur; literally, the de-railer, a device which forces the chain from one cog to the next in a very unsophisticated and crude manner. In engineering terms, it really shouldn't work ... but it does.

Modern dérailleurs use all manner of tooth profiles and chain design to enable this to happen as smoothly as possible. But, just as changing gear on a manual gearbox car needs finesse and understanding of the principles involved, compared to say, an automatic gearbox, changing gear using dérailleurs on a bicycle requires a degree of involvement from the rider, more than just pushing the button and crunching on regardless.

Some modern bikes have up to 30 possible gear combinations - 3 at the front X 10 at the rear - but not all permutations are useful either because some combinations of front and rear cogs produce gear ratios which are very close to another or even identical, or are mechanically compromised. More about that later ...

Changing Gear:

The principle of the dérailleur depends on the chain moving forward through the gear change, so when changing gear, continue to pedal forward. However, it's really helpful to the change if pressure is taken off the pedals so that for the duration of the procedure the feet just spin until you sense the gear has changed and take up the effort again.

There are occasions when this isn't possible, but just assessing your gear changing needs ahead of the point where you have to change helps. This particularly applies when you're changing up to a higher gear, for example, on a hill, or changing to an easier gear just before coming to a halt.

People often ask, "How do I know what gear I'm in." The fact is, you don't really need to know as long as you feel comfortable and can maintain a good pedal cadence and the drive sounds quiet. But there are some gear combinations to avoid.


The diagram shows the top view of a typical set up. I've indicated the chain line from the extremes of the chainwheel to the cassette. Although exaggerated, it demonstrates the degree of deformation the chain has to cope with in those gears. This tends to cause the chain to track badly, run noisily and the dérailleur mechanisms to have to contend with excessive chain wrap, extension and tension.

In practice, restrict your gear choices as in the diagram above; large chainwheel to outer selection of sprockets, small chainwheel to inner sprockets.

This picture illustrates a rear mechanism coping with chain wrap. This would be more excessive with a triple-chainset.

Modern gear indexing systems control the movement of the dérailleur, often to a tolerance of 0.1mm, less than 1/100th inch. One of the prime reasons for gears to go out of adjustment is cable stretch, particularly with new cables, so if you've recently bought a new bike, or installed a new cable, return to your LBS to have the adjustment done if you can't do it yourself.

Another frequent cause of poor shifting can be a bent dérailleur hanger, the component which connects the rear mechanism to the frame. If you suspect your hanger is bent you will need to visit your LBS where they will have an alignment device which can check and adjust the hanger. The hanger will need to be adjusted in three planes so it's not really a job you can do at home.

But adjustment can be affected by using excessive force, either through the gear changer or through the pedals while changing gear causing elements of the drive to distort or just go out of line, so learn to coordinate your changing/pedaling skills as outlined above.

A well adjusted gear mechanism will produce easy and smooth changes. However, it does need some input in terms of timing, sensitivity and skill from you, the rider.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

PFW : Etra Lake to Clarksburg 20100530

This Sunday's outing from Etra Lake to Clarksburg, NJ.

Beautiful day ... nice ride ... thanks to all particpants.

Bike route 516547 - powered by Bikemap 

Temporarily back to is giving me problems at the moment. Besides, it's not possible to edit the route using, so I used to erase my little excursion up Windsor Road ...