31 Jan 2013

More thoughts on leather v plastic saddles.


Here is a simple diagram showing the relationship between the radius of the contact surfaces of the saddle and the rider's sit bones.  The contact pressure is always perpendicular to the tangent of the local contact surface with the sit bones.

The more laterally curved the saddle, the greater is the pressure trying to separate the sit bones. If the carcase of the saddle is stiff, then padding it will not undo the forces trying to separate the sit bones. With break-in, a leather saddle eventually forms pockets for the sit bones to rest in. This provides a fairly neutral slope to the surface supporting the sit bones. It may also help to increase the area of contact around the sit bones without the use of artificial padding.

Moreover, the tension-suspended leather provides vital and local suspension for the sit bones by flexing under road shocks. The human bod has a large mass which cannot possibly accelerate fast enough to minimise road shocks. The rider's lower body remains almost static unless the rider lifts off the saddle on the rough stuff.  So only the saddle itself can protect the seated rider's sit bones from a constant and very localised battering.

A suspension seat post cannot react fast enough to protect the sit bones.  The saddle itself becomes part of the unsprung weight and can only react downwards through the entire contact area of the saddle. Still leaving the sit bones exposed to road shocks passed straight through the saddle surface. A telescopic suspension arrangement of the normally backward-leaning seat post is not even in line with the vertical forces involved in road shocks. Which usually try to lift the entire machine (and rider) vertically as the wheel rides over road bumps.

One could liken the sit bones to stiletto heels. Both have a very small area of contact with the surface on which they rest. So local pressures are incredibly high. Anyone who lived through past fashions will know the incredible damage which stiletto heels did to floors in public buildings. Several tons per square inch, on every footfall, exceeded the damage you could manage with a good hammer blow!

The same applies to saddles and sit bones. The tiny areas of skin and fleshy padding (if any) between the sit bones and the saddle become the torture victims. If the standard rails provided any suspension (at all) then every saddle would offer equal suspension. This is patently untrue despite the very close standardisation of most saddle rails. Only the amount of soft padding can alter the comfort level on plastic or carbon fibre based saddles. Real-world practice suggests that padding can easily hinder comfort over any distance. It increases friction and heat build-up in poorly ventilated areas.

Logic suggests that plastic saddles should try to emulate the properties of successfully broken-in,  leather examples. But without the usual weight penalties. The surface must be almost flat to provide local pockets for the sit bones without excessive padding. The surface must also be locally flexible under road shocks. A gently curved surface helps to maintain the rider's position more securely than a perfectly flat one. The same effect is probably achieved with sit bone pockets. A very slippery surface is undesirable. As is one offering too much drag to the shorts of the rider. Sit bones depressing deep padding may become trapped by the friction of the cover. Which is greatly increased by the great depth of padding resisting any lateral movement.

Many leather saddles start off too shiny, very hard and only gently curved at the contact points. Breaking in causes a local softening of the leather from repeated contact with the long-suffering sit bones. The softening provides the padding, reduces the angle of contact with the sit bones and provides suspension.

The plastic based saddle cannot really improve beyond the condition in which it left the factory. Despite the claims of memory foam the chances are that the padding will slowly degrade and the covering will disintegrate. The sit bones end up resting on the almost naked plastic carcase lying beneath the padding.

Only a naked plastic carcase, like the original Unica Nitor, will probably survive for as long as a leather saddle. Though at the price of being very uncomfortable on longer rides. I know this because a black, Unica Nitor 'Road' model was my first serious "racing" saddle back in the 1960s. Had they made it of much floppier plastic (or even rubber) and shaped it like a properly broken in leather saddle it might well have offered far greater comfort and popularity. Though probably with a much shorter life. It would also need lots of ventilation holes.

As a final note: I have mentioned how incredibly comfortable I find the B17 'Select'. By adding the official Brooks waterproof cover the comfort offered is greatly diminished. A much thinner and smoother nylon cover is much better. Though it is still not remotely as comfortable as the bare leather.

More thoughts on Brooks saddles: Not all Brooks saddles are equal. Certainly not on width. I have suffered for thousands of miles on a B17 Narrow and then for tens of thousands more on a NOS 'Professional'. Finally I bought a B17 out of desperation. It felt like an expensive risk at the time if it didn't work. I bought a pre-aged 'Select' in fact. To avoid the usual breaking in time. As a high mileage rider I was already sore enough not to to have to go through that all over again!

The B17 'Select' was the vital therapy I desperately needed. It was quite literally able to undo the pain caused by other saddles. I am a fairly skinny runt these days, whatever the mathematicians may say about dodgy BMI factors. So you can't say I needed the support of a wider saddle because of my excess weight. In fact I needed the width of a B17 _only_ because my totally unprotected sit bones needed a saddle precisely that wide. The proof lay in the discomfort caused by narrower models of still highly respected Brooks, leather saddles.

So don't lump all Brooks saddles together until you find your own perfect, leather saddle width. It took me tens of thousands of miles and literally years of cycling to finally relent and buy the wider B17. Now I don't even notice I'm sitting on a saddle. Blessed relief can be yours. Just don't imagine that just any leather saddle will do. It must fit you just as a precisely as a leather shoe must fit you for any expectation of comfort.

If I hadn't bought the B17 'Select' I would probably still be forlornly trying to find a comfortable plastic wedge. I was almost drawn in by the plastic saddle bullshit. The bike shop's measuring device said I needed an even narrower saddle than those I already found horribly uncomfortable. So much for pseudo science, commercialism of overpriced plastic torture implements and cycling! Even Tupperware doesn't charge that much for a simple plastic moulding! Ikea could do proper plastic saddles for small change in a range of tasteful cover materials. It hardly matters what covering is used. A plastic base can neither breathe nor give by a micron.

Like me, you probably thought that a wider saddle would make you look like you had a horribly dated 70s leather sofa stuck on top of your saddle pin. You probably still clung to the illusion of some sporting pretensions as you plodded along at your own, unique pace. So you suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous saddle misfortune out of some false pride. Why suffer when an old cure is at hand? Try a wider, Brooks leather saddle. If it doesn't suit you can almost guarantee to recoup your losses on eBay. So what have you to lose?

Much as I'd like to recommend the Nidd, despite it fulfilling most of the criteria of a B17, it is much too hard. It also much too unforgiving thanks to its laminated bum patch. Without it, it really might trash Brooks' hold on the leather saddle tourist market. The Brooks wins because it develops enough sag to provide bum-shaped comfort and some desperately needed suspension. Your average B17 bod sits more upright than those who pose on their uncomfortable axes. More weight falls on the bum. Less on the hands and pedals. This redistribution has to be compensated for in increased comfort. Not being forced to sit on a block of unyielding wood which hammers the already painful sit bones into agonising submission You wouldn't get away with this cruel and unusual treatment even in Guantanamo!

The Nidd might as well be a plastic saddle because of its reinforced plastic undergarment. It breaks the age-old saddle rule of allowing a natural, organic material to reluctantly respond to stubborn, oft-repeated, human contact.  It might actually respond to having the glass fibre (?) patch ground away with a Dremel or a similar tool. The very thick leather could then be modified with moisture and localised pressure to match the owners's unchangeable anatomy in quick time. Perhaps there is a solvent which will remove or soften the reinforcing patch but leave the leather unharmed? It may be that the patch only reduces stretch but has little real impact on the leather's stiffness. How can one tell? Without an sample to test, which has no applied reinforcing, it is impossible to know.

One owner claimed that the saddle was unaffected by being deliberately exposed to months of English rain. If the saddle was already comfortable then this is a very good thing. If not, it leaves only the extended pain of a very long breaking-in period as a means to (only) potential comfort. Is there any other sport which demands such unnecessary pain of its participants? Does a runner buy ill-fitting shoes to punish themselves in the vain hope of some miraculous improvement months down the road? One which will allow the same shoes to be worn for several years, or even more, without the need for purchasing a new and sickeningly uncomfortable pair all over again. We are back to an alternative reality unique to cycling. Was cycling really invented in Sparta?

I have put the Brooks Professional and the Nidd in half a bucket of water to soak overnight. The Professional was rescued by soaking previously but the results were spoilt by my riding it too early. I need to raise the steep slopes in front of the seating area again. As the image alongside shows.There really is no proper, level support area for the sit bones. As glancing at the far side of the saddle will show. All the support surfaces are forward sloping. Forcing the rider to constantly slide backwards to stay in the correct position on the machine. Sliding forwards will only subject the rider to the raised spine. In an anatomical situation where the body is ill-equipped to enjoy continuous support.

The Nidd is a complete unknown. I hope soaking it will make it malleable to modification by pressure in the seating area. At the moment it is far too hard to be usable despite having had some 200 miles of riding put into it before it became too painful to continue. Both have had their tension nuts slacked off to the minimum before taking their bath. Even if the water bath therapy fails neither saddle was usable in its present form. Neither saddle owes me so much that they can't become experimental subjects.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


28 Jan 2013

25th January 2013

25th 21F, -6C, heavy overcast. It started at 12F, -11C, but is slowly warming up.The DMI promise -5C all day with winds gusting to 30mph later. Eek! My recent habit of waiting until after coffee to go out means I tend to catch the higher winds after a still, but very cold, night. Going out so late also means I push lunch into mid afternoon. The coffee and rolls seem to sustain me for hours so that doesn't matter so much as the fact that it is getting quite dark by the time I've had a shower and written up my daily ride diary.

The other downside is that I tend to waffle on all morning before being released onto a startled world. I haven't been doing any photography either. The inspiration which comes from longer rides to new pastures is absent. The snow continues to lie. Without offering anything but more drabness under a grey sky. This really is the worst time of the year for my kind of chocolate-box, landscape photography.

Taking endless pictures of rusty chains and sprockets is unlikely to amuse for long. I leave the chain on until the weather breaks. Or the gears become foolishly unreliable. Doing any kind of mechanical work when the shed is constantly 5 degrees C below freezing is not a lot of fun! What takes a few minutes in summer takes forever and quickly goes bad when the roads are still covered in salt. I find it best to put everything off until a thaw and some rain. When I drag snow in on the trike and my feet it can lie there on the shed floor for weeks. Putting a fan heater on in the shed only leads to rapid condensation and rust. The metal doesn't feel any warmer and makes my hands ache with the cold. I can't work with small screws and components in gloves. Not even the latest, rubber coated, cloth gloves designed for the job. 13 miles. No data from the watch despite recording 2 hours elapsed time. I wore it around my wrist inside my glove to avoid chilling the battery.

26th 22F, -6C, the promised wind has finally arrived! The trees in the garden are all bending back and forth. I wonder if I can find my skiing goggles? I couldn't, but went anyway. The roads were covered in deep drifts in a few places. As there was no stock of organic milk at the first village I had to go further afield. The wind was cutting but I couldn't shield my face properly with my oversized gloves. Lots of cars were cutting much too close on the main road. Even though I was riding in the cycle lane. 21 miles.

27th 33F, 1C, overcast, windy. Some overnight snow has drifted in the strong winds. The trees are all moving about again. Some snow forecast for most of the day. Temperatures set to rise slowly with rain possible during the week. I have just been outside and the snow is incredibly wet and heavy. Sticky as hell to push about compared with the previous fluffy stuff. 100mm (4") deep in places and very hard work even with our plastic snow scrapers/shovels. The broom was instantly overwhelmed and very difficult to clear of snow. It is lucky there wasn't more of the is wet stuff! The weight is tremendous.

I left mid-afternoon into horizontal, wet snow driven by a 20mph wind. The roads and any south facing surfaces were plastered in several inches of snow. The wind was over my shoulder on the way back as I was bombing along at 16-18 mph through 2-4" of wet snow. Adhesion was much lower than when it was colder. I had to snick up a couple of gears when I climbed out the saddle to crest a few low hills. The brakes were very poor as well. Only 6 miles.

28th 35F, 2C, grey overcast, breezy. Promise of brightness later. The snow is still lying about but showing signs of melting. It's all 'orribly wet out there! The Venus GPS watch went back for a refund. It promised so much but failed to clear the hurdle of reliability. The roads were saturated with puddles and wet slush.  I was water-boarded by one of the local Electrickery Maffia in his van. He demanded a £200 call-out fee with menaces. Said he'd come round and fit six mains sockets in our tiny rear hall, at ten times the usual retail price for parts and £400 per hour labour charges including beer and fag breaks, missed football matches and travelling time. I said they had already carried out this particular threat and that I'd given at the office. 16 miles, fighting injustice. (I'm a cyclist. It goes with the territory)

A couple on a tandem were killed in Bristol. On past sentencing form the perpetrator of double, vehicular manslaughter will receive a caution for being slightly naughty, get a small smudge on his license, but not lose his basic, inalienable human right to drive just as he likes. Oh, and a fine of less than £50. So that's all right then.

29th 38-40F, +3+4C, very, very dark and breezy.

I was mulling over the repeated nightmare of bike and trike security after that Trykit trike was stolen in London. The insurers insist that expensive bikes (and trikes presumably) are secured with Gold Standard locks. The irony is that all Gold Standard locks weigh a ton!

The owner of the machine has already paid dearly for every gram less of extra lightness. Why else would they spend that much money except for lightness? So they burn several thousand dead squid getting the weight of their machine down by a bare few grammes to the physically achievable. At least, not without reverse engineering the alien technology of that UFO which crashed in the local park last week... but then has to carry 3-4 kilos of locks around their neck? Locks which can be easily broken, by a professional thief, in just a few seconds? Liquid Nitrogen, dirt cheap bolt croppers, car jacks and diamond cut-off wheels on dirt cheap angle grinders, anybody?

Complete amateurs, who happen to have lost their bike lock keys, can undo a £100+ lock or "unbreakable" chain and padlock in a couple of minutes. Even in a busy high street and go completely unnoticed. This does not compute! It is a complete alternative reality! Elvis is still in the building! Father Xmas and his elves walk amongst us! Lance Armstrong really is an evil Venusian. Sent to undermine our faith in cycling. To help us to destroy our own planet by going back to the wicked car. All to regain some status on the road. Cyclists are to car drivers as women are to the Taliban.

Q1: Why is there no infallible, lightweight securing device yet available? We can send a robot to Mars, etc.. You can even change gear by battery but can't deter a thief with a simple, completely reliable bike alarm? Why isn't every bike compulsorily GPS tagged and easily traceable by a free app? Imagine the savings of mass production by Chinese slaves and global standardisation. Would the bike shops and household insurers really go bust if they couldn't replace all those missing bikes?

Q2. Why bother to lock your bike against the professional slime when it is so easily stolen by these specialist thieves? The police don't care. Hundreds of thousands of bikes are stolen every year, in every country around the world. The sums involved are completely staggering! Ring the fuzz to say that a van full of Eastern Europeans are emptying all the bike racks in the shopping centre and they are far too busy searching for their wacky baccy. Or attending to football match hooligans from the front row sideline.

Q3. What games are the insurer's playing with their customer's minds? Demanding 3-4 kg of approved locks on a top quality racing bike will almost literally double its kerbside weight! When surely the whole purpose of owning that incredibly expensive machine is ONLY its incredibly light weight? See me, see my carbon bottle cage, pal.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Yesterday I had a go at Wiggle over the difference in price for their listed products between different EU countries despite using the same currency. It looked to my naive eyes as if they were charging for EU postage while pretending they weren't.  Their email response provided a link to their pricing policy.


Which seems slightly at odds with every other online EU bike dealer with which I have dealt. You pay the price shown on the website plus postage. The difference is that Wiggle offers "free" (6 day) postage on top of their (increased taxes) list price. With other dealers you pay postage on top of the website price and variations in EU country VAT rates are ignored. Buy from Germany and you pay their lower VAT plus modest postage charges. The savings can be considerable but are not guaranteed.

Just a ride to Assens today for a ton of shopping. I had a look at bike locks in the flesh. None was remotely acceptable by weight. Those that were reasonably light were probably vulnerable to a pair of quite ordinary pliers. 19 more miles and still ranting. :-)

30th 40F, +4C, light breeze, rain forecast all morning with a storm headed our way tonight. I'll see how it looks later. Somebody badly needs to tidy the shed! Or tidy the shed badly. Either would be an improvement. This usually falls under the heading of chaos theory. Junk always expands to fill the space available. It was too boring so I raked at the puddled drive to try and drain it into a distinct channel. No small task with 50 metres to work on.  The drive was wrecked by the fibre optics broadband internet company. I still managed 10 miles mid afternoon. Lots of flooded fields from the thaw. Lots of cracking on the roads as well. Very little snow left now.

The alleged double killer of the couple on a tandem in Bristol was allegedly driving while disqualified and without insurance. He has been remanded in custody until late February. This seems unusually harsh for an alleged double killing of mere cyclists. Normally, cyclists don't count as real human beings in the British injustice system. Perhaps the double killer couldn't afford a decent ambulance chaser?  Otherwise he would be up at the golf club celebrating his release and the dropping of all charges by now. What a Silly Billy! Can thee ride tandem, lad? Thought not.

Now that's a puddle!
The wind was so strong that poor old Mr Higgins nearly ended up in the drink!

31st 41F, +5C, mostly overcast, still windy. No visible damage from the storm except for a neighbour's trampoline which went walkabout. Due to start raining again after lunch. I'm still aching from yesterday's playing with gravel and water on the drive. Unaccustomed exercise is only good in moderation. I was bashing away for several hours with a pick and a road builder's heavy tar rake. I bought the rake years ago when I was landscaping our rocky rural garden using hand tools and and a builder's wheelbarrow. Several wheelbarrows, in fact, because I wore them out carrying rocks.

The largest rock was the size of a mini and standing on end like an enormous potato. Right where I intended to park the car by cutting into the slope. I had to dig down beside this massive rock and then flop it over sideways by hanging from the end of a 20' long steel pole and a rusty length of narrow-gauge railway line. I'd have been quite handy at Stonehenge. Though it took years for the damage I did to my shoulder joints to subside.

The ground was so hard it took a pick to get every single teaspoon out of the ground as broken gravel. I moved the equivalent of several double decker buses of this stuff over a couple of years. Raising a big new terrace 20 yards away with all the debris. My wife became an expert dry stone waller using the cleaner stones. As you can gather from all this waffling I'm still waiting for coffee before I go out. The sun is shining brightly now. Though it's probably still gusting to over 20m/s. Or 40 mph.

The first few miles were amusing. I was cruising at 22-25mph and hardly needing to pedal. Coming back was not so much fun. Still lots of flooded fields and woods. Ice still clinging on top of the earlier formed ponds and puddles. My first 1000 km milestone has passed. I arrived home just before it started raining. 19 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

20 Jan 2013

18th January 2013 Ventus G1000 GPS watch.

18th 24-27F, -4--3C,  a light breeze at first, heavy overcast, feeling bitterly cold today. I was well wrapped up, as usual. So only my nose and cheeks felt the cold. The same supermarket was out of organic apple juice today despite it being on special offer. Isn't this a form of fraud on the company sponsoring the offer? If the idea is to make the customer interested and pleased with the product being discounted what price no stock on the customer's attitude to the same company and product?

I found a Ventus G1000 GPS watch and heart-rate monitor in Netto. Discounted to 200DKK (about £20) to clear. They have been sitting enticingly on the shelf for literally ages in most Netto outlets but were far too expensive to tempt me at three times the price. I got it home and there's no software disk in the package despite it being double sealed! Grr! I made an effort today and was averaging 16mph on the way. About 14mph on the way back with an increasing head wind. Only 17 miles.

Pm. After downloading the software online I put the watch on charge for a few hours. It even has a GPS compass. So no more excuses for getting lost when it is overcast. I have yet to take it for a ride so can't speak for the rest of its potential. It worked okay when I walked to the end of the drive to check the road conditions.

19th 27F, -3C, overcast, breezy and cold. Some drifting onto the roads in the wind but no new snow overnight. The wind was much stronger and horribly cold today. The equivalent of at least -20C. It seemed to be blowing in all directions and even felt strong in the middle of the forest. The organic apple juice had come in so I dragged 6 litres home in addition to all the other stuff. The three bags were so heavy I must have been carrying 30 lbs or 15 kilos. The supermarket roofs were shedding vast quantities of windblown snow. All over me as I loaded my heavy bags onto the trike!

The Ventus GPS watch gave up recording my route after only 10 seconds. So I must be doing something wrong. The instructions are horribly complicated but, just understandable, with multiple layers of menus.

Why couldn't they make route recording as simple as a unique button press with constant and visible confirmation? Their excellent GPS logger is only a matter of sliding the one switch to on. The rest is taken care of automatically. Then displayed around the edge of the Google Earth map/satellite view of the route with speed, altitude, time and distance all plotted against each other. All it takes is to insert the attached USB plug into the computer. While the watch seems to be trying to be as complicated as possible. As if the designers and software writers were desperately trying to impress each other. And failing. I'll keep trying. The watch is so bulky I couldn't wear it inside my Aesse jacket cuff. So I wore it outside the jacket cuff but inside the cuff of my Dintex glove. Only 10 miles.

20th 20-22F, -7--5C, overcast but clearing to pale blue, almost still. I have been playing with the GPS watch again. My rest heart rate is 65bpm seated at the computer. I tried a couple of minutes of stepping on a 10" high step to push it up to mid 80s. By concentrating on relaxing I can push it down to 60-62 bpm. So, it seems I am still alive. I just hope I'm not tempting fate! I haven't measured my BP for a couple of years. The "Head Gardener" tells me that checking my BP will only push it up. Perhaps she's suggesting a sort of home grown, white coat syndrome? Though it has nothing to do with "dressing up as a nurse." (She wont) Now I need to find a way of fixing the watch to the trike instead of attached to my wrist. Then I can read the screen in some comfort. Without having to stop and adjust assorted cuffs up and down and don my reading glasses.

This is a cropped photograph of the computer monitor since there is no way to save the screen as a Jpeg image. 

Don't they know that old farts suffer from lack of accommodation? And, I'm not talking about the luxury of having too many trikes and too little storage space. It has to do with age hardening of the Mk1 eye lens(es). Since taking up triking, instead of working constantly indoors, my eyes have adjusted to relaxed distance viewing. But I still need reading glasses. Which is odd, considering I could use the computer for 10 years without any glasses at all. According to my present £5 (supermarket bought) reading glasses I'm midway between 1 and 1.5 dioptres now. I need the latter to read today's popular, microscopic print on food packaging and instructions leaflets. I'm a martyr to lost misplaced reading glasses. (like so many of my generation) So now I have a retaining cord around my neck. With my failing memory I may need a cord around my trike at this rate!

Note how the watch is showing the wrong time and date in these images despite being set correctly hours before leaving. This has something to with "Dual Time" which I have now zeroed to match "Home Time." I wonder if they ever put the watch into the hands of ordinary consumers before releasing their over-complex masterpiece? 

It should be a bright, sunny morning with a slowly building NE wind gusting to about 20 mph. So I really ought to make the most of it. Go NE young old man! Do it now! (After coffee and rolls to stoke the old boiler) The thermometer is still stuck on 20F at 9 am. I must get going but there's a German gardening programme on the box. So time is standing still while I waffle on...

I fought a cold headwind and blinding sun for the first 15 miles. Then the road turned north and the wind felt far colder. The Ventus watch behaved itself today and recorded speed, heart rate and altitude graphs as well as a textual data and drawing the route on Google Earth. Fortunately it even agreed with the Ventus GPS logger. The heart rate sensor is large, heavy and clumsy but passed almost unnoticed under several layers of clothing. My average heart rate was 105, with a minimum of 61. Rather more worrying was a colossal 224 bpm plateau over the first couple of miles. Not that I noticed anything. At all! Average peak HR was around 130-135 when climbing hard or getting out of the saddle. About the same as when I was chasing a keen young chap on a smart MTB.

This readout is a bit worrying! 224 bpm is foolishly high  before stabilising. I was riding normally into a cold headwind until I stopped beside the road to check in the saddle bag. They say that one should aim for 220 minus one's age in years as a peak heart rate. Perhaps I need to warm up somehow before setting off? I had a period when I was getting regular chest pains. So I asked to have my heart checked by the quack. They plugged me in and reported that I had a remarkably healthy heart. The pains were probably muscular and eventually went away.   

I was able to wrap the watch strap near the centre of the bars. Wedging the strap between the Campag cables stopped the whole watch from rotating on rougher roads. The detail on the screen is rather small for my near vision. Particularly when riding into the blinding sun with my eyes watering! Though much easier to read than the silly little Cateye Strada Cadence computer with its tall and very narrow digits. In most lights I find it impossible to define the difference between 0 and 8 on the daft little screen on the Cateye!

When it is actively recording the Ventus GPS watch toggles between various screens and shows a heart and and antenna symbols to confirm I exist. I was able to walk several yards away from the trike into a shop without the HR monitor losing range. So I'm quite chuffed to have all these bells and whistles for only £20 equiv.  Though I had a hot shower as soon as I returned my nose was still stinging hours later. I can't imagine any useful protection for my nose since I have to "blow it" so regularly. There's a disgusting parallel there between my slow pace and a snail's slime trail.  39 rather cold miles.

21st  24F,-4C, quite windy, brighter than forecast. The wind is making it feel very cold. Waiting for coffee and rolls before venturing out. Same as usual, there were smoking drifts across the road where the hedges were missing. One driver had lost control and ended up in a field. Their car was being pulled out as I passed. (or rather waited because the tow truck driver was using the entire road)  A bitterly cold, strong crosswind was making life uncomfortable for exposed skin. The Ventus watch battery was flat when I was about to put it on! It showed battery full with 8 hours reserve yesterday pm. Perhaps it was working overnight? Only 13 miles.

22nd  26-29F, -3--2C, heavy overcast with a cold and strong Easterly wind. The Ventus GPS watch battery was completely flat again this morning. I had made sure it wasn't recording anything and was fully charged last night. No way to replace the battery as it is sealed inside the waterproof case. It will have to go back to exchange it for a new one.

Saw both Fieldfares and Redwings in the same area today. I disturbed their foraging going in both directions.

My heels were dark purple and hurting like hell when I walked on them back at home. I was wearing my thickest loop pile socks and GripGrab overshoes as usual. I had applied heel cream before donning my socks. The shower seemed to help and I have applied more cream. I wish I knew whether my heels are rubbing. Or whether it is cold air being pumped through the shoes with the pedalling action. My feet don't feel cold while I'm riding. 19 miles.

Pm: The Ventus GPS watch won't take a charge at all now. After hours of charging it is still only a showing a battery reserve of a couple of hours.

23rd 25-26F, -4-3C, overcast, light breeze. Still cold, but the recent winds have dropped.  The Ventus watch is showing 8 hours reserve power this morning. Weird! Now I have to reset all the choices including setting the time all over again. Which were all lost due to the flat battery. I had to go outside to reset the compass which had refused to point correctly despite repeated re-calibration indoors.

If "White Van Man" is so notorious why don't they ban white vans as an experiment in traffic safety? You can't ban knuckle-dragging psychopaths from driving because it would be against their human rights. Just as it is a basic human right for all psychopaths to drive Audis.

Just a ride to the shops. The Ventus watch kept stopping and had to be repeatedly restarted. It recorded nothing of value. No route map nor data. A drunken, drug abusing, knuckle-dragging psychopath passed me in a traffic calming chicane at high speed in a 40 kph speed limit. But he was driving a shitty, old, bright red, rusting, Volkswagen Golf. So justice has already been served. 19 miles.

24th 12-29F, -11--2C, overcast, still, but with an occasional breeze to make it feel even colder. A 22 mile shopping trip in weak sunshine. The coop had no promised fish from a special offer. Now the Ventus GPS watch can't communicate with its software. It's going back! Life is too short to be wasting hours on such junk.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

12 Jan 2013

10th January 2013


Just look at all that pig shit stuck to the backs of the wings!

10th 32F, 0C, mostly overcast, very windy from the north. Winter has returned to Denmark. The DMI threatens sub-zero temperatures for the week ahead. Rode to Assens for the shops returning against the wind in fine frozen rain. Well wrapped up again so I was perfectly comfy except for the stinging ice crystals hitting the old eyeballs over the sunglasses. 21 miles.

11th 30F, -1C, breezy, overcast. Half an inch of snow lying. With more promised. Not much chance of the forecast sun either. It snowed hard most of the way there and back. Leaving about an inch of snow on the roads. The snow seemed to make people chatty. Mind you, I did look like a snowman by the time I had reached the shops. There was general approval expressed on three wheels to avoid falling in icy conditions. Only 13 miles.

12th 30F, -1C, still, weak sunshine, light snow falling on an inch more overnight. I put Mr Higgins' mudguards back on and will go out after morning coffee. It stayed fairly bright as I rode to the shops via a circuitous route. I was grateful for the mudguards on today's roads. Most of which were lines of slush with puddles or standing water in between. The main roads were as bad as the narrow country lanes. Two cars had left the road within the space of four miles. One was being rescued with a crane pick-up truck from a front garden where it had just missed the house. The other must have rolled because every window and panel was damaged as it lay on its side against a barn. I think I need a larger flap on my front mudguard. My feet get sprayed or even plastered in snow right up to the knees. 19 miles.

13th 26-28F, -3--2C, calm, sunny, about an inch of new snow to bring it up to about 3" total depth. A pleasant ride around the lanes to the shops. Traffic quiet on the snow and ice covered roads. Yesterday's slush was now rock hard and the water was completely gone. The snow was very sticky and I had to bounce the trike a few times on the road to clear the ice jams in the mudguards. I was warm enough to take off the cardigan quite early on. 21 miles.

Higgins Ultralite with differential on eBay.

14th 26F, -3C, quite still, some new snow, snowing, heavy overcast. We cleared the drive, paths and parking area of a new 2" of snow for a bit of exercise before it started snowing more heavily. Then it went off again. It looks like a day of light snow showers. No problem to ride on but I don't like holding up the traffic on the main roads. The forecast is brighter this afternoon. I'll wait and see what happens.

I am revisiting the annual problem of suitable overshoes for somebody who walks in them too much. The BBB Hardwear cloth soles wore out far too quickly in my opinion. The uppers were also thick and stiff. Making them a struggle to get on. While the GripGrab were more waterproof, warm and flexible but the flimsy cloth has also worn out under the toes. They fitted easily and smoothly without bagginess or tightness anywhere. Important attributes for someone with large feet.

I bought the GripGrab in April and hardly wore them over the summer. Which doesn't seem to suggest exceptional durability to me. I'm really not sure what to do now. Reviews suggest the BBB are the best choice but my own experience suggests otherwise. Taking off overshoes is always a filthy, wet business. Ideally requiring a chair. So it's just not going to happen outside every supermarket. Green wellies cut off at the ankle? Hardly likely to be compatible with SPD cleats and sole stiffness is likely to be compromised!

I left after lunch and fought my way at 12mph into a headwind and icy crystals. The traffic was light but fast moving on a bed of ice and half frozen slush. Most drivers managed to get around me without too many hold ups on the snow-narrowed main road. I came back by a country lane on an inch or so of snow and powdery slush. Snow and slush was shooting out of the front mudguard like a combine harvester. It was harder work making headway against the increased rolling resistance but I still managed 25mph downhill.

The Rema1000 supermarket had no organic raisins despite it being on special offer according to its fictional comic. I take a little bag of organic raisins, mixed nuts and seeds to avoid less healthy foods on my rides. Last time it was organic oranges which were promised and they never did get any stock! The entire shop is bigger than a football pitch but was being run by two teenage girls. One shelf filling and one on the cash register. What a way to run a business!

Why do they pick on the unemployed as being lazy? When so many people are employed for a lifetime by choke-cola or the tobacco industry and never do a decent day's work in their entire lives. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen the oblately spherical obese buying their daily supplies of 2 litre "oxygen bottles" and packets of fags  at the supermarkets as I wait endlessly in line.

The skip tooth sprockets are interesting.

But it's not all bad news: Their own, obscenely overpriced iSlave 5 is finally bringing the global slave traders and litigious competition crushers to justice. So that's all right then. Power corrupts. Rotten-Apple corrupts zombies absolutely. Only 10 miles.

15th 22F, -6C, perfectly still, overcast with 2-3" more overnight snow lying. Promised to be brighter later. I wonder if graphene will become the wonder tyre material of the future? I rode over slush and snow covered roads to the shops again. Most of the traffic seemed to be travelling faster than ever! Two more car drivers had lost control and ended up in fields beside the road. Many cars were driving within a single car length at 50mph in the 30mph villages. This is just plain lunacy! Totally unforgivable for the very slippery conditions. Even loaded up I was getting wheel spin if I turned the bars from straight head. I saw five trucks with snow ploughs on the front in only a few miles. Rather oddly, one was driving fast, going the other way, but not clearing his side of the heavily encrusted road!

When I returned with my 12 kilos of shopping I couldn't understand why the unloaded trike was so hard to push to the shed. The snow had compacted hard in all three mudguards. Making it very difficult to turn the wheels by hand. No wonder the hills seemed rather slower than normal today! I beat the mudguards gently with a rubbe mallet and bounced the trike repeatedly to clear the problem. The -12-15C promised for tonight has been downgraded to only -8 -10C but no new snow.

I'm very glad for the rear view mirror in these conditions. I watch every vehicle approaching from behind to see if it is changing course early enough to miss me. Though I'm not sure how successful a bodily launch, by an old fart like me, from SPD pedals is likely to be if somebody is aiming straight for me. Not something I plan to practice unless I really have to. 12 miles.

It felt like I had chilblains last night. Probably the result of climbing off the trike and jumping straight under the shower. My toes and heels often look dark purple despite my feet not feeling cold on the trike.

16th 7-22F, -14--5C at 8am, overcast, quite still, no overnight snow. Warming rapidly! Already 14F, -10C at 9am. 18F,-8C at 9.30am. Coldest night this year with -17C, 1.4F reported in some places.

I have been enjoying some old B&W silent films from an online archive. EUscreen - Providing online access to Europe's television heritage Two old films from 1926 and 1938 showed everyday activities in Assens. A local harbour town. It was interesting to see the huge number of bicycles.(and horses) Including quite a range of delivery tricycles. Mostly hinged in the middle, box tadpoles. What was nice about the films was the natural speed of replay. There was none of the usual double speed idiocy. So viewing was much more realistic and atmospheric. It was incredible how many people were smoking. Often making a great show of it. As if it made them more important.

Once you have accessed the home page you can search for old films in your own locality. Perhaps using the filters offered if there are enough films to make it worthwhile. Cine cameras and film processing were far too expensive for the average man in the street. So the content and context aren't always of general interest. Though it is fun to see horses and carts in such familiar streets and to see such formal politeness in everyday life. Can you imagine having your grandchildren curtsey to you today? I rather doubt the working boats in the harbour outnumbered the many hundreds of yachts in today's marina.

What struck me the most, though, was the huge number of older people (mostly men) still working. Also surprising was how many people were out and about on the streets compared with today's usual scene. I can still remember shopping at a local village coop where all the goods were behind the counter staffed by a row of men. (mid 1950s) The huge con, which is self-service supermarketrickery, may offer greater choice but the row of men has been replaced by your own labour. What is worse is that the queues to be served still exist! Easily doubling the time spent shopping over the (good/bad) old days.

Where once a shopkeeper often had a well honed line in patter, and knew most of the inhabitants of a village by name, today's teeny checkout operator will probably open her mouth in shock if you try to pass the time of day. You might as well have a robot to ask if you want a receipt and wish you a nice day! Even the money exchange is becoming automated. In  today's world the old and those who live alone may never communicate with another person apart from the checkout operator.

I rode to Assens to the shops by the rural lanes to avoid the main roads. The lanes were still snow and slush covered and quite hard work at times. The trike was drifting quite a lot on some cambers. I didn't see a single car on the lanes for 18 miles and then saw 6 in the last half mile. The maniacs were preferring to confirm their drooling idiocy by speeding on the main roads. One scooter was lying on its side in a field but who knows if anyone was injured? I bought a new pair of GripGrab overshoes to replace the dying pair. The uppers are fine. It's always the cloth under the toes and heels which wear completely away from my walking in them. The last remaining bike shop is moving off the ring road industrial estate into town. This follows the retirement of the long service cycle mechanic at his shop in the historic area of the town. 20 miles.

17th 20-23F, -7--5C, a northerly breeze building with quite a lot of weak sunshine. Just another wobbly circle to the shops. The thaw had begun where the roads could see the sun but there were still lots of stretches of snow and slush covered roads. I was belting down a hill on hard packed snow at 25mph with a car catching me fast. When an idiot taxi driver pulled out right in front of us! In a narrow lane with only room for 1.5 cars width! Drunk, drugged, senile, registered blind,  deranged or retarded? Choose any four. There was a clear view for over half a mile in our direction and they had stopped and waited before pulling out. Totally inexcusable behaviour! Least of all from a "professional" driver. 24 miles not out.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

8 Jan 2013

8th January 2013 and the ME-FA 864 WMD.

8th 43F, 6C, light winds, heavily overcast, quite misty. Just another 20 mile shopping trip.

Or rather not: I brought back a shiny, new, galvanised, lenticular, ME-FA 864 postbox. It had been on special offer at branches of  monopolybuildersmerchants.com.  Our present postbox leaks like a sieve and has all the security of a damp window envelope. The previous branch of monopolybuildersmerchants.com had no stock, despite it being the first day of their offer. The woman behind the counter demanded to know why I couldn't wait for more stock to arrive? As if it was my fault they hadn't ordered sufficient stock in the first place! Being driven by corporate guilt she obviously felt that attack was the best form of defence.

I was going to trot out my well-rehearsed explanation that I had just ridden 10 miles and had 10 more to do just to get home (without my shiny new, ME-FA 864 postbox) in the rain. Or, I could have paraded my fall-back accusation that many of Denmark's retail chains were a bunch of monopolistic crooks for never having any stock of their special offers. And, that these specially discounted offers were all just a cynical ploy to get mugs (like me) through their doors! But I looked at her irritated face and realised that she was just another uncaring victim of the system and that it was I who was wearing the stretchy Lycra shorts in midwinter... and walked out.

A day, or two, later (today) I had taken my frustrated purchasing power to the next , tax avoiding, money laundering, multi-billion investment holding fund, scammer's business premises in the exactly opposite direction from home. So you can add another 10 miles there and ten more back (into a damp headwind with an implied threat of drizzle) just to obtain my legally-required, regulation postbox.

At the second branch of monopolybuildersmerchants.com I met a rather more sympathetic lady. One who was far more accommodating and actually had some stock. She cheerfully provided some free string and even suggested I borrow a large, black, plastic bin bag (against a deposit) to aid my perilous journey home with my shiny new post box in its shiny, new, cardboard box. Alas, my No2, reserve, zipped, waterproofed nylon, shopping bag may have the maw of a common Basking shark but had not not quite stretched to a lenticular, galvanised, ME-FA 864 complete with decorative, protective packaging.

Having made my purchase, and left with the air full of grateful thanks, I hung the postbox in its supporting bag from the saddle post. Lashing it well down with the free string. There was no telling how awful my journey might become at the hands of the local kommunes. (Councils) When they realised that it was too expensive a ploy to keep the cycle lanes clear of debris, by means of a once-a-century storm, they had fallen back on their tired, old, plate tectonics as a last resort. After all, the most highly taxed, democratic society in the Western World has no funds left to waste on such basic services. Not when they have to buy brand new, Danish modern art for every newly-built, town hall office and furnish it throughout with uncomfortable, but terrifyingly expensive, long-dead, Danish, architect-designed furniture. Not to mention the war! (Shush!)

When I arrived home I began to wonder whether ME-FA 864s weren't designed by some long dead, Danish architect, but made in China. Postboxes reach (in price) from my (slightly) immodest 250DKK (£25 equivalent) to a fairly astronomical £350+.(or its Danish Kroner equivalent) Given that we are talking about simple, folded, metal boxes, mass produced from extremely common, sheet materials, one is inclined to ask why? None of them claim any great advantage over any other. At least, not when the latest generation of Danish, knuckle-dragging immaturity feels duty bound to insert an ignited and  illegally-powerful, New Year firework into the regulation postbox flap. Thereby rendering said postbox to a splayed and mangled atrocity. More in keeping with a North African, battlefield relic.

Image from Wikipedia: Sprængt-postkasse.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: The shiny, new, galvanised, lenticular, ME-FA 864 proved to be even more lethal than illegal Danish fireworks in the hands of the wilfully immature. I actually wondered if ME-FA had contracted out their weapons postbox production to a Chinese, Gillette razor/munitions factory by mistake. Every edge (exposed or concealed) of its entire construction was literally honed to a razor sharpness. A sharpness which would be the envy of many an amateur woodworker. Even with the best will in the world I could not obtain such a sharp edge on my finest, Swedish steel, woodworking chisel using my best Arkansas whetting stone! What does ME-FA mean anyway? Morbidly Effortless-Finger Amputator? Mindlessly Easy-Flesh Abbreviator? Manically Exciting-Fatal Attractor? Mercilessly Excoriated-Flayed Appendages?

Simply removing the postbox from its packaging proved that it (the cardboard box) was not so much decorative as primarily protective of any stray fingers brought anywhere near the postbox's vicinity. Do Danish postpersons routinely wear chain mail, butcher's protective gloves? This thing was potentially lethal at several yards radius! It has much the same blood-letting capability of an anti-personnel mine! Even the exposed edges of the decoratively bowed top and bottom were scalpel sharp! I know cats who routinely mark postboxes with their cheeks as they attempt to perch as artistically as possible in their unfashionable fur coats. Perhaps hoping to be discovered by some budding, YouTube film director.

Opening the ME-FA's front access flap (with Govmint. approved safety catch) proved that every edge of the postbox was eagerly seeking a new victim. With all the damaging potential of a red-neck, chainsaw massacre! The galvanised steel was not so much guillotined as a wannabe guillotine. Heavy metal blood lust looking for more soft tissue to dice into bite-sized chunks. A human makulator by any other name. Just think of the losses to the poor old wildlife and odd stray moggies who haven't read the dire warning signs! It is all too horrible to think about! Imagine the distress of stepping over a mountain of accumulated offal just to get your bank statement? And what about the fly problem?

Reluctantly, we re-holstered the ME-FA 864 in its protective armour. Then turned our attention to mopping at our copiously bleeding, open wounds with freshly laundered bed-sheets. Hoping to avoid getting any serious quantities of the vital red stuff onto the protective ME-FA 864 packaging. After all, you can't be too careful: The shiny, new, lenticular, galvanised ME-FA  864, in its decorative box, might have to be returned for a refund. Though not before a few swift blood transfusions and some post traumatic stress therapy.

By now you must be wondering what (on earth) all this has to do with tri-cycling? Well it's obvious, isn't it? I collected the ME-FA 864 on my trike and will probably have to return it by the same means. Bringing the sum total of potential tricycling mayhem (with a ME-FA weapon of mass destruction secreted thereon) to some 60-odd miles entirely without protective body armour. Stretchy Lycra may look sexy but is is not well known for its blood absorption coefficient! It doesn't even contain any Kevlar! So cyclists are even more at danger from ME-FA 864s than normal people!

Good grief! I even passed several schools and old people's homes! Can you imagine the twitter headlines, racing around the world, if they had known I was carrying an unlicensed M864 in public? I could easily have been up on terrorist charges! Spending the rest of my days in (blood-soaked) orange, mechanic's overalls in Guantanamo. Listening to endless renditions of 'Slade' through a weapons grade, Black & Decker, PA system!

Needless to say: You should remain in absolutely no doubt that we would NOT risk ourselves, nor any postpersons, nor wildlife (not excluding domestic cats) with such a lethal contraption! It would be tantamount to setting out a bear trap in the drive! In fact it (the ME-FA 864) makes the case of a local home help, being held up with a sawn-off shotgun, look like rather small beer. All entirely IMO, of course. ;-)

9th 41F, 5C, heavy overcast, rain forecast all day with wind. Tell me about it. Rest day. Well, not quite. I took the lethal postbox back in the car. The assistant tried every M864 postbox in stock and they were all razor sharp. So I had a refund and lived to ride another day. Though the doctor at A&E said I would probably always ride with a limp.

BTW: The Shimano scull cap (Size Large) which I had reluctantly exchanged for the grossly undersized (Size 48!) Shimano overshoes has proved to be similarly undersized. Shimano obviously bases its sizing upon Oriental human proportions. (Or some long forgotten Pygmy tribe with a penchant for head and foot shrinking)  In fact, my sole defence for the post of the 8th (above) rests entirely on having placed the offending Shimano scull cap briefly on my totally unprepared bonce. The effects of which were not unlike those science fiction films where all the hero's thoughts and memories implode.

My assorted GripGrab (Large) scull caps fit my head to such perfection that I am usually totally unaware of their presence. (Other than the wonderful warmth, comfort and windproofing they provide) Conversely, the Shimano cap is so small (read: tight with no worthwhile coverage) that my eyes bulge and it will take weeks for the impressions made by the oversized seams to subside to public acceptability. (Slow skin depression recovery times are just one of the crosses we wrinkleys have to bear!)

Though I am reluctant to mention it in polite company: <cough> I shall remain forever grateful that I had not exchanged the undersized Shimano overshoes for a pair of Shimano cycling shorts instead! <cough> The consequences of which are simply too awful to contemplate.

No doubt Shimano cycling clothing enjoys a warm acceptance from those who like to engage in a nice bit of S&M at the weekends. Its "strict confinement" probably offers benefits which we normal mortals usually find slightly distasteful or secretly amusing. Suffering, as I do, from acute claustrophobia I am wondering how to stretch the offending scull cap to human proportions. As the cap still owes me £15 (equiv) I am rather reluctant to pass it on (so soon) to the local kindergarten. In the form of (tax deductible) sponsorship for their track cycling team.

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1 Jan 2013

January 1st 2013


1st 41F, 5C, light winds, weak sunshine. Just a gentle potter to clear the cobwebs and burn off some Christmas chocolate calories. I left some over-ripe apples on the grass verge in a quiet lane for the Blackbirds. The Fieldfares must number well over 200 now. They have settled in an elderly avenue of trees but spend a lot of time foraging on the almost bare fields. A few birds of prey were out sailing. Or holding down trees. The traffic was very quiet. I was slightly concerned about drunken drivers, from last night's revelries, but survived to tell the tale. Still some small patches of snow hanging on. Lots of puddles and ponds on the fields. 16 miles.

One man's flood is another man's fish pond.
Water, water everywhere...
 Nor any drop to drink.  

2nd 35-41F, 2-5C, breezy. Promised to be a fine day with helpful winds if the forecast is correct. I started the day with a nose bleed. This used to be quite commonplace when I had high blood pressure. It certainly isn't due to being overweight. I am skinnier than ever according to my wife.

I had a very early coffee and rolls and then rode to Odense to return the undersized overshoes. The young chap seemed quite happy to swap for something else. So I had another make of scull cap and 5 Specialized inner tubes in exchange. Going there was very peasant with a light tail wind. I averaged 16mph without much effort! The wind had picked up a bit on the way back and turned towards the SW so I was much slower. Averaging 10 mph.

I don't understand the Grip Grab 'Polaris' gloves. I wore thin liner gloves on the way and my hands were fine. It was warmer coming back so I took off the inner gloves only to have my right hand get cold almost immediately. When I stopped at a supermarket half way back my right glove was literally wet inside and stuck to my hand! It was quite a struggle to get my hand back in after shopping. I couldn't be bothered to put the inner gloves back on so just pressed on. The glove felt better after a while and was almost dry when I arrived home. Weird!  I took a different route home and found some steep hills and narrow lanes.  39 miles without the slightest discomfort from the Brooks B17 'Select' saddle.

3rd 45F, 7C, breezy, overcast. The forecast is sunny but windy later. Still raining and misty at the moment.
I left after morning coffee to head for a distant health shop. It tried to drizzle and remained mostly cloudy and windy. It was a real struggle when I met a headwind. After shopping I had the wind over my shoulder or off to the side most of the way back. I should have taken something to eat. Or bought something, but didn't. So I was a bit tired towards the end. 42 miles. Saddle fine again. I could get used to this. :-)

4th 47F, 8C, windy and wet all day. A rear tyre was flat when I went to collect Mr Higgins. First puncture in 1500 miles on the Durano Plus. Not bad i suppose. It was a tiny, incredibly sharp flint. After repairing the puncture I nipped out when the rain paused for a while. Then came straight home again because it started raining hard. Only six, very wet miles.

I was overtaken at very close quarters on an empty straight, by a raving fuckwit completely out of control of a white people carrier. They were doing at least 80mph with the exhaust hanging on the road! I had just read of the second cycling fatality in Denmark, in only a few days, from rear collisions. So I was not a happy bunny! Had I not had a puncture I would not have been on the road when the lunatic brushed past me. I have taken four extra days to reach last year's 10,000 mile total but now it doesn't count. Am I having fun yet?

 5th 43F, 6C, still, dry and grey. The wind remained light while I rode over to Assens. By the time I got there the same tyre had gone down as yesterday. I was certain I removed the original flint. Pumped it up a few times on the way home to avoid mending the puncture on the side of the road. 21 miles. Plus 8 more miles  pm. Now the other rear tyre is punctured! Grr.

6th  44F, 7C, breezy, heavy overcast, misty. I spent an hour repairing the two punctures and pottering in the shed. Finally the mist cleared slowly to rain. Heavy drizzle with a headwind.  I took a circuitous route down to the coast and back by another route. With shopping at intervals I arrived home to sickly sunshine sneaking under heavy, tobacco-filtered clouds. 24 miles.

7th 40F, 4C, light winds, heavily overcast, with drizzle on and off. I rode rather effortlessly up a hilly main road to have a look at an old farmhouse that was up for sale. Sadly it wasn't at all photogenic or desirable. So I pottered about, soaking up the rural ambience, ate a banana and drank some apple juice. If you hang about for quarter of an hour you can learn an awful (sic) lot about local traffic noise, farmer's stinking silage heaps and their stinking food smokers. I would never buy a house within 2 miles of a roaring motorway or two miles of a pig farm. Even that distance is easily undermined by their universal pig shit spreaders.

Once I became bored I followed a winding route back home via several village shops. The air seemed full of smoke and damp today. I took me ages to clear my lungs. The toe strap has finally worn out on my left overshoe. So now the rubber toe lifts and the upper wrinkles badly.

I heard a loud owl hoot in a wood and saw a large, very dark brown, bird of prey holding down a branch. No obvious connection. It seems unlikely a Buzzard would gain any benefit from doing vocal impressions of other birds. I disturbed several large flocks of birds foraging on the fields. It is odd how much variation there is in their behaviour. Some birds tolerate my passing within a few feet. While others move away when they are a hundred yards off across a field. Rooks are often the most tame when foraging on the verge. A flock of large and glossy Carrion crows watched me pass today without any sign of panic. While gulls are always nervous in large, inland flocks. One can almost imagine the trouble makers teasing the other gulls with tales of the approaching nightmare on three wheels. 36 miles.

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Happy New Year 2013

First, I'd like to wish all my regular readers and fleeting visitors a Happy New Year!

May 2013 bring you the success you desire, and deserve, as a result of your own efforts.

Yet another year starts full of promise, potential and good intentions. I can offer no other message than to suggest that you are the master of your own good fortune. Set reasonable goals for yourself which will provide realistic rewards for the effort invested. The higher you aim the greater the degree of luck required to  achieve anything. Luck is a variable over which we have absolutely no control. So don't blame your lack of success on bad luck. Lady luck never asked you to trust her in the first place. If you are really honest with yourself  then she is rarely guilty of the crimes of which she is most often accused.

Conversely, setting your goals too low will make them all too easily achievable. The rewards may be too slight even to impress yourself. While constantly pushing your own limits you may surprise even yourself.  

Negative changes can be the result of poor emotional reactions to set-backs. Particularly in youth. Often with completely unforeseen results. Life can hinge completely on choices made under temporarily difficult circumstances. With consequences which may stretch into the distant future. Few choices are completely irrevocable. Many can be undone by a more positive approach and determination.

Not everybody can stand on the winner's podium of life. The rest of us can only meet the accusing eyes in the mirror and accept that we did the best we possibly could. Either by using the skills and abilities we have earned by hard graft. Or were given in the random lottery of our genes and social and geographical circumstances at birth.

I am not a great follower of sport, other than cycling, but 2012 gave us a great many examples to admire. Their courage, incredibly hard work and determination pushed them to the very top of the medals tables and rostrums. Often despite their shortcomings. Luck played almost no part in their many successes. Their secret seemed to be enjoying positive support for all of their efforts and truly earning the respect of their highly skilled team of supporters. These were not cowardly yes-men supporting some evil despot. But providers of honest encouragement for their athlete in trying much harder than even they thought possible.

If nobody is cheering you on then you have only yourself to blame. Either you aren't working hard enough, in a constructive sense. Or your fan club, of one, has completely forgotten their primary task: Encouraging their hero to achieve even greater things.

Be kind to yourself. Praise and encourage others openly and honestly for their own successes and improvements. If your praise is rejected then they are clearly unworthy of your support.

The Internet has proven that critics are literally as common as muck. That cynics are two (billion) a penny. Alas I am horribly guilty of both crimes but promise to try and be more honest and realistic this year. This is my only New Year's resolution for 2013.