23 Sep 2013

Monday 23rd September 2013


Monday 23rd 57-62F, 14-17C, breezy, overcast. Smoothing the Chemical Metal to fit the Higgins bottom race went very easily. I used a large flat file to take off the high points then a strop of abrasive paper to smooth the material. Trying the race produced short polished arcs which could be further rubbed away. I soon had the race within 1/4" (6mm) of the crown. I used a piece of steel tube to finally tap the race into place while it was still a tight fit. Assens, blowing a gale. 2 o'clock headwind going, 8 o'clock side wind coming back. 18 miles. Plus 10 more later. I saw a large, purple pig doing the "dying fly" outside a pig farm. Crows were picking over the carcase. Nice.

Tuesday 24th 52-55F, 11-13C, light breeze, overcast. I managed 18 miles in the first hour with a gentle tailwind. It took me three hours to get back straight into the increasing wind! Though there was some shopping at three different supermarkets, browsing a village charity shop, exploring some new lanes and photography on the way home. The hip pain has moved back to my right buttock. Still waiting to hear the results of my blood tests, ultra-sound scans and x-rays. My shoulder has improved slightly. It is no longer agony to put my clothes on. Just painful. 40 miles.

 Wednesday 25th 47-55F, 8-13C, light winds, rather overcast. Rain forecast for 3pm. (It didn't) It wasn't very warm today. Headwind building on the way home. Long fingered gloves going. Fingerless gloves coming home. It's ploughing, raking and seed drilling time and the roads are plastered in mud.

Shopping gets ever more difficult. Edible organic bananas are getting very hard to find. They are either bashed to bits and black all over. Or bright green and hard inside. Cherry tomatoes are having to be carefully inspected to avoid rotten or overripe mush with water running in the bottom of the tray. Now the supermarket con is really coming home to roost. Not only do you have to walk round and select your produce in your own time but you have to inspect it for quality too. Then check the receipt to ensure you haven't been robbed yet again. Not a  week passes without variance between the shelf pricing and the receipt.

The monopoly money supermarkets hope to avoid public embarrassment by making the checkout belts ever shorter, the staff ever younger and  keeping the queues so long that everybody is too impatient to have time to read the receipt. The checkout operators now demand (with menaces) to know if you want a receipt to try and cut out the middle man. Then its have a nice day on autopilot without an ounce of sympathy for our plight as passive netizens of the Matrix. Those who refuse a receipt have a fool for a shopping client! 20 miles. Sometimes it seems all uphill. Have you ever noticed the similarity between's Marvin's head and a cycling helmet? <sigh> :-)

Thursday 26th 42-53F, 6-12C, cloud clearing after a rainy night. Should be a pleasant, sunny but cool day with lighter winds. A promised max of 53F/12C. Overdressing followed by overheating followed by undressing followed by a chill! It's that time of year again! Put too much effort into your ride and you end up standing at the checkout in just your bibbeys. Like some emaciated but sinewy Borat with squiggly veins struggling to prop up your obscenely muscular, but strangely undernourished calves. While you desperately try to avoid swearing sweating furiously in the endless checkout queue.

The birds are misbehaving again! I blame the spraying. I suppose it's better than (a) silent spring. The spiders are huddled tightly into the window frames to avoid the marauding Blue tits. The Sparrows are busy probing the dormer roofs for overnight perches out of the rain and wind. The Blackbirds are squabbling as usual and the sky is full of circling Mink gulls. Probably looking for tricyclists to crap on. I kid you not!

For those unfamiliar with immigrant Danish wildlife; Mink gulls inhabit mink farms in vast numbers. Except when they are standing apart on a nearby field and burping fishily. Sadly there are no known predators of gulls except when they are nesting. I'm not sure I don't prefer ground rats to gull rats. At least the ground living rats are fairly quiet as they go about our their business.

They say that mink farming has never been more in demand since the Chinese new money decided to empower themselves by returning to caveman couture. With a nice edge of animal cruelty to spice up their purchase. It's probably only a desperate attempt to distance themselves from their muddy, peasant upbringing. Quite why raising mink is known as farming rather escapes me. Except for the foul stench more typical of their pig farming neighbours and/or owners. Burp!

I have made my first ever appointment with a physiotherapist. I haven't a clue what is involved. As usual I may have to pretend that I am from Mars. Which is more true this week (allegedly) than it ever has been. At least according to science it is. Though that is not remotely the point:

Living is a foreign land, with little direct contact with the natives, means that a new vocabulary has to be invented from the ground up for each new ritual. Each new experience lacks a comfortable, well-honed list of dos and don'ts and familiar expectations. In the total absence of tradition, learnt by rote during a long, insubordinate childhood, the simplest assumptions are either absent or quite simply false.

How one addresses another person can be a hurdle or a springboard into the complete unknown. A mere social faux pas from ignorance of norms? Or a cringing status violation unlikely to be easily forgiven? It all largely depends on the recipient of my polite but friendly greeting. Language skills, accomplished articulacy and a well polished vocabulary confirm status. Crass mistakes in sentence and even gender construction and major pronunciation malfunctions score low.

Yet we must forgive the political leader and royalty for their strange accent when they are tempted to abuse a foreign tongue with which we are already familiar. Their status demands automatic respect. Mine has to be earned the hard way. With few tools except a clumsy assault with a blunt instrument by way of my pidgin Danish. Or my last desperate;  "Can you speak English" emblazoned on my verbal life saving ring. My language insecurity tends to produce this default behaviour as I roll on my semi-lingual back, show my teeth and pretend I am a harmless puppy to be baby talked.

There are those who accept my accent with complete ease, throw a few ganglion switches and then converse effortlessly. Others can no more understand a single word I utter than they can understand Mandarin Chinese or Klingon. Foolishly, I asked for directions in a shop last week. The two elderly ladies hadn't a clue what i was saying but were rescued by a charming lady of Asian origin. Who helpfully volunteered to intercede on my behalf. She had no difficulty in communicating with me in her even more fractured Danish.

No doubt her English was as good as mine though I did not want to spoil the occasion by being so rude as to test her skills with a local audience. If a person does not voluntarily sink to English by default then I tend not to push it.  I left with my warm thanks for her kind assistance and she seemed pleased to have helped. While simultaneously polishing her skills at Danish in front of the home crowd. Meanwhile the local ladies remained obviously baffled by the entire proceedings.

It started spitting from a huge dark cloud as I left after coffee but it didn't amount to anything. Promised to be sunny later. It was, eventually. The roads were very wet in many places so I thanked the cycling gods for their kindness in keeping me mostly dry from the knees up. But if it should happen again I'd be grateful for being forewarned. So I could take a lighter pair of sunglasses to cope with the darker interludes. I tend to become inexplicably depressed when riding in dark sunglasses in anything but optimum lighting conditions. 20 hilly miles but going well. Now my hip is aching again.

Friday 27th 46F, 8C, quite still, high cloud. I have heard from the quack about my x-rays. Vitamins are  normal but I have slight osteoporosis of the hip. A quick search shows that cycling is excellent for the heart and lungs but doesn't place enough stress on the bones to increase bone density. Tests have shown that serious cyclists suffer from bone calcium loss despite increased calcium intake over normal.

Walking is probably much better for the bones. Running risks overloading the joints from impact stresses. The problem may be exaggerated by my habit of spending most of my time off the trike on the computer. So I am going to add more walking to my activities. Further scans have been requested at the hospital so we'll see how that turns out. This is all very odd because I spent 11 hours a day on my feet constantly lifting weights until 3 years ago. I put the agonising pains in my hip and buttock (at the time) down to severely overloading my old bod!

The pains went away when I started cycling seriously but have recently come back again. I'm not just scribbling this for interest's sake. This information might be useful to other cyclists. If only as a warning to do some homework on the subject before they suffer from similar problems. It's not a matter of diet either. Our diet is far better than most with lots of organic fruit and veg, oily fish, seed, nuts, dried fruit and a good mix of roughage and dairy products with all the essential minerals and vitamins. Alcohol intake is also low and I have never touched Colas. Which are a known bone dissolver. Interestingly, dairy products are not particularly useful in increasing calcium uptake. Though I won't be removing them from my diet unless told to.

To practice my one foot before the other skills I set off for a modest walk to the village. I found walking on the road was quite hard on the feet and ankles. So I clomped off across the humpy fields instead. Keeping to the spray tracks to avoid potential accusations of damaging the soil structure with my size 11s. I was gone for an hour and a half and carried more mud off the fields than really seemed appropriate. Typical overcompensation for a distinct lack of recent walking. Then I changed and climbed onto my trike for a 10 mile ride. The odd thing is that my hip has (temporarily) stopped hurting.

Saturday 28th 52-56F,11--13C, light winds building, sunny. 15 miles. No ill effects from yesterday's tromp across the fields. Except for the lingering guilt at having muddied the roads. I was chased for several miles by an elderly couple on a tandem. I was cheating by using a huge and very full shopping bag as a rear fairing. The UCI will be furious!

Sunday 29th 47-51F, 8-11C, cold, but breezy and sunny. Gusting to 10m/s/ 22mph later. The giant sprayers are out again for the second day in a row. The crops don't look any bigger than many lawns. What do the plants need so desperately which requires repeated spraying at such short intervals, onto almost bare earth, in such windy conditions?

Even windier once I escaped for a ride. A cold wind meant I put on a wind proof jacket and kept it on.

It is surprising how small adjustments make a big difference on a trike. I noticed the tops of the handlebars were not level behind the levers. So I lifted them slightly and had instant comfort from the larger, level platform provided. I also straightened the saddle by a few millimetres at the nose and could feel the difference.

I lost, or had my wallet stolen in a local supermarket today. No money in there but I had to stop my bank card just in case. I went back an hour later and did the rounds trying to find it and asked the staff in the shop but no luck. I know I had it at the checkout because I took out my last note to pay for the goods. 21 miles.

Monday 30th 47F, almost still, bright sunshine. Mist was filling the low pockets in best Hollywood style but I didn't have my camera with me in the car. Only an 8 mile ride later.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

16 Sep 2013

16th September 2013

Monday 16th 52F, 11C, windy, heavy showers. The forecast is not nice at all. With rain or showers all week. The strong winds only add to the misery. It's weird but my painful shoulder actually feels better after trimming a tree with an extended pole tool. I was having to lift my arms above my head which had been absolute agony for some time. I was also working on another project which involved some heavy lifting. Perhaps the rotation and unaccustomed exercise has helped?

My hip is now just an occasional ache when I move awkwardly but often hurts more when I lie down. The pain varies considerably when I'm riding my trike. I really must contact the physiotherapy clinic to see what they suggest might help. A doctor's recommendation reduces their charges so it might be well worthwhile to have expert advice. The doctor thought I had greatly reduced freedom of the right hip joint. I haven't had the results of the blood tests and have an ultrasound scan of my shoulder later in the week.

Inspired by Chris Horner's climbing style I was riding out of the saddle as often as possible over the last few days. I still haven't worked out why it is so painful when it is not really much different from walking. Though it does place more of the load on the front part of the feet where walking emphasises the heel. My wife complains that I don't walk enough these days. While I think I walked enough for several lifetimes when I was younger. I never run and don't even know if I can any more. I worry about overloading my knees or even injuring myself. Which might/would put a stop to the cycling at least in the short term. Once the habit is broken I might lose the drive to go out.

The Sony Action Cam fixed on the Sony Action Cam handlebar clamp is totally unfit for purpose unless you enjoy a continuous, loud, dull roar. Careful examination of the camera in its case suggests that the camera is supported by little rubber tabs. Except at the bottom where it rests directly on a thin plastic moulding resting on the bottom of the hard plastic shell of the waterproof case. I'm wondering if it is possible to float the camera more efficiently so that it is completely clear of the case with only rubber in contact with the camera. This would involve the removal of the black plastic moulding and substituting thin rubber foam.

The waterproofing is of little interest (to me) provided I avoid heavy rain. So carefully perforating the case for better external sound pick-up might be worth trying. Wind noise is the obvious drawback on a moving object like a bike or trike. So making holes in the front cover is very unlikely to be particularly helpful. Even the addition of some soft filtering material is unlikely to reduce the roar of the wind and may preferentially reduce the desired ambient sounds.

The camera clamp and mini tripod have arrived. You'd almost think the clamp was made for the Sony. Though I might want to use a rubber band around the free end for belt and braces security where there was any risk to the camera. The bottom bar clicks to adjust the length while the top clamp is spring loaded. About £15 equivalent online for both clamp and tripod including postage.

I'm also wondering about the ridiculous amount of flaring when the lens catches the sun. This may be a negative feature of the waterproof case as well. Hopefully the tripod clamp will turn up soon and I can experiment with the bare camera to eliminate the case from the equation. Perhaps adding felt tabs over the naked microphone ports in the front to dampen wind noise. I hope you will forgive the endless description of the problems I'm having with this camera. I'd hoped to become a vlogger to add interest to my blogs. The Aldi Medion action camera videos were so dark as to be worthless. I'd hoped for much better from the Sony in anything less than very bright sunshine.

A short ride between, during and after showers. Luckily I had my overshoes on because the roads were more puddle than tarmac. 8 miles. I might go out again if it clears up as promised. Not today.

Watching the world's elite cyclists all climbing Honister Pass at 10 rpm cadence was most amusing. The triumph of style over function rears its ugly head yet again. With every wannabe 'weekend warrior' following exactly the same blind alley in stone age cycle equipment specs like their heroes. Not too ashamed to look like beginners. Too proud to add an inner chainring. Just imagine what all those sprinters could do with a lower gear instead of constantly falling off the back on every climb.

And in breaking news: A team of local amateur archaeologists is disappointed that a cloudburst has finally washed away what was thought to be medieval glass lying on a cycle path in a local village. "It had been lying there for so long that it had thickened at the bottom just like you find in medieval buildings," said a disappointed blonde spokesperson, who asked not to be named. "We were working hard to raise funds to bring in specialists from the local council with brooms and shovels. We hoped to train them to gather the remaining shards from the debris moraine lying outside a local junior school. But the chance is gone! The cloudburst washed it all into that bottomless pothole right outside the school entrance. We just don't have the funds to organise a serious cave dive to those depths."

Tuesday 17th 48F, 9C, very windy, cloudy. Rain or showers forecast all day.  My ISP has increased the speed of my optical fibre broadband connection to 50/50Mbits/sec. My free antivirus takes a huge chunk off the upload speed. Wireless just makes it all (much) worse even with the router right beside the USB stick. Another rest day doing other things. I don't even enjoy watching other people riding in the rain let alone doing it myself.

Wednesday 18th 51-58F, 11-14C,  just a breeze, sunny, cool. The promised rain did not arrive. Gloves with fingers today. Rode the Higgins for a change. Problems with the chain slipping in most gears. Odd because I'd fitted a new chain and new middle chainwheel. Need to get it up on the work stand to have a proper look. 15 miles.

Putting the Higgins on the workstand later only improved the indexing slightly. Without riding it I could not tell whether the chain would still jump. I ran a tap through to clean the threaded cable adjuster hole in the Tiagra rear changer and tried alternative cable dressing without improvement. There is still an indexing error of slightly excessive changer movement regardless of cable tension. I'm using Campag Ergo 10 levers with Shimano 9 speed. I'll see how it rides tomorrow and check for chain stretch too.

The difference with the Trykit is mainly down to the Higgins' greater weight, unexpected twitchiness in a straight line and narrower track. It doesn't have the frame stiffness to resist pedalling of the oversize, stainless steel Trykit tubing. I managed to lift the inside wheel a few times on the narrower Higgins but was still cruising at 20 mph in fairly still conditions. Slower on the return with a massive bag full of shopping.

The bottom bracket and pedal bearings are much freer on the Higgins than on the Trykit. Which is odd considering that the Higgins has the cheapest Shimano SPD 520 pedals. They spin completely freely for quite a long time. The much more expensive 780 SPDs on the Trykit hardly spin at all. Which is the complete reverse of expectations.

The Bottom bracket set on the Trykit is a Shimano square axle type. The Higgins has a fairly cheap MTB Shimano Hollowtech II chainset. The Trykit rear axle is also much stiffer in turning. The Higgins rear wheels can be left spinning on the workstand while I do something else and I come back to find them still spinning. The Trykit's stop fairly quickly and won't roll slowly to their balance point like the Higgins. Unlike the Higgins, the Trykit is non-adjustable. The bearings are located by circlips in machined grooves. The only possible variation would be to re-machine the axle shoulders. Or adjust the thickness of the central spacer in the Trykit 2WD freehub for a little more end play.

Despite the apparent extra friction the Trykit feels a lot more fun to ride. Giving a real sense of urgency completely lacking in the "leaden" Higgins. I wonder whether the much higher mileage on the Higgins explains the stiffer bearings on the Trykit? The Trykit has only 4500 miles on it since I started riding it in the second week of March. The Higgins (with Trykit 2WD fitted) has travelled several times that distance with the components mentioned above. Though the axle journal bearings are smaller on the Higgins trike with the smaller Higgins fit hubs. The Trykit has oversize Trykit fit hubs. I might try spinning the axles without the 2WD freehub sitting in the centre. Just to see if more end play has any effect. I can also check the bearings and axles individually for freedom of rotation.

There are a lot of bits in a Trykit 2WD trike axle. These are Trykit's hollow axles. The four large, axle support, journal bearings each have some seal drag. Though they felt much the same as each other when turned by hand. I suppose a racer or time trialist might want to experiment with alternative bearing seals or none at all. Thereby giving up some longevity and reliability for the sake of slightly reduced friction. The bearings would be exchanged as often as the competitive type is willing to part with the necessary funds for new replacements. The tourist will be more grateful for the protection offered by the standard rubber seals.

Tyre drag may easily dwarf bearing friction. A roll down test in still air on a hill would be useful to test any changes. The run could be timed or distance travelled measured if a suitably flat run out or even a rise is available. Why such data for every popular tyre, over a range of pressures and loads, is not freely available I have no idea. But then, much of the billion dollar cycling industry is amateur beyond words when it comes down to actual science. Even the top pro teams can't provide their riders with suitable clothing for changeable weather! How amateur is that? They spend thousands on reducing bike drag by a minute fraction and then they ride along for a hundred miles with their coat tails flapping in their self-made breeze!

I am often surprised how difficult it is for me to keep up with a cyclist free-wheeling downhill. They are sitting bolt upright without moving a muscle. While I am pedalling like hell, nose on the stem, completely breathless and being left far behind! Surely having three tyres doesn't make that much difference? The weight is spread over three rather than two treads so the difference in drag should surely be reduced a fraction.

The journal bearings in the Trykit 2WD freehub are usually neutral with regards to friction provided one keeps pedalling. They merely support and centre the freehub on the inner ends of the axles. The hexagons on the axle ends are driven by the pawl carriers. These hollow axles do feel much lighter than solid axles. Note the 6 pairs of pawls to each axle drive. By sharing the drive loads over so many pawls and matching ratchet teeth in the freehub they are likely to easily outlast the owner. The journal bearings provide almost hermetic sealing for the pawls.

Thursday 19th 52F, 11C, sunny, dry. I have just been to the hospital to have my shoulder ultrasound scanned and x-rayed. Just as I was returning from the terminal, with my valid patient parking ticket, I noticed a private parking warden coming out from behind my car. I assumed she was just patrolling. Only later, when I came out of the hospital, did I realise she had left a parking ticket for 510DKK in the short time it had taken me to reach the ticket machine! I have entered a formal complaint with the company and will await their response.

Went out on the Higgins again. Chain still jumping in most gears. I shall have to dig deeper. Surely it can't be every sprocket worn out on the cassette? The chain measuring tool said the chain was still far too new to show any stretch. I have the usual safe wrap on the largest sprocket and largest chainwheel. The jockey pulley cage seems as springy as usual. The body adjusting screw is relaxed to provide maximum wrap with minimum pulley to sprocket clearance. It's certainly not the indexing causing the skipping. Only 10 miles.

Closer examination with my stronger reading glasses suggests that I need a new 9 speed cassette. The teeth were viably rounded over. I'm a martyr to lack of accommodation. (Optically speaking)  Thanks to cycling (and blogging) I no longer need a distance prescription in daylight but need two different strengths of reading glasses!

Friday 20th 50F, 10C, completely still, grey overcast. Any early showers are supposed to clear. Trykit still in pieces so went out on the Higgins again. Still struggling with the jumping chain. Bought a new 9 speed cassette and head bearing set.  I just hope the headset isn't too tall to fit the poor old Higgins forks and head tube. 19 miles.

I finally bought some more engine cleaner so I could clean the Trykit's cassette, jockey pulleys, chain and chainwheels properly. It said to leave it on for 5 minutes before washing off but I'm going to leave it overnight. I've been using a "dry" chain lubricant with suspended Teflon and it seems to build up and go black where there isn't any direct contact.

Even after dismantling the cassette, half an hour of scrubbing away with a toothbrush still hasn't completely cleaned the hardened residue from the sprockets. More frequent chain cleaning would obviously help but I only remember it when I'm out. By the time I return I've gone blank again. I ought to have a fixed rota but I'm too lazy and forgetful to stick to it. I'd much rather be riding than cleaning. Should have it all back together again tomorrow morning. I've been busy re-polishing the stainless steel frame with Scotch Brite again. If only the Higgins was that easy.

Saturday 21st 50-58F, 10-14C, quite still, light showers and sunny periods. I started reassembling the Trykit, had everything laid out outside, when it started raining. Everything had to go back in the shed for five minutes. Then it stopped raining for the rest of the day. I spent another hour dismantling and cleaning off more grime on the drive train.

Even when I had cleaned the chain several times in a tray with engine cleaner it was still filthy. So I ran it several times through the chain cleaning machine on the trike. Which sprayed more filth filth all over the newly spotless frame! Half an hour running the chain through a series of rags finally cleaned off most of the filth. I can't remember how much I paid for this 10sp  chain but I don't think it was cheap enough to simply discard. Not without making an effort to clean it. Back to the grindstone.... Finished!

Spent the rest of the day on a rare outing in the car. 150 miles sightseeing? Crackers! There was a lot of road and bridge repair work going on along our route going both ways. With long stretches of very low speed limits between concrete bollards. We were constantly being overtaken left right and centre as I refused to exceed the marked speed limits. Several cars overtook long convoys of slow moving traffic at 80mph plus!  Their need for speed is always far greater than our right to survival. A triking rest day today. Isn't it typical? No wind today. Gusting to 17m/s tomorrow.(37mph!) Bøøger!

This Siemens wind turbine was larger and slower turning than those usually found on mainland Fyn. One of a group of three on the West coast of Langeland as we picnicked on Danish pastries and teabag tea.  We watched as a huge flock of gulls moved restlessly between and around the moving blades as a tractor trundled steadily back and forth. We saw one gull time it badly and tumble for a moment or two. Though no carcasses were visible on the smooth, bare soil as we drove back from the beach by way of the very narrow track. 

Sunday 22nd 54F, 12C, breezy, sun fighting with high clouds. Trees already swaying. Rode to Odense then back by another route on the Trykit. A strong headwind coming back. It drizzled once. Lots of cyclists out training. A few waved. Gears indexing needs attention but otherwise the Trykit was okay. Glad to be back on it after riding the Higgins for a couple of days. I'm going to try a double chainwheel front changer on the Trykit to see if I can overcome the useless changing on the Ultegra triple front changer. I just need  to find a double changer which fits my oversize seat tube.  My box full of old changers are all old fashioned seat  tube sizes. The GripGrab Dr.Gel gloves were so horribly sweaty in the mid 50sF that I had severe problems taking them off and worse problems getting them back on again. They'll only have to be used below 50F. I bought these for spring and autumn. To replace my collection of £5 supermarket cycling gloves. 37 miles.

Pm. I cleaned, filed, sanded then coated the bottom of the Higgins steerer tube with Chemical Metal. It supposed to harden within 10 minutes but there is no point in rushing ahead when tomorrow will do. The bearing seat has been missing since purchase on eBay. It was coated with what looked like Araldite but it had worn away through use. The bottom race has been sloppy and wore rapidly as I recycled by remaining collection of head bearings. With each change of bearings it soon became impossible to take up the slack.

I finally decided to do something about it when it became dangerous on the last ride. It became so stiff to steer that I was in real danger of going under any passing lorry. I was literally zigzagging along a main road. Unfortunately my lathe isn't big enough to swing a pair of forks. The drop-outs hit the bed. (so to speak) So I shall just have to file and sand the bottom race seating to a nice tight fit on the bottom race and hope my Higgins steering troubles are over.

Click on any image for an enlargement. 


12 Sep 2013

Sony Action Cam HDR-AS15 a personal review.

After at least a year of torment and indecision I now own a Sony HDR-AS15 Action Camera. A quick(?) trip around the block on my trike shows that the image stabilisation works really rather well. The centre of the image remains amazingly still even watched at full screen. Though the edges do shuffle about a bit.

Even in overcast conditions the pictures are no better, nor really worse than expected. Though still a bit disappointing at this price point. Certainly a vast improvement on the Aldi Medion. Which was a complete waste of money.

It has to be said that the sky colours on the Sony are utterly bonkers! With turquoise well in evidence where no blue even existed. What part of childrens colouring in crayons, on acid, does Sony not understand?

The sound quality when using the essential, hermetically sealed, waterproof case is absolutely abysmal. With the camera picking up only the conducted noise of the tyres. The recorded soundtrack is nothing but a monotonous roar seemingly regardless of the road surface. Passing traffic goes almost completely unheard unless you are really lucky and a large convoy of Hells Angels passes by. I wan't that lucky. Voices nearby simply do not register, at all. So forget all about eaves dropping on the neighbours with the Sony.

I had deliberately placed the £30 Sony handlebar clamp "back to front." So the camera was brought nearer the head bearings. Rather than hanging off the front of the bars like a rather odd and oversized, semitransparent headlamp. The idea was to minimise visible handlebar rock by reducing the optical leverage. This seemed to work very well but brought the left brake lever into the edge of the picture frame even at the 120 degree setting.

Not a deal killer but an unwanted distraction in the endless tedium of watching not much else happening on an empty, rural, minor road. Towns do have a unique advantage here if you are looking for interesting videos to upload to YouTube. Most people like watching other people. (Or kittens) While one stretch of empty rural road looks very much like any other stretch of empty rural road. It soon takes on all the fascination of an empty conveyor belt. <yawn>

I have ordered a SanDisk Class 10, 32GB SDHC memory card online for £22 equiv including P&P. The same cards were £35 in the shops. No memory card (at all!) is supplied with the camera. The only homeless (Class4) card I had lying about was a 4GB. Which provides only 30 minutes of video at 1080P 30fps HQ.

So I'm working on the vague theory that one hour means about 8 GB (battery willing). This seems to match Sony's claims of about 3 hours maximum recording time. 32GB should give me a bit of leeway but not enough for a 6 hours ride by several orders of magnitude. Why no solar trickle recharging cell on the stylishly curved roof of the camera?

The lack of a memory card to play with, straight out of the box, seems like just another of Sony's deliberate own goals. How much is a Class4 4GB micro card going to cost them over a year's sales on their vast manufacturing scale? It's no wonder the dinosaur is struggling. Even the shop boy missed this serious lack and failed to offer me a suitable memory card at the point of sale while I was still in spending mode. So having a flat battery and no card has been a bit of a double whammy. (Whatever that means in the real world of Lycra-clad adults on tall, skinny tricycles.)

The new SanDisk Micro SD card turned up in the post. Truly amazing service from Cinemagic A/S. The 32GB's worth proved to offer 4 hours and 20 minutes after formatting in the camera.

Battery recharge time is around four hours via USB. (The only means of recharging the battery as sold) The separate Sony "RAPID" charger (not supplied) takes about three hours. So there's no great desire to rush out and spend even more money on that. Though a charger is essential if I don't want to recharge overnight. Which would mean leaving the computer on. Add a spare battery and a charger begins to make more sense. provided it is economically priced.

Several big retail chains advertised the Sony, at the same price I paid, without mentioning that it was Internet sales only. However, a great many of them now stock GoPro in all its expensive pick'n mix variety. So there is some serious commercial penetration going on there. Last time I looked around I could find no GoPro stock to ogle anywhere. So "the powers that be" must be following my blog very closely.

Sony's own shop in the mega shopping centre had no stock. Just as they had no stock last time I asked to see one. Perhaps they can't compete with ordinary retailers? Because then they would lose even more money than when they are standing around looking bored with no customers every time I pass.

I will readily admit that I have frequently been very sorely tempted by the GoPro Hero3 Black hype. But, at twice the price of the Sony, with absolutely infantile run times on the standard battery, I thought I'd wait until the newly crippled minted Hero 4 Au-de-Nil comes out. Just to see what problems they were promising to fix next time around. The Hero 3 Black might seem slightly more affordable and better fixed by then. Normally they slash prices to clear the shelves for the next iteration of still unfixed merchandise. The Pro in GoPro must stand for (empty) PROmises.

Surely image stabilisation is an absolute must at this price point? Sony manage it at half the discounted retail price. GoPro have only got away without it so far by using ultra wide angle, short focus lenses. Which have massive problems with fish eye distortion. Judging from the endless YouTube videos using 1080P 30fps there is really very little to choose between any two of these cameras when it comes to video picture quality in sunlight.

The Sony now boasts a few more fixtures and fittings than when it was first released. In an apparent mad dash to compete in the market with an obviously, half-finished product. So I will have to think hard about my fixing alternatives for my triking use. No, not that sort of fixing! Real tricyclists don't need Armstrong's dodgy "health supplements."

The red recording indicator light is on the back of the camera, very dull and completely invisible from above. Meanwhile, the LCD screen is on the side which will be instantly lost by any, left side of the helmet, clamping system! So its no wonder they don't supply a "big ears" clamp. That would mean that those of us who ride on the right/correct side of the road, meaning most of the barely civilised world, will be completely unable to adjust the camera or see what on earth is going on! I understand the Japanese drive on the incorrect side of the road too. So they might well have been blinded by the bleeding obvious here.

In bright light the only way for me to tell if recording is on is to get off my trike. Remove my sunglasses and put them somewhere safe. Search for, find and put on my reading glasses. Crouch beside my trike. Then peer at the tiny little screen to see if the time counter is actually running! Nul points! (In a French accent)

So an extra bright, top mounted LCD would surely give a far better indication of recording activity for bikers (and trikers) who prefer handlebar mounting via the Sony designed and retailed (Chinese) handlebar mount.

It has occurred to me (somewhat hesitantly) that a small vanity mirror on a lanyard around my neck would allow me to monitor camera activity with much less inconvenience. Though at the greatly increased risk of being pulled over by a (non-existent) patrol car for pretending to use a mobile telephone while in motion. It would also give me one more thing to remember before leaving home. And, even more importantly, one more thing to lose while out on my trike!

Once the camera is safely in its waterproof case its own warning sounds are muffled to the all but inaudible in the lightest of traffic. So I had to repeatedly perform all of the above to see if I had started recording!

Putting one's ear to the camera case, while in forward motion, may well be on the next long list of evil cycling offences. With matchingly vicious fines, planned by The Bag Lady PM.Dk in the absence of anything important to do.

Just in case you have missed the point I have to go through all of this palaver or I might just be fooling myself that I was actually capturing a "once-in-a-lifetime" video. One which would make me the envy of YouTube. Without any poorly clad, very minor celebs, iSlave worship, or kittens ever being involved.

I really can't live with the present dull roar recorded by the handlebar mounted camera  but detest wind noise even more! The supplied clamping kit can't even do a side-saddle, helmet fixing. You'd need a separate, right angle bracket equipped with a tripod screw on one leg and a tripod screw socket on the other. So, for the moment you can only wear the camera in best 1950s Martian invader style. With a strangely translucent, TV antenna sitting right on top of your space helmet. (Nanoo-nanoo) It just makes you look a complete plonker and at severe risk from aerial collisions. Certainly not the ideal solution for landlocked peasants living in half-timbered cottages. Nor regular visitors to lighting emporiums!

But! There are some excellent, dirt cheap, mobile phone clamps out there. Fitted with real tripod screws! Now showing on YT as available, for very small change, on eBayUS. These offer far more fixing promise than Sony's skeletal clamp. No doubt the latter is the result of billions of dollars of expenditure on bleeding edge R&D and is all they can (allegedly) manage for all their hordes of PhDs and a box full of patents under the bed.

A dozen video recordings later I still have very mixed feelings about the Sony Action Cam. It almost literally bursts into life, in true UHD sharpness and gorgeous Techni-colour when the sun finally deigns to come out for a moment. Except that then the waterproof case can easily fog up. Which has happened twice already unbeknownst to the chump pedalling furiously right behind the camera. (Until he climbed off again, of course)

To maximise the true enjoyment of action cams you probably need to move to barmy balmy California, the Med, or even Africa. Most cameras seem to thrive on sunshine but go rapidly downhill with the arrival of cloud and lower light conditions. This is totally regardless of Sony's empty hype about their special Exmoør sensor and its supposedly miraculous abilities in poor light. It's all pure hype. Totally untrue. Lies by any other name judging from my own experience with this Sony (Sunshine only) Action Camera.

They even misspell the sensor's name on the side of the camera as if to ward off evil clouds. And, I still haven't dared mention (until now) that it can only manage 2MB stills! My very first, Sony, compact, digital camera was the size and weight of a compact, round-the-world-cruise,  luggage trunk. Yet it still managed a hypothetical 3.5MB with a following wind. The Exmoør is supposed to have mid teens, image devastation capability in the seemingly endless MB wars. Not so with the Sony Action Camera. Perhaps they feared people would buy it for [gasp] alternative uses? Which might undermine sales of their more profitable lines.

Confused? I know I am. I put off the purchase of any (expensive) action cam while turning myself inside out doing my homework online. I scoured YouTube, read endless technical reviews and ploughed through countless forums to see which was really the best camera. The real answer seems to have been that none of them is best. At least not yet. They each seem to limp from one severe handicap to the next. Somehow, no one camera had quite cornered the market for being the really badly crippled commercial product. Except perhaps the Aldi at £70. But that may not count.

I was almost certain that Sony's finest R&D bods would get a severe kicking from on high and very quickly come up with the Action Cam 2! Tarah!! This one would fix all the pathetically childish design faults of their first iteration. Don't even get me started on a shopping list of obvious potential improvements. But no. Sony was much too proud to fall on it sword and publicly admit the half-baked first edition was a total disaster. They grudgingly released a flat lens cover for playing rude games in the bath but that was about it. Hardly a life-changing admission of abject failure.

So, the electronic sockets are all still arranged under an irritating flap on the bottom. Where they can't possibly be reached in the waterproof case. Nor, more importantly, can the vital control buttons on the side! So make sure you have a dry paper hanky ready when you resurface from 60 metres to reset the camera to something more useful than ultra slow motion. When all you intended to do was film some gently wafting seaweed in a (gentle) current to take YouTube by <cough> storm.

There is still no simple clamp nor stand offered with a flat bottom and tripod screw socket. It still won't stand up unless constantly attended by a trained team of  helpers with lightning fast reactions. Yes the bare camera is sweet and even rather dinky if,  like me, you have a particular fetish for matt black plastic. However, the Action Cam grows truly lumpen if you have to use the essential waterproof case. How else will you hold the damned thing still?

The Sony image stabilisation sold me in the end but it only works at 120 degrees. The slow motion is fun but takes its only cue from the silent movies of over a century ago! Cue piano!

I haven't yet mentioned the PlayMemories bundled software. Which seems not to offer any useful editing facilities at all. Except trim and join. Even the Aldi camera software had a "Dynamic Lighting" button to bring a little relief on those endless dull days. What about image rotation to cope with the fixed stare of the rigidly formal Asian uprightness of the Sony? Not in your lifetime!

Though I notice that the Sony is labelled as "Made in China." So, once the clever Chinese have backward reverse engineered all of Sony's alien technology, we can expect a raft of vastly superior (forgeries) competitive models to be rolling off their own production lines sometime soon. Probably sometime next week.

Who needs industrial espionage when people keep sending the Chinese the real thing to play with? Keep an eye out if you are still looking for a much better camera than the HDR-AS15. Unless, of course, Sony actually manage to right all the wrongs, fire all the dead wood in R&D and bring out a truly world beating Action Cam 2.

It would  not be fair to describe the Sony handlebar clamp as anything less than accomplished.  Though no lightweight it offers a wide range of soft rubber clamp liners. Pressing the sprung button allows the head to rotate on its axis against a series of firmly locking clicks. So the camera can not only be fitted to a wide range of handlebar sizes but lifted and lowered relative to the handlebars themselves by rotating the whole device around the clamp.

If the knurled clamping wheel is loosened slightly the camera can also be rotated horizontally on the tripod screw as it sits on its firm rubber plate. The whole thing is rather impressive. Being strong enough to last and looks the part in use. Though the camera in its clear housing looks a bit obvious and even rather incongruous sitting up on top.

Provided you don't mind using the clear plastic case the handlebar mount makes a decent handle to turn the camera in to small handheld video camera. The case will kill the sound of course unless you physically knock it. A trial video in the garden was acceptable with bright overcast provided I didn't turn towards the sun. Then everything went very dark with lots of false colours and over-bright skies. I have just ordered a mobile phone clamp with a tripod socket. So by next week I should be able to have videos with sound. Provided I don't use slow motion.

There is probably little doubt that there are at least two kinds of customers for the Sony AS15. Those few who normally enjoy a great deal of bright sunshine. They will probably be absolutely delighted with their Sony Action Camera and will want to share their good luck online. They will rave about the picture quality to anyone who will listen.

Image borrowed and altered from David Gilsen's photography blog.


Then there are all of those who, through no fault of their own, live further from the equator. They will see their blocky, smudgy, soft focus, almost monochromatic, greeny-grey and off-white videos with some distaste. This group will just have to wait for the technology to catch up with cameras sensitive enough to break through the all-pervading gloom. Or, perhaps there ought to be a separate camera for the Scandinavian market? One to cope with the lower average light levels. Or at least offer a camera menu setting for "dreadfully dull".

In conclusion: Sony can and must do (much, much) better than this if they are to be taken seriously in the action cam arena! Otherwise, why bother? Surely they aren't just money laundering to offset taxes? It's all very well letting little children design your toy cameras for you. But you still have to take responsibility for the success or failure of the final commercial product. Most of which will be bought by naive adults: People like me. People no longer willing to damn with faint praise and who will tell it how they really see it.

Bottom line: After two days of mostly cloudy weather, with occasional sunshine, I still don't have a single video I'd want to share with anybody. Otherwise you'd find it embedded here after I'd uploaded it to YouTube. To receive international praise from the (YT) film critics for its artistry and production values.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

3 Sep 2013

Sunday 1st September 2013

Sunday 1st 58-62F, 14-17C, breezy, bright but becoming overcast. Rain forecast for all day and tomorrow. Still dry at 10am. Left after morning coffee. Caught in heavy rain. So I put the rain hat on the Brooks and dived into a supermarket for shelter. There seemed to be a meeting of mostly 1960-70s rally/racing cars of some sort. With noisy dinky toys covered in large numbers driving in convoy in the lanes. I checked online and it was a hillclimb based on Krengerup. Some of them did sound very crisp.

It soon stopped raining but was a bit blowy with sunny periods. I put on the Aldi jacket and TA cap. Some trees are beginning to shed their leaves already. My hip is is still improving. I wish I could say the same for my shoulder. It's fine until I try and lift something or reach up. I suppose it could be worse. My reduced  mileage seems to be helping. Though it could be just coincidence. I've run out of photos again. Normal service will be resumed ASAP. 14 miles.

Monday 2nd 56F, 13C, overcast and windy with the trees waving about. Continuous heavy drizzle. The forecast is rain all day (again). It really might be a good day for a rest. Yesterday's rain was short lived and fell as showers. Today's looks much more determined. Though rainfall on the DMI radar seems to be petering out. If I should decide to go out you will be the first to know. Probably before I do. ;-)

Well it never did give up raining properly so I took a rest day. While adhering to the speed limit (in the car) through a local village I was overtaken by a local builder on his way home from a hard day ripping off the naive and innocent. Then by a women rushing to pick the next generation of lawbreakers from school. There are 50kph lollipops every few hundred yards. Nul points, all round, I think.

I broke open (literally) the dead i-GotU GPS logger to see what was involved in a battery swap. Unfortunately it isn't quite as simple as  buying a new a watch type battery from the supermarket. It has a flat packed Lithium-Ion in a bag. Supposedly 10V maximum charge but reading only 3.38V now.  My guess is that the flat plate is the antenna. The multiple fingerprints are not mine!  

The battery fills most of the case above the electronics. When I entered the serial number of the battery into Google I had only two hits! So we aren't looking at ready availability and discounts.

Ample warning about buying anything hermetically sealed, I think. You are looking at guaranteed redundancy within a couple of years of purchase. Sorry about the poor photography. It was much too wet to work out of doors. Too overcast to try again today.

Tuesday 3rd 59F, 15C, light breeze at 8am, overcast. It is supposed to be dry but rather cloudy and gusting up to "only" 20mph later from the NW. I'm supposed to be heading that way for 20 miles. So it should be plain sailing coming back. I'd better remember my spinnaker. Hang on, though. It has just misted over and started drizzling! Surely the DMI knows I'm not very waterproof? Grrr? For some reason I decided to push my saddle back and it ended up very slightly nose down. This threw my weight onto my hands and wrists. I spent a lot of the time pushing myself backwards. I had left after coffee under a grey, folded sky but it stayed dry. Roads very muddy in places. Almost a tailwind coming home but I was so heavily laden it didn't make much difference. 42 miles.

Wednesday 4th 62F, 17C, light wind, overcast. I returned my saddle to its original position and level before leaving. It is comfortable again. To Assens shopping. Lots of road works and coarse gravel resurfacing. Another heavy load of shopping. 21 miles.

Thursday 5th 60-66F, 16-19C, light breeze, overcast. It turned bright, and sunny but very windy. A light day. Only 8 miles.

Friday 6th 60-73F, 16-23C, sunny and windy. It is supposed to reach 23C, 73F later. Spot on, but very windy. It was good fun coming home despite the weight of the shopping. 18 miles.

Saturday 7th 60-71F, 16-22C, bright, clear, quite windy. It became more cloudy and warmer. 20 miles.

Sunday 8th 62-68-72F, 17-20-22C, very windy, rather overcast. 13 miles. Going out again. Plus 8 more miles. Blowing harder than ever. Rain is forecast.

Monday 9th 55-51F, 13-11C, heavy overcast, still, raining. It is supposed to be much cooler and rain all day. It was and it did. So I didn't. Rest day.

Tuesday 10th 50F, 10C, still, misty start.  Doctors appointment then shopping in the car all day. The mist cleared early on and it became quite warm in town. Comfortable T-shirt weather. It started raining on the way home so no ride today. It seems I do not have arthritis of the hip according to the x-rays. Which should be good news for the cycling. I had a lot of blood tests for calcium and vitamin deficiencies and will know in a week or so if I'm likely to survive. We have a very sensible diet with lots of fish, organic veg, fruit, wholemeal bread,  and organic dairy products every day. Only a little organic meat but we take vitamins every day. So I've no idea why I'd be short of anything. Perhaps it's all the farm spraying? I was caught by spray drift more than half a dozen times while out of my trike earlier in the year.

I'm due for an ultrasound scan of my right shoulder in a week's time too. I can live with the hip but the shoulder is agony if I move my arm even slightly backwards or upwards. The odd thing is that I don't feel it in the shoulder. It feels as if I am literally tearing the muscles of my right, upper arm. I had RSI for years so it may be a recurrence of that. Though that felt like the joint rather than phantom pains I'm getting elsewhere. Getting in and out of the bath is very painful.

I shall be making an appointment with a physiotherapist for the first time in my life. A local clinic has specialists in sports injuries. So I'll see where that leads. Probably to more pain and abject poverty. I suppose it's normal to have to pay for a bit of S&M. After all, I've been paying (dearly) for my Brooks saddle fetish. Though at least I don't (yet) have a weakness for rubber. Whoops! A Brooks Cambium and well tightened toe straps, anybody?

I have sleepless nights worrying about the lack of ventilation holes in the Cambium. ;-) I'm presuming holes would lead to local weakening and eventual cracking despite the potential risk of severe sweating in the nether regions in untoward climes. Cracking with which the organic cotton reinforcement could not cope in the long term. This is the difficulty of centuries of selling the leather product with endless talk of the comfort offered by natural materials and healthy  breathability, etc. Change your basic material and you (basically) have to reinvent yourselves.

Perhaps they should have used Egyptian cotton? It was the stuff of legend in camping and climbing circles before trendy, new, polyurethane coated nylon came along. Then everything suddenly became totally unbreathable. Mobile sauna, survival threatening in the wilds, lots of kids dying on the British hills unbreathable. Soaking all their clothing to the skin unbreathable. Even in the bitter cold of a sudden winter blizzard unbreathable. All staggering along in single file in their newly fashionable, approved, knee length, guaranteed taped seams, wind flapping you right off the ridge, cagoules. AKA: Brightly coloured, airtight and sweat tight, stylish, imitation polythene, body/bin bags ready for the morgue.

I too was a sacrificial victim of Blacks of Greenock trendy coated nylon anoraks on the Welsh mountains in winter. And as my mobile sauna on my bike/trike year round. Once wet, how the hell do you dry out without central heating style, indoor warmth and a complete change of clothing and a hot shower or warming bath?

Answer: You don't if you are camping in the wilds. You suffer intensely and  miserably until you finally get home. Or die of hypothermia if you are really lucky. Fortunately, newly wealthy, outdoorsy mankind was saved by new technology like Gore-Tex. I've heard it said that it breathes through the noughts they added to the price of everything to which they apply their labels. Having never owned any of their garments I haven't checked to see if they are made by slave labour in Asia.

For he's a cynical barsteward.
For he's a cynical barsteward
For he's a cynical bar-steward  
And, so say all of us.

Wednesday 11th 52-59F, 11-15C, breezy, sunny periods but rather cloudy. Showers possible. Rode to Odense. It stayed dry but wasn't very warm. Particularly on the way with a light head wind. Going quite well after two rest days. Roads very muddy in places. 43 miles.

There is a move by politicians to put up speed cameras in Denmark. The idea is to clearly mark their position This will reduce income from fines but should have a greater effect on driving behaviour. The problem in the UK was that many drivers were convinced that the cameras were only there to make money. With almost no effect on speeding because only the locals would know where the cameras were sited. Signposting the cameras should avoid such accusations. Albeit that speeding anywhere is still breaking the law.

Unusually, for me,  I have been out in the car a bit more recently. I continue to be the slowest car on the road because I will not exceed the speed limit. Which makes me a minority of one in several million. Though I will happily drive at the speed limit when it is safe to do so. I quite often leave speeders well behind on the corners after they have usually travelled through a long village straight at 60mph to just to sit on my tail.

I was overtaken by several drivers today where they were travelling at over twice the speed limit for a built up area. One idiot started to overtook a lorry coming uphill towards me despite continuous double white lines and a blind brow to the hill. I flashed my headlights but he still insisted on overtaking which took him several hundred yards before he could return to his own lane. Forcing me to halve my own initial speed to avoid a certain  head-on collision.

Half an hour later, as I returned form the shops two cars were having a very high speed race up the same hill. They passed me at well over 80 mph throwing up clouds of dust. The national speed limit is 80kpgh/50mph in Denmark. Only a vanishingly small minority of drivers adhere to the speed limits.

They are finally fixing a severe chicane in a local village high street where the sped limit is 40kph/25mph. The vast majority, including buses, lorries, vans, taxis and council vehicles travel at 40mph despite the narrow high street being lined from top to bottom with busy shops on both sides of the road. With pedestrians old and young frequently wanting to cross. There are no road traffic accidents. There are only sociopaths making life difficult for everybody including themselves.

Thursday 11th 53F, 12C, overcast, still and misty start. One of those rare days when the windmills are all still. Shopping 22 miles.

It seems my words do hold some truth. A car was seen travelling at high speed on a road where every tree in the avenue of oaks has some damage near the base. It seems, yet again,  that the driver's ambitions greatly exceeded his skills. He hit three trees, on a long straight, before going into a spin, leaving the road and dying in the roadside ditch. Trees 3. Motorist 0? The speed limit on the entire road is 50kph or 31mph! With large, 50kph lollipops every few hundred yards.

I often travel this way and seriously doubt that one in 1000 drivers adheres to the speed limit. I ride this route regularly on my trike because I love the beauty of the canopy of trees and the scenery. Such long views are actually quite rare. I also enjoy climbing the long hill. It is also the only useful route going north which makes any sense for me. Though it often feels very unsafe and there are no marked cycle lanes. As usual, the double white lines in the centre of the road were often worn away completely before recent resurfacing and remarking.

Now all we need is a call from some do-gooder to have these beautiful old oaks cleared to stop them stepping out into the road in front of speeding and drunken motorists. Perhaps they should put up steel trash crash barriers along the entire length of the road? It's only taxpayer's money after all. The behaviour of the trees on the straights is obviously no more predictable than those on the corners! Where are you when you can't even trust the trees? They could have put down some speed bumps but this is a feeder road to the motorway at the top of the hill. So the emergency services are probably attending to motorway "accidents" via this route. Which rather limits the traffic calming possibilities.

I avoid using the motorway in the car because nobody remotely adheres to the speed limits whatever the weather or traffic conditions. From the bridge of the same motorway junction I watched as a young woman climbed out of half a car with a baby clutched in her arms. She had hit the central crash barriers and completely ripped off one side of her car. Not one single passing car slowed down from their illegal speeding as she stood there in shock in the overtaking lane wondering how to escape from her dilemma. Fortunately her car was neatly parked tight against the central reservation barriers. So no passing driver was even slightly inconvenienced by having to lift their foot off the speeding pedal.

Friday 13th 55F, 13C, are you feeling lucky, punks? :-) Overcast and very misty. Whoops! The garden is full of small birds again. All bombing around like lunatics. Perhaps they are drunk on the plums? The mist soon cleared and it became almost bright. I'd gone about two miles when my wife rang to say that I'd forgotten my bike lock keys. Back home again and then cover the same ground all over again. Why is it so boring to have to do that? Shopping for 18 miles.

Saturday 14th 65F, 18C, sunny and windy. Assens. A Morris Minor club was having an outing so I followed them down the high street to the harbour. While the cars were neatly arranged there were people all over the place.Which made it very difficult to get a clean shot of their cars. Rode home with a heavy 5' long parcel  tied across the back of the trike. 20 miles.

Sunday 15th 57F, 14C, breezy becoming windy, overcast with light showers. Late afternoon ride for 9 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

2 Sep 2013

Bird's-eye views.

I constantly use Google Earth, Krak, Grundkort Fyn and other free mapping and aerial photography websites to see where I've been on my trike and where I really ought to go. My GPS logger draws and saves my routes in great detail so I wouldn't be without it now. I had two different GPS loggers but the sealed-in battery died on one of them. Thanks to the Internet I can always search online later for all the interesting things and places I passed or missed along the way.

Krak is an incredibly useful commercial "free" mapping service. Relying on subtle advertising and drawing my potential routes between chosen place names. It lists every turn, distance to be travelled, with all the road names and provides accurate overall distances and likely elapsed times.(By car!) Free to use and fully printable. It has filters to avoid motorways and ferries and allows multiple insertions of chosen place names on the route. With some very amusing errors possible if you choose badly from the drop down suggestion lists as you type badly! Duplication of village names is quite commonplace in Denmark.

Here is a link to a shortest route suggestion on Krak across the north of the island of Fyn:
Note the row of appearance change controls at the top of the map and filter options on the left.
(In Danish, of course)


Back click to return to the blog.

Google Earth is indispensable but do not fool yourself that it provides remotely up to date or even remotely sharp aerial images. A course screen has been deliberately applied to the so-called "Satellite" views. Which are often so dark and fuzzy over much of Denmark that they might as well not bother. Presumably this is to protect public privacy and/or to try and sell premium services. Luckily they are no longer alone in providing these useful services. So one imagines the desire to improve or further expand their Street View coverage of minor roads is now very low on their list of commercial priorities.

No doubt everybody has seen Google Earth and Street View so there is really no need to show examples of their services here. I wish Street View would work on all the yellow marked roads but there seems to be a massive backlog awaiting updating in Denmark. No doubt the privacy backlash from their illegal, rogue activities has put a severe damper on any updating in some parts of Europe. The cost to their bottom line from lost advertising opportunities must literally run into many billions! Don't get me started on the NSA/Snowdon fiasco! I'm paranoid enough already! ;ø)))

Meanwhile Grundkort Fyn's overhead aerial imagery is updated annually. Grundkort Fyn is owned by the "county" councils of Fyn and used in their daily activities in planning, taxing and regulation of the island. Their generosity in providing the service to the public offers a powerful and useful tool to every citizen.

Their aerial imagery is now so good you can see the colour of your car changing over the years and detail down to the fixing screws on barn roofs  in some cases. It is fascinating to click backwards and forwards through the years in succession to see how trees grew and disappeared. Their impact on the appearance of the landscape is impossible to ignore.

Lately the image quality has been improving steadily with each year's new release. Ironically some of the aerial imagery  from the 1970s-80s is very poor indeed! Grey cotton wool collages would be a good description. Nevertheless, Grundkort Fyn provides a huge range of free services to measure and display on top of the maps and its excellent aerial imagery. Including property boundaries and very clear elevation markings. All available at a click of the mouse and as easily removable again for clarity. Cross referencing to ownership, property values and highly detailed descriptions are only ever a  mouse click away.

Unfortunately I can't show images or even link to GrundkortFyn's excellent  imagery because it requires a Java download to one's own local PC to view it. Direct links to saved HTML webpages revert to maps rather than the high resolution imagery I had hoped to show. I could take a photo of my monitor screen but it doesn't do justice to the remarkable detail visible on the ground. All GrundkortFyn's maps and aerial images are plan views. i.e. Seen from vertically overhead.

Living in Denmark gives me generous access to all these free services. Including, much to our recent delight, a vast series of aerial photographs going back to well before the war in some cases. While it is interesting to see your own house in plan view over the decades, aerial pictures taken from an angle are infinitely more interesting! Add the historical element, going back for well over half a century, and you can follow the development of your own area. As it gains and loses buildings, railways, once common road furniture, roads, bypasses and motorways.

The sense of nostalgia for former times is absolutely incredible! They capture and gently hold a moment in time like nothing else. Small but recognisable figures looking up (and even waving) at the aeroplane. Seen from neat gardens and vast, perfectly arranged, vegetable plots in a landscape almost totally devoid of cars. This is as near as it gets to a true, virtual time machine. Visually, the 1950s seem to have been a comfortable high point in rural Denmark. Everything looks so incredibly neat and well to-do compared with the latest images of dreary untidiness, sprawling undergrowth, massive agricultural machinery damage, messy parking amid countless unsold and unkempt rural homes!

A view of a thatched cluster of farmhouses from 1955 on Fyns Hoved.
[Fyn's Head is a distinctive promontory at the top right NE of Fyn]
Image downloaded, rotated and cropped from: "Danmark Set Fra Luften."
"Denmark seen from the air."
A service of Det Kongelig Bibliotek.
The Danish Royal and Copenhagen University Libraries.

The biggest surprise is how many homes and farms were thatched until relatively recently. Then came the arrival of Eternit, corrugated, asbestos cement roofing sheets and its (almost) universal replacement of thatch. It provided a fairly lightweight, fairly inexpensive roof without the need for major roof reinforcement or modification. Usually the original roof timbers in the round could be retained. It just required a new set of roofing battens to match the exact new spacing needs of the Eternit fixing screws.

Moreover the new sheeting was much quieter in heavy rain and wind and longer lasting than thinner materials like corrugated iron. The farmers had been so busy draining the equally corrugated landscape that many of the marshes, [moser] typically found in place names, had long lost their last reeds. Eternit must have arrived in the nick of time for many properties. Thatching today is an incredibly expensive way of roofing one's home despite the reeds being imported from Eastern Europe. There are still quite a number of thatchers advertising their services.

Imagine discovering that not so very long ago one's present house was half the size, with gently sloping thatched hips and a central chimney! The garden a carefully laid out series of neatly planted, vegetable patches. One can spend many happy hours searching among these aerial images for different views of rather grander, local farmhouses. All in the hope of catching another glimpse of one's own little abode nestling softly amongst its ever changing trees and hedges somewhere in the background.

Unless you live in Denmark you will have no idea how many farms were and are still crammed into the landscape. Though many former farmhouses are now homes of character and no longer active as centres of agricultural production. The familiar squares of barns and outhouses set around enclosed yards are still very familiar in the villages and fields everywhere you go. Each farm yard offers shelter from the wind and weather,  privacy and all offer a real sense of mystery to the outsider.

I often catch glimpses of rural history through the entrances which pierce the many roadside barns. Sadly these low and narrow portals are often inadequate for the huge, modern tractors and their equally large machinery. So many active farmyards have lost one side of the square and ended up open to the road. The pressure for change has often meant that former farms are no longer remotely viable. The huge steel sheds and galvanised silos are a clear indicator of their time on the modern landscape. The ranges of machinery scattered amongst the buildings a clear sign of present activity.

Regardless of age, these aerial pictures are mostly of excellent quality and are published for free viewing online by the Danish Royal Library. Enlargement of images to full screen and the downloading and saving of the images is also allowed. I have posted a resized, random example above. Originally the pictures were taken by speculative, commercial flying services. They took aerial pictures of farms and houses in the hope of selling them for a profit. No doubt this need drove the pilots and operators to provide a high quality product.

I remember a similar system in the UK but the vendors were so incredibly greedy that most home owners must have have been put off! Literally hundreds of pounds for quite a small framed picture. In Denmark aerial images of farm buildings must have been rather more affordable and more popular. I often see them in flea markets and charity shops. Presumably the original buildings have changed hands, the family owners have died, or the buildings have even been demolished. Without a clear identity label they are usually impossible to reunite with their original location. Particularly with the far greater mobility of modern life.

Out of curiosity I have just tried to find a free, online, aerial image service in the UK. However, the similar sounding names seem unable to show a searchable countrywide map, or aerial plan view, with clear marker blobs. Where multiple images are available from the countless digitized images of the entire country. The ease with which one can find exactly the right location (in the Danish example) really ought to be a guide to anyone planning a similar service elsewhere.

A column of thumbnails and descriptions pops up automatically on the left side of the screen to show the images available in the selected geographical area on the screen. These images disappear as the ground area being covered is narrowed. Making it incredibly easy to exclude anything irrelevant to the local search. Zoom out again and a new set of images and blobs on the ground image are presented. A superbly friendly application of an amazing public service built from a unique resource. Now made freely available to all! Well done to all concerned!

What a way to inspire the young into understanding their own history. Every village with its own school, dairy, timber yard or carpentry workshop, butcher, cobbler, farmer's supplies and local greengrocery shop. (Often at the very least) Now most smaller villages are just empty dormitories totally devoid of local services. Children might as well not exist as far as the street scene is concerned these days. Blank shop windows stare out across the empty rural roads. Or blink to the thunder of speeding juggernauts. Endlessly dreaming of lost times never likely to return. The car and the supermarket chains have an awful lot to answer for!

If anyone had told me that all these online services would be possible, as I struggled with the awful keyboard of a Sinclair ZX81 in front of a tiny B&W TV, I would never have believed it! I can still remember the thrill of making letters appear on a TV screen where one had been a passive slave to monopoly broadcast TV for years. [Image of typical ZX81 set-up borrowed from Wiki]

They do say that the science of tomorrow is indistinguishable from magic. Those of us from the just-postwar generation have certainly seen our share of magic in our lifetimes. The near future of AI, genetic engineering, 3D printing, advanced materials and mass robotics promises to be even stranger. Provided we can survive the massive changes and challenges which society now faces.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

I Have a Dream!

I have a Dream! 

Mr T poses briefly on the narrow gauge, two way, puncture magnet fiasco at Korinth back in May 2013. Having had his picture taken we both beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the busy roads! 

The "horse riding sand" contains countless small, sharp flints. The animals kick the sand across the narrow strip  of cycling tarmac. The designer of this system was obviously not a cyclist. The path is far too narrow for two cyclists to pass safely in either direction without great care and some skill. Pushchairs, prams, wheelchairs and tricycles become an instant obstruction and a hazard for all other users!  

One particular pedant, whom I followed agonisingly slowly for several miles, would not move from the centre of the path. People of all ages, including small children and the very elderly were literally toppling into the rough grass and onto the sand just to avoid him! After repeatedly requesting him to pull to one side I was finally able to overtake. Only to puncture almost immediately afterwards. And then again not long after that. 

I met several elderly people pushing their bikes with punctured tyres. One lady stopped quite voluntarily, as I replaced my second inner tube, to complain that she and her husband had punctured every time they used the path! One very elderly gentleman with obvious joint infirmities had walked for literally miles while pushing his small wheeled shopper bike! Imagine if it had rained while he was miles from home, now on foot in his shirt sleeves, in the full expectation of a pleasant half hour ride! 

"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen." 

The route is superbly unspoilt, travels in a very useful direction, is devoid of  selfish and impatient drivers (whose needs are always greater than ours) and the tarmac is almost perfect. Except for the flinty sand and the width of course. Closure signs were visible as I passed several path entrances on a later ride in the area. No doubt the cost of removing the sand is completely prohibitive at Danish wage rates for contractor work. 

The cycle paths I used in the UK were often surfaced with a fine white, almost sandy gravel. Which bedded down to a fairly smooth, firm and long lasting surface. Albeit with more resistance to cycling quickly and a tendency to puddle and grow weeds. The paths I used usually ran along disused railway tracks. Their width was usually sufficient for safe passing and the tyre noise usually enough to warn others (who bothered to listen) of one's approach. The sun always shone, the birds always sang and one only had to avoid the huge piles of horse and dog droppings at intervals.

Families with inattentive children and dog walkers in particular could often be a major hindrance and serious hazard to a decent riding pace. Though this would obviously depend on the amount of foot traffic at the time. Hopefully those who used the cycle paths for regular commuting gave themselves plenty of time! I cannot imagine how they'd cope if cycling numbers have increased dramatically in the decades since I last rode in Britain. 

Cyclists and any other traffic do not mix well. For some reasons planning authorities seem blind to this simple fact. They see cyclists as being about 30" wide across the shoulder and assume that twice that is all that is necessary for a two way cycling "freeway." Whereas everything from a country lane to a full blown motorway automatically allows plenty of room for everybody. Totally regardless of cost! 

Even in so-called "bike friendly" Denmark the cycle paths are often ridiculously narrow. Not to mention rough, with constantly changing cambers, hazards and obstructions. While right alongside, unhindered by cost-cutting, the equivalent of four lanes width of perfect tarmac actively encourages drivers to travel in perfect comfort at any speed of their own choosing. Speed limits in Denmark remain a standing joke with a very large majority of all drivers constantly exceeding the speed limit. 

As an example; the police set up a speed camera at a roadworks where a bridge was being repaired. The camera caught 50% of vehicles passing where the speed limit had been reset to 50kph/30mph. This was to protect the workers where the road had been narrowed by bollards. 50% of all passing drivers were speeding. I'd have expected higher figures but those few actually adhering to the speed limit were probably baulking many others. 

Isn't it long overdue that the cyclist had their own Martin Luther King?  
There have been cycling martyrs enough already.