A new venture

Well I know I have been quiet on here for a long time, it does not mean that nothing has been happening!

Anyway the latest thing is that I have decided to publish an eBook, “A Bike for Life“, it will use a lot of the material written here plus a lot more.

All the proceeds from the Book will go towards the Syston Methodist Church Youth Cafe.


Bikes ready for the Pilgrimage

So the Bikes ready for the Pilgrimage, pity about the riders :-)

Here is mine loaded and ready to go

I’ve taken the rear rack off Jane’s and added a handlebar extension so that her front light clears her handlebar bag (underneath).


Preparing for a Pilgrimage

So as I have mentioned (once or twice) this weekend is a Methodist Pilgrimage. The Methodists of Syston are heading to Epworth Old Rectory, home of the Wesleys. Five of us are planning to cycle the whole way (165 miles over 3 days) and another two are cutting out Leicestershire’s hills by starting and finishing at Newark-on-Trent (about 100 miles over 3 days). And yes you can still sponsor me! :-)

I thought I had done a lot of the preparation but as the ride leader there has seemed to be a lot to do this week.

A friend is driving our car as a mobile support/rescue vehicle, so I have been sorting out tools and spares to cover lots of eventualities.

We are camping for Saturday and Sunday night, with cyclists, families and support team there are 17 of us at Trentfield Campsite, I volunteered to cook bacon rolls for everyone on Sunday and Monday and that plus our tent etc is going up in a caravan with more of the support team.

Meanwhile, I have been sorting out my own bike. While my Shand Stoater Bike for Life, was my first choice my knees have been so bad that I am using my road bike as the lighter weight should help save my knees. Following the Leicester Triathlon I have now taken off the tri bars, added three bags:

This will be my first ride with this combination of bags on this bike. So far they look great, I am very interested to see how well they work in practice.

I have also added my new and very bright See Sense rear light although I’ll swap it onto whoever is bringing up the rear of our group. Now I just have to put the mudguards back on (have you seen the weather forecast!).

It will also be my first ride with my Mio Link heart wristband so I’m very interested to see how well that works, sadly at the moment the heart rate is only picked up by my Garmin Edge and not by my Android phone or tablet.

For the first time too I am trying out live tracking of the ride, you will be able to follow us at http://42bikes.warnock.me.uk/tracking/ I can run the app on both my phone and my tablet so I’m hoping to get enough battery life even with the GPS on continually.

One thing I have not yet fully sorted out it getting data off my Garmin without my laptop. I’ll have one more try today, if it works I can get the rides onto Strava and Garmin Connect each day without having to take my laptop computer.

By the time of my sabbatical in 12 months time I hope that I’ll have a newer Garmin and they will have updated their website enough for live tracking to be possible with the Garmin picking up the heart rate and using my phone to upload both live tracking and daily rides. That will make a big difference, especially as on my Bike for Life I can charge USB devices while I ride using the dynamo.

Charging USB devices is getting to be a significant issue. For Jane and I this weekend we have the following USB devices:

  • 2 x Android Phones (Samsung S3 mini)
  • 2 x Exposure front lights (actually shouldn’t need to be recharged)
  • 2 x Garmin GPS
  • 1 x Android Tablet (Nexus 7)
  • 1 x Tecknet USB Battery
  • 1 x Camera (small Olympus)
  • 1 x Bluetooth keyboard for my Nexus 7
  • 1 x See Sense rear light (our other rear lights use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries and won’t need charging for just a weekend).

So 11 devices. They include 4 different connectors and two different charger outputs.

Fortunately by the time I take my sabbatical things should have got easier in terms of USB. On my Bike for Life both bike lights run straight off the dynamo. I am hoping the dynamo will be able to fully charge the Tecknet battery each day and maybe also put some charge into my phone and tablet. Hopefully then the Tecknet battery will be able to recharge/top up the tablet, garmin, camera, phone, bluetooth keyboard, bluetooth speaker and a tent light each night. Also that I’ll cut out at least one non standard USB connector (for the exposure lights).

I am taking my sabbatical coffee kit to try in real world conditions, I’m be happy to make anyone a coffee but they will have to grind the beans themselves (all those winds of the grinder handle for each one of 17 people sounds tiring) :-)

What’s been up Doc?

So I have been pretty quiet here for a while. The main reason is a combination of Triathlon recovery and a busy time at work.

Earlier I wrote about my preparations for the Leicester Triathlon, in the end I did 2 training runs, both 5k. The 2nd was on Tuesday 29th April with the race on Monday 5th May. In hindsight this was a mistake – although not as big a mistake as leaving running training so late :-)

The first two parts of the race went well but when I came to start the run my knees were hopeless and I had to walk/hobble nearly the whole 5k. My overall result was still better than I expected at 1hour 38minutes 51seconds but the breakdown shows how biased the speed was against the run.

The problem is that my knees have still not recovered. A couple of things have taken me backwards. First a weekend after the race I had to do a fair bit of driving (3hrs on both Saturday and Sunday). Both the position and the weight of the clutch made my left knee considerably work. Then last week I had to do more walking and step climbing than normal while delivering and collecting Christian Aid envelopes (on one road every house has about 6 steps).

I have been able to get around by bike but have avoided long rides and have been slower than normal. Even when almost unable to walk it is quite possible to ride slowly without pain.

In the last day or so they do seem to have improved quite a bit. That is good news because this weekend is a big ride, the Methodist Pilgrimage to Epworth. We have 5 riders doing 165 miles over 3 days and 2 riders doing a slightly shorter ride of about 100 miles. The Pilgrimage includes a fundraising element 50% for Epworth Old Rectory (the family home of John and Charles Wesley) and the other 50% to Syston Methodist Church towards our project to create a Youth Cafe and Community Hub (sadly Syston has nowhere for young people to go in the evening and our current 1960′s facilities need a new separate entrance, refurbished toilets etc).

Please sponsor me at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveWarnock cos these are both excellent causes.

Because of the knee problems I have changed my plans for the ride a little. A friend is driving our car as a support vehicle so I have decided that instead of using my Shand Stoater bike for life I am going to carry far fewer tools etc and ride my Whyte Suffolk hoping that a lighter faster bike will allow me to ride in a much more knee friendly way.

While my Whyte Suffolk does not have a rack (there are mounting points but the whole point is to keep it a lightweight road bike – albeit one with excellent disk brakes and comfortable 28mm tyres) I can carry quite a lot of stuff now. I can have three bags on the bike (all British made):

So with the smaller bag on the handlebars I should still have 20 litres capacity with the frame bag ideally suited to relatively heavy tools while the others are going to be great for people’s immediate clothing and food needs.

I am looking forward to the ride which is with good friends. Jane is coming and it will include her longest day ride (twice) and more long days in a row that she has done before.

Anyway your sponsorship will be much appreciated at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveWarnock NB if you give on a Wednesday between 5pm and 6pm (UK time) then Paypal should match your donation (but it is likely to be used up very quickly each Wednesday so it looks liek you need to get in at 5:01pm

Jane’s first solo weekend tour

Been helping Jane get ready for her first ever solo tour! :-) Tomorrow she goes off for two nights at the lovely Launde Abbey for a retreat.

Later in the day I have to take our youngest son off for a weekend of LARPing for which I need the car. So Jane is cycling to Launde Abbey which is about 15.5 miles by a quiet route that avoids as many hills as possible. I have fitted an old black Ortlieb Handlebar Bag and she has her two Ortlieb Back Roller Plus Panniers which are also black. Looks very good on her road bike :-)


All being well she will return on Sunday afternoon!

I’ll take a pic of the intrepid new touring rider in the morning :-)

It does mean I get two peaceful nights at home on my own, sadly I am working both Saturday and Sunday so can’t spend the whole time in bed.

Key Sabbatical preparation: The Coffee

So during my Sabbatical next year I’ll be cycling and camping for about 5 weeks. I can’t do that without great coffee so I have been getting prepared. I need excellent coffee but the equipment needs to be light, small and robust.

Anyway, the last piece arrived yesterday in time for a late night test which it passed with flying colours :-)

Obviously a great cup of coffee starts with the beans! We get ours in bulk from TankCoffee, at the moment we are using their Burundi Ngozi which is one of my favourites. I’ll be carrying beans because they are so transportable, they don’t require a fridge or special treatment. Very easy.

mini-porlexBut beans require a grinder. Enter today’s arrival, a Porlex mini grinder. It is tiny, just 13.5cm tall (the handle is 15cm long). Exceptionally easy to use. Lift off the top. Fill with beans. Put lid on, put handle on, wind handle until all the beans have been ground into the bottom section. Pull off bottom section and use :-)

The results seemed great straight out of the box. The fineness of the grind is adjustable and it will be fun experimenting.

One of the great things of grinding this way is the freshness, just grind exactly what you need (no waste) seconds before you use it.

aero_press_03Then we need to create the actual drink of coffee. For this I am using an Aeropress. Again very easy to use (plenty of videos on youtube).

The aeropress is very fast, very easy to use, incredibly easy to clean and also very robust and easy to carry.

The result was an excellent mug of coffee, ideal when camping. All I need is to be able to heat water and I am done.


Triathlon Preparation

So a week today I have my first ever triathlon. I’m doing the “Sprint” distance of the Leicester Triathlon ie 400m swim, 20k cycle and 5k run.

Since going public about this on 31st December my “training” has not been what I would like. I’m going to take the easy way out and blame the 8 weeks that it took me to get over a horrible virus that left me with a bad cough.

I know I can swim 400m (16 lengths), I did it last week (and yes that was the first time this year). However, I can’t do it very fast (aiming for just under 12 minutes) and I can’t do much of it front crawl. My “best” strokes are side-stroke and breast-stroke and the big risk is making my knees hurt for the cycle and swim that follow.

Clearly the cycling is my best part of the course. In order to gain as much time as possible over others at the back of the field I have fitted tri-bars. On a test ride today I managed the first 8.5 miles at 19.5mph (then I ran out of fast roads as I was on the way to visit Jane’s building site).

Obviously I need to set a balance so I am able to still crawl around the run. But I’m going to aim for 18mph which “should” be possible with the tri-bars. Last year I did the cycling only element of the Blenheim Relay Triathlon in just under 43 minutes. I’d like to beat that as I am a bit fitter this year and the tri-bars do make quite a difference but I don’t know if that is more than the tiredness from the swim?

The run is just about survival to help this I’ll be slipping on knee bandages during the transition from cycling. My first and only 5k run in the last 35 years which I did last week took me 35 minutes 26 seconds. I guess after the swim and cycle I will be delighted with anything under 40 minutes (well to be honest I’ll be delighted if I am still alive by Tuesday next week).

One of the reasons that Triathlon appeals is the toys you can buy. I haven’t gone all the way with a triathlon specific watch. But the tri-bars are just for this as the easiest possible way to save time pover the course.

I have treated myself to some of the cheapest triathlon specific shorts. They look just like slightly long cycling shorts but the pad is much thinner, supposedly suitable for swimming and running. I used them today and the reduced padding is very noticeable when riding (particularly when on the tri-bars), they are still bearable though.

I also got a triathlon race belt cos you have to do something with your race number (on the back when cycling and front when running).

I have some proper running shoes (and yes I bought them from somewhere that tests your gait). I’ll be using my normal cycling shoes with my normal speedplay frog pedals.

I’m not going to try anything fancy for the transition to bike such as having my shoes clipped onto the pedals and putting them on after you start cycling. For a start I can run reasonable ok in and out of transition with my mountain bike style cycling shoes with the frog pedal clips (in fact last year I was running in and pout of transition at about twice the speed I intend to use for the whole run this year).

My biggest fear is knee pain. It is what generally puts me off running. I’ve been reading about it and I think the biggest thing to try in the next week is cold to reduce inflammation. With that to try I think I may try one more practice run tomorrow –  surely 2 runs does not mean I run the risk of overtraining ;-)

Completed my first 3 mile / 5 km run in 35 years!

Wow, so pleased with myself today. I actually managed to get myself out of the door for a run! I had only one goal which was to run 5k as that seems quite important given that I am in the Leicester Sprint Triathlon in two weeks time.

I started at a pace that could be described as:

  • can you really call that running?
  • watch out for overtaking tortoises
  • this is embarrassingly slow

but I managed to just keep going. Clearly a big problem with previous attempts has been to run to fast caused by not wanting to be embarrassed.

Beyond achieving my goal of actually running the 5k distance the other good news was that I was not overtaken by anyone walking or by an canal boats!!!!

I figure the faster club rides with Syston Syclers have really helped my fitness. The other thing that really seems to have helped is running in neoprene knee supports, at least so far my knees are not hurting which is a first.

Also for the first timer I didn’t get any pain in my shins while running. I think the slower pace and not mixing in walking might have helped. Whatever it was a very good thing to not have!

Sabbatical Comfort cooking

So I am enjoying thinking about my sabbatical, still a whole year away. I know that I’ll be riding my gorgeous Bike for Life and I have a fantastic chair sorted.

So time to think about another key priority. Food! I’m not interested in going totally minimal (see Ultralight Cycling) where you either eat dry cold food or at a restaurant. I will be camping for at least 5 weeks and want to eat well, for the most part cooking food from real ingredients rather than packets of instant meals.

We don’t have suitable stoves at the moment. All we have are the very basic sort that sit on a disposable gaz bottle, the key two problems with these are stability (we have knocked them over several times) and lack of a windshield (because they sit on top of the gas bottle they are too high for the stuff you tend to have lying around.

markill_canister_adapterAfter thinking about lots of fuel possibilities (meths, paraffin, petrol) I have decided to stick with gas for simplicity. In particular gas is more widely available in the UK than the liquid fuels (at least in the quantities I want to carry). However there are two main standards: Camping Gaz vs everyone else. Fortunately I have found a gadget to help with this: The Edelrid Valve Canister Adapter.

So I am free to choose any stove that has an EN417 screw gas connection and use either of the two main gas bottle standards (EN417 and Camping Gaz CV Clic system).

I have decided to carry two stoves. One as the main cooking stove while the other is used for boiling water and anything that does not need fine control.

At the moment I am looking at an Optimus Vega Stove as the main cooking stove and a MSR MicroRocket as the extra.

1371320847_98The Optimus can take a wide variety of pan sizes, is very stable and has a windshield. It allows the gas bottle to be turned upside down for cooking at very low temperatures where the gas becomes a liquid. It is still only 178 grams and folds very small.

MSR Micro RocketThe MSR MicroRocket is probably the smallest gas stove and weighs only 75 grams. Yet it is supposed to be very fast and very stable. Seems an ideal stove that will mostly be used for things in water (apparently it creates a local hotspot which without a thick pan is likely to cause food to burn in that spot).

That only leaves a few much less significant issues such as pots/pans to decide :-)

Hoping to get these sorted for Greenbelt this summer.

Innovative Cargobike by Rob English

English Cycles Electric CargobikeWhile I don’t have the same need to transport a cat, this new cargobike by Rob English is full of innovation.

  • If you are going for an eBike then having the motor replace the Bottom Bracket makes great sense (weight in the right place and you are free to use hub gears).
  • The integrated racks are beautifully done. Details such as supporting the rear mudguard to the rack are very neat.
  • Fully integrated lighting is a oft missed must.

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