Archive for September, 2009

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Winter Is Coming

Sunday September 27, 2009

exWell, the Dave On Dahon statistics page (not publicly viewable) is showing that winter is on its way and that the nights are drawing in.

My posts on the Cateye HL-EL450 and the NiteRider MiNewt Mini USB are climbing the popularity rank.  The Dahon D7HG review and that of the Trek 4300 are always in the top three popular posts but now I’m seeing lighting-related posts becoming more popular.

Shorter days and longer nights appear to be sending the cycling community out to investigate new lighting solutions to help keep them pedalling for longer in these ever shortening days.

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37.7 Miles, Sunday Morning

Sunday September 20, 2009
The Bikes

The Bikes

Another ride today, 37.7 miles in total around parts of Kent but this ride was a little different – I had company.

I friend joined me for this ride.  We’ve been talking about setting up semi-regular rides and this was our first one.  I normally ride alone but today was fun.  He is fitter than me so he was powering up the hills and leaving me struggling behind in first gear!  To add insult to injury, he was even cycling back down the hills to see where I was!  🙂

We left just before 9am and headed up the Medway valley through Wouldham, Burham, Eccles and Aylesford before crossing the M20 motorway travelling through some of the back roads of Maidstone.  Just before Bearsted we turned North and again crossed the motorway heading towards Detling.

Passing through Detling, we cycled on single lane country roads towards Thurnham and we were overtaken by some road cyclists, groups of four or more, who appeared to be part of a cycling club.  They shot by with their more suitable gearing and slick tyres and a cheery shout of “Morning!”.

The Black Horse Inn, Thurnham

The Black Horse Inn

We stopped for a snack in Thurnham, near the Black Horse Inn and Thurnham Keep – good food at the Black Horse, spent many a long evening in there eating good food and drinking great wine.  The odometer read 13.3 miles at this point, 1h23m and an average speed of 10mph.

From that point, we cycled down into Hollingbourne before we hit the biggest hill of the day.  In 0.79 miles we climbed 332.5 ft – it was a nasty hill, I almost gave up but I put my head down and pushed through the pain barrier.

The next place we stopped was a small village called Bredgar where we grabbed a Mars Bar and a Coke from the local Farm Shop (CTC cyclists welcome!) before sitting down by the duck pond.  Nice village with some nice houses – worth a look if you’re passing.

Another Old House!

A House In Bredgar

Next stop was at Borden for a few photos of the church  before head down again and cycling back towards the Medway Towns.  Hempstead was our entry point where my friend broke off as we passed his house – he’d already cycled to my house in the morning so we ended up doing the same distance.  Then it was cycling alone back to my house.

A good ride.  It wasn’t sunny, but it was relatively warm.  No rain, which was great as earlier in the week they had forecast heavy rain.

More photos from the ride over on Flickr (click here).

The Route - 37.7 Miles, shown in yellow

The Route - 37.7 Miles, shown in yellow

The Rides Profile

The Ride's Profile

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A New Dahon Challenge

Saturday September 19, 2009

exI’ve decided on my next Dahon challenge.  Not sure when I’ll start but here it is:

I am going to cycle every street in Rochester.

Okay, may not be an ‘around the world’ challenge but I’m going to try and fit this in to my life (around work, sleeping and other activities).  I don’t plan on doing it all in one day, but over the course of time I plan on cycling on every street/road in town – this means cycling the entire length of each street, not just nipping in or cycling half way.

I’m going to use my GPS receiver to track this so I won’t lose track of where I’ve been and it’ll also track the mileage.  I’ll plot progress on a map and see how things go.  If I complete the task quickly then I’ll expand the challenge to the surrounding areas.

I don’t know how many streets there are in Rochester, it’s not a huge town, but I’ll keep a count as I go.

The map below shows the area I’m going to target, bounded by the yellow line.  Rochester can be seen here on Google Maps.

Why do this?  Well I thought that there must be many streets in the area which I haven’t visited and some which I don’t even know exist.  So I decided that I’d spend some time and cycle the streets and see what’s around.

I haven’t started yet and the way things are going, I probably won’t get around to starting until October…

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Stop And Say Hello

Thursday September 17, 2009

exHello there!

Thanks for stopping by!

Why not stop a little longer and leave me a comment below.  Let me know who you are and where you’re from.  What led you here to my blog?  What do you think of the place?…

Many of you come and look around, read my posts, look at my photos and click the links – why not say hello?!  😉

It would be good to hear from you.

David

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The Camper Bike

Wednesday September 16, 2009

Just found this fantastic bike via Gizmodo.com!

A classic for those cycling holidays…  More at Kevin Cyr‘s site.

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My Listening – Music Milestones

Sunday September 13, 2009

I have been using Last.fm to track my music habits since April 2007.  It, through iTunes, logs all the tracks that I listen to when out with my iPod or in the house.

Since April 2007, I’ve listened to 26,701 tracks (as of this point in time!).  That’s an average of 30 tracks per day.

Just found a cool application which checks your Last.fm data and extracts your milestones.  Here are my milestone tracks at 5,000 track intervals.

Get your own listening details: Anniversary tracks grabber

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Saris Bones 3 – Bike Rack

Saturday September 12, 2009

Picked up a Saris Bones 3 bike rack yesterday.  Bought it via eBay for £51 (they cost around £120 new).

I’ve been watching these racks on eBay for a couple of months and they usually sell for £70+ so I was lucky to get this one for such a low price.  It’s in very good condition too.

I thought I’d get one as I may want to head further afield with the Trek and without a suitable rack for the car it would have been difficult.  I’ve also been talking to a friend about cycling together and that may lead to rides in other areas – so now I can transport up to three bikes!

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Bonjour Dahon!

Thursday September 3, 2009
Ready To Go

Ready To Go

It was the Dahon’s turn for an adventure yesterday, Wednesday.  However, still a little sore from the 77 mile ride on the Trek on Monday, I had my concerns that I wouldn’t make it.  But at 0400hrs I woke up and I was straight out of bed.

The Dahon was going to France!

This was another one of my planned rides during my week off work.  Although I’m not going to get through all of them, I have now completed my new main ones: France and Hyde Park.

The first leg of the journey was to cycle to Rochester train station to catch the first train to the south coast.  The train was due to leave at 0533 so I had aimed to get there a little early so that I could take some photos.  Rochester was quiet so on my way I took a few night shots of the Dahon in the high street before moving on to the station.

I purchased my ticket at the self-serve machine, an ‘anytime’ return to Dover Priory station (£16.70), before heading under the tracks and up to the southbound platform.  The train arrived on schedule and we left Rochester at 0533, travelling south through Gillingham, Faversham and Canterbury (and others) on the way to Dover Priory.

The Dahon fitted easily between the seats on the empty train – it was in its element!  Although bikes are permitted on trains outside of ‘peak times’, there are no restrictions for folding bikes.

Station Info Sign

Station Info Sign

The journey took about an hour and ten minutes and I was soon at the station in Dover.  The sun was up by the time the train arrived so no lights were required on the 1.2 mile ride to the ferry.  There was a slight downward incline to the short ride but I pedalled hard to get there as quickly as possible, conscious of the fact that the check in deadline was near.

I’d made my reservation on Tuesday via the Internet (only £8) and, with bike folded, I checked in at the P&O counter before being whisked off by bus to the waiting ferry.  Again, the Dahon fitted easily on the bus and although there were a few curious glances, none were disapproving.  Of the handful of people on the bus, I was the only passenger, the others were staff/crew – I was to be the only foot passenger on that crossing.

Before long I was seated in the lounge on board the ferry with a good window seat and a large hot coffee next to me.  Soon, people began making their way up from their parked cars on the lower decks and populating the rest of the ship – its entertainment rooms, duty-free shops, bars and lounges.  I sat and watched.

The crossing was relatively smooth with only a slight swell in the middle of the English Channel and around 90 minutes later we were docking in Calais, northern France Bonjour mon amies! 🙂

On French Soil

Outside the Terminal

I disembarked and jumped aboard my ‘private’ bus (only me for them to transport) to the terminal.  And there we were, me and the Dahon standing on French soil.

The plan was to just cycle/walk around Calais and take in the sights, get some fresh air and relax.  I hadn’t planned anything for the day, I hadn’t really looked into what was in Calais to see and visit, I was just going to ride around and see what I could find.

Fortunately, Calais has its fair share of history so I wasn’t short of places to visit.  Dotted around the town were maps of Places of Interest to visit and alongside each POI was a sign detailing the historical background of each particular structure/building/site (luckily in both English and French!).

One of the things I had to do over in Calais was to ride on the right-hand side of the road!  On a few occasions I had to think twice before proceeding, but in the whole, I didn’t make too many mistakes.

French Beach Huts

Huts On The Beach

It was raining heavily as the ship arrived in Calais harbour but as the morning drew on it began to clear and the sun came out.  On the seafront, there were strong winds and that, together with the threat of rain, must have been keeping the locals and tourists off the beach.  I sat on the seafront for a while and just ‘chilled’, watching the ferries, the birds and the sea.  Rows of small beach huts were lined up in front of me and I eventually dragged the Dahon down the steps and between the huts before walking alone to the sea.  Calais seemed strangely deserted.

Back on the Dahon, I followed the beach road for another mile before winding back into Calais to search for the next sight to see.  Spotting some spires towering over the old skyline, I used my Garmin GPS receiver to lead me to them – one a church, the other the Town Hall.  Moving inland, there were more people around.  Perhaps being sheltered from the wind or perhaps simply gravitating towards the bars and restaurants; the residents of Calais were discovered at last!

As with most towns, Calais has its share of unattractive areas but it also has some very pleasant places, interesting history and old buildings.  Being a key crossing point to Britain, it does (unfortunately) attract more than its share of ‘illegal’ immigrants who try to cross the Channel for a new life in England – the infamous Sangatte Refugee Camp was only a few miles from Calais.  However, even though that camp closed years ago, cycling around Calais I saw numerous groups of individuals who were obviously destined to attempt their illegal entry into the UK.

Calais In Bloom

Calais In The Sun

The sun was out and the afternoon turned out to be very warm and pleasant.  I continued to slowly cycle around the town taking in the French air and watching the locals going about their lives.  I watched, ate, took photos and read a few chapters of a book (Brave New World, Huxley) and generally relaxed and enjoyed myself in France for the day.

I cycle/walked 10.3 miles around Calais during the day and at 1600CEST I was very tired – the day’s exercise and Monday’s Hyde Park exertion all catching up with me.  For my last hour or so in France I sat on the quay in the old harbour and watched the seagulls.  Then it was back to the ferry port to check in.

I managed to catch an earlier ferry back to Blighty and sat in the same area drinking coffee as I had done on the outward journey (although this was a different ship).  The GPS reported that we were speeding across the Channel at around 24mph and 90 minutes or so later we were at Dover Harbour.  Unfortunately, a technical problem hindered berthing and 15 minutes of ‘extreme’ vibration later a tug pushed us toward the dock to let us off.

Dover Priory Station

Dover Priory Station

It was raining heavily as I unfolded the Dahon outside the port.  I donned my hi-viz waterproof jacket, put the three Cateye lights on to flash, and mounted the NiteRider to the handlebars.  Then I was off!  The rain and wind slowed me but I enjoyed the 12 minute ride back to the train station where the train was waiting.  Despite the delay at the harbour, I still had 30 minutes before the train left Dover Priory to take me back to Rochester – time for a couple of photos.

The train journey took another hour and ten minutes and I watched as the stations went by, counting them down as I got closer to home.  GPS reported a maximum speed of 88mph on the train and it was handy to see my location on the Garmin’s  map as we shot through the darkness of the Kent countryside.

The final leg of the journey was a 1.7 mile cycle from the station to my house.  The rain was very heavy, it was 2100hrs and it was dark.  All the lights back on, I headed out.  The NiteRider really proved its worth in such bad weather.  The three Cateye lights, and the Knogs, all in flash mode, gave me confidence that I would be seen by other road users.

It had been a very long day but it had been good fun.  Getting out and about had been great, and a varied journey to France  had been interesting (cycle/train/ferry/bus).  I’d used the Dahon for the first time in muti-mode travel and it had been a success – this is something that I couldn’t have done with the Trek.

One final note: the Dahon is SO comfortable compared to the Trek with its narrow and hard seat.  😉

More photos from my day-trip to Calais can be found on Flickr.

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Trek+Hyde Park = 77miles+Sore Bum

Tuesday September 1, 2009
Ready To Go

0700 And Ready To Go

Monday, 0700hrs,  and the Trek was out and ready for its longest journey to date.  It was a Bank Holiday yesterday so I took the opportunity to tackle one of my cycling challenges, to ride into London and back.

I set Hyde Park as my destination and stocked up with a couple of sandwiches and some water then hit the road.

I had my route planned in my head and on my GPS which was mounted to my handlebars.  The route would take me from Rochester, up through Strood to Gravesend, then through Dartford, following the River Thames past Woolwich.  I’d cross the River Thames over Tower Bridge and then continue to follow the river west before heading North to Trafalgar Square.  Then a short dash down The Mall and I’d be more or less at my destination.

Route Shown In Yellow

Route Shown In Yellow

Being a Bank Holiday the roads were fairly quiet so I was looking forward to a relatively easy ride into ‘the big smoke’.  This was to be my first time cycling in London – I’ve driven there and walked its streets many times but this would be a first.  But before the city streets I had to cycle the minor roads from Rochester.  The route I had planned may not have been the most direct but it kept me off the busiest roads whilst taking me to places I have not previously visited.  From door to Park the route was 36 miles, and with some random cycling en route, the total journey was going to easily break my previous record (~59 miles).

Dartford River Crossing Toll

Dartford Tolls

The route took me over the M25 at the Dartford Crossing and it was quite interesting to watch the traffic from the bridge near the toll booths.  I’ve been in those queues many times!  [Distance: 14.7 miles; Time: 1h33m]

Cycling hard, from there onwards towards London, the scenery was nothing to ‘write home’ about, quite bland and in places industrial.  However, before long I was entering the outskirts of London and stopped briefly at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for a few photos.  [Distance: 28.9 miles; Time 2h43m]

About 30 minutes later, dodging the increasing levels of traffic, I arrived at Tower Bridge – one of London’s most famous landmarks.  I hadn’t been there for quite a while.  These days, my trips to London are usually night-based and involve a lot of beer and the only sight-seeing I normally do there is of the female variety!  So, it was good to be doing the tourist thing and seeing what the visitors see.  [Distance: 32.8 miles; Time: 3h11m]

Once over Tower Bridge (now dodging tourists as well as cars), I turned left at the Tower of London and headed along the river.  Choking as I cycled through the Blackfriars  Underpass (fumes) and back into the sunlight as I proceeded along the Embankment.  Just after Hungerford Bridge I took a right up Northumberland Avenue and on to Trafalgar Square.  A few photos of Nelson later and I turned and headed down (or up?) The Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

Admiralty Arch

Admiralty Arch

The Mall itself was closed to vehicles due to some Horse Guard movements and there were police and tourists everywhere.  I pushed on through, took a few photos, and headed to my destination, along Constitution Hill.  Stopping briefly to buy a few cans of Coke and a Red Bull, I then stepped into Hyde Park.

I sat down and enjoyed the cool can of Coke in the Park.  37.3 miles, 4h10m (including stopping/photography time) – according to the GPS data.

After having my lunch I moved on towards The Serpentine, the lake in the Park, and relaxed under a tree with a coffee from ‘The Boat House’.  It had turned out to be a great summer day, the sun was out and it was very warm.  All the ‘Beautiful People’ were out either jogging or roller-blading alongside the lake.  Families played in the sun.  Birds flocked around children with bread.  My legs ached!

I spent about an hour in Hyde Park and then jumped back on the Trek and headed home.  The return journey was the same as the morning’s ride but I did take a short detour at the end of The Mall to have a quick look around Horse Guards (where they carry out the Trooping the Colour).

The ride home was hard, really hard.  It was hot, the sun was blazing down on me and I was tired.  My aching legs felt as though they’d give up at any moment.  I had to take frequent stops to rehydrate and relieve the pressure on my aching ‘bits’.

Thames Barrier

The Thames Barrier

I had a break at the Thames Barrier and drunk my last can of Coke on the grass overlooking the river.  Again, somewhere I haven’t been to for years – it’s now looking more grubby and ‘used’ since I saw it soon after it was built.

It was a struggle but I eventually got home at 1730, with my knees aching and having lost 6lbs in weight(!).  It had been a long day and the return had been pretty gruelling but I had completed my challenge and that really felt great.  The Trek performed well, although I do wish the saddle was bigger, far more padded and chilled!

I have not been out on the bike today!  🙂

Photos from my journey to London and back can be found on Flickr (click here).

The GPS Summary

The Trip Details At The End Of The Day

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