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Cycling

The perfect commuter bike – self build

About this time last summer I crashed my long term fixed commuter into a lamp post. I lunged away from the lights and then forgot to keep pedalling. I’ve no idea why this happened as I’d happily been riding fixed for 15 years and without an issue. I think I was tired, not concentrating or both. Anyway I threw myself and my bike onto the floor and slid along the tarmac until I hit a lamppost and snapped the front wheel in half and slammed all the force through the bottom bracket into my back. Good times.

After this I thought that perhaps I’m too old for fixed gear commuting and a more relaxed style of riding was probably more appropriate. It’s also a real pain having to clip in all the time for riding around town. The fixed went back to Neil, who was the original owner, and has now been repurposed as a shopping bike with a cute little basket on the front.

A few people have expressed an interest in the build I replaced that bike with so have written up some of the choices I made to build my ‘perfect commuter’ bike and how I did most of the self build. It’s been a perfect bike for rolling around town on but is now being replaced by something else. As usual it starts with a thought about maybe trying to build it from bits that are in the parts box but quickly changes into something else and the budget inevitably goes up – I tracked it all through a spreadsheet to try and avoid going too crazy. All in it was £1300, not cheap but then I don’t really pay any money in travel – £7 a day on the bus and underground soon adds up.

The main aim was for slow commuting. Flat pedals, normal clothes and not to be in a particular rush. A relaxed way of getting to work and also not be too good looking that you couldn’t leave outside the pub. I thought I could also use it for a bit of canal path bashing, my ride home to Bath from London etc.

The bit that started this off was having a 650b dynamo front wheel lying around and sat on a hook in the garage. I had bought from Clare for £100 and was a bargain I couldn’t pass on (the hub alone is £95) online but didn’t have a use for it at the time – I know, not exactly the definition of a bargain. That’s where the idea of a 650b commuter came from in the end. Next thing, well I really wanted a pizza rack on the front rather than the basket I’d had on my fixed. It’s hard to fold a bag into it and a bit more practical. It’s great strapping a bag on the front and not having a sweaty back when you arrive there – this I learnt from my Brompton days. I also really wanted to use 650b but in a bigger volume tyre for more comfort and the occasional off road bit perhaps.

So first things first. We need a frame. I looked at the Brother Cycles Kepler Disc especially as I could get from the local bike shop but didn’t quite like the look of the geometry, price or colour options going. The top tube seemed to slope down to the front slightly which to my eye was a bit odd. Anyway, next stop was Alpkit and their range of Sonder bikes. The Santiago in particular looked good and they had a load of different builds going including a flat bar version with 650b. It seemed to tick all the boxes and frame and forks for £400 was pretty good (now £500). Steel, loads of bottle bosses, mounts etc. I could have just ordered the full build but wouldn’t have given us the pleasure of tinkering with it all. I wanted to try and build it all myself, including bleeding disc brakes for the first time. More on that in a bit.

The main other parts:
Groupset: Shimano SLX, online and without brakes.
Brakes: Shimano SLX, again purchased online.
Bottom bracket: Cheapest Shimano one going.
Rear wheel: Shimano XT hub and cheap Kinlin rim, built up by a friend.
Headset: Orbit Pro XL – ashamed to say this was fitted with a hammer.
Locking QRs: Halo hex skewers, to avoid wheels being stolen.
Tyres: I went with the WTB Byways and love them.
Bars: Jones bars from local bike shop. Never used them before but are absolutely brilliant. So comfy and really add to that relaxed and more upright feel of the bike.
Seatpost: Cheapest one on Planet X.
Stem: Got a cheap one from Planet X but swapped with nicer one from turbo which was slightly longer.
Mudguards: SKS plastic ones from the local bike shop.
Saddle: Whatever was spare in the garage – WTB I think.
Dynamo lights: Reused from previous bike but B&M ones.
Pizza rack: There is only one really Specialized pizza rack.
Stickers: Models own. Make it look more ratty.
3M reflective tape (black): eBay. I cover the bike in this to hide the logos and add some sideways visibility.

Inevitably I didn’t build of much of it as I hoped and it went to Seabass for the brakes to be bled and gears to be sorted. I’m more confident on gears now and could probably do almost all of it now I have the correct BB tool.

There’s not much I would do differently other than maybe consider a hub gear for the rear. You could easily get away with a Deore groupset as more than enough for pootling around town. A later addition was a rear rack from Seabass (more carrying capacity), a bigger rear dynamo light (fitted to said rack), a few straps from pannier.cc and a second hand ‘rando bag’ Restrap bag. Sadly even the bigger Restrap bags aren’t big enough to fit a MacBook Pro otherwise it would be even better for commuting.

I’ve had some great times on this bike and carried a lot of shit on it! From shopping at the local Morrisons, large bits of wood, photography kit, a Christmas tree, bivvy kit, flowers, my rucksack, a pair of wheels and so on. A few pics below showing the full range of antics. It always brings a smile to my face to see some of the silly things I’ve tried to carry on it.

I think bikes like these are even more important as we try and refocus on starting some form of life after corona. There’s no way I’m taking public transport for shopping any more, no matter what the weather. I’ll start dismantling this next week to something that’s even more suited to reducing public transport and my van. The frame will be available if anyone wants it – 56cm. Otherwise it will get hung up in the garage for some other weird build.

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Architecture

Interviewing for an architecture job

Last week I took part in some mock interviews with third year students at Portsmouth University. Having studied at Portsmouth it was really nice to get involved with their work again having not had much contact for a while. We conducted a mock interview via Teams instead of meeting in person and was a good way of giving some feedback and preparing for the real thing hopefully. I thought I’d write this down to collate some of the tips I have for students and how I’d normally approach an interview both as interviewer and interviewee. I’m hoping to get some feedback via Twitter about what people do and how they approach them – I’ll update the post with anything useful.

Updated: I posted this Tweet and the replies are interesting and have updated the post with the feedback.

Firstly we started with a bit of a general chat about the world and how they were coping with lock down. The idea was to settle them in a bit and not make it too formal. This would normally take place in an office and then shown into the conference room obviously. Often the best place to start is to ask a bit more about them and explain their background and interest in Architecture.

Alex had a good way to start an interview…

I start telling them about us, so they can listen & compose themselves. Then ask them to tell me about their journey so far; where they’re from, a bit of backstory. Then we’ll do portfolio…

After that I asked them to talk me through their portfolio. They were allowed 20 mins but some went over as there was a lot to talk about.

Presentation is key here and both in terms of the layouts, graphics and work presented but also in terms of how you approach speaking about your work. Top tips include using cover pages to allow a suitable pause between work, especially if you are a fast talker – even more important if the presentation is screen based. Remembering that the person you’re presenting to may not know anything about your site or project is also really important – context please! It’s always really interesting to see how you respond if we ask a question about your work. This can vary from which software or workflow you used to make that beautiful section to have you seen this other thing that’s related or just teasing out a bit more info about the project generally.

One common comment I always have on work presented is that there should be a mix of work. It can be a bit boring to see endless Revit drawings (even if they’re really well presented). I always love to see models, sketches, collages, even a CGI. It also shows far more creativity and broader range of skills.

I have two stock questions that I ask and they’re both massive cliches, the first being… “so what do you do when you’re not architecting?” and it’s always interesting to see what the response is. By far the most frustrating response is to say how much they enjoy sketching / travelling / photography / making pots / carpentry and so on and to not have any evidence of it in the portfolio. I think every portfolio should have what I would call a ‘below the line’ section. A bit that’s after the architectural bit and if it’s gone well you can keep going with some broader chat.

The second one is so cliched it hurts. “Who’s your favourite architect?” … “and has that changed over time”. Whilst it’s cliched it’s always revealing about what people say and again another chance to start a discussion with people and see how they engage.

And then CVs… There seems to be a trend in CVs at present to show a series of icons of software packages used and also sometimes a 1 – 5 grade of where they sit with the skills – very tech industry. They also seem to look the same and suspect some form of template has been given (I think the RIBA do one). The point I tried to make to a few people was that if their work was good it would be really obvious that their skills were excellent and that these big icons of Revit and so on could have been used as thumbnails of their work. Ultimately training will be given on software but would prefer to see the skill described in the work and way in which it was presented. I’m probably in the minority but couldn’t care less about software skills. We can buy CGIs if we need them.

Am I way off with this? Would be interested in other peoples thoughts.

Owen also had some good feedback:

Interesting. I’m a bit removed form this now, but I would definitely lean towards attitude/interest/enthusiasm over technical ability too. Some stuff is less easy to teach, and bottom line, you’ve got to share a room with them.

And in a similar way Toby also suggested these pertinent thoughts:

+1 regarding stuff ‘below the line.’ As a candidate you should feel valued as a human being. All parties are going to share time, space, and ideas. How you think and what you value is so important.

Tags:

Photography

Ricoh GR II, the perfect compact camera?

My previous ‘every day walking around camera’ was a lovely Fuji X100T in black and I enjoyed using it. Looks nice. Great lens. Great sensor and worked well etc but was too damn big. And the focus really annoyed me, even in the later models. I wrote a bit about it at the time as well as a first few shots from the GRII.

Having used it for around 18 months almost daily I feel I’m probably qualified to say why I like and how I shoot with it as well as any downsides. There is a newer model with more megapixels but I’m led to believe it has sacrificed some of the manual controls for touch screen driven ones.

In terms of how I use it. I have it set to Aperture priority and then have configured the rear rocker to adjust the ISO (I don’t really like auto ISO) the front rocker then controls aperture. Generally somewhere between f2.8 and f4, I like shooting wide open with it (there’s another reason for this too). I shoot with it a third of a stop under exposed as can blow out the highlights a bit. Really bright days I’ll do more. In terms of ISO I quite like the grain of the files at higher ISO and it’s safe well up to ISO 2000 if used carefully – most of it can be pulled back in Lightroom of course. The main thing about this camera is the lens – it’s just gorgeous. There’s just something so special about it and I’ve completely fallen in love with the look of the files from it.

When I first got it it felt too small in my hand and like it would fall out. I guess this was mainly due to using DSLR’s with a grip and big chunky ergonomics. To solve this I got a little thumb grip which I found on eBay for £10 I think. The only downside to this is that it digs in to your arse when you keep it in your back pocket as I do regularly. Talking of back pockets that’s the biggest advantage of this, you can keep it in a jacket pocket, cycling jersey or jeans pocket. There’s no reason not to take it out nor do you need to swing it over a shoulder with a strap like the X100. Sadly where this falls down is the lack of proper weather sealing and I often got dust on the sensor from keeping it in my rear pocket or taking it MTBing. I take the view that it’s meant to be used and I shouldn’t worry about it but would be great if it was slightly better protected. I should have got a little soft pouch for it but one more thing to fiddle with and the moment has gone. You can remove the dust yourself by dismantling it (no thanks) or send it in to be serviced. Whilst I thought this was the end of the world when it happened I just shot wide open for a while and was fine. Most of it shifted itself off the sensor and not really been too bothered by it since.

My one is now thoroughly worn but I like the patina of age. I think all cameras should look a bit worn really. No point keeping them in a case at home and this one got thoroughly used in 2019 for a 365 project.

One thing I’m always a little bit sceptical of when I see people’s images is how much work goes into them in post. I’m quite lazy when it comes to this so have a little recipe I apply to each image and then do some other minor adjustments from there. So here’s an image I took today and the straight out of camera version. f4, 1/1000s, ISO 320, RAW

and then the edited version…

and of course, here’s a 100% crop – not bad for such a tiny sensor.

I think I’ll be keeping hold of this one for a while longer until I destroy it on a MTB ride. I have also been looking at the Sony Alpha A7 r 4 which has been recommended by Benedict, but that’s a bigger investment and a potential D810 replacement…

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Cycling Lockdown2020

Zwift lock down chat

I used to use Zwift in the winter or recovering from injury (two broken collarbones and a broken wrist) and had a fairly basic turbo and crank based power meter for it and managed to get quite a bit out of it in previous years. One year I’d done lots of Zwift and singlespeed mountain biking over winter and was the fittest I’d ever been in the spring. The joy of just tearing past friends on the hills was hard to beat but hadn’t quite got back into the habit since. That and not really doing much road riding generally but that’s another story.

I splurged on a new Wahoo Kickr Core at the end of last year (thanks RCC discount / PayPal credit) but hadn’t used it that much or felt inclined to train too much since. Of course then the lock down arrived this year and I was really quite pleased I’d got one. I’d heard a story of Sigma selling a couple of hundred smart turbo units in two days! Like hens teeth it seems as everyone adjusts to workout indoors and trying to get whatever exercise they can in and buys up all the kit.

Zwift for me previously was all about doing a horrible interval session, getting it done and jumping off the bike and getting out of the garage as soon as possible. This would usually only happen over the winter months and as soon as the weather improved the kit would be packed up, subscription cancelled and then back out on the road. I’d even made a rule to make sure all Zwift rides were marked as private on Strava with the faint idea that secret training would be fun to surprise people with in the spring as well as keeping people’s feeds with one less crappy garage ride. But then lock down brought a slightly new dynamic to it…

As well as the feeling of isolation it wasn’t possible to get normal exercise rides in, riding to work, a chatty ride around the park, a weekend MTB ride etc. I discovered the group ride function and invited a few people to ‘Zwift meet-ups’, I mean it sounds terrible and I’d never normally do it but needs must. I fucked up the technical details of my first one and missed my own ride but they’re good fun and a good work out. I had a phone call with my friend James on one and pretty good to just chat about the day before it got a bit too hard to talk. And then I’ve had a video call with David, again pretty good and a bit more of a sense of connection. Funny to get this pic from him after, kindly taken by his wife. Andy on a stick!

It’s no real substitute for the great outdoors but doing what we can to stay the fuck indoors I guess, especially in London. I’ve joined a few other group rides, one of which almost destroyed me going up Alpe Du Zwift. An supposed hour ride took two hours, stubbornness kicked in to keep me there but even so. The game type feel of chasing people down, raising the speed in the group and all the other childish things we do on rides sometimes can be done virtually and is a bit of a giggle at times.

Probably the best thing I’ve discovered is that dragging my fat arse out of bed at 6.30am and getting on the turbo by 7am has a huge effect on my mental wellbeing. Do the exercise first thing, get it done and then enjoy the day. Just try and stay awake! I’d still really like a mountain bike ride with friends though.

Tags:

Cycling Lockdown2020

Home lump cycling

It’s all been quite difficult working from home these last few weeks for lots of reasons and I’ve been making do with using the turbo in the garage and also some running in the local park. I want to venture further afield but not super keen on riding on my own at the moment and not many options to get back if something does go wrong. I’d kind of had enough with the garage Zwift thing for a bit and decided that maybe I’d try and find some way of cycling outside properly but not straying too far from home. I usually do an hour in the garage on Zwift so thought that perhaps an hour outside would be a good target but see what I could achieve in that whilst staying as local as possible. Distance wasn’t going to be huge for an hour but no different to Zwift. Perhaps some hills and raise the HR for a bit…

Rather than plan a big route around South London with lots of hills I thought I’d make the most of what’s on my doorstep. I live at the top of a hill, Denmark Hill, and there’s lots of different ways of approaching it and wondered if I could ride every single way up, no repeating, in an hour? Normally I’d plan a route in ridewithGPS but in the end just went out on the bike and worked out a mental map of the place which was far more engaging. Rather pleasingly it all worked out in an hour! I also had Queens of The Stone Age on in one ear which seemed to help.

Looking at it again now it looks like I’ve missed one out through the park but maybe I’ll do that next time. In terms of climbing I got close to 300m in an hour which isn’t too bad allowing for stopping at traffic lights etc. Not exactly epic by any stretch of the imagination but kept me occupied for an hour and an enjoyable mental exercise planning which bit to ride up next. Felt terrible before I went out but felt incredible when I came back. A feeling I hadn’t quite had on the turbo. Just need to keep doing more of this to keep the mind in check.

Oh and also saw Sandi Toksvig in a Smart Car in East Dulwich.

Tags:

365 Photography

365/2019, the rules

So that didn’t go quite to plan in terms of updating this site every week with images as per my last post here in the first week of January 2019. That was also my last post on here since then. As always it’s another ‘starting again’ and ‘I promise to write more here’ post. Maybe our current lockdown and isolation situation will help with wanting to write more.

A few things interested me about the whole 365 project and process but perhaps before reflecting on that too much more it’s worth looking back at the rules I set myself in an introductory blog post last year. The idea was to have a few constraints to work within and anyone who knows me will know that I like rules and structure. So the rules I set are below and how many I stuck with…

It’s got to be taken on the day – obviously. No cheating. 

Same as 2009 and again I managed to stick to this one despite it taking a while to get into the habit but definitely got easier after the first few weeks. There were a few moments where I almost forgot to take a shot but once I got used to it again it became second nature. I got into this weird habit of tapping my back pocket to check my camera was there the same way we all check for our phone, keys and wallet. What was even weirder was the panic that set in in the first few weeks of 2020 where I panicked when it wasn’t there.

No iPhone! Must be shot with a proper camera, currently a Ricoh GR II or Nikon D700 / D810 + various film cameras.  

This one is interesting as I thought I would be out with the tripod all the time looking at interesting things to take images of with the ‘proper’ camera (and shift lens) doing really architectural shots. I only used it once. No iPhone shots were used and they were all taken with the Ricoh GR II which I really grew to love over the year. Almost all of the images were landscape orientation

No selfies.

Well this was fairly easy but ended the series on 31st December with a selfie self portrait.

No work photos or commissioned work. 

Again no real issue with this and stuck to it but there were a few nice shots I would have liked to include and the trouble is that when you’re on a shoot all day your attention is very much away from thinking about taking 365 photos. So these days it felt like the non-paid for photo was a bit lame. Anyway, rules are rules.

Minimal cropping or editing. I have an astigmatism in one eye so all my pics come out wonky by 2 degrees. I’m allowing myself some straightening and cropping. 


I think this was a good rule. Try and keep whatever you originally captured in the frame but allowing for some straightening and cropping a tiny distraction out. I got some dust on the sensor later in the year and ended up having to crop this out a few times on more complex scenes where spot cloning was too tricky.

No wholesale image manipulation. The only one I’m going to allow is stitching two images together with a shift lens. But no comping of people / birds / cloning etc. 

There was something important about this one. Felt a bit like shooting with film and a basic scan and trying to keep it simple. No images had any brush work applied and did what I could with the basic sliders in Lightroom. It’s still possible to do a lot through this method though. I found my shots getting darker and moodier throughout the year. Lots of lower key processing.

Upload them all to Flickr each day to an album. 

I did manage to upload to Flickr also but there never seems to be much engagement there these days. I gave up on Flickr almost entirely towards the end of the year and only recently finished uploading the full set.

Post a weekly summary to Instagram and this blog. 

I posted them all to Instagram each week on a Sunday evening which was enough admin / work in itself. The last thing I wanted was yet more admin to do on a Sunday whilst getting ready for work the next day. It was hard enough choosing images each day, editing, sorting and then prepping for Instagram. I had a bit of a wobble during the year personally and stopped posting them but later resumed.

Maybe I’ll post next about what I learnt and what I got out of it.

Tags:

365 Photography

363/2019, week 01

First week in the bag. It’s been harder than I expected remember and I’m trying to train myself to not forget each and every day, adding it to muscle memory if you will. Living in a an occasional and slight state of fear of missing a day or timing out on being able to record an image. So far so good though apart from sometimes struggling for inspiration as well as falling into the same old cliches. That’s the idea though, to take more pictures and edit down.

What’s great about it is that it does really make you want to get out more and see the world around you. From wanting to attend that art gallery with the show that you really like but is soon to close to simply just scanning every single part of a street as you walk down it. Sadly I’m on foot / tube / bus at the moment due to injury but I can’t help but think how much easier this would be on the bike. That will come soon though.

So far it’s been ok though and have enjoyed carrying a camera around a lot more. This article in the Guardian on street photography was really helpful this week and encouraged me to shoot from the hip rather than always raising the camera to my eye. All pics this week are shot with the Ricoh GR II with the night shot being taken on the D810 and 24mm PC-E. Image 001 was already posted on New Years day so here are the rest…

365/2019/002 - Elephant and Castle

365/2019/003 - Waterloo

365/2019/004 - MARVELOUS

365/2019/005- Hillcrest

365/2019/006 - Photographers

Tags:

365 Photography

365/2009 > 2019

I started to take a keen interest in photography again around 2007 and wanted to develop my skills a little further. At the time all I had was a little Fujifilm FinePix F31fd which was an incredible camera for its compact size and sensor. I soon upgraded to a second hand Nikon D70 and got quite obsessed with learning how to use it. I had also got quite obsessed with Flickr and sharing of images and the community based around it.

I’m not quite sure how I found out about the idea but I ended up starting a 365 project in 2009. The idea being that you take a photo every single day for an entire year in the hope that you get better at taking / making photos or just a nice way of reflecting on what happened that year. My images were all uploaded to Flickr at the time and remain there. What started off as a fairly lame set of pictures quickly improved resulting in a complete obsession with photography. It also resulted in purchasing all sorts of cameras and equipment as well as going on a course to learn all about MTB photography. I also learnt how to use my tools – Lightroom, Bridge and Photoshop, although I’ve since toned down the processing by some considerable margin.

One of the nicest things about the process was looking back and seeing themes develop – these included angles, shadows, night photography, some architecture, more abstract shapes, street photography, riding shots and also the occasional portrait once I’d begun to understand off camera flash.

There were also some pretty desperate times running around trying to find something interesting to take a picture of at 11.45pm after getting back late from work. Can I make this towel rail into an abstract image? More often than not, yes!

At the end of all of this I made a book with Blurb and have a copy of it at home still. I use it once a year to show students at Bath University why you should consider a photo project.

As modelled by...

Fast forward ten or so years and I’m still taking lots of photos and have a successful Architectural Photography business. When I say I take loads of photos I mean with a phone (iPhone X as of writing) and the chances or reasons to take a compact camera are reduced. Most of these photos find their way to Instagram after a quick edit in VSCO on the phone. Other photography is often work related and I felt I needed a reason to pick up the camera again and have it with me all the time and be more creative with photography and experiment a bit more.

As with all these things I’ve made some rules to consider:

It’s got to be taken on the day – obviously. No cheating.
No iPhone! Must be shot with a proper camera, currently a Ricoh GR II or Nikon D700 / D810 + various film cameras.
No selfies.
No work photos or commissioned work.
Minimal cropping or editing. I have an astigmatism in one eye so all my pics come out wonky by 2 degrees. I’m allowing myself some straightening and cropping.
No wholesale image manipulation. The only one I’m going to allow is stitching two images together with a shift lens. But no comping of people / birds / cloning etc.
Upload them all to Flickr each day to an album.
Post a weekly summary to Instagram and this blog.

And then there’s the things I want to start looking at:

People, friends, candid shots.
More street photos – be braver and more confident!
Documenting my local environment, the things everyone else walks by and misses. The oddities and wonderful things around Camberwell and Peckham.
Go to new places on the way to work / home from work. Break out of that bubble.
Use it as an excuse to shoot new and interesting Architecture on spec in and around London.
Documenting more interesting buildings, Brutalist, Art Deco, PoMo.
Low key / high key shooting / processing.
Shadows / form / texture / angles – the favourites!
And of course recording more cycling imagery but better than ever before.

And here’s image number one taken at the early hours of this morning of another photographer capturing the fireworks over London. Just got to try and not forget a day and get this back into my daily routine…

365/2019/001

Tags:

Photography

X100 out, GR II in

I think like a lot of photographers I’m always looking for that perfect compact camera to have with me at all times. The iPhone is great and is getting even better but I still want a proper sized sensor and a decent lens. Most images shot with a phone are fine viewed on the phone but often degrade a little once on a bigger screen. 

Previously my go to compact was a Panasonic LX-7 but I never really clicked with it and certainly never grew to love it. The files out of it were fine but the lens always seemed to get something on it that left a smear or mark on the image and I really didn’t need the zoom on it. That got sold a few weeks back.

Then there’s the Fuji X100T I had. A beautiful camera (in black), a lens to die for and incredible images straight out of camera. Lovely high ISO and plenty of character in the RAW files. It’s well made and looks the business too. But there was something nagging me about it in terms of the size. It’s just too big with my standard clear filter and lens hood on. Sure I could manage without the hood but it’s still quite big. It’s not fitting in a pocket and is always around your neck which is a bit of a pain really and draws too much attention. This has now been sold to make way for… 

One camera I’ve heard a lot about is the Ricoh GR range. People seem to swear by them and they started out as film cameras before developing a digital range. There’s a new model coming out ‘early 2019’ and I had read some previews. The main appeal to me is the size of it and the quality of the lens. It’s small enough to sit in a jersey pocket whilst cycling, a coat pocket or back of the jeans which drastically increases the chances of it actually being used for taking photos! I went for the GR II model as don’t really think that the new one will offer me any more and apparently reduces the physical controls available in favour of a touch screen. 

First impressions are good and I can’t wait to be back cycling to take it out with me on the trails / round the local lanes. I’ve been carrying it around for a week now and am slowly getting more and more out of it. A few of my favourites below and more over at Flickr. I’m hoping to use this a bit more in the run up to 2019 and before I have another go at a 365 project, more on that soon. 

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Tags:

Cycling

New Swinley trails

I’ve got a bit more into MTBing this year and had just started gearing up to doing my now usual winter training routine of singlespeed mountain biking at the weekend mixed with turbo training during the week and the usual commutes. It helps to keep fit and more importantly, keep safe and off the ice on the roads. Sadly a broken clavicle has killed all of that but it does mean that I now have time to catch up on some writing.

There’s usually one of two locations available for a little weekend jaunt either Surrey Hills or Swinley Forest both an hour away in the van or on the train. Surrey is more natural and varied with a load more lumps, Swinley is a bit flatter but rolling with a series of man made trails. Swinley is a bit more reliable in the wet and you’re not going to ruin the trails like you would be at Surrey. Having said that Swinley can get a bit boring as it’s the same loop each time. We’ve tried extending the loop out in a few different directions searching for the locals favourite trails but always felt like we barely scratched the surface and didn’t feel like we’d really found much.

A few weeks back Anna dropped me a message excitedly saying she’d found a few more along with a link to her ride on Strava to turn into a GPX to follow. Sure enough that Sat we headed out to have a look around.

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We were treated to an incredible autumn day with shafts of light and mist in the trees. We didn’t really make amazing progress as there were so many photo opportunities and it was simply too beautiful. We did the first few bits of the trails before peeling off to find these new ones to the west of the red route.

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The first bits of the new trails were really nice and natural. They appeared to be quite fresh and we just about followed the track through the trees with leaves covering lots of them. Nothing too technical but nice and twisty. Not too fast either as I was trying to follow the trail on the Wahoo.

After a while we rounded a corner and came upon this flowing little twisting section. Of course it needed riding a few times and then getting the phone out to take some photos.

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Round the next corner were a few little roll ins. Of course Andy just sent it straight away, I rolled it a few times before doing a better plop. Bash rolled it without too much issue and then I spent some time with Agi talking about the best way to ride it. Setting your weight, where to be on the bike, speed, line choice and so on. It was great to see her roll through it and then do a few others with new found confidence.

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After that it was out towards where we started again via a lovely steep gulley and steep roll into the path back.

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There seems to be loads more scope for riding out there and would like to go back and explore some more (once fixed up). It was good to do this then go back onto the main trails and do the usual loop. As well as having more fun it’s also good to add a bit more distance to it.

Back again soon hopefully. I also think I spied a sweet little bivvy spot…

Also, those photos don’t look quite as good on a laptop screen than they did on the phone.