Tag Archive: Cycling


Cycling Geek

Using a Garmin Edge for audax

The Garmin Edge 800 I have really is a fantastic tool for cycling. Putting aside that they are years behind most phone software, in terms of interface and usability, it’s a wonderful bit of kit, once you get to know it and it’s limitations. There’s a whole other post on how recording all my rides has helped motivate me and so on but that’s for another time.

Doing longer rides with it can be problematic as we found out last year doing London > Brighton > London on Leo’s super hilly variation of the route. Mine died at 202km leaving us without directions for the last bit. I am generally using it for recording as well as turn by turn directions. Following that mishap I found out that if you use the maps or elevation page too much it severely drains the battery, you also need to turn the backlight off. For subsequent big rides I’ve been a bit more careful and also carried an external battery pack although not needed to use it.

I recently did the fantastic Oasts and Coasts audax which I managed to completely screw up my recording as well as lose directions towards the end after the Garmin died. I plugged my USB cable in which reset the device at 155km and it then stopped recording – although didn’t make me aware of this. It turns out that if you want to record a long ride that most people break it down into 150km chunks then stitch the resulting .fit files back together into one with the fantastic fitfiletools.com. Lesson learnt!

Following this I have done some reading and it appears most audax folk use the Garmin eTrex type unit rather than the Edge type units which work ok for roadies. The eTrex unit has physical buttons rather than a touch screen and also, more importantly, takes AA batteries which apparently last for days. A lot of forum posts note the lack of decent official bike mount as well as horror stories of losing it on a ride in bushes at night. Most seem to recommend the RAM mount. It’s generally used by hikers and more general outdoors type pursuits but also used for geocaching which I’d never heard of before.

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook (with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental. Geocaching shares many aspects with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteering, treasure-hunting, letterboxing, and waymarking.

Which sounds pretty nerdy.

So that’s great but I’m not really up for spending money on another GPS device at the moment. I wanted to solve the issue of battery life and Adrian from Brixton CC pointed me in the direction of an article about how to create a power only micro USB cable. Apparently it’s the data pins in the cable connecting which stops it just charging and puts it into a data sync mode – which is why mine screwed up. So tonight I’ve been following this article and slicing up an old USB cable to make one.

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To my surprise it seems to have worked. All I have to do now is solder it at work and seal it up with electrical tape and then go and test it out a few times. A lot cheaper than a new device.

Whilst researching all of this I found myself in the wonderful world of dynamo hubs. There’s all manner of wonderful kit out there now with road hubs that will power USB ports built into a stem cap! Whilst the hubs are a bit expensive it is a really neat idea. Anyway, the 30p cable will do for now. I’m hoping to use this setup on a big ride next month. Can’t wait.



King Of the Mountains

Whilst tidying some of the crap off my desktop I found an old screenshot of a KOM I got on the way back from Oxford. At 101kph I had beaten the current record holder for the small section of trail which runs parallel to it by over a minute.


Unfortunately I was on the Great Western to Paddington and had left my Garmin on. I bet someone got a shock when they received an email saying they’d lost their top spot. I’ve since trimmed down the route to delete this section. Nice whilst it lasted though.



Back on the MTB

It used to be that every weekend I would get up early, drive out to Surrey or Swinley forest and get a few miles in on my MTB. I did this rain or shine and, due to there usually being more rain than shine, I eventually bought a van to avoid ruining the interior of the car. Then I got into road riding around 18 months ago and got a bit crazy for it. Mountain biking kind of fell by the wayside. Why drive for an hour and a half each way for a 20k ride when you can ride from your doorstep and be in Kent in 30 mins? The fitness of road riding appealed and also seeing lots of new places on my bike also helped.

I’ve been back a few times but trips have been few and far between. I went at Christmas after a long period off which was a bit odd. I’d completely forgotten how to ride the thing as well as automatically starting to point out holes for the first few mins – a hangover from riding road in a bunch. This Sunday I went again with Matt to Swinley just for a change of scenery. The weekend before had seen me do my biggest ride to date so maybe a shorter chatty affair was a bit more sensible. We headed out to Swinley in the van which took a lot longer than I remember. However it provides plenty of time to chat and shoot the breeze. Shit coffee is always found and then time to unload and get changed and get out on the trails.

One of the things I enjoyed about road riding was not wearing a rucksack of any kind and travelling relatively light. Years of mountainbiking were spent lugging heavy loads around for no apparent reason. This is the second ride where I’ve just had a bottle on the frame and some essentials in a jersey and gone riding. It feels so much nicer and you feel more agile and faster too.

I found a similar thing a few years back when I got a short travel full suspension bike. The arrival of ‘freeride’ meant bikes got a lot heavier and overspecced for the riding round the South East. Getting a shorter travel lighter bike was one of the best choices I made.

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Swinley is pretty flat but they have managed to make some fun sections out of it. The swoops and berms are highly enjoyable but require so much pedalling to get you through as there is no gravity to assist. Finally having put a load of work in on the road bike I had the fitness to push through it all and keep my speed. It’s way more fun this way although does go on a bit.

There were s series of trail diversions in place but new sections of trail had also been created to accommodate this. A massive water pipeline was being laid which looked expensive. It was seriously shitty out with the muck flying everywhere. I was so glad I brought some cheap clear glasses with me.

After the first set of trails we headed over to my favourite sections by the reservoir which had got even further cut in with the many thousands of tyres running over them. The v shaped cut in the trail added to the sense of speed as we shot down them. Being so close to the trees also helped. I cased a few of the first jumps but happily cleared a few of the later ones. It takes a while to get the hang of it I guess.

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At the bottom of this you end up on a slightly uphill twisty section which goes on and on and on. I love this bit so much as again with some more fitness it allowed a bit more speed and therefore fun. I always come off that trail with a massive grin on my face.

After that it’s the final loop back towards the centre. Before you get there you are treated to this wonderful open section with huge sweeping berms which again is brilliant to hammer down. It has a few lumps to get a little bit of a kicker off as well as do a silly little tweak whilst air borne.

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One of the things I also found interesting was that I wasn’t as afraid of descending as I usually am after a few months off. In fact I’m sure that having got over my fear of descending on the road that it almost certainly helped with the off road which is one crossover I hadn’t quite expected. The whole area felt much flatter and tamer than before and I didn’t drop my post at all for the whole thing. It’s still a fun place but not the lumpy section of trail I used to think it was.

Brilliant fun, even though it was only 20k, and even more fun to have a trip to the jet wash on the way back, drop the bikes off and sink four pints of Gamma Ray after. Next time it’ll be Wales hopefully.




Dunwich Dynamo prep & tips

Last year I rode the Dunwich Dynamo for the first time with a few friends. We had a brilliant time and I still think back to how much fun we had and how slightly mad it was. I wrote a few thoughts about it and we also got a mention on the Strava blog.

Last year I did a bit of research before going on what it was going to be like and how to get clothing right etc but there’s a load of things I gathered from people there and from obviously doing the event which is probably useful to share in one place. I’m doing it again this year although I’m a much more experienced rider so less nervous about it. Your mileage may vary but this is what worked for me and I thought others might find it useful to have it gathered in one place like this. Most of it is common sense really.


Make sure your bike isn’t knackered, your tyres aren’t full of glass and your spokes aren’t all loose, and it generally isn’t likely to break down in the wrong place obviously. Are your tyres a year old? Replace them.

The start

It’s worth getting to the start to hang out for a while and enjoy the spectacle of the whole thing as well as have a drink before you leave. We left about the right time I think, 8 ish, but maybe could have gone a little earlier to get clear of some of the crowds. If you leave too early you’ll get to the beach too early – that all depends on your pace and how often you stop though.


The route is fairly easy to follow but the first section is pretty busy along some nasty main roads. We ducked through the side roads which are worth looking at if you can until you get back on the main road to Epping. With so many cyclists on the road some drivers can get a bit wound up so this felt like the most difficult part of the ride.

I downloaded a GPX file from someone online last time which turned out to be incorrect in a few places which was a bit annoying but you really can pretty much follow people for 90% of it. Pick up a route map and try and stay with others. The routes on RideWithGPS seem to be pretty good though.

If you’re using a Garmin then turn the back light down, or off if you can manage, as it’ll last longer. Turn the maps to pop up automatically and don’t keep it on the maps page as it’ll burn through the battery very quickly. I found this out the hard way once. The other thing I do on longer rides carry a little portable power pack which will charge the Garmin, or your phone, if needed.


Obviously you need lights and I managed get a good front one for evening, but in hindsight I would have used a cheap little commuter light to get me out of town before saving my decent one for the countryside. Visibility isn’t really a problem with the hundreds of other cyclists at first and it’s only really an issue when you thin out a bit later on and are in the country lanes. I would also probably pack a small head torch next time for punctures or mechanicals.

As for a rear light it’s probably less important than the front as there’s lots of others around. You probably don’t want to have it on flashing as it’ll just annoy everyone behind you. Some of the little commuter USB lights don’t last more than two hours so it’s worth checking it’ll make the distance or will take batteries, which you can obviously bring spares. For a rear light the Fibre Flares (AAA battery version) are good and I would pair this with something else, depending where you choose to mount it though.


I took loads of gels and energy bars last year as I’d never ridden that far. Whatever you choose to take in terms of food I would only take what you’ve tried before as they can be a bit nasty and upset your stomach. I don’t use gels as much these days but would still take two just in case. I prefer a massive Soreen loaf in the jersey pocket and a few nut bars now.


I took two large bottles (750ml) and had them filled up at the start. I met a guy at the start who suggested getting water where you could as there wouldn’t be anywhere at 2am to fill up in the middle of nowhere. He was right but we ended up filling up with some foul tasting water at a truck stop that had stayed open to serve bacon and egg rolls. I’d caveat that you should fill up with ‘nice’ water whenever you can!


I always carry a spare tube, sticky patches, traditional patches and glue, a spare link for my chain, spare brake pads, a gas canister and adaptor as well as a multitool and pump. I like the catchily named Lezyne Rap 14 as it includes a chain breaker and spoke key. All of which I stuff into an Ortlieb Micro Saddle bag or a little tool roll which straps under the seat. Either way all that stuff is out of the way and leaves more room in your jersey for food and warm clothing. If there’s anything specific to your bike in terms of tools you should also take that. How do your wheels come off? Do you need to bring a 15mm spanner etc.


A few people had told me about the way in which the temperature drops later at night which is true. I wore my 3/4 length bibs to cover my knees even though they were a little hot at first but overall it worked put well. Some people prefer knee warmers but it’s just one more thing to carry. I would do more layering next time rather than a jersey then big jacket. This year I’ll be taking a lighter waterproof jacket, gilet, arm warmers and some light gloves. Bear in mind that you might want another layer to put on at the beach as it can be cold. We left a van there with warm clothes in but not everyone has that option.


It’s best to ride with others of a similar fitness or ability or if you’re going solo not going too fast too early. The other thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that if you go to fast you’ll be there far too early and the cafe won’t be open. You could go fast and then stop for a break at every pub you see? Either way ride at your own pace, not someone who is faster than you.

Getting back

I would definitely avoid driving back straight after as we did. It really wasn’t pleasant and I will be staying all day for a nap and driving back the following morning after camping. If you’re going back that day I’d recommend taking the day off work on the Monday.

My only other tip would be to enjoy the spectacle of it all and stop now and then to take a photo or two.



We’re all friends in the bike industry

Oh dear. Sad to see this arrive in my inbox tonight. It’s never cool to take advantage of someone else’s misfortune I guess but being so blatant about it and emailing everyone on your email list to say what an arse you are seems a bit much.

I generally support an independent bike shop where possible with the likes of Balfes, Seabass, Brixton Cycles and Cycle PS but I have bought the odd bits from Evans and others. They generally don’t suit my needs as much but I don’t have a problem with them or Cycle Surgery or even On Your Bike.

This just seems in very very bad taste.

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Through and off Thursday chain gang

I’ve been going to the Thursday morning Rapha rides round Regents since September 2014 and almost always had a really good session. Some are better than others due to size of the group and how well everyone is working together, as well as how familiar you are with the people there that week.

Last Thursday was probably one of the best sessions I’d been to. We started in a group of six in the usual two up formation moving through from the inside and sitting on the front for around a minute before pulling through. Interestingly we went round clockwise for a change which was great. Riding the normal anti-clockwise has gotten to be pretty boring indeed so it was good to mix it up a bit.

That all seemed to be going well and felt incredibly smooth. Then the suggestion was made at one set of lights to do the last three laps as ‘through and off’. Whilst a good idea I’ve never seen it work in the mornings. It always ends up with someone surging when they should be easing off and then it just gets faster and faster until it just blows up in a mess. This usually doesn’t take long.

However this time, through a great deal of discipline and some guidance from Chris, it seemed to work. What a pleasure it was to have all six of us working this way. It was great to be trundling along at 40kph on the flat with just the sound of tyres on tarmac. It was a great work out without feeling like I’d be punched in the legs. That short burst of intensity with a relatively short rest was incredible. As there was only six of us the turns came pretty quick and I even managed to hold on to the end. It was like a shot of dopamine straight to brain. It felt so so good to be going so fast and yet the whole movement of the group be so smooth.

I absolutely loved it. So whilst the 5.30am starts don’t get any easier I’m always getting out of bed for this.


Apple Cycling

The irrational hatred of brands

Even as a die hard Apple fan I like to think I’m able to have a little bit of perspective on some of these things these days. I used to dread going for a job where I would have to use a PC for work but now really couldn’t give a shit as it’s just a tool. I use whatever I can to get my job done. I guess growing up a bit helped me out of that irrational phase of my life of Apple fandom. Whilst the Mac vs PC argument seems to have subsided it’s now iOS vs Android and so on, but this time I couldn’t care less. Use what you want and enjoy it if you like it. Just don’t bang on in my ear about it, especially with some badly researched thing you read on the BBC. I couldn’t give a shit which phone you have. I like mine, I hope you like yours.

This is the same way I don’t really care about what wheels you have or your opinion on my choice of groupset or how many Rapha jerseys you have. If you like the colour that’s great. I don’t want to talk tech on a ride, or ever really.

Recently I was reminded that to a lot of people brands mean a lot and they’re passionately either for or against some as well as spend a lot of time thinking about this. My friend Mathew suggested it was a tribal thing. Being aware of this madness isn’t unusual if you ever read a tech article on the Guardian or such like as you scroll to the comments*.

So the reason for this post was that this graph appeared on Twitter recently which I was kind of taken aback by.

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Hold on a second. 15% of your time being angry at Rapha? Wow. I get the controversial nature of the brand and yes I’ve read the occasional Road.cc review of a Rapha garment of clothing and the overt frothing of the mouth that follows from those who prefer to wear a club jersey or like their cheaper clothing brand. Some of which is fair perhaps and yes I’m not mad keen on the ‘suffering’ aesthetic, of which there’s a nice Medium article on. But the clothing is good and I like it which just is a choice. I don’t like Castelli as much but then I don’t proclaim to hate it or judge people who prefer that. I also really like my club jersey from Brixton.

Ok, so I took the bait and replied. What’s the problem with Rapha? 15% seems a lot for an adult to spend being angry at a brand.

@andymatthews £200 (golf) club membership. Join a club for £30/yr + learn group riding ppl! Red mist descending… must go to my safe place.

Naturally I took issue with this. Not with the membership issue – £200 is a lot and certainly isn’t accessible, if you’re near one of their clubs it’s a great deal on coffee though. But what I took issue with is that I actually learnt to ride in a group on the Thursday morning rides round Regents Park, best of all they’re totally FREE. I made this point but it was ignored as presumably it didn’t fit the narrative of hatred. Not only are those rides free but they even give you a free coffee for turning up. So yes I guess you can pay the golf club membership fee, or you can just turn up on a free ride in your DHB tights and club jersey and go riding. Having been going consistently to these since September I’ve met an amazing group of people through it, a point I again made. Whatever you think of the brand the riding that goes on through their clubs is pretty decent as is the local club scene at Brixton. Both are good and both have their benefits. That illogical hatred and unwillingness to have your viewpoint changed is kind of odd though. Isn’t it actually about the riding?

And then I think to the fact that I’ve been spending a lot of time with my 93 year old Grandmother and think how fortunate we all are to have the time to get angry about a cycle clothing brand for 15% of our lives. We could all do with being a bit more tolerant.

*Adam Buxton beautifully took this madness apart in one of his Bug shows which you really should watch.


Cycling Photography

New Years Day CX at Herne Hill

I’ve been more than a little sceptical about Cyclocross recently. It seems to be the new cool thing to do and that always seems to make me more than a little suspicious. Is it amazing or just a new fad? Emma once said this about people riding fixed as a fashion.

It’s like yo-yos. They’ll find something else in a bit.

Anyway, putting my prejudices to one side for a bit I wandered down to Herne Hill Velodrome on New Years day to sweat out some of my hangover and see what all the fuss was about. I also wanted to have a go at taking some pictures of moving objects rather than those inanimate buildings I normally do. It was also a good chance to use the 70-200 ƒ2.8, which rarely finds a reason to be used.

I got there mid way during the juniors race which looked like fun. I couldn’t really work out the course at first but gradually got the idea. I found a few places that might be good to spectate and take pics. A few friends arrived and we settled on the top left corner where the course dives down to the railway embankment and then back up and over and back towards the velodrome.

I was also there to support one of the Brixton riders, Will, who unfortunately drew number 13. As is the rules it was mounted upside down.

Unlucky for some

I had a go with a few test shots of some of the juniors who seemed to be flying around. Some of which were inconceivably tiny to my mind.

Little guy

As well as the warm up laps the main group were doing. The Christmas tree chicane was one of my favourite parts of the course. A nice bit of imagination there from the course designers. Nice to see a few little playful touches appearing.

Warm up
Warm up

After that I said hello to Will and his teammate David before getting a few shots of the start and moving up to my preferred position for the rest of the race.

And they're off

A few of the Vicious Velo lot were there and I had previously been told to shout various obscenities at them by Andy, which I of course obliged. I felt kind of guilty about it as none of them were smiling. Only Kev managed a set of the vees as requested and a smile. But at least they confirmed later on Twitter that the ‘encouragement’ was appreciated it’s just that it was hideously hard to raise a smile when working that much – which I can fully understand.

Vees for Vicious
Urban CX
Spring in her step

Running up that hill looked hideous really and whilst there weren’t many spectators, most seemed to congregate there to shout encouragement and generally observe the trickiest bit.

He's behind you
Train passing
Running up that hill
More gnarr

Some of the younger riders seemed to be running rings around the older ones. Some people described them as “just floating over it all” which seemed apt. Equally as entertaining to watch too.


So a lovely few hours at the Velodrome and I fully appreciate the skill and effort that goes into CX. It was a shame there weren’t more spectators but most people were probably nursing crushing mind altering hangovers at home. I can’t say I’m crazy about entering one but I’d definitely go and watch and support more Brixton or Vicious riders at another event. It was also really nice to use my camera again off a tripod!




Too old for crit racing?

Maybe 35 is too old to start crit racing but who cares. I have a bunch of things I want to do in 2015 and one of them is get involved in racing road bikes. The last MTB race was when I was 14 in Wiltshire and the only other races have been some badly done 24 hr team events around 2004 and the Brompton race last summer. So clearly not a lineage of racing I’m going to have a go. First stop a suitable bikes, a race license then a race series.

One of the things I enjoyed reading last year was the progress made by one of the journalists at Road.cc as he trained for and raced locally around Bath. He even finished the year in the end of the pack.

Step 1 – suitable bike. Next stop British Cycling for a race license.

See you on the tarmac.

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Cycling Inspiration

Riding 75,065 miles in a year

This story has popped up quite a bit recently but one of the best links I’ve found about it is this piece by Jack Thurston who gives an interesting background to Steve Abraham’s attempt to ride more than 75,065 miles in a year. Why? Well in 1939 Tommy Godwin set the long distance record at that figure and no one has broken it since. Having achieved this he then joined the RAF and went to war.

Steve is something of a legend in Britain’s small and low-key long distance cycling community. Raised in a cycling family, by the age of 13 he was already doing 100 miles rides and got into the audax scene in the early 1990s. In 2007 Steve set a new Audax UK points record, riding 23,834 miles in a year, mostly on weekends and during holidays as he was working full time. One of the many remarkable rides that year was the “Great Triangle”: from Milton Keynes south to Dover in Kent, then west to Land’s End in Cornwall, then up to the northern tip of Scotland and back to Milton Keynes. A total of 2,100 miles that took Steve just nine and half days. Oh, and he rode it all fixed wheel.

To achieve this he needs to average 205 miles a day for an entire year! It’s quite a commitment and there’s something about it I really admire, mainly due to it being slightly bonkers. He’s started already and can be followed on Strava and also has a site where updates are being posted by a series of helpers. There’s also a live satellite tracker.

..Steve is encouraging people to come out and ride with him, to provide moral support and a little shelter from the wind. Tommy Godwin’s record ride was paced for several months by a team of elite riders from Raleigh, so any help Steve gets out on the road will be perfectly within the rules. Godwin’s ride became a national event, something that was shared with cyclists up and down the country. Steve wants to do the same on his ride.

I’d love to join one of them at some point to offer support and help ease the strain on the front for a few miles for him. I also love this picture of his flat in Milton Keynes. Go Steve!