Hot and Sandy

Travel writing, pictures and stuff for people I know. Quite a lot of cycling talk, and some semi-controlled ranting. Hiking, outdoor and two-wheeled stuff, perhaps a little computing when it's worth talking about. Meandering thoughts.

Monday, July 31


Did a sprightly spin down to Brighton yesterday with a couple of dudes who were faster than me. The route certainly played to their strengths, and involved several biggish hills. Now I am not at the peak of fitness but I did think I would manage a little better than I did. Time to shed a few kilos I think!

Although I got sunburnt my legs aren't sore. After the ride I chilled out in Brighton, waiting for my other half to come down in the car. We made a day of it, and mooched round the shops, went to the beach and had a lovely time. It was the last time we would go anywhere in the "old" car...

We have a break in the weather coming up, looking forward to thundery showers, which I like.

Oh, and the Landis hole deepens, with the weekend revelations that isotopic analysis has revealed synthetic (or at least exogenic) testosterone in his samples. When will he admit it do you think? I reckon it will be Tyler Hamilton v.2.0.

Friday, July 28


Intersting graphic from NYT, speculating on the tests FL would have undertaken.


Well, it looks like Landis might get stung for his alleged performance-enhancing drug use after all, as predicted by me immediately after his arrival at Morzine (Sat 22nd).

He has been busted with the "A" sample, with an 11:1 testosterone / epitestosterone level. The threshhold for suspicion in sport is around 6:1. And yet fans cry out: "shurely shome mishtake!" and he appoints a Spanish lawyer known for exploiting loopholes and getting athletes off the hook. The "B" sample could take up to 2 weeks for confirmation.

This week Landis has gone on record stating that prior to the miraculous ride to Morzine that secured the Tour he had a few beers and then whisky with his team-mates (alcohol consumption can apparently alter natural testosterone balance). Well excuse me for not believing him for a minute - a Pro tour team going out on the lash with a few days of TdF remaining? I think not, Floyd, and your bleating is starting to sound like the excuses of a guilty cheat.

Outside pro cycling, I have been wringing myself up and down the long way round from the office, which resulted in me being *so* tired I could barely get out of bed yesterday! The climb I do is pretty steep, but the killer is that the steepest part is the last 200m or so. There is also a faux-plat on the top for about another km. Ouchy. In support of this climbing effort (which normally takes me to about 180bpm) I have swapped wheels - out go the Classics Elite training wheels, in go the 28h Open Pro / Dura-Ace. Ha ha! Felt like I had a helpful fan pushing me along when I first changed. Amazing.

As soon as I can find a tube with a long enough valve, I'm going to sling the Spinergy Rev-X in the rear too, which should help a little. Have got a 100-miler with a steep climb at half way (Ditchling Beacon) booked for Sunday, but the b/b in my race bike has been really crunchy the last few days, so I may need to swap it out. Work going glacially slowly. Humph.

Tuesday, July 25


A very thoughtful ride in this morning. Fast, but thoughtful. With motivation from a friend I have been pondering the issue of the fixed wheel, with a branched consideration of music to cycle by, the politicisation of the bicycle and rage. I’ll explain.

I have been riding in traffic, on the road, for about seventeen years, during which time I have had three major incidents. None was my fault. For about the last five years I have been on a fixed-gear bike, which does not allow freewheeling (coasting). Much of this time has been in London. I’m a bike nut, so I wouldn’t be without the gadgetry of my road bike, but increasingly it seems that the gears are an evasionary tactic – of course you can go faster on the flat, and can exert less pedal pressure going uphill on a geared bike but they are a bit of a cheat, developed for racing. Most normal people don’t travel the speeds or distances of the pro peloton, and it is my belief that ‘racing’ and ‘mountain’ bicycles are pretty inappropriate for most trips. Do you need a carbon fibre rear mech to go to work or Sainsbury's?

Personally, I use my fixed to offset my very low bail-out threshold. I can't remember who it was (Van Impe?), but someone once said that in bike racing, you help to lick your opponent's plate clean before starting your own meal. Bike racers know how to suffer - look at Landis referring to the "pain cave", the number of times time-triallists enter the "red zone", and l'enfer du nord (the Hell of the North, nickname of the one-day Paris-Roubaix race) for proof. The best riders know how to suffer.

Put simply I make life too easy for myself on a free-geared bike and I avoid the suffering by going slowly and taking refuge in the lowest gears on my cassette. But gears blur the edges of your task and muddy the waters by giving you a get-out-clause. When I ride fixed I know that there are X pedal-strokes until my destination. That number is determined by the cogs I have, which I cannot change en-route. Put optimistically, every pedal revolution takes me a set increment closer to my destination.

If you run out of energy ("blow up") on a racing bicycle, you change down your gears to make it easier – you increase the number of revolutions your muscles must process before you arrive, but each turn is less of an individual strain. Yet the total energy expenditure is the same, so surely you just prolong the agony? On fixed I find I am more disposed to grasp the nettle, take the bull by the horns and revel in other celebrated clichés.

I’m not some kind of zealot (unlike some), but I love to see relatively inexperienced cyclists wheeling new fixed-gear bikes from the shops, admiring the pared-down efficiency they exude. They have what they need, not the emperor’s new 96-speed. They are also on the way to getting a great fix – the feeling of interacting with the most efficient machine ever designed, taking personal control over their journeys and viscerally connecting with the environment. It’s an empowering step to take, but not one without risks.

There have recently been many reports in London of “a hard core of anarchic” cyclists jumping red lights, menacing pedestrians and even (shock!) listening to iPods while riding. Sure, these are contraventions of the Highway Code, but are they a significant danger? Perhaps not. New riders in particular are at risk, I feel. You may feel the embodiment of courier-chic with your new track bike, but don’t follow them through gaps and don’t copy their traffic-management! There’s an old saying: there are old couriers and bold couriers, but no old and bold couriers. Professional riders have a highly-tuned radar for danger, excellent bike handling skills and a wealth of experience to call on. Many riders without this experience take much greater risks in the same physical actions. Perhaps couriers shouldn't set such examples? This misses the point - actually, individuals should take accountability for their own actions and be more risk-aware.

I listen to an iPod while riding, and I don’t see it as a problem. In fact, it helps me to relax and stabilises my mood. I can get into a rhythm, or switch to a mellow tune in heavy rage-filled traffic. I wouldn’t be barred from riding if I was deaf, would I? And surely if someone is going to hit me, then hearing them will make a negligible difference – do I actually want to be looking at the guy who squishes me? I think the point here is that cyclists are vulnerable both literally and in the social food chain. As Buffalo Bill points out, if you ride a bike many people assume that you’re either a beardy-weirdy eco-worrier or you can’t afford a car. You don’t hear journos saying that if person X had better hearing they would have heard their murderer cocking the gun, do you? I think a bit of balance is required, but there is no provision for cyclist's views in the media. Perhaps the parents with "cyclists: don't jump red" placards on London streets should replace them with "don't drive too fast, in socially irresponsible and murderous 4x4s, when you're tired" ones, to reflect what is really doing the damage.

That’s more than enough for today I think. This is a bit atypical actually, as I don’t rant and rave about cycling and politics. I just like riding bikes, that’s all.

Monday, July 24

Yellow Bike

Finally had to come into the office - rode in on the yellow bike (my Sirius 653). Had very mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand it's very manouverable, precise and fast - much more so than my Pompino. On the other it's complicated and expensive, and the ability to freewheel, although a feature of just about every bike made in the last 50 years, seems to take away from the purity of the ride somehow. I felt lazy and disconnected when I freeewheeled.

Actually I find that I coast a *lot* less than I used to pre-fixed. I also tend to change gear less, perhaps because I'm stronger. The gearing on my road bike isn't quite right. It has a 39/53 chainring combination and a 12-23 cassette. I find that most of the time I'm on 39/13 or so (a gear of 79 inches, about the same as my fixie).

Task for today is to get someone to give me a crank magnet for the cadence thingy on the computer. Another couple of wheel magnets wouldn't go astray either. I haven't used a bike computer in ages. Apparently I was spinning along at about 19mph average today. Assuming it's right. Which I don't. More (yes, more) college writing now.

Saturday, July 22

Photos Online!

As you may see if you come in through the 'top' level of the site I have a new frames-based top bar. This allows you to switch between the blog view and my **NEW** photo gallery. The bar also stays put if you follow an external link, so you can always return, without resorting to the "back" button.

Actually the gallery isn't new, but it has been migrated from, where the server is full and not performing well (they broke the PHP installation and ever since my gallery has been a bit wrong). Eventually the Pan-Med expedition pics will be seperated from my personal snaps and integrated into the expedition web page, but that time-gobbling job can wait till I've finished studying. In the meantime there are some pics up here if you want to look - the gallery app is a newer version, too.

Have just witnessed Floyd Landis routing Pereiro Sio to win the maillot jaune just in time to wear it into Paris. Not sure I'm happy about that as a result (and is Landis really clean? - not according to this, see 10th July news), but the race is almost over.

More soon. Finally the weather broke here and we've had proper storms. Love it.

Friday, July 21

Books and Papers

Heavy bag tonight - this is going to be a workout.  Very humid in town.  Not feeling great either, so no chance of a PB.  Legs are heavy, it's blowy and it feels like a long way home.

Friday Stage

This was the route this morning. If it wasn't in London it would be very easy. I am working on recording sections of it; if I do they will be linked from here. Last night was a problem getting home - lots of Police road closures and a security cordon meant a route south of the river - fast roads, but a long way round. Scuppered my aim of a PB. Maybe tonight :-D

Oh - today's bizarre news story. It's an eerie one.


Riding in this morning was a real pleasure. I left a bit earlier than usual because I have a killer workload, which meant that I caught onto the commuter 'autobus' through the Isle of Dogs. Awesome.

I managed to latch onto a dude on a hybrid fitted with Mavic Speed City wheels and XT clipless pedals. Bit of a sleeper actually, and quite fast. We cut through the peloton - I lost him a couple of times because he was making questionable traffic decisions (undertaking a bus 50m before a stop?) but I would get back with a little out-of-the-saddle kick. Just as I was about to take my turn at the front he turned off... then the fun began.

As I arrived at the A13, someone on a fast s/s (Langster or perhaps an older Dolan I think) shot past. A quick RLJ and I was on him, reeling him in over Limehouse and towards the turn for the Link tunnel. 0900 and I'm blinking sweat from my eyes, forcing the cranks round to the mental rhythm. As I come closer he notices me and speeds up, even indicating a pothole or two with a hand-flick. This guy's good - obviously a club rider and cognisant of road-etiquette.

Today I don't think there was a winner. We had a rewarding and fast ride in, sharing turns at the front and travelling fast enough to hold the lane. Once at Aldgate, I was ahead. Went through an amber / red and he followed. Then along Bevis Marks, Camomile St and London Wall (there's always a savage headwind there, funnelled by buildings). One minute he was there, next minute a whistle, a wave and I was on my own again. Kept the pace high with burning legs, missed a lady-cyclist who jumped a red across my lane by centimetres and pulled into the office gasping, ready for work. Wicked.

Thursday, July 20

Commuter Racing

Cruised into work today on my 42x15 fixed-wheel bike.  Following the river west, upstream, my route takes me from the high-rise of Canary Wharf along the urban dragstrip of the A13, through the heart of the old City of London and on to Bloomsbury.  With a couple of short exceptions, it's all slightly uphill, which makes it a grind on a roasting week like this has been!  Good for the legs though.

Last night I was chuffed to beat "chunky MTB dude", a guy who lives near me.  We have never spoken, but he speeds up on his bike if he sees me coming, and always resists an overtake.  Some days when I have a heavy bag or I've done a lot of miles he beats me. But yesterday he got beaten fair and square, thanks to a kick and a tricksy switch to the centre of the road - no drafting for him.  Hammer down for a km, and he blew. 

Air conditioning in the office isn't working today, which makes work a sweaty affair, especially after the ride in.  Had a litre of fresh juice and some melon at my desk to restock and stave off calf-cramp, which gets me on the hot days (maybe isotonic coffee in the office would fix that, he he).  Laptop running at 60 degrees plus, I'd better stop working it so hard and do some reading.  More later.  Hope my commuting nemesis doesn't return the favour tonight - my bag's going to be a killer!

Wednesday, July 19


Here we are! New blog. By me. About stuff.

I had a go at making something like this when I got a webcam. I thought it would be a crime against internet-enabled humanity to *not* publish "hamstercam", so I nabbed the domain. That link's broken now because I've gone all spangly and gone to Blogger. If you wanna see the old stuff, click here - last known webcam pic here.

It was not a success: too much like hard work. If you fancy a bit of web-stalking I also (half-heartedly) run and PM-04 was a cool project, but I don't really have time to keep the website up-to-date. So there.

More on me (well, my CV) at As if you hadn't had enough already. Hottest day on record, ever, here in London. 35 degrees! ouch.

I am finalising my PhD at University College in London, studying the Social and Economic Value of EO data. Essentially, I play with satellite images on a computer all day. Outside work I ride bikes. Currently I have four, two of which are 'projects'.

My work bike is a fixed-wheel, so it has one gear. The other is a Sunday bike - custom made for my dimensions (I have long legs and short-ish arms), with lots of carbon fibre and superlight bits. It's a steel frame, which is really out-of-fashion at the moment, but I love it.