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Tag: cycle

Berlin Cycling Again

The past few days I’ve been travelling around Europe – through Amsterdam and Berlin. I decided to do the same cycle tour as I’d previously done when I was in Berlin two years ago. I’d done it before but I did enjoy it, and whilst the sights I would see again would be the same, I would have a different tour guide and therefore the tour would be slightly different. Eileen had also never seen the sights, so doing it with her would give us the chance to see things together.

At the same time, we purchased tickets to do one of the other tours that the Fat Tire Bike company do, around the palaces of Potsdam.

Berlin City Tour

The ride around Berlin City was cold – I’d learned from my previous trip and had brought some gloves (getting a pair of these from Decathlon in The Hague earlier in the holiday), though the firm now offer some fancy gardening gloves for those that hadn’t come prepared. Mind, we hadn’t quite considered that it would be snowing in Berlin when we arrived, but the temperatures today were about 5℃ so it was still chilly.

I didn’t get to many pictures this time around, mainly due to only taking my iPhone and the gloves not being able to operate the camera on the iPhone with them on. I did manage to get a few different photos however.

Brandenberg Tor

The route covered the main buildings in Berlin that you’d probably want to see whilst there as a tourist and some of the lesser known sights, all the while you get to hear some of the history of the city from your guide.

Berlin Siegessäule

It’s an interesting tour, and as expected, the tour guide gave slightly different facts and figures so even though I did it two years ago, the ride felt different (and there was a slight difference in the routes we took as well, so I guess it kind of was!)

Reichstag

Potsdam Tour

I wasn’t to aware of Potsdam, other than when I went through it on the train to Magdeburg that I saw it had some pretty fancy looking palaces and that I later discovered that it featured the Bridge of Spies, the Glienicker Brücke (Glienicke Bridge), where spies were transferred between the states of East and West Germany.

Yet, cycling around the palace gardens was an inviting tour and getting to see the bridge itself would be good, especially as Id recently watched Bridge of Spies.

The day itself was colder than the first tour and it was forecast rain – something that materialised just as we started the tour! Thankfully, it was a passing shower and it held off for the duration of the tour, only raining (briefly) when we were near the station and the end of the ride.

The ride took us around the palaces of the Prussian kings and the Kaiser. There were some impressive looking buildings there!

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We stopped for lunch in a traditional German restaurant – run by a German brewery (Augustiner-Brau) which turned out to be nicely placed on the tour that we could warm up after the mornings ride! Gloves and hats were a must – there was no snow, unlike the Wednesday when we arrived in Berlin but it was still cold!
What I didnt realise at the time, was that Potsdam was the location where the Allies met to split up Germany after the war in the Potsdam Conference. The tour included a quick tour of the Cecilienhof Palace but we flew round it pretty quickly (as it wasn’t that busy but you also weren’t allowed to take photos without an additional photo ticket!)

Cecilienhof Palace

After the lunch and the stop at Cecilienhof Palace, we moved on to the Bridge of Spies.

Glienicker Brücke

Overall, the ride was good and the rain held off. It was a bit longer than the Berlin one and the group was much smaller – I found that this was much better for speaking to the other members of the group, espeically at lunch where we were able to all sit together on the same table at lunch and therefore we were able to chat to each other. The ride was about the right length and was well organised by the guides. Id happily do another ride with them in a different country as they do have a few shops around the place.

Veloviewer Review

I’m a keen Strava user and have been for some time. I upgraded to Strava Pro last year in preparation for my training for the London Bikeathon but let it lapse after I finished that ride – I couldn’t quite justify the cost of it without a training aim.

However, I found that occasionally I still wanted to access stats that where inaccessible or not shown on Strava and that’s when I discovered Veloviewer.

Veloviewer

Veloviewer has recently started charging £10 a year for the premium features, so I thought I’d do a quick review and summary of the features you get for the money.

Veloviewer uses and links into, Strava. It provides analysis and data that Strava doesn’t offer itself. Strava does the basic information of the ride itself and obviously one of the big attractions is the Strava segments feature – tracking your times against everyone else that has ridden that section of road (or, if you’re slow like me, just comparing your own times) and there are a number of pro only features that Strava offer as well – weekly goal tracking and heat maps being just two of the features.

Veloviewer offers some of the Strava features, such as the heat map, within it’s cost (it’s not quite the same, but they don’t want to tread on the toes of Strava to much). In fact, I’ve been using the heat map for my rides on this blog for a while now.

It’s been a handy tool, that lets me compare where I’ve been across the country – I’m not to concerned at what routes I do regularly (I realise that!) but want to look instead what roads I have covered as I’m always interested where I’ve been.

Extra Stats

Veloviwer offers a number of different stats that Strava doesn’t offer. These stats view your activities as a whole, rather than just the individual activity that Strava seems to do. Some of it is the same information as Strava but presented differently. All the data it gets is from Strava itself, so you’ll need an account on Strava and to upload your rides to it.

The main page you log into on Veloviewer is focussed on you – Strava has a Facebook style newsfeed where activities from your friends are shown in order. Veloviewer is a lot more focussed on the individual, which is no bad thing as Strava deals nicely with the social aspect.

It gives a number of different graphs and figures. The big number on the left is a score based on the segments you’ve ridden and scored against others on Veloviewer. It’s not a figure I pay to much attention to.

The middle is a summary of some of the statistics that are in Strava. These are similar to the stats on Strava that are shown on your profile page. However, these are a lot more visible here than on Strava. This allows you to easily read everything you need to see at a glance.

On the right is a summary of runs – why this can’t be changed to show cycling I don’t know but I have used Strava for running so this is shown there.

Under this are the awards boxes. These are fairly meaningless but try to show you the benchmarks of different rides you’ve achieved, such as 50Km, 100Km, 160Km rides or 4 hours on a bike, 5 hours on a bike etc. They’re nice to see as it’s interesting to see that I seem to do either long rides or short ride – I seem to have less around than 125Km than I do over 150K).

Under that is the one of Veloviewers features and that’s the graphs. A line graph on the left shows your current years against previous years rides and can show distance, elevation, time and count. The right shows a heat map, in the image above it’s my distance per day, but this can be changed to show week, month and even year.

This lets you compare yourself to last year at a glance. It’s a handy tool.

Below that, you have tables of data, allowing you to view your equipment details and recent activities. This is similar to data on Strava, but just in better laid out tables.

Segment Explorer

Strava offers a segment explorer, which lets you browse for segments. This will show you the location of each segment on the map and will demonstrate the change in gradient and the leader board. However, in comparison to Veloviewer, it’s a very basic view. Veloviewer allows you to view the elevation as well as comparing the activities of others.

I must admit, this isn’t a feature that I use to much, as I’m not to bothered about how well I’ve done on segments. Occasionally it’s nice to look through but overall, I use Strava as a way to track totals.

Challenges

Strava offer a number of challenges to help mix things up each month – I’m looking at doing more of them this coming year as I feel it would add something to my riding. Anyhow, whilst Strava can display these on your profile, this is a premium only feature. Veloviewer can display your previously achieved challenges and even shows the ones you’ve entered but haven’t achieved so you can change that for the future.

This is a nice page (though not for me with the large number of challenges not complete!) that lets you view your achievements throughout the year.

Wheel

One of the unique features is the wheel. This feature displays all activities on Strava over a certain time period (default is a month) on a single map.

This is an interesting presentation of your rides and is quite a good view of the area that you’ve been cycling in during the month. The author of the site stated that this was inspired by the Tour De France footage.

Signature Image

This has been at the bottom of most of my posts on this blog last year. The website allows you to tweak exactly what is shown in the signature and we here on the image the data is shown. You. An also change the size. This isn’t really something I need but it’s handy to see at a glance my statistics for the year, even when I’m not on Strava or Veloviewer.

Conclusions

Veloviewer offers a premium service for users at a cost of £10 a year (conversion fees for non sterling users are absorbed by the creator of the site) and offers a number of benefits that are perhaps over and above those of Strava itself, whilst being cheaper.

Veloviewer does offer a free service, but this is limited to only the previous 25 activities on a profile and therefore encourages you to upgrade to allow all your data to be used.

In my mind, it’s worth the £10 a year to give a nice summary of my rides through the year – it’s been handy to plot the graph to show how I compare to the year before in terms of distance. I’ll look forward to using it further in the new year.

Hatfield to Cambridge

So Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK which meant I was off work. I wanted to do a ride but wasn’t sure what to do as I wanted something reasonably long.

Turns out you can plan a ride within 30 minutes on RideWithGPS and set off and go!

I’d been wanting to do a London to Cambridge route for a while now – don’t ask me why, but it seems to be one of those rides you have to do if you live in London (the other being London to Brighton). I also quite like Cambridge as a city, so I thought I’d try and get a ride over to there.

Planning

Planning the ride was actually quicker than expected. In fairness, I didn’t do London to Cambridge, as I started in Hatfield, just outside London – I didn’t feel it was worth getting the train into London, to cycle back out!

I’m also fairly certain that most of the London to Cmabridge routes are further East of Hatfield (I think that a lot seem to go up alongside Stratford, past Enfield and up around Bishops Stortford etc.) The route I was looking at was more westerley than that.

The maps on Ride With GPS are extrememly handy and you’re able to switch between Google Maps and Open Street Map easily, even within the same route plan – which is extremely handy as it seemed on occasion that the OSM route finder wouldn’t route me down a cycle track, but the Google one would. However, the cycle paths are easier to see on the OSM maps and that’s also what my Garmin is running.

Route

The route seemed to be ok – I tried to stick to the cycle tracks as much as possible but these seemed to stop about halfway and then were picked up again nearer Cambridge.

The first part was along the National Cycle Network Route 61 and then onto Route 12.

The nice part about this ride is that it managed to take in the Garden Cities (Welwyn and Letchworth). The Garden Cities were considered at the start of the 20th Century by Ebenezer Howard. His work forms the focus of urban design even today (he was one of the first to suggest zoning industry and residential areas in seperate areas). Visiting one of the Garden Cities shows how good urban planning can result in an area that is pleasent to live in and is open and green.

Welwyn was the first of the ones I came across.

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I like the area and it’s an area that I’m actively looking at houses as it’s not far from Kings Cross by train and has easy access to the countryside. It seems to be an idyllic place to live (though, I hope there are less robots! – Welwyn was one of the filming locations for The World’s End.)

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Passing through Welwyn on the NCN Route 12, you come out onto quiet country roads which take you all the way up to Stevenage. I was impressed with the levels of cycle routes in Stevenage – whilst the views probably weren’t the most attractive, the wide open nature (and relatively free of glass!) paths made for some good cycling. More cities could learn from it’s example of wide open, segregated bike lanes.

From here, I continued up the NCN 12 towards Letchworth. Some of the scenery was good but a bit exposed – I was lucky that I only had wind to contend with and not rain as well.

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I continued along this road and then must have caught up with another cyclist doing a similar route as I took a turn and then saw him again just before heading into Royston.

The road into Royston and the road out of Royston were perhaps the two worst roads on the trip – however, I expected nothing less as I had to make use of an A road to get to the next part. Thankfully, both bits are short but if I can avoid the A10 in future, I’d probably make sure I do!

The roads then wondered about a bit and at times, I thought I was heading in the wrong direction as I was heading in the opposite route to some of the Cambridge signs. However, it wasn’t to bad. There were a fair number of cyclists out and about and before I got into Cambridge, I saw the numbers increasing (I only saw one other Brompton on the ride, he was heading out of Cambridge).

I finished my ride at Kings College. It’s perhaps one of the iconic buildings of Cambridge and perhaps rightly so.

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I wanted to stop for lunch in a pub, however, the issues of cycling alone (and without a sturdy bike lock!) were highlighted and I decided that with the number of people about that I should probably head back. I settled for a sandwhich when I got back to Hatfield. As is always the way, I’d just missed the train and ended up getting a semi fast train back and changing at Hitchin. The perk of living in Hatfield is that the trains are fairly regular.

Overall, I thought it wasn’t a bad ride at all. The first part was nice and mainly free of traffic. The second half (Letchworth onwards) was quite nice as well, though a lot more exposed and a lot less about. I’d recommend it for one of the London Brompton rides (it took me just about four hours) but there did seem to be lack of stops that could be used.

Looking like a touring bike!

So I’ve had the new bike for a while now and I’ve made a few changes to it since then. It’s actually now beginning to look like a touring bike!

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A few things I already had lying around and I’ve added these to the bike, others have required a purchase. The changes I’ve made so far are:-

Saddle

The saddle was the first change – in fairness, I changed this the day after I got the bike as my Charge Spoon is the comfiest saddle I’ve used. I’m sure people say Brooks saddles are good but I’ve never got one and it seems like a pain in the ass (quite figuratively) to wear them in. That, and they aren’t cheap (I paid about £20 for the Charge Spoon!).

Grips

The first major change was the addition of the Ergon GP3 Grips. This obviously required the removal of the default (decent enough) grips that have been installed by Halfords and came with the bike. However, I wanted bar ends and the tatty ergonomic grips I’d used on the previous hybrid I owned meant I didn’t really consider anything other than Ergon for the grips – as Ergon grips came with the bar end integrated into the grip and this would mean I could use an ergonomic grip as well.

These took some setting up to actually sort them out and get them about right for my hands but they seem to be in a good position now – I’d installed the right hand one with the bar end too upright and the grip itself too high up so it was uncomfy in comparison to the left hand grip. With that sorted, they feel really nice in the hand and the bar ends give me help getting up hills and an alternative hand position during riding so I shouldn’t get any hand pains.

Rack

The rack is a Tortec one I’d picked up one from the local bike shop. Can’t comment much more on it, other than to say that I’d bought another one to fit to this but had issues hitting the bags on the pedal stroke upwards so I moved back to this rack (which was fine, now I’ve found the second supporting rod which had been missing) as this allows me to mount the bags higher up which means the issue doesn’t happen.

Bags

After some looking around, I ended up getting an Ortlieb handlebar bag. I’d been toying with one for a while and ended up getting the Ortlieb one after seeing it in the shop compared to the Altura one in the shop. The O bag was far better quality in terms of waterproofing it seemed and in respect to how it worked – the O bar has magnets that allow the bag to remain closed at all times. (Interestingly, I saw that the O bag that Brompton sell doesn’t have magnets but has standard poppers. This seems a bit of a departure from the quality that I expect from Brompton, especially as the Brompton O Bag is more expensive than the non-Brompton specific bag.)

Having used it recently, it’s a decent bag with a sizeable storage amount. Mine is the basic bag, that only contains the bag itself and a carry handle. Ortlieb sell other versions, that includes a divider for the internal space and a map case to put on top of the bag. A detailed review perhaps to follow.

The pannier racks are some Altura ones I’d picked up previously with the rack. They’ve served me well so far but I’m concerned that perhaps with the touring I’m hoping of doing that they might not be able to cope with the amount of kit. They don’t seem to bad in this instance (weekend ride) but I’ve also not got any of the camping gear I’d be using in those.

Misc

Under miscellaneous, I’ve added a extension to my handlebars – a Minoura Space Mount. I picked this up in person at Simpson Cycles (and I was very impressed with their service and would be using again, even if the website isn’t fantastic to use). I required this to use my lights alongside the O bag as this covers up the space where the light would normally go, so I required something to sort it. I saw that Ortlieb do their own adapters for the bag but I didn’t see these for sale in the UK and needed a solution sharpish, so was able to nip to Simposon Cycles during my lunch break.

Overall, the bikes beginning to take shape quite nicely and I look forward to use it!

First ride of 2014

So it was my first ride of 2014 today. I’d been dying to get out on the bike, partly because of my new Garmin Edge 800 but also because I’d been planning a few rides and just hadn’t been able to shake off the flu I came down with on New Years Eve!

Anyhow, I managed to get out today. The idea was to get out and just go for a ride. I’d been playing with Ride with GPS to see how route planning would work with the Garmin. I’d planned a route from Potters Bar to Letchworth Garden City, along National Cycle Route 12.

Planned Route

This route was about 40Km and I thought it would be a good test of the Garmin and also the Talkytoaster OpenStreet maps, as I was using these as the basis of my routing as they’re free.

Well I managed to get out in the morning before the weather got to bad so that was a plus. I decided that I wasn’t going to go quite as far as Letchworth – I wasn’t sure I would cope with there and back again today and due to engineering works, I couldn’t rely on support from National Rail!

Anyhow, so I followed the course fairly well and deliberately went off course at one point early on as I wanted to initially cut straight down to the NCN 6 as soon as I left Potters Bar but I realised the road I would be going down has a flood warning normally so I avoided it and went a different way with the knowledge I could join up at a later point.

Turns out this was probably wise considering the scenes I saw further on my ride! The first obstacle I came across was a fallen tree over the footpath just outside Welham Green. Had to dismount and duck under for this section.

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As I entered Hatfield along the path, the path runs alongside the river and the railway lines. Well, the river certainly looked like it had swollen.

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As can be seen in the two images above, the water had risen right up to the path. Thankfully it was clear and I carried on.

The routing on the Garmin worked perfectly, though I might have a play with it as it did seem a little late giving directions (i.e. it would tell me where to turn when I was directly at the junction – not ideal if I’m at speed!). However, it worked fine other than that and got me to Welwyn, where I decided to head home via St Albans.

This time I wasn’t so lucky with the water! Just outside St Albans, I had to go through a puddle that was up to the crankset of my bike. I ended up with wet feet but made it through intact. After that was fairly easy going.

Must add that I went down the cycletrack/footpath down the side of the A414 and I have to say it isn’t the most fun road to cycle down but at least there is a cycle track there which makes it much safer to use. Means I can get across from St Alban’s easier and that’s a plus.

Anyhow, a nice easy ride to start the new year off with (and 2% of my annual goal target achieved!)