Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dee J Harmon

I am really pleased to share something about Dee J Harmon, good friend and keen cyclist.  I've known Dee since the 1980s - first as a mechanic and then as a friend and a quaint bike shop in England was the common denominator.  Dee has a natural feel for bikes, easily picking things up, knowing how things worked and just having the right knack.  Amongst his repertoire is wheel building which I think is like an art form when in the hands of a skilled builder like Dee.

Dee, you clearly like riding bikes - how did it all start? 
It is hard to pinpoint when the love for cycling started for me, I have had a passion for working on bikes since my early teens.  I have never had a mechanical problem on a bike which I couldn't take care of. As a very young youth I would ride my Schwinn Stingray every where; didn't matter how far.  It was partly for transport which was used in delivering news papers on a 26' wheel Schwinn paper rout bike called a (Heavy Duty) through many teenage years. 

In 1977-79 I worked in one of the biggest bike shop in the area of Sacramento CA. My Love of cycling really started while living in England although it was nearly all for my transportation. I had the fortune to work in a Bike shop in England and was able to have a great time there learning a lot and building lots of wheels for customers. And now have worked part time at a bike shop from 1999 to present. 

What bikes do you have rightnow?
As for the bicycles I have now, one high end road bike, a touring bike brought from England, a hybrid bike with an 8 speed rear hub, a mountain bike brought from England, and I have a Schwinn collection of cruisers and 20' Stingrays plus a few restored ones.  None of my my bikes are aluminum or carbon fiber.  It's al total of 16 bikes and I may not be done yet!  

Some of the best times when I am the most content is when I am off on a cycle ride and with no time limit and no one to answer to.  

Tell me about the cycle scene like in California.  Are you all roadies, mountain bikers or .....?
Well I remember when Lance Armstrong was winning the Tour De France 7 years in a row and road bike sales took off. .Mountain Bikes have always been popular, and plenty of places to ride off road.  The Sacramento area has a lot of paved bike trail for road bikes and much more bike ways have been added in the last five years and you can pedal many miles with out being in any traffic.   But for now,  Road bikes and Mountain bikes, I would venture to say they are somewhat even here in Northern California.

Truthfully road bikes may have the edge.  That is if you add in all Hybrids and bikes only used on the roads and paved bike paths.   For me,  I would go mountain biking once a year and the rest of the time road only, as I sure did my share of off road riding in England of which has very fond memories.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Improve your running form - run with your eyes closed!

This is not as crazy as it sounds, providing you can run on a beach or some other wide open space, for obvious reasons.   I tried this a few weeks ago while when visiting my parents who live by the sea - an early morning run there is great.

What does it fee like?
Strange, first of all.  But it makes sense after a bit.

Try and find out for yourself.  I was more conscious of my body taking strides and knew exactly how my feet were falling onto the sand.

I stopped after a minute and looked back.  I could see my footprints in the sand and my path was far from straight.  I tried again but paid more attention to running with a bit more "precision"

What happened?
After another minute or so I again stopped, looked back.  This time I could see I had run in a straight line.  It's a good way of examining for yourself something about your running form, how in-tune you are with your body.

Anything else?
Yes, try it for yourself but pick the right place!  For me it was amazing to do this and concentrate on my running form.  If you can, look behind you to see if you have run in a straight or curved line.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Where are my blog readers?

This shows a typical days statistics of who is visiting my blog.

Lately I've noticed lots of hits from the US and I can't help being curious about this.

PLEASE can you leave a comment and tell me where you are and maybe something else of your choice?

Thanks in advance!


Sunday, 20 November 2011

First 2000 miles on Thorn Audax

In marking this milestone, I could talk about the frame and the components but instead I thought I'd reflect on some figures lying behind the 2000 miles.  Before I do so, I'm disappointed in myself that I have only covered these miles in 11 months and you might remember I was off the bike for several weeks having injured my hand (and it STILL hurts but less so).

Calories, energy
2000 miles at an average of 14mph = 142 hours of cycling
142 hours using 400 calories per hour = 56800 calories
Knowing there are about 95 calories in a banana....
56800 calories divided by 95 = 588 bananas needed
(that means a banana will fuel me more 3.4 miles)

The bike cost, in round numbers, about £1000.
I estimate that half the miles were purely for leisure.  The other 1000 miles were in commuting and where I left my car at home.  Using the HMRC mileage rate of 45p per mile, means I have saved £450 in petrol and running costs.  At this rate the bike will have paid for itself after 5000 miles!
I've had a couple of punctures, resulting in using a couple of patches and a new inner tube.

De-stressing reflective times
A sense of well being, independence
Three great rides with my friend Wallie
Environmentally friendly
Sometimes faster than driving to work
It's becoming a good "friend"

Thorn Audax mk3 our first 1000-miles l

Saturday, 19 November 2011

New membership with DW Sports

I've decided to re-join DW Sports as I'm just not getting the opportunity to run with the short days drawing in.  Apart from an early morning run on Saturday and Sunday, I'm just not getting the miles in.

I have some mixed feelings about re-joining DW Sports.  On one hand it's an expense I'd rather not pay, on the other it is a small fee for staying in good shape through the winter.

It turns out to be a good time to join with "seasonal" promotions going on.  They have waived the normal joining fee of £17.50 (you get nothing for this, it's DW Sports way of extracting some more money) and I get January free because of the 12 days of fitness for £12 offer.  It took me a while to work it out but it looks like I'll save just under £53 on the normal fees.  Plus there's a public sector discount of £4.00 a month (just over 10%).

While I like to save this money, it again seems daft to me.  Why should public sector workers be favoured?  It's true that we all serve our communities well and often in ways that are unknown and unappreciated.  It's also true that equivalent private sector jobs often command higher salaries.  What about unemployed people, others on a low wage, self employed people?  The list goes on.  Seems a bit discriminatory to me but I won't complain too much as it's in my favour!

Actually joining was a bit of a faff this time.  First time I went and asked to join, I was asked to show some form of photo ID, which I didn't have on me.  I returned the next day with my ID card and was told it had to be a passport or driving licence.  So, seeing as I only have one of those old fashioned paper licences, I had to dust off my passport.  Third time lucky!  I was able to join and I couldn't resist asking why the fuss over a photo ID.  The assistant said it was "company policy" and I asked why, what was behind that.  She didn't have any idea at all.  Fair enough, she was following instructions but it did seem disappointing she didn't know.

Enough of the waffling around, I think(?) I'm looking forward to some good all-round work outs, swims and exercising through the winter months.

See also:
DW sports fitness review

Friday, 18 November 2011

Top tips for new runners

On a recent run I spotted a couple of other runners who were clearly in the early stages.  It made me smile as I remember being like that.  It got me thinking of a few tips for new runners:

Do buy some running shoes from a proper running shop.  Why? So you know what kind you need and lower the chances of being injured and then giving up before you have even started (almost like I did!).  How many times do you hear people say "I can't run because I have bad knees"?  Having the wrong shoes is a serious issue.  Just having a white pair of sports trainers with soft soles is not good enough.  Ideally you should find a shop that can carry out a gait analysis and be staffed by someone with some expertise.  If you can, get some socks at the same time following the recommendations by the shop assistant.

Don't bother with special clothing at this stage; you don't really need it.  That comes later, if you want the "look".

Do remember the immense benefits of running which can be amazing - physically and mentally.  Always good to bear this in mind if you're feeling discouraged.

Do you need to talk to your Doctor? Only you will know the answer to this but might be worth having a general health check at the same time - blood pressure, cholesterol etc.

Don't run too fast.  I fell into this trap and I think it is quite common.  I felt I had something to prove but just put this aside in your mind.  To get the pace right, you shouldn't be completely out of breath.  Instead you should be able to say a sentence at a time and maybe have a quick blast for a short while once or twice on a run.

Don't feel you have to run all the time.  If you are completely new to running or not in good shape, there is nothing wrong in starting out with a walk, then a jog for a few minutes, then walking again and then a gentle run for a minute or so before finishing with a walk.  Gradually increase the distances and times you spend running.

Don't take a water bottle as I don't think you need this, especially when starting out.  Instead have a drink beforehand and when you get back.  It is like carrying a sign which says "New Runner".  Even on my regular 7.5 mile runs I never think of taking a water bottle.  Don't worry about sports drinks either.  I don't believe you need these, unless you're covering long distances and need refuelling.

Do rest between runs - maybe go out 3 or 4 times a week, giving your joints and muscles a chance to become used to what you are asking them to do.  Try running every other day, this suited me in my early days.  Don't be discouraged if your legs feel a bit achy the following day: this is normal and a sign of your body repairing itself and becoming stronger.  Just make sure you build up gradually and (this is really important) you don't over do it!

Do plan your routes starting off with maybe half a mile and no more.  Gradually expand your range but avoid hills if you can at this stage (hills become welcome feature later!).  I valued running on something softer than concrete when my joints were getting used to the new strains.  Depending on where you live, try running on some grass, a beach or a dirt/gravel or a woodland trail, you'll find this less punishing.  Be careful if the ground is rough or bumpy.

Related post:

Reasons to run

Friday, 11 November 2011

Tejvan Pettinger

Tejvan - 2011 National Hill Climb Championship
I know I am not alone in following the excellent Cycling Uphill blog by Tejvan Pettinger and have been for a while now.  When you reach the end of this post, take a look around his blog - you'll find a wide variety of posts and articles all within his cycling world.

There are, I am finding, many things positive about personal blogs.  They are a chance to follow an individual; their progress, the twists and turns, almost getting to know someone through what they have to say.  I find myself thinking that if I could put the clock back, chances are I'd fancy some competitive cycling, especially in the light of my half marathon times achieved as a runner.  Whenever I click onto his blog I find myself thinking "I wonder what it's about today" as it could be a race report, a review of a bike or a bit of kit, perhaps some personal observation or simply a few photographs.

Tejvan seems to be getting a fair following, judging by the number of comments and it almost looks like a fan club is starting to grow.  And with good reason judging from some of his results below.  I quite like the banter which pops up occasionally in the threads of comments (I might even have fuelled some of this myself!).

I was keen to find out more.  Here's how the conversation went:

Tejvan, you're clearly an accomplished cyclist, where did it all begin? 
I began cycling aged 15. At the time, I was mainly interested in doing long rides. I joined a local cycling club (Otley CC) and on Sundays we would go out for long 7-8 hour rides and complete 100 slow miles around the Yorkshire Dales (with quite a few cafe stops); it was the traditional British club run. As a teenager, I did one 10 mile time trial (30mins) and  two hill climbs, but wasn't any good. At university (Oxford University CC) I did a bit of cycling, but never really got round to racing. Then due to knee injury and other factors I stopped cycling almost completely. I didn't restart until I was 26. That was when I started racing regularly, and to my pleasant surprise did quite well.
With cycling in mind, can you tell me what's in it for you? 
 I think I enjoy training and racing. I've always loved cycling, so taking it to next level and racing seemed the obvious thing to do. Also, I like going to races to meet similar people and see what you can do.

In other words, what drives you to do all that training? 
I enjoy the training nearly as much as the racing. I like stretching myself and pushing yourself to your limits. It's hard work, but you get a feeling of satisfaction after riding.

What about other kinds of cycling? 
I commute into centre of Oxford, which is really very different kind of cycling. It's not so much getting fit as safely negotiating the roundabouts and cars! I think a lot about optimal transport systems, it's a shame we can't do a lot better, because transport could be really good - if you provide the right infrastructure.

I also enjoy long rides for the scenery. But, ironically often only do this in winter, as in summer my focus is racing. I've never got into off-road riding, perhaps because I already have 6 bikes, and don't have space for any more.

Wow six bikes!  Do you like the technical and tinkering side of cycling?
Yes, and no. I struggle with bike maintenance and often end up taking to shop. I love it when bike works well; but when it doesn't, I'm not very good at making it work.

Does this mean you give up training during the winter, or maybe just taking it a little easier?
I do more miles, but less intensity.

What is the greatest highlight or achievement from your cycling career so far? 
2011 was a good season winning 20 races out of 30. Also finishing 4th in National 100 Mile TT championship (2005) and national hill climb (2010) was good, and hopefully one day will be able to finish a little higher too!

Do you have an embarrassing moment you would care to share on my blog? 
Plenty. Like the time I took by bike 200 miles north, jumped on bike, started pedalling and realised the pedals were back in Oxford. Or the time I forgot front wheel. I also once forgot my helmet when visiting parents, but my mother likes me to ride one. So I spent a few days training in Yorkshire with my aero time trial helmet, which looks silly at the best of times, but especially when riding through the middle of towns.

My kids want me to ask you a question.  What's your record speed?  Have you ever been stopped for speeding?
I've gone over 50mph a few times down from fleet moss in the Yorkshire Dales. It's great fun. Can't say I've ever been stopped for speeding. 

My own blog touches on staying fit to maintain my physical and mental health, especially dealing with the pressures of work.  Does this strike a chord with you at all?
Yes, I think cycling is good for both mind and body. I spend a lot of time working on computer, and cycling provides a very good balance. You definitely notice difference when you can't go out and exercise.

Tejvan - now that's an unusual name, what's behind it?
Tejvan, is a name given to me by my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy. He gave names to some of his students to reflect the qualities of their soul. Tejvan means enthusiasm, dynamism and self-giving.

Thank you.

Link to Cycling Uphill: click here

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Montane featherlite marathon jacket review

Here's an early first few impressions of a jacket I recently bought.  To be honest I'm a little disappointed in the jacket and in myself for buying it.  I bought it on impulse: something I only very rarely do.  I was after a lightweight dual purpose jacket I could use for running and use on the bike.

Plus points:

  • really bright day-glow yellow, with a reflective trim
  • just £45 (and perhaps this is where the problem lies)
  • complete with a really useful stuff sack which is well made and has a useful Velcro strap
  • nice slim fit but as it is not cycle specific the tail doesn't come down too far
  • the elasticated sleeves are long enough for cycling
  • very light; the label says <150g / 5oz for the medium size

So what am I about to whine about?  Well, it doesn't seem very breathable.  One day I rode to work and worked hard keeping up a brisk pace and I was wearing a cotton polo shirt underneath.  The sweat was "significant" and once again I'm thankful to have an office for myself.  On thinking the polo short caused the problem, I wore a couple of thin wicking layers and the problem persisted, although less so.  Perhaps I'm asking too much of a basic jacket? On a practical note, there's not one pocket.

These are my first impressions and I haven't even used it for running so I might need to update it later.  I'm not impressed, I wish I'd done some research and got something better.

My cycling in the rain guide

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Running through the mist

Autumn mist on a nearby trail
I had a short, gentle run this morning and, for once, had the good sense to take my camera.  I just love these early morning mists where everything looks so quiet, peaceful and mysterious.

Work is on my mind a lot again, perhaps because I have not been running since last weekend.  I have some big questions in my mind which I am trying to work through - should I take a career break, or a career change or maybe I'm where I am "meant to be"?  This morning's run was too short to work through these questions but it did loosen up my muscles for a longer run tomorrow morning - as usual I'll be running at daybreak with even fewer people around on a Sunday.

Running is a brilliant time for reflecting on things and longer more intense runs are sometimes inspirational for me.  Maybe that's what I need for tomorrow.  Nevertheless running is proving good for me physically and mentally - and I know there's a certain dependency going on.  Being addicted to running or cycling doesn't seem to be such a bad thing, compared to other addictions that spring to mind.  It sets me up for the day very well.

Just as a brief change of subject and to wrap this post up, I was both amused and a little worried as I came across some cattle unexpectedly this morning.  I think we surprised each other and thankfully they were too cold to get too worried about me, so I took a photograph and ran for it!

Oh, one more thing.  At the time of writing my Blogger template is using one of the new dynamic views.  I have mixed feelings about this and might switch back to the old one but I really want to know what my readers think.  For me it is showing the real number of page views with 200-300 hundred a day, which is significant up on the old template.  Please leave me a comment if possible.  Thanks, Doug.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Do you like the new Dynamic Blog Template?

As you can I decided to try out Blogger's Dynamic Blog Template - I thought it was worth a try but I've got some mixed feelings about it.

Apart from Adsense all the gadgets have disappeared.  I really miss my list of running and cycling blog links, plus I know they benefited from some traffic via Ramblings of Doug.  I quite like the way it works in switching between the different views.

A couple of positive things - page views have quadrupled today (shot up from about 45 a day up to 200+) which apparently is more accurate.  Secondly, I can always switch back if so desired.

Please leave me a comment - I'd love to hear from you on this.

Late November - I have abandoned the Dynamic Template.  Although it showed I was getting over 7,000 page views a month, it just didn't look like the blog I wanted.  No gadgets, no easy links to other blogs, so I've gone back to a conventional template (still playing with colours though!).  This template's stats indicate a lower readership for some reason.

Comments gratefully received.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Autumn cycle ride in the Cotswolds

I have been looking forward to today's ride for several weeks; always nice to have something like this in my diary, an excellent anti-stress measure.  Meeting up in Burford with my good friend Wallie, in the middle of the Cotswold Hills is ideal as we arrive from different directions having driven about the same distance.

We had a very pleasant and easy-going ride of just over 30 miles.  Planning the route was easy - circular tour, tail wind for the last part, avoid main roads and avoiding hills (tricky in the Cotswold HILLS, Wallie).  And so we were off, ambling down country lanes.  We did all the usual "catching up" concerning work, family, holidays and so on. While all the chatting and gentle pedalling was taking place, we realised it was the ideal time to see the autumn colours, just as the leaves were starting to fall.  At least I've got some in colour, as I am getting the black & white bug again.

When you know someone as a good friend for three decades, you can sometimes think alike.  Just as I was remembering our last ride together (click here) and the puncture I had, Wallie asked if I was planning to have another puncture today.  Naturally I said no, with a reminder that we're not superstitious!

Thankfully the roads we chose we quiet with only the occasional car, tractor or van.  Even better we saw the occasional cyclist - each friendly enough as we passed each other.

Another lovely cycle ride Wallie, thank you.  No punctures, not even an infamous "short cut" or anything to detract from the lovely quiet autumnal  day.  Perhaps my only regret was it went by too quickly but at least we'll have a chance once again next year.

Brooks Vapor 9 - early days review

Brook Vapor 9 mens - view 3
Brooks Vapor 9 running shoes; about £75
I got a pair of these new running shoes a couple of weeks ago as my Saucony's are wearing out (I like the idea of overlapping to extend their life).  My first impressions, based on just one run were fantastic.  Now a few more runs, I'm not so sure....

They seem to have settled down a bit now but they're still okay.  A couple of observations which might be useful to bear in mind:
  • Size: when I got them the shop recommended going up half a UK size.  This proved right for me.
  • Grip:  I noticed when running on damp tarmac the grip is much less than it should be.  My feet were almost slipping from under me!  Could be some surface finish needs to get worn off.
January 2012 - stop press!
I have just clocked the Ethical Consumer Guide and seen Brooks have the worst rating - so I won't be buying these ever again unless they improve drastically.  Saucony, who I have previously commented on for doing well with supply chain ethics are my first choice.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Cycle Seven - a birthday blog

Earlier this year I found the Cycle Seven blog:

Today is their second birthday and please do visit their blog and have a look around.  They'll take you on gentle ambles or maybe a more ambitious trek, plus showing a bit of cycle maintenance.  There's also a nice bit of banter in the comments from time to time.

One of the things I like about it is with it being so down-to-earth; it's not pretentious in any way.  The Cycle Seven group are simply a group of cyclists who enjoy a bit of blogging.  They all seem to live in different areas but have all met up having got to know each other through their blog.

Hey, if you like the look of their blog and enjoy cycling yourself, why not offer to be one of their guest bloggers? Food for thought....?

Happy birthday Cycle Seven!