Category Archives: Cycling

Quick review: Roads were not built for cars

Roads Were Not Built For CarsRoads Were Not Built For Cars by Carlton Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so easily tricked into thinking that the way things are now is the way things always have been. It’s self-centred thinking, of course: My way is the way.

Roads Were Not Built For Cars gave plenty of blows against that approach, for which I am thankful.

This fascinating book gives much insight into roads, transport, and modes of transport – as well as the conflicts that arose as change occurred.

Reid writes about the United Kingdom more than any other place, the United States being a close second. Yet this focus is fine, because the UK and US patterns seem to exemplify what has been seen elsewhere.

That pattern is, in a word, domination. Motor vehicles have come to dominate transport (and transport history) in a way that unhelpfully marginalises all others.

The greatest surprise to me in this history is that roads stopped being public places. Sure, they’re (mostly) not private. Yet roads used to be social places: a mixture of pedestrians, neighbours, business, conversation, play, and some transport.

Cars, though, pushed all else away – onto narrow footpaths, into the new crime of ‘jaywalking’, etc. A common space has been usurped for one group. And it happens again each time I’m on a bike and a driver yells at me, ‘Get off the road.’

Even this famous video ( of San Francisco in 1900 includes car trickery: one vehicle drives past the tramcar-mounted camera again and again, giving an inflated impression of cars on the roads.

Being freed from my own self-focus is helpful in two ways.

Firstly, it makes me watch out for the bullying inherent in power. Speed, motors, and human power tend to push others out. This can happen to me, and I can also be a perpetrator.

Secondly, it frees our minds to consider other ways of doing things. If it was not always so, then it need not always be so. I guess this idea is one of Reid’s aims, since he is a promoter of cycling – a promotion I heartily endorse.

On a different level, it’s clear how some grasp of history is a mighty tool. My Christian trust is in an historical faith. It matters if Jesus died and rose again, and it matters if he didn’t. These are the things we need to find out. And if convinced, as I am, constant attention to the real Jesus of history is a must. If the history of roads and cycling is important – and I think it is – how much more the history of Jesus and his followers.

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ANT+ commissaire tool

OK, here’s my cycling race idea for anyone interested (Garmin, power-meter manufacturers?): an ANT+ tool to aid the job of running a bike race, or any bike event.

Criterium du Dauphine Libere stage 1 - 2012This photo (from a Cyclingtips page) shows a common way of communicating with riders in a race: blackboard and chalk. The information might be the time gap the leading group has to those following, though any useful information could be jotted down.

My idea is to use the modern fancy cycling computers to communicate important information directly to riders.

Many bike computers (like mine, a Garmin 510) can be programmed to have many different data screens. The rider can program what they want to see (before riding!) and swipe to find the most relevant page (while riding).

Importantly, heaps of these computers use the same radio communication system, ANT+. This connects a range of data devices: speed sensor, cadence sensor, heart rate monitor, power meter, etc.

I reckon there’s a place to design a device to communicate with riders. The devices could travel on the yellow motorbike, in the car of the commissaire (cycling referee), or in team cars. Or it could be fixed to a set point, like the start-finish line of a circuit race. Then, when riders come into range, they get direct updates relevant to the current race situation.

This can help them race – they know the time gap between leaders and main field. It could also help safety – commissaires could notify about dangerous conditions, race neutralisation, distance to feed zone, etc. I guess it could also be useful for non-race rides too: mass participation rides like Amy’s Gran Fondo, or the Great Victorian Bike Ride.

This would not replace other communication, because not all people have the appropriate bike computer, but would supplement what already happens.

Just an idea. Knock down its silliness, or take it and run with it – I just wanted to suggest it!



Quick review: Bike!

Bike! A tribute to the world's greatest racing bicyclesBike! A tribute to the world’s greatest racing bicycles by Richard Moore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This has flashes of being a great book on racing bicycles, but often disappoints.

It consists of many short entries on a series of famous brands. They might be bike manufacturers (Bianchi, Flandria, etc) or component makers (Reynolds, SRAM, etc). There’s also the occasional special two-page spread for more detail: such as Coppi’s 1952 Bianchi after the chapter on Bianchi.

That’s all good, an accompanied by plenty of fine illustrations. But the whole is let down by poor execution.

For a start, the number of contradictions within the text shows sloppy proof reading. Within two or three pages you can read three different start dates for some companies. Are any of them correct?

The editors also made a lazy (non-)decision about units of measurement: everything is listed in both miles and kilometres. This makes for awful reading in sections where four or five racing distances are listed in the one sentence.

Further, for a book about classic cycling brands, I think it was a poor decision to include some ‘up to date’ recent technology – poor because they aren’t classics. The spread on Mark Cavendish’s Specialized Venge just reads like a press announcement from three years ago.

I enjoyed this book, but I don’t trust it as a source of information. Hence, two stars.

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The words in my head in a bike race

I race relatively rarely and very poorly. But I have great conversations inside my head. Here’s some of what I say.

During the race

  • Two minutes in and my heart rate is already too high. I hate that
  • I hate this rise in the road. I wish it looked as hard as it feels
  • Stop staring at that rear hub, stop staring at that rear hub, stop staring …
  • There’s always gravel on this bit. I hate that
  • I’m sure my gears were OK when I rode to the start today. Now they’re clunking
  • Perhaps it’s not the gears making that noise – the brakes are rubbing
  • Mouth so dry, bladder so full. How?
  • Is he working hard? Is she working hard? Am I?
  • I hope I get to the turn-around with the rest of my group. I hate getting dropped before then: do I ride the whole course or just turn around and go home?
  • I hate getting dropped after the turn around. Why didn’t they accelerate 5km earlier and save me 10km of riding?
  • Here’s the place to attack, here’s the place. Attack!
  • That wasn’t the place to attack

After the race

  • That was fun! When’s the next race?



User review: Garmin Edge 510

OK, this is a bit odd – I’m reviewing a cycling computer.

I am not even close to knowing all the features of this device. So this is not an expert review, but a user’s view of the Garmin Edge 510 bike computer.

Purchase factors
Here are (some) of things I had in mind that led me to buying this unit, rather than others.

  • I want a GPS computer
    I was using my smartphone for GPS. I prefer to have battery power for making calls
  • I want to measure cadence
    Though far from being a serious racer, I join the occasional club race. Knowing about how I pedal and being able to practise spinning faster are quite useful. This also provides a way to add some interest on days when it’s hard to get out and exercise, though I know I should
  • Bluetooth connection
    I prefer to upload rides via phone, rather than have to get a live computer with USB cable. The 510 model has this, the 500 doesn’t
  • Touch screen
    This is another difference between 500 and 510. It’s much easier to use the screen than find fiddly buttons to scroll through viewing options and settings
  • No need for full maps
    The big brother Garmins (800 and 810) have full GPS mapping. I was not looking for full navigation
  • No need for heart rate
    This may sound odd, because the 510 bundle I bought has a heart rate monitor. I use it a little – but it was a reason I bought the computer
  • Local sale
    I wanted to see and play with a device before buying – and be able to ask for help locally if something went wrong. That is, I wanted a computer I could buy down the road, not just on the internet. I could have gone cheaper via internet, but I purchased at my LBS

Things I like
The computer was pretty easy to set up. This was the first time I’d set up a bike with a sensor magnet on the crank, but it was not as bad as I feared. And the whole unit has no need for wires.

The GPS works very quickly. Actually, the 510 can receive data from two satellite systems: American GPS, and Russian Glonass. (If you want to save power, it’s easy to switch to GPS-only. Or to no satellites at all, for using a stationary trainer.) I’ve been very happy with this part of the computer, knowing that phone GPS has sometimes left me waiting, waiting, waiting. I frequently find that GPS position is set even when the unit is inside my house or under the carport.

Uploading rides over-the-air, though not perfect, is usually pretty smooth.

The touch screen works well, once you adjust to it not being a phone. I’ve seen complaints about the screen being a pain, but all it needs is firm contact. This is great, because I can use the screen on winter’s coldest ride while wearing full-finger gloves. A smartphone-like screen would require bare skin. And frostbite.

I have made use of the capacity to programme the screens. You can display the data you’re interested in: speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, time, elapsed time, power, percentage of maximum heart rate, etc. It’s an easy task to alter what you see, and have a few set screens to use for different types of ride.

Garmin 510

What I don’t use
The computer is much more than an instantaneous read-out. The menus tell me that I can store courses or make some kind of training plan. I haven’t.

The Garmin 510 can connect to a power meter, if you have one. I don’t.

Bluetooth can be irritating, and was especially so early on. I could not get the phone and GPS unit to talk nicely. It bugged me enough that I went back to the shop for advice. They suggested Garmin support, who responded quickly. They tried to be helpful but the basic message of all my contact came down to this: ‘Bluetooth is weird.’ (That’s my summary.) Since then there have been a few firmware updates. These seem to have almost eliminated the Bluetooth problems. Sometimes still the two units sit next to each other, Bluetooth on, not connecting for minutes at a time. Running software version 2.80 (just this week) seems to have made this quirk more common.

( Edit: Bluetooth is worse for me with version 2.8. After a ride I often have to switch on Bluetooth, switch off the Garmin, wait, then switch Garmin on again before out will connect with the phone.)

The heart rate system is irritating, too. Though this was not a major feature I sought, it came with the package. So I’ve tried to use it. The sensor and computer unit connect easily enough. But the readings are inconsistent. Garmin’s instructions tell me to moisten the contact points on the sensor. I always do this, without going so far as soaking my body in cold water. Sometimes it works. Often I see readings impossible to believe.

This week, for instance, I went for a ride I called ‘A Tootle’. I was just rolling around, with no great efforts. But my HR, apparently, was frequently over 200bpm (see below). I don’t think my heart can do that!



Sometimes the HR worked perfectly while assisting juniors but went haywire in the half-hour gap before senior racing (when the information might be useful). If you ever see me riding along and it appears I am adjusting some type of underwear at chest height, please be assured – it’s only the heart rate sensor! And it’s driving me crazy yet again.

This unit has been very good for my purposes. I’m glad I bought it, and it achieves what I want. There are many tech features I don’t tap in to, but those I use almost always deliver exactly as promised.





Bike for Bibles

On 4-5 November, three Little people (Ruth, Nahum & Chris) joined the Bike for Bibles crew assembled at Bright to ride up some hills.

Bike for Bibles is associated with the Bible Society, and raises funds for Bible distribution and literacy. As I write today, the fund-raising page for the whole team of riders indicates a total of $6624. I certainly am thankful for those who have donated through the Littles, so want to say so publicly. Thank you!

For your interest, here’s a touch of information about the two rides we did (the whole team completed four rides – but we were unavailable for the first two days).

Monday – Omeo to Dinner Plain

We drove over Mount Hotham to Omeo, in order to ride back up the hill. Good idea in theory – until we saw it snowing on Hotham and at Dinner Plain. (Thinks, “Did I bring enough warm clothing?”) We left Omeo with no warm-up and straight into the steep part of the climb. The first 9.5km are the most consistently up, though there is a steepish bit just before the finish at Dinner Plain. This ride, though it had lots of elevation gain, felt less like mountain-climbing and more like a very hilly country ride. We saw not one other cyclist coming up from Omeo

Vertical elevation gain: 1816m according to Garmin Connect, or 1979m according to Strava.

Here’s the Strava ride analysis (note: the ride was to Dinner Plain, but two of us went on to Mt Hotham after a leisurely rest).

Here’s a photo from Dinner Plain.


After riding from Omeo

After riding from Omeo

Bright to Mount Buffalo

On day one I got into my own rhythm, but on this day I stayed at a relatively easy pace at the back of the bunch. I’ve ridden Buffalo a few times, and it’s a beautiful trip. Great views, feels like a real mountain climb. And this long weekend there were dozens of cyclists on the road.

Here’s the Strava record:

And a short video of Ruth, about one third of the way up.



Great Vic, day nine

The final day. Completion, with the shortest planned route of all. Also with the biggest group of all: the nine day riders, the three day riders, now joined by those who opted for a single day ride. How many people?

In The Good Oil, the campsite daily news sheet, these figures were given. Nine day riders, 3500. Three day riders, 400. One day riders, 80.

Here’s how the day began for us – slowly.

Although the start to day nine felt slow, we were still in the saddle by 7.30am. Maybe we just felt slow.

Riding across the bridge to Phillip Island was fun, having a lane closed to non-bike traffic. It will be a long time before cyclists get that opportunity again.

The weather was variable, to say the least. Except for the constant SW wind. We had glimpses of sun, spits of rain, and heavy cold water in the face.

The day had the feel of waiting to end. I enjoyed seeing the island for the first time, but today was not the time to hang around and enjoy its attractions.

Some fine riding was had.

Passing the official end of the ride, we took the full route: out to view The Nobbies and back. Here is the view, taken before we all enjoyed the day’s only two kilometres with the wind at our backs.

And how good it was to be re-united with the rest of the Little crew! (Also to see that Catherine’s early arrival meant we were spared the three kilometre traffic jam heading to the finish.)

Final odometer readings.
Chris: 22 687km.
Nahum: 4166.7km.
Ruth: 3652km.

So the final distances are in, though the kids’ computers both had glitches that robbed them of done distances. The numbers are: 619km for me, 540.3km for Nahum (probably 50-55 less than actual), 571km for Ruth (about five below actual). Enjoyable, and a good effort: the source, I pray, of many great memories.

Thanks for reading!

PS I reckon that the Great Victorian Bike Ride feels like Beach Mission, if you’ve ever served on one of them. Work, camp duties, variable summer weather, a day off in the middle, and lots of people.

Great Vic, day eight

Mirboo North to San Remo. The longest stage of the Great Vic, though not as long as if we went to San Remo on the Mediterranean.

A question: what does the Bicycle Network of Victoria (BNV) gain from the Great Vic?

As an observer, not insider, I can imagine a few things. For a start, lots of people riding. In the case of groups (school or friends), it seems there are a good few who have not been regular on a bike.

Also, an event like the Great Vic gives credibility to BNV. They organise a huge event with evident success. When they then speak up about cycling law and infrastructure, they can’t be simply ignored.

I reckon this benefit spreads out: just as the Great Vic had been welcomed by many towns, so more people in those towns might be swayed to view cycling positively.

Another benefit that I have heard of – it may be hearsay – is that big events put on BNV provide much profit. This profit then helps other cycling work. I’ve heard it said that the Great Vic, the Bay in a Day, etc all make money that goes into development. In other words, BNV supports Cycling Victoria (the sports cycling body). I do not know if that’s true. I do know that Victoria and NSW are very different in development: Victoria puts heaps more effort, and paid people, in development.

A related question: how could BNV gain more? (From my limited perspective, of course.)

I could not think of much here. Perhaps I could point out the odd narky ‘helper’ that they should have a word to. (Like the aggro motorcycle cop yesterday who stopped suddenly then yelled at cyclists for not staying left. It was a road only one lane wide, riddled with potholes, and going steeply uphill! Or the very occasional volunteer, usually acting as a marshal, who begins to yell at cyclists for not doing exactly as he/she wants.) But these are quibbles.

More importantly, I think the Great Vic has missed some rider education opportunities. Some school groups have obviously done well in training in road safety and etiquette. Others have been poor – and being poor has reinforced unhealthy riding: crossing the centre lines, riding too far to the right, etc. Of course, plenty of adults are badly behaved too. Some are ingrained in selfish ways, so won’t learn. Yet I am convinced a large number would love to learn to ride better and more safely. I don’t think the Great Vic has done much here.

But time for today’s ride. The first ever ride for both Nahum and Ruth to go more than 100km. Great effort!

Oldest: 22 645km.
Youngest: 3611km.
Middle-est: 4125.4km.

We made sure we stopped when necessary (photo below is from the first rest site). And we had plenty of food.

The first half was quite hilly again, before a definite transition to coastal plain. Lunch at Inverloch was beautiful on the aquamarine waters. Then we headed into the joys of coastal headwinds. All the beautiful pictures are on the camera, rather than the phone, so I might update this post with images once I get home.

I am glad to have completed some home podiatry. Ruth had some pain in her left foot. We narrowed down the cause as her new-ish shoes. Ruth felt the foot was rolling out. We grabbed an old tube, put some under the forefoot and the pain is no more. That’s a win.

Tomorrow, across the water to Phillip Island. Then home!

PS One of these three riders had a shower after each ride. No names will be revealed.

Great Vic, day seven

Quite a short ride, only planned as a 60km trip from Yarragon to Mirboo North. Though the whole trip moves east to west, today’s finish point is east (and south) of the start.

Today we re-joined the Grand Ridge Road, the scene of Tuesday’s carnage. Perhaps we should have used this information to guess that the day would be more difficult than a mere 60km total distance would suggest. There was more climbing than I expected: about 1250m, compared with about 1450m over Tuesday’s 90km.

This was not so hard for me, as I kept with the kids. But their legs felt the elevation.

Plenty of beautiful views, though. Mountain Ash, tree ferns, rolling hills and picturesque valleys. A very pleasant day!


Even the farms along the way were decorated.

Lunch was at the very end, only half a kilometre from the camp. At a very pleasant park in Mirboo North, it looked like the scene of a bicycle massacre.

Mirboo North is very welcoming. Free games and zooper doopers at the RSL, along with friendly locals letting us learn about the area, really set the tone.

Kilometre count.
Dad: 22 535km.
Son: 4016.9km.
Daughter: 3505km.