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Bike Gadgets – Lights

December 5, 2018

Another Bike Gadgets post. A quick shout out to Serfas UK.

I have used Serfas lights for 7 years now. I wrote in Nov 2011 abouth my Serfas ‘True 250’ . Alas, sadly the LBS is no longer there – It seems t’internet has taken over the world.

In 2016 my True 250 it took a battering and Leicester based Walkers, who stock Serfas lights came up trumps and put a new rubber clasp in the post!

Sorry to say my bike took a tumble in the dirt last year and the True 250’s mount took another battering – after 7 years of regular winter use. That’s every day, twice x 45mins use, clipped on & off the handlebars twice a day. That’s about 1500 uses x45mins. The light works fine but the mount is shattered and strong glue only lasts so long.

Time for an upgrade!

And there’s no need to break the bank!

Although the internet has its uses, it can’t quite replace a good LBS, and the folks at Future Cycles Leicester always have a good selection of stuff to peruse!

Yes, you can spend! and OK you may want to go night riding at speed in some cavernous God forsaken forest or the-like – but really, for simple commuting, who needs more than 500 lumens? I got by fine with 250 for years.

For less than £40, for me, the Serfas e-lume 500 does the job well!

I cycle for 8 miles twice a day, using shared paths, off the road for ~7miles.

I do occasionally set the light on to it’s highest setting in bad weather for the darker riverside parts of the ride, but for the pavements and short stretches of road, I just need to be seen and the lowest setting is fine.

I have to say, I do sympathise with pedestrians issues about the brightest lights on bikes, and I regularly have to look to the floor as when people on bikes with the brightest lights come beaming towards me (and why flashing!?). I won’t make an issue here, but I do wonder is there really a need for more than 500 lumens on a shared pedestrian path when other people are approaching? Slow down dude, life’s too short to get there early!

Anyway just to say – the e-lume 500’s doing great, and when I had an issue with the strap, the folks at Serfas UK jumped and speedily sorted me out again. Thanks Abi!

All good!

If you’re interested, you can read about my Camera and bone conductor Headphones here:


That was November

December 1, 2018

…and that was also Movember.

Now to let it go.

The first day of Advent.

What can one say about the activity of fashioning a moustache? Cease striving?

A few staff at work did the same, to help draw attention to the Movember charity and it’s concerns over male health awareness. It drew a few comments and laughs. And perhaps made one person think.
Nothing against the moustache – my Papa had a fine moustache all of his fine life and that’s how I fondly remember him. But alas, facial hair is not really me. Of course hair full-stop is not really me, lol. Then again what is me?

We construct an idea of our self. Others see us in a certain way.

How long would it take for a moustached Jules to become the accepted (if unconventional) norm? We build our lives and create our culture.

The things we create are indeed often something to celebrate. Our industries of service, sport, productivity, care, art, science, entertainment, community support etc are what humanity has become. Yes, much falls short of ideal, and perhaps some constructs should be reconsidered and re-evaluated. But yes, there is much to be proud of and to celebrate – any excuse, for a wholesome party!

But perhaps behind the moustaches, under and inside out designs and monuments, is an essence that keeps us alive – is the essence of what matters.

Perhaps behind the accoutrements that we collect and enjoy is something more precious.

This year we’ve experienced untimely illness and the deaths of several friends and acquaintances. We know of challenges near us that highlight the messy side of our world. A reminder that behind the faces and things that become familiar and routine is a fragile humanity.

So as I remove the Mov, at the start of Advent 2019, we pause, breathe, relax, smile and celebrate an essence that’s lies behind every good thing ever created.

Here’s to a more honest humanity, here’s to the stuff behind the creativity, here’s to the essence behind the ambition.

Here’s to the advent of new things.


The Lane, reimagined…

November 10, 2018

This is a lane I sometimes take on my commute…

This is what I do… re-imagine stuff.

There’s the original pic taken at 7am on my way to work…

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To be more porous…

November 4, 2018

Back in 2013, we were all in a different place, and we’ve all grown a tad since then.

This November (2018) I’m practising ‘Movember’: Movember is a charity tackling suicide prevention, mental health, and cancer.

Growing a ‘tash? It will be a meager offering I assure you, but perhaps the ‘practise’ is what counts. Silly perhaps yes, but being mindful of our physical presence, our breathe, our growing essence, might be a catalyst to something more real.

{This post is a lot of waffle… – forgive me I know not what I do!}


There’s nothing quite like daily-life and the juggling of our responsibilities, our fears, and our hopes; the kids, the bills, the community, the salesman, the gifts, the rough-sleepers under the bridge, the rules, yesterday, the rouges, the plastic, the family, tomorrow…  There’s nothing quite like daily-life to illuminate both moments of pride and the many moments that we fail to be what we might wish to be. I fall short so so often.

Back in 2013, relating to #HolyHabits, I wrote that “in recognizing that we fall short, we can stand tall”

The choreographer Agnes de Mille said “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking”

Perhaps in recognizing that we fall short, we can stand larger, more beautiful, in a glorious light.

I wrote before, that growth is an ongoing process. Growth is life. Life can be abundant, chaotic, beautiful and random. You cannot tame a storm, but you can adjust your sails and live through it. Life requires ongoing mindfulness, growth happens. Re-cognition of life creates and promotes further growth. Respect* for life and growth allows us to dance! (*If I might use such an old-fashioned word – courtesy is another.)

Perhaps in recognizing that we fall short, we can stand larger, more beautiful, in a glorious light.

It’s easy to theorise about life the universe and everything. Real practise, cultivation, and discipline might help us create and sense value. Being mindful of our physical presence, our breathe, our growing essence might be a catalyst to something more real. Awareness of our essential position within our environment, our household, and community might be a start. Yes, we will always fall short of perfection, we are essentially raw and wild.

In his book The Journey Home, Simon Parke talks of our ‘essence’ being the truth about ourselves.  Under (or above) the untruthful personality mask told to ourselves, our essence is without culture and time, our essence is possibility… a powerful prowling lion. Simon talks of our unhelpful personality; moulded by distorted cultural needs, expectations and opinions. Our personality is a scavenger living off scraps.

Life is more than our personality. True life is essentially larger, more beautiful, more powerful, more glorious.

Sometimes we come across things in daily life that resonate; vibrate, sparkle, have energy… I love it when I find such treasures.  I recall a respected university art lecturer of mine talked about collecting little treasures and the childlike view of art.  A friend who honestly ministers in the Methodist Church talks of ‘glimpses’, of what she calls God. A similar energy I think.  I recently heard Bono talking about the idea of being “vulnerable, porous and open”.  The word ‘porous’ really struck me.

Perhaps to grow well (live well) we need to be more porous, allowing things in and through. Not grasping, but keeping the hands open. Not clinging but keeping the arms outstretched.

What Antony De Mello said is often true, “wake up”: “…they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. Though everything’s a mess, all is well. …tragically, [many] people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.”  ‘Waking up’ makes space infinite, makes time infinite, waking up creates growth.

As Ezra Bayda said “What happens when we slow down and pay attention? Everything! Innumerable delights are right at hand.”

I love Simon Parke’s illuminating story; put her down at the river bank… stop carrying her.

As Agnes de Mille said “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking”. (And giving?)

The ‘tash will be a meager offering, but perhaps it’s the activity or practice that counts.


Biking Gadgets

October 14, 2018

Ok, I’m not a gadget type of person, and yes, my philosophy is ‘just get on and ride’, but we all enjoy toys.

You don’t ‘need’ all that must-have cycle-stuff that’s papped out but the cycle sites, and you don’t need all that ‘get while you can’ stuff in the Aldi-etc catalogues.  Yes, I went through the phase a few years back when I  got the under-garments, the over-garments, and the middle-garments. There were cycling socks, the cycling shades, cycling gloves and cycling shoe covers, LOL!

Yes, if you are going on a long cycling venture, you will need to kit up with some of this stuff. Yes, all that stuff has its uses, but for most of us who are just riding a bike to work, or to town, then look at people in some other places (remember Europe!?), who don’t even classify it as cycling, it’s just riding a bike!

I cycle 8 miles to work, and 8 miles back, and have done for 8 years. If it’s raining I wear a coat, if it’s cold I put on a few layers and gloves, etc. I don’t usually wear long trousers unless it’s near freezing.  Incidentally, it rains much less than you might imagine. I don’t pelt it, it’s not a race, I am simply riding a bike instead of walking, getting a bus, or driving a car. At work, I change into my work clothes.

So all the bits and bobs, that the cycling culture pedals out, are not essential. But back to gadgets…

Non-essential gadget number 1, the Helmet Camera.

If you’ve read my other bikey posts, you’ll know that I have moved from biking by road to biking by path. Motor vehicles mixed with people-powered transport is far from ideal. Although I ride primarily off-roads, a gadget I have not been able to drop is my helmet camera. Not essential I agree, but since I have been using one I have filmed so much dangerous driving – I’ve become aware, that should the worst happen, it would be my word against theirs, and having it on film MAY give some leverage to may carers or those left behind.

My camera simply records on a loop of about 10 days worth of rides. I habitually charge it each night along with my phone etc. Having a record of some rides is also good for posterity! I am not sure if my Dogcam / Road Hawk Bullet Ride R+ camera is still available for sale, but it was a budget price, and considering it’s used daily and still going after 4 years it’s been well worth the money. You can see footage from it here – RECORDINGS – These are uploaded at a low-quality, the original is really good but they are meaty video files.

Find out more here: Camera

Non-essential gadget number 2, the Bone Conduction Headphones.

Again, I ride primarily a bike off roads – about ~1mile of my 8 miles is mixed with motor traffic. With this in mind, I sometimes enjoy the company of Radio 3 etc in the mornings.

It was an impulse purchase and to be honest I didn’t think it would work, but this relatively cheap budget version works really well! And it’s Bluetooth, so no wires!

Leaving my ears clear to hear anything from my surroundings, the sound is transmitted through the skull, the node sits just on the cheekbones, it really is amazing. Admittedly on busy areas where traffic is heavy, you struggle to hear quieter elements of the sounds but this is to be expected. When away from the motor traffic, what you can hear is great – both bass and treble, voice and music, is clear and has depth.

Find out more here: Headphones

So, yes a lot of the cycle culture kit is not needed but these two toys I use daily, and along with my belt-drive Gazelle, biking to work is a blessing!




Belts, not chains, a year on.

September 22, 2018

It’s been another year, and about ~3280 miles. Last September I switched from my old Specialized bike to a delightful Gazelle Ultimate S8.

I’d consulted the guys at Future Cycles Leicester about a bike:

  • with a quality belt drive, so in needn’t deal with chain wear and maintenance.
  • with quality hub gears for the same reason as above.
  • that would take the rigours of a 16miles a day UK cycleway(lol) commute

Over many years I have discovered that an urban commute, with a chain/gear mechanism, picks up so much muck and dirt that regular clean, degrease, lube etc is essential! This is not great if you don’t enjoy regular bikey cleaning, tinkering, adjusting and all that stuff – also this can be expensive if you don’t keep an eye on your machine or don’t get quality gear. This is not the case with a quality hub and belt setup. You can read about my Gazelle from Future Cycles Leicester, here: Gazelle Ultimate S8.

Over the last year, I have had no issues with my S8. The belt has done its thing and the gears have been a dream. The bike has had two full washes, the belt just needed a rinse with water. The gears have needed no attention.

OK, it takes ~40 minutes not 4 and my whole mantra is to slow down not speed up but hey!

This will be my eighth winter riding a bike to and from work. A colleague said to me recently “I felt for you in the bad weather, but I guess there must be something you enjoy about it?”, and it struck me that it’s been a long time since I thought I must be mad, why don’t you take the car?. Yes, years back, I did think like that! The transition from automobile user to a more pedestrian way of travel is not easy. I guess my habits & rituals have changed my mindsets.

A lot of our reactions and attitudes to life can be down to our perspective and the way we frame things. Yes, it’s easily said. Life throws curved balls and can be horrific. The human condition is a very shadowy thing. But, we can try to culture a language and narratives that focus on the breath, the light, and the essential things that matter.

So if I became President it would be belts, not chains, and low maintenance movement for all. It would be fresh air and free exercise for all. It would be regularly pujas, pauses, thank-yous and sorrys. Yes, there would still be the shadowy human condition, but we might be more in touch with a human spirit that can, with a little help from friends, seemingly move mountainous shadows.


Sunday Mornings

September 16, 2018

I love Sunday Mornings. Space, to stop, pause and listen to relative silence (don’t mention the tinnitus).

I love thinking, and I’m often a victim of the paralysis of analysis. However, I love sensing the glimpse and sparkle of the gap between the building blocks. I love the moment when the information and advice and smorgasbord of culture and consumables tumbles and the Bable tower partially collapses a tad and we a left with something closer to the grounding breath.

I was cocktail reading recently, juggling ideas. “People need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant…” Yuval Noah Harari. Remembering Neil Postman’s ideas “People in distress will sometimes prefer a problem that is familiar to a solution that is not”…  And then Wendell Berry’s ideas where the trees, fields, birds, light (rocks & stones, birds of the air?) become doors to other things; grief, love, amazement, blessings…

Between the extremes that our word illuminates is glorious truth. Like me, we are not all blessed with ‘an extremely sunny temperament’, but inside it all, we can see True Colours. Those of you who know of me, may be surprised by my choice of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good as a threnodic epitaph – turned up loud.

Music is often my touchstone.

I can’t pretend to know much about music but I do love it. I sing in a choir and have played a few instruments, badly. I love the extremes music gives us. I was this week captured by sounds from both ends of the spectrum; by the Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs track ‘Cake of Light’, and then Tchaikovsky’sCherubic Hymn 1’.





Both tracks essentially vibrant in their own way.

Two recommendations: Check out Late Junction on Radio 4. And as a tonic, I love to dip into Soul Music on Radio 4 – often humanly sublime!

Harari says “you have to run faster than the algorithms, faster than Amazon and the government, and get to know yourself before they do. To run fast, don’t take much baggage with you.”  I agree with him “Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy”, but I question the need to run.

Stop, pause, breathe… put down your bed, and walk. As De Mello discussed; all is well, all is well… wake up from the nightmare, to the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. Perhaps.