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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!

 

 

 

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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.

Sports Massage

September 14, 2018

GHMRBusiCardPicS

I just completed a branding job for sports massage therapist  George Himan based in Leicester.  George asked me for a new logo and graphic identity for his business; something “clean, tidy and to the point”.

George provides “a convenient mobile service designed to fit around your busy schedule. A session designed to meet your individual needs. This can vary from full body massage to injury/recovery specific massage”.

After playing with a few options we all agreed on was in fact my first sketch.

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George expects to need cards, flyers and other visual aids in due-course. You can see other material I have done here

 

Fractions Percentages – a visual resource

August 23, 2018

A few years back, while working for schools and public libraries throughout the country, I created a variety of educational bookmarks. Various versions of my measure / fraction / percentage bookmark design were used in many areas. These simple bookmarks were found to be a useful visual numeracy resource.

I have recently reworked the design for a local school, using ‘100 square’ graphics rather than pie-chart graphics. It’s a simple thing that might help children to visualise the concepts.

 

These bookmarks remind me of the happy feedback I received.

You can download a printable PDF of the above bookmark here: Fractions Percentages Bookmark

 

 

Also, I’ve contacted @johnduffty  at Mathsticks.com and recomposed his great Maths Bookmark idea.

Two simple bookmark designs to engage the user with numbers.

John says “the children used the questions independently and were very keen to let us know if they had found an interesting answer, or discovered a ‘fun’ number fact”.

You can download a printable PDF of my design here: MathsBookmarks.PDF

And see a bounty of other maths material at Mathsticks here: Mathsticks.com

Persian Silk Tree

August 15, 2018

Persian Silk Tree – This is one of many we found in the Vendee area of France.

We first noticed the Persian Silk Tree when holidaying in Corfu. We also found it widespread in France. Its proper name is Albizia Julibrissin.

Persian Silk Tree – waiting for the bus in Kassiopi Corfu.

To us ‘Brits’ it might seem quite rare and exotic but in other countries it is widely found as an ornamental plant in parks and gardens. It has distinctive vivid pink and white blooms. They’re like feathers or needles and resemble something more akin to a Dr Seuss character than a flower. The fragrant blossoms attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Its Persian name means “night sleeper”. Its leaves slowly close and bow during the night and during rain. In Japan its name means “sleeping tree”.

I love the idea of a massive vibrant conspicuous tree sleeping.

We liked it so much we’ve put it on the wall.

Sit up and breathe!

August 14, 2018

 

My daughter says ‘there’s no such thing as perfection, only improvement’. I’m told, it’s what her teacher says.

 

The old bars.

You may remember my old ‘Specialized’ bike above gradually transformed from the standard off-the-self bike, to a more relaxed sit-up and breathe kind of thing.  My riding style gradually changed from:
A. Trying to co-exist with traffic, ‘cycling’, riding a bike with a similar driverly attitude and outlook.
to…
Z. Aiming to be more aware of person, place, and surroundings: adopting a more mindful way.

So although my delightful Gazelle Ultimate S8‘* was pretty much perfect, after a trip to France I found room for improvement.

My new S8* adopted my previous Jones Bend H-Bar® 660. However, I still had that slight niggle that I wanted to relax even more.

You’ll see from my random selection of bikes in France, that people abroad generally ride in a more relaxed manner; sit-up and breathe.

Driving home I found myself following a Gazelle with an extended handlebar stem – I decided, that’s what I want!

And so, the great people at Future Cycles Leicester replaced the limited length break and gear cables on the S8 with longer ones, and added a new stem… ‘simples’.

Old Stem…

New Stem…

Boom, boom, and triple boom! Sit-up and breathe. If you can, just ride a bike!

*My Gazelle Ultimate S8, what can I say, an utter delight: read more here.