On yer bike again..and a rant


A good list from James which all car drivers should read. If every one road a bike for a while then we’d all be better drivers (not just a flippant comment, but a statistically proven fact)

Originally posted on Bike Around Britain:

It’s been great getting back on my bike again over the last few weeks, after a significant pause due to travelling for work and being otherwise busy. I turned 39 over the weekend and have resolved to try and manage my work-life balance a bit better, and to get healthier both in body and spirit. Being totally focused on the job just isn’t good for oneself, and actually makes you less productive at work; starting to write my blog again will no doubt keep me motivated.

The last major cycling I did was back in March when I took a holiday in Tenerife with my brother, sister-in-law and their kids. It was a great break, and Tenerife is brilliant for cycling; many a professional team have training camps out there. I hired a bike for a few days and cycled up Mount Teide, Tenerife’s volcano and one of the longest…

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The best (technical) question I think I’ve ever been asked…

Over the thirteen years I’ve been employed as ‘Technical Support’ on various chemical plants and processes I’ve had a good number of unusual requests : What would be the relative stability of iridium verses ruthenium acetate when mixed with soil? Why does the calcium level in our product seem to trend with the extent of local rainfall? What are these cheap carbon monoxide sensor actually made of? Can I tell someone if the black solid coming out of their new plumbing is coming from their old lead piping? The cork is stuck in this wine bottle, do I know clever way to get it out (I did – I used the differential expansion rates of glass (fast) and cork (slow) and heated the neck of the bottle under hot running water).

 But last week I believe I had a question to top them all. “My white horse has poo staining on the skin of his buttocks – what would I suggest to get it off? I’ve already tried bleach, Napisan and oven cleaner.” First let me say I would not advise the application of any of these products to the skin or any animal or any human for that matter. I once worked with a chap you used bleach to remove silver oxide stains from his skin at the end of a shift – it is true that it removed the silver, but it also removed a significant amount of skin (so don’t try this one at home.)

 I wondered if the question came to me because Mrs W is a vet or whether as the senior chemist on site this was a question I would be expected to answer? I like to think the latter, but I guess when my applied biochemistry lectures covered the removal of stains from horses rear quarters I must have dosed off and missed that section.

 In fact advice on the removal of metal / metal salt residues from reactor walls was a relatively common question in my last but one job. However generally this was related to ruthenium or palladium and not poo! However a question is a problem, and a problem can always be broken down and then a solution can be devised by finding the key part of the deconstructed problem. It was fortunate that I had been of enquiring mind when changing the nappy of our son a few weeks ago and was reminded that poo comes in many colours. So my wife being a vet (and thus an expert in all things excreted) I asked, because she was on hand and I’d never pondered the question before in the last 40 years, what is it that makes poo brown? The answer? Old discarded blood cells. So of course the reason behind the colour of blood is the iron in the hemoglobin . So my question was really – how can you solubilise an iron salt impregnated into skin to be able to wash it out? It is clear that the use of bleach (hypochlorite) or nappy cleaner (peroxide) was never going to help.

 So I asked myself – how would I remove iron salts from a reactor? Nitric or hydrochloride acids would both be good choices, but in my case this would be rather bad news for the horse. Then I thought again, what could I use to complex the iron and render it soluble? Well that is something of a schoolboy question when you think like that – EDTA would surely be a great choice. I recall my Ph.D supervisor demonstrating some iron chemistry in a champagne bottle in a lecture and getting his reagent levels a little wrong a coating the first two rows of the lecture theatre in iron oxide – and then a number of us in the lab having a lot of buckets of clothes to clean on his behalf, we used EDTA solutions. To bring this ever lengthening story to a close – it worked. The horse is fit to go to a show in the summer and the groom made me a proposal of marriage she was so surprised that I had suggested something that worked. Of course I politely declined, but figure this was the most effective problem solving I’ve done on site this month and the most obscure question I’ve get been asked in my role as Technical Support. Do keep them coming though…

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The next tour – “Cycling the Spine of England”



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Thinking of swapping the trike for one of these. Need to test ride first though.

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Hebrides – June 2014

This gallery contains 8 photos.

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First set with my Cajon

If you follow this blog regularly you could be forgiven for thinking that my one and only passion is cycling, and the uber-niche of recumbent cycle touring at that. My recumbent high racer is fairly new and thus something for which a beginners enthusiasm might be expected to abound. But I’m not just a cyclist – I’m also a Christian and a drummer. These two loves come together when I provide percussion to one of the bands which plays at our church.

I first took up playing drums around 15 years ago, in an attempt to be ‘part of the solution’ to a church stuck in the 1850’s in my home town of the time in Hertfordshire. I’m unsure where I picked up the following principle, but it is one that shapes me, that being ‘You only have the right to complain if you are prepared to help do something about the problem.’ Life moves on and as resident or guest drummer I’ve played with at least six different worship bands since then.

What have I learnt over this time you might ask? (i) That it is better to play with a nice group of people, than a great group of musicians (and if you can combine the two then that’s really good). (ii) It takes 45 minutes to set up and ca. 30 min to break down and pack a rock kit. (iii) One accessory that any drummer needs is either an estate car or a van!   But as of today, whilst (i) remains true, it may be that (ii) & (iii) are not necessarily true any more.

And so when get to the subject of this post – my first set with my Cajon. Firstly here is a picture.


If you are not familiar with the Cajon as an instrument read this. If you want to know more about the instrument in the picture then look here as well. Whilst you may think as I used to – what can be so great about a plywood box? – let me enlighten you. My DG Bravo is a bass, snare, toms and rim shot all in one, 4 kg box. The tonal variety of a Cajon is simply amazing. Traditionally they would not have been strung as mine is, but this gives me a sharp ‘rock kit’ snare sound and well as an authoritative bass. It really is so much fun to play. I play traditional ‘rock kit’ 4/4 and 8/4 patterns on it, and it really lends itself to this. Interestingly it is also excellent for double bass pedal beats too. My current band is rather different to those I’ve played with before – as well as guitar, keys and harmonizing singers, we also have a violin and recorder. This give a rounded sound with the option of the solo voices of the violin and recorder to add zest to a song. Also, they are a great crowd and forgiving of a self taught drummer who cannot read music.

So how was my first outing with the Cajon? From the number of positive comments from the band and from the congregation I’d say it was a pronounced success. I too loved the whole experience. It is amazing to think that my small plywood box could fill a 300 seater church, but this it did. One thing that led me to the DG Bravo was the fact that the tone was as good when played lightly as when played hard and loud. This is key in a church worship music setting where the tone of our music needs to be anything from reflective to driven, punchy and powerful.

Turn up, unbag the Cajon, sit down it and just play – how refreshing is that, swapping a 45 minute set up time to 10 seconds and swapping a car full to a simple shoulder bag. The Cajon, short on hassle, big on sound – it really rocks!

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A Grand Ride-Out

Today the forecast was for sunshine (an improvement on what was predicted on Friday) so what to do?  Gloss paint our front door or go for a ride? Now much as a love seeing a DIY job complete, there was really no contest.


Our route out was by the direct easterly path shown above, which had us in Settle by 1030.  Time for tea – and for the lactose intolerant, something in place of cake – a bacon and black pudding butty :-)  A fresh nappy for Weston Junior and it was time to hit the road again.  Since the first 17 miles had gone well we added a loop onto our return journey.  What a good move that was.  Whilst the climb took us to around 900 feet at Tosside, the gradient was always kind to us – good news when you are towing Junior in his trailer.  This proved a good spot for lunch.  Just a hamlet but with both benches and a loo.


The views from Tosside and from the road linking this to Holden were simply stunning. The Forest of Bowland is a truly lovely place, but this exceeded the norm.


In total the route was 37 miles, with just 1300 feet of height gain – finding a route as flat as this around here is an achievement in itself, but the gentle gradient up to 900 feet was icing on the cake given the views it afforded.  A great day…

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The Dales Cycleway – a first for the Metabike / a first for Family Weston


We are now back from the long anticipated first family cycle tour – the first for Weston Junior at 7 months old. Also the first pukka tour on the Metabike.

The Route

For three of the four days we followed the Dales Cycleway, a 130 mile circular route taking in most of the Dales and many of the fells between them too. Since we wanted a four day route I added a 35 mile extension into South Eastern Cumbria which abuts Dentdale to the north.

 The Kit

The Metabike, of which much has already been said on this site, was my steed. To add to the challenge, Weston Junior was in a Chariot Trailer behind me. Add to this the clothing and waterproofs for all three of us and I had a good load to haul.


The Weather

Mixed – from poor to dreadful!  We were blessed with long periods of heavy rain – with only two significant dry periods during the four days – Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon.

The Conclusions

We have ridden the Cycleway before, in 2011, and it was again lovely in the views it offered and the quiet, yet well surfaced nature of the minor roads it covers. My extension into Cumbria was at least as good as the formal route, and would have been truly spectacular had it not been for the rain. That day started with a good view of the Northern fells of the Dales, and then climbed gently to the top of Tan Hill. As the climb started, so did the rain…  For those not ‘in the know’ Tan Hill is the site of the highest pub in the UK. By the time we reached there at around 1:30pm both adults were soaked and all three of us starving hungry. Luckily the welcome, the open fire and the food were all hot and generously proportioned.

Highlights of the four days were riding across Kengarthdale Moor and then down into Swaledale, and then riding through Coverdale, over Cam Head and down into Kettlewell. The wet weather on the other sections did dampen our spirits however.  Weston Junior was fine in his Chariot, with this keeping out all of the foul weather we received which was, believe me, impressive.

The other new member of the team was my Metabike, and this proved to be the ideal touring bike that I hoped it would be. Supremely comfortable and putting me in a position where I was by default looking up at the view, rather than down at the road. My rubber seat dampeners continued to work well, and with panniers on board I found the rider smoother still.

What it did teach us however, was that despite training, a great bike and packing light, carrying all our gear in addition to towing a trailer was too much for me when faced with long and significant gradients – a major feature of much of the route on all but day three. Mrs W has a weak knee so I have always played the role of ‘pack horse’ on our trips as it allows me to feel well worked and her to ride without pain – a plus point on both accounts. However 20 kg of trailer (Junior included) plus around 10 kg of gear was just too much even for just 35 miles in hilly country. If it were flat it would be OK, but then there would be no views to enjoy – and there’s no fun in that! So in June we plan a series of day rides radiating from one or two base camps. The camping (vs. B&B’s on this trip) will also allow us to make our plans last minute and choose a time of better weather too. So our trials were a cloud, but one with a silver lining – and we all know that a silver lined cloud is a cirrostratus and thus not one to yield rain.


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Bicycles – why you may need more than one…

Bicycles - why you may need more than one...

By Dave Walker – http://www.cyclingcartoons.com/more-than-one-bicycle/

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Touring Metabike


Today I went for my first ‘dry run’ with panniers on the Metabike.  I was delighted to find that they had no impact of the balance of the bike – though as good as a recumbent is, it was not gravity defying so our Lancashire hills were a little harder with the load than without.  The Radical bags worked well and didn’t slip down at all despite being simply slung across the seat.  Putting the straps under the seat pad must have helped since they were then pinned down by 77 kg of rider :-). In May we will go for a four day ‘mini tour’ of the Yorkshire Dales with the addition of Weston Junior in his trailer behind.

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