What Happened to My Bike?!!

One day a cyclist chained their beloved bike to the rails outside Plymouth bus station.  For some reason they didn’t come back to claim it.  If you have read my post about a car becoming obscured by parking tickets near the office you might draw the same conclusions here, that the owner might be scratching his head wondering where he left it, in a coma or dead.

Whatever his condition he probably won’t want it back now anyway.  In an effort to reduce the weight of the bike and improve its performance the local populace has been pimping it.  Over a period of a few days they have removed all the unnecessary and weighty items like: tyres, inner tubes, wheels, gears, saddle, seat post, handlebars, stem, pedals, cranks, brakes and even cables.

All that remains, without the enterprise of removing the lock, is the forks.  I wonder how long they will last?

How to Re-Route Using a Garmin 800

The technique described below may work in a similar way on other Garmin models and on other sat navs and navigation devices but they have not been tested.

What do you do if you are navigating a route or course using your Garmin 800 and you get lost? Perhaps you lost concentration and suddenly realise that you should have made a turn and are now miles away from the route.  Do you retrace your steps?  Or should you use the ‘recalculate route’ function?

The answer is probably neither. 

There is probably a quicker way back to your intended route than following back the way you have just come.  If nothing else, retracing your steps is demoralising.  But you shouldn’t use the recalculate route option either.

When I first started using a sat nav I thought that if I got lost and rerouted then the sat nav would take me back to the closest part of my loaded route, after all, if I was using a paper map that is what I would do. Unfortunately the sat nav is not that sophisticated: it will simply take the point where you are and your final destination and then plot a new route between the two, based upon the settings you have given it (things like avoid highways, avoid tolls etc..).  This is unlikely to be the same route you loaded, especially if you are on a circular route.

So how can you navigate back to the route without losing the original navigation on your route?

Step One

Flick through the screens on your Garmin until you locate the map screen.  Zoom the view out by clicking on the ‘-’ symbol until you can see your route.  By eye locate a point on your route where you could re-join it.  Then zoom in on the point using the ‘+’.  You will probably have to move around on the map if you are some distance from your route.  To do this click on the ‘arrows’ symbol and then drag your finger around the screen to move the map.

Step Two

Once you have located the point where you would like to re-join the route and zoomed in to get sufficient detail, press that point on the screen with your finger.  A large pin should appear.  You can drag it around if it is not quite in the right place.

Step Three

Now press the location name box or the symbol with three lines at the top of the screen.  A new screen will appear giving a grid reference for the point and the distance to it (in a straight line).  Click on the Go button at the bottom of the screen.

Step Four

The sat nav will now navigate you to the selected point.  Once you reach that point and re-join your original route the sat nav should then automatically continue navigating along that route.

You can also use this technique to navigate around impassable obstructions, such as closed roads (although few are closed enough to stop a determined cyclist) or obstructed paths.  You may have to do a two part operation though, one to take you away from the obstruction and another to get you back to the route, otherwise the sat nav will probably just route you through the obstruction again, after all, it doesn’t know it is there!

This Product Could Save Your Ass

I first noticed little strips of plastic sticking out the back of the saddles of pro riders on the Tour of Italy and thought at the time that I should investigate. But I forgot.  Then I started noticing ‘ordinary’ people riding with a plastic tail. So I remembered.

The plastic tail is an ‘Ass Saver’. A highly flexible strip of plastic designed to snap into your saddle at a moment’s notice to act as a mudguard and save your precious ass. Play the video to see how simple this is.


I have used temporary mudguards before. I have one that clips to the seat post and holds a much longer strip of plastic much closer to the wheel. I still get a wet butt. So I was dubious. But at an outlay of less than £10 including international postage I took a punt.

When the Ass Saver arrived I eagerly snapped it onto my saddle. Well, not quite. My saddle has tension pads in the back so it didn’t fit. But a bit of thought and some extra folds to the plastic and it was in. Not about 10 seconds, more like 10 minutes.

The video also shows how easy it is to remove the Ass Saver and store it under the saddle. I’m sure it is if you don’t have saddle bag. Sadly, not having a team car following me around, I do have a saddle bag to carry spare tubes and tools. So my Ass Saver stays on permanently but that is no problem because it weighs as good as nothing and the disruption to my aerodynamic flow makes little difference to my performance compared to my rounded gut.

 For the whole month of September I rode around with my tail up but didn’t get lucky: it never rained. Or maybe that is getting lucky? Either way, you have me to thank for the lowest rainfall level for September on record.
The rain finally came in October and I am able to report that the Ass Saver works surprisingly well. Whilst the extremities of my butt get a good soaking the rest remains relatively dry and comfortable. For someone without mudguards the Ass Saver is certainly £10 well spent. 

Full product details at Ass Savers.

Pre Ride Bike Tribulations

It is inevitable that before any event your bike starts to develop ticks and squeaks, the gears suddenly don’t click through properly and the saddle gets uncomfortable.

The reality is you are just getting worried and looking for problems.  That inaudible tick becomes a hammer blow, the slight delay is shifting becomes an insufferable gear problem, the saddle is tiny, of course it is uncomfortable, it always is.

That didn’t stop me from panicking over a couple of ticks and frantically switching to my back up bike.  This involved swapping over the wheels, having to change over the cassettes becasue they had worn to the chain, changing saddles, swapping over pedals for the recessed spd ones, changing the tyres to make sure I have the best puncture protected ones and moving my saddle bag mount.  When I came to run through the gears I found adjustment impossible becasue the chain on the back up bike was worn so I had to fit a new chain.

When  I test rode the bike the next day it not only ticked but squeaked as well.  It was also sluggish and the set up was all wrong. I swapped everything back.

Now my number one bike seems fine, apart from the minor tick, the slight imperfection in gear shifts and the tiny discomfort of the saddle.

Cycling Breakdown Cover?

One of the worrying issues for most end to enders is how to deal with mechanical problems en route. Certainly you will need to be prepared to deal with punctures, although if you have a decent pair of new tyres you might get lucky.  But what about more drastic mechanical issues?  How many tools should you carry?  Should you carry spare parts; spokes etc?  What if you cannot fix the problem…and you are twenty miles form the nearest house in the wilds of Scotland…with night setting in?

On my last LEJOG I suffered a ripped tyre and consequently a series of four punctures within a couple of miles on a canal path.  It was my own fault for riding with lightweight road tyres, that were badly worn before I started (my excuse is I was testing the limits of what I could get away with for the sake of research).  I used up all my spare inner tubes and was stuck.  I phoned home, got the emergency services (wife) to locate a nearby B&B and limped the four miles to it, having bodged a very low pressure repair.  The next day I rode the bike very slowly ten miles to a bike shop, which was closed.  I then limped another eight miles to the next closest bike shop and had new tyres fitted.  Hooray!  But I still had 150 + miles to ride to get to my next B&B and it was already 11:00.

Since then (and I may be slow on the uptake) I have discovered Cycle Break Down Cover.

This is an AA style service for bicycles.  From researching on the internet I have taken out cover with ETA Insurance.  They seem pretty ethically minded and I have full cover for £18 a year. Cover includes:

  • pick up from any road in the UK that is navigable by recovery van
  • transport for you and your bicycle back to a safe location*
  • unlimited call outs**
  • 90 days european cover
  • 60 days worldwide cover

* they will take you to the nearest repair shop, railway station, car rental agency, overnight accommodation or home, within 25 miles.

**  if you have been rescued for the same fault three times in a year you will need to provide proof of the issue being fixed before they will pick you up for the same fault again. 

They also provide cycling specific insurance.  If you take this option then the break down cover is included for free.

If I had been covered on my last trip LEJOG when I ripped my tyre and punctured 4 times in a very short distance, I would have been rescued and at the bike shop within an hour or two.  I could have then continued on to my prearranged B&B stop.  I would have saved the £60 cost of the additional B&B (I had paid in advance for the much cheaper one I missed) and wouldn’t have had to face a 160+ mile day.  Now, in my mind that would have been £18 very well spent!

If you want more details on the breakdown cover here is a link:

Please note that this link takes you to the Cycling Insurance page, which includes Cycling Breakdown Cover.  If you want Breakdown Cover only, scroll halfway down the page and there is a link in the menu on the left hand side.

Should Cyclist be Banned from Wearing Earphones?

Seemingly having nothing better to do with the licence payers money, the BBC recently ran a poll in which nearly 90% of people would back a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.

The poll, part of a cycle safety series on BBC Breakfast, found 89% of people would back a ban on wearing headphones whilst cycling due to the effects on concentration levels.  This is backed by research by Brunel University which found that listening to music reduces the amount of attention available by around 10%, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

This has caused something of an outcry from some cyclists.  On the pro side the need to be able to hear traffic noise around you and then being able to respond accordingly has been much flaunted.  On the anti side there is much talk of the nanny state.  Some bemoan the fact that cyclist seem to be being portrayed as irresponsible and others  point out that most motorists have even less chance of hearing what is going on around them than cyclists, with or without headphones on.  And how many of the 90% would also back a ban on playing music in cars?

In the past Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has spoken out against cyclists wearing earphones, referring to them as “an absolute scourge”.  Mr Johnson continued, “Call me illiberal, but it makes me absolutely terrified to see them bowling along unable to hear the traffic.”   Possibly a touch of hypocrisy considering the photo below.

Utlimately though, if earphones are going to affect concentration and cause an accident it is fairly clear who is likely to get hurt as a result.

The eagle eyed would have spotted that as well as cycling whilst on the phone Boris is also not wearing a helmet.  Some would argue that is a greater safety issue for cyclists.  Perhaps helmets need to be looked at before earphones?  Ooops!  Sorry!  Worms everywhere…

Could Solar Flares Cause Garmin Glitches

Sunspot AR 12192 is the largest active sunspot in 24 years.   It is about 20 times the surface area of Earth has has recently produced six solar flares, the largest of which produced as much energy as a billion thermonuclear weapons.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that these solar flares can affect the pick up of gps signals from satellites.  For cyclists using Garmins or other GPS computers, the consequences obviously aren’t as important as they are for airline pilots, but according to experts there could be anomalies in ride data.

“All GPS units can be affected,” said Bifford Williams, a research scientist at Global Atmospheric Technology and Sciences. “GPS works by timing signals from multiple satellites to determine your distance from each satellite and triangulate your position. Flares and coronal mass ejections can deposit particles (electrons, ions) in the upper atmosphere concentrated towards the poles that change the index of refraction which can delay or change the angle of the signals. Too strong an ionized layer can block the signals completely.”

“The effect depends on the accuracy you need, how many satellites are in unobstructed view, and if you can tolerate intermittent dropouts,” Williams said. “Flares will produce effects that are highly variable in time and space, but mostly at higher latitudes.”

So how much will your data be affected?  Garmin spokesperson Amy Nouri said that accuracy for the company’s GPS units is “typically better than 3 meters”, and that any solar-flare related issues would only result in “a slight decrease in accuracy for consumer grade GPS units, which is short lived and typically not observable by the consumer”. Garmin has not had any customer-reported issues.

More of an issue for users relying totally on gps, i.e. with no magnet sensor picking up ‘manual’ readings from the rotation of the wheel, is getting an uninterrupted view of the satellites in the first place.  Solar flare activity is likely to result in a few seconds difference in results whereas cycling under trees or through tunnels will have a much more dramatic effect.

In short, I don’t think I can use it to explain away the extra 10 minutes it took me to cycle home yesterday.  Perhaps I should have spent the last hour training rather than researching excuses!

Peace of Mind for Loved Ones

Whenever I am out on my bike my wife worries.  To keep her mind at rest I try to text or call home at least every two hours.  Of course, that in itself can lead to anxiety because if I forget to call then she inevitably assumes the worst.

This little device may be the thing I need.

Here’s the blurb:

The ICEdot is a small yellow pod that offers peace of mind to loved ones, letting them know if something has happened when you may not be able to. Using an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a low energy Bluetooth connection to a smartphone; the ICEdot uses a proprietary algorithm to detect an impact.  [Yeah I know, the point is – it can detect a crash]. The USB rechargeable crash sensor easily mounts to the back of any helmet with just a few zip-ties, or included industrial strength double-side tape.

When the sensor detects an impact, it triggers an emergency countdown in the ICEdot app. If the countdown is not turned off before it reaches zero, the app promptly sends out a text message – to up to 10 predetermined emergency contacts – informing them there has been an incident, and its location, via a Google Maps link.

An added bonus is a ‘Track Location’ feature. The associated smartphone app used to manage the emergency call system can track your whole ride and post it live to your ICEdot profile. That means your loved ones can ‘see’ where you are at any time.  The downside is that your ‘3 hour ride’ down the pub might soon be discovered.

Bike Loaded and Ready to Go…

…but am I?

Just want to get going now.  Before exam feelings threatening to ruin the next 36 hours.

I have kept the kit to a minimum and have only added about 6/7 kg to the bike, including the bags.  Of course I’ve added about 5 kg to me since my last LEJOG in October so overall I am going to be carrying more.  Maybe I’ll lose some weight on the way?  Didn’t last time – put a kilo on – got to keep eating 🙂

The tri bag on my cross bar hold my phone, wallet and camera for easy access.  There is an external battery strapped to my stem to boost the sat nav.  The bag mainly contains toiletries, clothes, spare food, inner tubes (x4 and sticking with the lighter tyres) tools, charging kit and various creams.

Maybe I should have washed the bike?  But then, what’s the point?  It will get muddy in the rain on the way to work tomorrow.

Arrgh!! Bloody Puncture

Now that may seem a bit dramatic.  It’s just a puncture on the way to work.  Rolling over strewn grit by some roadworks and phtzzzzz.   No biggie, just an annoyance.

Trouble is I had decided to leave my lightweight Askium tyres on the bike for LEJOG rather than re-shoe with Schwelbe Marathons as I did for the last trip.  This was to save weight in that all important wheel rim area and to prove that the route is passable on a genuine lightweight road set up.  But there’s quite a bit of grit on my route.

Now the demon is ranting in my ear…