Nobber stole my bike!

If I find you, you'll wake up in the river attached to a shopping trolley.
A person pushing my bike down the street after stealing it

Seriously… at 3:55 this morning a male human of indeterminate race, of average height managed to steal two bikes and a lawnmower (the whole lot being chained together in an attempt at stopping this… which worked once before when some other tit broke into our shed).

If you’re curious here is a pair of youtube videos I captured from my CCTV camera. This first one shows the thief happily strolling into our front gate and going around the side. The side where the back gate isn’t which is interesting to know… And this second video shows him pushing our bikes off down the road.

If you want reasonably cheap and not-too-bad CCTV cameras, go on eBay and find ‘dbPower’ PTZ IP cameras. Then make a Linux box work and use ZoneMinder to record images from it. There will be a blog post shortly explaining how to set them up together once a second one has been posted to me.

Motor bicycle

So Amy’s got a new job, and due to various health reasons she’s getting an electric bike so she can get to work. The bike has a 15 mile range from one charge, work is two miles away.

Since the bike is electric, it’s just a bike – no road tax or MOT etc needed.

But what’d happen if we strapped a petrol generator to it to charge the battery while it’s moving? Would it still be an electric vehicle, or would it be a petrol powered one?

Since if it remains an electric vehicle, I’m going to remove the engine from my car, replace it with electric motors, fill my boot with batteries and use the petrol engine to charge the batteries while the car is running.

… it’s how a lot of trains work, so it’s not as daft as it sounds.

Local cycle loop

One of the things I’ve been looking for since getting my bike is a straight forward loop I can do. Something straight forward that doesn’t involve tricky navigation, getting covered in mud or having to get off and carry my bike over obstacles. Just a nice circular route I can do after work for half an hour or so.

This four mile ride should do it quite nicely. I can optionally extend it by going around the back of the golf course and past the hospital, if I want a longer ride.

Here is a link to the KMZ file: Local Loop 1

And if you want to look at it on Google Maps, click this link.

Created by My Tracks on Android.

Total Distance: 6.39 km (4.0 mi)
Total Time: 22:58
Moving Time: 21:33
Average Speed: 16.75 km/h (10.4 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 17.80 km/h (11.1 mi/h)
Max Speed: 36.00 km/h (22.4 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 70 m (230 ft)
Max Elevation: 119 m (391 ft)
Elevation Gain: 162 m (533 ft)
Max Grade: 6 %
Min Grade: -10 %

Bike Advice Needed: Lights

It’s getting dark earlier now, and there are many twisty paths where I live. The sort of place you often see on the 6 o’clock news cordoned off by police tape and a little white tent nearby. According to our local council they’re called “nature trails” (I think the locals read that as “rubbish dumps”, but there you go) and they’re quite good fun to ride along.

I need a set of lights for the front of my bike that’ll light the surrounding area up well enough to not be decapitated by low branches, fall down holes, or cycle into some waiting miscreant. I also don’t have masses of money to spend, but don’t want to buy rubbish that’ll break down.

Advice please, O wise Internet…

Exploring my local area by bike

I’ve been out on my bike once again exploring the local area. Whereas most people tend to cycle down the river’s edge, looking at the rubbish-strewn dark trails that lead off into the reclaimed wilderness but continuing, I think “that looks an interesting way” and set off down it. Sometimes it turns into a nice little loop full of local interest, other times it turns into a bit of a crap ride.

Today was the second type of trail. It looked quite promising from Google Maps’ satellite view. My aim was to cycle into town but by going down the river. I now know this is not possible, there’s a railway in the way. I did find where the locals dump their rubbish and old fridges though.

For the morbidly curious, here’s the Google Maps link and you can download the KMZ file Deadend trail.

My Google Earth is now collecting a healthy pattern of red tracks running over the reclaimed land either side of the river. Looking at the area now, you’d never think there used to be a gravel quarry and coal mine. I think I’ll now try and cycle North up the river itself, rather than the canal part. Ultimately I’d like to cycle along the Pennine Trail to Leeds and then the other way to wherever it goes.

I took my previously mentioned Asahi Pentax film camera with me. Hopefully the pictures will come out and look good. I’ve almost stopped looking at the back for a preview image 😉

Here’s the stats for today’s ride

Created by My Tracks on Android.

Total Distance: 7.52 km (4.7 mi)
Total Time: 48:27
Moving Time: 33:32
Average Speed: 9.35 km/h (5.8 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 13.46 km/h (8.4 mi/h)
Max Speed: 27.90 km/h (17.3 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 68 m (222 ft)
Max Elevation: 84 m (274 ft)
Elevation Gain: 135 m (444 ft)
Max Grade: 3 %
Min Grade: -7 %
Recorded: Wed Sep 23 16:56:52 GMT+01:00 2009

Using a T-Mobile G1 with My Tracks is really really good.

Through the nettles and around the rubbish dump

Today’s random bike ride took me around the picturesque Welbeck Landfill, following the overgrown paths along the river. While not the most visually pleasant of rides, it has enough excitement in the form of giant holes in the path and lots and lots of nettles to keep the mind focussed. Popping out in the expensive looking hamlet of Kirkthorpe is always a surprise. I might make this a regular ride, it’s just under 4 miles and takes around half an hour to do. Could be fun in the dark.

Here’s the KML file of the trip: Around the rubbish dump

Alternately, click this to see the Google Maps version.

Here’s some stats

Created by My Tracks on Android.

Total Distance: 6.34 km (3.9 mi)
Total Time: 31:22
Moving Time: 28:31
Average Speed: 12.18 km/h (7.6 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 13.33 km/h (8.3 mi/h)
Max Speed: 29.70 km/h (18.5 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 66 m (215 ft)
Max Elevation: 85 m (278 ft)
Elevation Gain: 134 m (439 ft)
Max Grade: 5 %
Min Grade: -4 %
Recorded: Tue Sep 08 18:30:36 GMT+01:00 2009

Twilight random cycle

This area is pretty good for cycling; it used to all be coal mines and industrial mess, then they flattened it all and made a crazy mix of nature reserve, waste land and landfill out of it. Through this are threaded many “nature walks” and paths for people to walk down, get mugged on and ride their illegal motorbikes across. There’s so many that all I have to do is pick a path, go down it, and then continue whatever way looks the most interesting. Someone’s even thought to put up information boards every so often to point out interesting things in an attempt at making the place look nice. This isn’t necessary because the simple fact I can go half a mile out of a city centre and be amongst fields and trees is nice enough.

Tonight I went out for a quick ride before it got dark and went the opposite way to the other day’s ride. Going South down the river is mostly flat concrete until the remains of the old coal mines begin, then it turns into an interesting thickly wooded area and gravel tracks. It was also at this point when I noticed the light had disappeared. Cycling in the dark down a six foot wide dirt track you’ve never been down before is great fun, and very surprising when you pop out in a tiny village full of posh cars and houses. Feeling a bit out of place and slightly concerned about the rapidly failing light I turned around and followed my track all the way back.

After looking at the log on Google Earth, I think I’ve found a long circular route that goes around the rubbish dump (yep, some people have mountains to cycle around, others have beaches and nice wooded dales. Up here we have filled in coal mines and rubbish dumps) that I might try next time. Google Earth doesn’t say anything about the access rights to these paths, but I’m sure it’ll be OK. Last time I discovered a “private, keep out” sign I was approaching it from the wrong side anyway.

I do need a torch though.

Grab the KML file here – To Kirkthorpe

A short afternoon’s cycling

I bought a new bike at the weekend, and today was my first chance to ride it. It’s been a while since I last did any cycling I chose a fairly flat and easy route along the Aire & Calder Navigation up to Altofts Lock (click to download KML file). Tracking my route was done with my G1 phone and the excellent My Tracks app from Google. I did try to upload the KML file directly to Google Maps, but it failed so instead I imported it into Google Earth, made a few edits, added a photo and put that up instead.

The route took an hour and was mostly along pleasant river towpaths or tarmac meaning I could keep up a good speed, while having an interesting mix of farmland, overgrown “natural” areas and the remains of the heavy coal mining industry that used to be in this area.

I am pleased with my bike, it is comfortable to ride and the gearing feels efficient – on the flat in the bike’s higest gear I can maintain a steady pace without feeling too much strain on my legs, and in lower gears I can set off quickly without losing grip. My Android phone also performed very well, accurately recording my route, even through the heavily wooded areas with the phone being in my pocket.

Here’s some stats from the journey

Total Distance: 13.13 km (8.2 mi)
Total Time: 56:53
Moving Time: 50:15
Average Speed: 13.87 km/h (8.6 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 15.68 km/h (9.7 mi/h)
Max Speed: 34.20 km/h (21.3 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 58 m (190 ft)
Max Elevation: 100 m (328 ft)
Elevation Gain: 157 m (516 ft)
Max Grade: 3 %
Min Grade: -5 %
Recorded: Wed Aug 12 14:47:14 GMT+01:00 2009
Activity type: cycling

Here is the link to the Google Maps version.

MOT Passed

My car passed its MOT, requiring only a change of oil, brake fluid and washer water. No nasty surprises or anything. I took it in at 10am, and it was ready at 4pm. Much better than when I lived in the Lake District and it could take three days before the bloke even bothered to look at it.

The front tyres will need replacing at some point, as will the exhaust system. The large thing in the image is the rear silencer on my car. It’s a metal box approximately the size of a shoebox. The large flake of rust is about the size of a credit card. Other, smaller bits of rust fell off when I gave the whole thing a prod with my carkeys.

And yet it passed the MOT, with the advisory notice that the rear exhaust system has corrosion.

Taking my car in was easy, I dropped it off and planned to catch the bus home. I first had to stop at the post office to collect a parcel (which turned out to be my printed and bound copy of the Apple Obective-C programming language). I didn’t really know when the busses were leaving to go to my house, so I ambled through town towards the bus station, into the station and straight onto the bus as it was about to leave.

Getting back to my car was slightly less relaxing. I had planned to just get the bus back in again, but when the garage rang at 4pm to tell me the car was ready they also said they shut at 5pm, not 6pm like they’d told me before. Great, an hour to get to the garage by public transport. Not possible, the next bus wasn’t until 4:45pm. I had two options – wait until tomorrow, or bike it.

I dragged my bike out the cellar, reinflated the tyres, reattached the brakes, gave the rear gear changer a kick and hurtled off at warp 9. I had half an hour to cycle through busy rush hour traffic in a journey that takes 15 minutes by car. And I made it too, in 14 minutes. In rush hour, bikes are quicker than cars. Cars make handy shields when going around roundabouts too, as I successfully negotiated the big, busy roundabout in town without ending up under someone’s car. It took longer to fold the thing up and secure it in the back of my car.

I think I’ll be making a trip to the bike shop soon though. I need a new back wheel, a total replacement of my brake system from the cables right down to the mechanisms and blocks, the rear gear changer needs soaking in de-greaser and probably stripping, and I think the front forks are loose. It’s so good that bikes don’t need MOTs like cars do, mine would probably be classed as dangerous and not given back to me. I need a new bike helmet too. The frame is OK though.

I need to get out and do more cycling, the steep hill between me and town was a bit too steep and I had to stop part way up it for a rest, which was a bit crap. I used to cycle up much steeper things daily in previous jobs, and I think that’s the point really. It didn’t help that my bike got stuck in a fairly high gear either.

There’s something very satisfying about cycling to a place though. The speed I cycle at has a direct relation to how quickly I get to my destination. There are no variables beyond my control that would otherwise slow down a car journey. Traffic lights don’t apply – you can get off and use the crossings (or ignore them and slip through if you want to be naughty), and empty pavements are handy too.


This was the week when our largest single group came to visit. Hemel Hempstead School send 120 of their year 9’s to us for a week of activities. Fifteen groups of eight children plus six teachers. The place becomes rather full and noisy.

Like last year though, it went well. I had two full day mountain walks and this time I actually went on a proper mountain walk with the first group – over Cat Bells towards Dale Head Tarn and back down the valley. Nobody moaned about the walk. The other activities went equally well. I had three mountain bike sessions and the only eventful things that happened was that someone got the beginnings of heatstroke so we came back, then on another ride neither me nor my group could be bothered cycling in the baking midday sun so we went to the bottom of our ghyll and paddled in the water for half an hour.

I could do that all the time if it wasn’t for the evening activities that don’t finish until nine PM, or for the way there’s not a minute’s peace and quiet. By the end of the week my tolerance for shouting children was completely non existant.

Oh, and one evening when I wasn’t on duty I got woken up by the person who was on duty because our chef had fallen down the stairs and cut himself on a picture frame. He was in a right mess, lying in a drunken heap with blood all over his face. Took me a while to work out where it was all coming from, eventually I found a few cuts under his chin and tried my best to stick them closed. A tricky task made even harder by having to stop while he spewed into a bucket.

The next morning was funny, he said he’d woken up covered in dry blood with a sore chin and couldn’t work out why. It wasn’t until I filled him in that he managed to work it out 🙂 His chin was better looking and I replaced the dressing with something that would actually hold the wounds together. He’ll have a few scars but nothing too severe. An interesting way to celebrate his 26th Birthday.