Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cycle Meter App.

Well it is time for me to put another one of those wonderful apps through their paces to give you a Mambo score so you can all rush out and buy it (likely - not).

Unfortunately for me I can sometimes have feelings and it is not going to be possible for me to review a product I don’t like today – my last two posts where a rant about bike thieves and a heartfelt discussion about me trying to figure out how to get my family on a biking day out together. I just don’t have the bile in me to review a bad product – so that’s it the game is up – read the title to know the name of the product and know that it is good, everything else I post here can be ignored.

But wait there is hope! 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

I have a dream.

Now when I went out and bought my over priced bike, I had a little dream in my head, I dreamt I would be out there on a long summer day riding through the countryside with my family. A picnic in my rucksack, warm sunshine giving my face a healthy glow and the smell of wheat growing in the fields.

So what are my chances of achieving this nirvana? On the face of it I have to conclude that they are fairly low when I look at it in a cold logical way. So here are the problems:


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stop Thief!

 

Ok enough with all this health and fitness posted over the last few days. I am forgetting who I am.

I am middle aged, bored of wasting my vote on incompetent politicians and am feeling very sorry for myself as I think I am passing another kidney stone right now. It is therefore my right, actually it is my obligation to have a moan!

So what should this moan be about? Well we have done buses, so now how about that other muddy footprint on the seat of humanity – bike thieves. As I wait the same length of time it takes to ferment a vintage wine, for my PC to start-up, I am not angry at Bill Gates, bless him he tries his best (and he is giving all those Billions to charity) but what I am really annoyed about is hackers and virus writers (and more so script kiddies who just copy the work of the genuine hackers). Why do I have to wait for my anti-virus to boot up, do its preliminary checks and download an update? I have to do it because some scummy low life wants to make so cash out of my PC or just generally screw my life up a little and make me loose a day restoring my PC. Does it work – no it doesn’t because I am not a specific target therefore not personally attacked by hackers with real skill, I just have to protect myself from the general sh1t out there. In 10 years of owning a PC I have not been successfully attacked (yes I know I could be easily if I was a target but I’m not – I have nothing of value on my PC anyway). Despite this nevertheless I still have too loose precious minutes of my life (and they are getting proportionately less each day) waiting for all my anti-virus / anti-Trojan / firewall to churn into life each time I turn on my PC, and that really bugs me!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Time to Recover.


I am having a bit of a blitz on the blog about fitness and getting fitter (all with the aim of beating those too cool for school single speeders). Let’s talk recovery, how long, when and why and let’s put it in simple terms that we can all understand.

If you are like me and an average Mambo then I doubt your fitness regime extended far beyond running for a train and the occasional knock about in the back garden with the kids (and this only gets harder as they get bigger and stronger and we just get older). To be honest it is just not fair, when they were 3 years old with their little legs, total lack of skill it was so easy to beat the kids a football or rugby. Now they are 13, 10 years stronger, fitter and 10 years more skilled, me I am just 10 years older and more creaky! But let us not dwell on the inequalities of life and focus instead on how to do our best at reversing this trend a little. This is why I want to concentrate just on recovery.

Friday, 25 March 2011

A little more on Weight Training

Following on from my post about the benefits I got from doing a gym session (link here) I came across what I think is an excellent article which I repeat below (with a fee typos removed - yep they must be bad because even I spotted them). The article does not get into too much detail and should give you an insight into what to look to do.


Pump It - Louder - Pump it.

Even before I bought my bike (I’ll explain the logic in a bit) I bought a pump. Crickey, what a nightmare that was, you would think the choice of such an item would be fairly simple – bigger it is the easier it is to use but the less able you are to transport it. So I just assumed it was a question of size / ease of use, with a little does it look cool thrown in for good measure – well to be honest it was mostly about looks when I started down this trail initially.

So in my childhood there were two type of pumps (three including shoes as trainers will still called pumps by some people back then). One for bikes with car tyre values and another (usually a little longer and thinner) for those racer bikes. Nowadays though the choice is massive – and will someone please tell me, when did spending £35 on a pump become a rational decision?


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Those little fibs we tell......


It is I suppose time for one of the mea culpa posts. But what I refuse to believe is that I am the only one guilty of the following crime, in my mind I believe this sin is as regular amongst cyclists as it is amongst fishermen (it was thiiiis big but it got away).

So what is this crime – that of exaggeration, we have all done it (I am hoping or I am going to look fairly shallow here) you know the line – I just cycled 25 miles - when in reality it was closer to 23, my average speed was 24 mph – when in reality it was closer to 21mph.

In my mind it is not a question of is this fibbing happening but more as to a question of how far it is going, is it endemic? OK I see nothing wrong in saying you cycled 11 miles when you did 10 in reality – it makes you feel a little fitter and that you have done that bit more and feel no more tired. But I have noticed this can get a little over the top – especially when it comes to speeds you are travelling.

What to buy?

I consider myself a fairly good buyer – I investigate what is best value for money and also most suitable for my needs. I don’t skimp – if I don’t have enough to buy what I want one month, I will wait and buy it the next month. But let’s be honest buying a bike for the first time in many years is a fairly horrendous experience and then although less of a decision there then follows a hundred and one other things to investigate before purchasing.

So what drives a MAMBO’s decision to buy? Here was my thinking:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Middle Aged Women and Saddles

Oeeeerrrrr Matron!

No I am not getting all smutty here - more just a thing I have noticed in the past week (well about 4 times). I have recently become aware of a large proportion of 40 - 50 year old women whom seem to be cycling with their saddle so low (to the lowest it will go in fact) that I am concerned I am missing a new trend of just simply the fact that they may be stealing their children's bike and sneaking off for a quick peddle.

Buses!

 

Firstly let’s get something straight – buses are not environmentally friendly. Mostly they charge around spitting out diesel fumes (at a rate of what I can only guess is 4 miles to the gallon) with a one little old lady on board (who is probably dead) and a naughty schoolboy playing truant from school. The average car has more passengers and a much better MPG. This is before we even start to try and calculate the wasted fuel of cars stuck in traffic behind the bus as it waits at the bus stop for the dead little old lady to get off.

Secondly we need to get our terminology right here – they are not buses – we shall call them MT’s (mobile toilets) – as certainly whenever I have had the displeasure of boarding one the smell is somewhat akin to the interior of a portaloo that has accidentally been spun round 360 degrees recently.


But the horror that is the MT pales into insignificance when compared to the “driver”. I use the “” somewhat incorrectly, as it is the only way that someone with my limited writing ability, can describe something that is supposed to be one thing but in reality is the exact opposite. Who are these people, where do they find them? As previously mentioned, I have been at some point been at the mercy of these “”. What is it with them they come up to a bus stop and brake so hard that if you are standing you end up parallel to the floor, like a person on the Titanic holding onto a flag pole as the ship points it bow at the ocean seabed in its last seconds. I used to wonder why they had to brake so hard – was the appearance of the bus stop a surprise? Did someone sneak out in the middle of the night and move the bus stops around and the “” was stunned by its sudden appearance?


The mystery of why buses brake so violently was answered when I started to ride a bike. Up until this time I had been blissfully unaware of the war raging on our streets between buses and bikes.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A poll on red lights and turning left

So what I was wondering about is this turning left at a traffic light. So to add my two pence worth - yes I do. But then I have this guilty conscience about people moaning about cyclists going through Red Lights. Surely they are only talking about people who go straight ahead or turn right at red lights?

I am sure a year ago or so I heard Boris Johnson was considering making it legal for cyclists to go left at red lights? Or is this just my imagination and more to the point does he actually have the power to allow it?


Anyway as much as anything to ease my conscience, I have posted a poll to find out what you think - now I just need visitors to come here!





Daily Commute - 22/3/11

And so for a thought of the day. Daily commute morning, about 8 miles into the ride, I picked up a courier on his way into work. OK were I say “picked up” I mean he rode past me going down a steep hill at speeds I would not consider wise. Anyway I thought that it would be a good idea to follow him and watch how he deals with the traffic etc. To be honest although I may have driven for more than 25 years, I still have things to learn about best practice when riding a bike.

Monday, 21 March 2011

NavFree Uk and Ireland
















The wonderful world of apps, so how did we live without them before? Well in the case of this app we looked at a map or just drove / cycled around for a bit longer (being male of course I followed stereotype and never asked for directions).

What is this app? Well it is a free navigation system for your iPhone – is it useful, you bet ya! This app basically costs nothing – it is a community led app – if you notice something wrong with the route / map you come across as you travel then you can send in an amendment.

Other types of exercise.

So here’s something more constructive in my blog and on a slightly less flippant post. She who must be obeyed decided that she wanted to join a gym, I hope that this is because she wants to keep herself in good shape rather than wanting to be around an army of young and healthy men (pause for thought). Anyway, I went along with her as a guest for her first session (with a female trainer I am pleased to note). Whilst my wife went though her new training program I entertained myself by using some of the equipment in the gym. I did a run, some free weights and quite a few sets on a leg squat machine. Given that I have been exercising my legs by cycling I did not hold back on the leg weights and did a fairly hard session. We both finished off with a swim and an exhausted lay down in the steam room.

The next day I was predictably fairly stiff in the legs but on request of my wife we went for a 10km bike ride – nothing too strenuous but enough to loosen aching muscles, during the ride I noticed something extraordinary – my ability to quickly pick up speed improved greatly and going up hills was so much easier, so much so that after our ride I went for a tester ride up my local “hill of pain”. This hill is about 1.5 miles away and it is about 800 to 1000 meters long and very steep in parts. Anyway I found myself shooting up the hill at an average of nearly 10 mph (as opposed to 6 – 7 mph before). I was also doing the hill 3 gears higher than I did before and I kept it in that gear for the whole ride.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Masks - what works and what doesn't for a Mambo

What face mask ticks all the Mambo Boxes?

Respro Techno Mask




Well let’s cut to the chase on this bad boy pretty quick – how would I rate it as a Mambo?
 

For looks it gets a 10/10 – let’s be honest what other excuse do you get to look like Scorpion out of Mortal Kombat in public? With this puppy on, you have an excuse.

For functionality – it gets a 2/10. For your average Mambo, we spend our time commuting trying to keep up with all the shaven legged single speeders. This mask does not help in that cause!



If you are breathing hard this mask really constricts your breathing. Further to that, all those drunken cigarettes you had down the pub in your youth come back to haunt you – if pushing yourself no doubt the phlegm will rise – now you can be a gentleman and swallow it back, but I don’t know about you but I find that totally gross (well this whole section is anyway but the truth needs to be told). So inevitably you are going to need to spit it out – big problem if you are wearing a mask, so down comes the mask and out goes the spit – then you notice something, you can breathe again! So the mask stays down and eventually ends up in the back pack. Only for you to wish you had it on as a dirty, stinky bus spits out diesel fumes in your face as it passes 3 inches to your right.

Why did I even give this 2/10 for a Mambo, well it does have a few hidden extra benefits. If you are being overtaken by an army of other cyclists it allows you to keep you face hidden, also to be honest, if you are out on a gentle ride enjoying the scenery then you can get enough oxygen in with this mask on. Trouble is, when the traffic is high and you need this mask then generally this will be at the time of your commute ride so going slow is not really on the cards. The other benefit is that it is great in the cold – there is nothing worse than sucking in lung full’s of air that are sub-zero (another Mortal Kombat character). This takes the bite out of the air, but see below for a far better alternative (no not the bandit mask – the one below that)!

Total Score 6/10


Edit: Another bonus – buying this will probably stop you from buying the Respro Bandit Mask








Even I know you will look like a total plonker wearing this, that could only be compounded by calling you bike “Black Bess”.



The Buff

 






Now this nifty number in my humble opinion really does the job!

So lets have a look at some of the issues we notice earlier with the Respro Mask

  • It is very easy to breath through this even when pushing it fairly hard. Also if you pull it down from your face, rather than strangling you, it acts as a rather natty scarf. 
  • It cuts out a far amount fumes - though I am sure nowhere near as much as the mask. 
  • It keeps out the cold, although thin it also take the bite out of the cold air. 
  • It dries very quickly
  • It is light and takes up no storage space
  • It can cover your mouth and face at the same time
  • It can be a hat - but I wouldn't as it would mess my hair up!

But most importantly of all - you can place it so you covers all of your head except your eyes! Nothing beats coming home and frightening the wife when she sees a Ninja at the front door, or during a quiet moments when everyone is out of the house you can put it into "Ninja Setting" and pull cool moves in front of the mirror, and we all know a Ninja could wipe the floor with Scorpion!

A resounding Mambo 10/10

Pedals, Pedals and more damned Pedals

Not the first thing I purchased, that was obviously the bike, but boy are these puppies are a lesson in thinking about what you should buy and how to properly investigate your purchases, before carrying them out!

So our story begins with the purchase of the bike – as you will see later, this bike came with worse pedals than my son’s bike that I bought for him on his 6th birthday. They were so cheap that I think they were put on the bike like a reserve tyre you get on some cars – enough to get you home but you car looks stupid and don’t you dare go anything faster than a slug which has run out of slime.

To deviate slightly – I can sort of understand the logic of the plastic fantastic pedals the bike came with – they want you to source your own and for your cleat of choice – but then, why oh why did they bother to add toe clips with bindings attached – it just means the dustman had more to carry. I like all wise buyers, use parts I don’t want from my PC’s etc. and add them, if they improve things generally, to the PC of another member of my family. This works well and saves wastage (except for the fact that now my sons now have better PCs than me – how did that happen)? But these pedals were so poor I couldn’t even palm them off onto my younger sons bikes, both of which had their original supplied pedals still attached.

So being the smart guy I like to think I am, I decided to upgrade these pedals to the following:






Nice pedals, I thought, enough grip so my foot wouldn’t slip and cause the type of pain in my shin that only Tom├ís de Torquemada is capable of achieving, but not so much grip as to hurt my poor feet – maybe I had visions of me riding barefoot through Hyde Park during this purchasing decision? Anyway one week later I discovered the potential of 1/2 toe clips.

Cycling With The Wife

I thought I would start with a topic never really covered on other blogs – cycling with the wife!



 

Now generally speaking I am a major fan of this element of cycling and all in all I would highly recommend this as a policy for you all to follow (that is obviously dependant on you having a “significant other” in your life, if not then generally I would skip this article. The main benefits for me, and you will have some of these or others, are as follows:

So who am I?

A little about me (for those who care).

My Name is Jonathan and I am mid 40’s. Life has generally treated me well. In my 30’s life was maybe just a little too comfortable, happy married with 2 kids and like all pushy parents I had transferred my sporting desires onto my kids – I was no longer going to achieve anything in my sporting life, so I figured it was time for my children to take up the mantle. Besides it’s a lot easier to shout at your kids than actually get out there and do something yourself, about the only time I sweated was when I was on a hot beach or when the wine was not chilled enough whilst having a barbecue on a hot day.

Inevitably the weight, ever so gradually started to increase – nothing too dramatic and certainly not anything bordering on obese (I am far to vain to let that happen) but never-the-less an ever growing “mid life spread” started to happen. The only trouble is, in mid life even a few extra pounds is harder to move than a combine harvester sans wheels in wet cement. This coupled with being diabetic since the age of 19 meant that life was definitely bordering on the not too healthy. I have always found it quite easy to go without food (though not the accompanying wine – another vice) so I just cut down to one meal a day. Weight problem solved after about a year with no real effort, but I was as unfit as before and with an even greater loss of muscle.

What is this Blog all about?

So where to start?

Well I should begin with why I bought a bike. Like most 40 something’s I had come to the conclusion that my life was becoming far too Sedentary (as opposed to seditionary - the stirring up of discontent, resistance, or rebellion against the government in power; Archaic revolt or rebellion. Which in all honesty I am a bit of a fan of as well). So what to do?

Well at the same time, I was also becoming increasingly tired of my train service – cancelled trains, lazy staff and connecting trains leaving the station as my inbound train arrived 6 minutes late – followed by a cold 30 minute wait for the next train and an argument with staff. Now I could have got all “seditionary” on the train operators, but if my advanced years have taught me anything then the only way you can hurt a company or powerful individual by hitting them in the “pocket”. Granted my miserable few £’s a year in fares is not going to bring down the train company all by itself but I figured every little helps (well they are always telling us this when it comes to global warming). So this decided, I came to the logical conclusion that I would buy a bike – get fit, save money and give “the man” one in the eye.

So what is this blog all about and what is a MAMBO.