Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bishop FM interview

On the 20th December last year I was invited into the Bishop FM studio to chat with Gary Burgham, host of Mornings and More, about cycling around the town. Basically, it's my thoughts and opinions on infrastructure, the benefits of cycling, free cycle training and cycle commuting. I didn't say it, but thought of it after: there shouldn't be any barriers to anybody thinking of getting on a bicycle.

In case you missed it, you can listen again here (running time 11 mins 53 secs).

(Yes, I do look very tired!)

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Friday, 28 July 2017

How to automatically tag Strava rides as commutes

Marking Strava rides as commutes

If you are a cyclist who cycle commutes, marking a ride as a commute in Strava has a few benefits. Firstly, there is a small check button in your training diary to toggle these on or off so you can filter down to your really hard interval or hill climb efforts. Secondly it helps your followers to quickly identify a commute and continue browsing for said intense hill climb effort to give you that well deserved kudos. Thirdly, it can help to improve road infrastructure by including the tagged ride as a data entry in Strava's Metro project. I doubt this is particularly helpful to Durham County Council, but for Transport for London, let's say, this data could be invaluable.

I upload my commutes to Strava so I can:

  • See my annual distance increase towards my goal 
  • See my fitness, form and fatigue over time as a premium member
  • Hope that Durham County Council can improve the infrastructure somewhat, although this is highly unlikely. It's something to hope for though, and what are we as humans without a little bit of optimism?

  • Commute filter checkbox

    Including your commutes in your training log

    Automatically marking rides as commutes

    I use a Polar M460 cycling HRM/GPS to track my cycling. The Polar Flow web service that extracts the data from the device handily connects to Strava and automatically uploads any activities. This saves some manual work and it's good to have the two services running concurrently as both offer different perspectives to your training/activity.

    However, when a regular old commute is uploaded, it's just a ride. This means that Strava has to be opened, the ride edited, marked as a commute and saved. This re-adds that manual work that I just got rid of, adding an extra few steps before the analysis can begin. We all want to save a few moments here and there don't we?

    CommuteMarker homepage

    The "about" page tells you all would need to know about how and why this service exists. You may or may not know, that Strava has a huge amount of third party apps that can connect to it. These can enhance the service in so many ways.

    When you click the orange "Connect with Strava" button, you will be asked to sign into Strava. When you have done that, you will see a green box confirming this. See below:

    Confirmation of Strava connecting with CommuteMarker

    In the settings tab, you can adjust as you see fit.

    Change your settings here

    You will now be able to set up your commute route(s). I usually go to and from work using the same route. However, obviously there is more than one way to get from A to B. On a Friday afternoon, I finish at lunchtime so I sometimes take a longer route home. Add them all here.

    Enter your commute routes

    You will be presented with empty fields, waiting for the details of your route. I was expecting this to work by creating a route in Strava and then referring to it here in CommuteMarker.

    Here's one I made earlier. Clearly, I am not the prime minister and don't work in Buckingham Palace. But I didn't want to screenshot my actual addresses. Make sure the addresses and distance is accurate. My commute is generally 10.9KM, so I entered 11 to ensure that any small errors are accounted for.

    Define your commute route

    When you have saved your commute, you are presented with a summary. The map doesn't plot the route, or possible routes, it just shows the start and end points. The service then knows you get between them using a certain distance; in this example 10km.

    Commute route summary
    When you have added all possible routes, you see a summary page.

    All commute routes summary

    The service can then look at your 12 month history of activities and see whether you have commutes that can be marked. I always mark mine as a commute, so I was sure I had them all covered. I clicked the button anyway. THIS WILL MARK ANY DETECTED ROUTES AS A COMMUTE. But you can amend them in the next stage.

    This can actually take a while if you have a lot of activities to check

    You are then presented with a summary of all rides from the previous 12 months that fit into the start and end points and distance you specified. The dates that you rode these activities are displayed so you can easily identify any errors. A button is provided to change any incorrectly marked activities.

    A summary page(s) will show you which rides have been marked.

    You will then see this reflected in Strava - the commute button is already pressed!

    Commute is detailed in the ride type at the top of any activity page

    The commute tag is selected

    The home page then shows you a continuously updated review of your 12 monthly commuting history - and compares you to the average commuter, a nice touch to maybe inspire you on through the winter months.

    My commuting stats against the average commuter


    This service is pretty useful for someone like me who commutes a lot. It saves a little bit of time and allows my Strava activity to become more organised. If you are a regular commuter, I would highly recommend that you take a look into Commute Marker and hopefully you will like it too.

    If you found this post useful, please feel free to share it on your social media channels and tell your Sunday club ride buddies about it too. Thanks for reading!

    P.S: You can check out my Strava page on Bishop Auckland Biking here.

    Tuesday, 31 January 2017

    Forests not fondos

    My cycling goal for 2017

    You may remember last year that I aimed to ride all 12 of Strava's fondo challenges. Well, I managed 10 out of 12 and while I was pleased with that, there was also a small amount of "I could do better; room for improvement". So I decided that in 2017 I would attempt it again.

    But as January dragged on as it always does, I never rode my road bike, didn't plan a route and to be honest, just didn't feel like doing it. I have no problem with the distances, I know I can do it. It's the time it takes. 5 hours for a 100km ride is a great morning out, but with a 17 week old daughter at home, I do feel like I should be there more at the moment. I think my wife wouldn't mind me going on one big ride out a month, but it doesn't feel right to me currently. Perhaps there was the thought that doing the same thing in consecutive years was a bit unoriginal creeping in there as well.

    What I have decided to do instead

    In late 2015, I completely refurbished my mountain bike. I spent a good couple of weeks sourcing the replacement parts, waiting for them to arrive and then completely stripping it down to individual components: the fork was serviced at Inspiral Cycles in Bishop Auckland, I fitted new chain rings and cranks, new brake lever innards, new hydraulic brake lines, serviced the callipers, new headset and bottom bracket, polished and touched up the frame and fitted new wheels. I spent a small fortune too. The trouble was, in 2016, I only rode that bike once!

    I really enjoyed this project - shame I never really enjoyed the result

    It's time I spent a bot more time riding this bike. There's a top class trail centre on my door step at Hamsterley, so I could spend a couple of hours riding there once a month in place of a fondo. I'm out on my bike, I'm close to home, it wins both ways!

    Yesterday I had an hour or two spare so I went to the forest and blasted around the blue route, hoping the sun wouldn't go down before I made it back to the car. It didn't and I had a great time. I had the forest to myself and remembered just how awesome it is to ride there.

    The finished article, back in 2015. It looks like this now actually, due to the lack of riding!

    As it happened, the bike needs a little tweaking: the gears need re-indexing and the front brake squeals like a pig. Next time, I'll have these small annoyances fixed and I'll give myself a little bit more time to really take in the forest.

    Here's the first forest ride of 2017

    Be sure to check out my Strava page for all my rides.
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