Comparing Commutes with Ascent for Mac

I did the cycle commute twice last week, first on the painfully slow Brompton and then on the super speedy Specialised Sirrus Pro. I was expecting to shave at least 10 minutes off my time on the road bike.

Here’s what actually happened:

I presume my current fitness level is the rate limiter and not my bike choice, so I may as well stick to the Brompton, with its handy frame mounted bag and potential for shoving on the train when I can’t be bothered to go any further.

The activity comparison movie was taken from Ascent the activity tracker or sports log for mac. Since I’ve started using GPS again I’ve been really impressed with this software, I’m even beginning to get over the loss of Sporttracks when I moved away from the PC.

The activity comparison window is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a sports log.

Slumming it with the Bottom Dwellers

Everyone hates a cyclist, even it would seem, other cyclists.

I regularly pass between the various food levels in the transport chain but rarely get lower than when I drag out the push bike. Cycle commuting is a thankless task so its fortunate then that’s it such good fun.

I haven’t used my bike since I got the motorbike but my parking space at work is under threat so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the cycle commute.

My route hooks up with the new CS7 cycle-superhighway that when complete will link Merton to the City and enable me to cycle much of my way along an extremely blue strip of paint work. I follow the same strip on my way in with the motorbike and it is busy, you can’t afford to veer off course by even a millimetre or you will plough through a swarm of cyclists who creep into gaps like hoards of stinging ants.

I took the Brompton in today and I’m afraid I did veer a little bit off course in places. I was buffeted by a speeding ambulance who pushed me slightly off kilter and into the path of an undertaking cyclist who dinged his bell at me provocatively until I apologised. In an attempt to cross 5 lanes of traffic near the treacherous Elephant & Castle I managed to piss off a van driver who wanted to mow me down – I could see my blood and guts reflected in his glaring eyeballs. It’s amazing how mad people can get when driving the few yards to the next red light.

Anyway, I survived it and it was a gloriously sunny day, a perfect day in fact for trying out the Polaroid sunglasses that have been sitting in my drawer for about 6 months.

I’d held back from trying these specs out as I was convinced I’d look like a particularly uncool variety of alien but once I was togged up in my biking finery I think they added the right air of determination and confidence for the task ahead.

The sunglasses come in a very well padded case that holds 3 replaceable lenses, orange for low light conditions, clear for almost everyday in the UK and these shades for the unaccustomed sunny days. They clip on and off the frame very easily but they are held firmly and I have no doubt that you could bounce down a rocky mountainside without fear of dislodging a lens.

They’ve also got a pair of rubber thingammies that hook behind the ears to ensure a firm grip of your head. It’s not firm really but they do keep the glasses in place and they would be perfect for running.

I’ve never run in sunglasses before but I’m aging fast and can’t afford any extra wrinkles caused by screwing up my eyes to avoid the glare. I’ll take these out on my next run, although I’ll probably have to clip in the orange lenses as I have a tendency to run long after sundown nowadays.

The ride back home seemed considerably more relaxed but then I was in such pain from the symmetrical buttock blisters caused by the monstrous Brooks saddle that I could barely pedal for more than 15 seconds in every 60. If you’re content to stay behind the pack, the ride can be a little less stressful.

Brompton World Championships – 2008

I am such a social cretin before an event and watching the city boys arrive at the coach station in their pin striped suits and titanium s-bar bikes didn’t go anyway towards making me feel at home.

I cheered up a bit on arrival at Blenheim when friendly faces appeared out of the crowd and I was reassured that Emma’s Dave hadn’t abandoned me to do the race on my own. Shame Trinny and Susannah weren’t there though; they would have been able to advise me that the short and dumpy tie style wasn’t going to do much for my physique. They might also have mentioned that a thick woollen jacket wasn’t the best sporting wear for the hottest day of the year.


I had received tie training lessons some months ago, in a pub and even through the Stella haze I could remember some of the specifics of the double Nelson knot. Or maybe it wasn’t a Nelson, that sounds like a wrestling move and that was another night and a completely different sort of pub. Anyway, my tie, it ended up in some form of quadruple knotting affair which may even have been stylish if only I were tall and lanky.

BWC - The Start

So with the race about to start we’d had to lay out our bikes in the folded position, on numbered markers. I was going in the first wave, with Dave two waves and 4 minutes behind me. With the horn sounded we ran to the Bromptons, unfolded, pushed to the track and then set off.

I can’t believe that I’ve gone to so much trouble, practically having my gps surgically embedded in my wrist, and yet “forgot” to set the flippin thing off for the race. Now you are just going to have to take my word for it when I say it was HILLY. Big, long hills!

I may have mentioned before that I don’t do hills, not uphills anyway, but with Dave a mere 4 minutes behind me I didn’t have a lot of choice and had to keep pushing. When I finished the first 6.5km loop I came really close to throwing up on the corner, I thought it would be a slip hazard though and with Dave still behind me it could be seen as unsporting.

One of the guys in my wave had a video camera on his helmet and captured some of the beauty of the course. I was breathing so hard, sweating gallons and concentrating too much on the waves of nausea that I didn’t notice my surroundings.

It’s a bit noisy so I suggest you turn the volume right down, but before you get bored, pull the slider across to 4 minutes and wait for me to appear like a bat out of hell. He managed to capture almost a full minute of my backside flying down the hill with my coat tails flapping in an aerodynamic fashion.

BWC - Goody Bags

I crossed the line in front of Dave but the gap could be measured by Brompton lengths rather than minutes but we both looked rather worse for wear.

The results are just in:
Lap 1 15:48
Lap 2 16:57
Total for the 13km 32:45 (Dave’s time was 30:26)

In terms of positions I’m 268/364 overall or 21/44 for the women. So I’m actually in the top 50% for a sport! It beats swimming.

Struggled, Tickled and Inspired

Running and therefore blogging seems to have turned into quite a struggle recently. I get to the 2k point and feel as though I can’t go any further. My body feels like lumpen clay but I think my battle is as much mental as physical. Running can be a tough nut to crack sometimes.

With only 9 weeks to go before the Great North Run, I can’t afford to be struggling with 2k runs, I need to take a grip of this thing. I set out this morning on a 6k route, started whining at 2k but pushed on to the final turn off point where I managed to persuade myself to take the extended option which brought me home after 8k. A small battle won, and one that must be built on over the next few weeks.

There’s plenty of inspiration around at the moment, Speedracer has just completed her first Ironman distance tri at Vineman after months of badass training, and Rosie Swale-Pope features in this months Runners World after completing her run around the world (well she hasn’t quite completed it yet but is back on British soil after running for almost 5 years). These are people who know how to tame the quitting demons!

While I may not be running very much I’m certainly getting in plenty of cycle practice on the Brompton – I’ve got to get some speed training under my belt as I now have competition at the Brompton World Champs, Emma’s Dave has thrown down the gauntlet and must be beaten.

Brooks Saddle

I’m still struggling with that saddle though. It’s beautiful and all but it’s a weapon of torture. I have it from good authority that it will weather in time, moulding itself to my own personal contours, thereby morphing into the most comfortable saddle in the world. In the meantime it is leaving me with day long pins and needles – most disconcerting.

I had an appointment with the ortho surgeon last week about my dodgy back issue and I was grilled about possible neurological complications. One of the questions put to me was “Have you experienced numbness or pins and needles in the saddle area?” Well, what could I say?

I obviously answered incorrectly as I ended up flat on my back having my bits and pieces tickled with a feather! When a guy came into the cubicle with a gloved hand and a protruding finger, I leapt off the couch and backed out pointing at my Brooks saddle and begging for mercy. I avoided the internal interrogation but still have to go and have an MRI – it would be much cheaper to invest in a gel saddle cover.

I Need a Tie

I have just entered the Brompton World Championship race to be held at Blenheim Palace.
Catch that, a world bloody championship!

Anyway, rules state I must wear a suit jacket, collared shirt and a tie.
I don’t have a tie – disaster!

Anybody got a spare tie that would complement my delightful bike and wouldn’t be impaired by a gallon of sweat?

Two Tone Brompton

Brooks Saddle

Here’s a quick pictorial introduction to the new bike recruit.

The Brompton is squeezing alongside the other two bikes and trying to carve out a niche for itself.

So far it’s doing very well and I’m beginning to worry about what I’ll do with the other two.

I wonder if I could have a go at a sprint tri with it? It certainly needs to have a go at some sort of challenge event just to cement it’s street cred.

A marvel of British engineering.

Compact and Bijou

Here it is in transition mode – notice the sweet pea holder built into the Brompton bag – how useful is that?

Sweet Pea

Just to continue the bike porn theme, here it is in full glory.

Shed & Bike

I’ll just finish by plugging the WizzBike – the best bike shop I’ve come across so far. Superb service, it’s based in Brentford but well worth the trip if you are interested in Bromptons, folders or Pashleys.