Posted by: Ian | September 29, 2013

The Last Post

Regular readers might have noticed that it’s been a couple of months or more since my last post. I’ve been cycling as much as ever and there have been plenty of things I would normally have written about; topics that have been on my mind include:

  • How I smashed my Park Loops time
  • Watching the Vuelta in Madrid
  • Watching the Tour of Britain in Devon
  • 6,000 mile review of the Van Nicholas Astraeus
  • 4,000 mile review of the Cervelo R3
  • 15,000 mile review of the Condor Tempo
  • Tubeless tyres
  • The psychotopology of Swiss and English roads
  • Strava (check out leading times on the “Tunnel Vision” segment on the Embankment)
  • My planned Highlights of Northern Britain tour
  • Riding up Box Hill with Alberto Contador.

However… I’ve increasingly felt that this blog returns me to a period that I now look back on unhappily, as if I one day awoke into a coldness as severe as any act of intended violence.

I’m still writing, and finding a lot of fun in it, but not here and not, as it happens, about cycling. At least for now.

While I’ve lost my appetite to run a blog, I might be interested in contributing to one. (email me at dearsir@mac.com if you have ideas…)

I sign off with a repeat of one of my favourite images, being the Garmin map trace of my seven days of riding between Christmas and New Year:

Freedom

Posted by: Ian | July 26, 2013

Rapha Lows

Just over a year ago I sat in the Rapha Cafe on the day that it opened watching the Tour de France. It was packed and there was a nice, gently excited vibe. I  wondered then what it would become when it wasn’t new any more: a chic cafe, a cycle club or an expensive off-Regent Street clothes shop. Yesterday evening I had my answer…

For a few weeks earlier this year I joined in with the Rapha Thursday evening ride. Setting off from the Cafe in the early evening, we cycled up to Regent’s Park and did several circuits of the OUter Circle in a chatty two-line bunch before speeding up and settling into a through-and-off pack, then finally sprinting from the south-side lights to the south-east corner. The first couple of times I went along the evenings were still dark and the group leaving the cafe small. Then the evenings got lighter and the pack grew so that even after splitting into a fast and a slow set, each set was as large as the winter group. The last time I did it the group had grown to a hoard, almost as massive as the bunches that bomb (some feel obnoxiously) around Richmond Park.

That was in Spring. Since then I’ve been out of the country or Doing Other Things on a Thursday evening. But yesterday I was free and I decided to give it another go. I turned up early so that I’d have time to eat first. The small cafe was half empty and the guys manning the counter told me that they were virtually out of food. All that they had left in the way of savoury food was a beef brioche so I ordered that. I asked for one of the rice bars that they used to have to supplement it. Sticky white cuboids hand wrapped in silver foil, they were delicious and perfect as a pre- or post-race snack. They were apparently the same as the bars prepared for Team Sky. But yesterday the guys behind the bar told me that they no longer stock them.

Still, I used to enjoy having my coffee while trying to read the day’s L’Equipe. Yesterday there was no L’Equipe, just a Cycling Weekly; and it was a month out of date. The one guy who was still tending the counter was chatting up the only girl sitting nearby and he forgot my brioche. It wasn’t so much that he was incompetent in any way – he just seemed to have lost the habit of having customers.

With time to kill I checked out the stock on the shelves. It looked depleted and for the first time ever there was nothing that I wanted to buy. There was a 15% sale on all items, which was just as telling as the fact that I didn’t take advantage of it.

As time moved on there was a marked absence of congregating cyclists. When I asked one of the staff whether the club ride was on he told me that Thursday rides had been cancelled because they were too popular. Since I’m going to be in London over the weekend I asked whether they still do Saturday or Sunday rides. Well they do, but they’re popular too. The solution they’ve come up with to this is to restrict to a small number of places – I’m sure he said just ten – and require that riders sign up in advance. And to keep the numbers down prospective riders have to look out for the ride being advertised on Twitter, as they come online – which is at different times each week. Since I had an unexpected amount of free time, I checked out the upcoming weekend ride and it was, of course, sold out.

So this is Rapha’s problem. Primarily they sell top quality cycling clothes. The market for these is “niche”, partly because it’s limited to those of us who prefer Rapha’s understated aesthetic to lurid team-issue lycra outfits; but more because it costs a lot of money. Now, it turns out that the “niche” population of cyclists who like the Rapha style and can afford to pay for it is very sizeable, as you can increasingly see at sportives. In a half-hearted way, Rapha define a niche within a niche through the Imperial Works collection, in which select pieces are very occasionally made available just to we loyal few who consistently spend extravagantly with Rapha online; but this is very marginal. (If I had less money I’d still buy Rapha clothing but less of it.)

Rapha also ratchet up the wealth filter by many notches on their organised cycling trips, in which customers are offered the chance to cycle over renowned mountain ranges in the grand style, rather than navigating across with Google Maps and TripAdvisor as most of us do.

But wealth filters aren’t a viable way to reduce the Rapha-loving population of London to cycle club size, as they’ve discovered.  Their alternative of using nods and winks amongst the Twitterati is a reductio ad absurdum of the whole idea of a Rapha cycle club.

Earlier, I stopped into Look Mum No Hands for something to eat on my way home. We quite often go there in the mornings for a coffee and bacon roll after cycling around the park and before work; but this was only my second evening visit. There was proper food (I had beef stroganoff) and it was very good. It was busy and most of the people there had arrived by bike. There is a hint of a hipster vibe but nothing of the Rapha Cafe’s “off Regent Street” atmosphere. The walls are adorned with hand-written notes and simple printed flyers advertising stuff for sale and rides that customers have organised. It’s more hub than club, and much better for it.

I continue to love Rapha but they really only know how to be a shop.

Posted by: Ian | July 25, 2013

Rapha Highs

Last week I did the Rapha Rising challenge on Strava, celebrating the 100th edition of the Tour de France. To quote from Strava:

In the week which starts on Bastille Day (14th-21st July), Rapha is challenging participating riders to climb the combined height, from sea level, of the Peyresourde, Ventoux and Col de Sarenne, all of which feature in this year’s race.

In the eight day window of the challenge I could do a long ride in Somerset on the first Sunday; whatever I could manage after work in the evenings in central London in the week; and a ride with Joerg in the Swiss Alps on the final day.

Being doubtful about what I might manage in London, I chose to put in some decent miles over Exmoor on my first day and devised a route of 115 miles that took in both the Porlock toll road and the climb from Lynmouth to Simonsbath, twice, for a total ascent of about 11.5k feet. It was a beautiful ride but the heat, which reached into the nineties (34 deg C), nearly killed me!

In London I managed to get in more ascent miles than I expected through the simple and pleasant expedient of riding up to Whitestone Pond and back down again numerous times and by various routes. Even on the fixie it’s quite easy and, although it only earns about half the ascent per mile cycled that I was scoring on Exmoor, it made a useful dent in the total.

The highlight was our ride in the Alps. Joerg led three other guys and myself up and down the Pragel pass then across to and up and down the Klausen pass. I loved the Pragel. It’s about seven miles of fairly steep climbing on a very quiet, shaded road. If it were near me I’d do it all the time. I found the Klausen much harder. After an 11 mile gently uphill ride to get to it, there’s a 14 mile ascent. It’s not steep but it goes on and on and lacks the shade of the Pragel; again, I found the heat debilitating. There was also much more traffic: cars and swarms of alpine motorcyclists. More than anything, not having a good sense of how far up the climb I was proved psychologically difficult; I would have loved the kilometre progress markers I saw recently on the Col d’Izoard.

But forget all of that: it was stunningly beautiful. I didn’t stop to take any snaps on the way up and those I managed on the way down (where the views are a little less breath-taking) do no justice at all to the grandeur of it.

Klausen

 

Joerg had told me that recently he’s been getting faster on the climbs and slower on the descents. This was borne out by the fact that he left me going up and I could keep with him on the way down. He’s a more skilled descender than I am and described the drop down from the Klausen pass as “boringly straight”. This is a matter of perspective. To me, it seemed to snake all over the place, with a roadway often cut into rock faces and becoming only one car wide. To one side of the carriageway at these points, which ran on for extensive sections of the road, were precipitous drops whose height was such that I couldn’t stop to take photographs for fear of getting vertigo. A fence formed of a thin horizontal pole provided the token protection against the open drop.

Naturally, many of the cars driving down showed a degree of circumspection. Joerg overtook them all, and, to avoid having to ponder the drop too much and thus risk vertigo, so did I. It was exhilarating.

Our total ascent for the day was just under 9k feet. In the end I’d exceeded the necessary amount of ascent to complete the challenge by 10% and done 8,000 metres in eight days, thus averaging 1000 metres per day. Given that England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, stands at less than 1,000 metres above sea level, I felt that this wasn’t too shabby.

Rapha Rising Where

Now I’m looking forward to getting the cloth roundel that Rapha have offered to cyclists who complete the challenge. (For anyone else in the same situation, I’m told that Strava will be sending out an email soon.) It’s the kind of thing that makes me warm to Rapha.

Rapha Rising

 

Posted by: Ian | July 6, 2013

Riding for Team Saxo

This week I was lucky enough to see the Tour de France Team Trial in Nice as a guest of Saxo Bank. Amongst the razzamatazz of the event itself, twice we went out cycling. On the evening before the race Bjarne Riis’s two sons led a group of us out around the parcours. As we were wearing Saxo team kit and on team bikes, people who were milling around, many of whom were camped out in advance of the race the following day, cheered us on. We didn’t ride at anything like pro pace  – or even at anything like our own best pace, at least until we reached the last few hundred metres on the Promenade des Anglais when some of us got the pedals turning a bit faster.

On the morning of the race day we rose early for a ride up Col d’Eze. This is a nice hill that leaves Nice to the east and which features in Paris-Nice. It’s also used as training ride by the resident pro’s: Jeremy Roy is second on the Strava leaderboard, Rigoberto Uran is third and Ben Swift is seventh. (I’m a lowly 152/407.) Here’s our little group somewhere over the back of the climb:

Saxo

 

We were riding Specialized Venges, and a very good ride they are too! The SRAM Red mechanical groupset was fitted with a 53/39 road racing crankset and an 11-32 cassette. The mechanic told me that they have medium-cage derailleurs on all of the pro bikes, whatever cassette they have. When they need smaller gears they prefer to keep the 53/39 upfront and to use larger sprockets at the back. 39/32 is pretty much the same gearing as a compact 34/28 and it retains (at the cost of some gapiness) the 53/11 ratio for fast riding on the flat.

Back down in Nice just a few hours ahead of the race, everyone – police, Tour organisers, camera-toting spectators – all assumed that we were the team. Road barriers were moved for us, traffic was held up and I was more photographed than I have ever been. It was hilarious.

For the time trial itself, I got a ride in the front of one of the team cars. For the first half we sped around the course, spectators leaning in, following the team as they held up a steady 60 km/h. I noticed a camera lying on the road on the Promenade. It transpired that this had been thrown onto the street after an over-keen spectator had stuck it in the path of Benjamin Noval, hitting his finger. He thought his finger was broken and eventually, in pain and unable to hold the handlebar, had to drop from the group; our car followed him in.

Noval

 

If/when I  get a link to the pro photo’s, I may post a couple of them. It was quite a day.

Posted by: Ian | June 30, 2013

Cycling up the Col d’Izoard

Yesterday morning I left home early, flew to Nice, picked up a hire car and headed into the Alps. I had decided, for no especially good reason, to cycle up Col d’Izoard, a Hors Categorie climb that has featured in many previous editions of both the Tour and the Giro, although not recently – the influx of wealth to the Côte d’Azur having made road closures much tougher to arrange. I had heard that the ride was pretty.

The mapping sites I looked at for a route by car all returned paths that were very circuitous. Impatiently, I decided to eschew every one of the proposed alternatives in favour of a direct route over the Alps. It was wonderful and, as there are so few roads, easy to plot and follow. Having failed to prepare, I picked out the roads from my ipad as I drove along, screen-shotting the relevant sections while I still had signal.

The French Alps are all that I had hoped: scenic twisty roads, rivers, forests and steady ascent. Somewhere around St Etienne de Tinee a convoy of 14 Ferraris passed me coming down the mountain. Despite the beauty, I can’t imagine it was great driving terrain for them: I did much of it in 2nd. Above the tree line came frequent hairpins and a far more open landscape of grassland, scree and eventually snow. Signs marked out the climb for cyclists at each kilometre up to the Col de la Bonette at 2,802 metres.

20130630-210034.jpg

Near the top I saw separately four little critters scuttling around and diving into holes. I later learned that they were marmots.

It felt unreal to be somewhere so different by lunchtime of the day I’d left home.

I drove down the north side of La Bonette and then up and over the Col de Vars, reaching my hotel in Guillestre by late afternoon.

This morning I headed up to the Col d’Izoard after breakfast. Overnight Zoe had emailed me the write-up of the climb from the book Mountain High and it had made me a little apprehensive. The heavily dramatised account ended with a quotation from a former Tour director describing the route I had chosen to follow as on “the border of the difficult and the terrifying”.

Leaving Guillestre, I struck up a conversation with another cyclist who was also on his way up. Happily, he had, he told me, forgotten all of his English so I had my first opportunity for an extended conversation in French for a very long time. Also, he kept us at a good pace. I warmed to the guy and he was happy to answer all of my questions about bike climbs in the French Alps. He lives in the region and knows a lot. Today, he was going on to ride up the Galibier before dropping down to his home. He claimed that the ride up to Izoard was plus dur, which didn’t diminish my anxiety.

We rode together for many miles until we reached the hardest section of the climb at Arvieux. Then, keeping to my heart rate target – for fear of how hard the ride would become – I had to let him ride ahead. It didn’t become hard; it just continued for quite a while. When I reached the summit it caught me by surprise, even though I hadn’t missed any of the signs advertising the distance to the top (including the 1 km sign). Intrinsically, it isn’t that hard. No doubt it’s super hard if you race up at pro speed or if it’s the fifth such col you’ve done in your day’s circuit. But on its own it’s a walk in the park compared to, say, Day 3 of the Tour of Wessex.

The big old monument at the top is very rewarding. My congenial French friend was there too, asking if I wanted to carry on to Galibier. I really would have liked to but I had no appetite at all for the return trip from there. There were quite a few other cyclists milling around, most of whom had come by the (easier) route from the north. We had passed only about half a dozen on the way up and none had passed us. There were also many, many motorcyclists. I can see why they would take the trip – more so than the Ferrari drivers – but the number of them swarming around was unwelcome, especially on the descent.

I changed my original plan to loop round to Briancon in favour of returning down the col I came up so that I could check out some of the views I’d missed on the way up, such as the plaques commemorating Coppi and Bartoli, and take some photos.

20130630-214417.jpg

Stopping frequently for snaps served a useful secondary purpose of expunging from my mind all thoughts of my Strava time for the descent. I try very hard to avoid getting carried away on the downhills but if you know you can post a time a dangerous irrationality is close at hand.

Before returning to Guillestre I headed off towards Italy. I thought I might reach the border but discovered that the journey is up another long col. I began the climb and enjoyed it but at 1:30, with 13 km still left to the summit, I passed a perfect little coke and pizza cafe and decided to have some lunch while I could. After a leisurely stop I swept back down the hills to the hotel taking many more snaps en route.

20130630-214838.jpg

Posted by: Ian | June 19, 2013

Your Wimbleball 70.3 stats

On Monday I posted some summary stats for this year’s Wimbleball 70.3. Since then I’ve processed some analysis for each competitor. If you follow this link you can see how each cohort performed, selecting by Category (Pro, Age band) and Gender, showing results for each Leg or Overall. As you make your selection the time on the chosen leg for each person in the cohort is shown as a dot on the chart. Also, some summary stats for the cohort are shown, namely the minimum, 1st quartile, median, mean, 3rd quartile and maximum values. All times are in minutes, so, for example, 200.5 means 3 hours, 20 minutes and 30 seconds.

You can also enter the name of an individual competitor (the default is Paula). When you do so, whenever the person named features in the chosen cohort a blue line will pick out the relevant dot and show their relevant time and position.

Some caveats:

1. I haven’t scrubbed the data. (I noticed that one guy had a bike time of zero so I inferred the correct time using the total time and an average transition time value.)

2. You have to enter the names as they appear on the Ironman website. I’ve trimmed redundant zeroes but haven’t decapitalised names that appear all in caps or made any other changes.

3. The labels may appear in strange/overlapping/off-chart positions. If I was selling it I’d fix it…

4. The charts are generally reactive – i.e. they all redraw as soon as you change any input. However, the stats charts don’t always seem to do so and then you may need to reload the page or make some other changes to trigger a re-calc. (See comment above…)

5. Five names (Ben Williams, James Williams, Martin Davies, Paul Wilson, Simon Wood) appear a couple of time. In these cases, two lines appear but the text may overlap, rendering it unreadable.

shoes

Posted by: Ian | June 17, 2013

Wimbleball 70.3 2013 Stats

The results from yesterday’s Wimbleball 70.3 are in and here’s some analysis…

Entrants came from 45 countries, with the vast majority coming, of course, from Great Britain. The distribution is shown here:

Country

The Other bar is catching all of the countries other than those explicitly shown on the x-axis.

IronStatusThere were 1,650 names on the start sheet. Of these, 319 did not start – or at least didn’t record a swim time – 154 started but didn’t finish and 1,177 made it through to an official time at the end. Of these, three were in excess of the 8:30 official cut-off, according to the site stats. The more the better in my opinion: I watched the ref telling people at the end of the bike leg that they hadn’t made the cut-off and it was heart-breaking.

For my stats here, I’m ignoring the 14 teams who completed the event because worthy and worthwhile as their endeavours no doubt were, they weren’t engaged in the same challenge as everyone else and there’s no point comparing their efforts.

The accredited finish times ranged from 4:15:04 to 8:43:00, with a median of 6:40:06 and a mean of 6:40:54.

The swim times for finishers ranged from 23:56 to 1:01:04, with a median of 39:54 and a mean of 40:25.

The bike times for finishers ranged from 2:32:45 to 4:48:01 with a median of 3:40:30 and a mean of 3:41:48.

The run times for finishers ranged from 2:32:49 to 3:14:59 with a median of 2:03:36 and a mean of 2:05:24.

I’ve shown before that triathlons disadvantage relatively strong swimmers and favour relatively strong cyclists. This is also evident from the distribution of results at Wimbleball as the above stats indicate and these charts more conclusively show:

Dispersion by Leg

The variance amongst swim times is far more compressed than the variance of bike times, giving the stronger cyclist much more scope to gain ground than the stronger swimmer; the run is not quite as significant as the bike but much more so than the swim. Clearly this is a statistical rather than an absolute finding: at the top of the event, for example, Tim Don pipped Ritchie Nicholls on the swim and the bike legs but still lost the overall title due to Ritchie Nicholls blisteringly fast run. However, for the vast mass of participants, as a competition a triathlon remains essentially a damp bike ride.

In the blog I reference above I also give an explicit formula for how to rebalance a triathlon to make it fairer while trying to preserve the median finish time. At Wimbleball this would require lengthening the swim from 1.2 to 3.4 miles, shortening the bike ride from 56 to 39.5 miles and abbreviating the run slightly from 13.1 to 12.3 miles. Of course, the number of entrants who could manage a competitive 3.4 mile swim is limited, which is why these events are destined to continue to favour the cyclists.

I had intended to add a link to an interactive chart such as the link I provided here for the Tour of Wessex Day 3 – but I’ve timed out and I guess that interested parties can do it for themselves. Maybe if I get time later this week I’ll add it.

Posted by: Ian | June 14, 2013

My 500 mile bike ride in Sweden

Now that I’m back home I can add some final thoughts to my recent posts re my week of cycling in Sweden.

Travelling by bike

Here, approximately, is my total route:

Sweden Route

As the title indicates, this ended up at almost exactly 500 miles, although that included a few imprecisions and diversions not shown on this route map.

I was extremely lucky with the weather: I rode under sun and blue skies virtually all week. I was lucky with the bike too: I had no punctures or mechanical problems. Having said that, if it rained and I’d had punctures every day I would still have enjoyed it. It’s such a wonderful experience to be out and about, smelling the pines and the hot sappy forests and feeling the wind in my face or, better still, at my back.

I can’t think of any other way of seeing a chunk of Sweden that would have been as satisfying. My brief journeys at the end of my trip between Arlanda and Stockholm, which I did twice, were comparable to travelling by train between, say, Coventry and Birmingham. I love train travel but except on very long journeys it dilutes the sense of place.

A few people warned me before I left that their experiences of travelling across Sweden by car had been very boring. Having seen the roads that you’d take to do such a journey, I can see why. Embarking on such a car trip and then complaining of the monotony is akin to going to MacDonald’s and lamenting the lack of fine cuisine. You do it, presumably, because it’s efficient and transactional rather than for any quality of richness.

Walking across the country might be a fun alternative but you couldn’t cover anything like the same ground in the time. I loved the differing townscapes, discovering the lakes and, perhaps especially, the magical quality of the area around Vattern: they say there are trolls in the mountains! In a way – though more of a psychological than a topographical one – it reminds me of my own area of Somerset and Devon.

If I had to explore Sweden without cycling I’d try a journey from Gothenberg to Stockholm on the Gota canal. I think it takes around four days.

Accommodation

For all but the two nights I spent in Motala I stayed in hotels. They were all truly excellent; here’s the one in Vasteras:

Elite hotel

However, if I were planning a similar trip again I’d stay in guesthouses on at least half of my nights for the chance of a more authentic and personal experience. I certainly enjoyed this in Motala.

Food

I hope and believe I was probably around calorie-neutral for the trip. According to my Garmin, I burned about 13,000 cals. If I didn’t compensate for that with hearty breakfasts, lunches, dinners and cake stops I’d be surprised. The food was outstanding. My only disappointments were both in chains in Stockholm: I had my only bad (and undrinkable) coffee of the week at Espresso House and my worst meal at Fisk (and it was the atmosphere and service as much as the food that let it down). Wobbler in Orebro and Varda in Vasteras stand out as especially memorable.

Effort

I really took it easy on this trip. On the outward days, heading broadly West to Motala, I had the wind against me, checked directions constantly and averaged only 14 mph plus change. On the return the wind was with me more and my average speeds were north of 18 mph, bringing me to something above 16 mph overall. But to put this in context, on the two days of the Tour of Wessex that I did recently (days one and three), on average I cycled over 50% more miles each day than I did on my Sweden trip and climbed more than three times as much per mile ridden – yet still held a higher average speed. There’s no mystery to it: my average heart rate on the Wessex was 20 bpm higher. The consequence of this gentler, Zone 2 approach was that I ended every day on my Sweden trip with fresh legs.

The Swedes, I learn, have their own domestic equivalent to an Ironman challenge that has been running since 1972. It’s called the Swedish Classical and features four legs that, rather than taking place in brutal direct sequence like an Ironman or triathlon, are spaced over the months March to September. In the full form they are a 90 km cross country ski, a 300 km bike ride (the Vatternrundan), a 3 km river swim and a 30 km run. To complete the challenge you do all of these in the same calendar year. As well as the full form there is a “half” version and a “ladies” version of each event, so you can complete the half version or the ladies version of the overall Classic. The ride that I did on Sunday – the 150 km Halvvattern – is the half version of the Vatternrundan.

I find the thought of doing the whole Classic set appealing, despite having no interest at all in triathlons. I am interested to observe in myself no drive to do the full version but rather  a sense that the half version would be more enjoyable. When I finished the halvvattern, with my lazy average heart rate of only 134 bpm, I barely felt tired. However, I’d had enough of sitting in the saddle and the thought of having to do the same distance again would have been an ordeal rather than a challenge. I ride for the pleasure it brings me, not to prove a point.

the bike

Yesterday I had an ideal easy day’s cycling. After threading my way out of Motala, much of my route followed a bucolic minor road past lakes and meadows. Here’s a snap showing one of the roads that I took as well as one of the gravel tracks that I largely managed to avoid:

Keep left!

At the end of this post I have some recommendations on how to avoid letting your Garmin send you all over the place.

I arrived yesterday in Orebro, which is an attractive town, and had a fast ride today to Vasteras, which is another. Both are chock-full of people scooting along on Dutch-style bikes through streets, often cobbled, that favour cyclists and pedestrians far more than cars, buses or cabs. The civic architecture is very appealing and features stunning castles, cathedrals and churches set in a lacework of waterways. I’m spoilt for choice on which to show; here’s Orebro castle:

Orebro at night

Along the way, I’ve passed through some very quaint little places. These also have a very pleasing vernacular architecture; here’s a churchyard I passed this morning set in a small town in the middle of nowhere:

M.O.N.

A non-cycling highlight of my trip was an excursion around the Motala area that the owners of my guesthouse took me on the evening after the Halvvattern. This could easily justify a blog entry on its own.

Anyhow, as advertised…

Notes on route planning with a Garmin 800/810

The fundamental problem – and it is a problem – is an issue that I’ve written about before: the pernicious difference between a Course and a Route. You get a course when you upload a TCX (or, if you must, a GPX) file to your device. This does the following, once you load it:

1. It draws the course, using the points supplied in the TCX file and defined by your mapping software, on the map on the device.
2. It loads the cues, but only Left/Right/Straight, from the file, together with their coordinates.
3. So long as you stay on the course, it presents these cues to you as you get to the relevant points.
4. It calculates distance and time to the next cue, so long as you are on the course, and distance/time to destination.
5. It warns you if you go off course.

In contrast, a route is calculated on the device at ride time. Then:

1. It draws the route on your map. Whereas a course is shown in red, a route is shown in pink.
2. It gives you turn by turn directions for following the route (not the course), if you select this.
3. It gives distance/time to the next turn on the route on a different page to the similar course info. And it gives you time/distance estimates to your destination.
4. If you go off the route it recalculates another route, if you select this, either automatically or when prompted.

Thus whenever you follow a course you are getting schizoid directions and map pictures from both the course and the route. You cannot tell the device to navigate to the course!! Often, even usually, the two are coincident. However, they do differ and when this happens if you don’t pay attention you will be navigated off your planned course. If you want to stick to your course you cannot trust those turn by turn directions, for example. This is a really big deal if you are in an unknown land and do not have infinite time and/or fitness!

Forewarned is forearmed. I use this schizoid behaviour to give me options. For example, when wending my way around towns I may choose to use the Garmin’s ride-time route calculation over the one I came up with in BikeRouteToaster or RideWithGPS. But at all times I try to be aware of whether/how any divergence is occurring. My main methods for this are:

A. Look out for an Off Course warning. Once you leave a course you get no course info unless and until you rejoin it.
B. Look at the map page to see whether the red and the pink lines peel apart, and, if so, where they reconverge.
C. Look at the Time to Next field for the route and check that it’s decreasing – if not, you’re heading off the last calculated route.
D. Ditto time to the next cue point for the course, which is more serious (see A).

In general, I try to stick to *the course* by using these techniques. This is because I set the course in advance and know it to be reasonable. The route is sometimes (though quite rarely) nuts and it often adds extra distance.

A couple more notes:

1. Sometimes the Garmin says Off Course when it isn’t and you just need to ride on a little way for the Course Found message to appear.
2. When the route is having a conniption it can simply show a zero for Time to Next or some apparently random large number – recently I’ve seen a lot of values of about 4,000 miles, which, by coincidence, is around the radius of the Earth.

Posted by: Ian | June 9, 2013

Sweden: Facts and corrections about Vattern

I wrote (based on ostensibly good info) that the Vatternrundan had 20,000 entrants and sold out in four days. I learn (better info) that this year it has 28,000 entrants and sold out in two hours. (And I think it goes without saying that if you want to learn anything about Swedish pronunciation you should ask a Swede, not me.)

Here’s a couple of compensatory factoids about Vattern…

** Lake Vattern is up to 30 miles wide and freezes enough to skate on in winter.

** There’s a water route that includes the Vattern (plus a bunch of canals) connecting Gothenberg and Stockholm. It’s apparently a big tourist draw.

And here’s the very lake:

Vattern

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