Bike wheel circumference and its effect on recorded distance

A few months back, I rode the Prudential London-Surrey Ride 100. That’s a 100-mile sportive, except that my Garmin recorded the route as 155.9km, or 96.871769 miles. Somewhere it seems I missed about 5 km/3 miles… or maybe I just cut all the corners!

Well, even though I was using GPS, I may tonight have found something that might account for a little bit of that variation – it seems my Garmin cycle computer was set to the wrong wheel circumference. Not wildly out but about 0.8%, which won’t help.

The Edge 810 software has options within a bike profile for both manual and automatic wheel size adjustment.  For my Bianchi C2C profile, it was set to automatic and had decided that my wheel circumference was 2088mm, probably when I originally paired my speed/cadence sensor as, according to the Garmin website:

“Wheel size is automatically calculated when a Garmin Speed/Cadence Bike Sensor (GSC 10) is paired to a GPS-enabled device”

With 700x23C tyres fitted, it should actually be closer to 2096mm (which seemed to be the default when I switched to a manual setting, or maybe that’s what I had originally entered before it was overridden by the software?) but I switched to 700x25C tyres about a year ago which will have a circumference of around 2105mm according to this table (and this one).

For completeness, I checked the profiles for my mountain bikes too – they both showed an automatic wheel size of 0mm (so presumably get their distance from GPS) but have now been changed to 2075 for 26×2.20″ and 2037 for 26×1.85″ (defaults seemed to be 2050).

As for the rest of the difference – well, tyre pressures are a factor – as is the weight of the rider. One school of thought says you should put some paint or water on your tyre, ride along and then measure the gaps between the dots. That assumes you ride in a straight line and that the other factors (weight, tyre pressure, etc.) remain constant between rides.

If the organisers said it’s a hundred miles, then I’ll go with that. Hopefully now I’ve amended the wheel circumference that will help a bit in future though.

Tracking spin classes with a Garmin; and some thoughts on cycle sportives

So, as I hit the half-way point in an 8-week block of 90 minute Endurance Spin classes with Jason Martindale (@martindale72) – and with the nights drawing in and winter weather making road cycling less attractive – it’s time to start planning my winter training schedule.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a turbo-trainer for a while, and I’ve just ordered a Jet Black Z1 Fluid Pro though UK stock seems to be hard to track down. I’ll also be giving Zwift a try (though I may have to wait for the iOS version to ship as I don’t have any spare PCs with a suitable spec that I can move to the garage, where the bike and turbo will be).

In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit about my experience of using my Garmin Edge 810 in spin sessions…

Spinning with Garmin

Riding on a spin bike means there’s no speed/cadence recording – and being stationary in a spin studio means there’s no distance – but I still log my workouts on Strava (if only to keep a training record). I can still record my heart rate though (which remains stubbornly low – even if I think I’m working hard). I’ve set up new bike and activity profiles in the Garmin and then all it needs is for me to remember to turn off the GPS in the System Settings before starting the workout.

The end result looks something like this:

So, what’s the point of all this training? Apart from general fitness, I don’t want to have to go back to zero again when I get my bike out of the garage next spring and I like to fit a couple of sportives in each year, which leads me onto some more ramblings…

Some thoughts on the big closed road sportives

This year I rode the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 again (this time it wasn’t cut short for me – though many riders had their ride massively reduced due to delays). The verdict: too many people; too much variety in capabilities; too dangerous; won’t be riding this one again (I had more fun in the Ride Staffs 68 earlier in the summer).

The trouble with Ride London (apart from the ballot system and the having to make a separate trip to London to pick up the registration pack) is that it’s just too popular. “How can a sportive be too popular?”, you may ask.

Well 27,000 riders is a lot of people and although the organisers try to set people off according to ability, some overestimate their skills (and crash – even though 33 injuries from that many riders is a pretty good ratio, 33 is still too many); others clearly didn’t read the rider pack and ride in the middle or on the right side of the road, making it difficult to pass safely; and others chain-gang through in mini-peletons as if they are a professional team. That mix makes things dangerous. Coming off some of the hills I was having to shout “coming through on the right” to get slower riders to move left (the bicycling equivalent of a motorway, with everyone driving in  the middle lane, the left lane empty, and lane 3 backing up…). And in one place I came to a dead halt because but then I got marooned on the wrong side of the road at the bottom of an incline and needed to wait for a gap to cross back to the left of the road as a steady stream of 30-40mph riders came off the hill I’d just come down.  Yes, the public whose neighbourhoods we rode through were great, and the atmosphere riding on closed roads through central London is epic, but on balance it was a pain to get to and a long day that could have been more enjoyable than it was.

I hit my goal of riding the full route in under 6 hours, according to Strava rather than the official time (with stops for accidents, etc.) so I feel I’ve done London now. Someone else can have the place next year…

I could do the Tour of Cambridgeshire again, but last time I did that (in 2015) it took nearly an hour to get over the start line and I missed the cutoff for the full route (though riding at a decent pace) – which kind of put me off that event…

So, 2017 will see me riding Vélo Birmingham, a new closed road sportive, with just 15,000 riders. Many people seem to be put off by the price but the way I see it is:

  • Staging events (particularly on closed roads) have an associated cost.
  • Ride London-Surrey is an example of what happens if you have too many people.
  • Reducing the number of riders by 40% is bound to mean each entrant has to pay more…

So what’s next on my bucket list. Well John O’Groats to Lands End for sure – but that’s probably a few years away. The near future’s more likely to include London Revolution (though I can’t make the 2017 dates), England Coast to Coast (possibly in a day, though more likely over a couple) and then maybe Wales in a Day (I’ll need to build up to that).

Reflecting on riding the #RideStaffs 68-mile sportive

Back in 2013, when I bought my first road bike since the “racer” of my teens, the first sportive I took part in was the Tour [of Britain] Ride in Staffordshire – setting out from Stoke-on-Trent. Now I work for a Stafford-based IT services company and when I heard we were sponsoring the Staffordshire Cycling Festival (@RideStaffs) it gave me a chance to a return visit, although a little further south this time!

(Ironically, the Tour Ride has moved to my home county of Northamptonshire this year… but I can’t make it.)

So, last Sunday, blessed with some summer sunshine (at last!) I rocked up at Shugborough Hall wearing my risual orange jersey, the only one of the team joining the 68 mile sportive (though quite a few of the guys took part in the 22 miler).

With rolling hills from the off, at Milford we took a sharp left and then Bang! we hit the climb up onto Cannock Chase. The first 30 minutes were slow, grinding my way up onto the Chase until we turned left on Brindley Heath and headed down towards Rugeley. I’d just got going at full speed (hitting just over 60kph) when I realised I needed to take a left turn half way down a hill and grabbed the brakes hard – no discs on my road bike! I managed to scrub off speed and make the turn, then hooked onto the back of a small peloton with 2 other riders down towards Rugeley. After taking turns for a while, we hit the A51 and missed the route sign – but it seemed wrong to be heading west so quickly and, as we were heading back towards Shugborough, I turned around and retraced my steps, picking up the correct route again a mile back down the road and passing my hotel from the previous night!

The next section took in mostly flat roads near Lichfield and Alrewas, nipping over the border into Derbyshire before turning over the River Trent and up to the first stop at Barton-under-Needwood. After taking on water and flapjack I started chatting with the owners of two beautifully restored 1970s Colnagos with glorious etching and chromework, one of whom even had a traditional wool jersey, cap (no helmets in the ’70s I guess) and leather saddle bag!

Despite my slow start, I’d averaged over 27kph but realised why as we set off again towards Uttoxeter – turning into the wind that had previously been helping me along (though Hanbury Bank offered a welcome break) . To make matters worse my bike seemed to be grinding from the bottom bracket… time to see Kev at Olney Bikes again for repairs…

After another stop in Uttoxeter (where one rider was conducting the town band – he later told me they split over “musical differences”!) we set off again over some undulating terrain towards the last major climb at Sandon (and what a killer that was).

I skipped the final stop (it was only for water and was carrying plenty of fluids) and pushed on with a large group riding into Stafford – past the Technology Park where our offices are – but was dropped again as we turned left up past the University. From there it was a steady ride on into Shugborough… ending slightly-extended 68 mile ride!

As I crossed the line, I was handed my goody bag musette style, including a variety of items but most importantly a beer token!  My official time was a respectable 5 hours 8 minutes, but Strava told me I’d only been moving for 4 hours and 39, climbing 1235 metres in the process.

Even though I’d missed the rest of the risual riders (the 22 mile sportive set off later and obviously got back sooner!) I stuck around for a while to watch some of the Tour de France coverage and got some lunch from the wood fired pizza stand (a long wait but nice pizza), before heading home… wishing I hadn’t picked a sportive quite so far away!

All in all, it was a fantastic day – and I was very lucky with the weather. Paul at Leadout Cycling organised a great event and I hope to make it back another year. It was also a timely reminder that, even without heading up onto the North Staffordshire Moorlands, there are still plenty of hills around Staffordshire and that my normal routes around South Northants, North Bucks and Beds are relatively flat by comparison…

…as well as that it’s just 4 more weeks until my next sportive – 100 miles from London to Surrey and back again (hopefully not cut short this year)!

Adventures on a Brompton bike: my first London commute

Those who know me well know that I have a collection of bikes in my garage. Fans of the Velominati will be familiar with rule #12, which states:

“Rule #12: The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.”

So, it was with great delight that I recently persuaded my wife it would be a great idea for me to buy a new bike. Maybe not the super-light road bike that I might like (I need a super-light Mark before that makes sense anyway) but a commuter. A folding bike to take on the train. A Brompton.

My employer doesn’t take part in a Cycle to Work scheme and Bromptons are pretty pricey (so saving the tax would make a big difference) but I did my research and snapped up a second-hand example with “only 100 miles on the clock” on eBay (checking first to see if it was reported as stolen, of course!). So, on Monday, I was very excited to return home from work to find that my “new” bike (bike number four) had arrived.

For those familiar with Brompton specs, It’s an M3L. I’d like an S6L or S6R but this will do very nicely instead. (If you don’t know what that means, there’s a useful configurator on the Brompton website.)

Yesterday was my first trip to London with the Brommie, so how did it go?

Look out!

Well, my hi-vis purchases from Wiggle haven’t arrived yet and it’s a good idea to be brightly coloured. Nipping up the inside of large vehicles is a very bad idea that’s likely to get you killed but, if you’re confident in traffic, the Brompton is responsive and handles remarkably well.

The biggest problem I had was whilst riding off the end of a bus lane, when a motorist decided that was his (perfectly legal) cue to change lanes in front of me but clearly hadn’t seen me coming. My bell is pretty pathetic for warning car drivers (even with open windows) but my shout of “look out!” worked better. As did my brakes, hastily applied as I brought the Brompton to a skid stop a few inches from the door of the car (don’t tell Mrs W…). No harm done so off we rode/drove. I might invest in an air horn though…

London roads

In common with the rest of the UK, London’s roads are poorly surfaced in places and pretty congested at times. But there are plenty of cycle lanes in central London – including the ability to ride through roads that are closed to motorised traffic (sometimes contra-flow). My normal walking route from Euston to Whitehall through Bloomsbury and Seven Dials worked really well but the reverse was less straightforward. I’ve also ordered some free cycle route maps from Transport for London, so I’ll see if they inspire some nifty short-cuts.

I know some people are critical of the system with painted bike lanes being far less satisfactory than dedicated infrastructure but this is Britain and there’s not a lot of space to share between different types of road user! Even so, with bikes becoming more and more common, I’m sure that motorists are more used to cyclists sharing the road (I have some experience on “Boris Bikes” in London too, prior to buying my Brompton bike).

Folding, carrying, etc.

Watch any experienced Brompton bike user and they fold/unfold their bike in seconds. I currently take a bit more time… though by the end of the day I was starting to get the hang of it! There’s advice on the website (as well as in the manual).  I have to admit it’s a bit heavy to lug around (up stairs, etc.) and I felt like I was Ian Fletcher in an episode of W1A as I walked into the lift but that’s OK. And joking about my cycling attire (I was only wearing a helmet but that didn’t stop the lycra jokes) amused my colleagues and customer!


Clothing could be an issue. I was wearing a suit, with a rucksack on my back to hold my laptop etc. and my coat. That turned out to be a bad idea. I was dripping wet when I got to work… so I’ll need a different luggage solution and maybe a change of clothes (or I may need to see if I can get away without the suit, or at least the jacket…)


Next up, the suspension. My Brompton arrived with the standard suspension block but Brompton recommend the firm version for those over 80kg or “who cycle more aggressively and are prepared to sacrifice some comfort”! So, at lunchtime I headed over to Brompton Junction to get a replacement suspension block of the firm variety (the store bike mechanic told me that even lighter people need it as the standard is just too soft). I also picked up a pump as it was missing from my bike (some retailers fit one as standard but maybe not all do) and took a look at some luggage. Expensive but nice. After mulling it over all day, I’ve ordered a waxed cotton shoulder bag which should be in my local branch of Evans Cycles (together with the front carrier block) for collection tomorrow…

So was it worth it?

I live 12 miles from the local railway station, which would be a bit far on a Brompton (it takes 45 mins on a road bike) so I’ll still be driving that part of my journey. Once off the train though, using the bike instead of walking cut my London travel down from about 45 minutes each way to around 15. So saving 30 minutes, twice a day (on the days when I’m in town) gives me back an hour in my day (if I avoid the temptation to use it for work…) – together with more exercise. And I can use the bike and take the train to the office in Stafford now instead of a 200-mile round trip (catching up with some work, reading, or even some sleep on the train). Sounds like a result to me.

Fix sync issues with a Fitbit Charge HR

For the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been getting progressively more and more annoyed with my Fitbit Charge HR not syncing and displaying the wrong time. The Fitbit website acknowledged the problem but just said their engineers were working on a solution:

“Some customers have reported difficulty syncing their Charge HR recently. We’ve also heard reports that the time of day is incorrect on the tracker or other data missing is from the dashboard. Our engineers are investigating the problem, and once the root cause is diagnosed we’ll work on repairing the issue as quickly as possible. In the meantime, try our standard troubleshooting steps in I can’t sync my tracker. If those don’t work, try each of the tips below until your tracker works properly. Note that the problem may reoccur, meaning you may need to revisit these tips again in a few hours or days.”

After whinging on Twitter about the lack of updates to the above, I decided to contact Fitbit support and was actually pretty surprised by the response.

Rather than just referring me to the help article I’d already read (although they did that as well!), the response from Fitbit included the following steps (slightly edited to reflect my experience):

  1. Turn off other Bluetooth devices near to the tracker, make sure the wireless sync dongle is unplugged from the computer.
  2. Turn off Bluetooth on the mobile device that will be used to sync.
  3. Force quit the Fitbit app and turn mobile device off.
  4. While mobile device is off, restart the tracker.
  5. Turn mobile device on, check the Internet connection and enable Bluetooth
  6. [Remove the device in the Fitbit app.]
  7. Set up as a new device.
  8. If, after 3 to 4 minutes it is stuck in “Finishing up” message, close the app, and open again.
  9. In some cases it takes longer, make sure the tracker is near to the mobile device all the time.
  10. If it is still finishing up, Set up the tracker again, Charge HR will be syncing properly after that.

It took a couple of attempts last night to set up the device again but after a while I managed to get things working and it’s actually been pretty good since. Ironically I now see that the app is suggesting there’s an update for my Charge HR – maybe the one that prevents this issue!

Recovering data after Garmin crashed whilst saving activity

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Unfortunately I spent most of it in my home office but I did manage to get out on the bike for a quick ride before sunset (the first time I’ve worked at home in weeks, with a correspondingly low occurrence of exercise on a work day…).  Unfortunately, when I got home, my Garmin 810 cycle computer froze whilst saving my ride.

It actually needed a reset (holding the lap and power buttons together for about 5 seconds) before I could get it to respond at all but my biggest concern was whether my ride data had been lost (if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen).

The Garmin Connect app on my phone wouldn’t upload the ride, so I tried installing Garmin Express on a PC.  It decided that there was a file on my device that couldn’t be uploaded. Sadly, that file was the data from last night’s ride.

Garmin Express - Some files could not be uploaded to Garmin Connect

I ignored Garmin Express’s offer to remove the file and, thanks to Chesilboy’s post on the Garmin forums, I managed to rescue some of the data.

  1. First, I connected the Garmin to my PC and navigated to \Garmin\Activities.
  2. There, I located the .FIT file for the ride and copied it to somewhere safe.
  3. Next, I uploaded the .FIT file to Strava.
  4. Strava read the data, warning me that the file was damaged, possibly truncated and that some of the ride would be lost. Importantly though, it would use the data that could be read (as it happens, almost all of my ride – only missing the last 1.5 kilometres).
  5. At this point, I could export a GPX file and import it to Garmin Connect, but I’m not really that bothered about my records there (I find the site clunky and unreliable and I only really use it to get my data to Strava).

As Chesilboy notes, shame on Garmin for a) not keeping the data safe (why not write it throughout the activity) and b) actually offering to delete it! Thank goodness Strava is better at data processing!

Purple spot next to Skype for Business presence information

I noticed a couple of days ago that my Skype for Business presence information was accompanied by a purple dot/spot. I hadn’t seen this before and I wondered what it meant. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on the ‘net.

Purple spot next to Skype for Business presence information

My colleague Brian Cain (@BrianCainUC) clearly has better googling (ahem, Binging) skills than I, because he found Microsoft knowledge base article 3072756, describing a change that explains the phenomenon.

It seems that, since the 14 July 2015 update for the Microsoft (Lync 2013) Skype for Business client, when a calendar shows a user as Out of Office (i.e. the appointment status, not to be confused with an Automatic reply message from Exchange), the purple spot appears next to the Skype for Business presence information when they are online anyway…

I regularly add time into my Calendar for when I’m travelling (and mark it as Out of Office) but if my travel plans change (or I’m running late) I might still be online in Skype for Business and that’s what causes the purple spot to be displayed.

The article also describes some other changes in behaviour that might lead to a purple arrow being shown where the presence indicator normally is.

Incidentally, whilst researching this, I also found a useful FAQ about presence and pictures in Lync (Skype for Business) that may be worth a read.

My activity tracking ecosystem

After I wrote my post on Monday about the Fitbit Charge HR, Dan Delaney (@Dan_Delaney) and Gregg Robertson (@GreggRobertson5) both tweeted me to say “try MyFitnessPal“. Well, after putting aside the really cringeworthy name (although “MyNetDiary” is not any better), I thought I’d give it a try and, so far, the experience has been really positive.

Not only does MyFitnessPal seem to have a decent UK food database (albeit one that could do with some tidying up for consistency in naming – although that’s probably just my pedantry again) but the app is pretty good (just as good as the MyNetDiary app I paid money for…) and, more importantly, the ecosystem of connected apps is pretty good (Strava and Fitbit are both there, which is what I need – but many more besides). It’s growing too; only yesterday Endomondo emailed to say they were joining the “Under Armour Connected Fitness suite”, which includes MyFitnessPal.  The only slight downside (and it’s really not an issue when I think about the data that I need to keep, long term), is that MyFitnessPal bundles up each meal into a summary when it passes it to Fitbit:

So, this is what my activity tracking ecosystem looks like now:

Ultimately, I only have to enter or capture each item of information once (exercise via Strava unless automatically captured on my Garmin Edge 810 cycle computer; food/drink/weight via MyFitnessPal; daily activity/calorie burn automatically from my Fitbit Charge HR) and it flows into Fitbit and onwards each day to Microsoft HealthVault.

(Just over) a week with the Fitbit Charge HR

Over the last couple of months I’ve attended a couple of British Computer Society (BCS) meetings on the “Internet of Everything”. Looking at the speaker’s activity band got me thinking about “the quantified self”. Just as, when I’m cycling or running, I like to track my activities and see how I’ve done compared with others, this year I decided to buy myself a fitness tracker. I’ve worn pedometers before (when taking part in the Global Corporate Challenge) but with the current (and upcoming) range of activity bands/watches, my device of choice is a Fitbit Charge HR.

Why the Fitbit Charge HR? Well, I’d seen the Charge and it looks good – discrete, but functional – and the additional £20 for heart rate readings sounded interesting (and should lead to more accurate calorie counting).  There are Apple and Microsoft watches on the way but I’ve been burned far to many times buying a first generation product (iPad, Nokia Lumia 800) and Fitbit have been working in this market for a while now – their trackers are pretty well established. I was also seeing some good reviews on the Charge including this one from Michael d’Estries (@michaeldestries).


The setup was simple – the product packaging directed me to a website to download and install the software on a PC (or Mac in my case), together with a dongle after which the band updated itself and continued to sync. There’s also an app on my phone that communicates via Bluetooth (I use this for call notifications and synchronisation). I’m not sure what technology the dongle uses (ANT+ perhaps?) but it’s certainly not the Mac’s built-in Bluetooth stack.  I also need to work out why, since I paired the band with the app on my phone, the Mac no longer sees it as present but that’s not stopping me from using it so can wait a while.


Next up was charging the battery. It had some power out of the box but needed charging soon after (unsurprisingly).  Fitbit’s claimed battery life is 5 days but I’d say it’s nearer to 2-3. Actually, I don’t let it run down that far – I generally charge daily – and I started off by charging whilst taking a shower, etc. as any steps taken during the period are probably balanced out by steps recorded as a result of movement during sleep.  Unfortunately, putting it on charge when I woke (and before it had registered much activity confused the sleep tracking (it thought I was still asleep!) so I’ve since started to charge it whilst sitting at my desk, working at a PC.  It really does seems like this would be one device that really would benefit from wireless charging!  Added to that, the proprietary connector locks on well but I can’t help thinking it’s another way to make money (replacing lost/broken cables) and micro USB would do the job just as well?

Monitoring steps, hear trate and sleep

Importantly, the step count seems reasonably accurate. There are some phantom steps when driving/otherwise moving my wrist but the Charge HR basically seems to keep time with walking (goodness knows how as it’s nothing to do with how I swing my arms or not!).  Incidentally, you can’t delete/edit the recorded steps/floors data so it’s worth logging driving as an activity (take a note of the start and finish times) to negate the entries as it’s somewhat disconcerting to be notified that you reached your step target whilst driving along the motorway!  Unfortunately, although recording an activity trues up the step count and other metrics, any badges earned remain on your profile.

I’ve yet to check the heart rate monitoring compared with the Garmin chest band that I wear on my longer bike rides – it seems a little low to me but maybe a bike ride is more exerting than I think!  And on the subject of exertion, I was amused to see that, one evening, after visiting my local pub, the walk back up the hill counted as both active minutes (raised heart rate) and towards the number of stairs climbed (due to the elevation)!  Stair climbing (along with distance walked, when many of the steps are around the home/office) seems a bit of a gimmick but still another metric to compare. It’s not 100% accurate, because Fitbit measures a flight of stairs as 10′ elevation (based on atmospheric pressure) – modern homes may be less than this, and commercial buildings more – but it’s there or thereabouts.

Sleep tracking is another reason I was interested in wearing a band, which is also the reason I can’t charge at night (as I do my phones). I’m not sure exactly how this works (it tracks time in bed, restlessness, and time awake) but I’m pretty sure “time reading a book before going to sleep” gets recorded as sleep (perhaps the low heart rate?), as does “lying in bed being lazy (a lie in)”. As mentioned previously, so does taking off my watch and pugging it in to charge after sleep as the software only seems to end the sleep when I’m active – and therefore starting to charge it whilst I’m still in bed extends the sleep time!

Some niggles

There are some minor niggles to watch for:

  • The Charge HR has a proper strap buckle (the Charge has a different clasp) and it can be tricky to get the correct adjustment (not too tight, not too loose for HR monitoring); however I haven’t worn a watch for many years so it may just be me getting used to having something on my wrist again.  More significantly, the strap is quite short (even the large version). Mine only has about another centimetre of expansion and, whilst I’m a stocky guy, I’m not huge – I’m sure there are others with bigger wrists than mine.
  • The watch face appears to be plastic rather than glass and I was disappointed to see it had scratched after a few days of use, although I was shown a Microsoft Band a few days ago and that was clearly scratched (on a much larger screen). I guess I’ve been spoiled by glass smartphone screens and expect the same from all devices…
  • If you’re in the UK, Fitbit’s food record database is terrible. So far the only items recognised by the barcode scanner in the app have been from Costco (i.e. American products) and I’ve used other apps that do a much better job for this. Also, the Fitbit food tracker can’t create recipes (i.e. add a bunch of ingredients, save as a recipe with x portions, then eat y portions). After a few days, my common food items have mostly been added manually (which has taken quite a lot of time) but there’s still the issue of tracking food when eating out. Maybe it’s pedantic but it does seem to me to have little value in accurately tracking calories burned if I don’t accurately track calories eaten…
  • As with driving, when logging activities (exercise), be ready for some inaccuracy as (unless logged as a walk/run, etc. via the Fitbit app) because manually-logged activities can be recorded down to the second on duration but only to the minute on start/end times! So, if I take an activity from Strava (for example) that started at 16:39 and lasted 18m 11s… the heart rate graphs don’t quite match up. As you can’t edit an activity (only delete and re-record), it can take some trial and error to record it accurately.

App ecosystem

In general, activity tracking would actually be greatly improved if there was broader integration between apps (e.g. Strava-Fitbit or Garmin-Fitbit). There is an ecosystem of Fitbit-aware apps but we’re a long way from a universal health tracking app ecosystem. Added to that, the need for premium versions of each app, with subscriptions in order to integrate (e.g. MyNetDiary-Fitbit) could get expensive.  I’m hopeful that Apple, Microsoft et al will make great strides in this area (and I’ve linked my Fitbit account to Microsoft HealthVault) and it’s certainly something to watch over the next couple of years.


So, it seems that health tracking is useful, but I need to modify the way I work to deal with the Fitbit Charge HR’s shortcomings re: charging, sleep monitoring, food diaries, etc. I’m still really pleased with mine (and don’t think any other device would be any better, right now) but it’s not quite the put-it-on-and-ignore-it sensor I’d hoped to accurately quantify myself with! Maybe my expectations were just a little too high…

I bought my Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate and Activity Wristband from Amazon UK.

A Sunday in Hell? Not quite, but rule 5 definitely applied (#RideLondon #Ride100)

East London, 6.30am, and I’ve somehow managed to miss a great big sign saying “to the start” as I make my way to the Ride London-Surrey 100. Luckily, there were enough other cyclists around for me to realise the error of my ways and get back on track. A few minutes later I was taking dodgy “start-line selfies” whilst checking the weather forecast and chatting to fellow riders queuing up next to the Lea Valley Velopark, waiting for our wave to start the slow procession towards the start line.

I’d been looking forward to this sportive for a while – I realised how lucky I’d been to get a ballot place – and, with my London-Paris and Holme Moss challenges under my belt, I’d pushed my training up to 100 miles. This was supposed to be special: ride out from the Olympic Park, tackle the Surrey Hills, and finish up on the Mall.  Sadly, I learned on the start line that the route had been cut to 86 miles through the removal of Leith and Box Hills because to safety concerns with ex-hurricane “Bertha” coming through. I wasn’t very happy: my second journey to East London in three days (first time to “register” for the event, in what seems to be an elaborate ruse to guarantee that at least 24,000 people visit the Prudential Ride London Cycle Show) and after a 04:15 start to get myself to the start and this was not what I wanted to hear. In the end though, I have to admit that 86 miles in the wind and the rain was plenty.  Last Sunday was one of those days when rule 5 definitely applied.

As a predicted slow rider (I think I originally said about 7.5 hours, before revising to 6.5 later), I started at 08:10 and with only 20 minutes to the back of the race I was conscious that the broom wagon could be upon me at any time.  I had 26 miles to cover to the first hub before 10:30 – which should have been a doddle – but I decided to crack on anyway.  The first couple of miles were lined with people waiting for their friends with different start times and a surprisingly high number of punctures (thankfully I didn’t suffer any) but I was enjoying my ride as I flew down the East Cross Route towards Docklands. A former motorway (now the A12), closed to all traffic except cyclists and I was averaging just shy of 30kph (not bad for me). Along Aspen Way, into the Limehouse Link, onto The Highway. I was buzzing. Past the Tower of London (poppies look amazing) and towards the Embankment. Running red lights (legally) through central London (with a spectator using a traffic cone as a megaphone) and on out to the west, watching lines of no-doubt extremely annoyed motorists on the eastbound A4 as we had the whole of the westbound carriageway to ourselves as far as Hammersmith.

By now the weather was deteriorating and the ride was marginally less fun but I was making good progress as I stopped to take on (and release) fluids at a drinks station near Chiswick.  As we hit Richmond Park I was making a steady pace up the hills but then came the rains. Not just a shower, but monsoon rains, the likes of which are rarely seen in England.  After taking shelter for a while I decided there was nothing for it but to get back on, only to be reduced to a standstill, and then walking pace, whilst an ambulance crew dealt with an accident.  Hopefully the poor soul involved was OK – as it was around 40 minutes before I was on the move again – and we crept into into a flash-flood-hit Kingston after which I suspect my bottom bracket may now be full of smelly water.

At this point the lead riders were coming back through on their final stretch back to London. I was sorely tempted to join them but stuck with it, under flooded railway bridges and out over the Thames to the first hub.  The time? 10:30! The broom wagon was due now but there were still thousands of riders coming through.

Setting off again, I witnessed another accident between Weybridge and Brooklands as the rider a short distance ahead lost traction and hit the road.  I stopped and called an ambulance whilst his fellow riders kept him safe and, after the St John Ambulance guys arrived I set off again. On into deepest Surrey, the next section was a real slog into the prevailing wind and I was wondering just how far out of London we would keep on heading before the course turned north east again.  At one point a chap said “follow me – you’ve been making good pace and I’ve been on your wheel for a couple of miles” but I couldn’t manage his speed and I had to let him drop me. Eventually, the sun started to appear as we climbed to Newlands Corner and, hard as the climb felt, I was glad to hear one of the spectators call out “it’s a long way to the finish mate, but you’re nearly at the top of this hill and it’s downhill from there”. What a star!

Actually, that was the wonder of it all. Despite the wind and the rain (and the reputation that Surrey has for hating cyclists who clog up the roads on a weekend), loads of people had turned out to watch 20,709 cyclists ride past their front door and were cheering us on in our “two-wheeled version of the London Marathon”.  “Come on Olney Multisport” I heard (the team name on my kit that day), “Sunshine ->” I read on one placard, whilst the next one said “the weather may be crap but you’re doing great!”. Clearly not making great time, I didn’t stay long at Newlands Corner because the broom wagon was due again and I set of down the hill, only to stop to retrieve my rain jacket which had come out of my pocket and was wrapped around my rear hub. Maybe if I paid less attention to rules 29 and 31 I might have room in my pockets for layers of clothing removed due to changes in weather conditions!

Now heading east, and riding in sunshine, things were looking up.  We passed the Leith Hill diversion and then a couple of Police motorbikes came past me.  Unfortunately I didn’t realise why they were there and, part way down the next  hill, under trees, on a wet slippery road I heard shouts of “slow down, accident ahead”, as I skidded, caught the bike, skidded again, crossed double solid white lines and hit the road, sliding along on my left side thinking “please don’t scratch my bike” whilst I tested the “tarmac resistance factor” of my kit.  Luckily for me, I only suffered superficial damage (so did the bike, with scratched brake lever, pedal, and rear skewer – all easily fixed) and was quickly back on my feet. I wish I’d had the manners to properly thank the lady rider behind who’d checked I was OK but, in the heat of the moment I’d said a quick “I’m fine thanks” and jumped back on, with the biggest damage being to my pride.  And I’d like to think my “luck” in not being badly hurt coming off at what appears to have been about 42kph was karma for stopping to help someone else earlier…

On through Dorking and up the A24 to Leatherhead, bypassing Box Hill, it was actually getting quite warm.  For the first time all day I was down to my normal summer kit (removing the arm warmers and tights that had probably saved my arms/legs from gravel rash earlier) and I was keen to get through the miles. At Oxshott, I spotted a pub with an all day BBQ to celebrate the ride coming past (one of many joining in the celebrations) and contemplated a beer but pushed on.  Shortly afterwards, I pulled over for a snack and another one of the wonderful spectators called out “have you got a puncture mate?” I didn’t, but I thanked him for his kindness, as he offered a mobile puncture repair service (including a track pump in his rucksack)!  Once again, the generosity and support from people on the roadside had really amazed me – clearly not everyone views this annual event the way some journalists do.

I’ve mentioned the spectators but the volunteers who worked as marshalls and other roles to run the event were superb.  I’ve done something similar myself, as a volunteer marshall (a Tourmaker) for the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ and it was amazing but we had sunshine and professional riders – these guys had torrential rain, howling winds, and thousands of amateur cyclists to look after.  That didn’t stop them from encouraging us, being a smiling face at the roadside, and otherwise helping out.  Sure, the professional stewards (orange jackets) looked bored but the volunteers were fantastic and really helped to build the atmosphere of the event.

After a blitz back through Kingston, the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for the downpour that led to me sheltering in a bus stop somewhere near the last drinks station (alongside three spectators, including a little girl who had counted 600 riders with two water bottles!). After grinding up the last big hill in Wimbledon I was counting down the miles to the finish (although thankfully all downhill) and as I hit Chelsea Embankment, I could feel the pressure lift as the finish line drew nearer.  The last push past the Houses of Parliament and along Whitehall flew by, before turning left under Admiralty Arch and onto the Mall.  There was the finish – a few hundred metres away – could my legs manage a final flourish?  It may not have been the fastest sprint finish in history but I approached the line with arms aloft (before quickly grabbing the bars to avoid falling off whilst crossing the timing strips!) and cruised along the Mall with a massive smile on my face. I’d done it!

My official time was 7 hours, 5 minutes and 10 seconds and that means my average speed was pretty shocking.  Take out the stops for accidents though, and my Garmin recorded 5 hours and 46 minutes at a slightly more respectable 24.6kph (I didn’t remember to stop it until a little way further down the Mall, where I collected my medal, so the seconds don’t count!).

Unfortunately, my Garmin Edge 810‘s altitude sensor was severely affected by the wet weather (seems to be a common issue), and I lost my pedal magnet from the crank in my crash (so no more cadence measurement) but all the important info is there – although obviously the Limehouse Link Tunnel doesn’t mix well with GPS!

And what about the bikes? Predictably, most riders were on road bikes – with some on hybrids and MTBs. But, just as when I took part in a charity ride from Wakefield to Manchester over Holme Moss a few weeks ago, someone did it on a Brompton (chapeau!).  I saw a few tandems too – but no Boris Bikes… until I spotted this tweet!

Possibly inspired by the guys who rode up Mont Ventoux on a Boris Bike (and returned it with seconds to spare before the 24 hour limit), that’s seriously impressive – those things weight 23kg!

All in all, Ride London-Surrey 100 (OK, 86), was a blast.  I hated the weather at times and I was in quite a bit of pain at the end (dodgy knee position affecting my IT band, I think – time for another bike fit…) but got a wonderful sense of achievement. One slight disappointment is that I didn’t get a picture (even a selfie) in front of Buckingham Palace as my iPhone ran out of juice immediately after crossing the finish line (at least it held out that long).  Unfortunately that also meant I had to rely on my sense of direction (with a little help from the Garmin) to get back to the car park (another 8 miles).

Hopefully, next year I’ll get through the ballot again and do the full century in under 6 hours…