Action Medical Research have organised a 300 mile (500 Km) charity bike ride from London to Paris from July 25th to 29th.
Of course this is an excellent opportunity to test out some of the new GPS dataloggers that are hitting the market, and we will be attempting to provide you with a daily blog of our progress and also some Google Earth links so you can track our progress. For some strange reason I doubt that we will need the Speed Camera Database for this trip...
Look out for us on the route, which hopefully we will be able to post online each morning before we start out.
Article by Mike Barrett on Thursday, August 02 @ 16:23:02 BST
Back in England, and ready to go again...
Well we are all back home now and have had a few days to recover and think about the London to Paris bike ride. I think we are all interested in doing the same thing again next year, though we have also been invited to do a mountain climb bike race in the Dolomites in Italy, I expect that I may pass on that one...
I will be back on my bike again tonight on a 50k ride round the Essex countryside. I will be racing my virtual partner on the Edge (I cant keep up with the other guys at the best of times). Simon said that London to Paris was a pleasant holiday for him as he will now be preparing for the Olympic Class in the London Triathlon this coming weekend. Jon has hopefully recovered from his chest infection and is getting ready for a cycle holiday with his family across France, and Peter will be cycling with his wife again on Saturday.
Below is a short and (thankfully) silent movie of the start of the bike ride taken from my bike cam. In it you can see Stu from Via Michelin, Bibendum (the Michelin Man), the Action Medical Research team starting us out, and one of our team crashing even before we had got onto the public roads... I have also highlighted one of our friends from Belgium who was determined not to get lost and had his Mio 268 strapped to the handlebars inside a plactic bag... Unfortunately the cobbles if the Paris streets dislodged the SD card so I was unable to record video as we came down the Champs Elyeese, well that is an excuse to return next year...
As for the technology, there seems to have been a spot of user error on my part on the Garmin 60Cx, on day 3 I reset the total fields, forgetting to save the active track. The track for day 3 was then erased. Good thing I had a backup. The Edge will still not connect with my PC, but I have managed to download the data into my MacPro. It would appear as if the first day's data has become corrupt as the first section of the trip has no data to plot, but it does have the lap data. The outcome is that I have the full first day on my PC but I can no longer access it as training centre crashes each time I open it. I have the full record from days 2 and 4 and only half of day 3. All in all not a good outing for the edge, as far as recording goes, but excellent in terms of helping me pace myself on the road where it counts.
The interesting thing from my point of view was looking at the heart rate trend. On day 1 when we had the toughest hills my average heart rate was 158 (over 6.5 hours actually cycling) peaking at 191. Day 2 was 142, day 3, 140 and day 4 136. It seems as if my body was getting used to the exercise and my muscles were demanding less oxygen. My fastest average for a mile was 21.4 which was on a pretty flat section just after lunch on the first day. It didnt last long as the others broke away from me and my legs refused to follow... The slowest actual mile was not recorded, as I am sure it must have been the 1 mile long hill when the edge had lost charge.
The Dataloggers seemed to work OK. I have yet to download the data to my PC and check the recordings, but these were all being tested as part of a review... It was quite interesting when people saw the 2 GPS devices on my handle bars, they thought I was quite crazy when I said I had 3 others in my saddlebag and a fully portable computer in my backpack. After cycling for 2 days like that I tended to agree with them.
As this was a bike ride rather than a race we took the opportunity whenever we could to stop off and enjoy the hospitality of the locals, or to take a few photos. The route we followed was mainly down country lanes with little traffic, and through villages which were barely more than farms with a few cottages. Occasionally we found a small cafe or bar. The owners must have thought it was Christmas with 150 cyclists coming past and a good number of them stopping. The area we cycled through was the site of the trench battles from World War one, along the Somme, where thousands of young men died. We past many war cemeteries, all of which where in immaculate condition, where we stopped and in sad moments paid our respects to those who died to preserve our way of life.
Nothing could have prepared us for the finale of the ride though. It was a truly emotional feeling thundering over the jarring cobbles of the Parisian streets heading up towards the Arc de Triomphe, and then down the Champs Elyeese. The roadsides were packed with Parisians and tourists all cheering us on. We had cars hooting as a mass of 500 cyclists rolled down the road. Despite my tiredness this really kicked adrenaline into my system and my aches and pains were forgotten as the last few miles went past in a blur. Eventually we ended up at the Eiffel Tower where the champagne flowed (not that I had any) and I met up with my wife who had come out to see us come in. As we were relaxing and taking some pictures one of the cyclists got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. I dont know who they are, but we all wish them a long and happy marriage.
Interestingly there were a very large number of people suffering punctures on the trip. One poor guy had 10, with 6 in one day. With our Michelin Krylion tyres and tubes none of our team suffered a puncture. The only problem we had was a broken spoke which was quickly replaced.
Below are a selection of images that we took our journey across Europe (well part of it at least).
Article by Mike Barrett on Thursday, August 02 @ 14:16:13 BST
We arrived in Paris last night after 315 miles of cycling. As far as the terrain was concerned the first day was by far the worst with over 5000ft of ascent, but the 'flat' parts of France once we crossed the channel never seemed to appear, in fact the second day from Dunkerque to Arras was over 3000ft as was the third day from Arras to Compiegne.
I had an equipment failure on the overnight stop at Arras on my Garmin Edge when for some reason the device locked up and displayed battery fully charged, but when I tried to switch it on in the morning it refused to power on, so we had to perform a 3 button reset. Since then the recorded data crashes The Garmin Training Centre. Unfortunately it had only actually charged the Edge 50% and powered the unit until out lunch stop.
This problem also stopped me downloading the tracks from my GPSMap 60cx as well. When I finally arrived at the hotel in Paris I was able to download the Garmin USB driver and have managed to get connectivity to Memory-Map back.
The GPS Dataloggers seemed to work well. I havent had a chance to analyise the logs yet, but they certainly seemed to have a fit all the time and the battery life was more than sufficient for each day. I was tempted to see how long the Qstarz Travel Recorder would last without a charge, but chickened out after the second day in case it stopped recording the track data.
Back to the actuall riding. We had an intereasting mixture of weather. There was sunshine and rain, and of course a continual head wind for the majority of day 2 and 3. I never quite understand how when you ride in 3 different directions the wind is always against you...
The atmosphere as 500 of us rode into paris was absolutely amazing. The day before the Tour de France arrives we were flying round the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elyeese and to the Place de Concore, finishing a challenging 315 mile ride at the Eiffel Tower. The streets were lined with people cheering us on and cars stopped allowing us to wizz through red lights.
Our team reformed in Paris for a Photo call with our bikes under the Eiffel Tower before retiring to the hotel for a well earned cellebratory meal, and a few drinks.
With a very sore rear end and some slightly aching muscles I am thinking about next year already...
Article by mike barrett on Sunday, July 29 @ 10:38:37 BST
Day one is over... Thankfully :S
Well day one is over. Before we started we knew it was going to be the toughest of the lot. From London (Selsdon Park) to Dover was pitched as 90 miles and a bit hilly. Ther were wrong about both... It actually turned out to be 84 miles and very hilly over 5000ft of ascent!!!
The day started early in the Selsdon Park Hotel with a wake up call at 5am and breakfast at 5:30. At 6:00 we had to get our start numbers ready for the 6:45 briefing and 7:00 start. As we expected Stuart from Via Michelin arrived at 6:00 and brought an old friend Bibendum with him. Bibendum (the Michelin Man) was the centre of attraction at the start line and had an extensive photocall... Of course we managed to get a few snaps in as well.
We set off in groups with the PocketGPSWorld.com team (Mike, Peter, Jon and Simon) starting at about 7:15. Before we had even got on the road one of our team had a minor crash, showing that you should pay attention to where you are going rather than adjust your equipment. I will not be naming names, but I caught it all on the bike cam and I was on the bike with the cam :D
Sat in my backpack I had the 3 dataloggers which I had switched on a few minutes prior to the start. I had the eBonTek, Qstarz and Evermore devices. I also had my Garmin Edge 305 set up with a few waypoints like the watering stops and the lunch stop. The main waypoint though was Dover Docks the end of the day...
We were actually given the route last night and I should have recreated it in Memory-Map nad checked the elevation profile. On the other hand it was probably a good thin I didnt as it might have scared me. I live in Essex hardly any hills, I trained in Florida no hills. I rode in London, Surrey, and Kent: no flat!!!
Al the equipment performed really well except for the guy who put half dead batteries in the Garmin 60cx, the only thing that was a bit of a problem was the engine. The air intake seemed to be overly restricted and the power chain just didnt respond going up two of the larger hills. Add to that a really sore backside and a slight incident with my foot slipping off a pedal and me damaging my essential equipment we had a really great day.
Despite the weather forecast we had bright sunshine all day and I have cyclists knees, a red face and stripes on my head where my bald "spot" :D got burnt through my helmet.
I am off to the bar now for a well earned orange juice, and will try and decipher the technology and tracks later tonight. We have an easier day tomorrow so I should get more time to play with my gadgets then.
Article by mike barrett on Wednesday, July 25 @ 21:46:19 BST
Getting ready for the start of the bike ride
I stopped training just under a week ago to give my body a chance to store some energy for the ride. (No jokes about my beer belly storing larger please...) It did give me a chance to work out exactly what I needed to get together GPS wise for the trip.
Now it is well known that I wont just take one device when I can test a number at the same time :S. For this trip I have packed the following: GPS Dataloggers from eBonTek, Evermore, and Qstarz, a Garmin 60cs, a Garmin Edge 305 with heart rate monitor, an O2 Xda Orbit, a Nokia N80 and my Sony UX PC. I also have a Sony stills camera and an Oregon Scientific bullet camcorder.
Strangely the only detailed mapping I have for the journey is on the Garmin 60cs and that is only for the UK. I have created some waypoints and programmed the 2 Garmins with them, but they will only give me a direct distance to go rather than a distance by road. I am not too sure I want to see how far is left just after I start out anyway. On the Sony I have a number of applications installed, but the main ones I will be using are the ones for the dataloggers, Memory-Map, the Garmin Training Centre, and if I am lucky and get internet connectivity Google Earth.
In fact my whole trip reporting strategy revolves around me being able to log onto the Internet either using a wireless hotspot, or connecting via GPRS. The best laid plans...
The final preparations this afternoon involved me checking over my bike and making sure that I have got good tread on the wheels. The pictures below dont show an early puncture, I am replacing some worn tyres with new rubber. Thanks to our support crew from Via Michelin (well done Bib) we have all got a new set of tyres and tubes from Michelin. Oil up the chain, check the lights and we are now ready to ride!!!