Monday, December 20, 2010

From 2D Goggles: A Matter of Proportion

Read More at 2D Goggles/a>

Although this Chibi Brunel is the highlight of the post for me, the rest of it is an interesting look at the use of proportion in the creator's own comic, and in others.

Looking back through some sketchbooks, I notice that I tend to draw figures 7 heads high, personally, which falls squarely in the category of dullard realism

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Monday, December 13, 2010

From Kitsune Noir: Space Suit of the Week

Read More at Kitsune Noir

Kitsune Noir's "Spacesuit of the Week" series goes retro future this week, with these illustrations from 1960.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

From Sports Scientists Blog: The limit of human performance: How much faster?

Swifter, higher, stronger...up to a point?  Or beyond?  The limit of human performance

Today we revisit a topic that seems to run like carousel, popping up once every few months on the site - how much faster can human beings run?  How close to a "ceiling" in performance are we?

Read More at Sports Scientists

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From Salsa: Building From A Mukluk Frameset


Building From A Mukluk Frameset

November 29th 2010 | 6 Comments

This post is geared towards those individuals who are planning to build up a complete snowbike from a Mukluk frameset. The intent is to let you know what parts the Mukluk frame requires to get it rolling, and also to let you know what component options are available to you.


If you're lucky enough to be looking seriously at building a snow bike, here's some help for a build on Salsa's new "Mukluk" frame.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sketchbook: The DIY Badger

Poor old Badger. Mrs Badger is at her mother's, and she wants that carpet down, and those skirting boards up by the time she gets back. Is it any wonder the DIY Badger is stressed?

Inspired by my daughter's Maths homework, on area and perimeter. (All the problems were based on Badger laying flooring in his rooms, centred around how much material he'd need to shell out for).

Took about 30 minutes (I think), drawn in a cheap A5 sketchpad from "The Works", with a 0.7mm Staedtler Mars Micro pencil.

(Sorry to anyone who saw this on Tumblr as well - this is a (better) scan rather than a cameraphone shot).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bikehacks: 5 Killer Looking DIY Bike Headlights

This entry is a Bike Hacks Classic, originally posted by Apple computer honk, Brendon

There are a TON of decent tutorials for building bike lights. can I put this gently...they are not all equally attractive. If you showed me two lights side by side and they had equal performance, I'd choose the pretty one every time. That's probably why I'm writing this on a Mac. Ahem.

Anyway, here's a quick look at five of the finest looking homemade bike lights on the web today. This is an admittedly subjective list, so feel free to smack me around in the comments if you think I've overlooked the BEST. LIGHT. EVAR.


Read More at Bikehacks

Bikehacks looks at 5 homebrew light setups - the article includes links to the original sources, should you fancy a go yourself...

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I Don't Care, Because You Do[1]

"Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine."

-Gary Fisher


If you hang around the cycling fora, or twitter for long enough, someone will pop up with set of kit dos and don'ts, offered with varying degrees of seriousness.

The Ur-Text of these is, of course, the bafflingly restrictive "Rules of the Eurocyclist" - (I actually rather like that one, it seems to be a tax on  credulity and elitism - I hope the originators of the rules get a kickback from the kit manufacturers).  This happens at the other extreme of the sport/utility divide, with the "normalisers" insisting that those not riding steel roadsters, whilst wearing "normal"[2] clothes are making cycling less attractive, and less safe for everyone else.


There are things that matter to me in cycling.  Are you a skilful rider? Can you look ahead and anticipate and read the road? Do you ride like an idiot around other road users?  These are important things, because they affect your safety, and mine.  To a lesser degree, I'm impressed by people that can repair their own/other people's bikes[3], build wheels, beat me up hills, outpace me on the flat - but not to the degree that I'm dismissive of those who can't. We all start somewhere, after all - and starting at all in our car centric, exercise is for gyms, society matters.

"Does your kit match" and "Does your bike cost more than mine" (it probably does), have never been things I've looked upon as denoting the worth of a fellow rider, or of particular import.  It's an irrelevance, and thus something I find it hard to care about.  "Sure, he can build a nice wheel, but good lord, he can't accessorise."

Round the world cyclist Al Humphreys once made the point that while kit was important, it shouldn't be important enough to stop you getting out there and having an adventure.  And he did his tour on steel Rockhoppers, not expensive boutique tourers with spendy internally geared hubs.  I'm not about to ride around the world, but you can bet I'm not missing a ride because the jersey I have to hand doesn't match my helmet either.


The quote at the head of this piece comes from an interview with Gary Fisher that I heard a while back, and there's a lot of truth in it.  I dislike inconsiderate and unsafe cyclists, but beyond that I don't care if you look like you dressed in the dark from the bargain bin, or ride a £99 Apollo, at least you're riding.


[1] Actually, "I Don't Care, and I Don't Care if You Do", but that's not as close to an Aphex Twin album title.

[2] For values of "normal" that sometimes include stuff costing more than my dhb bike specific kit.

[3] If you can fettle internally geared hubs, I'm officially impressed.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

From Dave's Mechanical Pencils Blog: Half Way (Biodegradable Mechanical Pencil Test)

I have to admit, it wouldn't occur to me to bury a pencil to see how biodegradable it was (not least because the dog would dig it up again). Still, you have to admire Dave's commitment to the scientific method here - this is the halfway point of his experiment.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From Bike Hacks: Desktop Bike Wheel-Truing Stand

Reader Rob from Melbourne, Australia contacted us recently with a great hack he came up with to move the true task from his steed to a table.  He was kind enough to send along plenty of text with pictures to match.  If anyone else has come up with their own stands, feel free to give us a shout out.


It could just be me, but the idea of serious metal work (angle grinders, chopping up old frames) makes this a not so useful hack.

Having said that, my own truing stand is homebuilt (out of leftover bits from our kitchen cupboards) so maybe it's just a case of being happier with joinery than metalwork. Still, follow the link to see Rob's scrap bike truing stand. I particularly like his lateral truing indicators.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

From Copenhagenize: Bresson's Velodrome Photos

Like many amateur photographers, I've a healthy regard for the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I've not seen these photos (posted by Copenhagenize) before, although I bikes did feature in HCB's work, e.g.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

From Soma: Hit By Car and His Bike Stolen...All On His Birthday

This happened to barista and cyclist Mike Hardy on his 27th birthday back in September. He was struck by a car riding his Soma Rush to his girlfriend's house. While paramedics were treating his injuries, the bystanders, who initially checked on Hardy after the accident, made off with his bicycle. This was all caught on a Kansas City Police Department dash camera. The video footage shows the thieves checking the bike out for damage, then rolling off with it.

Read More at Soma Feed

Horrible story - Soma sorted Mike out with a new bike, but what is it with people? /sigh.

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From Lines and Colors: How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting?

The second column in the series is How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting?, in which he considers the time individuals devote to looking at a painting, from the cursory (the Louvre reports that people look at the Mona Lisa for an average of 15 seconds) to the kind of extended interaction with a painting that takes place over the course of a lifetime.


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From Urban Velo: Why Cable Locks Suck

Cable locks are great as a secondary deterrent to theft, but in all but the most idyllic neighborhoods should never be used as a primary lock. There is a reason beyond style most cyclists in the know carry around u-locks—they want to keep their bikes.

If you've had a bike for any amount of time, you'll know this already, of course - but if you're still using a cable lock, or know someone who does, have a read (or send them the article).

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Good: The Self-Repair Manifesto

The folks behind iFixit have drafted a Self-Repair Manifesto that instills in consumers a sense of DIY zeal—not only to empower us but also to create less collective waste. To spread the word, they're giving away 1,500 free manifesto posters. Here's a look at the manifesto:

Self-Repair Manifesto

Read More at Good

I'm not sure whether all cyclists are inveterate bodgers and fettlers, but I certainly am.

I'm still slightly cross with myself for buying wheels that have proprietary spokes (although they are VERY nice wheels) as they can't be fixed up with bits I can pick up easily and cheaply.

There's a satisfaction in fixing things, and in extending their useful life. As bikes are, mechanically, generally fairly simple[1], they're ideal for this approach.

[1] Internally geared hubs exempted.

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From Bike Trailer Blog: Kenneth’s BOB Trailer/LHT Combo

I love pictures like this - although I can never imagine loading my LHT up to this degree, there's something satisfying about seeing a tourer loaded up for some real adventure.

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From Phil Plait: When a University helps promote nonsense


Have you heard about these Power Bands, or Power Balance bracelets? The claims by the manufacturer and at countless demos are that these bands improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength by employing holograms which send frequencies that somehow interact with your body’s frequencies or electric field or glaven or some other undefinable manifestation.

Yeah. You can imagine what I think about that. And if you can’t, I’ll be clear: that claim is complete nonsense. Literally, it makes no sense. Holograms don’t emit anything, frequency or otherwise; there’s no such thing as your body’s frequency; and there’s no way inside the laws of physics that a rubber band with a cheap plastic hologram in it can affect your body, unless a) you’re allergic to rubber, or 2) it hits you at meteoric velocities.

We clear? OK.


They're not quite being sold with the University endorsement (as the article explains, it's the Athletic department of the institution that's being used to flog the woo) but I would be surprised if the packaging or advertising material makes that distinction clear. The article has a good debunking of the "science" behind the product, and is worth reading.

Also, I love skeptical hippo.

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From Strange Maps: Bodyworld: the Artography of Fernando Vicente


Spanish artist Fernando Vicente's artography (2) revisits this fusion of the descriptive and the symbolic, but expands the concept to its literal conclusion. Superimposing human and animal forms onto the countries and continents of a map, Vicente transforms familiar geographic contours into surprising new constructs. Maps become living creatures - although some ostensibly formerly living ones - and many of which have an ominous, unnerving quality. Maybe that's because of Vicente's predilection for slicing open his subjects, their exposed anatomy/geography investing them with the same morbid quality evident in Bodyworlds, the famous travelling exhibition of plastinated and dissected human bodies.

Read More at Strange Maps

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New Product - Salsa Anything Cages


New Product - Salsa Anything Cages

November 6th 2010 | 6 Comments

Our new Salsa Anything mini racks are now in stock.  Look inside for more details on this unique product and for fitment details. 


As the article goes on to say;

"As you can see from the pic above, this new cage is ideal for almost anything roundish and fairly light weight. I think the idea actually came from Kid Riemer zip tying his insulated Nalgene bottle carriers to his snow bike fork legs. Other bike nuts and adventurers were also doing this. After experiementing a bit we found out you could carry a lot of different things with this thing. "

Salsa are really innovative in their approach to this kind of thing - I've commented before on the nice, practical touches like the gentle curve in the beds of their racks (so a sleeping bag, tent or mat fits in nicely) and these seem to be an extension of the same philosophy. Great stuff for adventure cyclists.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Urban Velo: Mission Workshop Monty

The Monty roll-top messenger bag is designed for commuters. Dubbed a “small utility bag,” it features a rolltop cargo compartment, quick-access outboard pockets and two internal zippered pockets.


I have to say, for a small utility bag, that looks FREAKIN' HUGE to me.

Some nice features though - if carrying your stuff on you is your thing (I don't on long rides, but quite often do on errands) this could be right up your street.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Podcasts: The Monkey RSS Folder

Been meaning to do this for a while, but this is a list of the stuff I *try* to catch each episode, or stuff I've enjoyed that's on hiatus but worth subscribing to either for the back catalogue, or a possible new series. 

The categories are a bit arbitrary (The Amateur Scientist would fit in Science and Skepticsm too, and Collings and Herrin might possibly fit in news) but do represent what I listen to them for.


Most of the links below go to title pages rather than the RSS itself - I thought this better, as a description for each 'cast would make this a very long post.  I subscribe via RSS - I think most of the 'casts have an iTunes feed too, but I can't say for sure as I don't use iTunes.

All the feeds are free, and some have a "tip jar" system for you to donate to the creators if you like the content - others have subscriptions, and some will encourage you to pick up the authors' work or merchandise in other, paid media if you like what they're doing.


The Adam and Joe Show

Adam's Big Mixtape

Collins and Herring (6 Music Show)

Friday Night Comedy (Radio 4)

Jon Holmes


One Life Left

Onion Radio News

Richard Herring's As It Occurs To Me (NSFW - lots of bad language & adult themes)

The Amateur Scientist (NSFW - occasional bad language & adult themes)

The Collings and Herrin Podcast (NSFW - lots of bad language & adult themes)

You Look Nice Today (NSFW - occasional bad language & adult themes)



Bike to Work Book Podcast

Carrément Vélo (in French)

ITV Tour De France Podcast

NY Velocity

Real Peloton

The Bikescape Podcast

The Bike Show

The Podcast

The Spokesmen

The Velocast

Veloclub Don Logan



Test Match Special



Costing the Earth

NPR: Environment Podcast

TreeHugger Radio


Other Factual (Documentaries, History &c)

A Point of View

In Our Time

Philosophy Bites

Radio 4 Choice

Thinking Allowed



Laura Speaks Dutch

The French Podclass


Music & Film


Desert Island Discs


JJ's Smoking Sessions

Little White Earbuds

Kermode & Mayo's Film Review

NinjaTune Ninjacast

Three From Leith

Whomix Radio



News & Current Affairs

Newspod (Round up of the news of the day from the BBC)

Global News (Round up of the news of the day from the BBC World Service)


File on Four

Broadcasting House

From Our Own Correspondent


More or Less: Behind the Statistics


Science and Skepticsm

Dr. Karl and the Naked Scientists

Little Atoms

Material World

Nature Podcast

Righteous Indignation

Science in Action


Strange Quarks

The Infinite Monkey Cage

The Pod Delusion

The Skeptics' Guide To the Universe 5x5

The Skeptics' Guide To the Universe


Short Stories and Fiction

Cast Macabre (Short form horror)

Clarkesworld (Short form science fiction)

CrimeWAV (Short form crime and noir on the hardboiled edge of the genre)

Escape Pod (Short science fiction)

Podcastle (Short form fantasy)

Pseudopod (Short form horror)

Scott Sigler Audiobooks (Novel length serialised horror and science fiction, and Scott's reader feedback and interviews elsewhere. Definitely not for kids.  The current serial is "Ancestor", but Scott's back catalogue is available too, including fan favourites like "Contagious" and "Earthcore")

Toothless (Novel length serialised horror - an interesting twist on the zombie genre so far - not for kids).

Underwood and Flinch (Mike Bennett's novel length serial tale of a vampire and his reluctant servant in modern day Spain - again, not for kids)

(Also worthy of mention is the MIGHTY, which has more serialised audio fiction than you can shake several sticks at, and an excellent personalised subscription system).

It's worth noting that the biases of the Internet mean that much of this is horror, fantasy and science fiction - and lots of it is written specifically to be somewhat disturbing (it's horror, after all!).  As I recall, Clarkesworld, Escape Pod & Podcastle will give a guidance rating with stories, so should be safe for those of a nervous disposition (as long as you pay attention to it).


All About Symbian

NPR: Technology Podcast


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Nov's calendar pages - left is the excellent Memoires du Peloton one from @prendas, right is from @cyclingplus

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From Good: Adopt an Obsolete Word from the Oxford English Dictionary

Save the Words

The Oxford English Dictionary has launched something very charming and playful: a campaign to save forgotten words from obsolescence.

Read More At Good

Seen at the Good Magazine blog, this campaign to save archaic words from obsolescense.

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From Bike Commuters: The Department Store Commuter Bike?

I saw this bike while perusing through my local Target. It caught my attention because it has some of the essentials that bike commuters love. Items such as fenders, gears, rack, upright position and a classy look.

Read More at bike

After the Walmart Fixie, here's the Target commuter bike.

As the Bike Commuters article points out, the quality of the bits is going to be low, but probably better than some faux full suspension "Mountain Bike" at the same price point. And of course, you won't get a wet arse from having no mudguards, or have nowehere to carry your stuff...

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's not often I can make that claim, but this photograph of mine;



Is A WINNER. It's number one in Google searches for "Monkey 6880". Whilst this is undeniably a small category, I shall now claim to be an SEO EXPERT, social marketing guru, and all that other guff people decide they are on (what seems to me to be) slimmer justification than this.

If you're interested in the other pictures from this trip, they're here, along with some explanation of what I was doing in the engine shed.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Mrs Monkey Craft (Festive Mice) #Craft #Crochet

The talented Mrs Monkey has a Festive Craft Fair (Fayre?) to do soon, so she's crocheting lots of Christmas themed things at the moment.

Among them are this family of little winter mice, intended to be either tree decorations or free standing ornaments. Lots of nice detail on these, including the smallest mouse's jumper, which has a hole for his tail...

As for me, I'm wheelbuilding again, this time for Mrs Monkey's bike - hopefully I'll have the build finished by tonight.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

From "The Heavy Table": Lanny Hoff, Beer Knight


Minneapolis importer honoured by the guild of Belgian Brewers - nice article, in which Hoff describes some of the things that make the Belgian tradition unique in the world of beer. And some new names to try, for me at least...

(If you're inspired, and in Cheshire, I recommend Sandbach's Beer Emporium an excellent place to explore the brewing traditions of Belgium, among other countries....)

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From Bike Commuters: Rainy Day Biking reflective fender mudflaps

Read More at Bike

They're not sexy, but it's the time of year that the commuter's thoughts turn to mudguards, waterproofs, and other ways of keeping the rain & roadspray off you and the bike.

Full 'guards are good for this, but I've been thinking of some proper mudflaps to keep my feet, drivetrain, and the folk behind me drier for a little while. These, from Rainy Day Biking have the added advantage of giving your bike some extra visibility in the dark. Read the full test at Bike Commuters (link below the picture).

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bad Astronomy: Record-breaking galaxy found at the edge of the Universe

The record for the most distant object in the Universe ever seen has been smashed: a galaxy has been found at the staggering distance of 13.1 billion light years!

Here’s the Hubble image of this incredibly far-flung object:


Yeah, I know. Doesn’t look like much, does it? But oh, what it means…

That’s a galaxy, probably smaller and more compact than our Milky Way, but a galaxy. It’s so dim that the faintest star you can see with your unaided eye is 4 billion times brighter. Its distance is simply numbing; the Universe itself is only 13.7 billion years old, so the light from this object began its journey on its way to Earth just 600 million years after the Universe itself formed.


Remember the line from the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy about space being "really big"?

True Dat.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From Flowing Data: Evolution of Batman logos

Interesting how something can change so much, and yet still be so recognisable. More at the Flowing Data link.

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XKCD: The Economic Argument

Does Woo Work?

XKCD examines the evidence...


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Another Milestone

Overnight temperatures below freezing, and a lot of rain generally mean ideal elbow breaking conditions for the commuting cyclist.

I figured discretion was the better part of valour today, and so resolved last night that I'd ride the Brompton to work. I went to retrieve the bike from the cellar before turning in last night to find that it had a rear wheel puncture (due, I think, to Brompton's dreadful plastic rim tape, which had exposed a spoke nipple that had punctured the tube). Note for the To-Do list - replace this with some Velox tape.

Rear wheel removal on the Brompton is fairly complex, with the hub gear system and chain tensioner to deal with before you can even get to grips with the (frankly, absurdly tight) "Brompton Green" tyres themselves, and in to the punctured tube. Not the sort of thing you want to be doing just before bed, possibly, but infinitely better than before setting off for work. With some help from the internet, and my Schwalbe tyre levers (I mention these because every other lever I've used on Brompton Greens has snapped), the puncture was fixed and the bike ready for today's commute in about 30 minutes.

So, there's another milestone, my first Brompton rear wheel puncture repair. Stripping and servicing hub gears next. Or maybe not.


The Definitive Brompton Tyre Change Manual - Brompton Rear Wheel Removal Video

Kinetics Guide to Brompton Maintenance

I should add that I didn't bother removing the part of the gear indicator chain closest to the hub (as the chap does in the video) - it's easy enough to remove the wheel & work on it without doing this. I didn't futz with the brakes either, as a deflated tyre will go past the pads pretty easily.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From Lines And Colors: Peter de Sève: new website

Peter de Sève’s delightfully whimsical, wonderfully styled and beautifully rendered illustrations have become familiar to readers of The New Yorker, for which he has done a number of memorable covers, and other publications like Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian and Atlantic Monthly.

Peter De Seve has wonderful art, and a nicely written blog - Lines and Colors has examples of, and links to, his work.

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Strange Maps: Planet Berlin & Cartography's Original Sin


Maps are two parts truth, one part lie. They ignore one of the world’s three dimensions so they can squeeze the other two onto a flat surface. These projections mess up the shape and size of the area depicted. Distortions of this sort plague all maps, but are more noticeable on larger ones. Most of all, of course, on world maps.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bike Hacks: CPD at ORD

« Hand Wash Bike Hack | Main


How big is the Chicago airport?  So big that security patrols it by bike.  Much cooler than patrol by Segway if you ask me.


Posted by Matt at 02:01 AM in Culture, Security | Permalink

Interesting piece on - Security Patrol by bike - makes a lot of sense to me.

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Cyclocosm: How The Race Was Won – Paris-Tours 2010

Anyone else out there tired of talking about doping? How about taking a look at a few races contested by the type of rider who apparently never needs to dope? I’ve been out of town for the past two weeks, but am finally catching up on the late-season classics, and so (turning a blind eye to Danilo Hondo’s fairly significant role), here’s a How The Race Was Won on Paris-Tours 2010.

Cyclocosm's "How the Race Was Won" series is back with a review of Paris-Tours 2010.

These really are excellent - follow the links to Cosmo's blog, and to subscribe to his podcast via iTunes.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Podium Café: What You Need to Know About the Giro del Piemonte

What You Need to Know About the Giro del Piemonte

Muur_lunch_tiny by Chris... on Oct 14, 2010 2:00 AM EDT in News

First, it has a killer logo:


Beautiful foliage, grapevines, hilly terrain... and gruppo compatto. 

More fascinating insight along these lines... on the flip!

  • It's a lovely logo indeed - good article on this upcoming race over at Podium Café - follow the link for more.

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    Copenhagenise: "Lyrca is Killing Urban Cycling"

    I'd be pleased to buy a beer or a glass of New World wine for Dr Chris Rissel from the University of Sydney. Or if I lived in an emerging bicycle culture where people named their bicycles, I'd call my 'ride' The Rissel.

    First there was this from the good doctor and now this blipped onto our radar scope today:

    Cycling versus the cyclist: the perceptive barriers putting off Sydney cyclists
    Popular perceptions of cyclists can make or break our decision to take up the sport, says a recent study by the University of Sydney's Dr Chris Rissel and Michelle Daley of the Sydney South West Area Health Service.

    "Nearly everyone was very positive about cycling and the health and pleasure associated with it.

    "However, the actions of some people riding bicycles were sometimes seen as negative, and the lycra-clad image of cyclists put some people off because they didn't identify with it or thought it a turn-off."

    Follow the link to read the whole thing.

    I can't help feeling that this kind of thing is counter productive; if anything is "killing urban cycling" it's the limp approach to enforcing traffic law and punishing those (especially motorists) who break it. Ask people why they don't cycle, and the major reason tends to be safety, not the idea that they might have to wear funny clothes.

    (For the record, you can cycle in pretty much anything if you take things easy - a definite option if you're able to use separate tracks/lanes. In my experience, taking things easy where those facilities don't exist is a recipe for close passes and intimidation from drivers).

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    On Kitsune Noir: Ecological Footprint Infographiti Rug by Toko.

    Ecological Footprint Infographiti Rug by Toko.
    Posted by Bobby Solomon • October 13, 2010 • Art & Design

    Only a little over a month ago I posted about Toko, a design firm situated in Australia who I was really into because of the diversity of their work. I had to revisit them because of a new project called the Infographiti Rug, which is actually a data visualization in rug form. The colorful blobs you see are actually the ecological footprints of continents, the orange part being the world’s biocapicity. It’s sad that something so beautiful represents something so… bad. ...

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    From Lines & Colors Blog; Art in Flanders, animated view of Flemish art

    Art in Flanders is an animation that serves as the introductory page for the Lukas image bank of digital reproductions of Flemish art.

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    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Rivendell - Long ramble + phots

    0ct 2 long ramble + phots

    October 2, 2010

    We've discontinued things in the past, and will do it again, but there's always what I'd say is a good reason for doing it. The Rambouillet came out during a strong dollar and weaker yen period, and the Romulus that followed it did, too---but not quite as strong a dollar. It comes up a lot that somebody bemoans the passing of these bikes, but if we brought back the Romulus (which retailed for $1500 as a complete bike), it would cost $2300 now; and the RambOUiIllet would cost close to $3,000....and they both presented huge cash flow PROBLEMS to us, and so...we moved on, and now life is different here.

    Grant at Rivendell is always interesting to read - favourite quote in this piece;

    "But 8 now is so old and friction shifting so old and IT'S Fall 2010 and Shimano still produces them [8 speed barcons], and there has to be a reason that isn't apparent. Is somebody at Shimano guarding Shimano's Last Reasonable Shifter from extinction?"

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    Velo-Orange's New Dyno Hubs

    A lot of folks have e-mailed asking about the new dyno hubs I've mentioned. I'm also told there was some rather silly speculation about them in various discussion forums (Due to time constraints I no longer read any forums). In any case I thought I'd say a bit more about them.

    Velo Orange - new dynohubs & headlights. Worth reading in full, as if what Chris says is right, these sound excellent.

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    Cyclocross Buyer’s Guide, part one: Top of the line ‘cross rigs

    Some lovely bikes in this. High End 'crossers - a guide, from Velonews

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    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    The Stoke on Trent Challenge Tour Ride, 2010

    via TweetDeck

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    This, of course, should really be at the end - the moment at which we crossed the line, 80k after setting off from Queen's Park Longton at the end of this year's Stoke on Trent Challenge Tour Ride.


    The whole thing began on a visit to my sister's house a month or so ago. My brother in law Rick took a 'phone call.

    "Hey John, d'you fancy doing a charity bike ride?"
    "How long is it?"
    "About 50 miles."
    "Sure, why not."

    His brother (Huw) had organised a work team to ride the event - a few people had dropped out, so he was trying to round up folk to get the team numbers back up. At this point, I'd not been out on the bike for a Sunday ride for a bit, so this seemed like a good way to remotivate myself.

    As it was, I managed a short (30 mile) ride, and one around the Tour Ride distance (a 52 mile ride along the Cheshire Cycleway) before the event - I felt I had to ride the distance, just to prove to myself I was still capable of it. I still had a niggly feeling that I'd not done enough. Although I was still getting in 130 miles a week, these were short commuting rides, mostly on the Long Haul Trucker, not the bike I'd ride on the day of the Tour Ride.

    In the week before, my ride pack arrived.

    My #tourride number is here! Proper excited now...

    Luggage label, rider number and timing chip were all enclosed. Suddenly the day of the ride seemed very close.


    On the Saturday before, I cleaned the bike I'd be riding (my Giant SCR2.0), agonised over whether my brake blocks needed changing or not (no, they didn't) and whether to ride on my Aksiums, or Tiagra/DRC ST18 wheels (I chose Aksiums). I also found that my Specialized Airtool Road pump had, at some point, lost its valve assembly. I may have sworn about that, as Saturday evening is no time to find out that your bike pump is missing a small, hard to find and vital part. I bodged my Topeak Road Morph G pump into the bracket instead, with an extra velcro strap to stop the pump head coming loose as I rode. I wondered whether I had time to rewrap my handlebars for the next day (no, but I did clean the bar tape with some Cif).

    My toptube bag got loaded up with a handful of jelly beans, and some chunks of Soreen for fuel on the ride. In retrospect, I could have left the Soreen, given the excellent feed stops on the ride (every one had flapjack, mule bars and bananas in good quantity, and the last one had Soreen too). I'd still pack jelly beans (or jelly babies) - as either are great for a quick sugar hit. (NOTE: if jelly babies/jelly beans unavailable, Co-Op wine gums have the monkey seal of approval also).

    Rutland Cycling also came through, delivering the Specialized Echelon helmet I'd ordered the week before (and that they'd had to back order) on Saturday, making my kit slightly less of a riot of clashing colours than it would have been otherwise. Having said that, there aren't many pictures of me out on the route where I don't look like a yellow bin bag perched atop a racing bike - I regret not looking harder for my Cycle Chat gilet, with its racier cut.

    Last thing on Saturday night, I fitted the timing chip to the bike. I spent a good while trying to figure out how to attach it to the downtube without fouling the derailleur cables (impossible). After that, and some more anxious examination of my brakes (they are FINE) and agonising over wheel choices (still the Aksiums) I succumbed and read the instructions for the timing chip.

    "Oh, you can attach it to the front axle? Ah yes, that's actually very straightforward indeed."

    I'll know for next time.

    I had a fitful night's sleep, and wasn't exactly sure why - I knew I could ride the distance I needed to, and that the bike was in good shape. I put it down to having never ridden this sort of event before. How would I handle riding in a group? What if I wasn't as fit as I thought I was? Were those Aksiums (with their proprietary spokes) really the best choice? I could nip down and change them for my sensible 32 3x handbuilts... Sleep came eventually, and the morning alarm seemed to come too quick - I'd set it early to allow time for (more) kit and bike checks.


    Fortunately for me, and my burgeoning obsessive compulsive complex, my brother in law arrived earlier than we'd anticipated the following morning, so the checking and rechecking ended, and it was time to get the kit in the car, and the bike on the carrier.

    Finding the event was surprisingly easy (largely because my brother in law was driving and navigating, I don't think I'd have done so well). We were lucky to get into the "farmer's field" car park too, not long before it was closed up, so we weren't far from Queen's Park and the start/registration at all. Once we'd taken the bikes down from the carrier, we walked down to the park, and on the way I saw the Rapha-Condor-Sharp team car, driven by none other than John Herety himself! I gave him a thumbs up as we passed, and he waved and said hello, which made me briefly star struck.

    Once in the park, we waited for the other members of the team to arrive. I helped a few fit their timing chips, including one that we bodged to a bottle cage bolt (for some reason the non lever end of his quick release wouldn't unscrew at all). My brother in law went to register (he'd not had his rider pack and timing chip before the ride) and we left our kit bags at the bag drop. Mrs Monkey phoned to say that they'd not been able to park yet, (they were mistakenly sent to the rider car park, on Stanley Matthews Way) and ask after our start time - we didn't have one by then, so I told her I'd have to set off when the team did.

    Eventually, 9am rolled 'round, and we headed for the start. I'd expected to be waiting for a while here, but a group rolled out just as we came up to the line, and once our group had reached 40 ish riders, the lady marshalling the start counted down (I joined in, I was raring to go at this point) and off we went. Unfortunately, Mrs Monkey didn't make it to the start, and spent a bit of time watching people who weren't me set off before we were able to get in touch with each other and realise what had happened. I did end up in one of Cycle Stoke's pictures of the start though (facebook link).

    THE RIDE: 0km - 35km

    We'd not gone 5km before Huw had a puncture - we think his rear tyre picked up some glass somewhere in the park. After a quick tube change (and the first, and only use of my Topeak Road Morph on the ride) we set off again. Rick and I rode to the first climb (up to Swynnerton, I think), and realised we'd lost the rest of the team. We pulled over into a driveway to wait, and chatted to a couple of riders walking the first hill, who stopped to rest where we'd stopped. Once the team caught up, we discovered that Huw had had another puncture. Despite checking the inside of his tyre at the last tube change, a piece of glass lodged in the outer casing of the tyre, only going through to the tube as he rode. Taking another of the team's spare tubes, he changed the punctured tube and caught up with us again.

    Milwich Feed Stop, Stoke on Trent Tour Ride
    At the Milwich Feed Stop. That's Huw in the foreground, and in the background is the Green Man pub...

    After Swynnerton, there's a nice descent and a couple of lumps before the next biggish hill, which leads up to the first feed stop at Milwich (35km). I think this was one of the first "Aha!" hills on the route - by which I mean the steepest part is hidden initially by a corner. I loved this aspect of the route, and surprised myself by spinning up the hills fairly easily - beforehand I wasn't sure how I'd cope with a 50 mile ride lumpier than my usual route. The Milwich feed stop set the tone for the others - well staffed and marshalled, with ample supplies of water, energy drink, Mule Bars (I do regret not picking up one of the "Summer Pudding" flavour ones) flapjacks and bananas, as well as toilets for those who needed them. We picked up some of the rest of the team at Milwich too - the folk on MTBs and hybrids were going a little slower than us for most of the route.

    We spent a bit of time chatting to a chap doing the route with his wife - he knew the area, and flagged up a couple of upcoming climbs, as well as singing the praises of the descent into Upper Tean.

    After filling up our bottles, and popping a "Zero" hydration tablet into the water (helps keep away cramp, although I'm not sure how much we were sweating given the cold) we set off again.

    THE RIDE: 35km - 50km

    Most of the route from here fit the "gently rolling" description of the course in the rider pack, although the hill into Bramshall (I think) was fairly steep, followed by a nice descent and then pretty much a steady rise after. Rick and I stuck together for most of this part of the route (I think Huw dropped back to check on the rest of the team). On the way into the lunch stop at Church Leigh, we passed a couple of ladies in Shutt Vr "Continental" jerseys. As the tops were matching, I wondered if they were something to do with the company. It turned out that these were the Tour of Britain podium girls, and Shutt Vr had supplied their kit for the ride, although I only found this out afterwards.

    The lunch stop was a short way off the route, so a marshall was there to point riders in the right direction.

    "Racng this way, Food that way" he shouted as we rode up. "Food", we agreed.

    At the lunch stop (50km), as well as the flapjack, mule bars and water, there were energy gels (didn't fancy those, to be honest) and M&S sandwiches. Rick opted for a BLT (something he said later *may* have been a mistake). I went for Wensleydale and carrot chutney in my sandwich, perhaps subconsciously remembering my joke about doing the ride on my tourer, with a saddlebag filled with cheese and pickle sandwiches and a thermos. That's my CTC roots showing.

    THE RIDE: 50km - 72km

    Heading out of the lunch stop, we had a bit more up hill before the descent into Upper Tean, which was indeed a lot of fun. I dropped into as aerodynamic a position as I could on the bike, and hit 36mph here, before the road began to climb again heading for Barlaston. As I recall, this was where we began to ride into a headwind as well. I figured I'd try and help by setting some of the pace/spoiling the wind by riding on the front - something that didn't work very well as I kept turning around to find I'd ridden the others off my wheel! I think more group riding should be on my training agenda to properly get the hang of this, as it's not something I have to think about when most of my training is solo Sunday rides. Another nice descent brought us down to Barlaston.

    The feed stop at Barlaston isn't far from the end of the ride (at 72km) but I was keen to stop to say hello to Twitter's @kathrynebrown and @00moore, race administrators for the Tour of Britain and Tour Series, who were staffing the Barlaston stop. It was a pleasure to meet them both, and we had a quick chat about the tour ride route and this year's Tour of Britain (I also took the opportunity to eat a banana), before I rejoined Huw and Rick outside. I delayed our start still further by chatting to a couple riding the Family Ride with a baby in a bike seat, and a child on a tag-a-long bike - they were enjoying their day, although the father had hoped to ride the Challenge ride we were doing, apparently! I also gave Mrs Monkey a quick ring to revise our finish time. I'd been alternately over and under optimistic all the way 'round, creating a bit of a logistical nightmare for her in terms of her gettng the brood to the finish on time!

    THE RIDE: 72km - 80km

    The road starts to rise a little way out of Barlaston again, and eventually comes to another "Aha" hill, and I think I actually laughed out loud on reaching that one, as the steep part was so close to the end. Although plenty of folk were walking, Rick (whose longest training ride had been 21 miles, and was on a borrowed bike - he's a runner, not a cyclist) stayed in the saddle for every climb on the route, including this one. Again, I surprised myself by just spinning up the hill. For the first time on the ride, I began to feel a bit too warm as well, so I took the opportunity to get rid of my gilet while waiting for Huw and Rick. The final stretch of the ride was along a road by the Wedgewood visitor centre, and was really enjoyable (the profile of the route shows it all downhill to the finish after the last hill, so we could enjoy the scenery too).

    Coming into the park, we agreed that we'd cross the finish in a line, having ridden the course together. The finish itself was an amazing experience - the Tour of Britain crash barriers and boards are out, the finish gantry is up, the Tour's mc (Joe Fisher) announces you as you approach, and people are cheering and banging the boards as you ride up to the line. Mrs Monkey and the Monklets had made it to the finish too, and they banged the boards and waved their flags like everyone else - it was a really fantastic end to a brilliant ride. After crossing the line, Joe Fisher was stood by the medal presenter and welcomed us over the finish while we received our tour ride medals.

    We stayed to welcome the other riders over the line for a while (and to pose for a team picture, above). As well as seeing the rest of the Gordon's Honda Bolton team, we saw the family I'd chatted to at Barlaston, and several other riders we'd met along the way. Eventually we left, grabbing our kit bags from the bag drop, and picking up our goody bags and free pasta meal.

    Tour Ride Finish Line
    Rick at the finish line.

    Our riding time (i.e. excluding feed stops, puncture stops) came in at 3hrs 23 minutes for 50.28 miles.


    It was a brilliant day. The ride was supremely well organised, with a terrific, interesting course that had been very well thought out (we went through the busiest roads early on in the day, for example). The route also showed off the county's beauty to great effect - I suspect we'll see a few of the riders returning to see it in a less pressured way after the event!

    Also hugely worthy of praise were the friendly and helpful marshalls, volunteers and well stocked and organised feeds. Riding to the finish through the cheers and applause was an unforgettable experience, as was being cheered on by the small groups of people we'd see from time to time on the course watching the ride. I'd have no hesitation at all in recommending the Tour Rides very highly.

    The ride was in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity (more details here) - you're very welcome to sponsor me if you'd like to, my fundraising page is here (there is no pressure, I've no target to reach as I was only riding as a stand in!).

    Friday, September 17, 2010


    The Giant SCR2.0 As Fast Commuter

    Running an old chain too long on the Surly LHT has buggered the middle chainring on its triple (to the extent that is slips alarmingly when standing to climb, or sprint - suddenly finding you have no power and a load of impatient Audi drivers behind you is not my idea of fun). Whilst I wait for a replacement 39t chainring, the Giant is doing commuting duty.

    The saddlebag is my Carradice Lowsadde Longflap, held on with ViVa bag loops on the rails of the Fizik Aliante saddle. There's always been a bracket on the seat stay for a Smart Superflash, so that's just switched over from the LHT - the other rear light (Blackburn Mars 4.0) is in the light loop on the Carradice. My M520 SPDs were put on (it's a very stop/start commute, and the usual SPD-SL would get annoying). My Knog Bullfrog goes up front as a flashing light, and a Dealextreme "flood to throw" torch goes on as the front steady light. This bike has always had a set of wheels with 23mm tyres (Aksiums and GP4000, currently) and one with 25mm tyres (handbuilts, DRC ST17 Elegant II rims on Tiagra hubs[1], with Pro Race 2 tyres) so the latter went on for the commute.

    Since buying the LHT, I made some changes to the SCR2.0 - a 130mm stem as opposed to 110mm, FSA Wing Alloy bars, a 31.8mm seat post - all of which makes this a less practical, more leisure oriented bike, in theory. The sort of bike the Yehuda tendency would scoff at. (To be honest, even the solid, steel framed LHT is on thin ice with the Yehudas, on account of its 30/39/50 and 14-25 gearing - as any fule kno, you can't haul load with that sort of setup).

    I shouldn't really be surprised, as I commuted on this bike for a couple of years, but I enjoyed today's commute a lot - the Giant is a lot more responsive than the LHT (although it needs watching far more around potholes & other imperfections in the road). Dry days, maybe I should treat myself to a fast commute more often.

    [1] A really nice set of wheels, built by Paul Green of Rick Green Cycles. Highly recommended.

    Mrs Monkey Craft

    A knitted dog, called Goldie.

    via TweetDeck

    Posted via email from monkeyphoto's posterous

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010


    The Surly Troll.

    Yes, I know it's been a while.

    If you don't want to be spoilered before Interbike, look away now.

    Surly have outlined the new things in their range in a blog post here. I guess the trailer is the big addition - with a hitch that attaches at the rear dropout, by the looks of things, and capable of carrying 300lbs. Blimey.

    Also of interest is the Troll, for all the world this looks like the sort of classic steel frame rigid MTB that makes a great beater/commuter/trailer hauler &c &c, with modern touches like disc compatibility. Like the Cotic Roadrat, in a lot of ways.

    Is gradually coming back from his injury;
    3 weeks ago I was starting to wonder if I would ever get back on the bike.
    2 weeks ago I was cursing the fact that I couldn't ride over 5 miles.
    Last week 10miles / hills seemed impossible.
    Hopefully his recovery will continue in this speedy fashion!


    I really think that using masking tape as handlebar tape is taking thrift too far. Although, given the amount used, wouldn't regular tape be cheaper than buying twenty rolls of masking tape?

    ...or what part has bike technology played in the increase in race speeds? Cozy Beehive looks at one examination by Bicycle Quarterly, and attempts to untangle the different factors involved.

    Their "flag" messenger bags really look cool - hopefully these will move beyond the prototype stage soon. (Story at

    I like the idea of this one - its designer aims to make a "global" DIY trailer, i.e. one constructed from materials that are easy to source anywhere in the world, and simple to put together.

    As someone with a drawer full of slightly too short pencil stubs, Lines and Colors' article on the Continuous Pencil concept holds great appeal.

    Their fillet brazed Rando frame prototype can be viewed here.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010


    Y is for Yellow, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

    Back when I still accounted myself a photographer, one of the joys of the hobby was taking expired film, and running it through an old camera.

    Last Train Home

    It's a joy, because, as with film photography in general, you don't know quite what will emerge at the end. (As an aside, the uncertainty is slightly overstated, with "fresh" film, you can largely predict the way it handles colour and tone, although you can't instantly review all that and change what you do on the spot).

    I once tore a film inside a Minolta A5 - then exposed it to light by opening the camera back, so I processed it in the wrong chemicals for practice, and some of the results were very pleasing. Although at the time, I'd fully expected to get a blank roll from it.


    Even then, there were plug ins, and programs that would take a digital shot and ape the look of expired films, and clunky "toy" cameras. And of course now, we have the ironically titled "Hipstamatic" for iPhones, that seems to ape a sort of cross processed, Holga-esque idiom, whilst similarly missing the point as the photoshop "film look" plugins did.

    If you like hipstamatic, why not pick up an old 35mm camera, and some cheap film and try the real thing? The results might surprise you.

    E is for Eyes