Team Salesengine ’10’ 4/4/15

This event was my first open solo event of 2015, and was an afternoon ’10’ held on the F2D/10, a course based on the A428, turning at the junction with the Madingley Road into Cambridge. The weather was pretty cold, with a bit of a stiff crosswind that may have provided a bit of assistance (but not much) on the outward leg. The event also revealed a bit of an issue with the Kask aero hat! Continue reading

Mini HiFi

I have posted before now about the excellent Squeezebox streaming audio system from Logitech that is sadly now discontinued. Since Logitech knocked their line of Squeezebox players on the head, the system seems to continue flourishing, thanks to the open source nature of the server software. Most recently, the BBC decided to implement a very poorly publicised change to the internet streams of live and listen again radio programmes (see, for example, this blog post).  Within days users of the Logitech Server had access to these streams restored, thanks to the efforts of developers who post on the forums. In contrast, users of just about every internet radio on the market and other streaming systems such as Sonos have to make do with pretty low resolution mp3 streams (and these are not a long term solution).

At the moment, I am running a Squeezebox Touch and two Squeezebox Radios in my network, with an old Squeezebox 3 held in reserve. I also have three Raspberry Pi computers set up with piCorePlayer as Squeezebox players, and can stream via several apps on iPads and Android devices. So, all in all, a very versatile system, that Logitech should be ashamed of failing to support properly. Anyway, enough grumbling. Here’s a neat little mini HiFi I’ve just set up – ultimately for use in my office.

A new, and very tiny, Squeezebox based HiFi
A new, and very tiny, Squeezebox based HiFi

This uses a Raspberry Pi model B, fitted with a HiFiBerry Dac, connected to an Amptastic Mini-1 amplifier. The Mini-1  is seriously tiny, with a footprint smaller than a CD jewel case. I’ve just added a pair of QAcoustics bookshelf speakers. The whole shebang sounds pretty good for the price of around £300. In the office, I may well be using an old 1st gen iPad to stream music either from Spotify or via a VPN link from my home music server, rather than the Raspberry Pi.

Hardriders ’20’ 29/3/15

It was clear several days beforehand that the Hardriders 20 mile time trial was going to be ridden in seriously tough conditions. And so it proved. On a hastily relocated course (due to roadworks on the original course) involving two laps of the Astwood circuit, seven hardy souls faced rain (heavy at times) and wind (blustery and increasing in force).

I rolled up already damp (but not too cold) to what seems to be the new HQ for our Astwood circuit events, the Bikebus cafe, to find several windblown and damp riders huddling for shelter. After the usual chat about how wet it was, the seven riders got themselves sorted out. I ended up as #7, and with no others deciding to brave the elements was the last starter.

All too soon, my minute man was off. I took off my jacket, gritted my teeth and listened to the countdown. Then I was off.

It always surprises me how quickly one can shrug off adverse conditions. One minute you’re at the start line just getting wetter and wetter, the next you’re off…and pretty soon you’re not actually too cold. Anyway, this was two laps of the Astwood circuit, and soon I was hurtling down the descent before the Astwood climb. I could see my minute man up ahead of me on the climb. But I couldn’t really give it full effort due to the blustery wind, which tended to buffet me rather too much. I got up to Astwood having taken the climb reasonably conservatively. Out onto the main road with no holdups (unlike last week), and I tried to get into a better rhythm.

The wind was building a bit, but wasn’t too much trouble with the trispoke. I passed my minute man just before Chicheley. The blustery conditions didn’t seem to offer much wind assistance at all, sadly, but did cause some hairy twitches to the steering as I rode past gaps in the hedgerows. As it turned out, I reached the finish line to complete the first lap in about 24:43, a bit quicker than the single lap event the previous weekend – I was oblivious to this, since I couldn’t read the bike computer! As I rode past the Bikebus, I heard a nice cheer from Bryan and some others, which gee’d me up a bit.

The second lap was pretty much the same story as the first – though the wind seemed to have got a bit stronger an the rain stopped halfway through the lap. I finished in 50:14. Despite having passed several riders, I was surprised to find I’d won the event – by 2 seconds from Richard Golding. I repaired to the cafe for a hot cross bun and a double espresso. And some fun banter about “secret training” and comments that I ride a big gear. Usual stuff.

The ride home was pretty grim. I wasn’t feeling cold, despite being quite wet from all the rain in the ride up to the event, and the event itself. But the wind had seriously strengthened, and I was having trouble keeping the bike on the road. All in all, though, this was a pretty good start to the club event series – I think maybe my form is falling back into place after February’s nasty cold – my placings have steadily improved through the three club events I’ve ridden so far.

Pos No Name Club Lap 1 Time Lap 2 Time Cat Vets Std .+/- Vets Std
1 7 Robert Saunders NBRC 24.43 50.14 V55 54.57 .+ 4 43 1
2 3 Richard Golding Equipe Velo/NBRC 25.03 50.16 V46 53.30 .+ 3.14 2
3 1 Lindz Barral Equipe Velo 25.32 51.35 S
4 5 Alex Hornshaw TeamMK 26.21 53.21 V47 53.39 .+ 0.18 3
5 6 Mike Smith Corley Cycles 26.38 53.58 Sen
6 4 Graham Line NBRC 28.29 58.38 V50 54.07 .- 4.31 4
7 2 Darren Haydon NBRC 29.38 60.12 V44 53.11 .- 7.01 5

Time keepers:- Stepanie Cousins & Tony Farmborough (NBRC)

Pusher-off:- Bryan Scarborough (NBRC)

Astwood ’10’ 21/3/15

Preparing my bike the evening before the event was quite alarming. Several issues: a locked pedal that required considerable grease injection before it would turn; A rather iffy job of cabling the front mech (presumably dating from the pre-race tinkering before the Duo last year); and a severely rusted chain (presumably I didn’t lubricate it well enough after cleaning up the bike on January 1st). However, all quite easily remedied on a beautiful sunny and warm spring evening.

Oh how things changed overnight. The day of our “Come and try it” 10 mile time trial on the Astwood circuit was cold and blighted by a strong northerly wind.  And I nearly didn’t make it to the start owing to a black cat with suicidal tendencies that dived under my front wheel on the way up to the race! We’d decided to revise the Astwood course for this event: the revision meant the start was close to the BikeBus cafe – convenient for refuelling after the event, plus it offered some shelter from the elements. The downside was that the start point was fully exposed to the chilly north wind – I suspect I wasn’t alone in shivering as I set off. Continue reading

Quick Review: Nopinz number pocket

I’ve had a these retrofitted to two skinsuits, less for the supposed 10W aero benefit and more for the avoidance of pin holes in expensive skinsuits, which inevitably shorten the garment’s lifespan.

I rode my club skinsuit in a club event, and had my partner put the number in while I was wearing the skinsuit. This was very difficult, and you certainly wouldn’t want to ask someone you’re not intimate with to do this! On the second occasion I was using a Castelli Bodypaint skinsuit, and pushed the number in before putting the skinsuit on. Even that was a bit of fiddle, but mostly because my hands were cold.

In use, the number pockets are great – none of that pricking fingers when putting a number on, or pins coming loose while warming up or racing. While the number is held really snug and with no flapping, I’ve no idea if there’s really a discernible aero benefit, but at least the days of pinholes in cycle clothing are receding!

Quick Review: Kask Bambino aero helmet

Not new to the market, these stubby aerohats were popularised by Team Sky over the last few seasons. Very expensive, particularly when they were first released, Team Grumpy refer to these as “smurf hats” because of the slightly downturned aero tail!

I can’t really comment on the helmet’s aero characteristics, other than to say that I would imagine the Bambino might be superior if you do a lot of looking down or around – this pushes the tail of a ‘normal’ aero helmet into the wind. In terms of fit, the helmet is reassuring in how stable the fit is on the head. The visor didn’t steam up, as per complaints of the early versions of the helmet. In use, I was aware of sweat in the helmet, but it didn’t dribble down onto the visor, which remained clear throughout the ’25’. I don’t know if there will be problems when racing in warmer conditions.bambino

Team Grumpy bought matte black Bambini – with the mirrored visor as shown above, they really remind me of the Power Rangers (I will leave you to Google that…). So maybe that’s the new team descriptor for them…

Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up 25 15th March 2015

The Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up ’25’ has been a regular fixture on the Team Grumpy calendar for a number of years. As usual, the two evenings prior to the event were characterised by conspicuous consumption of Leffe and curry. This was an acceptable preparation, since both members of Team Grumpy had seen their pre-season training somewhat derailed by illness. We also avoided any serious bike tinkering on the day before the race. Indeed, the only issues needing dealt with were (a) Gerry’s disc wheel needed to be replaced with his trispoke owing to braking issues, and (b) my left shoe wouldn’t clip onto my pedal. This turned out to be due to tiny fleck of mud in the shoeplate springs! Pretty quickly all was in order. Continue reading

Stony 11.4 7th March 2015

The first club event for 2015 came around all of a sudden (for some reason, the New Year’s Day ’10’ formally belongs to the previous year’s calendar). It was to be held over at the Stony course, which in the version used by our club is at about 11.4 miles. It’s a tough course, and not one I enjoy, with a lot of climbing in the first half, and as usual, the winter, though mild, has seen further potholes open up, particularly between Beachampton and Nash.

Continue reading

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 – the return of the stylus

So far, I have owned and used iPads (first generation iPad, third generation iPad and a first generation iPad mini for work). I posted previously about my search for a usable stylus for iPad (Smartphones, tablets and styli). This was pretty much unsuccessful: iPad styli were always inadequately precise, either because they had a rubber blob of a tip that mimicked a fingertip, or because the bluetooth system used wasn’t precise enough.

A couple of years ago, I made my belated entry to the smartphone market, with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (I recently updated to a Galaxy Note 4). This device comes with the S Pen, an interesting device that gives a really good screen response when writing. Coupled with excellent handwriting conversion, this meant that text entry by scribbling on the screen was a realistic proposition. Here’s a good description of how the S Pen works. Essentially, from that site:

An electromagnetic field is generated from a circuit behind the screen. The S Pen picks this up and uses it to power itself and figure out its position relative to the screen. It sends this, along with information from the S Pen button and the nib at the end, back to the Note.

At that point, it was abundantly clear that my next tablet purchase was likely to be a Samsung Note device. And on a recent visit to a department store I had a little play with a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet – and my partner bought one. After a weekend of seeing this device in action, I bought one too – reduced in price to £324. Anyway, for me (and the work I do) this is an iPad killer – for example:

  • Bigger screen, at a very decent resolution
  • Android 4.4.2 (this is like climbing over the wall of the Apple prison)
  • The S pen, which offers realistic sketch pad and handwriting recognition
  • Easier file transfer to and from the device than iTunes allows
  • Ability to add to the 32Gb onboard memory – I added a 64Gb card
  • Most of the apps I use on the iPad are also available on the Galaxy, and those that aren’t have perfectly good alternatives
  • You can run up to 4 apps simultaneously onscreen.

This is basically a power user’s tablet, and I really can’t fault it. But it’s the S Pen that really sells it to me. Here’s a very detailed review dating from March last year, when the beast retailed at about £649. I think it’s a pretty accurate review. I doubt I’d have been keen to cough up £649, but at £324 this seemed a great deal – I presume the discounted price means it’s either discontinued or a new model is due shortly.

Bizarre design flaw in the Cowon X7 media player?

After Apple replaced my 2 gigabyte first generation iPod Nano with a nifty little 8Gb sixth generation model (due to a product recall), I found myself using that in preference to my Cowon X7, even though the latter has 160Gb storage. The consequence of this is that I allowed the X7 to completely discharge.

No problem, I thought, just charge it up again. But no! Things are not that simple. It transpires that the Cowon firmware doesn’t take kindly to a fully discharged battery, and won’t let it charge. I did a spot of Googling, and discovered a suggested solution – to connect it to the charger for a long period – 100h was mentioned.

Well, I tried that, to no avail.

A second suggestion was to open up the case, and briefly short out two wires that connect the main circuit board to the battery. This then resets the system so it can charge the battery. Opening the device was quite tricky. It’s held together by four tiny T6 torx screws. A visit to the workshop, and the screws were out. The two halves of the case are clicked together, and took a bit of leverage to separate. This done, the innards are exposed – everything remains attached to the front of the case.


This is what’s revealed when the back of the unit is removed. Most of the space is occupied by the hard drive and the battery. The PCBs on the left are partly covered by a thin blue film of insulator.

Here’s a close-up showing the connections that need to be shorted. You need to gently peel back the blue film, then use a paperclip or similar to short out the two soldered joints (black and red wires) at bottom right.


After that, the device starts accepting charge again. A couple of hours later, the battery was fully charged and I was ready to go.

This problem seems quite widespread and I saw several instances in discussion forums around the web. It does appear to be a significantly bonkers design flaw. Still, now I know what to do!