Saturday, October 08, 2011

Heart rate versus gradient

It's striking how closely correlated my heart rate is to the gradient.  Maybe I should be working significantly harder on the downhills?

This run was done with Andy who's a better climber than descender (compared to me) so the peaks and troughs are more pronounced than they would have been if I'd been on my own.   It'd be interesting to see his heart rate compared to mine. I'd guess his would be flatter?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Home Insurance 2011

Our home insurance - buildings and contents - is up for renewal at the end of September.  I follow an approach similar to MoneySavingExpert's advice to getting good value.

In previous year's I've found it cheaper to get the buildings part separate to the contents part because that gives 2 lots of cashback.  But this year all the companies seem to have sensibly offered half the cashback amount for one component of insurance so unless the quotes themselves worked out better individually then combined is just as good.

I started with and added the top few quotes to a google spreadsheet, recording: Name, Total Price, Cashback amount, Excess, Legal Cover, and Other Notes.

Chepeast at was Kwikfit at £131.92 with esure close behind at £132.50  The esure quote included Legal Cover and Home Emergency cover.

Then I moved on to GoCompare, who had esure top of their list with the exact same price quote. A quick check on showed that £45.45 cashback for esure.

I tried quoting for buildings and contents individually but the best overall price was £139 and didn't have as much cashback.

So far I'd been quoting for contents without accidental damage cover. I reran the combined quote at GoCompare and the price for esure did not change - £132.50 including accidental damage.  Most other quotes went up by at least £30.

Then I tried changing the excess for each component.  Reducing the excess on the buildings part made the price go up, increasing the excess did not reduce the price.  But for the contents part, reducing the excess did not change the quote from esure - sweet.

I went through to esure and got a direct quote. Initially it came out at a higher amount but after reviewing the options that it had chosen I was able to replicate the £132.50 quote.  I found that I could reduce the voluntary contents excess down to 0 without affecting the quote (£100 mandatory excess).

I also played around with the sum insured for contents. It started covering £22000.  Up to £44500, the quote didn't change, beyond that it did.

So I clicked Buy, finished the paperwork, and I can see that it's tracked correctly on

Net price: £132.50 - £45.45 = £86.55 for unlimited buildings cover with £350 total excess and £44500 contents cover with £100 excess including accidental damage, Legal Cover and Home Emergency

So not as good as a couple of years back, where the contents part was paying me for cover and the buildings part was net £20 or so, but pretty good value.

How far can I run in 1 hour?

I fancied doing the running equivalent of the cycling Hour record, having recently run 7.77 hilly miles within an hour at work.

I didn't do any exercise the day before. I had 2 slices of toast and a proper coffee for breakfast, and set out at 08:51 in intermittent light rain - not bad conditions for running really.

I also had another goal: sub-45 for 10k, which is 7:14.5 min/mile pace, although I hadn't calculated the required pace accurately before I set off.

There's not much to say about the first part of the run. I was fairly lucky with traffic - I didn't have to stop for anything.  The first half mile is downhill which gave me a free head start on my required pace. I just had to hold on to enough of it.

10k arrived after about 44:52 - 7:13 pace. I checked the elapsed time as soon as the distance hit 6.22m, which I thought was just shy of 10k, but actually 10/1.6093 = 6.2139 so at 6.22 I was already past 10k. Woot.

But part of making sure I got 10k sub-45 involved pushing for the last 0.5 miles, raising my heart rate to 182 which is past my aerobic threshold. I was tempted to abort the Hour effort, but figured I'd just ease off a bit so that I could recover.

It took 0.23 miles for my heart rate to come back down to 171, a little lower than I should have let it drop to. My average pace for the recovery section was 8:01, then I picked up the pace again.

With 13:20 to go until the hour arrived, I was happy to work at a decent rate but didn't fancy flogging myself. Over the final section I averaged 7:31 pace, heart rate 175bpm, 1.78 miles.

I was keeping an eye on the watch, but I didn't notice that the hour was nearly up until I had only 15 seconds to go, so I didn't have much time to gain some extra distance in a sprint finish.

Once 1:00:00 arrived on the watch I stopped to catch my breath, reset the watch, and jogged home really slowly as a warm down.

Distance in 1 hour: 8.21 miles.

Re: gradient, the elevation at the start is about 45 metres, and about 15 metres at end, so the net gradient is about 0.23% downhill.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Running: actual versus target

This is a chart showing how my actual mileage for the year has been progressing against a target of 2 miles per day. I started off aiming for 1000k for the year (1.7 miles per day), but I'm comfortable beating that so I've upgraded my goal.

I've been using dailymile to track my running and cycling.  To generate the chart I wrote a perl script to extract my data for this year, find the Running entries, and output a table of dates with cumulative mileages.

I'm currently manually copying the output in to a google docs spreadsheet. It'd be nice to automate the update of the spreadsheet too but I'll leave that for another day...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cycling to Work 2011

Cycling to Work 2011 Chart

I've converted my local spreadsheet to Google Docs. The advantages are that I can:
  • "live" publish the latest version, by which I mean that when I update the data the image above is automatically updated
  • update it from any computer with web access, without installing any software
  • share the spreadsheet for others to copy or suggest improvements
  • do this for free

How am I doing so far?  Of 101 trips to the office, I cycled 83 of them - 82.2%

Of the 17 drives to work:
  • 1 was to try out (alright, show off) my new car
  • 4 were giving a lift to Jenny and her Italian exchange student friend
  • 1 was to take Jenny and her Italian exchange luggage to school
  • 1 was to take a tent and kit to work for Mark Halliday's stag weekend
  • 1 was to get in time to present at some education I helped create
  • 7 were due to inclement weather. On most of these I also gave Isobel a lift to school which is on the way to work.
Projecting out my current rate I'm looking at about 183 for the year.  Last year I totalled 130ish but I didn't start until the clocks changed.

I'm hoping that I can achieve more vacation than drives to work.  Bring it on!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Rules

There is a great set of Rules from the "Keepers of the Cog": we maintain the sacred text wherein lie the simple truths of cycling etiquette known as The Rules.

There are some rules that my friends find particularly apt:

Rule 5: Harden The Fuck Up.

Since so many other rules refer to this one, we have to begin here. If someone just needs to "man the fuck up" then we tell that person to see Rule 5.

Rule 7: Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp.  Under no circumstances should one be rolling up their sleeves or shorts in an effort to somehow diminish one’s tan lines.  Sleeveless jerseys are under no circumstances to be employed.

Rich Harran is a good example of someone who is both very brown and very white.

Rule 9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

John likes to think this one applies to him. Which compared to most of the rest of us, it does.

Rule 12: 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.

Rule 16: Championship and race leader jerseys must only be worn if you’ve won the championship or led the race.

Rule 34: Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place. On a mountain bike.

John has SPD pedals but his bike isn't technically a road bike.  But it also definitely isn't a mountain bike. Half fail.

Rule 42: A bike ride/race shall never be preceeded with a swim and/or followed by a run.

A rule written for Andy who is easily confused. Like when he put petrol in his diesel on the same day as doing the Blenheim triathlon.

Rule 55: If you are riding down a mountain, you must first have ridden up the mountain. It is forbidden to employ powered transportation simply for the cheap thrill of descending. The only exception to this is if you are doing intervals on Alpe d’Huez or the Plan de Corones and you park your car up top before doing 20 repeats of the climb.

Rule 56: When wearing a cycling kit and enjoying a pre or post ride coffee, it is only appropriate to drink espresso or macchiato. If the word soy/skim latte is heard to be used by a member wearing cycling apparel, then that person must be ceremonially beaten with Co2 canisters or mini pumps by others within the community.

Yeah, this one is mostly for me. Latte goodness is bad.  Also guilty: Mark Halliday (and not just once)

Rule 62: You shall not ride with earphones. Cycling is about getting outside and into the elements and you don’t need to be listening to Queen or Slayer in order to experience that. Immerse yourself in the rhythm and pain, not in whatever 80′s hair band you call “music”. See Rule 5 and ride your bike.

John used to fall fowl of this one but has since corrected his ways.

Rule 64: Cornering confidence generally increases with time and experience. This pattern continues until it falls sharply and suddenly.

This rule is totally owned by Andy Perry.  Sometimes he even has to abort the ride because of it.

Rule 75: Race numbers are for races. Remove it from your frame before the next training ride because no matter how cool you think it looks, it does not look cool. Unless you are in a race. In which case it looks cool.

Ed gave me grief when I forgot to take the timing chip off my helmet from the Wiggle New Forest sportive.

So 2 for Russell, 2 for Andy, 2 for John.  What about Alan and Ed?  Maybe they can have Rule 5 all to themselves?

Or perhaps we could invent some new rules:

Rule 86: Though shalt not get the train home (Alan)

Rule 87: Only teenage girls phone their mum for a lift home (Ed)

Have I missed anything?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First fettle

Fettling is a British slang phrase which means "the art of repairing or tuning a bicycle". Until today the extent of my bike maintenance has been fixing punctures and changing tyres. I've never changed a chain before and when Rich's snapped on our Wales weekend ride last year I decided that I wanted to be able to change/fix my own chain.

Dirty Cassette and chain

Last Autumn the local bike shop (LBS) advised that I would need a new chain and cassette as mine were overly worn. I decided to defer replacing the parts and keep using the bike over the winter as I didn't want shiny new stuff exposed to grime, salt etc.  The LBS quoted about £35 for a Shimano 105 5600 cassette, £30 for a KMC X10 chain and £20 or so for fitting, and I'd be without my bike for a number of days.

I'm riding the Wiggle No Excuses sportive next weekend with Andy so I had to get this sorted out this weekend.

My bike previously had a KMC X10 chain and an Ultegra 6600 12-27 cassette. A month ago I looked in to the options and settled on a super-light KMC X10-SL chain (silver, not gold) for £32 and a Shimano 105 5700 cassette from Ribble for £31.  The chain is an upgrade, the cassette is one step down in the Shimano range but it is a newer version so it should be similar to what I'm used to.

To allow me to shorten the new chain to the correct length I bought a Topeak universal chain tool from the LBS. I got a 10% discount meaning that I paid £8.09 which is within 10p of the best price from Google Shopping.

I struggled for a while trying to remove the old chain via the special missing link and then gave up and used the new chain tool instead.

I laid the old and new chains alongside each other to work out that I needed to remove 7 links from the new chain. A missing link was included to easily join the ends.

There's a good video showing how to remove and fit a new cassette. It also mentioned that there might be an extra spacer needed which was lucky as I found I did indeed already have an extra spacer on my bike. Without the hint I would probably have removed all of the old parts and fitted only the new. Instead, I made sure I only removed bits that I was replacing - keeping the existing spacer.

A quick spin 'round the block suggests that everything's back where it's supposed to be. I didn't need to adjust anything with the gears.

I also got some quality SwissStop brake pads from Jim and Anna for Christmas. They are secured with a 2mm allen key which took me a while to find. Changing them was no trouble: remove the securing bolt, slide the pad out, slide in the new one, screw in the bolt, adjust the brake cable to accommodate the wider pads. For the first pad I used the new bolt supplied with the SwissStop pads but the head got damaged as I tightened it up so I reused the Shimano supplied bolt for the other 3 which were no bother.

Roll on next weekend.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

First Asda price guarantee analysis

This is the first stage in my quest to extract more value from the ASDA Price Guarantee...

I'll say up front that I think ASDA are overall cheaper for my shopping and that I appreciate what they're doing with this guarantee.

The ASDA Price Guarantee says "We'll guarantee your comparable grocery shopping is 10% cheaper at ASDA or we'll give you the difference".

They currently compare against Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Waitrose.  If ASDA are not 10% cheaper then they issue you a voucher for the difference which can be used against a future ASDA purchase.

It is important to note that it is the total value of the trolley/order that is compared, not each individual item.

This means that whenever Asda is cheaper, the "saving" is effectively offset against when it is not cheapest.

An example may help illustrate the point.  Consider an order with 2 items: Bread and Milk (you actually must have 8 different items in an order to qualify, but only one of them needs to have a comparable product at another store)

Bread... ASDA: £0.70, Tesco: £1.00

Milk.... ASDA: £1.10, Tesco: £1.00

The total cost of the Tesco order is £2.00 and Asda is £1.80. ASDA are 10% cheaper so no refund voucher is due.

But if the order could have been split in to 2 orders, the Bread order would have no refund but the Milk order would have resulted in a 20p voucher.

My shopping trolleys have so far resulted in either no refund or refunds of relatively small amounts like £1.50 on a £100 shop - certainly worth having but not 10%.

Looking at the comparison tables it is clear that if you could avoid mixing the good value items in with the poor value items then more savings could be made.

On our most recent shop we got 2 trolleys: one for what looked like good value items, one that looked like normal prices.  We did not do any formal research on prices before we started.  If we could have perfect knowledge of the prices then this would all be really easy, but in the Real World that info isn't very quick to obtain.

Update: I think this is new... mySupermarket now have a Quick Shop search which lets you see the prices for a single item. I successfully used it from my iPhone the other day when looking at lasagne sauce. They had Dolmio reduced from £1.66 to £1.00, or an own brand for £0.96   A quick search showed that Tesco were offering it on BOGOF at £1.76  So I bought 2 for £2.00 and the price guarantee shows that I could have got 2 for £1.76, so my voucher includes the 24p I overspent and an additional 10% of £1.76 = 18p. So I got 2 Dolmio sauces for £1.58 which is a good price.

2 Trolleys, 2 Vouchers

"bargains" trolley: 27p voucher from £43.55 - 0.62%
Normal trolley: £1.70 voucher on £75.09 - 2.26%

So far I've only been analysing the "bargains" trolley. The website shows you some info on the basket totals at each store and you can access another page per competing store table showing a table of the compared products.

"Bargain" Basket Totals

Tesco, 27 items, 19 unique, £22.99, £25.25, £2.26 cheaper
Sainsburys, 22 items, 16 unique, £17.34, £23.23, £5.89 cheaper
Morrisons, 19 items, 13 unique, £15.62 v £20.13, £4.51 cheaper
Waitrose, 8 items, 6 unique, £10.70, £13.42, £2.72 cheaper

ASDA were more than 10% cheaper for all but Tesco, where they were 9% cheaper. So the voucher covers the other 1%.

Cornish Icecream

But a quick look in the ASDA versus Tesco table shows that some items were much cheaper at Tesco. The very first line is:

1 x ASDA Easy Scoop Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream (2L)    £2.20    £0.99

I though £2.20 was a fairly good price for Cornish icecream but clearly it went in the wrong trolley.

Given that this trolley only resulted in a 27p vouchers, if I had put this item in the other trolley then this trolley would have resulted in no voucher but the other trolley's voucher would have increased by £2.20 - £0.99 = £1.21 i.e., overall I'd have been 94p better off.


I've written a perl script that reads in 4 files in to which I have copied and pasted the comparison tables.

The script is still under development, but here's what it's found so far.

ASDA: (22 compared) cheapest = 16   most expensive = 7
Tesco (19 compared): cheapest = 4   most expensive = 5
Morrisons (13 compared): cheapest = 2   most expensive = 3
Sainsburys (16 compared): cheapest = 0   most expensive = 5
Waitrose (6 compared): cheapest = 0   most expensive = 2

So ASDA is by far most often the cheapest but it is also most often the most expensive.

Getting the items in the correct trolley could make quite a difference.

Other Notes

There are some "errors" in the tables, presumably caused by the mySupermarket website having an older record of the prices than what I actually paid.  For example, we got 8 medium Easter Eggs and they cost £1 each (no linked offers or anything like that). But on the website it says:

3 x Cadbury Creme Egg Medium (178g)    £4.00    £3.00

so this has wrongly resulted in £1.00 being contributed to my voucher.

Also, it was quite nice to have 2 trolleys as they were each lighter and weren't threatening to spill the contents out. It was much easier to repack the trolleys at the end when the items were bagged up.

What's next?

Analyse the "normal" trolley receipt
Work out what the voucher would have been if we'd used only one trolley
Work out various optimal trolley configurations for the shopping
Look in to sourcing the prices before going shopping

v1 script output

Kellogg's Corn Flakes (500g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.98  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 1.98
sainsburys: 1.98
waitrose: 1.98

Cadbury Creme Egg Medium (178g) (3 of)
asda: 4.00
tesco: 3.00  ++ cheapest ++
waitrose: 5.00  -- most expensive --

ASDA Smartprice Sparkling Water (2L) (3 of)
asda: 0.48
tesco: 0.48
morrisons: 0.48
sainsburys: 0.48

Kellogg's Multi-Grain Start (375g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 2.39  -- most expensive --
sainsburys: 2.39

ASDA Orange Crush Zero (2L)
asda: 0.72
tesco: 0.54  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 0.64

Nestle Caramac Ice Cream Bars (4x50ml)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.00
sainsburys: 1.00

Batchelors Super Noodles Chinese Chow Mein Flavour... (5 of)
asda: 2.00
tesco: 2.00
morrisons: 3.45  -- most expensive --
sainsburys: 3.00

ASDA Easy Scoop Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream (2L)
asda: 2.20
tesco: 0.99  ++ cheapest ++
morrisons: 2.20
sainsburys: 1.20
waitrose: 1.30

Mars Skittles Rainbow Pack (4x45g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.40  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 1.00

Kellogg's Honey Loops (375g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 2.35  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 2.35
sainsburys: 2.35
waitrose: 1.80

Silver Spoon Treat Toffee Sauce (325g)
asda: 0.96
tesco: 0.75
morrisons: 0.49  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.00  -- most expensive --

ASDA British Double Cream (600ml)
asda: 1.50
tesco: 1.50
morrisons: 1.84
sainsburys: 1.84
waitrose: 1.85  -- most expensive --

ASDA Smartprice Coco Rice (375g)
asda: 0.65
tesco: 0.65

Dr. Oetker Glimmer Hundreds & Thousands (86g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29  -- most expensive --

Silver Spoon Dark Chocolate Chips (100g)
asda: 0.50
tesco: 0.50
sainsburys: 0.74  -- most expensive --

Dr. Oetker Giant Stars (13g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29
sainsburys: 1.39  -- most expensive --

ASDA Rich Roast Coffee Granules (200g)
asda: 1.48
tesco: 1.48
morrisons: 1.48
sainsburys: 1.49  -- most expensive --

Nestle Rolo Milk Chocolate Egg with a Rolo Tube (1...
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.00

Askeys Crackin Chocolate Topping (225g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 0.75  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.00

Silver Spoon White Chocolate Chips (100g)
asda: 0.50
tesco: 0.50
sainsburys: 0.74  -- most expensive --

Dr. Oetker Chocolate Hearts (45g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29  -- most expensive --

Kellogg's Variety Pack (8x25g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.99  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 0.99  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.99
waitrose: 1.49

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sportives 2011

This week's Cycling Weekly has a full list of cycling sportives.  The number of them, and the number of participants has grown massively over the last few years.

2008: 72 events, 14841 entrants
2009: 144 events, 29118 entrants
2010: 221 events, 47750 entrants
2011: 243 events

The following are the ones I am considering. See the doodle link to share which ones you fancy (or could be persuaded to do if lots of us are doing it - no commitment)

Sunday March 20, Wiggle No Excuses Sportive, 75-80 miles. (Entered, hotel booked)

Sunday April 13
a) Evans Ride It, Woking, GU24 8AZ, 60/90 miles, £11
b) Meon Valley Riser, Fareham, PO17 5BL, 50/88 miles, £21/23

Sunday May 1st, Isle of Wight Randonnee, free + £13 ferry from Soton, 65 miles on the island (99% likely to do this, with lots of others)

Sunday May 8th
a) Hampshire Hilly Hundred, Sparsholt/Winchester, 100 miles, £25
b) Wiggle Jurassic Beast, Bovington Tank museum, BH20 6JG, 101 miles, £25

Sunday May 22, Wiggle Bournemouth, Christchurch, BH23 6BL, 100 miles, £25

Sunday June 5, Wiggle Sussex Surrey Scramble, RH20 1DL, 91 miles, £25

Sunday June 12, Wiggle Magnificat, Newbury, RG14 7NZ, 127 miles, £27

Sunday June 19, Great Western Sportive, Swindon, SN3 1TA, 170km

Saturday June 25, Wiggle The Long One, Chichester, PO18 0EU, 129 miles, £25

Sunday July 3, Test Valley Tour, Romsey, 150km (did this last year, quite good)

Sunday July 10, Wiggle Mega Meon, Waterlooville, PO7 8AA, 95 miles, £25

Sunday July 24, Wiggle Wight Ferry, Brockenhurst, SO42 7ZE, 100 miles, £37

Sunday August 21, New Forest Rattler, Ringwood, BH24 3NF, 79 miles, £21

Sunday August 28, Blenheim Palace, OX20 1PP, 100 miles, £29

Sunday September 11,
a) Wessex 50/100, SP1 1JH, 100 miles, £19
b) Southern Sportive, Petersfield, GU31 4AS, 155km, £26

Sunday September 18, Southdowns challenge, Fareham, PO17 6EU, 80 miles, £23

Sunday October 2, Wiggle New Forest 100, Brockenhurst, 102 miles, £25. (did this last year, excellent)

Sunday October 23, Wiggle South Downs 100, Chichester, PO19 1SB, 102 miles, £25

Sunday November 6, Wiggle Devils Punch Bowl, Liphook, 75 miles, £25

Sunday, January 30, 2011


This year I'm tracking how often I commute by driving versus cycling.  After an exciting competitive start it's become a bit one-sided thanks to some adequate weather.

In the cold winter months I typically choose the shortest, hilliest route.  It's 4.6 miles and takes me 16-19 minutes. In the summer, when it's daylight, dry and I'm fitter, I can do it in under 14 minutes.

Whilst it can be pretty cold on some days it's still far more enjoyable than driving.

In case you hadn't guessed 2,3,4,5 refers to the number of days cycled each week for the first 4 weeks this year.