Tuesday, 29 May 2007

May Riding

Best month since October, and with three proper rides too! Only 16 miles off-road though; I think I might be a roadie.

Proper rides: 92 miles (Three rides: HamsterVI (48 miles (16 of them off-road)) and Eggleston and back (44 miles))
Business miles: 9 miles (one 9 mile trip, road)
Commuting: 90 miles (18 days riding to work and back)

Total: 191 miles

(Total so far for 2007: 682 miles (136 miles per month - on course for 1632 miles for the year))

Monday, 28 May 2007

New Media in Darlington politics

In the last year or so, and particularly in the run up to the local elections in May, I've been reading/using a variety of local websites, both political and non-political. One of these sites, Councillor Nick Wallis's blog, has been nominated for a New Statesman Award. In the comments of his blog, a small discussion of the way parties locally are using the web started, which I started to add to. The comment got really long, so I turned it a post here instead.

I think what people are looking for from newmeedja is honesty and interaction, which is where I think Nick has things right with his blog. If he keeps on posting as he has been, people will come and read it. Posts like those about the Springfield School site or where he posted pictures of new bike lane features and then responded to questions raised are particularly useful examples. These posts also give a good insight into what Nick's doing as my ward councillor and in his role within transport; which will help people make decisions when it comes to polling day.

I'm not sure that a ward level is the right level for the parties to aim at in Darlington as the number of residents is just too small (especially when you discount the technophobes). A town-wide site, which makes it possible for people to look at specific areas of interest or geography, would be more useful - the Darlington Lib Dems have done this to an extent, but their site lacks the interaction of Nick's blog.

The local Tory site had some interesting features, but was a little haphazard. Most of the updating took place within the Feedback section, but it wasn't possible to reference individual posts when responding and the feedback received was added infrequently, making conversations stilted. The site had some videos added, and a 'blog', but there was no way of commenting upon individual posts.

An interesting local site is HarrowgateHill.co.uk. This is set up as a community site, although it is run by new (and New?) Labour Councillor Mark Burton. The site has a fairly lively forum, and seems to be attracting a different sort of contributor from the more obviously political sites.

The discussion about new media Nick's blog was started by Graham Robb; a name I've seen on the Town Liar forum but who I didn't really know much about. From Graham's posts on Nick's blog, I've discovered he's a bona fide political PR guru, and that he has a My Space account and a slick-sounding Internet TV studio.

I'll be following the local New Media goings on with great interest, and possibly even taking part myself, centering the Bike Darlington blog. I'm interested in seeing how free online tools can be used by campaign groups like ours, making use of free and/or cheap online services and technology. I feel a summer project coming on.

Update: I forgot to mention local Conservative blog Darlington Tory. Newly-elected Lib Dem Councillor Mike Barker has also just started a blog, which I look forward to reading.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Darlington to Eggleston and back (over two days)

We were all at a 30th birthday party for Andrew last night, out at Ann's parents' caravan at Eggleston. So, I rode up there yesterday and back today.

Distance: 44 miles
Surface: Road
Time: About 2.25 hours out, and about 1.75 hours back, total of 4 hours
Weather: Warm on the way there, overcast and drizzly on the way back
Bike: Inbred Singlespeed (with 2.1″ tyres, 32:16)

Monday, 21 May 2007

Darlington to Hamsterley, HamsterVI Enduro

Yesterday I rode to Hamsterley to take part in the HamsterVI six hour enduro. My original intention was to ride to the forest, do the enduro and then ride home again. I was going to take the 'race' itself fairly easy, maybe even stopping for a couple of hours for a long lunch, since I was going to be doing 50 miles on the road on top of the enduro itself. things didn't quite go according to plan...

The ride to the forest was fine; I felt a bit weak on some of the hills, but that's to be expected when my last proper ride was in January. Similarly, the first climb was ok, I took it easy and pushed some parts but still overtook quite a lot of the slower geared riders.

The first decent was a really steep singletrack decent heading straight down a very steep hill, on a very narrow loose trail. As technical trails aren't my strongest point, I slowed before the turn off to allow anyone near me past before I started down the trail. I rode more of the top section than I thought I'd be able to but was really out of my comfort zone.

Half way down the hill, I heard a rider approaching from behind. Fast. He called out either "look out" or "out the way" or words to that effect. As there was a section approaching that I knew I wouldn't be able to ride, I tried to get out of his way by pulling off the line on the trail with the intention of putting my foot down and leaning over to keep the bars out of his way, so that he could get past and carry on. Unfortunately, I misjudged this and caught my front wheel on something and fell onto the trail. The other rider hit me and went over the top of me, with his bike landing on my back and head, the bars neatly wedged into a vent on my helmet.

At the time, the only injury I was aware of was to my left shin which was bleeding a little, but otherwise we were both unhurt. The other guy was obviously not very happy at having fallen off, but we both got up and carried on.

After that, i couldn't really get going again. I finished that lap and did one more, walking the whole of the decent where I'd crashed. When it came to setting out on a third lap, I decided an ice cream and a can of Coke were a more attractive offer, so I didn't head out again. I hung around the start/finish area until the end of the race, then accepted an offer of a lift home.

Yesterday afternoon, I put the poor performance down to a lack of fitness, because I've done no riding except commuting since January, even though the same was true last year and I was still fit enough to start straight into some pretty long rides straightaway. Or, I thought it was just being outside my usual technical riding comfort zone which put me off doing another lap. Once at home though, I started finding other injuries and overnight and through today I've seized up more and more, so I think it was more down to the results of the crash that I couldn't keep riding.

So, not the best ride.

Distance: 26 miles on the road, followed by 16 miles off-road (Total of 42 miles, 67km) - Update: I realised the ice cream run was 6 miles, so I did 48 miles really...
Injury list: a hole in my left shin, which I think is from the other guy's chainring; a bruise/graze on my left ribs, which I think is from the front tyre; a stiff neck; and sore shoulders
Surface: On- and Off-road
Time: 1.5 hours to the Forest, plus about 2.5 hours in the forest, total of 4 hours
Weather: Warm, occasionally sunny
Bike: Inbred Singlespeed (with 2.1" tyres, 32:16)

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

April Riding

Proper rides: 0 miles (That's three months running now.)
Business miles: 18 miles (two 9 mile trips, road)
Commuting: 55 miles (11 days riding to work and back)
Misc: 12 miles (a couple of trips to town, parents' house pulling the trailer, B&Q, etc. This is a guess, so I picked 12 to make the month a nice round number. It's about right though.)

Total: 85 miles

I am no longer allowed to call myself a cyclist.

Two weeks off work, with loads of marking to do, has reduced my mileage to almost nothing. The marking should go away in 2 weeks time though.