Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Catching up

30/11/2015

It’s been a while since I posted anything so I’d like to thank all of my readers, both of them, for being so patient. The reason for the hiatus is that I’ve been writing for a host of magazines, instead.

The magazine list includes, in alphabetical order, Alphr, Bicycling, Bikes Etc, Cycle Sport, Cycling Active, Cycling Weekly, Cyclist and mbr.

If you want to check them out, some of the stories are online. For example, you can see my recent story for Bicycling here.

My contributions to Bikes Etc and Cyclist are online here and there may be more in a few weeks so keep checking back.

And there are a lot of shorter pieces of mine on Cycling Weekly’s website here.

You can read some of my bike-related articles on Alphr here.

The other magazines are not published freely online, although subscribers can download digital versions.

Top tip: Some public libraries in the UK also make digital versions of cycling magazines available to their members for download for free!

I’m still tweeting like crazy about any and every science paper that is related to cycling. I haven’t gone away. I won’t go away. There’s just so much going on that it’s hard to keep up.

A little learning in Oxford

24/06/2015

1902981_960111807345477_7702756648112225286_nStill learning. That’s my lesson from the Cycling Science tour in Oxford on the longest day of the year. Even though I’d led it a few times before in other cities and thought I knew it all, I came away knowing even more.

It may have been the lovely bunch of riders who came along – all ages, all genders, all kinds of bikes.  It may have been the lovely route plotted by Science Oxford. It may have been the lovely weather.

Whatever the trigger, there was a moment on the tour when I gained a little bit more understanding about how best to demonstrate some of the science that makes cycling magic. So it’s not just the lovely riders who discover stuff, en route, from the demonstrations and experiments.

Of course, having written a book about Cycling Science, I’d cockily thought there was nothing else to learn.

To write it, I’d read hundreds of thousands of words from hundreds of papers and synthesised them into 192 lovingly illustrated pages.

Yet, to really understand bicycles and the science that makes cycling work, you’ve got to get hands-on, feet on and, yes, bum on, too.

So it was that, during one of the demonstrations, I had a small epiphany.11146479_960111707345487_154455016948870744_n

All the demos and experiments had pretty much worked at each stop on our way to Aston’s Eyot. Then, nervously, I tried to show how the lowest spoke in a wheel gets slacker and carries less load than the other spokes.

I was worried because it hadn’t worked very well on some of the other tours I’d led.

But, in that verdant glade not far from the city centre, on a blazing afternoon on the longest day of the year, it worked perfectly. I became midsummer merry.

The lesson for me was when I realised why it had worked. Unwittingly, I’d used a wheel with spokes laced radially. Prevously I’d always used the more common type, with tangential spokes.

Success!

Success!

The difference it made to the lovely bunch of riders may have been small. The difference it made to me was enormous. A key point about wire-tensioned wheels had been made clearly and I had learned something new – to always use a radial wheel for that particular demonstration.

To describe the demonstration in detail here would be to spoil the surprise for future Cycling Science tourers. And really, it is an adventure that has to be hands-on, feet on, and, yes, bum on, too.

Naturally I’ll be very happy to bring the new improved resoundingly fantastic demonstration with the radial wheel and the entire tour to everyone who wants it. Drop me a line to book your tour.

And, when that happens, which I hope will be soon, I look forward to learning yet more from the whole experience.

Photos  courtesy of Science Oxford

Follow Cycling Science  on Twitter

City of Dreaming Tyres

26/05/2015

What did I know of Oxford before my visit last Friday? I wore a dubious pair of Oxford bags in the ’80s and that was the sum of it. Now I know a bit more and it’s a revelation.

2933777_1023_2First, there’s The Story Museum. Why aren’t all libraries and museums like this, including those aimed at grown-ups? These beautifully-designed rooms will spur you to read any book, immediately.

As it is, the next Cycling Science presentation will be held there at 6.30pm on Sunday 21 June. I’m privileged to share the bill with Dr Tom Cohen, deputy director of the Transport Institute at UCL.

BikeHelmets-595

Tom will give an evidence-based presentation about danger, risk, responsibility and, er, helmets. Yes, helmets. So expect a lot of fireworks. I might have to hide under the giant bed in the room upstairs.

I’m planning to include brand new information about a recently-discovered material that could have as big an impact on bicycles in the 21st century as carbon fibre did in the 20th and steel did in the 19th.

You’ll have to come to the talk to find out if you’ve guessed correctly.

There will also be a couple of Cycling Science Rides during the day. I’m indebted to Tara at Science Oxford for showing me the paths and tracks past the river and through meadows of this surprising city.

Cycling Science the Ride-2Compared to previous Cycling Science rides, these will be positively rural, despite being in the centre of a conurbation. Tara’s picked out a great route and, as ever, they will be family-friendly.

If you think you know HOW a bicycle works, these rides, complete with demonstrations and experiments, will show you WHY a bicycle works. We even dreamed up a couple of new stunts to open your eyes to the magic that is cycling.

There will also be an opportunity to purchase signed, discounted copies of Cycling Science, my book which has grown into live talks, led rides and helped me to discover Oxford.

I hope to see you there.

Cycling Science & the Himalayas

27/04/2015

Cycling Science & the Himalayas.

via Cycling Science & the Himalayas.

Roll up, roll up: Nutrition, Colnago, Aerodynamics & Himalayas

07/04/2015

I’ve got my work cut out this month, preparing for several gigs at Edinburgh International Science Festival and Chester University.

None of them will be quite the same as each other or the same as what’s gone before.

Ashleigh Fraser, Scottish National Junior Women's Road Race Champion 2014, reveals the winning diet

Ashleigh Fraser, Scottish National Junior Women’s Road Race Champion 2014, reveals the winning diet

Among the line-up in Edinburgh at 5.30pm on Sunday 12th April will be Scottish national junior women’s road race champion Ashleigh Fraser.

She’s going to explain the science of nutrition – what to eat to be an elite cyclist. It’ll tell me where I went wrong because I suspect my teenage diet of apple pies and Cheesey Wotsits weren’t much good.

And Professor Andrea Sella will be going further than Ernesto Colnago ever dared. If Eddie Merckx had come to a Cycling Science presentation before his 1972 attempt on the world hour record, he would’ve done even better. Andrea’s demonstration is a real eye-opener and UCI rule-makers should start taking notice so they can close another loophole…

I’m refining the aerodynamics demonstrations and showing some mildly embarrassing home movie from last century, together with some futuristic stuff. A tenuous link between Edinburgh Castle and the science of cycling will also be fully exploited without apology or shame.

The gigs for Chester are going to be full on and part of the University’s excellent efforts to boost cycling in the city. I used to live nearby and spend my weekends there so it’s great to be going back

Cycling Poster Chester Uni 2015 v2The first day, Friday 24th April, will be for students from year 7 to university level. I’ll be giving a cycling science presentation, with a few demonstrations thrown in, and then leading two short cycling science rides around the Thornton campus.

On the second day, Saturday 25th April, the University and others will be running several events in the city centre. I’ll lead a FREE public ride about cycling and science from the university’s city campus in the afternoon. Come along and take part in the experiments and demonstrations to learn about WHY cycling actually works.

In the evening I’ll be giving a presentation about what was probably the first mountain Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHbike crossing of the Greater Himalaya. I can’t believe I actually did it so do come along and learn about the ridiculous risks I took as a fool-hardy and unprepared younger self.

The Chester events are FREE. Book your tickets for the Saturday afternoon ride here. For the Himalayan adventure presentation, book your free tickets here.

Brighton: fun & done. Edinburgh and Chester next

17/03/2015

Viki describes how carbon fibre really works - as on the rare Lotus MTB It’s official! Brighton Science Festival was a lot of fun. Andrea Sella, Viki Bloodworth and I had a vast range of props, slides, demonstrations and experiments lined up to explore just a few of the things where science and cycling meet.

Viki brought the rare and beautiful Lotus MTB, the monocoque carbon fibre bike designed by Chris Hornzee-Jones of Aerotrope. The finer points of carbon fibre were explored – plus some insights into the extraordinary new developments coming to a man-made composite near you any day soon. Deflation & inflationForty-three years after Eddie Merckx had a special request turned down by Ernesto Colnago, Andrea  demonstrated in public, for the first time in recorded history, how the great cyclist could’ve saved 10g from his bike by filling his tyres with hydrogen. It was a gas.

Thanks to EasyComposites, which kindly donated materials, the audience was able to visualise how much bloomin’ air a cyclist has to push aside just to pedal down the road. The instant scale model wind tunnel, powered by Dyson, made apparent the vortex that hides behind every saddle and saps our energies just a little.

DSC_5775_30 Some of this, and more, will be happening again next month. At the Edinburgh International Science Festival, at 5.30pm on Sunday 12 April, Andrea and I will be joined by Ashleigh Fraser, Scottish National Junior Women’s Road Race Champion. She’ll put us amateurs in our places as she reveals the true science of being best on a bike.

In Chester, at the University’s Thornton campus on Friday 24th April, I’ll be talking and running a couple of cycling science rides for school students. On Saturday 25th April, in the afternoon,

I’ll lead a public cycling science ride in the centre of Chester, complete with demos and experiments. In the evening I’ll be explaining How to Cycle over the Greater Himalayas by Accident. On purpose. DSC_5796_50

  Photos: Martin J Burton Photography

Cycling Science goes Live in Brighton

27/01/2015
Exploring why bicycles stay upright

Exploring why bicycles stay upright – one of the experiments by the cycling scientists

I’m involved with cycling science events during Brighton Science Festival so I hope you can come along to at least one of them.

First, there’s Cycling Science: The Ride! They are led rides through Brighton, stopping to do experiments and demonstrations. Tickets are on sale here.

You will be the guinea pigs in the experiments and demonstrations and, no matter how much you think you know about cycling or about science, I hope you’ll find out something new.

The rides are family-friendly but tickets are limited so I’ll be doing it at 11.00am on Sunday 1st March and again at 2.30pm on Sunday 1st March.

The rides are supported by Rule 5 BikesUniversity of SussexMartin Burton PhotographyNick Sayers and the Velo Café.

The other event is a presentation all about the science of cycling which I’ll be giving with Professor Andrea Sella of University College London, BBC TV, Radio 4 and Hackney CC.

He’s the 2015 recipient of the Michael Faraday Prize, given annually by the Royal Society for excellence in communicating science. Yes, he’s terrific.

We’ll be joined by Viki Bloodworth, structural engineer, cycling addict and expert in carbon fibre at Aerotrope. She’ll talk about possible futures for carbon fibre bicycles. And she’ll be bringing an extraordinarily rare and special bike. Viki’s terrific, too.

The presentation is part of Big Science Saturday, on 28th February 2015, and it’s the first event of the day, scheduled to start at 10am. Tickets are on sale here.

The presentation is supported by Dyson, University of Sussex, AerotropeMorvelo, and EasyComposites Endo diagram for Cycling Science

New home for cycling science news

27/11/2014

Cycling Weekly: The power of happyFor the time being, my cycling and science stories are not appearing on this blog – because they are being published by Cycling Weekly.

As a self-employed journalist, this makes good sense. It means I can earn part of my living by sharing the wide range of new information that continues to pass across my desk.

You can read my more recent contributions to Cycling Weekly here and the earliest ones here.

Enjoy them and send me your comments.

I’m hoping that other publications, too, will soon be carrying my cycling and science stories – they’ll be different in subject, content and style.

When there’s news about them, it’ll be posted here.

Listen up!

31/07/2013

traffic bicycleSshhh! Cycling’s way down the list of noise polluters. A well-maintained bike on a smooth surface can be near-silent (assuming the rider isn’t wearing chain mail, playing a bugle or both). The peacefulness is one of its pleasures.

So that makes a bicycle a relatively good platform for collecting other sounds on the move. What you do with those noises is up to you and different scientists are doing surprising things.

There’s a team in Austria that’s been eavesdropping on a rider as she pedals around the town of Graz. She knew about it. Before she started she phoned the lab and kept the call connected. The researchers were able to hear all the sounds around her wherever she cycled.

Then they analysed the audible clues and, like sound detectives with their ears to the ground, they succeeded in working out her route just from the noises they heard through her phone. It’s an impressive result.

It’s not clear from this experiment who had the most fun but it does show that even if you doubt the existance of Big Brother (he does exist), it seems that he doesn’t need to watch you to find out where you are. All he has to do is listen and he’s got you located.

The research paper will download when you click here.

Elsewhere, three unfamous (as yet) Belgians have been cycling round cities capturing the traffic noise as they ride. At the same time they’ve been sampling the air, not just through their own mouths and noses but also through chemical sensors.

They made 200 trips and then calculated that there is a relationship between traffic noise and the level of carbon particles that pollute the air. This shouldn’t be very surprising because it stands to reason that the more traffic there is, the noiser it is and the greater the quantity of pollutants they are pumping into the atmosphere.

Here’s the clever thing about the research. Lots of people want to know how dirty the air is in our city streets at different times of day and in different weather conditions. The general aim is to keep the air cleaner somehow or other and thus improve everybody’s health. The problem, though, is that air quality monitoring equipment isn’t cheap.

By showing that noise levels are a reliable indicator of air pollution levels, the Belgian team says that audio recordings captured by street-level microphones can reveal the truth just as effectvely as air quality sensors. And microphones are much, much cheaper.

How ironic that the toxic emissions from motor vehicles will be more easily monitored because of an experiment by cyclists.

The abstract of the research can be seen here.

Wake up and smell the coffee

06/04/2013
The strongest is at the top, the weakest at the bottom. Cycle fastest with an espresso - hence its name.

The strongest is at the top, the weakest at the bottom. Cycle fastest with an espresso – hence its name.

AG2RThanks to a timely tweet by Asker Jeukendrup (@Jeukendrup), I got to read about new research that shows coffee can improve performance as effectively as caffeine on its own.

The paper, one of whose authors is Asker, can be read here.

What caught my eye in subsequent tweets was that different coffees contain different caffeine levels.

This is somethng I learned nine years ago during one of my more bizarre commissions.

I had to drive the length of England to collect 25 coffee samples, mostly from motorway service stations. It wasn’t the most pleasant way to spend two days.

The Centre for Mass Spectrometry at the University of Sussex generously agreed to measure the samples. It’s the lab where Professor Sir Harry Kroto first identified the form of carbon now known as buckyballs and for which he received a Nobel Prize.

The results were more stimulating than a treble espresso/Red Bull cocktail.

They showed that the strongest coffee contained more than 25 times as much caffeine as the weakest.

So, if you’re gong to drink coffee to ride faster for longer, don’t drink a Nescafé Latté from the Sutton Scotney service station on the A34.

Better to start your ride in Cheshire, at the Sandbach servces on the M6,with an Espresso double from Costa Coffee. Vrooooom!