Thursday, 6 August 2020

My Cycle Camera - The Drift Ghost X/XL

It's slightly sad that we are at the point where having a camera whilst cycling is recommended.
I personally think a camera is valuable for the following reasons, but of course it's a personal choice.
  • If a driver hits you whilst you, or performs other dangerous manouveres such as passing closely or attempting to overtake whilst turning (Left hooking), then you have the video as a record for evidence purposes and can report to the local force. It can often be hard getting any action without witness or video as it's all too often the case that the stories differ.
  • Equally when riding on traffic free paths I have had close encounters with dogs and owners. Again if anything such as a collision occurs you have the video as evidence. Vet bills can be high and we are now in a shameless sue first culture sadly
  • It may be useful to record sections of the trip as part of a video blog.
  • Also a video can be useful to capture stills for reporting things like fly tipping and other issues
Really cheap action cameras are often poor to control, have a short battery life and quality can be variable. I tried the cheap bullet cams, the go-pro clones and gave up, and in the end I bought a Drift Innovations Ghost X. Why?
  • Good battery life of 5 hours+ which is replaceable with a long life module for 8 hours
  • Full high res 1080P recording which is very good for picking out details
  • Can connect to a phone app for setup, video review and even live streaming
  • Stealthy rugged design which feels very robust
  • At about £130 it was by far the best bang for the money

They have now released the Ghost XL which has a 9 hour battery life, much improved waterproofing and an optional remote control for an extra 20 quid. the XL would my choice now.

Mounting the camera

The Drift has a standard tripod socket on the underside and has a QR bracket that clips into one of 2 self adhesive quick release mounts supplied. One with a flat base and one slightly curved for a motorbike or cycle helmet). You can buy additional mounting adaptors to fit Go-pro mounts, handlebar mounts.

I went a bit Heath-Robinson and stuck the mount to a flat piece of plastic which is then cable tied to stem and handlebars which actually works well. 

In case the camera ever falls off, I have attached a thin steel lanyard to the QR bracket screwed to the camera and have a small carabiner clip which attaches to a brake cable or similar

Basic setup

The Drift has three big rubber buttons on one side (which are easy to use even with winter gloves)
  • Power <| turns camera on and off, and is also record/shutter button
  • Left/Right - Menu navigation
  • Wifi |> - Sets wifi on or off (long press) and cycles between the camera modes below 

On the other side are rubber flaps covering the microSD slot and the mini-USB which is for charging and data. The box also contains a mini-USB to 3.5mm jack adaptor for connecting an external microphone

there are 3 main modes for the camera which are cycled through using the Wifi button and they are as below:
  • Green        Video mode
  • Yellow       Photo
  • Purple        Timelapse
  • Light blue  Photoburst
  • Dark Blue  Settings 

Recording modes

  • Dashcam where it records in segments of a few minutes and just loops, overwriting oldest files
  • Manual, where once you record it runs until you stop, power off or the card fills.
  • Instant On where it starts to record as soon you power it on until you stop, power off or the card fills.
  • Tagged where it continuously records, but only saves a 1 minute segment when you press the play button which is 30 seconds either side.
  • App control, so you can control and view the live video on a smartphone via the Drift Life app.
The camera also has a nifty clone mode. If you have multiple cameras you can connect them together so the settings are synced and you can control from the master camera. This would be useful if you had front and rear Ghost cameras for example


My settings are shown below, and although you can use the menu and buttons on the camera it is much easier to use the app. Using the app also synchronizes the camera's time with the phone
To use the app with the camera -
  1. First power the camera on. 
  2. Once it's on hold the rear button in for a few seconds until the rear indicator turns to flashing and then a steady green. 
  3. On the phone or tablet, connect to the camera's wireless (network name will start with DRIFT-).
  4. Open the app and click "Connect to Camera"

Using the camera

As I have my camera setup in Dashcam mode, using the thing is as easy as:
  • Hold the power button until it beeps
  • After a few moments, press the power button briefly and it will beep. the indicator flashes red and the rear screen turns to red and it's now recording
  • To power off, hold the power button until camera shuts down

Getting video files

There are several methods to transfer video files.
  • Use the app and copy video files to the local device
  • Connect the camera via USB to a computer. This will mount the camera as a drive and you can find and copy the files across
  • Remove the SD card (with camera powered off), and insert into a computer

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Cycling cape - a forgotten wonder or best forgotten?

I've never been a fan of waterproof coats when it's raining. Apart from the old goretex coat I used to wear, they always end up being a sauna suit for me.

It's with this in mind that I decided to splash out on a carradice duxback cape at the end of the summer, and I finally wore it in the rain.


Like all things I've owned from carradice, it has a very well made and quality feel. It's a waxed cotton fabric and has a built in hood and a chunky brass zip and press stud for the neck opening. It's a dark green with a reflective strip along the small of the back.

Inside it has a waist cloth tie. To be honest this really needs to have one of those click buckles so you can pre adjust and then just click close rather than faffing about tying the ends together.
There's also a couple of loops to pop your hands through. These work and are functional

The cape has a very barbour-esque look and feel overall. I was slightly disappointed that unlike my cotton duck bag it doesn't have a tag with the name of the person who made it.

Just riding along

So I rode in it for the first time following storm Callum and the weather was patchy with varying rain and a brisk wind of about 17-19mph. Temp was about 16-18°c.

It kept me dry, which should be a given, but i didn't sweat like a sweaty thing.
There was a nice cool breeze coming from under the cape and circulating around. As it's waxed cotton where it was touching my bare arms it felt ok and didn't have that cold clammy feel you get from plastic or even a waterproof jacket. I also didn't overheat like I would have done in a jacket. The legs also stayed dry.

It was only a short (8 mile) circular ride but it didn't feel like the cape was acting as a serious windbreak although as it gives me the same aerodynamic profile of a canvas tent there obviously is some drag. The weight of the  cotton meant it hardly flapped though.

It's probably not a thing for city centre riding, or for quick hops to the shops, with lots of indications needed. You'd probably look a little odd walking around the local supermarket wearing it though.

For longer stretches of just pedalling along like my commute though its fine. It's also more of a touring thing than for head down out and out speed.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Lezyne Macro GPS review

After 6 years of trusted reliable service, I've finally decided to give my Garmin Edge 200 the boot and update to a new GPS cycle computer.

Why? The Garmin still works and records the data I need.

  • It has no connectivity, so I need to connect to a computer to upload rides.
  • The USB cover fell out several years ago, and the port itself is feeling slack, so possibly only a matter of time before it pulls out.
  • The USB itself is a fairly old mini-USB and those leads aren't as common as I found recently when I wanted to upload a ride and could not locate a cable
  • The Garmin doesn't give me notifications or texts on the device, and the phone is a huge brick when tied to the handlebars. I often get texts on the ride home from work telling me to divert which I don;t see until I get home which kinda defeats the object.

I was tempted by the Garmin 25 which does all I need, but has a silly specific cradle rather than a standard micro-USB lead. The new garmin 130 fits the bill but is north of £150.
Various people have recommended Wahoo Elemnt computers, but again they're north of what I wanted to pay.

The Lezyne GPS devices are keenly priced and do all that I want. There are a few models and Lezyne have a good comparision chart here.

Cos I'm an old bugger now, with dodgy eyesight I quickly ruled out the micro range as too small so it boiled down to a Macro or a Super GPS. The Super adds Glonass (russian GPS), a barometric altimeter, and ANT+ all for an extra £30 or so. It does have Bluetooth so will connect to phones and HRs (I have one so may have a play again). Lezyne do BT speed and cadence sensors too if that floats yer boat.

A bit of shopping and a Macro GPS was soon winging it's way from Germany (ahh, the benefits of being in a single market). With delivery it was still cheaper than buying from UK.

It's about the same size as the old Edge 200, but a bit deeper, and a slightly more functional industrial design. It's not very aero, but then I'm not.

It's a GPS cycle computer so it does all you would expect with no surprises. It records speed, distance, time, elevation. If you have the sensors connected it will show all that info too. It'll upload to Strava cos doesn't everything now?

The startup status screen has GPS signal, and other info like battery life for both Lezyne and phone. It will also pull in similar data from Shimano Di2 and other sensors if you have them

Unlike the garmin which has a set 4 fields with the bottom one rotating, the Lezyne has a max of 5 data pages, each with a selection of layouts offering up to 8 items per page to satisfy the hardcore data geeks. It can auto scroll through the pages.

After only a couple of rides, I'm still playing with all of that, but I've already found I don't like the auto-scroll, and have distilled down to 3 pages


  • A page mimicking the Garmin layout (speed, distance, elapsed time, avg speed)
  • A second page with additional data (clock, temperature, ascent, and calories burnt) 
  • A third page with most data on a single page (Elapsed time, speed, distance, avg speed and temp)

The lezyne has some other cool stuff as well such as email and text notifications, and will display when a call comes in. It would be great if the unit could have an option to flash or similar rather than just display, but that's just me

It uses the bluetooth via the phone to auto-upload to Strava if you have the feature enabled as soon as you save the ride. You'll then have to go in to strava and rename the ride and flag as a commute etc if you need to. It will display live strava segments if you're competitive that way (which I am not) and chase KOMs like video game high scores, but you'll need a Strava Premium for that. It doesn't do it for cheapskates on the free plan. All of this also depends on the phone having internet connectivity via wireless or mobile data

There's a companion phone app (Lezyne Ally, and website ). You can create routes in either, or if you have routes in Strava or other platforms you can export as TCX and import in. There is a tease of a menu for direct strava route import but it's still "coming soon". You can then instruct the head unit to follow the route via the app.

Another cool thing the app can do is live navigation. It allows you to select a destination via a search or tapping the screen. It will then route sat nav style on the head unit giving you detailed directions rather than just a breadcrumb like Garmins. I'm not sure what mapping back end they're using but the generated routes do seem to be bike specific so that's good

There is also a live tracking feature, where you specify email contacts and when you start a ride it will automatically squirt off an email with a link for live tracking you when you start a ride. Which is nice

Included in the box is a micro-USB cable. There's also a standard mount for fitting to bars or stem with O rings. Additional bar and forward mounts can be purchased. Sadly the mounting is not compatible with Garmins, which is a shame. A standardised mount across brands would be very useful.

Whilst we're mentioning micro-USB the device's port has a rubber cover, that has a lip on each side to keep it in place, which is a lot better than the edge's press in and hope effort (although that's an old design now). I found it was so snug it was fiddle getting cable to plugin to charge.

As hinted above, Lezyne do seem to be active in adding new software features to the devices and the website and app.

The Macro GPS (and the other Lezyne units) offer a wealth of features that are useful to commuting and transport focused cyclists as well as for the more sport orientated KOM chasers. And for the features they are dirt cheap compared to the competition.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

What no one tells you when you start cycling to work

This my take on 11 things no one tells you about cycle commuting.  There's lots to be honest. Cycle commuting is great. Just do whats comfortable for you.
This was inspired by this pile of horse droppings

1. It's brilliant even when the weather's a bit crap

In the UK we deal with a wide variety of weather. Most of the time it's great to cycle in, and even when it isnt the feeling of beating the elements when you reach the end is uplifting. Actual weather that is bad enough to leave the bike behind isn't all that frequent.

2. Most drivers are actually ok.

Yea it's true. Some drivers are complete bellends but most do pass safely and will often wave you across crossing points, especially when they're queueing. Not a given, so keep alert and don't take anything for granted

3. Explore route options. You may find a nicer one

When you drive to work all roads look busy and intimidating to cycle on and unless you're a nutter or adrenaline junkie they are. It is often possible to find  relatively direct and quiet alternative safe routes to cycle though. You may need to be creative with the odd link though.

4. Cycling is a sociable activity

Smile and say hello to the other cyclists you pass. If you're both going the same way start chatting. Most will chat back and the miles will fly by. You'll meet some fascinating thoughtful people who you'd never meet driving.

5. Second breakfasts and lunches

Cycling to work doesn't save money. What you save on fares or fuel you'll spend on a bacon buttie or a second lunch cos you've scoffed your sandwiches by 10am

6. Cycling is me time.

Cycling to work and back is great me time. Some use it to listen to music or podcasts etc. Some enjoy the whoosh of the tyres on tarmac. Some enjoy the closeness to nature and some just to de-stress. It's your time. Enjoy it your way

7. Ebikes are not cheating

Contrary to what some say ebikes are not cheating. They open the door for a lot to cycle who otherwise couldn't. They can be a gateway drug and once you've tried electric you may not go back.

8. Sod it, it's ok to take the car sometimes

Don't feel guilty about waking up the odd  morning and deciding to use the car cos you feel tired or a bit under the weather. Frankly no one will judge or care but you, and you will later on when you come around.

9.Bells can be quite rude. Talk to people

Although the tutty old dears may complain no one uses bells, few actually like them. Shout a cheery greeting from a distance. As you pass thank them. If the have a dog say hello to it, or mention what a nice/wet day it is.

10. Strava is not evil

People put Strava down or think it's only for athletes and nobs. You may not be the greatest cyclist, but hey We're all doing it to get fitter and healthier. Strava's best feature is the segments as they break the ride into lots of mini rides. That tough ride where the legs felt heavy often ends up having some quick segment times. Just don't let it rule you and check times after the ride

11. It's addictive

Get into the habit and after a few weeks you quickly find that riding to work becomes addictive, and you miss it when you skip it.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Cycling and Walking Review Consultation response

This Thursday the  Government announced a review and consultation process as part of it's cycling and walking strategy. the response questionnaire can be found here, and I strongly urge everyone to read the consultation and respond.

Some of the questions seem a little odd, and almost seem intended to ask for training and licencing for cyclists, although that may just be my bias and cynicism shining through..For what it's worth, my responses are below

Q17. 1. Infrastructure and traffic signs - view in consultation document Do you have any suggestions on the way in which the current approach to development and maintenance of road signs and infrastructure impacts the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users? How could it be improved? 

Where possible seperated infrastructure for cycling needs provided and joined up into networks. For example in the last 4 yrs the first 10 miles of my commute to work has become a joined up traffic free route. This has made my trip much more relaxed, and I see a lot more others cycling along that route now.

All cycling infrastructure needs to be build to a uniform national standard, which needs to be of high quality. The strategic roads guide IAN 195/16 is a good start, as well as the TFL design guide and The Dutch CROW design guide. All three need to be merged into a single mandatory design guide for the UK.

All junctions and roundabouts should have cycleways to navigate which should be visible, and have prioritised crossing for cyclists and pedestrians to enable smooth progress. Often people don't use cycle paths due to the loss of priority at junctions. This would resolve that and actually make the cycle paths more attractive to use. 20mph zones are helpful, but need to be filtered to prevent through traffic, but allow walking and cycling. My estate went 20 a few years ago, but it was only when LA prevented rat running traffic last year that it became a much pleasanter and safer place to be.

Local authorities need to maintain cycle paths as they do roads,and sweep on a regular basis. In winter they need to be treated when icy similar to the adjacent road. Off road routes need to be treated where they are a parallel or key link in a network. Another issue is the limited and piecemeal investment outside of a few key cities.

All local authorities should be given resources to draw up cycle network plans that go where they are needed, and clear quick timescales to implement. And then given the investment to build. Investing in parallel cycling routes to major commuter routes would give many an alternative to cars and would ease peak traffic as a result and would be much more cost effective than spending millions squeezing an extra lane at a roundabout. My LA is spending a total of £16mn on 2 junctions on the A194. They are putting in shared paths beside, but not linking them up. This piecemeal approach to cycling and walking infra needs to change.

Q18. 2. The laws and rules of the road - view in consultation document Set out any areas where you consider the laws or rules relating to road safety and their enforcement, with particular reference to cyclists and pedestrians, could be used to support the government's aim of improving cycling and walking safety whilst promoting more active travel.

 Presumed liability is the first law that needs introducing. This is already the case in most of Europe, and places a hierarchy of responsibility on the more powerful road users. This would help pedestrians against cyclists and cyclists against drivers etc.

A close passing law making it illegal to pass a cyclist close than 1.5m. several police forces are already practicing this successfully and it needs to be enshrined in law. In addition all police forces need to accept and act on received 3rd party video. Not all forces do. I have been the victim of several scary close passes which have been so bad I have reported them, and only 1 was acted on.

Driving offences need have much stronger enforcement but especially punishment. The points system needs to have an automatic disqualification at 12 points. There are 10000+ drivers with more than 12 points. The UK need to get convicted dangerous drivers off the roads before they kill. There are many examples of pedestrians and cyclists killed by drivers with long history of motoring offences but still allowed on the roads.

Pavement parking needs to be banned across the UK backed up by online reporting so that vehicles parked on pavements can be reported and the drivers prosecuted. Police and LA enforcement officers cannot be everywhere, online reporting and action would be an excellent tool.

Q19. 3. Training - view in consultation document Do you have any suggestions for improving the way road users are trained, with specific consideration to protecting cyclists and pedestrians? 

I strongly feel that that the driving test should have a minimum number of hours of practical cycling or the bikeability training as a prerequisite. This would give more people a sense of understanding and hopefully empathy of cycling and they would learn the rules of the roads at a more human speed. This Australian study proved that people who cycle are better drivers

Bikeability should also be mandatory in all schools.

Q20. 4. Educating road users - view in consultation document Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve road user education to help support more and safer walking and cycling? 

A national media campaign about close passing and the dangers would be helpful, but it needs to be backed up by online reporting of offences.

Similar for pavement parking. This again needs online reporting and follow up by LA or police and then a media campaign.

Education can only go so far. It does not solve those who already have no regard for the law

Q21. 5. Vehicles and equipment - view in consultation document Do you have any suggestions on how government policy on vehicles and equipment could improve safety of cyclists and pedestrians, whilst continuing to promote more walking and cycling? 

Phone use in vehicles is a national epidemic with upto a third of drivers admitting to use smartphones behind the wheel.
A mandatory ban for phone use, including hands free would determine more. UK needs more enforcement though, although close pass operations by police have a high success rate of catching other offences.
Stronger education and enforcement of windscreen mounted equipment such as phones needs to be done

I would like to see smart card driving licences introduced and tech that does not let a person operate a vehicle without a valid licence or insurance. In the interim ANPR checks before a vehicle is allowed to refuel would tackle some of the many unlicenced and uninsured vehicles on the road. Drivers of those vehicles often present a higher risk to pedestrians and cyclists

Q22. 6. Attitudes and public awareness - view in consultation document What can government do to support better understanding and awareness of different types of road user in relation to cycle use in particular? 

As stated in question 3, mandatory bikeability for all school children, and also as part of the driving test process. Media campaigns about close passing, but only when police forces have introduced online reporting and enforcement.

The biggest key to more cycle use though is more protected infrastructure as part of joined up networks that are convenient and feel safe

Friday, 29 December 2017

Roadworks and closures to cycling routes

This is the season for roadworks which are affecting various parts of the cycling network in South Tyneside.

The cycleway between the A184 and Downhill Lane, which is an important,well used link is still closed due to Northern Power works on the overhead lines which is for the new Wear Crossing. This is expected to be reopen early to mid January. The alternative route is to use Downhill lane itself between the A184 and the A1290
Follingsby Lane will be closed from 8th of January until March for Bridge repair works. At the minute there is no update whether pedestrian/cycle access will be possible. The closest alternative is use the shared path alongside the A184, and the cycleway when it reopens. To avoid the poor surface crossings at Testo, it is possible to use the farm bridge which links the old Newcastle road beside Enterprise car rental, with Boldon Business park, although it can get slippy when wet.

Further afield, Cherry Blossom Way is closed to vehicles at the junction with Nissan way, although there is fairly narrow access for pedestrians and cyclists. Use the road, and the path on the east side from the Adient gate

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Alfine 11 hub gear - It's first oil change

I bought and fitted the Alfine 11 to Thunderbird 2 (a Moulton non-separable ABP) back in mid march to replace the SRAM Dualdrive 24 which had been in since new back in 2002.

Now after a couple of months, it's time for the first oil change of the hub, which is at 1000km.

The procedure is fairly straightforward and easier than getting hold of the kit in the first place. Mine came from Estonia via ebay for just over Twenty quid. the contents are shown below and are (clockwise)

  • Plastic container for the old oil
  • 50ml of Shimano SG-700 oil (Green like washing up liquid) only use this for the 2 year warranty
  • Syringe
  • Protective gloves
  • Bleed tube
  • 3mm allen key
  • Instructions

1. Locate the oil port, and after wiping any crud off, remove with a 3mm allen key. Ensure that the o ring comes off with it and you do not lose it

2. Attach the bleed tube, and secure with a 10mm spanner (not included with the kit)

3. Attach the syringe to the bleed tube, then carefully rotate so the bleed tube is vertical with the port at the bottom and then leave for a few minutes to let the old oil soak to the bottom of the hub

4. Slowly and smoothly pull out the syringe plunger and draw the old oil out of the hub being careful not to get any air bubbles in, and once out unscrew the syringe from the bleed tube and then squirt the old oil into the plastic pot. It's a nasty greenish black

5. Now we need to inject 25ml of oil to clean it.

6. Hold the syringe to the bottle of new oil and draw 25ml into the syringe. This is quite fiddly as you need to keep the bottle and syringe tight together to prevent spilling any oil or getting air bubbles in the oil.

7. Rotate the wheel so the bleed tube is at the top this time. screw the syringe back on, and slowly and smoothly inject the oil into the hub making sure you don't get any air in.

8. Once all the oil has been injected, remove the syringe and tube, replace the oil cap, and then spin the pedals changing up and down through all the gears for a minute or two to ensure the oil gets everywhere inside.

9. Follow steps 1 to 4, and reconnect the tube and syringe. Spin the wheel so the oil port etc is at the bottom and after allowing the oil to settle, draw out the cleaing oil which will now be a dirty black green colour and dispose into the plastic pot.

10. Repeat steps 6,7 and 8 to inject 25ml of new clean oil into the hub. Remove the syringe an bleed tube. Screw the oil cap on, ensuring the o ring is there. Give the gears a few runs through.

Job done until the next 3000 miles is up