Tag Archives: Twitter

Bikes On A Plane

Back CameraThere could be a film in this… Or perhaps not. Cast your mind back to late August 2010. If you were an avid reader of this blog at the time, you may recognise this picture. It is of course my bicycle, Reggie looking a little forlorn to say the least. I had finished my cycle in Brindisi and had been picked up by my good friend Basil for the short return journey to his house in Ostuni where I was to spend a couple of days with him and his wife Liz before flying back to the UK. In the book I wrote the following;

“I wasn’t very chatty as we drove back to Ostuni that afternoon. I had dismantled poor Reggie at Brindisi airport so that he would fit in the back of Basil’s small car and when we arrived at the villa where we would be spending one night before my final night back at the flat in Cisternino, I took him out of the car and left him in an ignominious pile around the back of the building. I felt guilty at having treated him in such a way but he was, after all, just a collection of metal, rubber and plastic. Albeit one with soul.”

We subsequently bundled poor Reggie up in a box from the local bike shop, taped up the box and, not literally, but almost, threw him onto the conveyor belt at Brindisi airport. He survived the journey back to Stansted and onward to Reading but the following day I took him back to the bike shop and asked them to put him back together him. It was a little like the opening sequence to the ‘Six Million Dollar man’. ‘Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…we have the technology…‘. They did and he is still with us.

Unfortunately, I won’t have the expertise of A.W. Cycles to rely upon when I arrive in Athens three weeks today. After Reggie is transported by British Airways flight BA0638, I won’t necessarily have the technology and I am only capable of rebuilding a bike if it still resembles a bike in the first place. So I need to make sure that I take a little more care than I did back in late summer 2010.

This afternoon, I posted what I know about transporting bicycles by air on Twitter in four succinct tweets;

1. Put the bike in a box from a  brand new bike from a bike shop.

2. Deflate the tyres.

3. Turn around the handlebars and remove the pedals.

4. Remove the front wheel and attach it to the frame.

And awaited a response… It came in quantity and quality.

Caroline Stewart suggested pipe lagging to protect the bike. D. Phipp-MacIntyre had a warning: “…be wary of gas canister for tyres, lighter fuel, stoves, lighting gel – camping parafernalia“. Mark Sutton: “Remove any air out of the forks and rear shock wrap rear mech from being bashed“. Mike Beckley was the first to mention ‘spacers': “Detach rear mech. Put spacers between drop outs“. He then clarified that these are pieces of plastic that keep the forks apart when the wheel has been removed. They stop the forks being bent in transit I suppose. Mark Sullivan also mentioned the chains and rear mechanism: “wrap and tape the groupset and derailleur in rags or bubblewrap, wrap the chain in a rag, and tape it to the frame.

A few links were suggested. Aurelie Owens pointed me in the direction of this useful Bike Radar article which answers most questions that I had. Joel Levitt suggests this bag from Wiggle as an alternative for a box. It has the advantage of showing the baggage handlers what’s inside and (in theory) makes them a little more eager to treat your treasured bike with a little respect. It’s actually branded as a CTC product but is out of stock on Wiggle. Further investigation is needed on that one.

8461525565_640b5a365f_cBack to Mike Beckley who should really receive some kind of honour (or perhaps treatment for OCD?) for his ability to box up his beautiful Bianchi bike. Here it is packed and ready to be transported in safety to its destination. The wheels are behind the foam by the way, one wheel on either side of the hinge to the box. Unfortunately I will be flying home from a different airport – probably Lisbon – so I don’t have the option of taking a rigid reusable box with me but hats off to Mike for doing the job properly.

Finally the hashtag #bikesonplanes offered this link from @bike_travel back in April 2012 which includes an entry for British Airways;

Amazingly enough, there is an airline that will fly your bicycle for free and treat it as a normal piece of checked baggage! That being said, British Airways only allows one free piece of checked baggage per passenger. Therefore, if you are traveling with another box containing your panniers or trailer, you will be charged extra for this second piece of luggage. The only people who can avoid this are those belonging to the airline’s FIRST, World Club, and World Traveler Plus programs. For the rest of us, we’ll be charged anywhere from £20 – £90 ($35 – $150 USD) depending on our destination and the distance of our flight. Register and pay for your excess baggage in advance when you check in online and you’ll save as much as $25 per bag.british-airlines

Here is the link that I will need to read before I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 with Reggie.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and ideas earlier this afternoon. It is very much appreciated. Wish me luck!

Good Vibrations: “Captures Vibe Of Adventure Cycling”

The Last Post…

…of 2011. There will be much more in 2012 no doubt. We shall see. In the meantime, an end of year portrait of the bike that I call Reggie and a few moments to think about the year ahead. I’ve been on Twitter tonight and lots of people are proudly proclaiming how many miles they have cycled in 2011 and whether or not they have achieved their target. I’ve never done such a thing but I think I will for 2012. I work 39 weeks a year for 5 days a week. That’s 195 days of commuting. Each round trip is about 14 miles so I should clock up just over 2,700 miles just by going to work (which in itself is quite amazing). Now there will probably be days when I don’t cycle to work for a variety of reasons ranging from illness to training courses, lethargy to mechanical problems so let’s bring that total down to 2,500 miles. Away from work, it shouldn’t be beyond me to cycle another 1,500 for ‘leisure’. That makes 4,000 miles (just over 6,400 kms). So my target is set and my odometer has been zeroed. I’ll post the total in one of the sidebars on a weekly basis. And why not make it a double challenge; sell 4,000 copies of Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie. That’s an equal if not greater challenge but I have made a good start in 2011. Happy New Year 2012!

My 3,000th Tweet: Rohloff v. Sturmey-Archer!

While I was browsing the Cyclepedia app (see previous post), I came across a reference to the Rohloff Speedhub. It’s a gear-changing mechanism that I have never seen but which has fascinated me since I watched Mark Beaumont’s documentary about cycling the Americas. He used one. It is, apparently, the modern-day equivalent of the Sturmey-Archer system that most of us probably used on those childhood bikes of the 1970s. But hang on, stop! A little search on the Internet tells me that they are still at it. You can pay your money and take your pick. The video here from Rohloff makes fascinating viewing. I think I want one… Now, did that make a suitable 3000th Tweet? I think so.

Being Followed By The Police

A few weeks ago, I noticed that a certain @Chris_Boarland had started following me on Twitter. It’s often intriguing looking at who follows who on Twitter. As I type I have 417 followers (that’s probably enough for a decent sect!)… but a fair number of those are just ‘people’ trying to flog their product / service / book etc… (clearly I would never do this – perish the thought). So, perhaps my real ‘followers’ might number 300? That’s a bit of a stab in the dark. However @Chris_Boarland is no purveyor of dodgy goods. Au contraire. His Twitter account is titled ‘PoliceCmdr4Cornwall‘ and his profile describes him as ‘Chief Superintendent with Devon & Cornwall. Police Commander for Cornwall. Also raises pigs, sheep & poultry. Passionate about good food and animal welfare.’ I didn’t know whether to be impressed or worried. What is a senior policeman from the west country with an interest in farm animals doing following me?

Well, I’ve just found out. I sometimes (well, OK, regularly) Google ‘Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie‘ to see how far the tentacles of my publicity machine have reached. For a change, this morning I thought I would ‘Bing‘ instead. And on page 4 I noticed a new link referring to ‘Mid-Life Cycling Adventure‘ and who should be planning such an adventure than none other than my new follower on Twitter, Cmdr Boarland! Question answered.

Good Vibrations cropped up on the search engine as Chris has been reading it and mentioned my book in passing when talking about his new bike;

Here she is, finally with a name, Marjorie, or Marj for short. Ok, I know for all Little Britain fans it’s probably like calling her ‘Diana’ for those of a slightly older generation. However the name did come about after several beers whilst camping recently in a farmer’s field at Bigbury (Mount Folly Farm – basic, but great views). And ‘she’ had to have a girl’s name because she’s so pretty and in any case, currently reading Andrew Sykes’s (@apsykes) book ‘Good Vibrations’ and his bike was called Reggie, so have to be entirely different.

He also sympathises with my attitude to feeding yourself on a cross-European cycle journey (which is what he is planning);

Cooking. I’ve made the judgement, much like Andrew Sykes with Reggie that as I’m travelling through Europe, I’ll do a lot of my eating in local establishments. Can’t see me trying to cook up porridge for breakfast or a freeze-dried meal in the evening when there should be croissant, patisseries and fine dining establishments to enjoy.

Not sure exactly where he is cycling to. Somewhere in southern Europe I think. I’ll Tweet him.

@BBC_Joe_Lynam …

…has mentioned me! :) Not just in isolation, but in the same breath as the esteemed @jonsnowc4 , the Channel 4 News anchor. He is clearly a man of taste as he also has a WordPress blog. For those of you that don’t but can, follow me @apsykes .

What A Strange Day @eurovelo8

Following my appearance on Radio 5 Live this morning and discussion with Shelagh Fogarty (@Foggyon5), author and ex-BBC correspondent Misha Gleny (@MishaGlenny) responded to a Tweet that I had written about the goings-on in Ambridge (The Archers that is) and it was “re-Tweeted” by Linda Grant (@lindasgrant) who is a Booker short-listed writer herself. Isn’t it strange how I can interact with such people so easily from my sitting room? I now have 300 followers in Twitter by the way, the accolade for number 300 going to @HenryArcher2011. If you don’t listen to The Archers on Radio 4, the picture over there on the right will make no sense whatsoever…

La Via Romeo Francigena / Eurovelo 5

Today is Sunday 18th July 2010. The day has come for me to set off on my own road to Rome and beyond. Below is the first post written on this blog back in summer 2008;

The ancient route from Canterbury to Rome, followed by archbishops travelling to receive from the pope their symbols of authority as well as ordinary pilgrims en route to Rome or onward to Jerusalem, has become known as the Via Francigena. It was first formally described by Archbishop Sigeric in AD 990 and his route has been adopted by the Council of Europe Institute of Cultural Routes as the definitive way from Canterbury to Rome.
Part of the EuroVelo network of cycle routes crossing the European continent. The Via Romea Francigena is route number 5 and it has recently been awarded EU funds to reinstate the hostelry organisation and to improve the route. There is a supporters’ group in several countries and route maps, and Santiago-style passports for stamping at abbeys and cathedrals. The route goes from London to Brindisi through Rome and via the St Bernard’s pass in Switzerland

I’m proud to say that, despite the grey sky outside and all the unknown elements of what I am about to do, I am even more motivated now than I was all those days ago during that Olympic summer. It would be a cliché to say how quickly time has passed but since I have never held back on the odd cliché in the past two years of writing on this blog, today doesn’t seem an appropriate place to stop!

Wish we luck; follow me here on www.eurovelo5.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ev5, on Facebook and of course on the live map (it should be updated every ten minutes during the day); there is no escape. Thanks to those of you who have already donated to the BBC Wildlife Fund via my Just Giving page; the total has leaped to 56% of the target in the last few days and it would be fantastic to make it to 100% (and beyond) by the time I return to the UK in late August. Don’t hold back on sending me a message from time to time either through comments on this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, via email apsykes@hotmail.com or via text; 0 79 70 27 85 69. No escape!

And to Alain, Claus, Simone, Marcello, Massimo, Basil & Liz; I’ll see you soon!

How (Does) Twitter Work(s)(?)

The brackets are required as I don’t know whether this will be an explanation (“How Twitter Works”) or a question (“How Does Twitter Work?”).

I am, as you are aware, on Twitter. Over there on the left. My most recent post being about Dierdre Barlow (ha! I spelt it wrong on Twitter – I was sure it didn’t look right!) and Nigel Havers. This is firmly in the “nothing to do with cycling” category but does allow me to post my thoughts when then come into my head (which is the whole point of Twitter) rather than build them up for a blog entry like this. Sometimes they are a seed from which an oak tree of a post evolves on here . (Great argument taking place in the flat next door while I type; with the hot weather, everyone has their windows open and the couple concerned are, I think, southern Europeans – it’s very continental!). Back to Twitter; I am currently following 244 people and 97 people are following me. It’s interesting to look at these two figures; the great and the good usually only follow a very small number of people but have thousands if not millions following them. Stephen Fry, for example, has over 1.6 million people following him (what a responsibility!) while he follows “only” 53,531. That’s a ratio of 3.3% (if ratios can be expressed in percentage terms). He is one end of the spectrum in terms of followers. Jonathan Ross, another Twitter celeb has nearly 600,000 followers but only follows 4,181. That’s 0.7%. Bit of Ross’ arrogance coming out there perhaps?

Being a vacuous type, I’m not immune to the celebrity pages of the newspaper and I follow a fair share of the rich and famous. Some are remarkably candid and quite often they will make a comment about themselves or their life which hours later will be splashed across the Internet. But apart from the celebs, I follow lots of cyclists of course, lots of teachers and specifically, lots of languages teachers. We MFL teachers are, after all, teaching communication and we do love blogging and all that it beholds (arguing again next door). That said, I could name a few exceptions who remain resolutely in the 20th Century when it comes to technology…

But back to me and my Twitter account. My ratio is a rather depressing 252%. This means that I follow two and a half times as many people as follow me :( . And even some of those “followers” are fairly dubious and include such blatant marketing outfits such as “GrouponReading” which is a play on “Coupon Reading” and distributes, via website links, vouchers for various things going on in the town. Note the lack of a link there; they can do their own marketing! However, I do have a couple of people who follow me who I’m quite proud of (and occasionally check to see if they are still there!). They are Mark Beaumont (ratio 2.4%; he only follows 114 people and I am one of them!!!!) and Al Humphries (ratio 43%) the two famous cycling adventurers. In the political sphere, I am followed by non other than Nick Clegg (ratio 69% but I am one of 33,000 and he doesn’t post very often; the last time was the 11th June when he wished the England football team good luck… oh dear….) and my own MP Rob Wilson (ratio 54% but I am one of 312 in a constituency of 70,000). Politicians went Twitter mad when we had the election in May and their ratios reflect the fact that they are desperate to please; if you follow them they tend to follow you back!

I do, however, have a new celeb who is following me. He is a kind-of minor celeb who does a show on BBC Radio Berkshire (and apparently read the news on Jonathan Ross’ Radio 2 show). His name is Andrew Peach. However, his ratio is almost as depressing as mine – 147% – and I am one of 609 people that he follows…. That said, he has clearly taken the time to push the “follow” button and reciprocate so for that a big thank you Andrew. How about a little slot on your morning show this week to talk about my little trip to Italy? I think I will send him a message right now and suggest just that….

They have stopped arguing btw. :)

Has Twitter Met Its Match: Geoff Boycott

I just knocked off my 200th tweet and was browsing the tweets of the people I follow, including @cyclingtotheashes (aka Oli Broom)who is currently in India (he is the guy who is, as you may have guessed,cycling to the Ashes cricket in Australia which starts later in the year, with a cricket bat!). It’s interesting to see who other people follow and adventure cyclists tend to follow adventure cyclists so it’s a good way of discovering who is doing exciting things in the saddle around the World (@thedanwhalley for example who I have just started following). However, away from cycling, I did notice that @cyclingtotheashes is following the one and only Sir (unofficial) Geoff Boycott who is, of course @geoffboycott . The arrogance of Yorkshire’s greatest living ambassador is breathtaking; 243 followers, but, as a man who knows his mind and knows that all other opinions pale into insignificance compared to the great man himself, 0 (zero) following. I love it!