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April 2008 Entries
DVLA Hanging out at the Hermiston Park and Ride
I've been off for a couple of days to get a bit of a break from work pressures, and had a day out with my wife in Edinburgh. To save fuel and parking costs etc, I parked up at the Hermiston Park and Ride on the outskirts of Edinburgh and got the bus in. Coming back at 6pm we were walking back to the car and I noticed a wheel clamped Fiat, a bit of an unusual sight - the car park is free and well out of the city centre. But there it was in big letters - DVLA, so it looks like they have been out checking over the cars in the car park. I've been having a bit of a ranty week (on a permanent soap box) and had a bit of fun at someone else's expense - both my vehicles are taxed, MOTd and insured. Fancy that though, trawling the park and ride facilities for cars without road tax etc!
posted @ Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:16 PM | Feedback (0)
i2imca Cone Effect 1

Another rambling on my weekend with i2imca, this time a bit harder for me to explain. A big part of motorcycle stability is down to the gyroscopic effect of the two wheels - at even lowish speeds their spin helps keep the bike upright. There is also stuff that goes on because there are two wheels acting as seperate gyroscopes.

Anyway, as biker types know the way you turn is to use something called countersteering, which is a counter-intuitive thing that involves moving the bars the wrong way and making the bike tip the way you want. Otherwise providing the bike is going along fast enough (20mph ish) it will go in a straight line. Once you start leaning a thing called the cone effect comes in to play. Motorcycle tyres are not square in profile like car tyres, which never move from the vertical. Bike tyres have quite a round profile that helps the bike lean. And because of this the tyre walls (the bit between the rim of the wheel and the edge of a tyre) are only part of the rolling circumference of a tyre on a motorbike (doesn't quite sound right that bit). Anyway, because the radius of the tyre shortens off towards the rim, the more you lean over the smaller the radius - sound familiar? Half the cross section of a tyre looks like part of a cone. One thing cones do when you roll them is go round in circles, and providing you can lean far enough over you can get a bike to turn - albeit very very slowly, not enough to turn most corners.

For a proper techie explanation go look at Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design by Tony Foale over on google.

The cone effect is important to understanding how much you need to countersteer when leant over.

posted @ Monday, April 21, 2008 9:32 PM | Feedback (2)
i2imca stories 1

I'm not sure that a huge blog post about my visit to i2imca is appropriate, so I think I'll post things as they come to mind. One of those is the concept they have of stories. I'm not sure if it is NLP based, but the idea is that we all have a perspective on the world and i2imca calls these stories. For example, "You will crash if you brake in a bend", "You will crash if you lock a wheel", "You steer a bike by hanging off", "Bikes crash in the wet", "Sports bikes are bad for tank slappers". These stories are based on what we know or understand, for instance watching MotoGP on the telly, by talking to your biking mates in the pub or based on what you understand of what has happened to you in the past.

The point is, some of these are wrong, miss an aspect of a situation or aren't quite the complete picture. For instance, bikes are naturally stable above a certain speed because of the two large spinning objects attached to the frame at each end, and that they behave the same way as any other gyroscope.

posted @ Monday, April 21, 2008 2:50 PM | Feedback (1)
EDAM Run to Wanlochhead

At least I think that is how it is spelled. Went out on a Non Group Organised Run with EDAM yesterday, the clue in the title is that Group Organised Runs have to be run to a set of rules, and as a result get insurance cover whereas Non Group Organised Runs do not have cover, albeit that group members and friends may be out there.

It was my first run with EDAM and as my Senior Observer was organising it, I got the task of being at the Tail End. The idea was to run a drop off marker system, i.e. the Leader always stays at the front, the tail end rider is always at the back. The second rider at any point in time stops at any marked deviation from route (i.e. a junction when a turn is not simply straight ahead). Once the tail end rider appears (i.e. me) the marker heads off and I follow the route.

Things went generally well, but disintegrated a bit at the first stop. Two folks stuck to the marker and marked the route to Wanlochhead, the highest village in Scotland. I was at the tail following a rider at their own pace, which is fine by me - though I need to watch my old habit of following too closely. Unfortunately nobody had marked the turn off to the cafe at Wanlochhead (that said, it is a very small place and there is only one cafe) so the rider ahead kept going, I followed and we ended up about 15 miles later at a junction with no marker. At the back of my mind when I had been scanning I had been sure that I saw a group of bikes in a carpark below us on the right, but wasn't sure.

Anyways, I fired up the bluetooth gps, fired up TomTom on the phone and plotted a route to Moffat which had been mentioned. The Satnav reckoned the shortest / quickest route was back the way we had come and over to Elvanfoot. So I fired off a couple of SMS Text messages to two of the folks on the ride whos numbers I had then we turned and headed back. I led because the other chap wasn't sure of his bearings, so several miles later I cut off at a junction and there were the rest of the ride getting ready to leave.

So we rejoined and then there was a bit of confusion. I had checked the route and the plan had been to return via Elvanfoot (or whatever it is called) as the shortest route to Moffat, but most of the riders turned in the opposite direction. I couldn't see our Leader that direction, so looked around and right enough he was following the route the GPS had suggested. So I did a U-Turn (narrowly missing a red vfr popping out of a give way - such is) and joined. We waited for a short while but the rest of the group disappeared off the other way. Such is, the three of us headed off at a brisk but safe and legal pace. Off to Moffat and we didn't see anyone again (apart from one!).

Being as I missed my roll at Wanlochhead, I got a nice pie at the place we stopped at in Moffat that was called The Hammerlands Centre. For those of you that like such things, they have waittress service - I nice tradition and they even served us rufty tufty biker types. Then up the road past St Mary's Loch, over Tweedsmuir and another stop in Broughton at the team room there - very friendly, suprisingly busy and excellent.

I had good fun, and my i2imca skills are really helping my cornering. What happened with the rest of the group gave rise to some concerns, but I think it was a case of being a bit of a victim of its own success with a bigger turnout and wider level of experience in the riders than anticipated. I'm sure procedures will get tweaked and everyone will have fun.

posted @ Monday, April 21, 2008 12:39 PM | Feedback (0)
The Truth about IT Consultants
A Cringely article on IT Consultants, oh dear - more than a grain of truth.
posted @ Friday, April 18, 2008 8:42 PM | Feedback (0)
i2imca was Superb

It's the second week since I was on a two day course with the i2i Motorcycle Academy and I haven't blogged about it. To be honest, I've had too much fun riding my bike since then. I originally went to try and help my slow speed skills on the bike, but the most improvement is in my cornering. By understanding how the bike feels with neutral steering (i.e. don't mess with the bars) and then shifting my weight more with corners I am a lot more confident with cornering than I used to be. In fact, I find myself oversteering now because I can corner easier with the practice in countersteering and weight shift.

More to follow!

posted @ Friday, April 18, 2008 8:31 PM | Feedback (1)