Dec 312013
 

For those of you who’ve not heard of the Rapha Festive 500, it’s an online challenge to ride 500km (about 310 miles) over 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The miles must be tracked using GPS (either standalone such as the Garmin 800 I use, or using the Strava smartphone app) and uploaded to the Strava website in order to qualify and static rides are not allowed (so no spinning on the rollers after Christmas dinner!).

I’ve signed up for the challenge the last two years, but never really made much of an effort.  I decided that this year was to be different.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly the fittest of people, so riding 500km over 8 days would be quite a challenge!  Indeed, between January and December this year I only clocked up a total of 420 miles, so the 310ish miles needed to complete the Festive 500 over 8 days would be almost doubling my miles for the year so far… My legs were scared.

On with the story!

Day One, Christmas Eve: 61.6 miles

My plan for the first day was to get as many miles in as possible. I had originally planned to ride home from London (approximately 100 miles) to get the week off to a good start, however there were some pretty awful storms due to hit on the 23rd so I decided it would be safer to do some road miles at home and not have to be concerned with riding home for Christmas.

As it turned out this was a good plan, there was some awful flooding as a result of the storms and a number of people were stuck getting home for Christmas – if I’d tried to ride home I’d have almost certainly ended up being one of them.

Of course the storms also effected the local area. A few miles out I encountered the first evidence of this, with rainwater rushing out of a drain.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One
The drains can’t cope!

A few miles later and quite a lot of bottom-bracket deep water (sorry bike!) I came across the first flood I couldn’t pass. This ford was the scene of an unfortunate accident earlier this year, when a driver drowned after following his sat nav and becoming trapped in his car after it became submerged. Sensibly I decided to turn back and try another route.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One
Unpassable

In the end I decided to steer clear of the local roads I’d usually ride and instead do some off-road loops of the common. Whilst this steered me clear of the traffic and the worst of the flooding it also turned out to be REALLY hard work on the CX bike, after 50 miles I was physically exhausted. I thought the worst of the flooding would have dried out by then so I tried to take the scenic route home, but I was met by more floods.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One Rapha Festive 500 Day One Rapha Festive 500 Day One
Stormy scenes around Hampshire

I finished the day with just over 60 miles finished, soaking wet, hurting and with completely numb hands and feet. I also managed to tear my (beautiful) Rapha hardshell jacket & get six thorns in my front tyre after a little altercation with a tractor and a bush. Not a great start to the week :(

Day Three, Boxing Day: 50.3 miles

I didn’t get any miles in on Christmas day, I’d intended to do a few but festivities got in the way!

As I was still hurting from Christmas eve I decided to spend boxing day doing easy miles on some local roads, riding a nice 3.5 mile loop I’d previously not discovered. The roads were still drenched but the weather was nowhere near as bad as my previous ride, I could just about feel my hands when I got home.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Three
The setting sun

Day Five, 28th December: 60.0 miles

I headed to London on day four but didn’t get any miles in, so decided to get up early to get some bigger miles in on day five. I headed up to regents park before sunrise and was treated to some lovely views over London as the sun rose.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Festive 500 Day Five
Good morning Regents Park!

I loved listening to the noises of the animals in regents park as the sun rose, they seemed to be rather excited about the day ahead. I was slightly less so, as the miles from the last few days were beginning to take their toll and my knees and hips especially were starting to hurt! Still, it was nice being back on the road bike and the miles were certainly coming easier than on the CX bike.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Pretty scenes around Regents Park

Festive 500 Day Five
Sunrise over Euston & Bloomsbury

Festive 500 Day Five
The office is ideally situated for a 30 mile “comfort break”

Day Six, 29th December: 80.8 miles

It was another early start today, after setting my alarm for 5:10 and getting rolling at around 6:15 again (I decided breakfast would be a good idea today). I decided that I needed to get on the miles a little harder if I had any hope of finishing the 500km so I decided I needed to do another 60 miles today. As the miles progressed I decided to raise the bar and eventually managed 80!

Festive 500 Day Six Festive 500 Day Six
Nina and Scott hanging out, and a frosty Regents Park

When I arrived at the park it was damp and rather cold, but as the morning set in it got colder, the moisture on the ground froze and the puddles turned to ice, making the tarmac especially treacherous.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Six
The park actually got icier as I stayed out

Unfortunately a couple of hours after I took this photo (and nearly fell as I put a foot down to stop for a gel) an elderly lady took a fall. A few other cyclists kindly stopped by (they were there before me I’ll hasten to add) and covered her in their jackets until the ambulance arrived. After the ambulance arrived a cyclist fell in the same spot (he got up and continued riding) then on the same lap I passed another group looking after a lady who had fallen on the ice. I took it very steady for the next couple of hours until the weather warmed up, which was probably why I managed to do more miles than usual. As you can see, I still wasn’t doing great afterwards anyway (still, this was the furthers I’ve ever ridden in a day so can’t complain really).

Rapha Festive 500 Day Six
Exhausted

Day Seven, 30th December: 14.4 miles and 46.0 miles

Day seven was back to Hampshire and a late start after an incredibly painful night’s sleep… By now the miles were really starting to take their toll on my body, my knees and hips were absolutely killing me (I really must look at my cleat positioning), my shoulders and neck were complaining at the thought of getting back onto drop bars and I could barely get out of bed or walk down the stairs. Still, 60 miles to go, so back on it!

Festive 500 Day Seven
A patch or two of fog

I managed a few miles before darkness fell, so went back home to wait for my lights to charge before heading out to attempt to complete the challenge with one last night ride for 2014… Three and a half hours later (with a handy KOM and a few PR’s!) and I was done!

Finished: 313 miles/ 504 kilometers!

Woop!

504km and over 23 hours of riding later and I’m done! My body feels like it’ll never be the same again. My hips and knees are killing me, I can barely walk and I’ve lost all feeling in my neck/ shoulders, but it somehow all seems worth it. My Rapha hardshell took a battering too, but hopefully the Rapha warranty will sort that out ready for the endeavors of 2014.

Festive 500 Day Seven

I’ve put a couple of screenshots of my final activity below or you can look on my Strava profile for more.

Rapha Festive 500 Complete! Rapha Festive 500 Complete! Rapha Festive 500 Complete!
Quite the challenge for an unfit one such as myself!

Thanks for reading and have a good 2014!

Sep 022013
 

This year I once again photographed UX Camp London, this time held Central Foundation Boys School near Old Street. It felt strange wandering around a secondary school again, it somehow managed to smell just the same as my old school…

Anyway, it was a great day and I managed to make it to quite a few of the sessions and get lots of photographs.

UX Camp London 2013
UX Camp London 2013 UX Camp London 2013

I even got the chance to speak for a little while about my Fitbit study and the complications of running longitudinal research. I’m looking forward to next year!

UX Camp London 2013 UX Camp London 2013
UX Camp London 2013 UX Camp London 2013
UX Camp London 2013 UX Camp London 2013

More photographs on Flickr.

Jul 052013
 

Yesterday I graduated from my Human Computer Interaction with Ergonomics MSc course from UCL. The more eagle-eyed amongst you will see that I’m still at the same university, in the same department, working on a PhD… Should give you an idea of how much value I found in the MSc course.

I started off feeling really rather tired… I ended up getting about an hour’s sleep the night before, this photograph was taken before I’d found any caffeine to perk me up.

Zombie Graduation....

However, once I’d had an energy drink I was feeling much better… Even more so after a glass or two of champagne :)

MSc Graduation MSc Graduation
MSc Graduation MSc Graduation
MSc Graduation

We really are quite lucky getting to graduate in such a beautiful place… I just wish there had been more of my course mates there!

More photographs on Flickr.

May 262013
 

I visited the 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of days ago, armed with my trusty OM-D and the PL25 (I took the 7.5mm and the Oly 45mm too, but they didn’t get much of a look in). I had a really good afternoon and got quite a few nice photographs, some of which are displayed below:

Sculptor Elf Man Birds!
Osteospurnum
Birds Chillin' NSPCC Garden
Alium Thatch
Flowers (these ones are pink and blue, and arranged in an arnagement of sorts) Dahlia
Spikey Silver Bowl
Gnomes

Really pleased with how the set came out, the OMD & PL25 are a stunning combination.

The rest of the set is here: RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 – a set on Flickr

May 122013
 

I returned from CHI last week, where I was an author on two papers. The full paper, Exploring the effects of space and place on engagement with an interactive installation and The Challenge of Maintaining Interest in a Large-Scale Public Floor Display which was shown at the EIPS workshop.

We made a rather funky video for Space and Place, which you can view below (embedded):

The conference was brilliant, a personal highlight for me was the Theory vs. Design-Driven Approaches for behaviour change panel on Wednesday afternoon, which will probably be the subject of its own post in the future.

I’m going to write another blog post with more details about the conference and the talks I went to (once I’ve revisited my photographs and notes).

For now I’m going to share some photographs of Paris, enjoy!

Ne Me Quitte Pas

Arc de Triomphe Telescopes

Disapproving Ancient Egyptian Looks

Cocktails :)

Apr 092013
 

Hello!

As you may be aware I’m currently recruiting for a study with the Fitbit Zip pedometer, we still need more participants for the study!

We want people who either live or regularly travel in to central London, are aged 18+ and use either an iPhone 4S, 5, or a Samsung Galaxy S3.

If you complete the study you may keep the Fitbit, we’re also offering prizes (1x £100 & 4x £25 Amazon vouchers) for randomly chosen participants who complete the study.

If you’re interested please sign up using the link below! It would also be fantastic if you could share the study details with anybody you know who fills the above requirements and might be interested- this could be family, friends, colleagues, housemates, drinking buddies, classmates, etc.

—–

I thought a photograph of a kitten looking sad (because of recruitment struggle) might help, so here’s an appropriately cute one to inspire you to sign up:

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You can view more information and sign-up to the study with the recruitment form, available online: www.walkerbit.co.uk.


(flyer available online)

Thanks!

Feb 282013
 

Our submission to the Experiencing Interactivity In Public Spaces (EIPS) CHI Workshop, “The Challenge of Maintaining Interest in a Large-Scale Public Floor Display”, was accepted and I’ll be presenting at the workshop in Paris in April.

The paper, written by Jon Bird, myself and Paul Marshall is related to work on FloorPlay, the project I undertook for my masters. In the paper we argue that floor displays, because of the novelty of their location, can be more effective at grabbing the attention of passersby than public wall mounted screens. However, a concern is that as floor displays become more familiar, people will take less notice of them. We explore how to maintain interest in a large-scale interactive floor display in a semi-public university location. Our ongoing research involves exploring ways to enable participants to update the content of the display and seeing how effectively this keeps them interested. Firstly, we are making the floor display interactive so that participants can manipulate the content in real-time using whole body interaction. Secondly, we are encouraging the local community to generate content for the display.

You can read and download the paper here: EIPSMaintainingInterest.pdf

Feb 122013
 

I’ve been using the trackpad on my laptops as my only input device for a number of years (and bought my iMac with a Magic Trackpad)- I’ve probably not used a mouse for about 5 years. However, when editing photographs in Lightroom or Photoshop I’d always missed the level of precision you could obtain with a mouse- I’d always fancied trying a Wacom and when I saw the Wacom Bamboo Pen Graphics Tablet (approx. £45) for a really good price I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been using it as the main input device on my iMac for the past 18 months, and generally I’ve been really happy with it. The only real gripe I had with the Bamboo was that I missed using gestures (mostly expose and swiping between spaces), so I always needed to keep the Magic Trackpad nearby- making the desk quite cluttered and requiring lots of arm movement when working on multiple spaces (something I do all too often).

The Wacom Bamboo is also available with an inbuilt touch surface, allowing use of fingers for gestures- perfect!  However, I couldn’t upgrade to something so similar after a short amount of time and after 6 months or so with the Bamboo the Intuos5 was announced- also including the touch-surface (and a large number of other benefits over the Bamboo models), I’ve had my eye on it ever since. I was tempted by a larger size (the Bamboo I was using before is approximately the same size as the Intuos5 Small), but after using my Bamboo with a smaller screen I decided that the small size mapped nicely onto the 21.5″ iMac for me. This very much depends on your primary use of the tablet- I personally use it for every day input and rarely sketch- if my use was different then the bigger surface may have been more appropriate.

I saw the Intuos5 Pen and Touch Small for a very good price at Amazon last week (£154- grab ‘em quick!), so I went ahead and ordered one.

Wacom Intuos5 Small pen & touch

Now it’s arrived I’m very pleased that I’ve made the right decision. Whilst its not up to the level of the Magic Trackpad (it is nowhere near as responsive and I often have to do gestures more than once to get them to register), for swiping through spaces and expose it is more than adequate. Unfortunately there’s no feedback for your fingers to let you know you’re in the active zone for touching- it’s very easy to have a finger or two outside of the zone which is why I suspect it’s often missing my gestures. Another personal annoyance with the touch-input is that I can’t use click-to-drag (available through the accessibility options for the Apple trackpads, but not for other input devices), but I don’t think many people use it since Snow Leopard, so perhaps more of an issue for me.

The pen itself is also much nicer than on the Bamboo- its something I’ve often got in my hand for most of the day, so its nice to have some more quality- the buttons are more positive, it’s a nicer shape, and has a lovely grippy rubber coating. It’s more sensitive than the pen on the Bamboo (2048 levels of pressure over the 1024 on the Bamboo) and also offers detection of the angle, however I don’t really make any use of this as I rarely draw/ sketch (and when I do I’m not very good!).

There’s also controls down the side of the tablet, with 6 touch-sensitive buttons and a scroll-wheel. I’ve not really settled into using these yet (other than turning touch-off when the cat sits on the tablet), but I’m sure over time I’ll get used to having it there and will make use of it.

The Intuous5 is available from various retailers, and with special academic pricing for university staff and students. However, I bought mine from Amazon for the absolute bargain price of £154- buy one whilst you can! AMAZON LINK

Feb 012013
 

I’ve got about twenty posts I want to make, but this one’s timely and short so it’s going up first!

I’ve been evaluating a FitBit Zip for the past four months, and I’m pretty happy with it- a few days ago I was told about the “moves” application for the iPhone, since then I’ve been using the two alongside each other.

I had quite a long journey today, so I decided to take this opportunity to post a quick comparison between the two tracking systems, as shown in the following screenshot:

Fitbit and Moves for iOS comparison

(also, this is the first time I’ve broken 30,000 steps in one day on the Fitbit- pretty pleased with that!)

Now, those numbers are impressively similar (especially considering the Fitbit uses additional hardware- a posh £50 Bluetooth 4 accelerometer and Moves mostly relies upon GPS), and whats more impressive is the additional information moves provides- there’s a list of the places I’ve visited, a breakdown of the different transport methods (walking, running, bicycle and, for now, “other”) and a breadcrumb trail of my route. In my testing so far I’ve found there to be very little effect on the battery life of my phone too, which is a relief as it’s rather awful already (I must go and see Apple about that)!

There are, of course, a couple of limitations. The application needs to be running all the time, which obviously does have some effect on battery life. It also of course only tracks activity when you’ve got the phone on you, and now when you’ve left it charging on your desk… and it doesn’t count activity that consists of less than 50 steps. This probably accounts for the difference between the two counts, and in my opinion makes the lack of discrepancy between the two all the more impressive.

As you can probably tell, I’m very impressed, and especially so for a fairly early iteration of the application (it was originally released in September and has had a number of fairly small updates since). Whilst it currently misses most of the encouragement and intervention techniques offered by the Fitbit and alternatives it also offers additional functionality missing from all of these, and best of all, it’s free!

As my particular research interest is more in sustainable transport methods than physical activity I’m especially interested in Moves. I’m sure that motivational techniques will be added soon, the developers have also stated that there’s an API coming, so I’m watching very closely to see how I might be able to make use of this in my PhD research.