Wednesday 30 April 2014

Welland Viaduct

Today was all about Welland Viaduct. It's magnificent!

Two views from different directions. And I was lucky enough to see a train pass over it!

68 caches found, 1 DNF

One of the fun aspects of caching on a bike, is to try to navigate in such a way as to minimise the number of times you have to lift the bike. Today, I did two lifts, but I cunningly avoided several more.

And I heard the first cuckoo today. Or rather cockoos, there seemed to be dozens of them, all cuckooing like mad.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Mass hack at AOL - part 2

Hurrah! AOL have realised that they've been hacked.

And it's only 8 days since I reported this in my blog.

Around Amersham on bike.6

Bike.6 is the Forza, it's the only bike I have that isn't a folder. So I don't want to use if for caching ... but it is such a nice bike! So I have it in the bike park in a position such that it can quickly be brought into action, and today was such a day.


I suffer from teeth that keep losnig little bits; usually old fillings, sometimes a little bit of tooth. My dentist is very good; he usually gives it a bit of a scrape, then refills it, job done. Today was just like that.

Except ... I went there on the bike. It's only a couple of miles, really too far to walk, but close enough for the bike. And taking the bike, eliminates the parking problem, which is Amersham  is severe.

So I biked to the station, used the bike park there, the dentist is 20 yards away, bish bash bosh, filling done. And then I went caching.

There's several caches in Amersham, which I haven't done because, well, they're so near, it's not worth mounting a major expedition. But since I had a couple of hours post-dentist, I swanned around a bit. Six caches done, including going off-piste in Bois Wood, and then back along the river Chess, and up Bell Lane.

At which point, it decided to rain. A lot. I got soaked. Still, that's all part of the fun.

Monday 28 April 2014

Password change

I was emailed by a customer, he wanted me to change his password to a new one that he gave me, he said that he thought that the old one had been compromised.

Fair enough, I thought, and went to do it. Then I stopped.

It's extremely easy to spoof the origin of an email. Think of a letter; on the back of the envelope, you'll often find the "from" address. That's so that the post office can return it if they can't deliver it. You can see how easy it would be to put a false return address on an envelope. Well, that's how easy it is to put a false "from" address on an email.

That means that I don't know that the email really did come from my customer.

Does it matter? Yes, it does! If I change it to the one that he suggested, then the sender of the email can keep trying the new password, once per day or so, until it works. And if the sender of the request wasn't actually my customer, then we have grief.

So what I did, was I changed the password to something else completely, and emailed my customer, at the address that he gave when he signed up with me, to give him the new password.

If it really was him that made the request, then he might be mildly annoyed that I didn't give him the password he asked for. If he emails me to complain, I'll explain why I did it.

If it wasn't him that made the request, then either he'll just accept the change as one of those things that sometimes just happens, or else (much less likely) he'll email me to ask why I changed it, and then I'll explain.

So. Maybe this request was kosher. But it does occur to me that this would be quite a good way to get unauthorised access to someone else's account. So here's the test you can make.

You have a password on a number of different sites; some unimportant, but some very important (such as Amazon, who also have your credit card on record, or your bank). If you email these sites and ask them to set your password to a value that you give them, and if they do it, then there's a problem, and (other than avoiding using that site in future) I don't see how you can solve it.


I don't really need bike lights at this time of year, but it's a good time to get ready for winter. So I've ordered some stuff.

The most interesting thing I've ordered, is a 3 watt red LED. It's a light-coloured red, and it'll be very bright. But how to drive it?

It takes 2 to 2.5 volts, 700 milliamps. I want to drive it from the bike battery, and that means at least 8 volts, probably more. So, in order not to burn the led out, you have to put in a resistor, to limit the current and drop the voltage. The problem with that, is that most of the power being drawn from the battery, it being used to heat up the resistor, and so is wasted.

I have an idea. I have a buck converter; this will take 5 to 30 volts input, and put out 1.5 to 27 volts output, and it runs at 92% efficiency. Hardly any waste! I'll set it for 2 volts, then slowly turn up the wick until the led is pulling the 0.7 amps it's rated at.

Then I wondered how to make it blink. I've got two plans. Plan A, is, I've ordered a flashing rear light, that also lays down two lines to the side of the bike and behind me, thus marking out an area that I'm hoping a car driver won't go into. So I'll have one very bright rear light, and one that flashes. Plan B is more interesting. I've ordered a relay flasher; the sort that's used to flash turn indicators. I think I might be able to use that to make the big rear light flash.

As well as the more ordinary front lights I've bought, I've also ordered a 10w white led. That's about 1000 lumens, the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. It was a mere £1, and I think I can drive it with another buck converter (which also cost around £1).

But here's the really exciting proposition. for about £5, I can get a 100 watt led, 8000 lumens. The brightest incandescent that you used to be able to buy was 150 watts, and those are  2700 lumens, so we're talking three of those very bright bulbs. One problem then will be the heat produced by the led; it would need a major heat sink. But the bigger problem would be that I'd blind every car driver coming towards me.

Using the Forza

The Forza (my first ever ebike) is now revived, and I used it today for a trip into Amersham. The bike went well; peppy and positive; it feels good.

I went to the barber, to get a haircut in preparation for the wedding of daughter.2. I thought, the Father of the Bride, although it's just a bit part in the Great Drama, has to have a good haircut. And a good speech. Rowan Atkinson's "Father of the Bride" speech gave me lots of inspiration.

Tomorrow, I go to the Amercham dentist to have one of my fillings patched up. I'll be taking the bike again. It's almost as fast as the car for these short runs, and it's a *lot* easier to park.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Driver cable for the bike.

I have EC5s on all the batteries. I use EC5s because they'll carry a *lot* of current, they solder on easily, you add the plastic housing after you've soldered it (so you won't melt the plastic while you're soldering) and they plug in and unplug without needing a big fight. Female on the batteries (and things offering power) and male on the things accepting power. They are impossible to plug in the wrong way round; you can't plug a negative into a positive, if you soldered the plug up the right way round.

The resistor in the circuit means that as soon as it's plugged in, the batteries slowly (a couple of seconds) charge up the capacitors in the controller, so you don't get a big spark. That saves the contacts on the switch. The switch is a domestic contact breaker, rated at 53 amps (so it should switch power off if there's a short circuit). £2.79 on Ebay,

But I don't rely on that, there's a 40 amp fuse (it's a car blade fuse, costs £1.10 on Ebay). And, of course, I have a few spare fuses, which I carry in my puncture repair kit.

The shunt needs to be 0.75 milliohms. That's four inches of 10 AWG wire, you can work out how much you need if you use a different guage from this: The ammeter/voltmeter sits on the handlebars, so I can see at any time, how much current I'm pulling, and the battery voltage.

The ammeter/voltmeter is from Ebay, £3.59

The wattmeter is Ebay, expect to pay between £8 and £9. I have that down with the batteries, because it's easiest to put it there. I use it to tell me how many amp-hours the battery has done since being connected up. I use 5ah batteries, and I'm getting 4.5 ah or so. The batteries will slowly deteriorate over time, so when they only give me 3ah, I'll replace them.

The "battery to power voltmeter/ammeter" is a holder for four AAA batteries with a little switch. I run it until the AAA batteries are dead, then recharge them - this means that I could be without my ammeter/voltmeter display for a little while.

The series connector is just two EC5 males in series, connected to an EC5 female. It's just as easy to wire up three or four, depending on how many batteries you want in series to drive your bike.

As well as all the usual wiring on the bike, I have an ethernet cable going from the battery pack to the handlebars. That has 8 conductors; four are for the ammeter/voltmeter, two for a 5 volt power supply that feeds my PDA (which I use for navigation) and the other two will be feeding a headlight when I install it. The 5 volts comes from a step-down unit that runs from the bike battery, and the headlight will also be fed by the bike battery.

Here's the diagram.

Friday 25 April 2014

Wet wet wet

Today, I had to go to Great Missenden to The Practice, to get my eyes tested. This was because my GP, after reading the letter from Marylebone Hospital, had referred me to the optical doctor there. I had planned to cycle to the appointment, it's only seven miles, but it was raining, so I drove. I took my caching gear with me in case the rain should stop and I could do a bit of caching round there. The rain didn't stop.

When I got there, I waited, as usual. I'd taken two books with me, because I know the NHS well. Then I got to see someone, not a doctor, I think. He was just going to test my field of vision, to see if I could see things "out of the corner of my eye" as it were. I've done this exact same test at the optometrician two weeks ago, using the exact same equipment. I guess these people don't communicate very well. We did the right eye, and I think I scored very well on that, but then he put in the lenses for my left eye, and I immediately told him that somethng was wrong, I couldn't see the light spot very well. I asked him what prescription he was using, and he told me, +1.75. "Sounds wrong to me," I said, "try -1.75". He explained to me how a mistake like that couldn't possibly be made, and I refrained from explaining to him my long experience of the sorts of mistake people made. We tried it, and I was right. I also corrected their spelling of my name, and the fact that both of the papers referred to my right eye. My left eye field of vision wasn't quite as good as the right eye, and that's the eye that has the hign internal pressure. But they both look pretty good, in my non-medical opinion.

I asked him why he didn't do the test that had raised the problem in the first place, the ocular pressure test. But he didn't have the equipment for that.

Then he suggested that maybe I could see a doctor while I was there - sounded good to me, much better than coming back on 22 May at 3.15 (four weeks later) for the next appointment. So I went to the waiting room, and got back into my book. After about 20 minutes, a doctor came out and told me that he wouldn't be able to see me today, as I wasn't in his list. "Fair enough," I thought, and went home.

An hour or so after I got home, I got a call from The Practice. Apparently, the other doctor had called me in, but I wasn't there, because the first doctor had told me not to expect to see him.

I'm very glad that my problem is a minor, non-urgent, issue with my eye (and I'm already taking the drops prescribed by Marylebone for that). The medical capabilities of the NHS might be excellent (I say "might be" because I actually have no way to judge), but my experience of their administration is pretty bad.

Thursday 24 April 2014


Working on these electric bikes has involved a lot of soldering. All I had originally, was a rather feeble 30w soldering iron that I've had for 50 years, and a roll of solder inherited from my father, 60 years ago.

I've now equipped myself properly.

As well as the old 30w iron, I have a 60 watt iron and a 100 watt. I also got a soldering gun, but that's stopped working a week after it arrived and I'm aiming to get a replacement from the vendor.

I also got some spare bits, a couple of spare elements (I've used one of them to repair an old 60 watt iron), a tub of flux, cleaner sponges, and a copper shavings ball tip cleaner. A roll of solder, 100 grams, 1.2 mm thick, and another 0.8 mm.

Let's solder!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Weldon and Gretton

Out on the bike today; first a circuit around Weldon, including four multis that I thought were puzzles and solved before I set out, only to find that the info I needed was given on infoboards at the indicated places. Except that they weren't; one was in the wrong place, and I couldn't find another one at all. But the info that I'd got from Google let me find all the caches.

I forgot to take my battery monitors on the trip. And the voltmeter/ammeter gave up - I think the battery that powers it is past it's throw-away date. I'll investigate.  No voltmeter, meant that I had to guess when to change the battery, and confirm the guess by looking at the watt-hours meter in the panniers. But forgetting the battery monitors - that's just stupid. I'll incorporate them in the driving harness in future, so I can't forget.

Then to Gretton, and there was an excessive number of stiles that needed me to lift the bike, which is some 60 pounds of awkward metal. But I managed to get over them all (and some I wa able to avoid) so I got there in the end. I'll pay for that, though - my back will give me hell tomorrow.

I also cleared up an old DNF. 59 caches found today.

Speech written

I've written my "Father of the Bride" speech.  After several redrafts, I've got it down to one hour, 17 minutes. Just kidding.

I watched Rowan Atkinson's "Father of the Bride" speech,  which was very helpful.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Resurgat Forza

My first electric bike was a big, sturdy Forza. It has a 36 volt motor, and it went well. I used it for about three years. But it suffers from a major drawback - it isn't a folder. That means that A) to carry it on the car, I have to put on a bike carrier, and while that's on, I can't open the rear. And B), I can get a folder through the kind of stile that's a metal circle and a metal gate, without having to lift it. Quite a few stiles are like that, so that's a big plus. So the Forza fell into disuse as soon as I got my first folding bike.

Recently, I got it out, charged up the battery, and tried to run it. But the battery is now eight years old, and doesn't hold much of a charge; when I gave it full throttle, the BMS (battery management system) decided that it was all too much for the battery, and cut it out.

So I put it on Ebay, with the proviso that the battery needed replacing, to see if someone else could make better use of it than me. The best offer I got was £100, and it's worth more than that as spare parts; the motor alone is worth £100.

So it sat in my bike park, while I worked on other bikes, but then I thought, "I bet I can make this bike live again". I got a 12-fet Infineon controller (I like those because they're programmable), and stripped the bike down. I took out the old controller, the old throttle (it's a left handed twist throttle, and I've become accustomed to a right handed thumb throttle). I took off the battery carrier (because I now carry batteries in a pannier). I stripped off the front and back lights, because I use a head torch for a front light, and a removable silicone light for the back.

And then I found that I couldn't connect the hall sensors on the front wheel, to the controller, because I didn't have the right sort of connector. So I went on to Google, did a lot of research, found that what I wanted was a "six way 2.8 mm" connector, and ordered one from a UK company (they usually arrive faster that those ordered from China). I also ordered a handful more of the six-way, three-way and two-way connectors from a company in China, because it's always annoying to need a connector that you don't have.

The connector arrived today, as well as a centerstand. The centerstand didn't fit, because when I installed it, the legs fouled the chain; I could maybe deal with that, but I'm fairly happy with the sidestand I already had. The connector, however, did fit, just fine. So I wired everything up; three-speed switch, thumb throttle, halls, phase wires and battery wire. Then I connected up 10S of battery (which gives a nominal 37 volts), and gave the motor some power. It hummed, and reluctantly moved a centimeter or two.


I got out my bike tester, and verified that A) the halls are connected correctly, and work, and B) the motor windings are fine. Um.

So I had a bit of a think, and I decided that maybe the phase wires need to be connected differently. I had connected yellow-yellow, blue-blue and green-green. But there isn't actually any kind of standard for the labelling of these. As you can easily see, there's six possibilities for connecting these three connectors. The second one I tried encouraged me a lot; the motor made quite a lot of noise, and turned, although slowly. And, of course, it was the sixth combination that I tried, that actually worked! And even better, the motor rotated the way I wanted, tending to drive the bike forwards.

So I installed a handlebar voltmeter (which tells me how much battery I've got left), tidied up the wiring with cable ties, waterproofed the connections using sections of old inner tube, pumped the tires up to a good pressure, and took the bike out for a test run.

It performed like a thoroughbred; it was going better than it had when it was new! That's partly because Lipo batteries are better at delivering power than the LiFePo4 that commercial bikes use, and partly because the Infineon controller is way better than the el-cheapos that you get in most commercial bikes.

Then I weighed it, and that was a big surprise. I was expecting it to be heavier than any of my other bikes; if you look at it, it just seems a lot more substantial. But it was only 49 pounds (without batteries), less than any of my other 26-inch wheel bikes. Only the smaller 20-inch wheel bikes are lighter. It's made of aluminium, that's why it's so light.

So I mended the thing that attaches the front mudguard to the bike (that's been broken for a long time, and was held on with string - instead, I made a fishplate so it could be attached properly).

The Forza, therefore, is bike.6. Hopefully my bike habit is now sated.

I'll use it for local trips, because when I buzz up to the local shops, or whatever, that won't involve putting it on the bike carrier. I can just wheel it out of the bike shed, clamber aboard, thumb the throttle and whoosh!

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mass hack at AOL

Something has gone badly wrong with AOL email addresses. I've recently started getting a lot of spam emails from people with AOL addresses, who have my email address in their address list (or maybe they received an email from me in the past). Each email is sent to a dozen or two people, and consists of a link to a web site.

My guess is that this is the result of a password-guessing attempt. Many people use the same username and password on multiple sites, so that if one of those sites is compromised and the password published, then they all are.

I've been responding to each email with an email back, telling them that they have a problem, and should change their AOL password, and check their system for malware.

Of course, nearly all of them ignore my advice.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Bishop's Bumble

Today, ladysolly and I went to Bishop's Stortford for an afternoon's caching. But first we stopped at Beechhanger services for lunch. I had a 7" Pizza, and I can now state definitively that this isn't enough.

Then on to the caches. We parked near number 8, because I planned to do that last) and went for number 9, and then onwards. We had two DNFs on the series; at one of them, we met Dizzypair, and gave them a helping hand with the puzzle cache (number 7). Later on in the series, I found their red biro near a cache, and when we met them again (they were doing the caches in reverse order) I was able to hand it back to them.

They also gave us the sad news that number 8, which involves crawling many yards down a concrete pipe, was not possible, because it was totally blocked by debris about 40 yards in. Ladysolly was delighted, because it meant that I wouldn't disappear into the pipe.

The track we walked on was all bridleway, which should have meant good going, but it has been so thoroughly hoofed up by horses when the ground was soft, that it's extremely uneven now.

Altogether, we found 19 caches today, and had four DNFs, which is pretty poor.

Friday 18 April 2014

Chuff chuff

I've just built a steam engine sound generator, and it works! My plan is to mount it on the bike, with a decent-size speaker, so that I sound like a steam locomotive as I'm going along.

One of the problems with a bike (or any other electric vehicle) is that it doesn't make much noise. People don't step into the road in front of a car because they can hear it coming; they can't hear a bike, so what they do is, step into the road, then look. But since a bike is usually close to the edge of the road, they just stepped into the bike, without warning. It's not usually fatal, but it certainly can be painful, to both parties.

But no-one will step into the path of a steam locomotive.

There's also a train whistle; I can use that as my "look out" warning when the situation calls for a bit more than a "ting" on my bell.

If you want one, it's the Velleman kit number MK134 "Steam engine sound generator" - you can get them on Ebay.

Thursday 17 April 2014

My readers

I just had a look at where my readers live for the last week, and I'm surprised. I would have guessed maybe 90% UK, and a few lost souls from abroad. Far from it! The largest group by far is the USA, with the UK trailing a long way behind in second place.

The next surprise is that China comes third!

And my total page views has passed 100,000.

United States
United Kingdom   


Up to Upwood

It was going to be sunny and hot today, except that it wasn't, there was even a few dots of rain. But I had a great time.

I went to Huntingdonshire (which has been demoted to a District), and I did two circuits. The first was "Upwood Out N Ubout", done in reverse. There hasn't been much rain on the last few weeks, so the ground is dry and hard, great for biking. When I finished that circuit, I had a bash at a multi called "Alwine's Treasure". I was unable to find the value for the first letter, and the pub was closed for refurbishment, so I had to ask a local for the second. I got the other three, and while I had my sandwich, I did some plotting on the map, and I decided that I knew where the final was. So after lunch, on the way to my second circuit, I went and signed the log.

The second circuit was "Ravely Rumble", which I also did in reverse order. This was an accident, but turned out to be a blessing, because I think it was easier to navigate.

While I did that, I made a diversion to pick up a puzzle cache "I pity the fool".

So, 61 caches done today, a very good day out.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Side effects

I googled my eye drops, and read up on "possible side effects". One of the possible side effects, is "redeye". I didn't know what that meant, but this morning, I found out. My left eye looks like it came from Dracula. Apparently, it's not something I need worry about.

Monday 14 April 2014

A visit to Marylebone

Stoke Mandeville is hopeless. I don't know how good they are at medical stuff, because I didn't get that far.

They didn't call on Saturday. Apparently, they said that they did, and we checked the number, they had the right phone number, but they say no-one answered the phone. We were in all day, waiting for this call, and it definitely didn't happen.

So I called today, and plunged into a nightmare. I got through the automated system, eventually spoke to a lady, who told me that they couldn't see me for 8 to 12 weeks, "more likely 12," she said. Then as an afterthought, she asked if it was urgent? Well, the opthalmologist seemed to think it was, so I told her "yes", so she gave me the number for their Eye Casualty. When I phoned that, it gave a sound as of a number that doesn't work.

So  I called their operator, and asked for Eye Casualty. She put me through, and I got silence. I tried again, this time I got hold music for a few minutes... followed by silence. And the third time - just silence.

So I called their IT department to report a fault. But they don't handle telephone problems, and didn't know who did.

At that point, I gave up on Stoke Mandeville, and called the Western Eye Hospital, which is in Marylebone, a couple of minutes walk from the station. I got through immediately, the lady in reception said I should just walk in. So ladysolly and I hopped on the train and went in to London.

I had to wait for about an hour, which was no big deal, I had a book, and there were a couple of people who were obviously more urgent than me. And ladysolly popped out and got me a pizza to eat while I was waiting, yum! Then I was seen by a very good doctor (I mean, he seemed to know exactly what he was doing). He measured my eye pressure, it was 39 on my left eye, which is far too high, and agreed with all the other tests I've had. He prescribed eye drops, to be taken each evening for a few weeks, and then I have to go back so they can see how I'm doing. He also got me to put a drop in immediately, I waited an hour, and then he measured again - 30. A good number is 20 or 22 or so. But it meant that the eye drops were starting to do their job.

I think we've discovered this problem before any damage was caused, so that's all good!


While I was at Marylebone, I noticed that a small fraction of filling has come out of a tooth. Sigh. So I'm back to my dentist next week for a bit of Araldite.

I cheered myself up with a Latte and biscuit at an Amersham coffee shop while ladysolly got the groceries, and when I got home, I cheered myself up some more on Ebay - I bought a helmet cam.

Sunday 13 April 2014

To Hemel with ladysolly

Ladysolly has been having a bit of grief with her back, but when I offered her a four mile walk this afternoon, she was keen to go.

We did 23 caches, and one of them was outstanding; it's a field puzzle cache, in order to sign the log, you have to open the box, and it wasn't easy! Eventually, I devised a way to get into it, and although I don't know if it was the "official" way, it worked.

After we got back to the car and had coffee, she chose to stay while I went out on bike.1 and finished off the series.

A very nice day out!

Saturday 12 April 2014

My gun arrived, using bike.4 and testing bike.5

The soldering gun that I bought via Ebay, has arrived, and it looks very nice. I've been doing so much soldering, that an instant-on (well, ten seconds) tool sounds good, and since my El Cheapo soldering iron failed, there was an opportunity to try a soldering gun. It works as I expected, and it's very nice not to have to wait ages for the tip to heat up.

I used Bike.4 today as a substitute for the car; about a mile or so, to Little Chalfont, for my two-year eye checkup. My vision is unchanged, I don't need updated spectacles, but the pressure in my left eye is too high, this is called Glaucoma; about half a million people have this in England, so it's quite common. It's easy for the opthalmologist to diagnose, but if left to develop, it can cause vision problems. That's one good reason why people should have an eye test every two years.

The opthalmologist got quite concerned about this, and has booked me into Stoke Mandeville for further investigation and, probably, treatment. It's not as bad as it sounds, it just means eye drops. Although Wikipedia says that smoking marijuana is just as effective, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

So what caused it? She said that the primary cause is "getting older". I plan to do lots more of that.

I also did the "field of vision" test, which I passed. So now I'm just waiting for the summons to Stoke Mandeville.

Yesterday, I replaced the controller on bike.5 with somethng a lot nicer, and it's brought the performance of the bike up to what I like. Using an 8S battery, my test run along Doggetts Lane got me up to 20 mph (on a very slight uphill), and the "peppiness" of the bike is much improved. It has my usual voltmeter/ammeter, a back rack, a GPS holder and it's now very suitable for caching. It even has a centerstand, which should be a lot more convenient than the side stand, which tends to let the bike fall over if the ground is at all soft, or if it's too uneven, or even (this has happened a few times) in response to a strong gust of wind. Unfortunately, with most of my bikes, I can't see a way to fit a centerstand.

Bike.4, bike.5 and the Freelander

First, bike.4. I've replaced the clutch/gear assembly with one from an old motor, and I've ordered a new replacement. Bike stuff is always so cheap - £10. Show me a car whose clutch and gear is under £1000.

When I took it out for a run, the rear drum brake was dragging, so I got it back to the workshop, and after frequent dismantling and remantling, I determined that I need to have two washers inside the drum.

Then I had a lot of trouble getting the derailleur gear assembly right; I'm always a duffer at those. But eventually, it was ready for a test.

The problem that I had originally, the stop-start-stop stuttering, that I'd hoped would be fixed with the resistor replacement in the controller ... was still there. It didn't happen at first, with the battery voltage at 32, but when the voltage got down to 30, it was happening again. It's the controller saying "Oooh, your voltage is too low, I'm switching off" which means that the voltage recovers, so I get half a second of power, and that makes the voltage sag ... and so on.

So now I've tried another solution. I had ordered a 7.4 volt battery from Hobbyking. I charged it up to it's full 8.4 volts, added one of my standard battery connectors (EC5), and put that in series with the batteries I was already using. So instead of 8S (33.6v) I had 10S (42v). That small increase in voltage, was enough to make the controller happy. So, I think bike.4 is ready for action. I want to test it some more first; if it's going to break down, I want that to happen near home while testing, not in a muddy field in the middle of nowhere.

Then, bike.5. The problem with bike.5, is wimpiness. I put a speedometer on it, and with a very slight uphill, the best I could get was 9mph. And it felt generally sluggish. My answer to this, was to order a new bike controller from China costing £9.99, which I'm hoping will cure the wimpiness. It arrived today, only 9 days after I ordered it. I've had to wait longer for stuff from London!

I hooked it up today, a non-trivial exercise because all the connectors were different from the ones I use, so I had to strip them off, and solder on new ones. Eventually, I got everything assembled, waterproofed inside old inner tubes, and it works. I don't know how good it is yet, because I want to test it in daylight. But I'm hopeful.

As a small digression - my El Cheapo soldering iron stopped working. So I've ordered A) another El Cheapo, B) a new element for the broken one, C) a decent quality one at five times the cost and D) a soldering gun. I've never used a soldering gun before; something new to learn.

Also, AA batteries. With what I've learned about batteries in general, I felt it was time to invest in some decent AA rechargables; I use a lot of them. The big thing I learned about batteries, is that many of the manufacturers just lie about their capacity. Some internet research revealed that the battery to buy is the Sanyo  Eneloop; it doesn't self-discharge, and it holds as much charge as you can expect from an AA.

While I was rummaging through Ebay, I came across a build-it-yourself kit that makes a noise like a steam locomotive, it costs £10. I couldn't resist it. I plan to mount it on the bike, so that I sound like a steam train as I'm biking along. And when you press the button, it makes a noise like a steam whistle. Yum!

And the Freelander. That was a very simple problem; the two rear tires were worn down to the legal limit, and the front tires weren't much better. Simple to fix, it just needed a trip down to Honest John, who sold me a set of Pirellis for £700, fitted them, checked the tracking and pressure and now Freda is good to go. But £700!

I could buy four electric bikes for that much.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Wibbling round Wittering

I parked at the place I'd chosen as my start point, and started to get the bike ready.

Then I realised - I've left the box of bits behind. That means that I don't have my battery monitor. A battery monitor is very important for a Lipo, because if you run the voltage down too low, it wrecks the battery, and it won't hold charge afterwards.

But I've been using these batteries for a while now, and I have a fair idea how far they go. So I decided to do the battery monitor by guess.

The first circuit went well, apart from having to cross the A1, which is hairy even without a bike; with a bike, it's double plus hairy. It took a very long time before I had a gap in the traffic that I felt was long enough. And then I had to get the bike past the central barrier. But I switched battery at the right point; when I got home and measured the voltage on the batteries I used for this route, they were down to 3.8 volts, which is still quite peppy.

For my second circuit, I used a better strategy. I've made a cable harness that can put four batteries in parallel. And I know that an afternoon's caching isn't going to use up four batteries, so I didn't need to worry.

I'm going to devise a system that means that I won't leave my box-of-bits behind in future.

I passed RAF Wittering, and took this:

Very nice!

I finished the day with an attempt on "You dirty rat". To get that cache, you have to walk up a tunnel mill race (the mill is disused), and although the water is less than knee-deep, there's a very deep section when I was wet up to my thighs.

The last time I came here to attempt this, the whole area was flooded, and the water in the tunnel was up to the roof! Today, it was normal, and I got to my objective.

But I didn't find the cache. I did find a pair of cable ties; maybe the cache has gone?

Bye bye Maria

I'm certainly not going to claim that Maria realised that she had to resign when she read my blog.

But when even bloggers of geocaching and ebikes weigh in on the scandal, you know that something has gone badly wrong.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Trip to Stamford

The weather looks like it will be dry tomorrow, so I'll be heading North to Stamford for a couple of circuits on bike.1.

I'm also hoping to go to  the cache "You dirty rat". I tried to do that a couple of months ago, and I know it involves wading hip-deep, and I'm willing to get really wet. And cold. But when I got there, in January, the water wasn't just hip deep, it reached to the roof of the tunnel that I was going to walk down, and since I don't have Scuba, I left it for another day. So, maybe tomorrow.

At last, summer is here!

Bike.5 looking good

Meanwhile, bike.5 is still coming on nicely. I've added a centerstand; when I'm out caching, I stop every few hundred yards, and the problem with a sidestand is that the ground is often too soft, or too uneven. I think a centerstand will work much better.

And I've had an idea. I don't have to run this at 24 volts.

My "24 volt" battery packs are actually 8S of Lipo made from two 4S packs; nominally 28.8 volts, actually 33.6 when freshly charged. If I went to three 4S packs, that would be nominally 43.2 volts, 50 when freshly charged. And that's a lot to put through a 24 volt motor and 24 volt controller.

It occurred to me that I could get a 2S pack, and run that in series with two 4S packs to give me 10s. That would be 37 volts nominal, 42 volts freshly charged, and I think the 24 volt motor would be OK with that. But the 24 volt controller probably wouldn't, so I've also ordered a 36 volt brushed controller. If this all works, then bike.5 will probably have the pep that it's lacking right now.

So there's lots going on, down in the bike shed.

Bike.4 resurrected!

With some very helpful advice from the forum, I took the motor apart; it turned out that I'd tried to dismantle it in the worst possible way, the right way was actually quite easy, I just needed to unscrew six screws holding the motor together. The only difficult bit has been dealing with the circlips, but that's because I don't have circlip pliers, and that should be remedied real soon now, courtesy of Ebay.

The problem was, indeed, the gears.

The gear wheels are plastic, and they've been totally destroyed. I guess I put too much torque on them. Lesson learned, maybe. I say "maybe" because I do like to have a lot of torque, that's what gets you up hills and over soggy ground.

So I took off the gear (as you can see above). I can get a new one from Aliexpress for £20, including postage. If you've never heard of Aliexpress, it's the biggest web site for buying things in the world, selling stuff made in China. And there's a bike shop in Southend that might have one.

But while I was looking at the destroyed gear, I remembered that I have another one just like it, inside a bike motor that I stopped using because the bearings were very loose. So I dismantled that motor, took out the planetary, put it in bike.4's motor, and now bike.4 is reassembled.

I haven't tested it yet - I have some more modifications to do. The vendor of the bike controllers that I'm using ( told me that the problem with using them at 24 volts, is that they're designed for 36 volts and above. But, he said, I can open them up and modify them. All I need to do is replace a resistor, with one of a lower resistance, and I've looked at it, and it does look like something I could do.

So I've ordered resistors of a value such that I can modify the two controllers that need it, and as they're coming from the UK, they shojld arrive this week.

Bike.4 will live again!

MP expenses again!

It seems to me that the main reason many of them become MPs is to feather their own nest.

And it seems to me, that MPs are regulated and disciplined by ... MPs.

There's not many political issues I feel strongly about, but I take great exception to MPs who help themselves to *my* money.

On the sordid details of the Miller case, I make no comment. But letting MPs be regulated by MPs is like letting the pigs run the farm.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Power for the PDA

I carry a spare battery for my PDA, but changing the battery in the middle of a muddy field isn't too lovely, so I'd like to be able to power the PDA from something more substantial.

I ran an ethernet cable from the handlebars to the back of the bike, and four of the conductors out of the eight, are for the ammeter/voltmeter (which I used for the first time on Friday, and I love it. Two more of those wires lead to a female USB port on the handlebars, and I have an adaptor so that I can plug the PDA into that.

Down at the back end of the bike, I had a "power pack", which is a battery that has a USB port. But I got to thinking today, and I've made something better.

I've got a step-down board, that will take any input voltage and step it down to whatever voltage I want; in this case, 5.3 volts. I connected the input of that to an EC5 male (my batteries terminate in EC5 females), so I can plug it in to a bike battery and step down the 14-odd volts to 5.3. At the other end of the step-down unit, I've connected a female USB socket, and put the whole thing in a nice little plastic box. So now I can power the PDA from the main bike batteries; I always have more than one set when I go out for a long circuit, and this takes such a tiny amount of power (I measured it, it's 0.5 watt) that it'll have negligible impact on power usage.

Email marketing works ... somewhat

Today, I got an email from "". Now you know me, I don't do drugs, apart from coffee (which is usually decaf) and the occasional pint of beer. But it also said in the subject line "compression socks sale". And I do do compression socks.

It goes back to the DVT I had nearly 20 years ago. With a DVT, your blood clots. It's supposed to clot if you cut yourself, there's a couple of mechanisms, one to start the clotting and one to progress it. But It's not supposed to happen inside the vein.

I got my blood tested. I have  Factor V Leiden thrombophilia which is a genetic thing that means that my blood is better at clotting. That's probably fairly good news when you're young, active and likely to get cut or grazed. It's not so good when you're over 40, and spend most of your time staring at a screen.

The effect was that I just couldn't bend my left knee. Very odd. I was quickly diagnosed with DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis, meaning a blood clot in the leg) and whisked off to hospital, because the condition could just get nasty, if bits break off the clot and get wedged in your heart or brain. They injected me with a blood thinner, that worked, I got out of hospital the next day, saw a doctor, and now (because of the Leiden factor V) I'm permanently on blood thinner (warfarin, also used as a rat poison). It's not a big deal, I take a couple of small pills each day, and go to the hospital every few months where they prick my thumb, put the blood in a machine that measures the viscosity, and tell me to stay on the same dose and come back in three months for another test.

But the DVT caused a permanent problem in my leg. Running down the main veins, are non-return valves. That's so that the pressure at the ankle isn't a column of blood six feet high. The DVT messed up those valves, so now they don't do anything. This means that down at my ankle, the veins are under more pressure than they should be. That doesn't cause an obvious problem, but a vein doctor explained that in the long run, it could cause a problem, giving me an ulcer on my ankle. And the solution to that is prevention. Prevention means compression socks.

He recommended a baloney sock, at least that what I thought he said. What he actually said was "below knee sock". And the nurse there fitted me for one, and showed me how to put it on; it's a bit like putting on a sock, but it's a bit tighter than a sock would be. So, for nearly 20 years now, I've been wearing a baloney compression sock, and so far, that's not been a problem.

Of course, they wear out, and occasionally I have to buy new ones. So a few weeks ago, I bought, on Ebay, a pair of Sigvarnis baloney socks. I only need one, but they sell them in pairs; fortunately, they don't have parity, so I can wear either of them on my left leg.

And today, I got an email. "Compression socks sale."

I've been planning to buy more. I bought one pair to see if the American Sigvarnis ones were OK for size and fit (they are) and comfort (it is), and I was planning to buy more imminently. Offering me a 15% additional discount brought forward my purchase from some time next week, to today. So they're happy (they'll never know I'd have happily paid 15% more), and I'm happy (15% discount, free p&p).

And then I thought, ladysolly has also been converted to compression; tights in her case. So we looked at what she was about to buy (Sigvarnis, £90 per pair, a UK web site) and I showed her the same thing (Sigvarnis, £34 per pair, after discount, US web site), and so drugsupplystore have made a sale that they wouldn't otherwise have made.

Friday 4 April 2014

The fourth and final bite at the Cambridge Cachathon

Now that bike.1 is working again, it's time to polish off the Cambridge Cachathon.

I parked at a likely looking spot, and tried to find the cache that was a few yards away. After quite a long time, I decided that this was a DNF. So then I loaded up the bike with three batteries, and set off. Only three, because I was planning to get back to the car at lunchtime.

The morning's caching went well, then I sat in the car and had my sandwich and some coffee. I popped along the footpath to dispose of some of the coffee, and on my way back to the car, I spotted the cache that had eluded me before; I wasn't actually looking for it! How did I miss that?

In the afternoon, I did the rest of the Cachathon caches, then I relocated and did a short series that took me to Oliver Cromwell's Hole, then relocated again, and did some bike-by caches around Little Gransdon

This notice was on the route - how many mistakes can you see?

73 caches done today. So - now I've done all the caches in the Cacheathon, plus several that were near to it, and my cache total is now over 36,000.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Bike.5 is complete

Well, almost. I haven't put on the handlebar grips, they're on order.  I added the handlebar voltmeter/ammeter, and a speedometer.

I took it out for a test run. It felt a bit slow, sluggish. The ammeter on the handlebars revealed why; the controller is limiting the motor to ten amps. I have a controller on order that should allow more than twice that, which should add some pep to it.

Even so. The eight gears are excellent, and gear-changing is easy. I got up to 25 kph going up the slight hill in Doggetts Wood Lane, and 30 kph going down. I'd be happy with that speed, but I do want a bit more torque so that going along soggy ground with a bit of uphill, isn't such a slog.

I weighed the bike, including all the bits attached, but without batteries, and I got 42.5 pounds. That compares very favourably with bike.1 (my main mount right now) which is 58 pounds. When lifting over an obstacle, those 16 extra pounds feels like a lot.

The rear carrier easily takes my two largest saddlebags, and I've wired it up with an 8-wire ethernet cable; four wires are for the ammeter/voltmeter, and another two will carry a general-purpose five volt supply from the saddlebags to the handlebars, to power the PDA. And the last two wires will run from the horn button on the handlebars, to where the horn actually sites, which I'm thinking will be under the saddle. So when I sound the horn, people will think that I have a very fine fart.

And here's a picture of my new toolbag

Tomorrow I'm going up to Cambridgeshire again, for my fourth (and probably last) bite of the Cambridge Cacheathon. Other people have done this over-200 cache series in one day, but I can't walk (or bike) that far. It isn't my feet or my thighs that give out, it's my back. I don't know why this is, and I don't think I've got a "bad back", because after a couple of days rest it's OK.

Bank error in my favour

I got a letter from the people who do my credit card acceptance (my bank), entitled "IMPORANT: ACTION REQUIRED". Further down the letter it said "Important - act now".

It seemed to be telling me that I have to change my credit card proceessing software. And that's after having to change it not many months ago because they changed things at their end, and decided not to make a tranparent converter from the old format to the new, so instead of the bank making a converter, all their customers had to.

So, I phoned up to find out exactly what I'd have to do, and at the same time I complained about having to make yet another change to my software. Because the person I spoke to seemed to think that I was unaffected by the new stuff, and shouldn't have got the letter.

The lady I spoke to at the complaints department, was unaware of all this, and I had to help her get hold of a copy of the letter that had been sent out. Today, she got back to me.

She confirmed that I am indeed unaffected by these changes. She thought that someone in the bank had hit a panic button and sent out an unnecessary letter to a lot of their customers, and she was expecting a very busy time in the days to come, responding to all the complaints. I also got the impression that the person who sent the letter had been given a very large telling-off. A rocket. On the carpet. He's a very naughty boy.

I'll be getting a letter confirming all this soon, and then she told me that, because I've been given this unnecessary time-wasting, they're going to give me £50! Bank error in my favour!

Bike 5

Bike 1 has now had the useless headlights and horn removed, and the ignition permanently on. I tested it today, and it works fine. I don't need a horn, I have a bell, and I don't need headlights that don't shine a beam, I use a head torch for that. And when I'm not using the bike, there's no battery on it, so I don't need an ignition switch.

And then I turned my attention to what will be bike.5

This started life as a birthday present, several years ago, when I realised that geocaching needed a bike. It's a 20 inch wheel folder, with an 8-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox in the rear hub. It cost £180 delivered, I rode it quite a lot, but then I moved on to electric bikes. It's been sitting quietly in my shed for several years.

So today, I got it out. First I checked the front forks, and they're steel which is great for putting the motor in. The motor is a 250 watt from a Synergie electric bike; unfortunately, the frame broke one day as I was sitting on it, stationary, outside Tesco. The frame can't be fixed, but all the other parts of the bike are recyclable, and now I'm recycling the motor.

First I put in the motor wheel and checked the tires. The front inner tube was flat, and pumping it up didn't help. When I had a look at it, it had perished (as rubber does). No problem, I put in a thornproof tube, and now that's fine.

Next, I stripped all the electric bits (throttle, etc) from the old electric. Most of it, I didn't want; I'm only using the motor and the controller. I much prefer a thumb throttle, and I have a spare one I can use.

The motor was a surprise - only two wires come out of it! It isn't the  usual three-phase brushless motor, it's a brushed motor, and the controller is brushed too, of course. I removed all the old connectors (they seem to use really rubbish ones) and put on an EC5 for the power (because that's how my batteries are) and an XT60 for the motor. I connected it all up, tried the throttle, and it worked!

So, now to work. I put torque arms on the motor wheel (to counter any tendency to spin out of the forks). That's not really necessary for such a small motor in steel forks, but it adds very little weight, and if you can imaging trundling along at 20 mph down a bit of a hill, and suddenly your front wheel isnt there ... then you can see why I like torque arms. I oiled the chain, which was in a dreadful state, and I oiled anything else that looked like it deserved a squirt.

I used 14AWG wire for the motor lines; that can take 30-40 amps, a lot more than I'm going to give it. I added a bracket to carry the PDA, and then I took it out for a test run.

The bike worked, but it felt rather low power. Hmmm. Then I remembered, brushed controllers are really cheap on Ebay. The one I was using, limited current to 10 amps, but for £9.99 I bought a controller that says it limits current to 27A, so I'll probably get double the power, maybe even more. The UK law says that the motor must be rated at no more than 250 watts. It doesn't say anything about how much current you can put through it

Apart from that, it worked fine, and the 8 gears are somewhat easier to use than the more common derailleurs. My first ever bike, nearly 50 years ago, had a Sturmey-Archer three-speed, which was great for the hills of Cambridge, and I loved it. So maybe I'm biased.

Tomorrow, I'll wire up an ammeter/voltmeter and take it out for another run. It looks like bike.5 is a goer!

The rather flimsy bag I keep my tools and suchlike in, is starting to tear, so I need a replacement. I went to Ebay, thinking "cheap ladies handbag", but it wasn't as simple as I thought. There are loads of bags on offer for 99p, but when you look at the seller's page, the 99p is for a cloth shopping bag, the actual handbags are several times the price. It's annoying; basically it's called "bait and switch", you offer something really cheap to get the buyer interested, then switch them to something a lot more expensive.

Then I had another idea. Ladysolly has so many handbags, surely she has one that she no longer wants, that is the right size for my tools (27 cm long, and I'm not boasting, that's the length of the pump). She came up with a lovely leopard-skin bag by Jaeger, with the price label still attached (never been used) of £105. I now have the most expensive toolbag in the world. Actually, she got it as a freebie with some cosmetics.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

The third ride round the Cambridge Cachathon.

Unfortunately, I had bike problems while doing this (see my previous post). But that meant that I had to do most of the work myself, instead of letting the battery work for me.  48 caches done today; I think one more day will finish off this mammoth ring.

Two big bike problems

I've been trying to get bike.4 ready for use. Bike.4 is a 20 inch folder, bought as an e-bike, but I retired it when the axle holding the pedals became much too loose.

Then, much later, I bought a replacement bottom bracket, fitted it, and so the pedal problem was solved. But it didn't have a back rack, which I now find vital.

And then I found a back rack that would fit it! So I put on a new controller (Infineon 12 FET 4110), and it worked very well. But it didn't need such a big powerful controller, so I got a 6-FET 3077, and put that on. But when I ran the bike, it was OK for the first several hundred yards, and then it started stuttering; the motor would go, stop, go, stop and so on, with a cycle time of about one second. I asked the folks at em3ev, which I got the controller, and they told me that the problem was that I was running it at 33 volts, and it needs 36, or it thinks "battery is low, I'll cut out".

What confused me, was that A) I'd set the battery cut out (LVC) to 25.6 volts, and B) the same things worked fine with the 12 FET 4110. But this controller is hardwired to an LVC of 32 volts minimum, unless I solder in a new resistor (which I plan to do, of course). Whereas the 12 FET 4110 isn't so hardwired.

Oh well, I thought, I'll give it more volts. So I gave it 50 volts (the 4-cell packs I use are 16.8 volts each, so I either use two or three of them). And it ran fine! Mighty fine! It cruised up the hill at the bottom of my road like it wasn't there.

And then disaster; a horrible grinding noise from the back. I pedalled it home, and found that the back wheel rotates freely in one direction (because of the freewheel) but is completely jammed the other way. I think the internal gears are messed up; I'll have to take it apart to see. If so, it's probably not easily fixable. I can only be glad it happened while I was testing the bike, and not out on some lonely fen in the middle of nowhere.

The second big bike problem was with bike.1, my usual ride. It was doing a stop-go sort of thing; not on a regular pattern like bike.4, but it was behaving like there was an intermittent connection somewhere. I pushed wires, I tugged wires, no joy. So I used the bike all day in that condition, which means that I did a *lot* more pedalling than I like. And then I noticed; the blue LED lights that are supposed to indicate fullness of battery, weren't working. And neither were the headlights. So I was pretty sure that the problem was up that end, not at the battery or motor. I decided not to try to fix it in the middle of a Cambridgeshire fen; these batteries pack a lot of punch, and if you do something wrong and cause a short circuit, you get burned wiring.

When I got home, I had a good look. It turned out that the connector that connects the headlight/keyswitch was loose.

The headlight is pretty poor; it's OK for ensuring that other road users see me, but it doesn't give much of a beam; I use my headtorch for that. Which means, I really don't need a headlight. There's a horn there too, but I prefer to use a bell, it's politer. And I don't need a keyswitch on the handlebar; I have a big old circuit breaker switch down by the batteries. So I've removed the whole assembly, and the bike is now in a permanent state of "ignition on". But of course, in storage, there's no battery attached.

It's annoying to think that if I had opened up the tape around that connector, I'd have seen the problem and fixed it immediately.

Still, it means I got plenty of exercise today.

And which I was out, I remembered bike.5! Bike.5 was originally a 20 inch wheel folder by "Downtube", with Sturmey Archer hub gears, which are completely different from the gears most bikes have. I added a front wheel motor to it, but I've only ever used it once. I'm going to get it out of the shed, and see what I can do with it, because I suspect that  bike.4 is history.