Posts Tagged ‘Stanwell Moor’

Cycling and health

Friday, July 31st, 2020
M3 from Sheep Walk, Shepperton

Every weekday for the past few months I’ve been having breakfast, washing and then getting on my bike for some exercise, riding around ten miles. I take a camera with me and sometimes stop a few times to take pictures which does slow me down a little. I don’t have Lycra and the roads around here are in pretty poor condition, and I sometimes ride on some rough paths, so my progress isn’t that fast, and the rides generally take me 40-50 minutes – an overall speed of 15-12 mph. The pictures here were taken on my rides in the first week of July.

At the start I of these rides was very short of breath, and thankful that this part of South-West Middlesex is extremely flat – one reason for siting Heathrow here. Even now, 4 months after I was ill in March, hills are still a problem if I ride across the river into neighbouring Surrey, though I’m now having to stop and rest fewer times on the way up. But I can now ride up the slopes to cross the motorways or railways without much difficulty.

Cottage, Moor Lane, Yeoveney

At the start the empty roads (apart from the many potholes and cracks) were bliss, but I arrived home exhausted. Now traffic even on the relatively quiet roads I mainly ride is something of a pain but I’ve got fitter and while I’m a little tired when I get home I’m not on my last legs. Cycling has definitely improved my fitness, but I haven’t lost a single pound.

So while I’m pleased that the government is encouraging cycling, and I’m sure it will improve people’s fitness I don’t know that it will actually do much to reduce obesity. Nor am I sure that they are going about getting more people on their bikes in the right way with gimmicks like the repair vouchers and prescriptions. They need to divert much more of the money going into roads into making roads safer so more people feel able to ride on them. As well as providing separate cycle paths where possible this also needs special attention to the edges of roads, the roughly 2m in which cyclists normally ride and which currently are usually in even worse condition than the rest of the roads.

River Thames, Shepperton

It also needs the kind of changes currently being proposed to the Highway Code, which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable on our roads, pedestrians, then cyclists and then the various other categories of road users. You can contribute to the consultation on this until 11.59pm on 27th October 2020.

I don’t think cycling has a great deal to offer in combating obesity. Cycling is such an efficient process that it uses relatively little energy, and isn’t a very good way to lose weight. Jogging would be better though I find it far too boring.

Lord Knyvett’s Schoolhouse, Stanwell

Obesity is now of course not to do with actually being obese but defined by the WHO for adults as having a BMI of 30 or greater. BMI is a useful but very crude measure, which only takes body mass and height into consideration.

I think I am as fit or fitter than my wife, but in terms of BMI I come out slightly overweight and she appears slightly underweight, a difference of around 9 or 10 in BMI. We eat more or less the same diet and roughly similar quantities. I think the difference in BMI is at least partly if not largely accounted for by the width of our frames. This is reflected in the width across the shoulders – mine being roughly 1.3 times wider., much greater than the 1.09 difference in our heights.

River Colne, Stanwell Moor

The BMI formula, BMI = weight(kg)/height(m)^2 seemed conceptually wrong to the Belgian scientist Quetelet, who first put it forward around 1840, as mass is essentially a three-dimensional property, and so we might expect it to correspond to the third power of height, but that doesn’t give sensible results. The square was adopted for fully grown adults and in order to give roughly acceptable results for the population as a whole, but Quetelet actually pointed out it should not be applied to individuals.

Seven years ago Professor L N Trefethen FRS, Professor of Numerical Analysis, University of Oxford, proposed a revised BMI to make a “better approximation to the actual sizes and shapes of healthy bodies” and it does cut down the difference between Linda and me slightly, bringing her just into the normal range. The differences it makes are rather small, but given the blind reliance we sometimes see on BMI important. Trefethen suggested using instead of the square the power 2.5 of height and points out that Quetelet had found that “during development the squares of the weight at different ages are as the fifth powers of the height” while suggesting the use of the square for fully grown adults. At the time it was certainly much easier to calculate a square, though now calculators and computers make fractional powers easy to use.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow

It probably doesn’t matter if we regard BMI as a very rough measure, but does when it comes to setting out charts and and applying them to individuals. If your BMI is 26, you may actually be normal, while if it is 25 you could be overweight whatever the chart says, but it would be too inconvenient to give, for example, a BMI of 26 +/- 3 which would probably be rather more accurate a reflection. It would be more useful for individuals if we could find a more sophisticated formula that gave a clearer indication.

There is of course another equally simplistic but probably more reliable measure that can be applied to individuals to determine obesity. It’s called a tape measure. If you are a man with a waist of over 40 inches (102cm) then you are almost certainly obese.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Slowing Down

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
The Old Town Hall, Staines – given away and now being converted to flats

Tuesday

Two lycra-clad cyclists were chatting nonchalantly as they came up beside me on the road coming into Laleham this morning and I heard them for a few seconds until they swept apparently effortlessly past me. Perhaps I sped up just a little, though I was already going as fast as I could comfortably, and I was just a little discomforted as I saw them take the same route as I was intending to travel, down Ferry Lane and Thames Side, though they were only perhaps 50 yards ahead as I made the right turn behind them.

They weren’t actually going a great deal faster than me, and they were still in sight by the time we reached Chertsey Lock, over a mile and a half after they had passed me, perhaps just 300 yards ahead, but it was their apparent ease that upset me a little, as I was more or less at full stretch.

I lost them then, as they went right and I went left, continuing to push myself on my morning 10 mile exercise ride. It was a warm morning with little wind, ideal for cycling, and as I made my way through Littleton and Charlton, glances at my watch confirmed that I had a good chance of meeting my target time for the ride of 40 minutes. It was after all only 15 miles per hour.

It was when I came to the busy A308 Staines Road West that things really began to go pear-shaped. Rather than ride along the road I decided to take the safer shared foot and cycle path on its north side. It starts along pavements, with a few nuisance side-roads which crazily have right of way and then becomes a fairly narrow path with a surface disrupted by tree roots. I had to slow down, changing down two gears, and even then it was heavy and uncomfortable going. Then came a combination of bumps and a large jolt shook my pannier off its rack and I had to stop to fix it back on.

I stopped and found I was pretty well exhausted. What should have been a simple job of lifting the pannier back on eluded me, it slipping out of my hands. After around a minute of struggling I thought I had it fixed and rode off – but when I got home found I had only got one of the two supports on the rack. I struggled on, but when my target time came still had a little over a mile to ride.

I was deflated and could hardly bring myself to go on. That last mile or so was hard going although I took it at around half my normal pace, finishing the ride in 49 minutes. When I got home I collapsed into an armchair and could do little for the next half hour or so. Twelve hours later I’m still feeling tired from the ride.

I don’t intend to give up the rides but I think I have to become rather more realistic about my capabilities. Back in the day I’d reckon on three minutes per mile, but roads were smoother then and I was younger and fitter and on a lighter and faster bike, with lightweight alloy wheels and tubular tires – and around three stone less of rider to carry. Those two riders who passed me were probably each 50 years younger than me – and probably hadn’t had a heart attack and weren’t insulin dependent.

So tomorrow when I take the bike out for another ten, I’ll be happy to get home in around an hour – perhaps a little longer if I stop off a few times to take pictures – and leave targets to the young and fit.

Wraysbury River

Wednesday

Today it was three or four degrees cooler as I left home around 9am for one of the easier and possibly slightly shorter 10 mile rides on my list of nine routes. I made a point of stopping a number of times to take a few photographs to illustrate this post.

Wraysbury River and M25

This was a largely traffic-free route – a back road to nowhere, a bridleway, a minor road, a wide shared path beside a road, with just a short section at each end close to home through normal suburban traffic. But what really makes it an easy ride is the road surfaces. Non-cyclists just don’t realise what a difference this makes. Our road network was largely built for cyclists and back in my youth we had road-rollers (and even the occasional steam roller among them) which smoothed the road when it was relaid. Whoever decided to do away with these and just chuck on tar and gravel and let the traffic bed it down was certainly not a cyclist. These rough road surfaces just mean a little more road noise for drivers, but need noticeably more effort to cycle on – and along with the extra potholes and road waves tire our wrists and keep our eyes looking down at the road rather than enjoying the view.

Wraysbury River

After yesterday’s ride I took things easy, not pushing things but going at a comfortable rate. On the long roadside shared path down from Stanwell Moor between the reservoirs, now gloriously smooth, I couldn’t resist, changed up a gear and really flew, but otherwise took it easy.

Mill, River Colne, Stanwell Moor

There were just a few drops of rain as I approached home. I’d done my daily exercise and was sweating a bit, but wasn’t exhausted. The ten miles are fairly nominal, and this one may be a little shorter than yesterday, but despite being much more relaxed and making several short stops I’d taken three minutes less.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Another cycling problem

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

My cycling for exercise continues, but not entirely without incident. I had a day off from exercise on Saturday, when the furthest I went was to walk to the bottom of our garden, perhaps around 30 yards. I got more exercise from the twenty or thirty times a day I walk up and down the stairs, though its only 13 steps.

Staines Reservoir South

Sunday I did get on a bike, for a leisurely ride with Linda, mainly along cycle paths and bridleways. We locked our bikes at the bottom of a footpath that leads up the side of one of the Staines Reservoirs to the path between them. It’s apparently a top bird-watching site, but all we’ve ever seen there is the occasional duck and gull. There was a small bird sitting on a post too far away to identify but possibly a pied wagtail, common around here.

Spot the bird – possibly a duck

We cycled on and took a path to Stanwell Moor, returning to Staines along the bridleway which leads down beside the King George VI reservoir, rather bumpy for cycling but usually deserted, though for some reason we met several largish family groups walking back from Staines Moor. People do go there to paddle in the River Colne in hot weather.

Wraysbury River and M25

Monday I again went to Stanwell Moor, but taking the rather better bridleway beside the M25. It gets a little narrow after a small Thames Water site beside the Wraysbury River, and I put on a face mask for this and the next section where its seldom possible to keep proper distancing when passing others – though there were very few I passed going in either direction. It’s difficult to know why the river is called the Wraysbury River (or Wyrardisbury River) as it doesn’t go to Wraysbury; a stream from it does flow to join the Colne Brook which does – or why locals have always called it the Wraysbury River rather then the River Wraysbury – which Google maps confounds by changing between the two at the Staines By-pass, but the many streams of the lower Colne are altogether something of a mystery.) I made a short diversion at Leylands Lane walking along a narrow footpath that leads to a weir on one of the at least 3 streams of the River Colne here, then retracing my steps to Horton Road to go past the former mill on the main stream there before continuing on to Stanwell Moor Road to return to Staines along the now resurfaced cycle path. What used to be an often painful ride with concrete blocks not quite meeting every few yards jolting the buttocks is now smooth tarmac and a pleasure to ride.

River Colne, Horton Road, Stanwell Moor

Tuesday I decided it was time to face a proper hill again, rather than just the odd railway and motorway bridge we have in our part of Middlesex, and made my way up Egham Hill and Middle Hill to Englefield Green. This time I changed to my smaller chainwheel before the ascent (I’ve learnt it takes a little nudge from my heel to actually get it to move), and while I didn’t find the hill easy arrived at the point I gave up last week feeling much healthier. But I was very much panting for breath, far more than normal. Though I’ve fortunately not had real breathing problems, whatever virus I’d had and still haven’t completely shaken off has clearly left me with some reduction in lung function, and I needed to take a few minutes to get my breath back before continuing on the gentle rise.

Cemetery, Englefield Green

Once at the top it was a really pleasant ride through the village, stopping briefly to take a couple of photographs at the cemetery, then again as I went downhill past Royal Holloway College, and I was really enjoying the ride along the shady undulating road towards Virginia Water when disaster struck. Finding a steeper than expected short section of road I pulled rather enthusiastically back on my gear lever to change down, and shuddered to a halt with a loud grating sound. There is a stop on the rear dérailleur which should have prevented the chain going too far, but somehow it had jumped over the largest sprocket into a narrow gap between that and the spokes and was jammed solid.

Great Fosters

I pulled the bike to the side of the road and found an old glove I carry for dealing with chains, and tried to pull the chain out. It wouldn’t budge. I pulled and pulled – nothing. After several minutes I carried the bike across the road to where there was a pavement and continued. I was feeling pretty desperate; not only could I not ride the bike in this state, but I couldn’t even wheel it – I would have to carry it to move it. I tried harder, now using both hands and not caring about getting oil on me, and took the chain off the chainwheel so there was more to get a handle on. I could now try from both ends of the jam. Finally I got one link out, pushing it away from the wheel as well as pulling, and was encouraged. I thought I could help it a little by turning the wheel, and kept on. Eventually another link came free. I tried harder from the other end of the jam and got another link free, but it was still stuck almost a third of the way round inside the sprocket. I kept trying and finally several links from the other end came free, but there were still two or three firmly stuck. They had to shift I thought, and used all of my weight to jerk the chain out and finally it yielded. It had taken me 20 minutes to free it.

I carefully rerouted the chain to its correct position and set off, taking things easily in case there was any more damage, but it seems to be OK and I got home without any problems though half an hour later than planned – and needing to wash myself and my trousers to get the oil off. I checked the gear setting carefully before my next ride.

Fortunately, Wednesday’s ride was uneventful.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.