WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

January 31, 2016

Wentwood Massacre

Ride Report
Ride Date: January 30, 2016
Distance: 60.2 miles
Elevation: + 3685 / - 3686 ft
Ride Time: 07:39:45
Weather: Sun, Sun, Sun
Temperature: 7℃ / 44℉
Yesterday I rode out into beautiful sunshine with temperatures hovering around 6℃ to 7℃... an ideal day to have a trial run of the course I've outlined for my big event (read about it here...). And it was ideal for the first 22 miles. But after leaving the sleepy little village of Llantrisant I came over a slight rise then turned and headed toward the river... WOW! was I hit with a big surprise. The River Usk had flooded far beyond its banks and was about 3 feet deep across the road as far as I could see. It was like a massive lake stretching all the way to Newbridge on Usk.

Now I've been cycling this route regularly for four years and I've never seen the Usk flood to this extent. This section of the route is commonly called "the Straight Mile" by locals and is completely flat, so it's understandable considering the amount of rain we've had over the past several months. But geez! I was completely caught off guard... as were several other cyclists and motorists.

Elevation of "proposed" route...

So after a bit of debate, a couple of us decided to head back as we came and turn east to follow NCN 42 up over Wentwood Forest. At the time, I thought this a reasonable alternative. I knew there was a significant hill to climb, but had I known then what I know now... I would not call the hill I climbed "significant". It was massive. It was brutal. It was gorgeous and I thought my lungs were going to come out of my mouth.

Elevation of "Wentwood Massacre".

Looking at these two elevations, the top one actually appears more varied and "hilly". But this is one of the problems with most all cycle routing programs; they use the same "image" height for the graphic regardless of its scale. So to fully understand the difference I need to show you the two imposed over each other with correct scaling. Here ya go.

Elevations merged and scaled.

That's a bit clearer depiction of the differences in the routes over five miles. The route I had planned is rather undulating to cycle, whilst the Wentwood route was simply a long-ass climb. Of course too, now I realize that the horizontal (x-axis) scale is out of whack with the vertical (y-axis) so I should really replot them both again. But for now here is the entire route as I finished out yesterday. Note: the spike along about 22 miles!

Click here to view an enlarged map. ]

So that's it for now. A big day to close out the month. I set a five year record for the month of January with a total of 520 miles. You can check out the monthly details here. Cheers ~ muse

Links of Interest

January 26, 2016

Countdown Time...

It's not just a crazy idea any longer... in order to get the press release out yesterday, I needed to launch my Just Giving page and now it's LIVE.

>> Here's the Press Release

>> Here's the Just Giving Page

And of course, I've built a few pages to explain my efforts.

>> Here's the Event Overview

Show Your Support
Next, I need to promote this event... Facebook, Twitter (no idea???), AND this is where you can help. All you need to do is share my post. Tweet my event to your friends. Help me by spreading the word about my event. Of course you can just:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

>> View the route I'll be cycling here: 55 for 55 Route Map

>> View the calendar of days and miles here: 55 for 55 Calendar

Thank you ~ Curtis Fields

January 10, 2016

Volunteering - 2015

Just to review my previous post, I indicated that my rides for 2015 were divided into three primary types. Today I'm going to drill down into the third dataset by reporting on the details of my volunteering efforts for Sustrans.

Pulling the numbers together...
As you can see above, 36% of my rides during 2015 were in fact made for Sustrans. Let's take a quick look at the basic numbers:
  • Total Number of Events = 12
  • Total Number of Days Worked = 39
  • Total Number of Hours Worked = 104 hours (and) 30 mins.
In order to have these basic numbers, I kept a series of detailed spreadsheets (of course!). So to start with; here's a summary of 2015 Sustrans Events dataset.

If you look closely at the above totals, you can see a couple of additional amounts:
  • Total Number of Hours Cycled = 213 hours (and) 47 mins.
  • Total Number of Miles Cycled = 1,639.2

Breaking out the details...
Next I've taken the information from the Sustrans Events Summary table and created two interactive charts to better display the details for each event. Mouseover a horizontal bar to view the specific details.

and of course there's more!
Each Sustrans event was logged into it's own specific sheet within Googlesheets. This allowed me to produce the datasets shown above. So if you want to see the details along with the full dataset, I got ya covered. Click below to visit:

And one more table that needs be somewhere... I ventured out with Tony Moon on numerous rides under the premise of further developing the Rhymney Trail. I also worked with Dean Piper to hold a Halloween/Alexander Cordell Heritage Event... so here are the details of those rides:

I hope this answers all those lingering and pesky questions which have been keeping you awake at night! HA! Now it's time to work on some photos. I've had enough of spreadsheets and charts! Thanks for stopping by...

Cheers! ~ muse

Note: I am an unpaid volunteer for Sustrans. When using the word "work" within this website (blog), in no way do I mean to imply that I have been paid for my services.

January 05, 2016

First of the Year Inventory

I've had enough with my spreadsheets. Urgh! I'm now going to simplify the data into smaller, more digestible chunks which hopefully will make the content a bit easier to grasp as well as present it in a more user-friendly format.

Beginning with my most basic info, I've created the bar chart below. And it's interactive! Mouse-over the bars to display the specific numbers relative to the month. (You can see the same info in a typical boring table on the right side panel.)

Okay... that's cool. Let's move onto my next data set. Again, this is very simple - but simple gets the message across. Over the course of the year, I divided my cycling into three distinct types. If you mouse-over a section of the pie chart you should see the specific number of rides for that type.

2015 Total Rides = 168

Now that I've got these three distinctions, I can start drilling down into each of those data sets. I'm going to begin with the largest section; "Going the Distance" because this is my primary cycling habit and the most simple to break down.

Going the Distance
This part of my overall riding is just the solo stuff. Me and my bike out for the day. It was an exceptional year because I pushed myself to make more long rides. So here we have the subsets of my solo rides divided into three sub-categories of distance. (It's interactive too btw...)

Total "Going the Distance" Rides = 75

Looking at this is great, BUT... and this is important; I haven't included ALL of my long distance rides... I rode many more metric centuries with the Kingfishers. So that will be my next dataset to work with.

The Kingfishers
Typically I ride with these fellas every Tuesday. It's a very casual affair where the main goal is to just enjoy the countryside on a bicycle. The rides average between 50 to 100 miles depending on the time of year, the weather, or how we feel. It's all very laid back with no other agenda than to cycle all day long. We're in no hurry and we never worry about our speed. It's awesome.
Total "Kingfishers" Rides = 32

Okay! That looks more like what I remember. Now I need to combine this data with the Going the Distance subset for what will be essentially everything EXCEPT the rides I made for Sustrans.

"Going the Distance" and "The Kingfishers" Combined
Now I've combined the mileages based upon the three previous criteria; Less than metric century, Metric century or more, and More than 100 miles.

Total Combined Rides = 107

What I find interesting is that this shows how the longer distance rides, though fewer in number... made a significant contribution in my overall total mileage.

Okay, that's all for now. I'm still laid up in bed sick, so I'm taking advantage of the down time to play with Google Sheets. I hope you've gotten something from all this nonsense?!?! Next I'll be working on the Sustrans datasets so check back soon.

Cheers! ~ muse

January 03, 2016

What the Numbers Mean

If you've taken any time to look at some of my unending pages of numbers in rectangles which I cram into this blog, you've most probably come away with little practical information of which you can actually wrap your head around. That's the problem with spreadsheets; they get a bit overwhelming and dull. So I'm gonna try to put some things in plain english for ya. Liven up the party, so to speak.

Huge Year
2015 was a great year for me and my bicycle. Both my overall mileage AND the number of days I spent pedaling along in the saddle increased significantly. I rode:

That's 852 more miles and 10 more days than the numbers I posted for 2014. Now we have some interesting math to consider. Those figures average:

Next it gets really interesting because I track my elevation. That is, I record all the ascents for every ride. PLUS, I track the number of hours I ride. I climbed and rode:
  • 379,066 feet
  • 947 hours and 17 minutes

Let's have some fun with those last numbers! This is the scale all those sexy smartphone tracking apps use...
  • I climbed Mount Everest 13 times!
  • I rode 39 days straight!

Crazy, huh? Take a moment to look over those figures again before we move on and realize those numbers are just for this year; 2015. Then look at the table below.

Massive UK Effort
I didn't plan it. Honestly. I guess it's just what happens when you love to cycle. But there's no denying the fact: I have been seriously pedaling my arse over Wales for the past four years.
  • 24,887.50 miles
  • 528 days
And those numbers average out to:
  • 6,221.87 miles per year, over four years...
  • and almost a year and a half - out of four... just cycling!
But there's one number in the table above that really jumps out at me and I gotta write it in longhand. In the four years that I've been cycling in Wales, I have climbed...
  • One million, two hundred (and) sixty-four thousand (and) fifty-one feet.
Got that?
  • 1,264,051 feet!!!
WOOHOO BABY! That's the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest:
  • 44 times
That's like climbing Mount Everest:
  • 11 times each year...
  • 4 years in a row!
Put that in yer pipe and smoke it.

 Sidebar of Note: 
Six years ago, Dale Brown; owner of Cycles de Oro in Greensboro, North Carolina commented when I first told him that I was coming to Wales; "ooo... it's hilly there". And looking back, I have to laugh because I was so naive! Reviewing maps and elevations, I just didn't think that it would be so much. I mean really(?)... nothing gets much over three thousand feet here.

But, boy oh boy, was I ill-prepared for the severity of the "hills". 10% grades are pretty much the norm, while 12% - 16% grades are very common. They hardly ever use switch-backs (or zig-zags as they call them here). There's just no room. Roads come to the bottom of a hill and bang!, straight up they go. (And I should add... nothing prepares you for the wide-eyed, gripping sensation of two miles down a 20% grade on a fully-loaded touring bike.)

But enough of my digression. I'll leave you with; "it's not the mileage that matters... it's how much you climb". And that's that.

photo by: Will Rossouw

Sustrans, The Kingfishers, and "Going the Distance"
My cycling is primarily divided into three types: I volunteer for Sustrans, I ride with a small cycling club; The Kingfishers, and then I do my own thang where I just cycle wherever I feel like it. Which I'm calling: Going the Distance. [ que: Cake ]

The table above shows the basic breakouts based upon compiling three simple figures each month. If you want to see more details, check out the Charts section.

For Sustrans:
  • I rode 61 times...
  • for a total of 1639.2 miles...
  • at 224 hours (and) 25 minutes

With the Kingfishers:
  • I rode 32 times...
  • for a total of 2364.4 miles...
  • at 300 hours (and) 19 minutes

Going the Distance:
  • I rode 75 times...
  • for a total of 3198.3 miles...
  • at 384 hours (and) 43 minutes

Note: For all you math kids pulling out yer calculators to check my figures (cuz they do seem wildly extravagant...), I've got another odd 250 miles and 6 or 7 rides not accounted for here because they were not directly associated with Sustrans... however, you can find them under the "Other" tab in the Sustrans Charts section.

So there ya have it. And if ya enjoyed those numbers, hang onto yer math cap... 'cuz I'm coming back with a detailed breakout on my work and rides for Sustrans!

Cheers! ~ muse

January 01, 2016

Hello 2016!

Okay... so I'm sat here this morning, 6:00 am, 1st day of the year, sick as dog with a miserable cold. Last night we had tea and coffee in bed listening to Big Ben ring in the New Year over the radio. Woohoo :(     btw... we're starting week nine of rain.

[ perspectve: January 20, 2015 with John Wilson outside Crumlin ]

I'm not gonna winge too much about it though, it's the first of a new year and I'm pretty stoked actually. So I'd like to review the plans and goals I have for 2016... specifically what I didn't get done and/or what I'd like to improve upon.

1.) Writing for this blog! I was terrible last year with only seven entries! It is horrible and inexcusable for I had so much material that I just didn't follow through upon. (We all know this is commonly spelled P R O C R A S T I N A T I O N.) The first few pieces I wish to tackle are:
  • HOT! Create certificates for cycle training!
  • Write article on Sustrans work for 2015 (include spreadsheet data)
  • Finish parts two and three of my Kington trip.
  • Write article on bike upgrades for Gear section (with photos!)
  • Write "normal language" achievements for 2015 with goals for 2016!
  • Publish/post "55 for 55" plans

2.) Publish photos. Again, I shot loads more photos than I posted to the blog. My Google drive is packed to the point that it's going to take several days just to review them all. (urgh!)
  • Review and sort photos by month.
  • Add photos to Gallery section
  • Clean/sort/organize Google drive

3.) Publish a monthly volunteer email newsletter. This should be for Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, and Torfaen Counties.
  • Discuss possibilities with Deano
  • Update email list(s)
  • Revive Facebook Group

4.) Create a "Punch List". This is pretty much what I'm working on now and should be at the top of the list, but since I tend to think things through backwards, here it sits. Plus, once I begin writing other blogs, this entry will naturally get pushed down the list. My thought is that I can create a stand-alone page with a link along the right side of this layout... Of course, it will need some investigation.

That's it for now. I've got several other ideas that I'll work into the "Punch List". If anyone reads this, Happy New Year! Drop me a note, leave a comment... any word from way out there in the Internets is appreciated.

Cheers! ~ muse