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The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Velopark Stratford Mountain Biking Review

This weekend a couple of freinds and me made a return to the Velopark mountain bike trails at the Olympic park. We went about a month ago and loved it so we decided to go back.

After that i wrote a short review on my other site, but now i have been twice and explored a bit more i wanted to give a more detailed review. Hopefully this will be helpful to other riders who are looking to go for the first time.

Getting there, paying, rental equipment.

The velopark is in stratford which is about 10 miles from where i live. The first time we went by train and took our own bikes, but this weekend the trains where cancelled for improvement works so we drove and hired bikes for the day.

Once you get there you go to the reception area and pay the £5 fee to ride. We also paid £12 to rent equipment (but more on that later).

Once we where paid up and disclaimers where signed we went to the equipment hire stall and picked up out rental bikes.

The staff ran through a quick setup with us and then left us too it. Just as we left we made sure to put the car registration numbers into the terminal so we didnt get charged for parking!

The trails.

After we got our kit we ventured out to the trails themselves.

We followed the path down and under a bridge and then the path stops and the trails begin.

All the trails are man made little ribbons of gravel. They vary between blue (easy), red (intermediate) and black (advanced).

The blue trails are the simplest and fastest. We normally warm up on the blue trail which leads off too the left from the bridge and takes us around the back of the velopark. Its got a few berms and jumps but is very mellow.

Most of the trails flow well at the velopark, but from time to time they take sudden turns due to the space limits.

The gravel surfaces don’t offer much grip. It’s easy to wash out into a corner if you push too hard. When the speeds get higher the bike is pretty much always sliding around under you. It certainly keeps things interesting!

The red routes are more complex than the blue roots. Tougher climbs, sharper corners and bigger jumps.

Much like the blue trails they flow very well for a while then tend to include sudden turns with big rocks on the outside. Compared to a more natural riding spot the sudden turns are annoying as they break the flow, but given the space they had they are good enough.

The red routes start to also incorporate the super bumper concrete slab based “technical” parts. In many ways these sections resemble a really badly laid path.

The red routes are certainly fun. Once you know the route they take you can start to pick up lots of speed.

If your looking for something more demanding, then there are a few black parts.

The black parts take the paving slab based technical parts of the red trails and make them more extreme.

I have mountain biked lots in the past so i have ridden most of the black trails. Generally speaking taking them at speed and carefully picking a line is enough to clear them without much issue.

I enjoy the black parts, they keep it interesting, but they dont really add a huge amount to the bike park. Getting into the black stuff often involves sudden sharp bends so it’s often more fun to just ride the red parts quicker.

The one black part i really enjoyed is the long black decent. It runs beside the road from the top. Getting into the black part is a horrible sharp rocky climb, but once into that section it flows really well.

The hire bikes.

Today we hired bikes instead of using our own. It was good to compare how the bikes faired.

The hire bikes are Whyte 605 models in bright green. They are fun and competent if not spectacular. They roll well and are setup to cover distances.

Like most XC focused bikes they have long stems and bring the rider forward over the front wheel. It’s not too extreme, but it does make the bikes harder to handle over jumps. The bikes don’t have the “planted” secure feeling of my Marin with its longer fork and more relaxed geometry.

You can ride everything on the rental bikes. I made it down every black trail i tried on them, however it’s pushing the bikes hard and things like the fork become overwhelmed. The black trails are possible, but you need to pick lines very carefully.

The rental bikes make sense for the park. They cover most of what people will do.

The rental bikes are also really cheap. At £12 for the day they do a good enough job to be a viable option if getting my own bike to the park is going to be difficult.

Final thoughts.

All in i had a really fun morning. We spent about 3 hours at the park mostly lapping the red trails with the odd run on the blue.

For the £5 entry fee the park is great value. It gives a great taster for mountain biking while still being affordable and easy to get too.

I am looking forward to going back in a few weeks time. I will probably take my own bike, but i wont be too upset if i cant.

Published: 27 August 2017 | Categories: Permalink

WWDC 2017 Wishlist.

It’s the night before WWDC so it’s time to make a little wishlist. Who knows what Apple will announce, but here are a few of the things i would love to see.

New MacBooks.

I’m not in the Market for a MacBook right now, but it would still be good to see refreshed MacBooks with Intel’s Latest Kaby Lake CPU’s. In recent years Apple has been slow updating the Mac line so two updates in 6 months would be a strong return to form.

I would be super interested in an ARM MacBook or a Mac mini update (in any way!), however both are unlikely. Here’s hoping!

New iPad Pro 10.5”

I really like my work iPad. So much i brought one of my own! Like with the Macs i’m not in the market myself but seeing updates is good. I am curious how apple sells the 10.5” size. Will it replace or augment the 9.7 and 12 inch models? Will be interesting to find out.

h3 Other stuff.

Updates to watchOS and tvOS would be nice but i dont have many specific wishes. For watchOS the ability to sync podcasts and audiobooks would be nice, but i suspect we’re a hardware generation or two before Apple makes that happen. If only because the sync is so slow it makes for a terrible user experience.

tvOS isn’t of any interest to me. I don’t need another box in my lounge for a TV i hardly watch.

Final thoughs.

I hope WWDC has some suprises. It’s been quiet on the rumors so hopefully theres something entirely unexpected on the way. I look forward to finding out.

Published: 4 June 2017 | Categories: Permalink

Things to bear in mind when someone sketchnotes your talk.

Things to bear in mind when someone sketchnotes your talk.

Short version:

If your a public speaker ensure your presentation has a license if you wish for the content to remain open in dirivative works like sketchnotes. Otherwise someone may make a sketchnote of your talk and then lock it into copyright or even start selling it.

Long story:

I do quite a lot of public speaking and i don’t charge a fee. I do presentations for free and share my work in the belief that it benefits others. I operate on the basis of sharing being a good thing. I never expected to need to legally protect my content, but oddly i do have to protect it with a license in order to keep it free.

Protecting my content is not about locking it in copyright. Quite the opposite. It’s about ensuring no one else locks it in copyright.

In a nutshell this is part of the problem with sketchnoters. Unless you are explcit about the rules (aka the license) of your presentation, they can do pretty much what they like with the content. Depending on your views on sharing, this may be very much against what you wish.

The vast majority of sketchnoters attending a free event would not attempt to create a derivative work (eg, capture your content) then lock it in copyright and agressively defend it. However, some will and for me that ended in a freindship collapsing.

It was my fault, i assumed that someone else understood the rules i was sharing my content under. I didn’t have an explicit license in place.

These days my talks are presented under the Creative Commons Atribution and Share Alike license. This means if you share the content you have to give credit, and if you create a derivative you have to share it under the same license. This ensure the content remains free and avaliable.

If someone does not wish to follow the license, they can refrain from creating sketchnotes. That is their choice.

Licensing isn’t fun, however it’s better to be clear upfront so that everyone knows where they stand. I lost a valued freindship over this stuff and hopefully by warning others to check that won’t happen to someone else.

The way i approach this is that all of my presentations mention the license and if someone offers to sketchnote i will ask them about what then intend to do with it before giving them permission.

It’s sort of ironic. There’s more effort require to protect content in the interest of keeping it free, than there is to allow it to be locked into copyright by others.

Published: 15 May 2017 | Categories: Permalink

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