On Thursday it was sunny but still with fresh snow on the ground. It seemed like a good day to have a play with the action camera on the Low Burnhall Maprun Score event. It was lovely. The snow is gone now but this is how it looked (compressed into about 25 minutes). Details are available (for the time being) in the Northern Navigators website.
Best bicycle mountpoint for action camera
Lockdown, maturing technologies and dropping prices have nudged me into an unexpected new diversion: filming bike routes. I’ve always found virtual trainers and on-line cycling simulators vaguely interesting. But not that interesting. I was into Zwift for a long time, then one morning I woke up and discovered I wasn’t.
Nowadays for the time being Rouvy is my virtual cycling world. It suits me fine. Rouvy is real life video and real life routes, some user submitted and the quality can be variable. Having said that, there is a certain quirky charm in some of the amateur videos that is missing from the professionally shot official routes. I fancied giving it a go for my tri club‘s local routes. With cameras coming down in price, it was worth a punt.
There’s loads of good information out there on how to film from your bike, but I couldn’t find much on the best way to attach the camera to your frame. I’ve tried filming from under the handlebars on a quadlock mount, and that works ok but the bike movement is noticeable, especially out the saddle.
So I decided to try an experiment. I chose to film a 5km out and back run along the Broom Park railway lines just outside Durham. Rouvy allows you to create run routes too and I thought this might make a good test (even though I don’t have a treadmill).
I have two Apeman action cameras, an A77 and an A100. The A77 was an impulse buy and is a bit cranky. I lost the battery cover while trying it out in the Tweed Valley Tunnel run in 2019 and haven’t done much with it since. The battery cover loss isn’t actually such a big deal after all since a bit of old cut-to-fit credit card does a surprisingly decent job.
I’ve just bought the A100 as it was cheap, and has image stabilisation. So here was my setup:
The A77 (top) is easy to fit on the quadlock mount. Fastening a camera to the headtube of a modern frame on a gravel bike with a chunky headtube was far trickier than I expected. The diameter of the headtube is close to 60mm and most brackets or clamps are not designed for this size. I wasn’t averse to putting the big chunky clamp for my DSLR on the headtube but it was just beyond its limits and didn’t really work. So in the end I chose the universal solution: A couple of plastic cable ties and a basic bolt. Seems ok.
Results were mixed. Exasperatingly, the A100 was tilted slightly upwards, and gave a nausea-inducing view of the just-above the path. The A77 view was much cleaner. The difference was less conclusive than I thought; I was expecting the headtube mounted camera to be much more stable, but in reality I’m finding it difficult to be objective about how much difference there really is. The A100 is a fraction of the price of a GoPro so I expect some differences, although the basic spec (4K and image stabilisation) is what I’m really interested in.
The main question I have about the A100 at the moment is what FOV to choose: Narrow, Medium or Wide. What’s best for a Rouvy film? I suspect Wide but I need to do a few tests to compare the differences. Annoyingly, the A100 seems to forget changes to its defaults between power cycles so everytime I switch it on, I have to change the FOV to whatever I want. I don’t know if the default setting can be changed.
The video below shows my handlebar/headset comparison. I have to say I’m pretty disappointed. The uptilt on the A100 makes the comparison very difficult. The video has about 4 or 5 clips of the same section of railway path. The brake leavers on the A100 are a frequent intrusion, and I’m going to scratch my head on getting the camera further out front. Attaching a broom handle to the top tube (cable-ties!) was one thought. Always interested in others.
The Saris M2 trainer – 6 months later
Six months down the line and my slightly scary Saris M2 seems to have settled down. A query on my August 2020 post where I noted the spectacular demise of my tacx trainer tyre prompted me to have a quick recap.
I replaced my tacx trainer tyre with a Zaffiro pro trainer tyre and have now done about 800km on it.
I did another ‘turn test’ – something I hadn’t done for a while. It now takes 4 or 5 full turns to get to the click, compared to the 6 to 8 back in July 2020.
The only other observation I might make is the importance of tyre pressure. I usually have the tyre at 110-120 psi, and any underinflation tends to noticeably increased noise. Wear seems very slightly off-centre on mine but it seems to be of no consequence.
Another quiet couple of days. Good to see the wren and a thrush. A couple of female pheasants stirring up the leaves, and a magpie attacks an apple. And squirrels of course. There are always squirrels.
They both seem ok to me.
Business as usual on the trailcam
19 Nov 2020 to 01 Dec 2020
A new spot for the trailcam. I decided to see how much it would see on the bird feeders. It took a few attempts as it’s quite hard to find a decent mount point, that’s stable and doesn’t blow around in the wind. It’s been an interesting diversion but on the whole not as interesting as I thought. Focus is problematic as the camera often wants to focus on the distance as the birds are two small. Squirrels seem ok!
Another complication was noticeable if the camera was tilted up a little. I think condensation or water is more likely to cover the lens when it’s angled upwards and this messes up the picture quality.
That aside, not a lot of surprises. Nice if you like squirrels. Grey ones. The occasional magpie, woodpecker and sometimes a nice flurry of tree sparrows. But on the whole no drama.
A few quiet trailcam days
I think I’ll move it tomorrow. Nothing much of interest in its current spot: Squirrel Corner. Squirrels, magpies, a brief glimpse of a wren, more squirrels, and Mr and Mrs Pheasant.
Some posts have ‘Continue Reading …’
They shouldn’t though. I couldn’t figure it out at all. Why should posts, mostly from the older pages, suddenly start showing the Continue Reading link. Here’s an example:
There are lots of posts like this. All in the later pages. I’ve checked the theme settings and it’s fine. The next obvious thing was the blocks or raw HTML itself to see if there was some sneakily embedded tag that was causing mischief. Nope. All looks fine.
I finally found the problem. White space in the excerpt widget. Easily resolved by deleting it. But why? How has this happened? And it looks like it’s always the same amount of whitespace. In the screenshot below you can see the highlighted whitespace just before deletion.
It’s annoying, and what’s also annoying, is whether it’s going to happen again. I’m wondering whether a recent update caused this but I can’t think why it should.
By copying the whitespace and pasting it into vi, then saving and running od on it I get:
dougie@office:~$ od -c temp 0000000 \n \t \t \t \t \t \t \n 0000010
I’m not sure how meaningful that is, but if it’s accurate it looks like that, for whatever reason, lots of my posts have acquired a newline, 6 tabs, and a newline. I wonder why.
A week on the trailcam
12 to 21 Aug 2020
This new spot for the trailcam is proving to be quite interesting. Despite being just a few metres from the house and close to the feeders it’s just out of view, and it’s surprising how much wanders by that I normally miss.
Quite a lot of scraggily looking birds. I’m not sure if they’re in moult, or juvinile birds, or both. There’s also quite a lot of the greater spotted woodpecker drinking, both adult and juvenile. I think it’s the same juvenile each time. It has quite a distinctive red dot on the right-hand-side of the nape of its neck, but it’s not always easy to see, and I suspect there may be more than one juvenile around.
Hedgehogs and mice appear in the dead of night.
The water is a huge hit. Birds that I don’t often associate with drinking from the ground level seem quite content to spend a bit of time there. Chaffinches, robins, blue tits, lots of long-tailed tits, and I’m pretty sure there’s a treecreeper that makes a brief appearance. The water depth may be a little too uncertain for them but a few of the bigger birds certainly have a dip. The greater-spotted woodpecker having a good bath at 13:10 is, I’m fairly certain, not the same juvenile that appears earlier.
There’s often a bit of background action too on the feeders, mostly Jackdaws and woodpeckers.
the tacx tyre and the Saris M2
So there I was, plodding up some pass in the Czech republic, slogging steadily through the middle of a Rouvy server, minding my own business, when BANG! A mechanical! On a smart trainer. A blowout.
I hopped off my bike and moved to the side of the road. Fished out the tyre levers, which had conveniently appeared on a nearby workbench, and had a look at the problem.
I have my doubts about the Saris M2. I miss my Tacx Vortex. It’s a pity that it fizzed and sparkled when I tried to fix it. It’s pretty much unfixable now. It’s now a perfectly functioning not-smart trainer though. The Saris M2, with its scary clutch knob, makes me nervous. So much tyre squashing involved.
Moving to a dedicated trainer tyre was definitely a good move. It’s quieter and smoother. Not sure about the battery life though. Is it connected to the trainer? Is it a co-incidence that since changing to the Saris M2 that the cracks have begun to show in my trainer tyre?
On the surface of things I certainly seemed to have a smoking gun. But I’m a bit puzzled. Admittedly the tyre is not looking its best, but I was surprised it had resulted in such a rowdy blowout. I decided that it was just a fluke, and the tyre had a bit of life in it yet.
I wasn’t wrong. There was some life yet. Another 12 minutes to be precise. Then there was another loud bang, not dissimilar to the first one. Luckily I had another nearly new tacx trainer tyre, I just had to find it. I was nearly at the top of the pass too. Annoying.
The new tyre is on, and today I managed to complete the ride without a mechanical. But I’m really, really not sure about the Saris M2. Surely a tyre was never designed to be quite so squashy …