Monday, September 29, 2014

Shimano SPD vs Crank Brothers Candy: First impression

I have always used Shimano M520 on my road bike (I am ignoring the disdainful look from some of you - I like the fact that clipping in is easy when commuting!) and I am curious about other multiple-entry MTB pedals, so I decided to try out Crank Brothers Candy 1, which, like the Shimano, do not cost the earth.

Disclaimer: this really is a first impression. I have ridden less than 30 miles on the new Crank Brothers pedals.

Shimano M520
Crank Brothers Candy 1
Crank Brothers Candy 1


One has to use a 8mm Allen Key, and not a pedal wrench, to install the Crank Brothers pedals. No problem!

First "click"

Alright, it took me a couple of goes to actually clip in, but that was probably more to do with my excitement than anything.

First "unclick"

Well, it is more a slide than a click! I have to say, I am surprised by how smooth the unclipping action was, while all the time, my feet felt perfectly secured when pedalling. It just feels good.

Further thoughts

  • The extra platform seems to help with power transfer when pedalling, though it may just be a psychological thing. There are plenty of people online comparing the Eggbeater (basically Candy without the platforms) with the Candy, and concluding that there is little difference between the two, as long as you have reasonably stiff-soled cycling shoes (I have Shimano M087).
  • Likewise, a lot of people comment on the extra "float", i.e. how much you can rotate your foot before the pedal unclips, which I can definitely feel. Not sure how much it actually helps with saving the old knees. I guess I will probably find out after a longish ride.

I will provide another update once I have actually been on longer rides. I hope I will grow to like these pedals!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wainwright 214 Fells Data Visualisation

We are off to the Lakes soon (pretty excited!), and I thought, since I have always wanted to do a data visualisation project, why not play around with Wainwright 214 Fells data a bit, and see what I can come up with.

So I started off looking for the following:
  • data source
  • a data visualization library
    • I went straight went for D3.js after reading a bit about its declarative approach and its rich animation support. Though as it turns out, I could have done my project using jQuery just as easily, but learning and using D3.js had been fun!
  • a bit of inspiration (as I am not at all a designer!)
  • and after I decided to include a map, a better map than Google Map
    • Google Map is great but does lack details for outdoors mapping. I guess they have not employed Google walkers yet!
    • Comes the power of crowdsourcing! OpenStreetMap turns out to be excellent for the Lake District fells.
    • It is possible to show OpenStreetMap tiles using the usual Google Map v3 api, but on the OpenStreetMap wiki, I came across the Leaflet api, which is what I went with instead.

Initially, I wanted to try out some animated graphs showing the height distribution of the fells, but I soon became obsessed with the idea of displaying the fell names inside the shape of a, well, fell! Scafell Pike, standing at 3209 feet, right at the summit, and Castle Crag, at a mere 951 feet, at the base. I could not quite figure out how to flow text inside a isosceles triangle using css, but I did come across the idea of css shape-outside, and this excellent polyfill from the Adobe web team. So I decided to go with a right-angled triangle instead, which I think actually works better!

This is the end result, voila:

This is how it looks on a larger screen. In order for the contents and iteration to work on a smaller mobile screen, I decided to offer a pared-down mobile responsive design:

Check it out on my site:

Incidentally, so far Sze Kiu and I have walked up:
  • Helvellyn
  • Skiddaw
  • Bowfell
  • Great Gable
  • Crinkle Crags
  • St Sunday Crag
  • Green Gable
  • Carl Side
  • Froswick
  • High Pike (Scandale)
  • Fleetwith Pike
  • Base Brown
  • Haystacks
  • Low Pike
  • Wansfell
  • Helm Crag
And we hope to go up a few more this time!

p.s. big thanks to all those OpenStreetMap contributors, js library contributors, as well as folks behind

Monday, September 15, 2014

Regent's Canal: Angel to Camden

Sze Kiu is still busy with her dissertation, so I went onto the ever resourceful IanVisits to figure out what to do on Saturday. I found this voluteer-led canal walk from Angel to Camden ( Over the years, I have walked quite a few times along both the Regent's Canal and the Grand Union Canal, but the section from Angel to Camden (and the associated history) was unfamiliar territory for me. It is also an area of new exciting development, with Central St Martins and Google establishing base north of King's Cross station.

I turned up outside Angel tube station and found Neil the guide waiting in his hi-viz. Soon, others started showing up, and we ended up with a group of about 10. I have to say, much to my surprise, I was by far the youngest person in the group (At 33, I am not even that young!)

It suffices to say that I was extremely impressed by Neil's knowledge and also his delivery, and I would absolutely recommend this walk to anyone who has the slightest bit of interest in canals and the history of London. Neil is running this walk on a trial-basis at the moment, and there is one remaining date in October this year. Refer the Canal River Trust webpage for date and details.

Here are ten interesting things I learnt about the Regent's Canal from the 2-hour walk:

1) Boris Johnson

Apparently he lives in one of those Georgian terrace houses by the eastern entrance of the Islington Canal Tunnel (the Regent's canal runs underground through Angel). The worst-groomed man this side of Hoxton?

2) Tolpuddle Street (and Copenhagen Fields)

Perhaps rather ironically, not far from chez Boris, one would find the site where, in 1834, thousands marched in support of The Tolpuddle Martyrs, who had been sent to Australia for forming a trade union.

3) Caledonian Road

So named because there existed an orphange for Scottish children. I have always wondered.

4) The Plimsoll Line

The area along the canal north of King's Cross station used to house a number of coal yards in the 1800s. One of the owners, Samuel Plimsoll, was also a Member of Parliament. He found out that boats were sinking, and crews were getting killed, due to overloading. As a result, he invented the waterline which can still be found on vessels nowadays.

5) A lonely watertower

A Victorian Gothic water tower can be seen opposite the newly relocated Gas Holder no. 8. It is, of course, a genuine George Gilbert Scott (architect of St Pancras station) monument. It used to be part of St Pancras. It was removed brick by brick, as the station was getting converted to a Eurostar terminal, and reconstructed in its new location. More info and photos here

It now looks yearningly south towards its former home, across the huge industrial wasteland that separates the two.

6) Gas Holder no. 8

Grade II listed gas holder! A park is being created inside it.

7) Mary Tealby

One of the abandoned warehouses along the canal used to be a shelter for dozens of stray dogs, run by a lady called Mary Tealby, who went on to create the famous Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

8) A crenellated Starbucks

Near Camden Lock, the castle-looking Starbucks used to a Victorian pumphouse. The pumphouse was supposed to power the then newly-invented hydropneumatic lock, which was subsequently replaced by a more traditional lock.

9) The Ice Wharf

Next to it, you will find a Weatherspoon called The Ice Wharf. There used to be an ice well, similar to the one inside the London Canal Museum in King's Cross. Before the invention of refrigeration, this is how people would keep ice. Needless to say, ice was a luxury item back then.

10) Electricity and water

Along the towpath, you would often find yourself treading on concrete slabs with water seeping through to the surface. Underneath your feet are in fact high-voltage electric cables. Canal water is being used to keep them cool!

Thanks, Neil!