Category Archives: Reviews

Rib Recovery Ride

Stir Crazy After All These Beers

Owing to increasing, recurrent pain in my ribs following a knock at football, I’ve avoided exercise for a couple of weeks.  I’d noticed that the pain was subsiding nicely, which is good, but my energy levels were subsiding too, which is bad news.

On Friday I went out for a meal with my colleagues at San Carlo in Manchester which was beautiful (try the lobster risotto) and retuned home where I had a couple of beers to supplement the mucho vino that had accompanied the meal.  Saturday followed, which consisted of a quiet day in, a Not Poodle for lunch and Phase3 of the Magnolia Replacement Programme (downstairs bathroom painted).  I can’t stand the rain, against my window, bringing back sweet memories, so I became steadily more stir crazy as the day went on.

Saturday evening, therefore, consisted of a pasta meal at Pizza Hut with (guess what?) a beer, then a visit to the Odeon to take in Alice In Wonderland in 3D.

Movie Review, Alice In Wonderland 3D

It’s ok. Not as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but worth seeing if you like Tim Burton stuff.

Back To The Point…

By Sunday morning my lethargy was becoming a habit.  Too much food, too many alcoholic beverages, not enough fresh air.  So, we agreed that despite the day’s necessary visiting and a quick trip to Decathlon to eye up SPD shoes (nowt good going), we would get out for a brief ride to see how my ribs would hold out.


I’m chuffed to say that a few gentle miles was just what the doctor ordered.  There has been no pain whatsoever so I reckon I’m good to get a few more miles in before I get back on the treadmill to see how my lungbox responds to some slightly less gentle jigging about.

We rode on the very well appointed bike paths around the shameful white elephant that is Kingsway Business Park.  It took Rochdale 20 years to pass the idea and by the time they’d put the infrastructure into the area, a combination of loss of momentum and a crashing economy has left the place largely empty.  It’s a crying shame and I genuinely hope that business will come to the area when the economy starts to recover.  Rochdale needs the jobs and the access to the site is very good.

Wheeeeee! Like my new top from Decathlon?

Our riding Decathlon advertisement!

But for now, we managed to scoot around traffic-free bike paths savouring the quiet and the views before pootling back along the canalside home.  It was a nice reintroduction to my lovely bike after a few weeks of enforced rest.

New GPS Tracker

I downloaded a new GPS Tracker last week.  So far I’m very happy with the way it works and there’s some free PC software that can be used to compare & score rides, runs and so on by various criteria.  It’s a handy little app for my phone.  But the catch at the moment is that it uses a little text file to store the waypoints so to upload it to MapMyRides I have to go via Google Earth and save the file as a kml, which is a pain in the bum.  I don’t much like Google Earth, so I’d prefer to avoid it.  I’ll keep tinkering and see how I get on.  Anyway, here’s yesterday’s ride – it looks like it’s across fields but that’s just because the paths weren’t built when the Google plane flew over.

How To Fit the Topeak BarXTender

Regular Readers will know that minimalism isn’t my middle name. It’s Neil: after Neil Armstrong, who walked on the moon a few weeks before I was introduced to Earth in the master bedroom of a dormer bungalow.

Why Buy a Topeak BarXTender?

I was struggling to mount my phone mount a couple of weeks ago.  I blogged about it here.  As a result, Jon came up with the idea of me getting the BarXtender.  You should buy one of these (at about £15 online) if:

  • You’ve already got too much schizzle on your handlebars; or
  • Your handlbars have too much girth for your lights and mounts.

How Do I Fit The Topeak BarXTender?

The unit is a clever bit of engineering.  It’s built to fit up the biggest handlebar or headset, and can be rotated so it will fit front-facing or left/right-facing tubes.  It also has a bar that be moved around it’s axis for finer adjustment once you’ve got the unit clamped to your bike.

The clamp part of the BarXtender contains a “belt” type metal strip which is held by an allen bolt.  You just adjust the belt strip to slightly larger than the diameter of your tube, then insert the obligatory rubber strip to stop your tube being scratched and tighten the allen bolt.  The belt is drawn upwards into the clamp housing and feels nice & strong when attached.

Next, simply screw the top half of the unit onto the clamp part, then adjust the rotation of the actual bar to suit yourself.

How Does It Look?

I much prefer my cockpit now that the BarXTender’s on.  One person (mentioning no names) commented that I’m just missing a kettle on my bike now, but I think it makes the handlebars a lot tidier, and safer, than they were before.

The Finished Topeak BarXTender Job

The completed job, with Big Light and Phone GPS Mount.

What do you think?

Why Does Nobody Read My Blog?

Recently, I’ve suffered the ignominy of not receiving a single comment on a couple of my blog posts.  The first time it happened, I shamelessly canvassed friends to put it right.  I was not proud of myself, but it made me feel a little bit better.  The second time, I took a more considered approach and decided to try and find out why.

Here is what I found:

I Talk Some Crap

I love words. Words are great. But I use too many.  When ten words would do, you often see fifty or a hundred.    Must do better.  I find rambling fun (not the walking kind.  See? There I go again) but you don’t have enough time to read all my rambling and that of all the other blogs you follow.

Here’s a Wordle of my blog content. As you can see, it’s very random indeed. Maybe I need some more direction, or to split my blog up a bit…?

What Crap I Write About In The Blind Leading The Blinds

What Gets Written About

I Post At The Wrong Time

Google Analytics and Google Reader tell me the hard truth: I post most of my blog entries at about 1pm.  You read blogs between 12 noon and 1pm.  So my post is a day old if you read it.  Also, the automatic thingummydoofer that posts my new blog entry to twitter does it after your lunch hour has finished.

There’s not much I can do about this.  I get a lunch break, during which I write my posts.  By the time I’ve written them, attached and edited photos, corrected my spelling and rubbish html, etc., you’re all back at work.  I just hope you don’t mind reading them late – I need to work out how to remind you to do that at the beginning of your lunch breaks, though.

I Need Help To Get More Subscribers

From the stats I’ve got my hands on, there are 15 subscribers to this blog via Feedburner, 3 from Google Reader and 8 Google Friends.  Now that you’ve realised you’re in such a select group, rather than a crowd of Papal Mass proportions, there are probably even fewer 😉

I need better ways to get my blog in front of people, automatically (but carefully and ethically)and via the people I know.   Or failing that, just tell your friends to read my bloody blog! … please. 🙂

I downloaded the Arkayne plugin recently, with the intention of finding other blogs I could link to automatically and broaden my exposure to other blogs.  This would help me read from a wider pool of writers, but also send my links to other people.  The sad truth though, is that Arkayne doesn’t seem to have enough members who like what I like.  I’m going to stick with it though, for a while at least, to see if I get any interesting new knowledge or visitors.

Can any of you recommend plugins or tools that will be handy?

HTC HD2 Settling In Tests

Still Loving It

It’s been a couple of months since I got the new HTC HD2 phone, so I thought I should let you all know how it’s going. I’ve spent about £40 on gubbins for it so far and I think I’m about done, so an objecive view of the Cost Of Ownership is probably due, too.

Not my actual HTC HD2. I bought this one off eBay. Not really.

HTC HD2 Long (ish) Term Test


To make the phone fit my lifestyle, I’ve spent some of my hard-earned cash on the following:

  • Bike handlebar mount (see this post about that little thing)
  • Screen protector sheet, to stop my keys jagging it
  • Crystal case to protect it from my clumsiness
  • Car charger, to stop it dying whilst I drive
  • Windscreen mount, so I can video idiots blocking roads and see the Sat Nav.
  • 3 micro-USB cables to allow me to synch at work, at home and charge in the car

I also put the following software onto the device:

  • Cycle Computer, GPS tracking software
  • Interval trainer, for jogging expeditions
  • TomTom 7 for Windows Mobile

With all the above, I have only 3 complaints:

Battery Life

Most of the time, my phone’s on charge either at home or at work.  But in the car, even with a cheap no-mark charger on, the battery dies faster than it charges if I’m using the TomTom.  This is simply unacceptable.  I’ve had a new “official” HTC car charger delivered from MobileFun today, so it had better work or I’ll be mightily irked.

Screen Protector

In my experience, all screen protectors are rubbish.  I think I need one for those moments when I accidentally put my phone into the same pocket as my car keys, but they always make your screen look crap don’t they?  Gah.  I have no better ideas, so I put one on.

Windows Mobile

I love Windows Mobile.   I love the way it works, and the way it looks.  I love being in a familiar Windows environment on my phone.

On the other hand I ruddy hate it when it hangs.  When it hangs, boy does it hang.  Forget that urgent call you wanted to make, just forget it.  And the fact is, it hangs most when you try ot take the phone out of standby quickly, which is when? It’s when you want to use it urgently! Sort it our Microsoft.  Find a way of letting me get to the basic functionality while all the flashy, pretty, normally lovely stuff awakes gently from its slumber.  Then I will be a truly satisfied user.

To Wrap Up…

I still love my phone.  It’s the best phone I’ve ever had.  The GPS tracking and SatNav functions are particularly excellent, with the phone knowing exactly where I am al the time, even I haven’t got a bloody clue.  Thi is an absolute bonus when I’m tracking a bike ride or a jog, as it knows where I’ve been, how quickly and for how long.  To be honest, it’s a stalker’s dream if you can sneak it in your partner’s handbag…. 😉

I would recommend it to anyone, even you.  Even though you might shout at me whe you can’t make that urgent, quick call.  But you wouldn’t, because while you were shouting the phone would be slowly rubbing its eyes, scratching its gonads and thinking about waking up.  By the time it was ready to connect you to me, you’d have calmed down.

So that’s ok.

Tell ’em Phill sent you.

Argos Recovery

Last night.

I took advantage of an evening on my own and did some online shopping.  I found myself at the fabled virtual gates of the Hallowed Halls Of Argos.

Now I have to be careful: the .. ahem.. thing I wanted is a gift.  A gift I won’t be presenting until this weekend.  A gift that could be guessed by a certain someone if he or she were to visit this blog.  Which is unlikely, but nonetheless possible.

So, the (ahem) gift was on offer.  If I clicked on the right part of the page, added a certain item to my basket and reserved both items, I would only need to pay for one.  “Right, ” I said to myself, “That’s my business won.  I’m having that. And that free thing too.”

No problem. You’d think.  I got my reservation number texted to my phone and went to bed happy.


At lunch I drove to the nearest actual (not virtual) Argos store with my phone in hand, reservation number at the ready.  I walked purposefully up to the little touchscreen booth and punched in my number.  No free thing.  The gift and the thing both popped up on screen…. at full price.  Full price.  Balls.

Slightly irked, but still purposefully, I then walked to the Customer Service desk.  The pleasant assistant punched my reservation number into her terminal, which told her the same as my terminal had – as you’d expect.  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  She told me it “wasn’t coming up”.  She asked me to wait.

I waited.  I sent a text.  I looked at the virtual Hallowed Halls Of Argos on my phone. I waited a little bit more.  I realise this is all me me me, but I was getting a bit frustrated.

Then the pleasant assistant came back. She’d called Shop Support (whoever they are. Lunchtime cover in Milton Keynes HQ no doubt) who explained that the offer was available Last Night, but not Today.  But since I’d ordered it Last Night, I could have it Today. But nobody else can.

Nice one.  Thanks Argos.  I now have my gift for a certain someone, and a free thing too.

So if you ever go to Argos, it’s unlikely to be true but tell ’em Phill sent ya 🙂

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