Category Archives: Cycling

Plotting Pretty Elevation Profiles with the Strava API

Update 13 July 2013: After the deprecation of the Strava API, this tool no longer works. However, an updated version of this segment gradient tool is now available here.

So this tool plots elevation profiles from Strava data. OK, so maybe the profiles aren’t amazingly pretty.  But I had fun making them look somewhat like the elevation profiles from a certain famous cycling event!

Lipscome + Nicholas climb

This little hacked-together piece of JavaScript will plot the elevation from a Strava segment (in metric units only, of course!) and uses the familiar green-blue-red-black styling to represent the severity of the gradient.

I wrote the code to fulfill a specific purpose: generating graphs for the Hobart 10,000 ride.  But I figured I’d make the code and tool available for anyone to use or fiddle with as they see fit.

This tool requires IE9, Firefox, Safari, Chrome or any other canvas-aware browser.  If you plug in bad data, you’ll get bad results.  So don’t.  All the parameters dynamically refresh the profile, except for the segment ID field, after which you’ll need to click Load Segment.

If you want to play with the source yourself, the only thing you need to do server-side is plug in the data from:

Go knock yourself out here:

Updated 15 Aug 2012: The tool now does isometric projection, which I think looks quite a lot nicer, and I’ve tidied up the user interface and added a few more controls.  As noted by Jonathan in the comments, it doesn’t do too well with downhill segments — the tool assumes it is an uphill segment at present. 

Hobart Dirty Dozen ride

This is just a small note that my post about the Hobart Dirty Dozen — a kinda epic ride up a bunch of Hobart’s steepest hills with my mates Dan and Iain — has been kindly published on The Climbing Cyclist’s blog.

Climbing Brent St

If you want to see just the relevant climbs for the Dirty Dozen on the Strava ride, drag the link “Show only the Hobart Dirty Dozen Climbs” to your bookmarks toolbar, then click the bookmark when you are on the Dirty Dozen Strava ride page:

Show only the Hobart Dirty Dozen Climbs

Race Shape for Strava and a Bookmarklet to link them

Race Shape is a nice polished mashup for Strava that allows you to compare efforts on a segment in much greater detail than the Strava interface allows.  It can be very interesting to see how and where your opponents stole time on you in their KOM efforts.

To make it a little easier to use, I whipped up a little bookmarklet (not very well written) that you can add to your Bookmarks toolbar.  When looking at the list of segment efforts in a Strava activity, click the bookmarklet and a little Race Shape icon will appear next to each segment in the list.  You can then just click on that icon to open the segment in Race Shape!

Drag this link to your Bookmarks toolbar to install the bookmarklet: Race Shape

Here’s what it looks like — the icon is pretty subtle…:

The raw code, for those who like such things (or want to fix or improve the bookmarklet):

  while(e.firstChild.className == ‘raceShape’) e.removeChild(e.firstChild);
  var segment=id.match(/-([0-9]+)$/)[1];
  var activity=location.pathname.match(/\/([0-9]+)/)[1];
  var a = window.document.createElement(‘a’);
  var img = window.document.createElement(‘img’);
var e = document.getElementById(‘segment-efforts-table’).getElementsByTagName(‘tr’);
for(var m = 0; m < e.length; m++)
  if(e[m].id) { this.i(e[m].id,e[m].cells[1]); }

My blog hit 100,000 visits a couple of days ago.  Wow…  Thank you for reading!  I don’t know how you find anything interesting in all the twaddle… 😉

Wallaby Frogger, or how to interpret Strava performance graphs

This morning I rode to work early, leaving home before 5:30am.  This meant it was still dark and the wallabies were still out clubbing.  Hundreds of them.  It was just like riding past a cinema when a movie finishes, with the happy cinema-goers (or in this case wallabies) crossing the road oblivious to traffic, easily stunned by bright lights.

I would have seen at least 100 wallabies in the first half hour of the commute.  Most of the wallabies were on the side of the road and I just watched them warily as I rode (slowly) past.  But 5 wallabies decided to cross right in front of me.  These wallaby interactions can be seen on the graph below.

Note the spike in heart rate coupled with the sudden drop in speed.  One way of getting a cardio workout I guess.  It really felt like a game of Frogger, albeit with a role reversal.

Discovering Old Farm Road

Old Farm Road

Yesterday I discovered a beautiful road climb within a few minutes of the city centre.  I’m amazed I’ve never ridden it before.  Tucked away behind Cascade Brewery is a little road called Old Farm Road that follows Guy Fawkes Rivulet (does anyone know how it got its name?) straight towards the base of Mount Wellington.

The entrance to the climb is unprepossessing, passing the industrial complex of Cascade Brewery.  But tucked away to the left of the complex, Old Farm Rd beckons, first of all gentle rising as it passes a grassy park, ducking through some trees with Mt Wellington glowering above, and then tucking around and over the little rivulet before starting to climb in earnest.

This little road is just one lane wide, and you could be way out in the bush — there’s no sign of the city.  After the bridge over the rivulet, you ride past a few houses before a couple of fantastic hairpin bends that lead into a steep ramp.  Watch it on the descent — you’ll smoke your brakes coming into those corners!

Old Farm Road is also an access road for mountain bikers heading towards some of Hobart’s best tracks.  But this blog post is for skinny tire bikes!

It’s a steep little climb, 1.8km at 9.0%, making it a Category 3 climb in Strava’s estimation.  It has steep ramps, hairpins, a bridge, and is just one lane wide.  I love it!

Old Farm Road
Distance 1.8km
Category 3
Elevation 162m
Gradient 9.0%
Maximum Gradient 22%
Time from city 5 minutes
Traffic low

How to get to the climb: Take Macquarie St, and turn right after Cascade Brewery.

There’s Old Farm Road, off to the left.  Ignore the trucks…

Mt Wellington in the distance as the road narrows to a single lane

A gentle gradient here, but enjoying the scenery too much to smash the climb!

Crossing Guy Fawkes Rivulet!

Now we start climbing.  If it wasn’t for the gum trees, we could be in Europe somewhere.

Steep hairpin bends

22% here we come!

Is that the Old Farm ahead?

Mt Wellington towers over the climb

Just for fun!

This post has been written in the style of my Top Ten Climbs Around Hobart series. Here are some other cycling climbs around Hobart:

Another go at Longford – Campbell Town

I’m not sure which hurt more: the race, or the ride back.  I know which hurt longer.  Today was the day of the Longford – Campbell Town race, which was the first bike race I ever entered last year.  The day dawned fine, with the hint of rain on the horizon.  I woke early as I have been doing recently, but tiptoed out of bed and quietly ate two big bowls of muesli.  Now happily and heavily bloated, I checked all my gear, and double checked.  Figured if I had my helmet and my shoes I’d be ok.  It was still early, so I drove to Salamanca and had a coffee, read the paper, before I headed over to pick up Barry who would be racing with me today.  Barry was recovering from a nasty cold and had a bung knee, and just wanted to race for the fun of it, without real expectations of great results.

The 180km drive to Longford was uneventful, except that the hint of rain turned into real rain as we drove through the Midlands — both of us fervently hoping it would clear well before 1pm so we’d be able to race on dry roads.  Happily, it did.  The sky cleared up, the roads dried up, and the temperature was about 18 degrees.  Perfect.  Except for the wind.

When we arrived in Longford to get ourselves organised, at about 11am, the wind was a NNW at about 30km/h.  Not too gusty but still pretty strong.  We put our bikes together, pumped our tyres, checked various bits and bobs, ate some more, and headed out for a 4km warmup.  I felt like I was in great form as we headed down the road towards Campbell Town on the warmup, feet and heart barely ticking over and sitting on 40 km/h.  Then we turned to ride back to the start line and I realised it was all down to the wind.

Barry chose the wrong wheels for the day!

As I hadn’t raced for quite some time, I asked the handicapper to help me select a grade.  “What grade do you ride in Hobart?” he asked.  “B”.  “Ok, that’ll be D grade here.”   OK…  I guess?  I went back to the registration desk and told them that Phil has put me in D grade.  “They won’t need transponders, will they?” one of the people at the desk asked the other as Barry and I gave our details.  Great, so the assumption is that we won’t even get a placing.  Way to put my ego back into the box!  Good for me.  I’d say it lit a fire in my belly, except it didn’t.

There were two important pieces of information given at the pre-race briefing: first, that we’d have to walk across a wooden bridge in order to prevent accidents, and second, that riders caught on the wrong side of the road would be fined, disqualified and potentially even banned.  Apparently, over the previous races, there were a number of cars forced off the road by racers taking risky tactics.  I’ve never been one to spend much time on the wrong side of the road, so I wasn’t too bothered by this information.

E grade took off, with my mate Rob and 20 others, and it was a five minute wait for D grade.  Then we started, and the shock of race pace set in.  It wasn’t excruciating, like last year’s B grade start, but we weren’t standing around.  Some sort of organisation of the bunch started, with the front half of the bunch swapping turns on the front, but it was never very tidy.  Along this section, I was working hard but never really in danger of being dropped.

The wind was alternately a tail wind and a cross tail wind.  In the first cross wind section, the bunch split and I made the front selection, riding in the gutter in about 8th position.  I wasn’t very comfortable there and made an effort to form a second echelon, which actually felt easier than trying to focus on riding on the edge of the road with the wind trying to blow me off.  When we arrived at the bridge, I was feeling comfortable and made sure I was at the very front of the group before dismounting to avoid nasty surprises at the other end of the bridge!

After the bridge, I was on the front, and the bunch seemed to lose interest in moving quickly, and I soon found myself about 100m off the front of the bunch.  I wasn’t prepared to try and ride the next 40km solo, so I didn’t put an effort in to establish a real gap, and instead just focused on riding smoothly and consistently.  A couple of minutes later, the bunch closed up the gap and I happily rejoined them.

Each time the road turned a corner and put us into a different wind, a few more riders would disappear until I realised that there were only 4 of us left.  I was starting to feel tired, and I knew I needed to eat something.  It took me probably 5 minutes before I turned that knowledge into action, and in that time, the other three riders went up the road, and I was on my own!

This seemed eerily familiar.  We were only 30km into the race and I was looking at the prospect of riding the rest of it solo, just like last year.  The only difference being, I was near the front of the grade instead of having fallen off the back!  I settled into a rhythm and as the food (gel) made its presence known I found that I was slowly catching the rider ahead of me.  I got onto his wheel and recovered for a couple of minutes, before swapping to the front.  I was surprised a moment later to see that he didn’t stay with me but happy also — I was now in 3rd place on the road!  That’s a podium position…

I caught the next D grade rider (I was passing E grade riders regularly at this point) just before the road made a sharp turn east on the final 15km into Campbell Town.  As we swung around the corner, the road got very bumpy.  And the wind was, for the first time, on the front quarter and not the back quarter.  My speed dropped from 50km/h to under 30km/h, and I was working hard.  We worked together for a while, along with my mate Rob who we caught on this section, as we approached the one small climb in the race, and as we went over the top of the climb I looked back and saw a bunch approaching.  A grade.

A minute later and they swept past us, and I was able to jump into the front half of the bunch.  Exhilerating feeling!  I was now sitting on 60km/h and it wasn’t really hurting.  I didn’t try to take a turn on the front but anxiously checked the numbers on the other riders in this fast moving bunch.  No other D graders — I was happy!  Only one thing annoyed me — this bunch persisted on riding on the wrong side of the road!  Yes, we passed a couple of other riders, but it wasn’t necessary.

I didn’t contest the sprint, happy to roll over the line in the back of the bunch.  Second place in D grade.  My first ever podium finish!  I had to notify the race volunteers that I’d finished with a placing as I had no transponder…  Cloud nine time: my fastest ever 60km; I rode the race at a 45km/h average speed!  I’d won something!  Some cash!  It turns out the first place D grade rider, Glenn Myler, took out the whole race, having caught all of E grade.  Kudos to him — his first ever 1st place finish and he was pretty happy.  Barry was content just to finish, I think, with his head cold and bung knee.

Then Barry and I had to ride back to the car.  The wind was a little stronger, the gusts a little more pronounced.  And we were riding right into it, for the whole 60km.  We averaged a measly 23.5km/h on the return trip.  A couple of other riders came back with us, one of them bonking badly.  He’d had two Weetbix for breakfast — that’s all.  Sounds like what I did for the Grindelwald Challenge!  It was painfully slow and not helped by other cyclists going back in cars and giving us “helpful” comments out the window as they went past!

The only consolation on the return trip was roads devoid of traffic

It took forever, but we finally rolled into Longford.  All in all, a satisfying day!  Big thanks to Barry for the great company and to Iain for lending me some lighter wheels.

Lycra-clad lane hoggers and a lack of common sense

So another complaint about cyclists in a letter to The Mercury today struck me as particularly bizarre.  Not sure who is lacking common sense in this scenario.  So, read the letter:

The thing is, do you know Bowen Bridge?  Here’s a lovely photo of Bowen Bridge with what is a typical amount of traffic on it:

Bowen Bridge – photo by Wiki_Ian (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bowen Bridge is a wide, straight bridge with great visibility, four lanes, virtually no traffic, and frequently strong cross winds.  There is absolutely no difficulty with changing lanes to pass a cyclist or two on this bridge, and certainly no danger in doing so!  And conversely, there is not enough room to pass safely without changing lanes: attempting to do this is both stupid and dangerous.  It’s not about proving a point, A. Garvey!

There really is no viable alternative for cyclists crossing the river at this point — the single side path on the bridge is rubbish filled and is difficult to access.

Now, there are plenty of roads that the letter writer could have picked on where riding double-file can be an issue, for instance, East Derwent Highway between this very bridge and Risdon Vale. I really am at a loss to understand why the letter writer picked this example!

Three days of riding fun

After Christmas we took a family holiday up to Launceston and I brought my bike. Unfortunately I slept quite poorly each night but this meant I was up soon after 5am each morning, with beautiful still warm weather beckoning. So I went riding until my family arose from bed 🙂

Day 1 was a solo ride up along Bridgenorth Rd, pushing a little on the hills but not overly much. Took Notley Hills Rd which turned rather unexpectedly into dirt just at the start of the descent! Another rider caught me between Legana and Launceston, and that encouraged me to ride that little bit faster.

Day 2 saw me turning up at a church car park in central Launceston where a group ride was supposed to depart from at 6am. Six other riders turned up and it was, for me, a tough ride: 3 of the riders pulled away from me on the key climb of the road, and I could not take all my turns in the paceline towards the end of the ride. To finish off, I was dropped at a roundabout where I paused a little too long and I was unable to get back into the group. Still, the ride finished soon after that, with the biggest cup of coffee I’ve had in my life.

With a poor night’s sleep again bringing me out of bed at 5am, I decided on the third day to do another, longer solo ride, this time east towards The Sideling, a mountain pass about 40km from Launceston. Again, a beautiful morning, uneventful and empty roads, and a very enjoyable climb up to a lookout on The Sideling, and thence back to Launceston, somewhat faster than on the way out (downhill…) For some silly reason, I finished off by riding up the crazily steep David St, and rolled down to Stillwater for coffee with my family.

Launceston, very early

Start of The Sideling climb

At the lookout on The Sideling, my turning point

Strava: Bridgenorth   6am bunch   The Sideling

The Top 10 Climbs in Hobart: A Recap

This post is merely a summary of the climbs I have described in my Hobart’s Top Ten Climbs Series for your reference. Enjoy!

11.2km   7.2%   827m   0:25from town
4.4km   7.7%   350m   0:10from town
2.4km   4.2%   100m   0:20from town
3.1km   4.9%   153m   0:35from town
3.5km   8.1%   287m   0:40from town
4.0km   4.9%   197m   0:60from town
5.3km   4.2%   219m   0:40from town
4.6km   5.4%   247m   0:15from town
3.3km   6.9%   226m   0:25from town
5.5km   5.7%   314m   0:45from town
3.9km   6.0%   232m   0:10from town
2.2km   4.6%   102m   0:05from town

So I am sure that my cycling mates won’t agree with this list of climbs, and more importantly, the order of the list. But this is my list — I’d love to see your list. You’ll often find me slogging my way up one or another of these climbs… Now writing about the climbs turned out to be easier than I expected, but getting photos for the climbs has taken a fair amount of work and in more than a few cases, a couple of revisits to the climb for a new set of photos… Nearly all the photos were taken with a phone camera, so quality is pretty variable. I hope this series has inspired you to go out and ride these climbs!

Now that this series is done, I’m taking a break from bike blogging for a while. See you next year!