Ride: Hardware, Software and Wetware testing

Last week I had the opportunity to join some friends on part of a cycling tour in Wales.

The tracks from the cycling I did. (Click through for a larger version.)

I wasn’t able to make all of it, but I thought the bit I could do would be a very good opportunity to test out a few things for my upcoming project Ride (Birmingham – York), in which I will be cycling and camping my way via a 200-or-so-mile route to York whilst live-streaming data back to a reactive sculpture here in Birmingham.

Fully Loaded (and mostly waterproofed)

The Welsh trip was my first proper experience of bikepacking. I’m please to report that, bar a few broken spokes and a comedy last-minute puncture, my bike and camping kit held up to the weather and geography. There was plenty of both!

My first day took us over the mountains above Corris. It was cloudy and very steep…

Above Corris

Above Corris

Above Corris

Linking back to the Ride project, I also got to sample some more cycle paths along former railway lines (also alongside current ones).

These were altogether more civilised gradients!

Old railway line to Barmouth

Bridge at Barmouth

Bridge at Barmouth

Pont Briwet

Porthmadog Cob

Railway path

So, I now know I mostly have knees, cycling kit and camping kit up to the task.

Next time however, I might forgo the toad in my tent…

Tent toad

More of my photos from the trip are in this Flickr set.

Many thanks to Peter, Kim, Megan and Wendy for an excellent few days, good cycling and plenty of cake.

Back in Birmingham I’ve been working with programmers Jez Higgins and Mike Cummins to put together an Android app and a database system to power the reactive sculpture. The idea is that the sculpture will change colour/shape/speed in response to the amount of effort going on at the other end with me journeying on my bike.

The Welsh tour was also a chance to test the app software under serious conditions similar to what it will have to perform under next month. I’m a big fan of testing, and this was a brilliant way of highlighting further improvements and modifications that needed to be made.

We’ve since tackled a bunch of those and, along with a databasing session with Mike yesterday, I’m happy to be able to report that we now have the following chain all working together:

Me on my bike -> app on my phone on my bike -> online database -> Arduino -> blinkenlights and other physical outputs.

My next task is to develop the physical outputs and construct the sculpture.


The ride to York, and therefore the time during which the sculpture will be active, will probably start on the 16th of September and continue until the 22nd.

The sculpture will, all being well, be housed at the new Longbridge campus of Bournville College and I’m toying with a gentle bike ride down the off-road cycle path from Cannon Hill Park to Longbridge as part of a launch event on Saturday the 14th.

Watch this space for more information as it gets confirmed…