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Snow

Throughout December and January it has been constantly snowy and icy. That has given beautiful landscapes, but less than ideal conditions for mountain biking. When there is some snow it is ok, but as it gets deeper, it gets more and more difficult to pedal. Once the wheels sink in more that 1/2 way it is difficult to make any progress. There are some places round here with loose sand, and I've always had an aversion to cycling thorough that. However, now I know what the point of learning the right technique for that is; it is just the same as snow. Ice is another matter. The friendly paths through the woods are transformed into monsters waiting to trip you up and smash you down.  Cycling with a group becomes irresponsible and by yourself it is a matter of going slowly and carefully. Not exactly fun. Nevertheless, for views like in this photo it all becomes worthwhile.

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Bird song

The woods were filled with the sound of birdsong this morning. Blue tits (left), great tits, blackbirds and finches were all singing away, building nests and establishing terretories. There was a bit of warmth in the sun, the ground has now defrosted (so no puddles anymore, see below) and it was generally quite spring-like.  The downside is that the woods were also filled with other mountainbikers, walkers, dogs, children, children with footballs, more dogs, horses, etc.  After a winter of having the paths to myself, I had got used to the idea that it was not a problem to be on an official route, so made a tactical mistake of following a signposted route.  Nevertheless the weather was so glorious that it did not matter and we still had a great ride. 
The photo was not taken on the trial, but a couple of weeks ago in my garden
.

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Splash!

Yesterday it was the hottest March 22nd on record, and today it was also beautiful.  It felt more like summer than spring.  Even splashing through cold water was more refreshing than anything.  With buzzards circling overhead, rabbits in the meadows and song birds in the trees, it was a gorgeous afternoon.

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Dutch "Summer"

Last month I wrote that it was summer.  I don't know what I was thinking of.  The calendar might be of the opinion that it is summer, but anyone with their eyes open can clearly see that, if there is any season that we are not it, that is summer.  Cycling through the woods yesterday was hard work, due to all the time sinking in the wet slurry that the paths have turned into. Despite my best efforts, my speed dropped 10% below average, and in the evening all my joints were complaining. The heavy rain was so persistent that my wonderful winter boots, which kept my feet bone dry all the way through the winter, filled up with the water running down my legs. And apparently the layer of mud that was I coated with was so impressive, that a group of children I passed burst into laughter. At least I suppose that was why!

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HDR

Bright sunglight shining through the trees is very difficult to photograph, even with an DSLR, and with a phone it is almost impossible. The sun is too bright and the silhoutettes are too dark. When you are out on the mountainbike in weather like today, it a problem.  There is a solution, and it is called HDR, or high dynamic range.  You take one photo correctly exposed, one that is over-exposed (but that one has some detail still in the shadows) and one that is under-exposed (but in that one the sky is not too burnt out), and then combine them.  Normally you would do this with a DSLR (so you can create RAW files, which have much more contrast range than a jpeg) and a tripod, so that all the photos are of exactly the same scene.  Then you combine them with software like Picturenaut. With just a phone in your rucksac, you need another solution.  The solution is an app (HDR Camera) which automatically takes 3 exposures, aligns them and creates an optimal image.  I still have to play with all its settings, but judging by the photo on the left, even with default settings it can do a good job of an impossible situation.

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WTC winter tour 1 2012

What I do not understand is how come, of all the 430 mountain bikers on the tour today, I was the only one wearing shorts. It was not cold, about ten degrees, raining a bit (not too much), and in that weather shorts are so much more practical. No wet fabric against your legs. It was beautiful today, with the autumn colours really spectacular (especially if you wore glasses with yellow lenses!) and as usual with such tours a really nice atmosphere with all the people taking part.  Unfortunately I've still not 100% recovered from the 'flu I had a few weeks ago, so had to limit myself to the 30 km route. I set off sure that at least the medium length of 45 kms would be no problem, but I was already tired by the coffee break (left). As usual the Tour Club Wageningen did an excellent job of organising it, signposting and everything else perfectly done.

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