Cycling in the Vallée de Joux

Cycling in the Vallée de Joux is an enjoyable way of taking advantage of the summer heat we are currently lucky enough to experience. The Lac de Joux is a small lake and the ride distance is around 22 kilometres. In winter this lake freezes and I have walked over it whilst others have taken the opportunity to ice skate. It is located in the Jura after the Col De Marchairuz if you are coming from the Léman region of Switzerland.

The cycle around the lake is relatively flat for most of the journey. I cycled clockwise starting from the western side of the lake. There is a 13% grade climb to contend with so be ready for it. It is not long but it is steep and you’re almost to the top when you get to the train tracks. Traffic is sparse so you can meet the challenge without stress from cars.

There are two sets of sign posts that you can follow. One is for cross country bikes and the second is for road bikes. I had some fun doing a little of both as my bike allows for this.

Cycling around this lake is pleasant. As you travel to the North of the lake you climb through the mountains with the occasional glimpse of the lake with it’s wind surfers, pedalo and other related sports. You can smell the pine trees and have a number of places to stop for a drink and rehydrate yourself.

When you get to Le Lieu you can follow the road to a second lake along a nice easy road or you can choose the VTT (mountain bike trail. You have a short climb up until you get to dirt roads. These take you over the hill and back down the other side with a very nice view on a secondary lake.

You have a nice descent from Le Lieu to Le Pont.
You have a nice descent from Le Lieu to Le Pont.

From here you go around and arrive on the Eastern side of the lake where you find two or three restaurants and an epicierie. That’s where I stopped to get a refreshing drink. It felt so good to ingest cool liquid and I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively low price.

Lac de Joux

From the Eastern Edge of the road you can cycle along the foot path or you can cycle on the road. Out of respect for walkers/hikers I chose to go along the road. On the Southern side of the lake the road is rising slightly so you won’t get too tired. It’s from this side that you have some really beautiful landscapes to appreciate.

Now that I have cycled around this lake I hope to make my way up to larger and larger lakes. Switzerland does have healthy opportunities. Eventually I want to cycle around the Léman once I feel my physical condition is right.

Comment on “The BBC is under threat because its success challenges market ideology”

Imagine for a moment that television did what other industries did. Imagine for a minute that every program you watched was so good you wanted to pay money for it. If people want to pay money to watch it then your content is valid and worthwhile.

Commercial peak time television is rubbish placed to fill the space between adverts. As a result when people say “TV rots your brain” and “Television is a waste of time” and “Television makes you dumb” they are for the most part right. I’m thinking of those endless copycat programs. There is little program diversity on commercial television.

I love specific BBC content. I enjoyed watching DR WHO which is rather low brow. I also love the output by the BBC natural history unit, so much so that I have bought all of these documentaries. I used my dissertation exploring Cousteau and Attenborough documentaries as an excuse.

The BBC is a cultural icon of what Great Britain stands for. It produces thousands of hours of radio and television content. As the article points out people listen to 18hrs a week of content.

I used to like listening to the From Our Own Correspondent podcast/radio program but have lost the habit as I have changed from one mobile phone operating system to another. I also listen to more audio books instead.

Murdoch bullies ceaselessly for a subscription system, to shrink the BBC to the tiny size of America’s PBS.

It has taken Murdoch 25 years to get someone like Cameron in power to undermine and try to scuttle the BBC. I sincerely hope that Murdoch and Cameron fail.

The BBC needs to be preserved for two key reasons. The first reason is the cultural heritage. They have hundreds of thousands of hours of material that need to be digitised and preserved so that future generations may access them. By cutting costs and corners now we stand to lose thousands of hours of material which future generations have a right to access.

The second reason is the factual legacy of the BBC. As I studied the BBC’s factual output and specifically the BBC natural history unit I saw how they hired camera operators to shoot and document nature before it is destroyed. That documentary brings to life parts of life that our children may never see. Look at deforestation in Madagascar and look at Attenborough’s commentary when he went back. He said something like “This row of baobabs is all that remains from a tropical forest. These are the only trees that remain after loggers took away the rest of the trees”. He goes on to speak about Lemurs and how their environment has shrunk.

When I was working on my dissertation on the BBC output I started to think of various documentaries as volumes of an Encyclopedia. When documentary producers have the budget to produce a documentary like that of the BBC they can afford to spend weeks or even months to get that perfect shot. Think of the Birds of Paradise segment as one example or the mountain leopard segment as another. Think of the knowledge and information that previous generations had in books and how that knowledge is now in audiovisual form.

BBC documentaries are produced with licence fee paying money at such a high standard that they can then be sold as documentary collections to private individuals as well as to other broadcasters. Blue Planet, Planet Earth and other documentaries are currently on Netflix Switzerland for example. Well produced content has a shelf life. People want to acquire the rights. When the BBC produces high level content that others want to purchase they help fund future productions.

As a last thought documentaries that are made for public service broadcasting rather than commercial television are edited to be watched 52 minutes in a row. They don’t need to waste 30 seconds at the end and start of a commercial break to remind viewers of what they are watching. Murdoch is already using an old fashioned model. If you record content on your PVR for later viewing you might as well go to the netflix model rather than feed Murdoch’s disinformation machine.

Mythbusters: A fun documentary series

Recently Netflix Switzerland made Mythbusters available on their service. As I watched episode after episode I noticed the camaraderie between those whom participate in the show. We see that Adam and Jamie occasionally argue but that overall they are having a lot of fun. We see them laugh, joke, tease each other and collaborate.

Their show is a science show where fun myths are challenged. They have two goals with each myth, establish whether it is confirmed, plausible or busted. They then scale up and reproduce the results.

The first two seasons are short and low budget using prosumer cameras and we notice the difference between camera image quality from shot to shot. The first “season” as it is called on Netflix Switzerland must be the pilot episodes.

Information taken from the Wikipedia page
Information taken from the Wikipedia page

The first episodes of the season are great because their editing style is good. Every minute of programme covers something new. In later seasons, at least for the broadcast versions and those shared via youtube advertising provisions ruined the watchability of the show. I am speaking of the lead in to each segment and the lead out.

Netflix is payed for directly by the customer and there are no ad breaks. As a result of this I would re-edit content for the 50 minute duration rather than broadcast the TV edit. It allows for the producers of the show to provide more content and information to their audiences.

Netflix content should be reformatted for the longer viewing duration. It should take advantage that there are no commercial breaks to get content to flow without fade to blacks and without repetitions. It should also take in to account binge viewing.

Documentaries will benefit from services such as Netflix and Video on Demand. They will benefit because they can edit content to be seen without commercials and without the constant need for repetition. As a result rather than have 40 minutes of content and 10 minutes of repetition documentaries will have 50 minutes of content for the viewer.

Two stories or more are usually explored per episode and in the earlier episodes you have cutting from one story to the next no more than two times. As they produce more episodes so the editing goes from Story A to B to A to C to A to B to A again and then to C. This flip flopping between experiments results in the editor having to summarise what happened before and what they want as a result frequently. This repetition is optimal if people watch just five minutes of a program but ruins the viewing experience for those watching an entire episode. Let’s see if they resolve this issue for Netflix.

Geneva to Hermance on a bike

Hermance is a place where I have dived frequently and so it is only natural that I hard to ride from Geneva to Hermance on a bike. The ride is an easy and pleasant ride. It takes you out of Geneva and through the fields to the East of Geneva before taking you down to Hermance where you have a good view of the lake. The ride back takes you through a few villages before getting back to Geneva.

The landscape undulates with only one climb as you leave the lake and take the back roads towards Pallanterie. From that point you follow the road until you get to the French border and cross to the left and head straight for the lake. It’s at this point that you start to see signs for Hermance and follow them down a steep road to the lake side.

Hermance is a nice small town where you see divers and at this time of year animations. There is the beach which is free for divers and paying for normal people. You also have changing rooms and showers. There is a café/restaurant where you can have a drink or snack before heading back. I would like to do this circuit again with a group. Stopping in Hermance would be more pleasant.

I love for the GPS track of my rides to be a loop so to ensure that this was the case I cycled back via the lake road. There are bits where you are with cars but for the majority of the route you have a dedicated cycle path.

Exploring Geneva at 30 kilometres per hour

Exploring Geneva at 30 kilometres per hour makes a nice change from driving in the city. Yesterday I met with the Geneva Bike and beer group. It’s an activity from within the broader Geneva based Glocals activities.

Exploring the Geneva landscape by bike
Exploring the Geneva landscape by bike

The pace is reasonable and the loop is about 20km for this second group ride. There are a lot of opportunities to cycle away from traffic and on quiet roads. It was fun for me to see the landscape differently. For over a year I used to drive in that landscape to get to dive sites and back. This time I was far lighter.

As with everything in Geneva the group is international with people from a number of countries and continents. I will participate again.

Cycling with the London Beer Bike group and with a group in Geneva

The London Beer Bike group could tempt me to move back to London when and if I can find work there. When I left London it was the city of social media, where for the months after I graduated from University I would go to tweetups, seesmeetups and more.

The last time I went to London I met with the London Beer Bike Group (LBBG) and enjoyed cycling across London with a group of others. The pace was relaxed and it allowed me to see the city in a way that I am not used to. When I lived in London I would move around by tube and by foot. As a result of this I learned the layout of the city but only within reasonable walking distance.

Cycling in London as a group is fun because you are safer. Cars can’t overtake you as easily and when you move off from traffic lights you can move as a group. It’s also an opportunity to see new parts of the city. London on a bike feels smaller. You don’t have to take the busy roads. You can take side streets and cross parks to avoid traffic. As I dislike sitting and listening to small talk this is ideal.

I mention this because later today I should be meeting a group to do something similar in Geneva. As cycling to Geneva and back is a 60km round trip and as I will return later in the evening I will use the car to get the bike down to the lake side and then cycle from there to Geneva with a possible destination of going towards Cologny. I know the roads around there from scuba diving.


Cycling up to La Barillette

Cycling over short distances can be a challenge especially when that short distance takes you from the foot of the Jura to the top over 12 kilometres at a 6-10% grade. Cycling up to La Barillette is an endurance test. Perseverance is key.

You can start the climb either from Cheserex or Gingins. The climb starts sharply and takes you up in to the forest. As you climb you follow the winding road by a stone block where old road rules are written. The stone dates from the 19th century and speaks of the regulations which were in effect.

The path takes you up some one way and two way roads. At every kilometre as you climb some plaques tell you the gradient for the next kilometre as well as the gradient. As you progress these are welcome. They let you know how much further you have to go.

I have attempted this climb four times in the preceding months and made it up twice. One of the aspects to be enjoyed with this route is the lack of cars. If you went up via the Route de St Cergue you would encounter cars every few seconds. On this route cars seldom pass and when they do they are sometimes curteous enough to slow down and give you space as you overtake. You can also enjoy some great views of the Mt Blanc and the Lac Léman. As you go up so the view gets better and better. It also gets cooler.

The first 9 kilometres are the hardest. For 9 kilometres you will be struggling to keep your forward momentum and there is a chance that on the first two or three attempts you will give up, especially if you use as heavy a bike as I use. Once you have reached the 9 kilometre mark the path flattens out at around 1000 metres and it is just a matter of cycling for a further 3.7km.

When you get to the top you have a beautiful vista of the Lac Leman. You can see from Villeneuve all the way to Geneva. You can see the Alps in their full glory and you can see the Canton de Vaud. You can see Lausanne, Morges, Nyon, Cheserex and many of the villages below. It’s a great opportunity to spot peaks and get to know them. There is a map showing you the name of the peak and it’s shape.

If you train over the coming month and see that you have a good time on Strava then you could join the VTT race and see how you compare with others.

In summer months from Wednesday to Sunday the restaurant de la Barillette is open. It has a great view of the landscape which you can enjoy while eating an entrecôte or fondue.



Mountain biking is a sport that is growing in popularity. We see that technology is keeping up with the riders. Between suspension, specialist tires and safety equipment the sport has had the freedom to become more adventurous. Bigger jumps, more travel, stronger components all allow the sport to become more extreme.

Usually there are three ways to get to the top of a mountain. The first option is to ride up but with a mountain bike that can be tiring. I have an area where I can mountain bike near home but it’s a 12.7km ride up with a 10 percent grade. It takes two hours to get to the base. I could of course take the car up and cycle around at the top but this requires removing the front wheel and putting the seats down. Another option is to head to specialist resorts where the remontée mécanique are equipped to take bikes to the top of the slope. The third option is to walk up and push the bike.

In this video we see a fourth option. An electric mountain bike. I like the idea of mountain biking this way. I like the notion that the mountain bike will assist with getting up the hill more efficiently. Several times I have cycled up a 10% gradiant for a distance of 12.7 kilometres. With the mountain bike I use it takes 2 hours of almost non stop pedalling. It leaves me with little energy to enjoy going off road at the top. With a flyer I’d let the bike get me to the fun part and then use my own power to play up there.

I won’t buy one of these bikes but the video is interesting to watch.

The Fitbit Charge HR

The Fitbit Charge HR is one of the better heart rate and step counting solutions out at the moment. It allows you to keep track of your steps and heart rate twenty four hours a day for a little less than a week between charges.

It is a wrist worn activity tracker that detects whether you are walking, running or climbing up a hill. I tested it over a period of weeks while hiking, doing via ferrata, cycling and sleeping. As a result of the test environment I was informed by the device that I had gone up 250+ floors in a single day. That’s when I was playing on a via ferrata or two.

I also tested it while I was sleeping. It automatically goes in to sleep mode so there is no chance of you forgetting. As it tracked my heart rate while I was sleeping I saw that my resting heart rate could be 47 beats per minute. As I challenged myself with a 1000m hill climb on a bike followed by via ferrata and hiking my body became fatigued and this was reflected in my higher resting heart rate. It went up by four or five heart beats per minute.

When I was using the Fitbit Charge HR I had it automatically tracking my heart rate but you can choose whether it is on/off or automatic. I kept it on automatic. When you take off the tracker the two green led lights stop blinking automatically after a few seconds.

I liked having the Fitbit Charge HR for a few weeks and liked that it tracked my heart rate and showed me how many floors I went up. As I spend a lot of time in the mountains though the results were skewed. The biggest weakness with the Fitbit Charge HR has to do with the regionalisation efforts by Fitbit. I live in Switzerland and until recently I had the site in English. For a few weeks I have had to switch languages between french and English several times. I wrote a tweet to get a response but they asked me to send an e-mail. I sent an e-mail detailing the problem and then they asked me to detail what the problem was. The problem is that I am in the French speaking part of Switzerland, my laptop and phone are set to English and the app and website default to German. Due to their regionalisation efforts when I sold the device as planned I did not replace it and went back to using the Fitbit flex. As both straps for the Fitbit flex broke I carry the sensor in my pocket.

As a point of reference my primary fitness tracker is the Suunto Ambit 3. When I cycle, swim, do via ferratas or hike that is the device that is tracking my progress and overall fitness level. I also pair it with Strava.

Tudor Monastery Farm – A documentary series

I took advantage of a rainy day to watch a series of documentaries by the BBC called Tudor Monastery Farm. It is a documentary series where three individuals live the life people would have lived at the relevant time period for a year. During this year they try farming, mining, fishing and other skills and crafts from the time.

These are observational and experimental documentaries. They take the observational cinéma verité and Direct cinema approach to factual television production. As you watch these documentaries so you are transported to a different time period.

For years or even decades I thought of this time period as a bad time period. I thought of the church as being an oppressive force. Through this set of documentaries I eventually felt sad that monasteries and the way of life that was illustrated in the series of documentaries was dissolved by Henry the Eighth.

Imagine a monastery with 20,000 sheep, imagine the work that was lost by stone masons as the need for monastery construction and other activities declined.

If you find this documentary series I strongly recommend watching it.