Monday, March 28, 2011

The Rules

There is a great set of Rules from the "Keepers of the Cog": we maintain the sacred text wherein lie the simple truths of cycling etiquette known as The Rules.

There are some rules that my friends find particularly apt:

Rule 5: Harden The Fuck Up.

Since so many other rules refer to this one, we have to begin here. If someone just needs to "man the fuck up" then we tell that person to see Rule 5.

Rule 7: Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp.  Under no circumstances should one be rolling up their sleeves or shorts in an effort to somehow diminish one’s tan lines.  Sleeveless jerseys are under no circumstances to be employed.

Rich Harran is a good example of someone who is both very brown and very white.

Rule 9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

John likes to think this one applies to him. Which compared to most of the rest of us, it does.

Rule 12: The minimum number of bikes one should own is three. The correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

Rule 16: Championship and race leader jerseys must only be worn if you’ve won the championship or led the race.

Rule 34: Mountain bike shoes and pedals have their place. On a mountain bike.

John has SPD pedals but his bike isn't technically a road bike.  But it also definitely isn't a mountain bike. Half fail.

Rule 42: A bike ride/race shall never be preceeded with a swim and/or followed by a run.

A rule written for Andy who is easily confused. Like when he put petrol in his diesel on the same day as doing the Blenheim triathlon.

Rule 55: If you are riding down a mountain, you must first have ridden up the mountain. It is forbidden to employ powered transportation simply for the cheap thrill of descending. The only exception to this is if you are doing intervals on Alpe d’Huez or the Plan de Corones and you park your car up top before doing 20 repeats of the climb.

Rule 56: When wearing a cycling kit and enjoying a pre or post ride coffee, it is only appropriate to drink espresso or macchiato. If the word soy/skim latte is heard to be used by a member wearing cycling apparel, then that person must be ceremonially beaten with Co2 canisters or mini pumps by others within the community.

Yeah, this one is mostly for me. Latte goodness is bad.  Also guilty: Mark Halliday (and not just once)

Rule 62: You shall not ride with earphones. Cycling is about getting outside and into the elements and you don’t need to be listening to Queen or Slayer in order to experience that. Immerse yourself in the rhythm and pain, not in whatever 80′s hair band you call “music”. See Rule 5 and ride your bike.

John used to fall fowl of this one but has since corrected his ways.

Rule 64: Cornering confidence generally increases with time and experience. This pattern continues until it falls sharply and suddenly.

This rule is totally owned by Andy Perry.  Sometimes he even has to abort the ride because of it.

Rule 75: Race numbers are for races. Remove it from your frame before the next training ride because no matter how cool you think it looks, it does not look cool. Unless you are in a race. In which case it looks cool.

Ed gave me grief when I forgot to take the timing chip off my helmet from the Wiggle New Forest sportive.

So 2 for Russell, 2 for Andy, 2 for John.  What about Alan and Ed?  Maybe they can have Rule 5 all to themselves?

Or perhaps we could invent some new rules:

Rule 86: Though shalt not get the train home (Alan)

Rule 87: Only teenage girls phone their mum for a lift home (Ed)

Have I missed anything?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First fettle

Fettling is a British slang phrase which means "the art of repairing or tuning a bicycle". Until today the extent of my bike maintenance has been fixing punctures and changing tyres. I've never changed a chain before and when Rich's snapped on our Wales weekend ride last year I decided that I wanted to be able to change/fix my own chain.

Dirty Cassette and chain

Last Autumn the local bike shop (LBS) advised that I would need a new chain and cassette as mine were overly worn. I decided to defer replacing the parts and keep using the bike over the winter as I didn't want shiny new stuff exposed to grime, salt etc.  The LBS quoted about £35 for a Shimano 105 5600 cassette, £30 for a KMC X10 chain and £20 or so for fitting, and I'd be without my bike for a number of days.

I'm riding the Wiggle No Excuses sportive next weekend with Andy so I had to get this sorted out this weekend.

My bike previously had a KMC X10 chain and an Ultegra 6600 12-27 cassette. A month ago I looked in to the options and settled on a super-light KMC X10-SL chain (silver, not gold) for £32 and a Shimano 105 5700 cassette from Ribble for £31.  The chain is an upgrade, the cassette is one step down in the Shimano range but it is a newer version so it should be similar to what I'm used to.

To allow me to shorten the new chain to the correct length I bought a Topeak universal chain tool from the LBS. I got a 10% discount meaning that I paid £8.09 which is within 10p of the best price from Google Shopping.

I struggled for a while trying to remove the old chain via the special missing link and then gave up and used the new chain tool instead.

I laid the old and new chains alongside each other to work out that I needed to remove 7 links from the new chain. A missing link was included to easily join the ends.

There's a good video showing how to remove and fit a new cassette. It also mentioned that there might be an extra spacer needed which was lucky as I found I did indeed already have an extra spacer on my bike. Without the hint I would probably have removed all of the old parts and fitted only the new. Instead, I made sure I only removed bits that I was replacing - keeping the existing spacer.

A quick spin 'round the block suggests that everything's back where it's supposed to be. I didn't need to adjust anything with the gears.

I also got some quality SwissStop brake pads from Jim and Anna for Christmas. They are secured with a 2mm allen key which took me a while to find. Changing them was no trouble: remove the securing bolt, slide the pad out, slide in the new one, screw in the bolt, adjust the brake cable to accommodate the wider pads. For the first pad I used the new bolt supplied with the SwissStop pads but the head got damaged as I tightened it up so I reused the Shimano supplied bolt for the other 3 which were no bother.

Roll on next weekend.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

First Asda price guarantee analysis

This is the first stage in my quest to extract more value from the ASDA Price Guarantee...

I'll say up front that I think ASDA are overall cheaper for my shopping and that I appreciate what they're doing with this guarantee.

The ASDA Price Guarantee says "We'll guarantee your comparable grocery shopping is 10% cheaper at ASDA or we'll give you the difference".

They currently compare against Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Waitrose.  If ASDA are not 10% cheaper then they issue you a voucher for the difference which can be used against a future ASDA purchase.

It is important to note that it is the total value of the trolley/order that is compared, not each individual item.

This means that whenever Asda is cheaper, the "saving" is effectively offset against when it is not cheapest.

An example may help illustrate the point.  Consider an order with 2 items: Bread and Milk (you actually must have 8 different items in an order to qualify, but only one of them needs to have a comparable product at another store)

Bread... ASDA: £0.70, Tesco: £1.00

Milk.... ASDA: £1.10, Tesco: £1.00

The total cost of the Tesco order is £2.00 and Asda is £1.80. ASDA are 10% cheaper so no refund voucher is due.

But if the order could have been split in to 2 orders, the Bread order would have no refund but the Milk order would have resulted in a 20p voucher.

My shopping trolleys have so far resulted in either no refund or refunds of relatively small amounts like £1.50 on a £100 shop - certainly worth having but not 10%.

Looking at the comparison tables it is clear that if you could avoid mixing the good value items in with the poor value items then more savings could be made.

On our most recent shop we got 2 trolleys: one for what looked like good value items, one that looked like normal prices.  We did not do any formal research on prices before we started.  If we could have perfect knowledge of the prices then this would all be really easy, but in the Real World that info isn't very quick to obtain.

Update: I think this is new... mySupermarket now have a Quick Shop search which lets you see the prices for a single item. I successfully used it from my iPhone the other day when looking at lasagne sauce. They had Dolmio reduced from £1.66 to £1.00, or an own brand for £0.96   A quick search showed that Tesco were offering it on BOGOF at £1.76  So I bought 2 for £2.00 and the price guarantee shows that I could have got 2 for £1.76, so my voucher includes the 24p I overspent and an additional 10% of £1.76 = 18p. So I got 2 Dolmio sauces for £1.58 which is a good price.

2 Trolleys, 2 Vouchers

"bargains" trolley: 27p voucher from £43.55 - 0.62%
Normal trolley: £1.70 voucher on £75.09 - 2.26%

So far I've only been analysing the "bargains" trolley. The website shows you some info on the basket totals at each store and you can access another page per competing store table showing a table of the compared products.

"Bargain" Basket Totals

Tesco, 27 items, 19 unique, £22.99, £25.25, £2.26 cheaper
Sainsburys, 22 items, 16 unique, £17.34, £23.23, £5.89 cheaper
Morrisons, 19 items, 13 unique, £15.62 v £20.13, £4.51 cheaper
Waitrose, 8 items, 6 unique, £10.70, £13.42, £2.72 cheaper

ASDA were more than 10% cheaper for all but Tesco, where they were 9% cheaper. So the voucher covers the other 1%.

Cornish Icecream

But a quick look in the ASDA versus Tesco table shows that some items were much cheaper at Tesco. The very first line is:

1 x ASDA Easy Scoop Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream (2L)    £2.20    £0.99

I though £2.20 was a fairly good price for Cornish icecream but clearly it went in the wrong trolley.

Given that this trolley only resulted in a 27p vouchers, if I had put this item in the other trolley then this trolley would have resulted in no voucher but the other trolley's voucher would have increased by £2.20 - £0.99 = £1.21 i.e., overall I'd have been 94p better off.


I've written a perl script that reads in 4 files in to which I have copied and pasted the comparison tables.

The script is still under development, but here's what it's found so far.

ASDA: (22 compared) cheapest = 16   most expensive = 7
Tesco (19 compared): cheapest = 4   most expensive = 5
Morrisons (13 compared): cheapest = 2   most expensive = 3
Sainsburys (16 compared): cheapest = 0   most expensive = 5
Waitrose (6 compared): cheapest = 0   most expensive = 2

So ASDA is by far most often the cheapest but it is also most often the most expensive.

Getting the items in the correct trolley could make quite a difference.

Other Notes

There are some "errors" in the tables, presumably caused by the mySupermarket website having an older record of the prices than what I actually paid.  For example, we got 8 medium Easter Eggs and they cost £1 each (no linked offers or anything like that). But on the website it says:

3 x Cadbury Creme Egg Medium (178g)    £4.00    £3.00

so this has wrongly resulted in £1.00 being contributed to my voucher.

Also, it was quite nice to have 2 trolleys as they were each lighter and weren't threatening to spill the contents out. It was much easier to repack the trolleys at the end when the items were bagged up.

What's next?

Analyse the "normal" trolley receipt
Work out what the voucher would have been if we'd used only one trolley
Work out various optimal trolley configurations for the shopping
Look in to sourcing the prices before going shopping

v1 script output

Kellogg's Corn Flakes (500g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.98  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 1.98
sainsburys: 1.98
waitrose: 1.98

Cadbury Creme Egg Medium (178g) (3 of)
asda: 4.00
tesco: 3.00  ++ cheapest ++
waitrose: 5.00  -- most expensive --

ASDA Smartprice Sparkling Water (2L) (3 of)
asda: 0.48
tesco: 0.48
morrisons: 0.48
sainsburys: 0.48

Kellogg's Multi-Grain Start (375g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 2.39  -- most expensive --
sainsburys: 2.39

ASDA Orange Crush Zero (2L)
asda: 0.72
tesco: 0.54  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 0.64

Nestle Caramac Ice Cream Bars (4x50ml)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.00
sainsburys: 1.00

Batchelors Super Noodles Chinese Chow Mein Flavour... (5 of)
asda: 2.00
tesco: 2.00
morrisons: 3.45  -- most expensive --
sainsburys: 3.00

ASDA Easy Scoop Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream (2L)
asda: 2.20
tesco: 0.99  ++ cheapest ++
morrisons: 2.20
sainsburys: 1.20
waitrose: 1.30

Mars Skittles Rainbow Pack (4x45g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.40  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 1.00

Kellogg's Honey Loops (375g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 2.35  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 2.35
sainsburys: 2.35
waitrose: 1.80

Silver Spoon Treat Toffee Sauce (325g)
asda: 0.96
tesco: 0.75
morrisons: 0.49  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.00  -- most expensive --

ASDA British Double Cream (600ml)
asda: 1.50
tesco: 1.50
morrisons: 1.84
sainsburys: 1.84
waitrose: 1.85  -- most expensive --

ASDA Smartprice Coco Rice (375g)
asda: 0.65
tesco: 0.65

Dr. Oetker Glimmer Hundreds & Thousands (86g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29  -- most expensive --

Silver Spoon Dark Chocolate Chips (100g)
asda: 0.50
tesco: 0.50
sainsburys: 0.74  -- most expensive --

Dr. Oetker Giant Stars (13g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29
sainsburys: 1.39  -- most expensive --

ASDA Rich Roast Coffee Granules (200g)
asda: 1.48
tesco: 1.48
morrisons: 1.48
sainsburys: 1.49  -- most expensive --

Nestle Rolo Milk Chocolate Egg with a Rolo Tube (1...
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.00

Askeys Crackin Chocolate Topping (225g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 0.75  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.00

Silver Spoon White Chocolate Chips (100g)
asda: 0.50
tesco: 0.50
sainsburys: 0.74  -- most expensive --

Dr. Oetker Chocolate Hearts (45g)
asda: 1.00
morrisons: 1.29  -- most expensive --

Kellogg's Variety Pack (8x25g)
asda: 1.00
tesco: 1.99  -- most expensive --
morrisons: 0.99  ++ cheapest ++
sainsburys: 1.99
waitrose: 1.49