Choosing your First Road Bike – Things you Should Know

Getting the best steed for all your needs would go long way ensuring that your cycling experience is packed with safety and fun. If you are looking to buy your first road bike then you should be aware about certain things to look for in the road bike. This will ensure that you get a better quality in the best price. Moreover, it would be safe to make a purchase after knowing about each and every aspect about your road. So let us explore the things you should know before choosing your first road bike.


The Frame & Fork Material

It is very important to look for the material option before selecting just any road bike. It is the heart and soul of your bike that must not be neglected while making your first road bike purchase. The road bikes having aluminum and steel frames are more affordable than the titanium and carbon built frames. The carbon framed bikes also come with the bladed fork these days. This stuff is lighter and therefore makes it perfect to ride. You would also love to read: Which is the best treadmill for home use?

If you have a low budget then go with aluminum or steel framed bike else titanium and carbon framed road bikes are the best options. The titanium alloyed bike will be little expensive but will look clean and beautiful. Moreover, if you o for carbon fibre bikes then it would guarantee you’re a higher durability as well.


If you want to get the most out of cycling then it is really important to look if the bike size fits your size. It will have a higher impact over your performance and the comfort zone. Go with a road bike that has the right height so that your feet reach the pedals comfortably and you can grip it well. You can also choose a bike having the adjustable seat so that you can adjust it with the increasing height. Moreover, the bike can be utilized by different people having different heights.


The geometry plays an important role if you need this road bike for racing purposes. Though it will not have an impact on regular rider, but you will not want the speeds to be compromised if you are a professional rider. You can go with a sportive geometry bike if you wish to enter into the professional bike racing. Check out the length and different angles in the frames.

The taller head tube will ensure the less strain on your back. This will help the rider to sit more comfortably on it. If you want it for non-racing purposes then ensure that the wheelbase is longer than the racing bike.


You should make sure that the bike is made using the right components to ensure your safety on roads. Do not go for the most expensive bike in the market. Firstly, look for the components from which he bike has been designed. Go for a bike whose components are readily available in the market so that they can be replaced as times of the wear and tear. Also check out the gearing, braking system, suspension, and other important components before going for it.


A fine quality wheels set will go long way with the bike and ensure a good ride. You should consider the factors like durability, all-weather performance, and tire size of the wheel. Also, pay a careful attention to the type of wheel used on your road bike. The wheel is also responsible for gripping and handling of your bike on the roads. So, be very careful while making the selection. Always choose the quality then the poor designed wheels.

The Last Words

So, these are some of the things you should know before choosing your first road bike. Knowing about the material, size, groupset, geometry, and the wheels of the bike will make sure that you do a right selection. Firstly decide your budget and then look into these things accordingly. It will help you out in buying the road in a planned manner which in turn can help you out in saving some money on your purchase. Think wisely before making the choices and go for the best.…

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Why Every Country Needs Later Secondary School Start Times

Why every country needs later secondary school start times

The teenager in bed, complaining about having to get up, is almost a universal problem.  But it is not their problem- it’s ours. School start times are simply too early.  Secondary schools for students from about 12 years old should start be hours later- perhaps as late as 11 the late teenage years.  The reasons for this are biological changes during puberty that change their wake / sleep patterns.
Slide81-300x225The 24 hour cycle of light and darkness determine our wake and sleep patterns.  This is one aspect of our daily (or ‘circadian’ rhythms). Every 24 hours levels of some hormones, our core body temperature, and even our capacity to learn vary according to this body clock. Professor Russell Foster at Oxford has been a leading figure in the science community in communicating the dangers of ignoring our body clock’s natural patterns. Meeting and talking with Russell transformed my understanding of teenagers- and led to changing our school start time to 10 a.m.

Why should the body clock be a problem for teenagers and young adults?It’s because circadian rhythms change with age. A radical shift occurs with the onset of puberty, pushing wake sleep times later in teenagers and young adults. It is only later in life that we return to the earlier wake times we had at 10.

This sudden change occurs in other mammals- so the reason they prefer getting up later is biological, not cultural.

These changes cause a two hour delay in waking and sleeping, compared to younger children or older adults (like teachers). This is a huge time shift within a 24 hour cycle.  If we force teenagers and young adults to get up when we do, it impacts negatively on their learning.  Such early starts cause these young people to lose sleep every school day.

Sleep deprivation is the consequence.  Humans cannot adjust their body clocks, or  train themselves to overcome these natural biological patterns.  New technologies in neuroscience have confirmed the educational consequences of  sleep deprivation.  Here the images show how little learning occurs for sleep deprived subjects.

There have been calls to alter school start times in many countries. In 2009 US Congresswoman Zoe Logfren submitted concurrent resolution 176 “expressing the sense of the Congress that secondary schools should begin the school day no earlier than 9:00 in the morning”.  More recently a Hamilton Project report (2011) recommended changing the start of the school day for schools as one of three ways of improving achievement.

The issue goes beyond learning: mental health and physical health are put at risk by early start times for schools and universities.  Indeed, the negative impact on young people can lead to consequences listed here.  The list reads like a stereotypical description of teenagers.  The difference is that it probably is our fault as adults that they suffer these consequences.  By changing our early start times that suit us to start times that suit their body clocks we will make their lives better.  This could lead to an improvement in their lives- and perhaps improvement the relationships with teenagers and young adults.

Schools can change their school starting times. Having explored the science of the body clock, helped by Russell Foster and other experts, Monkseaton changed the start of the school day to 10 a.m. This took years, with trials, surveys of parents (who were in favour of the new time) and even experiments for BBC Horizon programme The Secret Life of your Body Clock.   The positive outcomes at the school after the first year starting at 10 a.m. are not the proof late starts are better (though they were +20% on high stakes testing).  The biological science had already demonstrated the need to change – and these results are only a reassuring case study showing late starts are perfectly achievable.

*Many of the slides in this post come from Russell Foster’s presentations on circadian rhythms.…

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Harvard University’s Introduction To Sleep And The Dangers Of Ignoring Sleep.

Sleep is important for all of us, so Harvard University created a site devoted entirely to an Introduction to Sleep. Their aim is spelt out in the web address: .

It is well worth going on the site- it compresses information to a few minutes at most.  It lets you hear and see some of the world’s leading researchers give you an overview of an important topic- and they have to do it quickly.  Many of the videos are about a minute long.

The issues of sleep are all encapsulated in the overview, aptly named Why Sleep Matters (6:13) .  The fundamental point of the film is that we are ignoring the need to sleep.  Our modern society and pressures of work are not only stressful, they stop us sleeping properly.

Some of the site makes sombre reading.  Don’t miss Sleep and Health- a mere 36 seconds long, and a powerful reminder of the dangers to your health of not managing your sleep. Dr Orfeu Buxton reminds us how animals and humans share dependency on sleep as a vital part of life.  The last few words are a bit frightening.  What he doesn’t tell you is that it takes 3 weeks to kill a mouse by starvation.  And 3 weeks to kill a mouse by sleep deprivation.

The management of sleep by our bodies is interesting too.  The sleep clocks and how they work together is a one minute explanation.  The two mechanisms have different impacts on our alertness.  Here is normal sleep:

And here the consequences of staying up too long (or getting up too early).  The impact of this- the cause of sleep deprivation- is dangerous.  In fact, it is life threatening in more ways than one.

The site doesn’t hold back when there are clear health threats.

Your local hospital for instance- how long are the shifts trainee doctors have?  Certainly, in the US, too many hours.  And one consequence is:

“According to the Institutes of Medicine, over one million injuries and between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths each year result from preventable medical errors, and many of these may be the result of insufficient sleep”

So how important is sleep in these errors?

Harvard Medical School found that hospitals could reduce the number of medical errors by as much as 36 percent by limiting an individual doctor’s work shifts to 16 hours”

Can we please have this limit in Europe / everywhere?

The consequences of sleep deprivation seep into our lives (and deaths) in many ways. One section of the site goes through a list of illnesses ending with lower life expectancy.  There are other dangers we can avoid, like driving cars when we’re drunk – or, what is just as bad- when we’re drowsy:

“The Institute of Medicine estimates—based on recent high quality naturalistic and epidemiologic studies—that drowsy driving is responsible for fully 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. That would mean that drowsy driving causes approximately 1 million crashes, 500,000 injuries, and 8,000 deaths each year in the U.S.”

Taking care of sleep in our lives is the solution.   Sleep researchers are discovering how sleep is vital for learning and memory, and how lack of sleep impacts our health, safety, and longevity.

For adolescents we need to change the timing for schools and universities to fit in with their sleep patterns.  Our cognitive function is better when our sleep is better (see the four factors film).  Like the Brookings report on the importance of changing school times, on the Harvard website they let a  student have his say. Like Matt, Alicia Kiattinat, 19 (at the University of Texas) and other campaigners in the field are having real success : .

It is time to help adolescents get the sleep they need.  It is time for all of us to pay more attention to the hidden third of our lives.…

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Teenagers And the Body Clock in The Sunday Times.

Sian Griffiths, Education Correspondent for The Sunday Times, has just published an excellent article on UCL Academy’s starting time for students being 10 a.m.  This is probably one of the most important articles for some time published on the issue of teenage body clocks in the national press.

The key to the article’s importance is the article’s revealing demonstration of an effective partnership between a world-leading research university, UCL, cutting-edge neuroscience research, and practical implementation in real educational practice. For many years government, researchers and educators have called for more evidence-based practice.  Recent calls include those of Ben Goldacre in his plea for better research in education. Griffith’s article shows how leading organizations are now making this happen by linking world-leading researchers and education.

So how does this work in the real world?  The starting point is good research.  Griffiths quotes Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at UCL, a researcher known for her ability to communicate neuroscience:

“The research shows that making teenagers go to school at a time when they would naturally be in bed asleep is not a good thing for their learning.  Quite a few schools around the world have changed their start time to 10am, which is more in line with teenage body clocks.”

In practice at the UCL Academy pupils arrive at 10am and leave at 5:30 pm.  The Headteacher Geraldine Davies sees the schedule working well:   “Attendance is excellent and we are having no problems at all with punctuality. Youngsters are turning up alert and ready to learn, and are focused and engaged in lessons.”  Unlike school leaders throughout the world, she is able to say, “We are applying cutting-edge research here” in the confidence that her school is operating a schedule based on good science and evidence.

The student response is brought to life by an extended comment by Abdel Hakim Bakkal, 17:

“My old school started lessons at 8.30am and I was always frustrated by not being able to get a full night’s sleep. I never used to have time for breakfast and I would go in with a bad attitude.  I’d even close my eyes in lessons.  Since coming here I have been able to eat my breakfast and even sometimes read through a topic before lessons start.  The frustration I used to feel has gone.”

His view reflects the wider concern of teenagers not in the UCL Academy about their school’s timings.  Griffiths quotes Alicia Kiattinat, 19 (at the University of Texas) who campaigned for her school, Carrolton Christian Academy, which had an 8 am start, to open later because of the research leading to the local authority to make changes in some schools. Alicia found “a lot of people supported me.” – hardly a surprise to campaigners in the field.

The research in this important area is also referenced by Griffiths, including the interesting USAF study.

Taken as a whole, this article is an important step forward in awareness of the issue- and the solution. I will certainly use Griffith’s article as a case study in my upcoming presentations to US researchers- but more about that in another blog.



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An Introduction To Neuroscience Part 1: a Massive Open Online Resource (a MOOR) For Everyone.

We need an open online resource (MOOR) for anyone who wants to know more about neuroscience.  This MOOR would be an introduction to neuroscience for the interested from adolescents to octogenarians, and from teachers to lawyers.  By ‘open’ I mean a resource that builds the introduction just by linking to the best existing resources and sources of information.

For example, An Introduction to Neuroscience MOOR could support teachers and educators generally (including parents).  It would help them recognize false claims, know which issues remain uncertain and have a better understanding of physical and mental health.  Adolescents would be interested too: research on the social brain in adolescence has clear implications for everyone working with teenagers (YouTube talk by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore) and for teenagers themselves. Our changed understanding of sleep’s impact on health and mental health, and the effect of sleep deprivation in adolescence caused by education start times are equally very important issues. If MOOR users really want to know more, it is possible to refer them to further information at almost any level of detail from organizations such as Brain Facts and PubMed.

What isn’t in doubt is the growing importance of neurological or brain research in understanding human learning and memory.  Scientific understanding of the way people learn is developing very quickly, yet most educators are largely unaware of the rigorous evidence emerging from research in this field. We now are at a turning point, where educators can learn about the best neurological research and apply some specific elements of that research in their teaching.  Understanding key neurological research will let teachers use a greater variety of evidence-based approaches that have been shown to improve learning.  These might include adaptive digital technologies and testing methods that support learners to overcome barriers to learning and improved provision for individuals with specific learning difficulties such as Dyslexia[1] and Dyscalculia[2] .  Better-informed teachers, students and families are more able to take appropriate steps to overcome learning, health and mental health issues in adolescence.

The Royal Society examined the growing importance of neurology in society and its implications for education and life-long learning [3].  Their report had four key recommendations: neuroscience evidence should directly impact on education policy, teacher training, the use of adaptive learning technology, and a knowledge exchange network with teachers and scientists should be established. There are similar calls in academic papers, conferences, university courses, special interest research  groups in America and Europe, special centres, and many scientific organizations.

Yet a simple starting point for learners and educators isn’t there in the same way that MOOCs are there for the dedicated.  There should be such a starting point- whether a MOOR or not – and this would, in part, lessen the demands on scientists to explain, over and over to different audiences, the same starting points.…

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The End Of Teenagers? Part Two: Reflections On The UCL Conference On the Healthy Adolescent Brain

‘Adolescents’ seems a different concept from ‘teenagers’.  Most people associate teenagers with surly, inconsiderate and risky behaviours.  Adolescents on the other hand seems less negative, and especially when combined with the words ‘healthy’ and ‘development’.  It is a difference that is more than different adult attitudes to young people.

The new evidence coming from neuroscientists is that adolescents are still in the process of fundamental nervous system development (see  Jay Giedd’s (NIMH,  his work , his presentation on the adolescent brain and an 2012 paper on sex differences in the human brain).  Few people are up to date with these discoveries and their implication, but this is changing fast. Once they know, the response of most parents is to feel instinctively protective- and so we should feel that way.

This science requires adults to admit they got it wrong about adolescents- in many ways, teenagers are an adult myth. Many of their behaviours are exacerbated by brain development or caused by sleep deprivation imposed by the timing of educational establishments (see this blog’s posts on circadian rhythms).   Looked at in this perspective, the fundamental issue is how to protect adolescents, and what can we change in adult behaviour that will help protect them.

During the UCL event we discussed the issue of risk.  Given that adolescents are more prone to risky behaviours in part because of the nature of their brain development, what are the critical risks?  Here is  a good summary of risks that offers a starting point.  Go to this site and chose 14-19 Western Europe, and explore any of the other risk categories too:

Risk of death in adolescence in Western Europe

Looking at the risk of death in the 14-19 age range, the changes over time are generally positive, though a surprising number are due to potentially avoidable risks.  The improvement (over the last twenty years) is indicated in the % change column particularly in medical issues (Leukaemia, Congenital anomalies, and stroke dropping 40% or more).

Risk-related actions are improving too, except drug use disorders.  Yet 7- possibly 8- of the top 10 causes of death imply risky judgements (Road injury, self-harm, drug use disorders, drowning, interpersonal violence, transport injuries and falls).

Twenty years ago we didn’t know as much about healthy brain development in adolescence, and now we do it seems imperative to tackle risk taking in adolescence.  Of course we can continue to raise awareness,  yet we should go further, tackling the negative impact of school opening times being hour/s too early for adolescents, improving the crowded, noisy and stressful environments within schools, and building better systems to improve health by preventative programmes. Already our children feel under critical scrutiny by peers, teachers and even, at times, social media.  Direct support to de-stress childhood is needed.

Allied to this are the increasing use of drugs to control behaviour and mood in adolescence, when our knowledge of the onset of mental issues now makes clear that adolescence may be the critical period where many of these problems emerge. Recent research suggests that environment factors could be crucial in the emergence of mental health at this time resulting from sequences of environmental issues (Giovanoli et al, 2013) – more simply, the more environmental hits, the greater the risk.

There are many ways we can make adolescent life better, including accepting responsibility for adult behaviour to adolescents whether as parents, schools, organizations or government.  The blight caused by drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes is not beyond our control, sleep deprivation of adolescents is easily solved, reducing stress and improving physical health are achievable, and a relentless commitment to improving this stage in human life is critical in improving their lives and our society.

Besides, healthy adolescent brain development is good for everyone – even adults.…

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New Zealand And China 2 – Education Change in China

One of the major changes in the education world is the rise of the Western Pacific in international studies of student achievement.  This includes New Zealand and China, and in my last blog I considered the ambitious plans of New Zealand. In this one, I consider  education change in China.

China has been rapidly modernizing its cities and industries.  Many big Chinese cities such as Shijiazhuang have streets and buildings that might be seen in almost any part of the world.

In other areas, the more traditional building of China remains in evidence, often less than
100 metres from the high-rise offices, businesses and banks (there seem to be an enormous number of banks in Shijiazhuang and Baoding- more so per kilometer than in Beijing even).  More traditional building can be seen in large areas of Shijiazhuang, though even in those areas there are significant changes.

Within even the most modern areas, the side streets contain shops on the ground floor that offer a chance for small business to exist and grow.  Indeed, it seems to me that these small and medium sized businesses are a realization of the dreams of many Chinese citizens.  Their hours are long, with this shop open from before 8 in the morning until after 10 at night (I never saw it shut), with the whole extended family playing a role.

In this process educational buildings- and education in general- has been, to some extent, left behind.  Now it seems that education is becoming a major area of investment and change.  On one level, the changes are subtle.  Consider these two examples from the same school.

The fundamental difference in the classrooms is the number of people in them.  Chinese schools are, in the main, built for classes of 64- though this varies.  The first image presents a more typical classroom and the second, a new classroom specifically designed for small groups (in this case, for robot construction- a current object of interest for Chinese educators).

The differences between Chinese education and US education are not restricted to class size and buildings of course.   Teachers in China have a very different experience- large classes, yet lots of time.  For example, teachers routinely teach less than 2 lessons a day (there are 8 lessons in most schools).  They have their own part of the school building, with offices and work areas.  They react with horror and disbelief to the teaching loads in New Zealand / UK / US education.

The examination system in China is as brutal as in many other systems, with exams at 15 and 18 determining educational futures with, no doubt, the same weaknesses of most examination systems.  The stress on parents, students and families seems intense with the one child policy making the pressure greater.  An aspiration for many Chinese parents is that their children go to UK and US universities, and that makes the challenges even greater.

The result?  Chinese education is, in some areas, embracing radical
change.  They are taking a distinctive approach, with educational change being based on evidence from other countries and, crucially, large-scale field trials of potential systemic changes.  Consider this gated community of apartments in Shijiazhuang: it looks very much like any other apartment complex in most large cities in China.  Yet within the complex is a radical change in educational buildings- a school embedded within an apartment tower block.


Experimental Primary School, Shijiazhuang

The name of the school is interesting- ‘experimental primary school’, and it is that.  Inside the classrooms vary from traditional schools- they are larger, have specialist rooms for most subjects such as science and technologies, and include many cultural subjects (such as music, calligraphy and pottery).  The model is more like that for a secondary school. Other aspects are clearly primary school strengths: every wall throughout the school only displays children’s work.  There is natural light in every room.  It is exceptionally clean and well maintained.

The teachers are dedicated, or so I gathered from speaking
  to the English teachers.  They love the school and its classes of 40 (though, in due course, the numbers will rise).   They are interested in educational developments,  research and change that will improve learning.  They are proud of the school, and eager to improve. ‘Kathy’, the teacher in the black dress, spent a year in Salt Lake City and her English is exceptionally good.

The Chinese approach to educational change is interesting: high cost, high quality field trials like this one show an ambition to become world leaders in learning.  The Chinese vision is one that seeks to achieve an exceptional step change in their education system. This, to me, seems very like the pattern of economic changes in China 30 years ago that have had such impact.  Already the performance of some school areas in China has changed radically (such as in Hong Kong and Shanghai).

There will be further change. We can expect more educational field trials, more evidence-based change, and – I believe – systemic change in Chinese education.

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