I dusted down my old bike the other day…

It was the first time I’d even seen it in ages.

It’d been tucked away behind a load of boxes in the garage for years. But after a bit of tweaking and adjusting of cables I was surprised to find it running well, so off I pedaled…

Now this was all a bit of a kneejerk reaction to an over-ambitious promise I’d made.

Some new neighbours moved in down the road and I’d seen the guy out and about on his bike. We got chatting one day and I started regaling him with tales of my mountain biking adventures.

And I was pretty serious about it at one time. I biked across Tibet and up to Everest Base Camp once. That’s when I was still young, free, and single.

When I could still get away with that kind of thing!

So anyway, we’re talking away, and I’m getting more and more enthusiastic about bikes and then he says “well great…let’s go out for a ride one morning, how about Saturday?”

“Definitely” I heard myself say. “I’ll roll down to your house for about 8am”.

Now bear in mind I’d not even seen my bike for the best part of 4 years. And it had to be at least 10 years since I’d ridden it.

The last time I went I fell off and broke my collar bone halfway up a hill in Wales. And it’s pretty fair to say my level of fitness is not quite what it once was.

“Right, I’d better get a couple of sneaky ‘training’ rides in before we go”, I thought. “I’d better make sure I still know how to do this”.

I don’t ever remember sweating quite so much but the training rides went alright. So Saturday morning saw us heading off into Wales.

Now the last time I went, you got yourself an Ordnance Survey map and disappeared into the hills. You found your own way around and it really did feel like a little weekend adventure.

But now they’ve got these ‘Trail Centres’.

There are 3 or 4 of them just over the Welsh border not far from where I live. The one we went to was a pretty impressive set up to be fair, it had different grades of man-made tracks running through a mountainside forest.

And of course, as we arrived in the car park, catering to a captive audience was… the bike shop!

Having a nosy around the shop really was like stepping onto a different planet for me. The technology has moved on so far in little over a decade. Even the standard size of a mountain bike wheel has changed since I was last riding!

And the price of these bikes…

£5,000 didn’t seem too out of place for a ready-to-roll set-up!

I started to feel a bit self-conscious as I pulled my battered old steed from the car boot. And sure enough, I raised a few eyebrows as we started pedaling.

“Oh wow, are you into those old retro models?”

(Apparently there’s a bit of a cult following for ‘retro’ bikes from before 1998)

“Err, yeah. They don’t make them like this anymore you know”, I bluffed.

Honestly, it was like I was riding around on a penny farthing or something. By about the fifth conversation, and once I’d actually proven to myself I could still get up the hills, I started to get a bit of a kick out of it.

Some of these guys were actually stopping me as I biked past to have a chat, and a bit of a snigger.

So I’m looking at them, thinking “you’re sitting on a six grand carbon fibre bike covered with the latest titanium widgets, and you’re slowing me down so you can have a laugh at my old bike”

The irony seemed to be lost on them.

They’d splashed a load of money on the very latest technology, computerised gear-shifting and all sorts of gadgets. Most of it designed to improve the performance of racing riders by tiny increments, and not going to make a difference to the average weekend rider above any other decent bike. Maybe even one from 15 years ago like the bike I just overtook them on!

Anyway, it was all taken in good spirits and I’m not being too judgmental. After all, we each have our own hobbies and areas of interest and we do tend to get swept up buying the latest “must-have” gear and gadgets.

But you know, if you are indeed paying for performance-enhancement, the trick is to know where the point of diminishing returns lies before you decide to spend your money.

Is the benefit this investment will bring worth the money?

Are you clear on the benefit before you invest your money?

Imagine how much it cost a company called Spread Networks to lay a secret fibre optic cable in the straightest line possible between trading exchanges in New York and Chicago?

Could there really be a benefit to going to all that trouble when perfectly good fibre optic lines were already in place?

The cable run stretched to 825 miles and tunneled through mountains, under rivers, beneath city streets, and whatever else stood in the way. And when it was completed, data sent down this line shaved 3 milliseconds off the next best available service.

Now that doesn’t sound like a lot but in the world of high-frequency trading it’s an age. The incredibly high investment cost – estimated at $300 million – would undoubtedly be classed as a bargain for the big banks and hedge funds that use this service.

Obviously, a project like that is beyond the realms of fantasy for us home based traders. But where might you invest some of your hard-won funds to gain an edge?

Are there any trading tools you can buy, quickly put to work, and see a definite benefit from?

This follows a number of email conversations I’ve had this week.

I’ve been recommending my favourite premium charting tool to those who’ve been asking. And I thought I’d share it with you here along with another two tools you might find useful.

Obviously, you only want to pay for them if they benefit your own particular approach to the market. But they all offer free trial periods so it’s well worth giving them a try just so you can keep abreast of what’s out there

The three best performance-enhancing tools for traders

Here’s an overview of the three tools. Take a quick look at them – click on the name of the tool to go through to their website – and I’ll cover each in more detail over the next three eletters.

1) eSignal: Flat out the best data and charting platform available. The quality of their data is unsurpassed. Their Forex feed is made up of over 200 contributors and you can also filter out individual broker’s feeds. This is the truest picture of the forex market you can get.

You’ll also have access to professional level analysis tools for an uncommon insight into market behaviour, these are things the average broker just will not offer you on their free platforms.

Take a look at eSignal On Demand: it’s their cheaper entry level product, perfect for Forex, but they don’t do a great job of promoting it.

2) Ninjatrader: This is a great tool that makes entering and managing trades a doddle. If you work on the shorter timeframes you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

You can drag and drop your orders up a ‘ladder’ of pricing. It’s a very visual way of monitoring your trades. It’s easy, accurate, fast and also lets you set up automated trade management so it all runs hands-off.

3) Forextester: This is your risk-free training ground. Test your trading skills in a real-world accelerated environment.

You get 10 years worth of tick-by-tick data so you can go back to whatever point in time you like, hit play, and trade the actual movements the market made in real time. Don’t worry, you have total control over the playback speed too! You can test a year’s worth of trading with your new strategy idea in a hour or so.

Be Prepared: Market Moving Data Coming This Week (London Time):

Wednesday 1st October:
08:55 EUR German Manufacturing PMI
09:30 GBP Manufacturing PMI
13:15 USD Non Farm Employment Change
15:00 USD ISM Manufacturing PMI

Tuesday 2nd October:
09:30 GBP Construction PMI
12:45 EUR Interest Rate Decision

Friday 3rd October:
09:30 GBP Services PMI
13:30 USD Employment Numbers!

Monday 6th October
– no big reports

Tuesday 7th October:
09:30 GBP Manufacturing Production

I hope you enjoyed this week’s eletter, I’m off to the bike shop now (just kidding!).

Have a look at those three tools if you get chance, keep an eye out for the US employment numbers on Friday, and I’ll catch up with you again very soon.