Bicycles and Crazy Uses of Bicycles

Bicycles – Crazy Uses

Have you thought about the various uses of a bicycle…?  All of us think a mountain bike is a mountain bike, you have your trails or neighborhood pathways and you go for the exercise and the excitement of downhill rushing by you….a 29er screaming downhill at 30-40miles an hour…what a rush!

Then there are a few other uses of a bicycle – take a look below… Have you thought of any of them?  I bet not….or ?


Here are the pickup bicycles. Who said you cannot move 100-pounds of shrimp or chicken from the warehouse to the market :-)


These bikes will certainly do the job well…


Bicycles-as-trucks-in-BeijingAnd then there are also the heavy weight moving machines.  These are almost pulling as much weight as a mid-size truck in the US.

Hey, at least they are not polluting and are on top of the energy efficiency list, right?


Did we see enough?  I bet not…



Here is another contraption – a bike on the streets of Beijing

This baby can haul some stuff…You agree, right..?



Sleeping on a bike

Sleeping on your bike…anyone?  Why not – this bike especially…I am surprised there is no mattress on it





But seriously, it is obvious that bicycles continue to be a dominant force in China…



Bicycle Helmet – Resources for Learning How to Buy One

Bicycle Helmet

I have posted a number of articles about bicycle helmets.  Having taken a spill more than twice while riding, I have stated before and will repeat now, am a true believer in their utility.  You may not like how they feel, or how they fit, or their shape, or…(gasp) the fact that they may mess up your hair….but even after all that – they are truly useful.

Now, if your helmet does not feel good on your head, chances are you need a different, better fitting one.  Here are some key items to check out about your helmet and additional resources to use while selecting one:

  • Start with checking the box in the store.  Why?  It needs to clearly state that the helmet meets the requirements of the Consumer Products Safety Commision – the link here will bring you to the specific page with their guidance; Another valid certification is the Snell’s B-95
  • Size assessment – ask your local bike store or another sports or outdoors store with a good biking department for help on that.  They can measure you…The helmet needs to fit snugly or you have the danger of actually hurting yourself.
  • Personal preferences – here you can go wild; there are many bike helmet options…in terms of ventilation, shades, style and colors.  Up to you on this one.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has tons of additional information on the topic – check them out.   In the meantime, please remember – you need a bike helmet!


New Low-Cost Mountain Bikes – What $1000 Gets You

For those of you who are considering getting into mountain biking, please read this posting  as much as possible – I believe this is a good set of information for you.  Why, you may ask?  Because, it will be good to first try the sport and see if you would like it…At any rate, the bikes we are covering in this article, will get you to try things at a reasonable entry fee.

What are the $1000 bikes good for:

  • They have relatively entry level components – Shimano Alivio or Deore shifters and drivetrains; Those are shifting OK but they most likely won’t last the strain of continuous riding in the hills – but again, as a beginner you are probably going to have relatively easy rides…So the combination of these components and pricing should be OK
  • Less than challenging rides – especially climbs – as the frames of these bikes are most likely going to be made of aluminum with less rigidity, but hey, again, you are getting a low cost bike, right…
  • Finally, the rest of the components will be low end as well – pedals=flats; front shock = no, you are not getting air shock – in this price range, it will be a spring / coil based shock; seat = entry level WTB

So, let’s look at the list below


Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 – $950 retail;   The bike is very good when it comes to agility and entry level components; The shock is coil spring 100mm travel custom made by Suntour for Specialized; The brakes are hydraulic Tektro Auriga (2 generations ago the Tektro brakes were really noisy – speaking when braking – check those out well before buying); The drivetrain is Shimano-Alivio and the deraillures are Shimano Alivio and SRAM X5;


Marin Pine Mountain 1 – $989 retail;   This is a hardtail bike with 27.5″ wheels; Surprisingly (for this price range) it has a chromoly steel frame and further surprising the designers have managed to include an aggressive fork without a shock in this package.  Very interesting.  The drivetrain is 1×10 at the front with a SRAM X7 Type 2 rear derailleur;



Rocky Mountain Soul 730 – $899 retail;   As expected (in this price range) this is a hard tail bike with 27.5″ wheels; The frame is alloy (the designers at Rocky Mountain bikes claim they take special care in the design even of the aluminum alloy tubing – so may be a bit of an advantage here)  and the front fork includes a Suntour spring coil based 120mm travel shock – this is certainly a good shock given the travel even if it is not air one; The shifters as usual are Shimano Alivio, and the front and rear derailleur are Shimano Acera and Deore respectively; The brakes are hydraulic and are Shimano M355 as expected as well;


BMC Sportelite SE – $999 retail;  This is an interesting bike.  Why?  Because it actually offers some less than low-end components in this sub-$1000 price category.  While its frame is still aluminum alloy tubing, the front fork sports a RockShox XC30 TK Solo Air 100mm – yes, the first bike in this category with air shock;



Giant Talon 29er – $850 retail; The frame of course is aluminum alloy tubing – no surprises there;  The drivetrain is Shimano 3×9-speed and the brakes are now Tektro hydraulic disc;  The front fork includes a Suntour coil based fork with 100mm travel and lockout.  Overall this bike is not a spectacular one, but then the price is very convincing


So all in all there are some good bikes in the listing above.  If you want to get in this sport – these are some good machines to test ride and enjoy and decide…



Apple Watch – More Feedback

Apple Watch Thoughts

Is the Apple Watch the Ultimate Fitness Tracker for Cyclists?

This is the title of an article I came across as I was searching for others’ experiences with the Apple Watch.  The article was well written and certainly touched on many of the desires and issues I looked for and experienced with the device.  All in all the conclusion of that article though was VERY far off from my own experiences and conclusion.   The statements made were

So while the Apple Watch is probably not the ultimate fitness tracker for all cyclists (namely those who are serious about using it as a tool to track metrics, compare performance on particular segments and improve their overall riding), it’s definitely the ultimate fitness tracker for me

I appreciate the candor of the author – i.e. for him the Watch is acceptable… Well that was not my experience and conclusion.  I had the following pet peeves which though were followed by giving kudos to Apple for handling my dissatisfaction with great appreciation for the customer (me)

I thought the watch needed to:

  • Do much better job in gathering useful information / statistics about the exercises being tracked – I was really surprised that the apps on the watch were SO rudimentary…
  • The measurements that were taken were / are OFF by too great of a margin,   I could have been OK with 10-15% error / variation of the readings.  The issue is that in my case those readings were off by 50+%
  • Have more applications for the amateur sports person – I was very surprised at the weak set available….May be soon enough there will be more.  I hope so

Net-net, I like the idea, I was disappointed in the execution and product ultimately made available to us, the consumers

New Mountain Bikes to Consider

Mountain Bikes to consider

New model year – new mountain bikes…Well, it happens every year, so it does this Fall – the 2016 bikes are out (they have been for a while) and there are plenty of new machines that have great specks and certainly can be good for most amateur and enthusiast bikers alike.   In this posting I want to highlight the new models that I have seen browsing across the web sites of a number of manufacturers.  Some observations:

  • 29ers and 27.5″ wheel size rule!   I can attest judging by both the configuration of most good range bikes as well as the inputs of friends and family who ride
  • dropper posts are coming into the affordable bike range (i.e. in bikes with sub-$3K price tag);
  • SRAM-GX-LineNew drivetrain options are also entering the affordable bike models.  1×10, 1×11. 2×11 are being used on increasing number of bikes – I am still a bit standoffish on this one.  Yes, the 1x frees up real estate on the front handlebars as many of the articles report (and so do the sales associates in the pro-bike shops) but what are we giving up?   I think using these new drive train options are forcing you to give up useful low gears in your riding program… So this one you will have to judge for yourself

In this and may be one more posting I will cover the bikes I have come across and consider good options for you too

  1. Rocky-Mountain-ThuderboltRocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 – Retails for $1999;    This is a mountain bike model family – the Thunderbolt – that includes 6 models and range from $11.5K to $1999 in pricing. This bike includes a large number of up-market components which you can usually find on higher price rigs.    The fork for the bike is Manitou Marvell with 120mm travel – I forgot to mention, the wheels are 27.5″ ones – I would have preferred a 29″ ones but the claims Rocky Mountain designers would make I am sure, is that they gave higher maneuverability to this model
  2. trekTrek Stache-7 — this is another excellent bike with surprising to me also one that uses the Manitou fork but a shorter 110mm travel.  The cassette is a single chainring setup which I am still not completely sold on – I continue to like my 3 chain rings with tons of variability  in my gear ratios.  The Stache-7 uses also the G2 geometry as in my Trek X-Caliber Gary Fisher model – I like it as it does appear to provide for increased maneuverability at low speeds.
  3. Specialized-Mountain-BikeSpecialized Camber 29er – Retail $1900 (you can jump to the Camber Comp 29er for $2500):  These are great bikes – I have owned 2 Specialized Rockhopper bikes, the later one being Specialized Rockhopper Comp SL 29 – which was my first 29-inch bike and I really liked it.  The Camber is its next version – and the $2500 version is adding some upgraded components – the front shock is with 120mm travel and much higher end design.   You will like both – the $1900 and the $2500 – which one you should buy depends entirely on how hard of riding you intend to do

Urban Biking – Advances Across European Cities

Urban Biking

This is not a fad – there is plenty of evidence that bicycle usage in the cities across the US is growing.  There are plenty of different reasons for that – to name a few: more people are moving from the suburbs to live downtown or closer to downtown and their workplaces, gasoline – while the gas prices have been steadily falling, still it takes a chunk of money to just keep commuting to-and-from work….very importantly – biking is actually a great form of exercise and a method to keep people younger longer….!

Bicycle usage across various parts of the US are growing – I visit many cities each year and, yes, I do pay attention – you do tend to see significant number of bicycles going around.  Here is a chart which actually provides a lot of information

Infographic: San Francisco is the Most Bike-Friendly City in the U.S. | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

I was very proud and pleasantly surprised by San Francisco and Austin…..Great progress..

But – wait a minute – do not let this praise make you think that the cities in the US (even the ones listed on the infographic above) have made enough progress to allow for broad usage of bicycles.   To spell it simply – THEY HAVE NOT!

Now, let’s take a look at a relatively random sampling of european big and and small, modern and upcoming, etc cities.

Then recently I went on a complex customer facing tour in Europe, where I met with tons of customers, but those located usually in smaller citifies across Germany, Belgium, and France.   I was very surprised (in a positive way) to find tons of evidence of heavy bike usage – and once again thought as to how limited the same is in the US….

I went to Poing, Bavaria in Germany – the industrial company I visited had installed a covered parking for the employees that ride bicycles to work!


Then my trip continued to Bucharest, Romania — to my surprise there – again – big bike lanes to the main streets and people actually paying attention to them.

Now, why would Bucharest have a strong bike culture?  It does not – but in 2011 timeframe the local government decided to encourage the use of bicycles – and voila – the infrastructure was created.


Per Wikipedia, between 2008 and 2010, the local government built 122-km of bicycle lanes  – yes, indeed – I saw those and the staff at the JW Marriott in Bucharest also told me a similar story.    The sad part though was that I hardly saw a person using the lanes…;


The story continued in France, in multiple cities there was the Bicycles-in-France-Citiesstrong evidence of the bicycle lanes and in most places there were people taking advantage of the infrastructure.  All in all a positive development – why?  for the same reasons I started this article with – cost savings, health, and overall a more pleasant living environment!

I hope things continue to develop in a positive direction in the US as well




Good Bye to my Apple Watch

Earlier today I finally decided to resolve my situation with the Apple Watch.  Both yesterday and today were beautiful sunny days in Austin, Texas, with yesterday being surprisingly cool (vs. the weather forecast that called for 90-degree F).

Needless to say, the bikes were out (after fixing a flat I had not noticed on my way back from the trails three weeks ago) and my family and I hit the green belts on Barton Creek….a nice place to bike

We spent about 1 hour and 20 minutes riding – on both Saturday and Sunday – although Sunday was a more difficult day – due to the significantly higher temperatures.

Now, back to the Apple Watch situation – I had posted about my issues with the Watch in previous articles.  I like the Watch!  The idea is great and the industrial design / physical implementation is also impeccable.  Problem (at least per my experience) is the software.  I continue to find issues with how the watch measures exercise etc.  A week ago I upgraded to version 2 of the Apple Watch OS with the hope things will improve.  Since then I have been testing the exercise applications for elliptical trainer and for biking and in all cases the results are less than stellar – the Apple Watch continues to give incorrect readings from the sessions

Finally, today I went to one of the local Apple Stores and had a very positive experience with the Apple Store Staff.   Overall, the are usually very attentive and knowledgeable.  This time they went well above that.  I discussed the situation with the store manager – admittedly I had spoken with him about a month ago about the issues and was very offered a great service – I was able to return the watch and get a refund.   This is well beyond my expectations – Thank you Apple!  and Apple Store Staff!

As I stated earlier – I really like the idea Apple was targeting with the Watch and was very disappointed to have to return it but it did not work.   I will look forward to the next version – with the hope that things will be improved etc.   Till then – back to my bike and iPhone applications… Just as a reminder – in my opinion Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro is a good one, and so is Strava (as many bikers will attest).  I have not been able to use well Bike+ for some reason its user interface and features are not quite as well done as the other apps.  But I like to experiment – will continue testing them.

If you have questions about iPhone Apps for Biking – do not hesitate – let me know…will give you my experience and view point.