Bike+ and Runtastic Pro Mountain Bike

Today I went on a bike ride with the purpose of both getting back on the trails as well as reviewing a couple of biking applications for IOS / iPhone.   The two applications are Bike+ and Runtastic Pro Mountain Bike;   The second one – Runtastic – has been on my phone and in use for about a year now.  About a year or so ago I reviewed the Free version and now in this posting I will give you a view of the paid for PRO version.

Before we get to that one, lets first take a summary view of the Bike+ app.  I just downloaded it about a week ago, and today decided to give it a try.  It came with a lot of promises – apparently Bike+ was developed by bike pros and is supposed to address many of the needs of the biking enthusiast.

Biking applications Biking statistics application Bike+ Biking Application

The application offers quite a few capabilities among which are the ability to give you real time assessment of the climbing conditions you are experiencing as well as the usual speed, distance, time duration;   Also interestingly, the application allows you to enter tags for hazards you may encounter on the trail / road and via the application share with other users.  The application allows also integration with the Pebble Smart Watch – but NO Apple Watch integration that I know of (or being planned).

Bike+ biking statistics Bike+ biking statistics Bike+ biking statistics

Now about the negatives that I observed:  (1) the Grade reading and update should be happening more frequently hence with higher precision.  I noticed that I was climbing for several minutes before the field on the front panel updated.  You tend to miss some of the real time feedback – may be the software captures it and it is just that you do not see the real situation;  I am guessing this could be addressed easily by way of doing more frequent reads of the GPS by the application code; (2) By default the front panel / screen is not locked in and as a result only 5 minutes into my ride the screen was turned off – I had to manually turn the screen on – after the ride I found the option in the Settings allowing me to lock the screen in display mode – but that should have been the default state rather than auto turn off.   So not big issues – I will give it another try or two to experience it fully;

Now about Runtastic PRO Mountain Bike:

I bought the PRO version more than a year ago.  It is actually a very useful little program.

Rungtastic PRO Mountain bikin Runtastic biking application Runtastic PRO Mountain Biking software

Runtastic allows you to view a whole bunch of statistics as well – and be able to measure the distance, calories burnt, time on the track, speed, elevation climbed, etc.  All in all a fairly useful set of statistics for amateur biking enthusiasts like me.

IMG_4821 Runtastic PRO biking application Runtastic PRO biking application

In terms of some deficiencies – about the only one I have experienced is when I bike with my iPhone 6 Plus and the phone is mounted on my bike via a case that aligns it in a landscape view on the screen. Unfortunately, Runtastic Pro does not re-orient itself in landscape mode – it remains in portrait and as a result tough to read.

All in all, I will test the Bike+ a bit longer and see which one I like better – Runtastic PRO or Bike+

Enjoy your rides!

Bikes vs Cars – Another Set of Comments

Several days ago (it seems much longer time ago as I was 14 hours ahead in Asia / time zone) I posted some comments on the very old debate of Cars vs Bikes, which comments were instigated by the release of the documentary with same name.  As I stated in the previous posting, the debate rages on…So might as well add some more data and references on the topic in case you stumble across this blog.

One of the observations I made is that bikes in general are good for the economy – as they save $$$ otherwise spent on fuel, reduce pollution, assist in exercise – thus increasing the productivity of the riders….And now we have additional research pointing to bicycle (and foot) traffic actually increasing economic activity (the fancy term for otherwise said “shopping”).   The research was done by the University of Denver graduate student Stephen Rijo – the study shows (please see page 75 through page 95) that after Denver implemented bike lanes and bike friendly infrastructure on Larimer street in the city in October 2011, in the three subsequent years, sales and tax revenue increased 40%+ each year (41% to 71%);   The study PDF is available here;  Here is one of the example graphs from the study – courtesy of the research

Denver-Bike-Friendly-Street-Sales-Increase

Larimer Street Economic Performance – Food & Beverage, Other, & Total Sales (Sum) Taxes (from Stephen Antonio Rijo, August 2015 University of Denver)

Interesting findings – right?  I firmly believe we can find further similar examples of how biking and bike culture in cities can boost economic activity besides contributing to a healthier population.

Bikes vs Cars – New Debate on an Old Topic

I just came across a new documentary that has been released to address the very old debate of Cars vs Bikes – what is the right preference, how should cities handle traffic and what should they emphasize.

There has been so many debates on this and many opinions – so I might as well list mine.  So, here I go – why do I think the debate is somewhat misguided and actually makes sense to look and use both:

  • Cars – are they best option for everything – of course NOT!  Are they useful in our daily lives ?  Absolutely YES!
  • Bikes – do they cause trouble on the road?  Absolutely NO!   Bikes and cars as people overall should and can co-exist safely and harmoniously
  • Are bikes helping the economy?  YES, YES!   How?  By bringing traffic that is slow – which then allows people to stop and check shops out etc.  I will elaborate on that later.
  • Are cars helping the economy?  YES!  How?  Well by providing great jobs, providing great improvements to productivity – I personally save tons of time by commuting via car – fast and effectively getting to the office (before rush hour)

Here is the trailer and some commentary on the new documentary that is causing the emotions to sparkle again:

;

And I will continue the discussion in my next posting.  Now I am rushing off to board my flight from Narita (Japan) to Los Angeles (one of the cities highlighted in the documentary above).   Stay tuned for more — and of course I would love to hear / see / read your opinion and thoughts on the topic.

Gravel Bikes – More on the Category

Earlier last week I posted on a new category of bicycle for us enthusiast – this time a bike that offers the best of two worlds – a mix of mountain, cross-country and road bikes.  Enter the Gravel Bike…..Now we have one more – custom made bike of that nature and while it is not being categorized as a gravel bike – its characteristics are very clearly in that bike realm.

The bike is built by De Salvo Cycles – and its characteristics are:

  • Frame: made out of titanium – therefore very lightweight and at the same time offering good ride quality and comfort.
  • Wider tire clearance – for more maneuverability
  • Disk brakes for better performance
  • Light-weight wheels from custom wheel maker Rolf Prima
  • Finally a carbon fiber fork – very light but stiff and providing for comfort on the ride

The bike is not cheap – the frame is the most expensive component and is at $2500 plus the carbon fork and other niceties will bring the price tag in the range of $5K – which is a LOT, but you also get a custom created bike with great characteristics.   Give it a look – I need to figure out how to test ride one of those….

Gravel Bikes – A New Trend That Actually Makes Sense

GT-GRAVEL-BIKE

view of a Gravel Bike

Well, it has been a while since I added a new category of bike to my blog.  While I focus on mountain biking, this new category of a bicycle is actually a close relative of the mountain bike and certainly one each cross-country or mountain bike enthusiast should consider – or at least I believe – should evaluate.

What are Gravel Bikes?   In a summary – they are a combination of a road bike and a cross-country one with some elements ‘borrowed’ from the mountain bikes as well.  Turns out there are plenty of gravel roads out there – I certainly have come across them in pretty much every US National Park – just earlier yesterday I published a brief summary about two good bike friendly National parks – Acadia in Maine, and Zion in Utah – and surprise, both of them offer miles and miles of gravel roads to enjoy and explore.

What else is special about the Gravel Bikes?

  • Relaxed posture / frame geometry
  • Hydraulic disk brakes
  • Longer wheel base (to go with the relaxed geometry)
  • significantly increased tire clearance – to be able to navigate in a stable way obstacles you will encounter on the gravel roads

I am going to start building the database of manufacturers offering the Gravel Bikes and as usual structure that via the Bike Reviews option on this blog.  The Gravel Bike category is already live – you can follow the link to it.   Next will add the manufacturers like Salsa with their Warbird model, Raleigh, GT to name a few.   So check the blog out soon again.

Biking in USA: National Parks with Biking Trails

I have been posting listings of the new places for mountain biking I am discovering in my travels in our home state as well as across global locations.  In parallel with that I thought – well, what about the places we have visited and gone biking to over the years.  With the help of some research here is a listing of those in the US:

    • Acadia National Park, Maine:  Used to visit the place very often while living in New England.  There park has miles and miles of the so called “Carriage Roads” – which were developed for horse riding in the early 1900s and subsequently have become great biking trails.  Timeline: need to make sure you avoid the winter and late fall months – so probably late-May through early-October best to visit in my experience;
    • Zion National Park:  This is another really beautiful – I would say at sunset and sunrise, stunning park with great biking trails for all experience levels;  My recommendation – weather wise probably best between April and October – too cold and icy otherwise
    • I will continue to post some additional parks in this post – i.e. will update it later today;

 

 

Biking in Bulgaria: Bansko Around Town

Biking in Bulgaria

You may have read already some of my postings about biking around Bulgaria – Sofia, the Pirin mountains….Now let’s quickly talk about Bansko, and going around the town specifically.

Bulgaria-Bansko-Clock-TowerBiking around the new and old town could be a nice way to explore the area and is not strenuous – the area is relatively flat or just a gradual ascent and descent.  So, if seeing the town is your objective – hence biking in this case is just mode of transportation – the challenge level low, and the level of absorbing history, Bulgarian architecture, local culture, very high.  Here are some view from around the old town to give you some idea:

Bansko-old-town

Bulgaria-BanskoMahana-Pub-Bansko

Riding around the old town can be bumpy as you go along the multiple cobbled streets, but overall should be plenty exciting and allowing you to experience Bulgaria a whole lot better.   So jump on your bike and head downtown!

Biking in Bulgaria: Bansko and Pirin

Biking in Bulgaria

In my previous posting I discussed (very briefly) the surprising lack of bicycles in Sofia.  Now lets continue with something more uplifting and interesting – going to Southwest Bulgaria – the town of Bansko, and the Pirin National Park.  Why go there – well in only a few words – beautiful scenery (as you will be able to tell from the photos below), great hiking, and of course the opportunity to actually do mountain biking.

Bansko is located approximately two and a half hour drive from the Sofia international airport.  You also have the option of taking a bus as well as a shuttle which could be organized by many of the hotels in town.  Here is a map of the region in Bulgaria – Sofia and Bansko – to give you a relative idea

;

I will skip all the intricacies of driving in Bulgaria – if you have not done it or do not want to gain that experience, your safe bet is the bus or shuttle services offered.   Not a bad idea overall…

Now, about the mountain biking in Bansko.   For that you have many options and things to consider.

  • Equipment:
    • Option 1: check with your hotel – do they offer bikes as part of the package and/or do they rent bikes.   In either way, you will need to find out also the options for helmets.   I have to assume you have planned ahead and brought your biking shorts :-), gloves, water bottle…
    • Yes !  Water bottle is important!  Why?   The climate in Bulgaria in the summer is hot and dry.   You will be in the mountains and having the water bottle will be very much essential – or you may have issues…
    • Option 2:  Rent the bike(s) from a local shop – there are plenty in the town.  I did not use that option — Option 1 above was our solution – so cannot recommend a rental place but I am sure your hotel can do that for you.
  • Places for biking:
    • There are certainly a lot of them in the area.  As a matter of fact – one option for those of you who may want to take it easy – is just to jump on the bike and explore Bansko – the town.  I will post on that in a separate article later.
    • Another simple option to consider is to use the gondola lift from the edge of town (southern tip of the town) to the area called Banderishki Poliani – that is the end of the Gondola Lift line and proceed from there on the asphalt road all the way back into Bansko.   A great and exhilarating trip!   All downhill, all at pretty fast speed…!
    • The one other option to consider is the trail from Banderishki Poliani to Banderica Challet.  Here is a collage of a map and some photos from that trail:

Mountain-Biking-Bulgaria-Pirin

This is the trail we took and enjoyed.  Here are some more photos, the beauty of the place is a driver enough to consider exploring – no matter whether on foot or on a bike.   Enjoy!

Bulgaria-Biking-Hiking-Pirin

Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria

Bulgaria-Pirin-Trail

Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria

Biking in Bulgaria: Sofia

Bulgaria-SofiaMy family and I traveled to Bulgaria recently.   I will be publishing additional piece on our experience in the Pirin mountain separately later over the weekend, but in the mean time wanted to share my views on cycling in the capital – Sofia as this is something that has been bothering me for several years.

Bulgaria is a member of the EU.  Having said that, your visions of a glitzy European capital, with posh boutique stores etc. is…well, misplaced.  The country and its capital is still very much in a stage of development, and the standard of living is not high at all.  Here are some stats on the country’s economic indicators and recent assessment.

That economic picture is then combined with some additional factors – like price of gasoline and/or diesel fuel, and you have a situation that should drive huge demand for bicycle usage.

Well, not so fast!  While the incomes and disposable funds across the population of the country and/or Sofia is not high, the usage of bicycles is abysmally low.

From the moment you get out of the airport and get on a taxi, metro, bus….you are thrown in the mess of cars and especially in rush hour – you start wondering – how come?

Given that congestion and overall general aggressiveness of drivers, I would strongly discourage you take on biking in the city.  At the same time, I wish there was a way to start a petition across the people living in the city – to drive the usage of bikes much higher….

I have been in many European cities and in most of them you see tons of bicycle usage and as a result incredible number of benefits – including MUCH safer streets from standpoint of overall pedestrian, bicycle, and overall traffic.

Let me know with your feedback and recommendations on how to address this big issue for this small country…!

Apple Watch – Incredible Postings Out on the Web

Exercising with Apple WatchOver the last month or so I have been paying attention to the various Web sites and postings related to the recently release Apple Watch.  It is interesting to observe, read and listen to the incredible level of noise out there – especially the large number of very loud voices thrashing the product.

I am surprised to notice that even the biking community – which I thought has traditionally been a whole lot more progressive and receptive of new ideas and technologies – is extremely polarized on the topic of the usefulness of the Apple Watch.  The opinions range from extremely negative to very positive….which really highlights several things:

  • Too many people – even those considering themselves progressive and innovative really resist change!  How else but by experimenting with new products will any new technology, product concept or idea, will survive and develop….?
  • For those of you who do not agree with the bullet above – think of the Apple Newton… It was 1992 (approximately) when the product came out and failed shortly after that.  Yes, it failed badly – but 10 years later the Palm Pilot was all the rage, and another 10- years later various smart connected devices rule the product space and have caused the demise of the PC industry…..
  • Back to the Apple Watch – if you are on your bike and exploring a new area of town or you are in a new place all together, turn on the Apple iPhone maps on and your Watch becomes a VERY handy navigation device – you have to experience to believe what I am saying – the Watch provides very intuitive navigation hints and turn by turn directions.   It is one of the best use cases so far !!! (in my opinion)

    

In a few words – we have to fail often in order to succeed !!!