Biking Benefits and Road Safety

In the fall of 1987 I moved to Beijing – yes, that’s right – you read it correctly.  I had the good fortune to find my way to China in the early days of its opening to the rest of the world and in a time when Beijing was still heavily navigated by its citizens riding on bikes.  Based on what I have read on various statistics web sites, Beijing peaked in bicycle ownership as % of residents moving around by bike in 1986 with that percentage being 63%!

Think of that — 63% of the city’s population using bikes for commute etc.  I saw that in 1987 – acquiring a bike was a pinnacle of one’s achievement (when it comes to transportation).  Admittedly, car ownership was out of reach for probably 60% of the overall 63% who owned bikes (statistic above), but nevertheless moving around the city then was much, much easier.

bicycle statistics

When I look at the statistics for road fatalities vs bike ridership, I cannot help but wander – what if China and most of the res of the world got back on bicycles – what will happen….I am thinking – good things will happen – i.e. less accidents, and much healthier population :-)

Infographic: More Cyclists In A Country Means Fewer Fatal Crashes | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista;

The important part to consider is that the bicycle rides will also allow to reduce the impact of fare increase for subway in Beijing.  The ticket prices increased from 2RMB to 3RMB minimum and now the prices are dependent on distance traveled.

Of course you would think that the rise in public transport prices will give a boost to Bike Sharing in Beijing – but based on info I found on the web – there are only 22K bikes being deployed in the bike sharing programs in the city.

By the way, if you are visiting Beijing on a leisurely schedule and the weather during your visit is good, you should consider biking around the city.  It will save you time and make you a lot more mobile – hence allow you to see more…

iPhone Bike Mount – How To Video

Well folks, this is it – now you can leverage Kristin’s tech review channel to get to various reviews of cases for smart devices (iPhones and iPads predominantly).  Over the last week or we were able to also get a couple of hands on reviews going on for the bike mounts for the smart gadgets.

I personally find the mounts for iPhone (or Android phones for that matter) on my bike extremely useful and over the last several years have written multiple times about my experiences on the subject.  Now you can see the video of how to install / use as well.

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Here is also a link to some further description on the mounts.

Why do I find these mounts so useful?  For several reasons:

  • Allow you to have a good tool for assessing your exercise level
  • You are not likely to get lost on the trail — YES! believe me, multiple friends have told me they have had experiences where they were disoriented on a remote trail and took some time finding their way back to the car…
  • You can receive a phone call while biking – I do not recommend it BUT WHAT if there is an emergency….
  • …I am sure you will find other use cases as well (e.g. listening to music in some cases)

So check out the options I recommend and look for more reviews to come over the weeks ahead.

 

Biking Computer Applications on iPhone 6 plus

Earlier in the week I finally upgraded my phone from the very good and solid iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 Plus.  In previous postings on this blog I have described how useful a smart phone – whether iPhone or one with Android – can be in terms of providing a biking computer platform for various navigation and exercise planning applications.

There are multiple options for how one can use the previous generations of iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and even iPhone 6 – here are several that I have tried and/or used on my mountain bikes over the last 4-5 years:
 

Now my new phone posed a larger (literally) challenge – being the iPhone 6 Plus – its size is pretty amazing when seen on the handlebars of the bike….But for that I will provide you with a better visibility over the next couple of days – we are preparing a through review of the Tigra mountain bike case for the phone.

Today, I tested the setup on my Trek bike and was pleased with the overall stability of the case and phone.  HOWEVER, I discovered a nuisance – several of the mountain bike computer applications did not change orientation when I turned the iPhone 90 degrees to be in a landscape format on my handlebars.   I rode as usual with the Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro application on and to my surprise it stayed in portrait mode even when I turned the phone 90-degrees to landscape.  Needless to say – this turned out to be pretty annoying fast.

Then I tried other apps – and surprisingly all of them – BikeBrain, BikeComputer, Cyclemeter, iBike, TheBike – did not change orientation….Strange!  To say the least.  iBiker was the only one of the bunch – of the ones I tested – that actually automatically adjusted to landscape mode when I turned the phone to be more aligned with my handlebars.

iBiker Bike Computer view of the iBiker Dashboard

So, with that in mind, the quest for the ‘perfect application’ needs to continue – this time with iPhone 6 Plus mounted on a mountain bike handlebars in mind!  Wish me luck and drop me a comment if you have a recommendation on a good Bike Computer Application.   Thanks in advance!

Biking in the Sunset of Austin

Sometimes biking (whether on the road or mountain) is full of pleasant surprises.  That was my experience on the first Sunday of February 2015 — originally the weekend was supposed to be rainy and cold – and Saturday indeed was (to my disappointment) that way.  Too bad the weather forecast folks were right…!  But Sunday started in a promising way – by mid-day the sun was out and the temperature was pretty nice.  So around 3:30pm we decided to go for a ride in the neighborhood trails…

On the way back a couple of hours later – we were treated to a spectacular sunset – why do I say that?  Well, please see the photo gallery below and judge for yourself.

By the way, these photos were taken with an iPhone-5.   Just think if I had carried with me (which I never do :-( ) my DSLR camera…. Oh, well – one day I will do that as well.

Bikes, canals and Starry Night paths or how biking in the Netherlands works

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I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid. Or at least that’s what I thought until I moved to live in the Netherlands.

First of all, forget about getting a fancy bike – anything more than EUR 50 will most likely get stolen within a week if you live in any of the large university cities (Leiden in my case). Think cheap, rusty, screeching, pedal-break type. And definitely double locked – once with an integrated rear tire lock and once with a chain lock, just to be sure! Oh, and don’t forget to pick a strange, easy to recognize color to paint the body, so you can spot your bike among the hundreds of bikes parked at Leiden Centraal.

media_xl_1991996[1]So I bought a used bike on my first week in Leiden and went on to explore the city. The Netherlands has a very extensive network of bike paths – I am sure you can go from A to B anywhere in the country with just a bike. However, there are some things to keep in mind – always stay in the bike lane – usually they are red in color or have the bike sign drawn on them. Careful, some of them are one way, and people will look at you funny, even ring their bells if you ride the wrong way. Always have both rear and front lights, you can get a pretty hefty fine if you get caught without one at a regular police checkpoint (usually at a busy part of the city, at night). Luckily, almost anything counts as having a light, even tiny LED blinking lights you can attach to your regular (most often not working) lights. You can buy them at any convenience store for a few bucks. Drunk biking is also a reason for a ticket, sily as it sounds – the Dutchies take their biking pretty seriously! Crossing a street while the bike light is red is also not advised.

Alright, I have a bike now, with working lights, side bags to put groceries, working breaks, even a bell. I am only riding in the bike lanes and I even stop at the traffic signals. So far so good, until it starts raining! And the wind comes out! Usually I am not a whimpy kid, I think I can stand a bit of discomfort, but that wind just knocks the breath out of you! Not only that, but sometimes it is side wind, so I almost got shoved into the canal running by the bike lane! Interestingly enough, most Dutch people around me just continued on, while I got off my bike and went on to push it miserably along the way. I also seemed to have forgotten my rain suit – a pretty spacy-looking water resistant pants you put on top of your regular clothes, and a gigantic jacket with a hood. Some people looked like mini ships at full sail! But, when it is not windy or raining, biking in the Netherlands can be pretty awesome. There are a ton of tiny villages and pastoral scenery to enjoy. And, if you are in Eindhoven, you most definitely need to see the Van Gogh-inspired luminescent path that looks like straight out of Starry Night!

Starry Night path

Tom Woods, illuminated bike path inspired by Vincent van Goh’s Starry Night paiting by Dutch artis Daan Roosegaarde

 

Connected Gadgets for Your Bicycle

CES 2015 has been certainly the year of connectivity.  Gone are the days when the stars of the show were 60-inch, then 80-inch, then 105-inch flat panel TVs…Those are now well underway to the homes of many consumers.

This year, it seems like transportation has invaded the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – all sort of smart cars and…..wait….gadgets for bicycles as well.  In previous article I talked about the Car-to-Bicycle Communicating Helmet, and now we have a pedal that allows the bike it is part of to be connected.  A French company Connected Cycle, has developed this pedal which notifies you any time the bike is moved and also provides you with the location of the bike.

Connected Pedal Smart Phone and Pedal Connected

Connected Pedal Colors

The pedal has integrated GPS functionality that creates the tracking and prevents the bicycle from being stolen – a significant plus in a big city or part of a bike sharing program.

In addition, the pedal records the bike’s speed, route, incline, and calories burnt and of course those will be stored and accessed via a cloud service.  So overall, useful and interesting.

 

 

iPhone Bike Mount

Well folks by now (2+ years after starting to use my iPhone as a bike computer) I am completely sold on the concept and convinced that using my smart phone on the bike handlebars and going on multiple trails is OK, safe and useful.

The phones I have used on my bike (actually two different mountain bikes – a Specialized Rockhopper Comp SL 29 and a Trek X-Caliber 29 Gary Fisher) have survived multiple accidents, including 2 or 3 major spills from my bike with the phone on the handlebars in its holder….without any damages to it.

2+ years ago I wrote about the phone mount I have been using — I still use it but lately have started searching through companies that supply new and more versatile mounts and cases including water proof implementations.

Here I must add a disclaimer on my current setup – the mount I am using  does not provide splash, rain, etc water protection.  In those cases I have to remove my phone and put it in my under the seat pouch for safety.

So, what have I found from recent browsing through manufacturers’ web sites – the company that appears to have developed an interesting water proof and very versatile – ie being usable on bikes and other situations, is Tigra Sport.   The specific mount and case I am considering is  which has some very interesting features. These images (from the Tigra Web site) provide a good idea why I consider them a good option if you are looking for water proof solution:

Tigra Sport Bike phone Case  Tigra Sport iPhone Bike Case Tigra Sport  Tigra Sport This last image shows the versatility the case offers.  So next stop for me will be the long term test – i.e. riding for a few (very cold – burr…..!) Winter weeks with the case – as soon as I get it.  Stay tuned for another update.  In the mean time I do believe this mount and case will be a winner.

Car-to-Bicycle Communicating Helmet

Volvo, the automotive company most of us associate with safety has gone ahead of the class again!  They have put in product car-to-bicycle communicating helmet for bicycle riders.  This is not just a lab experiment and something that works on “a Tuesday morning if it is sunny, and you are peddling your bike really slowly…”  but a real product instantiation — in a real SUV.

Volvo has implemented communications link that allows drivers to communicate directly with bicycle riders and avoid collisions on the road.   The solution is a GPS tracking application where the helmet (worn by the bicyclist) establishes a two way link between the rider and the driver, calculates the position of both the SUV and bicycle and ultimately the driver is notified via the Volvo dash information system, while the cyclist gets notified via a helmet mounted light.

You can also take a look at another very interesting concept (already funded on Kickstarter.com) bike — a connected bike which counts your spent calories riding, provides navigation guidance (via integrated lights and your smart phone GPS system), uses integrated proximity sensors to detect approaching vehicles and notify via vibration of their approach.    Here is a video by the developers:

Maryland Bike Trails – Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Maryland bike trails can be found in many places across the state – both in the city as well as outside in various parks.  Just recently I posted a slideshow and a brief description of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – a park we discovered only after having visited Maryland and the Annapolis area for more than 20-years.  This time around we decided to use the time after Christmas for exploring areas on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as later on during our stay – areas in West Virginia in the Shenandoah valley.

So back to the Eastern shore – after driving for a couple of hours east and then south of the Bay Bridge we came upon the Blackwater park.
Here is a map of the park and surrounding area:

 

The park and surrounding area offer several bike routes for both novices as well as experienced cyclists. The different routes are anywhere from a 4-mile or 7-mile loop route along the paved Wildlife Drive – where you will be able to see a great number of birds (see the slideshow below). There are also the 20-mile and 25-mile routes along the surrounding roads.


Here is also a link to the slideshow I posted on YouTube:

And finally a link to the park itself.  Enjoy your visit!

Carbon Frame Mountain Bike Under $1000 – Continued

Carbon frame mountain bike is one that carries a heavy price tag usually.  This is a continuation of the article about a newly discovered (at least for me) sub-$1000 carbon fiber frame mountain bike – the brand being BEIOU from a Chinese manufacturer. Part-I of the posting was here – and not I wanted to summarize some additional info about the bike – which it turns out is actually a set of bikes with different component complement but similar carbon frame.

The BEIOU bikes come in several different tiers – per the company:

  • Entry level: with Suntour fork, 80mm travel, and Shimano Deore 596 brake kit

Carbon frame mountain bike - Beiou bike

  • Athletic level: with upgraded front fork – Rockshox REBA 100mm travel with remote control; and Shimano Deore XT brake set and drivetrain;

Carbon frame mountain bike - Beiou Rockshox REBA Carbon frame mountain bike - Upgraded Beiou

Furthermore, the tires are KENDA, the hubs – Novatec, and finally, need to point out that some of the bikes actually may come outfitted with MOZO air forks;

Overall, this is a good value bike with different configurations you can find at Amazon.com all the way up to $2599 — the link to this configuration is shown below: