Apple Watch – Continues to Bug Me

Apple Watch – yes, it is one of the gizmos Apple brought to market…So we, the trusting consumers thought “well, lets give it a shot – after all it is coming from the company that makes so many great products…”

Well, as you can tell from my several postings so far, it has been less of an impressive gadget – actually borderline a disappointment!

Why do I say that?  Well, here I go with my latest gripes:

  • Siri is not there – whaaaat?   Well, Siri is not waking up when I make the famous call “Hey Siri…” no one answers….
  • I am supposed to be able to answer SMS with voice and convert to text or send as a voice response.  8 out of 10 tries DO NOT WORK!   Just had that experience 5 minutes ago…
  • The exercise calorie measurements – as I reported in the earlier posting, they are just wrong.  I am biking for 1+ hour and the watch measures 600-700 calories (mountain biking) but close to 200 are shown as “at rest calories”…. Now, how that can be?  The watch / its software knows I am exercising – I specified manually that I am on the bike….

At any rate, these are simple BUT very irritating and just plain not thought-through things…Poor software….Period!

Apple Watch – 3+ Months Use Readout

Apple-Watch TestingWell I have been using my Apple Watch since early June.  I was very eager to get the watch – why, you would say..? Because it promised some nifty ways to encourage you to exercise and measure your achievements.

so I started the quest – run, bicycle, lift weights, run on the Elyptical trainer…and in the process I also used secondary instruments to measure the time, distance, calories spent.

I used apps on my iPhone which I mount on my mountain bike.  In the process I have used many different apps – you can find the postings on those on this blog.  Also used the computer part of the Elyptical trainer….

the results have been rather unsatisfactory – with respect to the Apple Watch…not a good sight.

Here are the reasons for my dissatisfaction:

  1. measured mountain bike session – well the watch app does not discern mountain bike from road bike…. The result, completely different results – 1 hour on the mountain bike is 800+ calories but according to the Apple Watch 500-600….
  2. running on the Elyptical trainer results in a closer measurements but still disconnected
  3. i did weights – for about 5 minutes of lifting – the Apple watch registered 1 calories spent…!  Really !?!?
  4. etc

i believe you get my drift… Very surprising that 3rd parties have developed apps for iPhone which are pretty accurate, while Apple’s own for the Watch are not that great…!

I hear new software is coming for the Watch – hope these updates will bring positive changes …!


Biking is a Great Exercise

Exercise-biking-mountain-bikeFor all of you who are trying to stay fit and take steps to burn calories, here is something to consider (if you have not done that already) – biking (road, cross-country, or mountain) is a great form of exercise.

What makes me say that – well, based on inputs from various practitioners as well as my own experience, biking is:

  • less stressful on your joints – running could be a problem for many of us, but biking provides for a much less stressful way to train
  • providing for a escape from a routine – I do not know your methods but just running or swimming laps in a pool is booooring! Riding on your bike gives you the opportunity to experience speed, new places, while still train your body
  • practical – while you exercise you could roll down to the corner store, coffee shop or run an errand.  Great !  You spent some calories, exercised and got some other tasks accomplished…

Given these aspects above – what are the various ways to add to the biking exercise to increase its impact and efficiency:

  1. Consider going off the asphalt / city street and hitting the trails and unpaved surfaces – i.e. dirt roads and/or trails in the park or out in the country side are the way to increase your energy spent and calories burnt.  As you move to a more varied terrain and hit the mountain biking trails your workout increases significantly.  I have noticed that the calories burnt in those conditions may increase in the range of 20-25%
  2. Don’t stop pedaling – yes, it is easy to cruise along, coast on the speed you gain either from going downhill or from the previous interval of pedaling.  But where is the fun in that?  and more importantly, you will burn much fewer calories.  So, even if you are going downhill keep pedaling – this will be especially easy to do if you are on a mountain bike…and even more so on a 29er.  As in the case of item 1 above you will add another 20% to your achieved spent calories by doing this.
  3. Leverage your bike for errands and getting around town: Think about it this way, are you going to meet a friend for a mourning cup of coffee and chat?  You do!  I know it.  OK, if so then why are you jumping in your vehicle?   I have a better idea – leverage your bicycle. I can speak from experience – I do this most Saturdays – get to the local coffee shop using my bike…meet friends and get the best of both;
  4. If you live in a hilly place of the country, you are in luck.  Hills are your friends.  If you recall from earlier in this posting, keeping pedaling is good.  Same must be said about hill – they add to your exercise and help you built stamina and strength;

All in all, hopefully I have given you some food for thought.  None of the items above should be any significant and big revelation for you.  They are common sense – it is just that we do not stop and think about them – so hopefully, my list will help you get motivated and urge you to jump on your bike!

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


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


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:



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!