Biking in Texas – Spring Views

Biking in Texas

The mountain biking season in Texas goes through its ups and downs.  There are months when it is cold and wet, I know somewhat counterintuitive statement about this state where draughts are more common than rains, but trust me it does rain here and it does get cold….The same temperature that causes New Englanders to break out the shorts and flip-flops, makes folks in Texas claim a cold spell is upon us.  

While our weekends lately have been very busy with family related happenings – we were able to sneak in a bike ride here and there (late on Sunday – almost evening – after coming back to town).  The weather and scenery of the Texas bike trails were beautiful.  

The photos below make me feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to get on a mountain bike and cruise through the wilderness, calm and nature of the bike trails in the Hill Country…. What a great experience….!

Under Armor Record – Disappointing iPhone Application

iPhone Applications

I continue to look for interesting and useful new iPhone applications – ones I can use on  my mountain bike and keep track of rides and stats.  Over the last 3 years I have reviewed a whole bunch of apps and have found them overall usually relatively useful.  The list of the ones I have reviewed is long – Argus, Bike Brain, MapMyRideRuntastic Mountain Bike Pro, and a bunch of other ones.

Every so often I have come across some that are buggy and tend to be a disappointment.

My latest review is of the Under Armor Record – I thought since it is developed by a very popular and well adopted in the exercise circles brand – Under Armor – it will be well put together.  The application comes with tons of accolades from the company itself – it is promising and with a lot of features.  

Under Armor Application Dashboard

Application Dashboard

The front screen is a dashboard with a running feed of all your activity, which Record collects from your iPhone’s internal motion tracker.  You can also get sensors from main suppliers and interface to the app.  If you are so inclined you can also challenge friends, check on your friends’ progress, and track also food, sleep, and calories burned.  

This is all fine, but the application REALLY DOES POORLY on tracking your bike sessions.

You can see in the follow on screens a summary that makes you wonder – who designed the application that way.  Here is what happened – the result of which you see on the next application screens.  Earlier this weekend I went on a bike ride and used the Under Armor Record and in parallel ran the Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro, and Strava.  The results did not bode well for Record.  Why?  Well see below

Under Armor Record

History of sessions

Under Armor Summary

Session Summary

Check the time duration and the calories burned…!

This is “amazing” – I did 23 hours on the bike….NOT!

Well, turns out I did attempt to stop the application as I completed the bike ride.  As I did with both Runtastic and Strava.  But Record decided to keep on going.  And kept on going until the next day (today) when I was getting ready for my next bike ride.  I thought that behavior was a fluke.  So I just started a new session.   I biked for 1-hour 15 minutes…and then when I came home I tried to stop the application…. Well, I wish the programmer who wrote the app could see it.  I kept trying to stop – I kept getting the screen with Application Session Paused — with the option to slide the screen button to Finish it.  I did over 10 times – each time the Application just exited – i.e. CRASHED!   Every time I tried to get back in – Record went back to the same screen – with the request to Pause and then Slide to Finish – and the same repeated over and over again.   

Then I took the drastic action – I deleted the Application!   That is it – Under Armor Record was gone.  The app worked OK for tracking elliptical trainer workout, and walks but as far as the biking is concerned the assessment it TWO THUMBS down!

Thumbs Down

 

Winter: Mountain Biking in January

Winter

I enjoy living in Austin – why?  Because we can go mountain biking pretty much year round, even in the winter.  I know Colorado, Utah among several states offer really spectacular rides….BUT just in the late spring, summer and early fall.  The rest of the time, the weather is so cold that mountain biking becomes a difficult task.

This weekend, we took advantage of the bright sunshine and had a great ride in the green belt in our neighborhood.

Here are some photos to show you what winter bike ride should be 🙂  Enjoy!

Texas Austin Barton Creek Greenbelt

Austin Texas Barton Creek Greenbelt

And then there was the sunset – as we biked home…. Beautiful – isn’t it…

Texas Austin Sunset

Health Apps for iPhone

What is New in the Area of Health Apps for iPhone

Well, I have always been a believer that the iPhone offers a very versatile platform for tracking your exercise, your biking, walking, running…etc health related endeavors we all have.  As you know from this blog postings – I tried the Apple Watch and was rather frustrated with its lack of good repeatable measurements.  At the same time the iPhone has been relatively solid performer with a slew of applications – e.g. (in no particular order):

Earlier last week during the holidays, I decided to figure out how I can aggregate all the apps tracking information via the Apple Health application – why?  because I wanted to track all my walking, jogging, biking, hiking exercise as an aggregate.

Apple iPhone Health App

Apple iPhone Aggregation point

Apple iPhone

Next level of detail

So I tried to accomplish that.  Took me a while to figure out what applications actually interface with the Apple Health app.  

Well, turns out all of the apps have gaps in their ability to synch up with the main Health app

So I am using Argus, Bike+(b+), MountainBike-Pro, and Under Armor Record – all of these applications have the ability to measure relatively accurately the distance, steps, calories, miles of walking, hiking, biking,  BUT – there is the big disappointment – they all have gaps in their ability to interface, synch and feed into the iPhone Health app.

Here is the summary of what I have found so far:

Under Armor Record

The Under Armor Dashboard

 

Under Armor’s Record is the application which allows you to capture your Hiking, Walking and Biking exercise – but when I tried to synch up and connect the app with iPhone Health – I was able to, the apps connected – but I was only able to get the walking results into the Health app.

Why?

I could not tell…!

I tried all sort of options – but NO luck with getting the biking info into the aggregation app.

 

Under-Armor-Record

Dashboard for a ride on Under-Armor-Record

Here is the information from the Under Armor Record application – it properly captured the exercise info but no luck getting it into the Health App

The other issue that i found, although I would say that is a smaller issue as it only relates to how calories are counted.

The Under Armor Record captured my biking distance and calories at a much lower level vs what both Argus and MountainBike Pro recorded.

Again – no big deal as it just means one of them is more accurate – who knows.

 

Here are the other two (Argus, MountainBike Pro):

Argus Mountain Bike

Summary of a ride on Argus Mountain Bike

MountainBike Pro

Summary of a ride with MountainBike Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, net-net, Argus injected the information of calories into the Health App, Under Armor Record injected the Walking data, and the actual Cycling info from all three Apps (Argus, MountainBike Pro, Under Armor Record) never made it in…!  Very frustrating.  Next few days I will try Bike+(b+) to see if it will feed into the Health App – it is supposed to….!  I want to find the way to get all my excise data / results into one place….and I will find a way  to do it.

Will report on my progress in the next posting…

Christmas Bike Ride in the Texas Hill Country

Christmas Bike Ride

Austin continues to amaze me…!  Why?  Well, today is the day after Christmas, it is December 26th, however the weather was beautiful – warm, sunny, a perfect day for a great bike ride in the Texas Hill Country.

Texas Austin Warm Weather As you can see from my iPhone Weather App, today was a very warm, sunny, and overall a great day, unusual even for Austin in December….!

Having said that, we are not complaining 🙂

Instead, we put on the biking gear, pumped up the mountain bike tires and off we went into the green belt in West Austin.

It was almost too warm….

You can see some great pics from the bike ride below.  I took photos of the winter landscape, the Barton Creek, the trails in the Green Belt and the dormant trees which even in this state are quite something… Well, enough said – take a look at the photos and let us know how you like them… Happy Holidays!

 

Biking Kentucky

Biking Kentucky

Biking in Kentucky is something that at first did not come to my mind.  Then I went to visit a good friend of mine – someone I have known since I was 14!  Yes, indeed, it is great to have the ability to stay connected with your classmates from high school and be able to visit and spend time together…But enough of the touch and feely stuff – let’s get back to the topic…

I have always associated Kentucky with horses, horse races of course, and tons of beautiful farms with endless bluegrass covered meadows.  Well, since my visit earlier this week, I now know that this state also offers great opportunities for enjoying the rolling hills, horse farms, and yes, biking!

Kentucky Biking

 

Here are a bunch of photos I took during the week of Thanksgiving to help you see the opportunities to have some great rides – in this particular case in the Lexington area.

Kentucky Lexington Biking

Kentucky Horse Country biking road

Kentucky Lexington Biking

Just outside Lexington

Kentucky Lexington Biking

Lexington bike road view

Kentucky Lexington Biking

Near by Lexington Horse Farms

Kentucky Lexington Biking

Biking road – near Lexington

 

Gifts for Bike Enhusiasts

Gifts for Bike Enthusiasts

The holidays are approaching fast and with that the great time of shopping for gifts for the bike enthusiasts in your circle of friends.  Shopping can be fun – when you have a clear idea of what you want to find – i.e. what your friends and family would like.  Sometimes, though it is pretty stressful to come up with the right ideas so I decided to attempt a quick help list – with ideas that may resonate with you.

The list I have in mind is comprised of tools, bike gloves, bike helmet, bike bottle and bottle cages, may be even some shoes and apparel…and if you really know the person you want to buy the gift for – may be even some bike suggestions.

How did I come up with the ideas – mostly through my personal experience of what I would like to get and use when on the bike trail…. Your desires may be different, hence ignore my list if it does not match your expectations.   Please give me some feedback via the comments page – I would like to hear what are your ideas…

Here we go with the list:

  1. Bottle cage:  This is always useful on those long bike rides.  I often ignore the water bottle and always feel that I made a mistake when I do that.  So having a good lightweight, easy to get the bottle in and out cage is a good addition to your bike.  Here are some links to products you can find easily on Amazon….  and here is a link to an interesting product from King Cage
  2. Tools for quick access to adjustments on your bike.   I always carry some patches for my inner tubes and it is good to have also some allen wrenches and quick bike tools.  Here are some options – again easy to purchase&nbsp and another one  The Fix It Sticks are a very versatile toolset that is both very helpful on the trail as well as one that stores and mounts easily on your bike.  The tool attaches in a mount that fits under the bottle cage on your bike so it is conveniently located and out of the way during your ride.  The tool is comprised of two lightweight sticks that combine into a T-handle Tool for ease of use and leverage. There are six variations of the Original Fix It Sticks: Standard Set A, Standard Set B, Roadie Set A, Roadie Set B, Mountain Set, and SRAM Set. Each set comes with four permanently installed bits.  Check out the FixItSticks Web site for more info
  3. Bike Helmet – Yes! you do need one.  Speaking from personal experience, having taken a spill multiple times over the years of riding, the helmet is absolutely important.  It could save you a lot of headaches – literally!   You could spend a lot or less but by all means you must have a helmet.  Here are some options to consider – starting with the tried and true Giro and then going into a platform –  Lazersport which actually offers a helmet that can be integrated with a bunch of different accessories:  

                                   Enjoy your shopping!

 

Even Argus Has Issues Though

Argus Has Issues

I have been using and reporting on various biking software / Smart Phone Apps to record my exercise and measure various vital statistics while riding my mountain bike.

My bike itself has been outfitted with several brackets / attachment modules so I can install both specific sets of iPhone cases with my iPhone 6 Plus as well as more generic ones.

On top of the iPhone then I run different apps to track my activity.  Argus is one of them I just reviewed and was pretty happy with as a exercise tracking aspect of it but now have discovered a bit of annoying feature / capabilities.

Argus mountain bike and other exercise traker

The Annoying Feature…! I just exercised and am being reminded nevertheless

The image above shows the front screen of my iPhone (not the only time you see the notifications) – and according to it I need to go workout – e.g. ride my bike.  One problem though – I just returned from a bike ride using the Argus SW for tracking my bike ride….So you would think that the Application designer would consider that and update the clock being used for the reminders….Go figure!!!

ARGUS – Another Useful iPhone Application for Your Bike

Argus

An updated review of Argus.  I continue to test iPhone applications that help you measure and track your physical activity.  There are a number of applications you can use – some more robust and useful then others.  I have a number of them reviewed at least to some extent in the summary round up found here. Over the last 1 year! I have been using two of them specifically – ARGUS (I am using the free version of the application) and Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro (I paid for this one)

The good news is that these two applications – both of which I find useful and good to use – are measuring the bike riding activities I do in a relatively similar way!  This is good.  I have tried both the road bike and mountain bike functions.  And surprisingly – the two applications do well as they measured close enough the distance, speed, and calories for the rides

I like the Argus application – it is well done with a good linkage between keeping track of your various forms of exercise and ability to see it all on one screen.  One issue I see – the notion of entering the food you consume is very tedious – and I do not understand what is up with the option to take a photo of your food…. WHY?  So if Argus can fix that – I will like this up even more 🙂

Side note:  a link to some good bike trail photos…Enjoy!

 

 

iPhone 6/6S Plus Mounting on a Bike

iPhone 6/6S Plus

iPhone 6 6S Plus Mountcase with Armor Guard TigraiPhone 6/6S Plus options for mounting on a bicycle…

I have been using my iPhones with a mountain bike ever since my iPhone 4.  Needless to say I value two key factors in figuring out options for how to mount the phone on my bicycle:

  • How sturdy, protective and safe is the mount for the phone
  • How easy is it to operate the phone – to attach it to the bike when you are ready for a ride and using the phone while riding

With those in mind, I have tried several options over the years.  You can read about those in previous postings. For the last year or so I have been using the Tigra MountCase Magnum   – the setup on my mountain bike is seen in the photo below – my iPhone 6/6S Plus.

Mountain Bike iPhone 6/6S Plus Case and Mounting Bracket

One specific item that made it a preferred choice for me (at least) is the ease of attaching the iPhone once you are ready to go biking..The phone has a good solid back in its mounting case due to the metal frame — see below

iPhone 6 6S Plus Mountcase with Armor guard Tigra

When the phone is assembled you are ready to just clip it into the bike mount.  The bike mount is actually installed in the stem of your bike so is very solid and provides a good stable attachment for your phone.   The whole setup is shown in the image below.

iPhone 6 6S Plus Mountcase with Armor Guard TigraNow, I have noticed some small quirks with the Tigra mount case – the one that you may to try for yourself is how your headphones attach to the headphone jack on the iPhone once it is in the Tigra case.  I have some headphones which are no problem, but others with shorter jacks have a looser connection which tends to disconnect from the iPhone if you are going on a rough trail.

Overall the setup of the Tigra MountCase Magnum is good – I like the convenience of how quickly you can attach and disconnect the phone from the mounting point.

Next posting I will review the Tigra with Rubberized Rain Guard that also attaches in the same setup on your bike…