Tigra Sports BikeConsole – iPhone 6 Plus on your Mountain Bike

Several weeks ago I posted on options for mounting iPhone on your mountain bike.  Today I wanted to add an update based on my personal experience with my iPhone 6 Plus using the Tigra Sports BikeConsole bike mount.

Tigra Sport Bike Console   Tigra Sport Bike Console Tigra Sport Bike Console

After 5 weeks of using the bike mount I am overall pleased with it – it does provide a relatively good way to attach your iPhone 6 Plus to your bike.  This (as usual) will allow you to use various applications for tracking your exercise and mapping your bike routes. Having said that, there are also some negatives / or inconveniences with using the Tigra BikeConsole

  1. you have to remove any other case you have on your phone during your normal use as the BikeConsole expects that you have a bare phone to be encased in it.
  2. after several weeks of bike rides it appears that the mount has loosened as a result the BikeConsole tends to tip (rotate down) on my handlebars – i.e. you cannot easily see the screen – the screen / phone tilts and you have to rotate the whole assembly back into position
  3. for some reason the screen cover of the BikeConsole is matted which somewhat reduces visibility of the screen and you have to increase the display intensity for visibility which in turn causes battery to drain faster

Even with these small issues, I still think the Tigra Sport BikeConsole is a good option for your iPhone on your mountain bike.  It protects the phone and allows for its use while on the tracks.

Here are the options you could consider from Tigra Sport based on which iPhone you have:

     

Tigra Sport Bike Console

How to Select Mountain Bike Components

Mountain Biking How To — How to select Mountain Bike components

When you read the specs of the mountain bikes in the local professional shop on the web sites of your favorite brands I am sure you are often trying to decipher the meaning behind the ratios in the Front Derailleur, the wheel size, of suspension / front fork travel size and/or mechanical spring vs air spring implementation….So here I go with some clarifications you can hopefully use in your selection process

  • Gears:  So what is that front derailleur all about?  Well in general the more recent models of mountain bikes come with either 2×10 or 3×10 gearing.  What is the difference?  Well it is all about how many rings do you have up front (see photo below – which in the case of the photo – my bike is 3×10) and how many in the rear.  Trek Gary Fisher here you see the photo of 3×10 – 3 chainrings upfront and 10 in the rear TREK Gary Fisher This setup essentially defines how many gears you would have total – with the 3×10 providing for a wider range and several more gears in the middle of that spread.  The 2×10 offers lighter weight, faster movement of increments in gearing – i.e. faster shifting up and down.   All in all the 2×10 option has started to appear on increasing number of bikes – it offers also lower cost and in reality meets the needs of over 50% of riders.
  • Wheel size selection:  29-inch vs. 27.5-inch vs 26-inch…? The (almost) age old question – which bike with what wheels I should buy?   The reality – they all have plus and minus valuation points.  Smaller wheels are more maneuverable – but large wheel offer more comfort and speed…..So as usual – novel idea – take a test ride..!
  • Front shock / fork:  mechanical or air spring implementation.  You will be surprised how many biking enthusiasts have no idea what their shock is and what should they be looking for.  The bad news is that based on which bike model select many of the components will come with the specific bike (per how the manufacturer has outfitted the bike / model).  If you want to replace the fork for example, that will cost you dearly.  So my advice – look for more expensive model – the tier above your current selection and then look for end of the model year discounts!

So with those advice in mind – go on and look for a bike…

Please keep in mind – it is best for you to test ride the bike!  No spec descriptions will replace the in-person on the pedals experience!

Mountain Biking How To – Riding on Gravel Trails

Mountain Biking How To — How to ride on gravel trails

Texas Biking TrailsI have been on rides across many parts of the US, Asia, and Eastern Europe.  Given my experience – conditions in the US Southwest are somewhat unique – specifically they are unique in the fact that the trails are often made of relatively loose gravel.  Many of the trails in Texas for example are covered with crushed lime stone and other rocks – and overall represent a relatively tricky surface for many beginners and less experienced riders.  After several recent bike rides with my family, I decided to post this “HOW TO” summary to provide some guidance at least based on my experience of riding in those conditions for the last 5-6 years.   So here we go:

  1. As you start on the ride, you need to relax and try not to tense your body.  Being anxious you would tend to tighten your shoulders, elbows and arms and as you start riding the vibrations of the track will translate into your tense body and cause an early fatigue and potentially discomfort.
  2. Being tense will also potentially bring to less ability to maneuver fast along the track and may even cause you to lose control of your bike in some cases
  3. Focus on steering not only with your hands but also with your overall body especially with your hips.  You may want to practice this first on a relatively flat surface — I suggest you do that around your house – on a safe street practice maneuvers where you use your body and hips to direct the bike.
  4. Make sure you look ahead on the trails and time the use of brakes.  More so, please apply brakes OFTEN and in a GENTLE manner — i.e. control your speed on a frequent basis rather than via sudden stops. WHY?  You will prevent going over the handlebars!   Trust me – I have done that on more than one occasion as I learned to control my bike.  The brake system on new mountain bikes – with hydraulic brakes – is so efficient in translating force of brake initiation to braking that you get a braking action very fast and that combined with the momentum of a fast moving bike will cause you to go over the handlebars…..So let’s avoid that by figuring out the physics of the movement – i.e. reduce speed by braking often and with a slight touch.
  5. Stay high on your bike and try to stand up above the saddle often especially when going over a series of larger rocks – that will reduce the likelihood of busting your tires and potentially also flipping off the bike.

All in all biking on gravel trails is not tough once you get used to it.  If you pay attention to the pointers above and enjoy the rides!

Texas Mountain Biking Trails

Colorado Bend State Park – Mountain Biking

Texas Mountain Biking Colorado Bend ParkYesterday my family and I finally decided to brave the long drive and head out to Colorado Bend State Park.  The weather was great – mid 70s F, sunny, light breeze….all in all really perfect weather for a bike ride.  So we loaded the bikes on the SUV, loaded plenty of water in bike bottles and in the cooler and started off towards the park.

Getting to the park from Austin entails two options – you can either go the North route – via 183 or the South route via Marble Falls, Burnett, and eventually Lampasas.

On the way to the park we decided 183 may be the faster route – well that was a mistake.  183 is a mess – unless you use the toll road version – 183A – which we did not and paid dearly for that in terms of wasted time.   Took us 3 hours to get to the park – while on the way back it was the expected 2 hours – but we went via 281 and 71 via Burnett and Marble Falls

Once we got to the park – we signed in relief – the place is beautiful, the trails are good and in different difficulty level – here is the map of the park which includes the biking trails – which in aggregate amount to about 30miles of varying degree of difficulty

Map from State Park HQ

 

The river trail is very scenic and very much an easy beginners level trail to use.  We started on that one as a way to get our daughter in the groove of things.   The trail was nice – about 3.5miles in one direction.  Once you reach the intersection of Old Gorman Road and the River Trail you have the option to head back the same way, or take Old Gorman Road towards Cedar Chopper Loop.  Please see map above.  Based on the various loops and roads you can actually construct a pretty long bike ride.  We ended up on a 2 hour ride which was more than enough to get us exhausted and ready to head to dinner by the time we were done – which was around 6pm.

Overall the experience was great.  Please see the album with photos below…

 

Formula-1 Comes to Bikes

Last Fall I had the opportunity to see one of the global Formula-1 races — this one held in Austin, Texas.  Turns out Austin is home to the only F1 track in the US – and every year in November (I think it is usually about that time) – a bunch of advanced automotive fans converge in the city to see the latest in super car racing.

The 2014 race was based on 6-cylinder gasoline engines with surprisingly SMALL displacement – only 1.6-litter volume (which is about 1/2 of my car’s engine displacement) but between the gasoline engine and the electric assist motors, the 2014 F-1 race cars were achieving in the range of 780-hp !!!

Turns out this technology — the electric assist motors — is now finding its way into bicycles – specifically electric bicycles.  The UK based and manufacturing in the UK company Brompton is leveraging partnership with F-1 engineers to design and produce pedal assisted electric bikes.

Electric bikes are no new news for sure.  You can see below statistics of the sales of those in several key regions:

Statistic: Projected worldwide sales of electric bicycles in 2018, by region (in million units) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista;

As you can see China specifically has huge sales of electric bikes – but from my personal experience (having lived in China for a number of years) those bikes are pretty bad – they are more of a scooter – and something to use as a moped rather than a bike…

Now with the entry of the F-1 and Brompton designs

Brompton Bike  Brompton bike

Given the amazing technology in terms of carbon fiber body elements and electric assist motors that were driving the overall power plant for the F-1 racing cars, I think this particular bike designs will be nothing but boring.

So now the combination of cool design, (although somewhat uncomfortable ride given the small wheels) and F-1 technology, I am very curious of the upcoming capabilities and would love to be able to test ride one very soon.

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