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 !!!

Apple Watch and Biking

Apple Watch on an ExerciseApple Watch – why am I writing about it on a biking blog?  Well, very simple – it is a nifty gadget that actually, I believe, can be a useful addition to the gear for your bike rides.

Why?  OK, not a bad and a very valid question.  What are the key features of this watch that can make it useful to the biking community…?


So let’s go ahead and review how the Apple Watch behaved and performed on a mixed road and mountain bike tracks:

  • First of all – the watch is highly intuitive – I promise you, you will not need to mess with its setup or do much to get it going – just put it on your wrist (once it is all charged up and paired with your phone)
  • With regards to biking, it comes preconfigured with the “Workout” application – native to the package of OS and actually an easy to use application.
  • There are only some minor issues with the watch and the “Workout” application
    1. It does not have the ability to distinguish between road and mountain bike
    2. When I read the calories – both in the middle of a hour long ride and towards the end – the count was about 1/2 of that of the application running on my iPhone – it looked like the Workout application is calibrated for a road ride – with a road bike.
    3. There was no way to show more than one screen to the front face of the watch – so in order for you to see calories, time, distance – you had to move between screens manually – no way to see an aggregate screen of information

Apple-Watch- Test-Ride

Apple-Watch-ExercisingExercising with Apple WatchI do not recommend you move between screens while you bike especially if you are on the single track…you will most likely have trouble doing both.  Just let the watch do its tracking and look at the summary stats at the end of your ride or if you stop for a short break.

In summary, the application is not bad – it allows you to ride with the watch and get basic stats and as long as your ride is not going overboard time wise – i.e. you stay within a reasonable couple of hours on your bike, your watch battery will be good as well…

Overall, I would recommend the Apple Watch – and not only because I have one 🙂 but because I see the useful side of it – and guess what !!! This Fall new OS is coming with some additional features.  Apple has started hinting about those on their Web site…