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!!!

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…

Bontrager Mustang 29 Tubeless Wheels

Bontrager Mustang 29

Trek Bontrager Mustang Mountain Bike 29-inch Tubeless WheelsWhat is the issue with Bontrager Tubeless Mountain bike wheels?

I have been riding on my Trek X-Caliber 29er mountain bike for a couple of years now (I bought the bike in July 2014).  I have a review of the bike in a couple of postings here.  Since then I have had some interesting (not so pleasant) experience with the wheels and inner tubes on the bike.

After one year of riding, I started getting flats / tube punctures on a regular basis.  I even reached a point at time when I was getting one per week (mostly weekend riding).  That was rather unusual, but I decided that I need to learn to patch tubes fast as I would discover the flat as the Murphy Law goes, always right before a bike ride on a Saturday morning….

So after several months, both my front a rear tubes were a like a quilt 🙂 – not a happy situation for real.  Then things escalated.  A month ago, I reached a point where on a Saturday morning I patched both the front and rear tubes of my bike, and assembled the wheels.  I was really displeased when the front wheel started losing air before I even put it back on the bike.

Trek Bontrager Mustang Mountain Bike 29-inch Tubeless WheelsThat was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – I knew something was wrong with the rims as after I carefully inspected the insides of the tires, I could not find any sharp object that may have act as something that would puncture the tires.

At that point in time, I jumped in my SUV with the wheels of the Trek bike in my trunk and drove off to the Bike Shop.

To give credit where it is due, the maintenance person at the Austin Bicycle Sport Shop immediately identified the problem – the spokes of the wheels were sticking too much into the rim of the wheels.  Based on his assessment the wheels needed some additional tape to cover the ends of the spokes so they do not poke on the inner tube.



Lessons learned:  If you are buying tubeless ready wheels, and you are planning to use inner tubes, make sure you have enough coverage over the spoke ends on the rims to make sure they are not going to be puncturing the inner tubes…!

Beat Jet-lag – Shanghai to Bike Trail in 24 Hours

Beat Jet-lag

How to beat jet-lag?  Well folks I firmly believe that biking is a cure to it all – yes, to JET-LAG…at least…Last night I flew into Austin (landed at ABIA around 9:40pm) after a 10-day trip to China.  Mind you air travel has become easier over the years – a trip that used to take me 27-30 hours leaving home in Austin and getting to my destination in one of the major metro areas in China or doing the reverse, is now taking about 7-8 hours less.  The reasons for that are many – one of them are the increase in direct flights between various points in the US and China leveraging the new fuel efficient Boeing 787-Dreamliner.

Dallas-Boeing-Dreamliner-B787 The plane is able to move a large number of passengers very efficiently and with relatively good comfort even in the dreaded “Economy” class…

As a result, I left Shanghai Pudong airport on a late afternoon flight bound for DFW and by 4:30pm on that same Saturday (Oh, the wonders of time zones — I left Shanghai and landed in Dallas what it seems only a few minutes later vs. the actual 14 hour flight).   Even after American airlines managed to screw up my connecting flight to Austin due to the lack of a 3rd flight attendant, I was able to switch to another Austin bound flight at a later time and finally by 9:40pm landed in Austin.

My first action upon landing was to promise myself that Sunday morning will be taken by a bike ride on my Trek X-Caliber – the intent to beat jet lag as quickly as possible.

Barton-Creek-West-TrailAnd that is what I did – I was on the bike on the trail by 8am – probably should have come out earlier given the heat and humidity of Texas at this time of the year but better late then never I guess;   The trail seemed tougher than usual – why?  because after 10-days of hopping from city to city, business meetings and all, I was out of shape!

Nevertheless I huffed and I puffed but I made the 11-mile trek in 1-hour and 15 minutes and along the way as usual, saw tons of interesting blooming flowers and the countless number of cactus…. The trek is tiring but the beauty of Texas nature is well worth the effort.  After the urban jungle of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Suzhou – the Texas single track trail is a welcome escape…. Here are some more photos from the ride this morning…

Beat Jet-Lag Texas-Biking-TrailsBeat Jet-Lag Texas-Trails-Flowers

 

 

CES 2016 Bicycle Products

This year I was able to spend 3 days at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.  This event is usually crazy – tons of exhibitors and hordes of people all over the place, hence my hesitation to attend, but my the projects I have been working on in the last 12 months and those that will be on my plate in 2016, required me to attend.   So, I jumped on the plane and joined the throngs of people at the show.

While I had to spend a lot of time with customers and partners, I was able to allocate some time for visiting various exhibits.  The show was heavily dedicated to automotive products – but there were some interesting new products for bicycle enthusiasts as well.  The product that caught my attention was the Garmin Varia Vision Headset – the headset has some very interesting capabilities

  1. It allows you to view statistics about the ride – ride in your field of vision – i.e. without have to look down (to the stem or handlebars mounted smart phone with Bike Applications);   The display provides the essential stats right in front of your eyes  – thus acting also as a much safer way to show you informationGarmin Varia Vision

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) When paired with Varia Rear View Radar it provides you with the necessary information on approaching traffic.  The display can show you approaching traffic and warn you of potential issues on the road;
Varia plus Rear view radar   Overall a very clever contraption and in my opinion useful application all around.   The device warns you of approaching traffic as far as 140-meters away (per Garmin.com)

 

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The headset is also integreatable with your smart phone.  Garmin will provide you with the compatibility list.    I have not tested that feature – eventhough I hat my phone with me on the tradeshow floor – I did not test the ability of the feature;

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Ultimately, safety is a huge factor for most of us cyclists and to this effect these new products appear to address it in a fun and cheerful way.

Please let me know with your thoughts on these new gadgets – I think they are a great steps forward on safety!

Bicycle Helmet – Resources for Learning How to Buy One

Bicycle Helmet

I have posted a number of articles about bicycle helmets.  Having taken a spill more than twice while riding, I have stated before and will repeat now, am a true believer in their utility.  You may not like how they feel, or how they fit, or their shape, or…(gasp) the fact that they may mess up your hair….but even after all that – they are truly useful.


Now, if your helmet does not feel good on your head, chances are you need a different, better fitting one.  Here are some key items to check out about your helmet and additional resources to use while selecting one:

  • Start with checking the box in the store.  Why?  It needs to clearly state that the helmet meets the requirements of the Consumer Products Safety Commision – the link here will bring you to the specific page with their guidance; Another valid certification is the Snell’s B-95
  • Size assessment – ask your local bike store or another sports or outdoors store with a good biking department for help on that.  They can measure you…The helmet needs to fit snugly or you have the danger of actually hurting yourself.
  • Personal preferences – here you can go wild; there are many bike helmet options…in terms of ventilation, shades, style and colors.  Up to you on this one.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has tons of additional information on the topic – check them out.   In the meantime, please remember – you need a bike helmet!

 

Good Bye to my Apple Watch

Earlier today I finally decided to resolve my situation with the Apple Watch.  Both yesterday and today were beautiful sunny days in Austin, Texas, with yesterday being surprisingly cool (vs. the weather forecast that called for 90-degree F).

Needless to say, the bikes were out (after fixing a flat I had not noticed on my way back from the trails three weeks ago) and my family and I hit the green belts on Barton Creek….a nice place to bike

We spent about 1 hour and 20 minutes riding – on both Saturday and Sunday – although Sunday was a more difficult day – due to the significantly higher temperatures.

Now, back to the Apple Watch situation – I had posted about my issues with the Watch in previous articles.  I like the Watch!  The idea is great and the industrial design / physical implementation is also impeccable.  Problem (at least per my experience) is the software.  I continue to find issues with how the watch measures exercise etc.  A week ago I upgraded to version 2 of the Apple Watch OS with the hope things will improve.  Since then I have been testing the exercise applications for elliptical trainer and for biking and in all cases the results are less than stellar – the Apple Watch continues to give incorrect readings from the sessions

Finally, today I went to one of the local Apple Stores and had a very positive experience with the Apple Store Staff.   Overall, the are usually very attentive and knowledgeable.  This time they went well above that.  I discussed the situation with the store manager – admittedly I had spoken with him about a month ago about the issues and was very offered a great service – I was able to return the watch and get a refund.   This is well beyond my expectations – Thank you Apple!  and Apple Store Staff!

As I stated earlier – I really like the idea Apple was targeting with the Watch and was very disappointed to have to return it but it did not work.   I will look forward to the next version – with the hope that things will be improved etc.   Till then – back to my bike and iPhone applications… Just as a reminder – in my opinion Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro is a good one, and so is Strava (as many bikers will attest).  I have not been able to use well Bike+ for some reason its user interface and features are not quite as well done as the other apps.  But I like to experiment – will continue testing them.

If you have questions about iPhone Apps for Biking – do not hesitate – let me know…will give you my experience and view point.

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!