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!

Mountain Bike Innovations That Matter

Lately, I have been wondering – when would some of the problems we as mountain bikers discover, make it into production units of the various manufacturers.  So, I decided to add some ideas and also identify what are the items that turns out have been developed as new capabilities on mountain bikes.  Here we go:

Mountain-Bike-Front-ShockShock Absorber and Bike Frame Stiffness: (image courtesy of REI.com)

  • The front fork and shock absorber can be actually too responsive and make climbing up a hill less efficient as some of the force the rider generates – especially if you stand up on the pedals, gets dampened by the front shock.
  • The solution:CUSTOM BRAIN FORKS (as labeled by Specialized) – the fork senses the difference between actual bumps and pedaling force, using an inertia valve and oil flow to regulate suspension. When you stand to accelerate, the fork immediately stiffens up, eliminating “bob” motion. But, when taking a hit from a rock or a root, the fork is allowed to compress accordingly

29-er-mountain-bike29er – Big Wheels and Great Performance on the Trail and on the Cross-Country Road:

  • Those 29-inch wheels just eat up the trails and the road.  You get a great performance, increase in comfort and stability and a very good way to go over those obstacles as you ride.  Additional benefit (at least per what I have observed) – you can use a hardtail bike with 29-inch wheels with similar comfort to fully suspended 26-inch one….I welcome your feedback on that one…

Tools-Support-Mountain-BikeStorage and Tools:

  • SWAT: An acronym for Storage, Water, Air and Tools – Specialized came up with the approach for getting all of us well prepared for all those eventualities – integrating a storage space on the mountain bike frame.  Simple but cool and very helpful!

 

Aluminum-FrameFrame Alloys:

  • I know that Carbon is all the rage as a way to make the frames stiff and the bike ride even more controlled – BUT the $$$ cost of those carbon frames is pretty high as well as you get the luxury of changing the frame once you hit that big boulder on the trail…
  • Enters the friendly and nice on the wallet Aluminum alloy – what a great option!  The Aluminum alloy frames have been around for a while but they continue to be important aspect of a great mountain bike.  Designers in all top gear mountain bike companies have figured out the precise approach to eliminating excess material from the points in the frames that do not contribute to stiffness and strength and applying new techniques to welding to increase the strength of the overall frames.  I have seen that described in the frame designs of most leading designs.
  • All that allows us the users to buy the bikes with Aluminum frames and expect a great performance overall.

Drivetrain Options and Selection for a Mountain Bike

Drivetrain: Which one is for you…

Over the last couple of years I have been seeing more and more mountain bikes come with a range of options when it comes to the drivetrain.  As mountain biking has become more and more popular, innovation associated with the equipment has started to increase.

This posting is hopefully going to help you distinguish between the overwhelming options and guide you in the process of drivetrain selection.

OK, so what are the options?

  • Three chain rings crankset:  This is probably the configuration that has been the most widely used until a couple of years ago. It allows you the widest selection of gears and the ability to attack (successfully I may add) pretty much any terrain out there.  What are its benefits:
    1. You have the ability to reach great speeds when you leverage the outermost 3rd ring on the crank assembly and the smallest (right most) cog wheels on the cassette;   Riding my X-Caliber Gary Fisher G2 29er in the highest possible gear and of course downhill on asphalt road,  I have been able to reach speed of 43-miles/per hour !
    2. With the same equipment, you can leverage the low gears: small front cogwheel and large cog wheels of the cassette, you can now climb a steep road or mountain trail and be able to stay on the bike;

High-range-of-gears

 

 

For the cassette – I think the 10-speed Shimano HG62 offers close ratio gearing allowing for a more efficient use of energy through finer cadence control

 

  • Double Crankset also noted as 2×10 in the bike specs:  these are the cranksets that are based on two chain rings.  In the last 2 years I see increasing number of bikes with this configuration.  The claim from the manufacturers is that the 2×10 speed drivetrain offers noticeably reduced weight, simpler front shifting, and a small compromise on overall gear range.  Now that there are options at most price levels, a 2x drivetrain would be a great choice for anyone looking to shed some weight from their bike without giving up much in terms of versatility
  • Finally, enters the Single:  Also referred to as the 1×11:  This is supposed to give you super light-weight and shifting simplicity.  That combined still with a full range of gears.   That I am not so sure – how is it being accomplished – given the wheel… Initially the 1×11 had a problem with the ability to retain control over the chain.  That however changed recently with the higher precision machined chain ring teeth – which allow for better chain control (AND OF COURSE COST A WHOLE LOT MORE)

SRAM-XX1-1x11

 

I am able to give a view of this option as well as my spouse’s bike (which we purchased last summer came with a 2×10 drivetrain and was heavily advertised by the specialist who was helping us select the bike.  On a recent ride I swapped bikes with my wife and experienced riding hers with the 2×10 configuation – long story short – the three chain ring options is a hands down winner. Why?  Because of the wide range of gears it enables.   I am able to reach much higher speeds when using the largest of the three rings and climb much more efficiently and steeper inclines – when using the small chain ring.

Both of our bikes have a cassette with 10-speed 11-36 gearing.  Hence the difference is in the crankset.

My overall recommendation – if you can find the bike with the three chain rings on the crankset – go with it.  It will give you the widest range of control in your speed and biking.

Biking With iPhone 6 Plus In The Rain

Well folks I have yet one more update on biking with your iPhone 6 Plus in the rain.  This time around my setup survived a fairly heavy rain part of the rainiest May in the history of Austin.  I knew as I started the bike ride – in a very muddy and muggy weather — that I will most likely be caught in a rain at some point during the ride.

Nevertheless, I was determined to test the capability of my case.   In summary, I must report, the TigraSport did well — the phone survived just fine both the rain and the sputtering of mud from the trail and the tires of my mountain bike.

Here are photos from the aftermath – as I pulled into my driveway after the bike ride

Biking with iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus

 

 

 

 

 

iPhone 6 Plus Case

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now the weather outside is fine – rain coming later this afternoon – so time for my next ride….

 

Here are links to earlier postings on this topic

How to Clean Your Bike After a Ride in the Mud

mountain bike trail

How to Clean Your Bike

Well folks Spring is here and the trails could be muddy – even in the relatively dry climate where I live.  Last Saturday I went out on my morning bike ride with something that looked like mist… By the time I had done 30-minutes into my ride, water was dripping consistently from my helmet and my riding clothes were wet.   Surprise, so were the trails.  Mud was going everywhere on my bike…

So what do you do once the ride is over and you are back at your place?Mountain Bike after muddy trail

The answer – several things:

  1. Rinse the whole bike — this will help to get mud and gunk from the road off your bike and away from potentially damaging the finish on your bike.  Rinse it with your hose on a relatively gentle setting so you do not drive dirt into the various bearings and joints on the bike Trail mud
  2. Then get a soapy sponge or rag and wipe down the various moving components and chain.  Rinse well and dry with another rag.  Apply lubricant on the chain, rear and front derailleur
  3. Check the disk brakes or pads for dirt and grit that may have embedded itself in the components and surfaces.
  4. Use a brushes set (example shown below) to scrub moving parts and ensure dirt has been removed from the moving components as if that dirt stays there as you ride it will act as a sandpaper….potentially damage the components.trail mud
  5. Once you have washed the bike, you need to apply lubricant on the moving parts – cassette, derailleurs, chain…

 

 

     

you are now ready for the next bike ride…Enjoy!

Tigra Sports BikeConsole – Follow up on Reviews

Tigra Sports BikeConsole In the Rain

Rainy DayEarlier this morning I had to go meet a friend at a local coffee shop – as usual I bike to the place.  Why?  It gives me a chance to exercise – round trip on the bike is 10-miles.  The weather though was not exactly cooperative – when I rolled my bike outside of the garage it was misty, foggy and not quite pleasant.  However, I decided that I need the exercise and after all my phone was in a weather proof case!

So off I went.  By the time I reached the coffee shop (about 5-miles later) I was wet and cold and so was the bike and phone console.  And the story repeated itself on the way back.   But the phone was fine… Here are a couple of links to earlier reviews of the phone case I am referring to – check them out

And the phone itself in the case after the ride…

Tigra Sports BikeConsole

Here is a link to a very extensive review of the phone case on Tech Reviewer.  Enjoy!

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

 

Finally, here is another review of the BikeConsole – check it out…!

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!