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

 

Bike Highways – Mega Cities Investing in Bicycle Infrastructure

Bike Highways

Over the last century or so, the world and its cities have spent trilions of dollars on automotive related highways.  The interstate highway system in the US or the autobahns in Germany are example of engineering greatness – creating efficient and very convenient (for cars and trucks) roadway system.

Now we have examples of significant investment going into biking infrastructure in big metro areas.

  • Paris: investing approximately $164M to build a 28-30 mile highway for bicycles;
  • Atlanta: pledging to invest $1B over the next 25 years into biking and walking infrastructure in order to make the city more liveable

The Paris plan is being described in the article by CityLab and per that article hopefully it will get completed.   From personal experience – Paris desperately needs the bicycles as the congestion in the city is pretty bad.  I remember spending hours stuck in traffic trying to leave the city on the way to near by towns and then come back in the evening…

Atlanta is no different — yes, it needs the plan and its results…Here is more on it

Well, check them out and encourage your local communities to do the same…

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!

Bicycles and Crazy Uses of Bicycles

Bicycles – Crazy Uses

Have you thought about the various uses of a bicycle…?  All of us think a mountain bike is a mountain bike, you have your trails or neighborhood pathways and you go for the exercise and the excitement of downhill rushing by you….a 29er screaming downhill at 30-40miles an hour…what a rush!

Then there are a few other uses of a bicycle – take a look below… Have you thought of any of them?  I bet not….or ?

Bicycles-Lorries-Beijing

Here are the pickup bicycles. Who said you cannot move 100-pounds of shrimp or chicken from the warehouse to the market 🙂

 

These bikes will certainly do the job well…

 

Bicycles-as-trucks-in-BeijingAnd then there are also the heavy weight moving machines.  These are almost pulling as much weight as a mid-size truck in the US.

Hey, at least they are not polluting and are on top of the energy efficiency list, right?

 

Did we see enough?  I bet not…

Beijing-Bike-Truck

 

Here is another contraption – a bike on the streets of Beijing

This baby can haul some stuff…You agree, right..?

 

 

Sleeping on a bike

Sleeping on your bike…anyone?  Why not – this bike especially…I am surprised there is no mattress on it

 

 

 

 

But seriously, it is obvious that bicycles continue to be a dominant force in China…

 

 

Urban Biking – Advances Across European Cities

Urban Biking

This is not a fad – there is plenty of evidence that bicycle usage in the cities across the US is growing.  There are plenty of different reasons for that – to name a few: more people are moving from the suburbs to live downtown or closer to downtown and their workplaces, gasoline – while the gas prices have been steadily falling, still it takes a chunk of money to just keep commuting to-and-from work….very importantly – biking is actually a great form of exercise and a method to keep people younger longer….!

Bicycle usage across various parts of the US are growing – I visit many cities each year and, yes, I do pay attention – you do tend to see significant number of bicycles going around.  Here is a chart which actually provides a lot of information

Infographic: San Francisco is the Most Bike-Friendly City in the U.S. | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

I was very proud and pleasantly surprised by San Francisco and Austin…..Great progress..

But – wait a minute – do not let this praise make you think that the cities in the US (even the ones listed on the infographic above) have made enough progress to allow for broad usage of bicycles.   To spell it simply – THEY HAVE NOT!

Now, let’s take a look at a relatively random sampling of european big and and small, modern and upcoming, etc cities.

Then recently I went on a complex customer facing tour in Europe, where I met with tons of customers, but those located usually in smaller citifies across Germany, Belgium, and France.   I was very surprised (in a positive way) to find tons of evidence of heavy bike usage – and once again thought as to how limited the same is in the US….

I went to Poing, Bavaria in Germany – the industrial company I visited had installed a covered parking for the employees that ride bicycles to work!

Urban-bike-parking

Then my trip continued to Bucharest, Romania — to my surprise there – again – big bike lanes to the main streets and people actually paying attention to them.

Now, why would Bucharest have a strong bike culture?  It does not – but in 2011 timeframe the local government decided to encourage the use of bicycles – and voila – the infrastructure was created.

Bicycle-infrastructure-in-Bucharest

Per Wikipedia, between 2008 and 2010, the local government built 122-km of bicycle lanes  – yes, indeed – I saw those and the staff at the JW Marriott in Bucharest also told me a similar story.    The sad part though was that I hardly saw a person using the lanes…;

 

The story continued in France, in multiple cities there was the Bicycles-in-France-Citiesstrong evidence of the bicycle lanes and in most places there were people taking advantage of the infrastructure.  All in all a positive development – why?  for the same reasons I started this article with – cost savings, health, and overall a more pleasant living environment!

I hope things continue to develop in a positive direction in the US as well

 

 

 

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!

Bikes vs Cars – Another Set of Comments

Several days ago (it seems much longer time ago as I was 14 hours ahead in Asia / time zone) I posted some comments on the very old debate of Cars vs Bikes, which comments were instigated by the release of the documentary with same name.  As I stated in the previous posting, the debate rages on…So might as well add some more data and references on the topic in case you stumble across this blog.

One of the observations I made is that bikes in general are good for the economy – as they save $$$ otherwise spent on fuel, reduce pollution, assist in exercise – thus increasing the productivity of the riders….And now we have additional research pointing to bicycle (and foot) traffic actually increasing economic activity (the fancy term for otherwise said “shopping”).   The research was done by the University of Denver graduate student Stephen Rijo – the study shows (please see page 75 through page 95) that after Denver implemented bike lanes and bike friendly infrastructure on Larimer street in the city in October 2011, in the three subsequent years, sales and tax revenue increased 40%+ each year (41% to 71%);   The study PDF is available here;  Here is one of the example graphs from the study – courtesy of the research

Denver-Bike-Friendly-Street-Sales-Increase

Larimer Street Economic Performance – Food & Beverage, Other, & Total Sales (Sum) Taxes (from Stephen Antonio Rijo, August 2015 University of Denver)

Interesting findings – right?  I firmly believe we can find further similar examples of how biking and bike culture in cities can boost economic activity besides contributing to a healthier population.

Bikes vs Cars – New Debate on an Old Topic

I just came across a new documentary that has been released to address the very old debate of Cars vs Bikes – what is the right preference, how should cities handle traffic and what should they emphasize.

There has been so many debates on this and many opinions – so I might as well list mine.  So, here I go – why do I think the debate is somewhat misguided and actually makes sense to look and use both:

  • Cars – are they best option for everything – of course NOT!  Are they useful in our daily lives ?  Absolutely YES!
  • Bikes – do they cause trouble on the road?  Absolutely NO!   Bikes and cars as people overall should and can co-exist safely and harmoniously
  • Are bikes helping the economy?  YES, YES!   How?  By bringing traffic that is slow – which then allows people to stop and check shops out etc.  I will elaborate on that later.
  • Are cars helping the economy?  YES!  How?  Well by providing great jobs, providing great improvements to productivity – I personally save tons of time by commuting via car – fast and effectively getting to the office (before rush hour)

Here is the trailer and some commentary on the new documentary that is causing the emotions to sparkle again:

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And I will continue the discussion in my next posting.  Now I am rushing off to board my flight from Narita (Japan) to Los Angeles (one of the cities highlighted in the documentary above).   Stay tuned for more — and of course I would love to hear / see / read your opinion and thoughts on the topic.

Biking in USA: National Parks with Biking Trails

I have been posting listings of the new places for mountain biking I am discovering in my travels in our home state as well as across global locations.  In parallel with that I thought – well, what about the places we have visited and gone biking to over the years.  With the help of some research here is a listing of those in the US:

    • Acadia National Park, Maine:  Used to visit the place very often while living in New England.  There park has miles and miles of the so called “Carriage Roads” – which were developed for horse riding in the early 1900s and subsequently have become great biking trails.  Timeline: need to make sure you avoid the winter and late fall months – so probably late-May through early-October best to visit in my experience;
    • Zion National Park:  This is another really beautiful – I would say at sunset and sunrise, stunning park with great biking trails for all experience levels;  My recommendation – weather wise probably best between April and October – too cold and icy otherwise
    • I will continue to post some additional parks in this post – i.e. will update it later today;

 

 

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…