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 – 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
It does not have the ability to distinguish between road and mountain bike
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.
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
I 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…
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:
Shock 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
29er – 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…
Storage 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!
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.
Last week I had the great experience of being in Berlin, Germany and taking advantage of the great biking and walking resources that great city offers. Last time I spent any significant amount of time in Berlin was in 1989 and the Wall was still in place and so was the division between East and West Germany – you remember that…?
At any rate, I decided to provide a brief view of a good bike ride in the city – you will be really surprised at the interesting combination of trails in the Tiergarten and the bike lanes along Berlin’s tree lined streets. I took the path from the Kempinski Bristol Hotel off Kurfurstendamm to the Brandenburg Gate – and it was a great experience. Shown below is the map of that path – I put it in a image for ease of visibility
The blue line shows the path I took – Google Maps showed a different bike route but this one went though the gardens and was a very pleasant one
Included below are also some photos of the great bike paths along the roads in the Tiergarten.
The Tiergarten is an amazing park in the middle of the city – having built a tunnel for the transport under the park you can actually enjoy the huge grounds, many lakes and plentiful flowering trees and bushes as well as occasional sculpture. All in all, this park is a great asset for the city.
Overall, bike riding in Berlin is really very nice – the city is very flat so no significant effort is needed to make it thorough the town’s streets and get to various points of interest. The city has many bike lanes and goes to the extreme of dedicated bike streets where the bicycles have priority and the cars are limited to 30 km/h speed.
Earlier 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
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.
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.
Volvo, the automotive company most of us associate with safety has gone ahead of the class again! They have put in product car-to-bicycle communicating helmet for bicycle riders. This is not just a lab experiment and something that works on “a Tuesday morning if it is sunny, and you are peddling your bike really slowly…” but a real product instantiation — in a real SUV.
Volvo has implemented communications link that allows drivers to communicate directly with bicycle riders and avoid collisions on the road. The solution is a GPS tracking application where the helmet (worn by the bicyclist) establishes a two way link between the rider and the driver, calculates the position of both the SUV and bicycle and ultimately the driver is notified via the Volvo dash information system, while the cyclist gets notified via a helmet mounted light.
You can also take a look at another very interesting concept (already funded on Kickstarter.com) bike — a connected bike which counts your spent calories riding, provides navigation guidance (via integrated lights and your smart phone GPS system), uses integrated proximity sensors to detect approaching vehicles and notify via vibration of their approach. Here is a video by the developers:
Fellow bicycle riders, progress continues… I am headed to Maryland and as a result wanted to check out the Maryland public transportation. So I checked out the local trains and in the process came across a brand new press release — turns out the MARC Train service started to offer a special train car — allowing passenger to bring bicycles into the special train car. Up to 16 bicycles can be loaded and later on the car can be expanded to accommodate up to 26 bikes.
This is a great move forward for our ability to have flexible transportation. Just think you jump on the train, and next you are arriving in Boston, you jump on your bike and pedal off to your local destination.
California, of course, is well ahead of the East coast in this endeavor — the Southern California Metrolink has had similar facilities on its train cars for a couple of years. And its capabilities are extended across a 512-mile network of the train service.
Have you traveled to Beijing ? If you have, then you will know what I am about to say — getting around the city is a real hassle. Why? Because the roads are congested, the air is polluted, and the taxi cab drivers sometimes just refuse to take passengers (yes, I know that does sound strange but it is true).
So what is the alternative if you are just visiting the city and have time to spare – i.e. you are not rushing to a business meeting… Yes, you guessed it – the alternative I would recommend is taking a bicycle ride.
A photo from Beijinger Magazine
Years ago, bicycles were ubiquitous in Beijing. There were waves of them moving about the city…Then its citizens discovered automobiles. The standard of living went up and so did the number of autos in the city – the number of vehicles grew so fast that today you have to wait for your number to be picked up in a sort of lottery in order for you to receive a license plate and even once you get that accomplished you will be able to drive only on odd or even days based on your license plate.
So. with that in mind in the next few postings will introduce you to some Beijing areas which are very comfortably seen and explored by bicycle.