Apple Watch – More Feedback

Apple Watch Thoughts

Is the Apple Watch the Ultimate Fitness Tracker for Cyclists?

This is the title of an article I came across as I was searching for others’ experiences with the Apple Watch.  The article was well written and certainly touched on many of the desires and issues I looked for and experienced with the device.  All in all the conclusion of that article though was VERY far off from my own experiences and conclusion.   The statements made were

So while the Apple Watch is probably not the ultimate fitness tracker for all cyclists (namely those who are serious about using it as a tool to track metrics, compare performance on particular segments and improve their overall riding), it’s definitely the ultimate fitness tracker for me

I appreciate the candor of the author – i.e. for him the Watch is acceptable… Well that was not my experience and conclusion.  I had the following pet peeves which though were followed by giving kudos to Apple for handling my dissatisfaction with great appreciation for the customer (me)

I thought the watch needed to:

  • Do much better job in gathering useful information / statistics about the exercises being tracked – I was really surprised that the apps on the watch were SO rudimentary…
  • The measurements that were taken were / are OFF by too great of a margin,   I could have been OK with 10-15% error / variation of the readings.  The issue is that in my case those readings were off by 50+%
  • Have more applications for the amateur sports person – I was very surprised at the weak set available….May be soon enough there will be more.  I hope so

Net-net, I like the idea, I was disappointed in the execution and product ultimately made available to us, the consumers

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

 

 

 

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 – Continues to Bug Me

Apple Watch – yes, it is one of the gizmos Apple brought to market…So we, the trusting consumers thought “well, lets give it a shot – after all it is coming from the company that makes so many great products…”

Well, as you can tell from my several postings so far, it has been less of an impressive gadget – actually borderline a disappointment!

Why do I say that?  Well, here I go with my latest gripes:

  • Siri is not there – whaaaat?   Well, Siri is not waking up when I make the famous call “Hey Siri…” no one answers….
  • I am supposed to be able to answer SMS with voice and convert to text or send as a voice response.  8 out of 10 tries DO NOT WORK!   Just had that experience 5 minutes ago…
  • The exercise calorie measurements – as I reported in the earlier posting, they are just wrong.  I am biking for 1+ hour and the watch measures 600-700 calories (mountain biking) but close to 200 are shown as “at rest calories”…. Now, how that can be?  The watch / its software knows I am exercising – I specified manually that I am on the bike….

At any rate, these are simple BUT very irritating and just plain not thought-through things…Poor software….Period!

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!

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:

;

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.

Gravel Bikes – A New Trend That Actually Makes Sense

GT-GRAVEL-BIKE

view of a Gravel Bike

Well, it has been a while since I added a new category of bike to my blog.  While I focus on mountain biking, this new category of a bicycle is actually a close relative of the mountain bike and certainly one each cross-country or mountain bike enthusiast should consider – or at least I believe – should evaluate.

What are Gravel Bikes?   In a summary – they are a combination of a road bike and a cross-country one with some elements ‘borrowed’ from the mountain bikes as well.  Turns out there are plenty of gravel roads out there – I certainly have come across them in pretty much every US National Park – just earlier yesterday I published a brief summary about two good bike friendly National parks – Acadia in Maine, and Zion in Utah – and surprise, both of them offer miles and miles of gravel roads to enjoy and explore.

What else is special about the Gravel Bikes?

  • Relaxed posture / frame geometry
  • Hydraulic disk brakes
  • Longer wheel base (to go with the relaxed geometry)
  • significantly increased tire clearance – to be able to navigate in a stable way obstacles you will encounter on the gravel roads

I am going to start building the database of manufacturers offering the Gravel Bikes and as usual structure that via the Bike Reviews option on this blog.  The Gravel Bike category is already live – you can follow the link to it.   Next will add the manufacturers like Salsa with their Warbird model, Raleigh, GT to name a few.   So check the blog out soon again.