Under Armor Record – Disappointing iPhone Application

iPhone Applications

I continue to look for interesting and useful new iPhone applications – ones I can use on  my mountain bike and keep track of rides and stats.  Over the last 3 years I have reviewed a whole bunch of apps and have found them overall usually relatively useful.  The list of the ones I have reviewed is long – Argus, Bike Brain, MapMyRideRuntastic Mountain Bike Pro, and a bunch of other ones.

Every so often I have come across some that are buggy and tend to be a disappointment.

My latest review is of the Under Armor Record – I thought since it is developed by a very popular and well adopted in the exercise circles brand – Under Armor – it will be well put together.  The application comes with tons of accolades from the company itself – it is promising and with a lot of features.  

Under Armor Application Dashboard

Application Dashboard

The front screen is a dashboard with a running feed of all your activity, which Record collects from your iPhone’s internal motion tracker.  You can also get sensors from main suppliers and interface to the app.  If you are so inclined you can also challenge friends, check on your friends’ progress, and track also food, sleep, and calories burned.  

This is all fine, but the application REALLY DOES POORLY on tracking your bike sessions.

You can see in the follow on screens a summary that makes you wonder – who designed the application that way.  Here is what happened – the result of which you see on the next application screens.  Earlier this weekend I went on a bike ride and used the Under Armor Record and in parallel ran the Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro, and Strava.  The results did not bode well for Record.  Why?  Well see below

Under Armor Record

History of sessions

Under Armor Summary

Session Summary

Check the time duration and the calories burned…!

This is “amazing” – I did 23 hours on the bike….NOT!

Well, turns out I did attempt to stop the application as I completed the bike ride.  As I did with both Runtastic and Strava.  But Record decided to keep on going.  And kept on going until the next day (today) when I was getting ready for my next bike ride.  I thought that behavior was a fluke.  So I just started a new session.   I biked for 1-hour 15 minutes…and then when I came home I tried to stop the application…. Well, I wish the programmer who wrote the app could see it.  I kept trying to stop – I kept getting the screen with Application Session Paused — with the option to slide the screen button to Finish it.  I did over 10 times – each time the Application just exited – i.e. CRASHED!   Every time I tried to get back in – Record went back to the same screen – with the request to Pause and then Slide to Finish – and the same repeated over and over again.   

Then I took the drastic action – I deleted the Application!   That is it – Under Armor Record was gone.  The app worked OK for tracking elliptical trainer workout, and walks but as far as the biking is concerned the assessment it TWO THUMBS down!

Thumbs Down

 

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

New Mountain Bikes to Consider

Mountain Bikes to consider

New model year – new mountain bikes…Well, it happens every year, so it does this Fall – the 2016 bikes are out (they have been for a while) and there are plenty of new machines that have great specks and certainly can be good for most amateur and enthusiast bikers alike.   In this posting I want to highlight the new models that I have seen browsing across the web sites of a number of manufacturers.  Some observations:

  • 29ers and 27.5″ wheel size rule!   I can attest judging by both the configuration of most good range bikes as well as the inputs of friends and family who ride
  • dropper posts are coming into the affordable bike range (i.e. in bikes with sub-$3K price tag);
  • SRAM-GX-LineNew drivetrain options are also entering the affordable bike models.  1×10, 1×11. 2×11 are being used on increasing number of bikes – I am still a bit standoffish on this one.  Yes, the 1x frees up real estate on the front handlebars as many of the articles report (and so do the sales associates in the pro-bike shops) but what are we giving up?   I think using these new drive train options are forcing you to give up useful low gears in your riding program… So this one you will have to judge for yourself

In this and may be one more posting I will cover the bikes I have come across and consider good options for you too

  1. Rocky-Mountain-ThuderboltRocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 – Retails for $1999;    This is a mountain bike model family – the Thunderbolt – that includes 6 models and range from $11.5K to $1999 in pricing. This bike includes a large number of up-market components which you can usually find on higher price rigs.    The fork for the bike is Manitou Marvell with 120mm travel – I forgot to mention, the wheels are 27.5″ ones – I would have preferred a 29″ ones but the claims Rocky Mountain designers would make I am sure, is that they gave higher maneuverability to this model
  2. trekTrek Stache-7 — this is another excellent bike with surprising to me also one that uses the Manitou fork but a shorter 110mm travel.  The cassette is a single chainring setup which I am still not completely sold on – I continue to like my 3 chain rings with tons of variability  in my gear ratios.  The Stache-7 uses also the G2 geometry as in my Trek X-Caliber Gary Fisher model – I like it as it does appear to provide for increased maneuverability at low speeds.
  3. Specialized-Mountain-BikeSpecialized Camber 29er – Retail $1900 (you can jump to the Camber Comp 29er for $2500):  These are great bikes – I have owned 2 Specialized Rockhopper bikes, the later one being Specialized Rockhopper Comp SL 29 – which was my first 29-inch bike and I really liked it.  The Camber is its next version – and the $2500 version is adding some upgraded components – the front shock is with 120mm travel and much higher end design.   You will like both – the $1900 and the $2500 – which one you should buy depends entirely on how hard of riding you intend to do

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 …!

 

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.

Bicycles and City Living

I have been paying attention to bicycle infrastructure in cities ever since I started using a bike in Phoenix, AZ.  In reality I became convinced that bikes have a future in big and small cities alike in the late 1980s while living in Beijing and Shanghai, China.  The bicycles were indispensable and actually provided for a much faster mode of transportation than cars or buses during the day due to the sheer number of people on the streets and the resulting congestion.

Naturally, I was very curious when I saw the recent survey and rankings of the best / bicycle friendliest cities in the world, and was even more surprised to find for a first time a US city in the top 20!!!  Minneapolis is ranked #18 in the 2015 list, which is shown below – leveraging the link provided Copenhagenize Design

Bike Friendly Cities1. [2] COPENHAGEN
2. [1] AMSTERDAM
3. [3] UTRECHT
4. [NEW] STRASBOURG
5. [8] EINDHOVEN
6. [9] MALMÖ
7. [6] NANTES
8. [5] BORDEAUX
9. [7] ANTWERP: follow this link for more information…
10. [4] SEVILLE
11. [17] BARCELONA
12. [10] BERLIN: We have our own write ups for the new Berlin…
13. [NEW] LJUBLJANA
14. [NEW] BUENOS AIRES
15. [11] DUBLIN
16. [NEW] VIENNA
17. [19] PARIS
18. [NEW] MINNEAPOLIS
19. [20] HAMBURG
20. [14] MONTRÉAL

The ranking for 2015 and several previous years is here

Now, I am sure you can observe this in the list above – but isn’t it strikingly surprising that a large number of the best cities for bikes are also cities located in very cold climates. And “yes” -have observed in Finland, in Denmark, people continuing riding their bikes even in the cold months of the snow covered roads

Antwerp Bicycle

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

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…!