Colorado Bend State Park – Mountain Biking

Texas Mountain Biking Colorado Bend ParkYesterday my family and I finally decided to brave the long drive and head out to Colorado Bend State Park.  The weather was great – mid 70s F, sunny, light breeze….all in all really perfect weather for a bike ride.  So we loaded the bikes on the SUV, loaded plenty of water in bike bottles and in the cooler and started off towards the park.

Getting to the park from Austin entails two options – you can either go the North route – via 183 or the South route via Marble Falls, Burnett, and eventually Lampasas.

On the way to the park we decided 183 may be the faster route – well that was a mistake.  183 is a mess – unless you use the toll road version – 183A – which we did not and paid dearly for that in terms of wasted time.   Took us 3 hours to get to the park – while on the way back it was the expected 2 hours – but we went via 281 and 71 via Burnett and Marble Falls

Once we got to the park – we signed in relief – the place is beautiful, the trails are good and in different difficulty level – here is the map of the park which includes the biking trails – which in aggregate amount to about 30miles of varying degree of difficulty

Map from State Park HQ

 

The river trail is very scenic and very much an easy beginners level trail to use.  We started on that one as a way to get our daughter in the groove of things.   The trail was nice – about 3.5miles in one direction.  Once you reach the intersection of Old Gorman Road and the River Trail you have the option to head back the same way, or take Old Gorman Road towards Cedar Chopper Loop.  Please see map above.  Based on the various loops and roads you can actually construct a pretty long bike ride.  We ended up on a 2 hour ride which was more than enough to get us exhausted and ready to head to dinner by the time we were done – which was around 6pm.

Overall the experience was great.  Please see the album with photos below…

 

iPhone Bike Mount – How To Video

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.

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Here is also a link to some further description on the mounts.

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.

 

iPhone Bike Mount

Well folks by now (2+ years after starting to use my iPhone as a bike computer) I am completely sold on the concept and convinced that using my smart phone on the bike handlebars and going on multiple trails is OK, safe and useful.

The phones I have used on my bike (actually two different mountain bikes – a Specialized Rockhopper Comp SL 29 and a Trek X-Caliber 29 Gary Fisher) have survived multiple accidents, including 2 or 3 major spills from my bike with the phone on the handlebars in its holder….without any damages to it.

2+ years ago I wrote about the phone mount I have been using — I still use it but lately have started searching through companies that supply new and more versatile mounts and cases including water proof implementations.

Here I must add a disclaimer on my current setup – the mount I am using  does not provide splash, rain, etc water protection.  In those cases I have to remove my phone and put it in my under the seat pouch for safety.

So, what have I found from recent browsing through manufacturers’ web sites – the company that appears to have developed an interesting water proof and very versatile – ie being usable on bikes and other situations, is Tigra Sport.   The specific mount and case I am considering is  which has some very interesting features. These images (from the Tigra Web site) provide a good idea why I consider them a good option if you are looking for water proof solution:

Tigra Sport Bike phone Case  Tigra Sport iPhone Bike Case Tigra Sport  Tigra Sport This last image shows the versatility the case offers.  So next stop for me will be the long term test – i.e. riding for a few (very cold – burr…..!) Winter weeks with the case – as soon as I get it.  Stay tuned for another update.  In the mean time I do believe this mount and case will be a winner.

Carbon Frame Mountain Bike Under $1000 – Continued

Carbon frame mountain bike is one that carries a heavy price tag usually.  This is a continuation of the article about a newly discovered (at least for me) sub-$1000 carbon fiber frame mountain bike – the brand being BEIOU from a Chinese manufacturer. Part-I of the posting was here – and not I wanted to summarize some additional info about the bike – which it turns out is actually a set of bikes with different component complement but similar carbon frame.

The BEIOU bikes come in several different tiers – per the company:

  • Entry level: with Suntour fork, 80mm travel, and Shimano Deore 596 brake kit

Carbon frame mountain bike - Beiou bike

  • Athletic level: with upgraded front fork – Rockshox REBA 100mm travel with remote control; and Shimano Deore XT brake set and drivetrain;

Carbon frame mountain bike - Beiou Rockshox REBA Carbon frame mountain bike - Upgraded Beiou

Furthermore, the tires are KENDA, the hubs – Novatec, and finally, need to point out that some of the bikes actually may come outfitted with MOZO air forks;

Overall, this is a good value bike with different configurations you can find at Amazon.com all the way up to $2599 — the link to this configuration is shown below:

Flat Pedals – Another Way to Get Extra Power

I have always believed in flat pedals as a preferable ‘propulsion mechanism’ when compared to the clip shoes and pedals. I have been sold to by many bike store professionals about the great value and benefits offered by the clip based pedals for mountain bikes, but for some reason – just personal preference I would say – I have always stayed with the platform pedals.  Now I have been vindicated – more and more trainers and store assistants offer the platform pedals for mountain bikes as the preferred approach.

Why do I like the flat pedals:

  • They offer the ability for you to jump off the bike easily if you see yourself and the bike falling
  • the big surface of the pedals allow you to exert significant power and propel the bike well
  • the large surface they offer also provide for good stability when you ride upright for additional power as you climb hills
  • overall they offer a lot more stability on the bike and make you feel more in control

Assuming you like the pedals (as I do) here is a list of pedals you can consider for your mountain bike:

  • Spank Spike Platform Pedals: these pedals are about 420gr. weight, thikness of 12mm, 20-adjustable pins for traction; made of cold forged alloy – which has proven to be the best approach for rigid / stiff body while still being molded in a thin size for best fit on the bike – i.e. not to be in the way.  (The Oozy Trail is another option from Spank – costlier but lower weight)

    

  • Shimano PD-MX80 Saint Pedals:  These pedals are very comfortable, offer VERY strong grip to your shoes – still no clips mind you! — and a big platform, hence lots of ability to push for power.  Their key differentiation: Concave platform shape for long ride comfort and pedaling efficiency;  These pedals come also with washers to allow you to adjust the pins for the right fit to your shoes.

     

  •  xpedo Spry pedal: I like this pedal for it is probably the lightest at 260 gram weight and 11mm thickness and of course a very low price.  The manufacturer has used softer material – magnesium – and that contributes to more scratches and dents on the trail.  But overall a good set for your mountain bike.
  • DMR Vault Pedals:  has a platform shape that is concave for better fit with the shoe sole – and makes this pedal well liked even if it is larger overall and heavier; 

SmartHat Concept Helmet

It is the season for gift giving – with Christmas approaching – we all look for the special gift for the special people in our lives.   As all of you know the Web has become the proverbial shopping mall for many of us – we search through it, browse as we think of ideas for presents and in the process often come across the unexpected.

Late last week I came across the unexpected as well – the Smart-Hat – Helmet for the Responsible Cyclists.  The notion is being developed by a startup focused on adding tons of sensor and information gathering and displaying technology to the ordinary bicycle helmet.  Take a look – images courtesy of the Smart-Hat web site (http://www.smarthat.info/)

Smart-Hat  Smat-Hat-Detail

Here is the list of features offered in the Innovative (Too much innovation in my opinion):

  • multi layer helmet construction with impact absorbing features
    and facial protection from ground impact

  • in helmet bluetooth display with speaker, full satnav, speedometer, speed zones, temperature, heart rate, tilt sensor, ultrasonic object proximity warning, turn signal indicators, system icons, time

  • remote control turn indicators

  • automatic brake lights

  • automatic head light and night lights

  • a retractable visor system with rear view mirrors

  • a remote control, motorised wiper system for bad weather

  • integrated digital camera

  • smart phone storage

  • e-tag storage

  • batteries

  • bluetooth remote control switch mounted on bike handlebar

  • provision for an ID sign

  • customisable outer skin to any colour or graphics

  • provision for an in helmet cooling fan

  • superior comfort and safety in operation

At any rate, I hope we can get the current limited number of sensors integrated into a useful display on the bike – or on a smart phone securely attached to the bike – see my articles / postings about the phone-caddy.  That will be a good step forward.  This helmet (in my opinion) can wait…

LifeBEAM Smart Helmet – Safety and Use

Bike helmets are really essential.  I have written about that in the last year, after I took a big spill on my bike right outside of my house and truly cracked the helmet I was wearing.  Now I have come across the next best thing — the LifeBEAM helmet which offers a great combination of safety and sensor technologies and integrates with the smart phone applications I (and many other cyclists) use on a regular basis.

LifeBEAM helmet     LifeBEAM helmet

The helmet offers heart-rate and calories measurements.  The product (per the manufacturer) claims to be the first of its kind that integrates body sensing during your bike rides.   And guess what !  The claim is that the technology used is the same one used for pilots and aerospace applications.  Pretty cool, right !

LifeBeam Helmet

The helmet includes Bluetooth Low-Energy and ANT+ communications capabilities and the battery life it supports is up to 17 hours.  The helmet interfaces to multiple smart phone applications including Runtastic, Strava.   I had reviewed many of these applications in previous postings – links here.

So overall pretty neat set of capabilities.  I am thinking of giving it a shot some time soon.

Fly6 Camera and LED Light

Fly6 Camera and LED Light  – New Gadget and Safety Tool

I just came across the newly available Fly6 taillight and HD Camera combination product.  The idea of building such a device is really great!  Why – well, because it will provide cyclist the world over with a very good safety device.  Here is a view of the product from Fly6.com

Light and HD Camera Excellent Lights and Recording Gadget

This video from the company itself is a great description of the idea that drove the product:  all in all, drivers are often careless and do not really pay enough attention to the dynamics of the road.  Why do I know this?  Because of my personal experience.  I have been involved in accident where the other party was a truck driver who hit me as I was going along a main street in the city and he was stopped at a street corner waiting to turn onto the main street.  After he hit me the guy swore he never saw me (on a bright sunny day i.e. in full daylight) — I guess he did not BUT THE MAIN REASON was that he was not paying any attention….but just decided to turn onto the main street and I happened to be there…Too bad for me right…?  Well with this new gadget many such situations will be well documented and will drive awareness and attention across all of us…

The other interesting aspect of this gadget was the STRONG interest in it – its creation was funded on Kickstarter in only a couple of months.  This diagram is sourced from Kickstarter.com and shows results from user surveys:

Fly6 camera

In summary, I really like the idea behind this product.  Will look into getting one – and will post here my experiences soon enough…

 

Beginners’ Guide – Adjustments for a Mountain Bike

Almost couple of years ago I published several postings in a series about a beginners guide to mountain bikes.  The reality is that mountain biking is relatively popular but information on how to get going with a good fit for your bike is really scarce.  I aggregated a bunch of pointers on how to start with mountain biking — here is a list of the articles:

Now I need to highlight to you a couple of additional points:

  1. adjustmets to your fork and air shock
  2. adjustments for your seat and stem to prevent back and shoulder pain

So let's start with the air shock on your bike.  You need to check it approximately every 2 weeks.  Why?  Because in your riding – if you do so at least each weekend, you will continuously lose some air from the shock.  With that in mind. you need to check the air pressure and maintain it with the air shock pump on a regular basis.  My bike – Trek X-Caliber G2 29er with RockShox Reba Air shock fork – I will need to maintain around 130psi; For that I have two options on a pump – here are they are:

     I picked up the Fox one, why?  It was available…Simple as that; 

The second item – as listed above in the list of adjustments needed – was the stem on the bike.  The original stem for my Trek X-Caliber 29er was  

Bontrager Race LiteBontrager Race Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree;  a good quality stem – but I needed to replace it with one that brought the handlebars higher and therefore to a more comfortable posture for me.  I exchanged the stem in the bike shop where they installed a Salsa stem which was but about an inch shorter and brought the whole experience to a better result.

 

 

Trek X-Caliber Test Ride

Earlier today I wrote about the fact that our daughter is test riding a bunch of new bikes as we are getting her ready to hit the trails.  It is about time to get her truly into mountain biking.  She has been testing a bunch of new bikes:

  • Giant Talon
  • Giant Temp
  • REI Novara Ponderosa 27.5" and 29er both
  • Specialized Jett Comp

The Giant and Specialized were nice bikes according to her and her mother.  But more about that in a future post.  As we went to the last of the bike shops – I came across a great find.  TREK X-CALIBER 29er;   The bike was heavily discounted as it is the 2013 model.  I rode it as I am planning now to trade in my current bike.  The ride was very smooth – due to the good shifters and the higher-end RockShox Reba with Solo Air.  The remote lockout for the fork was an interesting and somewhat useful feature – it takes adjustment to — but I think it is cool and convenient. 

                                                        Trek X-Caliber

The wheels for the bike support a great new feature for mountain bikes — tubeless tires – which can offer a very nice / comfortable ride.



Bike Specifications

Trek Fuel EX 7 29
Trek Stache 8
Trek X-Caliber