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Why Bike Nerds should Buy an iPad

I think from reading the blog it’s fairly obvious that I’m as interested in the gear as much as I am in cycling itself. So I thought it was worth doing a piece on a few apps on the iPad that are really useful for keeping up to speed with cycling.

First off, I’m probably a bit atypical in that I have a fairly decent (20mb) broadband connection, but due to poor coverage in the apartment I don’t actually have a standard TV setup. Rather I use online TV services, such as the RTE player (for Irish TV) and more recently Netflix for TV watching.But 2 months ago I bought an iPad, and while initially I I had some ideas on  what I would use it for, it quickly became apparent that’s it’s also ideal as a small TV.

I cover the exact set-up I use over on my techie blog, but for here I’ll mention the Eurosport app. It costs €37 for 12 months on the iPad, but given that over the weekend I was able to watch some of the Strade Bianche and Paris-Nice wherever I wanted in the house, I can’t really find fault the price at all (although the fact that because it’s in ireland once again I’m gouged over a Sterling-Euro “conversion” that doesn’t detract from teh usefulness). One point is that a lot of people have complained that this pricing is standalone from peoples’ Sky accounts, but in my situation that doesn’t apply at all. Also, I have read reports that there are issues over 3G, but again that’s not something I use, so I can’t comment.

Next up the Rouleur magazine. I said I’d try it for six months (€18.49 (as opposed to €12.70 for a single print issue from wiggle), and it’s a bit of a disappointment. The magazine itself is a stunnning high-end  publication, with a real emphasis on design. And while the iPad version is an exact copy, this is it’s downfall. In portrait mode one page at a time is displayed, and while this makes it the font easier to read, when you only see half a picture on each page it’s kind of annoying. But then in landscape mode it’s a 2 page layout, but again this has its pitfalls. While the 2-page photos are stunning, the font is too small to read. Overall while the content is good, the app design isn’t up to par. While design is of paramount importance to the print edition, the designers should know that mobile apps have different requirements. Add in the fact that the app is very buggy (I find that if I open the app and then come do other work, if I try and come back to it later it often takes a restart of the iPad to open)- again a disappointment.

But one app that really works on the iPad (or iPhone for that matter) is the cycling news app.It’s nice, clean and simple, exactly what’s needed in a mobile app. The font is a decent size, and easy to read, while there is a button at the foot of each article linking to the pictures. It’s simple, and because of this it works. Rouleur could learn a lot about how to design an app from this

Ordeal Fitting Mudguards

Originally when I got my bike (a Dolan Preffisio), one of the main reasons for getting it was it was designed to be used as a training/winter/touring bike.  So when we figured out that the typical Irish Summer was going to be quite wet, and that we are doing a 450 mile tour in a few weeks, the fitting of mudguards (fenders) seemed like a good idea.

While some in the group went for simpler mudguards (just for the tour), I decided to go for something that I could just leave on the bike for the most part, partly because I’m not expecting any improvement in the weather. And since there were already all the eyelets and the bike is supposed to have added clearance I ordered these  SKS Bluemels Olympic Racer Mudguards from Chain Reaction. SKS have an excellent reputation, and these look pretty good, so the black ones on my Black and White Dolan seemed an obvious choice. Here is how the bike should look (One thing that really annoyed me was I contacted Dolan several times, via email and twitter, trying to find out what guards they recommend , or even sell. Not once did I receive a reply).

Anyway, the mudguards arrived on Monday, so I thought 20 minutes and I would have them fitted. That was ambitious! All in all, I’d say I spent maybe 4 hours fitting them. I’ll spare the full details, but firstly everything was quite fiddly to do on you own. Then the stays had to be marked, disassembled, cut to length and reassembled. A hacksaw would be quite handy (off course I didn’t have one with me). Also I had to shape the bottom of the back guard, to fit it between the chainstays.

But the biggest issue was that even though the bike should have plenty of clearance, with 23mm tyres they were catching the guard directly under the brake bridge. It took quite a lot of messing (over an hour), and I actually thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. But after readjusting the brakes several times (releasing the bolt and pushing the brakes  vertically uo),  and pushing forward the guard I eventually managed to create enough clearance.

After the hassle of getting the guards on, I’m not too sure if/when I’ll take them off, adding/removing them is not something that can be done easily: might be easier just get a second bike!

Garmin Edge 500; 6 Month Review

Intro

I’ll just do a very quick summary of this gadget, there are countless numbers of reviews out there already, going into the nitty-gritty of how easy it is to set up screens, change from one bike to another etc, so I’ll try not to do one of those.  But there are 2 things I want to cover, one is the advantages of this device over similar types and the other are some of the issues/problems I’ve had (some design faults, some because I’m a careless idiot).

Why The Edge 500?

As a new cyclist, who was struggling to cover 10 miles of flat terrain, it was kind of hard to justify spending over €200 on a device, when you can buy a bog standard cycle computer for a 10th of that. But being a techie and nerd, I like graphs and numbers, and going off of other reviews the Garmin was the device to go for.

And overall I’m delighted with it, it’s easy to use, hasn’t failed once (although it did do a funky pause- screen-thing during the Ring of Kerry, but miraculously it didn’t lose any data) and I love looking over the stats and routes at the end of the cycle. Given the amount of features it has, as well as support for the ANT+ devices it’s easy to see what it is probably the most popular bike computers out there.  I purchased mine with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and also the GSC-10 cadence sensor.  As a beginner having cadence and heart rate information is very useful, as it helps to pace yourself.  (By disabling the GPS  and using  the HRM and cadence sensor you are able to usefully simulate outdoor cycling when on a turbo)

But probably one of the best reasons for going for the Edge 500 is its interoperability with analysis sites and software. Not only does it come with the free Garmin Connect (which I find to be as useful as anything for analysing rides done), it is also supported by Map My Ride and also by the Strava (reviews on these sites to come at a later stage).

Issues

Definitely the most annoying issue is how Garmin expect you to tie the cadence sensor to the crank, using just cable ties. Because of a combination of a smoothness in the crank material, and the hollow on the back side of my Tiagra crank arms the sensor was continually falling off, normally mid cycle!

Hollow on back of driveside crank, same shape on other crank

Hollow on back of driveside crank, same shape on other crank.

Having tried several methods of cable tying the senor to the crank, I finally resorted to just taping over the sensor as below, and so far it has done the trick (but not until I had to order replacement pedal senors!).

cable tied sensor, taped to hold it in position.

Here you can see that I simply used waterproof tape on top of the cable ties, to stop the sensor from moving. about 300 miles done, and so far no issues.

One possibly better idea (which I will try if the above doesn’t last), is to use one of the spoke sensors in the replacement kit I ordered. These are designed to screw into a plastic back around the spoke. But I think that by drilling a small hole into the crank, and then tapping it out, you could simply screw that magnet into the crank. I haven’t tried it, but if anyone does let me know how it works.

Summary

I really like this device, it’s nice and simple and does what its supposed to do very well. The pedal magnet is the most annoying issue so far, but the fact that I was able to resolve that issue with a simple roll of tape is a small price for a good value, highly functional device

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