5 Essential Apps for Cyclists on Tour

After a solid six months on-the-hop in Europe, without these Apps I’d still be lugging around libraries of books, flyers, magazines, maps, tourist guides, flyers and printed memorabilia.

Have I succumbed to the Internet of Everything? (IoE – yes that’s a new industry buzzword!) It is becoming readily apparent, no matter where, the mobile device is cementing its place at the centre of the digital economy. And my digital world. With advancements in telecommunications and network access, it’s possible to be connected almost anywhere, Australia, Asia, India, Europe, USA, the list goes on.

These Apps make the life of a cyclist on tour even easier (Android focus here).

1. Strava Cycling
Strava Cycling not only turns your smartphone into a cycle computer, it also connects you with other cyclists and makes you look like a climbing devotee with all those obscure KOMs and weird segments you’ve managed to secure in the middle of nowhere.

See our previous post on how to really make this work for you when you land in a new location.

2. Daily Yoga
After racking up another bunch of frequent flyer miles Daily Yoga offers various guided sessions. It’ll help iron out any wrinkles before you get bounced around on the euro-cobbles or next tour de cafe.

You can choose different durations and intensities of the sessions as well as which area of your body to target, lower, upper and other combinations. Great for a tune-up!

3. Kindle Reader
Buy an e-book or e-magazine on-line and take it with you everywhere in bits and bytes. Virtual dog-eared pages and notes jotted in the margin, all on your tablet or smartphone anytime.

Great for the plane, the cafe, the hotel, the bar, the meadow or the mountain peak.

4. Evernote
Are you a scriber, note-taker, jotter, news-clipper and scanner of all things information? Evernote replaces your notebook, scrapbook, clipper and whatever else you’ve been lugging around to remind you of those things you know you’ll never remember otherwise. The most intelligent notebook on the block in my view.

Take a picture of that must-have brochure or delectable artisan-style fromage, type in a note, tag it and you’re away. Search by note, notebook, keyword or tag to retrieve it, via your smartphone, tablet or internet cafe. All ready for you in the cloud.

5. Hootsuite
Managing and switching between multiple social media profiles can be a bit cumbersome if it’s all done by smartphone. Hootsuite takes away the pain and presents your social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) in one dashboard. Tweet, update your status, follow your friends all in one place. Like!

They’re FREE too!
At the date of publishing all these Apps are free too! There are options to upgrade and pay for additional services but in the main the base functionality make them more than worthwhile.

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It’s that time of year – New Bike Syndrome strikes again

The dawn of new season bikes emerges around September and continues through to December each year (and let’s not forget the Nouveau Beaujolais sitting pretty on Nov 15th!). For the southerners, that’s Spring. After which the weather only gets better, along with the range of new bikes becoming available. It’s a difficult time for cycling enthusiasts as the spending cycle increases toward Noel Nirvana.

For the northerners, come winter, it’s three months being wrapped up next to the fire in the ski lodge pouring over the latest glossies (on their tablet mind you), in between gulps of warming liqueurs from bulbous crystal goblets. No less torturous for them as cycling and sun are such distant realities.

New Bike Syndrome
With immunity from New Bike Syndrome (NBS) or ‘Upgrade Fever’ low, what’s the best way to make sure your upgrade is a total winner? Thousands of hours on the steed have made you one with your current love, how can you know the next will be just as passionate?

Enter Bo-Bo, a Beach Rd aficionado (and Engineer) from way back. Not long ago, the conversation topic of NBS intruded on a fast paced 3-hour ride on Melbourne’s best bayside black carpet. He’d been struck by the fever.

Being a technical, scientific type, Bo-Bo knows geometries, angles, carbon-layers, composites, metallurgy and physics. My contribution dabbled around project management speak, pilot tests, baselines, charts and other pleasantries.

One thing that was surely agreed was the overwhelming contribution a wheelset makes to the handling and performance of any bike. It’s on the critical path you might say. The other agreement at 45kph was the preferred choice of wheelset for training, climbing, racing, ie the great all-rounder.

The reason behind going into this is that to compare bikes, particularly frames, a good quality wheelset (including wheels, tyres, tubes) that you’ve ridden for some time will give you the ideal benchmark for testing how the new frame performs. Eliminating the wheelset factor helps focus in on the frame characteristics.

The Pilot Test
It’s a simple test. You’ve spent weeks adoring your new love on the interwebs, sharing stories with friends over coffee, swooning over colours and fighting the need to have a quiet chat with your current love about your unshakeable fever. You know what you want.

One weekend afternoon, you head to your favourite store, you’re already well known by the staff from all those after-work meetings you’ve been attending ‘off-site’. You take your cycling shoes and your wheels from your current bike, maybe even in wheel bags for protection.

Assessment and Impressions
After this morning’s ride you’re feeling a bit guilty about what you’re going to do next, but it’s happening. The first test ride you want to use your current wheels, maybe even the second ride too. This is the critical part of the assessment, initial impressions.

Using your existing bike’s measurements, have the bike set-up as closely as possible to your current position. Rolling out slowly to get settled, this is the time to take note of the impressions compared to your current bike.

Steering – is it heavy or light, twitchy or composed?
Acceleration – fast and snappy or sluggish?
Slow corners – predictable or is it a wrestle?
Fast corners – stable or wallowing?
Taking a few chicanes or esses’s (S’s) – is the change of direction swift like skiing or does timing feel out of sync. Do you feel like you’re ahead or behind where you want the bike to really be?

Ideally perform the test a couple of times to determine whether it’s similar to what you currently enjoy or different, and how that meets with your performance expectations and needs. Perhaps even try across a few different bike models and brands if doubts start to creep in. After texting and instapic-ing all your crew, whack a few notes in your smartphone.

What If?
And don’t worry if your wheels are ‘better’ or ‘not as good’ as the new ones that come with the bike, this is about reducing the influence of variables on your purchase. The same test can be applied in reverse too, use your existing bike to try out a new range of wheels that you’re interested in buying.

A Swift NBS Recovery
Following your various tests, you’ll have a suite of benchmarked test information that’ll go a long way to ensuring the fever doesn’t induce that other affliction, cyclist’s remorse.

It takes a bit of effort, but one hour here or there is a useful set-up for the next 500, 1000 or 2000+ hours you’re going to spend enjoying with your new amore. Now, what colour is it going to be?

Your Experience?
What has your experience been changing bikes? Please let us know how you’ve approached your decision too and whether it worked out as intended.

Thanks to Bo-Bo for that illuminating NBS discussion on Beach Rd. On another ride with Bo-Bo at Bright VIC, the discussion was about compact cranksets and gearing, but that’s for another time…

Globe-trotting strava cyclists will be into this!

For the Strava / GPS users out there that happen to travel with their bike, you’ll appreciate this little web tool.

By referencing your Strava Rider ID and uploading all your cycling history, this tool will create a global Google map with all your rides. A nice little virtual pin-board to drop in to your next post-ride cafe banter.

Options include:
– Specify Date Range
– Zoom
– Colour / Opacity

The Maarq Plot

Maarq rides on the global map

Showing all Maarq Strava rides via the Garmin 800

Credit to the Dulwich Paragon club for supplying the link.

[Disclosure Statement]
Maarq has no affiliation with Strava, Jonathan O’Keeffe or the Dulwich Paragon Club UK.

Navi-what? Navigarminating. Find your ride.

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Traveling light with my bicycle, Sci-con styleDo you have a certain penchant for travel? I do, especially with my devoted companion, my bicycle. When traveling however, it’s not always easy to find that local training ride or get to the top of that secret single-track, or in fact meet a knowledgeable local to ride with. Here is possibly a fast-track to resolving that problem, well before someone floats ‘BikeBook’ on the stock exchange that is…

JC, Double-barrelled training partnerMy training pal, JC, put me onto this wonderful and simple technology solution. Keen to discover new trails and potential new courses, he led the way in my tutelage. The tools required in this scenario are: a GPS device (mine’s a Garmin), computer with internet access, a Strava account and a willingness to search on-line. I’ve labeled this wonderful solution “navigarminating”.

Here I’ll give you the how, the directions aren’t bathed in precision, but the method is the key. And it gets better than merely finding a course to cycle, you might just find that local expert to ride with too…

The broad guidance given here assumes you’ve connected your GPS device to your PC, have fired up a browser, are connected to the internet and over time you’ve acquired some familiarity with sites like GaminConnect or Strava.

1. At the PC
– Using your preferred GPS database (Strava ‘Activity Search’ chosen here) search for and select the route you like and want to download.
– In this search the parameters are: Port Vendres; MTB riding; 30-60kms distance; 3-4hrs duration, and; more than 1000m of altitude gain.

20121031 Strava Search Clip

The first item in the list above looks promising, so that ride is selected and now appears below.
20121031 Strava Ride Clip_1
20121031 Strava Ride Clip_2
It can be seen from the ride detail that there’s a few climbs, the rider achieved a few KOM’s (so he must go alright one would think). He didn’t pause much (“Elapsed Time” less “Time”) and the route goes in the area I wish to target. So, I decide to choose this ride as my one to follow…

2. On the Web – Using an interface such as Cosmo Catalano’s Strava Ride Exporter, copy the ride URL / web address and have the site prepare the file for download to your PC and GPS device.
20121031 Cosmo Ride Clip_1

3. PC to Device – Download the file and transfer it to your Device (simple instructions here via mapmytracks and alternate instructions via ridewithgps here for Edge800 device)
20121031 Cosmo Ride Clip_2

4. Device Ready – Fire up your device, load the route and get ready to ride
Edge 800 Go!Edge 800 Ready to Ride

5. Navigate to the start, or just get to part of the route that is closest to you
Edge 800 Navigate to start?

6. Follow the route merrily
Ready to navigate! Or navigarminate perhaps?
Navigating the route, blue line is my trace, purple line the one to follow.

Optional Steps
Type a comment on the ride to the owner and potentially query them on the ride specifics, or
b. Simply thank them for uploading their ride because you now are better informed, or
c. Ask them if they’d be interested in going for a ride. Be polite, not a stalker.

A pretty pause south of Tour Madeloc
Location: A pause after climbing the Vermeille, France

Personally I like the Strava-Cosmo-Garmin interface, it’s relatively simple and particularly with Strava I’ve found the people I’ve contacted very helpful and willing. It’s also global. What’s more with Strava’s metrics, you’re able to get a fair idea about the difficulty of the ride based on the suffer scores etc and before you decide to ask someone to go cycling, you can get a fair idea about how fit they are given their kms/hours per week and amount of KOM/Segments etc. Useful tools!

Towards Banyuls-sur-Mer
Looking towards Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Now, it’s true there are a multitude of sites out there available offering Bunch-ride finder services, Cycling-Buddies, GPS traces and other GPS Exploring facilities but I’ve not found one to date that really delivers on what I’ve been looking for across continents. This UK site has great technology and interface qualities, I really like it, but it is limited in its geography. Many cycling social-sites based on the Ning platform have also come close but having a centralised resource aids in quicker identification of the desired route. Garmin offers a new social service similar to Strava but personally after many attempts I just can’t bring myself to be a fan of their search function. One more I haven’t yet tried is this, but it looks okay.

Up to Tour Madeloc
Location: Up to Tour Madeloc, France

Chilly in the autumn afternoon in the south of France
A chilly autumn afternoon in southern France. Never mind the 120kph wind either…

Pleasant rocky singel-track abutting vineyards
Location: Descending loose and very rocky single-track abutting beautiful vineyards, Port Vendres, France

To taper off, the final benefit of all this navigarminating business… With the ride example above, I had intended to take the full tour, however after three punctures, fading light and declining zest I was able to re-route back to the start for a hastened short-cut back to base. It doesn’t show on the route data, but the last 3kms were ridden on a flat tyre and it involved a straight heading for vertical descent hike-a-bike style through two vineyards, a leap across a creek and a whip past the mangey dog.

The moon rises over Port Vendres and singletrack disappears
Re-route time as daylight quickly gives way to the moon’s approach.

All thanks to navigarminating. Thanks JC!

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The digital cycle – Discovery to recovery

<a name=""> Visa Pour L'Image, Perpignan FranceTwo things struck me at the 24th International Festival of Photojournalism this year.
The Visa Pour L’Image is the annual forum where photojournalists from around the world meet, it’s held in Perpignan, France.

Visa Pour L'image FNAC Perpignan France

Of the exhibitions, two in particular have stayed in consciousness.

The first entitled “Fearless Genius” by Doug Menuez was a collection of images that documented the daily lives of technology innovators during the heydays of digital revolution, 1985 – 2000.

Visa Pour L'image Doug Menuez Perpignan France

Steve Jobs is a centre-piece. The images relay times of extreme intensity and duress, of programmers working through weekends to develop code for the latest computer products and software. There are images of personal melt-downs, office-desks sunk under reams of paper, computer monitors piled atop each other for maximum productivity. On the flip-side there are images of celebration, excess, relief, product-launches, parties and absolute exuberance.

There are wretched images of key personnel that are tasked with attempting to recover functionality of the prototype moments before it’s meant to go on stage for launch. It’s clearly a heady time, capturing an industry in full-flight, of unconstrained growth and opportunity. Today we see the impact that time has had on daily life. Laptops, smart-phones, tablet devices, incredible levels of adoption across business and consumer industries. The line between personal device and business device unequivocally blurred.

Visa Pour L'image Doug Menuez Perpignan France
Location: Couvent Sainte Claire

In contrast to these lively images of burgeoning success was another exhibition, “Standing at the Graveyards of E-waste” by Stanley Greene.

Visa Pour L'image Stanley Greene Perpignan France

The raft of images show another side to the technology race, perhaps showcasing the end-of-life as opposed to Mr Menuez’s start-of-life. No less arduous is the worker’s task depicted in Mr Greene’s images. Workers are shown dismantling various technology items, separating wiring, taking apart computer boards surrounded by mounds of discarded devices and products. The USD$4 pay per day that these workers in Nigeria and India receive seems a long way away from the first turnover created by those technology organisations driving through the ’80s.

Visa Pour L'image Stanley Greene Perpignan France
Location: Eglise des Dominicains

These two exhibitions book-end the life-cycle of technology products that perhaps we use everyday oblivious to their creation and subsequent demise.

It’s not that technology products are invalid or the success of those driving technology enhancement is unwarranted, as each actor in the life-cycle is making a living in one way or another. The question emerging is how do we connect at the time of creation the way that product will be handled at end of life? With the pace of change can we adequately balance the inputs today against the total cost of life (including scrapping and/or re-birth) for some point in the future?

Could Steve Jobs have known during the 80s that workers in India in 2012 would be separating cables and circuit-boards from smart-phones developed in 2008? There’s a quote that goes something like, “20 years from now we’ll be using technology developed in 15 years time” (*attribution unknown currently, please advise if known), if that’s the case, what can we do today to put in place adequate measures to support the future state?

Is it fanciful to think that as or before a new market product alternative is embarked upon the actors and stakeholders of the entire cycle can be engaged, or at least considered?

[Edit 26/10/2012: As a postscript, it’s great to see that Apple has joined the IDH Electronics Program where the aim is to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to improve the social and environmental performance of its supplying factories in China.]

Visa Pour L'image Perpignan France
The Visa Pour L’Image is every bit worth a visit. Get down to ground level.

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Simple questions like: Glass or Plastic?

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Simple QuestionsSimple questions, simple answers. Neat, very neat, very quick.

A simple question such as: When buying a soft drink, is it better to buy one contained in a glass bottle or one in plastic?

Maybe your first thought is the aesthetic. Glass is more tactile, perhaps it will stay cooler for longer, even represents an iconic shape that hasn’t really changed in almost 100 years.

Perhaps you consider portability and impact resistance. On the run, it’d be a disaster if you dropped the glass bottle, plastic is much safer, lighter and less likely to break.

Some may consider the environmental friendliness and jump to a choice to do the right thing. But what is the right thing? Both are recyclable. Hmm. Simple answers start to go off track here and that’s a good thing.

As an individual you’ve already considered all these thoughts in front of the fridge, probably in less than a second. Maybe even not at all. However, In the time it takes to consume that drink, you’ll be better informed about what the sustainable choices are.

Refillable Glass Bottles, Kerala INDIA
Refillable bottles. Kerala, India

Before some people’s time there was an approach to soft drink bottling that was based upon reusable glass bottles. In this period long ago (actually still current in some countries), a soft drink was purchased, the drink drunk, the bottle returned to base through a collection service and the bottle was then refilled to be dispatched to a retail store to be sold again. Picture loads and loads of drink crates traversing the lands back and forth with the same bottles. Those bottles would have been used many times before being taken out of service.

Somewhere along the way recycling took over and glass bottles became single-use. Once the fancy sugary liquid had been consumed, the bottle ‘hopefully’ got tossed in the bin by the lucky and now quenched purchaser to be recycled. Transported back to a recycling centre it was broken down into its original materials and ‘re-built’ as a bottle or something else. Progress, perhaps.

Organisations sensed that there was a better (and cheaper) way. A recyclable material was good. A lighter recyclable material would be better, yep, you guessed it, plastic. Same scenario, only lighter.

So here we are today, plastic recyclable bottles being the mainstay of refreshments in bottles. Simple and in terms of cost to the consumer, cheaper. Even now a glass bottle of the same drink will cost more than its plastic equivalent. Hit the service station or milk bar (if they still exist) on the way home and have a look.

It gets worse. Sorry, not worse, it actually gets more interesting now.

Helicopter View of Melbourne
Helicopter view. Melbourne, Australia

Take a helicopter up to the clouds and now look at all the people purchasing bottled flavoured liquid sugar. There’s lots of them and lots of empty bottles. Look at all the trucks going back and forwards from delivery centres, production plants, recycling centres and stores carrying cartons of drinks and empty bottles. Now observe from where the water is sourced to produce all these drinks and how that arrives at the plant.

You’re starting to see the outline of a very large soft drink bottle footprint. It’s a systems view of what’s behind the action of reaching into the fridge to grab a bottle.

Without going into gory detail, clearly there’s a diverse range of component parts that work together to enable you to take the bottle. There’s sourced water, fuel for transport, energy for production, land for buildings, machinery to do stuff and people to move things around. And pollution from some. In consideration of all this ‘stuff’, which bottle, glass or plastic, is the cheapest cost in terms of economic production, social impact and environmental consequences, ie the smallest carbon footprint?

There is an answer. But before the simplicity and intellectual quenching takes place, consider another question: what if you had to choose between a multi-use refillable glass bottle and a recyclable PET plastic one? Now that’s a complex query that has been better tackled here. Okay, to the final gulp… For some it will be no surprise that a PET plastic bottle has the smaller carbon footprint compared to glass.

What will you choose next time? Maybe you’ll refill that bottle of water instead of buying another one when it’s discovered that it takes around 3 litres of water to produce a 1 litre PET bottle. Yep, every time you buy one litre, it’s actually costing far more.

Perhaps the next simple question to tackle could be which choice of bicycle: aluminium, steel or carbon fibre?

Quenching ANZA Mavericks, Tour of Friendship 2011
Quenching. Anza Mavericks, Tour of Friendship, Thailand

For more thirst quenching information:
G Magazine On-line – Disposable Drink Bottles: Plastic v glass v aluminium
Inform Inc – Case Reopened: Reassessing Refillable Bottles

Bicycle Footprint teasers:
Bike Radar – The not so green bike – carbon fibre’s carbon footprint
The Guardian – The bike manufacturer that aims to be greener than the rest

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