Posts Tagged ‘Garmin’

Me and heart rate straps are over. I’m glad I got that off my chest

January 13, 2015

I had a stroke of luck at Christmas. Jen didn’t know what to get me and I honestly couldn’t think of anything I wanted, but by chance I remembered a recent contribution I had made to a thread on the London Dynamo forum about the tendency of Garmin’s heart rate straps to give up the ghost. Two of the buggers have died on me, and I suggested to my fellow afflicted ‘Mos that a Mio Link Heart Rate Band, as recommended on Twitter by Pretorius Bikes’ very own Mike Miach, might be a smart alternative. So, in a spirit of inquisitiveness and practicality, that’s what I asked Jen to get me.

And, my goodness, I’m very pleased that she did. I have experienced a sense of liberation that is surely similar to the burning of a bra. My chest is no longer enclasped: the Mio band sits above the wristbone on my left arm and detects my pulse. It’s as easy as putting on a watch, and never again will I have to go through the hassle of partially undressing in a bleary-eyed state after forgetting to strap up before putting on a baselayer and bibs. (Oh come on – we’ve all done it, haven’t we? No? Right, just me, then.)

The actual unit sits in the middle of a rubber strap. Press the button at the lower end of the unit and after a few seconds a light will flash in time with your heartbeat. Get your Garmin to detect its presence and bosh – you’re ready to go. The blinking light changes colour as your heart beats faster (blue is the lowest, red the highest) which I suppose is useful for runners or anyone else not staring at numbers on a little screen while they train. I just like looking at the electronic blinking because it makes my arm look a bit like a robot’s.

During three long rides the Mio band has stopped transmitting only once, and that was easily remedied by using the traditional, centuries-old IT solution of turning it off and on again. Powering up is simple: pop the unit from the strap and slip it onto a little charging tray which magnetizes the device into place.

It is, all in all, a very clever little gadget – although I reserve the right to lose my rag when I inevitably mislay the recharger and render the band as useless as my old, defunct Garmin ones.

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Evans: an oasis of sanity

November 22, 2013

Going into a branch of Evans often seems to me like entering a bizarre, alternate world of cycling. On Planet Evans, I have witnessed cyclists in full possession of their faculties who are unable to mend a puncture. I have been met with fearful, uncomprehending stares when I have asked for a Garmin stem mount, as if I was demanding that they unearth an Aztec goblet. Most curious of all, I recall a time when a woman said her shopping bike was making a funny noise and looked put out when the assistant correctly ascertained that her chain needed lubrication. She was displeased that the solution required her to actually buy something, as if that wasn’t the done thing in shops.

I am willing, however, to accept that in this context, as in so many others, it is me who is the anomaly. The high street’s green and gold giant has published figures from a customer survey which reveal that only six per cent of people who shop with them are members of a cycling club, and more than 60 per cent never ride with anyone else. So as a proud member of London’s blue, black and orange army who attends one club ride per week, my presence in a branch of Evans is as incongruous as a recumbent in Richmond Park. Or a recumbent just about anywhere else.

The survey shows how sensible Evans Man and Evans Women are in their purchasing choices. The most popular price bracket for a bike is £500-£1,000. Quality is their most important criteria, brand the least. And rather than spend hundreds of pounds on a Garmin, they tend to plump for app-based tracking devices. Which could explain the difficulty of getting a mount for my 810.

When you think about the extremes of high-end cycling which we have come to accept – the £12,000 custom builds, the reverence for the phony authenticity of some heritage bike brands – Evans doesn’t seem that bad. Its customers only pay for what they need. They’re not suckered in by marketing. As alien as they might sometimes seem to my needs, their shops are little oases of sanity in the mad, rapidly-expanding cycling universe.

The main thing I don’t like about the Garmin Edge 810

November 7, 2013

I can tell you exactly when I began to dislike the Garmin 810: it was as I took the left-hand turn that leads you towards Hampton Court Bridge, and the treacherous thing froze. It did exactly the same thing the following week and the next (each time I was following the course of my regular training ride), then it stopped picking up both the speed/cadence and heart rate sensors. A hard reset didn’t work, so back to Wiggle it went. And behold! A new one was delivered to me which, two months later, hasn’t had any of its predecessor’s conniptions. Bless you, Wiggle, and your staggering profits which allow you to mail me a replacement package worth £430, no questions asked.

Whenever I tell someone I have an 810, three things invariably happen. Firstly, seasoned Garministas are mildly amazed that you don’t need to attach it to a computer because it will upload your ride as soon as you finish, thanks to the magic of Bluetooth and an app on your phone. Secondly, they scoff at my enthusiasm for enjoying the company of the virtual partner, which tracks your progress on a saved course against a previous attempt. And thirdly, they’re not at all impressed when I tell them the live tracking facility, which is also linked to my phone, allowed Jen to follow my progress as I cycled up some mountains in France as part of the Challenge Vercors. Giving your wife or partner details of your location in real time is not, apparently, a very good idea.

Even though I’ve now got an 810 that works, there’s still a lot I don’t like about the thing. It doesn’t show up on my MacBook’s desktop when I plug it in, and it takes ages to eject. Setting up the screen configurations, or ‘training pages’ as they are clumsily known, is a fiddly business. Irritatingly, the app can’t be activated if my phone is locked (although it could before I updated to iOS 7). And although I’ve made a lot of tweaks to the set-up, I can’t for the life of me remember how I did them – such is the counter-intuitiveness of the user interface.

I think Garmins should be like iPhones: simple devices that anyone can pick up and use. Instead, the options open to you are buried amid a stack of headings and pages. I had never used a Garmin before, so I was surprised at how low-tech they appear: the jerky animations, the primitive icons, the bleepy eight-bit fanfare whenever you finish a ride. Perhaps Garmin isn’t inclined to drastically improve the design of their devices because, in the world of sports-orientated satnav, it is practically the only player in the game.

But the main thing I don’t like about the 810 is what it says about me. I’m dreaming of a time when Google Glass takes all the visual information crammed on that plastic pebble a foot below my face and puts it in front of me, which is where it should be. I’m hoping that the tracking facility is improved so I can see, without having to fish my phone out of my pocket and check my email while riding, when people I know are riding in the same vicinity as me. Neither of these wishes even occurred to me before I clicked “buy” on Wiggle. Now I am, essentially, excessively annoyed about living in the present when I should really be grateful that little devices such as the 810 have replaced bulky, laminated maps taking up space in our jersey pockets, and helped reduce the endless stops and self-inflicted misdirections. They’re a turn for the better.

40 things I’ve learned about cycling and myself now that I’ve turned 40

July 12, 2013
The best-kept secret in club cycling (see no.26)

The best-kept secret in club cycling (see no.26)

1. The most recent thing I’ve learned is this: having taken an extended break to mark your 40th birthday, it is a challenge to get back into the swing of updating your moderately amusing cycling-related weblog. My brain is like a rusty chain; thankfully, I also have lubrication in the form of a warming pot of tea. Let’s see if that’s enough to oil my way through another 39 of these buggers. Off we go!

2. (Before we properly begin, another challenging aspect to banging out a few thoughts on the old MacBook is that I’ve chosen to do it while cycling’s greatest distraction is on the telly. I refer, of course, to the world-famous Tour of France, which I am pleased to note is now being subjected to the high-octane vocal stylings of Carlton Kirby. Did Eurosport bosses promote him to Grand Boucle commentator – Chief Grand Boucleator, if you will – after reading my enthusiastic recommendation in April last year? Why yes, they did. Of course they did.)

3. Taking a sip of my Thé des Moines – a delicate blend of black tea, green tea, vanilla and calendula petals – I am reminded of cycling’s secret truth: no cyclist really drinks coffee because they love the taste. If you actually enjoyed the flavour of refined hot beverages, then you might also seek out the odd cup of well-blended tea. But you don’t, partly because tea only contains a sixth of the caffeine content found in coffee. It’s only a mild addiction, but addictions rarely turn out well. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you feel incredibly tired once the effect wears off.

4. Well, we’re a tenth of the way through, and I’ve already alienated the caffeinista community. More to the point, I still haven’t properly started this thing yet. So I’ll begin at the beginning. Here we go. For real this time.

5. About 10 years ago, when I started riding seriously, I thought I’d never fit in because I wasn’t serious enough. I don’t mean the long miles or the hard work – I’ve never had a problem with either – but the attention to detail, the planning, the analysing. Then I realised quite a few amateur riders were no good at these things either. It turns out serious cyclists can be as disorganised and shambolic as anyone else. The difference is they feel the absence of discipline more keenly. This is what attracts them to cycling.

6. Pain is temporary; quitting lasts forever. Go hard or go home. Ride like you stole something. No chain, no chain! Etcetera, et bleedin’ cetera. Whenever you’re inclined to think that one of cycling’s many pithy sayings is a great insight into the bigger picture, remember that the cyclist who coined with the greatest number of them was the sport’s biggest fraud. It’s not about the aphorisms.

7. Having said that, I am fully aware the above edict is an aphorism in itself, and this list might become a veritable storehouse of sayings. This is simply my way of participating in one of the longest traditions in cycling: rank, stinking hypocrisy.

8. We need a moratorium on the word ‘velo’. What was once a signal to the more serious end of the cycling spectrum has congealed into an undifferentiated veloslop. Everything, regardless of quality or its target market, is called ‘velo’ these days. Veloriders, Velorution, Urban Velo, Neon Velo… oy, oy, oy. Enough with the velo. We’re veloed out. It’s velover.

9. Two more words that need curbing are ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’. You’re writing about a race or a sportive you have participated in and apparently it was painful. Tell me: if you were writing about swimming, would you tell me that the water was wet? It’s cycling, mate. It’s meant to hurt.

10. Actually, I’d like to make one exception to that last idea, because for some years I’ve harboured a secret desire for the Surrey League to host a race in a village called Hurtmore. In my fantasy promotional campaign, Surrey League bigwig Glyn Durrant peppers the internet-based cycling media with banner ads which are entirely blank, except for one word: “HURTMORE”. The “HURT” is in red, the “MORE” is white. Then a second wave of anticipation hits Surrey League competitors everywhere with these words: “IN 2014 THE SURREY LEAGUE IS GOING TO HURTMORE”. No spaces – “IN2014THESURREYLEAGUEISGOINGTOHURTMORE” – just the words alternating between red and white. Man, imagine the excitement. Imagine the fear.

11. I’ll be honest with you, though: I haven’t done my research on this one. If Hurtmore doesn’t have a leg-shredding climb, they’ll just have to make the race 260km long and hold it on the hottest day of the year.

12. On the subject of races, I thought, upon entering my forties, I would be happy to relinquish my BC licence and limit myself to the sportive playground. Instead, I now realise I am not a sportive rider. I ride them like I would a club ride. I miss the brutality of racing, and I realise I’ve only been competing fitfully since I came back from having major surgery a few years ago. I think this will have to change.

13. I have tried and tried, but I simply cannot forget the name Chester Hill. I saw it on a Surrey League results sheet years ago, and it remains the most old-school cycling name I know of. Despite not having a clue what he looks like, I have a fantasy that one day I might pass him on a particularly testing climb and exclaim: “It’s Chester Hill!” And he, gasping for air, would reply: “It’s not just a hill – it’s friggin’ Ranmore!” I fully realise this may never happen.

14. Cyclists are told too often that cycling is beautiful. Beautiful bikes, beautiful frames, beautiful photography… but they can’t all be beautiful, can they? Because beauty, by definition, is rare. And if you have to tell your customer that the object you’re trying to sell them is beautiful, the chances are it probably isn’t. It’s just… pleasing.

15. The tight-fitting clothing. The pipe-cleaner limbs. The shaved legs. Don’t obviate cycling’s inherent daftness by wallowing in the hollow, monochrome ‘epic’ aesthetic of ‘serious’ cycling culture. Embrace the ridiculous.

16. In the future, not every bike will have electronic gears. But every type of bike will. Think of the growth in usage in the context of the humble kettle: electric kettles are comparatively more complicated than their stove-top equivalents, but everyone uses them now because they do the job with less fuss. And, crucially, they’re not that much more expensive.

17. Miles, not kilometres. Kilometres will always be with us; kilometres are the building blocks of a race, the countdown to the finish line. But say both words out loud: ‘kilometre’ is sharp and factual-sounding; the long ‘i’ of ‘miles’ is expressive. Miles are what you have in your legs, or what you have yet to get in. Miles are units of yearning, not matters of fact. ‘Miles’ conveys incompleteness – and all of us, as cyclists, are incomplete.

18. I have been part of a very big club ever since it was no bigger than a few dozen members. For the first five years, I put together a weekly newsletter about the club called DYNAMITE!, which I set up this blog to archive. Writing DYNAMITE! was one of the more worthwhile things I’ve done. It brought hundreds of strangers together. It kept them entertained. It recorded, in the course of more than 200 issues, just how much we love the sport.

19. Strava and route-sharing websites should’ve killed off cycling clubs, or at least diminished the importance of club runs. Instead, cycling clubs are getting bigger. Nothing surprising about that: cycling can be a miserable sport, and it helps if you’re surrounded by people who will help you cope with terrible form or terrible weather. What is surprising is how little of the culture of cycling clubs is reflected in cycling media, given that club cyclists are the basis of their readership.

20. I like being a loner. But what I like even more than solitude is being out on my bike and stumbling across an old clubmate I haven’t seen for years. Being part of a large club, I often get these little surprises.

21. I miss seeing heart rate monitors on the wrists of strangers. Before Garmin GPS units became ubiquitous, I would sometimes spy a chunky Polar beneath a shirt cuff and realise that, yes, this person is indeed one of us. Now I have to look for daft, mitt-shaped tan lines, like the ones I currently have demarcating my pale hands from my brown arms.

22. If you really want to know what cyclists talk about, don’t look on the internet. This is because the internet has become The Fact Olympics – “Look at my big, juicy facts! My facts are far more powerful than your puny facts! Just face facts – preferably my bulging, pulsating facts!” Relatively few of the face-to-face conversations I have with my cycling chums are about doping, and none of them have deteriorated into an argument. I suspect this is because competitive cyclists prefer to use their bikes and legs rather than words to best each other.

23. I used to believe in strength in numbers, that bad drivers would be shamed into curbing their worst behaviours if we simply had more cyclists join us on London’s streets. Well, we have, and they haven’t. I don’t think there are more bad motorists, but I do think the worst ones are behaving even more badly. We need stronger laws, and better road infrastructure.

24. Having said that, I don’t believe that an adversarial, them-and-us culture is the motorist’s default mindset. You can pass dozens of cars on a single ride without incident. Drivers generally don’t have an issue with us.

25. The best time to ride in London is after 1am. There are fewer cars and, perhaps because there is less traffic, the standard of driving is less aggressive.

26. The best-kept secret in Surrey-based club cycling is Fairoaks Airport. You may not know it, but there really is an airport nestled amidst the roads you train on. It has a nice cafe. You can watch light aircraft and helicopters landing and taking off. It’s like a little day out in the middle of a ride. You will feel like a kid again.

27. Speaking of being a child, the funniest phrase in the cycling lexicon is ‘anodised nipple’.

28. The second-funniest phrase in cycling is ‘Edvald Boobsandhardon’. (If you think it’s disrespectful, please blame my romantical partner Littlejen who made it up.)

29. The third-funniest phrase in cycling is ‘Fartlek’.

30. I rarely drink. I ride quite a bit. I don’t put on much weight. These three things immediately pop into my head when I come across a cyclist who has signed up to a complicated and restrictive diet plan.

31. More than speed, more than distance, cycling is about time. Time is the agent of anticipation, and we’re all anticipating something: the next ride, the next bike, the moment when everything – the right level of fitness, the mental focus – finally comes together.

32. You will know if your bike is the one for you if you keep it by your bed. Wake up. Look at it. Does it make you want to ride even when though you are exhausted? Then congratulations – you have made the right choice.

33. Nobody needs to spend more than £2,500 on a bicycle. I’ve experienced the full panoply of frame materials – aluminium, steel, titanium and carbon – and I’ve loved them all. You can experience the same joy as I have done without spending the equivalent of the price of a new hatchback.

34. I have never envied another person’s bicycle. I don’t go looking for another bike to own. All my bikes found me.

35. I can recall miserable wet rides from years ago – the people I was with, where we went, where we stopped when we punctured – but I can remember barely anything from some of the warm, sunny rides that should have been more memorable. Hot days wipe my memory.

36. Women are the best people to ride with. Men specialise in talking about facts and objects; women tend to talk about people and experiences. They are more observant of character and more aware of absurdity. If I’m going to chat with someone for three hours or more, I know which gender I’d prefer them to be.

37. Book and magazine publishers, please note the following: no one has ever said, “Brilliant! Another lengthy retread of obscure cycling history, told with a personal twist! I’ve just got to read this!”

38. Bicycle races are even more fun when you watch them with Littlejen. My romantical partner is quite a reserved person, but my goodness – you should hear the gob on her during the Tour.

39. Jen is that rarest of people: a cycling fan who loves cycling yet hardly ever rides. She enjoys the spectacle and occasional absurdity of professional cycling; the nerdery and punditry are anathema to her. We need more Littlejens in cycling.

40. Sometimes, when you’re out on your bike, you’ll want to go as hard as you can. On other occasions you might be out for a pootle. Similarly, when I’m being serious, I try to be as engaging and argumentative as I can be; if I’m being daft or whimsical, I put in as many funny bits as I can think of. I wish more people did the same. Write like you ride.

The DYNAMITE! Five: the month in cycling, remixed. April 2013

April 30, 2013

5 UP John Torode
john torode outside richmond park cafe On a typically busy Saturday morning in Richmond Park, TV culinary arbiter John Torode was spotted parking his stealth-black Condor up against the wall of the famed Roehampton Gate café, where he quietly enjoyed a brew undisturbed by the large number of two-wheeled Masterchef fans milling around. Well done, polite Lycraists! Although it must have been tempting, surely, to congratulate him on doing a few laps of the park’s 6.7-mile loop by adapting his no-nonsense catchphrase and solemnly intoning: “Cycling doesn’t get any tougher than this.”

4 UP Slowing down
Fabian Cancellara, a lap away from besting Sep Vanmarcke to win Paris-Roubaixand he isn’t even ruddy pedalling! Has cycling slowly ever been more exciting? No, it has not. Cat-and-mouse officially beats solo breakaways on The DYNAMITE! Files Thrill-O-Meter. More of this please, professional cyclists!

3 DOWN Slowing down
Pictures from Amstel Gold were annoyingly intermittent this year, leaving the Dutch host broadcaster NOS filling airtime with expensive super-slo-mo shots of various riders – which, as TV expert Alex Murray pointed out, was a pretty ineffective deployment of broadcasting technology. Has slow motion ever been as uninteresting? No, it has not. Less of this please, professional television people!

jonathan vaughters in garmin control room 2 DOWN Jonathan Vaughters
He’s Garmin’s omniscient eye, observing the movements of his riders via the bank of screens in his control room. Sadly, that carefully cultivated image, propagated by the promotional film for the new Edge 810, was revealed to be yet another of cycling’s many lies after Jonathan Vaughters had to locate Nathan Haas with the modern-day equivalent of opening the window, yelling, and hoping for the best. “If anyone is near @NathanPeterHaas,” Vaughters tweeted, “please tell him he just got the last minute call up to do Amstel. And turn on his phone!”

1 UP OAT
What, you may wonder, is OAT? According to Bike Biz, it’s the Office for Active Travel, a soon-to-be-launched government department with a budget of more than £1billion which will aim to get more people cycling and walking. Well done, clever bureaucrats, for choosing a name relating to porridge, the traditional breakfast of British cyclists. Although, as the department will be responsible for moving bodies around, they could have called it the Central Agency for Kinetic Expression – or CAKE for short.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #14

August 26, 2011

5 DOWN GreenEDGE
Imagine what you could do with 20 years of planning and a projected budget of 14 million quid a year: put a jaunty hat on the moon, perhaps, or stage Siegfried and Roy, live from the lost city of Atlantis, with giant, laser-eyed sabre-toothed robot tigers. Or, if you’re Australia’s nascent cycling project, cobble together a website that resembles a Powerpoint presentation for middle managers being delivered in an out-of-town Ramada Inn, and fill it with meaningless business-speak gobflappery. “The edge never stands still because we don’t allow it.” “Be first. Be best. Inspire. Give back.” “The edge in cycling is green.” GreenEDGE: the cutting edge of spirit-sapping dullness. GroanEDGE. Fingers crossed that all-round good fella Stuart O’Grady, a man not averse to partying shirtless with a bottle of vodka in each hand if David Millar’s fascinating autobiography is anything to go by, can liven up proceedings when the team is officially launched…

4 UP “RadioSharck”
On the subject of uninspiring teams, the knacker’s yard of American cycling’s elder statesmen briefly enjoyed the vaguely predatory moniker “RadioSharck” on Saturday thanks to the Spanish channel responsible for writing the TV captions for the Vuelta. Sadly, it was back to RadioShack for the next day’s results, with all the teams’ names replaced with their logos to prevent another butterfingered typing error. Spoilsports!

3 DOWN Garmin Vector
Standing by a Flemish road last year waiting for a race to pass, The DYNAMITE! Files made a reasonably amusing quip about Plastic Bertrand. It is not necessary to relay the comment here; suffice to say, it was greeted by a confused silence from our British chums, followed by a swift admission that they had never heard of Belgium’s most famous musical export. So having learned the hard way that Planet Cycling is sometimes unaware of wider popular culture, this blog would like to offer a small piece of advice to Garmin: please don’t hail the benefits of your new power-measuring gizmo as “similar to going from 2D to 3D”. Because 3D is a rubbish technological wheeze which is turning punters away from cinemas, while the Vector – regardless of what one thinks about the expense of power meters – looks like it will be totally amazeballs in its compactness and ease of fitting. Hope we’ve been of some help, fellas.

2 NO CHANGE The London School of Economics
The world of numbers is a confusing one for this humble, word-loving blog. On the one hand, it’s probably a good thing that bike-related sales experienced a 28 per cent increase last year, and that cycling now generally seems to be a “sustainable trend” in Britain. On the other, the report by the LSE which identified this “step-change in the UK’s cycling scene” was commissioned by British Cycling and Team Sky’s paymasters, and it was written by a cyclist from the seemingly unconnected field of “innovation and productivity”. So if someone cleverer than The DYNAMITE! Files could take a look at Dr Alexander Grous’s report and tell us if its findings stand up or if it’s a load of PR flimflammery, we’d be much appreciative. Cheers.

1 UP The Valparaiso Cerro Abajo
This item was going to be take issue with renowned cycling-basher Matthew Parris, who had another pop at cyclists yesterday (here’s a screengrab of his column if you’re not inclined to shell out for the privilege of going behind the Times paywall). But, frankly, Spain’s annual Tour de Motorways has set the tone for a dull old week, and it would be nice to end it with something exciting instead. So we’ll simply point out to Matthew that scoffing at “lurid spandex garments and absurd minimalist crash helmets” is a bit silly when you’re riding past them on an electric bike (translation: a mobility scooter for the able-bodied) while wearing a frigging pith helmet or a Bertie Wooster-style tweed hat. And now, having dispensed with that minor irritant, let us savour the thrills contained in a clip of an obscure downhill race in Chile called the Valparaiso Cerro Abajo, which was tweeted by that notorious adrenalin junkie, er, George Monbiot on Wednesday. This must be the only race in the world where stray dogs are a routine part of the course. Totally barking. Enjoy!