Sunday, 14 August 2011

London Surrey Cycle Classic

Just a quick post to highlight an entry on my other blog.  Like I suspect some of your I went to watch the London Surrey Cycle Classic today but after everything whizzed by there was no way to follow the race except with Twitter.  The linked to entry describes this and some associated ideas following from it.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Gear: iPhone on my bike & a review of the Top Peak iPhone Dry Bag

Taking part in the L2P is obviously a great opportunity to indulge in some extra gear.  As part of my training I'm going to have to go on some long distance rides going into areas I'm unfamiliar with.  A GPS would be really quite useful for this plus the ability to log all my training rides automatically would be fantastic.  I took a look at the Garmin Edge 800 which appears to be a great cycle computer, data logger and GPS but I'm not sure if I wanted to splash out on it.   Instead, I decided to see what I could do with my iPhone (a 3GS).

The first thing to do was to find a iPhone mount for the bike.  A bit of googling lead me to the this great blog entry reviewing various mounts from which seems a thoroughly useful site indeed.  The author of this site also produces an eBook dedicated to turning your iPhone into something akin to the Garmin.

This is a pretty useful eBook but a tad on the expensive side for what it is.  It reviews various iPhone mounts, contains a bunch of tips to extend the battery life of your iPhone and provides a recommended set of apps. to assist with cycling ranging from how to turn your iPhone into a fully-fledged GPS data logging cycle computer to useful repair apps.  It's about 30 pages long so at £6.95 it works out at approximately 23p a page.  Given the price of the recommended apps. I think £2.99 would be a more reasonable price.

I followed its recommendations and bought the Cyclometer app.  To mount my iPhone I ended up ordering a mount that had yet to be reviewed but which the author seemed to have great expectations of.  This was the Top Peark iPhone Dry Bag.

I got mine from eBay. I've only used it once and I'm pretty impressed.  I haven't tried it's waterproof properties but given the quality of the materials and workmanship coupled with the clever closing mechanism it looks like it will work.  I might try putting a pretend phone inside and see if it stays dry.  The clever thing about the bag is  that the top through which the iPhone is slid in seals together and then rolls up before being fastened to the back of the case with Velcro.  I think to get water inside it would need to be submerged!  I didn't take a picture of this but here's one from their website.

Given that the iPhone can't be used when you have gloves on I was surprised that it can be easily operated when inside the bag.

It attaches to the bike easily with the supplied mount which uses a strap to wrap around the handle bars or the stem.

This is held in place by large screw with an Allen key head.  The only criticism I have so far is that the screw is plastic rather than aluminium which means it's very easy to strip the hex head.

The bag is attached by sliding it onto the mount.  As the mount  is square it can be mounted in either portrait or landscape mode.

In order to slide on there must be about 6cm of travel from sliding the bag onto the mount until it finally clicks into place.  As such it's unlikely to go anywhere.  Additionally it's held in place by a spring loaded fastener making the mounting pretty secure.

 This however is also one its downsides.  The picture below shows there is a fair amount of space from the end of mount to the end the bag's clip.

This means that when riding on bumpy roads it's quite springy and tends to bounce and rattle.  It reminds me of when I used to tuck the ends of the  mud guards of my Raleigh Grifter under themselves so it made a motorbike sound when the tyres rubbed against it.  On smooth tarmac it's fine.

Coupled with the Cyclometer app. this appears to be a proper little GPS though I haven't tried that functionality out yet.  Instead when I took it out for a spin last Thursday I started using the data logging facilities.  It allows you to name a route and once going it records statistics for the entire ride.  At the end these can be uploaded to Goolge Maps and it gives a per-mile breakdown of the ride along with the route.  Any subsequent rides can be compared.  All this information is neatly stored in a calendar format so you can easily pick up your phone and see a historical view of your training.

As a bit of fun at the start and end of each ride; and in during the course if you so wish it can upload to Facebook and Tweet on your behalf.  At the end it announces your route and averages etc. and also provides a link to the Google Maps based route.

All in all this appears to be a pretty good pairing.  A combination of my existing cycle computer, front light and now the iPhone does make for a cluttered handlebars and this is before a feeding bag.  As I already have all the immediate information I need from the computer if I don't need a GPS then I'd be tempted to just start the app.  and keep it in my saddle pack and at the end of the ride quickly grab it and stop the timing.  I don't a few extra seconds will make all that difference.

However, I did come across a bluetooth based HR monitor from Polar which works another recommend (from the eBook) iPhone app. which could mean the cycle computer could be completely replaced by the iPhone.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Heart rate monitor confusion

I had plenty of time before tonight's ride so I thought I'd wear the heart rate (HR) monitor that came with my Polar cycle computer.  Normally, I don't bother with this; in fact this is only the second time I've worn it.

If the computer can't detect its presence then in the bottom left corner it displays the average MPH in fairly large digits; which is the normal mode for me.  However, if it can detect the HR monitor then current HR is displayed.  I forgot this and when I looked at the numbers I subconsciously inserted a decimal point between the 2nd and 3rd digit and thought my average MPH was really good; then I realized...

Monday, 1 August 2011


I've done a fair amount of cycling recently but only afternoon rides of up to 30 miles.  A year ago I trained for about 6 months in order to take part in a DIY Etape du Tour 2010.  This was pretty successful and a group of us completed Stage 7 of the TDF: Tornus to Station des Rousses.  This was the preliminary Alps mountain stage covering a distance of 165km and included two cat. 3 climbs and three cat twos.  Here's a picture of me (well my bike - it's a simple Specialized Allez 2010) at the top of the penultimate cat. 2 climb

Any way, that was a over a year ago.  The longest ride I've done since then is about a 45 miles circle from Woking (where I live) to Box Hill (one of the recommended climbs in Surrey) via Newlands Corner and Cobham.

I figured I needed to find out where I was so on Saturday I decided to give it another go.  It gave me a hang over!  No, not as the result of celebrating doing it an average of 20mph but rather waking up on Monday morning feeling like I'd just got off my bike!  In the end I spent 3.5 hours in the saddle over a duration of about 4.75 hours; the rest spent on top of Box Hill and in a Cafe in Dorking giving a riding average of about 13mph; it's a good job my cycling computer pauses when I'm stationary.  I did however manage to beat one person up Box Hill.

Given the Group 5 average time is 15mph I've got some work to do!  So, goodbye to the beer (well some of it) and it's now time for a quick 10 mile loop around Fairoaks Airport.  Nothing serious, just to loosen my legs up following the weekend.


Yikes, well excellent really!  I managed to bag one of the early bird places on the London-Paris 2012 Cycle Event.  What next?  Some training, actually lots of training.  In order for this to be useful I'm going to have to record various bits of information so I thought I might as well try and turn this into a blog.  You never know it might even be useful to someone else.