Shaking Out the Cobwebs

Tuesday combined with some dry spring weather before a rainy week, a day off of work, and a strong desire to get out on the bikes.

My wife’s Blur (she has now named it the Sexy Vixen) is out of commission for the moment as the DT Tricon wheels are repaired. The rear wheel was out of true, and then I noticed some busted and mangled spoke nipples. Shipped it off to QBP for them to fix. That left the wife’s old Rockhopper (now named the She Beast) and she doesn’t enjoy that bike on the trails. She’s been hemming and hawing about riding it and finally her desire to ride outweighed her hesitation of riding a less favorite bike.

We were off to Fort Harrison to ride. It’s the closest trail to us, and the HMBA status lights had it labeled as green the day before. Only a little rain fell overnight, so I figured at worst, it’d be a yellow on Tuesday. It was not a worst case scenario. There were a few muddy spots in low areas like stream crossings, but better than 95% of the trails were in beautiful shape.

Folks had been out already clearing winter/spring storm downfall, but there still appeared to be some new stuff down.It was my first warm weather ride of the year, and the wife’s first ride since New Year’s. She was feeling it much worse than I was, but even I was feeling sluggish. Still great to turn the pedals, though. We put in a short ride rather than grinding out the whole trail because the wife wanted to make a yoga class later.  The wife is pretty excited, though, because she signed up for the 2014 Midwest Women’s MTB Clinic that morning.  Registration was tight.  In about 2 hours, it was 3/4 full.  I hope she really learns a lot there.  Professional instructors, lots of women to ride with (something she’s been wanting for awhile), a weekend of fun.  I’ll be tagging along to camp for the weekend, but I’m going to go out on my own and do a lot of riding all weekend.  Get some miles under my belt and get myself TIRED.

The woods are beginning to come alive, also. The ramps are poking up. Not all patches are this far along right now, though. Ramps are tasty, though. I suggest putting them on pizza instead of onions.

The pictures I took on this ride came from my new phone. My work scheduling and organization has gotten more complicated in the past couple months, so I got the phone to help manage those things. I bought a refurbished Motorola Droid Bionic and have been messing around with its features. The camera isn’t great – it really sucks in low light, but on a sunny day the pictures aren’t too bad as long as I keep my finger out of the frame.

I did not play with the GPS capability of the phone on this ride. I will do a side-by-side comparison with my two Garmins at some point later. I’m thinking about how I’ll standardize the testing procedure for this in hopes that others will use it for their phones and GPS receivers.

There’s precious little information out there when it comes to the GPS accuracy of phones. Tracking on a road or trail tends to be of limited utility so while I’ll probably run the phone on some easy rides, I think stationary “tracks” are more useful. Set the phone and the GPS receivers on a table outside and let them track for an hour or so, and then compare the plots. I could even use those plots to run some statistical analyses. I’m going to work out what tests to run on the data that will give me an idea of how stable the position each device reports is.

Gear notes from this ride:


Today was my first warm weather ride on platform pedals (Blackspire Sub 4). I’d done a couple winter rides with them this year, but I think the transition to platforms this year from Crank Brothers Candy SL pedals (from ’05 or so) will be quick. I did a little yard practice before heading out, making sure that I was correctly using the techniques I’d use on the trail to clear logs and such. No problems there, and none on the trail, either.

My shoes were not ideal. I was using an older pair of Ecco hiking shoes that are showing their age. The soles are pretty flexible and use a pretty hard rubber and I could tell in some situations that those were less desirable traits. I don’t want really chunky shoes like FiveTen Impacts. Even standard Freeriders are too chunky for me. The Freerider VXi’s are thin enough, but I don’t like the smooth sole on the ball of the foot. I’ve read a few reviews of these where folks have had issues slipping on wet grass/vegetation with those (think morning dew). I’m not sold on those. My wife uses some Keen hiking shoes she got at the REI garage sale last year, and she’s happy with them. They have a stiffer sole than the Eccos I used today. My old shoes will work for now, until I can find something better, at least. Unfortunately, very few riders in Indiana use flat pedals on their mtb. That means VERY few flat pedal shoes are available to try on. It might be a long search for me to find what I like.

This was also my first warm weather ride on my new brakes – Shimano SLX hydros.  Again, I had ridden these in a snow ride earlier this year.  That ride hardly pushed the capabilities of the brakes.  In fact, I hardly used them because the riding was so slow.  I got to push these brakes a little yesterday, on a couple of faster downhill sections.  I definitely like the lever feel better than my old Maguras.  The Julies really did not offer one finger braking.  Lever ergonomics really required at least two.  The SLX Servo Wave levers really are comfy with one finger braking.  I like the light touch for modulating these brakes.  They feel rather on/off when not moving, but that just means they require less hand strength to get to the available power.  I did not get to test any of the heat dissipation capabilities (ICE Tech) of the pads or rotors.  Indiana just is not the kind of place to push hydros on brake fade avoidance.  If I head out of state this year to Pisgah (which would be really nice, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen this year, as the wife and I are planning a fall trip to Traverse City, MI to visit friends in the fall), I might be able to test them on this.  Maybe if I can finagle a short weekend road trip.

I noticed that both Garmin Connect and Strava have been busy with updates over the winter.  Garmin still seems like they’re in a phased rollout of sorts, so I don’t have the full new version of their site yet (since I use older devices).  This was a bit of a headache, because Garmin Connect wasn’t finding my new activity on my Forerunner 310XT yesterday with the Communicator browser plugin.  It was finding old stuff, but nothing from April.  For that matter, the Garmin Communicator browser plugin wasn’t working right with Strava, either.  I had to use the new program, Garmin Express, which DID find the activity, but the upload process looked weird.

express

It looked like it was trying to update my device, like it had broken my activity into several segments, and I’m not sure where the scale upload from 1989 came from.  My ride was just under 6mi long, so the multiple portions didn’t even match the 1mi laps my Forerunner creates.  I posted about it on Garmin Connect’s forums last night, and so far no word on what’s going on.  The upload didn’t take 3hrs, more like 15-20min, and only one activity uploaded.  Also, no weight uploaded, either.

Strava’s website updates, on the other hand, seem to just work.  I’m not sure about changes to their app, because I wasn’t using it.  My inability to upload there directly (I had to export from Garmin Connect and manually upload this file to Strava) seems to be a function of Garmin’s software (Communicator) and not Strava.

Garmin’s slowness and insistence on releasing buggy software (and devices for that matter) before it’s ready for prime time is going to kill them with so many people moving over to smartphones.  Unfortunately, some things Garmin just does better than its biggest competitor.  Like offering GPX downloads of activities for free.  Eh, well, there are enough options out there that there’s something for everyone, at least.

This past month has involved a lot of introspection for me.  Five years ago, I was coming out of a drug-induced coma because of acute myeloid leukemia that had most likely managed to find its way past the blood-brain barrier and cause some severe brain stem swelling.  That’s the BIG milestone.  Five years.  Can’t believe I’ve made it this far, and managed to be as healthy as I am.  I’m very fortunate.  I passed the five year “anniversary” of my diagnosis last month, and had my five year checkup last week.  I don’t have the blood test results from that visit just yet, but because I feel good, I am not nervous about the phone call to give me those results.  If the results come back good, I will finally be on a annual checkup interval finally.

I also managed to get another job more closely related to my degree.  I’ve been working in a bike shop for the past year for something to do, and for a paycheck of some kind.  But I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for better opportunities.  Ecology and wildlife-related jobs in Indiana are few and far between.  I’ve applied for a few, and not even managed to get an in-person interview.  For one of them, I was told that there were over 60 applicants for a single job, and some of those applicants had PhD’s.  Others had many years of experience with a similar degree to what I had.  The folks doing the hiring whittled down the applicant pool twice before calling 7 people for interviews.  I made the first cutoff, which narrowed the list down to the best two dozen or so applicants.  I actually feel good about that, even though I didn’t make the top 7.

The job I did get is part time with a local cycling nonprofit.  I get to manage the map produced by that group for cycling facilities in the city.  I get to make use of my GIS skills and also my love for bikes.  So far, I’ve been handling map distribution to clear out our storage room before the next version arrives.  I will be working on new updates to that version, as well as making the map more available and more useful in digital formats.  How much I can accomplish will depend on how much money we can bring in through fundraising.  We have made some small changes so far to our fundraising plan for the project.  More significant fundraising options will take more time to implement.

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