Consider the user …

I know it’s obvious, but it’s amazing how some companies don’t take user experience into account when designing their products.  Take for example the bike route mapping sites MapMyRide and RidewithGPS … MapMyRide appears to be the market leader given they’ve been around for a long time, but man is it painful to use.  They have a decent number of routes if you look around, but the site compresses the map to a small area and there are really a pretty gross number of ads on the page as well as on the map itself.  Their goal is of course to get you to upgrade to a paid account and certainly the incentives are there given the volume of ads … The problem for MapMyRide though is that they are not the only game in town and RidewithGPS arrived on the scene with an excellent route planner and a great map browser.

Take a look at the two screens …

From Route Planning
From Route Planning

Both are views of my local area and show available routes … so the experiences are as “parallel” as they can be to show the difference.  I went into fullscreen mode to try and maximize as much of the view as possible.

Which would you prefer to use?

Social fitness can really get you going

I enjoyed +Kevin Tofel‘s post on social fitness at GigaOm… I’m a big fan and love the data.

I don’t particularly care about the live streaming aspects though.  To me it’s more about comparative results, challenges and motivations of the community. I now have social sports friends met through DailyMile and even here on G+.

I recently started to really use Strava which is a cycling community site that greatly enhances the experience Garmin let lag on Garmin Connect through social features and specific breakdowns of events like climbs which even get classified. Whether the data is being used to motivate (like Kevin’s insane number of continuous running days) or note personal bests, firsts or other achievements it’s all easily possible thanks to the data.

As has also been discussed recently on Google+ getting access to and enabling the meshing of our data for maximum use is still really missing in the market.  Runkeeper seems to be leading the charge with their goal of becoming a fitness hub through the Health Graph API, but it’s still quite early.

13 months, 4,000 miles

Garmin Connect - Cycling Report

With this morning’s ride, I cleared 4,000 miles which I find very cool. I bought my bike last July and have ridden regularly for most of the year. There was some lag time over the winter due to weather, but I’ve been generally consistent.

My morning loops started around 20 and tend to be closer to 25 miles which is about the maximum I can do and still make my train to work. Weekends I try to go longer with 45 miles on average though if I can get the time I like to go much longer.

CYGLO – Making that Tron lightcycle possible

Cyglo Press Shot

CYGLO is set to release some tires this fall that will make your bike highly visible, Tron-style. I might have to check these out given the amount of riding I do in darkness as the fall and winter rolls around … You know, for safety purposes.

Rapha’s Hell of the North

It’s almost the weekend and I’m thinking about riding … Rapha’s just emailed about a cool ride, though unfortunately  it’s in London.  UK friends … get on it!

Our homage to one of the great monuments of the sport, Paris-Roubaix, will be an adventure along the lanes, bridleways and dirt-roads of Hertfordshire. Although it won’t have as much pavé (in fact it will be gravé) as northern France it will be tough and potentially filthy. Muddy terrain and bumpy ‘rough stuff’ will be encountered as we celebrate the Queen of the Classics over 100km.

iPhone on the bike

I always ride with my phone in my pocket though more as a safety than functional piece. I’ve certainly had occasion to snap a few pics, make a call or jot down a new buddy’s email. I’ve checked Google Maps when in new places to make sure my route was going to lead me back home. All this has happened while pulled over (ok a few pics while riding) as I’ve never really considered the iPhone hardened enough to serve as a real piece of bike kit.

There are a few companies out to change that perspective with what look like real businesses focused on making the iPhone a bike accessory.

Pedal Brain has a already approved iPhone accessory and developing app ready to try and take on the bike computer market.  The richness of the display data is certainly appealing and they say they are working on battery life.  If they can make their goal of 8 hours (2G only) they’d had a pretty competitive product.  I don’t like the idea of paying a monthly fee for my data … Garmin Connect is free, but this might be cool to have as a commuter.  Not sure I want my iPhone mounted on the handlebar.

Pedal Brain

Via Bike Rumor this am I learned about yet another and more daring approach called ARider. Through the use of augmented reality a Japanese researcher is looking to overlay mapping data into your view – live. This is certainly cool sounding in theory, but it looks (and I know it’s just research now) way too wonky. I can’t see projecting anything across my field of vision while riding at speed or in a city. I want my vision clear!  I also really can’t see having my iphone helmet mounted …

In each of these cases, I’d be willing to bet it would not be long until you ran into the need to run another app (inbound call, arriving email etc) that would start to reveal the limits of a single tasked device. The nice thing about using a bike computer is that it totally stays out of the way and lets you focus on riding. I glance down for a look at my progress, but spend my time really checking out the data when off the bike …

Team RadioShack jersey revealed

Team Radioshack

Pretty cool to see the Team RadioShack jersey revealed as the team gets ready for their offcial debut next month in Australia at the Tour Down Under.

MityCross 350

Mitycross 350

This morning I took my first ride with the MityCross 350 LED bike light an came away generally impressed.  I’ve used two other lights, both from Blackburn but this simply outshines (ahem) the other units.

I do a lot of riding first thing in the morning, typically leaving around 5:30am and it’s dark.  Seeing the road and being seen by cars is a rather critical detail.  With the past lights, I was able to see though there clear limits to what the lights could cover and I’ve wanted to have something much brighter for a while.  There’s honestly no comparison to the other lights in general light output and range of the beam.  While small, the MityCross 350 really pumps out a very bright and wide beam of light.  I was able to see the road ahead as well as a good bit of the peripheral bit of the road in pre-sun darkness.

The best part of the MityCross was that oncoming traffic generally dimmed their high beams.  This is a huge plus as one of the more dangerous aspects of riding in the dark is being blinded by oncoming cars.  Now they see me coming clearly and tend to respect my presence as though I was a motor vehicle.

My usual morning loop is a bit over an hour (all I can do before heading to work sadly) and the sun starts to rise about mid-way through.  Once that happens, I tend to switch over to blinker mode which the MityCross also handles expertly.  The flasher is more like a strobe and again, enabled cars to easily see my approach from well off in the distance.

The main “issue” with the MityCross is that the battery is external and requires that you fasten it to your bike (or helmet) via a velcro strap.  I found that there was plenty of cable to manage, but it’s considerably less clean of an install over an all in one type of light.  The MityCross 350 runs about $200 at retail which is probably more than most people look to spend, but amazing is really just the starting point for bright bike lights.  I believe I’ll be satisfied with this light for a while and expect it to serve my riding needs for many miles.