Friday, 17 April 2015

I'm not dead - I've been cycling!

I know, I know - I've been very quiet on here recently. Rather than give you the usual excuses of "I've been very busy", "life's been hectic" and "I've been in a beer-induced coma for 7 months, I'll just say that rather than concentrate on the blog I've actually been out cycling and I consider that an equally respectable excuse!

Whilst I'm 99% sure nobody care's, before I resume better service, here's a quick update on what's been going down....

So, I think I left you all with the knee-tremblingly exciting news that I bought a Kuota KOM Air with the promise of a long term review (coming soon), some lighting reviews and a tip for auto-uploading your Garmin rides to Strava. Since then the world has moved on and and so have I.

I've been cycling as much as possible through the winter months and trying keep the weather from reducing my bike to rust and dust. For the most part that's worked out OK and, like most, I'm itching to get back out with the lads from the shop and work back to the fun and form we had at the height of last summer. Whilst I didn't talk much about it on here, I finally caved to Matt's incessant hinting of our joining the local road club (Kenilworth Wheelers) for their Monday night runs. After my initial reluctance we went along, didn't get dropped and grew to love the 26 mile "through and off" riding and the sprint finish back into Cubbington. My biggest regret is not doing this sooner as my fitness and experience spiked almost immediately after we started and even better was the discovery that we're not that slow!

I'd recommend trying your local club runs if you haven't made this step yet - it really a worthwhile experience and having a club does give you access to more like-minded cycling weirdos - if nothing else!

Matt (my cycling neighbour) knows quite a few people and his next trick was to have us join the some lads riding out a few times a week from Mike Vaughan's -  another local bike shop. With a bit of new-found confidence we went along and this is where things got really good. The group was less formal than the club runs and this made for a great atmosphere and a style of riding that encouraged healthy competition and more inclusion. These rides were the highlight of last years cycling.

Despite my best attempts I just never managed to get any cycling holidays organised, UK or otherwise, and so this remains a task for 2015.

What I did  do was complete the New Forest 100 sportive the day after my Birthday in October (Strava details here for those who dig it) and more recently the Rawlinson Bracket 2015 - possibly the UK's friendliest sportive and I couldn't recommend it enough. Last year I got around  the RB fairly quickly but this year was rife with illness and other rubbish excuses. I didn't do too badly on the timed hill climb though:

I want to keep up the Sportive events and attempt to get around them as quick as I can whilst enjoying them and the next challenge is the mighty Tour of the Peaks in May. I think the combination of distance and climbing will make this a challenge.

With the lighter nights and better weather the Tuesday/Thursday shop rides have just started to pick up again and last summer's form doesn't feel quite as far off as I first thought. The task now, I think, is to try my first proper race at Mallory Park.

So, lots of things to come to the blog and maybe, just maybe, there might also be some exciting news involving a small cycling nation calling itself 'France'...

Friday, 4 July 2014

Tour de France countdown

It's almost upon us. The greatest 3 weeks of cycling on the planet and only 1 day to go.

Froome or Contador

To say I'm excited would be an under statement!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Sync Strava and Garmin Connect with Tapiriik

I've been using a Garmin to record my ride data and Strava to tell me how much slower than everyone else I am for some time now.  I started out bypassing anything to do with Garmin Connect because I simply didn't use it and was more than happy with Strava.

The issue always was that since I didn't use the iOS Strava app, my rides had to be uploaded manually each time and plugging my Garmin in to my laptop got tedious. I wanted a way for Strava to get my Garmin data but there simply wasn't an easier way back then.

There came a point when I swapped my old Edge 705 for the new (at the time) Edge 810 which allowed the uploading of rides directly to Garmin Connect from the iOS app for iPhone. I quickly found CopyMySports (previously GarminSync) but found that whilst it was easy to set up, it was reliably unreliable and waiting times were just too much to bear when all I wanted to see was a list of fairly meaningless achievements ASAP! In fairness to CopyMySports I understand Garmin may not have made things easy along the way but nevertheless I 'took the huff' and went back to manually uploading my rides……….. until I came across tapiriik.

Today I gave it a whirl and I'm pleased to report that it's bloody simple to set up, is free and it works. It works with a few of the popular fitness tools and right now will sync Garmin, Strava, Runkeeper, Dropbox, Training Peaks and SportTracks - in both directions. At the moment though I'm only concerned with Garmin and Strava.

I set it up on my iPhone whilst walking the dog this evening and, having previously let my 810 sync to my Garmin Connect app (simply to ensure Garmin Connect had some new rides to sync with Strava) I clicked Synchronise.  I should note that this was my first sync and there were lots of files that tapiriik would have had to check with Strava for duplicates. That said, it was quick and ridiculously simple.

I'd read that once you clicked Synchronise there is up to an hour's wait for tapiriik to query the various sites and perform the sync. Today I waited a lot less than this and this could be because I happened to click sync in the middle of its 60 minute sync cycle. This does mean that whilst you could wait for a whole hour, you could also be fortunate with your timing and could get an almost instant upload!

For me, I clicked Sync and was added to the queue at 5.37pm and by 6.00pm it was already syncing my activities with Strava, where at 6.02 they promptly appeared in my feed.

Irrelevant of today's initial performance, I'm not too fussed with an hour's wait provided that my activities do actually make it to their various places. CopyMySports could be 15 minutes but most of the time I was finding it was more like several hours and in some cases - days!

So with tapiriik it's far so good and I'm pretty impressed with the interface and simplicity but there are some points to note:

  • The free service provided isn't automatic and requires users to revisit the tapiriik webiste to click the Synchronise button each time you have new activities you want to sync across. For most this will be fine but if you want fully automatic syncing across all of your apps, then $2 (payable by PayPal and currently equates to £1.21) gets you a year of click-free synchronisation.
  • If you've used CopyMySports on previous occasions you should login to Strava and remove this app from the list in the settings menu to prevent duplicates. Tapiriik claim they won't duplicate entries but CopyMySports does so I've just turned the latter off.

I plan on using this over the next month fairly solidly and provided I can remember to sync my Garmin with the iPhone app I should be bang up to date. All I need do now is simply let my Garmin upload to my iPhone at the end of each ride et voila, tapiriik should do the rest.

I'll post a update on long-term use in due course but for now I seem no harm in giving it a bash and its free!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Kuota KOM Air - The Arrival

Whilst I'm 90% convinced (maybe even 99%) that nobody cares, I can't keep this from the world for any here is a first look at my new bike, the KOM Air. I've been banging on about it for ages but the wheels finally arrived last week and I got 'the call' on Friday to head on down to my LBS to meet her.

Everyone says this (and I hate it when they do…) but my amateur photos do no do it justice! The matt black finish is enough to give anyone a "carbone" and in every respect she's an absolute beauty - Even Charlotte agreed!

The most notable aspect (after the dark, stealthy aesthetic....obvs) is the, frankly ridiculous, weight. I've now weighed her on two different sets of scales and taking an average across the two she's.............actually no, I'll keep you in suspense until the full review!

More on this and my thoughts once I've prized myself away from her….