Entries by David Schloss

Cross Vegas In Pictures

While the industry has been a bit abuzz about the beer throwing at this year’s Cross Vegas race during the Interbike trade show, we’ve been reflecting on the awesome aspects of that race, and on cross racing in general. As a chill slips into the air across much of the United States, the cross lover starts to think of the joy of continual anaerobic punishment.

Racers in the glow

Just after I rode my bike into a parked car while trying to figure out the UI on a Garmin 810, I began to speculate publicly about what then were early rumors of an Apple watch and how they would do to fitness what the iPod had done to music. Today they have done just that.

Watch

At the dawn of the iPod era there were a number of competing, ugly, cumbersome and limited devices. Each of them could hold a bit of music, most of them had their own music management software. None of them were good.

The iPod took the conventional designs of the day and threw them out, changing everything with a new interface and a device large enough to store complete music collections. They then added to that with a player that was simple to use and seamlessly integrated with the device.

The new Apple Watch (or technically the Watch) will revolutionize much of the portable computing world, but it will have a tremendous impact on the fitness world, even for those that don’t but it. That’s because the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UE) are so groundrbeakingly advanced that they instantly make every other tool on the market look dreadful.

When the first GPS-based cycle computers came out, the hard-wired LCD computers of the day suddenly looked antique. Big numbers, sensor-free recording and (on some units) turn-by-turn directions brought a whole new level of functionality to cycling. As their capabilities grew through ANT+ sensors and Bluetooth technology, they began to offer functionality that the previous round of technology couldn’t even contemplate.

But since then the UI and UE of these devices have pretty much stalled. Garmin has added features to their devices, but hasn’t really refreshed the look or feel of their hardware. There’s little to differentiate the Garmin Edge 1000 from the Garmin Edge 100 from which it came, and I’d even argue that the UI of Garmin’s devices is worse now than it was when the Edge 100 came to market so many years ago.

I don’t think that a sports watch is necessarily the best solution for the cyclist, but I’ll wager that Apple Watch-specific bike mounts are coming to Kickstarter any day now. But what’s really important is that Apple has entered the wearable space, has focused on fitness, and has opened development up to programmers. I’m looking forward, for example, to Strava segments that use the haptic feedback technology of the watch to announce the start and end of a segment, or coaching apps that tap out a cadence through the watch to tell a cyclist when to start an interval and give heart rate feedback.

By tying the watch into the phone, Apple extends a good technology and makes it better and that’s something that hasn’t really happened in fitness. Companies have made stabs at this, but their devices usually need to come back and talk to an app to be useful, while the Apple Watch will use wireless communication with the phone to provide even more information than if it were used alone. And unlike the Garmin Edge, it won’t just be good for the bike, everyone from runners to cross fit junkies will be able to use the device to participate in custom-created fitness programs.

The first generation of the iWatch might not change fitness overnight, but it’s an incredible looking first-generation tool. More importantly it’s a shot across the bow of every fitness device manufacturer in the world—make products that are as easy to use as Apple’s new watch, or see your customer base fade.

A decade from now we’ll probably laugh at the simplicity of the Apple Watch compared to the wearable devices Apple and others are making, but today Apple’s announcement has provided a much needed boost to the fitness sector and will hopefully usher new people into cycling and into other sports. Today marks the end-of-days for ugly and complicated fitness devices and the start of a new era of beautiful technology.

TunnelbearSure, the NBC Sports coverage might be the defacto way to watch the Tour de France, but their dumbed-down race coverage can start to get grating after a while and Bob Roll starts to talk most real cyclists glaze over. Here’s a great way to get improved coverage for just a few bucks a month (and also get access to a world of sporting events not available in the U.S.) by signing up for Eurosport streaming coverage.

If you don’t live in Europe you’ll need to first convince the Internet that you do, and for that we recommend the super-simple service Tunnelbear. Download their Tunnebear app and sign up for a subscription and you can re-route your traffic to a Eurosport-friendly country simply by signing into Tunnelbear.

Once your traffic is routed overseas, simply go to Eurosport.com and sign up for their streaming plan. All you need is a credit card, and they don’t care where the card billing location is.

That’s it, then you can simply stream Tour coverage (or the World Cup or the whole continental series of races) on your computer. Bye bye Phil and Paul, hello valuable and interesting race commentary.

Thanks to the SXSW serendipity-distortion-field I found myself chatting in the lobby of the Hilton with the developer of an app called Charity Miles. Here’s the elevator pitch, which is really all you need: you launch the app when you’re going to walk, run or bike and pick from a list of charities. You earn $.25 a mile walking or $.10 a mile cycling. There’s nothing more intrusive than an ad behind the pedometer/bike mileage meter and when you’re done working out you find out how much you earned for a charity. Just testing it walking around Austin a bit I earned 1.5 vaccinations for puppies or kittens with the ASPCA.

Here is a quick link to the app for iOS and for Android. Charity Miles

There’s an initial pool of $1,000,000 from sponsors funding this charitable giving. We talked a lot about the gamification of health tools—Strava and MapMyRide being early examples—during SXSW and how the next step is for these tools to empower better health for the user or better conditions for society. Charity Miles is the first such app we’ve seen that takes the act of collecting exercise metrics to the next level.

The Best of Austin isn’t At SXSW

One of the wonderful things about bikes is that having one can unlock treasures. Take SXSW for example, where the world’s geek-elite class converge to network and connect. The Austin Convention Center is buzzing with activity and with passion and the energy of start-ups and established companies striking deals. .

Just a few blocks away though you can find equally rewarding experiences, though without the stock option possibilities of a good conference.

Today I’m tooling around on a loaner Tern, part of our loaner fleet at SXSW and I’m checking out the local coffee scene.

Barista

Austin, which just a half-decade ago had just a fledgling scene is now full of coffee places and roasters. I started my day single origin espresso with Stumptown at Juan Palota, stopped in mid-ride for an iced espresso at Jo’s and now am relaxing at the hand-hewn wood bars at Houndstooth on 4th and Congress.

As someone in the coffee business I’m particularly impressed with the setup at Houndstooth. Their espresso machine was designed by Kees Van Der Western and is a thing of beauty. It’s also worth more than any of the cars parked outside.

As a veteran trade show attendee, possibly the best advice I can give is to take your time in a city and absorbing the local culture. You’ll end up being rewarded in ways that will surprise you.

Bike Hugger at SXSW Create

This year’s SXSW will see the launch of a new interactive venue called SXSW Create aimed at hackers, DIYers and creatives. Bike Hugger will be a large part of this new venue, which is open to the public and will run from Friday March 7th through Sunday March 9th, culminating in a Bike Hugger Mobile Social.

The lineup of participants is pretty staggering—everything from laser engraving systems to 3D printers will be on display and Bike Hugger will be teaming up with Nokia for a special look at the stunning Lumia smartphone, which we’ve been using for a lot of coverage recently.

On Saturday, Byron will lead a set of talks about wearables, bike tech, and mobile photography. Joining him in the Create Lounge on stage are Myriam Joire and Dan Rubin.

On Sunday we’ll head out for a special edition of the Mobile Social thanks to our partners at Nokia and Tern with special guests Rapha and Jeremy Dunn. If you’re in Austin for South By, you’re not going to want to miss this ride. We’ll have a fleet of bikes too.

For more information on our mobile socials see bikehugger.com/mobile-socials and for more information on the incredible lineup of events, talks and booths see the SXSW Create page. Details are developing and we’ll update them.

There is a battle being waged for the hearts and arms of Americans that want to be more fit. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, dozens of companies showed off their wearable fitness-based products. A market that just a few years ago was nearly nonexistent is not the hottest in the tech sector.

This last weekend I was browsing at a local Nike store and watched as two tweens were putting on their new Nike+ FuelBands for the first time, so ubiquitous is the technology that it doesn’t seem odd for an eleven year old to track their daily step count.

For nearly six months I’ve been working with various fitness trackers from the Jawbone to the FuelBand and while I’m sold on the usefulness of the devices (for most people) each one has had a design limitation that has detracted from their usefulness.

For the last month I’ve been working with the new FitBit Force, the watch-styled fitness tracker from FitBit which offers a wrist-based look at daily activity.

Trek Acquires Electra

Known for their wide range of townie and electric bikes, Californian company Electra has been acquired by Trek.

Founded in 1993 by Benno Bänziger and Jeano Erforth, the company turned $30,000 of savings into a company that helped define the cruiser and eBike market. The company was small enough to outflank and out-design the larger companies that sought to get into the market. Companies like Specialized and Giant have cruiser bike lines, but they’re not nearly as popular as Electra.

Electra created a line of inexpensive and attractive cruiser and “townie” bikes that have been tremendously popular with customers. Several self-described “non-cyclist” friends of mine have purchased Electra townie bikes and cruisers because they appealed to their childhood love of bikes.

In a press release today Trek has announced that the acquisition will allow the company to get the Electra line in more stores. “Trek will be able to provide financial, supply chain, distribution, and sales support…” said Trek president John Burke, “and [Trek] will stay out of their way when it comes to product and marketing.”

That’s good news, as Electra seems to be doing well on the design and PR fronts. We’ve worked with the folks at Electra on a number of occasions and they’ve got great vision and passion for what they do. As Trek is known for taking existing brands and relegating them to a branding tool (see: Bontrager, Gary Fisher) having Trek provide assistance for development and distribution but let Electra do their thing is great news.

The Electra line will also continue to be operated out of their California offices, rather than move to the Wisconsin headquarters of Trek. Again, this is probably a good move as the spirit of the townie bike is more rooted in the warm-weather comfort of California than in chilly Waterloo.

Trek isn’t strong in neither the crustier nor the eBike market, so this partnership with Electra will allow the company to capture a market segment they’re historically weak in without having to bring on staffing and tool up for new bike models. This move will reduce the risk on both companies as they go forward.

So what does the future look like for Electra? Well for one thing, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll see them in Trek dealerships while they continue to push forward into other regions. Certainly this makes their eBike market look more long-lived and viable—if a company like Trek wants to invest in Electra then the leaders of the eBike world were right in their assumption that people want to embrace the enhanced bike market and are looking for alternative, green transportation options.

In the run up to the Consumer Electronics Show, Schwinn has announced that they will start shipping a device that uses bluetooth and lights to show you which way to go while you’re out riding. Engadget reports “The idea is pretty simple: Download the product’s iOS or Android app, put in your destination, choose the best route and then let the CycleNav point which way to go, using one of three LED arrows. ”

Holy Hell that’s a bad idea.

Let me see if I have this right? “Simply” download an app and put in an address and then stare at my handlebars while lights blink R2-D2 style and direct me into traffic? What happens when I come to an intersection with more options than right or left? What happens if I’m looking down at these lights when a Mack truck goes by.

This thing will cost $59.99, a price much higher than a good iPhone mount, a solution that would at least allow you to use the same iPhone you had to use to download the directions to navigate without so much confusion and possible death.

Please Schwinn, kill this product before launch.

More comedy from Schwinn here in their press release.

FitBit Force

We’re in the process of finishing off a review of the Fitbit Force and so far are more impressed with this little tracker than most of the rest of the current crop of fitness gee-gaws.

However, we just noticed that the most recent update to the iOS software that forms the brains of the tracker has just been updated and for those that don’t own a FitBit device (the Force, Flex, One, etc.) but have an iPhone 5s it’s now possible to use the motion data right from the iPhone to track your workouts.

The iPhone 5s includes a “M7” coprocessor that tracks movement independent of the main processing chip, which is designed to provide movement data without draining the battery. A few apps with M7 support are already available, but the FitBit software is particularly clean and simple, and having the M7 support provides a nice path for someone thinking about getting a fitness tracker to try out the world of activity-counting without having to first buy the branded device.

Full review of the Fitbit Force soon.






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