Summertime, and the living is easy …

Reading: Around the World on a Bicycle by Thomas Stevens, written in 1885. (download it for free). This guy went around the world on his bike which meant there wasn’t always a road handy. He once had to take a railroad track for some 6 miles and at one point, perched on the edge of a cross-beam holding his bike over the edge into the precipice below…. quite the read!

Eating: gazpacho, and lots of it since it’s way too hot to cook.

Listening: catching up on old episodes of This America Life via an iPhone app that is truly fantastic – gives you access to all past and current episodes. Check it out!

Watching: just discovered this little Canadian Gem, The Republic of Doyle. It’s great fun. I’m all about Newfoundland these days! If you missed seeing it last fall and winter (as I did) you can buy it on iTunes.

Cycling: all over the Montreal Island. There are some truly beautiful paths in this city. I thought going car-less in the summer would be hard, but as it turns out, it’s a treat. I’m seeing more of the city this summer than I have in the previous 3 put together! some samples…

Lost of paths by the river and the canal, which I love since I really like being by the water. This photo was taken along the south-west end of the island. I could move to this area and be quite happy…

And there are also lots of paths that take you through pretty little wooded areas, like this one. The folk responsible for designing these paths really did a great job.

While going carless is turning out to be much easier than I thought, I did get to visit my old car when I went to Halifax recently. I couldn’t resist taking a quick picture as I followed it down the highway.

By the way, since I no longer have a car, I took a train to Halifax, which is a much more civilized way to travel! Instead of spending 14 hours hunched up behind the steering wheel, we did things like look at the scenery outside the observation deck…

and when we got tired, we curled up in the little flip-down beds and went to sleep. Much, much better than driving for 14 hours!

So, what are you up to this summer?

my first bixi ride

You’d think that with one road bike and one city bike all my bicycling needs would be taken care of. But, as it turns out, there are times when I’d like to ride my bike to work, but I don’t because I know I’m going someplace after work where it’s too far to ride, or where it’s not convenient to lug around helmet and seat (because you know if you don’t take ’em with you after you park your bike, they’ll be gone when you get back!). And sometimes I don’t want to take my bike because I’ll be out too late and I don’t want to drive home tired (or after I’ve had a couple… a tipsy me does not a good bike rider make!).

On those days, I’ve left my bike and home and walked to work (or even taken the bus!) but … it’s just so much more enjoyable to ride, you know what I mean? I hate plodding along on foot when I could be flying down the streets and back alleyways!

So, last week I subscribed to Bixi, Montreal’s super cool self-serve public bike system. It’s only been around for a year, but it’s been a great success – so much so, that already several other cities have bought their own bixi bike systems (London, Boston, Minneapolis, Melbourne and more…). They’re great bikes. Check ’em out…

Today I finally got to ride one. I rode my city bike in this morning, even though I knew I had an event after work. I figured I’d just stay a short while and then head home, but I ended up staying until it was too late to go back for my bike (the building I park it in closes up at 6 p.m., and while I can get into the area where my office is, I cannot get into the area my bike is at. I have no idea why the security is arranged that way, but there you have it).

So, I walked to the nearest bixi stand, used my bixi key to release a bike, adjusted the seat to fit, and off I went! The bikes are heavy and there are only three speeds, but the whole bike has been very well designed because other than when I had to pull it out of the stand, the weight was not a factor at all. I pedalled my way up Avenue du Parc which has a fairly steep incline at the south end, and I got up the hill with no problems.

The chain is fully covered, so there’s no worry of any messes on your clothes (I do like that. I’m forever getting chain grease on something or other). The basket up front holds a lot more than I thought it would – I stuffed it full with a light jacket, a huge purse, and my lunch bag with no difficulty. The attached bungie cord held it all in nice and secure all the way home. It’s a great design. I’ve never driven a bike with basket up front before, and I must admit it’s not my favourite place to carry stuff. I find it makes steering just a titch awkward, but not so much that it’ll ever deter me from using the bixi.

And now, since my city bike is at work, I’ll get to go for another bixi ride in the morning! And I’m glad. These bikes are amazing, the service is amazing, and this city is amazing for putting so much effort and support into making this a bike-friendly city. The bixi is just such a smart idea! I love it.

Cyclemeter – the iphone app

Yesterday I downloaded Cyclemeter to my iphone, today I tested it. A 3 hour drive very nearly drained the iPhone battery (it was in the red by the time I got home) so it obviously won’t be useful for very long rides.

I had it in my back pouch, and a wireless cateye computer on my handlebars.

Here are the stats:

Distance: (Cateye) 59.24     (cyclemeter) 45.29

Time:        (Cateye) 2:52:51  (cyclemeter) 2:17:13, plus 16:15 in stopped time

Average speed:      (Cateye) 20.5  (cyclemeter) 19.80

Maximum speed: (Cateye) 36.8   (cyclemeter) 40.52

A few discrepancies… I’m not sure which tool captured the right distance and time. The cateye only logs time when my wheels are turning. Cyclemeter logs from start to done, though it does record stopped time which suggests that when my location doesn’t change, it takes note of that. This still doesn’t account for the discrepancy in time between the two tools. I’ll have to figure out how to validate the right one. I’m not quite sure how to validate the cateye, but I can check the accuracy of cyclemeter by taking note of the time I leave (something I neglected to do this trip) and the time I return. If I add both the ride time and stopped time, I should come up with the exact length of time I was gone.

I’ve not yet come up with any ideas about how to validate mileage. I’ll figure out how to do that eventually, though if anyone out there has any ideas, I’d love to hear them! For now, I suspect the cateye is closer to correct. The google map of my route does not reflect the fact that I turned away from the Old Port on my way home since I knew there’d be a lot of people there (plus the bike route back is different from the route out, and I followed it).  Still, I don’t think that is enough to account for the 5k difference between the cateye and the cyclemeter. The cateye is set for my tire size (I used the chart that comes with the computer), and since the cateye determines my distance by the size of my tire, there is some room for error there. I could measure my actual tire and then program the that number into the computer. That should be precise, should it not?

[edit: doh! I just noticed that the map has me ending at the ice cream stop! that’s mile 46 on the cateye, mile 45 on the cyclemeter. No wonder the distances on the two don’t agree! I wonder if it stopped tracking me when the battery ran low? If I’m going to use cyclemeter, i’m going to need more juice for my iphone!]

One of the features of this app that I really love is that you can export the data to a google map so you can see your whole route (you can also see it in the app, but the screen on the iphone is so little, it’s nice to be able to look at it on a regular computer screen). When I look at my route (and you can do that too, it’s right here), I am kind of impressed! Apparently, I sailed on past the Montreal airport, and since I saw a plane coming in for a landing while en route, and it was so near to the ground I figured the airport had to be close even though I couldn’t see it.

They cyclemeter also told me I climbed a total of 202 metres, which is nice information to have. That info seems about right to me since it was mostly a flat ride with only one real hill (and while it was steep, it was also short).

Here are the photos I took along the way: one of a horse and buggy in the Old Port waiting customers, another of the river shore to the left of me at the 25K mark and of the tree directly above. It’s a gorgeous path and made me want to find a place to live in Lachine.

I had intended to take a photo of the various kinds of ice creams you can choose from at Havre aux Glaces, the hand-made ice-cream place at Atwater market, but in my eagerness to get some for me, I completely forgot! I had pistachio in a sugar cone. It was soooooo  good!

Cycling with your iPhone

I’ve been browsing the app store this morning, looking for an app that can be used to track rides (what I really wanted was something that has Velo Quebec’s Route Verte, but I haven’t found that one just yet) and I found Cyclemeter, which is just amazing: it will track your time, location, distance, elevation, and speed. You can see the results of your ride on a map, on graphs, and on a calendar. It’ll track your distance by day, week, month, year etc.

Check it out…

And if that’s not enough, you can hear your progress as you ride, and you can even share your ride via Facebook or Twitter, and hear encouraging comments from your well-wishers as you go along (via text-to-speech technology).

I do track my distance and time, average speed etc using a bike computer, and I log it all into an excel spreadsheet. I just like to track my progress. I would so LOVE to be able to track my routes, too! I was hesitant to buy the app at first, because I just couldn’t see how this was going to work very well with the phone tucked away in my little carry-sack with emergency tools and spare tube.

but lo and behold, look what I found…

That’s right, an iPhone mount for a bike (by bicio). How perfect is that?