Wednesday, January 28, 2009

iPhone app review: The Bike Computer

For quite some time I've wanted a bike computer. Not because I'm into watts, ohms, joules, or whatever it is those fancy things measure. More out of curiosity/convenience. I keep track of all the miles I ride and put it into a spreadsheet. For everyday computing and tallying, I use Gmaps Pedometer. It works great. They recently upgraded the interface so the path automatically stays within the streets. Very cool.

But sometimes you don't feel like going back and rethinking every twist and turn you took, just to find out the mileage you rode, right?

iPhone to the rescue! It's quickly becoming apparent that every day applications are being created for the iPhone that make life unbelievably convenient - and this is one of them. I've found another use for my precious!

There are several bike related applications for the iPhone, but this one was free and the interface seemed to look pretty nice, so I signed up. To use this application, you need to create an account at EveryTrail. This allows the bike computer to record your statistics/ride, and export it to your computer. When you login, you can then review your ride, keeping track of elevation, average speed, and all other types of things. It's quite a nifty feature.

For all its convenience, bells + whistles... the application isn't perfect. So, for those looking for atomic-clock accuracy, you're better off with an actual bike-computer. The application relies on the GPS function of your phone and updates the computer with your position, relative to time elapsed.

When I reviewed some of my routes, it shows quite a bit of meandering when I'm supposedly stopped at a light. To make up for this, sometimes it shows my maximum speed at well over 50 miles per hour. While I'm certainly an experienced cyclist - I know I'm not riding that fast.

Utilizing this feature also requires that you mount your iPhone on to your bicycle so that you can view it. There are several affordable mounts on the market, but I can't speak for their security or durability. I have serious qualms about mounting a $300 electronic device on my bike. I'm not sure about the rattling, as well because I ride at night - I'm afraid it might be a neon sign inviting a mugging.

So when I've used it - I just slipped it in my phone pouch mounted on the front strap of my messenger bag.

So to review - the pros
  • It's free
  • It's easy to use
  • Great web interface
  • Fancy features provided by EveryTrail, including watching the progress of your ride in sped up time
  • Very nice display on the screen
the cons
  • Poor accuracy
  • Risks inherent in mounting your iPhone to your bike
  • Sucks up battery
All in all, I think this is a fun application and great for a nascent bike-statistics nerd. I think the optimal use for this app is if you are going on a social ride and are interested in keeping track of the wild goose chase that is often your route.

bicycling with your baby, before they are born

This is my wife Ashley. I love this picture - it captures one of my favorite things about my wife - her sense of adventure. She wasn't wild about wearing my old helmet, but she was definitely up for a bicycle adventure last memorial day... but I digress.

As I discussed in the previous post, I first wanted to address the variant of bicycling with kids I'm most experienced with, bicycling with them before they are born.

When we found out that Ashley was pregnant - one of the first things Ashley wanted to know was what types of exercise she could still participate in. Ashley was/is a regular runner - but felt nervous about keeping up that type of regimen with an ever expanding belly. We checked with our real life Dr. - but not before we consulted with our favorite Doctor, Dr. Doogie Howser WebMd. Because much of the pregnancy advice out there is anecdotal, we wanted to be sure that we wouldn't risk the health of Junior.

Most doctors say that low impact exercise is the best, and specifically mention bicycling. Bicycling is good on the knees and back, and doesn't bounce your belly around.

Another thing to consider is the heart rate of you or your spouse/partner. Very intense aerobic exercise causes your heart rate to increase - and at certain levels a high heart rate runs the risk of limiting the blood supply to your baby. When bicycling, avoid sprints or long climbing. Bicycling while pregnant should lean toward the recreational side.

That being said, we did embark on a 155 mile trek from Los Angeles to San Diego when Ashley was three months pregnant. The first trimester of pregnancy is widely known as "the exhaustion" phase, and Ashley handled it like a champ. She was a pretty regular rider, so that helped. When we later told our Danish doctor about our bike trip he quipped, "I think its great, so many Americans are afraid to exercise when they get pregnant. That's why there are so many fat people in this country."

Generalizations from Europeans aside - this was a pretty safe thing to do. Bike touring is different from road racing. Touring is relaxed pace riding, stopping frequently for rest, bathroom breaks, eating, exploring, etc. We brought tons of snacks and water. If you are early in your pregnancy - definitely don't take a bicycle tour off the table.

Most doctors and web-experts say that pregnant women should be cautious on bicycles later on in their pregnancy. When the belly gets big, balance becomes an issue. Obviously, balance is the essence of riding a bike. This is a case by case issue of course. We have made a few small trips around the neighborhood, and Ashley is knocking on eight months.

So to recap:
Bicycling when pregnant = YES!
Things to watch out for... heart rate + balance.

Exercise helps with stress, not to mention the fresh air (yes even in LA) can do wonders if you are starting to get cabin fever. I'm hoping Ashley will comment and set me straight if I have misrepresented her in anyway.

Do any of you have experiences with bicycling + pregnancy? If so - please share!

Monday, January 26, 2009

welcome to kids. bikes. dads.

Hi. My name is David Pulsipher. Welcome to my blog. I've had a few blogs in the past but this one is of particular focus, so I felt like it deserved it's own, unique url as opposed to being forced to merge into a larger conglomerate blog.

Why are you writing this blog?

Good question fictitious roleplayer! I'm writing this blog to chronicle my personal experiences as they intersect with child-rearing and bicycles. I'd also like this to be a modest clearinghouse for other parents to share their experiences with getting their kids into bicycling at every stage, from newborn until teenager.

Who are you and what qualifies you to speak on this subject?

Jeez, you sure are pushy for a non-existing entity - but nonetheless another top-notch question. Well if there's anything that wikipedia has taught us, you don't actually have to have any expertise on a subject to write about it. But... I have some familiarity with the matter so here's my curriculum vitae as it pertains to kids, bikes & dads.

I have a masters in Urban Planning from UCLA. While there, I studied bicycle & pedestrian design. I now work for one of the top firms in the country in that discipline, Alta Planning + Design. Every day, I try to help communities make it easier for people to walk, bike, and take public transit. I really feel that the more time people spend out of their car, the happier they'll be.

I'm a Steering Committee member for a non-profit group called, C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange.) We focus on educating people on how to make the bicycle a bigger part (or sole means) of their transportation. We provide educational resources, training and a community of like minded individuals to those who are looking to live a car-lite or car-free life.

Recently, I became a League Certified Instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. This is the only nationally recognized educational program for teaching people how to ride bicycles safely.

I'm a full time bicycle commuter, and am thoroughly a bike nerd.

I'm very happily married and my wife and I are expecting our first child in less than two months.

So as you can deduct I'm maybe a little lopsided when it comes to experience. I know bicycles pretty well, but I'm a little skimpy when it comes to the dad part. I'm hoping that this blog will speak to those who are in similar positions, as well as be a place for people to share what they've learned in retrospect.

I plan on reviewing every child-bicycle related object known to man, as well as keep track of the adventures me and the little guy go on.

Ultimately, I hope this place can serve as a place to inspire people to use bicycles to transport and enjoy time with their children.

My first series of posts will discuss bicycling with your children... before they are born. If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas please email me (see profile). Until then... ride safe.