A rockslide ride in Los Angeles, plus some aerodynamic testing

I arrived into Long Beach (greater LA area) around 7:50AM on Friday, from a week in Las Vegas. First on the agenda was finding Starbucks. With a 5AM departure to the airport, I needed it. Badly. I actually don’t like straight coffee though, but I do like the Mocha Lite Frappuccino thingy.

Once that was taken care of, I went over and met up with the Profile Design folks. These are the people behind various aerobars and things of that nature (aerobottles, etc…). They have a new aerobottle + bike computer holder product that’s just hitting stores here in the next few weeks, and they wanted me to try it out.

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Above, the Profile Design Aero HC system. It won’t take long to put together my review. It took all of two rides to decide what I think about the bottle. Actually, about one ride. And unlike a gadget, it’s kinda straight forward.

It was pretty much perfect timing though, because a few short hours later I’d find myself at the velodrome, ready to do aerodynamics testing. I’ve got a full post (perhaps two) on this for later this week, but essentially through the use of a sensor network they’re able to do real-time aerodynamic testing while you’re actually riding. This is a bit different from a wind tunnel, which isn’t able to simulate normal rider movement. The technology behind it is from a company called Alphamantis was largely locked down to the Canadianand British cycling team until the completion of the 2012 Olympics in London. Now, it’s available for anyone willing to pay. ERO Sports runs the testing out of this former Olympic site.

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We spent 5+ hours doing all sorts of tests. While some were tests around me and my position, most were tests focused on either products (like the aerobottle above) or other gadgets.

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There was a lot of laps involved. I alone did about 25 miles worth on a 250 meter track. But, it was a blast. And I’d love to spend days there tinkering with the guys. It was like a giant cycling geekfest. Standing around pondering “What if we changed this? What would happen? Or this? Or that?” Of course, each test required 10 laps of the track to get good stable data (you have a pretty clear idea after a lap or two though).

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With the loops complete, I headed to my hotel and indulged in all that American TV had to offer. Mostly Discovery channel-esque type shows (Deadly Catch, etc…). Many hours passed. I was lazy, and it was great.

And for the most part, Saturday was the same. It was my one opportunity over the next…lot…of weeks to relax a bit for a day. And so me and my little hotel room TV did just that.

Later in the day I did become un-lazy though and hit up the local YMCA. I picked the absolute closest one that was outdoors (only a mile away), and then wandered over just ahead of closing time. Thankfully, with the crappy weather in full force in the LA area, there was only one other person in the lap lanes.

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You know what the good part about not swimming a whole lot lately is? My swim times will improve rapidly. :)

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All in it was just about 3,000 yards. Not a huge workout, but just a bit of a ‘get back in the pool’ sorta thing in between two days of riding.

On a side note, I tried (for a second time) the concept of using the Mio Alpha optical heart rate watch to transmit over ANT+ to the Garmin. While it transmits just fine at that close of a distance (any more and you lose signal). The actual data from the Alpha while underwater is largely useless and laggy (the fault of the Mio, not the Garmin in this case). I’ll add my full results into the existing Alpha review in the next day or two. In short, doesn’t really work as a solution (at all). And, for those asking about the Swimovate Pool Mate watch that does HR using a strap, I ordered one and it arrived into my US forwarding address on Friday. I’ll have it sent over in the coming weeks.

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Sunday morning I planned to get up at dawn and head up to the mountains. But somehow I talked myself into a few extra hours of sleep before heading to bed. That was probably a poor choice. A really poor choice.

Around 7:15AM I woke up naturally, just a few minutes ahead of my alarm clock. So I got everything all packed into the car and headed out. I decided that I’d bring everything with me in case I was running a bit late. I figured I’d be able to find somewhere to shower along the way.

I worked through the comments from Friday’s post, looking at all the awesome options that everyone provided. In the end, I went with one heading into the mountains for a 44 mile loop from just outside of Pasadena. Here’s the route.

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It had some nice climbing in it, and looked like it would largely be away from people. I like nice quiet people-less rides. So I downloaded it to the Edge 800 and the O-Synce Navi2Coach units and headed out.

It took about 40 minutes to the starting point. I just picked a school nearby where the route started. I figured it’d probably be awkward to park in the reader’s driveway.

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I spent about 30 minutes getting everything all ready, including photos of the aero bottle. While I had prepared everything the night before – there’s still an element related to validation of all the devices I’m testing. Both power meters as well as head units. And of course the bottle.

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(I was proud of my little bit of innovation. Re-purposed a running armband to hold the WASP bridge. I had seen some droppage issues a few rides ago on one of the PM’s due to likely range issues. So this brought it nice and close.)

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Once everything was good to go I headed out. The route itself was fairly simple. There was one road into the mountains, simply climb up it. When I got to the turn, follow it all the way around until it came back. Like a big lollipop. So, up I climbed:

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And climbed:

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I even saw three other folks riding:

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These would be the only people I’d see riding for the rest of the ride. And in general, there were very few cars. Just a handful of motorcycles out at the higher elevations.

A short bit after passing them I heard a rumbling. But it didn’t match any sound I’ve ever heard before. Sorta like a broken jet engine meets a really rough sounding washer and dryer. Given I was in the fog with only about 20-30m visibility, I couldn’t visually see what was causing it.

And then I saw it. Immediately to my left and coming down quickly was a rock slide. It was about 15-20 feet in front of me on the opposite side of the road, cascading off of the cliffs high above somewhere and down into the roadway. Given my lack of visibility, I didn’t know if this was just a trickle, or if there was much more coming out of the thick fog from above.

I quickly accelerated just in case, and put some distance between me and it. As I looked back, one of the cyclists that I had just passed had been a few dozen meters behind me, and stopped just in front of it. Thankfully, none of the debris crossed into our lane during this slide. But about 30-40 seconds later as I was continuing up I heard a much louder slide. Not sure where exactly it came from or went to. Never saw it.

On my way back down a few hours later, here’s the slide remnants. I assume someone moved much of the bigger pieces off. Mind you that as a cyclist it would really only take a baseball sized rock to auger me in.

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About 20 minutes after the slide I reached the turn-off on the loop. It took me a minute or two to validate it, because no matter which way I went the Edge said I was going the wrong way. I double-checked with the O-Synce Navi2Coach (also had the route) as best as possible and then just decided to go for it. A short bit later both were happy again, so I figured I must have gone the right way.

While I had cleared much of the rain, wind and fog, I traded that for some really rough (and kinda wet) road.

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Thankfully it only lasted a few miles. But it was definitely not time-trial bike friendly given the conditions. Everything on my bike was shaking and wobbling around to undesirable places. With my hands mostly frozen, I was really hoping it’d get warmer soon. I took the below photo in the most photo-friendly spot along the stretch (read: Few cracks so I wouldn’t crash).

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Once I cleared the cracked up road, the clouds ever so slowly started to let up. A hundred or so yards at a time my visibility slowly improved:

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And before you know it, I was up and blue sky was visible!

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At this point I just rolled (well, mostly climbed) my way up and up, one mountain after another:

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The area was really rather pretty. Especially since the only signs of life I’d see were the occasional motorcycle out roaming around:

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Well, that and this little dog. He actually charged me. Seriously? I suppose I was just thankful he wasn’t one of the nasty German Shepard’s that charged me in the deserts of Jordan.

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He was guarding this area:

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Yes, I really don’t think they wanted you to stop. Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on it.

I did see one non-confrontational little creature though:

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Nearly ran him over he blended in so well! Looped back to take a closer look at him. Beyond him and the dog, they were the only animals I saw.

Shortly after him while looking up at the road ahead, I realized I was probably in fairly big trouble when it came to making my flight. For some reason I had budgeted just over about 2hrs for the 44 miles. I miscalculated how much climbing there would be. I thought it would be some initial climbing, and then mostly level out for a while on the loop portion before coming back down. This particular climb that I saw ahead definitely put a nail in my timelines coffin. You can see the road far up the hillside snaking along.

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What, you can’t see the road? Exactly my point. It’s so far away, and so far up it doesn’t even come out in the above picture without really squinting. A while later, once up top, looking back down you can barely see the road:

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Eventually, I reached what I think was my highest point, just under 5,000ft. Though, I had started around 1,500ft, and climbed more than 5,000ft in total:

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From there, it was soon back into the fog and rain for the descent.

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I really disliked the descending aspect. With the rock slide remnants always present (I probably avoided 20-30 in total over the course of the descent sections), and the slick roadways, there wasn’t much enjoyable about the 48*F and rain ride back down.

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The visibility at times was so bad that you couldn’t even see an entire school bus (one was going uphill) in one shot. I think I actually ascended faster than I descended some sections. At the time I took this photo it seemed bad, but then I turned that corner right behind that SUV and it was like a complete whiteout – as the hill had been blocking some of the fog from pouring onto the roadway.

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About 11 painstakingly slow miles later I broke out of the mountain roads and rain and found myself down in the neighborhoods near where I parked. Mostly happy to be able to take my hands off the brakes. I’ve got two fingers still sore from holding onto the thin metal slicing brake handle.

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While I’ve been using the O-Synce unit a lot lately, it was nice to test it out in the mountains from an elevation standpoint. I was pleased with how well it tracked altitude, primarily to the altitude markers I saw many places along the route. Additionally, it was pretty darn close distance-wise to the Edge computer (no idea which one is truly right).

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For those keeping track at home on the airplane front, it was at this point 12:13PM. My flight was at 1:58PM…out of LAX – some 30 minutes away. Plus packing my bike. Plus returning the rental car at LAX (which I know from many historical visits is probably the single airport in the US that takes the longest to return a rental car). Plus checking luggage.

Fear not, I packed up my bike pretty quickly. Here’s the whole process (including a brief water bottle leftover shower) in 60 seconds:

Probably not the pinnacle of my bike packing jobs however – but it’ll have to do given the circumstances. A number of you have asked about the bike case recently. I wrote up about it here.

I made really good time back down to LAX. But ultimately the rental car return did me in. It took about 25 minutes all-in from the moment I removed the key from the car. By time I arrived at the ticket counter it was about 22 minutes until the flight. And while I would have made the plane itself just fine (had already checked in), the bike/luggage was a bit more challenging. I wasn’t terribly worried through, I had looked earlier and there ample flights later on. So the agent easily changed me to one a few hours later.

Ironically, a bit later I flew right back over the exact same spot I rode on. And the same places where it was clear for me during the ride, it was still clear. And same goes for the clouds.

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With that, I’ve got one more flight and I’ll land in Kansas City. Where in nearby Olathe, Kansas plays home to the headquarters of Garmin. I’ll be spending the day there talking with various product teams, giving your feedback, and other things related to the company. As I said a few weeks ago, I’ve got a few different trips planned over the next few weeks with some of the biggest players out there. Part to give your feedback, and part to give you a peek behind the curtain. And yes, for those wondering – I’m paying for everything.

So hang tight, it’s gonna be a crazy week bookended with interesting visits.

Thanks for reading!

34 Comments

  1. Victor

    So I see you have a bike bag, how much was it? Which one is it, etc.... You probably have a post on it, but I would like to know so as I am looking into one that will just cost me a bit more (excess baggage vs bike fees).

    Looked like a fun ride too.

    Reply
  2. oldSAP

    doesn't the straw's length bother you?

    Reply
    • Tristan replied

      I was wondering the same thing. If you are in the Supermanposition, isn't it in the way? Or wouldn't it be easier to drink with a shorter straw, when lying down? Ok, for sitting up straight, but isn't the goal of such a bike to lay low?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      You can cut the straw to length. This straw is the non-final straw (the other one is slightly more rigid). In any case, for me, it felt about right actually for aero position. I would have thought the same, but it was within a quick dip down to reach the straw.

      Reply
  3. Nathan

    I just want to know if there are any more fw updates for the 910 and the 500 coming. I can't delete activities on the 500 and the pace thing is pretty bad on the 910 and it takes soo long to get a satellite (that could be me though as everything takes longer when you stand around waiting for it to happen)

    I am sure others have problems too.

    Reply
    • psywiped replied

      I'm finding my 910 to also be slow picking up sats and really pour at pace even using a footpod also want to see them add tempy support.

      Reply
    • this guy replied

      I second the request for FW update on the 500. Given how old the device is it's pretty sad that they haven't removed all the bugs yet.

      Reply
  4. Jackson

    Thanks for taking up all these meetings on your own dime. And that velo photo is cool.

    Reply
  5. Robert

    When you post the full story, make sure you point out that for the road testing, I had to ride with my elbows locked in order to maintain consistent body position between tests. No self-respecting roadie would want folks to think he normally rides in the drops like that! ;-)

    Reply
  6. David

    Questions for Garmin folks:

    Vector - ever?
    910XT - why am I waiting up to 5 mins for Sat acquisiton in open areas?
    910XT - any news / comment on being able to load swim training sessions onto the 910 like can be done with the Swim?
    Connect - when do we get the ability to export swim data - it's annoying to have to save the fit files in a sep directory straight off the watch?
    800 - will support be maintained now the 810 exists (past Garmin practice doesn't fill me with hope but given there wasn't a "huge" update between the 800 and 810 ...)
    500/510 - will the 500 continue to be marketed? The 510 seems kind of pointless to me when you look at the form factor. If I wanted something big I would stick with the 800, if I want small then the 510 doesn't do it?

    Reply
  7. Tim K

    Can they write something for their computers and make a gadget to interact wit Di components that will do whatever shifting is necessary to maintain X rpm +/-y?

    Essentially turn the Di shifting into an automatic transmission.

    Reply
  8. Matthew Cortez

    I love how you post all the pictures of your ride. Great site bro.

    Reply
  9. Todd Giorgio

    As far as I can tell, Garmin Connect doesn't display transition time when recording in multisport mode. Garmin Training Center (!) does this just fine from the same data set on the mobile device , so it's a little perplexing...

    Reply
  10. Yancey Arrington

    Can you pass a couple of questions to Garmin:
    -Can we get the ability to add functions, which are buried in the menu, onto a top level page. Specifically it requires ~17 button presses to use the calibrate function on my 910xt and get back out to the top menu. This is a clear usability failure.
    -Can we get the ability to view the current zero offset the computer is using? The quarq autozero offsets are not able to be reviewed during riding.
    -When will Garmin be able to add zero offset values into the ride file for later analysis?
    -When will Garmin fix the 3 second repeat value error in their software?

    Reply
  11. Chris

    I have a 510 that won't connect to my powertap. Garmin says an update is coming. Would love to know when.

    Reply
  12. I'm curious, do you ever have any complaints about using your camera in the pool? Do you let the lifeguards, or whoever, know what you're doing? One time someone was pretty mad I was recording my stroke even though I told the lifeguard and assured them their lane wasn't in the frame.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'm pretty cautious. I usually only do it when nobody is around (late at night/etc..), and usually pick lanes away from folks. Within that context, I do a lot of recording for various reviews, and I've never had problems.

      Reply
  13. Amelie M.

    Not sure if you are already aware... but by golly if you aren't mentioned (along with a scant three other blogs, yours being the only one written in English) on p. 63 of the very first issue of Run2Day Magazine, a running mag from one of the running chains here in the Netherlands. Pretty high praise from a Dutchie runner, really. They prop you as one of "de leukste hardloopblogs" (the coolest distance running blogs). The translation reads "This Paris-dwelling American writes XXL reviews about the latest gadgets and about his running, biking, and swimming adventures."

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Very cool! Thanks for the heads up! Would love to see a photo of it!

      Reply
  14. Just packing the bike is a workout by itself ;l-

    Why not having a roof rack for your bike ?

    A+

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It was a rental car, so I just stick it in the back.

      Reply
  15. earl rise

    do you ever have any problems/objections to using the go pro to film in pools?

    Reply
  16. Happy Runner

    Looks like the Aero HC positions the computer way too far back for easy viewing. Can you view without having to move your entire head?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Nope...

      Reply
    • drhend replied

      Any time frame for your review to come out on the new Profile Design bottle?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I was waiting on the wind tunnel data from Profile Design. I received that last night. I'm now waiting on my aerodynamics data from the folks I worked with. E-mailing them here in a second. Everything else in review is written on review, so just need the data for that one chunk.

      Hope just a few days away. :-/

      Reply
    • Adam replied

      Looking forward to this review! I recently switched to the speedfil aerobar mounted bottle and think its great. Read in multiple sources having a bottle on the aerobars is the best position for a water bottle (faster than behind the seat as the bottle actually fills the gap between arms and head).

      Reply
  17. Mark

    Question for Garmin: Why don't Forerunner's display position in other grid references?

    My Forerunner 205 (quite old admittedly) can tell me my longitude and latitude but it can't tell me my position in other grid systems.

    I use my forerunner for training but as someone who likes to spend time in the mountains but prefer to use a map rather to take/rely on a GPS. If my forerunner could tell me my position in OSGB (The grid system used by the UK's Ordnance Survey - the maps favored by most mountain users in the UK), then my forerunner would become a very handy tool for relocating myself if lost in an emergency in the mountains.

    Maybe wrist mounted training devices are not as accurate as GPS's made for navigation, maybe it is beneficial to product sales not to add this feature or maybe there is technical or practical reason why this feature does not exist. It seems to me Garmin have the algorithms pretty sorted for converting long/lat to other grid systems so adding this feature to all devices would not be too tricky. It would be interesting to hear what they say.

    Finally, thanks, great web site Rainmaker!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They do provide details in other formats, though the older ones don't as much. Something like the Fenix has it in a million variations (see that review for the massive listing of grid types).

      Reply
  18. As a long-time reader, this is the first time I have come across a write-up here where by a company may have "sponsored" a trip and thus has presented a clear conflict of interest. It would seem to go against your ethos to do this. You can try to justify or rationalize it however you want but unless the trip and testing facility time was paid by you I can't see this NOT influencing you. Curious on your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I haven't actually written up what I planned to write up about my time there (waiting on a bit more data).

      In any case, my trip was to replace the full media event that happened about 40 days ago. I wasn't able to attend that event unfortunately as I was travelling elsewhere. The media there may or may not have paid for travel, but they got to see the system firsthand (and nobody paid for that demo time).

      In my case, I paid for all my travel expenses.

      However, my interest is actually not in writing an in-depth review of them. As you'll see in my post, we spent more time on testing out gadgets than we did on my form. Actually, we spent no time on my form (on the track). It was purely testing things out for me. In some ways, I really wanted to see if this is a viable method for testing devices like those I occasionally review more long term.

      So my post about it will be part about what exactly they do there, how it works technically, but mostly about some of the gadgets I tested.

      Reply
    • Robert replied

      Thomas,

      I was there last Friday with Ray and don't think you should be too concerned. If Ray was there to obtain personal benefit, he would have approached the session in a completely different fashion. In particular, while Ray did get "dotted up" for a Retul fit, this was pretty darn brief and all Jim did was move him around slightly so that Ray could see his fit coordinates change on the Retul screen. Since Ray was there to observe and review ERO's aero fit process, it shouldn't surprise anyone that he went through this (very brief) process. If the focus of Ray's visit had been to dial in his tri position, he would have spent a LOT more time with Jim working on position - trust me, he spent the absolute minimum amount of time with the Retul system needed to at least understand how it works - it was a demo, nothing more. Understand Jim is a fitter by both trade and nature and his first instinct when he sees any athlete on the bike is to fix/tweak/dial in that athlete's position, so I think if Ray had tried to push that aspect of the review, Jim would have been happy to oblige, but simply put, Ray didn't do that - he got a Retul demo and nothing more.

      Reply
  19. Ray, thanks for showing another side of LA. Most people that have never been there think that it's all a concrete jungle.

    I also travel with a soft bag for my bike.Personally in the 15 years or more I've used one, I never had a problem with damage and like you showed, it fits in just about any car's back seat or trunk. The weight and ease of storing it is what sold me. You sure have your routine down, that was a great time lapse video!

    Thanks for continuing to test the Navi2Coach computer. I like the picture with the altitude profile showing. I took it on my hike up above 10,000ft to Mt. Whitney (also in So. California) just to see how well it performed. I found one problem, there weren't enough digits for it to display above 10k, the right digit was truncated, so I could have been at 1k, except I couldn't breath! Another thing I noted in the mountains with rapidly changing barometric pressure, is that I needed to reset the altitude based on the GPS readings about 2x day.

    Where do you get all that energy? You're like the Energizer Bunny.

    Reply

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