DC Rainmaker http://www.dcrainmaker.com Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:38:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.5 La Course, Le Tour, and the Paris Finale–2016 Edition http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/la-course-le-tour-and-the-paris-finale2016-edition.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/la-course-le-tour-and-the-paris-finale2016-edition.html#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:29:20 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62821 Read More Here ]]> While almost every day is a great day living in Paris, there are a few days that really take the cake: Bastille Day (Fête nationale), and the finish of the Tour de France.

Over the last three years however, ASO/UCI has added to the Tour de France final day festivities by including a one-stage women’s race called La Course.  It uses the same looped route in the city as the men (though doesn’t include the 60km getting to the city).

I headed out after riding the course a bit in the morning with Julio to watch both the women and the men race, and of course I filled in the gaps with a bit of a Parisian picnic.  Here’s what that day entailed.

La Course:

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As noted above, the La Course route is simply loops of the Champs-Élysées/Rue de Rivoli/Quai des Tuileries TdF course.  Each loop is 7km, which would take the women about 8-10 minutes per loop.

Unlike in the past though, things were much more locked down in terms of movement.  In fact, it’d even change during the women’s race, cutting off access to the elevated portions of the Tuileries, further reducing the viewing areas seen in the below photos.  So I was essentially stuck along one road to get photos.  But I made the most of it.

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For most of the laps I was there, there was a small breakaway, and then the main peloton.  You can see the breakaway above/below:

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Behind it, the roaring wheels of upwards of 121 women in the main peloton, though, due to crashes only 94 would finish.

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After that, you’d find a few folks who fell off the peloton, mostly due to the crashes.  While the weather was beautiful this year (unlike last year), there were still numerous crashes.  Of course, like most cycling races – those on TV have a far better understanding/view of the action than those of us along the sidelines.  We can only see a small portion of the race as it passes us.

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There were a number of spectators out watching the event.  While many of them seemed to be more wandering tourists than die-hard cycling fans, they were still largely staying put and watching the women’s race.

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Like the men’s race there were plenty of team cars following the groups, along with numerous official vehicles.  These included lead official cars, broadcast media, 3rd party media outlets, and then police escorts.  Along with Mavic neutral support vehicles.

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The whole race lasted roughly 2 hours, leaving about a 45-50 minute gap before the official TdF caravan came through on the route.

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Now on one hand we’re told that we should praise ASO/UCI for putting on the race.  As if it were a gift.  And true, they definitely deserve credit for going in on it. I’m not looking to take away that credit.

Yet three years in they’re still failing to fulfill their plans for expanding it to a multi-day race.  Additionally, they’re just failing to make it more appealing to spectators.  You’ll remember three years ago (at the end of this post) that I noted you couldn’t buy a La Course t-shirt, poster, or anything.  Guess what?  You still can’t.  If you click on the merchandise button on the La Course site, it merely redirects you to the regular TdF site, which has hundreds of items for sale.  None of which are La Course.

Like TdF merchandise, very little of it goes bad.  Most is not branded with a specific year – so it’s sold year round, year after year.  If anyone can startup a CafePress site and sell merchandise, than certainly someone at La Course can make a t-shirt or poster, perhaps even one worth wearing.

Next, you can’t get near any of the women’s team staging areas.  They’re located in the dearth that is Place de la Concorde.  This is unlike the men’s team staging areas which are accessible pre-race and on every stage.  Given there is far less infrastructure required for the women’s staging area (most are using mini-RV’s or team vans, not the multiple massive team busses the men use) – it would have been trivial to move them simply across the street along Cours la Reine and make them accessible to fans prior to race…just like the men.

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Of course there will always be excuses why these things can’t be done, most are just smoke screens.  Nobody is asking for perfection.  After all, perfection is the enemy of progress.  But none of these are hard to accomplish, nor do they cost money.  Well, except that 3-4 day stage race they planned.  But again, that too could easily have been run just ahead of the TdF caravan over the last 3-4 days in the mountains, minimizing costs.  It could have started with the same 17KM TT race on the Thursday prior to the men (minor timing adjustment is all that would have been required).  And then gone through the mountains for plenty of excitement, even if the course was slightly shortened in the mountains.

While live TV for all those stages would be ideal, it’s certainly more than possible to do recorded TV as a starting point.  After all, Ironman can and has done it for numerous full-distance races that last 8-10 hours, and they have but a fraction of the budget of ASO.

Here’s to hoping, there’s always next year…

A Picnic in Between:

After the women finished up I headed home to pickup The Girl and the little one.  We’d then head back to the Louvre area to watch the caravan, and then eventually the Tuileries to watch the men’s race.  With large portions of the Tuileries closed this year to spectators for the races, it really limited some of the best spots to watch the race (and picnic).  Really a shame.  So upon arrival we hung out closer to the Louvre under the trees in areas still open to the public.

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We had a bit of a picnic with friends, lounging around the day.

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We’re lucky in that we’ve got a good group of friends that have also had babies in the past few months, and more coming over the next few months.

Oh, and yes, our little one was decked out with TdF gear, which said in French – Mon premier Tour de France – ‘My first Tour de France’:

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In between, Julio and I were jumping over to take photos of the caravan a short ways away. Which, is a good segue to that segment.

The Caravan:

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Like all other stages of the Tour de France, the caravan still makes an appearance in Paris following the same route as the riders.  However unlike other stages, the caravan doesn’t give out any goods (trinkets/souvenirs/etc…) in Paris.  Perhaps they do so outside city limits, but certainly not within city limits.

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At this point, it’s basically just a big celebration/party for all the staff on it.  Interestingly, some of the sponsor floats (like Carrefour) actually had their supply trucks driving in the caravan in Paris, where they don’t normally do so otherwise.  That’s cool though.  They worked just as hard over the last three weeks, so it’s neat that they’d get the same privilege.

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I try and get different shots each year I’m at the TdF finish in Paris, merely since many of the floats are the same (and at a distance, so are the rider shots).  So this year I got caravan shots at the Louvre.  Last year I did so at the Eiffel Tower.

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Like with the mountain stages a few days ago – everyone was quite happen that Vittel was still using their giant sprayers to mist water out over the crowds on this hot day.

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The whole caravan took about 30-40 minutes to pass through, occasionally having to stop in front of us as there would be a back-up existing the tight spaces of the Louvre roadway gates/buildings.  Interestingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), the GoPro Truck within the caravan did appear to have one camera that didn’t look like the other released cameras on it.  But I was unable to get a picture quick enough.  No surprise, they’ve been clear within investor conferences Hero5 is coming this fall.

Le Tour:

With the caravan completed we were back in the shade to wait the hour or so until the men came through. As it seems is often the case on the final stage, they were behind the published schedules, this time by about 30 minutes.  But when they did come through, it was well worth the wait.

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Team Sky had a lead-out on the peloton for the mostly celebratory first lap, with Froome following behind it:

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Julio captured the below photo as they came through the roundabout, which is totally epic is awesomeness.  Plus, he caught the upcoming photo of me on the trash can, which is epic in its own right.

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Here’s me, from my trash can view, which is how I got above the crowds:

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After the men came by the Louvre, there was a flyover from the French military.  I totally forgot about that tradition, so I only got a last second photo:

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From there it was into the Tuileries to find some spots to take photos of the men’s race.  Now as many of you know, this is my go-to spot for taking TdF final stage photos.  I can wander all over the place and take tons of different shots/angles.  But not this year.  They closed all the elevated portions alongside the roadways, making it very difficult to get any shots from within there.

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I was able to get a few shots from the park edges far back, like these once heavily cropped:

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But not quite what I’m used to, or was looking for.

But then I looked up and saw my solution:

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When in doubt…go up!

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A ride or two on the Ferris wheel was all I needed.  Plus, it turns out it has quite a nice view of the rest of Paris (I’ve never been up this one before):

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Ok, back to the race.

This ended up being the perfect spot to get some really unique shots.  Here’s the breakaway:

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And then one of the peloton as they start to stretch out along Rue de Rivoli like a giant snake.

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The timing is always tricky, because the Ferris wheel is constantly moving (just like the riders).  So sometimes you end up with shots like this in between the bars:

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Oh, it’s also an amusement park:

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But the elevated provides prospective of just how tough it is to catch up to the peloton when they fall off.

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On the final stage the main goal is ensuring you don’t get lapped if you do fall off the peloton.  As at that point you get DQ’d from the race if they lap you.  Which means you went all that way, only to fall short by a few minutes.  However it’s pretty rare to happen unless there’s a serious incident.  Team cars will help to shelter riders from the wind, as above.

On the final lap it gets pretty relaxed (with the exception of the handful of riders at the very tip of the front competing for the stage win).  You can see below the 1KM flag open below the banner, indicating just 1,000m left in the race.  You can also see numerous riders mixed in with the cars, just enjoying the last few seconds of the race.

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And with that…The Tour is over for 2016!

Next up…the Olympics! Perfect, lots more sports enjoyment for the summer.  Though, no trip to Rio for me this time.

Thanks for reading!

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4
A Day at the Tour de France: Time Trial in The Mountains http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/france-trial-mountains.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/france-trial-mountains.html#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 15:07:07 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62716 Read More Here ]]> DSC_5296

While I typically get in a number of Tour de France stages each year, this year was a bit different with the arrival of our little peanut.  The Girl went into labor a few hours before Le Tour began Stage 1, and thus it’s been a wee bit hectic since then.

But I was able to escape for a quick trip down to the Alps on Wednesday night to see Thursday’s Tour de France time trial stage.  I’ve seen a number of time trial stages in the past, and if you can only see one stage in the Tour de France, that’s your best bang for your buck (aside from perhaps the finish in Paris).  But, I cover all those tips and tricks in my TdF overview post.

As for this trip, I (and my bike) took the train down to Sallanches, where I then rode about 4mi/7km up the mountain to a small hotel.  Had I realized I’d have to climb 1,500ft/450m of elevation each time I went to my hotel, I probably would have packed less laptops and camera gear.  No worries, it’s like weight training for climbing.

In any event, here’s how my day went down.  Note that there are plenty of other sites that cover the race details for that day, whereas what’s more timeless and interesting to me is the overall atmosphere for the race.

The Caravan:

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The caravan is the sponsor parade that tracks the same route as the Tour de France, day in and day out.  It goes ahead of the tour by a few hours, and is enormously popular with spectators.  Heck, there were more people from the local towns out to watch the caravan than the riders.  Of course with a time-trial stage, you’re more likely to get folks checking in throughout the day on the race, rather than waiting for one specific moment to pass by.

But then again, it’s logical more folks would want to be out for the caravan – since free stuff is thrown out to spectators…albeit at often high speeds.  After all, the caravan still has to cover the same 150-200km long route as the riders each day.

There are some well known year after year floats within the caravan, such as the LCL lion and key sponsors like Carrefour.

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Certain free items are more highly prized than others, for example the king of the mountain related gear (usually hats) from Carrefour is among the most wanted item.  Also high on the list is the Skoda green-jersey (sprinter) gear:

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At the same time, on a hot day like this was, the water bottles and water sprayers from Vittel can be just as desirable.

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And if you’re hungry, a madeleine pastry from St. Michel is equally welcome:

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Pens chucked at you at 20MPH however…not quite as much:

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The whole caravan lasts about 20-30 minutes, depending on the speed it goes by. It’s dozens of sponsors long, each having about 3-8 vehicles.  Each vehicle in turn has 2-5 staff on it, either driving or throwing stuff out.

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You might remember a few years ago when after a stage completed, while driving out of the mountains we got stuck behind the LCL Lion float/car on regular roads for hours.  Kinda funny.

Note that in general the caravan does not give out any goods in Paris during the final stage (it’s possible it does so prior to entering Paris city limits, but once they arrive in Paris, it’s merely celebratory).

Down to the start area:

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With the caravan having passed, I grabbed my bike and descended down side roads to the start area to check things out for a number of hours.  Given the riders go off individually at 2-3 minute intervals for the time trials, you’ve got some 6+ hours of cyclists starting consecutively, along with even more team prep time to watch.

The team buses are all arranged around town, in this case in one long street leading up to the start.  Each team will set out their bikes and trainer, and riders will warm-up as their start time comes.

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Here’s one of the starting lists from AG2R, showing their riders highlighted in the overall start list.

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Then to the side, the exact timing and details for reach rider for the day (click to zoom above/below images):

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I detailed much of the tech gear I found down there in my post yesterday, however, I did find a few other nuggets, such as the new FSA electronic shifting system that Cycling Tips detailed out the day prior.  This unit was on a bike from Team Bora Argon-18.

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Mostly though aside from the tech, I was just watching riders warm-up, checking out some of the different nuances that each of them have in their pre-race routines.  For example – a bowl full of milky liquid while on the trainer:

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Or as is far more common, conducting interviews or signing gear for fans.

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In unrelated news, I give you this:

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You’ll find lots of people in the cycling tech industry here, from various companies providing support.  For example, 4iiii was here providing support for Etixx-Quick-Step (they’re using 4iiii power meters).   Or here is one of the guys behind Veloviewer:

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Heck, I even ended up providing some quick tech support for Orica-BikeExchange for something they were trying to get working in their team car to track rider data in real-time.

Heading over to the actual start itself you’ll find numerous official cars, starting with the Mavic neutral support cars.  These cars provide support to all riders if/when a specific team car isn’t nearby.  This is of particular interest in this time trial stage, as depending on the exact timing it’s impossible for a team to have enough team cars to accompany all riders. So sometimes they get neutral support instead of their own team car.

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In the event you need an official car from the TdF, there’s an entire dealership of them located here:

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Once you reach the on-deck location your support vehicle will get a sign with the riders name on it applied to the front:

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This is done by Tour de France folks, and not the individual teams:

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Next, as a rider you’ll head over to the UCI check station with your bike.

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It’s here that the following occur:

A) Bike size is measured
B) Bike is scanned using specialized iPad case test system for motors
C) Bike is weighed

The whole process takes perhaps 60-90 seconds.  You can see the iPad scanning the back wheel here.  The full frame is scanned, along with both wheels:

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Finally, it’s up into the starting shack to get this game underway.  You’ll receive a 10-second timer/count-down, at which point it’s go-time:

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From there it was a straight-away down the town’s main street for a bit of flat ground before the climbing would begin:

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Ok, with the riders out on the course and my fun done in the starting village, I rode up the mountain to my first viewing locale.

Back up on the Mountain:

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I picked the town of Combloux as my first point for watching riders come through, since it was an area I visited in the morning for the caravan.  It took me about 30 minutes to ride there from the starting village using various side roads.  It was also about 1,500ft in elevation gain.

One of the first things I noticed in this stage is just how many older folks had paper start lists.  While many younger folks had connected devices to monitor the race, the more vintage generations were using the newspaper. Which to be fair was far more logical since on a hot day your phone battery burns through like nobody’s business.

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The riders came through at roughly the same intervals they started at – every 2-3 minutes.  Though sometimes one rider would catch up to another rider.

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Each rider had a team car or two with them, and the whole group was prefaced by a single police motorcycle.  Given it was a closed course, the motorcycle was really there more to warn any crossing areas that a rider was inbound.

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Depending on the exact spot along the course, the crowds could be fairly strong.  Though for most sections it was pretty easy to find a spot.  In the towns they setup barricades, whereas in other sections it was more open roadway.

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You’ll notice some riders used time trial bikes, while others used road bikes.  In many cases it came down to specific power to weight ratios as to which was a better fit for a given rider.

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After hanging out in Combloux for a bit, I got back on my bike and headed another 2KM up the course to a particularly steep section.  It’s here I managed to catch the king of the mountain jersey wearer coming through:

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This particular section was exceedingly steep, and also very tight in terms of passage.  But at least while I was there the fans were fairly well behaved with nobody running alongside or ‘assisting’ or anything else.

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It then got even steeper for a section just at the 5KM to go banner.  This lasted a few hundred meters and was beastly steep.

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Finally, as I worked my way back down I swung past this brief flat section that seemed pretty…boring.  Glad I didn’t have tickets there or anything.  Not that you need tickets for really anywhere except the finish line at the TdF.  Just go out and find a cool spot.  You’ll be closer to the action that way anyways.

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Playing with heat:

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Now before we wrap up, I figured I’d provide a short bit of background on the FLIR video that I uploaded to Twitter.  That video I took during the stage at Combloux, of one of the riders going past.  You can see it below:

I used a heat detection camera made by FLIR (pretty much the leader in this space).  While you can spend a lot of money for more higher end cameras, you can also buy less expensive devices made by FLIR that utilize your phone, which is what I bought.  The main difference between the price points is the output resolution (i.e. how big the image is, such as almost-HD quality), as well as the sensitivity, and temperature ranges..  The model I was using can measure temperature differences as small as 0.18° F (0.1° C).  My model can cover a temp range of -4°F to 248°F (-20° to 120°C). Other models can get even more detailed and wider ranges, or are designed for different distances.  But for my purposes, that was more than enough.

But why was I using this?  Well, about 95% pure curiosity.  There’s been a lot of talk on using infrared to detect hidden motors in bikes, however the UCI themselves has downplayed that and instead gone with other magnetic based scanning technologies they say are more accurate.

I actually took a bunch of videos of various riders.  Plus a handful of photos.  I was curious what I’d see on a real-life Tour de France day out in the heat.  Here’s one image:

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I can actually use the app and look back at any given image in a split-screen function to show me the original non-FLIR image that was captured:

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Now here’s why I suspect that UCI has said that infrared just isn’t the right tech for measuring this.  Let me add in the temperature of just the front rim on another rider (120°F/48°C):

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And here’s the temperature of the bottom bracket area at 101°F (38°F), and the rear hub at 106°F (41°C):

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As you can see, on a typical summer day – these temperatures are extremely high.  More than enough to likely cover up any tiny hidden motor in the bike frame.  That also doesn’t mention the fact that actually getting readings of a rider mid-ride wouldn’t be easy. In my case I only had a single cyclist at a time to worry about, but the cyclist is only in front of you for about 1.5 seconds long (at usable distances for the resolution of these systems).  Not very long at all. Sure you could run a moto next to the guy, but then the rider will easily see that and shut it off.  Drones are also possible, but pretty obvious.

Next, in a normal non-TT stage there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ on the roadway blocking views.  Team cars, official motos, media motos, fans, other cyclists, etc… It’s just not as clean and simple as some TV programs would have you believe.

Still, I think it’s interesting – and perhaps some day the tech will make sense (i.e. a very cold stage with little other stuff around).  But I’d be hesitant to say that it could be applied in any consistently reliable manner in typical summer day stage in the Tour de France.

If you’re looking for all my past Tour de France posts, check out this link here.  Also, I have my Tour de France spectating guide and tips here.  Enjoy!

(Photography side note: Everything in this post was taken with a Nikon D500 DX DSLR, an 18-55 lens, and a Sigma 10-20mm lens.  I didn’t have space for a telephoto lens in my backpack when all packing was said and done.  There’s a handful of iPhone photos in here, easily identified as the name of the photo starts with a date.)

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16
Tour de France 2016: The Trainers & Power Meters of the Pro Teams http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/tdf2016-trainers-power-pro-teams.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/tdf2016-trainers-power-pro-teams.html#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:45:28 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62571 Read More Here ]]> DSC_4970

Yesterday I spent the day at Stage 18 of the Tour de France.  One of the advantages of this particular stage is it’s a time trial.  This means that each rider races individually, with the first rider of the day starting around 10:45AM, and the last rider of the day finishing around 5PM.  This means that at the starting area the teams are visible at the buses and busy/active virtually all day long.

Which in turn means there’s tech (and new tech) available to photograph all day long.  Further, since all riders will warm-up for varying time lengths on the trainers, they’re actually out and visible.  One rider’s warm-up had him doing about 40 minutes or so on a trainer prior to the start.  Whereas a regular stage may see no riders warming up on trainers, thus, they aren’t brought out for every stage.

Meanwhile, in the power meter (PM) world you’ll often get teams trying out new tech in the later days of the Tour, and that includes new power meters or updated prototypes of previously known power meters.  There was more than one team riding prototype units out there.

Before we move on, remember one thing with pro teams and gear: They’re all sponsored.  Companies pay for sponsorship of a team, and/or provide gear for free in exchange for visibility.  It’s the way the industry works.  For trainer and PM tech, it’s more commodity than other bike parts, and thus to a large degree the highest bidder will win.

Oh, and lastly, there are two specific new things not seen before or published anywhere else that I managed to find.  One each in the trainer and power meter section.

Trainers of the Tour:

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When it comes to trainers, they’re virtually always team-wide sponsorship’s.  This means that the whole team is all using the same brand of trainer, albeit sometimes differing models.  In many cases teams will choose trainer models that work without power for use on the Tour, which may skew them away from higher end computerized models – as many high-end models require being plugged in.  Sure, team buses can provide such power (and they do in some cases), but it’s just one more thing that a team has to deal with on race morning.

As such, the vast majority of the Elite sponsored teams are likely using additional other higher-end connected trainers when not in a race situation.  But for the purpose of today’s listing, I’m just focused on what was there and present on race day.

With that, first is an overall chart of what’s being used:

Tour de France 2016: Trainers

Team NameBrandProduction or UnreleasedModels Used
AG2R La MondialeEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
AstanaTacxProductionNEO Smart
BMC Racing TeamEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
Bora–Argon 18TacxProductionSatori Smart
Cannondale–DrapacKineticProductionRoad Machine Smart
CofidisTacxProductionNEO Smart
Dimension DataLemondProductionRevolution
Direct ÉnergieTacxProductionNEO Smart
Etixx–Quick-StepTacxProductionNEO Smart, Satori Smart
FDJEliteProductionVolano - Turbo Roteo
Fortuneo–Vital ConceptEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
Giant–AlpecinEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
IAM CyclingEliteProductionReal Turbo Muin B+
KatushaEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
Lampre–MeridaEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+, Real Turbo Muin B+
Lotto–SoudalEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
LottoNL–JumboTacxProductionNEO Smart
Movistar TeamEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
Orica–BikeExchangeEliteProductionQubo Power Smart B+
Team SkyWahoo FitnessProduction & UnreleasedKICKR, KICKR NextGen
TinkoffTacxProductionNEO Smart
Trek–SegafredoCycleOpsProductionSupermagneto Pro, Jet Fluid Pro, Fluid2

Next, here’s a gallery of trainer goodness, with a pic from each team.  You can hover over them to get the picture label specifying each team name.

AG2R Astana BMC Bora-Argon18 Cannondale Cofidis DimensionData Direct-Energie Etixx–Quick-Step FDJ Fortuneo Giant IAM Katusha Lampre Lotto-Jumbo Lotto-Soudal Movistar Orica Team-Sky Tinkoff Trek–Segafredo

It’s interesting to see that Tacx basically has everyone on the NEO’s across the board, minus two team’s with some Satori Smart units around.  Likely they just wanted some quick and light trainers to have available without taking a wheel off.

Similarly, on the Elite – virtually every team is using the same model, albeit a much lower end model (but it does transmit ANT+/Bluetooth Smart).  Again, in a warm-up scenario they don’t need a lot of complexity, so this works quite well.

Wahoo KICKR (new) Prototype:

On the prototype side, Wahoo was not-so-quietly showing off a new trainer (minus providing any details).  It can easily be picked out by the ‘look at me’ yellow styling:

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Here’s a bit closer look at it.

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While at first glance many might of mistaken it for a regular KICKR, there are actually a number of tweaks to the two units when you look at them side by side:

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A couple of obvious differences:

– Addition of a grey handle up top (and removal of the old handle)
– Different lower flywheel shell design (including a slight pop-out section)
– Change in the belt design (less inset than before)
– Addition of ANT+/Bluetooth Smart logos along top
– Yellow themed flywheel

Of course, Wahoo is keeping mum on the topic (despite Team Sky tweeting it out) and broadcast TV showing Froome warming up on it.  The unit was there for a good solid 6-8 hours yesterday, however I didn’t get to hear it in operation during the time I was there.  However rumor is it was quieter than a regular KICKR when Froome was on it, but given it’s outside where sound is easily absorbed, one has to take that with a grain of salt.  It still has a belt with grooves, so there will definitely be some noise there (though many have suggested ways of cutting down that noise significantly through different belts).

Also of note is that while the team bus had two yellow-themed units, the other unit I saw was definitely just an old KICKR with a new flywheel sticker. In any case, I’m sure as we near Eurobike we’ll hear more, though it certainly falls in line with rumors out there of a new KICKR for the upcoming season.  Plus, I get the feeling Wahoo was looking to stir things up a bit here, else they certainly wouldn’t have had Froome ride it, knowing TV cameras would be covering him during the warm-up.

Power Meters of the Tour:

DSC_5144

Now remember, like trainers, I would place almost no value on why one team chooses a given tech over another team.  Sure in marketing spin a team will say that they get something magical from one power meter over another, but in reality, that magic is called money.  We see teams switch between PM’s as soon as a better offer comes along – even when that offer is sub-par in capabilities.

Also, you’ll see many cases where teams will be running units for the whole season that aren’t yet available to consumers.  That’s in particular the case with 4iiii and Stages (left only power meters), where the teams (Team Sky and Etixx–Quick-Step) are in some cases using dual versions that aren’t shipping (or even offered in Stages case) to consumers.  Plus of course the Quarq prototype example below.

Then there’s some cases teams have an official sponsor for a given power meter, but aren’t actually using it.  That’s the case with Look for example, where Fortuneo-Vital Concept isn’t actually using the Look KEO power meter in the Tour, but just using the pedals.  You’ll remember this being very similar to Garmin Vector pedals a few years back, with only a portion of the team actually using it.  In the case of Garmin, that was due to it being more complex for team mechanics.  I suspect the same may be true with Look, given the pod-like nature of their unit that’s structurally similar to Garmin.

With that – here’s the run-down of where teams stand.

Tour de France 2016: Power Meters

Team NameBrandProduction or UnreleasedModels Used
AG2R La MondialeQuarq (SRAM)Production & UnreleasedSRAM RED power meter, Unknown RED Prototype
AstanaSRMProductionCampagnolo Variant
BMC Racing TeamSRMProductionShimano Variant
Bora–Argon 18Power2MaxProduction & UnreleasedType S, Unknown new model
Cannondale–DrapacN/AProductionSRM Cannondale Variant
CofidisSRMProductionFSA Variant
Dimension DataROTORProduction2InPower
Direct ÉnergiePower2MaxProductionType S
Etixx–Quick-Step4iiiiProduction & Unreleased4iiii Left Leg (only), 4iiii Gen2 Dual
FDJShimanoUnreleasedShimano Power Meter Prototype
Fortuneo–Vital ConceptLookN/ANot actually using
Giant–AlpecinPioneerProductionGen2 Dual-Leg Units (SGY-PM910H2)
IAM CyclingSRMProductionShimano Variant
KatushaQuarq (SRAM)ProductionSRAM RED power meter
Lampre–MeridaROTORProductionInPower, 2InPower
Lotto–SoudalSRMProductionCampagnolo Variant
LottoNL–JumboPioneerProductionGen2 Dual-Leg Units (SGY-PM910H2)
Movistar TeamPower2MaxProductionType S
Orica–BikeExchangeSRMProductionShimano Variant
Team SkyStages PowerProduction & UnreleasedGen2 Stages Power, Dual Pre-Prod
TinkoffSRMProductionShimano Variant
Trek–SegafredoSRMProductionShimano Variant

And for fun, here’s the run-down of photo galleries with pics of each power meter company on almost all the team bikes:

AG2R Astana BMC Bora-Argon18 Cannondale Cofidis DimensionData Direct-Energie Etixx-Quick-Step Fortuneo IAM Katusha Lampre Lotto-Jumbo Lotto-Soudal Movistar Orica Team-Sky Tinkoff Trek–Segafredo

So, about those prototypes:

Quarq (SRAM): Yesterday I found a single rider from AG2R that was using a prototype Quarq power meter.  This unit was mounted to a SRAM RED crank arm, however lacked any of the obvious spider backed components typically found on a Quarq power meter. Since the rider had just started his warm-up I was unable to find a different vantage point before I had to run elsewhere.

Quarq-Prototype-2016-Power-Meter

My guess would either be a bottom-bracket style power meter, or something built straight into the crank arms themselves.  I suppose it’s possible they’ve reduced the chainring attachment size so much to make it totally invisible from the side I was on, but that seems unlikely since other competitors are still quite visible from further away.  Further, it’s also possible it could be no power meter at all, and just a logo shell of nothing, but given every other bike in the collection had power on it, it’s highly unlikely a single bike would have no power yet still have a Quarq logo (especially on a time-trial stage where power is most critical).

You’ll see they’ve added a Quarq ‘Power Ready’ logo (using the Quarq Symbol), which hasn’t been used anywhere else to my knowledge.

Quarq-Prototype-2016-Power-Ready

Note that only the one rider from the team was using it yesterday, all other riders were using standard Quarq SRAM RED units.

Stages: Team Sky is running a blend of both single-leg Stages (standard production offering), as well as dual-leg editions (not currently offered to consumers).  The dual-leg one hasn’t really changed much since the various prototypes we’ve seen over the past two years.  You’ll remember some additional (and much better) pics I took of it back at Paris-Roubaix in my tech section.

Team-Sky

4iiii: Etixx-Quick-Step is running a blend of both single-leg 4iiii Precision units (standard production offering), as well as dual-leg editions (not currently offered to consumers).  Their dual-leg version that as previously shown off at Sea Otter, was announced today as being available (shipping) starting next week.

4iiii-Prototype

Power2Max: On one of Bora-Argon 18’s bikes there was a single unattributed Power2Max model.  This model looks similar to the Type S, except that the battery/electronics pod is now placed perpendicular to the crank arm, versus with all other Type S units it’s aligned to it.

Bora-Argon18-Prototype-P2M

Phew! Lots of details to consider!  But definitely to me the two biggies were whatever Quarq and Wahoo have up their sleeves.

I’ll round-up the more casual ‘enjoying the stage’ aspect in tomorrow’s post.  And then of course we have Sunday’s final stage in Paris, which I’ll definitely be out and about at as well!

Thanks for reading!

(Side note: I generally don’t talk about rumors and/or unreleased products on the site.  However, when a company rides something in the Tour de France you’re fair game as far as I (and every other media outlet) is concerned.  Especially a time trial stage where products are left out in the open for 6-8 hours.  Enjoy!)

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Zwift & Tacx launch ability to shake your trainer riding cobblestones. For real. http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/tacx-neo-road-patterns.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/tacx-neo-road-patterns.html#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62531 Read More Here ]]> DSC_4842

So here’s the thing – every time I go to Eurobike, Interbike, CES, or some other trade show I’m always asked the same thing by virtually everyone in every booth I visit: “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen thus far?”

And honestly, my answers are always kinda blah.  The reason isn’t that there isn’t cool products or neat stuff.  But rather it’s usually minor evolutions of existing things.  Innovations that those who follow the industry know are coming and it was merely a matter of the product being formally released.  Rarely are they game changers, and rarely do they deliver a ‘Holy crap that’s cool!’ moment.  Sometimes it’s more about the ‘Holy crap’ moment than a new data metric.

To give you examples of ‘holy crap’ moments for me over the last 3-4 years, we have the introduction of the Wahoo KICKR in 2012, which completely changed the trainer landscape. Then there was the 24×7 wearable heart rate/body sensor sticker two years ago at CES.  Both of those were totally different than the norm.  It doesn’t take away from the required innovation and pricing shifts of everything else, but sometimes something is just cool.

And this year I’ll finally have a decent answer for the question at Eurobike: The Tacx NEO Road Patterns.

Seriously.  This is without question the coolest thing I’ve seen all year.  Then again, Eurobike is still to come…

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Let me explain what road patterns are.

TACX NEO Road Patterns:

DSC_4812

As of today, Tacx has enabled road patterns in the Tacx NEO smart trainer, which means that it can simulate the feeling of riding over different road conditions.  Yes, it actually shakes your trainer when you hit rougher terrain.  It uses the motor inside the NEO frame at millisecond frequencies to essentially shudder the trainer, providing the feeling of different road patterns.  It’s sorta like armpit farting – with enough creativity and speed, you can create wonderful works of art.  In this case, replica art of various road conditions.

The NEO can replicate the following nine road patterns:

Concrete plates
Cattle grid
Cobblestones (hard)
Cobblestones (soft)
Brick road
Off road (compact dirt)
Gravel
Ice
Wooden boards

Plus of course, no simulation at all – just standard pavement.  About the only conditions I can think of not covered would be mushy stuff – like mud, soft snow, and sand.  I suppose that leaves room for growth, right?

App developers can leverage these new modes via both an ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart API.  Further, each road pattern has an intensity level from 0 to 100%, thus allowing a developer to control how much cobblestone pain you’ll receive.

So how does it feel?

Surprisingly realistic.

At least some of them do.  For example, I find the Wooden Boards, Cobblestones and Concrete Plates to be the most accurate.  It’s an almost perfect replication of what each of those surfaces feel like.  For things like off-road (compact dirt), it’s a bit tougher since most of the time you get nuances to compact dirt such as divots and random variations that aren’t really replicable here.`

You may be wondering what training value it could bring.  If that’s your thinking, my guess is that you’ve never had to ride cobbles for extended periods of time during a race (you should feel blessed).  One could easily see how you could train using the harder cobblestone profile with higher intensities for longer periods during workouts.  This would be valuable if you didn’t live in a place with cobblestones (‘Merica) and then were planning a race where they existed (Europe).

But then again – why does everything have to have a specific training purpose?  After all, Zwift itself is largely entertainment built around the premise of cycling.  With this free update, Tacx is able to increase the realism of riding a trainer.  And I presume that people who buy $1,600 trainers want realism.  The road patterns can also be found within the Tacx Cycling app (Tablets) films, Tacx Training Software (PC) films and VR.

Note that other Tacx trainers lack the hardware to be able to pull this off.  All of those trainers have belts and other parts that simply can’t do what the NEO can in terms of creating a giant vibrator.

Zwift Integration:

DSC_4831

Speaking of Zwift, as of today they rolled out their support for NEO road patterns.  This means that as of this evening if you have the latest Tacx NEO firmware update you’ll get road patterns automatically as you ride over them.  So as you start your Zwift ride you’ll likely be on pavement, which means you won’t feel anything until you find some rough road.  But as you cross over onto another surface – such as compact dirt, cobblestones (like in the Richmond UCI course), or wooden boards (like in Watopia over the water) you’ll near instantly feel the shift by the trainer, which also will near perfectly match what you hear in the audio from Zwift.

Zwift can actually leverage both control mechanisms for enabling/disabling the road patterns on the NEO.  You can either pair your trainer using Bluetooth Smart and the mobile app, or ANT+ in the desktop app.  Either way, road patterns will work.  You may notice slight differences between the two modes in terms of when you cross the threshold between pavement and off-road.

In trying the desktop ANT+ variant out, it was switching on/off in about half a second, so plenty fast.  As you might imagine, Zwift has an advantage compared to other apps in that it knows/tells the road surface at all times.  Whereas an app that may simulate riding a video shot in the realm world would have to painstakingly transcribe the road conditions for the entire ride.  For example, do you enable every little section of concrete pavers when you cross over a crosswalk or other brief change?

No worries, I suppose that’s for app developers to decide as they implement it.  In the meantime, we have Zwift and it works great there.  Tacx noted that Zwift was able to enable this within their platform in only a single evening of coding, so it’s pretty straightforward for developers.

Here’s a quick look at how it works on Zwift in this video I put together:

Wait…there’s more!

DSC_4848

Wait, they weren’t done at making your life miserable by shaking your bike over cobbles.  No, you’ve now also got the ability to enable Isokinetic and Isostatic modes.  Or at least apps now have that ability.

I know, you’re now asking yourself: What the heck are those?  Is that like iodine?

No, it’s not.  Though both if used in excessive quantities can cause you pain in training.  Here’s the definitions of both:

Isokinetic Mode: This is used for training at low RPM with high wattages, but at a set speed. The trainer will keep you from accelerating above the set speed and thus force you at very low RPM’s with lots of wattage (which is typically tough to do on trainers).

Isostatic Mode: This is also for training, and forces you to apply even/constant force around the entire pedal stroke.  It’s really a bit of a mind-boggle when you try and pedal as it can be very difficult if you don’t apply even resistance the entire way around.

With these Iso modes, Tacx isn’t yet making them available directly to end consumers.  Apps however can leverage them today.  Tacx is working to figure out the best way to bring the new modes to their own apps in terms of training benefit, and they’re working with various coaches to sort that out.  But again, 3rd parties can use the API today to access these.

Also, Tacx has been rolling in various Neo firmware tweaks recently too, these include/add:

– Increased flywheel inertia feeling
– Power mode faster at set point
– Faster standby mode to switch-off internal fan

And finally, if you’re just buying a NEO, there’s been some minor tweaks along the way.  First was to resolve some initial quality control tweaks last fall (so those changes are way-old now), but also more recently they’ve adjusted the external case/shell on the NEO to be compliant with more bike frames.  There are no differences otherwise in those models internally and unless you knew what to look for on the shell, you wouldn’t likely be able to tell the difference.

Oh – and in case you’re wondering on future models from the company, Tacx says that they believe this is the most advanced trainer for the 2016-2017 season (either from them or the market at large).  While we have yet to see what the rest of their competitors bring to market at Eurobike in late August, it certainly stands to reason this will certainly be one of the top trainer for consumers – if not the top model.

With that – thanks for reading!

[Note: My ‘Everything you want to know about the Tacx NEO post can be found here.]

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First Look at the New DCR Babymaker Product Tester http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/first-look-at-the-new-dcr-babymaker-product-tester.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/first-look-at-the-new-dcr-babymaker-product-tester.html#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 11:03:13 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62515 Read More Here ]]> DSC_4769

Our first product tester in residence has now arrived! Heck, she even arrived via Velib bike with a polka-dot wrap.

Despite joining us just two weeks ago she already been out testing various devices. From heart rate sensors to weight scales to baby cams. Thus far she’s pretty much not a fan of any device she’s been given to test.  But I’m sure she’ll come around eventually.  After all…who doesn’t like 24×7 HR wrapped in a tiny sock?

Unlike most products she tests, she was actually ahead of schedule – albeit giving up her most Frenchly possible planned due date of Bastille Day.  Instead she threaded the needle between Canada Day and Independence Day.  Appropriate, given her nationalities.

While she was born in Paris, she won’t get Baguette and Beret citizenship anytime soon.  Instead, she’ll soon gather both American and Canadian citizenship (yesterday was passport picture day…and it was hilarious…she’s gonna hate us someday).  And if we’re here long enough, she can eventually pickup her French credentials.  But if nothing else, she’ll always have a birth certificate that says Paris.

One thing’s for certain though – she’s gonna love testing out action cams.  Even from a mere 12 hours after birth (below), she was hamming it up for the camera.  Just wait for what happens once you give her photo and video review responsibilities.

DSC_3897 DSC_3872

While we contemplated taking her home via Velib bicycle, the baskets lacked a proper seatbelt.  French law requires parents depart the hospital in a proper car seat, and apparently the baggage/bike lock on the Velib doesn’t fulfill that requirement.

So instead I drove the Autolib home.  This is also noteworthy since it’s the same mode of transport that we took getting to the hospital while The Girl was in labor.  The second time around was much less agonizing since we stopped for Starbucks on the way home.

DSC_3973 DSC_3979

Her testing tasks thus far haven’t yet quite included the BOB Running Stroller, but we have been making use of her regular stroller and getting her parent’s wrist based activity trackers all confused by pushing the stroller everywhere.  To the park, lunches at cafes, dinner at a restaurant, picnics, H&M, Starbucks, and more.  Given it’s just The Girl and I taking care of her here (and without owning a car), she’s always going out and about with us in the Cow Seat – which is the semi-official name for her stroller seat.

IMG_1868

When she’s not rolling around town, she can usually be found watching the Tour de France during the afternoons – even from Day 1. Typically she’s a fan of mountain stages, but she put up with the flat stages for the first week while at the hospital.

BabyDCR-LeTour

The rest of the time, she can be found hanging out in her crib. Kinda like the show MTV Cribs, though in a stylish baby-chic kinda way. The bunny currently occupies her WiFi weight scale.

The Girl did all the design work there, and it looks great.  And speaking of great, The Girl is doing very well since releasing her first product.

DSC_4159

Finally – for those wondering about little Lucy, she’s adapting quite well.  When the baby cries, Lucy goes around and gathers up her dog toys and tries to offer them to the baby, hoping that one of them will do the trick.  Basically Lucy is the baby’s miniature soigneur.

DSC_4685

With that, it’s time to get back to watching over the little nugget…or…eating my ice cream.  On second thought…I’ll do both.

Thanks for reading!

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Week in Review–July 17th, 2016 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/week-in-reviewjuly-17th-2016.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/week-in-reviewjuly-17th-2016.html#comments Sun, 17 Jul 2016 12:18:10 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62493 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week.

Sunday: Week in Review–July 10th, 2016 (Don’t forget Fenix3 25% deal ends today, details in this post)
Wednesday: Hands-on with Garmin’s new Edge 820 with mapping
Friday: How I capture photos while openwater swimming (some great pics/tips from DCR readers added to comments since this post)
Saturday: European Readers: Clever Training Europe is here!

Almost back up to full speed this past week after settling into a bit of a routine with Le Bébé!

DCR Podcast!

Here’s a handful of the topics discussed in this past week’s podcast:

[Once Ben stops fluffing around on his bike with his RV in the mountains, we’ll record something new. Probably tonight.]

Listen to the full podcast here on the Podcast player, or just download the most recent one directly here.

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet:

1) Uber begins using bicycles in DC for food delivery: Makes complete sense, especially since in many cities bicycle delivered food driven by apps is already commonplace.

2) See.Sense goes on Crowd Cube for investors: See.Sense makes those cool connected bike lights I showed off last fall.  This is more than Kickstarter though, as in this case backers actually get legit equity.  Interesting stuff, and impressive in less than 2 days they’ve already raised 300K.

3) NBC (USA) outlines their online streaming plans for Rio: Which roughly amounts to everything is broadcast online live, except for the opening ceremonies, which is delayed by an hour.

4) Quarq acquires Kickstarter project: Interesting to see SRAM (which Quarq is a part of) going out and snatching up Kickstarter projects. You’ll remember Garmin did something similar two years ago with the Backtracker project, which ultimately became Varia Radar.

5) Get zapped every time a friend beats Strava segment: Well then, that’s pretty…umm…shocking. (via Ryan)

6) A look at GoPro’s 360° Camera? Perhaps…just perhaps. Though, this has quite a bit of backend support below the bike casing.  So it’s hard to say how that would be separated (some of that is for the live broadcasting system).  Of course, the stitching they show is still pretty rough.  If they can resolve the stitching through software, this solution blows away most other consumer options on the market in terms of quality.  But then again…this may not end up being a consumer solution.

7) I’ll be showing off something really cool on Tuesday evening: I can’t say more yet, but…if you’re on Zwift on Tuesday evening at 8:00PM Central European Time (2:00PM US Eastern) – I’ll be there.  Oh, and I’ll also be Periscoping it to be able to see it in action (so follow me on Twitter).

8) Brim Brothers and LIMITS push back power meter deliveries again: The last few days haven’t been terribly awesome for power meter companies trying to break into the market.

9) 11 Water Bottles in 30 Seconds: Not too shabby at all! (via Race Radio)

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners are perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?  Oh – and if you want to get a head start on things, this page is a great resource for watching Garmin firmware updates.

Wahoo ELEMNT Firmware Update: Bug fixes.

Garmin Vivoactive Firmware Update: Bug fix with sleep detection.

Garmin Vivofit: Performance tweaks.

Garmin Vivosmart: Improvements and bug fixes.

Garmin Fenix3/Fenix3 HR/Tactix Bravo/Quatix 3 BETA firmware update: Adds support for non-native music app control, improves 24×7 data precision (F3HR), floors climbed and more.  F3HR download here.

Connect IQ 2 related firmware updates: These are updates for giving a new Connect IQ beta version for devs to work with.  Across numerous devices: Edge 1000, Edge 520, Forerunner 230, Forerunner 235, Forerunner 630, Forerunner 920XT

Thanks for reading all!

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European Readers: Clever Training Europe is here! http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/clever-training-europe.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/clever-training-europe.html#comments Sat, 16 Jul 2016 15:02:19 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62484 Read More Here ]]> image

With about half y’all outside North America, it’s time to get you the same 10% discount that my US readers get from my partnership with Clever Training.  And there’s no better company to do that with than Clever Training themselves!

Yup, Clever Training is now operational in Europe.  A few months ago they opened up a European locale and a number of DCR readers have been ‘beta testing’ the platform since.

Those long time readers will remember I partnered up with Clever Training four years ago this fall, with the goal to partner with a sports-tech focused company that also gives DCR readers a great deal.  And while Clever Training has long shipped worldwide (and still does, usually for a $29 flat-rate charge) – it left overseas readers with a customs/duties/taxes import issue – especially going into the EU.  Well this solves that!

Beginning back in the April timeframe I started rolling out the links to a handful of reviews, enabling folks to try it out and help with any feedback.  So far so good!

So what do folks in Europe get?  Basically the same as the folks in the US, except that it’s shipped from here so you’ll get it faster and without getting nailed on taxes from the US.

  • Same 10% DCR Discount on everything non-sale/non-clearance (no VIP membership required in Europe!) – use coupon code DCR10MHD
  • Free shipping over a certain threshold (still in flux, but right now at 95EUR)
  • All VAT/Taxes included, so you won’t get that
  • Ships from the UK, direct to every country in Europe
  • Two options for shipping for those that need it right away
  • All the same great brands

Now as with any operation that’s finding its groove, there will continue to be tweaks.  Be it price, shipping policies, and certainly products.  They’ve been expanding products weekly, essentially working from the list of most popular products on the use side of the house.  This means today you’ll find things like:

All the Garmin goods
All the Polar goods
All the Suunto stuff
PowerTap P1 pedals
Scosche Rhythm+ optical HR strap
PowerPod
Tacx NEO
…and much more!

But there’s many more brands coming online, and if there are suggestions for specific products that folks want to see sooner – feel free to drop those in the comments.

If you’re looking for the links, they’ll generally be at the end of every review in the tables, but it’s often easier to find them on the sidebar:

CTUK (1)

Or, you can just hit up the Clever Training Europe site and search for what you want.  Just remember to use the DCR code of DCR10MHD to save 10%.

Oh, and before anyone gets all Brexit concerned, CT has already been looking at options to open a continental Europe based operation depending on the eventual trade agreements reached.  But like every other business in Europe, there’s still far too many unknowns. But fear not, it’s something CT started even before the vote.

In the event you run into any troubles, you can contact the numbers on the site.  Or, to make your life easier you can just e-mail: sales@clevertraining.co.uk (don’t worry, it goes straight to a real-life human that I talk with 18 times a day).

With that – thanks for reading, and supporting the site!

(P.S. – To get things cookin’, they’re doing a huge monthly giveaway for European folks, swing on over to enter!)

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How I capture photos while openwater swimming http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/how-i-capture-photos-while-openwater-swimming.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/07/how-i-capture-photos-while-openwater-swimming.html#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 11:22:26 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=62474 Read More Here ]]> DSC_3083

(Both The Girl and I are incredibly sad about the attack that occurred in Nice last night.  Bastille Day – La fête nationale- is our favorite day of the year here in France, and is incredibly special on so many levels.  It’s all about community and enjoying the day with not just friends and family, but also people you’ve never met.  It’s as much about celebrating French unity as it is about celebrating your neighborhood and those around you.  It breaks our heart to see what happened yesterday on such a special day in such a special place to so many innocent people.)

As regulars know, I take photos across pretty much all my activities…swim…bike…run…cake delivery…you name it!  But there’s one activity that seems to cause the most confusion and questions: Openwater swimming.

Without fail, anytime I post a picture during an openwater swim (training or racing) I get a tidal wave of questions on what camera I use and where I put the camera.  So I’m here to give you the answers.  And given it’s a Friday, we’ll keep this semi-quick!

For years I’ve been taking photos during openwater swims, both training and racing.  Typically for racing I usually take them at the very beginning right before the starting gun, and then again usually somewhere in T1 (Transition 1), running from the water to my bike rack.  For training, it just depends on if I find something interesting along the way.  However, my technique is largely the same.

First let’s talk cameras.  I almost always use a GoPro Hero4 Silver.  I do this for two reasons: First, is that it’s my favorite action cam.  But second is that it has a screen. Oh, and third, it’s not so small that I’ll lose it fumbling around underwater (looking at you Hero4 Session).

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In the past I’ve also used a number of small point and shoot cameras from the Pentax and Panasonic Lumix waterproof series.  I find they actually tend to produce better individual photos than the GoPro’s do, but the GoPro gives me more versatility.  In unrelated news, I ran over one of my last little Pentax cameras with a rental car in San Francisco.  Actually, technically I didn’t run over it – but rather the car behind me did after it flew off my roof.  I was merely an accessory.

Here’s a photo I took from one of the point and shoot ones camera during the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon:

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Anyway, so the first step is using a waterproof camera that’s easy to utilize underwater.  Next, remember to lick the camera lens.  Seriously, lick it.  It keeps the water droplets from pooling on it when above water, and is cheaper than buying anything designed for that purpose.  It’s a well known trick of any frequent aquatic GoPro user.  But to be clear: You’re licking the outside of the GoPro lens case, not the actual GoPro lens inside itself.

Next is finding a place for that camera while I’m actually swimming.  I put the camera in precisely one of two spots.  For swims with wetsuits, I simply slide the camera a few centimeters down the neckline of my wetsuit.  This way it’s out of the way, but also easily grabbable.  Here:

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If the camera has a small strap on it, I’ll usually leave the strap hanging out of my wetsuit – simply to make it easier to grab.  But I never really have issues with the cameras going anywhere, as my wetsuit is snug.  If your wetsuit is so loose that your camera slides around, then…you need a new wetsuit.

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What about non-wetsuit swims?  For that I place it on the leg of my swimsuit (jammer or triathlon style).  I find that jammer/tri style swimsuits are ideal for holding the camera.  As long as the swimsuit is snug it’ll easily hold it. I just slide it a few inches up the swimsuit.  This way I can easily feel for it on any swim stroke, since my hand goes right by my thigh.

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For women without a wetsuit/trisuit…umm….I don’t have a great solution there. The Girl when wearing a one-piece has occasionally just placed it down the top and that’s held fairly well.  And on a two-piece she’s used the little string on some cameras to just tie it on the side of the bottoms.  Not ideal, but works in non-rough water.  Perhaps you could use a simple SPIbelt and then just wear that if you wanted it along. That would keep it relatively streamlined.

Oh, and solving one last curiosity – one time I also tried putting a GoPro on my swim buoy, to try and capture both a time-lapse and live broadcast of the swim.  I did this during a week long trip to Malta.  Turns out that makes the swim buoy top heavy and then it flips over…giving you more of an underwater view.  Plus, sticky mounts come off there near instantly.  So you have to use a strap of some sort (I used a Polar HR strap and put the sticky mount on top of the transmitter pod).  I’m sure someday I’ll try this method again.

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So there ya have it – everything you ever wanted to know about how I take photos during openwater swims.

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Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

(Note: I tend to keep this page here updated with all my photography gear…though, it looks like it needs a few items refreshed.  Will get that knocked out today!)

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