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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Here’s what I was up to over the last few days as summer slowly starts to wind down (and finally cool down!).

1) A bit of playing with the Garmin Varia radar & Edge 1000 update

Sometimes I have all the parts for things, and sometimes not.  In this case, I’d borrowed a Varia bike radar unit to play with for a few days while everyone is on vacation.  You’ll remember my previous write-up on it from last month.  As for not quite having all the parts, I didn’t grab the aero seatpost mount.  So instead I made my own.  I grabbed a pile of Garmin quarter-turn mount rubber bands, along with a simple quarter-turn mount itself.  Then I wrapped it around my toolkit water bottle and shoved it into the bottle cage.  Presto!

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(Note: the radar is the piece above attached to the bottle, the lower red thing is the Fly6)

The Varia uses a common quarter-turn mount, which is great for the ability of 3rd party companies to add support easily.

Garmin also released the Edge 1000 firmware update that added support for it on Thursday, which I hadn’t been able to test previously with Varia directly.  Essentially this lights up the side of the Edge display when cars approach, giving you a heads up on impending vehicles.  This definitely worked a lot better than the little standalone display unit.  They also added support for the tiny Edge 25 last week, but I haven’t paired the two yet.

You can see below how the edges of the display are a faint red (bad photo while riding), which warns me that a car is approaching.  Meanwhile the right edge had little dots/balls on it, one for each car.

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The whole thing continues to work fairly well for me across a wide range of city and forest/park quiet road riding.  But I’ll wait for final hardware though to lay down final judgment.

In the meantime, here’s a short video I shot on it explaining how it works (using the VIRB XE – I’m doubling down on getting product review stuff done this week).

I know some have asked for some details on how it works riding in a pack of other cyclists.  I didn’t have the chance to go out on a group ride this weekend, but perhaps if there’s a few Paris-based DCR readers that want to have some fun doing some tests on Wednesday or Thursday night (7PM or so) we can head to Longchamp or Bois de Vincennes and test out stuff there together doing loops.  Just drop a note in the comments.

2) A pre-run procession…err…march.

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Saturday was Assumption day (a church holiday), which is also a state holiday here in France (though, falling on Saturday this year means we don’t really get the day off).  Albeit most of the country is on vacation right now anyway.  It also means that the church of Notre Dame does a bit of a ceremony and looped march/parade around our neighborhood, including down the street in front of us.  I’m sure there’s a more technical church term for this than parade (Update: Procession!).

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This happened right as I was about to head out for my long run.  The route (of the march) differs slightly each year, though it’s generally no more than about a mile.

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The front is led by folks from within the church, and then followed by parishioners (and some wandering tourists as well).

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Meanwhile each year Avis supplies a healthy number of rental vans to broadcast the audio down the street (a mix of what I presume to be a sermon, and music).

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I watched for about 10-15 minutes as it moved and stopped repeatedly going down the street, then I headed out for my long run.

3) A long run…through a refugee camp

It’s interesting that in many ways despite how connected the world is, you still can’t get a complete picture of which issues are truly talked about in other countries beyond the one you reside in.  For example, I read a number of US papers and news sites daily, but sometimes those skew towards various national or local issues – but they might often skip over different cultural/entertainment/local items that one might discuss more at the water cooler at work, or hear on the radio, etc…

Similarly, there are news items here (in France/Europe) that are major front page stories that may not even be visible or discussed in the US.  For example, the current refugee/migrant show-down that’s occurring in Calais on the UK/French border (it’s complex, you can read about it here at a high level, or this video is pretty good too).  While it may seem a world away to many tourists, it actually can often impact the Eurostar train operations, as well as ferries and other means of transport – so it’s not something so easily brushed aside as non-relevant.  Note that I’m providing this snippet here for backstory, but not to start a French vs UK vs migrant political discussion (there are plenty of other places on the interwebs to do that).

The point of all that as it relates to this post is that it’s not just an issue happening a few hundred miles away from me, but rather now present on one of my main running routes along the Seine, just one mile away from our home. Directly across the street from the beautiful gardens of the Jardin des Plantes, the crazy dinosour and bones museum (Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie), and even the little zoo.  So off in the woods this is not.

Earlier this spring we noticed an increase from what used to be precisely two (very friendly) long-term homeless gentleman on this route, to what can only be described as a sea of tents stretching a few hundred meters.  Albeit impressively nice camping tents (we’re not talking about homemade tarps here).

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It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I noticed they’d put up (self-made) signs declaring it a refugee camp, named after the train station above it.  What’s interesting to me is that while many might assume there is danger wandering around here, in reality this area is swarming with activity.  Even in the camps themselves – for example, here they are learning French:

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And later I’d see local French folks (not city officials) doing a large drop-off of clothes for them.  Most of these refugees are from either North African or Middle Eastern countries.

But beyond activity in the camp itself, it’s buzzing outside as well.  For example, this cross-fit session occurs directly in front of it (and there are many of these each day/week).

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Same goes for the numerous restaurants and bars that form a bit of a perimeter around it.

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And then of course, being on a running/cycling path – there’s a gazillion more people just roaming by.  Which isn’t to say it’s the absolute safest area of Paris, but at the same time – it’s also not something to really avoid either.

Oh, as for my run – after passing by the camp I kept going for a total of roughly a dozen miles, just cruising along through the parks and enjoying a sunny Saturday evening run.

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Gotta love quiet weekend long runs once you get out of the hum of the city.

4) Heading to the beach

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Sadly, this weekend is the final weekend of the beaches here in Paris.  You’ll remember a past post I did on them a few years ago.

We’ve run past it on some nights, but Sunday afternoon we headed over to get one last relaxation session just hanging out.  Given the temperatures were a bit cooler this weekend, it wasn’t quite as crowded.

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It’ll be interesting to see in future years once they close down that highway permanently next year, if they extend the beach season.  Given it’s only ‘alive’ for 4 weeks, seems awfully short given the amount of time and money they put into it.

5) The Bontrager ANT+ Lights

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Currently in the ‘Holy crap it’s been there a long time’ pile in the queue (along with plenty others I suppose) is the Bontrager lights.  These ANT+ enabled lights came out this spring and in many ways work similar to the Garmin lights that were announced in July.  With the Bontrager lights they also have a handy little remote-control up front though too.

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Anyway, the purpose of my curiosity testing this weekend was whether the Bontrager lights would work with the Edge 1000, given the new update supporting the Varia radar/lights.  My testing puts this in the category of ‘sorta’.  They pair, yes.  But that’s kinda where things end.  You can’t seem to pair more than one of them at a time (despite creating a light network), and when you do a test, it only half-responds.

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To be fair, I’m not entirely certain it should work (yet or ever) with the Garmin Edge 1000.  I’m also not entirely sure the Edge 1000 software is finished yet enough to work with it.  Finally, I’m not sure that the Edge is or will be using the standard ANT+ light controls for controlling Varia lights.  All things I hope will work in time, but we’ll see.  It’d be great to see more of this integration across other products.  For example, adding it into the Fly6 and Fly12 units would be pretty sweet (and in theory easy to do).

Anyway…back to writing reviews.  Thanks for reading!

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47 Comments

  1. Jose del Cueto

    Not a parade, it is called procession

  2. barrie

    Actually it was assumption day (every August 15 – my birthday as well), a holiday in a few Catholic countries. Ascension day varies (as it is linked to Easter), this year it was May 14.

  3. The “tents under the bridge” thing looks like Portland Oregon’s homeless population. Except they also operate bicycle chop shops, fueled by the high bike theft rate.

    link to twitter.com
    link to twitter.com
    link to kgw.com

    Also, hoping there are offers to ride with DC Rainmaker in about a month :)

  4. Nicholas Schmerler

    DC Rainmaker – I come to your site daily in hopes of having a new article/review to read about. The one that I am most interested in, and sadly hasn’t posted, is the Garmin Epix. I know others have asked before and I know your indicated a review would be posted late June/Early July (I forgive the delays) but I really hope the Epix is in your “short To-Do” review list and I am able to “read all about it” very soon.

    • John

      It’s already been reviewed. Check it out here…

      link to dcrainmaker.com

    • A full in-depth review is a long time and coming. It’s mostly been a balance of trying to get out last-minute product announcement posts (i.e. FR25, Polar M450, Wahoo KICKR SNAP, Edge 520, etc…) – all of which unfortunately take priority when there’s a specific timeline involved.

      There’s also just the factor that most of these other products have more interest than Epix. So while Epix is in the pipeline for very near term (we’ll see how productivity goes this week), I’m also aware that there’s far more interest in terms of people in the FR225, FR25, Edge 520, Polar M450, etc… So it’s a bit of a balance.

      Right now all of my ‘research’ and data gathering is done on Epix. Simply a case of finishing all the writing, which unfortunately is massive for multisport watches with mapping – especially around the accuracy pieces. There are a few minor things that were fixed/added in last week’s update I’m trying to validate as well.

    • Paul S

      Yeah, they basically broke the altimeter/barometer with 2.8… On the other hand, looks like they finally fixed the “3 times the actual distance” navigation problem.

    • Yeah, that’s sorta part of my ever-increasing problem. Each firmware update fixes issues I had, or breaks others. So a post today that shows solid accuracy in one section from data just two weeks ago is tough. But I also don’t have access to mountains every day either. Sigh.

  5. Nicholas Schmerler

    John – This was only Ray’s “initial” thoughts and was done before it was even available to order. Ray tends to provide a “much more” detailed review for products which is what I was requesting/inquiring on…

    DC Rainmaker – Correct me if I am wrong but you are still planning on posted a detailed epix review. I hope so…

  6. Mike Hensen

    Could you point me toward your review where you describe how to make that video that had your power, speed etc posted on the vid, ( while cycling through traffic one-handed shooting your butt, you were putting out over 200-300 watts, impressive)
    Is that the virb?
    Thanks

    • Yup, the VIRB XE. In my case I did it as one single shot and then used VIRB Edit to simply overlay the default cycling metrics (I deleted distance since it wasn’t really interesting in the context of that video).

      I snipped out the time sitting at the traffic light of course.

  7. pfff, that Mercedes from 1st photo

  8. W Persons

    A couple of weeks ago we took Eurostar from London and sat idling for a half hour or so just outside the channel tunnel due to intruders (refugees) in the tunnel. We’re back in the States now with a keen interest in the refugees’ plight. Not much information is available from the media on this side of the Atlantic so we look to the European sources. This is to say I appreciate the occasional non-workout comments on current affairs from your local point of view.

    • Jon Niehof

      The Economist’s coverage has been pretty good, very much emphasizing that this is a complex problem (interaction of European open borders, individual country policies, counter-revolution post-Arab Spring, etc. etc.). Partly I like reading them because they’re completely off the US left-right political axis; have to describe them as “somewhere between Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.” So not only do they provide the news that doesn’t get coverage in the US, they have an approach to solving problems in general that’s fairly underrepresented.

  9. Ukexpat

    Thanks for the Varia video – it’s on my list to my from CT. One question – what support were you using for the VIRB XE? Thanks again.

  10. Praveen

    Ray, I love that you felt worth mentioning about refugees in your blog, reflected your sensitivity to the life! Keep it up!

  11. Mike Hensen

    Agreed on your day in the life of Paris being great reading, and important facets of life abroad, as always enjoy reading, and if you were a lefty the vid would have been perfect ;-)

  12. Happy Runner

    Is there any option on the Edge 1000 to have the car indicator “strip” on the left side of the display, since that is the side the car will be passing you on? If not, I wonder what Garmin’s thought process was for putting it on the right, since left would be so much more intuitive?

    • Richard

      @happy runner… All depends really on which country your in and the side of the road you drive/ride in.

      Good point though as it should be configurable or detectable!

    • Happy Runner

      I certainly didn’t mean to insult Australia/New Zealand or England or its former colonies. It’s just that right hand drive is the world standard.

    • Richard

      No offence taken… for me at least I’m originally from the UK, but now live in the USA which would likely be one of the biggest markets. I would just like to see that they thought about this a bit too and made it configurable…. although I guess it wont be too high on their priority list :)

  13. Adam

    Hi Ray,

    I can see that You run quite a bit with Epix (guessing for the review). From the big 3 from Garmin (920, F3, Epix) how bulky do they feel exactly? I ve checked the dimentions, mainly the thickness that is of importance here, and they go 12,7mm – 15mm – 16mm respectively, but one thing is specs, other is the real feeling. Here in Greece, I have no chances of wearing / trying them on, only internet stores have them, and I am very much interested about the size/weight/bulkyness of the three. Currently I mostly use Suunto Ambit2, which is probably closest to Epix, and I dont find it comfortable at all for everyday use (running is ok, not great, but ok). I wonder how much different F3 is, or how much thinner 920 is? I mean Your feeling (or anyone else’s that wore the three of them?)

    • Gunnar

      Adam, I was at my local REI store yesterday and couldn’t help bugging the guy at the gadget counter and have him pull out an Epix and let me try it on.

      It was much lighter and less bulky then I thought. Ray described it as feeling similar to the 910xt, but to me it felt better on my wrist (my wrist is certainly not huge). I almost could imagine wearing it as everyday watch….but I’m also a gadget geek who doesn’t care much about watch style.

  14. Manuel

    Hello

    You mention in the video that sometimes motorbikes dont get detected ?”
    So this system isnt usable for detecting other cyclist in the wheel ?
    I know that it isnt designed for that purpose, But it tells how sensitive this sysem is.

    • No, I’ve not yet seen it detect other cyclists (at least 1-2 at a time). I suspect it’s tuned to avoid them.

      As for mopeds/motorcyclists, like I noted in the video it detects them about 90% of the time, but in cases where the speeds are very similar and if the moped was initially behind a car and kinda slipped out, it doesn’t seem to catch it. But again, it’s non-final so things might change.

  15. During the Tours the france 2015 the Trek team already drove with tail lights.

    (copyright: Bikeradar.com)

  16. Alex Loulier

    Ill be at longchamps from 7pm tonight for ~1h and on thursday (from 7pm again), if you need help. I’d like to check out the Varia for race settings as well as work commute!

    Alex

  17. Thomas Conti

    Hey Ray,

    I’ll def be at Bois de Boulogne on Wednesday evening, although you should have plenty of candidates to set off the radar anyway, I wonder if it has the range to detect the feet of the speed rollerbladers getting close.

  18. David

    Surprised that I read about this: link to macrumors.com
    On macrumors before your site.

    • Yeah, they sent me stuff about it last week – but they couldn’t provide a device. As a general rule of thumb I usually don’t write about stuff unless I have hands on.

  19. Chris

    “by folks from within the church, and then followed by parishioners ”

    So you mean “believers”! You forgot to describe the “rub-necker”. ;-)

  20. Jeff Miller

    In your video you have some HUD info, what are you recording that from?

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!

  21. Just wanted to say that I’ve really been enjoying your posts. I only discovered your blog recently and it’s been great going through some old posts. I’ve also gotten into writing some reviews myself (mostly running, some cycling) and hope to one day be at least half as successful as you are.

  22. gabe

    Ray

    I think the best feedback to get regarding the garmin varia is from the drivers passing you.

    Do the lights give you more awareness or caution around cyclists or is a blinky light just the same?

    Yes knowing that a car behind you could be useful in the circumstances when you may not look to make a left _ dangerous or perhaps if you’re drifting over from the bike lane.

  23. Richard Garrett

    I have been very curious about both of these tail lights.

    The Varia appears to be more for notification rather than illumination. I would like to have better situational awareness but not at the cost of visibility during the day or night. I am also very curious about how it reacts to being in a group of riders. It will be good to hear your thoughts on this on your detailed review.

    The Bontrager lights are a curious lot. They appear to have ample lumens for both the tail light and headlight but I am puzzled about the ANT+ usage. While it may be cool to be able to turn them on and off with my Edge 1000, I don’t know why I would feel the need to do this. Normally, I have my lights on at the beginning of my ride and with the exception of my headlight (which is right next to my Edge 1000), the setting doesn’t change.

    • Richard

      Some use case for the remote control that I can think of is:

      – Controlling brightness versus run time depending on the type of illumination you currently need. In some areas I would would go for run time, however perhaps I transition to a different and unfamiliar road where I suspect potholes and other hazards (even off-road etc) where I may then want the light to be at maximum.
      – Control of rear light when in a group riding scenario since it can get annoying for people directly behind you that don’t need the light blinking in their face.

    • Richard Garrett

      – The control of a rear light in a group scenario would be a good use case to change the light from day flash to night flash

      – Changing the brightness of the headlight using your Garmin computer and navigating through menus -vs- pushing a button on the headlight right next to the garmin? Not seeing it as a convenience. :)

  24. Jason

    Hi Ray,

    Any idea if the Varia will pair with the edge 810? I like the idea but don’t want anything else on my bars.

    Thanks!

    Jason

    • Unclear at this point on the extent of compatibility. I’ve asked more times than I can count and can’t really get a straight answer. So, I’ll corner some humans next week at Eurobike and see if I can get something clear.

  25. Patrick

    Is there a combo mount anywhere for a Garmin Edge (1000) and the Bontrager 800 RT?