DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:09:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.11 https://media.dcrainmaker.com/images/2017/03/dcrainmaker-dc-logo-square-40x40.png DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com 32 32 Best Bike Computer 2017: Garmin Edge 520 vs Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/best-bike-gps-2017-garmin-wahoo.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/best-bike-gps-2017-garmin-wahoo.html#comments Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:01:01 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76993 DSC_8587

There are two questions which reign supreme around these parts: Which watch to get, and which bike computer to get.  No other topic or subject area gets anywhere near as much debate or concentration as these two areas.

This post is all about bike computers, and in particular the most popular two bike computers out there right now: The Garmin Edge 520 and the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT.  It’s a bit of a showdown between the two units where I’m going to dive into all the details that you might want to consider (and then a bunch you probably never considered).

Of course, if you’ve got more questions about either one there’s always the full posts on both to give you total detail overload.  Not to mention the product comparison tool as well.  And failing all that, both full posts have nearly 2,500 comments between the two of them.  No, that’s not a typo.  There are some 2,550 comments published to those posts that go into extreme discussions about the most minute of things. Geek heaven.

The units I’m not including:

Before we dive too deeply, a lot of folks will ask about why I’m excluding other units.  Some will probably get all bent out of shape.  The simple answer is that I’m comparing what I think are the two market leader models, and based on your commentary over the last 5 or so months, so do you.  Still, there are other units out there, so let me just list them off real quick.

Garmin Edge 820: Yup, it’s basically an Edge 520 with a sometimes finicky touch screen added and proper navigation.  But it also costs another $100 above the Edge 520, at $399, making these comparisons even less valid.  Further, as I discuss a bit more in the navigation section, its mapping is actually quite different than the BOLT.  I use the Edge 820 on all my rides, but I also prefer the Edge 520 (which is also on all my rides).  And for the Edge 1000?  While still technically the highest end Garmin cycling unit, I think most would agree that it’s due for a refresh (albeit there’s little competitive reason to do so).

Hammerhead Karoo: It’s not released yet, nor do I think that’ll happen very soon.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, but again, not here today.

Lezeyne (various models): They’ve done good (great?) work in the past few years, but like the M460 below it’s just not in the same category here.  But if you’re looking at sub-$200 options – then great – definitely a solid performer.

Polar M460: A very solid option, really solid, priced really well.  But it’s simply not in the same ballpark as the BOLT or Edge 520, mainly due to features.  But again, for $170, it’s by far the best bike computer out there at that price (or anywhere near it).

Polar V650: C’mon now. Stop laughing. Polar doesn’t seem to care about this unit for updates, so why should you?  Which is too bad, because I think they were onto something.

Wahoo ELEMNT: If you want a bigger screen – go forth and substitute everything I said here and just remove the word ‘Bolt’.  Heck, it’s even the same price right now with the rebate thingy.  It runs identical software to the BOLT.

Got all that? Good.  If I didn’t list something here, then it’s because nobody has shown any interest in whatever model I didn’t list this year. Or, it’s because it didn’t hit my mental radar as I wrote this.  Which is usually a good indicator it doesn’t much matter in the big scheme of things.  Brutal honesty is something simpler, no?

The Basics:


Here’s the thing – insofar as being a GPS bike computer goes, both these units do a pretty darn good job.  Meaning that you’re unlikely to run into any stumbles with the basics like tracking where you’re going or how fast you’re going. Same goes for connecting to basic sensor types.  All that works well on both.

But each company has taken their own twist on things.  For example, with Garmin the experience on the Edge is heavily driven by your interactions with the Edge itself.  Meaning that settings, configuration, and other aspects are all done on the Edge 520.  Whereas with the BOLT, Wahoo pushes much of the configuration aspects to your phone.  You’ll use the smartphone companion app to adjust many settings like data fields, whereas on the Edge you’d do that on the device itself.

There are pros and cons to this approach, and some people simply prefer one method over the other.  Where it gets more noticeable tends to be in the area of navigation…which I discuss in full detail in a dedicated section below.

Both companies allow you to sync your workouts after the fact to 3rd party platforms like Strava and Training Peaks.  In total the number of sync’d platforms is actually pretty similar, albeit just different.  For example, Wahoo syncs to Dropbox, whereas Garmin doesn’t.  Yet Garmin syncs to a number of additional smaller sites (like Final Surge or Cycling Analytics) that Wahoo doesn’t.  But for the biggies like Strava, Training Peaks, Today’s Plan, SportTracks, and MapMyFitness – they’re all the same.

When it comes to data fields and the ability to customize your unit, both companies are also pretty similar in the end.  They just go about it in different ways.  With Garmin, you’ll customize your data fields on the unit itself, whereas with Wahoo it’s via the phone.  But the number of fields and ways you can tweak them are essentially a wash.  Where you do see some differentiation though is that Garmin allows 3rd parties to create data fields/graphs via Connect IQ, for which Wahoo has no equivalent.

If we look at the mounting situation, the units use almost identical mounts.  But the differences are important here.  Since Wahoo’s units won’t fit into most 3rd party mounts designed for Garmin units, you’ve got fewer options on the market.  Sure, big players like Barfly and K-Edge have mounts, but not all the more boutique options like the 3T integrated stems for Garmin head units.  On the flipside, Wahoo does have their aerodynamically friendly mount.

Now – one distinctly different area is structured workouts.  The Garmin Edge series allows you to create and/or download structured workouts onto your Edge which include targets and instructions.  Whereas Wahoo doesn’t have that functionality at all.  Wahoo says it’s coming, likely soonish, but they’ve also had it on the radar for well over a year as well.

Finally, when it comes to size and weight, they’re almost identical here as well.  As you can see above, the sizes are quite similar, and the weights are nearly identical: 63g for the Edge 520, and 61g for the Wahoo BOLT.

DSC_8557 DSC_8558

Before we dive deep into the details, I’m going to do a bit of a ‘What I love’ and ‘What I hate’ for each section, including the basics.  The goal here to is to distill down some of my personal preferences in each portion:

The Basics: Edge 520 Things I love: It just works. Seriously, it just works – every time, zero issues. By and large, you just don’t hear people complaining about the Edge 520 or issues with it.  Then there’s the quarter-turn mount, which is widely used by 3rd parties, making it easy to find the mount you like.  Finally, while it doesn’t support Bluetooth Smart sensors, it has far broader support of every other sensor out there than Wahoo.  Also…apps. Love me some good apps.
The Basics: Edge 520 Things I hate: There’s no coordination with other Garmin wearables you may own.  So if you use a Fenix 5 for the rest of your day, but want to ride with your Edge, the two don’t really talk at all.  Of course, Wahoo doesn’t do this either since they lack a wearable – but Garmin should make this seamless.  Most of my Edge 520 hate though stems out of the navigation section, with a small side dish for the sensors section.  Note that while some people want configuration of data fields from the phone, and that would be nice, I generally prefer the Garmin config-on-unit option over the must use phone option.

The Basics: BOLT Things I love: It also just works. Further, it has dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensor support, making it ideal if you have a Bluetooth Smart HR strap.  Solid integration on things like BestBikeSplit and Strava (more on that later).  The navigation piece is far better here than on the Garmin (also more on that later), even if you compare it to the Edge 820 – it’s just simpler to get going on the BOLT.  Next, I love the ease of setting up partnerships, specifically Dropbox, on the unit.  I like knowing that a copy of all my BOLT rides is sitting unfettered on a Dropbox folder in case I want them.  I’m sure it might sound geeky, but why can’t Garmin be geeky too?
The Basics: BOLT Things I hate: No apps.  While Wahoo has taken the approach of partnering with specific companies to develop better 1st party experiences.  But that simply locks out the hundreds of other developers/companies.  Next,  as much as some people like the whole expandomatic data field increasing thing, I just want my fields to always be exactly X number of data fields and the way I left them. I know, some people love it…some people hate it. To each their own.  And finally, no structured workouts, as noted above.

With that, let’s dive into the details on some core areas!



If there’s any category that shows how different these devices are, it’s navigation. But it’s also a really complex set of differences.  All is not as it seems here, and they’re some really important details in the nuances. It’s the only section I’m going to briefly discuss the Edge 820/1000, because it’s also important to understand how those fit into the big picture (as many people will and do ask).

Oh, and one more thing: Some might say that it’s ‘not fair’ that I’m comparing the Edge 520 which doesn’t claim to have navigational capabilities with that of the BOLT (which does claim it).  To that I say: Life’s not fair. Garmin’s unit is more expensive than the BOLT, and they selected the price point and features they wanted to for that unit.  Wahoo one-upped them with both a lower price point and more mapping/navigational features.  Consumers like you absolutely compare these two units, so this being a core selling point should absolutely be included.  Garmin made this bed, so they can lie in it.

Let’s just start off with a chart, and then I’m going to explain some things, as I think it might be easier this way:

Navigation Showdown: Edge 520 vs BOLT

Feature/FunctionalityEdge 520Wahoo BOLT
Can follow breadcrumb trail routesYesYes
Has useful maps includedNoYes
Can download useful maps for freeYes (limited size)Already included
Can warn you of upcoming turnsYesYes
Can display turn by turn directions ('Left on Maple Street')NoYes
Can create routes on your mobile phone and use on deviceNoYes
Can re-route you if you get off-courseNoNo
No navigate using device only to address/POINoNo (with phone yes)
Has recently announced "Taco Mode"?NoNo

So here’s the one paragraph version of the above: The Wahoo BOLT includes the ability to give you turn by turn directions for routes from RouteWithGPS, and it does those on a global map that they include for free.  The Edge 520 can give you breadcrumb style directions overlaid onto downloaded maps from a 3rd party (for free).  Neither can re-route you on the fly using street names.  The BOLT will also let you use your phone to route to any point on the map, Garmin does not have this.


Let’s dive into each one a bit more, both the strengths and limitations:

Wahoo Bolt: The BOLT’s navigation works in a few different ways.  The ‘best’ way though is to use RideWithGPS (Free or Premium service) to create your routes.  When you do so and sync it with the BOLT, it receives the turn by turn directions for your entire ride.  The BOLT then takes that information and overlays it onto a map.  As you ride, it’ll give you directions like ‘Turn Left on Maple Street’, and so on.  However, there are limitations here.  First is that if you get off-course, it won’t use street-names to re-route you, instead you’ll basically have to figure it out yourself.  Second is that Strava routes don’t get turn by turn information, just breadcrumb style overlaid onto the unit.  And third, you cannot enter in an address/location to route to on the unit itself.  This HAS to be done via the phone or RideWithGPS/etc…

Edge 520: Now remember the Edge 520 doesn’t really claim navigational capabilities, but again, life’s not fair.  With the Edge 520 you can follow a route using a breadcrumb trail.  This means that it’ll tell you as you approach a turn to ‘Go Left’ or ‘Go Right’, or Southeast.  But it won’t tell you to ‘Turn left on Maple Street’.  Additionally, unlike Wahoo, Garmin doesn’t provide any maps with it (technically Garmin disagrees with this, but their global ‘base map’ has like three streets for all of Paris, a map on the back of a menu from a Chinese takeout restaurant has more streets listed).  On the bright side, you can actually download maps for the Edge 520 for free, and these maps are more detailed than Wahoo’s maps.  You can’t fit a very big region on the Edge 520 though, whereas Wahoo has the whole world.  Like the BOLT, the Edge 520 doesn’t allow you to route to random places either from the device.

How’s this all different than the Edge 820 or Edge 1000?  Well, that’s where things get interesting.

Edge 820/1000: For the purposes of navigation, these devices are essentially the same.  With these Edge units they have maps on them for your region, including street names and points of interest.  This means that it actually knows exactly what street you’re on, just like a car GPS does.  It also has a huge list of entities (restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc…), just like your car GPS does.  And you can re-route on the fly if you miss a turn, just like your car GPS, telling you which streets to take to get back on track.  Oh, and again, it has maps of your region (and you can download others), and you can even get really fancy and download satellite maps or crazy custom maps.  And of course, if screen size is your thing, the Edge 1000 is far larger.


(Above, left to right: Edge 520, Wahoo BOLT, Edge 820)

With that in mind, there’s basically three levels of mapping here:

Garmin Edge 520: Simple breadcrumb routes with basic turn directions/notifications on a blank screen, or if you download 3rd party maps, you’ll see those behind the route on a color map.  If you miss a turn, it just gives basic orientation back to your route.  You cannot randomly route to an address/place of interest using the device or phone.

Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT: With RideWithGPS routes you’ll get legit turn by turn directions with actual street names listed for each turn, overlaid onto a black and white map for the whole world.  If you a miss a turn, it just gives basic orientation back to your route.  You cannot randomly route to an address/place of interesting using the device, but you can with the phone app (which then tells the device how to get there).

Edge 820/100: You’ll get legit turn by turn directions overlaid onto a full color map with street names listed for each turn.  The maps are included for your region, and you can download free ones from a 3rd party.  If you miss a turn, it’ll give you detailed turn by turn directions back to the course so you can continue on.  You can randomly select any address or place of interest using the device, though you can’t use your phone to tell it the same.  From a purely navigational standpoint, the Edge 820/1000 is really the top of the food chain in the cycling world.

(Side note: Some folks do have trouble with turn by turn directions on the Edge 820/1000, specifically for re-routing upon a missed turn.  Totally get that, though, it’s not a problem I tend to have.  The common thread here seems to be how one created their route, with those using 3rd party services generally having more trouble than not.  While not central to this post, just wanted to mention it here.)

Got all that? Phew.  Let’s cut to the chase below then:

Navigation: Edge 520 Things I love: Umm, not really much to love here. I guess if I had to find something, it’d be that you can download 3rd party maps for free. I guess.
Navigation: Edge 520 Things I hate: The fact that it doesn’t do any navigation, or that you can’t at least just do basic phone-driven navigation (like Lezyne and Wahoo both have), where on the phone I can pick a point and then the bike computer will tell me how to get there

Navigation: BOLT Things I love: Certainly the fact that it has navigation at all is big for this price point, but even more so I love the ability to quickly stick in a spot using the phone and then have it route me there.  Simple and functional.
Navigation: BOLT Things I hate: Re-routing mostly sucks. Since it doesn’t actually know street names on the maps or the context of your route, you’re kinda out of luck.

Sensors and Trainers:


Of course, for most people that get these bike computers you’ve likely got some sort of accessory that you’re looking to connect to it.  Be it a power meter, a heart rate strap – or perhaps even a trainer or an action camera.

At first glance, it’d be easy to say that either of the two options is the ‘winner’, because they kick each other’s asses…but in different ways.  Take Garmin for example, it supports far more sensor/accessory types than the BOLT does.  Things like bike lights, radar, FE-C trainers, heads up displays, handlebar remote control, and so on.  All things Wahoo doesn’t.

But then you turn around and remember that Garmin doesn’t support Bluetooth Smart sensors on the Edge units, which can be a big selling point if you’ve got a Bluetooth Smart heart rate strap or other sensors.  Similarly, while the Wahoo units don’t support ANT+ FE-C trainers (only Wahoo trainers), they do have what I feel is a better trainer control interface than Garmin does.

To make this more clear, here’s a nifty little table of what sensors are supported where:

Sensor Showdown: Edge 520 vs BOLT

Sensor TypeGarmin Edge 520Wahoo BOLT
ANT+ Heart Rate SensorYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence SensorsYesYes
ANT+ Power MetersYesYes
ANT+ Lighting ControlYesNo
ANT+ Bike RadarYesNo
ANT+ E-Bike StandardNoNo
ANT+ Weight ScalesYesNo
ANT+ Gym Fitness EquipmentNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)YesWahoo Trainers only
ANT+ Secondary Display (i.e. Heads Up Display)YesNo
ANT+ Remote ControlYesNo
ANT+ Muscle OxygenWith AppsYes (Natively)
ANT+ Gear Shifting (SRAM/Campagnolo)YesYes
Shimano Di2 ShiftingYesYes
Action Camera ControlYes (Garmin only)No
Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate StrapNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence SensorsNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Power MetersNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control StandardNoNo

Finally, there are some nuances to even the above.  For example take the gear shifting pieces, where most people say Garmin does this support better than Wahoo – so if that’s something that really matters to you, then it could be a decider (in the same way that I feel Wahoo does trainer control better than Garmin, albeit only their own trainers).

Ultimately – I expect to see Garmin expand to support Bluetooth Smart sensors in more devices down the road. Right now they just started doing it with the new Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 watches, largely due to new hardware in them.  It’s unclear whether or not Garmin could do so in the Edge 520/820 with the current hardware (it requires different chipsets in most cases to allow concurrent smartphone and sensor connectivity across multiple protocols).

And finally – one thing to keep in mind here is that even if Garmin doesn’t natively support a sensor (take an aerodynamic sensor for example), 3rd party companies can very easily build in support for those sensors with Connect IQ, as we’ve seen some do already.  This is simply not possible on Wahoo.  But more on 3rd party apps in the next section.

Sensors: Edge 520 Things I love: It supports basically everything I use, especially 3rd party trainers like those from Tacx and Elite.  And while it doesn’t support Bluetooth Smart sensors, virtually all cycling sensors these days are dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart anyway, so that doesn’t matter a ton here.
Sensors: Edge 520 Things I hate: It doesn’t support the GoPro or Bluetooth Smart sensors.  The lack of GoPro control makes sense given it’s a direct competitor to Garmin’s VIRB action camera lineup, but still…a guy can dream, right?

Sensors: BOLT Things I love: It supports dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, and you can do pairing and renaming of sensors via the companion phone app – which can be handy for organizing lots of sensors.
Sensors: BOLT Things I hate: It doesn’t support ANT+ FE-C trainers, only supporting the Wahoo KICKR/KICKR SNAP trainers.

Strava & 3rd Party Apps:


Ahh yes, Strava – the epicenter of some cyclist’s lives.  Like quinoa, people either love it or hate it.  Now Strava is of course just one 3rd party platform that Garmin and Wahoo support, and even within that there are different levels of support and integration.

What we’re really talking about is two different things here:

1) On-device integration: Meaning, the app/whatever runs on your bike computer to show you information from that app in real-time.
2) Backend web/mobile app integration: Meaning your app or device connects to a 3rd party platform behind the scenes for things like file uploads

When it comes to the second one, both these companies have taken pretty similar routes.  But it’s the first one where strategies differ significantly.

With Garmin, they’ve rolled out Connect IQ, which is an app platform that any developer (3rd party) can develop apps for.  Be it Strava, Xert, TrainingPeaks, or the thousands of apps from developers that are definitely not household names.  Just like on a phone, this allows anyone to do cool stuff with almost all of Garmin’s bike computers and wearables.

Whereas Wahoo has taken more of a ‘curated’ approach where they want to work with very specific companies to come up with the best experience for that integration point.  Take BestBikeSplit for example, they worked with them to come up with a very integrated approach to that platform so that it feels like a natural extension of the BOLT.  Same goes for Strava.

Of course, you can argue which approach is better all day long – to each their own.  With Garmin, developers get the flexibility to not depend on Garmin for integrations, they can just do it themselves.  Be it a new sensor (like an aerodynamic sensor, e-bike, or advanced lighting), or simply a better way to get routes onto your device – that’s totally within the realm of 3rd parties.  Whereas with Wahoo they’re trying to make the absolute most polished experience for consumers for that 3rd party partner.

But what about Strava?  Which one does it better?

Well first is to understand what ‘it’ is.  In this case, I’m talking “Strava Live Segments”, which is the feature for Premium Strava members that allows these devices to show the current Segment you’re trying to best in real-time against your PR, KOM, or people you follow.  It’ll also usually show things like distance remaining, estimated completion time, and so on.

For this function, I give Wahoo the win here, mostly because of the way you can handle overlapping segments (very common on long climbs or populated areas).  Also, with the recent tweaks to how they handle pacing on these segments, you’ll now get more accurate competitive information against the record holder.

On the flipside, Garmin does integrate with Strava’s Beacon service (live tracking), should you prefer that.  I’ve talked about this in the past and largely view it as a duplication of Garmin’s own live tracking service. And neither of them are as good as Wahoo’s just rolled out last week live tracking service.  But, since it’s 3rd party integration – I figured I’d mention it.

Note that for simple sync to Strava after the fact, all these services are the same.  They all upload your ride upon completion using the exact same API and methods – so there’s no difference there.

Apps: Edge 520 Things I love: Openness, anyone can develop an app and make it available, meaning that companies are free to develop cool shit on their own timetables, not Garmin’s.  Take for example Xert.  They were able to develop not just one, but multiple apps that make their entire platform fairly cohesive.  Wahoo doesn’t partner with them at all, whereas Garmin enables them to build whatever they’d like.
Apps: Edge 520 Things I hate: There’s not much I really ‘hate’ here, but I just wish the unit could handle overlapping Strava segments.

Apps: BOLT Things I love: One word: Strava.
Apps: BOLT Things I hate: Well, basically there aren’t any 3rd party apps except the couple of ‘curated’ partnerships (Strava/RideWithGPS/BestBikeSplit).  Thus, no app store of sorts.

Comparison Charts:

What’s that? You want more data?!? No problem, here’s the full comparison chart between these two models.  Of course, as always you can make your own comparison charts with all the other units in the database here.

Function/FeatureGarmin Edge 520Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 26th, 2017 @ 5:36 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Product Announcement DateJuly 1st, 2015Mar 14th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJuly 31st, 2015Mar 14th, 2017
Data TransferUSB & Bluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart, WiFi, USB
Recording Interval1-Second or Smart1-second
AlertsAudio/VisualAUDIO/VISUAL + LED's
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesNo
Group trackingNoYes
Crash detectionYesNo
Designed for runningN/ANo

Oh – and for lack of anywhere else to put it, I don’t expect either of this bike computers to be refreshed anytime soon.

And again, remember you can make your own comparison chart with all the units in the DCR Product Comparison tool here.

Final Thoughts:




But here’s the thing: Both of these are great bike computers. And both companies have sold boatloads of them with customers on either side largely being pretty darn happy.

What’s most important is deciding which features are most useful to you.  For example, if you use structured workouts (like the ability to transmit from Training Peaks to the Edge), then the Edge 520 makes more sense.  Same goes if you use accessories like the Garmin Varia Radar, or the Bontrager or Garmin ANT+ lights – all of which are compatible with the Edge.  And still further, same with the VIRB Action Cams.  Or perhaps you control your Tacx or Elite trainer with your Edge device to re-ride outdoor routes.  Or if you use any number of the smaller 3rd party platforms (via AutoSync), or boatloads apps that integration with Garmin. Those are all good reasons to pick the Edge over the BOLT.

Meanwhile, if you do more navigation, then the BOLT is a better bet. It handles turn by turn routing from RideWithGPS, all overlaid onto an included global map.  Same goes for the ability to enter in an address on the Wahoo companion app and have the BOLT route me there. Super quick and easy.  And then the recently introduced Wahoo Live Tracking is a heck of a lot better, especially with the ability to show your planned route as well as your progress atop that.  And then you’ve got the ability to connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors as well as native Muscle Oxygen sensors.  And if you have a Wahoo trainer, then I prefer Wahoo’s trainer control layout over Garmin’s.

As you can see – it’s all about the nuances between them.  There is of course a price difference.  The Edge 520 is $299, while the Wahoo BOLT is $249.  Though I suspect for most people it’ll be more about features than a fifty.  Either way – you won’t go wrong.

With that – thanks for reading!

5 Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-50.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-50.html#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:07:47 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76970 Read More Here ]]> A busy weekend back at home with plenty going on! Here’s what I was up to as the Tour de France descended into town.

1) Kickin’ off the weekend SNAP-style:


My first act of the weekend was a handful of short rides to validate a firmware update for the KICKR SNAP, which ended up making it into my ‘First Look’ post that same day.

Though, that sorta ended up being the least of the things that landed that day from a post perspective.  First there was the KICKR SNAP post , and then there was the Strava post, not to mention also some visitors to the DCR Cave (for which you’ll hear about shortly).

And then there was the pile of stuff getting boxed up and sent back to companies.  Some small, some really large.

I had semi-grand plans for Friday being a catch-up administrivia day…but in the end, all the administrivia got pushed back for another few days or…longer.  I hate administrivia, though I suppose shipping boxes back did fall into that category.  So I checked off something off that list.

2) Umm, we received a dead animal:

As I was working away Friday afternoon, the guardian of the building across the street tapped on our gigantic glass windows at the Studio saying he wanted to tell me something.  He’s a friendly fellow, and is always keeping an eye out for us.  Kinda nice.

He starts off with pleasantries and then asks me if I’ve been down the quai today (the area alongside the river in front of the DCR Cave/Studio).  He knows I’m constantly outside taking photos and since that’s usually a daily occurrence, it was logical to ask if I’d been out there yet.

I said no, to which he responded there’s a baleine that’s on the quai.

At which point I’m like…uhh…I don’t understand. (Side note, this was all happening in French so I was starting to second guess my language skillz).

Sure, I knew the word in French (because it’s actually in one of The Peanut’s bath books), but I couldn’t quite understand why a whale would be on the quai.  So naturally I said I didn’t understand, figuring I was just misunderstanding another French word.  He repeated it a few times, and I repeated my confusion.  He then decided to dumb it down with “grand poisson”, meaning a large fish.

At this point, the only thing that was clear, was I needed to go check things out for myself.  So I started heading outside before he stopped me again, this time reminding me to bring my camera.  Obviously, he knows me well.

Sure enough, he was correct – there was a baleine on the quai:

2017-07-21 13.51.57

It wasn’t actually real, even though you might think that it was.  They were occasionally watering it from the Seine, as well as misting some sort of odor to make it smell bad.  It’s a part art/part awareness campaign.

Pretty incredible.  Though, good thing I didn’t have any shoots planned for that day!  It’s exactly where I do many photo shots of products, especially bike tech!

3) The Peanut’s First Birthday

Somehow, she’s already one.  I don’t really understand how the year has flown by.  Actually, a year and a few weeks.  She got the least awesome birthday present ever, 3 weeks ago, by catching the chicken pox for her actual birthday.  Poor little thing.

No worries, she was just as happy to celebrate now as any other time.  Not that she was entirely clear what was going on.  All she knew was that there was a bubble machine, cake, and a bunch of her little friends around.

DSC_8144 DSC_7960

The Girl had made a cake, obviously, and it was pretty sweet.  I mean, both in the aesthetic sense but also in the interior too.  Nom!



Then there was a bunch of other food goodness, albeit most of it not for the little ones.


And then yes, the bubble machine.  Seriously, The Girl found it on Amazon France for 15EUR, though it’s half the cost in the US for what appears to be the exact same design, sans Little Mermaid.  But still, the best $15 you’ll ever spend.


And if you put it just behind a fan?  Holy bubble mania!



Happy Birthday Little One!

4) Meetings at Le Tour

2017-07-23 13.10.37

I don’t really have any pictures from these unfortunately.  But, I did take a single photo while walking past the Arc in between meetings.  Almost all of the meetings I’ve held over the last few days have been prep related for Eurobike.  Companies or people that were in town for the finish and wanted to mull over things, or get my take on it prior to announcing at Eurobike.

And this is really the perfect time to do so.  About 5 weeks out is great for me timing wise as it allows me plenty of time to get stuff prepared/tested/etc… I’ve had 1-2 packages arriving every day for the last week (by mail or in person), and for the next week ahead.

August is gonna be busy with testing!

5) The Tour de France Finish!


And of course I’d be remiss without noting that I spent a fair chunk of Sunday afternoon and evening watching the Tour de France finish.  But, you can check out my super-detailed post about that here, in case ya missed it.

With that – have a great week ahead, and thanks for reading!

Tour de France 2017- The Finish in Paris https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/tour-de-france-finish-paris.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/tour-de-france-finish-paris.html#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:38:10 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76926 Read More Here ]]> DSC_8666

Ahh yes, one of the best days of the year for a cyclist living in Paris.  No, actually, definitely the best day of the year for a cyclist living in this city.  And this year didn’t disappoint!

This was, I believe, my 5th time watching the finish of Le Tour here in Paris.  The last few years we’ve also had La Course (a one-day women’s race) held the same day on the same circuit, but unfortunately this year they did some wonky stuff and made it a 1.5 day race in a land far, far away.  Thus, no coverage of that this year from me.  Sad panda.

The 2017 edition of the TdF actually held some notable tweaks to the final stage, especially for spectators familiar with the route. For example, the Tour did not route pass the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre, as it has for many years (seen here from last year).  The reason?

They instead routed through the Grand Palais building, where they did an overlay of Olympic runners and swimmers next to the cyclists on either side.  This was done to promote the Paris 2024 Olympic bid, but honestly came out a little gimmicky looking (photo of the big screen near me).  Still, I’m looking forward to Paris being awarded the 2024 games. 😉


It would have been super cool had this building been packed with fans though and to have the athletes come through that with everyone roaring.  Oh well.  Hopefully next year they’ll be back to the Louvre.

In any case, I was up on the course earlier in the morning, doing a handful of meetings around town.  This weekend is always busy for me with both industry folk and just regular readers like yourself being in town – so I’m usually doing a number of quick meet-ups here and there.

But I returned to the course later in the afternoon about two hours prior to the riders arriving.  It’s here I got to see the caravan slowly snake its way around the circuit.  Note that they don’t throw candy or giveaways in Paris (maybe not the final stage at all, not sure).  By the time they get here it’s just one big party:

DSC_8440 DSC_8469


A few times as parts of the caravan exited the route for the final time they’ll stop and take a quick group pic:


I worked my way down Rivoli to Concorde. Some of the best spots are in the various buildings that line the route, like this one:


Or perhaps atop the just recently re-opened Hôtel de Crillon, though I do think most fans got far closer than these guests:


I eventually found my spot right in Concorde.  In previous years I’ve never had media credentials, so I was always wandering the course like everyone else (albeit with the advantage of being a local).  Certainly you can get plenty of amazing photos that way, but at the same time the security changes over the last two years have made that more difficult.  For example, the closing of the Jardin des Tuileries during the race and sidewalks against it meant there are far fewer perspectives for those without credentials.  It’s too bad.

In past years I’ve spent a lot of time on the outer perimeter of the course, as well as in the gardens bouncing back and forth.  Heck, even up in the Ferris wheel!  So this year when I found my spot in the epicenter of it all – I was definitely pretty happy.


From here I could get quite a few new angles for me, as well as catch the finish and the awards ceremony.  Plus, they’ve got big screens to watch as well, so it’s easy to keep up with the race.

And soon they came in, led out by Team Sky, as is customary to have the winning rider’s team lead the first loop.


Oh, I nearly forgot – the French Air Force jets came over…not once, but twice!  It’s as if they were bored pre-arrival and had some extra colored smoke to burn.  They first did a huge sweeping circle over Paris prior to the peloton arriving, super cool as I’ve never seen them do that in the five years I’ve lived here.

Here’s them passing by the Eiffel Tower:


And then as is customary, when the riders approach the finish area on the first loop they fly down the Champs-Élysées.


But, as you know what’s more interesting to me is some of the stuff around the race.  For example, in this area there were actually a number of grandstands.  These are roughly divided up into a few different camps.  On one side you had sponsor related stands (left side above).  I’d say some of the loudest and most into it fans I saw were actually this group from Bora (though, Norwegian corner still takes the cake overall):


These guys were rockin’ it!

On the other side (closest to the finish), you had various Tour de France official/VIP stands.  The stands immediately after the finish line were the most fancy looking and had all sorts of VIP peoples, including names on peoples chairs.  For example, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was up here:


What’s interesting is that in this section they were running a bit of an Uber for Tour de France finish loops operation.  As the race was going on these cars would pickup three passengers and go for a loop around the course.  They had to stay in the multi-kilometer gap away after the riders/team cars, but before the lead riders.  Said differently: Virtually no chance of impacting the race, and they were all driven by the same ASO officials cars that drove the entire course.


DSC_8914 DSC_8942

They also appeared to pause when going up the Champs-Élysées when the riders were coming down the opposite side. I suspect that was done just to allow the guests better photos.


Finally, you got the ‘regular’ stands.  These are for all sorts of guests of whomever, be it ASO, teams, or even me.


Yup, I actually got guest tickets!  Each accredited media member is allowed up to four guests into the Tour Fan Zone or related (depending on the stage), during the entire Tour.  You apply for it via a little paper form in the media center and then wait and hope you get them, kinda like a lottery.  I applied back on Day 1 of the tour for four passes for my parents, The Girl, and the Peanut, and managed to get them.  Here’s my parents enjoying the festivities!


The Girl meanwhile was with The Peanut attempting to get into the same zone and due to a minor navigational error somehow actually ended up in the team buses and a fancier zone. Obviously, when you accidentally end up in a nicer area, the first rule of TdF Club is: Don’t leave TdF Club.  So she enjoyed that and the view.

Front row seats at this year’s #TourDeFrance

A post shared by BBMaker (@bbmaker) on

Meanwhile, I spent my time actually near/in front of them, just out in the protected photographer zone in between the two directions of travel for the riders:


What’s interesting here is that there’s actually a TV motorcycle that blasts through this area at about 40-45MPH following the riders.  It keeps him protected (or the riders protected), in the event of a high-speed incident. Here’s what that looks like:


The only trick is remembering the moto is a non-moto photographer working in this zone.  Thankfully it stays to one side (the same side), so as long as you remember that you’re safe, so it’s easy enough.

While I was wandering around I spotted Cycling Maven and Hannah across the way:


From there it’s onto the 8 loops of the 7KM circuit.  I have countless photos of this, so here’s a small gallery of a few interesting ones.

DSC_8602 DSC_8629 DSC_8666 DSC_8762 DSC_8875 DSC_8936 DSC_8958 DSC_8989

Where it gets really fun of course is that final loop. There’s actually a man that rings a bell, alongside a numerical sign that’s been counting down each loop.  Both are hand-held.


And then finally, a short time later the actual finish itself.  As most of you know, you won’t see people like Froome trying to win this, as the risk is too high that there might be a crash and then DNF.  So this is all about winning the stage, and every few years it might settle a podium or jersey spot as well.


This is also among the hardest of photos to get, since you’ve got about 50+ photographers lining up quite early to get their spots for this.



Not that I don’t care, but by now you’ve seen 18 variations of that image all over the interwebs already.  So I rather have spent my time elsewhere.

Speaking of which, within seconds.  Not minutes, not 30 seconds, but seconds of the guys crossing the finish line they start moving the central protected channel barriers out of the roadway to make room for the podium.  They’ve got a bunch of guys lined up to pull these out of the road.


Then from there, a couple of parade float looking trucks roam over to set up the podium.  Everything is actually pre-marked with spray-paint on the ground.  From the podium itself to where the photographer stands go, to where the TV cameras are pulled into position.


Once the work crews move away, then a bomb sniffing dog is brought in.  They checked on top, around, under, everywhere.


Around the same time the various podium winners are meeting up with family and/or getting interviewed.


Some teams are also getting some quick final photos done:


And then finally…it was onto the awards ceremony.  With the dark rain clouds this year, the lighting for all photos is tough (including mine), it’s not as ideal as years with really nice summer light (since it wouldn’t normally get dark for another 2.5+ hours).  Shame.


Still, I got a few solid shots in there:

DSC_9329 DSC_9385 DSC_9399 DSC_9433 DSC_9453 DSC_9556 DSC_9556-2 DSC_9624

But with the harsh (and huge) spotlights brought in and the faded light, these are among my least favorite pictures of the day.  It’s why when you look at the majority of Paris final stage photos from this year across most media outlets, there isn’t as much a focus on the podium pics as in years past.  They all kinda look fake/weird.  The yellow podium stand only serves to make the photo more challenging.  I know, I’m being a photo snob.

Also in the ‘behind the scenes’ category, there’s actually a TV director sitting down in front of the podium.  His job is like the conductor at the Oscars when they start playing the music, telling everyone to get off the podium to get the 30+ minute long presentation moving along.  He’s the guy below waving his arms, pointing to the sides.


In case you were wondering, this is where I was standing:


Least favorite part?  A dude within one person of me went through three cigarettes over course of the 30-minute ceremony.  C’mon, seriously?  Though, I smiled a bit inside when while changing a lens and concurrently smoking a cigarette he bumped the cigarette and all the ashes fell down into the back of the lens (the part that attaches to the camera).  The best part?  He didn’t notice it as he was looking elsewhere.  Payback…

After the ceremony it was off for the couple mile walk back home.  Both The Girl’s and my parents’ cell phones had died, but luckily I was able to run into The Girl and the Peanut, so we got a quick selfie before heading out:


With that – thanks for reading!

And in case ya missed it, here’s a rundown of all the Tour de France goodness from this year I’ve done:

Tour de France 2017 Behind the Scenes: Stage 1
Tour de France 2017 Behind the Scenes: Stage 2
Tour de France 2017–The Trainers, Power Meters and Gadgets of the Pro Peloton
Tour de France 2017 Behind the Scenes: Stage 6
Tour de France Behind the Scenes: How Dimension Data Rider Live Tracking Works

And of course, all past Tour de France stuff can be found here, or, here’s all my past Tour de France finish posts:

2013: Watching the Tour de France finish in Paris
2014: Finish of the 2014 Tour de France (Part of 5 Random Things)
2015: The Tour de France in Paris: Riding it, watching La Course, and the Finish
2016: La Course, Le Tour, and the Paris Finale–2016 Edition

Have a good week ahead!

Week in Review–July 23rd, 2017 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/week-in-reviewjuly-23rd-2017.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/week-in-reviewjuly-23rd-2017.html#comments Sun, 23 Jul 2017 21:59:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76852 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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 17th, 2017
Tuesday: Wahoo Rolls Out ELEMNT/BOLT Live Tracking with Data & Routes
Wednesday: Xert rolls out free real-time FTP app on Garmin devices
Thursday: Garmin Acquires Cycling Aerodynamics Company Alphamantis
Thursday: Hands-on: Airdog’s new ADII sports-tracking drone
Friday: Wahoo’s New 2017 KICKR SNAP Trainer: Hands-on
Friday: Strava will now fix your Garmin or phone when you break it riding…or not.

Sports Tech Deals This Week:

Below is the current list of deals in the sports tech realm.  Of note is the addition this week of the Cycliq Fly6 (back-light/camera combo) and Fly12 (front-light/camera combo) at $97 and $199.  That’s a solid deal, especially for the Fly6.

Current DealsRegular PriceSale PriceStartEndAmazonClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programOther siteSale Notes
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 23rd, 2017 @ 7:15 pm
Cycliq Fly12 Bike Camera/Light$349$199Jul 20 2017Aug 01 2017LinkLink
Cycliq Fly6 Bike Camera/Light$169$97Jul 20 2017Aug 01 2017LinkLink
Garmin Edge 1000$599Jun 01 2017Jul 31 2017LinkLinkUS Only: Edge 1000 has $100 rebate!
Garmin Edge 1000$599Jul 01 2017Aug 30 2017LinkLinkEurope Sale only: 18% off the Edge 1000 Bundle (not base)! See CT UK link at side.
Garmin Edge 25$169Jul 01 2017Aug 30 2017LinkLinkEurope Sale only: 29% off either the Edge 25 or 24% off Edge 25 bundle. See CT UK link at side.
Garmin Edge 520$299Jul 01 2017Jul 31 2017LinkLinkEurope Sale only: 29% off either the Edge 520 or 14% off Edge 520 bundle. See CT UK link at side.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT$399Jul 14 2017Jul 30 2017LinkLinkFYI: Formal price drop from $449 to $399 for the FR735XT. This is the new price going forward. Update: From July 14th, 2017
Garmin Vector 2$1,499Jul 01 2017Aug 30 2017LinkLinkEurope Sale only: 10% off either the Garmin Vector 2, or 13% off Vector 2S. See CT UK link at side.
Wahoo ELEMNT$329Jul 01 2017Jul 31 2017LinkLink$80 ELEMNT rebate. This brings the price equal to the BOLT ($249). So essentially it becomes a size/form question (identical software). Bundle also included in deal. Rebate details in Clever Training link.

Also of note is that ELEMNT $80 rebate for the larger unit.  Helps to equalize the price compared to the smaller BOLT.  Both contain the same software, though the larger unit has an additional LED stripe.

Oh…and ProTip: Swing back by this page sometime mid-morning on Monday US Eastern time for a very time-limited deal on some products.

YouTube Videos I Published:

Here’s some YouTube goodness that I published this past week, don’t forget to subscribe!

DCR Podcast:

By the time you read this, another episode will hopefully have dropped.  If not, I suggest keeping an eye out on your feed.  We recorded one Friday night so it should be out as soon as Ben finishes golfing or something.

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) It’s dead, Jim: This will come as no surprise, but Intel has killed off their wearables division.  What remains slightly unclear is if Recon is technically part of that or not.  Of course, they previously pseudo-killed Basis by recalling the product and then shutting down the site.  It’d be interesting to know how this impacts New Balance, who worked closely with Intel on their Run IQ Android Wear watch, whereby Intel did much of the work (including ongoing updates).

2) Alaska Airlines now charges $25 for bikes: Sweet! Far more reasonable than the $150USD (one-way) that United or others charge.  I still have really good luck with my bike bag, but if you get pinched, I’d rather only pay $25. (via Race Radio)

3) Well that was cold: I was looking forward to seeing how the Alaskaman triathlon (first year) went last weekend.  The pics don’t disappoint!

4) A different look at the Tour de France live tracking platform: A week or so ago I showed you a behind-the-scenes on Dimension Data’s live tracking platform.  This past week Cycling Maven put together a video during his TdF Vlog about it.  Cool stuff.

5) What’s on Team Cannondale-Drapac’s bike computers? Ask and you shall receive. Each rider lists what data fields/pages they use. (via Harald)

6) Why ‘the unicorn’ shouldn’t be used for health startups: Interesting perspective on health startup valuations from a business angle.

7) Tesla is paying employees to commute by bike: File this into the list of things you didn’t expect.

8) Update on this: GoPro water bottle mount: Last week I mentioned this, and my skepticism that it would arrive within the previously stated August timeframe, or that it might arrive at all for the price.  Astoundingly it actually came on Wednesday this past week.  Seriously, fastest crowd funding thing ever for me.  Quality seems just fine, though I haven’t really done any super detailed testing.

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.

Garmin FR735XT Beta Firmware Update: Added swimming countdown timer, also some other tweaks/fixes.

Garmin Varia Radar Firmware Update: Radar and LED improvements, some other bug fixes.

Garmin VIRB Edit update: Minor tweaks and fixes.

Garmin Vivosmart 3 Firmware Update: Actually a whole pile of tweaks and new things.

PowerTap P1 Firmware Update: Minor bug fixes, some additional fixes for the P1S

Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT/ELEMNT BOLT Firmware Update: Added live tracking and a few other tweaks (discussed in full post up above).

Thanks for reading!

Strava will now fix your Garmin or phone when you break it riding…or not. https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/strava-will-now-fix-your-garmin-or-phone-when-you-break-it-ridingor-not.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/strava-will-now-fix-your-garmin-or-phone-when-you-break-it-ridingor-not.html#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 21:33:56 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76847 Read More Here ]]> On the list of things I didn’t see coming this Friday afternoon was Strava announcing that if you manage to kill your bike computer or phone while riding your bicycle, Strava will now pay get that device fixed or replaced.  Well, technically not Strava, but a company they’ve partnered with. And technically not everyone on this small planet, just Strava Premium members.  And only a portion of the planet.  And only sometimes, if in the right moon phase and tidal conditions.  But those are…well…just technicalities.

So let’s dig into a bit more of what they announced, as it’s actually kinda interesting.  Or at least, interesting to me as one who semi occasionally kills things in often a bad way.  Usually in a really bad way.

What’s included:

First up, there’s a bunch of stuff in today’s announcement (Side note: Why announce a cool thing on a Friday afternoon? Isn’t the rule to only announce uncool things on Friday afternoons?), but the most interesting one is a partnership with an insurance company called ‘Sundays Insurance’.

The main portion of this announcement is a new Strava Premium membership ‘Perks’ page, which lists all sorts of deals for Strava premium memberships.  We’ve seen Strava do cycling and running partnerships and giveaways and such for some time, but this is a specific section of deals that only Premium members can take advantage of.  Some of them aren’t fully filled out yet, but it’s a start.

In any case, there’s one about the insurance that I mentioned, and in that section it specifically calls out a pile of benefits:

– $50 reimbursement for travel as the result of an accident or mechanical breakdown
– Free race-entry reimbursement for runners
– Device coverage and discounts on bike
– Travel, life and health insurance

Interesting.  But that got me curious, what are the limitations here?

Clicking from there I land on a dedicated Strava authentication page at Sunday’s Insurance, bringing me here:


Interestingly, it’s identical to all the other ways you can ‘Connect’ an app with Strava.  That’s nice and seamless.  Down below is a bit more detail on those previously noted perks:


Pretty straightforward, minus all the exceptions.  So let’s run through those on Sundays Insurance site more clearly:

A) Only people in the US, UK, or Australia need apply (basically, Strava’s three biggest markets)
B) If in the US and you live in about a quarter of the country, you don’t get jack (states listed above)
C) Travel, life, and health insurance mentioned on Strava’s page are actually not included here at all, that’s down further if you want a separate quote and want to pay money.  Apparently Strava KOM’s don’t get you anything here.

Otherwise, so far so good.  Sure, some state-based exclusions, but such is life in the insurance legal world.  Though the last one is a bit misleading to have it listed on the Strava page but not actually be a benefit.

The Devil’s in the Details:

Before I got signed up, I decided to take a gander at the terms and conditions – the PDF that’s included.  There’s one linked for the US, UK, and Australia listed from the Strava page.  Because I’m most familiar with the US side of things, I’m going to analyze that.  If anyone wants to do the same for the UK/Australia side of things, feel free to post down below in the comments!

I’m going to go line by line on the relevant sections. Some stuff isn’t interesting/relevant/concerning, so I’ll skip that. First up, the device replacement:

“Sundays will arrange a repair or reimbursement, as set forth herein, if your Device is damaged as the result of an Accident* while tracking your cycling activity on Strava’s platform. If your Device cannot be economically repaired, it will be replaced up to a value of $600.”

Ok, all straightforward there.  I’ve (mostly) got no issues with that.

“The Device’s original purchase receipt must be provided to prove ownership and validate your entitlement to the PremiumPerks Program.”

While not a huge deal, make sure you have your receipt somewhere. If you buy an iPhone, this is pretty easy, but still, just be sure you’ve got this somewhere.

So let’s look at things that void this part of the deal:

“You will not qualify for the service if:
● Accidental damage is sustained while the device was not logged into Strava’s platform while a monitored cycling activity was in process when the event occurred.
● If your Device is stolen or accidentally or unintentionally lost.
● There is a breakdown or technical/performance failure of any kind not directly caused by an accident.
● Your Device is damaged as a result of accidentally coming into contact with any liquid.
● Your Device is older than 24 months at the time of the accident.
● The damage is cosmetic (does not impede functionality), including scratches and dents.
● The serial number has been tampered with in any way.
● You have already used this service within your membership period.
● You can’t provide proof of the damage sustained to your bicycle or of the medical treatment you received as a result of the Accident.”

Well then.

That’s a boatload of complexity and ways for them not to put out (or pay out).

But, wait, what’s an ‘accident’?  Don’t worry, here’s that for you:

“*Accident means: a bicycle impact or crash in which your bicycle is sufficiently damaged to be non-functioning without repairs and/or you need medical treatment; or an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause; a sudden, unforeseen and unintended event in which your bicycle is sufficiently damaged to be non-functioning without repairs and/or you need medical treatment as a result of which breakage or other damage to your Device occurs to the point where it needs to be functionally repaired or replaced.”

Ok, to summarize: An accident means that you or your bike breaks, and that one of you must need ‘repairs’.

But how does that apply to the device repair?

In a nutshell, this entire thing only counts if you manage to break your Garmin or phone while cycling while also breaking you or your bike. If you just dropped your phone, no nuggets for you.

Well, but wait…there’s more!

“An $85 deductible will be imposed for damage to the Device resulting from an Accident, on any component of the Device.”

That there’s what we call a bit of an ‘FU’.

Why’s that?

Well because it’s roughly the same cost that Garmin will assign for most device out of warranty replacements.  It’s also roughly the same cost as the AppleCare ($99 – using an iPhone as an example), which basically covers you doing just about anything to your device, no need to break yourself or your bike first.

But hold on…there’s even more fine print up there:

“Accidental damage is sustained while the device was not logged into Strava’s platform while a monitored cycling activity was in process when the event occurred.”

So this is a funny one.  I went back to Strava’s PR team to get clarification on this, specifically because if you ride with a bike computer, then technically you aren’t actually logged into Strava’s platform.  That’s actually not how it works today in real-life technical terms.  You can have your activity sync afterwards (Garmin/Wahoo/Everyone), but there’s no (zero) real-time connection (despite it being called ‘Live Segments’).  The only device that has a real-time connection to Strava is the smartphone app.

(Nitpickers corner: Behind the scenes Garmin can actually initiate a connection to Strava Beacon on Garmin devices, but that’s not what’s being talked about here.)

Smelling funny fish, I went back to Strava on this and was told by Strava that:

“It’s for any device (smartphone or GPS) that is using Strava to record an activity when the accident occurs. It will cover up to $600 for the repair or replacement cost of the damaged device.“

Looking at the terms and conditions here, they do extend this to any device, but the terms contradict themselves and Strava a bit.

“The PremiumPerks Program is available to “smartphones,” tablets and GPS devices used to track and log onto the Strava platform’s online activities, provided that they have been activated (whether or not actually placed in service) for no longer than 24 months.”

How do they contradict itself you ask?  Well again, you can’t actually log-on to Strava from any GPS device except a smartphone (requirement higher above).  They just sync workouts after the fact (requirement below).  Those two are at odds.

So if we take Strava’s word at face value, then we can assume that as long as you were recording an activity that you intended to upload, then you’re good?  But what if the device is damaged such that you can’t prove you were recording (getting back to the ‘device was not logged into Strava’s platform while a monitored cycling activity was in process’ clause)?  That would be Sundays definition of it.

I don’t know.  But at this point we’d have to take it on face value that they’ll uphold the intent of what they say, even if the actual terms and conditions say they won’t do jack for you.

But before we finish off on the device piece here, there’s actually one final nugget in this:

“Sundays will not be liable under the following circumstances: If, through no fault of Sundays, your device is not repairable or replaceable.”

Umm…ok.  I hope they’re not going to pull any odd punches here.

So you won’t just give me the $600 then instead of replacing the device?  I’d assume it’s pretty hard to find a phone that’s worthwhile that’s not replaceable, but still, it’s a weird item to have in there.

Less nebulous things:


Now there are two other benefits of this program that should be straightforward.  The first is if you break-down while riding and need to get a taxi or similar back home, they’ll cover up to $50 of that.  And the second is if doing a running event and you cancel, then they’ll refund up to $100 for the fees.

Let’s look at the taxi one first.

“Sundays will also arrange reimbursement of reasonable transportation costs of a licensed auto service (e.g., taxi, Uber, Lyft, etc.) for you and your bicycle, up to $50, to the nearest public transport station, bicycle repair shop or your home, as you choose, as a result of an Accident that prevents use and mobility of the bicycle or the mechanical breakdown of the bicycle.”

If we refer to ‘accident’ above, it means either you or your bike is broke.  I initially assume that a flat tire without spares would technically qualify, since it makes the bike ‘broke’ and requires “repairs” (the exact word they use), but more on that in a second.

Here are the caveats:

You will not qualify for this Cycling Transportation Reimbursement service if:

● The event occurs within 1.5 miles of your home.
● A breakdown is a result of flat tires or punctures (unless the tire is visibly cut and cannot be repaired by replacing a tube).
● The claim is for a journey further than the nearest public transport station, bicycle repair shop or your Home.
● When there are local recovery/repair facilities reasonably available.
● More than one claim per period is submitted.
● You can’t provide us with the receipt for the trip.
● You can’t provide us with location details of your accident or breakdown site and destination.

So, most of these seem pretty reasonable, except these two caught my eye:

– A breakdown is a result of flat tires or punctures (unless the tire is visibly cut and cannot be repaired by replacing a tube).
– More than one claim per period is submitted.

It sounds like they think flat tires are totally fixable and your fault.  Totally fixable…perhaps, but not necessarily numerous ones.  I can agree with a single flat tire being your fault to be unable to address it with a kit, but as one who has managed to get three flats…during a race…I’d beg to differ.

Either way, I do appreciate the general idea here – and this is great for things like a broken chain or other mechanical situation.

What though is a ‘period’?  Glad you asked:

“Your Strava Premium Membership allows for each free service described to be used once per Strava membership term/Premium Perks Program period.”

So whenever your Strava membership renews, that’s one period for the next 12 months.

Next, the running benefit:

“Sundays will arrange reimbursement of up to $100 for a running event entry fee if the event involves your logging in on the Strava platform and you can’t participate in the running event as a result of verifiable illness or acute injury for which formal medical treatment is required (a visit to a certified doctor or a hospital). The reimbursement claim will only be processed after the event date.”

First of all, what the bloody f does it even mean to say “the event involves your logging in on the Strava platform”?  Seriously, who the hell even wrote this line? Surely someone at Strava read through this, right?  How on earth do you login to the Strava platform while running an event that you can’t run?  Or is it the intent to do so?

Why even bother have this in there?  Of course you’d intend to upload your run.  And if not, who the heck cares…because you can’t run it.  In unrelated news, I intended to fart tomorrow and log it on Strava.

Here’s the more detailed terms of this though:

“You will not qualify for this Running Event Entry Fee Reimbursement service if:
● You can’t provide us with a medical certificate/letter from a certified medical practitioner confirming your illness or acute injury and that you can’t participate in the event.
● You can’t supply us with the relevant medical practitioner’s contact information to verify the medical certificate.
● You are eligible to receive a refund from the event.
● You are allowed to sell/transfer your entry to another participant.
● Any conditions, injuries and or Illness existed or were sustained prior to you engaging in activities covered under this PremiumPerks Program.
● You obtained a medical certificate and still participated in the event.”

Most of these are pretty straightforward, except this one:

“Any conditions, injuries and or Illness existed or were sustained prior to you engaging in activities covered under this PremiumPerks Program.”

This is a wonky one.  I believe it’s trying to say that if you sign-up today, and you broke your leg yesterday that you don’t get any love for your race tomorrow.  But it’s written in such a way that’s needlessly confusing because it doesn’t actually use the words sign-up.  Instead, it uses the word ‘engaging in activities’.

Given that the ‘activities’ you were engaging in were running because you were training for the running event it’s protecting, and that’s the entire point of using Strava here, isn’t that…oh hell, I don’t know.

Final Thoughts:


Now, it may seem I’ve torn things apart here a bit.  And, to some degree I have.  Which isn’t to say there isn’t some goodness in here for you – there certainly is.

If you break a chain on a ride, then yes, you’ll likely get $50 back to get yourself and your bike home.  That’s cool!

And if you break your leg while training for that half-marathon, then you’ll likely get $100 back as a bit of a ‘Sorry, better luck next time!’.  So yes, that’s cool too (minus your broke-ass leg)!

And finally, if you crash your bike in a bad way and manage to really screw up your phone (but not because you fell into a pond, because water damage isn’t included), then you’ll get your phone replaced or fixed (less the $89 deductible).

All three of these are great gestures and cool ways for Strava to provide value for their premium members

But at the same time, Strava and their provider shouldn’t be let off the hook for language that’s ambiguous and technically impossible to achieve.  This benefit isn’t about protecting you from dropping your phone while you ride, or if your phone or Garmin falls off your handlebars, rather, it’s about crashes.  Strava’s pages and press release pretend that it’s any “accidental damage” they cover, whereas Sunday’s Insurance pages are far more clear that it’s a bike crash.  Sunday’s wants your blood (for realz).

Of course, I’m more interested in seeing how these are actually implemented in real life – not only in the US, but also in the UK and Australia.

On one hand, this is effectively a ‘free’ benefit.  It took me 7 more seconds to click the authorize button and confirm my name and a valid state.  But at the same time, nothing is free in life, especially in a business.  The goal here for Strava is to get you to subscribe to Strava’s Premium membership.  While the goal here for Sunday’s Insurance is to get you to then buy insurance for your bicycle or any number of other things. They even provide a handy link to that as soon as you confirm your details.

Still – I like seeing Strava think outside the box, and I think these partnerships do exactly that (even if the implementation initially is questionable).  In order for Strava to be successful in the long run, they have to turn a profit, and finding ways to convince you to pay for a membership is a core part of that.  For some people, this and the other perks today may more than pay for themselves in short order.

With that – thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

Wahoo’s New 2017 KICKR SNAP Trainer: Hands-on https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/wahoo-kickr-snap-2017-v2-trainer.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/wahoo-kickr-snap-2017-v2-trainer.html#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 17:30:28 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76589 Read More Here ]]> Wahoo-KICKR-SNAP-V2-2017

This week Wahoo quietly launched an updated version of the KICKR SNAP trainer.  That’s Wahoo’s lower-end trainer that sits at $599USD.  Of course, Wahoo only makes two trainers – the full KICKR (direct-drive), and the KICKR SNAP (wheel-on).  The full KICKR got a refresh last summer (aka KICKR2), which focused on a bunch of less visually obvious changes like higher accuracy, quieter, and some tiny status lights.  Standing from 10 feet away you probably wouldn’t notice the differences unless you were looking closely.

And that’s somewhat like what they’re doing this year with the KICKR SNAP.  These changes are summed up in a very concise bulleted list as follows:

– Increase in power accuracy from 5% down to 3%
– Addition of LED status indicators
– Expanded power matching support
– Slightly increased manufacturing tolerances

And…that’s it.  Really, the first two are the only ones you’ll likely notice since those are more tangible.  The power matching support was also brought to the existing KICKR SNAP trainer through a semi-recent firmware update there.

So this list is slightly smaller and less critical than that of the larger KICKRv1 to KICKRv2 we saw last summer (which saw reduction in noise among other changes).  But it’s still appreciated, especially the accuracy pieces.

If you want the full look at things, including audio levels and how it works in Zwift – then check out my below video:

Otherwise, onwards with the details!

A Closer Look:

So what’s in the box? Well, let’s start there.  First off is that the KICKR SNAP actually has a proper box now that looks all nice and fancy.  It’s no longer just a semi-branded brown cardboard box (or at least, that was the case from the unit I bought back last fall).


The trainer sits in the box obviously, protected by foam.  Inside you’ll also find two smaller boxes, which contain more piece goodness.


These pieces contain power cables, a trainer skewer, and a front wheel block.  They also contain a quick start guide and some legal paper stuff.  They do not contain Wahoo KICKR SNAP stickers as they used to.



Why do I bother to call out the stickers?  Cause I used to use these to label my power cables so I could figure out which was which.  Instead though, I just cut off the front of the little useless paper warranty guide booklet and taped that to my power cord block.  There’s no labeling on that power cord otherwise, so this helps ensure you’ve got the right one in the event you get them mixed up (Pro Tip: You don’t want to mix up the CycleOps and Wahoo power cables, even though they both fit. They are very different and one will kill the other. It’s like a Trojan horse.)


In any case, moving along, the power cord is required for the KICKR SNAP – so it doesn’t run untethered.  The voltage is 110/220v though, so no issues with using cross-region.


Next, what if we stuck two KICKR SNAP’s side by side?  On the left, the SNAPv2, and on the right, the SNAPv1:


Basically, they appear identical to the untrained eye.


But in reality, the difference (singular) gets to the LED status lights mentioned earlier, which sit near the flywheel on the V2 version:


These are missing on the V1 version:


Also, the V2 SNAP has a slightly different sticker model number, as you’d expect:



The only other change is one that’s not seen (hopefully not anyway), but rather behind the scenes.  Last winter there were a handful of people that saw some KICKR SNAP units (V1) that displayed some sort of ‘wobble’ in the roller.  There was a lot of debate on whether this was real wobble, perceived wobble, a weeble-wobble, or whatever.  Either way, it was somewhat out of left field, as there were no units in the previous 18 months that reported this.

Wahoo went back to their manufacturing facility and did some digging.  While they found the rollers were still within spec of what they specified, they decided to increase that spec further.  So these new V2 units have a higher bar from a manufacturing standpoint.  As I said, it’s likely that 99.99% of people will never notice or even care about this.


I don’t see any visual difference in the roller’s rolling between my Fall 2016 unit and this 2017 unit.  They both appear identical.

In any case, beyond all the new tweaks, the unit maintains all the existing KICKR platform pieces of past.  For example, it’s dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  It transmits out your power and speed over ANT+ as well as Bluetooth Smart (but no cadence, as some competitors have).  It also is compatible with ANT+ FE-C for control through many apps, and the Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth Smart API for another large pile of apps.

This means it works with Zwift, TrainerRoad, KinoMap, and on and on and on as described in my massive trainer apps post here.  Basically any and every app out there is compatible with the Wahoo KICKR trainers.  If they aren’t….honestly…well, I know of none that aren’t. So it doesn’t much matter actually.

Speaking of apps, let’s give the unit a first ride.

First Ride Details:


With everything all ready to roll, I went ahead and connected up the 2017 SNAP to Zwift.  I did this using an iPad and Bluetooth Smart, which in turn lit up the blue Bluetooth Smart LED light.


On Zwift I simply selected the trainer from the list, and then paired both a heart rate strap as well as a cadence sensor.

2017-07-11 18.22.31

Quick and painless.

2017-07-11 18.22.27

After that was done, I realized I wanted to do a roll-down (essentially calibration), which Zwift can’t do (somewhat annoyingly).  So I killed off Zwift and opened up the Wahoo Fitness app on my iPhone to sort that out.

2017-07-12 13.27.08 2017-07-12 13.59.20

I had some issues with this actually. A lot of issues to be precise, but I think it was largely my fault.  My tire pressure was far lower than it should have been (looks like I’ve got a slow leak since the day prior) – which was causing severe accuracy issues.  Even though the spin-down check came back successful, the power numbers were 30-40w out (of course, I only know this because I have three other power meters on the bike).

Certainly, having it at 70psi isn’t acceptable per the manual, so I can’t fully blame Wahoo here.  But at the same time – that’s kinda the point of the spindown, to catch issues like this.  For example, Tacx will give you a red ‘out of range’ error if it’s not acceptable.  Wahoo doesn’t.  In talking with them last night about it, it’s something they’re considering adding.

In any case, with that all resolved I started off and rode around Zwift:

2017-07-11 18.32.40

For the most part, I was on the flatter sections of London, though did wander here and there to find some hills.  I really do prefer Zwift island instead though.  At least it wasn’t Richmond.

I did a few sprints just shy of 1,000w to see how it handled.  I saw a few oddities here, namely if I dramatically reduced power after the sprint (such as at 100-200w), that it would take 5-10 seconds until it recognized my new power level.  During that time I’d show about 0w.  Whereas if I went from 1,000w down to 300-500w, then it’d correctly recognize it.

What I suspect was happening here is something I’ve seen on a handful of other wheel-on trainers where the flywheel has to ‘catch-up’ after a significant acceleration and then subsequent speed decrease.  Until it does so, it’ll show zero value.  Interestingly the PowerTap G3 hub can also show this as well, though not usually as severe.

Which, is now a good time to talk about power accuracy.  After all, that’s probably the most important change here – from 5% to 3%.  So for this I decided to compare it against other power meters, namely the PowerTap G3 and Power2Max NG.  Here’s all that data overlaid together using the DCR Analyzer.  You can look at the dataset yourself here.


So overall things look pretty good…except for the sprints.  The KICKR SNAP significantly overshoots on my 900w sprint about 100-130w.  I did this 4 times…and each time it did the same.


So then I wondered if perhaps it was PSI related, so the next day I ensured the wheel was at 110-120psi and started the entire process all over again.  10-15 minute warm-up, half a dozen spin-downs and good accuracy on relatively normal wattages, but once again issues at sprint wattages.

I looped back to Wahoo again, and this time they had me do an Advanced Spindown within the app.  But after a bunch of back and forth and half a day of roll-downs, I wasn’t any closer to getting sprint numbers to agree.  At this point they started working to replicate my issue (simply a hard sprint in Zwift), and were able to.  A week later (last night) I received a beta firmware update which they believe addresses the issue.

So, back on the bike I went again. I did some warm-up, then the advanced spin-down, and then got right into a short but wattage-filled Zwift session (Analyzer link here):


Boom, success.

This time the sprints were in the right ballpark of the other power meters.  As always we see some slight differences in those peak 1-second numbers, some due to measurement differences and some just due to accuracy and recording differences.  Either way, it’s a heck of a lot better than before, this also includes the 400-500w range too:


So at this point I’d say things are definitely where I’d expect them to be.  You do notice though that the power doesn’t quite track as well immediately after the sprint when the wheel speed is still really high (9-minute marker two screenshots above), just like some other wheel-on trainers struggle with. This is where I peaked in power, and then backed off slightly before surging a bit more.

Of course, this is a first look – and not an in-depth review. That’ll come in time.  For now though, after these tweaks I’m content where things are.  I’d still like to see Wahoo though address their spin-down app to actually give meaningful feedback.  If the spin-down times are above/below spec, it should reject that attempt (as Tacx does in their app).  Or if the temperatures aren’t correct – it should note that too (I saw a 25°F swing in a matter of 10 minutes).  But again, at this point after a lot of spin-downs and with the new firmware I think I’m good.



All in all, these are nice changes to the SNAP.  As with the previous model it remains a solid mid-range trainer option, but with the new +/- 3% accuracy levels, it gets a bit of a nudge above the other options in the market which largely still sit at +/- 5% for the same price.  Plus, the Snap tends to be a bit more sturdy than the others and has the ability to match your power meter – which the others don’t have either.

On the flip-side, some of the other models can go higher in stated incline (i.e. the CycleOps Magnus at 15% vs the Snap’s 10%), so if increasing your level of pain is what matters more than accuracy, then that’s something to certainly consider.

Overall I wouldn’t look to upgrade an existing Snap to Snap V2, but if you’re in the market for a mid-range trainer, this is definitely among the top options out there to consider for this trainer season. And as I noted elsewhere, I don’t expect this to be a year filled with a bunch of new trainers.  I think we’ll see a few more minor tweaks from companies like this over the next 45 days, but that’s about it.

Finally, I’ll be doing more rides on this over the next month or so, once they finalize that beta firmware I have to production, and then release a full in-depth review with more power data after that.  Look for that in mid-late August.  Until then – thanks for reading!

FYI: You can now order the KICKR SNAP 2017 Edition from Clever Training. With units in stock, it’s now shipping.  The KICKR SNAP qualifies under the DCR/CT VIP program, which gets you 10% back in points as well as free US shipping.  Doing so helps support the site and ensure I can continue eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Hands-on: Airdog’s new ADII sports-tracking drone https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/airdog-adii-2nd-gen-sports-tracking-drone.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/airdog-adii-2nd-gen-sports-tracking-drone.html#comments Thu, 20 Jul 2017 23:05:06 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76794 Read More Here ]]> Airdog-ADII-Alps

Last week Airdog announced their latest sports-tracking drone, the Airdog ADII.  Years ago the company announced on Kickstarter their first drone, simply called Airdog, which was aimed 100% at the sports tracking market.  It didn’t pretend to be a more general drone, but rather was all about capturing yourself doing cool stuff in sports.  I reviewed it here.

With the ADII, their goal was to essentially take that existing unit, add some features and blend it a bit with the more general drone realm.  Meaning that it’s still 100% a sports-action drone, but they’ve added other functions to allow you to get more general/establishing/scenic shots that aren’t necessarily focused on you.  This is critical for putting together a good video edit that doesn’t quickly get boring.

Over the past weekend I got to test out a near-production unit out in the French Alps, putting it through its paces.  This isn’t a review, since the unit won’t start shipping until August or so (which is basically this afternoon by Kickstarter standards), but an initial look at the technology.  I’ll circle back in August or September with a deeper dive into the product as part of a review…once they start shipping.

If you just want a simple video (including footage), that explains it all – here ya go:

With that, onwards into more textual tech details!

What’s New – Software:


I’m going to largely skip over the Airdog basics in this post.  Mostly because I’ve covered them at length in the In-Depth review of the first generation unit.  In 7 bullet points, here’s what you need to know about Airdog basics:

– Airdog is designed specifically for the sports market to follow/film you, not so much the general drone market
– Airdog works by you wearing a small waterproof transmitter pod (about the size of a deck of cards), which the drone then follows around.  The transmitter pod is called the Airleash
– Both the Airleash and Airdog have barometric altimeters and GPS on them, and communicate continuously wirelessly to know exactly where you are.
– The Airleash has some buttons on it, allowing you to change the position and altitude of the drone, as well as different follow modes
– It has a gimbal stabilized camera platform that holds a GoPro Hero5 Black (that you have to provide)
– The battery life is about 15 minutes per battery, which is a bit on the low-end these days, though easily covers most ski runs or downhill mountain bike runs
– Upon the battery finishing, you can configure the unit to land where you are, or to land back at the start (ideal for watersports, where you want to land it on the beach).

With me so far?  Good.

So what’s new on the ADII?  Well, let’s dive things into two categories – hardware and software.  First we’ll talk software, since that’s the piece people will think is more exciting (though, the hardware is significantly changed under the hood too).

First up is the unit now has new scenic modes.  One of the big complaints in the past was that you couldn’t get establishing shots or just generic scenery shots around you.  Now you’ve got that with five new scenic modes:

– Reveal In
– Reveal Out
– Top-down
– 360° Panorama
– Circle Around

These modes can be triggered at any time by pressing the little star button on the Airleash.  They allow you to get shots like this:


Next, the ADII supports 3D lines.  Previously you could use the line function to force the Airdog to stay on a virtual cable in the air.  This was great for places like tight terrain (such as with trees), wakeboarding parks (where a cable drags you around), or even just creative shooting and shifting of the camera.

But you couldn’t control the elevation, nor could you control the orientation of the camera relative to you.  Also, lines were limited to two points.

Those limits are all gone now.  You can create complex lines (via phone or the Airleash) which have multiple points, multiple elevation levels, and even different camera angles. The easiest way to do so is with the Airdog app.

2017-07-15 20.11.02 2017-07-15 20.10.14 2017-07-15 20.13.27

Though, the most accurate way (for elevation data) is with the Airleash itself.

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Next, we venture into the realm of sorta-hardware, sorta-software changes.  First, the Airdog ADII will automatically start recording of your GoPro Hero5 for you.  Previously it required you remember to press record prior to take-off.  If you didn’t, there was no way to do so in the air remotely.  It’ll also change the settings for you so you’re in the right mode.

At this point in the beta, that wasn’t yet implemented, so I couldn’t test that feature.  It sounds like that’s coming shortly.

Also of note is in the software side of things you’ve got far more customizable control of how quickly the gimbal moves and how the unit follows.  These can be customized on a per sport or custom sport basis.

2017-07-15 20.06.57 2017-07-15 20.06.30

The second blended change is the calibration piece, which you needed to do prior to take-off each time. That’s significantly changed now and far easier.  I’ll talk about that more in the calibration section.

What’s new – Hardware:

Next, we’ve got the hardware changes.  From the exterior at a few meters away, you’d notice almost no differences.  The most visible of course being the new Airdog camera gimbal, which houses the Hero5 Black:


That gimbal is significantly different than the past gimbal, which wasn’t all that awesome.  This new gimbal is roughly on-par with DJI’s gimbals and seems to (in my testing anyway) provide a much cleaner level of stabilization than the past unit.  Note that it is not removable.

Next, if you look closely at the props and motors, they’ve now got individual icons for their specific prop.  Since the props on the Airdog are both right-side-up and upside-down, there’s actually four different props.  So each one has their own icon etched next to it.  This makes it approximately 6,231 times easier to figure out than it was in the past:

DSC_7818 DSC_7817

Then, moving onto the landing gear, you’ll find it significantly stronger.  This was an area that many of us complained about with the first generation unit, whereby I always had at least one extra landing gear with me when travelling.  And even then I’d break it often.


While we’re on the underside, you’ll notice the downwards facing sensors are updated/different.  They seem a bit more sensitive in my testing (in a good way, meaning, it more quickly sees the ground), but perhaps that’s just beta firmware.


(Old Airdog to left in yellow, new Airdog to right in purple)

And that’s where it’s probably good to move inside.  The internals of the unit are significantly overhauled. In talking with Airdog, they said about the only thing that’s the same is the plastic shell.  Beyond that it’s got an all new magnetometer/compass, all new GPS, all new barometric altimeter, as well as new processing chipsets.  All of this with the goal of being more accurate, especially in 3D lines.  That in turn allows you to get closer to things like trees and know it’ll stay put and on-line (preemptive note to always be safe here).


Next, the battery is different, though still compatible with the old batteries.  The new battery shifts the LED lights to the rear, so you can actually see battery status on the battery when inserted into the drone.  Previously you had to remove the battery to see the status.

Old battery to the left below, and new battery to the right.


Oh, and lastly, it’s sporting a different color scheme now:


Next, we’ve got the Airleash, you can see side by side they might look similar, but again, more adjustments the moment you turn them on.

First is that the LCD display is a crapton better.  It’s now backlit as well as far brighter/sharper/more contrast.  Basically, it’s readable now.  It’s so bright it blows out my indoor photo (I show photos of the text in other outdoor shots):


(Old Airleash to left, new Airleash to right)

Then within the Airleash menu you’ve got access to the new options like creating a 3D line from the Airleash itself.  This allows you to simply walk (sans-drone) from point to point to create a course, setting altitude and camera angles as you go.

2017-07-18 10.19.12

You can also do this from the app instead, simply tapping for a point you want it to fly, and then setting the altitude and camera position too.  Though, the camera position control is a bit funky as it’s a numerical scale which corresponds to positions around you.  I’d think given the easy to use UI nature of a phone app, just being able to set the camera angle on a round circle representing the area around you would be ideal.

2017-07-15 20.09.27 2017-07-15 20.10.06

The star button on the Airleash now functions as a way to get to the scenic flight modes, allowing quick access to those at any time:

2017-07-18 10.04.01

Finally, most notable is the start-up/calibration procedure is now dead-simple.  Sure, not as simple as ‘just fly’ like on most DJI products, but since there’s more complexity to ensuring that the Airleash and Airdog know exactly where they are and everything matches, it’s understandable that you’ll have to take 60 seconds to complete this.

The new LCD screen walks you through a series of much easier to understand animations, that again, only take about 60 seconds to complete in total.  You only need to do this once every 8 hours, though the company is hoping by the time they ship to get rid of that entirely if you haven’t travelled more than a few hundred miles.

Phew, got all that?


Now, of course there are some disappointments here.  First is size.  The unit isn’t any smaller.  In the age of Mavic and Spark, it makes it a tougher sell – especially comparing weight.  Though, as I showed in the video, it still folds up and easily fits into most backpacks.  I used this GoPro Seeker knock-off bag (it’s designed for the similarly sized GoPro Karma), and it worked great and held four batteries with ease.  You don’t really feel the weight riding, skiing, or even running – but by the same token I’d prefer it be lighter.


Then on the technical side the unit still lacks forward obstacle avoidance.  If there was anything my heart sank about when I saw the new unit – it was this.  Avoiding obstacles with the Airdog is the single biggest challenge the aircraft has.  While you’re skiing, riding, or doing whatever – you’re constantly having to be aware of it running into trees, rock cliffs, or even quickly shifting terrain.  It only has downwards depth sensing, and while that can occasionally save you from rising terrain, it doesn’t work against trees, cliffs, buildings, and so-on.

Finally, there’s the noise.  Airdog claims it’s quieter than the original, and perhaps it is.  But either way – it’s @#$@# louder than any other consumer drone in the category these days.  Way louder.  Perhaps I’ve just gotten used to how quiet the Mavic (and now Spark) are in comparison to drones of just a few years ago, but holy cow this is so much louder.

On the flipside, it’s also a beast.  It had zero issues in some higher winds I found while out mountain biking, and that’s the same that I’ve seen with the Airdog first generation units.  I made it perform in some really tough conditions – and every time it comes out just fine.

Of course, the drone industry is a really tough market.  With DJI spitting out two or more new consumer drone iterations each year, any company that wants to compete has to have a very unique selling proposition – and has to be updating frequently.  I think Airdog has that, and I think in this case they’ve added enough new features that new buyers could be enticed over.  It’s a harder pitch for existing owners to upgrade given the price point (even at Kickstarter prices).

Test Footage:


Over the weekend I took the ADII out for a few different test flights.  On one day I focused on following while mountain biking, while another day I did more running focused footage.  And both days I also did generic non-sport pieces like the new scenic modes.

I’ve compiled this into some test footage, which is unedited from a stabilization standpoint.  Actually, it’s also unedited from a color standpoint, because I’m too lazy to try and tweak/color correct.  Keep in mind that your color correction aspects are all related to the settings you use on your GoPro Hero5 Black.  You can certainly use GoPro’s ProTune settings and get more control over the final results in post-production.

For the purposes of filming, I shot everything as 2.7K at 60FPS and on Linear mode.  I find this to be the best option for drone footage, as 4K mode on a GoPro unfortunately forces you into the wider slightly fisheye lens look.  Whereas Linear mode is only offered up to 2.7K.  Also, 2.7K gets you the 60FPS, which is handy for slowing drone footage down a bit to get that slow-mo feel (4K is limited on GoPro’s to 30FPS).

Finally, I left image stabilization on within the GoPro, as per Airdog’s recommendation (GoPro also recommends the same on their drone).  This is an option up to 2.7K on the Hero5 Black.

Phew…got all that?  Good.  Here’s some hastily edited sample footage (no corrections of any kind). I’ve added some longer tracking shots into this set compared to the footage in the overview video:

As you can see – most important is that the gimbal stabilization looks pretty darn good.  Gone are some of the jitters and stuff of the original Airdog that you had to apply stabilization in post.

I’d say some of the default scenic moves need a tiny bit more smoothing in the algorithm (such as when it tilts up), but you can actually customize that yourself in the app already.

You’ll also note some really unique moves in there that I did using the new 3D line functionality.  For example, even in its simplest form (just two points), I’m able to get creative with elevation of the drone while it still focuses on me.  This allowed me to do a run segment whereby it climbed over some trees and stuff while I changed altitude in different ways – thus changing the perspective significantly (from 10m to 30m in total actually).

In addition, you’ll have noticed some of the new scenic modes in there, where I reveal in/out as well as the 360° sweep.  These can be customized a fair bit more in the settings, should you have the desire to.

I would say that I’d love to have a bit more control/options when it comes to the scenic modes.  Specifically, I’d like to be able to manually control the drone in almost the same way I do in the ‘point-down’ mode (where I can control all directions/rotations)…but also be able to control the camera orientation.  I wish there was just an option called ‘free flight’.  Yes, it’d be clunky…but that’s OK.  Most times I’m just wanting to get a simple establishing shot.

Or similarly, I wish I could use the 3D line function (created via phone app) to just let it fly the route without tracking me, keeping the camera pointed at either a set or customizable angle.  Again, allowing me to get some quick establishing shots that I might need.  To me, this would be pretty easy to implement since you could just have an option to set the speed and camera angle (the other pieces they already do today)…and they’d be done.

Airdog ADII vs DJI Mavic:


So you may be asking yourself whether it makes sense to consider the Airdog ADII or the DJI Mavic for your next drone.  In some ways that’s a super-complex question, yet in other ways it’s honestly pretty straight forward.

(Oh, before I go on, note that I’m not including either the Spark or Phantom in this specific comparison.  I’m ignoring the Phantom since it doesn’t fold up, and is kinda a pain in the ass to carry in most endurance sports considerations.  And I’m somewhat ignoring the Spark because it doesn’t really match the quality of the Airdog.  But that said, you can actually substitute the Active Track functions of the Mavic for the Spark, but it does NOT have remote control follow-me mode like the Mavic does. Mmmkay?  Good.)

So, as I was saying – Mavic vs ADII.  I’ve included the tech specs down below, for those that want to compare.  But in many ways that actually doesn’t tell the story too well.  At the surface technical comparisons may check boxes off your buying requirements, but they don’t dive into whether or not one drone sucks at that particular feature.  So here’s my suggestions:

You want to do solo sports and record yourself:

Quite frankly, there’s no better option than the Airdog ADII here.  Mainly because it can follow *you* and do so dependably and reliably.  For example, in using both the first and second generation Airdogs, I’ve only had one time where I out-skied it and it returned to home.  That’s it.  Whereas when I try and do Active Tracking on DJI’s drones, it’s rare that in any fast-moving sport I can have it follow me for more than 30-40 seconds (even if that).  It’s just not good at it.  And that’s largely because it’s not following a tracker, but trying to follow you as an object as the camera sees it.  Similarly, while you can use DJI’s ‘Follow-me’ mode with a controller, that’s not waterproof and you can’t just lock the controls and stick it in your bag either.  Nor will it follow altitude changes.

You want to record scenery/etc, or have good drone pilot friends:

In this case, then the DJI products make a better fit.  Since you can’t stream live video to Airdog’s remote (though you can pair your GoPro to your phone and somewhat use that), it’s not great for just getting general scenic shots.  Of course, the new ADII modes help fill some gaps, but there are still pretty sizable gaps here.  If looking to have friends shoot you while you’re doing your sport, you’ll want to have them be pretty good pilots.  That’s because keeping a fast-moving subject in-frame with some level of cinematic smoothness is actually pretty difficult for a novice.

The DJI options are also better if you want to go further than the 150m or so that the Airdog can fly within range.  While many jurisdictions have additional flight distance laws, most are at least 300-400m or so.  So that’s where DJI’s superior connectivity/transmission pieces is more useful.

Said differently – if you plan to use a drone mainly for capturing quick selfies, vacation footage, or just your house – then the Airdog is overkill.  Whereas if you want a drone that can truly keep up in sports, then the Airdog is the best option.

And finally, here’s the full tech spec comparison:

Function/FeatureAirdog ADII (2nd Gen)Airdog (1st Gen)DJI Mavic Pro
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 21st, 2017 @ 9:37 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Price (non-combo)$999-$1,199 (Kickstarter Current)$1,599$999
Announcement DateJuly 11th, 2017Jun 15th, 2014Sept 26th, 2016
Shipping DateAugust 2017February 2016Oct 21st, 2016
IncludedNoNoNo (In Fly More Combo Yes)
Can store props w/o removalNoNoYes
Folded Dimensions--H83mm x W83mm x L198mm
Use only phone as controllerNoNoYes
Controller WaterproofYesYesNo
Secondary controller operatorNonoNo

Finally, I haven’t yet included the Staaker sports focused drone in the product comparison database, though you can read my preview post on it from this past winter.


Oh, and for lack of anywhere else to put it – a few quick thoughts on current beta stability.  In short, it’s very good.  I’d agree with their current timelines of August being reasonable.  Overall in-flight works without issue.  I saw one minor app bug thing that’s already been fixed.  I stumbled into issue that killed the gimbal last night, but it turns out that was because they had removed a motor overload failsafe for development testing reasons and forgot to re-enable the safety on the unit they handed off to me.  So I’m not worried about that – doing such things is pretty common for companies.  I’m less confident on the GoPro integration being ready by August, merely because I haven’t seen it yet.

But overall, I think they’re in a really good spot hardware/software wise.  It’s far more stable than any of the original Airdog beta aircraft I used prior to production.

Final Thoughts:


So my core desire here was to figure out whether the ADII could be a viable two birds in one stone solution.  Previously I’ve said that if you wanted solo sport tracking, there’s no better drone than the Airdog.  For all their awesomeness, DJI products just suck in this area.  I’ve shown it over…and over…and over again.  But the challenge was that previously Airdog sucked in all other ways that DJI excelled at.

And for 98% of consumers, the DJI products were a better option.  I love my DJI Mavic and Spark. Love it.  But I wouldn’t use it to do sport tracking, they’re just not reliable enough to get the shots you want.  So does the new ADII fill in some of the gaps?


They’ve done some great work on the software side here to fill in some of these pieces (and some very modest hardware tweaks).  I’m more comfortable saying now that if you primarily want a sports drone, the ADII is where it’s at – and you can still use it for a handful of other scenarios outside of sports far easier than you could in the past.

Further, the 3D route functionality is very impressive.  While DJI has routing functionality on the Mavic), you can’t get anywhere near the level of control here.  Further, you can’t have it automatically focus on you during this.  Instead, you’ve got to either manually control the camera (impossible while riding a bike down a mountain), or have someone else do it for you (not solo).

My concern does still remain around pricing.  I think it’s worth the $999USD price they set for Kickstarter for a certain audience, but I think $1,499 is a really tough sell – especially given they don’t include a camera that the Mavic does (or even GoPro does at that price point). And I really wish they had added forward obstacle sensing.

Still, they have done great work with the gimbal, and it’s far better than the older gimbal was – which just didn’t get the buttery smooth action that DJI has.  And while I wish they had made it smaller, by keeping the outer shell the same, they significantly reduce their manufacturing exposure for delays and such (which impacted the first project).  Hence why they can ship starting as early as August.

With that – thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the full in-depth review this fall.

Garmin Acquires Cycling Aerodynamics Company Alphamantis https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/aerodynamics-alphamantis-acquired.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/aerodynamics-alphamantis-acquired.html#comments Thu, 20 Jul 2017 17:50:03 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=76818 Read More Here ]]> This afternoon Garmin has announced that it has acquired the cycling aerodynamics focused company Alphamantis.  What’s that?  You’ve never heard of Alphamantis before?  Shame, you’ve been missing out on some pretty cool stuff.

Alphamantis has actually been around a number of years in the aerodynamic realm.  In fact, I first met with them almost 6 years ago in a dimly lit hotel room where they demonstrated their aerodynamic sensors using a fan borrowed from the front desk.  While I took many photos that September 28th of 2011, I wasn’t able to end up using them.  Same goes for the videos too.  However, finally, 6 years later I can give you a small peek at what they were doing way back then.


But before we do that, we need to cover some other bits.

While the project above continued to cook along in the background, the company became more public about other efforts, most notably their aero testing and timing platforms.  You may remember back in May of 2013 when, during a trip to California, I tried out the aero testing platform which used indoor velodromes to determine very detailed elements of aerodynamic fit.  The benefit to this over a wind-tunnel is that there the rider is actually going somewhere on a bike, and not stuck in a static spot.  That system is Alphamantis, though the testing done is by individual test facilities licensing the Alphamantis technology.

IMG_3659 IMG_3748_thumb

During my time riding in circles around the track 4 years ago we mostly focused on aero testing a few gizmos and gadgets, rather than my position.  But these days many pro tour teams and individuals (including Team Sky), as well as numerous age group athletes, use the platform to do testing of gear prior to the season.  This service is offered in 10 different velodromes around the world today, and usually include some element of a bike fit too (since that’s a critical piece to the aerodynamic puzzle).


But here’s the thing: That’s not what this acquisition is about.

Instead, it’s about that funky little device I saw 6 years ago in that dimly lit Canadian hotel room.  That’s what Garmin is after.

(Note: When asked about what happens to the existing Alphamantis customers, Garmin stated: “Our intention is that Garmin will continue to support existing customers on the Track Aero Systems and Timing for the foreseeable future.  We highly value Alphamantis’ current relationships and experience working at the highest level of cycling.”)

But wait, there’s more important backstory.  Remember last summer at Eurobike when Argon 18 announced their aerodynamically packed full of 15 bike sensors concept?  I never ended up writing about it as things got kinda busy.


However, tucked away in the front of that was the most important piece of the story – an aerodynamic sensor:


Depending on which bike you were looking at that day, the sensor showed up in two different ways.  One way, the more ideal/concealed manner (above), and then also the then current testing version in a secondary out-front enclosure (below):


This sensor was designed to measure aerodynamic changes at high fidelity, transmitting that back to a head unit running a Garmin Connect IQ app.  Note on the second line the real-time CDA (aerodynamic drag), and on the 3rd line the wind speed.


So how does this tie into Argon 18?  Well, the sensor above isn’t actually one Alphamantis made.  But that doesn’t mean they weren’t involved with Argon 18.  The two companies (both located in Quebec) worked together at some levels to make that bike happen, though the details are largely kept pretty quiet by both parties.

Which isn’t to say Argon 18 didn’t do a ton of work of their own, as they did (whatever Alphamantis’ involvement is exactly). There’s still a boatload of other sensors, software, and components that were part of that bike shown.  A bike that is actually real and functional, though not yet being sold.  Argon 18 still notes plans to make that happen however.

I noted a month later in my State of Sports Tech keynote that this area was ripe for innovation and consumer interest, even referencing the Argon 18 bike and sensor data (I’ve set the exact part of that keynote below if you click play – 45 mins and 52 seconds in):

Yet that wasn’t the only action Alphamantis aero going on at the time.  While all this was going on, Alphamantis was starting to pitch their new aero sensor to not only coaches, teams, and other cycling brands…but also to investors.

And they had good reason to.  If marketed correctly, an aerodynamic sensor that’s easily installed, unobtrusive, and easily understood through simple apps like the Garmin Connect IQ one shown above, could be a major market.

The sensor that Alphamantis was quietly pre-selling appears even smaller than the non-Alphamantis sensor shown on the Argon 18 bike.  You can see it in this provided photo below, next to a standard 9V battery:


That my friends…that’s what Garmin is after.

The market for such a device (again, if priced appropriately) would be huge.  Not only direct to consumers, but also licensed to bike brands such as Trek, Specialized, Argon 18, and more.  Similar to how Quarq offers brands the ability to have ‘Quarq/DZero Ready’ crank sets, bike manufacturers could do the same.  All of which provides Garmin with an easy selling opportunity.

And not just to sell consumers the AeroSensor (or whatever they end up being called), but also to sell them Garmin devices.  Invariably the idea here would be to ensure that Garmin devices have the most detail from said sensor.  This would likely be in much the same way that Garmin Vector pedals certainly follow all the ANT+ standards for power delivery (so you can use them with other bike computers), but at the same time there are specific functions which only work with Garmin head units (like seated/standing time and other Cycling Dynamics components).

The second question is how this might impact folks like PowerPod.  They’ve got a sensor already in the market that measures these exact same things (albeit for post-ride analysis), and I’ve commented repeatedly that them developing a simple Connect IQ app was their best way to expand reach.  While they’ve hinted in recent weeks that might be imminent, I suspect this will light a fire even more.  Certainly one can debate the quality of data from either device, but until both devices are side by side and testable – it’s not really possible to state whether one device is better than the other.  Either way, more choice is always good.

The final question is when consumers might see these devices.  As expected, when asked, both Garmin and Alphamantis declined to provide detail.  Alphamantis employees will remain in Montreal and as of today have become part of Garmin.  This is similar to how when Garmin bought Metrigear (eventually becoming Vector), they remained in California and worked from there as a small team.  Though these days that team spans multiple locales across North America.

If we look at another Garmin acquisition, that of BackTracker (which became Varia Radar), that was announced in January 2015, and they then announced the Varia Radar product that summer.  But that product was very close to being shippable the previous summer, under the initial crowd funding campaign.

The key strength that Garmin brings to the table that Alphamantis doesn’t have is primarily manufacturing (and reach of course).  Garmin is the rare unicorn in the sports tech (or even general tech) realm that actually owns their own factories.  This allows them significantly more control compared to most over how a product is produced, the quality of the product, and the costs associated with it.  Thus if Alphamantis was already close to shipping product, then the time between now and when we see a Garmin branded version could be very tight.

Either way – there’s definitely some sports tech excitement due down the road.  I certainly wouldn’t expect anything at Eurobike or Interbike, since those are just over a month away.  But I suspect that next spring might be ripe for new aero goodness.

With that – thanks for reading!