Monday, March 10, 2014

"Run the Map" Windows phone app for cycling.

 An example of the route tracking.

I don't like bicycle computers. In the old days you had to string wire all over your bike, they required set up and batteries and heaven help you if you wanted to change your wheels, or even your tires! Then you had to reprogram the thing to get what was at best, an approximation of the distance you were covering. They were also a distraction while riding. I once tried a wireless computer, it was very unreliable. Really, all I ever wanted was some sort of record of the distance covered. Speed was secondary to me. The Huret "Multido" was in my mind almost the perfect cyclometer...

Now however, we are in the wireless golden age! Wireless phones that is. My wife and I recently made the leap into the 2010's by going in with our sons on a wireless plan. My wife got my son's old LG and I found a new Nokia 521 Windows phone for a hundred bucks.

Well, the 521 is certainly not state of the art but it still offers a lot of handy features for an economy price! Since I'm a noob when it comes to smartphones, starting with a Windows phone posed no problem for me. I found it fairly intuitive. The phone is capable of voice commands, has a decent enough camera, (though no flash), and GPS. This last feature was actually what sold the phone to me. I was toying with the idea of getting an inexpensive Garmin GPS for riding, but now you can have all that with the Nokia, plus you'll get a camera, Wi-Fi portal, texting, hey you can even CALL somebody with it!

The only problem with Windows phones is that there are fewer apps available compared to the i-phone and android hordes. So, I had to search a bit to find an appropriate app. I tried "Map My Ride" but it clearly wasn't ready for use on my phone. "Run the Map", a weirdly similarly named app from MicroSoft, works rather nicely. It better, I suppose, considering who made it and my phone's operating system!

Starting point. Push start, then pause to stop. 
Run the Map is not solely a cycling app, of course, but can be used for running, walking/hiking as well. You select which mode you want by pushing the button on the start screen above which is displaying the cyclist. You push once to display a runner, again and it will show a cyclist, next a car(?), then a hiker. I'm not really sure what changes in each mode.

After selecting your mode you push the Start button to begin moving. You may hit pause anytime, then resume to continue. When your ride is finished, hit pause. To store the ride and it's stats, hit the + sign at the bottom of the screen. This starts a new ride! But before it begins, it will ask you if you want to save the previous one. (If you want to delete it, you check the box to delete, otherwise it's saved).

This app performs pretty well. It is important to put your phone into "sleep"(?) mode, in order that the buttons are not disturbed while it is running. On my Nokia, I tap the on/off button once lightly and the screen goes dark. The app continues to record in this mode. Tap the button again and you'll be back to your display. When I first tried this app I left the phone on. The phone then responds to every touch the screen gets when getting jostled around in your jersey pocket. This usually results in the app getting paused or worse! Pausing to do something else with your phone, like snapping a picture is no problem, just don't forget to "resume"!

 Here(above) is a screen shot showing the paused mode, ready to resume. If you want to save it, or delete it at this point, you'd hit the + sign on the bottom right of the screen and you will see...

...this screen. Check the box if you don't want the ride saved, then hit OK. Default option will save the ride.

Here are examples of the data you get from this app:

A nice graphic showing your route...

Your basic data, including distance, average and max. speed.

Interesting elevation profiles, but be aware that GPS elevation data is pretty near worthless.

There is a web site that you can upload your rides to if you want, and there if you buy the paid version you get some more bells and whistles, but I'm not really interested in all that. All in all, I am pretty satisfied with this app. The distance and speed is accurate enough for my use, and this is one cyclometer that can be moved from bike to bike with no effort whatsoever! Oh, and one of the best things about this app is its price; Yup, free....

Summing up the Mercian Project.

January, 2014; with a Brooks B-17 on a Campy Nouvo Record post and a Carradice Pendle attached, black tape on the bars.

It's been about a year since my King of Mercia arrived, all the assembly and testing and riding since has evolved the bike into my own. Now that I'm more or less done developing it, I thought I'd publish this final chapter to bring together what I've learned.

On it's first trip around Folsom Lake.


Mercian is a relatively small company, and they have made great efforts to make ordering a frame as easy as possible. Their online frame maker is a terrific tool, but it does not do everything. There are some missing features. I really wanted a bracket for a bottle type generator, but this wasn't shown. Also, an optional wider fork crown wasn't mentioned. This feature is fairly important with cantilever brakes, but I only found out by chance, reading about it on another fellow's description of his build. It was a little funny, during my communications with Mercian about this, I got the impression that it wasn't really needed, but when the frame arrived, I found it was spec'd on the worksheet! At any rate, there was no extra charge for the wider crown, and it appears that it really is needed allow the clearance the Tektro 720's need.

Many of these details have to be handled via email, and the folks at Mercian, (Grant in particular) were responsive to my questions. I decided not to go with the dynamo bracket, (they needed the dimensions of the generator which I hadn't even bought at the time), they also double checked that I hadn't requested eyelets on the top seatstay for a rear rack. I didn't (I probably should have, the arching bridge between the seatstays offers no horizontal hole for mounting a rear rack)!

That wide fork crown did present one challenge; It has no (brake bolt) hole in it. Of course, since it is intended for a cantilever brake then it isn't needed, however, it also makes mounting a rando style rack rather tricky. It also makes mounting a headlight impossible at the fork crown. I decided not to install a front rack at this time, and have not installed a light yet, but I may have to drill the crown some day to make things easier.

 January, 2013. Just out of the box.

One last twist came several months after I had taken delivery of the frame. I received a bill from a contractor for FedEx asking for a 10% tariff fee! I did some Internet searching and found that a frame imported to the U.S, worth over $600, does indeed require a tariff payment, but of 4%, not 10. I submitted a protest and eventually began an email exchange with a representative from the company, a nice fellow, who happened to be a cyclist! This was over six months ago now, and I have never heard anything else about this matter! I don't know if it was dropped or fell between the cracks or what, but just be aware that you will most likely receive some sort of charge for bringing a Mercian into the States. Remember to check current U.S. Tariff tables before paying!

(July, 2014 update: The tariff dispute was finally settled in my favor on July 22, 2014. Strangely, I got a bill from a collector before I got the FedEx letter about the settlement. The collector wanted an addition $7.38 in fees. I called FedEx and complained and they said I could pay them directly with no fees, which is what I did.)

Below are a few shots from some of my initial rides.

 On Yankee Jims Road to Colfax.

 Camp Far West Road.
On Old Foresthill Road, overlooking the N Fork of the American River

Component choice and assembly has been mostly uneventful. I initially installed a Velo Orange Gran Cru 50.4 BCD double crank, but had several problems making it work. The distance between the large chainwheel and the crank arm is just too tight for clearance of a modern front derailleur, so I went with the more conventional compact double, which has ample clearance. The 110mm BCD of this crank limits the smallest chainwheel you can fit to 34. That is certainly adequate except for loaded touring. 

The Tiagra rear derailleur is utterly competent, and works well with the Sora 8 speed downtube shifters. I have also gone back to the Brooks B17, I find it to be the most comfortable for me. The Nitto Noodle handlebars are pretty comfortable, but I'm still a little put off by their looks. They may be replaced some day. Tanaka fenders were a bargain, and they are holding up well. 

As I mentioned in my initial post about the Mercian, this is my retirement gift, and now, my retirement looms. The purchase of this frame alone has been something of an adventure, now I'm looking forward to more adventures on the saddle!

July 2014: I finally drilled the fork crown and installed a Nitto M-12 front rack. This proved to be relatively easy to do. The Nitto rack is beautiful, much nicer than the Ducas I got a while back, and fits the Mercian nicely. Shown below with my modified Rivendell/Carradice Boxy handlebar bag, I also have a huge Ostrich F-106 Rando Bag to try out. Incidentally, despite the relatively high trail of 60.8, the bike's handling with this bag, (albeit with only about 5 lbs of load inside), seems good.
I can't stop messing with this bike! Here's it's latest configuration!

Here are links to previous blog posts describing my Mercian adventure!
Ordering the Mercian
The Mercian arrives
The Mercian's initial build
The Mercian is (almost)finished!

Bonne route!