Friday, July 31, 2009

Unboxing An Edge

I've sought long and hard to bury my inner geek. Yet no matter how much I try, my true geekiness seems to shine through from time to time. Anyone who's been on the internet should be quite familiar with fanboys blogging their glee at unboxing their newest tech-toys. Well when my Garmin Edge 305 GPS bicycle computer arrived this week, I couldn't help but share in their joy, but first a bit of background. Since the day I bought my bike, I've longed for a cyclocomputer. Basically it's a fancy speedometer for your bike that tracks statistics such as speed, mileage, and cadence. There are plenty of options on the market which can provide these features for a bargain price. However, I wanted the ability to track my routes, elevation, and most importantly progress over time. I settled on the Garmin Edge 305. Shipped to my door, the final price was $270 from A bit expensive, but it has every feature I need plus Garmin Connect's online software which is perhaps the best system for tracking both routes and ride data such as speed, heart rate, and cadence.

The Cupertino influence on Garmin's packaging is very evident.

I've used my Edge once already, and have been very pleased with it. You can expect an in-depth review soon. But while I'm still trying to figure out the nuances of my GPS, I figured I'd post a little unboxing joy of my own so others who might be considering the Edge 305 would know what they're getting. My first impression was a little surprise. The box is perfectly square and reminiscent of the packaging my first Apple iPod came in. However, Garmin still has a way to go before fully realizing Apple's clean, minimalist packaging. The unit itself is tiny and light weight, with a very clean appearance. All functions are easy to use while at full speed, and the display is easy to read.

The GPS itself is tiny, with an easy to read screen.

I opted for the model complete with GPS, cadence sensor, and heart rate monitor. Cadence is an important statistic for cyclists. Novice cyclists often choose too difficult a gear and pedal at a low cadence. The problem with this strategy is that it is mostly anaerobic and quickly leads to muscle fatigue. Not good when trying to ride distances of 60-100 miles. More experienced cyclists use an easier gear and spin it at a faster cadence (90-110 rpm), utilizing more aerobic and cardiovascular endurance which can help one ride faster over longer distances.

The whole package complete withe cadence sensor and heart rate monitor.

Installation was easier than I thought. Included are all necessary mounts and zip ties for the entire system. Garmin even throws in an additional stem mount for cyclists with multiple bikes... or those who might mess up the first time. I was able to get everything attached and working within 30 minutes. The stem mount and cadence sensor go on with zip ties. The toughest part is lining up the cadence sensor, crank magnet, and spoke magnet. However the combination of green and red LED's on the cadence sensor which light up when active make setup very easy. If everything is installed correctly the entire system is unobtrusive. But anyone who has one can appreciate the aesthetics of Trek's new DuoTrap system which integrates a cadence sensor cleanly into the chainstay of the bike.

The unit in place and ready to use.

Honestly, part of me was a little afraid of getting a bicycle computer. The computer tells no lies, and as in many sports very often people's idea of how they perform is far better than reality. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was very close to what I expected. My first trip out was during a recovery ride on a windy and hilly route with some quite a bit of soreness from running the previous day. I was able to maintain a 15 mph average speed at a cadence of 80 rpm. Not too bad, and thankfully exactly where I expected myself to be.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Astros Update - Where's the Leadership?

The Houston Astros are perhaps my favorite sporting team. I grew up idolizing Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Some of my fondest memories were trips to the Astrodome to watch the Astros. I languished through years of playoff frustration, rejoiced when I saw them take the field in the 2005 World Series, and now I see my team approaching a major crossroad.

The Astros have always been known as a veteran team who knew just when to turn it on during the second half of the season. With the steady leadership of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio the team would hit their stride after the All Star break reeling off record amounts of victories on their way to the playoffs. Bagwell retired after the 2005 season, unable to play with an arthritic shoulder. Biggio recorded his 3,000 hit in 2007 and bid the team a tearful farewell. The Astros haven't been the same since.

In 2008, the first year without the two Houston icons, the Astros seemed right on pace to take the wildcard with yet another second half surge. However, Hurricane Ike had other plans. When key divisional games with the Cubs had to be rescheduled, the Astros lost their chance at the 2008 playoffs. It was easy to write it off at the time as a major distraction. Players and coaches were worried more about their homes and families than a silly game. Yet in retrospect, the cracks had begun breaking apart the rock.

For a second, I thought the Astros of old were back in 2009. Right after the All Star game, the Astros split a series with the Dodgers and swept the Cardinals. They were righting the ship, hitting and pitching well. Yet the past two weeks have been a shock back to reality. Series losses to both the dysfunctional Mets and surging Cubs have left the Astros teetering at .500 and at serious risk of losing any chance at another miracle playoff run.

Is it a lack of talented pitching? Is it ice cold hitting? I say no. The Astros have shown flashes of brilliance in all areas. It's an utter lack of consistency. One night it's 7 innings of strong pitching wasted with a blown save by the bullpen. The next it's 8 runs scored negated by 12 runs allowed. These Astros just don't perform as consistently as they used to. It's simply a lack of leadership which has deteriorated the club's focus night in and night out.

Without the steady, hard working examples provided by Bagwell and Biggio the Astros have lost their way. Players just don't seem to give the same effort they used to, and it shows on the field. Tejada, Berkman, and Lee are no replacement for Biggio, Bagwell, and Ausmus. While our current players may try to be leaders, they simply don't seem to command the same respect as the retired legends. With another series with the Cardinals coming tomorrow, will the current crew be able to right the ship, or is it time for the Astros to start searching for new legends to build the franchise around?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boy, George!

I haven't been cycling for very long, around 8 months. I've been a fan of cycling on TV for even less time, but I can already tell you who my favorite pro is - George Hincapie. Ask most Americans who their favorite cyclist is, and they'll tell you Lance Armstrong with good reason. Armstrong's won 7 straight Tour de Frances. More importantly he's inspired millions as a cancer survivor and through his LIVESTRONG foundation. However, I don't think it would be a stretch to say Armstrong wound never have ascended the podium in Paris those seven times without George Hincapie. Hincapie is the consummate teammate, willing to eschew personal glory in favor of team success. His humble nature has made him one of the most respected cyclists in the peloton. Should anyone ever doubt his toughness, George revealed today on his Twitter page that he rode the final four stages of the Tour de France (including Mont Ventoux) with a broken collarbone!

Hincapie's Twitter Page Today

This just rubbed salt in the wounds caused by Hincapie's 2009 Tour de France. His team Columbia HTC achieved tremendous success, with Hincapie helping lead out sprinter Mark Cavendish to an amazing six stage wins. However, personally Hincapie lost out on the dream of donning the Maillot jaune (French for yellow jersey) by just five seconds during Stage 14 when a couple of teams in the peloton unexpectedly decided to close the gap Hincapie had finished with. Anyone who saw his post-ride interview could hear the disappointment in his voice when he lost the overall lead. It was just more bad luck for the man who seems to cross paths with black cats and walk under ladders before the Paris - Roubaix every year.

When asked about his future after the Tour de France this year, Hincapie was very vague. Having just turned 36, he was unsure as to if he would return in 2010 for another Tour. He also revealed his contract was up for renewal with Columbia HTC. Interesting news considering Lance Armstrong just announced his new RadioShack Team. I've got a feeling one of the first people Lance hopes to sign up will be his good friend George. It might have been a rough year in 2009 for Hincapie, but there's still plenty of fans who want to see him take another victory lap before riding off into the sunset.

The Weight Loss Challenge

I'm now two days into my new diet, and on the road to my goal of losing 15 pounds in the next two months. I'm not heavy by any means. Currently my weight hovers around the 160 pound mark. However, there are a few areas I'd like to tweak with my current physique, namely my midsection.

How do I plan on going achieving this? Mostly cleaning up my diet. My job's odd hours and copious overtime has thwarted my previous attempts at cleaning up my diet, but now I've committed to cut out the fast food and empty calories.

As far as exercise, I've been consistently running and riding my bike for the past year, and I plan on keeping it up. Running and biking have saved me from the shock of seeing the scales tip at 175 in May of 2008. Since then I've lost 15 pounds. I believe cleaning up my diet will be the final key to getting my body back into the shape I think it should be.

Look for my review on my Cannondale CAAD9-5 coming very soon!

Cycling has been one of the greatest weight loss secrets I've discovered. Riding a bike seems to put your heart rate in that magical fat melting zone, and it's easy to maintain it for upwards of 5 hours. Besides, cycling is just a ton of fun. I used to wonder how all those nuts could dress up in spandex and ride around amongst cars, but now that I've tried it I'm hooked. It's a blast to go flying down the road at 20 miles an hour or to struggle up a hill a mile long with an 8% grade. Now that I've got my Cannondale CAAD 9, I'm having more fun than ever.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Beginnigs

My writing career has been a series of ups and downs. Golf, and photography are two things I've written about in the past. Heck, some of my work has been published on major websites. But with an expanding work schedule, my writing has taken a backseat to the rest of my life. Now I will be making my triumphant return to writing. I am pledging to update my blog two to three times a week with whatever is going on in my life. You can expect to read anything and everything. One day might be a bike product review, the next might be a photo update, it'll all be here for the world to read and comment on. Here's to new beginnings.