Monday, 25 May 2015

Garmin USB2 ANT Stick In-Depth Review

 
The world of indoor training with techno-devices is moving forward at an alarming pace. Gone are the days of staring at a clock on the wall while on the trainer, we're now hooked in live to whatever application we choose that can take advantage of a multitude of sensors. Heart rate, power, cadence, speed, all flying through the air ready to be captured, displayed, and analysed.

While the competing standards of ANT+ vs Bluetooth Smart (4.0) grows, at this point in time we need to get ANT+ signals into our PCs and Macs to take advantage of these next gen applications.

Using my love for technology, DC Rainmaker, and creating content that is pretty useless, I thought I'd do an in-depth review of Garmin ANT USB2 sticks.

Unboxing:

Mine didn't actually come in a box. It came in a little plastic baggy.
Baggy opened. The unboxing is taking shape.
Success!
Endless opportunities to store small things awaits.
Garmin USB2 ANT 'Stick'... or is it?
What we've really got is a Dynastream Innovations Inc ANTUSB-M

Side view. I'm still at least 34 photos down on DC Rainmaker at this point.

I've had the original 'stick' version of the USB2 key for a few years now, so that box is long gone. Just imagine all the excitement of the above unboxing occurring again, with more stick.

USB2 stick. More like a stick than the other one. The Dynastream Innovations Inc ANTUSB2-OEM.
Comparison.
ANT no mountain high enough.

Naming Convention:

Now here is where things get confusing. The original USB2 'stick' was somewhat stick shaped, like a lot of early USB devices. Along comes the not-so-stick shaped USB...er...plug/adapter thingy and it still gets branded a stick!?

Similar, kind of.
Not similar.
With a modification of the stick to stick-m, it isn't too far off.

The two Garmin USB2 ANT Sticks are different products, with different device/product ID codes. They both should do the exact same job, and should draw the same current. I'll look into wireless range tests in the near future. 




You're less likely to stub your toe on the ANTUSB-m.

Driver installation is taken care of automatically on both Windows and Mac platforms, assuming you have a working Internet connection. If you're reading this, you do. Gone are the days of having to throw out the supplied compact disc of outdated drivers.


Field Test:


In true DC Rainmaker style, I strapped both USB sticks onto my arm and ran around the block. A pointless exercise as this isn't their intended use.

What they both successfully did was resolve this when loading Zwift:

This ANT a problem any more with either USB device.

Comparison Table:


Function/Feature  ANTUSB-m  ANTUSB-OEM 
USB2  Yes  Yes
ANT+  Yes  Yes
Stick like No Yes
Likely to lose it Yes Maybe
Weight  1g 7g
Waterproof  Not willing to test it   Ditto


Further Info:

The Suunto Movestick Mini stick has the same form factor as the ANTUSB-m, but is an ANTUSB-OEM cut down to size (Device/Product ID 1008). Has exact same function as the other two Garmin branded products.



Beware of potential confusion when ordering a "Garmin USB2 ANT stick" without knowing the product code. Below is a Garmin iPhone ANT adapter...not USB.




Sunday, 17 May 2015

Zwift Down Under Challenge - Melbourne & Sydney - May 2015


We've just arrived home from Sydney after an amazing whirlwind short notice tour competing in the Zwift Down Under Challenge. Not in a million years would I have imagined being on a plane with a large trophy between my feet and a giant novelty cheque in the overhead luggage.

Back in early April I wrote about Zwift and my experience with the new world of online interactive cycling: Zwift - Next Level Awesome. Since then a few things have changed. Zwift is now on a new and improved island (Watopia) and the code geniuses have added more features (and a mobile companion app). Things are progressing at warp-speed with events such as 'Ride with Jens', partnerships with the Tour of California and Tour de Pier, just to name a few. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what's coming. They've also just gone to 'open beta' which now allows everyone to get involved.

When the team at Zwift announced they'd be coming to Australia to host events in Melbourne and Sydney, I was keen to catch up with them and get an insight into the company and what we can expect in the future. Oh, and to tell them how addictively fun they've made indoor riding.

They'd seen my posts online about using Zwift and were also looking forward to catching up with a passionate (and obsessed) Zwift user. They invited both Veronica and I to their Melbourne base the night before their launch at Bike Gallery for a meet and greet.

We'd planned to spend only a few minutes to say g'day. Two hours later, after many questions, stories, and a few good laughs, both Von and I left them to continue their event preparation, both wearing Zwift t-shirts! As I posted to the Zwift Riders group on Facebook, catching up with these guys was inspirational.

Me (Zwift addict), Eric Min (CEO), Mark Riedy, and Tomas Hrbek.

It was great to meet the team behind something that is going to be pretty big in cycling. I speculated on the potential of what they could do with the platform back in April. It turns out they're already three steps ahead, in every aspect. I left there with my eyes wide open and mind spinning faster than a Kickr flywheel.



Bike Gallery Melbourne Zwift Launch - May 13th 2015

The setting for the Melbourne launch was perfect. Cam and Lincoln have a showpiece store and pump out quality coffee to match.



Not only was the launch to demo Zwift to the local cycling community, there was an added incentive to set the fastest male and female times around Watopia (9.1km) for a winner-takes-all $500!

They'd taken fun and turned it up all the way 11 (speed)!

The pressure was on from the start, I'd been ranked high enough to be one of the last riders off. Even the online Zwift community were talking up my chances at the $500. International pressure, and eyes from all over the world were on this event.

Veronica set a huge PB on Watopia with 14:47, which was leading the women's category until Seda Camgoz flew up the climb and around the course to set the winning women's time of 14:08. Amazing times from both ladies.

Veronica (Von) looking strong and stylish all at once. #hammertime
I kept a nervous eye on the leaderboard all night until it was my time to take on the Watopia challenge. The heat was on, literally, from the start. I'd gone out hard and was soon calling for water. Thankfully I had Stephen Lane and Veronica by my side as assistants. While Veronica was pouring water on me, MC Scott McGrory (OAM, Olympic Gold Medallist) was on the mic pouring on the pressure.

.... and this was just the warm up. :)
The jersey soon came off as I was into the final few kms of Watopia. There had been some great times ridden already, if I could push hard from the sprint banner to the finish line the time should be well under 13 minutes.




Posted by Eric Min on Wednesday, 13 May 2015



It was. 12:31. A PB around Watopia after giving it everything I had. A late charge by Fergus Sully had me biting my nails until his lap time was locked in with a solid 12:47. Another phenomenal performance by a Zwift first timer.


That is a really big trophy. And Eric has really bright Zwift orange shoes.

A highlight was near the end of the night when James Werner was true to his word - if Fergus rode, he'd set a time in a TT helmet and tri-kit. The entire place was in hysterics, then he battled through and set a very reasonable time!



This is what happens when you drink too much!
Posted by Eric Min on Wednesday, 13 May 2015


After the event we had dinner with the crew from Zwift and Bike Gallery, where both Seda and I were invited up to Sydney to be a part that launch. They wanted the Melbourne champions to compete against Sydney's best. Both Seda and I were not going to pass up this unique opportunity to be involved, so we were going to Sydney! Women's 2nd place getter and Team Lama better half (my wife Veronica) was also invited along.

Time to rest up and #rideon in Sydney! Wahoo!



Rapha Cycling Club Zwift Sydney Launch - May 15th 2015


After a rest day and a long 800km transfer stage, Team Melbourne were ready to take on whatever Sydney could serve up.

Team Melbourne arrive in Sydney!

Rapha Cycling Club HQ
The three of us were enjoying the night so much at Rapha HQ we almost forgot we were there to compete in the challenge. In just a few hours I'd caught up with Matt Keenan (Commentator/The human cycling wikipedia), Philip Gomes (Editor/producer at SBS Cycling Central), Peter Rox (Transitions.com.au), and countless others who wanted to know about Zwift.

8pm soon rolled around and MC Paul Craft started talking up the Melbourne vs Sydney rivalry. As there were different ergo equipment used in Sydney (CycleOps) the times on Watopia were a little faster than we saw in Melbourne. I'd seen both Peter Moore and Tom Sacre set impressive sub 12 minute times. I didn't think I was in for a chance, so it was all or nothing.

In the women's challenge, personal best efforts by both Seda and Veronica weren't enough to match Sydney's Lynne Clarke (who I hear loves a time trial). Lynne time trialled her way around the 9.1km course in 12:49 to secure the $500 and women's title.
Von and Seda enjoying the night.

Finally it was me time to kit up and #rideon. I need ride 11:33 or faster for the lap, almost a minute faster than Melbourne. To put that into perspective, 11:30 was the fastest time on Watopia on Strava.

My extended warm-up involved getting lost in the immersive Watopia world, which isn't hard to do with a giant screen and other riders to chase down.

From the starting gun I had to make this ride count. I knew every inch of the course, every turn, and even where I could get into an aero tuck on the descent, much to the amusement of MC Paul Craft when I did. :)

The crowd noise grew throughout the lap, and went off the charts when I passed the 200m to go banner and my lap time came on screen. 11:15... 16.... 17... I buried my head and chewed handlebar tape until I could hear it was over.

11:25! I had to double check the screen. 11:25? It was official. The fastest time on the night, and a new world record. It took a minute or two to sit up on the bike after that. Lost for words from the effort and from the surprise at taking back-to-back wins.


Eric Min was first to shake my hand and congratulate me, that was a moment I won't forget. To be able to show the CEO of a company their product working in full flight, with the MC going crazy on the mic, people cheering, talking cycling, and enjoying themselves made for a memorable night in Sydney.




I've also been set a challenge.... first at Rapha in Sydney, then on national TV. Looks like I'll be clocking up some serious kms when the Richmond world championship road course is released on Zwift.





Zwift have set out to make indoor cycling fun, and for me they're right on the money. They've taken static ergo sessions and made them dynamic, interactive, and have created a virtual world where you can meet people from all over the world for group rides, races, and events. Something you just have to experience yourself to understand how much of a game changer this really is.


A huge thank-you to everyone involved:

- Zwift: The team who came to Oz and everyone else behind the scenes throughout the world. Special mention to Dave and Tom who did a lot of heavy lifting and the drive from Melbourne to Sydney on Thursday.

- Bike Gallery and Rapha Cycling Club for hosting the two events.

- The cycling communities of Melbourne, Sydney, and beyond who turned up on the launch nights or followed along from afar.

- Von and Seda from Team Melbourne who travelled to Sydney and back. Great company to share such a random and rewarding experience with.


If you see Zwift launching somewhere local to where you are, I encourage you to go along, you'll have a blast. You never know, maybe I'll be there too. In the mean time, download Zwift and let me know what you think.


Zwift Links:


#rideon


Complementary lollies at the hotel..... time to fill up the cup!

Heading home. Giant cheque and boarding passes!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Tour of the South West 2015 - MMASA


Stage 1 - 12.4km ITT

Standard fare for the opening stage at the ToSW - Nowhere to hide, no excuses, and only yourself to answer to when the clock starts ticking. The latter being a common demon we all have to answer to in the first km of a time trial, and who usually hangs around for the entire ride.

The wind was almost the opposite to last year, so a different pacing strategy was required. One that included having to overtake a commissaire's car on course that failed to see me coming at the 3km mark. No time lost, just something to distract me for a few seconds and take my mind off the effort.

There were no photos of me in the TT.
Here is an artist's impression of events.

16:06 at 46.3km/h on the Garmin. Fast enough to claim the stage win for the third year running in MMASA. Still, and like most of A Elite, nowhere near the fastest time of the day set by Callum Scotson (SASI) of 15:17. That was just phenomenal.

Stage 1 Masters A Grade Top 10:








Stage 2 - 85km Road Race

I was in the yellow leaders jersey with no team. Luckily I had help from a few others who were happy to see the race kept together, but it wasn't to be. A move slipped away, a few bridged, I gambled on the teams not represented to get up the front.... which didn't play out.



On the last lap there were four of us driving the pace to limit the losses to the 7 or so up the road. This only 1/2 paid off, we closed in on a few, but the lead group had put enough time into us to take the GC spots. That's racing when the race is a hybrid of teams and solo riders.



Stage 3 - Cemetery Crit

Ninja rain, wet roads, and another early start. I was a DNS. Unlikely to make up any time on GC, I just wasn't up to it. I'd have likely ended up in the cemetery if I tried to race it like last year. 

Gray (Kosdown) and Booth (CharterMason) were only 2 seconds apart and put on a good show. Boothy holding onto GC with some impressive powerhouse riding.


Full Results




Overall it was a pretty good weekend, apart from the weather. The racing was good, the competition was strong, and there were no issues with the time trial timing. Getting myself the TT stage win and a tour leader jersey was a nice bonus. Having to defend as a solo rider makes things more difficult, and takes a lot of the incentive of racing VRS away. Thankfully there are a few TTs coming up, and many other events on the cards to keep things interesting on the bike.

It was great having a few words to the Masters B and C winners after their crit. Ian Clark and James Timmer-Arends both put in some hard yards over the weekend to take their respective GC jerseys.

Next up, we're sneaking over to Perth for a few days with bikes. I hear the sun is still out over there! :)



Monday, 13 April 2015

How To: Talk Like a Cyclist - Deeper Edition

So you're already a real cyclist, and you have the new socks to prove it. You're across the Cycling Tips family friendly guide of cycling terms here: http://cyclingtips.com.au/2015/04/how-to-talk-like-a-cyclist/

Then why is it that you still have no idea what's going on when you overhear race tales told between two mates? Consider the CT article 'base miles', you've got to do them. Now it is time for specificity!

To fully understand some of the more obscure lingo we need to go deeper.... much deeper.



Proceed at your own risk.....


Bunch: Bike riders, not roses. Two very different smells.

Bunchy: Sprinting the grupetto to the line for no valid reason. "That dickhead took the bunchy for 25th.... they paid to 5th"

Boxed: Unable to move to preferred position. Excuse. "I was boxed in the sprint"

Crystal Cranking: Pedalling as if your cranks are made of crystal and will break at any point. Possibly true for some early model carbon crank-sets. 

Cracked: Destroying the soul of another rider. What Porte did to Dennis for the stage win on Willunga in the 2015 Tour Down Under. 

Compact: The art of keeping a secret about your chain-ring size. "Mate, is that a...".. replied with, "No, no it isn't. It's a 52, semi-compact" 

Chop: Nothing to do with dodgy wheels, they're expected. It is about getting in the money. Discussion of the chop always initiated at a handicap by a scratch rider who is likely to be out the arse early on. A verbal form of payment insurance. 

Foxing: Crystal cranking. Rider is looking for an easy sit. Likely a sprinter.

Frothing: Seen on wet rainy days when someone uses too much chamois cream. They will literally start to froth from their backsides and down their legs. Treat the froth like acid, don't come into contact with it. Contains cooties.

Garmin Vector: A scientifically accurate measurement of how much someone knows about power meters and their reliability. "I honestly judge a person harshly if they post a WTB on Buy/Swap/Sell Road Bikes asking for Vector pedals" 

Hitter: Term of endearment, sign of respect. Unrelated to domestic violence.

Iranian Petrochemical Teams: Comedy act. Like the Harlem Globetrotters, but on bikes, and drugs. 

In the Box: Pushed to your physical limits. "I was out until 3 at a 21st last night and I was in the box from the gun. I was out the arse 5k in."   

Out the Arse: Dropped from the bunch. Off the back. 

Pig Rooting: Similar to head bobbing, more extreme. Looking like you're rooting a pig.

Pulling: See working. Also what riders do post race explaining they would have won if they weren't boxed in.

"ROLL": Used when sitting 2nd wheel in a handicap (or in a break) and the rider on the front is tapping. 

"F'KING ROLL!": See "ROLL", used when lead rider didn't hear you the first time.

Rode them off the back: Isolating a rider who is tapping in the bunch. Performed from 2nd last wheel when they're on the back. You drop the bunch, ride them off the back, then sprint back across yourself leaving them out the arse. If they sprint back across, they're foxing and can be called out on it. It is then your duty to shame them into working. "I rode him off the back to see if he was foxing... turns out he was in the box, didn't see him for the rest of the day. I almost felt bad."

Sit: Opposite of working. Sprinters master this art.

Tapping: See crystal cranking and foxing. 

The Gutter: The worst possible place to ride a bike in a cross wind.

The Gun: The start of the race. Out of courtesy, don't attack here. Please. 

Working: Actually contributing to the bike race. Opposite of sit. 

UP UP UP! (Hup for Euro coolness): A call to arms (but using legs) shouted by riders foxing who don't want to chase an attack themselves.


I'm sure I've missed a ton. Add yours to the comment section below. :) 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

South Pacific Veterans Cycling Championships 2015 (M35-39)


The Easter racing carnival in Maryborough is always a solid hit-out just as the winter road season gets under way. I wrote up the event in detail here back in 2013, so I'll keep this write up brief...ish.

Von and I raced with both Central Vets and Eureka Vets in the weekend leading up to the Easter races in Maryborough. "What grade do we put you in?" at Bendigo as a first time visitor there was a welcome change from the usual "Oh shit...". :)




Road Race - Friday 3rd April

SLane and I were in a three man break after 27km, then a two man break at 35km. We cut it pretty fine on the way back into town, with the chasers only a handful of seconds back coming into the the finish straight. I got the jump on SLane and took the cat-and-mouse sprint.






Straight Line 300m Sprints - Saturday 4th April

No tactics, just don't stop sprinting until the finishing line. My early qualifying time was the quickest on the day, and I had a good run in the final to take 1st. I had more than one rider come up to me saying they thought I was just a TT rider.


Dale and I with our fastest of the day awards.



Time Trial 15km - Saturday 4th April



Flat out to the turn, then bring it home harder. I took 1st with with SLane in 2nd. I just missed going sub 19 minutes, and the car that crossed onto the wrong side of the road at the finish line...

Car up!



Criterium - Sunday 5th April

Xavier attacked early. SLane attacked soon after. An echidna joined the race. I bridged across to SLane. He wanted to lap the field. We rode flat out for the next 30 minutes. I bid farewell to SLane when he kicked hard up the final rise about 400m from the line. I rolled in 2nd, with both hands on my handlebars... until after the line where I acknowledged the crowd who stayed there watching the final race of the day. I still managed to get in trouble with the officials for taking my hands off the handlebars.... after the line...  crikey. 




Three wins and a second meant I had accumulated enough points to win the overall aggregate to be awarded the 2015 South Pacific Champion M35-39. The aggregate is a nice bonus for the weekend that ties all four events together to reward consistency.




Cec Cripps Open Handicap - Monday 6th April

With a smooth working scratch bunch, we caught block (3min) at 26km, then the next group around 34km. We swept up a few more before catching the main bunch with 8km to go. At this point two cars decided to join (and split) the peloton more than once. Words were spoken, loudly, and very clearly with the drivers. With the bunch of 60-70 riders all over the road I almost pulled the pin. It was getting messy and very dangerous. I had someone jamming their bars into my arse as I kept onto the left side of the road.

The hammer was dropped and the group soon strung out. Limit was two minutes up the road and would sweep up the top places, so it was a race for fastest time.

I attacked solo on the run into town, with the same result as when I pulled the same move in 2013, chased down quick smart. I then latched on to anyone who wanted to hit the wind. With a bunch kick brewing and a TLC lead-out train starting on the left of the road, Eureka Vets' Matt Bowman rocketed past on the right. I went with him as he pulled away from the bunch then kicked off his wheel for fastest time. 



Other Random Things

- That isn't Australian Champion kit, it is Australian National Team kit, which is close but technically not the same. There were a few people riding around in similar kit on the weekend. Current or previous national champions, fans of the sport, or just riders in 2nd hand kit. I'm proud to be all of the above.

- The meals at the Maryborough RSL are excellent.

- Zwift. People want to know more about it after my post about it the other day. If you've got a Kickr, get on it!

- Di Howdan took a lot of great shots of the whole weekend and has them up here: https://www.facebook.com/SouthPacificChampionships?fref=ts