Runkeeper

Posted: August 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s a common myth that geeks and gadget lovers lead and incredibly unhealthy lifestyle, sure we spend many many hours ploughing through tech news, gadget blogs and of course demolishing enemy’s in our favourite shoot, em up.  However, a new group of people are starting a love affair with technology.  These people are fit, active and love the outdoors as much as watching there favourite podcast on there tablet or phone.

One of the most popular apps across both Android and iOS is Runkeeper.  This is a realtime GPS activity tracker for your phone.  It is a great way to log, manage and improve your fitness.  It helps you become more competitive by constantly pushing you to beat previous activities.  So thats the basics of the App and the genre, now on to the review.

The app is available free on Android, you can get it direct from the Android Market Place or Amazon’s App Store.  Once you have downloaded and installed the app setting it up is very easy and straight forward.  One word of warning though spend some time setting it up prior to completing your first activity as the default settings might not be what your after, particularly it tracks in Miles, most people I know all track in KM and once you start the activity you cant alter this until you save that activity.

The first screen prompts you to enter some details to create an account, this is not absolutely necessary as you can still track and record your activities however without am account you will not be able to take advantage of the more in depth analysis tools within the run keeper.com website, which is again free for basic use.

One you are logged in as I mentioned above make sure you have gone through and set your preferences, some of the options to be mindful of are metric or imperial units for distance and also very importantly the voice prompts.  Some of the guys I know who train with Runkeeper love the voice prompts, they claim they motivate them throughout there activity, I on the other hand find them pretty annoying.  However like all good apps you can suit them completely to you own requirements, you can have voice prompts spoken to you at intervals of either time or distance, for example every 5 minutes or every KM. I would have personally like to have seen prompts available at much more spaced out periods, particularly for distance, maybe every 5k would have been perfect.

You can also choose what to have shown on the main application screen whilst the activity is in progress, being able to choose between either pace or speed is a nice touch. When I first looked at the main running screen I thought it looked very sparse and unintuitive however after use you can see the reason for keeping it simple really works, again most people I know rely on the voice prompts more than the screen anyway.

The main screen consists of a timer, this shows elapsed time and is very clear and easy to read even whilst running.  There is also then a great graph along the middle which shows your pace for the previous minute.  This is then updated for every minute of the run, plus you can scroll back through them giving you an instant visualisation of your run, great for seeing where you speed up or slow down during your activity.

There is also a small map icon, which when pressed takes you to the google map layout.  This is then overlaid with markers every mile or KM depending on your preference.  This is a nice addition to the app although I find this better viewed from the Runkeeper.com website.  None the less a nice touch.

There is also a big social element to Runkeeper which is another source of motivation if you are into sharing your activities, either to show off or get some encouragement if you are finding things hard going.  You have the ability to share to either Facebook or Twitter, plus individually email people.  The last option is share with other Runkeeper friends or the Runkeeper Community as a whole.  A really great feature of sharing and syncing with Runkeeper is that if you change or lose your device you can sync your activities back to your phone.

Once you have set everything up and completed your activity you can save the activity, so you could maybe log the weather, kit used or any friends that may have tagged along.  This is great to serve as a reminder of the activity so you can once again track what works for you, maybe you run better in the heat.  This app will help you decipher the data.

Seeing as this is an App review I won’t go into detail on the Runkeeper website to much, suffice to say it offers a great source of both free and paid content to help you with your activities.

In summary, I was running version 2.9.0.2 on a Samsung Galaxy S2 using Cognition v1.5 Custom ROM.  Performance on the app was snappy and I experienced no lag at all. I started the activity with 100% battery and used 6% during a 42:10 minute 5 mile (8.24km) run with 5 minute voice prompts and regular screen viewing to check my progress , thus giving you more than enough time for the vast majority of people.  I am sure this would get me through a marathon without to much trouble.

Pro’s

Free App

Very accurate

Very easy to use

Sync to Runkeeper.com

Cons

More voice prompts would be good

Having had my Nitelights for a few weeks now I thought it was about time that I gave you guys some idea about what I think of these lights using them on a daily basis.

Up until recently I had always tended to use cheap LBS lights that were around 20 bucks and gave me as a cyclist the confidence that I will be seen by motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians. I have, over the last few years gone through more sets of these cheap lights than I care to remember. Recently my needs changed and my commute changed from mostly road commuting to local cycle track commuting. This meant as well as being able to be seen by other people I know also needed lights that were going to enable me to see ahead of me on a pitch black cycle way.

I pondered this decision for some time, maybe get a few more el cheaper lights from Wiggle, and replace them as and when needed or splash out on a set of rechargeable high-powered bicycle lights that would last me some time. I decided on the latter.

Thus the research began. I scrolled through all the usual suspects Wiggle, Chainreaction Cycles and Probike Kit. All of these stores offered a large selection of high quality, high-powered lights that would fit the bill. I then remembered that a few guys I know swear by a brand called Ayup. Australian manufactured, high-powered lights. I thought these would be the go for sure. However I was instantly put off by the price, after delivery etc would have been over $330 Australian.

FInding the urge to get these lights dampened by the cost I set about seeing if any other Australian company had an equivalent product without the hefty $$$$ attached. I then after a bit more research came across Nitelights, an Australian company, offering lights much brighter than Ayup at a much lower price, after reading the specs I was about to order $220 a steal compared to other costs out there.

I trawled eBay just incase I could get them cheaper and surely enough for $150 I found a set from a Australian buyer, $170 delivered to my door. Ordered.

The lights are awesome, so very bright, great battery time and also very quick charge. All in all they tick all the boxes of what I required in a light. The lights illuminate the ground in such a way that I can easily navigate my way through the paths in the dark mornings.

The fitting solution to the bike is also very good, a simple set of rubber hoops that go around the base and then clip back on themselves is very intuitive.  As is the helmet mount that is also included.

They would also be a great aid for any mountain biker that regularly does 24 hr enduro or night rides. I was happy. I managed to pick up lights in the price range and specs that I wanted. Another plus was my business was kept in Australia.

As you will know I am a big advocate for buying on-line, usually out side of the country as far better deals are to be had. So this really was a win.

However it’s here that my happiness will take a turn for the worse. Firstly I must point out that I am still happy with the lights.

Whilst doing more research for these lights after a bought them, to see what other people thought of them I stumbled across a website called Dealextreme. A US-based site offering electronics of all kinds, including torches and bike lights.

I quickly went to the Bike Light section, what did I find, the same lights, although packaged with a different name for a fraction of the price available in the Australian Market. Sure this had a US plug not the Aussie one mine did, something that could be rectified for a few $ in my local electronics store but apart from that Identical.

The lights retail in Australian Bike Stores for a$220, I paid $150 plus $20 postage. They are available from Deal Extreme for US$78.48 ( at today’s exchange rate a$90.20) delivered free of charge.

Am I pissed off, a little.  I love the lights and am happy to pay what they cost in my country, however as I have said before and will again.  Why buy things in Australia when we simply get ripped off time and time again.  In this case someone with foresight has had the initiative to import and market lights that can be purchased for MUCH less than half the price from an overseas store with free delivery.

I will send the owner of Nitelights a link to this post and invite him to explain how he arrives at the a$220 figure assuming as he is buying in bulk he would purchase for lots less that the us$78.48

UPDATE

I have recieved a response from the Australian Supplier.  It seems that he has had issues with a company ripping off his design.  This is very unfortunate for them.

Although I still find the price difference disconcerting this sweetens it a bit.  Although I guess the level of service cannot be confirmed unless I need to make a claim under warranty.

Well, it never ceases to amaze me how weird some things that happen during my ride to or from work are. Tonight whilst riding down the PSP from the city towards Canning Bridge I had a cyclist say to me that my lights were to bright and that I was dazzling other cyclists.

Being concerned that this was the case I made sure that my lights were appropriately positioned and were not blinding any of the on-coming bikes/runners.  My concerns were immediately put to rest when they really were positioned well, facing the ground and not causing any issues.  I then said to the cyclist that I was happy with them and I was satisfied that no problems were being caused.  He then told me I was a wanker and to get off the path.  Surprised by this statement I asked him to explain this to me, obviously the foul mouth he had confirmed that he was not able to hold up or substantiate his argument.

He then also went on to tell me that I was also very irritating for using my bell to warn pedestrians and other cyclists that I was approaching.   I found this all very difficult to stomach, as if anything I am very anti bad behaviour on the cycling paths, always using lights, warning approaching people and never going through red lights, something I cannot say for lots of cyclists.  I might also mention that this cyclist only had a single LED light on the front of his bike.  Not exactly what I would call safe.

Unfortunately this is were I slipped up a little bit, instead of acting like the better person I also called him a wanker, something I really should have not done.  Dropping myself to his level was not a good thing to do.  However being told your a wanker for having lights and a bell, both of which are a legal requirement in Australia was quite a surprise.

I really am starting to find the quality of behaviour on our roads and bike paths very upsetting.  I am getting to the point were I am becoming embarrassed to admit to being a cyclist, something I have always been proud to tell everyone.  Is it really that much to ask to obey the road rules, be curtious and keep themselves and those around them safe.  It seems so.

I also took this very small video of a bunch of cyclists once again ignoring the red lights

This afternoon I had a few jobs to do whilst Heidi was out, one of them being dropping some DVD’s back off to the DVD store in Como.  The ride is short, quite enjoyable and for the most part very safe.  The main reason for this is that it is mostly on bicycle specific paths and/or bicycle lanes on the road.

However you can imagine my surprise when I got to Thelma St on my way to the DVD store when I found countless cars parked blatantly in direct path of the bicycle track.  The reason was that there was a football game on.  Ok not enough spaces, fair enough I hear you say.  How ever it was just down to plain laziness by the most part.  There were lots of parking spaces available in the car park adjacent to the oval, but as usual people take the lazy, closer option.

The reason I decided to pop a quick post on this subject was due to a guy out riding with his 2 young children that I witnessed having to dangerously ride out into the road to get past these parked cars.  Obviously nothing happened and they made to obstacle safe.  But why should they have to.

These people who make these decisions to park dangerously, illegally and annoyingly really do deserve to be fined.  I will pass on the details of the vehicles that were causing the obstruction to the local police, I will also get in touch with the committee at the Oval on Thelma St, maybe they will also be able to have a word with the guilty parties.

So there we have another example of the cyclist, the underdog having to adjust his or her behavior to accommodate the masses, the motorists.

As mentioned before countless times, I have tried to offer some tips on how to save money whilst purchasing cycling specific equipment. However I have been trying to think how it might be possible to save even more money buy getting stuff that works perfectly well for cyclists, but is not cycling equipment.

Here goes, thus far I have found 2 very competent replacements, both ultra cheap and as good as if not better than the cycling specific products they have replaced.

1 Gloves.

I have always been a bit take it or leave it with gloves during the hotter months I have no blister or rubbing issues and I think they offer little or no advantage to a fall, however there is no ignoring the fact that winter riding means that gloves are a necessity. Bitterly cold morning’s are enough to make your fingers literally feel like there falling off.

I have tried many gloves over the years most recent of the cycling gloves were manufactured by Netti and similar to these. They are sold as waterproof and they do an OK job, water gets in naturally after a while but all in all there ok.  RRP is around 50 bucks and you’ll get them for 45 if you shop around.

Ok my alternative for these are also waterproof, offer far far better padding and comfort than the above Netti’s and cost just a$10 bucks.  They are anti-vibration gloves, designed for working outdoors with a jack hammer or other tools that could cause issues with prolonged use due to vibration.

They look just as good to, so there is no letting yourself down when your out riding in your crazy coloured lycra.  These can be picked up from most tool shops, Bunnings and other places like that.

2. Eye wear.

There is no need to explain the importance of a good pair of protective glass’s.  The sun beats down hard, stones and water gets spat out of a rider in front, all of these things are protected by a pair of good sunnies.

Sure cycling specific specs offer great versatility, the ability to swap out lenses as weather suits, clear lenses for the night time rides and tinted during the day, however these are the one of the most over priced  things I have ever purchased for riding.  Plus to be perfectly honest they weren’t even that good.

What do I wear now?  Well I have stuck with a good brand, Bolle in this case, but I have gone for safety glasses.  Sure 1 pair one tint, so no swapping lenses on these baby’s however at a$9 bucks each I have bought 2 pairs.  They still look cool and are very very comfy.

So there you go, 2 ways you can save money by not buying the over priced glasses you find down your local bike store.  If anyone has any other alternative products I would really like to hear about them.

Ok I love cycling, I mean really love it.  I ride lots, I ride to work, the shops and around to mates houses for beers.  You could say I am an addict.

Some of the sexiest bikes I have ever seen are singlespeed or fixies, there totally awesome.  You can imagine how pleased I was today when around 50 singlespeeds went flying past my work today, there were all different colours and sizes and some pretty funky people riding them.  Awesome.

Then the lights changed to red, I thought I might get a closer look.  However I have never seen such a bad example of road manners and illegal riding as I witnessed today.  Every single one of them, I really do mean every one of them went flying straight through, running the red.  Motorists were gobsmacked, as was I.  People were beeping, motorists had no idea what to do or were to go.

The cyclists were laughing and joking as they caused chaos on the road.

I managed to capture a bit of it on video from my phone, it’s not great quality but it gives you a small idea as to how bas this actually was.  It’s little wonder I find it difficult to justify cycling to my non cycling friends when we are witness to this behavior on an all to regular basis.

I would be interested to hear your view’s on this.  From cyclists and non cyclists alike.

So I have had my Tioga Panniers for some time now, they have been awesome.  Putting up with daily commuting, day rides in all sorts of weather and have lasted really well.  These panniers are good looking, low price and for the best part pretty waterproof.

However there time has come for me to retire these units and move onto something new with the winter rapidly approaching.

Its time to order the daddy of all Paniers, manufactured by Ortlieb, these are considered one of the best brands of panniers in the world today.  They have seen many a world trip and have held strong throughout for lots of people.

They also look pretty nice which is a big plus.  I have decided to order from UK website Wiggle.  Which as lots of you know I love shopping at.  The savings that can be made ordering online with free delivery over the standard purchase price here in Australia is staggering.  I managed to secure this set for a$130 including postage. The cheapest I could find locally were over a$200

The order has been placed for yellow, mainly due to visibility during commuting in the dark and wet weather of a Perth winter.

If your keen to find more details on these panniers you can check the link for Ortlieb