Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lezyne Micro GPS bike computer review

Looking for something to replace your Garmin Edge 500? After losing mine, I recently was.

Typically when it comes time for me to upgrade something, I dive into a military like procurement process trying to define which features I need and finding the best deal. In the end I went with the Garmin Edge 500, but in order to get a heart rate strap, I had to bundle with some speed and cadence sensors I never used and eventually sold for $20. I am not at all interested in attaching speed and cadence sensors to my bike: the GPS does a good enough job of measuring distance and speed and my Stages power meter measures cadence.

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The Garmin Edge 500 ticked all of the boxes for me. GPS, compatibility with ANT+ powermeters and heart rate, and a barometric altimeter for accurate elevation profiles all at around $250. I'm pretty sure it was the price of this device that put it on the bikes of many cyclists and allowed Strava to become what it is.

Unfortunately, Garmin discontinued the 500, and instead offers the very basic Edge 20 and 25 (no power meter compatibility or barometric altimeter) and the Edge 520, which like the Suunto watches costs almost as much as my personal computer.

I am told that Bluetooth LE will be replacing ANT+ for power meter and heart rate compatibility. While my Stages power meter is compatible with both I had an existing ANT+ heart rate strap. I would have to factor in a heart rate strap purchase (and useless speed/cadence sensor bundle) if I wanted the Polar M450, which I believe is another good replacement of the Edge 500.

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The new kid on the block is Lezyne. They offer GPS cycling computers in 2 sizes, and either with or without sensor compatibility. I decided that the smaller Micro GPS offered all of the features I wanted from the Edge 500 with some nice additional features all for $190:
-Much improved GPS accuracy. Less waiting to acquire satellites. For better or for worse, this ads more honesty to your Strava!
-Connects with my phone via Bluetooth to let me know if I am receiving text messages or calls, navigate, and even upload rides. Strava live segments for those with a premium account.
-Bluetooth LE and ANT+ compatibility so I can use my existing HR strap and power meter and don't have to buy a bundle with speed/cadence sensors I don't want. Maximum compatibility with past, present, and future sensors.
-Smaller size
-Excellent customer support, I believe that they have fixed the issue recording indoor trainer rides without a speed sensor.
-"breadcrumb" map shows a trace of your ride on the screen. Pretty neat.

With a few limitations:
-Lezyne app does not provide nearly the same data metrics and functionality as Garmin Connect. I have been using a combination of Strava, basic Training Peaks and Golden Cheetah for analyzing rides.
-I haven't gotten auto sync to work with Strava.
-Smaller size makes it harder to read.
-To record indoor trainer rides, it needs to see movement, which get this...requires a speed sensor! BAHHHHHH. I really hope they fix this. fixed with the latest update
-uses its own proprietary mounts.

Around the Misty Range

It's rare that I drive to the start of a bike ride. Especially after already having driven for 4hrs the night before. But the alpine of Kananaskis was calling. Around the Misty Range is one that I have put off for a while (too long, after the floods of 2013), but the 1hr paved drive to the trailhead is not bad (similar to Lake Louise, Bragg Creek, and not gravel unlike the High Rockies trail).

The Elbow lake area is quite underappreciated as a mountain biking destination. I did the climb up to the lake in under 10minutes. After rolling around the lake there is 5km of rocky doubletrack offering opportunities for interesting line selection, and scenic alpine riding and of course even more options for exploring in the Elbow and Sheep trails.

After turning onto the smooth Sheep trail, the riding became easier up and over Sheep Pass but as expected the floods of 2013 had wiped out much of the trail up to and including the Rickert's Pass trail junction. Of course the status of the riding through this section is in dispute as it passes through a historical private ownership region. I made sure to carefully tiptoe my way through the many dismounts, creek crossings, climbing up and down banks, and walking along through the creek! The progress of my blue GPS dot on Trailforks was painfully slow, but I eventually arrived at a coal pile where according to the GPS track, it was time to find the Rickert's Pass trail. Before the floods, the trail was such a rip that people would ride right past the junction!


I started to hike up Rickerts Creek, and picked up a trail on the Left side of the creek, put my head down and pushed my bike up the trail. Unfortunately (or fortunately...) I was led to a dead end. Trailforks showed my blue dot well off route, so I started to bushwack towards the trail, making painfully slow progress, and having to cross the steep gully of Rickert's Creek. A silly mistake that would have been obvious had I brought or had a photo of my topo map.

Eventually I picked up the trail but at that point, I just wanted to be over and done with. I had to refuel before reaching the pass and only really stopped at the pass for 3 pictures before heading down the trail.

The Mist Creek descent was awesome. It is approximately 10km long and drop down to the valley bottom is in great shape, especially compared to Cox Hill. As the trail traveled along the valley bottom, there was very minimal horse and flood damage and the slight rolling hills were easy on my fatigued legs. After the junction with the old exploration road that heads up to Mist Ridge, the water-bar-turned-jumps brought a bit of a smile out of me before arriving back at the trailhead to my patiently waiting girlfriend.

Well the fire is stoked, and I've been eyeing up more rides in Kananaskis. While the dry conditions have brought the fire danger to extreme levels, even the most poorly drained trails are drying up and it is time to get after it. The classics of the Elbow valley, the lesser known gems in the Sheep, and the adventures in the Highwood area are calling.

We are loving our favourite spots to death

This post seems timely, at the end of a busy summer of free national parks entries because of Canada 150, larch madness, and just as we are transitioning into early season skiing with lots of eager skiers, but limited suitable options.

I'm not sure if it's a new phenomenon brought on by social media, but I've noticed that when someone posts some pictures from a hike on a Facebook group, it inspires people to go out an post pictures of that same hike, which doesn't really provide input on conditions of other hikes. When word of a new trail gets out, numbers quickly pile up in the new STRAVA segment, and it appears that trail is all that people are riding for the next couple of weeks. And when someone posts a staged picture from a viewpoint on Instagram, you can bet that you will see more of that in your "explore" feed.

I understand, our recreation time is limited and we want to make the most of it. We want to go where good views, trails, conditions, and photos are guaranteed. We buy stocks when the trading volume and price are going up rather than experimenting with other companies. So we follow tracks and go where we heard it was good two days ago.

Overflowing parking lots, traffic jams, crowded viewpoints. In the summer, these places become off limits unless you want to get up really early. In the winter, crowded areas create heuristic traps which trick otherwise rational skiers into taking dangerous risks. But one "social media network" is neglected: Avalanche Canada's Mountain information network (MIN). Why would anyone want to tell the world about conditions at a spot when they know it will get beat down by the hordes the next day? But these observations are important as they provide additional data points to avalanche forecasters and might be useful for estimating conditions in adjacent areas.

The guidebooks present a lot of great options and cost less than the gas needed for a trip to the mountains. Pick one up and explore some different spots. Make it your goal this winter to check out a new area and provide a valuable MIN report for the community.