I’m a Newbie Again

I’ve done less than a handful of rides this year. I had a crash in February that resulted in road rash and a broken rib; I’ve been working on some deadline projects that have had me out of town; then there’s the usual excuses: it’s too hot, it’s too rainy, it’s too windy…

So, when riding partner Osa said she was ready for a ride, I started rooting through my equipment, changing batteries, checking tire pressure and the like. About 45 minutes before I was going to roll out, I discovered that my Cateye Strada Cadence bike computer battery was dead.

I usually make a practice of changing the battery a New Year’s Day ritual, but I skipped it this year. That meant a quick trip to Radio Shack and 15 minutes of futzing around trying to figure out how to program it.

Legs went to mush

The heat index was somewhere between 87 and 90 and the winds were 9-11 out of the east, so we picked a north-south route. It didn’t take long to figure out we had a variable headwind on the way south. Lack of riding caught up to me in a hurry. My heart rate wasn’t all that higher than normal, but my legs went to mush pretty quickly.

Oh, yeah, I’ve written lots of words about how my Brooks Champion Flyer saddle is sooooo comfortable. In fact, I wrote once that I almost killed my saddle by making it TOO soft. Trust me, when you haven’t been riding a lot of miles, I don’t think ANY saddle is going to feel soft. I’m going to give a little more sympathy to newbies I pick up along the road in the future.

Osa wanted to go over the tall Lake Worth Bridge to soak in some salt air on the beach. I figured I’d salvage what little dignity I had left and head home. I wished her well. That variable headwind we had going south turned into a variable headwind going north, too.

Watched Hurricane Isaac flow by

About two-thirds of the way home, I felt my calves send me a message: “If you don’t stop what you’re doing, we’re going to give you a hurtin’.” I listened to my calves and took a walk down to see the floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac flowing down the the canal between Lake Worth and West Palm Beach.

This canal runs all the way from Lake Okeechobee and is helping drain the water from my kid’s yard. He lives in a rural neighborhood west of town that has been underwater. His house was built on a pad that put him about three feet above the water, but it was like living on an island for several days., he said.

I’m not going to tell you what my total mileage and average speed was. I’d have been happier if I hadn’t replaced the battery in my bike computer. By the way, you can click on any photo to make it larger.

 

Jam-Pac Premium MP3 Player Handlebar Bag

When I was first approached with an offer to review Audible Rush’s Jam-Pac Premium handlebar bag and music dock, I turned the request down. I thought the product was overpriced for the casual user – $159.50 – and not something the serious bike tourist would be interested in. You can click on any photo to make it larger. For the record, the type in yellow in the photo above isn’t on the product. I added it as a title.

Marc Nussbaum, CEO of Audible Rush, made some compelling arguments:

  1. Our system has by far the best sound quality of any production bicycle music system. You will be very surprised when you hear it. We use a full digital 12 volt amplifier and a Lithium Ion rechargeable power source.
  2. It is hidden inside a handlebar bag and the bag can also carry your valuables.  Use the quick release to carry everything during your lunch break- it is virtually theft proof since you take it all with you.
  3. Jam-Pac is a full-featured smartphone dock. It works with all players; MP3 players, iPhones, Android phones, Etc.
  4. The player is held in front so the user has full access to all controls.
  5. Our high end model can recharge some model smartphones (iPhones and others) from its internal lithium ion rechargeable batteries. This allows users to stream internet radio (Pandora, Etc.) or use GPS navigation or bicycle computer/fitness applications without running out of phone battery time. This can be very handy in situations where the user needs to make an emergency call.

Despite my reservations, I told them to go ahead and send me one on a loaner basis to check out.

First reactions to Jam-Pac Premium?

It’s not really aimed at me. I already have a heavy-duty Arkel Small Handlebar Bag mounted on a second stem on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s a perfect size to carry my camera gear without being so large I’d be tempted to overload it. The Jam-Pac is a nice size to hold a spare tube and a few tools, your wallet and cell phone, but it’s not big enough for my needs.

I like music for those days when I’m riding alone and I want something to take my mind off a boring stretch of road or the headwind that won’t let up. I don’t like earbuds (plus they are illegal) and I don’t necessarily want to rattle windows.

A good compromise for me has been the BoomBotix BB1 that I clip to the strap of my Camelbak hydration pack. Here’s my review of the BoomBotix.

I thought I’d stick the Jam-Pac Premium on riding partner Anne’s bike, but even her cockpit was too busy. I relocated a headlight, moved a front reflector and started to mount the bracket, but I was going to have to start cutting nylon ties to slide her bike computer out of the way and that was more trouble than I wanted to go through for a review. That’s not to say that it couldn’t have fit her bike and that she wouldn’t have been happy with it, it was just a hassle for a temporary installation.

I’m convinced that it will mount fine on most bikes if you don’t mind moving some things around (the same as you’d have to do for ANY handlebar bag. You can see some photos of the bag mounted on bicycles on the Audible Rush website.

Things I like

It has an quick release bracket that allows you to take it with you. I use that feature a lot with my Arkel bag. In fact, I use it as a camera bag when I’m not using my Domke shooting vest.

Will adapt to about anything

It has lots of different foam inserts that will adapt to just about any MP3 player or phone you might be carrying.

Handy storage space

Has room for wallet, cell phone, spare tube, small tools

Protects MP3 player

  • It produces lots of sound. (See below.) If you go on “party” rides where you want to entertain all your friends, it’ll do that.
  • MP3 player controls are accessible, but the unit is protected.

Price isn’t out of line

I figured Son Matt, a go-fast weight wienie like his Uncle Mark, would poo-poo all over it. Surprisingly, he thought some of his friends might be interested in it, particularly if you start adding up the costs of all the pieces.

Audible Rush Products

These are Amazon prices. (If you order through one of these links, I get a piece of the action without it costing you anything additional.)

Jam-Lite Essential: the minimalist lightweight stem or bar mount speaker system. Lists for $39.95; has 3 volt amplifier and runs up to 12 hours on two AA alkaline batteries. I find this the most tempting replacement for my BoomBotix BB1.

Jam-Pac Essential: described as the budget handlebar speaker system. Has a 3-volt amp that runs on two AA batteries and a quick-release weather resistant handlebar bag. It lists for $114.85.

Jam-Pac Premium: The big difference between the Premium and the Essential is that the former has a 12-volt amplifier and runs for up to six hours on a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It lists for $159.50.

Jam-Pac Premium Plus: has everything the Premium does, plus it has a USB connection to charge your phone or GPS. It costs $209.95.

You can get more information and find out about accessories from the Audible Rush website.

Watts the deal with volts?

I had a question about how the speakers were rated and sent CEO Marc Nussbaum a question on a Friday night. He responded Saturday morning. That’s pretty good. Here was my question:

“When I look at the comparisons of your various products, I see that some amps are 3 volt and others are 12-volt. Speakers are usually rated in watts. Did you really mean “volts” on your website?”

Marc’s explanation:

The quick answer: The amp in the Jam-Pac is specified to deliver 6 watts per channel, as compared to the amp used in the Jam-Lite and most other bicycle stereo speaker systems we’ve seen which are specified to deliver 2.0 or 2.2 watts per channel, however, watt rating of amplifiers don’t tell the whole story.

What’s important to the sound quality as far as the amplifier goes, is its ability to drive dynamic changes in the music and especially to be able to do this at the lower mid-range and bass frequencies where it takes the most power. 3 volt amplifiers don’t have nearly the dynamic range to drive a decent pair of speakers fast enough and far enough to reproduce high quality. So this is no mistake on our part as far as the spec goes. The voltage is more important in this application and adds both design complexity and cost to the product.

The amplifier in the Jam-Pac is very sophisticated and runs on 12 volts like the stereo in your car. If you only had a 3 volt battery in your car, even if your speakers in the car were as large as they are now, it would still sound pretty bad, muddy, without punch. This is the ‘secret’ behind the great sound of the Jam-Pac… Good quality speakers (that cost about 15 times as much as the standard portable speakers used in most products) and the full voltage swing of a 12 volt amplifier to more accurately reproduce music dynamics.

 Also, let’s talk speakers. Speakers are usually rated at the max wattage they can be driven before distortion and/or damage. The Jam-Pac speakers are specified at 6 watts maximum (that’s for each speaker) and are quite large for this type of product; 2″ (51mm) in diameter. Our smaller product, the Jam-Lite (similar to most other competitors) use speakers rated at 2 watts each and are 1.4 inches (36mm) in diameter.

By the way, the kid on the trike can rock the road, even if he’s not using a Jam-Pac. I hate to think how many batteries THAT puppy takes.

Mark Cuban’s 288-Foot Yacht Fountainhead

Mark Cuban's 88-Meter Yacht Fountainhead from Palm Beach 01-18-2012Anne, Osa and I were cruising along the Palm Beach Lake Trail when Osa shouted “Stopping” and locked down her brakes. Osa spent years crewing on yachts, so she has a keen eye for things that float. She had spotted a yacht that was so big that it had a tug in the front pulling it and another smaller boat riding drag at the stern because it was too large to maneuver in the Intracoastal Waterway. Click on the photos to make them larger.

Osa estimated that it was 250 feet long. While we were gawking, a guy rolled up and started doing some searches on his smartphone. “It’s 88 meters long,” he said. “That’s about 270 feet (288.713911, to be exact). Mark Cuban owns it. He and Mark Ellison of Oracle fame bought twin yachts from the Dutch luxury yacht company, Feadship, at the same time.” Ain’t the Internet wonderful?

Mark Ellison downsized his yacht

The sister to this ship is a downsized version of Mark Ellison’s previous yacht, the Associated Press reported it was 452 feet long, was five stories tall, had 82 rooms, “a wine cellar the size of most beach bungalows, a dozen yacht-length tenders, and a generator capable of providing enough electricity for a small town in Idaho or Maine… Final cost: $377 million.” He got rid of the larger yacht because he didn’t travel with that many people and it was hard to find mooring for something that big.

How do you afford a yacht like this?

Mark Cuban's 88-Meter Yacht Fountainhead from Palm Beach 01-18-2012From Agent4Stars.com:

In 1995, Cuban and fellow Indiana University alumnus Todd Wagner started Audionet, combining their mutual interest in college basketball and webcasting. With a single server and an ISDN line, Audionet became Broadcast.com in 1998. By 1999, Broadcast.com had grown to 330 employees and $13.5 million in revenue for the second quarter.In 1999, during the dot com boom, Broadcast.com was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.9 billion in Yahoo! stock.

After the sale, Cuban diversified his wealth to avoid exposure to a market crash. As of 2011, Cuban is No.459 on Forbes’ “World’s Richest People” list, with a net worth of $2.5 billion. The Guinness Book of Records credits Cuban with the “largest single e-commerce transaction,” after paying $40 million for his Gulfstream V jet in October 1999.

What was that strike thing all about?

I’m sure some of you were wondering what that strike thing was all about yesterday. Thousands of websites, some as large as Wikipedia, others as small as my two blogs, went dark for 24 hours to protest two bills that are making their way through Congress. They are ostensibly to stop Internet piracy, but have the potential of crippling the Internet as we know it today.

I’ve experienced the chilling effect of what’s already on the books. I posted a video of a night lightning with a public domain audio of Beethoven’s Fifth playing in the background.

YouTube sent me a notice that they had removed the audio because of copyright concerns. It took 24 hours to get it back up after I provided evidence that the performance was in the public domain. Guilty until proven innocent.

Under the new laws, my whole site could have been taken down and I could have been subject to fines and jail had I been found to have been using copyrighted material. I have a video on my bike blog where I’m passing a slower rider. You can hear my MP3 player in the background. Conceivably, that could be a violation of the law.

If you don’t think they’ll fool with “the little guy,” consider this: we didn’t invade Russia nor China; we went after Granada.

Moonrise Over Belle Glade

Osa, Anne and I took a ride out what I call Ghost Road 27, south of Lake Okeechobee Sunday afternoon. Anne and I have been out of town and Osa has been busy with her job over the holidays, so this was a leisurely ride with lots of catching up to do. We puttered along taking lots of photos for a future story and discovered a mystery road to nowhere I had never been on before.

We ate way more food than any three people should be able to put away. (It’s a good thing for the manager that we didn’t take advantage of their All You Can Eat Chicken special.)

On the way back, there was a spectacular moonrise in front of us and the pink rays of the setting sun behind us bouncing off the clouds and haze. I was going to make this an occasion of making memories, not photos, but Anne and Osa insisted that I stop. It wasn’t quite as big as when we first saw it, but it was still nice. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)