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Voxcaster Posts

Annual Summary 2016

Yearly Summary

This year has been a roller-coaster year to be honest, full of ups and downs.

January started with a new job on the outskirts of London – potentially meaning that I could get out on my bike a lot more cycling to work. However, I seem to have spent the majority of the time on my bike commuting to and from work and the social rides and just rides at the weekend have been missing. Part of this can potentially be attributed to doing a lot more with my air cadet unit, though some of it could be down to laziness at weekends.

Perhaps the other reason has been that I’d dug out my running shoes this year again. I’ve run 244Km this year, slightly under my PB of 246Km in 2012. Running had become part of my training routine again as I was trying to join the Royal Air Force and cycling unfortunately isn’t part of the training or entrance fitness test! However, I’ve enjoyed running again and it’s been good to see progress. I’ll look into trying to break the 300Km mark next year, though I won’t be joining the RAF as they have declined my application due to medical grounds. Whilst disappointing, I’m looking to run some of the local races again next year (such as the Welwyn 10K).

Whilst I say I’ve not done as much cycling, I’ve still managed to do my second best year in terms of distance – last year was a PB with 3,741Km total of running, walking and cycling and this year is 2,721Km.

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However, my climbing this year has been pretty pitiful.

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The main part of this has been that the route I take to work is fairly flat – going via an old railway line, so the path is fairly flat. Without the weekend rides to make up the elevation, my elevation has been fairly flat line – like my bike rides! 😉

New Toys

So I’ve had new toys this year, with the purchase of my Verenti Substance Sora from Wiggle in the later half of the year.

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The delay in getting it (thanks to some issues with my cycle to work voucher) has meant that I haven’t ridden it quite as much as I could have done (and then it managed to get a puncture only on it’s second ride out). However, I look forward to using this more next year.


Overall, the year hasn’t been to bad for activities and I look forward to 2017. It looks like that 2017 will be different and unique challenges to the table – for example, I’m looking at more hiking and walking expeditions this coming year, with the potential for getting registered on the Mountain Leader scheme and to become a Duke of Edinburgh assessor/supervisor. Obviously, this could make that cadets takes more priority over cycling again but I’ll see what happens. I don’t intend to stop cycling to work either!

However, that shouldn’t stop me setting myself some aims for the new year – just to keep things interesting.

  • I’d like to cycle to work at least 100 times in a year. Considering that I can’t really cycle to work on Tuesdays or Thursdays due to evening commitments with my cadet unit, this reduces the number of days I have available to cycle. However, I believe this should be doable.

  • I’d like to hit 3,0000Km of cycling and 300Km of running this coming year, with some more hiking etc thrown in for good measure.

  • Elevation wise, I’d like to see myself exceed this year. This means getting out at weekends or evenings during the summer and aiming for some actual inclines!

  • Perhaps a sportive or organised ride this year would prove to be a good distraction and training aim. I had wanted to do the London Revolution but I’m not sure I’ll do that this year, though I have my eye on the London to Bath route and I’d love to do the Devon Coast to Coast ride. That might include some of those hills I’m looking for as well!

  • Lastly, I’ve seen a club on Strava and I’ve seen a post about it before about riding all the roads in the local area. I’m looking at doing this for Welwyn Garden City and then perhaps spreading out to nearby areas as well as I know there are areas of Welwyn I’ve never even visited since I moved here in 2014 and I know that I’ve rarely (never via bike at least) gone to old Welwyn either so I think it’s high time that I changed this. I’ll look into marking all rides I do this on Strava with the hashtag #RER (Ride Every Road) so then I can use the excellent Strava Multiple Ride Mapper tool to track this and keep a copy of the final results.


I’ve continued to track all my rides on Strava and I’ve now gone back to Garmin to also track data (with two Garmin devices, data goes into Strava through the Garmin Connect app, thanks to it’s auto linking). This way I’ll have two copies of my data online, though I also keep all the files from the devices as well so I have the originals – either by downloading from Strava in the earlier part of the year, before getting them from the device or from Garmin Connect. I’ve done this since 2012 so I’ve a few years of data now.

Once again, I’ve renewed my subscription to Veloviewer. I found the service excellent for looking at Strava tracks in more details and specifically I like the mapping feature where I can view all my rides on a global map. My Veloviewer infographic for 2016 can be seen below.


Looking at the aims for the new year, Veloviewer will continue to provide excellent value for money for the £10 it has cost me for a year of service.

So onwards and upwards and here’s to 2017! Happy New Year all.

Proviz Backpack Review

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that winter is slowly but surely coming – it’s getting darker both in the morning cycling to work and in the evening cycling home.

However, it’s not yet cold enough that I can wear my Proviz jacket – not the Nightrider I reviewed back in 2014, but the REFLECT360+ that I purchased in 2015. The newer jacket still suffers from some of the same issues as the original one that I tried – I overheat very quickly within the Proviz jackets it seems.

Yet, I put up with the boil in the bag effect for the commute for one reason – visibility. The bright reflective jacket is fantastic for being seen. I can say that when I’ve seen other LBC members wearing the standard, non fully reflective Proviz jackets that I’ve been impressed. Though as the weather isn’t yet at the point where I can comfortably wear the jacket (sweaty as I might get), I’ve had to look at alternative solutions for being seen.

One such change in commuting habits has been the purchase of a Lezyne Macro Drive Duo head light. This headlight will be covered in a separate review but works really well. The other major changes has been the purchase of a Proviz REFLECT360 backpack.

Proviz RFLECT360

The first reason I looked at going back to a backpack was that with my touring bike, I’d moved to commuting with panniers. Likewise, when I used my Brompton, I used to normally use my T bag. Having a backpack on just makes your back sweaty and I find panniers more comfortable. However, I felt that with my panniers, I was carrying to much into work each day (often taking two panniers for a change of clothes, towel and packed lunch). I also felt that it effected the bike handling if I only took a single pannier and there are locations on my commute where the panniers make it difficult to navigate thanks to narrow openings. Also, not all my bikes are capable of mounting panniers (yet perhaps).

The second reason was when I cycled home in the dark one night after a late cadet night, I was cycling home with my 5.11 Tactical Rush 24 backpack on and realised that I probably wasn’t very visible to cars coming up behind me. With the 5.11 bag, I had been able to attach a light to the MOLLE straps but I still didn’t really consider that to be sufficient and wearing the bag would negate the effect of wearing the Proviz jacket anyhow, at least for the majority of the jacket and people driving up behind me (the arms and shoulders are still just about visible).

So I decided to move to the Proviz backpack.


When the bag arrived, I was fairly impressed. The bag is still as reflective as the jackets and therefore allows the user to be extremely visible.

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This photo shows the reflection of the bag – not to bad for a photo taken under my desk with minimal light! I’d like to thing that it’ll show up more with headlights on the backpack.

Proviz state that the bag has a 30L capacity and it is pretty roomy. The 5.11 tactical bag I have is bigger and the Patagonia Black Hole 25L bag this sort of replaces is slightly smaller, so the 30L claim seems to be accurate. I’ve comfortably been able to fit in a change of clothes and assorted other items that I need to take into work each day.

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The bag contains a light loop at the base, so I can still attach my Lezyne rear light meaning I don’t have to worry about moving between bikes (if I use the same bag).

The bag is formed of a single large compartment and a small pocket accessed on the front of the bag. Inside the main compartment, there is a degree of separation – there are mesh pockets sewn into the front of the bag. These are fairly roomy, but would be of more use for storing easy to hand items like wallets or similar. I don’t recommend the front pocket on the front for anything, based on the fact that the pocket is pretty deep but the zip is pretty small! So even with medium size hands, trying to get anything out can be a real pain. There is a small section at the bag, designed for laptops, though this isn’t that padded and doesn’t fit the monster laptop that work issued me (only a 15″ Dell, but it’s about 5cm thick!) so it might not be ideal for those that have to carry laptops daily.

Strap wise, the item fits nicely – one thing I’ve noticed over other bags is the adjustable height chest strap which is a step up other backpacks I’ve used.

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The waist strap (designed to stop the back moving on your back) is quite good and even features some of the reflective material on the strap, so people coming towards you will also get some of the reflective nature of the bag (like the shoulder straps).

I can’t really comment on it’s waterproofing ability but having lost a Kindle to water seeping into my Patagonia Black Hole bag, I now store all my cycling gear and anything else I don’t want to get wet within dry bags for my commutes. It looks like it would hold off for a bit but the zips aren’t waterproof.


Overall, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. I got mine direct from Proviz for a shade under £70 (they do a 10% discount for signing up to the email list). It’s perhaps a pricey backpack (in comparison to other backpacks I’ve purchased) but it is well made and at the end of the day, I’m paying for the reflective nature of the bag, rather than the bag itself. I could use the bag covers they sell but experience has shown me that I’ll not always use the cover, so having the bag as it is fine.

Polar M400 Review

I bought the Polar M400 sports watch not long after getting my Polar V650. I’d decided that the Polar ecosystem was quite good, and was something that I might want to focus on a bit more. The training features of the Polar Flow site seemed to be good. However, I wasn’t able to import data from other services, such as Garmin and even work arounds wouldn’t allow me to upload my own data to the service and make use of the training load graph.

Polar Flow Training Load

So I made the decsion to get myself a Polar watch and replace my Garmin Vivoactive.

Polar Watches

Polar have a smaller range of watches and activity trackers than Garmin do – perhaps a more focussed market. There seemed to be only a couple of competitors that would match the Vivoactive – the M400, M600 or the V800. Anything less than this doesn’t include the in-built GPS and therefore was just an activity tracker, rather than a GPS smart watch.

The V800 was more than I was willing to pay and the only perks I could see are that it has multi sport functions, allowing you to do a run, swim and a cycle (or other sports) within a single activity and track them individually. As I’m not a triathlete, the number of times I would need this is low and the larger price tag meant that I wasn’t keen on the idea.

The M600 looks good, but again was pricier than the M400 option. It also differed from the others in that it is an Android Wear device. It’s not something that I’ve used before but that wouldn’t normally put me off. However, I’ve come to realise that choosing a device based on my phone is probably a bad move – I seem to change phones pretty often! Be that iPhone to Android, or vice versa. Whilst Android Wear devices are supposed to work with iPhone, the app for it isn’t very highly rated and I didn’t want to spend the money and not get the full benefit.

So that left the M400, which in fairness, looked like the price was right and would work regardless of the phone that I was using. I ended up getting this one.

In Use

The Polar M400 is similar to any sports watch. The thing that struck me straight away was the thickness of it – it seemed to be almost double the size of the Vivoactive. Polar put it at 11.5mm, slightly less than double the 8mm of the Vivoactive. It was however, as wide.

The case is housed in a fairly inflexible rubber band. I’ll come to this later.

Setup was done via Bluetooth and via the Polar Flow app on the phone (Android/iPhone) and enabled me to get up and running quickly. It could also be done using the Polar Flow sync app for Windows and Mac but the Bluetooth option seems to be more convenient.

One of the perks of this over the Vivoactive is the sheer range of sports that you can use on the phone. The image below shows the sports profiles I set up on the watch on the left and the right shows just a fraction of the different profiles you can put on the watch!

Sports Choices on the M400

I don’t think that there is much that isn’t covered with that list 1! Adding them to the watch is easy enough as selecting them and the next time you sync the watch, the profiles are downloaded. As you can see, I never needed the 20 that the device could hold.

Just like the Polar V650, you can only access the GPS tracks and workouts via the Polar Flow web service – if this goes down for whatever reason, you’re left with an expensive paper weight, something I wasn’t to impressed with when I found out. Yes, Polar has third party integration, but this only works from the website.


Polar has third party integration on it’s website, where you can send your data to three other services:

  1. Facebook
  2. Strava
  3. TrainingPeaks

I don’t want to send my workouts to Facebook and I don’t have TrainingPeaks but the Strava integration works well with the data syncing between the two services almost instantly – in fact, I’d often get a notification on my phone saying my ride/run/activity was ready on Strava before the watch had even finished syncing with Polar.

The Device

I soon came to dislike the actual device itself for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the notifications didn’t really work. As a sports watch, it’s not bad at all and works really nicely. However, the smart watch features of it (such as notifications) didn’t seem to work properly so in the end I just turned that feature off completely.

Secondly, the default watch face cannot be changed. Not normally an issue I guess, though I’m not American, so the month then day date display drives me mad.

Watch face

It’s almost like Polar didn’t expect this to be sold outside of the US. And I can’t seem to find a setting to change this anywhere.

Thirdly, the band is horrible. It’s a thick plastic strap that whilst is robust, is a real pain to put the watch on and off. There’s a guide loop that is supposed to stop the excess watch strap flapping about whilst the watch on but trying to get the watch strap under and past this is a real test of patience, as it contains a little nodule to stop this loop moving. In reality, it stops you when you’re try to move the strap to put it on and off!

Fourth, it features a fitness test. For this, you’re supposed to lie down and the heart rate monitor will help do a fitness test. What isn’t stated anywhere that I could find is that this only works with a Polar heart rate monitor. So if you’re using a Wahoo fitness monitor like I was, then this wont work (did I not mention that the Polar devices only work with Bluetooh straps? Tough luck if you’ve been in the Garmin ecosystem and own ANT+ gear!)

Lastly, when it came to syncing, this took forever. The Vivoactive used to sync as soon as an activity was finished and would often be uploaded to Garmin (and then Strava) before I had taken all my running gear off. The M400 has to manually sync to upload the information but it just seems to take forever. I know the addition of heart rate data increases the file size (this can be seen in my TCX file size exports from the Polar website, compared to exercises where I haven’t worn the HRM), but this can’t explain the longer delay as it doesn’t increase the file size that much. I believe this is because it uploads and downloads all the data on the Polar sync service as it contains a diary function, allowing you to view all your workouts on the device itself. I would have prefered faster syncing (or more frequent automatic syncing) than for it to take as long as it does.

Yet, there were a number of good points. The device worked perfectly with the Wahoo heart rate monitor (minus the fitness test) and performed excellently whilst out and about for exercise. Whilst the syncing seemed to take forever, once the data was on the Polar website, the data is pretty good. I’d like to see the training load functions on other sites – I know Sports Tracks offers it, but for the $59 a year service.

One massive perk I consider for the Polar ecosystem was it’s definition of activity, rather than steps as a daily metric.

Monthly Diary View

If you look at the image above, under each activity within the calendar is a blue bar – this marks the activity goal percentage for the day. Garmin and Fitbit consider steps to the goals for a day – this might not be the case if you work out in a gym using weights, or in my case, cycle to and from work. In this instance, Garmin doesn’t count the cycling as having any benefit on your day, whereas in reality, obviously cycling for two hours a day will have a benefit. Polar recognise this and counts all logged activities towards the goal for the day. I believe Garmin now have a measure of intensity minutes but how this compares, I’d need to check.

This means that if you’re looking for a more well rounded activity tracker that looks at all the activities you do, then the Polar may well be the better option.

Activity Report

The activity reporting page shows the effects of the combined activities. In the image, you can clearly see that I’ve not been wearing the watch all the time… Whilst the activity tracking is the main goal, the watch still does indeed track steps for those that want to track the steps as well as track the activity for the day.

Another plus is that the charging is done via a micro USB, so my phone charger would be capable of charging it – one less thing to take whilst travelling.

Customising the screens that are displayed whilst you’re using the watch for an activity is extremely easy and can be done on the website or via the app and this makes things much quicker than actually doing it on the watch (at least, that’s what I’ve found).

One thing that the M400 had that the Vivoactive did not have was the ability to set timers for running. I found that I had to turn this on at the start of a run though and couldn’t set this going part way through. I wanted to set a timer for an interval session – setting the timer for 60 seconds of walking and 10 seconds of sprinting. I was able to do this, but I had to start the timer at the start of the sessions, and therefore ignore the timer whilst I did my warm up.


Whilst I wanted to like the Polar M400, I’ve found that I’ve not really been able to. The device is quite large and causes issues when wearing bags or even items of clothing with sleeves and I’ve never been comfortable with the strap. The strap lets the watch down immensely in my option and I can’t see if it’s possible to change it either, based on how the strap is installed. It’s replaceable, but it doesn’t look like a standard watch strap would fit which is a bit of a shame.

The smart watch functions, one of the reasons I bought it, are pretty poor in comparison to the Vivoactive. However, looking back, the M400 is much older than the Vivoactive – being released in December 2014.

Whilst it is an excellent sports training watch and activity tracker, I found it to be a bit bulky for me to wear daily and found it to be a bit of a pain to wear with that wrist band. I’ve therefore found that I’ve only really used it when I’m actually doing sports, making the activity tracking aspect of it pretty useless.

In general, I’d say that it’s a good product with some minor niggles that specifically prevent me from getting maximum use out of it. It has been said that it’s a good watch by others (and it is also cheaper than most other GPS enabled watches) but for me, I don’t think it’s quite right for me.

New Domain Name Provider

This month, one of my domains was up for renewal. Currently I own four domains and they’ve all been with 123-Reg for many years. However, the service I’ve had from them and the communication in response to a query was pretty poor – I realised that I’d had to contact them the year before regarding a renewal as well! So all in all, I decided to take my business elsewhere.

I’ve moved all the domains to Mythic Beasts, a UK based company that I’m hoping will provide a better service! I’m also considering moving my email and hosting there for a one stop shop, considering that Fastmail have now removed file hosting (though, I still have it as a grandfathered account) though in fairness, staying with Fastmail might be a good option, as it offers some better features that I might get with another host, such as an app and contact sync.

New Bike

This weekend finally saw me get the chance to ride my new bike.

I’d made use of the Cycle to Work offer that my firm offer through Cyclescheme. The offer allows me to save money on the purchase of a new bike through tax savings – I’ve never really been hugely convinced that the deal saves me money (though I’m assured that it does), but it is a method of getting a new bike with interest free credit for 12 months.

I suppose I didn’t really need a new bike, but I’d been looking at getting a new one – I had set my heart on getting a new Brompton. I’d planned it out and everything. It was going to be British Racing Green and it was going to be exactly the same as my current Brompton.

After a bit of thought, I realised how stupid that was! I was essentially going to replace a perfectly good Brompton because I wanted one in a different colour… Common sense won out in the end and I didn’t get the new Brompton!

New Bike

However, I did end getting a new bike (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing a blog post about one if I hadn’t!)

I was looking around at various bikes and wasn’t going to get one until I browsed Wiggle and had been talking with a friend. He’d purchased a Wiggle own brand bike the year before on the scheme and was very impressed.

I gave it a ride and must admit, I was impressed. When I saw this years version, I ended up being converted! British Racing Green… I couldn’t say no!

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Getting the bike

Long winded story but I eventually got the bike after some administrative delays on behalf of the Cycle Scheme and the finance department and then IT issues at Wiggle. However, the bike arrived and I was able to get out on it eventually after replacing the pedals.

I even managed to make use of the work stand that I purchased a year or two ago and haven’t really used up until now. That seemed to work perfectly fine.

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With the work stand, I was able to put together the new bike and put the pedals – with the cyclocross bike, I decided to go back to using cleats, so I installed the cleats and purchased a set of Giro Rumble shoes.

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First Ride and Naming

So once the pedals were on, I had to wait until the next day before taking it out for a ride – tantamount to torture!

However, I managed to get out on the bike the next day – it was a nice day and was ideal cycling weather as it was sunny, but not to warm.

At this point, I hadn’t named my bike – those that follow me on Strava or my blog must know that my bikes all have names. Most of them are named after Norse Gods – currently I have Odin, my Dawes Touring bike and Loki, my Brompton.

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Not named after a Norse god (that I know of!) is Scarlet, my Pashley Parabike. This was names Scarlet after the bike that I rode in Berlin for my tour of Berlin and I fell in love with it.

So what was I to name this one? I’d been thinking about it but couldn’t decide.

That was until I was out riding and the name came to me.

So I present to you, Atlas.

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An odd name perhaps, though, it is in keeping with the mythology theme, as a Greek titan responsible for holding up the world.

And the name came about due to the Ayn Rand book, “Atlas Shrugged”.

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It seemed to me that the bike was able to “shrug” off anything that I threw at it on the ride – be that road, grass or gravel track (and even some Sustrans paths). It performed excellently on all of them, so the name Atlas stuck!

Ride wise, the bike performed really well and is excellent to ride. I didn’t adjust anything for this ride – I seemed to have got the bars in the right location and the seat height seemed to be ok. Future work may look at seeing if I can bring the brake levers in a bit closer to the grips and I may change the saddle in the future but for now, it seems to be pretty good.


Bit early to draw conclusions yet but so far, it seems to be a good purchase. I’m liking riding a drop bar bike again – I thought I wouldn’t when I bought the Dawes but actually this isn’t bad at all. I might consider some cross top brakes, as I quite like the upright riding position at times but that’ll come in the future with some further testing.

It’s good to ride a bike that’s lighter than all my other bikes – I think the lightest bike I had until this one arrived was the Brompton and that’s over 13Kg. Wiggle has this one as 11.4Kg but it feels lighter.

I’m looking forward to giving it some miles.


Polar V650

The past few months have seen me try to increase my running at the expense of my cycling. Comparing my overall mileage for the year, I’m probably on the lowest distance to date since 2011. However, the running has improved and I’m hitting personal bests that I set whilst I was running during university. I have tried to maintain the cycling at least once a week though, cycling to work.

Recently, I had to slow the running down (I had to stop running altogether for three weeks) to recover from some shin splints. During that time, it was time for me to re-evaluate the cycling. I might not be able to cycle as often, but I needed to be able to cycle smarter – and that meant training using a heart rate monitor.

It’s been a few years since I’d worn a heart rate monitor – I used to use one when I first started cycling but it was just really for extra data whilst riding, I didn’t really use the data to assist in my training. However, with the time I’ve got, I need to start improving my fitness using all the tools at my disposal and that includes a heart rate monitor.

The issue I have is that I purchased a Garmin Touring GPS device in the past – as I went for the base model, mine doesn’t support heart rate monitoring. In general, that’s not to much of an issue, as my Vivoactive can record bike rides and will do heart rate as well, but it’s not ideal. The Vivoactive doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the handlebar mount GPS devices and it meant that I would have to keep a close eye on it’s battery whilst cycling to and from work (and other rides). So I started looking at various Garmin units to replace it – perhaps getting one without mapping, but would support ANT+ sensors, such as heart rate. The cheapest Garmin, the Garmin Edge 20 seemed to fit my bill and was relatively cheap. However, I carried on looking to see what the other options were.


I’d heard of Polar previously, but I’d not used any of their products. I can’t recall how I came across it, but in my searches for a Garmin, I came across the Polar Cycling GPS units and went looking at them in a bit more detail.

There are currently two offerings that Polar offer – the M450 and the V650. Both devices record heart rates (using a Bluetooth strap though – not ANT+ sensors here) so fitted the bill, but the V650 also included mapping. Whilst I didn’t think I needed maps anymore, it’s a nice feature to have. The reason that swung me to Polar was the fact that the devices were much cheaper than the Garmins. I picked up the V650 for £133 from Evans Cycles in a sale – this was only slightly more than the Garmin that I was initially looking at! The V650 is probably about the equivalent to the Garmin 810820 with perhaps a few less features (though more than the 510).

Polar V650

Setup and Use

To get the V650 setup, I needed to download the Polar Flow sync software, which only works on Windows and Mac – and you can’t access the file system of the GPS like you can on the Garmin, so you can’t use this device with Linux. As I’ve got a Windows machine, this would be fine (and presumably you could use a Windows virtual machine). However, it does mean that I cant use it with my laptop as this runs Mint Linux, other than to charge it up. As the Polar Flow Sync program uploads all the data to the Polar Flow website, you have to be comfortable with Polar having access to your data – this may put some people off if they would prefer to have a local copy of their training without it being put on the internet. You can however set the privacy to private, so at least no one else would be able to view it. The setting up of the device can be done on the Polar Flow website or on the device itself (it’s easier online).

The device charges and syncs with a microUSB cable – one was provided but I’ve got plenty of these lying around the house and this plugs into the back of the device, similar to the Garmin range. There is no option for a microSD card for maps – maps are downloaded via the software. The device can “only” fit a 450Km x 450Km square maps onto the device at any one time and this is done by selecting the centre of the area you want covered on the map and then using the Polar software to sync. This will then download the data from the Polar website and store on the device. I believe that this makes it easier to download and setup, you do rely on Polar having the data available and up to date (though it is based on Open Street Map data). The maps are well laid out and in use, I found it to be better displayed on the V650 than the Garmin Touring (and 800 that I used to have) – this is probably down to the base maps being used, but the Polar ones display the information I need. To upload files to follow, you need to (oddly), add them to your favourite tracks on the Polar website where you are able to upload GPX and TCX files. These are then downloaded down to the V650 when you sync.

Uploading a route to follow is considered a Favourite

The Polar website does not allow for creating a route and so you would need to create new routes elsewhere before uploading them to the Polar site. Some criticisms I’ve seen online of the device say that it’s not any good for those doing sportives as you cannot import the route files – these people have not really dug into the settings or read the support site, as this is described there (as I had to search the Polar support site to find out how to do it!) However, once you’ve uploaded it, it appears on the V650 once it’s been synced and you’re ready to go. To ride a route, you select the route within the favourites menu and then select it. This creates a new map screen that shows the route as an overlay on the map and you follow the breadcrumb trail.

Polar Flow

Before getting one, I joined the Polar Flow website – the equivalent to Garmin Connect or the Fitbit Online pages. This let me have a look around before purchasing the V650.

I didn’t get much out of it prior to getting the device, but it all made a lot more sense once I’d done my first training ride.

In terms of usability, it leaves Garmin Connect in the dust. Since Garmin moved to the multiple widget layout, I stopped using it. The layout is appalling and pretty hideous. Finding information was a lot harder than it needed to be and just in general was a pain to use. I ended up just using Strava for everything. I’d only use Garmin Connect on my mobile and that was purely for looking at stats for my watch.

Uploading a ride is all done via the Polar Flow program or via the Polar Flow app on your phone. Either way should upload your activity. On the computer, the Polar Flow website will open after the ride has uploaded.

The activity page has everything that you would need on it – graphs of heart rate, speed, distance, gradient etc. It matches the information that you would get from the same ride on Strava or Garmin. In fact, Polar has auto export to Strava (which I’ve found works almost instantly) allowing you to use it alongside Strava. All the information you might want is present. You can also export the ride for other services – normal exports apply (TCX and GPX files) but it also offers a CSV file and you can also download the three different files in a ZIP file if you want to download them but save space.

Activity Page

Download Options

One of the features that the Polar site has that I’ve not seen on another site is the Progress and the Recovery Status.


The progress page is designed to show you the progress in a specific sport – such as speed or drop in heart rate for the same ride or similar.

Progress Page

It’s an interesting page, though by default it’s fairly silly as it combines all sports on to one graph so is essentially useless – until you start messing about removing the other sports using the drop down box.

It’s supposed to show how you’ve improved. However, unlike Strava, Polar doesn’t allow you to mark rides as commutes and therefore you can’t remove rides that you might not want included. So in effect, whilst it’s an interesting page, I don’t see it being of much use.

Recovery Status

The Recovery status is an interesting page and this one would appear to be of more use than the Progress page.

Every ride, run or activity you do puts stress on the body. The Polar website tries to take all your rides etc and show how the ride has effected you and tries to show the stress your body has been under and how long it’ll be until you should do more activities – the idea being to prevent over training.

I’m not 100% sure how accurate it is – from the FAQ’s on the Polar site, it’s based on your previous data, so I’m hoping that it will improve as time goes on. I think it could prove helpful, though the best method of seeing if you’re over training I guess is to listen to your own body! Whilst that’s the case, it does prove handy to look into it. My only issue with it is that I believe it’s based on time and heart rate – so when I go to the gym and do a weights session, the next day, I can occasionally barely lift anything light but the recovery status shows that I could go out and smash a PB or similar and that’s just not the case. I guess for aerobic sports it’s probably not to bad, but it doesn’t seem great for weights.


The V650 is supposed to be able to sync via Bluetooth to a phone. I’ve had mixed success. It’s synced a couple of times on my Samsung S7, but then occasionally it hasn’t – yet trying it with my work iPhone 5S has had it sync no trouble at all.

It seems that the most straight forward way is to use the computer and have it sync that way!

Garmin Comparisons

Comparing the V650 to the Garmin Touring, the unit itself is bigger and also has a bigger screen. I think that the V650 screen is better than the Garmin one itself. Colours seem to be easier to distinguish, useful for the graphs that the computer displays.

Garmin Touring Compared to the Polar V650

Just like the Garmin, the V650 has a number of different screens and you can change the information that each screen shows. There are limits to the number of screens that you can have and you can’t remove the maps or heart rate screen. However, part of the reason I got the device was for both of these screens so that isn’t to much of an issue. The Garmin has a compass screen which I always turned off as it was fairly pointless in my eyes.

The Garmin has better control – think of the V650 as an iPhone and the Garmin range as Android phones. You can access almost everything on the Garmin just by plugging it into the computer. This gives a lot more freedom and flexibility but at the risk of deleting important data. However, the Polar, like an iPhone, does not offer any access to the filesystem and can only be accessed via the Polar Flow app (akin to iTunes). Once the data is on the Polar Flow website though, you can export it and upload to other services as much as you like so that isn’t an issue.

Support for accessories is less widespread than for Garmin. I’ve ended up buying a small third party mount for the Brompton that would let me use the enclosed Polar mount point without the stem bolt of the Brompton getting in the way. I also found a third party mount from eBay that’s the same as the Polar out front mount. I struggled to find the Polar out front mount in the UK, though I have found a UK shop with it now it stock which I’ll consider ordering.


Overall, I’m happy with my purchase. At a basic level, the V650 gives good data whilst out riding for those that are interested in speed, distance etc. The heart rate monitoring is better than I’ve found within the Garmin range, though the only potential metric that would be good is a heart rate zone data field (there may be one, but I can’t check at the minute) which would allow easy checking of the effort you’re expending. However, the heart rate graph page shows that information well enough for me and also features two additional fields so you can change those to suit as well.

The mapping functions are fairly good. Garmin beats it in terms of navigating as it can re-direct you back to where you’ve gone wrong, but the breadcrumb trail does do the job. The route can occasionally get lost in the map though as it’s a small red line – I found that on one ride I had to look more closely at the map than I might like to spot the route, but in general it was fine.

It’s performed nicely so far and I look forward to using it more in the future.

Trigo Mount In Use

So I managed to use the Trigo Garmin bike mount I wrote about the other day on my way to work.

I have to say that whilst it performed the job reasonably well, I had a few issues with it.

Firstly, when the Trigo is attached so that it doesn’t fold into my wheels when the Brompton folds down, the display isn’t in the best location on the handlebars. I can’t adjust this without an Allen Key. There is a degree of play, but not enough to get it in a good location for me.

Second, the mount itself wobbles about a bit – the mount itself is secure but it does seem to wobble whilst in it’s location. It’s not to bad, but it is noticeable. This may be solved by using the plastic washers that came with it, but I didn’t fit these as these proved to fiddly to install. I’m not convinced that these would solve the issue however.

In general, it performs as it should but there are a few teething issues. I’ll probably look into changing the mount over so it points inwards whilst riding rather than outwards as that’ll affect the fold. However, I’ll have to be careful with pointing it inwards in case it sticks out whilst folded.

I was planning on replacing the Brompton with a newer one – an M type this time around. That means that I can install the cross bar for some additional room on the cockpit and I should be able to nicely fit the Garmin on with the standard mounts.

Gigabyte Brix BXBT 2807

I was trying to install Windows 10 on the recently purchased Gigabyte BRIX-BXBT-2807 that I got the other day and I was struggling.

It would boot the Windows 10 USB up without any issues and would then allow me to go off and install it. Windows copies the files to the disk and then reboots as any normal install.

On boot, it would then however sit there at the boot screen and wouldn’t even boot into Windows to continue the install. Uh-oh.

After playing around, it turned out that the way to solve it seemed to be to boot into the BIOS and switch the Operating System mode to Windows 8.x (rather than Windows 7).


But not really well documented anywhere that I could see!

Trigo Garmin Mount

Last week I found out about a Garmin mount from Taiwan called the Trigo. This mounts to the stem of the Brompton where the handlebars meet.

This overcomes one of my issues with my current setup for the Brompton in that my GPS starts rotating around the handlebars occasionally and it has also caused some surface marks to the handlebar. Putting the Garmin onto the handlebars also means that I have to rotate the Garmin mount so I can attach the Garmin anyhow as the top of the stem gets in the way.

I was slightly surprised to find the Trigo had arrived today – I thought I was going to have to wait a bit longer for this to arrive.

The package contained the following (well, not the Garmin!)

Trigo in it's packaging

Trigo Kit

The Garmin mount had to be purchased separately.


Fitting the Trigo was really simple. The handlebar and stem screw needs to be unscrewed and then insert the mount into the gap and then screw it up again.

Mount on the bike

This gives the mount mount right in the middle of the bike.

Trigo Mounted

Putting the Trigo on means just screwing the mount point onto the mounting block. Simple and easy with the attached.

However, this is where I came across the issue that it would effect the fold.

Effecting the fold

The mount catches on the hub. It turns out that it just needed the screw on the Trigo mount to be lessened a bit, letting me move the mount.

Garmin mounted

Folded with Garmin attached

I’ll give this a go for a while and see how I get on. The mount seems to be perhaps a bit loose to allow me to move the mount forwards and backwards.

The mount itself is ideally mounted in the middle of the handle bars and is ideally located for viewing. I’ll give it a go for the next few weeks cycling to work and see how I get on. But it does look like a good mounting point. Time will tell.

Zim Journalling

Zim and Journalling

I’ve been using Day One for probably close to five years. In that time, I’ve built up quite a database of journal entries.

However, with the release of version 2 of Day One, they have moved to running their own sync service – which I can understand and I can see the benefits of, as it allows them to add in additional features to the software that using iCloud or Dropbox sync wouldn’t let them.

But having had a couple of outages in the sync service over the last few weeks, it’s something thats made me think again before I continue using it.

By chance, I discovered Zim and decided that it could potentially suit replacing Day One.


Zim is a desktop wiki software. You enter data into Zim under different pages and you can link them all together using links, like Wikipedia.

It allows files to be attached to each wiki page and allows easy creation of a personal wiki. Pages can be prevented from editing if you just want to browse and the whole wiki can be exported as a website (the Zim website itself has been written in Zim). Think of it as Evernote but you control all the data as without a sync solution, all data remains on your computer.

Zim has a journal add in installed by default. This add in allows you to add journal pages to a wiki (where you might want to record experiments or whatever on a particular day). This happens to make it a perfect journaling software, as it allows me as the user to create a workbook that is purely journal entries if I so wanted – arranging the pages into a date and time format. It supports a number of journalling options – you can have a page for each day (which is how I have it set up) or you could have it setup as a single page for each week, adding each day on to the bottom of the file. It’s a bit more flexible than Day One in that regard.

Replacing Day One

In its basic form, Zim is perfectly capable of replacing the desktop version of Day One out of the box (and it’ll run on Windows, Mac and Linux 1). Entries are stored as plain text files and images can be either be attached (and stored in a relative path) or can be stored anywhere else on your computer and linked to.

Zim allows for images to be attached and displayed within the entry list and unlike Day One, you can have as many pictures attached as you want 2. In fact, you aren’t just limited to pictures as you can also attach anything else that you might want with a specific date. The only difference I’ve found to Day One is that you have to take care to ensure that the file is attached, rather than linked. It’s a small difference but if you link a file, it links to the original file on your hard drive, whereas attaching it will allow it to be stored in the Zim folders and linked as a relative link. Attaching a file is my preferred option, as it allows me to work on different operating systems and not worry about moving the original file.

Rather than use the Markdown language I’m used to using, Zim uses DokuWiki style markup. This is a bit different from using Markdown, specifically with regarding to the headings. However, using the desktop app, I’ve found that I’ve not had to write in markup language at all, as the default shortcuts let me edit the files without knowing the language and this seems to work well. This means I only have to know the syntax when working on a mobile device (see later) and then I have to manually add the syntax, as I haven’t found a text editor that works with DokuWiki markup.

I’ve managed to get Zim working on my Mac by using PyGTK and running it direct from the source code. That seems to work well enough for it to run, though there can be some issues when changing the window size (I’ve found it easiest to increase the window size from the top right corner, rather than the lower right which seems the more natural way of changing a windows size).

Using Zim keeps the data within text files and means that I retain control of the information. It also means that I can sync my journal using whatever system I want to, be that Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync or even accessing via SSH file system – I retain full control and I’m not relying on the Day One sync service which hasn’t seemed to be the best since I started using it.

Mobile Editing

New Entries

As all the data is stored in text files, it means that the files are small and fast to sync, but importantly, can be edited in the iPad or iPhone using a text editor. It means that I can use both my mobile devices to write diary entries as I could on the computer. In fact, this is fairly easy to set up – just point Editorial at the journal folder in Dropbox and you can type away 3.

However, when Zim creates each text file for a page in the wiki, it adds metadata to the start of the file. For a journal entry, this means the date and the file creation time. Editorial by default does not add this information and it would be a pain for me to write this in at the start of every journal entry. Editorial comes to the rescue however, as it allows the creation of template text files.

Text file template creation in Editorial, allowing variables to be used

By allowing date (and time) variables to be inserted into the text file, I can create the Zim metadata header automatically when creating the file, even having the file named correctly for Zim when I’m back at a computer.

An issue with this method is when the date changes between months. Zim in my setup, creates a folder for the Year > Month and then places the text files within that (one per day).

Folder Layout of Zim Journal

My current template does not take into account the month and therefore will create a text file in the folder with todays date. It means that at the start of a new month, I manually have to create a folder for the month and then create my text file. I’ll look into changing this in the future but at the minute, it works ok.

Image Attachments

Attaching images is properly the biggest thing I need to do to a journal article. I’d attached quite a few images to my Day One journals, so I needed a way of doing the same to Zim. I managed this by using a mixture of Editorial and Workflow.

Editorial has a powerful automation tool built in, but it’s not the most straight forward tool to use. I’d class myself as techie, but I’m not a Python coder.

That’s where Workflow comes in – it lets me create a workflow visually. This lets me upload an image to Dropbox and link it back into the Zim post in Editorial.

Attaches an image to the current Editorial post

You can find the Workflow here.

The downside to this is that I have to be online to upload the image and that the workflow requires that I’m adding the file on the day of month that I want the image to appear on. Zim will automatically create a folder for attachments in the same name of the file you’re editing (so if you’re editing the Home page and add an attachment, it’ll add a folder called Home and then link the file as a relative link to that). This does mean that if I’m offline, I’ll have to wait to add the image and I’m likely to find it easier to then use the desktop version of the app to add images.


So not using Day One means that I use some of the functions that they’ve recently built in, such as IFTTT integration, but these can be overcome to a degree by using IFTTT Dropbox integration, allowing me to create text files within Dropbox using IFTTT and I can use Hazel to automate the process a bit more if needed.

However, in general, I’m currently happy with the journalling process and not using Day One. It’s not as pretty, but I’ve got a solid syncing process, rather than the occasional flakey option of the Day One sync. It’s not as pretty and not as well put together, but I find it still lets me journal and that’s the main thing, regardless of what platform I’m on. The Windows editing and the ability to back up my own posts is something that I’m keen to keep.

  1. Compared to a the Day One app which only works on the Mac – considering I use all three operating systems, Zim lets me enter data regardless of which operating system I’m using at the time.
  2. Day One Version 1 (or Classic as it is now known) only allows for a single image per entry, Day One 2 allows for up to 10 pictures per entry.
  3. Whilst you can only use a single folder for Editorial, my text editing needs for everything else on the iPad has switched to Ulysses. Ulysses is about to add Dropbox file syncing support for the iPad version, so I’ll switch it to that when it’s released.