First bits of new kit

On Thursday I got my first bits of new kit: a new Nokia N8 phone and trekking handlebars.

Getting this particular phone was a big deal for me.  The last mobile phone that I had gotten was a little Samsung clamshell when I moved to Germany in 2006.  I’ve always been one to go for simplicity over the newest gadget and so this was a simple phone that worked well for making calls, which is the purpose of a phone after all.

The other part of this consideration is that it is a Nokia phone running Symbian^3.  I think everyone has heard the news about Nokia, and as much as they try to reassure everyone about the future of the platform, I don’t think anyone is believing it.

That said I went for the phone anyway because it has a two (count ’em: 2) advantages over the other phones that I could find:

  • A really amazing camera
  • USB OTG built-in

I probably could have compromised on the camera and gotten an Android or an iPhone. The USB support was the real seller for me.  I looked into the purported Dell Streak support and decided that I didn’t want to have to recompile the kernel and modules to get it maybe to work.

Why this absolute need for USB OTG? During my trip I’m going to be using a Garmin Edge for navigation.  I really wanted to be able to upload the track after each day to Garmin Connect (a really cool site, btw) and post them onto this blog.

The trekking handlebars were a much easier decision. I just wanted more comfortable handlebars and so read a few reviews.  Job done. This weekend I need to fit them on the bike and wrap them.

PS: While writing this up I noticed that the newly announced Galaxy S II has USB OTG support. Buyer’s remorse sets in, but not too bad, because it isn’t out yet.

Getting the bike ready for JOGLE

During my previous rides I’ve encountered little niggling problems with the bike:  Broken spokes, uncomfortable hands, wobbling at high speeds, as well as a few others.  I guess that this is all perfectly understandable since I’m using a bike that wasn’t really intended for 70+ mile rides every day, day after day. I figured that before I head out on the next planned trip (JOGLE: John O’Groats to Land’s End), which will be my longest yet, I really need to deal with these problems.

I had tried to deal with the uncomfortable hands problem by putting bar ends on the handlebars, which helped but still were not ideal. There were just not enough different positions for my hands and so by the end of the day I was usually starting to feel a bit numb and have a sore neck. After lots of reading around I decided to swap out the current straight mountain bike style handlebars with “trekking” or “butterfly” handlebars.  This style is very common in Germany (I saw them everywhere there), but not very common in the States or UK.

Dealing with breaking spokes is actually tied in with dealing with the wobbling at high speeds.  The wheels and rack that had been on the bike were fine for city commuting without a lot of load, but during tours I end up packing a tent, thermarest, sleeping bag, clothes, food, cooking gear, and toiletries on the bike as well.  All of this adds up to put around 40 lbs on top of the 130 that I already weigh on the rear wheel. While riding on flat, smooth roads this isn’t a problem, but as soon as the surface gets a little rough or a downhill comes along, the lateral forces are just too much for the rack and wheel.  Spokes break, rack sways, control gets a little iffy.  So I went to my local bike shop and asked for a stronger wheel to be built and they came up with a nice Mavic A719 on a Shimano hub. I also went out and got myself a sturdier rack (and discovered in the process that my old rack was only rated to carry around 20 lbs. Oops!). These have already felt a lot better during my daily commute to work on the London streets.

Another problem that I’m trying to deal with is having to carry too many maps. This isn’t really a huge problem, but I thought that maybe I could do better.  I’ve also had experiences with the maps leading me to campgrounds that have since closed down causing a last-minute panic at the end of the day.  So last summer I bought a Garmin Edge 705 and used it to navigate from London to Frome to attend a friend’s wedding.  It worked really well for that so I figured that it should be up to dealing with navigation day after day.  The only problem was that I would need to power it, and power is not always easily available at campgrounds.  So I’ve put in an order to get a new front wheel with a dynamo hub in it. I still haven’t decided on how I want to connect up the dynamo for charging, but with the number of options around I don’t think there will be any problems.

Since I just ordered a lot of these parts this weekend I don’t actually have them yet.  Once I get them then I’m planning a few short test rides to see how it all handles.