Steve Yates- Triple Threat

13 August 2019

Lezyne v machine

You say potato and I say tomato. For some reason I always want to rhyme Lezyne with machine, but it seems this American company with Teutonic connections prefers to align sonically with their motto “Engineered Design”.

Going off on a tangent for a moment I had always assumed Giro was pronounced the Italian way until I reflected on a debate I had on the topic with a sales assistant in a shop in Perth. I felt a bit reticent afterwards because I had not realised until then that it was an American brand rather than Italian one, so perhaps it was correct to rhyme it with biro? Someone told me a similar story recently, but I’m relieved to report that according to an article on Bikeradar last year titled Top 5 mispronounced cycling brand names, the Italian way is correct.
Phew. The other morning I got home from the hills and went into my post ride routine. Bike to the shed, lights off for recharging and Lezyne computer into the pocket for data upload, then into the morning mayhem of the house. A while later I fidgeted absent-mindedly through my jersey and dressing gown pockets, thinking to retrieve the computer and put it somewhere near my computer.

Somehow it didn’t come to hand and I moved on to breakfast thinking I must have already put it down somewhere. Later on it didn’t turn up in a half-hearted search of likely dumping points, and I made a mental note to go back to the shed and check that I hadn’t left it on the bike after all. Meanwhile I had a shower and stashed my cycling gear in the washing machine and got it going along with whatever other stuff was ready for a bit of detergent action.

Later while performing some mundane task before starting work I heard a random clank come from the washing machine, but it didn’t really penetrate my consciousness. A while later I heard it again and this time my brain joined the dots with a sinking feeling. Could the Lezyne still be in my jersey pocket? If so, it had been there a while and the cycle was nearly done so there wasn’t much point stopping the wash.

Sure enough when I took the load out a few minutes later there was the computer sitting snug in a jersey pocket. This will test the weather seals I thought. Given how long it had been in the wash I was not optimistic, but after all it was “weatherproof”, and hadn’t the landscape gardener’s circular saw recently survived a dive to the bottom of our saltwater pool unscathed? Nonetheless I figured I best dry it out in the sun for a while before attempting to turn it on again.

It was interesting to dissect it in preparation for desiccation. A T8 bit quickly removed the four screws holding the case together. They were alarmingly easy to undo and it seemed unlikely they had applied enough pressure to the O-ring to keep out the suds. Inside there was small but undeniable evidence of watery ingress. I splayed the screen, circuit board and battery out in the sun and got to work.

Perhaps I should have left it longer, but after a few hours everything seemed nicely dried out so I couldn’t resist a test. The annoying startup tootle failed to regale me, so I connected it up to a power source and the only sign of life was a series of parallel lines on the display. Not looking good. I tried again forlornly several times over the next few days with no change in the result.

Washing machine 1 Lezyne Engineered Design 0.

For the record it’s got an IPX7 rating, so I guess an hour or so getting swished about is a tougher gig than half an hour a metre under water. Well, it doesn’t say don’t put it in the washing machine.

How many buttons make five?

When I was a kid my dad would often challenge me with the English shibboleth “how many beans make five?” Perhaps it was a legacy of his journey from a working-class upbringing in Liverpool to the middle classes through academia. I don’t remember him ever revealing the answer to this puzzle, but thanks to google I now know the answer to this “secret handshake” question to be “two beans, a bean and a half, half a bean and a bean”. It’s more of a mystery to me why bike accessory manufacturers haven’t figured out that the correct number of buttons on a cycling computer is five.

I know this because that’s how many buttons my old Polar S725X had. This is before Garmin and its GPS products stormed the bike computer market. It seems like an eternity ago, and I haven’t used it for years but the copyright in the manual is “only” 2005. Five buttons: light, stop, up, down and OK. The inventory doesn’t really tell the story. It’s the function and placement of the OK button that explains why they got it right. It’s big and red and sits on top of the unit below the screen and its main function during a ride is to record a lap marker. It’s a small thing but that’s the function you really want to be able to find easily when you’re gasping for breath on a climb, or hanging on to the last gasp in an interval session.

Which brings me back to my poor drowned Lezyne Enhanced Super GPS. It’s not hard to guess it wasn’t the cool name that sold me on this device, or the chunky design. The simple fact is that when the buttons on my well-used Garmin Edge 500 (which had replaced the S725X some years earlier) stopped working the Garmin replacements available at the time (the 520 and 800/810 if I remember correctly) were way too expensive and had the wrong number of buttons. I had no interest in the zero-button touchscreen option so I was only really looking at the 520, which has six buttons. One too many and with two curiously mounted on the bottom of the unit. I will admit I have never road-tested one of these, but it just looked awkward to me.

This was a great disappointment because with the Edge 500 having only four buttons, I had expected that a bit of time on the road would have led the Garmin engineers to the same conclusion the Finns had reached years before. The Lezyne also had only four buttons, but for a saving of several hundred dollars I figured I could be one button short, especially with no five-button option available. I probably looked hopefully at Polar but I think back then they were still trying to catch up with the GPS revolution and none of their offerings grabbed me. A quick look now sadly shows the fifth button has become a mere echo of its former self, something to press in contemplation over coffee rather than grasp for in sweaty desperation.

The interesting thing with the benefit of hindsight is that I have found that the allocation of functions on the unit is well thought-out and context dependent, so that once you get the hang of it it’s not hard to press the correct button without having to think about it, and while I still like the idea of the big red lap button, it may be a good case of less being more. So having been scared off Garmin again by their prices, the most likely replacement for the Enhanced Super GPS is their new Mega C GPS. Okay so the names haven’t gotten much better but since this is essentially the same unit as the old one but with a colour screen and some improvements, I have a pretty good idea what I would be getting.

James Raison has a great review of the Mega C on the La Velocita website. Interestingly he struggled with the complexity of the allocation of functions to the four available buttons. In the past I might have cited this in favour of the five-button theory, but now I think it’s more a case of testing sometimes not allowing enough familiarity to draw a proper conclusion. Some things of interest did come up in the review, mainly around the very few disappointing aspects of the unit. Most notably there is limited ability to hide screens that aren’t of interest. The breadcrumb map is the one that has annoyed me most as it’s almost useless but it’s stuck permanently in the screen cycle. It seems Lezyne haven’t done anything about this yet. I had also found the turn-by-turn directions pretty poor, so it was interesting to read that this appears to be much better now, especially with full colour maps to support it.

Most annoying though is the training support. I took this feature for granted without checking, so I was astounded to find that the Enhanced Super GPS didn’t have any training capability. They later added this via a firmware upgrade, but tied it into having either a Training Peaks or Today’s Plan subscription to generate workouts. As the Edge 500 had been easily programmable for training without any such subscription that really pissed me off. Unfortunately it seems the Mega C has the same inveigled model. At least I will continue to have an excuse for my lack of fitness!

Things that go bump in the road

The warning bump of my Lezyne crying out for help in the washing machine reminded me of a nasty-but-could-have-been-much-worse crash I had a few years ago. I was on my trusty Giant TCR, a piece of cycling history, being the first mass-produced compact frame. It came with crazy plastic aero-spoked wheels that were a nuisance to own as the spokes snapped easily in the clutches of airline baggage handlers and were not easily found or replaced. They were also hard to true and apparently actually less aerodynamic than conventional spokes. Quite a marketing triumph considering they looked more like wagon wheels than the exotic carbon spoked wheels they were meant to emulate.

By the time I was heading home from work one afternoon it was well into its second decade and functioned as my commuter and bad weather bike. The wheels had long since been replaced by a more practical set made by Shimano. As I hit the ramp back onto the bike path after crossing the road opposite my office there was a clunk from the front wheel and the handlebars felt slightly loose. Of course, having momentum, I didn’t want to stop, so I convinced myself the bars were just a little loose and rode on, making a mental note to apply an Allen key to the retaining bolt when I got home.

The next dozen or so kilometres passed unremarkably, apart from me occasionally being aware of that slight apparent looseness in the bars. Then a few kilometres from home things got interesting. I had just crossed a busy road when the bars got really wobbly and to my horror detached themselves from the rest of the bike. After years of accumulated metal fatigue the aluminium steerer and broken inside the head tube. I distinctly recall the moments before I crashed to the ground, contemplating the useless handlebars in front of me. It was clear that a hard landing was inevitable, so I decided to take a dive and get it over with. Unfortunately I wasn’t close enough to the kerb to make a soft landing on the grass, but thankfully I was far enough away to avoid landing on its hard edge. The top of my left tibia took the brunt of the fall but somehow nothing was broken.
I think I must have walked home with my bike in pieces. My bruised tibia hurt for weeks and I still get a sick feeling when I’m riding and get the sensation there’s a little more flex in the bars than there should be. Happily the bike survived. It wasn’t easy sourcing a fork with a one-inch steerer, but I eventually got one off some US website. I think the only original parts of that bike now are the frame and the bars, and it’s hardly been ridden since I moved to Alice Springs as I no longer commute and wet weather riding is, well, what is that?

And the moral of the story is…

The theme running through these stories is the pitfalls of making assumptions. Listen to your bike (or washing machine). If you’re out riding and your bike is making strange noises, it’s trying to tell you something, so unless you’re sure of the cause don’t ride on in hope, stop and check it out. And if you’re buying a new bike computer, remember to ask if it’s okay to put it in the washing machine.