it was a few weeks ago now, not a process or vocation i intended (or intend) to make a career of, but if someone offers pennies to take his pals cycling, i have a tendency not to argue. after all, if the intention was always to go for a bike ride anyway, where's the harm in accepting both company and recompense?
my only misgiving was over the choice of route. i was originally informed that my party of ten would comprise mostly leisure cyclists, but their host for the weekend chose a course that involved a 14% climb. not too long, but over a less than impressive road surface; i didn't quite see the endless fun in that for those who had little choice in the matter. had it been left to me, i'd have headed round the loch, but a booking for lunch midway round the day's route seems to have made the decision irreversible.
when originally asked some months ago to conduct the day's event, i had been asked what would be the procedure should it rain. tactfully, i replied "we get wet". in fact, on the very morning of our brief expedition, the weather was indeed less than clement, but by the time i'd made it to debbie's for the 11am start, the rain had ceased, and the temperature warmed up a tad. so while i had the resident cyclist's presence of mind to commence riding with rainjacket stuffed in a back pocket, my accomplices made a series of frequent stops en-route to lunch to divest themselves of various items of clothing, some of which wouldn't have been out of place on an islay winter ride.
the hotel at portnahaven could be described in estate agent speak as compact and bijou, particularly when trying to cater for 22 europeans and a scotsman. the coriander and chickpea burger in a bun was rather scrumptious, but as i stuffed my face midst much other face stuffing, the rain arrived with a vengeance and became only heavier as we rode back up the sole road to debbie's. it would be hard to imagine being any wetter than we were on our return to froth and carrot cake. makers of the small gps unit strapped to my handlebar, bryton, portend that their rider 20+ is waterproof.
they are not wrong.
of course, there would surely be little point in offering any little black box that affixes to a bicycle with anything less than complete waterproofing, but this was darned impressive to put it mildly.
bryton offer a substantial range of cycle gps units stretching from that under review, to substantially more able and expensive pieces of kit. the 20+ offers no mapmaking or viewing, and eschews any form of on-screen graphic display, other than the logo that appears when it's switched on.
in a similar moment to the stonehenge scene in spinal tap - the movie, i had gained the mistaken impression that the bryton would be of similar size to the arguably more widely used brand of cycle gps, but in fact it's scarcely any larger than the common or garden cycle computer. the display, which offers permanent, temporary or non-existent backlighting will show either two or three fields simultaneously depending on user preference.
i'm not much one for footering when it comes to setting up such devices; like every red blooded male, i only resort to the manual if all else has failed. in this case, there's really not much of a manual to be read in the first place, basically just enough to get you started. if you need a more comprehensive introduction to the inner secrets of the 20+, you'll need to resort to the support section of bryton's website. even then i'm not sure i understood all of the niceties (but i figure that says more about me than bryton's support department).
the mounting bracket affixes to the handlebars by means of a small bungie cord. several are included to account for different bar diameters, though it might be nice to have the option of a bracket that sits the gps device ahead of the bars. that would make it easier to see when in the saddle instead of having to frequently deflect viewing directly downwards. it would also have been a welcome addition to have included more than one bracket, particularly since the settings allow for two bikes. to have to swap the mount from one bike to another with any degree of frequency is a bit of a faff. you can, however, purchase more if you need them (£12.99 for two).
according to bryton, the internal battery, most easily charged by plugging it into the usb port of your computer, will last 17 hours with the gps switched on. the 20+ is ant+ enabled, offering a few additional accessories as separate purchase options, such as a speed sensor (used to counteract any loss of gps signal), cadence sensor and a heart-rate chest strap.
there are three buttons at the base of the unit: a big blue one most often used for confirming a selection as well as switching the device on and off. the two smaller and smoother grey buttons are used to navigate what seem like an endless series of menus, depending on either what you want to achieve or just how lost you get in the process. i got lost quite a few times. however, like most modern devices, familiarity breeds content.
after basic setup, aside from the standard displays of speed, distance, ride time, elapsed time, average speed, maximum speed, calories, sunset (yes, really), and clock, it's possible to use the bryton in training mode. this can be set to distance, time or calories expended; i'd love to say that since i never actually train, i left this bit well alone, but the truth is, i never quite figured out how it works. well, not entirely. i chose my training discipline and set the numbers to those i thought might prove effective, but i must have missed a step somewhere along the line for the results never became clear.
however, i was quite happy clicking along with the standard numbers on the bars, recording my every move. despite the more than effective waterproofing, in heavy rain, it is quite difficult to read the display without constantly flicking water away with a gloved finger. though the same could be said of any bike mounted display in the wet, smaller lcd displays suffer disproportionately. happily, inadvertantly leaving the device running when stopped does not impact upon average speed or ride time. it is possible to effect a pause, but i only managed that by accident.
of course, having ploughed through inclement weather at an average speed greater than truly ought to have been the case, the conscientious, not to say exhibitionist individual, will want some way to analyse all that transpired. bryton offer downloadable software that allows the user to save the digital record in a number of formats before uploading to either bryton's own dedicated web presence or to the ubiquitous strava. though not specifically pertinent to this review, i was rather amused at the latter's naming of any mild bump in the road as (for example) the col du foreland or col du rspb.
i'm not much of a numbers sort of chap, so popping a 90km ride on strava or brytonsport is not something i'd find myself inclined to do on a regular basis, but i get the impression that i may be in the minority with this one. it is, however, the only satisfactory means of taking a long look at the day's ride, should you have need of figuring out how to get better, or perhaps merely for public embarrassment, should you be into that sort of thing.
if simply used in the manner i have described as pertinent to my own riding (to be honest, nobody needs a gps on islay to find their way about), £100 is rather a lot to pay for what effectively becomes an expensive wireless computer. however, i am firmly of the belief that it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. were the bryton to be a permanent fixture on my cielo, i'd be inclined to spend a few more investigative minutes figuring out all that it does and how. i'm sure i could find some means of pretending it's not training. we have very good satellite reception in this rural idyll; throughout the review, it never skipped a beat, though on occasion there was a demonstrable few seconds lag on displaying a reduction in speed; not something that i could make a big deal of, even were i to try harder.
if you're intent on joining the strava generation, this brings rather excellent entry level membership in a small package. adding a heart-rate chest strap adds £50 to your budget but that hardly places it outside the reach of many when you consider what it costs for a decent pair of cycle shorts these days. despite my misgivings about too many numbers getting in the way of a decent bike ride, i'll miss the little chap when he's gone.
saturday 26 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................