Tag Archives: biking

The problem of finding a bike route

29 Oct

Bikers generally do not bike because it is the quickest way to get from one point to another. While they bike for a myriad of reasons, one thing they all want is a low-traffic route. Unfortunately the roads that carry less traffic are often far more challenging to follow. When I biked across the USA with a Yale group in 2006, this problem became painfully apparent.  

Despite being armed with the advice of previous groups that had ridden the same cross-country ride, there was really no way that they could easily share this knowledge with us. We could seldom find, much less follow, the best routes. Instructions were usually too long, too unfamiliar and too complex. We therefore resorted to sending a few riders, armed with a map and chalk, ahead of the rest of the group. These riders were to stop at each intersection, try to identify the intersection on the map, and then chalk the correct turn direction over the center of the intersection. 

This was a strategy that was decidedly archaic.  It was also ineffective.  Chalk was hard to see, and those responsible for the chalking had to try to follow a paper map while biking.  Needless to say, every one of us who rode, wound up riding all the way across America on sub-optimal routes.  Frequently we would end up on rather perilous roads.  More than once we found ourselves on an Interstate highway with no clue of either how we had arrived there to begin with nor how we would navigate to a safer route.

I managed to arrive safely in San Francisco with no small dose of luck, but the problem of bike navigation was permanently seared into the back of my mind.  It would not be until the summer of 2012 that we would be able to create a compelling solution.

Piet

Hammerhead for motorcycles!

29 Oct

We really have been overwhelmed by the amount of email that we have received from the motorcycle community requesting Hammerhead for Motorcycles. This is something that we are really eager to do. We agree with their assessment that Hammerhead would solve a real problem that motorcyclists have – navigation. It seems to us as if motorcycles might face an equally significant challenge in trying to navigate. While they do not need to find routes that are specifically for motorcycle use, they do operate at high speed and need to understand navigation input in an extremely rapid fashion. Hammerhead is perfect for this.

We are committed to only taking on what we are able to get right, and we are going to make sure that the biking app and community is well served before diverting any resources elsewhere.

We are going to be developing a motorcycle app for the Hammerhead device! If you are a motorcyclist that is interested in being notified when this will be ready, please join our motorcycle community here!

We made it – $190k!

23 Oct

We made it! 

We managed to exceed our wildest expectations and hit our stretch goal of 190k! The last few hours have been really rather crazy on our end. Laurence and I spent the evening answering questions, talking to press while watching the campaign conclude. I am not sure what tomorrow morning is going to be like when we wake up to find the campaign over. It has been such an all consuming aspect of our lives for what has felt like such a long time, that it will be really odd to not be checking it constantly from here on out!

We are really excited about the addition of the altimeter as something that will allow us to add a real valuable set of data to riders in their post ride analysis. The challenge of including one is one that we are excited to tackle.

I must say that it really feel surreal more than anything to sit here with it having just concluded. My phone has been ringing constantly with supporters congratulating us. The support that we have had has been really moving at times.

Now to get back to building Hammerhead full time!

Piet

Laurence’s thoughts on bicycle riding

1 May

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As a cyclist I was allowed onto the streets of Johannesburg at the age of 14, imagine a city with traffic like Los Angeles, taxis like Bombay and zero bike lanes. Johannesburg was definitely a quick way to learn the rules and dangers of the road. If Go-Pro’s were around in the 90’s I think my family would have put me in a bubble and locked me in a velodrome. Fortunately my love for cycling, large amounts of youthful ignorance and a desire to explore completely overruled the dangers and allowed me to get to know the streets of Jozi. There simply was no greater freedom for a teenager. I could visit friends, ride through massive late-afternoon thunderstorms and skate across the smooth tar after the rains. The bicycle was my first real access to independence.

Cycling taught me an awareness on the road that I can confidently say has made me a better driver and far more road aware than friends who never “played” in the streets. When you are slightly podgy kid on a peugeot mountain-bike you are most definitely low on the road food chain in South Africa. As the years progressed I built up my bike and confidence of the better routes to and from friend’s houses. The worst intersection, the thinnest roads or pavements. Over my entire time riding I was fortunate to only be hit by cars twice, both minor accidents.

 My many other bicycle accidents tended to be related to attempts at riding up trees, into pavements without holding my bars or deciding that I was actually quite good at flying. Lets just say that icarus does exist in the cycling world and my four cracked helmets in my lifetime has taught me to wear them always! I recall a particularly bad accident in Cape Town, while crossing from side-walk to another, remember, very few bike lanes, I was riding in the evening and did not notice a  steel cable dividing the road and sidewalk. My last minute, side-ways sliding / being thrown into a gutter was another one of those …. well … terrible moments. Part of this could have been avoided by actually having a dedicated place to ride. Recently Cape Town has improved infrastructure and certainly has done more for cyclists than Johannesburg. The community in South Africa is growing, healthy and making the streets a better place to be. Since I have moved to the USA I have been particularly appreciative of the growing awareness of cyclists and installation of bike lanes in places I have lived.

Cycling still has a long way to come as an everyday occurrence in places like South Africa and the USA when compared to Europe. However, the last two years have arguably been some of the most exciting times for this transport’s history. Bike lanes and bicycle sharing programs are being pushed everywhere in the USA. I will go so far to say that cycling engages a community more, you recognize the nuances of your neighborhood, feel connected to places you visit and nothing quite brings a smile, well, at least in my opinion. It takes us out of our bubbles and puts our urban lives a little more in perspective. I commuted by car for 2 hours daily in Los Angeles last summer and can say that I developed a very advanced skill of being able to talk with myself. This my dear audience is not sanity.

Cycling, riding, taught me about the streets of Jozi, it showed me an appreciation for quiet parts of the city. Cycling was my first social network when I moved to the USA. I figured out how to ride from my Apartment in Riverside to the awesome trails of sycamore canyon and a group of friends that I made there. Each new place forced me to be a little lost for a while but eventually sniff out the better places to ride. It took me four bad bike routes to get into the Santa Monica Mountains from the beach but this is life as a cyclist it’s only those who ride regularly that get to know the city, and even then they end up sticking to routes they know well. While we have been bootstrapping in New Jersey I quickly discovered the value of asking a bike shop where to ride. However planning a route involved sleuthing from the given keywords of “Bear Mountain”, “9W” and some time on Google maps. It all really comes down to local insight and the ability to share it. 

I knew that Hammerhead was a service I could use and it would be valuable. We are all essentially tourists and explorers of our environment, I find a fresh take on an old route is often the best way of getting an appreciation for it. Very often that requires a friend to push you out of your habits. Our team hopes to work on bringing some insight into the average bicycle ride.

Laurence 

Bike riding: Evolving philosophy

1 Nov

The beginnings of Hammerhead navigation, came out of a frustration that we experienced as cyclists. We were always looking to tie together a series of roads and pathways into a fun bicycle ride and often ended up choosing the familiar. Each time before a ride it would require some thought whether it was a serious Sunday training ride, visiting a friend, planning a cross-country tour or heading into the mountains. However each time it usually ended up being a friend’s recommendation or just the roads where you knew you wouldn’t have troubles.

Cycling has evolved with technology and serious cycling is now associated with all kinds of data and technology. Companies such as Garmin, Polar, Shimano, Powertap, Cateye etc. have been a pioneering force in bringing better insights into how far, fast, high and efficiently we ride. In terms of our actual bike routes and destination we are more used to passively tracking our rides with a GPS device or our favourite fitness tracking apps such as Strava, Mapmyride and Endomondo.
This evolution is aligning with mobile technology and allowing us to open our fitness and sports data to our friends and the community. The notion of your daily ride becoming a little more social or competitive is a fantastic idea! Its about encouraging friends to get in shape, pushing that time-trial pace or just making you understand your own goals a little better. Our team took a broader look at the notion of riding a bike and where the mode of transport and sport is headed. The proliferation of smartphones has given us unprecedented access to what used to be considered instrument-quality GPS devices, processors and data management, advanced sensors and high-efficiency wireless technology. I will try not state the obvious but it’s phenomenal what these little bricks are doing for the future of sports. Our glaring observation came from a simple question: “How do you experience a great bike ride?”

The obvious things aside, like owning a bicycle, and leaving the house, as cliche’d as this is, its the journey.

The key to the journey is the path and yes, we got philosophical here. Cyclists get all this access to information, Google maps and at one stage Google Earth was a tool that we planned rides on. We would scour the mountainsides with the zoom maxed out, or look at Topo maps, trail maps, ask local gurus…. In fact, planning a bike ride usually entails a whole lot of luck, blind exploration and possible roadside loss due to the mental GPS failure. Thankfully we are all now able to use our little bricks of knowledge and pinch around Google maps to get home. In fact a great bike ride was a random occurrence or a recommendation of a friend. A chance finding and when it happened you would be damned if you forgot that route again. In fact that route would become a regular and you would recommend it to friends.

We wanted to make this process natural, intuitive, we wanted to let friends give us a sweet bike route and then just follow it. There are roads that are perfect for sunset cruises or early morning training rides, there are those beachfront boardwalks or secret singletracks. We just needed a map that gave us those options and then let us follow them. No stopping, or ending up on the 101 Highway. Hammerhead navigation was built on intuition, like finding your way and we aim to keep it pure. No synching or extensive planning, we didn’t want our turn-by-turn instructions invading our ride. Just a reminder of a turn on the broader journey that you can then use to improve others. 

We know that our business model can fit into this cycling data world and provide the community with a rich new layer. We see the cross-over of smartphones and cycling devices as a place where we can serve a great base aspect of cycling. The choice to ride and the ability to enjoy that ride.

Laurence 

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