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Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 3rd: Handegg to Disentis/Muster

We woke up the next day to sunny skies, which lifted our moods and got us ready for our first substantial day of climbing. The climb up to Grimsel hospice actually gave us to sunny skies.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Near the hospice, a staff member from the hotel caught up to us and told us the hotel had billed us incorrectly, and we owed them more money than they'd thought. We paid it and they graciously invited us to a cup of coffee at the hospice, but that would have added gratituous climbing to a day that promised a lot of climbing already, so we declined.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The top of Grimsel pass saw a shimmering lake, as well as a good view of the Furka pass, clearly taller than the Grimsel, with a descent into Gletsch between us and the pass proper. The descent to Gletsch was as fun as usual, long straight stretches separated by consistently engineered Swiss hairpin turns. At the bottom, you could look up and see from whence you came, knowing that you're not nearly close to done with climbing for the day yet.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Climbing the Furka pass is initially a gentle experience, until you cross the railroad tracks and just before the Hotel Belvedere the road suddenly turns up at a 12% grade. The day was warming up and we no longer had to wear leg and arm warmers at that point. Past the Rhone glacier, which is a shadow of its former self, the grade eases up a bit and then levels off until the pass summit sign.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Pass the summit, the grade is easy until you hit the hairpin past Hotel Tiefenbach, where hairpin after hairpin greets you as you work your way down to Realp and Hospental. That day, headwinds greeted us, but that meant that some turns gave you sidewinds instead, necessitating a judicious speed reduction. Once in Hospental, we searched in vain for the supermarket, which was probably closed, and settled instead for a restaurant at the foot of the St. Gotthard pass.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The plan was to ride St. Gotthard and then head over to Biasca and then either climb Lukmanier pass or ride down to Bellinzona. Italian-speaking Switzerland frequently has better weather than the northern sections. However, a perusal of the weather apps on the phones indicated that this usual situation was in the process of being reversed. Chur was projected to have better weather than Bellinzona, so we changed our plans to ride the Oberalp pass instead. This type of weather information on-the-go was unavailable until relatively recently, and we were more than happy to take advantage of it.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I'd remembered Oberalp pass as being an exceedingly easy pass, but that was based on memories of climbing it early in the morning when fresh. Despite the relatively easy 8% grade, it's still 600m from bottom to top, and a bit of a drag in the warm afternoon sun. By the time we reached the summit with the lake and cafe, Arturo had proclaimed that he was pretty darn tired. It turned out that he had bonked without realizing it, since an ice cream later he was ready to roll on.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I'd remembered the beautiful ride between Ilanz and Versams from the 2005 tour (later replicated in the 2007 tour), and hoped to make Ilanz to start the next day fairly early, but it was already 6pm and so we found a hotel using TripAdvisor, which had a 3 person room and a half pension, as well as being a short walk from the famous monastery in the town. The monastery was closed in the evening, but we were hopeful for the next morning.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 2nd: Rosenlaui to Handegg

We woke up in the morning to gloomy skies, confirming the decision yesterday to not rush the day. With that in mind, Arturo and Hina went to the Rosenlaui schlutz after breakfast, reporting that it was indeed wilder and more natural than the Aare schlutz visited 2 days ago. After that, we headed down to Meiringen to see the Sherlock Holmes museum and for Hina and Arturo to mail stuff. The activities of the past 2 days along with the weather had convinced Hina that her summer dresses were superfluous, as well as various heavy electronics. I had failed to convince her that she did not need both her Kindle and her iPad, however. Arturo mailed off his old jacket now that he had a spiffy new one.

The Sherlock Holmes museum wasn't open until after 1:30pm, so we decided to skip it for this tour and headed up the Kirchet pass to eat at the Lammi restaurant. Unfortunately, the owners of the Lammi had decided to close for the day until 4:30pm, so we were out of luck there as well. Instead, we rolled down to the hotel Alpina at the foot of the Grimsel pass and had lunch before heading up the pass.

At Gutannen, we stopped at the grocery store for some bananas, chocolate, and some rest. "For some reason this climb feels much harder than the previous couple of days!" said Arturo. "That's because you're carrying  a load today and you were riding unloaded yesterday!" "Oh, that makes sense!" A group of Koreans came down the mountain on the cleanest mountain bikes I'd ever seen, indicating that their bikes had seen less dirt riding than our road bikes had. One of them dropped by Arturo's bike and played with his GPS before Arturo could stop him, screwing up Arturo's settings for a while, though not actually causing him to lose data.

As we rode up the mountain the clouds got lower and lower and the light sprinkles became more and more substantial, until at the hotel Handegg, we could see the fog and rain up ahead, causing us to stop for the night. At the hotel lobby my heart sank when I saw that they were hosting a conference, but it turned out that the conference wasn't big enough to occupy the entire hotel, and there was plenty of room for us.

I'd last stayed at the hotel on my first trip to the alps in 2003. Back then, we didn't have time to explore the facilities, but this time not only were the prices comparatively lower, we had time to visit the spa, sit in the hot tub, and try the sauna. Since Handegg had wifi, I could also call home and make sure that all was well. The food was comparatively good, though not stunning like Andrea's cooking. I told Arturo and Hina to keep their expectations low for the rest of the trip, since not everything could be like Rosenlaui, though Handegg was pretty good, and better than I remembered.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 1st: Rosenlaui

I'd originally planned to start the ride in Sarnen, ride up to Flueli-Ranft and Melchsee-Frutt and then hike over to Engstlenalp to get to Rosenlaui. This would have mirrored the 2007 Tour, which this tour was promised to do. Since that didn't turn out, but the day was supposed to be beautiful, I elected to do this ride backwards. This actually had several advantages:

  • We could do the ride unloaded.
  • The ride up the Gental was actually less steep and an easier climb than the climb to Melchsee-Frutt. It also promised less traffic.
  • The route-finding would be easier, since there aren't as many different trails from Englestalp as there are from Tannalp.
Balanced against this was that the descent from Tannalp would be much more challenging than the Gental descent, and that once in Sarnen, we would once again have to hop on a train or climb the Brunig pass to get back into the Meiringen valley.

I discovered after breakfast that I'd somehow lost one of my gloves yesterday, so I too, was going to be stuck buying gloves at exorbitant Swiss prices unless I recovered it. On the way down, I stopped by Hotel Zwirgi just in case I'd dropped it there the evening before, but no luck. We rode down to Lammi and turned right, heading to InnertKirchen, where we stopped at the intersection of the Grimsel and Sustens highways to use the restroom, fill up our water bottles, and then headed up the Sustens highway.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
The day was indeed gorgeous, and the climb up the Gental, while at 12%, was certainly much gentler than the climb up from Sarnen would be. Because it had been cold recently, the sun never warmed up the road very much, which meant that maximal effort riding still wouldn't over-heat you much, and water use was minimal. Nevertheless, by the end of the hanging valley, I was almost out of water, and it was time to put on sunscreen for the first time on the trip.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
We asked some descending cyclists if they saw water anywhere on the descent, and they said no, but that we weren't very far from the top. Nevertheless, they generously gave us some water, after which we climbed not more than 10m before we saw a water fountain, so we filled up our bottles and kept going. All through the trip Arturo would have trouble with post-buses, and once again, another one caught him just as he was climbing. We nevertheless all made it to the Hotel Engstlenalpl, where the bike path went on for about 50 meters before turning into a dirt trail. We rode on a little bit more, to the electrified cattle fence, undid the hook, and I immediately switched to running shoes for the hiking portion of the trip.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

To say that this route has haunted my memories since 2007 is an under-statement. The beauty of the surrounds, the excitement of doing a ridge crossing on foot while traversing terrain too difficult to ride, interrupted by gates, cattle fences, and steep climbs was overwhelming in 2007, and no less fun even when familiar, 7 years later. The joy of emerging into the Tannalp hostel fire road when done with the hiking portions is not to be under-stated.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

At the lake around Tannalp, we stopped for pictures. Arturo said, "Hey Piaw, I think I've been here before. I recognize that monstrosity!" There was a ginormous ski hotel that did look out of place. But after discussing it and pulling out a map, we realized that there was no way Arturo could have been here before. It's just that rich developers with bad taste all have similarly bad tastes, so one monstrous hotel looks very much like another.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
We stopped at the ski station, where there was a grocery store across the street and a water fountain. We ate at the same exact place 7 years ago, and had a passable supermarket lunch. The weather alternated between cool and cold, depending on whether the sun was behind clouds, and we ate quickly, put on everything we owned, and then started the descent down to Stockalp. The descent was steep enough that it made me glad that we didn't have to climb it this year. Past Stockalp, we found the bike path from 7 years ago, and then descended to Flueli-Ranft and then Sarnen just in time to see the train pull into the train station as I was trying to buy tickets.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Doing the math, we realized that we would miss the last bus up to Rosenlaui by the time we got to Meiringen. That made getting rest more important than ever, so Hina and I ate ice cream while Arturo sat down and started posting photos onto Facebook. When I booked the lodging for Rosenlaui I did not anticipate that we would need to ride up the mountain 3 times on 3 days, but given that it would be unloaded I was unconcerned. Then I realized that Tuesday nights are the music nights at Rosenlaui, so we'd have to ride up to it in an hour to avoid missing the start. As a result, the ride up this last time would be a mad dash. Arturo said, "Do we have serious plans tomorrow?" "Well, the forecast is pretty awful, so I wouldn't be in a hurry." "That means I don't have to do any energy management, right?" "What? You've been holding back yourself?" "That means I'll see you folks at dinner after my shower," he smiled.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
We arrived in Meiringen and went back up the road towards Grosse Scheidegg. It was overcast and soon we could feel drops of rain on a day which otherwise had been perfectly dry. "You have got to be kidding me," yelled Arturo as he shifted into low gear and started up the road. Well, the ride back to Rosenlaui was a mad dash, but we all made it in time since the music event meant that dinner starts later than usual. We had an entertaining meal, and went to bed knowing that the next day wouldn't have any mad dashes in it.


Monday, July 28, 2014

June 30th: Rosenlaui

I'd originally intended for 3 nights in Rosenlaui to enable some hiking as a break from cycling there. Air Canada had derailed those plans, leading me to want to use these nights at Rosenlaui to launch some bike rides. Secondarily, for whatever reason, the bike box did not contain the fenders I thought I'd packed in Sunnyvale, so I thought I'd use the bike ride to Grindelwald to get some fenders at a bike shop I knew there. Furthermore, Hina was missing long fingered gloves, and Arturo's jacket was so well-used that it was no longer waterproof, and both would benefit from a visit to Grindelwald.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
The bike ride over Grosse Scheidegg to Grindelwald is world famous for many reasons. First of all, it is gorgeous, even in the conditions we did it in. At the top on a clear day you would get superlative views of the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau. Secondarily, just up the road from Rosenlaui, the road becomes car-free, with only the post-bus and residents allowed to drive up the road and down the other side into Grindelwald. Finally, it is a relatively steep grade, though with unloaded bike not much of a challenge. We heard ice fall on the climb, which was surprising to me, as I'd previously only heard it on warm summer afternoons.

Unfortunately, views of the mountains were not to be had at the summit, as a low fog came in and we had rain. It was so cold that I ran into the restaurant at the top to put on my clothes and have a hot chocolate. The following chilly descent convinced Hina that the long fingered gloves she bought in Zurich were worth the exorbitant Swiss prices.

In Grindelwald, I bought a rear fender for my bike from a shop that serviced mountain bikes, while Arturo had his rear derailleur cable capped for free at the same shop. Hina bought some glove liners for her long fingered gloves. Arturo bought some long-fingered bike gloves, and then I took him to the Mont-Bell store where he tried on the same wind/rain jacket that Cynthia bought in the 2010 tour. He loved it, and bought it, while telling me, "Piaw, you're an evil evil salesperson, and you don't even work at the store!"

We zipped down to Interlaken on the fast descent, ignoring the side-trip to Lauterbrunnen valley, and arrived at the Interlaken Ost train station just as the sun was coming out. The huge Coop supermarket there had a dining area with hot food, so we ate a quick lunch before proceeding towards Isetwald in search of the bike path over to Meiringen. 
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I hadn't done the bike path for 7 years, having in recent years taken the route on the paved road along the Brienzersee instead, or eschewing the ride altogether. But I had fond memories of the ride from before, and the dirt path had several attractions that made up for the slower going than the paved road, not least of which was the Gleissbach falls.

The adventure was fun and lots of stops were made, but by the time we got back to Meiringen it was quite late and we had to choose between the Sherlock Holmes museum and Reichenbach falls. We chose the Reichenbach falls since we were sure we would take the post bus up to Rosenlaui the next day, and the most convenient way to see the falls was by bicycle. It had been sunny all the way to Meiringen but by the time we made it to Meiringen we were feeling the occasional drop of rain. The fun thing about traveling with Arturo is that he's very good at spotting hidden Swiss military emplacements, including pill boxes, hidden hangers, and other such devices. All through the trip he would point them out to us. It's amazing what a wealthy country manages to do when it decides that military installations like those are a major priority. Somewhere there's a mountain with launch hangers that wouldn't be out of place in a SHIELD story. After a grand tour of the military installations of Meiringen, we made a quick visit to the Reichenbach falls, which featured beautiful views of Meiringen valley.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

We returned to Rosenlaui valley to find that yes there was a short period during which there was sun in the valley, and Amy had taken advantage of that to do the Hornseeli route, which had all the features I described from my 2008 visit. She enjoyed it and I was glad that she got in a good day of hiking despite the awful fog and rain we had experienced at the top of Grosse Scheidegg. We ate well and took a short evening walk before turning in for what was supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Prologue: June 26-June 29, 2014

Hina Naseer, Arturo Crespo and I planned the Tour of the Alps to start well after the official start of summer in order to get better weather. To that end, Hina and I flew separately to Zurich on July 26th, arriving on the 27th. Arturo had gotten a cheap business class ticket to Amsterdam and planned to train from there to Sarnen on the 29th.

At the Zurich airport, I discovered that my luggage, along with the everyone else who had flown from San Francisco via Air Canada, had been left behind in Toronto at the transfer point. While an annoyance, I'd anticipated this in my trip planning, and so had not expected the tour to start until the 29th. I stayed with Shauna Eggers and Steve Moran, who joined me in 2012 on the BVI trip. Also staying there was Amy Platt, who was on sabbatical and traveling quite a bit.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
Amy happy volunteered to walk me around Zurich so I didn't fall asleep and then succumb to jet-lag. I went for a swim at the local pool, took Steve and Shauna out to dinner. The result was what I thought was the easiest jet-lag I recovery I ever had. I slept a full 7 hours, interrupted only by getting up to go to the bathroom halfway through the night. I even tested the HDM Z1, which I hadn't had a chance to do at home, and found it to be more than acceptable.

The 28th, however, was stressful, because I was waiting for the baggage to show up. What I should have done was to just go to the airport first thing in the morning to search for my baggage and pick it up. Instead, I stupidly believed the airport employee and waited for deliver. By 2, I was a bundle of nerves and after helping Hina with her bike, and headed off to the airport. However, at the train station, I checked the website and found that my bike had been picked up by the baggage service. I fatefully made the decision to turn back.

Unfortunately, despite promises of the baggage service, my bike never showed up. I had a disastrous sleep experience that night. Booth Hina and Arturo had their bikes, so Arturo decided to join us in Zurich  instead of Sarnen, which was looking very unlikely, and meet us in Zurich.

On the 29th, I woke up early, called the airport baggage service, and asked if there was any way they could deliver the bike by 10am. They said that it was impossible, but I could go pick up the bike myself. I went to the airport, grabbed the bike, and came back, which took about an hour and a half. At 9:30, I hurriedly reassmbled my bike, repacked my saddlebag, and headed off to the train station with Hina and Arturo, with a pack lunch graciously prepared by Shauna at the last minute.

At the train station, we bought train tickets, with me producing my passport to buy a half-tax card. When traveling with bicycles, the half-tax card gets paid off very quickly because the bicycle counts as another person for short trips, and costs 12CHF on long trips. I'd originally intended to avoid trains as much as possible, but starting with a Zurich to Meiringen trip effectively meant that just another couple of train journeys would pay it off. Since Arturo also had a half-tax card, having one myself would eliminate any hesitation on using trains to make the tour better. This would turn out to be a good decision later on in the trip.

We arrived in Meiringen at 1:00pm, and immediately rode off to the Lammi restaurant for a great meal to start the trip with.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
Arturo was skeptical that a restaurant could be as great, but when the soup arrived he took a sip and all skepticism vanished. I told him that there was a chance we could eat here again later in the trip on the return, as the return of the 2007 tour ended with a trip over Sustens pass.

We then visited the Aare Schlutz, something I'd ridden past several times in the past but never got around to visiting. Since it was rainy, the schlutz had lots of water, making conditions to visit it ideal.

By the time we were done with the schlutz, it was nearly 4:30, so we decided to ride up to Rosenlaui. I'd ridden up there several times and hence was familiar with the route. But fully loaded and unprepared for the climb, both Hina and Arturo had a harder time. Even worse, Arturo kept running into the post bus that owned the road and every time he had an encounter he would be forced to stop. His schedule had prevented him from extensively training in preparation for the trip, so he had not learned how to start on a hill. Each stop then forced him to walk to the next flat spot in order to start riding again.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
All was forgotten, however, once we reached Rosenlaui, where Amy was joining us for two nights. Lovely Rosenlaui is now the default starting point for many of my trips in Europe: we book the rooms at Rosenlaui before buying tickets based on availability at Rosenlaui. The descriptions at the hotel's website don't do the location justice, and most unadventurous types are turned away by the lack of en-suite bathrooms. Christine and Andreas turn away large tour groups and tourist buses. This suits me just fine: as a result, the place is devoid of all the usual tourist groups, and the food is superlative. You still need a reservation far in advance in order to secure a room, but nearly everyone is a serious hiker, as the hikes in the region are rugged and difficult, with no infrastructure other than the post bus. The net result is that Rosenlaui is one of the few places in Switzerland where you can hike for hours without seeing another person.

I slept well that night, having had exercise, great food, and other worries eliminated not just through the events of the day, but also because Rosenlaui has no cell signal and hence protects you from distractions.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Long Term Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro

After field-testing the Dell Venue 8 Pro, I committed to it for this year's Tour of the Alps by buying a 64GB microSD card and bringing it as my only tablet/reading device for the tour. It was easy to justify because not only could it process photos, it could also upload rides to Strava, Garmin Connect, and Facebook.

Overall, the device was fast for most activities. Strava, Facebook, reading, and watching movies are all I/O bound activities, and the I/O available on the device is more than sufficient for those activities. Unfortunately, importing 25MB RAW files from the camera to the device is also an I/O bound activity, and writing to the microSD card is SLOW. The net result is that using Lightroom was unsatisfyingly slow. You would wait hours for the import to happen. That's OK, since you can leave the tablet on overnight and let it work.

The big problem happens when you try to edit the pictures. First of all, the atom processor is about 1/8th the power of my desktop, so you'd expect Lightroom to chug a bit. Well, a bit isn't a good description. It chugs a lot, and unfortunately, I think it has more to do with the I/O architecture than with the processor. Watching the task manager's monitoring output confirms that while the CPU does peg occasionally (especially during export), most of the time, the CPU is actually idle, leading me to believe that it's the reading and writing to the microSD card that's the real bottleneck. It could be that loading everything into onboard storage would work better, but unfortunately, I didn't buy enough onboard storage to test that scenario.

Nevertheless, I did manage at least one Facebook post a day, and the results of the photo manipulation demonstrate that even for Facebook posts, Lightroom is light-years ahead of its competition.

Now, the biggest disappointment is the active stylus. Being an old-fashioned desktop application, Lightroom is remarkably resistant to touch input for cropping and delicate manipulation such as my favorite ND grad filter tool. The hope was that the active stylus would help there. Unfortunately, this hope was dashed. First of all, the stylus uses a AAAA battery, which is impossible to replace anywhere in Europe while touring. This is exacerbated by a hardware bug: putting the stylus near the tablet would cause the battery to drain. This is an unacceptable bug. But even when the stylus was working, it wasn't very responsive, leading me to believe that the I/O problems plagued by low-end tablets swamp any technology Dell was able to apply. So while I dreamed of being able to write blog posts, etc while touring, it just didn't happen because I was too frustrated by the touch keyboard for more than the occasional Facebook status message.

Is this enough to get me to not recommend the Venue 8 Pro? No. It simply does everything else too well, and even my Lightroom frustrations weren't enough to keep me from using it, simply because the output is just so much better than anything else out there. What it does mean, however, is that I'm waiting for someone to package the Surface Pro's technology into an 8 inch tablet with a passive stylus (or even better, into a Phablet form factor --- I'm happy to trade off screen size to ditch an entire gadget on the trip and use the weight budget for a portable keyboard). If/when that happens, I'd be more than willing to pay a premium for the upgrade. Sadly, however, I'm guessing that it's going to be a long wait.

All in all, however, the technology is impressive. Just 3 years ago, I was happy to forgo any tablet solution in favor of having an honest to goodness Kindle for reading purposes. This year, the Kindle stayed home, and it looks like it will stay home for the foreseeable future in favor of this multi-purpose, useful device. I can see my frustrations disappearing with just a few more Moore's cycles.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Super Powereds: Year 1

Super Powereds: Year 1 is Drew Hayes' novel about a college program for super heroes. You could think of it as being "Harry Potter" for super heroes, though having read a couple of Harry Potter novels I'd venture to say that the material here is more interesting and less cliched than the Harry Potter novels.

The premise of the novel is that the world of super-humans is divided into Supers, who have full control over their powers, and Powereds, who have no control over their powers and hence are victims of their powers, rather than super heroes. The result is that even the super-humans are divided into tiers, with some powers obviously more valuable than others.

The shtick behind this novel is that there was an experimental process that turns Powereds into Supers, and then enroll them into a college meant for training Super Heroes. A world where Super Heroes exists have been thought out, and much like The Incredibles, the need for hero licensing has much to do with insurance. I'm glad the rationale wasn't waved away, but I wished Hayes had spent more time thinking and come up with more interesting answers.

The novel started as a serialized web-series, so each chapter is short, and the book is easy reading in a breezy fashion. Character development suffers as a result, but nevertheless, the length of the material ensures that some of what Hayes throws at you will stick, so you do learn to care about the characters.

All in all, the novel is a fun summer read that's not too involved and technical, and definitely was what I needed while cycle touring. Recommended. I've checked out Year 2 from the Kindle Lending Library.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: HDM Z1 CPAP

Two weeks before my 2014 Tour of the Alps, my doctor told me about the HDM Z1. Now, I've been very happy with my ResMed S9. It's quiet, durable, and works well for sailing. However, even with the portable 30W power supply the entire package weighed 40oz, discounting the hose and the CPAP mask. For a cycle tour with big mountains, this was not ideal, and the HDM Z1 at half the weight of the ResMed S9 was very appealing.

There are a few issues with this machine compared with the S9:

  • It is much louder. After comparing this machine with the S9, Arturo found that the S9 was almost silent in comparison. Subjectively, I rate the difference between the machines at 5dB. The HDM Z1 was so loud my wife refused to let me test it. One interesting thing is that adding the HME to the tube makes the machine quieter, which indicates that the increased noise isn't just due to the louder air pump, but also to do with the resonant frequency of the output into the hose.
  • For at home use, there's no elegantly integrated humidifier like the S9. Instead, you buy a Fisher & Paykel humidifier, or you use a HME. HMEs are consumables, and each one is good for only 7 days, which at $6/pop is significant over the usual 2 year depreciation period of a CPAP machine. Since you'll almost certainly need to travel with HMEs, the HMEs add some bulk but not significant weight to the final package.
  • The ResMed S9 is an auto-PAP, adjusting pressure according to how much you need to avoid apnea events. The Z1, however, is a fixed pressure CPAP, so you only get to set one setting, and live with it for the entire trip. My 95% pressure was 9, so that's what I used. I initially didn't think there was much difference for me, but at the end of the trip, I switched back to the S9 and immediately felt more refreshed after a night's sleep, indicating that the auto PAP algorithm on the ResMed is more effective and provides better sleep.
  • There are reports as to the robustness of the machine, with some users reporting failure after 4 weeks of use. HDM offers a 2 year warranty, but that's of no use to you while you're traveling if your machine fails! My trip was only 3 weeks, so I decided it was worth the risk.
Was this enough to offset the 20oz difference between the ResMed and the HDM Z1? No, so if you've been hankering to an independent bicycle tour and the weight/bulk of carrying a CPAP was putting you off, stop reading and just buy it now.

The machine itself is interesting. it comes with the machine, which weighs in at 10oz, and a power supply, which also weighs in at 10oz. I was wondering why the power supply hadn't gone in for more weight reduction, but that's probably because the machine is rated for higher pressure than I use, and so the power supply has to handle that, rather than my relatively low pressure rating. It comes with an adapter for use with the standard CPAP hose. The adapter basically splits the hose so the pressure measuring system can be separated from the output of the pump. You could just leave the adapter in place all the time, but I wouldn't recommend it while traveling, since the tongue of the adapter is in a particularly highly leveraged place, which would cause it to break off.

The machine comes with a micro-SD slot, but I didn't have time to buy a micro SD card to put in the machine, so did not test the software or get details about my apnea events while using the machine. Given that the primary symptom of my apnea is incredibly loud snoring and my roommates did not kill me while I slept, however, I think we can safely say that the machine works.

You can buy a Powershell battery for the Z1, which is basically an integrated battery for camping and other off-the-grid uses. The battery is also incredibly light at 200g, with the downside being that you can only charge the battery with Powershell, so you can't charge multiple batteries at once, for instance. Since the Tour of the Alps is a hotel-based credit card tour, I opted out of buying one and did not test it.

The biggest feature of the machine, however, is the weight and size. It's truly remarkable, and done (as far as I can see) without exotic materials like carbon fiber, titanium, or magnesium, which means that there's ample room for even lighter, more premium versions. The cost of the machine is around $600, which is affordable and much cheaper than a planet ticket to Europe these days. The cost/weight reduction ratio is much better than the typical weight reduction measures on bicycles, so this represents an exceedingly good deal for cycle tourists who carry their own baggage.

All in all, I'm very impressed, and would highly recommend this product.

Startup Engineering Management Gets a 2nd Edition

Startup Engineering Management has been doing so well that I added what I learned over the last few years to it and gave it a 2nd Edition. It's a book that's attracted a surprising following, indicating that there's interest in the no-nonsense, non-political approach to management that I espouse for startups.

This new edition includes a whole new chapter on process analysis, sections on justifying hardware selection based on the great reception my Wharton talk got, and also a foreword by Harper Reed, who endorsed the book early in its life.

Along with the new edition, the price has gone up from $21.95 to $24.95 for the digital edition, and the paper version has also risen to match the price with An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startup. If you've bought Startup Engineering Management in digital edition since April 23rd, 2014, you've already received a free upgrade to the 2nd Edition in the mail.

If you bought a digital copy earlier, the upgrade price is $5, and what you need to do is e-mail me the original receipt from Paypal or Google checkout. Once I've verified the purchase, you'll get an invoice via paypal and an upgrade. Thank you all for your support!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tour of the Alps 2014

This is the tour report for my 2014 Tour of the Alps. Hina Naseer and Arturo Crespo joined me for the trip, which took us through Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Lichtenstein.  The trip was 1687.12 km (1048 miles) and 32969. 6m (108168 feet) of climb in 22 riding days, of which we had 3 days interrupted by weather and 1 day interrupted by a crash. We had 1 flat tire and1 mechanical due to a derailleur cable coming loose. My bike got lost in transit on the way to Zurich costing us a full day and a half of riding.

We'll start with all the GPS tracks (in GPX format) for the tour.

Trip Report

Equipment Reviews