Sunday, April 10, 2011

Using old model Garmin Etrex Venture with Garmin Connect

After manually logging miles for about a year, I grew tired of constantly measuring rides and inputting numbers.  I have an older Garmin Etrex Venture (not C or HC) that I have used in the past as a bike computer so I thought I'd see what I could do with it.

Contrary to Garmin's official stance, and the Garmin Connect website, you CAN use old model serial-connection devices with Garmin Connect.  I got my Venture to work on a Windows XP computer and my new Windows 7 laptop.  I thought I would just share how I made this work.

Stuff you'll need:

1) Your Garmin Device.  Here's my Venture:

2) A sync cable. My major problem was that the original sync cable is of course a serial connection, and (like most of us) I don't have a computer with a serial port anymore.  There are a couple of options to fix this.  One is a Serial-USB adapter, which will work with your original serial cable.  Gilsson makes these and I hear they work fairly well.  Here on (No, I don't get paid for Amazon referral links, illegal in Colorado).  Since I have no clue where my original sync cable is, I needed a different solution, or I would have to buy the original cable and an adapter cable.
I poked around online for a while and found a seller on Ebay purportedly selling single-cable serial/USB adapters for Garmin devices.  The seller had great feedback so I took the chance.  The cable works GREAT! Here's the link to the item I bought, and in case that item is no longer available here is the seller's page on Ebay.
You can see it is USB on one end:

And has the 4-point Garmin connection on the other:

The cable came with drivers for Win7, Mac OS, Win XP, and a few legacy Windows OS.  These drivers are provided by Prolific and you can download them here: should you need them.
The following instructions are in two parts - first the cable driver installation and second getting running on Garmin Connect.  Cable driver instructions will be either A) Windows XP or B) Win7.

A) For an XP installation, it is easiest to install in this order:
1) Put driver CD in drive (or download and extract the driver files to your PC).
2) Plug in the USB cable
3) Windows will run the New Hardware wizard and you can point the driver installation to your local file (CD or download location)
4) Congratulations, drivers successfully installed.  

B) For a Win7 installation:
1) Put driver CD in drive (or download and extract the driver files to your PC).
2) Navigate to the Win7 driver folder and run the driver installation executable.
3) Once installation is complete plug in the cable, and it will be recognized by Win7.

Setting up Garmin Connect:

1) Head to
2) Register for your account.
3) You will need the Garmin Communicator download so that the website can find your (now) USB-connected device.
4) Once Communicator is installed it will check to see if it can find your device.  Make sure your device is turned on and connected to the computer.
5) Click "Upload" near right side of the top menu bar.  Connect should recognize your device and give you the option to upload your new activities!

Connect has some nice features including the "Reports" section, which I find particularly useful.

So, there you have it.  It can be done.  Garmin Connect's website says that you have to manually upload .GPX files from older devices to work with Connect, but that just isn't the case.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ergon GR2 Grips - Out of the box

The first shipment from Ergon International for the commuter team was waiting for me when we got home from the hospital last week.  Finding a package addressed to:
James Osborne
Ergon Commuter Team
was pretty nice, and I was excited to see my new grips.  Here they are straight out of the box:

As evidenced by the BioKorks, Ergon is trying to reduce their impact on our planet, and they have done a great job of eliminating plastic with their packaging.  Check out the back of the package:

The second grip is inside of a recycled cardboard box (above).  The "display" drip slides onto a cardboard tube, rather than being trapped in impossible-to-open plastic packaging.  Here are the grips side-by-side:

While most of the folks on the commuter team opted for the GP1s, or the BioKork GP1s, I knew these were going on my icebike, and I wanted to have an additional hand position on that bike, since sometimes riding through 6-8" of slushy snow is a lot of work.

These are going to really round out changes that I've made to the icebike this year.  More on that later!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: Busch & Muller Lyt N Plus and Seculite Plus

When I got our Joebike BoxBike, I intentionally got the upgraded version that has the Avid BB7 disc brake up front an a Shimano Alfine dynohub as well.  Our neighborhood is pretty hilly and I wanted the added security of the disc brake.  The dynohub was really just a nice bonus.  How nice?

Pretty nice.

Since we had the dynohub I wanted to get some good lights for it.  The bike came with the standard Shimano dyno headlight, which does not have great reviews, and didn't come with a paired wired taillight.  Of course, I needed to check out my options on Peter White's website.

For the headlight, I knew I wanted an LED, so I wouldn't have to worry about replacing a bulb.  I also knew that I wanted a standlight, as I planned on these lights being the only ones on the bike.  I didn't really care about the 'senso' feature on many of the B&M headlights,as I generally run my headlights always on anyhow. Finally, the JoeBike never really gets over 15mph so I knew I didn't need a $300 headlight.  Plus, I'm cheap.

Peter had some lights on clearance but by the time I figured out what I wanted, they were gone.  So I got the Lyt N Plus (N for switched, Plus for standlight), which was around $40 or $50.  Here's the stock photo:

Lyt headlight
Compared to my Ixon IQ, the Lyt is not quite as bright, but still has an excellent shape on the road.  There is also more side visibility on the Lyt than there is with my Ixon IQ, which is nice, since I don't need 100% of the light distribution on the road at relatively low speeds on a cargobike.  Here's a few shots of the light installed:

Installation of the light itself was very simple.  I just needed a longer through-bolt for the fork crown, and tightened it down.  The angle of the light (up/down) is easily adjusted and locked into place by a small bolt below the body of the light. 

As far as the beam itself goes, I'm pretty happy with the headlight.  With a very small front wheel, It was important to get the beam pattern thrown on the road just right.  It's very easy to for it throw too far (too shallow of an angle) and lose a light of brightness.  It took me a trip or so to get it dialed in, but now I am happy.  I can tell that it is not as powerful as my Ixon IQ, but it is definitely enough for my purposes.  I don't think I would put it on a road bike, but it is great for the cargo bike.

For the taillight, I wanted to go with a fender mounted light.  The BoxBike already had a small, brake-actuated taillight that was mounted to the rear rack mounts, and I wanted to keep it.  Mostly I think the brake-actuated light is a novelty, but it also has an always-on switch and is a handy backup light.  The BoxBike has Alum fenders so I knew they would take a taillight well without any worry of doing damage to the fender.

Since I didn't think the extra weight and cost of the 4D Lite Plus was really necessary, I went with the Seculite  Plus for my taillight.  Installing wasn't too bad, toughest part was drilling the fenders, which took a while.  Worse was how stupid I was thinking I could drill the fender without removing the rear wheel - I put a 1/4" hole right through my rear tire.  That was about a month ago and it is holding up well with some tire sealant and a patched tube.

Removing a rear wheel with a  Nexus hub and a roller brake is a fairly involved task.  I won't go into a lot of detail here, but it took a while and it's pretty awkward with a 50lb+ cargo bike that is 7 feet long.  I'll do a how-to next time I have to take the wheel off.  Hopefully that is like 5 years from now.

After drilling the holes, the light simply mounts on with a bolt.  Jon helped me route the wire from the headlight to the taillight, along the bottom of the frame, up the lower strut of the rear rack and along the outside of the fender.  Now:

Both standlights work great, and I cannot express how nice it is to have a bike to just jump on and ride without worrying about moving my Ixon IQ from bike to bike or wondering if my batteries are charged. These little upgrades make riding that much easier, and as a result I ride more.  Having a bike that requires no advance preparation to ride removes practically all barriers to riding instead of driving.

I've been really happy with the results of this project.  Someday I would love to have dynamo lighting on the Surly, since it gets the most miles.  I think that is my dream project right now.