Tuesday, July 22, 2008

EMC2 Etape Course (Corsa) - My entry into road cycling

In the last 6 months, I've been consistently riding my bike to work almost every day. It's about 22 km ride return. It was extremely hard to start, but after about a month, I started to feel really good while riding, and at certain time I just can't wait to go outside and ride my bike.

I started will my 4 years old Apollo LSX 1.0 mountain bike, a reasonably good bike but after a while I began to think of upgrading my bike to a road bike. I have been looking for a good entry level road bike (both brand new & second hand for less AUD1000), and I'm quite surprise with the number of choices available. I've had a look at the Giant OCR 2, Avanti Sprint, Malvern Star Capo Sport, Apollo Ventoux, and a few more. But then after having a look at the EMC2 Etape Course, it's almost like love at first sight and I immediately bought one. Geoff at Glenelg Cycles has successfully convinced me to get the bike and gave a lot of good advice in riding and maintaining a road bike.


The Etape Course has a blue paint finish. I actually prefer to get a red one, but that red is only available in the next EMC2 range (Elect), which is out of my budget range. But I'm still pretty happy the way the bike looks. The bike was relatively light, and when I compare with the giant OCR2 (just by lifting with my hand), I though the EMC2 Etape is lighter. But I might be wrong. Anyway, it is still way lighter than my mountain bike.


Out of the bike shop, I immediately took the bike on a 24 km ride to my office, and I was quite impressed with the ride. Taking cars analogy, it feels like driving a sports car, while my mountain bike feels like driving a 4WD. I feel that I can accelerate a lot faster and way easier to maintain higher than 30kmph speed. Going uphills is also a lot less effortless.


It was rather uncomfortable first with the ride position, as I was mostly sitting pretty upright with my mountain bike before, while I need to bent down more to ride the EMC2. But I had the bike for about 5 days now and it started to feel a lot more comfortable. It takes me sometime as well to get used to the brakes handle and gear shifters location on the handle bar, and getting my shoes inside the clip cage on the pedal.

The bike frame is a triple butted alloy tube, which means that the center section of the tube is fairly thin while the ends of the tube is thicker where it is needed for joining strength. This makes the frame fairly light while increasing the strength as well.


The bike has 18 speed gears with Shimano Sora shifters, crankset, front derailleurs, and rear derailleurs. The wheels hub is also Shimano. There's also a chain catcher just in case the bike chain overshoots.

The bike has carbon forks which should smooth out the road vibration, but I wish is came with ca carbon seat post as well. It's not really a big issue as I can easily upgrade the seat post later.


In summary, I was quite impressed with the bike and highly recommended this bike to anyone looking for an excellent entry level road bike.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sony Stereo Bluetooth Headset DRBT20NX Review

Around the second half of 2007, I was actively searching for a good stereo bluetooth headset. There wasn't that many available at that time, and most of them were pretty huge, bulky and simply not stylish enough to use casually everyday (such as the Nokia BH-501).

The first one that I found was attractive enough was the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970, which I bought one from an Ebay store in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a fake unit with really crappy sound, inconsistent connectivity and bad packaging. That gave me a lesson not to buy anything from Hong Kong or China anymore through Ebay.

Then sometime in October 2007, I came across the Sony DRBT20NX headset. It looks pretty good, stylish and simple enough. I manage to buy one from Ebay in Australia for about AUD50 (which was a really good deal considering the retail price in Australia is AUD199). There're some good things and bad things about the headset which I thought worth to write about.

Sound Quality

As I'm planning to use the bluetooth headset mainly to listen music from my mobile phone, hence sound quality is very important. I have tested the headset using both Nokia N95 and Sony Ericsson M600i mobile phones.

Well, the sound quality was really exceptional for me, almost as good as listening through a wired connection. I was really impressed with both the base sound quality and the treble sound clarity. Comparing between the Nokia N95 and Sony Ericsson M600i mobile phones, I found out that the N95 produced slightly better clarity than the Sony Ericsson M660i. The M600i does produced better base sound (with MegaBass on), but it lacks the treble sound clarity.

Overall, I was really satisfied with the sound quality on both phones that I bought another one from Yes Asia for around US79 for my fiance.

Connectivity

The connection process was fairly simple, and once the headset is registered in the phone's trusted bluetooth devices list, it automatically connect the phones after switching on.

Overall, the connectivity was quite stable on both Nokia N95 and Sony Ericsson M600i, with minimum connectivity lost. However, I would say that the connection on M600i was slightly better than the N95 as I get more sudden connection lost with the N95.

Ease of use and Comforts

The headset is very comfortable to use, the in-ear phones fits nicely in my ear and the rubber gloves came in three sizes. The outside sound and noise is also isolated pretty well.

Basic music controls (volume, play/pause, skip) is provided by the unit. Answering and making phone calls is done through one button operation. To answer a phone call, I just need to press the multi function button, and to make a call to the last dialled number or voice dial, that can also be done using the multi function button. All the controls button is pretty much easily accessible in whatever activity you're doing. I'm mostly using the unit while cycling, and it is very easy for me to control the music and making phone calls even while cycling.

Battery Life

I was quite impressed as well with the battery life. On the specification sheet, the running battery life was rated 11 hours and the standby battery life is 100 hours. So far, I've never run out of battery while using it and I only charged the unit every 2 or 3 days.

Reliability

This is the one thing that I'm not satisfied with. One of the headsets was broken (one ear phone stopped working) sometime in February 2008 after five months of use. I found the the connection of the neck strap to the main unit (as shown below) was not strong enough and gets stretched easily, which may brake the cable connection.

I brought the unit to a Sony service center and within about one week, they have replaced the unit with a new ones. However, after about 3 months, the unit broke again and this time unfortunately, both of the headset that I have came down with the same problem.

I have sent both units to a service center and currently waiting for their respond. The units came with one year warranty, and with this kind of reliability, I expect I won't be able to use them anymore once I run out of warranty.

Conclusion

Everything was ging quite well for the headset except for its built quality and realiabilty. I just hope that Sony will address this issue soon. Feel free to give your comments, especially if you have use one as well.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Good Walk in Morialta Park (PART 2)

This is the second part of the story. If you miss the first part, see it here.

12.40 PM

We've just get our stomach filled, and energy restored, Time to continue our walk towards Deep View lookout.


12.44 PM

We reached Deep View lookout. Below is the Giant Cave as viewed from the lookout.

And... the Adelaide surroundings....
And the valley...

And a good view of Adelaide city...


12.50 PM

We're on the way down now, hurts our leg a little bit walking down. I think going up is probably easier.


12.58 PM

We reached the hill's foot and continue walking towards the bottom of the first falls.


1.08 PM

We reached the first falls, and here's a snapshot of it. There's a rainbow as well across the bottom of the falls.

1.16 PM

We began our walk back to the car. On the way home, we stopped at The Parade's Baskin Robbins and have a good cool nice ice creams.

A Good Walk in Morialta Park (PART 1)


It was a beautiful second winter day in Adelaide last Sunday. Too good to be wasted just staying at home. Sun Young and I decided to went out hiking in Morialta Conservation Park, the closest best conservation park close to Adelaide city. We haven't been there for a while now, and this time we're going to tackle the longest route, which the yellow line on the map below (a good 7.3 km walk). Go to here if you would like to see detail brochure and map of the area.


Prior to leaving home, we prepared enough water and kimbab (sushi for Korean) for our lunch up there in the park.

10:08 AM

Reached the carpark area. A few cars around but not too busy yet.

10:22 AM

We reached the foot of the hills, began ascending as the track gets steeper.

10:25 AM

Got a little bit higher, and manage to take a tiny snapshot of the see and some surrounding Adelaide suburb.


10:26 AM

850 m steep walk to go to the first fall.


10:33 AM

We reached the Kookaburra lookout. Here's a snapshot of the valley.


10:41 AM

We've went a little bit off way from Kookaburra lookout, not following the yellow trail. But manage to get a better photos of the surrounding areas.


11:05 AM

We reached the top of the first fall. It's not really a big fall, but it's good and soothing to hear the flowing water sound.

11:09 AM

We can see the second falls now. Nice and beautiful.


11:11 AM

Came across this Australian native plant.

11.15 AM

We're following the creek to go to the third falls. The trail was getting wet and cooler as we're deep in the valley away from direct sunlight.

11:19 AM

390 m to go to the third falls.

11:22 AM

One more plant snapshot.

11:26 AM

Reached the third falls.

11.35 AM

We continued following the yellow trail, and come across beautiful rock formations (idea for those who enjoys rock climbing).

11.39 AM

3.3 km to the carpark area.


11.41 AM

Came across some people doing rock climbing. A bit small to see but there's a guy in red t-shirt climbing the rocks.


11.46 AM

Some more photos of the surrounding area.


11.50 AM

We went offtrack for a while, and went up a steep and slippery trail go a little bit higher. Need to be slow and careful.


12.30 PM

We stopped for a while for lunch. Just a short one.

To continue with the next part, see it here.