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Forrester's adoption page photo shoot. Picture by Suzie Wolf Photography.

Forrester from his adoption page photo shoot. Picture by Suzie Wolf Photography.

Last weekend we returned to Raleigh, North Carolina for a long weekend to celebrate my Ph.D. graduation on May 10. I’ll have a post on that later once we get all of the pictures from those that had cameras. However, in addition to the big celebration, we also came home with a long time friend. Forrester was our foster dog for over two years with the Triangle Beagle Rescue of NC. We really enjoyed him as a foster dog, and we had hoped that he would eventually find a forever home after we moved away last December. Unfortunately, nothing worked out so Stacy and I made the decision to adopt him and bring him home with us to Seattle. He’s too good of a dog to be a foster dog bouncing from foster home to foster home in his golden years. Here are some pictures we have of him, mostly from his time with us as a foster dog.

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The rescue knew that we had to pay to fly him back to Seattle, and because he had been with the rescue for so long they decided to wave the adoption fee for us, which was much appreciated. He handled the flight back to Seattle like a champ (with some help from some “doggy downers”). Overall, flying with a dog was pretty seamless, despite a delayed connection flight. He and our other beagle, Maisie are very familiar with each other, so they adjusted to living with each other again pretty quickly. He still has great hearing, great eyesight, and healthy joints, despite being a 12 1/2 year old dog. It’s too bad more people don’t consider adopting senior dogs like him. We are happy he’s part of our lives again.

Happy Groundhog Day 2014

Hello all! We’ve had a very busy last few months, so I apologize for not posting too often. However, lucky for you we have our annual Groundhog Day card and letter for you to read to get you all caught up on our adventures.

GroundhogDay2014Final

Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

It’s that time of year again when giant rodents all over America come out of hibernation and predict the change of seasons for all of us based on the sighting of their own shadow. That also means it’s time for us to reflect on the last twelve months, which have had some ups and downs and big changes in our lives.

Shortly after our last Groundhog Day card, Stacy’s father, Gene Schacherer passed away on February 4. We came home for the funeral and to be with all of our family. There were a lot of sad and happy moments as we reflected on his 69 years of life. There was a very large turnout for the visitation and funeral – a testament to how much of an impact Gene had on everyone who knew him.

In June we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. You can see Stacy with her anniversary flower bouquet on our Groundhog Day card. Also in June we went back to Iowa to celebrate Colby’s brother, Matt’s wedding. Matt and his bride, Amber were married in Altoona, Iowa, Amber’s home town. It was a fun wedding, and a great opportunity to see all of our family again. You can see Colby and his brothers all dressed for the wedding in the top-right picture on the card.

In late June Stacy’s mom, Carmen, and Stacy’s brother, LeRoy and his family came to North Carolina to visit us. We showed them around Raleigh and explored NC State’s campus, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and tried out some great Carolina-style barbecue. We then took a day trip to Wilmington, NC to tour the USS North Carolina battleship and hang out on the beach. We also took a trip to Beaufort, NC to see a different part of the coast. The surf was up while we were there, so we didn’t get to go in the water. However we still got to walk the beach for shells, see some dolphins, tour the Maritime Museum, and tour Fort Macon–a Civil War fort that guarded the Beaufort inlet. When it started to rain we toured the North Carolina Aquarium. It was a busy weekend, but everyone had fun.

In August Stacy returned to Iowa for the centennial celebration of her home town of Wallingford, Iowa. She was home for a week and was happy to see all of the Schacherer clan. Colby stayed in Raleigh so he could continue working on his dissertation. He finished it during the fall semester and successfully defended his dissertation on December 18. Everything is now complete for his PhD except for the official commencement ceremony, which will be held in May 2014. His dissertation is entitled “Dynamics of Phosphorus Release from Wetlands Restored on Agricultural Land”. If you have insomnia and would like to read all 232 pages, let Colby know and he’ll email a link to where you can download it.

In December we packed up our apartment in Raleigh and started our move to Seattle, Washington (more on that in a second). Stacy’s mom and Colby’s dad came down to Raleigh and were incredibly helpful in getting us ready for the move. They stayed for almost a week to help box up our stuff and get our apartment in ship shape (so we could get our deposit back). While they were here, Adam and Marissa Howard very kindly hosted a going away party for us. It was a lot of fun, and made for a great send-off from all of our close friends we’ve made in Raleigh over the last five and a half years. We later shipped our stuff to Seattle in a “U-Pack Relocube”. We had to shed a bunch of our larger items (gas grill, couch, bed, etc.), but we got most of the rest of our stuff in the container. We sold Stacy’s car and drove Colby’s loaded-down Ford Fusion back to the Midwest for the holidays. We stopped in Illinois to celebrate Christmas with Colby’s Mom and her husband, Buck. We then moved on to Estherville to celebrate the holidays with the rest of our families. After the New Year we started the second half of our 2,800 mile drive. We stayed on I90 for two and a half days. It was a beautiful drive, and despite a lot of wind the weather was favorable.

On January 6 Colby started his new position as a “postdoctoral researcher” at the University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is still doing soil and root research, but has switched from studying phosphorus to studying methane-a potent greenhouse gas. He has also switched from Carolina bay wetlands to Alaskan bogs and fens. Colby will be headed up to Fairbanks, Alaska for most of the growing season (June-September) to study methane at a “Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station”. He is working on some laboratory experiments on campus in Seattle in the meantime. The picture of both of us on the center of the card is on UW’s campus near Colby’s new building.

Seattle is beautiful so far. It’s is actually as warm as or warmer than Raleigh in the winter, and isn’t nearly as rainy as everyone says. It is surprisingly hilly though. We haven’t explored the area too much yet, but we’re working on it. Our new mailing address is 6189 Radford Drive, Apt. 1911, Seattle, WA 98115. We’ll keep our current cell phone numbers and email addresses.

We had to leave our foster dog, Forrester with the Triangle Beagle Rescue when we left Raleigh. We had him for almost two years, and he was featured in our Groundhog Day card/letter last year. We’re missing him, but hopefully he finds a permanent home soon. Our beagle, Maisie is doing well. She handled the road trip to Seattle well (with the help of some meds from the vet). She’s adjusted well to Seattle, and is happy that there is a dog park across the street. The park goes all the way down to a beach on Lake Washington, as shown on the card.

In other news, both of Colby’s grandmas are now in the Good Samaritan nursing home in Estherville, IA. They both have Alzheimer’s, but seemed stable and happy while we were home over the holidays. They both have great men taking care of them too, so they’re in good hands.

That’s it for our news since the last Groundhog Day. If you are interested in visiting Seattle, give us a heads-up. We hope you and yours all the best.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Stacy, Colby, and Maisie

That concludes our Groundhog Day 2014 letter. Now that we’re caught up we’ll try to post more frequently with pictures and stories from our adventures in Washington and Alaska. Thanks for stopping by!

New Job!

Hello everyone,

Source: Wikipedia
(c) University of Washington

As all of our friends and family know, I’ve been working on my PhD in soil science at NC State for a while now. I’ll be finishing up in December, so I’ve been in the midst a thorough job search over the summer and the beginning of the fall semester. That job search is officially over now as I have accepted a position as a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Washington Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. I will be working with Dr. Rebecca “Becca” Neumann. I will be working on a project studying methane oxidation in the rhizosphere of wetland plants.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2. Methane is produced in wetland soils. Plants can act as both a route for methane to move from the soil into the atmosphere, and as a way for oxygen to enter the soil and oxidize the methane in the rhizosphere (the zone of soil immediately surrounding roots). The objective is to put a number on the percentage of methane that’s oxidized in order to refine climate change models. We also want to predict how that number changes with different plant communities, and how those communities might change as the climate warms. The field site is about 40 minutes west of Fairbanks, Alaska. The field site has two types of wetlands – a bog and a fen. It is called the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Station. I’ll be in Alaska for their growing season (June-September), and in Seattle the rest of the time working on laboratory experiments.

I’ve been told the UW campus is really nice. Here’s a flyover I found on YouTube. It’s looking good so far!

My start date is January 6, 2014. The current plan is for me to defend my dissertation in December. We’ll ship our stuff from Raleigh to Seattle via a U’Haul “pod”. We will drive from North Carolina to Iowa for Christmas, then drive from Iowa to Washington after the holidays. My official graduation date will be May 10, 2014, and we will be back in Raleigh for the commencement and hooding ceremony. All of our friends and family will be welcome to attend. There’s a lot to do between now and my start date in January, but in the mean time Stacy is making plans for the move, and I’m working on finishing my dissertation on time.

Stacy is starting her job search now. The company for which she currently works has two hospitals in the Seattle area. She’s looking into transferring within that company for now. I know some of her family was a little sad we weren’t moving back to within driving distance of Wallingford, Iowa. On the bright side though, this is a temporary position that is renewable, so I should be able to work in Seattle for a few years until the perfect position close to home opens up.

The position is exactly the type of postdoctoral research position I was looking for in my job search, so I’m really happy I got it. Stacy and I are both excited to see what the West Coast is like, and we now have an excuse to visit Alaska. I think my brothers are already planning big game hunting trips in Alaska, and Stacy’s siblings are already planning road trips to Seattle. I’ll try to post here a few times between now and the move, but we’re really busy so we’ll see.

Thanks for stopping by,

Colby

In honor of Iowa Hate week preceding the Cy-Hawk Series football game between Iowa and Iowa State, and for those not familiar with the many sub-species of hawk fan, I present to you the eight types of Iowa Hawkeye Fans:

The Bandwagon Hawk Fan

This is the largest group of Iowa fans. They are mostly made up of people who don’t really care what team they cheer for (’cause they’ll never get into college anyway) so they head to WalMart, buy a $5 t-shirt, and “ta-da!” instant Hawk fan. They love to paint everything black and yellow (houses and cars included) and can commonly be found in houses like this:

The Tavern Hawk

This is a subset of the bandwagon Hawk fans. Their native habitat is small, dingy bars in small town Iowa. They will talk trash anyone who dares to wear clothing representing other universities. They would vote for Ricky Stansi for president in a heart beat. They are usually nine beers into the night when you talk to them, so they’ll gladly challenge you to a fight if you make one snide remark about Kirk Ferentz, and his son, FreeRentz.

Ed Podolak (Iowa radio analyst and taver Hok) checking out the goods

The Illini Reject

Sad Illinois Reject

Much like the saying, “If you can’t go Greek, go TKE”, for suburban kids in Chicago, they say, “if you can’t get into Illinois, go to Iowa”. They figure that if their ACT and SAT scores can’t get them where they want to go in life, they might was well have fun at the #1 party school in the country. BTW, Iowa State has more in-state students than Iowa and Northern Iowa combined. The Illini reject Iowa fans are partially to blame. Most of the blame can be put on the fact that ISU is just simply a superior school.

The Deranged Farmer

Back in the day when the Iowa fanbase’s huge egos were somewhat justified during the Hayden Fry era, the Midwest was in the middle of huge farm crisis. Fry decided that he could help farmers by putting a piddly little sticker on their helmets that said “ANF” for America Needs Farmers. It was a half-hearted PR attempt at best.

The problem is that some delusional farmers don’t actually realize that the University of Iowa does little else for farmers or the agriculture industry than produce the bankruptcy lawyers they need when their farms go under. Iowa State is the Land Grant institution in the state of Iowa, which by definition means ISU’s mission is to promote agriculture and development through science, education, and extension to Iowans. ISU is a world leader in agricultural research. They have nationally recognized programs in agronomy, animal production, ag business, horticulture, etc. Iowa… not so much.  If you’re a farmer, there’s really no excuse to cheer for Iowa over ISU. Doing so would sort of be like an oil tycoon investing in carbon credits, it just doesn’t make sense. Luckily the fine folks at Wide Right Natty Lite don’t let Iowa get away with their stupid PR stunt. They’ve produced the ISU “AHF” for Actually Helping Farmers.

Ahfshirts_medium

The Panther Hawk

Goes to UNI… Iowa fan when it’s convenient, UNI fan when it’s not. (Exhibit A to go w/ pic below)

Northern Iowa fans, often jealous of people who attend schools with FBS level football, choose to be UNI students by day, and Hawk fans by night. Often their fandom depends on the outlook on the upcoming season. If Iowa basketball is in a slump, they decide to cheer for their Alma Mater. Iowa’s going to the Orange Bowl… they’re all of a sudden Hawk fans. Like bandwagon Hawk fans, Panther Hawks choose their loyalty too, only their loyalty can be bought by wins.

The “Where’s Waldo” Hawk

The Where’s-Waldo Hawk is the Hawk fan that attends some sporting event that has no connection whatsoever to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but they still sport their Hawk clothes, and maybe even a flag like the guy at this Boise State-Virginia Tech game:

Mistaken Steeler Fan

The mistaken Steeler fan is someone who either chooses to cheer for Iowa out of laziness and not wanting to buy a new wardrobe, or legitimately gets confused between seeing Pittsburgh and Iowa on TV.

“I didn’t realized the Steelers play on Saturdays!… And why are they losing to Northwestern?”

The Actual Alum

This is the rarest type of Iowa fan. They move out of state as soon as they graduate because they either 1) aren’t from Iowa to begin with (see Illini Reject), or 2) are too embarrassed to be associated with all of the Bandwagon and Tavern Hawk fans in the state of Iowa.

The rarest of rare Hawkeye fans – sort of like Sasquatch or unicorns.

#BEATIOWA

BTW, if you want more Iowa Jokes, I recommend you read my Iowa Joke post from a few years ago.

Summer Bike Ride Plans

Stacy and I have been getting a lot of miles in on our road bikes this summer. One thing that motivates both of us is having an event down the road for which we know we need to prepare. We have a couple of rides were planning on doing this summer. The first is the Team MSFits Ice Cream Ride on June 15. We’re planning on doing their metric century ride (100 Km, 62.1 mi). They offer a shorter, 30 mile route (just in case it’s a scorcher that day and we don’t want to do the long route). That ride ends with ice cream to look forward to at the end, and it benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

We’re also planning on riding in the Velo4Yellow ride on July 20. We’ll also do their metric century route, though they also offer 30 and 100 mile routes. We did Velo4Yellow last year and it was a great ride with lots of support and rest stops. That ride ends with free beer to look forward to at the end of the ride, and it benefits the Livestrong Foundation.

We’re keeping our eye out for other rides too, particularly in the fall once it cools a bit. We did the New Bern Bike MS two years ago. However they raised the entry/fundraising fee to $300 each, which was just too difficult for Stacy and I to raise and/or pay ourselves, especially since we can’t get sponsored by our employers, she’s in social work, and I’m a grad student (we’re poor). That was a fun ride though. We’d like to do a century ride (100 miles) this year, preferably somewhere in the Coastal Plain where it’s flat.

Stacy had a bit of a crash on her bike last Sunday. Luckily it was just bruises, so it will heal soon enough. It was sort of the fault of both of us. I slowed up while approaching a greenway trail bridge that crosses the Neuse River. She swerved to avoid me, and crashed right into a post that prevents vehicles from driving on the trail and bridge. She did a somersault over the handlebars, but was able to ride home. Hopefully she heals quickly so she can both not hurt, and be able to keep training for our upcoming rides.

Anyway, that’s it for cycling talk now (my lunch break is over). For you cyclists out there, keep the rubber side down.

Cheer!

Springtime in Raleigh

We’ve had a pretty nice spring so far here in Raleigh. The temperatures were below average for a long time, but have now risen back to what would be expected for this time of year… and the pollen has followed suit.

Pollen collects in the storm drainage water after a spring rain storm

Pollen collects in the storm drainage water after a spring rain storm

Every spring the numerous loblolly pine trees in the area start to pollenate, and the above picture is the result. A dry day and a slight breeze results in a yellow haze that engulfs the city. In the picture above, several days-worth of pollen were washed away in an overnight rain storm. I washed my car that night, and it was covered in pollen withing only a few hours. It gets pretty gross.

Despite the pollen, we’ve been spending as much time as we can on our bikes trying to get back into “cycling shape”. The Neuse River Trail near our house was under construction for most of 2012. Now we can enjoy it. The trail comes to an end eventually (picture below), but we can ride over 20 miles on an “out-and-back” ride from our driveway on the trail. This is great for us as we get our cycling legs back, since the trail follows the river and is mostly flat and traffic free. Once we’re back in shape we’ll be attacking the hills of the rural, eastern Wake County roads as soon as we can.

Stacy Cycling to the end of the Neuse River Trail

Stacy Cycling to the end of the Neuse River Trail

We’ll probably sign up for some charity rides this summer. We’ll have to look into what rides (and causes) are offered in the area, and we’ll plan and train accordingly.

Colby Cycling on the Neuse River Trail

Colby Cycling on the Neuse River Trail

In other springtime-related news, last weekend we went on a camping trip with the Soil and Water Conservation Society at NCSU, a club that I’ve been very involved with over the last four years. We went camping one night, then got some fishing in the next day. I caught a crappie and a white bass. Frank, my friend that was fishing with me, caught a small, small mouth bass. We also saw a hawk catch a fish right out of the water, several bald eagles, and a small cotton mouth snake while we were fishing. Here’s a picture of the group that camped overnight:

The 2013 SWCS at NCSU camping trip campers (Stacy was there, but was behind the camera).

As you can tell, we had our pooches there, and another student had his great big German Sheppard there too.

It was nice to get some camping in again. The dogs loved it too, although they thought it got a little cold at night.

That’s our news for now. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Update (4-6-2014): This review is now over 12 months old, and as such, is outdated in respect to some of the features and apps that have been incorporated into these three sites. I don’t plan on doing a follow-up post to this one. However, I have now fully adopted RideWithGPS as my website/app of choice. I’m even a premium subscriber and a Beta tester for their Android app. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. If you still want to read on to compare the three services, please do so, but just note that some new features may not have been available when this was first written.

As many of our regular readers know, Stacy and I are avid cyclists. We ride for the joy of cycling, for the workout, and for the charity rides. Neither of us race much (or at all) but we like to see some data about each ride.

I’ve used MapMyRide for a long time for finding new routes, doing some route recon, and just getting a nice summary of my bike ride data – average speed, duration, etc. It is a pretty easy-to-use program, but it is really laden with advertisements. Also, there have been some competitors that have started to give MapMyRide a challenge, namely Strava and Ride With GPS. I’ve tried them all out, and thought I would share my thoughts here in case anyone else is trying to decide between them (I looked, but didn’t see many good reviews so I thought I’d write one). First, some considerations about what I’m looking for:

  • I’m not a racer
  • I prefer using a handheld GPS for logging data to save my smart phone battery
  • A smart phone app would be nice as a backup to my GPS, but not essential
  • Social network integration is good
  • I use an Android phone (Casio C771)
  • I use a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx GPSr
  • I spend most of my riding time on the road (currently)
  • I like lots of data with big, beautiful maps
  • I’m trying to lose weight
  • I use My Fitness Pal for tracking calories
  • A calorie calculator (for estimating how many calories burned on a ride is a plus)

Now that you somewhat know what I’m looking for, here are my thoughts:

MapMyRide

This is the website that I’m most familiar with. It’s been around a while, and has lots of users. The parent site, Map My Fitness has about a half dozen similarly named apps/websites like MapMyRun, MapMyDogWalk, etc. MapMyRide is great for route recon, and likely has the best social network integration (with Facebook at least). It also has live tracking so you can share your location with other users in real time. The app is great, but sucks battery quick. It has lots of options for syncing workout data including a special Garmin button. However I found that their Garmin feature did not work automatically with my Garmin Etrex Vista HCx. Although it did let me go in and manually select my GPX file from my Garmin while it was synced up with the computer, like selecting a file from a flash drive or something. (Edit, I found out that’s because Garmin Sync only works on IE and Firefox, not Chrome.) It doesn’t really have the competitive features that Strava has, but that’s not a deal breaker. It does have a ton of ads though, and constantly tries to get you to either stare at an ad, or buy a premium membership. It appears that a lot of data features are unlocked behind the pay wall. The premium membership is the cheapest of the three, at $6/month, which seems reasonable.

Pros:

  • Great mapping abilities
  • Great social network integration
  • Has food tracking
  • Has calorie calculator for estimate calories burned, but seems to overestimate calories burned
  • Allows user to log many types of workouts
  • Has Twitter feed
  • Has Google+ page (listed under “Map My Fitness”)

Cons:

  • Way too many ads
  • Not much for competition with strangers (like Strava)
  • Calorie calculator seems like it overestimates actual calories burnt
  • Didn’t support my GPSr, but did allow manual uploads

Strava

Strava is a household name for people in the Fred world (the neon-laden roadie cycling types that wear sponsor kits, even though they’re not sponsored… y0u know the type). Most people like it for the competitive side. You enter your ride data, a GPX file typically, or track your route/data with their great phone app. (Edit: Garmin Sync did not work with my Vista Hcx on Chrome or Firefox, while the other two sites did work w/ Firefox.) Once your data is entered, it compares your data with other people for segments by ranking people based on time/speed over a particular climb, straight away, etc. I actually found that Stacy and my times are in the top 1/3 of times for people in our area. Surprising, considering a I’m built like a lineman, not a cyclist. There isn’t much of a mapping element to Strava so it’s pretty much worthless for route recon. It really only allows you to search for segments so there’s no pre-mapped routes you can follow, which can be handy if you are riding in a new area and don’t know the dangerous roads.

Strava is not that great for social network integration, though it does allow users to post rides to Twitter and Facebook. It does have a lot of pro cyclist endorsements. It seems like it could also be useful for gauging personal fitness, and celebrating personal bests. Their premium accounts cost $59/year (or $6/month) and the features listed sound like it basically liberates more data for the user, and allows you to compare yourself against people who are similar in age, weight, and sex.

Pros:

  • Good for gauging personal fitness
  • Great for pseudo-competition with strangers
  • Not many ads
  • Has Twitter feed
  • Has a good app
  • Allows users to track workouts that aren’t rides and runs

Cons:

  • Useless for route recon
  • Not much for social network integration
  • Doesn’t have a Google+ page
  • All of the data is behind a pay wall
  • Privacy – the app doesn’t incorporate a home buffer, so if you ride from your front door, strangers know where you live to within a few meters.
  • Didn’t support my GPS unit, but allowed manual uploads

Ride With GPS

Ride with GPS is the stats guy’s cycling website. It puts so much data in front of you (even for the free version that I use) that you don’t really know what to do with it all. I find that very useful. I’d rather have too much data than too little. It’s mapping software seems to be on par with MapMyRide. It doesn’t have any ads, and is subtle about how it asks you to sign on with a premium account. It has Garmin integration, but I found that it didn’t work that with with my Garmin Etrex Vista HCx. It did allow me to manually load it, as with MapMyRide. (Edit, I found out that’s because Garmin Sync only works on IE and Firefox, not Chrome.) It doesn’t have an app. However, if you use an Android device, you can upload files from Google’s My Tracks app. Since I prefer to use an actual GPSr instead of my smartphone, this wasn’t really a big deal. By the way, the My Tracks import option didn’t really seem to work that well when I tried it. A reader (comment below) added that Ride With GPS has the advantage of allowing people to host maps as pictures on their site so you can upload them to blogs like this one. That may be useful for some.

Ride With GPS offers two levels of premium accounts, $59/year ($6/month), or $80/year ($10/month). Premium accounts allow mostly increased benefits for navigation and GPS integration. It doesn’t add much for data since they give you so much for the free account. It also allows you to better analyze your rides as a whole through a tagging feature, so you could compare your weekend rides against each other, or rides on one specific bike, as examples. (Edit: RWGPS has been redesigned with a completely new look. Check it out, or read the edit at the bottom of this post.)

Pros:

  • Great mapping environment for route recon
  • It seems to be under active development, so improvements are common
  • Has tons and tons of data – even for the free version
  • Has lots of pre-mapped routes
  • Has Twitter Feed
  • Has Google+ page
  • Edit: Now has a cue-sheet feature for your phone’s internet browser

Cons:

  • No app (does allow imports from Google My Tracks for Android users)
  • Doesn’t have great social network integration – doesn’t have a “find friend via Facebook/Twitter/email/etc. feature
  • Doesn’t have competitive features that Strava does
  • Syncing with my GPSr didn’t work that well, but did allow manual upload

In summary, If social networks and mapping are your thing, or if you do a wide variety of workouts that you want to log, go with MapMyRide. If straight-up competition, personal bests, etc. are your thing, go with Strava. If you like mapping and data, go with Ride With GPS.

I’m going to give Ride With GPS and Strava the old college try. Ride With GPS seems like it fits my needs for cycling the best. However, MapMyRide allows me to log more workouts than cycling only (Ride With GPS) or cycling and running only (Strava). I play tennis, go on hikes, walk my dogs, and lift weights, and I would like to keep a record of my workouts. The ability to log those activities may give MapMyRide the upper hand. It would be nice if RideWithGPS would develop their own app someday, since the use of the Google My Tracks app is kind of clunky with their website. However, since I was looking primarily for a website that worked well with a normal GPSr, their site will do just fine for me.

If you have thoughts about any of these sites, leave a comment. I’m open to being convinced which site/app is the best.

Update (5/1/2013): I used all three services for several weeks, and have since come to the conclusion that Ride With GPS and Strava are the best of the three. I think Ride With GPS has the most upside, and I am considering subscribing to their premium services (maybe that can be a reward if I lose 30 lbs). I’ve also been surprised on how motivating it is to “compete” on Strava segments. At the moment, I have been updating both my Ride With GPS and Strava accounts. It only takes an extra minute to do both. I’ll keep an eye on these two sites as they develop. 

Update (5/21/2013): I took the plunge and signed up for the basic service ($6/month). I think this service has a lot to offer, and I wanted to help it develop. I have been really impressed with their “activity center” which allows me to more easily analyze my rides. I can also track maintenance on my bikes. I don’t think I’ll use the cue sheet feature of the basic service, but at least I know it’s there. If you enjoy the RWGPS free service, I’d recommend subscribing to their basic service. Strava has the best user interface, and a great app. I just wish it wasn’t limited to just competition. Adding a route planner and some other features for cyclists who aren’t looking to compete would go a long way towards improving their service. 

Update (8/15/2013): I’m still using both RWGPS and Strava. RWGPS just recently completely renovated their website. It’s a lot more aesthetically pleasing, and is a little easier to use. Also, since I’ve started using my GPS for cycling, I’ve been using OpenStreetMap (OSM) data for a basemap. It’s free, open-source data. OpenStreetMap is sort of like Wikipedia for geography, with several million users worldwide contributing geographic information to the map. I’ve started to contribute to it as well, adding all of the data for the greenway trail that runs by my house, as well as add the on-street bicycle routes for the Raleigh, NC area. I want it to be useful for cyclists, and somewhat selfishly, useful for myself when I ride. The reason I mention this is that RWGPS supports OSM maps. That may be something to consider, especially if you’re in an area where Google Maps data isn’t fleshed out, or even used, or if you just like to support open-source projects and free maps.  

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