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Most people are at least aware of Apple’s ‘magical and revolutionary’ iPad. I still recall, exactly a year ago, when Apple pulled off what was quite possibly the most extraordinary ‘magic’ marketing feat of all time: unleashing a tidal wave of demand for a device with a purpose and value that, to nearly everyone then and still most of us today, is almost a complete and total mystery. Six million units were sold in the first 60 days. Forty million units will probably sell this year. It’s a revolution! It’s a game changer! But what’s it for? And why would you be interested (if you don’t have one already)? And what, exactly, has this to do with cycling?

The pundits tell us that you have to use an iPad before you really know how invaluable to your lifestyle it will become. So we are expected to hand over anything between $579 to $949 for a device that we can’t possibly justify via the the usual (at least intuitive) cost benefit criteria most of us apply to discretionary purchases of this kind? Now that’s a clever marketing pitch. No wonder Apple has $66billion in cash sitting in the bank.

But it really is true; and it certainly was for me. We don’t really get a grasp on what this iPad thing can do until we live with it for a while. But when you think on it, isn’t that a familiar kind of purchasing plan for the more fanatical cyclists some of us are and who most of us know? How, exactly, did you justify that exotic carbon high end bike you’ve been busy pretending was an essential necessity of life in lieu of shoes for the kids and a holiday for the wife? Apple is just standing by to satisfy loose logic of that deliciously irrational, economist-defying kind.

I have to say, though, that while I did wonder about the uses to which my iPad might be applied, these days, I can’t imagine life without one. Like the soles of those oven-shaped carbon shoes that mould to the contours of your feet, the iPad ingratiates itself into the intimate eccentricities and peculiarities of each of us who fall into Apple’s marketing plans. This is probably the most individualistically adaptable piece of technology of all time. Non-iPad users are a black iPad-shaped hole waiting for revelation to fill the gap! Almost every day we iPad users find a new application through which to tighten the knot that now ties this machine to the contours of our lives. If this sounds like the impact of a bad drug habit, you are probably not far off course. But then again, so too are those voracious bicycles that keep me prisoner for at least two hours each and every day.

So how useful is an iPad to a cycling obsessive like me? Does it live up to all this hype? Can I live without one? Can I live without clip-less pedals? You bet. Do I want to? No way.

OK, let’s make a start. Let’s consider a few key iPad Apps (applications) to illustrate how it all works.

Zinio Reader

Do you read cycling magazines by any chance?

I must confess to wearing a trench into my local newsagent in my pre-iPad days. Cycle Sport, Pro Cycling, Cycling Weekly, Single Track, Peloton, MBR (Mountain Bike Rider), RIDE Cycling Review, Bicycling Australia, Spoke and Bike. Too much to read and far too many dollars spent. So let’s just pick the essentials. Cycle Sport and Pro Cycling, say. How much to subscribe to these? Nearly $200 pear year. Or $310 if you buy them monthly off the shelf.

One of the first Apps I installed on my iPad was the Zinio magazine reader. This amazing (game changing, newsagent nemesis) application allows you to choose from literally hundreds of magazines, one off or via subscription plans. You get the exact same magazine as the one in print, but now you read it on the screen. Yes, the screen is smaller, but you can zoom in and around in a most ergonomic way. I now prefer to read my ‘zines this way. Fonts can be any size you want and you can view in portrait or landscape depending on the layout of the page. Just swivel your iPad around to change the mode and the page resizes in a millisecond or two. And the price? Pro Cycling is AUD$36.46 a year and Cycle Sport is the same. $73 a year for both instead of $200 plus for the printed option; and you get each issue on the day of release. No longer do we have to wait until after the Tour de France to read the pre-race reviews each magazine presents. It’s like having a personal courier system direct from the publisher to your door. Way faster than even an air freighted paper subscription will allow. And you don’t have to store all these magazines somewhere in your house. You just archive them when you’re done for re-download if you want to re-visit in a year or so. If your favorite cycling magazine isn’t on Zinio, it may be available as a standalone App; like Single Track. Sometimes these standalones are even better presented than by Zinio. Do a search in the Apple App store and see what you can uncover. What you won’t find, though, is a e-version of Ride (but you can install an App that allows you to purchase Ride’s bicycle reviews – probably the best reviews available in print). No doubt the folks at Ride will give us an iPad version soon. Looks like I still have to visit the newsagent at least quarterly, for now. Oh, and by the way, I have paid for my iPad just in savings on my usual magazine subscriptions. Three times over.

News Readers

If your taste extends only to free media, fear not. If you currently read blog news sites like Cycling News, there’s an App for that too. Actually, if you are into reading news feeds of all kinds, be sure to check out Flip Board. This one is an iPad exclusive and you can populate it with any cycling (or other) news feed you like. I subscribe to about 50 cycling blogs and related news sites through the free Google Reader setup. Flip Board grabs those feeds automatically and displays them in an extraordinarily clever magazine format (stripping out all the adverts and other annoying stuff in the process). There are other readers like Flip Board with different variations of the same theme. Pulse and Zite are two others that I also have installed (both free).

Just to demonstrate that I am not quite the single interest cycling obsessive I might otherwise appear, the iPad is a seriously astounding device on which to read other journals too; like the New Yorker and the Economist Newspaper… I used to subscribe to the paper version of the New Yorker a few years ago. The sub was around $150 and you’d end up with a linear metre of magazines to store by the end of the year. The new digital iPad version is only $75 and is way, way, better to read on the iPad than on paper (you even get some great interactive stuff like embedded videos and photo libraries to scroll through).

Watching (Cycling) Videos

Of course, the iPad has a web browser and you can look at web casts all you want (so long as those feeds are not displayed via Flash – Apple rightly hates that buggy format and has exiled it from the iPad). But you can play really clever games with video if you want to explore. For instance, I am a keen advocate of the EyeTV technology available for the Macintosh (there are other options for those who insist on owning a Windows PC). EyeTV works via a small USB dongle that is actually a TV receiver that connects to related software on your computer. You can watch TV on your computer and record whatever programming you want. For instance, once a month I do a search for ‘cycling’ in the EyeTV program guide and then schedule a recording for all those cycling related shows I want to see. As long as your computer is turned on, EyeTV will record automatically and you can then edit all the advertisements out! You can then install an iPad version of EyeTV and watch either live programming or your recordings from wherever you are in the home (via wifi connection). This works a treat for recording and watching Le Tour each year! No stupid DVD R’s to play around with. If you have a private corner in your home, you can settle down with your ear phones plugged in and watch the cycling without interference from or with anyone else. A real marriage saver if you are watching Le Tour live at 2AM.

Mobile Library

This one is probably the killer feature for me. I like books. I have a grand design to own the best cycling books collection in the country. Any collection is certainly better than what’s on offer at my local public library… or available in my local bookshop for that matter. But, if you are a cycling book collector, you will know that many titles are rather hard to get, and very expensive if you can. I was browsing away at my local bookshop a week or so ago when a guy fronted to the counter asking about a new title he’d just found via a review in Bicycling Australia called ‘It’s All About the Bike’ by Robert Penn. The ever helpful bookseller did a search and was able to offer in indent import deal for $50 and a month for delivery. I grabbed my iPad, opened the iPad version of the Kindle App, located the title for $9.95 and had it installed within two minutes. So too with the Bicycle Snob NYC’s new book. That one would otherwise be a special import with uncertain delivery. And yes, you can indeed download the entire collection of Lance’s greatest works…

Reading a book on the iPad is seriously refined. This is the ebook reader we have all been waiting for for 20 years (or at least, that I have been hanging out for since my first foray into ebook reading on a Mac Plus way back in 1988 – when books came on floppy discs and cost over twice what you’d pay for the paper version).

Logbooks and Record Keeping

Do you keep a log book of your cycling endeavors? I am blessed with a Garmin Edge 800 that connects to a seriously clever bit of software called rubiTrack. You can then export all your records from rubiTrack to Apple’s own world beating spreadsheet software, Numbers. Of course, Numbers is also available as an iPad App so you can sync your all important cycling logbook between the desktop and your iPad. You never know when you will need to consult your vital statistics and you can direct enter your stuff on your iPad if you are away from home, like on that dream tour of the French Alps.

Other Stuff

The iPad has the full compliment of photo Apps, is a full on iPod music player, has a calendar program, address book, camera (on the iPad 2), video conferencing, is a recording device, alarm clock; you name it. There are over 40,000 Apps awaiting your attention.

Do you subscribe to any cycling Podcasts? I am a regular for the Two Johns Cycling Podcast, the Real Peloton podcast from Pommy journalist Matt Rendell, and 26 others!. Yes, you can even listen into the Fredcast. All these podcasts can be downloaded direct to your iPad via wireless or GSM if you buy the GSM version (I have the 64GB wifi only version).

Oh, and by the way, I wrote this blog entry with the iPad App Blogsy. In between reading the latest edition of Peloton magazine on another App called GoodReader. All the time while broadcasting music from the iPad direct into my home hifi system via inbuilt wireless networking. Yes, the iPad2 has multitasking… All this for the price of a pair of Sidi Ergo2’s…

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I am sick of it… Brassed off. Fed up. If it doesn’t stop I’m going to become a recluse. I’ll just cycle off into the distance on an endless solo ride…

Everywhere you look, up, down, sideways, frontwards, backwards – people keep telling me what to like and what is best. They tell me what is hot and what’s not. They tell me how stuff should be done and how my approach is always wrong. Let’s face it. Everyone is their own little island of perfect advice. Every single human being is a big bundle of prejudices wrapped up in the veneer of their own delusions of good taste and omniscience. Most people spend their entire lives searching, seeking, exploring, digging and hoping for validation; any validation will do. Which is why you find like-minded folk clubbing together like castaways clinging together as their boat goes down.

In music the critics -and everyone is a critic- tell us what’s good and what’s not. If you only ever chose what the critics might recommend, you’d end up with a collection of Top 10 McSwill. See! I am being a critic now… my game is to seek out stuff that people generally reject and reject the stuff they don’t. That way I can enjoy my sense of cultural victimisation as a perpetual masochist pain!

Let’s enter the shallow end of this mirky opinionated pool. Take musical choice for a start. Let’s pick a critically dammed musical recording of note. The Stone Roses’ second album, Second Coming, is a good start. Consider this glowing review: ‘this is a turgid, interminably boring record…’ I love every second, so there! We ‘Classical Music’ buffs are not supposed to rate Respighi above Verdi. I do. So there! Take that! We are supposed to admire Schoenberg. Nuts. Mozart was a god. Not in my book. Give me Bach any time… And why can’t I give equal time and value to the works of Devin Townsend and Mendelsson? Have you ever heard Townsend’s Accelerated Evolution album? Play it loud. Ride to that and you would win any cycling race – or crash. Wow!!

Then there’s my choice of cycling teams. The cognoscenti is all for Team Sky. Or Radio Shack. Or whatever and which ever except the one I go for: Caisse D’Epargne. Everyone is an informed critic on the best team and the best rider. It’s all part of the fun. But is there anyone else out there who cheers for Louis Leon Sanchez other than those from his local town?

Choice of bike? Choice of component group? Stand back and watch the rival camps scream. One man’s choice is heresy to at least some.

Choice of a favourite author? Watch the learned critical pontificators connect your choice with Mills and Boone…

Because there are so many opinions out there, it will usually be possible to find someone else with whom you agree. So seek them out and quote their support; soon you will have a cult or a quorum of support to validate your choice. The internet is helpful here. Search for your choice, qualify it with the keyword ‘great’ and populate your club. Replace that keyword with ‘bad’ and pile up the evidence against whatever it is with which you might disagree.

All this gets really fun when your choice has some foundation in an ethical or value position. There you will find choices that simply cannot be argued for want of social exclusion; or jail. Consider religion! Islam, Christianity or Judaism. Only one can be true. Which one? Prepare to burn when you choose against the choice of your mates or what’s standard for your culture. Open up any of these Big Three and watch the fun. Sunni or Shiite? Catholic or Presbyterian. Orthodox or Reformed Judaism. Take a choice and man the barricades. They are all cess-pit contagions of self-referentialised prejudice. And don’t even get me started on the new religion of Atheism as ruled by Saints Dawkins and Hitchens et. al. They are as bigoted and ego-driven as all the rest. That’s why I pump for Tarvu (the world’s greatest comic relief). Or the book of Urantia. No one can argue against you when your choice is off the scale. Except to say that you are mad. Or deluded. But free of those infernal mainstream clans…

Politics is almost as bad – or probably worse if you happen to live in a country ruled by the Taliban…

So… given that I am (perceived to be) wrong in everyone else’s (clearly deluded) eyes and everyone else is wrong in mine… here’s my own personal universal proclamation of good taste and informed choice. If you don’t agree, you are wrong and un-informed. If you agree, you are indeed an elevated being! There’s just one catch. Because my choices are informed by a perversity to think the opposite of everyone else, no one else is allowed to agree. If you agree, then I must be wrong. Which means that I have to think upon this all over again. Which explains why I really, truly, enjoy my solo bicycle rides – arguing with myself all the way…

So, here’s my list:

World’s greatest bicycle maker: Pinarello
World’s greatest bicycle component group: Campagnolo
World’s greatest cyclist: Louis Leon Sanchez
World’s greatest cycling team: Caisse D’Epargne
World’s greatest composer: Gustav Mahler
World’s greatest artist: Goya
World’s greatest contemporary band: Green Carnation
World’s greatest bicycle ride: my next ride!
World’s greatest country: Antarctica (no people with whom to disagree)
World’s greatest politician: the Dalai Lama
World’s greatest religion: the Cargo Cult
World’s greatest leader: His Majesty King Khesar, The 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan
World’s greatest work of fiction: Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard
World’s greatest work of non fiction: Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard
World’s greatest ever computer: the Macintosh Portable
World’s greatest bicycle race: Paris Roubaix
World’s greatest corporation: Apple Inc.
World’s greatest genius: L Ron Hubbard (I mean, he got away with it!!)
World’s greatest idiots: those who follow L Ron Hubbard (or any other religion…)
World’s greatest tourist destination: Consuegra (where Don Quixote exercised his lance)
World’s greatest moron: equal honours for Robert Mugabe and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
World’s greatest scientist: The Dalai Lama
World’s greatest economist: former King Jigme SIngye Wangchuck for the idea of Gross National Happiness
World’s greatest idea: J M Keynes for ‘In the Long Run, we are all dead’
World’s greatest stupidity: football
World’s greatest con job: golf
World’s greatest perversion: religion
World’s greatest problem: human ego
World’s greatest joke: the game of cricket
World’s greatest mistake: listening to academics
World’s greatest evil: the Chinese economy
World’s greatest stupidity: buying Chinese goods
World’s greatest movement: misanthropy!
World’s greatest peril: human overpopulation
World’s greatest delusion: the concept of sustainable economic development
World’s greatest dangerous idea: economic rationalism
World’s greatest saving grace: cycling, bicyclism!
World’s greatest fable: altruism and selflessness
World’s greatest movie of all time: 2001 – A Space Odyssey
World’s greatest and rarest phenomenon: critical thinking (on anything at all…)
World’s greatest proof that critical thinking is rare: dependency on the car and the re-election of George Bush for his second term
World’s greatest website: click here

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