Sunday, June 20

My D#$% French Fries

The Appeal of the Mavic Wintech
May Be Seen in its Sender/Quick Release
The French are renowned for their food. I don't think it was because of French Fries, which really have nothing at all to do with France, but the title WAS one of my favorite lines from "Breaking Away."

The French were once great in manufacturing bicycles and bicycle components. Mavic is still near the top when it comes to wheels and rims. My road bike has Mavic wheels and I'm looking for an affordable set of Ksyriums. I LOVE Mavic wheels. On the other hand, I don't think the French are real great at electronics, though Mavic tries real hard.

A case in point is their Wintech line of cycle computers. My Wintech is referred to by me as my "worthless French bike computer." I've got a low-end Cateye wireless computer on my commute bike, and it has never given me any trouble whatsoever. It has exactly one button for normal operation. The Wintech is a different story.

Here's why.

I purchased a Wintech several years ago. Actually, it was about five or six years ago. Wireless computers were not so common as they are nowadays. Wanting a clean installation, without having to zip tie a sensor to the fork, the Mavic Wintech computer appealed to me because its sensor is integrated into the quick release. Elegant solutions such as this appeal to the engineer in me. The computer was fairly high end for its day, including a cadence option, though I got mine for far less by virtue of it being "pre owned."

I installed it with no troubles and it even seemed to work right - most of the time. Occasionally, the sensor would get confused and I'd clip along at an indicated 0.0MPH, but it would then realize its error and indicate the speed again. The first sign that the French are not quite world class in electronics was the way that the clock would gain time over a period of weeks. Still, it isn't hard to subtract 15 minutes to the indicated time on a bike you ride every day. Even my Cateye has gained five minutes over the year I've had it.

The Wintech, however, had other tricks that have led to its current nickname of "worthless French bike computer." Last year, it started losing pairing between the sensor and the computer. Fortunately, I've kept the manual, so I didn't have too much trouble resetting things (it'd be tough without a manual since this is NOT intuitive). During the Hotter 'n Hell 100, it finally decided it didn't want me to go the distance, and I figured it needed a new battery. Well, it worked fine afterwards, for about a week. Fiddling with the sensor orientation would occasionally help, as did bending the little contact inside, but by this time, I was noticing a stark contrast between the Mavic and the Cateye. The Mavic was a high-maintenance French courtier, while the Cateye just worked - ALL the time.

I began to notice other things as I got to the point where I had the Wintech manual memorized. The manual is 102 pages long. Of course, only 12 of those pages are in English. The Cateye manual, on the other hand, is localized, and I don't happen upon the Finnish or Japanese version by accident.

Anyway, while I LOVE the idea of a wireless computer sensor integrated into the quick release, I wish someone good at electronics would do it. I imagine that such things could be sold as accessories to major wireless units. After my recent medical experiences, I've considered getting a new computer. Something with heart-rate and that I could use for who knows what. Interestingly, Mavic does have such a computer, but I think I recall what Scotty said on Star Trek - "Fool me once and shame on you. Fool me twice and shame on me!" With a Mavic heart rate monitor, I'd be worried about getting electorcuted.

Cateye and Garmin seem to be in the lead for such a high tech computer. I would, however, be reluctant to spend more money on a bike computer than I spent on the whole road bike, so I'll probably soldier on with "the worthless French bike computer" until tweaking no longer works. Now I bought a new sensor. Unfortunately, the Mavic manuals and website give no compatibility info, so we'll have to see if things work together.
Display of "the Worthless French Bike Computer"
PS: In an amusing bit of trivia, Mavic Wintech computer magnets do NOT work with Mavic wheels that use bladed spokes. They do offer a special magnet for those want to use their Mavic products together.


Oldfool said...

I bought a Schwinn computer made in Chinaland 5 or 6 years ago for 10 bucks and it has worked without a flaw since. I've only set the clock once.
I also have one made by Bell from Chinaland ($10.00) and it was nothing but trouble. Then I discovered that the installer (me) was flawed. I corrected his mistakes and it has been fine ever since. It's not very secure in its bracket however.
Both keep good time and are fairly accurate on distance compared to a gps.

Chandra said...

Very nice article! I agree with you. The Cateye computers are rock solid. I have 2 of the wireless models, which still work wonderfully. The Garmin 705, which I use these days, is pretty good. I think it understands me very well. On a day when I was not particularly chipper, it registered my speed as 65 mph. If only I could ride that fast LOL!

I hear that Polar makes pretty good ones with HRM too. You may want to check'em out, if you haven't already.

Peace :)

Apertome said...

I've had issues with every cycling computer I tried, especially Cateye ones. The cateyes are fine electronically, but they aren't very durable, in my experience. I've given up on them and just use my GPS now. It's probably not perfectly accurate, but it's close enough.

cafiend said...

I use a few Sigma models. No HRM. Sigma has nice large characters in the display so they're easy to see.

I loved my old Cateye computers from the late 1990s, but the displays are much smaller and the buttons are too easy to reset accidentally in winter gloves.

Ham said...

Personally I like the minimalism of the Garmin Edge 305 (no maps or routing) if you were considering upgrading. I quite like the "where I've been" trail, bit like dogs and hydrants I suppose.

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