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#CullsMadAdventure2017 – Cycling the Danube with Kids and a Tent

In June 2017 we cycled from Linz in Austria to Vienna along the Danube cycle route. It was an amazing holiday and this is a diary of our journey.

We were also raising money for charity – you can still sponsor us here

There is also a more detailed technical post here.

The idea

The main idea was to have a bit of an adventure and to show the kids that holidays like this are well within their grasp when they are 16/17.

The trip was to cycle about 250 km along the Danube camping as we went and then to spend 3 days in an AirBnB in Vienna with my mum. We started in Linz and cycled to a few miles outside Vienna.

The trip was self supported

The Organisation

Jane ( my wife ) researched the route, booked the campsites and spent what felt like several days and several hundred pounds on the phone booking the trains ( Bikes cannot be booked on line ) – Thank-you Jane !

Us

Me ( 48 ) , Jane ( younger ) , John ( 12 ) , Emma (10)
We have bikes but are are ( were ? ) not “cyclists” in the hobby sense.

Day 1 – The overnight DDFS ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden

We took the overnight ferry leaving @5 and getting in about @9. It was great to see so many pedal ( and motor ) bikes on the ferry and it really got the kids into the spirit of it all.

The kids loved the cabin with the bunks ( there would be much comparison on different bunk beds on this trip ) and the trip went pretty smoothly and was very civilised considering it was the “Hen and Stag” ferry on a Bank Holiday weekend.

Day 2 – Ijmuiden to Amsterdam and Hanover and a late Sleeper Train

From the ferry we cycled @30km into Amsterdam. There is a well marked cycle route although we may have gotten lost for a while 🙂

The weather was hot ( @30 c ) but the kids did really well.

The Dutch cycle ways were pretty scary at first. The Dutch take then quite seriously and stopping or, God forbid, doing a u turn generates howls of protest from other cyclists – it’s OK once you realise that you need to treat them like real roads but it took all of us a while to get into the habit.

In Amsterdam we looked at the Anne Frank House from the outside ( no tickets left ) and generally had a wander along the canals eating ice creams before cycling to the train station where we had some food and got the train to Hanover.

Parked up while we walked around Amsterdam

Parked up while we walked around Amsterdam

Getting on this train was our first experience of getting all of the bikes ( and the trailer ) onto a train – it was a bit shambolic with a bag of food ending up on the tracks. We got there in the end and our “loading routine” got better as the holiday progressed.

We met some lovely people on the train. One guy was handicapped and was in an electric assist recumbent – he had a really positive attitude and just took everything in his stride. He and his friend were off on a 4 day tour.

In Hanover the sleeper train was delayed by about 2 hours and we eventually got on board after midnight. We had to change platforms twice – there was a dedicated ramp and an access tunnel for each platform but it was for official traffic only. On the first change I got called back by other passengers and had to use the lift ( 5 times down and 5 times up ) .When the platform was changed again later all 4 of us quickly sped down the access ramp and up to the new platform  – the kids filled with a mixture of both fear and excitement at breaking the rules 🙂

Wide awake waiting for the train

Wide awake waiting for the train

We got onto the sleeper train just after midnight and stowed the bikes away. The kids loved the excitement of a sleeper train and yet another set of bunks to try.

Day 3 – Linz and the Danube Cycling Begins

Because the train was running late the attendant could not tell us when we were due into Linz. He promised to wake us an hour before hand with breakfast ….

He forgot ….

After spending the night fighting auto retracting blinds I woke up 15 minutes from the station with 2 soundly sleeping children and the 4 bikes 2 carriages further down the train.

It was all a bit stressful and chaos ensued – chaos being a large heap of bikes and bags on the platform and our breakfast in paper bags.

We had breakfast in the local park ( parks and swimming pools became a theme ) and set off across and along the Danube. It was another very hot day but the kids did really well, especially after two nights on the move and we made good progress.

We stopped at a local swimming pool at  Mauthausen about 5k from the campsite. Daily swimming pools became the motivation that kept Emma going through the day. They were very reasonable and £2 – 3 per person ( apart from Vienna ).

The campsite was beautiful and almost empty . We were surprised how empty most of the camp sites along the Danube were. Apparently the good weather was unseasonably good  and the tourist season had not quite started ( this was early June ).

 

Emma made dinner, John pitched their tent beautifully ( except the fly sheet is inside out ) and I scalded JaneCull’s foot with the trangia ( not badly ).

John had apparently picked up a large splinter in his bum on one of the slides but maintained he was fine and Emma decided to ride off the path and into the Danube stopping just in time. All in all a pretty average day on #cullsmadadventure 

Day 4 – No Food, The Snake & Mechanical Disaster

We had a very leisurely breakfast chatting to a very friendly Canadian who had worked all over the world in international schools and had previously done the trip with 30 kids ! We got going at about 11:00 after wasting some time trying to find a local shop ( there isn’t one)

@21 miles today ( 25.8 according to John). Very hot again at @30c. We were short of food with there being no shops so John and I blasted on ahead to find a shop and bring back food.

The most exciting bit was when a 1m snake jumped out of my path and into his, it was his first wild snake and a good sized one at that. We found a small cafe after 11Km just past the hydro dam at Hütting and Emma was very pleased when an ice cream was couriered to her.

John’s two biggest triumphs were that he mastered wheelies and that he beat Jane up a hill by 5 minutes on a scenic detour that they took to Burg Clam.

His competitive streak was really coming out. Whenever someone passes him on a racing cycle he accelerates off behind them and slip streams an inch off their back wheel on his mountain bike with huge panniers until they notice. Sometimes he gets away with it for 5 -10 minutes.

Apparently Jane has agreed to go halfs with him on a shared road bike.

Emma did really well too. Her main motivation again was finding a swimming pools. The one today was good and much warmer than yesterday’s somehow.

Emma and I had a lovely time cycling through the Poppy fields while Jane and John went on their detour.

Towards the end of the day we did have a major sinking feeling when Emma’s  dropout / hanger snapped leaving her gears dangling in mid air. Fortunately we were only 1km from the campsite and an excellent bike shop.

The part is unique to her British Islabike bike and when it happened in the UK on a previous occasion the bike shop couldn’t fix it without the exact part.

I towed her behind the trailer to the bike shop but I really thought she would be stuck in 1 gear for the next 120km . The Austrian bike shop had different ideas. They took a part from another brand and ground it down so that it fitted. It wasn’t cheap but I am glad we asked as I had resigned myself to removing the gears and leaving her with only one gear ratio.

He did ask her for a bribe to say it couldn’t be fixed 🙂

 

Day 5 – An idyllic lunch and the Wrong Bridge

Day 4 of #cullsmadadventure was the longest day yet at @ 50km. It went really well, no snakes, no breakages and only the small complication of the boys ending up on the wrong side of the Danube for 5km.

The day started with the obligatory visit to a play ground and then a small ferry across the Danube.

We had lunch in a beautiful town centre at Hofamt Priel. A very relaxed affair with lots of fresh food and ice creams. It was very nice to find some open shops after being caught short in the morning.

John’s wheelies continued to get longer or “wheelie good” as he likes to tell us at every opportunity. He was in great spirits and his co-share road bike idea with Jane now seems to have become a cyclo-cross bike.

John and I went on ahead of Jane and managed to end up on the wrong side of the river by taking the wrong bridge ( my fault ).

It was very hot and John was starting to feel the strain. I think that he had over done it the previous day beating his Mum up the climb to Burg Clam. This was us waiting for the girls on the “wrong” bridge.

So we phoned the girls and the conversation went along the lines of

“We are on the bridge, where are you ?”

“No, WE are on the bridge where are you ?” – you get the idea.

All sorted in the end but John and I were left wandering around Aldi in the beautiful town of Melk with 2.85 euro wondering how to buy supper – we ate out in the end.

Getting food on the trip was more difficult than you would have thought. We arrived on a Sunday and hadn’t realised that local shops are also closed on Wednesday.

Mind you even after the “fresh” milk has been bounced about in the trailer for 2 days it still tastes the same but warmer….and not really that nice. The route itself doesn’t pass through that many towns, at least not when you need them.

Emma was in great spirits too and is still on a mission to try every playground en route and with no swimming pool this evening took to swimming in the Danube.

She had really taken the whole sponsorship thing to heart and it really has spurred her on.

Jane was in good form too, probably even more so that I couldn’t afford any more pasta meals in Aldi and we had to eat out.

The light weights that we are we kept the half bottle of wine from last night so it will be interesting to see how that tastes after a day cooking in the trailer, probably similar to the milk I think 🙂

 

 

 

Day 6 – Cheap Spanish Wine amongst the Reisling Vines

A medium length day @25 miles with a good tailwind. We could have gone further but there were no campsites within range further along the river. We had our only puncture as we left the campsite int he morning.

The kids were still in good form and we’re flying along. John’s wheelies and hands off cycling continue to improve.

Emma was motoring too with her highlight of the day being a carefully choreographed red arrows display with her as “Red Leader” and the rest as reds 2,3 and 4T – “T” designating the trailer.

Moving from the “Diamond” to the “Arrow” formations and every other combination kept us going for miles, much to the confusion of the Austrian cyclists who disapprove of such things.

Jane and I managed to finish our 3 day old bottle of Aldi Spanish wine at lunch time sitting amongst the Austrian Reisling vines,I am not sure what the locals would have thought.

 

I think the kids might have mistaken it for Ribena as there was much photo bombing and general hilarity at about the same time.

Emma finished off the day visiting yet another outdoor swimming pool and after beating her dad down 5 slides made her first jump of a diving board in penance.

Jane was in good form too. We had great fun touring the centre of Krems with the kids on backies last thing. She also made me supplement our pasta rations with real vegetables.

Day 7 – Vienna

A long day @32 miles but with real beds at the end

John and Emma did really well. Emma’s most exciting incident was wiping out a small signpost while under tow, I have absolutely no idea how she recovered it but she did. She was absolutely on her limit distance wise and is chuffed with what she has achieved but quite pleased to be finished ( today was her only day under tow )

John’s essential cycle touring skills of wheelies and hands free cycle still continued to improve but his HUGE achievement today was at the train station later in the day.

We got on a fast intercity type train for one stop into Vienna. It was a bit stressful ( bikes and trains seem to be stressful ) as there were no bike spaces so we ended up standing with bikes and a trailer in the aisle.

At the next stop we literally threw all the gear off as has become customary but I stayed on to go to the airport to meet my mum. The plan was to leave one bike locked at the station for me to collect later.

As I jumped back on the train I said to John to be a “big man” and help mum and Emma as best he could.

As with all of the stations we have used the only way to get off the platform is steep stairs or a small lift . In this case the lift was literally always full and after 30 minutes only Emma had managed to get her bike up. So John insisted on carrying the 3 remaining bikes, the 6 panniers, 2 tents and, with his mum, the trailer up the stairs. 6 flights of stairs EACH time. A huge effort that would make his Rugby coaches proud.

Emma was brilliant too looking after the arriving gear for over an hour on her own. One of the locals came over and congratulated Jane and gave her a box of grapes and a huge bag of chocolates.

I ,meanwhile, was sitting in the air-conditioned airport but on the bright side did get to bring my mum back to stay with us.

Emma reflecting on the trip at the end of the cycle to Vienna

Days 8 – 9 Vienna

Relaxing, Ice creams and Tourist Stuff

     
  

Day 10 – Vienna to Dusseldorf via sleeper train

We cycled in the central station in Vienna in the pouring rain ( the first time it had rained all holiday ) and took the sleeper to Dusseldorf. This time the attendant woke us up in good time. The Thai take away at Vienna Central Station was very good.

Day 11 – Train Dusseldorf – Amstersdam  and 30K cycle to Ijmuiden and Adopting “Donkey”

From Dusseldorf we took a train to Amsterdam. We were a bit anxious about the bicycles as we just had open tickets and the train supposedly had a limit of 10 bikes – and more and more bikes kept arriving. It was OK in the end but we were concerned enough to have a plan to split into 2 groups and meet back in Amsterdam or at the ferry.

Once in Amsterdam we cycled @30 KM back to Ijmuiden. It was the first time we had a head wind and it felt like a fair distance.

Along the way a dutch cyclist making a great effort came chasing up behind Emma thinking that she had dropped a toy Donkey and insisting on giving it to her. She was quite pleased that we were unable to find it’s owner.

 

The kids celebrated with a cold drink on the ferry.

The End

It was been a fantastic trip with all the elements of an adventure. We have sailed on ferries, travelled on sleeper trains, wrestled bikes and trailers on and off trains and cycled 225 + kms ( including Holland ) with full camping gear. The kids and Jane were amazing and we have raised some money for charity. It is also the longest I have been away from my laptop in many years 

If I had one overall hope before we started it would be that the kids could see that adventures like this are entirely within their grasp and that when they are 16 or 17 they could be doing them with friends. I am hopeful that we have achieved that.

A big thanks to everyone that sponsored us and lastly a big thank you to Jane who spent ages planning and booking everything and had the faith to go with it.

We have raised £545 so far. If you would like to sponsor us, and in particular the kids, see the link below. All of the money goes directly to the charities.

The Cull Family Danube Bike Ride Sponsor Page

Cycling and camping with kids along the Danube – Linz to Vienna – 2017

Hello, we are just back from a great holiday cycling along the Danube in Austria with two kids, Emma (10) and John (12) and camping. It was a great introduction to cycle touring and I wanted to share some of the information here for anyone else that is thinking of doing it.

This is more of a technical post – see this post for a diary of the journey.

amsterdam last pack

About Us

We are a family of 4. Jane and I cycled the C2C last year and the kids cycle to school but we do not cycle as a regular hobby.

Why the Danube and the Trip ?

We chose the Danube because it is pretty much down hill for the whole journey ( challenging side trips exist ) and there are good campsites.

We used to do more adventurous holidays before we had kids now that they are 10/12 we wanted to see if we could do some more. We did 4 days wild camping in canoes in Ireland last year so the kids have some experience of that kind of thing.

My big hope was that we could to show the kids that trips like this are well within their grasp and their budget when they are 16/17.

Our Kit

We had 3 x 26″ mountain bikes and 1 x 24″ mountain bike. The bikes were all more than 10 years old. We also had an old bike trailer ( originally used to take the kids to nursery so there was a certain nostalgia in using it for this trip ). The 3 larger bikes had full size panniers and the smaller bike had some mini panniers.  We also had a trailer.

We had 2 x 2 man tents, 4 sleeping bags ( 2 quite large and 1 fairly large ), 4 x thermarest style sleeping mats, 4 x inflatable pillows, a large trangia, trangia fuel bottle, 4 x bowls, 4 x sporks, 2 x travel towels,  2 x head torches, 1 x spare tube for each wheel size, 2 x multi tools, 2 x sets tyre levers, 2 x puncture kits, 2 x bicycle locks, 2 x washing lines, tow rope, cargo net, bungees, guide book, phone battery power bank, tie wraps, duct tape, a handlebar mounted bag for passports, money etc.

Each pannier had a 25l  Karrimor Dry Bay and then a smaller one for any wet rain gear. The tents and sleeping mats were in two largish Ortiweb bags and there were two waterproof duffel bags for clothes and pillows.

The large Ortliweb and waterproof duffle bags went in the trailer but with older kids we could easily have had each bike with 2 panniers and a largish waterproof bag across the panniers and no trailer.

The Logistics

We took :

The trains and ferrys are relatively easy to book on the web BUT you cannot book bicycle on the web and YOU REALLY NEED TO RESERVE bicycles on the major trains ( especially if there are 4 of you )

Jane did the train booking and our phone bill came to almost £200. This included having to re-book them after it became clear that there was Engineering Works on the return journey.

We booked through the Austrian railway but it was very difficult as you had to ring Austria and English was not widely spoken. There were also issues whereby the cycle reservations had to be done in a phase 2 some time after the people were booked.

We later dealt with the German Railways to modify some bookings and the process was much much easier because there was a UK telephone number and the staff had excellent English. My recommendation would be to try and do everything via the German system if possible although we are not sure it is possible for the sleeper to Vienna .

Accommodation

We slept on 2 ferrys and 2 sleeper trains.
We camped 4 nights and at the end of the trip sated in an AirBnB in Vienna for 3 nights.

Day 1 – Ferry + 30K cycle
Day 2 – Sleeper Train
Day 3 – Campsite 1 –  in Camping Au Donau . This was @30km from Linz
Day 4 – Campsite 2 – Campingplatz Grein – – This was @30km from Campsite 1
Day 5 – Campsite 3 – Inn and Campground Fam. Stumpfer – This was @45km from Campsite 2
Day 6 – Campsite 4 – Donaupark Camping Krems – This was @30Km from Campsite 3
Day 7 – 9 AirBnB Vienna – A fantastic apartment in the suburbs –  This was @40km cycle + a train
Day 10 – Sleeper Train
Day 11 – Ferry  ( with 30K cycle )

Food

We brought our own food ( Pasta Boxes and cereal ) onto the ferry which is horrendously expensive. This worked well.

On most of the camping nights we cooked on the Trangia with meals such as Batchelors Pasta ‘n’ Sauce, Cheese, Leek & Ham dry packets using 1.25 packets per person ( there is no way they serve 2 people ). We brought these packets with us.

For lunch we had fresh bread, cheese, ham and vegetables.  For breakfast it was fresh croissants or cereal. Even the “Fresh” milk in Europe seems to last for days being bounced about on the road.

Key Learning

Trains and Bikes are stressful

There are three aspects to this.

One is physically getting bikes ( and a trailer ) on and off the trains. We got better at this with some practice and process ( remove panniers first, 1st adult on to receive bike, 1st kid larger with bike, first two bikes hung on hooks, 2nd kid with bike, last adult bike, panniers handed along a chain, trailer on last. It is worth noting that most of the platforms have train specific plans showing where the bike carriages will stop although it doesn’t always work as described.

Getting the bikes on and off the platforms can be tricky too. All of the platforms have small lifts which can take 1 or 2 bikes but in Vienna there was a real issue with the lift being permanently full from the floors above and below. i had gone to the airport to get my Mum so John ( 12 ) ended up carrying all of the luggage and bikes up 6 flights of stairs while Jane and Emma ( 8 ) stood guard over the kit at each end. Towards the end of the trip our preferred routine was to wheel the parents bikes down the stairs and just use the lifts for the kids and trailer. It is very worth while getting the “DB navigator App” which shows in great detail which platforms European trains will arrive at.

The 3rd ( and most stressful ) is not having reservations. We had reservations on the sleeper trains but the intercity into Vienna ( 1 stop ) and the trains to Dusseldorf and Amsterdam we didn’t.  On the intercity we literally ended up standing in the isles with our bikes. On the other trains we got them into bike spaces but by the end of those journeys the 10 bike quota was well exceeded. We had contingency plans to abandon the trailer and /or split the group into two trains.

Carry Plenty of Food and Water

Shops along the way do not open on Sundays and Wednesdays, make sure that you have enough stuff for breakfast and lunch well in advance. There are generally good opportunities to refill water bottles but there were a couple of long hot stretches with no options. Next time i would take two water bottles.

Kids need a target

The motivation for my daughter was a swim at the end of each day ( there were lots of reasonably priced and well equipped outdoor pools ). This worked really well.

The motivation for my son was to beat his parents to  the end of each day 🙂

Dutch Cycle Routes are scary for the inexperienced

Rather than being the safe haven that we expected the Dutch cycle routes were actually quite scary at first. The locals cycle quite quickly ( even on their town bikes ) and child stopping or turning on a cycle route causes loud exclamations and much annoyance. There were also scooters and micro cars on the cycle ways but to be fair they were almost always considerate to us.

The trick is to treat the cycle routes just like real roads with very strict lane discipline. The cycle way along the Danube was a lot more more relaxed.

Towing can be useful but scary

We had to tow on two occasions, one for about 1 km when Emma’s derailleur came off ( snapped hanger ) and on the last cycle day when Emma was struggling and we were under pressure to get a specific train so that I could get to the airport to meet Mum.

We had taken two bungees and a light rope specifically to tow. Technically it worked well but the issue was Emma’s concentration. It would get a bit hairy when she lost concentration. The solution would be to have one parent tow and the other ride alongside the child to keep them in the correct position. We agreed that we would only tow on quite cycle only routes and never on the road.

Never Assume a bike cannot be fixed

Emma’s drop out / hanger broke on the 3rd day. It had happened once before in the UK and the bike shop could only fix it with a specific replacement from Islabike which took a few days to source by post.

When the same thing happened in Austria I was resigned to removing the derailleur and leaving her with just one gear – and a 40km day the net day. I towed her the 1km to the bike shop where the owner was much more optimistic and took a grinder to a part from a different make and adapted it to fit Emma’s bike. After the repair it worked flawlessly. It wasn’t cheap but it made a big difference to the trip.

 

 

 

Finding a lost model with Taranis ( or other ) Telemetry

Some time ago Bruce Simpson of RC model Reviews mentioned using the Taranis Telemetry to find a lost model. I have used it several times lately so thought I would pass on this tip.

The idea is that the lowest signal is when your antenna is pointed directly at the model – which is why you fly with the antenna at 90 degrees ( did you know that ? )

If you have a telemetry enabled receiver ( a RX battery voltage display is a good indicator ) then you can get the Taranis to display the strength of the telemetry signal from the RX to the TX. This is known as the RX RSSI.

If you stand with the antenna pointed straight out and slowly rotate 360 degrees then when the signal is at its lowest you are facing directly towards or directly away from your model ( slight rub there ).

The screen below shows the default RX RSSI

2015-11-27_20-31-44

 

You can add a more useful RSSI reading to the telemetry screen using Companion as shown below

2015-11-27_20-32-35

2015-11-27_20-32-59

As you get closer to the model you may need to enable range check mode to reduce the signal strength to see a discernible difference. In this case it is the RSSI in the pop up window that you use to gauge the signal strength.

2015-11-27_20-57-09

This method also works on other Telementry enabled transmitters. I helped a club mate with a very posh Jeti transmitter to find a model last week but the Jeti has 3 4 antenna built into the handle so the directional aspect was not as good. He did find the model by walking around until the signal peaked and then going to range check mode to narrow it down further.

Winter Hill – Idiot Hanglider Pilot Endangering Himself & Costing me £90

I was flying an R/C model at Winter Hill today when the owner of this car cut right across the model flight line. I am relatively new to slope soaring and was doing practice landing circuits. I panicked and tried to wave the pilot off thinking he was unaware of the models – there were 5 in the air including two high performance ones – one on its maiden flight.

In trying to wave him off I crashed my model and wrote it off – yes I know the first rule of an emergency is to fly the damn plane – lesson learnt.

The pilot then came around again – right through the middle of the R/C gliders again.
I tried to do the right thing. Did I crash my model to stop the pilot being endangered – no I didn’t but I would have done if necessary. Would I do it next time – I would definitely pause for thought.

I spoke to the pilot when he landed – he was totally unapologetic and quite arrogant – “sorry mate it was the turbulence”. Total rubbish – he did it twice.

If anyone knows this person can they please talk some sense into him. He is no ambassador for your sport and I am £90 out of pocket thanks to his arrogance. I am seriously tempted to fill in a BHPA incident form on his behalf.

idiot

Why won’t my Taranis bind and the saga of EU Firmware ETSI EN 300 328 V1.8.1

taranis

The EU has introduced an improved standard covering R/C transmitters called ETSI EN 300 328 V1.8.1 . This came into effect on the 1/1/2015 although there was quite a lot of warning in advance.

This change has a new constraint that a Tx that has just been turned on must first listen to any frequency before it broadcasts on that frequency. This helps to determine if the frequency is in use by another person – this seems quite sensible and makes the frequency management more robust. This is known as Listen Before Talking ( LBT ) and is in section 4.3.1.3.3.

The internal Taranis transmitter module ( not the OpenTx part ) did not comply and FRSky issued a firmware update at pretty much the last minute. Legally this is only required for new Transmitters sold after 1/1/2015.

But here is the rub : A Transmitter working in D16 mode ( the mode required for telemetry ) can only work with receivers that are using the same firmware.

So a pre 2015 EU Tx will not work in D16 mode with a shiny new receiver and vice versa. The quite useful chart below is floating about ( Kunde means user up-gradable ).

Note that it is not clear at this time if receivers and transmitters sold outside of the EU will have the “2014” or “2015/ EU” firmware – so if you have a pre 2015 Tx you may be able to buy receivers from outside of the EU to keep everything “Non EU”

2015-03-10_21-11-44

So … if you want to use D16 mode ( more later ) and you want to buy more receivers you need to have ALL of  your receivers and Txs either using the EU firmware or not using the EU firmware – but they must all be the same.

I choose to upgrade my Tx and Receivers. You need to purchase 2 cables and then make adapters. For the Tx the process is described here. For the receiver the smaller X4R receivers need a molex adapter ( the cable was in the packet ) but the X8R receivers do not.

https://www.t9hobbysport.com/frsky-smart-port-adapter-cable

https://www.t9hobbysport.com/frusb-3-upgrade-cable-for-sensor-hub-modules-receivers

My article on the X4R upgrade

Once you have made the adapters the process is not too bad. There is also work in hand by the amazing OpenTx Community to allow the Tx to be upgraded via OpenTx Companion – this is possibly in version 2.016. This will also allow the Receivers to be upgraded from a wired connection tot he Tx which will be useful for people without a Windows PC ( not sure how Mac users are affected ).

So if you are in the EU what are your options are :

=> Don’t but any new receivers and life is fine

=> Use D8 instead of D16 if you do not need telemetry ( including battery indication ? ). You may also loose the ability to bind a profile to only one receiver ( can anyone clarify ?)

=> Downgrade any new receivers to the 2014 firmware

=> Only buy receivers from outside of the EU ( not 100% sure on this being a fact )

=> Upgrade everything to the 2015 firmware.

A couple of last points :

1) make sure you get the latest 2015 firmware. The is the original 2015 firmware and there is a “bug fixed” version – I think it is highly irresponsible of FRSky to continue to allow the buggy software to be downloaded.

2) remember to reset your fail-safes after flashing the firmware – even if they are configured via the TX.

Please let me know if any of this needs improvement

Sean

 

 

Quick note on updating the Firmware on a FrSky X4R Receiver

downloadThere is a good thread here – http://www.modelflying.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=104775&p=2

The 4 things I would add are :

1) do not power your receiver from a battery. It will get power via the USB cable.

2) you will need to make an adapter using the small molex (?) plug supplied when you bought the receiver. Use the yellow, red and black cables.

3) The software tool you need is a pig to find. Look for the “Upgrade Lite-S.Port Telemetry” under Download > Tools

4) Be careful – there seems to be both the original EU firmware and a “bug fixed” version of the firmware on the site.

Note : you will need to re-activate your failsafes again after flashing the firmware – even if you configured them via the Tx or OpenTx Companion.

Hope that this helps, Sean

Taranis Smart Trainer Mode using Sticky Switches in OpenTX2.x

Note : this scheme has the instructor using the buddy box

balancebar

A better Tx with a better Balance Bar

My son is still struggling to get good control of his plane and I reckon it is partly to do with his old buddy box which has poor sticks and no balance bar.

I thought I would make the Taranis the student transmitter and the old 35Mhz Futaba buddy box the instructor “transmitter” – but the Taranis will be transmitting.

I also wanted to be able control the handover from the buddy box and to be able to put my instructor Tx on the ground unattended to hand launch my son’s plane.

Refer to this article about the basics of Taranis and buddy box / trainer mode

OpenTX 2.x and TR1 – 16

This can now be done with OpenTX 2.x because the buddy box / trainer is always transmitting signals TR1 – 16 to the Taranis even if the switch controlling the student transfer is not active – this in effect means that a buddy box switch can be used to control the hand off from instructor to student => the instructor can use the buddy box.

Smart Trainer Switch ( sort of )

I initially tried using the channel 5 switch on TR5 and this worked well but I wanted to try something along the lines of the “Smart Trainer Switch”. This forum post scheme is to transfer control to the instructor when there is a difference in the inputs between the student and instructor. This would allow the instructor to “follow along” with the student but in my ( fairly limited ) experience there will almost always be a difference – for example the instructor may use rudder input whereas the student probably won’t.

So I settled for a scheme where a significant input of the elevator, aileron or rudder will transfer control to the Instructor and it will remain with them until switch 5 on the buddy box is cycled.

Sticky Switch

One of the new features in OpenTX2.x ( maybe 1.9x ) is the Sticky Switch. This is a Logical Switch which is latched into position by one action and then unlatched by a different action. In the example below moving to SA↑ latches the switch and moving to SB↑ will unlatch it. The latching action will last for 3 seconds and will only start 4 seconds after SA entered the SA↑ state.

No latching will take place unless switch SC is in the SC- position

sticky2

Note that the sticky switch is set by the transition of the trigger and release values into the required state. So for example if SA↑ is left in place and SB↑ is applied then the latch will be reset and SA↑ needs to be removed and re-applied before the latch will set again.

The Scheme

Step 1

Add TR1,2, 4 ( your channels may vary ) to a new virtual channel as shown below. These represent the trainer elevator, aileron and rudder. The throttle is deliberately left out of the equation. Using a channel like this means you can just use one formula to detect stick movement.

In my case Channel 14 now represents an indication of how far the instructor sticks  ( in my case on the buddy box ) are away from their centres.

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In my case I only want this feature to work in “Normal Flight Mode”

Step 2

There is no option to use the TR5 signal in the logical switches so it must be mapped to a channel that can in turn be referred to. In my case I am using channel 13

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Step 3

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Create a Logical Switch ( L9 for me ) that detects movement by the instructor. I selected a value of 25% as all 3 axis are added together and you may have some trim in. Its a matter of trail and error. I also only want this to be active with SG↑ as I use SG to determine the trainer mode I am using.

Then create a Logical Switch ( L10 ) that detects that the TR5 switch ( Channel 13 for me ) has been cycled. In my case it is either +100% or -100% so I used < 10% as a trigger.

Finally create a Sticky Logical Switch that is set by L9 ( Instructor movement ) and reset by L10 ( TR5 switch cycling )

The Result

If the instructor moves their sticks in “Normal Mode” with SG↑ then they get control. If they cycle switch 5 on the buddy box with the sticks centred then control reverts to the student using the Taranis

I was a bit worried that if the buddy lead as pulled out you could be left with no control but it seems to revert back to the Taranis. You should test this for yourself.

 

Configuring the Taranis Trainer / Buddy Box Functionality

both

I use an old 35 Mhz Futaba SkySport 6 as a buddy box for the Taranis. It works really well and with OpenTx 2.x you can now also pass through more than 4 channels for things like the flaps.

Initially I used a Phoenix Simulator adapter but just recently I have soldered the buddy lead directly into the Futaba for better reliability. I would recommend using the simple JR lead rather than a stereo lead but opinions on the web seem to vary.

The Basic Concept

The basic concept is simple. The buddy box passes a copy of the output signal to the Taranis via a simple 2 core trainer cable ( that bit surprised me ). The Taranis sees these inputs as Input Channels 1 – 4 ( and more in OpenTx 2.x – see later ).

The inputs can be calibrated and scaled / multiplied. Each of the inputs is mapped to a stick and the mapping can include a weighting e.g. 125% and whether the signal is absolute ( no master input when the student is in control ) or additive where the master and the trainer signals are added together and the resulting sum applied to the model. The second option sounds very clever but having thought about it doesn’t really seem that useful.

Up Front Decisions

Before you start you need to decide on some basic things :

  • If your buddy box has dual rates will you use these with your student or will you use the dual rates on the master ( Taranis ) for both instructor and student ? I prefer to just use the Taranis rates as it is one less switch to check. If you do this then remember to disable the dual rates on the buddy box.
  • You can configure the Taranis to take all of the flight control inputs from the buddy box or just some of them. My Bixler setup has a switch that in one case gives the student full control and in another leaves me with the throttle control.
  • How do you want to hand control across to the student ? I would highly  recommend the spring loaded switch SH but you could use one of the other switches.
  • I would highly recommend a master engine safety be configured as it is very easy to hand control to the student when they have inadvertently added throttle whilst the model is on the ground. A master switch will protect from both Student and instructor inadvertent throttle movements in the pits.

Step 1 – Connect the buddy box

Connect the buddy box to the Taranis via the lead and switch it on

Step 2 – Navigate to the TRAINER menu

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