Wednesday, January 28, 2009

iPhone app review: The Bike Computer

For quite some time I've wanted a bike computer. Not because I'm into watts, ohms, joules, or whatever it is those fancy things measure. More out of curiosity/convenience. I keep track of all the miles I ride and put it into a spreadsheet. For everyday computing and tallying, I use Gmaps Pedometer. It works great. They recently upgraded the interface so the path automatically stays within the streets. Very cool.

But sometimes you don't feel like going back and rethinking every twist and turn you took, just to find out the mileage you rode, right?

iPhone to the rescue! It's quickly becoming apparent that every day applications are being created for the iPhone that make life unbelievably convenient - and this is one of them. I've found another use for my precious!

There are several bike related applications for the iPhone, but this one was free and the interface seemed to look pretty nice, so I signed up. To use this application, you need to create an account at EveryTrail. This allows the bike computer to record your statistics/ride, and export it to your computer. When you login, you can then review your ride, keeping track of elevation, average speed, and all other types of things. It's quite a nifty feature.

For all its convenience, bells + whistles... the application isn't perfect. So, for those looking for atomic-clock accuracy, you're better off with an actual bike-computer. The application relies on the GPS function of your phone and updates the computer with your position, relative to time elapsed.

When I reviewed some of my routes, it shows quite a bit of meandering when I'm supposedly stopped at a light. To make up for this, sometimes it shows my maximum speed at well over 50 miles per hour. While I'm certainly an experienced cyclist - I know I'm not riding that fast.

Utilizing this feature also requires that you mount your iPhone on to your bicycle so that you can view it. There are several affordable mounts on the market, but I can't speak for their security or durability. I have serious qualms about mounting a $300 electronic device on my bike. I'm not sure about the rattling, as well because I ride at night - I'm afraid it might be a neon sign inviting a mugging.

So when I've used it - I just slipped it in my phone pouch mounted on the front strap of my messenger bag.

So to review - the pros
  • It's free
  • It's easy to use
  • Great web interface
  • Fancy features provided by EveryTrail, including watching the progress of your ride in sped up time
  • Very nice display on the screen
the cons
  • Poor accuracy
  • Risks inherent in mounting your iPhone to your bike
  • Sucks up battery
All in all, I think this is a fun application and great for a nascent bike-statistics nerd. I think the optimal use for this app is if you are going on a social ride and are interested in keeping track of the wild goose chase that is often your route.

1 comment:

vance said...

Wireless cycling computers are definitely the kind which I choose to utilize any time I 'm undertaking my personal early morning training. I don't like getting wires around the bike, and this style of computer provides all of the usual technology, just far tidier. Although computers used to be restricted to gyms and very expensive exercise bikes, they are now easily available. Thanks to the amazing technology that bike computers provide, I can track every aspect of my own physical fitness regime. Of the various makers of bike computers which are for sale, I have discovered that the German Manufacturer Sigma make many of the highest quality and most efficient examples.
Bike Computer