A guest post by Matt Powell.
Cycling computers, whether basic speedometers or complex Garmin GPS units, are a must-have for cyclists but smartphones can now perform many of the same functions. Like GPS units and PDAs the not-so-humble smartphone is gradually replacing dedicated gadgets in yet another market.
To get you started here are some of our favourite smartphone apps for cyclists:
Google Maps is a perfectly adequate mapping and navigation tool…provided you’ve got a signal. It relies on a data connection to download maps as you go which is something of a hindrance if your cycle route takes you out into the sticks.
Rather than hoping to run back into an area with some glimmer of a signal every cyclist should have a standalone GPS map package.
Not only will it prove life-saving if you manage to get lost, but with an appropriate bracket you can mount a smartphone on your bike handlebars. Particularly helpful when riding a new route as you don’t need to stop at every turn to check a paper map, plus it makes your cockpit look awesome.
Both Android and iPhone have a huge range of GPS apps. There are several free options for each platform, though if you find yourself needing this regularly it’s worth investing in a premium package.
Our pick is CoPilot Live. It’s packed with features (turn-by-turn voice, 2D/3D maps, traffic notifications etc etc), is quick and responsive and relatively inexpensive too. More than you’d normally pay for an app perhaps, but dedicated cycling GPS units run into the hundreds so this is a huge money saver. Oh, and you can use it in your car too.
Google My Tracks
This excellent freebie from Google uses the GPS hardware in your smartphone to track and record your route, providing helpful and/or interesting data on your workout.
As well as displaying the path over Google Maps it’ll also give info on elevation, speed and distance. This information can be viewed and annotated in real time, and once you get home it’s possible to extract it in various formats, which is helpful for logging your training routine or showing friends a great new cycle path you’ve discovered.
This one is Android only but a similar tool available on both iPhone and Android is RunKeeper.
Breakdowns are an unavoidable hazard for any cyclist. Sooner or later you’re going to run into some kind of problem, whether it’s a simple flat or more serious crankset and derailleur issues.
Bike Doctor is a computerised database of common problems and solutions for bike repairs, helping guide you step by step through all kinds of issues so you can get rolling again.
Veterans may scoff but this app can still prove useful for experienced cyclists who run into a previously unknown problem, and it’ll only encourage more cyclists to get out there which we can all agree is a good thing.
Throw away your bike computer, your smartphone has made it obsolete. Cyclemeter is a biking computer tool which is packed with functions.
It’ll give you time, distance, speed and all the other basics, but there’s an almost obsessive level of information hidden away in here. While riding along you can quickly swipe between screens of maps and stats to access a wealth of data.
It’s a great training tool as well. There are training programs built in and data can be shared with other users, so you can import a friend’s route and attempt to beat their times.
This is an iPhone exclusive right now, Android users might want to check out Move!
Author Bio: Matt Powell is a writer for the consumer information site Broadband Genie, which covers everything from broadband, to the latest iPhone 5 deals.
I use mapmyride which is available on Iphone and android. Also strava keeps track of your rides.
Love Cyclemeter. And the data can be uploaded to Strava!
Mark Benson says
The Cyclemeter app is great. So many features!
If you’re going to use your smart phone as a replacement for your bike computer, do yourself the favor of getting a secure mount and a rugged case. I use a Ram Mount for my iPhone and it’s typically well-suited to holding onto my phone. But one day, I was out with the Mrs. and as we were descending a hill (about 30 MPH), I got careless and crossed over the rumble strip. My phone shot off the handlebar and bounced about a dozen times on the asphalt before coming to a stop. I’m a firm believer in Otterbox cases, so the phone suffered nary a scratch and still worked like a champ.
I’ve played a bit with my iPhone and have noticed the battery drains relatively quickly when using the apps as a cycling computer. I get about 2-3 hours use before it runs out of juice.
I use the life proof case and bike mount (perfect!) with Endomondo. As long as I keep the screen in standby I can easily get 10 hours of tracking. If I need to see where I’m at, I can view that quickly and simply (standard, hybrid or satellite) then push the standby button to save battery life. I love my setup.
> Throw away your bike computer, your smartphone has made it obsolete.
My bike computer battery lasts months instead of three hours or so like a smartphone actively running an app.
Even my Edge 705 battery will last 12 hours.
… not quite obsolete yet!
Good post, Matt. Cyclemeter was my go-to app before I got a Garmin. Strava is a wonderful app. I have found that it’s quite reliable on the iPhone, and I like to use it as a reference to my recent rides.
Steve – I have found the same, and got a Mophie Juice Pack for the phone. Best accessory purchase I’ve made yet.