Utility Cycling: There’s an App for That

Disclaimer: If you’re an iPhone user of long standing, this entry may be very boring for you. But do leave a comment if you have suggestions. Thanks!

I’m a fairly recent convert to the iPhone. I bought my 3GS about two weeks before the new one hit the market (which saved me $$$). The app thing is very cool. I’m all about apps.

So, naturally, I went looking for bicycling apps, and there are bunches of them. Most of them are geared to sport/exercise cycling, but I’ve found three that I like toying with so far.

First things first: It seems like talking on the phone or texting while riding a bicycle is a transgression almost on par with doing these things in a car. I say “almost” because a bicycle driven by a texter is unlikely to cause as much mayhem in a crash as a car driven by a texter.

I’ve promised myself not to use my phone while riding, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that. I say “pretty much” because I have broken my own promise on a few occasions — having rationalized it this way: Quiet residential street, no pedestrians, no traffic, so what can it hurt? I really need to keep my promise.

So far, I’m enjoying these free apps:

The Bike Computer: This is a fairly simple app for keeping track of your miles and times. It uploads your stats to EveryTrial where you can keep further track of your trips. The app is a bit klunky, and sometimes the feature used to turn of the display while it’s in your pocket freezes the phone — at least it happens to me.

Bikenik: This one similar to The Bike Computer except that it works with Google maps. Again, it keeps track of time, miles, and other stats — mostly of interest to sports/exercise cyclists. Its display is also a bit more elegant than The Bike Computer. So if you have to choose just one free bicycle stats app, then go with Bikenik 🙂

IMapMyride: This is the most useful of the free apps I’ve tried. It’s solidly focused on sport/exercise, but it is also useful for utility bicyclists because it integrates with the mother ship at Map My Ride. But here’s a weird thing (and a turn-off): The app is sponsored by Cadillac, which either tells you something about the demographics of Map My Ride users or how much money GM has to waste on the wrong audience. Hmmmmm…

So that’s the free stuff. I haven’t used any of these enough to justify paying for an app (that may or may not be better than these). I’ll keep you posted.

Beyond bicycling apps, there are numerous things the iPhone (or Andriod phones) can do to make life easier for the utility bicyclist:

  1. The Weather Channel app is comprehensive, including hourly forecasts and a weather map. This app has kept me dry twice this year when I was caught downtown without rain gear. I was able to figure out how long I had to wait out the storms.
  2. As long-time Carbon Trace readers know, I like to carry DV and digital still cameras with me. Now I just carry the iPhone. I’ve used it for most of the pictures you’ve seen here recently. There are many free photo/video apps. Take your pick. But be sure to get ShareMedia to help you post to Facebook on the fly. Also, PS Express gives you some powerful photo editing tools for free.
  3. Evernote is a great way to keep track of information on the fly and includes a voice recorder and camera feature.
  4. You’ll find all kinds of GPS apps. The iPhone comes with a map app, but I bought GPS by MotionX because I really like playing with these things 🙂

So what am I missing? How do you use the iPhone to improve your utility cycling experience?

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Comments 8

  1. Tracy Wilkins wrote:

    Welcome to the club! I’ve been using my phone exactly as you describe for over a year now, and as much as I hate to admit it, I would be hard pressed to live without it.

    I’ve got a review of IMAPMYRIDE out at http://springfieldcyclist.com/2009/07/12/imapmyride-review/

    The good news is that since the Iphone can now multi-task, one of my negative impressions has been resolved.

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 1:19 pm
  2. Michael wrote:

    I love my iPhone.

    I ditched all my cycling specific apps and just use Motion X’s GPS program for all that stuff.

    The satellite view on the maps can be helpful in picking out safe bike routes when biking in unfamiliar territory.

    I’ll have to checkout bikenik.

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 2:18 pm
  3. Kelly Dowman wrote:

    I use an app called Cychosis. I already have a bike computer and never saw the need to drain my phone battery to see how far and how fast I rode. But I use Cychosis to log my info from my bike computer and track my monthly and annual mileage goals. Lets you twitter your info too, if you like. I paid for this app (which is rare for me) but not very much. I think $3?

    I’m also a big fan of the Weather Channel app, and their hourly predictions I use a lot to plan when I’m going to ride. I find their radar to be quite often 30 minutes or more old (hardly real-time). Haven’t found a better solution yet, but it’s on my radar (haha).

    I also like Around Me for when I’m out and about and am looking for something (grocery store, coffee shop, etc.).

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 2:44 pm
  4. Keri wrote:

    The basic google maps app that comes with the iPhone was a lifesaver on our tour last summer. The adventure cycling routes go through the middle of nowhere and sometimes it’s 50 miles between any kind of services. I don’t know what I would have done without the ability to search for convenience stores and know what was up ahead a few miles or maybe off the route by 1/2 mile.

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 2:48 pm
  5. Steve A wrote:

    Mapquest, Cycling Grub, Weatherbug are all free and good for a commuter. Photobucket is great for blogging from your iPhone. The Starbucks app is an invaluable source to find free triple filtered ice water when in strange surroundings on a hot day.

    I don’t use the phone as a cycle computer and keep it in the seat bag where it can’t be pesky while en route.

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 4:55 pm
  6. Steve A wrote:

    Almost forgot the best – Safari which I used for these comments as I finish my coffee on the last leg of the ride home.

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 4:57 pm
  7. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve et. al. … Great stories and suggestions. Thanks!

    Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 5:09 pm
  8. Eliot wrote:

    I’m a pretty big believer in paying the price of a cup of coffee for a well-written and useful app, so here’s some high quality apps that I use regularly in relation to cycling:

    – My-Cast. Best weather app ever. Just beautiful.
    – Simplenote. Same idea as Evernote, but far simpler and just focused on text (it syncs to website automatically). I love to put ride notes from my computer on here and have it automatically sync when I’m out on the road.
    – RunKeeper – *love* their app for keeping track of routes and such. Their website is fantastic.

    Plus, I really enjoy listening to Cadence Revolution when I’m doing a workout ride by myself.

    Have fun!

    Posted 27 Aug 2010 at 10:11 am

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