Every now and then, Ken will say something that makes sense. It’s not that often though, so I wanted to be sure that I marked this very ‘rare’ occasion.
Several months back, Ken wrote an article on bike gadgetry. Like many trendy, designer-types, when it comes to all things design, Ken is a fan of what I’d call, ‘intelligent or elegant simplicity’ – esthetics come second only to function. So, in an ongoing effort to keep his bike cockpit clear of cables, cords and compu-clutter, he posited on the application of the iPhone as a cycle computer. At the time, it was easy enough to see the possibilities, but the idea of attaching your precious iPhone to your headset as you hurl down some single-track didn’t seem very practical. Even a road ride would pose some risk – pavement isn’t known for its forgiveness. All that said, this hasn’t deterred a number of cycling apps from being designed.
Abvio has developed iPhone apps for running, cycling, and walking. According to their site, they refer to their ‘Cyclemeter’ app as ‘iPhone centric’, meaning there are no web logins, no uploads or ads. GPS enabled, Cyclemeter will track: time, location, distance, elevation and pace for rides up to nine hours. You can also visualize your results via: maps, graphs and calendars. Additionally, you can also share your data thru Twitter. Sounds pretty slick, all in all. If you already own an iPhone, the Abvio Cyclemeter could be a perfect cyclo-computer solution, as long as you’re not also looking for ‘power/watts’ data. One limitation that I could see myself being bothered by, is that the interface is solely through your iPhone. Even in landscape view, reviewing your date could become tedious. An upload option might be nice.
Another iPhone app that could be a lot of fun to play with is the Bike Gears’, Bicycle Gear Calculator. Offering over 200 preset tire sizes, the Bicycle Gear Calculator allows you to calculate a multitude of gear ratios, as well as a nifty skid patch analyzer for all you fixie riders out there looking to save ‘a little’ tire life.
A quick google search on the topic of iPhone Cycling Apps will yield you tons of cycling app-ortunities, but no matter how many clever apps they design, the one hitch I keep coming back to is will people really start strapping their iPhones to their handlebars and ride? Personally, I doubt it. The iPhone simply isn’t designed for it. One crash and it could be toast, unlike a , which is made more ruggedly and only records your training data, which you likely upload to laptop on a regular basis. If you bust your Garmin, okay, that sucks, but you can replace it. This isn’t necessarily the case with your iPhone. Full of personal data like contact lists, photos, video, your music library – you stand to lose a lot more if you crash with this on your bars. Sure you could stow your iPhone in your pack, or in your jacket pocket where it’s safer, but then you have no interface while you’re riding. Hardly ideal…
Wired put up a short article on the gang at Ubiquitous Entertainment, who, with the iPhone ‘A Rider’, have come up with a pretty clever way to allow a rider to keep their eyes on the road ahead of them, while still being able to read the iPhone GPS Google maps. By attaching a small screen to the side of the rider’s helmet, the rider can see both the road, and the screen at the same time. That said, I’m not sure the top of helmet placement of the iPhone itself would offer much in way of iPhone crash protection. Still, a super cool idea for bike commuters.
Clearly, there are lots of cool apps out there now, and surely, many more to come. For now though, I still don’t think the iPhone posses the best cyclocomputer option, simply due to its fragility. Could a roadie safely use it? I think so, sure – at least for training rides, which is really when you’d want it most anyway. Clipping it to your handlebars in a Crit race, might not be your best idea. As for mountain bikers tough, I think we are still SOL. Apple isn’t about to start building iPhones rugged enough to handle what we’d put them through, but, someone could design a slick protective bar mount and case for it. If you find one, let me know.