With an onslaught of great apps for the iPhone (some of which we’ve highlighted before), it’s tough to stay on top of all the latest technological innovation for your ride… I mean come on, it’s tough enough sorting out all the latest component grouppos ;-)
With that said, over the past few months there have been a few innovative releases that have caught my eye, so I thought I’d pull them together and show you a glimpse of what’s out there.
One thing all these apps have in common is that they’re bringing in aspects beyond the application itself – Be it friends, community or hardware.
An app that’s been generating a lot of buzz lately is the recently released Rapha Rendezvous. Effectively meant to simplify and streamline the “group ride,” this is how Rapha describes things:
No more hanging around for friends, failed phone calls, SMS annoyances or scrolling hundreds of emails, Rapha Rendezvous makes meeting for rides quick and easy, giving you more time on the bike.
Essentially you use the app to loosely outline your ride (distance, terrain, pace, etc.) and invite friends. However Rapha elegantly extends this premise by allowing your iPhone equipped friends to be tracked in real time as they progress towards your ‘Rendezvous.’
Along the way group members can also quickly and easily communicate any impediments they may encounter along the way (ie. “I’ve punctured”).
A simple solution to a common problem… Riders standing around seemingly endlessly at trail-heads, coffee shops and deserted gravel roads. Now at least you know if whether you simply have time to check your tire pressure, or have time for one more flat white before the ride starts ;-)
As should be expected, the execution of this app is stunning. An understated mix of black, pink and white with subtle grey patterns (borrowed from their signature silk scarf) along with truly natural and elegant interactions make this app a pleasure to use. While I agree this is a single serving app that shoots to accomplish only one key task (ie. tracking your groups progress to the meet up), it sure does it well.
The downside? It’s currently available only for the iPhone… But lets be honest, any cyclist worth a salt is already rockin’ an iPhone (right Smart? ;-)
For those out of the loop iBike has been pioneering ‘reverse power calculation’ (my term, not theirs ;-) for a while now – Effectively calculating your output of power based upon the forces acting against you and the bike rather than using the forces applied against the cranks, or wheels/hubs.
One of my initial greivances of the iBike platform was the clunky computer that needed to be mounted to your handlebars – and as I’ve mentioned before, I do love uncluttered handlebars. However, with the iBike Dash, they’ve taken a huge step forward… Rather than focussing on building a better head unit, the iBike team decided to use one of the best portable computers out there and build around it.
Now, although part of me still worries about trashing my phone in a crash, I have to say that I LOVE the fact that this is helping me carry LESS on a ride (since I rarely ride without my phone). The iPhone interface allows for almost any graphic representation of data, so the iBike team had a blank slate to work from. The “phone booth” (the case the iPhone goes into) that iBike is marketing is also said to be quite weather and shock resistant.
Although at first glance (through video and screen shots) it appears the UI could benefit from a bit of design refinement, this might have been intentional, since rather than holding the phone in your hand it will be mounted to your handlebars – I’d love to try this out first hand to really get a sense of the on-bike usability.
The big thing that really excites me about what iBike is doing is I think they’re one of the few companies that are harnessing the full potential of what powerful cellular devices are capable of – measuring power, speed, reporting on weather, route planning through maps, pre-progammed workouts, etc.
The other thing I really like about the iBike company is how they reward and appreciate their current customer base… Almost all of their releases to date have come with some sort of existing customer discount… This is really smart, and I’m sure is building a really loyal customer base.
There’s a TON of innovation going on here, and as iBike continues to refine things I see companies like Saris and Quuarto needing to up their game in fairly short order and respond with an app of their own.
I sure would love to get my hands on one of these to try ;-)
You can also view a great video of the iBike Dash in action.
Though Pedal Brain isn’t officially open for public consumption just yet, they are definitely pitching something a little more robust… Rather than positioning Pedal Brain as merely another app, it’s more of a fully integrated coaching and training platform… It simply utilizes your iPhone as the catalyst for capturing all the data and instantly syncing it to your PedalBrain online account while delivering you (what appears to be) a killer cyclocomputer.
One of the features that really caught my interest was the ‘instant sync’ – no more finding your connector cord, no more uploading data to a site… With Pedal Brain you just go for a ride and you’re done. You can digest your ride data however you prefer – through your iPhone, or online. Even cooler than – that your friends or online coach are able track your progress live as you complete your workout – they can even message you during a workout (or more aptly during a race). Imagine getting that key motivator, or strategic advice from your coach right in the heat of the moment! The one thing I’m unsure of is what happens if your cellular signal is a little sketchy.
In addition to the ‘normal’ cyclocomputer data Pedal Brain taps into the mapping abilities inherent in the iPhone. Similar to Garmin Connect it allows you to track your route, save and share them. The nice thing is that it currently leverages standard mapping formats (GPX/KML/CSV) rather than using something proprietary.
As with iBike Dash the Pedal Brain also comes with a custom mounting case – this time, dubbed the “Synapse.” The cases are being offered in both an ABS plastic and a carbon version (the carbon version is hawt). In addition to providing a place for your iPhone to live, the Synapse has what they’re calling “smart charging” where the internal battery will be used until there’s only 20% left at which point the Synapse automatically start augmenting the charge (so you don’t have to charge the base unit, just the phone) – Brilliant.
Glancing at some previews of the website interface, it also appears promising. With robust analysis of your workouts, the ability to compete or share with your friends or teams as well as reach out to coaches if your heart desires. Without having actually gone through the app though I’ll reserve judgement.
Although I will also reserve judgment on the app until I can get my eyes on it, from the screen captures it appears flat out gorgeous. The data visualization is attractive and understandable, and the entire interface appears very well thought out. As with the iBike, I’m interested to see how this will translate visually on the bike. As with the iBike, I would love to get my hands on this to take it for a test drive.
Another hardware/software 1-2 punch comes from the team at MapMyRide. In partnership with Wahoo, the add-on Ant+ sensor will work with any Ant+ heart rate, foot pad, or speed/cadence sensors.
The big thing about this, in addition to leveraging technology you already have (ie. your phone) is it’s ability to tie in to MapMyRide’s online community. Looking at a company like Garmin – they’ve got a decent online tracking application (there are some changes/additions that I would make), but there’s no really good way to share with your friends or tap into the motivational power of the community. Applications like Dailymile do this extremely well, but to my knowledge they still don’t support all device formats (ie. the .fit format of the Garmin 500).
This addition brings these this type of app to be on-par functionally with devices like the Garmin 500, with arguably more robust flexibility on how they want to serve up the display, the main downfall is the fact that there’s no über safe way to mount your device, so you can either hide it in your jersey pocket (but then you can’t see what’s going on), or find a suitable case that you’re willing to mount your iPhone in.
MapMyRide is obviously pushing Wahoo devices, but from what I can gather any ANT+ device will work seamlessly with the software – With the careful exception of powermeters… I wasn’t able to find any support for gathering power data.
I’m sure there’s a number of great apps out there that I’ve missed, or that are currently in development… It’s exciting to see this type of technological innovation going on surrounding a sport I’m passionate about!