Regardless of what circles they run in, or how long they’ve been on a bike there are always cyclists who could either use a little bit of extra knowledge in the repair department, or are somehow completely mechanically disinclined. I’ve seen friends stranded trail-side without a clue on how to get rolling again as well as those who attempt repairs only to end up with their bike worse off than when they started… Well finally it can be said that “there’s an app for that.”
BikeDoctor is the brainchild of avid cyclists Andreas Kambanis (London Cyclist Blog), Ron Forrester (Cychosis App) and Ian Fuller (Cycle Hire App). The fact that this is an app for cyclists from cyclists is pretty evident – All the repairs I referenced were exceedingly straight forward and easy to follow. In my opinion the app’s audience is definitely those whose mechanical wherewithal is leaning more in the mid to low direction. Clear, simple, step by step instructions will ensure that almost everybody will be able to complete the repair successfully, but I’ll admit, despite considering myself fairly competent at everyday repairs, I found BikeDoctor a handy reference… And it’s available for both iPhone and Android.
But, in a land of $.99 apps, $4.99 seems pretty rich… Is BikeDoctor worth it?
- The language is very straight forward and easy to follow
- A good spectrum of repairs ranging from simple (ie. flat repair) to moderately complex (ie. wheel truing)
- Photos are clear and aid understanding
- Really nice to have this as an app – on hand at all times
- 25 solid repairs at the time of review
- Constantly being updated – Even as I was testing it, disc brake replacement was added. I would anticipate that as this app matures it’s value will become even more justified
I didn’t really find any full-out “cons”, but I did think of a number of ‘enhancements’ that could enrich the app:
- Video – It would be nice to cater to different learning styles… Personally I only like video tutorials in some instances and generally prefer reading, but for some repairs this might be nice, and would further substantiate the $4.99 price tag (though it would increase the app size, not to mention drain your battery).
- Diagnostic – It might be nice if there was a way to determine problems with the bike based off some sort of diagnostic tool, rather than trying to find a suitable repair under the menu. For example if your chain was skipping between cogs on your cassette, most people might look for a “cassette repair” when the easiest solution may be to twist the adjustment barrel by the shifter. If I interpret BikeDoctors to-do list correctly this is already in the works.
- Start Screen – Maybe it’s just me, but I though it would be more intuitive to start the screen with a picture of the bike, rather than a list of the repairs. This could just be personal preference though… Maybe it could just be a preference setting in the app?
- Navigation – Right now you can navigate between steps using very clear “Prev” and “Next” buttons, but it might be nice to do away with these in favour of a ‘swipe.’ Could just be me though.
- Emergency Repairs – All of the current repairs assume that you have all the tools you could potentially need, but what happens when you slash the sidewall of your tire and a bear ate your spare tube?!? Though definitely not high on the list, it might be nice to have some more ‘oh shit’ repair classifications… Like filling a flat tire with leaves and grass to at least make your bike (somewhat) ridable as you limp home, or converting your bike into a single speed, resulting from a shredded derailleur.
- Repair kit – Though this can readily be found elsewhere, it would be nice for BikeDoctor to have some sort of recommended ‘toolkit’ that all of the ‘trailside’ repairs can be completed with.
As I mentioned above there seems to be a solid commitment from the BikeDoctor team to constantly evolve the app. Some of the ideas they’ve mentioned on their blog:
- A monthly bike maintenance schedule that can automatically be added to your calendar/push notifications
- More repairs
- More roadie repairs – Staring with taping the handlebars and brake replacement
- An iPad version
- Quiz that helps you discover the problem with your bike
- “On the road” repair tips if you don’t have all your tools with you
- Way of keeping track of the maintenance you have done
- More languages (German, Chinese, Greek etc..)
The Bottom Line
To be honest, whether this app is worth the $4.99 price tag depends entirely on you… If for a second you doubt your ability to solve trailside problems and get you bike up and running again, or are looking to save some bucks on regular maintenance (you do maintain your bike regularly, don’t you? ;-), then BikeDoctor is definitely going to fit the bill. While not a comprehensive compendium of bicycle repair (yet) it will definitely guide you through most of what you’ll need to know to keep you bike healthy and happy. If you’re pretty competent with a wrench and already do most of the regular maintenance on your bike then in it’s current state it’s likely to be a bit of a disappointment – though, as the app evolves and content is added this may change. I should also mention that this app is heads and shoulders above the other ‘repair’ apps that I sampled.
Now, I must caveat all this with my feelings that no app is a replacement for having a good relationship with your local bike shop or a good mechanic!! Unless you’re truly fluently versed in all aspects of bicycle repair, your ride (and your safety) can definitely benefit from professional attention at least a couple times a year!