iPhone Life magazine

TOP 5 BIKING APPS FOR IOS

I Love riding my bike, and I have been riding across cities on my same trusty Infinity recumbent for more than 25 years. But much has changed since the day I assembled that bike. What once required a truckload of communications and tracking equipment all those years ago, now fits comfortably in the palm of my hand. And what would have required a heavy backpack of maps, charts, repair manuals and videotapes, are now instantly accessible and stored on flash ram smaller than a postage stamp.

Since my iPhone and, more recently, my iPad, accompany me on every bike trip I take, it should come as no surprise that I have loaded them up with a cornucopia of bicycling enthusiast applications. This article takes a look at the top 5 bicycling apps that I don’t leave home without.

Bike Maps

($.99, app2.me/4123)
4.0/5.0For less than a dollar, this straightforward map utility downloads community bike trails within your riding area of interest. Riders can download over 400 maps, and it quickly found several maps for my area. Once the maps are downloaded, they can be scrolled around and pinch zoomed for closer study. While some may see Bike Maps as just a simple PDF reader indexed for bike maps, the convenience of having the safe bike paths marked out for various communities is a huge timesaver. Instead of spending hours Googling area maps specifically geared for bicyclists (not to mention the added effort of cropping and converting the relevant sections for iOS display), Bike Maps makes the process of map discovery and review an intuitive and pleasurable experience. And because Bike Maps is iPad-compatible, it takes full advantage of the iPad’s full screen real estate. Rather than constantly pinching to zoom in and out on the iPhone, the iPad is unquestionably the better platform to study travel plans using Bike Maps.

CycleComputer

($2.99, app2.me/4126)
4.0/5.0Back in the day when I took my Infinity out for its first spin, the only option for measuring real-time bike speed was to buy a pricey bike speedometer with a troublesome assembly that would hook itself into the hub of the spokes, placing drag on the wheel rotations. Worst still, this setup might only last a few weeks before succumbing to a failed internal speedometer gear or slip in the cable. Fortunately, those clunky 20th century days have been replaced by GPS radios that deliver the same details wirelessly and without the wear and tear associated with cables, crankshafts, and gears.Developer Guillaume Fleury’s CycleComputer captures time and distance while mapping out your excursions along the way. Guillaume, an avid bicyclist, is continually improving the CycleComputer with new features. Since a major upgrade was in progress at press time, I was unable to test some of the newest features. Some of these include support for Wahoo Fitness ANT+ speed/cadence sensor (wahoofitness.com) and the ability to save GPSrecorded rides and review them later on the displayed maps. Most importantly, Guillaume promises “a complete GUI redesign while staying loyal to the original concept.” Considering how much I liked the existing layouts (I am especially fond of the old school analog speedometer display), I only hope the impending improvements don’t overshadow the simplicity of the current version.

Bike Repair

($.99, app2.me/4124)
4.0/5.0This masterfully constructed bicycle repair reference covers the majority of on-the-road problems you might encounter while riding, and provides helpful, albeit infrequent, suggestions on rectifying the issues. The Problems section is presented in a categorized Q&A lookup style that allows you to quickly drill down to the answer. Many of the answers provide colorful step-by-step photos detailing the repair process. Bike Repair also has a Parts section detailing bicycle anatomy and the hardware used to make these machines roll. Messages from other Bike Repair users are occasionally updated in the app, connecting you with recent Q&A interactions and comments from other riders. A separate iPad version,Bike Repair HD ($3.99, app2.me/4125), is available, though I wish the developer had opted to make a Universal app instead of two separate products since the exact same content is available in each version. Nevertheless, Bike Repair in either format delivers the goods when it comes to a quick reference with easy-to-follow steps to resolve the majority of bike-related problems.

Pace Trainer

($2.99, app2.me/4128)
3.0/5.0Just as the name implies, Pace Trainer was made for those bicyclists and runners who are training competitively either personally or professionally. While GPS tracking is included, its main function is to record your run times across a consistent location to help determine strength and endurance improvements. Lap, pace, speed and time are the variables captured for both local analysis as well as for posting to pacetraineronline.com. One of the most thoughtful features of the app is the inclusion of a music player that has access to your device’s iTunes music library. I hope that developer BackSplash Enterprises can take this integration further by mapping my best pace times against the playlist I’ve chosen to listen to. My intuition tells me that my times will show a more noticeable improvement when listening to music with a fast beat, but it would be nice if Pace Trainer validated this hypothesis. Also, while the app’s buttons are large enough to operate, I would like to see the developer redesign the interface so that the buttons are larger. This would make it less error-prone when trying to start and stop the timer during the heat of competition.

Gaia GPS

(Lite Version: Free, app2.me/4127;
Full Version: $24.99, app2.me/252)

If there is only one app from this round-up that you may consider purchasing, let it be Gaia GPS. This gem of a mapping application was lovingly designed specifically for bikers and hikers. Rather than relying on the same Google Maps API that so many other bicycling GPS programs call upon, Gaia GPS uses topographic roadmaps from MyTopo (mytopo.com) and Open Cycle (opencyclemap.org) maps. Maps can be downloaded and stored for offline retrieval, which is especially useful in less populated areas where cell towers have yet (if ever) to be erected. These maps do a superb job of showing elevation, natural formations, paths, roads and other pertinent landmarks when traveling into unknown territory. Helpful points of interest demarcations add even more value to the datasets that Gaia GPS has to offer. Ride recordings capture speed, location and elevation for analysis on the device or for exporting via GPX files to review on a large desktop monitor. Gaia GPS is also available for the Android OS, and its presentation, file formats and GPX import/export work identically. As such, riding partners who opt for Android can experience the same level of detail and data review offered in the iOS counterpart. Overall, Gaia GPS is a must-have application that any iOS (or Android)-toting bicycling enthusiast needs to bring along for the ride.

Riding towards the future

For those with an active mobile lifestyle who love bicycling and using iOS, these applications represent the leaderboard of the marriage between these two interests. As the iOS platform continues to evolve, so too will these types of health and wellness products that integrate with the operating system. Expect to see sophisticated programs in the future that measure and record heart rate, heat index, hydration and other internal and external health markers. Always-on bicycle repair assistance may soon only require a geo-tagged real-time photo capture to solve your riding conundrums. Regardless, it’s going to be exciting times on the tech bike path ahead!