Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not Quite A Garmin...

..but it also costs not quite $5.00.
I will admit to having had a little Garmin envy at times. I seldom need a map to find my way and sure don't need the distraction while out on the road, but sometimes one of my Garmin-equipped buddies will send me the output information from a ride, complete with maps in a variety of formats, elevation profile, total ascent and descent information, along with the more pedestrian data on distance, speed, cadence, and time information. The easily shared map and the elevation information were the features that I most wanted that I didn't have with my trusty Cateye Double Wireless. For long rides, I also sometimes enjoy being able to see speed along specific sections of the route. That said, I'm more of a numbers geek than a gadget geek and I couldn't justify dropping a few hundred bucks for something that simply quantifies what I already know. Sure, it's cool to be able to say you climbed 4827 feet on your epic ride, but "really hard" would communicate all the information you really need, or so I kept telling myself while dealing with moments of desire.
Then, while trying to decide which '70s vintage Leon Russell album I was going to buy with the $20.00 sitting idly in my iTunes account, it dawned on me that I could get an iPhone app that would likely meet my needs. OK, not only am I a cheapskate, I'm sometimes a slow learner. I've seen the ad for bar-mounted cases for iPhones in use as bike computers, but was never ready to put my phone out there in harm's way and, besides, I didn't really identify with the guys in those commercials. They looked like real nerds, and not in the positive Bike Nerd sense. It had never occurred to me until now to get an app and simply stick the phone in my pocket. Now that I was empowered with the smug confidence of having figured something out that perhaps some small percentage of my friends and readers had not, I decided to go big! No free apps or $2.99 package would do once I started incrementing up! I threw down $4.99 of hard-earned gift card credit and went for the top-of-the-price-range Cyclemeter, surely the DuraAce of its class. I fired up the app and liked the look of the display, though I always find it a little disconcerting when I enable a GPS device and suddenly see a Google Earth photo of my house with a little stickpin representing me, futilely hiding in the basement from the prying eyes of the satellites, still clutching my iPhone, of course.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the data from this ride was saved as a .png file in the photo roll on my phone. Now, I need to determine how I did that!

After my first ride with the Cyclemeter app, I compared the information with that of my Cateye and found them to be very close, which is a good thing for us numbers folks. Old Chinese proverb: "A man with one clock always knows what time it is; a man with two is never sure."

It can also send you e-mail updates of your ride data, along with links to your route maps. Here's an example:
From: "Cyclemeter" <>
Date: December 31, 2011 8:00:48 PM CST
Subject: Cyclemeter Cycle (Road) Dec 31, 2011 10:30:13 AM
Finished Cycle: Dec 31, 2011 8:00:46 PM
Route: Sat Dev 31
Google Maps URL:
Import URL:
Ride Time: 3:26:53
Stopped Time: 28:38
Distance: 53.52 miles
Average: 15.52 mph
Fastest Speed: 45.51 mph
Ascent: 1407 feet
Descent: 1330 feet
Calories: 2389

And the map:

The route can be seen in the Google Maps or Google Earth formats.

This thing can do much more than I can cover here; in fact, I'm sure I'll never use most of the functions, but here are a few features from the developer's website:

Top Reasons to Choose Cyclemeter

  • Automatic stop detection removes stopped time from your statistics.
  • Remote control using your earphone remote keeps you from fumbling with your iPhone at the start and finish.
  • All of your workouts may be viewed by route or on a calendar, and summarized by day, week, month, year, and overall.
  • Import allows you to preload routes, or import other people's workouts to compete against.
  • Export allows you to save detail and summary information in CSV, GPX, and KML formats.
  • Ghost racing lets you compete against your best, median, and worst workouts, or against imported competitors.
  • Twitter, Facebook, dailymile, and email updates enable your friends to view your progress.
  • Google Maps are updated every few minutes to keep your friends and family informed of your location.
  • Spoken comments from your friends on Twitter, Facebook, and dailymile encourage you during workouts. (Requires In App Purchase.)
  • With 5 major updates in the past year, we're working continuously to improve the application.

The ability to race against your own previous times or the performance of friends would make this a great tool. For example, some of my riding buddies have a little informal time trial going on over a specific course, each trying to beat the best posted time. This would allow vocal updates of how a cyclist is doing against his previous rides or those of his competitors. I'm anti-ear bud for the most part, but that kind of input could be motivational; kind of like Johan Bruyneel barking into Lance Armstrong's earpiece on the  team radio. You may even be able to buy Johan's voice for your prompts. Maybe not, but with another app, you can even let your friends badger you with spoken comments of encouragement or derision.
There are modes for cycling, cross country skiing, running, walking, motorcycle, and more, even including swimming. I'd need a better case for that particular mode.

I'm not promoting this app over any other, and it IS the most expensive one I could find, so you thriftier folks can try one of the free apps that offers at least the same basic functions. I'm amazed at the capabilities of the iPhone paired with $5.00 worth of software. OK, I'm bragging. It was only $4.99.


Anonymous said...

You may want to check out the strava cycling app. Simple and has a good set of features. Plus it is free.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Cyclemeter is great. I used to use mapmyride but didn't like the interface as much. That said, I ran into some trouble transferring Cyclemeter data from my iPhone 3 to my 4S. But tech support from Cyclemeter was great and I ended up getting all my data moved over just fine.

Love your blog. Such a great resource for cycling in and around Little Rock. Keep it up!

Unknown said...

Dude- I LOVE Cyclemeter. I start it and put it in my coat pocket or purse and try my best to stop it once I arrive.

I am not a stats person at all, but sometimes I'm interested in seeing how far I went.

Sometimes I just come home and put A to B on Google maps and get a general idea of how much land I covered.

Recently, I used cyclemeter to confirm my suspicion that I'm riding MUCH FASTER now that it's freezing. I don't have to hold back on my sweat threshhold and in a way, I'm going faster to get home and get myself out of this cold.

JBar said...

Funny, Julie, in that my biggest problem with Cyclemeter is remembering to turn it on and off.It's been very warm here in the homeland over the last couple of weeks, so we haven't had the NYC cold motivation. I like the e-mail feature, so I don't have to download anything to see map maps.

I know there are a lot of similar programs out there like Strava, but this is just the one I landed on.

Shannon said...

How does your iphone battery hold up? I tried the Map My Ride app once and my battery was almost gone after 15 miles. Maybe the 4S and a different app will work better.

JBar said...

I was on the bike for about 3 and a half hours and noticed no real drain on the battery. I don't really remember what the charge level was when I got in but I almost certainly would have noticed if it was dead low. Keep in mind that I just had it in my pocket and wasn't using the display.

JohnnieC said...

That ap sounds great. Are the maps pretty accurate?
I went cheap and got Trails for free and it crashes all the time (not saving any data when it does) and uses the battery up in 15 minutes.

I've got a blog and book on trails in Central Arkansas. It's not great on the biking paths, but it does have some. If you like hiking and paddling in addition to biking it might be worth checking out:

Unknown said...

This may seem incredibly outdated yet I'm wondering how you feel about the app one year on.

I've used a few (Strava, GarminFit,) and started with RunMeter several weeks ago. I feel I'm nearing a final decision point as my wrist-Garmin is about at the end of its life.
Thanks in advance for any year-on feedback you'd have.