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Cyclists are data geeks. Speed, cadence, heart rate, and elevation (feet climbed) are examples of the metrics employed to assess performance. For noticeable gains, a consistent means of tracking effort is important. Until a few years ago, expensive bike computers limited such tracking to cycling enthusiasts -- those willing to fully invest in their passion. The advent of smartphones changed the landscape for all athletes, cyclists included.
Today, cyclists carry a mini-bike computer on every ride. [Everyone carries a smartphone don’t they?] The most basic apps track bike’s progress and most will record your route. Some even pair with heart rate monitors for in-depth analysis. Moving beyond performance tracking, apps for bike maintenance, navigation, and first aid are also at your disposal. Below are a few worth checking out. All apps listed below are available on Android and iOS.
Performance Tracking: Strava may be the cycling equivalent of Pokemon Go. It is THAT addictive! In addition to tracking speed, distance and elevation, Strava offers marked courses, called segments. Segments are digitally marked stretches of road (i.e. Rock Creek Park from the Park Ranger gate to the light at 410) which allow riders to compare past efforts – of themselves and others.
Strava’s Suffer Score (subscription required) crunches your stats to provide a score which quantifies effort. Hint: The harder you ride, the higher the suffer score.
“Never confuse activity with achievement”, John Wooden said that to his basketball team. Strava allows you to ensure the same on a bike.
Also Notable: MapMyRIde and GarminConnect are popular services within the cycling community. MapMyride appeals to the newer cyclist; with just enough stats to keep one happy. Garmin, known for their GPS devices, has an online presence which predates Strava. Cycling purists favor GarminConnect and snicker at the competitiveness of Strava.
Navigation: Cycling can be a great escape, but no one likes getting lost. Whether planning a trip, searching for the nearest 7/11 or the fastest way home, bike directions from Google Maps are invaluable. Google Maps prioritize trails over streets and bike lanes over multi-lane thoroughfares. I strongly recommend listening to directions via the speakerphone if possible. Riding with earbuds can be dangerous.
Honorable Mention: RideWithGPS search capability queries previously ridden bike routes (based on other users) near you and even provides turn-by-turn directions. It’s part of their subscription service, though they offer 3-day pass -- perfect for limited use.
Safety: – Ride long enough and inevitably, you will fall. Incredibly, most bike accidents aren’t serious. Learning how to fall (don’t say the C word!) is an art. Should it happen to you, use St Johns Ambulance First Aid App to diagnose any aches. Remember, when in doubt, seek medical attention.
Also Notable: Road ID is there for you if you can’t be there for yourself. The Road ID app contains emergency contact numbers, medical information (allergies, medical history, blood- type) and even the ability to leave breadcrumbs so your loved ones can locate you. The Lock Screen mode displays pertinent information to first responders without unlocking the phone.
Bike Repair: Breaks rubbing? Chain dropping? Loose Pedal? With 58 guides and 95 tips and tricks, Bike Repair will keep you rolling. It’s not an all-inclusive how-to guide. [The app would take up all of the space on your phone to include everything! Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle is a good primer for those who read books.] When misfortune on the bike occurs and you don’t have the tool for the fix, don’t worry! Cyclists are a friendly bunch and you’re bound to run into a friendly, knowledgeable person.
Honorable Mention: YouTube is always a good source for ‘how to’. Just make sure you have the right tools. It can’t help you if you don’t have the right tools.
When in doubt, use Google Maps to find a bike shop.
Is there an app you use when riding? Add it in the comments below.