5 Awesome Ways to Use Your Smartphone When Cycling
Cycling is picking up in popularity all across the world, and for good reasons. It’s better for the environment than driving a car or riding on public transportation. It’s cheaper in terms of vehicle maintenance. You don’t need a license to ride. Plus, it doubles as a form of exercise so future you will thank present you for taking the healthier route. But for most people, cycling and smartphones clash as badly as ketchup and ice cream. I’m here to convince you otherwise.
Having a smartphone with you as you cycle around town, along a well-beaten path, or even through the woods while you blaze new trails, can prove mighty useful. As you’ll see with the apps below, a smartphone can help you keep in line with local laws, track riding progress and performance, help you keep your bike in good repair, and even help you find new trails to ride.
We’ve covered biking apps for Android before, and all of those apps are great, but here are a few more creative ways to make use of your smartphone while biking. Once you start using these apps, you’ll always want your Android smartphone by your cycle’s side.
Let’s get the obvious app out of the way. Strava Cycling is a popular riding app that’s about as close to an all-in-one biking app that you’ll find. Using GPS, Strava will track your biking routes, distance, speed, elevation, and put it all on a map for you to view. Your stats accumulate and Strava will even reward you for breaking personal records. Monthly challenges and leaderboards help with motivation. It’s definitely a must-have app for any cycling enthusiast.
If, for some reason, you don’t like Strava, there are a number of alternatives that you can give a try. One of Strava’s strongest competitors is Runtastic, which comes in two versions: Road Bike and Mountain Bike. MapMyRide is another strong competitor, which tracks biking progress, calorie counts, nutrition and diet progress, and other real-time stats. For a more general purpose path tracker, you can try Google’s very own My Tracks.
AllTrails is an online service – partnered with National Geographic – that aims to maintain the largest database of outdoor trails, including those used for bikes. At the time of writing this article, the AllTrails database already contains over 40,000 different trails. Users can view and review different trails and offer their opinions on their experiences along those trails.
With the AllTrails app, you’ll be able to tap into the database and find biking trails near you at any time. When viewing a trail, you’ll be able to see the entire route on an overhead map, as well as the estimated difficulty, total distance, and elevation, so you can find the trails perfect for you. The app even works offline if you save trails locally to your smartphone before you head out the door. A must-have app for frequent outdoor bikers.
SpeedView is a simple app that uses your smartphone’s GPS to calculate your current speed when biking (or during any other activity where you’re moving around, such as driving or running). SpeedView can display your current, maximum, and average speeds with more accuracy than the speedometer in your car (according to the app description). In compass mode, SpeedView will even show you your current direction of travel.
SpeedView has a few other cool features, such as setting speed limits and notifying you if/when you break them. A real-time speed graph will display your changing speed over the last few minutes. Unfortunately, SpeedView Free is supported by ads, but you can upgrade to SpeedView Pro for $2 USD to remove them.
Ever been stuck, stranded in a lonely place, all because your bike happened to break down at the worst possible time? If not, count yourself lucky, but if you ride frequently then there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself with an inoperable bike at some point. Also, accidents aside, it’s good practice to maintain your bike regularly so you can catch looming issues before you are forced to address them on the road. That’s where Bike Repair comes in.
Bike Repair is an app that comes with over 60 different photo guides that show you how to repair various malfunctions on a bicycle. Not only that, but the app discusses many of the common pains and discomforts that riders tend to feel when a bicycle isn’t properly maintained AND how to fix those problems. And since it’s on your phone, these repairs will be with you no matter where you go.
Unfortunately, the app costs $3 USD without a free version, but you’ll save so much money down the road (by preventing problems or fixing them when they do occur) that the price tag is well worth it.
This one’s a really simple app that might even seem a bit silly to some of you. Here’s the gist of it: when you’re riding at night, you should always have an active bicycle light to alert others to your presence. You might think you’re in plain sight, but it’s hard to spot cyclers at night and a bicycle light could prevent an accident and save your life. Plus, depending on where you live, it may be unlawful to ride without a bicycle light at night (convincing an officer of the law that your smartphone is in fact a “bicycle light” remains up to you, though).
For those times when your bicycle light is broken, or you don’t have it for some reason, this app can step in. It’ll show either a white light (“frontlight”) or a red light (“backlight”) just like a real bicycle light. However, keep in mind that the light of a smartphone is nowhere near as strong as a true bicycle light, so do not use this app as a full-on replacement. When you don’t have one, it’ll work, but if you have a choice, always opt for the true bicycle light.
There you have it: a bunch of great Android apps that can turn your smartphone into a cycling tool that you’ll find immensely useful the more you use. What if you’re a newbie to bicycles? Spend some time with these bicycling websites and get yourself acquainted with cycling culture, then install these apps to make the experience that much better.
What other apps do you use when you cycle? Please share them with us in the comments!