Sunday, May 13, 2012

Smart phone + app + bike mounting > bike computer

I recently took possession of a new Nokia Lumia 800, thanks to work, and immediately thought it would make a great replacement for my Veloset GPS 600 bike computer. Hearing Windows Phone didn’t have many apps, I thought I’d have to write my own biking app, but it turns out there are already a couple available, both free.

The first is MapMyRide. This initially seemed pretty good, but it has one fatal flaw, it lets the phone go to sleep. If you want to look at the map as you ride it is pretty tricky. You really don’t want to be fiddling with your phone when you’re riding.

Next up is MyBikeMap, which has one big advantage in that it doesn’t let the phone sleep, so I can look at my map all the time during my ride. It’s also well designed, with a simple user interface and showing just the pertinent information on the screen displayed when riding. It’s not perfect, my main complaint is the lack of support for miles, but it’s hard to complain too much when it’s free and it does most of what I want.

The final piece of the puzzle is something to attach the phone to my bike. I went for this mounting, primarily because it came up first on a Google search. The phone fits it perfectly and I was pleased to realise I could leave the zip open slightly to still have access to the buttons and I was able to use the touch screen through the plastic cover. But it does have a somewhat major problem as I found out today. Although the coupling between cover and bracket on the bike is perfectly adequate when riding on a road, if it gets a jolt then the cover (and the phone) can go flying. And you might not even notice until you look down some time later.

The design of the mounting is kind of weird, the cover is attached to the bracket not once but twice. One of these couplings is pretty secure, but the other isn’t. So the solution I’ve come up with is to glue the weaker coupling and I’m hoping this solves the problem. But you may want to consider this issue before purchasing this mounting.

But other than the teething problems, I’m pretty happy with this set up. It’s great to have a map in front of me as I ride, since it gives me much more opportunity to try heading off down a road or track that I don’t know without worrying about getting completely lost. And it makes me think the market for high end bike computers may not last much longer. Why spend £200 on one of them when a smart phone can do the same job? 

No comments: