Three bike apps for three kinds of riders

Consumer Reports News: June 06, 2012 10:08 AM

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Helmet, water bottle, and sunscreen, check. But don't forget your smart phone. If you're a bike rider, apps can help you track your speed and distance, check your routes, and even inspire you to ride faster and farther.

I'm both an avid bicyclist and a Consumer Reports lab tester (smart phones), so I tried out these three apps,which I think are quite useful for two-wheeling aficionados. All are free, though Endomondo also offers a Pro version.

Oh, and word to the wise: Make sure to keep your eyes on the road (and not on your phone screen) while you're actually riding!

MyTracks: Best for the casual rider.
Platform: Android

I found MyTracks fairly simple to use. And I liked that you can export your ride data to a spreadsheet or Google Maps, to share or save (the app was developed by Google, and so works handily with Google Maps). You can also share your ride data via Google+, Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter.

MyTracks gives you a graphical representation of your speed and elevation data. Statistics include your maximum speed, average speed, and average moving speed (which doesn't include stops for red lights and the like), elevation gain, minimum and maximum elevation, and minimum and maximum grade.

MyTracks is available only for Android phones, though. And it's very "plain Jane": It just records your data and doesn't do much to inspire you to ride harder.

Endomondo: Best for those who have specific fitness goals.
Platforms: iPhone, Android, Windows, and Blackberry

Endomondo gives you fairly detailed ride info, including how many calories you've burned. It provides individual mile times, not just overall time, and every mile, it speaks aloud your mile time and total distance.

The app also has useful social-media options to share your ride data and follow your friends' rides, on Twitter, Facebook, Withings, and Fitbit. And it can be used in conjunction with several Bluetooth heart-rate monitors, to display your real-time heart rate data on your workout screen. [http://files.endomondo.com/help/Endomondo-User-Guide-for-Android.pdf].

Endomondo lets you distinguish your bike rides as sport, transport, or mountain biking. You can also use the app for tracking a variety of activities beyond biking, including walking, running, basketball, boxing, and other sports.

Although the free version of this app is fairly full-featured, you must upgrade to the Pro version ($4) for full functionality. Endomondo Pro can display ride info in graphs, allows you to set goals, and has an "audio coach" meant to motivate you during workouts.

Strava: Best for the competitive cyclist.
Platforms: iPhone, Android

When you enter the bike routes for races, Strava can log and rate all the other Strave-using riders who go along particular sections. Your ranking on different sections is recorded, and you earn "achievements" by improving your times and moving up in the rankings.

With Strava, you can also follow your friends' profiles and receive e-mail notifications about their progress. When you're competing in the same race, this is a great way to inspire you to push just a little bit harder up that steep hill at the end of a long ride. And you can link Strave to your Facebook or Twitter account as Ill, allowing friends to follow your progress on those apps.

You can use Strava for tracking and logging your running and cross-training as Ill as for biking. Stats in this app are a bit limited; though: Strava records only your ride time, elevation gain, average speed, and maximum speed.

—David Toner

electronics_bike-apps_apple.jpg
MyTracks (left) is simple to use, great for casual riders. Strava (right) helps you hone your competitive edge.

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