Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Measuring Up

While there are many bike computers, power meters, and smart phone apps available for the cyclist, I do not really need any special device to tell me how slow I am on a bike. I am slow. For example the other day on the way home from work, I had been pushing hard into a headwind through Marina Del Rey and across the causeway. When it is windy, and it usually is at this time of year, I like to go kind of hard just to get it the westward sections of the ride over with. Once I turn South on the bike path the wind is most often out of the west north west and gives a little push home.

Anyhow I was taking it easy after a bit exertion on the causeway when a rider passed me at a good clip. He nodded a greeting and slipped by. Then I heard another rider behind me. It was my friend The Blue Rider. We see each other from time to time and sometimes he will slow down and we talk bikes and life and work. He smiled and asked "Shall we follow?" Meaning of course, catching the first guy and giving him a friendly race. "Sure, I'll try." With that we were off. Well actually, my friend The Blue Rider was off. He quickly caught "Rider A" on the incline to the parking lot and passed him. I however, was still humping it up the hill. Turning on to the straightaway along the parking lot, I could see them already at the other end. No way. While rider A had what looked like a proper modern multi-geared bike, The Blue Rider is still sporting a steel single speed, much like what I push along on. No excuses, I am not fast.

To prove this point I recently purchased the "Cyclemeter" app from Abvio LLC for my "smart phone". I have never had a bike computer or a speedometer before. In the past I have tried to gauge my speed by counting my pedal strokes per minute and using one of the online calculators to figure out my speed. This works well on a single speed. It gives you an idea of what your average speed might be at a comfortable cadence. Really that is fine for me. However, the one thing I had always wondered was the exact distance I have been going. There is the "Map My Ride" site that allows you to draw out a route, but it is a little funky and sometime it wants to put you on the next street over or not really finding the bike path. For over two years I have been wondering and saying it is about 15 miles.

According to the "Cyclemeter" app, it is about 15 miles, 15.35 to be more exact. For $4.99 Cyclemeter measures and calculates quite a bit of data. Some of it seems more accurate and interesting than others. For example sometimes the elevation jumps wildly dropping me below sea level or up 100 vertical feat. This can be seen in the graph mode that displays the peaks and valleys of your speed and elevation over the course of your ride. Another mode gives splits for each mile. with average speed, top speed, calories burned, and overall time. Since it has no way of measuring head wind, the calories burned must be a ballpark figure. I can tell you that you will be burning a lot more fuel riding at 15 mph into a 15 mph wind, than going 16 mph with a tailwind. There is also a map function that shows your route with markers at each mile. All cool stuff. The kind of stuff bike dorks like.

The first time you use the app, you need to put it in stop watch mode and name the route you are about to set out on. This route is then stored and each time you ride that route again, you can select it and the Cyclemeter calculates and compares your performance. This is cool as well. One of the settings is "stop detection" This is great for commuting, it does not include stops like traffic lights, helping folks with flat tires, or paramilitary encounters into your speed average. This give you a more accurate account of average riding speed while still calculating your overall time.

There are a number of features I have never used on this app. It can post your stats as e-mails, on Facebook, and Twitter. I pledge now to never annoy my "friends" with a daily account of my ride. That is exactly what is wrong with FB... "got up this morning and trimmed my cuticles"... I don't want to know. No one wants to know how much I suck.

It supposedly has internal voices that will tell you how slow you are going. I think you put in headphones for that. I do not ride with anything in my ears and my own internal voice tells me I suck anyway. The other thing is I mostly keep my phone in my bag so I have no idea what this app looks like while riding. I think it has a live speedometer. I'll have to look sometime.

So here it is, my first review as a blogger: The "Cyclemeter" for $4.99 it does a lot of stuff. I personally don't care to use it very often. I don't like having to measure up all of the time. After all I am just riding to work. However it can record data showing how equipment changes, can effect your ride. Recently I was able to measure the difference on switching over to a clipless pedal system. I t seems I am able to ride an average 2 mph faster with SPD pedals and shoes. I guess measuring up makes the Bike Dork happy after all.

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