Bicycling with Android

One of the things I was hoping to use my G2 for was tracking my bike rides, and to that end I’ve tried a variety of apps. (Unfortunately for the purposes of this post, I don’t remember all of them, and have uninstalled most of them.) So far, the two best of the bunch have been Strava & My Tracks. Strava has the better start/stop interface, and My Tracks tracks more of the data that I’m interested in. Specifically, I want to know my max speed, and I like the graph comparing speed with incline.

But I’m still only likely to use them when for whatever reason my trusty old cyclometer isn’t available…even though my cyclometer doesn’t map my ride or export it or post it to the internet. Because it has a nice mount on my handlebars, doesn’t have to be woken up or wait for a gps signal to start, and I don’t have to remember to stop it manually when my ride is over. And most of the time, I know what my route looked like, since probably 90% of my rides are to work or to the grocery store.

I’ve even got my own online tracking setup, integrated in the same site where I (usually) track my weight & sleep and keep a daily journal, which I built myself in Drupal. So when I wanted to make myself a list of which rides were commutes so I could more easily report that for work, I could add a checkbox and write a view in what I’m pretty sure was less than an hour. I can sort my rides by distance, time, max speed…not yet average speed though; I’m waiting for a patch to a module. Plus I can make notes about the ride: interesting things I saw, the weather, etc. And it takes just a couple of minutes; usually I record the day’s cycling stats off of the cyclometer just before bed.

So I guess it’s a higher hurdle than I expected, for a cycling app to be better than the cyclometer I’ve been using for 5 (?) years!

(I’m still interested in recommendations, though, if anybody’s using something they really like.)

Update: one other feature that none of the apps have that I love on my cyclometer: a thermometer. I don’t use it for tracking, but it’s nice to know the temp as I’m riding.

2 Replies to “Bicycling with Android”

  1. I’m an iPhone guy, but the concept is similar. I use RunKeeper on my iPhone (which is available on Android also). I like it because it gives some nifty reports, and also is a bit social. I often times ride with Ancilla, so I can just say that she rode with me and it shows up on her profile without her having to record it herself, which is handy. And now it integrates with Fitocracy, if you are into that sort of thing (I don’t know if I am, I just got a Fitocracy account today so have no idea how to use it).

    It gives a nice graph comparing elevation and speed, which is kind of fun to see. It can track a ton of other stuff I have no interest in tracking (such as weight/bmi/etc), but if you are into that it looks pretty beefy. Can be used for tracking all sorts of activity, not just biking.

    I’ve tried Map My Ride, and was severely unimpressed.

    Overall I think the biggest problem with these apps is that they drain battery so severely. Maybe it’s not as bad on an Android, but on an iPhone the GPS really sucks the battery down. So anymore I have my route already saved, so I just tell Runkeeper that I did my regular route and it tracks it, and I estimate the time.

    I had a cyclometer for a while, but after comparing it to what RunKeeper was telling me, it was pretty obvious the cyclometer was completely inaccurate above 15 mph. It also had a bad habit of resetting itself and defaulting to the wrong size tires (which would then throw all the numbers off). I did love the temperature reading though, it was more accurate than on my phone.

  2. I’ve found that my cyclometer is pretty close to all the apps I’ve tried on distance and speed. The damn thing is bombproof too: I’ve dropped it more times than I can count.

    Honestly, I haven’t been terribly interested in “social” ride tracking, altho I guess comparing with you and Ancilla could be fun. 🙂 There was a site I used to use where I was on a Metafilter team, but I haven’t done that in ages; it was fairly stagnant in its development IIRC.

    The battery life with GPS hasn’t been too bad. I used Strava on the outbound leg of one of last week’s river rides, and had the GPS on all day, got home with battery life to spare. (FWIW, the latest Android OS update has hugely improved my battery life.)

    And it looks like I tried out RunKeeper 7 months ago, maybe I’ll go fuss with it again.

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