May 16, 2014
There's no shortage of bicycling apps available for your smartphone. Every week I find myself reading through press releases for the latest and greatest app that will enhance your cycling experience. Here's a quick rundown on three apps I've played around with over the past month that are worth taking a look at.
I'm a big fan of keeping a basic bicycle repair manual at the ready on my smartphone. Even if you are well versed in simple repairs, sometimes a refresher is nice when you're brain isn't firing on all cylinders from a long tiring day in the saddle. The app is well organized for quick diagnosis of issues, and includes well written step-by-step instructions that are accompanied by labeled photos and a list of tools required for the job. The app is available for both Apple iOS and Android devices, and will run you a couple bucks.
If you love detailed maps but don't love hauling them around on bike tours, consider Avenza PDF maps. They have a database of thousands of maps from sources such as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, National Geographic, Backroad Mapbooks, and much more. The app is free to download, but there may be a cost associated with the maps you choose to download. Once you've downloaded a map and saved it to your library, it can be viewed on or offline. Maps are georeferenced, so you have the ability to see where you are on the map, and measure distances from one point to another. Some map vendors within the app are creating QR codes and posting them at park or route entrances. For instance, if you visit Lake Mead and see an Avenza QR code, give it a scan, and you'll be able to download their free visitors map to your device.
Avenza is to maps what iTunes is to music, or Kindle is to books. Maps are available on demand, and can be used on Apple iOS and Android devices.
No matter what kind of cycling you do, I'm a big believer in spending the time and money for a proper bike fit. The Bike Fit app doesn't replace a fit performed by a professional, but it is a good tool to use to keep tabs on your bike position, and note how subtle adjustments can change your position on the bike. Using your iPhone, take a video of yourself riding on an indoor trainer, and use the app to analyze still images of your position, and measure various body angles. You can even share this data through your social media channels to get feedback from your peers. Currently this is only available on the iPhone as a $2 app, but is a blast to use. It's especially useful if you want to try and match the fit of your old bike to a new one with similar geometry.
TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's memberservices department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh's "Fine Tuned" column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.