Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cheaper alternatives

For those that love analysing data and measuring absolutely every aspect of a ride, there are a plethora of various devices that you can strap to your bike and later hook up to your computer to upload your ride.

It all started with the humble cycling computer that displayed your speed, distance and time. Then came the computers that included your cadence and even came in wireless options. Some models then started to record your heart rate and use this to estimate the number of calories that you burn while you exercise. Following this, computers that contained a barometer could record your altitude and give you a profile of your ride at the end. This then expanded into the realm of GPS to allow you to accurately record your ride and map it out for you afterwards. Now you can mount a full map and navigation system  to your bike so you never get lost.

More recently, I have noticed a large number of cyclists that have decided to mount video cameras to their bikes and record rides. I’m not sure if this is to catch out aggravated drivers that decide to cut a cyclist off or drive dangerously close, or if it is simply to capture footage of a ride and post it on YouTube for the world to see. Either way, it’s getting to the point where people need extensions on their handlebars to accommodate all of the gadgets they use... computers, heart rate monitors, video cameras, lights, higher powered lights with battery packs etc etc etc.

All of these gizmos don’t come cheaply either... $649 for a Garmin computer with Maps and heart rate. Then it’s another $400-600 for a video camera plus more for a memory card and software. Then it’s even more $$ for a protective case and bike mount!!! What really baffles me, is that most people carry a device with them that already does all of this plus more. Imagine if you already had a device that could map your rides, record your HR, cadence, speed, etc, give you directions, sync with a power meter, record video footage, play music for you AND you can make phone calls on it!!!

The humble iPhone is already able to do this, yet people spend a fortune on other devices to do the same thing! Garmin has just released an App called ‘Garmin Fit’ that records all of your time, distance and GPS fields.

For around $50, you can get the Garmin iPhone adapter. This little chip allows the iPhone to communicate with wireless ANT+ devices like HR monitors, cadence sensors and Power Meters.

The reason a lot people don’t like using an iPhone as a cycling computer is because it’s quite big and most mounts on the market are, well, butt ugly. Topeak has just released an iPhone mount called the ‘Ride Case’. It screws into the steerer tube top cap and even tilts up and down so that if you want to record video footage of your ride, you can. For only $50, it sure beats a $500 camera.

So for about $170 in total, you can get the software, adapter, HR monitor, cadence sensor and bike mount. If you were to get these devices separately, it would be over $1000!!!

Despite already having an iPhone and knowing about these cheaper alternatives... I still have a separate Garmin.

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