Hit the trails with your iPhone or iPad.
When it comes to bicycling, there are a broad range of iPhone-compatible hardware options available. From devices that protect your iOS device from dust and puddles on the trail to gadgets that keep your iPhone fully charged by converting energy from a dynamo (a small electrical generator attached to the bike's wheel), the choices are considerable. Here, I'll highlight some of the most notable options available today.
Capturing Important Data
Whether you are cycling for fitness or recreation, it is interesting to discover how many times you moved your legs to get from one place to another. The Speed and Cadence Sensors ($69.99) from Wahoo Fitness provide wireless bike pedometer and speed measurements via an easy-to-install button. While various biking apps for the iPhone measure speed and distance by GPS, these waterproof sensors offer much more accurate engineering for precise cycling measurements. Each contains a replaceable battery so you don't have to remember to charge the device before each ride (power is only required when the pedal is in motion). The free Wahoo Fitness iPhone app provides an adequate means of retrieving and displaying data captured by the sensors. Moreover, because they support the Bluetooth smart wireless communication protocol, they are compatible with dozens of third-party cycling apps as well as Wahoo's own free apps.
For those riders who prefer to remain focused on their bicycling performance or fitness levels, Wahoo has also created the ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer ($329.99). While some may feel that a good biking app running on the iPhone could replace this bike computer, there are several advantages to using the ELEMNT instead. First, it is designed for bikers and its weather-resistant housing and easy-to-read display (especially in bright direct sunlight) are better than anything an iPhone can provide. Second, because it is a Bluetooth device, you can pair it with an iPhone to relay messages and performance data without having to expose the iPhone to the elements or the intense vibrations that could affect the iPhone on a bumpy road trip. Best of all, the ELEMNT is optimized to work with Wahoo's Speed and Cadence sensors so all three work in unison while still capturing all the pertinent riding information that can be transferred to and displayed on your iPhone or home computer.
Carrying Your Gear
While there are dozens of great iPhone bike mounts I could feature here, I'd like to put the spotlight on iPad support for a change. Mounting an iPad to your bike gives you the satisfaction of having a substantially larger screen surface to review map details, real-time biking statistics, and other information. TOPEAK, one of the best-known companies among bicycling enthusiasts, has addressed this market need with its Tablet Dry Bag ($59.95) for the iPad Mini. The bag, which can be anchored to the bike via Topeak's QuickClick Fixer 9 Handlebar Mount, is well constructed and sealed to prevent dust and other elements on the road from clogging up and waterlogging your iPad.
TOPEAK also makes a rail-system-based saddlebag called the MTX TrunkBag DXP ($124.95) that can accommodate larger tablet sizes as well as other gadgets and items you bring along on your ride. The MTX TrunkBag's expandable and water-resistant side panels are large enough to contain not just an iPad, but all its gear too. There is also plenty of space within the main bag for power adapters, cables, and other supplies to keep your device ecosystem fully portable.
Charging Your Devices
When I first began looking into charging options, I had the hope of being able to use my bike light dynamo to generate enough power from wheel rotation to charge my device. Not only would I be doing my part to save the planet while staying fit, I would also arrive at my destination with my iPhone fully charged. The designers at Cinq5 helped me fully realize this dream.
The Cinq5 Plug III ($199) is essentially a power plug that mounts on your bike's handlebars and provides power to any device with a traditional USB connection. Simply wire The Plug III to an existing bicycle dynamo and start pedaling. The Plug III cleans up and amplifies the electrical input, and provides continuous power to your iPhone. Its corrosion-resistant aluminum housing protects it from harsh riding conditions. Riders can pedal at a comfortable cadence to power devices instead of the high intensity required by less capable converters.
For those cyclists who would rather rely on traditional external battery-powered chargers, but are flummoxed by the inability to mount most of these brick-like enclosures onto your bike, Cinq5 has also created the Smart Power Pack II ($139). Unlike traditional external battery chargers, the Smart Power Pack II is predominantly for cyclists. In addition to the USB charging ports at one end, the cylindrical shape also includes a bright LED flashlight at the opposite end. The device is both a headlamp and a charger in a sleek, easy-to-mount package, making it an ideal handlebar accessory. The lamp can last up to three days with a full charge; and like the Plug III, the weatherized housing is anodized aluminum to keep it safe from corrosive elements. The Power Pack also features an integrated backup rear light to help provide additional safety and visibility during those late night rides, and the flashlight can even blink an SOS signal in case of an emergency.
And while this article has focused entirely on the hardwareside of biking with your iPhone, it goes without saying that there are a number of excellent bicycling-centric apps available from the App Store. One of my current favorites is the Cyclemeter GPS app (free, with in-app purchases). Unlike other bicycling apps, Cyclemeter doesn't force you to create a web-based account that ultimately spams you with unwanted marketing emails. Besides, Cyclemeter is an excellent, comprehensive biking app that utilizes the hardware capabilities of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
iPhones and iPads are natural travel companions, and the manufacturers featured in this article allow bicycle enthusiasts to actively use these devices while cycling and keep them safely secured along the way. Whether you're out for a quick ride to the store or biking across a state (such as Iowa's famous RAGBRAI), these iOS-optimized choices convert your iPhone or iPad into a helpful riding companion along the way.
Mike Riley, a professional software developer and emerging information technologist, is the author of Programming Your Home, published by Pragmatic Bookshelf. Mike is also a contributing editor and author of hundreds of technical articles and reviews for a number of popular technology publications. For more information, contact Mike via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @mriley.