BikeBrain is one of the many, many apps that turns your iPhone into a very powerful (if somewhat large) wireless bike computer, using the phone’s GPS to show and record your speed and distance traveled, etc., and show your position on a map. Other similar apps are Strava, Cyclometer, Cyclops Mobile and Mapmyride, and we plan to review all of those in this series.
Since so many of us carry phones during rides, for emergencies if nothing else, and apps don’t add any weight ... one has to wonder about the future for makers of standard bike computers.
But BikeBrain has one function that I haven’t seen before on a bike app: an in-app camera that will geolocate photos. If you use the app to take photos or videos during a ride, the app will later show the location of the photos on a route map. What’s more, you can upload the pictures, videos, a map of the ride and other ride data to your Facebook account with a push of a button. The app even sends Facebook a link (like this one)to an interactive Google map that contains the geolocated images, so you can give your Facebook friends a fairly complete and interactive report on your ride. This is great when you want to brag about your vacation or your choice of residence.
Otherwise, in several road and mountain ride the free app seemed to do what it promises. It has very complete bike computer and mapping functions if you want to put your phone on your handlebar, or even just pull it out of your pocket occasionally to see how far you’ve gone and where the heck you are.
As I mentioned in my introduction, my preference is to use a Garmin Edge 500 (or nothing) on my handlebars and keep my phone in my jersey pocket; I’m more interested in reviewing data after a ride than during. But BikeBrain offers an array of information that old school bike computer makers could only dream of, artfully arranged. Moving between various screens is done with swipes, which is probably easily done during a ride.
Biologic, which is a sister company to the Tern folding bike brand, recently switched the app from costing $1.99 to being free. If you got the newer, free version, you can buy a $1.99 app upgrade module to make the app compatible with heartrate monitors and cadence and speed sensors that work with the Bluetooth Smart wireless protocol. If you paid for the app, the module is gratis (I did not test these accessories).
One oddity is that the app displays the vertical ascent and descent totals in miles, rather than feet, as is more common in my experience. A spokesman said, "The total ascent/descent automatically changes from feet to miles after a mile has been ascended/descended for convenience. We felt it more appropriate to culminate this into the larger unit of miles to ensure the number would fit into the screen width and for convenience."
Compatible with: Bluetooth Smart accessories
Revenue: Sales of upgraded features available via in-app purchase, sales of Biologic accessories.
App store reviews: 4 out of 5 stars, 59 reviews
First release: March 2011
Latest update: Oct. 10, 2012
BikeBrain is offered by Biologic, which sells a variety of innovative bike accessories, ranging from iPhone cases to saddles, pumps, lights and generator hubs. You can buy some of these accessories, such as handlebar mounts, speed and cadence sensors, and a long-fingered glove that works with touch screens, through the app.