BOULDER, CO (BRAIN) — As noted in the BikeBrain app review earlier this week, there are many mobile apps that turn your smart phone into a really fancy bike computer. Cyclemeter is another one, and like BikeBrain’s geolocated photo features, Cyclemeter has a few special features that set it apart.
Voices in your head
The gee whiz feature that intrigued me was Cyclemeter’s ability to send the rider audible information through a Bluetooth headset, headphones or the phone’s speaker. You can adjust the app to send specified information at various time or distance intervals while you are riding. So for example a text-to-speech voice could tell you your average speed, culminative ascent and elapsed distance, once every hour, or once every 10 miles.
The robot voice is customizable and is a profit center for Cyclemeter’s developers. You get one voice for free and can add others for 99 cents each. There are 17 English voices, in American, British, Australian, Arabic and Indian accents. There are also eight French, four German and three Italian voices. Around the Cyclemeter offices, folks refer to "Elizabeth," a British-accented voice, as The Queen, said Steve Kusmer, the CEO of Abvio, Cyclemeter's developer.
You can always accessorize
The app gathers information from the phone's GPS, including speed, distance and altitude information. If you use accessories that measure power, cadence and/or heart rate data and share them with your phone, the app's voice can chatter away to you about those metrics as ride. Altogether you can choose from more than 150 stats.
But that data has to get into your phone somehow. There are two ways:
- If you have an older iPhone, like my iPhone 4, you can get a tiny dongle like the Wahoo Key that plugs into the phone and allows it to receive data from ANT+ accessories and power meters, like the Saris PowerTap or the Quarq power meter cranks.
- If you have the newer iPhone 4S or iPhone5, you can use the newer Bluetooth Smart accessories that talk directly to the phone without the need for a dongle. Bluetooth Smart is a new wireless protocol that competes with ANT+. It is said to use less battery power than regular Bluetooth.
I'm intrigued by the idea of getting a "heads-up" audible update on power numbers; during a hard workout it can be hard to see the little (and in my case, they are little) numbers on my Garmin. While Cyclemeter does not currently support power, the app's next update will add that feature, said Kusmer.
It’s come to this
If your internal “hang-up-and-ride-your-damn-bike-already” voice is not already screaming in your head, in your chosen voice and language, Cyclemeter makes other social interactions possible during a ride.
For example, you can inflict your ride data on a loved one in real time, by sending data at regular intervals via text or email. Or send the updates straight to Facebook or Twitter so all your admirers stay up to date.
You can even have the app read you the comments left under the Facebook posting. I'd hate to think what some of my Facebook friends' comments would sound like in Queen Elizabeth's voice.
The app allows you to listen to music via your ear piece or headphones, and will interrupt the music to share data or messages.
Last fall I did a memorable solo ride in New Hampshire using the Cyclemeter app, listening to music in a Bluetooth headset in one ear and getting occasional updates on my elapsed distance and such. While riding through a nice wooded area, I seamlessly took a work-related call from someone in China … all with nothing on my handlebars, just a phone in my jersey pocket and a wireless thingy in my ear. I was shocked how easy it was. It wasn’t how I’d like to spend every ride, and I never did it again. But the technology was impressive.
Even if you choose to forgo the audible features, Cyclemeter still has all the usual bike computer features one would expect. It shows and records ride data, shows your position and your route on a map. It tallies weekly and monthly totals and can export ride data in various formats, including formats compatible with Strava.com and dailymile. You can share ride data via Facebook, Twitter or email and send ride information straight to your Mac’s iCal calendar.
Cyclemeter also is the first app to work with Wahoo's forthcoming RFLKT computer. The RFLKT, which we plan to review when it's available early next year, is a small handlebar mounted computer that acts like a remote control and remote screen for an app in your phone. So you can keep the phone in your pocket and see the app data on your handlebars.
Cyclemeter doesn't offer in-app geolocated photos, like BikeBrain, or segments, like Strava's app and website. But it has about any other feature you might want a bike app to offer.
You get what you pay for
While many bike app alternatives are free or cost 99 cents on the Apple App store, Cyclemeter is a bit more at $4.99. But Kusmer said the intent with Cyclemeter was to offer as many features as a $300 Garmin computer, in a $5 app. The company has a spreadsheet on its website comparing the app's functions and costs to a Garmin, Strava and MapMyRide. And he noted that Cyclemeter is cheaper than Strava.com's $60 annual premium subscription (Strava also offers a free subscription option). And Kusmer said the company offers better support than most developers of free or 99 cent apps.
"We take good care of our customers, we respond to emails within a couple of hours usually," Kusmer said. He said the app has more than 1.1 million users.
Compatible with: ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart accessories.
Revenue: Higher-than-usual purchase price and in-app purchases of voices.
App store reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 4,798 reviews
Latest update: September 21, 2012