Of course a dedicated bike computer has a longer battery life than an iPhone particularly for long rides, but if you are just going out, it is possible to use the iPhone as a computer as long as all your devices support Bluetooth LE (as long as it’s a short ride). Here are the things to know
These run on you mobile device:
- Powertap Mobile, these speak Wifi and BLE and they have an IOS application for data logging. You can use this to record detailed power meter information and then upload it to Strava, MapMyRide or Training Peaks. This seems like the best merge of all information with the exception of gearing that Shimano provides.
- Shimano E-tube. While this is mainly a configuration application with the new wireless transmitters they speak BLE, so you could theoretically have an application that can read the gearing and battery. One cool thing is to be able to add what gear you are as you ride, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do this.
- Strava. This is the ticket, it syncs with power meters, speed and cadence as well as heart rate monitors that communicate on Bluetooth LE. It works pretty well. The main issue is that it costs extra to see real time updates and if you are using the screen, then your battery will only last three hours or so. But if you pay $60/year, you get more analytics. And also a simple set of training plans.
- Garmin Connect and Garmin Express. This is for Garmin products with Bluetooth connections (not the Garmin 800 which is ANT+ only). It runs on your phone and bails ride information up to the Garmin at connect.garmin.com
Here are some products that have Bluetooth LE and I was surprised how easily they work. Pairing does seem to work and all of these support simultaneous connection to an ANT+ device like the Garmin 800 as well as to BLE devices like an iPhone:
- Wahoo Blue SC, This works well with Strava and synced automatically.
- PowerTap P1. These pedals work fine
- Scosche Heart Rate monitor. This is another simple product.
Analytics, canned training and coaching
Finally what do you do all this data, well, you can use one of these tools. The main tricky part is getting the raw data up into these sites. here’s how and what you get after you do.
Garmin Connect. Garmin has both analytics and also training and coaching.
Strava is mainly about social networking but its mobile application to do direct upload or you can use Garmin Connect with late model hardware. Or Garmin Express if you have to plug it with USB. For extra $60/year you then get real-time analysis of the data while you are riding and a canned training from Time Crunched Cyclist so that you can make progress with as little as six hours a week of training. These are not customized but they seem to work. These are interval workouts mainly.
Training Peaks. I actually used this years ago and it has three things: a) analytics, b) canned training plans and c) a coach. You can also upload so the workflow is:
- For long rides, use your Garmin and then use Garmin Express (for older Garmin 800) but I’m not sure how you go from Garmin Express to Training Peaks or sync them from Garmin Connect to Training Peaks.
- For short rides, auto connect Strava for social sharing via an auto connect and upload from there.
- Finally, to get more detailed power information use PowerTap Mobile. You can even take your training plan and for later Garmin computers download the plan into your bike computer. If you have Mac or PC near your computer, you can use PowerAgent to do this upload.