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Best apps for a dedicated phone used as a bike computer

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Best apps for a dedicated phone used as a bike computer

Old 03-31-21, 08:48 AM
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Best apps for a dedicated phone used as a bike computer

Hi everyone. I am looking to use a dedicated phone as a bike computer rather than a specific head unit such as Garmin Edge, Wahoo or Karoo. The reasons being 1/ save money and 2/ bigger screen for a more comfortable navigation.
I am totally aware of the shortcomings with regards to battery life, shock/weather resistance and so on.
However, I am willing to test if it is a viable solution by using a brand new low end phone I have sitting around. The 2800 mAh battery is new, the screen is a 720p amoled, the phone will have a minimal setup and will just be used for this and nothing else. No apps apart from the stock ones which I will promptly remove or disable. I will stop all background tasks and if possible even turn off connectivity if the app allows offline maps. We will see how much time I'll be able to squeeze out of it. 4 hours is what I need.
I just posted on ****** for advice regarding the best apps for the job, but I didn't get any useful feedback. Only comments saying that it's a bad idea, that I will never get enough battery life, that I should buy a proper hean unit, they're big enough, screen is good enough... While I appreciate feedback that was not the advice I was looking for because I will try this myself.
So please allow me to seek advice from this forum. I would like opinions and feedback about the apps!
I want to be able to see on the same screen the map with my Strava route highlighted (I don't need turn by turn though) and a few customizable data fields (speed, HR, cadence, elevation, time...). And when needed swipe to see more data fields or a full screen map.
Here are the apps I have tried or identified so far:
Strava : shows the route but no customization of data fields, only HR sensor.
Wahoo : all sensors, map but no route
Komoot : no sensors
Ride With GPS : ticks all boxes I believe, but requires an expensive subscription to be able to download routes.
Jepster : free (but I would support the dev if I make it my primary app) and lots of features, including a climb screen which looks like climb pro on latest Garmins. Syncs with Strava routes! Frequent updates and additional features in the pipeline such as turn by turn. You can also download maps for offline use or just move the map of your ride to cache it before your ride, so a dedicated secondary phone can stay offline during the ride!.
Cadence : very customizable, free or cheap subscription, looks more polished than Jepster, but less features for now. Can import routes via GPX files. Not sure you can get them straight from Strava or Komoot though, so you need to download the GPX manually to your phone then load it. Offline maps don't seem to be an option
I had the question on ****** so let's be clear: I am not affiliated to any of the authors of both apps. Both seem great on paper but I have not tried them yet. There might be better options out there, please suggest! And again, please, only about the apps, not the concept of using a phone as a bike computer.
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Old 03-31-21, 09:03 AM
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I've never had a phone I could see adequately in bright sunlight. The reverse is true for my other devices.

Other than that, Orux maps was a good program a long time ago for me. It did way too much and was overly complicated for what I wanted at the time. But you could manually export GPS and sensor data from it to other places like RWGPS, Strava or any place that could import a .gpx or one of the other formats they could export to.

Specialized has their Ride App which does a certain amount of ride metrics and tracking. I think originally it was for their Angi crash detection device. It seems to be morphing into something more over the time I've used it for my ANGi equipped helmet.
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Old 03-31-21, 10:06 AM
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Ride with GPS. It can display data like a dedicated GPS bike computer.
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Old 03-31-21, 01:14 PM
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I like RideWithGPS.
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Old 03-31-21, 03:20 PM
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I have tried RideWithGPS in the past and paid for it for a couple of months, but I find it too expensive in the long run.

Cadnece looks cleander but Jepster syncs starred routes straight from Strava, can cache maps for offline use, has a dedicated climb screen, and it looks like Strava live segments are in the works. And it's free. On paper it pretty much nails it.
We'll see how it goes in the weekend regarding usability on the road and battery life on a dedicated phone.
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Old 03-31-21, 04:24 PM
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We like Ride with GPS, my wife and I have separate annual subscriptions. Most of our vacations have a cycling element to them. So it's a big help in unfamiliar areas.

It also integrates with Garmin Varia RTL515 radar and Garmin Connect for my Fenix watch. Works with various HRM as well.
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Old 04-01-21, 12:56 PM
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I like ridewithgps a lot. I liked the free version, and I used it enough to get the paid version. I don't remember which feature led me to upgrade, but I'm satisfied.

There are lots of downsides to using a phone, but it's what I do. One of them is that operating the controls while riding is hard. Touch screens suck when you're pedaling or even coasting.

Also, if your battery discharges, not only can't you navigate or record your ride, you also can't call for help. So on any ride longer than around 3 miles, I connect my phone to an external battery. And at this point, we are getting complicated and not necessarily saving trouble over a bike computer. But it is probably cheaper. I used a Garmin computer for a while, and the battery lasted for several rides between charges.
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Old 04-01-21, 06:48 PM
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RWGPS Basic is $50/yr....
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Old 04-01-21, 07:14 PM
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I've been using mapmyride app. I haven't imported maps, but I believe it has that ability. It does map your ride.

On the ride you can see time, distance, speed. There are other functions you can add, but those are the ones I'm interested. I don't use HR or cadence, but those can be added. I just order a HRM that has bluetooth so I can use it. My current HRM doesn't have bluetooth.

I like that when on my phone the app keeps my app from closing so the screen is always displaying the information.

At the end of the ride you can save your workout and then it will show elevation and speed during different segments of your ride.

I chose it because it was on my phone. I downloaded it a long while ago and can't say why I chose it. It is simple and works for what I need to record my rides. If I want to review my rides I can log on the website on my computer and look at the information.
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Old 04-05-21, 09:18 AM
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  • RwGPS has two tiers of paid subscription. I knew I'd be using it, and paid for the lower tier right off the bat. If you expect you'll be editing routes much, get the more expensive tier. RwGPS' key feature is reading route cues aloud. It is not like Google Maps, which will reroute you on the fly. It just lets you know that you're off-route. It lets you know quickly, too—sometimes it is a bit too sensitive. Compared to Strava, which is clearly oriented toward racers (or people who want to imagine themselves to be racers), this is a bit more oriented toward tourists and randonneurs.
  • Another app to check out is Cyclemeter. I've used the iOS version, but they also have an Android version. The free version is pretty good; the subscription version is fancier, and not very expensive. This acts more like a straight bike computer. It's a bit dated (the app has been around for a very long time) and lacks integration with other services like Training Peaks and Dropbox.
  • With both RwGPS and Cyclemeter, I think the smart thing to do is leave the screen off and have your phone read your stats aloud at regular intervals. They both offer a fair amount of customizability in this regard. Unless you've got a specific need to be monitoring your stats right now: I've tried setting up spoken zone alerts in Cyclemeter (to let me know if my heart rate is going out of range) and it was so annoying that I stopped using it after one ride. It is possible to set up spoken zone alerts for intervals in Cyclemeter, but setup is a bit tedious. There might be a better case for using these with intervals in particular so that you're not watching your screen instead of the road, and the annoyance might be worth tolerating.
  • I've gone for rides of more than 8 hours with 50% left in the tank on my phone, with the screen mostly off, using some trivial power-saving techniques. YMMV, obviously, but I think concerns over battery life are exaggerated. Especially considering how easy it is to carry a small power bank.
  • It is feasible with spoken updates to keep your phone in your pocket if you've got some kind of headset (you will not be able to depend on hearing your phone tucked into a jersey pocket). After some experimenting, I've settled on using a Quadlock mount to keep the phone handy, and an Aftershokz bone-conduction headset.
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Old 05-11-21, 07:08 AM
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Best apps for a dedicated phone used as a bike computer

I also highly recommend Ride With GPS. Per your requirements:
  1. See on the same screen the map with my Strava route highlighted — Import/Export in RWGPS is pretty good with multiple formats. I run RWGPS, and use it's navigation, and SYNC completed rides to Strava.
  2. (I don't need turn by turn though) — The FREE version doesn't have voice-enabled turn-by-turn. As mentioned, the $6 per month Basic subscription gives pretty good voice instruction. Regarding cost, RWGPS lets you suspend your subscription, so I only use it during the months I ride.
  3. and a few customizable data fields (speed, HR, cadence, elevation, time...). — All you list plus the basics are there, including the ability to link to sensors. I currently link to the Bontrager DuoTrap S speed and cadence sensors.
  4. And when needed swipe to see more data fields or a full screen map — you can do this, but I find it tough while riding to remember all the swipe sequences. UI could be better, but seeing the full map is ideal and I use it often.
  5. free or cheap subscription — As mentioned, there are 2 paid subscriptions. The lower cost Basic subscription gives voice instruction and the ability to plan routes, and the higher price subscription is for those doing more extensive route planning. Regarding cost, RWGPS lets you suspend your subscription, so you can subscribe during the months you ride, and suspend it otherwise.
  6. Import GPX files — RWGPX has a list of 5-7 import/export formats, including GPX.
Implied or Assumed or Not Mentioned & Consideration Needed
  • Use of Strava — I use RWGPS as my primary navigation and tracking solution, and syncronize completed rides to Strava. RWGPS has a number of "Connected Services" that will send ride information to other solutions. I currently SYNC to Strava and Apple Health. I am investigating a new bike computer for visible, real-time speed & other stats,
  • Multi-platform mobile: Mobile app is available for both Apple iOS and Android. Members of my team are on both Apple and Adroid phones with no issues.
  • Web interface or portal — there are some things that are just better than the phone. In particular, the calendar, stats, import/export functions. But for RWGPS, route planning on a large monitor is great. I don't care for Strava's web interface although I no longer subscribe to Strava.
  • Mounting your phone securely — To me, this is critical. All the other posts about visibility are true. Combine those with not wanting to drop the phone, and this is a priority item for me. I use and highly recommend the QuadLock system. I have mounts on 2 bikes, and keep the case on my phone. It has a "rain coat" if needed. I've used this system for years and I'm on my second phone using it, and the only changes have been the case (iPhone 6s was a different size than the iPhone XS), and I changed from the Stem Mount to the Out Front mounts.
  • I like seeing speed, cadence, (someday HR), duration, and distance while riding. You cannot keep your phone display on. It needs to be bike friendly.
    • I use a standard bike computer, and I'm looking to upgrade soon if I find something that integrates with both the DuoTrap S and my Bontrager ANT+ light system
  • Long ride battery time, especially as your phone ages.
    • I have a top tube bag for long rides and carry a power bank. The bag stays zipped and the wire plugs into the phone to recharge.
My Configuration:
  • iPhone XS running RWGPS & Strava
  • Display goes off after [1 min ±] inactivity
  • Bontrager DuoTrap S sensor, with speed and cadence sensors
  • Bontrager Ion 200 & Flare RT lights (plus the Pro RT when needed)
  • Bontrager Trip 300 bike computer (looking to replace & upgrade this
  • BlueTooth speaker in bike shirt pocket — voice instructions shared with the crowd.
  • Mounts on primary bike:
    • Bontrager Blendr has the front Ion 200 light plus the Trip 300 computer
    • QuadLock Out Front mount facing backward, positioning phone mount over the stem
  • Mounts on my old bike:
    • QuadLock Out Front Pro mount positioning phone mount out in front the stem. There is a mount slot below the phone mount for a GoPro or something else that I'm currently not using.
    • I use a Cateye Strada computer there, speed sensor only, mounted on the handlebars. It does not sync with RWGPS.
I have a library of Routes with voice instruction, Points-Of-Interest, from 10–110 miles that came in handy when training from my house during COVID. I belong to a club that uses it for their ride library. I participating in 1 major and a couple of minor events per year and they all use it. The integrations with Garmin, & Wahoo are attractive to me, but others are using Hammerhead & Lezyne computers/sensors also. From my initial use, the mapping/routing are far superior to Strava, and both RWGPS and Strava support import/export. I find RWGPS to be the best solution for using your phone as a bike computer and highly recommend it.

Last edited by Jay_D; 05-11-21 at 02:29 PM. Reason: Omitted clarification on GPX files; omitted mobile phone compatibility.
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Old 05-11-21, 09:59 AM
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I have not used the apps listed above on a phone, but have used a few of them in web version on a computer on my desk. If you want another to try for mapping and possibly routing on an android phone, try Maps.Me.

You do not need to subscribe to use it.

Maps.Me is a good android app, you can download maps offline with wifi and store them in the phone. They have tried to add routing for bicycles, I have not looked at that for over a year and a year ago the bicycle routing was quite poor, but maybe it is better now. If you try automotive routing it will try to put you on major highways, but if you are in an area where the roads are all secondary roads, the routing may work for you if you are on a bike tour.

On bike tours, this is one of two apps I look at when I am trying to decide what roads to take the next few days, but I use a dedicated GPS while actually rolling, I use this app only for planning.

I have used this app when driving my truck for routing, that worked well.
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Old 06-18-21, 12:44 PM
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I recently switched from a Moto G6 to a Moto Power 2021. I like cheap phones. By the way, on a 2 hour ride with the screen on full time, GPS active, and several sensors connected I used 18% of battery capacity, so a full day on tour should be possible. The screen can be read in bright sunlight.

For the most part the switch was totally painless. Except for the Wahoo App... My ride data was available on the new phone, but all of my profiles and sensors were GONE! Contacted Wahoo support and I was told how to configure a profile and how to connect to sensors. No seamless phone upgrade path. If I need to reload everything, it is a good time to evaluate my options. I looked at some other packages that you actually pay money for and one that was recommended here came to the top.

For the last week I have been running Cyclemeter from Abvio (abvio.com). For me it does exactly what I want. I can configure my display to show the things I want, keep the map on a separate screen that I can access if I need it, And I have an accurate record of my rides. I don't want to display my data to the whole world, and it lets me keep my data private.

For $9.99 US per year it is my new data logger.
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