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Key features missing from all free bicycle apps?

Old 09-19-22, 02:36 AM
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SkinnyLad
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Key features missing from all free bicycle apps?

I've been through a lot of bicycle tracking apps and they all seem to be missing the features I'd find most useful. The best one that I've tried is Cyclemeter. Although a very good app for what it does, the free version seems to lack relevant (for me) visual feedback during rides that tells me how I fare on a particular route (relative to previous rides). What I'd want is a very simple and lightweight tracker/recorder of routes that can show me in real time how many seconds or so I am from my average/max on a particular track AND some specific part of it. The ability to insert checkpoints and partition the track (segments, I think some paid apps call them) and follow up on their stats is missing from every free app that I've tried and this feature is THE point of a bicycle racing app in my mind, otherwise I can just use a stop watch and do the math myself as a post workout wind-down.

Everybody wants something different but I'm puzzled there isn't a free app with this focus. I happen to know a software developer who may be willing to create something simple for android but there could already be a perfect app out there on google play and I've missed it. Doesn't have to be bike specific. The criteria is:

- Free or ad-based with no unnecessary data collection or signups
- Ability to record tracks/routes and insert checkpoints (google maps not required, just show me the layout and where I stand)
- Simple UI with some saved stats cleverly designed for "race against time" rides

Everything else is really superfluous to the way I exercise. Maybe all of this is already in Cyclemeter but I can't find it. As I said, that would be an OK app if I could follow up different track segments and have a differently customized UI during rides. Is anybody else looking for something similar?
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Old 09-19-22, 07:34 AM
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How would the app know if you are on a specific 'track'? Maybe you are on it for half the time then turn and go to a different street. Is it still tracking you on that 'track'?

Garmin allows you to load a route onto the GPS and about 30 popular segments you like, then you can track them live as well as after. Garmin Connect is free, though you need a Garmin GPS unit.
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Old 09-19-22, 07:46 AM
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Sounds like Strava live segments, except free. I don't think there's a free alternative, no.
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Old 09-19-22, 08:07 AM
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We have got enough motorist distracted by their cell phones while driving. Do we need cyclist to be distracted with too much real time info about their ride?

Maybe that's why I have so many cyclist on the MUP coming at me in my lane and apparently not seeing me till they get too close.
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Old 09-19-22, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
How would the app know if you are on a specific 'track'? Maybe you are on it for half the time then turn and go to a different street. Is it still tracking you on that 'track'?
With the GPS unit on the phone, the same way Cyclemeter works. You first record a route and each time you revisit that specific route/track your performance is measured and compared to previous rides. You're not supposed to deviate, but can pause the tracker if you have to stop momentarily for some reason. This is strictly for predefined exercise routes of certain lengths, not casual riding.
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Old 09-19-22, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
The criteria is:

- Free or ad-based with no unnecessary data collection or signups
- Ability to record tracks/routes and insert checkpoints (google maps not required, just show me the layout and where I stand)
- Simple UI with some saved stats cleverly designed for "race against time" rides
Oh, is that all?
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Old 09-19-22, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
We have got enough motorist distracted by their cell phones while driving. Do we need cyclist to be distracted with too much real time info about their ride?
This is precisely why a smart UI layout is so crucial. You need to get the right feedback clearly visible from where you mount your phone on the bike, with a minimum of distractions, maybe with audible signals indicating if you "make" or "miss" a checkpoint, that is if you've fallen behind your recorded average for that stretch.
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Old 09-19-22, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
This is precisely why a smart UI layout is so crucial. You need to get the right feedback clearly visible from where you mount your phone on the bike, with a minimum of distractions, maybe with audible signals indicating if you "make" or "miss" a checkpoint, that is if you've fallen behind your recorded average for that stretch.
I know what times I've been hitting certain points on my routes. So just looking briefly at my timer, I know if I'm ahead or behind what my previous rides have been. And a glance at the timer prior to starting a segment and when finishing a segment also lets me know how well I did that segment.

However for the most part, I get the most by doing a post ride review of my ride and comparing the data with other segments. I suppose you are wanting such info to give you incentive to go harder. But seems like there should be a better way than being focused on your device no matter how well the UI is laid out. Perhaps you should ride with peers that are ever so slightly better than you.
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Old 09-19-22, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
Is anybody else looking for something similar?
Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
This is strictly for predefined exercise routes of certain lengths, not casual riding.
In all seriousness, what you're asking for is a half-assed way of going about a workout. What you describe is available via Live Segments on Strava, which requires a paid membership and a compatible device (I'm not sure if the mobile app will do it; I use a dedicated bike computer). What you really want is to get yourself a power meter so that you can actually track effort, which is less wishy-washy than results over a certain segment.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
I've been through a lot of bicycle tracking apps and they all seem to be missing the features I'd find most useful. The best one that I've tried is Cyclemeter. Although a very good app for what it does, the free version seems to lack relevant (for me) visual feedback during rides that tells me how I fare on a particular route (relative to previous rides). What I'd want is a very simple and lightweight tracker/recorder of routes that can show me in real time how many seconds or so I am from my average/max on a particular track AND some specific part of it. The ability to insert checkpoints and partition the track (segments, I think some paid apps call them) and follow up on their stats is missing from every free app that I've tried and this feature is THE point of a bicycle racing app in my mind, otherwise I can just use a stop watch and do the math myself as a post workout wind-down.

Everybody wants something different but I'm puzzled there isn't a free app with this focus. I happen to know a software developer who may be willing to create something simple for android but there could already be a perfect app out there on google play and I've missed it. Doesn't have to be bike specific. The criteria is:

- Free or ad-based with no unnecessary data collection or signups
- Ability to record tracks/routes and insert checkpoints (google maps not required, just show me the layout and where I stand)
- Simple UI with some saved stats cleverly designed for "race against time" rides

Everything else is really superfluous to the way I exercise. Maybe all of this is already in Cyclemeter but I can't find it. As I said, that would be an OK app if I could follow up different track segments and have a differently customized UI during rides. Is anybody else looking for something similar?
It could relate to the word free. If you substitute the words paid or pay, you might find an app that does what you want.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:05 AM
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be thankful there are free apps out there, you get what you pay for.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:37 AM
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Somehow, I'm still amazed. I shouldn't be, but I am. Somebody puts a ton of hard work into creating something of value - in this case, it's software. They take it from a thought to a prototype to a working solution - which the vast majority of us could never do. They go through hoops of fire to get the app approved on this-or-that appStore. They wrestle with cybersecurity, software patching, a usually painful SDLC, someone else's operating system, networking, messaging protocols, somebody's cloud hosting costs and another one hundred hassles to get a piece of interesting, useful piece of software into a user's hands. Then the user looks and says "it should be free." Well, that's just childish. Grow up and pay for your tools, pay for the labor of others, stop looking for a handout.
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Old 09-19-22, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
Somehow, I'm still amazed. I shouldn't be, but I am. Somebody puts a ton of hard work into creating something of value - in this case, it's software. They take it from a thought to a prototype to a working solution - which the vast majority of us could never do. They go through hoops of fire to get the app approved on this-or-that appStore. They wrestle with cybersecurity, software patching, a usually painful SDLC, someone else's operating system, networking, messaging protocols, somebody's cloud hosting costs and another one hundred hassles to get a piece of interesting, useful piece of software into a user's hands. Then the user looks and says "it should be free." Well, that's just childish. Grow up and pay for your tools, pay for the labor of others, stop looking for a handout.
But, but, but - they've got a friend that could throw together something simple!
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Old 09-19-22, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
Somehow, I'm still amazed. I shouldn't be, but I am. Somebody puts a ton of hard work into creating something of value - in this case, it's software. They take it from a thought to a prototype to a working solution - which the vast majority of us could never do. They go through hoops of fire to get the app approved on this-or-that appStore. They wrestle with cybersecurity, software patching, a usually painful SDLC, someone else's operating system, networking, messaging protocols, somebody's cloud hosting costs and another one hundred hassles to get a piece of interesting, useful piece of software into a user's hands. Then the user looks and says "it should be free." Well, that's just childish. Grow up and pay for your tools, pay for the labor of others, stop looking for a handout.
tell me about it. i wrote a program that runs on windows in order to control a smart trainer and made it available via a post here way back when. a couple of requests came in for a change here or a change there and i did it. i don't recall if the changes were ever to the requester's satisfaction or even being thanked for it. i just won't do that anymore. i don't care if it ever gets used by anyone other than myself.
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Old 09-19-22, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I know what times I've been hitting certain points on my routes. So just looking briefly at my timer, I know if I'm ahead or behind what my previous rides have been. And a glance at the timer prior to starting a segment and when finishing a segment also lets me know how well I did that segment.
Yeah, that's precisely what I try to do as well but it gets a bit tricky when you have say three standard rides 10-30km, each divided into 4 natural stretches that you'd like to keep track of. Or it does so for me at least.

Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
However for the most part, I get the most by doing a post ride review of my ride and comparing the data with other segments. I suppose you are wanting such info to give you incentive to go harder. But seems like there should be a better way than being focused on your device no matter how well the UI is laid out. Perhaps you should ride with peers that are ever so slightly better than you.
Your spot on with the psychological point, I need that incentive to shave a few seconds of my times every now and then. Existing apps are quite good at giving you post ride analysis and numbers though. Some even have those green dots from previous rides that you can "chase" but I'm after something slightly different. Because of my schedule and life situation I'm mostly on my own when exercising, sadly.
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Old 09-19-22, 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger View Post
be thankful there are free apps out there, you get what you pay for.
I am, and I agree, and I'm not saying I should be handed anything for free. I'm investigating if there is a "free-to-download" app with the functionality I'm looking for somewhere. These apps are not really free, you pay by exposing yourself to advertisers. This is maybe the predominant app model on Android today and is often the only way an independent developer can make a few quid of their product on Google Play. I dislike ads with a passion but whenever possible I always try to support small time developers instead of big companies. I've been told that some apps are hard to find though because of how the search system works.
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Old 09-20-22, 04:22 AM
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But the author needs to get money to pay for the work somehow. If you don't want to give them $$, then you need to give them something else like advertising revenue. I assume Stravas business model is advertising and critical mass - Strava premium has value because everyone else is on Strava .

Any half decent app will take a dozens (or realistically hundreds or thousands) of hours of work to produce (at least twice, for Android and Apple), publish and maintain. Anything involving persistent data will also require some kind of host, storage and backup.

If it's using mapping, it almost certainly needs someone to pay for access to the maps, too.

That simple idea, which is essentially Strava segments, will cost someone at least $1000/year to provide to you for free.

If you want a free way to track segments, then just stick with Strava and look at them after the ride.
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Old 09-20-22, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
Anything involving persistent data will also require some kind of host, storage and backup.

If it's using mapping, it almost certainly needs someone to pay for access to the maps, too.

That simple idea, which is essentially Strava segments, will cost someone at least $1000/year to provide to you for free.
Well, not if all data must be contained within the phone/app and be able to function without google map integration or a network, which is how I'd expect an app like this to behave anyway.

This thread is going off on a tangent so I'll rephrase:

Can anybody suggest a less known android app, either paid or ad-based that might be tailored towards what I'm after?

To summarize:

- Race against time oriented
- Good UI design for "heads up"
- Record your own routes and divide them into sections (a leg is more descriptive than segment I think)
- Show real-time data about your position and standing contra previous times during a ride.
- Self-contained, no ties or logins to external services

I haven't seen the premium version of cyclemeter, I wonder if it has a different interface from the free version and how it handles route partitioning.
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Old 09-20-22, 09:02 AM
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Ah, you don't want the ability to back it up,share it, or compare with other people?

I don't think you're going to find one. Most apps will have some kind of storage side, because that's what most people want.

Why does it matter at the time of the ride to see how you are faring against your past self? Why not just push as hard as you can?
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Old 09-20-22, 09:03 AM
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Have you looked at the extra features available in Cyclemeter? I don't have it, but I'm assuming some of what you want may be available for a price.Cyclemeter also plays nicely with Strava, Facebook, Twitter and more, while importing and exporting routes is also easy.
  • Price Free (in-app upgrades available for $9.99 each)
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Old 09-20-22, 10:13 AM
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i have the paid version of cyclemeter and i do like it. but i don't use it that way. my phone is either in my back pocket or in my seat bag when really hot out becasue my phone acts up when hot. sometimes it will send random garbled text messages to people in my contact list, or open random web pages, change cyclemeter to some other activity like swimming. once i swam all the way from reno to carson. all those sand sharks...

anyway, when i did have my phone mounted onto my bike i recall being able to select a route and ride it again and see my former self on the route. i liked the feature but i don't think it had anythign like my former selfs times or other details. not sure if cyclemeter still does this but i don't see why not.
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Old 09-20-22, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by SkinnyLad View Post
This thread is going off on a tangent so I'll rephrase:

Can anybody suggest a less known android app, either paid or ad-based that might be tailored towards what I'm after?
Is it really a tangent when people answer, "no, what you want a) for free/minimally invasive, to b) do X, Y and Z isn't available because c) people likely to develop something like this feel that they should be compensated for their time and ingenuity and d) because this kind of functionality typically appeals to people who are either willing to spend a nominal amount of money or who have found a better solution"?
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Old 09-20-22, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
Ah, you don't want the ability to back it up,share it, or compare with other people?
No, sorry if I wasn't clear on that! Shouldn't have used the term segment as it got immediately associated with Strava.

Originally Posted by Herzlos View Post
I don't think you're going to find one. Most apps will have some kind of storage side, because that's what most people want.

Why does it matter at the time of the ride to see how you are faring against your past self? Why not just push as hard as you can?
I was warned before posting that there probably isn't a big enough audience for such an app to be made by a strictly profit-driven company and yet complex enough to require an experienced developer. A hobbyist biker/programmer making something for himself and then publishing it on google play is my best bet.

Maybe it's a spillover from long distance running but I've always considered 'checkpoint monitoring' of how many seconds + or - of your average to be important data to have in real time. For biking it gives me that extra push I need to go beyond how I would otherwise have performed. Just getting a phone mount for the bike immediately improved my times as I could clearly see how much wind & such was slowing me down on certain stretches.
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Old 09-20-22, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by spelger View Post
i have the paid version of cyclemeter and i do like it. but i don't use it that way. my phone is either in my back pocket or in my seat bag when really hot out becasue my phone acts up when hot. sometimes it will send random garbled text messages to people in my contact list, or open random web pages, change cyclemeter to some other activity like swimming. once i swam all the way from reno to carson. all those sand sharks...

anyway, when i did have my phone mounted onto my bike i recall being able to select a route and ride it again and see my former self on the route. i liked the feature but i don't think it had anythign like my former selfs times or other details. not sure if cyclemeter still does this but i don't see why not.
First hand testimonial, thanks, I really appreciate it. Yeah, cyclemeter had those 'ghosts riders' you could chase, but I only saw them when they were really close, maybe the premium version allows zooming out to see a bigger picture. There were a lot of graphs showing speeds compared to previous rides as well which made the UI a bit cluttered at times. Wish it could be customized more.
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Old 09-20-22, 11:18 AM
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I do what you're asking with Garmin. I have a 130+ unit on the handlebars, recording GPS data and pedal power-meter data. I create segments on the webportal for Garmin Connect. These segments can be loaded, selectively, to the 130+ headunit. While riding, the unit advises me that I am approaching a segment, and, when I'm "on segment," it tells me whether I'm ahead or behind my best recorded pace by X number of seconds.
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