Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cycle Meter App.

Well it is time for me to put another one of those wonderful apps through their paces to give you a Mambo score so you can all rush out and buy it (likely - not).

Unfortunately for me I can sometimes have feelings and it is not going to be possible for me to review a product I don’t like today – my last two posts where a rant about bike thieves and a heartfelt discussion about me trying to figure out how to get my family on a biking day out together. I just don’t have the bile in me to review a bad product – so that’s it the game is up – read the title to know the name of the product and know that it is good, everything else I post here can be ignored.

But wait there is hope! 

As I have said somewhere before on this blog I am a good buyer (well mostly, though biking is challenging my assumption of this fact). There is one area though where I am a demon buyer and that is I.T. related things. I.T. items are bought more often than not by geeks – geeks like to post on the internet and then argue with one and other about what was said in the original post – usually this will end when people feel the troll has be “pwned”. Anyway the long and short of this is, you will be able to find a lot of information about a product you are interested in and what the alternatives are – then just balance this out with a few reviews from professional sites – though I have been told on more than one occasion that “expert reviews” are often biased as the publisher will be earning revenue from the company producing the item, for a good review.

So the good news is I generally get my hands on good I.T. products, the bad news is there are not going to be a lot of bad reviews to read, maybe if I ever get people reading this blog I will deliberately try out some bad apps etc.

Guess it’s time to get back on track? Now what was I posting about (scrolls up) ah yes Cycle Meter.

So what is this app?

Well it is like having a personal trainer shouting in your ear as you cycle along (have no fear you don’t need this app plugged into your ear as you go along) you can just review the results at the end of your ride. At least your earplugs won’t leave spittle on the side of your face as it shouts at you.  

So how does it work?

It is a GPS route tracker; it is not a Sat Nav, it won’t tell you where to go (more on that later). Basically on the first time you do a route you give the route a name say something like “To Work Route 1”. When you are ready to set off you press start on the stopwatch and peddle like mad! When you have reached the end of your journey you press stop and it will give you a breakdown of how long you cycled for, what you top speed and average speed was and how far you travelled. You can view a map of the route you took and it will also email that route to you.

Now here’s the biggy – next time you cycle the route you start it as before and if you have your earphones in it will update you not only as to your average speed and how far you have travelled and how far is left to travel, but also as to how you are doing Vs. your best time. This is an excellent way of keeping you on pace and pushing yourself to do a better time.

The app is very configurable – you can set it so it only informs you about what you want to hear. Maybe you know the route well and don’t want messages every mile telling you how far you have gone and how far is left, you can then turn this feature off. Another nice extra on it is you can post your route along with your timings to a friend and then they can try and follow your route and beat your time (as if)! If you are using an iPhone 4 with multitasking then you can start this app up and then have your music on – it will interrupt with its timing details etc. when required. You can also set this app to monitor times for runs walk, rowing or motoring (it is in the settings) so if you are in training for a triathlon it will at least cover the running part as well,the hardware will let you down if you use it for swimming though.

What is missing on this app?

This app would be a perfect training partner but for a couple of things. Firstly and most importantly, it would be far better if it gave turn by turn instructions once you have set a route – obviously this would need to be a function that you can turn on and off, you don’t want this on a route you know like the back of your hand. But if you have only done a route once, or you are following a route sent to you – then it is going to be very difficult to either remember it or you are going to have to stop regularly to look at the map to see where to go, that is not going to help you beat the best time! Also it would be very helpful for me, for when I have driven somewhere and the wife wants to know the shorter / quicker route I have found – instead of having to sit in the car for about 5 times doing this journey I could just post it to her on the app and let it tell her the way – big hidden bonus!

Another thing I would like to see on this app is voice instructions – it is kind of annoying that you have to reach into your pack or zipped pocket to start it off and stop it, even these two instructions (possible on the iPhone which has voice recognition) would save a lot of hassle and also you can’t help but worry about the time it is taking.

What are the fiddly bits?

These are the bits that aren’t really wrong with the app – more to do with human error but a bit of a pain none-the-less. On a number of occasions I have set off on my route, told the app which route I am doing and then forgotten to start the stop watch when I set off (voice instructions would help stop this) by the time I realise it is too late to start it. The other minor annoyance is when I first used it I didn’t name my routes clearly and set off on one route but had selected a different route on the app, obviously this is easy to get around by just naming things sensibly.

Another annoyance which has nothing to do with the app is you may be racing along against the clock and doing well only to hit a series of red lights and you just listen as you drop back off the new fast pace – word of caution here – this app may make you want to take unnecessary risks at lights etc. to beat your best time, really it isn’t worth it!

This being an app, I am hopeful that the additional things I would like to see on it will be added over time and I can update to them for free. During the writing of this post I have manage to regain a little bile so I am going to knock a point off because the app doesn’t have the added extras I would like to see right now. It is still a great app and well worth the £2.99 it costs (just think how many hundreds of £’s a Garmin costs which does much the same thing). This I think is the best app out there right now if you want that kind of functionality.

Mambo’s overall score 9/10

If you have any thoughts on this app, then please leave a comment here - it would be interesting to see what others think.

(Edit) - it occurred to me having taken another supposed 8 hours to ride into work because I forgot to tell CycleMeter that I had completed the run - that a far more sensible option would be for the app to turn itself off timing when you reach the destination - after all it knows the final destination and so it should not be an issue. Other apps similar to this do this as an option - for the life of me I have not been able t find it as an option in settings. 

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