Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

RunKeeper iPhone App Review

October 25th, 2009
 
RunKeeper iPhone App Review

Unfortunately exercise has become something of a seasonal activity for me. Try as I might, the running and riding inevitably taper off with the onslaught of Winter. So now as the Southern hemisphere limps back towards Summer the mind games have begun. I know it’s going to hurt using those muscles that have been inactive for so long. Gotta be committed though. Once I start I’ve gotta keep it going. There’s no turning back. Hmmm, but the weather’s still a bit dicey. Yeah, I’ll hold off a bit longer. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Exercise – there’s an app for that

So this weekend the stars were aligned – no work to do, the family were out for the day and the weather was perfect. No excuses. It also presented me with the perfect opportunity to road test some new toys. Months earlier the iPhone I had been holding out for had finally arrived – the 3GS. I was quickly sucked in by the lure of apps. Even though I wasn’t exercising I was keen to find one for keeping track of my progress (when and if I ever got back into exercising). I have a Shimano FlightDeck on my bike that tracks the basics (speed, distance, etc). But I was keen to take advantage of the GPS built into the iPhone.

About the same time I noticed a Twitter friend was posting summary updates of their morning run using RunKeeper. The summary linked back to their profile on the website where you could see a map of their exercise activity, a detailed graph of their speed and elevation over the course of their exercise as well as the calories burned. All of this data was of course captured using the RunKeeper iPhone app which is available in both free and pro versions.

Going Pro

At a cost of $12.99 AUD the Pro version has no advertisements, but it does have audio cues, training workouts delivered via your headphones, geo-tagged photos/status updates and iPod playlist integration. As someone who takes their exercise seriously (even though I wasn’t doing any) I thought it seemed like a reasonable price.

Obviously the name RunKeeper implies it’s specific to running, however the settings allow you to select from a number of activities including cycling, hiking, skiing and walking. You can also change the units. I’m being picky here, but I found it frustrating that while the iPhone seamlessly syncs a mammoth amount of data with the website, you need to set the units on both. Surely if I’ve selected kilometres on the iPhone it’s safe to assume I don’t want miles on the website.

Getting Started

So once you’ve registered with the website and set up the app with the correct activity, units and music playlist (from iTunes) you’re ready to go. From there on all you need to do is hit the “Start” button to begin exercise. The screen gives you continual feedback on your distance, time and speed as you would expect from any exercise equipment with digital display. The beauty of the Pro version is the audio cues that give you this information via your headphones. This is ideal if you’ve got your iPhone tucked away in the back pocket of your jersey and you’re unable to see the screen. The downside is the music you’ve selected to play does not stop or dip in volume. So the audio cues are often muffled by the music. This is particularly annoying and hopefully future updates will address this. A great implementation of this is way the TomTom fades down the music to give you driving instructions before fading the music back up when it’s done.

Public service announcement: I should point out that while I do love to work out to music it’s also potentially quite dangerous if you’re cycling on public roads. As a result I only cycle with the curb-side earbud in place so I have an ear free.

Post Exercise

When you’ve completed your exercise simply hit the Stop button. The app will then ask you if you’d like to save the data. It then reads out a summary of the exercise and sends the data back to the website. There’s also a Pause button should you need to stop for natural breaks and the like while exercising.

Once my legs had recovered from the shock of exercising for the first time in months, I gingerly climbed the stairs and sat down at the computer. I logged into the RunKeeper website and was pleasantly surprised to find all of the data from my exercise already uploaded and waiting for me to examine. I was actually quite surprised by the accuracy of my route plotted against a Google map. Below the map is a graph showing my speed and elevation. Rolling over the graph identifies the corresponding location on the map so you can dissect your performance with incredible accuracy.

From there you can add notes (like weather or any other mitigating factors), export, compare to previous and share the activity on a number of social networks including Facebook and Twitter. I think I’ll hold off on this until I have some data I can be proud of.

Conclusion

Using this app is incredibly simple, just hit a button to start and another to stop. Yet the data it collects is incredibly detailed. The seamless integration from the iPhone to the website makes it a real no-brainer. Something I found really frustrating with my old FlightDeck was the need to manually collect the data from the device and then log it in some useful way. RunKeeper does everything for you and presents the data back to you in a meaningful way. The maps and graphs give it great visual impact. Which is handy if you want to show it off to your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Speaking of handy, the audio cues are great for providing feedback on you progress without needing to look at the screen, however the fact that the app doesn’t mute the music is really frustrating. That aside, this app should prove to be a great motivator this summer as I track and try to improve my fitness.

I love ideas like this

June 11th, 2008
 

It’s true. The simple ideas are often the best. How come it’s taken so long to realise such a practical idea as folding bike handle bars? The icing on the cake is the idea within an idea – the handle bars lock together. Doesn’t really stop anyone from stealing the bike. Only thing is you have to be happy riding without any hands and never turning corners.

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