I ride a lot. I ride for fun, for fitness, for training, to compete, on road and off. I ride with the kids to school, to meetings and to the shops. I am also a fan of technology and, let’s face it, I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to apps and gadgets for cycling.
I like to keep track of my training to see where improvements are being made and how many kilometres and hours I can squeeze in each week. After each training ride I download the data I’ve collected and review it. I compare statistics from previous rides on the same route, overlay my heart rate to keep tabs on my health, track my fitness and set new goals. While I’m out riding my wife can follow my progress live on her phone and put the kettle on when I’m a few minutes from home.
To achieve all this I need some basic technology, a few choice pieces of equipment (apart from a kettle), some really cool and informative apps and surprisingly little operating skill.
Here’s a list of the technology and apps that have become my regular cycling companions:
Garmin GPS – If me and my bike were stranded on a dessert island, this is the one thing I would take! My Garmin GPS sits on my handlebars where it’s in clear view. It links with my heart rate strap, and GPS so I can monitor distance, speed, elevation and all other stats as well as my own heart rate. It also links with my phone so others can monitor my progress which is very reassuring if you’re riding alone or at night.
Heart rate monitor and strap - I have tried a couple of different brands and some have been more comfortable than others. Otherwise it is very easy to use.
Strava – For those few who haven’t tried it, Strava is a great tool to help you stay motivated and to help monitor your progress, against yourself and against others. Basically, Strava allows people all over the world to record their performance on certain segments of their ride (a hill climb for example) and compare it with your own past rides or with others who have ridden the same segment. It’s fun to log into Strava and try for a PB or to beat your mate who rode the same segment yesterday.
GoPro video camera – I wish I’d invented this! There are lots of reasons to use record video when you’re riding. You can monitor other road users which is very handy if you’re ever involved in an accident. Also, with almost no editing experience, you can make clips of your ride to share with friends. Use it as a tool to show non-riders what they’re missing!
Google Maps – One of the navigation functions caters specifically for cyclists. Type in a destination and it will find the best bike path options to get you there. Very handy in a city you don’t know.
Smartphone handlebar mount – This is basically a waterproof cover and mount for your phone so you can quickly, easily and safely see where you are going or quickly check your ride data.
Low tech must-have – I don’t go riding without the humble ziplock bag. I often use one as a cycling wallet to keeps my phone and cash together and waterproof. For races I often carry a ziplock bag full of Gels and energy bars.
If you haven’t delved into all the technology and apps available to cyclists yet, take the time to have a look around and chat to other bike riders about what technology they use. There are some great tools out there to keep you motivated and measure your progress. Check out Bike Radar’s Best iPhone and Android apps for cycling.
At the end of the day though, cycling’s not really about the technological add-ons. Some days I just ride... for the pure pleasure of it.
Michael Milton is a six-time Paralympian and mad-keen cyclist. He owns five bikes and operates a small Canberra-based cycling touring business called Big Foot Adventures. No matter how hard it gets, he never stands up on the pedals.