Apart from photography and a few norm people interest, e.g. music, movies, I am also into cycling. Not a serious cyclist, more for exercise, simply because I can't stand "slow sport". For me anything that runs below 20km/hr continuosly is slow.
Like every other sports there's always gadgets for it. For cycling that means a cyclometer, GPS, heart rate detector and life saving mobile phone. Some also choose to bring along mp3 player and camera.
Not many cyclist would like to take so many gadgets. Particularly we stop for rest. Taking them off is troublesome. Leaving them means expose to theft. All we can dream of is one device to rule them all.
It turns out iPhone is such a device. Before getting on, let's take a look at another closest device, Garmin Edge 705. It's a GPS cyclometer with optional heart rate detector, speed and cadence sensor and it cost as much as an iPhone without contract and it does not come with phone, camera, video and music.
Again it's the software that does the trick. After trying out a few I settle with Motion X-GPS Sports. First reason, it has comparable software features as Garmin Edge. Second, it's USD2.99! Where are you gonna find a GPS app that do so much at this price?
Let see what it can do. The interface is simple and easy to use. Adequate size touch screen buttons since iPhone only has one "exit" button. Clicking forward backward will bring you to cyclometer, compass, maps, saved tracks, and iPod. There's also the camera button in case you stumble across nice scenery or mystic creature along the track.
There are three types of maps available, Google, Bing and Openstreet map, which means Internet connection is needed to read the maps. Some cyclists will prefer to go into the unknown where 3G radiation is non existence. Fortunately user can download selected area/route prior going into the wilderness. Unfortunately only Openstreet map is downloadable.
Saved tracks can then be shared with friends thru email, Facebook and Twitter. Saved in universal GPX format there's a wide variety 3rd party free and paid software for user to analyse data once back home.
If you are brave enough, you can put Motion X-GPS into background and launch iPhone video recorder to record 60km/hr downhill. A stereo Bluetooth headset transforms iPhone into a walkie talkie and music workout device.
What does it not have? Clearly there's no cadence meter. There's the speedometer but from satellite reading instead of sensor. iPhone is not water resistant. In case of rain, Garmin will survive but not iPhone unless you put it into a waterproof case or zip lock bag. I opt for the second one.
In case you wonder, where's the heart rate detector? There are a variety of heart rate detector in the market and most come with wrist watch that can data link to computer. Nevertheless Motion X-GPS is designed for outdoor enthusiats, not professional cyclist. Even Garmin Edge 705 is rarely seen among avid cyclists.
If you are not convince, don't worry, there's a free lite version available with all features but limited data recording. Go for a ride and see if you like it.
In case you have difficulties mounting iPhone onto your bike check out my previous post.
My first GPS device is Dopod P100. To be exact, a PDA with build in GPS receiver. Can't expect too much. The performance is mediocre. Half of the time after I reached my destination it haven't lock to any satellite. I sold it off two months ago and upgrade to a PDA phone.
After much consideration and research, I decided to go for Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. A new outdoor portable GPS unit by Garmin, equipped compass, altimeter, weather seal and IPX7 waterproof. The most important feature that attracts me is the high sensitivity receiver, claimed to work under heavy canopy and deep canyons.
Friend of mine got it for me from Amazon US. I don't think is available in Malaysia at the time of writing.
Putting it to test drop my jaws. I was inside my room, playing with the functions, less than 2 minutes it tracks down my position. My table is 3 meters from the windows. I went out to the garden, in less than one minute it locks down 5 satellites, all with full bar, under thick canopy. I decided to give it a stress test, inside a car fitted with V-Kool! Guess what, it works! Certainly the signal has drop to half or one third. I still need external antenna to overcome V-Kool issue.
The next day I was in my friend's car. I place it under the passenger door storage, forgot to power down. When we reached our destination, the next thing I realized it has record down our entire journey. The high sensitivity receiver ROCKS!
I strongly suggest this GPS device to all outdoor lovers. My intention is to mount it on my mountain bike, jungle tracking and hiking, to record my routes, speed and altitude. For those looking for car navigation system, Garmin eTrex Vista HCx isn't suitable, due to its small LCD, lack of touch screen, no voice command and external antenna connector. Next week I am going to test it inside SMART tunnel. Bwahahaha…