So it seems like getting the iPhone working for you on the bike would be a no-brainer. And it pretty much is. Here are five apps that I've found I like, most centered around the fact that the iPhone's built-in GPS gives cyclists the kind of on-bike information they want, and the après vélo experience they crave until the next fix, I mean "ride." From the outset, you'll need a bike mount, if you want to take advantage of these apps' functions en route. Otherwise, the iPhone slips just fine into a jersey pocket, and will hold a GPS lock even though a ziploc sandwich baggie. Mount-wise, pickings are slim, but there are a few out there that are relatively low-profile. Plus, battery life can be a problem. Most endurance athletes are out there for hours at a time, and GPS tracking can quickly drain an iPhone battery. if you take care to turn off everything non-essential, you may be able to get that whole ride in. Or, you can do what this guy is doing; he's building an iPhone bike mount with power. Maybe now the iPhone can make its RAAM debut.
On to the apps!
1) Ascent Mobile. I have a warm place in my heart for Montebello Software's Ascent. If I harken back to the old days, Garmin could barely be bothered to come out with a Mac version of its then-popular TrainingCenter software and had shunted all its Mac users to MotionBased. Ascent came through with elegant desktop software that tapped into the data side of the bike geek. Finally, a place to really churn through the routes and elevation, while watching your heart rate, speed and cadence throughout that quad-shredding ride. You can zoom right into your loop post-ride and slice and dice the data to see any element of it you like. What's more, Ascent really made it look good. By the time Garmin came out with its watered-down and feature-hobbled Mac version of TrainingCenter I was so over Garmin software. I used it strictly for the route-upload function and kept everything else on Ascent, with an online version stored on MotionBased for route sharing (though I've since moved from MotionBased to RunningAhead now that RA has GPS upload.) So I was thrilled to hear that Ascent was coming out with Ascent Mobile, $9.99US.
Ascent Mobile gives you all the relevant data you could want on a ride, plus lots of ways to check out your ride right on the iPhone afterward. Best of all, it naturally syncs with the desktop version of Ascent, sold separately. Can I let go of my trusty Garmin Edge 705? Quite possibly. We'll see where this little relationship goes. (Oh, and yes, Erica, it gives your max speed.)
2) B.iCycle. Ok, maybe you're more of a "just the facts, ma'am" kind of rider. We've got one for you, too. B.iCycle, $9.99US, is a simple, GPS-based tracker that gives you some easy stats during your ride. It saves your tracks for later viewing on a map, and gives you all of the essential features you might want, without too much feature clutter. It has a nice map view for on-bike routing, and a way to email your route to yourself afterward. Think of it as a very inspired bike computer.
3) Bicycle Gear Calculator. Ok, grease monkeys, this one is for you. It's obviously not intended for on-bike use, but half the fun of the sport is the tinkering you get to do with your bike while you're not on it, talking about it at parties, or relentlessly reloading chainlove.com for the next steal. Now you can talk gear ratios with ease. Input chainring size, sprocket size, and crank length and all the relevant math is done for you. Plan ahead for a big hill ride and get your bike properly geared so you look like Laurent, Stefano, or Marco (may he rest in peace) on those hills. $4.99US at the iTunes store.
4) iMapMyRide. iMapMyRide is another GPS tracker, but is borne out of the website mapmyride.com, which is the sister site to mapmyrun.com, a favorite of mine, pre-Garmin Forerunner. The nice thing about this app -- other than the fact that it's free -- is that it is built to work well with the website, which is a great place to discover new routes and make connections with other like-sported people. I can't say the app itself is revolutionary in any way, but if you're already multi-sport and have been taking advantage of the MapMyFitness community-based functions, iMapMyRide may be a useful way to go for you.
5) TrailGuru. I didn't want to leave the mountain bikers completely out of the loop, so here's something for you singletrackers. I'm not entirely sure how this differs from some of the other GPS-based tracking software, but the community associated with it seems to be more interested in off-road use, so you may find that you discover new and interesting ways to tear up the trails near you. It seems to be a fave around TUAW, so I'd be remiss not to mention it. If you have experience with this app, let us know in the comments.
I'm still working on integrating the iPhone into my fitness endeavors. I admit I love my Garmins (yes, I have both the Edge and the Forerunner.) And I can't imagine I'd be brave enough to do with my iPhone what I did with my Forerunner 305: put it under my swim cap at the start of a triathlon. But you never know. If you ever see a fellow race participant with what seems to be a very oddly-shaped head under that swim cap, come and introduce yourself to me.