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My test of Android-based Cycling Apps

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My test of Android-based Cycling Apps

Old 12-24-17, 04:30 PM
  #1  
curbowman
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My test of Android-based Cycling Apps

A few months ago I started a thorough testing of some free cycling apps available on Google Play Store. I compared each one against my cyclocomputer for accuracy, and used them in the same "circuit" around my home, which included fast descents, wide avenues, narrow urban streets lined with tall buildings, crowded main streets and solitary mountain roads.

I have a somewhat old LG L3 phone with a touch screen that's 2.5 inches (64 mm) long. Most apps are made for newer smartphones with gigantic screens but I prefer this more discreet one since crime is a big thing here in Venezuela.

Another side effect of having a smaller screen is that some apps rely heavily on the big size screen, as if one could read that much when riding. Most of those graphics became cramped or incomplete on the small screen, however, some apps could adapt easily to the smaller format.

I will post the pictures of the apps as they appear on the Google Play Store website. Of course, being in Venezuela things appear in spanish, but luckily you'll be able to identify the name and the avatar of the app.

The one trend I noticed was that the simplest the app, the better the accuracy. For some reason, their GPS tracking was much better than the fancier ones. One notable exception was OpenRider, which has excellent precision and a smart, attractive visuals on the screen.

Altough there are other cycling apps, some of them required a big screen size and when I tried them the data was either incomplete or too small for reading on the bike. The ones I post here are the apps I liked the best.

The apps I ended up using are Ride With GPS and CycleDroid. The first one has the advantage of being able to plan everything on your computer screen, so it's more comfortable. However, CycleDroid is by far the most accurate and easy to read under any condition, with lots and lots of data and an unmatched GPS tracking.

The only big absent here is Strava. Why? Because it seems that everybody and their sister have it. I simply wanted to try the ones that give you (er, me) the most for my money (i.e. for free).

Here they are. Read and tell me if your experiences, please.
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Old 12-24-17, 09:10 PM
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Strava is free too! I see no reason to dismiss it. Providing comparison might be helpful to others.
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Old 12-25-17, 01:02 AM
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The main difference I've found in various cycling/activity apps is how they handle slowing down below a certain speed threshold, with auto-pause/resume. Each app varies a bit. And that data is further re-interpreted when uploaded to Strava from Cyclemeter, Wahoo Fitness and other apps I've tried. Typically when Cyclemeter would show my average speed over distance at, say, 12.5 mph, when uploaded to Strava the average speed would usually drop to around 11.5 mph. I can't say which is more accurate, although Cyclemeter and Wahoo Fitness are more flattering than Strava.

Be sure to evaluate GPS data over a few tries on different days. Whenever I've encountered GPS sync errors the problem was not with the app -- every GPS app I was running at the time was affected -- but more likely due to atmospheric or multipath problems.

Some apps are better than others at attempting to interpolate data when GPS sync errors occur, which can give the impression of better reliability. But the apps are making educated guesses about our most likely route. Cyclemeter on my iPhone is very good about this when GPS sync errors occur, drawing routes where I was mostly likely to have been traveling; while Strava tended to jump in straight lines across impossible terrain, over water or through buildings, when sync errors occurred.

Over the years some folks have blamed iOS updates for GSP sync errors, but those errors may have been due to atmospheric or multipath distortion. Whenever I've experienced problems with my iPhone 4s I'd just reboot the phone and the problems were resolved. But the problem was usually the iPhone 4s's limited capability for running multiple apps. Some days it'll run two or more GPS apps simultaneously; other days it won't. And pausing to take photos or videos or consult a map can cause Strava and other cycling apps to stop on the older iPhone 4s. But that's a limitation of the phone, not the apps. So far I haven't encountered those problems with a newer Android phone.
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Old 12-26-17, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Be sure to evaluate GPS data over a few tries on different days. Whenever I've encountered GPS sync errors the problem was not with the app -- every GPS app I was running at the time was affected -- but more likely due to atmospheric or multipath problems.
Oh yes, I did that. The tests were done always on the same circuit, and they were done between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm local time, during three straight weeks.

I always used only one app at once. I rode one full circuit with the app and kept notes of the discrepancies against my Topeak Panorama wired cyclecomputer. After one lap I stopped, closed the app and started a different app to ride the same circuit again. That allowed me to use three different apps everyday, and I did that for three days. After that I used three different apps during three more days.

After two weeks I had tested ten different apps during three days each following the same route. The third week I used the apps I liked best to test them for five straight days on different routes.

The reason I didn't test Strava was because everybody seems to use it, so I assumed I wouldn't bring anything new to the table. Maybe I should do a "Strava vs. Ride With GPS shootout -free version edition".

After writing this I realize I did a lots of hard work just to choose a free cycling app... Does that makes me an obsessive rider or just a cheapskate?
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Old 12-26-17, 06:51 PM
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Nothing wrong with methodically testing a bunch of apps. I've done it, although not methodically. I just used a new app once in awhile, side by side to compare with a known app.

I keep going back to Strava because it just works. It's reasonably intuitive. Most of my riding friends use it.

If I had no interest in the social media networking aspect of cycling I'd probably stick with Cyclemeter.

I've tried several others, and continue to try new activity apps once in awhile, but none of 'em is better than Strava and some are so opaque and non-intuitive that I wonder why the developer bothered.

Besides my overall averages I usually want to compare how I'm doing on particular segments, ranging from around half-mile fast slight uphill grades to short steep climbs to longer roller coaster routes up to 10 miles. Strava and Cyclemeter help me do that easily. And Cyclemeter includes weather data for that day so I can guesstimate the effects of wind, temperature, etc., over time. Other apps don't do that as well, if at all.

At the moment I'm trying Endomondo just because it interfaces with MyFitnessPal. The only reason I'm trying MFP is to remind me to eat more. Rather than needing to lose weight, I've been running a calorie and protein deficit for more than a month. Happened so gradually I couldn't figure out why I was exhausted and losing fitness rather than gaining. By tallying everything I eat I realized that eating until I felt satisfied wasn't good enough for my activity level.

But MyFitnessPal didn't interface nicely with my preferred activity apps to factor in my calories burned. So I had to use one of their proprietary apps like Endomondo to avoid having to manually calculate calories burned. But I don't care for the Endomondo app and won't continue using it after I've got my diet back on track.
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Old 12-26-17, 10:00 PM
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You are missing "Samsung Health". Probably beats all the above on cycling alone. In addition you also can use it for running and almost any other sport in addition to tracking your food intake (fiber, vitamins, calories etc.). It also lets'you compare you to how you did compared to your age group etc. You can set goals (minutes activity a day ec.). bicycling is just one aspect of that app, as the name suggests it does many health related things.
I tried many free apps inc. Strava. But for my purposes Samsung Health does all I need and more all in one app.
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Old 12-28-17, 02:12 PM
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Another app you can try is Cyclemeter. It's now available for Android and if it's anything like their iOS version, you're going to have a tough time beating it. I tested just about all the iOS cycling apps against each other and every time, Cyclemeter came out leaps and bounds ahead.

When you are testing, I hope that you do not have any other apps running in the background. Your cycling app should be the only app running when you are testing. The more apps that you have fighting for CPU time, the more your app has to share. If the programmer has a poor parsing routine, it will take more time to get a point plotted on the map and a longer delay in displaying the data on the screen.
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Old 12-28-17, 02:27 PM
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One thing about RideWithGPS is that the display screen has a lot of custom options, so you can easily choose which data you wish to display.

It even has two screens of ride data if you wish.

They do display real-time elevation, but I find the data is really bad. Post-ride elevation, however, isn't too bad.

In fact, perhaps that is part of what should be evaluated, ride data vs post-ride data.
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Old 12-29-17, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by John_V View Post
Another app you can try is Cyclemeter. It's now available for Android and if it's anything like their iOS version, you're going to have a tough time beating it.
I've tried free vers of this on android a few rides after I lost my wheel magnet until I got a new one. I liked that I could turn off the screen since the phone will be in my bag I just want data recording, it did that but I couldn't figure out a way at the end of the ride to get a moving average speed and total moving time. It includes stops in both avg speed and time.

Anyone know off hand that would work like that with screen off and show the data for actually moving time?

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Old 01-01-18, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by John Redcorn View Post
I've tried free vers of this on android a few rides after I lost my wheel magnet until I got a new one. I liked that I could turn off the screen since the phone will be in my bag I just want data recording, it did that but I couldn't figure out a way at the end of the ride to get a moving average speed and total moving time. It includes stops in both avg speed and time.

Anyone know off hand that would work like that with screen off and show the data for actually moving time?
I'm sure that there's not a lot of difference between the iOS and Android version of the app. On the iOS version, if Auto Pause is turned ON it will only calculate data while you are moving. The ride time (moving time) is displayed on the main screen (by default) as Ride Time. The average speed is displayed on a different page. However, these screens are fully user defined and you can display anything you want on them.

To do so, go to the Settings page, select Stopwatch then select Pages. Select Main Statistics and Map then select Statistics in the Panes section. From there, you can select the data fields you want to see on the main page along with their screen position and text size and color. You can do this for up to 12 pages of data and you can organize each page in whatever display order you want. To view the pages that are available to you, in the Pages screen, select +/Edit option in the top right corner then select the + at the top left corner when in Edit mode. Select the page name you want to display then place it in the display order you want to view it in. Select the new page and then customize it to show what you want displayed on it and in the order you want each field displayed.

At the end of each ride, you can send yourself (and others, if you want) email notifications of the ride that included ride stats and the link to view the ride on their web server and a link to download the ride data. That too, is fully user defined.

Cyclemeter is the most user defined cycling app on the market but it does take some playing around with it in order to totally customize it your way.
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Old 01-02-18, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Nothing wrong with methodically testing a bunch of apps. I've done it, although not methodically. I just used a new app once in awhile, side by side to compare with a known app.

I keep going back to Strava because it just works. It's reasonably intuitive. Most of my riding friends use it.

If I had no interest in the social media networking aspect of cycling I'd probably stick with Cyclemeter.
I'm curious why you don't just use Cyclemeter all the time? It uploads to Strava and displays a lot more info on the screen. Is there something in the Strava app itself that I'm missing?
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Old 01-02-18, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by John_V View Post
Another app you can try is Cyclemeter. It's now available for Android and if it's anything like their iOS version, you're going to have a tough time beating it. I tested just about all the iOS cycling apps against each other and every time, Cyclemeter came out leaps and bounds ahead.

When you are testing, I hope that you do not have any other apps running in the background. Your cycling app should be the only app running when you are testing. The more apps that you have fighting for CPU time, the more your app has to share. If the programmer has a poor parsing routine, it will take more time to get a point plotted on the map and a longer delay in displaying the data on the screen.
I've used Cyclemeter a bunch for Android and it's really good.
I recently switched to IpBike for a few small improvements:
1. Had the option to dim, but keep on, the screen after a few minutes, so saved batteries.
2. Can auto start after you've gone a certain distance. This is handy with gloves on in the winter.
3. The GUI isn't quite as nice IMO, but is more customizeable which is nice.

But Cyclemeter is really good too. I'd recommend it to anyone.
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Old 01-02-18, 01:44 PM
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Oh, one thing that I've done is run RideWithGPS and Strava concurrently. Background one or the other.

The free version of Strava is better for route maps, but the free version of RWGPS gives better live ride data.

And, one could see better comparisons from running multiple concurrent apps.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
I'm curious why you don't just use Cyclemeter all the time? It uploads to Strava and displays a lot more info on the screen. Is there something in the Strava app itself that I'm missing?
I was curious enough about Cyclemeter to use the paid premium version for most of 2017. I set up two Strava accounts: one using Strava itself to record my rides; the other for uploading Cyclemeter data, which Strava would re-interpret so the posted results differed slightly from Cyclemeter.

Yup, Cyclemeter is an excellent app and a great value at only $10 a year. I may renew it. My 2017 subscription expired at the end of November and I've had a month without it. I'm missing some features, especially the voice prompts. I became accustomed to setting up voice prompts every 1-3 minutes for interval training sessions, or every mile for longer rides.

During that time I've tried several other free and trial version apps and none is really satisfactory. Only Wahoo Fitness is reasonably satisfactory, and that version is best on the iPhone rather than Android. They differ slightly in setup choices for important stuff like setting auto-pause/resume threshold. When I've run the Android version of Wahoo Fitness it often includes my time paused while visiting family in hospital, eating at restaurants, etc., so my overall average speed is logged as around 3-5 mph. My actual riding speed is around 12 mph. The iPhone version records this appropriately, but the Android version doesn't. Same with Endomondo, possibly the most useless app I've tried so far.

But Strava's free version works well enough to make most other apps pointless. There are only minor differences in data -- speed, time, distance, elevation, etc. And Strava allows free users to access their data anytime. For example, I just downloaded all data from one Strava account so I can transfer it to my primary Strava account. I'll let the other go dormant since I used it only to compare various apps.

Cyclemeter does not permit users unrestricted access to their own data. I can no longer access the data files for my year of paid Cyclemeter until I renew the subscription. It's possible I can access the Cyclemeter data archived to iCloud, but I don't know yet whether it can be accessed only through the app, or if it's in one of the standard data file formats (GPX, TCX, KML, etc.).

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Old 01-02-18, 02:10 PM
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"I keep going back to Strava because it just works. It's reasonably intuitive. Most of my riding friends use it."

That's really the main reason i use an app at all -the communal factor. Its a social profile, and by design you find extra motivation with your friends/followers.

Lets face it, we get enough real time metrics on the lowliest of bicycle computers.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I was curious enough about Cyclemeter to use the paid premium version for most of 2017. I set up two Strava accounts: one using Strava itself to record my rides; the other for uploading Cyclemeter data, which Strava would re-interpret so the posted results differed slightly from Cyclemeter.

Yup, Cyclemeter is an excellent app and a great value at only $10 a year. I may renew it. My 2017 subscription expired at the end of November and I've had a month without it. I'm missing some features, especially the voice prompts. I became accustomed to setting up voice prompts every 1-3 minutes for interval training sessions, or every mile for longer rides.

During that time I've tried several other free and trial version apps and none is really satisfactory. Only Wahoo Fitness is reasonably satisfactory, and that version is best on the iPhone rather than Android. They differ slightly in setup choices for important stuff like setting auto-pause/resume threshold. When I've run the Android version of Wahoo Fitness it often includes my time paused while visiting family in hospital, eating at restaurants, etc., so my overall average speed is logged as around 3-5 mph. My actual riding speed is around 12 mph. The iPhone version records this appropriately, but the Android version doesn't. Same with Endomondo, possibly the most useless app I've tried so far.

But Strava's free version works well enough to make most other apps pointless. There are only minor differences in data -- speed, time, distance, elevation, etc. And Strava allows free users to access their data anytime. For example, I just downloaded all data from one Strava account so I can transfer it to my primary Strava account. I'll let the other go dormant since I used it only to compare various apps.

Cyclemeter does not permit users unrestricted access to their own data. I can no longer access the data files for my year of paid Cyclemeter until I renew the subscription. It's possible I can access the Cyclemeter data archived to iCloud, but I don't know yet whether it can be accessed only through the app, or if it's in one of the standard data file formats (GPX, TCX, KML, etc.).
It may be worth it for you to give IpBike a try. It's not the most user friendly at first, but it's got all the features of Cyclemeter and more, plus the free trial (with full features) is very long (like 1,000,000 wheel revolutions, or the equivalent distance if you don't have a speed sensor). Uploads to a bunch of stuff and the pause/resume appears to be more in line with what the Strava app does. To buy, it's $10 but that's permanent, not a subscription.

But, if you just want something simple and mostly hands off, I see how Strava could work for you.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
It may be worth it for you to give IpBike a try. It's not the most user friendly at first, but it's got all the features of Cyclemeter and more, plus the free trial (with full features) is very long (like 1,000,000 wheel revolutions, or the equivalent distance if you don't have a speed sensor). Uploads to a bunch of stuff and the pause/resume appears to be more in line with what the Strava app does. To buy, it's $10 but that's permanent, not a subscription.

But, if you just want something simple and mostly hands off, I see how Strava could work for you.
Yup, I just downloaded IpBike. I'll try it on my second Strava account. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by John Redcorn View Post
I've tried free vers of this on android a few rides after I lost my wheel magnet until I got a new one. I liked that I could turn off the screen since the phone will be in my bag I just want data recording, it did that but I couldn't figure out a way at the end of the ride to get a moving average speed and total moving time. It includes stops in both avg speed and time.

Anyone know off hand that would work like that with screen off and show the data for actually moving time?
IIRC, the free version doesn't let you auto pause. The paid version let's you turn this on (and make it your default). You really need the paid version to do much of anything with Cyclemeter - but it is worth the "gamble" IMO.

But, the auto pause only turns on if you've been stopped for a while (it also sets your moving time back a few seconds to account for this). So, a very short traffic light may not cause it to auto pause at all. If you upload to Strava, you also will get slightly different values as Strava re-interprets the ride data.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Esthetic View Post
"I keep going back to Strava because it just works. It's reasonably intuitive. Most of my riding friends use it."

That's really the main reason i use an app at all -the communal factor. Its a social profile, and by design you find extra motivation with your friends/followers.

Lets face it, we get enough real time metrics on the lowliest of bicycle computers.
Yup, I enjoy Strava for the social networking. I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to. It motivates me to get out and ride on days when I'd rather sleep in or putter around the house.

And it's mostly casual riding, not the competitive thing. There are many casual group rides every week in my area, and a few with a more challenging pace. Strava helps me see who's doing what and I can decide for myself whether I have time and energy to tackle a particular ride, based on the typical speeds and distances logged on Strava. That way I don't show up and feel disappointed because the ride was too fast or slow, too short or long, too flat or hilly. All that info is on Strava.

I do mostly ride alone, but Strava helps motivate me to not become a hermit.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Yup, I just downloaded IpBike. I'll try it on my second Strava account. Thanks for the recommendation.
Ha! I got the recommendation from another user on this forum... so thanks bikeforums.net community.
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Old 01-03-18, 09:09 AM
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Stick69
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We use the Wahoo app and like the audio update feature. Do other apps provide a periodic audio summary of heart rate etc.?
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Old 01-03-18, 09:10 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
..... Cyclemeter does not permit users unrestricted access to their own data. I can no longer access the data files for my year of paid Cyclemeter until I renew the subscription. It's possible I can access the Cyclemeter data archived to iCloud, but I don't know yet whether it can be accessed only through the app, or if it's in one of the standard data file formats (GPX, TCX, KML, etc.).
Cyclemeter uses an SQL based, local database to store the ride data. Rides are not stored as individual files. Access to all of it's data is limited to the query sent to the database. The free version limits which queries are used to access your data, therefore, not all of your ride data is shown. You should still get your ride data, but only what you would expect to see in the free version. If I'm not mistaken, the free version limits you to full data access of the last x number of records (rides) but does not allow access to any rides you may have done past that.

The database stored in iCloud is the same database that is on your phone, so restoring from iCloud would give you the same results as you have now. When you had the paid version, did you email yourself the ride data after each ride? If you did and you saved those emails, you can go to the email with the ride you want to see and click on the link to show your data on your web browser. It's the only workaround I know for this issue. I think emailing your ride data to yourself or someone else is not a feature of the free version.
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Old 01-03-18, 09:15 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Stick69 View Post
We use the Wahoo app and like the audio update feature. Do other apps provide a periodic audio summary of heart rate etc.?
Not sure about other apps, but Cyclemeter does that, too. You can customize it to verbally give you any data info you want and set it to give it to you every so many miles or at a certain time interval. I have mine set for every 5 miles.

I'm a beta tester for them so I'm partial to using their app, although I have tried just about every other iOS app on the market.
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Old 01-03-18, 02:44 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by John_V View Post
Cyclemeter uses an SQL based, local database to store the ride data. Rides are not stored as individual files. Access to all of it's data is limited to the query sent to the database. The free version limits which queries are used to access your data, therefore, not all of your ride data is shown. You should still get your ride data, but only what you would expect to see in the free version. If I'm not mistaken, the free version limits you to full data access of the last x number of records (rides) but does not allow access to any rides you may have done past that.

The database stored in iCloud is the same database that is on your phone, so restoring from iCloud would give you the same results as you have now. When you had the paid version, did you email yourself the ride data after each ride? If you did and you saved those emails, you can go to the email with the ride you want to see and click on the link to show your data on your web browser. It's the only workaround I know for this issue. I think emailing your ride data to yourself or someone else is not a feature of the free version.
I used to email each ride to myself but discontinued that months ago.

Cyclemeter is a very good app but one of my few complaints is the inconsistency that all data is stored by default on my own phone, but I can't access my own data for the year when I was a subscriber without re-subscribing. I can understand having limited access to new data for the time when I'm not a subscriber. But not for the data when I was a subscriber, when it's stored on my own phone. That's not a customer friendly policy.

There is a workaround. I uploaded most of my Cyclemeter rides to Strava. Strava offers various options for downloading data, so at least one of those should be pretty close to the actual data recorded by Cyclemeter.
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Old 01-03-18, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Stick69 View Post
We use the Wahoo app and like the audio update feature. Do other apps provide a periodic audio summary of heart rate etc.?
Cyclemeter offers very versatile voice prompts. I set it up to notify me of my current direction (because I have no natural sense of direction unless the sun is out or there's some other navigational aid), current speed, average speed, time ridden, etc. I didn't use any fitness monitors so I didn't use those voice prompts, but they should be available.

Cyclemeter can be set to speak this info in pretty much any order you choose, and at your choice of time intervals, distances intervals or both.

Regarding the compass direction, as with other info, it's not quite real time -- usually lags a second or two behind. On a few occasions Cyclemeter would tell me I was heading south when I'd just turned east or west. But it caught up again a moment later. That's typical of GPS -- it's not quite real time, usually a second or longer behind.
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