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What's wrong using an iPhone as the bar mounted bike computer?

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What's wrong using an iPhone as the bar mounted bike computer?

Old 04-02-15, 10:07 PM
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Crashing and not having a workable phone to call 911 would be my best reason for not mounting it on the bar. I crash a lot of my MTB and have broken 2 in 3 years. There are also numerous scratches and nicks that a phone might not have survived. Luckily Garmin has a good replacement policy. The phone in my jersey pocket has never been damaged.
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Old 04-03-15, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by wallrat
Crashing and not having a workable phone to call 911 would be my best reason for not mounting it on the bar. I crash a lot of my MTB and have broken 2 in 3 years. There are also numerous scratches and nicks that a phone might not have survived. Luckily Garmin has a good replacement policy. The phone in my jersey pocket has never been damaged.
I guess for MTB users you have a good point. Considering the "protection" issue, with a spill on a road bike, I'm not experienced enough to say that more protection is offered if the phone is in my jersey pocket or in a hard protective case-mount on my handlebars.
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Old 04-03-15, 05:18 AM
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I test smartphones for a living and have used many of them to run Strava in my back pocket. Battery life is really not an issue there, all-day riding should not be a problem with any modern phone. However, mounting it on the bar only makes sense when you can see the screen and that's where battery life can become problematic. Also, many of the screens don't offer very good visibility in bright light which means you have to turn the brightness up, using even more battery.

I have experimented with a Pebble smartwatch to transmit the strava data to the watch which would allow me to see at least some basic trip data without getting the phone out but the Strava app for Pebble really isn't very good and only works with Android. Will be interesting to see what they can do with Android Wear watches and the upcoming Apple watch. I looked at the Wahoo device but finally got myself a Cateye Strada Smart which was available at a discount at Wiggle. And it does exactly what I want to do it. It is basically a tiny display you can mount on the handlebar or stem and connects to the phone via low energy Bluetooth. You can directly connect Cateye sensors to it but I am using it in so-called mirror mode. I run the Cateye app that records all trip info on the phone and have my Bluetooth HR-monitor connected to it. It also transmits all the data to the Strada Smart on your bar which you can basically use like a conventional bike computer. When the trip is finished the Cateye App syncs with Strava and directly uploads the data. You can also get notifications about incoming calls, messages and email on the display.

The only issue I have at the moment that sometimes I get GPS errors which I need to correct in a desktop software afterwards and that can be a little time-consuming. However, in theory that should not have anything to do with the Strada Smart but with the GPS module of the phone that I am currently using (Motorola Moto X 2014). It never happened before I used the Cateye though but then I used an iPhone with Strava....there's a small chance there is some syncing problem but I guess I need to spend some time to figure it out. Overall, I think that little gadget is well worth its money though....
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Old 04-03-15, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
I've missed those threads.. sorry. Only been on BF for a month or two. But isn't a bike case with built in external battery a smaller and more elegant option than phone plus separate unit?
I started down this road looking to keep using MapMyRide as my primary source for my biking data. However, at the time I was unable to find a case (or battery case) that didn't have at least a few ratings describing the failure of the mount and the destruction of the phone. I wasn't willing to risk that.

I also tried out the Wahoo RFLKT to save battery and have a smaller, more-secure unit for reading; but, I didn't find it customizable enough for what I wanted to see while riding.

Eventually, I got a Garmin Edge 500 and have been completely satisfied. It's accurate, shows me any data I want to see, and Garmin Connect is pretty good for keeping track of cycling activity. It even connects to MapMyRide, so I can check on my favorite segments.

Last edited by DirePenguin; 04-03-15 at 05:27 AM.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
I looked at the RFLKT+, but that is taking data from from your phone anyway isn't it? So it's just an additional item that seems redundant? And can it show maps and such (and of course incoming texts and missed calls)? I just bought for battery for emergency purposes one of these in case there's an issue on that front.. seemed small enough anyway - about the size of a lipstick, eg.:
Should charge a typical smart phone from dead about 1.5 times.

I just got the same battery to power my GPS watch on multi-day hikes.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by redtires
Right....battery life is the biggest issue when it comes to the iPhone. And, I'm assuming because you used it in your title, your using an iPhone. For very long rides, the battery just doesn't have much longevity. FWIW, if anyone reads this and is looking to get a phone that will handle such duties, I just picked up a Droid Turbo (of course, you have to be a Verizon customer) which has a 3900mAh battery. That means that I can quite literally run an app like Strava for 12+ hours. I don't, but I could is the point.
I have an LG Tribute, an $80 phone. I think the battery is in the 1,500 to 2,000 mah range. With the screen left off and in airplane mode, it will log GPS data for 36+ hours. Nice backup for hiking.

Most smartphones can be used while you charge them, see again the battery up thread.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
Vast majority of posts I come across for dealing with a smartphone, talk about putting in waterproof baggy for jersey pocket, special wallets that hold the phone plus other accessories, etc.. Just wondering what the conventional wisdom is for just not mounting the smartphone in a handlebar-attached case to do your bike computer duty. If you're going to carry it anyway, why have a separate unit for bike computer duties/gps etc?
+1 on a lot of the reasons provided on this like cheaper to replace a Garmin, battery life etc. But with the size of the phones these days it just doesn't seem like the bars are a good place for it.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by achoo
Only 90%?

What DOESN'T a 705 do?
The main feature of something like an 810 is you can upload / download routes via wireless. The 810 also shows weather settings like temp, wind speed, precipitation state. It also gives you weather alerts, but those are just convenience features that I really had no interest in anyway.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Sito
I test smartphones for a living and have used many of them to run Strava in my back pocket. Battery life is really not an issue there, all-day riding should not be a problem with any modern phone. However, mounting it on the bar only makes sense when you can see the screen and that's where battery life can become problematic. Also, many of the screens don't offer very good visibility in bright light which means you have to turn the brightness up, using even more battery.
^ This.

The battery life issue is over stated for back-of-the-jersey usage. For example, I did a 50 mile ride on Sunday using Cyclemeter to record GPS with my phone in my jersey pocket (I have a RFLKT) and the battery went from 100% to 85% for the whole ride. I've done a Century on a single charge. Carry a $15 battery pack if you're concerned about running out of battery and need to make an emergency call, they weigh next to nothing. Probably a good idea anyway, even if you aren't using your phone as a GPS, sometimes phones batteries can drain for random reasons.

I did run with my phone on the handlebars for about a year, and it's useful for one thing: seeing a map. It's not useful for knowing what your cadence/HR are because the phone drains too fast if you keep the screen on. This is why I got a RFLKT.
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Old 04-03-15, 09:56 AM
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I use a Quad lock and a Sony Xperia Z3 (waterproof) on my bars. I Strava, GPS, and play music on my 25 mile round trip commute. Two weeks ago I rode 107 miles to SF in one day. My phone benefited from a small cylinder shaped battery charger on the bars secured by a Two-fish flashlight holder. Quad lock makes a case for iPhone and a universal mount for Android phones. Best mount ever...
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Old 04-03-15, 10:52 AM
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I'll have to relook at the RFLKT. I already use the Blue SC sensor so it might be a nice add-on. I was scared off a bit reading various reviews which either highlighted issues with BT signal making it from the iphone (in a back jersey pocket) to the RFLKT (some reviewers indicated that sweat/moisture blocks signals), or other reviewers saying that they have their iphone mounted on the handlebars right next to the device (which really seems pointless).

So, consensus seems to be smartphone battery issue is mostly related to the drain due to the screen being on, not to GPS or or other things running, correct? I thought it might be possible, but unless I'm missing something this doesn't seem possible(?), to have my iphone's lock screen disabled, and screen set to turn off (sleep) after eg. 20 seconds of non-use, so that a simple press of the main control button would wake phone up to my open cycling app's screen when I want to check map/speed/cadence, etc. with screen turning off again eg. 20 seconds later. However, I don't think this is possible with an iphone anyway (maybe other smartphones).

Garmins run about $200-300.. my iphone (5) goes for $.99 with a new contract, which I'm eligible for. A full price 5C is $280, so not much in the cost difference unless you're bleeding edge latest model 6 users (but then again, I don't want a phone that big anyway -- either to carry in my pocket or mount on my bike).
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Old 04-03-15, 11:01 AM
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You're not really paying $0.99 for the phone.
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Old 04-03-15, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
I'll have to relook at the RFLKT. I already use the Blue SC sensor so it might be a nice add-on. I was scared off a bit reading various reviews which either highlighted issues with BT signal making it from the iphone (in a back jersey pocket) to the RFLKT (some reviewers indicated that sweat/moisture blocks signals), or other reviewers saying that they have their iphone mounted on the handlebars right next to the device (which really seems pointless).
I've not had any issue with the RFLKT + iPhone 6. The standard advice keep your phone in a side pocket jersey rather than the middle one. Of course all phones are different and have different signal strengths, so YMMV.

So, consensus seems to be smartphone battery issue is mostly related to the drain due to the screen being on, not to GPS or or other things running, correct?
True, however there is also a battery drain related to data usage. I find that my iPhone's battery lasts 2-3x as long if I turn off mobile data (easily done). GPS still works fine with this recording, and maps will likely be cached. If you need internet at any point during the ride, it's easy to turn back on.

I thought it might be possible, but unless I'm missing something this doesn't seem possible(?), to have my iphone's lock screen disabled, and screen set to turn off (sleep) after eg. 20 seconds of non-use, so that a simple press of the main control button would wake phone up to my open cycling app's screen when I want to check map/speed/cadence, etc. with screen turning off again eg. 20 seconds later.
EDIT: I misread the above...

Yes you're right, you'd have to have it go to the lock screen and I think the minimum is 60 seconds, rather than 20 seconds. That means you'd need to swipe to unlock also, rather than a press of a switch. Herein lies another problem of using the iPhone in a case on your handlebars: If it's raining, your touchscreen will stop working. This is a basic problem with capacitive touchscreen.

Garmins run about $200-300.. my iphone (5) goes for $.99 with a new contract, which I'm eligible for. A full price 5C is $280, so not much in the cost difference unless you're bleeding edge latest model 6 users (but then again, I don't want a phone that big anyway -- either to carry in my pocket or mount on my bike).
You can get a Garmin Edge 500 for $150. iPhone's of course are worth a lot more than the $.99 contract cost!
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Old 04-03-15, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
You're not really paying $0.99 for the phone.
Yes this and the fact that if you do crash your phone, replacing it won't cost 0.99 anymore, more like 700
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Old 04-03-15, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by greenlight149
Yes this and the fact that if you do crash your phone, replacing it won't cost 0.99 anymore, more like 700
But we all ride with our phones on us anyway, and most of the time stuck in a jersey pocket, where it's quite like to fly out and get damaged if you crash. Most handlebar mounts I've used have had very sturdy cases built into them to mitigate this issue.
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Old 04-03-15, 12:10 PM
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I prefer riding without my phone but ... it feels kind of irresponsible this day in age. So I keep mine in a zippered pocket in my pants. If I crash and land on my right side I'll come down on top of it. At least it won't go flying.
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Old 04-03-15, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
I prefer riding without my phone but ... it feels kind of irresponsible this day in age. So I keep mine in a zippered pocket in my pants. If I crash and land on my right side I'll come down on top of it. At least it won't go flying.
Typically road bicycle gear doesn't have zippered pockets though does it?
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Old 04-03-15, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
Vast majority of posts I come across for dealing with a smartphone, talk about putting in waterproof baggy for jersey pocket, special wallets that hold the phone plus other accessories, etc.. Just wondering what the conventional wisdom is for just not mounting the smartphone in a handlebar-attached case to do your bike computer duty. If you're going to carry it anyway, why have a separate unit for bike computer duties/gps etc?
Because it's vulnerable... to basically everything (water, theft, crash, you-name-it). And unless you have insurance, it's like $600 to replace. But there are people who sell iphone handlebar mounts. Go nuts.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:26 PM
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I used to use my iPhone as my cycling computer, but made the switch to Garmin. The main problems I used to have with my iPhone were inaccurate climbing data and high temperature auto-shutdowns on longer summer rides. If I rode with friends who had a Garmin, I would notice my climbing data was nearly doubled on my iPhone versus theirs. I had my phone shutoff for high temperatures numerous times and would lose big chunks of my workouts. My Garmin 810 has worked (nearly) flawlessly with my only issue having to do with occasional upload issues to Garmin Connect.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha
Typically road bicycle gear doesn't have zippered pockets though does it?
Typically no.. you can find some jerseys that have a 4th zippered pocket but these don't tend to be too big (eg. I just ordered a Craft Elite jersey which has such -- I don't know yet if an iphone will fit). I wish a bib maker would try to come out with a zipper pocket offering on top of leg area.. could be useful.

That said, If my iphone ends up not being mounted on the bars, I'm going to put it in my small under-seat saddle bag I have. I figure if I have to have the phone in a ziplock or some other sweat protecting thing anyway if it's in my jersey pocket, I'm going to have to stop my bike to get to and use the phone -- so might as well stick it in the bag.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Lazy Dog
I used to use my iPhone as my cycling computer, but made the switch to Garmin. The main problems I used to have with my iPhone were inaccurate climbing data and high temperature auto-shutdowns on longer summer rides. If I rode with friends who had a Garmin, I would notice my climbing data was nearly doubled on my iPhone versus theirs. I had my phone shutoff for high temperatures numerous times and would lose big chunks of my workouts. My Garmin 810 has worked (nearly) flawlessly with my only issue having to do with occasional upload issues to Garmin Connect.
Is the inaccurate climbing data a function of the app used, or because it was a phone? It strikes me that elevation data has to come from the mapping/app, since obviously the iphone doesn't have an altimeter built in (does it?).
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Old 04-03-15, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Sito
I test smartphones for a living and have used many of them to run Strava in my back pocket. Battery life is really not an issue there, all-day riding should not be a problem with any modern phone. However, mounting it on the bar only makes sense when you can see the screen and that's where battery life can become problematic. Also, many of the screens don't offer very good visibility in bright light which means you have to turn the brightness up, using even more battery.

I have experimented with a Pebble smartwatch to transmit the strava data to the watch which would allow me to see at least some basic trip data without getting the phone out but the Strava app for Pebble really isn't very good and only works with Android. Will be interesting to see what they can do with Android Wear watches and the upcoming Apple watch. I looked at the Wahoo device but finally got myself a Cateye Strada Smart which was available at a discount at Wiggle. And it does exactly what I want to do it. It is basically a tiny display you can mount on the handlebar or stem and connects to the phone via low energy Bluetooth. You can directly connect Cateye sensors to it but I am using it in so-called mirror mode. I run the Cateye app that records all trip info on the phone and have my Bluetooth HR-monitor connected to it. It also transmits all the data to the Strada Smart on your bar which you can basically use like a conventional bike computer. When the trip is finished the Cateye App syncs with Strava and directly uploads the data. You can also get notifications about incoming calls, messages and email on the display.

The only issue I have at the moment that sometimes I get GPS errors which I need to correct in a desktop software afterwards and that can be a little time-consuming. However, in theory that should not have anything to do with the Strada Smart but with the GPS module of the phone that I am currently using (Motorola Moto X 2014). It never happened before I used the Cateye though but then I used an iPhone with Strava....there's a small chance there is some syncing problem but I guess I need to spend some time to figure it out. Overall, I think that little gadget is well worth its money though....
I must need a new phone. Before I got my Garmin I was using my Moto G to run Strava. With a full charge, I would have 10-20% left after a 3 hour ride
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Old 04-03-15, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene
Is the inaccurate climbing data a function of the app used, or because it was a phone? It strikes me that elevation data has to come from the mapping/app, since obviously the iphone doesn't have an altimeter built in (does it?).
iPhone 6 does.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha
I've not had any issue with the RFLKT + iPhone 6. The standard advice keep your phone in a side pocket jersey rather than the middle one. Of course all phones are different and have different signal strengths, so YMMV.


True, however there is also a battery drain related to data usage. I find that my iPhone's battery lasts 2-3x as long if I turn off mobile data (easily done). GPS still works fine with this recording, and maps will likely be cached. If you need internet at any point during the ride, it's easy to turn back on.


EDIT: I misread the above...

Yes you're right, you'd have to have it go to the lock screen and I think the minimum is 60 seconds, rather than 20 seconds. That means you'd need to swipe to unlock also, rather than a press of a switch. Herein lies another problem of using the iPhone in a case on your handlebars: If it's raining, your touchscreen will stop working. This is a basic problem with capacitive touchscreen.


You can get a Garmin Edge 500 for $150. iPhone's of course are worth a lot more than the $.99 contract cost!
Any experience with phone in a saddle bag with RFLKT?

Good tip on the mobile data switch, thanks! Does this disable receiving texts though?

Yeah.. too bad there's basically no way to get rid of the swipe/unlock screen, even if I change phone to not needing a code. Still have to go thru that screen.

Phones may be worth more than $.99, but if that's what I'd have to pay, that's what I'd have to pay. Of course I'd have to renew my verizon contract, but doesn't change my monthly fee anyway. Refurbed 5 and 5Cs go for $280 without contract, not the $6-700 others are talking about. I don't need the size of a 6.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha
iPhone 6 does.
This brings up another topic..maybe best for another thread -- that has me a bit confused. Do the main apps out there use GPS and Mapping data for the metrics reported (speed, climbing, distance), or the sensor's readings? Eg. If I have a Wahoo Blue SC sensor mounted, and run either Strava, Cyclemeter, or the Wahoo fitness app, is my distance and speed coming from the sensor or the app/GPS ? I'll have to check again, but from what I remember, eg. for Cyclemeter, there isn't a way to run this app if GPS is turned off on the phone, even if a sensor is linked to the app, right? I don't understand this.

I suppose I could run two apps concurrently (but draining more battery), such as Wahoo fitness in "indoor bike trainer" mode (which has to use the sensor), and Cyclemeter (using GPS) and compare results, but this seems a kludge.
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