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Smart Phones on a Road Bike

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Smart Phones on a Road Bike

Old 12-30-18, 05:19 PM
  #1  
DaveLeeNC
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Smart Phones on a Road Bike

To date my Smart Phone usage has been REALLY limited as my only data plan is 500MB per month (but free) and then data pricing gets pretty high. So other than tracking via the FollowMee app (so my wife can find my corpse if I die on the road) I don't use the Smart Phone for much.

But I am going to change to a real data plan and see what, if anything, more use I can find for this thing. So my question is what else, useful for solo road biking, is a Smart Phone good for. My cycling computer is a Garmin 800 so a somewhat better GPS is nice, but not really that much more than what I have. I am not interested in taking phone calls or seeing messages while riding. I am aware of the Strava stuff that I can do but that has limited appeal to me.

What else do other find useful? Thanks.

dave

ps. Most of my riding is wandering in the same general (rural) area for an hour or two. I am kind of "knee limited" in that regard.
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Old 12-30-18, 07:23 PM
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I'm a bit of a luddite re Garmins etc (translation: I don't have one) - when with a group, I rely on everyone else knowing the route, when heading out solo, I'll print out a cue sheet. I keep my smartphone in my jersey pocket, running Strava, so I can track distances for maintenance purposes (the rest of the Strava universe doesn't interest me). Otherwise, the phone is pretty useless. The occasions when the cue sheet doesn't match what I'm seeing with my own eyes, I'm usually too far out in the sticks for the cell to get a map app signal to resolve the contradiction. Honestly, my phone is in case I need to call for rescue following a mechanical, or to surf during coffee/carb break
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Old 12-30-18, 07:38 PM
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focus...

I recommend full paying attention to riding.. , and use your phone when you pull over and stop, Just like you should do while driving your car..
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Old 12-30-18, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I recommend full paying attention to riding.. , and use your phone when you pull over and stop, Just like you should do while driving your car..
Yeah man. I know how far I've gone, how fast..blah blah blah. That phone is a pest and in my back pocket or bag.
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Old 12-30-18, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I recommend full paying attention to riding.. , and use your phone when you pull over and stop, Just like you should do while driving your car..
I am not sure that I necessarily agree with that. I don't think anyone would suggest that I put my Garmin 800 in my pocket and only look at it when I stopped on the side of the road. If nothing else I could use the Smartphone for speed/direction and maybe another one or two cycling computer functions which would clear up some Garmin 800 data fields for other data that I might be interested in while riding which would avoid me having to change screens which would obviously be safer (by a small amount, clearly).

I am not saying that texting while riding is a good idea, but I don't agree that using a Smart Phone while riding is necessarily unsafe.

dave
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Old 12-30-18, 09:17 PM
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You could use it for streaming music or podcasts, or use Google maps instead of off-line maps, but that's all I can think of. However you could download music and use GPS navigation, and Strava as well for that matter, without using data.
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Old 12-30-18, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC View Post
I am not sure that I necessarily agree with that. I don't think anyone would suggest that I put my Garmin 800 in my pocket and only look at it when I stopped on the side of the road. If nothing else I could use the Smartphone for speed/direction and maybe another one or two cycling computer functions which would clear up some Garmin 800 data fields for other data that I might be interested in while riding which would avoid me having to change screens which would obviously be safer (by a small amount, clearly).

I am not saying that texting while riding is a good idea, but I don't agree that using a Smart Phone while riding is necessarily unsafe.

dave
I use a smartphone while riding so am not preaching but anything that unecessarily diverts your full attention from the road is unsafe. And not many things in this world do that more than a smartphone.
I assume you were only half serious but if you are squirrelly enough to be even a tad concerned about somebody finding your corpse a bit sooner than later because of a smartphone app I would say you are contradicting yourself about safety in general.
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Old 12-30-18, 11:19 PM
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I was riding on one of the local mups in my area and there was a group of riders coming the other direction spread out all over the trail. One of them was so far to her left that she was riding straight at me. She was intently staring at her phone that was mounted on the stem. I screamed heads up several times, and she did look up for a moment and then went back to whatever it was she was doing on her phone. We collided head on. Crazy.
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Old 12-31-18, 12:17 AM
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When I'm at a red light, with one foot on the road and the other one still clipped in, taking my phone out makes it really hard to balance for a second. It's the weirdest thing, and I don't think it's the phone. I can pull ito of my pocket and take a picture while riding, no problem, but stopped, it throws me off.

Since the safety debate was already brought up.

I haven't really found much use for my phone while I ride except for the maps and camera. Even with a Garmin that does maps, the phone screen is just so much more detailed. Don't like to stare at it while I ride, but I like being able to check when things don't seem right.
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Old 12-31-18, 12:20 AM
  #10  
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@colnago62 You had no room to pull over?
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Old 12-31-18, 01:18 AM
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Being otherwise tethered to it off the saddle for work, it lives in my jersey pocket in silent mode during rides. To be used only for emergencies.
I try to dedicate my full attention during time on the saddle to the ride.
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Old 12-31-18, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by downhillmaster View Post

I use a smartphone while riding so am not preaching but anything that unecessarily diverts your full attention from the road is unsafe. And not many things in this world do that more than a smartphone.
I assume you were only half serious but if you are squirrelly enough to be even a tad concerned about somebody finding your corpse a bit sooner than later because of a smartphone app I would say you are contradicting yourself about safety in general.
There is a back story here regarding 'finding my corpse'. In 2016 I still didn't own a Smartphone and just didn't feel the need to pay for a data plan. My wife felt like 'we' should have one, but it certainly was not something that she wanted to deal with.

At the time I was riding 175 to 200 miles per week out in the countryside and concern for my safety was a question in her mind. So she used that as leverage to induce me to get a Smartphone (at which point I found the limited but free data plan) and at one point in the debate came the comment "but if you were not able to use your cell phone how would I find you" to which I added the comment "so you are concerned about finding my corpse".

Actually getting tracking capability was a good move for both of us as it freed me to 'just ride where-ever" (within reason of course) and my wife felt more comfortable with the whole thing. And a couple of people have told me "you really won't know all the great things that you can do with it until you have one with fewer limitations that you can use all thing time". Hence the question (where I suspect the answer in this specific case is "not much more than what I already have").

dave

Last edited by DaveLeeNC; 12-31-18 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 12-31-18, 12:21 PM
  #13  
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Yup, I understand the need for real time access to navigation aids, etc. I finally had to make that concession to technology a year ago when my mom became critically ill and transitioned from home to hospital to rehab to nursing home and finally hospice. I needed to be available 24/7 to give medical permissions, etc. So I upgraded my phone from an older iPhone 4s to a good but very affordable Moto E4 on Verizon (outstanding customer support, coverage and data speed, but pricey -- I had to discontinue that after awhile and hunt for bargain phone services).

Check out some bargain priced phone services. I use these.

The cheapest by far is FreedomPop. It's VOIP (voice over internet protocol), so there are some compromises. And the voice/text both use some data. So if the totally free plan offers 200-500 MB data, some of that is needed for voice and texting. But it is completely free after paying something like $2 for the SIM -- basically just paying for postage. No voicemail. No data rollover. They used to include those but discontinued that several months ago.

Next step up is FreedomPop's $50/year plan. The SIM/plan is available at some big box electronics stores, or you can order it directly from FreedomPop or Amazon. For that you get unlimited voice, text and voicemail, and 1 GB data per month. No rollover. Works fine with my recent model Android phone. Not so well with my old iPhone 4s.

For affordable true cell service the best buys now are Mint Mobile and Red Pocket. Mint Mobile offers a trial period plan of 3 months for $45, or $15/mo. Unlimited voice, text, voicemail, and 2 GB data. Works pretty well. After the 3 month trial period it's $69 to renew another 3 months, or $180 for a year to preserve the $15/mo price.

I renewed for three months just now at the higher price. My only quibble is that I've missed some important calls lately that didn't ring the phone and went to voicemail, or texts arrived a few hours late, causing me to miss appointments. That's only a few occasions but just annoying enough to make me hesitate to commit to a full year. Other Mint Mobile customers have had the same complaint.

Red Pocket is unusual, the only MVNO to offer plans for all four major carriers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. So any phone, CDMA or GSM, can be used. My Moto E4 handles both GSM and CDMA so it doesn't matter. Prices vary depending on which carrier is used. I see some customer complaints but that's true of all MVNOs. I might try one of Red Pocket's plans with Verizon later in 2019, since my Moto E4 was originally on Verizon, which had the best coverage and fastest data in my area.

The problem with any bargain priced MVNO is they're leasing excess capacity from the Big Four -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. So they occasionally put lower priority on those services. That means occasional missed calls, late texts or voicemails, or lower speed data.

My two FreedomPop accounts (one free, the other $50/year) are on AT&T. I get true high speed data pretty much all the time, which is fantastic for real time stuff like the OP needs. And good coverage in my area. Phone (voice/text) is generally reliable on my Android phone, a bit finicky on my old iPhone. But a newer iPhone should be fine.

My Mint Mobile account is on T-Mobile. T-Mobile is notorious for being stingy about data and throttling MVNOs. That made Simple Mobile absolutely useless -- I couldn't even access navigation aids last spring when I was in the middle of nowhere but had a good signal, so I bumbled my way back to a recognizable road.

But so far my Mint Mobile data has usually been true high speed, day and night. The only problem is spotty coverage. T-Mobile has also been caught exaggerating coverage, and there are some places in the D/FW area with very poor coverage.

Incidentally, if you ever need the most flexible, versatile and reliable coverage, Google Fi phone service may be the best option. It's limited to some Google-packaged phones and a tiny handful of non-Google phones. But it uses multiple carriers and can hop from one to the next to ensure unbroken coverage. Price isn't too bad either. But it requires a more expensive phone to use that versatility.

Last edited by canklecat; 12-31-18 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 12-31-18, 12:47 PM
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You skipped Tracfone, which I'm back to now and paying about $7/month but I have real low data usage.

And then Google Fi which I haven't tried looks very reasonable at $20 plus the data you actually use at $1 per 100 meg.
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Old 12-31-18, 01:01 PM
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Canklecat - you sound a whole lot like me. The whole story is ...

I currently have a Samsung S5 on the free FreedomPop plan with no upgrades (so not a real cell phone, no voicemail, 500MB per month, etc). I had been using this almost exclusively as 'a tracker' and still used my AT/T flip-phone/Gophone plan (grandfathered in) at $0.10 per minute with rollover (purchased in $100, 1 year lumps) for phone calls. I ended up with a Gophone balance of around $400 (after years of rollovers) which I figured I would never use as the $100 per year I was spending bought me way more cell phone time than I needed.

Then I realized that I could use this balance and upgrade to a 'free' Gophone data plan (free until the $ ran out). So I bought a Moto G6 unlocked (GSM and CDMA) and upgraded my no data Gophone plan to an 8Gig plan and I've got 6 to 8 'free months' with kind of unrestricted data access to see what I really want here. Then I will probably pick and choose among the various MVNO's.

dave

Last edited by DaveLeeNC; 12-31-18 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 12-31-18, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Leukybear View Post
Being otherwise tethered to it off the saddle for work, it lives in my jersey pocket in silent mode during rides. To be used only for emergencies.
I try to dedicate my full attention during time on the saddle to the ride.
Preaching to the choir here. My bike gps gives me my speed and cadence. I rarely track the rides. The phone is for emergencies only. I don’t even look at it when I stop. Biking and running are “my time”.
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Old 12-31-18, 03:28 PM
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If you already have a Garmin, I don't see why you'd use your smartphone for anything bike related other than listening to music/podcasts. Or letting your significant other know when you'll be back.
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Old 12-31-18, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
If you already have a Garmin, I don't see why you'd use your smartphone for anything bike related other than listening to music/podcasts. Or letting your significant other know when you'll be back.
Agree. Main use of smartphone is to make the call of shame. Sad!
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Old 12-31-18, 06:45 PM
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I have a Garmin and an iPhone. The phone pairs with the Garmin. I keep the phone in my jersey middle pocket. If the missus texts (I see it on the Garmin screen) it’s most likely important so I pull over (or at least at my earliest opportunity) and respond. Otherwise the phone is primarily just for emergencies.
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Old 12-31-18, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I screamed heads up several times...we collided head on. Crazy.
You’re either FOS or the worlds worst cyclist.


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Old 12-31-18, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I recommend full paying attention to riding.. , and use your phone when you pull over and stop, Just like you should do while driving your car..
And while driving your car you look at;

Speed
RPM
Gas gauge
blinkers

and some people actually turn on radios and heaters. Same and maybe more than with a Garmin.

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Old 01-04-19, 08:46 AM
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hang up and ride
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Old 01-04-19, 09:31 PM
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I have mine for emergencies only
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Old 01-04-19, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Shuffleman View Post

Preaching to the choir here. My bike gps gives me my speed and cadence. I rarely track the rides. The phone is for emergencies only. I don’t even look at it when I stop. Biking and running are “my time”.
I like to work on CAD drawings while I ride. Makes the hill repeats less boring.
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Old 01-04-19, 11:22 PM
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A bit off topic but I stopped taking my phone. It cost me 800 to buy the darn thing so I don’t really want to risk damage on the bike. Garmin 520 was way cheaper. If I need to call there are lots of people on the trail or somebody in the group has a phone. Well everybody but me it seems.
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