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Ride tracking: Smartphones Apps


Every cyclists encounters a few questions soon after getting started.  For example:
  • How can I keep track of how much [distance/time] am I riding?
  • Where did I ride last month on the weekend?
  • How much calories am I burning during my morning hour long rides?
  • How much have I improved [gotten faster] since last month?
All these questions are answered by ride tracking.  Although both software and hardware methods are available for tracking rides / fitness / training progress, smartphone apps offer a quick and ready to go software solution since almost every one owns a smartphone. There are a lot of smartphone GPS apps available for both Android and IOS devices but Endomondo and Strava dominate the market in Pakistan. Basic usage is free of charge and there are in-app purchases available for advance options.
A drawing made by following a pre-planned route and tracking it with the GPS app

Here is a basic overview of both these apps to get you started.

Strava:

Download Strava from Google Play Download Strava from App StoreStrava is by far THE favourite cycling app globally.  It turns any phone (Android, IOS) into a cycling computer that one can use to track & record ride progress and later, analyse the data collected during the ride to check fitness improvement.  Success of Strava is partly due to the fact that it offers direct sync capability with a wide range of hardware GPS units e.g. GPS sports watches and head units.  You can find and follow most pro riders on Strava like Chris Froome

Endomondo:

Download Endomondo from Google PlayDownload Endomondo from App StoreEndomondo used to be the most popular app among cycling community (in Karachi at least) till few years ago before being taken over by Strava as the cyclists and cycling matured in the city.  Still, many track their CMK rides on Endomondo.

Both Strava and Endomondo have Social networking features allowing users to add & follow friends / other athletes, give them Kudos (Strava) or Pep talk (Endomondo) to encourage them.  Strava supports creation of clubs while both Strava and Endomondo feature challenges (Strava October 2018 Distance Challenge, Endomondo Challenge: 2018 = 2018km) that users can join and try to complete to earn virtual trophies/badges.  All these are designed to encourage the individual to perform better and improve performance.
Last but not least, both Strava and Endomondo support multiple sport activities e.g. Walk, Run, Swim etc and are not limited to Cycling only.

Ride with GPS and Runtastic's Road Bike GPS app are other notable apps.  Besides these, there are a lot more apps in both App Store as well as Google Play which you can explore for fun and preference.

For basic use, the app on the phone is sufficient to allow tracking workout distance, time, average speed, estimated elevation gain/loss etc.  However for a bit more serious workout tracking, several hardware sensors can be used and connected to the phone via Bluetooth wireless technology.  These are as follows:

Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) Sensor :
This is usually a chest strap which detects electrical pulses from the body and communicates to the smartphone (or GPS unit) via Bluetooth or ANT+ protocol. Current generation models support both protocols whereas a few years older models supported either Bluetooth or ANT+.
HRM sensor helps track and analyse heart rate zones (beats per minute) during the workout. It is important for people interested in cardio workouts.
Current generation of sport watches/fitness bands typically have optical sensor at the back which measures your heartbeat by shining a light through your skin and reading fluctuations caused by blood flow variations on the wrist.  These are considered less accurate then the chest strap type HRM sensor.  That is why higher end sports watches like Garmin Fenix also have capability to pair up with chest strap HR sensor.

Cadence Sensor:  
These sensors measure the pedalling speed in RPM (Revolutions/Rounds Per Minute).  They come typically in two parts...a unit to be mounted on the chain-stay and a magnet that mounts or sticks to the crank arm.  The magnet activates the sensor unit every time it passes by the sensor and the sensor communicates this info to the paired smartphone (or GPS device).
Current generation of cadence sensors work without the magnet and offer both Bluetooth & ANT+
connectivity options.  For people interested in cardio workouts, cadence sensor provides helpful feedback by taking the guesswork out of measuring pedalling speed which needs to be maintained between 80~100+ RPM for cardio (aerobic/anaerobic/tempo zones) and/or endurance training.  For muscular workouts, the RPM needs to be lower than 80 RPM using harder-to-pedal gears.

Speed Sensor:
Speed sensor is an optional sensor only used to increase the accuracy of speed & distance tracking measured by the GPS sensor in the smartphone (or GPS device). Like cadence sensors, current generation of speed sensors are magnet-less whereas older generations worked with a magnet.  Wheel diameter is usually required to be programmed in the settings for speed sensors to measure distance and speed accurately.

The main disadvantage of using smartphone apps for ride tracking is that due to using GPS (location services), these apps drain the phone battery rather quickly.  This shortcoming is addressed by the next logical upgrade a serious cyclist considers, i.e.; a cyclo-computer or GPS device.  In our next a future blog post, we shall take a look at a few popular ride tracking hardware devices.



Comments

  1. Assalam o alaikum . Plss guide me for my son . He is 8 yrs old. I want him to join cycling clubs or any kind of healthy sport beside cricket or football .. I live in f.b area Karachi. So plssss guide me some near place for my sun to join cycling ..pls . Thanks in advance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walaikum Assalam.
      Club/Group rides usually require an adult to accompany such a young child on the rides. You and your son can try joining a nearby group ride on Sunday. Read below linked post on Major Cycling Groups for knowing about the groups in/around your area.
      https://www.pakistancyclingnetwork.com/2018/08/major-cycling-groups-in-pakistan.html
      For F. B. Area, GG Riders might be suitable. Rental bicycles are usually available for group rides but need to be booked in advance. Go to the relevant group's facebook page to find out more details.

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