I ride my bicycle to work whenever possible through the scenic District of Columbia, which offers me numerous benefits. It forces me to exercise regularly, cuts down on commuting costs, is a zero emissions method of navigating the city streets (aside from manufacturing processes), and it’s much quicker door-to-door than driving through rush hour traffic.
Naturally, I’ve dabbled with websites, apps, and mobile tools to enhance my riding experience, most of which have been of little or no use to me. That said, there are a few gems available to cycling enthusiasts, and I thought I’d highlight the best of the best from my experiences. Keep reading after the jump for my findings.
MapMyRide.com is a web app based on the Google Maps API, and aside from the pervasive advertisements, is a great way to quickly map and analyze a route. My favorite part of this app is a widget that instantaneously visualizes elevation data, which as any avid cycler knows is probably the most telling aspect when gauging the difficulty of a ride. With a point-and-click routing interface, rapid creation of different (savable) paths is completely intuitive. Here’s the tail end of my morning commute:
I’m really turned off by the amount of advertising on this website, but it works so well that I’m able to forego this misstep and support the developers by way of enduring the marketing onslaught.
Bicycletutor.com is a valuable resource for DIY cyclists. Most of the minor repairs, maintenance tasks, and alterations are within reason for those with average handiness and a set of wrenches. There are plenty of video tutorials to choose from, some of which might instigate a cascading series of weekend projects. Content is king here, and Bicycle Tutor definitely delivers in that department.
Suffering a minor malfunction on my bicycle the other day reminded me of how important safe cycling habits are, especially when commuting amongst aggressive city drivers. Bicyclesafe.com is a good introduction or review for cyclists of any skill level, detailing methods and precautions one can take to reduce the chances of encountering dangerous situations – and being prepared for them should they occur.
Most areas have location-specific resources that are invaluable when it comes to becoming acquainted with a region’s traffic and cycling patterns. For the greater DC area, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) fits the bill. Local laws, bike paths, and general tips are all covered on WABA’s website. While I don’t feel compelled to download their $12 map, there is a free Google Maps overlay that highlights rail trails and stream trails that I find useful when planning a Sunday jaunt.
Here are some resources for other nearby metropolitan areas:
After downloading a half dozen cycling apps, I was beginning to lose hope that the obvious integration between cycling and mobile apps would be done right. REI proved me wrong by launching BikeYourDrive, an iPhone app that logs trips, geotags photos, and uploads ride information/images to everytrail.com . Environmentally conscious readers can see carbon offset estimates for their rides, and more fitness-minded individuals will appreciate the running calorie count. Wrapped up in an intuitive Start/Stop interface, BikeYourDrive is a good way to log individual trips if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’m not claiming that these are the definitive best, or that there aren’t other similar products/services out there. These highlights are simply what I’ve found that work best for me, or provide trivial information that is at least somewhat useful. Anybody have experiences with other bicycle-related tech? Let us know in the comments.