Simply put, the iPhone app Runtastic Road Bike PRO ($4.99) is one of the top three bicycling apps in the App Store. It works well, mapped all my rides accurately, has a number of great features, and supports six languages. Heat maps showing speed, elevation, and other factors that you select make it easy to see at a glance whether you rode consistently hard and where you hit your peak performance.
The other two apps that measure up are Map My Ride+ ($1.99), of the well-known MapMyFitness brand, and our Editors’ Choice in this category, Cyclemeter ($4.99). All three have a lot in common, but differentiate themselves in unique ways. Runtastic Road Bike PRO offers an excellent balance between usability and depth. It’s easy to find the features you need, but at the same time, it doesn’t have so many features as to be overwhelming. Cyclemeter has a more sophisticated interface, recently freshened up for iOS 7, and deeper features for serious riders. Lastly, MapMyRide+ offers a strong community aspect, although it is weakest in terms of accuracy, particularly with GPS mapping.
Runtastic Road Bike PRO is the app to buy if you want to track your rides easily and don’t mind not having every single deep feature that a pro might want. For most enthusiasts, it is great, but Cyclemeter offers a little bit more in terms of options and customizability. .
The Runtastic Road Bike PRO Experience
When you set up any Runtastic app, whether it’s the core runner’s app Runtastic PRO for Android, Runtastic PRO for iPhone, or any other of the company’s workout apps, you’ll find the usual user account setup instructions asking for birthday (to determine age), weight, height, sex, and so forth. These details help the app determine how many calories you’re likely to burn during an activity.
A few variations on bicycling, as an activity, are supported, too. When you start a new tracking session, you can choose from cycling, race cycling, or hand biking. Cyclemeter, on the other hand, offers a much wider range of options: regular cycling, cycling for distance, cycling for time, and cycling intervals. There’s also a mountain biking option in Cyclemeter, as well as a setting that lets you use the app to track indoor cycling workouts, useful for those who train when snow’s on the ground.
When you start a ride with the app, a countdown appears before it starts recording, which gives you some extra time (0 to 30 seconds, adjustable by you) to put your iPhone into position before you take off. And, if you want to skip the wait time, you can.
I like the option for real-time voice feedback when you hit mile markers. You can set it to tell you whatever metrics you want, including pace, speed, distance, duration, calories burned, and heart rate and cadence if you use compatible devices, such as the Runtastic heart rate monitor and bicycle cadence meter). You can also set the voice feedback to speak in any one of six languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese. English and Japanese come with the option for a male or female voice.
The app integrates with your music, as you would expect, and includes a power song option that you can hit when you need a boost.
One little extra I like is that at the end of a session the app presents a screen of additional info you can add if you want, such as emoticons for how you’re feeling, what kind of surface you rode on, the weather, the temperature (which records automatically based on your location), and an open-ended notes field. If you’re scrupulous record keeper, you’ll love the ability to mark when you’ve ridden while injured or just in a bad mood.
My favorite feature, however, is the map. When you finish a ride, the app displays the map of your route as a heat map, and you can change which factor is used to determine the color. For example, the speed map shows red for your highest speeds and green for the slowest, with yellow and orange in between. Change the variable to elevation, and you might notice that your slower speeds match up to increases in elevation.
Compatible Gadgets, Offline Maps
The app integrates with a great list of gadgets including heart rate monitors, cadence meters, and speed sensors that use ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart. Runtastic makes its own heart rate monitor and cadence meter, which you can use with the bicycling app, but it supports one more hot device: the Pebble smartwatch. I didn’t test the app with the Pebble, but I did ride with the heart rate monitor a few times, and I love the data readsout, particularly on that heat map I mentioned earlier.
One final feature worth mentioning is offline maps. You can elect to download a map of your current geographic area before you hit the road, while you’re connected to Wi-Fi. This feature is very well designed. You can zoom in and out of the map to adjust the area that will be saved offline, and the app will tell you how large the map will be before you save it.
Among the Best
Runtastic’s Road Bike app is among the best iPhone bicycling apps for. It’s accurate, works well, and provides a wealth of information in a clear and highly usable interface. For the same $4.99 price, however, you can get a few super-duper features out of Cyclemeter by Abvio, should you want to measure your indoor cycling training, for example, or track your workouts on a calendar. Because of those few bonus features, Cyclemeter remains our Editors’ Choice for bicycling apps, though Runtastic’s Road Bike app is just as good by every other measure.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc