Whether you never leave home without your Bluetooth headset or you still own a rotary phone, almost everyone rides with some sort of electronics. The most common is a phone in a jersey pocket, but every day there’s another way of keeping information at your fingertips. Here are a few of the gadgets I’ve riding with to keep myself informed and (most of the time) excessively in touch.
Mophie Juice Pack Pro >> $130
With the rise in popularity of Strava comes the subsequent fall of iPhone battery life. I have missed out on several KOMs because my iPhone died mid-ride, though I know I should hold those titles.
The Mophie Juice Pack Pro more than doubles your iPhone’s battery life while offering two layers of protection. Known around the office as the “Schwarzenegger case” and “MEGA case,” the Juice Pack Pro is making Steve Jobs roll over in his grave. The case is beyond bulky at 15mm thicker than a standard iPhone and 8mm thicker than my Otterbox Defender case. The added weight is a bit annoying when the phone is in your jersey pocket, as it pulls down the jersey a bit., though I tend to forget about it during a long ride.
The outer shell of the case provides shock absorption and water repellency, while the inner pieces connects to the charging port of an iPhone 4 or 4S. The case’s integrated backup battery adds 150 percent battery life, which from my calculations gives you zero excuses for not hitting every Strava segment in the county.
At $130 the Juice Pack Pro is pricey, but you can’t put a price on those pretty little Strava KOM/QOM crowns.
Mophie also offers its sleeker Juice Pack Air case for $80. The Air extends battery life by 75 percent, which for most riders would last them a full day of work and Strava hunting.
K-Edge Computer Mount for Garmin Edge >> $50
K-Edge’s Garmin mount is the priciest in the now three-horse race that also includes the $40 Barfly and the standard $10 kit from Garmin.
Setup for the K-Edge Garmin mount is quick. The hardest part is keeping your brake cables out of the way while tightening the arm that holds your GPS using a 2.5mm Allen key.
This mount creates a cleaner look to the cockpit — something I did not expect as I’ve always considered the Garmin stem-top mount to be perfect.
The K-Edge mount is an excellent option for the Garmin user looking for something just a little different than what’s included with the head unit off the shelf. Yes, it’s $40 more expensive than the standard mount, but it’s only $10 more expensive than the Barfly while looking cleaner and holding tight to your computer.
CycleOps PowerCal >> $100
Five years ago, if someone told you that you could get a power meter for $100 you would have thought they were crazy. Today you can. While it may not be as accurate as a PowerTap, the CycleOps’s PowerCal can give you an accurate reading for the average power output of a ride.
At $100 the PowerCal is the least expensive power meter on the market. Basically, it’s a heart rate monitor with a built-in algorithm that calculates power output from beats per minute. Producing a wattage reading rather than heart rate is intended to give a reading that is easier to understand, according to Dr. Allen Lim.
I’ve used an SRM and a PowerTap. Both need to be sent back about every other year for service. They can be headaches. The PowerCal does not need any of that special treatment — it runs off of a coin cell battery that anyone can replace. This ease of operation is what makes it the perfect entry-level option for any cyclist. However, since the PowerCal is not as accurate for short intervals as a PowerTap, the anal-retentive should steer away from it.
The PowerCal is not your only low-cost option. The increasingly popular Strava.com will also estimate your power output for free using a similar formula when you sync your workouts with the social training website. But people who want a power reading while on the bike will find no more cost-effective option than the PowerCal.