Distributed by: Oxycle International
Available at: All Apple Store

LiveRider

LiveRider the first professional wireless cycling computer system designed to be used on an iPhone or iPod. The whole system comprises of a sensor and transmitter unit, a receiver unit, two pieces of magnets, an iPhone mounting bracket and LiveRider application downloadable from the Apple App Store. In essence, the hardware and software will transform your phone into a professional cycling computer. In addition, by leveraging on iPhone existing functionalities, the system is able to provide advance features such as real-time data capture and performance analysis, GPS functionality and even export your ride data via email or into any spreadsheet or database.

LiveRider is developed by New Potato Technologies. They are founded in 1986 in the States, specializing in product development in electronic, entertainment and communications. They are currently focused on extending the iPhone, iPod and iPad platforms into new innovative areas, hence the LiveRider concept.

Getting it on

If you have fixed a cycling computer before, then mounting the LiveRider would be a breeze. First, mount the transmitting unit onto the rear chainstay on the on-drive side with the thinner side facing the crank arm. Tilt the unit so that the other end can get as close to the wheel. Secure it loosely once you are done and mount the magnet next. The package comes with three different magnets, but only two will be used. Choose the appropriate crank arm magnet for road or mountain application. Align both magnets so that they are about 2mm away from either end of the transmitter. Secure the cable ties tightly once you are done.

Next, the iPhone mounting bracket. Just tighten the cable ties round the handlebar and you are done. One note of caution when used on oversized handlebars. If you intent to mount the bracket near the middle of the bar, on its thickest section, then I would advice placing a thin piece of rubber between the cable ties and the bar to prevent the housing to slip towards the thinner end, and cause the bracket to be loose.

The whole housing is rubberized to cushion the phone when the going gets rough. Unlike other mounting, which is designed specifically for use with a particular model of phone, the LiveRider’s holder can accommodate various models of iPhone/iTouch, including the latest iPhone 4. When I put on the older iPhone, the phone felt a little loose in the housing, though it never pops out of it. When used with iPhone 4, the fit is perfect. Once the holder is done, the last step would be to install the LiveRider application online. Downloading is free and takes less than a minute.

Once you call up the application, you will see the familiar cycling computer information such as trip distance, speed, time, calories burnt etc. being displayed. To set up the unit, press on the large green button at the bottom, shift it to either side, and the set up screen pops up. You will be able to set up multiple bikes information here. One constraint I noticed was the pre-set tire sizes. The system has a long list of standard size you can choose from, but does not allow you to input your own. For example, the widest 26-inch tire available is 2.125-inch. If you use tires wider than that, you need to figure out the closest available dimension for you tires. Since the system also measures power and calories, rider’s weight would have to be keyed in as well.

Start your engine

The system is able to display a lot of information given the large display screen of the phone. Data is also uncluttered and easy to read. In fact, the data is split into two screens. One contains information that you would need during, like current speed, time and distance, while the other shows the summary of the trip. In the summary page, in addition to the usual maximum and average speed, you will also find the amount of calories burnt and power output. Another neat feature is the Chase function. It allows you to replay your best performance and set that as your target for the current ride.

I find the LiveRider easy and friendly to use. The amount of ride information you can retrieve from the system is impressive. Coupled with the Maps application that comes with the phone, you can even map out your cycling route. Do note that since the iPhone is relying on the GSM base stations (as oppose to actual GPS) to triangulate your position, data charges do apply. So unless you have data roaming, the mapping function is only limited to local usage.

It is a great piece of equipment considering the price. However, there are some areas where it can be improved upon. First, is the partial enclosed phone housing. I understand it is designed as such to accommodate various models of phones and iPods using the same housing, but without a fully enclosed casing, it greatly limits the use of the LiveRider in bad weather conditions, given that moisture is iPhone’s greatest enemy. The open casing also means restrictive application for mountain biking.

Another drawback of the system is the reliance on iPhone display. The Retina display was not designed for use under bright sunlight. Thus, when riding under the afternoon sun, the screen can be difficult to read at times. On the same note, my other grievance will be on the touch screen. The moment you have your full-fingered gloves on, you no longer have control over the system, but read only.

Worth Considering

Despite the drawbacks, LiveRider is a value upgrade if you already have the iPhone or iTouch. It allows you to squeeze more functions from these two gadgets without burning a hole in your pocket. LiveRider has all the basic functions necessary to monitor and improve on your cycling performance. The Chase Rider function is great for keeping your goals in sight. While the functions found on the LiveRider are not revolutionary, it would cost you much more to invest in dedicated sports equipment having similar functions. So until the day you are sure that you need a professional HRM or GPS, LiveRider is worth considering.