Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Online Edge

Apps and Websites for Melbourne Cyclists...

Bay Winds Page – For anyone who rides beach road regularly, this website is a must. We all know how strong the winds are in Melbourne and anything above a 25 knot headwind on beach road is a bit of a pain. This page allows you to monitor the direction of the wind and the strength, in real time. The site is updated fairly regularly, about every 20 minutes I believe, and includes a whole raft of other information including, temperature graphs, rainfall statistics and tidal activity. This is all interesting – and no doubt essential for sailors (who I think the page was originally intended for), but for us cyclists, it’s the wind data that is most useful. The page lacks any bells and whistles, which is refreshing, and helps with load times on mobile devices. I’m not entirely sure who to thank for this priceless resource, the disclaimer states that the page ‘used to be’ hosted by the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, I suspect it is now hosted by some weather obsessed individual! And to them I say thankyou!

Oz Weather App – Ok, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but as my most frequently used app, I have to include it here. Unless you are some sort of sadomasochistic individual that gets pleasure from riding in wind, rain, and hail, most people like to avoid poor conditions if possible. This app allows you to track weather patterns using the radar functions. If poor weather is approaching your can estimate when it’s going to hit and make an educated guess on whether it’s heading for you! This is particularly useful for commuting, you are able to monitor the page and time your ride to or from work so that you miss the worst of the weather. Of course, the app has all those other weather functions that are useful for planning your rides, like long term forecasts for Melbourne and many other Australian cities.

Cycling Profiles Website – This website is simply brilliant, something I wish I’d thought of! The site lists heaps of rides around Melbourne and beyond, when you click on a ride you are given a map and a profile of the ride, with all of the crucial info included; the distance, the elevation, major features to look out for, and the classification, distance and percentage incline of the hills. The site collaborates with many clubs Northern Combine, Brunswick etc.) and social ride organisers (Cycling Victoria, Cycling Australia, Bicycle Victoria), and many professional charity ride organisers (Amy Gillet Foundation, Audax) so If you are doing a mass participation event, there’s a good chance your ride will be on here. The site has the double function of providing a ride calendar, so you can plan which charity/recreational rides you’ll fork over the dough for this year! People can submit their own ride profiles and the rides under the ‘Melbourne Popular’ category are a priceless tool for injecting some variation into training schedules. The site is easy to use and navigate and is regularly updated. With plans to expand the site for other states – I can see the popularity of this site will rapidly grow.

Log Your Ride App – There are a million fitness related apps out there and about half of those are related to logging or tracking your run or ride. This is just another one, but it is one that I’ve found works quite well. It’s relatively easy to use, it has a wide variety of functions and for those stat hungry cyclists – you can track just about everything, including heart rate and post it to your own personalized web page for analysis and gloating! After your ride you can see a map of exactly where you went, your total time, your distance, and your average pace, all of which can be compared to your on-board cycling computer for verification. And, as a little bonus, you can control your music through the app and you can program a chime to sound in your ears every time a kilometer clicks over (this can get a little annoying after while). The app is probably best used for multi-day tours or those closely tracking their training before a big event. Despite all of this, I must confess that I use this app fairly irregularly, and I don’t even try to use it if I know I’m going to be cycling through 3G blackspots (I’m with Vodafail so that means pretty much all of Melbourne!). I’m sure that all of the features listed pale into insignificance when compared to the features of a Garmin Edge, but for those of us without that sweet bit of kit, Log Your Ride is a pretty sweet alternative.

Bicycle Network Bike Event Calendar – There are many calendars available, but I find this one to be the most comprehensive. If you are like me, and you want to limit the amount of recreational or charity rides you do per year (mainly ‘cause they are so expensive!), this is a great site for helping choose exactly which ones to do. The site does not include competitive club road races and criteriums, you’d have to go to a club website for that sort of thing, but if you want an idea of what sort of community events are coming up – check out this website.

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