If you have an iPod Touch, iPhone, or BlackBerry I’m sure you are already familiar with how useful and practical these devices can be. Numerous apps are available: many are completely useless and many don’t work as well as they’d like. However, if you wade through the thousands of apps available you can find some real gems.
Here, in my experience, are some of the best apps available for Motorcyclists, in no particular order:
Too handy, and it comes standard on iPods and iPhones. Has it’s obvious benefits, particularly on GPS enabled devices. This can also be useful on the iPod Touch where if you get directions when connected to the internet, it will save the turn by turn directions, so even if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi, you can still scroll through the steps. Driving directions, business listings, even real-time traffic to find the quickest route. You’ll find yourself consulting Google Maps over and over and over.
~ FGPNow! (Future Gas Prices, Now!)
I find this one handy although the current version only supports major Canadian cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal). It’s a free app that updates itself around 5pm everyday and informs users what the price of gas will be tomorrow and the relative change from the current price. In my experience it is fairly accurate. The official blog says the next version will support other cities although doesn’t specify which.
Handy for monitoring your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and how they are affected by your driving habits. This app costs $0.99 but is well worth it in the opinion of both authors of this blog. In fact, it is the only app I have ever paid for! At each fill up, you input the distance traveled and how much you filled up (you can also add price per litre/gallon). The ability to convert and display different units is a nice bonus, particularly useful for traveling between the U.S. and Canada. So let’s say you’re from the U.S. traveling in Canada and you want it to display in mpg but can only get a reading of litres from the gas stations – input the fill up in litres and it will convert it. The app also puts together a graph for you to follow your fuel economy over time. I have found this useful in tracking how my fuel economy is in different environments, such as high winds, and how to improve on it.
A great free app for monitoring the weather wherever you find yourself. Tons of features on this one: temp, wind speed & chill, satellite images, photo and video from nearby weather stations … One feature that I’ve found very useful is the satelite imagery. If there happens to be a storm system in your area, you can track it and use the information to pick the best route to avoid the storm, or at least stay on the edge of it (see the final day of the San Diego to Toronto trip). I’ve also used WeatherEye from the Weather Network, but it doesn’t have as many features.
Forget about carrying around books to keep your mind busy while taking breaks from those long rides! Stanza lets you hold a lifetime’s worth of reading on your iPhone or iPod Touch. A built in catalog with links to over 100,000 books to download so you don’t have to be connected to the internet to read. Also has a desktop app that lets you convert any existing eBook collection to Stanza. Highly recommended free app!
~ NYTimes and/or Mobile News
Keep on top of the news with either (or both) of these mobile apps that update frequently. Handy for those coffee stops and to keep in touch with the world around you, regardless of where you find yourself.
Obviously there are too many apps out there for one or two people to review. If you have one (or many) you find useful that didn’t make our list please share it in the comments!
The Greatest Road app for iPhone and iPod touch helps you to find great roads based on recommendations and ratings from other riders:
- Look for great roads near you or wherever you’re headed
- See how they’re rated by other riders
- Read comments that tell you generally about the trip or current conditions and hazards
- Add new stretches of road and describe the trip for others to see
- Email a stretch to buddies with iPhones and Greatest Road
- Email a stretch to buddies as a GPX file to load into a standalone GPS
- Single tap to access Google Maps to help you navigate the ride
~ Mapquest– Free turn-by-turn directions.
This is an absolute must-have app. I only discovered this while on my 2 month trip around the US but it was a huge time saver. Obviously a bit issue with being on a motorcycle can be figuring out directions. There’s always the option of having a gas tank mount to hold some directions and a map, but that can’t be always safe looking down while driving trying to figure out if you have to make that exit approaching at 70mph. Of course memorizing them is not very reliable and you’ll find yourself second guessing yourself more often than not at the last minute.
I found the Mapquest app to be a perfect solution to this. I typically like to listen to music when I ride (a decision which some might question from a safety standpoint, but that’s for another post), and this app work perfectly in the background with the new iOS 4.0 in my iPhone as it would unobtrusively turn down my music and announce on-coming directions and then turn the music back on when it was done. It also has an auto reroute feature if you get off course, automatically adjusting its directions. There are options for shortest time and shortest distance, as well as the options to avoid highways, toll roads, and “seasonally closed” (all of which are nice for motorcycle riders). Since it is built in with Mapquest capabilities, you can search for restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, etc. and get directions to them as well.
I found one important feature missing was that there was no option to turn on warnings. This was big on a motorcycle because you couldn’t just look down and check what the status is (unless you had a mount for your phone, but I carried mine in my jacket pocket), so I would find myself in the familiar trap of second guessing myself and my phone’s battery power only to pull over on the side of the road and discover I was still 5 miles from my turn. It looks like they might have added this option though in a recent update with “Walking Directions Alerts,” though I haven’t had the chance to test it out. I would recommend however not totally relying on the app, quickly reviewing the directions before stowing your phone away, as sometimes it can crash or your battery may die, leaving you endlessly waiting for the next turn (the walking alerts may do a lot to alleviate this concern though).
Oh, and did I mention the best part? It’s free!!