A Merry Cycling Christmas: The gift of an iPhone

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Our next gift suggestion for that amazing nonpareil cyclist on your list seems at first glance to have nothing to do with bicycles.

It’s an iPhone.

Here’s the deal. It used to be when I went out for a ride I would have to pack my phone, a camera, a digital recorder (for reminders, thoughts, ride review comments), a pen and pad for notes, and if I wanted video, a camcorder.

Then I got an iPhone 3GS. Not only does it replace all the gadgets, it does it in a lighter, smaller configuration.

So instead of having to jam a bunch of widgets in a bunch of pockets in my bladder pack, I pack one. The camera doesn’t boast as many pixels and the iPhone video isn’t up to the resolution of my camcorder. But you know what? The photos and videos pass the “good enough” test. In 80 to 90 percent of the cases they’ll do just fine. (For a sample, see below a recent clip I put together from Duthie Hill near Seattle.) And entering written notes and voice memos is even easier than the analog equivalents.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFOcbSpdrak&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

If that were it for the iPhone, it might not make a case for biking. But what clinches the deal is the growing number of bike apps. There’s a speedometer, a trip-ometer, a flashing headlight or taillight, a brake light, a gear calculator, a rear light warning.

Much more is on the way as the iPhone’s built-in GPS and map apps get put to use. A host of instructional apps, from fixing a flat to doing 10-foot drops, are surely on the horizon.

The best thing about the iPhone, though, is the ability to reach that special cyclist any time you want. My wife has even got hold of me 5,000-plus feet elevation high in the North Cascades. It’s amazing where you can get cell service these days as the Forest Service, logging companies and S&R squads work to spread the network.

Then there’s simply the peer factor. For some reason, the iPhone has caught on with the cycling community. You can’t go on a ride without finding a ton of them.

An iPhone may not say “cycling.” But no cyclist is going to turn one down under this year’s tree.

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