Saddle Sore – Reviews, Rides & Rablings – Cycling Blog

Category - Technology

Technology

Cycling with a Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5 Port Cover
“…I realise what I prick I am.”

How do you feel about technology’s encroachment into cycling? Does it ruin the simplicity of a bicycle ride or enhance it? I lie somewhere in the middle, I love technology so can’t help but be interested and want to use it. When my mobile contract came up for renewal my cycling had a say in what phone I chose. The more I write for this blog the more I realise what I prick I am.

Previously I had the Samsung Galaxy S4 and it was a tight fit to get it in my zipped jersey pocket. So when the S5 was announced to be (unsurprisingly) larger I was concerned that it wouldn’t fit, and thought I would consider the S5 Mini but that wouldn’t be out for a few months. As it turns out it just about fits as the S4 did.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Screen

Samsung Galaxy S5 Screen

Cycling and photography often go hand in hand so the camera was/is a major factor to consider and is one aspect where the S5 Mini (8MP) is significantly inferior to its big bro (16MP). I’m not sure anyone really understands megapixels (MP) but 16 is a higher number than 8 so that must be good right?

The main benefit of the S5 over most of its rivals is that its IP67 certified which means its water and dust resistant. I can put in the jersey pocket without worrying about the weather or perspiration. I have tested mine in a cup of tea – it passed. The Mini is also water and dust resistant and doesn’t have the annoying charging port cover of the S5.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Port Cover

Samsung Galaxy S5 Port Cover

Battery life is good and it has an ultra power saving mode which reduces the amount of processes running and makes the screen black and white. At the moment it has 74% battery power and it estaimates it would last 9.2 days in ultra power saving mode – it would last that long with use obviously. When on a long ride I use an external battery (2600mAh should do about 1 full charge) to top the phone and Garmin GPS, or because the battery is user swappable (another deciding factor for me) you can take spare batteries or upgrade to a higher capacity battery when needed. For longer rides (multi-day) I use a PowerMonkey Extreme 12v and have recently coupled this with a MU plug (more on these products in a later post).

MU plug

MU plug

Being a smart phone you can download all your usual apps; Strava, Ride with GPS etc and also comes with a set of ‘S Health’ apps which can log your activity, act as a pedometer and read your heart rate with its built in HR monitor. Being an android based device means you can have widgets on your screens, which means you can have the Strava widget, which means you can record/finish a ride with one click rather than having to open the app, select Record Activity, the select start – it’s not going to change your world but its a lot easier.

 

If you want to mount it to you bike there are a few options but the best of the bunch is probably the Quad Lock (video below) which is also produced for the other major makes and models.

The touch screen sensitivity can be adjusted for use with gloves on, however (and this is for the idiots) you cannot use the fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone with gloves on. I’ve been known to use my nose to control my phone when gloved and I can confirm you cannot register your nose with the fingerprint scanner.

Currently I think you’d be hard pushed to find a phone better suited to outdoor activities than the Samsung Galaxy S5, or S5 Mini if you don’t mind the smaller screen and scaled down performance. Ultimately you’d want a device that doesn’t require and change in settings (power saving mode etc) to be used how you want it, but as yet, that device doesn’t exist.

Strava: It’s Agathokakological

Strava
“I was in danger of becoming a grade A bike wanker”

For those who don’t know, Strava is a smart phone app and companion website that will record your ‘activities’ (rides) and return to you with stats and comparisons with other ‘athletes’ (people on bikes) over ‘segments’ (sections of track or road). If you are fastest on a segment then you are labelled King/Queen of the Mountain (KOM/QOM). You setup an account, download the app and every time you go for a ride to press record.

I have the type of mind that thrives on knowing statistics of speed, distance and time but conversely I don’t like what having all those figures can potentially do to you, the power they have over you. While it does give me targets to beat and quantifies my cycling, I don’t really need, and ultimately, don’t really want that.

I’d been getting mental niggles about Strava for a while but it wasn’t until Battle to Hastings that I had the epiphany: What was I cycling for? It seemed I was cycling for Strava. I was cycling back from Hastings when my phone and Garmin Edge 800 were both low on battery power (after 12 hours) and I was starting to worry that I may not be able to record my entire ride. Soon after this I managed to grab hold of myself, give myself a shake (as it were) and a slap round the face – I was in danger of becoming a grade A bike wanker but I think I caught myself just in time. Incidentally my GPS held on until 5 miles from home.

Strava was very useful in recording my Lands End to John o’Groats ride route (despite me forgetting to un-pause it for a period going out of Gretna Green) and I will always want to keep that information for memory’s sake but there are other tools that will do that without entering you into the competitive aspects: While there are over tools/apps, Strava is very slick; it is refined and it works really well. It has a good balance of simplicity and function.

“…all this only matters if you care what other people are doing…”

It takes a strong person to use Strava and not be drawn into competition and challenges, after all, that’s what they’ve designed it to do, it’s what Strava is about, it’s where they makes their money (through Premium membership and its associated premium features).

The ‘negatives’ I mention aren’t really negatives, you just need to take from it what you want. It’s not Strava’s fault if can’t resist the pull. You can’t go around saying ‘Strava made me cycle 100 miles today’ or ‘Strava made me kill myself trying to get a KOM‘, it’s up to the user to take responsibility for their actions.

There is another negative that isn’t really a negative and that is false/bad GPS data. Either through device malfunction/misuse or users getting all Lance Armstrong (more on that in a min). The validity of rides on Strava is self policing, you could go out in a car (by accident or on purpose), upload that ‘ride’, and reap all the KOMs at 40mph – there is nothing to stop this. Worse than this is that you could falsify the GPS data to ‘juice’ your ride (Digital EPO). For the purposes of research I juiced a recent ride by 21%, disappointingly I only got one KOM. To think I’d need to give at least 21% more effort to come top is demoralising and puts my poor efforts into perspective. I was honest and deleted the ride shortly after. I couldn’t see any sign of interference either on the source file or the activity when uploaded to Strava. Of course, all this only matters if you care what other people are doing.

Strava is both good and bad in my opinion, but the bad is only created by the user and what they put in and take from it.

Follow me on Strava – unless I’ve deleted my account.