• BarFly for iPhone 5

    by  • December 3, 2013 • review

    By Matt Beebe

    Author: Matt Beebe is a former IDEO designer and has been working with mobile devices for several years. Before becoming an insanely proud father, Matt was an avid racer, and specialized in time trials. These days Matt races cyclocross and is a founding team member of several start ups.

    I was just reflecting on some of my pet peeves when NCCN asked my to review the BarFly for iPhone5. I think my cycling pet peeves are not uncommon…

    #1. My phone rings when I am riding.
    If I answer it, it’s almost always someone selling something I don’t want. If I ignore it then it’s my wife or boss calling with some kind of emergency.

    #2. Downloading data from my bike computer.
    I continue this habit from the days when I was racing and training more seriously but man it’s a pain in the butt to do every time I get home from a ride.

    #3. Bulging jersey pockets.
    I’m always looking for ways to have fewer things in my jersey pockets. Gotta make room for the essentials like artichoke bread and goat cheese you pick up on the ride.

    image copySo I was curious to try the Barfly for my iPhone as it seemed to offer at least a partial answer to some of these problems.

    In the Box
    The box is very clear – lest anyone be confused – that the box DOES NOT CONTAIN AN IPHONE. There is a picture of an iPhone on the box but sadly, you have to provide your own phone. I hope there aren’t too many people who are surprised by this fact.

    Installation
    There are a lot of instructions, but I opted to wing it, and I just attached the holder to my handlebars. It was easy and it looked secure. The one trick is that the phone can only be oriented horizontally when it is mounted flush to the handlebars – which is clearly the pro style way to have a computer mounted to your bike. If you want the phone in a vertical orientation, it has to float above the handlebar. So depending on how you mount it you will want an app that works in that orientation.

    It is easy to set up. The instructions make a fuss over “burping” your phone when you put it in the case in order to make the touchscreen responsive through the plastic cover. I found it was no problem for me.

    Social Considerations
    I used the Barfly on my friend’s 40th birthday group ride. I wasn’t sure what they would think of having my phone strapped to my handlebar. I have old school friends. Wool, steel and tubular kinda old school. The Garmin 705 that I’ve been using for years is borderline for them. Having my phone in my pocket is approaching sacrilege for these guys – let alone having it on my handlebar. Getting out on our bikes is our way of communing with nature – let’s not spoil it by being so connected to the Facebooks and the Twitters ok? I think they pictured me off in my own Froomeland studying my live stream of statistics instead of riding with my friends.

    Interestingly, I spent less time studying my live stream of statistics than I do normally with my Garmin. Maybe there’s a way around this but the iPhone screen was constantly turning off – which I expect is necessary in order to preserve battery. Occasionally, I pressed the home button through the case (which worked just fine) and then unlocked the screen just to check out the app to see if it was recording anything. It worked flawlessly, although I didn’t  use my Garmin to check data quality.

    Security
    I worried some. Will it rattle off on a descent? Will my iPhone find itself on the pavement in a thousand pieces finally giving me a reason to upgrade to the new one with a  fingerprint scanner? Sadly, I do not need a new phone. It’s super stable and didn’t rattle at all except just a little bit on the roughest sections of road. I had complete confidence that my phone was safe.

    Other Observations

    image

    iPhones in cases make for big bike computers. That said, this is the sleekest iPhone on handle bar case that I’ve seen. It also makes a nice muffin platform for your pre birthday ride nutrition.

    I’ve never really tried (or had much interest in) Strava but I could imagine that Strava is a killer app for this thing.

    Summary
    This thing is a great way to hold your iPhone on your handlebar. At the end of our ride I put my head down on my handlebar pretending to take a call and almost ran off the road. I don’t think this is how you are supposed to use it.

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