Indoor bike training is not complete without a bike computer to monitor how much of your goals you have reached and to track your progress over time. The good news is you may not have to buy a new bike computer because you already have one in your pocket.
Can I use my iPhone as an indoor training computer? Yes, you can use your iPhone as an indoor training computer. You only need to ensure two things: that you have an app for indoor cycling training; and you can wirelessly connect your iPhone to your smart trainer, or indoor bike.
If you only have a classic trainer, equipping your bike with either power meter or speed and cadence sensor that can wirelessly connect to your iPhone will also work.
What are the hardware requirements to be able to use iPhone as an indoor bike computer?
This will all depend on what indoor cycling set up you already have.
If you have a smart trainer, you first have to determine what kind of wireless signals it can broadcast. Some trainers are both Bluetooth and ANT+ capable while others are just ANT+.
This matters because iPhone doesn’t have the capability to receive ANT+ signals.
If your smart trainer has Bluetooth, then you’re good to go.
However, if your smart trainer is ANT+ only, then you need to buy an ANT+ to Bluetooth adapter for your iPhone to be able to connect to your trainer.
If you have iPhone 4s and below, then an ANT+ to Bluetooth adapter is enough. (But iPhone 4s and below might not work with all apps or trainers, so that’s one thing to consider). But if you have the later models of iPhone, you must get a lightning to 30 pin adapter. This is because all available ANT+ to Bluetooth adapter can only fit into a 30 pin port.
If you only have a classic trainer, you have to install a either a power meter or a speed and cadence sensor to your bike, if you haven’t already. I suggest that you get the one that broadcast Bluetooth signal so that you will not have to buy adapters for your iPhone anymore.
However, if you already have ANT+ sensors installed on your bike then you must also get the adapters I mentioned above.
What app to do I need to install on my iPhone to be able to use it as an indoor training computer?
Now that we have taken care of the hardware part, we need to get down to how to make your iPhone make sense of the signals coming from your trainer or sensors. To do that, you will need to install an indoor cycling app to your iPhone.
Some trainers have their own IOS app that will help you track your speed, power, heart rate etc. Some apps under this category also have training videos and also lets you export data to third party fitness apps.
However, I personally prefer third-party indoor bike training apps because they tend to have more features and less bugs. These can be downloaded for free in the app store, but most require a paid subscription to be able to use the full features.
Here are some of the training apps that I recommend.
Trainer road is an indoor training app that lets you see your stats and guide you along your training.
The app is free to download but you have to pay for a monthly subscription to have access to more than a thousand interval workouts, more than a hundred structured training plans, ride analysis tools, among other features.
You can even schedule your workout via the app’s calendar and build custom workouts.
While it is primarily for indoor cycling, you can also import your data to analyze your outdoor rides.
You don’t need to be connected to the internet while you are working out. But, you do need internet connection to download the app, verify your membership status every month, and to publish completed rides to your online profile.
Zwift is an indoor cycling training simulation app that lets you connect real time to other cyclists around the world.
Your screen will not only display your stats, but also show a simulated course where you and other cyclists around the world can tour virtually.
If you just want to ride on your bike without thinking much about training you can simply choose to ride in the virtual roads from five different worlds. Please note though that the courses that you can ride depend on the available schedule.
But if you want a serious training session to help you achieve your fitness goals fast, then I suggest you go for structured workouts. You can choose from more than a thousand structured workouts from Zwift or you can customize your own.
You can also choose a training plan that will guide you week by week if you want a more consistent training. There is training plan for every level so you can choose what works best for you.
Also, if you are up for a friendly competition, you can join races on Zwift. On the other hand, if you don’t want much competition but would like to still ride with others, you may attend group workouts and social group rides instead.
After each ride, Zwift provides you with your post-workout analysis so you will know how much calories you have burned, the distance you have covered, the duration of your ride, and the power that you have produced.
For a more immersive Zwift experience, a smart trainer will work best. The Zwift app can automatically control the resistance on your smart trainer depending on the course. For instance, if you are on a virtual climb, Zwift increases the resistance on your trainer so your ride is a little more realistic.
You can download the app for free. For continued use, Zwift requires a monthly subscription. For $14.99 a month, I say it is a good value if you are a serious cyclist like me.
You must have an iPhone 5s and up, and IOS 9.0 or later though for the app to work.
Like Zwift, Rouvy is a simulation app for indoor bike training.
It uses augmented reality so the road you see on your screen are actual 2d video of roads. Your avatar and other riders avatar plus some 3d elements are added on the screen. So if you want a more realistic looking road on your screen while training, this app might be for you.
You can also follow structured workouts or create your own. Group rides and races are also available.
There are also actual prizes up for grabs if you complete the branded challenges.
Rouvy works with iPhone 4s and higher. Downloading the app is free but you need to pay monthly subscription of $6.25 for standard and $10.00 for premium.
Can I use an android phone as an indoor training computer? Most android phones can be used as an indoor training computer. However, not all are capable for apps with simulation especially those on the lower to mid range phones. Another thing to note is that there are some android phones that can receive ANT+ signals. So if you have an ANT+ only trainer or sensors then you wouldn’t need to buy additional adapters unlike with iPhones.
Can I use my iPhone to track my outdoor cycling? Well, technically yes. There are also apps that can be downloaded to you iPhone specifically for tracking your outdoor rides. However, bear in mind that riding outdoors can be a little rough and your $700 iPhone may not be able to handle being mounted on your bike. If you decide for it, then make sure you use a sturdy phone mount to securely attach your iPhone.