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The Wahoo Bike Pack and the 400 MPH Fixie

by Josh King

Josh KingJosh King lives in Seattle, where he commutes by bike every day, rain or shine. He switched to full-time single speed commuting in 2010. You can read his thoughts on going gearless at www.singlespeedseattle.com


While “serious” cyclists have long depended on bike computers to track their training and keep things on pace while riding, some of us who spend more time tooling around town than on a paceline have also embraced these little devices. Tracking miles traveled, speed, pace, etc – it’s a data geek’s dream.

Wahoo Bike Pack for iPhone

Photo: Wahoo Fitness

But bike computers have their issues. They must be wired up, a poor match for the rigors of daily riding in the city. And they’re underpowered, hard to read and seem to be set to randomly lose your data and settings every so often.

So I tried out the Wahoo Fitness Bike Pack (MSRP $150), which seeks to solve most of these bike computer weaknesses. Using wireless sensors, the Wahoo device allows you to use your iPhone as a bike computer — removing the weak link cables and leveraging far greater computing power (and cloud storage for data and settings).

The Bike Pack consists of a waterproof case for the iPhone that features a handlebar mount and an integrated wireless receiver, along with a wireless speed and cadence sensor. The case works with any ANT+ wireless bike sensor, so riders can add additional sensors (like heart rate monitors) if so inclined.

Installing the Wahoo cadence/speed sensor is a piece of cake — but only once you’ve gotten frustrated at the single page of oblique directions and hit YouTube to find this video demonstrating the install.Wahoo Bike Pack for iPhone Sensor

Seriously, the current instructions are useless. Wahoo either needs to point to the video or at least add a rudimentary diagram to the instructions showing how the crank arm and spoke magnets align with the sensors.

Anyway, with the install out of the way it’s time for fun part: choosing apps to track and gather your data. Because you’re using the power of your iPhone, you can choose from any number of configurations, whether it’s tracking cadence in big blinking numbers while you ride or navigating a map view. Many of the apps also let you set up an online account to store ride data, or even post your rides to friends or the world at large. I tried out several, but gravitated back to the Wahoo native app and the free Mapmyride.com app. The Wahoo app seemed better than most at immediately “recognizing” the wireless sensors when I started to ride, and gathered most of the data I wanted.

Interestingly, most of these apps will also track distance and speed via GPS – meaning you could just download the apps and skip the expensive hardware if those are the only data points that matter to you. However, GPS is still a bit of crude tool. While it’s fine for distance, it’s not so good for speed. According to the satellites, I’m regularly hitting a top speed in excess of 400 MPH on my fixed-gear. Smokin’!

Wahoo Bike Pack for iPhone CaseA final note on the case: It’s a tight fit, and seems hardy and water-resistant. But it’s a little bit more of a chore than I would like to get my phone in and out of it twice a day (while you could use the phone in the case all the time, you wouldn’t want to).

If you’re willing to sacrifice the heads-up display in your commuting cockpit, you could go with the Wahoo Key (a simple plug-in receiver) and stow the phone in your pocket or bag while the data streams in. At about $120 for the sensor and receiver, it’s a slightly cheaper option that still delivers access to ride data. Either way, the Wahoo wireless setup is a nifty bit of engineering for anyone who wants to dive deep into the data while leaving bike computer cables behind.

 
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8 Responses to “The Wahoo Bike Pack and the 400 MPH Fixie”

  1. BluesCat says:

    Poor instruction manuals are regularly at the top of my list of pet peeves. The instruction manual for a wireless Trek bike computer I bought in 2010 was not only almost worthless as a source of information for installation, but the operation instructions were flat out WRONG!

    A Bell wireless computer I bought at Target was not only one third the price of the Trek, but the manual was obviously written by someone who spoke English!

    Like ALL wireless bike computers, the Bell and the Trek are affected by things like electrical fields. Every once in a while, both computers show my top speed for the day as 60 mph. Oh, wait, no, those ARE the days I take the freeway route on my bike. Never mind (chuckle).

  2. Jennifer says:

    That thing looks huge! I love tracking my miles and speed, but I don’t think I’d give up my compact Cyclemeter by CatEye – it’s only the size of an SD card. :)

  3. Chris Iversen says:

    While I don’t have the Wahoo kit. I am tempted to pick it up. I do, however, have a waterproof handlebar mount iPhone case that I picked up for $35 at Mountain Equipment Coop. I use an app called Cyclemeter, which utilizes GPS for speed as well. It works very well, and let’s you know when and for how long you’ve lost GPS signal, which accounts for your 400mph speeds. It also can be synced to the Wahoo bike pack.

    The case i’m using now works great for a simple speed/distance/calories burned iPhone interface, as long as you don’t care about cadence.

  4. Chris Iversen says:

    Oh, and the size isn’t too intrusive when it is mounted on your stem, or close to it. And I also like the fact you can rotate it it’s mount to account for both vertical and horizontal view, great for taking video of your ride if you like that sort of thing. I like making little videos so that even more people think I’m crazy for commuting by bike in Winter. :P

  5. Anthony De Cristofaro says:

    The Wahoo has a lot of promise. I bought one last year but it still only works on some of the stats it purports to track. So until I can figure it out, I am sticking with Strava app and GPS. I even used the video for the install.

    PS: In my short and slow experience, MapMyRide regularly crashes and loses data.

  6. Bikey Larry says:

    I have an iPhone and love it dearly but would never consider it a worthwhile substitute for a bike computer. The screen is totally worthless in direct sunlight compared to a decent bicycle computer.

  7. Saga says:

    Is there any “Virtual training partner” on this one?

  8. Gunnstein says:

    “But bike computers have their issues. They must be wired up…”

    Huh? Wireless bike computers have been around for ages, even dirt cheap ones are available now.

    Agree on the connectivity issue, but I want my phone charged up in case of emergency so I use a garmin for logging/navigation instead.

    NB: Having the wheel sensor pointing up like in that picture is risky. If it gets pushed a little bit inwards it will impact the spokes head on, destroying the sensor and possibly breaking a spoke or two. Pointing it downwards solves that problem – unless you spend a lot of time riding backwards…

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