iBike Dash CC

iBike’s Dash CC (the CC stands for cycling computer) takes the company’s $59 Phone Booth case and adds some mysterious electronics that allow you to use your iPhone or iPod touch as a high-end cycling computer. The standard iBike Dash costs $169, while the $329 iBike Cash CC Deluxe includes a heart-rate monitor, cadence sensors, and spare battery with charger. (I tested the standard version.) Factor in the cost of the iPhone or iPod touch and it’s clear that this is not a product that’s aimed at the casual cyclist, who would be better served with a simple GPS app and website combo like MapMyRide.

The iBike Dash is aimed at cyclists who want sophisticated data from their rides, which can then be used to set up and follow a structured training routine such as intervals at a specific heart rate or cadence. Its obvious competitors are the dedicated cycling computers made by Garmin. The top of Garmin’s line, the Edge 800, costs about $450. Someone who already owns an iOS device (the iBike Dash CC is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3G and 3GS, and the iPod touch) would save some money by combining it with the iBike Dash CC. And instead of having to carry two devices (a phone and cycling computer), the rider only needs to carry one.

Unfortunately, whatever economies the iBike Dash CC offers are offset by a number of drawbacks. First of all, the case and mount, although sturdy and effective, appear gargantuan when mounted on your handlebars or steering tube (depending on what kind of stem your bicycle has) compared to a Garmin or any other brand of cycling computer. Understandably, people do not want to trust their iOS device to a flimsy mount, but the type of cyclists who would want the Dash CC’s advanced training features are unlikely to be thrilled by a heavy, bulky option, even if it does allow them to browse the web and answer email from the saddle.

Another drawback: The Dash CC is not compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch cases. my own iPhone case didn’t take kindly to being pulled on and off repeatedly and finally snapped. And while the iBike will let you receive phone calls during a ride, you won’t actually be able to take the call unless you’re wearing a Bluetooth headset—the headphone jack is not accessible so you can’t use ear buds instead.

The interface of the free iBike app that you run on your iOS device during a ride is OK, but it lacks some features you will find on top-of-the-line cycling computers, and does not offer as many customizable screens. most significantly, you won’t be able to upload routes that other cyclists have posted, as you can with a Garmin, or get turn-by-turn directions.

Another disadvantage of the iBike is that it will drain your iPhone’s and iPod touch’s battery within an hour, which is a huge inconvenience for anyone who is relying on their phone to make and receive calls. The battery pack that comes with the iBike Cash CC Deluxe will somewhat extend your battery time, but don’t count on being able to ride all day.

Although the idea of eliminating the need for an expensive dedicated cycling computer by adapting the iOS device to do some of the same functions is appealing, in practice the compromises left me dissatisfied. Serious cyclers would likely agree, and for the average rider, the iBike is clearly overkill.

If you already have an iPhone or iPod touch and need sophisticated training data for your cycling workouts, but don’t want to buy an expensive, dedicated cycling computer, then the iBike Dash CC might be worth a try. Less serious bicycles riders, who don’t shave their legs and weigh their lean protein servings, should stay clear.

[Jim Bradbury is a recovering technology journalist, daily bicycle commuter, and three-time survivor of Paris-Brest-Paris.]