Through the years, I’ve reviewed several devices for iPhones and iPods that purport to be sturdy protective mounts for bicycle usage. Keeping in mind that there are inherent dangers in listening to music while you’re cycling, especially if you have to worry about dangling headphone wires, it’s important to make sure that safety is your first concern. The iBike POWERHOUSE ensures both the safety of your iPhone and your body with its well-designed mount for the 3 and 4 series iPhones. (No luck for you early iPhone 5 adopters yet.)
Add in a software solution for exercise and cycling technique training and you’ve got a nice little systems for serious cyclists who want to ratchet up their training. The POWERHOUSE system has modules to help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular capabilities or just maximize the power of each pedal stroke.
Installation is fairly simple and straightforward. Since the main brains of the system are actually loaded inside you iPhone, the handlebar module is basically used to safely secure your phone to the bike and to handle the Bluetooth communication between the various sensors and your phone. I have asymmetrical handlebars, so the mounting of the case was a little problematic; I ended up having to head to the hardware store for some longer screws than the ones that were included with the mount. There are other mounting options available from iBike’s website, but my inelegant solution was simpler and easier for me. Besides, I didn’t want to wait to get training!
The main pieces of info that the Powerhouse needs to track your progress throughout the training are your speed and the cadence of your pedaling. These are captured and displayed from two sensors that you must attach to your pedal and the spokes of your rear wheel. In order to prevent marring the paint job of your expensive Italian bike (which I don’t have), these modules are secured using short zip-ties. Unfortunately, my pedal crank was too wide for the zip-tie to wrap around, so it was back to the hardware store. Luckily, it’s only a block from my house, and I just figured I was starting my new fitness regimen with a couple of short walks.
It is very important that you mount the two sensors as close as possible to the magnets on the spokes and pedals that transmit the data. Like 1/8 of an inch close. I had trouble initially pairing the sensors with my phone, but the incredibly helpful customer service walked me through the process and suggested that I move the sensors close enough together that they might actually occasionally make a little clicking sound as they touch while you’re pedaling. Once I got everything working, I was ready to start my workout.
The iBike POWERHOUSE ships with two modules. Well, actually you have to download them for free from the app store, but the free iSlim and PowerMax are plenty to get you started with. Additional modules like “Weekend Warrior” and “Brazilian Butt” are available for affordable purchase at the app store.
Your first ride is a fitness test, where you ride several intervals of easy and hard efforts while being coached through your BlueTooth headphones by world-renowned cycling Coach Hunter Allen. I know that there is some concern about riding with headphones on, so you can also just take visual cues from glancing down at your phone’s screen while you ride. If you do like to ride with headphones, you can also easily add your own iTunes playlists to play in the background of your workout. A friend of mine bought me one of these as a gift, so I can listen to music while I ride and still keep my ears free to listen for danger.
The training modules take about four weeks of frequent consistent riding to get through, and you can repeat or skip a training session if you want more control over your schedule. If you’d prefer to just use the POWERHOUSE as a cycling computer without having to follow a specific workout, you can set it to the “Free Ride” mode and pedal to your heart’s content while the device tracks your speed, ride distance, time and maps your ride.
After using the iBike POWERHOUSE for a few months, I’ve really come to appreciate its multiple utilities. It is a very sturdy and stable case for my iPhone while I ride. It serves as a way to stream music from my iTunes to my headphones while I ride, and the training sessions integrate well with the soundtrack and my fitness regimen. As a cycling computer, it is not a true power meter, but I don’t train to develop maximum wattage like some competitive cyclist do. Speed, cadence and distance info is really all I ask from a computer and iBike delivers that very well.
At $279, the Bike POWERHOUSE is not inexpensive, but then again neither is anything else that attaches to my bike. Cyclists eventually learn to avoid sticker shock and accept that their bicycle is just something to throw money at, kind of like a boat. If you are concerned about draining your iPhone while you’re on a long ride, an external battery and charger are also available for iBike and fit perfectly inside the case and mount.
If you’re looking for a way to get more mileage out of your mileage and kick up your bicycle training, give the iBike POWERHOUSE a try. Just don’t pass me going too fast. I’m probably older than you…
The iBike POWERHOUSE is available from the company’s website.
What I Like: Sturdy mount and case for my iPhone and my bicycle; Training modules are great motivation to keep riding consistently; Excellent customer service when I had an installation difficulty
What Needs Improvement: Attaching the sensors to the bicycle was a little difficult; The pictogram (IKEA-ish) installation instructions weren’t that helpful, but a quick phone call straightened everything out