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REI’s Bike Your Drive iPhone App Misses the Short Point

Yesterday I had an experiment. REI has a promotion to Bike Your Drive, go green and so on and so forth. It also has an iPhone app that hooks you up with EveryTrail so you can record your bike routes and put them on the internet, logging your average speed, distance, calories burned, gas money saved, etc etc. Putting aside the creep factor of everyone knowing your commute, and the fact that the website interface is (and I apologize for saying this) Web 1.0, the real problem I had with the app is that it is near worthless for the short-distance commuter.

My commute is close to (2.5 miles + 1.3 miles) x 2 a day. That’s 7.6 miles a day, for those of you who can’t remember addition is commutative, right. By default, the distance filter (sets the distance between location checks on the GPS) and accuracy filter (how accurate, right, you got this one) are set to about 10 miles. My total for the day isn’t that much so I cranked it down to 1 mile for each. This eats my battery faster, of course, but it’s the only way I can really check accuracy on a short ride.

That should have been my first clue that this app just wasn’t for me. The second clue was the map. The line in red is the actual route I took. The line in blue is the one EveryTrail decided I took.

Now, if I could bike as the crow flies, my commute would be a lot faster, but given the zig-zagging required to take the safest bike-friendly (or at least bike laned) roads, keep dry in poor weather (certain streets are worse that others), and find the best crossing places (one block north is harder to make the double-cross, for some reason), I end up clocking in at 2 miles and change — it’s between 2.3 and 2.5 according to Google. Instead, EveryTrail/REI thinks I did the straight 1.5 miles in 10 minutes, and that means I biked at 9mph instead of the 10mph I knew I did. And yes, you know the difference.

My goal is 9.5mph as an average, though with red-lights being what they are, I don’t always make it. The REI app seems more concerned with proving their Eco-Friendly and showing you how much money you save vs driving, then actually accurately mapping out your drive, as it were. For a short to medium length bicycle commuter, this app is a failure. It’s just not baked enough for people who average trips of under 5 miles, and it’s not accurate enough for people who ride through a city. Now for long trips along trails, this is probably perfect, but for ‘biking my drive’, it’s just not going to happen. I didn’t expect much of it, and since I know my route and can draw it on a map myself, and time myself easily with the iPhone’s stopwatch app, I can calculate the MPH, calories burned and gas saved myself.

Result: App deleted from iPhone.