Useful smartphone tricks for mountain bikers

Make the most of your phone's functionality

Only a minority of riders don’t own a smartphone nowadays. While it’s nice to not overcomplicate our riding with technology, our phones can prove genuinely useful for many bike-related duties.

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We’ve put together a list of ideas that’ll help you make the most of your own mobile device.

Related: Best iPhone and Android apps for cyclists

Camera

Your camera is good for more than Instagramming pictures of coffee
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Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

About to start one of those mechanical jobs that perhaps you shouldn’t be taking on? The camera on your phone could well save you.

Taking pictures before and during the disassembly of certain parts will give you something to refer back to if things don’t go to plan.

It’s also wise to save photos of your frame number, something that it’s all too easy to forget to do!

Taking a picture of your frame number is a sensible idea
Taking a picture of your frame number is a sensible idea:
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

 Should your pride and joy end up in the wrong hands, an image of your frame number can save a lot of hassle

Here’s another use for your camera – this time it’s for refining your riding technique. Set up the camera to film yourself on that drop, jump or other obstacle, or find a friend to film you. Watch through the clip, take note of your body positioning and compare it to exemplary footage of someone doing the same technique.

Practise and repeat, refining that technique, and at the end you’ll likely have something you’ll want to share with others… wich brings us nicely on to the next point. Filming in slow motion, a function found on many of the latest smartphones, can make the footage easier to analyse – and it looks pretty awesome too.

Social media

Social media and bikes do pair quite well at times
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We all ride bikes, we all like bikes – why not share these things with our mates via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter?

A word of warning though, try not to let others know where you keep your pride and joy – you never know who’s looking. Turn the location function off!

Torch

Finding things in the dark has never been so convenient thanks to the torch on the back of your smartphone
Never underestimate the power of a smartphone torch:
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One of the most useful parts on the majority of today’s smartphones is the torch.

You can use it for everything from lighting up a dark shed to peering into frame tubing or inspecting trail features in low light. The torch has saved us on many occasions already.

Notepad

If you feel the urge to empty your head mid-ride then do so into your phone's notepad
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Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Riding a bicycle can do wonderful things to the mind. Do you ever find that once out on your bike you get the most random of thoughts, some of which are important or you simply don’t wish to forget? Well, Albert Einstein had that too… in fact it’s commonly quoted that Einstein conceived his theory of relativity while riding his bicycle!

Next time thoughts interrupt your mind, whip out the notepad in your phone and empty your skull, it’s time to focus on the ride. 

eBay

eBay can be your friend
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Without wanting to sound like an advert for the famous online marketplace, we are big fans of eBay’s mobile app. Somehow it manages to actually be a more pleasant user-experience than the desktop version of the website.

Flog your old bits and buy others, it’s that simple.

For anyone new to eBay, you can’t be too careful – only buy from reputable sellers, and if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. 

Angle checker

Angle checking apps are free and readily available and can be used to verify the geometry of your bike
Angle checking apps are free and readily available and can be used to verify the geometry of your bike: angle checking apps are free and readily available and can be used to verify the geometry of your bike
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Free apps such as AngleFinder make use of the various sensors within your smartphone and can be used to verify the geometry of your bike. Think that head angle isn’t quite what the manufacturer says it is? Now you’ll know for sure.

Inbuilt navigation

There are specific apps for navigation, but if you’re caught off the beaten track and need to get your bearings, then the GPS software that comes packaged within your phone will often do the trick just fine.

Software such as Google’s Maps is now installed on nearly all devices, is free to use and can be useful for quickly locating main roads, pubs and bike shops.

More tips

Get some protection

Before your phone can become your riding buddy, you need to make sure it’s well protection. The last thing you want to do is to smash that expensive screen. We’d recommend a tough protective case, such as the models offered by Rokform.

If things are going to get soggy then a dedicated waterproof case is a really good idea. If you are on a budget, sealable sandwich bags will offer basic protection.

Keep your battery life up

Batteries are always a weak point on smartphones but stick to a few guidelines and you can keep your battery usage down to a minimum.

A few simple tweaks to your phone's settings could extend battery life considerably
A few simple tweaks to your phone’s settings could extend battery life considerably: a few simple tweaks to your phone’s settings could extend battery life considerably
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Switch to airplane/flight mode: Limit your phone’s functionality when it isn’t required by using airplane/flight modes. Just be aware that by doing so you’ll be limiting any messages, calls or internet access.

Dim that screen! Modern phone screens are beautiful but power hungry. Turn your screen brightness down a touch to keep power consumption sensible.

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Quit those apps: Applications you’ve opened on your phone will often continue to hog battery until you manually close them. Routinely closing such apps can make a significant difference to your battery life.