Review of BikeBrain (Archived from 2001)

Bike Brain – for Palm handheld PDAs – product review (no longer available – review archived from 2001)

I just received BikeBrain as a gift last week, and I thought I’d give some first impressions.

BikeBrain is program that is run on a Palm-series handheld organizer that provides basic cyclocomputer functions and ride routing. It comes with a plastic case to mount the Palm organizer on the stem or handlebars, and a Vetta cyclocomputer-like pickup mounts to the front fork and plugs into the port on the bottom of the Palm. (The Palm organizer is not included.) Overall, the mounting system is definitely secure enough for road use, though I don’t think it could survive an endo off-road. In spite of that, I got a used Palm Pilot 5000 to use with BikeBrain instead of using my “good” Palm.

BikeBrain also comes with a desktop software program (PC or Mac compatible, but I’ll say PC from now on) which is used for editing routes and viewing ride data. Data transfer between the Palm and the PC is done via the same “HotSync” technology that is normally done for other Palm applications.

BikeBrain not only does “normal” cyclometer functions such as current/average/maximum speed and distance, it also can show various graphs from the ride data: such as speed vs. time, speed vs. distance, etc.

To record a route, you start riding, and at every change in direction, you press a button which records the turn direction and the mileage at that point. Then you download this data from the Palm to the PC, where you can then type in the street names and other information.

One disadvantage of this recording method for multi-day touring is if you’re recording a route while on tour, you can’t go back and put in the road names at the end of each day without a PC.

This tool would be great if you’re the one responsible to generate route sheets for an organized ride. It would also work good if you’re doing a century ride and you got the cue sheet the night before and typed the directions in on a laptop and then transferred them to the Palm handheld.

I haven’t gone on any really long rides with BikeBrain yet, but based on some battery life tests I’ve been doing with the Palm, I think I can get at least 2 full days of riding with rechargeable NiMH batteries (longer with alkalines). On a long tour, I would use a solar charger to keep a spare set of batteries charged up.

The software can be just a wee bit “buggy” – for example, if you create a new route on the desktop and then save it, it will automatically save it using the name of the route without prompting – if there are any “illegal” file name characters in the title (for example, “/”) it will choke.

Overall, I think there could be a few improvements to the software, but it’s still an excellent training tool.

The website is http://www.bikebrain.com/ (can’t believe the website is still up after all these years!)