A passion for motorcycles and technology fuels my research of rider-accessible Android apps. Maintenance, GPS and internet radio are only the beginning.
Smartphones and PDAs continue to introduce new possibilities in the world of motorcycling. Among others, the Android platform plays host to a variety of both free and paid applications which can be coordinated around one another for local and long distance motorcycle travel. This page serves to explore them categorically with focus on the pros and cons of their implementation.
Riders interested in using their Android device while traveling can do so on one of three planes: audio, visual or both. The various app suggestions listed below take individual preference into account. Built on a pyramid system, you’ll want to install the apps from our engine-off list even if your setup is intended for in-ride use. Simply put, don’t skip ahead. Rather, use the trailing information for your preferred configuration as a stopping point.
Those who employ smartphones while riding a motorcycle would argue with those who advise against it that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Mobile technology can (and should) make riding safer before providing luxury. The second of the two results is merely a pleasant biproduct.
While We’re Here
There’s a faction of motorcycle-friendly apps that are suited for use while your engine’s shut off. Every route has it’s planning, every ride it’s breaks and every motorcycle it’s maintenance. Should you find yourself plotting a course, grabbing a bite or in need of assistance, these programs deliver.
Car Maintenance Reminder Pro
Keeping track of your motorcycle’s maintenance schedule has never been easier. This app informs you of priority maintenance tasks based on mileage or expiration.
Details | Download
Sidestands Up (Audio Only)
Now that we’re rolling, let’s assume that you’d like to listen to music or hear voice guided GPS instructions without the distraction of a visual reference. This calls for an audio-only approach. Said simplicity requires nothing more than a bluetooth intercom and your jacket pocket.
Pandora – Internet radio that plays your most recent station immediately when opened
Spotify – Subscription music service that allows offline listening via encrypted downloads
Tasker – Simplifies the use of your phone through programmable automation
Ulysse Speedometer – Should your speedometer cable break, this app acts as a backup
Waze – GPS data + social interface for great turn-by-turn directions as well as road reports
WeatherBug – The only weather app that’s consistently accurate (I’ve tried ’em all)
Hear No Evil (Visual Only)
If you prefer the uninterrupted sound of your motorcycle’s engine but would like to periodically check your GPS navigation’s status, consider a visual-only setup. Maintaining safe distance and with your well being mind, keeping track of your route is nothing more than a brief glance downward. Active touch-screens tend to drain a battery quickly, so you’d be wise to install a smartphone mount, usb power supply and Quirky Digits before hand.
CarHome Ultra – Vehicle friendly phone operation (big, dumb buttons)
Bringin’ It Together (Audio/Visual)
Last and likely the most common, many tech savvy riders build a hybrid audiovisual combination based on each of the applications listed above. This “have your cake and eat it too” mentality requires the same responsibility as those prior, if not more. Below is the CarHome Ultra layout that I find easiest to traverse while riding (use the right arrow to toggle through each dashboard).
All of the information above intends to give a basic sense of how one might go about situating their Android device for use while riding, seeking travel resources or performing maintenance. Further possiblities exist however, so grab a shovel as we’re about to dig deep. This next section is where things become significantly more technical.
The Root Of The Problem
To get the most out of Android specific motorcycle interfacing, we must first face the well known and ongoing obstacle of rooting. Every major mobile carrier disects and perverts Android’s open source language before impregnating perfectly good smartphones with what’s known as “bloat”. Bloat is a term we use to describe useless software that can’t be uninstalled, put in place before the unit is marketed with a provider’s service contract.
It’s best to be rid of this baggage. Bloat applications often self activate, hogging CPU resources while shortening battery life. The solution for getting the most out of an Android device also happens to be the phone carrier’s catch-22. Rooting, for those of you who’ve never done it before, voids the manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re as adventurous as a sport touring motorcycle enthusiast should be, hand that smartphone over to any one of your less than eighteen year old kids and say “go for it”.
Many of Android’s most useful 3rd-party apps require a rooted device. Tasker, for example, doesn’t require root access but is much more powerful having it. Once configured, Tasker does just about everything. A good many plugins exist to extend it’s functionality. I personally have four heavy-duty profiles that I make use of daily: “Home”, “Vehicle”, “Away” and “Garage”.
What Apps Do You Use With Your Motorcycle?
With so many platforms on the market, finding useful motorcycle apps can be difficult. Which ones do you prefer? What do you like about them and why? Your input is invited. Post an article!