There are plenty of mobile apps out there for ride tracking and social sharing, not the least of which is Strava’s own smartphone app. But where most mobile phone based trackers fail is in delivering the data recording accuracy of a dedicated GPS-enabled cycling computer like Garmin’s popular Edge series. Of course the other big downfall of most tracking apps is power drain. VeloPal claims to be efficient in its use of your battery power, but still warns against GPS continually running in the background. Let’s take a closer look and see what they do offer and if it will be good enough to keep you from buying a new Garmin…
The creators of VeloPal (and its companion RunPal) loved the idea of being able to use the powerful smartphone that most athletes are already carrying in their pockets, but just couldn’t accept the poor tracking accuracy. So they worked with the existing tech in modern smartphones and developed a newer and better tracking algorithm to form the backbone of their app that is said to deliver accuracy on par with the best GPS cycling computers out there.
Plus working with the far superior displays found in most phones, their app presents a far crisper and easier to see readout. The fully customizable interface shows 8 data fields, using simple color and graphics to make the data easy to understand while riding. We’ve even tried the stopwatch/data field screen with inverted colors for a high contrast/low power consumption view.
VeloPal also builds-in a nice feature that lets you create ride Sections (read: segments) on the go. The app includes several other group ride social features, like the ability to see yourself on a leaderboard based on your power output, see how much time you spent pulling the pack, and at the end of the ride it can rank who was the most powerful on the ride as a whole or just on specific sections.
Their advanced analytics pair with their site to also let you compare your peak power outputs, and even let you graphically compare your power outputs along the same route over multiple days to better visualize your training improvements. The app also includes a color-coded and easy-to-read training calendar to keep you on track for the goals you set.
VeloPal (and RunPal) say that you can plan and create custom routes for your rides from the app. Of course once you are out on a ride, as an app on your smartphone, it can run in the background allowing you to multitask as you go (although that doesn’t sound so safe), but that just means you can stop and take a call or photo, check your email, or even listen to tunes while you ride.
VeloPal lets you connect whatever external sensors you have that are compatible with your phone (typically limited to Bluetooth), like heartrate monitors and power meters. The app also lets you link photos with your rides, and at the end of a ride has a place to add notes about weather, details about the ride, and how you felt, all before it automatically uploads/syncs to VeloPal.com
On top of that, VeloPal is a free app for either iOS or Android phones, plus for the Apple Watch. It isn’t even ad-supported. How do they plan to make money? For now we are guessing that they are looking to build a user base and collect data, and their web interface does appear to be include some ads. They do also have a premium Elite membership for the foundation site that provides some additional functionality (and security).
For now though it looks like an alternative app worth trying out. It promises a blend of the improved accuracy of a dedicated GPS backed up with a majority of the social and training features of something like Strava Premium. So far playing around with it, we’ve certainly seen it best several other app based trackers for accuracy, but maybe not quite match a dedicated GPS yet…