On my aborted Dreaming Tour, where I planned to ride from Darwin to Perth I had intended to use my Asus eePC R051PX netbook which provides reasonable battery life, but not as good as I could possibly get from my Apple iPad 2. With events transpiring that I had to return to Perth from Adelaide River and abandon my plans to ride from Darwin to Perth I took the time off the bike to rethink my computer setup whilst on the road. As I had revised my plans with the outcome being my Chasing the dirt – Out and back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by bicycle tour I still needed a computing option on the bike. Further investigation lead me down the path of using my Apple iPad 2. The rest of this post describes my setup and experience.
My Apple iPad 2 hardware setup for bicycle touring
To ensure my Apple Pad 2 was a functional tool out on the bike I did need to add to the hardware mix; just taking the Apple iPad was not really an option for me with the level of functionality I desire. Therefore along with the iPad 2 I also took the following:
Keyboard - Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover: First and foremost I needed a keyboard. Typing decent amounts of text using the virtual keyboard just does not work for me. My choice of keyboard was a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover which provides some protection to the iPad but more importantly it provides an “attached” bluetooth keyboard. The iPad 2 sits in a rail secured by the magnets in one edge of the iPad. When not in use the the cover provides a screen cover for the iPad. Not a robust protection level but it is a cover.
The keyboard has a claimed battery life of two months when used for two hours a day. It is also charged via a mini-USB cable so I can if necessary charge it using my PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable.
Apple iPad Camera Connector Kit: To allow for the data to be read from my Garmin Edge 800 and to transfer the photos from my camera I also took with me the card reader connector from the Apple iPad Camera Connector Kit.
Belkin Honeycomb Clamshell Case: To provide some protection to the iPad on the bike I made use of my Belkin Honeycomb Clamshell Case. The iPad and keyboard fitted into this case easily. There is sufficient room to allow me to also keep the Telstra modem here, spare cables and my USB mains powerpoint plug.
Telstra Pre-Paid Elite MF60: As my iPad is a wifi and not a 3G model I added a Telstra Pre-Paid Elite MF60 wifi mobile broadband modem to my setup
XtremeMac Incharge Home Plus USB: Whilst it was my intention to charge the iPad (and the keyboard if necessary) using my PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable I did include in my kit an XtremeMac Incharge Home Plus USB wall charger as a backup. This allows to USB devices to be charged from the mains at the same time.
So that is the hardware setup. I also need to add some apps to the iPad to round out its functionality.
Applications used on the iPad 2 when bicycle touring
I installed five applications to meet my needs on whilst touring. Of course you may not need all of these applications depending on your requirements.
One application which maybe be considered an extra is Quickoffice HD. I added Quickoffice HD to my mix because I wanted access to Excel spreadsheets which I used to summarise my route and determine estimated arrival dates and so on.
To provide some basic photo processing capability I installed Photogene. Photogene is a very good app for the quick editing of images, which I wanted to do as I intended to upload images as part of my journal at Crazy Guy on a Bike (CGAOB).
To write up my notes and to draft out my journal off-line I installed a text editor, IA Writer. I prefer a text editor to using Word in Quickoffice as I find the plain formating of text much easier to transfer to journals and to my blog.
In addition to the above I also wanted to be able to use my Garmin Edge 800 with the iPad. To enable this feature, that is to be able to back-up my activities (ride data) and to then upload the rides it to Strava, Garmin and Bike Journal I had to jailbreak my iPad and install to additional applications: iFile and Safari Upload Enabler.
Ifile provides access to the file structure just like on a Mac or PC and Safari Upload Enabler works in the background to provide file uploading functionality in the version of Safari installed on the iPad.
Also in the mix is Dropbox. I am an regular user of Dropbox which allows me to share files across platforms (e.g., iPad, Android phone, Macbook Pro etc) so one critical aspect of all applications installed is their ability to interface with Dropbox.
I also installed the browser iCabMobile as it has some upload functionality but then subsequently I become aware of Safari Upload Enabler which made the iCabMobile install redundant.
All up my applications came to approximately $35.46. Quickoffice HD was $20.49 so without that and iCabMobile, the setup in terms of applications for bicycle touring amounted to around $13.00.
Using a Garmin Edge 800 with an Apple iPad 2
As mentioned above as I wished to be able to at least back up my ride data from the Garmin Edge 800 and where possible to upload the data to the various websites I use. To facilitate this I followed the suggestion posted in the Garmin forums.
The process for me involved:
1. Jailbreaking my iPad 2. To do this I followed the instructions given at Jailbreaknation.com using Redsn0w 0.9.12b2. This had the added advantage of installing Cydia as well which is needed to install two additional applications. All up this was a quick and painless process.
2. Once my iPad 2 was jailbreaked I used the installed app, Cydia to purchase and install two additional apps: iFile and Safari Upload Enabler. Once again this was a fairly straight forward process with payment able to be made through PayPal. Once Safari Upload Enabler is installed it should be configured to reveal the entire file system. To do this, go to iPad settings > safari upload enabler and turn on Entire filesystem. I also turned on show hidden files and show app names but this is not necessary. Oh one last thing, if you are using Dropbox, you need to enable it here as well.
3. Once this was done the iPad from an apps perspective is all set to go. I already had Dropbox installed and a Apple iPad Camera Connector Kit so was right from that perspective. Oh as the card used in the Garmin Edge 800 is a MicroSD card a MicroSD adapter is need for the camera connector kit.
4. One final step is to set the Garmin Edge 800 to store its activities on the MicroSD card rather than on the GPS itself. To do this touch the wrench icon on your Garmin Edge 800 > system > data recording > microSD. All done! You will then find the activity files on the MicroSD card in the folder labeled Activities. These files need to be uploaded to the iPad and/or your favourite web based logging site.
iFile should show the connector as a device so it is easy to find the files.
Summary – Cost and weight of my Apple iPad bicycle touring setup
Overall cost excluding the iPad was $35.00 for the applications, $99.00 for the keyboard and $35.00 for the camera connection kit. In total $169.00.
I had one additional cost as my iPad is wi-fi only and I didn’t have a non-usb wireless broadband modem I also had to purchase a Telstra Pre-Paid Elite MF60 wifi mobile broadband modem for a cost of $99.00. So my setup sans iPad came in at $268.00.
In terms of weight the setup weights are:
Apple iPad 2 – 598 grams
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover – 330 grams
Telstra Elite MF60 modem – 81 grams
Apple Camera connector – 12 grams
XtremeMac Incharge Home Plus USB wall charger – 63 grams
Belkin Honeycomb Clamshell Case – 303 grams
USB cables – iPad and keyboard – 32 grams
Total weight of 1.42 kg
Okay, that is the setup, but how has it performed out in the bush?
Using an Apple iPad 2 whilst bicycle touring
For me this turned out to be the pretty much the ideal setup. Sure I did not have the full functionality of a personal computer but then I really didn’t need one of the tour anyway. The combination of the Apple iPad 2 and the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover worked a treat for me. I didn’t have any issues with the iPad or the keyboard and I found the keyboard battery lasted the 40 days I was out touring.
In terms of battery life I found that I tended to write up my notes for the day using IA Writer and to back-up my photos to the iPad. These two activities used approximately 5% of the iPad battery each night. So in theory I had around 20 days of usage of the iPad without a charge. I didn’t need to test this as I was able to charge up at various caravan parks on the tour. I also had the option of using my PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable which thankfully I didn’t need to use as it actually had some issues which limited its functionally. That said at home testing showed it did charge the iPad even though the iPad indicated it was not charging.
I found I could easily use the iPad/Logitich Ultrathin Keyboard combination quite comfortably in the tent and of course at a picnic table should such luxury be available. Keep in mind but I was not writing a book, but for my usage it worked fine.
The Apple iPad Camera Connector Kit worked a treat allowing me to read both the card in the camera (I backed up my photos to the iPad) and the card from Garmin Edge 800 which in-turn allowed me to upload my ride data to Strava. I had planned to upload my data to Garmin Connect as well but decided that Strava was sufficient whilst out touring.
The XtremeMac Incharge Home Plus USB proved invaluable given the issues with the PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable. I actually could have done with two of these plugs as one plug can only charge two USB devices at a time. My camera, the iPad, the Telstra Elite MF60 modem and my phone a Samsung Galaxy S 2 where all demanding time plugged into the XtremeMac Incharge Home Plus.
The Telstra Pre-Paid Elite MF60 modem worked well and as it is physically independent of the iPad it could be fore example charged whilst I used the iPad. Its only downside is that it is power hungry device, using up its battery within about two hours.
Finally on the hardware front the Belkin Honeycomb Clamshell Case worked well providing protection to the iPad and the various cables and the modem whilst carried on the bike. I carried it one of my Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus panniers mounted on the Extrawheel Voyager.
On the software front I didn’t use Photogene or iCab. I found that the Photo application that came with the iPad sufficient for my needs and I was able to write-up my offline journal notes and to update my journal at Crazy Guy on a Bike (CGAOB) without any dramas; I would go as far as saying that I found the dire warnings at CGAOB well and truly over the top.
So in summary this setup worked a treat for me and I will continue to use it on future tours.
Resources and other websites related to bicycle touring with an iPad
- MacBook Air 11″ vs. iPad- Article at CGOAB by Paul Mulvey
- The Apple iPad: Can it work for a bicycle tourist? – Article at CGOAB by Scott Little
- Uploading GPX and Image Files using a Mobile Phone – How to guide and discussion at the CTC Forums
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