Bicycle Touring with iPad

UPDATED 4/23/2013 — in response to a question, I posted on the clearance between the mounting bolts in the pannier and the iPad. See addition at end.

There was a recent thread on Bike Forums regarding taking an iPad on a bicycle tour. Since I recently took my iPhone and iPad on a week-long tour, I thought I would write up a few thoughts.

Why Bring an iPad?

IMO, there are two aspects to this question. One is just as stated; why bring an iPad? The other is why bring an iPad when you’ve made a decision to bring an iPhone? Given that the two iOS devices are largely interchangeable, that’s a reasonable question. I’ll primarily address the first question while throwing in some examples to address the second question along the way.

I’m not able to completely tune out my job for even one week. Small issues can escalate and cause me much more trouble later than just taking a few minutes to nip them in the bud early on. I estimate that I can deal with about 75% of my email on the iPhone as it requires reading short passages or providing short responses. If I have to read more than a few paragraphs or write responses of more than a few sentences, I will usually dump an email into my To Do folder and get back to it once I have my iPad out. Having access to my iPad bumps that percentage up to about 95%. The remaining 5% usually requires some research for which I need my laptop.

I started this blog so my family and friends could follow along with us. I’ve done something similar in the past by posting photos to Facebook, but having the ability to add prose along with the pictures makes the blog much more powerful than Facebook status updates or simply posting photos.

I found the iPad (and to a slightly lesser extent, the iPhone) paired with the WordPress app to be a powerful blogging solution. I made it my goal to post at least once per day so family and friends could follow along not far behind our actual progress. To meet that goal, we tried to take a break or lunch somewhere that provided WiFi. If that was a morning break, I might be posting the previous day’s events. If that was lunch coming nearly at the end of our route for that day, I might be posting the current events.

I did author one blog post on my iPhone because we did not find a WiFi hotspot that day. I uploaded and embedded quite a few photos, but the prose was probably a bit more brief than it would have been had I been typing on the iPad’s larger keyboard.

I linked my WordPress blog to my Facebook account, which automatically cross-posts whenever I add a new post to WordPress. This is great for family and friends since they won’t need to periodically check a blog or deal with another technology like RSS to get notifications.

Photo Editing
I don’t use the camera on my iPad for photos. I’ll generally use the KitCam app on the iPhone. (I find the camera on the iPhone 5 is sufficient for most of my needs.) I’ll also take the occasional panarama using Microsoft Photosynth.

For photo editing (cropping, exposure, etc.), I generally use the Snapseed app on both devices. But sometimes, I prefer the larger screen on which to edit so I will transfer across using an app called PhotoSync. It will use WiFi if available or Bluetooth if not so I can transfer between the devices anywhere and anytime.

Yeah, I know. Why wag along an entertainment device when the purpose is to ride bikes and camp in the great outdoors? I agree and, on the good days, the iPad did not come out for that purpose. However, there were two situations where having entertainment was valuable.

The first is to be able to wind down; to allow the brain to liquefy back to green goo. Maybe everyone doesn’t have this problem, but my brain is constantly churning and sometimes it takes some mind-numbing entertainment to be able to get to sleep.

The second is during those weather days. We had two days (out of the six) with significant rain. Whether waiting it out under a restroom/laundry shelter or within my tent, it helps to pass the hours to have an iPad loaded with Game of Thrones episodes or various games such as solitaire or pinball.

I didn’t have much of an issue with charging. I think it was our fourth night when I first needed to charge the iPad. We were staying at State Parks and opted for the improved (versus primitive) sites to have access to power and water. By that fourth day, it was down to 20-30% battery, so I plugged it in when we got to camp and it was fully powered by dinner. No hassle at all.

My iPad (4th gen) weighs 23.1 ounces. I keep it in a Timbuk2 sleeve that weighs 4.3 ounces. Add in another 3 ounces for the charger and cable (that does double-duty for the iPhone) and I’m carrying 30.4 ounces. If you put on your weight-weenie hat, 2 pounds is a lot for a luxury item. However, I was carry about 25 pounds total across front & rear panniers, handlebar bag and seat bag. I wasn’t having any problem at all with the weight so I view it as well worth it.

For rear panniers, I have Ortlieb Back Roller Classics. There is a large pocket on the inside wall of the pannier. Slipping the iPad into that pocket places it between the contents and the vertical stays of my rack. I assigned one rear pannier to wet items; tent and flip-flops usually. The other rear pannier was assigned to clothing and in this one I kept my iPad. The clothing provides plenty of outside protection for the iPad although the sleeve does a pretty good job of that on its own.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you have other ideas for uses for the iPad (or other tablets) during a bike tour, I love to hear other ideas.

UPDATE 4/23/2013

Lyle asked me if I had any trouble with the iPad rubbing against the mounting bolts. For those of you who don’t have Ortliebs, there are screws with nuts that run through the QL1 track and through the wall of the pannier. There is a fabric covering over that hardware, but you can definitely feel it. It seems if something were rubbing against it, it could rub through that fabric. I carried my iPad vertically and it just cleared the bolts. You can see it in the following photo. Look closely and you can see the bolts pushing the fabric out a bit.


I didn’t even think about carrying it horizontally until now, but that is possible and provides over an inch of clearance, which you can see in the following photo.


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5 Responses to Bicycle Touring with iPad

  1. Lyle says:

    Did you have any problems with the bolts in the pannier rubbing against your iPad? I just bought a full set of Ortliebs and thought that ‘pocket’ would be the perfect place for my iPad.

    • dellwilson says:

      Not at all. I carried it vertically and it was still just below the bolts. I just tried it horizontally and it leaves over an inch if clearance. I took a couple of photos so I’ll update the post and add photos of the iPad in the bag.

  2. Great write up. Thank you for answering my question from Bike Forums and doing a write up. Very helpful.

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