The iPhone makes a wonderful bike computer. It’s tough, comes with great GPS and can be loaded with zillions of navigation and fitness apps. It also enjoys a wide range of ready-made handlebar mounts.
But the iPad, possibly even more useful as a map thanks to its large screen and crazy-long battery life, has precisely zero bike mounts available. So I decided to make one. Here’s how:
There are two main concerns when putting an iPad on your handlebars. The first is that you need to keep it there — you don’t want it flying off when you’re negotiating a busy road junction. The second is protection. The iPhone is small enough to protect with a shockproof mount and silicone cover. The iPad is a little trickier.
I opted for off-the-shelf parts, to keep things easier and more professional-looking. Here are the two ingredients, a Zefal map case and the Extreme Edge iPad case from G-Form.
Amazingly, these two items fit snugly together, once you have removed the heavy card lining of the map case. To use, just slide the iPad (1 or 2) into the sleeve and then finagle the whole shebang into the map case. When I say snug I mean it: you really have to wiggle it in, but it doesn’t stretch the welded seams of the Zefal case.
The map case seals shut with a roll-top-style closure, which makes it virtually waterproof, and velcro strips keep it closed. Then, you use the three velcro straps to hook it around the handlebar (left and right) and stem. Once in place it is solid and secure, and the impact absorbing qualities of the Extreme Edge case protected the iPad, even when riding over cobbles.
Amazingly, you can still operate the capacitive touch-screen when the iPad is in the bag (pro tip: a Ziplok also allows this, and is a great way to take your iPad to the beach).
You’ll notice in the photos that I also have a handlebar bag. This is handy as-is, but also stops the wind from catching the iPad like a sail and tearing it from the bike.
The protruding corner flaps of the Extreme Edge case keep the plastic a centimeter or two above the screen, meaning you have to push hard to actually register a touch. Then again, you probably won’t be doing much tapping as you ride anyway, and the extra layer of air will help keep flying stone chips away from the screen.
Another problem is related. It’s tricky to unlock the screen as the swipe gesture is awkward. Thankfully the Zefal case has a velcro patch at the top, from which I plan to hang a refrigerator magnet. Then I can flip it to lock and unlock the screen more easily.
The other problem is getting the thing on and off the bike. It’s almost impossible to slide the iPad out while the map case is still on the bike. Then again, the straps are easy enough to undo and re-affix, once you get used to it.
For the next version, I’m thinking of mounting the Extreme Edge case directly to the bars. The Zefal’s straps are available separately in pairs, meant to be used to attach pumps to frames. I figure that cutting slots in the Extreme Edge case and threading through the straps would give better access to the screen. Of course it also leaves the screen naked, and destroys one of the best parts of this setup: With the iPad’s screen sleeping, the mount looks just like a regular map-case.
So how handy is it having the iPad as a HUD for maps? When you’re in an unknown place, it’s ideal. Previously I would stop every time I wasn’t sure where to head. Now I might slow down or even stop, but I don’t have to go dig the iPad from the panniers.
And ask me again once I get my JawBone JamBox mounted on the bike.