A summer tour: Exploring the similarities between mobile and cycling

By Wyatt Urmey

As soon as school lets out, one of the best parts of summer is watching the coverage of the Tour de France.

I’ve seen several serious publications, including The Economist, point out that cycling is becoming an evermore important and influential sport in the world and within business, partly because the two share so many similarities. Both require speed, innovation, efficiency and teamwork to spell success. These are characteristics that are just as crucial in business as they are in mobile development.

Mobile and cycling: Riding tandem

Besides a major telecom player sponsoring contender Nairo Quintana, what does the Tour and bicycle racing have to do with mobile? There are more than a few things worth mentioning.

For one, being in the US, it has not always been easy to get the great up-to-the-minute coverage of the event, but it has improved drastically over the years. Much of that improvement is due to advances in digital and mobile technologies, which have much to do with improved spectator experiences in many sports — so much so that the “Tour selfie” has turned into a bit of a distraction to the race and riders.

For an event that’s spread out across thousands of kilometers and multiple countries, it is now complemented and dependent on mobile technologies. For example, last year, many noticed the sensors on riders’ seats, which Slocyclist explained are capturing data and context and letting race followers know exactly where riders are in the peloton.

Four key similarities between cycling and mobile business

Overall, the following four characteristics “break away” as essential to note about great cycling and mobile:

  1. Speed
    I doubt I’d hear any argument on this one. Speed often requires a technological advantage, so moving to development tools that allow for developing across platforms is often cited to help improve speed, as Forbes notes. Speed means winning in races and mobile.
  2. Innovation
    In mobile, innovation can knock off months of issues or security problems, and innovation is happening every day, offering better versions of cloud tools and APIs. A great example of cycling and mobile innovation is USA Cycling and how it uses mobile technology to get real-time information into the helmets of racers, creating a winning advantage for them in training and racing that we hope to see in its full glory in Rio this summer.
  3. Efficiency
    The winner in bicycle racing is ultimately not the winner because he or she is the fastest or was at the front of the race the longest. It’s quite the opposite. In fact, it’s a sport about conserving energy and resources for the crucial moment when it’s most possible to open a gap on challengers. More than most bike races, multiday stage race winners depend on efficiency to win. Efficiency in mobile development goes to the swift, too, and it is indeed the programming language Swift that will make development more efficient in front- or back-office systems, as one language can be used across devices and servers.
  4. Teamwork
    Cycling requires a unique combination of rivalries and teamwork for success, and sometimes the best collaborations are across teams in breakaways. This is similar to mobile development. The 2015 Center for Applied Insights study on app development shows that teamwork is crucial both from within the team and the extended ecosystem to create great mobile apps on time, on budget and to the original scope.

All this makes me wonder if race riders, who are so attentive to shave every gram off their bikes (and their legs), take their smartphones with them through the race. After all, mobile is so critical to everything now. I hope Phil Liggett and Bob Roll could let us know — in the margin of the television coverage of the race this year — how many Tour riders carry smartphones on their bikes. I’d be keenly interested to know — wouldn’t you?