For cyclists looking to stay connected without investing a significant amount in the latest technology, smartphone apps are a great way to explore digital tracking and performance management tools while on the go. Some apps are meant to track your performance or pair with other devices and route planning is a major feature of most apps.
These apps are designed to work on a smartphone rather than as a dedicated unit like a cycling computer (that normally fix to your bike) though both will normally give you real-time stats as your ride and distance, route information, elevation, and more.
As the long distance and urban cycling communities grow, so does the demand for a quick and convenient way to search, navigate, discover new areas in confidence. Designed and regularly updated for cyclists, by cyclists, the following apps allow you to store information like maps and statistics on your smartphone, which you’ll likely be taking along for the ride anyway.
Strava is one of the best known activity apps out there, catering to cyclists, runners, water athletes, and more. Counting millions of users, the app focuses on both performance and route planning, and can connect to a GPS watch as well as a smartphone. Information from something like a smartwatch or fitness app can be uploaded into Strava so that you don’t lose track of your progress when changing devices.
The Strava app is also compatible with products form top brands like Garmin, Wahoo and Lezyne. Access to the app’s basic features is free, but the premium subscription offered by the company allows you to take full advantage of Strava’s many customizable settings and filters. The premium subscription totals $59.99 a year with a regular payment plan of $5.00 per month.
When it comes to route planning, Strava’s OpenStreetMap- based system allows you to search for the most popular way to get to your destination, which is also often the safest while on two wheels. Heat map data from other users keeps this function up to date, and you can also use this information to combine segments and map your own ride. Maps include route times, surface differences, and off road options, depending on how varied your chosen area is.
Strava’s performance element is highly unique in its emphasis on speed and competition. In addition to cataloguing the usual stats like heart rate, relative effort and wattage, and marking your progress over time, the app allows you access to Strava Challenges, which set goals for you based on details like speed, distance, or stamina. Challenge leaderboards are where you can see your own progress, as well as that of other participants (and yes, there are occasionally brand sponsored prizes)!
Group challenges are another way to up the ante on ride segments; this function allows you to set up friendly competitions with people you know. Goals for group challenges include most activity, fastest effort, and even group goals that you can work together to achieve. If you’re more interested in how a particular route affects your performance, you can track other users’ progress on that portion, and even create your own segment if it hasn’t already been established. That way, you can unofficially compete and focus on your weak spots on your own time.
For riders venturing into new territories, Strava Beacon is another special feature to help you feel safe and secure on your bike. This tracking function lets you share live location updates with emergency contacts, just in case you need assistance on an unknown trail.
Though Strava is perfectly useful when it comes to just tracking your route and utilizing the GPS tool, its performance and competition aspects make it ideal for someone who wants to take their daily ride to the next level. You can compete against yourself, other riders, or friends, depending on where you are in your performance journey; that stakes are as high as you make them. Strava allows you a huge amount of control over what area you choose to improve and how far you push yourself. Additional data from other users riding the same routes as you can be highly motivating, especially if you’re feeling underwhelmed with where you are in your personal cycling journey.
Lauded by long distance and day riders, Komoot is another top cycling app to have on your radar, especially if you plan to travel by bike or start exploring outside of your city. Komoot uses OpenStreetMap data to zero in on the details of a route you’re thinking of trying, complete with input and points of interest marked by fellow users.
Komoot features an entire library of adventure routes, setting it apart from anything else on the market. A number of filters let you narrow down your choices no matter where in the world you’re interested in riding; details like public transportation access, surface type and duration let you customize your search. You can even filter possible routes based in natural features like bodies of water and elevated climbs.
Komoot is highly visual, allowing you to plan by seeing rather than doing additional research. Topographical features are clearly documented throughout the app’s map system so that you know what to expect. Expecting many of its riders answer the call of remote areas, Komoot makes it simple to download tours before you lose service, keeping you covered. The app is compatible with Garmin and Wahoo devices, as well as smartwatches and even e-bikes.
Along with intense planning capabilities, Komoot is all about sharing your experience with others, so that users are inspired by one another as much as they are by the endless route possibilities. Every time you take a special photograph en route, it can be marked as a Highlight so that others won’t miss it as they ride in the same direction. You can also share written reflections, and invite other riders on a tour you’re excited about.
Komoot makes fostering new connections fast, simple and based on a shared love of adventure cycling. This is a great feature for beginners who are looking to ease into distance riding but are wary of going out of their comfort zone alone. The huge variety of pre-established and suggested tours available through the app is an in-depth introduction to what’s out there for cyclists of all levels. Road cycling, bike packing and mountain biking routes are all a quick search away.
Komoot is very much an outdoors- focused app, making it the top choice in the adventure cycling field. Taking a concept that can be highly intimidating to an urban commuter or weekend rider, this app breaks down the planning process in a user- friendly, visual way. Its sharing aspect makes it especially approachable; someone else’s experience might be all the motivation you need to start traversing or continue finding new ways to take in the natural world.
Payment plans come in a few choices; namely the Single Region, Region Bundle, World and Premium options. The Single Region pack, coming in at a one time cost of $3.99, is the smallest map set, giving you access to routes in a single area. The region bundle ($8.99) is best for those looking to explore a couple of different regions, while the World Pack ($29.99) puts the entire mapped globe at your fingertips. Komoot Premium totals $4.99 a month (it is billed annually at $59.99), and takes the World Pack a step above average, unlocking features like updated weather, brand discounts, and a multi-day planning tool.
Specific to cycling within the United Kingdom, CycleStreets is a rider-designed app consisting of two parts that come together to enhance your local experience. The planning aspect of the app is comprehensive and includes Norther Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
Once you input your destination, the app will generate the fastest route, the route with the least amount of busy main roads, and a choice that takes cues from both of the options above. Having three equally good choices of getting from one place to another can be extremely helpful, especially if you want to try a different route on your return ride or have specific preferences based on your level.
The other important part of CycleStreets is its Photomap, which ties en route photographs to various locations. Unlike Komoot, the purpose of the photomap is not so much to share inspirational images as it is to provide feedback on cycling safety in the UK. Photographing an obstacle in the road, for example, or a tight shoulder can make its way to organizations that campaign for safer infrastructure. The Photomap is also a way to draw attention to something positive on a particular route that sets an example, such as a protected bike lane or cycling service along the way. Practical and immensely useful, the Photomap is a tool that gives back, making CycleStreets part of of the fabric of an already vibrant national cycling community. Other features include elevation visuals, the ability to create a profile and a categorized photo library.
This app may take some getting used to, but it’s a decent, free option for riders in the United Kingdom that trades a high tech interface for highly localized information.
Under Armour’s Map My Ride app is a cyclist friendly app that offers basic goal updates, statistics and unlimited mapping, all at no cost. The app’s paid version offers live features, printed maps and even more detailed performance monitoring. Connection abilities to other fitness apps, social media platforms and devices like heart rate monitors make Map My Ride versatile enough for anyone who hasn’t had any experience with performance technology.