These days it’s not just the Dutch and the lycra-clad Olympians who are bike crazy. More and more people are swapping the steering wheel for a pair of handlebars, and climbing into the saddle. Whether you’re looking for a new route to work, want to track your sporting prowess or learn how to fix a flat tyre – here you’ll find the app that’s right for you.
Staying On Course
Picking the perfect route can make all the difference to a day out on two wheels: trip planners, bike computers and navigation apps can all help.
Possibly the most comprehensive bike-route app around, BikeMap‘s immense collection of bike routes (2.5 million at the time of writing) is ever-growing, thanks to its thriving community of passionate bikers who create, rate and share their favourite routes. The maps are carefully-designed for cyclists, meaning the graphics are clean and unfussy, and you can catch the relevant data at just a glance, without taking your eyes off the road for too long.
Describing themselves as “the loveliest cycling app” around, CycleMaps makes light work of finding a direct, safe and suitable route, whatever your riding style. New to cycling and still a little unsure of yourself? CycleMaps will find you a route with side streets and bike paths. A seasoned pro with a need for speed? No problem . You’ll be offered a route through high-speed lanes and larger roads.
Komoot is designed for mountain-bike riding adventurers who want to explore Europe’s great outdoors. Offering information and recommendations on both cycling routes and hiking trails, it allows you to tailor your tour to your fitness level and your personal preferences. With useful hands-free voice navigation options and offline maps that navigate you even when offline, Komoot allows you to share your expertise with fellow outdoorsy types, add photos and follow your friends’ tours too. Mostly available in Germany and Austria, the app is however currently branching out into France, Italy, Spain and Belgium too.
ViewRanger is another bicycle navigation app, but with a pretty unique “augmented reality” selling point. As well as offering thousands of downloadable route guides, large-scale topographical maps, and GPS navigation, a feature called Skyline allows you to explore the outdoors in a whole new way, using your phone or tablet’s camera to interact with what you see. The camera automatically identifies geographical features, such as mountain peaks and lakes, helping you orientate yourself and find out facts about the surrounding area.
Fresh air and aerobic exercise: a bicycle ride is just what the doctor ordered. If you want to take your already healthy habit to another level, there are a range of bicycle training apps out there to suit every sporting preference – including for people who think they don’t actually like doing sport at all…
Strava is one of a plethora of GPS cycling training apps currently available, and it’s managed to remain one of the most popular – probably because of its sleek and It tracks a huge range of stats during each ride you take – including speed, time, distance, elevation and calories burned – and uploads them to your Strava profile. There you can share and compare them with others, and also with your own previous best. The option to join challenges and share photos and activites with friends is a great way to keep motivation high.
Another free to download app that pledges to make fitness fun, Endomondo acts as a virtual personal trainer, not just allowing you to set goals and then tracking your activity, but also giving you audio encouragement and feedback on your progress. Cycling is just one of the many sports that Endomondo is able to track.
My Virtual Mission
This free app is a motivational exercise tool with a a pretty amazing USP – possibly enough to get even the most couch-loving cyclist out on their bike. Rather than just tracking individual rides, My Virtual Mission allows you to create your own ultimate virtual fitness challenges (how about running the whole length of the UK?) and advance towards completing them each time you go cycling (or running or swimming…). It’s a simple way to use goals to help keep motivation up, and should you wish to use your fitness challenge to fundraise for a cause, this app allows you to track both fitness and fundraising progress too. The app is free for users, with a small admin fee is charged on each sponsorship transaction.
Emergencies & Practicalities
Flat tyre? Chain come off? Busted brakes? There’s an app for that!
Bike Doctor describes itself as your “personal pocket bike mechanic” and gives you simple instructions with each step illustrated with pictures that even the most clueless of bike-users can get their head around. All common bike repairs are covered, and it also gives you tips on how to avoid common mistakes, stop squeaks and prevent punctures.
Bike Gear Calculator
While the technical level of this app will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, it’s perfect for anyone who wants to optimise their bikes gearing and doesn’t shy away from “the science bit”. With plenty of graphs and data this free app allows you to input information on tyre and wheel size, crank length and the number of teeth on your chain-set in order to calculate your optimum set-up. And if you understood what all that meant, then Bike Gear Calculator might just be the app for you.
Epic Ride Weather
Epic Ride Weather is an app that promises to help you prepare adequately for your ride, to ensure that it’s, well… sufficiently epic. Based on the GPS data you provide, this app knows where you’ll be and when you’ll be there, and gives you a projected weather forecast, including handy things like wind speed and direction. It only works in conjunction with other exercise and route-planning apps however, so download one of those first (Strava is compatible, for example).
When it comes to cycling apps, the above (limited) selection shows that we are really spoilt for choice. Of course, old-school riders may not want to plan, plot and share every single turn of their pedals. On the other hand, for many preparation really is everything, and being able to access support and real time information (not to mention the competitive streak that some of these apps fire up inside you) might just be enough to make cycling their daily transport of choice.
Author: Marisa Pettit (2017)