If you’ve made the transition into the digital age, you’ll realise you can’t ride a bike without using a bunch of cycling apps, necessary or not. Long-distance cycling is no different and in fact, I’ve found some really valuable cycling apps (both paid for and free) that enrich my experience on the bike.
It goes without saying that I’m on Strava but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m homing in on some other cycling apps that come in useful either before, during or after I get on my bike for long spells of time.
This post is not sponsored, I’m just sharing links to apps I think you’ll enjoy using.
Ride With GPS
I used the free version of Ride With GPS for ages before signing up for premium and you know what? It works brilliantly. There are some really cool paid-for features within premium that will help you when you come to jump in the saddle after a few hours of planning.
The current cost of premium is about as much as a Netflix or Spotify subscription: US$10 per month ($80/year) which hovers around £8/mo in English money. That’s a lot of money to find and the two benefits I mention here are available in the Basic subscription which is a bit more affordable: $50/year or $6/mo.
This feature is seriously underrated! I don’t know about you but I like to go into a ride knowing exactly what I’m getting myself into. In the past, I’ve added cues at the bottom of hills that will then flash up when I reach them. Sometimes they’re warnings about particular roads I turn on to, sometimes they’re words that boost my PMA, but usually it’s to tell me where I can get food!
Points of Interest (POIs)
Another unsung hero of the routing world, points of interest allow you to make a note of important or interesting landmarks…or the next cake stop opportunity. There is one caveat with this: POIs won’t show on my beloved Wahoo Elemnt, but I think they show on Garmin. Hopefully Wahoo is able to work through this ASAP to give all us cake lovers a more convenient way of getting to the front of the queue. In the meantime, I download the routes to my phone (another paid-for feature) and I can check out POIs through that.
Epic Ride Weather
At £7.99 for a year, you may shy away on first glance but I’ll tell you now it’s saved me more than that in extended cafe stops sheltering from horrible weather. The guy behind it, David, designed it in his own time and it’s become one of my most-used apps. The app got a lot of love on twitter too with many users saying they swear by it.
Hook it up to your favourite routing app (RWGPS, Strava, Komoot etc.), choose the route you want to ride, put in the date, time and average speed and you’re away. It’ll spit out a lovely image like this with a forecast as you move around the route so you know exactly when the headwind will hit.
Clue’s in the name for this one. Most of my longer tours have very little planning in the way of accommodation simply because I don’t know how far I’ll get in a given day. Around 1-2pm, I scour the Booking.com app for somewhere to stay based on that morning’s average speed. Of course, the Ravito app could also help you with this quest.
Top tip: look at the hotel policy section within the app to confirm the latest possible check-in time. I had a mare once in France when I rocked up after check-in closed. Had to ride another 30km until my head hit a pillow.
Embarrassingly but unsurprisingly, most Brits only speak one language which isn’t much use in the depths of quaint European villages in the middle of nowhere. My at-best-conversational level of German (if you don’t use it, you lose it!) has enabled me to get around Germany and Austria a couple of times but as for every other European language–I’m stumped!
Google Translate is a great app for avoiding awkward games of charades (what’s chamois cream in Slovenian?) and giving you the ticket to a bit more freedom. Download languages to your phone at home and you’ll be able to use them on the go.
I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted but don’t assume everyone on the continent speaks English because they don’t. I’ve been on the outskirts of French cities and had to butcher the local lingo.
Obviously I don’t use every single app out there but I took to the twitter hive mind to get some thoughts from other people on the subject of useful cycling apps.
Another routing/mapping app that came about a couple of years ago is Komoot. While I don’t have much experience with it, many of my cycling peers love it. You can share pictures from your rides, discover hidden treasures both locally and further afield due to users chipping in with their recommendations and importantly, the app will tell you the type of terrain you’ll ride on so you can make the right bike/tyre choice.
They also sponsor a whole heap of events including ultra-endurance races and multi-day gravel rides.
I’d never heard of cycle.travel before a few people suggested it and first thoughts look good. The aim of the app is to take you to your destination via quiet lanes and byways as opposed to main roads. It also features campsites and other accommodation/watering holes so you can plan your trip around an overnight stay and a pint of beer.
It does _really_ in-depth analysis of the data for each road/path to work out which is best for cycling. This includes real motor traffic data (where available) to identify the quietest roads – as best I know, no other planner takes that into account!— cycle.travel (@cycle_travel) February 12, 2020
The website has plenty of UK city guides and is expanding further afield into Europe and even Australia and New Zealand. iPhone and Android apps are in the development stage, so it shouldn’t be long until you can download them.
Hate it when the person behind the counter at a petrol station tells you they can’t refill your water bottle because it’s not drinking water even though we live in 21st century Great Britain and you know damn well it is and they just want you to buy an overpriced plastic bottle of the stuff? (This actually happened to me) Have no fear because the refill app will keep you hydrated on the move.
Even in my little corner of the countryside, there were local businesses just a few pedal strokes away that will refill my water bottle free of charge saving me some cash and the environment decades of abuse from plastic. WIN!
Restore your faith in humanity by using warmshowers when you next plan a tour. People from the adventure world (whether cyclists or not) open their homes and offer you use of their facilities for free. I’ve only ever used it the night before an early Eurostar train and it was great. You get to meet interesting people who’ve done a lot with their lives and there’s a mutual understanding that you may want to keep your bike indoors or leave before their day begins.
I’m having trouble on the mobile app unfortunately–it won’t let me log in–but the desktop and mobile sites work fine and provide all useful information and contact details of hosts.
There is an expectation that in some way you will give back to the community by way of becoming a host yourself or donating to warmshowers so that their hard work can continue. This is entirely discretionary of course.
📱 Download: iPhone
This is a new app I discovered on Reddit just the other day, which I’m hoping develops into something a bit more user-friendly. The idea is you input a route and select which services you need along the way, so that you can find resupply points, hotels, hospitals etc. that don’t require a big detour. Sure, you could just Google it at any point but a bit of forward planning never hurt anyone.
Currently, you have to download the route to your files and upload it into the app before it’ll work. This is where I hope the app can eventually plug into the mapping APIs.
Select what you want to find and find out how far off the route you’ll need to go to get there.
I haven’t used this on the road just yet but I think it’s a great idea based on my homework on it so far. Let me know if you find it useful.
I keep all my useful cycling apps on one page on my home screen so that I don’t have to trawl through every other app to find the one I need. You could store them in folders of course–whatever works for you.
Got your own favourite cycling apps?
Add yours to the comments so that people can try them out for themselves. There are so many great cycling apps out there that one blog post surely can’t cover them all with a solid list of pros and cons.