Trying to decide which app to use on your next bike ride? As a cyclist, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the large number of cycling apps available for Android and Apple phones. New apps are published every day. Some of them are made for general activity tracking that cover multiple sports, while others are specifically made for cycling.
For cycling, the top apps that are most popular and (we believe) most useful for cyclists are Strava, MapMyRide, and RideWithGPS. Their popularity is already at a high level which means you can also connect with other users and the communities around the apps. While all three apps aim to deliver the same tracking purpose, their functionality is somewhat different. In many cases, it is not a matter of which app is the best, but a case of which app suits your needs.
Strava is probably the most popular cycling app. Not just for cyclists, it’s also very popular with other athletes such as runners. Probably the best aspect of Strava is that it’s also a robust social network and not just a mileage tracker or mapping app.
Free Version Vs Paid Version
Strava is available both in a free version and in a paid version. Most cyclists are fine with the free version, which offers plenty of great features. The free version allows you to access or customize information about your heart rate, your route, and even your gear. When you finish recording a ride, you can always go back to it to check your cycling pace or to see the information on the elevation of the route.
The paid version offers a more detailed perspective on your cycling experience. Previously called Strava Premium, it has been reorganized and renamed Strava Summit. Instead of just a single premium choice, you can pick and choose which features you want to pay for or get them all.
There’s the full Summit Pack, which is the same price as the old Premium account. For $5 a month, billed annually at $60, you can get all the features of the Training Pack, Safety Pack and Analysis Pack. But if you don’t need everything, you can also pick and choose from the other packs which cost just $2 per month, billed annually.
One of the best parts about Strava is the feature that allows users to create “segments” on the route. You can see how you performed in a certain area unlike with the free version which shows you the details as a whole. At the same time, you can use this targeted information to improve your own results by comparing your time with the time of other cyclists on the same route. However, this functionality is limited by the number of cyclists who are actually on the same route as you and it might not be the best solution when you cycle in remote locations.
Progress goals can also be an interesting feature. Cyclists can use it to set certain times or certain results they want to reach. When you try to improve your own personal records, you can use this functionality to set a time you want to beat on a certain track.
Suffer Score is a functionality which integrates your heart rate and which is available in the paid version. The harder your bike ride measures, the higher the score. In a long-term perspective, this can be useful if you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance or just see how hard that last ride really was.
Also available in the paid version, the Leaderboard Information is a great tool to see how you compare against other cyclists. You can see their time in certain areas of your route and you can share your time as well. Other functions include the possibility to see who is active on the route, but this is still a feature available in the paid version. You can also filter by age and weight.
Strava records your routes and shares them publicly unless you set your rides to private or hidden. For cyclists who are using the same routes from home to work, this can quickly become an issue. There are a few steps you can take to improve privacy if you like the app. For example, you can use the small feature of the app which allows you to work with Privacy Zones. These zones do not show your home point as a start location for your route and they use a nearby point for safety purposes. Even if limited in efficiency, it can still be a good solution for some privacy. Here’s an article we wrote that shows you how to hide the exact location of your home or workplace.
- Works with most GPS bike computers like Garmin, Wahoo.
- Works as an app on your iPhone or Android phone or Apple Watch.
- Available in free and paid versions
- Tracks cycling routes
- Records heart rate information
- Works with a power meter
- Indicates elevation details
- Shows detailed speed information
- Allows you to connect with other cyclists and also control who you connect with
- Progress goal tracking capability
- Comes with heat map for popular streets
- More detailed ride analysis Information only available with the paid version
MapMyRide is another easy to use app that is one of the most popular ones for cyclists. It also lets you connect with your friends and to compare your own tracking results. MapMyRide is owned by Under Armour.
But as with any large application, it also comes with connectivity options with other apps. For example, you can connect it to MyFitnessPal for a more professional approach to nutrition. You can connect the app to a heart rate monitor to have a better idea on your own cardiovascular health.
But the app can be connected to certain devices as well. There are many devices which can synchronize with the app and one of the most popular is the FitBit tracker. Whitings devices such as trackers and scales can also be connected to the app. Inputting and exporting data is easy as well. You can easily input your own favorite rides in files such as .TCX (Garmin-specific files) and .JPX files.
Free Vs. Paid Versions
For most cyclists, the app is great in its free version. It allows basic tracking which is enough to cover the needs of most users. The free version allows personal goal tracking, lifetime stats, and unlimited mapped routes among others. The paid version removes all the ads from the app. But it also comes with extra features such as unlimited printed maps, cadence analysis, live tracking etc.
The free version is a good place to start and it is easy to use. Browsing between the speed information, and elevation information is easy. You also get a graphic representation of your route on a map.
- Clean modern design
- Made with unlimited mapped routes
- Free lifetime statistics
- Connectivity with major apps such as MyFitnessPal
- Personal goal tracking
- Ability to connect to a heart rate monitor
- Connected with social media
- Live tracking only available in the paid version
- Ads on the free version
With thousands of users every day, RideWithGPS is one of the most popular solutions for cyclists. The app has two main modes. One mode uses a map which you can interactively use to draw your own route. A second mode is a search tool which allows you to find routes according to specifics such as distance or elevation. Your map can be loaded on various devices and you are then ready to cycle.
RideWithGPS is browser-based. You can create your own custom route on the official website and you can have one of the best solutions when it comes to the ultimate customization options, especially on desktops. The app can also be used on smartphones.
The route can be saved in various files such as .TCX and .GPX to be uploaded to devices such as those from the Garmin line. Additional information can also be added to the routes. They can include gear info such as the type of bike you are using but they can also be various photos of the route or the gear as well.
Fitness options are also included in the app. You can add various heart rate Zones which let you estimate the type of effort you will encounter. Entering your own details, you can also estimate the number of calories you are going to burn, which is important if you are using cycling as a solution to losing weight.
Free vs Paid Versions
The basic version of RideWithGPS can be enough for most cyclists. It comes with a detailed activity center which is a great tool to use when it comes to weekly or monthly schedules. You can also maintain a cycling regime from the activity center through the year.
The free version also offers interesting gear functionality. You can keep track of the certain miles you have with your bike or bikes which can be helpful to assess their durability. The free version also offers you the ability to have phone support if needed.
The premium paid version goes into detail. As most other paid apps, it offers you the ability to track split time. If you want to focus on interval training, the feature can be recommended. With extra fitness functionalities, the paid version can be recommended if you need to improve your physical shape. You can keep track of your body fat, weight and hydration levels. The paid version also allows you full access to all the premium features which might be released in the future by RideWithGPS.
The biggest limitation of RideWithGPS is that it comes from a desktop browser version to a smartphone app which seems complicated at the time. It is why so many users actually complain about the problems they experience with functionality. Offline navigation is also limited by the package you have which includes free, basic and premium subscription. Some users also complain that there is no undo functionality when you accidentally delete a route, even in the premium version.
- Detailed routes straight on the map
- Search functionality for routes in your area
- Works in browsers and in the app
- Synchronizes with Garmin GPS devices
- Tracks cycled miles with certain gear
- Works with the search function to find routes
- Health and fitness functions
- Comes with phone support
- Split time available in paid versions
- Direct write to Garmin devices only available in paid versions
- Difficult to handle for some cyclists
Which App to Choose?
RideWithGPS is the favorite app for many cyclists who like the mapping features. It is complex and it has plenty of great functionalities. But it lacks the user experience to make it a solution which can easily be used by most cyclists.
Strava and MapMyRide are two of the most popular options on the market. They have an impressive user database which makes them a good choice when you want to meet other cyclists.
For example, Strava comes with the ability to compare your own results in certain routes or route segments with other cyclists. With a growing number of users, it can prove helpful for many people who want to see the best results in skill improvement. The system with digital badges can be helpful as well. You can set your own objectives and try to meet them all. The better you are at meeting these objectives, the more digital badges you will have.
The time comparison functionality is also available in MapMyRide. But instead of simply showing the best times, the app also takes into consideration the number of times the cyclists have been on the route. It makes sense for cyclists who are familiar with the route to have the best times. But then again, other cyclists prefer a simple ranking based on time.
The premium versions of both apps are quite strong. The premium Strava app comes with no ads, live tracking, filtered leaderboards, cycling training plans and fitness analysis. The premium MapMyRide version comes with various goals you can set, exportable routes and the ability to filter leaderboards.
In terms of overall simplicity, Strava can be considered a great solution for many cyclists. It is easy to use and with graphics which are user-oriented, the app looks great as well. It’s also true that the app already has many of your cycling friends on it as well. In many cases, it means you have the ability to share your experience with your friends. Since it has so many users, Strava can also choose the best route for you as it has complex information on elevation. It can give you flat routes if you are looking for the path of least resistance.
But if you only seek the best graphs for elevation data, RideWithGPS can be a good option as well. The app also comes with a replay function which can prove useful in some situations. In the end, the final call is up to you. Since you want to spend more time on the bike and less time behind a screen, the app which is best for you is the one which is intuitive to use.