Sometimes, cycling is just about getting out there and turning the pedals. Other times, it’s about discovering new routes, exploring new places and going in a different direction. That’s why cycle computers are so useful. The ability to load a map and follow it adds much needed variety to your rides.
I use a Garmin 510 and Garmin Connect for mine. The 510 is far from the slickest GPS and Connect is far from the easiest map app to use but it’s what I have. The ability to sit here at my desk and plan a new ride, tailor it to the mileage I want, time I have or intensity I’m looking for is just great.
There are other mapping software websites around and I have used a few of them.
The new Garmin Connect app isn’t as good as the one it replaced but is still serviceable. It uses a simple map editor to create routes which you can download directly to your device through Garmin Express. I don’t actually know if you can download files into other devices though.
Strava is of course up there with the big boys and makes it easy to create a route. Just click on a place you want to ride to and the map editor will fill in the line following the road. It will also add distance, elevation gain, estimated moving time and route type too.
Ride With GPS
Ride With GPS is another browser-based map editor that allows you to create maps and download them or use their app to track and navigate. While definitely American in flavour, the app is pretty smooth and makes route creation or discovery simple.
Map My Ride
Map My Ride used to be the biggest GPS route tracking site and still has a huge following. Like the others, you can map a route, create training plans, track activity and share and all the usual social stuff. You can also log your food, which is a nice touch. If you’re trying to improve your diet, integrating an eating plan into a training plan is a neat trick.
Bikely is run by Bike Radar and is okay. The areas around Cornwall are a little sparse, but if you want to explore somewhere more popular there are a lot of existing rides to choose from. You can of course make your own though, which is nice. Compared to the others, this one is a little clunky but works well enough.
Cycle computer or smartphone?
Should you use a cycle computer or smartphone? I would say use whatever device you have. If you have a good phone, use that and just buy a waterproof case and good bracket. If you have a cycle computer, it makes sense to use that. No need to buy something special if you already have something that will do the job.
A cycle computer has the advantage of being smaller, more robust should you have an off, a longer lasting battery and can display any information you like. They are also (mostly) waterproof.
A smartphone has a larger screen to help with navigation but will need to keep the screen on during the ride. It can also provide live tracking so people know where you are and can dynamically access map data should you get lost. You will need something solid to keep it safe on the bike while also keeping it visible if you’re using turn-by-turn navigation. The downside is that running the screen full time, plus the map app, GPS, Bluetooth or ANT+ drains the battery quite a lot.
There is no ‘best’ device. You can use what you have or buy something to suit. As long as you get out there and ride, it’s all good!