Your smartphone is an excellent cycling accessory. Here are 10 of the most useful apps for the day-to-day commuter.
For some of these bike apps, you'll need to mount your phone to your bike's handlebar or stem where it's visible and audible. Quad Lock is an excellent attachment system but there are many others. The map pocket of a handlebar bag works too.
There’s loads of bike riding apps out there but which is the best cycling app? And which is the best free cycling app? The list below includes cycling fitness trackers, bike route apps, cycling distance trackers as well as weather, transit and road maintenance apps.
1. Google Maps
Your default sat-nav app (as it may well be on your phone already) also doubles up as one of the best free cycling apps. Choose your destination, select the cycling option, and it'll show you one or more ways to get there – along with predicted journey times. Best of all, when you select a route and press 'start', you get turn-by-turn instructions on screen and through the speakers. (Set the phone's volume level to high). Google Maps routes aren't always as cycle-friendly as those produced by Bike Hub Cycle Journey Planner, but the app is fast and reliable. To run Google Maps on Windows, get the free gMaps app.
2. Bike Hub Journey Planner
This bike route app uses the route-finding engine of CycleStreets. Like Cyclestreets, Bike Hub Journey Planner gives you a choice between three routes: quickest, including busy roads; quietest, favouring cycle tracks and back streets; and balanced. But rather than CycleStreets' staggered itinerary, you get turn-by-turn navigation with spoken instructions. That makes routes much easier to follow while cycling. The Bike Hub app also locates local bike shops and has useful information on things such as cycling and the law, the Cycle to Work scheme, and more. A user can attach an iPhone to handlebars and use the app with full-on 3D map mode with all the usual satnav info, or the iPhone can be hidden away in a pocket with voice guidance and vibration alerts only. In busy traffic, the voice is just about audible inside a pocket but use of one ear-bud would solve this problem.
The bike route app was created to steer cyclists away from busy traffic. When on quiet cycle paths, the voice and vibration alerts work from within a pocket. The voices on the app say street names out loud so you know exactly where you are when you’re riding along.
The bike shop locating tool works from the smartphone's location-aware GPS and can find shops within a six mile radius, or via the search function. The Bike Hub app – which is free, thanks to the Bike Hub levy – is available now on the iTunes app store and in the Android Marketplace.
Free (Elite version £7.99). iPhone
Cyclemeter is probably the best way to turn your smartphone into a GPS cycling fitness tracker. You can view speed, distance ridden, riding time, calories expended, an Apple Maps map showing where you are, average speed, height gained, and more. It keeps the riding data on your phone so doesn't require an online log-in to start up or view afterwards. The Elite version is a full-blown fitness/training tool, including cadence and heart rate, weather data, different bikes, automatic uploading to Strava/social media/your calendar, and lots more. The only downside, as with any GPS cycle tracking app, is heavy battery usage.
Another GPS cycle tracking app for cyclists with a particular interest in fitness. As well as your rides, you can see how your performance compares to that of other cyclists on any given 'segment', such as a local hill. Can you get into the top 10? Can you beat your own personal record? It's a powerful motivating tool. Just remember to respect other road users and your own safety. Windows users will need a client app, such as Striver.
The social functionality of Strava is one of the key things which separate it from other cycling distance trackers. You can follow the weekly progress of cycling friends, join clubs and take part in challenges, and that really is the reason for Strava's continued popularity. On the other hand, if you'd rather keep your stats to yourself, this is probably one app to avoid. You might well end up spending some time disabling all the publicly visible features.
While we are on the topic of privacy settings, an article in the Telegraph suggested that Cyclists who apps, such as Strava, are putting themselves at risk from hi-tech criminals who window-shop for expensive bikes and target bikes based on the GPS details they give out. There is a quick fix for this however; by going to the privacy tab on the settings page you can create a "privacy zone" around your home or office for example. This means that rides that start or finish in one of those zones will be adjusted so a definitive start and finishing point is not shared publicly.
Strava is free to use, however you may well want to upgrade to Strava Premium membership to unlock all its features such as goal setting, filtered leader boards and heat maps of other Strava users. The cost for the Strava Premium membership is approximately £38 per a year.
Don’t forget: Strava integrates seamlessly with Cyclescheme’s Love to Ride community. This means that you can log miles and earn rewards just by using Strava in your normal way.
5. London Cyclist
A cycling app that shows bike shops, cycling cafés, bike rental places, and mobile repair services in the capital, along with maps, contact details and opening hours so you can find the nearest site to you. Unlike some shop finders, it seems fairly comprehensive. You can also use it access free eBook guides about riding in London, repairs, thief-proofing your bike and more. The only real downside is that it's restricted to cycling in London.
6. Fill That Hole
Potholes and other road defects are a pain for cyclists, sometimes literally. Councils are obliged to fix them, but only if they're aware of them. This app gives you an easy way to notify them. Your phone's GPS pinpoints the road defect on a map and its camera provides visual evidence. The app does the rest, notifying the council on your behalf. It takes moments. Councils have an incentive to fix known defects as they can't claim ignorance in compensation claims.
7. Met Office Weather
Will it rain tomorrow? How warm or cold will it be? What about wind speed and direction? Visibility? The Met Office Weather app provides all this and more for the next several days. It's more useful than the forecast on the telly because it's tailored to where you are; by default it uses the phone's GPS to locate you. You can also check the weather anywhere elsewhere in the country, as well as around the world.
8. National Rail Enquiries
An app for all cyclists who take their bike by train each day. While you can use it to plan trips and book tickets, the killer feature for commuters is live updates. You can check your train's departure and arrival times, find out where it is, and arrange phone alerts for any disruptions. The app also gives details about each operator's bike policy, which is useful if you travel with a non-folding bike. If only it showed how many of the bike spaces on a given train were booked…
9. Bike Doctor 2.0
Bike Doctor is available on iOS and Android devices and is one of the best cycling apps around. You can take it on the go with you in your pocket whether you are pedalling down a mountain, on your way to work, or sat in the comfort of your own home. Whenever you encounter a problem with your bike or want to know more about specific areas, load up the app, tap the part of your bike in question and follow the detailed instructions. Bike Doctor is written in a manner that means a complete beginner can follow and complete the instructions. For each step-by-step guide there are images to assist the text ensuring attention to details. Not only are common bike repairs covered, but there are also additional guides that show you how to avoid the most common maintenance errors and prevent problems further down the road.
10. Bike Gear Calculator
Input your bike's wheel size, then for any given chainring and sprocket combination, the Bike Gear Calculator app tells you how fast you'll be travelling at a given pedalling cadence - or how fast you'll be pedalling at a given speed. It's most useful for single speed and fixed-wheel cyclists but is also handy for assessing top and bottom gears on a geared bike. The full version lets you plot a range of gears at once and can display the gear size in 'gear inches' and 'development'.
Bonus Cycling App
A lot of cycling apps are ideal for long rides out in the countryside. However, if your cycling routine consists solely of cycling to work the novelty of cycling apps can soon wear off. Enter My Virtual Mission - a cycle tracker with a twist…
With My Virtual Mission you accumulate your miles towards completing an outrageous virtual journey. For example, you may want to cycle the length of The Great Wall of China… all 5,500 miles of it! Or perhaps something slightly less daunting like cycling the Land's End to John o' Groats trail (a mere 874 miles in comparison).
So how does My Virtual Mission work?
Firstly, you’ll need to create your mission on the planning map. Then just go out and do your usual cycling. (You may be interested to know that you can also accrue miles from running or swimming). Once you’ve completed your cycle be sure to log each of your distances into your mission page or via the smartphone app.
Your progress along your mission path will be updated and you'll get to see how far you've ridden and how far you've got to go. If your mission path progress happens to be positioned on a road, then you can check out your virtual surroundings on Google Street View, which is a really nice touch. Having a visual representation of how far you have travelled helps keep you motivated for your commute and adds an exciting new twist to the journey. Imagine getting up in the morning and thinking "I really want to cycle today so I can get to the Las Vegas strip by the end of the week".