Bike route planning

Sep 17, 2016 at 23:39
by Botond Bocsi  
I guess every biker gets to a point when going out on a bike ride needs proper planning. Maybe not in the first year but eventually you should have at least a sketchy idea about the route you are taking. After you become a more experienced biker and you know your limits, you should plan the proper route that fits to your physical and mental limits. The most comfortable way to choose the best route is via planning applications. In this post I am going to compare the most widely used websites for planning bike routes.

I started my research with the following wiki page where you can see that there are several websites designed for route planning. It is a pretty objective comparison, however, it does not tell you how it really feels to use the application. Thus, in this post I focus on less objective measures. In order not to make the comparison super long I cannot include all of the presented sites. The choice of the candidate websites is mostly based on my own experience - and experience of experienced bikers Smile .

Let us get started, the candidate websites are:
https://bikemap.net
https://bikeroll.net
http://mapmyride.com
http://ridewithgps.com
https://www.strava.com

I believe that bike route planning is usually done before route, thus, I focus on the web part of the products and do not take into account how, for example, the mobile application works.


Bikemap


Bikemap is the second biggest site of the previous five with a big community (with more than 500.000 users). You can start using the map creation tool without registration. The map interface is pretty straightforward (simple and easy to use), you can add new end- or mid-points by simply clicking on the map. It also supports adding some text description to the route that can become pretty useful. I also liked the printable version of that route that can be used by old-fashioned guys like me (instead of a mobile app). Talking about mobile, BikeMap has a mobile app support. I never felt the need for a mobile app while riding, you should decide if it is useful. Another must-have feature is the elevation profile that is solid and simple. I particularly liked the route suggestion where you can see and use the routes generated by others.


BikeRoll


I would say BikeRoll is the most minimalist of all. It really does one thing, and one thing only, help you to plan bike routes. It does not have a community (at least I have not found one), it does not even have login. I definitely consider this as a positive feature with all its downsides, like not being able to save the routes and not having route suggestions from other users. The user interface is simple and straightforward, nothing fancy, just what you need. There are three features I like very much. One is the elevation profile that has nice coloring showing how hard the particular sections are. You can tell the overall difficulty just by taking a quick look on it. The second feature I like is the weather support that shows you the expected weather for the next couple of days. The last one is the randomly generated route that is given when you enter the website. It must be said that usually it is really just a random track but it brings you in route planning mood.


MapMyRide


Honestly, I did not really enjoy using MapMyRide. First of all you definitely need and ab-blocker if you want to use it. I think in 2016 sites with that many ads must change their business model. Second, the user interface is too complex, clumsy. As a first user, you will have problems figuring out how to move the points on the map to get the route you want. Of course, it has a lot of features but it does not have a modern mentality, i.e., use as simple interface as possible (something that Google would do). It has a route suggestion (also random route generation) that works pretty well. Overall, I would say that it could be a nice tool but the mentality of the operators should change towards other business model and cleaner user experience.


Ride with GPS


Ride with GPS has somewhat a similar look and feel than MapMyRide. I have the feeling that the interface contains too much text. When you want to create your bike track you do not really need text information but images, graphs, colors should give you information. A positive features is that you can compose your route from different kind of segments, i.e., one segment with car, another on paved road, and another from mountain biking. It supports printable map and directions which can be downloaded separately. When you register, you have to choose between different account types (actually you must sign in to be able to start route editing that is a big minus). To be completely honest, I have never tried the site having a paid account maybe it gives a better user experience.

Strava


Strava is the biggest site with its 1.2 million registered users. The original goal of the site was to track athletic activity via GPS, thus, it must be judged from this point of view. The route planning part was just recently added. As a result of the big community and recent development it is very professional. Another advantage of having a community is that already existing routes can be seen and used by every user. The user interface is clean with pleasant colors, not too much buttons or text. Its printable summary is pretty compact and easy to read. A big minus is that one has to register in order to use it. If you are not a Strava "power user" this is can become pretty annoying.


After this analysis, I would not announces a winner, there are pros and cons. There are two sites I personally liked. There is Strava with its clean design and big community. If you are a power biker who does things seriously and regularly I think this is the best choice. However, if you are a more casual biker, and you just want to plan your weekend fun fast and simple use BikeRoll.
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