Getting onto two wheels and heading out on your bike can be a liberating experience for riders of all ages. There’s an entire world out there to explore, and so many reasons for cycling: getting to work or school; getting fit; going out on an adventure; reducing a personal carbon footprint, and much more besides.
But it isn’t always as simple an endeavour as it sounds. Unless you have a clear idea of where you’re going, sticking to a route or taking the shortest journey can be difficult, and it can be very easy to get lost. The easiest way to solve this problem is to work out a route before travelling, and to get technology to help you devise a route that suits your needs.
This means using a bike route planner, and there are so many available online or through apps that every cyclist can enjoy helpful, user-friendly guidance. This blog highlights some of the best bike route planners and what makes them stand out.
Does Google Maps have bike routes?
Yes, it does, and the name recognition of Google means that it’s naturally the first place many turn to when looking for a bike route planner. However, it may not always be the most suitable platform to use, and that depends on the type of riding you have planned.
If you need to get from point A to point B, and you’re using your bike purely as a form of transport, then Google Maps is great. It can help you find the shortest or quickest route, and it can help you find quieter alternatives that keep you away from heavy traffic. What it can’t do, however, is help you plan a route principally intended for recreation, i.e. one that is scenic, adventurous or over particularly challenging terrain. This is especially the case if you’re planning any off-road riding.
Our picks of the best bike route planners
We’ve picked out five of the best bike route planners here, and we’ve come up with a selection that covers all the bases. Whether you’re on or off-road, cycling to work, riding for tourism, and everything else in between, you’re bound to find a bike route planner for your needs here.
Komoot is a GPS tracking app designed to aid navigation for cyclists exploring the great outdoors, both on the road and off it. You can plot a route before you leave and take many different factors into account, such as the type of surface, gradient, overall distance and much more. Your saved route can then be downloaded to your navigation device (it’s compatible with Garmin devices, Android Wear, Wahoo ELEMNT and many more) so that you get real-time route information as you ride. After your ride, you can tag photos and other info to the route and share it with your friends and fellow riders online.
Bike Citizens is an app created to make riding in cities much easier for urban cyclists all over the world. The app contains detailed maps that are specially optimised for cyclists and allow for easy determination of routes that are friendlier forthem. If there are cycle paths or designated cycleways, then the Bike Citizens app will prioritise them for calmer, quieter journeys.
There are maps available in more than 450 cities, spanning Europe, the United States and Australia. While the maps come for a fee, the cost is just a few pounds for one city, making it cost-effective if you need better routing closer to home.
Originally created for the Czech Republic but now supporting cities all over the world, Cyclers Navigation is the perfect complement for people who want to cycle as part of an integrated approach to transport. As well as the ability to plan out cycle routes, you can also get real-time location and availability information on city bike-sharing schemes. Your rides can be tracked and can contribute to a heat map, which shows you where you ride most often and allows you to earn badges for achievements, helping to keep you motivated. Compared to many navigation apps, this one is especially easy on your phone’s battery life, too.
Many road cyclists won’t be seen on two wheels unless their Strava is turned on and tracking them. Strava is probably best known for tracking your rides and performance, so that you can compare your times and efforts with your friends, but it’s a useful tool for navigation, too. If you don’t want to use the seemingly endless library of user-created routes in your area, then you can easily create your own and download it to your bike’s navigation app. Many top professional cyclists use Strava in their races and training rides, meaning serious cyclists can ride the same routes and see how they compare.
If you’re planning any sort of cycle touring in the UK, then the Ordnance Survey’s OS Maps app is absolutely essential. It’s the only app that incorporates the entire National Cycle Network, making it unrivalled for riders who want to go across the country on the routes that are the friendliest for cycling. There’s also the capability to search for routes created by other users and try them yourself, or even create, upload and share your own.
Get cycling travel insurance with SportsCover Direct
Every type of riding comes with its own level of risk, from nasty falls if you’re mountain biking downhill, to accidents with traffic when you’re on the road. So, whatever you do on two wheels, good insurance cover is essential.
SportsCover Direct has been insuring cyclists just like you for 30 years, and our cycling travel insurance policies are designed with your next trip in mind. Our cover encompasses medical expenses, compensation for travel disruption, help if your luggage or bike is lost, damaged or stolen, and much more. Flexible payment plans and competitive pricing mean that our policies are easily affordable, too.
To find out more on our cycling insurance options, take a closer look here.