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Apps for Bicycle Directions (jakecoppinger.blog)
135 points by jakecopp 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments





For the most part, city riding is pretty well served by Google maps IMO.

A few years ago, following Google maps cycling directions me and a couple of friends on road bikes were led through muddy forest trails, old rail road tracks and green lanes on a London -> Paris <24hr attempt (we took 26hrs).

The difficulty with cycling directions is that there's not a 1 size fits all solution, a roadie needs smooth road but would prefer it quiet and scenic, a mountain biker would rather those trails we found and a commuter/hybrid would be fine on those in short bursts but probably prefer the speeds of the roads.

If I'm doing something of an "epic" route these days I'll spend a bit of time trying to find a suitable GPX that I can sync to my watch for directions - usually that'll come from Movescount, OS maps, Garmin or just someone's blog of a route. For most other things, Google maps works fine.


> A few years ago, following Google maps cycling directions me and a couple of friends on road bikes were led through muddy forest trails, old rail road tracks and green lanes on a London -> Paris <24hr attempt (we took 26hrs).

Yep. It's clear that Google Maps optimises for city riding and that's cool, but it does fall down badly on longer tours. To a large degree this is inevitable - only OSM actually has the level of surface quality information required for this sort of planning.

With my site, cycle.travel, I've taken the opposite tack: generating quiet, safe routes for leisure and touring rides, while still being as fast to generate routes as Google Maps. Sure, I want it to be usable in cities but it's not the main focus.

People have used it successfully to plan month-long tours across Europe and the US. One of my favourite bits of feedback was https://www.cyclechat.net/threads/swindon-to-orkney-a-wet-we... , where someone just punched in a start and end point at opposite ends of the UK, and rode the route it suggested without any tweaking.

https://cycle.travel/map if you want to play - always happy to hear suggestions/feedback (and thanks to Jake for including it in the post!). Currently Europe/North America/Australia/NZ only.


> Yep. It's clear that Google Maps optimises for city riding and that's cool

I believe that even in the city it simply maps a path as suitable for cycling and that's the limit of the optimization. It then becomes a "shortest/fastest trip" calculation. They don't mark roads and paths for specific types of cycling and you're not asked to provide such info. So whether it's asphalt, cobblestone, or a dirt road even in the city it will make no difference as long as it's suitable for some bikes. Found out the hard way a couple of times...


This looks really great! I'm going on a cycling tour next week so I can directly compare this to my google maps route.

At first glance your site shows the local "cycle highways" which is really cool. However I accidentally clicked on the map twice while scrolling around, and then couldn't figure out how to clear the route so I had to reload the page.

On closer inspection I noticed a button called "close route" which seemed to do what I wanted, but I'm not sure if it has other side effects


I plugged in some routes I am familiar with here (Sydney) and it did a great job at picking the roads/paths I would personally choose!

I do agree with 'overlordalex' on the 'Close Route' button. I couldn't find it at first and 'close' seems like a weird verb to use for 'clearing' the current route. Unless I am misunderstanding what the button is supposed to do. I would personally have a 'Clear' button somewhere close to the 'Get route' buttons (but then again I am no UI/UX expert :)).


Nice. When I'm on vacation I always want a leisure rote, with the best views, not the fastest as the GPS usually gives me. Hope someone makes one of these for cars.

I will definitely try your site. The map view is great!

Can I get the distances in km instead of mile?


There's also a huge variation in what roads cyclists consider acceptable.

For example, one of our local highways has a speed limit of 55mph and a shoulder that is maybe 10 feet wide with a rumble strip near the cars. Is that a good road for bicycles or not? I'm OK with it but some of my riding friends are not. A bike path can be perfect for a family yet dangerous for practicing time trials.

I've also been surprised at how narrow some of my favorite roads are for driving. Just about any road is great if it doesn't have traffic. So a good road at lunch time is no good during rush hour.

So maybe the ultimate bicycle router would a) Offer a bunch of preferences just like you see for cars, e.g. "avoid freeways", "avoid tolls". b) Flag roads as "avoid", e.g. that four lane road with no shoulder next to the sidewalk. c) Specify roads with gravel. (OSM data can have this; not sure about Google.)


Most cyclists I know use Garmin bike computers and (when their servers are not down from ransomware hacks) I think they work pretty well.

I know they do a lot with determining routing based on what other cyclists prefer, but I'm not sure how granular it is.


> A few years ago, following Google maps cycling directions me and a couple of friends on road bikes were led through muddy forest trails, old rail road tracks and green lanes on a London -> Paris <24hr attempt (we took 26hrs).

Even in cities Google is similarly terrible, and it's actually gotten worse over the last few years as more unsuitable routes are listed as "cycle paths". I was trying to get home through London and Google sent me about a km in the wrong direction so that it could route me onto a muddy canal bank. I found myself wishing that I could simply put it in car navigation mode but avoiding routes that aren't legal for bicycles, but that's not an option either. E.g. from Great Dunmow to Bishops Stortford, all you need is to go straight down the old Roman Road, but there's no setting for Google Maps that will send you there: in bicycle mode it sends you down a muddy track, and in car mode it sends you down the A120 where bicycles are legally banned.

(Not to mention that here in Japan it simply refuses to provide cycling directions at all).

It's just not good enough, IME. It's well worth taking ten minutes to install OSMAnd and get decent directions instead.


I don’t know when the change happened, but a few years ago Google Maps suddenly got a lot worse for biking. It’s still pretty good, but there was a span of about 2 weeks where it noticeably got worse for me, going from nearly as good as can be expected, to ummm I’m gonna trust my own judgment about 25% of the time.

But generally what you want from these bikes apps is a recording of your run. So that you can see a speed/elevation graph, maybe overlaid on a power graph.

These apps should also let you export/import gps data, which Google does not do.

For simple directions around town I agree that Google Maps is good enough, but as soon as you're beyond riding just to get from point A to B, it's nice to have something more.


I feel like this effort is more for people who commute/ride from point A to point B as you said; another way to put it is, it is more for people who are _not_ actively training. If/when I'm training with power I don't much care about mapping, I know the routes I will take, lots of times in a park and/or around a natural feature of some sort (like a lake). It's only when trying to discover a new route that I would even consider using something like this -- but honestly, not even then. I usually plan a new route ahead of time, and can even preload it into my cycling computer. And do some exploring as well. I just did this yesterday, as a matter of fact, and it's awesome. Again, this is not when you're trying to get to your job on time, where routing based on traffic is what's needed.

Note: some bike computers also have built-in mapping, something I find useful on my Garmin Edge 530 is the breadcrumb feature which allows me to explore new territory to my heart's content and not worry about getting lost as I can just turn around at any point and follow the breadcrumbs on the map.

Note 2: I don't even have my phone out, it's always in my under-seat bag. Cycling computers are great, battery lasts forever (well in excess of 10 hours of riding with the computer on), visible in all lighting conditions, show a plethora of data at the same time (I have 8 live metrics shown at once), and are mounted in such a way that if you fall they likely won't get damaged, because a) they're unlikely to take a direct hit, and b) aren't big & heavy like a $1k iPhone 11 Pro Max with lots of glass that can shatter.


Get a cheap Garmin Edge 130. It's great for that. Phones are too big and drain the battery like there's no tomorrow.

Probably really depends on location. In Czechia the local alternative mapy.cz is vastly superior to Google Maps. It includes roads and trails that are not even drawn on Google Maps and the maps contain much more information in overall.

When I was trying to do the EuroVelo 15 route just over two years ago, it was really obvious Google Maps thought I could maintain sprint speeds all day long.

It also didn’t understand the impact of hills, which is why I cut the attempt short (1080 km) after it redirected me up a Swiss hill instead of keeping me close to the Rhine.

I would’ve preferred a GPX to follow, but I couldn’t find any of that route.


Two years ago there were definitely GPXes for that route on RideWithGPS - I don't know if https://ridewithgps.com/routes/13794818 (2016) was the one I followed or not, but it looks like it would work.

(Also, it's well-signposted, and in any case the whole point of the route is to follow the biggest river in Europe, you don't need a lot of navigational aids).


Thanks, I’ll use that if I get a chance to do the reminder of the route.

I took a wrong turn in Eiken, which isn’t directly next to the river, and didn’t notice my mistake until I’d already exhausted myself. The nice scenery was a pleasant but unfortunate distraction.


That’s why https://en.routeplanner.fietsersbond.nl/ allows the user to pick from limited stops, racer, shortest, car restricted, scenic, etc. Unfortunately, it’s only for the Netherlands.

Google Maps consistently provides cycling directions that go the wrong way on one-way streets.

This is unacceptable given that cycling the wrong way is illegal and dangerous.


What country? In many countries cycling again traffic on one-way roads is actually legal.

> What country?

The US in San Francisco, where cycling against traffic is illegal.


I cycle daily in NYC and have used both Citymapper and Google Maps

Google Maps' cycling instructions route me onto streets with bicycle lanes. I haven't had any problems with it and I think it's a fine option. Maybe because NYC is the type of location google has excellent data on.

Citymapper is also good. The fastest vs quietest distinction doesn't often yield much of a change in route. What I like about citymapper is you can distinguish between riding a personal bike, or riding a bike rental. Sometimes when bringing a friend along, they rent a citibike, and it's nice to have the option for directions to take you to a docking station close to the destination.


I've used Google Maps in London, Berlin, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, SF, Austin, and a few other places. Berlin and DC were probably the worst, but it still worked. New York (where I live now) it sometimes chooses the "wrong" bike path. For instance, it'll choose a non-protected lane and insist on it even though there's a protected, 2-way bike lane a block over that's much much faster and safer.

Then again, this is a really really hard problem to solve for, and Google probably has it the best no matter where I am, so that's what my default is. I'm excited to see how Apple's will work in iOS 14 though.


A Garmin Edge model with built in OSM (8xx/1xxx models) are absolutely phenomenal at this with no mucking around with apps or any cell service required.

I think it's what almost all very serious cyclists use.

I've done 150 mile turn by turn routes on my Garmin. I've had various models for near 20 years of cycling. The only time ironically they ever have trouble is if you download a route generated by one of the various apps on the internet.. you need to be quite careful with those. The on the fly routes they generate don't ever have those issues.

When they started using the Garmin curated version of OSM it was a massive upgrade. Near me it's very near 100% coverage even of mountain bike singletrack trails through the woods. OSM has gotten incredibly good for cyclists. If you are not a road cyclist OSM has amazing coverage of bike lanes & paved paths too.

And you can actually see it in the sun and don't need to carry a pocketful of USB powerbanks to make it to your destination. The only people who need to recharge with a powerbank are the .01% who ride more than 150-200 miles without stopping at a place to charge.


I don't cycle, but my preferred mapping app is Locus Map.

https://www.locusmap.eu/

It's packed with features, the track recording is solid, you can use a couple different online track providers or install brouter for offline routing, and the list of map tile providers is impressive. It seems to be targeted at Europe, but the US maps are excellent too. You can use OSM as a base layer (online, or pay ~$1 per state for their pre-rendered OSM tiles for use offline), or you can use the USGS national topo map tiles. You can also import your own.

We went on a trip to Micronesia a few years back and I used it to mark POIs and record our boat trips around the islands to show our friends when we got home. There were no available maps of the area in the app, but I was able to find some high-resolution scanned images of USGS topo maps for the islands we visited and was able to import them into the app as an offline base layer. Worked great.


Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look into it and add it to the table!

[Disclosure: Citymapper employee]

We’ve been working on improving walking, cycling and scooting recently, so it’s good to hear people are finding it useful! We recently added turn-by-turn and voice instructions (in early access as part of Citymapper Club) and we’re going to be continuing to make improvements over the coming months. Want to help out? Get in touch.


Sent you an email.

I wrote this blog post as I'm often asked for a safe cycle route somewhere - hopefully you find this useful :D

I was so happy to read about citymapper. I was thinking I finally found cool app, one that lets me browse by safest path.

sadly its not available in my city Warsaw, Poland :(

Thank you for taking time


Ah no!

I'd try OSMAnd as the next best pick, it's extremely customizable and works on iOS and Android!


Without having to deal with a commute, I've been doing a lot more biking for exercise lately. I've been looking for a way to plan out decent bike routes. I live in a corner of NJ where we several highways a couple miles a way, so it's pretty important to have a route planned so you don't accidentally end up on a road where bikes are inappropriate. This is very helpful!

Thanks for the post. I'm a big osmand user, but have never tried BRouter. Is it significantly better than the built in routing?

Brouter is great, despite some minor annoyances that are ultimately rooted in the design decision that the OSM graph representation does not contain street names (a lot of bike routing happens in nameless trails). Locusmaps on android has the best routing front-end (it can use brouter or some others) I have seen so far, including a variety of desktop front-ends.

It's much faster and more customizable. The built in routing was fine in my previous country, but here in Japan it's barely usable because it won't route you along a "highway". But if the built in is working for you then no real need to change it.

Since moving to SF, I've _really_ wanted to take the plunge and start biking to work (COVID notwithstanding). I haven't done it yet, though, because I'm not super confident on routes that prefer protected lanes and minimize hills.

This post was super helpful. Citymapper wasn't even on my radar, but now I want to go grab a bike rental and give it a shot.


You'll find out after biking around for a week or two where the main corridors with minimal elevation are, especially along the main route you take. At this point after ~3 years I know 95% of the best routes to get to/from any within the city proper, and I check directions just for the ending last few blocks since that can make the difference between a steeeeeeep climb or a simple circle around 2 more blocks that's flat.

I also don't have any problem with respect to no bike lanes and crowded streets though, so that might be a bit more difficult to discover. I use Google Maps and it's pretty solid at taking you an extra .25 miles or so just to get you on a dedicated bike lane within the city, and you can always streetview points on your route if you want to double check what it looks like.


Yeah, I need to just give it a try I think. Problem is, I drive in this city (or did), and with the crap I see people do behind the wheel I wonder how cyclists survive.

What app do you generally use for directions that might tell you about elevation?


For SF in particular, you could consider an ebike, given the number of hills in the city.

Yeah, pretty sure I will. I've cultivated enough mass to probably need one to start :)

I recently used openrouteservice [1] for a trip from Bremen to Berlin (~400km) and it worked pretty well. It even lets you choose between different types of bikes (road, MTB). I downloaded the GPX into OsmAnd on my phone for turn-by-turn directions. OsmAnd also does a decent job of guiding you back onto your predefined route.

One thing that was a bit irritating was the directions at intersections, where you clearly had to go straight, but it told me to turn right and then immediately turn left. This happened when the bike path took a slight turn before the intersection, e.g. to guide you towards pedestrian traffic lights. Not sure which one of the two apps is to blame here.

Oh and when I tried Google Maps for a bit, to find my accommodation, it immediately tried to guide me through the middle of a field, with no discernible path whatsoever. So much for that..

[1] https://maps.openrouteservice.org


> One thing that was a bit irritating was the directions at intersections, where you clearly had to go straight, but it told me to turn right and then immediately turn left. This happened when the bike path took a slight turn before the intersection, e.g. to guide you towards pedestrian traffic lights. Not sure which one of the two apps is to blame here.

It's your workflow that's to blame: using a GPX erases that information. If you'd planned the route in OSMAnd it would have been able to give you more road-layout-aware navigation.


I see, I'll play around with it a little more then. The thing is that the OSMAnd route looked way worse, and from using it on shorter routes occasionally I didn't really trust it.

Yeah, OSMAnd's built-in routing isn't great. But anything based around exporting a GPX from one app and using it in another is going to have the problem you describe; the only way to avoid it is to find an all-in-one app that's good enough on all fronts (or possibly use a fancier format like TCX).

TCX sounds cool, and apparently it's going to be supported in the next release of openrouteservice [1]. Looking forward to that, since the route itself was pretty solid.

[1] https://github.com/GIScience/openrouteservice-app/pull/323


In france, and in particular in Paris, https://www.geovelo.fr/ is very very good. It knows about various Parisian specialties (going the wrong way on residential street is allowed, temporary bike paths, mixed pedestrian/bike paths, etc) that other apps don't really understand. It also gives multiple paths depending on various criterion.

OsmAnd is also decent. Google map is terribly bad.


Geovelo is indeed very practical in Paris! Well made and provides choice between "secure" and "fast" journeys, it also show how many % of the proposed paths are protected bike lanes and has shared information on hazards on the road!

Soon to be also-available is bicycling directions in Apple Maps: https://www.macrumors.com/how-to/cycling-directions-apple-ma...

(But not everywhere yet. I'm in the midwest, and the beta just says cycling directions aren't available in my area.)


Same here in Los Angeles. I think only the Bay Area is available during the beta, and then the other cities will rollout in the fall when iOS 14 GMs.

It would be nice if in addition to free, it mentioned whether or not the app was FOSS.

When I was searching a couple of years ago, there were no open source bike tracking android apps, and most of the "free" ones were trialware that popped up a subscription screen as soon as you tried to do anything complicated.

Also, I love the use of the <table> tag in this article.


Even two years ago, OSMAnd and Brouter were open source and available from the F-Droid repository.

Cool! I'll take a look at those. Back when I was looking, I was searching for something more bike specific.

I use the bike route given by Google Maps as a starting point. Then I get into Street View so I can really see where I'll be riding. Is there a bike lane? How wide is the shoulder? What's the condition of the road? I like riding on roads with bike lanes or wide shoulders (where I don't care if cars are flying by me), if possible. Some of the popular routes in my area are on roads with tiny to no shoulders and 55mph speed limits. Sorry, not interested. I have yet to find any mapping site/app that finds a route that I am always happy with. They all need tweaking. I just find that Google Maps gives a good starting point and has the tools to let me come up with a route that I'm happy with.

OSM already has all this data tagged! Have a look at the granularity of the data:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Bicycle

Cycle apps using OpenStreetMap will try to find the safest routes. If using Citymapper you can explicitly choose between faster or safer (slower) routes. OSMAnd let's you choose particular types of lane.


Any suggestions for ebike-friendly bike directions? Less need to route around hills and more accurate journey time estimates would be useful.

In OsmAnd you can adjust how much you want to take hills into account I believe :)

Any app that the majority of cyclists are using will win this battle. It's easy to map known bike trails, what's difficult is mapping a good road to bike on. There's so many factors that go into this, but the best and easiest way to get this data seems to be tracking what roads most cyclists are riding. This is exactly why strava heat map is the best for route planning IMHO. You can travel to any area and look at the heatmap surrounding you and instantly have an idea of what roads are heavy cycled.

Strava is often unideal for touring, because its recommended routes are where all the local sports cyclists are forced to go due to their thin little tires and lust for speed. Tourers might have thicker tires and so be comfortabke with less smooth roads if it means avoiding cars.

That is a good point. I have seen Strava prefer a higher traffic road near me and I then manually adjust that portion. It would be cool if Strava could provide some sort of "Avoid vehicle traffic" preference when route building.

I know the company has had some difficulties as of late, but I’ve found Strava to be quite effective for route planning. Mostly because it can route you according to “popularity”, so it’ll put you on roads that other Strava users regularly ride on.

This is great for a lot of cases, although sometimes it’ll pick a road that’s great for road biking on the weekend but not so great for commuting on weekdays.

I wonder if Strava could create two heat maps based on what I imagine are the two big clusters on their user base: road bikes and casual commuter cyclists.


> I wonder if Strava could create two heat maps based on what I imagine are the two big clusters on their user base: road bikes and casual commuter cyclists.

I want this really badly. Around me (North Germany) the cycling infrastructure is great for the casual commuter, but the quality of paths for road bikes varies dramatically - some bike paths are beautifully smooth and wide, whilst others are bumpy/gravelly and too narrow for safely overtaking slower riders. Distinguishing between them using Strava heatmaps or other mapping tools seems impossible until I actually go out and ride them. Alternatively, an app where I could simply mark myself the roads I have ridden and a quality indicator would be useful (maybe this exists?).


In OSM you can add tags of the bike path surface, see below:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Bicycle https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:surface

OsmAnd will show you the surface types along a route as you're planning, and you can adjust which surfaces you'd like to cycle on!


I plan with Strava using it's popularity heat map (I road 9000 miles in 2019). I then cycle using my Garmin 520 bike computer, which is painful to use for directions, but up to the abuse particularly on single track, and I try to use memory based on previewing with street view and satellite photos while planning. I often have to backtrack, typically uphill. But most of the time I'm repeating rides, at which point I'm going off memory.

For those who aren't strong and fearless cyclists, Strava can be helpful, but be careful and double-check those routes. I've seen some pretty dangerous segments that I have been very scared on, and they show up red-hot on Strava. Why? Probably because some die-hards go that way a lot, or go that way in a group. And those are probably the types of people that use Strava more than the casual commuter.

In my city there's a 5 lane bridge, shoulder just wide enough for drains, and nothing but a 3-ft concrete barrier 60 or 70 feet above the river. The speed limit is 45, but people drive like that's a mild suggestion. This is a very hot cycle route on Strava for some reason, but I think it's frightening.


Totally. I just had a route that was intense blue in the heat map on the start of the road, and then faded to low-intensity as the road progressed. It turned out that the road switched from pavement to something that was a cross between double and single track, while crossing a mountain. Many cyclists turn back, but quite a few continue. I'd like to see how many go in the reverse direction too.

Yeah and a lot of bike rides start really early, most roads are less crazy at say 6,7am on a weekend.

Strava also does not distinguish road biking from gravel or mountain biking, so you'll also want to check that there is a road in the first place! Been bitten by that at least twice

I have an eMTB and OSMAnd is handy to find trails, classified with difficulty level (when you click on it), and ability to choose to route you to avoid asphalt routes, I just have to find how to add a stylesheet to show colors based on difficulty, and set up BRouter to route only on MTB trails.

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:mtb:scale

https://osmand.net/features/navigation-profiles

http://brouter.de/brouter-web


I’ve been looking for a good app like this for a while. When commuting in a new area or going on ride such as https://rootsrated.com/san-francisco-ca/cycling/paradise-loo... it’s great to have turn by turn direction which gets on your bike computer and ALSO on your watch. I’m looking forward to apple maps, however I doubt it would be supporting bike loop routes such as paradise loop.

For those that don't want step by step navigation but instead use serendipity to wayfind through a city, I can recommend beeline https://beeline.co/pages/beeline-velo

It's a simple arrow that points towards your destination, leaving you to work out the route as you cycle. Not the quickest way to get you there but I enjoy the discovery aspect of it.


It's a really interesting and elegant solution but 112€ for what looks like a very simple device sounds a bit expensive to me. Does anyone know of a similar system but for the Apple watch?

Unfortunately I haven’t found any good cycling mapping apps for Tokyo. Most apps try to take you down tiny streets but here those can be pretty dangerous and slow - lots of blind corners and super complicated routes. Best I’ve found is NAVITIME’s 自転車 app but honestly it’s pretty crappy. I end up just eyeballing medium-sized streets on Google Maps and navigate myself; really wish there was something better for here!

As a regular contributor to OpenStreetMap, I did not realize how poor the bike lanes mapping was around me (surroundings of Versailles, France). There's a lot to fix :)

Also, a lot of the new corona-piste are not added, and somes have very complicated pattern of you having to move to a center double new-cycle lane, sometime taken on the old opposite car lane direction, sometimes on your direction, it is very confusing.

I'm curious is there something like OSM but for directions using public transit? Some public repository of bus and train times.

General Transit Feed Specification is a format for public transit agencies to publish this information. There are a few repositories like https://transitfeeds.com.

This looks really cool! I gotta figure out a way to contribute to this. Is this what OsmAnd uses to pull in transit information?

OsmAnd has directions in beta (using GTFS and OSM route markings) but it's pretty bad at the moment!

What's the best way to help? Do I just add the feeds to another website somewhere?

In the uk, I use cycle streets.

https://m.cyclestreets.net/


Google Maps in Oakland took me straight up Fruitvale headed east....which, if you've ever biked it, is a disaster. Yes, it's a "bike lane", but it's shared with cars and suuuuper busy.

Google should be smart enough to know that there is co-mingled car/bike traffic and safely route my bike away from the cars.


Citymapper is a limited amount of cities. What do "real" cyclists use? I get the feeling they use a garmin-like gps devices made for cycling?

In the past, I've tried to plan a route in google maps (for just driving), but once you import and try to use it, it recalculates your route.


What's a "real" cyclist? Someone who rides for sport in full kit and trains for races? Someone who commutes to work and runs errands in street clothes, even in bad weather, maybe because they don't have another option? A casual weekend family rider on rails-to-trails? Someone on a cross-country tour?

Anything but the first ;-). English needs a separate term for the first, as Dutch has (https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/lycra-on-the-s...)

Also relevant to your excellent remark is https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200724-will-covid-19-....


You often hear MAMILs (middle age men in lycra) in Australia!

Most (road) cyclists I know use a combination of:

- strava heatmaps (https://www.strava.com/heatmap)

- ridewithgps routes (https://ridewithgps.com/find)

- club routes posted on club websites (like sf2g routes for getting down the peninsula from SF https://sf2g.com/routes.html)

- google maps streetview to check quality of bike lanes

- city-specific cycling forums (ex: https://reddit.com/r/nycbike where the first decent routes using the new tappan zee / cuomo bridge bike lanes have popped up)

It's still a lot of work to plan a decent 50+ mile ride if it's through an area you're not familiar with. I really wish google maps could do more to show me traffic volume to help select between different routes... I'll take an empty wide road over a bike-lane running next to parked cars any day.


I don't own a car and cycle everywhere in my city. On a $300 bike with a milk crate lashed to the rear rack it came with because I really don't want to worry about locking up something pricier, or worry about destroying it on the many pothole.

I just use Google Maps's cycling directions, combined with my own mental map of things like "tree coverage" which is kind of important for avoiding heatstroke in a tropical city. I've never seen a map provider that even begins to track that.

All the cycling apps seem to be designed for people who want to train to be racers. I give zero fucks about that. I just wanna get where I need to go, or drift aimlessly around the city when I need some exercise.


> All the cycling apps seem to be designed for people who want to train to be racers. I give zero fucks about that. I just wanna get where I need to go

Citymapper and OsmAnd are brilliant for this!

Also +1 on milk crates strapped to the back, I do that too and they're great for groceries :D


I know you probably mean road cyclists, but I haven't seen Trailforks mentioned. Nothing beats it for singletrack route planning.

Komoot is good too, but at least in my area of NA the elevation calculation is off by quite a bit. When I've used it for longer routes, I've ended up putting in at least 1,000 ft more of climbing than it has told me would be on the route. Trailforks doesn't have that problem.

If you have a local IMBA chapter, most of them have accurate trail profiles as well.

For road cycling routes, I use Strava. If you want detailed routes that are popular with local cycling clubs, Trek stores usually have surprisingly good handouts on local routes.


I've not heard of or used Trailforks before. Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out now.

However, my go to website and app for off-road adventures (on foot and two wheels) is ViewRanger[1]. Maybe it's a bit too UK and EU focused for you, but I've found it to be really good and the app's improved a lot over the last five years. Their BuddyBeacon[2] is also a nice feature.

While not open source, the best part is they provide a direct apk download, so you're not locked to Google or Apple's store to download and install[3].

[1] https://www.viewranger.com

[2] https://www.viewranger.com/buddybeacon/v2/

[3] https://www.viewranger.com/software/software.php - visit on your phone.


I've liked Komoot quite a bit for planning longer road bike loops in or near the city — surprised it hasn't taken off more but I suppose it's a pretty niche market. Integrates wirelessly with Wahoo bike computers (suck it Garmin haha) and is free for your local region too.

Agree, komoot is what I also use for planning. Shows all the different terrains, elevation, for different sports (mtb, road cycling, hiking).

I don’t ever use komoot for recording though, phone uses too much battery. Recording is done through a polar watch, synced to strava. Watch is also best for wind and kitesurfing, no need to bring a big expensive watch on the water.


That's a hassle. I get a nice route all worked out in Google Maps on my desktop, then try sending it to my phone. It seems like the only data transferred are the start and end points. Thankfully I live in a mid sized city, and don't really need super precise directions. When I'm out in the country, I find it helps a lot to have a compass. You can get a bell with built in compass, made for kids bikes, and it's really handy

Try Graphhopper. You can download the GPX track. It has three bike profiles, the default for touring which avoids hills, one for MTB which uses single/double track and one for road bikes. There are three options, the middle one gets you the track. Test with geojson.io which can save to github gists.

Ah, the bell with compass, it's cute. Looks a bit like sailboat nav gear.


Not sure what you mean by "real" but I use Strava to plan the route. I try to look up real routes that people have done or use their popularity feature. It then syncs automatically to my Garmin bike computer. Wahoo bike computers are popular too.

google maps is a nice go-to service but not a good route planner because it is aggressive about snapping to the grid (streets it knows about).

When I plan my route on garmin I am not getting a turn-by-turn list but rather a gps trace to follow, so I can plan the route to go arbitrarily anywhere I want. Personally I use the strava heat map and garmin to do everything since that represents where people actually go and not what some algorithm thinks will be good.


Komoot, Wahoo Elemnt Roam and communities dedicated to route planning such as OMTM. Most of it gets contributed to OSM.

I use OSMAnd with BRouter, the second-choice option in the article. Handles a 600km audax with no sweat.

FYI komoot switched to vector maps a while ago. I generally like it for routing(MTB mostly) but lately they switched to a new (monthly) pricing model for some features I would like to have (difficulty). :-(

For those with devices that handle Garmin maps, there’s http://www.openfietsmap.nl/, a free routable cycling map for Garmin GPS units.

Every app I have tried is inadequate. Sometimes the best route is going the wrong way on a quite residential street - of course apps don't condone this. Google Maps lets you plan the route on your larger desktop screen then send to phone - nice feature - but then its planning is weird - even when I ask for a bike route and turn on the bike layer it doesn't follow it. It needs options to let you go bike paths vs distance - for me bike paths is more important.

Brouter is designed to even allow sections where you need to walk your bike (e.g. a pedestrian-only underpass with stairs) if they provide a significant shortcut to the ridable route.

But please don't ride against traffic flow just because you think that rules only apply to cars, that can be very dangerous to other cyclists who go in the right direction.


With brouter you can completely customise your routing profile (even including illegal routes if you really feel the need to).



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