While the saying ‘there’s an app for that’ has never been truer (an anti-distraction app to keep you off your phone, anyone?), the place they can benefit us most is in our daily fitness regimes – be that providing virtual HIIT classes, weights routines or even meditative guides.
The world of cycling isn’t exempt, either. In fact, a smartphone can be one of the most integral tools when heading out on the bike, with everything from maps and guides to training and nutrition plans just a tap of a screen away. Whether you ride on or off-road (or a mixture of both), prefer riding solo or in a pack, there’s guaranteed to be an app that will elevate your experience.
To help you get the most out of your time on two wheels, here are some of the best cycling apps out there.
The best cycling apps for navigation
Best for: Navigating without drama
Sure, Google Maps is the go-to navigation tool but it can sometimes be a bit… slow. And relying on its directions can be slightly confusing when trying to navigate a new urban area on two wheels.
Komoot has neither of these problems. Partnered with Garmin, the app uses the open-source OpenStreetMap database to allow route planning on the go.
You’ll be able to plot MTB, road and even gravel rides in the app, which always offers the most bike-friendly path. What’s more, if you set a start- and end-point in advance, the app will even suggest the route’s difficulty level, and your required fitness level. In other words, it knows if you’re taking it too easy…
Best for: Mapping entire countries
Yes you did read that right. Maps.Me allows you to download the mapping data for entire countries. Want to know the best routes in Wales? No drama. How about Spain? Si, de nada. France? Well, you get the idea.
The best, most revolutionary thing about the app, though, is that it can be used offline (provided you’ve downloaded the data in advance). So if you don’t have access to 4G, or would rather not to pay extortionate fees to use your data when abroad, simply download the pack for the city or country you’re in, and find your way in even the most remote off-trail areas.
3. Ride With GPS
Best for: Planning your next adventure
Cost: Free, with paid subscription upgrades including advanced route editing and stationary bike support
Part of the fun of cycling is planning a new route. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Ride With GPS allows you to do. Download it and you’ll be able to plan your next adventure in immense detail, record your ride in the process and even share your location on it in real-time.
The app’s highlights include the ability to zoom in on your route’s biggest climbs, helping you prepare for them in advance. And should that climb slow you down at all, the app will happily read out any real-time comments on your route, giving you the boost you need to reach the summit. Best of all, it can even be used to navigate offline – crucial when you left 4G behind miles ago.
Best for: Navigating life’s uncertainties
We’ve all found ourselves at a fork in the trail at one point or another and been unsure about just how to get back to the safety of civilisation. Next time you’re riding somewhere new, be sure to download TrailForks before you leave the house – it could save you a couple of hours of wandering about the woods or mountainside, after all.
Using crowd-sourced info, the app boasts detailed maps of more than 161,000 trails worldwide, with live tracking and points of interest marked along the way. Should that fail to do the trick, there’s also an emergency information function that provides your exact GPS coordinates and the name of the nearest trail. Essential when you’re in a pickle.
Best for: Getting off the beaten track
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases starting from £5.99
Traditional GPS-based maps tend to work best on roads, but when it comes to hitting the trails, you can sometimes find yourself heading into the unknown. ViewRanger opens up those off-the-beaten-track paths, providing you with all the data you could possibly want.
The free package comes with an OpenCycle-based map of the entire planet, but it’s the paid-for extras where it really shines. Highlights include detailed topographical maps for over 20 countries, as well as a Skyline VR feature that uses your GPS location and phone’s camera to tell you the names of any peaks you happen to have got stuck halfway up…
The best cycling apps for training
Best for: Turning your phone into your own bike computer
Touting itself as “the most advanced application for cyclists ever designed for a mobile device”, Cyclemeter recruits your smartphone as your own in-built fitness computer. Not only will you have access to customisable training plans, maps, graphs, announcements, splits and interval plans, but you’ll relish the plethora of post-ride analysis on offer.
The clincher is the fact that you don’t have to log in to an external website in order to store this data, either. Sure, there are options to post your activities on Strava and Facebook, but unless you choose to share it, all data stays on your phone, where you can easily access it next time.
Best for: Accurate in-cycle nutrition
Cost: Free for ‘casual users’ or £8.49 per quarter for those after more developed plans
Whether you’re out on a bikepacking expedition or simply hitting the trails, it’s good to make you have enough fuel in your tank to get you through your ride. Enter Endur8: an app designed to give you performance-based nutrition tips alongside real-time fuelling alerts to keep you running at maximum efficiency.
The app can be used for training rides – for which you’ll have to programme the route in advance – and major events, for which the app has pre-programmed routes.
Best for: Making indoor spins fun again
Cost: £12.99 a month
Spin classes aside, grinding out the miles on your indoor bike can be a bit monotonous. Sure, you can binge the entirety of Fast Life from the comfort of your lounge while you pedal, but isn’t cycling about escaping the safety of your home?
Enter Zwift, a training app that invites you into a detailed and interactive virtual world. Plug into the matrix and you’ll be able to race riders from across the world in real-time (although it’s worth remembering that you’ll need a compatible turbo trainer, an internet connection and monitor before you clip in). What’s more, the app also comes with built-in workouts and training plans to help you become the master of your virtual domain.
Best cycling app for analysis
9. Bike Gear Calculator
Best for: Optimising performance
This is one for the gear-heads out there looking to get their set-up as efficient as possible. Bike Gear Calculator lets you input everything from tyre size to gear rations and crank strength, before delivering you all the relevant performance data on your setup.
Not only is this useful when looking to change drivetrain components, but it’ll also let you customise your set-up depending on what you need from your bike that day – be it strength, managing difficult terrain or adapting to a particular riding style.
10. My Campy
Best for: Italophiles
Developed by the Italian component stalwarts Campagnolo, My Campy is a cycling activity tracker with a difference. Yes, it measures all the physical aspects of a bike ride. But it also measures your bike’s performance, too. A good cycle is a marriage of two machines, after all. Not only will you know when you might need to take a rest or step it up a gear, but you’ll also get live data on how your bike is fairing, even down to when it might be a good idea to replace the brakes or oil the chain.
Best for: Analysing every ride
Cost: Free, £4.75 per month for premium membership
What is there to say about Strava that hasn’t already been written? The US app has become synonymous with road cycling, as its millions of members plan, track and log their rides every day of the year on the social network for cyclists.
While the free version provides most of what the average cyclist could want from their performance data (distance, speed, and even heart rate if you have the relevant sensor), it’s the ‘Summit’ membership where you can really drill down into your stats. Where it’s looking at trends in your training using the ‘Fitness and Freshness’ feature or analysing your power output, the app and the community that use it can not only motivate you to train, but its insights can help you do so better along the way.
12. Wahoo Fitness
Best for: Data-hoarding
If you want to know every about every single aspect of your on-bike performance then you should look no further than Wahoo Fitness. The training accessory brand’s app portal has no less than eight customisable data sections, covering everything from speed to heart rate and power output. What’s more, the app pairs easily with Wahoo’s speed sensors and heart rate monitors, and makes it ridiculously simple to input this data across platforms such as Strava and MyFitnessPal, helping you keep accurate information in one place.
General useful cycling apps
13. Fill That Hole
Best for: A smoother ride
Head out to the trails, a pump track or even for a spin along some fire tracks and bridleways, and you know what you’re in for. But when you want a leisurely ride along country lanes, it’s nice to have the terrain as reliable and smooth as possible. Which is where Fill That Hole comes in.
The app, created by Cycling UK, enables you to upload a photo of the pothole that is ruining your rides, which is then sent to the relevant local authority. Although there’s no guarantee that anything will actually be done about it, it’s good to feel like you’re trying to make the roads a safer place for cyclists.
14. First Aid by British Red Cross
Best for: Getting home in one piece
Whatever your discipline, heading out on any type of bike puts you at the mercy of man and the elements (and not just in big cities, either). Alongside packing a first aid kit, downloading the British Red Cross app is the best thing you can do to be prepared. A range of quizzes and step-by-step guides will talk you through a whole range of common first aid mishaps. The only thing it can’t do is put the plaster on for you.
15. Haynes Bike Repair Guide
Best for: Bicycle maintenance made easy
Best known as publishers of motorcycle and bicycle repair books, Haynes has hopped on its bike and pedalled into 2020 with its brilliant Bike Repair Guide. Naturally, the app contains everything you need in order to perform most common maintenance tasks – including the essential life skill of how to replace a punctured inner tube.
Not typically a very handy person? Not to worry. The app includes step-by-step video tutorials for each and every part of your bike, alongside pre-ride walk-throughs of tasks like checking the front hub, drivetrain inspections and frame checks. Best of all, it’s updated with fresh content each month.
16. Red Bull TV
Best for: Staying entertained when off the bike
While it’s not solely for bike fans, the Red Bull TV app is home to some of the best two-wheel films, documentaries and live broadcasts around.