[This article was last updated on November 7, 2017]
There's a vast range of cycling information and help available through your smartphone, from navigation to planning and tracking your training.
Your smartphone can take the place of a bike computer or GPS — and take calls as well (remember those?).
Data from your rides can be saved and uploaded to websites linked to apps so you can monitor your progress and compare your rides against others'.
Smartphones have revolutionised cycling. With more capability than the humble bicycle computer, the smartphone allows you to easily track and record rides, plan routes, keep on top of your training, and much more besides.
This is a list of some really useful cycling apps currently available. From navigation to planning routes and fixing your bike, there's something for everyone here.
Beanhunter — free
Beanhunter started out in Australia and the app has now grown to offer a pretty comprehensive database of cafes worldwide. Just download the app and search for either cafes nearest to you or anywhere else by name and/or location. You can share your experiences by uploading photos and opinions on the cafes you've visited, leave reviews and read reviews from others if you're looking for an extra-special cafe stop to impress your ride group. If you find a previously unlisted cafe that deserves shouting about you can upload a listing yourself, and to find cafes the app redirects to your default mapping application.
Bike Citizens — city guides from $3.99
Bike Citizens is a navigational app and a travel guide in one, providing a huge, constantly updated database of maps worldwide and plenty of tips and points of interest for making the most of your visit to a new destination if you plan on getting around by bike. It won a Eurobike Award in 2015 for being a 'must-have' innovation, so isn't without plenty of recommendations.
The Bike Citizens map material is based on OpenStreetMap, which is always evolving and you can also add routes to its database yourself; meaning there are plenty of interesting user-submitted rides to check out on the app. The route planner has voice commands so you needn't be staring at your phone while trying to navigate, and it will choose routes with varying levels of gradient according to what your preferences are. There are over 450 European cities on its database, with many others worldwide.
Komoot — free for one region, additional maps from £3.99
Boldly proclaimed as "the world's best route planner", Komoot turns your phone into a proper sat nav with voice commands. You can key in your location and where you want to get to before your ride, which Komoot saves as a planned journey, and then it records your activities as 'completed tours'.
Where it differs from other navigation apps is the routes, as Komoot will often give you numerous options for reaching your destination, that aren't always the quickest. It's a good app choice for the more adventurous bike tourer, off-roader or just a long commuter who wants to explore a new route home.
Bike Gear Calculator — £1.99 or free for basic version
Bike Gear Calculator is a quick way to compare different gears on your bike and on setups you’re considering, and for seeing how fast you’ll be travelling in a given gear at a particular cadence (pedal revolutions per minute).
You just add details about your bike and all the maths is done for you. Of course, you could do the calculations yourself, or use something like Sheldon Brown’s Gear Calculator, but this app makes things fast and simple.
A free version of the Bike Gear Calculator is available, with £1.99 getting you a more advanced edition.
Relive — Free
Relive captures your ride data from Strava, Garmin Connect, Endomondo or Polar and transforms it into a stunning moving map. Any ride of 10km or more for a duration of 12 hours or less can be uploaded. After your ride has been shared to your logging service, Relive sends you an email with a link to your video.
Bike Computer — Free
Doing what it says on the tin and then some, Bike Computer is a refreshingly simple app that turns your phone into a GPS bike computer. This free app is available on both iOS and Android( app stores and tracks basic metrics including pace, distance, route and elevation.
It’s compatible with Bluetooth-ready heart rate monitors, and all your rides can be shared straight to Strava or Facebook on completion. There’s a dark screen mode which reduces battery use and makes it viewable on night rides; plus Bike Computer Co. claim their app is also 12% more battery-efficient than any other mobile fit tracker on the market, reducing the chance of running out of charge on a ride.
Strava - Free, in-app purchases
We’re starting with the most obvious app, the one that needs no introduction. Yes of course, we mean Strava. Since it launched in 2009, Strava has gone on to become hugely popular and for many, it's the go-to app for all cycle rides. The smartphone app tracks and records your ride, providing distance, speed and other metrics, but it’s how your rides are presented that sets it apart. ‘Segments’ show your times on leaderboards so you can see how you compare to others who have cycled the same road, and the social functionality that allows you to follow the weekly progress of cycling friends, join clubs and take part in challenges that really is the reason for Strava's unrelenting popularity.
Garmin Connect Mobile — Free
If you use a recent Garmin Edge GPS unit, then you'll find Garmin Connect Mobile useful. It can connect to your device to upload your rides to the Garmin Connect website, which can then share your data with Strava and MyFitnessPal. You'll need it if you want to use Garmin's LiveTrack feature and let someone know where you are while you ride.
Garmin Connect Mobile can send stored workouts via Bluetooth to most current Garmin Edges too, though you'll need to create them on the Connect website first.
Most people will probably find that the app’s most useful feature is its calendar. If you own a Garmin Edge cycling computer – a 520 or an 820, for example – the calendar allows you to review rides you’ve done in the past, using the app as a detailed training diary.
Cyclemeter is a really useful app that turns your iPhone (not currently available for Android) into a cycle computer, which is really handy if you mount your phone to your handlebars, providing plenty of information at a glance. It integrates maps for navigational duties and can be customised in many ways, including providing audio alerts for a range of metrics.
It’s also available on the new Apple Watch if you have one of those.
Google Maps - Free
There are many mapping apps available but one that you might have on your phone already, and not realise it, is Google Maps. The latest version has offered cycling routes for some time, and works very well. It can provide turn-by-turn navigation instructions if you want it as well.
Endomondo is an activity tracking app with many fans, and part of its appeal is in its simplicity compared to other similar apps like Strava. It tracks duration, speed, calories and can be used with a heart rate monitor, and will keep a full training log allow you to easily analyse your training.
MapMyRide - Free, in-app purchases
MapMyRide has been around for quite a while and is a very popular way of plotting routes or finding other routes in your area, with a large database of routes available, making it a good option for those wanting to explore a part of the country. It’s free but there is a premium version which gives you more advanced tools and mapping.
Fill That Hole - Free
Cycling UK launched the Fill That Hole service for reporting potholes to local authorities a few years ago (when they were still called CTC), making it easier than trying to find the right department at your local council to flag up a dangerous pothole. The app lets you easily report a pothole, so you could do it from the side of the road instead of waiting until you get home and logging onto the website.
St John Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists - Free
What do you do in an accident? It’s not a position anyone really wants to be in, but the First Aid for Cyclists app by the St John Ambulance aims to equip cyclists with essential and basic first aid skills to combat the most common cycling injuries, whether it’s road rash, cuts or head injuries.
BBC Weather - Free
This is without doubt the most popular app on my smartphone. You can’t be a cyclist in the UK and not obsessively track the weather forecast before a ride, looking for any hint of rain on the horizon or a change in wind speed or direction. The app is free and really easy to use, and provides a good level of hourly and daily detail.
Rain Alarm - free
Unsurprisingly weather apps are popular with cyclists. Who doesn't check the weather before getting dressed for a ride? Rain Alarm uses real-time data to warn of approaching rain, and provides precise detail on a clear map.
YR.No - free
This is a very popular weather app, with lots of fans. It's a service from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and NRK and provides weather forecasts, textual forecasts, meteograms and extreme weather warnings.
Santander Cycles - Free
This is the official app for the Cycle Hire London for Santander Cycles bicycle hire scheme and allows you to find your nearest bike and docking station. As well as that, it can plan routes for you, able to offer either the quickest or quieter roads depending on your preference, with handy turn-by-turn instructions. The app usefully has a built-in timer so you can keep on eye on any usage charges that might occur.
CycleStreets - Free
Planning routes is where apps can be really useful. This one lets you plan routes from A to B anywhere in the UK with three routing modes to suit different types of cyclists, from commuters to beginners.
Ride With GPS
Here's a very powerful route planning app, and very popular with cyclists planning long-distance rides. As well as really good route mapping tools, the app can be used as a cycle computer t provide navigation and live tracking, and even supports Bluetooth accessories for adding heart rate, cadence and speed data.
Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal - Free, in-app purchases
MyFitnessPal aims simply to help you lose weight by making it easy to track calories on a daily basis. A database of over 4 million foods makes it easy to track how many calories your meals are providing. It can also has a recipe counter for tracking homemade meals too.
Bike Doctor - from £1.79
Maintaining, servicing or fixing your bike can be a little daunting at first, and that’s where this extremely useful app come comes into its own. It provides step-by-step instructions for fixing any sort of mechanical problem on your bike. It’s been designed to be easy to use, with clear instructions that even a complete beginner can follow.
Size My Bike - £3.77
Determining the right size road bike, especially if you’re a beginner or buying a bike online, can be a tricky decision. Size My Bike is a bike fitting app that uses six body measurements to help you choose the right size road bike. It also works for mountain bikes too.
Bike Fast Fit - £3.99
Here's another bike fitting app. It lets you capture some riding video, on a static trainer, and measures key riding position angles and distances to provide analysis of your position.
Available on iPhone only
Bike Hub Cycle Journey planner - Free
Routing is made easy with Bike Hub, an app that can find the quickest or quickest route for you to cycle home or to the office. With a route loaded, the app can provide 2D and 3D satellite navigation and turn-by-turn instructions, just like you’d get in a car satnav, with audio announcements if you want them. Another useful feature is the ability to locate your nearest bike shop.
CycleMaps: Cycling Route Planner & Navigator - free
If planning routes and also using shared routes is of interest to you, then CycleMaps could be worth checking out. It's being constantly updated with a large database of routes. It lets you store favourite routes and import GPX and KML routes, and shows all cycle paths. It's also compatible with the Apple Watch.
Available for iPhone only.
Want more cycling apps? Check out all the cycling apps we've featured.
Are there any smartphone apps you use regularly for cycling? Let's hear about them in the comments below.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.