With their ability to run a huge range of useful cycling apps, 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.
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'.
There are also apps for handy things like fixing your bike and even setting up your bike fit
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.
Refill is a super handy app that allows users to find locations where they can refill water bottles for free, now with over 20,000 locations nationwide and growing
This bike maintenance app from manual specialist Haynes has everything you need in one place to perform most tasks. There are step-by-step tutorials including videos for all the jobs, and it's also updated with fresh content each month.
Walk-throughs of tasks performed pre-ride include checking the front hubs, checking the cockpit, frame checks and a drivetrain inspections, and there are detailed installation and repair instructions for every part of your bike from chainrings, to bottom brackets to truing your wheels. There are over 40,000 words and dozens of videos featured in the guide.
AeroAPP is an app for Garmin's ConnectIQ platform, so you'll need an Edge 520, 820, 1000, or 1030 GPS computer, plus a power meter. With it you can perform a simple test to compare the aerodynamics of different bike setups. It's not cheap (though it's recently had a price cut from the previous £180/year), but if you're seriously into your time trialling or want to optimise your luggage for endurance racing it's still a lot cheaper than the wind tunnel.
Lifesum is a really good app to use if you want to shed some weight, or just track your basic food habits and exercise day-to-day even if you're in tip top shape. Add in the basics such as your gender, age, weight and you're good to get started on the free version of the app. You can input your meals and activities (the food options are endless so it's unlikely you'll need to make custom options for many things) and the app tells you what you need to eat to stay on track according to your goals.
The application of what3words goes way beyond cycling, with its revolutionary way of talking about location already receiving rave reviews from emergency services and the public alike.
Instead of addressing the world by postcode, the app has assigned 3-word addresses, spaced by a full stop between each word, to each 3x3 meter square of the earth (there are 57 trillion of them). It's a much more accurate way of describing a location, and whole new way to talk about where you are. No more vague descriptions of somewhere you went and can't quite remember where it was, just three words that pinpoints the exact spot.
The clever algorithm makes sure addresses that sound very similar are far apart, and more common address are given to built-up areas while more obscure ones are given to rural and remote locations to better distinguish them. It uses a range of different languages, and more are been added over time, with a word list of over 40,000 in English. To avoid confusion, no words are shared between language versions. Once they find a 3 word address in one language, they can switch languages and discover the 3 word address for that same 3m x 3m square in a different language.
So, if you ever want to meet a mate on a trail buried in the woods or need to ride to an address that is difficult to find by postcode, they can use what3words to assign their location a three-word 'address', and you can use the app to direct you straight there.
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 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.
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.
Komoot now includes Garmin Route Sync, so it can automatically send any route you create to any Garmin device that supports .fit files, which is pretty much every Garmin back to the Edge 500.
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 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.
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.
Here's an app that almost certainly 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.
Strava now includes Garmin Route Sync, so it can automatically send any route you create to any Garmin device that supports .fit files, which is pretty much every Garmin back to the Edge 500.
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.
Garmin Connect now includes Garmin Route Sync, so it can automatically send any route you create to any Garmin device that supports .fit files, which is pretty much every Garmin back to the Edge 500.
Cyclemeter is a really useful app that turns your iPhone or Android device 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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.