Well designed, easy to use online mapping service, even better when it's free

There's myriad ways to plan a route if you're going out for a ride, from not planning at all to having your every move logged by a GPS which bleeps occasionally to tell you what to do next. More and more people are turning to online services to look for routes or to generate their own, and Grough route is another of those services. Currently £1.50 a month to use, Grough intend to make the service free after the Ordnance Survey announce their online mapping jubilee in April. And it's a clever system that works well. It has pluses and minuses compared to other methods of mapping a route, but as a fully online offering it's the most complete we've tried.

Once you're logged in you're presented with an interface that has a large map tile and a menu down the left hand side. You can start a new route or work with one you've already added, and you can share a route so that anyone can edit it if you like. Route planning is a scroll and click affair; Grough uses OS mapping and not Google maps so it won't fill in sections of road, you just get straight lines. On the other hand you get OS deatil down to 1:25k scale and you can skip down alleys and short cuts without Google trying to send you the long way round on 'proper' roads, so it's a lot more versatile if you're one for mixed terrain, or you're also planning for MTB or walking excursions. Grough also has a full gazetteer so you can search easily for your start point.

You can look at elevation profiles for your route and tag it for others who might be searching. If you're looking for a route to do then you can just scroll round until you find one, although at the moment there's not much on there. Points of interest are marked too, and you can add more for the benefit of the community if you're so inclined.

Once you're happy with your route you can download a GPX file of it, or send it to a Garmin device via the Garmin Communicator API. You can also print it out; the software will divide the route into handy sheet-sized chunks that you can print out and take with you. You can export the profile too, and a route card though that's pretty useless as it's just a list of the points rather than meaningful directions. The options allow you to set the measurements you want and also add Naismith rules so that Grough can calculate an estimated time based on distance and elevation change.

All in all the system is pretty robust and well designed. It's easy to get into and there's a lot more functionality than you get with simpler sites such as Bike Route Toaster which use the Google API. It's more akin to something like Anquet Maps or Memory Map, but without the mobile component. If you want to use mapping on the go you'll need to install a mobile app that allows you to view your GPX file on mapping; there are several that use the OpenSpace API (for OS maps) or the OpenStreetMap API (for open source mapping)


There's plenty of good points for Grough: it's well designed, robust and fairly easy to use, and you can export your routes in different ways. The cost though small marks it down for now – there's too many ways to do it for free – but as a free service it will be a winner, so watch out for an announcement in April to that effect

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Grough route online mapping

Size tested: n/a

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for value:

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No but I'd buy if for free  1

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 36  Height: 190cm  Weight: 98kg

I usually ride: whatever I\'m testing...  My best bike is: Trek 1.5 with Ultegra 6700

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.


Ruthe [50 posts] 9 years ago

I like www.bikehike.co.uk ... free online use and dual maps of google/os and osmcycle which you can toggle for sizes, handy for tracking roads or trail. I think you can download routes too but i've never tried as don't have the gadgets. Great for tracking distance and elevation. only thing you can't do at the moment is save routes.

G-bitch [330 posts] 9 years ago

Thanks for reviewing this - a mapping/routing website review is not the kind of thing that most mags/e-mags would bother doing!

amazon22 [314 posts] 9 years ago

It seems that if you can be invited to the beta (can't see how to do that just yet) the cost is free, but you loose the 1:25k OS mapping (not really necessary for road cycling), aerial photography and the ability to print maps but all other features, and there are plenty, are still available. I'm a big fan and user of bikehike, but grough offers a huge amount more with a very slick interface. Whether you need it or not is another matter, but free is free in any language (and they do stress they're waiting to see what happens with the OS next month).

dave atkinson [6548 posts] 9 years ago

not used bikehike before but i like the fact that you can use google's road following and then dart down a bridleway, very nice. presumably the bikeroutetoaster people made it? the interface seems very similar

Martin Thomas [385 posts] 9 years ago

I've just started trying out RouteYou (http://www.routeyou.com/home.en) which looks ok, even though it seems to refuse to deal in miles, which is mildly irritating. I was using Bikemap.net (http://www.bikemap.net/) which is also pretty good but I thought I'd shop around. Will watch out for this one going free.

If any of them started offering the function of uploading routes from a GPS I'd be all over it like a rash, but I don't think any of them do - yet.

DaSy [872 posts] 9 years ago

Martin, both http://ridewithgps.com and http://bikeroutetoaster.com/ offer the ability to upload a .gpx or a .tcx file to save as a route etc.

I like the interface of ride with GPS, but the downloading of a .gpx file to my Garmin is not as good as the one created by bikeroutetoaster, which allows you to add in turn notifications, and ends up a much more detailed route when using .gpx's in my experience.

cat1commuter [1421 posts] 9 years ago

I use Marengo GPS Route Planner. Here, for example, is the route of the Cheltenham Flyer Audax I did on Saturday: http://www.marengo-ltd.com/map2/?route=11055.

It is very similar to Grough, but based on Google Maps. It has some limited auto-routing, which can be useful for filling in turns between points.

Martin Thomas [385 posts] 9 years ago

thanks DaSy, I like the look of ridewithgps...might give that one a go. I'm going to need to stick with one soon though or I'll have routes all over the internet.

lode [1 post] 9 years ago

RouteYou supports uploading routes in GPX, TCX and GDB format. You can upload your track at http://www.routeyou.com/route/upload . Or go to http://www.routeyou.com , select "Create a route" in the main menu and then select the "Upload" tab on the top right of the page. You do have to login first.