The Best Apps For Cyclists in 2020
When I sat down to consider which apps are the best for cyclists in 2020, I realised that it was not going to be a straightforward task. The internet does not need another one-size-fits-all top ten rundown of the most popular cycling apps. What it does need is an analysis of which apps are most suitable for each of the different ways in which we enjoy cycling. An urban commuter dodging traffic and keen to get to work on time is unlikely to value the same app features as an adventure cyclist in the mountains who wants to avoid a snow storm and find a safe path back down into the valley.
With this in mind, we have been researching the ways in which apps can help enhance the cycling experience, whether you are competing in virtual reality from the comfort of your living room, exploring your local roadways or trying to navigate to your camping ground from a wilderness trail.
Quick Menu Navigation
- Best App for Triathlon and Multi-Sport
- Best App for Indoor Cycling
- Best Apps for Road Cycling
- Best Apps for Mountain Biking
- Best Apps for Serious Adventure Cycling
Best App for Triathlon and Multi-Sport
If cycling is not your sole focus and you want an app that is capable of recording all your other activities too then you cannot go far wrong with Strava & Strava Summit. Strava’s website proudly advertises that its app supports 31 different athletic activities, including yoga, rock climbing, skiing, paddleboarding and Crossfit. If you can’t find your sport listed on the Strava website here, make sure you vote for it via the link at the bottom of the page to see if it makes the cut for the next version.
For triathletes, all your swimming, running and cycling activities can be recorded on Strava and compared with the stats of other Strava triathletes (and there are some big names on there, such as GB’s Red Bull triathlete Gordon Benson and America’s multiple Iron Man 70.3 champion Lauren Barnett, whose times you can compete with, if you think you may be the next big thing in tri).
Whether you choose the free or paid version of the app, you can manually or automatically sync your GPS watches with your computer in order to record and share your swims, bikes and runs. If you go for the full Strava Summit package then you can use the Beacon feature, which allows nominated contacts to track your runs and rides, for your safety and their peace of mind. Strava Summit also allows you to access tools and insights to help you train more effectively and gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into the stats from your GPS, heart rate monitor and power meter. This could prove invaluable for a dedicated triathlete chasing an elusive personal best, as improvement at this level often means training smarter rather than simply training more.
Although many triathlons attract hundreds of other athletes, training for one can be a rather lonely experience. Strava provides triathletes with an online community that can offer help, advice, support, encouragement, healthy competition and even a smattering of light-hearted banter and trash talk to keep you fit and motivated!
Best App for Indoor Cycling
Whilst Strava gives you the option to record static virtual rides, it does not do very much to make the experience more enjoyable. There are a number of apps that can enhance your experience of indoor cycling and provide you with data that you can use to develop your training plan and stay motivated. Popular apps include Peloton, Sufferfest, and TrainerRoad, but the one at the forefront of indoor cycling is currently Zwift, which offers users a gaming-style experience that includes mid-ride route control and the ability to compete with other riders. It was launched in 2015 and has been growing in popularity ever since, attracting celebrity users such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In order to start using Zwift effectively you need your bike, a smart trainer (i.e. a specialised turbo trainer that allows your speed and power to be communicated directly to Zwift) and a screen, which can be a computer, phone, tablet or TV. The Complete Tri website recommends streaming the app to a wall-mounted flat screen TV using an Apple TV box. This set up offers a bigger screen and better audio than a PC or tablet would.
Zwift has 25 levels and a variety of different routes in five virtual worlds for users to explore. The more you use the app, the more you get out of it, as it offers various different optimisations as you progress. You are free to hop on the bike for a leisurely ride or an intense time trial at any time of the day, but Zwift also offers riders opportunity to join others in the virtual world at pre-designated times throughout the day for companionable (and competitive) rides.
The Zwift experience is overwhelmingly a gamer’s one. The graphics are good but are not intended to be realistic. Users also report that turns and route options often come up with little warning, so it is very possible to miss turns and end up sacrificing poll position in a race because you weren’t quite quick enough to make the turn. Zwift is also reliant on a strong internet connection, so if you struggle with signal, subscribing could result in a lot of frustration! However, if you have a reliable connection and enjoy the community spirit and competitive opportunities offered by an app that has over one million subscribers, then Zwift could be for you. They offer a free trial, so if you have any qualms about any aspect of it, or are worried that your internet connection may not be able to cope, you can try it first without committing financially.
Zwift membership currently costs £12.99 a month, but it is possible to pause your subscription so that if, for example, you only cycle indoors during the winter months, you can pause between March and October.
Best Apps for Road Cycling
If the thought of pedalling away in front of a screen, not physically moving anywhere and never feeling the breeze on your face or seeing any real scenery fills you with horror (and you would rather cycle in a thunderstorm than set up a turbo in your front room) then Zwift is probably not for you. Strava is a good choice for keen road cyclists, but there are other apps that do a great job as well and if you are more interested in interactive route planning and discovering new places to ride then you could try one of these alternatives.
This free app is available for iOS and Android and is beloved by commuters and urban leisure cyclists alike for helping them find the best routes across their city. In the UK, Citymapper currently covers London, Birmingham and Manchester, but it can be used in other cities worldwide and users can vote for the next places they would like Citymapper to include. Cyclists using Citymapper can use it to navigate quieter, faster, or the most popular cycle routes between locations and visiting cyclists can use the app to find nearby cycle hire stores.
Ride With GPS
Whether you are exploring a new area in your local stomping ground or planning a trip on the other side of the world, Ride With GPS is the cycling route planner and sat nav to help you before and during your journey. Offering great route planning tools to help you plot your course and providing turn-by-turn voice navigation, Live Logging and offline maps to guide you during your ride, this app is perfect for road cyclists who like to discover new places.
Great for route planning on the go, CycleMaps offers iPhone users the opportunity to create routes tailored to their individual cycling style. Whether you are new to cycling and want a calm route through a city or an experienced, confident cyclist looking for the fastest route from A to B, CycleMaps can guide you in your comfort zone.
Best Apps for Mountain Biking
This free app includes over 80,000 user-submitted mountain bike trails that are curated by trail designers. It offers detailed elevation data, points of interest and live tracking. It even displays local bike shops, just in case you have any mid-ride requirements. One of the most useful features of Trailforks is the local track status information, which makes it easy to avoid wet trails or those obstructed by debris.
Dirt School Mountain Bike Skills
The technical skill required to navigate obstacles on a mountain bike trail should not be underestimated! There are courses you can go on that teach you all you need to know, but if you have just spent all your money buying the bike and are looking for a cheaper option, this app costs just £5.99 and users report that it has revolutionised the way they take on mountain bike trails. One of the best features is the one that allows you to upload a video of you on the bike and compare it to the ideal standard at a single swipe of the screen. All the videos are available offline too, so you can practice mid-trail if you so desire. If you find you are still struggling, the makers of the app run courses in person too, so you can always save up and go on one of those. The app is currently only available to download on iPhone.
Best Apps for Serious Adventure Cycling
This app is only available for Android smartphones and tablets and has no sat nav or routing features. However, it works without network or data coverage, so is perfect for cyclists who want to steer well clear of the beaten track. It allows you to download base maps for remote and mountain rides and turns your phone or tablet into a complete outdoor topography mapping GPS device.
It is also capable of recording your movements for future reference if you wish to do this.
If you are a fan of cycling the path less travelled, then chances are there is unlikely to be a friendly bike mechanic on hand to help you when things go wrong on a ride. The Bike Doctor app is the mechanic in your pocket, guiding you through how to fix your bike when things go wrong. Simply load up the app and, when the image of the bike appears on the screen, tap the part with an issue and follow the detailed, well-written and clearly illustrated instructions to diagnose and resolve the problem.
If you are off exploring remote areas on your bike one of the most important factors to consider is the weather, which in mountainous areas is apt to change quickly and have potentially serious consequences for your day’s riding (and maybe your night’s camping too, if a tent is your accommodation of choice).
Windy provides accurate and professional weather forecasts for outdoor activities including cycling, but it also has wave and tide information, so is useful for surfers and nautical types too.
The go-to app for many whose jobs or hobbies are weather dependent, such as professional pilots, storm chasers and emergency rescue teams, Windy takes data from over 30,000 weather stations. There are 35 different weather layers, including temperature, wind, rain, snow and humidity, which can be switched on or off depending on what weather factors are of interest to you. Most importantly, it is free, there are no ads and it offers more information that most of its competitors.
Researching the range of apps available for cyclists has uncovered a whole variety of options for every different terrain and requirement. Finding the right one(s) for your needs is ultimately going to be down to making an informed choice and trying it out on a few rides to see whether the claims made are as useful to you as they seemed.
Working out why you cycle is a good place to start when choosing an app. Whether you cycle to challenge your skills and endurance, to see more of the world from the vantage point of a saddle or because all your mates do and you enjoy the sociability of it, there is an app out there to enhance your experience and we hope this article helps you find it.