Ready to hop back on your bike but wondering the best way to get to school, to work, or to your favorite farmer's market once the spring bounty starts coming in? We've got you covered: here is your ultimate bicycle route planner.
MapMyRide is probably the best known bicycle route planner. With so many users, it makes it easy to share your fave routes with your friends, as well as see what routes are popular in unknown areas.
PROS: Has a large index of cities to get route ideas from, and its Route Genius function suggests the most bike friendly routes if you want to create a new route. Because MapMyRide is part of Under Armour, it's no surprise that it seamlessly integrates with over 400 wearable fitness trackers, along with its excellent iOS and Android apps.
CONS: While not really a "con" per se, but MapMyRide, like the other MapMyFitness apps, is built around the idea of cycling for exercise. That means a lot of the language and features are more about burning calories than finding the safest and/or scenic bike route to get from Point A to Point B. For example, on the smartphone app, you click "Start Workout" to begin tracking your bicycle route, which seems odd if you're just riding down to the park for some R&R.
2. Ride the City
Another popular bicycle route planner is Ride the City. Like other route guides, you can type in your starting and end points, and it helps you find the shortest distance. However, it avoids roads that aren't safe to bike on and steers you towards roads that are safer, with better bicycle infrastructure. There are maps for major cities in the US, as well as Toronto, Australia, France, and Spain.
PROS: The fact that this app guides you towards safer bike routes is a major pro, especially if you're in an unfamiliar area. Other handy features include being able to find bike shops along your route, and an ability to save your preferred street preferences.
CONS: Apps are not free, but at $1.99 not a major investment. And being able to choose safer routes makes it worthwhile.
3. Google Maps
Google added bicycling directions to its Maps offering back in 2010, and has been continuing to update it with more information ever since. Whether you're looking at Google Maps on your desktop or smartphone, you can turn on the bicycle overlay to see which roads have bicycle infrastructure like bike lines, and use its Directions feature to navigate to your destination.
PROS: The convenience of bicycling directions within Google Maps is the biggest "pro", since it is right at your fingertips at all times. You can switch on navigation to have it tell you when to turn (wear just one earbud please!), which is a nice feature if you've got a complicated route.
CONS: There is no way to save or share routes, or to save street preferences, or to correct routes with mistakes (for example, Google Maps will occasionally send you down a one way street the wrong way).
4. Local Bicycle Maps
Many cities prepare their own bike maps to help you plan your bicycle route. These maps, often available both online and a fold-up paper version, notate roads and paths best for bicycling on, and help you see the whole system at a glance.
PROS: These maps are often created by the local bicycle advocacy group with intimate knowledge of the city and the best ways to get around. The paper maps, while perhaps a bit antiquated, make it easy to grasp the whole system and choose your favorite route, rather than just going the quickest way from Point A to Point B. Part of the fun of bicycling is the journey, right?
CONS: Since the paper maps are only printed annually, there is a possibility that your copy is not the most up to date. Depending on the city, there can be limited digital resources like sharing and saving routes.
Now that we've given you a bunch of options, it's time to choose the best bicycle planner for you. Here's a handy table to help you weigh the pros and cons of each platform/planner:
|Planner||Made for transport-ation biking||Save a pre-ferred route||Share route with friends||Shows terrain and/or incline||Forces you to create an account||Cost|
|Ride the City||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Desktop is free, app is $1.99|
Did we overlook your favorite feature or skip a good bicycle route planner entirely? Please leave your suggestions below in the comments section.