The old adage about a tree falling in the woods without a sound may have found an analog in the cycling world. If you don’t upload an epic ride or race using one of a multitude of smartphone — and GPS watch-ready apps, did you truly crush it?
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but the spiral-bound training logs of yesteryear have been replaced by programs accessible by smartphone and computer. Some of these programs also function as social media sites similar to Facebook, allowing users to share their adventures and connect with those chasing a similar stoke. Beyond being able to swap cyber high-fives, these apps are a great way to learn about new cycling routes, on the road and on the trails, which can be intimidating for some new riders. To save you a headache, High Desert Pulse put four apps to the test, highlighting pros and cons so you can spend more time in the saddle, exploring Central Oregon’s roads and trails with the right app for you.
The following apps are compatible with both iOS and Android operating systems.
This is an easy destination for cyclists who are as eager for analytical workout information as they are keen on bragging about a vigorous ride. Strava’s standard format is free and requires only a smartphone. It is often described as the Facebook for cyclists (runners use it, too). Strava features an activity feed, which is similar to Facebook’s news feed, where users who follow you can give you “kudos” and comment on your efforts.
While Strava might strike some as the workout app for cool kids, its popularity owes to the analytical overload it provides. Upload a ride and you’re presented with useful data such as a map outline of your course, distance traveled, average mph, elevation gain and more. Particularly exciting are the leaderboards, which compile past efforts along user-created segments, which they tend to give funny names like, “This is where you crack,” or “Crybaby hill.” Premium users can pay about $8 for additional features such as a reading on wattage output and heart-rate monitor compatibilities, but those extras aren’t necessary for weekend outings where the goal is to track a great ride with friends and blow off some steam.
If you’ve tired of either carrying your smartphone or referring to it during rides, odds are you’ve sprung for a Garmin device, whether it’s a wristwatch (popular among triathletes and other multisport types) or a handlebar — or stem-mounted cycling computer.
One of several stock programs that technology companies whip up to accompany their hardware, Connect is designed to accommodate as many sports as possible. As a result, its interface is complex and sometimes confusing. If you’re looking to track your rides in privacy, Garmin Connect can handle it fine. GPS mapping, distance traveled, average mph — all the considerations you’d expect are delivered handily. If you’re using Connect with a Garmin watch, the software can even analyze your sleep patterns, differentiating between time spent in light and deep sleep. Of course, that requires you to wear your chunky Garmin watch to bed. Unlike an activity-focused app like Strava, however, Garmin Connect tracks your heart rate throughout the day along with your lowest and highest peaks. Garmin Connect might satisfy the casual soloist who has no desire for sharing results. The app does offer a social network aspect, however, few people have signed up for it.
Ride with GPS
This is the go-to, original route-planning app/website, popular with both road cyclists and mountain bikers alike. With a few clicks, users can play connect-the-dots with planning and labeling maps. Although other apps have the mapping feature, including Garmin Connect and Strava, Ride with GPS has a trove of routes that users have planned and uploaded to its site. An easy search setting locates routes nearby. In a road cycling and mountain biking mecca like Central Oregon, that means lists of routes abound. Click on one to view the route on a two-dimensional Google map and its elevation profile. User-uploaded photos accompany most routes, hinting at the scenery you can look forward to. Touring road cyclists enjoy Ride with GPS, too, many of whom adopted the app when it was the sole route-planning destination. The aforementioned features are free. If you’d like Ride with GPS to feed turn-by-turn directions to either your phone or a cycling computer, that’s where you’ll have to pay. The basic plan costs $6/month or $50/year. It provides users with navigation prompts and access maps while offline. The premium plan runs $80 per year/$10 per month. It features handy customized time estimates for routes, along with Strava-like route segments and leaderboards.
Where many cycling apps go wide and inclusive, Trailforks goes niche. Tailored specifically for mountain bikers, by mountain bikers, this website with an app extension is completely user reliant. It requires local mountain bike communities to upload their routes, name and categorize trails easy to extremely difficult. Central Oregon mountain bikers are familiar with the immediacy of the crowd-sourced Bend Trails website, where locals post about trail conditions. Trailforks is like Bend Trails for virtually all of North America and much of the rest of the world. Bringing a mountain bike to New Zealand? Trailforks has 2,964 user-tested trails for you to cruise. Additionally, creating routes is a breeze. Select a point A and a point B and the program automatically picks the best connection trails, in accordance with trail direction (whether they’re uphill or downhill only) and length. You can also manually select your route, trail by trail. Users also update Trailforks with immediate local trail conditions, which can vary greatly during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Trailforks is free. •