Have you ever pushed your road bike through a sand dune or found yourself on a highway with your mountain bike? Ever pushed your bikes up some insane ascents and realized afterwards that there was a better way that you could have taken? Well, it´s time to have a look into three magic route planning, navigation and monitoring apps that will change your bike rides – komoot, Ride With GPS and Strava.
First, this post is rather about the way I have been using those three apps than making comparisons between them and show their advantages and disadvantages. There are different approaches for different riding styles. I have listed four different approaches in route planning that suited so far.
Training in front of your house door
If you only want to do a short (training) ride after work, you probably know the streets and gravel roads anyway. But you might have missed some new sections? Have a look into komoot and choose the bike you are riding on. Other people might have found other routes (and uploaded them) that could be interesting for you. RideWithGPS (RWGPS) is a very simple route planning tool with an user-friendly design. To my mind, RWGPS is the easiest and fastest way to create a route if you already have a rough understanding of the area where you want to ride in. With the massive route planning options in komoot and RWGPS, I only used Strava to upload my rides, monitor my trainings, compare my riding data with other cycling fellows and do social media stuff.
Riding in new areas, find new places, explore the world
As a community-based app, komoot is the best app for me to explore new areas. You simply click on the “Explore” button, choose your type of sport (hiking, touring bike, mountain bike, road bike or running), type in the area that you want to explore and you will get access to all routes, that have been uploaded by other cyclists. These rides include information like how difficult the route is, surface and path type, altitude and the climbing meters. You can also select your level of fitness and komoot will give you an understanding of how long you will need for the ride. For RWGPS and Strava, rides will also be uploaded, however, these services don´t have the highlights option. So for me, I choose komoot over the other two services, if I want to explore new areas and see what other people have ridden so far. If I´m a bit familiar with my surrounding and I only want to go out for a short training ride, RWGPS definitely does an amazing job as well. Again, Strava is only to record the ride (via Element Bolt) and have a look at the data afterwards.
Planning new (race) routes
As a bikepacker, who is always in search for the most remote and widest landscapes that our planet has to offer, I don`t really use the “way-of-movement”options (hiking, road, MTB, touring, running) on komoot, because it´s all MTB or gravel anyway. Also, most of the times I already have a rough understanding about the area where I`m riding in. For komoot, I found it either too much of asphalt (gravel/ touring mode) or too much switchbacks with technical riding (MTB). Therefore, I usually plan my routes with RWGPS and make use of all the different layers (map, satellite, RWGPS, OSM, OSM cycle, OSM outdoors, ESRI topo). To my mind, OSM cycle is the best view to plan offroad routes, even though, jumping between the different layers is good to get a better understanding of the surfaces. If the route is still too much of asphalt (or too much of MTB-trails), I open the track in komoot and choose the re-route option by clicking on (“use MTB” or “use touring”). Komoot will then consider the waypoints that already exists and creates a new route that is more technical / rideable. Depending on your type of membership you can also create collections in both tools. This really helps to keep your rides in order. You can create folder and copy specific routes or rides in these folders. I also tried to plan routes with Strava one time, but didn´t find as many tools compared to komoot and RWGPS.
Since I own a Wahoo Element Bolt I don´t use komoot or RWGPS for navigation. In most unsupported cycling races, riders are obliged to follow a given route and I found the Element Bolt are very appropriate navigation device for this. However, in case of a defect, I upload the routes on both komoot and RWGPS. If you make use of the komoot or RWGPS you will have to attach your mobile on the bar. They do have audio navigation, but I found it very confusing (on larger crossroads for example).