Navigating a cycling route is a big step on any new cyclists journey. The sense of freedom you get from being able to follow a route opens so many doors to what you can do and where you can go on a bike. The days of sticking to the same area for fear of getting los will be behind you, with just the open road ahead.
Finding and navigating a cycling route is a wonderful feeling, especially if you've built the route yourself. But if you don't have a GPS device like a Wahoo, or have super human memory powers, then you're going to need to navigate on your trusty mobile phone to keep you on the right track.
Be warned, many cyclists will tell you that trying to navigate with your phone is a 'nightmare' and 'just impossible', which may lead you to not bother. But it is possible, and can be an easy (and much cheaper) option for navigating a cycling route, especially if you're just starting out. We've all got a smartphone right?
Finding a Route
First things first, you need a route to follow. There are loads of places to find cycling routes if you know where to look. You can make use of the Dirty Wknd route database, or one of the route database sites like Komoot, Strava and Ride With GPS. Googling 'cycling routes in x' will also always throw up loads of routes,
Of course the best place to find routes is within a cycling club or group. One of the great things about the cycling community is how readily good routes are swapped around (something about cyclists being show offs, who knew!) So if you're a member of a group or club then ask around, you'll be inundated with good routes in no time.
Navigating a Route on your Mobile:
Ok, let's get down to it. In order to navigate on your phone, you will need to use one of the above apps. I've used all of the three, and I have to say that Komoot's navigating function is by far and away the best. Full disclosure, Komoot is one of our partners, so we do have an interest in promoting them. But the navigation really is streets ahead, which makes them the best. It's why we partnered with them.
You need the Komoot app for mobile navigation, which is free to download from the App or Play Store:
- Download the Komoot App
- Create your free or premium account
- Find or build your route
- Click on the route
- Click 'start navigation
It really is as simple as that. You don't even need to be right at the start of your route, Komoot will navigate you to the start automatically as long as you're close. You can also switch on voice notifications and get audible directions, leaving you free to look at nature and the road ahead.
Downsides - phone battery
The only real downside to navigating by mobile is that no matter what app you use, it will drain your battery life. There is no escaping the dreaded 'low power mode', so you have to be prepared. Komoot have a support page for this very thing, with tips to save your battery. However the trick is to take a decent battery pack with you on any ride.
The other thing you might want to look into is a decent handlebar mount for your phone. You can simply put your phone in your pocket of course, but it's not fun stopping every 30 seconds to check directions. There are loads of handlebar mounts out there, from simple rubber straps to full on waterproof cases.
Our top pick is the Quadlock system. It looks great, it's durable and incredibly easy to use. It is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but it's never failed me, even on gravel/off road rides.
If you've got any question about how to use your mobile phone to navigate a cycling route, or anything else for that matter, get in touch for a chat.