Top 5 smartphone apps for cycle commuters

Do more than check social media with your phone on your commute

This is a sponsored article in association with Red Bull.

While most will use their phone to aimlessly check social media during their commute, there’s an enlightened few who, using a selection of super handy apps, have turned their device to more practical uses making their commute by bike easier, more predictable and stress free.

We’ve rounded up our five favourite apps for cycle commuters here and reckon that both rookies and seasoned cycle commuters alike will find something to make their phone that little bit more useful.

1. Strava

Keeping tabs on your friends' riding habits is one of the main appeals of Strava
Keeping tabs on your friends' riding habits is one of the main appeals of Strava

While many will be quick to primarily consider Strava a training tool, it’s actually a super useful way to track your commute as well — no matter how short your journey by bike may be, totting up the distance you cover over a week, let alone a year, is deeply satisfying — and don't forget to swipe the Commute option as you upload you ride.

Using the app’s huge database of segments is also a fun way to compare your efforts over particular sections of a ride throughout the week. Integrating this into your training, many may try to beat their time, even by a small fraction over a particular segment once a week.

The social element of the platform has been key to its ongoing success
The social element of the platform has been key to its ongoing success

The success of Strava is also largely down to its social element. Much like other social networks, you can follow your friends to see where they’ve been riding and how your efforts stack up against theirs — there’s nothing like a little bit of healthy competition among pals to encourage you to push a bit harder!

You can join clubs and challenges too if you need further motivation, such as Red Bull's Million Mile Commute, where you'll be eligible for a Red Bull sample kit to get you started, plus many more rewards.

PS, BikeRadar is on Strava too, so why not come join us at the BikeRadar Strava Club?

2. Google Maps

Google Maps provides unrivalled levels of mapping detail for cyclists
Google Maps provides unrivalled levels of mapping detail for cyclists

It may seem obvious, but having a reliable mapping app that will help you get from A to B is an invaluable addition to your collection.

Google Maps is without doubt the leader here for commuters, with unrivalled and regularly updated mapping that covers pretty much every corner of the globe.

A handful of territories — including the whole of the UK and certain parts of the US — now also include cycling-specific mapping on Google Maps, highlighting both dedicated and shared cycle paths.

‘Regular’ roads are also updated with traffic info in real time, so you can make sure you avoid traffic jams — or smugly ride through them with ease — during your commute.

If you use public transport as part of your cycle commute — or go ‘multimodal’, as it’s trendily referred to these days — Google Maps will also supply up to date public transport info in selected regions.

Google allows you to download blocks of map data direct to your phone over WiFi too — where they can be stored for up to a month at a time — for instant mapping that won’t thrash your data allowance. If you’re lucky enough to be cycling in a city in another country, this can also save a fortune on roaming charges.

3. Dark Sky

Dark Sky provides weather forecasting that is said to be “scarily accurate”
Dark Sky provides weather forecasting that is said to be “scarily accurate”

Riding to work in the rain sucks, but riding in the rain when you’re unprepared for it sucks even more.

The precipitation radar page is our most frequented here in Bristol
The precipitation radar page is our most frequented here in Bristol

While there’s a whole host of great weather apps out there, few have the near cult following of Dark Sky, with the nifty software that powers the app said to be “scarily accurate”, predicting rainfall and other inclement climes to within the minute.

Despite its successes, Dark Sky is still owned by the two developers who originally created the software, both of whom keep the company’s blog up to date with upcoming developments and background on how the app works. A truly great option for the meteo’ nerds out there.

4. Bike Doctor

Bike Doctor might just save you a whole wad of cash in the long run
Bike Doctor might just save you a whole wad of cash in the long run

You can save a lot of money by riding to work rather than taking public transport or driving, but should something go wrong with your bike, workshop bills can quickly add up.

If you’re not the most confident bike mechanic or a complete rookie who’s keen to learn how to fix your own bike, Bike Doctor might just be the app for you — with its simple and clear step-by-step guides, it will talk you through the most common mechanical problems you’re likely to encounter.

5. SpotCycle

Spot Cycle has bike share info for pretty every scheme out there, even in itty-bitty Luxembourg
Spot Cycle has bike share info for pretty every scheme out there, even in itty-bitty Luxembourg

If you’re visiting a new city and fancy trying out its bike share scheme — and trust us, this is one of the best ways to see a place — SpotCycle should have a place on your phone.

The app works in much the same way as dedicated apps for each of the schemes
The app works in much the same way as dedicated apps for each of the schemes

SpotCycle works in much the same way that location-specific bike share apps do — displaying availability information, docking station locations and so on — but is hooked up to nearly every scheme out there, covering everywhere from London to Lyon and New York to Namur.

And better still, it’s free!

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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