How Does GPS Help In Route Planning For Cyclists?

Are you an avid cyclist looking for the best routes to explore on your bike? Look no further than GPS technology to assist you in your route planning endeavors. With GPS, you can easily navigate through unfamiliar territories, ensuring that you never lose your way. Whether you’re embarking on a long-distance cycling adventure or simply exploring new trails in your neighborhood, GPS provides valuable information on distance, elevation, and even real-time updates on traffic and road conditions. So grab your helmet, hop on your bike, and let GPS guide you on your next cycling journey!

Benefits of Using GPS for Cyclists

Accurate Navigation

One of the primary benefits of using GPS for cyclists is accurate navigation. GPS devices and apps provide precise positioning data, allowing cyclists to follow turn-by-turn directions and easily navigate through unfamiliar routes. This eliminates the need for paper maps and reduces the chances of getting lost or taking wrong turns. With accurate navigation, cyclists can confidently explore new areas and venture into longer rides without worrying about getting off track.

Real-Time Position Tracking

GPS technology enables real-time position tracking, which is advantageous for cyclists. By constantly updating the location information, GPS devices and apps allow cyclists to track their progress on a digital map, displaying their current position and the remaining distance to their destination. This feature is particularly helpful when planning long rides or participating in endurance events, as it helps cyclists stay on track and monitor their performance throughout the journey.

Elevation and Terrain Information

Another significant benefit of using GPS for cyclists is the availability of elevation and terrain information. GPS devices and apps equipped with altimeters can provide data on the altitude, gradient, and steepness of the route. This crucial information allows cyclists to plan their rides more effectively, especially when it comes to tackling challenging climbs or avoiding excessively hilly areas. By knowing the elevation profile in advance, cyclists can adjust their pace and gear selection accordingly.

Safety and Security Features

GPS technology offers several safety and security features that are beneficial for cyclists. Some GPS devices and apps allow users to share their real-time location with friends, family, or emergency services. In the event of an accident or unexpected situation, this feature can be invaluable for receiving assistance promptly. Additionally, certain GPS devices and apps offer theft tracking and recovery features, enabling cyclists to locate their stolen bicycles using GPS signals. These safety and security features provide added peace of mind for cyclists, allowing them to focus on enjoying their rides.

Types of GPS Devices for Cyclists

Dedicated GPS Devices

Dedicated GPS devices specifically designed for cycling offer a wide range of features and functionality. These devices are typically mounted onto the handlebars or stem of the bicycle and provide navigation, tracking, and performance monitoring capabilities. They often come with larger screens, longer battery life, and are more rugged and weather-resistant than other GPS options. Dedicated GPS devices are favored by serious cyclists who value accuracy, reliability, and robust performance during their rides.

Smartphones with GPS Apps

Smartphones equipped with GPS capabilities and cycling-specific apps have become a popular choice for many cyclists. With the availability of various GPS apps, cyclists can turn their smartphones into powerful navigation and tracking devices. These apps provide turn-by-turn directions, real-time position tracking, and can even sync with other sensors on the phone, such as heart rate monitors or cadence sensors. While smartphones may not offer the same durability and battery life as Dedicated GPS devices, they are convenient and offer versatility in terms of app selection and integration with other smartphone features.

Wearable GPS Devices

Wearable GPS devices, such as GPS watches or fitness bands, are compact and lightweight options for cyclists. These devices can be worn on the wrist, enabling easy access to navigation, tracking, and performance data without the need for handlebar mounting. While wearable GPS devices may have smaller screens and limited functionality compared to dedicated GPS devices or smartphones, they are convenient for cyclists who prefer a minimalist setup or engage in other activities where handlebar-mounted devices may not be suitable.

GPS Bike Computers

GPS bike computers are specialized devices designed specifically for cyclists. These devices typically offer a range of features, including accurate navigation, real-time performance metrics, route planning, and social connectivity. GPS bike computers often have larger screens, longer battery life, and can be mounted on the handlebars for easy visibility. They provide cyclists with comprehensive data and analysis of their rides, making them a popular choice for both recreational and competitive cyclists.

GPS Apps and Websites for Cyclists


Strava is a popular GPS app and online platform that caters to the needs of cyclists, runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Its features include turn-by-turn navigation, route planning, activity tracking, and social sharing. Strava allows users to view and analyze their own performance, as well as compare their results with others who have completed similar routes. With a large user base and extensive route database, Strava is a valuable resource for discovering new cycling routes and challenging oneself.


Komoot is a comprehensive GPS app and website that specializes in outdoor route planning. It offers detailed maps, elevation profiles, and turn-by-turn directions for cycling, hiking, and mountain biking. Komoot allows users to customize routes according to their preferences, such as surface type, difficulty level, and points of interest. It also provides information on nearby attractions, accommodations, and restaurants, making it an excellent tool for planning multi-day cycling adventures.

Ride with GPS

Ride with GPS is a versatile GPS app and website that caters to the needs of cyclists of all levels. It offers features such as intuitive route planning, route sharing, live tracking, and performance analysis. Ride with GPS allows users to customize routes based on road conditions, elevation changes, and personal preferences. It also integrates with various cycling sensors, enabling cyclists to monitor their heart rate, power output, and cadence during their rides.

Google Maps

Google Maps, a widely-used mapping and navigation app, also provides useful features for cyclists. While not cycling-specific, Google Maps includes bicycle-friendly routes, turn-by-turn navigation, and real-time traffic information. It also allows users to download offline maps, which is particularly useful when cycling in areas with poor cellular coverage. Google Maps is a reliable and accessible option that many cyclists already have on their smartphones.


MapMyRide is a GPS app and website designed specifically for cyclists. It offers features such as route mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, and performance tracking. MapMyRide allows users to plan and discover new cycling routes, record and analyze their rides, and connect with a vibrant community of cyclists. With its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features, MapMyRide is a valuable tool for cyclists of all levels.

Factors to Consider for Route Planning with GPS

Road Conditions and Traffic

When planning cycling routes with GPS, it’s important to consider road conditions and traffic. Some GPS apps and websites provide information on road quality, traffic volume, and the presence of bike lanes or paths. Taking these factors into account can help cyclists choose safer and more enjoyable routes, especially when traveling in unfamiliar areas.

Distance and Elevation

Considering the distance and elevation of a planned route is crucial for cyclists. GPS devices and apps often allow users to view the total distance and elevation gain of a route, as well as the gradient of specific segments. This information helps cyclists determine whether a route is suitable for their fitness level and training goals. It also helps in avoiding routes with excessively steep climbs or overly long distances that may exceed personal capabilities or time constraints.

Points of Interest

GPS apps and websites often provide information on nearby points of interest, such as scenic viewpoints, rest areas, or attractions. When planning a route, it can be beneficial to incorporate these points of interest, especially for recreational or touring rides. Including interesting stops along the way enhances the overall experience and allows cyclists to explore the surrounding area.

Cycling Infrastructure

Taking into account the cycling infrastructure is important when planning routes with GPS. GPS apps and websites may indicate the presence of dedicated bike lanes, bike-friendly roads, or off-road trails. By prioritizing routes with suitable cycling infrastructure, cyclists can ensure a safer and more enjoyable riding experience.

Steps to Plan a Route with GPS

Choosing a Suitable GPS App or Device

The first step in planning a route with GPS is choosing a suitable app or device. Consider factors such as the type of cycling you do, the features you require, and your budget. If you prefer a dedicated GPS device, research different models and compare their features. If using a smartphone, explore the GPS apps available and read reviews to find one that meets your needs. Selecting the right GPS solution ensures a better route planning experience.

Setting the Start and End Points

Once you have chosen a GPS app or device, set the start and end points for your route. This can be done by entering specific addresses, landmarks, or using the app’s map interface to select locations. Take into consideration factors such as convenience, accessibility, and your desired distance for the ride.

Customizing the Route Preferences

Most GPS apps and devices allow users to customize route preferences according to their preferences. This includes options such as avoiding highways, selecting bike-friendly paths, or prioritizing scenic routes. Customizing the route preferences ensures that the GPS app or device generates a route that aligns with your specific needs and preferences.

Reviewing the Route and Adjustments

After the GPS app or device generates the initial route, take the time to review it. Look for any potential issues such as busy intersections, unsafe road sections, or areas with heavy traffic. Make adjustments to the route as necessary to ensure a safer and more enjoyable cycling experience. This may involve manually altering the route or using the app’s rerouting functionality.

Advanced Features for Cyclist Route Planning

Turn-by-Turn Voice Navigation

Some GPS apps and devices offer turn-by-turn voice navigation, which can be extremely helpful while cycling. Instead of constantly referring to the map display, cyclists can rely on audible cues guiding them through the route. This feature enhances safety by allowing cyclists to keep their eyes on the road while still receiving accurate navigation instructions.

Cue Sheet Generation

Cue sheets are detailed instructions that cyclists can print or access digitally, providing step-by-step guidance for a route. Some GPS apps generate cue sheets that include information about upcoming turns, distances, and landmarks. Having a cue sheet as a backup to the GPS device or app can be beneficial in case of technical issues or unexpected situations.

Advanced Routing Algorithms

Advanced routing algorithms enable GPS apps and devices to generate optimized routes based on specific criteria. For example, some apps offer options to prioritize quieter roads, avoid excessively steep hills, or find the most scenic routes. These algorithms take into account various factors to create routes tailored to individual preferences and needs.

Segment Analysis

Many GPS apps and websites offer segment analysis, which allows cyclists to compare their performance on specific route segments with other users. This feature can be motivating and provide insights into areas where improvements can be made. By analyzing segment data, cyclists can track progress over time and challenge themselves to achieve better results.

Sharing and Downloading Routes

Sharing Routes with Friends and Cycling Community

GPS apps and websites often provide the option to share routes with friends or the wider cycling community. This feature allows cyclists to exchange favorite routes, recommend scenic rides, or organize group rides. By sharing routes, cyclists can foster a sense of community and discover new routes that others have found enjoyable.

Downloading Preplanned Routes

In addition to sharing routes, GPS apps and websites often offer the ability to download preplanned routes created and shared by other cyclists. This is particularly useful when visiting new areas or participating in organized rides. Downloading preplanned routes allows cyclists to explore new routes created by local experts, ensuring a well-planned and enjoyable ride.

Tips for Effective Route Planning with GPS

Consider Weather and Season

When planning routes with GPS, consider the weather and season. Weather conditions can greatly impact cycling experiences, so take into account factors such as temperature, precipitation, and wind direction. Additionally, certain routes may be more enjoyable or accessible during specific seasons, such as routes with beautiful fall foliage or routes with low traffic in the offseason.

Explore Local Knowledge

While GPS technology is valuable for route planning, it’s also beneficial to tap into local knowledge. Consult with local cycling clubs, bike shops, or online forums to gather insights on popular routes, hidden gems, or road conditions. Local cyclists can often provide valuable firsthand information that may not be readily available on GPS apps or websites.

Backup Battery and Power Banks

To ensure that GPS devices or apps remain functional throughout a ride, it’s essential to have backup battery options. Carry spare batteries, portable power banks, or consider using a GPS device with longer battery life. This ensures that you don’t lose navigation capabilities in the middle of a ride, especially on longer journeys where a reliable power source may not be available.

Take Breaks and Rest Stops

While GPS route planning helps optimize cycling experiences, it’s important to remember the benefits of breaks and rest stops. Long rides can be physically demanding, so schedule regular breaks for refueling, stretching, and resting. GPS devices and apps can assist in identifying suitable rest areas, nearby amenities, or scenic spots to pause and enjoy the surroundings.

Challenges and Limitations of GPS Route Planning

Poor Signal and Inaccurate Mapping

One of the challenges of GPS route planning for cyclists is poor signal reception and inaccurate mapping. In areas with weak or no GPS signal, devices or apps may struggle to accurately track positioning or provide reliable navigation. Additionally, mapping inaccuracies or outdated data on GPS apps or devices can occasionally result in incorrect routing instructions. Cyclists should be aware of these limitations and, where possible, cross-reference with additional sources or carry paper maps as backup.

Reliance on Technology

While GPS technology offers numerous benefits, it also introduces a reliance on technology. Cyclists must be prepared for the possibility of technical issues, such as device malfunctions or battery drain. Relying solely on GPS for navigation without an understanding of basic map reading or compass skills can leave cyclists vulnerable if technology fails. It’s important to strike a balance between utilizing GPS technology and maintaining traditional navigation skills as a backup.

Limited Battery Life

The limited battery life of GPS devices and smartphones can pose a challenge for long rides or multi-day bike tours. With continuous GPS usage, battery consumption can be significant, potentially leaving cyclists without navigation capabilities. To mitigate this challenge, it’s advisable to carry backup power sources, use power-saving modes on devices, or consider dedicated GPS devices with extended battery life.

Improvements in GPS Technology for Cyclists

Better Satellite Coverage

GPS technology for cyclists continues to evolve, offering better satellite coverage and accuracy. With advancements in satellite technology, GPS devices and apps are improving their ability to maintain signals in challenging environments, such as dense urban areas, canyons, or under dense tree canopies. Better satellite coverage enhances navigation reliability and reduces the chances of signal loss during rides.

Integration with Bike Sensors

Integration with bike sensors is an area of improvement in GPS technology for cyclists. Many GPS devices and apps now have the ability to connect with various sensors, such as heart rate monitors, power meters, and cadence sensors. By collecting and analyzing data from these sensors, cyclists can gain insights into their performance, track progress, and make informed training decisions.

Augmented Reality and Heads-Up Displays

Augmented reality (AR) and heads-up displays (HUD) are emerging technologies that have the potential to enhance the GPS experience for cyclists. AR overlays real-time navigation information onto the cyclist’s field of view, providing seamless and intuitive directions without needing to look at a device or map. HUD devices, such as smart glasses, display navigation information directly in the cyclist’s line of sight, allowing for safer and more convenient navigation while keeping their eyes on the road.

In conclusion, the use of GPS for route planning has revolutionized the cycling experience. With accurate navigation, real-time position tracking, and valuable safety features, cyclists can confidently explore new routes and venture into longer rides. The availability of various GPS devices, apps, and websites offers a range of options to cater to different preferences and needs. By considering factors such as road conditions, distance, elevation, and cycling infrastructure, cyclists can plan routes that align with their goals and ensure an enjoyable riding experience. With advanced features, the ability to share and download routes, and helpful tips for effective planning, GPS technology continues to enhance cyclists’ journey. While challenges and limitations exist, improvements in GPS technology, such as better satellite coverage and integration with bike sensors, promise a brighter future for cyclists relying on GPS for route planning. By embracing the benefits and strategies outlined in this article, cyclists can make the most of GPS technology and explore the world on two wheels with confidence and ease.