Our devices for our trip: Samsung galaxy s tab 8.4 (one of two) & Sony Experia Z3 Compact (Mine, Suyin has a IPhone 4s)
We already owned two fantastic tablets and smart phones so we wanted to avoid spending extra money on a dedicated GPS unit or a trip computer (a.k.a nav man for a bike). Smart devices have so many apps and options now, so we decided to try our luck with free apps and location services built into these.
So how do we navigate?
So far we have been lucky enough to have WiFi at start of our days such as at campgrounds, hotels, as well as grocery stores, town squares and even cafes. This means I can preload a navigation route for the day using Google Maps. Once I have loaded in the route I select Bike as the transport type and we can simply follow the blue line to our destination. The phone’s inbuilt GPS works without WiFi so a little blue dot (our location) shows us where we are. The downside of Google Maps without WiFi is that you cannot change the route or zoom right into a very detailed street level (Zoom still works but only to a point).
To seek out alternative routes during the day without WiFi or simply find supermarkets, atms, restaurants, hotels or attractions we are using the free online maps app: Maps.Me.
Maps.Me allows you to download offline maps for a city or an entire country and even includes turn-by-turn navigation without the need of an internet connection. However Maps.Me navigation and route planning is only for a car, which is not too helpful when you are following bike paths that are separate to the roads or quiet streets without a lot of traffic. Hence why we use still use Google Maps as our primary mapping tool.
What about recording trip details?
To record our journey/s and to keep track of information such as average speed, elevation etc, we use the free cycling and running app called Strava. By hitting ‘Record Activity’ Strava captures our GPS data during the day and plots it out on a map which we can access at our next WiFi hotspot. With an app like Strava we feel that a bike trip computer is quite redundant.
Strava maps all your individual trips but what if you want to show them all on one map?
This being a bike tour across countries we were really interested in piecing together our rides onto one single map, which actually is one of the key benefits of having a dedicated GPS unit. But again we want to stick to free tools.
After searching around online for hours and beginning to give up hope I came across a fantastic online tool developed by a man named Jonathan O’Keefe which ties together Strava rides into a single map as shown on our site.
“This free tool allows you to display multiple Strava rides together on a single map. You can map rides for a given user, or see all rides that pass through a given segment. This allows you to see a map of everywhere you’ve ridden this year, or to see what routes other riders in your area are riding.” – Jonathan O’Keefe
You can even throw in dates and keywords to filter which events are shown in the mapping tool.
What if all of our fancy technology fails us?
Put our trust into an age-old technology: street signs and continue in the general direction that we are heading.
Besides getting lost can be half the fun.