In honor of iPhone Day, we put together a list of some of our favorite iPhone bike apps and Android apps for people who bike in the city. The newest generations of smartphones are some of the best bike accessories ever, with some really cool new bike apps now available that make city biking even more fun and easy. From navigation to weather to fitness tracking, here’s a quick list of some of the apps that have earned a permanent place on our home screens.
Got a better app that we should know about? We are always looking for ways to make city biking smarter, easier, and more fun. If you are interested in developing a new bike app or gadget, get in touch. We are always interested in strategic partnerships to develop smart new bike gear.
Google Maps for Mobile
Turn-by-turn GPS bike navigation
After Apple ditched Google’s maps for the iPhone 5, Google soon released their own new version of the Google Maps app
for iPhone. It surpassed the original in most ways, and recently it even added bike-friendly directions, something Android users already enjoyed, and Apple’s maps never offered. While its bike directions are still sometimes a bit odd, Google Maps has been continuously improving its map data for a decade now, and it’s one of the only apps available with turn-by-turn voice navigation for your bike, just like in a car. (Pro tip: tuck your phone in your shirt or jacket’s breast pocket to hear the speaker while riding. Also a great way to add some jams to your ride.) The Android version also has some cool extras like an elevation chart to see how steep your route will be. For a quick way to plan a bike ride across almost any city, the Google Maps app deserves a place in every biker’s pocket.
All your transit options in one clever app
The mission statement of Citymapper
is to “make cities easier to use,” and at PUBLIC we think that’s pretty cool. Since they recently added directions for the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s quickly become one of our favorite apps for getting around town. It scouts out every available transportation option to help you find the smartest possible routes. You can plan a trip by bike, bus, ferry, train, taxi, or walking, and even city bike sharing systems if you don’t have your own bike with you. It packs in a ton of features without feeling too cluttered, and even makes room for some clever jokes, like showing the calories burned on your bike ride in units of soy lattes or $4 artisanal toast. While the new Bay Area bike directions could still use some improvement, the app overall is very thoughtfully designed, with lots of cheeky details that make your commute a little more fun. Plan a trip by catapult or teleporter and you’ll see what I mean.
Bike Maps – by Maplets
Curated, downloadable bike maps for your local area
99 cents: iPhone
| $2.99: Android
Before the iPhone era, the state of the art bike maps were on paper, showing the official bike infrastructure of the city. These local maps are often quite carefully designed for city bikers, and they encourage you to build your own knowledge of your city’s bike routes rather than relying on GPS instructions. The Bike Maps – by Maplets
app brings these bike maps to your phone, with an extensive list of maps available for your local area. Once downloaded, they can be navigated offline, saving your battery and data plan. My local favorite is the San Francisco Bike and Walking Map
, which shades every street in the city according to its steepness. Crucial, because I am a big wimp about hills. You can make notes and draw routes to remember your favorite spots, and some maps allow you to overlay your current GPS location. The map collection is extensive, including parks and off-road trails, so you’re sure to find some new rides. Well worth the paid download.
Good weather reports are crucial for bike commuters to know what clothes to wear or pack for a dry day at work. Especially in the legendary San Francisco microclimates, a good weather app should pinpoint your precise location for the most accurate information. Forecast.io
is the best designed free mobile weather app I’ve found, with a proprietary API that compiles 19 different sources of weather data to provide a simple accurate forecast at a glance, with a cool scrolling timeline view. When rain is looming, the screen adds a little precipitation chart that predicts how wet the next hour will be – great for picking the best time to ride home in between rain showers. It’s a free web app that works on any smartphone, tablet, or computer just by visiting http://forecast.io
in your browser. If you like what they do, check out their Dark Sky app
for iPhone which offers rain notification messages.
IFTTT – if this then that
Customizable weather alerts (plus a million other possibilities)
IFTTT offers all-purpose internet wiring to connect different websites and online services together and make all kinds of cool things happen. One useful way to use IFTTT for biking is to create personalized weather reports that automatically send you an email, text, or app notification when rain is in the forecast, so you’ll never be caught without a raincoat again. Just sign up for free and make this recipe: If Weather:Tomorrow’s forecast calls for… Rain, Then SMS:Send me an SMS. Instead of a text message, you can also choose an email, or a notification from the mobile app. You can set this all up on ifttt.com, but the mobile apps are also quite slick and they enable some extra features like app notifications. Here’s a link to my recipe
if you want to use it to get started!
If you’re interested in activity tracking but aren’t quite ready to commit to a Fitbit, the free Moves
app offers simple movement tracking throughout the day using just your phone. Automatically detecting whether you’re walking, running, or biking, it generates an elegant daily and weekly journal of your activity in terms of steps taken, miles traveled, calories burned, and time spent moving, to motivate your fitness goals. (Not for the paranoid – you end up with a detailed list of every place you visit.) You can also use it to record other activities and workouts, and it can share your activity data with more heavy duty fitness apps. It oddly doesn’t include any kind of goal setting features, but at least its simplicity offers a pleasant, zen experience. It thankfully includes a Battery Saving mode to make sure your phone doesn’t tire out before you do.
Definitely the most popular app for the lycra wearing crowd, Strava
turns your phone into a bike computer to calculate all kinds of fitness data while you ride, like calories, miles, elevation, speed, and mapping your route on GPS. It awards you for personal best records and keeps track of your cumulative rides and runs over the course of the year. Our product manager Aaron recently used Strava to track his progress as he rode every street in San Francisco
. What makes Strava different is its heavy emphasis on social networking, with a news feed of the rides your friends are taking, local leaderboard rankings of the most popular spots around town, and regular challenges to motivate you to ride. Its ride mapping has also inspired a new genre of bike route art that’s most notably led to a marriage proposal
spelled out street by street. Top that one, Aaron!
Did we miss your favorite bike app? Tell us what’s on your home screen in the comments below.