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Using a GPS unit while mountain biking offers many excellent opportunities: tracking fitness goals, navigating unfamiliar trails, and documenting and sharing your adventures are just a few of the advantages of bringing a GPS along on your rides. But GPS units can be expensive, and while they may be advantageous, it can be difficult for some to justify the expense.

I started taking a GPS unit on my mountain bike rides 15 years ago, and on the rare occasions when I forgot my GPS or it didn’t work, I found myself sorely missing it. At the height of my GPS addiction, I owned half a dozen different units. Then, smartphones came along, and I stopped carrying GPS units on my rides entirely. (The only exception is if I’m testing a GPS unit for review purposes.)

What happened? Well, for me, it turns out smartphone GPS apps are more convenient than their standalone GPS unit counterparts. Apps allow me to instantly transfer and share my GPS data, and I’m already carrying my phone on every ride, so why not use it? Yes, there are pros and cons to both smartphone apps and dedicated GPS units but for me, the balance of tradeoffs favors using a smartphone app on the trail.

So, what are the best GPS apps for mountain biking? There are easily hundreds of GPS apps for both iPhone and Android, but if you’re just getting started or are looking to try something new, here are the apps you need to know about. All of the following apps are available for both iPhone and Android, except where noted.

Fitbit (free)

fitbit

Sure, Fitbit sells their own devices, including a GPS-enabled unit, but did you know their free app functions as a GPS tracker? The app is really easy to use and looks great, and although it’s geared more toward running than cycling, the GPS function tracks your distance and time plus it displays a map showing your current position and where you’ve been.

Use this if: You’re only concerned with very basic information about your rides or you’re already invested in the Fitbit ecosystem. If you want to share your ride data outside of Fitbit or want cycling-specific metrics like speed or calories burned, this app isn’t for you.

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# Comments

    • JOEKADZBAN

      It may – I know Endomondo does, because it uses GPS and not cell data to compute. Go give it a ride and find out!

  • JOEKADZBAN

    I’ve been using endomondo for four years. Being familiar with it, I have also gotten attached to it. It has all the bells and whistles and has a neat history function as well. And it can be connected to a host of other sensors for heart rate, etc…
    Give it a try. I think you’ll like it too!

    • Jeff Barber

      Yes, I should have included Endomondo! This app seems to be one of the most popular among Android users. Looks like there is now an iPhone version of the app as well.

  • djcmmoore

    AllTrails is my second most used GPS, Tracking and trail app in addition to Strava. I really like the way it maps a ride and tracks where you are in real time. Many times in the woods when I am lost or wondering which way to go, I just look at the map and it shows where I currently am on the trail and all the different trails along my ride. Makes it easy to choose the right turnoff in the middle of a wilderness.

    I think this is tied in with Singletracks. I have tried many different apps and keep coming back to AllTrails, it along with Singletracks and Mountain Bike Project are the best for finding new trails to ride. Doing a lot of travelling I always have my bike. When there is time, I open these apps and find trails near me to ride with directions to the trail head.

    Great stuff!

    Happy Trails and Merry Christmas

    • Jeff Barber

      Thanks for the Singletracks mention. I don’t really consider our app to be a GPS replacement since it doesn’t track speed or distance or anything like that–it’s meant to be more of a map substitute than a GPS competitor.

      Cheers!

  • j.hanners

    I have had Cyclemeter for a couple of years. Inexpensive app that tracks my ride, stopped time and ride time calculated, elevation ascent and decent, avg. speed, split times with map of the ride, graphs of ride and more that I don’t use. It will email to address chosen as soon as completed. I email myself to pull up on my computer thru a link to your specific ride but could email someone I know who may compete with me on a given ride at a different time. I enjoy this app.as it shows a map of my ride broken into miles. It also will work for running, walking etc.It does not find or show though, it just maps what was rode anywhere.

  • Big ragu

    Runkeeper pairs with a heart rate monitor. I do it regularly. I have a Samsung 6 edge and use a Wahoo chest strap to connect via Bluetooth. Works very well and will show your heart rate at any given spot on the mapped ride, etc.

  • streakie

    Downloaded this app,
    Chose method of login
    App wold not open for use until I allowed screen overlay, which was already enabled
    Then it wanted contacts permission, which were allowed,
    App then went back to overlay message requiring enabled, which was enabled
    And asked for contacts permission which was again allowed,
    And repeat,,,,
    So I uninstalled it, as if this cant work I cant use the app

    • Jeff Barber

      Which app are you talking about?

  • GTXC4

    Runtastic Mountain Bike Pro has outperformed Map My Ride everytime. I run them both and Runtastic will track very well out in remote areas, like out in Moab and surrounding areas, you know places where you’re away from towers. Since Under Armor took Map My Ride, I’ve found it to be more intermittent and less reliable with each update. Just mine experience there. Take care.

    -GT

  • Roberto Bernal

    Deberias probar y analizar una app llamada oruxmaps, es sencillamente la app definitiva para cualquer actividad deportiva, es increible!!!!

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