7 Free and Inexpensive Apps that Turn Your Smartphone into a GPS for Mountain Biking

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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)

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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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