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Gone are the days when you’d have to pore over paper maps to find killer training routes in new places. Technology can help you spend less time planning and more time sweating and exploring—safely. Here’s how to make the most of today’s three hottest route finding and prep programs.
Best for: Honing in on what’s hot
Strava’s Heatmaps allow you to quickly find the most popular routes without searching. Simply zero in on an area to see every route ridden; the brighter the color, the more times the route’s been completed. If you’re in a new area, these routes are your best bet to stay safe because you’ll have the confidence that they’re tried and true. Best used to gauge popularity, Heatmaps does not give directions or rider feedback about any route. Try it!
Best for: Finding the exact type of route you want
A searchable database of rides and runs across the country, Mapmyride lets you narrow your search by sport type and distance. It also provides information like elevation gain and details on specific climbs including length and gradient. Every route can be downloaded to your phone to provide turn-by-turn directions. When finished, you can upload your workout data to your Mapmyride account from a variety of devices. This is best used when you want to achieve a specific goal, like covering a certain distance. But it can take some time to find the route you want because of the sheer volume of routes and the lack of a set naming convention. Try it!
Best for: DIY road route invention
For cycling only, Ridewithgps is great for adventurous athletes who want to create their own routes. Click on a map to draw your route. You can choose to avoid highways, and it is set up to optimize your route for safety. It also shows you elevation gain and creates an elevation profile. With a paid subscription, you can create a cue sheet to print or export to your cycling computer (Garmin is the best supported) or phone. You can also get audio prompts. The mobile app lets you record your metrics after every ride. Try it!
Try them together
All three services are free, though each has varying premium levels that grant more functionality for a fee. Each has a web and mobile version, and you can upload data like distance, heart rate and power to all three. But for the ultimate in route design, use two or all three programs before heading out.
For example, try glancing at a Strava Heatmap for a solid starting point, then use directions from Mapmyride to make sure you stay on course.
Athletes with time on their hands in the airport, or who are bored with the same old routes, could use all three services together. Finding a less popular route on Heatmaps may lead you to a gem that is off the beaten path, but it may also be less popular for a reason, so use caution; try searching the area you found on Heatmaps on Mapmyride or Ridewithgps. Ridewithgps has photos, and both services have route data, so you can get a more complete picture of what you’re getting into. Or there may be a route you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know how to link it up with your starting point. Both services offer keyword search, so do some quick sleuthing to see if someone has already done the research for you.
Now take that great route and go explore.