Use your iPhone to find or track bike routes

Map your rides with iMapMyRide, a free GPS app for the iPhone.

Hit Record a Workout and hop on your bike. Matt Elliott/CNET

Summer is in full bloom and the Tour de France is in full swing, which makes July a great month for biking. I try to get on my bike once a week during the warmer New England months and have long pined for a Garmin GPS unit to track my ride. How long is my usual loop on the road when the trails are still too soft and wet for mountain biking? Do my times improve over the course of a summer? And more importantly, how do I keep getting turned around in the woods--where am I taking a wrong turn?

Unfortunately, I have felt the answers to those questions weren't worth the hundreds of dollars required for a pricey Garmin GPS. Thankfully, I recently discovered a free iPhone app, iMapMyRide, which provides basic GPS information. The free version is supported by ads and devours battery life, but you can't beat the data for the cost. And on the MapMyRide site, you can find other bikers' routes near where you live.

To record a route with iMapMyRide, create an account and then from the app's home screen, tap the green Record a Workout button. It will show you your current location on the map, tracking you as you go. Tap the Start button and start pedaling. During a ride, you can pause the timer if you stop for a breather or a beverage, before starting the clock again when you hop back on your bike.

iMapMyRide shows your route and the elevation encountered along the way. Matt Elliott/CNET

At the end of the ride, you can save and name your route. You can then view your route, including the elevation and a few statistics. Tap the Routes icon from the app's home screen to view your last 10 routes. And to see stats of those rides, tap the Training icon on the home screen. It shows duration, distance, average speed, and an estimate of the number of calories burned.

Your routes are also uploaded to the MapMyRide site, where you can view your routes on a large map and look at others in your area. When saving a route, you can choose to make it public or private, if you don't want to give away that supersecret and seldom-used trail through the woods. You can also sync the app with Facebook and Twitter, keeping your friends and followers abreast of your bicycling prowess.

Stats include duration, distance, and average speed. Matt Elliott/CNET

In settings, you can enable voice feedback and set the type of information to be delivered by voice (total distance, total time, average pace, current speed, and so on) and the delivery interval (per distance or time). Also, be sure to charge your phone before your ride; as with any GPS tracking app, it eats battery life. I did two quick test-rides yesterday that totaled 2.5 miles, and I lost about 15 percent of my battery. I did have the voice feedback enabled, for what it's worth. The phone also gets hot, continually working to track your location.

The free app is ad supported, but the ads aren't too intrusive. The $1.99 upgrade removes the ads while providing additional functionality including audio cues if you'd like to follow a previously established route and a geo-tagging photo feature.

 

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