Best cycle app: Strava or MapMyRide?

I like to look at maps. I like to plan routes. I am quite obsessed with knowing where I have been.

Not all who wander are lost

JRR Tolkien

When I first moved to London, I used to walk excessive distances on a weekend, taking delight in piecing together seemingly disjointed sections of the tube map, beginning to understand how it all fitted together.

I also like data (to a degree – nothing against stats nerds, but I’m not one).

One of my first purchases after getting my road bike (to commute on, primarily), after the obligatory lights, locks and helmet, was a cycle computer. I wanted to know how far I’d been and how fast I’d travelled (or not, as the case may be).

When I upgraded to my next cycle computer (a Polar CS200), I fastidiously logged in to the Polar website at the conclusion of each commute, in order to record each data point it had captured during the pothole- and profanity-strewn ride.

I never logged cadence though, since this is a mythical piece of data that no human-built machine is capable of sensing or recording. I digress.

Cycling apps on a smartphone (in my case a labouring iPhone 3GS) were made for me.

UPDATE: Brief Interlude

I have published an updated version (September 2013) of this post, which you can read here.

Alternatively, keep reading this post and sorry for the interruption…

Map My Ride, Record My Disappointments

My route-recording odyssey started with MapMyRide, one of a suite of apps for mapping outdoors activities (running, hiking, walking, hopping etc).

I loved the way that I could just set the app recording, shove my phone in my pocket (where it was going to reside anyway) and, upon returning home, be able to analyse each climb and descent in infinite detail (whilst dressed as Gary Imlach).

Saying that, I didn’t love the way that MapMyRide sometimes took an age to boot up and, on one occasion, simply stopped recording half way through a ride.

I’m pretty sure this was due to me having my iPhone full to the brim with memory-intensive apps and downloads (including all my personal development podcasts). When I deleted all the junk, the MapMyRide app did start to run more quickly and reliably (although I’m afraid my personal ‘growth’ has now stalled somewhat).

What I particularly liked was when MapMyRide determined that I had ridden ‘a categorised climb’. I don’t know how they (or the other cycling apps that do the same thing) decide which category a climb falls into, or how they relate to official race classifications (I doubt they do at all). All that matters to me is that someone (a computer algorithm in this case) noticed that I spent some time on my bike going up hill and congratulated me on my achievement. Or at least noticed it. By way of a computer program.

Being able to refer to known ‘categorised climbs’ also allowed me to discuss routes with my ‘cycling buddies’ (my sister and her fiance) in terms more coherent than, ‘you know, that road that goes past the farm … narrow … with hedges’. We can now describe the course of a route by its position in relation to memorable categorised climbs in the vicinity

First Steps in Strava

Strava is my new app for 2013 (which demonstrates that I’m not exactly the early adopter type).

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I’d heard of Strava but couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about. Then I read this article from Outside magazine, which inspired me to give it a try.

Now you won’t see me with any King of the Mountain awards – as far as I can see, I rank in the bottom 10-20% on any climb of note near where I live. But I do enjoy knowing where the segments (as I think Strava calls them) are, and, if I’m feeling good, seeing if I can beat my previous best time.

If you have a Garmin cycle computer (which sadly I do not), you can use it to upload ride data directly to the Strava website, or you can simply use the app to record from a smartphone.

I’ve found the app to be much quicker to load than MapMyRide. All the Strava app needs to start recording is a single finger prod to the screen. With MapMyRide, you need to navigate through a couple of screens and specify the activity you’re about to do – time consuming when all you want to do is to get your gloves on and get going (it’s still cold here in London).

Unlike MapMyRide, Strava doesn’t have in-app mapping (and shake it all about.. ahem). At least I haven’t found it if it does. But if that is one of the factors that makes the MMR app sluggish, then I’m happy for it not to be in Strava.

If you do need to locate yourself, you can always use the Google Maps app (other maps are available). Strava runs quite happily in the background whilst you do so.

You can even follow me and give me ‘kudos’ (dude) if you’re impressed with my performance. Ironic kudos is perfectly acceptable, at least in the UK. Those of you that didn’t click on the Strava link above, will not have realised that it was a link to my profile. Whoops, here it is again.

I’m Calling It For Strava

It’s early days. I’ve only been on Strava since mid-January.

So far I’m finding it more usable and reliable than MapMyRide.

It seems somehow cooler (though I’m hardly qualified to comment). Even the pros use it, though not when they’re doing this.

I’m going to keep using it for the time being.

When someone (my wife) finally agrees that a Garmin Edge 510 would be the perfect birthday gift (for me or her), I’ll be able to try it and Strava together and report back.

Which Cycling App Do You Use?

I open it to the floor. Help me to help you to help me. Comment in the handy box below please.

A maven … is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word … comes from Hebrew, via Yiddish… – 


Are you a MapMyRide maven?

A stickler for Strava? (!?!)

Or do you use something else – another app (Endomondo, others?), an Excel sheet or a piece of paper?

If you have any advice as to how I can get best use out of Strava or any other cycling app, then I’d love to hear it.

Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

39 thoughts on “Best cycle app: Strava or MapMyRide?”

  1. Garmin Connect (to plot routes for my edge 800), Strava (to record rides, get inspiration/motivation from clubmates, and sign up to things like the 1,319km Spring Series challenge) and TrainingPeaks (for a chart i can barely understand but that seems to show I’m getting fitter!).
    Not been using Strava long but its the best of the bunch, imo.
    I have lots of issues with my Edge, which I find 100% useless as a navigational tool – some how I seem to have selected the “always tell me to turn in the opposite direction to the way I should be going” option and can’t figure out how to undo it. 🙂

    • Thanks Katherine. Interesting about the Edge 800 – I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t get enough out of the maps on the 800/810 for the extra that it costs. Now it’s whether I can justify the 510 over a 500. The Garmin video makes it look very cool (provided you live in Girona…)

  2. Hi There. I’m also running Stava on an ageing iPhone 3GS. Very smile and reliable, and a good online community, but it eats the battery so isn’t reliable for a full day on the road touring around. Interested if anyone has better experience on an iPhone 4 or 5.
    Also, some guys in the club have Garmin devices linked to their Strava account which can alert them to an upcoming ‘segment’ to put in that extra burst of effort.

    • Hi Ian. Thanks for your comment. From what I’ve read, the iPhone 4 and 5 (and any smartphone) share the same problem, even if the battery is newer/better. They can’t power a screen/the GPS for a ride longer than 3-4 hours. In addition to a dedicated GPS device like the Garmin, there are units you can get which act as handlebar-mounted (low-power) displays for your phone (i.e. using the phone’s GPS). This solves the battery-munching impact of the phone screen. Won’t be much use to me – my iPhone stays in my pocket with the screen off and it’s still cooked after 3 or so hours…

      • I think the strava app is a very good and reliable measure to record the ride, but not a very good one as a monitor device, not only because of the battery life, but also because the screen is not very viewable under the sun. I am now using a combination of an old speed/cadence computer, my iPhone, and a Polar HRM. It’s messy i know, but i believe the update of apps on my iphone will be faster, and iPhone links to different sensors easily, you don’t need to upgrade your watch or computer very often to catch up the innovation. And I also run and hike, the HRM and the App also work for them.

        • Thanks for the comment. You’re right that Strava is more a tool for measuring and recording, rather than as a “head up display”/dashboard. Maybe that will come in the future, when smartphones achieve the battery lives that will allow them to compete with the dedicated bike GPS devices. You’ve got to imagine that smartphones will increasingly be the hub around which monitoring/recording setups are built (the two new Garmins use phone connections to allow cyclists to be tracked in real time). So you’re iPhone/HRM setup is ahead of the game!

  3. Hello all. I also am using the stava bicycle app. Along with that I am using the ibike Bluetooth speed and cadence sensors. In case you didn’t know. I’m told by Strava support that the app doesn’t actually use the Bluetooth sensor to determine the speed, it actually uses the GPS. He didn’t know why this is so. Support said maybe in a future update it will actually use the sensor to calculate the speed. All in all though I love the Strava bicycle app.
    My Strava ID is app.strava/athletes/2105466

  4. I ride a Giant TCR 0 which has a Giant Neo Pros +ANT computer. Now all I need to do I guess is work out what GPS device I should acquire. Any suggestions appreciated.

  5. I used Strava for the first time this evening and was disappointed to return home to see it only recorded the last half of my ride for some reason. Being I’m new to it I’ll give it another go as it could possibly been user error.

    I’ve only been cycling for a few months and prior to Strava I’ve been using Cardio Trainer which has been good and seems accurate when I spot check it. The things that I like about Cardio Trainer that thus far that seem to be missing is Strava is audible info updates during the ride. Cardio Trainer gives you average speed, time and distance updates throughout your ride, which I fond helpful without scrolling through my cheap cycle computer. The bad is Cardio Trainer has seemed to checked out an no longer updates the app. While I have had issues thus far I would think in time this could change. Strava on the other hand was recommend by a friend so we could view each others progress, which I do like and Cardio Trainer does not offer.

  6. Sadly I use both MMR and Stava on every ride. I can’t decide between the two. I did skip the Garmin and picked up a pretty cool mount called Quadlock for my iPhone 5. Works great so long as iPhone battery lasts. No epic rides for me so all good.

  7. I started off using Strava because everyone was praising it “Even the Pros use it”. But I needed to know my actual speed at the time not my average speed. I need to know when I should pick up the cadence. Strava doesn’t have this option not even as premium. Plus with MMR I can turn off the screen and it still records and saves the battery. It did freeze on me once but all I did was turn off my phone and when I turned it back on MMR was still recording my route even while the phone was off for about 3 mins. It was my phone that froze up not the app. I’m sticking with MMR.

    • Thanks Dave. To be honest, I only used Strava on the iphone to record my trip, rather than as a cycling computer, so I’m not qualified to comment on what data it displays on the fly. It did, however, record whilst the screen was off (my old 3GS would rapidly die if I had the screen on as well as GPS etc). Now I use a Garmin Edge to record things and upload to Strava later, which has worked well for me.

      I’m not a Strava zealot though (!) – if MMR works best for you, that’s cool!

  8. Andrew,
    Before entering the smartphone world in late 2012 I used a simple cycling computer and an excel spreadsheet while occasionally reaching to Google Earth to figure out my elevation gain.
    Once I purchased my first smartphone, one of the first apps I downloaded was MapMyRide. I have been very pleased with MapMyRide simply because I didn’t know what else was out there.
    About a month ago, I downloaded Strava and began tracking my routes with that app.
    In summary, I am going to stick with MMR for a few reasons:
    – The competitive nature of Strava constantly depresses me, and I have become so wrapped up in my place on the leaderboard that riding isn’t fun anymore.
    – As an athlete, I am interested in much more than just my cycling stats and MMR allows me to track my data from Mountain Climbing, Lifting at the gym, swimming, and much more. With these features I can get a much better picture of my training progress.
    – I find that both apps drain your battery, and as a mountain biker/climber I find myself in areas with limited or no phone service (which will draw your battery quicker than any app), so I find myself starting mapping routes and mapping until my phone dies. With MMR, the route is saved and synced once you turn your phone back on, with Strava all of your data is lost if your phone dies.
    – In the case that your data is lost or you don’t log at all, MMR allows you to create a map of your route manually, enter your elapsed time, and it will calculate your calories and place it appropriately in your training log. You cannot manually map your route in Strava.

    So basically it comes down to what I want to get out of my fitness?
    I don’t have an interest in racing. I want to have fun and I’ll get there when I get there, but I want to know when I get there compared to when I got there the last time.

    • Wow James. Thanks for your detailed comment.

      I certainly agree it comes down to what you want out of your cycling app. I quite enjoy the competitive comparison element of Strava (perhaps because I’m so far away from actually being ‘competitive’ from a fitness perspective).

      One worrying aspect of Strava that I’ve been reading about recently is that they seem to have become increasingly protective of the data they capture. Third party users of the Strava API have in some cases been cut off without notice. In the modern web/app age, trying to be a closed system rather than an open one, may not be a wise decision. I guess we’ll see.

      In any event, glad to hear MMR is working for you (as it does for many other users).

      Best, Andrew

  9. I rolled onto this page when I was checking to see if Strava and MMR can both simultaneously run without issue. Seems they both can, just drain the battery faster – no problem.

    I read further to investigate whether I’d be happier going ‘Premium’ or ‘MVP’.

    I started with Strava (free), but it has some negative factors that bother me:
    (1) You can’t pre-map a ride. I log into MMR to pre-map my rides and determine distance, hill grades and bike path availability.
    (2) You can’t manually enter a ride that you were unable to log, or had hardware/softare fail on you during the ride.
    (3) More of my friends use MMR than Strava, I think mainly because MMR has better nomenclature.

    I looked into MMR, but found these problems:
    (1) You can’t export rides into GPX files to import to other tracking sites like Strava. You can export CSV files with general data, however, but it can’t be imported to antoher site.
    (2) The look and feel is just messy and feels half-assed. Maybe it’s because of the ridiculous advertisements. Can’t see many rides on the dashboard and I don’t know where friend’s rides show up.
    (3) It’s lacking the competitive feel, a little less motivating for me to get better.

    For the time being I’m going to hold on upgrading on either site. I’m going to stick with Strava (free) as primary, and export the GPX files from Strava to MMR (so I don’t need to record both at once), and use MMR (free) to plan routes.

    Why? Because Strava has a cleaner, simpler interface (both on the site and on the app) and allows me to export GPX files, and I don’t need to plan routes every day.

  10. Being a newly reborn cyclist I was looking for an app to track workouts and measure my progress. So, downloaded Strava, MMR, runkeeper among others. Now it’s narrowed down to the two under discussion here.
    Thing that surprises me is the disparity of the output. On distance no worries as they always seem to be within 10om of each other. However, cumulative climb is often way off. For example I went out for a scoot Saturday morning. Both measured 48.4km but strava said 1532m of gain whilst MMR said 829m. Strava is often way more than MMR and I’ve been using both on each ride to compare. This evening strava said 553m climbing in 18.5kms whilst MMR said 617m climbed in 18.6
    So I reckon I’ll stick with strava for the buddies system as I just need to log workouts and (hopefully) improvement in time as I progress. Nice to get the little cups in strava for personal best over same routes.
    Makes it all worth while.

    • Another issue nobody has raised: when the app (either one) loses GPS, it pauses the recording. Fair enough, it doesn’t know where you are. When GPS recovers, however, neither app will resume recording on its own, instead waiting with a “workout paused, continue or end?” dialog box. Like Andrew, my iPhone is in a jersey pocket, so I won’t see this for many miles. If you “resume”, your route includes a magic carpet ride from the spot you lost GPS to the spot you are now. Useless! The MMR web site has a “road follow” feature when you are building routes at your PC, it should be incorporated into the app to address the “gap in GPS” issue. And it should happen without my intervention. I’m riding to RIDE, not to gather data, the data is secondary (if even that high). Oddly enough, another app that is otherwise inferior to the two under discussion, iFit, seems to have this feature. Poor accuracy and a messy user interface, but it handles gaps the right way.
      Several other comments: Ian asked if the iPhone 4 or 5 has better battery performance than the 3: Yes, and by a good margin. A 3.5 hour ride which would have just about zeroed out my 3GS battery ran my 4S down from full to 45%, running Strava and MMR simultaneously. For century rides I use a Mophie, but often don’t have to switch it on until the end of the ride, 8 or 9 hours of both apps running (screen off, like Andrew)
      Chris wants to export from MMR: you used to be able to do this, and I wish they would bring it back! I had Excel spreadsheets with climb analysis, speed vs incline charts, etc; can’t do it anymore.
      Robbo brings up the climb accuracy issue. I have the same complaint, but where MMR gives him better climb results, I’m finding Strava’s numbers more reasonable on my roads. I rode 51.2 miles today, with Strava and MMR agreeing on the distance within 0.1 miles. Strava had me climbing 2,800 feet, which feels about right, while MMR gave me a whopping 4,200 feet!

      • Great comment John. Thank you. An awful lot of people use Strava and MMR at the same time!

        In terms of climbing accuracy, I’m still confused by the correction feature when I upload Garmin data (which has altitude in there, determined by the altimeter in the GPS device). Is the Garmin more accurate than Strava’s map-based data? Seems odd that Strava and MMR can be so wildly different when I guess they use similar ‘raw’ mapping information. Maybe one to explore in more detail in another post.

        Thanks again for your comment!

  11. I upgraded to MMR MVP because it allow my wife to track where I am while riding in the countryside. There is often no cell reception where I ride and little to know traffic so if I don’t come home in a reasonable amount of time she knows where to look for me! Does Strava do this as well?

  12. Take a look at endomono, I use that and upload data to Strava also, both have their good bits.

    I use endomondo because of the speech updates during a ride. I have done a 62 mile ride with speech on using a HTC one and battery still had 38% left at the end. Strava said speech is unsafe so they won’t add it. Although I believe if Premium there is some speech about segments? I am not fast, I ride to lose weight and for fitness. I just like knowing how far I have gone, how long it has taken etc and how I am doing against a previous workout of the same distance.

  13. I really dom’t get it…

    Everyone uses Strava…. but strava is the worst out of cyclemeter and mapmyride. The only thing good about it is that everyone uses it so as a social comparison / leaderboard app – its the best.

    But why does everyone use it?

    The App is rubbish – only letting you look at averarge speed / distance when riding – whereas the options on both cyclemeter and mapmyride are huge…

    The Website is rubbish, the options and content on mapmyride and cyclemeter are far better…

    The saving grace is that you can import tcx / gpx files into strava (you can also with mapmyride) so you can use another app as your core app and upload your rides to strava and compare them with your friends / leaderboards

    If more people used mapmyride, strava would die a death very soon

    • Hi And(rew?),

      Thanks for your comment. Great to have some robust views. It’s a while since I’ve used MMR (and I haven’t used Cyclemeter) but I can imagine what you’re saying is right (though I must admit I don’t like the adverts on MMR and find it a little cluttered).

      With Strava, it’s all about the social aspect. If I want to know what time the best riders can do a particular climb, Strava will give the best estimate. I can compare my times with those (and emit a gentle sob). The faster riders appear to use Strava – achieving that has been a massive win for the company.

      I wonder whether, and how, things will change in the future.

  14. Hi! I ride and run (elder duathlete wannabe) and use Strava, Training Peaks and as default Garmin Connect (I have a Garmin 910xt). Training Peaks is the best for… TRAINING, especially in multisports. As an engineer I love stats, graphs, etc.

    I like Strava because of:

    1) The social aspect (mainly)
    2) The segments (which is basically the social aspect again!)
    3) the clean interface
    4) the pros use it… and it is nice to have their data!!! It puts your training in perspective

    So… my reference tool is TP. My social tool Strava. My repository of all activities… Garmin connect. I do not record my rides with my android device (LG Optimus L9)… when I do it, is normally as a backup of my Garmin record (a long ride? doubts about the battery of the 910xt?), or because I forgot to take it with me for that run/ride…


    • Thanks Andrea. You seem to have a strong handle on things. I have a Garmin (Edge 510) but I tend to store my ride data in Strava (plus, whisper it, I have my own ride data spreadsheet…). Why do you use Connect as well?

      • Well… I do not “use” Garmin Connet specifically. When I download the data to the pc it goes automatically to Garmin Connect. It is kind of a backup. I am also recording R-R data (HRV, since december with the 910xt), so the .FIT file is also recorded. Upload to GC is straightforward and… basically it is there. A useful aspect of Connect is the “search” options. I am planning a “powerman duathlon” this year or the next one (and this guy is hilly). Using GC I got some TCX files from other runners/riders for that course so I can gauge its difficulty. Another useful thing is that it records temperature and wind from a nearby weather station. If I do not register the wether conditions, I have an approximate reminder!

        I forgot to mention… I am also recording R-R data (HRV, since december with the 910xt), so the .FIT file is also recorded. I started using ALSO Firstbeat athlete. Unfortunatley it seems focused mainly on running. But it is nice to have estimates of EPOC, VO2MAX etc… They are the same algorithms as the ones in the 910, 610 and 620 series… (or suunto or timex).

        Of course, in all tools availabe, there are some positive aspects and some lacking…. In my perfect world, TP shoud add Firstbeat technology + The strava social aspect. Another plus for TP, it has a nice forum/system for requesting new features, with a decent voting system and follow up of new issues/features/etc.

        (also whispering… I also have a huge Excel file!!! I derived estimates of TP Training Stress Scores and some metrics by myself!)


  15. I realize this blog is 3 years old; but I’m going to comment anyway. I use Cyclemeter for iPhone. Coupled with my speed/cadence sensor and my heart rate monitor, it gives me all of the data I could want on one or more customizable screens (including a map). It also sends all of my data to Strava automatically!


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