The purpose of this post is to compare the popular cycling apps, Strava and MapMyRide, in some sort of app-ocalyptic battle to establish which is best.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
Both Strava and MapMyRide are based on a similar principle. You take a GPS device out on your ride to capture where you went. When you’re done, the route and performance details are uploaded to the relevant website, where you can browse, analyse and share with friends.
I’m actually going to take this post quite seriously, which is perhaps something of a change. If you want to see a more flippant (naive?) assessment, you can take a look at my original post on this subject, written way back in the mists of time (or March 2013 as it’s more commonly know).
There were a lot of very useful comments made at the bottom of that post by people far more informed than me. Have a butchers at those, even if you can’t bring yourself to read my own scribblings.
The Pursuit of App-iness
My comparison is based on the following criteria:
- Smartphone App
- Website Design
- Competition and Motivation
- Route Mapping
- Device Compatibility (i.e. which phones/GPS devices can you use with it)
- Premium Features (And Cost)
Let’s dive straight into the detail.
MapMyRide’s app seems very ‘processor intensive’ (I’m not an app developer – I have no idea if that’s the right term). It appears to use battery life very quickly when recording. A number of times whilst using it, the MMR app crashed mid-ride, losing the ride data. This is … somewhat frustrating.
Strava’s app seems a lot more stable and less battery intensive. It doesn’t have adverts. I generally prefer the design aesthetic (I appreciate that’s a personal thang).
Finally, and it’s a little thing, when you load up the MMR app, you need to tap two buttons in order to start recording. In Strava, the ‘Record’ page loads immediately and you simply have to tap the little red button to start
Both systems follow a similar approach with their websites. Once you’ve logged in, you’re presented with a dashboard where you can do various things. Strava’s dashboard is dominated by the ‘Activity Feed’, where you can see the latest rides (and runs) of you and the people you’re following.
MapMyRide focuses more on your own recent performances, providing a chart showing your ride statistics over the preceding week.
Strava’s site is the ‘cleaner’ of the two. There is more white space and no adverts. The problem with the cleaner approach is that it’s not always immediately obvious how to do something, as it may be hidden away as an option on another page. This issue reduces as you get to know the site better.
MapMyRide features adverts in the header, footer and sidebar. It also has an (annoying) popup that keeps, er, popping up to try to persuade you to upgrade to the premium version.
In terms of navigation, it’s easier to find a particular feature directly from the MapMyRide homepage, since each of the navigation menu item has a drop-down with further options.
Competition And Motivation
For many, Strava’s biggest selling point is the ability to compare your performance over a particular course (or ‘segment’ in Strava-code) with everyone else on the system (including a growing number of professional cyclists).
Even if you’re not particularly competitive, it’s surprisingly interesting to compare your times with others, as well as tracking your own progress as you train more.
To reward consistency and effort, Strava has ‘Challenges’. (Surprisingly appealing) digital finishers badges are awarded if you meet the criteria for that challenge (e.g. ride 1,000 miles in January).
MapMyRide also features a competitive/comparison element. Rather than being based purely on best times, rankings are determined by a points system that takes into account times recorded and how frequently the rider has completed the course. To be honest, for me, it all feels a bit muddled.
The competition idea really only works if you have the fastest riders submitting data. Strava attracts the fastest riders and hence the rankings have greater credibility. MapMyRide will find it very difficult to catch up.
MapMyRide wins this one hands down. Go to ‘My Routes’, hit ‘Create Route’ and, er, create a route. Then it’s available to follow on your smartphone using the MMR app.
On Strava, you have to … oh wait, it doesn’t do route mapping.
Panic not, though, as this feature is on the way. Premium members have it currently and it will soon be available for all
Route mapping isn’t a key criteria for me. My phone resides in my jersey pocket rather than on my handlebars so I don’t use it for navigation. If I get lost then I’ll use Google Maps.
That said, if you want routes RIGHT NOW (September 2013), you’ll have to go with…
Data Capture Device Compatibility
Both Strava and MapMyRide have apps for iPhone and Android (which you’d expect).
Strava allows you to upload activity data from your GPS bike computer or watch, but this is limited to devices made by Garmin (the Edge series of bike computers, excluding the 200, and the Forerunner series of watches) and the Timex Run Trainer watch.
UPDATE: As kindly pointed out by Grey in the comments section, you can manually upload .gpx, .fit and .tcx files on the Strava website, thus making it compatible with almost every type of GPS capturing device.
MapMyRide is compatible with a much wider range of GPS devices and other fitness systems, including Garmin, Powertap, Nike, Polar, Fitbit and Timex. It also offers limited support for BlackBerry (presumably for when you’re cycling to an important business meeting.
Winner: MapMyRide (particularly if you don’t own an iPhone/Android/Garmin).
Premium Features & Cost
If you want to pay, MapMyRide offers it’s ‘MVP’ membership for $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year.
For that you get:
- no ads
- various additional analyses (heart rate, power, cadence)
- cycling training plans
- the ability to filter leader boards
- some advanced mapping features (it can determine a suitable route for you, based on start, finish and how far you want to go)
- a live tracking feature.
Strava’s ‘Premium’ membership is available for a similar monthly cost (it’s one cent more…) but the annual cost is $59 (so you only get 18% off for paying annually, rather than MMR’s 58% discount).
As a premium Strava member you get:
- the ability to set performance goals and track your progress
- a ‘Suffer Score’ for each session (a value for how much you ‘suffered’, based on the time spent in each heart rate zone)
- detailed power analysis
- the ability to filter leader boards by age and weight
- routes exportable as GPX files
Winner: It depends… (the additional features are similar; MapMyRide is cheaper – on an annual basis – but you wouldn’t purchase it if you preferred the basic features of Strava… obviously)
And The Overall Winner Is…
Strava. Though I hasten to add that this is only my personal opinion.
I prefer the design of both the Strava app and website – I find both interfaces very easy to use.
The competition element is easy to understand and is more credible (the best cyclists in your local area are more likely to show up on Strava than MapMyRide).
This is entirely subjective, but Strava feels cooler (note: I am in no position to judge what is cool).