The Best Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring (Updated 2017)

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The Best Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring | Long Haul Trekkers

(Updated: April 2017. After completing our South America tour, we felt it was important to update this post with new content. We often get questions about specific apps and our intention is to cover applications that are useful for offline mapping tools for cycle touring, not tracking distances, or social features.)

As we’ve traversed Europe and South America during our cycle tour, we have become quite familiar with the various offline navigation mapping apps. Given that we have used an Apple iPhone, an Android tablet, and a Mac laptop, we are no strangers to the variety of tools available. Below, we provide a review of some of the best offline mapping tools for cycle touring.

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Phone and Tablet

1. OsmAnd 

Android and iOS | $6.99 | www.osmand.net

OsAndm night mode turn-by-turn directions. Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring.

OsAndm night mode turn-by-turn directions.

Pros: It has several must have features for cycle touring like cycle route overlays, turn-by-turn directions, contour lines and hill shading, GPS coordinate mapping, and point-of-interest searching for things like camp sites and grocery stores. We are huge fans of the offline Wikipedia articles based on geo-location. When you cycle into a town and see an interesting monument, you have the ability to immediately and easily pull-up the article without an Internet connection.

We also love the “more details” and “road quality” features. This has been useful when touring in Albania where the roads can be suspect and can easily ruin your day. No other app offers this amount of detail and information with such ease.

Another feature that has been invaluable is the contour lines package. We often encounter multiple route options when planning. The contour lines feature gives us the ability to compare the hills and climbs on different routes. This has saved our legs and quads many times.

Cons: The user interface takes a little getting used to and you have to manually enable the cycle maps overlay. It can be slow to load when you add several map overlays like contour lines, hill-shades, and cycling routes. It’s initially free, though, you’re limited to only a few offline downloads. If you’re cycle touring, it’s easy to burn through a few free maps.

The iOS version is not nearly as powerful as the Android version. When we tested the iOS version it lacked turn-by-turn directions and was incredibly slow on our older iPhone 4. With an updated iPhone 6s, the app ran much faster and without issue.

Cost: Free for a few map downloads. $6.99 for unlimited map downloading. $1.99 for contour lines.

Bottom line: From our experience, this is an excellent offline-mapping tool, especially in Europe or well-developed countries.  It’s worth the money to get the contour lines if you want to size up a hill while being offline. The interface takes a little getting used to, however, anyone can pick it up after a little experimenting. 

(2017 update) In South America we found ourselves not using OsmAnd, as it wasn’t very accurate with road qualities and didn’t have nearly the same amount of Points of Interest as other applications. We actually stopped using it all together and saved the download space on our phones. See below for more information on what we used. Hint hint, it ends in .Me. 

2. Orux 

Orux using the distance between two points functionality. Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring.

Orux using the distance between two points functionality.

Android | Free | www.oruxmaps.com 

Pros: Orux gets a lot of mentions for being one of the best offline navigation app on various social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, etc.) We gave Orux a try and noticed its comprehensive and expert-like features. Orux has a plethora of options, overlays, and GPS mapping tools. It has everything you could possibly want in an app and more. Plus, it’s free.

Cons: The user interface is difficult to use. I spent about 30 minutes trying to understand it and eventually realized that it wasn’t worth the time with other easier-to-use mapping tools available. A deer in headlights look consumed my face.

Cost: Free

Bottom line: This app has everything. If you’re willing to invest the time into learning the interface, it may be worth it. We didn’t use the GPS file loading, however, Orux’s GPS functionality offers the ability to really nerd out on route planning. The free price tag is a nice bonus. At the end of the day, we felt the interface was just too cumbersome compared to competitor apps.

(2017 update) Due to the painful experience we had trying to use this app in Europe, we deleted it off the phone. In our South America travels, I didn’t come across a single person using it. 

3. Galileo

Android and iOS | $3.99 | www.galileo-app.com

Galileo. Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring.

Galileo showing local street map including saved favorites points of interest.

Pros: We first heard about Galileo from our friend Pablo of Bike Canine. He suggested we give it a try as it has an easy to use interface and it includes bike maps. In Europe, we used Galileo daily and couldn’t agree more! The interface is simple, elegant, and downloading maps is very simple. The different types of maps available including the cycle routes via www.opencyclemap.org are helpful when cycle touring, especially finding a bike shop, which are automatically labeled in the cycle route map. It was our go to tool in Europe when needing to quickly check our directions. We’d simply whip out our phone, enable GPS, and know exactly where we were located.

Galileo also has a very basic search tool for points-of-interest. Not as powerful as OsmAnd POI locater, but good enough depending on where you’re traveling.

It’s also not a resource drag on our iPhones. It loads fast and rarely crashes.

Cons: Bike maps or terrain maps need to be manually downloaded offline. This encompasses scrolling over the area you want to view while the tile downloads. The tile pieces are then cached in memory. Each night we’d review the planned route and scroll over the bike map tiles to make sure we got what we wanted, if WiFi is available. This included the various zoom levels that require individual tile downloads. We’ve been stuck on a number occasions where we don’t have the tile downloaded at the zoom level needed.

Cost: Free for a trial. $3.99 for unlimited downloading.

Bottom line: Galileo was our go to offline mapping tool in Europe, especially mid-ride for quickly checking our location and confirming we are on the right path. It’s not the de facto planning tool for us and lacks turn-by-turn directions, but it can get you from point A to point B. We found that Galileo can be a useful addition to a more detailed route planning offline navigation tool.

(2017 update) We have continued to use Galileo on a regular basis, though our usage dropped considerably in South America. The manual need to download tiles while being connected to the Internet proved to a pain, as WiFi access can be sparse in Patagonia and throughout South America. Plus, we found the routes to be so straight forward and the lack of Points of Interest data meant that Galileo was more helpful when finding off-road hiking trails than actually planning a cycling route.


4. Maps.Me 

Android and iOS | Free | www.maps.me

(2017 update) In South America, everyone is using Maps.Me for backpacking, hiking, and cycle touring. And with good reason, in the last two years, the application has undergone extensive updates. So, we updated the content below provide a new overview. 

Maps.Me Screenshot

Maps.Me routing us over a mountain pass than taking the direct route. Check out that elevation profile. 

Pros: We heard so many good things about Maps.Me and used it for the beginning of our trip. It’s open source, has a ton of data including cycle routes, integrated Uber options, walking, and cycling. We like the turn-by-turn directions and user-friendly search functions that make it easy to find locations for accommodations or restaurants. The user interface is well-designed and a quick study for the non-techies.

A recent release included live traffic for when you’re connected to the Internet. Plus, cycle directions from point A to point B include a visual elevation profile. This is HUGE when planning and comparing cycle routes. You can save Points of Interest, and even add new places you’ve found that will be synced with the master database for the whole application when you get back online. 

Another fantastic feature is the integration of hotels with Booking.com. You can book directly from the app if online, however, if you’re offline you can only see the rating (1-10) and cost estimate ($- $$$). This proved to be incredibly valuable for us when rolling into a town late at night and wanting to see if the nearby accommodations fit our budget and had a decent rating. 

Cons: A recent release crashed every single time we used it. A quick update fixed the problem, but was a pain in the rump when we were relying on it. 

The route directions when cycling from point A to point B are laughable at best. The directions are so bad that it became a joke between us. Why would I want to climb over a 1,000M mountain than ride the flat road? I cannot stress enough poor how the point A to point B route directions for cycling are. Further, there is no option to drag the route to a preferred one. 

Jen mapped a biking route in Portland, OR and discovered to her shock that the suggested route took her down one of the busiest roads in the city, which has no bike infrastructure, despite having Greenways on two sides of where we are staying. 

Cost: Free. Maps.Me was bought in 2014 and made all content free of charge.

Bottom line: We love Maps.Me and there is a reason it has won a bunch of awards. The interface is modest and anyone can pick it up and use it immediately. The integration with Uber and Booking.com is a complete bonus and something that separates itself from other apps. The main drawback is the route directions for cycling are horrible and generally unsafe. 

5. Google Maps 

Android and iOS | Free | www.google.com/maps

Google Maps routing us to the pet store in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring.

Google Maps routing us to the pet store in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia.

Pros: Everyone uses Google Maps and the interface is about as simple as it gets. We love the directions, integration with other Google features, and street views. The Terrain view is super helpful when wanting to gauge how difficult a potential route will be with respect to hills and mountains. There is offline functionality as of recent releases, though still limited by region. 

Cons: Believe it or not, Google has not mapped the entire world. We ran into many occasions, like Italy, where Google has no cycling option in that country. Likewise, most of South America outside of big cities is little mapped. Open source mapping data is much more consistent when outside of the highly-developed world.  We’ve also discovered that offline caching of maps can be clumsy at best. We have had maps disappear, or no longer work once offline, despite using the Save feature. Google Maps also lacks a road quality feature.

Cost: Free.

Bottom Line: Google Maps makes sense when you’re online and in countries with well-developed roads and infrastructure. It also helps when Google has mapped the country with their vehicles, as the catalogue of information is going to be accurate. With so many other apps specifically designed for offline navigation that include more features, Google Maps is a dinosaur.

(2017 update) Despite being one of the largest tech companies in the world, Google simply has not mapped large swaths of South America. We rarely used it outside of cities as it wouldn’t even show the road we were currently on. It also struggles with using addresses outside of Europe and the US. It sent us to so many wrong locations that we stopped using it. 

6. RideWithGPS.com  

Android and iOS | Free – online. $-$$ offline | https://ridewithgps.com

Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring

Ecuador is brutal on the legs with steep climbs.

Pros: RideWithGPS.com gets a lot of fanfare online and has so many features that it packs a punch. You can find routes that others have completed and really dial in to what you’re going to be expecting when riding. It also offers a nice route planning tool on their website. You can also share rides with friends, and track all your stats. 

Cons: RideWithGPS.com is first and foremost a tracking app. It’s primary function is follow your route, give you speed, distance, climbs, and all the data you want to know. This comes at a price though, as a) you have to have GPS enabled on your device which is a no-no when doing long tour cycle touring as electricity can be sparse, and b) it’s expensive at $6/month for the basic upgrade or $10/month for the premium package. You can’t download routes offline without paying. For us, this is a deal breaker. Why pay nearly 12x more with a reoccurring expense to get offline elevation charts? 

Cost: Free for online. $6/month and $10/month for upgraded versions that allow offline usage.

Bottom Line: I can imagine RideWithGPS.com being the go-to app for road riders out for the weekend jaunt. However, for long distance tourers, the app really only offers elevation profiles offline, and at a premium price. If elevation profiles are important and all you care about, there are plenty of other apps that are significantly cheaper and offer more information about upcoming climbs. 

(2017 update) We used RideWithGPS.com during our ride through Ecuador. The application was helpful in planning distances and climbs, but the price point coupled with battery drainage meant usage was short-lived.


Laptop – Online Planning

1. OpenStreetMap

Link: www.openstreetmap.org

OpenStreetMap showing turn-by-turn directions. Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring.

OpenStreetMap showing turn-by-turn directions.


Pros
: OpenStreetMap is like Google Maps but way better. It includes several map overlays like the cycling maps from www.opencyclemap.org or transportation map (in case you want to see the route trucks might travel). It has turn-by-turn directions for cycling in places like Italy, which Google Maps does not have. Its user interface makes for a quick learn and the minimalist approach offers just enough features to make it worth your time.

All of the data on the site is crowdsourced, which yields far better information than what Google can offer. We’ve found roads in Bosnia only labeled on OpenStreetMap.

Cons: The lack of a terrain view makes it challenging to gauge the level of difficulty of a proposed route. The auto-locate feature doesn’t work 100% of the time, and the lack of map details can be a bit annoying.

Cost: Free.

Bottom Line: We used OpenStreetMap.org on a daily basis for route planning in Europe. The cycle map overlay is a fantastic feature and can add value when planning longer routes that span over multiple countries and cities. The lack of terrain still makes use rely on Google Maps; however, 90% of our planning was done in OpenStreetMaps.org

(2017 update) There is very little cycle infrastructure in South America, so we didn’t use OpenStreetMaps. We instead used the same open source data through Maps.Me on our phones and offline.

2. Mapmyride

Link: www.mapmyride.com

Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring

Mapmyride showing the elevation charts for a planned route. 10% grades. Ouch.

Pros: Elevation charts with a grading scale. That’s it. We only use mapmyride.com for this feature. It’s great (and often daunting) to see how steep those hills are going to be and how many kilometers of pain awaits you. Plus, you can save those routes to review later.

Cons: Owned by Under Armor this site is really dedicated to the gamification of active lifestyles. It’s filled with so many additional features it can be overwhelming and a bit of a turn off. The user interface is way too crowded and be challenging to grasp.

Cost: Free.

Bottom Line: We wish other sites, like OpenStreetMaps.org included elevation charts and grading scales, but they don’t, so we use Mapmyride.com. On the positive side, it does have a nice visual of the elevation gains.

(2017 update) When planning big climbs or really needing to compare different routes, we still used Map MyRide. We’re not big fans of Under Armor due to their political lobbying, however, their site is super helpful for seeing elevation profiles. Unfortunately, you can only create and plan routes on your phone with the paid version. This is a major bummer and kept us from using the tool all the time. 

If you like this article, you may enjoy our 10 Items You MUST Bring on Cycle Tour that includes some gear pro tips and our favorite items to bring with us when touring. 

What are your favorite offline mapping tools for cycle touring? Which countries did you use them in?

 

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The Best Offline Mapping Tools for Cycle Touring | Long Haul Trekkers

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35 Comments

  1. Great review. Thanks for the thorough work.

  2. What if I just want to get on my bike and ride?! Ha. Great insights!

  3. Adam and I are looking forward to trying a few of these out when we go to the coast in a few weeks!

  4. Pingback: Traipsing About | Resources, Links and Apps for Bicycle Touring in Europe

  5. I started riding again 1 1/2 years ago to get my knee strong enough for knee replacement surgery. Little did I realize that I would get the bug! I was riding again 1 1/2 months after total knee replacement surgery. I spent $$ on bike odometers to try and keep track of my mileage…they all failed me. I happened upon Map My Ride, and it is fantastic! It’s even more accurate than my Fitbit at measuring my miles.

    • Do you run MapMyRide while you’re cycling? If so, are you able to use it offline or do you have your phone connected to the network while you ride? That’s so great that your knee is doing well and that you were able to get back on your bike so soon after surgery.

  6. I’m curious to know what you think of the app – Pocket Earth
    It’s not free but not outrageous either IMHO

  7. MapsMe now has cycle paths in the beta version.

    • Yes! I just downloaded the most recent addition last week and tested it out in La Paz, Bolivia. It has a long way to go in my opinion. I want to see all my route options on the screen, not just the route it suggested I go. I plan on doing an update after thoroughly testing Maps.Me. I do use the app for all other scenarios like finding a place to eat.

  8. Another nice route planning web site is Ride With GPS ( https://ridewithgps.com/ )
    It allows you to plan your ride, includes elevation profiles, and gives you the options of viewing the route with different maps, such as Google maps, Google Satellite view, their own map, OpenStreetMaps, OpenCycling maps – based on OpenStreetMaps, but includes major bike routes and contour, as well as a few topo maps – mostly for US territory, which can be useful for hiking. You can also test your planning the route with different maps, as each map sometimes draws a different route from another.

    Three levels: free, basic, and premium. When I’m ready to leave on a trip, I pay for the basic, which prints out nicer directions (i.e. four pages per page, foldable, to save space), and return to free after the trip.

    • Hi Claude,

      I’ve used ride with GPS before as they ARE from our hometown of Portland, OR, however, I didn’t include the software in the article because it was (not sure if this is still the case) primarily used in the United States. Considering our journey has been Europe and South America, I wanted to cover mapping software that can be used around the world.

      Do you know if it’s becoming used more outside of the US?

      Best

      • Well, I, for one, am from Canada…

        But if you go to the Find tab on your account’s page, you can look around and find plenty of rides that people have done in Europe and in South America. So yes, it’s definitely being used around the world. Of course, there are probably more people using it in the States, or for riding in the States, wherever they happen to come from, by sheer volume of population in the US and the vastness of the country, but it’s definitely not restrained to that area.

      • Dave, ridewithgps.com can definitely be used around the world. When planning routes anywhere in the world, you can switch between several map styles including OSM, OSM Cycle, and OSM Outdoor to get more visual data. There are literally riders all over the world that use this site to plan their routes.

  9. Hi – Good article Dave – I use openstreetmap for planning on my PC, under Garmin’s BaseCamp you can then get a elevation profile, as long as you have downloaded and applied the contour lines.

    • That’s good to know. Is the BaseCamp app something that is downloadable for phones? Or so let with a Garmin.

      • If you’re using a phone, you can use the app called OSMAND+ (costs about $5 or so), which lets you download all the OSM data and contour lines you want (the free OSMAND app only lets you do 6 downloads, so only 6 States, or 6 Provinces, or 6 overseas countries, whatever. The paid app allows you unlimited downloads. Essentially, the only limit is your phone’s storage capacity, and you can tell the app to save to your SDHC card for more space.)

        You can then use the maps in the same way you can use Google Maps, by giving it a start and end position, specifying whether you’re in a car or on a bike, etc. It’s pretty good. And one advantage of OSMAND+ over Google maps, is that all that data is saved locally on your phone, so you can check it out, even when there is no phone service around. (Yes, Google maps allows you to download a region, but you have to pick a region, and that’s it. You want more? Start downloading again… With OSMAND+, once you’ve picked which States, Provinces, or countries you want, you have them on your phone, the whole State/Province/Country, until such time as you decide to remove them from your phone.)

        I don’t know if the app warns you, or if you have to check, but you can always update your maps, whenever the OSM data has updates for the territory you downloaded.

        (I’m pretty excited about this app, since I just got my first “intelligent” phone this year… Can’t wait to see how that works out in the field…)

        • Ah ok. I’ve used OsAnd a lot and wrote about into the piece. Thanks for the extra info.

          • Boy, do I feel silly now… I had received notification about a reply to this page, via email, and saw the following comment, asking about using Garmin Basecamp on a phone. Naturally, I piped in about OSMAND+… But I did all this while also not re-reading the page from the beginning, thereby completely missing that OSMAND had already been mentioned…

          • No sweat Claude. I’ll still look up Basecamp for more info

  10. Thank you so much for this great and very helpful article ! I know an intuitive website called https://travelmap.net It’s not a GPS app but very good to trace your itineraries and share them online easily. It enables you to link some pictures and comments to the spots on your interactive map. I know they are currently working on an offline app which should be ready soon.

  11. Just spotted this on Reddit where it’s been mentioned a couple of times – nice piece.

    For the online planning section, could I draw your attention to my own site, http://cycle.travel/map ? It’s a route-planner particularly designed for touring – it favours quiet roads (using real car traffic data where available) and cycleways, has an elevation display (2D or 3D), campsite/hotel search etc.

    All based on OpenStreetMap data, of course (I was one of the first OSM contributors back in 2004), but with a whole load of extra processing on top to make the routes touring-friendly. Haven’t done the mobile app yet, but you can export to GPX or TCX to put the route on a Garmin or another app, or just print out a PDF. Coverage is currently Western Europe and North America: I’ll be adding more in due course, but I tweak the routing profile for each area (e.g. North America is very different to Western Europe) so don’t want to rush it.

    Would be delighted to know what you think – I’ve found working on it is the second most enjoyable thing after actually riding.

  12. Interesting article and noting the various pros and cons of each app, thanks.

    The best mapping app that I used for cycle touring is Locus Maps – available in both a free and paid version (I used free version). Routes can be mapped and saved on-line. Full navigation guidance, GPS and compass included (use in airline mode to save data). App works fine off-line. Vector maps for individual countries can be downloaded to your smartphone (NOTE: three maps can be downloaded free upon install). Additional vector maps are available from http://www.locusvectormaps.com). I have used this app while touring in Japan, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, New Zealand and Ireland. I would not leave home without it!

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