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Navigating by smartphone?

Old 06-28-17, 10:13 AM
  #1  
Cyclist0094
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Navigating by smartphone?

I'm an admitted technophobe. But when I was in Atlanta a couple months riding the paths, My little iphone was doing an excellent job of getting me around both on the paths and the streets. I'm thinking of using it more on tours (still taking my maps) now that I discovered from previous posts that portable chargers are available that can keep the phone going for several days.
What have been your experiences and how do you carry your phone? Anyone found a secure bar mount or something that attaches over the handlebar bag? What apps are working best for you?
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Old 06-28-17, 10:53 AM
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Rob_E
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I had a mount, but it broke. Not when riding, but when packing the bike up. But I didn't use it much and haven't decided if I should replace it.

I haven't bothered with paper maps the last several trips. But I don't use the phone for navigating. Or, at least, I don't use turn-by-turn directions. I'll generally have my route stored in my phone (or sometimes my tablet) along with downloaded maps of my route. I just pull it out and check it occasionally. The battery lasts longer that way, and I don't have to worry that I'm going to pull the phone out and find that I'm in a dead zone, and the maps won't load.

I do rely on Google directions a lot, but I tend to take screenshots if I'm worried that I will need to reference it off line.
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Old 06-28-17, 11:36 AM
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Googlemaps is, to me, fantastic.

Yup, there will be a story of carrying bikes up some stairs because googlemaps was wrong.

It is the fastest and eadiest way to consider route options when factoring in towns, overnight options, food, etc.
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Old 06-28-17, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by velonomad View Post
I'm an admitted technophobe. But when I was in Atlanta a couple months riding the paths, My little iphone was doing an excellent job of getting me around both on the paths and the streets. I'm thinking of using it more on tours (still taking my maps) now that I discovered from previous posts that portable chargers are available that can keep the phone going for several days.
What have been your experiences and how do you carry your phone? Anyone found a secure bar mount or something that attaches over the handlebar bag? What apps are working best for you?
I know a kid who cycled TransAm a few years back, used his iPhone to navigate.

He had a couple of tricks. When he was in a town and had WiFi, he downloaded and cached Google maps, thus the maps were available when he had zero data or cell service. He was religious about putting the phone in airplane mode when there was no service.

He then used a rear folding solar panel to charge his extra batteries, then the batteries charged the phone at night. Except for having his solar panel stolen in Yellowstone, which was an expensive replacement, he said the system worked well.

Last edited by Steve B.; 06-28-17 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 06-28-17, 11:40 AM
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What carrier do you have, what kind of coverage does said have, and where are you touring, and what is the carrier's coverage in that area?

Those are the big problems with using a smartphone for navigation, after battery life and weather-resistance. There are large swaths of land in the USA where not even Verizon has 3G....at which point, barring pre-cached maps, you're hosed for smartphone-dependent navigation.
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Old 06-28-17, 12:12 PM
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After decades of using paper maps with out of date info sometimes, and no close detail, its become an important tool for me. Used a cheap 15 dollar mount from walmart, not the best but it held my Iphone over some bumpy roads. Now it stays in a bar bag as it was hard to see in the daylight anyway.

Mostly I use this MAPS.ME (MapsWithMe), detailed offline maps of the World for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire and BlackBerry with a smattering of Google for city navigation. Still carry state maps for a big picture.
If I ever get to take a long trip again the plan is to take an Ipad for its larger screen. Charging happens at campgrounds and such with my aging Mophie pack as standby. Good for about four charges of a phone.

There is a thread on the Katy trail right now with some links to a route from St Charles to the Kirkwood train station. Did that some years ago using a tourist flyer picked up at a hotel lobby. While I made it, I never knew 100% where I was, and took some wrong turns. Would have shaved some miles off with the tech available to me now.

One thing I have done is use the satellite imagery to locate buildings in cities that I am looking for, can't find, but am standing behind, one block over, or even right in front of. Cities are my weakest point of navigation.
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Old 06-28-17, 12:35 PM
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I use map my ride and ride with gps. Plus paper maps and topo maps. Last year on my ride around the the lakes region of NH, the paper map, the street sign and the phone map all said something different. Topo stuff like lakes, rivers and RR tracks don't change. Fyi.
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Old 06-28-17, 03:50 PM
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I use a homemade aerobar that includes everything right in front of me premounted...headlight, video camera(real camera not a GoPro piss of shaving cream), cue sheet holder(aka unactivated smartphone), extra water bottle and food bag...all right in front of me mounted on two extra hand position all in one bar.

For the smartphone...it velcros on to the upright of the 45 degree hand hold bar position right down at the base of the aero bar. I use a piece of old election sign(choroplast) that is shaped right around the phone with the top and front cut out. The top is cut out so I can take the phone out and recharge it or update the cue hseet. The front is only partway cut out so I can see the smartphone naturally. I put the stupidphone in a plastic zip lock bag and drop it on down into the cue sheet holder and velcro it in place and go ride. I'm only using it for cue sheet directions only and nothing else, hence why it is an unactivated phone and will stay that way. I try to limit the tracking devices that I have around me when I ride. Everybody and there brother, including big brother doesn't need to to know where I am at every minute of every day. Screw them.

How did I come up with the idea...I looked at how I wanted my system to perform and made it that way. Only you know how you want things to work. Go make your own system and modify it until it works the way you want it to work. You'll end up with a much better product than anything you could go out and waste your money buying...because it is made for YOU...not for someone else.
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Old 06-28-17, 06:42 PM
  #9  
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I've become a fan of MAPS.ME with its offline maps on my ride across the Americas.

I don't use it for continuous navigation. I also don't necessarily always have a cell coverage (either SIM card or when I have one cell coverage). However, what I find helpful is turning on the phone, firing up MAPS.ME and get a quick confirmation of where I am located and the likely road choices.

I will have put in my likely destinations as bookmarks the night or two before when I had more time to sort things out with an internet connection as well as a rough guide on my route. Outside of the big cities, the routing is often straightforward as in "follow the highway to X". However, inside the towns there is sometimes ambiguity like "what exit on the roundabout leads to the highway" and here is where MAPS.ME is very helpful.
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Old 06-28-17, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by velonomad View Post
What have been your experiences and how do you carry your phone? Anyone found a secure bar mount or something that attaches over the handlebar bag? What apps are working best for you?
I don't bother mounting my phone to the handlebars. I keep it in a pocket and pull it out to check my position every couple hours or so, or if I'm a little confused. I'll use it to figure out the next day's route when I'm stopped for the night, and that's the only real continuous use it gets.
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Old 06-28-17, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by velonomad View Post

how do you carry your phone?
Quadlock (those who mount the phone effortlessly are probably magicians or pianists -- I personally have to fiddle somewhat

Originally Posted by velonomad View Post
What apps are working best for you?
Locus Map Pro. Excellent and powerful. You can design custom transparent overlays. Useful to display distance to go, ETA, elevation etc. Invaluable for serious navigation. (Google Maps to find and follow a quick route to the nearest restaurant / grocery store, when network is available. Cycle routing is not implemented everywhere, nor is it reliable)

Create routes on/offline with the companion app bRouter. Usually quite good. Certainly beats eyeballing the map. But revision is often useful to deal with whimsical (on/off a main road for no reason) or exceedingly strict (may add tens of KMs to avoid a perfectly legal and safe highway segment) routing
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Old 06-29-17, 07:19 AM
  #12  
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I'm a big fan of the "Urban Biker" app. Checkout: https://www.facebook.com/UrbanBikerApp/


It's a bike computer app laid over Google maps.

Last edited by hfbill; 06-29-17 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 06-29-17, 10:21 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Googlemaps is, to me, fantastic.
When using Google Maps does anyone use the bicycle directions? My rides have bee in upstate NY and Google had horrible directions. There are a lot of State Bike Routes that google doesn't know about and won't send you on. I find the best options so far are to use the car options with 'Avoid Highways' which means just avoid interstates. That puts you on NY State highways which for my experience generally have a great shoulder.

Overall, I navigate by phone. I have a charger and solar panel to help out. I also feel ok leaving my charger plugged in at a state park bathroom outlet for a few hours while it charges. So far I have never run out of battery.
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Old 06-29-17, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
What carrier do you have, what kind of coverage does said have, and where are you touring, and what is the carrier's coverage in that area?

Those are the big problems with using a smartphone for navigation, after battery life and weather-resistance. There are large swaths of land in the USA where not even Verizon has 3G....at which point, barring pre-cached maps, you're hosed for smartphone-dependent navigation.
If you use an app like OsmAnd (I'm android) you don't need cell coverage. Download your country and put the phone in airplane mode, as GPS is all you need. Battery life in airplane mode, using the screen only when necessary, is excellent. My phone is also water/dust proof, but waterproof cases are readily available. Seems pretty simple.
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Old 06-29-17, 03:15 PM
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Copilot GPS is excellent navigation and routing, and one can download entire country maps. North America, for example, is about 8 GB. In addition to roads, this app includes points of interest (gas stations, restaurants, parks, campgrounds, etc. with phone numbers and addresses) without use of the internet. So only GPS is needed once download.

If creating a route to follow or download a route with GPS waypoints, I would use Locus Pro or Mytrails.
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Old 06-29-17, 06:42 PM
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I appreciate all the replies so far. I am going to download the above mentioned apps and try them out. Something I wasn't aware of was that maps would store on an iphone. I have stored google maps and USGS maps on my boat's Nexus 7 tablet for plotting uncharted river navigation. The ability to store enough maps for a few days is a huge plus for me.

As to Marcus's concerns about cellular coverage, I have verizon and I am aware there are many areas of the country without coverage. I have no plans on leaving my maps at home
My touring these days range from overnighters to two week trips.
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Old 06-30-17, 04:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
What carrier do you have, what kind of coverage does said have, and where are you touring, and what is the carrier's coverage in that area?

Those are the big problems with using a smartphone for navigation, after battery life and weather-resistance. There are large swaths of land in the USA where not even Verizon has 3G....at which point, barring pre-cached maps, you're hosed for smartphone-dependent navigation.
If you are relying on cell network access, you're doing it wrong.

There are numerous apps that let you download maps to the phone (so you don't need a network).

Even if you prefer using an app that requires network access, you should have offline maps.
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Old 06-30-17, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by velonomad View Post
What have been your experiences and how do you carry your phone? Anyone found a secure bar mount or something that attaches over the handlebar bag? What apps are working best for you?
I sometimes use OSMAND and have found it works very well. Your GPS must be turned on, but you don't need a cell signal. It really saps the battery if you leave the screen on, so I leave the screen off until I need it.

I have a friend who swears by GAIA GPS on his iphone. He uses it for hiking and I've seen it in action. It is a powerful tool. It does cost money, but he says it's well worth it.

Google: Smartphone top tube bag. My top tube bag holds my phone very securely nd it's fairly waterproof. You need to be sure you buy a frame bag that's large enough to fit your phone. If your phone is fairly large, it takes some looking to find a bag that will fit your phone.

Last edited by mtnbud; 06-30-17 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 06-30-17, 08:34 AM
  #19  
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On my last tour I loaded my route into Ride with GPS and used a RAM mount to hold the phone. Ram Mounts are a total overkill, I don't even try to debate that point. However, it held my phone and gave no trouble at all.

I then fed power, continuously, to the phone from a solar panel. At that point, it really was as simple as following the line. It also provided a location update, every ten minutes (adjustable), so my wife could see what I was doing.

Last edited by Robert C; 06-30-17 at 08:42 AM.
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