Map My Ride

Data-less riding is in vogue these days. Rolling around with no computer and only the feedback of lactic acid to tell you how hard (or not) you’re going has a minimalist appeal. Think of it as the fixie romance for those with legs too big to fit in skinny jeans. (Dude, come on, even Robin Zander wasn’t that skinny!)

Where was I? Oh yeah, sans details. I do get the appeal. I was once in a Specialized Concept Store and discussing the merits of a wattage device with a prospective customer. What I said wasn’t helpful to the sale: “If your hardest training is on group rides, wattage doesn’t matter. When the move comes, either you’re there or you’re not.”

So it goes with riding hard. Either it was hard enough, or it wasn’t. And if it wasn’t, it’s likely all you did is delay your next opportunity to train hard enough. For those of you struggling to get more than a few hours of riding per week, this perspective might be less helpful than gasoline to a firefighter. Apologies and all that; there’s a wheel review coming shortly.

I have tended to find computers and heart rate monitors most useful as a governor to my efforts. It’s easier to go too hard on a recovery ride than it is to gridlock Congress. I remain a big believer in using data to keep from overtaining and in these parts you can group ride yourself into overtaining in less than half a lunar cycle. The Easy-Bake Oven isn’t that easy.

Even for those who don’t want data overload on their rides, riding five or six days per week deserves to be tracked for the sake of planning recovery rides and rest weeks. Of late, I’ve suffered from two broken GPS units and have thus used my iPhone and the Map My Ride iPhone app to keep track of my riding while alleviating me of the self-doubt that plagues me every time I look down at those little numbers. Oh, the questions!

How much longer can I maintain this pace? Is the pace high enough? Why isn’t the pace higher? Should I be hurting this much? Is my form declining?

In a bookcase I have notebook after notebook of old training data. Most of those accumulated miles are unremarkable, but there were rides among them over roads and routes that I no longer recall. To have a full range of digital data on all those rides is something that I … well, I wouldn’t kill for it, but I might squash a bug or two.

When Map My Ride hit the Interwebs a few years back I was stunned to see someone finally offering what MotionBased had promised circa 2004. As a registered map nut (I get lost in maps the way some cooks get lost in the kitchen) I get an unnatural entertainment from looking at my route on a map. I love playing back in my head the climbs, turns and descents.

As I mentioned both my primary and back up GPS units threw a rod and, as a result, I’ve been using my iPhone to track my rides. It’s a nearly ideal solution for me. I’ve been relieved of knowing exactly how fast I’m going, which is bad news more often than good, and I still finish the ride with a file detailing my ride. Better still is the fact that I don’t have to download it to the site as the iPhone app does that for me within seconds of climbing off the bike. I bought an external battery to extend the life of my iPhone so I can ride for more than three hours, to boot.

I’ve looked at each of the services that allow a cyclist to download training data. For strictly training purposes, Training Peaks kills Map My Ride, but because I’m not trying to race anymore, and few people I know are training as seriously as is necessary to really utilize the full suite of features of Training Peaks, Map My Ride strikes me as a better overall package for most riders. I completely geek out on the mapping and elevation profile features. The social media aspect of Map My Ride makes it a powerful way to connect with friends as well, whether you’re just posting your rides to Facebook or connecting with other riders who seem to be on your riding wavelength.

When I contacted them to get a few images, they asked me to mention that they’ve got a couple of deals going for the Holidays. I dig this site. I dig their CEO (he’s a halogen bulb even in a room full of high-wattage incandescents) and I dig that they’ve been willing to take feedback from me on features they should add.

The first is:

Buy any new Premium membership and receive a FREE invisible Bracelet membership for one year!

Invisible Bracelet is a competitor to Road ID, but with an important twist. IB is creating a database of users so that emergency service providers have a complete set of contacts for you and your loved ones. Whether it’s a standard everyone adopts remains to be seen; regardless, it seems a powerful way to reach out to families in the event of an emergency. Learn more here.

The second is:

Gift your loved ones a Premium membership for a special discount price of only $19.99!

MMR is offering their bronze membership benefits as a “special holiday deal” for only $19.99 (regularly $29.99, and said to be a value of more than $71.00 given the monthly access price is $5.99).  Learn more here.

My point: Killer Christmas Gift.

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  1. David Saltzberg

    I used MapMyRide for years to route plan and recreate routes after rides (sans GPS). Last year I started using ‘Ride with GPS’ ( Much faster. I can build a route in five minutes compared to the 30 minutes I would burn on MMR. I now have a Garmin 500. ‘Ride with GPS’ supports most GPS device uploads and even has a Garmin sync function. The elevation seems to be more correct than MMR. No iPhone app, sorry.

  2. Adella Edwards

    I hate to admit it, but I don’t want it. As a Cartographer I should be keen on this, but if I add a mapping app to everything I do, I’ll never stop working! I need the me time of cycling as a separate life. I know if I have gone hard or been a slacker, I don’t need to be told.

  3. Doug P

    I like the idea of Map My Ride, but, for example, the bike trail in Sacramento, generally recognized as one of the top 10 in the nation, is not in their database…in order to program this route I had to link about 500 points together…it took me longer to program in than to ride it!!!! One day they will complete the database to include paths and trails as well as roads, and then I’ll regain interest. ‘Till then the well-heeled or sponsored “first adopters” who can pay monthly fees and replace Chinese-made expensive gadgets soon to be obsolete and/or broken can work out the bugs.

  4. mgrif

    Thanks for writing about this. I catch a lot of grief for not using a computer from my riding buddies. I explain to them that the battery died–years ago–and I just never missed it after that. I had a tendency to fixate on that little number instead of the road, the ride, and my effort.

    But, having the info is handy, especially when trying to learn a new route. So I started using the Cyclemeter App (by Abvio, I think?), which is similar to MapMyRide in some ways, and acts the same way–staying out of the way when riding, and giving me the info later. For me, an ideal solution.

  5. fbhidy

    I have been trying out several training log type website. Daily mile, My Cycling Log, and Map My Ride (MMR) to name the 3 primary ones. My biggest complaint about MMR is that the elevation profiles are grossly inaccurate and MMR doesn’t accept/include elevation data from GPS files that are uploaded. So on a fall century ride where we climbed a total of about 5000ft MMR only showed ~3000ft. Quite a difference there. The fact that as a triathlete I can map all my activities (through their sister site Map My Fitness) I keep coming back to MMR. Daily Mile is MUCH better at the whole social networking aspect than MMR, but the mapping isn’t nearly as flexible or accurate. Just my 2 cents.

  6. james lopez

    I’ve been using runkeeper, it works on iPhone and Android and on my iPhone4 it uses about 9% of the battery per hour. The website is really cleanly designed, works well and provides all kinds of interesting data over time about rides, mileage, elevations, durations, speeds, etc. Overall i like runkeeper a lot and it’s free for 80% of the features. Though I do wish there were a way to have it do, elevation profiles, turn-by-turn directions and integrate with a power meter. Though I do run a cateye as well, so the iPhone stays in the jersey pocket during the ride.

    I’ve looked at the mapmyride site, but not tried the app, I like that it has elevation profiles but the site is so covered in ads and all sorts of crap that it puts me off.



    1. Author

      Thanks everyone for your feedback.

      David and Doug: There have been some revisions to the way you draw routes in Map My Ride, though I must say I rarely use it that way. The new beta site makes drawing routes infinitely easier. Because one of my GPS units died the night before I left for my Alps trip, I had to recreate all the routes from maps after I returned home. In the old site, I don’t think I would have even tried it; it’s much easier now. MMR is best when used in combination with a GPS unit, though.

      Adella: It sounds like you do fascinating work, work I’d love to know more about. No matter what, though, ME time is easily eroded and should be protected when possible.

      Mgrif: I’ll take a look at the Cyclemeter app. Sounds interesting.

      Fbhidy: I’ve been hearing from folks who live in rolling terrain that MMR doesn’t do a great job of accurately capturing elevation gain. I’ve had a lot of success on rides with big climbs; I really haven’t had a complaint. I’ll pass your feedback along to the powers that be.

      James: MMR becomes much friendlier and more powerful once you purchase a membership. The ads go away and new features such as turn-by-turn directions become available. I went with an annual membership.

      Bigringriding: Word. If you can think, you’re not going hard enough.

  8. fbhidy

    I think the issue is the use of Google’s data vs GPS data for elevation. Google just isn’t accurate enough for cycling when it comes to elevation data. Though neither is USGS for that matter.

  9. Scott G.

    MMRs problem is Google maps, having ridden with Michelin maps and tried
    riding with Google maps, Google is to maps what Walmart is to bikes.
    It looks just like a map until you try to use it. The MMR cue sheets
    generally need some massaging too, so riders don’t get confused.
    A copier and a highlighter is faster. Garmin does make good gps
    units for finding your way around, just not in the bike line,
    try an Etrex.

  10. trev

    computers. Heart rate monitors. Map my ride. Pffffft, whats next a devise that measures power output? The best tool for me is riding with guys faster and stronger than me.

  11. Paul

    I have a Garmin Edge, and I upload my data to both Garmin Connect and MapMyRide — they both have strengths and weaknesses. There’s more raw data at the Garmin site, but MMR has more readable maps (helpful if you were following a group and didn’t really know where you were) and good climb info.

  12. Sprocketboy

    I have used for several years with my Garmin Edge and been very happy with the results. It is not only easy to use, but free. However, when I am riding a classic steel bike I prefer not to have a computer mounted on it, so I just put the Garmin in my jersey pocket and it records the data for looking at later.

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