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Archive for the ‘Shameless Product Plugs’ Category

Update (4-6-2014): This review is now over 12 months old, and as such, is outdated in respect to some of the features and apps that have been incorporated into these three sites. I don’t plan on doing a follow-up post to this one. However, I have now fully adopted RideWithGPS as my website/app of choice. I’m even a premium subscriber and a Beta tester for their Android app. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. If you still want to read on to compare the three services, please do so, but just note that some new features may not have been available when this was first written.

As many of our regular readers know, Stacy and I are avid cyclists. We ride for the joy of cycling, for the workout, and for the charity rides. Neither of us race much (or at all) but we like to see some data about each ride.

I’ve used MapMyRide for a long time for finding new routes, doing some route recon, and just getting a nice summary of my bike ride data – average speed, duration, etc. It is a pretty easy-to-use program, but it is really laden with advertisements. Also, there have been some competitors that have started to give MapMyRide a challenge, namely Strava and Ride With GPS. I’ve tried them all out, and thought I would share my thoughts here in case anyone else is trying to decide between them (I looked, but didn’t see many good reviews so I thought I’d write one). First, some considerations about what I’m looking for:

  • I’m not a racer
  • I prefer using a handheld GPS for logging data to save my smart phone battery
  • A smart phone app would be nice as a backup to my GPS, but not essential
  • Social network integration is good
  • I use an Android phone (Casio C771)
  • I use a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx GPSr
  • I spend most of my riding time on the road (currently)
  • I like lots of data with big, beautiful maps
  • I’m trying to lose weight
  • I use My Fitness Pal for tracking calories
  • A calorie calculator (for estimating how many calories burned on a ride is a plus)

Now that you somewhat know what I’m looking for, here are my thoughts:

MapMyRide

This is the website that I’m most familiar with. It’s been around a while, and has lots of users. The parent site, Map My Fitness has about a half dozen similarly named apps/websites like MapMyRun, MapMyDogWalk, etc. MapMyRide is great for route recon, and likely has the best social network integration (with Facebook at least). It also has live tracking so you can share your location with other users in real time. The app is great, but sucks battery quick. It has lots of options for syncing workout data including a special Garmin button. However I found that their Garmin feature did not work automatically with my Garmin Etrex Vista HCx. Although it did let me go in and manually select my GPX file from my Garmin while it was synced up with the computer, like selecting a file from a flash drive or something. (Edit, I found out that’s because Garmin Sync only works on IE and Firefox, not Chrome.) It doesn’t really have the competitive features that Strava has, but that’s not a deal breaker. It does have a ton of ads though, and constantly tries to get you to either stare at an ad, or buy a premium membership. It appears that a lot of data features are unlocked behind the pay wall. The premium membership is the cheapest of the three, at $6/month, which seems reasonable.

Pros:

  • Great mapping abilities
  • Great social network integration
  • Has food tracking
  • Has calorie calculator for estimate calories burned, but seems to overestimate calories burned
  • Allows user to log many types of workouts
  • Has Twitter feed
  • Has Google+ page (listed under “Map My Fitness”)

Cons:

  • Way too many ads
  • Not much for competition with strangers (like Strava)
  • Calorie calculator seems like it overestimates actual calories burnt
  • Didn’t support my GPSr, but did allow manual uploads

Strava

Strava is a household name for people in the Fred world (the neon-laden roadie cycling types that wear sponsor kits, even though they’re not sponsored… y0u know the type). Most people like it for the competitive side. You enter your ride data, a GPX file typically, or track your route/data with their great phone app. (Edit: Garmin Sync did not work with my Vista Hcx on Chrome or Firefox, while the other two sites did work w/ Firefox.) Once your data is entered, it compares your data with other people for segments by ranking people based on time/speed over a particular climb, straight away, etc. I actually found that Stacy and my times are in the top 1/3 of times for people in our area. Surprising, considering a I’m built like a lineman, not a cyclist. There isn’t much of a mapping element to Strava so it’s pretty much worthless for route recon. It really only allows you to search for segments so there’s no pre-mapped routes you can follow, which can be handy if you are riding in a new area and don’t know the dangerous roads.

Strava is not that great for social network integration, though it does allow users to post rides to Twitter and Facebook. It does have a lot of pro cyclist endorsements. It seems like it could also be useful for gauging personal fitness, and celebrating personal bests. Their premium accounts cost $59/year (or $6/month) and the features listed sound like it basically liberates more data for the user, and allows you to compare yourself against people who are similar in age, weight, and sex.

Pros:

  • Good for gauging personal fitness
  • Great for pseudo-competition with strangers
  • Not many ads
  • Has Twitter feed
  • Has a good app
  • Allows users to track workouts that aren’t rides and runs

Cons:

  • Useless for route recon
  • Not much for social network integration
  • Doesn’t have a Google+ page
  • All of the data is behind a pay wall
  • Privacy – the app doesn’t incorporate a home buffer, so if you ride from your front door, strangers know where you live to within a few meters.
  • Didn’t support my GPS unit, but allowed manual uploads

Ride With GPS

Ride with GPS is the stats guy’s cycling website. It puts so much data in front of you (even for the free version that I use) that you don’t really know what to do with it all. I find that very useful. I’d rather have too much data than too little. It’s mapping software seems to be on par with MapMyRide. It doesn’t have any ads, and is subtle about how it asks you to sign on with a premium account. It has Garmin integration, but I found that it didn’t work that with with my Garmin Etrex Vista HCx. It did allow me to manually load it, as with MapMyRide. (Edit, I found out that’s because Garmin Sync only works on IE and Firefox, not Chrome.) It doesn’t have an app. However, if you use an Android device, you can upload files from Google’s My Tracks app. Since I prefer to use an actual GPSr instead of my smartphone, this wasn’t really a big deal. By the way, the My Tracks import option didn’t really seem to work that well when I tried it. A reader (comment below) added that Ride With GPS has the advantage of allowing people to host maps as pictures on their site so you can upload them to blogs like this one. That may be useful for some.

Ride With GPS offers two levels of premium accounts, $59/year ($6/month), or $80/year ($10/month). Premium accounts allow mostly increased benefits for navigation and GPS integration. It doesn’t add much for data since they give you so much for the free account. It also allows you to better analyze your rides as a whole through a tagging feature, so you could compare your weekend rides against each other, or rides on one specific bike, as examples. (Edit: RWGPS has been redesigned with a completely new look. Check it out, or read the edit at the bottom of this post.)

Pros:

  • Great mapping environment for route recon
  • It seems to be under active development, so improvements are common
  • Has tons and tons of data – even for the free version
  • Has lots of pre-mapped routes
  • Has Twitter Feed
  • Has Google+ page
  • Edit: Now has a cue-sheet feature for your phone’s internet browser

Cons:

  • No app (does allow imports from Google My Tracks for Android users)
  • Doesn’t have great social network integration – doesn’t have a “find friend via Facebook/Twitter/email/etc. feature
  • Doesn’t have competitive features that Strava does
  • Syncing with my GPSr didn’t work that well, but did allow manual upload

In summary, If social networks and mapping are your thing, or if you do a wide variety of workouts that you want to log, go with MapMyRide. If straight-up competition, personal bests, etc. are your thing, go with Strava. If you like mapping and data, go with Ride With GPS.

I’m going to give Ride With GPS and Strava the old college try. Ride With GPS seems like it fits my needs for cycling the best. However, MapMyRide allows me to log more workouts than cycling only (Ride With GPS) or cycling and running only (Strava). I play tennis, go on hikes, walk my dogs, and lift weights, and I would like to keep a record of my workouts. The ability to log those activities may give MapMyRide the upper hand. It would be nice if RideWithGPS would develop their own app someday, since the use of the Google My Tracks app is kind of clunky with their website. However, since I was looking primarily for a website that worked well with a normal GPSr, their site will do just fine for me.

If you have thoughts about any of these sites, leave a comment. I’m open to being convinced which site/app is the best.

Update (5/1/2013): I used all three services for several weeks, and have since come to the conclusion that Ride With GPS and Strava are the best of the three. I think Ride With GPS has the most upside, and I am considering subscribing to their premium services (maybe that can be a reward if I lose 30 lbs). I’ve also been surprised on how motivating it is to “compete” on Strava segments. At the moment, I have been updating both my Ride With GPS and Strava accounts. It only takes an extra minute to do both. I’ll keep an eye on these two sites as they develop. 

Update (5/21/2013): I took the plunge and signed up for the basic service ($6/month). I think this service has a lot to offer, and I wanted to help it develop. I have been really impressed with their “activity center” which allows me to more easily analyze my rides. I can also track maintenance on my bikes. I don’t think I’ll use the cue sheet feature of the basic service, but at least I know it’s there. If you enjoy the RWGPS free service, I’d recommend subscribing to their basic service. Strava has the best user interface, and a great app. I just wish it wasn’t limited to just competition. Adding a route planner and some other features for cyclists who aren’t looking to compete would go a long way towards improving their service. 

Update (8/15/2013): I’m still using both RWGPS and Strava. RWGPS just recently completely renovated their website. It’s a lot more aesthetically pleasing, and is a little easier to use. Also, since I’ve started using my GPS for cycling, I’ve been using OpenStreetMap (OSM) data for a basemap. It’s free, open-source data. OpenStreetMap is sort of like Wikipedia for geography, with several million users worldwide contributing geographic information to the map. I’ve started to contribute to it as well, adding all of the data for the greenway trail that runs by my house, as well as add the on-street bicycle routes for the Raleigh, NC area. I want it to be useful for cyclists, and somewhat selfishly, useful for myself when I ride. The reason I mention this is that RWGPS supports OSM maps. That may be something to consider, especially if you’re in an area where Google Maps data isn’t fleshed out, or even used, or if you just like to support open-source projects and free maps.  

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This is a shameless plug for a product being sold by a company that one of my college buddies, Dane, and his brother, Westin, started. It is called “The Bev Barge”, and it is being sold by Weekend Products.  Dane is one of my college buddies and a Triangle Fraternity brother from Iowa State.

The Bev Barge is a great idea for a product in my opinion. I’m sure Dane got the idea from our “cabrewing” adventures of floating down the Des Moines River in canoes and drinking some frosty, adult beverages. Anyway, the Bev Barge, as you can see in the pictures, is basically a floating table/bar top with a cooler for frosty adult or frosty kiddy beverage, a place for a shade umbrella, places to dock your inner tube, and most importantly – cup holders. Here are some pictures of the Bev Barge, followed by a you tube video of it in action.

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You can read all about the details for the Bev Barge at the link above. Because Dane seems to have the weird ability to destroy just about anything he puts his hands on, you can be assured that it is built to be indestructible (i.e. Dane-proof).

If for no other reason than to buy it because the Bev Barge is awesome, Dane is also engaged to get married this summer to his fiance Kelly who is training to be a pilot in the Air Force. Dane also recently signed up for the Army Reserve in Wisconsin. Sounds the just the kind of entrepreneur you want to support doesn’t he?

You can buy yours from Weekend Products, or through Amazon or all of the finest boating supply websites. It’s just in time for the Memorial Day weekend too!

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