Tires pumped to perfection? Check. Water bottle filled? Check. Snacks stashed? Check. Now, the only question left is: where to ride?
Maybe you’ve just gotten into mountain biking and can’t wait to shred the local trails. Maybe you’re a seasoned rider exploring new territory. Or maybe you’ve ridden your local bike park or the same trails long enough and you’re ready to explore new areas.
Mountain biking is demanding enough without the addition of confusing trail systems. Trails scattered across the sides of a mountain can more closely resemble a tangle of spaghetti. Thankfully, technology makes it easier than ever to ensure you find the trails that are best suited to you.
Trailforks is one of the most popular mountain biking apps on the market, and you’ve no doubt heard of it. The app is packed with useful features. For instance, it allows mountain biking associations to keep track of trail conditions, trail builders to log work, and mountain bikers to discover, plan, and share their rides.
Trailforks boasts a database of nearly 500,000 trails in over 100 countries, which means it’s likely you’ll find maps for trails where you’re riding. With interactive trail maps, Trailforks makes it easy to pick and choose routes—from easy climbs to double black descents, from flow trails to technical sections—and each is labeled with a community ride score, level of difficulty, distance, elevation gain, and average time to complete. Many trails also include pictures and videos.
You can use this app to rate trails and report conditions, including washouts or when trails are closed for maintenance. The free version will allow you to save one home region to your phone and navigate this region during your rides when connected to cell service. The paid version offers unlimited access to offline trail maps worldwide (no cell service required).
Download: Trailforks for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
Strava claims to be the top app for runners and cyclists and the overwhelming number of downloads the app receives backs up that claim. Strava’s popularity is no doubt due to several unique features. By downloading the app, you can transform any iPhone or Android smartphone into a sophisticated cycling computer.
As a cycling computer, Strava can do a lot. For instance, you can follow a map using your smartphone’s GPS, display your speed, and sync with compatible devices. These include fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, power meters, head units, and smartwatches, such as the feature-packed Garmin MARQ smartwatch. Then, use the connected device to track your performance stats and analyze your ride data.
One of the features of Strava that makes riding more fun is the ability to compete on ride segments created by other users. Leaderboards allow you to see other riders’ performance, encouraging you to push yourself farther and faster than ever before. After setting personal bests, you can share rides with your friends and challenge them to beat your time.
The free version allows activity recording and social sharing, while the paid version offers additional features such as route planning, heart rate and power analysis, and other advanced metrics.
Download: Strava for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
The mission of Alltrails is to help people connect to nature, and Alltrails supports all kinds of outdoor activities, including mountain biking. The app includes an interactive map, the ability to view and sort by trail difficulty and length, and even a description of whether trails are dog-friendly—a plus if you like to ride with fido.
Unlike other apps, Alltrails focuses on complete routes rather than individual trails. This is both a plus and a minus. Following a complete route is useful if you like the idea of someone else planning your entire trip. If so, simply open the Alltrails app, filter routes by the length of time you’d like to ride for and the level of difficulty, and Alltrails will provide a GPS-trackable route that meets your parameters.
However, routes are less useful if you want to select individual trails or choose your own adventure as you go.
The free version of Alltrails allows you to navigate with a network connection, add favorite routes, and create lists of trails you’d like to tackle in the future. The paid version allows you to not only download offline maps, but also receive alerts when you miss a turn on your ride, which can prevent you from having to take your phone out of your pocket or backpack every time you wonder, “Am I on the right track?”
Download: Alltrails for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
4. Google Maps
If simplicity and low cost are what you’re after, Google Maps might be for you. It offers one of the simplest user experiences of all the apps on this list and, best of all, it’s completely free—even for offline navigation, which is a key feature for mountain bikers who ride where there’s spotty cell service.
However, the downside of such a simple app is that it lacks most, if not all, of the other features that are useful for properly planning and navigating a mountain bike trip, including the location of trail paths, difficulty ratings, and even trail names.
Google Maps does not in itself connect to other fitness devices, but Google does offer the Google Fit fitness tracking app, which can help you reach your fitness goals. It also supports Fitbit devices, which have a host of features that you might find beneficial.
Download: Google Maps for iOS | Android (Free)
How to Download Google Maps for Offline Viewing on an iPhone
- On your iPhone, simply tap your profile icon in the corner of the screen and choose Offline maps.
- Tap Select your own map.
- Next, position the region that you’ll be riding into the middle of the screen and then tap Download.
- Once complete, you’ll be able to track your location using your smartphone’s GPS, even without cell service.
Find and Ride the Best Trails With These Apps
Whether you’re taking a leisurely Sunday cruise on some green-rated cross-country trails or hunting for the gnarliest technical double-black rips, by using these apps you’ll be able to find and ride the best trails, keep fit, stay safe, and have a great experience whatever your skill level. The best thing about these apps is that each one offers a free version, meaning you can test them all and find the one that works best for you. Have fun on the trails!