strava or map my ride

Strava or Map My Ride – Which is Best for the Midlife Rider?

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Apparently there are people who ride around without using an app or recording all of their movements.

Crazy or what!?

Luckily, for us more normal people who like to analyse our every pedal stroke and obsess over our average speed, heart rate and calorie count there’s an ever increasing choice of apps out there.

A lot of cyclists use Strava or Map My Ride and in this post I bravely attempt to answer the contentious and frankly subjective question about which one is best – particularly for us golden riders!

Now, to help you out, and to also get my fuddled brain into order as well I will be addressing the issue more or less in the order of the following important topics:

  • Which one looks and feels the best

  • Which one has the best website

  • Which one has the best features

  • Which has the best premium service

  • Final recommendations

Before we start let me just point out that I’m far to tight to actually pay for apps and I will be, therefore, reviewing the lovely FREE versions before going on to look at what you get for your moola if you are much more financially frivolous than me and splash out on the premium versions.

Strava or Map My Ride – Which one looks and feels the best

OK, so you can accuse me of being a big girl but I have to admit that I like this sort of thing to be user friendly, actually downright warm and cuddly and to be aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, I will even pay more for something that just feels right and has the right vibe even if it has practical short comings – damn my artistic temperament!

So, in terms of Strava or Map my Ride we have two rather different aesthetics altogether. First of all the apps themselves – Strava is predominantly orange and white and as such has a cool and functional feel to it. It’s very uncluttered, no nonsense and just a touch unfriendly.

Map My Ride certainly has a slightly warmer and more welcoming feel to it – it’s somehow a little softer in it’s design and just a touch more welcoming and user friendly.

Aunty Map my Ride

However, as you dig a little deeper you come to realise that Strava is a triumph of functionality and minimalist cool – it all just sort of works really smoothly and nicely and feels right for cyclists. Map My Ride started life as a running app called, rather surprisingly, Map My Run and it kind of shows. Bear in mind that the Map My….. empire has recently been gloriously expanded with the indispensable Map My Dog Walk (no, I’m not joking!) and you will get the idea of where I’m coming from on this.

So Map My Ride feels a bit clunky and over laden, a bit like a warm, cuddly, overweight and scatty Aunt. Strava is your clean cut but rather distant and super cool cousin.

I’ve also read a few musings on the internet thing about people finding Map My Ride a bit unstable and a bit of a CPU hog. (Get me and my techy, web nerd developer vibe!) I haven’t had any problems personally running either but you may have issues if you are using an older or lower spec phone. I can imagine it would be really irritating to get home from a ride having given it your all only to realise that the app had crashed an hour ago!

Cousin Strava

Map My Ride has ads. Strava doesn’t – don’t get me started!

Which has the best website?

There really is nothing like getting home from a ride and smugly sprawling on the sofa with your legs tingling, the endorphins swimming around and a lovely cup of tea in your hand drawling over your ride stats online.

When I first started cycling I assumed that you needed to plug the phone, via one of those irritating USB cables that I can never find in my man drawer, into the computer to download. But lo, behold the power of wireless. I simply save the ride on my app and it magically filters to the website – now that’s magic!

At this point it’s worth pointing out that, despite however politely (or not) they might seem to be listening, your partner/spouse/children or anyone else you care to relay your vital cycle ride stats to DOESN’T CARE! Nobody in the whole world is interested in your average speed, calorie burn or heart rate apart from yourself and your chosen app. And it’s a bloody computer so get over it!

However, it’s bizarrely addictive reliving your ride online and seeing how you performed, not to mention seeing who else was out on their bikes, where they were going and how fast they were going when they over took you!

The Map My Ride website is OK. It’s not really well designed, isn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing and again features ads. It’s functional rather than fantastic and, although it’s easy enough to find your way around again it’s a bit awkward and clunky.

strava or map my ride post

In contrast to this the Strava site is a triumph of minimalist cool. It looks great and works great and feels modern and slick. For me it’s a no brainer here  – the Strava site wins hands down.

strava or map my ride app

Strava or My My Ride – Which one has the best features?

OK, so this is the 64,000 bazillion dollar question!

I’m not going to bore myself and definitely you too by going through every tedious function as it would just take far to long and, to a certain extent they are very similar. Both apps obviously record your route, speed, elevation, estimate calories, look at your average speeds etc etc and they present them in essentially a very similar way.

They do differ in the way that they interact with data over a period of time though and this, for me at least is the fundamental and defining difference – in essence Strava compares your efforts with every other bugger that’s on Strava in your area through recording and comparing the data from “segments” or stretches of road.

Map my Ride does a similar thing but, rather than the emphasis being on competing with others, it’s much more concerned with comparing your personal achievements and rewards you for long term improvement.

Think of them both in terms of a school report, in my case for a bit of a slow but trying hard pupil. Auntie Map My Ride says “Oh well done Andrew, you are trying really hard and getting slowly better, keep going, you will get there, I’m really proud of you!”. Strava is more of a “Hey man, that was a bit shit. Look how fast these cool gang guys are going and get your arse in gear!” – do you see the difference!

However, interestingly in the background Auntie Map my Ride is a bit  of a secret shambles, she’s trying to sell me stuff all the time to line her pockets and annoy me into going premium. At least cousin Strava is up front and tells it how it is!

Map my Ride wins hands down on route mapping though. You can plot and choose routes, have routes suggested to you, look them up on the computer and send them to your phone – this is an awesome facility and one that Strava simply doesn’t do!

The other thing that I am finding is that it’s fascinating to see who other riders are that I meet on my ides and to see where they have been, what their speed was etc. It’s shameless voyeurism I know but utterly fascinating. You simply check out your “flybys” and you can see who you met, who overtook you and who you overtook as well! Map My Ride has a similar but less sophisticated system but I’m finding that hardly anyone is on Map my Ride whilst a majority of the “serious” cyclists who I meet or pass me are.

Anyway the only cyclists that I actually pass are far too crap to be keen enough to be using Strava and the only app they seem to be using when riding is Instagram or Snapchat!

texting on bike

Premium Versions

I haven’t tried the premium versions of either app but both do offer them. I’ve actually been quite happy with the functionality of both of the free versions and think that they both offer great value for no money!

The only thing that would make me want to upgrade is that both apps will go on to record my heart rate data if I pay and this would be really useful. Both also allow power monitoring etc again with a compatible power meter and, if this was the case I think the data capabilities of Strava would be my app of choice. Both premium versions include training plans, in Map my Ride it becomes ad free which would be great!

Conclusions

Free versions – In theory at least, I would sort of assume that for a mid ability rider whose prime motivation is to get fit and enjoy riding Map My Ride would be the obvious choice. It has a user friendly, not too serious, gently encouraging nature about it and a wealth of information attractively presented. It’s also great for mapping, directions and routes. However Map My Ride isn’t great on the community side of things and, if I was interested in other riders and what they are doing, rather than just my own performance, Strava would do a better job.

If I was more competitive, then Strava would be the one for me. It does have a bit of tendency to make you want to go flat out all the time which maybe isn’t the best thing (see my post on mindful cycling here!) but it’s certainly the most popular app by far with “serious” cyclists and there’s a wealth of community information on it.

Personally I have both on my phone and, although I like Map My Ride and feel that in many ways I’m more suited to it in my cycling goals I’ve naturally been drawn to using Strava over the last few months. I love the “flyby” and community element of Strava and it’s design and feel and am increasingly irritated by Map My Rides ads and slight clunkiness. I wish that I could get the personal improvement vibe and mapping elements of Map My Ride and combine them with the design and community aspects of Strava – for me that would be the perfect app!

Premium versions – If I was going to pay I wouldn’t hesitate to go for Strava. I would only upgrade in order to record my heart rate and power on the app and, if I was working at this level having the serious cyclists standard app would seem like a no brainer!

I hope that’s been useful and has given you some food for thought if you are trying to decide which to use and download. I would love to hear if you have any points to add or you disagree with any of my thoughts! get in touch in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. Very nice review. Just recently started riding again, have used MMR for years, but have stumbled on some newer apps like Strava that have come online since I used to ride a lot. Nice comparison and well written!

    1. Author

      Hi Mike
      Thank you for the kind comment and I’m glad you found the review helpful!

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