I’ve always been mildly obsessed with GPS. I geocached before there was an app for that. I have more .kmz layers on my desktop Google Earth app than I should admit too. Now, for the past two years I’ve been using GPS apps for my bike ridding. I bounced from app to app for awhile, finding some that were very good with one feature and then others that excelled in a different way…never finding exactly what I was looking for. About two months ago, I found Map My Ride+, by MapMyFitness, and based on it’s performance, I think my app bouncing days are over.
In many ways, Map My Ride+ is to bikers what Nike+ is to runners. You initiate a workout with a push of a button, the app will give you a few seconds to get moving on your bike and then it begins to record your route. Every couple of miles the app will fade your music (or podcast) down and speak all of your stats to you; distance, average speed, calories burned. I have a phone mount on my bike so I keep the app up and running almost like a dashboard when I ride, but you could easily throw the phone in your pocket and still know how you’re doing based on the audio alone. The app, of course, syncs to a web-site where you can look at all your routes, analyze the data that you’ve collected and even build new routes that you’d like to try in the future.
One feature that really caught my attention, however, was the ‘course’ dynamic. Anyone who uses the app can set little mini routes, inside of existing routes. These are called courses and they are open to the public. Meaning if I take a ride on a particularly popular bike trial and there’s a half mile hill climb which has been set-up as a course by someone, for example, on the route. Map My Ride will compile every other user’s stats and rank you on a score board for each of these courses weather you built them or not. It seems like they’re gamifying the whole thing, but I admit that I found my self pushing harder and pedaling faster when I would return to those points in future rides.
Map My Ride takes exercise, and makes it social. Even though I can enjoy a bike ride on my own, I find that I enjoy it more when I know that others are too. The playful competition is energizing rather than discouraging. The data collection keeps you awake and aware because there’s no room for cheating or fudging your numbers. You ride as well as you ride and that’s that. I’m reminded of video games like Burnout Paradise which use similar adaptive scoreboards for ranking racers in-game. It’s the same feeling with Map My Ride except I’m burning calories while I’m at it!