In my previous post I talked about basic GPS apps for cycling, on the android platform.
I quite like big hills when I’m out on my bike. The physical challenge to get up them, and the exhilaration of the downhill speed-fest make them the most enjoyable part of cycling. OK, call me a freak.
However, mobile phone signals tend to suffer in hilly areas, and it’s quite common to have no signal at all. If this happens when you’re “lost”, it’s annoying because you won’t be able to check your map at all.
To combat this risk, I needed an app that could store maps on an SD card. Some quick googling lead me first to Orux Maps.
This free app allows you to store maps on an SD card so wherever you go, you’ll always have a map to refer to. Using some rather clever software called MOBAC, you can create custom versions of maps based around gpx files you import. Say you have a planned route, or a sportive event for which you have the gpx file, you can use Mobac to create a custom map with varying levels of detail, which only includes the map tiles you need, following the gpx route. Very clever.
This app seems very competent, and it’s not my intention to fully review it here; there are plenty of other reviews out there. Here’s a very comprehensive one.
What I would say is that I found the interface quite confusing, and for that reason alone, I kept searching.
Visit the official Orux Maps Andoid Market page.
This app comes in a free, ad-sponsored lite version, and a full paid option, ad free and with an amazing set of features.
Dealing with offline maps, this app allows you to specify regions of maps eg. OSM data, and download local copies to your SD card, all from within the app. Very neat. You also get to choose which zoom levels you need. To avoid using up all your mobile data allowance, try to do this when you’re on wifi, because a large area at a high zoom level will mean thousands of map tiles.
The app has its own function for recording tracks, but also gives you the option to do the recording via MyTracks. I also particularly liked the way in which the screen is customisable. You can add buttons to quickly access various functions, eg. recording, geocaching, car navigation/route planning, even a handy car parking option to tag wherever you’ve left your car, complete with photo reminder etc.
I think I’d be here all day if I went through all the capabilities of this app. It ticked my boxes and I happily paid up for the full version, mainly to get rid of the annoying ads.
Visit the official Android Market page for the Free version of Locus.
Visit the official Android Market page for Locus PRO
But is it all sustainable?
Now that I had the offline maps issue covered, the main limiting factor seemed to be the hardware. Mobile phone batteries don’t last long when the GPS is being used, and several times on long rides, I have experienced total battery drain. Add to that the risks from rain and sweat damage, possible screen breakage from impacts, and it’s clear that the hardware isn’t really up to the demands of serious cycling. They’re just not robust enough.
With this in mind, my cycling GPS journey evolved to the next logical step, a dedicated unit – the Garmin Edge 800. Watch this space…
You can get the Edge 800 plus OS Discoverer maps
You could also save money by using free open source maps instead. Read my article about it here.