Motorcycle navigation apps for adventure riders

My Requirements

When I’m planning a trip, what I want to do, is plan the route exactly as I want. Not just “find scenic routes” not “avoid highways” etc. So far doing this with the actual GPS navigator has been a nightmare. Phone apps have not been much better and very often there is a requirement for internet access.

Near constant mobile internet access on a proper road trip that usually takes me to other countries is either totally impossible / impractical or costs way too much.

My approach has been to use Tyre to plan my waypoints on the computer and then upload the finished route to the TomTom. No internet required on the road and the planning is a pleasure with a computer mouse and a big screen.

What I’m looking for

I want to ditch the old TomTom and do he navigating with my phone. Mostly because I don’t want to fork out the money for a new GPS device and I like the idea of having one less device with me.

So what I need from an app is the following

1. OFFLINE MAPS
Internet connection is just not available everywhere (some remote places don’t have cell phone connection at all) an if it is, it costs too much. Data transfer charges can be outrageous at foreign countries.

2. ROUTE IMPORT
I wan’t to be able to plan the route on a proper computer with a big screen.

3. NAVIGATION
I want actual turn by turn navigation, not just tracking

The solutions?

MOTOEYE

IMG_5390

Well, I used this for one trip and then something bad happened. The homepage has since disappeared along with any updates to the app. I was originally able to plan the route using the excellent Tyre to travel desktop software, then upload the route (.GPX) to Dropbox and upload the route from Dropbox to the MotoEye app. The app is still available and sort of works, but the Dropbox connection doesn’t which makes the app unusable for me.

REVER

IMG_5391

Now the Rever is a clean looking app and they have a nice website that allows you to plan your route and it then uploads to the app. Rever also features offline maps, but there is a catch! If you are offline when launching the app, the app can’t load your profile or any previously uploaded routes. Ie. nothing is stored in the app and you are left with a plain map. I say plain map, because the Rever app doesn’t allow any sort of destination or waypoint setting in the app.

UPDATE 22.7.2017
While the off line usability is what it is the Rever seems to work very well in how it actually calculates the routes. Imported GPX routes are shown exactly as they were planned.

+ offline maps
+ detailed maps with all the small roads
+ nice website

– not actually usable offline!
– costs $5,99/month or $59,99 / year

SCENIC

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The Scenic works better offline than Rever and has route planning in app (which is always painful compared to doing on the computer). This being said, it is a very useful feature when pre made plans need to be changed on the fly.

The big problem with the Scenic are the actual maps. Small roads are missing completely! Compare the screen grab from the Scenic to the one from the Rever. There is a huge difference. While road oriented riders may not see this as a problem I certainly do. I’m always looking for the smallest most remote back roads possible.

You can plan a route along the small roads on a desktop software AND import it to the app, but the result is not very good. See below. There are routing options for calculating the route: “fast”, “short”, “efficient” and “curvy” but the calculations often provide undesired results. For example the “short” option fails to find the shortest route eventhough there are clearly roads that could be used.

UPDATE 22.7.2017
I used the Scenic on my recent trip to Norway. I experienced a lot of crashing and more recently my attempts to use imported GPX routes resulted in failure. The created routes were not shown correctly in app no matter what settings I used. The roads were shown on the map, but Scenic refused to draw the route between several waypoints no matter what I did.

IMG_5393
The dotted line is the planned route and the red line is where Scenic is routing me.

+ importing .gpx routes works
+ offline maps
+ on app route making
+ easily readable map colors
+ simple .gpx import through scenic website

– problems with directly linked .gpx files made with Tyre (same .gpx files works when imported to the app via the Scenic website)
– maps are not detailed enough
– costs $10.49 / year or $49.99 forever
– the “short” navigation option does not often actually find the shortest route


[UPDATE 21.6.2017]

MOTIONX

IMG_5403
The MotionX maps are also missing small roads. The maps are based on openStreetMaps.

The MotionX seems to be packed with features and has the ability to load a variety of different maps for use including Google maps, Apple maps, Bing maps, Marine maps and so on. Motion X can also store maps for offline use and import premade .gpx files. While the app can cache maps the actual downloaded maps are based on OpenStreetMaps that are not accurate enough for my purposes. *This lack of smaller roads may not be a problem for other countries/places.

There is an option to download custom map types for offline use, but (costs 5,49€). This may solve the lack of detail problem, but I haven’t yet figured out how to do it OR if suitable maps are available for my country / neighboring countries.

+ lots of features
+ easy .gpx import
+ cheap, 2,99€

– no turn by turn navigation
– little slow
– GPX import is limited to 12 waypoints!

[UPDATE 4.7.2017]

VIEWRANGER

IMG_5454[1]

Viewranger has a variety of maps available from ski maps to landscape maps. The small roads are again lacking in most of them AND most of the specialty maps cannot be downloaded for offline use. The maps are detailed, but readability is horrible especially at lower zoom levels. Trying to find roads in that mess from a phone screen… just no.

The .GPX import works ok, but the end result is less than ideal. As Viewranger doesn’t really have a clue about roads the track it draws is not very good. (compare the track to what Scenic did eventhough it doesn’t even find the roads)

Ofcourse you can plan the track at greater detail and get better results, but I don’t see Viewranger being the solution for motorcycle navigation regardless. On foot and on bike it most likely works very well.

IMG_5516[1]

Bad track and bad readability

+ lots of different maps
+ easy .gpx import

– no turn by turn navigation
– limited offline use
– maps not suitable for my purposes

MAPS.ME

maps.me
Maps.me works up to a point

When the Scenic failed me I used MAPS.ME as my fall back app. I was completely off the grid by this time but MAPS.ME delivered as I had loaded off line maps on it just in case.

Maps.me cannot import GPX files or save created routes which makes it severely lacking, but on the other hand usability and reliability is very good. The best off all the apps I have tested. Recently MAPS.ME has added the ability to add way points between the start and end points so some kind of route planning is possible in app.

Maps.me does have the ability to save locations, so one can sort of work around the drawbacks by sawing key route points and then navigating to them one by one. This is not a working solution when the route is complex and the way points need to be close to one another.

+ reliability
+ fast
+ easy & intuitive

– no GPX import
– no route saving
– the smallest roads are missing yet again

SUMMARY

I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. Give me a heads up if you come across something that you think could work.

UPDATE [Jan. 23rd 2018]

So far I’ve done most of my route planning on Google maps / Tyre to travel software. I usually use google maps to scout locations based on satellite imagery and plan the route on Tyre.

The 2 big problems have always been:

  • The small roads disappear when zooming out
  • The contrast of almost all maps is ABYSMAL!

It is absolutely infuriating that the roads and terrain are nearly indistinguishable as the color contrast is nonexistent. Why on earth this is the case, I don’t get it.

There is a road below the lower green marker. Who the **ll can see that properly?!
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Once you zoom in Google makes the contrast even worse.

I found some relief to this issue and recommend you check it out. The site is called Kurviger. It can be used to plan routes and export the .gpx files, but the really fantastic thing are the multiple map options. The image above is the usual Google stuff where you need cyborg vision to see the small roads at any practical zoom level. No enter the Kurviger with “open topo map” layer and BEHOLD! one can actually SEE the small roads AND at a zoom level that allows for a much better overall picture of the are and roads.

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Yeees! Now I can see!

OSMAND+

I’ve now also familiarized myself with the Osmand+ app. It does seem that it currently the way to go. Actual field testing needs to be done, but usability and features seem to be there.

+ offline maps
+ .gpx import
+ intuitive
+ free (up to a point)
+ map customization options

– still the smallest roads are missing on the test area
– contrast of roads against terrain still not great

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Ferdinand pick says:

    Have you tried viewranger??

    It won’t navigate turn by turn but I import gpx files and follow them. Also its a gpx community so I just go on holiday and where ever I find myself I search for local off road trails

    Like

    1. 250rally says:

      Seems that I’ve downloaded it at some point and tried it, but the lack of turn by turn navigation most likely resulted in me removing it.

      Like

      1. Ferdinand pick says:

        It’s more of a gpx file off road map that you have to actually follow on the phone. It’s kind of a map, which displays preloaded routes and puts a crosshair on the map identifying your real-time location.

        I love it! Used it allover the world

        Like

  2. Alfred says:

    Check oruxmaps.com, an offroad ultrapowerful gps navigator with support por online and offline maps, as well vector maps with style layers.
    Keep on that good work! 🙂

    Like

    1. 250rally says:

      Thanks for the tip. I’m stuck with an iPhone until next year so it wont work for me yet.

      Like

  3. I’m an iOS app developer by trade and am considering building one for this… I’m in the same boat…

    Like

  4. Seb says:

    You could try “Maps 3D Pro”. Map Downloads are a bigger and more complicated than with maps.me, but provide more detail. GPX import is possible. I’m using both.

    Nice blog btw., just stumbled upon it while looking for stuff on the Rally.

    Like

  5. Hall says:

    Have You ever tried the Osmand app? I personally love it, and it seems that it has all the features You want!

    Like

    1. 250rally says:

      No, but I will give it a go. Thanks for the heads up.

      Like

  6. Jan says:

    Check out the osmand+ app (only for Android as far as I know). I use it in combinatin with the motoplaner.de website.

    There is also another app from a young startup in Berlin: calimoto. I really like that app, you have offline maps, you can plan in the app and in addition you have a planer for the desktop. All your routes are stored & displayed in the app. Have a look.

    Btw. great website, great bike!

    Like

  7. Ferdinand pick says:

    I use the calimoto app. It generates random routes for me to ride on days out. You can set a destination or randomly generate a route and can ask for a loop in North, South, East, West direction with the addition of how many miles you wish to travel 50, 100, 150 etc. Its good for local back roads you didnt know existed. You get one area free and can buy rest. Wife and I both have it with different areas so we can cover a large area one our bikes for day rides.

    Like

  8. Ronny Hermus says:

    Hello. I just both a new bike crf 250 rally to replace my old africa twin, i discovered your website when browsing the net, a big thank you for your work ! You have a fantastic site, friendly greetings, Ronny Hermus, Belgium

    Like

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