GPS on tablets and smartphones

Most smartphones and tablet computers are GPS-enabled. With the right app they can be used as a navigational aid. To do this, download the GPX file from the route page and import it to your device. How this is done depends on the app you’re using. Your app will determine your choice of base maps.

If you want a really simple phone app for following a GPX track, Bike GPX is good, and available for both Android and iPhone.

Outdooractive is popular and feature-packed navigation app for both iPad, iPhone and Android devices. I also like RideWithGPS though it lacks Outdooractive’s option to have Ordnance Survey base maps. 

Whichever app you use, it’s best to download the base maps onto your device before you go, in case you are in a place with no phone service. GPS can drain batteries fast, so it’s worth taking a paper map as a backup, at least until you get an idea of how long your device’s battery will last when being used for GPS navigation.

Phone navigation apps are great but it’s probably safest to carry a paper map and/or the turn-by-turn route instructions supplied with each ride as well, or to use a dedicated GPS navigation device like a Garmin or a Wahoo.

When following a route on a phone, a device like a Garmin, or printed turb-by-turn instructions, try to remember to look up and look around to get a sense of the lie of the land as you pass through. This will enhance your enjoyment of the ride and deepen your connection with your surroundings. Look to the horizon to orient yourself from landmarks like church spires, and develop an awareness of which way is north, east, south, west. The position of the sun in the sky helps with this – it rises in the east, spends the middle of the day in the south and sets in the west. To take your navigation to the next level, check out Tristan Gooley’s books and website.

6 thoughts on “GPS on tablets and smartphones”

  1. Hi Jack

    Do you have by any chance the instructions for downloading the map on the Outdoors GPS app, which uses OS maps as well?

    Thanks a lot
    Manou

  2. An easy way to use these GPX files for navigation and to record your distance route is:
    1. Download the GPX file from this site to your PC by visiting the URL from the Page in the book and clicking on the GPX link or right clicking and choosing ‘Save As’.
    2. Visit https://www.mapmyride.com/auth/signup and create an account, remember your username and password (you’ll need them later)
    3. Create a new route on that site at https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/create/
    4. On the left of the screen, click where it says ‘Import’ in Blue, Find the GPX file you just downloaded to your PC (likely in your ‘Downloads’ Folder).
    5. Name and save the route that appears using the bar on the left again where you just clicked Import.
    6. Download the ‘MapMyRide’ app to your phone from the App Store and log in on the app using the details you used at step 2.
    7. Load the Route on the App: Tap the Bottom middle button which looks like a stopwatch, then top middle ‘Load route’, then My Routes (you may need to refresh the page by dragging down and releasing), then your new route should be top of the list.
    8. Select the Route and hit ‘Do It’ at the Top Right. Go Cycling and enjoy! Top tip: Get a handlebar mount for your phone so you can quickly glance at it to check your navigation (or not if you are prone to crashing!)

    There are loads of other apps you can load the GPX with (I’ve also used MotionXGPS) so use those if you prefer. This is just one way of doing it for anyone who isn’t sure how to start. I use the MapMy…Suite for Running and Cycling and find them to be reliable. Enjoy

  3. Hi Jack,
    I am having trouble importing some of your route files into Garmin Connect. Some of the .gpx files import just fine and others give an error (“An error occurred with your upload, please try again”). I tried with the .fit versions to see if it would work any better but got the same error message. I realize you’re not an IT resource but if you happened to know the answer, it would be hugely appreciated,
    Thanks
    Nigel

    1. Hi Nigel
      The GPX files are all functional in the sense that they are exactly the files that are generating the routes displayed on the maps on the Lost Lanes website.
      However, it seems as though Garmin Connect can be a bit fussy about which GPX files it will accept. There is a fix – run them through the free web too gpsvisualizer.com. Or you can use ridewithgps which I find to be a much better route library tool than Garmin Connect.
      If you drop me a line with a note of which ones you’ve had problems with I can get around to uploading new versions that hopefully should work and potentially work out if there’s something in common with the ones Garmin Connect is rejecting, so that they can more easily be identified and remedied.
      Jack

  4. You’re probably aware, but the wonderful ViewRanger is defunct as of February 2022, taken over by Outdoor Active.
    OA justifiably got dreadful reviews when it first came out, but it’s improved considerably since then. I think it’s now as good as VR was (better in some respects), although it’s still a battery hog.

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