Ride at Dawn

This summer I found myself obsessively planning bicycle tour routes. Ironically, this habit started shortly after Strava announced that its online route planning tool would be available only for paid subscribers and, coincidentally, after my smartphone GPS began misbehaving.

I decided to try out Komoot. And once I conquered the learning curve I was hooked on building bike tour routes.

Komoot allows route planning for trips on bike or foot. Planned trips can be loaded onto a GPS to see turn by turn directions. Trips can also be viewed from the smartphone app. Komoot also allows users to upload completed trips from GPS devices.

Here is an example of one of the first routes I planned this summer. I was familiar with parts of this ride such as the Black Diamond Trail and the scenic climb to the North of Robert H Treman State Park on NY-327, but I was unfamiliar with the roads in western Tompkins County that connected these two segments.

Like Strava, Komoot allows me to upload the GPS data from completed rides. When I rode this route on July 3, I decided to skip the leg out to Trumansburg.

Unlike Strava, Komoot lacks focus on your athletic performance of your ride. While the website displays speed, distance, and climbing statistics for completed rides, Komoot does not attempt to compute calories burned or average power, nor does it seem to compare performance between riders.

Komoot’s real strength, I’ve found, is in planning routes. The route planning interface includes several base maps, including topographical maps which are especially important for rides in the southern Finger Lakes region. I enjoy the ‘reverse waypoint order’ function, which has the magical ability to transform a steep climb into a steep descent.

Komoot users can create “highlights” for recommended places on routes that they have ridden on. Highlights can be specific locations (points) or segments. Unlike Strava segments, Komoot does not seem to collect data on individual performance in these areas. I have enjoyed adding various highlights around Ithaca, especially for places that are slightly off the beaten path such as:

My one frustration with Komoot relates to the preferences in the route planner for some trails based on the type of ride planned. For instance, If I plug in Ithaca as my origin and Trumansburg as my destination, I would expect to use the Black Diamond Trail for most of that journey. However, Komoot only chooses this trail if I choose “mountain biking” as my sport. (It is possible to manually override this by adding waypoints on the trail.)

While Strava has taken the approach of focusing more intensely on athletic performance, Komoot has a more leisurely approach that I’ve found refreshing. Komoot does not remind me that a dozen people have recorded faster times for a segment of road, nor does it try to appeal to my vanity by displaying my “personal records.”

While Strava doesn’t exactly represent my approach to cycling, I can’t imagine permanently disconnecting from it. I have been using Strava for seven years. Almost everyone I know who rides has a Strava account; opening Strava shows me rides from friends in far flung places. Going forward I plan to continue using Strava to stay in touch with my biking community and using Komoot to plan new adventures.