Canberra has much to offer, but navigation is difficult. The combination of Komoot and GPS bike computers is ideal for finding your way around Canberra. Even if you cannot afford GPS, the free Komoot app is enough.
I am not going to do product reviews on canberra.bike unless it is a problem specific to Canberra. At this stage, I cannot imagine that that will happen often. Canberra.bike is all about getting around Canberra with a bike, and sometimes we need to be quite determined to make it work. The missing links and patchy network do not make it easier. This is nothing new, and that the ACT Government is slow to fix the problem is also nothing new.
Without good directional signage, getting around Canberra requires you to take a map. The best map for the ACT is OpenStreetMap. You will need to take this map with you on your ride, and the easiest way to do this is to use a smartphone. Komoot is the best app for cycling with OpenStreetMap and also provides turn by turn navigation. You can plan your trip on the move with nothing but your smartphone. Komoot and OpenStreetMap are free.
There are still two problems that a cyclist must deal with. You cannot hold the phone while riding, and you can sometimes be without a data connection, as mobile coverage can be patchy.
It is not possible to ride a bike and use the phone. Turn by turn navigation is so helpful. The phone will talk to you and provide directions, allowing you to keep your eyes on the route ahead. Some attach the phone to the handlebars, but another option is Bluetooth headphones. With headphones, the phone can be kept in the pocket or backpack, which reduces the risk of breakage.
I have found buying a bike computer worthwhile, however, bike computers with turn by turn navigation are still not cheap. The most basic models most likely don’t have the functionality you’re looking for. Without a coloured screen, map reading is difficult as path types are distinguished by colour. Garmin, Wahoo and Lezyne offer bike computers with navigation capability. They are often referred to as GPS. They are small and attached to the handlebar, may have a touch screen, but cheaper ones work with buttons. All are supported by a smartphone app.
Check if you can download OpenStreetMap to the device. This is harder said than done, as all too often the bike shop staff will not know OpenStreetMap. Another consideration is to ask whether the bike computer supports Komoot, as Komoot includes OpenStreetMap. Both Garmin and Lezyne do. Lezyne is less costly than Garmin. You can plan the route on the Komoot app on the phone and download the route to the bike computer, which then does the rest. At that point, you can store your phone away safely. (Update: I have been told Wahoo supports Komoot too, but I am not sure that OpenStreetMap is supported by Wahoo. See comments below.)
Not only are the paths patchy in Canberra, but the mobile coverage is too. We do not want to have to take a detour to find coverage and load the map. If you plan to leave the urban areas you will need to download the maps to the navigation device.
All GPS bike computers have a map stored on the device. Either the map is downloaded for a large area such as Australia (Garmin), or just the ride area (Komoot). OpenStreetMap can also be downloaded for free on a computer and installed on the Garmin device with BaseCamp. This is best done once a month if you want path updates and road closures.
There are many apps for the smartphone that download OpenStreetMap but almost none offer turn by turn navigation. Komoot does.
Cycling is not one size fits all. Depending on the ride, you will need a different route. Most of us just want to ride away from the road on a paved surface where it is safe, and not worry about traffic. Canberra has community paths that are great for families and kids. Having said that, the evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of us do not want to ride on the road.
Riding on community paths is most common and Komoot calls this navigation type “bike touring”. Two other navigation types are riding single trail for mountain bikes and along the road edge on the road bike. I will call these “single trail” and “road cycling”. Many commuters like road cycling as it is direct and fast, but there are risks. There are other navigation modes, too, and Komoot has them all.
Komoot navigation routing
Popular Komoot navigation types:
- Bike touring – routed along paved surfaces on community paths
- Mountain biking – routed along single track for mountain bikes
- Gravel riding – routed along formed vehicle trails (fire trails) for “fat tyre” bikes
Other navigation types
- Road cycling
- Mountain biking (alpine)
The new Lezyne
Lezyne updated their product range recently to support Komoot navigation. It is the third manufacture of GPS cycling computers to do so, following Garmin and Wahoo. As Lezyne is half the price of the competitors, I think that the Lezyne may be an option for those that find the Garmin and Wahoo too expensive.
Product Page – Short product video
Pricing from 99 Bikes but there are other retailers.