A great feature on the Strava app is the ability to create your own custom cycling routes. This post is about how to create a route on Strava, and then how to follow your custom cycling route on your Smart phone or Garmin Edge bike computer.
Related: How to Use Strava for Cycling
The key to creating your own routes on Strava, is that you need to create such routes within the Strava app itself. Don’t try to make a route on some other app and then get it into Strava. It can be done, but it is a major headache. So, just start with Strava.
How to Create a Route on Strava
First, you need to log into Strava on your computer, and go to the Route Builder part of Strava, which is here.
You can also navigate to the Route Builder from within Strava, as follows:
- Hover over your Dashboard tab to open the drop down menu and select “My Routes”.
- Click the “Create New Route” button near the top of the My Routes tab.
- From there, you will be taken to the Route Builder tool.
Next, run through the very brief tutorial, accessed through the button on the left that looks like an information symbol (an “I” inside a circle).
Once you have done the tutorial, you will have some insights into using the Strava route builder. However, you will still not have a clue how to actually create a route, because the tutorial omits to mention this! So, watch this useful video next, because it shows you exactly how to create a custom route on Strava:
Once you have watched this video, you are ready to start building your route! For some reason I found it impossible to do this on my Apple laptop. I just kept getting error messages. However, it worked very well on a desktop Mac, and is in fact very easy to use. There is a default that will ensure you stay on more popular cycling routes (you can turn this off if you wish). You can also switch on a default to minimize elevation, if you wish. Complete your cycling route and save it.
Other Ways to Create a Route on Strava
There are a few shortcut ways to create a route on Strava. One way is if you see a route you like on Strava, done by yourself or someone you follow. In this case, you can copy the entire route. Just go to the ride, click on the wrench, and choose create route.
Following a Route on the Strava App on Your Smart Phone
You will not immediately see your routes on your Strava app on your smart phone. However, once you hit “Record” on your Strava app, you will see an option to “Load Route”. If you click on this, you will see all routes you have created or saved, and can select the appropriate one. Then you select the “Use Route” option at the bottom of your phone.
Note that you can simultaneously follow a route and record your ride. This might seem self-evident to you, but I have seen it as a question on many forums, so I thought it would be useful to mention it here.
Your route will be shown as an orange line on your map, which you can then attempt to follow while riding. Note that there are no turn-by-turn text instructions or audible prompts on your Strava app on your smart phone. This is despite the fact that users have been asking for this feature for years, and the technology has been available for decades.
I downloaded and tested a simple route, and found that there are no route instructions or directional prompts on the Strava app on your smart phone. Instead, there are just two lines – an orange line showing the route you planned, and a blue line showing the route you are actually taking on your bike. In the broadest sense, you can look at your phone and see if you are still on the route, or not. You pretty much have to stop your bike to do this safely. And then if you are no longer on your route, you need to figure out how to get back on it. You can see this in this screen shot from my phone.
So it is still a much better option to follow a Strava route on your Garmin Edge computer. The Garmin Edge Touring, 520, 820, and 1000 all have a built-in capacity to give turn-by-turn text instructions and audible prompts (beeps). They can use this ability with a Strava route, once you have exported that route to your Garmin Edge device.
Related content: Garmin Edge 1000 vs. 820 vs. 520
How to Export Your Strava Route to a Garmin Edge Bike Computer (Touring, 520, 820, 1000)
In the Strava app on your computer, select the route you want to export. Click the “Export” button. Then, you can select your device for further instructions. Bizarrely, Strava does not mention the Garmin Edge Touring, but if that is your device, select the GPX format. The GPX format is for devices that have mapping abilities, which includes the Garmin Edge Touring (obviously, as this bike computer was a trail blazer in mapping and navigation). You can read my review of this bike computer here. Now that the Garmin Edge 820 and Edge 1000 both have mapping and navigation abilities, the Garmin Edge Touring is kind of fading out of popularity.
Follow the instructions to download your saved Strava route to wherever on your computer you want to temporarily store it. Then, plug your Garmin into the computer. Next copy the file you have just saved on your computer to the folder called New Files on your Garmin Edge device.
The route will then show up under routes in the menus on your Garmin Edge bike computer. For example, on the Garmin Edge Touring, select: Where to/Saved/Routes.
Note that you can simultaneously follow a route and record your ride on a Garmin Edge bike computer.
How to Follow Your Route on a Garmin Edge Bike Computer (Touring, 520, 820, 1000)
Once you have selected your route on your Garmin Edge bike computer, it is of course easy to follow the route. You get turn-by-turn text instructions all the time, such as “Turn left in 500 feet on Smith St.” You get beep warnings when a turn is coming up. You get more strident beeps if you miss a turn. Of course, you still have to look at the device, but it is a lot easier than trying to figure out if you are still on the same line. It is also easier if you have a large bike computer (see my comparison of Garmin Edge 1000 vs 820 vs 520).
I find turn-by-turn instructions very useful when cycling in strange places. However, I will not be 100% satisfied until the text instructions are given as verbal instructions, which you can listen to on safe cycling headphones. You can get this with any car GPS, so I cannot understand why it is taking so long for this to get to the world of cycling technology.
Bottom Line on Strava Routes on Smart Phones and Garmin Edge Bike Computers
The Strava app for creating cycling routes is excellent, and I will be using it on all future cycling tours and vacations. However, following routes on your Strava app on your smart phone is very primitive, and not very useful. On the other hand, you can quite easily follow a Strava route on your Garmin Edge Bike Computer (Touring, 520, 820, or 1000), using the text prompts and beeps.
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