For cyclists who want to plan safe, exciting rides in new places, a new Strava feature called Route Builder for Mobile is promising to make that process easier.

Strava’s director of communications Andrew Vontz says that the new mobile feature is an excellent way to create commuting routes or safe and efficient ways to explore a city.

“You can land almost anywhere in the world, someplace you’ve never visited before, and with just a few swipes on a map, create the best possible route,” Vontz said.

So how’s Route Builder for Mobile different from other mapping software? Using Google Maps or a similar smartphone app “will just take you the shortest path between points A and B,” said senior product manager Graham Keggi, adding that this mobile tool uses Strava’s heat maps—more than 1 billion activities and 13 trillion data points collected worldwide—to craft the best possible route for your chosen activity.

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To use the new Route Builder feature, just trace a rough route over the map with your finger. (The old Route Builder desktop version uses multiple point-and-click waypoints instead of finger swipes, but the principle is basically the same.) The app does the rest. It’s quick and impossibly easy. After you create the route, you can either print out a cue sheet or export the route to a device that supports GPX or TCX import.

Strava’s Route Builder for Mobile helps you find the best, safest routes in new places.

Engineer Drew Robb came up with the idea for the mobile version in December, during one of the Strava Jam innovation retreats held each quarter. Company officials loved the idea and fast-tracked the project; Route Builder For Mobile rocketed from concept to public beta test in only two months.

User feedback has yet to roll in, and all three men expect features to be added based on those comments. Some functions from the beefier desktop version may eventually migrate down to the mobile version as well. Gravity-challenged cyclists love the option to create a route with the least amount of elevation change, but that’s not yet an option for the app.

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Beyond safety, the app also has distinct creative possibilities—namely, that riders can plot out Strava art more easily and efficiently than on a desktop program. Although the finished route might be slightly different as Strava navigates users to nearby, more bike-or run-friendly streets, it usually comes very close to the original concept.

An intricate design that might take an hour or more creating on the desktop version can be created in minutes or even seconds on the mobile version, then quickly downloaded to your bike computer.

Chris Phipps may have been one of the first athletes to use Strava as a canvas back in 2012. Needing to work off some nervous energy during an exciting back-and-forth playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and his hometown team, he spelled out 49ers on the streets of San Francisco. (The 49ers would win the game 36-34 in the final minute.) The map was a hit with friends and fellow fans, so he began plotting more intricate designs.

Phipps hasn’t kept up the hobby, joking that he did it “before it was cool, when people were impressed with just a few letters.” But he’s intrigued by the new app feature.

“I haven’t been inspired to do anything for a while though since the bar is so high now,” Phipps said, “but with this tool, I may make a comeback.”

The new feature is available to all Strava Summit subscribers (starts at $3/month).

Original Article

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