Map apps keep you on right route

A road trip to the Ardennes, taking in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, proved a great way to try out a couple of sat-nav route-planner apps.

Orwell directors Dave Willis and Rob Walters, service manager Joe Lowe, general manager Richard Paine and friends Jon Cox, Steve Paine and Simon Lankester made their base at La Roche-en-Ardenne in Belgium.

They used two apps to plan their journey. The TomTom Go mobile phone app to get them to their accommodation and then Calimoto which focuses on using winding, twisty roads for more interesting rides.

It all went smoothly apart from a slight delay setting off from Ipswich until Rob realised his ‘lost’ passport was in one of his jacket’s armour pouches rather than an inside pocket!

They visited the war museum in nearby Bastogne where the American 101st Airborne Division held off German forces in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945.

Other rideouts included some great, smooth and twisty roads in Luxembourg and Germany.

Dave rode a Suzuki GSX-S1000GT, Rob a KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Joe his Kawasaki Z900RS, Richard his Z900RS Café, Jon his Triumph Street Scrambler, Simon his Suzuki SV650 and Steve his Honda VFR800.

Steve joined them from Germany but the other six riders clocked up around 1,300 miles in five days.

Rob is a great fan of the TomTom Go app which uses live traffic information. A seven-day trial is free and then a subscription costs £3.99 a month or £19.99 a year.

“It is all live and gives lots of useful information such as where the next filling station is, the quickest route and diverts you if there is a quicker route or to avoid traffic hold-ups,” he said.

“It’s well suited to getting from A to B.”

It also has speed camera alerts, including mobile ones flagged up by other users.

Worldwide maps can be downloaded when you need them and later deleted. You can also plan specific routes but it is easier to do so on a computer and download them to your phone.

A power source is needed to keep the smartphone charged. We sell SP Connect and Quiklox phone mounting kits and waterproof cases are also available.

Steve’s preferred route-planning app is Calimoto. Here he explains why.

“I had the absolute pleasure, and in equal measure a worrying task, of planning three day-long loops for the team. I used my tool of choice, my companion for two seasons now, Calimoto. Short story – it worked almost perfectly.

“The fact I live in Germany might have led me to tips and reviews of this route-planner, tracker and data-logging system but don’t let the fact it’s being developed in Germany put you off. The UK is covered very well.

“Open Street Maps serves as the base and there’s a wealth of information on top of that. From route highlights to weather. English help is available and there’s an English-language blog.

“Let’s start with the negative. There’s no live traffic or roadwork info built into this (€60 per year, €10 for a week, the free version is restricted to one area) app and I found that out, four times, during the tour.

“Secondly, I had a few problems saving modified routes. Occasionally, it doesn’t save changes to a route plan.

“Finally, you’ll need to learn how to use it.

“Once you’ve picked up on the overlay features, the twisty highlights, the Calimeter and tourist attractions, the huge range of existing shared routes and the desktop version, you’ll be planning with confidence.

“Ride-tracking and data-logging seem to work flawlessly although I’m not sure how accurate the lean meter and G-force measurements are. At least you can compare figures after a few runs on your phone/bike combination.”

A few other points:

  • Camera notifications appear to be accurate. Warnings are clear to see.
  • Intelligent rerouting solves the problem with road closures. Just drive past them and let Calimoto replan.
  • Don’t set in-city routes to be windy because you’ll end up going round the block for no reason! Switch to ‘winding’ or ‘twisty’ after the first out-of-town waypoint.
  • The instant tour planner is excellent.
  • There are some very good battery-saver modes.
  • I have never used the Take Photo option. In theory, it will add your photos to the route as you take them. That could be useful for sharing routes.

“Route sharing is via Calimoto-specific tour links or via GPX export, which is handy if you need a back-up tour leader or want to export to Google My Maps or Google Earth – good for visualising a multi-day tour.

“Calimoto seems professional and active in the development of its fairly unique app and for western and central Europe there’s a huge database of information available.

While I have some ideas on my wishlist, I wouldn’t want this app to lose its focus. Once you’ve got to grips with planning, you’ll have a lot of confidence that you’ll be riding amazing roads and routes.”

Steve has run Calimoto on a Pixel 6 with an SP Connect mount on his Honda VFR800. He has ridden more than 3,000km of Calimoto routes in the last 18 months.

His profile can be found at ChippySteve on the app. He is v4_chippy on Instagram and he's created a guide to the Ardennes tour.