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Quick App Reviews: Wandrer Tracks Your Quest To Ride Every Road

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Every once in a while I get a bit excited to do short app reviews here on the site. Nothing crazy, just talking about smaller apps that I find interesting and that others might never have heard of. The thing is, I keep ‘collecting’ these apps in a giant Todoist list, and keep meaning to write about them. Some of them you might know – some of them not so much. We’ll start with one of the more well-known ones within that context – Wandrer.earth.

This site tracks all the roads you’ve ever ridden on planet earth, and then lets you see how much of each ride you complete are ‘new roads’ vs ‘old roads’. It’ll track your monthly/annual new road distances, as well as award virtual points for new road riding. What you (or at least I), quickly realize is that I’m largely a creature of habit – mostly re-riding the same roads over and over. Albeit, sometimes in different directions. That’s of course especially true in 2020 with very little travel. Which is where I’d often rack up new pavement miles for various bike-related events/trips.

I’ve been using the site’s free tier for a long while now, so I figured I’d dive into how it works.

[Note: For this series, I’m trying to keep these posts to a reasonable length, so they aren’t designed to be crazy-long in-depth reviews that require 8 cups of coffee to get through. As always, none of these posts/reviews are sponsored in any way. I just like highlighting cool apps from smaller developers where I can.]

The Details:

While all new roads award you points in Wandrer, all roads in the fitness tech world seem to end at Strava. And that’s the case here as well, where the platform leverages Strava as your repository for past rides. To get started you’ll link up your Strava account, and then it’ll pull in your past activity.

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For example, in my Wandrer account there are 772 rides:

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Whereas in Strava, it shows a few more:

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So why the difference? Well, a few things:

A) Indoor trainer rides aren’t included: And I’ve got boatloads of these stretching back a decade, well before Zwift or TrainerRoad even existed
B) Private rides (not marked public): When I initially joined Wandrer a long time ago, these weren’t included. Now they can be. I just need to update my permissions on Strava. These are often my weekend wanderings with the kids, sometimes commutes, or whatever else that I don’t want to share publicly. For anyone signing up new, this won’t be an issue.
C) It’s not on Strava, and thus, didn’t happen: Look, the t-shirt is true.

No biggie, that all makes sense. Also, not all my rides are on Strava. For example, above you see my longest ride as 103.1mi, but I’ve got many rides 112mi and above, but all of them predate me joining Strava in 2012. Also, note that I joined Wandrer so long ago that it was before the paid tier existed. The free tier is limited to 50 historical rides being imported (but unlimited new rides from there out). If a user upgrades from free to paid, then they can re-import all past rides.

Also – most notably, it sounds like runs/hikes/walks are currently slated to go live in the next few days – which in my case should dramatically increase my country count (more on that later). Though, it’s not clear if that’ll retroactively grab my old data (I hope so!!!).

Ok, with that caveating out of the way, once logged in, you’ll see all your past rides.

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Above you’ll see that for each ride it lists ‘new kilometers’.

You can also switch to the ‘Rides’ view, and see an Instagram-style tile of rides, notably with the GPS track highlighted in red vs blue:

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Thus, you see the bottom row was all new kilometers, though, due to the way the mapping is handled, it’ll sometimes plot new kilometers as old kilometers. In the case of those three rides in Switzerland/Germany on that bottom row, all of them were totally new pavement (or trails) I’ve never ridden before. We’ll get to that nuance of road accuracy in a second.

Looking at the ‘Cows & Corn’ ride (here on Strava), you’ll see it lists the towns I’ve passed through and the mileage for each one, and almost everything is blue, meaning new pavement for me. This was a ride that I just stopped off the side of the highway and randomly picked a point to do a 45-minute ride, asking Strava to spit out a route. It was as simple as that.

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Now, you may notice above that there’s red lines mixed in there. That’s because when I first signed up for Wandrer a year or so ago the free tier used a different calculation method that was more efficient. Then a paying tier was offered with a more accurate calculation method (but that costs more computing power, hence paying). Now, it’s been changed such that all users get the faster/accurate method, but that you have the 50-ride historical limit for free users.

Point being, you can see the jump in mileage between those two methods. Above screenshot taken with my account on the old method, and then below screenshot taken with my account on the new method. Notice the red is all gone, but also my mileage jumps from 19.9km to 22.14km. Anyway, for new users you’ll all get the newer algorithm.

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In any case, what happens when you go out for a new ride?

Glad you asked!

In my case, I decided for yesterday to create a route that had as much new pavement as possible for a roughly 60-80 minute long ride. So I hit up Strava’s new Route Builder initially on my phone, but most of the routes while uniquely new in whole to me, still included a lot of pavement I’d already done. So instead I just went old-school style and opened two windows up side by side and kept tweaking it till it resulted in roads that I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been on before.

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Here’s the resulting mess of a route:

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Then I went out and rode my bike. This is the normal part:

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And, as ‘luck’ would have it, there were numerous bike path closures on my route, adding even more unplanned ‘new’ pavement. Plus, I got to ride under a Boeing 737, so there’s that.

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Anyway, after the ride is set to public in Strava, I’ll get a notification e-mail from Wandrer, or, I can just crack open the website:

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And here you can see the vast swaths of blue for that ride, indicating new pavement for me:

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And then I can re-load my map of the region to see some updated totals for this particular area:

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I remain semi-skeptical of the roadway lengths, as it seems pretty unlikely I’ve even hit 3% of this region. Heck, probably not even 3% of all the streets in Amsterdam. Complicating factors further is the expansive Dutch bike path system, which basically doubles the roadway numbers.

In addition, you can also see total breakdowns by country as well. This is an area I really wish there was a running version for, since I’ve likely run in some 60+ countries, whereas for cycling I didn’t take my bike as often on my travels.

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You can also see a world map, but at this scale (since I haven’t done any sort of ‘cross the country’ type rides, it just looks like little dots:

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But when I zoom in a bit more, then I get more detail on my roads to date, here’s Paris:

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And Amsterdam:

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Whereas most of my time in DC predates my Strava account uploads (some rides were pulled in years ago from then my mostly offline Garmin files, but hardly the majority):

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And finally, you can download a map of roads that you apparently can load onto your Garmin, and then basically just knock out street by street meandering around.

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I haven’t tried that though, so I’ll have to defer to a DCR reader on how well that works. Still, I like the idea – and I know this past spring some runners were working on trying to run every street on their towns as a way of seeing places they’d never seen before. Same concept applies here.

Wrap-Up:

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I like Wandrer, and what it provides aside of platforms like Strava’s own heat maps. I enjoy being able to quickly see where I’ve ridden that’s not necessarily heat-focused, but just ‘have I been there or not’. A binary yes or no. And it’s funny to sometimes look at a road and be like ‘Oh yeah, I totally forgot I rode that route once years ago.’

My only two nitpicks would be how to turn this sort of data into an actual new route to go off and ride. Not just a meaningless pile of roads I haven’t done, but a route that someone actually wants to ride. So basically a mashup between what Strava’s new Route Builder tool does (where it magically spits out cool routes based on heat and routing data), but with a tickbox à la Wandrer that weights heavily towards roads I haven’t done.

The second nitpick I have would be that I’m lucky I got in when importing all older rides was free. Nowadays for $30 for that option, it’d be a tougher pitch for me. A couple bucks – sure, but $30 is a lot for something that while I enjoy, I don’t consider it a critical path to my daily life. Of course, we’re all different in what we prioritize. And ultimately, as the developer behind Wandrer pointed out, the GPS mapping and calculations behind this platform are algorithmically expensive to operate. That’s because given the amount of computing time that must be leveraged as every GPS point must be rendered, checked against past routes, determined whether it was just a case of you being in a different spot on the same road (thus, different GPS points) – or a different road, and repeat for each second of your ride.

Still, it’s cool stuff – and I like cool stuff. Oh, and apparently an actual smartphone app (as opposed to just the site) is in the works. So looking forward to that too.

With that – thanks for reading!

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46 Comments

  1. Mike T

    I’ve been using Wandrer for over a year and love it. It gives me incentive to get on new roads and I enjoy riding in new places. I also create a Strava routes with the Strava heatmap and Wandrer map open side by side.

    • Eric P

      I do the exact same thing when route planning!

      I just wish Strava would respect one-way roads…

    • Dima T.

      Statshunters.com does not have the fancy “new roads” per-ride stats, but it does have a lot of other stats, a global map view of past activities (simply overlaid or as a heatmap), and it’s free to use (as I’m writing this, I think it’s time to make a donation!)
      Oh, and it has a Chrome extension to overlay the tiles (less precise notion of where you’ve been) on top of Strava’s route builder, though I’m not using the latter so can’t say if that combo is any good.

    • snowfree52

      didn’t know that will have a look at the chrome extension, thing I like with statshunter is that you can import routes and see them with past activities

      I also just found out this website : link to heatflask.com

      not much to do but beautiful

  2. David McAllister

    Interesting to see the Karoo 2 used here. Are you getting ready to do a review/follow up on the unit? Im interested in picking one up and hearing your thoughts.

  3. Hi folks! Craig from Wandrer here. Please bear with me for a bit as ride processing is slowed down a bit with all of the new folks. I look forward to sharing a different take on cycling with you, one that often leads to unexpected surprises in the place where you live.

    I’ve set up a $5 off coupon code of DCDECEMBER today for anyone interested in upgrading and having all of their previous rides processed. (It will still say $30 on the signup page, but you’ll only be charged $25)

    Thanks!
    Craig

    • JP Miller

      Hey, Craig. Thanks for the code.

      Question – if I were to sign up for the paid tier and get all my historical activities added, what happens to the activities within Wandrer if at a later date I choose to cancel the subscription? I have not found anything on your site which specifies that.

      Thanks!

  4. Harald

    Exporting the map from the Wandrer website and putting it on my Garmin Edge 1030.. works great. It’s just an overlay though.

  5. Chris

    Hi Ray, just a typo in the 2nd sentence:

    “Nothing crazy, just talking about smaller apps that I find interesting and that others might never have hard of.”

  6. Ryan

    Would be neat to see a version of this for the virtual platforms. Perhaps it could use Strava’s platform tagging and look at all rides across all users as the “universe” and then compute how much you have ridden.

  7. Jason McCullough

    I love wandrer! Drives me to explore new roads. I recently passed 90% of Pittsburgh. The remaining will be hard because it is a lot of cobbles and dead-ends and seasonal trails. But it gets me to new places!

  8. JD

    Huh. Small world. If that Santa Claus in the woods is from NH I’ve been past that before. 🙂
    Does the app highlight interesting things like that to seek out on rides?

  9. Jeff E

    Check out we.citystrides.com for the same functionality but for running/walking/hiking. It’s free with a premium tier, and I’ve enjoyed using to explore new areas on foot

  10. John W

    I love Wandrer too, especially this year when rides have been nearer to home, this and Veloviewer tile hunting really mixes my love of maps and bike riding

  11. wandrer is a great app! It’s incredibly addictive and makes you want to go out an explore new areas and places that you wouldn’t normally go. I really dislike cycling the same routes all the time so it’s been really motivating. It even inspired me to cycle all the public transport routes in Berlin, Germany! Managed a cool new 2000 km. And I’m going to plug my blog post series about this 🙂

    Part one: link to pi-cycles.de
    Part two: link to pi-cycles.de

  12. Bob Trencheny

    I found Wandrer a month or so ago and joined as a free member. Like you I find the $30/year a bit much. A one time $30 cost to process my old data might be acceptable, but $30/year doesn’t make sense. After the first ingestion of my old data, what do I really get for $30/yr that I don’t get from the free version?

  13. B-1 Pilot

    Have you played around much with veloviewer.com?

    Great Strava integration and their explorer portion has a lot of similarities.

    • Yup, longtime member there- and often talk/post about what they do on the pro side of sport.

      Probably another post at some point. I guess I feel like they’re (well, him) is so well known that I sometimes forget a lot of people probably don’t know how cool it is.

  14. Gerry Askefalk

    I think this is awesome!

    I been using it for a couple of months and inspires to do even more exploring on my Gravel Tours!

    Keep up the good work!

    Gerry

  15. George K.

    I found Wandrer a year or two ago and have been happily using it since (at the paid tier once it came out… I am a data junky, what can I say?). I literally just got back from a 23-mile ride where my goal was to “fill in” some of my local map with Wandrer miles. I download the map and upload it to my Garmin 1030, and I’m ready to go. I often look at my big Wandrer map to get an idea of where I’d like to head towards and fill in and then use the map on my Garmin to home in on stuff I’ve missed or just bypassed in the past. I love it because it breaks up the boredom of riding the same roads, and I’m not training to race, so whether I hit certain power metrics or x number of interval repeats is of little concern. When I found I’d hit 100% of a local jurisdiction (ok, 99.x% because there are still some glitches in what it thinks you can ride but can’t) it put a huge smile on my face. So, cycling + challenge = fun diversion! Plus I’ve seen a lot more of my area (and some incredible homes). Lastly, Craig is a really nice guy, who is happy to help or answer questions. What’s not to like?

  16. Kyle

    I use wandrer often! For me, it helps provide new and interesting goals. Especially in years like 2020!

  17. Pavlos

    Suunto App has similar feature out of the box

    • They have heatmaps, and their heatmaps have always really been some of the best out there in terms of sport delineation and such – they’re great.

      But this is a bit different than a heat map, as the Suunto app doesn’t really aim to try and find you roads you haven’t done (in fact, the opposite, they aim for roads with popularity). Also, I’m not sure if it’s just my account, but the Suunto App doesn’t appear to show any of my activities from prior to my Suunto app instantiation (meaning, even though I’ve synced Movescount into it, the cutoff date for my Suunto App heatmap appears to be the same day I created my Suunto App – then SportsTracker – account, some 4 years ago).

    • Pavlos

      > even though I’ve synced Movescount into it, the cutoff date for my Suunto App heatmap appears to be the same day I created my Suunto App – then SportsTracker – account, some 4 years ago

      Did you connect Movescount in your Suunto App? It should be done via Suunto App – described here link to suunto.com ?

    • Interesting, so, I had linked it way back when, when they were first doing syncs of new activities (so I have tons of stuff within that timeframe when I was otherwise largely using Movescount), but it doesn’t show linked from the Suunto app side.

      I’ll give that a whirl. Like I said above, I assumed it was probably me as to why that date was specific. Still, this is different functionality than what Wandrer has. The Suunto App is far better for finding places you haven’t been, but this shows how much of a given area you’ve covered in actual numbers.

    • Pavlos

      Hi Ray, I’m not arguing with that, of course Wanderer is dedicated tool and more feature rich, but for me personal heat map in Suunto App is quite enough to see places where I haven’t been yet.

  18. Alister Moore

    Interesting app but I am not sure it is worth the 30$US per year (even with the increase in the Canadian dollar 🙂 )

  19. Papow

    I have been a user of City Strides for running. I have it linked to my Garmin connect. Great motivation to run all the streets.

  20. Jason

    Looks great for “burbing” as it got known Down Under during lockdown. I wonder if that’s what Ben Loke used here…
    link to bbc.com

  21. Jeff

    I do a fair bit of mixed terrain riding and I sometimes have to resort to drawing lines when trying to follow a trail in a route on RWGPS (not all paths lead to Strava!). Wander is useful for finding places where bike access in OSM needs to be updated (eg. path rather than foot path) to make building these routes easier. The two ways it helps is if a ride crosses a space which isn’t tagged for bicycle access (eg. foot path rather than path) there will be a break in the blue line. Also, there’s a map layer that shows all the rideable terrain in red. Comparing that to the OSM map (and checking the rules for the area) its pretty easy to figure out what needs updating.

  22. Chris

    This will fuel my OCD in a not so good way. I already find myself wanting to go on every road, path, trail, etc, in a given certain area. Being a data and map nerd already, this is like crack. Great. Thanks for sharing this.

    Ugh.

  23. Boris

    I like and use Wandrer for a while now. It’s fun and helpful in taking new ways.
    What I miss is the following: Same route ridden in opposite directions is often completely different, riding MTB even more so. I’m missing a way to distinguish direction in which route has been ridden.

  24. John C

    Try city strides for a running version. Been using it over lockdown to run new roads in my area.

    Citystrides.com

  25. Roberto H.

    Using Wandrer for a few months now. First tried just free to see how it is like, get the flow. But fast got addicted and of course not wanted to “explore” already ridden routes again. So I even paid the hefty 30 Dollar to get all of my data sync’ed in Wandrer.
    I enjoy riding my bike even now when it’s cold, last years I was already sitting on the trainer, sweating my ass off, doing training and hard races. But for what? With no goals in mind/sight and now with Covid around even more so pointless to build form.

    Back to the roots, bike exploring going there were a car won’t go. My wandrer strong points:
    1. Seeing / getting to know area you thought you know well from another perspective (you might know the main road, but from the other side of the field/small road/fieldway area looks completely different)
    2. Finding new tarmac’s and shortcut’s even suitable for next road bike trips.
    3. Exploring completely not known area’s like getting lost in a quite known forest and suddenly stumbling up a remote pond with a scary little house 🙂
    4. Addictive hunt for coverage and achievements. I think the point system really works nicely. (For your own satisfaction)
    5. Leaderboard/Comparing/Competing with other Wandrer’s of your area in hunt for monthly extra points. Quite some additional competitive Addiction you get here. Where not count fastest times or highest speeds. Just your efficiency in planning routes and the time you spent on the hunt 😉
    6. Fighting with the elements: like Mud, Flooded area’s, Ice, Vegetation, NOT PROPER paths and Ways on Openstreetmap.

    Regards

  26. Bernie

    I’ve been using Wandrer for about a year, and it’s totally changed my riding experience. I used to ride the same familiar roads over and over, but Wandrer incentivizes me to bike in new places, which is great!

    I just upgraded to the paid version. To be honest, I didn’t notice a difference, but Wandrer has had such a positive effect on my riding that I wanted to support it.

  27. Michiel

    Wandrer is great, but the free version only logs your latest 50 rides. And to pay €30/year to extend that to unlimited rides is too much for me personally.

    An alternative for the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) is Long Term NL Challenge: https://www.longtermnlchallenge.nl (site in Dutch only). Works in another way, but I like it.

  28. Stephen Thomas

    And …

    Strava adds personal heat maps to their routing function.

    link to strava.com

    Not the same function, but definitely in the same vein.

    • Cris Noble

      If they would let you weight a route to NOT follow your personal heatmap that would be amazing!

    • s.m.a.r.t

      That is EXACTLY what Strava should do and I have been looking for sooooo long. It is more than cumbersome – though possible – to work with maps side-by-side or tackle complex overlays in Mapping applications…but that’s such a lot of time and effort I just don’t have during daily routine. A simple algorithm checking all my historic rides, correlating the alternative routes with popularity and spitting out a rout suggestion as Strava already does, would be AWESOME.
      I seriously don’t understand why they don’t pick up such data-driven case. It’s no rocket science. The case could even be extended by feeding it a single or bunch of routes from friends or alike to generate an alternative that no-one has ever ridden before. That would be the best surprise for the next group workout, I guess.

  29. Jf

    You have not yet rode from zandvort to den haag (or maybe even pushed to hoek van holland, you need to fix that, this route is amazing through the dunes 🙂

  30. Peter Hardie

    I love exploring on a bicycle, wandrer gives me an extra incentive to do that. I joined when it was free but decided to cough up for the subscription. In the year I have been on there, lots of improvements have been made. I like looking at other peoples maps too.

  31. Giacomo

    I just registered on Wandrer after reading your review. I really like the idea and was immediately motivated to go on a bike ride off my regular path. As much as I would love to see all of my strava rides uploaded, I feel that $30 is a price too high for me.

  32. JP Miller

    I am a BIG fan of citystrides.com for my running/hiking/walking map. I have been using it for a couple years and love what James has created there.

    One big question for me on the Wandrer paid tier is – If I pay the $30 for the first year, and then I cancel that annual subscription, what happens to my >50 rides?

    I’d hate to pay the $30, then find out the additional perks aren’t worth an annual subscription and see my data all disappear from my map if I choose to cancel and end up back at only the most recent 50 activities

  33. What I miss is the following: Same route ridden in opposite directions is often completely different, riding MTB even more so. I’m missing a way to distinguish direction in which route has been ridden.

  34. As a rider, I used Maps to Journey Anywhere But I Faced At The Same Problem distinguish direction.