One of the best things about cycle touring is simply escaping the hustle and bustle of the world, while you’re blissfully isolated from so much that may be happening in the world.
This gives you the time to focus on the little things, that ultimately matter so much, like some wild flowers growing in a hedge, or a breath-taking view as you crest a hill.
Sometimes, you may want to meet others along the way, or perhaps you want others – who may be interested in your tour – to be able to follow your progress. Mobile phones make this not only possible, but easy, and we’ll look at some of your options for sharing your location with others.
Quite aside from cycle touring, many women commonly message each other to say they arrived safely at their destination, as it can be that unsafe for women to simply walk home in a city, and live-sharing their location might be a better way of helping to keep themselves safe, while offering peace of mind to their friends. Incidentally, men, please go read this post now, so we can improve things for women!
Just 20 years ago, live-sharing your location was something that required James Bond style kit, but any smartphone can do it now, and it’s become ridiculously easy to do. In most cases, you don’t even need any special app installed.
This starts with the most widely-installed navigation app: Google Maps. After starting Google Maps, simply tap the circular icon in the top-right corner. In my case, it’s showing a W, for Will, but yours will differ, showing either your profile picture, or your initial.
From the menu that will appear, simply tap “Location sharing”, then on the screen that follows after, tap the “Share location” button.
Next, select for how long you wish to share your location, then at the bottom, select how you’ll share your location. Your options, as a minimum, will be via text message or email, but depending on the apps installed on your phone, you may have many other options.
Of course, there are many other apps that can do location sharing, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Telegram and Signal.
I would strongly advise you not to use FB Messenger at all, but if you do, to never use the location sharing it offers, nor that of WhatsApp, as you’ll be handing Facebook your location data. Snapchat’s location sharing I consider to be a massive privacy risk, and again I’d strongly urge you to not use it.
Telegram and Signal are both secure messaging platforms – think WhatsApp, but secure, and with no personal data about you being collected by some giant corporation – and Signal is my personal favourite of the two. It’s beyond the scope of this post to delve into the reasons for my privacy concerns, but do feel free to ask me specific questions in the comments.
Should you want a simple, but highly-effective app to do location-sharing, consider installing Glympse – location sharing is all it does, and it’s very easy to use. I rely on Glympse more than any other means of doing location sharing.
Points to consider
Obviously, you need to give careful consideration to whom you will share your location with, as well as for how long you wish to do so. Google Maps specifically allows you to do location sharing indefinitely, until you turn it off, which isn’t something I’d generally advise people to do.
However, I know of the carer of someone with learning disabilities, and who has a habit of trying to abscond, who turned this on permanently on the young person’s phone. You will need to make the appropriate judgement call in your own life, and all I’m doing here is telling you some of the the options, and gotchas, involved in this.
I have shared my location publicly before, when doing an all-night ride, so any insomniacs who chose to could follow my progress. I used Glympse for that, as it also lets the map-viewer see my speed, while letting me know (in real-time) how many people are watching the map at that moment in time.
On some future cycle tours, I will undoubtedly again share my location with the world, but as usual will stop location sharing towards the end of the day. This is because I tend to do wild-camping, and I have no wish to broadcast exactly where I’ll be camping for the night, for several obvious reasons.
Location sharing mainly relies on GPS, and GPS hammers the battery life of your phone. When cycle touring, you will need to factor that in. I overcome this by having an on-bike charging system, powered by my hub dynamo.
Location sharing can be used for many other scenarios, like finding friends at a large music festival, or even a crowded beach (though life’s SO much better when you avoid crowded beaches!)
However, live-sharing can introduce a whole new dimension to your cycle touring, allowing others to vicariously share in the journey, while perhaps also giving loved ones some additional peace of mind.
Then again, perhaps you’re one of those people who go cycle touring to escape the world, and you don’t want anyone to know where you are. That’s perfectly good, too.