There's myriad ways to plan a route if you're going out for a ride, from not planning at all to having your every move logged by a GPS which bleeps occasionally to tell you what to do next. More and more people are turning to online services to look for routes or to generate their own, and Grough route is another of those services. Currently £1.50 a month to use, Grough intend to make the service free after the Ordnance Survey announce their online mapping jubilee in April. And it's a clever system that works well. It has pluses and minuses compared to other methods of mapping a route, but as a fully online offering it's the most complete we've tried.
Once you're logged in you're presented with an interface that has a large map tile and a menu down the left hand side. You can start a new route or work with one you've already added, and you can share a route so that anyone can edit it if you like. Route planning is a scroll and click affair; Grough uses OS mapping and not Google maps so it won't fill in sections of road, you just get straight lines. On the other hand you get OS deatil down to 1:25k scale and you can skip down alleys and short cuts without Google trying to send you the long way round on 'proper' roads, so it's a lot more versatile if you're one for mixed terrain, or you're also planning for MTB or walking excursions. Grough also has a full gazetteer so you can search easily for your start point.
You can look at elevation profiles for your route and tag it for others who might be searching. If you're looking for a route to do then you can just scroll round until you find one, although at the moment there's not much on there. Points of interest are marked too, and you can add more for the benefit of the community if you're so inclined.
Once you're happy with your route you can download a GPX file of it, or send it to a Garmin device via the Garmin Communicator API. You can also print it out; the software will divide the route into handy sheet-sized chunks that you can print out and take with you. You can export the profile too, and a route card though that's pretty useless as it's just a list of the points rather than meaningful directions. The options allow you to set the measurements you want and also add Naismith rules so that Grough can calculate an estimated time based on distance and elevation change.
All in all the system is pretty robust and well designed. It's easy to get into and there's a lot more functionality than you get with simpler sites such as Bike Route Toaster which use the Google API. It's more akin to something like Anquet Maps or Memory Map, but without the mobile component. If you want to use mapping on the go you'll need to install a mobile app that allows you to view your GPX file on mapping; there are several that use the OpenSpace API (for OS maps) or the OpenStreetMap API (for open source mapping)
There's plenty of good points for Grough: it's well designed, robust and fairly easy to use, and you can export your routes in different ways. The cost though small marks it down for now – there's too many ways to do it for free – but as a free service it will be a winner, so watch out for an announcement in April to that effect
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Grough route online mapping
Size tested: n/a
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No but I'd buy if for free
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I\'m testing... My best bike is: Trek 1.5 with Ultegra 6700
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.