Tested: Calimoto motorcycle route planner review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
bennetts_bike Consumer Editor of Bennetts BikeSocial, John's owned over 20 bikes, is a member of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators and part of the Motorcycle Crime Reduction Group
Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

Date reviewed: June 2020 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £39.99/year | calimoto.com

 

Every so often a piece of kit or software is released that changes the way you do things; Calimoto – the mobile-phone-based route planner and navigation software on review here – is one of those products...

From the outset, it’s important to know that Calimoto is designed to take you on more winding, twisty roads than other navigation devices; thanks to its powerful yet easy-to-use route planning, and the outstanding twisty-road-finding algorithm, it’s helped me discover some truly memorable rides.

 

For and against
  • Quickly helps you discover amazing new roads
  • Very easy to plan routes
  • Synchronises easily with a web-based planner
  • Not perfect for normal ‘get me there quick’ navigation
  • Speed camera and fuel station data not complete
  • Major road changes aren’t updated as fast as they could be

 

Features and mapping included

Calimoto is available for free, which gives you a lot of features and the chance to try it out, but to gain full access you need to pay a one-off fee, or take out a subscription. These are the main features available: 

 

Free

Single payment

Subscription

Price

Free

£59.99

£4.99/week or £39.99/year

Generate a round trip

Plan a route / trip

Voice guidance

Ride tracking

Ride statistics

Share trips

Points of interest (fuel, restaurants, mountain passes etc)

Full world mapping

– limited to your area

Offline world maps

Super-winding routes

Speed cameras

Lean-angle recording

Acceleration recording

 

The main point of difference is of course the limited mapping of the free app – I was able to choose from the north or the south of England, with the border of the two options being very close to where I live. That did limit my choices when planning rides, but it still gives you a very good chance to try the app and see if it’s something you want to pay for.

Beyond that, once you pay – either by subscription or through a one-off payment – you can also use the offline maps that mean you don’t have to worry about having a data signal wherever you ride.

While the one-off payment of £59.99 is tempting as it includes full world mapping (updated for life and provided by OpenStreetMap), you won’t have access to the super-winding routes planning option (though standard winding roads are still great), and you’ll miss out on speed camera alerts. You also won’t have get the lean angle and acceleration recording, but these are more of a bonus than an essential.

One thing you do need to be aware of though is that, due to restrictions in place from Apple and Google, you can’t transfer any purchases from one brand of device to another. If you stick with Android or Apple it’s not a problem, but swap from one to the other and you’ll lose the remainder of your subscription, or worse still, you’ll have to make the one-off payment again if you bought it that way. Personally, since switching from Apple to Android last year, I’m unlikely to go back…

One point to note: if you’re trialling the free version, don’t be put off if you can’t find some places – for instance, I was frustrated that some postcodes wouldn’t show up when I tried, but this was simply because they were outside of my free mapping area.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

I’ve been using the SP Connect kit to mount my phone to my bike

 

Mounting to the bike

Obviously, since this is a phone app, you’ll need to find a way of mounting your device to the bike. I’ve been using the superb SP Connect kit, a review of which you can read here. This gives me the flexibility to just pop my phone on the bike, then twist it off and carry it around – with no faffing about with cases – when I get off.

The ease of viewing the screen is of course going to depend on your phone and where you put it, but one thing I would absolutely love to see would be for this to integrate with Beeline, which I reviewed here. Beeline is a very neat little turn-by-turn navigation device, and if I could plan my routes on Calimoto, then have it send the directions to the Beeline screen, it would possibly be one of the best navigation systems for unobtrusively presented back-road blasts I can imagine. Let’s hope those two companies can make it happen!

Needless to say, if your phone isn’t waterproof (I have a Samsung Galaxy S10, which is), you’ll need to keep your phone in a suitable case.

An alternative is to rely on voice navigation through a Bluetooth intercom and leave your phone in your bag or pocket.

Calimoto will work in landscape or portrait modes, as you can see from the screen grabs I took during testing.

 

Planning a route in Calimoto

A quick look at how easy it is to plot a route on a computer – it’s just a simple on the phone too…

 

Ease of use and route planning

Planning a route is simple – you can do it on your computer through the web-browser at calimoto.com/en/motorcycle-trip-planner, or on your phone. If you have a set destination in mind then simply search for it, or touch that point on the map. Even long routes are plotted extremely quickly (though this will depend on the phone), then once drawn out you can touch a button to change the road type if you want – the choices are:

  • Fastest route
  • Fastest route avoiding motorways
  • Winding route (this is the default setting)
  • Super winding route (only on subscription)

You can quicky add extra waypoints by searching or touching (and drag or delete them easily too), and the route between each point can be set at any of the above options – that means someone living in the Midlands could take the fastest route to Scotland, for instance, then switch to super-winding routes when they get there, all in one planned trip.

Calimoto will automatically put waypoints – however you add them – in the most appropriate order for a ride (but you can swap the direction).

And don’t worry about how complex you make the route – I plotted a ride of 1,844 miles with 66 waypoints (or via points, as Calimoto calls them) with no bother at all; the limit is how long the trip is as you can’t plot one route of more than 2,000 miles. Realistically, that’s not going to be a problem for most people, and if you want to plan an epic adventure, just split it into multiple routes and save each as you go.

One point I’d like to see changed is to change the default road type, or have the option to change them all in one go once plotted – they all start as winding roads, so if you have a lot of waypoints and want to make it all super-winding, you’ll have to change each one.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

By far my favourite feature of Calimoto is the ‘Round Trip’ planner – it’s something that’s missing from the TomTom 550 that I usually use for navigation, and while it is available on Garmin devices, it’s not as well implemented (and I personally don’t find Garmins to be anywhere near as simple and intuitive as TomTom or Calimoto, for now at least).

Using the round trip planner easy – touch the button, swipe to select a distance of anywhere between 30 and 300 miles, choose the direction out of eight points of the compass (or leave the app to decide), and choose a start location if you don’t want to go from where you already are. Once you’ve generated the route (or hit the ‘random’ button), the app will set several waypoints and you can choose what type of roads you want between each one. My only gripe with this is that, again, you’ll have to change them if you want to alter the road type, but there’s never many waypoints to adjust.

Impressively, even if you set the same distance and direction, Calimoto’s round trip generator will keep throwing up variations, rather than giving you the same ride every time. This really has inspired me to pop out more on the bike when I have a spare hour or so…

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

One small gripe I have is that you can’t plot an automatically-generated round trip with a specific destination.

If, for instance, I plot a super-winding route to The Bike Shed in London, I can put the destination in as my current location, then add the café as a via point. However, the app will calculate the same route there as it does coming back; I’d really like it to produce a loop that sees me not covering the same roads, without having to create my own via point to pull it away – I enjoy the mystery of the app finding new routes I hadn’t considered.

It’s not a disaster to add a via point of course, and you can also set a Round Trip in the direction of your destination, then add it as a via point. Ultimately, a couple of clicks to add your own waypoints soon sorts it out.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

The ability to search for locations is of course important, and it works well, if not perfectly. Postcodes must have the space between the two sections or they won’t work, and while locations like the Super Sausage Café are found by name, some equally great destinations like Krazy Horse are not. Of course, you can just pop the postcode in, and it’s not as if a TomTom stand-alone unit can find locations this way, but it’d be great to see a more intelligent search (which could also spot minor spelling mistakes) on a phone-based device; the power of Google has made us take these things for granted. Still, the big names like Ace Café, Bike Shed and National Motorcycle Museum can be easily found.

Other than that, it'd also be handy to have the option to limit searches to your own country, to avoid clutter in the results page.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

Navigation is very clear and easy to understand, with excellent GPS accuracy (though this will depend on your phone)

 

Accuracy and ease of navigation

The main reason to have Calimoto is to discover new winding roads and to enjoy your trips out. Some of the routes it took me on – even in my own home area – were absolutely outstanding. They weren’t all perfect; one trip included about ten miles of really bumpy roads with little interesting scenery, but there’s only so much the software can do. Overall, I love using this when I’ve got some spare time and want to go out for a ride; it’s those few hours when I can nip out and try a new round trip that really make me passionate about Calimoto.

Venture further though, especially when you have to be somewhere at a specific time, and this app can throw up the odd glitch. I took a fastest route to a meeting near Reading that covered 72.6 miles to test Calimoto’s ability as an alternative to a ‘normal’ sat-nav and had a few problems:

  • The mapping hadn’t been updated to include the new sections of the A1 near Brampton in Cambridgeshire; TomTom and Google both had the roads in the correct places.
  • Nearer London, on well-established roads and not far from my destination, I missed a turn and it couldn’t re-route – it came up saying that there was no route found, then showed a straight line to the road I should have taken. It was no problem to turn around and pick it up again, but I was surprised it couldn’t find an alternative or simply plot to the next safe turn to back-track.
  • I had a couple of strange turns introduced – at one point it took me off the A1, only to rejoin it a few miles further on. Perhaps it was trying to add some interest to the ride.
  • Not all the speed cameras I went through showed on the app.
  • On the return journey, Calimoto sent me on an unusual route out of Wooburn Green; one that I’d never used before. Despite temporary road signs warning me that the road ahead was closed, I followed the navigation and did hit a completely closed road. This was a well-established closure, though I didn’t have my TomTom with me to see if that would have known – Google didn’t, but TomTom uses a combination of its own live traffic data, and Apple’s.
  • While it’s no fault of the software, controlling the phone with gloved fingers (even if they are claimed to be touch-screen compatible) can be pretty fiddly while riding.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

While testing the app, some major road changes hadn’t made it to the map, which in the end led to me taking an incorrect turn

 

Ultimately, I did wish I had my TomTom fitted during this ride as I just needed to get to my destination, then get home; I didn’t have time for a more adventurous route. But the TomTom 550 currently costs £399.99 – that’s 10 years of subscription to Calimoto, though you can subscribe to the TomTom app for £14.99 per year, but you won’t get the brilliant round trip feature and great motorcycle ride planning of Calimoto.

If you love Calimoto for the outstanding rides when you’re in less of a rush, you could just use Google maps for those times you need more direct routing, and it’s only fair to say that on another ‘fastest route’ test to Old Hunstanton, Calimoto didn’t have any problems.

However you use it, the directions given by Calimoto are very clear, with nice big icons and an easy to understand route line. If you’ve got waypoints set that you want to avoid, you can touch to skip them, and while I miss the superb timeline that shows upcoming petrol stations on the TomTom, it’s quick and easy to add a fuel stop with this app.

If you just want to ride without a set route, turning on ‘Tracking’ will record your ride, while also alerting you to speed cameras and displaying lean angle and acceleration at the end, if you have a subscription.

Whenever you ride, any routes that were planned then ridden, or simply tracked, are shown in purple on the map, which can help you spot a great road that you’ve ridden before when passing. You can turn this display off if you want.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

Adding a fuel stop is quick and easy

 

Finding fuel

Impressively, it’s even easier to add a fuel stop to your route than on the TomTom Rider 550 – just touch the menu button and the option’s there. You can also add a restaurant or a biker meetup point very easily, though these meetup locations can be as varied as the National Motorcycle Museum, Ace Café or Silverstone Circuit, so don’t expect to instantly navigate your way to new friends on any ride.

The restaurant search while riding is impressive, with 30 showing up within a 2.4 mile radius of one of my test routes, covering everything from pubs, a Sainsbury’s restaurant and chip shops to Chinese takeaways, a bakery (though this has long closed), McDonalds, Subway and KFC.

Not all fuel filling stations are listed though; within a few of miles of my work for example, one is shown, but the other – a large Morissons on a major road – doesn’t appear.

 

Speed camera warnings take over the whole screen

 

Speed camera notifications

While there’s no speed limit constantly displayed (it’s fool-hardy to rely on this anyway – far better to understand how to know it every time), speed camera warnings are large and clear. Sometimes they display a question mark, for instance at the gantry cameras on the M25 that have variable limits, but they also benefit from being able to work offline, as long as you’ve been online before to get the latest data.

Unfortunately, the camera locations aren’t totally reliable; while of course you should be aware of your own speed at all times and not rely on tech to keep your licence, some long-established speed camera locations aren’t shown, especially many of the average speed camera zones. This is somewhere TomTom really works brilliantly, showing the average you’ve been travelling through the cameras as you go.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

Not all closed roads are recognised by the app

 

Adapting your route / detours

Fixed (not temporary) road closures should be displayed as long as the route has been updated through a web connection, but it’s not as reliable as TomTom’s exceptional service. It also doesn’t always see closures that Google is aware of, so while it’s a useful feature to have, it’s not quite there yet.

If you do hit a road closure or other problem, there’s no button to ‘find alternative’, so you have to ride off and hope the app will re-route you, or wait until you’re on another section of road then plot another route.

You also don’t benefit from the live traffic that TomTom features, but for the winding roads that this app is intended for, it’s not an issue.

 

Additional features

Various Points of Interest (POIs) are included in Calimoto, so during planning – not while navigation is active – you can touch the search bar to look for addresses, see recent searches, or select one of the following categories to display on the map:

  • Biker meeting places
  • Mountain passes
  • Twisty highlights
  • Fuel stations
  • Motorcycle shops
  • Biker hotels
  • Food and Drinks
  • Banks

These POIs can really help you plan a great day (or more) out on the bike, and do introduce many places you might not know of, but it’s far from concise and doesn’t necessarily show when a bike shop serves food and drink (for instance Wheels in Peterborough). It’d be great to see user-generated content here, perhaps with a system that allows others to verify the accuracy. It’d also be handy to make it simple for shop and café owners to submit their premises – Chris Walker Kawasaki in Grantham for example is a great dealership and has a superb café…

Offline maps can be saved to an SD card, if your phone has one – this is handy as I can now use the ‘Great Britain without Northern Ireland’ map at 2.6Gb with no data connection. Adding Ireland and Northern Ireland would take only 450Mb, while adding France (with Monaco) for instance would take up an additional 4.5Gb, and Spain (with Andorra) would add 2.1Gb. Remember though, you don’t have to install the offline maps to get any and all of the features; it will just reduce any (albeit small) data charges.

Off-road routes are shown in brown on Calimoto’s map, though not quite all of the legal byways that I’m aware of in my local area are shown. Still, it’s a handy addition to have, and any that you discover can be easily tracked for you to find again.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

The weather overlay isn’t currently shown on the app – only on the web browser

 

Planning routes on your computer’s web browser does make it easier to accurately position waypoints, though it’s perfectly possible on the phone. One advantage of using your Mac or PC is a weather overlay, which plays an animated overlay of the next 24 hours’ weather. This can be really helpful, though future development would benefit from a slider to pick the time you want to see, and a look a little further ahead; 48 or 72 hours would be helpful, if less reliable.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

All users of Calimoto are able to publish their rides in the app, so you can quickly find routes that others have enjoyed. It’s easy to add pictures (geolocated) and give a star rating of the fun-factor, scenery and road condition, as well as show the altitude covered and categorise the ride to help others search (for instance, by labelling it as ‘coast’). Routes can be sorted by location, as well as distance travelled and destination, though you can’t search by title.

 

 

When uploading, your speed and acceleration are not shown, but do be sure to click the option to ‘Make tour anonymous’, to hide the start and/or end of the trip and avoid displaying the location of your home or that of friends.

You can also share a ride via WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger and Twitter, though here the full route is shown, so be careful what and where you share. Be aware that your speed is included when sharing this way…

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

When looking back over your own rides, the data such as altitude, lean angle, acceleration and speed are fascinating, though you can’t link them directly to a spot on the route map – it’d be great to be able to find where you were in the ride when you were most cranked over, or where the highest point was.

Equally, I’d love to see a button on the app that allows me to easily mark a road as outstanding during a ride – that way I could look back and easily see the sections of roads I most want to revisit.

Bluetooth intercoms are supported, and you can output using the media stream, voice call stream or hands-free profile (HFP).

GPX files of your routes can be easily imported and exported via your computer. You can also pull them into your phone if you have any in there, the option to convert them to a Calimoto route coming up automatically on iPhone and Android as you try to open them. GPX files converted on your computer will sync with the app automatically when next online.

The online user manual is very easy to use, and the app also gives you tips while you use it. It also throws up some random interesting facts, like ‘Did you know, Husqvarna started making muskets in 1689?’

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

 

Battery life

How long you can use Calimoto will totally depend on your phone and the state of its battery, unless you plug into a power source like the Optimate Dual USB DIN Plug I fitted to my BMW.

On one 60 mile back-road trip of 1hr 37mins, my one-year-old Samsung Galaxy S10 used 35% of its battery when I left it unplugged.

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner review: Verdict

Calimoto is brilliant for hacking out on a great ride when all you want to do is wallow in the enjoyment that motorcycling brings. That’s what it’s designed for, and it excels at it. Admittedly, it could do some things better during those types of rides, but there’s plenty of potential for updates.

With a suitable mount (or a tank bag, or even using voice navigation), the convenience of being able to use this quickly and easily with any bike means that, as long as you understand the limitations, and buy it predominantly to enhance your leisure rides, I can promise you’ll find some great new roads and get so much more out of your biking life.

Calimoto makes it very easy to plan rides on your phone or computer; this is where it really scores, and while I might have seemed a little negative in some areas of this review, it’s only to make you aware of how it compares to a dedicated sat-nav if you expect it to get you from A-to-B as quickly as possible.

There’s nothing to lose by downloading the app and giving it a go – if you want to delve deeper but still aren’t sure, you always have the option to get a week’s membership. I really would urge you to try Calimoto…

 

Calimoto motorcycle trip planner offers riders unique and powerful route navigation through an app on their phone. Full review of this TomTom alternative…

Calimoto user Matt Creighton introduced me to the app…

 

Bennetts Rewards member review

I was recommended Calimoto by Bennetts Rewards member and 2006 BMW K1200GT owner Matt Creighton – he’d read my review of the Beeline and suggested I give this a try. I asked him how he got on with the app…

“For me, what makes this app a cut above the rest is that it was designed by bikers purely for use by bikers.

“I only use Calimoto on the bike as I find it covers all my needs, but in the car I use Google maps. I regularly attend bike rallies throughout the year – one of which is near the Brecon Beacons – and can travel from home in Cambridgeshire to any of the destinations without ever hitting a dual-carriageway or motorway.

“My phone is mounted with an Ultimate Addons set up on top of my clutch reservoir, which is connected via Bluetooth to my headset for the audio. The audio also overrides the intercom, unless it’s muted.

“I love the fact that you can choose how direct you want your route to be, and the round trip feature is great if you just want to ride free and easy.

“It’s brilliant to be able to choose a route on your PC [or Mac] and send it to Calimoto, but most of all I love that if you were to plan a route yourself with a map, you would never choose most of the roads that Calimoto finds, so you end up seeing so much more of our beautiful country.

“The only fault I can find with it is that if you map a route with checkpoints and you deviate slightly from one, it can't sense you've skipped that point and are continuing on the route, so it tries to send you back to checkpoint, unless you remember to hit ‘skip next point’.”

 

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