What Happened to Bikely.com?Friday, February 19, 2021
In 2006, Bikely.com told visitors, “Put very simply, Bikely helps cyclists share knowledge of good bicycle routes.” By 2019, the website described its work in more intricate terms: “Bikely is a free and easy to use bicycle route mapping and sharing website created by cyclists for cyclists.”
Today, anyone who attempts to visit Bikely.com is met with the message: “Bikely.com's server IP address could not be found.” What could have happened to the community-based resource that once claimed to have 205,592 cycling routes across the world?
In this article, we follow the route taken by Bikely.com. We start by looking at the history of the website and the services it offered. Then we provide details on how the website changed hands in 2007. Finally, we attempt to find out what eventually happened to it.
The History of Bikely.com
An article produced by the Cycling in Singapore blog reports that Paul Barter introduced the idea of a bicycle route mapping project in 2004. The project aimed to help cyclists select safe routes to use. The relative safety of a route would be determined using a coded overlay on a map.
Bikely.com appeared on the Internet for the first time in May 2006. With a few dozen routes at the time, the website told visitors, “Bikely is very young right now. What it needs more than anything is people like you to submit your favorite bike paths.”
If you look at the growth the website would experience in the years that followed, it becomes clear that visitors were listening to the site’s plea above. It also shows the appetite that cyclists had for such a service.
The Cycling in Singapore blog credits the launch of Bikely.com to the release of Google Earth in 2005.
How Did Bikely.com Work?
To create a route on Bikely.com, users had to create a free account by providing basic details like a username and creating a password.
Once a user had an account, they could access maps on Bikely.com to add routes. To create routes, users had to click and drag points on the map. There was also a feature that enabled users to edit the routes they created.
The website also provided users with the ability to describe points with metadata. This helped route creators to describe particular points on the route.
Routes on Bikely.com could be created as private or public. When a user first created the route, it was private. Private routes could only be viewed by the person that created them. Once a route creator became confident that the track was ready to be used by everybody, they made the route public and saved it.
Route creators could also insert and delete points on the route and tag definitions. Examples of tags included commute, training, rural, scenic, high traffic, low traffic, and unsafe. This helped other Bikely.com users to find specific routes.
Cyclists using Bikely to view cycling routes had the option to save the route to their favorites. Each map had a heart icon. To place a route on the favorite list, a user just needed to click the heart icon. Users could only use this feature after creating a free Bikely account.
Compared to other resources that attempted to create ride maps, Bikely.com seems to have been a favorite among cyclists. When a user posted a question on the Australian Cycling Forums asking others to recommend a ride mapping site, Bikely.com was recommended by 44% of users.
However, even though most users in the above example recommended Bikely.com, the website seemed to run into several challenges at times. For instance, a user called DavidK complains, “I found Bikely to be unresponsive or unavailable many times I wanted to look up rides.”
Another user, Pete. B says, “You've promised many times that upgrades and improvements are coming to the Bikely platform but so far nada.” Adding, “Now, once again Bikely.com is experiencing timeouts & update failures making the site all but unusable.”
Future Publishing Acquires Bikely.com
In April 2007, Future Publishing UK acquired Bikely.com. It’s not clear how much Future UK paid for Bikely, even though reports indicated that the company paid £11.5 million (about $15.85) in acquisitions that year. What is clear is the reason the publisher acquired the mapping site.
Simon Wear, chief operating officer at Future UK, is quoted saying, “With smart purchases like the route planner, Bikely, we are further developing our digital offering. We have a great opportunity to lead the market across all platforms in this sector.”
In the same year Future UK acquired Bikely, it also bought another website, CyclingNews.com, for £2.2m (about $3.03m).
The acquisition of Biker.com and CyclingNews.com by Future UK was in preparation for launching a new website, BikeRadar.com. The idea was to have the new site coincide with the Tour de France's start in London in 2007.
Following the acquisition of Bikely.com and CyclingNews.com, Future UK’s annual revenues scaled up by 50%. Reports indicate that BikeRadar.com generated 5 million ad impressions during the Tour De France.
What Then Happened to Bikely.com?
Following its acquisition by Future UK, Bikely.com continued publishing, with the message, “in association with BikeRadar.com.” At this time, the website also introduced a Bicycle & Component Reviews section. It informed visitors, “We're pleased to announce a new section on Bikely - where you can share your reviews and opinions on various bikes, components, parts and accessories.”
It looks like Bikely.com continued to publish for another 12 years after Future UK acquired it. The last time the website was captured on the Internet was on August 10, 2019.
Users have been flocking to forums trying to find out what happened to Bikely.com. However, not much information is available. When a Bike Radar forum user asks what happened to Bikely.com, someone calling themselves oli_admin answers, “I’m afraid the Bikely site is no longer being supported.”
The above answer is followed by the words, “This discussion has been closed.”