Tricks with Tracks - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

March 5, 2019

Tricks with Tracks

These days we almost always prefer to follow named bicycle routes. Not only do these have the best chance of on road signage, but in almost all cases you can find GPS tracks for them. Admittedly, our approach is directed to cycling in Europe. We no longer really know the situation for other continents.

The greatest source for named European bicycle routes is the Bikeline series of map guides, from publisher Esterbauer.  They have hundreds, though mostly for Germany. Best of all, they offer free .gpx tracks for download for each of their routes.  There are similar publishers of good cycling maps books in France, like Chamina and France-Ouest, but they do not seem to automatically offer companion .gpx's.

Though Bikeline is great, it is by far not the only source of .gpx tracks. Most named routes have dedicated web sites, or are covered by regional tourism organizations, and now these typically offer .gpx for their route.

One of the best general sites we have found is biroto.eu. These people have a great base of named routes in many countries, and super facilities for searching. The best of these is the search by map, which displays at first an image of Europe, with a tangled mess of bike routes visible. When you zoom in, you begin to see the individual routes, and when you mouse over one it lights up. Click on it, and you get it mapped, and best, for every one - a .gpx download. Another really good one is gelovelo.fr, which specializes in France. A bonus with this is that when routes are shown on maps you can choose the map to be a real "IGN" map, which really is the best quality.

There is a .gpx available for each of these tracks!
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The final source of tracks is in sites that will make you one on request, given a start and end point and possible waypoints. Google Maps is of course the granddaddy of these, but there are many more cycling specific ones. Lots of people like Ride With GPS, but we like bikemap.net. Another good one is cycle.travel (weird URL though - can anyone explain it?). Lots of others are around, and normally they will allow you to download the route they have figured out, as a .gpx.

So that, briefly, is where we get our gpx's. But the intent of this post is really to mention some ways we are manipulating them once they are in hand. 

The best all purpose tool we have for managing a pile of gpx's that will make up a tour is Google's MyMaps variant of Google Maps. It can be found at https://www.google.com/maps/d/  This thing allows you to create and save any number of "maps". Each map can contain up to ten "layers", each of which consists of the track of an uploaded .gpx or a track calculated by giving a start and end point and up to (I think) 23 intermediate way points. Bicycle routing is one of the options for these calculated tracks.

By ticking one or more of the layers, you can see displayed one or more parts of the total route on one screen. You can also change the display colours of tracks or track segments if the imported .gpx happened to specify some segments.

Of course, by zooming in you can see in minute detail where a .gpx or a group of .gpx's is going.  And finally, you can export either all the layers put together, or any single one. (The export will be in Google's favourite .kmz format, but you can convert that back to .gpx using the website GPS Visualiser.) 

When we first use MyMaps to see the route for which we have all the gpx's, it's quite a mess. That's because we normally will be hopping on to just a part of some named route, before hopping to a different route. For example, this time around, once we get to Radolfzell at the end of the Bodensee, we will hop onto the EuroVelo 6  (EV 6) as it goes to Tuttlingen. That's a distance of about 50 kms. But EV 6 itself is 3653 km long, as it runs from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. So we will initially be looking at a great long thing that we just need a bit of.  Therein lies the need for the first trick - trimming .gpx's.

Ride with GPS has a tool for .gpx trimming. But that is part of their "premium" package, that costs $10 per month. We found an alternative - GPS Track Editor (downloadable from gpstrackeditor.com). It's just slightly flaky in that you have to shift-click on the start and end of a segment you want, and it doesn't always recognize those clicks. (We think that while a track is shown as a solid line it is actually a string of points, and maybe you have to actually hit a point.  GPS Track Editor also will only work on Windows machines.)

Like My Maps, GPS Track Editor also allows you to load and display a pile of .gpx's, seemingly without limit. And really great, you can load them all at once by control-click or shift click on the list. My Maps is one at a time, to a limit of ten. For Track the Tortes we are  using 28! GPS Track Editor also can merge tracks and control the display colours! Again,  all this is PC only.  Anyway, this kind of work surely needs a real computer, with a mouse.

Both My Maps and GPS Track Editor can tell you the length of a .gpx. With that, you can know the total trip length. That is, as I always say, exclusive of getting lost, distracted, and going in circles.

GPS Track Editor, with gpx for this trip 22 thru 28 on screen, and artistic colour options for distinguishing trip segments. Note the table at the bottom, which tells that the final bit along the Danube is 94.23 kms, until you get lost.
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This opens my final track trick topic - the question of where you actually went, as opposed to where you planned to go. We are using Osmand+ in an Android phone as a GPS. Osmand+ can turn on a tracking feature which will write a .gpx showing where is has been from when the feature is turned on to when it is stopped. The .gpx gets written in that unique crazy place that each phone and its specific Osmand edition uses to store .gpx's. Wherever they are squirreled, the recorded .gpx's will be in a folder called REC.  What happens next is probably unique to what you are using to write the blog. In our case it's a Windows 10 tablet. We pair the tablet and the phone in Bluetooth and then in the tablet Bluetooth settings activate "Send or receive files via Bluetooth".  That puts the .gpx into the tablet and from there we upload it to Ride With GPS. The Ride with GPS has a share feature for Routes that offers an "imbed code". This goes into Cycleblaze and bingo! readers can see where we've been on the day, and even zoom in or out to see where that actually is in the world. 

Osmand offers control over how frequently it wakes up to see where you are. I think the map below was made with every five minutes. If you zoom in, you see that it is quite crude. I have yet to test the link between fineness of the tracking and how long the phone battery lasts.

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All this may seem like gobbledeegook to most readers, and it will be "Well duh!" to those with experience in this stuff. But if in any way it piques your interest, let us know. As riders without the courage of real adventurers, we can babble on at great length about maps and tracks!

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Sue PriceSo complex! I think when you come back I will bring my Garmin down and you can give me lessons in plotting all this stuff out! In the mean time, have fun out there!
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