Another EveryTrail Alternative

So … on and off … I’ve written about EveryTrail alternatives.  There have been good options, free options, not-so-easy options, and so on.

My sister recently graduated from University of Toronto with her computer science degree and the scene for developers is tough these days, very few jobs for a recent graduate.  While she’s job hunting, I’ve been talking with her about the challenge with embedding maps on to blogs and not being locked into a platform.

She ended up building her solution called Map-A-Trail.  You can upload your GPX file and it’ll generate an map and elevation chart that you can embed on your blog.

You’ll notice there’s a possibility of cute overload, but that’s just how she operates.  Check it out, try it out, and maybe give her some feedback — but be nice and constructive about it. 🙂

I’ll be testing it out myself more thoroughly but so far it looks like it has got potential.  Obviously, I am to be biased as an older brother but you can trust that I don’t accept using clunky apps.

Map-A-Trail example screenshot

Trying a New Route

So my friend and I had been bouncing this idea back and forth about how I should bike to her house for a visit and then we’d go check out this bakery in the vicinity.  Tricky thing is that she and her family live in Scarborough near Lake Ontario and I currently live in North York (no lakes but we got streams and rivers).  For those who aren’t familiar with the city of Toronto — North York and Scarborough are different parts of the city.

As I was mapping routes out, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of bike trails that could take me from North York into eastern Scarborough.  Everything in North York ran north-south.  This meant I had a choice to either ride along main avenues (big no-no for me) or find small residential streets and ride through those until I could make my way into the networks of trail paths in Scarborough.

Awesome multi-purpose trail path near Brimley in Scarborough.
Awesome multi-purpose trail path near Brimley in Scarborough.

I have to admit some trepidation on my part because despite having grown up and lived in Toronto — there are a lot of areas of the city I’m not familiar with.  Funny how that is isn’t it?  We sometimes know parts of other cities we travel to more than we know our own.

Anyhow, with some help from the popular, I managed to create a route down to the Port Union area where the waterfront trail has been in development.  The waterfront trail in the downtown core and the Beach area really should be connected to this Port Union area but I’m guessing there’s a lot more work to be done and that’s a story for another time.

I managed to export this route and upload it to the new Garmin GPS that I had picked up.  This would serve as my guide to get to my friend’s place.  This was my test run.

Stopping for a break
Stopping for a break

I’ve been enjoying the new tires.  They are definitely making my ride a little easier and smoother.  According to the GPS, I manage to get to a speed of approximately 23 to 25km so far — sometimes faster if I’m going downhill but I have my doubts whether I’ll be able to go significantly faster on a consistent basis — not with the mountain bike frame and the relatively fatter tires.  My goal really here is just to manage energy more efficiently in the long-term when I’m going to tackle the Greenbelt Route.

Unfortunately as I make my way further south, I end up taking some wrong turns.  It is rather tricky trying to read the directions on the GPS and bike at the same time.  To top it off, the route that I had mapped out apparently took me on to a hiking trail and I found myself carrying the bike down some stairways.  Ah, the consequences of using Google Maps.  Still good enough.

Bridge over Bridge
Bridge over Bridge

The route took me further into a more elaborate network of paths which were amazing ride through.  Some were a part of a larger park, others were nice manicured gardens or extended backyards that led into a ravine area.  The diversity was amazing and I was grateful that such a network of multipurpose paths and trails were developed within the city.  To some extent, I wish the part of North York I lived in had more of these.  I followed these trails south until I hit the lake and it was a happy sight.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drop by my friend’s place in time because I kept getting lost or taking a wrong turn.

After I stopped by my friend’s place (it was fun and her son was hilarious and inspiring) — I took the same route back home.  It was practically all uphill most of the way.  To make it even tougher, the wind was blowing at me the entire way back.  Good training opportunity for future reference, but quite the challenge.  Thank goodness it was a beautiful day and it wasn’t too hot or humid.

Made it to the lake and Port Union
Made it to the lake and Port Union

Some Post-75km Ride Updates

Firstly as promised, the full version of my 75km bike ride (sans a few sections):

So after tackling the 75km Ride for Heart a number of weeks ago, I’ve been further reflecting on my experience of cycling 75km.  Some of the things I’ve contemplated revolved very much on how I would be able to improve that experience.  It was tough I have to admit — trying to keep up with folks who were on a road bike.  I definitely had the power, stamina, and strength to go up the hills but the ease at which they glided downhill and on simply straight flat surfaces caused be to take a step back and really see how much energy I was wasting.

Some friends pointed out to me that I should really get a new bike — but that simply isn’t an option. Too expensive and not practical at all. Maybe in the future I’ll swap my mountain bike for a touring one.

I decided to take my bike into the local Trek store in Toronto which is somewhat of a pain because my current neighbourhood does not have any bike shops within a reasonable distance but it was necessary. I ended up leaving my bike there for a week while the fine folks there helped me do a tune-up and change the tires to something more appropriate for the road ahead when I begin the ride on the Greenbelt Route. I realize I probably need to figure out how to do some of this stuff myself (which I have for some things) down the road but for now — I figured I was buying new tires so why not have them tune it up too.

Edge Touring GPS on the bike
The Edge Touring on the bike

Now, thinking ahead for the Greenbelt Route, I can’t imagine myself cycling with a bunch of maps printed out (and it seems no one has thought of selling a set of maps for the Greenbelt Route yet). After I did some more research on mapping routes out — I decided to dish out a chunk of change on a Garmin Edge Touring. There were definitely more expensive models with fancy features like connecting with your phone for updates and such but I really did not need that and I certainly did not want to spend an excessive amount of money for features that were pointless for me. I really just need to be able to map out a route on my computer that I can then upload to the Garmin Edge Touring — which would allow me to follow the proper route on any bike ride.

At the moment, I’m still testing it out but so far so good … more to come on that later.

The additional thing I’ve been trying to figure out are all the different pieces of cycling gear and clothing that I may require. I don’t really find myself drawn to most cycling clothes — perhaps it is the hiking side of me speaking — but I do see how they will be helpful. Once again, trying to figure out what is necessary vs. a luxury — I don’t want to spend money on stuff that I already have and can simply re-purpose.


The Hunt for more EveryTrail Alternatives Continues

About a year ago, I had written about the trouble EveryTrail users had been experiencing and was on the hunt for an alternative.

There were plenty of Wordpress alternatives, and TripTrack is beginning to come through as a solid EveryTrail replacement — but what if you don’t run Wordpress, want to pay $5 a month for TripTrack — or what if you want to do more with your GPS tracks or logs on your own terms?

About a year ago, I had written about the trouble EveryTrail users had been experiencing and was on the hunt for an alternative.

There were plenty of WordPress alternatives, and TripTrack is beginning to come through as a solid EveryTrail replacement — but what if you don’t run WordPress, want to pay $5 a month for TripTrack — or what if you want to do more with your GPS tracks or logs on your own terms?

Here’s what I’ve come across that may be helpful to you:

GPSFly website screenshot website screenshot is a pretty straight forward website that lets you upload your GPS tracks and share or embed them elsewhere — should you wish to do so.  As much as I enjoy TripTrack‘s user interface, I find the site a little power hungry which makes gpsfly more appealing for anyone who would like their embedded map to load faster or have their page be a little more lightweight for mobile users.

Unfortunately it seems gpsfly has been left on its own to some extent.  A little out of date and a slightly basic, the map seems to run into an error or two when one attempts to interact with the map.  It is free at the moment though!

GPS Visualizer

GPS Visualizer website screenshot
GPS Visualizer website screenshot

GPS Visualizer was another great find I came across while looking for alternative ways to make use of GPS tracks or logs.  The great thing about this web-based application is its capability to leverage GPS tracks and log files in many different ways — and then output a map or a file that will allow you to share this visualized data elsewhere.  Its strengths is also its weakness.  While GPS Visualizer allows you to create files or code elsewhere, there is no way to embed your newly-created map or data elsewhere.  Instead, you need to find a way to host the file first.

custom google maps with GPX file

An example of a custom google map I created with a GPX / KML file following UrbanHikr's instructions
An example of a custom google map I created with a GPX / KML file following UrbanHikr’s instructions

The UrbanHikr has developed some excellent detailed instructions on how to use your GPX log file (often found recorded in your handheld GPS devices) and upload the file to custom Google maps or Google Earth.  There isn’t an easy way that I’ve found to embed this custom map as of yet but I figure one can at least capture a screenshot of this in the meantime and post a link to the actual custom map for interactivity.

There’s the updated round-up for now.  If you have any additions you think I should add to this or if I’ve missed anything, feel free to chime in and share the knowledge 🙂

Transitioning to an EveryTrail Alternative

Over the past month or so, I’ve found that EveryTrail’s maps — which I’ve embedded quite often in my blog posts — have appeared to be unable to load and I have had issues uploading GPS tracks.  It even appears that EveryTrail’s community is gradually leaving given that the site does not seem to be fully operational.  It’s rather sad since I had been using EveryTrail for quite some time. After searching around for a solution, I finally came across a worthwhile and brilliant solution.  Rather than uploading it on to EveryTrail, I’ll simply host the GPX file on my own site with the WordPress plugin, Google Maps GPX Viewer.  I have to express my thanks to ATLsoft for creating and providing this free version.

You’ll begin noticing that for any new blog posts, I’ll be using this GPX viewer to map out the hike.  I will eventually get around to changing the maps for other blog posts to the new GPX viewer.

Update [Oct. 4 2015]:  Karol Szklarski of TripTrack approached me to try out their embed capability out.  Now that I’ve migrated away from WordPress, I’ve begun introducing embedded maps via TripTrack.  Generally speaking, TripTrack’s embed functionality is pretty simple and straight forward, although I wouldn’t mind a way to extract embed codes in bulk rather than going to each map.  TripTrack’s done a great job presenting itself as a new alternative to EveryTrail and I look forward to and hope for the addition of features to embeds such as altitude and speed.

Update [Nov 25 2015]: TripTrack is now charging a fee of about 5 dollars a month ($50 per year) if you require uploading more than 10 trips or GPS tracks.  I’m currently looking into some additional alternatives should someone not want to or can’t afford the fee.

Update [Nov 29 2015]: Did some further research on more EveryTrail alternatives.  Read on!