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Trip planning and elevation analysis - example for newer bike tourists

Old 09-17-21, 01:31 PM
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KC8QVO
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Trip planning and elevation analysis - example for newer bike tourists

Edit - there are too many pictures so I need to break this up in a couple posts.

All,

I have mapped out a trip I want to do some time before the snow flies and am looking over the route so since I am in the process of thinking through how I want to do it I thought I would post a thread about it. Hopefully this will give some of you a base line for how to analyze your miles vs elevation on your trips - especially if you are a newer rider.

The first thing I want to say about trip planning and analyzing numbers is everyone's numbers are different. These are mine, and that is the only person they may pertain to. Your numbers will likely be different - and it is up to you to find those. Everyone's gear is different - bikes are different, tires are different, crank sets are different, and whether you load everything on your bike or pull a trailer varies, the trailer set up, etc. So you can't just apply a "cookie cutter" set of numbers and expect any accuracy of difficulty or ease of ride vs fitness level. There are way too many variables.

Therein lies the million dollar question - especially with less experienced riders. With all the variables how do you know where to even begin to understand your specific numbers?

You need to start tracking data. That is your golden ticket to your numbers. Furthermore, you need a way to track elevation. Lots of bike computers only track miles, cadence, etc. Mileage and cadence, while helpful (and I consider both of them necessities - I gear to cadence and that changes through the day and weather so it is an important metric for me) can't get you to where you need to be with elevation being added in to the equation - which is the root of this thread - balancing mileage and elevation.

I'm sure there are some old-school basic cyclists out there that don't even ride with a bike computer of any kind, and just go off paper maps. That's fine, to each their own.

For those that want to use technology to their advantage and use it as a leg up on route planning and confidence in a trip then what follows should help you a lot in that endeavor.

There are some apps on phones (like GaiaGPS, I've been using that for about 15 years between phones and a tablet for various backpacking, cycling, and boating trips) that can do tracking with a breadcrumb trail, miles, elevation, speed, averages, etc that can be very helpful if you do not have a GPS-based bike computer. Otherwise, a good GPS based bike computer that does mapping with all the metrics is a fantastic tool to have.

When I started distance cycling about 7 years ago I started with a Sigma bike computer and added all my data in to a spread sheet. I did that to keep tabs on my annual mileage. It wasn't until my first multi-day trip fall of '19 where I didn't factor in elevation in to the route that I got the proverbial "kick in the shorts" and realized how important it actually was.

What ever your method of acquiring your metrics, have a way to look at it and understand what it is telling you. The base of my annual mileage tracking has historically been a spreadsheet on the computer. I still do that. However, I do use Strava and find it is a nice way to keep tabs on my metrics - I can go back to the training calendar with a few mouse clicks and analyze rides from the past (which I am doing right now and viewed below so you can see how everything plays together).

My bike computer is a Garmin Edge 1000. I do retain all the ride data and can get to it, however it is not user-friendly to do so. That is where Strava is nice - even with a free base membership you can see all the relevant data with a few mouse clicks. With higher level subscriptions they allow you to analyze more and more data with different charts and visualizations of data. That is beyond me and you don't need to get that fancy for route planning.

Frankly, if you have topographical maps you could get a fair idea of a route's difficulty with the old-school methods so a lot of this with the digital data does carry over. Its just a lot more convenient to be able to click on maps, make tracks, and see what a fairly accurate representation of the route's elevation vs. miles looks like without doing a bunch of math and estimating.

The 4 tools I use are:
- Bike computer - Edge 1000
- Strava - Online cloud repository for ride data (I have my data set to sync when I stop and save a ride on the Edge 1000 - its an automatic upload)
- Ride With GPS - online mapping resource
- Spreadsheet of raw data

Here is an example of my spreadsheet for this year. I don't have the past couple weeks' ride data in there yet, but it gives you the gist of what I collect:





In past years I have highlighted rides of various categories with different colors - whether they were part of a multi-day trip or if they were over a certain daily mileage (like those north of 50 miles or those north of 60 miles).

In any case, the highlighting idea is great to visually categorize different rides so as your rides stack up you can check your chart and efficiently make your way through it.

In this case, the rides over about 10 miles were day outings - picnic rides, short day tours, etc. In my personal case, they aren't overly descriptive of elevation compared to miles. It is just a good example of the data collection and display.

So lets look at an example of applicable data to the elevation.

I am comparing rides here with the data from Strava, which in turn is what was collected via my Edge 1000 computer. If you want to really nit-pick - the displayed data on Strava is a manipulation of the data from the Edge 1000. There are formulas that Strava uses, they don't take the raw data and display raw data. But that is another subject for another time (it has to do with converting data formats - Strava doesn't "lie", it is just converted for display - for example - how they determine moving time vs stopped time).

Ride number 1 - and this is leads to my proverbial "kick in the shorts".

This route is about 75% along the Ohio to Erie Trail from Battelle Darby Creek Park to Spring Valley, OH, with about the first 25% off the route getting to it.

Trip detail - this was with a "touring load". I don't recall how much weight I had, but I was going to visit family for a week (there, not riding for a week) so it wasn't all conventional touring gear, but still heavy. This was day 1 of what turned in to a 2 day ride.



Lets talk about the metrics. 71 miles, when I'm in good shape, is on the high end of daily mileage for me. Historically I have done a lot of day trips in the 50-60 mile range and that is comfortable for me when I am built up to it. This season I was in decent shape, though I'll still put 71mi on the higher end of what I was going after. I have done 112 miles in a day before, though. The trip total was about 90-95 miles and originally I set out to do all 90-95 in a day. However, I left late and ended up hunkering down for the night, which was fine. It was better that way.

The elevation gain for those 71 miles comes to 745ft. Over the course of those miles, spread out, that elevation is manageable. Where it becomes a challenge is the steeper grades. There are a few grades in there, if you look at the elevation profile at about 3mi and 23mi there are 2 notches you can see, for example, where the grades were really steep. I had to get off the bike and walk those, among a couple others. Again, over the whole course of the trip the total elevation wasn't bad. Once I got to about the 18mi mark that is where I picked up the Ohio to Erie. Generally speaking, the next 30mi trended up in elevation. That slowed me down quite a bit. After about the 45 mile mark (South Charleston, if you are familiar with the route, headed South West) the going got easier.

If I were to sum up that day/ride - the 745ft gain in 71mi, for me, was doable. Even with walking up some steep hills it is OK elevation. What I would do differently, however, is break up the mileage. For a multi-day trip, for me, that is more than I want to ride. If I was in better shape and was going to be off the bike for several days following then it would be a decent ride.

Ride number 2 - the "kick in the shorts"

This started on the Ohio to Erie Trail then I jumped off to head to my family's place. This is where elevation is tricky.

The Ohio to Erie Trail is comprised of both Rail Trails and Canal/Towpath Trails. Neither trains nor shipping lanes traverse "elevation".



This round lets look at the elevation profile first. This section of trail follows the Little Miami River Valley. You can tell the elevation, again headed SW towards Cincinatti, is pretty level and ever so slightly descending. That is a good thing after a hard day of riding the day before. However, you can immediately see where I got off the Trail at around the 13 mile mark - getting off the trail meant I had to climb out of the Valley. Even walking my bike, loaded mind you, up that (I am showing a 16.1% grade, see below) was hard and took a while. Also, once out of the Valley the terrain got hilly instead of the smoother trail. Lots of demoralizing up and down after the "kick in the shorts" climb, push, pull out of the Valley.




On to the metrics. The ~400ft elevation might not sound like much, and to some coupling that ~400ft elevation with 17 miles might still be attainable. However, when you look at the elevation profiles and see just how condensed that elevation gain is - now you see a totally different picture.

In looking at this route - one I may try to do again - I am not sure how to deal with the Valley. I don't like riding on the roads, if I can help it, and that area is fairly heavily populated so there is a good bit of road traffic on those roads, unless I ride them in the wee hours of the morning - like between 2am and 6am. If I jump off the trail earlier I can lower the grade, at the sacrifice of 2 things - dealing with a lot more traffic and dealing with more up-and-down hills. No matter how I slice it, there are up-and-down hills. How many do I want to deal with and how much traffic do I want to deal with? Is that worth it over the slow grueling grind up the climb out of the valley I did here? I'm not sure. That is all food for thought later. One thing is for sure - it might be a "short" ride, but it is a hard ride.

Ride number 3 - Road segment between Fredericksburg and Dalton on the Ohio to Erie Trail, going NE





This was part of a 12-13 day tour segment, so I was heavy with a touring load (and I do carry more "stuff" than the vast majority of you). This was the single most elevation in a day I hit in the whole trip, over ~27 miles. That was a hard day, but I made it.

For reference, see below, there is around 6255ft elevation gain along the Ohio to Erie Trail (in reference to starting in Cinci and going to Cleveland, so south to north).



That means the day I did the road section between Fredericksburg -> Dalton that was more than 1/6th of the elevation (18%) of the entire Ohio to Erie Trail trip - over just 26 miles, or 8% of the miles.
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Old 09-17-21, 01:32 PM
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One more example ride:

Ride number 4 -

This was part of a multi-level 2-day "test ride" with a trailer I am working on. I wanted to do a "hell ride" with the trailer to analyze several things:
- How parts would hold up
- How the weight felt/how I handled it physically
- A new route I had never been on

I am guessing the load was between 250-300lbs. I added a 6gal water jug to the rear tub on top of most of my touring gear and some other stuff that I am guessing was 200lbs - so add 50lbs for the water and potentially around 50lbs for the trailer, just a guess. That was the heaviest I've ever tried to roll over any miles with the bike. In practice I don't know that I would quite be that heavy on a "touring trip", but the possibility is there. The reason for the trailer idea is space. The object of the game is to carry, what I refer to as, my usual touring gear (camping, cooking, clothes, riding equipment) with the addition of more food, water, and supplies. That way I am not needing to get creative with how to lash bags and water jugs to the outside of my racks and panniers like before.





On to the data. Something I should note is one of the first things I noticed with the trailer, and I was using a different trailer frame earlier with the same wheels and hitch, was that I realized how much rolling resistance there was with the trailer wheels. The tires are rated to 35psi so they are quite squishy compared to the 55-60psi I have in my bike tires. Having 2 more tires on the ground, and low pressure tires at that, adds a ton of rolling resistance - then add the weight.

With that having been said, the 384ft over ~20mi was a decent ride. Surprisingly, there were no hills I had to walk up. I had the gearing, even with the significant load, to pedal up every hill. That was good to see on that route, but I realize that isn't going to be every trip because grade percentages and lengths of grades change. From strictly a riding fitness perspective of the distance and elevation (and resistance, if you will) this route is a good route to ride. With a light load it would be an easy ride.

Lets shift gears a little bit from historical numbers to route planning.

First off, on my next trip I want to utilize the trailer. So up front I am going to have more resistance, by nature, than I would if I packed everything on the bike. Weight is only a part of the equation due to the extra 2 tires. However, after my "hell ride" several weeks ago I have a good handle on what the high end is like - both on flat ground and some small hills.

The route I did for my hell ride I have rode before now, so I have a good mind's eye of that in both directions - both mileage and elevation (going out is more climbing, ride 4 above, returning is more down hill). The mileage I am comfortable with from my Ohio to Erie trip is 20-40 per day. Of course, higher elevation gains really slow things down so the comfort zone with miles drops to follow suit, if possible. Sometimes that isn't easily possible. Look at ride # 3 above. That segment of the trip my intent was to start the day on the trail and end somewhere back on the trail so I was pretty well locked to hammering out the miles, regardless of the difficulty. That is something to keep in mind in any trip - and is the root of this post. How hard is a particular day of riding? Can you do it? If you have a hard day - what do the surrounding days look like? If you have a hard day can you swing a short day, or a 0 day, to recover?

Here is the Ride With GPS elevation break-down of the trip I am planning - the whole thing, just shy of 145 miles.



I have rode about 60% of this route, at various times. The first 2 days are my southern Ohio to Erie route, then I divert the rest of it and pick up ride #4 in reverse.

The elevation gain over the whole trip is roughly 2500ft. That seems like a high number to me, higher than I would like, but it doesn't concern me.

Where I do have question on this route is the high peak you see. That is on part of the route I have never been on. So lets zoom in on that.


The mileage here is approximate for the anticipated "day" of the trip. Total elevation is 671ft over that 28.5mi. As for mileage, that is on the lower end of my comfort zone with mileage, so that sounds pretty good. The elevation is about double what I have on ride #4 above. So that tells me the elevation is going to be noticeably harder.

Looking at the profile - the way the mileage numbers go is in the direction of the loop. I could go either way - clockwise or counter-clockwise, but in this case I am going clockwise - which is how the profile lines up. That means the climb to about mile 12 is all in the first part of the day - when I am fresh from a nights' rest. Then it's mostly down hill, aside from a couple smaller hills. Cool beans!

Lets look at the previous day's mileage vs. elevation, just to open the aperture on viewing more of the trip:


Same deal on numbers - upper 20's for mileage and ~600ft elevation gain.

When I put the 2 days together I get a trip that I anticipate is going to be more grueling for those sections. They are the 2 sections of the whole loop I have not been on yet. So I can't speak to the actual experience as I haven't had it yet.

The above is the take-away from this whole post.

When route planning - you should have a historical reference of how numbers feel. By numbers I mean both mileage and elevation over those miles. That reference becomes the "filter" for how you view routes going forwards. If you make significant changes - new bike, significant tire changes, significant gearing changes, trailer/no trailer, significant weight changes (camping gear, cooking gear, etc) - those will all play in to how your routes will feel. The same route with no gear (fitness ride) with the addition of 50-100lbs, or more, of gear can be a night-and-day difference in how that ride feels, especially when there are grades to climb.

Lastly, my intent with this is an illustration of my thought process and how I am looking at route planning to give others ideas on how they can approach route planning. This isn't a bash contest, nor should it start one.

Happy riding! Sometimes the journey is the destination. So don't necessarily get hung up on your "numbers" - there is always a way through, it might just take longer than you anticipate. Ride your own ride.
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Old 09-17-21, 05:50 PM
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Thanks Steve,
This thread is exactly what I was trying to ask in my thread, How Far Do I Go.

I too use Gaia for route planning. I find myself t to be an ok app for trip planning. I have just started using Ride With GPS with the free account. I see the benefits of becoming a subscriber, but I am in the middle of Alpha Testing another GPS app that Im very vested with the company.

Thanks again for a great article.
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Old 09-18-21, 07:11 AM
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Another method

Interesting read. For years, basically ever since I could get a computerized estimated total of miles and elevation, I have used the Climbing Index method. Basically, just take the total elevation gained and divide by the total miles traveled. The higher the resulting number, the harder the ride. The flaw is that in rides like your 17 mile ride with 400' of climbing, it does not show the route as flat but with one monster hill. However, generally speaking, it does a pretty good job of giving the overall ride difficulty.

For me, your 17.7 mile ride with 397' of climbing (Climbing Index of 22.4) would be a moderately flat ride (fairly easy). Sure, part of the ride is very difficult but the vast majority of the rest is flat so it would help make up for it. To give a comparison, say you were on a rail trail that climbed at a steady 2% for 1 mile. That 1 mile climb would have a Climbing Index of ~106 and would be considered Beyond Category. Much harder than your 22.4 Climbing Index ride overall. A two percent climb does not sound like much but if you lengthened that 1 mile trail to 10 miles without descending, you would now be climbing 1056 feet for the same Climbing Index of 106. However, if you then turnaround and go back down the 10 miles to where you started from, the Climbing Index drops to ~53, which is still Mostly Hilly. You can start to see it how it is both the distance and the total elevation gained that mostly effects the difficulty. If the Climbing Index were zero or less (only going downhill), the ride would be super easy. The Climbing Index gives an overall average difficulty, not a spot specific difficulty.

My point if you keep track of the Climbing Index for routes you have ridden and assign your own personal "difficulty rating index", you will very easily be able to tell how difficult OVERALL a future mapped route will be by calculating the Climbing Index. You can map your ride on RWGPS and it will give you the total miles and total climbing so you can calculate the Climbing Index easily.

Tailwinds, John
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Old 09-18-21, 07:53 AM
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John N Thanks for the comments! Excellent info.

I don't recall ever hearing about the "climbing index". I may have heard references to it in the past, I've been around this forum for 6-7 years so it is quite possible. I just don't recall much about it.

Is it as simple as taking the mileage and dividing by the elevation gain? So it is a metric that would be specific to the standard mile and foot units?

You are absolutely correct - the Index method, by using the two raw data points of the mileage and total elevation gain of those miles, misses the large climb I had on ride #2. That is precisely why I put it in as an example and is also very much a root of this thread. That leads exactly to my planned trip where I analyzed the overall trip miles and elevation up front then zoomed in on the high peak in that elevation chart to the planned day where that elevation was. The point was the numbers only tell you one thing. You need to open up the aperture a bit to gain a better understanding of the trip as a whole because what one segment looks like as being "moderate" to "hard" becomes a bigger drag when it is day after day of the same. Everyone's fitness level and gear choices are different and we need to be as in-tune with that as we can be to maximize the enjoyment from our trips and not set ourselves up for too much pain.
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Old 09-18-21, 02:13 PM
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The science and methodology behind some of this stuff is really Greek to me. But I inadvertently tried to balance climbing/elevation vs. distance when planning my tour earlier this year. I just used Google Maps which, while not perfect, was able to tell me which days would be more difficult than others.

Your post has given me some stuff to think about for my next tour.
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Old 09-18-21, 02:52 PM
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A couple other tidbits to add to the list of tools/resources that I listed earlier in the thread - although these are not related to the idea of balancing miles/elevation and how hard rides are:

- Strava heat map - see below
- Satellite imagery - Google Maps sat view, Ride With GPS sat layer, etc, etc

First up is the Strava heat map. If you are not familiar with it - this is an aggregation of various activity tracks from users of Strava. I do not know how often they aggregate data. It seems to me several years ago that there was a project where data up to a certain period of time was aggregated to generate what we see as the "heat map". That was a single-point aggregation, meaning the data going in to the heat map was not updated routinely.

Link:
https://www.strava.com/heatmap#7.00/....56123/hot/all

If someone has more information on what goes in to the heat map I would be curious to hear. I am sure if you dig on this forum or the internet, in general, there is discussion about it.

In any event, the Heat Map shows where there has been more cycling traffic (or kayaking, or hiking - depending on what filters you set to the map). What is good about this is for areas you have not cycled through they will show you where other riders have gone so you can get some idea of what more heavily traveled routes are, and what less traveled routes are.

If you think about it, the above actually does tie in to elevation some - generally speaking, bike travelers avoid elevation. However, you can't rely entirely on what the map is showing as locals that road ride, for example, may ride en mass on the roads paralleling bike trails showing that the bike trail is less traveled. It is, however, another good tool to assist in overall route planning - it does show where, hopefully, large numbers of cycling activity is, and is not. Whether the reason why there is cycling traffic in a particular route is high is what you are doing or not - that's another story. The local cycling club's 100m hill climb that has 400 riders a week competing on isn't necessarily where you want to take your 250lb combined weight touring load.

This example is from another route plan I am working on in eastern Ohio. On the left is the trail along the Tuscarawas River (South of Massilon). The green line is somewhat "no mans land" between that trail and the bright line you see in the middle - another trail - Conotton Creek Trail. On the right the blue line bridges the other trail through West Virginia to link up with the Panhandle trail. There are multiple ways to go on either "link" - if you look close you can see the more faint lines (pink/red) where people have been. The more yellow the routes are the more traveled they are.




As to the satellite views - I think the number 1 thing to look for on road routes is how wide the road is, which includes the shoulder. Lots of roads out in the boonies have no shoulder. Some roads have a nice wide shoulder. If there is any amount of traffic a wide shoulder is a blessing. For roads that are seldom traveled - small 2 lane, unmarked, chip-and-seal roads are fine to ride on - but the kicker is the traffic. In some areas of the country those same roads are actually the heavy traveled roads. In those areas you may have most roads gravel so chip-and-seal becomes a luxury race track. I've been on such roads and have had the unsettling sound of young people flooring import tuner cars about 1/4 mile behind me. That was before I had a mirror. After the first time that happened my reaction was to hit the ditch, which resulted in a few glorified dismounts in motion followed by a road-side yard sale, but better that than splat on what ever vehicle was quickly accelerating.
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Old 09-19-21, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
John N Thanks for the comments! Excellent info.
Is it as simple as taking the mileage and dividing by the elevation gain? So it is a metric that would be specific to the standard mile and foot units?

You are absolutely correct - the Index method, by using the two raw data points of the mileage and total elevation gain of those miles, misses the large climb I had on ride #2. That is precisely why I put it in as an example and is also very much a root of this thread. That leads exactly to my planned trip where I analyzed the overall trip miles and elevation up front then zoomed in on the high peak in that elevation chart to the planned day where that elevation was. The point was the numbers only tell you one thing. You need to open up the aperture a bit to gain a better understanding of the trip as a whole because what one segment looks like as being "moderate" to "hard" becomes a bigger drag when it is day after day of the same. Everyone's fitness level and gear choices are different and we need to be as in-tune with that as we can be to maximize the enjoyment from our trips and not set ourselves up for too much pain.
I would think it would work with kilometers and meters also but the numbers might have a different range. Since I only deal in miles/feet, that is all I have tried.

While I totally understand your point, I guess after decades of riding, I feel that at least for me, if I know what the climbing index is, I know the overall difficulty of the route. Sure I might have a monster climb followed by a descent for the rest of the ride, or I might have a whole bunch of little 20' climbs but for me, it all seems to average out on the difficulty. By this I mean that if I know the index is say a 55, I know I will have climbing. Whether that is a lot of short ups and down or one massive climb, I do not know. I typically find I am about the same tiredness on a CI of 55 regardless of the topography. Multiple days of a 55 CI would be tough but again, it really would be the same difficulty (to me) if it was climbing in the Ozarks or doing a 20-mile mountain pass climb. If you have a 15 CI, you MIGHT have a big climb but the rest would be downhill and/or pancake flat. A typical rail trail is usually around 10-20 CI overall. But as you said, if you just look at the graph of a RWGPS route, you can get a pretty good idea where the tough climbs are.

Now if somehow I could incorporate the wind factor, I would be super content.

Tailwinds, John

Last edited by John N; 09-19-21 at 11:15 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 09-19-21, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
First up is the Strava heat map. If you are not familiar with it - this is an aggregation of various activity tracks from users of Strava. I do not know how often they aggregate data. It seems to me several years ago that there was a project where data up to a certain period of time was aggregated to generate what we see as the "heat map". That was a single-point aggregation, meaning the data going in to the heat map was not updated routinely.

In any event, the Heat Map shows where there has been more cycling traffic (or kayaking, or hiking - depending on what filters you set to the map). What is good about this is for areas you have not cycled through they will show you where other riders have gone so you can get some idea of what more heavily traveled routes are, and what less traveled routes are.
To clarify, Strava's Heat Map (and probably the other heat maps too) are the aggregation of all submitted rides (bicycle miles), regardless of the number of riders, i.e. one rider submits the same 5 mile route 10 times (50 bicycle miles) versus a group of 5 riders submitting the same 10-mile route (50 bicycle miles). What this means is you have to be a little aware that a highly "popular" route in a city may actually be just one or two riders who use it to bicycle commute to work 6 days a week. On their commute, they might take a very busy road that a club ride would avoid. When I am route planning (I have thousands of routes around the country), I use Strava and the others to generate ideas but I always cross reference with Google Map's streetview and/or satellite view to see how "touring" appropriate the route is. There are numerous cases where the popular route is as described above (a commuter's route or a crazy bike club's route) and one that I would try to avoid if possible, i.e. traffic counts of 20k+ with no shoulders.

The problem you get with Google's "Bicycle Mode" is that their data is similar to Strava's in that it is primarily based on the amount of bicycle miles so you might occasionally get a busy road listed as "bicycle safe". However, while I have no evidence of this, Google seems to incorporate the number of different riders to a certain extent since their city "safe roads" tend to be less likely to be on major city roads.

Tailwinds, John
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Old 09-19-21, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
To clarify, Strava's Heat Map (and probably the other heat maps too) are the aggregation of all submitted rides (bicycle miles), regardless of the number of riders, i.e. one rider submits the same 5 mile route 10 times (50 bicycle miles) versus a group of 5 riders submitting the same 10-mile route (50 bicycle miles). What this means is you have to be a little aware that a highly "popular" route in a city may actually be just one or two riders who use it to bicycle commute to work 6 days a week. On their commute, they might take a very busy road that a club ride would avoid.
John N Do you know if they (Strava) ever came up with a way to routinely update the aggregated data? Or are we still looking at a much earlier point in time of data? I can't imagine its 5-6 year old data now.
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Old 09-19-21, 08:06 PM
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When I spoke somewhat in depth about the data with the Strava marketing team at an international transportation convention about 3 or 4 years ago, they said then the data was updated yearly on a once-per-year basis. You have to remember that their original company was to supply governments with "pedestrian" data for which the government agency uses to decide where to put in bike lanes, bike signs, hiking trails, sidewalks, etc. so they need to keep the data somewhat current. The company definitely has evolved into a more user focused company, a la RWGPS, since they now can get a good chunk of income from the users. I would guess the overall data is still probably customized and sold to governments who want it. Anyway, I "think" I have read since then that the data is now on a rolling 2-year basis updated every 3 months (the data is up to 27 months old) but I am definitely not positive about that. I know from my route research over the years that new data is put rotated in/out. I have not tracked on what frequency but could easily believe it is at least once per year if not more often.
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Old 09-19-21, 09:32 PM
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John N Ah. Cool.

That is news to me that the data is "rolling" (IE - stuff 5-10 years ago isn't in the data set any more as its been phased out). I never heard the back story, either, that the data was a governmental/municipality supply of pedestrian data. That almost sounds like Google-type data collection, but if they are only gathering data off those users that upload data to Strava it would be a significantly reduced amount of data than, say, the "live traffic" feed from everyone's phones that have google services traveling on all the roads at any one time. If they (Strava - or what ever service actually collects the data) had the ability to ping everyone's phones that would surely be a lot more numbers, but I don't know how they would differentiate between activities (vehicular travel, biking, hiking, jogging, cross country skiing, kayaing, etc).

In any event, however it is done, the resultant "heat map" is, as discussed earlier, a very useful tool to tuck in ones' back pocket for routing purposes.
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Old 09-20-21, 01:01 PM
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Great analysis. On my trip routing I look at the day profiles and do the factoring by past trips also, but not hard numbers. I will have to start my own matrix. On my trip through Colorado this summer, I also had to add Elevation as a difficulty with breathing as well as pedaling. I had 4 consecutive days at 8000 feet or above, so those were short days...about half the length of a normal touring day. I have been riding a road bike 30 years, but this was my first season touring. I learned a lot, with a lot left to understand. Thanks for a nice blueprint.
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Old 09-20-21, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
I am guessing the load was between 250-300lbs. I added a 6gal water jug to the rear tub on top of most of my touring gear and some other stuff that I am guessing was 200lbs - so add 50lbs for the water and potentially around 50lbs for the trailer, just a guess. That was the heaviest I've ever tried to roll over any miles with the bike. In practice I don't know that I would quite be that heavy on a "touring trip", but the possibility is there.
why would the possibility be there? are you planning to ride in the arctic for weeks on end without access to anything?

Ride your own ride.
word.
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Old 09-21-21, 07:45 AM
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[QUOTE=KC8QVO;22237435]John N Ah. Cool.

That almost sounds like Google-type data collection, but if they are only gathering data off those users that upload data to Strava it would be a significantly reduced amount of data than, say, the "live traffic" feed from everyone's phones that have google services traveling on all the roads at any one time. If they (Strava - or what ever service actually collects the data) had the ability to ping everyone's phones that would surely be a lot more numbers, but I don't know how they would differentiate between activities (vehicular travel, biking, hiking, jogging, cross country skiing, kayaing, etc).[QUOTE]


The user upload is (was, more likely) just one of the ways Strava collected data. There are also several companies that do this type of data collection (pedestrian data). Some use electronic beams to count bike/people passing a particular spot on a path much like the little rubber hoses that count traffic on a highway. Others use cameras/video and some even use humans to count. Since the cost of creating bike paths is so much, governments want to ensure they are not building a path to nowhere. Only reason we know of Strava is because they have a very heavy emphasis on voluntary user collection. I don't begrudge them, Google, et al, them selling the data. After all, they tell you they will and they are trying to make money. I just don't need to help them do it. RWGPS could very well do the same as Strava if they wanted to. On the vast majority these companies, the user can easily opt out by 1) not uploading their data and 2) turning off their "location" on their phone. I personally am a privacy nut so I don't load the stuff and limit tracking as much as possible. It truly is amazing to see what Google (and all the apps you allow your location to be tracked) data has on you if you just leave the Location on always on your phone. Scary, at least to me. Best thing is I get fewer ads for some reason that my wife who never turns her location off.

My problem with using user supplied data is that the routes may not be the most suitable. Also, sometimes a new path or lane needs go specifically where there is no popular (good) route, i.e. near a traffic congested section of town so bikes can safely get across. Luckily, most governments look at the where everyone is riding data as just part of the equation of deciding where to put the paths.
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Old 09-21-21, 08:03 AM
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John N Great points John.

I agree with you on the data privacy, but also realize, what I consider, significant benefits from the data - case-in-point is the heat map.

As you note, though - new routes don't show up on the heat map as the data has not been there to have been aggregated for the heat map.

That is a big nudge for RWGPS, actually. I have found RWGPS fairly good (I realize there has been a "glitch" with the "surfaces" feature that launched here in recent times, but its easily worked around). I did some test rides on my Ohio to Erie Route - my access routes to the "trail". Those started before I started using RWGPS. Once I worked with RWGPS, on my southern route, I knocked out several miles of busy road riding. Some of the trails were asphalt walking paths that were only 2-3ft wide (no joke) that I felt a bit stupid riding down with a loaded touring rig. But - I wasn't on a busy road. The point is - the detail of the trails is pretty well up-to-date, at least here (other areas I can't vouch for much - I can see some areas being behind) and it can help tremendously.

Of course, out in the boonies where there are no local trails you are reliant on roads. Thats where keeping an eye on the satellite views and elevation profiles are key - as well as the heat map.
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Old 09-21-21, 08:30 AM
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Here are a couple random examples of heat map routing.

Part of why I bring these up is these are major state routes. They have regulations for the grades that are acceptable on these routes. The grades are going to be a lot shallower than those of small 2 lane roads weaving through the countryside.

The first is US40 through Indiana and Ohio. The section of this I've rode is 4 lane west of Columbus with a large shoulder which is nice - an extra lane for people to use to get around you, and if not theres a wide shoulder to stay on so you don't have to hit the ditch.

From the heat map you can see it is a fairly traveled E/W route for cyclists.

Rt 40 is the heat line above the blue line (the dark gray line in the background map is I-70 - Rt 40 sort of parallels the S side of 70 in IN and then 70 crosses over and 40 is N of 70 in to Springfield).




2nd example is Nevada and Utah.

The major route is US50. The south end of the split you see (traced) is Rt 722, but blends back in to US50.

Considering NV is part of the Rocky Mountains I would expect more elevation out that way than OH/IN. That's just common sense there. The point is, though - at a glance this is a pretty easy way to visualize potential routes across certain areas. If it doesn't give you an exact route immediately it can certainly be a starting point.

Same deal, heat map routes are the pink to yellow lines. I traced the US50 route in blue (heat map lines above the blue line).



On the opposite end of the perspective of "starting point" - if there is a "black hole" of no cycling traffic - that is probably an area to stay away from, but not necessarily. Eastern/South Eastern Ohio is a great example. It is part of Appalachia - the foot hills to the Appalachian Mountains. There are a lot of routes through there that are hilly as all get out - it puts the road segment of the Ohio to Erie Route (ride number 3 above in the 1st post) look like a cake walk.

That gets back to the 2 examples here of major state routes - state routes have regulations that restrict the grades. That doesn't mean they don't exist, especially out West, but they are going to generally be easier routes to get through than getting off the beaten path. Of course, the obvious drawback to major state routes is traffic and speed limit - especially with much semi truck traffic.

We discussed Rt 22 through Steubenville, OH in another thread. Although portions of that are bicycle-legal, the segment through Steubenville and across the river to WV is NOT. So that brings in another complexity - are you legally allowed to ride on said state/us highway/route? If it is limited access (on/off ramps, not intersections with stop signs or traffic lights) that is a good give-away it isn't bicycle-legal.
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Old 09-21-21, 08:59 AM
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Depends about the limited access highways thing. State laws vary. For example, every inch of Interstate Highway in MT is bike-legal. In NJ, limited access state highways are bike-legal unless posted otherwise. NJ 55, which is a very busy, limited access highway is bike-legal. I saw a small group riding it once while I was driving.
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Old 09-21-21, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
One more example ride:
...
I am guessing the load was between 250-300lbs. I added a 6gal water jug to the rear tub on top of most of my touring gear and some other stuff that I am guessing was 200lbs - so add 50lbs for the water and potentially around 50lbs for the trailer, just a guess. That was the heaviest I've ever tried to roll over any miles with the bike. In practice I don't know that I would quite be that heavy on a "touring trip", but the possibility is there. The reason for the trailer idea is space. The object of the game is to carry, what I refer to as, my usual touring gear (camping, cooking, clothes, riding equipment) with the addition of more food, water, and supplies. ....
I have never pulled a heavily loaded trailer on a bike, but if you want to, that is your call. But if you really might pull a load of 250 to 300 pounds, you might prefer a trike. You can pedal up hills at a speed slower than you need to maintain balance with two wheels if you have three.

The limiting factor on a trike however is the higher end trikes have two front wheels, one rear driving wheel, and if you put a trailer on the back, only a small portion of your total weight is actually on the single driving wheel. Thus loss of traction could be a real problem if you were on a steep uphill.

But, if you got a trike and had to get off and push, a trike is not designed to be pushed up a hill as easily as it is to walk a bike up a hill. That might be a good reason to avoid a trike.

The bike in the photo below is rated for 60 kg of weight (~ 130 pounds) not counting the weight of the rider or the weight of the bike. Although I had a couple weeks of food on the bike, I still am quite certain that I had less than the rated bike capacity for total weight. The most weight I have ever carried on a trip was on a kayak trip, not a bike trip. Counting the weight of drybags that my food was in, the food weight was 33 pounds.

My limiting factor on any bike is steepness of hills. The bike in the photo below, my first gear is 3.5 mph with a cadence of 72, and if I am pedaling hard enough at 3.5 mph to get my heart rate up to where I do not like to see it, I get off and walk, which has happened a few times. Yet, I likely had half the weight you are talking about.



Most of my weight was on the rear driving wheel, yet the day when I took the photo and was riding roads only used by all wheel drive vehicles, on many uphills I lost traction because of the loose gravel. With your trailer plan that could be a serious consideration.

I had about 130 liters of volume capacity on the bike when I took the photo above if you count the rain gear that I strapped to the top of my front panniers. I cite that as liters of volume is a common measurement for bike touring luggage capacity.

Photo below, different trip, when I see that I have to go for several km up a hill with 13 percent grade, I grimmace, get off the bike and start walking as I know that grade would push my heart rate too high if I tried to pedal.



I can't imagine how you would ever get the load you are considering up a hill like that.

I have an inclinometer on that bike, in the photo below, that is a 17 percent grade.

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Old 09-21-21, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I have an inclinometer on that bike, in the photo below, that is a 17 percent grade.

The top edge of the bubble is at the 17' mark.

Isn't the correct reading at the middle of the bubble?
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Old 09-21-21, 03:21 PM
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Great question.

A more informed observer might note that the two positions of 0% are separated by the length of the bubble. Therefore, the correct way to read it is from the top of the bubble for a positive incline, and the bottom of the bubble for a negative incline.

There are also people who can't read the time from an analogue watch.
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Old 09-21-21, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
A more informed observer might note that the two positions of 0% are separated by the length of the bubble. Therefore, the correct way to read it is from the top of the bubble for a positive incline, and the bottom of the bubble for a negative incline.
I missed the two 0 marks. You could have pointed that out without the insult.
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Old 09-21-21, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
The top edge of the bubble is at the 17' mark.

Isn't the correct reading at the middle of the bubble?
Nope. If you look close at the inclinometer, there are two zero lines, about one bubble length apart. The upper set of numbers is for uphill on the upper edge of the bubble, the lower set of numbers is for downhill and the lower edge of the bubble lines up with those numbers.



Thus, under ideal conditions the top of the bubble is for uphill and lower edge for downhill.

And the bubble changes size with temperature and pressure changes so I only adjust it to the up hill measurements. I never care about how steep a down hill is so I always adjust it to the up hill edge of the bubble. I occasionally have to adjust it because of the bubble shrinking and expanding.

The photo below, I am on very flat ground, the middle of the bubble has no numbers on the scale, only at the top and bottom of the bubble.



ADDENDUM:

I was unaware that Amazon started selling them again. I have looked several times over the past half decade and they were no longer available here. You could only buy them from German sellers. But they have returned.
https://www.amazon.com/Sky-Mounti-Bi...dp/B01L5GL3A8/

If anyone gets one, they are only accurate if you are not changing speed. If you are accelerating or decelerating the measurement is off. I only use the measurement if I am stopped. That is one reason I never measure a downhill, I would rather ride downhill than stop for a measurement.

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Old 09-21-21, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Nope. If you look close at the inclinometer, there are two zero lines, about one bubble length apart. The upper set of numbers is for uphill on the upper edge of the bubble, the lower set of numbers is for downhill and the lower edge of the bubble lines up with those numbers.
I missed that. Got it confused with the bead levels (that work upside down).
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Old 09-21-21, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
ADDENDUM:

I was unaware that Amazon started selling them again. I have looked several times over the past half decade and they were no longer available here. You could only buy them from German sellers. But they have returned.
https://www.amazon.com/Sky-Mounti-Bi...dp/B01L5GL3A8/

If anyone gets one, they are only accurate if you are not changing speed. If you are accelerating or decelerating the measurement is off. I only use the measurement if I am stopped. That is one reason I never measure a downhill, I would rather ride downhill than stop for a measurement.
I was going to ask about those. Very slick.

By the way, I thought I had a busy "cockpit". Glad to see I'm not the only one with a lot of gizmos around the bars.

Edit:

There was another link inside the one posted that takes you to a version with a brass ball. That would probably solve the bubble size changing with elevation, temp, and pressure.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCMXRVP...xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

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