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which planning system do you trust?

Old 04-25-22, 07:43 AM
  #1  
pstock
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which planning system do you trust?

I am planning a possible trip to Corsica and I am trying to plan some managable day routes - managable daily distances and vertical.

On a recent trip to the Azores I became well aware of my limitations. One day ride was "only" 83kms / 52miles and shows in Google Maps as being 1306m / 4300ft vertical but on that day, I barely made it back to the hotel. I was exhausted and lost all feeling in my fingers (though that might have been hypoglycemia as I didn't really stop to refuel correctly. and it was VERY early in my season, early March. I had zero 2022 miles under my belt at that point. ).

So I (I am 64 years old) am thinking benchmark days of 100kms and 1000m vertical should be managable.

But different route planning services - I am trying Google Maps, Route You and Ride with GPS - are showing VERY different Vertical stats.
For example, on one Day Route.
Google maps calls it 108kms (67miles) and 1082m (3550ft) vertical. I figure I can do that.
Ride with GPS calls it: 1863m (6113ft) vertical which would be a stretch.
and But Route You calls the same route: 2687m (8587ft) vertical which would be I figure impossible. (especially since my riding companion will be even less strong that I am)

How could these maping services be so different in their calculation of vertical?
which would you trust? which do you trust to be reasonably accurate?



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Old 04-25-22, 08:48 AM
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Elevation data is notoriously misleading. A typical example is bridges where the road is nearly flat yet ground surface changes dramatically. Another problem (less and less of an issue) is where elevation was computed from inaccurate readings taken from a cliff or ravine next to the road. Differences across platforms can also be due to different road selection. Google Maps tends to route on secondary roads, other applications may prefer tertiary roads or tracks.

I use bRouter. They provide estimated travel times that are a close match to my touring experience (actually, I use Locus PRO/Android, where travel times can be tweaked a bit more).
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Old 04-25-22, 09:20 AM
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How did those people make it across America in the first Bikecentennial ride back in 1976?
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Old 04-25-22, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Elevation data is notoriously misleading. A typical example is bridges where the road is nearly flat yet ground surface changes dramatically. Another problem (less and less of an issue) is where elevation was computed from inaccurate readings taken from a cliff or ravine next to the road. Differences across platforms can also be due to different road selection. Google Maps tends to route on secondary roads, other applications may prefer tertiary roads or tracks...
In my area Google Maps can be dangerously misleading to the traveler. It'll route you on difficult single track trails in the foothills. Once I force it to follow known roads, it's usually not too bad. But once I found an anomaly at crossing of the Platte River where elevation data went to zero, over 5000' down. That was the easier mile I ever climbed.

Sorry, I have no experience with other apps. I'm one of those old guys who managed to make across the country in the 70s and that's still good enough.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
How did those people make it across America in the first Bikecentennial ride back in 1976?
in an ideal world (or if I were touring by myself - as I have no fixed timetable except I guess my plane tickets) I would just start pedaling and stop when I was tired and found a hotel or campsite (I will be credit card camping so hotels).
But my companion probably has a limited schedule and so I would like to lay out a manageable route plan for, say, a week of riding.
And if what I tell him is supposed to be a 1200m day turns into 2500m, well, that'll be the end of the trip. He'll just call a taxi and hightail it back to the airport.
I guess I'll have to find some way to calibrate/verify the reasonableness of the elevation estimates. against a known route maybe - like up and down the Mont Ventoux.
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Old 04-25-22, 10:30 AM
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It is more likely that the routing app will overestimate rather than underestimate.

You may wish to pay attention to very steep segments. 1% all day long is ok. 10% for 60 minutes is hell (at least for our bunch)
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Old 04-25-22, 11:22 AM
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And tunnels can inaccurately raise elevation numbers because he data comes from the top of the tunnel.

Here is a RWGS map of a rail trail. Those two spikes are two long tunnels:

Dashboard Ride with GPS

The funniest situation I encountered while mapping a rail-trail was with the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. There are more than 14 tunnels if you ride the 9 miles of former right-of-way from Avery, ID, to the start of the trail and then the 15 miles of the official trail itself. It's almost all up hill in that direction, but I don't know how you could ever figure out the altitude gain.

I have found that Google Maps can underreport altitude compared to RWGPS. It has returned some segments that, when mapped on RWGPS, significantly underreported what RWGPS returned. Can't ay which is more accurate, so I always go with the greater elevation gain value.
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Old 04-25-22, 11:31 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
How did those people make it across America in the first Bikecentennial ride back in 1976?
Especially without disk brakes and Schwalbe Marathon Supremes.

Seriously...My first tour was ACA's unsupported Northern Tier back in '99. The only elevation data we had came from those profiles on the back of the maps for mountainous areas. In places like North Dakota and Iowa you learned of the hills as you were riding them. These days, I find it nice to know as accurately as possible what's ahead of me, especially because I don't have unlimited time and have to keep to a fairly rigid schedule.
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Old 04-25-22, 02:33 PM
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to test this out a bit I took what I think is a Known Quantity day ride, one of the George Hincapie Gran Fondos.
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/26943408
which they advertise as having an elevation of 5611ft (though their RWGPS route shows it as 5531ft). And so I presume GFH has confirmed that 5611 or so number is correct.

redrawing that route in Google Maps it gives an elevation of 4609ft (which is 17% less than RWGPS)
and in Route You 6456ft (which is 17% greater than RWGPS)

(I started using Route You in Europe as it was uniquely focused on European maps and seemed good for European routes. plus it is less commerical and has some nice features.)

So I guess I am going to go with RWGPS as the Gold Standard for route planning.
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Old 04-25-22, 03:13 PM
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What "planning system" do I trust? Detailed paper maps, which are readily available for all of France including Corsica. My favorites are IGN (Institut Geographique National), but Michelin are excellent, too. They show atltitude for various places, particularly high points, and have arrows indicating more difficult gradiants. I biked the route you're talking about, Cap Corse. I began in Bastia and biked counter-clockwise around the peninsula to Florent in one day. It's a magnificent ride. My recollection is that the east coast was fairly easy, There was some real climbing near the northern tip, with 2 cols (passes) not far from one another. The first was Col St. Nicholas, 300m according to my old Michelin map. It shows 3 different spots in the first climb with a single arrow. An arrow indicates a climb from 5% to 9%, but it doesn't tell you how long the climb is. You'll lose some altitude then climb up to 369m. Biking south on the west coast of the peninsula had more up and down, and my map indicates 4 viewpoints which usually involve some climbing. Heading south, there are 2 places with a single arrow down, and 2 more south of that with a single arrow going up.

I don't recall being particulary wiped out at the end of the 110 km day, but I was pretty young when I did it. I was fully loaded and camped in Florent at the end of the day with a couple of other cyclists. From there I continued west to L'Ile Rousse, then Calvi, then Porto. Then I went eastward and inland to Evisa which was a 1,000m climb from the coast, then to Corte. Then I headed south in the mountains and eventually veered to the northeast up the Col de Bavella, 1243m. Then up the east coast for a quick ride back to Bastia. Corsica is gorgeous, one of the best places for touring in all of Europe in my opinion. The only not-so-great part was the flat east coast which had a fair bit of traffic. The ride from the Col de Bavella to Solenzara on the east coast was nasty because it involved a big descent and another big climb to reach the coast.

By going eastward from Porto, I missed the part of the west coast just south of there ("les Calanche") which is supposed to be beautiful, though there's a lot of climbing, more than on Cap Corse. But the mountainous interior was very pretty, too. At my southern point in the mountains, I had a nice view of northern Sardinia. I wish I had stayed longer and explored the southwestern part of the island.

The roads were excellent, and the grading of French roads was good, as is the norm in France. Other than the flat east coast road, traffic was minimal in June and the weather was perfect.
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Old 04-25-22, 04:54 PM
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I do not look at elevation totals at all.

If possible, I look at elevation profiles so I can see what the bigger hills look like. And even the small ones can be worse if steep, if possible I like to see what the percent grades are.

Example in the photo below, I knew when I was planning this trip while still at home that this hill was one that I was going to walk my bike up it. At 13 percent for a tall hill, no way was I going to try to pedal it. While still at home I knew that this was my worst hill on this five week trip.



Sometimes I have plotted a route on Mapsource, that is a discontinued Garmin mapping program (no longer supported) that runs on Windows based computers (I do not know if it runs on Apple or not.). If I use an open streets topo base map I will get different numbers for peak elevations for the hills and low spots on the valleys than if I use the Garmin USA Topo (1:250,000) base maps. And if I use the USGS 1:24,000 topo map I get no data on the profile because the topo data is not electronic in those base maps.

My point is that in this case, just using different base maps in the same software will give you different data. I might look at height of individual hills, but I do not look for totals.
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Old 04-25-22, 05:11 PM
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Like axoloti, I prefer paper maps. The Michelin maps of France are almost as much fun as the ride! A few years ago I rode the western coast of Corsica from Calvi to Porto and Evisa. Here's a blow up of just one small section ...



chevron = direction of climb
single chevron > = 5-9% grade
double chevron >> = 9-13%
triple chevron >>> = +13%
yellow D road = secondary
white D road = smaller secondary
green highlight = scenic route
blue beams = scenic view point
black blocks = layout of buildings in small villages
green overlay = forested area
triangle icon = municipal campgrounds to be found in Osani, Porto and Evisa
twisty turns = you're on a fun road!
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Old 04-25-22, 06:12 PM
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The military have a saying that no plan survives its first contact with the enemy. I have a policy that 'bicycle' and 'schedule' should never be used in the same sentence, probably not even in the same chapter. Also, I find that I enjoy being in a new place, not just zooming through it. As a result, I try to set an objective, and also have a bailout option or two, in case of rain, headwinds, etc. Sometimes, rarely, it even works out the other way around and I end up going farther than I planned. I also camp a lot, so I can set up my tent for lodging where evening overtakes me, again, rarely.
Thus, I'll spend time with maps and list all the campgrounds and inns, motels, B&Bs, etc. and have a list of check downs if progress precludes achieving my original objective for the day. I also try to read as many descriptions of other people's trips on that route as I can find to get a sense of where to stay, and where to avoid.
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Old 04-25-22, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
I use bRouter. They provide estimated travel times that are a close match to my touring experience (actually, I use Locus PRO/Android, where travel times can be tweaked a bit more).
woah. that BRouter is AWESOME looking. (did you plug that route in for demonstration purposes? I expect you did. thank you.)

I will work on that.
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Old 04-25-22, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
How did those people make it across America in the first Bikecentennial ride back in 1976?
They probably spent lots of time looking at maps, adjusting to bad decisions, and enjoying good decisions. Hey, that's what we do today!?!
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Old 04-25-22, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pstock View Post
(did you plug that route.)
Well. I planted the 4 pins you see on the map, to get you started. Tons of features to explore. Have fun
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Old 04-26-22, 05:03 AM
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Old Corsica post with more screenshots including Cap Corse. Yes, maybe more info on the electronic versions. I guess I just like the artistic quality of Michelin with the tan overlay showing relief.
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Old 04-26-22, 05:13 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
The military have a saying that no plan survives its first contact with the enemy. I have a policy that 'bicycle' and 'schedule' should never be used in the same sentence, probably not even in the same chapter. Also, I find that I enjoy being in a new place, not just zooming through it. As a result, I try to set an objective, and also have a bailout option or two, in case of rain, headwinds, etc. Sometimes, rarely, it even works out the other way around and I end up going farther than I planned. I also camp a lot, so I can set up my tent for lodging where evening overtakes me, again, rarely.
Thus, I'll spend time with maps and list all the campgrounds and inns, motels, B&Bs, etc. and have a list of check downs if progress precludes achieving my original objective for the day. I also try to read as many descriptions of other people's trips on that route as I can find to get a sense of where to stay, and where to avoid.
Very well said.

Since I often pick locales for bike touring that are remote and far from the beaten path, I also try to find the major grocery store chain stores in the area and put their store locations into my GPS as waypoints so I can find them later. But, most common bike tour locations have good grocery store options, thus for most people this is not necessary.
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Old 04-26-22, 06:03 AM
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RWGPS sent out a notice in recent months (..last year?) about an elevation flattening option they worked out to correct for roads going through tunnels or over 1000 foot gorges..etc.. It may help.

https://ridewithgps.com/help/flatten-elevation
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Old 04-26-22, 06:03 AM
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If you go somewhere that has a National Geographic travel map available, I suggest them. They are not cycling specific, but I do find them useful.
https://www.natgeomaps.com/travel-maps

***

Unfortunately only Iceland makes a bike touring map like this, or at least that is the only locale that produced a map like their map. This is part of the map key, note that they even mark the steeper hills by putting yellow or pumpkin color on the uphill side of the road. The part of the key that I did not include here, it shows which communities have campgrounds. It is printed on plain paper and it rains in Iceland, if you go there you should assume your map will only last about five days, they are free so take a few spares:



When I went to Iceland, the National Geographic travel map that I bought before the trip was great and on paper that could get wet, but I used the cycling map for my day to day planning for where to go the next day.

***

I think anyone that is going to ride the Pacific Coast through Oregon should send the state an e-mail and ask them to mail a copy of the map to them to their home address before the trip. I did that in 2014. California lacked a comparable map, but I picked this map up at a info booth near the state line.



Many other states make maps available in USA too. Check their govt tourism websites before you go.

***

Since you were asking about elevation totals for routes, I mentioned above that I do not look at totals, but I have used Komoot to see if I liked their routes. That app did not work off-line, need data or wifi. Sometimes sitting in a campsite I used that as a second or third option to figure out my route for the next day. Sometimes it gave me crazy routing, sometimes it gave me a very good route.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...komoot.android

You can also use their browser option.
https://www.komoot.com/plan/

For purposes of this discussion, I used Komoot to route my plan for an exercise ride I might ride tomorrow, I would ride it round trip but I plotted up the one way version, attached a screen print as a PDF. I was pleasantly surprised that it picked the bike trail I plan to ride. And better yet, where the trail has been closed for over a year due to a closed tunnel, it plotted the detour. On the elevation plot, you can use your cursor to look at hill slope in percent grade, but a couple of the hills are steeper than plotted, but they are only steeper for short stretches of less than 100 yards (or meters), so it might have used some averaging for hill steepness.

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Old 04-26-22, 06:56 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by pstock View Post
On a recent trip to the Azores I became well aware of my limitations. One day ride was "only" 83kms / 52miles and shows in Google Maps as being 1306m / 4300ft vertical but on that day, I barely made it back to the hotel. I was exhausted and lost all feeling in my fingers (though that might have been hypoglycemia as I didn't really stop to refuel correctly. and it was VERY early in my season, early March. I had zero 2022 miles under my belt at that point. ).

So I (I am 64 years old) am thinking benchmark days of 100kms and 1000m vertical should be managable.
I get wanting to have a more accurate idea of climbing meters per day, I've learned to use the ballpark figure from Google maps to get an idea of how hard the day will be.
re google maps estimate, I've found it to be fairly accurate , when compared to my old school bike computer that can total meters climbed in a day, so unfortunately I can't speak for the other methods that have been showing you very different numbers.
What I did want to bring up is the whole aspect of having better judgement or conservative call on "what is managable " --particularly depending on how many kms you've put in the legs up to that point, how much climbing kms you've put in the legs, and how heavy your bike is (one rackbag vs four panniers sort of thing) combined with the gearing you have if there's a lot of climbing.

I've also learned a long time ago to plan at least a couple of "easy" days at the start of a trip, it just seems to make things a lot easier working into a multi day trip, so besides your clear question of what method gives a more accurate climbing total, this in my experience makes a big difference--especially if travelling with someone else who may be a less strong rider than yourself.

is this trip a credit card trip, on very lightly loaded road bikes, or loaded up with touring stuff etc?

all the best finding a more accurate method. I've been pleasantly surprised by how my old bike computer compares to both google maps and a friends modern gps unit, even in some very mountainy terrain--this doesnt help you in planning your trip days, but I hope some of the other methods are more consistent.

lots of good suggestions here btw
even (EGAD!) looking at paper maps to see where the steep sections are.
Back in the day, touring in places like the Pyrenees, the chevron marks on good maps was useful to know when hard climbs were coming. Perhaps you can easily get fairly accurate meters gained for specific sections where you know there will be longer climbs--although we are all aware of how a constant up and down day accumulation can really add up and be a kick in the pants day in the end.....
cheers
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Old 04-26-22, 08:21 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by BobG View Post
Old Corsica post with more screenshots including Cap Corse. Yes, maybe more info on the electronic versions. I guess I just like the artistic quality of Michelin with the tan overlay showing relief.
I'm not convinced there is more info overall on electronic maps, especially for planning purposes. You can't get the big picture and lay of the land on a phone or even a laptop. Paper maps like Michelin & IGN in France have lots of symbols which I haven't (yet) seen collectively on e-maps. Some symbols include green lines indicating pictoresque roads, castles, caves, vineyards, archeological sites, pretty villages, train stations, railroad tracks, tourist offices, bike paths, museums, rivers & streams (very useful for route planning), and numbers showing distances between 2 points. I use these symbols to make scenic routes with interesting things to visit along the way. Route planning can be an art, and beautiful information-rich maps are still the best tool I've found.
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Old 04-26-22, 09:19 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
You can't get the big picture.
I miss the days when I would be eastbound and run into westbound riders and we would spread a map out on the campsite picnic table. And I might say, "There's a little back road from Bakersville to Patumka, but it's not on the map." Yes, the online apps may show the back road, but you don't get the same interchange. And yes, I know that back in the "good ole days" if you asked Bubba at the hardware store about how tough Highway 57 was heading to Jubilee City, he would tell you, "Ah, it's pretty flat." And then it would be nonstop rollers. And yet, there is something lost in the small screen - small on a laptop - miniscule on a phone. I used to get a USA road map from AAA after I finished a cross-country trip and use a highlighter to mark my entire ride. Trust me, it is more informative and more emphatic than an 800 x 600 pixel map online.
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Old 04-26-22, 09:32 AM
  #24  
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As to elevation, I just look how squiggly the route is, which usually means slow squiggly up and fast squiggly down 😆
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Old 04-26-22, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I'm not convinced there is more info overall on electronic maps, especially for planning purposes. You can't get the big picture and lay of the land on a phone or even a laptop. Paper maps like Michelin & IGN in France have lots of symbols which I haven't (yet) seen collectively on e-maps. Some symbols include green lines indicating pictoresque roads, castles, caves, vineyards, archeological sites, pretty villages, train stations, railroad tracks, tourist offices, bike paths, museums, rivers & streams (very useful for route planning), and numbers showing distances between 2 points. I use these symbols to make scenic routes with interesting things to visit along the way. Route planning can be an art, and beautiful information-rich maps are still the best tool I've found.
Nicely put. I planned my first solo tour using the Michelin map for Andalucia. I remember all those symbols, especially the green shading along scenic roads. It was extremely handy to have the entire map in front of me when I had to alter the original route during the 7 week loop from/to Sevilla.
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