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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tools for Techies

In a previous blog entry I gave a quick summary of GPS tools for navigating your ride. Since then not much has changed.  I still love PocketEarth for viewing offline maps on IOS devices (iPhone/iPad).  I also love OsmAnd for Android which provides turn by turn directions for routes while you travel.  Both of these apps take complete routes generated by MyCycleTour.  When you display a route in MyCycleTour just click on the Download GPX button in the menu bar above the map.  These GPX files then load directly into the PocketEarth and OsmAnd.

What if you have other devices that you want to load routes into?  In the same blog I gave some information about how to load a route from MyCycleTour into a Garmin Cycle GPS.  It works very well.  The problem with many GPS devices, however, is that they don't all support the open GPX format.  So now what?

I did a trip to France, Belgium and Holland.  For the first time we had a car travel the route with us and a TomTom GPS.  I really wanted to load my route into this TomTom but there is no GPX support.  As it turns out I couldn't load the whole route, but I could load all the waypoints, so that now at least the driver of the car can pull up any of the waypoints on my route and navigate to them directly.  To do it I needed to find a way to convert GPX files from MyCycleTour to OV2 files (TomTom's format).  I found a great little program called ITN Converter which converts between many popular formats.  ITN Converter supports a long list of route and POI formats that you can load into a variety of devices.  Check it out if you are a Tom Tom lover.

Where are you now?  Another challenge we had with a car on this trip was syncing up between riders and drivers.  There were four of us on the trip so we traveled in pairs, two would ride the first half of the day's distance while the others drove, then we'd switch for the last half.  The challenge was that the car would get dropped at the halfway point and the first-half riders would have to find it.  Rather than wait to hand off the car we'd hide the keys then send the GPS coordinates to the other pair.  PocketEarth does this very nicely, and without a data plan running on your smartphone when you are roaming overseas (like we were).

Pre-load your offline maps, then have PocketEarth locate you when you want to share your location.  Create a marker (by holding your finger on your location on the map), then select the marker created (left image).  Select share (middle image), then your method to share (right image).  If you select SMS (Pocket Earth Link) then it will open a text window which you can send.  The person who gets the text then simply clicks on the link received, and PocketEarth will open with the same POI sent below.  Slick...  we never lost the car!

What's your favorite tip?  Do you have some great techie tips that work when you ride.  Share them with us.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tell Your Story

Back in March we launched a new capability which allows you to create a free-form Journal of your trip!   This is a space for route authors to tell their story and really share the experience.   You can easily insert formatted text and images to make your trip come to life.

I'm using this feature for a bike trip that I have planned this month in France, Belgium and Holland.  It turns out to be a great place to share some of the planning information for this trip with my co-riders.  I will also journal the story while we're on the road - so I can share the experience with friends and family back home.  Personally I prefer this to using other social media sites.  It's just a better way to tell the story.

A few weeks ago I added the ability to paste in videos from YouTube and Vimeo.  In the planning phase I added a few public videos from YouTube of the areas we'll be visiting.  While on route, we'll post some of the GoPro videos we take as we ride.  You can see the journal for my route at Bayeux to Amsterdam, or more quickly view the journal Route Journal - Bayeux to Amsterdam.

The Best Authoring Tools. If you've journaled on other sites you will know that authoring rich text and images on the web can be challenging.   Many sites have you input in one part of the page, and view the formatted result in another.   That makes for an awkward and disjoint experience at best.   At MyCycleTour we give you the ability to enter your text and images in a fully formatted window - a true "What You See is What You Get" authoring capability that is second to none.   Try it once an you will see the difference.

One Stop Shop. Integrating a modern journaling capability with the other great planning and sharing tools on MyCycleTour makes your Route really shine. The Route Author is the only one that can enter content into the Journal, but you can also engage with other users who can post comments and questions to your page making it a truly interactive experience. You can even link it to your favorite social network.

How do I start? Whenever you create a route in MyCycleTour (just click on the "create" menu item once you are registered and logged-in) we will set up a space for your journal.  When you display the route the journal will be included near the bottom of the page.  Only the author can add to the journal, but other MyCycleTour users can post comments below the journal.