Talking to some other riders in the area about our mtb trail opportunities, I got a somewhat crazy idea about linking our area trails together in a big, long ride. I wanted to do it all via county roads, but looking at maps of the area, it became apparent an all-county-road route would not be possible. The problem: the Angelina River bottoms. Between Nacogdoches and Lufkin, there’s only one road that crosses them: US-59. Not the ideal road because of its 70mph speed limit, but it’d really be the only option unless we REALLY wanted to go out of our way and probably spend days riding. Not this time. Read more...(323 words, 1 image, estimated 1:18 mins reading time)
With Garmin switching to Bing maps (an obviously inferior product to Google’s maps), many of you are probably searching for an alternative. Never fear. There are tons of options available. I’ll use my own data for sites where I have accounts (or don’t require accounts), but in order to avoid creating dozens of extra accounts I’ll never use, I’ll choose someone else’s data for the others. I will save my ratings until the end.
Garmin Connect’s embed (on 10/25/2012) appears to be pretty flaky on Google Chrome and on Firefox. Not sure what’s up, but it does seem to work a little better on MSIE. Might have to do with Google’s deal to supply Bing Maps awhile ago and partner up with Microsoft. I don’t see how I can recommend that. Only 17% of the traffic to my website uses MSIE. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari each range between 20-30% of the traffic on my site, which tells me a good bit about potential visitors. Namely, that they aren’t using MSIE. Bad, Garmin!
It works smoothly with a Garmin GPS. It has a respectable set of fitness analysis features. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but it’s not bad. The activity search feature works okay. The text-based search is pretty fussy because it assigns locations of an activity based on the nearest city of ANY size, even tiny ones you have never heard of. Searches that combine the map work a bit better. Bing maps are terrible. No topo view of any sort. Outdated satellite imagery. Lower resolution satellite imagery. The embedded map display is pretty small.
This site doesn’t really have a features list so much. It’s a pretty basic site focused on data sharing. There are iphone and Windows Mobile apps available as well as a mobile website. Map view options include Open Street/Cycle Maps, Google, Microsoft (Bing), Yahoo, and Google Earth. The map screen is also pretty large. Lots of advanced search options, too. It can bring in pictures from Picasa or vids from YouTube. Import supports a variety of file formats.
Sharing functionality is pretty robust, but its reports for tracking fitness are pretty limited. The ability to choose between a variety of map types really lets the user choose how to display the track. While it can bring photos and stuff from Picasa, it doesn’t let you bring your own stuff in (say, a specific group of photos from your trip). It just shows material that other folks have geotagged that may or may not be relevant to your trip. The embedded map display is a good size and is visually attractive without a bunch of extra junk. GPSies.com does NOT require you to create an account in order to upload files.
Sanoodi adds a more robust social layer onto GPS data sharing. There are groups that users may join to enable that social layer and users may comment on activities. The site integrates with flickr to show geotagged photos in the area of the track, but not necessarily specific photos related to the activity.
Sanoodi looks like a slick interface and it has nice social integration, but the flickr app doesn’t really add anything since it doesn’t show relevant photos. The site is also terribly slow to load. There’s a claimed embedding function, but I couldn’t manage to get the full embed code out of it. It only gave me part of the code I needed to embed a dynamic map, so I can’t really see how the embedding capability works (in either Firefox or Chrome). There are mobile apps available for Nokian, Apple, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile users. I don’t have a great impression because some basic functions don’t seem to work.
A fairly simple GPS data sharing site. Lets you sketch a planned trip on the map and save it. This site doesn’t exactly have a listed set of features. It does let each activity have multiple tracks with alternate routes and such which many sites don’t offer.
WikiWalki’s embed code has broken.
This site is pretty simple. If all you want is to share GPS tracks, it’ll do. It seems to lack a lot of fitness tracking capability, though. The embedded maps are also really basic.
This one also lacks a concise features list. What is it with sites skipping this information? It’d sure make comparing them easier. At any rate, map choices are limited to the basic Google Maps offerings (street, satellite, hybrid, and terrain). Robust trip report capability and good integration with Facebook and Twitter. Users may comment on activities. Photos may be chosen from your albums on flickr, Picasa, or YouTube. This is big, since the others I’ve mentioned before don’t let you choose the photos you display. The site also offers mobile apps for iPhone or Android.
Slick embeddable map with slideshow of your photos. Unfortunately the map is small and not resize-able that I can find. This site has one of the most robust sharing interfaces out there. It’s still a bit light on fitness tracking.
features This site has a better summary statistics page for each activity since it’s a bit more fitness-focused. It has some trip reporting capabilities, too, and can add geotagged photos (though the site admin mistakenly uses the word “geocoded”). Those photos must be uploaded directly to the site, though. No integration with flickr or Picasa.
Good general contender. It’s “okay” in most categories, but I wouldn’t say it’s best at any one thing in particular. It offers a selection of Google Maps layers and others (OSM, MyTopo, MSR Topo) and it permits point data within a track for geotagged photos. Nice to see a simple site offer a good selection of features.
Trimble Outdoors also lacks a concise features list. It is a respectable all-around data sharing site. There isn’t any one particular activity focus for the site, and both Bicycling Magazine and Backpacker Magazine pull data off of the site to share. Trimble is probably better known for their professional gear, but Trimble Outdoors accepts data from consumer grade GPS hardware, and the site offers multiple apps on multiple cell phone platforms. The site has a social layer with groups and automatic publication to Facebook and a solid trip report editor.
Nice embeddable map with MyTopo data in addition to Google’s offerings. This is a good all-around sharing site with a little of everything. From trip reports to basic fitness tracking and support for dropping photos and videos onto the map.
And yet another sharing site without a features list. This one is a solid fitness tracking site with a social layer. There are groups, users may “boost” each other (cheer), and comment on each others’ activities. Yes, the site name has “Running” in it, but the site takes fitness activities of any sort. It has a robust planning tool and a lot of fitness tracking features. Its embeddable content is a bit different than other sites, though. It does not offer a dynamic Google Map. Users may select a static Google Maps thumbnail, static OpenStreetMap thumbnail, elevation profile thumbnail, or a 3D Google Earth player.
I like the fitness tracking features of the site. I’m not a big fan of the sharing options, however. I like a simple, but dynamic map available. The static maps don’t do it for me and besides, making use of them requires you to know a little coding. The one I used above required me to mess with adding iframe tags and doing some resizing of the iframe to display correctly. The static Google Maps image requires you to have a Google Maps API key (and I don’t remember mine) as well as toying with an iframe.
This one is a whole family of sites each with a different focus (running, biking, hiking, etc). It does at least have a features list. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll only cover MapMyRide since they are essentially all the same. This site has both free and premium services. Free accounts get lots of ads and junk, while a premium account will get rid of that stuff and add a few features. The site offers training plans, a robust social layer, and a map generator tool. The site provides embed code for many sizes of maps, and the sizes are editable. New Embed:
It’s a good tracking site, but the ads on the free version detract from using it. If you’re prepared to pay for a subscription, it’s a lot more usable without the ads in the way. If you like Google Map embedding and want it a specific way, then this site lets you embed how you like. Robust fitness tracking is a plus for those who want that sort of thing. Premium memberships can be pricey, though. I will point out (as was suggested to me) that the beta version of MapMyFitness is cleaner. Some features have been added – including the option to tag photos from flickr to display on the map. I am playing with that feature and it seems that photos need to be geotagged in addition…but it just might take time for them to appear in the photos pane. There’s still an ugly ad covering the route planning page that gets in the way, but it seems to be less trouble than the old site. It’s part of the tools pane, which can be minimized to the side of the screen. Overall I think the beta version of MapMyFitness is an improvement.
features Training Peaks is first and foremost a fitness tracking site. This site lets you track your GPS-enabled workouts in addition to gym workouts and others. It’s also got a very robust diet tracking system. Sharing is really not a consideration, but it’s possible. Links are provided, but you’ve gotta make sense of them. There are free and paid subscriptions available. Paid subscriptions give you a lot more capability to view reports and statistics about your fitness and diet. Embedding isn’t possible, but you can link to an activity.
If your goals are first and foremost fitness-oriented, then you probably don’t mind that the sharing capability of Training Peaks is limited. It will send your workouts to Facebook if you set up the option. Nobody has better fitness and diet tracking capability.
features This is a New England local sharing site. It’s pretty all-inclusive. Share GPS data, photos, and a social experience. It has a pretty local focus, though. Activity Link
This is a good local source for data. There’s a great deal of data on the site, as well, so chances are if there’s a trail that permits mountain bikes, that trail has GPS data for it within the covered area. The embed code seems to be temporarily broken. I’ll post an example when the function gets fixed.
No features list. This one doesn’t specify a local area, but in effect its coverage is somewhat local. Seems it’s most commonly used in California, Arizona, and Israel though there is coverage elsewhere. Site’s focus is on “ladders” or leaderboards where users compete with each other for submitting rides. No embedding for activities elsewhere, and sharing just consists of sharing a link. Activity Link
The ladders concept is pretty cool. Minimal sharing capability is a bit of a downer, but the site does have a social layer allowing users to send each other messages. The ladders utility would be good motivation to compete with others, but the lack of other features just doesn’t get me interested.
No features list, but another nice option. Major features include hierarchical data organization and an editor that lets you edit the actual track points of a file to eliminate bad points and such. Activity Link 06-12-2012 Update: I was contacted today by Cristoph from Breadcrumbs to let me know that they had updated their service. They’ve got a feature list now (did they do that because they read my comments? I don’t know, but thanks for providing it), so go ahead and check that out if you’re interested in the service. They also now provide embed code. This is the same activity linked above.
This site takes a knock for a lack of an embed function, so the only sharing can be done via links. Data organization is solid, though. The 3d viewer is nice, but I prefer the 3d viewer on RunningFreeOnline.
06-12-2012 Update: The improvements to the site are a big step forward. A nice feature here is that when viewing one track, you will see waypoints on the map for other tracks nearby. There’s also a list of nearby tracks on the right pane, .gpx and Google Earth downloads, and an intuitive interface. With the updates, it’s a solid performer.
Bike-focused site. Especially seems to be focused on road biking because cuesheets are heavily used. Simple enough. Plan a ride, upload your data, then share your data any number of ways, print cue sheets.
Sometimes simple is better. This site does what it needs to do and does it well. The site has a well-defined niche. The embeddable maps are a good size and offer a route profile in addition to looking sharp. Only major knock would be its focus on road biking, and that’s a big one if you also want to share hikes, mountain bike rides, paddling trips, runs, and whatnot.
Here’s a site with a stronger fitness focus. Training and fitness diaries and a significant social layer built into the site with blogs, forums, friends, and more. GPS data uploads require a Gold level membership. Not much capability for sharing outside the site.
A lack of sharing capability rules it out for me. Also disappointing that you have to pay to do GPS uploads. It does have good training log functionality, though.
If all you do is run, then this might be worth a look. It’ll share to Facebook and claims to offer stat scripts for your blog (not sure what those look like since functionality is very limited to nonregistered users).
Track your workouts with a GPS or smartphone app. Seems to have a running focus, but also will do cycling and triathlons. Tight integration with Facebook and Twitter. No embed.
Community-focused training site with a focus on motivation and competing with online friends. It’s simple and straightforward in that focus. If this is what you want, it’s a nice interface.
Another simple fitness tracking site. Some features still in development. Connects your workouts with Facebook. If all you want is to put your GPS-enabled workouts on Facebook, take a look at this site.
I don’t have much of an impression. This is a very simple site with the goal of putting your data on Facebook. They have some other features in development, though, that look to expand the usefulness of the site. Stay tuned.
Training log, workout plans, and diet log. Some degree of social tools, also. Must register to browse the site.
Not much. The site is pretty locked down unless you register. Based on the tour videos, it seems to have some social capability and a pretty extensive training and diet log. If you’re looking for this sort of thing, take a deeper look.
Robust social and virtual competition tools. Allows users to socialize over a particular route or group. Lack of embedding makes it tough to take data from the site and use it elsewhere.
The next few options don’t quite match with the previous options. They require you to have file hosting arranged already. You can, like me, pay for a web hosting service. Google’s documents service might work for some of them. These simply give you a way to visualize these files on a dynamic map.
This service is simple enough. You may have noticed me using it on this site on occasion. It works with .kml, .kmz, .gpx, and even .tpo files. I don’t know of another option to view a dynamic map online of a .tpo file since it’s a proprietary format in National Geographic Topo!. With .kml and .kmz files, you can see geotagged photos. Sizing is scalable however you want from full screen down to 400×400. It will use files stored on Google Sites or MyMaps in addition to files you host on your own. You do have to know a little about HTML (or at least follow the lengthy how-to document). You can choose from the standard Google Maps views in addition to MyTopo maps. There are no fitness tracking abilities, but it will show geotagged photos and videos and if you have experience with editing .kml files you have a lot of flexibility for what you display in the dialog boxes when you click a point.
For simple embedded map viewing, I really like this option. Most of the other services provide maps that are just too small to be useful. With this one, you can choose the exact dimensions to suit you. If you want fitness tracking, look elsewhere, though. If you can’t work in HTML code, look elsewhere. This code is not cut-and-paste like most others. There are a lot of options you must choose with this.
GPS Visualizer is an online tool that does quite a lot. In addition to offering visualization capabilities, it also does a lot of file conversions. Displaying dynamic maps using this service is VERY code-intensive even compared to GMap4. The FAQ is absolutely necessary to pull it off.
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