Friday, August 5, 2011

Google Maps + Earth + Android = Mountain Biker's Delight


As of July 2013, Google Maps on Android is broken. Actually, Google started breaking it long time ago - first they removed ability to send your exact location to people (it could be only linked to an existing address), then that ability was removed altogether, then Latitude was gone, and finally MyPlaces fell victim to their "improvements". Users are furious - look a discussions at Google Maps forum. Google promised to bring MyPlaces back in release notes for the version that removed it, but time will tell if they will.

It was a pretty stupid thing to do, but alas, Maps is not the only victim.

Let the rest of the original article stay, just to remind us all how good it once was.

Ever found yourself lost in the woods, with the route map being insufficiently detailed or just plain wrong? Here's how to fix the situation.


Create a route draft with Google Maps.

View Bell Pass Draft in a larger map


Save the map to a .kml file, open it with Google Earth, check elevation.


You can see the map you created in step 1 in Maps on your phone. You can see it even if you are off the cell grid - just make sure you download the map area to your phone.



There are things you need to remember before relying on your route, though. I'm sure there'll be more for other people in other regions, but here's observations from Arizona desert and mountains:
  • Careful with inclinations. When you're looking at routes in Google Earth, the surface seems much, much more flat than it is in reality.
  • Watch for rocks. Even though the resolution is often good or excellent, a path that looks smooth may, in fact, be impassable on the bike.
  • Watch for washes. What looks like a path may be a wash, full either of rocks or of fine sand.
  • Watch for breaks. What looks flat on the map may turn into a 50ft fall if you're not careful.
  • Look out for changes and have a Plan B. I once found myself looking at the road that was plowed along to prevent jeeps from coming through - well, it prevented me too. You can't bike through the raw desert, had to walk. Coincidentally, that happened in the middle of the heat wave with the temperature being over 130°F - even water doesn't help after a while. I was not amused.
Good luck.