Posts Tagged ‘elevation’

São Paulo - Atibaia

<— First article regarding route planning

Two of the other online route planning tools we have used are Bike Route Toaster and Ride with GPS. Both are better than Garmin Connect from the point of view of showing the total elevation of your journey. The former is completely free, while the latter is free to use so you can plan your journey, but if you want to upload routes to your Garmin, you have to pay a subscription.

Starting with Ride with GPS, and this is the tool I have been using most until now (though that might change as in comment to my previous post, Charles ( suggested using Strava… which looks interesting though doesn’t look to be any good for actually planning routes – just for analyzing the ones you have taken). I have used Ride with GPS to plot out initial drafts of the entire 360 Extremes route through from São Paulo to the top of the Americas (345 days, including days off… so quite a lot of individual routes there!). Everything is all there saved, though it would be nice to be able to organize things in folders or something to make it easier to find everything. The planner isn’t really good for cycle paths, though it does let you draw from point to point when there are no roads to follow, so it won’t take you all around the sun to meet the moon. And one thing that I really do like about it is that you can see the grade of the climbs as well, so you get a better idea about how steep the climbs you face really are – not something that appears in the other tools – and oh, yes, you can also use Street View to gain an idea of the roads (wherever Google have gone, that is).

On the left, the data from the GPS after the activity; on the right, the data from the planned activity.
Spot the difference (aside from distance as started 15km from start, after flat roads/gentle downhills)

Like Garmin Connect, you can download data about your daily activities from your GPS to the software, and it can keep track of everything. It can be buggy, however, sometimes and it can be easier just clearing a route and starting again rather than trying to sort out something that when wrong with the route/waypoints. Also, while it shows you the total climbs/descents over the course of a ride, it tends to exaggerate these by a good few hundred metres – the route from São Paulo to Atibaia is shown as +2131m / -2142m, when the Edge 800 altimeter works it out as around +/- 1,300m. Which is right… well Bike Route Toaster seems to support the Edge.

So being careful with the elevation planning, I would give this 7/10 on the whole though 8/10 for just the route planning – better than Garmin Connect simply because even an exaggerated idea of the total elevation is better than none.

Bike Route ToasterBike Route Toaster is great and easy for quick planning and is completely free. It gives you elevation data, allows you to create course points and warnings, and allows you to work with the “Virtual Partner” on the rides – though we haven’t used this much yet as we generally go at our own steady pace – the importance for us is not speed, rather building our endurance. The elevation data seems more accurate than the Ride with GPS – and is considerably closer to the readings that the GPS gives, so I would trust this much more for getting the most accurate information in planning your ride. It can be slightly buggy and you can’t save routes on to the server, so it is harder to organize and make adjustments to a sequence of different routes as part of a longer journey. Uploading them to your Garmin does saves the routes you create, however. It hasn’t got all the activity analysis features as the others, and also it isn’t the best looking of interfaces in the world, with tacky adverts appearing here and there… but what do you expect? It is free, after all.

6/10 as a general grade because of the lack of features, though 9/10 for just the route planning. Higher than Ride with GPS because you don’t have to pay to be able to upload the route to your Garmin.

I have been playing with some online route planning software in order to plan for our cycle training rides in Brazil and for the tour in the United Kingdom. Why is it important to plan? Not just because of the need to know roughly how far you will be going, but also because a: it is good to know how you are going to get to your end point (particularly in countries and areas where you don’t, for safety’s sake, want to end up in the wrong place, and b: you need to have at least an idea of what the elevation profile will be. This latter point is pretty darn important, as pretty much anyone would be able to ride 100km in a day if it is just going along a nice and flat path. However, if you are going to be climbing up lots of hills and going more than +1000m and 100km in a day, you have to be in decent shape; +2000m/100km in one day: very good shape… anything more and you will have to be in excellent condition…

The software I have been playing around with is Garmin’s own Connect software ( – for when you have a Garmin device;; and As you can imagine, they all have their advantages and disadvantages…

Garmin ConnectGarmin’s Connect tool is good as, even in São Paulo, you can plot routes that will take you through parks (such as Ibirapuera park), and it will recognise these as legitimate to take, and not just the road. You can save multiple routes, and easily see where you have these routes on the world (Google or Bing) map and side-list, so it’s nice and simple. At the same time, as you might expect being from the maker of the Garmin GPS, it is nice and easy to down/upload your routes from/to the Garmin GPS units. You can get a full range of different stats (from temperature profile; elevation; speed; pace; moving/total averages/calories and, if you have the sensors, cadence and heart indicators among others) about the various rides you have gone on as well, and it is great to be able to compare the rides you have done along the same route, and easily see how things have changed.

You can also plan workouts, and keep track of your health progress, but without the appropriate sensors, I haven’t had need to try this yet. The software measures indicators such as Body Fat, Body Water, Bone and Muscle Mass, physique rating, visceral fat, metabolic age and daily caloric intake… impressive stuff, and it says that with a Tanita BC-1000 Body Composition Monitor and a “compatible Garmin watch”, the measurements can be “tracked wirelessly” using the Connect Health system. Even more impressive. Would be very curious to see how it all works, though it is certainly promising. I am straying away from the point of this post though (sorry!), so back to planning rides (though of course, your health is important in knowing the kind of routes you could be doing!)!

Everywhere but the highway

Everywhere but the highway

There are two problems I have encountered: The first is that while it is easy to simply draw lines of the route (where, for example, there is no road or trail marked on the map), here in Brazil at least, it will do everything to stop you plotting a route along a highway. This can be quite annoying as we often end up riding along the hard shoulder of a highway (such as from Nazaré to Atibaia). I guess that there might be laws about this in places, but there should at least be an option.


No elevation…?

The second problem is that, while you get a nice visual of the elevation profile, it does not tell you the total elevation gain/loss for a ride – quite a problem, especially when you are planning long distance rides. Doing 100km with +1000m of gain is one thing… doing it with +3000m is completely different, and you can’t really gauge this looking at just the profile. Maybe the problems are me not doing something right in the software, but I like to think am okay at getting to grips with these things, and if am not doing something right with it, then I imagine that others are having a few problems too!!

So overall?

The software is free… if you have bought a Garmin GPS unit. For a free piece of software it is good and it is great in the post-ride analytics, especially if you have all the appropriate sensors. But as you most likely would have forked a couple of hundred dollars or so on a new unit so as to be able to use the software, then you might expect the two points I mentioned to be ironed out – you are not going to be spending money on a GPS unit if you are not going to be going anywhere…

With this in mind, I would give it a solid 7/10, and will take a look at Ride with GPS and Route Toaster next post…

Garmin Edge 800

Another new acquisition is something that is already useful for training and will be very useful for the cycle tour of the UK and the entire journey: a Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit. We have just the unit with the bike mount – you can get it with heart and cadence monitors for it to provide a good overview of your training developments, though we will get that later. For now, just the GPS unit itself is good.

Garmin statsThe unit is touch screen, shows the map of where you are (precise city navigator maps are available for download from the Garmin website), and it is incredible as to actually how precise the location is: the unit records your journey can you can review it on the computer when you get back home – when you do, you can see even when you just headed back a metre or so to check something…

It took a while to detect the satellites when we first set it up, but after that, it has been quick. Hopefully when we are in the UK it will have no problems in picking up the different satellites up there. You can plan your route using the Garmin software, though there is other better software that you can use online – but I will talk about them in a bit (though the main problem is that in planning the course through being able to see the elevation profile – incredibly important for working out how hard a ride is going to be – distance is far less important!).

Uploading routes is straightforward enough, then you just find your route and you’re ready to go, with the route and cues showing nice and clearly on your screen. If you don’t have a route, you can start the timer and record a new one following the path you take – very simple to do.

At the end of it all, looking at the journey you have taken back on your computer, (opposed to when you are planning) you can see the elevation profile (with total elevation gain/loss) of where you have been and all sorts of nice information about the route – total time; total time peddling / total stops; average speed / temperature / pace… and as you do the same courses over time, it is great to be able to compare everything, as all is tracked. It will also show the number of calories it calculates that you burn during your training session – how accurate this is, however, is another question as many reviewers commented that the best algorithms for calculating this have been patented by other companies…

Plenty of other Garmin units out there, though definitely would recommend this if you can afford to fork out a bit more. Here in São Paulo, Casa de Pedra sells the unit along with other Garmin models – check them out on their online store.

Also, you should be able to check out the last route we cycled using the GPS at this link… São Paulo – Atibaia – 25 Nov 2012.

Garmin charts

Atibaia map