Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bikely Hints

Screen Shot of Bikely
The cycling route mapping site called http://www.bikely.com/ is a simple but powerful mapping utility. Here are the Kramer's top ten hints for using Bikely effectively. (You can find many examples of Bikely maps using the Permanator list to the right. Select a route and press the Fetch button.)

  1. Save your work often. If something goes wrong and you find your route to Bremerton is going through Missoula, abandon your edits. Go back you your map list and start a new edit session. If you save your work often, it will be faster than deleting 2,000,000 points to Missoula and back. There is an edit icon in the icon list near the top of the edit tab. If you checking things out, turn editing off, you won't have to worry about making unintended route modifications.

  2. Use your mouse to pan and move the map. Click and hold the left mouse key. You will see the mouse cursor change to a hand. Drag the map in any direction while you are holding the left mouse key down. If you are editing, be careful not to click a new point or you may find your route is going somewhere you didn't intend it to. See the above hint about saving your work.

  3. Use your mouse wheel to zoom the map in and out. Move the mouse pointer to an area of interest and roll the mouse wheel towards the map. This will zoom in. To zoom out, roll the mouse wheel away from the map.

  4. Turn the Follow Road option off when automatic routing is wrong. The road routing is sometimes wrong. You may find this problem at certain freeway entrances, interchanges, one way streets, newly constructed roads or decommissioned roads. There is a check box just underneath the icons in the draw tab that allows you to follow the roads, or if unchecked, the route will follow your mouse clicks. Click on - follow roads. Click off, follow the mouse clicks. If the map decides to take you two miles to an exit ramp and back, when all you wanted to do is a right turn, you can delete the offending points. See items 6 & 7 below.

  5. Move points using the mouse. If a point is grievously wrong, you can drag the point to a new location. As you move the mouse over the route, you will notice that red balloons pop up and indicate point locations along the route. Click on a red balloon and it will turn into a large green balloon. Right click on the large green balloon and drag the point to a new location.

  6. Use the delete and insert point icons located on the icon bar at the top of the edit tab to delete or add points and fine tune the route. To insert or delete a point, you have to identify a point and make it the current point. A red balloon indicates the point on the route you are pointing to. If you click on a red balloon, it will change to a green balloon. The green balloon indicates that you have selected a point. Using the edit icons, you can insert a point before or after the green balloon or delete the current point. Remember, delete will delete the point with the green balloon.

  7. Toggle Map and Satellite views to check landmarks and routing. You can change to satellite, map or satellite and map views. Using the satellite view can help you locate land marks or fine tune the route location. You might notice the routes were drawn at a smaller scale and the routes can appear offset from the satellite view location of the road. This is not a big problem for estimating distance but if you insist, you can move your points so they are on top of the satellite map road location.

  8. Use EasyGPS to convert the XML export to GPX for your hand held GPS or Google Earth. EasyGPS is free and has some utility for special GPS applications. You can download a copy of your route from Bikely in XML format from the Share menu, choosing the "Download .GPX" option. The file you download from Bikely isn't really a .GPX (gps interchange file), it is an XML file. You can use EasyGPS to open the XML file and then save it as a GPX file. Once you have a GPS file you can use it with your GPS or upload it into Google Earth or other mapping program. You can also find or purchase various XML editors and then edit the XML or GPX file directly for hours of fun with Google Maps.

    Update June 19, 2008: Bikely now correctly produces a .gpx file for use with GPS programs as well as a .kml file for use with Google Earth or Google Maps. They work great! So Easy GPS is unnecessary for the purposes of converting .xml file to .gpx files. It is still a nifty program but probably not necessary for most users.

  9. Use comments to help create a route sheet. You can add a location and comments to the current point, identified by a green balloon. The text boxes for the comments are in the Draw tab. These locations and comments are used by Bikely to generate a route sheet. Select points and areas of interest, turns and intersections. Fill in the locations and comments and you have the start of a route sheet. You can note junction types, turn direction, direction of travel among other items of interest.

  10. Use Profile to determine elevation gain in feet or meters. Bikely will generate an elevation profile for the route. To view the profile, choose the show menu and pick Profile. The profile can be calculated in meters or feet. Choose your units of measure by checking either kilometers or miles in the edit tab. The elevation profiles can be accurate or not. It is good to temper the Bikely elevation estimates with experience and field measurements using a GPS.