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  1. #1
    The Next 100 Miler
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    Help Me with iPhone Navigation and MTB use

    I'm riding a lot in areas I've never been to before. I study paper and online maps, plan a ride and head out. I have an iPhone and have been using Cyclemeter to track my ride data and just bought Mountain Bike Pro.

    The issue is - trails are unmarked, so I'm stopping at every intersection trying to figure out where I am and if it is time to turn. Frequently maps won't download due to weak signals, so I have to guess where I am (I also carry a paper map). This leads to wrong turns, back tracking, etc. Not to mention all of the stops are disruptive to my ride.

    I think MB Pro's offline maps will help solve this, but do I need to pre create a route on each map prior to the ride? Is there a better solution out there?

    Next question - are you all handlebar mounting your iPhones? Doing so will help cut down on the frequency of stops, but I ride in very rocky/bumpy Arizona and am concerned about phone security. What, if any, is the best handlebar mount system?

    Thanks!!

  2. #2
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    You need maps stored locally on your device. relying on a data connection when you're in an area with spotty coverage at best is definitely not going to work.

    Honestly, the best solution is to have a map that shows ALL of the trails in the area, rather than just the route you intend to follow. Once you know your location relative to those trails, navigating them is easy. This doesn't necessarily require an electronic device, but one can speed the location finding process along. If you can show the route you want to follow on top of the overall trail network (similar to using a highlighter on a paper map to highlight your intended route), that would help.

    If I don't know an area by heart, I like to have a paper map of the trails along for the ride. It may not happen often, but batteries DO die and having something to fall back on is important. If I know the area well and can walk out regardless of where I am if my GPS dies, then I'm not so concerned about having a paper map (or a digital one for that matter). If one doesn't exist for a place, you can usually download tracks from Garmin Connect and piece one together on the computer to print.

    Having the full trail network displayed on your digital maps is helpful, but how you handle it is going to be different for every app, and from what I've been able to figure, most apps can't do it anyway, because they're focused on tracking ride stats, rather than actual navigation. Overlaying an intended route on top of a trail network is going to be an even more complicated function. I know how to do that on my Garmin Oregon 450, but don't know if any phone apps can.

  3. #3
    The Next 100 Miler
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    Nate, Thanks for your quick response. You hit the nail on the head, "Once you know your location relative to those trails...". Establishing my location is the problem.

    I was a navigator on a Coast Guard cutter and the Captain was always pounding in my head, "you MUST know where you are, before you can figure out where to go!"

    So, what is the best way to figure out where I am while in the middle of a dense forest? If I have a map stored on my iPhone will my GPS position show on the pre stored map?

    Thanks again, Mark

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkP View Post
    So, what is the best way to figure out where I am while in the middle of a dense forest? If I have a map stored on my iPhone will my GPS position show on the pre stored map?

    Thanks again, Mark
    It should. But the relevancy of that will depend on the map that you have stored. If you have a topo map that doesn't show any of the trails, the utility will be limited. If you were hiking off-trail, that'd be fine to find your way. But if you were looking for a specific trail intersection, or where the trail reached the top of a climb, or something along those lines, it may not help much.

    Seeing where you've been on the map (only) can be of some help, depending on your goals. If you know you'll be rejoining or crossing something you've already ridden, that can be helpful to see how far away (more or less) you are. On a point-to-point ride, not so much. If you're on a network of trails and you'll be connecting to other trails at various intersections, it's also not going to help very much.

    I was riding at a local trail system yesterday that is a large (and growing) network of many different trails in an area. I generally don't use the map view on my GPS there. I use a paper map that shows the whole trail network. Intersections are well marked, though there's not much for trail signage between them. Once I reach an intersection, I can find it on the map to pinpoint my location and decide which way I want to go. The GPS screen just isn't big enough/doesn't show me a big enough view to be as helpful as I need. Looking at the GPS map screen is really only helpful there for estimating how far I have left to go, or comparing my current track to the paper map to see where I am along the trail that I already know I'm riding.

  5. #5
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    Thanks again for your help! I will look for more complete maps than what I have now.

  6. #6
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    I captured this map as a screen shot from MTBProject. How would I go about making maps like this?


  7. #7
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    To use that map on your phone, you can use the MTBProject iphone app, which is free. I'm not sure of all its capabilities since I don't use a phone in the woods. I have it on my iPod for searching purposes, though.

    Making a map like that is complicated. MTBProject does a lot of it programmatically. It takes user submissions, simplifies them with its own algorithm to save data space and processing speed, and makes connections at intersections on its own. To do something like that yourself, you'll need to have some good software. At the most basic level, you could use Topofusion, a lot of tracks, and the Make Network tool. It's not perfect, though. I've had difficulty with that tool in some situations that force me to go with a fully manual method using GIS software. There's open source stuff out there, but the learning curve on it is VERY steep.

    I have a master's degree-level minor in spatial science and could spend days helping you figure out a given software package, and you'd still feel like a n00b. If it's something you're committed to figuring out, you can download QGIS or MapWindow GIS (or both, they're free), and give them a try.

  8. #8
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    Sounds more complicated and time intensive than I'm interested in. I think a highlighter on a printed map will work!

    Thanks again!

  9. #9
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Adding a compass and altimeter can help a lot.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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