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  1. #1
    I should be out riding
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    MTB Project vs. Singletracks vs. alternatives?

    Curious what people think of these. I like the idea of *one* source for all this info. I'm not thrilled with the Terms of Service of MTB Project, and skeptical about putting volunteer effort into somebody else's for profit venture. Singletrack is for profit too, but without the IMBA tie in seems to be a bit more upfront about it. Clunkier site though. Here in WA we have Evergreen Trail Guide which has struggled a bit to gain critical mass.

  2. #2
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    Singletracks has always bothered me that you've gotta pay to make much use of the site at all. MTB Project may be for-profit also but they monetize the site in a different way that still makes the content available.

    I am a major contributor at MTB Project and my club sees it as worth the effort. While we are collecting data for MTB Project, we are also collecting it for our own internal purposes. Uploading it to MTB Project does not preclude us from making trail data available elsewhere.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Singletracks has always bothered me that you've gotta pay to make much use of the site at all.
    If you want to make use of their map data then, yes, you do have to pay. Everything else on the site is free. On the other hand, in the past at least, Singletracks has paid users to upload map data, with outright cash, freebie swag, or by granting free "memberships". So it isn't like they are greedy ogres trying to trick people into giving something for nothing.

    One way or another, if you want to have a useful site you need to compensate the participants in some way, otherwise the web-site stalls out and falls by the wayside. I've been watching the whole MtbProject vs Singletracks thing for awhile. While I do think the MtbProject site is pretty slick, the maps that Singletracks can provide are pretty damned good. Hard to say whether there will be a shakeout where one site prevails, or if both can manage to stake out a niche. It should be interesting to watch how people respond to the different approaches to providing trail data.

  4. #4
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    like I said, you have to pay to make much use of the site. I can see that a trail exists and get an idea of its location, but can't even look at a map without paying. I don't have a problem with paid access to a website, but I feel like a tiered structure works better, and that a free membership should offer some basic utility for users beyond just viewing comments. Paid memberships can come with more advanced functionality like file downloads, high quality printable maps, social functionality, etc. It's not like folks can't get the data from someone else for free, anyway. The things you offer for free need to be on par with other free options, but your paid content needs to be better than the free stuff.

    I think the very detailed written content on MTB Project is what sets it apart from many other options. It provides more information than other sites provide.

  5. #5
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    My name is Jeff and my wife Leah and I started Singletracks in the late 1990s because we loved (and still love) finding new places to ride. Our mission has always been to build the most complete MTB trail database in the world. We think this is something mountain bikers need and we see the database as belonging to EVERYONE, not just us as a (tiny) company. To that end, in 2012 we made all our trail info available via an API to ANYONE who wants to build their own MTB site or app because we know there are plenty of cool uses for the data we haven't thought of yet. [TrailAPI.com]

    As far as charging for maps, we've always offered free memberships to anyone who contributes just 3 maps to the map database. [We recently moved to a more flexible points-based system that unlocks map access based on the number of reviews, photos, videos, and/or maps you contribute.] The vast majority of the information on Singletracks--map data, photos, trail reviews, etc.--is user-generated and we want to continue to reward those who contribute to the community. For those who don't have the time or interest in contributing, we do offer a paid option some people find convenient.

    A significant portion of the proceeds from subscription sales goes toward paying hefty licensing fees for the premium topographic background maps we feature. We have also been IMBA corporate sponsors for about 5 years now.

    Singletracks belongs to the community and we're working on opening things up even more, allowing additional stakeholders to exercise control over the information in the database. We're passionate about helping mountain bikers find trails and we're always interested in hearing how we can do a better job!

  6. #6
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    Interesting thread and I wan't to add my 2 cents as well.

    I have been contributing to both MTBP and Singletracks. I started out with MTBP b/c I heard about it trough Mountain Project. I liked the layout and cleanliness of the site but when I started adding stuff I was taken back by the review process and the fact that stuff actually got rejected.

    That's when I looked around and the only other alternative was Singletracks.com I liked that Singletracks has a lot more content and areas. But I didn't like the amount of ads on the site. Granted, that's the price once has to pay on the web, but I still didn't like that it was too easy to hit the Olympus link by accident.

    Eventually I went back to MTBP after I realized that their review process does lead to higher quality content. It still bothers me that I'm contributing content that is then owned by that company. I'd rather have a set-up where the content is owned by IMBA and companies like AdventureProjects can collect administrate and display the content.

    MTBP also does a better job with presenting photos. But I have to admit, before they got more higher quality photos every other photo on the front page was either one of the owners or a wife/girlfriend. That was getting a bit boring.

    I like the trail based approach for content entry since one can comment on the trail itself. I tried that with Singletracks.com but that database is more set up for GPS tracks, as it appears. There is also no interface that lets you edit the GPS track or trail.

    Ads are now also stating to appear on MTBP and I hope that the owners allow members to earn ad free access in exchange for contributions.

    Giveaways for attracting content are a mixed blessing, IMO. They do attract content, but not necessarily quality content. On Singletracks I notices that folks who did well in the point count for giveaways just uploaded photos to trails. In one case it was juts photos of different folks racing on that trail. Maybe one photo of that is but 10 are boring.

    Other sites, like MTBR, don't have a good interface for finding trails (I like to see the opportunities on a map) and/or don't provide quality information on how get there and where to find the trailhead.

    Kai

  7. #7
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    My concern with sharing maps is that many people may not go to our website for local trail info. We get a lot of people who after downloading our maps for free and riding the trails will send us a donation or join. We rely on members for support.

    Also, we have a lot of trails and that sounds like mucho work to help build a website's content for someone who may become a premium pay to use service. I also asked the question to the MBTP folks in a polite fashion and got an unfriendly response.
    Michael Vitti
    CLIMB President
    www.CLIMBonline.org
    www.IMBA.com
    NY State Trails Council Member

  8. #8
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    Great thread and posts.

    Trail maps are like invitations. They allow the recipient to find and ride trails that they would likely not have found and or enjoyed otherwise. However....

    The more invitations sold...the more use
    The more use... the more impact
    The more impact the more need for trail maintenance

    As we all know trail maintenance requires siginifcant resources: knowledge, money, organization, passion, politics, time, vision, and wisdom etc.

    So, interesting as each web based mapping solutions is, the debate about which is best is not "the right question". Given enough time and refinement several compelling solutions will exist. Knowing that a killer web based mapping solution is right around the corner, the "more important" questions are:

    a) HOW will local trail advocates, stewards, and volunteers (IMBA Chapters and non) benefit from the success of these web based mapping solitions?

    b) HOW will some of the value created by these same web based mapping soltuions be shared with the local trail advocates, stewards, and volunteers and re-invested in the creation and sustinance of the local trail infrastructure?

    I for one am no longer putting all of my eggs in the IMBA basket as my expereince indicates that donating to IMBA or being one of their partners does not necessarily gaurantee that IMBA will nurture or respect the local trails or advocates who created and now maintain them.

    A diversified scheme based on reciprocity between local trail advocates and any web based mapping solutions provider is definitely in order and yet surprisingly absent from either solution mentioned.

    I hope that everyone who reads this forum understands that mapping is a very interesting double edged swort; businesses and individuals from outside of your community can make maps of your local trails, and distribut them for free or profit without your permission, and without responsibility for the impacts created as a result of their distribution.

    This dillema presents a significant opportunity to knit-together a symbiotic relationship between between communities and cartographers/web based mapping solutions. Absent this mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship... is a parasytic one.

    Maybe some of the folks from Singletracks and The Mountain Bike Project can weight in?

    Maybe they have already considered these dillemmas and questions?

    Maybe they have meaningful and thoughtful answers that would assuage some of the concerns mentioned?

    Maybe they would like to demonstrate thier respect for the people and places that allow them to create value.

    Respectfully,
    CB

  9. #9
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    MTB Project vs. Singletracks vs. alternatives?

    Mtb project does offer clubs and individuals with widgets for displaying trail information on their websites.

    But really, it is up to clubs to emphasize the work they do and the benefits they provide to all riders and to members. Mtbp DOES allow a place for clubs to be recognized for the trails they maintain and are responsible for.

    Yes, maps are like invitations. If folks are made aware via multiple avenues WHO provides the trails, it doesn't matter who provides maps because anyone with a GPS and a computer that can run mapping and graphics software can produce and sell maps if they want. Hiking trails have a LONG history of authors writing guidebooks and profiting on trails built and maintained by volunteers.

    Bike clubs need to get over the concept that they somehow own or control map data. They do not and never have. That illusion was only created by the lack of people with the equipment and knowledge to share it. Now the equipment is ubiquitous and the knowledge is spreading.

    Successful clubs should not be relying on selling maps to raise money and attract members. As I have said before, these sites don't prevent clubs from selling maps and raising a little money in the process because there will always be people who value a good paper map. But clubs need to find other ways to show riders how valuable they are. The club I belong to is working on that and I have a few ways in mind to leverage these other websites to provide the aspects of the map data that are currently too complicated for us to display online on our own. But they are only one tool in the toolbox.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by CANADIANBACON View Post

    I for one am no longer putting all of my eggs in the IMBA basket as my expereince indicates that donating to IMBA or being one of their partners does not necessarily gaurantee that IMBA will nurture or respect the local trails or advocates who created and now maintain them.


    CB
    This is an interesting point, so forgive me if I get a little OT here, but it's something that's near to my heart. The idea that IMBA is an advocacy organization, with arms that help with trails in various ways, and is THE mountain biking organization has led to a bit of a problem. People who ride trails think they because they've joined IMBA, they did their part and don't have to come out and work on trails. Now, look, you know I'm not talking about ALL of them. I'm talking about...85% of them. They think their $35 a year somehow magically improves or maintains the trails they ride, no matter where they ride. Obviously, we understand that this simply isn't true.

    Sadly, the flip side of this is that even non-IMBA affiliated local clubs seem to suffer the same issues. A group with 60 members will consistently turn out 2 to 4 people on a work day, and often it's the same people time and again. And even more local riders won't join the local group because "I'm already an IMBA member, what are you offering me?" So not only do you not get anything from IMBA directly related to your trail but these other guys won't even support the local group that IS working on the trails.

    Now understand this, I'm not dissing IMBA. I'm not dissing the members of the local group. I'm dissing the people who won't lend a hand that are members of all of the groups I've mentioned. But I have an idea, I'm not just complaining.

    Why don't these mapping/review sites offer a little tick box thing that people can check, indicating they actually rode the trail, whether they review it or provide information about it or not. Especially if they could provide some metric about where they live. Especially in cases where they aren't local to the trail, this can be seen as a tourism booster, and local governments could be encouraged to get on board with supporting the people who ARE working on these trails. It seems to me, we're focusing a LOT on the trails with these sites, and not the people riding them. Information, metrics, could be the key that we need to unlock local grants and funding and help that we haven't been getting. Could some of these sites partner with (dare I ask?) Strava or Endomondo to figure out when someone posts a ride involving one of these trails?

    I know it's a complex idea, but it's far from impossible. Rather than viewing these sites as something like the mythical facebook party invite that got shared and half of the three closest towns showed up, why not use them as an RSVP tool? I know it wouldn't even begin to get a full and accurate count, but it would give indicators. And in some cases, anything can help, because volunteers are in short supply.

  11. #11
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    CB,

    Trails that would suffer from overuse or have access issues should not be posted on these trail sites. But that can be difficult to police. B/c of its IMBA affiliation MTBP has to be careful about not listing trails that are not fully legal to ride. One of my trail submissions got rejected b/c it was a hiking trail and the advocacy group of that trail mentions that wheeled traffic is not allowed on that trail. After looking into it I found that bikes are allowed on the section that I was interested in but I did take the trail down for political reasons. Since then I have been sticking to publishing well known local MTB riding areas.

    If you think there are trails on any of these sites that should not be listed (private land or illegal trails) you should be able to contact the owners and they'll remove the trails. But word also gets out through forum posts, blogs and sites like STRAVA. I have been finding lots of interesting places to ride by looking at activities on Strava or Garmin Connect.

    Cotharyus, tracking trail use requires folks to diligently log their riding. I don't think you get them to do that. Singletracks has a check-in feature for trails on their app that lets you earn badges. I started that but quickly gave up on it b/c I kept forgetting my phone or had no cell reception at the trail head.

    I think trail use could be best measured through Strava.

    Also, we have a lot of trails and that sounds like mucho work to help build a website's content for someone who may become a premium pay to use service. I also asked the question to the MBTP folks in a polite fashion and got an unfriendly response.
    sick4surf, yep. The fact that the content I'm contributing is controlled by a for profit organization does bother me and may eventually make me stop contributing to them. I wish our local MTB organization (NEMBA) had a site like this. I would feel more comfortable contributing there. But their trail info is not as nicely organized.

    Kai

  12. #12
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    MTB Project vs. Singletracks vs. alternatives?

    If a club or landowner wants use metrics, counting only people who log the ride online at strava or garmin connect or whatever is useless. There are dozens of gps data websites, for one, so it would be impossible to capture them all. You would also be missing people who do not track their rides. At my local trails, I'd say the proportions are well over half of riders who do not use a phone or gps to track their rides. That is a lot of people to miss.

    Measuring use requires much different methods and/or equipment.

    Regardless of which websites would be hosting the data, if any at all, I would be providing trail data and maps online for my local area. It really does not matter who has it. Only that the info is available. And I still own the data still on my computer. I can still use it how I see fit. I can upload it elsewhere at any time.

  13. #13
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    Great discussion.

    There are a lot of stakeholders with competing interests as everyone knows. Local riders tired of out-of-towners tearing up their trails, boards of tourism who want MORE riders, vacationers who want to find the best places to ride, etc.

    Singletracks definitely doesn't want to compete with the local trail club websites for trail info--in fact, based on feedback from various club leaders we've removed trail statuses from Singletracks so clubs can have the official word on closures, as they should.

    But if you've looked at more than a couple local club websites, you know the quality and depth of the trail information they present can vary a lot. Using the trail status example, many clubs don't post this at all or they don't keep it updated which is why we initially added the feature to Singletracks.

    In terms of giving back to clubs, we don't like to toot our own horn but in addition to supporting IMBA, we've given thousands of dollars in cash to clubs across the US via trail grants and race sponsorships in the past year. Sure, it means my Lambo' will have to go without a new coat of cherry red paint this year but you know, it's worth it.

  14. #14
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    Mountain Bikers has IMBA lost it's soul?

    I found this link informative, interesting, and relevant given my own experiences, participating in this thread where my and others comments were sometimes greated with incredulous and deffensive replies.

    http://betterride.net/blog/2013/moun...-too-powerful/

    Maybe the overly simplistic criticism and attempts at marginalizing dissent as "conspiracy theororists". "a small minority" and the like can be replaced by more meaningful discussioln here and elsewhere and in the end catalyze positive change.

    Sincerely,
    CB

  15. #15
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    ^^^ Great read.^^

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