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The bicycle touring map app is coming! (we hope)

Alia Parker's picture
The Cycle Traveller bicycle touring app is coming.

Many of you would have followed us on our 11,500km ride for the Australian Bicycle Route Project where we set out to test ride two awesome long-distance routes we've been working on and then release the routes for everyone else to follow.

For those of you who may have been living under a log (or an even better excuse, out cycling somewhere very, very remote, like Antarctica) here's a quick recap.

The flagship route – The GDR – follows the entire length of the Great Dividing Range from the tip of Cape York down to Adelaide, while the Red Centre Route, runs from Adelaide up through – you guessed it, the Red Centre of Australia – to Darwin.

The rides themselves were nothing short of amazing, and even though we've been back close to three months now, we're still struggling with the post-tour blues (actually, we never really get over them).

Keeping us busy, however, has been the mapping side of this project. We've been working hard on writing the guide book for The GDR, and collating all the info from the trip. And it's here we've decided to do something a little different, something a little, well... modern. Actually, it's something that has never been done before, at least, not for the bicycle touring community.

We've decided to create a bicycle touring map app! (BTW, thanks to all those who filled out our recent map survey … you confirmed to us that this is definitely something bike tourers have been waiting for.)

Cycle Traveller bicycle touring app, coming soon.What will it do?

This will be an app for bicycle travellers all around the world, where we can go to map out our routes, share them with others, or search for routes others have shared. Then, we can follow them using GPS navigation on our smartphones – even offline!

You may have seen apps that have similar functions, but this app will be a little different. Most of the others, like Strava and MapMyRide just as two examples, are fitness orientated, filled with short day routes that are often not much help to someone cycling around the world. So, we want this app to be exclusively for the bicycle touring community – a place where we can easily create, share and find long-distance touring routes as well as the interesting things to discover along the way.

And of course, we'll put the Red Centre Route and GDR up there too!

It's an ambitious plan, but one we're working hard towards. You know all those stories about how cheap and easy it is to develop an app? We'll, I'm not sure who spread those rumours, but let's just say you get what you pay for.

Bicycle touring in NSW, Australia. Cycle Traveller

If we're to create an app that people rely upon to navigate their way, then we need it to be excellent – not something that freezes or crashes on you when you need it most. So we've been speaking to some very talented and experienced app developers and they've all been coming back with similar cost estimates – the app of our dreams is going to cost a lot of money; more money than we have.

The rewards

So in the coming weeks, we'll be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the bicycle touring map app, and we hope you'll be able to help us out. We need you in order for the app to happen. But we're not begging – far from it. Right now I'm working on getting together some pretty attractive 'rewards' for our supporters, so watch this space to find out what will be on offer.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest announcements on the app, join our newsletter mailing list. We'll let everyone know when the campaign begins.

Tell us what you think

In the meantime, we'd love your feedback. Tell us what features you'd find very useful in an app designed just for cycle travellers.

Images: Mock up of the proposed Cycle Traveller app.

Comments

Wow . . . really hope this gets up and running . . . would love to have a list of day and weekend rides . . . rail tracks etc . . . that would be fantastic!

Great idea! This will be really useful. Will definitely get it!!

What a great idea!!
Would love to see some dirt road and off-road routes, the ability to search by to/from destinations, the ability to upload photos to waypoints/landmarks, the ability to be logged-in and see where other logged-in cycle travellers might be...

Keep up the good work.
Adam
Ride Bike Scooter & Skate
Fat Bike Adventures

Jeremy's picture

What about the ability to change the frequency of location updates? Rather than constant pings and post, which drains the battery and eats away at data packages, maybe an option to change the rate at which the app contacts satellites to plot a location or seeks a way to report the location to the mapping software?

Alia Parker's picture

Thanks Jeremy, I'll run that possibility by the developers. We hope to develop something that will have the minimum possible drain on battery life.

You have a chance here to try out the app on a large number of beta-testers as it goes through development. Not only will we discover the bugs but you, in this way, can be sure that when finished you'll have an app that'll go viral (or whatever one says about apps) if it ends up as 'to die for' as you hope.

As an IT worker I suggest you develop the app incrementally, starting with the basic functionality and getting it right first. As you have noted there is nothing worse than an app ridden with bugs and constantly crashing, but this is the inevitable result of trying to do too much too soon on a tight budget.

Are you looking only for a wishlist at the moment? To give meaningful feedback we need to see a little more detail about the proposed features.

If you need any beta testing done, just let me know. Testing is my IT specialisation.

Cheers,

RonK

Alia Parker's picture

Thanks RonK! You're spot on ... we've been advised to do exactly that and then continue development slowly in line with what users find they need. We'll be releasing more details about the core functionalities in the campaign, so stay posted.

RE beta testing, that will be great! We definitely want to give it a good workout before it goes live.

super. i can not wait for your crowdfunding campaign. I hope I can join it from the Netherlands.
Maybe you can organize paying by Paypall.

I'm an ol' school kinda guy and like good old paper maps but I certainly wish you all the best with it. I don't have anything that runs apps. I really want to do the GDR all the same.

Alia Parker's picture

Hi Ian,

Nothing wrong with ol' school. We're getting closer to completing the GDR guide book and you won't need the app for that. :)

Hi, I came across this page and thought I would mention this app called Komoot: https://en.komoot.de/

They don't have a footprint in Australia, however instead of having to develop an app yourself when you have no experience in UI/UX and mobile design, I think you could focus on the route instead of the app, it would be awesome.

Here is my email correspondence with Komoot last month:

"Hello, please make Australia a region. As a non-european user, without a region, I can't do much with your app at all, hence no motivation to purchase the "All-Regions" pack for $38 australian dollars.

Especially because you are missing a lot of data for countries outside of Europe, by opening up access you are more likely to gain passionate bike users to add the data you require.

It would be good to at least have a trial period, or a more realistic price just for my country, instead of the whole world, like $3 to $5."

and their reply

"Hello Adam,

we have now changed the system. As there are no regions available in Australia, there are no offline maps of specific regions you can download. But you can now plan Tours and download them with the entire maps needed for the tour and use them for offline navigation for free.

Just plan a Tour, then use the button "offline available" underneath it, and it will be downloaded with the entire maps you need, and of course you can then follow the Tour with voice navigation.

It is of course also possible to use komoot with internet connection, and record your Tours.

Best regards
Daniela"

I'd love to try this out on my travels, and I'm keen to see how it'll work in concert with WikiCamps.
Will definitely pledge.

Paul62's picture

Alia, I have four years of cycling tours in Japan that are on my GPS site if you are interested in them to add to the app. No cape to Cape, rather navigations on Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku next year Hokkaido and Northern Honshu.

Hi team, heading for Auz at end of this year for start of our tour. The four of us, me wifee n littlies 3 and 1 yr olds. Would be awesome to know routes and cycle touring info rather than google standard info. We will definitely donate and buy your app.
We're starting in Nz and making our way back to UK, mote than willing to upload our information as well. :(

Hi Harry & Kim,

This app actually already exists! It's called FrontPack (http://thefrontpack.com) and it doesn't cost a penny!

We've merged Google Maps data with that of Open Cycle Map to give you an optional layer with the best bike routes pre-highlighted.

We are always looking for more folks who are riding long distances. Once you get a route planned, please get in touch with us at info@thefrontpack.com and we'd love to feature your trek on our social media!

Happy cycling,
The FrontPack Team

Hi CycleTraveller,

I hope you'll be excited to hear that you can save your Aussie dollars, as we at FrontPack *just* launched the exact app you're talking about! We would love you to try it out, give us feedback, and let others know that their dreams are already realized.

We've got a lot of American civic routes, including the entire U.S. Bike Route System, as well as routes from individuals trekking far and wide, and big ticket bike events. We would LOVE your help getting more Aussie routes and expanding to your market (provided you like what you see!).

You can check us out on the web, and download the app at http://www.thefrontpack.com, and please get in touch at info@thefrontpack.com if you have any feedback/questions/general excitement. :)

Looking forward to hearing from you!

-The FrontPack Team

Alia Parker's picture

Hi FrontPack and all,

It's actually not quite the same, although your app does cover the basic mapping side of things. We have something a little different in mind. Although we're keen to see where your app leads.

Having said that, we're holding off on development until next year due to a setback with our developer and focusing on completing the GDR and Red Centre guide books. 

To everyone who's been following us, thanks for your support and we hope to have the GDR guide complete within the next few months, with the Red Centre Route following shortly after. We'll keep you posted!

Paul62's picture

Hi, don't be diverted by promises from from others with offers to post your work on their apps. I reckon wheels on the ground here will support both the app and guide book. You rode it and have worked on it I'll pay for it, go Aussie.

Yet another announcement of a mapping app. Well I hope it is a good one, but I humbly submit that you need to think about how it will fit into the ecosystem of maps, routes, platforms and stuff that we already have. At a glance I'd struggle to see what things from a functionality perspective you could add to what we already have. On the other hand, publishing your routes in a good interchangeable format will always have value. Just as background, I currently use the following:
- Google Maps including Streetview for "exploring"
- Google Earth to take the Google Maps view and translate it into KML/GPX for interchange
- Garmin Basecamp for route tweaking, typically with base maps from OSM, often the bike-specific ones.
- A web mapping tool (GPSies) for producing some images including profiles and for doing some format conversions
- OSMAnd on my smartphone with copies of the planned routes as back for my GPS.
- Garmin 810 with the same base maps and the planned routes for navigation.

If you are going to make another mapping tool then here is my 2c in terms of what I'd be looking for.

First, you really only have two choices in terms of basic mapping data, either Google or OSM. I would recommend that you use OSM data or that you allow the user to switch between the two.

Second, do you plan for this to be used for route planning or navigation? Using a mobile phone for navigation is fraught: mostly because of a lack of robustness, weatherproofing and battery life. Yes I carry a mobile phone with OSMAnd loaded but it is really only as a backup to the Garmin which is much better suited to the navigation and data capture tasks, or a "now I've arrived, take me to the laundromat" sort of navigation. Where the dedicated GPS systems are weak is in route planning: Garmin Basecamp and similar are fairly clunky. If we had a route planning tool that allowed us to pick from auto-calculated point to point, imported routes, Strava segments etc. and build a single planned route which could be shared with GPS units and OSMAnd then that would be fantastic!

Third, what platforms do you intend to support? For planning, a web browser is the best (you can drop into an internet cafe en route to make changes). If you want it to do navigation then that means iPhone and Android which is a lot of work.

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