Checking out RideWithGPS.com

Over that past few couple of years I’ve hopped back and forth with online mapping tools.  Since I don’t have a GPS on my bike (would love one, but the fundage is a little short these days), I rely on a bike computer for distance, and a mapping tool for elevation.  I’ve used Sanoodi, Gmaps-pedometer, and MapMyRide at various times. Bicycling Magazine also recently released a training log/mapping tool, which I may review down the road, so to speak.    Each one has there own strengths and weaknesses, and I’m sure a comprehensive review at a later time would be a very good blog post. (none of which, by the way, will embed in a WordPress.com blog, which may be a reason to move this blog to my own host eventually).  For now I’m just checking out RideWithGPS.com, which I found via this very old, but recently updated, thread at BikeForums.net.  (You know it’s old first by the fact that the thread began in 2007.  Secondly, one of the members suggests using RouteSlip, which was purchased by MapMyRide some time ago.)

I’ve only been checking out RideWithGPS.com for a couple of hours, but here are some initial thoughts.

1.  There is an easy import feature directly from MapMyRide.  I loved this feature, as it allowed me to migrate my content easily, with a simple click.  If you’re tired of the MapMyRide ads (free version), then  this a great way to get your content to a less cluttered online service.

2.  The ride profile screen, shown below, is awesome. I love the fact that it is uncluttered and ad-free.  MapMyRide drives me nuts with the ads.  Yes, I know if I pay the ads should go away, but I’m on a budget.   I also love the fact that RideWithGPS.com gives you the total elevation in the top right of the ride screen, as well as an elevation profile below the map.   You’ll also noticed that there is a Gear Used section in the bottom right of the page.  If you have multiple bikes (or motorcycles) you can select which one you used, and it will show up on this trip details page.

3.  Drawing a route is easy as it can be.  There is a feature to have the program “Follow Roads”, which means there are a lot fewer clicks when drawing a route on your computer.  I found this feature to work pretty well, although for some reason when merging onto a major highway on a route, the software did something a bit crazy.  I just select the “Undo Last Point” option, and changed the drawing options to “Draw Lines” until my route got off the major highway.  Other than that little hiccup, the “Follow Roads” option makes it so you have to click fewer times when creating a route.  As a result, creating a route is not nearly as tedious as with other programs.

4.  The activity log (image below), which tracks what you did and when, looks to be intuitive and easy to read. With limited use, I only have one ride posted thus far.   There is both a month view and a list view to suit your viewing preferences.  My only complaint with the activity log is that you are required to select a route when entering a new activity.  There are times when I would just like to say “I rode 18 miles on the bike path in 65 minutes” without having to actually map or draw the route.  Otherwise, I’d have to map out the route to specified turnaround points, which is very difficult to do on a bike path.  I’d have to map the turnaround points as specific landmarks, such as a road crossing, which is not always convenient, as there are times when I just ride as far as I can for 45 minutes, then turn around.

Overall I like what I see at RideWithGPS, and I’ll likely continue using it for the time being.  It has most of the features that I need, is easy to use, and seems to be fairly quick and stable.  The developers also have a blog which they use to promote  features and post updates.  This looks to be a really promising tool for recording bike rides, and I am very interested to see where the product goes in the future.

9 thoughts on “Checking out RideWithGPS.com

  1. First off, wow! I am one of the creators of http://ridewithgps.com/ and was positively thrilled to see not only a comprehensive review, but a praising one as well!

    I am glad you are enjoying the site, since we have been putting in a considerable amount of hours to get things to where they are now. Additionally, there is a whole pile of new things being worked on that should be ready for release within the next month.

    The import feature was a random thought I had one day. It’s hard to get people to invest time in a new service if they are already mostly satisfied with another. That is if a user created 50 routes with a competitor, they don’t want to redraw them all with us. As a result, I wanted to make that process as simple as possible. We know we are currently as good, if not better than the main competition in several ways, we now only need to round out the edges, add the premium services and improve our user interface. Another problem is content: people don’t want to use something if there is no content! Total chicken and the egg, but the import feature allows people to generate content on ridewithgps, thus making us more desirable for the casual user that runs across us. Long story short, the import feature will be expanded here soon, with a much improved UI and support for a couple of the other sites out there. Also, I want to investigate bulk uploading of TCX, GPX and KML files for those who just have folders filled with them on their computer :)

    As to your suggestion for inputting an activity without mapping it: both Zack and I have had the same thought, and are playing around with the best way to manage activities not connected to maps. Additionally, we are working on good ways to group types of activity. This way you can get a summary of miles, elevation, calories etc for multiple separate activity types. If you have any thoughts on the subject, we would love to hear them.

    The direction mode hiccups are, unfortunately, common place. Google obviously can’t have a perfect dataset for the whole united states. For example, if a road is two lane, sometimes you’ll click on the returning lane, and the route will take the next exit and double back to where you clicked. There is no real decent way to avoid this, which is why you can ‘draw lines’ to compensate! Additionally, bike paths aren’t in their database, requiring the tedious clicking short segments to draw. However, I have a feature in the works that should make it a one-time action and thus much more efficient :)

    And in regards to mapmyride…unfortunately the ads do not disappear when you hand them $5 a month! I about fell over when I shelled out the cash and still had the clutter. I personally can’t stand busy sites (my ADD doesn’t allow it), which is why we are striving to keep our site clutter free. If ads do come, we will make sure they benefit everyone (users, advertisers as well as us, the provider) rather than annoy most.

    All in all, thanks for the positive review. We are happy to work with community members in order to develop a comprehensive and intuitive feature set. Feel free to drop us a line!

    Cullen King

  2. One more thing: you have a blog, so you can benefit from these two cool features: we have an embed of both a static histogram image, as well as an interactive google map embed.

    The interactive google map embed only works for someone who runs a site or blog (security issues for most places like forums prevent it being used), but is super simple to use. To the right of any trip or route map, there should be a youtube style text box containing a bit of HTML, which is labeled “Embed URL”. Just copy and paste this into your blog post and you are set!

    The embed will get prettied up here soon as part of our new design that is in the works. Might even investigate some personal styling of the embed if I really decide to go crazy :)

  3. It’s great to see a real review of the ridewithgps site. I’ve been using it for awhile for my motorcycle adventures so I never looked at the activity log too closely. You’ve given me some ideas for the future and I just wanted to say thanks.

    Btw, I also am on a bit of a budget so I never picked up a GPS but I hear you can get a USB GPS for like $40. I was planning on sticking one in my laptop for a make shift GPS. I don’t know if you already have a laptop that is small enough like the ASUS EEE but if you do, I thought you might like the idea.

  4. I’m very curious to see where the RideWithGPS site goes. Cullen, I’d be interested to see if you would be expanding the site to include mobile devices, such as Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone’s, etc. I’m sort of holding off on getting a GPS until I decide on my next smart phone. Many of these devices have turn-by-turn navigation out of the box, and I know some sites like MapMyRide have apps to record where you’ve been. Thanks Cullen and Sloth for stopping by. I appreciate your comments.

    • Sorry, Cullen. The spam filter ate the first comment. It’s there now. Thanks so much for your comments. This truly is a great product you have going.

      • Hey Chad, we plan to support mobile platforms. Cullen has an Android phone, so that is probably the first client that will get written. We just got an excellent designer and UI guy on board, so you can expect the site to become more consistent and intuitive.

        I am just finishing testing a ride analysis page that lets you analyze and compare rides (or sections of rides), and play them back so you can race yourself and see all the stats to help you determine why you are (or are not) improving. That’ll be released in the next day or two, then I will be making marked improvements to the workout calendar. I expect to be releasing those changes within a week or two, and those updates will solve your problem with not being able to record activities without routes.

        Thanks for writing us up! If you have any suggestions for us just get in touch.

  5. Oh, and Chad, we have plans for mobile devices. I am currently wrapping up work on an Android application (encrypted text messaging) that got my feet wet with the platform. Within a month or so I will be writing a RWGPS application for Android. Zack expressed interest (being the apple guy) in poking at the iPhone dev environment. Those are the only two planned immediately, but more may follow.

  6. Pingback: Redneck in Spandex » Blog Archive » Some suggestions for improving RideWithGPS.com

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