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Ride with GPS – new surface types for route planning

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Road & Off-Road planning with Ride with GPS (RwGPS)

Now you gravel &MTB riders can plan or re-route your adventures to maximise your time on the grit and stone that you love.


Surface Type Data


The problem facing RwGPS was tricky.

They use OSM maps and get sent information on more than 20 surface types, so one issue is how to translate and combine those 20 down to a small yet meaningful number of aggregate surface types that people will use the most often.

In this case, RwGPS decided to narrow the choice down to PAVED, UNPAVED and UNKNOWN. You can see in this image how the route shows PAVED as a solid line, UNPAVED as a dotted line and dashed line and any UNKNOWN surfaces would appear as a white/outlined line. The second image shows how specific segments at the route planning stage can be highlighted and the amount of each SURFACE TYPE is shown.

You also have the ability to change the surface type should you know the conditions better.

Being able to change the surface type might seem strange, after all, if you know the route then why do you need to know the surface type? Well, once you update the surface type that information is then shared for other RwGPS users.

More than that, RwGPS claims to be the preferred platform for Events, Clubs & tour operators so the incentive is there for someone who is sending out the route to many people to get the surface info right for everyone. The same principle applies if you are planning a route for friends.



RwGPS’s choice is effectively ROAD vs NOT-ROAD and that kinda makes sense. Hammerhead & Garmin each give options for ROAD vs MOUNTAIN vs GRAVEL whereas Strava gives essentially the same choice as RwGPS.



Both Hammerhead & Garmin have tried to align the options to accommodate the needs of 3 main & distinct types of cycling. This makes sense but only if the map layers meaningfully populate the choice they give and my understanding is that by far the majority of rounds have unknown surface types so too granular a level of detail might simply be digging into blank data. Indeed if I look at some of the off-road areas near me then a significant portion of the tracks are UNKNOWN/NOT SPECIFIED, so I don’t even know how meaningful the DIRT/UNPAVED/GRAVEL options are for me. Maybe it’s different where you are? The situation does vary considerably.


This is a must-have for some riders, a nice-to-have for others (me) and something that many won’t need to use.

The ability to change the surface type is novel and will appeal to some groups and may also be as useful for route analysis as it is for route planning.

I do have the occasional off-road adventure, yet a big draw for me would be to choose to ride smooth & well-maintained surfaces. I’m in the UK and, sadly, those surfaces seem to only be found on motor racing circuits and in France.



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