While I wait for a change in the weather – anything that doesn’t involve cold, damp and now gale force winds – I’m entertaining myself with rainy day route planning. This being the age of the internet, rather than staring at maps, I’m playing with route planning websites, which brought up the question of which website is best.
Some say that all you need is a map and a sticky label, and for years this how I did it. I eventually was shown how to do it properly by Sister Tracy, a rally navigator of some note I worked with, which meant I could get the directions for a days riding on to a couple of sticky labels.
Living in the 21st Century though means I have a phone with a built-in GPS, internet connectivity in most places on the planet and an array of navigation software to choose from.
If I so desired, I could take the expensive route and drop £500 on a dedicated GPS for my motorcycle. I wonder why people do this, but each to their own. Whatever gets the job done.
I find my old mobile phone, secure in a water-proof Ultimate Addons case and three navigation programs, Google Maps, Co-Pilot and Calimoto, more than get me where I need to be. Which neatly brings me back to working out how to get there.
Having spent a few hours on each of the websites, they all essentially work the same way. Specify a start and end point and then drag the route to suit your personal preferences. What made the difference for me is how close the website came to what I wanted to achieve, without having to do anything extra.
I tried the same thing on all of the websites. A non-motorway route across Spain; an easy way to book a hotel at the end and a simple way of getting the route from the computer to my phone GPS.
Which of the sites I’ve looked at is the best route planning site will always be a subjective decision. That said, here are my top three:
If you haven’t been tempted into buying a dedicated GPS, then it makes a great free starting point. Plan your journey on just about any computer and save your route when you are happy with it. Saving does require that you submit to Googlesphere assimilation, but after that, you are away.
Google Maps offers auto-rerouting, traffic updates and can even speak to you if you have a Bluetooth connected intercom.
The past perils of roaming data charges have been mainly alleviated by changes to the European mobile phone roaming charges, and you can reduce them to almost zero, by downloading the maps for your area on to your phone.
As for finding a hotel to book at the end of the ride; it is Google, you can find just about anything.
Overall, it is highly functional, as close to free as you can get – remember even maps cost money – and works on just about anything.
As a route planning website, MotoGoLoco is right up there with all of them. All the normal features you would expect such as the option to specify no motorways and avoid tools. These options mean that the initial route MotoGoLoco comes up with needs a lot less tweaking before it exactly meets my needs. Saving routes and exporting them in a host of different formats takes but a few mouse clicks.
Ride Magazine and MCN have uploaded some of their favourite routes, and if you are of such a mind, you can share your plans with friends or with the world.
My “yes, but ….” comes from the additional features I’m looking for, such as hotel booking. All of the options are there, but I can never quite make it work. Consequently, I ended up with Booking.com open in one window and MotoGoLogo in the other. Not exactly a hardship, just frustrating in this modern world where typically things come built-in and integrated.
That said, if you are looking for the electronic equivalent of studying the map with some fancy features to help you along, then MotoGoLoco is a solid choice.
Arguably the most popular and the most complete. Exact details of where MyRoute-App came from have alluded me. From what I can work out, TyreToTravel which was originally known as Google-TomTom was how it all started. I’ll take a wild guess at that being a project to download Google Map routes to a TomTom. Several versions later, TyreToTravel still exists as a desktop application while another branch of the code has delivered MyRoute-App.
There is also a mobile app for MyRoute-App. The name is a tad confusing, but accompanying the website there is a mobile phone “App” for Android phones. Along with all of the expected functionality, the “App” allows you to track your routes, which I assume is so you can see how far you have come and how good you are at following instructions.
As an offline route planner, it is the one we at CoaBaB have settled on. It does most things well and has a connection to Booking.com which makes it easier when it comes to finding hotels. Annoyingly it only seems to know about kilometres though and being an imperialist (it Is an age thing) I keep diving by 8 and multiplying by 5.
Perhaps the most used option, especially when dreaming of flowing roads in warmer climates while watching the freezing rain bash against the office window, is the ability to plan a route and then switch to Google Street view. What looks appealing on a map has occasionally turn out to be little more than a mountain track on which someone has thrown some tarmac.
Having inadvertently subjected Brother Carle to a few miles of green lanes on his Fireblade last year, this is a lesson I have learnt well.
The answer is an amazing program called ITN Converter, better known as ITNConv, written by BeniChou Software, which translates between the various formats with ease. You will still need to work out how to send the file from your computer to your GPS or phone, but getting it in the right format isn’t typically a problem. It is ITN Converter that takes the MyRouteApp route files and converts them to Co-Pilot format for me before I copy them on to my old Android mobile phone.
Once I have the route as I want it in MyRoute-App, clicking on Save As and opting for ITN format, sends the file to ITNConv from where I can choose the format I wish to translate it to.
The Bottom Line
There are still a few tweaks to route planning websites that I’d like, and there perhaps is the nub of it.
Each of us has a preferred way of navigating. Some just head off in the general direction and enjoy not knowing. Some just tag on behind and follow the rider in front. As someone who prefers an hour early to three minutes late, I like to have a plan and somewhere with a comfy bed waiting at the end of the ride. I’m not overly fussed about sticking to the plan, but I like to have a clue as to what is going on and where I am going.
And considering that most of the websites and programs are free, donationware or not exactly expensive, route planning has never been easier.
Now, if only I could plan some decent riding weather on my computer …