<a name=""> 

Traveling light with my bicycle, Sci-con styleDo you have a certain penchant for travel? I do, especially with my devoted companion, my bicycle. When traveling however, it’s not always easy to find that local training ride or get to the top of that secret single-track, or in fact meet a knowledgeable local to ride with. Here is possibly a fast-track to resolving that problem, well before someone floats ‘BikeBook’ on the stock exchange that is…

JC, Double-barrelled training partnerMy training pal, JC, put me onto this wonderful and simple technology solution. Keen to discover new trails and potential new courses, he led the way in my tutelage. The tools required in this scenario are: a GPS device (mine’s a Garmin), computer with internet access, a Strava account and a willingness to search on-line. I’ve labeled this wonderful solution “navigarminating”.

Here I’ll give you the how, the directions aren’t bathed in precision, but the method is the key. And it gets better than merely finding a course to cycle, you might just find that local expert to ride with too…

The broad guidance given here assumes you’ve connected your GPS device to your PC, have fired up a browser, are connected to the internet and over time you’ve acquired some familiarity with sites like GaminConnect or Strava.

1. At the PC
– Using your preferred GPS database (Strava ‘Activity Search’ chosen here) search for and select the route you like and want to download.
– In this search the parameters are: Port Vendres; MTB riding; 30-60kms distance; 3-4hrs duration, and; more than 1000m of altitude gain.

20121031 Strava Search Clip

The first item in the list above looks promising, so that ride is selected and now appears below.
20121031 Strava Ride Clip_1
20121031 Strava Ride Clip_2
It can be seen from the ride detail that there’s a few climbs, the rider achieved a few KOM’s (so he must go alright one would think). He didn’t pause much (“Elapsed Time” less “Time”) and the route goes in the area I wish to target. So, I decide to choose this ride as my one to follow…

2. On the Web – Using an interface such as Cosmo Catalano’s Strava Ride Exporter, copy the ride URL / web address and have the site prepare the file for download to your PC and GPS device.
20121031 Cosmo Ride Clip_1

3. PC to Device – Download the file and transfer it to your Device (simple instructions here via mapmytracks and alternate instructions via ridewithgps here for Edge800 device)
20121031 Cosmo Ride Clip_2

4. Device Ready – Fire up your device, load the route and get ready to ride
Edge 800 Go!Edge 800 Ready to Ride

5. Navigate to the start, or just get to part of the route that is closest to you
Edge 800 Navigate to start?

6. Follow the route merrily
Ready to navigate! Or navigarminate perhaps?
Navigating the route, blue line is my trace, purple line the one to follow.

Optional Steps
Type a comment on the ride to the owner and potentially query them on the ride specifics, or
b. Simply thank them for uploading their ride because you now are better informed, or
c. Ask them if they’d be interested in going for a ride. Be polite, not a stalker.

A pretty pause south of Tour Madeloc
Location: A pause after climbing the Vermeille, France

Personally I like the Strava-Cosmo-Garmin interface, it’s relatively simple and particularly with Strava I’ve found the people I’ve contacted very helpful and willing. It’s also global. What’s more with Strava’s metrics, you’re able to get a fair idea about the difficulty of the ride based on the suffer scores etc and before you decide to ask someone to go cycling, you can get a fair idea about how fit they are given their kms/hours per week and amount of KOM/Segments etc. Useful tools!

Towards Banyuls-sur-Mer
Looking towards Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Now, it’s true there are a multitude of sites out there available offering Bunch-ride finder services, Cycling-Buddies, GPS traces and other GPS Exploring facilities but I’ve not found one to date that really delivers on what I’ve been looking for across continents. This UK site has great technology and interface qualities, I really like it, but it is limited in its geography. Many cycling social-sites based on the Ning platform have also come close but having a centralised resource aids in quicker identification of the desired route. Garmin offers a new social service similar to Strava but personally after many attempts I just can’t bring myself to be a fan of their search function. One more I haven’t yet tried is this, but it looks okay.

Up to Tour Madeloc
Location: Up to Tour Madeloc, France

Chilly in the autumn afternoon in the south of France
A chilly autumn afternoon in southern France. Never mind the 120kph wind either…

Pleasant rocky singel-track abutting vineyards
Location: Descending loose and very rocky single-track abutting beautiful vineyards, Port Vendres, France

To taper off, the final benefit of all this navigarminating business… With the ride example above, I had intended to take the full tour, however after three punctures, fading light and declining zest I was able to re-route back to the start for a hastened short-cut back to base. It doesn’t show on the route data, but the last 3kms were ridden on a flat tyre and it involved a straight heading for vertical descent hike-a-bike style through two vineyards, a leap across a creek and a whip past the mangey dog.

The moon rises over Port Vendres and singletrack disappears
Re-route time as daylight quickly gives way to the moon’s approach.

All thanks to navigarminating. Thanks JC!

Please take a moment to share.