Singletracks has been creating topo maps for mountain biking and sharing GPS data for nearly a decade now, and we’re constantly working to improve our mapping tools. Last month we rolled out some big changes we’re really stoked about–so read on to get the lowdown.

The image below shows a sample map with 3 keys marked to correspond to the explanation that follows.

Multiple topo map options (#1)

We really love the topo maps from Neotreks (above) because they show nearly everything we care about–terrain, trails, roads, and landmarks–but like any single map choice, they don’t always include everything. The latest Singletracks map update adds four additional topo background options (US only): USGS topos, USGS scanned topos, Open Cycle Maps, and satellite imagery with topo lines overlaid on top. We like to use these additional options to scout former forest roadbeds, get a view from the sky, and to see newer system trails that may not have been added to Neotreks yet.

Clockwise from top left: USGS scanned, Open Cycle, satellite topo, and USGS topo. Default "Neotreks" map view not show here (see screenshot at the top of the article).

Outside the US, the default topo map background tiles come from Open Cycle.

Recommended routes (#2)

Nearly 2,500 of the topo maps on Singletracks include at least one “recommended route” listed below the map. Recommended routes include everything from complete maps of entire trail systems to race courses to locals’ favorite trail linkages. The route list shows the name of the route, the length, elevation gain, and average route rating. By default, the top-rated route is shown whenever the map is loaded. Choose the route that’s best for you based on the length and elevation gain.

Downloadable maps, elevation profiles, and raw GPS data (#3)

Each recommended route features a downloadable and printable PDF with the map and elevation profile included. Downloadable GPX and KML-formatted GPS data is still available, and the elevation plots are now interactive–mouse over a spot on the chart to see the exact elevation and distance.

You can also rate each route to help us improve route rankings and ratings.

Other changes

By crowdsourcing mountain bike routes for trail systems, Singletracks is able to speed up the map approval process, which in the past could take up to a week or more. This also means the resulting GPS data will be more continuous and therefore easier to follow on your GPS device (the process of manipulating and manually stitching multiple GPS traces together can cause major issues here).

We’re also changing the way we award points and free memberships for GPS submissions. Going forward, anyone who has earned more than 30 contribution points in the past year will gain full access to the Singletracks topo maps. We’ll share more about this in a separate post, but GPS submissions and new trail listings are now worth 3 points each, reviews (trail and gear) are worth 2 points each, and photos/videos are worth 1 point each. How easy is it to earn free access? Just upload 30 trail photos. Or review 6 trails, 6 pieces of gear, and upload 2 trail routes… you get the picture.

If you haven’t looked at the topo maps on Singletracks in a while, check out this sample and let us know what you think of the changes!

# Comments

  • Bubblehead10MM

    So what to do now. Should I still try for complete trail systems when I can? And should I go back and see if I can cut up some of my old trails into recommended routes?
    I think I’m emotionally resistant to the idea of not making full maps. It’s kinda my thing LOL. Of course most of the little things I ride tend to be green splotches on the topo map, so I’d like to try to fill them in with good traces.

    • mtbgreg1

      I think the beauty of the new system is that it can cater to both users: if you want to keep creating full trail systems, I say go for it! But if you want to create “recommended routes,” you can do that too. OR, you can do BOTH!

      One thing worth mentioning is that the complete trail system maps are still very useful in places where there are no trails on the background tiles. If memory serves, many of the trail systems that you’ve submitted in the past haven’t had trails in the background tiles, so you get extra brownie points for those! 🙂

  • jeff

    Good points Greg. I guess the larger point is that now we’d like to post real rides–not just bits and pieces of rides stitched together.

    For smaller trail systems that can be completely ridden in one ride, that’s what you post. Sure, there may be some doubling back to get everything in but that’s ok.

    For massive trail systems, just ride as much as you can and post that as a ride. In the past we would have stitched those rides together but the end result was a track that couldn’t be followed by another person easily.

  • RoadWarrior

    Good points on all of the above, when looking at a complete trail system ( which I have always tried to upload) there is no way of knowing other than the ride description which is the best route.
    What I have been doing recently is downloading all the trails in a area such as the “Foothills” in Albuquerque, then putting them in Topo Fusion and creating a network, and then loading the network into my GPS.
    From that point it is easy to switch back and forth on the GPS from the network or just a route. Kind of the best of both worlds.
    Keep up the good work

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