Planning your ride just got easier with plotaroute.com

“The easiest GPS route plotting site” implements an automatic route plotting feature for cyclists and walkers who want to avoid main roads

by Elliot Johnston   March 12, 2014  

A plotted route on plotaroute.com

GPS mapping tool plotaroute.com have added an auto-map feature to their route planning service. The tool creates ten custom rides on local cycle-friendly roads based on user-defined parameters.

The new feature utlises map data from both Google Maps and OpenCycleMap - an online cycling map based on the open-source mapping project OpenStreetMap - to create tailor made cycling routes.

The feature, which is listed as 'make me a route' under the 'Plot' menu on the tool's interface, creates a tailor made cycle route around local and national cycle paths, avoiding highways and main roads.

Once selected, the 'make me a route' tool allows users drop a pin on a location of their choosing and select a distance they'd like to travel. The tool then provides a list of ten suitable local rides, of the chosen distance, from that point.

Before the auto-map feature was introduced, Plotaroute.com was too similar to many other online route-plotting tools. The site's USP was to give its users the ability to plot and edit their own custom cycling routes on the country's roads, footpaths and cycle paths with ease.

Since the site went live in January, plotaroute.com has been vying for a share of the saturated ride-mapping market with only this ease of use as its selling point.

However, the site's update on March 10 - which introduced the auto-map feature for cyclists - has given plotaroute.com something to differentiate itself from the competition.

Even before releasing its auto-map feature for cyclists, plotaroute.com had received praise from cycling blog London Cyclist for its usability. Blogger Andreas wrote that plotaroute.com “is by far the easiest GPS route plotting site I’ve ever found, so I thoroughly recommend it.”

The site’s founder, John Piears, also co-founded the UK’s leading independent running website Good Run Guide, and it was there that he found inspiration to begin work on plotaroute.com.

He told road.cc: “Like many similar websites targeted at runners and cyclists, Good Run Guide aims to provide a complete online training package, enabling you to plan and track all your training, races and fitness goals, and to share your progress online.

“This is great for anyone who wants to record every detail of their training, but in my experience there are many people who simply want to know how far they’ve run or cycled, without tracking and analysing every stride or turn of the pedals.

“If you’re one of these people, sometimes it can be hard work to even find the route planners on other sites, let alone work out how to plot and share your route.

“So, that’s where the inspiration for plotaroute.com came from. Its aim is to make it quick and simple to map and share routes, without all the clutter and complexity of features you may not want – a sort of YouTube of route mapping.

“Once you arrive on the site, you’re just one click away from plotting your route - that’s the inspiration for the site; making route plotting easy."

Plotaroute.com has plenty of other features alongside its auto-map and route editing tools for cyclists, walkers, and drivers.

Site users can download their route in gpx file format, which can be loaded onto most GPS devices; automatically generate directions from their designed route; use their device’s GPS capabilities to ‘find themselves’ in the tool; and find local bike shops, pubs and even public toilets.

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Question - can such a gpx file be used as a navigation aid on an iPhone and what's the best app to use?

posted by andym999 [16 posts]
12th March 2014 - 12:57

11 Likes

ViewRanger among others is able to accept gpx files on an iPhone. I like ViewRanger, so to me it is the best, but you may not agree. ViewRanger also has a web site for creating new routes. Not sure how it compares with Plotaroute.

With Viewranger you can purchase OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 tiles which in my opinion are far superior to on Open source (free) maps. So if Plotaroute does not have OS maps, Viewranger is always going to be superior to me. But again you may not agree.

Try VR it's free to down load and it uses Open Source maps

EDIT:
I checked out Plotaroute and it is very similar to My Viewranger. Plotaroute has a nicer UI and is show the profile or long section much better that My Viewranger, but other than that there's not much to choose between them.

posted by wellcoordinated [76 posts]
12th March 2014 - 13:32

13 Likes

Positives first
looks like a good tool for plotting your own route, then downloading as a gpx file, if thats your thing.

Good for looking at shared routes for new ideas, especially if you aren't in your normal area or are planning a trip

negatives
From what I have tried the route generator looks great as long you want to ride on main roads (even with the highway filter turned off).

For people with no imagination this is probably helpful but I actually enjoy planning a route myself.

Better than most but think the route generator is of limited value

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [299 posts]
12th March 2014 - 13:54

10 Likes

As usual doesn't help if you are planning a route that doesn't use roads. ie bridleways.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1075 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:06

11 Likes

mrmo wrote:
As usual doesn't help if you are planning a route that doesn't use roads. ie bridleways.

Which is where www.bikehike.co.uk comes in.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [378 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:10

16 Likes

A welcome addition to the canon with some nice features but with no OS mapping I don't think I'll be stopping using bikehike any time soon.

EDIT: And I don't want to ride on NSL DC's ta. Not unless it is a TT! Thinking

Really, though?

posted by workhard [378 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:11

11 Likes

Let's just say they have some work to do.

And yes, it has chosen a ferry route to Dublin.

dodgy's picture

posted by dodgy [117 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:33

12 Likes

Having just had a quick go at letting it plot routes local to me, I'd echo a couple of other comments that it does still seem to include some pretty major roads (such as dual carriageways and busy town centre thoroughfares), despite having the "avoid highways" feature switched on.

However, it does look like an interesting tool, one I'll perhaps keep an eye on from now on.

posted by parksey [216 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:41

11 Likes

mine wants to take me to i.o.w, spain, france and jersey!!!!

yet not even out of portsmouth lol

posted by kev-s [41 posts]
12th March 2014 - 16:05

11 Likes

I don't want a random loop. I know where I want to go. I want it to plan a route there that uses roads no greater than B roads and then plan a route back along different B roads.

I've thought out how it should work already and now I'm going to have to write my own.

Nerd

posted by earth [72 posts]
12th March 2014 - 17:11

16 Likes

Very nice in lots of ways, but the cycle routing is provided by Google (you can tell by opening up the developer console and looking at the requests made). And Google's bike routing sucks, I'm afraid.

Doctor Fegg's picture

posted by Doctor Fegg [134 posts]
12th March 2014 - 17:11

10 Likes

The thing about "avoiding main roads" is that routing based on how important roads are is useless if it only goes by their official status rather than looking at how much traffic they actually carry and whether they have a shoulder or not. Minor roads sometimes carry very heavy volumes of traffic, and roads that are theoretically important sometimes carry very little traffic.

When I head east I often choose to cycle on a trunk road; it's only half as steep as the parallel minor road reserved for local traffic and cyclists, and it's actually a very quiet stretch of road because all but the most local traffic is taken up by a parallel motorway. It's a good choice in winter because it's kept clear of snow and ice. There are wire nets to catch falling rocks and lots of other safety features like reflectors on the bends. It's a very cycling-friendly route, but it's not recommended for cycling by google, and it's not officially part of the local cycling network. The "dogma" that cyclists shouldn't be directed onto trunk roads overrides the fact that the trunk road is often the safest and most practical route from A to B. I really wouldn't fancy following the cyclist signage instead and and taking the much steeper route down from the hills into town on a snowy, foggy night.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
12th March 2014 - 17:54

9 Likes

It's a bit old school, but I really like reading an OS 1:50000 map, either paper or on-line. I can "see" things much more clearly than any of the newer formats such as "Google maps", which don't differentiate between certain grades of road and path. I have tried apps that "choose" the route, but it's a bit hit and miss, and when I tried this new tool a few minutes ago, the routes chosen included sections of road I would not dream of ever riding.

Just consider this. Does anyone out there think that an organiser of a orad race, charity ride or sportive, would use anything other than a OS mapping?

But I do like the way these apps show the length of the route, the total amount of climbing, the maximum gradient (good for gear selection) and the distance travelled as you progress along a route.

I currently use Viewranger to create a route of my choosing, using the OS 1:50000 overlay (a year's subscription for the entire UK is just a few pounds for just viewing and planning using your laptop, rather than the full package for use on your phone, which costs a lot more), then email the resulting gpx file to my iphone, and follow the resulting "breadcrumb" in "Bikehub".

I get the enjoyment of creating my own route using proper OS maps, the total guarantee that I'm riding where I planned to ride and, because I'm just following a breadcrumb rather than a full map, there's no need to slow down when coming up to junctions as a result of any map rendering delay.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
12th March 2014 - 18:12

12 Likes

Neil753 wrote:

Just consider this. Does anyone out there think that an organiser of a orad race, charity ride or sportive, would use anything other than a OS mapping?

Well, yes. Local knowledge, which is superior to any map for cycle routing. I am generally a fan of OS maps, and I think your system (plan with OS maps, ride using breadcrumb navigation) makes sense for an individual cyclist planning to explore an area. But if I were planning an organized ride like a sportive and wanted a perfect route rather than a merely good one, I would consult with cyclists who know the area well rather than relying on maps.

Sometimes a road that seems minor on an OS map can carry just as much traffic as a nearby major road that might look less attractive for cycling on the map. If the minor road is narrow, bendy and has a poor surface, and the major road has a shoulder and a decent surface, the major road might more pleasant and safer for cyclists. A local will know that stuff - a map can be misleading.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
12th March 2014 - 20:24

9 Likes