Thierry Crouzet

Automatic translation from french

I compare the cyclist with the writer or the Australian nomads celebrated by Chatwin in the Song of the tracks, I speak constantly of the trace, this form of writing on the map, on the territory, I repeat that we discover a new art . Like any art, it requires tools that I try to master.

My learning has not been easy, I am listening to other cyclists-cartographers and gradually I perfect my toolbox. Some remain faithful to the paper chart, I gave up for a long time. Already because I carry a phone in which I can store all the maps of the world more accurately than any paper map, because with one click I find myself geolocated on these maps, on which I can write , draw my roads, add points of interest.

Attention: I like paper charts, they fascinate me, it is not for nothing that I wrote a novel about Eratosthenes, the father of geography and cartography, simply I do not imagine lugging them with me anymore .

I do not understand the retro side of some cyclists, any more than those who ride on steel bikes weighing tons and burning their legs at the slightest rise. There would be a green side, a decreasing side, a desire for simplicity. But I do not speak in what the archaic and simpler than the modern. For me, simplicity is expressed in minimalism. Each of the things I carry with me must perform as many functions as possible for minimum weight. If I had to carry a phone and cards, there would be duplication.

While a phone requires a source of energy, but limited to tell the truth. When I engage in a raid, my phone is in airplane mode. I only use it to take pictures, to consult my cards when I'm lost, to read before falling asleep, eventually to give news to my family. I only need to recharge my phone every four days. At the slightest stop in a cafe or a restaurant, I plug it, along with my other devices and my backup battery.

iPhone, Garmin, Anker
iPhone, Garmin, Anker

If I start an extreme raid like the American Trail Race, I will install a dynamo on my bike, but I do not care as long as every two or three days I cross a source of energy. A dynamo, even when it does not produce power, reduces our performance, and with its wiring and the gadgets that come with it, it weighs more than a battery backup, while having a disproportionate cost - it takes 700 € to equip a bike with the ultimate dynamo against 50 € for a battery backup. In addition, a battery seems more minimalist. For day trips, I can leave her at home (more difficult to get rid of a dynamo that becomes a dead weight).

In addition to my phone, I am equipped with a GPS, my Garmin 820 weighing only 67 g. Would not there be double use? In theory, my phone can replace the Garmin. Problem: he consumes much more than him. In energy saving mode, my Garmin can guide me for about ten hours. When I plug it into my backup battery, nothing stops it. Renouncing the Garmin, would involve me to equip me with a backup battery more consistent than my Anker Power Core 20100 which weighs 356 g (I think I can recharge my GPS with twenty times). I lugballais more a GPS / cardio watch, I am relieved.

So here for my gear embedded.

Cartographer of all times

When I ride, run or even walk, I record with my GPS the course, which I upload to Strava when I return home.

On Strava, I can follow the outings of friends and chat with them, I can especially recover my own tracks in GPX format (the most classic GPS track format). I can also download tracks from many other sites like RWGPS, GPSies, Utagawavtt, OpenRunner, TraceGPS, VTTour, TraceDeTrail, VisuGPX, VisoRando, Trace, ViewRanger, VTTrack, Komoot, Mountnpass, Bikemap ... Sometimes I find traces perfect, most often they just give me ideas for new releases. So I have to be able to tweak them, or even create new ones.

Mes traces autour de Balaruc
Mes traces autour de Balaruc

I used to archive these traces on Google Map, which offers the possibility to create its own maps (from the Addresses menu, Maps tab). When you open a new layer, you can import GPX or KML files (comparable format created by Google). In layers, with the line drawing tool, I start by creating my own paths, sometimes passing by my tracks, often by those of others, so I discover new paths, dare longer routes, which without using a GPS could train me in big galleys (which do not protect me GPS, especially when I improvise traces with the only help of satellite images).

Tip: Google Map does not allow you to edit tracks that have more than 2,000 points, which is almost always the case when you save a track with a GPS. Before importing a trace to edit, I reduce it to 500 points with GPSvisualizer, which in general is enough to stay true to the original plot.

Google Map is far from perfect. We can not cut out traces or join them. The erasure of the points is laborious. It is impossible to know the distance between two points, just like the difference in level between them. We must therefore use other tools.

Land avec carte IGN
Land avec carte IGN
baseCamp avec carte IGN
baseCamp avec carte IGN
baseCamp carte OSM
baseCamp carte OSM

For editing tasks, I use Garmin's baseCamp software, free of charge. I have never tested QLandkarte GT, which does not run on my Mac. Combined with GPS and TwoNav applications, Land is a kind of maple Swiss army knife. More powerful and more often updated than baseCamp, it is unfortunately paying in its complete version. As it is connected to the main sites of sharing of traces, I use it when I clear itineraries in unknown territories (one can do the same thing in line with VTTrack).

Traces automatiquement proposées par Land
Traces automatiquement proposées par Land

For the rest, going back and forth between Google Map and baseCamp, I'm doing very well. From Google Map, I export the traces to be edited in KML and import them directly into baseCamp, from where I export to GPX to import back into Google Map. Since baseCamp, I can also directly send my tracks on my Garmin GPS.

On Google Map, I especially like layers to superimpose traces and of course access to satellite images. On baseCamp, I appreciate the power of editing tools, the ability to load any kind of maps (IGN, OpenStreetMap, Opentopomap ...). If I had the satellite images on baseCamp it would be great, but again I do not want to pay for the Garmin BirdsEyes service. As for the free solutions, they seem to me too heavy compared to my method import / export between Google Map and baseCamp.

Carte enrichie sur RWGPS
Carte enrichie sur RWGPS
Trace de Trail
Trace de Trail

To analyze a trace, I learned to be wary of baseCamp. If it gives me the exact mileage between two points, it is more approximate for the elevation (in the state of my maps). I prefer to load my tracks on RWGPS, a trace sharing service with many analysis tools, even in its free version (I have a used time TraceDeTrail and ViewRanger). In its paid version, it allows to create and share beautiful traces enriched with points of interest. In the USA, many raiding organizers use this service.

Carte enrichie sur Google Map
Carte enrichie sur Google Map

For my part, I do more or less the same thing with Google Map. I add icons to indicate restaurants, campsites, water points, viewpoints ... I can even build scenarios by indicating the places where I think to sleep, then I finally make my maps public.

Tip Komoot is a great trace analysis tool, probably the most powerful, it is also a very nice tool to draw, the best drawn, with ability to switch between maps and satellite images. Unfortunately, we can not superimpose traces, which condemns us to follow the mapped paths (a symptom of this weakness, we can not import Google's KMZ files). I only use it in the final phase of a course.

Komoot Génial pour les stats
Komoot Génial pour les stats

Tip When you download baseCamp, no map accompanies it. If you have a Garmin GPS connected to the computer, baseCamp will display the maps available on the GPS. You can fool baseCamp by creating a fake Garmin GPS using a USB key. On this key, simply create a Garmin folder and store Garmin compatible cards. There are some everywhere on the Net, including France, but also sectors in all regions of the world.

Un Garmin sur USB
Un Garmin sur USB

Tip To prepare long mountain bike trips, for example a crossing of southern France for the summer of 2019, I load in Google Map traces that cover the areas I would like to cross, and then I start to interconnect them.

Work in progress
Work in progress

On the road

Once this preparatory work is done, it's time to hit the road. Before investing in a GPS, I navigated using the TwoNav application installed on my phone. She does the job, but I did not like to see my phone hanging on my handlebars, risking exploding at the lowest bowl (not to mention its limited autonomy).

TwoNav avec carte IGN
TwoNav avec carte IGN

So, now that I have a Garmin, I load a minimalist map created from OpenStreetMap. I tried to use 1/25 000 IGN cards, but they are so heavy that the Garmin is dragging, then they are so detailed that I could not see anything. To follow a trace, we do not need details. Just choose a suitable zoom and go.

Still, sometimes the trace leads us into dead ends, at the top of a cliff, in front of an impassable forest. To find a new path, it is important to have detailed maps on your phone, much more powerful and ergonomic than any GPS (so you do not need to pay a fortune on the GPS side - the most important is its autonomy, its lightness, its robustness, its precision).

I have tested many applications before setting my sights on MapOut, where I download the OpenStreetMap maps I need and my tracks (just send them as an attachment to a mail addressed to [email protected]) . I can even send KML files with points of interest. Thus, on my phone, I have all the useful information, even in airplane mode, even in the most remote areas. I can know the distance between two points on the track, view the profile. It helps me decide if it's time to set up camp or if I can try to reach the next campsite before being charred.

MapOut
MapOut

In emergency solution, when I'm in France, I download IGN maps on the TwoNav application. Sometimes they are more accurate than OpenStreetMap, but not always (I admit to rarely use it).

Tip For those who do not want to use baseCamp and own a Garmin GPS, it is possible to convert GPX files to FIT files, the equivalent format used by Garmin. It is then necessary to copy these files FIT in the folder Courses of the GPS (when this one is connected to a computer). According to my tests, Land seems to work with most GPS regardless of their brand.

Tip To increase the range of my GPS, I disable all unnecessary options when I ride, such as bluetooth, guidance, route recalculation. I minimize the brightness of the screen. If possible, I switch to power save mode (my screen turns off after one minute). I leave this mode only when I have to change my route constantly.

to summarize

  1. Sur Google Map, je superpose les traces que je trouve, puis je crée de nouvelles traces. Disposer de la vision satellite est très important à ce stade, parce que j’arrive à dénicher des chemins invisibles sur les cartes les plus précises. C’est indispensable pour interconnecter des traces disjointes.
  2. Je charge ma trace dans baseCamp. Je peux la couper et la relier à d’autres pour monter de nouvelles ballades à partir de celles existantes. Fonction très utile : je peux inverser le sens d’une trace, sans avoir besoin d’un site tiers.
  3. Je précise mon tracé en faisant des allers-retours entre Google Map et baseCamp, tantôt me fiant aux cartes, tantôt aux images satellites.
  4. J’exporte ma trace en KML depuis Google Map, avec tous les points d’intérêts, éventuellement les variantes de parcours, puis je l’envoie par mail à MapOut, mon application de secours.
  5. J’importe une dernière fois cette trace dans baseCamp pour l’envoyer à mon GPS.
  6. À la fin de la sortie, je synchronise mon GPS avec Strava, d’où je télécharge la trace GPX que j’archive sur Google Map. Mes amis peuvent la récupérer puisque je partage mon Google Map.

Paradox Technology can help us reclaim the territory, think outside the box, learn more about our country. I continue to marvel at the landscapes we discover when we drive, while sometimes we are less than thirty kilometers from home.

PS: I published this post in May 2018, well before starting my series Born to Bike. I update it as and when I discover.