Motorcycle Navigation: Designing Your Own Route

Jun 11, 2015 View Comments by

3 - TomTom Route EditorThe Motorcyclist’s Guide to the Galaxy –

“… I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In my last article (follow these links to Yuval’s previous articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I explained what GPX routes and tracks are and how to use them in the satellite receiver. It is now time to move to the next level: creating and designing individual routes using a route editor.

Route Editor
The route editor is a software utility that enables creating, viewing, and editing of GPX routes. We have already seen how TyreToTravel, a free route editor, can be used to view existing routes and then upload them into the receiver.
A decent route editor, at a minimum, should provide the following 10 functions:

1. Add waypoints to the route by address or coordinates (latitude and longitude)
2. Interactively add waypoints to the route from the digital map using “mouse click/double click” functionality
3. Delete existing waypoints from the route
4. Reorder waypoints in the route (i.e., move waypoints up or down the list) or reverse the entire order of the route
5. Modify a waypoint’s coordinates interactively on the map using “drag and drop” functionality
6. Rename a waypoint’s title
7. Dynamically calculate and display the total distance and time for the route
8. Preview the route’s path on a map
9. Load and save routes as GPX files or other file formats
10. Upload routes to the satellite receiver

Some satellite receivers contain a built-in route editor. While not as easy to use as a personal computer-based editor, it can be useful when a rider needs to create a route in the middle of a trip, especially when a laptop or desktop are not nearby.

We typically know the starting point (e.g., home) and also the end point (e.g., camp). The question is how to design a great route that takes a rider from start to finish and still balances the important aspects of travel: time, distance, attractions, scenery, and fun (twisty roads). And at the same time, the route needs to be completed safely within one’s constraints such as group size, gas stations, food, rest time, etc.

I will present four methods to designing a route.

2 - BaseCamp Route PlanningQuick and Dirty Design
With this method only a few waypoints are needed. The starting waypoint, ending waypoint, and a few waypoints in between (say up to four), which will anchor the route to a desired path. The rider expects the satellite receiver to get him or her through those waypoints. Compared to a simple two-waypoint ad hoc navigation, there is a refined level of control of the overall route but not really much more sophistication than that. One may consider this as multi-waypoint ad hoc navigation. This method can be useful for a quick and dirty route while on the road. This works well for riders who like to experiment but still have a high-level plan or for those who have little patience for detailed design.

Bottom-Up Planning Design
This method requires some prior research of the different roads and attractions along the way. It could be a collection of must-see places and recommended roads to ride gathered from books, forums, magazines such as RoadRUNNER, or advice from other riders.

Once this data is collected, waypoints are entered sequentially into the route editor, with the start waypoint first and the end waypoint last. The route is then composed of a fixed number of well-known waypoints, and from there the total time and distance can be examined. The route can be adjusted as needed. Some waypoints can be omitted or reordered to save time and/or distance. Every change causes the route editor to recalculate the route.

This is essentially a methodic bottom-up approach. It can be time consuming due to the in-depth research required; however, it’s rewarding as the route is carefully planned, no highlights are missed, and there should be minimal surprises (for better or worse).

1 - Tyre Route PlanningRubber Band Design
As opposed to the formal bottom-up design approach just described, the rubber band design method starts by entering just two waypoints into the route editor, the start and end points.

The route between those two points is automatically calculated and displayed by the route editor, typically using the shortest time route, which almost always will default to busy highways.

Now comes the interesting part. Using “drag and drop” techniques (using a mouse or touch screen), the original route is stretched like a rubber band onto a new waypoint (imagine a pin stretching the middle of a rubber band held in place between two other pins). Once the dragging is done, a new waypoint is created automatically and inserted in the correct order between the original route waypoints.

Hybrid Design
The bottom-up and rubber band design methods can naturally merge into a hybrid design mode. It starts by building a high-level skeleton of a route using several waypoints that must be included in the trip. Then, the rubber band design method is applied to dynamically decide on the best path between the skeleton waypoints. It combines the better of the two approaches. On one hand, there is some thought and research put into the route, but on the other hand it leaves flexibility and room for some adventure, fine-tuning, and experimentation.

I often use the hybrid method and recommend that riders use it as well, if possible.

For just getting to a destination, basic quick and dirty planning is fine. If the journey is the destination, then one may want to dig a little deeper.

Some people don’t have the patience for in-depth and time consuming research of attractions along the route and actually like to “get lost” and explore unknown paths, while others are risk averse and do not want to ride on routes that have not been previously ridden and confirmed by others. It is also a matter of timing, different trips call for different design methods.

All I can say is that some of the best adventures I’ve been on were a result of an error in planning or incorrect execution of the route.

Watch the instructional videos below on how to create a route using these techniques. The next article will describe best practices for route design.

Part A:

Part B:

Text and video by Yuval Naveh

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