Sunday 11 September 2016

Ride Planning Tools: Furkot

Another benefit of doing a trip as a class project was pushing me to find alternatives to Google Maps, which I generally use for trip planning.  It makes pretty maps and I like that I can get a sense of what I'm looking at through street view and satellite imagery.  It's relatively easy to use and lets you quickly put together distances, though not easily in segments.

Google Maps lets you switch to Google Earth view and show the geography of the area (in this case The Twisted Sisters -
the top motorcycling road destination in the US).  It makes for pretty maps, but I had to add in extra
waypoints to keep it off the boring highways and on the interesting tarmac.
Where Google Maps really falls short is on longer trip planning as it tends to be car focused and can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to sit on an interstate all day in a box.  Trying to coerce Google Maps onto twisty roads is a tricky business, especially with limited way point options.  You quickly run out of pins to stick in the map when you're constantly fighting the software's predilection for making your trip as short and boring as possible.

Google Maps' real talent is ease of sharing - it's easy to get links or embedding code.

Being back in the classroom has me looking for escapism, so I've been reading ADVrider's Epic Ride Reports.  There is nothing like reading a ride report from someone's RTW trip to set you free from a regimented schedule.  While on there I came across a couple's ride from Toronto and around the US.  Chelsey was planning their trip on Furkot, which I'd never heard of before.  This piqued my interest because some of my students would benefit from an easier/more fully featured digital trip planner.

Getting into Furkot was pretty straightforward, you can login using a social media account.  It took me about five minutes to transfer my pieces of Google Map from my road trip project into it, and there were no stingy limits on way points.
It was when I got into the details that Furkot really lit up.  Not only does it auto-set your stops for each day based on what you think your mileage is going to be, but it'll also find you hotels and preset you gas stops based on the range of your vehicle.

When you make a map you can keep it private or share it, and if you share it you immediately get a link to it.  Furkot also gives you a share page which has more social media connections (left) than I thought existed, so it shares well.

I only monkeyed around with it for twenty minutes, but I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface.  You can set your trip to your vehicle and I get the sense that a motorcycle selected trip gives you motorcycle specific results.  I look forward to sharing it with my class tomorrow as well as playing with it more myself.

Where the journey's the thing...
In the meantime I've been thinking about Google Maps.  The API for Maps is open and used by lots of people to create custom mapping applications.  Had I more free time on my hands I'd get into it and build out a motorcycling focused mapping app using Google Maps.  The idea came up at the Lobo Loco rally as well.  A rally specific app that allows for many GPS way points and more motorcycling focused roads would be a real treat.  As would a simplified interface that would work from the busy and limited input environment of a motorcycle saddle.

A simplified G-Maps that focuses on the ride would be a cool project.