Ride Planning Tools

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If you know me, you know I’m not the typical, local, ride-down-the-street kind of rider.  Yes, I do those rides, but my focus has always been on planning extensive rides with a lot of curves and/or scenery.  I am currently in the process of completing over three years of planning on my Ultimate Big Ride that touches all lower-48 states in a little over 40 days.  In the past, I’ve planned rides in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana out west.  This year we did an 8-day ride that went from SoFla to Niagara Falls, finding twisty roads where we could do them.

In planning rides over the years, I’ve used many tools.  The industry has had many shifts in the past decades.  At one point, you could plan a ride of 50 points in Google Maps. You then would jump through many hoops and applications to convert it to a GPX file, but it worked.  No more.  Google does no more than 10 points and routes do not work in the phone app.  There is no GPX export.

Best planning site for the phone app, it does up to 26 points.

For use on a phone, the MapQuest app is the unchallenged best.  You still probably want to build your route using MapQuest on a computer (it’s easier on that bigger screen) and then send the link to your email.  Upon clicking the link, the app will open on your phone and you can begin your trip.  It will give you turn-by-turn instructions and handle up to 26 points per route.  Remember, though, a phone is not a true GPS device and when you are out of tower reception it will fail you.

Free, easy to use planning program that exports in many GPS formats.
Free, easy to use planning program that exports in many GPS formats.

Several years ago I discovered ITN Converter.  This program is free, but takes donations.  It’s exceptionally easy to use and exports in more formats than I knew existed.  The resulting GPX files have increased in reliability, but still occasionally give you strange loops in the middle of nowhere.  You still need to know where you’re going.  It’s worth the try for creating routes to share.

Free and easy to use, the program is specific to Garmin and TomTom GPS devices.

Last year Telisa encouraged me to try the program Tyre again.  The program still loads a little slow, but it is a great program.  It is free with ads and not expensive to upgrade.  Telisa uses a Garmin Nuvi (not weatherproof) and loves the GPX files from it.  I must admit, I’ve had great success with them, too.  Tyre only exports for Garmin and Tomtom, but that’s a big chunk of market.  I’ve run the files through the Indian online converter with 100% effectiveness.  To my knowledge, the Harley Ride Planner does not offer an import function.  You have to rebuild the route using their online application.

Garmin’s own ride planning program has a learning curve, but makes device-specific files using the device map.

Garmin makes a GPS specific program called BaseCamp.  To be effective, you must plug a Garmin device you plan to build for into the computer while using the program.  Failure to do so will make some strange turns on your ride.  This program is a bit tricky to learn and I highly recommend watching a few YouTube videos on tricks and techniques.  I used this extensively with my Zumo devices.  It’s not a bad program and with some tricks, can convert an imported GPX file from one of the above programs.

Motorcycle specific, this is the place to create routes for Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Riding a touring motorcycle today has some advantages.  My favorite is that most now come with a GPS built in or as an option.  Some will import GPX files made in other programs such as listed above.  To my knowledge (friends have informed me), the Harley Ride Planner does not import files.  I found no such feature on the site, either.  It is relatively easy to use, though.  It also shows Harley dealerships should you need to stop on your journey.

I recently purchased an Indian Roadmaster.  I have been impressed with several elements of the GPS package, which is part of the Ride Command system.  To start, when I bought the 2017 bike there was a free update to flash the system and update the maps.  In less than 30 minutes I had everything an 2018 bike had.  Most of that time was installing the new maps for the USA.  Just a month ago, I did the same thing at no cost to upgrade my system to the 2019 features.  I have to admit, they are taking care of their user-base by offering these free upgrades annually.  

The best planner I have found so far.  It exports GPX files that can be used on almost any other software that imports files.

On the Ride Command site, you can do the updates and create rides.  Just click MAP on the toolbar at the top, input your starting address or click the point… and start mapping.  You can also import a GPX file to customize or build from.  I have yet to have a problem with a file created on anything else.  You save the file to their site with a name.  You can then download it or sync it to your Indian Ride Command app on your phone.  If you download it to a USB drive, you insert the USB and import it to your bike.  If you use the app, you simply push it from your phone to the bike via bluetooth.  Of all the GPX creators I’ve ever used, I like this one the best.  I have successfully imported these files into ITN and Tyre.  BaseCamp isn’t that happy with them until you export it to your GPS, then import it, make adjustments, and export again.  

Overall, you use what works for you.  I do wish the industry would work on a standard that would flawlessly translate between units and motorcycles.  Sharing the route is an important safety factor on long rides.

What do you use for ride planning with GPS?