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We’re finally ready to out our Project. In case you were wondering why the post rate on this site has been so low the past few months (not that it ever has been that impressive), then you’ll get an answer now: because of – brought to you by Ayatola Hombre and yours truly.

As we’re mentioning on our about page, MTBGuru is a web application for people who like to ride, hike, run – yes those types that can’t seem to stay in the house and sit still. You can upload and share GPS data and photos taken during your outdoor adventures to the site. In case you don’t have a GPS unit… those things make a great birthday or Christmas present, politely suggest it to your loved ones!

After uploading the data to the website, trip statistics and graphs such as a route map and elevation plots are generated, and photographs taken during the trip are automatically being geotagged – that is, the location at which each photo was shot will be indicated on the route map. This cartoon summarizes things:

mtbguru cartoon

What are the basic features?

  • Users create ‘trips’; GPS files can be uploaded in the GPX format, an open (XML) standard for GPS data which is now being supported by most GPS manufacturers (for instance, Garmin’s Mapsource software allows you to save track data to .gpx files). Trips can be created with or without GPS files.

  • The site analyzes the GPS data and generates statistics and graphs, such as an elevation profile of the trip, and plots the route on a map (we’re using Google maps). Multiple tracks in a single file can be identified and you can create a separate trip for each track. You can also type in a description of the trip and select whether you want to share it with others or keep it private. The site can be an efficient means to archive and manage your trips and GPS files.

  • Photos can be uploaded, either separately or in group (the latter by means of a zip-archive file). A thumbnail gallery will be generated and if the pictures were taken during the trip, the location at which they were shot will automatically be indicated on the map – the latter is enabled by comparing the time stamp in the metadata of the photograph to the timing information in the GPS data, aka ‘temporal geotagging‘.

  • Other users can view your public trips and photos and leave comments, but you have of course the option to disable this.

  • We also generate a Google Earth file, which contains the route, all picture locations, thumbnails and links to the trip and photos – anyone familiar with it knows that browsing around in Google Earth can be highly entertaining and this is probably one of our own favorite features (example: see screenshot below).

  • Earth-Tyndall

Our mission is to make all this work fast, simply and efficiently and we think we’ve succeeded relatively well compared to our competition – at present everything is not working and looking 100% as we’d like it to do yet, but most features are working.

We’ve focused on mountain biking to date, but it really works as well for any activity where you’re outside and moving around. Some examples:
the ascent of Alpe d’Huez, climbing the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, a fundraising trail run in Cupertino, mountain biking in Auburn.

Why this site?
Because we got frustrated by the familiar routine: looking up directions to the trailhead; figuring out again where exactly the fun trails are; doing extensive searches on the Web when we want to try out some new locations; messing around with GPS data in the proprietary-format tools that usually come with it; forgetting which folder we stored our pictures in; and so on.
Since we didn’t find a good existing solution for what we were looking for, we decided to create it ourselves and so we built this web app.

For the technophiles amongst you: the site is being developed using the Ruby on Rails framework and features quite a number of Ajaxgoodies; Ayatola Hombre is our code kingpin and both of us have been aficionados of the methodology and style of 37 Signals since quite a while. I didn’t want to mention the ‘Creating a free account only requires a valid e-mail address (which we’ll never forward to others). You can view all public trips and data without an account as well, but you’ll need the account to create trips or upload data.
All user data is available in open format, and there are even RSS feeds available containing trip description data. We’ve incorporated some ads and we may do more in the future, as web hosting costs money. But we built this site in the first place because we’re passionate about mountain biking and the outdoors ourselves, and felt it as an itch that needed scratching.

More information can be found on our FAQ pages and the companion MTBGuru blog that we’ve started to keep users up to date, provide support and give people a forum to send us feedback.

As you may suspect, a lot of the mountain biking coverage on Californication will from now be forwarded from – apologies for this long, duplicate post, but this was one where I was really eager to have a translation ;). Finally, as an appetizer here another screenshot:


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