28.07.2021 OpenMTBMap – New Map Layouts finally online – Big Improvement for easy and hiking Layout

After many weeks of trial and error - and trying out a lot of changes both on desktop and in real life hiking and mtbiking - finally the rework of the map layout is finished. I have made sure to make the map layouts much easier to comprehend, more harmonic to look at - and more congruent in consistency of the colors. I will write another post in a few days about the new easy layout for the VeloMap. The VeloMap so far did not have an easy layout - so I created an easy layout (besides the race bicycle layout) for the VeloMap too.

So e.g. before while mtb trails were green, mtb routes were brown. At 500m zoom scale (Basecamp, normal detail) the map had become too cluttered in Europe's densely populated areas. For some polygons there were some problems that they overlapped other areas (e.g. parks) and in general some areas just stuck out way too much even though their importance to hiking or mtbiking was not given (sport fields). I had differentiated building colors too much - and had different shades of grey for government buildings, museums and so on vs normal buildings. While this gave a lot of information - it is not actually needed and make the map a bit harder to read.

I have now reworked all layouts to focus on the essential things - while still providing the awesome level of detail only given by openmtbmaps for planning your trip. Meaning highly differentiated difficulty for mtbiking or hiking, and much more important information quickly visible. Yes some other maps may on first view still be more pleasing to the eye, but transport way way less information. I worked especially a lot on creating a new easy layout - leaving out information that some people though is too much - like symbols for street parallel cycleways, or mtb:scale:uphill. The easy layout however still features mtb:scale difficulty coloring for mtb trails. If you want to skip that too - use the otherwise very identical hiking layout. I now also included mtb routes into the hiking layout. a) for hikers not liking to be among mtbikers to avoid those ways, b) for mtbikers wanting a more standard topographical map but still see mtb routes (though less prominent than hiking routes).


Oh - and as feedburner is shutting down - I have changed the newsletter from feedburner to follow.it service. Sorry for the mass newsletter some weeks ago packing many old newsletters - that was a bug that happened in transition.


Finally in a couple of weeks, I will also publish a layout that is Fenix 5/6  64 colour proof. I still have to do quite some tests on the Fenix layout however - before I can publish that one. It will come for both VeloMap and OpenMTBMap.


And last but not least - I again rendered newly all contourlines - why? Well after the last update I noticed that ALOS world 3d updated their altitude data to a newer version, now with nearly worldwide coverage (instead of stopping at 60° North) and viewfinderpanoramas has uploaded a new Greenland dataset (also largely based on ALOS world 3d plus Arctic DEM). As it's too much of a hassle to look at which countries were affected by this (mainly outside Europe) - I recreated all contourlines. The next map update will feature the new contourlines. New Asia continent 20m contourlines will also be included.



Enough of the talk - here are some before and after screenshots:

Old Wide layout at 500m - vs new wide layout 500m - Notice that there are much less trails and roads shown. They now appear one zoom step closer in at 300m (instead of 700m before). Also notice now the green MTB routes (and red hiking routes). Trails with MTB difficulty information - or part of a hiking or mtb route are now shown up to 700m (instead of 1.5km before). While before most road trails started to be shown at 700m - which is now reduced to 300m)

I've also changed the forest colours a bit (a bit more dominant now).



Old easy layout 500m - the old easy layout had no mtb:scale trail difficulty information.:

new easy layout 500m:

vs the new hiking layout - Hiking routes are now shown dominantly in black, while mtb routes are quite thin in brown. MTB trail difficulty can be looked at by clicking on the trail itself - it's still part of the name.



Bern - old 1500m zoomscale - easy layout

vs new 1500m zoomscale easy layout. Note that for the easy and hiking layout I also made the street colors of important streets/highways more similar to google maps / english style - but trying to still keep them high contrast.  Using google maps colors directly would be to low contrast for Garmin GPS devices. The mtb routes in green are much easier to see now than before - and because the street colours are more homogenous - it's easier to see the cities (well also because I reduced the detail level of what is shown quite a bit here). When I had used that detail level in 2009 it was appropriate - but now with higher DPI monitors and garmin GPS devices displays - it makes sense to reduce the details a bit.



At the closest zoomed in - 200m or closer - the changes are the smallest - but still quite visible - Notice no more different shades of grey for houses. Toned down the sports fields and car parking areas.  First old, then New:




30.05.2021 – Huge Updates to OpenMTBMap and VeloMap Maps – New Contourlines and much more!

Some people may have noticed that there are 10m contourlines as separate maps on the download pages since about 4 weeks. During the process of generating them I noticed quite a few problems in steep areas that should not have been there. So began a long process of improving the contourlines. The problem was that the filters the map compiler runs against any lines were not suited  to contourlines. With the help of others mkgmap is now improved a lot in this regard - and kinda resulting from this also normal maps have improved a lot when zoomed out (thanks to Gerd on his never ending improvements to mkgmap). When zooming out - the further you zoom out now - the bigger the improvement.

For all countries and continent maps - except Asia full continent map (will come in 1-2 months - it is a huge work to create them) there are now 20m equidistance contourlines - and 10m equidistance contourlines. On all maps updated from 30. May 2021 you can select 10m or 20m contourlines. The 10m contourliens are now also integrated into the installer.  For Mac OSx they are integrated too  - and while for windows users the 10m contourlines have to be downloaded separately, for OSx most countries already bundle them in the gmapi Installer.  I had planned to integrate the 10m contourlines on 9 April 2021 for the 12 year anniversary of the OpenMTBMap website - but that work turned out to be way way bigger than anticipated - it is easy to create 2-3 maps, but creating 180 different countries/regions means everything is way more complicated and more bugs have a chance to appear somewhere in the process.

Less visible updates however also important. I have reworked the whole relations (MTB routes, Bicycle Routes, Hiking Routes) integration. Before it was kinda random if several routes were using the same way - which name was given to the way. Now this is ordered from most important to least important routes.  This previously had also caused problems that if say a regional route and a national route shared the same way - and the regional route was handled before the national - when zooming out the national route was not shown. This is now fixed. 

Complete overhaul of the windows installers - I spent about 80 hours optimizing the installer to be faster (yes still a bit slow - as they use lzma instead of lzma2 and do not support multithreaded unpacking of data) and correctly integrate the 10m and 20m contourlines. Also hope they are easier to understand now. There is still some work to be done - concerning if you install separate contourlines only map on both VeloMap and OpenMTBMap installer (with contourlines as separate download) - I will integrate a warning for this in the future.  It is now also possible to only install a separate contourlines only map without installing the map itself but obviously I do not recommend this.  Updating the installers I have often thought about just moving the windows maps to gmapi format - because I then would not need to fuss around with NSIS installers - but there are so many cool things that can be done with NSIS installers, plus the fact the windows format is IMHO still better than the gmapi format (except the windows registry) - that I recommend windows users to stick on using the classic map format. 


Old Contourlines based on Lidar Data:

vs the new 20m contourlines - based on the same data but with improved douglas peucker filtering. Notice how the lines are much better aligned to each other. there is no more one contourline crossing another because they were simplified at different locations. This effect will be everywhere - but because the actual distance difference is low - it will only be really visible in very steep areas like on this region. It is a little bit more exact now - but the main difference is that the rounding to the Garmin GPS device is more coordinated.


vs the new contourlines at 10m equidistance (and resolution 24 instead of 23 to be even more exact - one point is exact to around 2.8m at resolution 24 vs 5.4m at resolution 23 - this uses a lot more data however. I recommend to use 10m contourlines in hilly or flat areas - and 20m in real mountains like the Alps.

As the maps are updated over the next 24 hours - there will still be slight discrepancies and installers of maps with separate contourlines do not match the map. For OpenMTBMap this should happen much less often than for VeloMap maps (only for english language openmtbmap maps with separate contourlines). From Tuesday 01. June this should all be fixed. I will also still add some more gmapsupp.img contourline maps for continents or huge countries which are right now not online yet. As I need to create them manually with MapInstall this will still take a week or so. For Asia continent contourlines gmapsupp.img map is not possible - as it breaks the 4048 tiles limit. The windows 10m and 20m Asia contourlines map will still come in 2-3 weeks or so - there was a mistake on the first try an my server needs over 2 weeks computing nonstop to create them.

If there are no problems that I overlooked - I will update the Europe map in 4-5 days. The contourlines are ready for the Europe map - but I want to wait to see if I maybe missed some bug related to the installer that I simply did not notice. Creating the Europe map is always quite an effort - over 40 hours of compile time (due to 8 versions - 4x openmtbmap, 4x velomap).


Upcoming Improvements over the next few weeks: I started working on the zoom levels - but stopped this to focus on getting the contourlines updated. I will soon pick this up again and plan to move most ways/trails one zoom level down. Openstreetmap is more and more detailled and I feel it is needed to adapt this. I would prefer doing this only for Europa but I cannot maintain two styles differing in this regard at the same time. Most of my users use the maps in Europe and here it is simply better to have some features appearing later.  I already overworked the details when zoomed out further - and think there was a big improvement. The main problem is rivers - I spent hours trying to work around the inconsistencies in river mapping in OSM and making sure important rivers show in lower zoom levels. However the problem being here is that rivers are more and more mapped with relations - and many of those super relations for rivers like the Danube or other major rivers are broken or partly missing. It is better now than 2-3 months ago in my maps - but not perfect. Essentially it would be best to move away from OSM to another more consistent data source for the very far zoomed out regions - but I do not know how to do - nor which data source would be compatible.


Also I am working on a new layout - for people who prefer more of a classic hiking map look. I hope to finish it in 4-5 weeks. I still need some time testing it out in practice on my Edge, Oregon and etrex devices. I still feel there needs to be some adaptions for better contrast - typical paper maps are simply different. However I aim to make it easy to understand for people just used to topographic paper maps. My opinion is still that the color layout I am using right now is way better than the classic maps in readability and possibility to transmit information. All other OSM based maps contain way less information about the quality / usability of ways. But some people are just overwhelmed by it - so I will create that layout for them. 


Unrelated to this - I have overworked both OpenMTBMap and VeloMap websites - and included many tutorial videos. Many things were a bit outdated and I tried to correct most of them. Having so much content also means it takes a lot of time to keep it up to date. Most video tutorials are aimed at beginners - however the route planning videos for example may still contain a few tips and tricks also for regular users. I still feel that written tutorials are better than video tutorials - but because some people prefer seeing video tutorials I created video tutorials for nearly all common desktop related tasks with the OpenMTBMaps and VeloMaps. Somewhere on my roadmap are also videos using GPS devices - but they are more complicated to produce so still need some time. I will also still create a video comparing the different layouts and explaining a bit more about them. However that will have to wait until I have finished the classic topographic layout.


Personally I spent the last 6 months in Taiwan improving my Chinese and just came back 10 days ago to Europe. I plan to go to Taiwan next winter again - but lets see about coronavirus situation there (was the safest country in the world until 3 weeks ago - and while I am not afraid of catching the virus - also due to vaccination - I do not like lockdowns so will only go back if there is no risk of lockdowns anymore. I really hope the coronavirus related problems are over for Europe. This has also cost me many donators but luckily there are still enough people donating to OpenMTBMap or VeloMap to allow me to continue. I will soon for the first time since 2014 I think, increase the prices a bit. People using subscription will not be affected.