Visualizing last summer’s road cycling

January 3rd, 2012  |  Tags: ,

I recently plotted some of my local road bike rides from last season using TileMill, the TIGER map data from the US Census Bureau, and exported activity routes from RunKeeper. I had a pretty good sense of what ride I do the most often (a fairly flat 18-20 mile out-and-back that I can complete in under an hour unless car traffic is awful — great for time-constrained rides and intervals), but I was interested to see where else I’ve gone. The results turned out pretty well, so I’m posting them here. I only plotted road rides in Dane County, only rides on a geared bike (i.e., no commutes), and I chose only a subset of all my rides. The paths are lighter or darker proportionally to how frequently I traveled them.

Arboretum detail

The figure above is a close-up of the section of the map including the UW Arboretum and the Capital City Trail. This was by far my most common ride in 2010, but I did it much less frequently in 2011. (In fact, I think I rode this route more frequently on my fixed-gear than on my road bike in 2011.)

B11 paoli

This is a detail of some of my favorite short hill-climbing loops near Paoli, WI. The loop to the lower left is more challenging (and more rewarding) but I didn’t do it as often. To the upper left is the beginning of a fast and fun route to Mt. Horeb, WI that also serves as the beginning of the WI Ironman cycling loop. I’m hoping both of these will be substantially darker at the end of next summer!

Biking sm

Finally, here’s the whole map, cropped to include Madison (for context) and the parts of western Dane County that I actually rode in.

I did these manually, so the obvious next step is to write up a little program to generate these automatically. I’d also like to have a more interesting visualization (like making paths thicker instead of darker or perhaps incorporating elevation and average speed data somehow). Overall, though, I’m pleased with these results. I was quite impressed with how easy TileMill was to use, and am optimistic that this toolchain, combined with some additional cleverness and care, could produce a really compelling presentation of these data.