How I make my itineraries
To record the track I use a GPS Garmin eTrex Touch 35t, equipped with a pressure altimeter.
Cycling, I record the waypoints on GPS: water point, interesting places, altimetry informations, hard slopes (eTrex 35 gives an enough reliable slope), dangerous intersections, uneven roads…
To note the features of a waypoint I use a vocal recorder. I use it even to record my sensations, that I will develop in the related post.
In addition, during the tour I stop to take pictures to put in the post.
Once back home, I transfer track and waypoints to my computer and elaborate them: correct the track when I need and remove the unnecessary segments, rename waypoint and classify them.
Then I edit the altitude profile of the itinerary and the altimetry of the single climbs; to do it I use calculation sheets and graphics.
To make maps I use Google Maps, importing tracks and waypoints.
Every itinerary is illustrated in a post, with the sensations I have felt during the tour. So a post won’t be a simply sequence of altimetries and pictures, but a real description of a bike experience. Furthermore, I put in the post useful information that I can’t include in a gpx file, so, before following a track is always recommended to read the related post.
Difficulty of itineraries
I didn’t classify the itineraries by levels of difficulty. There are many factors that influence the difficulty degree, that even depends on the level of training of a cyclist. Length, elevation gain, ramps with a very hard slope, but even the road conditions and the weather come together to make the perceived difficulty. In fact, I think that an apparently simple path (for example with length 50 km and elevation gain 400 m) can be difficult if you find a one-kilometer-long segment with more than 10% slope. That’s a typical situation of Marche hills, where you can find many real “walls”, became famous after some stage of Tirreno-Adriatico race.
The only classification in this blog is related to the total distance:
short itinerary: less than 50 km
medium itinerary: between 50 and 75 km
long itinerary: more than 75 km
However I provide a summary table, at the top of the post, in witch you can find the total distance, estimated elevation gain (more about this here), minimum elevation, maximum elevation, the maximum slope. Reading that you can make an initial evaluation of the itinerary’s difficulty. Then I recommend a full reading of the post, to get all the useful informations.
For every itinerary, in addition to length, elevation gain, minimum and maximum elevation and maximum slope, I provide some tools to better prepare the bike tour.
Map (Google Maps): the path is divided into different colored segments: red for climbs, green for descents, yellow for mixed or flat segments. The typical corrugated altimetry of Marche hills makes the track multicoloured. On the map there are also the waypoints with their icons: water, slope, danger, GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna, highest points), interesting places. Click the icon to see the related informations or pictures.
Altitude profile: on the profile you can find waypoints as villages and GPM.
Climbs altimetry: altimetric profile with distance and related elevation; I provide all the features of the climb: length, elevation gain, average and maximum grade; in addition the climb is divided into segments with a constant slope, related to average grade categories with different colors. For every segment is indicated length and average grade. I provide even the highest slopes and some interesting waypoint along the climb.
GPS track: I provide a downloadable gpx file with track and waypoints. You can import the file in your gps device and follow the track.
Estimate of the elevation gain
The elevation gain is usually source of disagreement for cyclists. At the end of a tour they compare data of several cyclocomputer, GPS devices and smartphone applications and see that, while they agree about distance, there are very different altimetric data.
The GPS (global positioning system) allows the tracking by a radio signal, sent by a number of satellites orbiting the Earth, received by a specific device. The definition of the geographical coordinates needs the simultaneous signal of at least 4 satellites and for civil use devices is enough correct, with an approximation about a few meters.
That’s not true about elevation, because it is more difficult to measure. GPS is base on the approximation that the Earth is an ellipsoid, while it is a geoid, a sort of potato. The difference between geoid and ellipsoid can be important (in Italy is about several tens of meters). Locally gps devices can make corrections to have an acceptable approximation.
Another problem is the fact that satellites must be above the horizon to be “seen” by the device and that’s not the better situation to measure the elevation. The elevation gain is a processing of altitude data, so the error will become cumulative and the value won’t be reliable.
GPS devices equipped with altimeter can integrate GPS data with atmospheric pressure measure, that can be a reliable value in the short therm if the altimeter is calibrated every time it come to be in a point with a known elevation.
Garmin Etrex35 calibrate continuously the pressure altimeter with gps known elevation values. Data are combined to have reliable elevation values for our bike activity.
It’s not easy to tell how much a device with altimeter is more accurate than one without it. From my own experience, I can say that for a hilly track, with many climbs and descents, a smartphone app, only based on GPS data, usually gives a value of elevation gain 20% bigger than the one given by a Garmin with pressure altimeter. Obviously this is not a rule, but is usual.
In this blog the elevation gain comes from a GPS device with altimeter. Probably, for an itinerary with 1000 m of elevation gain the smartphone app will give a value of 1200 m. I think that the first value is more reliable, but, given the objective difficulty of the measure, I will call the value “estimate elevation gain”.