or How to avoid going insane trying to get the same route on your phone and your GPS.
There is a method that can keep the routing madness under control when trying to cause common GPS routing solution generation with REVER, Garmin GPS and Goldwing (2019+), or for that matter, any other GPS routing platform. Without observing some very specific procedures and settings in each platform, a common GPX waypoint listing can produce wildly different routes, leading to enormous confusion in a group ride where different riders are using different GPS systems.
The language chosen in the preceding paragraph speaks to the central principle that must be recognized in any effort to produce common routing results across multiple platforms, to wit, each GPS platform makes its own decisions about how to convert a list of waypoints (imported from another platform via a GPX file). Moreover, most platforms offer a set of routing decision biases (or Routing Options) that the user can select to influence how that platform produces a route (e.g., users may choose “Fastest Route” or “Curvy Roads” or “Avoid Highways”) And, of course, each platform makes its own decisions about how to implement a routing bias, even if one or more other platforms use exactly the same terminology to name the route bias (i.e. “Avoid Highways” on one platform is not guaranteed to have the same effect on a different platform). So…
The objective being addressed here is being able to generate a route in one platform and then export it to other platforms and get the same route on each of them.
The fundamental methodology is to create a route in one platform, export it to a different platform, compare the results, and IF THEY DO NOT AGREE, add waypoints to the route IN THE ORIGINAL PLATFORM and re-export the route to the target platform, to see if route agreement has been achieved. Eventually the original platform route will have enough waypoints in it to force the target platforms to produce a matching route. (Yes, this means the original platform has a bunch of waypoints in it that are superfluous on the original platform…but that is ok. They do not hurt the originating platform routing performance.
As a practical matter, it is important to set each platform to a routing mode that approximates that used on the originating platform. A lot of frustration will erupt if the originating platform is set to “fastest route” and disallows unpaved roads…but the target platform is set to generate the shortest route and allows dirt roads.
It must also be noted that the map databases that each platform use for route generation may disagree about map facts. (e.g., one may identify a road as unpaved, when satellite or “street view” in another platform makes it clear the road in question is, in-fact, paved). These sorts of disconnects are very difficult to overcome and may force you to simply abandon plans for that road and take another one (if you want the various platforms to agree on the route).
The “Why So Many GPS Platforms?” Sidebar
I can tell you why I use more that one platform. The #1 reason I always travel with a “REAL” GPS unit, despite how much I LOVE cloud-based navigation solutions like Google Maps or REVER, is that even though those platforms support downloading map data so that your cell phone continues to provide routing instructions even when you ride into a massive cell service dead zone, if you are in a dead zone and need to generate a new route (e.g., your riding buddy has had a wreck and you need to get to a hospital), the cloud-based smartphone navigation tools simply cannot do any route generations tasks without a network connection. Route generation is always handled by the server at the other end of the network connection. Yes, it is true, there are some smartphone/tablet navigation apps, such as Sygic (which works well in the USA, despite its decidedly European bias), that actually do local (using the phone’s processor and memory) route generation…and therefore are a suitable substitute for a “Real” GPS unit. But being a belt & suspenders kind of guy, I prefer my back-up navigation solution to be in a physically separate device so it will still work if the cell phone stops working, whether the cause is a bad cell connection or a dead battery, or because I dropped it.
So, having said all that, what follows is methodology I have developed and, for the most part, like using.
2. The Tools
I depend on Google Maps, Garmin Zumo and lately REVER (https://a.rever.co/). I have been a heavy user of GPS navigation since the first handheld moving map GPS was released for sale by Garmin (I still have mine.). And I can say with complete enthusiasm, REVER is, by far, the easiest motorcycle route planning tool I have ever seen, despite a little wonky weirdness in the user interface. I love it and use it to plan new ride routes at home on my computer, despite the fact the cell phone version goes stupid without a live network connection. And it must be said, the cell phone version, intended to be used while you ride, does have some pretty cool features...more if you get the paid version, notably, live weather overlays on your live route map. Despite that, the Garmin Zumo is by far the best on-bike active navigation system to use while on a ride, especially to places with spotty cell phone coverage (indeed, usually my favorite places to ride). But route planning on the Zumo is practically impossible...and doing it on the Garmin route planning PC program, BaseCamp, is just plain painful…doable, but painful. Route planning on the Goldwing Navigation System is both difficult and dumb. (Who wants to sit in the garage for hours thumbing the control buttons like it was a flip phone?!) And using the Goldwing Navigation System on the road is the worst. Nanny Attitude has rendered it unusable for anything but long hauls down hundreds of miles of straight interstate highways. A rider cannot even change the zoom view of the display while in motion! Pass.
Therefore, my methodology is to generate routes in REVER and then export them (via GPX files) to other platforms, notably the Garmin Zumo, and the Honda Goldwing Navigation System (for my friends who only have the Goldwing system to back up REVER on their phones when they are on a ride).
My previous first love was Google Maps, and I still use Google Maps more than any other platform on a daily basis. But Google Maps has a fatal flaw (besides going dumb without a network connection). It will not export or import a GPX waypoint listing. In the past I would develop a route in Google Maps (using the Topo map, Street View, Satellite View, and various routing options) to generate routes I could believe in, and then recreate those routes by hand in Garmin BaseCamp so I could load them into my Garmin Zumo or export them to other platforms via the BaseCamp GPX export feature (which often proved unsuccessful).
So, here’s the inside scoop (not fact checked, but I believe this is true based on my own observations) … REVER is pretty obviously based on Google Maps. Both platforms seem to be working from the same database and implementing virtually identical routing algorithms (which is just me being tentative…they really look identical to me).
The downbeat on this is that the OEM Goldwing (+2019) Navigation system ALSO seems to have Google Maps DNA. It is useful to note that the Honda Route Planning tool (now discontinued in favor of sending Goldwing customers to REVER) was absolutely shamelessly built on Google Maps…suggesting, at least to me, that the INDEPENDENT routing algorithms that have been implemented in the Goldwing navigation system have been intentionally designed to mimic the decisions being made by the Google Maps servers when they build a route.
So…given that my personal objective has been to generate routes in one platform and then have them successfully reproduced, turn-for-turn, by my cell phone (formerly running Google Maps but now running the REVER app), my Garmin Zumo, and a Goldwing Nav System, REVER has emerged as the right choice for initial route planning and the obvious source for GPX data to be used by both BaseCamp (on the way to the Zumo) and the Goldwing Nav System. It works pretty darn well, IF you have your settings right on each platform AND you follow the baseline procedure (which is: If you see an error / route discrepancy, FIX IT IN THE SOURCE ROUTE. Yes, it seems like a time-consuming PIA…but it eliminates a ton of chasing your own tail later. Do yourself a favor. Make the commitment to use the methodology
A Word to the Wise: I have seen, on multiple occasions, GPX routes, exported from Garmin BaseCamp, are scrambled. Waypoints are re-ordered such that when they are put into a different platform, the resulting route makes no sense at all. I do not pretend to know why this happens, but it does. Bottom line: Do not expect an exported Garmin route to work.
3. Platform Settings
First, a word on the backbone of the methodology recommended here. The key to making matching routes across multiple platforms is to put enough waypoints into the initial route planning tool for the exported GPX file to have so many waypoints that the receiving device effectively has no choice but to generate a matching route (almost regardless of the receiving platform’s route planning option settings). As a practical matter, that is not actually achievable, because radically wrong settings on the receiving platform will screw things up. Still, at the highest-level view of all this, route planning option choices are secondary…very important, but secondary, to setting enough waypoints.
Note: This is the significant way in which using Google Maps for route planning can be counter-productive, and would be, even if it would allow export of a GPX file. Google Maps allows TOO FEW waypoints to be added to a single route. So few waypoints are allowed, a user must string multiple Google Maps routes together to get an adequate waypoint list. (I am talking to you Google…this is a dumb restriction.)
Therefore, while I may use some of the gross routing option choices, like Avoid Highways, in the early stages of looking at a potential route, when it comes to building the route file I actually plan to use, I generally ONLY select Avoid Unpaved Roads. In REVER, this is a first-level configuration choice when you start your route planning. Find it and use it if you are a road rider. Adventure riders may want to make a different choice.
Pro Tip: Different map databases disagree on which roads are paved and which ones are dirt. If your routes in the boonies will not converge over multiple platforms, check that first as it is likely to be the problem.
To be absolutely clear, the way I get the initial route on Rever that I want is to put in enough waypoints to get me where I want to go (usually avoiding Interstates, freeways, tollways, steel-mesh roadway bridges, ferry crossings, and rattlesnake dens).
The REVER planning tool first lets you pick what type of riding you want to do (on-road or off-road) and then offers three routing bias rules: Avoid Tolls, Avoid Hwy, Avoid Ferry. I choose Avoid Tolls. Whether you elect to Avoid Tolls or anything else, it is likely to be best if you use a similar setting on other platforms.
Garmin is a little more complicated. Before the REVER GPX output file can be put into Zumo, it needs to pass through BaseCamp. BaseCamp will turn the GPX file into a native Garmin Zumo file that can be loaded into the Zumo. BaseCamp allows you to (actually, requires you to) set a suite of baseline routing preferences for each class of activity you may choose to associate with the route in question. Obviously, the route you would get If you set the route class to Hike (on foot) vs. Automobile, the route produced will be wildly different. And there are subgroups of activities such as Fastest Motorcycling or Shortest Automobile trip. The point is, the route comes into BaseCamp undifferentiated (from Garmin’s point of view), so once in BaseCamp, the route must be opened and assigned an activity class by the user. BaseCamp does not generate a road route until the class is set. Normally, one would set the route to Motorcycling. Automotive is also a workable setting. And, my nominal routing preference for the Motorcycling activity when touring with Garmin is Fastest Route.
Note: The “+2019” denotes the latest generation Goldwing (the Goldwing Tour and derivatives) which has different GPS than earlier Goldwing models. It is better, but it still sucks.
The Goldwing GPS also offers just a few route bias options. Believe me, you don’t want to be in the dirt with a Goldwing. Other than that, choose lightly.
4. The Procedure
Now that you have these pages of background information in mind, the actual procedure is very simple.
B. Go back to REVER and add a waypoint in a strategic spot on the REVER route and then go back to Step 2.
In REVER, put the new waypoint directly on the existing REVER route in the spot some distance past where the target platform diverged from the REVER route. This is to force the target platform to pull the route to the desired route. The key is to pick a spot that is far enough down the REVER route for the target platform to plot the route to THAT spot AND continue along the REVER route, rather than double back and try to return to the divergent route plotted by the target system. Sometimes multiple additional waypoints are required to prevent the target system from misbehaving.
*Note: I always choose the “Export to Goldwing +2019” option…ESPECIALLY if I am going to export the route to my Garmin Zumo! Yes, I know there are some Export to Garmin options. I was not happy with the outcome.
5. But What About Google Maps?!
I love Google Maps and use it on a daily basis; more than any other phone app. I use it for ordinary local route driving, whether running errands, or for current traffic conditions while commuting, or to just find phone numbers and/or reviews of local businesses. But the fact remains, it just stinks for cooperating with other platforms. If you have a multi-platform task at hand, I say avoid Google Maps at all cost. If you insist on trying to replicate a route on Google Maps, the fastest, least painful way to do it is by hand, typing in waypoint by waypoint the duplicate route you want to create. Yuck. The better choice is to get a free copy of REVER. (BTW, I get no compensation from REVER or anyone connected with them for these comments.)