While prepping for a recent family holiday, I was (obviously) having a look at what cycling routes Huli could create me. Those familiar with Huli will know that we create descriptions for every route that tells you what to expect, but it also quantifies the amount of major/minor roads (in road routes) or gravel paths (in gravel routes) you’ll experience - e.g. 75% off-road, 55% on minor roads. We also show you where they appear in your route with our surface/road type map layers. After seeing the Huli suggested routes for holiday, I quickly realised that is was not a gravel destination! sob sob. After our recent update that I outlined in the The Trouble With Rights of Way, the amount available has been reduced further.
This got me thinking about visualising regions based on their suitability for different activities
So, can we create a map that highlights the best gravel? Best road? Steepest hills?
A good use case being, "I only want to go on holiday where the gravel is great. I think that is a perfectly legitimate request 😄 and as far as I’m aware, you’d struggle to answer it definitively. Until now?...
I started playing around with the data we have and have came up with gravel and road heat maps for the UK:
With a bird’s-eye view, you can get a clear picture of the areas where you are likely to find good gravel/road. We can also go to another level, and split Scotland, England and Wales into their council regions:
I want to point out that this is subjective based on Huli data, and is a first attempt at producing something like this. So please don’t shout at me if you think I’m under-rating your area…
We’ve also produced a steepness map, so if you are slightly unhinged, this one is for you. Similarly, if you are organising a TT race, you know where to go for the flattest course and hopefully fastest times. Note I’ve flipped the scale here so that red is steep and green is flat!
So that's the macro-level, but what about the micro-level? I decided to take a closer look at London…
To check if this somewhat accurate, I cross referenced the steepest hills map with a few articles I found highlighting the steepest roads around London. One by a few brothers going by Broleur here and one by London Cyclist here and I'm happy to say that it matched up pretty well.
A quick point around how I've actually coloured these figures without going into too much detail:
For the road and gravel heat maps across the entire UK and Ireland, I've split the region into 20km squared tiles. As every path and road in our network has a cost associated with it, I've taken the average cost per tile of all paths and roads within that tile. This cost accounts for the length of the road/path (less junctions = less interruptions), traffic, surface quality, number of lanes, road classification, elevation and much more. Each tile has then been scaled against the tile with the largest (worst) score. I can then use the green to red scale to represent it. Green highlighting 20km squares that are great for gravel or road, depending on what map you are looking at. For the London maps it is the same process, except that each tile is 2km squared. I've then followed the same process for the council boundaries, replacing the tiles with the actual borders of each council region.
For the steepness maps, I've taken the average gradient for each tile/council region, and scaled it based on the max value. So something that is really red is really steep!
So where do we go with this now? We can personalise these to any region, with any circle radius. Similarly we can do a deep dive on specific council regions.
Is that useful? We think so, but do you?
If you are interested in seeing your own personallsed map then let us know using the form below and we'll be in touch. Similarly, if you have some good ideas on where we can go next with this, or perhaps you want to work with us to produce something unique to your area, then reach out to me at email@example.com.