If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 4 June 2010

Tyred and emotional

I use Google Maps a lot for route-planning and just general curiosity-driven idle browsing. I also have a TomTom satnav (a car model, but usable on the bike at a pinch), which I use for - well, navigation, I suppose. It always struck me as very stupid that the two won't talk to each other. How good to be able to plan a route in Google Maps and then download it to your satnav and ride it. But I could never find a way to do this (there are ways, but you need to be pretty hot on the backroom tech to get anywhere - well beyond my limited abilities). Planning a route within the TomTom is possible, but so user-unfriendly that I would rather stick pins under my fingernails.

And then I found Tyre. Trace Your Route Everywhere. It's a small program written by a Dutch guy, Jan Boersma, and it allows you to do just that. It's available as a free download from here (donations welcome, of course). Open the program and you get a small home window. Click a button and it opens Google Maps. Click the map to create waypoints (all completely editable) and calculate a route. Then save the route and plug in your TomTom. Switch the satnav on, click on 'copy to TomTom' and you have the route in your list of itineraries on the satnav.

I went on a superb run round the mid-Wales reservoirs a few weekends ago, led by a guy called Bill. I mentioned this at my local TOMCC meeting last week, and this Sunday I find I am leading my own group round the same route. Me and my big mouth. One problem - I have only ridden the route once, and I never pay enough attention when someone else is doing the navigation. I was not 100% sure that I could remember it. I contacted Bill and he kindly emailed me his satnav route instructions, and from this I was able to work out the exact route.

Tyre is written by a biker and enthusiast rather than a Microsoft-certified programmer, so some of the ways of doing things are a little counter-intuitive, and the help files aren't really very helpful. You really have to just open the program and play with it. It took me three attempts at clicking and labelling all the waypoints and calculating a route, only for the program to close when I clicked 'OK'. The fourth time I managed it successfully. On this last attempt, I would say from starting to enter the waypoints to having it copied to my TomTom was about five minutes. It really is that quick.

The problem is that the program opens with a small dashboard-type window. When you open Google Maps this window disappears, but it is here that you have the facility to save routes and copy to the TomTom. When you have finished creating the route, you need to click 'Cancel' (huh?) and this will return you to the original window where you can complete the task - save and copy. If you finish the route and click 'OK', it spends a long time thinking, and then closes. If you reopen it, there is no record of your route anywhere. This is very frustrating, but forgiveable as Tyre is a) very useful, b) written by someone who does it for love not money, and c) totally free.

I have the route in the TomTom now, and I will take it with me on Sunday. (Having entered the route into Tyre four times, I think I have memorised it now, but I will take the satnav anyway.) I haven't fitted a charging point to the Triumph yet, so I will have to rely on the TomTom's battery, which is not massive, but I think I will get away with using it only for the bits I am unsure of. Which may well turn out to be none, who knows? I will post again when I am back and let you know how it works out.

And big thanks to Jan Boersma for working it all out and then making it freely available to everyone, for no other reason than he is an enthusiast. Good man.


  1. TYRE has been around for some time and now is even promoted through the Tomtom Home web site too.

    It's not a panacea - it just puts way points into the Tomtom that then merrily calculates a route between them...ergo...the route you may calculate with google maps may not be the route you get.
    I speak with bitter experience!
    The Gramin itn function allows many more way points and probably does not suffer from the Tomtom/TYRE WYWINNWYG syndrome.
    That reminds I must try and find the app that helps you bypass and manage way points whilst on a route - that was free ware too!

  2. Thanks for the info, Nikos - I didn't know that the TT recalculated for itself. That could be interesting. (In fact, that could explain a bit of a glitch I had last year in Belgium, when the route it sent me on was most definitely not the one I had planned in GM.) Hopefully I have put in enough waypoints to make the TT and Tyre routes identical.

    I'll be getting a Garmin Zumo eventually, I think, but funds don't allow that kind of excess at the moment. It's TomTom and gaffer tape or nothing.


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