You’ve seen those scratch maps you can get, haven’t you? They allow you to scratch off the foil covering of places you’ve visited on a map, revealing more and more of the map underneath.
Though they’re really cool, they do have drawbacks. For starters, the map is a fixed-scale, and usually the scale is such that you can only scratch off an entire city, instead of a few streets. You can’t share a physical scratch map, nor can you (normally) cover multiple countries.
Digital scratch maps
Clearly, there’s room for a digital scratch map. Now, there are commercial services, such as Wandrer, that allows you to plot roads you haven’t yet cycled, and while that’s cool, there are other ways of doing this.
Specifically, I’m referring to Open Street Map. I’ve long been a big fan of the Open Street Map – it’s a Wiki, and everyone can (and should!) edit the map for their own area, adding those locals-only shortcuts you know about, and adding details, such as the path surface. Many other apps, including Strava, Garmin, Komoot, RideWithGPS and more use the Open Street Map, so by adding to the map, you’re making things better for everyone.
Open Street Map to the rescue
There’s a particular, and not very well-know OSM feature, which allows you to plot multiple GPX routes onto the same map, and then embed that map in a web site, blog, or similar. This feature is called uMap, and it’s very cool.
The downside is, to create a digital, online scratch map, you 1st need to download the rides you want to show as GPX files, then upload them to uMap. There’s no feature to simply automagically pull your data from Strava, but on the bright side, that limitation also allows you to cherry-pick which rides you want added to the map.
Strava bulk download
However, if you’re a Strava user, you can use the Strava Bulk Export option, to download your entire Strava archive. It can take hours before you receive the email from Strava, telling you your archive is ready for downloading, but once downloaded, simply extract your archive, to have all your rides as GPX files, in one location.
On uMap, you will need to log in – it supports various methods, including using the OSM account you’d need to edit the map, or even Twitter. Once logged in, click on Create A Map button. This will take you to a large map. Towards the top right corner, there will be a series of icons – click the one that is a small white arrow, pointed at with a red arrow in this image to the left.
Next, click Choose Files, browse to your downloaded archive of rides, and select the files you want, then click on the Import button.
uMap supports importing multiple files at once (the most I’ve done in one go was 1 901 GPX files) but you’ll probably find it works better to break the files down in batches, then import one batch at a time.
All you have to do now, is sit back and wait for the import to complete, and watch the map develop into your own, personal online scratch map.
When done, you can click the gear icon, to give your scratch map a name, and of course you can save the URL for the map (shown in the address bar of your browser) and send that to anyone as a link, so they, too, can explore the places you’ve cycled, including everywhere you’ve been cycle touring.
Bear in min that the GPX files you exported from Strava will include sections normally not shown to others, because of privacy zones you may have set. This means that, if you uploaded the Strava files as they are, and openly shared your scratch map with the world, anyone looking at your scratch map will easily see where you start from. This can have major privacy implications.
I crop such GPX files first, using RideWithGPS.