Exploring

VeloViewer is an awesome tool for anyone who uses Strava and likes data. Like me.

It’s all too easy to only scratch the surface of what it can do, which it seems is almost limitless. One thing I didn’t pay any attention to until recently was the ‘Explorer’ score.

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That was until I saw a couple of things on Twitter about it and then read the VV blog about some of the top ‘Explorers’.

The aim of the game, and let’s face it, it is a game, is to paint the map red.

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It’s based on OSM Maps, and breaks them down into a chessboard like tile of squares. Each one is roughly 1.6km across. If you ride/run/walk/swim/ski etc in any part of a tile, it turns red.

Veloviewer records the number of squares you’ve been in, in my case 3,418. The number that everyone is after though is the ‘Max Square’. This is the biggest single number of complete tiles that form a square on the map. Mine is currently 10×10 around South London (the Blue one on the map above. It’s longer as I’ve done 15 rows worth, but only 10 columns, so there’s 5 different 10×10 squares shown there). The record is 68, held by someone in Belgium, whilst someone near London has made it to 50.

However, there’s a load of low hanging fruit on the edges I am eyeing up to grow the square. By riding through a few tiles to the East and West of where I live I should be able to get it up to 15×15 without too much trouble. There’s then a few chunks around Hounslow to the West and Croydon to the East which could get me near to 20×20. 30×30 isn’t that far off, but will require some long rides to tick off. Fortunately, it’s summer time and I’ve binned off crit racing for now so have plenty of time on my hands.

Bits in green below are what I’ll be going after first.

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Will update on here as and when my blue square gets bigger. When things get gamified I tend to get a bit addicted, eg Zwift. So this could become a bit silly. We shall see.

UPDATE 1: 05/05/17 – Bromley – 12×12

I had to make a trip to Bromley last night to get a kilt fitted for an upcoming wedding. This was the ideal excuse to tick off some of the squares down towards Kent and around Croydon.

This 50km ride after work took me across 16 new tiles and filled out most of the missing bottom-right corner of my previous square. I now need to go to work on filling in some blocks to the north & south. Off to the Lake District this weekend, then back to work on this next week.

New square below, and the green bit is what I’ll target next. Loads of new roads to discover down near Warlingham. The best thing about this challenge is that it forces you to discover new routes right next to where you ride all the time.

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UPDATE 2: 09/05/17 – Warlingham, Banstead – 15×15

Sun was out after work last night so I headed into the virgin territory of the map above. There were some fields, some hills, some empty lanes and a sunset, so it was a lot better than a Tuesday night on the sofa. It was a 75km ride in total, and I had to bail out at Epsom station and get the train back as I didn’t have any lights on me. Filling in this corner has got me up to 15×15 now.

Looking at the map below, there’s a trip to Canary Wharf on the cards soon, probably after work one day next week. That will bump me up to 17×17. After that it’s going to take a bit more time, distance and planning to start ticking off new bits. Good job the summer solstice is coming.

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Update 3: 16/05/17 – Canary Wharf, Greenwich, Lewisham, Bromley – 17×17

55km after work last night ticked off a big chunk to the East. I headed first to Canary Wharf and hoovered up some tiles there, before heading over to Greenwich and then south towards Lewisham and then Bromley.

Highlights of this mission included the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (wish I’d known this existed when I did the Football Grounds Ride) and some nice roads through Greenwich Park and onto Blackheath.

There’s a big area up around Wembley and Northolt which is next on the agenda.

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UPDATE 4: 22/05/17 – Wembley, Heathrow – 18×18 (should be 20×20!)

I missed a bit. Not quite sure how I managed it, but whilst following the route above I missed a tile in Alperton (never heard of or been there before). It’s somewhere near Wembley. The 130km I did over the weekend should have bumped me up to 20×20, but I’m stuck on 18 for now.

Heathrow threw up some unexpected delights. Whilst the roads around the perimeter were predictably flat, wide and industrial, just a few yards off these main arteries were some great spots. Both little villages, like the one below with top class topiary, and an awesome path between a couple of reservoirs near Stanwell. Not a route you’d find unless you were on a mission to find new routes .

Once I’ve filled in the rogue box in Alperton, I’ll try and cross off some of the areas to the south from Biggin Hill, to Redhill and on to Dorking. A few of these don’t have roads in them, which should be fun…

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UPDATE 4: 24/05/17 – Biggin Hill, Woldingham (+ Alperton) – 22×22

Tip-top weather this week. Made the most of it with 75km after work on Monday out into Kent and Surrey, back on the train from Leatherhead at 8.41pm. Great ride through some quiet lanes, amazing views and a tiny bridlepath near Headley that forced me to dismount for the first time whilst Exploring. Not bad for a Monday night though. I also went and ticked off the rogue tile I missed in Alperton yesterday on the way to watch some clubmates race at Hillingdon. Now 22×22, and not many nearby tiles left to ride…

UPDATE 5: 29/05/17 – Wisley, Redhill – 23×23

I went off into Surrey on Saturday to fill in a few empty tiles near Wisley, up a footpath on Whitedown Lane and over by Redhill. I’m now up to 23×23 and have no more easy targets. Not sure whether to continue with post-work 75km rides or not. I probably will, given the weather and the fact it’s light til after 9. My square looks like the below now. The easiest way to keep growing it will be to focus on the South towards Edenbridge and West towards both Godalming and Slough. It will need four or five rides to make much of a dent in either side, but a 29/30 should be reachable. If I get to that then I’ll have to look to the north around Edgware.

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UPDATE 6 – All Change! Back to 11×11

Having worked my way up to 23×23 in May, I now find myself back to square one, or 11×11, after a bit of a refresh of the way VeloViewer calculates the squares.

I don’t fully understand it, but from what I gather it’s because previously the ‘ride summary’ activity track was used to calculate where you’ve been which isn’t 100% accurate, particularly when it comes to entering or not entering a tile by just a couple of metres. This has been revamped and is now more accurate. Unfortunately for me, that means a load of tiles I thought I had ridden in, have now been removed.

My map now looks like this.

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There’s something like 6 11×11 squares within there now. Looks like there are a few easy to reach tiles which should build up into 16×16 or so fairly easily, and then maybe 2-3 longer rides to start recapturing some of the bits around the edge to return to 23×23. There’s also a new scoring system in addition to Max Square, the ‘Max Cluster’ which I think is the total number of tiles joined together in one clump (all the blue tiles above), and mine is currently 630. I wonder the Cluster will become the new currency of the world of tiling?

Anyway, tonight is last bike time before a week off at Glastonbury, so will head through a rogue missing tile in Kingston after work which will give my Square a nice short time expansion and then worry about the rest next week and beyond.

UPDATE 7 – New Colours, and back to 20×20

Last month I asked on the Ride Every Tile Strava Group if it was possible to change the tile colours to make the map a bit clearer on where you’d been and where was yet to be explored. In no time at all, Ben @ VV had seen this, commented and has now implemented it, which is nice. Can now make tiles, borders, squares and clusters any colour and shade you fancy. Going for a nice red/green mixture at the moment.

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I’ve nearly got back to the 23×23 I used to have, probably one ride to the south and one to the west this week and I’m back on track. Then need to decide if the Cluster or the Square is what I’ll try to build…

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UPDATE 8 – Back to 23×23

65km post-work last night through the grim bits of West London (Uxbridge, Southall, Hayes, West Drayton etc.) which ticked off three outlying tiles in the screengrab above. Now back to the 23×23 I had before the tweak in the calculations. No plans currently to make it a lot bigger, although I suspect in a week or two I’ll check the map again and those areas in the north west and south east will annoy me a bit and I’ll go and fill them in. If I do go and complete those areas I’m looking at 28×28 which is quite near 30×30, which is a nice round number…

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