Written by Nathan Cloud on Thursday, 18 Mar 2010.
It is spring. It is warm. The snow is mostly melted. It is even raining right now.
What's up with that? It is simple: riding right now could do bad things to our trails! I know, I know, I hear ya: it is warm, the sun it out, your bike is probably sitting there screaming your name - we all want to ride! And who the hell am I to tell you what to do!? Relax. I am not here to lecture you or tell you not to ride. It is your choice, but remember they are also everyones trails. Do what you gotta do. All I know is this: singletrack is lot more fun than rutted loose doubletrack!
NEMBA spells it out pretty well: http://www.nemba.org/Articles/SoftRiding.html
So yeah, I figure a quick run through of some tools and resources that you can use to make informed riding decisions would be a nice thing to do right about now.
Perhaps the most useful thing this website has done, we have been cataloging these things since 2005! The premise is simple: You go riding then you add a trail report in order to tell the world how the conditions were. Entering one is easy as this:
- You pick a trail
- You pick a date
- You pick an appropriate recommendation
- You pop in some tags and maybe write up a little ditty about what you rode and what you saw
- Furthermore, if you are really good, you probably uploaded a GPS track for this ride as well, or maybe even shot some photos. Yeah, you should really add these as associations.
Seriously, it takes less than 2 minutes. Do it!
What's going on right now?
You can see a listing of trail reports entered within the past seven days, or you can hop to a map, like the one on the right, if you are more the visual type. Everything is color coded and (we hope) easy to understand.
Now for the invetible nerdy part
This information is available for you to use on your homepage, website, blog, whatever. In fact, we provide just about all of the data collected on this website to you in a variety of external feeds and formats. For example:
- RSS News Feed: This is a news feed containing the past 7 days worth of trail reports. Put this in your news reader, or as a widget on your blog, suck it to a database and have your way with it - it is all good.
- GeoRSS Feed: This is pretty much a RSS news feed with geographic details stuffed in there. Which means you can put it on a map.
- geoJSON Feed: We got this too. I am not even going to bother explain this one. If the word geoJSON means something to you, well, cool, you might see some potential for something here.
The bottom line is you can get this data almost any way you want it - just check out our Roll Your Own page and make some magic. All in all, the important thing here is to spread the word!
We are not alone in this effort!
We have a great bunch of mountain biking websites around here, and there's all sorts of other "trail conditions" information out there!
- Bikerag has a trail conditions forum.
- CT NEMBA has a bunch of very active trail ambassadors posting up "TA Reports".
- NEMBA has a whole forum category decidated to Rides and Trail Conditions.
- You can usually find some general trail banter over at the East Coast Trail Rider Reviews website.
If I am leaving any out for our area, drop me a line or just post up a comment!
Historical Precipitation Lookup Tool
Curious how much it rained in the past couple days, or weeks, at your favorite trail? Well...
I was doing a bunch of work trying to pull weather for the weather tab on the event data page when I came across the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. On initial look seems to be more about snow, but it actually provides all sorts of precipitation information, current and historical, that is collected from various weather stations across the country. I figured I could put this to use.
A few weeks later and I present to you the Crankfire Historical Precipitation Lookup Tool. It is pretty simple: you choose an end date, let us know how many days worth of data you want to look up, then click on the map where you want to know about. Basically I figure out the closest weather station, grab the appropriate data, do some math with it, then present it to you in a (hopefully) useful format.
Is it perfect? Nope. It does get its data from the "nearest weather station" - which could still be 10-20 miles away. Luckily, here in Connecticut, we are well covered, but elsewhere in the US? I don't know. Clicking on the "Station Info" tab will tell you how far away the reporting weather station is from where you clicked.
For general purposes though, I really think this could be a helpful tool.
What else can we do with this?
I already added hotlinks the sidebars of most data pages (trails, events, etc.) that brings to you right into this tool and brings up the past 7 days of the records location.
If I get motivated enough, I am considering of doing some statistical cross referencing with our trail report tags in hopes to determine approximately how much rain causes a trail to get tagged as "muddy". If I can determine that, I am thinking I can auto-generate trail reports.
That may be a little far-fetched/sci-fi-ish though.
Trail reports are good. The Historical Precipitation Lookup Tool is a little nerdy with a slight chance of being useful. I really hope these tools will help you make informed decisions about riding. Of course adding trail reports will help others do the same.