Another chaotic update on bikemap.net

Returning from a bike journey rarely goes without its share of bad news. After a wonderful 3100 km tour along the Baltic Sea coast, through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden, I started mapping the itinerary in order to publish it here. Unfortunately, I discovered that bikemap “updated” the route editor and that the new version is not working properly – to be short.

As this is far from being the first time long-term bikemap users face such a disappointment, I wrote an email to the support team and posted a reaction on a discussion thread in the Help Center – which later suddenly disappeared…

I won’t write more about this here but would like to encourage all visitors who also use bikemap.net to and ask for a quick restore of the previous very efficient and faultless route editor. More details can be found in the copy of my last message to bikemap team (sent August 23rd, 2019), which I paste hereunder.


Text of my last message to bikemap team (or read it online here)

A recent discussion thread entitled “Issues with the latest route editor” has been deleted from the Help Center although its content was of greatest importance to all bikemap users struggling with the unfinished, poorly tested and very bugged new route editor.

I’m not joking – the URL was : https://help.bikemap.net/hc/en-us/community/posts/360033370034-Issues-with-the-latest-route-editor

Several users reported the difficulties which arose following the so-called “update” of the route editor in late June or July 2019.

Before that unconsidered action, the route editor was WORKING PERFECTLY and meeting all users’ needs for a RELIABLE and EFFICIENT route recording tool. This painfully reminds long-term users several previous disastrous bikemap “site updates” which ended in loss of user data and countless hours of bug reporting…

In the above mentioned deleted discussion thread, the last post was from bikemap Help Center and said (I copy from my email) :

We are constantly trying to improve our application. With the new route editor some things changed. Especially for our long term and very loyal users this update might not meet their expectations.

Since we released the update, we were constantly improving the functionality and hereby reacted to user feedback. Among others, we for example increased the number of waypoints on the route and managed to improve the overall performance of the editor, which leads to way faster loading. Indeed some issues still exist: the new editor doesn’t support old browser versions or operating systems anymore – the gray screen will appear. In this case we are sorry to tell you that, in order to use the editor, you might consider upgrading your system.

With further updates, we will keep on working on the editor. Feedback from our users is very valuable because it tells us in which area we have to work even harder.

Big thanks to the community to be so active and enthusiastic – we promise, give our best!” (end of quote)

The question of loss of compatibility with older operating systems and browsers has another name : PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE. “Upgrading an operating system” on a single machine is not possible, due to software compatibility issues, hence we talk of changing the machine itself. But in the days of global warming, resource depletion and uncontrolled proliferation of waste, would it be responsible to replace a well working machine which has a “life expectancy” of around 15 to 20 years – before it really dies ? The answer is clearly NO and I thought a team promoting sustainable mobility would at least share this opinion and ensure durable compatibility with proven older OS.

Furthermore, I do not understand which “improvement” you’re talking about when we all experience a very faulty editor, not worth half the performances of the former version. Although I know it is a habit of our time to affirm things that do not match reality, I don’t consider this as fair towards users.

Want details ? I tested the editor on a borrowed Windows 10 machine, and here is what I found out.

1) With the previous editor, you could left-click on any part of the route and pull it to another position between two already recorded waypoints. This isn’t possible anymore, as no new waypoint can be inserted on a previously recorded section. If you want to modify a section you now have to DELETE all further waypoints and start again from that point.

2) With the previous editor, you could switch several times between the magnet tool and the freehand tool in a single route without any problem. The route did stick to official roads with the magnet tool and roam wherever you wanted with the freehand tool. Now, switching back to the magnet tool after a section recorded with the freehand tool spoils your work : a few days back, the section recorded with the freehand tool was just moved back on the road, as if I had used the magnet tool. I lost 10 km or so. Today, it’s even worse, no matter the alleged work to improve the editor since our messages to the Help Center : when returning to the magnet tool after 10 km drawn with the freehand tool, 200 km of carefully hand-recorded route was lost. Just gone ! What an improvement, indeed ! Of course, I did not save this mess…

3) With the previous editor you could right-click on the route to deactivate it and start a new unconnected section. This was very useful to record longer journeys, in which public transport has been used as connection. Possibility lost with the last version.

4) When switching from Basic to Google Maps or Google Hybrid, the route gets totally “disconnected” from the map layer : the track is displayed on a random map and you can move it around as you want but the map doesn’t follow (see screenshot).

I did not test any further as I have better things to do, but I’m sure we could add more bugs to that list.

Reference of testing route : https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/5211958/ (private)

Now, please tell me : would any SERIOUS person call this mess an improvement ? Is it so difficult to thoroughly test a major update before imposing it to users without any possibility to revert to the faultless previous version ? How can we trust your words (“give our best”, “made with love”) when we face such a disappointing result ? And why don’t you allow users to report bugs, express their concern, worries or anger on a dedicated forum thread after you deprived them of a very efficient tool ? Fearing a tsunami of criticism ?

A website like bikemap should be staffed (or at least headed) by cyclists. Because true cyclists want to spend their time out in nature, cycling, not sitting in front of a computer. And if they agree to share their routes with others, hoping to get more people on a bicycle and less in bloody cars or planes, their work is most of the time 100% volunteer and as such deserves respect. Now, if the tool they were using doesn’t work anymore or repeatedly requires hours of bug reporting, they will give up and turn back to bike only – and the web will get a bit closer to become the “ugliest place on Earth”…

So, may I suggest that we organize a crowdfunding action in order to offer bicycles to the geeks and tech guys who once again brought the mess into bikemap ?

Thank you in advance for your attention and TRUE efforts to fully restore the possibilities and performances of previous route editor.

Raphael Clerici
dedicated cyclist and loyal user of bikemap since 2011 (158 hand-recorded routes, among which several long distance journeys)
www.europebybike.info (100% non-commercial website)

5 thoughts on “Another chaotic update on bikemap.net

  1. Hello Raphael,

    Thanks you very much for your productive and honest feedback.

    We are a team of 15 bike enthusiastic people, working on Bikemap (website + apps) every day with the idea of making cycling better, easier and more convenient. We have now 2.2 M users worldwide and our community grows from day to day. We are really proud to present a product which is worth for thousands of people to pay for. Next to really positive motivating feedback from our community, this is something we really appreciate, because it shows us, that we in fact providing something valuable for cyclists worldwide.

    As you might can imagine, it’s very difficult for us to follow all interests of 2.2 M users. We get a lot of feedback, improvement ideas, feature requests, bug reports and functionality questions and so on. Our main focus is always the satisfaction of our users. Though, there will be always things people are not cool with. Regarding the route editor, especially users who are using Bikemap already for a longer period of time reported an unwanted conversion to something new. We fully understand their concerns, though, this number, compared to users who are satisfied with our service and do like it, is infinitesimal. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about their concerns: with further updates and new versions we are constantly reacting to requests.

    You are right that some people expressed their displeasure through our forum, though we decided to shut the forum down, not because we cannot handle criticism, but because we think that support is way more efficient and easier to handle directly through mail and an developed help center (we are currently overworking and extending it). In addition, the demand was not very high. In other words: not enough people were using the forum to be efficient.

    We are a tech start-up and as you might can imagine, to provide newest technology applications to the market is a major competitive advantage. Bikemap is a free software for everybody and it’s not caused by us that technology is developing and people – if they want to use specific software – have to go along with that. It’s everybody’s own decision to use a software, a smartphone or an app to navigate while cycling – we will not force anybody.

    To answer 1) – 4) – we are already aware of those and working on mentioned unwanted behavior. As mentioned above, we are a small team with limited developer resources. Therefore we kindly ask for being a patient until we can finally release updates. At the moment we are in the testing phase of a new update which is going to be released expectedly next week.

    Thanks for your loyalty over the years and hopefully you will enjoy Bikemap in the future. If you have specific ideas on how to improve and develop, we will always have an open ear, but please also take into consideration that there are other users with other interests who are very happy with our product as it is. We will continue to improve Bikemap for you!

    Thank you & best regards,

    Your Bikemap-Team

    Happy Cycling

    • Hello Astrid, Hello Matthias,

      Thank you for your detailed answer, which shows that you do care about bikemap’s users.

      I have been particularly upset to learn that I cannot use bikemap anymore with my older OS, because it is the very first online service with which this happens : WordPress still works perfectly, as do Google Maps/My Maps, Flickr, Piwigo, YouTube, weather forecast services, SkyVector, Swiss Radio and many others that I’m using.

      I understand that among so many users there are people with different interests regarding bikemap and agree with you when you write that it’s difficult to make all of them satisfied. Nevertheless, I still think that so-called new features should not be developed at the cost of previous 100% efficient solutions.

      Now, I really wonder what those “new features” and “users’ requests” are, as I cannot find more than two “improvements” since year 2011 :
      – one major but already old upgrade, allowing to draw routes with the magnet tool even outside main roads, ie on remote forest tracks, cycle paths and single paths (before, we had to map thousands of waypoints with the freehand tool when the itinerary was leaving the asphalt) ;
      – one minor upgrade, allowing to upload a picture without re-editing the full route itself.

      In the same time, the vertical profile utility was downgraded and todays’ profiles aren’t by far as accurate as they used to be in the first years of my membership.

      This is what I can say in full honesty, regarding bikemap’s evolution since 8 years.

      I cannot talk of the mobile business as I’m struggling to keep digital devices at home to enjoy genuine nature experiences when cycling. But once again, I think that the mobile app should not be developed at the cost of the website’s efficiency.

      I would certainly be a premium user if :
      – I’d have any use of the premium features
      – the efficiency of the website could be guaranteed on the long-term, even in case of “update”
      – I’d be in a less precarious economic situation (to cycle more, because I need it, I spend less time working for a salary).

      Although not being a premium user, I think I’ve contributed to the popularity of bikemap in the last 8 years through a very serious and meticulous use of my account : I personally rode all published routes, which have been recorded by hand and follow exactly the ridden itinerary (some exceptions are due to the impossibility to draw a route outside main roads with an older version of the editor). I wrote a description for each route and added a picture to enhance the level of information for visitors, who sometimes rate the route : 83 out of 155 have been given 5 stars. Moreover, most routes have been published on this website, together with much more information – at least in French, as I cannot find time to translate all this in English. Here are some examples of what I want to do with longer routes :

      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/baltique-et-scandinavie/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/tour-de-bourgogne/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/sardaigne-et-corse/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/via-francigena-martigny-rome/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/douvres-iles-orcades-ncn-route-1-royaume-uni/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/balade-scandinave-danemark-suede-finlande/
      http://www.europebybike.info/routes/geneve-calatayud-hendaye/

      The shorter routes, day tours and MTB rides get the same treatment on Europe by bike, as free time allows.

      And this is all volunteer work : I didn’t earn a single coin – and will continue to do so, at least as long as I can handle the many deceptions that I’m facing on the web. Resilience is the keyword, here.

      Back to the technical facts.

      I borrowed a laptop last Wednesday (4th September) to continue mapping this Summer’s journey and here are my observations (reference of testing route : https://www.bikemap.net/en/r/5211958/ – private).

      1) the problem with magnet tool/freehand tool is still there : although I could revert to the magnet tool without problem after a first section drawn with the freehand tool, I cannot use the freehand tool anymore and am stuck in a place where there’s a pedestrian bridge which doesn’t exist for the magnet tool ; unfortunately, switching to the freehand tool spoils everything, as the route is redrawn as a straight line between the last use of the freehand tool, hundreds of kilometers away, and the present place (missing bridge)…

      2) the reported bug with Google Maps and Google Hybrid views is not fully repaired (number 4 in my last message)

      3) automatic calculation of distance (and climb, but this isn’t reliable) differs between the editor and the saved route

      4) it is not yet possible to start a new route section in the same map (deactivating the first section with a right-click, number 3 in my last message)

      5) waypoints icons are not displayed in the Openstreetmap (OSM) view

      6) no terrain map layer of Åland archipelago between Finland and Sweden in the Basic mode view

      I hope that this report will be useful in the process of rebuilding a new route editor for all users who care for their maps – including the many who share the present statements and opinions but do not, for any reason, express themselves.

      I will be patient, but hoping that the repair won’t be too long as I’m recording my routes with limited written support and accuracy cannot be guaranteed when memories have faded away.

      Thank you for your attention and best regards,
      Raphael

      • As a complement to my previous message, because you mentioned that I should share any wish for new features.

        So, apart a fully working editor with all previous features, I think it would be very nice to have the possibility to edit the route description (route title, text “about this route” and tags) without editing the full route with the waypoints. WordPress has such a “quick-edit” function, allowing to work on categories, tags, author, date of publication and some other parameters, without editing the article itself.

        This would be particularly useful to update description and tags of longer routes, while avoiding any risk of damage to the route itself during the process. Some of my own longer routes were indeed damaged during a re-save…

        I already mentioned this idea long long ago – so maybe it’s a bad one…

        That’s all for today.

        Kind regards,
        Raphael

  2. HI Raphael,
    I agree with you. Bikemap had a perfect route editor. Now the route editor is nearly useness. I now use ViewRanger instead. ViewRanger’s magnet-tool is not as good as Bikemap was, but with ViewRanger you can free hand create routes and edit routes.

    May be Bikemap have lost a license to a 3. party route editor or hire a programmer this summer who just wants to change everything. I know this person type. I am a retired programmer.

    Best regards
    Jesper

    • Thank you Jesper for your comment and advice regarding ViewRanger.

      ViewRanger looks even more mobile-oriented than bikemap, so I won’t make the move for the time being. I’m just interested in a trustful desktop solution.

      So far, bikemap always repaired what was damaged by “updates”, so we can hope it will continue and we’ll enjoy a working editor in a few days or weeks.

      But there’s one thing that won’t be repaired : the loss of compatibility with older OS. For that reason, I won’t record as many routes as before…

      Wishing you great rides during the most beautiful season of the year – to start very soon.

      Cheers,
      Raphael

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