See this post for the introduction to this ongoing topic.
For all of the evaluations I am using the basic 4 Corners of the USA route: Rochester, NY > Madawaska, ME > Blaine, WA, > San Ysidro, CA > Key West, FL > Rochester, NY (a trip I one day hope to take).
Harley Davidson’s Ride Planner has been my go-to option for all trips longer than a day or two. Most folks I’ve spoken to haven’t even heard about it, which surprises me, as it has a terrific interface, the ability to save maps, and on-the-fly shared map viewing for tips from other Ride Planner users. Use requires a free account/profile with your email address. In the 2 or 3 years I’ve been using Ride Planner, I’ve never received an email from HD that I didn’t specifically ask for. HD Ride Planner has gone back to Google for their maps (they had switched to Bing for a little while last year) which makes me quite happy.
Creating a new route is a breeze. Simply enter the address in the Start Location field and click on GO.
[singlepic id=11 w=320 h=240 float=left] The destination field opens up, and, when entered, the route is drawn very quickly. The routing options are limited to only Avoid Highways, but what is really nice is that you don’t have to apply a blanket condition to the entire route. In the 4 Corners route, for example, I could avoid highways for the trip up to Madawaska (which adds 3.5 hours and 30 miles to the overall trip) and then choose to take the highways across to Blaine, WA, saving 11 hours and 100 miles according to their estimations.
One of the things I like most is the clean layout of the page. The map takes of most of the real estate, and destinations are listed in the left sidebar with collapsible directions. It’s not quite as clean as Google Maps’ window, but it’s nice.
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Something that wasn’t typical in my previous uses was this window that kept popping up whenever I clicked the Avoid Highways for this segment option:
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It always went away when I hit OK, but it’s frustrating. I’m pretty sure it’s happening because of the amount of data being transferred to/from HD’s servers, so this is something that may prove to be problematic in a real-world, detailed, trip-planning scenario. I’ll definitely update this post if that turns out to be the case.
[singlepic id=12 w=185 h=72 float=left]Because Ride Planner uses Google’s core mapping functionality, all of the same basic commands are available. Zooming, dragging to adjust the route, adding waypoints and locations, they are all in Ride Planner. [singlepic id=10 w=284 h=176 float=right] Additionally, clicking on the primary destinations in the directions sidebar zooms the map to street level at that location. I wish it did that for the individual turn-by-turn locations, but I guess that’s asking too much.
One of the functions I really like is the ability to see what routes other users have taken in relation to where the Ride Planner is sending you. At the top of the page are 4 icons: Roads, Dealers, Hotels, and Events:[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=center]
And of course, now that I am writing up a review, I keep getting that annoying window whenever I try to access that particular function. Bad day for a tech failure, HD! If I can, I’ll post an update with some screen shots whenever they get it fixed. Being able to see roads that other riders suggest is a nice feature, however, and even though it isn’t working at the moment it’s still worth checking out.
Saving the map is the simplest of any routing site I have found, and puts Google to shame. Simply click on the SAVE button in the bottom left of the screen:
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As you can see, you can also email the map to someone or print out the directions.
Saving it comes with several options:
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If you choose to save it publicly, then all of that information is available to other riders (assuming they are able to connect to the HD servers and view the route, anyway!). Once saved, that route is available in your Saved Ride Plans and accessible whenever you return:
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Now that I have a GPS, I’m also interested in being able to export the route to my Garmin Zumo 660. This is a major headache with Google, but HD makes it simple. The GPS SYNCHRONIZATION button in the upper right hand corner brings up these options:
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Most of Garmin’s units are able to be detected automatically as far as I can tell, but even so, manual mode exports a GPX file of the route which can be read by virtually every GPS unit on the market.
With the exception of a more detailed filter for road selection, HD’s Ride Planner meets every need I have and then some. It’s easily the best online route planning utility I have discovered.