Upcoming training rides I'm leading:
Saturday, April 26: Quadrophenia #9: Epic Dead Ends II, 56 miles
Saturday, May 10: Quadrophenia #10: Sierra Road, 72 miles
Saturday, May 24: Quadrophenia #11: Bohlman-On Orbit celebration, 34 miles

Show blog entries about: Upcoming rides | Ride reports | My own training

How much climbing is that?

So, you say you climbed 6,500 feet today? What does that mean? The sad answer is that, depending on what tools you're using to calculate elevation gain, it could mean just about anything. The major ride-mapping programs report vastly different climbing numbers for the very same route, as recorded in a GPX file for a 50-mile ride that I did today.
  • Raw GPX file: The file collected by my Strava Android app recorded 4,026 feet of climbing. This is already understood to be an unreliable number because the phone is not always a trustworthy source of accurate elevation.
  • Strava: 2,868 feet, using the USGS topographic database.
  • Map My Ride: 1,955 feet, computed from the GPX file.
  • Map My Ride: 1,969 feet, drawing the route myself in the program.
  • Ride with GPS: 5,275 feet. Its elevation profile is much more jagged, suggesting that the total is so much higher because no smoothing is done on the curves.
  • Bikely: Could not import the GPX file. However, Bikely is down so much these days that it's really not worth using anymore. (Update: I was finally able to draw, but not save, the route in Bikely, and I got 2,579 feet.)

When someone says a ride has a certain amount of climbing, it's important to know what they're using to measure it, so you can make an informed comparison. I've used Bikely for the past several years because, despite all of its faults, it produced elevation data that appeared to be very close to reality. Nowadays, however, I'm trying to use Strava when possible (but I'm still too cheap to pay for its premium service).