Introducing the Explorer Cluster (and configurable explorer visuals)

Since the introduction of the Explorer Score and Explorer Max Square there have been requests for some sort of metric to represent the maximum number of connected Explorer tiles. The recent improvement in the calculation of completed Explorer tiles sparked a very active discussion which resulted in the refinement of the concept and the creation of the Explorer Cluster. The Explorer Max Square provides a hard-core challenge but can be tricky for people who live in geographically challenging areas or have key tiles which are completely inaccessible.  This is where the Explorer Cluster looks to provided a more level playing field.

What is a Cluster?

Your Max Explorer Cluster is the largest set of connecting, visited Explorer Tiles which each have their four immediate neighbouring tiles (above, below, left & right) also visited.  In the above image, taken from my own Activities page, you can see all of the visited explorer tiles coloured in red & blue. The blue tiles are showing my Max Explorer Cluster.  Each one of those blue tiles has a visited tile (i.e. red or blue) immediately above and to the side.  As you can see near the top left corner, missing a single tile results in a hole of 5 tiles in the cluster.  The idea is obviously to make the biggest cluster you can!

To view your own Explorer Cluster turn on the map in your Activities page and you’ll see the Explorer toggle and these three buttons at the bottom:

  • Explorer checkbox turns the Explorer tiles, Max Square and Max Cluster on/off in the map.
  • Max Square button – zooms to Max Square (turns on Explorer if not already on).
  • Max Cluster button – zooms to Max Cluster (turns on Explorer if not already on).
  • Explorer settings button – see below.

Summary page – Max Cluster Value and Leaderboard/Distribution

On your Summary page you will now see your Max Cluster value in your Activity Stats. Like all the other stats on that page if you change the top filters then it will update with the requested values.

Click the “Club and Overall Yearly Leaderboard” button at the top right of your Activity Stats and you’ll now find an “Explorer (max cluster)” option for the distributions and leaderboards with all the normal filters (year and activity type) and group choices (overall, the athletes you follow and by club).  For the Explorer stats it is probably best to view by all years.

Explorer settings

Earlier I mentioned the Explorer settings button that you find below the map on your Activities page, pressing that opens the above popup that allows you to choose all the colours used for the Explorer tiles, Max Square and Max Cluster both on this page and also in the Strava Route Builder when using the VeloViewer Chrome Extension.  You can pick all of your preferred colours (and transparency) with separate options for satellite view map styles as you will probably want much lighter colours to show up on those sorts of maps.

If you don’t want to see the new max Cluster on your map then you can just configure the colour of the Cluster to match that for a normal visited tile.

A big thank you to everyone on the “Ride Every Tile” Strava group and Facebook for their comments and thoughts on this and a special thanks to Pete Bartlett for the effort he put in to prove the idea over on his blog – //

Happy Exploring!

0 thoughts on “Introducing the Explorer Cluster (and configurable explorer visuals)

    • You only have one max-cluster but if you use any of the filters on the Activities list then the explorer tiles, max square and max cluster will be recalculated for the selected data.

    • That’s already there Alex. On your Summary page just filter by year (or type/gear) to get it to calculate your explorer stats based on that. Yearly leaderboards are also available.
      On your Activities page then as you set filters the explorer tiles/square/cluster will also dynamically update.

      • What would be really nice would be some kind of metric for how many feet you had to climb for each tile!
        You’re all doing amazingly out there on your huge clusters but I’m killing myself in the hills and mountains inland of San Diego! Then again – I don’t have the rain to put up with.. 😉

        • I’m afraid that would be a bit too involved to work out as it would require the full data steam (lat/lng/elevation) for each activity. For the majority of the data it will be just using the lat/lng summary map so no elevation data available to the code at that point.

          • Tobias Steinberger says:

            Yes a 3D Max Square counting the climbing effort per tile as well would be even greater fun 😀

    • You can in the Activities list page. Just turn on the “Activity name” filter and then prefix the word with a minus sign to exclude that data e.g. -windy
      There is also a “Ride/Run Type” filter that you can use.
      The Explorer info in the map will update based on those filters.

  • I like the Explorer feature and Cluster idea. I planned a ride using the Chrome VV extension which went really well, but I missed a tile due to my Garmin having a bit of a moment just South of Faversham. I thought there was a SNAP feature somewhere but I can’t seem to find it, any idea where it is? Otherwise I’ll have to ride it again, which isn’t the end of the world, just slightly annoying. Thanks!

  • I think it would be rather interesting if you expressed the cluster not just as the raw number but as the square root of the cluster to give it an equivalence of the max square.

    Also adding a feature to the VV chrome plugin that shows tiles that you have already planned routes through would be amazing for planning multiple routes before going out and riding them.

    Keep up the great work.

    • I think I’ll leave it as the simple total of clustered tiles. The geography of the area has a massive influence of the max square in a way that isn’t as applicable to Clusters (the main reason for introducing clusters in the first place) so I don’t think they are that comparable for lots of users.
      The routes one is a little more complicated as I don’t sync routes with VeloViewer so don’t have the map summaries to hand.

  • Chris Fearnley says:

    I’ve been using veloviewer for a while, on and off, but have only just seen the max square and cluster data (as a result of a long thread on yacf). Looks great! Now having looked at my data I notice that there is a bug (but maybe you know already). If, on a ride, I pause Strava, forget it’s paused and then remember after I’ve done a few miles, Strava joins the points with a straight line. The resulting ‘missed roads’ (i.e. straight lines) don’t appear on Strava’s heatmap but they *do* appear on Veloviewer maps. So, for instance, I’ve apparently ridden across the sea near Mevagissey. Maybe there’s no way for you to fix this but I thought people should know about it.

    • You just need to open the activity in VeloViewer for it to populate the definitive list of tiles for that activity which is based on the recorded data points. If that hasn’t been done then the ticked tiles are based on the summary map line provided by Strava which only includes a limited number of lat/lng points. From that it is impossible to tell if a straight line is due to a paused recording or a very straight road so it take a bit of a guess. Populating the definitive list of tiles removes and false positives and false negatives in terms of ticked tiles. More info on this post:

  • Which tiles need to be connected, in order to count for your max cluster? E.g. only the visited tiles (red in your example), or the tiles that are already inside a cluster (blue).
    Relevant where multiple ‘clusters’ are connected only by ‘red tiles’ – is it included in your largest cluster?
    If this is the case, connecting two areas to be included in your cluster is a lot easier.

    • You need to have clustered tiles connecting together your minor cluster to your main cluster for it to be merged in. In other words, you need a corridor of ticked tiles 3 across linking up the clusters.

  • Patrick Shine says:

    I have been using Veloviewer for a couple of years now and can’t believe that this is the first time I have taken notice of Max Squares and Clusters. I love this sort of thing so now have some new challenges to increase both. Great stuff Ben.
    I know that no matter what you come up with, people will ask for more, so apologies for this request, but how hard would it be to have something like “Max Connected squares”. I have done a bit of touring and have attempted to join up red lines, but as they are long but not wide, they don’t form Clusters (ie they connect squares top to bottom or left to right, but never all 4. Anyway, just my 2c worth.
    Thanks for creating one of the best apps around.

    • This was discussed by the tile-ticking when coming up with the Max Cluster. Connected tiles was deemed too easy as you basically just go for a really long ride. The challenge comes from trying to build a cluster corridor to link together your max cluster to sub-clusters. It is potentially a stat that I will show but it won’t be as prestigious as your Cluster.

      • Patrick Shine says:

        Fair enough Ben – I assumed it had been thought of (as basically everything else has been thought of), but just in case I put my comment in. And I agree with it not being as prestigious as a cluster, but just thought that it would be interesting anyway. Thanks for replying so promptly and keep up the great work…

  • Hi.
    This is the great what you are doing.
    Anyway I have one small problem with tiles/clusters, sorry if this issue was mentioned before,
    I see a few mistakes with my tiles. I can see very clearly the track on the tile but the tile is not marked as visited. After that I have max cluster and max square incorrect. Is it possible to update somehow the old activity without going there and create a new track?

    • Hi. Check out the “Definitive tiles for an activity” section on this post:
      In the main Activities page (and Summary page stats) by default the code uses the summary polyline for each activity provided by Strava to work out which tiles have been ticked but this is only made up from a much smaller set of lat/lng points but usually ticks the correct tiles 95% of the time. If a tile has been missed (usually due to a a straight section of road resulting in the summary polyline skipping over a tile without having a lat/lng point in the tile) then just open the Activity’s details page and the code will populate the definitive set of tiles for that activity using all of the recorded lat/lng points. Of course you must have at least one recorded point in a tile for it to be ticked! From then on, the Summary page and Activities page will use that set of ticked tiles for that activity.

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