The VeloViewer Explorer Score and more specifically the Explorer Max Square has acquired a bit of a cult following since its introduction to the site back in March 2015 despite me not having fully explaining what it is all about until now! The Explorer Score rewards those people who explore new roads/trails rather doing the same old loops. Providing non-performance based motivations has always been one of the main goals of VeloViewer and this one really looks to tick that box.
New VeloViewer Explorer Tile features since this post:
- Introducing the Explorer Cluster
- Veloviewer Explorer Tiles – Global Heatmap
- VeloViewer Chrome Extension for Strava Website
- Explorer Tile Calculation Updates
- Meet the Explorers
The explorer score is all based around how many squares you have passed through from all of your activities of whatever type (i.e. Ride, Run etc). The squares themselves are based around the standard OpenStreetMap map tile 256x256px image at a zoom level of 14. If any of your activities cross into a tile then it gets a tick.
On your activities tab if you turn on the map view (toggle buttons in the top right) and then turn on the Explorer option below the map you’ll see all of your completed tiles:
Here’s the real challenge: how big a complete square of tiles can you tick off? You’ll see those shown with a blue square on the Activities’ map. For me I have a fairly measly max square of 9×9. As you can see in the image above I actually have 7 different 9×9 squares shown. Should I expand one of those to 10×10 then I’d just see the one blue square.
A new button is now available next to the Explorer toggle below the map that auto-zooms your map view to your max Explorer Square:
Your Explorer Scores
Near the top of your Summary page you’ll see your current Explorer Score as well as max square size:
There is also the average distance travelled for each ticked tile (i.e. number of tiles / total distance).
These scores respond to any filters so you can view your current year’s Explorer stats or those for a certain activity type or set of bikes.
Viewing your Explorer progression
In the yearly comparison chart on your Summary page there is now the option to view “Explorer (new tiles all time)” which provides a really clear view on how your ticking off of tiles has progressed over the years. After an initial trickle of new tiles in the first year often the main, large spikes are the result of holidays to new places. Of course, Virtual Rides don’t count!
There are also the options to view “Explorer (all tiles)” (i.e. a count of all the tiles covered in an activity whether they have been visited before or not) in all three charts along with an “Explorer (new tiles by year)” option in the yearly comparison chart.
How do your explorations compare to others?
Clicking the “Leaderboards” button on your summary page (shown in the previous image) allows you to view the all-time leaderboard for Explorer Max Square which is the pinnacle of the Explorer world:
At the time of writing, a square of 58×58 tiles is your target!
So what sort of dedication does it take to make the top 10? Well, a glimpse into this world was revealed recently in the comments section of one of Nils’ rides by a number of those featuring in the top 10.
This from Eric Nichols (the highest placed non-European):
“I’ve had to carry my bike through swamps, hike shorelines at low tide, kayak across estuaries, not to mention skiing and hiking otherwise inaccessible areas. I’ve attempted to enter military installations, only to be turned away at gunpoint! Currently hoping for a cold winter so I can ride across a frozen lake on my studded fatbike…”
So I don’t want to hear those excuses about a lack of roads halting your progress!
Help building routes
I recently released a new Google Chrome Extension that provides handy additions to the main Strava website like providing deep links back to VeloViewer from segments, routes and activities. But it also provides an additional layer in the Strava Route Builder to show explorer tiles colouring in those which you’ve completed along with your current max square(s):
Install the extension from here and then toggle the “VeloViewer Explorer” option when creating or editing a Route to view.
Some of you that ride very straight roads might notice that at times some tiles fail to become marked as completed. This is because the calculation uses each activity’s summary map line which is a very much simplified set of points than the full route. The algorithm does its best to fill in blanks where possible but these long, straight lines on an Activity can also be caused by GPS errors and where people forget to restart their GPS device. But now there is a way to force these missed tiles to be marked by simply opening the offending Activity’s Details page. This will result in the explorer tiles being calculated using all of the data points recorded by the GPS device.
So it will go from this:
- The actual km size of each tile does vary slightly based on the latitude with the tiles being smaller the closer to the poles you are but I’m sure the weather at those latitudes more than make up for the advantage!
- The simplified activity lines (as seen on the Activities page map) are used rather than the full activity lat/lng stream for performance reasons.
- For the activities using the simplified activity lines, any straight line >500m in length will not tick any map tiles (to attempt to stop the counting of tiles where people have forgotten to restart their GPS devices and get a big jump when remembering to restart). If you have any activities missing tiles because of this then please open the activity’s details page to populate its full list of tiles.
- VeloViewer takes no responsibility should you get injured or arrested attempting to tick explorer tiles!