VeloViewer Explorer Tile 3D Heatmap in Google Earth

I’ve wanted to produce this view of VeloViewer Explorer Tiles since I first came up with the idea back in  2015 and can only put my lack of action down to being too busy with the professional teams these last few years!  Simple idea though: provide a KML output that can be viewed in Google Earth shows a tower for each ticked Explorer Tile with the height representing the number of times the tile has been visited on your travels.

It uses a new export button found on your Activities page. Make sure the Map is turned on along with either Max Square or Max Cluster and then click the map settings button:

Press that button and you’ll get a (possibly quite large) KML file.  Then open up Google Earth Pro (the desktop version is best, and free, but also works in the mobile or web version) and open the KML file.

UPDATE: New “Flatten spikes” option added. Typically people have a really high concentration of visits to tiles in the immediate vicinity to where they live resulting in huge towers if the 3D KML file is viewed 1 to 1 (i.e. each tile visit results in the addition of a full height tile cube being stacked each time) as shown on the examples on this page. By default the KML file will flatten the towers by square-rooting the visit count which seems to result in a better view of the data. I tried logarithms first but they squashed the tall towers far too much. Uncheck the box to get an KML export with towers represented 1 to 1 as sown in this post.

An interesting exercise is visiting the Activities pages of people in the main VeloViewer leaderboards who have their VeloViewer data set to public and downloading/viewing their 3D KML files.  A few examples…

The WorldTour Professional

A big thanks to Michał Kwiatowski for letting me share images of his data (it isn’t public in VeloViewer):

Multiple Tour de France routes are dramatically overshadowed by training rides at his home in the South of France, Mallorca, Calpe and Canary Islands in the distance. Although the 300km towering line from Milan to San Remo, home of his 2017 victory, also stands out pretty clearly:

The GB Max Squarer

In 2018 Jonathan France showed what can be done when he completed a 100×100 max square in a single year. Two clear masses of activity are accompanied by veins of exploration up to and around Scotland:

The Max Clusterer

The max cluster top position is currently held by Koos Woestenburg. The expanses of Dutch water make max squares particularly tricky so Koos has concentrated on expanding his max cluster from the northern tip of The Netherlands mainland  right down to Liechtenstein’s capital of Vadus:

The Max Distance Death Star

Brian Toone has regularly topped the Strava distance charts and currently has over 1/4 million miles logged. But due to the number of rides completed close to home his largest tile visits of almost 5000 result in a tower of over 10,000 km in height:


0 thoughts on “VeloViewer Explorer Tile 3D Heatmap in Google Earth

  • Nice!

    Having the option for a logarithmic scale rather than a simple linear one might make the peaks a bit more viewable.

    • By default the export will now use a “Flatten spikes” option by default which square-roots the visit counts which provides a more pleasing view. Uncheck that option for the 1 to 1 option shown in the screenshots where each tile visit results on another full cube being added to the tower. I tried out the log option but that completely flattened the towers so you couldn’t really see the most visited tiles.

  • Ben, this is a great new feature to visualize the ticked tiles!
    It was me, who asked for the “max cube” and looking at this, I agree with you that ist would be hard to imagine a cube in all these columns.
    I played around with awk to filter the data provided in your kml file and cut off the highest columns, but there is still no chance to recognize a cube. In my personal max sqare (27×27) i touched the corners one or two times, whilst i crossed the center some hundered times. I think we should forget the idea of a max cube 😉
    Thanks for your work,

    • Actually a max cube idea sounds quite interesting. But not as interesting as the max square for me, because it’s visiting new places that I like most about the challenge. But other folk may love it. Also handy for those who for whatever reason can’t do a big max square.

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