6 Things You Should Check in a GPX File Before Following It

There are 6 things you should check  in a GPX file before following it no matter if it came from a buddy who rode through a place with magnificent landscapes or challenging terrain or you downloaded one from a web source looking for new adventures. Are you sure the GPX file is good enough so that you can follow it safely?

I have received GPX files that on the surface looked to be good to follow the route but that in reality that was not the case. There may be errors in a GPX file that may even make it useless.

Let’s review some of the features you should look for before using a GPX file

GPX TRACK FILE ERRORS CAUSES AND HOW TO IDENTIFY THEM

There is a high probability that the GPX track files you want to follow was created by someone who rode a route and recorded it with her/his device. These are the 6 more common errors.

Error 1. Start of the Route

When a device is turned on, it will look for the GPS satellite signals. Some devices might do so in a few seconds while other may take longer to get a fix. At this time, some wrong coordinates may be calculated by the device, generating a series of random points.

Usually, they are not a big problem but it may be that the calculated starting point does not match with reality, so is worth to make sure they will not affect following the route.

Error 2. GPS Signal Lost during the ride

During the ride, the device may have lost the GPS signal and will not get points in that segment. This may be common if a cell phone is used to record the track as the depend both of the GPS Satellites as well as Cell Antenna Towers for triangulation. This is identified by a straight line joining 2 or more points that do not match the roads layout.

Error 3. Stops within the route

If you make stops during your ride, the device will continue to save points in the area, something similar to the Start of a Route.

Error 4. If it’s a loop, check that start/end points match

Your buddy rode a loop that She/he is sharing with you but forgot to start the device at the beginning of the route and did so a few minutes or kilometers later. The start and end points will not be at the same location. So, it is a good idea to make sure that the start/end points match.

If your GPS Bike computer has maps with routing capability it may guide you to the beginning of the route by following roads contained in the map. If that is not the case, your computer may fail to guide you.

Error 5. Direction changes or errors

It happens, such is mountain biking exploration. Your friend thought to be going in the direction he wanted to go and suddenly realizes there was a mistake in the correct path and turned back making a U turn. If you want to ride the same route, chances are you want to avoid this detour and remain in the intended path.

Checking the file beforehand will make you be aware and not take the wrong turn.

Error 6. Missing time information

The GPX file format for tracks requires a mandatory field with the timestamp when each point was recorded. This is how the direction of the route is known. The file you got may have been copied, opened in some applications, saved, renamed, combined with others and so forth so that the time information may have been lost or damaged, preventing the device from calculating the proper route. Not a common problem but happens.

A GPX TRACK MAP SHOWING SOME ERROR SAMPLES

Here you can see samples of the errors mentioned above, identified with a marker. Zoon in on each so that you can identify each of them.

HOW TO CHECK A GPX FILE?

The simplest way to do it is loading the file in your device’s companion app and zoom in so that you can see details.

For example, this image shows the different start and end

Files with errors may be fixed and make sure they will guide you well. This is the same file in the map above but the errors have been removed. The markers remain so that you can compare the changes.

HOW CAN A GPX FILE BE EDITED TO FIX THESE ERRORS?

There are several options to fix GPX files and create routes compatible with GPS devices. Some are free and others require a payment to get full editing capability.

Some free options are:

  • Garmin Basecamp. Even if you do not have a Garmin device, this free program from Garmin has a very good editing tool and exports back to GPX format that may be loaded in any device. The drawback is that unless you Get Garmin maps, the base map lacks detail to help fixing the file.
  • GPS Track Editor free software (www.gpstrackeditor.com). A very good free tool that allows fixing all type of errors and other advanced tools such joining several tracks into one. Has an OSM base map that helps with the corrections. The route shown on the maps above was fixed with this program.

  • Plotaroute (plotaroute.com) has a free version that allows to edit routes and create new ones as well. The free version seems to have all the tools that allow editing. Has several map and image layers as well as auto plotting that makes very easy to work with routes

The paid options are

  • Komoot
  • Ride With GPX (some free functionality is available)
  • Strava

Finally, upload the file to your GPS Bike computer to preview it and make sure all looks and works well.

SUMMARY

Giving a look at the 6 things you should check  in a GPX file before following it will allow you to make sure it has all the information needed to guide you in your rides. Shall there are errors, you may be able to assess whether they will affect your riding plans and fix it with a GPX editing tool.