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February 27, 2007

Google Earth’s ‘Web Results’

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Google Earth — mtbguru @ 12:45 am

As a web application, MTBGuru.com obviously lives and works in your web browser, be it FireFox, Internet Explorer, Safari or any other browser of your choice.

Meanwhile, Google Earth is increasingly evolving into a ‘geobrowser‘ of its own. While web browsers offer a window on a world of interlinked HTML files, Google Earth does a similar thing with KML files. More and more content is added in the form of KML files and can be accessed through ‘layers’. And recently, a new search capability has been added.

When you type something in the Search box of Google Earth, besides the usual ‘Local business results’ (orange placemarks) you will now also see ‘Web Results’ (green placemarks, see screenshot); based on your current view in Google Earth these ‘Web results’ are populated by placemarks in KML files found on the Internet as search results.

Also KLM files originating from public MTBGuru trips are indexed, as you can see in the example below: when you type in ‘Skeggs Point’ while looking at the San Francisco Peninsula, the picture placemarks of a Skeggs trip appear. If you zoom you’ll see the (red) track as well. In the sidebar you’lll notice the placemarks listed next to green placemark icons as Web Results, below the local business results.
So now you can effectively also search and browse for MTBGuru trips in Google Earth!

Earth web results

February 21, 2007

Tour of California

Filed under: Uncategorized — mtbguru @ 10:44 pm

The second edition of the Tour of California, bringing a fine crop of professional cyclists to the Golden State, has been ongoing for a couple of days now. The arrival of today’s stage was in downtown San Jose and featured the grueling Sierra road climb, its summit being about 20 miles before the finish line.

A nice occasion for us at MTBGuru to give the mountain bike a little rest and go check out the race and attempt some photos – I parked in downtown San Jose, took the road bike out of the car and had a simple plan: ride to Sierra Road, watch the race and shoot pics, then quickly ride back to downtown in order to witness the finish and shoot some more pics.

I rode to the base of Sierra, and positioned myself at one of the first real steep sections – going farther up would have made it a bit hard to make it back in time for the finish, so I settled with this spot.

Sierra roadSierra roadSierra

There was a pretty large breakaway early on in the race and here’s the group arriving at the base of Sierra. On the right you can recognize Jens Voigt and Jason McCartney, a luitenant of race leader/yellow jersey Levi Leipheimer.

McCartneyJurgen van de Walle

McCartney was charging hard on the brutal steeps of Sierra Road. Some Belgian pride in the breakaway group as well: on the right photo, in the center, is Jurgen Van De Walle, who would end up conquering the King of the Mountain jersey.


The peloton, not too far behind, was led by George Hincapie, working for team mate and leader Leipheimer (in the yellow, on Hincapie’s left).


On the left George Hincapie and on the right Chris Horner, a bit farther in the group.

There was no time to feel bad about missing the action higher up the mountain, I now needed to jump on my bike and ride back after the last riders had passed by. Dodging motorcycles, cops and pedestrians I ended up in a little group of fellow spectator/riders that zoomed through the streets of San Jose towards the finish line. We ended up on the actual course of which we rode the last 5 miles or so and I must admit riding through streets lined with cheering spectators was a blast. Moreover, as I crossed the actual finish line, I somehow ended up in some backstage area behind the finish. Probably a security hole of sorts but I wasn’t going to complain as I could get some decent shots from here.

FinishSan Jose City HallSan Jose City Hall

Rain clouds were packing together above the hills but it remained dry and sunny in the city. The finish was near the new and rather spectacular Richard Meier designed San Jose City Hall.

Turned out Levi had stirred up things significantly on the Sierra climb and had joined the breakaway – the yellow jersey would be sprinting for the stage victory against Jens Voigt and Chris Horner, the only ones remaining from the early breakaway – the peloton was following closely.

But Jens Voigt had saved some energy and just blasted away from the other two in the final straight:

SprintVoigt wins

The final sprint – Voigt even having the time to check the damage.


Leipheimer fought hard for the stage but won’t be too disappointed as he keeps the yellow. Horner is third, and Dutchman Robert Gesink took fourth place, just ahead of the peloton.


The podium: Voigt the stage winner, Levi the yellow jersey, Van de Walle King of the Mountain (not sure about the green and white jerseys, the results haven’t been posted yet on the official site).

More photos and a map on this trip page

Final note: some people were really serious about their photography…


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February 18, 2007

Safari fully supported now

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff — mtbguru @ 11:02 am

A quick note to let you know that we fixed the map rendering problem in Safari – everything is working smoothly now, so also Safari users can now enjoy the site in its full glory using their favorite browser!

February 17, 2007

Add video and audio to your trip page

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 1:26 am

Did you know you can add video and audio clips to your trip page?

Check out for instance this trip, a hike to the summit of Mount Tyndall in California’s Sierra Nevada, where a Google Earth flyover movie was added to the trip description field (screenshot below).


MTBGuru isn’t hosting the video files but you can use material you’ve stored or found on YouTube or any other video sharing site that allows you to embed movies on external sites. Just copy the snippet of code these sites point you to and paste it in the trip description box. Here’s what such code looks like (in ‘Edit Description’ mode):

Embed edit

The same works for audio. If you want to add a tune to your trip page, share some footage or perhaps an entire podcast in which you describe your adventures, you can use web apps such as Podomatic to create the podcast or upload mp3 audio files, and then embed them on your trip page. As an exampe, check out this trip of mine, with some FunkyLondon sounds for increased enjyoment…
Of course, make sure you respect the terms of use of these sites and any applicable copyrights.

February 13, 2007

New and better search

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff — mtbguru @ 1:11 am

We just deployed a brand new site search tool – you can find it in the sidebar where it is replacing the older Google site search form.

This search tool searches our database directly and will give you a complete and accurate set of results. The search results are summarized and marked up in a much more useful and appealing way – as demonstrated in the screenshot below.

Search screenshot

You can use it like you’d use any search engine but in addition there is a rich query language and syntax that is supported – our search tool is based on Ferret, a full text search utility in Ruby.

Some examples: you can use Boolean operators, such as AND, OR, NOT to compose your queries: ‘Demo AND NOT forest’ will for instance return results where the word ‘Demo’ is present but not followed by ‘forest’. Another example is the use of wildcards: a search for ‘Demo*’ will give you hits containing the word ‘Demo’ but also hits with words as ‘Demonstration’ or ‘Demographic’. And so on – check out this overview of the syntax.

Enjoy the search for new trips and rides!

February 11, 2007

How to undo stripped (disc brake rotor) bolts

Filed under: Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 6:56 pm

Now for something completely different: last weekend I needed to perform a simple bike maintenance task: replace the worn out front rotor of the disc brake on my mountain bike. I’d done this before, and it’s one of the easiest things to do: take out wheel, undo the six bolts that keep the rotor on the hub, put new rotor on.

It becomes less straightforward however when you manage to strip one or more of the bolt heads. For obvious reasons, these bolts which go in the threads of the hub are treated with (blue) Loctite; they do tend to get stuck pretty well in there. The bolt heads are of the Torx type and I managed to undo all but one of them with the wimpy Torx tool I was using. Unfortunately, the last one turned out to be really stubborn, and my screwing around with it (no pun intended) resulted in this:

stripped torx head

Visions of taking drastic measures such as throwing a blow torch at the problem, buying an impact wrench or having to accept defeat and go to the shop arose… luckily however I needn’t fear, as there is a much simpler and quite efficient trick, which I’d like to share in this post.

I remembered to have read somewhere that a simple trick was to cut a slot in the bolt head and then use a regular screwdriver to undo the bolt. Time to try this out so I took off and got this mini-hacksaw ($6 in ACE Hardware):

hacksawhacksaw 2

It worked like a charm. The bolt material turned out to be relatively soft, and the finer blade that came with the saw was just right.

slotbolt undo

When the slot was deep enough so that I could apply some decent force with the regular screwdriver, the bolt went off fairly easily.

boltsnew rotor

Time then for new bolts and a new rotor. The blue Loctite was conveniently already applied on the bolts that came with the new rotor.

This is how the old rotor looked like:

old rotor

It was getting worn out significantly, notice the thinned down center area (where the pads grab). With the new rotor, braking power immediately felt much higher.

Note to myself: next time use a proper Torx tool to undo the bolts:

Torx tools
(Wimpy and Beefy tool)

February 9, 2007

Big air mountain biking

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 5:13 pm

Here’s a good link to check out on a friday afternoon: Stefan Oberlander can do some amazing things on a bike. Check out this drop he’s doing, now that’s what you’d call getting air:

Stefan catching big air

See what happens next after the jump…


February 7, 2007

Navigadget blog

Filed under: GPS — mtbguru @ 10:43 pm

Navigadget is an interesting blog that I just discovered, on ‘GPS Navigation Technology’ and is featuring a lot of news on the latest and greatest GPS gadgets. There’s much more out there than Garmin, TomTom or Magellan, as you’ll find out…

February 5, 2007

Text markup using Textile

Filed under: Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 10:11 pm

Trip descriptions and trip comments on MTBGuru are entered and edited using simple text boxes, into which you can type your lines just like you’d do in any regular text editor.

However, there’s much more you can do with it: we support Textile, a simple text markup language, or, as its creators describe it, a ‘Humane Web Text Generator’. It eliminates the need to know HTML or juggle around with HTML tags anytime you want to do simple things like insert a hyperlink. Instead, you have a very simple and elegant yet versatile and powerful way to achieve this, as well as perform a host of other text structuring and formatting tasks. It hardly takes effort to memorize the simple syntax, and this brief Textile reference nicely summarizes everything.

For instance, to create a hyperlink, put the word(s) that make up the link anchor in between double quotation marks, followed by a colon and the URL you want to make it point to (without spaces in between):

This is "a link":http://www.thispointstomywebsite.com to my web site.

This is parsed when you’re done editing and turned into a regular hyperlink in your description or comment box:

This is a link to my web site.

It’s also very easy to format your text. For instance, use h1. (or h2., h3. etc) as a prefix to create headers. Lists are generated by using the star (*) or pound (#) symbol as prefix. And so on. Check the Textile reference for many more examples. It’s vastly more convenient than using HTML to mark up or format your text (no need to worry about properly closing your tags etc).

And the nice thing is: Textile also understands regular HTML code – so you can mix up simple text, Textile syntax and HTML code in the same document if you wanted to.

February 2, 2007

Set up your home map

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 1:10 am

It’s really cool to see people posting trips from all corners of the world: for instance Australia, Croatia, Taiwan, besides numerous states in the US.

When someone arrives on the site, be it a registered user or not, we use services like HostIP and GeoIP to try to figure out where she or he is coming from, in order to center the home page’s map this visitor will see on this location. These services essentially consist of databases relating IP addresses to geographic locations.

Instead of some default location the main map will initially zoom in and center on an area which is most likely the area of interest to this person. Unfortunately, the databases are not 100% accurate; also, there are cases where you’ll be using a different IP address that may alter this location – for instance when you’re using public WiFi or when you’re traveling.

To overcome these issues, we’ve now implemented a feature that allows you to control and set your home map’s initial location. Look for the two buttons on the right top corner of the map, just below the ‘Hybrid’ button (screenshot below):

  • Set Home: click on this button to set your home location to the current view of the map.
  • To Home: click on this button and the map will move back from wherever you’re at to the home location you’ve set.


So in case you’re not happy with the map you see when you log in or land on the site, you can now navigate (zoom/pan) to an area that you’d like to have as your home map and use the ‘Set Home’ button to save this view. This setting overrules the GeoIP detection.

We use cookies to do this, so you’ll need to have these enabled in your browser – the only thing they’ll do is store a map coordinate on your computer so your browser knows where to point your home map. And of course, we’re not sharing any of this information with anyone, we are strongly committed to ensure the privacy of our users, as we state in our privacy policy.