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Discussion: Directional Arrows for Trails

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 10, 2015 9:18 PM # 
It's not ISOM or even ICSMOM but we have a lot of creative people on AP.

We have a mapping conundrum for an informal mountain bike navigation race. The park has designated a number of single track trails as one-way. Other trails - double track and some single track used less frequently for biking - are bidirectional. There is no confusion in the terrain, as there is signage at each end of the one-way trails.

Last year we tried the small blue arrows you see in the map snippet below. They were hard for racers to see, especially while biking. Any OCAD-friendly suggestions? Thanks!

Oct 10, 2015 9:47 PM # 
I've tested several options. My current favorite is an purple arrow next to the trail. The arrow is an edited version of the symbol for shooting range. The image below shows the arrow in orange. I've tested different colors (but not blue) and I think purple works best. But, I'd like to test different options with different riders and get some feedback.

Oct 10, 2015 9:56 PM # 
Thanks - nice to know we're not the only ones with this issue!
Oct 10, 2015 11:01 PM # 
Pink Socks:
What about incorporating the arrow in with the black trail symbol?

Two quickie thoughts:

1) A line of little black triangles all pointing the direction of travel.

2) A dashed line of small black arrows. I'd start with 533 passable pipeline symbol and edit it to add some dashes to make it look like a line of arrows.
Oct 10, 2015 11:40 PM # 
I tested the option of a trail symbol that had little triangles. It looked ok on the desktop, but was hard to read on the bike. It might be worth having some other people test it to see if they have a different reaction.
Oct 11, 2015 1:26 AM # 
The direction of the trail is a part of the course, not the terrain. I would expect to see the direction shown in purple like other parts of the course.
Oct 11, 2015 6:14 AM # 
We use a lot of MTB parks for MTBO, and they have a lot of one-way sections. I think the chevron is a good solution, but not in blue, which can be confused with streams and north lines. Modifying the black track symbols isn't great either, it confuses the dash length and covers up shape.

There are many solutions for long sections of track, and we used to use a purple arrow beside the track. But it gets really difficult for short sections, and tracks close together. We now use, and have submitted to an IOF MTBO mapping group, the following. There are signs it may be adopted, perhaps with different dimensions.
Oct 11, 2015 9:50 AM # 
Black is not an option for arrows in MTBO because the only black on a MTBO map is a track.

We've tried both purple arrows beside the track and purple chevrons on the track (as per Gruver's model above, although bigger than 1mm - seems kind of small; Bash's example above in the blue looks the right size) and the second one worked best. Purple is highly visible but you have to make sure it doesn't get covered up with the control circle or line. Typically I'd put one at the entrance and exit to a one way track although if it's a long section, I might put more.

Bash, in your map sample I'd be tempted to get rid of all that green unless it helps with navigation (e.g. change in vegetation for instance plantation). It'd be much easier to see arrows.
Oct 11, 2015 4:09 PM # 
For the Score event I did today where there was a section through a trail centre they had overlaid the single track with the trail grading so mostly blue and red although theoretically green and black possible in the UK then fairly close small black arrows for the direction. Worked well and you could plan your route though ok.
Oct 11, 2015 4:39 PM # 
Thanks, all. We're on the same page as tRicky, planning to change our green to a single shade of light green in hopes of distracting the riders less. Our event allows riders to ride on orange open areas but not through green forested areas so we do want to make the distinction. Also, it may help experienced orienteers if they see forest vs. open area.
Oct 11, 2015 11:04 PM # 
Purple chevrons and/or arrows are the way to go.

And if you'd like a copy of the "How to convert an O'map to an MTBO" booklet, just let me know.
Oct 12, 2015 3:12 AM # 
Yes, please, we would! If it's in digital format, my email ID is on my AP profile. If not, I'll send you my address. Thanks!
Oct 12, 2015 4:49 AM # 
(it's been emailed)
Oct 12, 2015 11:30 AM # 
I wasn't suggesting removing the orange! Open areas are totally rideable in MTBO (if mapped that way). We have some debate as to whether 'rough open' is rideable though. Some setters allow it whereas others don't. Personally I'm of the opinion to map open (yellow) as rideable and rough open (pale yellow) as not rideable so you can see the difference in the terrain (against bush) but know where you can and can't ride (rough open typically being cropped land, low bush or similar).

I also use green typically as plantation because riders are more likely to notice a drastic change in vegetation (versus natural bush) but that's personal preference and definitely open for debate. In New Zealand I believe green is mapped as unrideable forest whereas white is mapped as rideable forest (typically a narrow or very open stand of trees that a rider can easily pass on a bike).
Oct 12, 2015 8:38 PM # 
In our latest iteration, Mick has gone with purple chevrons, no veg boundaries or rock features, white (not rideable, i.e. illegal in our park) forest and 30% green forest, and all the other usual vegetation types. We'll see what our course tester thinks!
Oct 13, 2015 12:02 AM # 
With rock features, we'd leave them on if they aid in navigation (i.e. visible from the track).
Oct 13, 2015 12:23 PM # 
Sounds like a good plan. Our wee rocks around here aren't too helpful for nav at the best of times. Based on the latest weather forecast, maybe we should be mapping snowdrifts!
Oct 14, 2015 2:48 AM # 
I'm in the process of drawing a new map now that has rocks and cliffs right next to the track. The track's fast riding but I have to keep stopping to mark waypoints for each rock feature and then draw it on the paper version so it's a slow process! More annoying is the aerial I have shows it as a forested plantation but most of the trees have been cleared in the meantime.

Ahh well it's all fun. There are a couple of one way roads on the map that I'm trying to decide whether they need to be mapped that way. They're only short sections and more for the benefit of vehicles than potential mountain bikes. I'll have a think about it. Won't really affect route choice at all but from a safety perspective (in case you encounter the one car driving on there that day), I should probably do it.
Oct 14, 2015 2:01 PM # 
Probably not a bad idea, given that map-reading cyclists can be as observant of their surroundings as texting drivers! :)
Oct 15, 2015 12:35 AM # 
I was thinking of creating a new purple just for the chevrons (We use an overprint that leans toward magenta) and placing it just below brown in the color list so it doesn't obscure map details. Puttting it there means contours, streams, paved-road fill, and black features are above it in the printing. Only vegetation and some grays are below brown, so it might work nicely. I'm not sure how it will look, but I'm going to try it.
Oct 15, 2015 10:36 AM # 
Though I have a "lower purple" that I use for control circles, my directional chevron is in "upper purple", since it is a requirement. Regarding obscuring map detail, we can choose where to place the chevrons. But it would be good to hear the pros and cons of this.
Oct 15, 2015 4:16 PM # 
Some participants may have color-blindness that limits seeing the course or chevrons in green areas. Adding some cyan to the magenta makes a more visible purple that is appealing to all participants.
Oct 15, 2015 6:54 PM # 
Out of curiosity has anyone every tried this kind of a trail symbol for this:

It seem to me that you one the entirety of the trail to show the fact that it's one directional so you don't have to search for a potential arrow. Then again I've never mountain biked before let alone done any MTBO
Oct 15, 2015 11:50 PM # 
Your dropbox image isn't visible. And I'm wondering if your suggestion is the same as the oe I was about to make.
Oct 16, 2015 4:28 AM # 
Oh... well here's a link to where you should be able to see it:
Oct 16, 2015 5:45 AM # 
That's just a really strange line of boulder clusters ;-) messy if it's used for spaghetti-like single track I'd imagine.
Oct 16, 2015 10:54 AM # 
OK, that was one of my notions, which might not be so bad if you don't use the boulder field symbol on the map (reasonable for a MTB-O map). My main idea was to make the trail look like a parade of planaria, here's a quick stab at it:

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is unwieldy in 0CAD. It's fine on long straight sections, but as you can see, it gets wonky when you go around a tight curve. This is why I don't use the cliff symbols with tags, I always draw the cliff with no tags and then add the tags individually with a separate symbol so that they'll come out in reasonable places pointing in reasonable directions. You might be able to tame it by adding a lot of dash points, but for really twisty singletrack, it might be hopeless. (But maybe omitting some of the arrowheads would do the trick...)
Oct 16, 2015 12:14 PM # 
I'm curious about people's experience using the arrow-head trail and boulder-field-like symbol.

When I tested similar ideas, I couldn't really read the direction as I was riding.
Oct 16, 2015 1:12 PM # 

Would there be any point using some other color than black for end part of those directional trails. At start from the crossing you would use normal black to illustrate one may enter that way. Might work fine together with chevrons. Chevron would indicate it is directional, but color would tell are you allowed to enter this way so you would not need to see the direction the chevron is pointing, so you would not misread it either. Not sure how big part of the trails should be drawn with alternate color to make it work best.
Oct 16, 2015 3:19 PM # 
Interesting idea, Jagge!
Oct 16, 2015 7:07 PM # 
I also like that idea.
Oct 19, 2015 12:26 AM # 
Trails are black!!!!!

As to the arrows as trail idea above, what happens on the different speed tracks? What if it's a 'fast' (solid black) trail? No arrows!
Oct 19, 2015 2:18 PM # 
We held our event yesterday and used purple arrows. No one complained but several people commented that they should probably get bike glasses with magnification to see the single track. If I were doing the race myself without any prep time to plan a route, I would have had to do a lot of stopping and squinting, even with reading magnifiers. Given that the fastest growing age group at our bike O is 60+, we'll need to think more about this for next year.
Oct 19, 2015 2:33 PM # 
@Bash: Did your map use the MTBO trail symbols, or regular foot-O trail symbols? I saw a photo on Facebook, but I couldn't tell.
Oct 19, 2015 3:17 PM # 
This is the same race we were emailing about so it was just foot-O trail symbols. It would be a huge project to update it to MTBO at this time. The park claims more than 50 km of trails (although that seems a little high) spread over a large area (486 hectares / 1200 acres) and not all are maintained for mountain biking but they are legal for our race, as are the open areas and rough open grassy areas, which would also need to be updated.

It's an older map that belongs to another club and really needs a complete overhaul since some trails are drawn too approximately for foot-O even though they work OK for bike O with no bushwhacking allowed. The network changes a little every year as trails are rerouted or closed. The two of us working on the race don't have mapping experience and only one of us has OCAD - and that's not the person who lives near the map.

I do think about hosting a standard MTBO event some day so that Canada could qualify a team for the World MTBO Champs. That would take $$$ and a professional mapper for starters, and because it's on the fringe, it would be a big step for any club to commit that much volunteer energy. The Stars, who operate our MTBO, only had 3 of their club members participating in a field of 42 racers yesterday. Half the racers did not identify themselves as belonging to any O club. I applaud the Stars and enjoy working with them even though I belong to another club because I want to see at least one MTBO on the calendar here. I'm sure it would be a hard sell to take on an unfamiliar style of championship race when there are so many other things volunteers could be doing that would interest more club members. Maybe it will need to be an inter-club project for the future.
Oct 19, 2015 3:27 PM # 
tRicky -- your point about fast solid trails is well taken, but I'd expect it would be much less likely that those would be one-way (although I might be wrong about that).
Oct 19, 2015 4:02 PM # 
On our map, that is true although there are some steep rutted double track hills that I purposely avoid when course setting or else I ensure that it's only attractive to use them in one direction. I could see making them one-way for a competition even though the park doesn't have rules about it.
Oct 19, 2015 11:19 PM # 
I've ridden MTBO training events on foot-O maps before and found it very difficult to read tracks on those maps, mainly because they're much thinner. I have a lot of free time at the moment so if you feel like flying me over I'll update your map for you :-) 50km of tracks is nothing compared to what I generally end up riding on a standard mapping day (would probably end up doing at least 80-90km).
Oct 20, 2015 1:52 AM # 
Wish you lived closer!
Oct 20, 2015 2:00 AM # 
tRicky, do you do your field work on the bike with GPS? Does that get suitable accuracy?
Oct 20, 2015 4:40 AM # 
Oct 20, 2015 5:09 AM # 
Are you using a handheld GPS rather than a GPS watch? We already have Ambit tracks from virtually all the trails. They're OK but not perfect in thick forest.
Oct 20, 2015 5:58 AM # 
Australia doesn't have thick forest - even the eucalypt leaves turn obligingly sideways specifically to allow better satellite reception.
Oct 20, 2015 6:32 AM # 
I take out a wrist watch GPS (Garmin Forerunner) in addition to a handheld (bike mounted) GPS (Garmin Oregon, which also has a display of the map I'm riding if I upload it).

As to your answer, no it's not 100% accurate and I sometimes have to fudge the trails between the two traces to get what I think is the correct line. It's kind of annoying at times but it's the best we can do.

Usually it's the Oregon with the lower accuracy but sometimes it's the Forerunner that provides dodgy readings, most noticeably on single track in pine forest.

I find the only way to grade the tracks accurately is to ride them. Driving or walking doesn't cut it, unless it's blindingly obvious how fast you could ride on it (e.g. a logging road through pine forest here is almost always FAST).
Oct 20, 2015 7:49 AM # 
I assume you have already figured you must tape the watch on top of your helmet antenna shooting straight up? It would be quite amateurish to wear it on wrist, accuracy is so much worse like that, especially in thick forest.
Oct 20, 2015 7:53 AM # 
It's ok to be amateurish, tRicky refuses to get paid for mapping.
Oct 20, 2015 7:57 AM # 
I don't see that it would make any difference.

There is a difference between 'refuses' and 'OMG the Mapping Convenor has taken off overseas for another three months and not finalised my contract before I started work!!!' Although it seems being paid only applies to National level MTBO events (unless you're someone other than me or a highly paid doctor).
Oct 21, 2015 4:48 AM # 
As not just a participant, but a contributor to the fastest growing age group mentioned by bash as a result of moving up this year, I thought the arrows were well done. However, there was still no way I could find the entry points for the single track without stopping and spending time carefully staring at the map. I don't even know that showing the single track differently on the map would be any real help because so much of the single track on the map would in tight loops within a very small area. The one thing that might help slightly and perhaps can be done without too much trouble is changing all the green on the map to the white. I believe someone mentioned that earlier. I don't see the delineations between the green and the various white patches scattered around the map as providing useful information for MTB-O.

I was using a bike-O map holder for the first time and finding the distance between my eyes and the map to be a little longer than I might like (I was using one contact lens so one eye would have perfect distance vision and the other perfect close-up vision, with my vision with the one lens being a compromise between distant and close-up vision). I prefer the distance from my eyes to the map when I use a ski-O map holder.

It was a good course and thanks to bash for being the only one planning MTB-O courses in this part of the province. On creating a proper, updated MTB-O map, Stars would have relatively less in the way of funds as a small, fairly new club, but being able to fund a new, high quality MTB-O map would not be a problem for all clubs in the area should they be wiling to do so.
Oct 21, 2015 5:06 AM # 
Yep I mentioned earlier that people riding in an MTBO event would find it more useful if green & white were used to differentiate between, say, plantation forest and native bush. There is very little chance of spotting whether green is thick bush or otherwise as you're flying along on a track. Also using just 30% green makes it less likely that detail (contours, etc) will be obscured. Plus in WA we have some tracks that are 'overgrown' (poorly maintained) and on those we'd use 100% green as a framing device on the track, which would show up over the 30% green if it happened to be in a 'green' mapped area.

We've alternatively used green as either plantation or native bush, depending on which is the dominant area on the map. If the majority is pine and the remainder native bush, well the green may be used for the bush. If vice versa, then we'd swap it around.
Oct 21, 2015 5:18 AM # 
We changed all the green to 30% green this year but we did keep green and white. Given the age of the map, it may not be worth preserving that distinction for our MTBO. Although we do have a mix of coniferous plantation forests and wilder deciduous forests, the use of green/white isn't that straightforward. It would mean that I couldn't have used my "south side of thicket" control on the Novice course but I could live with that.
Oct 21, 2015 5:25 AM # 
P.S. Thanks, Ralph, and that's an interesting idea. To give credit where it is due, it was actually the Stars club who approached me last year with the idea of putting on a MTBO together - even though I wasn't a club member and even though their club members mostly aren't mountain bikers. It's terrific that their volunteers have been willing to devote their energies to it, even after permissions problems drew us to a map 1.5 hours away from their home town (although very convenient for me!)

Btw I use different magnifier glasses for bike navigation vs. foot navigation - half a diopter different because of the longer distance between my eyes and the map. My latest glasses came from Dual Eyewear.
Oct 21, 2015 6:14 AM # 
Do you use descriptions in your MTBO events? All of our controls are either on tracks or open areas so no need for descriptions. The only distinction required may be in complex areas where you may need a centre dot to show precisely where the CP is.
Oct 21, 2015 12:55 PM # 
They might use clues, that's the 3rd option.... ;-)
Oct 21, 2015 2:37 PM # 
We have control descriptions but the course tester didn't look at them and I suspect most experienced navigators tucked them away unless they ran into trouble. Parts of the trail network are busy or drawn in approximately, so the control descriptions provide some additional info on what is intended to be in the centre of the circle. Some of our participants have never seen an O map or control circle before so we like to give them all the help we can.

In the case of the "south side of thicket", I was looking for a control that would provide route choice on the Novice course. There aren't many trails at Albion Hills that are suitable for inexperienced riders. Since we were using control descriptions, I needed to identify some point along the trail in that area so that's what I went with. All other control descriptions were things like "Trail Bend", "Trail Junction", "Southwest corner of Parking Lot", etc.
Oct 21, 2015 2:43 PM # 
Actually I think the IOF did away with the ability to use clues for MTBO. I used them for an event once, about four years ago, when I had controls on the golf course. I just typed the necessary ones onto the map. That was before I knew about dots.
Oct 21, 2015 2:51 PM # 
We also had them on the map but people fold their maps and carry them in different ways. Also, the control descriptions were in a larger font. They were mostly for people with less experience navigating (not the type who do IOF-sanctioned MTBO) but they also helped us compensate for a map that we know is imperfect. If/when we get to the point where we can put on a qualifying event for a Canadian MTBO team (my long term hope), we will happily ditch the clues!

This discussion thread is closed.