Visualizing Bikes and Beer in Bend

Our family leaves Seattle for Bend, Oregon every year to dry out, mountain bike, and enjoy the local breweries. What would our last vacation look like as a visualization? I wondered. I cobbled together some of our rides and brewery locations in Tableau Public to see how play felt in the tool I use at work. Pulling these things together were eye-opening for very different reasons.

Mapping the trails themselves in Tableau was fairly easy – as always, the devil was in the details. A friend riding with us recorded the rides on his Garmin and emailed me the .gpx files. I converted them to Excel with,  dropped them into Tableau and soon had a nice interactive map.

Then came the details. I wanted to use color to show both trail difficulty and elevation, which is a little tricky, because Tableau doesn’t let the first dimension (trail difficult – just green and blue) determine the colors for the second dimension (elevation). What I kept getting were individually colored dots along the trail. Finally I found a solution by creating a custom color palette that let me control blue and green shading. Looking at the starting points in the upper right, it becomes pretty apparent that each ride started out with a climb!

For the last of the details, adding dashboard actions to highlight and filter let me show trail elevation along whichever trail the user hovers over. If I could change the cursor to a mountain bike, that would be perfect!

Then I moved on to the breweries. I was curious to see how much location data I could get from my iPhone. Disturbingly, top hits for my searches on the topic were all about how to track someone (usually an ex-girlfriend) without them knowing. Apparently most people aren’t aware of the “Find Friends” and “Find iPhone” apps on their phones.

There’s more data buried a little deeper: for historical data, go to Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations. The list of locations is rough, because the phone only notes locations when you change cell towers. In our case, it missed most of the breweries (very significant locations)! The list of System Services using your location may make you queasy – it’s worth plowing through to fine-turn what you want to share and when.

To add some information for the breweries, I used their logos as custom shapes, created dynamic tooltips (hover over a brewery) to show their respective URLs and Beer Advocate scores, and added the breweries’ >URLs into the tooltips.

I had planned to do a dual axis map of trails and locations as a full outer join using this workaround. I couldn’t quite get the join to work (next time), but using colors to hide null values was a great trick and really helpful.

The final step was going to be semantic zooming – starting with a zoomed out map of the northwest and zooming in to the Bend area – but it still feels clunky in Tableau compared with other mapping tools, like this Mapbox view of Oregon’s mountain bike trails:

There’s a great, quick Mapbox tutorial I’ve been wanting to get through – I’ll see what vacation looks like in there next!

See you at on the trails!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by

Up ↑