tracking how to

tracking overview

For most of us, tracking mileage is a big deal. For those of us touring on vintage machines with no fuel gauge, the trip odometer is your best friend and you’re probably very used to resetting it at every fill up and know your machine’s range under all kinds of conditions. But its also important for many of us to let our family and friends know where we are when we’re on the road. I put this page together to explain how I stitched together my tracking system or, as my wife calls it, my “Where’s Calep?” page on my website.

Important disclaimer – this is all fun and games until someone gets stuck in the middle of nowhere with a busted motorcycle, no water, no fuel, and no cell phone coverage. This “system” is purely recreational and won’t do much more than allow people to see where you were the last time you had cell coverage. If you want to be able to call for help regardless of cell phone coverage replace the smartphone with a Spot device. The Spot device is a GPS transmitter that will let you send a call for help. If you’re going way off the beaten path consider this option.

what you need

My “system” uses three primary components:

  1. A smartphone. I use an iPhone but you can use an Android phone. You will also want to mount your smartphone securely to your motorcycle. I use a RAM mount to mount my iPhone to my handlebars but there are lots or mounting options. You’ll also want to provide power to your smartphone. For an example of how to run power to your devices from your existing tank bag, see my page about tank bag electrification. You can also purchase tank bags already set up to provide power to your gadgets.
  2. spotwalla.com account. Spotwalla says its a “secure personal location manager” but for the sake of simplicity I just call it a tracking system. The first thing you need to do is register for a Spotwalla account. There’s a bit of configuration you’ll need to do to Spotwalla to get what you want but start by setting up your account.
  3. A smartphone app to talk to your spotwalla.com account. There are a few apps out there but Bubbler GPS is the recommended app for Android and SWConnect is recommended for iPhone (and this is also what I use so that makes it the best). The app turns your phone into a GPS tracker and, when you add your phone to your Spotwalla account, the app will will send your location to Spotwalla. Don’t worry if your cell service gets disrupted – the smartphone app will continue to track your location using GPS technology, cache the location data, and upload the cached data the next time your cell phone connects to your carrier’s network.

Once you have these three components set up, you’re ready to track yourself which is really kind of weird if you think about it. The most important and fun part about setting all this up is to set things up so others can see where you’ve been.

setting up trips

This where all this configuration and effort gets paid off. Log in to Spotwalla and create a trip. To over-simplify, a trip is nothing more than a collection of location points between a start date + time and an end date + time. The data points are then strung together in chronological order to create the trip. The trip can then be displayed on a map and the map displayed through a link. Here’s a picture of a map constructed from trip data captured by by smartphone and pushed up to Spotwalla by the SWConnect app.

sample spotwalla map
a sample spotwalla map

This is what it looks like when embedded in a page on a website.

making spotwalla do what you want

The Spotwalla site has some directions on how to do all this and there’s also a support forum to help you find answers to your questions.