A couple of months ago I was asked by John Ross, the coordinator of the fabulous TET project, if I could put together a guide on navigating the TET using Locus Map. Here’s the guide. I’ve tried to keep it simple; there is a lot more you can do in Locus, it is by far the most fully featured and advanced mapping program available. I might cover some of the more advanced features of relevant to trail riders in a future post but following this guide will quickly get you offline maps with elevation shading and some nice squiggly lines to follow.
The screenshots for this guide are, mostly, from my Samsung Galaxy A20 smartphone although all of these instructions should apply equally to all versions of Android on both smartphones and tablets.
You will need two apps; Locus Map and the TET application. Launch your “Play Store” and search for “TET”; it should be the first app you find – as you’ll see in the screenshot below.
Once it’s installed go ahead and search for “locus” and the first app you should be Locus Map Free; which for our purposes works as well as the paid version except that you will have adverts at the top of the map screen. In all of my screenshots I am using Pro, so no adverts.
Locus will, by default, show online mapping data; so you need to have an active internet connection to keep getting more map as you move around. Out on the TET there is every possibility you won’t have a connection and even if you did you’ll use a lot of mobile data allowance; it’s not the way to go.
So you’ll need offline maps for the countries you are interested in. It is possible to do this for free but if you want the easy life you can get the maps you are interested in for next to nothing from the Locus store.
Launch Locus and go through all of the legal and permissions questions it asks. You’ll be presented with the default Locus map screen. Select the menu button in the top left.
Select “OFFLINE” at the top and then the blue “+” and select “Download offline maps.”
You will be presented with the Locus Store. It works on a credits system, you buy “LoCoins” and use these to purchase maps. You will need to navigate this yourself, you can sign up with your email address or with your Google account. You’ll have to provide your credit card details, or use Google Pay to buy some credits. The price of a map depends on the complexity of the map and the size of the region, Germany South costs 160 credits. Monaco costs 5. Poland is 120.
Now you have some credits browse the store for the map you are interested in; in this case I have selected Europe > Romania and have selected the LoMaps product line; they’re cheap simple maps that are designed for Locus. This one costs 35 coins, or 40 euro cents. Select Purchase, agree to the terms and wait patiently for the download to finish. The maps are quite large, so you should probably be on WiFi.
Once the download is finished you will probably want to download the elevation data for the area; this allows Locus to shade the map for altitude. I like it, it helps identify challenging sections. If you scroll down on the product page you will find an option for “Elevation Data: Download for offline use”. Select it, choose download and wait.
Now hit the “back” button of your phone until you get back to the main map screen. Go again to the menu and to “maps”. You will find that your map is now in the list of offline maps. Select it and Locus will ask if you want to re-centre the view on to your new map; you do. You’ll get a zoomed out view of your new map. Repeat the process for all the other countries you need for your trip. In the screenshot below you’ll see that I have successfully downloaded both Romania and Bulgaria.
Maps are fairly large files and many smartphones have limited local storage so you might not want to download all of the maps you need at once, you can always visit a coffee shop, get on the WiFi and download the next map you need as you go. You can store LoMaps and other “Vector” maps on your phone’s SD card if you prefer – I include a guide to making this change at the bottom of this post.
By default the map will display in the local language and script, which in this case is Cyrylic. You can switch to English by selecting the three dots at the side of the map name and choosing “Details”. Then switch the language from “Local” to “English”.
This is just one way of getting offline maps for Locus; in my opinion it’s the easiest. You can download areas of maps for free in Locus but this is heavily limited; you can only get small chunks of the map and would need to queue up downloads to the end of time to get a full country. There are also ways to get free offline maps like OSM into Locus; there are guides for doing this online – just Google them if you want to save every single penny. OpenAndroMaps is probably the best known source. Personally I skip the hassle and use the pre-packaged LoMaps.; even though I’m a stingy Scotsman at around one euro each I think they’re worth it.
Downloading and Displaying the TET
So, you have the maps you need. Now you need the TET. Go back to your home screen and launch the TET app.
After selecting “Continue” at the splash screen select “Browse” under TET Tracks.
You will be presented with the country list. Click on the country you are interested in; in this tutorial we are going to download Romania and Bulgaria.
Selecting your country will show you the track in that country and offer you an “Open Track” option. Select it.
You’ll be asked what app you want to open the track in; select Locus Map. If you’re planning to use Locus as your main navigation tool then select “Always” so you can skip this step next time.
You will now be presented with the “Import” screen. I strongly recommend that for each TET country you download you create a folder in which to store it. Some of the TET tracks come with lots of points of interest and various tracks; keeping everything organised makes your life easier. If you note the date you downloaded the file in the folder name then you’ll know when you downloaded it; which you can compare with “Last Updated” in the TET app before you head off; so you know you have the latest revision. To create a new folder select the drop-down folder menu at the import screen.
Select “Add new folder”.
Enter the name of the folder you wish to create, I use a standard of “TET Somewhere Month-Year” so in this case it’s TET Bulgaria 11-20. Select “Add”. For Bulgaria there are no points of interest, just the track, so here you only need to do this once.
Now select Import.
The import is complete; you’ll be able to see the track you’ve imported. on the map you downloaded. Success!
Now we will import Romania, which is a more complex track with points of interest. I include it here so you can be prepared for that. Go back to the TET app, back to the country list, in this case I’m looking for Romania. Open track again, select Locus Map again, then we’re back to the import screen in Locus. This time with the addition of “Points”.
It’s the same story, except with the addition of a section for “Points”. As you did with the track just select the drop down, create a new folder and give it a name. You’ll also need to create a new folder to store the tracks in, just as above. When you are done just select “Import”.
Now we have both country maps installed and the TET for each country overlaid on the map. We’re pretty much ready to ride.
At this point you can strap your phone to your handlebars and go but it’s important to mention that you can manage all of your tracks, points and other data after import. If you select the menu button in the top left and then “tracks” you will find a list of all your imported tracks in their folders; same with points of interest. There is a lot you can do here; you can show or hide tracks and points; you can change the colour of the tracks, or whole folders of tracks, you can delete and perhaps most usefully hide tracks and points.
To hide or display tracks just hit the “eye” button to the right of the track to hide it, hit it again to display it. From here you can also change the colour of tracks, the colour of whole folders of tracks and the icon used for various points. I won’t go into this in detail here; as it’s not absolutely essential – but it is helpful.
Tracks take up system resources when visible. If you have an extremely powerful smartphone this may not be an issue, but on my old Galaxy Tab I try to only have the track I am using loaded – it speeds things up quite a lot.
Navigating the TET
Now for the fun part. The basic map UI of Locus is very simple, you can zoom in and out and track around the map easily enough. The two buttons on the bottom left lock your position as the centre of the map and toggle between north up and rotating map. I won’t teach you how to suck eggs in this article, but if you do need some guidance Locus themselves have things covered on their YouTube channel.
To start with you’ll need to find your way to the start of the track somehow. You can use Locus for this, but it’s a bit of a tech fiddle to get it working offline – you need to install a separate routing API called BRouter and download area files. Locus have their own guide to doing this. If you go down this route you’ll be able to navigate turn by turn right to the start of the trail. Just select a location on the map and navigate to it.
Another option is to identify a town, village, petrol station or whatever that’s near the start point and use your preferred navigation app to get there. Then switch to Locus for on the trail navigation.
Map Storage on SD Card
Some of you might want to store your maps on an SD card to save space on your phone, I do. There are some security constraints in the Android OS which mean that not all map types can be stored on SD, but LoMaps and other vector maps can be.
- Go into the Locus main menu.
- Go to Settings.
- Select Miscellaneous.
- Select Default Directories.
- Select “Set mapsVector” directory.
Now navigate to your SD card to create and choose a new folder in which you want to store your maps. This differs between different versions of the Android OS, so I can’t describe it in detail here.
Once done you should see the new directory and you will be prompted to restart Locus. You will either need to re-download your maps or move them from the old location to the new. I don’t recommend changing any of the other directories.
As a final note one of the major failings of using a smartphone or tablet for navigating on the TET is that most screens are, to some degree or another, sensitive to rain and mud. There is a solution to this. I use an app called “Touch Protector” which can be used to disable all screen inputs, you use one of the hardware buttons to re-enable screen input after you’ve locked it out. I have it set up so that a long press on my “back” button makes the screen responsive again.