Google Maps adds elevation data for cyclists braving the hills

Maps on the desktop now shows elevation gains through a new graphical display

Google has quietly added elevation data to bike routes in its Maps service, providing better intel for intrepid cyclists.

The feature, which launched Friday, seems to work for much of the U.S. and Canada. Google says Maps already factored in elevation when determining routes for cyclists, but until now the elevation data wasn't made easily visible.

Type in an origin and destination for biking, and the service now displays a graphical representation of the route's elevation. Drag the cursor along the chosen route and the graphic shows the elevation changes at any given point. The total elevation change is also displayed.

The feature seems to work for any distance. Even a bike route from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Texas, showed the elevation gain: more than 57,000 feet.

Google declined to comment further about the feature, first reported by Tech Crunch.

As of now the elevation data is displayed only on the desktop version of Maps, though it might come to the mobile Maps apps later.

Bikers who want that sort of data have other apps to choose from, such as Altimeter+ and Get Altitude.

It's not clear where Google is getting its elevation data from, though it could be an integration with its own Elevation API. That software kit provides elevation data for all locations on the surface of the Earth, Google says, including depths on the ocean floor. Bikers probably won't be using Maps for underwater rides, though.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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