onX Maps is a well-known name in the digital mapping world.
The Missoula-based mapping company got its start creating an app for hunters that consisted of topographic maps layered with cadastral data to show users what land around them was private and what was public and fair game to hunt on.
Nowadays, they have expanded quite a bit and their products appeal to an audience far wider than just the hunting community.
A few years ago, onX acquired the Adventure Projects - mountain project, backcountry project, and mountain bike project - from REI with the goal of integrating their trail, climbing, and skiing data into onX's platform.
Just last week onX took the cover off the new mountain bike mode within their Backcountry app. This new mobile mountain bike trail map system is built on the backbone of onX's preexisting basemap and is gearing up to directly compete with Trailforks, a name very familiar to most mountain bikers.
Logan Jackson, the head of cartography for onX Backcountry says the app is all about accessibility. He describes it as more than just a mountain biking app since it has all of onX's other infrastructure built into it. It is a tool for more "in-depth" planning.
From creating a backcountry bike packing route to traveling to a new area and needing to know where to camp as well as where to ride, the app includes countless layers that are designed to be tailored to the user's needs.
The biggest benefit onX brings over Trailforks, according to Jackson, is the functional basemap. The basemap is a detailed topographic map that can be downloaded offline and provides a more elevated experience in terms of available road data, land ownership information, and integrated weather and fire information.
Functionally, the app isn't all that different from Trailforks, it is just far more broad-sweeping. Where Trailforks focuses exclusively on mountain biking and optimizes all of its functions solely for that purpose, onX provides a more all-encompassing experience that encourages users to rely on it for everything from navigating to the riding zone to camping in the area afterward. Their approach is to the detriment of mountain biking specifically as it does not include a host of features that Trailforks does.
Jackson's vision for onX's mountain bike division is to have an open line of communication with local trail organizations across the country so they have the power to effectively self-moderate their areas and add, update, or change trail data as needed to keep it current. His eventual goal is to have local trail groups use this as their primary means of trail mapping and updating.
Where onX Backcountry falls short of Trailforks is in its mountain bike trail data. Trailforks has a far more robust and up-to-date network of trail information and its features are more intuitive for mountain biking. It is a more refined experience for mountain biking, but again, it is only that useful for mountain biking.
It will be interesting to see where onX's mountain bike feature is by next summer once the kinks are ironed out. It definitely has the potential to be a one-stop shop for all things outdoors, it just has a long way to go to match Trailforks in terms of mountain biking specifically.
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