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We can almost guarantee you the cyclists on your holiday shopping list don’t need another pair of socks. This year, give them personalized artwork that they can admire for years to come with Vélographs. These beautiful, customized cycling map posters show how far someone can ride from any address in the world in an hour. And with a variety of designs, colors and frame options, they look right at place in any room.
“It’s art that provides availability and access to cycling,” says Vélographs co-founder Ryan Morris. “It lets you look at a place through a new lens, a cycling lens.” Having spent hours on the Vélographs site looking at different places where we have lived and cities that we love—each one with a fresh perspective thanks to these bike-specific maps—we have to agree.
How It Works
Each Vélograph is a visual representation based on data from OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping database available to anyone to use. “To create the bikeable network, all bikeable roads and paths are routed 60 minutes outward from any address in the world, taking into consideration intersections, left-turns, uphill penalties, downhill bonuses, etcetera,” says Adam Roberts, the other co-founder behind Vélographs who brings a background in geospatial and mapping work to the company. That ensures each map provides an accurate representation of how far a cyclist can actually ride given real-world conditions; these maps aren’t simply showing a set distance from a start point.
From that data, Vélographs then uses a geospatial tool to create the map visualizations. Because the maps display only streets that cyclists can ride on, they end up providing a new perspective to the geography of a city. Roberts calls it “topography by omission,” allowing you to see rivers, mountains and other defining, non-rideable geographic features of an area in the negative space.
While many places look interesting as a Vélograph, there are a few limitations based on how these maps are created. Each map has to be formed around a real address, so you can’t plug in, say, the middle of a lake or forest. But sometimes you can find a nearby address for even the most remote locations. The maps also only take into account rideable streets and paths, not off-road trails, making this more focused towards road cyclists and commuters than mountain bikers. And keep in mind that some places look more interesting than others when visualized as a Vélograph based on the geography and road network of that area.
Launched to the public only about two months ago, Vélographs was developed during, and inspired in part by, the Covid-19 pandemic. Morris and Roberts are both expats originally from Northern California who have been living in Grenoble, France, for a number of years. When France went into a lockdown last fall, each person was limited to 60 minutes of outdoor exercise per day that had to be by yourself, sparking a public interest in figuring out how to make the most of that time.
For a lot of people, including Morris and Roberts, that meant figuring out how far they could go on a bike. “All of a sudden everyone around us was rediscovering bicycles,” says Roberts, a former bike mechanic who has lived car-free for 25 years. “Everyone’s question was: What can I do on my bike?” Seeing everyone out on bikes trying to make the best of the same situation helped lead to the idea of Vélographs, and the hour of exercise limitation helped the pair settle on the constraint of 60 minutes for the maps.
How To Make One
Creating a Vélograph is simple through the company’s intuitive website. Plug in any address in the world and the site presents you with eight map design choices: four options that display distance by a color gradient to show how far a cyclist can ride in 60 minutes, and four dual-tone maps that show the full distance a cyclist can go at a given speed, without the color grading. Then you choose the speed / unit (10 mph, 15 mph or 20 mph, or 15 kph, 20 kph or 25 kph), which determines how much area the map shows. Then give it a title and subtitle. It’s that simple.
Each map is printed on 250-grams-per-square-meter / 110-pound paper for a durable final product with vibrant colors. We had one made in the “polar” purple-to-yellow gradient on a dark blue background, and it looks fantastic in person. Vélographs are available in 12”x16” and 18”x24” sizes along with six frame options and a wrapped canvas option for each size.
The maps cost $39 and $49 each, depending on size, and go up to $69 and $79 for any of the frame or canvas options. Gift cards are available, and due to the highly personalized nature of Vélographs, with each one being routed from a different address, they may be the best option if you plan on gifting one, allowing your recipient to choose a special place.
To ensure timely delivery and minimize emissions from shipping, Vélographs partners with printers around Europe and North America. Each Vélograph is made to order and ships from your respective country. All orders are printed and shipped out in two days, and shipping is included in the price. Vélographs estimates it’s usually a five-day window total in the United States from ordering to receiving, an estimate that was spot-on for ours. Just remember, it’s best to order sooner rather than later if you’re looking to gift one in time for Christmas.
Whether you’re looking for cycling-themed artwork for yourself or a loved one, Vélographs are a beautiful addition to any home that provide a fresh perspective on the places you know best.
More info: velographs.com