Sharing your track during a ride

September 06, 2021

Sometimes when I’m out on a ride, it’s nice to let family and friends stay updated on my position. This mostly serves to let folks know that I’m okay, and keep current on my location. There are devices built specifically for this purpose, but they’re usually expensive to use since they communitate bidirectionally with satellites. I have been using a free service that also works with GPS-enabled phones called Spotwalla.

Spotwally lets you create an account, register a device - from satelitte trackers to modern phones, and receives regular position updates form that device. You can then share a live map of your position with anyone you want. It also lets you keep an archive of past trips. For example, here’s a route that I tracked around the Iberian Peninsula with Spotwalla:


Here are the steps to share a route via Spotwalla, assuming you have never used it before.

  1. Create an account on Accounts are free.
  2. Register the device that you’ll use by clicking the profile icon in the upper right, and clicking DEVICES.
    • Click NEW DEVICE.
    • Give it a recognizable description (e.g. iPhone).
    • Select the Device Type. For iOS devices, choose SW Tracker, which is an iOS app that talks to Spotwalla. More on this in step 5.
    • Click CREATE.
  3. Create a new trip by clicking the profile icon in the upper right, and clicking TRIPS.
    • Click CREATE TRIP.
    • Give it a name, description, and bounding dates.
    • Pick a device, likely the one you just created.
    • Adjust any security settings on the security tab.
    • Be sure to pick the motorcycle icon on the Options tab! :-)
    • Click CREATE.
  4. Begin tracking with your hardware device. If you are using an iPhone, you’ll need to install and configure the SW Tracker app.
  5. With tracking active, you can get a link to your trip from the trips page. Just click the trip you want to share, and grab the link that meets your sharing needs.

That’s all you need to do share your location during a trip. As long as you keep your client device broadcasting your position to Spotwalla, then the map of your route will stay current for people that you share the link with. It can prove very helpful in keeping others comfortable by knowing where you are and that you’re likely safe if you’re still moving.

Optional Personalilzation

For those who prefer to use their own domain for sharing, maybe to authenticate access for privacy, you can easily share your route on your own site rather than at Spotwalla. You still follow the steps described above, but instead of sharing a link directly, you’ll host the map yourself.

To do this, you need to host a web page wherever you normally host and share content (Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, …). On that page, you an use an iframe tag pair to insert the map from Spotwalla. Here’s what the code looks like:

<iframe src="LINK-TO-SPOTWALLA-MAP&hoursPast=0&showAll=yes"></iframe> 

Replacing LINK-TO-SPOTWALLA-MAP with your map’s URL will give you a nice view of the map, on your own page, at the domain address of your choice. Share the link to your own site with those you want to have your tracking info.

Spotwalla isn’t free to operate.

Spotwalla is a very useful service that I’ve come to rely on over the years. It is expected to become a for-pay service sometime in 2021. As of this writing, it still relies on donations to support Spotwalla’s cost of operation.

If you use and enjoy the service, please consider a donation at their funding page.