Google has quietly added elevation data to bike routes in its Maps service, providing better information for cyclists who want to avoid steep hills (or take them on).
The feature, which launched Friday, seems to work for much of the UK, US 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.
However, we wouldn't trust its accuracy completely, as it appears to be unaware of Whyteleafe Hill in south London (below) – which you're very much aware of when riding up it.
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.
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, but it does offer some interesting possibilities for divers.