Finding New Bicycling Routes – Part 2 – Maps for Bicycle Touring
Link to: Part 1 of this series – Pedaling.com
I ride with a GPS but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still use and carry maps. It is much easier to plan routes with maps than GPS Map Software so maps are still essential for trip planning. I also still carry maps because GPS batteries run out and I like to plan side trips while on a tour. Planning side trips with just a GPS is OK if you want to get to the closest beer or pizza, in fact they are great for that. But if you want to add a side trip to visit places the locals tell you that you must see, you will need maps.
Rule 1 – Never believe any route information given to you by anyone other than experienced touring riders.
While we were touring the Gaspe Peninsula, folks in cars would always volunteer information about the road ahead. Typically they would say, “no problems just flat, flat, flat”. Undoubtedly, what would follow was a set of 20% grades that we walked. Never believe what someone in a car tells you about the road ahead. I am not saying don’t listen and thank them for their help, but I am saying don’t don’t rely on it. That great restaurant that is just a few minutes down the road, may be 20 miles away.
Rule 2 – Trust and Verify. Always verify route information on a detailed, up to date map.
A small route mistake in a car can cost you a few minutes. While bicycle touring that same mistake may mean no supper or even worse no beer that night.
In the US there is really only one comprehensive set of maps with the details you need for bicycle touring, the Delorme State Atlases. Yes, there are lots of State Bicycle Maps and many special bicycle maps. These are great and supplement the Delorme’s while on tour but they don’t have all of the information you will need and auto maps are almost useless for bicycle touring. Survey maps have lots of detail and are great for off road riding and hiking but omit much of what you will want touring and often have too fine a scale to carry practically on a bike tour.
The Delorme State Atlas is a great planning tour tool and Tour Companion. It not only has maps at the detail level you will need but camping locations and points of interest.
For me, getting my Delorme out and laying the ride out is part of the fun of touring. I also check it everyday while touring for places of interest and possible side trips.