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Old 04-22-06, 05:04 PM   #1
velo
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Topographic Mapping Software good for planning routes?

Hey all,

I'm looking to buy software for my desktop that would be good for mapping routes for cycling. I'd like it to be able to tell me elevation changes (topographic) and specific street and place names along routes that I draw up myself. I don't need any GPS functions.

What software does anyone use to do this?

I'm looking at TopoUSA 6.0 by DeLorme: http://www.delorme.com/topousa/default.asp

Thanks for any help,
velo
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Old 04-22-06, 05:13 PM   #2
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Gmaps Pedometer already does this for free, but the elevation accuracy is um. a mystery to me at the moment. It's not very good for the Toronto area.
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Old 04-22-06, 05:21 PM   #3
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TopoUSA is an excellent program for route development. I use it extensively.
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Old 04-22-06, 06:13 PM   #4
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I use the 5.0 with great satisfaction. Terrain profile feature is perhaps one of the greatests features
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Old 04-22-06, 07:20 PM   #5
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One caution regarding Topo or any other mapping program. These programs generally do not differentiate between paved and unpaved roads. Although Topo lets you specify routing preferences by various types of roads (interstate, national highway, local road, etc.) there is nothing to indicate the road surface. So, you should always look over the route to be sure you are not being routed on some obscure county road to save a tenth of a mile.

For Texas riding, I have a copy of the excellent map book, The Roads of Texas. This book contains all the rural roads in the state and does indicate the road surface. It's an excellent companion to TopoUSA for route planning. I believe there are similar map books for other states.
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Old 04-22-06, 09:36 PM   #6
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Topo USA is pretty good, though:

1) The user interface is bad. Really, really bad. After a while you get used to it, but it's just hard to figure out how to do.
2) It's slow and takes a lot of memory.
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Old 04-22-06, 10:35 PM   #7
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I do prefer DeLorme to National Geographic, have both, sell both.
My results are somewhat biased because of my heavy use of GPS and ability to custom tailor maps. National Geographic has less features and an old fashioned windows GUI.

TOPO USA 6 improves on its' routing capabilities. Allows me to copy my tracklogs to routable trails that I can then auto-route on and get various loop lengths.
The new version also allows me to zoom in a little closer, helping me to better map our archery club range.

Happy biking
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Old 04-22-06, 10:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supcom

For Texas riding, I have a copy of the excellent map book, The Roads of Texas. This book contains all the rural roads in the state and does indicate the road surface. It's an excellent companion to TopoUSA for route planning. I believe there are similar map books for other states.
There is at least one good one for California, DeLorme makes it I believe. (shameless plug) The bike specific map made by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (SCBC) has elevations at the tops of major climbs. With our extreme rains this year many of California's back roads have damage and should be ridden with care.
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Old 04-23-06, 01:42 AM   #9
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I have the 5.0 version and like it. There are some altitudes I question, but most seem pretty reasonable. No one should expect the grade at any given point to be accurate though. Obviously, no mapping program is going to have every foot specifically measured so a lot must be calculated from other spots. As a result, you get some impossible grades for certain points (I think I found one that said 50%!). But the average grade is probably fairly reasonable.

Sometimes I find I can't get a route to go where it should so I have to add a trail to connect two points. The road shows already, but somehow the software doesn't work unless I manually connect a trail across the problem area. I think I've only found 1 or 2 of these.

Oh, and sometimes I find roads that do not exist. This happens more with trails though.
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Old 04-23-06, 01:54 PM   #10
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I've been using the DeLorme 5.0 and I agree with the comments about the interface, it's not the most intutive that I've ever seen, but it does work. My understanding is that DeLorme has completely rewritten the 3D engine for Ver. 6 and it's much more responsive. I agree with the comments regarding elevation and grades, sometimes it seems like it's right on, some times it's obviously incorrect over the short run. I like the ability to add roads that don't show on the map and route with them.

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Old 04-23-06, 03:39 PM   #11
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Typical paper street level road map is $3-$5. No crying if you lose it. 36in x 36in screen size cannot be beat.
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Old 04-23-06, 05:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geo8rge
Typical paper street level road map is $3-$5. No crying if you lose it. 36in x 36in screen size cannot be beat.
Paper street maps work fine for finding your way around a single city or to drive across a state. But if you want to lay out a century ride or travel between cities on a bike, you find yourself having to find individual county maps. Even then, you don't get any idea where the hills are.
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Old 04-23-06, 05:26 PM   #13
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Well, the DeLorme sounds pretty good overall to me. Thanks, everybody. I was debating about it or the National Geographic one (leaning towards DeLorme), so thanks for your input gps_dr, especially.
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Old 04-23-06, 05:58 PM   #14
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And yet everyone is so eager to spend money where there is a free alternative available.
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Old 04-23-06, 06:37 PM   #15
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I just picked up topo 6.0. After trying national geographic state series and then returning it, i just can't justify the high cost. it seems like the delorme uses the same data, but Is better adapted for computer usage as opposed to national geographic using scaned USGS maps. The topo west coast costs $50 and covers everything west of the great divide, national geographic is around $100 and is only one state. Both are 1:24000 scale.

I checked multiple areas of new development on the national georaphic software and found that in some areas, data was over 10 years old. Delorme seemed to be pretty current.
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Old 04-24-06, 09:16 AM   #16
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try easygps.com - it's free. I use the expert version ($60) and it can interface with real mapping software ArcGIS.
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Old 04-24-06, 11:47 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by operator
And yet everyone is so eager to spend money where there is a free alternative available.
I don't consider gmaps pedometer a very good alternative to TopoUSA. gmpas pedometer does not do automated routing, the elevation data is pretty much worthless, it won't generate turn-by-turn directions, and it's user interface is even worse that TopoUSA (which really isn't all that bad).

As far as I'm concerned, gmaps pedometer is fine for drawing up a quick route of this evening's ride to email your riding buddies, but it's not what I would use to plan a century or a muti-day tour.
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