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  1. #1
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    Touring without adventure cycling maps?

    I'm currently planning a big trip around the U.S. for next year... my first, but I'm not sure if I should get these maps. I'm a map lover, don't get me wrong, but they seem they'd take away from the adventure of not knowing where you're headed. So has anyone toured long-distance, unsupported, without these av maps? If so, how was it & was it difficult to find backroads or not, with other maps?

    Jordan

  2. #2
    Long Live Long Rides
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    I've actually only used the Adventure Cycling map once in my 25+ years of cycling/touring. To be honest, the map was just ok. I'm glad I had it, but there were several changes to take note of. Some of the street names changed. I got lost one time and was 15mi in the wrong direction. I was following the Lewis and Clark Trail on this ride.

    The maps do have a focus. They are set up to ride low traffic and scenic roads. Something you may or may not find on a regular map.

    HOWEVER, I would agree that in my first experience using the Adventure Cycling map that my focus was trying to figure out the map. It made my journey a little less adventuresome (is that a word?)

    That said, I have a ride from Salt Lake City, UT to Tempe, AZ and through the Grand Canyon later this year. The route is one of the Adventure Cycling routes (Grand Canyon Connector-Cedar City to Tempe). I plan to pick up a map and give it another shot.
    Jharte
    Touring...therapy for the soul.

  3. #3
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    I heard that the newer Adventure Cycling maps are better, but since I have not seen the older or the newer ones yet I have nothing to compare it to.

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    Many states produce their own bicycle maps. You can also look at traffic density maps when figuring out route planning and contact local clubs for advice. One great advantage of the AC maps is that they show you where you can get supplies and spend the night. Plus you're likely to see other tourers on the established AC routes.

  5. #5
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    I always toured witout them (they don't exist in Canada) and likewise, I stay away from most cycling guides that tend to show loop tours.

    Standard Regional maps are great to find local roads and Tourist Information booths are interesting places too.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  6. #6
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    I have done both.

    In England, I don't use their biking maps (they have several groups that produce them). Instead, I get a country motoring atlas (1 inch = 3 miles) and simply plan my route trying to use the most local roads I can. I probably miss some things but I really like finding my way on my own.

    In the US, I use the Adventure cycling maps. I like the information they provide and the routes they choose. That said, I always check them with other resources and change them if I see a better way.

    If you are following an Adventure cycling route, why not use them as a resource?

    Ray

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    I toured the US with and without the AC maps. You can find good roads without them, but it's more work. And yeah, they can be "take the adventure out of cycling" maps. You want to have other maps along as well, in case you feel like a detour. I used the AAA maps and camping books, and picked up local/state maps at tourist information centers. I also found RV park brouchures and state/BLM/NPS literature helpful. You can learn a lot from chatting with local folks too, but you do have to evaluate your source, and corrorborrate the information. People in cars don't notice hills and distances the same way as people on bikes.

    Also, the AC maps are great as a beginner tourist... maybe you could start out with the ones for the beginning of your route, and then order more later if you decide you want to keep using them. It's nice at first to have more information about where your services are, it lets you settle down mentally a little.

    Good luck with your trip!


    Anna
    ...

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    I toured the US with and without the AC maps. You can find good roads without them, but it's more work. And yeah, they can be "take the adventure out of cycling" maps. You want to have other maps along as well, in case you feel like a detour. I used the AAA maps and camping books, and picked up local/state maps at tourist information centers. I also found RV park brouchures and state/BLM/NPS literature helpful. You can learn a lot from chatting with local folks too, but you do have to evaluate your source, and corrorborrate the information. People in cars don't notice hills and distances the same way as people on bikes.

    Also, the AC maps are great as a beginner tourist... maybe you could start out with the ones for the beginning of your route, and then order more later if you decide you want to keep using them. It's nice at first to have more information about where your services are, it lets you settle down mentally a little.

    Good luck with your trip!


    Anna
    I agree. The Adventure Cycle maps are just one tool. Just as you'd not touring using a Hammond atlas or a 7.5 minute topo map, you shouldn't depend on the AC maps entirely. My main beef with them is that they work too hard to avoid cities and traffic. There are times when you get sick of riding and just want to visit a museum or go into a town for some entertainment. The AC maps tend to be rather lacking in this detail. I always carry the AAA maps for the states that I'm riding through along with a AAA regional map (I chart my progress on it). I also carry the pages from the campground and guide books from AAA for further information. I do this by looking at a map, picking the areas where I'm going, and then cut those pages out of the guide book.

    And, yes, the AC maps can be inaccurate. Things change, business go belly up, roads are closed, etc. It happens and you just have to deal with it. But if you didn't have the information that the AC maps provide, you wouldn't know what businesses and services are there anyway
    Stuart Black
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    And yeah, they can be "take the adventure out of cycling" maps. You want to have other maps along as well, in case you feel like a detour.
    Agree.

    Several years ago, my brother & I rode the Natchez Trace N --> S. Halfway through, we tired of the relative sterility of the route, & headed for Natchez through the backroads of Mississippi, using a generic state road map. Best decision we made on the trip.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    My opinion is that it's good to have more than one resource, and to feel free to vary from an established route when you feel like it. I like to have a state highway map from AAA, a state bicycling map (if one exists), and talk to locals, other cyclists, etc.

    If you stay on an established route you're more likely to meet other cycle tourers. When I rode down the Pacific Coast I followed the Kirkendall/Spring book. I met a ton of people because we all tended to stay in the same campgrounds on the same nights. (It's a VERY popular route.) When I changed things a bit and stayed in campgrounds that weren't the ones slected in the book I met different people. When I went through San Francisco I attempted to follow the route and got lost. Luckily, a lady cop straightened me out.

    My summer plans include a ride on Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier route. I grew up in Washington and know the roads pretty well. I've bought the ACA maps and I'm going to use them; they look pretty good. However, I've already got a few variations picked out.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I've never even seen the Adventure Cycling Maps. As Michel Gagnon said, they don't make them for Canada ... and they don't make them for Australia or Europe ... at least, not that I know of.

    Instead, for North America, I get my maps from CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) for free, and I might buy a map or two in one of my local bookstores. Those are usually fairly general, but that's OK. When I went to Australia, I went without any maps at all, but picked up some now and then along the way at Tourist Information places. Over there, there are Tourist Information places, often with campgrounds attached, in just about every town. In England, you can get ahold of Ordinance Maps - you have to pay a bit for them, but they are extremely detailed. Or you can do what I often did and just ride ... then once you are thoroughly lost, you can ask directions!

  12. #12
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Last summer we biked from Canada to Mexico. We were fine without them, untill San Francisco. There we were escorted into the city by a nice cyclist named Terri. Terri then gave us the maps and detailed the routes out of SF and around some of the major points ahead of us.

    I really don't know how we would have ever found our way once we got into the serious urban areas. Even with the maps it was a challenge and there was no loss in adventure. I think having bike specific maps doesn't distract at all from the adventure. There are just alot of side rides you would miss if you didn't know they were there.

  13. #13
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    I'm not the original poster, but I did find out some very interesting things and I for one appreciate this information. I too am planning to tour sometime either next year or the year after that; and thought all I needed was the AC maps, but now I realize it may be a good idea to take AAA maps since I can get those for free and they seem to be pretty accurate.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by froze
    I'm not the original poster, but I did find out some very interesting things and I for one appreciate this information. I too am planning to tour sometime either next year or the year after that; and thought all I needed was the AC maps, but now I realize it may be a good idea to take AAA maps since I can get those for free and they seem to be pretty accurate.
    And never discount the benefits of tourist maps. In the US, the tourist information places tended to be on freeways ... or at least that's where I noticed them. However if you can find them elsewhere (because you won't likely be cycling on freeways), you can often pick up:

    -- local maps of local state or national parks - they tend to be quite specific and detailed, complete with camping and other information that can be useful to cyclists.

    -- tourist routes - you know, the routes someone has designated as scenic or historical. Those maps can be helpful because the roads may not appear on general state maps, but they can be quite good, and during the middle of the week the traffic isn't too bad. Plus you get to see scenic and historical stuff.

    -- cyclist routes - on occasion the tourist information places will have maps published by the local cycling association giving recommended routes for cyclists.

    -- plus all sorts of other interesting information!! And most of the stuff you can get in those places have great photos and pictures and fascinating information about the places I'm travelling through.

    I enjoy browsing through those places, and I tend to collect the maps and brochures of places I've been and seen, or that I'm heading to. I mail them home when they start to get too heavy, and I keep them in scrapbooks of my trips.

  15. #15
    Senior Member teamcompi's Avatar
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    I think using AC maps is a great thing, but they bring you along routes where many have gone before. This IMHO is a good and a bad thing. It is good because drivers are used to seeing riders, know how to avoid hitting you for the most part, know what your needs are and have heard it all before. The AC maps have the phone numbers for the police and the guys that run the parks where you will camp and the local bike shop and on and on and on. Its good its good its all good.

    After spending many summers on the road it amazes me that 20 miles off the AC route you have a whole different experience. The guy in the corner store actually loves to see you, and when you find the bike shop they might even give you a free complimentary water bottle. The local police will invite you to his house rather than let you sleep in the park, and heck his wife is a good cook to boot.

    The AC maps are nice in and around a big city or those with limited bike routes. That said we have always found a local rider to show us their way around their home town, just ride slow and look lost a rider will always show up.

    As for finding roads its a no brainer....stay away from the blue the red are usually ok....the yellow are rougher and lack a good shoulder but have less traffic.

    The AC maps are like candy.....its good but you really know that its bad for you, and you can live without it!

  16. #16
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by teamcompi
    I

    That said we have always found a local rider to show us their way around their home town, just ride slow and look lost a rider will always show up.
    it!
    Oh man you mean they show-up for everyone? That is exactly what happened to my son and I, everytime we were lost in a big city we would have another cyclist show-up and lead us the way. We started referring to them as our guardian angels. But this whole time we thought that was just our unique exsperience.

  17. #17
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    jordanamo,
    My first tour was solo unsupported along the Southern Tier of the US. I purchased the first two Adventure Cycling maps for that route. I followed the first one exactly, modified the second one some, and then used AAA maps for the rest of the route. Even for the first two legs I carried AAA maps so that I could see what was just a few miles off of the course. The more that you travel the better you will be at choosing a route. No I did not always make good choices, but that was just part of the ride, finding a new route in the middle of the day. As others have said, AAA maps are not necessarily the best maps. If you can get a map published by the state you are traveling in it probably will be better than the AAA map.

    Even if you don't buy the Adventure Cycle maps you can go to their site and get a pretty good idea which roads that they choose. It is a starting point.

    Good luck.
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    I've never used them, but I just bought the Great Divide set, thinking that tour will be the exception, when I finally get to it. The Great Divide set are pretty maps to look at and dream about.

    I've noticed that people get obsessed with the maps (screw the scenery, root beer stand 1.2 miles ahead!) just like they get obsessed with odometers. Actually, those two obsessions are related. (I don't usually use an odometer either.) I always know when I've crossed onto one of the Adventure routes because I start to meet lots of bikers, which can be nice.

    In the American West, you often don't have a lot of routes to choose from beyond those obvious on a state highway map, so the Adventure pick is like, no duh. That's particularly true if you're threading through the mountains. In the plains, lesser traveled roads often follow the survey grid. You can plot any number of courses across long stretches of some Great Plains states on secondary back roads--take your pick, tar or gravel or "unimproved," all heading straight to a compas bearing. Not that you necessarily need a compas in those regions.

    Biking on interstates sucks, even where it is legal (or unavoidable), but they can be useful to orient yourself. You can sometimes parallel an I-road on a back road a few miles out, and then bike up on a cross roads to take advantage of truck stops. Same trick for natural features, like rivers, except fewer truck stops.

    Some places, like 101 on the West Coast, are cake and the map is just weight.

    The Holy De Lorme gazeteers carry a lot useful detail and would normally be my pick if lugging umpteem atlases wasn't silly. But I do rip pages. I know that one set of DeLorme pages was handed off back and forth between tourers crossing South Dakota in opposite directions a few summers back. It's always a good idea to ask tourers you meet if they want to trade maps.

    That said, God Bless those Adventure folks because they ease people's worries and get them on the road.
    Last edited by Krink; 02-12-07 at 08:43 PM.
    They told me to wear more lycra, and I said "no, no, no."

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mntbikedude
    Oh man you mean they show-up for everyone? That is exactly what happened to my son and I, everytime we were lost in a big city we would have another cyclist show-up and lead us the way. We started referring to them as our guardian angels. But this whole time we thought that was just our unique exsperience.
    It happened to me in Sydney, Australia.


    And my guardian angel even gave me a map to refer to for the next few weeks of the tour.

  20. #20
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    When the towns are 50-100 miles apart the AC maps could be a God send. When town are 10-20 miles apart so what. Miss a pit stop? Another will be along soon.
    This space open

  21. #21
    Senior Member CyKKlist's Avatar
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    I was like a kid in a candy store when my first ACA maps arrived a few months ago. I now own most of the set for the Atlantic Coast, (Jacksonville, FL up to NYC and CT), and they are great just for planning and daydreaming. If you like maps, these are a lot of fun to study, partly because they are often oriented at strange angles to true north, to show as much of the route as possible.

    However, I do want to point out a important "tiebreaker" -- buying ACA maps directly supports an organization that is devoted entirely to promoting travel by bicycle.

    Ken
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    Also -- NC Courthouse Tour, using Amtrak to Charlotte
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    They are great for getting through cities and highly populated places. But are lacking in other areas. I would recommend using them for areas with a lot of confusing roads, or where you are unsure of what services are going to be available. Don't use them for the pacific coast, as the route is pretty self explanatory. But they were great for NM, Texas and points east.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by MassLiberal
    Don't use them for the pacific coast, as the route is pretty self explanatory. But they were great for NM, Texas and points east.
    I used them on the Pacific Coast and they were great. They often route you off of Highway 1/101 and onto quiter roads, where the Bicycling the Pacific coast book routes you on the highway.

  24. #24
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    I would usually just ask in a town, how to get to the next town, on less travelled roads
    made it very adventurous!

  25. #25
    Senior Member Shemp's Avatar
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    They are great for first-timers, the less brave, heavily or sparsely populated areas, and as mentioned, for dreaming about and planning that next trip. Follow it and talk to locals. We did their Green Mountain Loop this summer and used two detours we discovered just talking to people. Follow the ACA maps if you like their paths, but don't fear to deviate from them and they'll work well. I have a set of the Northern Tier maps I keep for the dreaming purpose.

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