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Thread: Maps Vs GPS

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    Maps Vs GPS

    Is it possible to get by using GPS or Google Maps on a tablet or netbook on a trip, e.g. NJ to ME? How effective that would be versus using cycling specific maps, provided that the needed homework is done up front?
    Is there a market of used ACA maps?

    I will appreciate a discussion on this from riders who have used GPS or other means instead of the ACA maps.

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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Or maps on a e-reader. I hope someone with practical experience turns up to answer this.

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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I've only planned out a couple of days at a time, but I've found my tablet to be very useful. I make sure I have a paper map, just in case.

    Couple of drawbacks:
    • Need an app with downloadable maps. And, of course, you have to download the maps. I ended up taking a detour that took me beyond the confines of my maps, and took me out of any cell coverage, so I was basically flying blind but for my paper map.
    • Need to keep it charged.
    • I find it much easier to plan my route on a desktop, so if I'm on the road with just a tablet and modify my route, it can be more hassle then modifying the route on a paper map. Maybe some apps exist or will show up that make that easier, but for now a line on paper is still easier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ak08820 View Post
    Is there a market of used ACA maps?
    Yes, if they are relatively recent:

    http://www.adventurecycling.org/foru....php?board=5.0

    One problem with using Google Maps is that they sometimes show "paper streets," which are streets or roads that exist on paper but do not physically exist. I saw a few in MT last summer. Another problem is that they do not tell you whether a road is paved. If Street View is not available, how do you know? Same thing with shoulders.

    Last summer, our trip in MT was partly on AC routes and partly of our own creation. We spent a night in Butte and needed to head west to pick up a frontage road along I-90. I used Google Maps to plan our escape from Butte. I opted for the bucolic sounding "Blue Bird Trail." It was not available on Steet View. Rather than the nice bike trail it sounded like, it was a severely undulating dirt road that was washed out places and flooded in others. Maybe it was a wagon or cattle trail once upon a time. We had to walk a couple of times ecause it was simply not rideable.

    IMO, the ACA maps are worth the investment. You don't have to worry about charging them or finding a WiFi signal, and they won't crash on you or get damaged by water. For what you are talking about, it's $30 + shipping assuming you are not a member. Cut a dollar out of your daily budget for 30 days and you are just about there.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak08820 View Post
    I will appreciate a discussion on this from riders who have used GPS or other means instead of the ACA maps.
    I've never used GPS or ACA maps. Most often, I use the maps you'll find in Tourist Information Centres.

    One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new area is head for the local Tourist Information Centre, and pick up maps.

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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I use an eTrex GPS with external rechargeable battery. Although I do also carry an iPhone, service and battery life are too big a problem to rely on. I use freebee state maps for "the big picture" and backup.

    BTW: I'm also considering a tour from NJ to ME this summer. Here's a link to my very preliminary route.
    Last edited by BigAura; 03-27-12 at 03:40 PM. Reason: map update

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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    One problem with using Google Maps is that they sometimes show "paper streets," which are streets or roads that exist on paper but do not physically exist. I saw a few in MT last summer. Another problem is that they do not tell you whether a road is paved. If Street View is not available, how do you know? Same thing with shoulders.
    This is very true. Although of course "paper streets" exist on paper maps, too. But ACA maps will, of course, send you on bikeable roads. When I went beyond the boundaries of my downloaded maps, it was because the route Google suggested involved imaginary roads, for the 2nd time in two days. Of course even ACA maps can leave you in a lurch if there's an impasse: bridge out or similar. I've followed familiar routes that I've known to be good, only to find construction that sent me into the unknown. The only solution for that is flexibility. Or maybe a packraft.

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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak08820 View Post
    Is there a market of used ACA maps?
    Sometimes crazyguyonabike.com has used maps here.

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    I have a nice Map collection from my various bike tours.

    Paper Maps , State DOT, has freebies, for example, of the popular Coast bike route.

    but they wont be water-resistant, like ACA Does up theirs..

    I have gotten Big OS maps in Ireland, and treated them
    with clear packing tape as soon as i Got them so the print on the fold
    remains clear after refolding it many times over..

    and there is a map treatment fluid, to close up the water resistant gap, if you wish..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-08-12 at 11:59 AM.

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Preplanned tracks stored in my eTrex and backup state maps will take me are far as i want to go, and how I want to go. 4G mapping, if you've got the device, would do in place of paper, when there's service.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak08820 View Post
    Is it possible to get by using GPS or Google Maps on a tablet or netbook on a trip, e.g. NJ to ME? How effective that would be versus using cycling specific maps, provided that the needed homework is done up front?
    Is there a market of used ACA maps?

    I will appreciate a discussion on this from riders who have used GPS or other means instead of the ACA maps.
    I used my Garmin Edge 705 on my credit card tour from SF to LA. Worked wonderfully! Encountered several places where my iPhone couldn't get coverage, which meant that I wouldn't have had access to Google Maps. I took the ACA maps as a backup, but don't think I looked at them once...

    Also took my Kindle and the eBook version of "Bicycling the Pacific Coast". The maps in the eBook were pretty much unreadable due to their small size, but I looked at the route description each evening to know what I should expect for the following day.

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    I just completed a 2-day tour from San Francisco to Monterey using only my iPhone with Google Maps, the Route Planner app, and a Biologic iPhone Case mounted to my handlebar. I didn't have a map, but I figured I knew the area relatively well so if I lost the connection or battery I could at least stay close enough to reach my destination without major problems. As it was, that was never a problem during the short tour.

    There was one fairly major hiccup that belies Google's bike directions "beta" status: on day two of the ride, it directed us down a road past a "dead end" sign. I figured maybe there was a path at the end, and there was: singletrack. Very narrow, very twisty, very hilly singletrack. Great on a mountain bike; not so great on a loaded touring bike. It was only a couple hundred yards, but could have been a lot worse. Totally unexpected. I let Google know about it after I got home.

    The rest of their directions were great. Mind you this is in the greater Bay Area, which houses both Google and a ton of tech-savvy cyclists, so YMMV elsewhere.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    GPS'es require batteries, and keeping the GPS on all day and tracking will go right through the battery on a cell phone. If you're going to use a GPS, you'll need a system to keep it charged constantly.

    Cell phones (and tablets and e-readers) aren't designed to be out in the elements for 6+ hours a day. A dedicated weather-sealed GPS is a better way to go, especially given how many cycling-specific ones are available.

    You're almost certainly going to need a paper map anyway as a backup.

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    Looks like eTrax and non-bike maps should work. I will need to look seriously at eTrax device as it will work worldwide.

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    This article may give you a pointer or two for loading a preplanned track into a gps.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    BigAura, there is now a bike path from Wallkill to New Paltz running on an old railroad bed. It is only 10 miles or so but it will be better than the road.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Cell phones (and tablets and e-readers) aren't designed to be out in the elements for 6+ hours a day
    I just picked up the Casio Commando Android phone for Verizon. It IS designed to be exposed to the elements, rock hard case (its been dropped from my bike twice with no visual damage), is waterproof up to 4 feet, and can even be left in the freezer without damaging it. Iwouldnt put anything else on my Pugsley

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    By no means an expert, but I've use a Garmin eTrex 20 Global GPS. Here in Europe, most trails are clearly marked, but there are so many of them, that even a map won't keep you (me) from getting turned around. Sometimes the downloaded maps, and the ones they have posted on trails contradict each other. With my GPS, it's been hassle free, but still carry maps just in case. One time in particular we saw a guy studying a map posted, and it looked like a tangle, of a tangle of spider webs, and had no marking of where he was standing. Glad we had our GPS, and helped him, and ourselves out of that mess.

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    Senior Member Tende's Avatar
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    Im planning on riding across country this summer, mostly off ACA routes, and hope to use a combination of printed (state) maps and my Android phone. I think phone GPS would be too costly (in terms of data usage and battery life), but it might be there in a pinch. I want to download maps ahead of time using wifi, though I haven't picked a program yet.
    I just cant justify the increased cost and weight of a dedicated GPS, though Im sure that'd be the best.

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Most tourers either have or will have a phone capable of navigation. That and a paper map should get you about anywhere you'd want to go. No dedicated gps needed.

    For those of us too cheap or poor to pay for ??G phone service or for a bells and whistles gps, a bottom line Garmin Nuvi will do the trick for <$100. Comes with the North American street map City Navigator, free updates. A true bargain.
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    I used paper maps for years, primarily the DeLorme Atlases. I would copy the sections I needed, then rely on free state/county/local maps from the various Chamber's of Commerce. I have used my smartass phone, as well as the eTrex. I love the eTrex but still back it up with some version of a paper map. For trip planning I use Google Maps and quite often head into street view to get a general idea of what an area looks like. I also like to use the terrain overlay if it is somewhere I don't normally ride, it has saved me more than once.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ak08820 View Post
    Is it possible to get by using GPS or Google Maps on a tablet or netbook on a trip, e.g. NJ to ME? How effective that would be versus using cycling specific maps, provided that the needed homework is done up front?
    Is there a market of used ACA maps?

    I will appreciate a discussion on this from riders who have used GPS or other means instead of the ACA maps.

    I always in the belief that a GPS is a secondary navigational device beside a compass and a good map. Having my fair share of getting really lost with outdated maps and poor AI guidance and little to no cell receptionfor 3G or 4G in some parts of the country with my Garmin eTrex, I now use it sparingly. I also started carrying a Blackberry Playbook and have used the GPS and Googlemaps and Viewranger GPS software plus BikeGPS for all bike trails database. Again, I use that as a reference and not the source.

    If you do decide to navigate with a GPS, always bring a map and small compass as your backup and learn basic navigational techniques. I mean you should know at least where the sun rises and sets! Sadly, I met a few individuals who relied heavily on GPS and did not know that!

    Lastly, do not rely on your phone's GPS unit. While it is accurate enough for cities and most outlying areas, it is not as accurate as having a dedicated GPS unit like a Garmin nor does it work all the time in all terrain. In that case, I have a Dual Electronics XGPS 150 mated to my iPhone 3GS for this very specific task and with Mapster, I can have access to their maps database whenever I have access to a 3G signal. It's small. For backup battery, I have a Energizer external battery that can power the iPhone for like 16hrs + in full navigation and 3G mode. and it's not that heavy. The external battery works with my Playbook as well.
    Last edited by pacificcyclist; 03-27-12 at 03:51 PM.
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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by berner View Post
    BigAura, there is now a bike path from Wallkill to New Paltz running on an old railroad bed. It is only 10 miles or so but it will be better than the road.
    Thanks, that looks interesting. There's also a section down to Walden. I worked up the GPX here.

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    On a long trip, I can really see the benefit of GPS in a big way. You don't want to lug along paper maps of an entire cross-country trip if you can help it...instead, if road touring, I'd just pick up a paper road map of my current state and rely on GPS for the rest. If off-road touring, I'd want the topo maps for my current area, but mostly just rely on GPS...but also have a state map, compass and lots of batteries just in case.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    the typical US AAA map is still lacking some of the details of Maps
    in book sellers in Europe, [historical landmarks etc]
    maybe its because they, AAA, cannot imagine anyone not driving a car.

    but then I don't own much new Hi-Tech gear, at home either..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-27-12 at 04:54 PM.

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