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  1. #1
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    Adventure cycling maps

    I'm planning a ride across the states and I'm undecided whether to buy the adventure cycling maps. They do seem very expensive to me.

    Can anyone recommend them?
    What are the benefits these have over other standard maps?
    Are the routes they detail very overcrowded with cyclists?
    Any other pros or cons?


    I'm just trying to justify spending the extra for these maps so any feedback is appreciated.

    p.s. maybe there should be a thread somewhere for cyclists to exchange or re sell these maps

  2. #2
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    I will recommend Adventure Cycling maps, as long as the route goes to where you want it to go. As for benefits, check out these pages over on their website, where they list them in detail:
    http://adventurecycling.org/routes/maps.cfm
    http://adventurecycling.org/routes/mapdetail.cfm
    Here's an image of a map panel, detailing the features.
    mapdetail_lg.jpg

    As for overcrowding, depends on what your definition is. There's a likelihood you'll see more touring cyclists on an ACA route than touring off the route. If you're the type that never wants to see another cyclotourist while you're on a bike tour, then it might be wise to stay away from their routes. I've ridden various sections of ACA routes, and have seen anywhere from none to a dozen or two cyclotourists a day. It all depends on what route you take, when you take it, and which direction you ride.

    For example, I've seen the most cyclists (a dozen or two a day) on the Pacific Coast Route, but that has more to do with it being the Pacific Coast, not because it's an ACA route. I ran into a couple to as many as ten in one day riding the TransAm through Oregon in early June. I've encountered two to four cyclotourists a day on the Sierra Cascades route around the Columbia Gorge. And crossing parts of the Northern Tier last June, I didn't run into any other cyclotourists, but when I talked to locals they said they've encountered other tourers recently.

    To me, the biggest con to ACA maps besides expense is that they give little to no information of anything beyond the mapped route. If you want to take side trips or deviate from the route, you better have some maps or GPS.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  3. #3
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gordyb View Post
    p.s. maybe there should be a thread somewhere for cyclists to exchange or re sell these maps
    http://www.adventurecycling.org/foru....php?board=5.0
    https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/clas...&sub_locales=1
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  4. #4
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    The ACA maps provide a ton of information for cyclists that takes time to find on your own: campgrounds, hotels/motels, convenience stores in the middle of no-where, great routes, etc. I know they seem expensive, but they provide a lot of info that cycle-tourists need/want when they tour. ACA is a non-profit that works hard to prodcue high quality maps (special paper for example that doesn't disintgrate in the rain or humidity).

    That said, the ACA maps do not provide information off the route, just like adventurepdx said. What I do to compensate for this is to buy state Gazateers produced my De Lorme (more money, however) that have the right resolution for back roads in case you want to deviate from the ACA course.

    My experience is that the routes are not overcrowded. The Pacific Coast route has lots of cyclists, but they had lots of cyclists before the ACA map of the Coast. On the the other routes, like the Trans-Am or Northern Tier, for example, if you saw two-four cyclists every day that would be a lot. One advantage however of the ACA routes is that the businesses/restaurants/hotels/campgrounds/gas stations are used to seeing bicyclists.

  5. #5
    Garlic
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    I decided to go with the ACA maps for the first time on my last tour, the Northern Tier. I was very pleased. Compared with the cost of the long ride, the map cost was very little, single digit percentage. And I sold them used after I got home. I just didn't feel like doing the planning for that route, so I took the easy way and threw some money at it instead. It really was an excellent route. Most local cyclists I met looked at the map and were impressed, too, most saying the company got the right route. There were very few exceptions. I met a few other cyclists, but in the middle of the country I often went a week or more between meeting others on bikes. It actually got pretty lonely out there. Once I saw the ACA map on a bike and it was like meeting a friend.

  6. #6
    Hooked on Touring
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    Depends on when you are riding and where you want to go.
    Like so much in the modern world - the maps are very helpful -
    But your choices are limited to what is there.

    Advantages - bike services, some discounts, running into other cyclists, clear route.
    Disadvantages - less flexibility, less serendipity, not that remote.

    If you have good route planning skills and really want to get away from it all -
    Then I would recommend against getting the maps.
    If you need the security - they get them.

  7. #7
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Just not as good a map as Ordinance Survey Maps, UK and Ireland,
    the folding and refolding the maps then presents a different set of issues

    I should have ordered a Navigational Map/chart holder ,
    the Ortlieb ones have a short shelf life before they go Cloudy
    even left in the dark,let alone in sunlight.

  8. #8
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    I bought the ACA maps for the Pacific Coast Route when I rode from SF to LA back in 2009. While they're convenient, I can't say that I was terribly impressed with them...

    The maps themselves are well-drawn, though as SanDiegoCyclist suggests they don't cover anything that's off-route. Other information is minimal at best. Written directions are extremely short. Mileages are based on the distance from a "matchline" that occurs at the start and end of each map panel rather than a recognizable landmark. You'll need to reset your trip computer regularly, or carry around a calculator, if you want to have any hope knowing how far you are from a given turn or destination.

    Symbols indicating bike shops, food, motels, campgrounds, etc. aren't terribly useful. Monterey, California for example is marked with the symbols for "full service" (= restaurant, hotel/model, grocery, post office, gas station), bike shop, camping, hostel, and library. Unfortunately, the detailed map panel for Monterey doesn't show you where any of these things are located nor does it provide many street names. This is the case for all large cities: you'll know they have a particular service available, but the map won't help you find it. I needed to visit a bike shop on my way through Monterey and while the ACA did give me the name and number of the shop I eventually visited, I had to use my GPS-capable smartphone to actually get there!

    For the Pacific Coast route in particular, I ultimately found Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall to be more useful than the ACA maps. I plotted a route using RideWithGPS.com, downloaded it into my Garmin Edge 705, and used that for navigation. I bought the ACA maps primarily as a back-up, in case the GPS failed.

  9. #9
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    I've never been impressed with their route selection. They just have different priorities than I do. While I prefer quiet roads, even if it means many thousands of feet of climbing per day, ACA prioritizes flatness, which often means much higher traffic volumes. I find that I am happier with the routes I select, even in areas that I have never visited, than I am with the ACA routes.

    With the internet tools available today, it is even easier to map out your own route. Of course, the best roads won't have any Google Street View.

  10. #10
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    While I prefer quiet roads, even if it means many thousands of feet of climbing per day, ACA prioritizes flatness, which often means much higher traffic volumes.
    Not always. For example, on their Pacific Coast Route, Section One, The flattest, most direct way between Lewis and Clark State Park and Centralia, Washington is fairly busy Jackson Hwy to Chehalis and then Airport Road to Centralia. The Adventure Cycling route, however, is quite meandering because they're using quiet roads with climbing to get between the two. Or, on the section of the Northern Tier that follows the Mississippi River south of Minneapolis, the more direct, flat way would be US 61. Because of the traffic volumes on 61, the ACA route does a lot of steep climbing and descending on the quiet roads that are off 61.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  11. #11
    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    For me the ACA maps are at their best getting you into, through and out of dense urban areas safely and efficiently. Much of their bike shop/food information can better be found on a smart phone. I have never ridden across the US, but I would think their list of small town churches and other bike specific camping sites would be of great help. I find their elevation graphs to be less than great, but better than nothing. If you do a search of DOT websites, state by state, you may find there are free or low cost bike specific maps for entire states. Both Washington and Oregon offer them.

  12. #12
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    They can sometimes pay for themselves by pointing out cheaper and/or free camping. On this side of the pond, things like state and county parks and U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds are usually cheaper than private campgrounds, which tend to be the most expensive. Things like city parks and fair grounds can be cheaper or even free. The maps tell what type each campground is. Can you research their existence on your own? Sure, if you want to put in the effort. What I liked was having the locations of things at my finger tips. Allowed me to adjust days without any effort. Instead of stopping in place A like I had planned, I had a great tailwind most of the day and can see that 15 miles down the road there is place B with the services that I want.

    The number of cyclists won't make for crowding. We saw very few people on the Northern Tier. On the portion of the Trans Am between Missoula and Fairplay, CO, the greatest number of people cyclists I stayed with at one place was four or five. I was on the TA for a few days last year and saw only a few people each day, although it was a tad early for the "rush" coming riding east to west.

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    The notion of the routes being over run with cyclists seems kind of crazy to me. Most of the time I haven't seen many riders during the day on the AC routes. In some cases meeting riders in camp in the evening was common though and I always considered that a big plus.

    I had to chuckle at B. Carfree's comment since it has always seemed to me that most AC routes went out of their way to climb hills and hit smaller roads than I might prefer. The people I have ridden with on them also thought AC went out of their way to climb hills and in some cases we deviated from the route to avoid them.

    I think the maps are a great value if they go where you want to go. They are not great for sections where you want to go far off route, but when I have improvised I either pick up a state map or use google maps on my phone to plan the day. My preferred approach is to mostly follow an AC route, but improvise parts of the trip as the whim hits me.

  14. #14
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I found CTC [UK] suggested routes to have some Gnarly Climbs too ..


    ODOT publishes a Oregon Coast route Map,
    I think we went thru a whole case of 500 this season.

    at LBS, and the Info Kiosk just off the bridge from WA.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 10-22-12 at 11:55 AM.

  15. #15
    Bike touring webrarian
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    When I tour in the UK (3 tours in the past 10 years), I get the AAA maps and try to find the smallest roads to ride on. I also spend a lot of time asking locals, via couchsurfing, warmshowers, and CTC forums, about various roads and routes. I have ridden on CTC routes and liked them, as well, though I prefer pavement to the dirt paths often used by the CTC.

    The US is simply too big to have one map booklet for the entire country at the 3 miles = 1 inch scale. In fact, most states are too big for that kind of treatment and who needs all the roads in Kansas when all I might need is a safe biking route through the state?

    Were I to do a cross-country trip, I would start with the ACA routes and then decide if there are reasons to deviate from them, such as friends, places I want to see, or better routing suggestions from here or crazyguyonabike.

    When I have ridden on the ACA routes, I have found their maps indispensable, both for planning where to stay and for actually navigating while riding and I would recommend them without reservation if you are using one of their routes. Keep in mind, they come in sections, so you can ride a section and then go your own way. It isn't all or nothing.

    My advice would be

    1) look on the ACA site to see where the cross-country routes go and decide if that is where you want to ride.

    2) If doing an ACA route, look for used maps (if new is too expensive--note joining gets you a discount) at crazyguyonabike.com. Be aware that you want the latest ones, so know what the latest ones are if you are buying used. The ACA site tells you how to determine when a map was printed.

    3) Look at the states you are riding through for state bike maps. This site is a search engine for state and local bike maps: http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/bikemore/map.cfm . Here are 35 links to US bike map sites, states, counties and cities.

    4) Ask here and crazyguyonabike.com for specific advice about roads and routes. I'd try to create a route first, before doing this as it is easier for someone to answer a specific question about a road then a general one.

    In the US, it can be hard to determine if a road is busy, has a shoulder (though Google Maps helps here), and is suitable for biking just by looking on a map.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  16. #16
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I was one of those folks that was not enamoured with ACA route maps, that is until this summer. We were on the first leg of our planned route, a circumnavigation of Lake Huron-- up the Michigan side down the Canadian side.

    Due to forecasted colder and wetter weather in the Upper Peninsula and Ontario we changed plans at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula and decided to head west and south to make a loop around Michigan. That made almost all the maps we had pretty useless. In Mackinaw City we met a group of riders that were heading north on the ACA, Northern Lakes Route. The group leader offered us his ACA map of the portion they just finished. It covered the general route we were thinking about taking south. While generally following portions of the route south, we found the ACA map combined with a state highway map and GPS ( actually my wife's smart phone was faster to use) to be very useful. Even though I have been a long-time member of ACA, this is the first time I'd actually used an ACA map.

    Depending on the route, ACA maps might be very useful, especially if you are new to touring or not familiar with the U.S. My wife and I tend to take the less traveled routes. On the route we took on our cross country ride (Oregon to Boston) a few years ago we only saw 6 other touring cyclists in the 74 days we were on the road. On routes like the Pacific Coast there is no way to miss other cyclists. The route just does not offer that much variation. However, it is fun visiting with fellow cyclists, and is a part of doing that particular route. That is what touring is about--doing it the way that best suits your temperament. There is no wrong way to tour!

  17. #17
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    ACA maps will pay for themselves by telling you of lots of free places to stay (churches, armories, individuals) as well as hostels you'd never know about otherwise. They keep you off high traffic roads without shoulders that you have no way of knowing about by looking at regular maps. Also roads so remote that almost everyone lets their dogs run loose as a form of home protection with no worries of hit-by-car. We just finished going coast to coast using ACA maps from Oregon to Kansas, then picking our own path to South Carolina. I've never drawn my dog spray in my life until twice in one day when we were chased by 20-30 dogs on a ten mile stretch of a *cute* country road in Alabama. Oops. For future trips, I'll stick to ACA maps as much as possible.

    Have also used ACA maps on the Northern Tier. On the North Star (Alaska), the ACA route went out of its way to keep us on low traffic roads, using gravel ones instead of the perfectly good (paved) Alcan. We ended up detouring to Whitehorse, Yukon, just to get a taste of it. As already mentioned, ACA maps are made out of a wonderful, waterproof material.

  18. #18
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    My mom and I usd an ACA map to get from Bellingham Wa to Astoria Or. I was very pleased withe the route. I was used to riding with traffic, she was not, so the quiet back roads were great. Very helpful in pointing out campgrounds, hostels, mileage between points. I would use them again.
    "harder" is not a very good safeword.

  19. #19
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Symbols indicating bike shops, food, motels, campgrounds, etc. aren't terribly useful. Monterey, California for example is marked with the symbols for "full service" (= restaurant, hotel/model, grocery, post office, gas station), bike shop, camping, hostel, and library. Unfortunately, the detailed map panel for Monterey doesn't show you where any of these things are located nor does it provide many street names.
    That may be true as far as it goes, but... They do list in another section of the map a list of the addresses and phone numbers of all the services for each map panel. Further, when the towns are small enough that the strip map covers it they do have symbols on the maps.

    Also I would say the the Pacific coast AC maps were the least useful of the AC maps that I have used. For the Oregon section, the ODOT pacific coast map is much nicer.

  20. #20
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    I took a ACA trip this year. They provided the maps to us for the route. The guides picked where to stay and where to buy food, so we did not look at the maps for any purpose other than route. Before the trip, I downloaded off of their website the GPS data for the route and saved that to my computer and loaded that into my GPS.

    It was great having their route in my GPS to tell me where the turns were, etc. I stopped looking at their paper map after the first day, as the GPS served my needs quite well.

    I need pretty good prescription glasses to read fine print on a paper map. To look at paper maps, I have to stop and put on different glasses. I can wear sunglasses or sunglass/reading glasses to read the larger print on my GPS. Thus, I have a strong preference for having the data loaded into a GPS on my handlebar which I can read while rolling.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    I took a ACA trip this year. They provided the maps to us for the route.
    Did you do a trip that followed one of the routes which they sell maps for or some other tour? I did ACA's Cycle Vermont a few years ago. Although we followed their Green Mountains Loop much of the time, the maps we were given were not the same ones you buy from them.

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