Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Are there any advantages using paper maps on your long distance rides?

Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Are there any advantages using paper maps on your long distance rides?

Reply

Old 04-16-18, 07:45 AM
  #26  
jefnvk
Senior Member
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 7,592

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 55 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3233 Post(s)
Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Try to navigate across Tokyo with a paper map and post your experience so I can learn.
...
The debate would be like comparing pencil paper to a spreadsheet.
Urban navigation is one area I agree with you. IME, most maps just don't show enough detail, and if they do, it is tedious to stop and try to discern individual street names and such. Much easier to simply pop on Google Maps and let it guide me in and out of populated areas.

That said, once I am outside of towns, I like paper maps in my handlebar bag pocket. Gives me a much better indication of where I am and where I am going, as well as route options that are visible at a glance. Doesn't kill my phone battery, either, like leaving a screen on for hours will.

Also, I would call the analogy more like taking notes on a pad of paper, versus taking notes on a laptop. I'm sure you can figure out which side of that debate I'm on, especially when note taking frequently involves drawing diagrams
jefnvk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 08:02 AM
  #27  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
In navigation as well, there's a place for both methods. Nobody should blindly follow GPS directions. People have died doing that.
No one should do anything "blindly". People get into trouble using paper maps too.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 08:10 AM
  #28  
andrewclaus
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Golden, CO, Scottsdale, AZ
Posts: 1,364

Bikes: 2016 Fuji Tread, 1983 Trek 620

Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 173 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
No one should do anything "blindly". People get into trouble using paper maps too.
Of course--that's a good argument.
andrewclaus is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 08:17 AM
  #29  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Of course--that's a good argument.
It's not really a good argument because it's obvious and applies to anything.

It's often only mentioned as a problem with GPS units (suggesting it's only a problem with GPS units).
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 08:26 AM
  #30  
gauvins
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: QC Canada
Posts: 1,036

Bikes: Custom built LHT & Troll

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 343 Post(s)
I took Tokyo as an example not (only) because it is a large city, but rather because it is impossible to figure out street names unless you are familiar with the Japanese language, and because house numbers are essentially non-existent. Electronic navigation was able to navigate us to the front door of our appartements, which would have been next to impossible with a paper map and/or by relying on passerby. Same thing in Beijing's Hu-tongs.

My opinion on paper vs electronic systems is also influenced by sailing. I took to sailing when GPS were a novelty. Making it to port at night was, then, dangerous. So much that it was usual to wait until the morning before attempting a landing. The advent of electronic navigation made things infinitely safer.

----

I understand that, yes, it may become addictive to follow one's progress on a navigation screen, that it may have adverse consequences on the serendipity of discovery. Yet I tend to think that electronic navigation is a much more powerful tool that allows us to consider routes that we'd otherwise ignore. (our trip to Japan being an example). Even in less challenging regions, on occasion we came across lost tourers that were very happy to be able to figure out where to go, because we had a working electronic system.

I also think that electronic systems are much better planning tools. Computing distance and up/down elevation for a tentative route is easy, whereas it is difficult at best if you rely on paper.

---

I also understand that it all depends on circumstances. Unfortunately, we travel either with kids or on a rather strict schedule. Things would be different if we could ride free of time/place constraints. We currently ride with pre-defined nightly stops and I'd rather know precisely what distance remains, how long it's gonna take, etc.

Electronic navigation for bicycle touring is far from perfect. Unlike marine/automobile (and probably aeronautics, but I am not familiar with this) systems, where the volume or the economics of nav is such that systems are of high quality, automatic bike/hike routing is often poor. You have to double check or else you'll end up on trails that are impassable. But manual paper systems are probably no better, and dead ends may be a way to spice up a trip

---

It could be useful to exchange tips on how to use electronic navigation systems. The are many facets, many options, many issues.

Last edited by gauvins; 04-16-18 at 08:36 AM.
gauvins is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 08:42 AM
  #31  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Dedicated GPS units do make it hard to review stuff.

They tend to be a poor way to look at maps.

People are used to using GPS units following the instructions it tells them. I'm not sure if that's really "navigating".

I don't think it's reasonable to just use a dedicated GPS unit for navigation. I suspect that people often use supplementary information such as "bigger" maps (either on paper or on a device with a reasonably sized screen).

Paper maps are certainly simple but they often lack detail. And you have to be able to locate yourself on the map.

GPS units (and smartphones) do require power but that's often not hard to manage.

====================

I typically plan out routes using ridewithgps, which gives you easy access to Google satellite and streetview. This step requires you to look at maps.

I load the route to the GPS. The planned route shows up as a line on the GPS. Having the route mitigates the "knowing where you are and where you are going" problem (you looked at maps creating the route). You don't need to follow the track exactly.

If I get in a confusing spot, I use maps on a smartphone to sort things out.

Nothing wrong with talking to locals but you won't always have locals to talk to (or understand) and, sometimes, they might not really know enough to help.

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 08:47 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 09:00 AM
  #32  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
I took Tokyo as an example not (only) because it is a large city, but rather because it is impossible to figure out street names unless you are familiar with the Japanese language, and because house numbers are essentially non-existent.
I often use a map on a smartphone when wandering around cities.

I'll place a waypoint and have the app display a bearing line to the waypoint and use that to navigate. That let's me wander without getting "lost". It's much easier than using a paper map (though, I often use those too).

Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Electronic navigation for bicycle touring is far from perfect. Unlike marine/automobile (and probably aeronautics, but I am not familiar with this) systems, where the volume or the economics of nav is such that systems are of high quality, automatic bike/hike routing is often poor. You have to double check or else you'll end up on trails that are impassable. But manual paper systems are probably no better, and dead ends may be a way to spice up a trip
People are mostly familiar with car navigation systems where they just do what the device tells them what to do. This works fairly well for cars (it's not perfect).

Cycling navigation is more like wilderness navigation where one has to be "smarter" and more involved.

Paper maps have their problems but the people suggesting them never seem to mention them.

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 09:06 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 09:07 AM
  #33  
fietsbob 
coprolite
 
fietsbob's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 36,235

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 133 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 5239 Post(s)
4 OS maps cover Ireland with good detail..
fietsbob is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 10:04 AM
  #34  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
That is an option with most gps apps including google maps on android.
Yes, but default isn't. The paper map is much bigger as well. Whatever works for you comes down to personal choice. They both have their place.

I can navigate myself across country easily, with maps and simple spatial awareness, whereas my wife struggles with GPS. She is much younger and never had to learn to read maps. My belief is, had she learned to read maps, and to navigate using them, she would have a better sense of direction. I generally have an overview of an area in my head, which helps if I miss a turn. You don;t develop that as well if you have always relied on GPS for turn by turn directions.

A two pronged approach works well, utilizing both. On a trip, I wouldn't want to be without a hard copy of a map. GPS simply augments that for me rather than replacing it.

Last edited by phughes; 04-16-18 at 10:11 AM.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 10:40 AM
  #35  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
One thing I hate about most online maps, is the orientation of the map. I prefer North to be up, South to be down, West to the left, and East right. It is much easier to visualize where you are going that way.
No, it's not generally easier to visualize where you are going. It might be easier for you. But not everybody prefers it.

Originally Posted by phughes View Post
Yes, but default isn't.
Being able to choose "north up" or "track up" is a basic feature of any GPS unit or smartphone (that you'd use on a bike). It's easy enough to switch between the two. This doesn't make sense as a criticism of GPS devices.

With paper maps, the "track up" option is generally impractical.

Originally Posted by phughes View Post
The paper map is much bigger as well.
That's a downside in some cases too. With a GPS unit, you don't have keep fussing with folding the map.

Originally Posted by phughes View Post
I can navigate myself across country easily, with maps and simple spatial awareness, whereas my wife struggles with GPS. She is much younger and never had to learn to read maps. My belief is, had she learned to read maps, and to navigate using them, she would have a better sense of direction. I generally have an overview of an area in my head, which helps if I miss a turn. You don;t develop that as well if you have always relied on GPS for turn by turn directions.

A two pronged approach works well, utilizing both. On a trip, I wouldn't want to be without a hard copy of a map. GPS simply augments that for me rather than replacing it.
I think that "competent" users of GPS devices always use a "multiprong" approach.

Relying only on "turn by turn directions" isn't a expert use of the devices and might not be something that one could reasonably call "navigation".

I use maps on a smartphone rather than carrying paper maps.

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 10:46 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 10:50 AM
  #36  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Being able to choose "north up" or "track up" is a basic feature of any GPS unit or smartphone (that you'd use on a bike). It's easy enough to switch between the two. This doesn't make sense as a criticism of GPS devices.

With paper maps, the "track up" option is generally impractical.


That's a downside in some cases too. With a GPS unit, you don't have keep fussing with folding the map.


I think that "competent" users of GPS devices always use a "multiprong" approach.

Relying only on "turn by turn directions" isn't a expert use of the devices and might not be something that one could reasonably call "navigation".

I use maps on a smartphone rather than carrying paper maps.
As I said, personal preference. Part of my ease of navigating with maps come from having driven extensively on every state for many years. A lot of it is simply second nature to me, while my wife simply hasn't had that experience. I'm a throwback in many ways, I can navigate using the stars too, so I can easily tell you which direction we are traveling at night, as long as it isn't overcast. Geeky hobbies.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:02 AM
  #37  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
As I said, personal preference.
No problem with things being personal preference. It's that people often make claims without being clear that it's just personal preference. I don't care what people do; I'm only interested in making sure people understand how things work.

The "north up" - "track up" selection isn't an issue for the majority of GPS units or smartphone apps. It is an issue for maps (you didn't point that out): it's a real nuisance to keep a paper map "track up".

"Most online maps" don't just give you "track up" (that isn't factually correct). Most of them make it easy to use either. The Garmin GPSs units lock-in the setting (so, you only need to set it to your personal preference once).

Originally Posted by phughes View Post
Part of my ease of navigating with maps come from having driven extensively on every state for many years. A lot of it is simply second nature to me, while my wife simply hasn't had that experience. I'm a throwback in many ways, I can navigate using the stars too, so I can easily tell you which direction we are traveling at night, as long as it isn't overcast. Geeky hobbies.
I think one of the problems with GPS devices is that people often think that they will be an "easy no-brainer" to use.

It's something that one has to practice and get experience doing (it doesn't just happen).

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 11:06 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:03 AM
  #38  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
No problem with things being personal preference. It's that people often make claims without being clear that it's just personal preference. I don't care what people do; I'm only interested in making sure people understand how things work.

The "north up" - "track up" selection isn't an issue for the majority of GPS units or smartphone apps. It is an issue for maps (you didn't point that out): it's a real nuisance to keep a paper map "track up".


I think one of the problems with GPS devices is that people often think that they will be an "easy no-brainer" to use.

It's something that one has to practice and get experience doing (it doesn't just happen).
Very true.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:08 AM
  #39  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
Very true.
In the LD forum, you get people having no experience or understanding of GPS units dumping on GPS units and singing the praises of cuesheets (as if cuesheets don't have all sorts of problems!).
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:10 AM
  #40  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
In the LD forum, you get people having no experience or understanding of GPS units dumping on GPS units and singing the praises of cuesheets (as if cuesheets don't have all sorts of problems!).
LOL Well, a tool is only as good at the operator.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:23 AM
  #41  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
LOL Well, a tool is only as good at the operator.
In one thread, one person complained that they didn't know what my experience was. When I gave a brief summary (not trivial but not impressive), another person complained I was bragging.

Neither of them realized that the use of GPS wasn't really different for long distance riding.

According to many of them, GPS units had all sorts of fatal problems but cuesheets where "perfect".

It's a common complaint that people get "lost" with GPS units. If you are using a loaded route and pay some attention to the unit, you can't really get lost with a GPS unit. It's easy to get off course with a cuesheet and it can be hard to get back on track.

I think cuesheets are objectively not a good navigational tool (better than nothing). I can understand that people might want to use them anyway (but that doesn't make them good).

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 11:32 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:30 AM
  #42  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
In one thread, one person complained that they didn't know what my experience was. When I gave a brief summary (not trivial but not impressive), another person complained I was bragging.

Neither of them realized that the use of GPS wasn't really different for long distance riding.

GPS units had all sorts of fatal problems but cuesheets where "perfect".

I think cuesheets are objectively not a good navigational tool (better than nothing). I can understand that people might want to use them anyway (but that doesn't make them good).
It seems a lot that gets discussed online gets people riled up for some reason. I don't really understand it. There are people with all sorts of experience online, and we can earn from all of them.

I use cues sheets of sorts on the motorcycle. I place them in a clear window on a tank bag. I like hem for that purpose, when necessary. All tools have their place, with the exception of "tools" on the internet, they're just annoying.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:34 AM
  #43  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
It seems a lot that gets discussed online gets people riled up for some reason. I don't really understand it. There are people with all sorts of experience online, and we can earn from all of them.
One problem is that when somebody makes a recommendation they don't like, they don't realize that it's just words in a forum (no one is forcing them to take the recommendation).
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:35 AM
  #44  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
One problem is that when somebody makes a recommendation they don't like, they don't realize that it's just words in a forum (no one is forcing them to take the recommendation).
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:39 AM
  #45  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
I use cues sheets of sorts on the motorcycle. I place them in a clear window on a tank bag. I like hem for that purpose, when necessary. All tools have their place, with the exception of "tools" on the internet, they're just annoying.
I haven't found a "optimal" placement for cuesheets. I also find it somewhat hard to keep track of my position on the sheet. It's also hard to read them in the dark.

One advantage of a GPS unit over cuesheets is that it's one device compared to differently designed cuesheets. They also eliminate the need to locate and read street signs.

Plus, they don't provide anyway to recover from a missed turn other than just turning around. With the tiny GPS unit I have, I can often work out other routes to return to the course while riding.

Cuesheets don't give any context information. Even with a small screen, a GPS unit with the map displayed does.

I think that cuesheets are objectively worse. Some people might prefer them because of the challenge (and the tradition) of using them.

(I think that single speed bicycles are objectively worse than multispeed bikes but understand why people might still want to use them.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-18 at 11:43 AM.
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 11:57 AM
  #46  
phughes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,003
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
I haven't found a "optimal" placement for cuesheets. I also find it somewhat hard to keep track of my position on the sheet. It's also hard to read them in the dark.

One advantage of a GPS unit over cuesheets is that it's one device compared to differently designed cuesheets. They also eliminate the need to locate and read street signs.

Plus, they don't provide anyway to recover from a missed turn other than just turning around. With the tiny GPS unit I have, I can often work out other routes to return to the course while riding.

Cuesheets don't give any context information. Even with a small screen, a GPS unit with the map displayed does.

I think that cuesheets are objectively worse. Some people might prefer them because of the challenge (and the tradition) of using them.

(I think that single speed bicycles are objectively worse than multispeed bikes but understand why people might still want to use them.)
Well for me, the cuesheets I am referring to, are simply handwritten lines telling me which roads to take, along with, occasionally, mentions of what roads to look for or landmarks that may be before the turn. Usually though, they are simple directions. That though is coupled with an overview in my head that came from looking at a map, be it paper or otherwise. Once again, any tool used has to mesh which your personal experience, and preference.
phughes is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 12:09 PM
  #47  
Doug64
Senior Member
 
Doug64's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Oregon
Posts: 5,282
Mentioned: 24 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 680 Post(s)
We used to use our GPS unit, mostly going through large cities where they really shine, before smart phones came on the scene. In most cases the phone was faster to use than the GPS unit.

A GPS unit is good for a number of activities or as backup to a cell phone. But GPS and cell phones can go dead, and a paper map is a great backup when that happens. Not a big deal on a bike tour, but there are other times when that can be really important.

Last edited by Doug64; 04-16-18 at 02:26 PM.
Doug64 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 12:17 PM
  #48  
jefnvk
Senior Member
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 7,592

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 55 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3233 Post(s)
One other thought: if you don't have set routes and are planning your route either the evening before or the morning of, sitting down at the end of the night and looking at paper map is far more enjoyable than trying to huddle around a 4" phone screen.
jefnvk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 12:27 PM
  #49  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
One other thought: if you don't have set routes and are planning your route either the evening before or the morning of, sitting down at the end of the night and looking at paper map is far more enjoyable than trying to huddle around a 4" phone screen.
4 inch screens are too small for route planning. I carry a 7 inch tablet (that works fairly well).
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 04-16-18, 12:29 PM
  #50  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,863
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1547 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
WE used to use our GPS unit, mostly going through large cities where they really shine, before smart phones came on the scene. In most cases the phone was faster than the GPS unit.
Smartphones and GPS units are just computers with a GPS receiver (they are, basically, the same devices).

Smartphones have much, much faster CPUs. The CPUs in GPS units are slower (to conserve battery life).
njkayaker is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service