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Google maps for route planning?

Old 02-10-11, 07:13 PM
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Google maps for route planning?

So I'm new to touring and i was wondering if google maps is good for route planning, or is there another thing like google maps specifically for touring. Or do i need to just get a actual map and plan it myself?
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Old 02-10-11, 07:49 PM
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I've used google maps for portions of tours. In most areas you can spot check the road conditions, availability of shoulders, and maybe even get a sense of traffic by looking at some streetview samples along the route.

The biggest hassle is printing just the route at enough detail to follow without ending up with a phonebook size stack of paper.
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Old 02-10-11, 07:55 PM
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Google Maps is great for a few tens of miles, but for anything longer, I'd get an actual map, for sure.

I followed the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier maps last summer. On the outskirts of Muscatine, IA I lost the next map -- the one going across IL and IN. I didn't realize it until I made it downtown, several miles of unpleasant riding into a headwind later. Oddly, I had a decent idea of where I lost the map -- the last place I had stopped because I pulled it out to plan where to stay that night, although I certainly wasn't sure (otherwise I would have picked it at the time... duh!).

Anyway, I couldn't bear the thought of going back at first. That day was, literally, the low point of my entire tour both physically and mentally. I figured I'd just get lunch in Muscatine and then plan a route across IL and IN in the public library using Google Maps and, perhaps, a gazatteer. It became clear pretty quickly that it wasn't a reasonable way to go.

Purchasing maps from a gas station along the way likely would have been okay, but I was so discouraged by the thought of planning a few hundred miles worth of riding this way that I turned back and, miraculously, found my map.

It actually ended up being a good evening, and I wrote about it in my journal here. (Hint: it was my one night in a hotel for the entire tour.)
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Old 02-10-11, 07:59 PM
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Paper maps with Google for planning and backup. FWIW I carry a Blackberry or a hand held GPS with map capability, but paper maps are still the best bet.

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Old 02-10-11, 09:10 PM
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I usually plan a tour with Google maps just because it's easy to do on the computer. Once done, I'll collect the state maps, mark out the route, and cut, tape, and fold into a convenient size.

Lately, I've conquered the gps, and route planning for it, on www.mapmyride.com. I augment the state maps with routes loaded into the gps. That's more for entertainment value than anything. When in conflict, always follow the state maps.

Here for a tutorial on moving a computer planned route to a gps.

With the right electronics(Ipod, etc), you should be able to create e maps from Google pages and review when needed.

Lots of people like the Adventure Cycling Association maps for their specificity for the needs of touring cyclists. If you plan on mostly camping, they may save you nearly as much as they cost by pointing out low priced or free camping spots.

Last edited by Cyclebum; 02-10-11 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 02-10-11, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum
I usually plan a tour with Google maps just because it's easy to do on the computer.
+1.

When planning the actual route, I use a combination of Google Maps/Streetview and Ride With GPS to mark and save the route online. It's really handy to be able to look at the actual roads you'll be riding to get a feel for traffic, and shoulders, etc.

When it comes down to the tour, I collect whatever maps are appropriate, depending on the tour - state maps, etc.

Last summer we went around Lake Ontario, so I purchased the Waterfront Trail mapbook for the Ontario side of the tour, and used the Erie Canal Guidebook for part of the New York state route. Once we got off the Erie Canal, we ended up following the Seaway Trail, and were able to pick up maps along the way.

Depending on how complex your route, you may not need a lot in the way of detailed maps. We found we were on the same highways for extended periods, and so it was really a matter of knowing which town to change routes at. We've also found that most visitor's centres tend to have pretty good maps of local roads/routes. It seems that there's a good deal of interest (at least here in Ontario) in trying to generate tourism dollars by promoting cycle touring, so maps are plentiful. Of course YMMV, depending on where you're riding.

GPS's can be helpful, provided you have a way of keeping them charged, as are wifi devices if you can get access.

Good luck planning your tour!
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Old 02-10-11, 09:53 PM
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I have been checking out mapmyride.com for an upcoming ride. It looks like I can print in sections and the thing I really like about it is that it will show the elevation for any segment that I would like. I'll see how this actually works on the road vs on the desk at my computer.
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Old 02-11-11, 01:28 AM
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Google maps is all right to get a rough idea, but its not detailed enough or accurate enough to really plan a route.

Bikely goes one better than Google and will give you an approximate idea of the elevation profile.

But paper maps are still your best bet, and there are a wide range of paper maps available. We just had a thread on this very topic.

See Maps thread: https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/708263-Maps
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Old 02-11-11, 02:25 AM
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I find Google maps invaluable for checking towns - though Google maps is just as good, I suppose. The hotel links and photos of places lets you see what it looks like and a good idea about shops and accommodation.
I also use it to check how the hills look on certain sections of the route. But for actual route planning and following that route, I use the Bikeline map books (though I tend to tour in Germany - anywhere else, I look for an equivalent.
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Old 02-11-11, 07:05 AM
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I'm a newbie also, we did our 1st overnight tour last summer and I used Google maps street view extensively to see what roads looked like around hotels, etc. We did a credit card tour on the western Erie canal trail which was almost all on-trail, so viewing the off-trail/on-road sections was very reassuring. I also carried a map, but since we were on a well marked trail that had also been recently marked for the PTNY ride we never needed to consult the map.
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Old 02-11-11, 07:38 AM
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I use Bing and Google or overview planning. Sometimes add in Mapbalst. Discrepancies are investigated.

Waypoints / Addresses saved o he GPS

GPS and a 1500 mAh JuiceBar for the GPS. Map(s) and a compass for backup.
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Old 02-12-11, 05:00 PM
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Google maps together with small scale (say 1:800 000 to 1:1 000 000) paper maps are good for the planning stage.

Gmap is good for making distance calculation simpler, paper maps are much better at showing size (and hence traffic intensity) of roads. I have found several locations in Europe where Gmap cannot accurately calculate the correct way (like this). It's a bit frustrating since I want to use Gmap-created routes on my homepage, together with elevation profiles..

So far, I've never used GPS while on tour. Real paper maps (not printed online maps) are preferred.

Added: I also add ~10% to all distances while planning.

Last edited by Csson; 02-12-11 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 02-14-11, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Csson
Gmap is good for making distance calculation simpler, paper maps are much better at showing size (and hence traffic intensity) of roads. I have found several locations in Europe where Gmap cannot accurately calculate the correct way (like this). It's a bit frustrating since I want to use Gmap-created routes on my homepage, together with elevation profiles..
Have you checked out Ride With GPS? It uses Google maps as a base, and also does elevation profile stuff, and can be exported to GPS's, I believe. I'm not an expert, but I found it handy planning my last tour.

Hope this helps!
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Old 02-14-11, 08:28 AM
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Be careful using google maps "bike" setting - it has too broad a definition of what is passable, it can route you onto hiking trails and dead end roads.
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Old 02-14-11, 08:34 AM
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If you're taking a notebook with you I would suggest Microsoft MapPoint. My wife and I use MapPoint Europe for all our tours, it's very accurate. But the main point is that you use it off line so you can just stop anywhere and check out your route.
If you're not taking a notebook along than paper maps.
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Old 02-14-11, 11:49 AM
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Like others said already, Google is okay for general planning. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, though, it just doesn't cut it. The information is presented in a way that is not particularly helpful to the bike tourist. I do love using street view to get a lay of the land.

When planning a tour I like to use a detailed state atlas. My favorite is the Benchmark Maps Road & Recreation Atlas. The detail is good -- everything down to major forest roads is presented accurately. Also included is the location of campgrounds, both public and private. It also displays which lands are private vs. public, which is helpful for deciding when to camp in campgrounds or not. I use this atlas to plot my specific route. For road tours, the data on these maps is perfectly sufficient. I will often bring along a folding paper map that I annotate by hand with data, like where I will camp each night, where supplies are likely, etc. If my tour takes me through public forestland, I will often consult National Forest Maps. I bring this map with me on the tour. Forest roads are very confusing if you don't know exactly where you're headed!

I also own a computerized topographical map program for the state of Washington. I use this to get accurate elevation data. It is also useful for tours on tiny backroads, as the USGS maps are even more detailed than the Forest Service maps.

I stay away from electronic maps on the road: one more thing to break or run out of batteries!

Last edited by emor; 02-14-11 at 11:49 AM. Reason: omitted words
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Old 02-20-11, 03:07 PM
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I just run all my stuff through arcGIS using DEMs for elevation info and road shapefiles for anything else.
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Old 02-21-11, 01:33 PM
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These are pretty awesome - aca routes on Google Earth - https://tsteven4.qwestoffice.net/
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Old 02-22-11, 04:01 PM
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hi, i like to use this site,

https://www.mapmyfitness.com/

good map measurer, can save routes, see similar routes, other options.
i use it in conjunction with the google street level view, just for fun and interset as much as info.
i buy a paper map of the area i want, but use a route card whilst cycling, road numbers, village names and such, works for me.

what ever ya do...have fun !
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Old 03-01-11, 06:28 AM
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I don't like Google maps for planning:

- No roads are marked as scenic
- Minor roads are not clearly visible (Path or Road)
- No sights for sightseeing
- No local bike routes visible
- No overview (compared to paper map)

I would only use for road cycling training routes
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Old 03-01-11, 06:56 AM
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I use a GPS and https://www.openstreetmap.org/ , along with google.

But if you're married to paper, I would recommend the following:

- Map your route using google as best you can.
- Supplement it with openstreetmap above - for street density, conveniences, trails are mapped, etc.
- use print screen to copy and paste images of your route to photoshop, or another image editor.
- get a profile for the route from here.
- note conveniences and special features on your map, as well as scale.
- cut the map up into the proper chunks following your route - so it looks like a bunch of little handlebar bag maps like this.
- buy a state map for each state you tour through, and keep it packed somewhere for when you get lost.
- If you're feeling really fancy, get your maps laminated.
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Old 03-01-11, 06:57 AM
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+ 1 for ( ridewithgps.com ) I have been experimenting with it, and so far so good. It's worth a look.
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Old 03-01-11, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
Be careful using google maps "bike" setting - it has too broad a definition of what is passable, it can route you onto hiking trails and dead end roads.
Too right!

There are hundreds of ancient lanes where I live in Yorkshire. They are shown on Google Maps as roads, despite have been originally used by walkers and packhorses. Most of them only go to a few farms. Ok for a mountain bike, but not for a skinny-tyred road bike.

Would you like to ride your fancy 15 pound CF road bike down London Road?



Satellite navigation systems seem to use the same database. We have countless cases of people being misdirected down them. I blogged about it here.

There's a particularly scary example which you might enjoy in this BBC video report! And take heed of the advice of the local man they interviewed - if you can understand his accent!

Last edited by ColinJ; 03-14-11 at 04:52 AM.
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Old 03-01-11, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
Be careful using google maps "bike" setting - it has too broad a definition of what is passable, it can route you onto hiking trails and dead end roads.
Yup. I've seen it route through the weirdest places, not to mention it ignores the traffic direction.
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Old 03-01-11, 10:06 AM
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The bicycle directions on google maps routes on lots of non-roads and is worthless for touring. However, the bicycle view shows all bicycle paths and is very useful for helping you route towards paths if that's your thing. Walking directions are suited very well for touring, but will still require you to go through turn-by-turn and make some revisions to suit your touring style. Minimizing the number of turns is always good for stress-free riding.

Using the street view is very useful because there are lots of unmarked roads out there and checking how a road will be marked ahead of time can be extremely valuable.

Printing out the directions with any potentially confusing turns shown on the map thumbnail avoids complications as well.

Paper maps generally result in busier roads, but the freedom to improvise makes it my main routing selection. Having said that, whenever I plan on going into an urban area I always use google maps to get me in.
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