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Old 02-07-12, 11:11 AM
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I am planning to go on my first multi-week tour once the weather in my area is more tolerable. In the past, I have only been on overnight trips to locations that I was already pretty familiar with.

How do you plan your route? Do you typically plan the route precisely?(like a huge cue sheet) Do you simply follow a compass and head toward the general direction you want to reach?

What type of gear do you bring along on a trip for navigation? (computer, gps, paper maps, phone, etc?)

Sorry for being a newbie, but I have not found clear cut answers on this sort of thing after searching around a bit.
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Old 02-07-12, 11:34 AM
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Map and compass, neither need batteries..
Proper maps show Where magnetic North is,
and you align the map to the compass heading,
sometimes that has the map upside down.

you can shop for the electronic stuff,but a good navigator
always knows map usage, keeps a paper chart for the voyage.
and does not rely solely on gadgets.

USA states have become too much auto focused , those maps suck,
in comparison with the great maps I found in any bookseller
once I got to the EU, UK, & Eire. [ I just look for a map on arrival,
Once got a map of Poland given to me by a student , while on the Ferry
from CPH, to a Baltic Sea port. [in '91]

But there is some better, now, like the .. free..
ODOT published bike-route maps for the Oregon Coast..
[ check with your Wisconsin DOT]

You may like the Delorme digitalized versions of their atlas of the states,
a big format book , route plan on the paper detailed one at home,
simpler AAA map while on the road, to back up your electronic file.

University Geography Departments have Map Libraries.

Last edited by fietsbob; 02-07-12 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 02-07-12, 11:44 AM
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I plan out my trips pretty precisely ahead of time, but my trips have never been more than a week, so I can do a lot of planning and not get completely off track too quickly. At least that's the theory. In reality, one wrong turn or bad bit of direction can throw off the your schedule/route quite a bit, so having the tools to reroute on the road is essential. On a longer route, I'd still want to get the general route planned ahead of time, but unless you have a deadline to make or a schedule to keep, planning your stops more than a couple of days in advance may be a waste of time. I like to start every day with an idea of where I'd like to end up, and how I'd like to get there. Then I also want to have an early bail-out option, just in case. I've also learned the hard way to think about your reprovisioning needs. Don't pass up an option in favor of a vague "something better." If you don't know that something better is coming, take advantage of what you find.

I've been doing pre-route planning using Google Maps bicycling directions. They do a decent job of selecting less busy roads that still get you where you need to be. But they can also take you way out of your way if Google feels that a particular stretch is impassable on a bike, or if they feel that a particular stretch is so awesome for biking that it's worth going miles out of your way to see it. I generally let Google plan the initial route, and then make adjustments. Google also has led me to roads that aren't roads, like private property business routes or logging roads. That can be a set back, so if you have a 2nd source to double check Google, that can help.

I do make cue sheets ahead of time, and make scribbled additions/corrections as necessary when on the road. Lately my main navigation tool has been my iPad with MotionXGPS as my primary map. I don't know how this works for creating routes on the fly, as I'm usually following a pre-determined route. I also like to have a folding state map on hand because relying solely on electronics makes me nervous. I've carried a compass and used it, but by and large I'd rather have a decent map with some knowledge of where I am on it. Thanks to the GPS on my iPad, I don't worry too much about a compass anymore.

In the past I've been a big fan of the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer series. They are bulky to travel with, but the provide a great level of detail, including parks and campgrounds. Now my iPad has replaced them, but I would still recommend them. For route planning, I still like the state map. The Atlas is sometimes too detailed to get a whole day's ride on one page, so I like to plan my overall route an a larger map, and then use the Atlas for detailed adjustments.
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Old 02-07-12, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by RedRider2009

Sorry for being a newbie, but I have not found clear cut answers on this sort of thing after searching around a bit.
That's because there are no clear cut answers on this sort of thing.

When touring for any more than a couple of days, I plan things out as much as I can.

For route selection, my preferred order of information sources:
1. State Bike Maps. Sometimes these are done by the state department of transportation, sometimes by state bicycle organizations. They rock. They usually list shoulder width and traffic volumes for quite a few roads.
2. Adventure Cycling Association Routes. If they go anywhere close to where I'm going, I follow them.
3. Google Maps with street view. Really gives you a good feel for how bike friendly a road is.
4. Trip reports from the internet. Crazy Guy On A Bike is good for this.

I usually make a GPX file with my planned route and load it on my GPS over USGS topo maps to navigate when I'm pedaling.

But I always, always carry a good paper maps with me. GPSen are horrible at giving the big picture and tend to die on me when I most need them.

I'll often use the paper maps to adjust the route depending on weather or anything good I hear about that might be worth checking out. As such, I pick up any free maps I come across on the trip looking for things that might be worth checking out.
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Old 02-07-12, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Askel
That's because there are no clear cut answers on this sort of thing.
So true.

Originally Posted by Askel
2. Adventure Cycling Association Routes. If they go anywhere close to where I'm going, I follow them.
They make it easy to go with pretty much zero planning. When they have a route where I want to go I use them. I typically only look only a few days ahead. I often don't decide where to stop for the day until I am there, but having an idea of what is coming up in the next two days helps make that decision sensibly.

Just me, but despite being a big GPS user in other activities I much prefer to just use paper maps for touring. I have a GPS app on my phone, but don't think I have bothered to use it on tour. It is nice to know it is there just in case. I may use it more this tour for finding services than I have in the past, but doubt I will use it for turn by turn direction other than getting to a service.

I brought my handheld GPS once and mailed it home early in the tour.

I am also likely to improvise some portion of my tour even if using ACA maps.
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Old 02-07-12, 03:23 PM
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A lot of my answers to your questions can be found in this recent thread here:

And I doubt you will find clear cut answers ... everyone does it their own way.
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Old 02-08-12, 07:37 AM
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I start plannning each summer's trip around Christmas. I like ACA maps and several of my tours have simply been along their routes. This summer I'm planning something a little different. I'm taking the train to Portland, Oregon; then heading south to Eugene. From there I'll head over the Transamerica route to Sisters, Oregon. Then I'll hop on the Sierra Cascades route south to Crater Lake. From there I'll head over to Klamath Falls where I can hop back on Amtrak if I want. Otherwise I'll keep heading south, through Lava Beds National Monument, Mount Lassen, Lake Almanor, Truckee, and down to Sacramento, where there's another Amtrak depot with bike boxes.

I have a Garmin GPs (Vista HcX). I bought it, so I'm bringing it. It's helpful in following a route. It's also good for finding motels, restaurants, etc. I have it loaded with their road maps for the area. I also use Google bicycle maps. The route through Portland is confusing because there are so many bike paths. They show on Google maps but not on the Garmin maps. To make sure, I ordered some bike maps from Portland's transportation people (they were free!)

I typically plan a definite, day-by-day itinerary as a starting place, then make changes day-by-day when I'm on the ride, depending on what I find and how I feel.
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Old 02-08-12, 11:20 AM
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Takes 15 min to plan a trip for me,as long as it's in the U.S........10 min of that is loading my bike.I decide where I'm going and what day I'm leaving....Planning completed!

I like paper maps and a compass,they always work if you know how to use them.

I just pick where I want to end up for the day and start riding,whatever happens in the middle is what touring is all about for me.

I'll get lost,I'll have bad days,I'll end up on roads that I wish I wasn't on.....That's what makes it fun,I don't know what's going to happen.

If I'm heading to S.F from L.A.....The sun is on my right in the morning and the ocean is on my left.....If I keep going,I will hit Frisco at some point.

If I wanted everything just so,I'd still be in the military.

Last edited by Booger1; 02-08-12 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 02-08-12, 12:16 PM
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Nowadays I use googlemaps to plan my routes. Load GPX files into Garmin eTrex. I use my iPhone as backup. I sometimes carry a paper map as additional backup and to be able to see the big picture. I venture off my route as my whims guide me. With a GPS you always know where you are so technically you are never lost. With all that, I still use the sun as guide first thing morning, especially after stealth camping, which can be disorienting.

In the pre-GPS days I used road maps, compass, and directions from locals. Getting lost and backtracking happened a lot more. Although being lost may be an adventure, unintended backtracking is usually aggravating.
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Old 02-09-12, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Booger1
I just pick where I want to end up for the day and start riding,whatever happens in the middle is what touring is all about for me.
I like this attitude. I generally have an intended direction by breakfast and by lunchtime I have usually earmarked a place to start looking for somewhere to sleep. You do have to keep in mind pinch points which limit your route and also any special routes that you really want to transit (eg mountain or forest tracks).

I find that the hardest navigation is when I leave the road and take back-country or rural farm tracks. Maps can be a bit vague and generalized when it comes to these features so I mark any junctions (on the actual ground, not the map) with the direction Ive come from and go to. Exiting cities is also a challenge, it is hard to pick up the exact road that you want unless you have a street map.
I use compass and map only and Ive been temporarily misplaced a couple of times but never actually lost. I can see the advantage of electronic gadgetry but I wonder if exclusive use of small screen navigation means that people loose the big picture.
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