Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: chappers on October 22, 2012, 09:36:00 pm

 
Title: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: chappers on October 22, 2012, 09:36:00 pm
Hi all,

I just had a quick look on amazon and came up with Benchmark Maps & Atlases. look good...but what do you use?

now, i want a map that shows all roads. right down to the very minor or the dirt / gravel. (I will be riding across Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota/Iowa...etc...to back here in Ontario, Canada).

where i can, i will be following Adventure Cycling maps. but i want some excellent "off the highway" experiences.
I will be using paper maps, not GPS!

What can you recommend??

Many thanks,
Chris.

Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: FredHiltz on October 23, 2012, 12:01:55 am
That's a tough set of restrictions to follow, Chris. Paper maps of all roads exist, but I doubt a bicycle could carry a complete set for those states. The Benchmark atlases certainly do not fill the bill. Take a look at the sample landscape map in http://www.benchmarkmaps.com/products-page/atlases/oregonroad-recreation-atlas (http://www.benchmarkmaps.com/products-page/atlases/oregonroad-recreation-atlas), examining the roads around Joseph, OR. Then call up Joseph in Google Maps. When zoomed in, Google Maps shows most of the roads, typically what you would get on paper from the USGS 1:24000 topographic maps.

Now we are talking all Perhaps you will have a chance to resupply along the way, keeping map weight down to 20 pounds or so.

Consider the scale of these maps, typically 2000 feet/inch. On a through highway, you will ride from one edge to another in a few minutes, then need to change maps.

The better way is to slip a smart phone into your pocket, get the Google Maps app, and go anywhere in the civilized world. What do you have against GPS?

Fred
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: chappers on October 23, 2012, 08:41:21 am
ok, maybe i shouldn't have said all the roads!! but here, i have paper maps of, for example, eastern Ontario and it shows pretty much most things - certainly to a scale where there are very few cars.

these maps are paper, fold out style, and not in a book so very easy to carry.

do they exist for the US states mentioned? then i can be selective, and carry only "south western South Dakota" for example.

not GPS - battery life, time between charges, miss the opportunity to go the wrong way and meet some great people for example?

i would also consider taking my own atlas of the route - ie. take apart the Benchmark maps and build a new one. do Benchmark maps show a suitable scale to ride on (I have never ridden in the US, so don't know).

Thanks for your reply.
Chris. 
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: staehpj1 on October 23, 2012, 08:56:11 am
Delorme Gazeteer maps are great for small road detail.  I love them for finding remote whitewater kayaking put-ins, backpacking trail heads, and stuff like that.

That said I don't tend to want to find all the tiny roads myself so I do not use them for touring.  State road maps are typically about the level of detail I prefer when not using AC maps.  If you want every little road paved or not the Gazetteers are great though.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: Pat Lamb on October 23, 2012, 09:17:09 am
It sounds like OP is looking for something like the old USGS quad maps.  As Fred noted, these cover a fairly small area (about 4x7 miles, IIRC).  I assume they're all still available, although most hiking stores only carry a small selection.

USGS used to have (and may still offer) 1:250000 or 1:200000 area maps.  These don't have all the detail of the 1:24000 quads, but they were often useful for locating areas of interest where we'd zoom in and get the smaller scale maps.  Even so, a smaller state like Tennessee took about nine maps to get full coverage.

It might be worth getting something like the DeLorme North America Topo program to look at the states you're interested in.  IIRC, they still have references to the smaller 1:24000 quads, so you could browse over the winter and identify which small scale maps to buy in the spring.

I don't know, but does anybody offer topo maps for a tablet computer?  That would be just about perfect -- small enough to carry, and a large enough display to read the maps.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: FredHiltz on October 23, 2012, 09:36:33 am
... not GPS - battery life, time between charges, miss the opportunity to go the wrong way and meet some great people for example?

... i would also consider taking my own atlas of the route - ie. take apart the Benchmark maps and build a new one. do Benchmark maps show a suitable scale to ride on (I have never ridden in the US, so don't know).

Most smart phones would run for a week or so if used intermittently, that is, for a position check every 20 - 40 minutes. If you can find one that permits a spare battery, you need not reach a mains charger very often at all.

I have torn up the DeLorme atlases to make custom routes. The scale is reasonable and the result works, but dealing with all those big pages on a rainy day is a bit messy.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: chappers on October 23, 2012, 09:33:11 pm
Thanks everyone - maybe i have been naive. I am from the UK originally, and have little knowledge of the US road systems (moved to canada a year ago & never ridden in the US). For me i am looking for the smallest roads i guess because our population density is higher (UK), and therefor the volume of traffic on the roads higher too.

judging by your responses, i am guessing i dont need to find these "tiny" roads!! can you instead advise me - what class of road should i look for. (back home we have "a" roads and "b" roads, b's generally being the ones you would want to ride on...).

thanks for your suggestions so far.
chris.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: John Nelson on October 23, 2012, 10:10:37 pm
In the US, we generally have interstate highways, US highways, state highways, county roads and city streets. Stay off of the first three as much as feasible.

If you ask Google maps for driving directions and check the "avoid highways" option, you'll usually get a fairly good bicycling route.

Also, most states publish on-line cycling maps with shoulder widths and average daily traffic volume.

Finally, you can check any roads you're interested in with Google maps street view.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: Pat Lamb on October 23, 2012, 10:25:24 pm
As often seems to be the case, it depends.  For the Oregon to Ontario route, you may want to start on county roads until you cross the Cascades.  From there to the midwest, you can probably just go for the smallest road that gets you where you want to go.  For example, when you have a choice of interstate, U.S. route, or state route, take the state route; if there's no state route, go for a U.S. highway; and when you get to parts of Wyoming where the interstate has taken over the old highway, you may have to ride the shoulder for a while (or divert 50-100 miles north or south to the next road).

Adventure Cycling routes take you on just about every available type of road, but there's rarely a problem with traffic, and a bike tourist gets acclimated to traffic as (s)he rides.  Where it does get tougher is around larger towns and cities, but there's more likely to be an alternative when the population increases.  On the flip side, U.S. 287 from Rawlins, WY to the Tetons is a nice road, lightly trafficed, with good sightlines, pavement, and grades.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: staehpj1 on October 24, 2012, 07:25:11 am
In the US, we generally have interstate highways, US highways, state highways, county roads and city streets. Stay off of the first three as much as feasible.

Depending on where you are going I personally would not necessarily avoid the first three.  I often find state or US highways ideal.  In some areas I have ridden on US highways all day 80-100 miles and seen two or three cars per hour for most of the day.  Also there are places where riding on the interstate is allowed and quite pleasant.  In the more populated areas that is typically not the case, but I-10 and US 90 especially in more remote parts of the southern tier would be my choice over lesser roads.

Do be aware that not all states allow riding on interstates.  Some do not allow it at all, some only when there isn't a reasonable alternative, and some do not restrict it at all.

Your preferences may vary from mine, but I have fond memories of long days on I-25, I-10, and US 90.  I am way more likely to leave adventure cycling maps to take larger roads than smaller ones myself unless on a mountain bike tour and looking to ride on dirt roads.

I would suggest that if you start out with the Adventure Cycling maps and pick up state maps as needed along the way you will be fine.  You will quickly get a feel for what types of roads you prefer here.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: JHamelman on October 24, 2012, 09:09:19 am
Hello Chappers,

As you've already discovered, we've got an excellent group of cyclists here on our forums who are happy to help! To follow up on an earlier suggestion to get or look at maps produced by state agencies, I've got a bit more info.

Many states have online resources as well as printed materials. Nearly every state publishes a bicycle map of some sort that they will send out for free and the coordinators often have more information they can distribute for no charge as well. And while the maps aren't as detailed as ours, they generally offer suggested roads for cycling through their state often including what is called a suitability map that shows shoulder widths and traffic volumes. Here is a link to the contact information for all of the state bicycle coordinators:

http://www.walkinginfo.org/assistance/contacts.cfm

Have fun where ever you decide to ride!

Best,
.Jennifer.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: chappers on October 24, 2012, 10:51:42 pm
thankyou everyone for your responses - a very helpful bunch of people. whatever happens, it sounds like i will find some roads suitable for riding upon with relative ease!
I will follow up on the many excellent suggestions, and look forward to time spent at the reference library looking at maps.

cheers!
chris
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: staehpj1 on October 25, 2012, 07:14:01 am
Have a great tour!
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: newfydog on October 25, 2012, 01:27:24 pm
In the Great American West the tiny roads tend to be for mountain bikes.  Frequently there is only one paved road through an area, and it is indeed busy, trucks, busses, the works.

Good routes on smaller roads takes some work to put together.  (ummm I think the is a group in Montana which has done a good job of that....)

Delorem makes some good maps, which could be used to follow a backroad route.

You might not write off the GPS so fast.  A Garmin Dakota 20 will run for days on AA bateries available everywhere, and GPS file depot has free topographic maps with every tiny road, downloadable for free.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: Indianacharlie on November 08, 2012, 11:47:04 am
I think back five or so years ago saying I only wanted to use paper maps too. That is until a friend was good enough to spend three hours showing me the various options of a Garmin 605. It provided the feature I wanted which was to create a route on Google Map or other internet mapping system then download it to my GPS. Since then I have not gone back to the paper maps. I've found Google Map Street View to be a real help. Even if the road is not photographed I can view down the road at an intersection and get an Idea if I want to put it on the route for verification list. It also allows zooming in and see road surfaces however this is subjective at times.
Some of the shortcomings are of course battery life, and not as friendly when diverting off the track to another point.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: tonythomson on November 24, 2012, 08:23:55 am
Hi Chappers - good advise above(as always on here) I would only add while planning your route check out Rails to Trails as I enjoy combining these traffic free routes on my tours if possible. 

Wherever you think that areas might have too much heavy traffic go to Google maps - choose your points of destination and use the cycle or walking option to print out a route.  Then as said earlier check it out on Google Earth.

Have fun and US is a great place to cycle tour.
Ps we are a bit spoilt in UK with OS maps!!  ;)
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: jamawani on November 24, 2012, 11:32:01 am
Chappers - It sounds like you have only moderate experience with mapping.  Previous replies have mentioned USGS, DeLorme, Benchmark, and Google among others.  One thing to remember is that any map - - electronic included - - is at best a snapshot in time of a moving object.

Google, in particular, has real problems in the West showing dirt roads that are on private land and have no access.  Google and other mapping websites will even route you down some of them - - which is no fun when you come to a locked gate with a "No Trespassing!" sign on it and a 30 miles detour.

All maps have errors.  Things change on the ground.  That's why Adventure Cycling has updates and errata for its mapping products.  Especially in the West and on dirt roads, there are seasonal closures - snowmelt, critical game habitat, fire danger.  Not to mention construction, bridges out, etc. 

About bridges, there are thousands of substandard bridges on remote roads which pose a liability risk for managing local governmental bodies.  Faced with high replacement costs, many of these are simply being removed.  So even if Google satellite shows a bridge - it may no longer be there.

What I am saying - in response to your wish for an "Everything" resource - is that such an animal does not exist.  Yes, you can get a combination of sources that are reliable, but you need always to be prepared for differences on the ground - especially in remotes areas such as the West.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: tonythomson on November 25, 2012, 01:03:28 pm
"Google, in particular, has real problems in the West showing dirt roads that are on private land and have no access.  Google and other mapping websites will even route you down some of them - - which is no fun when you come to a locked gate with a "No Trespassing!" sign on it and a 30 miles detour."

Not just the West I got caught out in Florida, Google maps/cycling took me to a farm with all the "KEEP OUT etc" fortunately for me there were some workers close by who happened to be from Mexico - just as England were about to play them at football (sorry soccer huh) so after a chat about football they took me through the farm/plantation on dirt tracks out the other side and back onto Google's route. So guys I advise you to learn Spanish and call soccer by it's correct name  ;)
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: johnsondasw on November 25, 2012, 11:55:41 pm
Hi all,

I just had a quick look on amazon and came up with Benchmark Maps & Atlases. look good...but what do you use?


I have used the Benchmark for Washington for several years and have found them to be very good.  I think it's an adventure to peruse the map and imagine what the country looks like and then find out by bike.
Title: Re: Backroads maps of the US.
Post by: Westinghouse on November 29, 2012, 08:24:31 am
A book-type state road atlas, or ordnance survey maps might have all that. I have seen ordnance survey maps with known footpaths in the hills. Just about everything you might need to know for fighting a battle where a knowledge of the geography can be a decisive advantage is on such maps. Where to find them? I don't know. They're probably expensive. They have elevations, the whole nine yards.