Bicycle Travel > Gear Talk

Backroads maps of the US.

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--- Quote from: chappers on October 23, 2012, 08:41:21 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).

--- End quote ---

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.

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.

John Nelson:
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.

Pat Lamb:
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.


--- Quote from: 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.

--- End quote ---

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.


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