What You Need for Self Supported Touring by Bicycle

  Equipment   Concerns   Considerations    Necessary Options
Considerations - Maps        
  1. AAA - Michigan is good; other states may only be marginal. Don't get the Trip-Tic - they don't show back-roads.
  2. State Maps from Highway Department - generally too little detail to be useful.
  3. County Maps - good when available - may be available through State Government or from DeLorme or Rand MacNally. Take only the counties you will need.
  4. City Maps - for exploring a city - from the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, Car Rental, Tourist Information, or large hotel - once you arrive.
  5. Electronic Maps
    • Take your computer and a CD
    • Visit a library for internet access to MapInfo.com, MapQuest.com, etc.
    • Before you leave, print maps of the general area you plan to visit.
    • Important: include a scale-of-miles with each printout.
    • Use water-resistant ink, or protect the pages.
Quality and Usefulness
  1. Maps that only show highways are only useful for fast travel between population centers. Riding is somewhere between boring and dangerous.
  2. Paper maps that show every road, whether paved or not, are hard to find, and bulky for touring.
  3. Every map probably has some errors and omissions, and is soon out of date. However, most of the effect of aging is good - unpaved roads become paved.
  4. Electronic maps are seldom as current as their publishishing date. Most rely on the same governmental source for data.
  5. Having any map, on average, is vastly better than having no map.
  6. Remember - after you pass through an area, you can mail home the maps you used.
Reading Maps
  1. It is really useful to have a compass. The sun will not always be out.
  2. Thick lines are busy, but direct. Thin lines have little traffic, but may need maintenance.
  3. Round lakes are in flat areas. Long lakes are in hilly areas.
  4. In mountains, more roads follow them than cross them.
  5. Right-angle vs stairstep - which is:
    • shorter?
    • safer?
    • faster?
  6. Landmarks
    • Look for water and railroads as you ride.
    • Look for roads that are not east/west, or north/south. They are generally more scenic, and make good landmarks on maps.
  7. Lost? - Turn at every stop sign in the direction you want to be going. The roads should get busier with each turn, until you get to one you recognize.