One of the most important things you will need when you are touring on bikes is a good, reliable map. When we went to France, we had not only mapped out our route, but I also purchased a Michelin guide which had great detailed maps of each area in the country.
We figured that if France was as nice as we hoped, then this book would become dog eared with use. I made two coloured photocopies of each of the maps which covered our route and we used these through each day as we rode. The system worked very well indeed, and we only got lost a few times in major cities, where we had no detailed maps.
The only thing that was wrong with our map system was that I needed a ‘deck’ of some sort on my handlebars to mount the map for easy viewing. There are some nice handlebar bags available that can support a map and I have now invested in one of these.
Occasionally, we were tempted to follow enticing signposts, which promised interesting destinations. On one particular day, we rode all day, not quite sure where we were going (we followed signs to some ruins for a long while, then the signs stopped and we were lost!) The scenery was lovely, and we knew we were headed in roughly the right direction, but we learnt a valuable lesson! Trust the map and ignore the signs!
We had taken a computer netbook to use wherever we managed to get access to Wifi, but because this access was very limited, sharing one device was not ideal. Not only that, but it was limited in its capability. We could cache maps, but they then became static rather than interactive. This method also required a lot of internet time, as each map had to be downloaded separately.
The year after we went to France, Apple introduced the iPad. I fell in love with this piece of equipment as soon as I saw what it could do. As a tool for the cyclotourist, it has unlimited application and potential. You can plan your ride the day before, have a look at the terrain, plan your tourist stops, write your diary, listen to music, take photos and even send an email or two.
Pair this with an iPhone mounted on your handlbars and you have a digital map at your fingertips which tracks your movements as you ride. No more bits of paper, no more stopping to figure out where you are. City riding? No problem. Out in the country? Still no problem (well as long as you have internet coverage of course!).
We do live in a fortunate era! Since iPads were released, we have toured with them on many occasions, and they are now the most important item (well, aside from my bike!) that gets packed 🙂