Can anyone recommend some maps for a 4-month tour around western Europe? This will be my first trip overseas. Are there any cycling specific maps, or maps that show campsites, topography, etc? I live in San Francisco, and all I seem to be able to find here are the Michelin maps. Should I just buy the Michelin maps and look for something better once I arrive?
I intend to make up the route as I go along. I'll start in Barcelona, and I think I'd like to first go through France and Switzerland, and from there probably Germany, Netherlands, UK.
I'm all ears!
My partner and I had a three month holiday there year before last (see www.mytb.org/jkd).
Here's some tips depending on where you go:
The Michelan maps are pretty good, we often found that you could get local map sections at the tourist information centres. Here's some more ideas:
check out http://www.esterbauer.com/international.html (bikeline) for a whole range of cycling maps of Europe ... many of them are in German, but the maps alone are still brilliant for navigation purposes. We used the Rhein map and it was great.
I also used to be a member of the Cyclist Touring Club (CTC) in England which used to have lots of great online riding guides (See http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/routes/map).
There's also Eurocycling http://www.ecf.com/14_1 which I found to be a waste of time beyond getting some general ideas of routes.
Also check out http://www.northsea-cycle.com/default.asp?id=5&mnu=5&lang=1 as an option.
We purchased the Lonely Planet "Cycling Italy" guide, which was OK, and just used maps from local tourist information centres as these has the scenic routes marked. There's also a Lonely Planet cycling France guide.
Switzerland has an awesome cycle network, and a website to match (http://www.veloland.ch/en/welcome.cfm). We used this site to plot a general route through, then picked up a Youth Hostel map from the first town when we got over the border as a high scale map, and then just followed the signs ...
GERMANY / FRANCE
We followed the Rhine out from Basel to the coast in the Netherlands. You can get by with local maps again, but there's a cycling route the whole way.
We also cycled the Loire, and just bought the "La Lore a velo" cycling guide. The maps were the best we ever had.
The U.K. has Sustrans (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/) which have lots of good (though often rapidly dating) maps.
Thanks so much! These are exactly the type of maps/guides I've been searching for. Can anyone tell me if these maps are readily available along the way? I'm leaving in 10 days, so I dont think I can order them online at this point. And I'm not sure which routes I'll be taking yet. It sounds to me that the routes are very well signed and I shouldn't worry too much at this point?
You can definitely get maps as you go. Maybe not those specific maps, but certainly good maps. I don't think you should worry too much :-)
Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are very well signed, for the most part. France less so, but France is huge. Most of France is also quite rural and more accepting of free camping, so bike- and camping-specific maps aren't quite as useful as in say, Switzerland. Have a great trip. If you're starting in Barcelona, it would be a shame to miss Carcassonne on your way through France. -- Kate
In the UK there is a large selection of national cycle routes from sustrans. This sounds perfect for cycling in the UK, but there are numerous problems that accompany this;
1) They are poorly labelled and signposted, often you ride for miles with little indication of whether it is the correct way. There is no clear indication usually of the correct route, as there is no specific cycle lanes for lots of the way, you are simply on small roads / pavements or scenic routes. The maps online are not very detailed either (for example, this is the map of Kent (Southern England's) routes - http://www.sustrans.org.uk/assets/files/county/Kent%20%282%29.jpg. I've spent hours lost on their routes, with no real clue or signage indicating which way to go.
2) They do not always follow the most scenic of routes. Two weeks ago I rode from London to Canterbury on a sustrans route, on the way you follow: huge industrial sites, a sewage plant, vast dull and repetitive suburban housing estates. This is not to say the whole way was bad at all, much of the route involved glorious rolling hills of the North Down Kentish countryside, some wonderful towns and beautiful farm arable scenery. Just don't expect perfection the whole way, when riding through urban areas, sustrans is probably not the best of ideas to follow, in the countryside though, it is very good for the most part.
3) If you want speed, do not follow the routes. If you quickly need to get somewhere, following sustrans routes is not the best idea. Often they meander wildly across small pathways, instead of just going along roads.
My recommendation in general for sustrans and national cycle routes is this;
In the countryside, they are excellent, in cities, they are terrible. So, use them in rural areas, but just ignore them in urban areas if you can. It's best to find your own way or using other maps, but beware of motorways and A roads, both of which you can rarely cycle along due to the steepness of the climbs / falls. Just ride smaller roads for better enjoyable, they are usually more scenic, beautiful and relaxingly quiet.
Can't really add anything to what has already been said about maps, other than that in th eUK, there are loads of organisations like CTC, YMCA, local bike clubs etc who will be pleased to help a fellow cyclist in any way they can.
Also, when you get to the UK, if you get down Cornwall way, feel free to get in touch if you need bed, shower, someone to cycle with, or maybe just a chillout break for a day or two.
Have a great time,
I live in Barcelona. When are you arriving? I'm here until the end of June (when I'll be heading off cycle touring myself - starting in Alaska and heading south through the Americas), if I can be of any personal help. For my trip, I've done several Google searches for general bike travelling info in North America and the general consensus I've come across is that European-produced and North American maps are different, with readers seeming to prefer the European ones.
1. Here in Barcelona there is a fantastic travel book shop called 'Altair' (www.altair.es). It is located right in the centre of Barcelona, a 2-3 minute walk from Passeig de Gracia metro station, one of the central hubs. It is two floors with a huge variety of maps and books etc. To be honest, though, I have not really looked at the maps they stock in detail. However, they do have all of the big name guides i.e. Lonely Planet, Bradt etc. in English. If you can be more specific as you research more I pop in there regularly and can check out what they've got. Their website is, unfortunately, only in Spanish and Catalan, but, if you need further help, please, let me know.
2. Regarding 'Michelin' or other maps. I've never used Michelin maps; I tend to use 'Nelles' maps. For other maps, here is a good resource (http://www.guides-and-maps.com/), with lists of different types. Again, I am happy to check for you in Altair if you find what you are looking for. It does depend on what size maps you want - country, region etc.? For the UK only, the Ordnance Survey produces excellent topographical maps (http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/). For Europe, I do not know.
3. It may be worthwhile emailing Stanfords in London with your specific needs and see what your response is. I'm a Brit and am always in there when I go back home (they advertise themselves as something like 'the biggest and best travel book and map shop in the world' - http://www.stanfords.co.uk/). You can find their contact details at (http://www.stanfords.co.uk/info/contact-us,2,GP.html) and there is a specific contact link for overseas customers.
4. You could also check out the UK's version of 'Amazon' (www.amazon.co.uk). Products can be very different to the US version, as I've found looking for maps for my journey. So, now to you, what North American maps could you recommend for a European aiming to cycle through the Americas?
Finally, I have lived in Barcelona for the last year and have cycled extensively up the north coast as far as Roses / Figueres and in the hills surrounding the city (but no further out). So, if I can help on this as well, please, let me know.
All the best
Rosa Maria & Reto
We are in Australia but ride a lot in Europe and have some maps which we are happy to sell to you if you are interested. We have the three Bikeline books for the Danube Bike Route which we rode from Donaushingen (where it allegedly rises) to Budapest. They are the kind of thing one only needs once but they are a marvellous example of what bike maps can and perhaps should be. They are spiral bound and are really more map books than just maps and contain information about accommodation etc.We use Michelin (Yellow) maps in France and the ADFC maps in Germany, three or four of which we have in excellent condition.....I will have to find them to check the numbers if you are interested....we have just moved house so things are not always exactly where we expect them to be! The replies to your post earlier in this forum have contained much of what you need to know for Switzerland and other spots. You probably know that there are 43000km of bike paths in Germany so it is a marvellous place to ride. Our email is [email protected] if you want to get in touch
regards Campbell and Jane