Tablets and free digital maps for cycle touring

Nowadays we use the Garmin Edge 800 (Review)
for routing while we are on the bicycle and charge it with the dynamo hub on my front wheel. This is great for finding our way to accommodation or addresses or along a choice of roads to the next town. Cities become a pleasure to cycle through.

The Edge 810 is newer and has a better battery life but the 800 is fine. We tend to use the simpler but excellent free routeable maps from http://www.velomap.org/ on the Garmin.

For seeing a view of the whole route it is useless as the screen resolution /size is too small, so we end up buying physical maps or using the completely free Open Street Maps or Open Cycle Maps on a computer/tablet to work out our route.

Bike Route Toaster

The free Bike Route Toaster website allows you to work out all your routes before your trip using Open Street Maps, save them online or export them as Google Earth files. You can save in many other formats and can add the routes to your GPS and also view great height profiles too. It doesn't work well on a tablet but on a computer it is fantastic and the saved online routes mean you can get the routes wherever you can find internet. In theory someone at home could plan your route on the site and you could download it to your gps wherever you are.


We used an employer provided iPAD throughout our Eastern Europe trip but it was a bit restrictive about what we could do with it and it was difficult or expensive to get all the free Open Street Maps on it. It felt like anything new we wanted to do with it cost us more money. It was also big and heavy.

Nexus 7 (Android)

For South America we used a little Nexus 7 and were able to add all the free maps from Open Cycle Maps including contours and hill shading. We used the excellent app - OsmAnd which is free but has a low-cost paid-for option which gives routing. You can also add a contour lines plugin for incredibly detailed information about the route. The maps all work offline and even the routing works really well offline. The main reason for using the routing function is to find the distances to places as there is often only one suitable road.

This app was really useful and it is possible to add maps of anywhere in the world through the internal menus. We had the whole of Chile and Argentina on it and could check out the heights of passes or plan our overall route at night or on rest days, using the high resolution screen.

With OsmAnd it was possible to add gpx tracks from the computer and see them on the screen, so in theory you could plan your whole route before the trip and see it on your tablet.

The Nexus 7 is a really useful size and weight for travelling:
Compared to a laptop it saves a lot of weight and using a USB thumbdrive and an OTG cable we could put loads of TV programmes for Leo on it as well. Unlike the iPad we could charge it with our dynamo and it fitted nicely in the handlebar bag.

No comments :

Post a Comment