I know it must be lovely to wing your way through the countryside without a care in the world BUT that probably means you’re going to get lost, you’re going to get more tired, you’re going to cycle further and people are going to get grumpy.
So with that focus and my control freak nature I wanted a method which meant we wouldn’t get lost. And not forgetting that I’m a bit tight with my money the solution had to be cheap or free…free would be better.
Use your phone
I learned about the GPX maps and that software was available for free for all of the major mobile phone operating systems. I’ve got Android and I chose to use Locus Map Pro, which I ended up paying a whole £5 for. There is a free version but I was feeling extravagant.
The GPX files can be loaded up on LocusPro but you need baseline maps which can be used offline without incurring huge data costs on your phone whilst in France.
Again, feeling extravagant, I purchased some really detailed maps of France within the Locus product. Cost = £2.
Tim also uses Android, he’s tighter than me though and found a totally free app and downloaded some totally free maps. His worked just as well as mine.
How to see the maps
A top tube frame bag is relatively cheap and works very well, apart from as you can expect in very bright sunlight. A top tip from me though is to not wear a bright white top whilst cycling as the reflections make it difficult to see the screen.
Cost: £5-£10 depending on size of phone.
Sue and I had the one on the left, Alan had the one on the right, Tim had something different again.
But what about battery life?
Well that’s easily solved too, buy a mobile charger.
And put your phone in Flight Mode whilst riding too. Putting my phone in flight mode meant I didn’t need to charge my phone during the ride, even though I had a charger with me.
There’s various chargers around, like the heavy duty ones on the left which will recharge a phone 2 to 5 times or more (£10-£30), to simple single charge ones (£5-£10) like the one on the right.
Cost: £5-£30 or more, depending on how many recharges you want.
So no paper maps whatsoever?
Well, yes, I admit I did take some and I did use them.
I printed off cross-sections of the route and used them to see how far away towns were, but not for navigation as such. In essence I could have just written down towns and how far along each trip they were.
Make sure several of your group have the ability, software, maps, and routes to be able to navigate. It’s not fair to only have one person as it means they have to ride at the front for the whole ride. Also if your group has to split for any reason then navigation for both parties isn’t a problem.