GPS vs paper maps for a motorcycle tour

you’re riding along a nice road, and while making a right turn (suggested by your GPS) you’re thinking something’s wrong, this can’t be the way…

GPS vs paper maps for a motorcycle tour in Europe?

Whether riding your own bike through familiar routes, renting a bike and riding through the unknown, or doing a guided/self guided motorcycle tour, you will most likely use some kind of navigation. Today, most frequent ones are GPS devices (stand alone devices or cell phones with GPS receivers). They are both easy to use, accuracy is brilliant and you don’t need to make a stop just to check your direction. All great advantages when riding a motorcycle. So, why would you need a paper map along with your GPS device?


GPS device

Modern, sophisticated, kinda geeky device? True. But, as many modern technology devices, it has become an important companion on a motorcycle journey. Why? Well, POI (Points Of Interest)- just brilliant. And if you think that turn-by-turn navigating isn’t that important, try to find your way out (‘paper map’ your way out) of some metropolitan city, and try it during rush hour… Ouch. Altitude, ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival), speed, distance calculators etc. can all come really handy when riding. Also, being able to create a tour on your computer and insert it in the device is a true time- saver. That’s how the MotoTrip team schedule every self guided tour- daily rides are preprogrammed, so you just need to select the day and start enjoying.

…nevermind, you think… ‘oh well, it’s a GPS- it will take me there’. After 30 miles, you’re kinda in a dead end.. While sharing very kind words with your GPS, you’re turning around going all the way back to the suspicious turn….

Paper maps

Old school, low tech, conservative paper maps. No POI, no music inside. But, in terms of navigation, they will do the job. They don’t lose signals and don’t run out of juice- ever. That’s important. If you pair a good map with a compass, you’re almost certain you’ll find your way even when off roading. Another good usage of maps is that you can draw the daily route you took and have it as a souvenir after your motorcycle tour, along with the notes on the back sides. When you look at it that way, it can be pretty useful. They are also cheap, so you don’t need to worry about it being stolen. Down side is they are almost impossible to read while riding and you will definitely need to stop to refold it and put it back into a tank bag. Not to forget, at the end of the daily ride, you will need to fold it- which is definitely a science for itself- so you often end up with a teared map.


…but, the only problem is you don’t have a paper map with you. So you do a search for a local shop with the GPS, and get yourself a paper map of the area…. at the destination, during dinner, you’re highlighting your daily route on your new map and find the same crossroad where you made the ‘wrong’ turn. Looks like the GPS was right after all- the road is there, but most likely under construction and you just had to click ‘find bypass’ on the device.. Heck, who would have known that… excuse my French, mr. GPS.


Paper maps along with a GPS device


Now we’re talkin’!

Above we stated many pros&cons of both electronic GPS devices and paper maps. We tried to be as objective about both methods because the truth is, you’ll most likely get by using any of them. Of course, having a preinstalled/updated map of the area you’re riding in, is a must.

But what if your GPS really stops working? Or your map gets lost?

We found that having a GPS mounted and a map opened at the top of your tank bag, offers the very best when it comes down to navigating on a motorcycle, wherever you are. You’ll have the technology and its advantages plus a ‘backup plan’ if anything goes wrong. And after all, isn’t it sometimes fun to open your paper map over a big table and take a look of the whole region you’re riding in…

…and you realise- looks like combining both, works the best! 

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