When one decides to go on a long motorcycle trip, navigation is key. And for that, motorcycle travel maps are imperative. However, should you just take maps?! And which kind should we use?
There are a few different kinds of riders, the ones that plan everything to the last detail, the ones that have more or less a notion of "where to" and let the adventure guide them (that's where I stand) and the ones that don't even have an objective. The purest form of riding I would say. A bit too wild and on the wire for me, but it is pure!
However, we all share one need, from basic to pinpoint accurate, we all need to find our way and where we are.
Asking around is definitely the starting point. Allows for conversation and contact with local cultures and people. I mean, part of the charm on riding a bike is the contact with the locals from wherever we are, so do not discard asking just because you don't speak the language or is not super technological on point. Allow yourself the experience of trying to get directions in a different country in a language you don't speak. Amazing things can happen!
Paper maps or GPS? That is a fair question, however one that might not have the answer you think of at first. A GPS is an electronic map, and for that alone the answer should be "take both". But even if we turn a blind eye to that technicality, the answer remains. GPS's can fail, can crack in a fall, can have a faulty wiring making them go crazy out of the blue or as simple as they can get stolen. A map will hardly fall on any robbers radar. However, GPS's are incredible. They not only can guide you but new GPS systems can show you an immense amount of information, and that not a lot of maps can do. Nevertheless, that amount of info comes at a cost, and I do not mean the simple cost of the GPS device, I mean a steep learning curve on how to take full advantage of your GPS. TOP TIP, either lose time learning how to use your device, or lose time on the road when you got lost or took the long way around. I personally enjoy getting "GPS lost" but I admit that is a choice, not a necessity.
Maps, however, are no different on that and you still need to learn how to use them, especially if you take maps with information regarding terrain, which I strongly advise. If you plan on going out of the main road system and doing some off road on your motorcycle trip, a roadmap will not suit you and you can easily get lost. If you have information regarding terrain, it doesn't matter if you are an expert in motorcycle navigation, you can still learn the maps basics and look around. A mountain, a river or any other landmark will be enough for you to get your bearings. And if you want to take this a step above, take a little compass. You know North, you can see landmarks on your map, you can get a notion of where you are even without GPS, you are rocking your motorcycle navigation skills and there is no long motorcycle trip you can't do safely without the fear of getting helplessly lost!
As a failsafe, because losing your way is not the only danger in dual sport or adventure motorcycle riding, I strongly advise you to take a SPOT or any other kind of device that will allow you to ask for help if you run out of options.
Learn your way around a terrain capable map, learn how to use your GPS and you are ready to have incredible and safe adventures.
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