Why bring a Detailed Road Map?
Why not just print out the route direction "cue sheet" or a route map from this website and follow the directions on that -- and not bother with a detailed road map?
Any of those things -- or other things -- can lead to the need or desire to look for alternative roads in the middle of a ride, and for independent ways to verify that you are where you think you are, or warn that you've overshot.
The best thing for those is to have with you a detailed road map.
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Kinds of Maps
Route-specific maps from this website (e.g. Grand Tour of Columbia County), or from a guidebook are great for picturing the route. But they don't show all the roads. So they are not strong for warning you that you went off the route. And they don't give much help in finding alternative roads off the route when you need them.
County road maps
From what we've seen in the Hudson Valley, these are more reliable and complete than any of the other kinds available so far. They show a large enough area for finding a range of route alternatives -- unless you run into the boundary of the map.
On the other hand, they can be a hassle to fold and unfold lots of times during a tour. And they don't show topo contour lines, so you can get surprised by a steep hill or ravine.
They're usually available in convenience stores, and we keep buying them. For a list of maps available by county, see below under County Road Maps.
DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer
A book of paper maps that cover all of New York state -- and with topo lines to show where the steep parts are. Very useful for getting the shape of the route in advance. And sometimes we tear out a couple of pages and take them along on the ride, if we're traveling to a new area where we don't have a country road map.
When we have used it for the Hudson valley, we have found that sometimes it does not show names for all the roads, and sometimes shows old roads in the woods that we discovered were not very ridable.
The price is reasonable -- we recommend it for the serious touring and exploring bicyclist. Even with the new computer map software, we still find this a very convenient package of map information.
Computer map software
Two cool things about this: control over the scale of what you print, and no boundaries. You can get your whole route onto one piece of paper (or more pages if you want bigger print).
Even though they sometimes don't show the names for all the roads, the printouts provide a lot of helpful information if you need to find an alternate route on the fly. And if you also have a country road map you can fill in the missing names (and note disagreements).
Map segments printed off the Web
So far we haven't seen any that can be conveniently printed with sufficient detail over a wide enough area to be the sole map we carry on a ride.
Map in your GPS
We haven't tried using our GPS on a bicycle tour. And likely it will be a long time until we try it: We enjoy the puzzle-solving game of trying to figure out where we are on the map.
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Sources of Maps