Picture of Smart Phone Bike Touring
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I recently got back from a bike tour across the United States in which I was tour leader for seven teenagers.  I have been using google bicycle maps for years now with great success.  I used it on the tour all the time.  It's amazing what smart phones do these days.  Thanks to the Google Map app on my phone I never got lost once.  I felt like a super human bike tour leader.  Anytime I needed to find a bike shop or grocery store I just hit a few buttons and poof!  Ron's Grocery Store 4.6 miles ahead.  It's like magic.   I can tell you first hand that there is now cell service across 95 percent of the country.  At least this is so with Sprint along the Northern Tier Bike Route.  

There are Garmin bike GPS computers available but they cost  600 dollars.  There is no point getting one of those if you have a smart phone.  You could take a car GPS but they are not much use either.  Since they are designed for cars, they will always want you to go on the interstate.  Standalone GPS devices usually are not connected to the internet so you can't search for specific businesses.  Google Bike Maps is hands down the best way to navigate by bike.    It always finds the most scenic and bike friendly way from point to point.  

Paper maps of an entire state do not have enough detail to show the small roads best for cycling.  Often people cycle on busy highways even when much nicer back roads exist because they are afraid of getting lost on the back roads.  This is not an unfounded fear.  I would not venture off the highway in an unfamiliar area without clear directions.  

Go to Google Maps and look up bike directions between Madison, WI and Chicago, Il.  Google Maps wants you to make 218 turns in 175 miles.  The directions are so complex that following a blinking dot on a cell phone screen is the only way to stay on course.  And you should follow these directions.  Google does a good job of putting you on the best bike paths.  The directions from Madison to Chicago are almost entirely rails to trails paths.  They were beautiful.  Often the trail disappears and reappears a few blocks away.  I would not have made it from trail to trail without Google.  

Google Maps worked beautifully in every part of the country except for Montana and South Dakota.  Those areas are so sparsely populated that the interstate is practically the only road there is.  There is, however, a vast network of gravel roads but you don't want to go on them unless you are a glutton for punishment.  We once got stuck on a gravel road for ten miles.  It was 100 degrees and the gravel became so large and thick that we had get off and walk our bikes.  One trouble with Google Maps is that you can't tell the difference between gravel and paved roads.  Google will try to make you go on the gravel roads.  Don't listen to it.  It is legal for cyclists to ride on the interstate in these states because of the lack of alternate routes.  Fortunately Google bike maps are peachy keen in every other state.  

This might only work on Android phones.  One of the kids on the tour had an iphone and her Google Maps app only had car and walking directions.  Walking directions work okay too though.  Bike and walking directions are usually similar.  

In this instructable I will start with the types of Smart phone touring which require the least amount of tinkering to types which require building your own battery.  Anyone can navigate by smart phone.  It is a completely different cycling experience.  
imjustdream2 years ago
Good Instructable! Much more thought provoking than I originally anticipated and quite thorough--great job!
nmoraga2 years ago
just wanna know how can i build bike like yours :D
Wow you are quite brave, traveling across the country, and with teenagers. You are a personal hero today.
BillBiker2 years ago
That fairing just really makes me smile! Never seen one on a bicycle until now, well maybe I did. Bet it saves ya alot of pain like bugs in the face also rain problems as you mentioned. Does it offer good wind resistance? This instructable is also good for things like the Sandy super-storm that just hit the east coast in many ways. If someone loses power these ideas could help them along. Worse yet lose your car, your home, and power only way of transportation maybe a bicycle! Being you have endured the wilderness how about another instructable on "The Ins and Outs of Bike Touring"? Not sure if you slept in the open or motel? It would be really cool to hear from someone in detail how they managed with the greats and pains?
feirorum2 years ago
Great advice, my ideas:
1. nowadays there are map apps like OruxMaps (for Android), which let you download maps to the device so you save a lot of power - no data traffic needed. You can also browse the map and zoom much faster.
2. If you don't mind the extra weight there are chargers which use AA batteries as well, so you could bring a bunch of rechargeables.
3. If you can invest some time/money, consider charging from a dynamo, either DIY or a hub dynamo.
You give lots of good, practical advice. I am continually astounded by the leaps in technology; this might be a good reason to upgrade to a smart phone.

Wow, what an adventure! My last bicycle camping tour was in 1984. Is that a Tour Easy?
Noblenutria (author)  CatTrampoline3 years ago
yeah-Easy Racer has been making them the same way since the 1970s. I love mine.