The view from the Managementís seat

How we plan the route and use the GPS

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Even the cheapest GPS starting at around £100 will tell you exactly where you are using a grid reference or latitude and longitude. We use the Garmin GPS Map76S. Itís a bit long in the tooth in technological terms but it serves us well and is a very robust and sophisticated machine.

Touring cyclists seem to have been remarkably slow to latch onto Global Satellite Positioning (GPS) Technology. This is surprising because GPS can not only tell you where you are on the map but it also provides more information to the rider than the average cycle computer.

Planning this Canaries tour has been slightly different from our previous tours. Unfortunately we have been unable to find a downloadable electronic map of the islands. In this respect they resemble Ireland in their backwardness. Also, the tour area is more defined and the objective of exploring as many islands as possible clearer than usual. The other change is that Google Earth has been made available so we will be able to look down on exactly where we are going.

So this is how we planned this tour. First we booked convenient flights from our local airport at Bournemouth which meant going into Gran Canaria and leaving from Tenerife. Then we looked at the ferry routes around the islands. But not the timetables because in true Spanish manana style these have not been published yet. A general kind of plan then emerged to go as far north as possible in one go and then work back, exploring the smaller islands in the south towards the end of the tour.

Because electronic maps donít exist we decided to buy the Spanish Military maps 50,000 series for all the islands. These came at a price but with a discount from The Mapshop, see links below. We find them much better and cheaper than Stanfords. By looking at the maps and Google Earth and the various guides we were able to work out where we plan to go.

It is worth noting that many places have inferior maps available. This is especially true of holiday areas. Some are just the figment of someoneís imagination and others are artistic creations which bear little relation to the actual terrain. Where ever we go we spend time finding out which are the best maps to get and have trouble finding them. It is time well spent, the consequences of bad maps are a spoiled or even ruined tour. And the Management can quite easily do that by himself without help from some map cowboy.

The Stokerís tiny GPS

Usually we use Garmin Mapsource software which costs about £120 and has detailed road maps of all the UK and most of Europe, but unfortunately not Ireland or the Canaries. The level of detail does vary but, for example in the UK, its road network is far more detailed than a 50,000 OS map. The downside, and it can be important, is that it does not show contours or off road routes. For the Canaries we need to use the base map which, while suitable for US tourists, only shows major towns and roads.

When we are happy with our basic route we put it into the GPS by drawing it on Google Earth. We do this using (see links) and saving the route as a .gpx file. We then carefully work out how we will cycle each moving on day and where we will go. We then highlight these places on the 50,000 military maps.

On the road Ken has the GPS with the route loaded mounted on the handlebars and the printed map in an old fashioned map case. That way he can get the detailed picture on the GPS screen and the bigger picture from the paper map. Not only does he know within a hundred metres if he takes a wrong turning but he has more information about the ride at a press of a button than his brain can cope with.

Following the rebuild of the tandem last year we decided that we no longer wanted the old fashioned inconvenience of cycle computers. But the Stoker wants trip information. She has her faithful Smarty Pants, a Garmin Foretrex GPS with over 5,000 miles on the clock, and this also works well. It does need a clear view of the sky and it cannot load maps even if they existed. But it is very small and not too expensive and does have track back when the Management gets lost.

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This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.