My cycling has been a bit (whisper it) boring for most of this year – I’ve been busy and haven’t had the time to just go out for the hell of it and my two cycling buddies have been as bad, inexplicably letting husbands and children and their careers take priority over going out exploring by bike. So realising that I was in danger of wearing a groove in the road between here and the papershop, I siezed an opportunity today to do a ride I’d long wanted to try out.

Sanquhar is a little town up in the hills, that seems rather a long way from anywhere, and there was a lunch being held there which I’d been invited to. I knew I’d never manage the round trip, but there’s actually a station there and I calculated that if I took my bike up with me on the train, I could ride it back along the back roads. Google maps calculated it would be about 28.5 miles, (plus 8 miles to the station in the morning) – not too much of a stretch, although rather longer than I’ve done in a long time. And, more importantly, more or less downhill, although of course I knew that even so the roads have a way of going up as well as down.

The only problem was navigating home. The back roads are signposted on the basis that if you don’t know where you are you probably shouldn’t be there, and the google map instructions were of the ‘travel along unknown road, take third left onto unknown road, right on unknown road’ sort that didn’t fill me with confidence. My GPS had only a very out of date OpenStreetMap map on it that didn’t show any of the roads in the area as it dated from the time when practically the only mapper in the region was me. Time to update it, I thought. And then left it to this morning to actually do, not calculating that downloading several hundred meg of map file on our internet connection was going to take a looooong time.

Still, download it did, with about five minutes to spare and I unzipped it and started transferring it onto my GPS. ‘transfer will be completed in 18 minutes’, it said. Aargh. Cancel that. Could I memorise the route? Could I print it out in time and still catch my train? Could I rely on an almost blank GPS to point me in the right direction and just wing it?

It was at that point I remembered that in the other room we had some amazing hi-resolution navigational gadgets with an incredible battery life, and wide screen, full colour views of the whole route – and all weighing just grams.

Whatever will they think of next?

And no, I didn’t get lost, although I did (stop me if you’ve guessed already) get rained on on the way home.

13 Responses to Handy

  1. Ah yes. Good old maps. The electronic frippery should only ever be in addition, never instead of, a proper map. Maps never fail. Well, except when they disintegrate on a damp day…

  2. disgruntled says:

    I had, embarrassingly, genuinely forgotten we had a set of ordnance survey maps. *hangs head in shame*

  3. WOL says:

    You are far more intrepid than I am. 28 miles by bicycle. The mind boggles (much to the relief of the legs that are attached to it).

  4. Jo says:

    My OS maps live in my rack pack and I use a combination of bikehike.co.uk and Google Streetview (for the junctions so I can remember to turn left at the dutch barn, as an example) to plan out my routes in advance and the paper maps as backup or for when I’m out and about and decide to see where I end up if I go down a hitherto unexplored road, watching out for dragons, of course.

  5. disgruntled says:

    WOl – ah well, you’ve got to start small and work up to it… miles do go surprisingly quickly on a bike compared to walking
    Jo – I wasn’t sure I saw the point of Google Streetview but it is brilliant for checking routes out before you ride them (bandwidth permitting). It’s invaluable if you’ve got a rubbish sense of direction but a good visual memory – and handy for avoiding scary-looking roads

  6. Dom says:

    I have OS maps on my phone for walking about as Google Maps is kind of useless when your GPS is telling you exactly where are in relation to a blank screen that can’t download the map due to lack of signal.

    Google Maps is also crap at telling you where is 8 miles from one station and 28.5 miles from another one 😉

  7. disgruntled says:

    hehe – especially as those distances are by bike rather than as the crow flies or as the car would drive…

  8. Andy in Germany says:

    It does concern me how many people don’t carry a map and assume their little black box will get them home. I sometimes feel that if you’re not able to read a map, you probably shouldn’t be trusted to go into any vaguely mountainous or otherwise dangerous areas alone.

  9. disgruntled says:

    If I’m on roads, I don’t generally feel the need for a backup, as roads do generally lead somewhere where there are people who can be asked directions. Walking cross-country is another matter

  10. emma c says:

    Oh well done, nothing like a good map. Did you know zip-lock bags make rather good map cases on damp days or for damp paws?

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  12. […] realised this morning – having waxed lyrical about them less than a month ago -that maps do have their downsides: consulting one while in a […]

  13. […] packed the essentials we required for the trip (newspaper, waterproof, puncture repair kit, and map for me, phone, spare inner tube and credit card for the other half, who travels light) we rode to […]

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