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Planning bicycle trip in Europe. What are the best maps for trip planing purposes. I know https://www.openstreetmap.org. Would you recommend other ones?

  • Back in the 1970s I just went with the most detailed Michelin maps and stayed off of main highways. That was good for several thousand miles in Germany, Switzerland, and France. French D routes were great. – Jon Custer Jun 4 '18 at 1:10
  • This is strongly opinion-based but also much too broad. There are tens of countries in Europe, each with their own maps. – David Richerby Jun 4 '18 at 11:54
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The data quality of OpenStreetMap (and other map services) varies a lot from country to country. Particular problems I have run into with OSM when bicycling are:

  • In many European countries, bicycling is often prohibited along better or high traffic roads. OSM maps usually have no data on this, making it impossible to know if you are allowed to ride along a specific road.
  • Bicycle paths on OSM maps are of unpredictable quality. I have often run into bicycle paths, for which you probably would need a mountain bike and which could at least not be driven with a loaded road or trekking bike.
  • A really odd thing with OSM is that at least a few times, I had planned to use roads that simply do not exist. I am not sure how they ended up on the map.

Google Maps is slightly better, at least for some countries. If you use the route planner for bicycling, Google Maps will avoid roads where bicycling is prohibited.

Depending on exactly where you are going and if you are planning to follow designated long-distance cycle routes like the EuroVelo network or national cycle route networks, you can often find designated web sites for these cycle routes with much more relevant and up to date information than on any free online map. I am going through France next month by bicycle and one example of such a web site would be 'Loire by bike'. If you speak German, I can also recommend radreise-wiki.de with lots of general information about countries and regions and also detailed first-hand information on many cycle routes.

  • I'm not sure if it's also the case with OSM, but Google Maps, Bing Maps and many others add non-existing locations to their maps. If someone copies the whole data and uses it for another service without paying, it's easy to prove that the data has been stolen and from which source. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argleton or gizmodo.com/… – Eric Duminil Jun 3 '18 at 16:46
  • While your enterly right about osm, I feel like it should be emphasized, when you find a problem, whuly no go and fix it and make things better for people that follow you. – skifans Jun 3 '18 at 23:40
  • @skifans I've had phantasy roads removed from OSM. When it comes to prohibitions and bicycle path 'quality', I doubt that data fragments are particularly helpful. The data has to be abundant to be of any reliable use. Even if such metadata is collected and stored, I am not even sure if any of the common map readers have functions to evaluate them, e.g. in the sense of 'show only roads where bicycling is allowed and bicycle paths, which are passable with a road bike'. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 4 '18 at 8:09
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I would go for a bike route planner for the big distances and go with the bike routes they suggest or the maps, for the actual routes you use.
The European Bikeroutes planner information page, (much in Dutch but also in English and German) or a link to the planner (which has a tri-lingual interface with just a bit more Dutch) combines long distance routes and suggests, your choice between them, signposted routes, written routes in a selection of languages, GPS routes and possibly others as well. And these days they also have an app for your phone.

For planning details I do use a local bike route planner as well as Google (or open street map.)
Out on the street I prefer to have a local 1:50,000 map, by preference one that is made for cycling use.

  • How do you get this European Bikeroute Planner to speak English instead of Dutch? There is a language selection in the preferences, but it has no effect. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 3 '18 at 15:45
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Looks like you don't. They have an English help page which tells you which Dutch buttons to click. – Eric Jun 3 '18 at 16:33
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo, the language selector tells the system which languages route books/descriptions you will use, the face language of the site does not change. I have recommended it to many people who do not speak Dutch and most found it working for them. – Willeke Jun 3 '18 at 18:06
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I'm using outdooractive.com quite frequently. It has bike paths incoorporated and tries to route you along them where possible. It requires to open an account with them, which is free of charge.

E.g. for a trip from Gent to Budapest this would look like this

enter image description here

and of course you may zoom in as much as you like and set custom way points, export the GPX track etc.


For detailed regional planning I also use opentopomap.org, which has hillshading and isolines, very useful when planning bike trips. There is no routing available, but you may load GPX tracks into the map.

enter image description here

(from such map it may be more obvious that it's better to take the detour along the river than the shortest track. ;-))

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